3 Relied On Him Now

Shouts continued as few men bravely jumped on the buses and fired but they ended fatally wounded or the worst — dead. Other men with guns took over and women pulled the wounded to the tents. Yet, most remained where they were, frozen in fear.

"Girls, bring all the kids and run away. Use the tunnel under the barn. Hurry. We'll try to keep this beast from coming in," Marcus shouted as he jumped in one of the armored cars. Somehow, the woman couldn't hear him. They stood crying with knees shaking. Marcus saw them in this state.

"Damn it. Wake up and run while we can still hold on." He shouted in anger as he closed the steel door and started the engine. And he glimpsed the confused Kross. "Hey, you! What was your name again? Make yourself useful now. Go with these girls and kids, and protect them." The engine roared and splashing water hit those at the sides as the vehicle ran straight to the barricade.

Kross heard him and thought of helping the men fight instead, but watching the crying women and children, he changed his mind and took charge. He pulled Celia, whose eyes were flooded with tears.

"Celia, let's run. Where is this tunnel? Tell me?" Yet, the other girl couldn't hear. Instead, she went into hysterics, totally lost in fear.

"Ahh, we're gonna die. We're gonna... Nooo," Celia cried and knelt. The rest of the girls followed suit, but not all. The children also cried but tried to pull the women to run with them.

"Damn it." Kross shook Celia's shoulders, but the latter continued to wail. He got angry and slapped Celia hard on the face. "Stop that. Look at the children." He directed a finger to the crying children around them. "Tell me where the tunnel that Marcus said is."

It was a heavy slap and woke Celia but not totally. She touched her reddened face and spun where Kross' pointed and saw the kids, but… still in a daze. This made Kross frustrated all the more and wished to punch the other in the face.

A girl around the age of ten bent and pulled Celia's hand. "Big sister, let's go."

"Huh?" Celia just looked at the girl, still confused.

"Aunt Celia, let's go, pleaaase." The child continued jerking the older girl's hand. Two more sobbing children went to Celia and did the same. "Please, Auntie, let's gooo. Auntie, let's go now."

Their fierce cries woke the older girl to sanity at last. Celia nodded and stood up. "Sorry, dears." She wiped her tears with her hand. "Let's go. Follow me. Girls bring the children" She carried a two-year-old boy and pulled two more kids as she ran.

Kross barked loudly on the other stupefied girls and they cringed with his deafening shout. Thus, they started moving. Raindrops fell on them. The smell of earth plunged their nostrils as rain fell on the dusty ground.

Kross looked back at the gate while running and saw Marcus rammed the armored vehicle into the indescribable being. The monster fell down and Marcus, with a bleeding forehead, got on the vehicle roof and fired the machine gun without hesitation. That's the last he saw of him.

They had entered the house and lost sight of the fight outside. Celia pulled a white blanket on a table, then pushed the object to show a wide block of wood on the floor with a rope attached to it. She pulled the rope up; the wood flung up with it, revealing downward stairs.

Kross spun around and saw batteries and torchlight on dusty side tables. He handed them over to the older girls and to Celia. "Go in and I'll be the one to close the door."

Celia hesitated. "No, you go with us." She said this, thinking he was the only man in their group. Who would protect them if he would never go in?

Kross's eyes squinted and sensed her fears. He smiled to assure the other girl. "I will. I promise, but I need to put the table back. Otherwise, those Turned might follow us inside."

"Turned?" Celia said.

"That's what I call them. Well, some call those people living dead while I heard others call them mutants." Kross turned to Celia. "Where do you hide the guns?"

"In a room near the gate," Celia said, pointing a finger outside.

Kross shook his head. "Damn. How about here?"

"None that I know of."

Kross went on with his search inside, opening cabinets and drawers, including the piled crates on one side, looking for anything to arm themselves with. A hand wiped his forehead, dismayed to see nothing but a stack of papers and plant fertilizers.

Celia remained standing at the stairs' opening, but the other girls began calling her name. "Please promise you'll follow us," Celia said, begging.

Kross jerked his head and forced an assuring smile. "I will. Don't worry." And the red-headed woman proceeded with his chores by yanking the curtains hanging on the walls to see if there's something hidden behind, but frowned to find bare walls.

Celia saw this guy ignored her, so she told the girls to go in until there was only her and Kross left upstairs. She looked back at the busy Kross and sighed before climbing down.

