Children's Crusade
Chapter 8

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

Alex held on with one hand and pointed to the door. "Make sure they don't get in." Jeremy nodded and sat in the stairwell, legs bracing the duffel bag. The crowd had noticed them, some of them headed for the bus with the jerky gait of cannibals. Most of them continued to reach for something on the underside of the bridge. The lead cannibal locked eyes with Alex and reached for him, ignoring the intervening distance, not even trying to avoid the slow moving bus.

Jenny didn't even twitch as she ran him down. Alex murmured encouragingly. He watched the bottom of the bridge and spotted a boot hanging down. He pointed it out to Jenny. "I see it," she said "I'll pull up even with the third pillar, but if they start rocking the bus, I'm leaving. They work together, they can tip us over."

Alex's gut went cold, she was right. "Do it, honk three times first so I can grab something."

"I will, you be careful up there."

The cannibals slapped the sides of the bus, some of them hitting the windows. Half the bus was screaming again, but a couple of seventh or eighth grade boys opened a window and stuck a bat out. Alex grabbed the one with the bat and pulled him back in. "Stay inside." He ordered, "Go to the back and if they open the door, hit them in the head." He was a little surprised. The kid didn't even hesitate, just ran to the back of the bus and stood ready.

He couldn't quite reach the emergency exit in the ceiling. Bobbi-Jo cried two rows down, her face buried in Chuck's chest. For his part, he stared out the window, white faced. Alex moved next to them. "Chuck." No answer. "Chuck!" still nothing. He grabbed the other boy's shoulder and shook him, hard. "Chuck, come on."

Chuck took a moment to focus, his face turned from white to red. "I'm not going out there, you're crazy. Those people are crazy." He stood up, bat dangling seemingly forgotten from one meaty hand. "We need to go home, right now."

Alex forced himself to stay calm, to sound reassuring, without sounding like he was trying to reassure. "Going out there would be crazy, I just need a boost onto the roof, and you're the only one strong enough."

The panic faded from Chuck's eyes. "Yeah, sure, no problem." He held his bat horizontal and when Alex got the exit open, heaved him up onto the roof.

He'd been too enthusiastic. Alex fell hard onto the roof and nearly rolled off, catching the lip of the skylight with one foot at the last second. The bottoms of the I beams were only four feet from the curved metal roof. A black leather boot with bright metal buckles hung down in front of him, halfway to the front. Alex didn't look down, he wasn't sure he could go through with it if he did. He crawled to just behind the support and grabbed the bottom, hauling himself up into a crouch. "Hey, come on down, we've got to go."

There was no answer. He called again, then tapped the boot with his bat. The boot jerked up and the wearer screamed, The scream sounded female, and nothing like a cannibal. He ducked under the beam and came up bat ready in his hand. The woman's face was pale white, eyes and lips black. He swung without thinking, but managed to divert the blow. The bat clanged off the I-beam inches from her hand. She screamed again, eyes clenched tight. Her fingernails were painted black. Her eyebrow, nose and lip pierced. He tried talking to her again, but she acted like she couldn't hear him. Finally, he poked her with the bat, not knowing how she'd react if he touched her.

She screamed again, a frantic "Noooooo!" trailing off into a soundless sob. It was an improvement. She didn't open her eyes until he poked her again. Her scream was louder than the first one. Her eyes were wild, staring. She didn't seem to really see him.

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