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Excerpt from "Rex"

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

The morning was chilly, which was uncharacteristic of a Cambrian summer.

June in my town usually meant t-shirts and popsicles and my sister complaining about the sweat stains I left on the passenger seat of her Toyota. Last year, I’d spent the majority of my summer lounging by my cousin’s pool with a cup of Diet Coke while he and his friends chugged cans of beer before hitting the club.

I figured the weather had something to do with my mood, because I wasn’t exactly feeling the summer vibe, either. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was standing in a dangerous neighborhood, awaiting a bus that would take me to my inevitable doom.

Maybe I was being dramatic, but it was the least I could be after the shock of everything that had occurred the night before.

The bus station was located on the edge of town, in an area that I was told not to go to as a kid. Unlike the suburban homes that comprised most of Cambria, the houses here were rusty and worn down, many scheduled for demolition. The windows were punched in and the lawns decayed, long-dead trees stretching their bony branches towards the sky like corpses crawling out of their graves.

When we were younger, my brother Zach had called it “Zombie Street,” making it a popular location for children on Halloween. At seventeen, all I could think about was the possibility of getting jumped by one of the meth addicts that undoubtedly lurked within the closed-down houses.

I’d shown up ten minutes early to the station, and there were only two other people around me so far: a purple-haired girl with aggressive black roots, and a guy in a denim vest and an American flag bandana. Both stood a few paces away, promptly facing opposite directions to signify that they weren’t interested in making conversation.

It wasn’t like I could strike up an interesting conversation in the first place, anyway. Or at least, not without Rex. Rex hadn’t been active since the chaos from the night before, and he didn’t show any signs of coming back. Maybe he was still traumatized from the chaos and had been shocked into submission.

I sighed and chewed on the end of my straw. Not even Diet Coke could make this situation better.

As I waited impatiently, sipping my soda and tapping my feet, more people began to accumulate around the area. A girl parked her Porche on the side of the road and unloaded two Prada suitcases from the back. I visibly flinched; that car had about as much of a shot at safety as a kid in a dark alley. I eyed her as she made her way toward the crowd, keeping a distance as if to accentuate that she didn’t associate with commoners.

The rest of the attendees appeared pretty normal, aside from the two I’d noted at the beginning. Most of the kids wore sweats and hoodies and had typical haircuts and mannerisms. They stood quietly in clusters around the bus station, like a group of insects waiting to be sprayed with Repel 100.

Sure, most of them looked normal, but I had to remember that most serial killers and school shooters did as well. Who knew what kind of crowd this camp would draw? It had been vaguely advertised as a “rehab center” for “substance users and troublemakers,” which was a nice way to say everyone here was either a druggie or had gotten busted by the cops. Maybe both.

The sound of a sputtering engine disturbed the otherwise silent morning. Everyone craned their necks towards the end of the road, where a gunmetal-black bus was making its way down the street. I couldn’t see much from the distance, but I could see two armed guards standing on the little wraparound porch attached to the sides of the bus. The bus was clearly in poor condition, the paint peeled off and the exterior covered in mold and wet spots. I already knew it was gonna be a hell of a ride.

Jina Jeon is a teen writer from Los Angeles. In 2022, she published her young adult novel “Brand New World” on Amazon, and in 2023, she founded Iceblink Literary Magazine. She is currently working on her next novel alongside several short stories, many of which focus on the paranormal and take place in a mix of time periods.

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