Stay away from the suburbs in Michigan - Chap 8
Mark ran over to the couch and I helped him carry it in front of the door. “What else can we put on here?” he asked.
“What is down there?” I asked.
He walked over to the coffee table and he and Jessica put it on top of the couch. “Let’s go in the kitchen. We need to get out, but we may have bought a little time by blocking the door.”
Jessica walked over to the hallway. “I’ll keep an eye on the door,” she said.
“I don’t know exactly what it was we saw in the basement, but I think it is responsible for all that is happening here,” Mark started. “There were these long root-like things that had broken up through the cement floor on one side of the basement. Thorns were sticking out near the ends and it looked like some sort of fungus was covering them.” He looked down the hall towards the basement. “Hey Jessica, hear anything yet down there?”
Jessica leaned in close to the door. “No, nothing yet.”
“Good,” he said and went back to telling us about what happened.
“The roots were slowly moving along the floor and were completely covering about half of it. On the other side of the stairs, there were two people facing the wall. One of the roots was wrapped around their legs. A third person looked to be chopping up one of the roots before going over and feeding it to the other two.
When I looked back to the other side of the stairs again, some of the roots began slithering over to us. We bolted up the stairs and closed the door behind us. Then we blocked the door as best we could. We heard someone running up the stairs and it sounded like they were going to bust through at any minute so we quickly came up with our plan to get over here.”
“What do we do now?” I said. “I didn’t see any cars in the garage or driveway so I guess we’re going to have to go on foot…wherever our next destination should be,” I said.
“I haven’t been able to get in touch with my wife or the others in the SUV,” said Mark. “We need to try to stay around here when they come back for us.”
“I guess we can try the house next door to see if it is safe and keep a lookout in case we hear a car coming,” Jessica said.
I looked out the window and there still seemed to be a lot of activity across the street. “Looks like it is as safe as it is going to get,” I said.
We went out onto the deck first and surveyed the area. Nothing seemed to be between us and the next house. Judging by all the houses we’ve seen so far, the doors should either be open or unlocked.
We carefully went through the backyard and made it to the back of the next house. There were two windows looking into the basement. The shades were drawn, but it was clear that there was light down there.
“Let’s keep going,” Julie said as she led the way to the next house.
The loud music abruptly stopped while we entered the backyard of the next house causing all of us to stop as well. The silence was unnerving, but welcome as it would make it easier to hear if something was nearby. Before we continued towards the house, Allie saw something.
“Dad, what’s that?” she whispered, pointing at the sky.
I looked up and watched the figure eights being traced in the sky. First I saw one, then two, then a whole lot more. “Bats,” I said. Before all of this, I used to like seeing them fly around eating mosquitos in the summertime when I was outside at dusk. Until I found out they were flying out of my attic every night and returning before morning. After the sting of the cost to humanely remove them and seal up my house wore off, I enjoyed watching them again. Now once again, the sight of them made me sick.
“Do you think they are…infected?” Allie asked.
“I’m not sure, but we shouldn’t be out here long enough to find out,” I said.
“Look! This house has a walkout basement,” said Mark. “It looks dark inside and so does the rest of the house.”
We hurried over to the house and went in through the open door to the basement. Our flashlights went on after closing and locking the door. It looked like the owners were in the middle of finishing the basement when things began to change. There was drywall up, but no doors and no flooring was installed over the cement. Tools and materials were everywhere, but it was pretty quick to see that the basement was safe.
“You and Allie stay here,” Mark said to me. “Jessica and I will check the rest of the house.”
They headed for the stairs while we looked for a place to sit. A few folding chairs were against the wall so I grabbed a couple and set them up. We sat down together while we waited, hopeful for an ‘all clear’ soon. Exhaustion set in as soon as I was finally able to take a break and sit down. Allie had to be so tired too. I put my arm around her and she rested her head on my chest.
“Dad, are we going to be okay?” she asked.
I squeezed her tight and kissed the top of her head. “I believe we are going to be alright. We’ve met some good people that we can stick with to get through this. If we keep helping each other out and are careful and smart about what we do, we’ll make it out of here to safety.” I really did believe this and wasn’t just saying it to calm her worries. We needed to keep fighting and do whatever we could to work together.
