Sewing with Kids – Charm Class

I’ve worked on a few sewing projects with the kids, and they have enjoyed some more than others. With all of the hearts in the windows, I thought I’d use up some of the felt from our pig project.

I did this simple project with Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3. (Rugrat #1 was happily working on something else.)

Spread the Love

  1. Cut out a heart shape from two pieces of felt. It’s easiest to use one heart as the template for the other. Folding the felt in half to make the two sides even makes things easier as well.

  2. Thread embroidery floss into a needle, stitch 3/4 of the way around. Leave enough space to stuff it. We used different stitching on some of the hearts, but the easiest was the whip stitch. I helped a fair bit with this part.


  3. Stuff the heart. The kids loved this part, and I didn’t need to help at all.

  4. Finish stitching. Close the hole up.

  5. Add a little bit of embroidery floss to the top to hang it from. Then simply hang it from a tree or a window.

Transmogrification or An Eggs-periment

Public schools are still closed, and parents are doing what they can to keep their kids engaged and learning. Some teachers are sending out activities, others are still putting lessons together.

Cover of Science in A Bag by Sandra Markle

We’ve been incorporating some of the ideas we are being sent, but with the age range in our house doing three sets of learning activities can be tough. We’re working through fun activities and trying to bring the learning in: fractions with breadmaking; the concept of diffusion with coloured ice cubes melting in water; hand-eye coordination (and a useful life skill) with sewing dice bags; and playing lots of RPGs because fun!

We’ve taken our potions classes up a notch by combining our lessons on diffusion with some of our other potions lessons.

Removing the Shell From an Egg

I have this book from when I was a kid. It is called Science in a Bag and it’s by Sandra Markle. It’s full of science experiments you can do in a bag. One of them, and my favorite of the bunch, is removing an egg shell.

You fill a bag with vinegar and then add an egg. The acidic nature of the vinegar slowly dissolves the calcium carbonate on the egg.  The kids loved looking at the bubbles that formed on the outside of the shell. We watched it for a few days, and then I washed the egg off in the sink.

The membrane around the egg stays intact, and if you hold it up to the light you can see the yolk. The Rugrats loved touching the shell-less egg. (If you do this, be gentle! Several years ago Rugrat #1 actually popped one.)

An egg without its shell

Shrinking an Egg

So part two of this is new to us. We learned in an earlier experiment about diffusion. Removing an egg shell allowed us to understand membranes.

This part of the experiment allows us to understand diffusion and membranes together.

We took our clean egg (without its shell) and put it into a clean plastic bag. Then we filled the egg with clear corn syrup. The liquid in the egg can pass through the egg’s membrane, but the syrup can’t. In time it shrinks the egg!

Me: Isn’t that weird?

Rugrat#1: Not really. It’s science.

an egg without its shell, and missing some of the liquid inside

Disclaimer: If the shell-less egg weirds you out, this will not be easy for you.

The yolk becomes more visible and the membrane gets loose, like a half empty sack.

It’s like a bag! – Rugrat#3

Growing an Egg

Once we let the egg shrink down, we cleaned it off in water. The Rugrats got to poke at it and touch it.

Then we placed what remained of the egg back into a plastic bag of water and let it sit overnight. Since water can pass through the membrane the size of the egg started to grow.

Rugrat#3 pondered if the shell would grow back. Her brothers explained that wasn’t possible, and we discussed the dissolving of the shell again.

an egg without its shell, reinflated

The egg quickly plumped back up. The liquid inside was strange and we could see things floating in it. After a good feel of it, we disposed of the egg and washed our hands thoroughly.

 

Illusions with Kids

Everyone seems to be offering free or discounted classes right now. I don’t have extra time because three kids at home full time, but hey, that’s okay. I still found this go at your own pace video based class. It’s called ‘The Science of Well Being’ and is touted as a Yale class being offered through Coursera. It’s been one night, so I’m not going to get into that, but there was this great bit about the GI Joe Fallacy.

