Among Monsters / Page 9

Page 9


She leaned toward me. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

I sighed. “You just went.”

“I’m nervous,” she admitted.

I kissed her forehead. “Me, too. We’ll go as soon as we get to Dad’s. It’s not far, I promise.”

“But I have to go,” Halle said again, desperation in her voice.

I looked to Dad. “We can’t go yet,” I whispered to him.

“What? Why?”

“Halle has to go to the restroom.”

“Again?”

“She’s nervous,” I explained.

He sighed, frustrated. “Take her. Hurry. In and out.”

I tugged on Halle’s hand.

“The bathroom’s that way,” she said, resisting with every step.

“There’s only one restroom, Halle, and there’s a line. You’re going to have to go outside.”

“What? I’m not pottying outside!” she hissed.

I forced her out the door and to a dark corner of the yard. “Halle,” I grunted. “Here. Squat.”

“No!”

“We don’t have time for this!” I said.

Our voices were no louder than a whisper. We were well practiced in fighting just loud enough so that no one could hear.

Halle grew sullen, her lips forming a hard line. “This. Is. Injustice,” she said, unbuttoning her jeans.

“You don’t even know what that means,” I said, exasperated. I turned around but leaned back to murmur one last instruction out of the side of my mouth, “Don’t go on your shoes.”

“My pee feels hot. I think I’m running a fever.”

“It’s just cold outside. Hurry up.”

“What if I’m infected?”

“You’re not. Let’s go.”

Halle put herself together, and then I gestured to Dad that we were ready. Dad would go first in case anyone noticed, and then we would follow in twos.

Halle and I pretended to talk while Dad walked casually down the fence line, running his fingers along the chain links. To me, his nonchalance looked forced, but no one else seemed to notice. I kept Halle with me once Dad had slipped into the space between the two large gates. The young gunmen had closed the gates earlier with a rusted thick chain.

Dad was athletically built. He was on the department’s softball team. He wasn’t in the best shape of his life, but he easily maneuvered himself under the chain to the other side. Halle simply sidestepped through, but I had to duck. Dad kept walking toward the shadows of the trees, and Halle gripped my hand tighter.

A few moments later, I heard the chain rattle again.

Dad strolled across the street and into the park, and then he ducked behind a large tree trunk. When Halle and I reached him, he pulled us to the side.

“Wha—” I began, but Dad covered my mouth with his hand.

Halle’s eyes danced between us. When Tavia made it to the tree with her son in her arms, Dad removed his hand from my mouth to hold his finger to his lips.

Tavia blinked.

“Can you keep him quiet?” Dad asked. He nearly breathed out the words.

Tavia raised an eyebrow.

“What if he’s scared? Will he be quiet if you tell him to?”

“I am his mama. Nothing else is scarier than that,” she whispered.

Dad tilted his head in the direction of the street on the other side of the armory. The police officers were mobilizing outside.

“Heads up!” one called.

“Halt!” another said.

“We’re police officers! Halt, or we will fire!”

The commotion drew the attention of the groups of people in the yard. They walked over to the west fence. The yelling had also attracted the multitude of silhouettes wandering in the dark, their slow ambling only truly visible between streetlights. They were moving like children. Like bored grade-schoolers walking in a line to a field trip no one wanted to go on, they shuffled their feet in protest. Surely, they moved forward toward the officers without fear.

I’d watched enough movies with my mom to know what I was looking at. “They came from the highway, didn’t they? They’re infected,” I said, not really asking.

“Last warning!” an officer commanded.

“Please stop!” another begged as he aimed and cocked his rifle.

The tornado sirens filled the air, an eerie rise and fall, echoing from each corner of town.

“Run,” Tavia whispered.

I knew she was speaking to the people in the armory.

“Kids are in there, Dad. Little kids.”

“Shh,” he said.

“Kids Halle’s age. Babies,” I pleaded.

“We can’t help them,” he said.

Tavia picked up her son. “We should go. Before…” Her voice trailed off.

I was glad she hadn’t said the words in front of Halle.

One of the police officers fired off a warning shot, but the river washed over him, his cries muffled, and then they moved on to the others.

“Go!” Dad took one stride and then stopped, yanking me back by the shirt. “Wait! Let’s go around.” He made a half circle in the air, pointing toward the east.

Tavia shook her head. “Let’s just get there!”

Dad pulled on my shirt again, and I, in turn, pulled on Halle.

“Look,” he said, gesturing to the road.

A few people from the yard had escaped despite the shooting, and they were running south down Sixth Street. It was just a handful at first, and then more appeared.

“C’mon, Tavia,” I hissed as the screaming in the armory began.

“What’s happening?” Halle cried.

I held my hand over her mouth as we walked quickly across the other street and down a small road with small houses. A dog began barking and rushed toward Dad, stopping only when its chain held him back. After a momentary pause, Dad encouraged us to continue.

We walked two blocks east and then turned south. The police were still shooting, but the shouting and screams had quieted down. Halle was whimpering but kept quiet. Tobin looked around with wide eyes and a finger in his mouth, but he hadn’t made a peep.

Once we got to Dad’s street, Dad held up his hand, and we froze. A man was bent over an animal that was collared and still attached to a chain. His head was bobbing up and down and then jerking from one side to the other as he yanked away the animal’s flesh from the bone.


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