Escape Pod 337: Counting Cracks
By George R. Galuschak
Four of us, jammed into my sister’s Ford Festiva, going to kill the monster. Sylvia drives. The Hum has left her untouched, so she’s the only one left in town who can drive. My sister licks the palm of her hand, touches it to her nose and bumps her forehead against the steering wheel. Then she does it again.
“Today would be nice, sis.” I say. I’m in the back seat with June, a twelve-year old girl clutching a teddy bear to her chest.
“I’m going as fast as I can,” she tells me. “It’s bad today.”
“The Shop-Rite has three hundred and fifty-seven ceiling tiles,” Michael tells me. He’s a little kid, nine years old, sitting up front with Sylvia. “I counted them.”
“Inpatient oranges creep handsome banisters,” June says, rolling her eyes.
“Good for you,” I say. My left leg hurts, which I guess is a good sign. My left arm feels like dead weight except for the tips of my fingers, which are tingly.
“Do you count tiles, Mr. Bruschi?” Michael asks.
“No. I counted cracks on the sidewalk. When I was a kid.”
A sparrow collides with the windshield. It bounces off and skitters to the pavement, where it thrashes. I haven’t seen a living bird in days. It must have flown into the Hum.
“Swill,” June says, pointing at the bird. “Maraschino cherries. Skittles. Cocktail weenies.”
“All right. I’m ready.” Sylvia twists the key, and the car starts. We back out of the driveway.
“The streets are so empty,” she says.
“That’s because everyone is dead,” Michael tells her. “They listened to the Hum and went into their houses and pulled the covers over their heads and died. I had a hamster that died, once. It got real old, so it made a little nest, and then it laid down in it and died.”
“We’re not dead,” I say.
“Not yet,” Michael corrects me. “Give it time.”