Gone Before Dawn

By JMScott All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Scifi

Day Four

“I don’t think we should go back now,” Shane said.

“No, you don’t understand. Vince killed his parents,” Delta said.

“Yeah I do understand, but he hasn’t come after us yet. So why would he? You heard him; he didn’t want to go back there. So maybe he just wanted his parents gone.”

“Shane, Trisch told me something. She said before Sherry’s mom died. He asked her if someone died of an infection would that spoil the meat,” Delta replied and went to wake up Jude.

“Are you serious? He was going to eat my mom?” Sherry almost shrieked.

“Delta, it’s dangerous,” Shane said.

“We’ve been okay so far. Please, Shane, I don’t want to lose any of us,” Delta pleaded. “Or I will just go myself.”

“I would never let you go alone.”

“She won’t be alone, I will go with her,” Sherry said.

“We are all going,” Shane said.

Delta shook Jude awake, “Did you know?”

He rubbed his eyes, “id I know what?”

“Did you know Vince killed his parents?” Delta asked.

“What are you talking about?” He asked still half asleep.

“We are going back now.”

“It’s still dark,” Jude whined.

“Then stay here by yourself and come back when it gets light but the three of us are leaving now,” Delta said and went out the door. The others followed behind her.

“This is crazy you know that, right? But I am with you,” Sherry said. “What are we going to do with Vince when we get back there? Kill him?”

Delta moved faster and further away from the guys. Sherry caught up.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know if Jude can keep him in line. Trisch asked me for permission to kill him, if she needed to.”

“What did you tell her?” Sherry asked.

“I didn’t really answer her question, but I have been thinking about it. When he grabbed my wrist and looked me in the eyes, there was something just not right. He seems different since we got here. Almost crazy,” Delta said.

“So you are going to kill him?” Sherry asked.

“I don’t know. Why I am the one to kill him and not like Shane or someone else?”

“Because you would do it if it was the logical thing to do which it is.”

The guys caught up to them.

“Delta, you are going to tire out before we get there. It’s not like any of us slept,” Shane said.

“I’m not tired.”

They didn’t speak for the rest of the way. Delta thought too much about killing Vince. She thought about how she would do it. After an hour or so, she wondered why she even considered it. She always thought of Vince as the one to go crazy and kill a bunch of people. But did the others think she could kill? Why? Because she kept to herself. And those quiet, misunderstood kids always blew up the school or brought enough weapons to supply a militant group. Was she a killer? If she saw Vince, would she just kill him or we should torture him? What did the others think she would do? Slit his neck like a greasy pig? She shuddered at the thought. Her muscles started to ache but she had to keep going. The others started even further behind her. Then it was daylight. They were close. She found that extra motivation. Lulu’s was up ahead.

No one was outside but she could smell burning wood.

“Delta, what are you going to do?” Shane asked.

“I don’t know, they must be okay,” Delta said.

Delta went into Lulu’s first. Vince lay in his booth, sleeping.

Talia came in from the kitchen, “you guys are back early.”

“Is everything okay?”

Trisch came from the kitchen, “hey what are you guys doing here? I didn’t think you would be back until later.”

“Hey Delta,” Anson said. She whipped around and looked at him. His face was swollen and bruised.

“What the hell happened?” Delta said.

“Vince went ballistic,” he answered.

Delta went over and started to wake him up and noticed the bandage on his leg.

“What’s going on Delta? Shane?” Trisch asked.

“Get up Vince,” Delta said and kicked him hard in his good leg.

Jude rushed over and pulled her away, “Come on Delta, your psychic friend may have gotten it wrong. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

“Get the fuck up, now Vince.”

“He’s probably hung over, we gave a bunch of vodka so we can treat him,” Michael said.

“I stabbed him,” Trisch said nonchalantly.

Delta broke from Jude’s loose grip and kicked Vince again. The others just watched. Vince’s eyes slowly peeled open.

“Del, is that you?”

“Did you kill your parents?” She asked.

“I’m still tired let me sleep,” he said and dozed off again.

“Answer me, Vince, did you kill your parents?”

Jude pushed her out of the way, “come on buddy, wake up and talk to me.”

“Jude, are we going to start the new world yet?” Vince asked.

“Come on sit up and talk to me. I want to ask you something,” Jude said.

Finally, Vince sat up rubbed his eyes.

“Did you kill your parents?”

“How do you know?” Vince asked.

“Well you know how Delta talks to someone from the other side?”

“Yeah.”

“She told her, and Delta rushed us back here to make sure everyone was okay,” Jude said.

“Everyone is not okay,” Delta said and tried to push her way back to Vince. Jude held her back. The others, including Shane and Sherry, just watched.

“What did you do Vince, beat the shit out of Anson and Eric? What did they do to you?” Delta snarled.

“Me? They did nothing to me. That fucker Anson said you didn’t want Jude. You are playing him. I know you, Delta, you are not playing him. You love him. You are his girlfriend in the game,” Vince said and looked to her with sad eyes.

“You killed your parents,” she screamed.

“That was there. I told you I don’t want to go back over there. A new world is fine by me,” Vince said.

“Come on Delta, he is sorry,” Jude said.

“He is not right, Jude.”

Vince leapt to his feet, knocking Jude out of the way to the floor. He hit his head against the table leg. Vince grabbed Delta and put a knife to her throat. She didn’t know what to think. Vince squeezed her harder. She felt the blade on her neck.

“Listen, you are my best friend’s girl. Then you think you are better than everyone else. You are so smart but you know what. You are just like me. SO messed up, you don’t know how to talk to anyone but on a computer. You can be a hoe. But in this world you are nothing,” he said angrily, she felt his spit on her cheek.

“What are you talking about? You make no sense,” Delta said.

“What am I talking about? You had no reason to come rushing back because I killed my parents. That’s none of your business.”

Delta reached for his bandaged part of his leg and dug her nails in. The knife gently went across her neck. She felt the blood but she was still alive. He screamed and went to the floor and held his leg. Delta grabbed the knife and held to his heart. Shane came from behind and scooped her up. She kicked at him.

“Tie him up, Delta we need to talk,” Shane said and pulled her away.

