Nat left with Captain Phil and the door shut loudly. I am not quite sure what that meant for me to do. I paced around the room for a few minutes, trying to think of something to do to help or to wait and see if anyone comes back for me. Eventually, the sun began to sink behind those big plastic windows above me. If I stood on the opposite side of the room, I could kind of see the cotton candy in the sky- or at least as I always called it.
I put my back against the plastic block wall and slowly slid down until I was on the floor. “What do I do?” I kept asking myself. I couldn’t hear anything that was going on outside, which made it difficult to know if something dangerous or even exciting was happening. Eventually, I noticed how tired I had become. Standing up to walk to the bed seemed like a marathon.
I took my shoes off beside the bed to get in- just to rest my eyes for a minute though! The little pieces of plastic pointed up felt really strange against the bottom of my feet. It didn’t hurt, but it also didn’t tickle: somewhere in the middle. I lied down and pulled the blanket over half my body. It was the one thing that wasn’t made out of blocks here. I think for that reason I began to like it a lot. My eyes began to shut, and my thoughts started drifting to things I that didn’t really make sense when I tried to remember them.
* * *
The next morning, much to Nat’s surprise, we both woke up back in Pop’s house. I got lucky and picked the side of the bed that didn’t have the view of the whole sunrise. It woke Nat up way before me because neither one of us thought to try to hang up our curtains after moving in.
Nat came over to me and pulled me out of bed by my arm. I didn’t want to get up yet, but he looked at me with the biggest smile on his face said, “let’s go eat breakfast so that we can go explore.” I don’t know that I have ever seen him be this happy or have this much energy in the morning, especially because we were up as late as we were.
Downstairs, my mom had our cereal ready with the bowl out and the milk beside it. She was doing something over at the sink and turned to us to ask, “how’d you both sleep last night?” “Great!” Nat exclaimed without any hesitation. “Pretty good, I wish that we had hung those curtains,” I responded a few seconds later. “We’ll get that done today,” she said.
“Where is dad at?” Nat asked her. “He’s out looking for a job in town,” she said but carried with it an aura of tension. The town that she is talking about is about five miles away has all of 400 people in it. There will probably not be a lot of opportunity for a guy with factory experience- even though he was a floor manager. This town is about 50 years behind the rest of the country; I really hope that there is something out there that he can find.
As quick as we could get finish eating, we had our shoes on and were out the front door- ready to explore. Pop had already found his way to his seat on the front porch drinking some coffee and reading some book that was written long before he was born, which meant it was really old. I asked him what he was reading and he said, “it’s a book written by a guy who was a medic in World War I.” Nat asked, “Is it any good?” “It’s a classic,” he responded. Nat shook his head as if he knew what that meant.
“You know I was in World War II,” Pop said kind of out of the blue. “Did you ever drive a tank?” Nat asked. “Oh no, I was one of the boys that ran across the beach toward the end of the war.” Pop said. “It sounds like that place, Emma,” Nat said excitedly. I just looked at him with a sharp stare, and he knew not to said anything else about it.
Looking off of the porch and a little ways down the hill, there was a pond that we had fished in when we had visited before. A dirt road lined with trees that came in front of the house that you could follow down to a barn. Pop stored all of his various types of equipment in there. In the other direction, Pop had huge pastures of cattle. Every time we would pass one in the car Nat would go “Mooooove.”
His new favorite thing was knock knock jokes. As soon as he saw them he said, “knock knock” “Who’s there?” “Cow” “Cow who?” “Cow-a-bunga!” His creativity always got a chuckle out of me. He looked at me and said, “let’s go explore the barn” and took off down the down road towards it.
Everything in it looked like all of the things that he used when he had horses and goats. We didn’t stay in their long; we went out the back door and ran up into the woods behind the house. I would yell, “Nat look out of the monsters that are chasing us!” he would pick up a stick for protection and take off running. Sometimes we would chase fairies or climb up high in trees. If we ever got lost, we would just climb until we could see Pop’s house.
We went back up for lunch and then out to play again until dinner. We were totally free to explore and make this land our own. It felt like we were the first people to ever explore that neck of the woods.
That night at dinner mom asked my dad, “did you have any luck on the job search?” “No, but it’s okay. The Lord will provide for us. There is an old factory down the road a few more miles that I will check out tomorrow.” Mom didn’t really say much more after that for the rest of the night.
By the time that we were ready for bed, the whole house had its lights out. We didn’t really hear anything going on tonight, but Nat looked at me and said, “do you think we will be able to go back?” “I hope so,” I said.
We both crawled into bed and it was almost as soon as our heads hit the pillow we were back.
I woke up in the same room I was in before and there’s still no sign of Nat. I jumped out of bed and over to the big block door and pull it open with all of my strength letting out a big “urrghh.” I run down the long plastic hallway lined with photos of some important people and lanterns. I turned down many different hallways until I get to a huge winding staircase. Next to it is a sign that says “Offices” up and “Garage” with an arrow pointing down. I ran down to the garage, which was huge; there were probably close to 70 cars in here at once.
I looked out through one of the doors and sawdust off in the distance. There were only a couple cars left in here. I knew I shouldn’t be driving, but this is Nat we’re talking about. I jump in one with flames coming up the front; if any were to be fast, it’s this one. I wasn’t sure quite how to operate it, but I turned the key and pulled the lever down to “D” and took off. Before I knew it, I had formed a cloud of dust that followed me down the road.
I looked out to my left and to my right and there were huge fields of tall grass. Off in the distance, there was a tree line of tall green trees that seemed to be where they had all disappeared into. As I got thicker into the woods, I saw some smoke and it grew as I got closer. When I got there, I saw all of the cars burning; some had crashed into trees, some into each other and some just got beaten up by fighting. I immediately jumped out and ran everywhere searching for Nat through the haze of smoke, but I couldn’t find him. When I tried to breathe, it came out just as a cough. I did see that someone had painted a basketball with wings on some of the cars; I had no clue what that was supposed to mean.
I searched inside every single car that I could. There were a few of the tall yellow men that didn’t make it. I kept searching everywhere for anything. Out of the corner of my eye through the smoke and the flames that were now reaching the trees, I saw a note in of the Nerd’s hands that said “We were ambushed. Send help.”