This was certainly the longest escalator Karen had ever been on. It seemed to stretch so high into the sky that she couldn’t see the ending. Sometimes it went upwards, and sometimes it did a curve instead. But grandpa’s hand was warm as it held hers tight, and she could feel the wrinkles and smell the familiar cologne on his black suit. She looked up to him and saw the glimmer of cheer in his eyes, the slight tug of a smile on his lips, and she clutched his hand tighter as they turned another curve.
“Grandpa, where are we going?”
“You’ll find out soon, sweetie, I promise.”
He’d been saying that ever since they took the first step onto the giant silver monolith. And as the minutes ticked by she wondered if he even knew where they were going.
“Are Mommy and Daddy going to meet us up here?”
“Oh they will, don’t you worry. It may take them some time, but they’ll meet us.” The escalator took another turn and Karen leaned to look over the hand railing below. There was nobody else, not a single person was on this thing other than them. At least that’s what it felt like.
“You know, the only time I got to ride on one of these was when we went to the mall. And I haven’t seen one of those in such a long time. Mommy said they all were closed, ever since the outbreak.”
“That’s right, sweetie. It’s no longer safe for you or your mother to go there. Too many bad folks around, and we don’t want either one of you getting hurt.”
“Who are the bad folks, grandpa?”
The escalator took its time going around the next curve up, and the stairs wobbled a bit as though the track was uneven. “The bad folks are people who are always hungry. They’re driven mad because of it. Can you imagine? Eating everything you could find, but always feeling hungry?”
Karen looked down at her pink and white shoes, “That’s sounds terrible. Maybe they should see a doctor?”
Grandpa chuckled, “No, sweetie. Even the doctors are scared of them. They’re afraid that if they tried to help them, they’d get gobbled up too.” A cloudy mist was above them and Karen stood closer to Grandpa as they were steadily dragged into it.
“Do you think they’ll be up here, grandpa? The bad folks?”
“No, they can’t follow you here, honey. The bad folks live down on the ground, not up here in the clouds.”
Karen put her hand out into the damp air around them. It was warm and when she dragged her hand through it she could feel the dew drops forming on her palm. Then the escalator made its final turn up and opened out onto the large landing strip. She followed reluctantly as Grandpa showed his badge to the men with guns and stared up to the immense ship before them. Hundreds of people were waiting outside of it, leaning against luggage, catching up on sleep, or just tossing a football.
“Grandpa, I don’t see them. Where are they?”
He crouched down next to her, his knees popping from the thirty minute escalator ride. He pointed up at the shiny black glass at the very top of the ship. “They’re in there, sweetie. They’re going to take us home.”
Karen thought he’d lost his mind, “What do you mean, take us home?”
“Well, they’re going to take us to a new home. A home without those bad folks. So we can start over.”
“So we’re moving?”
“I… guess you could call it that,” he smiled.
“But couldn’t we just teach the bad folks not to be hungry? Maybe we could take them with us!”
Grandpa shook his head, and Karen could his weariness. “No, honey. We can’t. There’s no help for them.”
“But maybe we’re not trying hard enough.”
He stared at her for a moment longer before getting to his feet again and bringing over to the rest of the people waiting. He could only hope Karen would understand once she got older.
These stories are not to be reproduced in any form without my express permission.