Brian listened as the droning in his head grew and grew, until it became a dull, heavy roar. He wasn't sure if he was really awake or not, but as the bus shifted gears it began to pull his body downward, sliding him slowly off the seat. He struggled to get a grip on the armrest beside him, fighting frantically against the force which was pulling him from the base of his spine down through the floor of the bus. He held his breath, waiting for the pain, but there was none. He watched as he slipped gently through the floor and into a light green space, with no depth or dimension. Brian looked down at the roof of the bus that was rising toward him. He watched it, trying to figure out if it was rising or if he was falling, but before he could come to any conclusion, his feet were going through the roof, as smoothly as they had just gone through the floor. Brian slid down into another seat, and stopped for a moment, before beginning to slide down into the floor again. Without fighting, he watched as his feet entered the floor again, then suddenly he realized that this bus was empty. The silence frightened him, but he was out of the bus now, and into the green misty space again.

Another bus came up at Brian again, faster than the one before it. As he slid through it, he noticed that it was painted green, but a darker, more olive drab color than the mist. The bus was full of small, styrofoam packages, neatly wrapped with clear plastic. They were everywhere, in the aisles, in the luggage racks, in the chairs. There was only one empty seat. Brian slid into it, watching the smoke his breath made in front of him. He tried to focus on the packages, looking at the ones piled up on the seat beside him and noticing that they were full of something pale and chalky. Brian reached over and picked one up. It was cold and hard in his hand. Inside the glistening plastic, there were tiny human bodies, neatly piled one on top of the other to conserve space. Some of them were missing arms and legs, but there was no blood anywhere. Brian turned the package over, and read the small white bar-coded label on the bottom. 'Your cost, one pound per nine square feet.' There were other numbers below it, in some form of equation totaling fifty eight thousand, but as Brian tried to figure it out, he felt himself slipping through the floor again. He held onto the package firmly, but as he slid out of the bus, it would not come.

Brian looked down through the green mist, waiting for the roof of another bus, but instead, there was a huge paper map below him, extending as far as he could see in any direction. He could not make out what countries were on the map, but he somehow knew for sure that the bus he had just been on was a payment for the map, and that the two could not be separated.

Brian watched as he slipped through the map. He was halfway through, when something stopped him. He was being held firmly around the waist by the map, so that his upper body was above it and his legs were somewhere below it. Suddenly there was noise and confusion around him. Long, painful screams and moans filled the green mist, but there was still no one there. Brian could hear the crying and wailing of what seemed like millions of people, but still he could not see anyone. he knew that these people were in great pain, but he could do nothing to help them. He began to feel their pain himself, and waves of nausea swept over him. Inside the walls of his stomach, he could feel the torment of what he somehow knew to be the greatest and sickest obscenity of mankind. It raged violently inside him, sweeping a sick and desperate feeling over his body. He pressed down hard against the map with his arms, and vomited in long deep surges. Again and again he felt his body convulse, but only a long stream of watery liquid came out. He listened as a gentle, but firm voice told him that his soul was being emptied of any good thing it had ever contained, and he watched helplessly as a river of his liquid flowed down and over the map, leaving him still full of nausea and pain.

Brian felt himself slipping slowly out of the map, and the pain began to subside as he passed through the roof of another bus. This bus was full of tiny buffalo, each about the size of a football. Brian noticed that they were all alive, and were all wearing necklaces with tiny gold eagles hanging from them. The necklaces were strung with tiny colored beads, which were so small that he could barely distinguish them from one another. Brian slid into the only empty seat on the bus and turned to face the buffalo next to him. The buffalo stood sideways, with one, black, watery eye fixed on him. Brian looked into it, and felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and anguish. He felt himself gripping the sides of the chair, but he was sliding again, down and through the floor.

Brian wiped at the cold dampness of the sweat on his forehead as once more he fell through the green mist. He passed through several more buses, before sliding into one that was full of people. Brian sat, trying to work out in his mind how many buses he had been through. He thought it was seven, but it might have been nine. Suddenly, he felt the eyes of an old woman in the seat across the aisle bearing down on him as he thought. Brian turned away from her, but she continued to stare. He waited for what seemed like a few minutes, but when he turned back, she was still staring. Brian tired to figure out what he had done wrong, and looked down at the floor. He waited, but nothing happened. Carefully, he lifted his foot and tapped it gently on the floor. It was firm and solid beneath him. Slowly, he looked around at the other people on the bus. Most of them were asleep, or staring blankly out of the windows, except for the woman in the seat across the aisle from him. She was pretending to read her magazine now, but glanced frequently over at Brian when she thought he wasn't looking. It was then that Brian felt the wig on his head. Fear shot through his stomach as he slowly reached up to feel it. To his surprise, it felt like it was still in place, but he wasn't sure.

