[note: As you can see, we’re a long way into Oasis. If you’re just arriving here, you should start with Chapter 1: The Last Shift]
The blow caught me in right in the stomach. Air exploded out my mouth and my diaphragm refused to take in more.
I dropped to my knees.
It hurt bad.
In the dim light, I could make out Carl’s form hovering over me. He was holding an aluminum baseball bat.
He had misjudged the distance in the dark and had hit me with his hands when he swung.
It still hurt, though.
One of Carl’s boys lit an oil lamp.
Another hurt was welling up inside me. I looked up at Beth’s sobbing face. She had betrayed me. Led me into a trap.
I couldn’t believe it.
Maybe I had wanted to believe she was really going to come with me. Maybe I just really wanted out so bad that I didn’t think about what was going on. I should have listened to my gut.
I gasped for air. It came in tiny spurts. I was sure I was going to pass out.
Carl laughed and circled around in front of me. “You probably thought this was your big moment, huh?”
My breathing came a little easier now.
“Here’s the thing. I’m the head of this family. If you had just realized that and accepted it to begin with, we’d be friends now.”
Anger bubbled up inside me. Carl had never given me any sort of chance. Now he was lying to everybody and himself to ease his guilt.
Beth covered her face and fell to her knees. Through her sobs, I could hear her trying to say “I’m sorry.”
How could she do this to me? The pain inside was greater than the pain I felt from the blow. She was supposed to be my only friend.
Carl crouched down and got in my face. “It’s too late for this to work out now. Your crimes are too much for the family to forgive.”
Crimes? Nobody believes that. Does he think we’re idiots? I narrowed my eyes and shook my head.
Carl slapped me with his open left hand. “Even when you can’t talk, all you give me is attitude.”
Carl stood back up and circled behind me.
My breathing was a little easier now, so I forced myself to stand, too. I turned to face him.
“So what happens next?”
Carl toyed a little with the bat in his right hand. “You get punished, and then you hit the street.”
My stomach and my face throbbed. More than that I felt utterly alone. Beth had betrayed me, and no one was going to stop Carl’s rampage.
A motion and a light caught my eye.
A candle flickered in the skylight visible over Carl’s shoulder.
Does he know what going on? Is he in on this? Doesn’t matter. I’ve got to take a chance.
I winced and stooped a little. If I could fake it long enough maybe I could get the box cutter…
Carl slapped me again.
He’s too close to swing the bat.
I stumbled one half step to the side and then one forward. I hoped it looked convincing enough.
Carl laughed again.
I jammed my right hand into my pocket, took a step forward, and reached for the bat with my left.
Carl had no time to react.
I jerked the cutter from my pocket, snapped it open and brought it across Carl’s chest. The cut wasn’t deep, but I’m sure it was plenty painful.
Carl screamed and let go of the bat.
I grabbed it before it could fall to the ground.
His sons gasped and stepped toward me.
I dropped the knife and held the bat with both hands. I swung at Carl’s nearest son, who also happened to be holding the lamp.
He screamed as the bat made contact, shattering the lamp and hopefully breaking bones.
The sudden return of darkness just added to the chaos.
I spun and made for the door.
Beth shouted, “Corbin, wait!”
I wasn’t interested in hearing anything else from her. Did she think I’d still listen after what she’d done?
I collided with the door, pushed the bar in, and spilled out onto the landing.
There was all sorts of screaming inside. Screaming at the pain, screaming for a gun, screaming for justice.
It didn’t matter, I’d be gone before they could get organized.
Through it all, I heard Beth call out, “…right of the stairs…”
I bounded down the stairs.
The door at the top slammed shut.
I started across the parking lot.
Beth’s last words replayed in my head.
I turned and glanced at the ground to the right of the stairs. I could make out a familiar shape.
She really did put it out here.
I ran back, scooped up my backpack and struggled to get it on. I took a glance around.
A walking dead man rounded the northeast corner of the warehouse. He was grotesque. His face looked like someone had slashed it up with a knife. Blood and grime were caked in various patches all over his body.
I prayed that most of the deads pounding on the other side of the warehouse didn’t notice. Maybe this is the only one that heard the commotion.
Like I’d be that lucky.
The dead man limped toward me.
Deep down I knew there’d be more just like him, and soon. I chose a side street at random and ran for it.
I knew I could lose this first dead easily enough, but what then? I had no guarantee that the street I chose would be empty. In fact, the way things had been going, it would most likely turn out to house a huge mob of deads.
And then what? Keep running? For how long?
I could outrun the deads for a while, but not forever. I needed to get off the street as fast as possible. Still, I had no idea where to go.
So I just ran. And ran.
I would occasionally see groups of two or three deads, but I would just turn a corner and lose them.
I ran until I was thoroughly lost.
I ran until my legs shook and my side hurt.
If I stopped, there was nothing else to do besides think, and all I could think about was how I had been mistreated then betrayed. So I kept running.
And then, echoing down the street, I heard shouting. Several different voices.
It sounded like they were crying for help.
I instinctively followed the noise, even though my brain told me it was a bad idea.
Read on to see what more trouble Corbin can get into into in, “Chapter 33: Help And Red Shoes“I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’ve decided that besides making an excellent movie, Oasis would make a fantastic Broadway musical. So if any of you know Andrew Lloyd Weber, tell him to call me. And if you don’t know Mr.Weber, at least tell someone to check Oasis out.