Knowing is Half the Battle

She explains that, in the 80’s GI Joe cartoon there were public service announcements at the end of each episode. At the end of them, the kid would thank the GI Joe who delivered the PSA, and he or she would say “Knowing is half the battle.”

Professor Laurie Santos disagrees, saying that just because we know something, doesn’t mean we apply it.

Then she showed some optical illusions. The first one was the Muller-Lyer illusion. It looks like this:

Muller-Lyer illusion

So the question is: which line appears longer?  The top one.

Seeing is Believing

Look closely. They are the same length.

Muller-Lyer illusion

Even when we know this, the top one still appears longer.

Professor Laurie Santos goes on to explain our own thought patterns aren’t as easy as we think.

Seeing isn’t always believing.

And knowing isn’t always half the battle.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes better.

I saw this as a great opportunity to teach the Rugrats how to question what they see, even if they see it with their own eyes.

For today’s class at the College of Very Interesting Disciplines, we talked about illusions!

I likened this to their first class of illusion magic. The second class is coming soon and we’re all excited about it (shadow puppets!).

We looked at the Muller-Lyer illusion above first. Rugrat#1 had seen it before, so I learned they do cover this in school, at at least one of his teachers did.

Duck or Bunny?

Then we took a look at this one:

duck or bunny illusion

Do you see a duck? Or a bunny?

All of the Rugrats said a duck, even though I held it as a bunny at first.

Rugrat#1 had seen this before, so he found both of them, but he still defaulted to the duck first.

Two Faces or a Pedestal?

pedestal or people illusion

So, Rugrat#1 called this a gauntlet. He meant goblet, but either way, I love he knows those words. This led to a great talk about both of those items.

Everyone saw the pedestal first in my house.

Triangle

This illusion lets us see how our mind can fill in a blank space.

triangle illusion

There is not actually a white triangle there.

Now, oddly, my Rugrats started counting out a ton of triangles, seeing each point as its own triangle because of the other triangle intercepting it.

Two Faced

The last illusion we looked at was this one.

two faced illusion

There is a young women and an old crone in this image, depending on how you look at it.

Ken taught us all this one is the trickiest of them all. He has never been able to see either face in the image.

The Rugrats worked together to try to find the faces, and they all claim to be able to see them.

How’d You Do?

I hope you had some fun exploring illusions. If you did, share them with someone else stuck at home. Then use these skills!

And as a bonus:

“Imagine Everyone is a Vampire”

A friend of mine said this recently and I think it’s important. Don’t scare the kids with this one, but practice this “illusion” for yourself.

Stay inside.

Don’t let anyone into your home.

Don’t get too close to anyone.

The sooner we can all properly practice social distancing and stay isolated as much as possible, the sooner we can flatten the curve!

Tavern Shots: Gumption

You are a rockin’ GM.

You’ve nailed the voices, the descriptions, and general atmosphere.

Or maybe you haven’t.

Or you want a little inspiration tonight because it’s been a long day.

Check out our tavern shots and get a quite glimpse through the window at life inside our taverns.

Today We Explore Gumption 

Where: Middle of Nowhere

Located far away from just about anything, this strange little homestead is a haven for weary travellers who manage to stumble upon it. Originally made viable by a druid, this oasis in now home to a halfling and two adopted human children who work the land and help out those who pass through. With no nearby neighbours, some of them are a little starved for attention, while others are leery of strangers. 

If your PCs are wandering the barren lands of the Wasted Waste, the demon ravaged landscapes near the Worldwound, or another seemingly endless uninhabitable terrain, break up their travels with a stay at Gumption. 

Who: Faces of the Tavern

Harbrum

A friendly halfling who has lived here almost his whole life, Harbrum is happy to give visitors a good meal and a safe place to sleep for the night. He works hard and believes others should do the same. He is also remarkably knowledgeable about waterfowl, especially ducks

Bill

A young, hardworking adolescent, Bill aspires to be a brave, kindhearted adventurer in his adult years. He is eager to learn from competent travellers, but wary of those who seem cruel or menacing. He would make an excellent apprentice, if someone could convince him to leave the farm. 

