The Race – Chapter 14

Angie froze.

She watched the thing on Rob’s face, watched it grab the back of his head and pull it toward the shiny, torn belly below the exposed rib cage. It grinned and cooed as Rob lurched back. He dropped Lara and pried at the thing on his face. Angie knew it was the person she’d seen with the man in the mechanic’s shirt, but that didn’t make any sense.

How did they get in front of them?

Its legs snapped around Rob’s waist and cinched tight. Its head tipped back as Rob whipped his face back and forth less than an inch from the swaying, sticky coil of intestines.

Angie knew she should help. But the thing was covered in blood. Blood infected with the same chemicals the men had shot into Lara—

Where was Lara?

“Angie!” Dave’s voice came from all directions. He was somewhere in the curved tunnel ahead, or behind. He was close.

Angie lunged into the tunnel on the right. Lara was there, in the arms of the Mechanic. She looked happier than Angie had ever seen as the Mechanic bit into her shoulder. Runs of blood raced down her arm. The Mechanic looked up, chewing and grinning.

“Angie, get over here,” Dave said.

The voice came from around one of the curves. Angie whipped her beam from one to the other, knowing it would fall on Dave—whatever he was now—coming around the corner for her.

The Mechanic muttered something and Lara laughed, sighed.

Rob wedged a hand into the thing’s gaping mouth and shoved. It resisted but slowly leaned back, its arms slipping on Rob’s head, until its face was upside-down a few inches from Angie. She stared into its glassy eyes and saw nothing. No one was home.

“Angie,” Dave whispered. “I have to give you something. But I don’t like the light anymore. Come here. Come and get it.”

Rob strained to keep the thing away and looked left and right for Dave.

Lara hissed with pleasure.

“Angie,” Dave said. “Come and get it.”

He was to the right. Angie swung her beam to that corner. Pale fingers curled around the ragged stone. Dave’s wedding ring flashed briefly. The hand eased off the rock as the forefinger pointed at her.

“Come and get it, honey.”

“Angie.”

The finger hooked, beckoning her forward.

“Angie.” It was Rob, grunting with effort. “Angie.”

She looked into the glassy eyes again. This time she saw something. She saw what Lara would become. What they all would become.

“Angie,” Rob hoarsed. “Fucking do something!”

She ripped the buckles on her chest and waist open, unslung her pack and looped a shoulder strap over the thing’s face. She yanked down and away from Rob as hard as she could. Something wet snapped. The thing sprang off Rob and tumbled into the tunnel toward Dave. It flailed and churned like a dying insect.

Angie took one long stride into the branching tunnel and swung the pack into the Mechanic’s face. The space was narrow and kept her from getting a full arc, but the weight of the pack was enough to knock his head away from Lara’s gaping shoulder. Blood sprayed from his mouth onto the tunnel wall.

Angie held the pack ready for another swing, but the Mechanic eased his face against the wall and licked at the blood, his tongue rasping on the stone.

“Move!”

Rob knocked Angie aside and grabbed Lara’s wrists. He tried to pull her away from the Mechanic but his hands and arms were slick with the thing’s blood. He left streaks on Lara’s skin as his grip slid.

The Mechanic wrapped a thick forearm under Lara’s chin and laughed at Rob. Blood and spittle dribbled down his chin. He walked backward, stretching Lara’s neck until Rob had to follow, still pulling her arms.

Angie reached for Lara, anything to grab and help, but the tunnel was too narrow. There was no room next to Rob. She latched onto his pack and pulled frantically. Part of her mind knew Dave was coming and she would be the first thing he’d touch. The dying thing might keep him away for a few seconds, but then he would come.

Lara’s face turned red, then purple. Her eyes bulged.

The Mechanic laughed and yanked harder, dragging Rob’s feet through the heavy dust.

Rob felt something in Lara’s arms pop. He let go. He and Angie stumbled backward and fell.

The Mechanic turned and ran with his arm around Lara’s throat. She sagged behind him, legs limp, then they both disappeared as the Mechanic tore around a corner in the tunnel.

“Lara!” Rob screamed. He shook Angie off and ran, hit the corner and kept going.

Angie struggled to her feet. As Rob’s steps and harsh breathing faded, the silence closed in.

“Angie,” Dave whispered. “Here it is.”

And then you said: