Monument 14 Sky on Fire(3)
Author:Emmy Laybourne
    CHAPTER TWO

    ALEX




    61 MILES

    This is slow going.

    In 3 hours, we have gone approximately 8 miles.

    Denver International Airport is more than 60 miles away.

    This is going to take longer than I had hoped. It took us 20 minutes just to get from the Greenway parking lot onto I-25.

    It’s hard to see out of the windows because of the Plexiglas, which is not clear like regular glass. It’s like driving through fog.

    The highway is cracked in places. Sometimes there are gaps and craters in the asphalt. But so far there’s been nothing the bus couldn’t make it over.

    Every 200 yards or so, there are big, battery-powered floodlights. These are good:

    1. They lead the way.

    2. They help us to see better as we pass.

    3. They give us hope that there’s someone looking out for us.

    There are cars densely packed on each side of the highway and just one lane going through the middle. My best guess is that the military came along and cleared a path through. In some places, cars have just been lifted up and pushed on their sides to make room.

    The cars are not what is scary, of course. Nobody would just get scared in a long, weird parking lot like the I-25.

    It’s the bodies.

    We see them, dead where they were crawling out of their cars.

    Some are just bloody messes—they must have been type A, like Niko and Max.

    In some cars, as we pass by, our headlights shine on slick, black liquid splashed all over the inside of the car. It’s blood. I guess those people were type A, too. Or maybe those cars had two people in them, a type O and something else, and the O just ripped them apart or something.

    The other thing that’s scary is the white mold.

    There is a kind of white foamy substance growing up over the car tires and up onto the bodies of the cars.

    It looks almost like the car tires have frozen, with snowdrifts of ice particles covering them, but we had to drive through some of it at one point and it didn’t seem like ice when we drove through. It seemed wet and dense, like mold.

    I think it’s a rubber-eating fungus.

    Anyway, it explains why we’re not seeing more cars out driving.

    Only tires that have been kept out of the air aren’t covered in the mold.

    We just drove over a body lying right in the road. The thumps were sick and though we couldn’t hear them over the engine, we could feel them. The body had a heavy give to it as we went over it.

    A meaty, heavy give, if that even makes sense.

    These are the kinds of things I get to think about, Dean, while you are lazing about in the Greenway, eating Whitman’s Sampler chocolates with Astrid and Chloe and the twins.

    Max, Ulysses, and Batiste are sitting crammed together in one double seat. It’s a funny sight to me—behind them there are all these containers filled with food, boxes with gallons of water—all these supplies jammed in a big jumble, and then in front of the mess are these three boys, all padded up, wearing masks. And they’re playing Matchbox cars.

    I guess one of them (probably Max) stashed the cars in his backpack. And now they’re having races on the seat back in front of them and crashing the cars and making those car-driving noises little boys make.

    Sahalia is with Brayden in the front seat.

    He’s in bad shape.

    Sahalia keeps saying urgent things to Niko and Josie and me about Brayden. Probably things like, He’s weak. He’s gray. He looks like he’s going to die. But we can’t really hear her.

    That’s because of the air masks. They make it almost impossible to hear, over the engine noise and the sound of our own heartbeats hammering in our ears.

    I think Sahalia’s crying under her mask.

    * * *

    (later)

    Right before Castle Rock, there was a long stretch of open highway (“open” meaning that there was one clear lane with no obstacles to go around).

    We got up to 20 miles an hour, which felt like flying.

    I laughed and I think Niko was grinning under his mask, but I could only tell by the corner of his eye that I could see.

    Josie was smiling and she turned and gave me a big thumbs-up. She looked funny—we all did—with her five layers of sweatpants and sweatshirts and then a large orange slicker on top of it all. But she looked hopeful and I smiled at her and gave her thumbs-up back.

    When Josie was happy, it made everyone happy. And this made sense, because she was like the mom of the group. Everyone depended on her for her good, easy way of being.

    Max came up and asked Josie to make him some lunch.

    “We’re hungry!” he shouted.

    “You’ll have to wait, honey!” Josie shouted back.

    “But we’re hungry!”

    Josie took Max by the hand and led him to the back of the bus. She was trying to tell him it was too dangerous to remove his mask to eat when Sahalia screamed.

    Brayden had slumped to the floor.

    Sahalia was screaming his name and pulling at his body, trying to lug him back onto the seat, I guess.

    Josie came back up the aisle.

    “How long has he been unconscious?” Josie asked Sahalia.