Magenta

A talkative young girl, Magenta is more than competent in the kitchen and has a special way with animals, especially “Buck” the resident horse. She is eager for any information from outside of the valley and could be considered something of a gossip. She seems to know everything that happens in and around Gumption. 

“Buck”

Lost and abandoned after his caravan was attacked by bandits, Stanley found himself wandering the barren land around the valley. By chance he was taken in by the dryad who made the valley what it is today, and he hasn’t strayed far since, doing all he can to care for the land and the people who reside there peacefully.  This majestic horse is more than what he seems, a secret he shares with only other one resident of the valley.

What: Stuff For Your Players to Explore

Each of our taverns includes a table of rumours and a table of events, giving you quick ideas to feed to your players. From animals in labour, corpses found nearby, and a kidnapped child there is something for every PC to show off their skills with.

In the short piece below, we introduce a mysterious traveller. Just what does he have in store for the caretakers of Gumption? And can your PCs arrive in time to stop him? 

Pick up your copy of Gumption today.


A Shot of Gumption

“What are you doing, boy?” asked Harbrum, lifting his straw hat to wipe his brow.

The horse just stared at him, refusing to move from the hay bale.

“It’s time to go inside,” he said, turning from the horse. “The other animals are settled in. Am I putting you in the barn for the night?”

The horse moved from the hay bale and blocked the man’s path.

The sun was low in the sky and Magenta had already let Harbrum know they had a visitor. He didn’t like leaving her or Bill with strangers for too long and was eager to get up to the main house and greet them. He was also getting hungry.

“Come on, Buck. We’re done for the day,” he said sighing and trying to move around the horse.

The horse blocked his path once more and neighed insistently.

Harbrum sighed.

“What do you want, Buck?” he asked, his usually cheerful demeanor starting to fade.

The horse moved to the hay bale once more.

“There’s plenty of hay in the barn,” said Harbrum distracted. “Come along. You can have some there.”

The two of them stared at each other for several moments before Harbrum threw his hands up in the air.

“I’m going inside, Buck,” he said. “We’ve got company, and we can put the hay in the barn tomorrow.”

The horse neighed in protest and moved to block Harbrum’s path once more.

“I’m going to talk to Magenta,” said Harbrum, frustrated. “Maybe she’ll know what to do with you.”

The horse moved slightly to one side, allowing the halfling to pass.

Harbrum made his way over to the main building and went in the side door. The savory smell of a well-seasoned stew met his nostrils and a smile spread across his face.

“Smells delicious!” he exclaimed to the young girl who was stirring a pot over the fire.

“Thanks, Harbrum,” she smiled, wiping her hands on her apron.

Harbrum took in the man sitting at one of the hand-crafted wooden tables. The stranger looked tired, dirty, and in need of a good meal.

“He hasn’t been any trouble?” he asked Magenta quietly while washing his hands in the basin of warm water she’d put out for him.

“No, no,” she assured him, taking a small spoonful of stew from the pot.

He nodded.

“Oh, Buck seems unhappy about something. I’m not sure what though. Refuses to go into the barn, but didn’t want me to come up here either,” Harbrum said almost absently. The good smells were already easing his mind.

Magenta frowned slightly.

“Okay, I’ll be back in a moment,” she said, disappearing through the same door he’d entered.

Harbrum made his way to the table and the man looked over at him.

“Must be the owner of this place,” he said gruffly, surveying the halfling.

“Just the caretaker,” he responded. “Dinner should be ready here shortly. You’ve already got a room for the night, have you?”

“Ay, I do,” he nodded.

Harbrum smiled at the man, and moved back toward the cooking area.

Something about the man was off-putting to him, but he wasn’t certain exactly what.

