01:53:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 171 words  
Categories: Announcements, Last Girls

NaNoWriMo 2016 Announcement: Last Girls

If you've been around a while, you know the deal. Once a year, I participate in National Novel Writing Month, taking a novel from idea to finished first draft within the month. Doing it my way, there's a twist: I post my first draft publicly here, a chapter at a time. It's a rough draft, full of flaws, but it's a fun way of inviting the world to ride shotgun with me.

This year, I almost didn't do it. But after having finished a NaNo novel for several years, it just felt like tradition. I would have been sad to skip it.

So let me introduce you to the Last Girls, publishing November second until, well, whenever it finishes. A chapter a day, remember.

Last Girls

When a camping trip with friends turns to a bloodbath, Kelly must face her worst fears- as well as those of the other Last Girls.

Thanks for coming on this trip with me! I hope you have as much fun with the Last Girls as I'm gonna!

Pages: << 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 ... 42 >>

11/20/16

  03:34:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 806 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Sixteen

Denny shot to his feet, and the detective whirled, planting a fist in his stomach. The fight went out of him immediately, and the other man helped him back onto the log. “That was pathetic, even for you,” the detective said. “But look on the bright side. With them dead, your secret's safe.”
Denny's legs coiled, preparing him to make another move. Only he heard a familiar sound that filled him with dread. Breathing, heavy, building to a howl. He looked over each shoulder, trying to see if the wolf was back. But the sound wasn't coming from behind him, it was coming their campsite.
Angel was awake, struggling against his bonds. “They don't hear him,” the detective said, hiding his glee. “Makes it all feel like a nature special, where we see the jaguar stalking through the grass, but the gazelle is blissfully unaware, just waiting for its death to give the channel a momentary ratings boost.”
Denny leapt at the detective, driving his shoulder into his back. “Angel!” he yelled. He managed to get both of his knees onto the detective's back, pinning him to the ground.
“Off me you fat gay fuck,” the detective grumbled into the dirt, spitting to try to get leaves out of his mouth his invective had invited in.
Denny watched Betsy turned towards the tree they tied her boyfriend to in time to see the rope snap in his jaws. He remembered they were careful to keep his mouth and his remaining hand isolated, so it would be harder for him to break free. But his other hand had grown back, and Denny could already see spiny hairs pushing through Angel's skin, and his face contorting to make room for all of his newly sharpened fangs.
Betsy delivered a knee to Angel's face, smashing his teeth into the tree he was braced against. Lark ran to the other side of the tree, and grabbed the ropes and pulled, pinning Angel in place against it. He managed to bark pitifully. And the noise was returned from beside her. The other wolf was back, howling just at the edge of their clearing.
Betsy spun, silencing it with a kick to the throat.
“Makes you wish you had a steak, right?” the detective laughed from beneath Denny. “Dinner and a show?”
“Shut up,” Denny said, rearing up to give him room to bring his knee back down on the detective's cheek. It made a satisfying pop, but it also put him off balance, and the next second the detective arched his back, knocking Denny back painfully onto his cuffed hands.
“Fucking sloppy,” the detective said, brushing mud off his tie as he stood. He walked slowly towards Denny, with each step flicking another polaroid of him and Alan into the dirt between them. “For a man as cripplingly afraid of everyone in his life finding the truth about him is... you don't fight very well to keep your secret under wraps.”
Denny rolled onto his knees. “I prefer belly-up, for submissive poses. For one, I got no designs on penetrating you. But for two, if I did, I'd want to see the hate and fear in your eyes while I did.”
Alan hit him from behind, knocking his foot into Denny's side and sending him sprawling forward. An instant later both men were on him, wrestling his limbs to the ground. “A handcuffed homo and a gut-gashed fuckboy? Wonder how long you two can keep this up before,” Kelly stomped him in the stomache, and he stopped talking. “You kids are making a mistake.”
Kelly retrieved the gun from the detective's holster, and slid it in her waistband. Then she slid out the Colt Walkers. She aimed one at the detective, and the other in the direction of the wolf Betsy was fighting “Where are the keys?” she asked.
“You're spread too thin,” the detective said, wrapping his legs around one of hers, and using his leverage to pull her into the mud. “Distracted.” She pulled the trigger, and the ancient Colt bucked against him, loosing a bullet into his belly. The detective went limp, and Denny's grip slackened. Then the detective jerked again, slipping loose. Alan managed to wrestle him back onto the ground, a bloody smile appearing through his shirt as the action tore loose his fragile scabbing. Kelly pushed the Colt hard into the detective's stomach.
“This one goes through the spine,” she said, “unless you stop moving right the fuck now, and stay limp.”
“Okay,” he said, his body slapping against the dirt. “Okay.”
Kelly handed Alan one of the Colts. “Get the cuffs off Denny, and onto this prick.”
Alan nodded. “He breathes heavy and I shoot him.” He put the pistol to the detective's temple.
Kelly nodded, and ran back towards the sounds of dogs.

11/16/16

  02:32:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1177 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Fifteen

