Zack loved the city. It was vibrant, exciting, connected, everything suburban life was not. All his teenage years he had loathed the endless strip malls, the endless rows of houses that all looked alike. The stores were all the same, as were the churches, the gas stations, even all the crap you could buy.
The city was different. There were things you could find in the city that you never saw in suburbia. People dared to dress differently, to act and think differently, even to eat and drink differently. Hell, even the drugs and the crime were different.
He loved the pungent smell of the polluted air, the fact that the seasons themselves were shoved to the periphery of one's awareness, the crush of people who didn't get along, whose worlds continually collided and showed up one another's qualities and weaknesses, their genuine niceness and their underlying frailty and futility. City cruelty and insensitivity made him laugh on the outside, even while he cringed and died a little on the inside.
He picked out a newspaper from a row of mechanical newspaper boxes, which stood like a defiant anachronism in this day and age of electronic media, walked half a block to his favourite coffee shop, bought himself a regular-size cup of regular coffee with a regular amount of milk and sugar, picked a window stool, and went to work on the anagrams, the crossword puzzle, the cryptoquip, the only parts of the paper that really interested him.
People-watching was a favourite pastime; the young office women with prematurely aged faces and hands, the retired old characters with nothing better to do than seek out one another's company and bullshit loudly and profanely, the groups of nearly-retired old ladies who sat apart from the old men but listened to every word, to the worried-looking former young punks with cigarette-stained fingers who for the first time were seriously looking for work, who waited watchfully and impatiently for people like himself to part with their paper so they could rip apart the want-ads.
And then there was that girl- if he could ever find out what the hell her name was! She came in about this time every day, along with her office-buddies. He tried not to make eye contact with her too much, not wanting to put her off, but listening carefully to every word, hoping that this would be the time that someone would drop her name.
She was not his normal type. Far from it. Sure, she was pretty, and well-proportioned, but kept it well-hidden inside a work-suit with padded shoulders and knee-length skirt that didn't reveal much, if anything, and a little hat-thing that managed to hide most of her done-up dark-brown hair. She didn't stand out in any way, and Zack was certain she wanted it that way. She even wore dark stockings that somehow made her legs nearly invisible.
Today she was with her blonde friend, an older woman in her thirties, who wore a light-blue power-suit with big buttons and hat-thing that showed off her tumbles of carefully coiffed hair. As always, she managed to catch Zack's eye and shut him down, saying something to her companion that caused both girls to laugh.
Sighing, Zack turned his attention back to the cryptoquip. Here we go. Today's clue: K = V. H'm . . . there weren't bloody many v's to be had. Someone's fit of coughing caused him to recoil. Geeze, put a sock in it! Someone made an alarmed sound, then, and he looked up. It turned out to be the blonde friend, who was staring in shock at some blood she'd coughed up on a napkin.
The scene suddenly came sharply into focus, even as it seemed to turn itself upside-down. There was a hole in the window, directly behind her, and a red dot of blood forming on the front of her suit-
Without understanding how it had happened, Zack found himself standing frozen beside the two women, about to pull the woman in blue away from the window, when two more holes appeared, and red sprayed from where the top of her face had been. Everything seemed to be made of tiny snippets of scene that moved in slow-motion. One instant he was reaching for the woman in blue, the next he had pulled the girl whose name he didn't know to the floor, below the level of the floor-to-ceiling's window. Instead of screaming, she was making a strange whooping sound, as though she were trying to catch her breath.
And then she was screaming, trying to reach out for her friend, who had collapsed awkwardly, face downwards, as though kneeling on the floor like a broken doll. The bottom of her face was untouched, but her eyes upward was a ruin of brains, skull and pulp.
It had seemed that it was silent until that moment. Instantly, everything was riot and confusion punctuated by the ululation of sirens, screams that sounded as though vocal chords were shredding, people yelling, running, dragging, ducking for cover.
Shots began ringing out. Again the windows were hit. There was the sound of footfalls from just outside. Something came crashing through the window, spraying them with safety-glass.
Once again, Zack found himself moving, dragging the girl away from the window and towards the back of the restaurant, checking her at a glace to see if she'd been hit, through the employee doors and through the startled people in white kitchen outfits-
And then they were in the back alley, and it was quiet, although the sounds of sirens and gunfire could still be heard.
