(Note: In the narration, Phoebe's name is changed to 'Foebe.')
Does anybody remember the show the magic school bus? It was a children's cartoon show in the '90s where a crazy science teacher would take students on weekly adventures into places such as into space or through the human digestive system. What most people don't know about the show was that it was meant to fit into a line of horror stories for kids before the concept spiraled horrifically out of control and most likely terrified test audiences. Originally planned by PBS, it was designed by Melnitsa Animation Studio in Russia, and thus the original pilot episode was partially animated in Russia before being chopped at the five minute mark to be a kids' series. In the original episode, the doubting school children were brought onto a school bus (Originally the bus had no eyes) that transformed into a spacecraft and brought them into space, where strange things began to happen. As such, the episode starts normally. The recut includes the original PBS episode 1, but the music is different, with an infinitely descending Shepard's tone replacing the happy intro. The title screen is merely black, with the words (Я не могу дышать) over what must be an English translation that says "The Sad Bus". After some resarch, I found that it said "I cannot breathe".
I only saw the episode in a recut through a friend in Russia who had VHS taped it and sent it to me with the explicit note that I do not share it due to legal disclosures. I am guessing that the recut didn't include the bus' eyes, but I'm not sure whether it's layering or horror that two of the student characters, Carlos and Dorothy Ann aren't there either. I mean they are there, but their eyes are missing, and no one mentions it. The bus also looks much more sinister because the front lights are normal (though still eye-like) and the grill of the bus just looks extremely sad, like it's in a constant frown. The voice work is also different, with a sense of sorrow in the American actors' voices. In the PBS edition, Arnold's cousin Janet thinks that Mrs. Frizzle is boring, so Arnold has the teacher take them into space. In this episode, going into space is where things become very messed up. Nothing from the original episode is here, instead the bus "transforms" into a space ship, kind of like one you'd see in a film like 2001: A Space Odyssey. There's no transition, it just becomes this. The walls are all white and there seem to be infinite corridors with steep drops. From the outside, it looks like a soviet space rocket, but larger. Arnold comments that this wasn't what he expected and he wants to go home. Janet and Carlos also seem equally confused, but Janet is smiling. Mrs. Frizzle says that there is an override lock on the ship and nobody can leave until it has reached its destination: "We are hurtling toward the sun". Mrs. Frizzle tells everyone that she can either turn off the airlock and suffocate everyone, only jokingly, before saying that she will put in the manual override, but it will take six months to reach Earth.
She suggests that everyone go into stasis sleep. A cancerous sore has developed on Mrs. Frizzle's face but nobody makes any mention of it. There is a problem, however, there are only nine stasis beds and eleven people, including Mrs. Frizzle. Mrs. Frizzle tells them that she'll be fine staying up for six months, but one of the students will have to stay up as well. Ralphie suggests they draw straws. They do so, and Arnold is determined to be the one who has to stay up. Now up to this point, the episode was bafflingly strange, but this is where the show descends into realms that I couldn't make up if I tried. Mrs. Frizzle tells Arnold that originally there were thirty students in the class, but twenty of them died. She tells arnold she is going into the upper airlock where there is a seperate bed, and she only told the students there were less beds because she didn't want them to face the idea that one person would be alone for six months. And the time frame for returning home isn't six months, but rather two years. She leaves and locks the door behind her from the outside.
