Kumail fit the Nerdy hacker stereotype pretty well.  He wasn’t particularly fond of exercise and he could never have been described as athletic.  He had always, since puberty, been known as a lanky potato faced half-Pakistani dude, and he had never found the description to be that far from the truth.  But Kumail had always loved to climb things and he had been pretty decent at it during his younger years.

 

Much to the dismay of his teachers, in high school, he had crawled over the protective enclosure of the ladder which led up to the school theatres cat walk and slowly jumped down, from one piece of thin metal to the next, solely for his own amusement.  While he was no longer a spry youth, he was still fairly stringy, and the years of practice had served him well in scaling the safety enclosure which was supposed to prevent him from using the ladder that lead to the roof of the building across the street from the Church facility holding his son.

 

Brother had sent him the location of the place within half an hour of their conversation and since the place was only a few hours’ drive upstate Kumail had gotten into Marie’s car and headed there immediately.  With the location Brother had also included the useful factoid that passcodes were changed with every shift, and so, Kumail had quietly set himself up on this roof across the street, waiting for someone to enter the facility so he could capture their keypad input on his phones camera.  The shift change would be happening any minute, and so all Kumail had to do was grab the code of the first entrant and wait till most of the employees had come and gone and then sneak himself in, unnoticed.

 

The facility was oddly designed.  It looked like a modern concrete high school built as a prison in the 1800’s.  Not that there had ever been such a thing.  What he was looking at was almost a single solid square chunk of brutalist concrete stitch together by cold metal bracing beams and walkways. 

 

The facility was just a few squat buildings connected by covered cement sidewalks around a utilitarianly miniscule square of a courtyard in the center with one building on each side.  The buildings to either side of the thing were long and rectangular, almost barracks like, which is probably what they were.  The building at the back of the square had a similar design to the barracks but it had more windows and was two stories tall, likely the classrooms.  Which made the building out front the main office.  It was a squat square construcion allowing entrance via a broken concrete sidewalk which led to the fence and the keypad he was looking for the code too.

 

 The whole thing was made even stranger in that there was nothing else around it.  The four buildings were placed in a kempt field at the edge of the business district of the small town it was located in.  There was a fence separating it from the road that went for at least a mile in each direction and enclosed the facility and the field it was in.  Behind all of this was a patch of woods, which extended away from the facility and the town for as far as the eye could see.  Weird.  At least Kumail thought it was weird. But then he often found LDC layouts and designs to be strange.

 

And at last his time had come.  A fourty something Church person had gone up to the fence shortly after he had set up and he had nabbed the code.  6 hours later after all the day staff had had a chance to leave and the night was well underway and he was in.  But where was his son?

 

After sneaking inside and around the perimeter, Kumail had made his way to the barracks like building on the right.  Now inside, he found himself in long hall like room full of sleeping children.  His son must be close by.  But not here.  Theodore clearly wouldn’t have been placed in here.  This room was full of slightly older children, all the kids between the toddlers and preteens from the looks of it.  So Kumail turned to leave, intending to check the room on the other side of the hallway.  But as he did so, now standing no more than a foot away from the door, he heard the double doors he had entered the building through swing wide, and he froze in place.

 

Two pairs of footsteps echoed on the linoleum floor quickly moving towards the door right in front of Kumail.  Both mercifully both stopped right outside.  Kumail exhaled, and quickly, but now, silently, clapped his hands to his face.  Again, mercifully, the people outside didn’t appear to have heard him.  They were talking.

The door was heavy wood and muffled what they were saying but Kumail was just barely able to make out what the men were saying.

 

“Do we have to?”

 

“Yeah we do.”

 

“But I hate walking through there.  I mean, at least I do at night.  The kids are all right during the day but with the moonlight bouncing off of their pale skin.  It just creeps me out.”

 

What the fuck were they talking about?  Kumail looked over his shoulder and was immediately struck by just how apparent it actually was. 

