Everything but the Crow

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I've never seen such attendance numbers. I said there might be two hundred people at the Yolkside Lunch, but it looks like the whole town is there. The park is a big, grassy area with a lot of hills and small patches of trees. It slopes quite seriously towards us, the 'bottom entrance' of the park. There is another entrance up there on the other side, connected to a major road. There are people everywhere, sitting on table cloths littered with food. It's an amazing sight to behold and right now, a bother.

"Shit," I say, "it's gonna take us forever to find Tig and my parents."

Domenica is still holding my hand. "OK," she says, "maybe we can find the organizers first? If Tig is among them, they'll know where she is, right?"

"Very true, thanks," I say. I'm pretty happy someone is there to keep their head on their shoulders. There's no way I can be Zen enough for the both of us.

We walk towards the upper end of the park, where the bar is set up. Usually by this time the remaining people are in a drinking mood, but there doesn't seem to be anyone up there. Well, probably a bartender at the very least.

It's a pretty hard climb, specially since we don't have time to stroll around. Domenica can't help herself, though. She stops me, looking around.

"I've never come to the Yolkside Lunch before," she says, impressed. "It's amazing to see how many people have come!"

"Oh, it's usually a lot more subdued," I say. "Tig and her friends must have broken their advertisement budget to get this number."

I wanna keep going but her hand grips mine a lot more tightly. I turn around. She's looking pretty scared now. "Domenica?"

"Look at all those people. Don't you think they're behaving... oddly?"

I look around. Indeed, there is something creepy in the way they move around, eat their sandwiches and other things, drop them back on the paper plates... Everyone is more or less moving the same way, in the same slow rhythm. There is not of the usual chatter and laugher, now that I think about it. I'm not even sure they're really eating. Puppets. They remind me of puppets.

"Domenica, we find Tig and my parents and we get out of here fast," I say.

"OK," she says. She sounds as legitimately concerned as I am. If what's happening to basically half the population of Brooding Peaks is the same as what happened to the factory worker, it is a possibility that they won't be content with simply pretend-eating their picnics for the rest of the evening. We'd better hurry before they turn hostile.

As we keep moving towards the bar, we start hearing a whisper. They are collectively saying something in a very quiet voice. I've heard it before.

"He's coming," they say.

Now they have started taking out their plastic forks and knives and they slowly stab their hands, arms, legs if they came in shorts. Given that it's plastic cutlery, they can't do much damage for now, but they look determined to harm themselves. We're almost running towards the bar now.

That's when I spot my parents among the crowd, mumbling and hurting themselves like the others. I let go of Domenica's hand and run.

"Mom! Dad!" I say. I shake them, hoping to wake them up, to no avail. They're constantly repeating :"He's coming... He's coming...", joining the crowd in a sort of chant.

"Stop that!", I say, screaming now. In desperation, I take away the tools they're using and any that they might use against themselves. They start scratching their skin with their hands. "Stop hurting yourselves!" I throw myself at them. They're stunned a bit. As much as they seem to have a one-track mind right now, it seems that they don't actively resist restraint.

Domenica reaches me and gives a hand in suppressing their movements. For a while, we're all locked together. I'm sincerely out of ideas on what we should do. Around us, the other town folks keep stabbing themselves in the most inefficient ways, slightly but regularly bleeding onto the grass. The guilt I felt when I thought about skipping town has doubled now. I'm powerless. I knew and I didn't warn anyone.

"Fuck," says Domenica, "a bloodletting is bad. It's really, really bad. We have to get your parents out of here."

We start going down the slope, dragging them so their arms aren't free. Honestly, it's easier said then done. We're not even halfway to the entrance when I hear a truck approaching from behind us. At the upper entrance, a big HappyBroiler truck is backing up towards us. The people in the park all raise simultaneously, surrounding us, and start moving towards the truck. They leave droplets of blood on their way. We're gonna get carried away by the flow if this goes on. We can't do that. At this point, we know just how much the factory workers are bad news.

I pathetically try to resist the people pushing us up the slope. My parents are resisting, specially my dad, whose torso I'm barely hanging on to. He's marching resolutely up. My mom is getting restless too. Several times I have to keep her away as she attempts to bite me. Always a charmer, mom.

Several factory workers have climbed down the truck. From here their eyes look just as empty as those of the other obedient puppets, though they seem to be better equipped. They all have some kind of makeshift weapon, like metallic rods or what looks like one of hour squeegees. They don't look much like factory workers anymore. The first entranced people to arrive at the truck climb in through the back door. I highly doubt we're all gonna fit in there anyway, but I can't let them catch us. What can I do?

Domenica shouts at me over the messed-up chanting crowd. "We have to let go!" she says, "they're gonna drag us with them!"

Is she talking about my parents? "I can't leave them, but they're not following at all! I don't know what to do, I don't wanna let them get captured or whatever they're doing to them!"

"If we get caught there is a chance we'll end up dead," she says, panicking, "if you wanna save them we have to find a way to stop this at the source or you'll have to beat up most of the town!"

"What if it's too late? Do you even have any idea of what you can do?" I say.

Yeah," she says, "and it starts with 'not dying'! Let them go, I'll promise you we'll save them!"

I want to protest again, but I'm currently less walking and more being dragged against my will by my dad, keeping hold of his right leg. Other puppets randomly walk on my back. What's more, I can't muster the energy to stop him anymore than that as we approach the upper end of the park. This is no good. My hands slip and my dad is swallowed by the crowd. Domenica has stopped trying to drag my mom back for a while now. She gestures at me: the factory people have seen us and they're walking towards us with their weapons out. I scramble back to Domenica, run down the slope a bit: they don't pursue. I'm out of my mind now.

"Domenica," I say, "what am I gonna do?"

She grabs my shoulder and helps me as we walk towards the lower entrance. It's easier for her to be level-headed right now. She knows it. She can keep me steady.

"The pickup," she says. "We'll follow them with Dave's truck! We're not letting them out of our sight, don't worry."

I hear her, but I have to admit it doesn't really register. The world is spinning. Am I dreaming again? I have heard a lot of strange things lately. This situation I can not wrap my head around.

They took my family and I don't know what they'll do to them.


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