“I don’t like him,” said a young boy quietly as Harbrum stirred the pot of stew.

Bill, who had just come in from fetching a pail of water from the well, began to pull bowls off one of the shelves for the stew.

Harbrum nodded as the side door opened once more and Magenta reappeared.

“It’s going to rain,” she said, looking at Harbrum and Bill.

“Not tonight,” said Bill shaking his head.

“Put the hay in the barn,” replied Magenta softly, taking a bowl from him and filling it with stew. “Trust me.”

Harbrum sighed and, surveying the guest once more, nodded at Bill to follow him back outside.

Bill frowned, but followed hesitantly.

A small smirk crossed the face of the man at the table as the side door swung shut.

Place this tavern in your game with Tangible Taverns: Gumption.

Available now on DriveThruRPG.

Baking with Kids – It’s Bread-fast Time!

It’s a great time to get back to the basics. And lack of time doesn’t seem to be an excuse for anyone.

Back when I had but one Rugrat I’d make up loaves of fresh baked white bread. The recipe always gave me two loaves and by the time Ken got home, Rugrat#1 and I would have eaten the whole first loaf with nothing but butter. We never even made it to the table. We’d just stand or sit in the kitchen eating away.

With 3 Rugrats the home baking just doesn’t happen as much. It happens just about never. Until today.

Today’s not-homeschooling class included a lesson in baking potions. We took a table of ingredients, mixed them up, and waited to see what happened.

Grab Your Bags

I found a recipe for bread in a bag. I figured this would make the kneading process easier.

We measured out the ingredients at the table. We needed one cup of flour, so we picked out the one cup measuring scoop. Then we talked about how else we could make a cup.

Rugrat #1, who was struggling with fractions before the break, quickly caught on to what I was attempting. He demanded I stop teaching fractions. Rugrat #2 surprised me with his understanding and grasp of fractions. Rugrat #3 randomly selected spoons and cups as the answer.

Rugrat#1 hates stuff on his hands, but he had no problem adding potion ingredients to the bag and kneading the contents while they were sealed safely inside the bag.

 

kneading bread dough in a bag

 

Knead That Dough

After it sat for the ten minutes, we added the rest of the ingredients, kneaded it some more, and then tipped it out onto our table. Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3 enjoyed this part. We had Rugrat #1 set the timer as he wanted no part of it.

kneading bread dough on a table

Then we put the bread into our pan and waited.

bread dough in the bread pan waiting for baking

Bake It Off

Once enough time had passed, we popped the loaf in the oven and waited for our potion to cook. The kids checked the oven a couple of times, ensuring not to open the door.

freshly baked bread

The recipe I used suggested 2 mini loaves, but said one loaf was fine. I don’t know if it’s my oven, which we are still getting used to after a harrowing Thanksgiving where it spat pieces of molten metal at us, the fact it should have been two mini loaves, or something else entirely, but it was not ready at the suggested time.

I think we baked our loaf for about 40 minutes total.

Eat, Eat, Eat

It’s bread-fast time! exclaimed Rugrat#2

Rugrat#3 insisted on having some left over whipping cream on her bread. Rugrat#1 went with peanut butter, a favourite of his, and Rugrat#2 figured just plain was the way to go.

Despite a few hiccups, this was a success!

whipping cream on freshly baked bread

 

a rainbow made of sparkle confetti

A Sprinkling of Magic

Social media is blowing up right with two things: updates on the Coronavirus or ways to distract yourself from the Coronavirus.

I have seen so many posts, articles, blogs, tidbits and tweets about homeschooling.

  • How to do it
  • Why not to do it
  • How to educate and teach without worrying about homeschooling
  • How much learning time you should give your kids a day
  • Samples of schedules

It goes on.

We are finding our own way, and we hope you are too.

 

Ray of Sunshine

I was taking a quick scroll through my news feed the other day when I saw a post a friend in Calgary shared.

The idea is simple: paint a rainbow and hang it in your window.

