Vince reeled back from the doorway, his head filled with a white, searing light. The taste of copper filled his mouth and something warm splashed onto his chest.
A woman yelled, “The gun! Get the gun!”
Hands tore at the sling over his shoulder. Vince tried to push them away but the pain and blindness were overwhelming. He stumbled back against a rusted storage bin, steadied himself so he could shake his head and blink the tears away, then looked up.
It was the goddam racers. Vince shook his head again. Blood flowed out of his smashed nose. He cuffed it off his lips with his sleeve and blinked toward the door. Yup, it was them. The older woman, Angie, and the bigger guy…Rob. He was pale and sweaty, panting, holding the assault rifle and staring at Lara, the one Don had shot up pretty much right where she was standing now. She looked near comatose. All three of them were covered in dirt and dust and blood. They weren’t happy.
Angie said, “Rob, give me the gun.”
Rob seemed dazed. He stared down at the gun, then at Lara.
“Rob,” Angie said.
Vince dove forward to wrestle the gun away and put all three of them down. Angie saw him moving. She shoved Lara away and threw the skillet underhand as she lunged toward Rob too.
The heavy iron pan caught Vince just below the knee as he was stepping forward. That leg gave out and he went down. “Ah, damn!”
Angie plucked the gun out of Rob’s hands. She retreated toward Lara, flicking levers and pulling slides, no idea how to work the damn thing. Finally she just pointed it at the ceiling and pulled the trigger. The shot exploded in the small, metal building and made everybody freeze.
Angie recovered first. She pointed the gun at Vince. “Give us the antidote.”
Vince rubbed his knee. “How’d you get outside?”
“Shut up. The antidote, now.”
Vince pushed himself upright. “Ah, man, this suit is ruined. Do I have blood all over my face right now? Is it bad?”
“Give it to us!”
“Okay, all right, calm down.” Vince put his hands up near his shoulders. “It’s very unsafe to point a loaded gun at someone. Come on, I’ll give you the shots.” He stepped deeper into the storage building. “Who needs a fix? Lara for sure, and it looks like big hoss there could use one. How about you, sweetie?”
“No,” Angie said.
“Okay, just the two then. Can’t hurt to get a preventative dose though, all the vaccination controversy aside.” He turned all the way around and headed for the opening into the next rickety building. Daylight was fading, orange and pink light slicing through the holes and slats almost horizontally. Zeek’s assault rifle was in the elevator. Vince had no idea if it had any rounds left, but neither did this crazy chick holding his gun. If he could get the elevator up, get his hands on that rifle…
Angie hooked an arm around Lara’s waist and half-dragged her along. She kept the gun ready in her other hand, but it was too heavy to point at Vince. “Rob, you first, remember?”
Rob stared at Lara.
“Rob!” Angie said.
He jerked and gazed around until he found her. “Yeah, I remember.” He shuffled forward, his fingers twitching toward Lara.
Vince stood on the other side of the opening. “Hey, you got the Munchies, didn’t you? How? Somebody’s blood? Wait, the Mechanic’s?” He was genuinely curious. “What happened to him?”
“He’s dead,” Angie said. She sounded proud.
“No shit? Well done. What about your hubby? Dave, right?” Vince flinched from the look on her face. He turned to Rob. “So you’re fighting it. Is it because she’s your girl? You don’t want to eat her?”
“Stop talking,” Rob said. His voice was thick and slurred.
“It’s just research, man,” Vince said. “Is it because you don’t want to eat a person, or that person?”
“It’s terrible,” Rob said. He was crying. “I want to…Lara…”
“I’m here, baby,” Lara moaned. “Please.”
Rob gave her a look of such longing and hunger that Angie stopped and lifted the gun toward him.
“Don’t,” she said. “Do not. Keep going forward.”
He choked on a sob and shuffled toward Vince, his arms hanging like noodles. “This is awful.”
Vince nodded. “Yeah, I know, hoss. Come on. I’ll get you that shot.” He walked through the building, down the steps and into the control room. His nose was a throbbing misery. He tried to breathe through it but there was too much blood and swelling clotting everything up.
Rob almost fell down the stairs. Angie eased down with Lara slumped against her shoulder, then dropped her into an ancient rolling chair.