Delta writhed against him. He took her outside while the others tied up Vince. Shane plopped her on a fallen tree.

“Delta, you are just as crazy as he is. Look at yourself come on,” Shane said and hugged her. At first she didn’t want to hug, then she broke down crying and hugged him back.

“We are not animals, Del. We are rational people. Is it rational to kill him?” Shane asked.

“I don’t know. Why is everyone asking me that?”

“Who is asking you?”

“Trisch asked me before we left if she could him and then Sherry asked if I was going to kill when I got back,” Delta replied through snotty sobs.

“Let’s just be out here and calm down. We cannot turn on each other.”

“Do you trust him?”

“Not one bit. But, if there is a crazy hungry creature out there that attacks us, you bet that Vince will be the first one I throw to the animals.”

They sat and said nothing, “so, what are we going to do now?” Delta asked.

“We are going inside and we should have a meeting or something. We have a lot of things to talk about,” Shane said.

The others sat at the tables when they came in. Vince was tied up and Jude was sitting next to him. Delta sat down at the round table. So this is the fall of Camelot, Delta thought to herself.

“What did you guys discover out there?” Trisch asked.

“There is an abandoned gas station but we didn’t go further. It is pretty far from the road. “What did you discover from the office?” Shane asked.

“Well they had a delivery in the year 2380 but then there was nothing. We found a place mat that I guess the owner of this place was supposed to approve but that never happened,” Anson said and gave him the map.

Shane looked over it and pointed to the gas station, “this is where we were. It seems like there is a town just another fifteen miles down the road. So maybe we should all go together.”

“Why? It is safe here. We should only go if we know there is something to go to. You can keep exploring, but maybe Delta’s friend will find for us a way to get home,” Talia said.

“We should think about this maybe will give Delta a chance to talk to Moira and then we will make a decision from there. What do you think, Delta?” Shane said.

“I just want to sleep,” Delta said just as the sky went from yellow to black . They knew it was coming. They sat in the darkness as the earthquake rumbled through.

***

I have made contact with Shirley again. They are walking along a dark black road. It is so dark where they are. They stopped alongside the road and started a fire. I can see them all in the faint firelight.

She is quite the receptive person and I do not have to yell for her. I can talk to her easier when it is dark in her world. I am convinced they are in a different time but the same place. I cannot figure out where in time they are. I am not sure how to get them back either. But this is what I do know. Shirley said there was not a lot of daylight. When the night comes there is an earth quake and they vary in strength. There was rain the one night and she said the sky was like neon blue. I do not know where they are going but they are on the road. Shirley did not see other people. I called the police in Virginia. There is a missing persons report filed on those kids. I am not sure what to do at this point. I am normally welcomed with open arms but this case is different. I am driving to Virginia soon. I am going to talk to the police chief in charge.

Moira closed the book. If there was any information in that book, it wasn’t stuff she didn’t already know. She rolled over on her back and stared into the darkening room. She thought about Jeff Bishop. She looked at his book online and it something didn’t seem right, he described a world much like Delta was in. Then there was his main character a woman named Christmas. That name sounded familiar. She looked in her notes. Christmas O’Rourke went missing from that same stretch of road ten years ago. In his book her name was Christmas but no last time. She stopped reading the free sample and bought the digital version. She read an hour more by now the night had completely fallen over Richmond. There was only one thing to do and that was to pay Jeff Bishop a visit. He wasn’t far from where she was.

Moira knocked on the door. The lights were dark in his house but his car was in the driveway. She knocked again, finally the lights came on. He opened the door and she could taste the whiskey on his breath and she wanted just to kiss him and taste more.

“I’m not signing books or taking pictures,” Jeff mumbled.

“I know about you, Jeff. I know you are not from Richmond or at least not the Richmond today,” she said.

He stared at her. Then said, “what did we date in high school or something?”

“Funny, since I am probably older than you. I know you’ re from another time. You know how I know, I read some of your book and I know someone who is over there, Delta, maybe you heard of her.”

“Listen lady, I don’t know who you are but I will call the cops for harassment.”

“I know Christmas O’Rourke went missing ten years ago on a stretch of road in Virginia. I know you knew Christmas O’Rourke. SO I guess I can call the cops on you since you are with holding information from the whereabouts of Christmas,” Moira said.

“What do you want?”

“I want to talk to you, that’s all. Just a friendly chat. Can I come in?” Moira said.

He opened the door wider and she stepped in. It was sparse with a sofa and chair in the living room with bookshelves crammed with books.

“Who are you?” he asked as he closed the door behind her.

“I am Moira Ponds. I am not really anything but a drunk and I have this gift. Well my aunt had the gift as well. People call for help and we are supposed to help. My aunt found so many people. In 1980 my time, a girl named Shirley and her friends went missing off the road and Shirley called for help but my aunt knew there weren’t on this plane or place if you will but they were in the present so they were not dead. The other day I took two percs and was still drunk off my ass, when Delta yelled for help.”

He poured a large glass of whiskey and offered her some. And it looked rather delicious, even though she didn’t like whiskey too much, she shook her head. “What do you want with me?” Jeff asked.

“I would like you tell me how you got to this side because I want to bring those kids back.”

“Well, I can’t believe they are still alive. Another few days they will be dead. So you might as well just quit now and stop getting everyone’s hopes up. Now if you don’t mind, I will like you to leave,” he said and reopened the door.

She grabbed his arms and looked into his eyes, “please help those kids you are the only one who can. They are just kids.”

“And Christmas was the love of my life but do you see her here? No. If you would read the rest of the book, you what happened to Christmas and you will know what will happen to those kids when the Puritans get a hold of them. Good night, Moira Ponds.”

She frowned and went back out into the muggy night. After getting in her car, she didn’t want to go back to the motel. She wanted to drink so badly. What did he mean? Who the hell are the Puritans? Although she remembered something about that in his book. In fact, Moira never felt as powerless as she did at that moment. Then Delta called for her.

“Moira, it’s me Delta. Is everything ok?”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, but I almost killed someone tonight. Vince. I don’t know why. We were out exploring and then I got your message and we rushed back and everyone was okay. I lost it, Moira, I almost killed him. It seemed like that is what the others wanted me to do,” Delta said.

