Um, people.”It wasn’t hard to get their attention. They gathered around. Even the littlest ones toned down their giggling, at least a bit.“First of all, thanks to Albert and his helpers for this meal. Let’s give it up for the true Mac Daddy.”A round of hearty applause and some laughter, and Albert waved sheepishly. He frowned a little too, obviously conflicted about the use of the “Mac” prefix in a way that was not approved in the McDonald’s manual.“And we have to mention Lana and Dahra, because without them, there would be a lot fewer of us here.”Now the applause was almost reverential.“Our first Thanksgiving in the FAYZ,” Sam said when the applause died down.“Hope it’s our last,” someone shouted.“Yeah. You got that right,” Sam agreed. “But we’re here. We’re here in this place we never wanted to be. And we’re scared. And I’m not going to lie and tell you that from here on, it will all be easy. It won’t be. It will be hard. And we’ll be scared some more, I guess. And sad. And lonely. Some terrible things have happened. Some terrible things…” For a moment, he lost his way. But then he stood up straighter again. “But, still, we are grateful, and we give thanks to God, if you believe in Him, or to fate, or to just ourselves, all of us here.”“To you, Sam,” someone shouted.“No, no, no.” He waved that off. “No. We give thanks to the nineteen kids who are buried right there.” He pointed at the six rows of three, plus the one who started a seventh row. Neat hand-painted wooden tombstones bore the names of Bette and too many others.“And we give thanks to the heroes who are standing around here right now eating turkey. Too many names to mention, and they’d all just be embarrassed, anyway, but we all know them.”There was a wave of loud, sustained applause, and many faces turned toward Edilio and Dekka, Taylor and Brianna, and some toward Quinn.“We all hope this will end. We all hope we’ll soon be back in the world with people we love. But right now, we’re here. We’re in the FAYZ. And what we’re going to do is work together, and look out for each other, and help each other.” People nodded, some high-fived.“Most of us are from Perdido Beach. Some are from Coates. Some of us are…well, a little strange.” A few titters. “And some of us are not. But we’re all here now, we’re all in it together. We’re going to survive. If this is our world now…I mean, it is our world now. It is our world. So, let’s make it a good one.”He stepped down in silence.Then someone started clapping rhythmically and saying, “Sam, Sam, Sam.” Others joined in, and soon every person in the plaza, even some of the prees, was chanting his name.

~ Michael Grant