Brian stood up carefully and walked down the aisle to the bathroom in the back of the bus. He pulled at the door, but it would not open.

"Other way, honey," a voice said from the seat beside him. Brian stood, still facing the door in front of him.

"Ma'am? Excuse me ma'am, you've gotta push on that door if ya want it t' open," the voice said again. Brian paused for a moment, before realizing that the man had been talking to him. He turned quickly, said thank-you, and pushed the door open.

There was no mirror inside, so Brian looked at his reflection in the stainless steel of the paper towel holder. There was a small dent in the middle of it that made his cheek cave in around itself, but still, he could see himself rather well in it.

Brian bent down farther, and examined the wig on his head. The part in the middle was a little off center, but at least none of his hair was showing. He adjusted it carefully, and stepped back out into the aisle. The dark haired man who had spoken to him was smiling now, but Brian looked down at the floor in front of him. Two seats in front of him, Kathi was turned around in her chair, looking back down the aisle at him. She smiled gently, winked, and then turned her eyes to the right. Brian followed them to a seat not far from his own, where Jim was sitting, head against the window and breathing heavily. Brian tried to walk casually past him, but he found himself staring down at Jim's long, soft brown hair.

"Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please," a voice said over the intercom. "In approximately five minutes, we will be arriving at the Greyhound terminal in Washington D.C. Those continuing on to Richmond, Virginia and points south will have a fifty minute rest stop before reboarding. Please make note of the fact that this is bus number 9779, as those continuing south will be reboarding the same bus. You will be given a reboarding pass with the number twelve on it. When this number is called at the terminal, you will be allowed to present your pass and claim your original seats. Please remain seated until the bus comes to a full stop, and watch your step when leaving.....and......... thank-you for going Greyhound."

Brian stepped out of the bus into the thick stale air of the city. Although it was only ten o'clock in the morning, it was still too hot to be outside. He walked slowly over to the terminal doors, trying to get the stiffness out of his legs and back. As he opened the doors, he felt the coolness of the air inside rush against his face, and he stepped quickly into it, drawing in a long deep breath and thanking God for air conditioning.

Jim and Kathi were standing in line at the snack bar. Brian walked casually over and stood behind Kathi.

"Sure is a hot one," she said with a smile.

"I'll say," Brian said casually. "Think it's okay to talk?"

"Doesn't seem to dangerous. I've only seen one cop here, and he was standing over by the men's room."

"What about undercovers?"

"How would I know?"

"Well, I guess it's best to play it safe anyway. Let's keep pretending we don't know each other and split up when we're served."

"Okay. Where are you from?" Kathi asked sarcastically.

"Uranus." Brian said, rolling his eyes back into his head and exhaling slightly as he tried to laugh. He wanted to say more, but he confined himself to small talk. He noticed many of the people who had been on the bus with them, but couldn't see the old woman who had been staring at him.

Just as they were finishing their meal, the number twelve was called over the loudspeaker system. Jim waited for a moment, trying to finish his sandwich without chewing, and letting Kathi and Brian get a head start on him.

Once they were on the bus, Jim waited about an hour before he got up and moved over to where Kathi was sitting.

"What're you doing?" Kathi whispered angrily.

"It's all right, no one's looking. Besides, we're in Virginia now."

"And Virginia doesn't have police?"

"C'mon Kathi, we've gone more than two hundred miles this morning. It'd take Landers and the group two days to ride that."

"So what? That doesn't mean they couldn't have called ahead."

"No way. Just because he called them in the city doesn't mean they'd follow us all the way down here, it's out of their jurisdiction."

"Well, I still don't think it's a good idea for us to be sitting together."

"Why not? I mean, how long are you planning on pretending you don't know us anyway?"

"I'm not pretending."

"Right, well, anyway, how long are you planning on staying in that silly little getup of yours?"

"As long as I have to."

