Shadow Peak

By: George Gonzalez

The Ford roared with all the mighty strength of an F-150 as it bumped across the snow covered road leading up to the infamous Shadow Peak. Snow covered all creating a white wasteland of uneasy purity and almost a sense of mild ignorance to the outside world, the type you might associate those cute autistic boys with as they solve their 100 piece puzzles and hug you although you've known them maybe three minutes. The type that invites you with open arms, making you feel welcome and uneasy at the same time.

But of course such things were felt by some in that truck, probably by all, but they were much too excited to pay it any mind. The only one that seemed to sense the impureness, like some black smoke in the air, was the colorblind of the group, a little mongrel named Fang. Where the rest might have been fooled by the white purity around them Fang was not, seeing only gray and sensing the secrets that white snow held, like some beautiful actress who shoplifts and stands on street corners when money gets tight.

Fang's ears perked as he sat in the back of the truck, a little blue and white striped scarf hanging from his neck, and found a deep growl erupt from his throat. His legs shook and fur flew as the brisk air rushed passed him and suddenly, as if some twisted artist had spilled a can of watercolors all over the scenery, he saw that gray switch to black, and that sight did what the freezing air couldn't: his hairs suddenly stood on end, his nose dripped uncontrollably, tears welled up in his eyes and ran down his furry cheeks, and Goosebumps popped up all over his body: the freckles of fear.

His growls of trepidation turned into barks of urgency as he let lose burst after burst of sound from within his ocean of fear, drool running down the corners of his mouth and dotting the "pure" snow below.

Something here just wasn't right, and the sad part was that only the dog knew it.

"Dude, what's wrong with your dog man?" asked Ben, struggling to talk over Fang's barks.

"Don't know, sounds like somt'in spooked 'im," answered Stephanie. She glanced back, her blue eyes sparkling with concern, her hands busy playing with her long, blond hair.

"You think he's alright out there?" asked Monica as she tightened her grip on Ben's hand. "I mean, he sounds like he's dieing or something."

"He'll be fine," answered Aaron, concern scarce in his voice and pure impatience in its place. "Don't worry 'bout old Fang, he's about the toughest Lab I know," and then when he saw the doubt in Stephanie's eyes he brought his hand over hers and repeated, "He'll be fine. Don't worry, he's been on dozen of skiing trips before, and not so much as snot freezing has happened to him."

"Yeah, but listen to him, I've known Fang since he was born and he's never ever sounded like that," Monica said, her right hand over her ears, her left hand holding Ben's so hard the fingernails were turning white.

"She's right Aaron, and we have never taken him to Shadow Peak before. Well actually, now that I remember none of us have ever been up here before either, so maybe Fang's…I don't know…trying to tell us something?"

Aaron gave Stephanie a good look, prying his eyes away from the road as he rarely did, and saw that she was really scared. But instead of awaking some sort of compassion, sympathy, or understanding within him it did no more than make him all the more annoyed and he said, "Darn it Steph! I can't believe your doing this to me now! Do you have any idea how hard it was to convince my parents to let us borrow this cabin and on top of that let us ski alone? Now just for once, I wish you'd stop worrying about what your dog's thinking as if he was freakin Houdini and knew the future and just have fun okay. Could you do that for me…huh?"

Fang's barks had grown vague in the background to Stephanie as she stared at her boyfriend, a mixture of anger and fear bubbling within her. She was of course use to these explosions of his, he was what her mom called a very "emotional person", but she always thought her mom to be as crazy as a drunk in rehab. She always thought that to be an "emotional person" you had to show all of your emotions regularly. The only one Aaron seemed able to show was his temper, which was as short as the line outside of any movie theatre still playing Gigli.

Aaron was a bad tempered ego-maniac, and it seemed to everyone obvious why. He was star quarter-back of the football varsity team back home, his spiky brown hair now a trademark as common to Friday nights as the victory that always came. Stephanie always wondered why she had stuck with him so long, but of course the answer was simple: she didn't like the thought of him having anyone else.

But as she stared at him her anger subsided like the late tide and left only fear in its wake. "I'm sorry Aaron, its just I guess I'm a little nervous is all."

Aaron's face immediately softened, his temper now an ephemeral dream, and put his arm around her coming in for a make-up kiss.

