Welcome to Part 5. Other parts are here if you need to catch up. Hope you're enjoying it so far. I'd love to hear it in the comments if you are.
Welcome to the End//Part Five — CAMP
We roll into Fair Park and Caroline’s mom rushes us. Well, rushes her. She throws her arms around her daughter, and the two of them fall to the asphalt.
“Oh, my girl. My girl. My girl,” she says through tears. Caroline is struggling to stand. She’s pushing both of them from the ground, but her mother won’t let her get up.
“I just knew you were dead. I just knew it. I knew it.” Mom sits up, and Caroline does to. Mom grabs her daughter’s face. “But look at you. You’re here. You’re OK. I don’t know what I’d have done if I’d lost another little girl.”
Caroline pulls away. “Mom,” she says, her face serious. “We don’t know what’s happened to Wendy. She live in McKinney. We couldn’t have heard from her. I’m sure she’s fine.”
Mom just looks at Caroline, waiting for her to finish talking, then pulls her tight to her chest.
Walter comes walking up behind and offers me a hand. We shake.
“It’s good to see you,” he says. “We really had thought that we lost you last night. The wailers were out in force. The noises coming from downtown were pretty deafening.”
I look over toward Caroline and her mother. They are lost in mom’s near hysterics, but I still pull Walter a few steps away then begin to recap the night.
“It was bad,” I say. “Worst I’ve seen so far. We saw hundreds of them. They were in our building. Coming from above us and below.”
“The roof?” he asks.
“Wow.” He pauses for a moment, considering what he’s just heard. I can see the wheels turning. We keep learning new things about the wailers. What they can and can’t do. New knowledge means that we have to readjust strategies. Reconsider things we’ve been doing. Knowing that they can climb the walls. That’s new.
“How did you guys get away?”
“Magic,” I say then stop. I shouldn’t say too much. Caroline and her mom haven’t said anything so far. This is their secret to spill. “I guess.”
“Or luck.” Walter punches my arm then takes the packs out of the seat of the chair.
“That’s fancy,” he says, running his hand along the light brown leather. “We get to take turns sitting in that thing?”
“We didn’t take turns getting it here,” I say then smile.
Walter chuckles. “Fair enough. Come get some breakfast. It’s not much, but it’s filling.”
There’s a fire burning at the foot of the Texas Star and something is cooking. It smells warm; that’s the best that I can say for it. But we’ve learned not to be picky when it comes to food. There’s never a guarantee that you’ll have it, so when you do get to eat you take advantage. Even if warm is the best thing you can say about the meal.
“You and Maggie the only ones here last night?” I ask. I’m in my high-back executive, and I’m already loving it. I do feel like some kind of royal looking out over his subjects and his land.
Walter answers my question with an “Unnnn Hunnn."
"And she was in hysterics. I can’t blame her especially. We both thought the two of you had met with a sudden and unexpected demise.”
Walter likes to talk like that: “a sudden and unexpected demise.” It drives the writer in me crazy, but I figure that it’s something better to tolerate given our current situation. Our camp is small, and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. These are the people my lots are cast with, whether I like it or not. I can’t have one of them start to feel indifferent on whether my demise is sudden or unexpected.
In camp there are six of us. There’s me. There’s Walter. We have Caroline and her mom. And then there are two other women. Honestly, I don’t care for either of them all that much -- Britt and Bethany. They have been fairly useless so far. I am trying to tell myself that they are still in shock over everything that’s happened, but we are getting farther and farther out from the days of the event. We are getting to the point that they should have come back around and are ready to be productive again, to contribute. But they haven’t done any of that yet, and eventually you just have to chalk it up to general laziness. And that’s about where I am with them.
The other four of us, though, we’re good. We’re strong and bent on survival.
Walter drops my pack near the bedroll that I’ve claimed as mine. It’s in the shadows of the Texas Star, the giant Ferris wheel that is the centerpiece of Dallas’ Fair Park. It was the landmark that you saw from the highway as you looked off into southern Dallas, and somehow it remained intact when everything came crashing down, a giant target that none of the aliens’ big rocks could seem to hit.
I move the chair to nearer the fire pit and sit down. The walk from downtown has taken from me whatever energy the good night’s sleep had provided. I’d expected to have built some sort of stamina by this point. I push up onto my toes, and the seat leans back. I look up into the grid of steel inside of the Ferris wheel above me. I study the beams for a moment and let my mind get lost in the structure of this giant amusement ride. That’s likely why I jump at the sound of Maggie’s voice.