“It looks worse than it is,” Alan said, probing at the still fresh ax-wound in his stomach.
“Really?” Kelly asked. “Because it kind of looks like that guy tore you a new ax-hole.”
“He did,” he said, “and while you never want an ax-hole in your torso,” he jabbed a sewing needle through the loose flap of skin at the top, “this particular wound is shallow. It's the best possible kind of ax-hole.”
“What the hell are you kids doing?” a loud voice barked from behind them. A man with thin hair poorly hidden by a comb-over, short, squat, and pudgy, exited from the trees. He was wearing a rumpled dress shirt, slacks, a tie and a trenchcoat. “Firing off guns, raising a-”
He stopped flat when he saw that Denny was holding a gun- a big gun. “Whoa, there, kid,” he said, reaching for his belt “I'm leaving my rosco where it lies; just drawing my badge.” He pushed his coat back, exposing a hip holster, as well as a badge hanging off his pants. “I'm going to need you to lower the piece, son- for my safety as well as yours.”
Denny took his finger off the trigger, and put it slowly on the ground.
“Thanks,” the officer said. “Now, again, for my safety, and yours, I want to put you in cuffs.” He reached for his belt on the other side, and unbuttoned them from a hanging holder.
“Whoa,” Denny said, putting up his hands.
“He didn't do anything,” Kelly protested.
“Maybe not,” the officer said. “But I'll tell you what I can see at the moment. One guy's bleeding from the stomach. One's tied to a tree with a stump that I'd wager had a hand attached to it earlier in the evening. And this gentleman was brandishing a firearm, one recently discharged. Something happened here, and until I've got backup, I'm going to treat all of you as suspect.”
“It's-” Denny sighed heavily, and turned his back to the officer. “Just be careful, okay?” he put his hands behind his back.
“I'm just looking to get to the bottom of things.”
“Yeah, well, you might want to call in that back-up,” Betsy said, and he squared towards her, his hand hovering instinctively over his holster. “Not- we aren't the problem. We were attacked. Animals, maybe some kind of-”
“Mountain men,” Kelly interjected. “Big, inbred Deliverance kind.”
“Or Chainsaw Massacre.” Lark added. “They hurt our friends. We were defending ourselves.” She glanced at the fire, and he followed her eyes to the corpse still sizzling on the embers.
“Jesus Christ,” he said, running to the pit, and rolling the body out with his feet. “Why were you people roasting a fucking torso?”
“He wouldn't stop,” Kelly said.
“He wanted to shoot us. And even after we got his guns away...”
“There's something not right about these killers,” Betsy said.
“They're right,” Denny said. “This wasn't crackheads looking for a fix, or hillbilly highwaymen or bikers or anything you might reasonably expect to have an encounter with.”
“Okay, everyone needs to be quiet,” the officer said. “I'm going to call this in. Right now, I think you're all going to a rubber room, and for even entertaining the idea you might not all be lunatics, I'm probably getting myself measured for a matching straight-jacket, too. But assuming I can cajole somebody else into helping me figure out just what the hell exactly happened here, I'm going to keep your buddy cuffed, your muscular buddy tried to a tree, and the other buddy lying where I can see him.”
“Works for me,” Alan said from the ground. “Since it kind of hurts when I do anything that isn't laying here- which includes breathing.”
“Wonderful. And everyone else, no sudden movements, if you've got any other weapons or anything that might double as a weapon, now's the time to tell me without it seeming like you were going to use it on me.”
Betsy and Kelly exchanged a glance, and Kelly nodded. “The cowboy, he had another pistol. The big prick with the ax knocked it out of my hands, on the ground over here.”
The officer trained a flashlight on the fallen leaves. A sliver of silver shined from underneath oranges and browns. “Wonderful,” he said. “And I appreciate you kids cooperating. It goes a way to making me believe you- unbelievable as this whole thing seems.”
He walked behind Denny, picked up the other revolver and slid it in his waistband. Then he took hold of Denny's elbow, tilted is so he could control his movement, and lead him to the far end of the clearing, and a fallen log. “Have a seat, kid,” he said. He helped Denny sit. The log was moist, and covered with a slick moss. “They know,” he said. “You have to know that, right?”
“Know what?” Denny asked. “And you never gave us a name.”
“Detective Keever, homicide.” He patted his shirt pocket, then shrugged. “I'd give you my card, but you're in cuffs so you couldn't put it away, and I ain't sliding one in your pants.” The detective smiled to himself. “But they've got to know the truth by now. I know, and I just got here.”
“Know what?” Denny asked.
The detective bobbed his head, and made gagging sounds, then raised an eyebrow. “That you're playing the kid on the ground's skin flute. They know. It's plain as they gay on your face. Or are you actually going to insult me by lying about it? Nuh-uh. That I can't smell that sweet stink of him on your breath? A mint would have taken care of that. Cadaverine, it's called; present in corpses and cumshots. And everybody here knows it. Seeing as how you comport yourself, I'm guessing they get a good laugh about it anytime you're... well, where you are right now, out of earshot.”
“They wouldn't do that,” Denny said, rocking to try o calm himself.
“Maybe not,” the detective said with a shrug. “And maybe they haven't even figured it out for themselves yet. They don't seem like the brightest bulbs in the box- and I don't mean that to say that they're enviro-conscious and responsible, either. But I have ways of enlightening them, if you step out of line.” He pulled a polaroid from his shirt pocket. It was Denny and Alan, from earlier in that day.
“Fuck you,” Denny said, but the fight was completely out of him. “I didn't do anything to you.”
“That's true,” he said, shoving the picture back in his shirt.
“Will you at least call for back-up. You're going to do what you'll do, but it isn't safe to stay out here like this.”
Denny heard a heavy heartbeat approaching from his right, and saw the same movement in the shadows he'd seen before, a man so wide and tall he could be mistaken in this mist for a tree. “Oh, sweetheart,” the detective said with a grin that made him shiver, “my back-ups already here.”

11/15/16

  12:23:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 700 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Fourteen

Kelly shivered. The rhythmic ticking reminded her of her therapist's clock, from when she was a child. Her father left when she was young, and she fought with her mother constantly. The only calm in a sea of chaos were her sessions, but every moment that stupid clock ticked away the seconds until she would be alone again.
She had nightmares about that clock now, as an adult. It reminded her that her youth, and her beauty, were fleeting. It made her cling harder to Alan than she would have otherwise, because he'd been safe, and he cared, and they wanted enough of the same things that she could see them being happy together.
As if to punctuate the thought, Alan stumbled back into the light and doubled over, whimpering. A shadow appeared beside him, large enough to be mistaken for a tree, but it wasn't. Alan crawled forward, something wooden clutched to his chest. He collapsed, but was close enough that the fire licked at the object he was holding- no, not holding, sticking into his abdomen. It was a hatchet, with a slightly curved handle, its blade embedded a few inches below his ribs.
The man who was nearly a tree stepped into the light. His fist was slicked with blood from the impact of his weapon, and his face covered by a firefighter's SCBA mask, that fogged with every rapid exhalation, hidden beneath a hood cinched closed.
He loomed over Alan, and Kelly gripped the shovel tightly.
“Not another step,” Betsy said, pulling back the hammer on the Colt Walker. That got the man in the firefighter mask's attention, and he crossed the distance to her in three long strides, so fast she barely had time to raise the revolver.
He slapped the weapon, knocking it from her grip. She squared to him, raising her hands defensively. Kelly had seen Betsy fight in tournaments. She was good, but this man was a mountain, and quicker than big men usually were. She feinted, once, twice, trying to goad him to attack, or to overcommit to a defense. Then she must have seen an opening, because she kicked at his knee, and at impact, leaned her weight against it.
He countered, landing a large fist into her stomach. She doubled over.
Kelly raised the shovel and tried to lunge, but he knocked her back, sending the shovel out of her grasp.
Kelly rolled to her feet, and saw that Betsy had used the distraction to dive for the gun. She leaned to her side to get off a shot, but the large man was already on her, and stomped a suede workboot into her side.
Kelly grabbed the shovel and ran back towards the man who knocked her down. He was wary of her advance, and paid more attention to her. She knew she needed to get around his big arms, to get in close, for the kill, as it were, but he seemed intent to keep her at arms' length. The same, however, wasn't true of Betsy.
She threw a pair of strikes into his mask. “Hmm,” he said, and responded with a haymaker of his own, one she thankfully ducked beneath.
“Bets!” Kelly hollered, and tossed the shovel to her. Betsy caught it, spinning, and used her momentum to smash the flat of the shovel beside the man's mask. Vibrations from the strike were almost enough to make her drop the shovel, but the man didn't even seem to register it.
“Enough!” Denny yelled from the treeline, cocking back the hammer on the cowboy's other gun. He circled around the large man, and Kelly remembered in the back of her mind something about crossfires and having a backstop for fired shots- one that preferably didn't include your friends.
Denny held his attention long enough for Betsy to retrieve the other gun from the ground. When he realized how truly outgunned he was, he mumbled, “Hmm,” and turned to leave. He paused, lingering over Alan. He reached for the handle to his hatchet, still visible beneath Alan, and Denny fired a shot over his shoulder. The man in the firefighter mask shrugged, and melted back into the shadows.

