NBA Chapter 5


Broomstick


The wooden stairs squeaked in protest as she ran down them. Things fell. Furniture moved. The sounds became clearer and clearer with each step she took. As did the muted screams. Kayla balled her fists. 

She would not freeze. She would NOT freeze. This time. No. This time, she would fight. This time she would fight and— 

The archway to the kitchen was within arms reach, she grabbed the wall, swiveled around— Her feet slid along the floor— And stopped. 

“Gah! Gyaah! Gomph—Puuu.” 

It… What… The… Her mouth fell open, the growl on her lips abruptly cut off. She gawked. The screams had come from James— Her mouth closed, replaced by a wide disbelieving grin— That much was true— And then a laugh. 

But she would never have imagined this. 

Limbs flailed in the air. James’s screams turned to splutters and puffs as some got in his mouth. Between all that, the words ‘off’, ‘it’, and ‘get’ alternated. Slam. Another chair tipped as he backed into it. And stumbled. One step, two. His hip hit the table. It screeched along the floor. James half-splayed onto it. Still. His arms moved. Patted. Swiped. Still, his mouth screamed.

Kayla had never seen anything so glorious. 

Her eyes found Bunbun’s across the room. For a brief second, she wondered if it had been his doing. Then she saw the awe in his eyes. 

No, this was purely fate. 

She watched in reverent glee as gray, semi-transparent, husks cascaded down James’s body. More. With each new movement. He seemed certain they were alive. Or perhaps there truly were live ones among the dried-up carcasses. Regardless, it trumped all their pranks. Past, present, and likely, future. Nothing could beat this. Kayla laughed, loud and wholehearted. 

It felt good. Lifted a weight she hadn’t realized she carried, brought a lightness to her chest. To her breaths. Her laugh faded to a satisfied sigh. That was when she noticed the rest of the room. 

The kitchen was an utter mess. Things were everywhere. She couldn’t tell if it had been like that before, if it was the result of his search, or if he truly had managed to hit every, single, thing, in his mad scramble to get them off— Probably a combination of all— It would be a bit impressive if he had though. 

She looked around. Tried to piece together how this came to be. And as she raked her eyes over the floor, she found the culprit. A tipped cardboard box. It laid beneath the fridge, as though it had fallen from above. A gray heap surrounded it. There was even a vague trail from it to James. 

A wince. She almost felt bad for him, almost. But not enough to keep the corner of her lips from twitching. Perhaps snacks had been hidden there once, or food, for insects had certainly gathered over the years. And all that had come down on his head. The whole nest. Her eyes were drawn back to him as James got up. She watched him dance. 

Tiny steps stopped at her side. Tara. She stood, the bot behind her, and watched, her eyes blown wide. Kayla had been so absorbed in what was happening in front of her, she hadn’t heard them come down. She gnawed her lower lip, and her eyes moved between Tara and James. She should reprimand her for disobeying, for not hiding. It’s what she should do.

She leaned over and whispered, “Karma.” 

Tara glanced up, surprised. Her eyes met Kaylas, she saw how the word gradually processed. And clicked. Tara’s lips pressed down on a grin. She looked back down, and gave a sneaky nod. 

Her reaction made Kayla grin.

The bot took in the scene in front of it, and turned around. Kayla didn’t notice it had left until it was back and stepped forth with a newly acquired broomstick. 

Her eyebrows went up. It raised the stick and walked towards James. But with each step forward, James took a step back. “Wh-what’s it doing?! Get away!” 

His voice went skrill towards the end. He grabbed the nearest weapon, a yellow vase that had escaped his stampede, so far. And held it over his head. 

Unfortunately, the action caused another wave of husks to come loose. Some tumbled into his shirt at the back of his neck. He twitched. Visibly fought to keep the vase up, to not move. Pressed his mouth shut to keep the screams in. 

Kayla lamely said, “It’s just trying to help.” 

His eyes didn’t leave the bot. He gave the smallest headshake no. Careful, restrained. As if, after all that, he was suddenly afraid to move. 

The bot tried to get closer, but stepped back when James pointedly lifted the vase higher. Perhaps it had learned from past experiences. 

James hadn’t. 

“Hiiii—“ 

The movement was miniscule, but enough to set off another wave. A shudder ran down James’s back, all the way down to the tip of his tail. Tears welled up in his eyes. And his whole body began to shake. The vase trembled in his grip. 