 

The room was divided into two rows of six beds, half placed head first against the interior wall, and the other half with their heads against the exterior wall.  It was exactly as the one guy had said; with the top third of the exterior wall being fitted with large rectangular windowpanes across its entire length, the beds and the room at large were illuminated by the eerie nocturnal light, made all the stranger by the situation, and amped up tenfold by the children.  Around half of them seemed to be perfectly normal but the others…. randomly scattered amongst the sleeping children were albino kids.  But no.  That wasn’t quite right.  As he stared at the unnaturally pale child in the bed right next to him he thought maybe it was Vitiligo…. But why would the church be collecting children with a skin condition?  Plus this kid…. the poor bastard almost looked like he had been dipped in bleach.  There wasn’t a spot of color on him.  The one guard could not have known how right he was.  For Kumail, in this particular circumstance and in this particular situation, with the amassed pale kids sleeping peacefully behind him, these captured ghost children illuminated by spotty moonlight as the guards ignorantly chatted away feet from him.  Yeah.  Whatever was going on here seemed sinister as fuck.    

 

“Well that’s too bad.  You know they’ve got this place wired and if somehow they found out that we had shirked our duties and they checked the footage…..

 

No.  Oh no.  They were coming into the room.  What

 

The door was beginning to open.  There was no time to think.

 

Kumail dropped to the floor, trying to make as little noise as possible and wriggled under the nearest bed.  Just in time.

 

The boots of the two men moved within inches of his supine face as they entered the room and proceeded down the aisle.  After the one making such a show of his reluctance, it seemed that the by the books staffer was having them to take their time with whyever they had entered this room lest the record show that he was in anyway complicit in his partners sloth.

 

Kumail tried his best to be still and silent. He was afraid that if he tried to hold his breath he would explode before the men had left and so, he methodically made his inhalations slow and shallow.  Trying to focus on the sound of their boots and not the pounding of his blood and brain.  Unable to do either, he focused in on his breathing, counting each intake and each breathe out. 

 

And then they were gone.  How long had he been under this bed?  A thousand years?  Surely not.  It was still clearly the middle of the night.  But he was sure that he had heard a door close.  Still, he laid where he was, a sleeping child mere feet above him as he listened for the boots to return.

 

When they didn’t, Kumail shimmied out from under the bed and pressed himself up against the door that the Church lackeys had entered through.  There was a small pane of Plexiglas uptop, meant more for quickly looking in on the children then for spying on the other end of the hallway, but by mashing his nose directly into the glas and gripping the door frame for everything he was worth, Kumail was able to get a decent view of the other end of the hall without moving the door.

 

The two men were standing at the end of the hallway, still chatting.  And chatting.  And still chatting.  Kumail’s hands were beginning to get sweaty and his hold on the doorframe was beginning to loosen.  Just as he was beginning to legitimately become concerned that the two Churchmen would never leave, they pressed their way through the double doors at the end of the hallway and out into the night.  Kumail let himself down and began to breathe normally anew.

 

At long last, he made his way across the hall and into the other room and found himself in what was surely the place he had been looking for the entire time.  There were dozens of babies, all sleeping in their own individual medical style cradles, the room was something like a less welcoming version of a hospitals nursery.  Theodore didn’t jump out at him from amongst the dozens of swaddled and surprisingly silent bundles and so Kumail got to work, checking the name tags on the front of the individual baby cradles.

 

They didn’t appear to be alphabetical, as one might expect, and so, half an hour later, in the middle of the room, Kumail finally came across his child.  The name tag red Alvarez, Teddy.  Kumail found this surprisingly touching.  She had submitted him under their pet name, not his legal name.  Still.  She had submitted him.  But here he was, a beautiful little sleeping bundle gently laid into a small medical style container, the two of them reunited at long last.  Kumail leaned forward and scooped up his sleeping child.  Teddy, sniffled, wriggled, and then began to cry, his tiny caramel face distorting into a wailing siren.

 

Momentarily taken aback by the abrupt change in his newborn, he stood there, awkwardly, holding his child in what he thought was supposed to be the standard picking-up-a-baby position Kumail stared at the squalling blue bundle he was now holding.  And then the rest of the room started.

 

Teddy’s cries had awakened some of the nearer children, who had in turn started to bawl, which woke up even more children until in an astonishingly short time the whole room was shrieking at the top of its lungs.  Fuck. 

