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By Bob Reynolds
November 29, 2011
The following is a short story with a somewhat abrupt ending. It's a familiar tale; one that has been told many times throughout history. Some of the characters might seem new, while others may appear quite familiar. While some elements of the story may have changed over time, much of the plot remains essentially the same.
One fine day, three buses prepared to depart from the station:
The first bus contained the leaders of the world. They held in their hands a bus ticket. Printed on this ticket was simply a destination, scribed in code. Nothing else. There was no price stamped on the ticket, because this was a free ride. The route to be followed and final destination were known only to them.
The second bus contained the workers of leaders. These people were great in number, so they were given a separate bus all of their own for travel. They also held in their hands a bus ticket. Printed on this ticket was an explicit route to be followed to an undetermined destination. Deviation from the route was expressly forbidden, as was disclosure of the roads traveled during their journey. No other explanation for the trip was provided. There was no price stamped on their tickets. Therefore, the occupants of Bus 2 believed this to be a free ride as well.
The third bus contained the passengers of humanity. Everyone on this bus had a ticket. However, these tickets were quite different from those of the previous two buses. Printed on these tickets was a detailed itinerary. The price of the ticket was one hundred dollars. Also printed on the ticket was the following passage: "Passengers who complete the entire trip will receive a free gift at the end of the journey". On the rear of the ticket were several paragraphs inked in fine print.
There was a fourth group of people…those that missed the bus. They were a mixed bunch. Some hadn't heard about the trip because they were involved in other matters. Some knew of the trip, but couldn't make it because they had prior engagements. Some were former workers of the leaders that had quit the establishment and decided to take an alternate route. And some were people who knew of the trip, saw it advertised, were free to board the bus, but decided not to take it.
The bus trip for humanity was both long and varied. Sometimes the bus seemed to travel swiftly down large city highways. Other times it appeared to wind endlessly back and forth along narrow country roads. On some days, the trip was full of joy and laughter. While on other days it seemed full of trials and tribulations.
Knowing that this journey would be a long one, the trip promoters went to great lengths to ensure that the passengers were given ample amounts of entertainment to pass the time and make the trip as enjoyable as possible.
There were over a hundred TV programs available on the bus. There were many movies to watch on giant HD monitors. There was much variety of music to listen to. Lots of video games to play. Free internet connections for all. Full access to all social networking sites. There was even a small library, a very fine library, with what appeared to be brand new books. In fact there was so much to do on the bus, that the passengers rarely felt a desire to look out the windows as they traveled down the road.
The itinerary of the trip specified a number of stops along the way. This provided even more opportunity for entertainment. There were free shows, many sporting events and discounted shopping galore. Doctors were available at each stop, armed with prescription pads, and ready to prescribe a pill for any ailment that a passenger might encounter during their trip.
It all seemed too good to be true. As part of this wonderful travel package, passengers were offered the opportunity (if they so desired) to leave the trip at any stop and take another bus back to the station of origin. However, as predicted by the promoters, nobody wanted to leave the bus.
Somewhere along the way, a few passengers decided to read the fine print on the back of their ticket. It had the usual disclaimers…you know, the ones that release the promoters from liability or fault in case of accident or injury. However, there was one particularly disturbing disclosure towards the end. It was printed in bold so as to be clearly noticed.
Knowledge of the fine print caused some passengers to begin thinking to themselves "is there a need to be concerned?" There didn't appear to be. Nobody else seemed too worried. However, there was indeed cause for great concern. But only the promoters of the trip were fully aware of it. Despite the beautiful outward appearance of this magnificent bus, many mechanical problems existed beneath the surface. The bus was actually in need of significant repair.
In fact, the bus had already broken down several times during the trip. The last incident, in particular, was quite unsettling. It involved a horrific crash with many other vehicles. It was so bad, that after the accident, there was much debate as to whether or not the bus would be able to continue on. The passengers were outraged. They did not want the trip to end. So it was decided that the bus would be patched up as best as possible and the passengers would be loaded back up and sent down the road again towards their destination. They were promised, by the promoters, that there would be no more trouble on their journey.
Despite this assurance, more and more people began to take out their tickets and read the fine print on the back. Some now noticed the disturbing disclosure in bold that they had previously missed. It spoke of a particularly treacherous stretch of highway ahead where several buses, along with all passengers, had been lost in recent years. However, even after reading this disturbing disclosure, there were a large number of passengers that seemed to arrive at the same conclusion -- that it was simply another one of those "necessary legal disclaimers" and nothing to be taken too seriously. Besides, such a possibility was way too scary to think about.
Per company regulations, there was a one final stop. It was located in a small town at the edge of this very treacherous stretch of highway. People could once again choose depart the bus and travel back to the station of origin. However, this time, there would be a fee for the return ride back. And the trip would have to be made on a regular "no frills" type of bus.