  12:17:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 860 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Thirteen

“I'm kind of wishing we brought more rope right now,” Kelly said, tightening the length of it tying Angel to a tree.
“And I'm wishing we stayed home,” Betsy said. “And that this-” She pulled the wolf's head up by his scruff, “wasn't my boyfriend.”
“Is anybody else freaking out?” Lark asked, shivering in the cold.
“We know,” Denny said, rubbing her shoulder, “you're still an amazing quarterback, even if you didn't get to play for a college team.”
“No, dick. That's not what I-”
“I am a little freaked that there's most of a cowboy sizzling in our firepit,” Kelly said, shaking, “and a little extra perturbed that it kind of smells good.”
“I'm going to get you some jerky from the bags before you start gnawing like a zombie,” Alan said, and ran towards where their food was still dangling from a tree branch.
“He was dead, right?” Kelly asked, her words clipped and an octave higher than normal. “That wasn't my eyes, or something somebody slipped in my beer or food or anything?”
“Nobody dosed your food,” Betsy said soothingly.
“And having seen more than my share of wounds and injuries, no,” Alan said, “that was not healthy tissue. I mean, I don't think I know exactly what a zombie would look like, but I saw someone with gangrene so bad they eventually cut off his leg. His flesh looked like that, all over his body. Yet another reason why I wouldn't take a bite.” He handed a strip of jerky to Kelly.
“How the fuck are the rest of you so fucking calm?” Lark yelled.
“Shock,” Alan said abruptly. “Everybody freaks out differently. Bets gets even more focused and determined. Denny becomes a dick.”
“Fuck you.”
“See? Kelly babbles. You get quiet. I'm rambling and caretaking and-” He stopped and took a long, quavering breath, “trying to remember to breathe.”
“We were attacked,” Betsy said.
“It's worse than that, I think,” Lark said. “What happened. It wasn't random. These weren't just monsters. That wolf... it was like my greatest anxieties all tossed together in a big ball of furry limb-rending murder.”
“Your biggest concern is turning into a werewolf?” Denny asked.
“No,” she said, unconsciously touching her throwing arm- the same arm Angel was missing. “I'm terrified of losing who I am. My... okay, prowess sounds douchey...”
“I'm not sure it sounds any better to say that you're freaked out over becoming disabled.”
“But that cowboy... he struck Angel's nerve. I mean, if he hadn't lost his arm fighting my wolf, the gunslinger was designed to unman him. Taller, beefier, manlier. I'm not... no aspersions are being cast, Bets, but Angel's always overcompensated. I'm not even saying he has anything to compensate for, just that there's never been a question of manliness that he didn't step emphatically to. He hated football, but he played with us every year, even tried out in college with us- and was miserable when I got cut before him. But that cowboy... if you were to design a perfect mousetrap to shake Angel to his core, I can't imagine a better Rube-Goldberg device.”
“That's crazy,” Betsy said. “No offense,” she added, turning to Denny.
“What?” he asked.
“You know what I meant. It's not rational to suddenly believe that there are tailor-made monsters hunting us through a forest.”
“Is it rational at all, though?” Lark asked. “There are definitely monsters. Is it suddenly too large a leap that for whatever reason they aren't hunting us at random? That there's something in us, each of us, calling out to whatever the hell they are.”
“Can we go back a sec, to why I'm crazy,” Denny said.
“Alan told us you used to cut,” Kelly said.
“Sorry, man,” Alan said. “It kind of freaked me out. I didn't know what else to do; I had to talk to someone about it.”
“Fuck you,” Denny said, and started to stomp away, but he stopped. “No, actually, fuck all of you. If you were concerned, you could have- should have had the decency to say something, rather than just treat me-” He stopped, and screamed, punching the nearest tree. He started off again, disappearing beyond the campfire's ring of illumination.
“Wait!” Alan yelled. “We should stay...” he trailed off. He couldn't quite place the sound, or rather, he could place it, but didn't understand it, since he wasn't listening to someone's chest through a scope. It was a heartbeat, loud, like the pounding of dance music through a wall.
The sound seemed to ricochet off the trees. “We shouldn't split up,” Alan said.
“Need to find the gun,” Denny said. He was somewhere in the shade cast by the trees, his voice muffled by the rhythmic and growing thump that seemed to surround them.
Alan didn't want to be away from the relative safety of the light any longer than they had to be, and turned back towards camp. “Let me get a-” He stopped, when he ran into a tree.
No, not a tree. The thumping was coming from it, too tall to be a man, and too wide, but still it stepped forward.

11/14/16

  02:43:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 420 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Twelve

Angel moaned. “You okay?” Alan asked him, holding up his friend's remaining hand to gauge his pulse. Angel pulled the limb violently away, then lunged at Alan, nearly catching his fingers between his teeth. “What the hell?” Alan asked, stumbling backward, landing in the dirt.
Angel's chest swelled and shifted beneath his tailored shirt, his bones warping and his muscles pulsing, reforming in new shapes. The changes overwhelmed the shirt, sending buttons flying violently off. He screamed, and sharp spines bloomed out of his waxed chest, traveling in a wave up his neck and covering his face, and moving down his torso. His scream became a howl as his nose and mouth together extruded from his face, and his teeth grew from tiny Chiclets into curved daggers.
Angel's jaws snapped at Alan, this time catching his shirt and trapping his arm. Denny put his flip-flop onto Angel's chest, and leveraged his foot enough to tear Alan loose, and away from the claws that grew out of Angel's fingertips. Both men fell backwards together, Alan rolling further away. Denny dropped the revolver he was holding, and it went sliding past the light of the fire.
When he looked up, he saw that Angel was now a wolf like the one that attacked him, but with lighter brown hair mixed in with the gray.
Betsy squared her feet, and tried to steady the cowboy's other gun in her hands. “Maybe since they aren't silver...” Betsy said, her arms trembling wildly.
“Silver,” Lark said, and snapped her fingers. “Don't shoot, I may have something.”
Denny crawled backwards at Angel's approach, but he was moving languidly, his fear slowly paralyzing his muscles.
Then the wolf stopped, and howled, but not a long call; it yelped in pain. Then again. This time the can that hit him had momentum to carry it to Denny's feet. He looked to Lark, who was standing with the cooler open at her feet. She retrieved another 'silver bullet,' and winged it at the wolf's head. This one knocked it off balance, and it stumbled groggily forward.
She picked up one more, reared back to throw, but the wolf swayed, nearly losing its balance, and she checked her arm. When he straightened his back she let loose. It struck him just above the eye, and the force of it sent him twisting in a spiral through the air, landing with his elongated face in Denny's lap.
The wolf's tongue lolled out of its mouth, coming to rest on Denny's thigh.

