Within about twenty seconds of walking out the main school door, I was convinced that we are all going to die. Not because I had any information that would suggest that, but because the group hysteria got to me that quickly.
No one was quiet. Every single person in the town was screaming something until all the screams blended into one wall of noise and I ended up joining in. So I was just standing there at the door screaming for no real reason and watching everyone else.
Quite a few of them were rocking back and forth on the ground. One man ran around the same circular path over and over again. The children charged around everywhere, not sure what to make of the disarray. They probably knew more about what was going on than I did.
“Come on,youdon’t even know what you’re screaming about.”
I fell silent as he of the unknown name shouldered his way out through the door. What he had said wasn’t strictly true, if the tiny theory I was starting to develop was right then I had more reason to scream than the rest of them.
“I’m screaming at the amount of people screaming.”
He snorted and pushed out in front of me. “Attention! Everyone!”
The noise level stumbled and then stopped.
“It’s Jack!” someone called as if they were hailing the Messiah.
“Right,” said Jack, seeming happy enough that he had everyone’s full attention, “This is the situation. It’s no longer fully contained; it’s only a matter of time before it gets loose. At most, we have a couple of hours. That’s plenty of time to move all the kids out of here. Anyone under twelve has to be moved out, right? In the meantime, I’m taking this…” He held up the box. “…to my grandfather. We’ll get it re-contained and call everyone back once it’s safe. Off you go.”
The noise resumed, more of a hum than an all-out screech this time. They’re all relieved, reassured.
“Where are the children going?” I asked him.
“You’ll soon find out, you’re going with them.”
With that he dodged off through the crowd.
“Hey!” I yelled, more annoyed that he had left without waiting for an answer than anything else, “Hey! Jack!”
He stopped to speak to a woman I had never seen before, waved a hand in my general direction and then took off again.
I continued after him, on a mission now. The woman he had been speaking to made a half-hearted attempt to halt my progress but I warded her off with a half explanation.
“Sorry, I have to… ah… Bye!”
Jack barely looked at me when I finally caught up to him.
“I arranged someone to take you away from here,” he said.
“Very kind of you. I ignored that, I’m staying here. Last time I checked, seventeen is not under twelve.”
“I said everyone under twelve had to leave, I never said everyone over twelve had a right to stay.”
“Look,” I said, assuming full fighting stance now, hands on hips, “I know you think that I’m a complete idiot that’s no use to you at all but I can take care of myself. I don’t need you to go all macho and protective and send me away from the big scary evil thing.”
He laughed, something I hadn’t been sure he was actually capable of up to that point. “I couldn’t care less about you. You’re at high risk of being used as a vessel by this thing, which means you being here poses a threat to the entire town, which I am meant to protect. I’m not being ‘macho and protective’, I’m being responsible. And yes, I do think you’re an idiot. Particularly now. Now go back over to the nice lady so she can put some distance between you and people I actually do care about.”