Moira could see Delta but barely there were only a couple of candles burning. “I asked your mom and dad to get messages from the other parents. I don’t have them yet. Did you ever hear of the Puritans?”

“No, but there was a woman named Jill who owned Lulu’s. We are not sure what year it is but it might be 2380 because Lulu’s got their last fresh food delivery. We haven’t seen any other people. We were at a gas station and the candy had worms in it,” Delta said.

“I wish I had good news. I am working on everything. I have a lead, but he is not cooperating. He came from where you are about ten years ago. He won’t tell us how he got over here. He said something about the Puritans and that you guys may only make it a couple of more days.”

“What do you mean?” Delta asked.

“He didn’t say. He said I would have to read his book. I don’t have time for this shit. Excuse my French. Just stay safe.”

“Will you sing a song? The silence sometimes is too much to bear.”

Moira sung every song she knew, and Delta fell asleep. She left Jeff’s house and saw Brian and Korah Risotto.

They came down immediately with Sam following on her heels. Korah gave her a weak hug.

“Any news from Delta? Is she safe?” Korah asked.

“I just talked to her. She is okay right now. But I also talked to that writer guy, Jeff Bishop and he pretty much admitted he came from over there. He doesn’t give Delta and the rest much time. I asked him to help but he won’t. He kicked me out of his house.”

“What are you talking about?” Brian asked.

“He wrote a book and it is everything Delta is experiencing the earthquakes, the short daylight. There was a girl name Christmas O’Rourke and she went missing on the 301 ten years ago. He was with her. He based his whole book of his life with her. He told me to read the rest of his book but I don’t think I have time for that. He said something about the Puritans.”

“Aren’t those like pilgrims?” Sam asked.

“I have no idea what he was talking about,” Moira said.

“Let’s say I believe you, what do you want us to do?” Brian asked.

“I don’t know. I just needed to talk someone. Who else am I going to talk to? I am going crazy right about now.”

“So what you are telling me, is that Jeff Bishop somehow came over here through like a portal or something to our side.”

“Yes that is exactly what I am saying,” Moira said.

“Give me a minute,” Brian said.

“What is he doing?” Moira asked.

“Doing a background check on Jeff Bishop. This shouldn’t take too long,” Korah said.

“What then?”

“I guess it depends on what he finds out.”

***

Once Jeff got rid of that pain in the ass Moira, he settled back into his easy chair with a large glass of whiskey. Even if he wanted to help the kids, he wouldn’t risk going back. In fact, he would rather die then go back there. He was a wanted man. Jeff closed his eyes and thought about her. The way she smiled and listened to every word he said. He never met a woman like her.

They spent every day together, of course, what else was she going to do? They stayed in his shelter where it was safe. He left her behind when he went and saw his trusted friend, Orville.

He arrived at Orville’s half way through the daylight. He was an old man who enjoyed living by himself on a farm that didn’t grow anything anymore. Orville waved as Jeff came on the porch.

“How goes it, Jeff?” he asked.

“Same as always.”

“I can’t get you more clothes. It seems like someone is paying attention to the sizes and they are wondering why I want women’s clothes,” Orville said and went back to whittling his spear.

“Don’t worry about it. I will figure it out.”

“I’ve got something to tell you. You know Jill from Lulu’s?” He said,

Of course, he knew Jill. She used to give him food and a nice warm place to eat in the kitchen when it was winter. Jill was married once but her husband was killed by the Puritans. He never knew the reason and Jill didn’t seem to know the reason. For an older woman, she was attractive and he spent many late nights touching every inch of her body in her tiny little office.

“What about her?”

“They took her and closed the place down,” he said nonchalantly.

“Why the hell did they do that?” Jeff asked.

“From what I heard she was seeing a man. You know in that way. And since she was a widow that is not allowed. You know the rules.”

“How did they know?” Jeff said.

“Well when was the last time you were with her?” Orville said.

“How do you know?”

“Come on, buddy. I am not stupid. She was a mutual friend, against the Puritans. She told me.”

“Before Christmas came into my life. I was going to bring Christmas over, but I didn’t think Jill would appreciate it. Anyway I guess it’s been a couple of months or better.”

“I think maybe Jill was seeing Anders, you know him he worked at the gas station down the road. He was taken the same day,” Orville said. “I would be careful Jeff; they might be looking for you.”

“They don’t know about me,”

“Well one of Jill’s employees may have said something to save his own skin. You know how these people are they would rather live.”

Jeff said nothing. Poor Jill. She deserved better. He always liked her. She was a good woman.

“When did they take her?” Jeff asked.

“Yesterday. Probably will hang tonight.”

“Damn,”

“You should move on. They will probably start looking for you. Especially since you have that girl with you from another place.”

“Yeah you are probably right. See you soon Orville.”

“Jeff, if you leave, stop by and see me before you go.”

“Will do,” Jeff said and slipped back into the woods.

When he came back to the shelter, she was reading by the faint fire light. She laid across the animal rug with a blanket over her.

“Hey Chris, what are you reading?”

“This book by JM Scott. I don’t think I ever heard of this author,” she said and laid the book down. She got up and kissed him on the cheek.

“How is your friend, Orville?” she asked.

“Good as he can be.”

She grabbed his hand and pulled him in the shelter, “I’ve got something to tell you.” She smiled.

“What’s that?”

“Well poppa, I am having a baby,” she said and almost squealed.

“A baby?” Jeff asked.

“I didn’t have my period for two months; I just had it right before I came to this side.”

“A baby?” Jeff said.

***

Jeff woke again to someone not knocking on the door but pounding on the door.

“Go away, I will call the cops,” Jeff yelled with slurred words.

Whoever on the other side kicked open his door. He saw Moira standing there with a bunch of people. He recognized the other woman, the mother of one of the missing girls.

“Jeff Bishop?” the tall and lanky man said as he came in. The other’s followed. Moira closed and locked the door behind her. “My name is Brian Risotto. This is Korah Risotto and Sam Thompkins and you already know Moira.”

Jeff backed away, “I don’t care. I do care about breaking and entering. I’m calling the police.”