11/12/16

  01:42:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 596 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Eleven

“Christ,” Denny yelped dropping onto one of the stones Angel had dragged around the fire pit.
Angel growled, and Alan tipped his beer into his mouth. “Another ten Ccs,” Alan said. He swallowed, groaning. “Wish we had something stronger- or that you didn't have the constitution of a freaking grizzly.”
“A werewolf and an undead gunslinger,” Betsy said. “Did we stumble into some psycho Disneyland? Some kind of a slasher nature preserve?”
“A nightmare,” Kelly said.
“Purgatory,” Denny said.
“God, don't get all Catholic on us,” Alan said.
“I'm not,” he pouted. “But like Lost. Like we died in that car wreck and we're being tried here.”
“Or like you hit your head and all of your sanity drained out of you,” Lark said.
“Quit it,” Angel said through a snarl. “Shouldn't turn on each other. Everything's too fucked up already. And we need to regroup. That wolf isn't gone.”
“Shit,” Alan said.
“Right,” Betsy said, knelt down, and peeled the cowboy's fingers off his gun. She hefted it, and nearly dropped it. “Heavier than it looks,” she said.
“Kicks like a bull moose, too,” Angel said. “Mi abuelo, we watched caballero peliculas- uh, cowboy movies. Grandfather. Sorry. Dolor has me screwed enough I'm lapsing into Espanol.”
“Who else knows how to shoot?” Betsy asked, taking the other revolver off Angel's lap.
“You do?” Lark asked.
“Angel taught me.” The other woman glared, and Betsy glared back. “First off, not remotely the time. Second, no, I didn't know he was bringing it, and third, really not the time.”
“You're right,” Lark said, rubbing sleep from her eyes. “This whole thing has just been too much.”
“I sort of know,” Denny said. “My dad tried to take me hunting, once.”
“Tried?” Alan asked.
“I couldn't do it. Couldn't even carry the gun. I thought I'd be able to handle it; he made me watch the part of Bambi where his mom dies to prepare me. And I was fine, until I got in the car, with his old /22 rimfire across my lap. It weighed too much. And I realized about halfway there that I was shaking like a chihuahua on the Fourth of July. I tried, though. When we got there, I shouldered the rifle, and started to march. But it fell right through my fingers. Dad told me to pick it up but the moment I bent over for it, everything we had for breakfast came up. He left me there, crying. For hours. Came back once he got his buck. He didn't talk to me the whole ride back. Or for a couple weeks after, actually. I think that was the day he stopped pretending I was ever going to be like him. But before that, like in anticipation, he walked me through the safety basics.”
“Anybody want to raise that ante?” Betsy asked.
“I can- can still shoot straight,” Angel said, reaching for the revolver.
“You can't even sit up straight,” she replied. “Going once- I'll take watched any Van Damme or Segal movie more than once- going twice.” She offered the revolver handled first to Denny.
“It's the confidence you've displayed in me that will carry me through,” he said.
“So I'm going to ask what is probably both an obvious and a stupid question at the same time, but do they need to be silver bullets?”
“I think the time for that question would have been when the dead cowboy was picking out his ammunition,” Betsy said.
“Or the action movie answer,” Lark said with a smile, “I guess we'll find out.”

  01:34:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 692 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Ten

They stopped moving when they heard noise coming from the brush surrounding their encampment.
“Probably a deer,” Denny said.
“Probably not,” Angel said. “Deer would stay the hell away from the fire and all of our noise.” He leaned over to his backpack, and pulled something small and black out of one of its pockets. It reflected the light of the fire, and it was a moment before any of his friends realized it was a gun.
“Jesus,” Lark said. “Put that the fuck away. What the hell were you thinking, bringing that and not even telling anyone about it?”
“Shh,” he said.
“No, you shut the fuck up. What if it had gone off in the crash- or if there'd been a fire in the car. We wouldn't have even known to get it out of there before, the, uh,”
“It's called cooking a round off. It happens all the time with house fires. Responsible gun owners store loaded guns knowing it's possible they'll cook off uncontrolled at some point.”
“And a responsible gun owner would have told us it was in the car. Because in a car accident there's no telling which direction the gun can end up pointed in while it cooks off rounds. I just told you how much injury freaks me out, and you pull this-” Then she heard it, the reason he'd pulled the gun. A growl, low but growing in intensity. The brush nearest them moved, and gray fur pushed through its branches.
It looked enough like a wolf, that they all leapt to their feet, instinctively tightening their circle around the fire. But it wasn't, clearly. It stalked towards them on its hind legs, legs clearly built for running both on four legs and two. And its torso more closely resembled that of a human being, despit being streaked with gray and black fir. The face was that of a wolf, but larger, to stay in better proportion with its body.
While it stalked around the fire, and its gaze flicked across them all like the shadows dueling with the fire's light, its eyes returned every few seconds to Lark. For a moment, it was enough to pull her focus away from Angel and his pistol, to its rending teeth, and sharp claws, larger than you'd expect on a creature its size. It was a beast designed for dismemberment and debility.
“We're not accepting trick or treaters,” Betsy yelled, “though if you asked nicely I might be willing to make you a s'more.”
“Yeah, dude,” Kelly said, “it's not cool, sneaking up on somebody's campground.”
“I'm not sure he is a dude,” Alan said. The wolf snarled, showing a mouth full of teeth that hollowed into a too point snout; there wasn't enough room left inside the wolf for a human head. “Jesus.”
“Get the hell out of here,” Angel said, stepping out of the circle, and aiming his gun at the wolf.
“'Fraid we can't do that,” a man said, stepping out on the opposite side from the wolf. His boots jangled from the spurs attached to them. Angel saw that the man had two pistols in a gun belt beneath his duster.
“Look, we didn't mean any harm,” he said, taking care not to point his gun anywhere near the man. “Our truck got run off the road, and we hiked as far as we could to set up camp. If this is your land we can pack up and be out of here at first light.”
“That won't do either,” the stranger said from beneath the brim of a ten gallon cowboy hat. He brushed his coat back, exposing quick-draw holsters.
“Whoa, whoa,” Allan said. “We can pack up now. We don't want trouble.”
“Well, trouble's what you got,” the cowboy said, grinning, finally looking up from the dirt enough that the campfire licked at his desiccated features. His features were hideous enough that Angel took a step back, and realized that the wolf was no longer where he'd last seen it, and spun to find it, too late.
Its jaws enveloped the gun and his hand, dead-ending at his elbow.

