It's been a busy couple of weeks here. Vacation and a crazy-busy day job schedule has kept me from posting the last couple of weeks, so we are going to try and make up that time by tripling up this week. Here's the first of what will be three posts. The story is starting to change. Things are happening that will transform our characters.
Hope you're still liking it. As always, thanks for reading.
Welcome to the End//Part 22 -- The Search
I drop down to comfort her and she falls into my arms. She’s inconsolable so I just hold her. We stay like this for a few minutes. I keep glancing over at Walter, and saying a brief thank you that we weren’t here last night. That’s when I notice the rest of the park. It’s in shambles. Trees are uprooted. Stucco has been pulled from the sides of buildings. Large chunks of the sidewalk have been pulled up. This wasn’t a small number of wailers that did this. It had to be hundreds. More even. I can’t imagine being there. Walter was probably overrun quickly, but I don’t imagine he went without a fight.
Maggie either, and that’s what I try to tell Caroline.
She pulls back and looks up at me: “She might not be gone.”
“This is just her scarf. It’s not her. She could have dropped it or something. I could have been pulled off. It’s a possibility.”
“I’m going to go look for her.”
“Then I’ll go too,” I say. “We can split up. If we find her she’ll probably need help. Better to locate her sooner rather than later.”
Caroline stands and starts heading for the Midway. I go the opposite, toward the exhibit halls.
“Hey,” I call out. Caroline turns. “Meet back here in 30 minutes. It’s going to be dark. We need a plan to get us through the night.”
She gives me a thumbs up then heads back toward the Midway.
I’m trying to remain hopeful. I tell myself that Maggie’s smart. She’s resourceful. She’s magical. All those could get her through whatever this attack was. I dig into a pile of crumbled stucco, seeing if maybe the side of the wall for what used to be the food court had fallen on her. Then I climb over the pile to see if she’s somehow been stuck inside. She hadn’t. The building is dark and cold and heavily damaged. The wailers didn’t just limit their stampede to outside.
One thing the wailers did do was break down doors. Despite the damage, the inside of this building is dry. It’s a possibility for tonight.
I circle the building, but Maggie isn’t here. I move on. I’m walking toward the automobile building when I hear Caroline call from behind me. She’s yelling my name. I turn quickly, expecting the worst.
“Did you find her?” I realize that my voice sounds panicked, and I try to calm myself.
Caroline is shaking her head before I even finish my sentence. “She’s not at the Midway, but we’ll find her.” Caroline has a confidence that I wish I could muster.
“It’s been a half hour,” she continues. “You’d said we should stop.”
“Let’s not yet,” I say and start walking again. I head for what’s left of the automobile buildings. Caroline joins me.
There are normally statues in front of the buildings, four of them. They are framed by narrow, tall arches. Not anymore. The statues have been pulled down, art deco relics that are now in pieces on the ground. Large chunks have ended up in the reflecting pool that runs between the two buildings. He arches are also gone, pulled down by the hoards of wailers who came through. A bad feeling starts working its way up from my toes. It tingles my ankles, punches at my knees and crawls up my back.
We get near the entry to the first building. The door have also been pulled off their hinges. Caroline come to a stop, and I pause with her. She’s struck by something. I don’t see it at first. Then, there it is. Blood. It’s streaked across the damp ground. It moves across our path and away from the automobile buildings. Caroline begins to follow the trail, and I follow her.
We lose the trail in a fountain but pick it up on the other side. It passes in front of the Hall of State, another big art deco monster that used to have a curved entry that was taller than the rest of the building and a colonnade that stretched across its front. Both are gone now, The entry was taken out by a rock that first night, the columns pulled down by wailers. It’s a shell now, the doors still intact. Not even wailers could get through the pile of rubble that laid at the entrance.
Caroline is well ahead of me now. Her pace has picked up, and I’m chasing her again. She disappears around a corner that heads toward the area of the fair given to livestock, and that’s when I hear her scream.