Symbiont / Page 135

Page 135


“This one’s open.” Nathan’s call came from the other side of the garage. I turned, peering through the gloom, and found him standing next to the dark bulk of what looked like a minivan. “No keys.”

“What’s the make?” asked Fishy.

“Io.”

Fishy actually grinned. “Pre- or post-auto drive?”

“I don’t know. How am I supposed to know that? It’s an Io. I can’t even tell what color it is.”

“Wait right there.” Fishy half jogged across the garage, neatly sidestepping around Beverly, to join Nathan at the open van door. He peered inside the vehicle, seeming to look more with his hands than with his eyes—which made sense, given the darkness—and finally announced, gleefully, “You don’t need keys or a crash course on how to hot-wire a car. All you need is one short and a screwdriver.”

“What?” said Nathan.

“What?” I said.

“You spent a lot of time in prison before the world got messed up, didn’t you?” said Dr. Banks.

Fishy ignored us all as he turned and walked over to the wall. Bumping, clattering sounds traced his progress, making me wince. It was hard to know how much of the noise he was making would be audible outside the garage, but even a little could very easily be too much, under the circumstances. There was one final clatter, louder than the rest, and then Fishy was trotting back, holding something long and pointed in one hand. “There’s always a toolbox in a place like this,” he said, pushing past Nathan. His upper body half vanished into the van, and for a few moments the only sounds were the drums beating in my eyes and Fishy rustling around in the front seat.

There was a click. The van’s engine turned over, and the headlights came on, throwing the front half of the garage into terrible clarity. A man was slumped against the wall on the right, only a few feet away from the bench and open toolbox that Fishy must have been rummaging through. The man’s throat had been slit, and the words “I’m sorry” were written on the wall in what I strongly suspected was his blood. I shuddered and looked away.

Fishy didn’t appear to have noticed. He was enthusiastically explaining the art of using a screwdriver in place of a key to Nathan, periodically leaning back into the van to give the screwdriver a twist or jiggle, for reasons I couldn’t understand and didn’t particularly want to learn. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, waiting for them to be done, waiting for the moment when we could start moving and put this dark, dead space behind us.

Beverly began to growl.

It was a low, almost inaudible sound at first, easily overlooked under the chatter from Fishy and the questioning replies from Nathan. I stiffened, trying to turn my senses outward, looking for pheromone trails or… or whatever it was that I actually looked for when I did that. I found nothing. But Beverly was still growling, the sound increasing in both volume and urgency, and she didn’t do that without cause. “Guys?” I said.

They ignored me.

Beverly pressed herself hard against my leg. Her eyes were fixed on the open garage door, and her ears were flat against her head, giving her a distinctly predatory cast. “Guys,” I said again, louder this time. “Something’s upsetting Beverly.”

That got Dr. Banks to pay attention to me, at least. “Is it sleepwalkers?”

“I don’t know. I’m not picking up anything, but I don’t know if I would. I think we should be moving.”

“In a second,” said Fishy.

Beverly continued to growl, still getting steadily louder. For the first time, I felt that odd ping at the back of my head that meant sleepwalkers coming, sleepwalkers nearby—but it was so much stronger than I had expected it to be, especially with so little lead-in, that it might as well have meant sleepwalkers here.

“We don’t have any more seconds,” I said, urgently. “We have to go now.”

The urgency in my voice must have been enough to catch his attention; the outline of his head appeared above the dashboard of the van. I turned, dragging Beverly with me, and ran toward the others. Dr. Banks saw me move and moved with me, and for one glorious moment, I thought we were going to be okay: we had moved fast enough, we had made it out of the path of oncoming danger.

And then the sleepwalkers of San Francisco, who had had quite a long while to grow hungry as they roved the hills looking for things to fill the holes that could never be filled, hit the open door of the garage like a wave. Their bodies blocked out what little light there was in an instant, and everything became the shouts and shoves of my companions as we tried to get ourselves into the van. I wound up in the back, holding on to Beverly with all my might as I struggled to keep her from leaping out of the vehicle and tearing off into the fray. Nathan pushed Dr. Banks in after me and slammed the door.

The front doors were still open. “Come on, you idiot, get in the car!” shouted Nathan.

Fishy. Fishy was still out there. “I’m good!” he shouted back. “Go, I’ll hold them off!”

“The damn fool’s going to kill us all,” snarled Dr. Banks, and for once he and I were in perfect, terrible agreement. Then Nathan was in the driver’s seat, and was reaching across the van to grab the back of Fishy’s shirt and haul him into the front passenger seat, somehow managing to lift the smaller, stockier man with nothing but a grunt of strained protest. The sleepwalkers were closing fast, and the buzz in my head that told me they were coming was a clanging bell warning me of a five-alarm fire. It was becoming physically painful. I bent forward, clasping my hands at the base of my skull, and tried to will the sound away.


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