We drove all the way around to another highway, and there was another barricade. But this time, we got sort of an answer.
"Sorry," this officer was more gruff, and she didn't act nearly as nervous as the last one. Granted, I was paying more attention this time. He might have been like that at first. "Fire all across this side. Y'all should go around another highway."
Mom sputtered, and Dad frowned pretty deeply. "What do you mean?" she snapped. "If we go around another highway, we're going hours out of our way! We already did that once!"
"Ma'am, please," the officer said, bringing a hand up to her hip. I realized this wasn't an action of nonchalance; she was resting her hand on a taser. Better than a gun, but it still made me nervous. "I don't have control over when the highways are closed. But if you really have to go several hours around, you might just stay in the city another night. I'm not sure where the whole fire is, but you can probably tell by that smoke it isn't pretty."
"We already checked out of our hotel..." Dad mumbled, knowing it was useless on the officer. Mom groaned loudly when the officer stepped away, and pulled away a little too roughly. Emily had to grab onto the window, and it was only fear of our parent's current annoyance that kept her from swearing more than "Fu-! Frick."
"I heard that, young lady," Dad said, pulling out his brochure again. But it was upside down. I think he was distracted.
I sighed and stared out the window again. Maybe Evan would know more about whatever this was, living here...
My parents made me stay inside, and they even let me take Trigger in when they saw the smoke closer after dinner. I called up Kermit, to see if he could look up what was going on online, but he'd apparently retreated to his basement lab the minute he'd gotten home. He said he would call me back once he found more out, but I knew he was going to be sucked into his latest experiment for a couple hours, so I decided not to bother, and turned on the TV.
We didn't have many channels, because of our crappy package, but we had news. There was nothing on it about the smoke, somehow. I thought I saw a clip about it start up, but it cut to commercial before I could turn up the volume. That was certainly confusing.
And a bit worrying.
I was tempted to make the excuse for going to walk Trigger to check it out, no matter how much that wouldn't work, when the phone rang. I picked up up with a distracted, "Hello?"
"EVAN!" I winced at the tinny screech of my name from the phone, pulling it away from my ear.
"What? Kermit?" I asked, confused. I was sure he wouldn't call again until way later. "Why are you yelling?"
I was still rubbing my ear when he started blabbering, stumbling and stammering on his words. "Ohmygody-youwon'tb-BELIEVEitIcanba-barelybelieveitEvanohmygodWHATISHAPPENINGthefireis-"
"Kermit. Slow down," I said, firmly. "Did you just say fire?"
"YES!" He exclaimed. "I couldn't find anything about it on the local news sites, and I checked the fire fighter's registry, it was just a tiny fire, but there's a tag trending about it, and and people say it's mostly just smoke, and, they've shut down all the roads!"
"Wait, all the roads?" I was still processing the information that yes, it was a fire, and a small one. "What do you mean?"
"I mean all the roads! No one can get out of Atlanta!" Kermit screeched. "We're under some kind of quarantine!"
Mom and Dad decided that they had to try other roads out of town, too, but the next few, even out of the way as they were, were also closed. Even Emily was off her messages, trying to find a way out through GPS.
"Ugh, all the roads have the little construction ahead symbol on them!" she complained, jabbing at her screen. "They're all closed!"
"That's impossible," Dad murmured, turning the atlas on it's side. "People can't travel if all the roads are closed. Surely there's a passing lane?"
I frowned. Dad was right; it was pretty much an impossibility for all the roads to be closed.
Except in the case of an emergency.
I was starting to get worried about Evan and his friends. They had to live here.
"Can't we just go back to the hotel?" Emily complained. I looked over to see a furrow in her brow. She almost looked worried, but... that was impossible. This was Emily.
"Honey- oh, all right," Mom said, sighing in defeat. "The number should be on my phone."
"I've got it," Emily said quickly, scrolling. I automatically rolled my eyes at her use of our data, but I knew it was for a good cause, even if it was unnecessary. And I might have developed a slight technophobia after sitting in the woods for so long.
"Yes, hello, I'd like to reserve a room- I'm perfectly calm, thank you- just- what?" Emily blinked. "What do you mean no vacancy?" Mom nearly took her eyes off the road, Dad grabbing the wheel a moment. "We were just there this morning. A whole bunch of people just checked in? I- crap. Ok. Thank you." She obviously wanted to snap her phone shut, but she'd upgraded from a flip phone to a smart phone when she turned 16. "So there's no more room."