Kumail had to move.  Someone would surely be coming to check on this calamity of screaming infants any moment now, and if they hadn’t realized someone had been in here and taken Teddy they would eventually.  Kumail held his child close to his chest and ran as fast as he could towards the door he had entered through.  It was a shitty plan, it wasn’t really a plan, but all Kumail could think to do now was to run as hard and as fast as he could towards and through the growth of woods that bordered the property.  He took a moment at the door, gathered himself for what he was about to do and pushed the door aside with his shoulder.

 

At the same time he could barely make out, through the torrent of infant cries, the door opening at the other end of the room, with heavy footfalls entering just as he exited.  Kumail spun and pushed his foot against the door.  He caught it before it could begin to swing wildly and balancing on his other foot slowly let the door back to its neutral position inside the door frame.  If he was lucky whomever had just entered the baby room wouldn’t realize that someone had just exited.  And if he was REALLY lucky no one would be watching the cameras, and since the babies where still squalling it would take them a moment to quite them down and he would have a small head start on his pursuers.

 

Kumail turned and burst out into the night.  He ran and ran until his body couldn’t move another inch and he finally stopped.  He sunk down to the ground with his back against a tree, resting his child on the ground beside him.  They were both, now, nearly insensate.  Teddy had stopped squalling at some point, either tuckered out by his efforts or the frigid night air.  Kumail’s breathing was ragged, small jets of fire jettisoned from his lungs every few seconds creating icy puffs of smog in the air in front of him.

 

He was sure that they hadn’t escaped completely, someone would eventually realize Teddy had been taken after all, but he was also confident that they hadn’t been immediately followed and that he could take a break to rest and recuperate.  There had been no screams from over his shoulders, no hard foot falls in the night behind them, and he hadn’t seen anyone in his occasional sidelong glances back from whence they came.  So there was that.  He laughed a little as his breathe started to come easier. And then he noticed that his breathe was glowing green.  It was gone with the white puff of smoke.  He looked around unable to locate this new colors source.  Had he been imagining it?  Had the intense effort of escape made him adrenaly delirious?  He tried to replicate what he had seen.  He exhaled heavily, attempting to produce a particularly large cloud of condensation.  And there it was.  A line of green inside the white.  He did it a third time, now more curious then anything.  And this time he jumped up.  Because Kumail realized what he was seeing. 

 

He frantically searched the tree in front of him in full panic mode once again, and there it was.  About ten feet up, there was a camera pointing down at him.  He grabbed his child off the forest floor, starting him crying all over again and the two bolted away deeper into the woods, away from the motion detector they had set off, as the snow began to fall and dog howls were heard behind them.

 

 

300 eons of subjective time later Kumail stood at the edge of the woods, looking down the small hill in front of him to a shitty little gas station perched on its own tiny barge of concrete next to a….. highway?  Kumail couldn’t be sure.  He had no idea where he was; he barely had a grasp on where he had been.  He had rushed to the Church facility, taking with him only what he had on him at the time and Kumail was beginning to worry that that had been a mistake.

 

He had rushed here as soon as he had the centers location because he had to; he had already failed his son, in multiple ways and it was very possible that things would have gone different if he hadn’t spent all that time after the raid in D.C. data mining all of his imprisoned comrades computers, trying to make all of that failed effort worth something and trying to dodge the cops who were surely looking for him while dredging up false identities and an escape plan for himself, Marie, and Teddy.  

 

Maybe if he had been with her in those months or even just legitimately checked in with her, to tell her he was ok and that he would make things right, maybe then she wouldn’t have given Teddy away to the LDC.  Maybe he could have stopped her, or convinced her not to give their child to the organization he had been fighting against for forever now.  Maybe if he had been there he could have done something or maybe him being around would have been enough to prevent him and his son from getting into their current situation….. or maybe it wouldn’t have; he couldn’t know.   But the goons from the Church center had been relentless, they had given chase all night, and Kumail was sure that the only reason he had not yet been caught was due to his meager head start.  That and the fact that Churchmen weren’t trying as hard as they could was all that separated Kumail and Teddy from recapture.  Still it had been a profoundly difficult night.

