Horror began to dawn as fear played its part;
The fear that cancels out the love that’s in our heart.
All the hurt we felt repeated down the line;
The pain inflicted was the pain that we designed.
I try escaping from the person that I am;
Here is the endless cycle, break it if you can.
Killing Joke, Black Moon
“Apocalypse,” Needy said weakly, when Sam finally fell silent. “As in, the end of the world?” She had listened to his story without interrupting once. Sam had edited heavily; she could tell each time he stumbled over mentioning something or vagued up the details. But she was grateful he had: what he’d said was scary enough.
“As in the end of the world,” Sam confirmed.
“The seven seals. The four horsemen. Number of the beast. All that?”
“Sixty six seals, but otherwise, yeah. Pretty much.”
Needy gazed at him a moment longer, taking in his dark frown, the despair behind his eyes. She threw herself back onto the pillows, feeling the mattress springs bounce beneath her. “Okay,” she declared. “You win.”
“I win?” Sam sounded confused, which pleased her: it was what she’d intended.
She sat up, crossing her legs and folding her hands in her lap. With her hair tousled around her face and her big blue eyes, Needy knew she still looked the picture of innocence. “I thought with the whole my best friend turned into a flesh-eating demon and my boyfriend was murdered at the prom and then I had to stab her in the heart with – ”
“Breathe,” Sam reminded her.
Needy breathed. “I honestly thought with all that shit, my life sucked the worst. But I guess I was wrong. You win.”
Sam picked up his whiskey bottle, looked at the small amount of liquid remaining there but then seemed to think better of it. He set the bottle down and stood up. “I’m going to take a shower. Do you want the bed?”
“I’m not tired,” she answered. Did he really believe she could sleep after hearing that story?
“You look wiped out, Needy. At least try to sleep, okay?”
“Just leave a pillow on the floor for me.” Sam disappeared into the bathroom.
After a few moments, Needy heard the shower start up. She couldn’t help picturing Sam under the flowing water, naked, maybe jerking off and thinking of her that night with Jennifer. Sam was definitely what Jennifer would have called extra salty. Needy told herself it was an idle fantasy. She didn’t really want Sam. He was too…dark…for her attraction to be anything she wanted to act on.
She stripped off most of her clothing, folding everything neatly, then realised she had nothing to wear to sleep in. She glanced toward the bathroom door but the shower was still running. She pulled Sam’s duffel out of the closet and rummaged through it. He carried a lot of freaky stuff in there, but now she understood why it didn’t bother her. She found a t-shirt and pulled it on over her head. It was massively too big for her, but at least this way she wouldn’t flash him while she tossed and turned.
Remembering to throw a pillow onto the floor, Needy crawled under the comforter and wrapped it tightly around her. It felt better to be hugged, even if it was only by cloth. She closed her eyes. Needy didn’t expect to sleep, but the next thing she knew, it was morning.
The motel curtains were thin and barely blocked out the morning sun. Needy blinked against the light as she sat up, feeling the throb of a headache behind her eyes. Her mouth tasted like dirty carpet and she felt her stomach roil unpleasantly.
On the floor beside the bed lay the empty beer bottles and food cartons from the night before. Needy groaned, figuring that explained why she felt like shit. And then she remembered what Sam told her. Angels and demons. Lucifer. The apocalypse. Needy really, really wanted to believe he was a nutjob. But she remembered trying to explain to Chip that Jennifer was evil, like Satanic evil, and how he’d responded that she needed help, and maybe she should talk to Dr Feely. But Needy hadn’t been crazy. A little loose around the edges, maybe, but she was right about Jennifer. Sam didn’t seem crazy to Needy. He seemed driven and dangerous, a little loose around the edges, maybe. But Needy believed him.
Sam came out of the bathroom as if her thought had summoned him. “You’re awake. Good.” His jeans were the same pair as the night before, but he wore a fresh shirt – grey with blue stripes – unbuttoned to reveal his sculpted chest and abs.