"Well, I stayed in mine long enough, thank-you, and I'm getting out right now."

"Wait a minute," she said, grabbing him firmly by the arm. "You can't just change right here on the bus."

"No one'll notice. Besides, half these people are asleep, and the other half can't see more than two feet in front of their own faces. They'll never know the difference."

"Don't do it Jim."

"C'mon Kathi, this bra strap is killing me," Jim said with a grin.

"Good. Now you know what it feels like."

"Good, now you know what it feels like," Jim said, mimicking her voice. "Fine, I've felt it long enough, now let's get changed."

"No! Damn it Jim! You're going to get us all arrested so you can be comfortable. Well, you'll be real comfortable in jail." Kathi paused for a moment, trying to calm herself. She lowered her voice to a whisper and continued. "Now Jim, we've been through too much to blow it on something this stupid. Just hang in there for a few more hours till we get to North Carolina."

"We're not stopping in North Carolina, we're stopping in South Carolina, and that's not for another seven hours. I'm not wearing this thing for seven more hours. I don't care, I'll go to jail, I just want to get this thing off."

"All right, all right, but at least wait till we get to Richmond. You can change at the terminal there if you have to."

"Considering the pain I'm in, I can't believe I'm letting you talk me into this, but I guess I can wait till Richmond if I have to."

"good, now go back to your seat. I don't want anyone to be suspicious."

"You're so paranoid."

"Well, someone has to be, remember the hotel?"

"Yeah, I remember the hotel, I was the one inside, remember?"

"All right Jim, let's not argue, just go back to your seat, it's only another hour."

Jim looked at Kathi's profile for a moment, staring at the way her nose turned slightly upward at its end. He tried to get her to look at him, but she would not. Jim stood up slowly, still looking down at the side of her face. He wanted to say something, but he noticed the bus driver staring at him in the rearview mirror.

Jim was the first one off the bus when it pulled into the terminal at Richmond. As Brian and Kathi opened the doors to the terminal, they saw him walking directly into the men's room, still dressed as a woman. They both stopped, waiting for a shout, but none came. Jim had walked in in such a natural manner that no one seemed to notice. Brian stood staring for a moment longer, and then turned to Kathi.

"What do you think?"

"About what?"

"Changing. Do you think we should?"

"Well, I guess if Jim's doing it, it'll be all right, I mean if he gets taken in, he'll probably turn us in anyway."

"I don't think he'd do that," Brian said defensively.

"I do. Anyway, let's just forget about it. Even if we do change, I think we should sit in separate seats for a while longer."

"Yeah, that's probably a good idea." Brian paused for a moment, looking slowly around the lobby. "I can't go walking into the men's room dressed like a woman."

"Why not? Jim did it."

"He was lucky no one saw him. I know they'll notice me."

"Well, change in the women's room then."

"And what about when I come out?"

"That's true. You're probably better off going in to the men's room. That way they'll only notice you going in, not coming out. If you do it the other way, they'll be staring at you the whole time we're here."

"All right," Brian said, walking off quickly toward the men's room. As he walked through the doors, he waited for the yelling, but it was silent. He waited in a stall for someone to come running in, but still, there was nothing. Brian changed as quickly as he could, stopping only in front of the mirror in an attempt to push his hair back into place.

Kathi and Jim were both eating lunch, but sitting at separate tables. Brian ordered an English muffin, but the black woman behind the counter told him that English muffins were on the breakfast menu, and that breakfast items were only served between six and eleven. Brian ordered a soda instead, and sat in the corner behind Jim. Almost immediately, Jim stood up and motioned toward the door with his head. Brian hesitated, looking over at Kathi, but as he did, Kathi stood up and walked toward the door. Brian followed the two of them out into the whiteness of the afternoon. Jim crossed the street, leading them into a small park with worn green wooden benches. Jim and Kathi sat on a bench and Brian stood facing them. The park was empty.

"I don't know about you two, but this bus thing is starting to wear on me," said Jim.

"Well, it's wearing on us too, but what else can we do?"

"I don't know, but at least if we're going to stay with it, we should get something to drink, or, well, anything, as long as it's something to pass the time."

"There's a Woolworth's over there," Kathi said pointing to a row of stores behind them.

"Yeah," Jim murmured, looking around the square. "I was looking for something more like a variety store or something." You're awful quiet Brian, what's up with you?"

