The two of them are sure, certain in fact, that they are going to be chased through town. They stick to the shadows moving quickly but stopping to listen if anyone is close on their heels. At no time do they hear footsteps echoing behind them, no mad laughter cackling over their shoulders. Backyards give them enough cover to make it out without ever having to go into a street or dealing with the guards on the road out of town.
One of the backyards leads them to a field they cross before coming to a wooded area, but that’s where Alyssa stops.
“I have to go back for my dad.”
“What? What the fuck, Alyssa. NO. No way. You saw what was going on back there. You heard what I heard!”
“What if he’s still alive and they’re just keeping him around for…for…” She cries then and not just a little…not just silent tears. Huge, racking sobs shake her entire body for a few moments before she is able to get them under control. “Jamie, family always, always comes first. You know that.”
“Then we have to go back for Daddy.”
“No. Even if we were to go back, that man back there isn’t your daddy anymore. That’s not the Daniel I’ve known since we were little. That’s not the Daniel that gave me a talk about how to treat a woman when you and I finally started dating. That Daniel is gone. That man back there isn’t family anymore.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it. If that were true, we’d still be back there tied up and probably missing a leg right now and smelling ourselves roasting on an open fucking fire.”
Jamie sighs. She’s right. She knows she’s right. He knows she’s right. Her dad couldn’t have revealed who they are without looking weak, without revealing a vulnerability that would later be used against him. But he still risked himself to get them out of there…
“Okay, I’ll compromise. We can wait for him like he asked on the outside of town. In hiding. The first hint that anyone else is coming for us, that anyone else is out there and we’re gone. If he doesn’t show, we have to leave it. We don’t have anything. The few things we did have are back there. We can’t take on that whole camp of Others to get your dad and you know that. If we try, then we all lose. We all die and get eaten. Your dad took that risk to see you live so why make his sacrifice worth nothing?”
“If my daddy doesn’t show up, you’re not stopping me from going for him. I’m not leaving here without him.”
“Let’s just move back to the edge of town. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes. There’s no use standing here arguing when we don’t even know what’s going to happen.”
“Fine.” She crosses her arms signaling her discontent that he’s even fighting her on this. This is her DAD. This isn’t really some stranger. How could she not go back for her dad whether it was stupid or not? How could she live with herself if she didn’t?
The sun is setting in a blaze of blue and pink hues as they make it back and find a hiding spot to wait for Daniel. Dan. Whatever. There are plenty of bushes and trees to keep them safely hidden, and if nothing else, they can crawl back into the thicker parts of the woods from where they are if they hear anyone coming. It’s as good as it’s going to get.
Time passes slowly as the two sit at the base of an old Live Oak peppered with Spanish Moss giving it the distinguished aesthetic of a gentleman with graying temples. There’s no comfort there despite Alyssa loving these old oaks. It’s the thing she’s missed most about her Southern home, but right now, there’s nothing that could put her mind at ease except seeing her dad and knowing he’s going to be okay. And if he is, she’s going to throw on that pouty, wide-eyed look of hers that has always gotten her what she wants. The phrase “daddy’s girl” is an understatement. Jamie knows that. He also knows she’s not going to give up on this if Daniel doesn’t show…
Jamie grabs her arm in mid-thought almost causing her to scream out loud until she remembers where she is and what’s going on. She clamps her mouth shut tight breathing in sharply. She turns to him with a “what the fuck?!?” look on her face as he reaches one finger up to his lips telling her to keep it quiet.
“Listen,” he mouths without making a sound and points to their left in the direction of the town.
She cocks her head to the right listening, breathing slowed and eyes looking around at nothing in particular as if this somehow amplifies her ability to hear whatever it is she’s supposed to be hearing. That’s when she hears the underbrush moving. It’s faint but it’s there, and it doesn’t sound like whatever or whoever it is wants to sneak up on them. She starts to move but Jamie’s hand tightens on her arm. She glares at him, but he only shakes his head solemnly and holds up his finger telling her to wait.