“Have you been in there all night?” Needy asked. As soon as the words left her idiot mouth she realised how stupid that question was, but it was too late to take it back. In her defence, he was very distracting (un)dressed like that.
“No, I slept,” Sam answered as he buttoned up his shirt. He looked at her more closely. “You look awful, Needy. Are you feeling okay?”
“Hung over, I guess,” she admitted sheepishly.
“On three bottles of light beer?” Sam seemed about to say more and then changed his mind, his expression turning serious. “I think there’s more we need to talk about, Needy. Why don’t you get dressed and we’ll go out for breakfast.”
Suddenly, Needy was starving. “Okay,” she agreed.
Sam said he would wait in the car, so Needy rushed through her shower. She did take the time to wash her hair because it felt horribly greasy. When she was done she rubbed her hair with a towel and tied it back wet. She cleaned her teeth quickly, replacing the taste of carpet with mint and then headed into the next room to get dressed.
Clothing was a problem. When she escaped from Leech Lake she had only the clothes she had been wearing in solitary: orange jumpsuit, dark blue sleeveless hoodie and big bunny slippers. She stole clean underwear and different pants from a laundrette back in Madison, and shoplifted a decent pair of shoes. The pants only lasted one night: there was so much blood on them after she took out those Devil-worshipping bastards she had to ditch them. Now she was once again reduced to the orange pants and hoodie she’d been wearing since Leech Lake, and the oversized shirt Sam gave her back in Oklahoma. Oh, and the t-shirt she’d slept in, Needy noticed. Sam had left it on the bed with the rest of her clothes. She dressed reluctantly in clothing that were beginning to smell really bad. She would have to find some kind of work soon so she could get new clothes.
Over breakfast, she mentioned her problem to Sam. “…can’t let you pay for everything, after all.”
“Sure you can, Needy. It’s not like I earned the money we’re spending.” Sam let that hang just long enough to get Needy worried. Then he looked up from his breakfast. “Listen, there’s something you need to understand.” Sam glanced around, then lowered his voice. “I think you were mostly right about what happened to Jennifer. Those men sacrificed her, which means your friend was already dead when she came to your house that night. The only thing keeping her body moving was the demon inside her.”
Needy laid down her fork. She’d tried to eat, but although she was hungry the food tasted like cardboard in her mouth. “Are you sure? It seemed like Jen was still…you know, driving. She was more bitchy than usual, but…”
“Demons can fool you that way, believe me.” Sam frowned, some dark memory lurking behind his eyes. “The important thing is the demon isn’t dead. What you did would have killed Jennifer, if she weren’t already dead, but you can’t kill a demon that way.”
Needy stared at him. That explains why you got so much wrong, he had said last night. “You couldn’t have mentioned this before?”
“It wouldn’t have done any good to tell you last night. Now it’s morning and you need to decide what you want to do. You can just forget about all this, you know. Get on with your life?”
“What life? I’m on the run, remember?”
“That’s your choice, Needy. Running is the quickest way to get caught.” He looked at her critically for a moment. “Cut your hair and dye it a new colour. Get yourself a fake ID. Pick a small town somewhere in the Midwest and take the first job you can find, no matter how crappy. Keep to yourself and don’t talk about your past, but have a story ready if you need it. You’re a bit young to be running from a husband, so maybe…make it your dad. Your dad’s in prison and you don’t want him finding you when he gets out. That’s how you make a life.”
“With that demon still out there?” Needy asked incredulously. “She’ll be killing more boys, won’t she?”
“That’s likely,” Sam agreed, and now his voice was carefully neutral.
“I’ve got to get her!” Needy’s response was immediate, but then she realised what she was saying. “But how? I can’t go back to Devil’s Kettle – they’ll throw me back in jail!”
Sam nodded slowly and Needy got the impression it was reluctant. “Well,” he said, “I can help you with that.”
“You know how to kill a demon?”
Again, her words seemed to remind him of something. “I can send it back to Hell,” Sam agreed.