'Nguh . . . what's happening? What's going on? We have to go back and get Sabrina!'
Zack stared at her incredulously. 'Didn't you see what happened? Your friend is dead back there!'
She seemed stunned, and stared at him as though unable to make sense of what she saw. 'Who the hell are you? What just happened?'
'I'm . . . my name is Zack,' he told her. 'We were just sitting there in the restaurant, and someone started shooting at us-'
There were several loud bangs that sounded like they came from down the alley. They ducked behind a garbage bin, trying to see where they were coming from.
'This has to be some kind of gang fight,' Zack said, trying to make sense of it. 'We've got to try and get out of this area.'
'I work upstairs, here,' the girl told him. 'The front entrance is right beside the coffee shop. I don't think it's safe to go out there.'
'My work is just up the block,' he told her. 'There's a back entrance just up the alley and across the street-'
They stopped talking and froze as they heard footsteps and voices approaching.
' . . . the call's gone out, bro! I heard it on my cell! They shot a bunch a cops over on forty-ninth. They're headin' up to the hill to do some free shoppin', ya know what I'm sayin'?'
They watched, hunkered down in the darkness, as a group of youths, at least one of them brandishing a handgun, walked right past them, and out of sight again.
'Yeah . . . let's get the hell out of here, and into a building where it's safe. My building's got armed security.' Then, 'What's your name, by the way?'
Her responding look was guarded. 'Karen.'
Karen, he thought to himself. No last name. Fine.
As they reached the end of the alley, Karen seemed to be thinking about taking her chances on her own, until a sound like fireworks sent them scurrying across the street, and down into the next alley.
'Geeze, did you see that?' he asked her as they began walking brusquely towards the back entrance of his building. 'It looked like a damned war-zone, windows busted, bodies everywhere! What the hell is going on?'
'Maybe it's terrorists?' she offered. 'Maybe we're under attack? Or maybe it's a bunch of gangs letting loose. Who cares! Let's just get the hell out of the line of fire!'
When the doorbell wasn't answered on the third try, Zack began pounding on the door and yelling at the camera. 'C'mon, Jimmy! Open the fucking door! There's people shooting at us out here!'
At last the lock buzzed as the automatic opener was pressed by someone on the inside of the building, Zack and Karen pulled open the heavy fire door, and the noise and riot and mayhem seemed shut out behind them.
'Geeze, Jimmy, what the hell is going on?' Zack asked as he and Karen emerged from the hallway leading from the back entrance and entered the building's foyer. Jimmy was a big ex-cop, an imposing-looking black man in white uniform and security-guard cap. Besides his usual holstered gun, Jimmy was holding a pump-action shotgun.
'Haven't you heard? Everything's going to shit out there!' Jimmy told him. 'I been listening to it on the news. C'mere and have a listen!' He turned on his desk radio.
" . . . -lice efforts are hampered because several city blocks are on fire. I repeat, people are being asked to stay indoors and to barricade themselves inside if at all possible. If not, people are being asked to seek the safety of law enforcement officials and National Guard members. It's not known at this time if . . . "
'It's like this on every station,' Jimmy told them.
'When did it start?' Karen asked him. 'I was just sitting having coffee with my friend a few minutes ago- '
'That's when it started,' Jimmy told her. 'First the phones went out-'
Zack and Karen exchanged a look, pulled out their cells. Both were dead.
'Geeze, I didn't even think about mine,' Zack said faintly. 'You're saying they've been dead all this time?'
'That's what I'm saying,' Jimmy told them. 'I think that's what was at the start of it all. First the phones went out, then all hell broke loose.'
'Well . . . who's doing all the shooting?'
'Damned if I know,' Jimmy said helplessly. 'I thought at first it was just kids. Kids and gangs. But then I saw a couple pickup trucks full of crackers, militia types. Then I saw cars full of black gangs. Latino gangs. Hispanic gangs. Older guys, mostly. If I had to guess, I'd say they had this all planned.'
Zack shook his head. 'But where the hell are all the cops? We heard some gang members walking down the alley bragging that someone had shot a bunch of cops. But there's a helluva lot more cops than gang-members! And what about the National Guard? Did everyone get caught with their pants down? Or is there more going on we don't know about?'
'I was just about to lock up and go up on the roof, see if I can't find some answers up there,' Jimmy told him. 'You started buzzing just as I was getting on the elevator-'
There was sudden darkness and silence as the power went off.