Lara pushed herself in a slow circle, her eyes closed, singing, “Eat me, eat me, somebody please eat me.”
Rob covered his ears and paced the room.
Vince turned from the steel shelves holding two syringes. “Who’s first? Big man?” He held one of them out to Rob.
“I’ll do it,” Angie said. “Just set them down.”
Vince pulled a hurt face, then set the syringes on the corner of a table and stepped away toward the elevator.
Angie tracked him with the gun. When he was far enough away she picked up one of the shots and eyed the green fluid inside.
“This is the antidote?”
“Uncle Vince’s Cure-All.”
“Hurry,” Rob said. He faced away from everyone, gripping the edge of a table and rocking back and forth.
Angie tried to remember what the shot they’d given Lara had looked like. It had happened so fast. She looked at the shelf. There were two racks, one full of green syringes and one full of orange. Plenty of both. She tossed the syringe to Vince.
“You take it.”
Vince caught it, considered for a moment, then held it out toward Rob. “I’m all dosed up. Any more could cause…issues.”
“I give a damn?” Angie said. “Take it.”
“Take it I’ll shoot you.”
“I’ll make you a deal,” Vince said.
Angie said, “Shut up.”
“My bag out there by the door has just over two million dollars in it.”
Vince said, “Take your shots, take the bag, take my car, and go.”
“Two million dollars?” Angie said. She thought of Hannah. The kind of care she could get with that money.
“You can even lock me in the elevator, make sure I don’t come after you,” Vince said. He edged toward the control box.
“I need the shot,” Rob said. “I can smell her. It’s too much.”
Vince pulled his keys out and set them on the table in front of the monitors. Angie stared at them. Vince stepped to the elevator and flipped the lever. Machinery came to life and cables hummed as the car rose from far below in the mine.
“I’ll get in the elevator and close the gate,” Vince said. “You take what you need and go.”
“Eat me tender,” Lara sang in her chair. “Eat me sweet. Never let me go…”
Rob groaned and smashed his palms against his head.
The elevator rose.
“Take the shot first,” Angie said.
Vince shook his head. “Not part of the deal. I told you, it’s too dangerous.”
Angie tried to think it through. If the green shot wasn’t the antidote, would she have time to give Rob and Lara the orange shot before they tore each other apart? Or her? Would Lara even survive another dose of whatever the green stuff was?
The elevator rose into view and rattled to a stop before she had time to decide. The smell of it swept into the room and made Angie gag. Fresh blood and human feces.
“Ah, man,” Vince said. He gently pressed his nose and mouth into the crook of an elbow and pushed the elevator gate open. Zeek and Don were heaped in the center, their bodies mangled and torn. Entrails, fascia and twisted limbs made it impossible to tell where one man stopped and the other started.
“I’ll get in the elevator,” Vince told Angie, “I will. I just need to, you know. Maybe drag them out first?”
Angie kept the gun on him, nodded, then looked away. Her stomach threatened to turn inside out.
Vince stepped closer to the mess. He felt the heat rising from the fresh organs. He poked in and nudged Zeek’s leg. Everything in the pile jiggled. Best bet was to drag Zeek out first. The rifle had to be close to his body. Then go back in like he was getting Don and grab the gun instead.
Easy, Vince thought. And disgusting.
He grabbed Zeek’s boot and lifted, was about to pull when he saw the wooden stock of the rifle peeking out from beneath his other leg. Hell, he wouldn’t even have to get any shit on him. He crouched down and kept his back to the control room. He slid the gun out from under Zeek’s body, which was much lighter than it should have been, and checked the chamber. A round was loaded and ready to go.
Vince stood and turned. He pointed the rifle at Angie, who was still looking away. “Sorry, sweetie.”
Angie looked at him and froze. Her gun was pointed in Vince’s direction, but not at him. She was dead and she knew it. The horror of it slowly crept down her face. Her eyes grew, then her mouth fell open.
Vince enjoyed it so much he didn’t notice the sliding sounds coming from behind him. Not at first. When he did, he glanced over his shoulder and saw a demon rising out of the dead bodies.
No, not a demon.