    Sahalia said something back but I couldn’t hear what it was.

    “Brayden, Brayden! You’ve got to stick with us!” Josie yelled. “We’re trying to get you—”

    “He knows all that. I’ve been telling him that but then he fell asleep and you have to help him!” Sahalia was freaking out.

    “Sahalia, listen to me—” Josie pleaded.

    “We have to pull off and get help!” Sahalia was screeching.

    “Stop screaming!” Josie shouted. She was getting mad.

    Suddenly Josie pulled off her mask. Then the ski mask she’d had over it.

    “I can’t understand you, Sahalia,” Josie said. “Calm down and speak more slowly.”

    She was holding on to Sahalia’s arms. Kindly, but firmly. That’s how Josie is.

    Then Sahalia took off her masks and fleece mask.

    The little boys started to yell. I think they were saying something like, “No fair.” They wanted to take their masks off, too.

    I knew Sahalia was type B, like me. Type Bs suffered the least serious of the four effects—loss of sexual function.

    And Josie was type AB—so unless she got her mask on soon, she would start hallucinating and accusing us all of trying to kill her or something.

    “He’s dying. He’s dying and you two are going too slow!” Sahalia shouted.

    Her eyes were red from crying and she looked thin-faced.

    She was acting mad, but I have noticed that Sahalia usually acts mad, even if she’s feeling something else. Like being scared or even happy.

    Niko yelled something muffled from the driver’s seat. Most likely something like, “What’s happening back there?”

    He didn’t stop driving. That was the right decision, given the circumstances. Brayden might be shot and he might be dying, but if we didn’t keep moving and get him to Denver, Brayden would die for sure, along with the rest of us.

    “Brayden!” Josie said. She snuffled a little. “Can you hear me?”

    I was watching and I saw it happen.

    Josie shook her head. She looked like she had a mosquito buzzing around her. She shook her head and stumbled backward onto her heels.

    Josie put her hands up to her head and started laughing. Laughing mean.

    “Ew,” Sahalia sniped. “What’s wrong with you?”

    Then Josie lunged at Sahalia. The two of them fell into the aisle and Sahalia started screaming.

    Niko stopped the bus. “What’s going on back there?” he yelled. Niko came hurrying back and grabbed Josie, trying to get her off Sahalia.

    Josie wasn’t AB. She was O!

    Why had I thought … why had I been certain she was AB?

    She was type O and she was trying to kill Sahalia.

    “Get rope!” Niko yelled, but I couldn’t remember where the rope was.

    The boxes were not in good order. Food was in with medical supplies and batteries were in with the tarps and I couldn’t find the rope.

    And all the while I was looking, the little boys were screaming and clutching one another and sobbing, and Niko was trying to drag Josie off Sahalia and I still couldn’t find the rope.

    Then I found it. (Under the seat in front of the little boys.)

    I ripped the package open and I got the end free and by this time Josie had raked him across his face and his mask was pushed aside.

    “Your mask!” I shouted.

    Niko had Josie facedown in the aisle. Her face was pressed onto the floor mat and she was snarling and bucking.

    He reached up and pushed the mask back over his face.

    Josie elbowed him in the side of the head and tried to throw him off her.

    I didn’t know what to do with the rope so I just handed it to Niko.

    “TIE. HER. FEET!” he shouted.

    Josie kicked me in the head but I got her feet tied up.

    Niko had one of her hands in his and her other was pinned under her.

    He jerked her hand out from under her body and somehow got her two hands tied together. Now she couldn’t do so much damage.

    No matter how she writhed and raged, she couldn’t get free.

    Niko didn’t have to tell me, I knew what we needed: the sleeping pills. It took me ages to find them. But I found a new packet of the sleeping pills and popped one out of its pouch and gave it to Niko.

    He smothered it into her mouth and motioned for me to give him another. I did. A few moments later, she went still.

    Sahalia still had her mask off. She was lying on the floor between the second and third seats, crying.

    Niko went and helped her up.

    “I thought she was type B, like me,” Sahalia said.

    Niko said something that sounded like, “We didn’t know.”

    “I thought she was type AB,” I said.

    “She said she knew her type,” Niko told us. “She was sure she was B.”

    How could we not have known for sure? I tried to remember. I guess when we’d all been exposed to the chemical warfare compounds, Josie had not been there.

    Niko coughed and Sahalia leaned forward, concerned.

    There was blood on the inside of his air mask.

Most Read
Top Books