Jimmy sighed. 'Well, shit!' He shrugged. 'On the other hand, maybe you saved me from getting stuck on the elevator. Hope you two kids got your walking shoes on.'
As they shoved open the door to the rooftop, it was yanked from their grasp by a seemingly incongruous wind, that the city had previously sheltered them from.
'Oh my fucking God!' Jimmy breathed as they took in the scene from horizon to horizon to horizon to horizon. 'Every fucking thing's on fire! And I somehow gotta get through that to my wife!'
'This has to be a war or something,' Karen said, her features suffused. 'There's got to be terrorists involved. Maybe working with the gangs.'
'My apartment's over there,' Zack said, feeling sick. 'Looks like every building over there's on fire.'
'Mine too,' Karen echoed faintly. 'I hope all my friends managed to get out of there- '
There was a sound like a snap. Instantly, Jimmy grabbed his cheek. His hand came away bloody. 'Jesus fuck!'
They ducked reflexively as another bullet ricocheted off the cinder-block stairwell-head behind them. Atop another building, cater-cornered and across the street, was a man holding a rifle. When he saw Jimmy raise his shotgun, he ducked behind the elevator enclosure. Jimmy let off a shot just as the man stuck his face out. He withdrew, screaming and cursing.
'Motherfucker!' Jimmy yelled. 'Stick your ugly-ass face out here again so I can blow it off!'
'Let's get out of here!' Zack urged in a low voice. 'You don't have enough ammunition to take out every idiot out here.'
Jimmy took a fresh look at the younger man. 'You have any idea how to use a firearm?'
Zack made a face. 'Kinda, sorta? I know the basics, but that's all.'
'What about you, young lady?'
They turned as one as the would-be sniper let out an agonised yell, waited to see if he would try shooting at them again, but nothing more came to their ears except angry sobs and curses.
'My granddad taught me to shoot a rifle,' she said, not taking her eyes off the sniper's roof.
Jimmy raised an eyebrow, handed Zack his sidearm and belt. 'Then let's get you a rifle.'
They made their way down the staircase in silence, went to the front entrance, which was windowless, Jimmy pulled out his key-ring, they were out on the street, and he carefully locked the door behind them.
'It's a secure building,' he told them. 'Pretty much fire-proof. We may have need of it again.'
They made their way across the street with alacrity, went the short half-block to their right, right again, then ducked into the alley, intending to reach the sniper's building from the rear. When they reached the building in question, they found the back door held open by a milk crate. Just inside lay a security guard in a pool of blood, an old Caucasian man with a white beard. His gun-holster was empty.
'Oh, Chris!' Jimmy moaned under his breath. 'Goddammit! We been friends since we both retired.' Jimmy retrieved the old man's wallet. 'Just in case no one's around to identify him, or give him a proper burial,' he explained.
They took their time ascending the stairs, listening carefully, moving as silently as possible, watching for any sign of the sniper. When they reached the roof, Jimmy paused with his hand on the door-bar. 'You'd best get that side-arm ready,' he said to Zack. 'Shoot if you see trouble. You ready?'
Zack took a deep breath, trying to calm his fear and his rattled nerves. 'No. But let's get it over with anyway.'
Jimmy took the door's mechanism in an iron grip, eased it open, and managed to do it silently. They bobbed from side to side, looking through the narrow opening, saw no sign of the sniper. And then, they heard something, what sounded like a moan, possibly from around the corner.
He didn't look like much- just an average guy, dressed all in denim with work boots. He lay on his side, the hand underneath clutching his rifle, his other hand clutching his face. His eyes seemed swollen shut, a mass of bruises and blood.
Jimmy moved carefully around and behind him, reached down and pulled out his wallet, lay the shotgun across his knees as he knelt down, and took at look at the sniper's i.d.
'Michael Edward Vickers. You're a long way from home, Michael Edward Vickers. What the hell brings you all the way out here from Indiana? Says here you're from one of those militia groups. Who sent you here, Mr Vickers?'
'Fuck . . . you . . .' the sniper tried to say through his shattered jaw. He tried to shift the rifle, but the click of Zack's sidearm pressed to his temple stopped him. Jimmy relieved the man of his rifle, handed it to Karen, opened the man's jacket, relieved him of several boxes of ammunition, passed those off as well. He finished by taking the sniper's wallet and tossing it at the man's chest. They were about to leave, when Zack thought to go through the sniper's pockets and retrieved something.
