Chapter 5 – Hadley Holbrook


“Aunt Rachel!”


“Not now, sweetie.”


Hadley really didn’t like the blinking lady. She looked nice when she was normal. When she blinked, though, she looked like the Empty People from her dreams. The Empty People were scary, and they wouldn’t leave Hadley alone. Not since her Mommy and Daddy died three weeks ago.


She really missed her Mommy and Daddy. They would know how to help her. They always knew how to make her feel better. Not like Aunt Rachel. Sometimes, Hadley felt like Aunt Rachel was afraid of her.


“What the hell is that,” asked a woman across from her. She was very pretty, but she looked mean.


“That is my wife,” said Mr. Frank.


“What’s wrong with her,” asked the serious man.


“That’s what happens if you breath in too much of that air. As far as I can tell, you only have a few hours out there before you turn into one of them. I’m pretty sure Eliza only has about five more minutes before she turns completely.”


“And what exactly is one of ‘them?'”


“The Empty People,” said Mr. Frank. “Didn’t you all have the dream when you got here?” Nobody answered, they all looked uncomfortable. Hadley knew what he was talking about, though.


Aunt Rachel said they were just bad dreams. She said that lots of little kids had nightmares if their parents died, and it was a part of the “geebing process.” But, Hadley knew. They were more than dreams. The other girl said that she was waiting for Hadley and that they would meet each other soon, with the Empty People. Hadley looked back at Miss Eliza. She was smiling and looking right at Hadley.


“Wait a minute,” said a black man after a couple of seconds. He was sitting with his wife and daughter. Hadley remembered the daughter from the train station. She had waved at her and had a really pretty smile. “I thought you said you’ve been here for over twenty years. But, now you’re saying we only have a couple of hours before that happens.”


“You only have a couple of hours outside in that air,” said Mr. Frank. “As long as you stay inside, you should be fine.”


“There must be a million different ways for that air to get in here,” said Aunt Rachel. “Especially with how the windows are boarded. That doesn’t make any sense. Look, I’m tired of all this cryptic crap. So, why don’t you tell us exactly what this place is, how we got here, and–most importantly–how we get the hell out?”


Mr. Frank didn’t look angry or scared at Aunt Rachel. He just looked really sorry. “What exactly this place is: complicated. How you leave: you don’t. But, I can tell you how you got here.” Everyone waited as Mr. Frank sighed again. “You were driving through Kansas. On a stretch of road, there’s a gateway to get here, but most people drive right through it, and no one ever sees it. Unless, of course, there happens to be a psychic around.”


“You’ve got to be kidding me.”


“Please. I know it sounds strange. But, the presence of a psychic will open the gateway. Only a psychic can access the uh, ‘frequency’ this place runs on. I don’t know exactly how it works, but the psychic kind of ‘tunes in’ to this place if they’re near. When they do, they bring everyone who’s with them in.”


“There’s no such thing as psychics,” said Aunt Rachel. “This is ridiculous.” A boy laughed quietly, and Aunt Rachel looked at him. “Is there something funny?”


The boy looked at Aunt Rachel and ran a hand through his hair. “We just drove past the same motel five times, seem to all have had the same dream, and there’s a woman in front of us that flickers in and out of essence every couple of seconds. I think we’re going to have to get used to accepting some ridiculous things.” The boy wasn’t very tall and was skinny with long, messy brown hair. He seemed to be a little different than most people. But, Hadley was different than most people, so she liked him.


“You know what? Fine,” Aunt Rachel said and looked at Mr. Frank. “So, what you’re telling me is someone in this group has mystical powers and transported us to some alternate dimension?”


“That’s not—” he started, but Aunt Rachel turned to the bus driver.


“And, you see this portal to planet X open, and you drive right through it?”


The bus driver looked surprised and angry. “I didn’t see anything. I was asleep.”


Aunt Rachel took a deep breath, and Hadley knew what was coming. Aunt Rachel would always take a deep breath like that before she was about to start yelling. Hadley had seen her do it a couple of times when she was on the phone with her job.


“You fell asleep at the—”


“Please, please,” said Mr. Frank. “It’s not his fault. The psychic always puts everyone to sleep. There’s nothing he could have done.”


Aunt Rachel folded her arms and turned her head. Nobody said anything for a couple of seconds. Then, the serious man talked.


“Listen, Frank, what are these ‘Empty People’ you were talking about?”


“I believe I can answer that,” said Miss Eliza from behind them, and everyone turned around. Hadley tried not to look at her. She didn’t like it. But, she could feel Miss Eliza looking at her. “What’s your name, sir?”


“Sergeant Carter Townes.”


“Well, Sergeant, the Empty People—”


The bus outside screeched and stopped. “Help! Help!” Everyone moved to the windows to see. Through the space between the boards, Hadley saw the scared man running from the bus. He was screaming. He crashed into the door and pounded. “Let me in. Let me in!” Mr. Frank opened the door and the scared man grabbed him. “Do you see them? What are they?” He pointed outside toward the bus.


On the other side of the road, the things from her nightmares were standing. Then, they started to move, and they were coming toward the diner.


The Empty People were here.





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