It creates an I-Spy game (or a scavenger hunt) for people out getting a bit of a fresh air. It says “Hello!” to the people you can’t be physically close to right now. And, of course, it gives the Rugrats something to do!

I shared it to our local school’s parents group and sort of waited to see what it did. It’s had a bit of pick up, and I’m excited!

We live right next to a walking and biking path, so today we made rainbows for the windows. Next week we are going to head out for a little walk (while maintaining social distancing!) and see if we can spot any rainbows.

We’re doing what we can to make the world a little brighter, and a little more magical.

one of our painted rainbows to spread the magic

Exploring the College

This whole not homeschooling thing is going okay. Of course it is day two, so time will tell.

We made dice bags this morning. And we used them this afternoon as our Rugrats started their first gaming session in our new campaign.

For those of you who are curious, we are using 5e Dungeons & Dragons to run this campaign.   

Tour the School

We used maps from The Fall of Mith: Mithos Manor as the basis for the school. These maps worked great for our purpose, but you could make your own, or use other ones you already have.

We printed them out and put them on the table so the Rugrats could visualize where they were.

The new students met their teachers (that’s us!) and one of the goblins in the kitchen. This goblin, the most civilized of all goblin residents at the school, asked the students to take care of a little problem upstairs.

Fight the Dire Rats

The trio of new adventures made their way into a series of storage rooms while their teachers waited in the hallway. 
Rugrat #3, a barbarian with a frying pan (we are using a club’s stats and just calling it a frying pan), waded in bravely.

“I’m good at this!” Yelled Rugrat #3 as she hit one with her frying pan. 

The boys followed in close to behind. Rugrat #1 used his shocking grasp cantrip while Rugrat #2 used his sneak attack and rapier. 

Learn, Learn, Learn

Math: recognizing numbers, adding dice together, identifying the values and shapes of the various dice, subtracting hit points 
Reading: locating, reading and recognizing words on the character sheet 
Storytelling and Visualization: picturing what was described, and playing along with the story
Teamwork Skills: finding the best strategies to defeat the swarm of oversized rodents

Incentivize

The Rugrats have learned chores and good behaviour in the real world will earn them inspiration points for the game. For those new to D&D, these can be used for a bonus on rolls.  We are hoping this encourages them to do things around the house with a good attitude. 

One Last Lesson

I’ve heard a lot about the pepper and soap experiment, and I figured this was the perfect thing to start our first potions class off with. It also served as the perfect transition out of the game, and back into the real world.

Potions: The Magical Substance Called Soap

I put the pepper in the bowl of water, then I put dish soap in a small container.

Everyone put their fingers into the pepper and water and watched as the “germs” clung to them.

Then we dipped our fingers in the “magical potion” and watched what happened when we put our fingers in the pepper water again.

I had them guess what the magical potion was, and then we talked about cleanliness, soap, germs, and of course, COVID-19.

Join Us Again Soon

The new students have only just started to explore the school, and more trouble awaits. 

Stay tuned: we’ve  got more adventures to come. 

Sewing with Kids – Dice Bags

Another day of not-homeschooling.

It turns out the Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs were trickier than I thought, so we took a break and dialed it back.

We have to walk before we run.

Transmogrification Class

Today we turned the bottom part of some pant legs into bags for dice.

I opted to do it this way so I didn’t have to pull out my sewing machine. We have a real love-hate relationship. And I swear it can sense my mood. As my patience wears thin the feeder doesn’t work properly, the spool catches and I end up with a big old mess. 

Cut the fabric to a bag size

I just sort of winged this. Mostly I looked where the rips were in an old pair of toddler jeans I had and cut the line below that. You should do whatever size works for you.

old pants cut down to sew a dice bag

Sew the bottom together

You could swap the order of this and sewing on the button. It doesn’t really matter. 

I ran my thread along a wax block I have to make the thread a bit stronger. Then I got the stitching started for Rugrat #1, who I set to work with a simple stitch.

