Mary released the bottle of wine she’d been examining. “Are you fucking kidding?”
“No, I’m not. Why are you here?” Colin stood in the doorway, some part of him desperate to keep Mary away from the girls and Andreus. They just watched from behind him.
“Because I’m an idiot, and I thought…” She sighed. “It doesn’t matter what I thought. I was wrong. Good night, Colin. Try not to kill these skanks. Skanks, you should probably run for your lives. But you won’t, so Andreus, have fun cleaning it up.”
She disappeared through the back door before Colin could think of a response.
The girls laughed.
“Well, shit,” Kaylee said.
“Oh no, the mean lady called us skanks!” Hannah ducked past Colin to the abandoned wine bottle. “Corkscrew?”
“No sense letting it go to waste,” Kaylee said.
Andreus put a hand on Colin’s shoulder. “You okay?”
The rush of adrenaline faded, letting the drunkenness back in, but tainted with anger and sadness and some strange empty sense of loss. “Yeah.”
They opened the wine and played “strip dice” after Kaylee found a pair of dice in the junk drawer. The game was simple enough- everyone rolls, loser takes something off. They drank the wine, and the dregs of his freezer whiskey and they tried to put music on, but no one wanted to listen to commercials or control the music for more than one song, so they listened to the soft electrical hiss of speakers turned up too loud with nothing to do.
Andreus put his head on the table when he lost, and it seemed like he might not pick it up again. Colin watched through a cloudy film as Hannah, topless in only her boots and red panties, poked Andreus.
“It’s not working,” she said.
Kaylee, who’d only lost her shirt and shoes, scowled. “Well, Skank 1, he’s not going anywhere. You brought the contingency plan?”
What the hell? Who were these girls, and why did Colin feel rooted to his chair, immobilized except his eyes, which only partially followed his orders.
“Of course, Skank 2.” Hannah slipped something out of her boots. A pair of syringes.
“This one first, I think he’s still in there,” Kaylee pointed to Colin.
Colin tried to fight back, tried to draw electricity to attack them. He couldn’t. He’d never felt so helpless, so vulnerable, so powerless. He couldn’t even control his own breathing. It happened, automatically, and he couldn’t do anything to change it.
“How fucked up is it that I’m actually really sad I don’t get to fuck this one? I bet he’d have been really sweet.”
Kaylee sighed like they’d had the same conversation a thousand times. “You’ve never been right about that.”
“You think he’d be violent? That’s even more tragic, then.” Hannah flicked the point of one of the needles before jamming it into Colin’s neck. Fire coursed through his body. He would have screamed if he could, and his attempts to flail and fight only resulted in him hitting the floor. A loud crack echoed in his skull when his head hit the floor.
“That chick was Mary, wasn’t it?” Hannah asked. “When we got here? Do you think they’ll figure it out?”
Andreus hit the floor, blue eyes glowing and unfocused.
“I think you talk too much,” Kaylee said, just before Hannah hit the floor beside Andreus.
Colin could have sworn he saw Kaylee dragging Hannah away at the same time a dark, wet spot appeared on Andreus’ pants.
Colin woke up, to his surprise, but slowly. Didn’t people always gasp when they came back from the dead? He tried to pull a deep breath into his lungs, but it didn’t seem to work quite right. Electricity crackled over his skin. The soft blanket covering his naked body sparked.
The rest of the room came into focus. White pillowcase, dark blue blanket, dark wood desk with a computer in the corner. Unfamiliar, clean, cold.
Colin tensed when the door slowly began to open. His eyes wouldn’t focus or remain steadily aimed at the door. Electricity escaped him in every direction.
Something white fluttered in from open space in the door.
“Colin?” Andreus called from the other side. “You awake, buddy?”
Colin tried to answer, but a choking little sound escaped. Andreus rushed in.
“Don’t kill me, okay? Try to relax.” Andreus put a hand on Colin’s exposed shoulder.
Instantly, a horrible, disconcerting feeling like he was being inflated with cold air rushed through Colin.
“Don’t move,” Andreus said.
Colin couldn’t stop the shivering any more than he could have gotten up to dance. He focused on Andreus’ red ringed eyes. The prognosis didn’t look good.
“I’ll get you another blanket,” Andreus promised. “Just don’t die, and I’ll get you whatever you want.”
Colin closed his dry eyes. The feeling of cold inflation didn’t get any less uncomfortable as it went on.
“No, I said, don’t die.”
“I won’t,” Colin whispered.
When Colin woke again, he wasn’t in the neat room anymore. He was on something hard and cold, and the blanket, so soft when dry, pulled at his skin while wet. His eyelids stuck together. He didn’t have the strength to open them. The sound of a running faucet drowned anything else that may have been happening, wherever he was. Not a faucet, it had to be a dozen faucets. Or one giant faucet. When he wrestled his eyes open he’d find himself on a stainless steel raft in a giant sink. Just call him Alice, thrown into wonderland. And that girl, Denim, Kaylee, she was the white rabbit and the Red Queen rolled into one.
He woke again, in the same place. Apparently he was about to be cooked for dinner. Knives gleamed from above a kitchen sink. Green fluffy vegetables sat on a counter just beside the sink. Spices in jars, neatly lined up in a rack, sat behind the vegetables. The steel raft would have been less disorienting. The pot on the stove wouldn’t be large enough to cook Colin, unless he was cut into pieces and used a little at a time. Why should anyone want to eat him at all?
