Chapter 19

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Chapter 19

"Michael, are you in there?" Mike asked, stepping in front of the held man.

Michael hissed and looked up. His eyes weren't quite normal, but they were close. "Who are you people? Why are you attacking me?"

Mike ignored the question. "Michael. Do you remember what happened to you?"

The man struggled in Steve's grip but was too weak to break free. "Remember what? All I know is you people are holding me against my will."

"Michael, you don't remember talking to us before?"

"No, I don't remember! Now, can you let me go about my business?"

This man, while sounding rational, did not sound like the man Mike had first met. That man had been afraid, but still aware. This newer version of Michael was angry with no memory of the recent past.

"What would you do if we let you go?" Mike asked.

Michael snarled. "What kind of stupid question is that? I would go back to work. I'm not being paid to stand around."

"Oh. What kind of work do you do, Michael?"

"I...I don't know, exactly." The man's expression changed then to hopelessness. "Why don't I know what I do for work? What's wrong with me?"

"You have been sick, Michael, that's all," Mike said. "We are taking care of you."

"Oh!" The man slumped and Steve struggled to keep hold of him. "What's going to happen to me?"

"Nothing, Michael. We are going to keep looking after you until you are better."

"Will you untie me?"

"When we are sure it's safe to do so," Mike said.

"Michael nodded. "Would it be all right if I had a nap? I'm suddenly very tired."

"You go right ahead," Mike said. "Sleep might do you a lot of good."

Steve gently laid the man down on the ground. Ricky looked like he was about to step away but was stopped by a look from Mike.

"Ricky, I need you to stay near this man. I believe he is only aware because you are near him."

"I don't understand, Scouter Mike," Ricky said, looking a little afraid.

"Neither do I, Ricky." Mike looked at Todd. "Todd, would you mind sitting with Ricky for a while to make sure nothing happens, please? And Ricky, under no circumstances are you to leave or go any further from Michael. Do you understand?"

Both boys nodded and Mike stepped back from the apparently sleeping man.

Steve followed him. "What do you make of all this?"

"I really don't know," Mike replied. "But you saw what happened. When Ricky got close to him, he changed back from that mindless, shambling thing to a man."

"You're sure it was Ricky who caused the change?"

Mike sighed. "No, I'm not. But, I've been thinking back over the past several hours. Ever since we were are that farm, these things have been acting strange."

"You mean, like how they moved around you instead of attacking you," Steve said.

"Exactly!" Mike replied. "I know we don't have much to go on, but how did they seem to act when we first found them?"

"Like something from a Terminator movie," Steve said. "They kept coming for us."

"You do see what I mean about them acting strangely then?" Mike asked.

"Oh, certainly I do. But why do you think Ricky is making them behave differently?"

Mike shrugged. "A hunch, I suppose. When I think about the creatures’ strange behaviour I always seem to see Ricky being somewhere near."

"We could test that theory. We could wake that Michael guy up and have Ricky move closer and further away until we are sure."

"Yes, we could do that," Mike agreed. "But you saw how confused he was this last time, didn't you? He acted like he had never seen any of us before."

"So?" Steve said. "He probably hadn't"

Mike stared at Steve for a moment, wondering if he had lost his mind. Then he remembered. "Oh, that's right! You weren't here when we first found Michael holed up in the office. He came outside because of us talking to him and promising food. He absolutely knew us from minutes earlier."

"Okay. So he knew you. When you're sick,or crazed, the mind doesn't work so well."

"No, that's true. I'm just worried that, if we use him as a guinea pig, we might lose him completely to whatever is affecting all of these people."

Steve nodded. "I understand. We're supposed to help people in need, not put them at risk. And this fellow is the first we have found who we might actually be able to help."

"That's my thinking exactly," Mike said.

"So, what do you want to do?"

Mike had to think about that question for several moments. It was usually Steve directing the troop. Whatever had prompted Steve to hand over the leadership seemed to have included everything.

"Well, we came to this park for several reasons." Mike ticked those reasons off on his fingers as he spoke. "First, the park has a fence around it. That should help keep,these things out. Second, the park has a supply of water for drinking and several buildings we can repurpose for shelter. Third, there are several recreational vehicle dealerships across the road from here. They will be able to provide us with supplies like camping fuel and likely more shelter."

"It sounds to me like we are staying here for a while," Steve said.

Mike shrugged. "If you have a better idea, I'm open to it."

"No. I think you are right. We need somewhere safe for the boys. At least until we have a better idea of what's going on in the world." Steve turned back towards the parking lot. "I'll get the troop unloading the gear so we can set up camp inside the park."

"Thanks, Steve. I'll stay here and look at how we're going to get into the park." Mike looked at the chained gates. "Unless you've got some bolt cutters in your truck, that is?"

"No, I don't think I've got bolt cutters, but I will check. Be right back."

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