I did the work for Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3, and then I went over Rugrat#1’s work. He had done a great job, but I knew if by chance it broke, or a hole was too big, he’d be upset. 

Rugrat#1 stitching the bottom of his dice bag

Sew on a button

I let the kids sort through a few jars and bags of buttons I have. I picked up a big bag of mixed buttons from the dollar store a few years back. They were cheap and varied. I meant to use them for scrapbook, but with three kids I just never had time. I also picked up a bag of pink buttons last week for pig noses. And we have this collection of jars of buttons I inherited from my nana. 

They had a great time going through and picking the right button for them.

I started each of them off, and I secured the button on the bag. Then I set them to work going over what I did to make it more secure, and to get them familiar with how to stitch on a button.

Rugrat#1 stitching a button on his dice bag

Rugrat #1 hated it. He hates buttons. I don’t think he actually owns a single thing with a button on it. 

“What would you do if a button fell off your shirt?”

“I’d never own a shirt with a button,” he said.

“What would you do if you had kids one day and the button fell off their shirt?”

“I’d throw it away,” he said. 

I know people who do just that, but I figure, sewing a button back onto a shirt is far less work than having to hunt down a new shirt at the store. And it’s a great skill to have. So I made him do it anyway.

Rugrat#3 trying to thread a needle while sewing

Rugrat#3 surprised me the most with this part of the project. She has some trouble with her needle coming unthreaded. I offered to help, but she insisted she try threading it herself. She patiently tried over and over. And she did it! 

When Rugrat#2 pulled the needle too hard while working on his project, she even managed to thread his needle!

Add something to secure it with

Rugrat #3 loves rainbows. And sparkly things. So I found a few pieces of embroidery thread and braided them together with her. We secured the braided string around the button. Now when she wants to close it, she just wraps it around the bag, and then the button.

Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3 both opted for how I originally thought I’d do it, stitching a single piece of embroidery thread around the top of the bag, making a drawstring. The two ends can then be pulled and wrapped around the button. 

Children's dice bags

Finished!

And now the kids have run off to roll their dice and see what the sums add up to.  I’m calling this a win!

 

Finished children's dice bag project

 

an underground cavern

Halflings, Ghouls and Horses: oh my!

Okay, so we really got lost in a world of Kobolds.

On top of all of the settings, mini adventures and other products listed in that post, I’ve been hard at work with a few more great products for this really great producer of 5e content. There are a couple of them still in the works, and Kobold Press will have more about them soon.

Empire of the Ghouls

This really successfully Kickstarter vs. the undead wrapped up a little while ago, and if you were one of the 2,000+ backers who jumped aboard, shipments should be going out in April. It was a great pleasure to have a hand in this project and I cannot wait to see the whole thing come together.

The lead designer is Richard Green, and contributing designers include Chris Lockey, Dan Dillon, Jeff Lee, Jon Sawatsky, Mike Welham, and Wolfgang Baur. Plus me – Kelly Pawlik! The project editor is Meagan Maricle and she is incredible. If you didn’t take part in this Kickstarter, watch their website and pick up a copy once it is available. 

Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, 2nd Edition

Because sometimes you want a break from settings and adventures, you can find my essay in this great resource.

Between these covers, you’ll find practical, thought-provoking essays on worldbuilding, creating magic systems, conflict, and compelling stories, what to expect when you work as a design professional, and much more. Conceptual chapters examine what game design is and how good design can create the best games. Concrete examples provide models to help you create well-rounded designs and exciting adventures.

More about these essays can be found on the Kobold Press website. 

Warlock 17: Halflings

If you prefer supplements you can use at your gaming table, check out Warlock 17: Halflings.

This handy little Warlock magazine details three branches of the halfling family tree. Scott Gable asked me to work on this one, and it also features work by Victoria Jaczko. 

Tangible Taverns: Gumption

With everything going on in the world right now, we’re sticking closer to home and trying to tie up some loose ends. If you’re like us, you might think the current state of things makes it the perfect time to settle in, stay home, and play some RPGs.