“Are you awake for real this time?” Andreus asked.
Why would Andreus want to eat him? Weren’t they friends?
Andreus laughed. “Did you just ask why I’m trying to eat you?”
Colin tried to sit up, but his muscles protested enough to force him back down to his back. Something clattered from under his bare heels. “No,” he croaked. “That would be silly.”
“Don’t try to do too much,” Andreus said, appearing near Colin’s face suddenly.
“No risk of that,” Colin sighed. “I feel like I was hit by a truck.”
“We were poisoned,” Andreus said.
“Tell that to my legs.”
Andreus laughed. It was a deep, warm, tired, joyful sound. “I’ll pass thanks.”
Colin closed his eyes. “Hey.”
“I won the drinking contest. You pissed yourself.”
Andreus laughed again. “I did no such thing. I strategically ejected fluids so I could live to save your sorry ass.”
Colin laughed with a strangled cough. “Looked like piss.”
“I can’t believe it worked,” Andreus said. “You’re alive!”
“Again,” Colin said. “Tell that to my legs. They aren’t so sure. What did you do?”
“I strategically ejected your fluids, too. Then I not-so- strategically replaced them. I swear I thought you were dead. I thought I was dead. I thought we were both dead. I was slightly less dead for most of the time, but I think your heart stopped. You must have restarted it yourself, because I was in no position to do CPR. I thought we were both dead, but holy shit, we’re both alive! Yeah, yeah, hey Colin’s Legs, you’re alive!”
“My hero,” Colin said. “Now what?”
“Now we take a nap and eat a sandwich and figure out what the fuck to do next.”
Looking into Andreus’ swollen, purple face, and his red eyes, Colin didn’t want to know what his own face looked like. “I think we’re going to need more than a sandwich.”
“We’ll be safe here for a while. As soon as you can make it to the couch I’ll work on lunch. Or dinner. I can’t see what time it is.”
“Alright Legs,” Colin said, panning his thigh through the blanket. “Time to move. They aren’t moving.”
“I’ll carry you if you promise not to electrocute me.”
“Go for it.” Being carried felt like almost as much work as walking would have been. The weight of his limbs pulled at his joints and swung uselessly around. Colin looked through the cracks of closed blind on a large window. Nothing but blue sky, and a little bird that darted through it. “Where are we?”
Andreus returned to the kitchen and sprayed the counter with something. “My apartment.”
“This is a skyscraper. Must be expensive.”
“Obscenely,” Andreus confirmed. “But worth it for a safe place to run.”
Andreus started to prepare the vegetables.
“It’s a newer building, I’m far enough from the ground that only something seriously suspicious could get to me. Assuming anyone could find me here to kill me. Even if someone figured out the place is mine, I usually stay at CERT or other places.”
“What about your cat?”
Andreus looked around wildly, with his knife raised. “Where is it?”
“I don’t have a cat.”
“The first time you went to my house, you said you had to leave to feed your cat.”
“Oh,” Andreus resumed chopping. “That was a lie.”
“Apparently. What about an earthquake. That could get you here, and it wouldn’t be suspicious at all.”
“I’d probably have time to shift before I hit the ground,” Andreus said. “I’d splash down and probably be better off when I reformed. I don’t know if I’d have the strength right now, but I’m sure I could muster it if death was the alternative.”
“I can’t shift,” Colin said. “I’d die if there was an earthquake.”
“Another reason we need to get out of here as soon as we can. I’m normally very careful about coming and going, but dragging you while pulling your fluids and ejecting my own wasn’t exactly inconspicuous.”
Colin groaned. “Please, don’t ever use that combination of words, ever again. The thought of you pulling and ejecting our fluids is seriously disturbing.”
Andreus laughed and sent something on the stove to sizzle. “You didn’t even see how it was done.”
“And I don’t want a description,” Colin laughed. He coughed again and tried to breathe, looking into the clear blue sky for birds or planes or clouds.
“I don’t know where to go from here,” Andreus said. “If Mary left that poisoned wine for us, we won’t be safe anywhere near here. Shit, we won’t be safe anywhere at all.”
“It wasn’t her,” Colin said. Wasn’t it, though? How could he be sure that she didn’t leave the wine for them, and send the girls as backup? “The one in pants did it. Kaylee, if that’s her real name. She killed the other one, too. How did you get us out of there?”
“I have no idea. I sobered up, or woke up, or whatever it was and I just knew I had to get here. It’s not the same poison Henry used. I stayed pretty solid the whole time. Do you think there will be a dead girl in your house to get the humans in on it?”
“I don’t know,” Colin said. “I don’t know anything.”
“Well, you’re the more experienced fugitive. What do we do when we don’t know who’s trying to kill us?”
“First, we thank our lucky stars that the groups are fighting and not sharing recipes. Then… I don’t know what. I’ve been on the run most of my life, but no one was ever actually chasing me.”
“Still more experience than I have.”
“It’ll be easier with money, if I can get to it. Can you help me up?”
“You shouldn’t get up,” Andreus said. “You need to rest.”
“No,” Colin said. “I need to strategically eject fluids.”