Read the first episode here.
Chapter 11 – Michael Hamman
Michael stood by and watched as the McCormicks blocked the woman who had just lost her husband from exiting the diner. He had tried to put a hand on her shoulder once he had gotten to his feet and Nathan was being carried away. She threw his hand off of her and marched straight for the door, quickly telling her daughter that she was going after him. Frank and Eliza immediately stood in front of her and told her that she couldn’t save him—that he was lost.
The banging had ceased, and the other Empty People were now following the two that had Nathan back into the fog. Apparently, two people were enough for them, and they had what they came for. One of the remaining three picked up the lifeless body of its fallen comrade—courtesy of Carter’s two shots to its head—and slung it over its shoulder before it joined the others in their retreat.
The passengers had kept their eyes on the Empty People until they had finally all vanished into the fog. Chaos had finally left the diner, and all that remained was confusion. That, and the young woman balling behind Michael.
He turned around and looked down at her. She had wrapped her arms around her legs and was rocking back and forth, her cheeks already drenched from the tears. The pain she was going through was unimaginable. And Michael was to blame.
He had tried to save Nathan. He had pulled with everything he had, but it wasn’t enough. Still, that last bit of effort wasn’t going to make up for the simple truth: if he hadn’t left his window to help the other woman in the first place, Nathan wouldn’t have needed saving.
The guilt hadn’t set in right away. It wasn’t until Nathan’s wife had thrown off his hand that the full weight of what he had done to her hit him. Now, he looked at the man’s daughter, unable to do anything. What could he say? What could he do? Maybe he had saved a woman’s life, but he had cost a man his.
“Get out of my way,” Nathan’s wife said to Frank. “That’s my husband out there. I’m going after him.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Frank said, his eyes showing his sincerity. “But I can’t let you do that.”
“Why not,” Nathan’s wife demanded.
“Whoever goes into that fog does not come back,” Frank said. “I don’t want to see your daughter lose both of her parents tonight.” Frank let his eyes fall after a brief glance at Tara. Michael couldn’t bring himself to look back at her.
Nathan’s wife paused and turned to her sobbing daughter. After contemplating for a moment, she walked back and put her arms around her.
“What was his name,” Frank asked.
“Nathan,” was all she said before she rested her cheek on her daughter’s head. Frank shifted his attention to the rest of the group.
“And what was your driver’s name?”
Nobody said anything, and Michael felt terrible. Hadn’t anyone asked his name? Was he just some nameless stranger that had been taken in place of someone better worth knowing?
“Eduardo,” said the woman in the blue skirt suit after a few seconds, her head hanging. “His name was Eduardo. I saw it on his nametag when I was…” She didn’t finish.
When she was yelling at him outside, and blaming him for everything. Michael looked at the woman he had saved and felt the shame emanating from her. She turned and walked into the kitchen, probably to get the little girl she had been with. He wanted to comfort her and tell her she couldn’t have known. But, he couldn’t. He had his own guilt to deal with.
“Well, we’ll remember their names,” Eliza said as she walked and knelt over to the man in the suit still unconscious on the floor.
“We wouldn’t have to remember one of their names if you hadn’t left your post,” Carter said. Michael turned and saw the man’s eyes boring holes into his own, and his defenses came up immediately. Michael didn’t know if he’d ever forgive himself for what happened, but he wasn’t going to let this asshole berate him.
“Me? What about you? Frank told you not to fire your gun, but you did anyway. Things got a lot worse after that if you didn’t notice. Then, you fired again—twice! After seeing what happened the first time!”
“That thing had its hands on me,” Carter countered. “And, I wasn’t about to let it take me. Two in its head, and it didn’t get back up. You should be thanking me. It was one less we all had to deal with. I would have taken out the ones carrying the driver, too, if you hadn’t stopped me.”
“So, you’re just skipping the part where those things got more aggravated after you fired?” Michael wasn’t about to let him off the hook that easy.
“Those things were already aggravated,” Carter replied. “Sometimes, you need to know when to make a hard decision.”
“Well, that’s—” Michael started before he cut himself off.
“That’s what I did,” he wanted to say. It was the perfect counter to call Carter out on his bullshit. But, he couldn’t say it. Not with the two women crying behind him.
“That’s… no excuse.” It was pathetic. But, it was all he could manage.
“Of course,” Carter said as he folded his arms across his chest. “Nothing to say.”
Silence hung for a second as Michael had lost his edge. Finally, Eliza spoke up from the floor.
“I think this one’s coming to,” she said, still looking at the man in the suit. The man’s head started swaying back and forth as his eyelids twitched. Slowly, his eyes flickered open and took a moment to finally focus. His expression morphed from disoriented to one of pure horror.
He screamed and fumbled on the floor to the bar. “Get it away from me! Help me!”
Everyone followed his finger, which was pointed right at Eliza. Her head fell and her shoulders drooped as she blinked in and out.
That was right. There were still more questions that needed answering.