Chapter 10 – Tara Moran
“Miss Tara,” said Hadley, “I don’t like the Empty People.”
“I know, sweetie,” Tara said, stroking the little girl’s hair.
Once Tara had fumbled her way to the basement and found the light switch, she led Hadley to the far wall and sat against it. Hadley had curled herself between Tara’s legs almost immediately and hugged her tight. It wasn’t long after that the tears started to fall.
Tara could tell she was a lonely girl. At first, she’d tried to take her mind off of what was happening upstairs, talking about anything she could think of: school, interests, family. But, between the sounds coming from upstairs and Hadley’s sad answers to her questions—too sad for such a sweet girl—Tara felt helpless to console the child. Finally, the two had stayed quiet and just held each other for a few minutes before Hadley had brought up the Empty People.
“I know, sweetie,” was all she could say. She didn’t know how to respond when she was so scared herself, and her thoughts kept drifting to her parents. She didn’t have any children of her own yet, but her motherly instincts had definitely kicked in once Hadley grabbed her hand and squeezed so tightly upstairs. Still, that wasn’t enough to make her forget how much she loved her parents, and she couldn’t stand the idea of losing one of them. She wanted to be with them, and every thump and muffled shout echoing from upstairs shot a new wave of worry through her. The gunshot and subsequent roar earlier had been the worst, but she just held Hadley closer.
“Miss Tara,” she said, “are we going to die?”
“No, sweetie.” Tara gave the little girl a little squeeze. “None of the people upstairs will let those things get to us. Especially your Aunt Rachel.”
“I don’t think she likes me very much.”
“Of course she does, sweetheart.” Tara cupped Hadley’s chin and pulled her to look into her pretty blue eyes. “I know she does.”
Two gunshots rang out in quick succession, grabbing their attention. Then, another powerful roar followed by a bunch of shouting. She couldn’t tell what was being said, but one of the voices was unmistakable: it was her father’s.
The worry came back ten-fold. Was something wrong with him or her mother? Had he been injured? Was her mother in danger? She couldn’t take it anymore. She had to be with them. She needed to know they were ok.
“You’re worried about your parents, aren’t you,” Hadley asked, sensing what was wrong with her.
“No, sweetie, I’m fine.” Hadley pulled away and faced her.
“You should go see if they’re ok,” she said. “I’ll be ok by myself.”
Such maturity and selflessness coming from such a young girl. It broke Tara’s heart, and her eyes welled up. She was about to leave a scared little girl all alone. But, she had to see her parents. She had to.
She gripped the board beside her and stood herself and Hadley up. She leaned down and kissed the girl’s forehead.
“I’ll be back soon. Lock the door behind me.” She walked toward the door.
“Miss Tara,” Hadley stopped her. “Be careful.”
“I will, sweetheart.” She turned and opened the door.
Tara looked on from the entrance to the kitchen. Everyone was around the windows. Those who weren’t shoving their weapons outside or bashing the arms and heads reaching inside were hammering the broken pieces of wood over the holes in their window. As far as she could tell, there were now only five of those things outside, but they were slamming their fists into the wood much harder than before, easily breaking the boards in only a few blows.
Tara spotted her parents at the windows to her left. Michael was at the last window, her mother at the next, and her father between them. Her mother was shoving her two-by-four through an opening in her window as her father helped. She ran over to them. She didn’t say anything. She just waited with the board in her hand, ready to slam it into whatever that creature put inside.
“Tara, what are you doing,” her father bellowed, noticing her first.
“Tara?” Her mother looked away from the thing outside for a second and saw her. “Baby, go back downstairs. It isn’t safe here.”
“No,” she yelled with as much resolution as she could muster. “I’m not leaving you.”
The creature outside finally gave up on their window and sped away. Immediately, her father picked up the broken boards on the ground and started nailing them back to the window. Her mother turned to her and cupped her chin.
“Sweetheart, you need to go back. How could your father and I cope if something happened to you?”
“How could I if something happened to you,” she retorted, but they didn’t have the chance to argue more.
Across the diner, two boards snapped at once and fell to the floor. Tara looked over and saw two of the Empty People reaching into the window that Rachel was guarding. One of them had her by her waist and was lifting her up as she screamed. The man to her right, the one in the suit, stepped over with his hammer raised, but one of the Empty People swung out and hit him in the head, knocking him to floor. He didn’t get up, and there was no one to her left to help her.
“Rachel,” Tara yelled.
A body sped past her. It was Michael. He was within a few feet in only a second, and he lunged with a small piece of wood raised over him, smashing it into the unoccupied creature’s skull as he landed. It let out a grunt and recoiled back outside. Michael didn’t waste any time and started slamming his weapon into the other monster’s head repeatedly while pulling Rachel away with his free hand. It looked like he was winning.
From behind her, Tara heard another snap. One of the Empty People had broken a board at the window Michael had been watching.
“Dammit,” her father said, and he shuffled over to shove his two-by-four into its face. The creature grabbed the two-by-four and yanked it out of her father’s hands just as another came and split a second board. The two reached in and grabbed him by his arms, and he shrieked.
“Nathan,” Tara’s mother screamed, and she sprinted to him. Tara was close behind. They couldn’t have him. She wouldn’t let them.
The two Empty People were lifting him up and pulling him out through the hole. Tara and her mother wrapped their arms around his calves and pulled with everything they had. She couldn’t lose him. She couldn’t.
But, the Empty People were too strong. Her father was slipping through their hands as they desperately tried to hold on. Almost his whole body was outside with only his feet still in. Just as he was about to fall completely, Tara saw a muscular, tanned hand snatch his pantleg. Michael was beside her, pulling back with his foot against the windowsill. Her father came back in a few inches.
Tara started to believe that they could win her father back; that with Michael’s help, they could overpower the Empty People.
But, the Empty People tugged hard, and all three of them lost their grip, Michael falling to the floor.
It couldn’t be happening. The two Empty People were pulling her father away from her. The world was crashing around her.
As the Empty People dragged him away, he yelled out to Tara’s mother to take care of her.
This story will always be free for everyone. But, if you liked it, please consider becoming a Patron to support this project.