A rooster crowed some distance away, yet near enough to wake the deep sleeping Harry. He eyes popped open like a cork from a bottle – they were still sore from the previous evening.
Today was the day of the big exam. He had spent all the previous evenings for the last two weeks preparing for it, but now when the day is finally here, Harry was uncertain whether he had prepared enough. He got out of bed as reluctantly as any fourteen-year-old, stretched and went to brush his teeth.
Harry lives in a small village far away from here. Here there are no well paved roads with street lamps or large houses or fancy vehicles. The houses are small, as are the villages – and as close as the houses are to each other, so are the villagers. Everyone in Lusignin knew that Harry had been earnestly preparing for his test for some time, for it was rare that someone in their village has such a chance at a quality education.
Harry walked slowly out his long street. Everyday, he has to walk for fifteen minutes before he reaches to the main road, where the buses pass. This morning is obviously different. Whoever Harry passed on the street gave him an extra ‘good luck in yuh exams bai,’ along with the usual ‘good marnin.’
The morning sun blazed down on this back and the left half of his face as he continued down the dusty, hot road. His slippers were almost all worn out from the many days of taking this journey. Finally, the wide brick main road came into sight, and soon Harry was upon it. He waited. Buses usually pass by ever thirty seconds, but somehow today they seemed scarce. The only vehicle that Harry had seen was a speeding truck that seemed to be going too fast for its massive size and the condition of the road.
Very soon, Harry was joined by Lydia, A young woman who works in the same city as Harry’s school. He had seen her many times over his five years of going to school in the city.
‘Good marnin, Harry.’ She said, smiling as she normally does. ‘I heard that you have exams today, good luck.’
‘Thanks.’ Was all Harry said, for he didn’t feel like having a conversation on this particular morning.
Then finally a bus came, fast, loud and full of passengers. It stopped, and the conductor opened the door, the music from within the bus blared even louder.
‘Only gat space fuh waan.’ The conductor announced.
Lydia looked at Harry and gave him a slight nudge of the head indicating that he should go. Harry, however, was always taught that the ladies should always be first, and so she shook his head and stepped away from the opened door of the bus.
The conductor, unsure of what was happening, was about to close the door. Harry held it back to allow Lydia to enter.
It was not too long afterwards that another bus came along, much emptier and much quieter. Harry got in and the bus sped away along the pot-hole filled brick road. Harry’s school was about forty minutes away, and he knew every village, every landmark and every street along the way.
On normal mornings, Harry would normally take a short nap on the bus, but since he woke up that morning, the butterflies in his stomach would not let him do anything right, let alone take a short nap. He counted off the villages, the streets, the landmarks and even the infrequent vehicles passing in the opposing lane.
Suddenly, there was a screech in the tyres of the bus following numerous sounds that were indescribable. The bus Harry was in came to a sudden halt, which was followed by another less loud crashing sound.
Harry, who was sitting in the rear of the bus simply bounced forward and prevented his head from being bounced into the seat in front of him by placing his hands over his face. Others in Harry’s seat were not so lucky, one young man had a tickle of blood running down his face.
‘Oh no!’ Was Harry’s first thought, ‘what about my exams?’
But when he saw the blood from his neighbour’s face, he understood the graveness of the situation. Already people were pilling out of the bus. Harry, sitting in the back, was one of the last ones to leave. But when he did, he wished he had not. The site was terrible to behold, and Harry had to sit to prevent himself from falling, for he had gone weak in the legs.
The speeding truck that Harry had seen earlier had crashed into a car from the opposing lane, and another bus crashed into the rear of the truck, before the bus Harry was in crashed into the first bus. There was blood everywhere. Already, a sizable crowd from the surrounding village had gathered. Harry faintly heard from one of the villagers that everyone in the car was killed, along with the drivers of the truck and the bus and almost half the passengers in the first bus. No one in the bus Harry was in were killed, though a few in the first set of seats had serious injurries.
Harry’s first thought was to go help the wounded. In a country like his, with such little education system, he was sure that he was one of the few around that knew first-aid. But then, behind that thought laid the one which told him that he should get going to his school.
Harry looked down the road; there was a huge traffic jam. There was no way that Harry could get another bus and reach his school in time. Sitting by the roadside, Harry thought for a moment, about his future, which became more and more fuzzy and the thought of the dead of dying people around him filled his mind. With a final effort, he gave up all the hopes he had of his future, the hopes his family and his entire village had for him, and decided to help those injured in the accident.
To his surprise, and gratitude, the bus that crashed in front of his was the one that had stopped earlier, the one Harry refused to go in. But then he remembered that this was the one whose door he held open for Lydia, and Harry became sad again. He quickly went into the bus, piercing thorough the numerous villagers also assisting, and found Lydia in a pool of blood – though she was still alive.
Harry tore a sleeve off his school shirt and wrapped it around where he thought the blood was coming from – a gash on the forehead of the young woman, and with the help of another villager, took her out of the bus and set her down by the road side. He then went and did the same for a number of other injured persons. Other villagers were taking those who were already dead and pilling them on another part of the roadside.
One of the villagers had already gone around and organized and rallied all the other villagers who owned vehicles. Someone shouted across the road, ‘get dem badly injured wan to de hospital first. Leave dem dead wan.’
Those badly injured were carefully placed in the seats of these vehicles and rushed away with great speed. Then someone grabbed the hands of Harry, it was the semi-conscious Lydia. She was being helped into the back seat of a car. The villager helping her into the car looked at Harry and said, ‘you know her son? Come wid us.’ Harry turned around, there was nothing more he could do, all those needing help were being rushed to the hospital. He accepted the ride and went into the car.
Although there was a huge traffic jam, this was only on the opposing lane (the lane heading into the city was clear after the accident site, the traffic had built up on this lane before the site of the accident.) The driver took them to the hospital, which was only a twenty minute walk from Harry’s school.
On the way, Lydia had recovered somewhat, and whispered ‘thanks,’ to Harry after seeing the cloth around her forehead and Harry's torn sleeves. ‘But you need to go write your exams. I’m alright; you’ve done all that you can.’
After the car stopped at the hospital, Harry waited until Lydia was safely admitted, thanked the driver and ran towards his school; he was already almost two hour late. He arrived, wiped the sweat from his forehead and face, took out his pencils and pens, and set his bag near the wall of the classroom, near the others and then walked calmly in, hoping that he would not be kicked out for being late.
‘Good morning.’ Harry said quietly to the exam moderator.
‘Good morning son.’ The moderator said, giving Harry a hard look. His shirt was almost soaked in sweat and blood and his sleeves were torn. Harry’s entrance had also attracted the eyes of many of his classmates, who quickly tore their eyes away from him and placed them back on their work, for they could barely afford to loose any seconds.
‘Take your seat, son.’ The exam moderator said. ‘I don’t want to know what happened.’ And she handed Harry his exam papers. 'Of course you realise that almost half the time for the exam has gone and you won’t be receiving any extra time.’
Harry acknowledged and found his seat.
Four months later, the exam results came. But Harry was not looking forward to it; he had already given up any hope of doing well enough to receive any scholarships to further his study. In the front of the room sat the same exam moderator, who was calling names, and it was some while after ‘K,’ the first letter of Harry's surname, was called. Harry went up to the moderator, who looked at him as though with renewed eyes.
‘My boy,’ she said with a smile, ‘you are something special!’ And she handed him his results slip.