Chapter no 8

Five Survive

Nobody said anything for a second. Then for a moment. Then two, as Red stared at them all, breath picking up in her chest.

Oliver was the first to break the silence.

“What the fuck, Reyna?” He turned to her. “What have you driven over?” “I didn’t do anything!” she broke, shouting back at him. “It wasn’t me.

Must be something wrong with the tires.”

“I can’t believe this.” Oliver ran his hands through his hair, making it stick up at the front. “We should have checked for glass or sharp rocks before we moved. I can’t believe this,” he said again, storming toward the door, his shoulder knocking hard into Red’s as he passed.

He wrenched open the door, feet crashing against the steps.

Reyna switched off the engine and pulled out the keys, scrambling out of her chair to follow Oliver outside.

“What’s going on?” Maddy asked, the first note of fear in her voice.

“Let’s go see,” Simon said, already halfway out the door, jumping down. Maddy went after him, cradling her phone in her hands, the Team RV selfie still up on her screen.

“You okay?” Arthur asked Red, catching her eye.

She rubbed her shoulder. “Fine.” She turned to the steps and skipped down them.

She looked left. The wheel at the front had a gaping hole across it, like a downturned mouth in a silent scream.

She looked right. She couldn’t see the hole in the back tire, but she could see it was flat, rubber splaying out on the road, even chunks that had come loose.

Arthur came down the steps, standing behind her, one thumb hooked in the pocket of his jeans.

“Are we ever going to get out of here?” Red asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said, walking away around the front of the RV, following Oliver’s voice.

“And this one!” Oliver shouted, from the other side. “And, let me see, yes the one at the back too. All punctured. All four tires. How the fuck does that happen!?” Red could hear him clearly, even with the width of the RV standing between them, his voice filling the empty scrubland. “How do you puncture all four tires?”

“Oliver, it was not my fault. We were hardly even moving!”

Guess Reyna had been right. But whose fault would it have been if Oliver had been driving, Red wondered.

Maddy was standing in the headlights, chewing her thumb, glowing around the edges like she was lit from within. She did that when she was nervous. The thumb-chewing, not the glowing.

Red didn’t know where Simon was, he must be on the other side somewhere too, quiet for once.

Red followed her eyes over to the back tire on this side, searching for the hole, the tear, the point of origin. If a thing was destroyed, she needed to know how. She knew her own point of origin. That day. That last phone call. But maybe the tire didn’t have one, or maybe it was underneath, hiding it like she hid hers.

“It’s no one’s fault, youse guys.” Simon’s voice sailed over. “What the fuck are we going to do now?!” Oliver’s next. “Stop shouting and we’ll work it out!” Reyna.

And then something new, a flicker in the corner of Red’s eye, pulling at her attention. She turned to look at it. There was a red dot, right over there on the off-white side of the RV, near the open door. That wasn’t there before. It was too low down to be part of the red-stripe blue-stripe pattern along the side. And it wasn’t just a dot, was it? Too bright for that. It was a little red light, clinging to the side of the RV. No bigger than a fingernail.

“Guys,” she called.

Someone else had to see this.

But wait. The red dot was moving now, shuddering as it lowered down the side of the RV. Red watched it go, blinking as it came to a stop, a few inches above the edge of the frame.


Someone else needed to see this.

The red dot moved again, toward the wheel. Toward Red.

She backed away and the dot disappeared, reemerging on the other side of her, moving, moving, beyond the back wheel.


A crack in the darkness, louder now that she was outside with it. Red flinched, hands up to her ears, and the red dot wasn’t there anymore. But there was something else.

A splintered hole in the RV. Not the size of a fingernail. The size of a bullet.

That was when she knew.

“It’s a gun!” Red screamed to the others.

“What was that?” Oliver’s voice, fast and unnerved.

“It’s a gun,” Red said, turning to face the darkness. There was someone out there, in that wide-open nothing full of shifting shadows. Someone in all that nothing, someone with a gun. A rifle.

“Someone’s shooting at us!” Oliver yelled, finally understanding. “Go, Reyna, go around the front. Back in the RV.”

“Oliver!” Maddy screamed. “Maddy, go get inside! RUN!”

Red couldn’t move. Why couldn’t she move? The voices of the others blurred into a high-pitched hum in her head. Arthur sprinted past her in the ringing silence, scrabbling for her arm, but she couldn’t move.

“Red!” he screamed from the steps.

She smelled something, bitter and strong and—

“Move, Arthur, get inside!” Oliver barked, pushing Reyna in front of him and up. “Come on, Simon, hurry! Take my hand! Okay, is everyone inside? Red? Where’s Red?”

Red faced down the darkness, breath trapped in her throat. Why wasn’t she moving? Just move. And then the voice wasn’t hers anymore, it was her mom’s. There’d been a shooting in the city, downtown. And Mom wanted her to know something. You have to run, Red. If theres ever an active shooter. Run, dont hide. Its harder to hit you when youre moving, so run! Run now, sweetie. Run!

Run, Red. She should run. She needed to run, out into the wide-open nothing.

“RED! Get inside the RV now!”

But Oliver’s voice was louder than her mom’s, and Red listened to him. She chose.

Her shoes pushed off against the dirt and she flew. To the steps and up, taking Oliver’s outstretched hand as he dragged her inside.

The door slammed shut behind her.

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