What the Old Man Did 7

April 13, 2012

I started walking back the way I had come. The woman followed me. Girl may have been better. She couldn’t be more than 17 or so. She followed after me, though I had said nothing in response to her plea. I didn’t like this. Darkness was falling and I had no light. But what I was really worried about was having to take this one along. I now felt some obligation to see that she did get herself killed. A likely prospect I thought.

One thing I did not know about the things: what did they do at night? I’d never observed them doing anything. Just then I saw one. It wasn’t moving. Just standing there near an unlit street lamp. It seemed to be staring right at us. Its head moved, seemingly tracking us, but it didn’t move from its spot near the lamp post. I turned to my new companion and motioned her to be quiet. She hadn’t seen the thing, I could tell. Glancing over at it, I knew I’d made a mistake as soon as I’d done it. She made a frightened sound, like kids make when they find a wasp on or near them. It started to move in our direction, but not too quickly. I stopped and waited for the girl and grabbed her arm so she faced me. My face must have had an awful look on it. She mouthed, “I’m sorry!” I jerked my head and we began to jog. The thing walked in the direction it had started in, to the spot where the girl had been.

It must not be able to see us. But I didn’t dare assume all of them were this way. I slowed to a crouching walk, and I saw the girl was imitating me. Good. At least she wasn’t stupid.

The gloom got deeper and I noticed there were no stars. Cloudy. Huh. Bad luck. I could still see building outlines and there was a glow off to the right. I thought this must be the still burning cars. Suddenly there was a minor explosion. Burning debris brightened the sky. I turned to the girl and said “run!” We sprinted around the corner toward the light. I knew where I was now. As we came in full view of the fires I saw a huge crowd of things, milling around near the fire. A nearby car suddenly exploded, engulfing more than 50 of them. They wandered into others, setting them aflame. There must have been a hundred on fire now. They didn’t make a sound.

So, they felt no pain. No wonder shooting them in places other than the head failed to stop them completely.

In the light of the fires I saw a building with an intact door. It was worth a try. I ran toward it, the girl keeping up with me easily. That was good. I tried the door. Locked. The girl spoke after a moment. “I can open it.” I motioned for her, skeptical. She pulled an object from her pocket and began working. I busied myself checking to see if we were being observed. We were. Two of the things were advancing. The firelight must have been enough for them. I pulled out my knife and moved quickly. Pushing the blade into the leaders neck and then the brain, it dropped. The second was near but I was able to repeat the move in time.

A few minutes later, the girl spoke softly, “It’s open!” She opened the door but waited for me. I wiped the knife on the clothing of the first dead thing. As far as I could tell the lobby of the building was empty. I moved toward the stairs and started up. On the landing was another thing. Just standing there in the semidarkness. It fell momentarily. There was a rush of air behind me. The girl exhaled in a gust but made no other sound. We kept climbing. Finally I found the roof entrance. Miraculously, it was open. It had a bar on the other side. I put it in place without locking it. We made our way to the dark roof and stood on top watching the fires burn themselves out below.

After a few minutes I unpacked the stove and some chili and started heating it up. She watched me with what I could only assume was the look of a starving dog. I let her eat the whole can with the camp spoon. She drank the water bottle. Great. I decided I wasn’t that hungry, and put things away, rolling out the thin blanket and climbing on. She stood watching me. I turned on my side facing away from her. I guess I figured that if she was homicidal it was too late now. I fell asleep.

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