“I want to talk to you. I think you want to hear what I have to say,” Brain said and came closer.

“Talk about what?” Jeff asked coyly although he already knew.

“You are going to bring my daughter back,” Brian said.

“No, I am not. I don’t know how to get back there and I don’t want to go back.”

“Jeff, I can get you back, I know where they went missing,” Moira said. “It is the same place where everyone goes missing. I think you remember where to go.”

“The answer is no. Have a nice night. If you leave now, I won’t press charges. I just want to be left alone,” Jeff said.

“I can pay a lot of money. I am offering a million dollars but I can get more,” Brian said.

“You can’t give me what I want Mr. Risotto. I don’t want money.”

“Then what do you want?” He asked.

“Christmas. You can’t bring her back because she is dead.”

Moira looked at him, “do you know for a fact she is dead?”

“Of course she is. Those fucking Puritans killed her because they kill all the ones that come from here and go there. And that is what will happen to all of them. There is no chance for their survival. Sorry, start planning for the funerals.”

Brain’s face went from his normal pale face to bright red, almost purple as if he just was out in the sun too long. He went after Jeff and knocked him on the floor. He started pounding on his face. Blood squirted from Jeff’s mouth and nose and onto the floor. Moira and Korah went to pull Brian off. He kept swinging and then he yelled, “that is not the right answer, you piece of fucking shit.”

Sam went over and helped Jeff up from the floor and gave him a tissue for his blood.

“I will fucking kill you. Delta’s blood is on your hands,” Brain screamed.

“Brian, I got this. Let me talk to him,” Moira said. She brought Jeff more tissues and led him to the sofa. She titled his head back and cleaned up his blood.

“Listen to me Jeff and don’t speak. I know you feel responsible for Christmas’s death. I am blessed with a gift and years ago, I could have helped a young boy named Terrence, but I ignored his cries for help. I thought I was going crazy but then when they found his body, I knew it was my fault. I could have saved him or at least tried to save him. I let a five-year-old die. My aunt tried to help a bunch of kids who went over there and she couldn’t help them. If they died, then I am sure she felt responsible.”

“That is a nice sob story but what does that have to do with me?” Jeff asked.

Moira touched his face gently and gave him more tissues, “Jeff, you have a chance to make something right. You couldn’t save Christmas, but you can save these kids. It is called retribution. It’s about doing something you can move on with your life maybe without alcohol. That’s why you drink right? Because of Christmas. What would she tell you? Would she want you to save those kids on that side?”

Tears ran out of Jeff’s eyes and mixed with the blood on his cheeks, “She was pregnant with my baby. They took her and I couldn’t save her, I watched her die. She was pregnant. I swear I heard them both scream.”

Moira pulled his head closer and hugged him, “You can save these kids, Jeff. You are the only one who can. You know how to come back. You can save them. You can forgive yourself. Do you really want to feel more guilty? Do you think you can handle it? You can be a hero, Jeff. You can save them.”

No one said anything. Jeff wiped his eyes and looked at Brian.

“Okay, I will go back, but I can’t promise anything. If we are caught . . . I mean that is ten kids I have to get to Cape Charles.”

“At least you are trying,” Korah said.

“How much time do we have to get to 301?” Brian asked.

Moira looked at her watch. “If we are going to do this, we have seven hours before the portal supposedly opens.”

“Then we better go, you know where to go?”

“Yeah we can only go so far, he has to walk the rest of the way so we don’t get sucked in.”

“Maybe I should go,” Brian suggested.

“Honestly, Mr. Risotto, it’s going to be hard to bring all ten back. You are better off here.”

They piled into Sam’s minivan. Moira sat in the far back. She had to talk to Delta right away.

***

“Delta WAKE UP” Moira yelled in her mind.

Delta slowly woke up enough to hear Moira’s voice.

“Moira,” Delta said.

“You all are in danger, there is a group of people they are called the Puritans and they will kill you if you are discovered,” Moira said.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t have much time. Are you all still at Lulu’s?” Moira asked.

“Yes, we are.”

“Stay there and don’t go anywhere. We have someone coming to get you. His name is Jeff Bishop. He is from over there and he knows how to get out.”

“How will we know who he is?” Delta asked.

“Stay out of sight, Delta” Moira said and then disappeared.

Delta sat straight up and looked around. It was still dark out. But she knew daylight was coming soon in the next few hours Trisch and Talia were in the kitchen she could hear them. Sherry still slept in her booth. She didn’t bother with anyone else.

Talia started a small fire, Delta rushed by and put it out.

“Come inside both of you, it’s not safe out there,” Delta said and grabbed them both and led them in. She locked the door.

“What’s wrong, Delta?” Talia asked.

“Moira talked to me. We are in danger. There are these people called the Puritans and they will kill us if they find us.”

“What are we going to do?” Trisch asked.

“We stay here. They are sending a guy after us. His name is Jeff. He is from here and he knows a way out. I guess they are sending him now or at least when that portal opens again. We can’t draw attention to ourselves.”

“We need to wake the others,” Talia said. “You have to tell them all.”

Delta, Trisch and Talia went back into the dining room. They sat at the round table and lit just one candle.

“Everyone wake up, I have something real important to tell you,” Delta said.

Slowly everyone came to the table rubbing their eyes. Everyone was there except Vince. She looked for him in the weak candle light but couldn’t see his shape.

“Where is Vince?” Delta asked.

“I let him go. He begged me to just set him free. He said he doesn’t want to go back and he doesn’t want to be here with us. He would rather go on his own,”

Delta grabbed his hand and looked into his eyes, “why did you that, Jude? Why?”

Shane pulled her away, “Delta, we’ll worry about Vince in a minute, you said you have to tell us something important.”

Her heart pounded with fear and with anger. “I talked to Moira. She said we are in danger.”

“What kind of danger?” Eric asked.

“Life or death. There these people called the Puritans. Moira didn’t say much but if they find us, they will kill us.”

Some of the group gasped.

“What now, Delta?” Shane asked.

“There is a guy named Jeff. He is from over here and they are sending him back to get us he knows a way out. We just have to stay quiet and stay in the dark as much as possible. He is coming for us. Then we are getting the hell out of here,” Delta said.