The radio suddenly blared in Stephanie's ears, the DJ announcing that a storm was brewing over the northern Colorado area, about where Shadow Peak was located, and that it could probably be the snowstorm of the year.

See Aaron, I knew something was wrong, Fang's instincts are always right on the money, she thought but was too afraid to say.

Fang's barks had now subsided to mere whimpers, such that broke Monica's heart. As Aaron and Stephanie made out in front, Aaron seeming to have forgotten he was driving, Monica turned around and opened the back window to try and calm Fang down; completely oblivious that Ben was staring at Stephanie as she kissed Aaron in a way he never looked at her.

She had gotten the small window halfway open when Ben suddenly screamed, "AARON WATCH OUT!"

Aaron jerked away from Stephanie and brought both hands on the wheel. The tires screamed as he brought down both feet on the brake. He turned the steering wheel to the left and crashed into a giant white boulder, like some giant's marble, sticking out of the ground.

Monica's face was pushed forward into the semi-open window and smashed through with enough force to send glass flying into Stephanie's hair. Stephanie was pushed into the seat belt, the wind knocked out of her, a deep cut forming on her ribcage. Ben went face first into Aaron's seat. Aaron, a believer in the common theory that seatbelts and airbags caused more deaths than rescues, was thrusted forward and mere mille-seconds away from rushing through the windshield, was caught by the waiting pillow of asphyxiation that was the airbag, his face going so far into it he felt he could almost feel the steering wheel on the other side.

Silence, as pure and uneasy a state as the snow around, hung over the truck. The whines of Fang now gone, Fang himself nowhere to be found. Monica, her forehead bleeding, was the first to stir, too much pain and surprise to be justified by any means of sound, she just sat there staring at the others, her mouth hanging open, her eyes wide, her forehead cracked and bleeding.

Than came Aaron, his arms instantly flying up and beating on the airbag until it finally popped with a loud whoosh that brought Ben sitting upright, a large purple bruise growing at his right temple.

The second Aaron came out of his death trap of air he turned to Stephanie. She seemed unconscious, leaning into her belt, her hair tossed like a bundle of hay, her arms limp at her sides.

He put his left arm over her neck and unbuckled her seatbelt with his right. He laid her back into her seat and began gently tapping her face, trying to get her awake. As soon as he started she stirred and with a groan her right arm darted toward her ribcage where blood shone through.

Ben took Monica into his arms after briefly surveying her and it seems that within his arms she finally found her voice for she screamed into the silence, like that blackness that had covered the white, its pureness disturbed. He ripped up a handkerchief from his pocket and tied it around her forehead, the white sheet instantly stained pink.

The silence was gone, in its place had grown that seed every human is accustomed to, a seed of curiosity. That little voice within us that makes us ask, "What the?" and nags at us until all questions, even those thought to be unanswerable were answered.

These kids were 16 each, bad experiences ranged no further than a parental divorce and a few scattered flues, and here they were in a possible near death situation and the first question asked, the first real remark made came from the supposed "drama queen". A remark that at such a time would have knocked her off her throne in a second.

Blood running down her eyebrows, staining her pink sweater Monica said, "Ben, I'm hungry, how far to McDonald's?"

And at this a great levity seemed to break out of this small crashed truck and they all laughed, even Aaron who had been busy blaming himself and actually had been on the road to tears only a good dosage of Old Yeller could usually produce.

They laughed till they could laugh no more, laughed till they felt that if they laughed any longer they'd burst into tears and not be able to stop when Aaron asked, "So Ben, um, I don't remember hitting anything or really seeing anything at all, what was I watching out for anyway?"

At this Ben's eyes grew big and he said, "Oh crap, I forgot man. There was this girl man…or at least I think there was. Aw man dude I hope I wasn't seeing things, cause that would kinda make all this for nothing…oh man she could still be out there…that is if she was there at all…man she was like pale…had no jacket…and was just kinda sitting there in the middle of the road…and she didn't try to move or nothing…but who would do something like that…aw man I gotta go check and see if she's still out there…I'll be back dude."

He gently laid Monica's head against the cushion seat of the four door truck and climbed out. The wind pierced his face with its little knives and seemed to press over the dark purple bruise like a giant hand. The snow was being tossed here and there causing little to no visibility. Small clouds of snow where driven into his eyes and began to skitter up his nose. Mucus, that fine mudslide caused by that extreme earthquake, the cold, was beginning to slide out of his nose and in spite of his efforts continued.

