Judgment Day: Part 19

“God – no!” Daryl tried to shout, his voice rattling through his raw throat.

“She’s dead,” Molly whispered, falling heavily to the mud beside him. She cradled his head against her chest, looking down on him with a queer, lopsided smile. “Just like on TV!” He could feel her shivering.

He tried to clear his throat, feeling like he had swallowed marbles and sandpaper. “My God,” he whispered.

“One shot.” Molly said, her eyes staring into middle space. “Right through. Glad it didn’t hit you,” It sounded like she was reciting lines from a script.

“Yeah…me too.”

“You okay?”

Daryl nodded and struggled to stand, which he couldn’t do without Molly’s help. They both got to their feet in the mud, holding onto each other, and looked down at the creature.

“Maybe they’re aliens,” Molly said suddenly. “Is that a movie?”

V, maybe.” Daryl replied. “She was doing something.”


He nodded towards the shattered window, “She was doing something.” He moved forward and the two of them hobbled towards the house. Daryl’s strength was flowing back into him, so he let go of her and put both hands on the broken frame. After a few seconds of quiet concentration, he lifted himself up and over the sill into the living room.

“I don’t think – “ Molly leaned forward, whispering harshly. But she stopped when he put out his hand and squeezed her shoulder. Her eyes saw something in his, he could tell. A shame he couldn’t put a finger on it himself. Madness? Fear? At that moment, he wasn’t able to put his thoughts into language.

He’d never visited the neighbors. There were polite nods here and there, bumped shoulders whenever the golf club was putting on a fireworks display and everyone gathered on the hill along the edge of his property, watching from a distance what the rich people got to sit under. That was the limit of neighborly love, though.

The living room looked as if the last redecoration was performed in 1978. Tattered tartan couches and a shag rug, faux wood cabinets and magazine racks filled with dusty, unread books. There was a cloying odor of cigarettes and cooking, passed down through decades, and a generous coating of dust on every surface. It was surprising that a house like this could produce such a beautiful daughter.

In the center of the living room, spread out on the worn shag, was a tiny travel case with several items spread around it. He knelt and picked up a picture: The girl, who now lay dead on her lawn, was a smiling youth in the photo, standing with her friends on a sunny college day. Her smile commanded the photograph, toothy and big. There were several items, the trappings of girlish childhood, that had also been laid out in orderly piles. Glitter pins mixed with dolls and journals, the pictures were snapshots piled on top of a framed photo of the family, child-like hair beret’s in the shape of fantasy creatures made another pile. She was sorting out what would fit in the travel bag to go to wherever she thought she had to go.

It hit him hard. He sat down and put a hand on the college photo and, with the weight of exhaustion on him, he started to cry. Hard, choking sobs. The creatures were still human. They remembered their lives. That thing out there on the lawn was the same as the smiling girl in the photo, packing up her old life.

Molly came up behind him. She wrapped her arms around him and rested her chin on his shoulder. She was speaking softly in his ear, but he couldn’t hear her words for the longest time. He covered his face, not wanting her to see him like this and, after a while, she was just silent, holding him, waiting for him to get back in control.

“They’re just like us,” he said at last, picking up the snapshot.

“No,” she said softly, “They’re not.”

“These are all her things, her life…”

“You heard what she said, Daryl. She was going to them. She was taking her memories and going off to meet up with all the others like her.”

“She didn’t say that,”

“That’s what she was doing.” Molly pulled on him and he stood with her, then she stepped back, “We have to get out of here. Leave these houses behind.” She held up Martin’s note, “Your friends are alive, yes?”

“I don’t know, now. What if they’ve turned into creatures, too? Leading me into a trap…”

She blinked and looked at the note. “Well, let’s find out.”

“They know what we’ve done here,” he mumbled, looking out onto the lawn.

“All the more reason to stop having a breakdown.” She was speaking to him in a moderated voice, the way you would talk to a child on the edge of hysteria. She started to back away towards the window, stopping when her legs touched the sofa. “Come on, Daryl. Come on, with me,” and she put out her hand. He didn’t hesitate, he took it and she smiled. He stepped up onto the couch, the sill, then jumped down onto the lawn. Rubbing his throat, he stared down at the neighbor’s daughter as Molly came down beside him. “Poor girl.” He muttered.

Molly laughed, a short, barking burst. “She was a fruitcake! What’s with the hip grinding? Packing little girl things,” she pointed back at the house, the broken window, nicotine yellowed curtains shuddering in the slight breeze. “She was cracked, Daryl and, from the looks of the house, I’d say she was cracked long ago.”

She looked at him, hard, from under a worried brow. He nodded, swallowed painfully, then walked back to the van. He opened the door for her and closed it when she had climbed in.

In the van, he whispered through his ravaged throat, “We’re heading north.”

She nodded.

“Did I steal any aspirin when I raided the pharmacy?”

She raised an eyebrow, then clambered into the back of the van and began sorting through the loot. “What, are you waiting for the captain to put on the fasten seat belt sign?” she called back, “Drive!”

His mind was racing with the next step. They had gotten what they needed, everything else would be available out there in the countryside. Leave the city, leave the creatures behind, head to Sugarloaf Mountain. But was that a real plan? What if his friends had been changed? What if Sugarloaf was a trap? It was certainly possible – these things were living, thinking creatures. Not just that, they were whip smart, the sawdust of the workaday world wiped from their minds and replaced by a vicious cunning.

Daryl had a new set of daily fears today. Had the sawdust been blown from his mind, as well? No, he was an emotional wreck. There was no keeping up with these things. He felt like he was just on the good side of a cluster headache, a full blown sinus attack, in a permanent holding pattern above a bed-ridden breakdown. It wasn’t from the train crash, or the fight on the concourse outside the station, or the neighbor’s daughter. It was his life, or what had been his life. It was exhaustion in the face of the apocalypse. Strange that he knew the feeling well, a daily pain and pressure that whispered thoughts of rebellion while he methodically went to work, day in and day out, and kept his mouth shut. Now it seemed to be steady, not even tragedy bringing a sense of wakefulness. The same cloudy mind turned through the madness surrounding him, a nagging feeling that he was missing details on the world. Too ignorant and spiritually dead to notice the important things.