Interlude 4 - Ashley, Josh, Mike
It's cold in bed. Ashley feels Chris beside her, and yet she still shivers. The memory of the event at the park trails its freezing fingers down her back, joining the crowd of other hands clawing at her skin. Chris is fast asleep beside her, his black-rimmed glasses placed neatly on the side-table, his hair flopping and flattened. Last night, it was Chris who was having the nightmares. Tonight, she knows it's going to be her.
So, as if he is her rope wrapped around her waist, assuring her she won't plummet into the abyss, she reaches out under the covers, her fingers brushing his skin as she fingers his hand. And she gently places hers in his so that, when she gets trapped in her nightmares, he can tug her out.
And, in response, she feels Chris' hand squeeze hers for a brief second before she closes her eyes, preparing herself for the darkness.
She said, "Stay in this room." She doesn't trust him, it hurts. Josh cuddles up on the floor, his back resting against the sofa, his arms wrapped around his knees as he rocks softly back and forth.
The clothes that Chris left earlier sits sprawled on a pile in front of him, waiting to be worn. She told him to put them on. But Josh doesn't want to. His orange jumpsuit is his costume. It is his disguise, his rouge. If he takes off his jumpsuit, he gets hurt. If he takes it off, if they see it's him, they'll hate him.
The wolf stares at him from across the room, his gleaming eyes peering out from the darkness. Josh shivers and whimpers. He doesn't like dogs. Dogs don't like him.
Both their ears prick up at the same time, hearing the creaking of the bed next door, of her weak cries. She's awake. She can't sleep.
Josh jumps to his feet and the wolf races him to the door. He needs to see her, to make her happy. Is this his fault? Is she crying because of him?
His hand freezes before it reaches the door handle.
She said, "Stay in this room."
Josh stumbles a step back, his chin collapsing against his chest.
Josh always does what Sammy says.
He hears it in his head. Guilty. Over and over. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
And it's no longer the judge saying it, the snapping of her gavel against the podium, it's Emily. She stands in front of him, claiming the judge's voice as blood spills out of her mouth with every movement. She is coming closer, her neck cracking as her head lolls to the side, the skin around her bullet-pierced eye, peeling, revealing blood and muscle and bone. Her skin is rotting, maggots crawling out from the creases at the sides of her swollen lips. Her hair grows brittle in clumps, shedding off like snakeskin, every creaking step she takes towards him, where he's sat huddled on the cold, prison cell wall, she loses more of herself. Her skin wrinkles, her teeth sharpen, cutting through her gums. Her lips shrivel up.
And then she's it. She's the wendigo.
And she's two inches from his face, white, rotting eyes bulging at him.
She seethes, her bony, protruding shoulders heaving up and down with her heavy breath.
Get me out of here!
Then she lunges for his neck.