He stepped around the back of the truck and looked in the bed for a moment, wondering what looked different, and finally realizing that Fang wasn't in it. Had this been any other day this would have caused great alarm, but the fact of the matter was this: this wasn't any other day. Here they were, out in the middle of nowhere, his girlfriend bleeding from her forehead, the truck crashed, and it seemed to Ben that the absence of Fang…well it was almost like the sound of a Christmas bell played beside that of the Liberty Bell.

So because of all this Ben stared at the bed for a moment longer, than turned around in a 360° angle and when he saw no trace of black against this white (although he did seem to feel some all around) he shrugged his shoulders and continued on.

He went around the side of the truck, the windows now completely covered by the whirling snow and stared at the front. What Ben saw seemed almost to be a disappointment, for the damage caused to the passengers seemed to be 10 times the damage caused to the truck. Ben had peered through the snow, expecting to see the windshield busted, the headlights shattered, the entire hood crushed inwards, and instead he was met with no more than a sharp ding in the right side of the hood and one shattered headlight. The windshield was still there, complete without a scratch and as for the hood no more than that one crushed ding in the right side could report for the crash. No smoke coming out from under the hood, no busted engine, no flat tires. Little drops of glass littered the snow below from the broken headlight. No more, no less.

It seemed from where he was standing that Aaron had been able to almost successfully turn the entire truck away from the boulder but had been caught mere seconds from completion by the straggling right side.

Ben ran up to the truck and kicked the right tire, his disbelief turning to anger and he suddenly felt very cold, very tired. He suddenly realized that out here there was no time to be angry, and he had to do what he had come out here to do soon and fast.

He turned away from the truck and stared at the road they had been peacefully driving moments ago. The wind blew and snow flew around causing an almost opaque wall of white. He squinted his eyes and moved forward, trying his best not to sink in the deep snow.

He walked and searched the road for anybody and when he finally got there and had concluded that he had probably been hallucinating he saw a flash of blue through the walls of snow. Up ahead, probably no more than 5 feet in front of him, sat a pale, white girl with long black hair, a blue top, and no jacket. Something completely unheard of when you were exploring the mountains of Colorado. She was clutching a pink purse in her hands, almost crushing it against her chest.

He took a few steps towards her and saw that she was staring forward, her eyes open wide, a glazed, almost dead look planted upon them, and she seemed to be completely oblivious of how close she had come to being run over, or of Ben bending over right in front of her. Ben moved his hand in front of her eyes to grab her attention but she made no sign of knowing he was there. For a second he was sure she was dead, a poor loner that had gotten lost and frozen up here, but than he saw her chest heave up and down and the gray gusts of air expelled from her nostrils.

"Um…hey, are you okay?" he screamed over the blowing wind. "Hey, I'm talking to you lady! Can you move? Are you frozen?"

He stared at her waiting for a response and when he didn't get one decided that she was better off with them, than to spend any longer out here in the blistering cold. He grabbed her under her armpits and expecting resistance was surprised at how easily she gave in.

He brought her around and into the truck, the gel in his blond hair now seeming to almost freeze in the cold air. He opened the right hand door and sat her next to Monica. Than he ran around to the left and got inside himself.

"Dude, what's with the pale chick? She okay? Man she don't look so good," Aaron said as soon as Ben had shut the door behind him.

"Don't know, just found her out there sitting in the middle of the road as if notin' happened. She wont talk, or move or notin man."

"Wow that's weird where you think she come from?" Monica asked blood still running down her face but starting to subside.

"Don't know but I'm ready to get out of here, heard on the radio that a storm's brewing. Don't wanna be caught in that when it hits," Aaron said as he turned the keys still hanging from the ignition and pumped the gas pedal revving up the truck and making it roar. The wipers swung back and forth and started to sweep away the accumulation of snow on the windshield. The windows were now completely covered by a blanket of snow, so thick that not even light seemed able to shine through.

"Wait a minute, where's Fang? Haven't heard a peep from him since we crashed," Stephanie said slowly turning in her seat to look out the back, minding her cut ribs.

