9: Run!

It looked like two spiders crawling out of the sides of the hole. They scurried across the wall, revealing wrinkly, blistered flesh, doused in what had to have been Ms. Ryder’s blood. Though, I didn’t really know. The Slasher could have gotten a few more kills in before finding me again.

Where’d that knife go? I wondered.

The hood of the black cloak slid out from between the spider-like hands. It pulled back into the hole. The fingers tightened against the wall. In an instant, the hood shot back out like a bullet.

An urgent rush compelled me forward. I grabbed the bathroom door handle. My muscles, having already been overexerted during my chain tug-o-war at the pool, were extra-sensitive. My bicep burned as bad as the rubbing alcohol on my back as I forced the door shut.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I exclaimed, my words feeling as useless as Carrie’s declarations to a higher power just moments earlier.

A loud clunk came from the other side of the door. It sounded like—and I hoped that—the Slasher had slammed into it.

I swung around, dashed for the door to the hall.

Carrie stood by the desk, on the other side of the clinic, staring at the bathroom door. Her mouth hung open. She was probably thinking about how poor Ms. Ryder didn’t deserve to die like that. I was in survival mode and too preoccupied with trying to keep us alive to worry about the already-deceased.

“Carrie!” I snapped like a rude-ass who’d confused her for a dog.

She shook her head. Without changing expressions, she darted toward me and the door.

I threw it open, hopped into the hall. It was like when I’d raced other guys as a kid—that adrenaline kick right before I’d passed the finish line, followed by the reassurance that I’d made it, but that nagging feeling that I needed to keep going. Only this time, I really did need to keep going.

I stopped, turned back to make sure Carrie was close behind. She ran out so fast I thought she was gonna plow into the wall on the other side of the hall. But instead, she made a quick turn and raced along the wall.

If we’d been Lot’s wife, we wouldn’t have turned to salt, cause neither of us looked back. We were too scared it’d slow us down and give the Slasher the opportunity it needed to slice off our heads. In no time, I was tearing through the courtyard. The air rushed across my body, heat built in my chest, and I could feel a fresh layer of sweat dampening my forehead.

It was still light out, oddly enough. I always thought shit like this happened in the middle of the night. Evidently in Lawrenceville, they happened in broad daylight. Although, judging by the orangey hue in the sky, I was pretty sure we didn’t have more than an hour of light left.

“Wait...Wait!” Carrie stopped in the middle of the courtyard. I tried to stop too, but my momentum pushed me a few feet ahead of her.

She ran to the corner I’d been hiding in earlier.

Is she crazy?

There was a moment where I considered ditching her, but something in me couldn’t just let her be an idiot and become the Slasher’s next victim. I chased after her. As she came to the Leyland cypresses I’d hid behind, she dropped on her knees and buried her face in the foliage. The branches caught strands of her light hair and pulled them loose from her ponytail.

I thought she was reverting back to some primal hiding instinct, like an Ostrich burying its head in the sand. It was a good thing I was there to rescue her from her insanity. I swooped down, grabbed her by the arm, pulled her to her feet. “What the hell’s wrong with you?!” I exclaimed, trying to snap her back to reality. “We have to get the fuck out of here?”

Her face tensed, and she flashed her teeth at me. I’d seen dogs make similar faces when I’d gotten in the way of their food. “I have to get my necklace!” she hissed. This was the fiercest I’d ever seen her.

What the fuck?

She ripped her arm away with a strength she hadn’t used even after I’d nabbed her in the courtyard. She dove back into the foliage.

I glanced over my shoulder to make sure the monster wasn’t coming. Fortunately for both of us, it wasn’t. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t going to pop up any second now. I grabbed Carrie’s forearms and dragged her back to her feet. She scratched and tried to pull away, but now that I was ready for her struggle, she couldn’t get loose.

“Jason!” she snapped. “I need that necklace!”

God, them and their stupid necklaces! Couldn’t she deal with that shit when we weren’t being hunted down by a monster from another dimension?

“We need to get the hell outta here!”

If she didn’t sane-up quick, I was going to ditch her psychotic ass.

“We’re batteries, right? Well those necklaces are like the chargers we use to access our power! Without it, I’m powerless. I can’t help us, and it’ll kill you!”

That changed the story. In an instant, we were both on our knees, scrambling through the cypresses. The branches poked at my face, and my back started to itch wherever the foliage scraped across.

I wished I'd known about the necklaces before. I woulda taken Seth and Brad's in a heartbeat and kicked their faces into their shit.

This better be worth it, I thought. Maybe it could help us, but if that thing caught up to us before we found it, it wouldn’t really matter what it could do.

The black soil on the ground was covered in bits of branches and brown foliage. I dug into the soil without any luck.

I glanced around, trying to figure out which direction I might have thrown it. In a patch of bushes lining the wall beside the cypresses, a light shimmered. I rushed over, snatched at it, and pulled it out of the bushes. It was the necklace.