  01:25:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 692 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Nine

They stopped moving when they heard noise coming from the brush surrounding their encampment.
“Probably a deer,” Denny said.
“Probably not,” Angel said. “Deer would stay the hell away from the fire and all of our noise.” He leaned over to his backpack, and pulled something small and black out of one of its pockets. It reflected the light of the fire, and it was a moment before any of his friends realized it was a gun.
“Jesus,” Lark said. “Put that the fuck away. What the hell were you thinking, bringing that and not even telling anyone about it?”
“Shh,” he said.
“No, you shut the fuck up. What if it had gone off in the crash- or if there'd been a fire in the car. We wouldn't have even known to get it out of there before, the, uh,”
“It's called cooking a round off. It happens all the time with house fires. Responsible gun owners store loaded guns knowing it's possible they'll cook off uncontrolled at some point.”
“And a responsible gun owner would have told us it was in the car. Because in a car accident there's no telling which direction the gun can end up pointed in while it cooks off rounds. I just told you how much injury freaks me out, and you pull this-” Then she heard it, the reason he'd pulled the gun. A growl, low but growing in intensity. The brush nearest them moved, and gray fur pushed through its branches.
It looked enough like a wolf, that they all leapt to their feet, instinctively tightening their circle around the fire. But it wasn't, clearly. It stalked towards them on its hind legs, legs clearly built for running both on four legs and two. And its torso more closely resembled that of a human being, despit being streaked with gray and black fir. The face was that of a wolf, but larger, to stay in better proportion with its body.
While it stalked around the fire, and its gaze flicked across them all like the shadows dueling with the fire's light, its eyes returned every few seconds to Lark. For a moment, it was enough to pull her focus away from Angel and his pistol, to its rending teeth, and sharp claws, larger than you'd expect on a creature its size. It was a beast designed for dismemberment and debility.
“We're not accepting trick or treaters,” Betsy yelled, “though if you asked nicely I might be willing to make you a s'more.”
“Yeah, dude,” Kelly said, “it's not cool, sneaking up on somebody's campground.”
“I'm not sure he is a dude,” Alan said. The wolf snarled, showing a mouth full of teeth that hollowed into a too point snout; there wasn't enough room left inside the wolf for a human head. “Jesus.”
“Get the hell out of here,” Angel said, stepping out of the circle, and aiming his gun at the wolf.
“'Fraid we can't do that,” a man said, stepping out on the opposite side from the wolf. His boots jangled from the spurs attached to them. Angel saw that the man had two pistols in a gun belt beneath his duster.
“Look, we didn't mean any harm,” he said, taking care not to point his gun anywhere near the man. “Our truck got run off the road, and we hiked as far as we could to set up camp. If this is your land we can pack up and be out of here at first light.”
“That won't do either,” the stranger said from beneath the brim of a ten gallon cowboy hat. He brushed his coat back, exposing quick-draw holsters.
“Whoa, whoa,” Allan said. “We can pack up now. We don't want trouble.”
“Well, trouble's what you got,” the cowboy said, grinning, finally looking up from the dirt enough that the campfire licked at his desiccated features. His features were hideous enough that Angel took a step back, and realized that the wolf was no longer where he'd last seen it, and spun to find it, too late.
Its jaws enveloped the gun and his hand, dead-ending at his elbow.

  01:18:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 589 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Eight

“Nothing with veins,” Alan said. “Angel can't stand veins.”
“Hah,” Angel said, “because it looks like a dick.”
“Unfortunately,” Lark said, handing him one in a bun, “these are cheap weeniers; they're like 90 percent veins, and 8 percent pig sphincters.”
“I'll probably regret asking,” Betsy said, “but I think it'll haunt me if I don't know. What's the other 2 percent?”
“Legal allowance for rats that fall into the dog vats.”
“That's actually less disgusting than I was imagining.”
“Oooh,” Angel said, “that's a good idea. Scary and or disgusting campfire stories. Nothing better to go with beer and hot dogs.”
“S'mores,” Kelly said.
“We brought s'mores stuff, right babe?”
“Yep. Name brand all the way, down to the fancy marshmallows.”
“Lark should start,” Angel said. “She doesn't fuck around with campfire stories. Or weeniers,” he added, as she took down a bite consisting of the last third of her hot dog.
“Screw you; I knew you were about to ask me to go first. And I think under normal circumstances I'd leap at the opportunity to make you all tinkle in your sleeping bags, but... we kind of just lived through a nightmare. Certainly one of mine.”
“It was just an accident.”
“That wasn't a car accident. It was a full, uncontrolled off-road slalom. We broke a fucking Bronco- and not in the cool way. And especially ever since I broke my ankle last year... I don't know, it feels dumb.”
“Nope,” Alan said, “you started the story. Can't chicken out, now.”
“What he means,” Denny started, “is if you want to continue, we'll listen, and we'll be empathetic and supportive.”
Betsy raised an eyebrow at Lark, who rolled her eyes. She'd never paid Denny, or his attentions, any mind. But the two of them were right; she couldn't stop now, or it just sounded worse.
“Some of you have known me since kindergarten.” Alan raised his beer. “Others not so long. But I've always been a bit of a tomboy. And athletic. And probably around the time I made the football team in high school it became something that felt like it was core to who I am. Like I still want to be active even when I'm an old lady. Making regionals, even though we lost, was huge to me.
“And it actually kind of fucked me up when I got cut from my college team before the season even started. But I bounced back. Not everybody athletic makes it into college ball, and especially quarterback slots are competitive as hell. Alan, Denny and some other guys and me we play scrimmages on the weekends, and I run every day.
“But especially when I broke my ankle, and since, really, I've realized how... fragile all that really is. People have debilitating injuries all the time, and even when they don't, time robs most people of the ability to do much more than hobble around. But more acutely, I'm one car accident from getting crippled. Christ, I can't believe I was dumb enough to volunteer to go without a belt. That was like an arachnophobe volunteering to spider-sit.”
“That was dumb,” Betsy said, smiling around her beer, “even for a jock.”
“I don't know how smart it is teasing a jock over her greatest fear.”
“She knows kung fu,” Angel said.
“Karate,” Betsy corrected.
“Kazoontight,” Alan said.
“I'm not sure that joke ever actually plays,” Denny said.
“His never do,” Kelly said, punctuating it by draining her beer, and tossing the can on the growing pile by the fire.

