Quinn held the knob leading to the son's room and it felt cold. The heat was obviously on in the cabin. They could smell the rust it kicked up, but the knob was so cold she needed gloves if she was to hesitate much longer.
She was about to twist when Elyse pushed her aside.
The doctor went in without flipping on the lights, then emerged with her son. "Hey little man. How long have you been up? Did we wake you?"
The kid's platinum blonde hair needed a trim as it was in his eyes and all staticky, sticking to his forehead even after Elyse brushed it away. He couldn't be more than seven. Thin and pale. Eyes wide. They were the same blue as his father's, icy, piercing, but something about them unsettled Quinn.
"See? Just a room for our son. If you want to check the other, I'll put him back." She bounced him in her arms but his mouth, just ever so agape, did not curl into the expected smile. Maybe tiredness killed the joy. Maybe he was already feeling too old for this and didn't like being babied. Maybe he was just naturally sour-faced. Quinn knew what that was like. Elyse explained, "Him and the dog are inseparable and this much past his bedtime, I don't want him getting wound up."
Margie wobbled to her feet. "Not till we check the room."
The patience James had because his wife insisted had suddenly run out. "We don't keep guns. Definitely wouldn't store them in a kid's room."
"Marge, it'll be toys and clothes," Quinn said. "Let's just trust them for once."
"Let me check then," Margie said but she grunted with every step. Her breathing labored. It'd take forever if she went.
"Fine, I'll give it a pass and show you there's nothing." Quinn reached in the dark room for the light. The wall must've been freshly painted. It was wet. Goopy. Cold.
None of the other rooms were painted.
She poked her head in. It was too dark to see. Fumbling for the switch, she just kept getting paint on her hand and when she finally looked in the light cast through the doorway, her hand was black. The paint throbbed on her palm.
Letting out a yelp, she shook it off, but not a drop fell. Damion got up. Elyse set down the kid. James looked to her for a signal. Margie eyed the rifle, plotting. Rosie stayed under the blanket.
Sucking up her squeamish surprise, Quinn found the switch and when the light turned on, glistening black goo that squirmed on the ceiling seemed to endlessly trickle down the walls. The dresser. The bed. Everything that might've been there was a mound of this stuff. The ceiling fan dribbled a curtain of muck to the floor, and it gummed up the cracks in the floorboards.
"I told you, I fucking told you," Margie screamed at the room.
She fought for that gun even as Elyse held it over head and James grabbed it and the women wrestled till Margie's injuries forced her to back down.
"Give it to me so I can blow that thing's head off!"
"Calm down!" James yelled. "He's just a kid."
"Like hell he is!"
"Will you come with me?" the boy asked. He offered a hand to Damion, still on the couch by Beagsley.
Damion looked from the boy to the room and then to the others. "That's okay. I'll stay here."
Damion shook his head.
Then his head slumped down. It all happened in a flash. Something had shot out of the boy's mouth to crush Damion's neck. It didn't get through the spinal chord, but the skin, the muscle were ripped through and squirting arteries dangled out.
With whimpers, Rosie retreated under her blanket holding Beagsley too tightly. He was about to bite.
"Put that thing back to bed," Quinn yelled at Elyse. "Or I'll strangle you both before he gets to me."
Damion's eyes were still open.
"You'll wish it was that quick," Quinn threatened.
But then, the boy grabbed Quinn's hand, ever so gently. Just a kid holding hands with an adult like they were walking through the mall.
With that sugary mother's tone, Elyse bent over to say, "Hey buddy, did you brush your teeth? You know you gotta get all the way in the back before you go to bed," but behind her smile, it gave away ever so slightly her real feelings when her voice quivered.
"Will you come with me?" the boy asked.
Quinn didn't need to look at Damion again to know the right answer. "Sure. I'd love to."
And from then, he didn't let go of Quinn's hand. He held out the other for Rosie. "Will you?"
From beneath her covers, seemingly deeper than was possible, her drugged and fear-ruined mind came up with, "I have to go home."
The boy said, "Okay."
Then it was Margie's choice.