The feeling of darkness enveloped Shannon in ways she’d never experienced. There were no words for what it felt like. Her mind felt alert; she felt alert, but the black was all that there was. She tried to reason why there was nothingness around her. She wanted to yell into the blackness to search for something. It’s Purgatory, she reasoned. A lifetime of good, over a decade of bringing justice wasted. It was her fear of the blanketing dark that filled her head with those thoughts. She wished she could claw that part of her soul out with a spoon then.
Shannon thought she had dispensed justice during her crusade. She had no doubts there, but was that moment, encased in an abysmal void, the right moment to use justice when pondering about current events. If she lived by the mantra of certain religious dogmas, and she didn’t, then her last living moments had damned her. She regretted her actions, and if called upon by some higher power would give an explanation. Anything more than that and God might come away disappointed. Shannon didn’t feel up to spending her last unpained moments of awareness dwelling on the past no matter how recent. She’d done the proverbial do, and she’d take the consequences.
She still had the feeling that the so-called cosmic scales might find her in deficient. She knew she’d done much good. She knew it. The lycans she’d killed had never felt like personal revenge. No. She had always taken revenge for the innocent. Taken it for those no longer able to speak for themselves. Hadn’t she? Or had she been kidding herself with self-righteous, pious bullshit in order to avenger her own turning? She’d always had that doubt, and had always pushed it away. In a moment of fear she began to worry about that Hell place that the majority of religions warned of.
“What should we do with her?” said a distant, ethereal voice.
“Why the hell are you asking me? You know how I feel about this. Send to her Hell,” answered a second.
The voices were distant, but familiar. To Shannon it sounded like Deidre and Kelsey. Now, Shannon knew she was screwed. If her eternal fate was sealed then there were none better than the two survivors of her rage and the undead infection.
“She’s a child of God. We can’t arbitrarily…
“Hell yeah we can. You saw what she did to the others.” Just come to a decision already, she screamed into the dark. I don’t have eternity.
A small voice beside her said she did.
“You saw Dennis’ body. A gunshot did him, and you said yourself that her gun hadn’t been fired.”
“Yeah. I concede that she couldn’t have done Dennis. But Rose and Steve… Bitch did ‘em. Far as I’m concerned our friendly neighborhood stray is gone. All that remains is putting this meat sack, dog puppet down.” The Deidre voice sounded more disgusted. “I can’t believe you talked me into tying her up. Should’ve finish her is what I should do. Cut off her head and be done with it.”
“I’m not going to be a party to murder, Dee. I’ve got Rance to think of.”
“Our time at Lofty Morals Elementary School is over. We’ve graduated to Survival University.” Shannon heard a gun’s hammer being pulled back. A crushing sensation in her chest jerked her consciousness from the blackness.
“Wait,” said Kelsey’s voice. “Look. She’s healing.”
“Shit fuck. Now I have to do it.”
Shannon couldn’t see or physically feel the pressure of a weapon’s barrel, but she could tell one was being pushed against her forehead. A sigh was heard before the pressure disappeared. “Oh fuck it all. All right. I want to know why she did it.” A pause. “It’s the lawyer in me, I guess.”
Something seemed to pull Shannon to the surface away from the black. She saw dim grey light at first, nothing more than a pinpoint at first, but then it grew in size and intensity. She reasoned that it must be similar to what deep sea exploration subs must see as they surface. Instead of relief though, she felt that whatever awaited her wasn’t related to any vast legions of angels.
Faster her consciousness was being pulled to the light. There was a sense of great speed, and if she had breath, it would have been caught in her throat. The speed was so fast that it felt a catastrophic collision was imminent. The light wrapped itself burst suddenly around her. She felt heatless light on her face. It was bright and she reflexively clamped her eyes shut against it.
“Open ‘em,” commanded Deidre. A fierce slap accompanied her order. “Come on, dog. Open your eyes.” Shannon did and found the light shining in her eyes.
“You awake now?”
“She can’t see with that flashlight in her face. Take it off her,” urged Kelsey. “Fine. She’d better be grateful she ain’t seeing another light filled with demons and all manners of gruesome shit.”
Deidre clicked the light off. As her vision cleared she saw she had been moved to the back of the kitchen. She went to rob her eyes, and discovered that her hands had been securely tied to a corner support beam. She doubted that she could change to get loose. She tried, but didn’t have the energy or will to do it. She scanned her surroundings. The kitchen was being kept dark and the shudders had been drawn to prevent light from escaping. The women, more likely Deidre, had thought of everything to keep from being detected by the undead or anyone living.
Deidre stood over her, holding the semi auto shotgun close to her right temple. Deidre was making it clear that she planned to make it messy in putting Shannon down.
