Dean nodded and we went out to the parking lot without talking. The SUV was unmolested and not yet covered by pollen and dust which reassured me in an odd way. But then something dawned on me.
"I haven't seen any traffic, have you?" I looked at the road and waited for a passing car. Nada. It was still really early, but it struck me as completely wrong. Dean stood up straighter and looked around with exaggerated interest.
"Doesn't mean anything, Lindy. There could be an accident on the highway and nobody can come into town." He seemed amused at my fears.
"But why isn't anyone trying to leave?" I couldn't hear a single engine.
"Duh, they like, heard the news on the radio or something and are staying home. Or there's a bad storm heading towards us! That's it. Nobody is traveling cause of warnings. I mean it's like, thirty degrees here." He had a jacket on while I was still wearing a cute linen outfit that wasn't exactly keeping me warm, but again I hadn't packed to stay long up in West Virginia. I added a warm jacket to my growing list of things to shop for in town or if things were bad -- steal.
"Okay, maybe you're right." Still, it didn't ring true, and I noticed that I couldn't hear anything but us talking. No birds, cars or people. This wasn't good.
"How much gas is in that beast of an SUV?" I hadn't thought to look, but now I was wondering if we could even drive out of town. There was a gas station on the other side of the rural highway that ran through the town but it looked abandoned and I caught the gas prices and knew it hadn't been open in a few years. Any time I saw gas for close to a couple bucks spelled out usually meant they had gone under. The gas station hadn't been open when we had arrived in the town, and wasn't going to be opening any time soon, either -- had nothing to do with whatever was happening right now, but a sign of the failing economy.
"I dunno, maybe a quarter of a tank." Dean didn't seem disturbed by that, but I was. I shelved the idea of running out of town just yet in the car, because that gas could be all we had left for a while. I wasn't willing to waste that fuel to joy ride around town. We got to the car and I got out the tennis shoes and layered three pairs of socks on my feet. They still were loose, but I wasn't going to run around in heels anymore. I didn't have any warmer clothes, but I had snagged one of the dead woman's sweaters. It was a nice cashmere cardigan that would do a bit to keep me warmer, but not that much. I pulled out bottled water and palmed another pain pill while Dean was scarfing down some of the protein bars we'd brought. After he had polished off three without stopping, he said, "Oh, you want one?"
Gritting my teeth I hissed out, "Please."
Dean tossed me two and I barely breathed in my haste to inhale. I wasn't proud, but starving. Without talking, we both started taking out weapons and some supplies. Soon my backpack was full and slung over both shoulders. Dean had elected to use one of the duffel bags we'd liberated and put in a few more items than I had that were heavier. He slung it over one shoulder but he still looked pained. I knew it wasn't the weight of the bag, but more along the lines of the guilt he carried. I ignored it and headed out towards the street that headed into town. There hadn't been any signs of that kid nor anyone else.
We locked the car up and I held my hand out for the keys. Dean looked further hurt by my obvious lack of trust. I didn't give a damn. For all I knew he'd run back and leave me at the first signs of trouble and from how I was feeling it wouldn't be too much longer before trouble found us.
We walked along the sidewalk and nothing moved except for us. There was a buzzing sound near the first two story building we came upon as the empty scenery had given way to the outskirts of town. The hotel/motel had been about half a mile from town and I saw cars parked on the street without anyone getting in or out of them. No joggers or moms pushing strollers or even an old man walking an old dog -- weather warning or not this was getting scarier by the minute.
"Maybe the town was evacuated cause of the approaching storm," Dean was sticking to the story he'd invented out of thin air. Now he was adding to the story in his mind and was trying to convince me.
"Maybe," I was more curious about that buzzing sound. There was a huge tree that caught my attention. Something whipped past my right ear and went up to the tree. A few more followed and I quickly identified the insect as a bee. Since I wasn't smothered in them, I knew they had to be normal honey bees -- but not so normal. It was way past bee season. With winter approaching most hives were shut down for a few months while they lived off the honey they produced and waited until spring. All the drones should have died off and the remaining bees with the queen tucked in and waiting for warm sunny days and flowers. The bees kept flying past me as I stood transfixed by the first signs of activity in the area, but not reassuring to me in the least.
I walked closer to the building and said softly to Dean, "Come here and get out of the bees' flight pattern."
He let out a slight squeak and moved to my side.
"Why are you looking weird?" Dean asked with a puzzled look on his face. The man thought I looked weird after not noticing much of anything over the past twenty-four hours.
