Updated: Mar 24, 2020
O’Brien had checked our perimeter, called for backup, and declared the situation tentatively safe in the time it took Jerry and Rosa to fall asleep in the closet. I covered them in packing blankets, then put one around my shoulders and tried to read my book by candlelight, but the situation was just too distracting to let myself get into it.
O’Brien eventually joined us in the small room, reporting that there were no signs of Spencer anywhere, and if it weren’t for the fact that somebody had slashed all the tires on her cruiser and Rosa’s Volkswagen Beetle, she might have been tempted to believe he was just yanking our cranks.
“So what’s the deal with backup?” I whispered to her as she came and sat down on a milk crate next to me. The others were knocked out, and I was just fine letting them sleep off as much of this as they could.
O’Brien looked at them while she searched for the words. “I don’t know what’s going on with you, Crutches, but ever since I was assigned to this job my life has gotten exponentially weirder with every passing day.”
“Yeah.” I said, picking up the edge of my blanket and putting it over her shoulders.
She moved in a little closer and whispered “I talked to the sheriff. He’s sending a snow truck out here first thing in the morning. I tried to tell him that this needs to be a priority, but evidently this is snowmageddon and he can’t afford to stretch his precious resources any further tonight.”
“That sounds about right.”
“What about her? I thought you and Jerry pretty much ran this place.”
I laughed. “We don’t run anything.”
She put a warm arm around my shoulder and said, “I’m really gonna miss you when you die.”
“Thanks. But that’s pretty presumptuous of you. So far I have outlived almost every deputy they sent.”
Rosa shot up, eyes wide open in a look of sheer terror.
“Hey.” I said. “Did we wake you up?”
“Did you hear that?!” she said in a voice that did not sound anything like Rosa’s voice.
A cold shiver ran down my spine. “Hear what?”
“He’s coming, almost here, when he gets it we’re all over, we can’t let him have it.”
“Girl,” said O’Brien, “You are freaking us out. Who’s coming? Spencer?”
“She’s dreaming,” I said. "One of my foster brothers used to do the same thing. Her eyes are open, but she’s talking in her sleep.”
Right then, her eyes rolled way back into their sockets, revealing nothing but veiny white bulges.
“Did your foster brother do that, too?”
“Okay,” I admitted, “That is different.”
She slowly began to stand up, clutching the blanket to her chest, and then continued speaking in that same weird voice, “Every living being will be transformed into a conduit for agony and suffering if he finds what he is looking for. You will all beg for death, but it will never come. An unfathomable horror from worlds inconceivable is at your gate. Do not open the door.”
Well that doesn’t make any sense. Is it a gate or a door? Fix your metaphors, creepy nightmare Rosa.
O’Brien stood up and looked at me, “Should I wake her?”
Right then, Rosa dropped her blanket, revealing that she was actually floating about eight or nine inches off the ground.
“Oh.” we both said at the same time.
It might have been a little bit of an overreaction to shoot Rosa with a Taser gun, but then again it might not have been and there’s no changing what already happened.
Rosa fell onto Jerry, waking them both up in a screaming fit of expletives and confusion. It took a good twenty minutes before Rosa was calmed down enough for us to pull the prongs out of her skin and get her patched up.
We were all in the front of the store, Rosa sitting on the counter while O’Brien put the finishing touches on her bandages.
“Why the hell would you shoot me with a taser?”
Always with the questions, Rosa.
“You were sleep floating.” I explained.
“Oh,” she said, “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to.”
“Hey guys?” said Jerry, “What do you suppose that is?”
He pointed at something just on the other side of the glass doors that looked at first glance like a body slumped against it. Upon closer inspection, I became certain that it was, in fact, a body slumped against it.
O’Brien drew her gun and carefully walked over, undid the lock, and opened the door just enough for the body to fall halfway into the gas station along with a freezing blast of wet air.
“Crap on a cracker,” said Jerry, “Is that Spencer?”
He had a busted lip, swollen black eye, and scrapes and bruises covering his face like he had gone ten rounds with a dump truck, but O’Brien was smart enough not to let up her guard. She kept one finger on the trigger while she checked for signs of breathing which, sadly, she found.
She put the unconscious Spencer in handcuffs, dragged him into the store, then handed me another dollar before calling it in to the sheriff’s office.
“Do you think that’s going to be enough?” I asked, “One pair of handcuffs?”
“He’s unconscious and unarmed. What exactly did you have in mind?”
I said, “Maybe we can tie him up” at the same time that Jerry blurted out “wooden stake through the heart.”
We compromised and found a roll of duct tape to secure him to a rolling chair, then pushed the chair into the supply closet, then nailed the closet door shut.
Thirty minutes later, we heard the pounding on the roof.
SLAM The first one jolted us all into high-attention. We didn’t have but maybe two seconds before the next. SLAM Maybe a tree branch had fallen over in the storm? SLAM SLAM SLAM They started coming more frequently, like a muffled machine gun. SLAMSLAMSLAMSLAM
“What the hell is that?!” O’Brien bellowed.
SLAMSLAMSLAMSLAM They came together, five to ten each second. And then, just as suddenly as it started, the pounding on the roof came to an end.
“Maybe it was hail?” I suggested.
“Or maybe,” offered Jerry, “It was him, escaping.” He pointed at the room Spencer was in.
“How does that make any sense?” asked O’Brien.
“Lady, we are way past the point of making any sense,” he answered, then added, “I think you know that.”
That was all it took to convince O’Brien to pry the nails back out of the door to Spencer’s makeshift prison, but once we got it open we saw that he was still there, duct taped to the chair. We breathed a collective sigh of relief before-
“Well hey there everybody,” Spencer said with a sly smile. “Merry Christmas. Now which one of you wants to let me out of this chair?”
“Spencer Middleton,” said O’Brien, “You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say-”
“Christ, O’Brien, are we really going to do this again? Just set me free and give me a weapon. You clearly have no idea what’s out there right now. You think I did this to myself? Trust me. You’re going to need my help.”
We probably should have gone with the stake.
Spencer was still yelling at us as O’Brien closed the closet door again.
“Ok,” she said, “We need to check out what that noise was.”
“No, we really don’t,” I responded.