Alyssa settles back down into her spot and cocks her head again… Did she hear what she thinks she just heard? Was that a whistle? She leans forward some straining to hear better and recognizes the sound instantly when it winds through the trees again. It’s what her father passes as a bird call. He’d use it whenever he was looking for her when she was a kid. He couldn’t stand the way her mom would stand at the backdoor and scream her name. It would piss him off every single time. So, he came up with whatever this is. He says it sounds like some kind of bird native to the area, but she’s never heard a bird that sounds as pathetic and constipated as that whistle makes it out to be. Naturally she returns the whistle. It’s what she has always done.
“WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST DO?!!” Jamie hisses at her.
“That’s my dad. That’s his whistle. You know that!”
“And what if he’s taught that whistle to every single one of the Others in this camp? What if it’s one of them? What if one of them is with him?”
All she can do was look at him. He was right. She should have waited. The thought of her dad being out there was too much for her though and she had gotten ahead of herself.
“We have to wait, Alyssa. We have to wait and see just exactly who is out here with us. We can’t stop being smart about things just because family is involved. If we’re not, none of us are going to make it. Don’t you get that??”
“Sure,” she answers. And that’s all she can manage beyond the tears in her eyes. It sounds sulky and in a way it is. She’s mad at herself for not thinking more than she’s mad at Jamie for calling her out about it, but he rolls his eyes and grits his teeth in that way he does anyway.
“Look, why don’t you wait here and keep your whistler zipped. I’m going to go around behind where they are and try to see what’s going on and who exactly it is. Don’t move. Don’t talk. And especially don’t whistle again.”
He doesn’t even wait to see her nod in agreement before he’s silently moving through the trees. Their only flashlight is back in that building with the rest of their stuff, so she doesn’t know how he expects to see with the light nearly dead on the horizon and the moon just a smear behind the clouds in the sky. She suspects he has to get away from her for a bit before he loses his cool and gives them away himself, but she doesn’t feel good about being left alone no matter the circumstances.
The whistling sounds more fervent now that she’s returned a call of her own, but it doesn’t sound much closer. Whoever is making the call is still pushing through the brush but it’s hard to get a fix on how far away the person is or which direction they’re headed. She leans her head back and closes her eyes listening and waiting.
“Well, lookit what we found, Dan! Sleeping Beauty! I thought you said that girl of yours was long gone by now. Another lie!”
Alyssa snaps her eyes open and is immediately blinded by a glaring flashlight. She scuttles around the tree, but a hand reaches out lightening fast and grabs a handful of her hair pulling her towards him.
“OWWW… let the fuck go of me!”
“This daughter of yours sure does have a filthy mouth on her, Dan.”
“Daddy…? What’s going on?”
“Zip it, Alyssa.”
“That’s right, sweetie, you better do as your ‘daddy’ says . The two of you’s in a whole heap of trouble after that business in the Hall today. We got a man dead and all his fresh meat lost just because your dear ol’ man got a bit sentimental. And we ain’t having that. We cain’t even justify Beau’s death since we cain’t keep the meat fresh. Such a waste, too. We coulda had a half a dozen meals off that carcass instead of just one good meal tonight. So now your daddy’s gotta make up for that with you and that other one. Where’s he?”
“How am I supposed to know? He took off when I wouldn’t leave without my dad.” She’s lying but she hopes that lie will save them from looking for Jamie. At least one of them should make it out of this mess alive.
“Bullshit!” the hand yanks on her hair a little harder until she has tears in her eyes.
“It’s the truth!”
“Let her go, Eddie. You don’t see the boy do you?”
The hand tightens on her hair again, and she hears a meaty sound that makes her want to puke. Dan moans softly sounding not quite there but she can’t see anything that’s going on. Her head is bent unnaturally from the vise on hair. She’s clueless.
“That wound looks pretty painful there, Dan. You want me to dig my fingers around in it one more again? Ol’ Beau at least managed to get a shot off, didn’t he? Right into that shoulder, huh?’ She hears that sound again, hears her dad begging.
