I woke up on a bus with no idea where I was or how I’d got there.
I groggily blinked and looked around. The bus wasn’t moving. Also, I was the only person on it. I was alone on an empty bus in… let’s look out the window… the middle of the desert.
I tried to think back to the last thing I could remember. Nothing immediately came to mind. This didn’t worry me, at least not yet. Anyone who’s done much travelling knows the few seconds of disorientation and existential doubt you can get when waking up in an unfamiliar location.
However, that usually happens in a hotel room. Not an empty bus in the middle of a desert.
It was definitely a desert. Of some kind at least. Sand as far as I could see, dotted with small bushes and rocks, and one long straight road that the bus was clearly parked next to. I stood up and looked around the bus.
At this point about 30 seconds had passed, and I was wondering why my memory hadn’t come back yet. Temporary post-sleep amnesia usually only lasts a couple of seconds, and I was now fully awake but still had no idea where the hell I was.
My brain was starting to construct Hollywood-like scenarios. The other passengers had been abducted by aliens. I had been abducted by aliens. This whole situation was a hallucination and I was actually strapped to an operating table somewhere. I had been shot and left for dead in New Mexico and all I’d got was this lousy t-shirt.
At this point I noticed that there were bags on some of the seats and in the overhead rack. Part of my brain matched this image with the phrase “rest stop.” I bent down to look through the windows again, and noticed this time that the bus was in a parking lot near a couple of buildings. The angle from where I’d been sitting had obscured this fact earlier.
It still felt pretty eerie though. Was this a parking lot in purgatory on the road to the afterlife? Maybe everyone on the planet had been wiped out by a virus and I was the only human left. Was something involving zombies about to happen?
Actually, no. It was a rest stop on the route from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, and everyone else was inside eating at Applebees.
My memory finally clicked back and I remembered I’d been riding the bus back to LA after a few days in Vegas. I’d fallen asleep from exhaustion (not uncommon after a trip to Vegas), and everyone must have just left me to sleep while they hit the rest stop.
As I stumbled groggily inside to get a drink, I mused that for a minute there I had been in a perfect dramatic setup. Without any memories for context, I had been in a story that could have escalated in all kinds of exciting ways. Even though part of me was disappointed that the actual situation was so mundane, it occurred to me that nearly any protagonist in any action/mystery/horror movie would joyfully swap their situation for mine.
When it really comes down to it, I’ll face a milkshake at Applebees over a zombie apocalypse any day.
(Image via Flickr user Victor Bezrukov, licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0)