Kat and Sergio were thoroughly sick of driving through a desert. They had been on the road for a few weeks now, and hadn’t made much progress. This was due, in part to the rather large detours they continued to make at almost every opportunity. They would take one exit and follow it for miles until they found a way to loop back onto the main road.
They hadn’t heard anything in the news about the drones that were shot down by an air-force base in Las Vegas. They had purposefully led those drones there, but managed to get away without anyone finding out who they were. And no news probably meant that the government was trying to cover it up. A closer look at those drones, and they would probably find some things that they didn’t want to get out to the public. Those drones were of a technology far more advanced than anything on Earth.
The only member of their party who did not seem to mind all the driving was Alice, who was going through a delightfully cheerful stage of her development. They had recently started feeding her other food sources, and she seemed to love the new sensations. As always, the discovery of new things seemed to fascinate the young girl. She had also started saying a few words too, like ‘momma’, ‘car’, and ‘that’ quickly becoming common. She used the latter while pointing to something new that she hadn’t seen before, and if they didn’t investigate the new item, she would become upset. Without Alice, Kat and Sergio would have likely given up already, or succumbed to depression or extreme stress.
But now, a few weeks later, they were finally approaching St. George and getting ready to move up north instead of driving in circles in the desert. Both Kat and Sergio were looking forward to the change of scenery. That, combined with Alice’s good mood, did a lot to improve their attitudes.
As they entered the city, Kat was struck by the beauty of the area. It was still a desert, but the red rock of the valley was stunning. The town itself was quaint, and she could easily see its boundaries. In the center of the town was a large and brilliantly white building. It stood like the centerpiece of the town, easily visible from almost anywhere in the city.
“What do you suppose that is?” Kat asked Sergio, pointing to the white building.
“Oh that’s probably the Mormon temple,” Sergio responded. “There’s supposed to be dozens of them in Utah.”
Mormons. Kat had heard about them before but never gave them much thought. They were supposed to be everywhere in Utah, but Kat had never been here before.
“What do they use it for?” she wondered aloud.
“I don’t know, probably just a really fancy church building or something. Maybe for special occasions or something like that.”
“Why don’t we take a pit stop there, get out and stretch our legs.”
Sergio looked at her. She had never expressed an interest in any religious buildings before, other than to admire the architecture of medieval cathedrals in Europe. But that was more of an academic interest.
She caught his gaze and shrugged. “What? It just looks like a pleasant place to take a break, that’s all.”
So Sergio drove closer to the white building. Upon arrival, they found a place to park and they both got out. Kat groaned as she stretched. Wow, it felt good to stand. They had been driving for several hours without a break.
It was Sergio’s turn to take care of Alice, so he took her to find a public bathroom with a changing room. In the meantime, Kat found a bench and sat outside of the white “temple.” It was a very peaceful sight, very quiet save for the chirping of birds nearby. As she looked up at the building, her mind started to wander.
Religious groups like these Mormons obviously had a lot of faith in what they taught. Enough to build large buildings like this one, and lots of them. She wondered just how many of these buildings the Mormons had built. She knew of one other in Washington D.C., but that was the only one she had seen before, to her knowledge. But Sergio said there were a lot of them in Utah. So maybe a few dozen world-wide?
What gave them that level of faith, to build so many buildings without really knowing if what they taught was real. That was the hard part for Kat to understand. With the number of religions on the planet, all of which taught different things, they couldn’t all be right. Either one was correct, or none of them were. Those really were the only two options in Kat’s mind. No two conflicting religions could both be correct.
And yet, what about everything that had happened between them, Argo Force, and Invergence. No religion said anything about those. Maybe some of the religious myths originated with things like that?
Kat didn’t realize how much time had passed until Sergio came back with Alice. The girl seemed much happier now that she was changed, and she said something that sounded like “ma” as she approached Kat.
Kat smiled and took her daughter from Sergio, bouncing her up and down. They spent a few more moments enjoying the dry summer air before they decided to keep moving. They needed to find a place to sleep tonight, and neither enjoyed sleeping in the middle of a city, even one as small as St. George.
