She was sitting on the floor. The gun was still in her hands. She realized she had been dry-firing it for some time; not aiming at anything, just pulling the trigger again and again. The gun was pointed at the floor. She looked down stupidly at it.
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She looked up.
A body was sprawled across the broken doorway. It was not a monstrous, hairy thing- that mad flash as it came through the door- but...
It lay in a pool of blood. There were holes through the back of the button-up shirt. It lay face-down. If it had been alive, it would have been breathing the stuff. All of this came to her slowly, like a great and terrible train that needed time to build up momentum. She had shot someone. A person. A man.
She got up. She looked down again at the gun, which she was still holding on one numb hand. She threw it away.
It was a man. A human being. She had shot someone.
She had killed someone.
This was worse than any dead voices, any prowling horrors. This was real. There was a dead man lying in her doorway, and she had killed him.
She put a hand to her mouth. What was she going to do? What...?
She looked at the back of the man's head, at his hair. A terrible thought came into her mind, then. No. That wasn't possible. No. She wouldn't even think of that. It was too horrible.
I have to know, she thought.
And so she threw the last shreds of her common sense to the wind, and bent down in front of the body. She wedged her hands under one of the shoulders- sliming the fingers with blood- and pulled. Slowly, slowly, the heavy body began to turn over. She yanked as hard as she could.
The corpse turned over.
The dead eyes of Silas Parish stared back at her.
Deborah screamed, pulled her hands away as if burnt, and jumped forward, out the door. She tripped on the porch steps and tumbled to the gravel driveway, skinning both her hands in the process. She didn't even feel it. Immediately, she was back up and running. She bolted to her car, ripped the door open, and threw herself inside. Her mind was lost in a frenzy of panic. She had killed Silas Parish. She had shot him to death in her doorway. What would she do? Where would she go? She had to tell the police. Something had to be explained. An excuse, a reason for everything; a reason she couldn't find, because nothing seemed to make sense anymore.
At least I can tell them why I didn't call them. Phone was broken, she thought, and laughed wildly. She fished in her pocket, found her keys- thank the gods- and started the car. Not thinking now. Her mind had fled toward oblivion, and it was all she could do to stay conscious. She backed the car out, fishtailed into the street, and pulled away without looking back. Away. She had to get Away. She looked at her clock. It read: 2:07.
Christ, she thought.
She couldn't find the main road. It wasn't a matter of being lost, or missing an exit. She just couldn't find it. Every road led to another obscure, back-country drive she didn't recognize. Every turn seemed to take her further from civilization. The night went on and on. No stars.
She saw no other cars. The wind howled through her wheels, threatened to rip the steering wheel from her hands. She drove blindly, not thinking. And still she did not find the road.
Later: She looked at her clock.
It read: 2:07.
She stopped the car. For a long time she sat there, in the middle of the road, and simply looked. It was impossible. It was her mind. She was losing her grip on reality. She was...
Tears gathered in her eyes, and flowed down her cheeks. Nothing made sense anymore. Had she shot someone? Had she killed a man? Was ANYTHING true?
She looked up, and saw something moving in the forest.
Before she was even aware of it, she was speeding away down the lightless road.
The night went on and on, and when she found herself once again on a road she remembered, she was only a little surprised.
Home again. There was no getting away now.
Her numb hands made the motions. Her car pulled back into the driveway. It was still night.
She looked at the clock.
It read: 2:07.
Silas's body was gone. She might have been able to convince herself that it was all a fever-dream, but for the pool of blood still soaking into her hall carpet. She looked at that for a long time. Something...something...
Wrong. It was wrong. If Silas had gotten up, if somehow he had only been wounded- he would have left a mess of blood when he moved. The pool was whole, untouched. No footprints. No smears. It was as if the old man's body had simply boiled away to nothing while she was gone.
She didn't want to think about that.
Deborah stood on her driveway. She stood in the chill night air, under a sky that bore no stars, and tried to think sane thoughts. What was happening? Why was she...? Who...?
She knew now that Alex had been right- had to have been right. Things had begun to spiral out of control, and she knew that if she was going to comprehend anything, she had to change what she believed.
It was that. Or else...
Or else she had lost her mind.
Deborah stood in the gravel of her driveway and closed her hands into fists. No. She would not go that way. She was sane, and coherent, and she knew who and what she was.
She raised her eyes to the dim line of trees beyond the house. Things seemed to move and shift as she watched them. They seemed to watch her, in return. They were patient. They were waiting.
Fine, Deborah thought. I accept that. I accept that something, some entity or spirit or whatever, is out there. I accept that this creature, the Wendigo- she shuddered at the word- has turned its attention to me, for whatever reasons, and that it is...doing something to me. She didn't want to take that logic any further. There were realms of possibility she couldn't deal with. Not now.
Silas was gone. Her gardener- she couldn't remember his name at the moment- was gone. Everything she found normal and familar was far away in a place full of light. It was the two of them, now. Her...
And the Wendigo.
From somewhere out in the wilderness, there came a long, low howl.
Deborah stepped inside the house.
And everything went wrong. The air grew heavy. It pressed in on her, making her eardrums throb, making her eyes burn. The pool of blood shifted under her feet, and she fell forward onto her hands and knees, gasping for breath in the suddenly stale air. She managed, with great effort, to raise her eyes to the hallway, and when she did, she saw it pull back from her into the distance, impossibly long. The ceiling fell up and away, and she was struck by a powerful vertigo that rocked her, even on her hands and knees.
"No!" she cried, and heard herself from a distance...or maybe through a pool of water. She moved, and her body moved a second later- slugginsh- somewhere else. No. NO.
She struck at the wall as hard as she could. It hurt. It scraped the skin off of her knuckles. She did it again, and again, and again until she was bleeding and the pain seared through her arms and hands. She would NOT be taken this way. NOT. No more.
"Bastard," she said. Her voice was a husk. Anyone who had known her in her shoolteaching days would not have recognized it as hers. Her face contorted in a sneer. She would NOT be taken that way. Not again.
When she looked up, the hall was normal. The wall was streaked with blood from her knuckles, and that, of all things, made her feel queasy. She looked down at her hands. They were in bad shape. Most of it was blood-smear, she knew that...but it looked bad. She stood up unsteadily, and waited for the room to shift. When it didn't, she walked into the kitchen and rinsed her hands off in the sink. Then she bound them both with bandages from the bathroom, washed her face in icy-cold water, and walked back into the hall.
She curled her hands into fists. It hurt, but she didn't care.
"Okay," she whispered. Her words hung in the still room. "Okay, you bastard thing. Come for me."
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.