Sighing, I said, "Because it's too cold for bees and they should be snuggling inside their hives waiting for spring. That hive is unnatural."
Dean still looked puzzled and now more than a little confused. Instead of over-thinking it he shrugged and said, "Whatever. Let's go find some people."
So rather than trying to explain nature versus weird ass creepy stuff I said, "Sure -- people not evacuated right?"
He was brightening up because he thought I was buying the whole BS he was slinging. Which I wasn't, but I wanted him alert and not freaking out at my observations even if he didn't understand what it meant. I hated when I was right and by right I meant that something uncanny was occurring, along the lines of more than just bees off-season and zombies in the last town. There was another supernatural element in West Virginia, and I was hoping that it wasn't Moth-man. A five or six foot red eyed flying creature of legend didn't need to be added to the local myths.
We got to the front of the building and I saw the first bit of evidence that there was life in the town. Inside it, I saw the kid, tossing clothes out of a suitcase that I was pretty sure was the one I'd seen him rolling out of the motel parking lot. He didn't notice us, but the smaller girl next to him did, and began hammering him on the arm and pointed to us. I couldn't understand through the glass what she said, but he shot up with a handgun facing us. I'd already yanked out my own weapon before we'd rounded the corner and had it pointed right at him. Dean took a second to comprehend the standoff, but pulled out a huge sawed-off shotgun that we'd come across and loaded with some deadly shells.
His eyes were huge, but the kid tried to stay steady with both hands on his gun. His stance was slightly off and his hands were shaking slightly. It looked like nobody was going to drop their weapons when the girl pushed the kid's gun down and ran towards us with joy on her face. She yanked the door open and said, "Quick, get inside before they see you!"
I dropped my hand to my side and went inside. That was when I first came face to face with Sammy. Little did I know then how he'd shape my life.
Yeah, I came back to Earth to hear Grant say, "So you got all that?"
"Yes, sir. I'll be here by nine tonight and come in through the back door using my birthday and come watch the 'guests' sleep through the night. If anything goes wrong, I push the red button and wait to get a call from you while staying locked inside that room." Anything he'd said after that I pretty much would have to fake since I hadn't been paying attention. He'd mentioned my West Virginia troubles with those damned zombies like it was common knowledge. That seriously creeped my ass out!
"It's enough. And like I told you there's a binder in the room with information that will be valuable in your career here." Grant made it sound like I'd promised to be working here for the rest of my life. After having met Melissa and shook her hand maybe I had. Fuck me, my life was always going tits down. The years of hiding from that crap at home ... I was not happy to find out that it sure looked like my Twilight Zone life wasn't going to simply turn normal 'cause I moved to Florida.
With that, Grant showed me out the front door. His shadow from the lobby lights did something strange. I could have sworn that the shadow was like three times the size of the five-foot-nothing Grant before me, and he had like fur or something making him look twice as wide. I shook off that image and sketched him a wave good bye. I still didn't know how much I was getting paid, but then he could have said something and I'd missed it remembering the zombie shit. Shrugging, I got into the car and found the Lincoln was still scalding hot, but the A/C quickly made the temp drop to normal and I headed back to grandma's home. She'd be happy I got a job, but I wasn't so sure she'd be happy hearing I was working at some spooky sleep clinic. I figured I better keep that to myself, because last time she worried about where she was living she ended up in Florida and there wasn't shit all she could do to head further south in the United States, unless she went for Puerto Rico or a Virgin Island. She had said years ago she would die in America and I believed her.
On the way home the rush hour had hit, so it was basically rolling along the I-95 parking lot with accidents to interrupt the bumper to bumper boredom of watching idiots text and not drive. The one thing grandma and I agreed on was using a cell phone while in a car was stupid. I didn't need any dumb ass 'Public Service' announcements telling me about the dangers 'cause all it took was ten minutes on a Florida road and the results were really evident. In fact, I watched some jerk whip his wheel to the right while texting and run right into some lady who was yacking on her cell, oblivious to her quickly changing world. I heard the smash, and continued before I was caught up in the debris flying and the traffic stopping behind them. I saw no need to stop since there had been plenty of folks on the highway, and I didn't want to be late for work. Yeah, I can be a shithead and I probably should have stopped, but hell, they both were on their phones, so I saw it as both of their faults. The insurance companies could figure it out from there, no need to screw up my life.
Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-04-11
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.