Sweating, Kross stood in the middle, with his hands on his waist, as he tried to recall the places a careful person would hide an important thing. He thought of going out and getting weapons from the dead men, but he hesitated. That would be a long run near the entrance. Time was of the essence.

His attention went to the only sofa at the side, stared at it for a minute, and kicked it. He recalled his neighbor kept his porn books under his room'S couch far from his unsuspected mother. There, at the bottom of the chair, was a hole. He bent and dunked his hand in and felt something hard, and pulled it out. The thing was wrapped in a blue sparkling silk cloth. He unwrapped it and scowled at the thing he got, a folding pocket knife.

What the...? Why hide it here? He blew at the strands of hair covering his face. "Better than nothing." And placed the thing in his pocket.

He pulled the last curtain to find a makeshift kitchen. Then his eyes shone in delight to catch something hanging on the wall, a machete. He yanked out the two-foot knife from its wooden case. It glistened under the sunlight coming from a hole in the roof. His finger ran on the blade. It was sharp.

Without more delays, he ran back to where the trapdoor was. Gunshots and shouts tempted him to run out to help… and to tend Marcus' wound… but recalled the children's faces, recalling Marcus' pleas. He pulled the table until it almost covered the trapdoor. He crawled under and jumped inside with the rope in his hand. The door closed with the rope.

Inside was a half and a meter wide path surrounded with cemented walls. He saw the torch's light ahead and followed. Suddenly, the ground trembled again. Dust and soil fell on their heads. The girls gasped in fear and stopped in their tracks while the young ones cried. The tremor continued, making their hearts beat faster every second. The kids hugged the legs of the women for comfort.

Was the beast still alive after Marcus buried bullets in it? If so, the men and Marcus died, Kross thought.

Kross shook his head. He couldn't accept this and even thought of running out to confirm but hesitated. He chose to cling to hope and whispered a prayer.

The tremor continued, but he ran faster to join the women and children. "Let's hurry. Where is this heading?" Kross shouted at Celia.

"I don't know," Celia answered faintly, avoiding the kids to hear her. Perspiration shone on her brows.

Kross's forehead furrowed, walked toward Celia, and bent down at the latter's ear. "What do you mean, you don't know?" he said whisper-like.

"I really don't know," Celia replied the same way, but almost choked as she noticed the kids' and girls' scared faces.

----- o -----

Kross walked ahead of the frightened girls and kids. Torchlight on a hand and the machete on the other. The walls were plain earth now. The cemented walls ended long ago. They have been walking for half an hour with their tired feet. The girls carried the wee ones to hasten their pace. Along the way, the tremor stopped.

"Will Uncle Marcus follow us?" A girl of twelve asked Kross.

"They will. Stop talking and keep walking," Kross ordered. Yet doubt lingered in his heart. It was not the time to engage in such conversations. They had to find the exit as soon as possible. Hoping they were not trapped inside and had to go back. This was so frustrating, but he had to show them there was hope.

Another half an hour passed and their pace went slower. Some children held onto the dirt walls to rest. They couldn't continue like this, thought Kross.

"Okay, stop and rest," he said.

"I'm thirsty," a boy of six years old said.

Kross's shoulders sunk in defeat. 'Damn, why didn't I think of bringing some?' as he recalled the jugs of water below the machete. Kross felt lost on how to help these children. 'Where is this damn exit? We've walked for an hour already and yet… Oh God, I hope we're not heading to a trap or… to our death.'

Kross couldn't voice out his fears, or it would be chaos. He thought of walking ahead and find that unknown exit, but unsure to leave too. He was the only armed. If he left, would something happen to them? His heart was torn in two.

The kids were relentless in asking about what happened to those left in the camp. This situation sent him to unending excuses and even lied to give them a little hope. Later, he decided to move ahead of them rather than telling more lies.

"I will go to find the exit, but I'll be back. So rest here and no one must leave." He then stared at Celia. "Look after them. Don't let them out of your sight."


"Come back, please." The girl of twelve shouted behind her. Kross waved a hand without looking back. "I will. Don't worry."

He walked faster and didn't turn his head, or he might change his mind. They relied on him now. Earlier today, they saved him. Now, he had to save them… if he could. What a speedy twist of roles. But he had to do what he had to do.

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