Before they left the city, however, they stopped at a small, retro frozen yogurt place. They had seen it driving by, but neither had any idea how good the yogurt would be. Kat and Sergio gobbled theirs up without much time to spare, giving Sergio a massive brain freeze. Even Alice enjoyed the few bites that Kat gave her out of her own cup. Though the fun part was watching the little girl’s face bunch up as she experienced the cold sensation. They had never given her ice cream before. Both Sergio and Kat laughed at the expressions on her face.
Kat sat back, still chuckling. Despite their monotonous travels, these past few weeks had been enjoyable. Watching Alice grow and develop a personality was one of the most rewarding experiences Kat could have ever imagined. It brought her so much more joy than she ever expected. In that moment, she wished she could freeze this moment in time and carry it with her wherever she went.
But a frown appeared on her face as she realized that it couldn’t last, not in their unique situation. They were being hunted, and she was sure that they couldn’t keep it up forever. Argo Force had still maintained its distance, not bothering to get involved. Apart from Simon, they hadn’t met a member of Argo Force since the first day when they were forced to leave their home and she had given birth to Alice. She wondered if they even cared anymore.
Kat thought, once again about the blonde girl they had met on that first day. There was still something she couldn’t place about that girl, and the more she thought about it, the more she realized that the girl might have some special connection to them. Of course, if that were true, why hadn’t she shown her face since that night?
Sergio brought Kat out of her thoughts as he made noise, sucking the last of his frozen yogurt shake with a straw. Kat was almost done with hers as well. It was getting time to leave.
Kat was still deep in thought as they drove off and away from St. George. Ultimately, they decided they would drive to the nearby Zion’s National Park and try to find a cabin or some sort of camping site there. Both Kat and Sergio needed a change of scenery from the dingy motels they were used to staying in. A trip to the National Park would get them away from any large cities while also providing them with a much-needed break from their routine.
It took a few hours to find something suitable. Eventually, they found a nice little group of one-room cabins that Kat adored. They were so quaint, but beautiful on the inside. Exactly the sort of thing they were looking for.
Once they had made all the appropriate arrangements, they drove up to their cabin for the night. Kat loved it so much she even suggested staying longer in this place. It had been a while since they had stayed for more than one night.
Sergio agreed, but on the condition that they prepare what they could, just in case Invergence or one of their monsters came in the night.
So they both set about laying some noise traps around the cabin, things like stacked-up metal cans and chains with bells attached, something they had bought back in Las Vegas for such an occasion. A few onlookers from other nearby cabins stared at them with confused looks, but eventually went about their own business. They probably thought it was some sort of weird survival-enthusiast thing or something like that.
Kat felt a positive sense of accomplishment that night. They were prepared, at least as much as they could be, and they were in a beautiful location in the perfect cabin. She would sleep well tonight.
They kept most of their possessions in the car for a quick getaway, but brought Alice’s small crib into the cabin as well as a change of clothes. Then, without much more to do, they all fell asleep.
Kat awoke in the middle of the night. She wasn’t sure what had awakened her. Had it been one of their sound traps outside? She listened intently as Sergio continued to breathe deeply beside her. What had she heard?
With a gust of wind outside, she heard it again. A tinkling of bells, the same bells they had set up the night before. Kat rolled out of bed silently, hoping that it was only the wind that caused the bells to ring.
She put her shoes on, grabbed her pistol from a shelf by the door, and tiptoed outside. The door creaked as she opened it, and she heard Sergio stir behind her. She kept going.
Outside it was a full moon, and she was able to make out the immediate area around their cabin. She couldn’t see anything unusual.
A dog started barking a short distance away. Dogs bark at a lot of things, right? she thought to herself. Suddenly, the dog stopped barking abruptly. Had she detected a whine coming from it?
She raised her pistol. Something was definitely up. She couldn’t hear the chain with the bells on it anymore, so she walked over to where they had hidden those. She heard the door open behind her and turned to see Sergio emerging from the cabin.
“Did you hear something?” he asked, whispering.
Kat nodded. “I thought I heard the bells, but it could just be the wind. Did you hear the dog?”
Sergio shook his head and raised his hands. Kat realized he had the machete at the ready. Hopefully they wouldn’t need it.
“Why don’t we split up?” Kat suggested.