 

Running through a pitch black forest with no illumination aside from the beams of light pursuing him and ducking from every formless shadow that came at him from behind a tree he was genuinely surprised they had made it through the night.  And as hard as the flight had been what had almost been worse was the cold through which he’d done it.  Having only a mild jacket to protect himself as the temperature plummeted with the onset of the night, Kumail had begun to shake, his body heat slowly being absorbed by the frigid air around him.  And if he was cold, he could only imagine what Teddy was going through.  So, Kumail had tucked his jacket into his pants, and his pants into his boots, zipped his jacket up three quarters of the way and gently nestled his bundled infant into the inside of this impromptu baby carrier.  Teddy settled right above his waist line and after a couple of minutes the awkwardness of the situation began to fade.  Kumail had done this to protect Teddy from the elements, but was surprised to find that his child’s warmth so close to his own body was quite the welcome reprieve from the cold.

 

Now, holding Teddy in his arms again as he looked out over the edge of the woods, down a hill and towards the cracked concrete of a dingy little gas station below and in front of them, snow gently falling but never quite settling to the ground as the dawn light blossomed across the grey morning sky Kumail looked once more to his child.  And his child sniffled and coughed.  And then he coughed again.  And Kumail became very worried about the results of this entire endeavor.

 

Would he actually be able to find help in this gas station?  Could he possibly hope for a way out of this situation, or would whatever people where around down there turn him in as soon as the Church people caught up to him?

 

Drowning in doubt and paranoia and fading away into the dream like anxiety of this peculiarly busy cloud of thoughts the only thing that stopped Kumail from giving into sleep during this brief moment of standing still after an entire night of nothing but running, was a horrible, horrible sound from somewhere off in the woods behind him.

 

Echoing towards him through the trees Kumail was ripped from his unintentional reverie by the bark of a happy sounding dog followed by an inaudible conversation punctuated by men laughing.  Kumail whipped around to face his pursuers but there was no one there, at least not yet.  The search party must still have been some distance off, but if he could hear them again that meant they were closing in.  And that meant Kumail was out of time and options.  He grasped his child tightly to him and scrambled down towards the business in front of him at the bottom of the hill.

 

Kumail, fueled by little more than adrenaline at this point, mounted the pavement and made his way to the front of the building.  He looked up past the beige piece of crumbling plastic and plaster to the red and white sign displaying the Ramshack company logo affixed to the top of the thing and.   It had an eagle on it.  A bird flapping its way out of the red of the lettering, it was depicted in the middle of its powerful flap just as it was about to fly away and into the sky, a symbol of all that was good in this world the beauty of the slightly translucent bird calling to Kumail beckoning him back to sleep and, staring at the sign blankly, wrapped in the pleasantly seductive folds of his own exhaustion precious seconds ticked by around him

until:

 

“Hey.  Over here.  He’s got to have gone into that gas station. There’s nowhere else he could have gone”

This horrible truth, pronounced from on high, at the top of the hill Kumail had just descended brought him back.  What had he been doing?  A sign?  He

 

He started to hear other voices join the first, people with dogs, men complaining about even having to bother climbing down a hill.  And that was enough; Kumail no longer had time for delusion.  He forced, his feet, to move.  And he pushed in through the doors of the gas station.  What could he use in here?  How could he fight?

 

To his right.  A counter.  Shit everywhere.  Products everywhere.  But a person.  Maybe, possibly, not a Church person?

 

Kumail clomped over towards them, one barely felt foot fall after another.  His child was mewling now, crying?  No.  Sniffling.  Yet again. Was Teddy getting sick?  Was his son going to be ok?  Would Kumail?

 

“Sir?”

 

Kumail had never felt this tired before.

 

It was almost pleasant, this overwhelming emptiness.  He could fall asleep anywhere.  Doing anything.  Sleep sounded so nice.

 

“Sir?”

 

The person in front of him, the one with the heavy Southern accent.  They were trying to get his attention.  But why?

 

Kumail moved his half-closed peepers away from the face of his child at a truly glacial pace. 

