Interlude 8 - Mike, Ashley, Emily
"For the reasons of self defence," the Judge's jaw goes slack, almost like she can't believe what she's saying either. "Michael Munroe is pronounced not guilty and is acquitted of all crimes."
There isn't a single cheer in the building. Silence. Not even a stray 'boo!' Everyone's eyes are just glazed over, their faces frozen like wax figures. Their gazes are still hovering over the television screen, where the clips were broadcasted. Unbelieving. Scared.
That's the least of their worries.
Somehow she did it. Somehow Sam managed to get that video from wherever the hell Josh kept it, and convince the court to show it as evidence.
Mike's mouth is dry. It feels unreal. He had never expected this. He'd been hearing his 'Guilty' verdict over and over in his head. Seen Emily's eye explode from his bullet. Had felt the walls of the prison closing in on him, locking him in there for a lifetime.
And now... somehow, he was free.
The prosecution had tried to pass it off as video editing. As some kind of special effect. Even then, he hadn't even sounded convinced of his own theory. There had been no energy in it. And Mike's lawyer had easily batted him down with the fact that the wendigos in the video, just before the house burned up, weren't glossy. Not like CGI. They were gritty and realistic and... the reactions were too real.
Beyond all logic, it had to be real.
Mike's lawyer claps him on the back, the only sound echoing in the hollow courtroom. "Congratulations," he whispers, trying a smile. But there's a kind of disconnection in his eyes.
And then a court guard appears, escorting Mike out of the room. Out to his freedom. And Mike looks up. Just for a second. Just at the crowd gathered in the pews of the courtroom, rigid and frightened. And there she is. Sam. Mike's hero. The tiniest smile on her lips, her eyes quivering with not-yet-fallen tears.
Someone should make her a cape.
She eyes him from behind the doorway, watching him just out of sight.
"Do we really have to have him here?" Ashley pleads, her eyes bravely fleeting to Chris before locking back on Josh – just in case he moves. Just in case he turns into that psycho again.
Just in case he gets torn in half by a saw again.
"Sorry," Chris mumbles and Ashley feels him sneaking up behind her, resting his chin on her shoulder. Like he's trying to be sweet enough to be forgiven. "Sam needs us to make sure he doesn't," He sighs, pausing, "Do anything stupid."
"Like to try kill us?" Ashley scoffs, swivelling round to face her boyfriend, his body stumbling back as her shoulder almost hits his face. "Seriously, Chris, how can you trust him?"
"I didn't..." Josh's voice is like a whimper, a dog's howl.
Ashley's heart thumps, almost forgetting that he was still there.
He's like a dog. Like the wolf who was pried away from Sam – apparently, animals aren't allowed in a courthouse – and has insisted on not leaving Josh's legs. Ashley can't tell if they hate each other. Or if Josh was just a lost member of the wolf's pack. It would make sense.
He's an animal.
"I didn't want to hurt you," Josh mumbles, his eyes not disconnecting from the floor. "It was just... just for fun."
"Fun?!" Ashley snaps, billowing into the room. Chris has to leap forward and grab her by the waist to stop her from carving into Josh with her fists. "I thought I was going to die! I thought Chris was going to die! I thought you had already died!" Her voice breaks as her energy kicks out from under her, leaving her a pile of mess on the floor. She covers her face with her arms and Chris tentatively crouches down beside her, carefully rubbing her back while his eyes refuses to move from Josh.
"Do you not think I wake up every morning thinking Chris will be gone? Or that it wasn't just some prank?!" She breaks down, tears sobbing from her eyes.
Josh's face crumbles. Did he ever mean it to go like this?
"I'm sorry," he mutters, his voice cracking.
There are no more words.
Yet. Somehow. Ashley feels just that little bit lighter.
Each step towards that light. Heavier. Like walking through thick, boggy water.
Energy pulling her back. Grabbing her hair. Her clothes. Her skin. Ripping. Yanking. Taking her back to the darkness.
No. Not going back. Need relief. Need rest.
Need Matt. Need to give Matt the letter.
Someone! Give him the letter!