I was floating on a deep, fluffy cloud that smelled like hot chicken soup, but my head was held down by a bird that perched there, talking and talking about how long I’d been asleep. I kept trying to wave it away, and in the process I hit myself in the face and woke up. I was in a real bed and my head was bandaged. A woman with a round, rosy face smiled down at me and exclaimed,
“Hey, Bro.” The familiar voice was David’s. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine.” I answered, trying to sit up.
“Dude, you’re all chewed up,” David explained when I winced at unexpected sore spots. “Your arm, your head, your neck, your face. . . you were practically dog food for a while there.”
“The kids?” I asked as memories of my last conscious experiences returned. “Did they all make it?”
“Every single one, dear,” the woman answered, “and you’re a hero.”
I looked at David and he nodded, swallowing and blinking as though to hide emotion.
“It’s true,” he affirmed. “they’re all safe and with friends or relatives. Amy’s especially grateful to you for getting her brother and sister out, but I expect she’ll want to tell you herself.”
“Are you hungry, Marcus?” the woman asked, offering me a mug of chicken soup. “My name is Mary, and I’m the adopted Auntie of the other two you rescued. God love you, son. Have some broth.” She turned to hurry out of the room, wiping tears from her eyes.
“David—!” I said, as the memories flooded back, “my sister is back in our house. I saw a light on - I have to go back in and find a way to talk to her.”
David winced and looked away. “You need to heal up a little, Marcus. You’re pretty banged up.”
“I’m fine. I have to go right away. She’ll be expecting me to find her. She’s never been alone like this before and now our parents are dead. . . I’ve gotta go, David,” I flung off the covers and reached for the neatly folded pile of clean clothing at my bedside.
“You can’t,” David said quietly.
“After all I’ve done, you’re not going to let me leave here? Man, I won’t come back - I’ll find a place out here for just me and Kara. Or you can blindfold me and lead me out—“
“It’s not that, man.” David interrupted as I pulled a shirt over my head. “They’ve sealed up every entrance and exit to the city, all the way around. Every hole, every culvert, every crossing. There’s a road block where you have to show ID just to drive into the city. That place is on lock down now.”
I sat in stunned silence for a minute. It couldn’t be. The timing was wrong. Kara and Janey had to get out too. They were meant to get out.
“There’s gotta be another way,” I said, staring out the window with unseeing eyes.
“There is another way, but it’s high risk,” a voice behind me said. I turned around to see Kyle, a perimeter defender I’d come to know in the last few weeks. He came into the room and stood next to David.
“I used to be a pizza delivery guy. I still have my uniform and ID. If you bleach your hair out and wear my uniform, you can get into Tiny Town on the other side of the pass. It’s a two day ride by horseback from here, but you’ll be able to get into that town pretty easily. From there, you can hitch a ride back across the pass and into Super City. If they haven’t cancelled my ID yet, you should be able to get through the roadblock.”
“But what if they have?” David asked.
We looked at each other in silence, then I shook my head.
“I’ve gotta try.”