It was an old school bus, now painted gleaming white. Stenciled on its side, in black capitol letters, read the name of the institution that had repurposed it: HOLY TRINITY SISTERS OF MERCY.
Mile after mile, we hadn’t seen a single vehicle on the highway. Not one. And, now, suddenly, here was a bus parked almost gracefully in a shallow ditch. Its wheels were half sunk in the mud. Spring’s first rays of sunshine had brought out fresh shoots of grass; the empty Great Plains glistened with new green all around us. It was as if the beautiful weather had put the bus driver to sleep, and the bus had gradually slowed, finally coming to a gentle rest alongside the road. Little white butterflies flitted all around the muddy tires.
About forty dead nuns filled the bus’s every seat.
When I pried open the collapsible door, the body of a very old, very heavyset Mother Superior lay resting pitched over the steering wheel.
The bus’s stereo system was playing the Scissor Sisters’ Take Your Mama Out on loop from a thumb drive.
I turned off the music.
Empty tin cans, hundreds of them, littered the bus’s floor. Green beans, corn, chili: just about anything you could find in a supermarket’s canned food isle.
Every last one of the dead nuns’ mouths were covered in remnants of preserved food. Corned beef, stewed plums, and what looked like marinara sauce ran down the front of every habit. Most of the dead nuns’ hands were still planted in jaggedly-opened cans.
But this wasn’t even the strangest part. Every last one of the corpses bore what looked like a faint smile. It was as if the entire convent had blissfully eaten itself to death.
“This can’t have been from TGV,” I called out to Chris, confused. “Can it be?” None of the dead nuns showed any sign of decay or desiccation. And why had they all been gorging themselves before they’d suddenly died?
“Can’t be TGV,” Chris confirmed hesitantly. “Doesn’t look like any kind of TGV I’ve ever seen.” He’d already jabbed a butterfly needle into one of the dead nun’s arms. “We better check this out, though.”