11/07/16

  11:25:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 481 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Seven

“I'm sorry,” Angel said. “Sometimes people fuck up in relationships. And we're friends; I shouldn't be a dick to you about it.”
Alan was standing in the hole they'd been digging downwind and downhill from their campsite, and paused a moment to ask, “Why do I sense that there's an overly-exercised, possibly waxed but coming?”
“Because you used to peek at me in the showers?” Angel offered. “Or because there is. I'm not always the most attentive guy, but what I've come to know over time is that sometimes that doesn't matter, because if you're too close to something you still might not notice things that are obvious to people just passing by.
“So let me start with what I know about you. You want to make everybody happy. It causes you psychological pain when the rest of the group is split on where to go for lunch and you have to break a tie. If I had to bet that's what happened with Kelly, that there was some other girl whose heart you couldn't break, and you were trying to make them both happy.
“But you can't. Because what people want- most people, anyway- is fidelity. They want you to be theirs, lock, stock and barrel. That knowing that you are consumed with them, is a big part of what will make them happy. And I don't have a vested interest. Kel's a big girl, and she'll survive with or without you. And you're my friend, too, and you'll make it. But I don't want you together if it's not going to make both of you happy, and I don't think any of us win if someone is either settling or going along to get along. Because neither of those things can last, either.
“The takeway, though, is I've seen how you are, with Kelly, with Denny, hell, even with me. You're a people pleaser. But you can't prioritize everyone in your life, and pretending you can is lying to them, and yourself. You have to decide who you want to make happy- the person making happy would make you the happiest, and focus on that. Or even decide that you need to focus on yourself, instead. But you're not just going to lose Kelly if you keep it up- you could end up losing just about everyone. Except me. I could give a shit, and I like having a scrawny friend to stand next to.”
Alan reached out a hand, and Angel helped lift him out of their hole. “I'm pretty sure this entire heart to heart was designed solely so you could make me dig most of the latrine.”
“Quit your bitching. You could use the workout.”
“We all don't have to look like the love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.”
Angel scrunched up his nose. “I don't like veins. Big, rounded muscles, but definition, nope.”

  01:03:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 902 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Six

“Oh,” Kelly said, realizing that Lark was the only one sitting beside the fire. “I should maybe go,” she said, turning towards her tent. She stopped, realizing that she and Lark were sharing a tent; there was no getting away from the woman.
“Fire's coming along nicely,” Lark said, poking it with a stick. “Nice and warm.”
As if to punctuate the cold, the wind kicked up, reminding Kelly of the chill in her bones.
Angel had pulled several large stones around the fire, to sit on, and Kelly lowered herself onto one ninety degrees removed from Lark. “Everything okay?” Lark asked. “You've been weird around me all day.”
“I think I've just been weird, period, since I found out.”
“Yeah,” Lark said.
“And knowing he cheated, it's not just knowing he was willing to go behind my back the one time, it's knowing that I can't trust him, or anything we've had. Who knows how many other times he violated my trust?”
“Or with whom,” Lark said. “It's an ugly place to be. An ugly head space.”
“You've been cheated on?”
“Yeah. Once. Though, technically, I guess I was cheated with. You remember our center?”
“Only by his tight end- though I assume there was a corresponding name and face.”
“Yeah. Waiting for the snap... I still have dreams of just his butt in my face. Not like close, or naked, or-”
“That took a turn...”
“But a high school athlete in tight pants bent over... I was never in that for his name or his face. He was dating the, not the head, but apparently they had like a lieutenant underneath her, but dating her for like all of high school. I sincerely think they started in middle school and realized in high school that that was weird so they lied about how long they'd been together. They broke up for about a week around Homecoming, too late for him to even pretend to look for another date. And we agreed to go as bros. Only... I don't think he does with his bros the things we did in my Jeep.”
“After the Homecoming dance? I remember you disappeared pretty quickly.”
“After. Before. During; we snuck out for a quickie when they started in on the electronica. I'd spent a couple years staring at his ass, and I think we were just both pent up. Only... they got back together after, and it seemed to slip his mind. So yeah, after she confronts me with half the pep squad as back-up, I got the trifecta. Being accused of helping him cheat, knowing he lied and having everyone else know I bought it, and also having it aired he was cheating on me with his ex. Homewrecker and homewreckee all in one. Aside from that time I nearly broke my ankle running in a touchdown, it was my darkest moment.”
“Sounds rough,” Kelly said flatly. “Though having been through that, I don't know how you could...”
“How I could... what?” She smiled. “Alan? Ew. No offense. But I don't think he's man enough for me. Or I'm too much man for him. Or both.”
“But you were... on his lap.”
“That? Oh. I'd kind of hoped you were too busy driving, and distracted by Bets' mother-henning to notice. But I was trying to interrogate him.”
“With your butt?”
“Throw him off with just a little playful flirting, so he doesn't realize that I'm not just one of the guys. I mean, it shouldn't matter to me who it is-”
“But it totally does matter,” Kelly said. “I don't know what answer I could ever hope to find, you know, if him cheating with someone with an obvious flaw makes me feel better or worse- but it's like I've heard the set-up to an awful joke, and hearing the mean-spirited punchline couldn't hurt nearly as much as not knowing.”
“Yeah. Maybe we can just have Betsy kick his ass. Ooh. That's the stick. The carrot is we'll flash him when he does, but it's up to him whether or not Betsy's beaten him until his eyes are swollen shut.”
“I like the violence. I'm not sure about the carrot.”
“Okay what if the carrot is her kicking his ass. Then the stick is just sticking him with a stick?”
“Now we're talking. Help me find a good gnarly, nubbly one from the pile.”
Kelly laughed to herself, but it trailed off quickly. “If I'm honest, it's really not about Alan. It's something my mom used to say to me. She was a vindictive cunt, but even the most ridiculously shitty thing, repeated often enough, can worm its way into your brain. She always told me I was going to die alone. And when we got knocked off the road... that flashed before my eyese. The thought of all of you dying when the Bronco rolled, me surviving just long enough to crawl away from the wreckage, crying out for help, but everyone who would have helped, would have cared to try, was already gone.”
“Hey,” Lark said, and grabbed Kelly's arm. “We aren't going anyplace. We're here for you. And even if it isn't really about Alan- at least not entirely- that doesn't mean we can't take it out on him. Cheater deserves whatever you give him, I say.”
“Yeah,” Kelly said. The thought warmed her bones even more than the fire.

11/05/16

  10:11:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1282 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Five

