[note: if youï¿½re new to Oasis, you should start with Chapter 1]
Home Sweet Home Again?
We burst from the back of the dealership into the bright morning sunlight.
I pushed the door closed behind me, and took a look around.
The parking lot was still.
I was almost certain that I could hear crashing noises echoing from the building.
Beth glanced at me. “You think it’s really safe?.”
I opened the second water bottle, took a swig, and then tossed the bottle into a garbage can next to the back door. “I don’t know. We’d better go carefully.”
We walked out to the first row of cars, keeping our eyes peeled.
Beth grabbed my shoulder and crouched. “Corbin.”
I crouched, too. “What is it?”
“I thought I saw something on the street.”
“I’ll check it out.”
I crept up next to a green minivan and raised myself just enough to see through the front passenger window.
There was nothing, just more cars, then a few small trees that lined the street.
I turned and put my back to the car.
“Nothing there, just some shrub-tree things.”
She crawled a little closer. “I could have sworn I saw some movement. I was looking right in that direction.” She pointed at the side window.
I rotated to be able to get a look through that window. I knelt on one knees and raised my eyes to see through the window.
My stomach dropped.
Straight ahead of my eyes was the chest of a button-up shirt. Over the pocket Was embroidery that said “Four Brothers” and had the Chevy logo.
The man inside punched at the window.
I pushed backwards.
The man’s hand shattered the window.
I collided with Beth.
We both went sprawling.
The infected man was silently trying to pull himself from the car.
I rolled off of Beth onto one knee, then held out a hand.
The man had worked out his head and shoulders, and was struggling to get the second arm out.
She grabbed my hand and we helped pull each other up.
We ran for the back of the lot.
Beth got the lead. “We have to stop bumping into each other like that.”
“Right.” I struggled to keep up. “And good eyes on that movement, Beth.”
“What? I told you I saw something.”
We slowed when we reached the end of the lot.
I looked back just in time to see the infected man’s body fall from the car window. “He’s out, we’ve got to move.”
We turned down the street and picked up the pace.
Our little ruse at the dealership must have worked, because we didn’t see any more of the infected on our return trip.
In practically no time, we were back at the warehouse.
I couldn’t wait to pass out for a while. Everything hurt, and I would be happy to collapse pretty much anywhere.
Beth lifted an arm to knock.
I touched her shoulder. “Wait a second.”
She turned back and looked in my eyes. “Yeah.”
Her eyes were warm and friendly.
It was a nice moment. I spaced out. “I, uh… I mean…”
A thin smile crossed her lips. She put a finger and put it on my lips to shush me. “I know. I had a really good time today, too. We should go out again sometime,”
I smiled back. “No, I mean… What mean to say is thanks. Your uncle would have left me to die and then sent me to die alone if it weren’t for you.”
She bit her lip and then turned her head away for a moment. “We’d better go inside to finish this conversation.”
She knocked three times.
“If he even lets me in.”
“He really is a good man, just so you know.”
Keys jangled on the other side of the door. The handle turned, the door popped open a crack, and then it flew wide open.
A disheveled redhead woman dove out and wrapped her arms around Beth. “Oh, sweetie, we were so worried. Come inside, come inside.”
“Hi, Aunt Janice.”
Skylights lit the interior of the enormous warehouse.
Set in a large semicircle and facing the door were 15 or so camp chairs, most of which were occupied by grim-faced folks. I immediately recognized Carl, Paul and Max. Before the door was even closed and locked, everybody had jumped out of their seats.
Most of the crowd pushed me aside and thronged around Beth. Paul pushed aside Aunt Janice and embraced his daughter.
I hoped that I could be forgotten for a few moments, but I had no such luck.
Carl came at me with a vengeance. He grabbed my shirt and pushed.
I stumbled backwards, trying to stay on my feet.
He pressed forward and slammed me into the cement wall next to the door.
None of the others seemed to notice what was going on with me.
Carl put his stubbly face about two inches from mine.
“Look, you little worm, don’t you ever try anything like that again. I’m in charge here and I’ll kill you if you endanger any member of my family again.”
Fire welled up in me. I was to wasted too fight back physically, but there was no way I was going to let him bully me around.
I tried to keep my voice down. “Maybe you didn’t notice, but I actually haven’t endangered any of you yet. I saved your niece from an infected man. You would have just wasted the rest of your ammo shooting at their chests, and then you would have been trapped in those storage units. Not to mention the fact that the infected would be beating down your doors right now if it wasn’t for me.”
He slapped me across the face.
I had nowhere to dodge, and I was too slow at the moment anyway.
“You watch your mouth, boy, or I’ll shut it for you.”
He balled up his fist and brought it back.
“Carl, no!” The redhead Janice jumped out of the group.
Carl brought his punch low and hard.
It connected with my stomach. I gasped for air, but couldn’t draw any in.
He dropped his other hand.
I slumped to my knees and looked up.
Everybody was crowding around. Janice grabbed his shoulder.
“Let go!” Without looking to see who it was, he gave her a sloppy backhand. It connected with her ribs.
Janice let out an “ooph” and stumbled backward.
Carl’s eyes opened wide, and he knew he had made a mistake. “Janice? I thought you were one of the boys.”
The family gathered in closer, but stayed silent.
I finally got in a big breath of air. Everyone’s afraid of him. I don’t know what came over me. I just couldn’t stop it from coming out.
“Looks like they don’t need to be protected from me after all.”
Carl spun and I saw rage in his eyes. “You made me do it!” He drew back a foot.
I extended my arms to cushion the coming kick.
Paul and several others from the crowd jumped toward him.
But it was too late.
I caught the brunt of it with my forearms but the force of it still smacked me and the back of my head into the wall.
I caught a glimpse of Beth pushing her dad aside and then everything went black.
Will Carl Kick Corbin to the Curb? Find out next week in, “Chapter 24: Dysfunction“