The punk chick with the electric-blue hair and Doc Martens the size of Missouri blinks down at me. "Dude, you okay?"

A standard question for someone who just fell face first into a rain puddle.

"M'fine." Standard answer.

"Liar. You're not fine at all."

She's right, I'm not. Who would be if they suddenly woke up literally getting kicked off a bus they didn't remember getting on in the middle of a rainstorm at some bus terminal in the middle of nowhere. When I say nowhere, I mean it. Beyond the street, there's this… weird white fog I can't see past.

The punk frowns at me, "You look a little panicked, kid."

"Kid?" She looked at least two years younger than me.

"You look all pale and shaky, more than newbies usually do. You didn't get hurt when you fell off, right?"

For a second, I don't answer, looking at the black and white bus I fell off of pull away I the distance. I notice about is the bus' taillights, they're blue, not red. I also notice the wheels aren't on the ground.


I'm surprised my voice is so steady, because I'm starting to freak a little.

"Where am I?"

She cocks a pierced eyebrow, "The Terminal. Duh. Listen, it's cool if you're upset. A lot of FOBs are Everyone's a little nervous at first"

"FOB? What?"

"It's okay, you'll get used to it. It's a cool place here. Well, maybe not as cool a place as upstairs, but it's nowhere near as downstairs. We're sorta in the middle."


"Really, being a cold case ain't as big a deal. You just have to get used to it. Oh - I'm Jackie, by the way, and it's way cool to finally see somebody my own age. Everyone that gets off are almost always old guys or something. I think most dudes my age either went Upstairs or Downstairs. Maybe you should sit down, you look real out of it, man."

"What? I… what are you talking about? What's an FOB? Downstairs? Upstairs? What am I doing here? What's a cold case? And just where the hell is this terminal anyway?"

The punk girl - Jackie - frowns. "Wow, you seriously don't remember the ride, do you? Kay, it's like this: FOB means 'fresh off the bus', a new guy here; and the answer to the last three questions is you're dead, man. I'm not really sure about Downstairs and Upstairs, except one really, really sucks and one really, really, doesn't. If you can't guess which is which then you're a friggin' idiot."

I suddenly realize my heart isn't beating. If it was, it would have skipped. "'Dead'?" I'm not sure what's worse: what she said, or that I almost believe it.

"Like, not alive. Living-impaired. Cold cased. Dead. That's you. Actually, that's everyone here, except the drivers. I dunno what they are. I can't believe nobody explained anything on the bus. Hmm. Did you try checking the bag?"

I glance down to see a black messenger bag by my feet that I swear wasn't there a second ago, labeled with my name. Inside's a laptop, black and white like the bus, also name labeled. It's already on and open a crack, when I open it all the way the backlight's almost blinding compared to the Terminal's dim fluorescents.

Jackie looks over my shoulder and grins nice and wide, so I can see her big front incisors in stark contrast with her dark lipstick. "Nice. They gave the supplies a serious, huh? All I got was an old book for my introduction. See, that's your manual. It should tell you everything you need to know. That thing looking like a driver's license? Right in the middle of the screen? That's your profile, dude."

It does look like a licensee. What else but driver's licenses manage to keep the worst picture you ever took on permanent record? Mine must have been from right before I died, I think. I'm wearing the same thing I'm wearing now, and the background is Riddley Boulevard, and that's the last place I remember being before the Terminal. My hair is sucky. My face is even suckier. It's just my luck the picture that's gonna follow me through the rest of my afterlife got taken when my face was breaking out.

I look at the heading just under the crap picture:

Lyle Waterston.


11/18/95 - 04/04/08.

Death by Automobile.

Judgment Pending.

I couldn't look at the rest, the beginning was enough.

I look to Jackie, "'Judgment pending'?"

"Yeah, that means they don't know if you're going up or down yet. It also means you're stuck in the Terminal until They call you to be judged, like everybody else here."

"Who's 'They'?"

"The old dudes in charge of this dump, the Terminal thingy. Actually, they're probably in charge of up and down stairs, too."

"What, like, God? Gods? Angels? Demons?"

Jackie shrugs her thin shoulder, "Probably. Maybe. I dunno. I don't think you get the whole story until you get called."

"How long's that, anyway?"

"I dunno. My bus driver told me that it 'depends on your circumstances', whatever that's supposed to mean. I been here since '84."

"Wow. So you're like, old, then."

"Hey, shut up! I'm younger than you are! I'm a whole year and half younger than you are!"

I smirk, "Yeah, maybe you were twenty years ago. You're almost old enough to be my mom now."

"I'm old enough to sock you in the face too, you keep that up."

If I wasn't only half sure she was just kidding, I would have gone on to say that was only something old people say. But I'm only half sure she's kidding, and I know how testy the punks can get sometimes. They're weird like that. Plus, I don't really wanna trouble the waters with the only person I've got to talk to in the in-between-Terminal-thingy. Instead, I just ask what I'm supposed to do now.

"Now you do what everybody's doin' here. You wait. Oh, don't look so down, it's not so bad here. There's a soda machine and a pool table inside that building behind us. We could hang out in there to kill time."

I shrug. "I don't really have anything better to do…"

She grins her huge-incisor-toothed grin and tugs at my sleeve, "Awesome. Let's see if that computer of yours has any games."