5:32 a.m. Hannes drove the school bus out of the depot seven minutes later than usual. Just because the left headlight had burned out. No biggie. He only had to drive a little over the speed limit today. If he stayed within the grace line, no one would complain.
The road through the forest was still sleeping in the dark. Except for two distant taillights. Hannes enjoyed the quiet of the morning and checked the time.
5.44 a.m. No way, he would be late because of a broken bulb. The taillights slowly crept closer. A glance at the speedometer. 52, all in the green. He slammed on the brakes, as he looked up. The bus jerked and squeaked, finally hissing to a halt.
The distant taillights were anything but distant. Right in front of the bus’s nose, they lit up, casting a red glow. They were not taillights either, but two huge spheres hovering just above the ground and blocking the road.
Nothing happened for a moment. The bullets whirred, the bus engine was bubbling, and Hannes could not believe his eyes.
The one on the left increased its vibration. It opened, pouring glaring light onto the asphalt. A figure materialized. Grey-green, not very tall, but with a long neck, it stood on the street and blinked at Hannes. He stared back open-mouthed. He watched spellbound as the alien waddled around the bus, head bobbing. Its aviator helmet reflected the glow of the UFOs as it reached the bus door and peeped through the window.
Pock-pock-pock, it tapped on the glass. Hannes hesitated. He did not know why he eventually opened the door.
The alien’s feet slapped softly on each step that led into the bus. It stood next to Hannes; head cocked. It eyed the bus driver curiously. It unzipped its yellow jumpsuit and rummaged around in it. It took out a small device. After swiping on it extensively, it held it to the dashboard where it stuck. A road map was glowing on its screen, with the bus’s location marked as a blue triangle.
The alien tapped it. The bus lights flickered briefly, and the vehicle began to roll. Hannes hit the brakes, but nothing happened. The spheres disappeared with a soft pop.
“What’s that about?” He looked down at the visitor. The alien returned the glance silently and put his hand on Hannes’ right knee.
It felt like a machine pressing his leg was onto the gas pedal. The bus accelerated hesitantly at first, but soon picked up an untamable speed.
60 — Hannes put his left foot on the brake. In vain.
70 — He yanked on the handbrake.
80 — Hannes knew the route by heart, and they would not be able to make the next turn at that speed.
The alien unbuckled Hannes’ seat belt.
“Why are you doing this?”
The visitor stared him in the eye and closed the visor of its helmet before looking straight ahead again.
Hannes yanked the steering wheel. Jerked it left, turned right, but nothing he did affected the bus. It crashed into the old maple tree on the side of the road.
The tree ate through the bumper and right fender. It swallowed all kinetic energy. Newton’s law was applied mercilessly to the two occupants.
The windshield shattered under the force of Hannes’ head. His body was catapulted from the bus, hitting what was left of the hood, and landed on the grass. Not a second later, the alien fell on him and bounced off. It sat up and shook his head before turning to the twisted bus driver. It looked at his pain-distorted expression, got up and bent over him. Its long finger touched where the bone protruded from the thigh, pressing on it. Hannes screamed in agony, but it was only a hoarse rattle that came out of his throat.
The alien raised its wrist, pushed a button on its watch, and spoke into it, “Subject failed the impact test.”
6:22 a.m. Hannes’ world turned black.
Understand German? Read the German version here.