14 minutes, 37 seconds later . . .
“These are them,” Mr. Green says as he shows Ms. Josephine the children. “They’ve been a handful, the little bastards.”
Ms. Josephine just walks slowly by, shaking her head sadly. Each child is gagged, still growling and trying to wiggle out of their plastic cuffs. This probably looks really awful if you don’t understand that these children are anything but innocent.
“So . . . ” Ms. Josephine says as she kneels down, “’ow did it begin? ’ow did you come to take dese children’s bodies?” Carefully she reached down and loosened one of the little girl’s gags. “Tell me, ’ow did you take possession of dis body?”
“Zat kneese, coorova mach! Suka blat! Vas tvoya mat!” the little girl spewed hatefully.
Mr. Green had a surprised look on his face, breathing through his clenched teeth.
What language is that?
“Russian,” Mr. Green said as he put the gag back over the girl’s mouth. He turned to Ms. Josephine, “That precious little princess just insulted you in more ways than I can even translate.”
“Dat’s not a little girl,” Ms. Josephine said angrily, “not inside. It’s one of da Evils. Dey stole dat body.”
And then it makes sense to me. The dead pool. The animal carcasses slowly dehydrating in the lifeless dry pond.
I point to the small evil 4-year-old. “Pick that one, at least he speaks English.”
Mr. Green loosens the gag, and he warns, “Look, everyone already thinks the kids are dead. The work of some satanic cult. So if you don’t feel like talking we’ll just kill you now and burn your body.” He glanced around at the forested area surrounding them, “This place is impossible to find. That will be that.”
Then he slapped the kid in the face, shrugging disinterestedly, “I don’t have scruples.”
I look over at Juan, he’s laying on his back, a dressing being applied to his neck wound as Ricky tends to him. Every couple of minutes, the ground trembles, reminding us how little time we really have. Everything is coming apart at the seams.
“I knew you’d be coming, Jack,” the small child says. “I told her you would come after us, but they didn’t listen. They’re too arrogant to listen.”
Where is she? I say. Tell me where she is? Maybe I’ll put in a good word for you on the other side.
“Why . . . so you can play savior, again?” the kid snaps. “Kill us all twice, is that it?”
I don’t know about any of that, I tell him. That all happened before—
“Oh, right, right,” he interrupts, “ . . . before you lost all of your memories. Oh, how wonderfully guilt-free that must make you feel. The killer of killers looses his memory. A convenient touch. Must make it easy to sleep at night.”
You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about! I bark. All of you tricked me, and went against the will of God. You made your choices the first time around, I had nothing to do with that.
“No,” he yells back, “we were not given choices and that is why we ended up in the Land of Sorrows. You’re no better than us!”
Ms. Josephine puts her hand on my shoulder, looking down at the monster, “’ow did you take possession of da children’s bodies?”
The little bastard just smiles at us. He’s done talking. I’d like to waterboard this smug little turd but I know we haven’t got the time.
“Where is the soul that belongs in that body?”
Nothing but a crooked-toothed smile. Just loath and indignation.
“You know you’s goin’ back, don’t you,” Ms. Josephine says. “You’re goin’ back to da forever night. To da screamers and da gatherers, and all da things dat we don’t care to speak of.”
And then the kid’s smile starts to fade a bit. He’s unsteady. Not quite as demoniacally resilient as before. He says, “Go ahead . . . kill me.”
Mr. Green lifts a pistol up but I wave it off. “No,” I explain to the Evil. “It’s just going to be you heading back.”
“You have no idea what it’s like!” the child pleads. “It’s not fair! He stole our souls! It’s not right! Where is the morality in that?”
I say, Tell me where Kristen is and I let you stay.
And they all look at me like I’m nuts to offer such a deal.
“Are you serious?” the child asks, now actually sounding like a scared kid for the first time.
No, I say as I place the gag back over his little mouth. It’s time for all of you to go.
I look over to Ms. Josephine, “Can you and Mr. Blue please untie all of those children and break their spells, or whatever it is that’s got them all zombied-out. This whole place is about to be covered in hot ash.”
She nods and raises to her feet, turning to Mr. Blue, “Avec Moi, s’il vous plais.”
Mr. Blue nods, “Oui.”
The both of them head towards the trees to start freeing the children from their restraints and their comas.
I have some business to attend to. Some souls to send back to Deadside.
Now, I say under my breath . . . where are my knives?