 

“Next time you and all your family want to have a little get together at this piece of shit gas station, I’d suggest you all take cars.  We got a semi-functional parking lot out front and while it ain’t purty it’s sure as hell one heck of a lot easier than scrabblin down the hill and comin in the back way.”  The words of the store’s employee hit him long before their meaning did.  Only once his tired eyes noticed that the person in front of him was pointing out the window and to the parking lot from whence he came did he finally understand.

The window.  They were pointing out the

WINDOW!

“OH MY GOD!” Kumail shouted as realization set his brain ablaze.

The shock of understanding pulled his adrenaline lever dumping the very last of his epinephrine reserves, giving him just enough of a chemical boost to reinitiate his movement.  Kumail turned and began stumbling away from the counter, confirming through his blurry peripheral vision that, indeed, the party the store person had been talking about was the one that was chasing him.  He had to get out of here.  He had to go.  He was stomping his way…. away?  But to where exactly?  Kumail couldn’t be sure anymore.  Not that he ever had been.  He was going away.  Away from the churchmen obviously, but

“The bathroom.  On your right!”

What a wonderful Southerner.  Of course!  Kumail and Teddy could hide in the BATHROOM!  It WAS Sooooo obvious.  The LDC Goons were way too stupid to look in there!  Brilliant. 

“No, the bathroom is to your right, Sir!”

And so it was.  He had stumbled past the double doors which opened into the gas station lobby from outside, which the Churchies were maybe 50 feet away from now.  Could they see him yet?  Bathroom was on his right.  Who new?

Kumail was inside it.  Lacking all grace and tact, more dead at this point than tired, his limp hands attached to his dreaming brain barely managed to rotate the knob, but it had turned and he was inside, and he and his son were safe, slumping against the wall a foot into a partially closed bathroom.

 

Then the bell atop the door into that gas station rang.  Four times. 

But Kumail was floating now.  The light of the bathroom fading back into that pre-gray dawn color, the tiles, a similar hue, blurring together and fading out until the lines were no more.  There were no clouds and no sky, no bathroom, and no baby, Kumail’s eyes were neither closed nor open and all that now remained was a faded neutral illumination; The empty light at the end of an endless night.

“We’re sorry to bother you…uh …. Sir.  But we are representatives of the most glorious Latter Day Church and we are here in pursuit of a very dangerous criminal.  Might you have happened to see a man of middle-eastern descent carrying a small child in blue swaddling, which he’s kidnapped by the way, stumbling through your parking lot? Or he might uv maybe even entered your store when you weren’t looking?  Have you seen anyone like that?”

“O. Sure did.”

Fuck.  Again, he was fucked.  That Southerner had fucked him.

“He got in a car and drove away a minute or two before ya’ll got here.”

With this came a soft and prolonged

siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

The clerk wasn’t fucking Kumail, they were covering for him.  Amazing, A MAY ZING!  Kumail would have to thank them once he woke up. 

Kumail’s baby coughed.  Surely not in agreement.  Poor little Teddy.  He must be really getting sick.  Kumail would have to check on that whenever Kumail got back.  But wait.  He couldn’t sleep.  The guys.  The Church    guys….. they were right outside.  He had to wait until they left, he had to tuff it out.  4 the kid!

cough cough

Someone’s facial muscles had contorted into an expression of discontent and concern below eyes that were now far too heavy to control

“Well….. Shit.”  This was the man who had asked the Clerk for information about Kumail.  And he sounded as upset as Kumail was tired.

A moment’s hesitation then there was a general shuffling as the Churchers turned to each other to consider what to do.  Someone who hadn’t spoken yet was the first to ask “What do we do now, Sir?”

And almost before the leader of the posse could begin to make sounds in response, the voice of the Clerk came, moving towards the men from behind the counter where they had presumably been standing this whole time.

“I’ve got a suggestion if y’all’d be willing to hear me out.”

Such a sweetly twanged voice from such a wonderful person.  Whoever they were the space man floating in nothing a few feet away hoped they knew what they were doing.  Kumail….. Kumail, hoped they knew what they were doing.

“All right.  Watchya got?” asked the posse leader.

“Well.  Frankly, ya’ll look almost as haggard as that fella who hitchhiked his way out of my lot.  Have ya’ll been chasin him all night?  Through the snow and all that?”

“That’s right, Miss.” the leader answered as the goons affirmed.

