Chapter 9 – Carter Townes
His hand on the gun. The adrenaline in his veins. The tension of the fight to come in the air. Carter knew these feelings well. He hadn’t been in combat for a couple of years, but his body and mind reacted as if he hadn’t skipped a day. He wasn’t nervous—just alert. He wasn’t confused—just ready.
“Dammit! You and you,” Frank said, nodding at the bus driver and the man who had taken the bus for a joyride, “go over there and keep that thing out.”
This was a half-assed planned, and even with the hangover he’d had since he woke up on the bus, Carter knew it. They needed more intel, better positioning, and a solid strategy. Blindly responding to breaches in random areas was a surefire way of losing the battle.
The bus driver snapped out of it first and sprinted to the window with the other man close behind. The other man kept his eyes down, obviously afraid of the talons, and thrust his two-by-four out blindly, staying as far back as he could manage. A second and third crack erupted above them. Two more boards above the empty space had fallen, and four arms were now reaching into the diner. The two creatures pushed their heads into the hole, extending their reach.
The scared man ducked just as one of the hands swiped at him and curled into a ball on the floor, whimpering. The hand that missed found the bus driver and wrapped around his chest. The driver was pulled to the center of the window and all four hands were on him before anyone could react.
Carter raced over to the squealing driver, but it was too late. The two creatures had already pulled him halfway out of the window. Carter grabbed at his legs to no avail. They had him.
“Help me! Help me,” the driver screamed as he landed on the ground outside, and the two Empty People began to drag him away.
This was bullshit. Carter had a weapon in his hand, and he was going to use it. He raised the gun and centered the sight on the back of one of the creature’s heads. He exhaled and squeezed the trigger as Frank yelled “no” behind him. The shot rang out, and the bullet flew in the sky.
Beside him, Michael was holding Carter’s arm up, too late to stop the shot but early enough to make him miss his mark.
“What the hell are you—” Carter began, looking deep into Michael’s eyes. But, he didn’t finish.
One of the remaining Empty People let out a deafening roar that sounded more like a gorilla than a man. The pounding on the boards intensified, and the cracking sounds increased all around them.
“I told you not to shoot,” Frank said as he and the suit with the hammer ran past Carter, Carter keeping his gaze with the man still holding his arm. Frank and the other man began picking the boards off of the ground, and Michael let go of Carter and stared hard for a few more seconds. If this jackass wanted a fight, then Carter was ready. Instead, Michael turned his attention to the bus driver outside.
“We have to help him,” he said to Frank.
“We can’t,” was all that Frank said, not looking up from his job on the floor.
“We can’t just leave him to die,” Michael retorted, and Frank finally stood up and met his eyes.
“They’re too strong, and we’d just be taken with him. I’m sorry. There’s nothing we can do.”
Michael let his eyes fall to the floor and apparently resigned himself to the situation. He then grabbed some of the nails on the windowsill and handed them to the man with the hammer. As the three of them were patching the hole, Carter peered outside.
The two Empty People were now across the road, dragging the bus driver by his arms as he shrieked and fought against them. Carter could see he was trying to wrestle his way free with all of his might, but the two creatures didn’t let up.
“Don’t let them take me!”
“Dios mio! Ayudame por favor! No quiero morir! No me dejen morir!”
The driver disappeared into the fog, still begging God to save him. But, He didn’t, and soon the driver’s wailing faded.
The cracking sounds around them continued, and at once a few of the boards split.
“Dammit,” Frank said as they finished hammering the last board. “We’re not gonna be able to keep up with all of them.”
Frank didn’t know how to lead. It was obvious. Whatever tactics Frank was used to, they weren’t going to work this time. Carter had to take command, and he couldn’t wait on some debate from these people who didn’t understand combat. He couldn’t ask anything, he just needed to order, to give these people direction. If he didn’t, they’d all be taken. He clapped his hands three times to get their attention.
“Alright, everyone, listen up! There’s two windows on each side of the diner, and two windows on each side of the entrance. That makes the eight largest points of entry. Now there’s twelve of us—that’s one person per window, and one person between each window.”
Carter could see everyone doing the math in their head. At least they were listening.
“Now, eight of us will be guarding the windows. If boards break, use whatever weapon you have to keep these things from getting in. There’s only six more of those things out there—they can’t attack all of the windows.”
He paused for a second to let the information sink in. It sucked having to wait, but civilians were never combat-ready and tended to get confused even with the simplest of orders.
“Those who are stationed between the windows: help the people on either side of you. But, none of you leave your stations. If we all run around willy-nilly, we’re going to lose more people.”
It looked like it was starting to register, but there was still some hesitation coming from all of the people in the center.
“Move now,” he barked, clapping on each word.
Everyone started fumbling around, not knowing which place they should take, but after only a minute or two, most people were where they needed to be, some of them already swinging their weapons at some of the hands reaching into the diner. Carter took his position at one of the windows where one of the Empty People was banging. He looked deep into the grey static of the enraged creature and called out to the group around the diner.
“Remember, no one leave your post.”