Home > Among Monsters (Red Hill #1.5)(11)

Among Monsters (Red Hill #1.5)(11)
Author: Jamie McGuire

“Pee-pee,” Tobin said.

Tavia patted his back. “Me, too.”

Dad reappeared, all color gone from his face.

“Oh Lord Jesus,” Tavia said. “She’s not—”

“No,” Dad said, rubbing his forehead with his thumb and index finger. “She’s not here.”

“What?” I shouldered past him. “Mom?” I called. “Mom!”

I searched each room in a panic. When I returned to the living room, Dad, Halle, Tobin and Tavia were all staring at the wall.

The drips of black spray paint had dried a few inches below the words that Mom had hastily written on the wall.

“No!” I said, staring at the wall. “I told you! I told you she’d come here!”

Dad reached for me. I pushed him away, my shoes crunching on the glass piled on the carpet. She’d come here for us. She had just been a little over a block away, and we’d missed her.

Tavia put Tobin on the floor, but he was clinging to her leg, only one train in his hand.

“Jenna, you have to keep your voice down,” Dad said.

Halle sniffed. “It’s okay, Jenna. We’ll just go to Red Hill. It’s the safest place, remember? Mom said so.”

I wiped my nose, looking to Dad. “We’ve got to get to your Tahoe. We can be there by this afternoon.”

Dad shook his head. “Jenna, the interstate is blocked. You heard what that guy said.”

I lowered my chin. “Mom made it here somehow. She knew she could get to Red Hill from here. We’ve got to leave now. She’ll be worried sick if we wait too long.”

“Jenna—” Dad began.

“I’m going!” I said. “I need her. I want to be with her”—tears streamed down my face—“for however long that might be. And if you won’t go with me, I’ll go by myself.”

“No!” Halle threw her arms around me.

Tavia blinked and then looked to Dad. “What is Red Hill?”

Dad sighed. “It’s a ranch, northwest of here and across the state line.” He sighed. “I’ve never been there, Jenna. I don’t know exactly where it’s at.”

“I do!” Halle took a breath and began to sing.

West on Highway 11

On our way to heaven

North on Highway 123.

123? 123!

Cross the border.

That’s an order!

Left at the white tower.

So Mom can clean the doctor’s shower.

Left at the cemetery.

Creepy…and scary!

First right!

That’s right!

Red! Hill! Roooooooad!

Tavia smirked and put her hands on her hips. “Who knew? I’ve been traveling with Beyoncé all this time.”

Halle beamed. It was the first time I’d seen her smile since Mom had dropped her off at school the morning before. That seemed like an entire lifetime ago.

“We know the way,” I said to Dad. “You just have to drive us. It’s secluded and stocked. Mom always said it would be the best place to go, and she’s there.”

He shook his head. “It’s a long way, honey. We should wait here until things calm down.”

I held up my hands and then let them fall to my thighs. “Dead people are walking around outside. We don’t have time. She’s waiting on us!”

“Okay!” Dad said. “Okay, just let me think.”

“While you think,” Tavia said, “we girls had better take advantage of a working bathroom. Let me take Tobin first.”

Halle and I agreed, and then when they emerged, I led Halle in by the hand. In the dim room, she hummed from the toilet, and then she washed her hands as I sat down. I didn’t realize until that moment just how much I’d needed to go.

“We have to be more careful,” I said. “Don’t want to get bladder infections.”

“What do you mean?” Halle said.

“It’s not good to hold it for so long,” I said, walking over to the sink.

“Why would we need to hold it?”

“In case we don’t get to the ranch today. If we have to take back roads and it takes a little longer, then we need to think about these things. We can’t just go to the doctor, like we’ve done before.”

Halle pretended to understand, but I knew she had no idea what was really going on. To her, it was scary, but she was on autopilot, just doing what she was told. At some point, it would finally set in that things would be different for a long time.

When we came out of the bathroom, Tobin was pushing his train on the floor.

“He’s so good,” I said.

Tavia crossed her arms, looking proud. “He always has been. Hardly cried as a baby. Everyone told me that he’d be a nightmare of a toddler, but you can see, he’s my angel.”

A shadow darkened the very spot where he played. A low moan mixed with a gurgling noise made us all freeze.

“Choo-choo!” Tobin said, shoving his train across the carpet.

His voice was soft, but the moaning grew louder. Tavia scooped him up off the floor and backed against the wall, motioning for him to be quiet. Together, Halle, Dad, and I slowly backed away from the window and went into the kitchen, joining Tavia and her son.

“Jenna, keep an eye on that window. Tavia, stay with Halle. I’m going to get supplies,” Dad said.

“I’m going with you,” I said. “I know what we need.”

Dad frowned in confusion.

“Bottles of water, a can opener, flashlights, batteries, candles, socks. Mom and I watched those shows all the time. Let me help you.”

“Watch the window,” he commanded Tavia. He pointed to me and then the kitchen cabinets.

I went straight to the front closet and grabbed one of Dad’s hunting backpacks, unzipped it, and then went into the kitchen, opening the silverware drawer. I packed three forks, two knives, and the can opener. Then, I opened the junk drawer and fished out the box of matches, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, a mini LED flashlight, two candlesticks, and a package of batteries. From the cabinets I tossed in a package of beef jerky, some ramen noodles, sandwich bags, and ten cans of soup. I grimaced. They weighed down my pack quite a bit.

The bathroom was next, but my backpack was filling up fast. I grabbed the first-aid kit, rubbing alcohol, all the Tylenol and ibuprofen I could find, three washrags, insect repellent, two rolls of toilet paper, and sunscreen. I tried to find a small mirror but no such luck.

In the utility room, I opened the top cabinets where Dad kept all his hunting and camping gear. “Halle!” I called just above a whisper.

She crept in, looking up at me through her glasses. Her hair was still matted to her head.

“Empty your backpack.”

“What? Why?” she said, already whining.

“Because we’re going to need things to survive and not your nail polish. Empty it. Hurry.”

“But we’re going to Red Hill. We don’t need a tarp.”

“Halle!” I hissed.

She sighed as she let the straps fall off her shoulders, and then she pulled on the pink zipper. She turned it upside down, and a variety of useless junk fell to the floor.

I threw in a tightly rolled-up tarp, another flashlight, a canteen, a compass, and a full roll of duct tape.

“I can’t find one of my backpacks or my 9mm,” Dad said. He’d changed into one of his navy blue Anderson Fire Department T-shirts with matching cargo pants, and his standard-issue navy fleece pullover was tied around his waist. He still had on his heavy black boots laced up to the top. “They’re gone, and so is the ammo.”

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