I started softly singing a song that I used to sing to her when she was a baby. After a couple minutes, she was breathing deeper and I could tell that she was asleep. Even though she was still little, I sometimes missed those days when I would walk around the house with her in my arms at one in the morning singing that same song until she’d fall asleep.
The door to the basement opened, causing me to tense up. I watched the stairs ready to protect Allie at all costs if needed.
“The house is empty,” Mark said as he and Jessica descended the stairs.
“Allie fell asleep,” I said.
“We should all get some sleep,” said Jessica. “But we should take turns being on guard in case something happens or the rest of the group returns.”
“I’ll go first,” said Mark. “I think they are more likely to return sooner rather than later.”
“I’ll go next,” I said.
“No, you stay with your daughter in case she wakes up and gets scared,” said Jessica.
“Thank you,”I said. “Wake me up when it’s my turn.”
I scooped up Allie and followed Jessica up the stairs.
“The master bedroom is down the hall and has a king bed. You two take that and I’ll use one of the bedrooms on the second floor,” said Jessica.
“Sounds good. Good night,” I said and carried Allie into the bedroom. She stirred a bit when I set her down, but thankfully she stayed asleep.
I lied down on the bed afraid that I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep, however, next thing I knew, Jessica was shaking my arm waking me up.
“The others never came back,” she said. “Mark wants to go looking for them now that it is light out.”
I checked my watch. It was 6:00 in the morning. They must have let me sleep through the night. “Thanks for the much needed sleep,” I said. “I’ll make sure to take a long shift next time so the two of you can get more sleep.”
“I’m going to see what food they have here for breakfast and then we’ll come up with a plan. I’d rather stay put, but I know Mark is really anxious about Stacy,” said Jessica.
I turned over and gently woke Allie up. “Good morning munchkin,” I said. “We need to get something to eat and figure out what to do next.”
Allie had a big yawn and then smiled. “You haven’t called me munchkin in a long time,” she said.
I smiled back at her and then helped her get out of bed. We walked out into the kitchen and Jessica had placed some bowls and a couple boxes of cereal onto the table.
“Fruit Loops!” Allie shouted and ran over to the table.
“We don’t get the sugary cereals too often,” I said to Jessica. “Allie, have as much as you want.”
I watched as Allie, grinning ear to ear, filled her bowl to the top. After filling my bowl not quite as high as hers, I sat down at the table and we crunched away at our cereal together.
Mark came in with a pair of binoculars around his neck. “It doesn’t look like there’s much activity out there this morning. I didn’t see any people and only saw a few small animals. I’m going to head out after breakfast to search for Stacy and the others. You’re welcome to come with me, but I understand if you want to stay here.”
I looked up at Allie. She was reading the back of the cereal box, but stopped and said, “Dad, we should go with him. I want to make sure Anna is okay and you said we should all stick together and help each other out.”
If we stayed, it was probably only a matter of time before the changed people found us. They had blocked the exits from the neighborhood and seemed to be getting more unpredictable with being out in the daytime. Plus, I couldn’t argue with my own logic. “We’re coming with you,” I said to Mark.
We finished up our breakfast, used the bathroom, and then searched the house for anything useful. I found some pain reliever medicine and a couple flashlights.
Allie came back holding a small stuffed unicorn. “For Anna,” she said and squeezed it tight.
“That’s a great idea,” I said. “Did you find anything else?”
She turned around and patted her backpack, “I got a first aid kit, a little stuffed animal for me, and walkie-talkies for me and Anna to use together,” she said.
“Cool,” I said, “Can I see the walkie-talkies?”
She turned around so I could open her backpack. “They’re Frozen ones dad! I’ll use Elsa and she can have Ahh-nna ‘cause it’s almost like her name Aaa-nna!”
I reached in and pulled out the two walkie-talkies. They looked like they were a lot better quality than the ones I remember using as a kid. A big sticker of Elsa had been placed on the back of one and a big sticker of Anna was on the other. They each took three double-A batteries. I knew I packed some batteries, but wasn’t sure how many. I searched through the kitchen and found a stash of batteries in a drawer that I added to my backpack. These could end up being really useful.
