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datatime: 2022-12-01 01:54:08 Author:KLVkXmub

"Uh... I'm sorry, ma'am. I didn't think anybody was here."

"If you don't mind, we'll just go on our way."

"I'm sorry," Josh repeated. He saw the woman's gnarled finger on the trigger. "I don't have any money," he said. "I'd pay you for the door if I did."

"Uh... I'm sorry, ma'am. I didn't think anybody was here."

Sullivan, Josh thought. Whatever Sullivan had once been, it was dead now.

"I'm sorry," Josh repeated. He saw the woman's gnarled finger on the trigger. "I don't have any money," he said. "I'd pay you for the door if I did."

They had no choice but to hurry after him. Artie looked over his shoulder, terrified of more lurking predators coming up behind him. His ribs ached where the beast had hit him, and his legs felt like short pieces of soft rubber. He and Sister entered the woods after the shuffling figure of the man in the ski mask and left the highway of death behind.

"If you don't mind, we'll just go on our way."

Something moved at the corner of his vision. He looked to the side, and something small-a jackrabbit? he wondered-darted out of sight behind the ruins of the caf��.

"If you don't mind, we'll just go on our way."

"You broke my screen door," a woman's voice said in the gloom. The pistol did not waver.

"No... we've got some corn, and green beans, and boiled potatoes."

Sullivan, Josh thought. Whatever Sullivan had once been, it was dead now.

"Leona" a weak voice called from inside the house. "Leo-" And then it was interrupted by a strangling, terrible spasm of coughing.

"Leona" a weak voice called from inside the house. "Leo-" And then it was interrupted by a strangling, terrible spasm of coughing.

Josh had just put his hand on the knob when the door flew open and the barrel of a pistol looked him in the eyes.

"Uh... I'm sorry, ma'am. I didn't think anybody was here."

The outlines of small, blocky one-story buildings and red brick houses began to appear from the deepening scarlet gloom. A town, Josh realized. Thank God

They had spent last night in the windbreak of an overturned pick-up truck; bound-up bales of hay had been scattered around, and Josh had lugged them over to build a makeshift shelter that would contain their body heat. Still, they'd been out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wasteland and dead fields, and both of them had dreaded first light because they knew they had to start walking again.

Josh was stiff with cold, and he knew Swan must be freezing, too. She held onto that Cookie Monster doll like life itself and occasionally flinched in her tormented sleep. He approached one of the houses but stopped when he saw a body curled up like a question mark on the front porch steps. He headed for the next house, further along and across the road.

"Why'd you think the door was locked, then? This is private property"

The dark town-just a scatter of wind-ravaged buildings and a few widely spaced houses on dusty lots-beckoned him onward. He saw no cars, no hint of light or life. There was a Texaco station with one pump and a garage whose roof had collapsed. A sign flapping back and forth on its hinges advertised TUCKER'S HARDWARE AND FEEDS, but the store's front window was shattered and the place looked bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard. A small caf�� had also collapsed, except for the sign that read GOOD EATS Every step an exercise in agony, Josh walked past the crumbled buildings. He saw that dozens of paperback books lay in the dust around him, their pages flipping wildly in the restless hand of the wind, and to the left were the remains of a little clapboard structure with a hand-painted SULLIVAN PUBLIC LIBRARY sign.

Something moved at the corner of his vision. He looked to the side, and something small-a jackrabbit? he wondered-darted out of sight behind the ruins of the caf��.

"Sounds like the makings of a stew to me. My cabin's about two miles north of here, as the crow flies. If you want to go back with me, you'll be welcome. If not, I'll say have a good trip to Detroit."

"If you don't mind, we'll just go on our way."

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