They stopped at the nurses’ station on the way out, and Abby raided Dove’s purse for cigarettes and the drug closet for ibuprofen (which she told Claude about, popping a couple in front of him) and a half-dozen hydrocodones (which she did not, slipping them into her shoe).
In the garage, Abby opened the back door of the van and relieved Claude of the suitcase. “Here, Mister Not Actually Dying,” she said, and thrust the luggage at Gerard.
“What’s thi–” he started to ask, but she’d already closed the door.
Claude took the wheel and Abby took shotgun after Claude used the chain-and-pulley to raise the garage door in the dark. He turned the key, flipped on the headlights…
…and they sat there.
Abby turned to Claude. “We have to decide, y’know, now that the adrenaline’s starting to wear off.”
“Yeah,” Claude said. “Right or left?”
“What’s right or left?” Fleur asked. “And can I borrow a sweatshirt from your suitcase, please? I’m kinda cold. Sorry.”
“He means,” Abby said, turning back to look at the rear passengers and wishing the ibuprofen would hurry the hell up, “do we turn right or left when we reach the bottom of the hill?”
“Why would we go left?” Fleur asked, frowning. “That’s out of town. You said you wanted to stop this from spreading, didn’t you?”
“Fleur, things have changed,” Abby began. “When I was getting Claude, we had a…visitor.” She told the peculiar tale to the others. When she reached the bit about what was in the suitcase, Gerard dropped it on the van floor, and he and Fleur shied away from it as though it were radioactive.
“Now then,” Abby said, “we have to make our choice. Claude wants to go — he’s curious. I’m curious, too, but not so much that I’m not willing to betray the pumpkins’ trust and G.T.F.O. So it comes down to you two. You need to think about this carefully, and take your ti–”
“G.T.F.O.” Gerard said.
“Go to town,” Fleur said.
“Well, hell,” Claude said.
“I know one thing,” Abby groused, “we’re not letting that damn pumpkin be the tiebreaker.”
Gerard looked at Fleur. “Flower, you know we think the world of you, and I’m not saying this to be hurtful –”
Abby had a choice comment to make about that, but bit back on it.
“– but you scare more easily than anyone I’ve ever met. That’s why I don’t understand why you want to go to where the monsters are, instead of away from it!”
Fleur wriggled her fingers in her lap and looked at the floor. “Caliche is my hometown. I don’t want anything bad to happen to my hometown.” She looked up at him for a second, then down again. “I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about,” Claude said. “I was born here, too. And this situation has taken a…a weird-ass turn, is all. If they aren’t stalking us, and they aren’t trying to kill us or possess us, then what on Earth are they doing? We find out that, I think we find out how to save the town.”
“You seem to think I’m just wanting to pee myself and run,” Abby said. “I’m not saying run and hide; I’m saying run and get help. Go to the county seat and get the State Troopers, get the National Guard, get the Boy Scouts if they’re willing to fight. Otherwise it’s just the four of us. What can we do?”
Fleur mumbled something.
“Speak up,” Abby snapped, finally having enough. “You’re an equal partner in this, Fleur, so it’s time to start acting like an adult. Stop cringing in the corner, grow a pair, and –”
“You always kick butt!” Fleur shouted, then immediately clapped her hands over her mouth, blushing redder than a wax apple.
They stared at her, which only made her squirm more, until Abby said, as gently as she could, “What do you mean?”
Fleur looked to be on the verge of tears. “Y-you always say what you mean, and you d-don’t take any…any crap off anybody, and you always f-fight to the death, no matter what. And now you don’t want to fight anymore, you want other people to fight for you, and I — I — I don’t understand why.”
“Why does it matter?” Abby pleaded. “Why does it have to be me?”
The tears flowed down Fleur’s cheeks. “Because if anyone can do it, it’s you!” she cried, and the sheer faith on her face knocked Abby back.
“Good morning, Miss Abby!” chorused the class, and she didn’t understand why they were looking at her like that on the first day of school. They trusted her, you could even see something like love on some of their faces, and it made no sense. She was there to score a paycheck, and they were there to fill out worksheets and skin their stupid, spastic knees at recess. Nothing more.
So why were they looking at her like that?
“I’m sorry,” Abby said, “but you’ve got the wrong –”
“Fine!” Gerard growled. “If it’ll stop all this, I change my vote. Let’s go to town and die. Three to one. Now can we shut up and get on with it?”
Claude looked at Abby for several seconds. She deflated, bit by bit, and sank into her seat. At last, she nodded. Claude put the van into Drive and pulled out of the garage.
Halfway down the hill, the lights came on behind them as electricity returned to Brightest Lantern. Moments later, Caliche lit up piecemeal, block after block, coming alive again.
“Maybe we should go see Dr. Godfrey,” Abby said. “Let him know the inmates have all escaped and he’s wasting juice.”
They reached the base of the hill, and Claude flipped the turn signal to go right.
“Okay, y’all,” he announced, turning the wheel and giving the van some gas. “Next stop: Caliche, Texas.”
On the way into town, they passed a broken-down car, its hazards blinking. Flanking the car were three pumpkin-ridden people, who waved at the van in unison as it passed.
Today’s Words: 1026
Total Words: 18303
Notes: Still a day behind — it may be the weekend before I get caught up…