“Teach me how.”
“If you want.”
Instead of heading toward the highway, as Needy expected, Sam turned the car into the parking lot of the motel. Needy looked at him, wondering if he’d forgotten something. They’d checked out before breakfast and as far as she knew, Sam’s bag and her own meagre belongings were in the trunk.
“Why have we come back here?” Needy asked, confused.
“I want to show you something before we go,” Sam answered, already climbing out of the car.
Needy followed him, curious but not worried. She watched as Sam deftly picked the lock on the room where they had spent the night. Then he stood back, letting her enter first.
“Go into the bathroom,” Sam instructed.
Needy obeyed. Sam followed her. He placed his hands on his shoulders and turned her toward the large mirror, standing behind her so she could see them both reflected in the glass. Needy stared at herself in disbelief. Her skin looked almost grey. Her eyes were dull and lifeless, dark circles beneath them giving her a panda-like appearance. Her lips were dry and chapped. Shocked, Needy reached up to untie her ponytail. She shook out her hair. Freshly washed and now mostly dry, her hair should have been a wild shock of blonde curls. Instead it hung limp around her face.
“I look…like Jennifer,” she whispered, revolted by the thought.
“That’s what I thought.” Sam released her shoulders and led her into the next room. “I have to ask you some things, and I need the truth, you understand?”
She nodded, glad she could no longer see her reflection.
“When I first met you,” Sam began, “it was, what, a day or two after you killed those guys?”
“Four days, I think,” Needy agreed.
“And – this is important – have you killed anyone else? Since then, I mean.”
How did he know? Needy swallowed. Her impulse was to deny it, but she had hesitated for too long. He would know she was lying. “Once,” she confessed, and added quickly, “It was self defence!” Though that wasn’t exactly true. She’d been hitchhiking and when that creep stopped to offer her a ride, she had known what would happen. But she got in the car anyway.
“How long ago?” was all Sam asked. Not who or why. He passed no judgement. Needy remembered her first vision of Sam, with blood thick on his hands and face. Suddenly she was scared. He hunted supernatural creatures. What if he decided she was…evil?
“I guess, two weeks,” Needy answered and heard the tremor in her voice.
“And you attacked me the other night. You said you wanted blood. Is that true?”
She could see Sam putting the pieces together and knew the conclusion he would draw. He wasn’t wrong, but she knew different now.
She rushed to defend herself. “I thought I was turning into something like Jennifer. But you proved I’m not, didn’t you?”
“You proved you’re not like her when you picked bad guys to kill. But you still have that bite. May I see it again?”
Needy unzipped her hoodie, unbuttoned the shirt beneath it and pulled both aside, exposing her bare shoulder. She could see for herself that the wound was worse. The skin around the open puncture wounds was swollen and red. Why didn’t it hurt? That should hurt.
“I think I know what you need.” Sam held a knife in his hand. It was her knife.
“No.” Needy backed off. She didn’t know what he was doing with her knife, but it couldn’t be anything good.
“This is a stopgap, Needy. We’ll find another way, I promise, but I need you healthy now.” He raised the knife and Needy braced herself for a fight.
But Sam drew the blade across his own inner forearm, scoring a deep line in the flesh. Blood welled up at once, staining the blade. Needy saw thick scars at his wrist. It looked like the legacy of a suicide attempt, but Sam didn’t seem the type. Sam held out his arm. The blood began to flow in a thick crimson seam toward his outstretched hand.
“This is what you need,” Sam said.
“I can’t!” Was he serious? She tried to take another step back but found her back against the wall.
“Needy, please. Trust me.”
Panicking a little, she met his eyes. She searched his expression for some sign, some indication of what she should do. To her amazement she saw fear in his eyes. But it wasn’t fear of her. Maybe he was afraid she would refuse.
Blood welled from the cut in his forearm, running toward his wrist and from there dripping to the ground. One glistening red drop after another. Sam said nothing more. He simply stood there, offering his blood to her. Bleeding. Waiting.
