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“I'll take this watch,” Denny said. “The prick detective is still stalking the place. That's personal, now, but he only wants me. I couldn't risk one of you getting between us. And like you said, we'll need all our strength to make it out of here come the morning.”
“I... I don't think the morning's coming,” Kelly said.
“What do you mean?”
“She means it's been more than twelve hours,” Betsy said. “Probably more than twenty since we woke up in that auto yard. And the sun was beginning to set when we had our accident. I don't think the sun rises here- whatever here is. But we've also all been running on fumes for the better part of a day. We need rest, or we won't make it- especially not if we're being hunted.”
Kelly followed Betsy inside the tent, then zipped it from inside.
“I'll be here,” Denny said, sitting on the rock nearest their tent.
In the darkness, it was almost pleasant having the crackling of the fire. It deadened the otherwise dread silence permeating the campground.
The Colt was laid across Denny's lap, and he was starting to feel the beginning numbness of sleep when he heard the snap of a branch. He knew it was intentional. The detective didn't make noise unless he wanted to.
“No rest for the wicked, eh, boy? And you have been awfully naughty, haven't you. You're the reason they're all here. Seducing Alan away. They'd all be safe at home in their beds if you'd just let your bosom buddy keep it in his pants.
“But that wasn't enough, was it? You weren't happy being the passive reason why all your friends are dying- oh, and they will, trust me on that, they will. No, you stepped up your game and shot your other friend dead.
“Which could have been heroic, even noble. If you hadn't fucked that up, too. You were too late to stop him, but fired too much to save him. You killed two of your friends. You fucking disgrace.”
Denny cocked back the hammer on the Colt, spinning in the direction of scattered leaves. “But do you know the part that saddens me, Denny? The shame of that pales in comparison to your crippling dread over the polaroids in my pocket. If I snuck past you and gutted the other two, maybe even finished off the black chick for good measure, you wouldn't stumble out of here crying over how pathetically you failed your friends. You'd be blubbering still about your family finding out you suck dick. Which ironically is the most profound way in which you suck dick.”
Denny spun the opposite direction, to where the voice was now echoing from. The detective seemed to be able to be everywhere at once. He couldn't stop him. He'd seen that he couldn't protect his friends. But the kernel of an idea formed in his mind, and he stood tall for the first time in hours.
“You're my monster, a manifestation of my deepest, darkest insecurities, somehow pulled from my head into whatever this world is. But we're linked. You've been stalking me, not the others. You could humiliate me, even kill me, and we've seen that you could hurt them, too if my fear is still here to animate you, give you strength. I've only got one bullet, but it's the only one I ever needed.” Denny put the Colt under his jaw.
“You don't want to do that, son,” the detective began. “Well, you always have, haven't you? Better that than disappoint your parents, granny and grandad, everyone else. And better than confirm to yourself you're a freak, like they always whispered you were. But surely there's got to be a more fun way to do this. I could...” he said, stepping out of the shadows, holding a switchblade. “I could slice open your guts, let them pool unto your lap. You close your eyes hard enough, the warmth, the moisture, you could tell yourself it feels how it would have if your boyfriend ever reciprocated. You could have one last sad little sobbing jerk-off. Blood makes for a great lubricant. I was going to say I heard from a friend in the force- but would you really believe that?”
“Not a step closer,” Denny said, pulling back the hammer.
“If I'd thought for a second you had the stones, I probably wouldn't have bothered coming here. No. Though bold choice, not sticking it in our mouth; worried about being a cliché? Or just about the jokes coming from your relatives, about how you couldn't stop yourself from swallowing a hard load- even if this one's a hand load? Taking the coward's way out doesn't buy you peace. The photos still circulate. Maybe I make it a habit of sending them out every holiday, just to make sure even your memory is forever tarnished.”
Denny smiled. “You can't hurt me anymore. Or them.” Then he pulled the trigger.
The momentum of the bullet pulled him off his feet, and it felt like he floated through the air for the full length of a song, his favorite song, Blue, and when he finally touched down in the wet ground, it felt like he floated peacefully into the warm embrace of the mud.
The last thing he saw before the darkness overwhelmed him was the look of shock on the detective's face melt away, replaced by a smile.