“We are really going to be leaving?” Anson asked.

“It seems like it,” Delta said.

“What about Vince? We can’t let him get killed,” Jude said.

“You are the one who let him go, Jude. We can’t risk ourselves to find him,” Delta said.

“What are you saying, Del? You are just going to let him get captured by these Puritans? He’s going to die.” Jude whined.

“Jude, come on. He said himself that he doesn’t want to go back. Maybe he will be fine out there. Maybe he will find some other portal or something. We can’t risk it, Jude,” Delta said.

“Is this a dictatorship, Delta? Maybe the others want to help me find him and bring him back,” Jude said.

The others shook their heads.

“Come on guys, he is one of us,” Jude said. “He is the president of STEM Club. Our leader.”

“Not anymore, in case you haven’t noticed it’s Shane and Delta who are the leaders. They are looking for our best interests,” Trisch said.

“I thought you didn’t want anyone else to die, Delta. I thought you wanted to keep us all safe,” Jude said

“I am keeping us safe and Vince would have been safe with us if YOU didn’t let him go,” Delta said calmly but inside she just wanted to beat him senseless.

He stood up and went to the door, “Fine. When it becomes light, I will find him. I will go myself and I will find him.”

Delta went over and put his hands on his shoulders, “Jude, don’t be stupid. You are safe with us.”

He shrugged her away, “Screw you, Delta. You would go out and go after Sherry, if she was out there by herself.”

“It’s different,” Delta said.

“Why is it different?” Jude asked and turned around and faced her.

“Because Vince is a killer. He killed his parents. He could have killed Anson,” Delta said.

“He made a mistake, Delta. You know he is an okay guy,” Jude said. Then he turned back to the door and looked across the blackness. “So you wanted him to die and since you couldn’t kill him, you are taking the chicken way out and just letting him out there to be captured by those Puritans. That way your hands are clean.”

“Fuck you, Jude. Go after your fucking butt buddy. You’re right, his blood won’t be on my hands, it will be on yours. What do you want me to tell your mom when we get back and you’re not with us? Well gee, Dr. Myrnachick, Jude had to choose between staying alive and chasing after Vince. Guess what he chose, Vince.”

Jude shoved her hard and she fell against to the floor.

“I was wrong about you, Del. Starting a new world with you would be horrible.”

“You think that makes me sad. I didn’t want you that way. I never did. I just said it so you would leave me alone,” Delta said.

Jude went by her and grabbed his pack. No one stopped him as he went out the door. They all just watched him go. Shane came over and helped Delta off the floor. The others sat at the table.

“What now, Delta?” Shane asked.

She fell into his arms, “what did I do, Shane? I let him go.”

He held onto Delta as he looked at the rest, “so no outside, no fires, no nothing. We will be quiet and we will take turns keeping watch. One will look for this Jeff guy and one keep a look out for Vince and Jude and these Puritans. Is that okay with everyone?” Shane said.

They dispersed and Shane and Delta went to the little office. They lit a bunch of candles and sat with each other in the corner on the floor. For once, it felt guilt-free with Shane. She wondered about Jude and Vince. In one way, she hoped they would just come back and then there is less of a chance of getting caught. What if they were caught, would they protect the group or turn them all in. Who the hell were these Puritans?

“Delta, are you still going to be my prom date?” Shane asked out of the blue.

She kissed him, “If I still love you on the other side.”

He squeezed her, “and what does that mean?”

“I don’t know. It’s different over there.”

“So right now, you love me?” Shane asked.

“I don’t think I could be anything without you, Shane.”

***

They drove up 301 and went to the truck stop where Korah stopped at for coffee just a few days ago. Brian and Sam escorted Jeff to the bathroom.

Korah stood with Moira outside.

“Did you talk to Delta?” Korah asked.

“I did. She is okay right now.”

“Do you trust him?” Korah asked of Jeff.

“I don’t know. I think there is a part of him who wants some kind of forgiveness or retribution.”

“The same reason you helped, salvation?”

“I suppose so,” Moira answered.

The men came out. Sam, Jeff and Moira got in the back. Brian came around and hugged Korah. It was always so comfortable.

“So I was thinking about the time I picked you up and took you to Jolly Rodger’s. What if we had waited a little longer? We wouldn’t be here now,” Brian said.

“I should have been on the bus, why wasn’t I?” Korah said.

He lifted her chin and kissed her on the mouth, “because you are the driving force for their rescue. If you were there no one would have known they went missing. You brought Moira to us because she sought you out not me.”

“It doesn’t feel like that. I let Delta down,” Korah said. “I talked to her and she was mad because I wasn’t on the bus. She thought I was going to cancel on her. I could hear it in her voice.”

He pulled her closer and hugged her hard, “Delta is a different kind of person. You know that and I know that,”

“She is more like you,” Korah said.

“But she loves you, in her own way.”

“Sometimes I don’t know.”

“I know she does. Korah don’t think like this. Jeff will bring them home,” Brian said.

“How do you know?” Korah asked.

“I just know. Come on, we got to get to the road.”

They started back on 301.

Moira shouted, “pull off the road. Right here.”

Brian yanked the van to the side of the road and slammed the brakes hard. The road was empty, completely empty just as it always is at this time of day.

“Okay Jeff, this is where you get out and walk.” Moira said.

“Where do you want us to meet you?” Brian asked.

“Cape Charles Virginia, it’s on the peninsula. On the bay side. We will come through to a small island so boats would be good. Just don’t get close to the island, I don’t know if it will suck you in. I swam to the peninsula,” Jeff said.

“We’ll be there,” Brian said. “Be safe.”

They all got out. Jeff grabbed his pack and started walking on the road. The others gathered around the front of the van. Both Sam and Brian pulled out their phones and watched him walk along the road. Then there was this crisp white light that seemed to look like angelic vomit from a dark mouth. Jeff was gone. They waited for several minutes.

“So who’s ready to get to Cape Charles?” Sam said.

“Let’s go.”

***

Jeff walked through the light and he was back. He was spoiled in the other place with smells and colors. It was blackness. He took out the small flashlight and turned it on. He saw the smashed bus up ahead in the faint light and three graves behind the bus. The bus, they came on a bus and smashed into a tree. He couldn’t believe they would still be alive after all this time.

