The Bells of Nothington

Our little caravan of fighters, of survivors, sped away on streets of winterdust, leaving behind the crossroads of Nothington, headed east as fast as we could go. A few people cried in the back, adrenaline finally fading. Eli kept touching Addie’s forehead and chest with blessed water, one hand clutching a fistful of charms ranging from New Age to Sumerian to things I’d never even heard of and thought might be from a different planet or a joke shop.

Jori drove the front van; Thuy and his crew were in the last one. The radios squawked back and forth with plans about our route, how we would hurry east, through Blackdale, seeking the ocean, wanting our backs to the sunrise over the water, where Addie had said we had a chance of being safe. I grabbed a radio and took over the mic, shouting down the other chatter, “Count off!”

There was a groan in our van, but people perked up as it began. We counted off as we had done for the last few days, something I’d insisted we do to reassure ourselves that we’d all managed to get away. “One!” I said, and let go of the mic, handing it off to Jori.

“Two!”

“Three, and four!” said Eli, for himself and Addie.

From the radio we heard the whine of feedback, as Thuy answered, “Five!”

In the other van, we heard from six through nine, then Thuy’s voice again, calling “Lydia’s ten!”

Then nothing but silence.

“Who had eleven?” Thuy barked.

I glanced at the list I Sharpied on my arm and was about to answer, when Addie did, from Eli’s arms. Her black, shining eyes opened, and she clutched at Eli’s collar as she whispered, “They have him. They have Cole.”

Behind us, the bells of Nothington began to ring.

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