“Caitlin was talking to somebody in a pickup,” Little Ben was telling Big Ben — or rather, his camera. “I was afraid she would get in, so I hit her with the soccer ball. She picked it up and threw it back, and that’s when I woke up.” Little Ben went back to his lunch.
“That’s… eerie,” Jennifer said, and Big Ben turned the camera on her. “Caitlin said she had the exact same dream last night! What the hell is going on?”
“Beats me,” Ben said, putting the camera down. “But a lot of people had some kind of dream about the trucks last night. Did you?”
“I might have.” Jennifer paused, scratched her head, looked at her fingers. “Damn, I hate not being able to wash my hair every night. My scalp itches. I think I had a dream, but I don’t remember it.”
“Several people had similar — or identical — dreams last night.”
“I guess the trucks are all on our minds more than we think. It stands to reason, I guess — they took away almost everyone we knew and cared about.” Jennifer raised her mug and slurped. “Who made the soup? This didn’t come out of a can!”
“Some of it did,” someone said from the next table over. “Miss Sally put it together. All of it came out of cans, but she made it soup. Max made the rolls, they’re pretty good too.”
Kelly dropped into a chair across from Cody and Sondra, surprising them both. “Hey,” Kelly said, then slurped some soup from her mug. “Hm, that’s pretty good.”
Sondra glanced at Cody, looking at his mug as if trying to decide if he wanted it, then back at Kelly. She felt a flash of annoyance at the intrusion. Kelly looked much like any young woman these days: dressed in a sweater and jeans, but just a little tight instead of comfortable and slightly loose-fitting, showing off her body to best effect. Sondra wasn’t nearly as well-endowed… not that Cody seems to mind, she thought, and almost smiled. Like Sondra’s, Kelly’s hair was slightly greasy and pulled back in a ponytail. Nobody under forty bothered with makeup these days, but Sondra had to admit that Kelly looked good without it — and everyone was getting toned, walking or bicycling everywhere and gathering food and firewood and other items against the coming winter. Still, Kelly was pretty in a way Sondra never would be. But looks aren’t everything, are they? she found herself thinking. You thought you could slag him off until you were ready to own him… you snooze, you lose.
“You heard, right?” Kelly asked. Cody looked up at Kelly, but she was looking at Sondra.
“The dreams?” Sondra felt a chill, and her right arm tingled for a moment.
“Yeah. So was I in your dream last night, or were you in mine?”
Cody: “What was your dream about?”
Kelly scowled. “I was riding fifth wheel on your honeymoon trip, God knows why, and your car started turning into a pickup. You and Sondra jumped out, and I was trying to get out before my door disappeared or the damn truck crashed.”
“Yeah, that was my dream, too,” Cody said, returning his attention to his soup mug. He lifted it, took a sip. “But I didn’t know if you guys got away. Maybe it was your dream, if you saw that and I didn’t.”
“So why didn’t I dream it?” Sondra asked, scowling at Cody too. “Maybe I’m the fifth wheel here.”
“I don’t think it was our dream,” Cody said, concentrating on the mug. “If it was just the two of us, I’d say yeah — but a bunch of people had dreams. Not everybody… or maybe they did and don’t remember. I heard a couple people say they dreamed something, but can’t recall it.”
“So whose dream was it?” Kelly asked. Both of them dropped the scowls.
Cody looked at each of them, holding his soup mug in front of his face as if hiding. He finally took a sip and put it down. “It came from the trucks, obviously,” he said, his post-Truckalypse confidence returning. “Or whatever sent the damn things.”
“What do they care? Or it?” Sondra asked.
“Hell, I don’t know. And if I ever met the SOB, I’d be too busy trying to kill it to ask.” Cody tore into the corner of his sandwich and talked around it. “Maybe we’re unfinished business. The fish that got away, 'cause we were swimming against the current.”
Kelly gave him a curious look. “Huh. I thought you liked it this way, and you’d kill the truck maker?”
Cody stammered, “I— they— hell yeah, I’d kill it. I’m glad the preps and jocks are gone, but not everyone who drove off was them. My sister… the kids remind me of her, she was about their age. She would’ve liked them. I want her back, but I don’t think anyone who got in a truck is ever coming back — I don’t know that for sure, it’s just a gut feeling. But I’d jump in one of those fucking things myself if I thought it would bring her back.” He wiped his eyes and paused a moment. “Thing is, I don’t think we can rescue anyone. All we can do is get rid of the trucks. And maybe get some payback on whatever sent ’em.”
“How do you figure we can do that?” Cleve asked. The three teens jumped; they had gathered an audience unawares.
“What, just because I wear black and have long hair, I’m automatically the authority on All Things Evil?” Cody mock-sniped at Cleve, and grinned. “You still profiling?”
Cleve laughed, as did several others. “Busted the cop! But seriously, do you have any idea how we can fight those things?”
“Not yet. Maybe if we knew more about them — about what happens to people who drive off — we’ll be able to figure out what to do next.”
“Yeah. So what’s the next step?”
Cody took a deep breath. “You know what? I think I have an idea.”