Jon shook hands all around, as grave as any soldier. Carli felt a rush of sadness. Kids in the post-Pyramid era didn’t know how to act like kids. Everyone grew up fast under the Old Ones’ reign.
Jon asked, “Are you from Freetown?”
Carli said, “Yes. Someone from your town came to warn us you had trouble. We came to see if we could help.”
The boy shook his head. “No ma’am. All you’ll get here is dead,” he said with no emotion at all, save matter-of-factness.
Arner sat on the floor. “Tell us what happened. We’ve seen the attackers, so you don’t have to describe them.”
Everyone else sat too. The boy took another swig of water before answering. “They came out of the west first thing one morning. They came fast, so fast they kicked up a sandstorm that hid most of them from sight. I still don’t know how many attacked. It had to be at least fifty. Even more came later.”
Arner said thoughtfully, “The first group must have been a scout detail to test the town’s defenses. They’re organized.”
Leo nodded. “That could be. Jon, where were you when this started?”
“School. Our teachers and the other kids went to the hidey hole in the basement, but I was scared for my folks, so I lit out to find them.”
Carli spoke carefully. “I take it you didn’t.”
“No ma’am. I couldn’t get anywhere near where they were supposed to be. My mom was at the greenhouse, right there off the west gate where the monsters came in. My dad was in the middle of town, working on the water system. All that was already overrun.”
“Then you came here to hide?”
“I snuck out the east gate. That was before they closed it up to keep everybody trapped. I came back after dark and pulled up a bit of the fence to slip in.”
Carli realized they had used Jon’s entrance to get into the town. “Why didn’t you come to Freetown for help?”
He looked at her with surprise. “My mom and dad are still here. If I can find them, maybe I can show them how to get out.”
Jon was still child enough to hold out hope for parents most assuredly dead. Bitterness that this brave boy should be left orphaned bit at Carli.