Chapter 12: Lost
Alexander nearly collapsed when he reached Tom and Donna’s house. He’d spent the night fleeing a…a feeling. He had nothing more substantial than that, but it was enough.
She was on his trail. Never had sunrise been so welcome.
He almost fell asleep like that, leaning against the side of the house, but then he saw something. Exhaustion melted away, and he stumbled across the street to an empty building. The roof had collapsed long ago, as well as one of the walls. Peeking around the corner of the ruined structure was a leg. As Alexander got closer, the rest of the body came into view.
Tom scattered everywhere.
Alexander found John inside. “You the only one up?” he asked.
John nodded, his eyes fixed ahead of him.
Interpreting his expression, Alexander added, “Did you see what happened to Tom?”
Alexander laid a hand on John’s shoulder. “Come on. Truck will be here soon. Get your wife ready. I’ll break the news to Donna.”
Donna appeared as John returned to his room. She didn’t seem surprised to find Alexander there. Instead she started moving around the kitchen.
“I have some bad news, I’m afraid,” Alexander began.
“It’s about Tom, isn’t it?”
Donna sighed, and although she slowed down, she kept working, filling a kettle with water from an old-fashioned pump and hanging it in the fireplace. “I figured one of us’d be taken soon, ’specially after we helped those two.” She paused and looked at Alexander. “Where is he?”
“I don’t think you should see—”
“I’ve seen plenty of corpses.”
“Well, this one’s not pretty.”
She gave him a suspicious glare. “What d’you mean? Just a prick on the neck, hardly any blood, right?”
Then Alexander understood. “You think she turned him, don’t you?”
“How d’you know about her?” Donna demanded.
“Doesn’t matter. Listen, Donna. Tom’s gone. She didn’t turn him. He’s dead.”
Her already pale face went gray. “Where is he?”
“Outside, across the street.”
She left, and Alexander didn’t try to stop her. A moment later, John reappeared. “Anna’s not here,” he announced.
“She probably went out somewhere,” Alexander suggested.
John shook his head. “I was here by the door all night; Tom’s the only one who left.”
“Well hold on, back up a second. Tell me what happened last night.”
John told him everything. How he’d woken from an awful dream, how he’d nearly followed the shadow outside, how Tom stopped him. “There was something strange about him,” John said when he got to the part where Tom left the house. “Like something came over him, made him go out.”
“When you first woke up,” Alexander asked, “was Anna there?”
“Yes, I looked over and…” He pondered for a moment. It had been very dark. There was a lump under the blankets, but that could’ve just been the sheets tangled up with themselves.
“Alright,” Alexander sighed. “Doesn’t matter anyway. We need to find her before that truck shows up.”
They left the house together, and ran into Donna. “Where you goin’?” she asked. Her eyes were red, as were her hands. John tried not to look at the empty building behind her.
“His wife’s gone missing,” Alexander explained.
“Oh. Better find her quick. Truck’ll be here any minute.”
Alexander nodded and hustled John away.
Hallowdale was waking up as they searched. A few farmers trudged out to the fields, dragging old hand tools through the dirt behind them. John stopped one of them and asked, “Have you seen my wife? Long, wavy dark hair?”
The farmer stared at him, neither annoyed by the interruption nor inclined to speak. He just stood there, looking.
“Hello?” John prompted. “I asked you a question!”
“Shouting won’t help,” Alexander cautioned. He pulled John away, and the farmer continued his plodding trek to the fields.
“What’s wrong with these people?” complained John.
The morning grew only marginally warmer as the sun rose. They encountered several more villagers, but they all responded with silence or various forms of “no” . Soon, John and Alexander passed the last of the occupied homes, and there was no sign of life except for a few crows flitting from building to building.
The two men combed through the ruins, occasionally calling out Anna’s name. One of the crows flew near them and perched on a crumbling wall. The bird opened its beak, but no sound came out. It kept trying, and only managed to make itself look like it was choking.
They’d almost reached the far end of Hallowdale when they heard the noise.
“Tell me that’s not what I think it is,” moaned John.
Alexander grimaced apologetically as a low, gravelly hum drifted off the hills and over the village. “Engine. Truck’s here.”
Together they sprinted back, arriving in time to see a group of men unloading crates from the back of a small delivery truck. The vehicle was painted a matte gray, mottled with rust. The last of the cargo was carried out, and the driver climbed inside.
“Wait!” shouted John, drawing everyone’s attention. “Wait, you have to wait !”
The truck driver leaned his head out the window and scowled at John.
“My wife and I,” John panted as he came to a halt, “we broke down, need a ride. Just wait until my wife gets back.”
The driver abruptly drew his head back into the truck and started the ignition.
“W-what are you doing?” exclaimed John. “Didn’t you hear me? You have to wait!”
But the truck began inching forward. With a frustrated roar, John threw himself in front of it, forcing the driver to stamp on the brake.
“I’m not waiting,” the driver said. He had the same face as the residents of Hallowdale, tired and emotionless.
“You can’t just leave us here!” protested John.
“Not takin’ nobody out of here. Nobody leaves.” He gunned the engine, making John wince.
“Please. I can’t take another day here.”
Alexander came up and put a hand on John’s shoulder. “Maybe you should just go. I’ll keep searching for Anna, keep her safe until next week.”
“No!” John shot back. “I’m not leaving her! I promised!”
“I’m the only one can come and go,” the truck driver mumbled. “Nobody leaves. Nobody leaves.” The truck growled again, began moving. Alexander tugged John out of the way before he could get run over, and the truck was gone, nothing but a cloud of dust vanishing into the forest.