“Jerk,” Betsy said, stomping on a protruding stick.
“Why do I think this is about more than a twig poking you?” Kelly asked.
“Because you're not as dumb as you look,” Betsy retorted, and grinned. “Though it's hard finding leggings this color of deep purple that also fit my stubby legs, so I could be.”
“Stubby? Your legs are awesome, perfectly proportional. Or were you just fishing?”
“Not for that, no. But they are, at least as far as purchasing leggings. Though I appreciate the compliment.”
“But purple?”
“I forget how not a nerd you are- and how square that actually makes you.”
“Isn't this weekend all about making me feel warm and welcomed.”
“Gentle ribbing is part of our camaraderie. And I love that you're a square, because it makes me look even cooler standing next to you. Plus I get to have knowledgeable conversations with you about nerd ephemera, without either of us having to wear a talking hat. Purple is for Psylocke, my girl.”
“I guess I just always figured you of all people would aim higher than slutty ninja.”
“But Psylocke- also the reason I prefer Betsy, by the way- kicks ass. Yeah, sometimes in comics you have to separate the male sexual fantasies that go into costume design from the awesome women who fill out the uniforms. But especially being the daughter of Japanese and British parents, there aren't a lot of role models for me- and fewer still who are awesome enough to hang out with Wolverine as a one of the X-Men, or the even more awesome X-Force. Besides, there's a big ass difference between giving it away and just flaunting your martial-arts-toned fanny,” she said, shaking her tushy.
“I thought fanny meant-”
“I Americanized it for you.” She stopped. “You.”
“Have you decided to exchange withering barbs with another fallen tree branch?” Kelly asked.
“No. I just realized you were using my own nerdery against me. I bet you remembered all of that crap about Psylocke.”
“You've only told me a hundred times. Fifty before we watched Apocalypse.”
“You just wanted me distracted from my jerk.”
“We can totally talk about him... I've just learned with you that when you're that pissed off, you don't so much talk as rant in an infinitely ramping spiral.”
“You knowing me so well is ruining my mystique.”
“That's the blue naked chick, right? I'm not sure how I'm ruining that.”
“She isn't naked... outside of the exploitative movies.”
“I'm pretty sure you made me watch a cartoon where she wasn't exactly the most-dressed woman in it.”
“That's fair. But also not the mystique I meant, which I'm pretty sure you're now doing on purpose. And I'm calm. You don't have to keep distracting me from my angst.”
“I think we're just in a thing, now; not sure I could pull out of this tailspin if I wanted to.”
“Though for the record you don't. I just... I know I'm great. I'm on the President's roll every semester, earned a boatload of scholarships, I know I look good and... the gulf between the things that I know and how I feel actually gets bigger when Angel does that to me. Because it plugs into every time my helicoptering mother told me how soft and flabby American I was becoming, how I'd be worst in my class if I was getting her kind of education. And even dad... I think he's just British enough that he feels like his genes should have been able to conquer my Japaneseness; that he feels like it makes him a bad colonialist that I don't have his eyes or his hair. He flipped extra when I dyed it purple. The upkeep, ugh. My hair grows too fast and way too black to keep it purple. Much simpler to just streak it, or, when I'm really lazy, just use clip-ins.”
“You're straying,” Kelly said.”
“Whoops. Most of the time, Angel's a source of pride. He might not be the sharpest tack, but he's smart enough to be clever, and he's kind, and sweet, and thoughtful, and he has abs I could melt on, and pecs that are like perfect meat pillows. And a face that... well, his name is accurate. And Betsy dated Angel for a while in the comics, which is just extra whipped nerd cream for the top of my pie. But he's enough of a package that I usually feel like landing him is another mark in my favor, that it's not that I'm punching above my weight, but that he's a good match for me. And in most things... I think that's true. But then when he starts shoving me around, it feels like maybe he thinks he settled, and that-”
“I know,” Kelly said, “sends you down your usual shame spiral. Your mother, by the way, continues to be a colossal cunt. And your dad a racist bag of dicks. Who love you- but that doesn't make up for the shit they heaped on you- or at least doesn't make all that okay.”
“And I think what drives me craziest over it is I shouldn't be insecure. I really do know how awesome I am. The only arguably less spectacular thing about me is how huge of a comic dork I am- but anyone who doesn't want that sauce on their burger is totally free to order someplace else, because I love that about me. But it's like I'm programmed to be insecure, that it's an easy slope for me to slide down. And it worries me how effortlessly and even unconsciously Angel seems to be able to shove me down that path.”
“You ever talk to him about it?”
“Kind of. Obliquely.”
“So, mostly no, with a side of, 'If I were to pretend he were a different person with several factors more emotional intelligence perhaps he could have read between the lines.'”
“See? Why can't we insert your emotional intelligence into a body with his muscles. And hair. And face. And charm.”
“I'm charming,”
“Girl charming, which is different. And his butt. Abs. The leg muscles just below the butt. The ones in front of those. His-”
“I can tell you're circling, and I want to interrupt you before you hit your bullseye and scar me forever.”
“Why would that scar you? It's not like he's your brother.”
“I've known him long enough he feels like of like a cousin or something. But still, please stop. He already has a predilection for taking off his shirt and wearing too-small-on-a-guy mankinis. Leave me the sanctuary of that little fig leaf of imagination.”
“You don't know what you're missing, but okay.”
“Thank you. And, maybe, from the girl who just lost her high school sweetheart to slut or possibly sluts unknown, you'll want to take this with a grain of salt, but if you don't want to miss out, you should talk to him. Angel is proud, stubborn, and often a jerk- but I think he'd try not to be a jerk for you. And sometimes even that much of a compromise is enough to preserve your sanity. And if not, you can always assassinate him in the night time.”
“I studied karate, not ninjitsu. And even that's not as assassination-focused as the lore would have you believe.”
Another stick snapped nearby, behind them. Kelly's head shot back in the direction of the noise. “Crap,” she muttered. “It's Alan. I'm, uh, going to go gather wood over here. Just tell him I'm fine, little banged up, but okay. I was braced against the wheel so it didn't get bad.”
“Just don't go too far. Wouldn't want you getting lost.”

  10:05:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 512 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls: Chapter Four

Alan shoved Denny back. “Jesus, man,” he said. “That is the reason we're on this trip,” he said.
Denny frowned, and zipped up the door on the tent. “I'm sorry, I just-”
Alan cupped his cheek. “Hey, it's okay. You just, you caught me off guard. Surprised. And it's not like that is the only reason we want to be circumspect.”
Denny sighed heavily. He knew that Alan wasn't concerned over his reputation, that he was using his own insecurity to pressure him. But that Alan knew how he felt, that he remembered it it was one more secret they were keeping for each other. They had always been close as brothers- closer, since they both had brothers they couldn't stand- but it wasn't just their relationship, it was everything they had shared, over a whole lifetime. His mom had always told her that his father was her best friend- that that was the ideal to strive for. And Alan was his, and now, Alan was his, too.
But his mother had also told him something else, that fags were an abomination, that they'd burn in hell. Maybe it was because he was scrawny, that he wasn't athletic or into the kinds of manly things that Angel seemed to reflexively love, but his family had always made it a point to tell him that fags would burn in hell. And he didn't believe that. There was no way to square a loving god with that sentiment, and he'd lived long and hard enough to question there being any god at all, but hell was the least of his concerns. It was his family, most everyone in their community. If he had to go to hell, he'd made peace with that, but the withering looks of his relatives had always terrified him, and now that they were right about all of what they spent his entire childhood insinuating... he couldn't handle that. It would ruin him. Not financially, though he would probably lose the job he had doing maintenance at his family's church, both to their building and their website. But personally.
“How are you feeling?” Alan asked.
“Like shit,” Denny said, before realizing it wasn't a personal query; he wasn't talking to Alan who he'd given a bro-job to, he was talking to Alan the EMT. “Oh, um, about the crash, no, I'm fine. Little pain in the pelvis, where the seatbelt cut in. And I think Lark kicked me in the throat and the crotch when we went crashing down that hill. But it's nothing serious. Nothing that won't heal.”
“How are you with everything else?” Alan asked.
“Confused. Upset. Scared. Exhilarated. Worried that I'm doing exactly what I've wanted for way longer than I've known, but that it's more than you want, or faster you want, and either way that might scare you off.”
“Hey,” Alan said, stroking his cheek. “I'm right where I want to be.” Denny knew it was a lie, but it was the lie he wanted to hear, so he tried to make himself believe it.