“If it’s all the same to you,” Sergio said, “I’d prefer to stay together. If it’s one of those monsters, we won’t have much of a chance fighting it alone.”
No sooner had he said the words when a dark shape hurtled out of the shadows.
In the moonlight they could barely make out its huge form. Kat dove. She hit the dirt just as the monster flew through the space she had been. She spun on the ground and fired at the monster. A bullet lodged itself into the flesh of the beast. It snarled but didn’t seem overly hurt.
Sergio ran towards the monster, brandishing his machete. Kat wasn’t sure how effective it would be against a thing like this, but Sergio didn’t seem phased. He swung but missed. The demon, now focused on Sergio, swung one of its abnormally large arms. The force of the blow was enough to knock Sergio backward a few feet. Kat winced, she knew how much that could hurt.
She fired again, and it turned its beady black eyes back on her. The bullet hadn’t seemed to phase it this time. It approached her cautiously, like a cat about to pounce. Kat braced herself, getting ready to run or roll out of the way. But before it could do anything, Sergio was back, hacking his machete into the monster’s thigh. It screamed in pain, much louder than before. Once again, it swiped at Sergio and knocked him flying. Kat leveled her gun at the creature again. If they could keep it distracted, pinned between the both of them, maybe they could take it down.
A cry came from the cabin. The monster froze, as did Sergio and Kat. Alice! Suddenly, the beast turned toward the cabin and began running in the direction of the cry. No!
Kat, losing all sense of self-preservation, launched herself at the beast. Sergio got there first. He tackled it and they tumbled to one side. Then, Sergio hacked at the monster’s legs with all his might. More screaming followed and the beast lashed out at Sergio. He screamed and clutched his arm, which was now bleeding profusely.
“No!” Kat shouted, bringing her pistol to bear again. She fired for the third and fourth time. The monster’s eyes met hers. It lunged and barreled into her. The force of the blow knocked all the wind out of her. As she hit the dirt, she thought she felt her right wrist pop. Pain cascaded through her body, and she dropped her pistol. The beast towered over her and reached down with its jaw. More pain shot through her shoulder as the beast bit her, its sharp teeth sinking deep into her flesh. She screamed!
A shot rang out, then another. She felt the beast’s jaw loosen on her shoulder. Then, it slumped forward, nearly crushing her. She stared at its corpse, noticing the two bullet holes in its skull. She looked up and saw Sergio with gun raised, the same gun Kat had just dropped.
Groaning, she pushed the corpse of the monster off of her. Every part of her body ached. Her right wrist was not responding and her left shoulder felt like it was on fire. Sergio didn’t look any better off. He had a large gash in his leg and arm, and bruises all over his face.
They both took a moment to collect themselves. A few shouts came from nearby cabins. The gunshots had probably woken everyone nearby. Alice was still crying inside the cabin. That provoked Kat to action. She began stumbling toward the cry, determined to check in on the girl and make sure she was safe. Sergio picked up the machete and followed.
They were going to have to leave the place now. Park security would probably be along any minute to check in on the disturbance. And likely Invergence wouldn’t be far behind. In fact, there was a good chance they were on their way already. She didn’t want to be around when they arrived.
Inside the cabin she was relieved to see Alice safe in the crib, though obviously upset, more so because no one had come to help her. It sounded like her hungry cry.
Kat tried to pick her up, but pain shot through her wrist, and she couldn’t do it. She looked around, trying to find some way to help the girl, but found nothing. She couldn’t even lift her up.
Kat started breathing heavily, a little too heavily. In and out, she felt like she couldn’t get enough air.
Sergio entered the cabin right behind her. Apart from external injuries, he seemed to be well enough. He put an arm around her as she hyperventilated.
“It’s going to be okay, Kat. We’ll get through this.”
She still couldn’t seem to get a deep enough breath. Her heart pounded as her breathing quickened. Sergio rubbed her back, trying his best to calm them down. He grabbed her face and put it next to his so their noses were touching. He breathed slowly and deeply.
“There,” he said. “Everything is alright, Kat. Your daughter is fine.”
Kat’s breathing slowly returned to normal. He was right, they were still alive. It was going to be okay. They could make it through this like all the other times they had survived.