Needy took the wallet from Sam and examined the contents. There was a Pennsylvania driver’s license with her picture. The name on the license was Anita Blake, age 22. There were two credit cards in the same name, and some cash: a few small bills and one fifty. It all looked very convincing.
Except for the name. “Anita Blake?” Needy asked him sceptically. “Seriously?”
Sam flashed a quick grin. “It seemed to suit you. The credit cards will work, but don’t use them until you really need to. I want to get you another ID, too, but that can wait.”
“Why do I need two?”
“Because you need a different look, just in case we have to go to Minnesota. I’ve got a duplicate of that license; we just need a photo that…well, that doesn’t look like you.”
“I can’t go back there!” Needy protested. That was suicide. She would be recognised and arrested. Next time it might be a prison she couldn’t just float out of.
“Needy, you have to start trusting me. If we need to go within a hundred miles of Devil’s Kettle, I’ll make sure you’re safe. No one will know it’s you.”
“How?” Needy argued, though it didn’t matter. She absolutely was not going anywhere near Devil’s Kettle again.
“Black wig. Goth makeup. Maybe a fake tattoo.” Sam must have seen her face, because he added, “It’ll work. Disguise is like stage magic: the key is misdirection. If you can wear Goth makeup and fake the attitude, people won’t remember anything else about you.”
Needy sighed. “The Goths were a Germanic tribe that settled in Rome. They didn’t wear black. They wore regular linen tunics.” Why was she the only one who knew that?
Sam smiled. “Goth as in the subculture comes from ‘Gothic Horror’. It’s a literary convention named for the architecture of old buildings, which was Germanic originally.” He gave a quick wink. “I studied art history in college.”
“Okay,” Needy answered, a little taken aback. She turned back to Sam’s laptop, where her research efforts were displayed on the screen. “You were right, I think,” she said.
Sam sat down on the end of one of the motel beds. “Right about what?”
“The demon is still alive.” Needy’s voice cracked on the words. She’d tried so hard to stop Jennifer. “She’s still killing.”
“I’m sorry.” Sam’s look was sympathetic. “What did you find?”
“Joe Dorian was ripped apart out at the old sawmill. The local paper called it a bear attack, but the police say it wasn’t a bear. They think it was me.”
Sam nodded. “It makes sense that you’d be a suspect if they think a person did it.”
“That was a week ago. If it was Jennifer, she’s not in Devil’s Kettle any more. The sawmill is on the way out of town.”
“Any idea where she went?”
“Well, I did what you said and tried to find a trail in the news. I didn’t find any more murders. But you said to look for demonic omens.” Needy hesitated. Sam had explained what she should look for, but Needy wasn’t certain what she’d found. She turned the laptop toward Sam. “Is this right?”
Sam took the computer from her and studied it for a while. “Yahtzee,” he murmured.
“Does that mean yes?”
Sam closed the laptop. “It means yes, you’ve found a trail we can follow. But this looks very close to Devil’s Kettle. Are you up for this?”
A moment before, she’d promised herself that she wouldn’t let him drag her back there. But she thought about Jennifer, and Chip. She couldn’t give up now. Reluctantly, she nodded. “Do you really think changing my look will work?”
“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I didn’t.”
“If I’m going to dress up like one of the Dead Girls, I’ll need money. Maybe a lot.”
Sam smiled. “Let’s test out that ID. The quickest way to make a lot of cash is at the pool table.”
Needy’s trail led them to a Minnesota town called Providence. It was larger than Devil’s Kettle, large enough to have a motel, but it was still a small town. They checked into the motel and hid themselves in their room before anyone had a chance to get a good look at Needy. Needy had changed her look dramatically, but the problem was she felt the same inside. She found it difficult to trust the disguise. Her blonde hair was covered with a wig: black hair with streaks of blue, shoulder length and straight. She had lightened her skin with makeup and used far too much kohl to outline her eyes. The kohl darkened her irises to indigo; that was the only part of this look she liked. Her lipstick was dark purple.