You can only tell that time is progressing because Arnold is proceeding to grow more unkempt, nervous and dirty. The nine beds line the walls, and there are porthole windows along with a control panel that is deactivated. The food that was left for him sits in one corner of the room. He tries to ration it, but there is only enough for what seems to be a month. He also has no means of a bathroom, so he urinates and defecates on the floor. After about two minutes, two months have passed, and Arnold is looking noticeably nervous and disheveled. He's extremely hungry, more so than he's ever been. Ralphie's catchphrase "I think I'm gonna be sick" begins to play, repetitively, over the music track. I think it was meant to reflect Arnold's mind, but then Mrs. Frizzle begins to talk. "You're hungry, aren't you" Arnold now realizes the predicament he faces. He won't survive two years in this environment, and if he tries to kill himself by smashing a porthole window, he'll kill his other students. "You didn't leave me enough food!" Arnold screams. The voice begins to grow darker and more tinged, and deeper. "Oh, but Arnold, I did." The animation does a long, slow pan across the room with what looks like a stylization of a wide-angle lens, pointing out the beds. And then the voice changes. "I am your extrasensory nervous system. This is no hallucination, Arnold. I am you.
The weirdest, and most convincing thing about the animation of the original episode is that Arnold looks very similar to Mrs. Frizzle. One would think they are related. They both have pale skin, orange hair, and represent nerds. Even their mannerisms, aside from Mrs. Frizzle's greater achieved sense of confidence, have their similarities. The voice began to whisper. "Eat them." Arnold had attempted to analyze the space chart over the defunct control panel for some time, but only now, realizing that he was intentionally trapped here, did it make sense. The path wasn't leading to Earth, it was heading for a malformed black hole that had strangely appeared to the left of the moon. Through whatever means, the room was also becoming increasingly hot, so much so that Arnold had to take off all but his underwear. The unclean environment was forcing him to develop sores, as he slept on his side in a mat before ritualistically taking Carlos from the bed so he could sleep there at night. That was when he made the horrible realization that none of them were breathing. Mrs. Frizzle hadn't put them into stasis, she euthanized them. It was only after he had made this realization that a scalpel appeared near the door. Someone had opened it while he was sleeping, and moved the bodies around. The words "BERET SEE HOPE" are scrawled in English on the wall in marker. The increasing need to eat was more apparent now than ever. He looked at Phoebe. He secretly loathed her. This became all the more apparent as he took the scalpel and slowly cut into her belly. He was not at all hesitant now. This scene is the most disturbing because the angle never changes. His expression is always angry, with cartoon stylized eyebrows. For an entire sixty seconds he slices her open, eats her lungs and intestines, peels and eats her skin, then moves onto the face, slicing off eyebrows and the nose, leaving a shaved skeletal corpse as the camera time lapses. The animation is different here, it's more specific, more layered and more medical looking. Now the cancerous sores are visibly on Arnold's face as well. The next day the scalpel is removed. For the next month or so, he picks on the remains of Phoebe.
The next time lapse seems more messed up, because now Arnold seems to have begun to hit puberty. He has nibbled on the ears and fingers of every student except Janet because it's his cousin. The scalpel appears again, this time with the words "AMORAL SCORN" written on the wall. Arnold talks to himself frantically. "What does that mean? What does that mean?" He picks up the scalpel and decides who to eat next. He never liked Carlos either.
As he undresses Carlos and begins to slice into him, the student ID falls out of his pocket.
He says "Carlos Ramon."
It was an anagram, just as "BERET SEE HOPE" was an anagram for Phoebe Terese's name.
By now the episode is almost over, and the screen begins to flicker as Arnold starts to gasp for air. "You knew" Arnold begins to cry. The animation gets very choppy at this point. Two different shots are seen. In one, the schoolbus collides with the sun. In another, Arnold continues to eat the remaining students, in order, based on the anagram instructions. Since it's a time lapse, you only see the bodies and the bones begin to pile up. He refuses to eat Janet, his cousin, before ultimately slicing his neck with the scalpel and killing himself. The cancerous sores envelop his corpse.
The retrograde film begins to deteriorate before the Russian words appear. This directly translates to "WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JANET?". There's nothing else, the ship enters a black hole and there are no credits. Instead, we just hear Arnold profusely screaming that he can't breathe as a burning noise begins to envelop the back layer track. It goes on for a full three minutes. I tried figuring out what happened to Janet, but the only real clue is, I suppose, in the animation itself.