80.

Valiantly, the little beast charges, fangs bared, eyes filled with purpose.

“Yap!” says the beast. “Yap! Yap! Yap!”.

“Zoom!” says the car. “Zoom zoom!”

79.

The boy’s lips are a blue that is almost a black, his skin as pale as the striations in the cracked ice around him. There is an unnatural gleam to his cobalt eyes. The song that falls from his lips is sickly and sweet, like rotten candy.

The song thrums in Pastor Mike’s ears as he steps out onto the moaning ice, memories of soft flesh and those little teary whimpers spinning in his mind, the old dark hunger growing between his loins. His panting breath steams in the air as he reaches the edge of the ice and bends down, his hands grasping blindly, his lips hunting for soft flesh even as they whisper the sacred words that have always failed to prevent him from doing what he has done.

The boy rises out of the water and embraces the pastor. His lips are hard and cold. His little hands are impossibly strong. He pulls the older man down and down and down. Icy bubbles catch final screams and sparkle as they rise out of the dark and the cold. And now the water is silent and still.

77.

Travis stumbled drunkenly out into the night, the distant sound of surf thrumming in time with the fullness of his bladder.

Needled pine branches assaulted his face and he stepped away from the light of the party, fumbling with the fly on his jeans.

God, he had to pee.

His feet found the edge, and continued, and he was falling through space, warm piss flooding his still buttoned pants. The sound of surf, swirling on jagged rocks, grew and grew until it was everywhere and it was everything.

76.

The skeleton clattered to the ground. Whatever magic had animated it had dissipated, though the empty sockets of its eyes seemed still to speak accusation. Wendel backed up two steps, and fled: directly into the spike pit, which was the final ending, for him.

75.

Joan had one moment of lucidity. No one was around. But she was present for the first time in so long. And everything was crystal clear.

She was in a small room, with pale blue wallpaper. The sheets on her bed were plain and white. The clock on the table was analogue. It was 2:37pm, plus the ticking seconds.

The Television was off. This was a nursing home. Her husband had left. He said that he would be back at the usual time. Maybe she would recognize him. Maybe she would not be here when he returned. That would be a mercy.

Joan close her eyes. And mercy gently dropped across her like a warm blanket as she took two last breaths.

71.

No one emerges from the twisted and smoking wreckage. A single human hand lies outflung on the sand, the arm it is connected to disappearing into the crushed metal body of the car. The fingers do not move. After some time, the desert scavengers arrive.