~ Chapter Three ~
Hole in the wall
Limping faster on the way back out to where the bus had crashed, she went back to the others, and stood nearest the man, Harper. Why him? She had no idea, he wasn’t the friendliest, but being the first person she’d spoken to he was already familiar to her, and familiar was safe. She looked around at the group, the sounds outside louder than they had been.
“What are we going to do now?”
It was rhetorical really. It was a question that she doubted anybody had the answer to.
The group was dispersing in different directions, the boy called Darren the last to move away from the hole in the wall, leaving Harper alone. As he passed her, Claire gave him a polite smile and headed back towards the older man. She realized that she had absolutely no idea what to do next and so she just stood there sort of turning her head slowly surveying the damage where the mall entrance had once been.
Maybe the way she was standing or the lost expression on her face prompted it, but the man suddenly asked, “Where were you heading?” and when she shifted her eyes to look at him he shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, his own eyes on her but his face giving nothing away in it’s expression.
She fought back the urge to laugh inappropriately at the question as in her mind the answer went something like “Oh you know, just figured I’d hang out in this mall for a while, go shopping, buy some food, y’know, just generally like, hang out…”
Seriously, where was she supposed to head? She was just a 22 year old college student stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she had no idea. Not really. She’d received that damn letter and then on a whim decided to just get on a bus and go to a place she’d never been before because some unknown stranger had told her to. Really, those sorts of scenarios never ended well, did they? She’d seen stories on the television not dissimilar to her own on shows like America’s Most Wanted. What had she been thinking?
She finally shrugged and then without answering his question replied,
“I don’t know, I don’t know what to do…”
She looked down quickly, focusing on a crack in one of the floor tiles near her feet, anything to focus on but his face. She felt embarrassed. Her plan had been set when she’d gotten on that bus. Granted, it was a negligent careless plan, but a plan nonetheless; but now, well now it was upside down and there was no plan anymore. She was not a spontaneous person at all and finding herself in a situation she hadn’t planned was so far out of her comfort zone that she had temporarily (at least she hoped it was temporary) lost her ability to think of a solution or next step.
He didn’t say anything in response and the sudden conversation silence that she felt that she had caused was awkward so she carried on, her voice a little shaky.
“I was just … I was just on my way to some place and now we’re stuck here and I don’t even know where I was going to start with, not really. I wish I’d never got on that damn bus to start with.”
She added in a hushed tone,
“Do you think we’re going to get out of here? You know… alive?”
His brow creased then and his stare became more intense. She let out a breath she didn’t realize that she had been holding when he finally asked her,
“What makes you think that we won’t?”
And as if on cue there was a screaming sound outside, somewhere out there, the same sound that she’d heard before the bus driver was plucked from the ground in front of her eyes and she jumped, startled, shifting close to him and clutching his arm, her eyes wide.
He winced as her hands grabbed onto his arm and she loosened her grip, looking up at him with concern. He shook his head quickly.
“It wasn’t you. I was thrown into the wall just there when the bus crashed through. Banged my arm up pretty good.”
She frowned and he added quickly,
“It’s alright. I don’t think anything’s broken, just bruised up.”
She started fishing around in her bag while he talked, her hand closing around a small cigar box. The one useful thing that she had actually found over at the tobacco stand. It had long been emptied of the cigars it originally held however. She’d found it under the cash register in an open plastic container and had some generic pain medication in it.
“Here, “she offered, holding out the box to him, “I found these. They might help with the pain.”
“…Nnn, no thanks.” He shook his head, rolling his jaw. “You should hang on to those. Might need ’em later.” He gave a shrug, moving his wounded arm slightly. “The pain’s good, for now. Keeps me alert.”
“Okaaay, if you prefer pain,” she murmured but slipped the little box back into her bag. She could see his point. Maybe they would do more than just simply dull the pain, they could dull his mind too, and right now that would not be very productive, or safe.
She shrugged and then looked around again. Most of the others had gone off in different directions in search of something she’d only been somewhat paying attention to. She wasn’t sure where it was exactly but she’d heard a couple of the others talking about a door, or something similar that was locked but appeared to be a way out of the mall they were now stuck in thanks to the bus wedged in the entrance where the doors had been.
He looked at her, brows raised.
“If … if you don’t want anything for the pain, at least we could try and get that arm wrapped up or something. Make some kind of bandage or sling, take the pressure off. Just in case…” her voice trailed off for a moment and she glanced around before nodding towards the opposite end of the malls first floor.
“I saw a sports clothing store down that end just to the right, “she continued before he had a chance to protest, “maybe we can find something in there.” She paused for just a moment, her eyes flicking up to his face, that stern unwavering expression still fixed on his face, but finally he nodded.
“Actually…” He murmured as he abruptly turned and headed in the direction she’d nodded in, “maybe it is a good idea. We can help search while we’re there. This doesn’t seem too bad, if I’m careful with it.” He turned to Claire, giving her an affirmative nod, “Shouldn’t waste time. Let’s go.”
The sound of their footsteps across the tiled floor was the only sounds that Claire was aware of until her hand curled around the door handle of the clothing store and the man’s voice stopped her in her tracks for a moment.
“Claire, where do you think we are? If you know how close the bus got to where you were heading, we might be able to figure out what this place actually is.”
“I don’t think anybody knows where we are, yet. I can tell you where I was headed though…”
The pair were silent for a short time as they searched through the racks of clothing, most of which were oddly empty, as if another group or groups of people had been here before theirs and cleaned the place out. Was it possible that they weren’t alone in the town? It had appeared to be eerily empty so far. The only useful she found among the rows upon rows of empty racks covered in dust was an old wire coathanger. Not exactly what she’d been hoping to find but maybe it would be useful for something later on. Picking a lock maybe.
Or poking something’s eyes out.
“Hey, so … I’d be happy to hear it, if you’ll tell me, ” Harper’s voice broke the silence in side the store as the two searched independent of each other and Claire jumped a little, “you know, where you were headed before … this.”
She looked at him for a reaction, and bit her bottom lip thinking about whether to share more. After all, she didn’t know this man before she’d fallen into him on the bus. She knew none of these people. What if..? And then the thought occurred to her; what if there was a reason that they were all on this bus together. What if the bus had been meant to crash, what if they were already in the town Silent Hill? She frowned and shook her head, too many what ifs in any situation would drive you crazy, let alone here.
Making her decision, she reached inside her jeans pocket and held out the carefully folded sheet of paper she’d been carrying on her person ever since she’d received it.
“I got a letter…”
The conversation with Harper was brought to an abrupt end with the sudden noises nearby, in one of the other stores. People were shouting, things were crashing around. She could hear more of those sounds, sounds like the ones that they’d heard outside the hole in the wall when they’d first crash landed in the mall.
“Looks like we’re going to have to finish this later, “She stuffed the letter back into her pocket, “I promise I will explain. ”
Flying out the door as fast as she could manage with her aching knee, all she could see was smoke as the group who’d gone inside the gun shop stumbled out the door, coughing and spluttering. She heard somebody manage to say, “Run, “and she didn’t hesitate, turning for only a second to grab her companions hand first. There would be time for questions later. She followed the group towards a ladder that led up to the second floor moving as fast as she could despite the pain from her injury. She pulled herself up and over the last rung and rolled on her side gripping her knee with both hands, her eyes squeezed closed.
Catching her own breath, she glanced around at the now disheveled looking group who looked every bit as shaken and confused as she felt. It was Harper who spoke first.
“What in the hell happened down there?”