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Attack of the Froguanas! Chapter 7
Chapter 7: What Now?
"On balance," John said, "I think now might be a good time to call the police."
No one replied for a while. It was Saturday afternoon, and they were all at the Dawson place again. Mary had made them all tea in an effort to be sociable, but nobody was drinking it. They all stared across the room with bloodshot eyes--nobody among them had slept at all the night before. Jess very much doubted that she would ever sleep again. Nothing she had seen in all her life had prepared her for the what had happened last night.
"I think you might be right, Gramps," said Em finally. "At the risk of sounding clichéd, this is bigger than us now."
"I don't know," said Michael. "Do you think they'd believe us?"
"Of course not," said Jim hollowly. "Why would they? A bunch of kids and a bunch of old-timers finding giant lizards in the forest? Not a chance they'll believe us."
"We're not just kids," insisted Em, leaning forward in her chair. "We're witnesses. Ten people--twelve if you count Jake and Taylor--have seen these things. They can't discount eyewitness accounts from twelve people, can they?"
Bob sighed, but it wasn't an impatient sigh. "How many people in the country claim to have seen UFOs, do you think?"
Em shrugged. "It'd be somewhere in the hundreds, maybe even thousands," he continued. "Thousands of people who believe the evidence of their eyes and say aliens exist.
"But all those people are dismissed and disbelieved every single day. Why? Because aliens aren't supposed to exist."
"This is different, though," protested Michael. "These aren't like aliens--they're actually here, in the forest."
"It amuses me that you differentiate between giant killer lizards from outer space…and aliens," cracked Ash in an uncharacteristically snotty tone. "What I want to know is: What can the police do that we can't?"
"The police have guns," countered Matt, nettled.
"Which don't work on Froguanas," Ash countered right back.
"Then they can put out a bulletin or something," said Em. "Warn people to stay away from the forest until things get sorted out."
"They're already doing that," Linda pointed out. "Except they think it's cougars out there."
"We can't involve anyone else," said Bob. He stood up with a grunt and began pacing around the room. "We can't risk anyone else getting hurt."
"But there's safety in numbers!" argued John. "Especially in this case. The more people there are, the less risk we stand of something bad happening--like it did last night."
"That was a fluke--bad luck, that's all." Bob paced faster. "If we tried it again, but made sure the space heater worked--"
"There's no way," Michael moaned, slumping down in his seat. "There are tons of those fetchin' things. What chance have we got?"
Jess' heart ached at her boyfriend's despair. Grabbing his hand, she said flippantly, "What, are you going to let a couple of lousy Froguanas keep you out of the forest?"
"Froguanas?" said a voice near the door.
Everyone in the room jumped. Standing in the doorway were Jess' parents and Taylor. Taylor was looking, dumbfounded, from face to guilty face. Mr. and Mrs. Dawson, on the other hand, looked suspicious.
After a too-long pause, Mary spoke. "How was the market today, dear?" Her tone was cheery and overly casual. "Find anything you liked?"
"Don't change the subject, Mom," said Mrs. Dawson. "Why were you talking about Froguanas in the forest?"
Bob and Mary looked at each other, apparently lost for words.
Mrs. Dawson plowed right through the silence and said, "Because I happened to run into Old Mr. Sharman at the market today, and he said that someone started a fire in the woods last night. He said if he hadn't woken up when he did and called the fire department, the whole forest would've gone up in smoke. And now I come back and hear my daughter talking about Froguanas in the forest?"
She fixed Mary with an inscrutable look. "I bet you thought I forgot about them, didn't you?"
Jess looked at her mom, hardly daring to hope. "You know about them, too?" she asked.
"Of course I know," said Mrs. Dawson. "I've been hearing stories about them since I was a little girl."
Jess opened her mouth, prepared to tell her mother everything and beg for her help in defeating the creatures that attacked Taylor. But her mother's next words made Jess' heart sink, and her pleas died away in silence.
"Your grandma and grandpa were very good at making up scary stories to keep me behaved," continued Mrs. Dawson. "'Now Karen, be a good girl and finish your dinner. Unless you want the Froguanas to come and get you!' And so forth."
Mary stood up and crossed the room to where her daughter stood, arms folded, and said, "Sweetheart, there's something we never told you. I'm sorry, but the Froguanas are real. They came to town when your father and I were Jess' age, and they're here again now. They attacked Tay in the woods that night, and your father and I have been trying to find a way to stop them. Sweetheart…I need you to trust me on this, please."