He started away from the bus and went for the road. He would walk through the woods until Lulu’s.

His mind wandered in the dark to the night Christmas told him that she was pregnant. There was joy, sadness and fear. He planned on taking her to this island in North Carolina. He heard about it from others who were looking for true freedom. They would be safe there.

No, not know. He had to focus; he had to get to Lulu’s. The ground below him rumbled. He turned off his light and lay on the ground as the violent earth quakes shook around him.

“I did not miss this,” he muttered.

Once the earth was done a storm moved in with the neon blue lightening. He much preferred the lightening from the other side. He started moving quicker to get to the road as fast as he could. The hair stood up on his arms.

***

The lightening started when Delta saw a shape coming from the gas station. Could it be Vince or Jude coming back? She hoped for either, since if they were together the Puritans wouldn’t find them. But the shape wasn’t thin like Vince or Jude but bulky and wore a long black coat.

“Everyone, there is a shape. Hide all of our stuff and get in the office. Lock the doors,” Delta said. They had already put everything back to where it belonged and stowed their stuff in the bags. The fire area has been cleaned up.

Trisch ran through and locked doors while the others grabbed their stuff and shoved it in the office. They all gathered in the office except for Delta and Shane. The others jammed the door closed in the office. Shane and Delta hid in the back of the restaurant under a table.

“You’re sure it’s not that Jeff guy?” Shane whispered.

“It can’t be, he’s coming from the gas station we were at the other day,” Delta whispered.

The rain started hard outside the window. Shane held onto Delta and buried his head into her hair. Delta wanted to wake up from this nightmare. Daylight came with its faint yellow, but the rain still fell. She had this feeling that the shape was out there. She wished she could see. Someone shook the front door. But couldn’t get it in. If it were Vince or Jude, they would say something. Now they waited. How long would they have to wait here? Shane held onto Delta. What were they going to do? After some time, Delta took the chance and got out from under the table. There would be no question. She would kill whoever it was unless it that guy Jeff, Vince or Jude.

There was no one at the window and the rain had stopped. Shane followed her.

“Well do you think we are safe?” Shane asked.

“As safe as we are going to be,” Delta said.

She knocked on the office door and Trisch opened it.

“All clear?” Trisch asked.

“Seems like it. We should stay more in the kitchen since there are no windows. We can take watch for Jeff,” Delta said

“And Vince and Jude?” Talia asked.

“I hope they come back or maybe we will find them when that Jeff guy gets here,” Delta answered.

The others filed out of the office as Michael and Eric discussed on how to make some kind of sleeping mats in the kitchen.

“I wish that Jeff guy would get here,” Trisch said.

“Would it make it better?” Delta asked.

“At least there is more hope of getting out of here alive,” she said.

Shane kissed her and led her into the office. He shut the door. This was their time. Delta was right about that. She took his hand and he fell into her whims. This was their moment. It might be the only good thing to happen. Delta didn’t know how much longer they had before they were discovered. She had Shane for this moment.

***

Jeff should have brought a rain slicker. Oh well. It was daylight for about three hours. He wouldn’t have much daylight left. He saw a shape coming from Lulu’s.

He dashed into the woods and crept along the black roots and the black brown soil. The figure moved slow and elderly. Elderly? He hoped it was Orville. But chances are Orville is dead. He was old when he knew them. Why would Orville be this way anyway? He lived deep in the Virginia woods on the other side of Lulu’s. Jeff kept his pace.

The man neared closer. Jeff stopped and went behind a tree. He was an old man. Jeff moved out of the shadows and watched the man. He noticed the cane. It was Orville.

“Orville?” Jeff asked quietly.

The man stopped and whipped around, “Jeff Bishop is that you?”

Jeff met him on the road and shook his hand.

“I thought you left after Christmas,” Orville said.

“I did, but I came back to rescue a bunch of kids,” Jeff said.

“You better do it quick, the Puritans know. Someone saw a bunch of strange kids breaking into the gas station. They are getting a search party. I know this because I had dinner with the Olstens and they told me, they are going to find them kids. I went to Lulu’s to warn them but it was locked. I knew they were there.”

“Why are you walking this way?”

“I don’t know, looking for the kids.”

“And what if you get caught?”

“I am losing my mind. I am old and feeble. Someone will come in and take my place and I will happily figure out how to die,” Orville said.

“I have to get to them kids,” Jeff said. “We are going to have leave in the darkness.”

“Jeff, I’m sorry you never made it to North Carolina.”

“I made it somewhere better, the past on another timeline. That’s where the kids are from.”

“If I cease to exist tomorrow? I would be grateful,” Orville.

“ I am trying to figure it out,” Jeff said. “But, I don’t think how these things work but you never know.”

“But if these kids are the ticket because they are. Just like the others. They can threaten the new way of life,” Orville said.

“My friend, I am glad to see you once again,” Jeff said.

“And you, good luck to you.”

Jeff scurried off on the road. He turned and saw Orville sit alongside the road.

***

Jude caught up with Vince further down the road. They hid when they saw the old man pass by in the lightening.

“What now, Vince?” Jude said.

“I don’t know what’s down here?” Vince asked.

“There is a gas station and beyond that I don’t know.”

“Well let’s go past the gas station. Do you really think there are people out there that will kill us?” Vince said.

“I don’t know but can it be any worse than Delta and her crew. Since obviously, they turned against us. How is your leg?”

“Yeah it’s okay. Let’s keep going and maybe we will see something.”

They continued on the road and made it to the gas station. Vince kept moving ahead although Jude was tired and he could have used a rest. They walked for a little while longer on the silent black road, the rain stopped and it was just the pale yellow.

Jude saw a house up ahead.

“Vince, follow my lead, okay?”

“You have a plan?”

“I do.”

Jude threw Vince’s arm over his shoulder and helped him up.

There was a man sitting on the porch of the house. He wore a plain shirt with blue jeans. He didn’t look like a pilgrim but maybe they didn’t wear black hats here. The man didn’t say anything but watched them.