Sergio picked Alice up and they moved to the car. Feeding the girl would have to wait. When they reemerged outside, they made out a few car lights winding down a dark road in the distance. That prompted them to move faster. That was either the park authority or Invergence, and they didn’t want to stick around for either. They wanted to hide the corpse of the demon who attacked them, but that was impossible at this point. They would just have to leave it for the authorities to find. Let them make of it what they could.
Right now, they needed some emergency medical attention. Neither knew what to do about this. The most obvious choice would be to find a park service station somewhere. There were first-aid kits all over places like this. But that also meant a lot of questions they didn’t want to answer.
The car lights were drawing closer. Stowing the last of their things in the car, Sergio started driving. They kept their lights off and moved off the main road. Thankfully, the cabin grounds had more than one access route, so they began driving off in the opposite direction of the approaching lights. Kat looked back to see several smart cars pull into the area of their cabin. So it was Invergence.
Cursing, she turned back to the road. Sergio was doing his best to drive carefully and slowly, so as not to attract attention. It seemed to be working for now; none of the cars pursued them.
Once they were a safe distance away, they turned the lights of their car back on and started driving at a much faster pace.
“Where should we go?” asked Sergio.
Kat didn’t know how to answer. They couldn’t go to any station within the park, even though they desperately needed medical attention. Sergio’s leg was still bleeding, and Kat’s shoulder felt like it was on fire. She hoped the monster’s bite wasn’t poisonous in any way.
“I suppose we should just proceed to the nearest town,” Kat said.
“There’s not much around here.”
“I know, but we can’t stay too close. We run the risk of being spotted by Invergence.”
Sergio nodded, though he didn’t look happy. That leg looked like it needed some help.
They continued driving for about thirty minutes. Kat took the opportunity to find a spare bottle of milk in the bags at her feet and used it to feed Alice. Doing so was awkward without the use of her right hand, which had swollen to the size of a large orange. But that, at least, solved one of their problems. Alice stopped crying.
Sergio drove with gritted teeth. The sky was just starting to lighten in the east, beyond the mountains.
“Do you want me to drive?” Kat asked. “My right hand is no good but I think I could manage.”
“No, it’s fine, I’ll…” suddenly his eyelids drooped and the car swerved a little.
“Sergio!” she said, grabbing his arm with her good hand. He perked up for a second, but his head dipped down again. The car started to slow as his pressure on the pedal lessened.
“Sergio!” she said again, trying to slap him in the face to keep him alert. His face was pale; he had lost too much blood.
With her good hand, she grabbed the steering wheel and tried her best to guide it to the side of the road. The forward momentum of the car was enough to do so. Thankfully Sergio’s foot was not pressed hard against the gas pedal, or they might have been in even worse danger.
Kat almost felt like hyperventilating again, but she quickly got ahold of her senses. Alice was sleeping in the backseat. Sergio was losing blood. She needed to do something about that. She quickly took off her seatbelt, opened the door, and dashed to Sergio’s side of the car. They had some towels in the back, so she grabbed one of those too. Then, she did her best to wrap the towel tightly around Sergio’s leg. It was almost impossible to do with her bad wrist, but she gritted through the pain, and used her other extremities to hold things in place while she tied off the makeshift bandage with her left hand. He was bleeding from a dozen other cuts on his face and torso, but they weren’t as bad, so she didn’t worry about those too much. She just did her best with the leg. It was all she could do.
She tried to lift Sergio out of the driver’s seat, to continue the journey herself. But Sergio was too heavy, and her bad hand made lifting him impossible.
She felt an odd sense of deja vu to the moment nearly seven months ago when they had been stuck in a similar situation, stuck on the side of the road with an injured Sergio. Only this time, Kat was injured too, and the situation seemed even more helpless than before.
So she did the only thing that seemed to make any sense. She stepped into the road, looking in either direction for passing cars. Ahead, she could make out the lights of one approaching vehicle. She quickly started waving her hands in the air, trying to get it to stop. But the car came and went, even speeding up as it passed.
Kat kept trying, waving her hands in the air as cars approached and the sky lightened. There weren’t that many cars passing on the road at the moment. But Kat didn’t let that stop her. She kept waving at each approaching vehicle. Sooner or later, one of them would stop. They had to.