Chapter 4 (0200)

"Sunny?" Malia called in a voice stifled by one too many dashed hopes. She knew it couldn't be her. This woman in the shadows, dark skinned, dark haired, had both her hands. Sunny didn't. Not anymore. She'd lost one. She'd lost everything.




Mal needed it to be her.


Needed her to be okay.


Needed that one moment of hope to not let her fall forever.


The woman stumbled forward, not the steps of someone in control. Malia thought maybe she was dealing with frozen feet or too much alcohol, but the woman stepped forward into the light. She had on a batman tee. Sunny hated Batman. So overrated, she used to rant. He's more invulnerable than Superman. When Malia and her had first been snuggly together, the new movies were coming out and everyone saw them but not Sunny. Even on DVD. Glenn put it on once in their apartment and Sunny took Mal to the bedroom even though Mal kind of wanted to see it. This wasn't Sunny. Sunny wouldn't wear that ever.


And as she stepped into the cabin, the whole illusion faded. The skin tone was completely wrong. The features too. Everything was wrong but the most wrong was that shirt, and the way she walked. Like maybe she was hurt.


"You okay?" Mal asked.


No answer.


"I'm not the ranger or anything. We're actually looking for him, if you've seen him."


The woman was across the room coming for Mal.


"Fuck." Then she screamed, "JIMMY!"


This woman's steps had zero humanity in them, just the animalistic push of instinct, of hunger, of needing to reproduce, of its territory invaded by its next meal and next host.


"JIMMY!" Malia sounded again. Her voice didn't carry well but there had to be something in it that'd reach him despite the wind.


And he did hear something, enough to turn him, then when he heard again to slide his gloves back on and trek back up that slope toward the dark figure on the porch. "Find something?" he asked. His voice carried. Lucky bastard.


But the figure on the porch wasn't Malia. He was a man in shorts, the kind people sleep in, and those legs could've done with a few more squats every night. He had these blue eyes that in the right light might've been charming enough, but tonight, there was nothing behind them. And he came for Jimmy as ferociously as the woman went for Malia, that is to say, not very, just a staggering step as the parasite tried to figure out its new bodies, but Jimmy was a cop. He reacted to it as a threat against his life. His arm was immediately around the man's neck, trying to crumple him to the floor, but the other man stood tall. Kicking the knees, slipping out his foot, applying pressure to sensitive points, and nothing that usually worked on suspects worked now.


He released the man and bolted into the lodge, where Malia was running out. They collided.


As they rose from their tumbled mess, they saw they were surrounded. The batman woman. The gym shorts man. Another blonde woman. Hunter. Tony.


Jimmy fled out the window, the glass cracking around him and its shards slicing deep through his winter layers into his skin. If these things didn't get him, blood loss would. He applied pressure to his neck as he ran and Malia was quick behind him, then ahead because she wasn't woozy from pain, just fueled by adrenaline.


Mal stopped to stare at a light over the ridge accompanied by this screeching, whirling constant chop. The flood light hit them. They had to look through fingers and caught flashes of the helicopter on the edge of the blinding light. A large bucket dangled from it. The light passed by and they waved and yelled, trying to flag it down, but it couldn't hear them. It couldn't see them. Its beam focused solely on the horde behind them. They had to keep running.


Once stopped, Jimmy found it hard to move his legs. Malia dragged him on, but he was too heavy and too sluggish, and she let go.


She didn't make it far.


A figure ahead stopped her.


And just as before when she mistook the Batman woman, she murmured, "Sunny?"


Jimmy stumbled into Malia.


He saw her too. In the dark, missing that hand, it was definitely Sunny and yet, it wasn't.


It crept toward them.


They had to run, but Jimmy couldn't and Malia wouldn't.


Even when Jimmy tried, screaming but getting drowned out by the sound so he might as well have been just stretching his jaw, behind them was the horde. Ahead Sunny. And coming from the trees, Glenn. They could dive off the edge of the mountain and hope to survive in whatever snowball they rolled into.


The chopper passed over head. They didn't think the sound could get louder, but it did. The chop, chop, chop combined with a waterfall as the aerial firefighter dumped its content and then circled around to see it missed Glenn and Sunny and they were still moving.


No one else was.