They continued along the road for about a mile. He had a hard time keeping up with Ralph. Despite his age and piquant appearance, the man moved swiftly between obstacles. They weaved on and off the highway. Occasionally stopping in the ditch for a few minutes while Ralph listened to the world with a tilted neck and tightly-closed eyes. Bugs, wind, and tossed trees answered back. Ralph would eventually sigh and nod towards the road for them to continue.
“We’re getting closer and closer to the drum. If it starts while we’re out in the open, expect to stay still for the next 10 hours.” He said.
They moved again.
Eventually the woods along their left, parallel to the highway, thinned-out and a building appeared above the green bustling tops. It was whitish, black-topped, with a spike in its center. It was crossed over with more vines and flowers like the highway. Ralph dashed for it, expertly jumping over coils of undergrowth. He quickly followed him, crossing a parking lot with a minivan on its side. There were names written in chalk on the charred and rusted doors. He could understand the letters making them. He didn’t know how he had that knowledge or skill.
Ralph suddenly stopped. He looked around wildly, staring at the sky, the ground, and the forest.
“Do you hear that? Do you hear that? The drum has started.” Ralph said.
He followed Ralph’s motions slightly, listening to the air, craning his head, and pushing his tan ear to the sky.
“I, I don’t hear anything,” he said, solemnly.
“What? How could you not hear it? It is everywhere. It’s the sign they’re appearing. We need to go hide. Seriously, how could you not hear it? You must have brain damage or gotten hurt or something. You can literally hear it wherever you go. Nothing stops it.” Ralph said.
Ralph sprinted into the broken, black doors of the building tugging him along. As Ralph touched him he felt the ground swell slightly. A low siren filled his brain, like an alarm had been sounded.
The world suddenly lost color and reverted back to grays, blacks, and whites. He blinked a few times and he realized he was standing still and Ralph was still running ahead of him. There was some sort of stage up ahead with a podium on it. There were some handles and slits cut into the wood supporting it beneath. There was some sort of compartment. Eyes were staring at him. Someone suddenly screamed. It was high, long, and from the chest of a child.
How did he know that sound?
He stepped back a second. Ralph stopped and looked at him. He slowly aimed the weapon in his direction. It was a gun. He knew the right word for it now. Color returned to the room. The air stunk sweet and sour of pollen. Bits of dust tickled the evening sunlight coming through the door behind him.
“Wh-what are you?” Ralph said.