[Original Novella] The Epiphany of Mrs. Kugla, Part 4 (the finale!)

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Previous parts: 1 2 3

A screaming woman clutching a baby to her chest ran past us just outside the window. Then a man and two children. The trickle became a torrent as more and more motorists abandoned their cars. As we did the same, I spotted something visually confusing advancing on the pileup from a block or so away. A surging wall of slick black sludge, throwing out pseudopods of all shapes, grasping at the ground to pull itself ever forward.

I turned away, and ran. No sense in looking a second time. I shouldn’t have looked to begin with. Mom and Dad caught up with me and together we navigated the flickering emergency signs directing the panicked mob towards the nearest shelter. Then suddenly Mom started laughing. When I looked, she was still reading that sheet.

She searched her pockets for the vial of pills, face quickly contorting. Finding them, she fumbled, and the vial shattered against the sidewalk. Dad didn’t let me watch. Gripped my shoulder with one hand, put the other over my eyes and dragged me away. I shouted at him in confusion. Couldn’t we still help? Something could still be done.

I teared up when I heard the shrieking start. It receded into the distance and at last Dad took his hand away from my eyes. I discovered he was crying too, though his expression appeared stern and resolute. We arrived at the concrete archway with the inset metal hatch. A guard to one side examined an ID Dad produced, then admitted us.

I looked behind one last time, realizing I’d never see my home town again. Black sticky fibers spider-webbed up one side of the dome, gradually engulfing the remaining lights. Then the hatch shut, and we stood briefly in darkness. When the lights came on I discovered the shelter to be surprisingly modest. No more than a hundred could fit.

Everyone flinched when the pounding began. Muffled cries to open the hatch, from the ones who weren’t fast enough. Dad finally let himself break down. Even after everything I’d seen, this was the strangest. He’d not cried in front of me since grandpa’s funeral. A few of the other refugees near us seemed uncomfortable, but understanding. I recognized the woman who ran past the car earlier, but saw no baby with her.

Another rumbling, particles of dust showered us from the ceiling. Row after row of metal shelving packed with canned food, jugs of water, rolled up blankets and so forth broke up the room a bit like book shelves in a small library. They didn’t look load bearing, and I worried whether the shelter might collapse if a blast occurred too close.

A small brown spider hung tight on his web, stretching between two supports of the shelving unit nearest me. The jug on the shelf above must leak a bit as there were tiny droplets of water all over the web. Perhaps simply to distract myself I leaned in for a closer look and discovered in each water droplet I could see a reflection of the entire web including the other droplets, each of which contained a further reflection of the entire web includiiiiiiiaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH

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