“Please… just please let the girl go. She ain’t got nothin’ to do with this. It was all me. “
“And? What is that going to do for our food count, Dan? Can we eat your blame? Your responsibility?”
“No, but you can eat me.”
“DADDY!” Alyssa screams. She fights throwing punches against unseen enemies struggling to break free but never connecting.
Eddie laughs it off and cinches his hand tighter. “Keep on wiggling like that little girl and see if I don’t knock your ass out.”
She stills herself, thinking…searching for an answer.
“Now, Dan, why do you think I’d rather eat you and not her? She’s young, tender, and definitely got way less fat on her than your big ass. The fact is we’re going to eat you both. I ain’t lettin’ go the best meal I’ll have all damn month likely, and until we get ready to eat, she’ll be good for morale, don’tcha think?” he laughs then sounding just as mad as the one her daddy must have killed. If she lives through this, she’s sure she’ll never get that cackling out of her head. Even now it feels like a parasite that has managed to root its way under her skin making her ache for a shower that she’ll probably never get.
“No one really gives a shit, Eddie.” Dan’s voice is weak, but the conviction in his words is still coming through intensely. “That’s why it’s just you and me out here. Everybody else told you it was a wild goose chase and to forget about it. All you have to do is look inside to that human being that used to be there…you used to be a father yourself, man. Let her go. That’s all you have to do. Let my girl go.”
Tears threaten to spill from Alyssa’s eyes again but not from pain this time. The sound of her dad crumpling to the ground pulls her out of her sentimentality, though.
“What the fuck’s that?” Eddie manages to get out before he collapses to the ground releasing her hair in the process. She stays on the ground until she sees its Jamie standing behind where the men were holding a tree limb nearly as big as he is. He runs to her frantically and begins checking all over for signs of injury.
“Are you okay, baby? Please tell me you’re okay. Just please be alright.”
“I’m fine. Why’d you knock out my dad?!”
“I save your ass, and that’s the first thing you ask me about? Daniel? Daniel who must have led that man out here since he’s the one that called you with that whistle of his?”
“Family first, Jamie. Always.”
He shakes his head, but he hugs her tighter until he hears moaning coming from the two downed men. He leaves her then to check. Eddie’s armed with some sort of rifle. She doesn’t know what kind. That’s never really been her thing. Jamie takes it, chambers a round, and looks back at her.
“Don’t look. And cover your ears, okay? It’s going to be loud and that’s going to signal the Others, but it’s the fastest way to do this. We’re going to have to get the fuck out of here after this and both of us don’t need ringing ears.”
She does as he asks and turns her head. Eddie has to die and she doesn’t feel the least bit sorry right now, but that doesn’t mean she wants to see it.
The gun makes an enormous sound even with her hands clamped tightly over her ears. Jamie comes for her and quickly pulls her to her feet.
“What about my dad?”
“What about him?”
“He’s coming with us.”
“Alyssa…he’s shot. Look at him. He’s going to die.”
“He’s not going to die here to become food for these maniacs!”
“Fine, help me get him up. We’ve got to move. Now! We should be outta here already.”
They get Daniel to his feet. He stumbles, almost falls down again but catches himself with Jamie’s help.
“You got this?”
He glances over at Alyssa. That look in his eyes…he knows she won’t leave without him. He doesn’t have a choice but to get moving unless he wants to risk her even more.
“yeah,” he says. “For now anyway…”
Alyssa takes his hand in one of hers and Jamie’s in the other, and they run for it.
More fiction on this fine Sunday as part of Sunday Confessions with More Than Cheese and Beer. I had a couple people ask what happened to the folks in the last story I posted. I hadn't intended to finish anything. The idea was to leave it as a cliffhanger, but a certain blogging goddess I know said that would be evil. Ha. So, here we are. I don't think this is any more of a finale than the last, but I hope you enjoy it all the same. As always, any feedback is appreciated. And please, please, please head over to the MTCAB blog to read the other linkups and check out the Facebook page for anonymous confessions.