'Keys,' Zack said as they began making their way back down the stairs. 'Guy looks like a Cracker, so I'll bet he drives a pickup truck.'
They found the truck parked near to the doorway. In the back was a big dog, possibly part German shepherd. It barked as they approached, but allowed Karen to pat its head, tongue lolling in doggy greeting. There were blankets in the back for the dog, a tool box, a spare tire, tire iron and jack, and nothing else.
Inside the cab they found a pistol under the driver's seat and more boxes of ammunition inside the glove box.
'Now listen to me,' Jimmy said as he took the driver's seat and engaged the starter. Karen got in the middle, and Zack sat on the passenger side and rolled down the window. 'I'm going to try to get us the hell out of here, and I'm going to drive hard and fast. I don't intend to stop for any reason, unless this piece of junk gets so shot up it can't move. If that happens, we run for it. Anyone have to pee, get out and do it now, because once we get going, I ain't stopping.'
Karen and Zack both unconsciously drew deep breaths and let them out slowly. Karen turned around on the seat, on her knees, opened up the sliding windows, and pointed the rifle out the back. 'I'm ready whenever you are.'
Zack held up his gun to show he was ready.
'All right. Here goes nothing.'
Jimmy didn't gun the engine, as they were expecting. He started off carefully, keeping his head down, looking for any sign of trouble. They exited the alleyway and turned left into the street and sunshine.
The street was empty of vehicles with drivers, but there were plenty both parked and crashed to either side. The sound of gunfire had long since receded, and for several moments they thought it would be clear sailing ahead.
But as they passed a side-street, there came a loud shot, then another, the second shot striking the truck somewhere. Jimmy stomped on the accelerator, even as Zack and Karen returned fire. They weren't able to hit anything from the moving vehicle, but the sound of gunfire seemed to be enough to make the shooters run for cover.
Within minutes they were barrelling down a major arterial route, eventually reaching a turnpike, and then a highway leading out of town. 'Everyone okay?' Jimmy asked.
'I think we're okay,' Karen breathed in relief.
'Yeah . . . nope,' Zack said in a tight voice. 'I think I took one in the arm. Shit! It's starting to hurt like a sonfabitch. No, don't pull over! It's not bleeding much. Let's just worry about getting out of here.'
Karen got him to turn enough that she could check out his arm, then seconded his opinion. 'He's right- it was something small-calibre. Probably a .22. How far to your place?'
'Fifteen or so,' Jimmy told her. 'Well, looky here! I never thought I'd be glad to see flashing lights up ahead!'
'Those look like army trucks,' Zack grated. 'Jesus fuck! I think I'm going to pass out.'
'Just hang on, kid,' Jimmy said reassuringly. 'I'm sure these guys will have a medic.'
Seemingly without transition, Zack found himself in a stuffy little livingroom in an old house, stretched out on a sofa, looking up at the ceiling.
'Um . . . hello?'
He heard the creak of floorboards as Jimmy came from another room bearing a plate of food and a glass of water. 'S'bout time you woke up! How 'bout some mashed potatoes and meatloaf?'
Zack painfully levered himself into a sitting position as Jimmy placed plate and glass on the coffee table. 'Man! I feel like I've been beaten half to death! Geeze, that smells good!' He took a look around. 'This your house? Is everyone okay?'
'It's quiet out,' Jimmy said meaningly. 'Too damned quiet. We don't quite know what's going on out there yet, but they got the neighbourhood locked down, with barricades up all over the place. Your girlfriend's out there helping keep watch.'
'Girlfriend?' Zack blurted, then remembered. 'Oh, that girl? Karen? I only just met her today, in the coffee shop, when all this started.'
Jimmy seemed surprised. 'The way you two were acting, I just took it for granted. Huh. Well, there goes the sleeping arrangements.'
Zack reddened. 'Yeah . . . that would have been a bit awkward.'
'Eat that before it gets cold,' Jimmy ordered as he headed back to the kitchen. 'You might want to join us after, hear what there is to hear.'
Zack found Jimmy in the kitchen with his wife, Arlene. There were extra plates and cups on the table, so evidently others had been there and left.
'Our son and his wife and kids live next door,' Jimmy explained. 'Some friends of theirs just came over to stay while this is going on, and the guys have gone out to man the barricades.'