“Seems to me that ya’ll hardworking Churchmen deserve some refreshment and reprieve.  I’ve always been one for supportin the Church

“As well you should be.” A new member of the posse interjected.  His cohorts snickered in agreement.

“Of course, of course.  But my point is ya’ll have been trekkin around through the wind and snow all night and now your quarries escaped ya.  I’m not guaranteeing nothin, but if ya’ll’d be interested, I could brew up some fresh coffee and whatever kind of food you might like.  You and your men can sit down and rest up before headin back to wherever you came from and while I don’t know if there’s any real chance of this, I can check the footage from all of our cameras and see if any of em caught the license plate on that car what took your suspect away.  Whaddaya think?”

The leader laughed and there was a slight sound of shuffling as he turned to face his small crowd of companions.

“What do you say to that, men?” he asked.

And the group all shouted in simultaneous affirmation.

“Then it’s agreed.  And we thank you….. Faith.  What a charmingly appropriate name you are blessed with. 

Thank you, Faith.”

“Anything to aide men of the cloth, sir.  I am sorry, but I’ll have to ask you to leave your dogs outside, you can tie em up to the bike rack if you like.”

In the bathroom the listener started.  Lulled by the pleasant lilt of the conversation and the calm that the gentle dark nothing of the small room gave him he had forgotten about the dogs.  Kumail, had forgotten that they had dogs.

“Well..  I suppose that’ll be all right.  It’s warmin up now and we won’t stay too long.”

This. fucking. southerner!  Once again the previously forgotten dogs were a non-issue.  Faith was amazing.  For the first time in his life Kumail was glad that he had some, if only temporarily.

“Gentlemen.  If you’d just follow me, I have a few booths right over here with your names on em.”

Voices and shuffling followed the sounds of Faith as the stores attendant led the group of tired but pleased men deeper into the store and past the bathroom towards what was almost certainly the dining area of this particular pit stop.  These sorts of places are all more or less the same; small, occasionally cramped areas similar to the ones you would find inside a fast food restaurant featuring a smattering of tables topped with red epoxy resin, either in their own dedicated space or pressed up against the outside window or wall and placed wherever else tables could be bolted down in the spaces between one section of the store and another.  The door which was all that was separating the bathroom and the causeway leading to the dining area, was still slightly ajar and it swayed a little as each man in the small crowd passed it by on their way to the proffered respite and niceties.

Minutes passed by as the posse was heard through that small crack blowing off the stress of the nightlong chase, enjoying the pleasant change that being inside a heat controlled building offered and beginning to legitimately warm up once the store clerk returned with the promised coffee.

As the sounds of mild early morning conversation and yawns floated in and to the ears of the male fugitives sequestered in that semi-dark place barely five feet away from the group of churchmen tasked to hunt them, the meaning was lost as Kumail, who was no longer even aware that he was Kumail, was in the last stages of giving up consciousness, no longer clinging to his senses the man in the bathroom was barely even there.  Normally, he was given to the most prodigious types of constant concern, the type of person to check and recheck that his keys were in his pocket and that his computer was in his bag several times an hour, double, triple, and even quadruple checking that everything was where it was supposed to be, that he was definitely ok but now his brain was going through the last few checks on its nigh infinite list of things to do before the man on the floor could finally get some goddamned sleep. 

Under normal circumstances this particular individual would be quite concerned about the possibility that he and his child were about to be discovered by any of the men who had been tasked to capture them when they got up from their refreshing morning meal and strolling into what was potentially the only bathroom in this specific gas station happened to discover that their prey was taking a pleasant nap on the floor in front of him at which point, instead of taking a piss or a shit….. well….

he could no longer fight it, His mind was closing, shutting down, there was barely a He to be upset about it any more. 

Despite all of his usual paranoid planning and nearly neurotic tendencies Kumail Kakar was so… close to complete ego dissolution and the beauteous, neigh, HEAVENLY embrace of sleep that even though the bathroom door was open a full inch and a half the sounds of the no longer merely potential threat that was boots getting closer and closer to the bathroom door did not recall Kumail from dreams doorstep.