He rose from between the bodies, draped in entrails and smeared with gore. His eyes were wide and very white, glaring out with a madness that made every hair on Vince’s body stand up. He turned, too late, and screamed when Dave leapt, bit, and tore the broken nose off his face.
Dave ripped and dug at Vince’s throat with his fingers. Vince stopped screaming when his trachea was severed. He collapsed when his carotid arteries and jugular veins burst. Dave stood over him, panting and chewing. Then he looked at Angie. He lifted an arm and pointed at her.
“Oh, God,” she sobbed. “David. I…we had to…I’m so sorry.”
He continued to point. Vince’s blood dripped from his hand.
“We have the antidote, baby,” Angie said. “We can go back to Hannah. Can we? Please?”
Dave didn’t blink. He stared and pointed. Then his hand slid toward Lara until he was pointing at her.
“No,” Angie said. “Please, no. I don’t want to shoot you. Don’t make me.”
Dave pointed. His chest heaved, making the intestines draped over his shoulders sway.
“Rob, help me,” Angie said.
She looked frantically around the room. Rob was against the wall next to the stairs, hugging his knees and covering his ears, chanting to himself: “No, no, no, no.”
Dave jabbed his finger toward Lara.
Angie tucked the gun against her shoulder. “No, please, Dave. We just need to take the antidote, then go home. Please? Please, baby?”
Dave pointed at Lara. His hand rotated until his knuckles faced the gore-strewn floor, then his fist opened. He was holding something. Angie blinked tears away.
It was an orange syringe.
Dave pointed at Lara.
Angie said, “Is that for her? Is that the antidote?”
The madness in Dave’s eyes faded for a moment. Just long enough for him to nod. He set the syringe on the floor outside the elevator gate, then slid the gate closed and stepped back.
Angie did not hesitate. She pulled the rack of orange syringes down, tore two out and jabbed one into Lara’s thigh, one into Rob’s. Within ten seconds they were both asleep.
Angie took a third syringe out of the rack and ran to the elevator. She pushed it through the grate. “Please, David. Take this.”
He stepped further back into the elevator. He hit the far wall and stayed there.
He looked down at the human gore covering his body. The bodies piled at his feet. He shook his head.
“For me,” Angie said. “For Hannah.”
Dave pointed down. He wanted Angie to send the elevator back into the mine. Tears carved paths of pale flesh through the blood on his face. He wouldn’t look her in the eye.
“I left you once,” Angie said. “Not again.”
She ripped the door open, stomped through the dead bodies and stuck the needle into Dave’s neck before he could react. His eyes went wide. Terror flooded Angie as she realized he could tear her to pieces in the few seconds it would take for the antidote to start working.
He reached for her throat.
Angie brought the gun up across her chest as a barricade, but Dave’s hands were already beyond it. They went past her neck. He collapsed into her arms, squeezed her, then fell asleep. She held him and cried with her entire body.
Angie drove Vince’s car down the dirt two-track. She went south until she hit pavement, then turned east. Dave, Lara and Rob were slumped in the back seat, each of them sleeping deeply. The windows were down to keep the smell of blood and death from clouding the entire car.
Angie drove past the entrance to the state park. Adventure race banners flapped in the evening breeze. A race official manned a water and snack station at the entrance. Angie waved to her and kept driving.
The race official stared at the taillights, shook her head, and picked up a clipboard. She found Angie’s team on the list. Next to it, she wrote: “Disqualified, vehicle.”
Angie felt the wind on her face, caked with dust, dirt, and blood, and couldn’t help smiling. She had over two million dollars in the passenger seat, and Hannah was waiting to see her parents.
Trisha shuffled into the control room.
She looked around at the loose computer cables, dark monitors, and the bloody mess in the elevator. She remembered everything from when she’d been drugged. She was glad Vince and Zeek were dead.
It was too bad about Donny, but he was kind of creepy anyway.
She pulled a bottle of water out of the cooler and drank the whole thing. She was insanely thirsty, and hungrier than she’d been in her entire life. She remembered that part for sure, the hunger, the desire to have someone feast on her. That drug had been a hell of a thing. Don had said they were all going to be rich, and she believed him.
Well, not anymore.
Not them, anyway.
She found the racks of syringes, one full of green, one full of orange, and smiled.