We found the car stuffed with dirt, both under the hood and inside.
So much for a quick escape.
No choice but to continue on foot.
“What happened to it?” Darla whispered as we clung to groups, still jumpy and nervous
that they could be on us any moment. Five days of running, with little food and sleep had worn us to the bone. Still, we went on.
Matthew kept pace beside me. He glanced over at her.
“The same thing that’s happened to all of us. Submit or die. The occupants of the vehicle were no doubt, trying to do what we are.”
“And what exactly are we doing?” a red-haired boy named Daniel spoke up. “We can’t go home. We can’t ask for help. We can’t live this way.”
I shrugged. “We do what we have to.”
“Elsbeth’s right,” Matthew said, “We fight for our country, for our families, friends, neighbors.”
“Fight?” Daniel sneered. “With what? Our hands? We have no hope, face it.”
As we passed a tree, Matthew shoved him up against it. “So, what? We become numbers? We go quietly away into the night? That’s not who we are.”
Daniel hung his head. “I’m not sure I know who we are anymore.”
I put a hand to Matthew’s back and coaxed him away from Daniel. “We’re united, that’s all that matters.”
Matthew took my hand as we walked on.
“Think we have a chance?” he whispered so the others couldn’t hear.
“As much as anyone.”
His fingers tightened on mine. “You’re right. We start with Lincoln. After we get Lux and Maggie out of there, we decide what to do next.”
“Where are our parents, you think?” I asked. My stomach muscles tensed at what the answer to the question might be.”
He shrugged. “Dover? Paytown? Hard to say.”
“Is all of America like this?”
He sighed. “Wish I knew. The whole world could be for all we know. There’s only the them and us. And right now, I’m trying to figure where our next meal comes from.”
“There’s a grocery store up in Almart,” Darla said.
Matthew shook his head. “Can’t risk it. They’ll be watching them for sure.”
“Rabbit stew,” Daniel joked.
“Sounds good to me,” Aris said from up front of the lines.
“Ew,” Darla replied.
“May be our only meal,” Matthew told her.
I closed my eyes against the constant glare of the sun.
At least it hadn’t rained.
That proved good fortune.
The sound of tires on the dirt road made us split in different directions. As always, Matthew stayed by my side. I wondered how he managed that in such chaos then swallowed in a peek around an oak tree. Two guards drove by us, unaware that we were there, thank God, otherwise, we’d be the food right now. When they passed by without a slow down, I breathed a sigh of relief then leaned against the bark. Tears blurred my vision.
“I’m not sure I can go on.”
He hugged me. “We have to. There’s Lux and Maggie to think of.”
I lifted my head. “What if they’re dead? What if the whole world’s gone crazy?”
“They won’t be,” he said. “We’ll get them, and then we’ll blast the terrorists back where they came from.”
I stayed in his arms for long seconds.
The others crowded together with a shuffle of their feet as they waited for us.
Leaders in a world that had indeed gone mad.
I stifled a hysterical giggle.
Matthew kissed my cheek. “Come on, let’s go get them.”
With a nod of my head, we rejoined the others and took up our walk again.
An army of survivors.