Home > The Rains (Untitled #1)(8)

The Rains (Untitled #1)(8)
Author: Gregg Hurwitz

That whatever we’d run into hadn’t even gotten started.

I walked over and straightened out Mrs. Franklin’s dress so it covered her legs. I don’t know why it mattered to me. But it did.

Then I leaned over and threw up. Patrick eased to my side, put a hand on my shoulder. I wiped my mouth.

“Sorry,” I said. “Sorry.”

I turned back to the kids. JoJo hugged Bunny to her chest, shivering violently despite her thick sweater. “Did you find our dad?”

Patrick nodded. He didn’t say anything, but it was enough. The kids’ eyes were glazed over with shock.

I thought about my mom’s clutch purse spilling bloodstained pebbles of windshield glass. How Patrick had slept on the floor next to my bed those first days after the car crash because I kept waking up screaming.

I crouched, bringing myself to eye level with JoJo, and rested my hands on her shoulders. “Why don’t you stay with us now?” I said.

This was no time to linger on loss. We had to get safely home and start figuring out just what in the hell was going on.

She managed a nod.

Bracing myself, I tightened my grip on the baling hooks and turned for the cornfields. Something caught my eye, a dark stream against the stars.

The river of pollen was blowing directly over our house.




We moved silently through the stalks and across pastures until the distant lights of our porch were yellow blurs in the darkness. Again Patrick and I were leading the way ahead of the kids. We followed the particles floating overhead.

They looked almost like fireflies in the moonlight. I felt something twist inside my chest.

“That pollen stuff,” Patrick said. “What do you think it is?”

“Some kind of airborne … blood mist?” I shook my head. “It all sounds friggin’ nuts.”

“Maybe we’re overthinking it,” Patrick said. “It could just be how people decompose when they’re infected with whatever it is. Instead of rotting away, I mean.”

“But the wind carried it right to where we found Mrs. McCafferty.” I couldn’t bring myself to mention that it was headed for our house, too, and town beyond. “That seems like a pretty big coincidence.”

“So you’re saying people are breathing it in, getting infected by it?”

I shrugged.

“What does that?” Patrick asked. “You’re the one who pays attention in science.”

I racked my brain. “Viruses, bacteria—” I cut off abruptly, heat rushing to my face.


“Spores,” I said.


“Remember what you said about parasites and hosts?” I asked. “Well, there’s this movie that Dr. Chatterjee showed in biology. About this kind of fungus. It’s like a parasite.”

I remembered the class: Dr. Chatterjee, walking his wobbly walk up and down the aisles with his leg braces, lecturing us in his singsong accent. He’d been our family doctor for years, treating Patrick and me since we were in diapers. Eventually his multiple sclerosis made it too hard for him to hold a syringe steady, so he’d retired to teach high-school science. He had to have a helper—usually me—write for him on the dry-erase board and input grades into the computer, but he needed no assistance when it came to being a great teacher. He also worked as the town coroner. I guess his hand tremors were less of a concern when it came to dealing with dead people.

“Okay,” Patrick said. “And what does this fungus do?”

I glanced back, made sure we were out of earshot of the kids. “It attacks ants,” I said.


“It infects their brains, makes them fall out of trees. Then the infected ant—”

“The host.”

“Yeah. The host climbs the stem of the tallest plant nearby and clamps down its mandibles on the top of it. Know what it’s called? The death grip. The fungus eats the ant and then releases spores that drift all over the place and infect more ants.”

There was a pause, and I suddenly felt self-conscious for remembering this stuff. I was mostly in advanced classes, one or two grades ahead. Patrick had once told me that I seemed more at home in books than outside of them. He hadn’t meant it as an insult—he’d intended it as a compliment after I’d brought home another solid report card—but it had burned like one. I guess I still felt a touch of embarrassment talking about school stuff with him. Patrick, who was most in his element atop a horse at full gallop.

I glanced over and saw that his face wasn’t judgmental but thoughtful.

“So it makes them march to their death,” he said. “Like Mr. McCafferty.”

It struck me then that maybe some of the odd bits I remembered from stories and textbooks and documentaries might actually be useful out here in the real world. Which meant that maybe at some point I might be as useful as Patrick out here, too.

“That’s right,” I said.

“If this stuff is like that fungus, then why didn’t Mrs. McCafferty do the same thing as her husband? And the Franklins? If they were infected by some human version of that parasite or whatever, why didn’t they climb up to the highest spot they could find and … explode?”

“I don’t know. It makes no sense.” Picturing that dark shadow looming over me at the base of the water tower, I shuddered. “What was Mr. Franklin gonna do to me?”

“It was weird,” Patrick said. “He was just walking calmly, not trying to run you down. Different from his wife or Mrs. McCafferty. I saw him from the ladder. He was walking with his head angled down, like he was looking for something.”

“Without any eyes,” I said.

“That’s right. But if he did have eyes, they would’ve been pointed at the ground. You happened to land right in his path. That’s the only reason he noticed you and started to come after you. At least that’s what it looked like.”

“So the spores, maybe they affect men and women differently,” I said.

“The women try to catch people and the men walk around and look at stuff? What for?”

I shrugged. JoJo ambled forward and hugged my side, even as we kept walking. I laid an arm across her back, careful not to hurt her with the baling hook. She was murmuring to herself, what sounded like a nursery rhyme. After a few steps, she let go and drifted back with her brother.

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