'Is it still quiet out there?' Zack asked.
Arlene poured him a cup of coffee, offered him milk and sugar. 'Oh, it's quiet,' she said. 'It's quiet like someone's about to do something, and whatever that something is, it isn't going to be good.'
They listened as Jimmy switched the radio back on.
" . . . -sening violence and indiscriminate killing. The Governor has issued a state of emergency, but city officials say the situation has deteriorated to the point where mass evacuations are the only course of action available to them. Mass coordinated arson attacks have overwhelmed first-responders to the point that getting in and out of affected areas is no longer possible.
'Police are as yet unable to uncover a possible motive for the waves of violence which seem to have started spontaneously and are spreading like wildfire. Despite having made hundreds of arrests so far, no clear picture is emerging as to a possible motive for this mass explosion of civil unrest . . . "
Zack stared, unable to comprehend what he was hearing. 'What the hell is going on? It sounds like she's saying that the damned wheels just fell off or something.'
Arlene gave him a look. 'Yes, that does sound pretty much like what they've all been saying on the radio. And it's not just here. It's everywhere.'
Zack shoot his head, faintly. 'What do mean, "everywhere"?'
'It's not just here, Zack,' Jimmy told him. 'Apparently this is happening right across the country.'
'I think they said it's started in Europe, too,' Arlene said.
'They said as soon as the news reached Europe,' Jimmy said, 'things just went nuts over there, too.'
Zack felt faint a moment. And then, 'Sorry, I'm forgetting my manners! I haven't had meatloaf and mashed potatoes and gravy since I lived at home! That was really good.'
Arlene laughed, a throaty chuckle, and started clearing the dishes. 'Well aren't you easy to please! See, Jimmy? Not all them young white boys is useless punks what needs a whuppin'!'
For a moment, Jimmy looked like his mouth was stuck. But Zack laughed. 'Yeah . . . you just described half the guys I went to school with.'
'It's the black kids too,' Jimmy griped. 'Hell, it's kids, period . . .'
He and Zack shared a look.
'Now why are you two looking at each other like that?' Arlene demanded.
'It's kids,' Zack said, frowning. 'Not all of them, not by a long stretch. But most of the ones we saw . . . it was mostly young guys with guns. Young guys of all races, all nationalities, all . . . everything. But- that can't be right! They're not coordinated enough to pull something like this off. I mean, what'd they do? Cut all the power to cell traffic? That would take some kind of skill.'
Jimmy huffed. 'Really? Haven't you ever taken a look at a cell tower? There's nothing to them, much. Just a few cables running up each tower, right out there in the open. Wouldn't take much to jump a chain-link fence and cut 'em. You could do each one in just a few seconds. And that mass arson they've been talking about on the radio? Any idiot can start a fire. Just think what kind of damage a thousand idiots could do.'
They were interrupted as the back door opened, they heard Kathy's voice saying goodbye to someone, and she entered.
Zack stared. She was wearing what were obviously borrowed clothes- pants, socks, shoes, a shirt and sweater. Her hair was down. She unslung the rifle and set it in the corner behind the door.
'Hey! You're finally up!' she smiled.
'Um . . . yeah,' he muttered, trying to think of something to say. And then, 'What's happening out there?'
She gave Jimmy a look, then came and joined them at the table. 'There's no movement around here, but something's going on further out.' To the question in everyone's eyes, she said, 'I heard it started off as armed gangs, but then they changed tactics, gathering stuff instead of just looting and burning. Apparently they're starting to dig themselves in.'
'Dig themselves in for what?' Zack asked her.
She shrugged. 'From the way everyone's talking, they don't even know themselves. They're just making it up as they go.'
Zack sighed, thinking. 'Well . . . once the army gets mobilised, they're going to be sorry they ever started this . . . whatever it is.'
'The authorities are calling it "mass civil unrest",' she said. 'But the crazies are calling it "Helter Skelter".'
'Helter Skelter!' Jimmy said dismissively. 'This is not what Charles Manson had in mind, back when he predicted America would explode into some kind of race-war.'
'They probably don't even know what it means, or where the term came from,' Zack said tiredly. 'It's probably the first thing that came into their empty heads.'
