The U.S. of After Chapter 34


Ralph

I watched the barrels of the guns rise up and level off at their targets after that fat Captain, got nailed.  Everybody started pulling triggers.  I watched those automatics shoot flames out of their black metal barrels and people started falling down who stood in front of them.  I felt as if I was watching things in slow motion, similar to one of those old-fashioned war-for-independence movies, two lines of soldiers firing at each other at close range.  Some of the militia men and even more of the tent village guys were barely able to get their guns up before bullets started ripping through their bodies.

I grabbed Amy by the arm and she turned to look at me with crazy eyes and clenched teeth, her red hair flying.  Clayton stood in the middle of everything, head bowed, eyes closed, and then he started raising the old man’s hickory staff in the air.  His mouth was moving but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.  The villagers who didn’t have guns were grabbing up their little kids and booking it for the other side of the camp, off toward the tall cattails and the tree line where the river disappeared around the bend.  They stampeded right over their cook fires and tents, stirring up a noise that sickened my stomach as I helplessly watched them go.

I could sense a static electricity in the air as things got all trippy.

The guns stopped firing all at once and just jammed up.  I can’t really explain it, but that is definitely what happened.  Some of the men pulled out machetes and other sharpened weapons.  One guy started across the sand with a large knife, breaking into a full run, only to trip over his own feet and fall forward on his own blade.  The village guys who were left standing fired off a few rounds and took down a couple of the militia guys.  I saw one of the militia a really fat guy wearing Roundhouse overalls clutch at his chest and drop his automatic.

I finally got myself moving, and started pulling at Amy to follow me out with the rest of the stampede.  Clayton beat me to it, stopping his strange mumbling and grabbing Amy by her other arm while the three of us high tailed it out of the camp to go wherever the villagers went, leaving those few brave men to defend our escape.

“Don’t worry about them,” Clayton said as we ran.  “Everything is in his hands.”

Leave it to Clayton to start talking all Jesusy when the bullets start flying.  We ran through the weeds and cattails with the sound of gun fire and shouting behind us, rounding the bend in the river to see that big mass of people thinning out around the river’s edge, making a long line of quickly moving people all trying to get as far away as possible.  I didn’t see any nut cases along the ridge looking down, because I half expected to, and for some reason the gunfire became less constant.  I figured we’d be cut off, but we weren’t.  We walked quickly, running again when we heard gunfire, skirting the river for quite a while before we came around another bend in the river where the path went toward an overgrown wooden dock.

“Would you look at that?” Amy said, her voice quivering, soft.

Sitting in the deep waters at the edge of a rocky cliff, where the edge of the river made a wide bowl, floated two large pontoon boats.  On the side of the one closest to me I could read the words “Red River Tours” in scratched and faded paint.  People were piling on, so I figured it would do us some good to do the same.

Time to go.

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