"Oh, he's gone," Ben said with a yawn. "Didn't see him outside or in the bed. Think he might've run off when we crashed."

"Run off?!" Stephanie and Monica cried in unison. "What do you mean run off? You mean he's out there in the cold all alone? Oh my god, Aaron you have to go find him, we have to get him before the storm hits," Stephanie said already reaching towards the door handle meaning to get out.

Aaron grabbed her by the shoulder and swung her back, hard. He had fire in his eyes, a snarl across his lips. "You mean to tell me that you want to go out THERE and look for your STUPID DOG that's probably already miles away because he's a freaking coward and possibly endanger us all? Look over at your friend, LOOK AT HER!" He suddenly grabbed her neck and forced it towards Monica.

"She needs help; we need to get to the cabin and fast. You know as well as I do that cell phones are so far not working up here, must be the darn snow messing up the reception, so its either keep going or die, DO YOU HEAR ME? Now I want you to suck up all this stupid emotion towards that dumb dog and let the humans, us, survive. Can you do that? CAN YOU!?"

Stephanie looked at him with blind rage, embarrassment shining her face red, tears welling up in her eyes, and the worst part was that a part of her thought Aaron was right, a part of her actually agreed with him. And that disgusted her, thinking that he had finally gotten to her in such a way.

"Okay Aaron, you're right. Let's go," she said in a whisper as Aaron backed up the truck and continued on towards the cabin.

Now they all felt that impureness, they all felt that something just wasn't right here, but none of them spoke of it, none of them wanted the others to think them crazy. But then again, what's exactly sane when you begin to doubt even yourself?

The cabin was a large one set on the tip top of Shadow Peak, its elevation hitting 600 ft. out back there was a small road that led to a small shed, and in the shed sat several snowmobiles that drove you straight to the ski lifts where the best skiing around was said to be. But of course none of them were thinking of skiing anymore, all of them found that they just wanted to go home.

They drove up to the drive way and, Aaron leading the new girl and Ben leading Monica they walked in. Stephanie unlocked the door and switched on the lights, which after a moment of flickering leveled out and shined perfectly.

The cabin's living room sported large brown couches all huddled around the big-screen T.V and placed conveniently close to the fireplace. Aaron sat the new girl on one couch as Ben lay Monica on the other and ordered Stephanie to get them all a cup of hot chocolate.

Aaron went to the phone, picked it up, and slammed it back down on the table with a number of curses.

"Darn storm already knocked out the phones. GOD how many things can go wrong in one day? This wasn't how I planned it out man. We were supposed to come up here and have fun, but what happens, first some freak makes us crash and than this stupid storm hits," Aaron said as he flopped down on the couch next to the new girl and took some of the hot chocolate Stephanie was handing around.

They all sat around the fire Ben had just started in silence for awhile when Monica finally said, "Well no use moping around till the storm subsides. Hey Aaron, you guys got something to do up here?"

"Nope, nothing but…well I guess we can watch a movie, if ya'll want."

"That'll be great," Stephanie urgently said. "But, this shirt is soaked in blood and its startin to really stink man. I think I'm gonna go and change."

As she got up she looked at Ben and signaled with her eyes towards the hallway leading to the bedrooms. He slowly nodded showing that he understood and she walked away, dragging her backpack behind her.

The cabin held four rooms, two on either side of the hall with a bathroom on the right side at the end. Stephanie chose the room closest to the bathroom; she hated waiting to brush her teeth in the morning, and quickly changed shirts.

She sat on the bed waiting, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds passed. Where is he, she thought and was about to walk out when she heard a soft knocking at the door.

She crept over to it on eager feet and opened it. Ben rushed into her arms and kissed her softly, his lips pushing against hers, his hands embracing around her middle. They kissed and held each other for another ten seconds when Stephanie suddenly whispered, "Ben, I'm tired of having to hide this from Monica and Aaron, I'm tired of always having to sneak around. I wanna tell the world I'm with you, not have to sneak a kiss every week in bathrooms and closets and behind dumpsters."

Ben looked down at her, a love in his eyes Aaron never could match and whispered, his breath gently caressing her ear, "I know, I'm tired of it too, but we have to play this off. Just until we get back I promise, then you'll break up with that jerk, I'll dump her highness and we'll tell whoever we want to that we're in love. Nothings gonna stop us, not even all of Aaron's team or Queen of Drama's loyal subjects."

