Twenty minutes earlier...
Evelyn Noonan sat at the bus shelter, waiting for the No. 25X to take her home. The sun was a few hours from sunset, yet she could feel the chill of the oncoming night. She watched the busy street before her, as the usual Friday rush-hour set in. It was always worse than the rest of the week. People were dying to start their weekend, to escape their daily routine, to rid themselves of the mundanity of the working week.
Evelyn herself felt she was long past those days: the seemingly endless parties, the ridiculous situations that arose, the killer hangovers on the Monday morning. But she had felt the charge today.
The freshmen she’d taught in her final philosophy lecture that day were getting ready for their first real college party. Each and every one of them had been wired to the Moon. She had been trying to discuss with them how the tiny decisions someone makes can change their lives forever, but she had known it was useless. What care did the young have for their futures when there was a party to be had? The only decisions they’d be making tonight would be what to wear and where to go.
She was about to take out her iPod as she waited for the bus, when a blind man came into view. He was wearing an immaculate white suit, which matched his short hair perfectly. He didn’t wear the usual sunglasses, but instead gazed at the world with milky eyes, looking at everything but seeing nothing. His white cane tapped the pavement before him, but Evelyn had an odd suspicion that he didn’t need it.
Just as he passed her, he stopped and broke into a smile. He went under the shelter and sat beside her. Evelyn had no idea what to make of his behaviour. After a moment, the blind man spoke.
“And how are you today, Ms Noonan?” he asked, almost as if he was continuing an earlier conversation, despite the fact that Evelyn had never met him before. She didn’t answer, her mind overloading with questions, the foremost of which being “How on earth does he know my name?!”. The blind man continued, ignoring her silence.
“When is the bus due?” he enquired with a tilt of his head. She didn’t want to reply, but felt compelled to answer.
“About two minutes, hopefully.” she said, trying to keep her words to a minimum, wishing the man would take the hint and leave her be. He had an off-putting air about him. He just seemed purely strange. But the man did not leave.
“Excellent, I have enough time then.” he said, suddenly very business-like. “Ms Noonan, please listen very carefully as what I am about to tell you is extremely important and of great concern to how your life will end up.”
It was now that Evelyn lost any fear of the man, and dismissed him as a crank, probably an advocate for some new cult. Either that or her students were playing some very strange trick on her.
“Ms Noonan, are you aware of the significance of your every action?” the blind man continued, oblivious to Evelyn’s pointed silence. “Every single thing you have done, every decision you have taken, has led you to this moment. I’m here to tell you that you did not make those choices willingly, that they were orchestrated by an unseen force. Everything you have done boils down to you making a single decision that will change the futures of millions of people.”
Evelyn was sure that her students had something to do with this now. They were only just discussing this very subject in class! Obviously they had been paying more attention to her than she had believed. But despite her cynicism, she decided to play along.
“And what decision would that be?” she asked the man, her voice dripping with scepticism.
The man smiled. “The first true choice you will ever make, Ms Noonan,’ he replied. “I can tell you don’t believe me, but I think have a little more time to offer you some proof.” Evelyn couldn’t help herself now. She was genuinely intrigued. A voice inside her was telling her to ignore the blind man, that he was a lunatic, but curiousity got the better of her.
“I can see what will happen, a long before it happens. Time is following a structured course.” the man began. Evelyn noticed his right hand was beginning to twitch. The blind man continued.
“When you get on the bus you will notice that the bus driver is rather large, with short red hair and a beard. This man’s name should you care to ask, isn’t a usual one: Fiach. If you walk down the bus aisle, you will pass a nervous-looking young man, gripping the bus pole as though his life depends on it. In the front row identical twin girls with long, jet-black hair will be complaining about college fees. There will be two people sitting in the back row. One will look Middle-Eastern. The other will have a guitar.”
The man looked exhausted. Had he not been sitting, he could easily have collapsed. The tremors in his right hand subsided. Evelyn was taken aback. If this was a trick, it was very elaborate, and Evelyn was uncertain about what to do next. The man then looked up directly at her, his blank, white eyes gazing directly into hers. His face crinkled into a smile once more. “When you go to pay the driver, a five cent coin will fall from your purse,” he said, and then stood up. “You now have a choice,” repeating what he had said earlier. “Your decision is whether to get on the bus or not.”
“And what should I do?” she questioned him. For some unknown reason, she now trusted the man, well, blindly. “What’s the right thing to do?”
“Your decision will change everything, Ms Noonan,” he stated “all you have to do is choose.”
He made to walk off, but had one final thing to say. “The bus should be just coming over that rise now.” he said pointing up the road. Evelyn followed his gaze, and sure enough, there it was. The No. 25X
“How the hell. . .” she began, but trailed off. The blind man appeared to have vanished.
The bus arrived, and the doors hissed as they opened. Evelyn looked up and saw the rotund, red-haired bus driver. Trying to dismiss it as coincidence, she reached for her purse. She opened it, and a five-cent coin fell out. She crouched down to pick it up, and in doing so, looked up the aisle.
A pale teenager stood off to one side, wearing a large backpack. He looked terrified, though he was trying to hide it. She looked further down the bus, and saw identical twins in the front row, both of them thoroughly annoyed. She could see the neck of a guitar case peeking out from the back row. She realised that she had yet to pay the driver.
She turned to him, and froze. She wondered what she should do. Thinking back to the old man’s words, she felt he was hinting at something. He had been telling her what the right thing to do was. She just hadn’t heard correctly. She looked up at the bus driver, who was staring puzzledly back at her. Closing her eyes, Evelyn Noonan made her decision.