Chapter 8 – Anthony Woods
No, no, no, no, NO! This wasn’t real. This wasn’t real. This was all in his head. The doctor said this might happen. He said that the voices might try to find another way in. He said that Anthony just needed to take his medicine and repeat his mantra.
Anthony fished around in his pockets to find the bottle. As he searched, he whispered to himself.
“I know who I am. I,” he paused to wipe the sweat from his forehead, “am Anthony Woods. I am not a bad man. I control my mind, and no one else. I choose what I do, and I choose to not give in.”
The bottle of pills rattled in his shaking hands as he opened the lid.
“Eliza,” Frank yelled out, and light came back to the diner just as Anthony poured two pills into his hand.
Across from him, a man with black, slicked backed hair and a nice suit was crouched against the outer wall of the kitchen. His eyes fixated on Anthony and the orange bottle in his hand once they adjusted to the light. Anthony slammed the pills into his mouth and swallowed hard as he capped the bottle and put it back in his pocket. The other man looked away, probably noticing Anthony’s discomfort.
Anthony closed his eyes and waited for the pills to take effect; for his sanity to return; for the things outside to disappear.
“Alright, everyone,” Frank shouted. “We’re gonna have a fight on our hands.”
Anthony opened his eyes to see the people around him on their feet and the Empty People still outside.
Why wasn’t it working? The pills always worked. Could it be that he wasn’t imagining this? Everyone else seemed to be just as scared as he was, but how could he be sure that that wasn’t the voices playing tricks on his mind again? What if everyone was sitting down, enjoying a nice stop at a nice diner, wondering what he was doing running around and freaking out? What if he wasn’t even there, and all of this was in his head?
What if he’d finally lost it?
“Everyone stay together,” Frank bellowed as he dashed to each switch, turning the rest of the lights back on. “Those boards are strong, but they won’t last forever. If one of these things gets in, it’ll take all of us to get it out.”
The people around Anthony all clutched at their weapons as the pounding on the boards around them persisted. Each of them had the same look of utter fear in their eyes that he would sometimes see in the mirror. Maybe this really was happening after all.
“There’s enough space between the boards for me to get a shot,” said the man who had been beside Frank. “Why don’t I just walk around and take each of them out?”
“No, they’re too fast,” Frank said. “They’ll never stay still long enough.” He came back to the group in the center around the bar. “Besides, the gunfire will only make them more agitated. Only use it as a last resort.”
The Empty People continued to pummel at the boards. Frank was right: the boards were strong. But, with every thud against them, slight cracking sounds echoed throughout the diner. They wouldn’t last much longer. The others knew it just as well as Anthony did. From his right, the woman in the blue skirt suit and tight ponytail crossed in front of him, almost dragging the girl behind her. She stopped in front of the family to Anthony’s left and talked to the daughter.
“There’s a door leading to the basement over there,” she said, pointing toward the kitchen.
“Could you please take my niece down there and lock the door?”
The daughter, a pretty, early-twenties girl, looked down at the girl and then back up at the woman in front of her. “I can’t leave my parents,” she said, her tone tender and apologetic. “I have to stay here with them.” The cracking of some of the boards intensified. They didn’t have much time.
“Tara,” said her father, staring at the woman. “Take the little girl and go.”
“Listen to your father, sweetheart,” the girl’s mother interjected, her face contorted with concern and worry. “Go down there, and don’t open the door for anyone other than your father or me.”
Tara looked between her parents and the little girl for a moment and her shoulders dropped. “I love you,” she said to her parents before she turned and knelt in front of the little girl, taking her hand. “What’s your name, sweetie?”
“Hadley,” the girl said as she wiped the tears from her eyes, her voice putting a lump in Anthony’s throat.
“Hi, Hadley. I’m Tara. We’re gonna go downstairs now, ok?”
“Ok,” Hadley said, and the two walked into the kitchen as Tara glanced back at her parents one last time.
“I’m going, too,” said the bus driver.
“No,” Frank yelled just as Anthony was about to say ‘me, too.’ “We need everyone up here if we’re to have any hope of surviving.” The bus driver threw his eyes down the same as Anthony, probably feeling the same shame.
Crack! One of the boards on the right side of the diner split in half, the two pieces clanking on the floor. A dark hand reached into the diner and started pulling at the boards beneath it.
“Michael, come with me,” Frank exclaimed. He ran over with his baseball bat and started shoving it through the empty space into the creatures face, keeping a safe enough distance so that its talons wouldn’t reach him. “Help me! If even one of these things get in, we’re in trouble.” Michael shoved his two-by-four through as well, and the hand fell back.
“You,” Frank said, pointing to the man in the nice suit with the hammer, “come here and nail the broken boards across the other ones.” The man went over and picked up the two pieces on the floor. “There’s some nails on the windowsill. Michael and I will hold the Empty off while you hammer.”
This was real. It wasn’t just the voices. Those monsters were real.
Just as the man got to work, a board on the opposite side of the diner cracked in half and fell to the floor, a black hand reaching in.
“Dammit! You and you,” Frank said, nodding at the bus driver and Anthony, “go over there and keep that thing out.”
Anthony looked down and noticed both he and the bus driver were holding two-by-fours. He turned his eyes to the bus driver’s and saw the same fear he had in his.