Shannon’s eyes went to a mounted flashlight on the grip. She laughed at how she mistook a shotgun’s light for something bad. What it was attached too that was the main worry.
“See, she’s crazy. She wakes up and the first thing she does is laugh. I’m starting to feel that we should grease the rat fuck bitch right now.” The barrel grew slightly bigger inside Shannon’s vision. She looked down at her chest as she heard a dull, wet popping noise. Her body had finished healing. It had rejected the bullet Rance had put into her. Against her will a smile came across her face. Rance’s first shot ever had been a technical kill shot. Deidre had to have been proud. Shannon wasn’t. The kid had the makings of being a good werewolf killer. All he needed was silver to go with his will.
“Okay,” Deidre said calmly. “Now explain to me why I shouldn’t just kill you. I figure if this 12 gauge doesn’t do it then one of those silver jacketed rounds ought to do it. Now, why did you kill Rose and Steve?”
“Bloodlust,” answered Shannon. Her head hung against her chest and she focused on the floor. “I’ve heard of it affecting lycans, but I’ve never experienced it until now. It mostly comes at times of great emotional or mental stress. A few can call it up at will, but I’m not one of those. I never meant to kill anyone.”
“I can understand that.” Kelsey spoke up before Deidre. She clearly was more inclined to let Shannon live than put her down. “If she wanted us dead, she could’ve done it long before now.”
“Or maybe she was waiting for her perfect moment. Wolves do that you know. Believe it or not there’s a saying somewhere about sheep’s clothing.” Deidre sounded unconvinced about Kelsey’s observation.
Shannon sensed Deidre’s urgency to kill her laced with doubt. Whether Deidre wanted to feel doubt was immaterial if she spur-of-the-moment pulled the trigger.
“It doesn’t count for anything, but I am sorry. I’m going to get emo about it, but I am truly sorry.” Shannon’s eyes rose to Kelsey and then Deidre. No tears were present. Though she was remorseful she didn’t feel the need to weep.
“I’m betting you’re sorry that you didn’t succeed.” Uncertainty rang through Deidre’s voice even as her anger bubbled to the surface once more.
“This is Shannon we’re talking about here,” pleaded Kelsey. “I liked Rose, too, but dammit Dee, she wouldn’t… she couldn’t do this willingly.”
“I wasn’t in control, Deidre. I wish I could tell you what it was like, but all I can say is that it was awful.”
“Yeah, I bet.” Sarcasm soaked anger was a reaction that suited Deidre well. “I’m going to do her.” Deidre racked the shotgun again. An unspent round flew out of the chamber, hitting Shannon’s ruptured shoes.
“No, please, Deidre. There’s been enough killing.” Kelsey put her hand on the shotgun’s barrel. Deidre pushed her away.
“Just do it, Dee. You want to and it’ll get me out of this.”
Deidre lowered the muzzle slightly and thought it over. “Okay. We’ll let Rance decide. You’re his kill to begin with. Whatever he says, I’ll go with. Agreed?”
Deidre looked to Kelsey first, and then to Shannon. Kelsey nodded agreement. Shannon shrugged.
Deidre called to Rance. The freezer door slid open, and the boy emerged. He wore an adult parka that covered his entire body. With the freezer running full again, it seemed that the decision to dig in at the diner had been made. Rance ran over to Kelsey and anxiously hugged her leg.
“Rance, honey. Kelsey spoke in eerily calm tones as she stooped to look her son in the eye. “What should we do with Shannon? Should we let her go or do something else?”
Rance whispered so low into Kelsey’s ear that Shannon couldn’t even hear his soft murmuring.
“Rance, you need to say that out loud. I know you’re scared, but let everyone else hear what you just said.”
Shannon’s breath caught in her throat. Maybe she did care which way the axe swung. For the first time in her life she really was flying by the seat of her pants.
When Rance spoke he did so more like an adult than a child. “Don’t shoot her. Just let her go. She didn’t mean to hurt us. Did you, Shannon?”
It was her human side’s turn to act on its own. Before she could think on her own her mouth was moving. What I did, I did without forethought, Rance. I didn’t plan this or even give it consideration. I never wanted to hurt anyone in the diner.
“Great, fine, wonderful.” Deidre broke in, pissed at herself at having made the deal in the first place, much less that a child was making the judgment call on their safety. “All right. Fine. A deal’s a deal. You live for the time being.”
Shannon recoiled from the look in Deidre’s eyes and the tone in her voice. She’d never seen such animosity from a human in her life.