Nothing, just tired."

"Tired? How can you be tired, you've been sleeping the whole damn time we've been on the bus."

"No I haven't. Not really. I mean, it may've looked that way, but I was really thinking." "About what?"

"Oh, a lot of things I guess."

"One of those, eh?" Jim said laughing to himself. "Well, I'm going over to that little store on the corner, anyone want anything?" "Wait a minute, Jim." Brian said. "Before you go anywhere, let's decide on what the overall plan is here, I mean, where are we going anyway?"

"Well, it doesn't really matter to me where we go, as long as it isn't here," Jim said, still laughing quietly. "Why? Where do you want to go?"

"I don't know, I was sort of thinking about going back home, Parson maybe, or......"

"Parson? Parson? You can't be serious Brian. What the hell're you going to do back in Parson?"

"I don't know, I guess I'd just....."

"Jim's right Brian," Kathi interrupted. "You can't go back to Parson. It's obvious that Landers has taken this whole thing seriously, so you know he's gotten in touch with the rest of the flock back there. If you went back in there now, it'd be like putting your head in a misquitos nest. They'd suck you dry, leave you empty, and forge ahead in search of someone else."

Brian stood quietly for a moment, looking out across the park.

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Well then, that settles that. What's next?"

"I told you, I'm going to the store," said Jim.

"No, I mean, where are we headed?"

"I don't know, what're you asking me for, I'm not the tour guide here you know."

"No one said you were. I just think we should have a plan, that's all."

"All right, let's make one then. Any ideas?"


"All right, let's look at our options. We can't go north, because of Landers, so that leaves south and west. If we go west, we'll run out of money before we get anywhere realistic, so that leaves south."

"And Father Landers is headed south."

"Brian, Landers is on a bike, remember? He won't be down there for another two weeks. Besides, it's not like he's going to set up shop once he gets down there. Didn't you say that once they get down there they just turn around and fly back?"

"Not exactly. once they get to St. Augustine, they sit in on a little seminar. It lasts the whole weekend, and that gives him plenty of time to catch up with us."

"Be realistic Brian. We know where he's going, not the other way around. There's no way he'll get us."

Brian stood motionless, looking out across the park at the buildings on the other side.

"It's up to you Brian, I mean, you do what you have to, you know that, but the way I see it, you'd be foolish to go back there. Our best bet is to head south and see what we can turn up down there."

"I hate to say it Brian but I think Jim's right. We really don't have that many options, and we've still got a fair amount of money left between the three of us. Separately, we'd have a hard time doing much of anything, at least if we're together.......Well, like Jim said, you do what you have to, but I know a couple of people down in Jacksonville. I mean, I haven't been in touch with them for a while, but at least it's a start. Maybe they could put us up for a night or two, or give us some leads for jobs in the area."

"Who cares where we stay, I mean, that's the beauty of the south, it's always warm, so we don't have to worry about being outside. If it comes down to it, we can just sleep on the beach."

"I'd rather have a stable place if you don't mind."

"Oh, I don't mind, I was just saying if it came down to it, that would be an alternative. If your friends can come up with something, well then, that's fine with me too."

"Well, at least it's an option, and I guess it's the best one we've got for now."

"Sounds good to me," Jim said as he stood up. Brian remained in the same spot, still staring out across the park.

"Is that all right with you, Brian?" Kathi asked.

"What?" Brian said frowning. "Uh, yeah, I guess so. I don't know."

"Well, have you got any other ideas?"

"No. Not really."

"Well then, I guess it's settled. See? Wasn't that easy? Now, once again, I'm going over to that little store on the corner. Does anyone want anything?"

"Well, if we're going to be on that bus for the rest of the afternoon, I wouldn't mind getting a paper or something," said Kathi.

"Let's go then," Jim said, starting off toward the store. Kathi followed him instinctively, but hesitated for a moment, looking back toward Brian.

"You coming Brian?"

"I don't know, you tell me," he murmured under his breath to himself, still looking out across the park. The whiteness of the sky pierced through the small, withering poplar trees that had just been planted and bore down heavily on him. He stood motionless, barely breathing, listening to the sound the leaves of the trees made, and of his sweat as it rolled off his nose to the pavement. Brian closed his eyes, trying desperately not to think of what had happened, and pleading with God for the questions to go with the answers that he had been given.