In spite of the danger, most people chose to remain on the bus. All of their friends were staying, so it seemed like the right thing to do. Plus, it would be a significant hassle to retrace the trip, pay for another ticket and make the journey back on a regular bus.
Those that missed the bus originally had heard, through non-official sources, that there may be cause for concern regarding the bus trip. Based on this information, a copy of the bus ticket was obtained and the disclaimers were read. This led to a study of the maintenance records of the bus as well as the planned route that it would take on the trip.
After careful study, the conclusion seemed undeniable; there was indeed great cause for concern, especially during the final leg of the trip. It involved a sharp turn at the end of a long steep hill. This turn was above a great cliff, with the bottom located many thousands of feet below. Based on the maintenance records of the bus, it was apparent that the brakes were in no condition to slow the massively overloaded and bloated bus to a safe speed in order to successfully navigate the turn.
And so the debate began. Some of the others didn't believe that the danger existed. Therefore they did nothing. Some were concerned how it might appear to their friends, family and co-workers if they actively got involved in such an uproar. Some people had obligations that couldn't be broken. Therefore they left the efforts to other people who surely would have the necessary free time to warn the bus. Some felt there just wasn't enough time to warn the bus and its occupants. Therefore, it was best to just let them enjoy the time they have left, free from the knowledge of the impending danger.
There were some that attempted to warn the bus by radio. And some that jumped in their cars in an effort to try and head the bus off before it was too late. Some even boarded planes so they might arrive at the treacherous point in the road, well ahead of the bus, and wave it down before disaster struck.
Like humanity, the workers of the leaders also had a long trip with many twists and turns. However, they felt strongly committed (and bound by duty) to a specific route. There were a number of stops along the way, but it was forbidden to leave the bus. As stated on their ticket, there was no room for deviation from the planned route and no questions were to be raised regarding the intended destination. Like Bus 3, this bus was on its way to the same steep hill, with the same sharp turn at the bottom, above the same great cliff…totally unprepared to successfully navigate it. But the workers of the leaders were not privy to this information. So their bus continued on faithfully towards its destination.
The bus trip of the leaders was relatively uneventful. A short while after departure, Bus 1 began approaching its intended destination, mostly without incident.
Fortunately, some of the others that originally missed the bus (and even a few that decided to leave the bus trip) had arrived at the top of the precipice just in time to try and warn the bus of the impending danger.
As the bus approached the long steep treacherous hill, the others, camped along the side of the road, got ready. When the bus was close enough, they began to shout, jump up and down and wave their hands frantically in an effort to get the attention of humanity on the bus. But the bus just kept coming. The others didn't understand. How could the bus not see them making such a scene on the side of the road?
Then as the bus drove past, they discovered why. Through the windows they could see the members of humanity in their seats. But they weren't looking out the windows. Their heads were down, focused on LCD screens -- the screens of smart phones, tablets, computers, DVD players, MP3 players, video games and TV. Many passengers appeared to be drunk, drugged or asleep. It was like a nightmare. Out of the entire bus, there were only a few passengers that seemed to be alert and looking out the window.
As the bus drove on by, one of these passengers smiled and waved to the others, apparently oblivious to what was happening.
Another passenger seemed to either be having seizure or perhaps was listening to music. Maybe both. He gave the others the "thumbs up" as the bus passed, apparently thinking they listening to the same radio station (the others continuing to jump up and down, waiving their arms frantically about).
When the bus was nearly past, a third passenger was seen covering her eyes. She looked out the window, but away from the approaching cliff…finally understanding what lay ahead, but unable to bear the thought of it.
Along the side of the road, the others continued to shout, wave and jump up and down as the bus started its long decent down the steep hill, finally disappearing from sight.
Some of the others seemed to give up hope at this point, while a few continued their efforts by using their cars to give chase to the bus in one final attempt to warn its passengers of the approaching danger.
Since Bus 2 had left the station in secrecy, nobody on the outside knew what their expected route was or when they would arrive at the danger zone. There was no way to warn them. Sadly, the bus containing the workers of the leaders drove straight over the cliff, fully loaded with passengers, never seeing the danger that had existed in front of them.
The world leaders in Bus 1 arrived safely at their intended destination. It was a secure facility located far away from any malfunctioning machinery, steep hills, sharp turns or dangerous cliffs. The facility was well stocked with all of the necessary provisions needed to live the good life…one fit for kings and queens. Almost all contingencies had been planned for at this facility.
It seemed that the leaders, who viewed themselves as "more than human", had eliminated (by accident) those below them that had increasingly viewed them as "less than human".
How would the leaders survive now without the workers? Had humanity indeed been eliminated?
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