Kelsey urged Rance back into the freezer. The door slid silently shut and relief filled Shannon. Had her life really come down to the word of a child? It seemed ludicrous, but it had happened. Even moments later it felt like a fleeting dream.
Her thoughts went to the freezer refuge. Could the cold protect Rance’s scent from the undead? She could still smell him, but did the formerly living have olfactory senses that still worked. She hoped not.
Deidre stared at Shannon for a few moments. “Well? Start talking. I want to hear what caused it all. What the whole emotional or mental distress was that caused her to snap.” Deidre pulled up a chair and sat facing Shannon.
Shannon glanced at Deidre’s hands. She flicked the safety from fire to safe and back again. She resisted the urge to squirm as Deidre stared at her. Shannon wasn’t accustomed to being this type of nervous.
“I’m going to get some coffee,” Kelsey said, moving to a pot of brewing coffee. “I bet this is going to be another long night.”
Deidre kept her gaze and the shotgun focused on Shannon. At the counter, Kelsey kept glancing over her shoulder as she pulled down two mugs.
At that moment the aroma was exotic, and Shannon wished she could have a cup. Deidre spoke like she had read Shannon’s mind. Shannon knew that it was her face that was easily read. “You can’t have any so stop thinking about it. The coffee’s for us normal people on watch tonight. Seems like we have three problems to watch for tonight.”
“Have we… you been attacked again? More dead guys walking?” The semi joke was empty and Shannon knew it.
Deidre wasn’t receptive to it anyway. “Thanks to you going on a spree and my shooting at your ass we had a few dozen of those things show up. No hairy’s like you, thank God, but we’ve had our share of deaders put in an appearance. It was too many to take on so we sat still and waited them out. Seems they have the attention span of a cat so thank God for small favors. They hung around for a couple of hours and then started moving off a few at a time. Been two or so hours since the last one left. I’ll let you have a laugh on guessing who that last one was.”
“Greg.” Shannon thought the answer was easy.
“Yep.” Deidre chuckled. It was uneasy, but real, sound. “Kel was right. Naked as the day he was born and missing his meat stick. Honestly, I don’t really want to know how that one played out.”
Shannon laughed nervously too. It would be another girl bonding moment if it weren’t for the shotgun pointing at her and the restraints. “Guess he got what he deserved.”
“I bet. Surely the undead girl or whatever didn’t bite off more than she could chew.”
Both laughed. It was a horrible, but funny joke.
“You two should be ashamed of yourselves.” Kelsey handed a steaming cup to Deidre.
Deidre placed the shotgun across her lap before taking the cup. Shannon relaxed. It was true; the muzzle was always huge when pointed at you.
The light fell upon a mouse creeping across the room. Kelsey and Deidre laughed at it, remarking that it didn’t take long for the rodents of the world to find a way in. The double meaning then fell upon them, and they stopped laugh almost simultaneously. They knew that women, even well-armed and determined women, were in more danger now than ever before.
Deidre drained half her mug before speaking again. “Now back to the strain that made you snap.” Her voice was even. It was the voice of both judge and executioner. Deidre had no more use for juries. In the new shit smear of God’s world juries took too much precious time in deciding anything.
Shannon told the story of the father and mother she and Helfron had encountered, and of the deaths that occurred. The tale of the children’s lack of motivation to eat the parents was enlightening and disturbing. Deidre and Kelsey didn’t know how to react to the parents delivering the children’s second death. Both understood the reasoning, and neither envied the toughest of decisions.
Once Shannon’s story was finished, the thirst for revenge for the killings returned, but was tempered with compassion for Shannon’s ordeal. Deidre tried convincing herself that she would’ve reacted differently. The thought was always followed by a mental reminder that she didn’t have a lycanthropic virus running through her system.
In the meantime Kelsey did what Kelsey was prone to do; she cried. Deidre and Shannon would’ve joined her if they hadn’t experienced too much personal pain. Both wanted to, but couldn’t. “I’m sorry, at least Steven and Rose don’t have to worry about this anymore,” said Kelsey in between blowing her nose.
“Maybe so,” grumbled Deidre. She rose and paced began pacing back and forth. “This still leaves us two gun hands short, and I cry more about that than their deaths. We’re also short four people to trust. As it stands now, it’s just us, Kelsey. And before you say anything, I’m counting Shannon here among the dead. It’s in doubt whether we can trust her or not.”
“But Rance said…” Kelsey was sure once again that Shannon’s death was inevitable.
“I know what he said, and I’m going with it. I never promised that she would travel with us.” Deidre sighed and sat down again. She let the shotgun rest between her legs. She weighed the pros against the cons of having Shannon accompany them on their imminent survival trek. Killing Shannon was still an option, but no longer the only option.