Betty Jasinski snapped awake instantly when she heard the first screams outside her motel room. A mother and grandmother she was conditioned to responding to any noise that sounded like a child in distress and when a second scream reached her ears she threw the covers off and started dressing quickly. Betty was a bus driver for the Nashville School District and currently had a charge of two teachers, two parent chaperones and 27 ninth graders on a field trip to Six Flags amusement park north of Atlanta. It had been a good trip, the kids as well behaved as you could expect for their ages and they were spending their last night in a budget motel with plans to make the six hour drive home the next morning.
Betty pulled her shoes on, stood up, glancing at the clock which read 4:03 AM, and went to the window. Parting the heavy curtains she failed to suppress a sneeze when a cloud of dust came out of the fabric. Wiping her nose and eyes she looked out the window from her second floor room. Below, the parking lot looked empty and she automatically sought out the big yellow bus with her eyes to make sure it was where she had left it. The bus looked fine. Betty’s attention was drawn to two figures at the edge of the parking lot, what looked like a man lying on the ground with a woman straddling him and moving about vigorously. Betty’s first thought was the couple was drunk and had decided to have sex in the parking lot, but that idea was dispelled when she saw the woman lean into the man’s throat and appear to tear it open with her teeth. In shock Betty kept watching as the woman continued to rip chunks of flesh off the body. Another scream to her left shifted her attention to a second woman that raced across the parking lot and joined the first in attacking the man.
A knock on the motel room door immediately to her left caused Betty to jump back from the window with a small gasp of fright. The knocking continued and a woman’s voice started calling out her name. Gathering herself after she recognized Miss Welch’s voice she unhooked the safety chain and yanked the door open. Miss Welch was the youngest teacher in the school. To Betty she seemed hardly older than the kids she was responsible for educating. She rushed into the room, eyes wide with fright and her whole body shaking.
“What’s happening?” She cried, grabbing onto Betty the way a child would her mother.
“Easy, child.” Betty said, sounding much more reassuring than she felt. “Something bad is happening and I think we need to get these young people on the bus and head home.”
“But there’s women out there EATING someone!” Tears were flowing now.
“That’s what it looks like, but we don’t know what’s going on. Right now it’s our job to make sure these children are safe. Can you help me do that?” Betty grasped the younger woman’s shoulders in her hands and looked into her eyes.
Miss Welch nodded her head and wiped at the tears running down her cheeks.
“Now, do you have your key?” Betty was referring to the master key the motel manager had given to each teacher that would allow them access to all of the rooms the kids were in. Miss Welch nodded her head.
“Good. Now what you’re going to do is wake up Mrs. Hatfield, Mrs. Wilson and Mr. Jackson and get them to help you round up all the kids and get them on the bus. Can you do that?” Miss Welch sniffed back tears and nodded her head again. “Honey, I want to hear you say it.”
“Y – y – yes. I can do that.”
“Good, now get busy. No time to tarry.” Betty gave a gentle push towards the open door. Miss Welch turned and dashed out, Betty following after pausing long enough to grab her purse and the bus keys off the small table in front of the window. Everything else she had in the room was just clothing and toiletries that could easily be replaced.
Outside she turned and headed down the second floor walkway towards the stairs at the end of the building, keeping her eyes on the two women at the far edge of the parking lot. They were still engrossed with the man lying on the ground and weren’t paying any attention to her. Reaching the top of the stairs she turned to start down them and froze in her tracks. To the south a massive fire burned, bright enough to light up the entire horizon.
“Good Jesus, help us tonight,” she muttered as she started down the stairs.
Betty hadn’t reached the bottom step when a scream from above froze her in her tracks. Looking up she watched as Mr. Jackson appeared to be hugging Miss Welch in the door to his room, then they fell back into the dark interior and she lost sight of them. She hesitated a moment, wanting to get the bus started and ready to go, but afraid something was terribly wrong with Mr. Jackson and Miss Welch. Reversing direction she climbed back up the stairs as fast as she could, hurrying to the door where she had last seen them. Arriving at the door she stopped and tried to peer inside but the room was completely dark. She could hear a wet, slurping sound intermingled with guttural snarls and involuntarily took a step back. Forcing herself forward she stepped back to the doorway and reached inside, feeling on the wall for the light switch. Finding it she flipped it up and dim lights came on inside the room. Mr. Jackson was on top of Miss Welch, tearing at her throat with his teeth. The horrible sounds were coming from him as he ripped into her. She lay on her back, legs twisted under her, arms splayed out to the side and her face was turned to the door. Her dead eyes stared up at Betty.
