This is Episode 1-2 of a serial urban fantasy & paranormal story.

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Part 1-2: Explosion

Outside, there was a tiny pilgrimage. People emerged from various storefronts and doorways with the same mission in mind. Deluxe broke into a trot, and I felt a surge of mild panic in my belly. What if people were hurt? Did I remember first aid? What if it was... bad?

That didn't seem possible. It was too bright and green outside: trees flush with the new buds of late spring, A-boards cheerfully advertising lattes and happy hour pints, and a pleasing, brisk breeze at our backs.

We rounded a corner. Something big was splayed at an odd angle way down at the end of the street. Deluxe stopped, and I brushed windblown hair off my face, trying to get a better look at the thing.

It was a bus, torn near in half.

I stopped beside Deluxe, who caught my glare and shook her head. We hustled towards the site as the first fire truck arrived.

As I got closer, I could tell that something had definitely exploded in the bus: seats, steel, bits of plastic and other unidentifiable debris spilled out in a tidy arc from a gaping hole. It was like a giant, ripped cigarette, bleeding its tobacco. The entire area around the bus, including the sidewalks, was decorated with little sparkles of light—the sun catching on a million shards of glass from a hundred shattered windows.

"No smoke. No fire," huffed Deluxe.

She was right. It was very still. I realized that I didn't see any hurt people either. The only folks around were those who had come to gawk, it seemed. They stood a respectable distance away and let the firefighters approach the wreckage.

I caught up to Deluxe, who has no notion of respectable distances and might well have climbed right into the bus had I not gripped her shoulder. We were maybe ten car lengths away and were already receiving irritated glances from the emergency personnel.

"Fuel tank is fine," she shouted over the remaining car alarms and sirens. "What could have done this? There's no fire, Alena."

"Nothing mounted under a seat, I hope?" I murmured as I pulled her back. One of the firefighters made pointing and shooing gestures at us.

"My experiment is on a rural route right now, I promise. Can you get a picture?"

I'd forgotten about my own phone; I had assumed it was dead since I'd neglected to charge it the night before. I let go of my friend and fished it out: 8% battery. I fired up the camera app, waited for the scene to focus, and groaned as the screen went dead.

"Kaput," I said.

"Nuts," she said. She began to sketch in her notepad instead. I waited for her to finish, plugged my ears, and watched the response personnel swarm over the area. She finished, and bounced back toward the blast area until another firefighter intercepted her. She showed him her sketchpad and was no doubt trying to squeeze him for information, or perhaps offer her theories.

Eventually, he convinced her to let him do his job and she returned.

"They're going to call me if they uncover any further information!" she yelled.

"I bet! Can we go now?"

She nodded, and we headed for home.

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Continued in Part 1-3

This story was originally published on the Hive blockchain & ecosystem, as part of the Scholar & Scribe community. See info on the latest Polygon NFTs and story parts here.