They started as they heard the sound of running feet coming up the back steps, followed by a frantic knocking at the door. 'Jimmy? Arlene? Turn on your radio! And either turn out your lights or cover up your windows!' The feet quickly receded again.
Arlene began turning off lights as Jimmy switched on the radio. She lit a candle, placed it on the table, then set to closing the curtains on all the windows.
" . . . bombs and other improvised explosive devices. The army was forced to withdraw in order to prevent any further civilian casualties. The death-toll continues to rise as the insurgents take more hostages and continue to kill people indiscriminately, especially the old and the infirm, who appear to be their favourite targets- "
As they listened, it became clear to all of them that this was not a problem that would be solved in short order by the army.
There came a faint sound, then- the unmistakable crack of gunfire.
'Got another rifle?' Zack asked Jimmy.
'You are in no shape to go out there toting a gun,' the older man told him.
'There may not be a choice,' Zack said. 'We may have to start fighting, no matter what kind of shape we're in.'
'I'll keep an eye on him,' Karen said.
'You'll be shooting left-handed,' Jimmy told him, handing him the shotgun and a box of shells. He went upstairs, came back with a hunting rifle, fumbling boxes of ammunition into the pockets of a hunting jacket. He helped Zack into an older jacket and helped him with the ammunition. 'Okay . . . let's go see what we can see.'
The barricade was not what Zack was expecting. He was expecting to see overturned wagons and boxes at an intersection, like in the movies. Instead, the street was blocked with formidable-looking steel pylons that had been driven deep into the ground. The barricades were actually low stone walls fortified with brick, stone, and cinder-blocks. The gunfire sounded like it was several blocks away. The streetlights had been turned off somehow; the houses were all dark. With every sound of gunfire came faint flashes of light.
'Don't do that!' Jimmy said, pushing Zack's head down. 'Use your ears, not your eyes. And don't shoot unless you hear something or someone close enough to shoot at. And be quick about it! You bob up, shoot, then duck again, right quick. Got it?' Zack nodded, mutely.
They hunkered down in the dark, thankfully laying on a bed of grass, and listened. It was so quiet that Zack's ears began to ache with the strain of not hearing anything. He was beginning to wonder if they should pack up and head back when the silence was shattered by a pair of sharp retorts. The sound seemed to echo from all around them. And then, there was the faint, unmistakable sound of booted feet, running.
As Zack watched, hand-signals were passed down the line. He had no idea what they meant, but guns were drawn, held at the ready-
There was no audible signal that he could remember, but somehow he was up on his knees, shooting over the wall. "Some redneck in a mackinaw" his brain seemed to say for him as he took down his first target. The man was running diagonally to him, took the shot full in his chest. Zack bobbed down as he'd been told, listened carefully, heard running feet, bobbed up, and froze! It was a girl, maybe eighteen years old, wearing a black leather jacket and black jeans, with dyed-black hair braided into a thick pony-tail. She was carrying a pistol with both hands, was looking straight at him-
The gunshot was very loud. The girl seemed to freeze, then collapse forward, her heels snapping upwards, only the right foot falling back down again. Then, she was gone, and he was being pushed face-first into the ground. By Karen. 'You'd better learn to be okay with shooting girls,' she whispered into his ear, 'or you're not going to last very long.'
Her breath was very warm. And then it was gone again.
There were several times during the night that Zack was sure it was over, but they kept coming in sporadic waves, until at last there was daylight, and the last of them seemed to recede back into the fading darkness.
When it was finally over, they got to their feet to inspect the carnage. The girl Karen had shot looked like a faded Goth chick. Her eyes, both a clear hazel, were open and wide. There were rivulets of dried blood at the corners of her mouth, and out both nostrils. Hers was the first dead body Zack had ever seen. He found the redneck's body next. The front of his mackinaw was blood-soaked. He appeared to have died instantly. Looking around he saw that they were gang kids, punks, street kids, misfits, high school kids, college kids . . . the older ones were a mixture, of losers, dropouts, the disenfranchised. He found Jimmy and a few other older men standing around the body of a one-legged man . . . an older man who appeared to be a veteran. He was wearing his old dog-tags.
'This was the leader?' Zack heard one of them say.
'Looks that way. Explains why they had some tactics going for them.'
'Is it over?' Zack asked them.
It seemed to take the men a moment to register his presence. At last, one of them said, 'Over? Are you kidding? Son, whatever this is, it's just getting started!'