11/03/16

  11:19:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 486 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls: Chapter Three

“This'll do,” Angel said, standing on the edge of a lake surrounded on all sides by trees. The road leading to the junkyard was just a few hundred yards behind them, close enough that Alan was sure they could find their way back come the morning.
“Denny, put the tents together. We'll need wood.”
“We'll take that,” Kelly said, pulling Betsy away.
“We'll need to hang up the food that isn't in the cooler.”
“I can handle that,” Lark said, grabbing the food that was still in sacks and some rope.
“And I'll start digging us a pit for the fire.”
“I'll make the rounds,” Alan said, “make sure there aren't any more serious or lasting injuries.”
“Uh, sure,” Angel said. That reaction amused Alan. So much of Angel's self-worth was so obviously caught up in his masculinity that the moment anyone else had any kind of expertise he shrunk inside himself.
Alan followed Lark to the nearest tree; she was the one person who hadn't been belted in, so if anyone was likely to be more seriously hurt, it was her. “Any pain?” he asked.
“Only the one in my ass,” she said, before smiling at him.
“I just want to make sure you're okay,” he said.
“A little sore, but no worse than a losing game back in high school. I remember Bay had this one family, like two brothers and three cousins, their defensive line weighed almost as much as a college team. I got sacked like every other down, but other than bruising was okay, and I feel better than I did after that game.”
“That's surprising, given that you didn't have a belt on.”
“I didn't. You remember any of the crash?”
“Pieces.”
“I had my arm around you, for leverage, mostly. But when that truck jack-knifed, and we started to skid, you grabbed onto me, held me tight. It was very sweet.”
“Huh,” he replied.
“You didn't remember that?”
“I guess not.”
“Makes sense. First bounce we hit going down that hill your arms stopped me from going flying- but didn't stop me from bonking you in the head pretty good. Might have a shiner, come the morning.”
“No other pain, though?” Alan asked.
“Just normal collision stuff. But I'm fine. And you'll be the first person I tell if that changes.”
“Okay. You need any help with that?” She had the sacks tied, and tossed the rope over a low-hanging branch.
“Nah. They're light even without the leverage.” They both glanced in Angel's direction, where he was using a folding army green shovel to dig a pit in the center of their camping ground. “Besides, wouldn't want to give him an excuse to pitch either of us shit.”
“No, we wouldn't.”
Alan turned back to the tents. Denny was inside the first, their tent, straightening the supports. As soon as he was inside, Denny grabbed him, and kissed him.

  01:57:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 870 words  
Categories: Last Girls

Last Girls, Chapter Two

Angel came to with Betsy's hand on his shoulder, shaking him. His neck ached. He'd played football in high school, and been in a car accident before, so he recognized the injury. “Everybody okay?” he asked, his whiplash preventing him from turning his neck far to check more than thirty degrees.
“We seem fine,” Alan said. “Injuries you'd expect from a car accident. So far I'm not seeing anything too catastrophic.” He squeezed himself through the hole between the passenger eat and the door. He helped Denny out, then Betsy, then Angel.
Angel stretched, feeling the tension in his back. He was going to need to do some squats to loosen things back up.
Then he saw where they were. It was an auto yard, with crushing equipment scattered around. A heavy fog hung over the place. “What the hell?” he asked. “They just towed us to the wrecking yard?” he asked.
“Apparently,” Kelly said, from behind the front-end.
“Was anyone conscious?” Angel asked. “Did anybody see what happened?”
They exchanged glances, but no one volunteered anything.
“That can't be legal,” Betsy said, “just towing injured people to a scrapyard and abandoning them.”
“How does it look?” Angel asked, walking around the hood to Kelly.
“Scraped up the driver's side. Dented in the front end a bit. No functional damage I can see- with the caveat that without something being visibly crushed or spewing a fluid I might not actually know something was broken.”
“Start her up, then,” he said, “I'll watch for anything spurting fluids.”
Kelly got into the driver's seat and tried to turn the engine over. It growled, but refused to start.
“Give it some gas, first,” Angel said. He watched as the peddle pulled a cord, then listened again, but again it growled.
He walked around to the driver's side door. “Try the lights,” he said. She flicked them on, and they seemed to work. “Huh. So it isn't the battery.” He looked to the horizon, which was dark. “Which means this is likely to be more complicated than we want to handle at night.”
He put his hands on his hips and sucked in a deep breath, letting it swell out his muscular chest and make him bigger still, “I think we should take our gear and find a place to camp.”
“Aren't you supposed to stay in one place when you're lost?” Kelly asked. “Let the rescuers come to you?”
“If we were lost in a forest,” Angel said, “yeah. But we're in a scrapyard. There's a chance if we pitch tents here we get run over by the next shift coming in. It's also possible that they don't have a regular crew. They might just have a townie who comes here once a month to crush cars and tidy the place up.”
“You just don't want to give up on your camping weekend,” Betsy said.
He shrugged. “It's really not either or, though. For all we can see we could be sitting right in the middle of a usual roadway here. But if we huff it to a soft, safe area we can still salvage the night while being safe. What's everyone else think?” He glanced around at the others. “Everyone okay for a little hike with some gear?”
That question elicited a few murmurs and nods.
“Good. We'll divide up the gear.”
Angel took charge of that, too. It was what he did, take charge, because it was what men were supposed to do, especially in a crisis. And when it came to the cooler, easily the heaviest piece of their equipment since it was loaded with beer and ice, he took it himself, without asking for help.
“Where to?” Alan asked, hefting a backpack and a pair of sleeping bags.
Angel glanced around. There definitely seemed to be a path, and beyond that he could see trees, and he pointed in that general direction.
Angel walked to Betsy, and asked, “Coming, babe?”
She glared, and didn't respond. He knew that look well enough to know to let her alone. He sped up, to Alan, who was pressing ahead.
“Bets's pissed?” Alan asked after a moment.
“You know her.”
“Well,” Alan said, “yes and no. We almost dated, once.”
“Almost?” Angel asked, his back tensing painfully, which Alan noticed.
“Timing didn't work out- nothing happened. But she isn't much of a cold fish; I mean, sure, she's most introverted, but she only gets icy when you talk over her.”
“I didn't-”
“You did. And I'm not even saying you're wrong, to argue we should leave the junkyard. But as somebody on the outs, I feel like I should warn you, because you don't want to be where I am, and not just because most of our girl friends give me 24/7 stink eye.”
“The reason you lost Kelly wasn't that you were too assertive- you cheated on her. And it's not just our girl friends who look down on you for that.” Angel pushed the edge of the cooler into Alan's side as he moved past him. He knew he wasn't always the most sensitive guy, but he would be damned if he was about to take romantic advice from someone like Alan.

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Nicolas Wilson is a writer and journalist. An archive featuring hundreds of short stories, comics and essays can be found here.

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