Kayla sighed. It had gone past funny at this point. Even SHE knew when it crossed the line. She grabbed the broom from the bot. James was still utterly ridiculous, and annoyingly stubborn— even teary he refused help from a bot— but she guessed she should have mercy on him. 

She swung the broom. It hit its target with far less patience and care than the bot would have shown. James let out a new string of sounds, some not fit for Tara’s ears. The first hit was boring. The second, decidedly less so. By the fourth hit she was actively enjoying it. It was unexpectedly amusing to hit someone with a broomstick. Even more so when that someone was James. 

🌿

Screech-Step-Screech-Step.

A white leg dragged along the walkway. And stopped. The gate hung open, crooked, off one hinge. The white paint peeled, the bottom of the wood fence stained by mud. It creaked as it was forcefully pushed aside, and the last hinge snapped. A metal foot stepped onto the cobbled path. 

A pale blue house lay at its end. 

Screech-Step-Screech-Step.

Closer, and closer. Up the dried wood porch. Joints moved and white fingers stretched out, encircled the rusted handle of the front door, and pushed down. A click. The door floated inwards and revealed the silent hallway. 

Screech-Step-Screech-Step.

It limped slowly across the floor. 

Dragged.

Screech-Step-Screech-Step.

Passed the staircase, onward. The only sound, the scraping against wood. Sunlight streamed through the archway up ahead. It turned the corner. 

And was showered with light. White. The sensors adjusted and the glare faded. The kitchen. It was alight with a soft orange glow, particles moved in the air.

Empty.

The table by the window was off-center, two of the chairs overturned on the floor. Things laid spewed about. Plates shattered, expired packages dropped. 

Screech-Step-Screech-Step.

Its slumped form grabbed the walls and pulled itself in, through the arch, a bare fit. It moved forward. Red rays swept the room. Over table, counter, and floor. Another step. Crunch. It looked down. Pressed under its foot— A mangled plastic broom. 

🌿

“Ugggghhhh…” Kayla dragged her feet behind her. 

The wind blew and rustled the green leaves in a collective hush, the dotted shadows on the road swayed with it. The smell was wonderful. 

She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and groaned even louder, “UGGGGHHHHHH…” 

James snapped around, “Oh, come oooon!” Tara nibbled on the ration in her hand and glanced between the two. He hefted her up higher in his arms and forcefully lowered his voice. It came out as a hiss, “Can you be any louder?!” 

Kayla slowed in protest, “But we’re camping out, AGAIN.”

It had been so, so, sooo long since she slept in an actual bed, and that place had been in good condition too. All nice and clean. And the bed had been sooo soft to sit on. She had almost fallen asleep right there and then. 

James scoffed and turned forward, “It can’t be helped, we made too much noise. It’s not safe.” He continued on at his original pace. 

Kayla crossed her arms and focused her gaze on the roadside ditch. Her tail swished behind her. Her ears down. He was right, she knew he was right. It was a basic rule of survival. Had she been alone, and been that loud, she wouldn’t have stayed either. Still, she couldn’t help but retort, “You mean, YOU made too much noise.” The words lost their bite as amusement bled in. 

Bunbun snorted and James threw a glare at him. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, “Well, I, for one, am happy to be out of that forsaken place.” 

A bit dramatic over a box of insects. Though, he might not have referred to the house. She swallowed back the quip and opted for silence. For a moment she forgot, fell back into old habits. A lot had happened in a mere few days. Changed. The ghost beside her was a clear testament to it; And their journey had only just begun.

The thought made Kayla frown. She wasn’t sure they could make it without Seth, on their own, but they would have to try. They had no choice but to. She looked to Bunbun who jumped eagerly ahead, to the weird bot who insisted on holding her hand, swinging it back and forth. And lastly to the still grumpy, but less so, James, and of course to Tara and her new rose patterned dress. 

Kayla hummed and glanced back over her shoulder. The city sat quaintly as it always had been. A mass of gray and green towering high over the earth. They had climbed at an incline so far, but now the road had begun to dip downwards. Soon it would be completely out of sight. She turned back ahead. 

”On to the next…” 


A/N: 

I loved writing the broomstick scene, the words just flowed out.

But, yes, now– On to the next! (chapter)


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