horrifying about being left alone in the dark, especially with someone you think is dead. I try not to think about what it must be like for the victims. Paralyzed but aware, left helpless in the dark with monsters and family. When the last unclaimed body is tossed into the van, the workers slam it shut and drive off. Those who didn’t go in the van trot across the street to the school. Then the families, whether or not they’re done shoveling dirt on their loved ones, drop their shovels and run after the workers, obviously not wanting to be left behind. Mom starts to make animal noises of anxiety as she watches everyone leave. When you’re paranoid, the last place you want to be is trapped in a car where you can’t run and can’t hide. “It’s okay,” I say. “They’ll be back. They’ll let us out when they cool off. And then we’ll go find Paige.” She yanks on the door handle, then jumps over to my side to try the other one. She bangs on the window. She rattles the screen separating the front seat from the back. Her breathing becomes a pant. She’s spiraling into serious freak-out mode. The last thing we need is major hysteria in a space smaller than a sofa. As the final stragglers run past my window, I yell at them. “Put me in another car!” They don’t even glance my way as they scramble across the street into the darkness. And I’m left stuck in a very tight space with Mom.
A LL KINDS of worries swirl around in my head. I take a deep breath. I try to shove all the worries aside and focus on being centered. “Mom?” I keep my voice quiet and calm. What I really want to do is crawl under the seat to get out of her way when she goes nuclear. But that’s not an option. I hold out a bottle of water. “Do you want some water?” She looks at me like I’m mad. “Stop drinking that!” She snatches it from my hand and stashes it away below the rear window. “We need to conserve it.” Her eyes dart around every corner of our jail. Her desperate worry shows in every line of her face, and she is the picture of anxiety. It seems there are more of those lines showing up every day between her eyebrows and around her mouth. The stress is killing her. She rummages through her pockets. With every smashed egg she finds in her pockets, she gets more frantic. To my relief, someone has taken her cattle prod. I hate to think how much force that took. “Mom?” “Shut-up-shut-up- shut-up! You let those men take her!” She grips the metal mesh with one hand and the seatback with the other. She squeezes until all the blood runs out of her hands, turning them into white claws. “You let those monsters do all those horrible things to her! You sold yourself to that devil and couldn’t even save your sister?” The ridges between her eyebrows mash together so hard they look nightmarish. “You couldn’t even look her in the eye when she needed you most. You were out there hunting her, weren’t you? So you could kill her yourself! Weren’t you?” Tears stream down her tortured mask of a face. “What good are you?” She screams in my face with such intensity that her face turns crimson like it’s ready to explode. “You’re heartless! How many times have I told you to keep Paige safe? You’re worse than useless!” She slams her hand against the mesh repeatedly until I think it might bleed. I try to block it out. But no matter how many times I hear her raging at me, her words still pierce through. I curl into my corner, trying to get as far from her as I can. She’ll twist anything I say to fit her crazy logic and then throw it back at me. I brace myself for one of her fury storms. Not something I want to experience in a jail so small that we can’t lie down. Not something I want to experience any time, any place. If it comes down to it, I’m big enough now to beat her in a fight, but she wouldn’t stop until I had to hurt her. Best if I can just soothe her. But I can’t think