The clothing she had purchased matched the look: a push-up bra was just visible beneath a tight-fitting purple top which was covered with a black crochet sweater. Her skirt was black, short and ruffled and she wore black leggings beneath it, and heavy “rocker” boots with silver buckles. Completing the look was jewellery: most of it the cheapest she could find, but at Sam’s suggestion she bought a silver pentagram necklace for protection. One of his hex-bags hung from her belt.
Sam was right about the look: when she first saw the full effect in a mirror, Needy was sure her own mother wouldn’t recognise her. She carried a mini-backpack which now contained the basic tools of the demon-hunter’s trade: holy water, salt and a piece of motel stationary which had a devil’s trap drawn on one side (so she could copy it if she needed one) and the Roman ritual of exorcism written on the other in Sam’s neat handwriting. Just in case.
Before they set out, Sam made her read the exorcism to him over and over. He explained she didn’t need to memorise the ritual itself – reading it was just fine – but she did need to memorise the pronunciation. She kept stumbling at the same part: contremisce et effuge, invocato a nobis sancto et terribili nomine, quem inferi tremunt. Sam was not satisfied until she got it right three times in a row.
“I think we’re ready,” Needy announced, slipping the ritual back into her backpack.
“As ready as you can be,” Sam agreed. He didn’t sound too confident. Needy knew he wasn’t thrilled with the plan, even though it was mostly his. It was the including-her part he didn’t like. “Needy, stay close tonight, and stay alert. There’s no reason to think this demon is still walking around in Jennifer’s skin. It could look like anyone.”
Needy disagreed. “No. Not anyone. She feeds on boys, remember? If it’s in a new body, it will be in someone like her: sexy, young. A girl.”
“That makes sense,” Sam nodded, “and it gives us a place to start, but this is a demon. It can jump into anyone.”
Needy fingered the pentagram at her neck. “Us, too?” she asked, suddenly worried.
“No, not us. You’re safe as long as you wear the hex bag I gave you and I have protection of my own.”
“But anyone else?”
“Yes. Ready to go hunting?”
Their first night’s hunt was a big disappointment.
Needy and Sam combed Providence for places a demonic cheerleader might try to pick up an unsuspecting date for dinner, looking for traces of sulphur or EMF.
Coffee shop – nothing.
Music club – nothing.
The run-down little movie theatre – nada.
It was nearly 11 o’clock when they decided to call it a night and walk back to the motel.
“She might have left town,” Sam suggested as they walked. “Or maybe she was never here.”
“No,” Needy answered. Suddenly, without knowing how or why, she was one hundred percent certain Jennifer was close by. “She was here. She’s still here. She’s…” Needy stopped, searching for a word to describe the feeling that washed over her. “Waiting,” she finished, eventually though that word didn’t quite fit.
Sam stared at her. “You can tell? Can you feel her?”
Needy tried to concentrate, but she couldn’t close her eyes while trying to keep pace with Sam’s long strides. She still couldn’t exactly name the feeling. “I know she’s close. And there’s something. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe.”
“How close is she?”
“I don’t know. In town for sure.”
“I wish I’d known earlier that you could do that,” Sam groused.
“I didn’t know I could!” Needy protested, glad to see the lights of the motel ahead. “It was just when you said she might have left town I knew you were wrong. It just popped into my brain.”
Sam sighed. “I’m sorry, Needy. I of all people should know that psychic ability doesn’t work on demand in the beginning.”
She smiled, though he probably couldn’t see it in the darkness. “Apology accepted.”
They entered the motel parking lot and Sam pulled their room key from his pocket. It jingled in his hand.
Abruptly, Sam stopped walking. Needy stopped too, and looked at him. Under the dim glow of the motel lights, his face was in shadow. She couldn’t read his expression, so she looked where he seemed to be looking: at the two cars parked on the other side of the lot. One of them was a Ford pickup. The other was a sleek, black Chevy.