"We heard," Dad said. He was flipping through some other brochure he'd picked up at the convention, a hotel contact and coupon thing. "I get the feeling that all the other ones are the same way."
"Why?" I asked.
"Well, it's getting dark, and there's no way out of town..." he trailed off, and I made the connection. Anyone who had just been passing through, or commuted in, was as stuck there as we were. And there had just been a whole convention...
"Yep," Emily spoke, her voice sounding like the snap of her bubblegum: casual, but sharp and sudden. "So unless we find some other place, we're sleeping in the car tonight."
There was a long silence, and Mom and Dad didn't even dispute Emily. My heart sank as I realized that keeping my secret was suddenly ten times harder; they wouldn't easily let me sleep outside the car, and it was still a full moon.
Then I thought of something. It wasn't entirely appropriate, but this was an emergency.
"Wait, I made a friend today. Maybe we could stay with him.
By the time I got off the phone, I barely had enough energy to sit up in the chair. Kermit had relayed a lot of information, like the fact that the entirety of Atlanta seemed to be closed off, for this one little fire. But that one little fire had so much smoke...
I startled as the phone started to ring again. I picked it up, wondering what Kermit had to say this time. Or if Andy had decided to check in on me, what with the ominous haze.
"Hi Evan! What's up?" a nervous voice came through the phone.
I blinked. "Sorry, who is this?" I asked. I was really bad at identifying voices over the phone, and I said so.
"Oh! Crap, sorry... It's Grady!"
I blinked. "Oh!" I jumped in my seat a little bit, excited. "Cool! Hi!" Then I paused, suddenly suspicious. "Wait, how'd you get this number?"
"Um, you're in the phonebook..." He sounded apologetic, at least. "Sorry. I just remembered your last name, and my dad is a bit obsessive about collecting information."
"They're free to take!" I heard a fainter voice, similar to Grady's, call from the phone.
I had to laugh at that. "All right, that's less stalkery than I thought. But what's up? Could you not wait until you sent that email?" I teased.
"Well..." He sounded nervous again. Somehow, slightly different from how he had. I just wasn't sure how. "I know this is last notice, and a bit weird, but... all the roads are closed."
"Oh! Yeah, I heard!" I interrupted, practically bouncing in my seat. "My cousin called and told me!" I was still a bit scared; what Kermit told me had me a little shaken.
"Oh! Good." There was a pause. "Well, not good, I mean good that your cousin-"
"It's fine," I laughed. I fidgeted with the cord as an awkward silence struck. "So, um, you were saying?"
"Oh! Right! Emily, stop poking me- Um, anyway, all the hotels are full tonight. Do you- know anyplace that could put me and my family up tonight?"
I paused, and thought about it. I didn't know the hotels that well, since I'd only moved here a couple years ago. And I didn't exactly have a need to know spaces I could sleep when the hotels were full, except that the school roof is not sturdy enough to sleep on when you've grown nearly twenty feet.
The phone crackled. "Evan?"
"Sorry, I was thinking," I replied, still fidgeting with the phone cord. "I can't think of anyplace that would be open, but..." I had to think about this. I had to actually ask my parents first. I had to say it. "My house has a couple guest bedrooms. I really should ask my parents, but since it's kind of an emergency, I think they'd understand."
"That's great!" I could practically hear the grin in Grady's voice. "Alright, I'll tell them that. My family, I mean."
"You do that. I'll talk to my parents as soon as I can." I grinned. Maybe Grady and his family could be the distraction I needed to get out of the house... I was thinking of going back out to try and find Anubis. Something about this phone call reminded me of him.
"Great, thank you. Call me back when you talk to them!"
I murmured something like goodbye, and then I heard the almost more than silent click of the phone being hung up. I smiled, and put the receiver back on its cradle.
Trigger nudged up to my knee, startling me. I absentmindedly petted him. "Hey, Trigger," I said to him, "Want to go on an adventure tonight?"
A/N: Hope you enjoyed the longer story this time! ^v^ I've been pretty excited about this story lately, so hopefully I will be able to finish it sometime in the next year or so :D I have plaaaans~ they're gonna take a lot of time~