Betty remained rooted in place, her mind refusing to process what her eyes were seeing. She had forgotten to breathe and finally the need overcame her terror and she drew a sharp breath. Mr. Jackson’s head instantly snapped up in her direction and she gasped. His eyes were as red as the blood that coated his face and ran down onto his chest. With a gurgling snarl he lurched to his feet, never taking his focus off the doorway where Betty stood. Reaching his feet he took a step forward and growled. Betty snapped out of her shock, reached forward and pulled the door shut as she stumbled back. Her foot struck something that clattered metallically on the concrete balcony and she looked down to see the master key. Miss Welch must have dropped it when Mr. Jackson grabbed her.
Scooping up the key Betty started dashing down the line of rooms, unlocking doors and screaming for people to get up. The third door she opened was a room shared by four of the girls and one of them screamed and leapt at her as soon as the door moved. Betty’s hand was still on the door knob and she jerked backwards away from the attack and pulled the door shut in her panic. Hard thumps immediately started from inside the room as the girl pounded on the door in a rage. Trying to shake off her terror Betty continued down the row, but now she banged on each door with her fists before opening it. Several times there was an answering scream or snarl and banging from inside the room and Betty left those doors closed.
Less than ten minutes later Betty had roused all of the kids that were in rooms without one of the monsters and had them standing on the balcony. Mrs. Hatfield, the other parent, and Mrs. Wilson the other teacher were both missing. When Betty had knocked on their doors there had been screams and loud thumps as a response. The same had happened at several of the kids rooms. As the group stood there, screams and pounding coming from the rooms at their backs, Betty took a quick head count. Nineteen. That’s all that was remaining from the 27 she’d brought from Nashville. Betty had no idea what was going on, but she knew she had to get these kids to the safety of the bus and get away from Atlanta.
Quickly she herded the kids into a group, trying to be compassionate for the ones who stood there crying, but the need to move faster prompted her to start pushing and grabbing arms to get control. A minute later she led the group to the stairs and they started down. The kids were completely terrified and bunched tightly together and against her back as they moved. Halfway down the stairs the sound of shattering glass caused them to pause and look up. Mrs. Wilson pushed through her room’s broken window and screamed when she saw them on the stairs.
“Run!” Betty cried, rushing down the stairs and urging the kids to move.
Mrs. Wilson was a young woman, a former alternate for the US Gymnastics Olympic team. She showed her athleticism by vaulting over the second floor balcony railing and landing on the roof of a parked car, shattering all of its windows as the roof caved in under the impact of her landing. She leapt to the ground without even a pause and rushed at the group. Her step-daughter, Riann, froze and stared, still standing there when Mrs. Wilson launched herself into the air and tackled the young girl to the ground. Riann screamed but it was cut off as her step-mother ripped into her throat. Another window on the second floor shattered and Betty ran as fast as her aging, out of shape body could go, fumbling the bus keys in her hand so she would be prepared to unlock the doors as soon as she reached them.
Another window on the second floor shattered, but Betty didn’t take the time to look and see who it was. The bus was now only 30 yards away and most of the kids had run ahead of her and were just reaching it, yelling for her to hurry. Out of the dark from the far side of the bus two men lumbered into sight, each grabbing a kid and pulling them to the ground. Another female dashed in from the other direction and tore open one girl’s throat with a slash of her nails before falling onto another girl and savaging her face and neck. Betty charged up, huffing like a steam engine, and tried to still her shaking hands so she could get the keys in the lock for the bus doors. While she did this two more females charged the group, each taking a boy to the ground with screams of rage.
Finally getting the keys in the lock, Betty opened the doors and stepped aside to hurry the kids onto the bus. They jammed up at the doors, too many bodies trying to get through at the same time. While Betty wasted precious seconds sorting them out another woman and two more men showed up and each took another kid. The terror of seeing his classmates being torn apart and eaten was too much for one young boy. Turning away from the crush of students trying to get onto the bus he started walking out into the parking lot, a vacant look on his face as tears and snot flowed. A few moments later he was descended on by three women who tore into him with a savagery Betty didn’t know existed.
Kids finally on the bus she quickly stepped up and leaned her weight into the lever that operated the doors, slamming them a second before a screaming woman crashed into the folding doors. The glass cracked in a spider web pattern and the woman started beating on it with her fists and continued to scream her rage. Betty slipped behind the wheel and started the bus. Not waiting for it to warm up she shifted into drive and hit the throttle. The big diesel engine clattered and roared and the bus slowly started moving. Betty stayed on the throttle as the front bumper crashed into a sedan, shoving it out of the way with a screech of metal as more women ran screaming at the bus and slammed into the sides. The kids screamed with every impact and Betty fought the wheel to straighten the bus out and head north on the highway that would take them to Tennessee.