First Step

October 18, 1972, almost 8am

“We can’t go direct.”

Neville waved to Mavis and her red brick bungalow after he backed the white Datsun out of the driveway.

Bette sat in the passenger seat with Alice in the crook of her left arm and holding a bottle for the infant in her right hand. “We need to make sure we are not tracked.”

Neville shifted into first gear and the engine pulled them forward. “So on to where, exactly?” I found Yukon on the map and figure, direct, that would put us in Chicago then through Iowa and Nebraska.”

“We have a safe house in Gary, Indiana tonight. Not far from Chicago. Then, starting tomorrow once we are out of the big city areas we go a bit off track.”

Neville guided the car towards the highway. “Okay, no problem. Are they all like Mavis? I liked Mavis.”

Bette grinned at him. “Mavis is wonderful. She’ll put the house up for sale and be in Yukon, herself before long.”

“Wow, so this little girl is that important, is she?”

“Mavis touched her.”

Neville cocked his head, not certain how to take that. “Okay.”

Alice finished her bottle and lay her tiny hands on Bette’s shoulder as she was lifted for a burp. She quickly responded with the belch of a beer drinker.

“Does this child ever cry?” Neville asked as he turned the car on to the westbound highway.

“Of course. Right now she feels safe, though.”

The threesome traveled a few hours with small talk and the occasional infant coo. The day was unseasonably warm for late October. The leaves along the side of the highway had begun to change colors and flapped in the slight breeze. The sky was bright blue and nearly cloudless. Their trek took them through Cleveland, Ohio without stopping. A gas and lunch stop was declared in Toledo, Ohio.

Neville filled the car and enjoyed the warm breeze in his gray tee shirt and black slacks. His short blonde hair was like a helmet from the sweat of spending the day under the windshield acting as a magnifying glass for the sunlight.

Bette got out of the car and laid the sleeping infant in her basket on the back seat. “I need the washroom, so I’ll pay and get us something inside.”

“Go ahead. Need a pit stop myself, but after you.” He lowered himself back into the driver seat, but left his feet out on the asphalt.

Bette had her brunette hair in a long pony tail. She had jeans and a white tee shirt. The woman was in excellent shape on her petite frame.

Neville enjoyed the view watching her walk up to the store entrance. “If only,” he whispered.

Alice coughed once and began to cry.

Neville waited a moment, looking at the baby that was now thrashing under her blankets. He got up and walked around to her. Opening the back door, he leaned over her and stroked her cheek. “What can I do, darlin’?” He felt fear and confusion wash over him.

Immediately, Alice stopped crying and her eyes met his.

Neville felt calmness return and then a thought went through his head. Warm. He pulled the blanket down and left Alice in just her white jumper.

Alice cooed at him and bubbles formed at her lips. She reached out with both hands and grasped his right thumb.

Neville felt happiness suddenly bubble through him. He also felt safe. He played with Alice and his fingers and was soon giggling.

“Did you touch her?” Bette’s voice was close behind him.

Neville turned around, and felt even more happiness wash over him. “She was crying, and…”

Bette was smiling. “Now you’re stuck with us.” She had a large bag of potato chips and two bottles of soda in her arms. “You’ve felt it, haven’t you?”

“Felt what?” Neville turned back and saw Alice’s eyes were passing between Bette and himself. His heart warmed as her eyes moved. “Wait, you mean she is controlling how I feel?”

Bette nodded. “She’s evolved.”

Alice released his thumb and the feelings softened, but did not vanish.

“Wow,” Neville whispered and looked at his own hands.

Bette took over driving. As they pulled out of the gas station, she gave some explanation. “Alice is the next evolution of humanity. Being she is the first we have saved, we are not completely sure what she can do. The empathic control is all I know, so far.”

“She’s fucking empathic?”

Bette nodded.

“What does empathic mean?”

Bette laughed. “It means she can sense your feelings. Not sure on specifics, though.”

Neville sat quietly for a moment. “She sent me a thought, too.”

“We won’t know until she has language, but I think she is telepathic as well.”

The drove in silence for awhile before finally opening the chips and sodas.

They arrived at a group of cottages just outside of Gary, Indiana as the sun dipped below the horizon. The cottages were a small motel hidden amongst trees just off the highway.

A tall black man met them at the door to the office. He had a very short afro of hair and large chocolate brown eyes.

“Tony!” Bette screamed and threw her arms around the giant. She barely came up to his ribs in height.

Neville, who was six foot himself looked up at the man. Neville clutched Alice who, once again, played with his fingers. He felt calmness and wonder surging through him as she did. He also felt a tinge of fear as the child got sight of Tony.

“Tony, this is Neville. Neville, Tony.”

Tony nodded, “Hi, Neville.” His voice was the lowest bass Neville had ever heard. He stepped toward Neville and offered his finger to the child. “This must be the child.”

Alice grasped Tony’s finger gently at first. Then with more force.

Neville felt her joy and relief as she now trusted Tony. “We call her Alice.”

Tony slipped his arm under the child and lifted her from Neville. “Welcome, Princess Alice. You and ole’ Tony are gonna have a good time while your parents rest. Is that okay?” His eyes lit up. “Yes, this will be perfect.”

Bette stepped back from the giant.

Tony’s eyes moved from the baby to Bette and Neville. “No problems?”

Bette shrugged. “Not yet. Hopefully not ever.”

Tony held the child with his left arm. With his right he fished a key from his pocket. Handing it to Neville he explained, “I wish I could give you separate rooms, but one of my employees did not do as instructed. We were to keep two rooms open.” He glanced at Neville specifically. “My apologies, but the sofa is actually pretty comfortable.”.

“Thank you,” Neville answered. “Anything will do.”

Tony’s eyes shifted to Bette. “How long?”

“We will stay here two nights and then on our way.”

Tony nodded. “Good. There is a pool out back of the third cottage if you like. Otherwise bath water will be warm. I’ll leave breakfast on your stoop at about six.”

Neville thanked him again and turned to go rest his sore body.

“Hope you don’t mind, but Princess Alice and I are going to have a party.” He turned his face back to the infant. “Aren’t we? Oh yes we will.”

Alice released his finger and her little right hand clasped Tony’s nose.

Tony howled in laughter, but let her keep her hand there.

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