Beware The Sandman
"The wood of suicides has changed since my last visit to Hell. I remember it as a tiny grove. Now it resembles a forest." -- Neil Gaiman
I'll never forget how Irene, Sara and Sabrina all sat down in the floor of that abandoned house and wailed. I'll never forget how much I wanted to sit down with them and do the same. Almost 45 people with which we'd lived for years disappearing into thin air was reason enough for anyone to cry and yet I stood there at the back door as the storm winds began to blow and rain came down in torrents without shedding the first tear, the anger building up inside of me. "Do you think we should go now?" Tom asked.
"In the dark? We'll never get across the river as fast as the water is rising," Joe said. "Unless you want to walk along the river looking for a bridge I recommend we wait here."
"You're right," Tom agreed. "Besides, they're probably watching all the bridges."
"How could they have taken them?" I asked.
"I don't know," Tom answered, "but if you'll think about it, every time they ever took you before it was while you were sleeping."
"You mean to tell me the minute we go to sleep they'll simply snatch us right back?" Joe asked.
"Seems that way to me," Tom said.
"But how will we ever get away?" Joe asked.
"I don't know," Tom said. "I guess we just run and hope we can find a place to hide where they can't track us like a cave or something."
"And hope we stay awake that long," Joe complained. "Some plan this turned out to be."
I guess it was because the rain and winds were so loud that we never heard them coming but it wasn't until I heard Irene scream that we realized Stoner and several other men were rushing in the front door firing stun guns at Tom and Joe the instant they came in. With no idea what else I could do I ran out the back door while they wrestled to restrain the girls.
I made my way to the river and turned to the right to follow the river downstream as quickly as my tired old legs would carry me. With visibility near zero and no established trail it was all I could do to walk most of the time and I fell often never sure if or how far behind Stoner and the others might be. But I didn't stop except to catch my breath until I saw the sun start to rise in the east and the skies beginning to clear in the west. Then I sat down to eat a chocolate bar and a very cold baked potato left over from dinner a couple of nights before.
It was while I was eating that I heard two men fighting their way through the brush behind me. Knowing I couldn't run I chose to stand my ground, picked up a rock and hid in the bushes. I waited until the first one was almost upon me then launched myself from the bushes, my body hitting the first man and knocking him backwards into the second man while I pounded the first man's skull with the rock.
Luckily for me the second man turned and ran. I grabbed a stun gun off the dead man's body and gave chase. When I finally got a look at the fleeing man I realized it was Stoner. For what is probably the only time in my life, I caught my second wind.
I chased him for almost a mile, maybe more, through the thick underbrush along the riverbank until finally he took a hard fall and twisted his ankle. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a 9 millimeter pistol but before he could get off a shot I hit him with a shot from the stun gun and took his pistol from his trembling hands. "Are you going to kill me?" Stoner asked.
"I don't know," I answered. "It depends on how good you are at answering questions."