They embraced for a moment longer and then Ben brought her in for another kiss, his pressure on her cut ribs soothing and as far from pain as could possibly be. Stephanie loved being with Ben. His blond hair, blue eyes. His breath against her neck. His charm coming through with every remark, the gentle beating of his heart. And the footsteps.

Yes, there's footsteps coming up the hall, and here I am in Ben's arms. The world is as it should be. But there's something there, isn't there? Some equation that doesn't fit. Ben + mehappiness, but Ben + me + footstepsdiscovery .which when reduced equals misery.

All these things went through her mind in a matter of seconds and suddenly she realized that someone was coming up the hall, and here she was in Ben's arms inches away from an open door. Doesn't take a genius to figure out this one.

Panic instantly crashed into her mind and she urgently pushed Ben away from her sending him sprawling into a dresser directly behind him. She stared towards the door but the footsteps had now long passed.

"Oh no, Ben what if someone spotted us? Ben, what if they saw us here doing…well doing what we were doing? Oh we are so screwed!" Stephanie cried as the footsteps died in the bathroom and she heard the audible bang of the door closing.

"Steph, calm down and don't worry. I'm sure that whoever it was just passed by the door and kept going into the bathroom. Now let's go before we really get caught," Ben said as he walked out the door with Stephanie at his heels.

They entered the living room to see that the movie had already been popped in, The Ring playing at full volume on the big screen. Monica sat upright on the couch, her knees brought up to her chest, her eyes wide, knuckles clenched into fists over her mouth. Ben sat down next to her and she pulled him close, her eyes never leaving the screen.

The new girl sat where Aaron had left her, her eyes unblinking and glazed, appearing to see nothing. Stephanie sat down next to her with uneasiness.

"Hey Monica, where's Aaron?" Stephanie asked, anticipating the answer but forcing herself to ask anyway.

"Oh he went to the bathroom," she said indifferently and at that Stephanie and Ben exchanged an uneasy look and than turned back to the movie.

Aaron came back shortly and sat next to Stephanie, draping his arm around her neck and drawing her in for another kiss. They watched the movie in silence mostly, except for the occasional scream from Monica or stupid comment from Aaron.

The movie was spiraling towards its end when suddenly the lights went out, the T.V clicked off and Monica shrieked. The cabin was completely dark for a moment and than the lights flickered on once again, slower than before and with more hesitation.

"What the heck was that," Ben asked.

"Must be that stupid storm, knocked out the electricity. Guess we're lucky my dad installed these emergency lights," Aaron answered, tightening his grip on Stephanie.

"Naw man, I can't believe this. And that movie was just getting good. Man I'm never gonna be able to sleep tonight wondering how it ends. You know what, I once saw my dad fix the fuse box out back behind my house during a bad storm. I bet I could do it. Yeah…I'm going outside to get this cheap cabin workin again, be back in a minute," Ben said with a smile on his face as he got up and slipped on his jacket, a red puffy one Aaron never got tired of making fun of.

"No Ben, just forget it. We'll finish watching it tomorrow when this storm blows over," Monica said with a yawn.

"Yeah she's right man, I heard that giant tomatoes can't stand up against the winter frost," Aaron said with a snicker.

"Ha ha Aaron, god you kill me. But I have to see the rest of that movie. You guys can go to sleep but I'm gonna fix that fuse box," he said as he opened the door letting in the brisk night air and closing it behind him.

"Okay well you heard the tomato," Aaron said letting out a great yawn. "There's only four rooms so I guess I'll sleep on the couch and let our new guest take my bedroom."

Stephanie led the new girl into the hallway as Monica got Aaron some sheets and the night drew to a close.

The light shined through Aaron's eyelids as he struggled to wake up, Stephanie sitting at the foot of the couch and gently shaking him.

"C'mon baby, time to get up," she said as he sat up struggling to open his eyes against the light.

"What time is it?" he asked running his fingers thorough his mess of brown hair.

"9:00, Monica's already awake."

And right on cue Monica walked into the room, sporting a pink and yellow polka dot pajama top and shorts, stretched out her hands and yawned. Than she looked with curiosity at Stephanie and Aaron as if looking at them for the first time and strolled off into the kitchen.