If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered with a new Tangible Tavern.

Located in the middle of no-where (which some say is the perfect place to be right now!), this tavern is a refuge for weary travellers. No, it isn’t the one in the middle of the woods under a tree, or a hut located on the river, this little farmstead is something new. And there’s a horse with a secret!

Stay tuned – it’s coming soon!

 

Deadworld with Drama System

If you follow our blog, you may have noticed a few mentions of Deadworld campaigns. There is something we find enticing about these post-apocalyptic settings, and as a result, we keep coming back to them.

Recently I decided to try running a gaming session for Ken, which isn’t something that happens often. We agreed to take a break from our current campaign, one set in a series of hidden, magical kingdoms, and have a one-off gaming session.

Why the Drama?

After some consideration, I decided to use DramaSystem (published in Hillfolk by Pelgrane Press) as our recent attempts with it have created a lot of tension and allow us to focus on the interpersonal drama, something I thought would be ideal in this setting.

Something I love about DramaSystem is the ability to share game-mastering duties, and for all participants to feel like they have a say in the story.

As it turns out, the one-off session really took off, and between the two of us, the game is going as smoothly as any game set in a world that is falling apart would.

Interested in hearing how it went? Below is the introduction as the main character, played by Ken, made his way to his girlfriend.

Have you used DramaSystem? Ever tried a post-apocalyptic setting? 


The Beginning

The crunching sound of metal in the distance made Andy jump as he pedalled down the abandoned side road. The silence that followed was unnerving but he kept pedalling, forced to move toward where the sound came from. He wiped the sweat from his brow.

“They’re evacuating us, Andy. I’ll wait as long as I can, but we have to go.”

Her voice still rung in his ears.

“Please, Andy. Please get here.”

The vehicle came into view up ahead.  It was a small blue car, and the front of it was now wrapped around the telephone pole on the left-hand side of the road. Smoke billowed from the engine. Andy slowed down, hopping off his bike and walking it closer. He kept his distance from the vehicle but peered in the half open windows from the other side of the street. He could see still figures in both front seats.

“Hello?” he called out cautiously.

Silence.

“Hello? You alive in there?” he called again.

This time he heard a groan from in the vehicle. Setting his bike down in the middle of the road, Andy glanced around before approaching the car carefully. The body in the passenger seat moved, groaning again as he raised his head.

“Hey, you okay?” Andy asked, lowering his shoulder bag to the ground next to his bike before moving around to the passenger side of the car cautiously.

“Oh, my head,” murmured the passenger. Andy still couldn’t get a good look at him. He was wearing a dark blue hoodie, and his face was twisted in a grimace of pain.

“Alright, but you’re okay? You’re alive?” he asked. His heart was pounding in his chest, but he was standing still, poised to move forward to help, or run toward his bike.

“Yeah, yeah,” responded the man, a bit disorientated. He sat up now, rubbing his head and grimacing once more. Andy couldn’t see any blood on him. The airbag had deployed and the man seemed dazed more than anything else. Andy moved forward quickly and opened the passenger side door as the driver’s hand twitched.

“Your friend, is he okay?” asked Andy, glancing the stirring figure nervously.

“I don’t know. Chris?” the man asked, turning to look over at the driver. The body twitched again, and then suddenly sat straight up before vomiting a black liquid all over the dash and deflated airbags. A guttural howl emerged from his mouth and he turned to Andy and the passenger.

“Come on, you’ve got to get out of the car,” Andy said frantically, pulling a pocket knife.

“Chris?” the passenger asked, looking toward the driver’s seat in horror while fumbling with his seat belt clasp.

“Get out! Get out!” Andy called, slashing the seat belt with the knife.