“Good day, sir. You will help us? My brother and I were traveling to North Carolina to live with our cousins since our parents died. On our way here, these strange people attacked us.”

Jude and Vince came closer.

“They stabbed my brother with a knife. See, he is hurt really bad. We got into a fight with them and we took some of their clothes so we can be presentable.”

The man said nothing. Vince winced in pain.

“You said there were strange people on the road? How do you know?” The man finally said.

“Because people like us won’t hurt each other without reason,” Jude said.

“What are your names?” the man asked.

“Jude and Vincent Olsten.”

“Are you related to the Olstens here in town?” he asked.

“We do not know sir. We only know of our cousins in North Carolina.”

“Come in. We will get you warm and dressed properly with some food.”

Jude helped Vince up the stairs and into the simple home. There were no photos on the walls. There was a fireplace with a small fire. The furniture looked comfortable. There were no TVs or radios or anything. It was better than being with Delta. Anything was better than being with that lying bitch.

Vince and Jude sat on the sofa. A quiet woman appeared at the doorway.

“What is this?” she asked. She was wearing plain clothes but not in a dress just black pants and a black sweater that gave no definition to her womanly shape. Her hair was wrapped up on her head.

“These kids were attacked by those people that come from the other side,” the man said.

“What do you need?”

“Water and bandages. Oh and Cassandra called Carter. He’s going to want to talk to these young men,” the man said. Cassandra and her deep-set eyes disappeared into the kitchen.

A younger version of Cassandra returned with bandages. She also wore plain clothes but wore a long black dress that went to the floor with a turtleneck. Her light brown hair was also swept on her head, but she was radiant. Her lips were pale pink like strawberry stains on white satin.

“Daughter, thank you. You may go to your room. We will call you when supper is ready,” the man said. She said nothing, and caught Jude’s eye and smiled just ever so slightly. Her father ignored her. She walked so slowly and quietly up the stairs as she watched in fascination with two young men. One was taking off his pants.

Carter arrived within the hour with his rather large wife. They must be the big cats in town. Carter shook both their hands. The large woman sat beside the boys on the couch. Cassandra brought in tea and cakes. Cassandra disappeared back into the kitchen. Jude could see the daughter watching from the shadows. He guessed they weren’t allowed in but big old Mrs. Olsten was.

“Pleasure to meet you both. Please sit down. Are we related?” Carter asked them.

“I do not know, we only ever spent time with our cousins,” Jude said.

“You are from Maryland. Where in Maryland?” Carter asked.

“Glenwild.” Jude said.

“Very good. I hear that are some strangers walking the road and they attacked you?”

“Yes sir. They must have come the other place. They had devices that they carried in their hands and wore outlandish clothes. They attacked us for no reason. They said they wanted to go home and we were the reason they could not,” Jude said coolly.

“They must be insane,” Vince added.

Carter drank some tea. “Did you not report there was a break in at the gas station, Liam?”

“Yes sir, I did.”

“I know your boys are on your way to visit cousins, but would you mind joining the search party? The sooner we find the demons, the sooner they can be put to death for their sins,” Carter said.

Vince and Jude both smiled. “Sir, it would be honor to be apart of justice.”

“Very well, we will all meet here in the morning and we will bring the demons down. They will not soil our world.”

After dinner, Liam read from the Bible while his family listened. The daughter’s name was Mercy. Cassandra made them a bed in the spare room in the basement. Vince let a candle and hobbled to the bed.

“So I guess we are sharing,” Vince said.

“At least it is a bed. Tomorrow, Delta and all of them will be caught and killed. We are free here,” Jude said.

“I knew you weren’t from here. I could tell,” Mercy whispered from the stairs.

Jude and Vince were startled at her voice.

“Of course not, we are from Maryland,” Vince said.

“You both can cut the crap. I know the truth. I saw your things in your bags. You are from the group that attacked him.” Mercy said.

Vince jumped out and went for her throat, “Not a word, you stupid Puritan bitch because I will kill you so many ways that they would never know how you died.”

She gasped under his grasp. Vince let her go.

“Just answer me this. Are they going to find a way back?” Mercy asked.

“Yeah I guess so, there is this guy named Jeff Bishop coming to lead them away,” Jude answered. Now they were all going to die. Good for them fuckers.

“Where are they now?” Mercy asked.

“Lulu’s,” Vince answered.

Mercy crept back up the stairs, “you should have stayed with them. Betrayal- you both are bastards. I hope you find it all worth it.”

***

The group played cards in the kitchen while Delta and Shane were back in the dining room, watching for Jeff. He spotted him coming the direction they came from.

“You think that is him?” Shane asked.

Delta came over and looked out the window, “I do. I wonder if he ran into that other guy that came by here.”

They waited and Jeff came closer. He slipped around to the back of the restaurant and tapped on the back door. The group remained silent as Delta and Shane ran into the kitchen.

“Are you Jeff?” Delta whispered.

“Are you Delta?” he asked.

She unlocked the door and let him. He was thin with dark eyes. Everyone stared at him. This whole situation was crazy this was just another bit of crazy which almost became normal to them all.

“I’m Jeff,” he said.

“So I am guessing you guys hid from my friend, Orville. He said he stopped by here.”

“We didn’t know he was friendly,” Delta said.

“Why would you? It was happenstance. I met him on the road. The Puritans are coming after you. They are getting a search party. Orville doesn’t care for the Puritans but eats dinner with them just to keep up appearances. He helped me out lots of times,” Jeff rambled. The others just stared at him.

“What’s the plan?” Delta asked.

“We are leaving, as soon as darkness falls. They won’t travel at night. It is rather dangerous out there. The animals can rip you to shreds if they wanted. Have you encountered any?” Jeff said

“A few but not many.”

“We have several days walking ahead of us. We need to move. We sleep in the day and rest in the day. We need the darkness to cover us.” Jeff said.

“Do you know where to go?” Talia asked.

“I lived here once. When I lost my lady, I went for North Carolina for this sanctuary but on my way, I met a guy with his daughter on the side of the road. He just came from the sanctuary in North Carolina. The Puritans got it. Anyway long story short, you can read it my novel when you get back to the other side. There was a portal in Cape Charles. The Puritans don’t go there, but they do shoot anyone who goes near. I took the guy’s daughter and I went to this small island at night. We stepped through the portal to the other side. It was daylight. It was so beautiful. The tide was out so I took her and swam to Cape Charles.”

