Chapter 18: Sting of the rose
The door slowly opened, and Mandy was relieved it was only their local sheriff. She had to hold back the feeling of diving into a hug until she knew it was safe to come out of the safety of their metal walls. Elderton seemed ok. Martha came up and looked in over Elderton’s shoulder in at Mandy and Maggie.
“How long have ya’ll been in there?” Martha asked.
“Not long,” Mandy said. “Lucas had just turned.” She stepped out holding Maggie’s shaking hand. “What is going on?”
“Not real certain,” Elderton started, “But something in the water at least is affecting people, turning them into rabid-like creatures. The government is here, Homeland Security, Army, and something else. They aren’t talking much. Kept us under guard until we escaped.” Elderton paused for a moment, looked at Martha for approval or disapproval before she continued. Martha simply nodded to her. Elderton continued, “And, there’s some alien creature and egg or pod thing. We don’t know how it all comes together, but we need help. Real help. Because the ones that are here are not helping. They’re just trying to cover it up.”
“Wait, did you say water?” Maggie asked.
“Yeah, why?” Elderton said.
Both Mandy and Maggie looked at each other and said, “Dylan.”
Maggie broke away from Mandy’s grasp and ran to the back of the store, where they’d found Dylan hiding before. She found him in the corner with a broom in hand, he was shaking. She slapped him across the face. He yelped.
“You’re a real piece of work, ya know that?” Maggie yelled at him.
Mandy and the others came running up behind. Mandy pulled her back and stepped between the two.
“He just ran and hid,” Maggie said, “While we had to fend for ourselves against Lucas. Ran and hid!” She yelled the last words at him.
“Alright,” Elderton said. “Let’s all calm down. We need each other alive. Come on, let’s sit down and talk.”
Hurts so good...
After they had shared everything they knew with each other, they sat motionless in the booth they had occupied for twenty minutes. Dylan had remained quiet for most of the time. Mandy kept checking him, afraid he was going to turn on them. He had drunk a lot of water and she just wasn’t sure he was all there upstairs.
“So what should we do?” Mandy asked.
“I think we need to get as many of us out as possible,” Elderton said. “But that’s not going to be easy. They’ll no doubt have the roads in and out blocked. And as you know, there’s only the North and South roads between the mountains. So we’ll have to escape on foot. But we can’t make it over the mountain pass.”
Martha chimed in, “When we were kids, my mom would take us into Canada along the beach. The North beach wraps around the mountainside and if you stay on it you can cross into Canada unnoticed. We did it all the time when we were kids, because there was a little ice cream shop in the border town.”
“I didn’t know that,” Maggie said.
“I’d heard of that, but never tried it,” Elderton said. “I like it. It’s a lot of area to cover between here and the woods, and then the woods are almost all uphill. It ain’t gonna be easy. Let’s try to cut the distance in half. Why don’t we make it to the church first, and then head over to the woods from there? That way if we get separated, we know where to go next. Sound good?”
Mandy and Maggie agreed. But Dylan got up and moved to the window.
“There’s something going on out there,” Dylan said. He peeled back a sliver of cardboard and what he saw was a gathering group of survivors and military in the Aldi parking lot across the street. “Hey, the military is gathering up some townies at Aldi. Looks like they’re trying to help us.”
The rest moved to the windows and peeked out as well.
“I don’t know, Dylan,” Elderton said. “I don’t trust them. You didn’t see what we saw.”
Dylan shook his head. “Screw it.” He opened the door and looked back at Mandy, “You coming with?”
Mandy couldn’t believe that he had the audacity to act like he was her savior after everything that had happened. She wanted to slap him just as Maggie had, but chose the more diplomatic route instead. “Dylan, Elderton and Martha know about these guys, you don’t. You better listen.”
Dylan shook his head. “It’s our military. They’re on our side.”
Elderton chimed in, “It’s not even debatable. They are not helping us. We stick to the plan and save ourselves.”
Dylan bit his lip, and then ran out of the door. Mandy grabbed the door, so it wouldn’t slam shut. They watched from behind the cardboard as Dylan crossed the street and entered the parking lot. The soldiers were startled and raised their weapons. Dylan stopped and raised his hands. A lot of shouting was going on between Dylan and the soldiers, but they couldn’t hear what was being said from inside. They watched as they welcomed him over. They added him to the group of townsfolk. They looked around for any other survivors. The commanding officer gave an order, and the soldiers had the townsfolk get into a single line. After the last soldier had stepped away from them, the soldiers opened fire and gunned them all down like a firing squad.
The gunshots rang out through the night, the soldiers scampered into a military jeep. They peeled out of the parking lot before a group of infected showed up and began eating on the corpses. The jeep full of soldiers came back and began to do donuts around the feasting. Soldiers were hanging out the side of the jeep spraying bullets into the crowd of chaos. They didn’t stop until the last one had dropped. They tore out of the parking lot and headed down the street and out of sight.
All they had left behind was a pile of corpses and blood. Dylan was at the bottom somewhere.
Mandy was in shock. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed. It had all happened so fast. One second they were alive, the next they were dead. And the soldiers didn’t even hesitate from following the heinous order. They really were on their own.
Elderton stepped in front of Maggie and Mandy. “As you can see, we have to save ourselves. We head to the church, and then the beach, and then out of Tipton for good.” Everyone silently nodded in agreement with Elderton. “Now, do you girls know your way around a gun?”
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