Nor did the words of the conversation taking place just on the other side of said door reach Kumail.  It was brief and worried, the gas station attendant once again inexplicably helping Kumail by biding for time.  But at last, but still, FAR too late, something began to rope Kumail back towards the shores of consciousness; his child coughing.

 Then from directly outside the bathroom, he was yanked further back towards the shore:

“The fuck was that?!  That was a fucking baby’s cough!”

The head of the posse.  He had heard Teddy’s cough.  GodfuckingDamit…

The man’s hand was on the door.  The knob was being turned, despite the door not being locked or even closed, the man was yelling something, furious at having been deceived, he was ripping the door open and Kumail’s mind was an agony of sludge yet, he was awake now, no further chemical stimulation available Kumail was now conscious but only as one might be at the moment of initial stirring after a particularly heavy St Patrick’s day.  He couldn’t move and he couldn’t think but his brain had aroused him and Kumail was still alive.  He wanted to remain alive, he wanted to do something, something to protect his son and himself, but there was no longer any time!

Kumail stared in horror as the door was ripped asunder and the blinding rays of the morning sun exploded into the bathroom along with the shriek of a dying harpy from about his victorious pursuer.  Blinded by the brightness, the man appeared as a large bulky shadow, a vision of malice and doom sent to this moment in time to ruin the visionless wretch yelling on the bathroom floor below him.  Kumail, clutching his child, who was now also screaming, as tightly as he could muster stared up into the slowly materializing face of the hideous entity before him.  The man was so filled up with feelings of hateful triumph that he was beginning to spasm, his mouth twitching upwards as viscous spittle formed around its cracked edges.  Then the spasms over took him fully so powerful were his emotions of mirth.  Kumail was sure he was about to burst out into chest spasming Saturday morning villain type laughter.  But instead the man fell.  The giant figure crashed forwards onto its knees, still shaking, muscles twitching and eyes rolling up into his head which came to rest hard on the floor a mere foot from Kumail and at last he lay still.

Kumail didn’t understand.  He was about to be taken.  He was going to put his all into making sure that they couldn’t separate him from his child, even if it meant he would be killed, but now.  His would be captor lay motionless on the ground in front of him.  Had he gotten so excited that he had had a heart attack?  No.  Clearly not. 

Things outside of the dark bathroom were still a bit fuzzy, the rays of the morning sun muddled the natural colors of the outside world making the scene before Kumail all the more surreal.  Two wires protruded from the back of the downed man’s thick coat where they had punctured his clothing and entered his skin.  Kumail followed the wires which lead back to a small, gun like Taser held loosely in the shaking hands of Faith, the gas station attendant.

…….

Behind the gas station attendant sat the entire posse, all in varying states of discombobulation.  Many seemed to be nearly unconscious, with the rest appearing to be very, very drunk with their heads lolling back and their bodies completely slackened as they moaned and tried to move roughly from side to side. 

Faith stepped forwards, moving into the bathroom, dropping the Taser to the floor as they moved over the unconscious man in the doorway.  Faith knelt in front of Kumail trying to get down to his level.

“Are you all right down there?”

The Southerner was talking to Kumail.  He shook his head up and down giving a bewildered affirmative.  He must have fallen asleep.  This had to be a dream.  Things were no longer making sense.

“Well then.  Would ya like a ride on outta here?”

The southerner stood up as they asked the question, producing keys from a pocket and twirling them around a long, bony finger.

Faith extended their other hand to Kumail.  Kumail, thoroughly stunned by everything that had just happened, and drained from everything that had come before it Kumail was both extremely dazed, and thoroughly confused as his brain began to shut down yet again, DEMANDING he follow it into sleep.  But if his brain was trying to force him to sleep…. Then this probably was not in and of itself a dream…. Kumail, out of options and grateful to have someone who seemed to be more aware of what was actually happening and what could and should be done about it, grabbed the proffered arm at the wrist, Spartan style, and let this strange deus ex savior of a gas station employee help him to his feet and out into a medium sized sedan and FINALLY onto the road and away from his pursuers at what he hoped was not the top but rather the much less conspicuous legal speed; a problem which his empty mind and decimated body could no l0nger be bothayr 2

Chapter 3

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