“What happened to the girl?” Trisch asked.

“I found a visitor center and I called someone and said she was abandoned.”

“So you left some girl, in Cape Charles hoping that she didn’t get raped or murdered,” Eric said.

“What are you going to do with us?” Michael asked.

“Delta’s parents and Sherry’s dad and that Moira lady are going to Cape Charles and they are waiting for us,” Jeff said.

“What are we going to do now, Shane?” Anson asked.

“What now, Jeff?” Delta asked.

“Pack only the essentials. We will have to get you different clothes so you blend in. If you have any black boring clothes, wear those. Get food but only bring what is easy to carry. Make sure everyone has enough weapons,” Jeff said.

Slowly, they did as he said as he sat down at the kitchen counter. Delta sat across from him.

“Who are these Puritans?” she asked. “Why would they kill us?”

“About two hundred or so years ago, there was this movement of returning back to a simpler time. One with morals. They based it all off the original Puritans. You know the pilgrims. This just wasn’t in America but the entire developed world. They weasled themselves into public offices. Soon the movement swept across the globe. They killed thousands in the name of God or their cause. The people that were left had to follow rules. I am from Oklahoma. My parents home schooled my brother and me. There are those that are Puritan loyal and those like Orville who wanted an old time America back like the America you live in. You fall out of line, they kill you,” Jeff said.

“How did this happen?” Shane asked.

“Technology before the Puritans were taking over the world. Some of the original Puritans saw this as being the devils’ work. I don’t know too much. My parents taught me enough of the new history. They promised a better world with clean water and better air, morals and a return to nature and less reliance on technology. People wanted this. It started with bombs, you know emps, it knocked out the power and cell towers and all that stuff. They outlawed cars and trucks. You could make things that used solar energy but for some reason we don’t have a lot of sunlight ever since they took over. So a lot of things do not work. The people in power are Puritan loyalists are in power until they die,” Jeff explained.

“Can this be changed?” Michael asked. “If we go home and tell everyone that the world will be horrible if the puritans get into power.”

“I don’t know because once I bring you back, I am not coming back here to find out.”

“Aren’t you a little bit curious? Why are you saving us anyway?” Eric asked.

“I don’t know. I need to do something good in my life. Because I failed the last time I was here, I failed my baby and Christmas.”

No one said anything. “You guys almost ready?” Jeff asked.

They nodded.

“We got another hour, so rest up and I want to be out here when darkness comes.”

“What about the earthquakes, Jeff? Why are the trees black?”

“I don’t know. Those earthquakes have always been going on since I was a child. Same with the black trees. When I first got to the other side, I spent my first full day laying on the beach staring at a blue sky. You don’t know what it’s like to experience your world for the first time.”

“How many emps did they set off? Were they all at once, or little by little?” Shane asked.

“I learned all at once. It was some glorious thing. There is day on the calendar to celebrate that day as well. They still use telephones but only for business no one gabs on them like in your world. People mail letters and such. I can’t believe you didn’t see a postman but maybe no one is sending any mail lately. Mail is censored,” Jeff said.

“So there’s got to be a resistance, how did they communicate?” Anson asked

“Same way except we used our own mail people and there are people like Orville who would receive the mail. There was a symbol of sunshine on letters. We wrote in code where we changed the meaning of the words. So it looked like a regular letter but it wasn’t. That’s how we knew about the old sanctuary in North Carolina.”

Delta and Shane grabbed their packs. Delta hugged Sherry hard, “we’re going to be okay.”

Sherry was crying, “I know. I am scared and happy and all that.”

“Me too.”

“Just one more thing. Ladies do not speak or hold hands with their lovers in public. In fact, ladies always keep their heads down. Men will walk surrounding the women. It is custom. I know it’s stupid but we have to blend in. When we are in the woods, feel free to be yourself. Always try to be quiet.”

Just like that darkness fell and they stood in the black restaurant

“Stay close. Are you all ready? It’s time to go.”

They followed Jeff to the dining room. He went to unlock the door, when he saw someone riding a bike. He switched off his light. The person looked small almost like a child. He wouldn’t think the Puritans would let a child come alone looking for the strangers. They were harsh but they weren’t stupid.

“Everyone get down,” he whispered.

They scrambled except for Delta who stood next to Jeff.

“Delta hide,” he said.

“No.”

The bike rider had a small light. He saw the beam. It was a girl. What the hell was she doing here? He heard her foot steps on the asphalt and then she knocked on the door very softly, very lightly.

“Please, let me in. I want to talk,” she whispered. Jeff stood there as Delta reached for the door and opened it.

“My name is Mercy Waverly, I want to come with you,” she said.

Jeff turned on his light, “how do we know it’s not a trap?”

She rolled up the sleeve on her long black dress and showed her a small sunshine burned into her upper arm.

“You are so young,” he said.

“Your friends, their friends are at my father’s house. He is scared shitless because we are not Puritans. Your friends convinced Carter Olsten that they are Puritans and you all attacked him. Please take me with you. I have clothes in my bag. My parents don’t know I left. They probably still think Vince and Jude are Puritans. And it is better this way. Please take me,” Mercy pleaded.

The others came out of hiding.

“What do you think?” Jeff asked.

“We should take a vote,” Shane said.

“We should take her,” Delta said.

“You want to risk your life for someone you don’t know?” Jeff said.

“Yes,” Delta said.

“Anyone want to leave her here?” Shane asked.

They shook their heads no. Mercy took off her pack and laid the clothes on the floor. She brought only three dresses. Talia chose dark pants and a dark sweater that must have been her father’s. Before they left, the earth rumbled under their feet. They clustered together as the earth shook them like rag dolls.

“You are sure, you want to go?” Jeff asked. “It is dangerous.”

“It is dangerous to be free,” she said.

“Okay let’s go. We are heading right for the woods. There is a stream. Once we are close to it. We will be a little safer.”

Jeff led them into the black night. They crossed the road and went quietly and softly into the woods across from Lulu’s.

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