It was wasted effort--Jess could see it plainly in her mother's face. But it wasn't the disbelief that made Jess nervous--it was the concern.
"Mom," said Mrs. Dawson, putting her hand gently on Mary's cheek. "Are you feeling alright?"
The conversation devolved from there. Bob jumped up to defend his wife, adamant that Mary's story was true. Mr. Dawson chose that moment to assure Bob that playing along with Mary's delusion wouldn't help her. All the others in the room looked away in discomfort as the argument grew more and more heated.
Finally, Mrs. Dawson said, "Look, Mom, I'll just make an appointment for you to see Dr. McKinley tomorrow. It can't do any harm just to talk to him."
"Karen, I'm not crazy," insisted Mary, tears gathering in her eyes.
"Of course not," soothed Jess' father, to no great effect. "We just want to make sure you're alright. If you're setting fires in the woods to keep away made-up creatures…that's not healthy, Mary, you must understand."
"Damn it, David, leave her alone!" Bob barked at his son-in-law.
"Dad, please calm down." Mrs. Dawson put up her hands in a placating gesture. "You must try to see this from our point of view. We hear about a fire in the forest, and then come home to hear you talking about Froguanas as if they're real. And Jim, John, Linda, and the kids are all believing it, too…This isn't good, Daddy, you realize that?"
All at once, Jess realized that she had to say something. She couldn't just sit by and let this happen to her grandmother.
She stood up. "Mom, listen," she said.
Her parents turned to her in surprise. "Grandma and Grandpa are telling the truth. Froguanas are real. We've all…"
She trailed off. Unseen by their daughter and son-in-law, Bob and Mary were giving her warning looks and shaking their heads as subtly as they could. Jess frowned in confusion, but said nothing.
Mrs. Dawson took advantage of her daughter's silence and said, "Honey, I understand you want to defend your grandparents. But this isn't a good battle to fight. Your grandma's going to see Dr. McKinley tomorrow--Grandpa is welcome to come along too if he wants to--and then everything will be sorted out. Okay?"
Jess looked down at her shoes, feeling helpless. "Okay, Mom."
With one last concerned look at Mary, Mrs. Dawson turned and left the room. Mr. Dawson followed her and closed the door behind him.
There was a long, uncomfortable silence. It was broken at last by Jim, who grumbled, "Geez, Bobby, your daughter is such a square."
Nobody laughed. Bob was fuming. "It's not like we're trying to save the town or anything," he growled, resuming his pacing with a vengeance.
"I shouldn't have told her those stories when she was younger," moaned Mary. "Maybe if I hadn't, she'd believe us."
"Maybe--I doubt it," snorted Bob. "It's not your fault, sweetheart, you couldn't have known."
"Why didn't you let me help you?" asked Jess softly. "We were all eyewitnesses--they would've had to believe us."
"And they would've also found out that we put your life in danger by taking you into the forest last night." Bob's voice grew sadder as he talked. "Which was stupid of us, which we shouldn't have done, and which we won't be doing ever again."
"Yes you will," said Jess, still in that soft tone.
Mary looked stricken. "No we won't, Jess! We should never have done it in the first place--we are not about to--"
"Yes, you are," said Jess.
Bob stopped pacing and stared at his granddaughter. Everyone in the room turned to face her as Jess rose to her feet.
"You are," she continued, "Because I know how we can beat them this time. Once and for all. We'll do it tonight. And tomorrow, Grandma and Grandpa will go see Dr. Whatever and say that of course there's no such thing as Froguanas, it was all just a horrible dream. And they won't even be lying, because by tomorrow, all of them will be dead."
"Jess, it's too dangerous," pleaded Bob. His eyes looked distressingly wet. He put his hand on Mary's shoulder, which was already shaking with sobs.
Jess went to her grandpa and hugged him hard. "It's my plan," she murmured. "And it's going to take all of us to make it work. Please, Grandpa--please trust me."
Gently pulling away, Jess turned to address the room. Jim, Linda, John, Michael, Ash, Matt, and Em all watched her. She could see the trust in their eyes, and she tried to swallow the lump in her throat.
"It's going to work," she said thickly. "I swear it's going to work."