“Got it!”

I jumped up victoriously, then turned back around to make sure the Slasher wasn’t there. It woulda been an awfully pathetic if it had just cut off my head right then. Nothing was behind me, though. And I couldn’t see any sign of it in the courtyard. It had plenty of time to catch up with us, but it hadn’t. I had a hunch it wasn't coming after me just yet. Like it was plotting its next attack. Of course, I could’ve been totally wrong, and it could’ve been lurking just around the corner, waiting for us. Regardless, we needed to get the hell outta there.

Carrie hurried to me, looking less ferocious than she had moments earlier and far more like the panicked girl from the clinic. “We have to get to the old church,” she said.

The old church? That didn’t sound like a place to go for safety. It sounded like a place to be murdered.

***

"When we first started working with our powers, we weren't very strong,” Carrie said.

We’d run as fast as we’d been able to. We’d gone around the school, into the woods, and had about a fifteen minute hike before we’d come to what Carrie had told me was the old church, which was exactly as the name suggested. It was hidden in the woods, next to an equally old cemetery. A basic construction. It had a single, overcompensating tower and a few broken stain-glass windows with the usual saint this and Virgin Mary that. The boards on it were cracking. Bits of dust and nails squeezed out here and there. It was one of those buildings that made me wonder what kept it standing.

Tall, yellow grass overran the churchyard. Carrie navigated us through on a trail of grass that had been walked through enough that it was now bent to the ground.

“Seth and Brad could barely lift a pencil without seven hours of practice. Let alone, you,” she continued. She paused to take a few breaths. We were both still recovering from the fifteen minutes of nonstop running.

The path took us around to the side of the church.

“It was like a science project,” she said. “It was interesting and fun, but it didn't really help us.”

There was a small window, just above the ground, covered in a layer of dirt and dust. Carrie sat on the ground and kicked it open with her heel. It was clear by how casual she was about it that this was routine for her. She slid right through.

It didn’t seem like a good idea for me to follow because A) you shouldn’t go hanging in basements of old, near-collapsed buildings and B) the whole claustrophobia thing. But my curiosity outweighed my apprehension, and I crawled in behind her.

The basement we ended up in was pretty wide, but the ceiling was low enough to aggravate my nerves. My breathing was quick and unsteady. The sweat on my forehead wasn’t going anywhere fast. And the room looked like it was starting to sway. As long as I didn’t vomit, we’d be good.

It was pretty dark, except for what little light came in through the window. Thick, wooden support beams were scattered all around—most of them with gaping holes and huge cracks split right through them. It was just more proof as to why it was an awful idea to hang in basements of old, near-collapsed buildings. A few shelves with wooden crates, boxes, stacks of papers, and miscellaneous items lined the walls. Other than that, the floor was clean and bare, except for a small white circle drawn in the middle of the room, and a blue milk crate that was set beside it.

Carrie knelt down by the blue crate. She rifled through it, pulled out a candle in a holder and a lighter. She lit the candle.

“Like I was saying.” She walked over, handed me the candle. Her expressions were so much more calm and relaxed. She even looked more peaceful than she did on normal schooldays. It was like she felt at home in this place. Her ease made my pulse let up a bit. The room didn’t seem to sway as much.

“Our powers were cool, but pretty useless. Then we found out that if we opened the Rift wider, on purpose, we could summon more power into our necklaces. We could go from being double As to being car batteries.” She flashed me a clever, teasing look. It was cute. “So we did a...incantation or spell or whatever you want to call it to open the Rift. And it worked. But after a while, it wore off and we were just double As again. So we opened it again. We kept doing it. The last time we did it was a little over two months ago.”

I struggled to see where this story was leading. I trusted it had something to do with all this, but considering all the questions I had, I wasn’t sure which one it was answering.

“Then…just a little while later…we started seeing the stories about the Slasher, and we realized that something besides our powers had come through.”

There it was!

In an instant, my ease was replaced with fury. “So this is all your fault!

Carrie had a guilty look in her eyes. She knew my accusation wasn’t unwarranted.

“We didn’t know,” she insisted.

“Well that doesn’t really help me now, does it?”

“But I might be able to protect you…if you’ll just calm down.”

Calm down! I’m sorry, but in case you didn’t get the memo, I’m being hunted by a monster because you and your shitty friends wanted to play Criss Angel for a while! So excuse me if I don’t want to calm down!”

Carrie took a breath, turned and walked away. I wanted so bad to shout “Get back here bitch! I’m not done yelling at you!” but even with things as crazy as they were, I still had enough sense to keep from being a complete douche.

Carrie dumped the blue milk crate out beside her. Matches, lighters, candleholders, papers, and pens piled on top of each other. A few candles rolled across the termite-raped floor. “We don’t have time to argue,” she said. “We have to get started.”