Forced Entry

“I said we were safer, not safe.”

Fleet pulled at the restraints, gave up, leaned his head back so that it was in contact with hers. “You’re supposed to be able to warn me about this sort of thing, Mandy.”

“This one wasn’t specific,” she protested. “I just saw the chairs, back to back, empty, like when they brought us in. Anyway, Dreamland One didn’t predict it either, so be mad at him.”

“He’ll just say ‘insufficient input’, and tell us to be more careful.”

“How long do you think they’re going to make us wait?”

“No idea.”

“I only ask because I have to pee.”

“Listen, I told you not to drink that whole—”

A metal door creaked open, and an older gentleman in an impeccable Italian suit sauntered in. “I hope you’re comfortable.”

“Is that sarcasm or irony? I can never keep straight which is which. What do you think, honey?”

Mandy shrugged. “I’d bet it’s irony, but it’s been a long time since English class.”

“You two are made for each other. The very souls of wit. But let me tell you what happens now.” The man walked slowly around and leaned over in front of Fleet, so that they were face-to-face. “Now is when you tell me how to penetrate Dreamland’s defenses. Now is…” motes of dust were beginning to fall past his glasses, between their faces; he looked up.

“That’s actually not what’s going to happen. Your ceiling is about to fall apart.”

“That’ll crush you as well, you won’t—”

“I’m not doing it. That’s way more juice than I have. That’s Rapture.” Fleet smiled. “Anyway, it won’t collapse, it’s just going to turn to dust little by little, until we’re hip-deep in it, and then she’s going to come down inside to kill you.”

Do You Still Feel The Pain

“Daniel?” She called down the hallway, then walked down it peering through doorways until she found him. “Daniel, I’ve made dinner. Do you want some?”

“I’m having fish.”

“Have you caught anything yet?”

“No but I will.”

It was rushed out, as if to head off any questioning of his eventual success. “Well, that’s fine, but maybe you could come eat something to tide you over until they start biting?”

“Don’t want to miss any. Don’t want to.”

“All right, suit yourself.” She paused. “Can I at least bring you a plate?”

He didn’t respond; he jiggled the rod and watched the disturbed water bounce around the bowl. She walked back to the kitchen, took his plate from the table, began spooning little garlic potatoes onto it, one by one, eventually moving on to the green beans. By the time she reached for the salad tongs, she was fighting tears.

The Old Brookville Store

“I swear to you, as sure as I’m standing here, it’s still there.” The man’s finger rested on the map, halfway down a side road none of them knew. “Little mom-and-pop grocery, even has a pump around the side. Used to fill up there sometimes when my wife forgot to get gas—”

“And it hasn’t been hit?”

“Only the locals really know it’s there. And they’re all dead,” he sputtered out a nervous laugh, “or undead.”

“Why aren’t you holed up in there right now, if it’s so well-stocked?”

“It’s a fishbowl.” His eyes darted around, found no comprehension on their faces. “Glass front. I’ve seen them push in big windows like that, shatter ‘em just on pressure alone.”

“All right.”

“Anyway, I’m alone. No gun. I can’t fight, all I can do is run. If there’s one in there, or more than one, what would I do about it? But you fellas, you—”

“Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re waiting here, handcuffed. A couple of my guys are going to recon the place. If everything checks out, you get to stay, and you get a share of the haul. If you’re lying — and I mean, about anything — you’re dead.”