What the Old Man Did 18

May 14, 2012

After what seemed like hours, I decided to walk on. Besides, it was getting creepy sitting in the dark. About 50 feet further on we came to a junction. Another tunnel intersected at right angles. We turned left. That, I thought, must take us nearer to the glass building that had become my home in Atlanta. As we walked, the ground shook. We didn’t get much noise but certainly this was the explosion I was counting on.

Ahead in the distance there appeared to be light. The tube gradually veered to the left and as it straightened, we could see that the tunnel came to an end, above ground, and wide open to anyone or anything. That was slightly unpleasant. Thankfully we didn’t run into anything unexpected, but I held my finger to my lips while looking at Sarah to indicate we should be quiet. Crouching at the entrance, letting our eyes become used to the light we saw the things trooping along, evidently heading to the disturbance caused by our fireworks. So, this wasn’t great. But perhaps the supply would run out, and we could make a break for it.

Sarah whispered, “Are they all like those people at the bank?” I indicated yes. She shivered slightly and I put my arm around her shoulders for a moment.

Finally, I could see nothing approaching. Time to make a break. I motioned to Sarah that we were going out. She shook her head, a frantic look growing in her eyes. “I have a safe place and another friend there.” She watched me for a moment and then nodded ok.

We took a few steps in our crouched position out into the sunlight. And something dawned on me. This was relatively new construction. It had to be, there was exposed rebar and other indications that this was relatively recent stuff. But how? That same feeling in the back of my head I’d felt this morning came back. I was missing something here.

Gravel crunched behind us. Sarah turned and I could tell she was immediately confused and frightened. Glancing back I saw a woman exiting the tunnel. This was clearly not human, but Sarah started to walk toward the thing. It came to me that this was her mother. Emphasis on “was.” One hand was missing and there was a large chunk missing from the neck. I grabbed Sarah and ran with her over the gravel pile in front of us. She struggled against me. I whispered loudly. “That is NOT YOUR MOTHER.” She stopped squirming but I didn’t trust her not to run back there if I let her go. At a hundred yards or so I stopped, winded, and put her down. She was crying, but said nothing and didn’t move.

“Let’s go,” I said. She looked up at me. “That was my mom,” she said without heat. “No,” I said. “Did you look at her?” She just sat there, tears streaming down her face. “Come on. We need to move.” I glanced up and sure enough the creature from the tunnel was following slowly.

. . . Standing in front of Oakland’s door, I knocked quietly but franticly. Down the block I saw my mother, doggedly but slowly approaching me, her eyes staring ahead. As much as I wanted to, I knew I couldn’t let her get near me. I heard a noise at the door. A scratching. My mother was only a few houses down and I didn’t know what to do. I reached for the door knob and tried it. It turned and the door opened a crack. Small fingers, no they weren’t fingers. They were fleshless. Bones. Not flexing just pushing into the crack. I backed up, turned and ran down the street. I didn’t stop until I couldn’t go any further . . .

“Look at her,” I told Sarah. It all depended on her. What she would see. I saw the impulse, to run back. But she didn’t. Finally, when the thing was only 20 yards or so from us, she looked up at me and shook her head. “Let’s go.” I turned and hurried by her side along a dilapidated sidewalk. I was scanning ahead when through the tall grass on the right something stirred and stepped out just in front of us. I grabbed for my knife, pulled it free and stabbed. The thing fell to the ground. Sarah had not stopped and was now twenty feet ahead. Two more things broke through the brush this time between us. I swung the rifle around dropped to a knee so I was and fired carefully, twice. They fell. Up ahead was a crest and Sarah was disappearing over the top. I didn’t want to shout so I sprinted for the top as fast as I could. Someone was bending over her as she kicked and struggled. I put the gun to my shoulder but I couldn’t get a clear shot. But the thing wasn’t trying to bite her. It was just holding on. I ran toward then and damn if it wasn’t Toni standing there. Her mouth open, looking back and forth between us.

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