He grabbed the groggy passenger and tried to pull him free of the car as the driver lunged toward the passenger seat screaming.  A hand reached out and grabbed Andy’s arm as he pushed the deflated airbag out of the way. The driver, his face twisted in rage, lunged toward the pair. He was not restrained by a seat belt, and the grip on Andy’s arm was tight. Andy, grip still tight on the passenger, tried to pull away. The driver’s leg seemed to be caught and he howled again, mouth wide open. Andy gritted his teeth and wrenched both himself and the passenger free. The pair tumbled to the ground outside the vehicle, and Andy managed to kick the door closed.

He scrambled to his feet, holding a hand out for the man, who took it and stood up himself with Andy’s assistance. The pair backed away from the vehicle as the drive let out another guttural howl and began to feverishly alternate between banging on the car window and extending his arms out of it toward the two young men.

“What’s your name?” asked Andy glancing at the stranger and back at his bike. He quickly picked it up, setting the tires on the asphalt and straightening the strap of the side bag he had slung over his backpack. The weight of the bags was heavy, but he knew the contents could be useful.

“Matt,” said the man in shock, staring at the car. He was wearing well-worn jeans and a pair of beat-up sneakers with his hoodie.

“Where you going, Matt?” asked Andy, wheeling his bike away from the vehicle. “We should walk while we do this,” he added.

“Oh, uh, away from here….” Matt trailed off, running a hand through his short hair.

Andy nodded and glanced back to see Matt making his way to the trunk of the car.

“What are you doing? We have to go,” Andy said, glancing nervously at the angry driver.

“My bag, it’s in there,” he gestured at the trunk.

“What do you have in there, man?” asked Andy, eyeing the driver who was still flailing his arms angrily out of the car window.

“My bag, it’s got food in it, and my stuff,” he replied, looking helplessly at the lock and then back at the driver.

“Yeah, you can probably find more food, lets just keep going,” said Andy.

Matt looked at the trunk again and glanced doubtfully at Andy.

The thing that was once the driver let out another angry scream. His head was now out of the window, his arms reaching for Andy, who stood a good ten feet away.

“Matt, let’s go!” said Andy sharply. “He’s going to get out of there at some point and he sounds pissed. Let’s get a move on.”

Matt shook his head, almost coming to and nodded. The two of them started off down the road, Andy pushing his bike and shouldering his large backpack and shoulder bag, Matt empty handed.

The two of them walked briskly in silence for a few minutes, the hostile screams of the driver still echoing down the abandoned side road.

“What happened?” asked Andy. “Why’d you crash?”

A look came across Matt’s face. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. He shook his head and opened his mouth once more, almost not believing what he was about to say.

“A wasp.”

Andy frowned and looked over at the man. He had to be about seventeen, a few years younger than Andy. He was wearing jeans and t-shirt, which was now flecked with dirt and a few pieces of grass from the fall out of the car. The boy ran his hand absently through his short blonde hair again and winced as his hand ran over a bruise on his head.

“A wasp?” Andy clarified.

“A wasp,” Matt confirmed. “Chris is,” he started, “was, really afraid of them. Freaked out every time one came near him. One flew into the car while we were driving and he started yelling and flailing his arms around at it. Next thing I knew that pole was coming right at us.”

Andy looked horrified.

There a moment of silence.

“Where you heading to?” he asked Matt.

The boy gestured north, toward the direction Andy had come from.

“We were trying to get out of there,” he said. “It was getting bad. No real destination though.”

As if on cue, a series of small explosions could be heard from that direction.

“We need to pick up the pace,” said Andy worriedly.

Matt nodded and tried to speed up, still a bit shaken from the recent accident. He rubbed his arms.

“Where are you going?” he asked conversationally.

“Olympia,” said Andy thoughtfully.

“Yeah, you got people there?” he asked.

“Hopefully,” Andy replied.

He closed his eyes for a moment, remembering the end of the call.

“Andy, there’s something I have to tell you.”

Her usually confident voice had sounded scared, pleading. And then the line went dead.

What did she need to tell him? Will he make it to her in time?