After everyone was ready, we went into the garage and looked around. I showed Mark the walkie-talkies and handed him one. He turned it on and held down the talk button. “Is there anyone there?” he said. There was no response.
I looked at the one I was holding and saw a small dial by Elsa’s platinum blonde hair. “There’s a channel switch on here. I’m not sure what the range is or how many channels there are, but we could give those a try,” I said.
Mark called out on a second channel and, after waiting unsuccessfully for a response, he tried again on another one with no luck either.
“I have extra batteries so we should keep trying in case someone else is on one nearby,” I said. “We can both keep trying different channels and seeing if we can get anyone.”
Mark nodded in agreement and then looked through his binoculars. “It still looks pretty clear. I think our best bet is to stay close to the houses so we have some cover and hopefully a place to run into if something comes after us.”
With that we stayed close together and began our search through the neighborhood. Allie was holding on tight to the unicorn as we moved from house to house. We stopped every so often to look and listen for any danger. Mark and I also continued to call out on the different channels.
We stopped for a break after maybe ten or so houses just before an intersection. I shared a bottle of water with Allie as we sat on the porch. The door to the house was wide open just like with every other house we had gone by so far.
Mark looked through his binoculars down each of the three directions we could travel and then came over to us. “To the left I saw a few dogs or coyotes pretty far down, but didn’t see anything straight ahead or to the right. I think we should head to the right and then we can cut across some of the backyards to get over by my house. It seems like a good place to start and the others all live pretty close by so we can check theirs if we have no luck at mine.”
“Sounds like a good plan,” said Jessica.
We quickly went diagonally across the street and ran over to the bushes in front of the house on the corner. Although it was quiet and bright out, it felt so dangerous to be out in the open like that, but we made it without issue. I tried a couple more channels on the walkie talkie while we went past a few more houses.
Mark was about to lead us through a backyard shortcut when a voice came out of the walkie talkie on his waist
“Hello…can you hear me?” a woman’s voice said.
Mark quickly answered, “Hello, yes we can hear you.”
There was a brief silence and then a response, “We were hoping there would be more people out there. My name is Sara. Where are you?”
“My name is Mark and there are three others with me now. We were separated from the rest of our group of about 8 or 9 others. We’re in the Meadows neighborhood…where are you?”
“We’re at the elementary school on second street, there are fifteen of us here.”
“That’s about three miles away,” I said to Mark and Jessica.
Mark pushed the talk button again, “Have you been able to contact any others?”
“We’ve reached a few groups of people and individuals and we will keep trying to reach others. Some are on their way here while others have chosen to stay at their homes.”
Mark continued the conversation and shared what we had experienced in our neighborhood, including the things in the basement. Sara had heard similar reports from others. We were happy to hear that there were other survivors out there and I wondered how far this had spread. Mark told her that we would try to head there after we catch up with the rest of our group and that we would try to check-in with her later.
“I hope we can make it to my school,” Allie said.
This gave me a little more hope as we continued towards Mark’s house. We cut across a few more yards, but had to stop and hide when we made it to his street. There were a group of people standing in a circle in the middle of a yard a few houses away. Mark looked through the binoculars to get a closer look.
“They’re just standing there looking down at the ground,” he said. He watched for a couple more minutes and then said, “is that Mr. Wilson?”
Jessica grabbed the binoculars and looked through, “Oh my god..it is. That looks like James a few people away from him.”
“Who is James?” I said.
Before she could answer, Allie smacked my arm, “Dad! He was the one that you were with, you need to remember people’s names.”
“Sorry,” I said.
“I don’t see Stacy,” said Jessica resulting in Mark breathing a sigh of relief. “I think that is their car.” She pointed well past where I could see without the binoculars. “It crashed into the front of that house way over there.”
Mark and I took turns looking through the binoculars and confirmed what she saw.
“We need to get over there,” he said. “We can go through the backyards and then cut across when we are well past them. The rest of them have to be nearby.” Mark took one more look at the people to see if he could recognize anyone else. “Get down,” he said suddenly and we all dropped to the ground. “They are all looking this way.”