"Hey Monica where's Ben?" Stephanie asked.

"Don't know haven't seen him all day, but you know Ben, sleeps like the dead. He'll come around in about an hour," Monica answered as she filled a bowl with Cheerios and moved towards the milk.

They all began getting their breakfast when Stephanie heard something coming from outside. A steady thump, thump, thump.

"Hey Aaron what's that sound?" she asked moving towards the back door.

Aaron cocked his ear to one side as he usually did when trying to hear something and said, "Sounds like the shed door. Ben probably left it open last night. Hey Steph, your done eating would ya mind going outside and closing it?"

Stephanie could hear the wind howling outside and found that she did indeed mind, but she said yes, got her jacket, and walked outside.

The wind and snow met her like long lost lovers and began to caress her cheeks and feel through her jacket. The shed stood across the back yard under the shade of three large evergreens. From where she stood she could see the shed door open, its edge being driven time and time again into the wall by the blowing wind.

As she approached it, her boots crunching through the fresh snow, she began to smell some acrid, metallic stench in the air. But that wasn't all, no there was something else she couldn't quite put her finger on, a smell that seemed to overshadow the others. Something she seemed to only be able to associate with her father's butcher shop.

She had made the mistake of locking herself inside the freezer once, and she had been plagued by the smell of that meat, its gooey surface speckled with ice as it hung frozen from the ceiling.

This smelled something like that but stronger, as if someone had taken a dump in the freezer before leaving, unknowing that a little girl would soon be there to gag on it. A sudden rush of adrenaline hit her and she felt like running, running far away like some kid that believes the boogeyman in the basement had finally spotted him.

Suddenly her mind felt split in two and two distinct voices began to argue within her head, the first sounding like her English teacher, Mrs. Gobby, an incredibly annoying woman with glasses thick enough to use as magnifying glasses, and the second one of a cab driver she once had the misfortune to meet, his face littered with small paper towel pieces where he'd cut himself while shaving, his voice harsh and smelling of tuna.

Run lady run, make like a tree and leaf, get out of here before it's too late. Something aint right here and you know it, this snow is deceiving, it wants you gone, so do it a favor and leave before its too late! said the harsh cab driver.

Oh don't listen to that idiot; the buffoon didn't make it past English 2 because he thought that voice meant cussing across the page. There's nothing to be afraid of up there so do as your boyfriend says and suck it up, ya nitwit, said Mrs. Gobby.

The smell was getting stronger now, invading her nostrils and beginning to make her gag. She was about 20 feet away now and thought she could see a shape within that shed for a second, but than the wind stirred up once more obscuring her vision with a wall of snow.

She walked faster, trying to fight back her fear, trying to block out that taxi driver and focus on Mrs. Gobby, but as she got closer the smell got worse and now it wasn't even that, there was something else, some black thing that weighed upon her mind seeming to taint all the whiteness around her.

She was now right outside the shed and the smell was over powering, she began to feel queasy and…and what was she stepping in? Oh god, there was some puddle under her feet and she felt frozen, too scared to look down.

That's blood Steph, run, RUN!

Oh don't listen to him just shut that shed and go, you don't have to look down, just pretend there's nothing there, close that door and go.

And that's what she did, she grabbed the edge of the shed door, swung it to the right and got ready to run the second it touched home. But it didn't. About a quarter of an inch away from the end it stopped, as if it had just hit something. She pushed on it with all her strength and it stayed where it was.

Now both voices were gone, and she was all alone. She cold feel that oily substance sloshing under her boots and suddenly her resistance fell away and she looked down.

There, sitting in a puddle of blood, his arm chopped off at the shoulder and neck cut open, gaping at her like a second mouth was Ben, dead.

"Oh!" she cried out and that was all she managed as she fell to her knees in that black puddle of blood. His blond hair was tossed and stained red on his head, his jacket now a dark purple. His eyes were wide open and drops of blood, like small tears, fell from the corners and into the collar of his jacket. He had several cuts going up and down the middle of his chest and fresh blood gurgled out and fell to the black snow below every few seconds like some gruesome "Old Faithful". His arm, the bone sticking out of the shoulder, was what had been blocking the door, the fingers red and crusty with dried blood. His bruise had now changed from purple to a dark yellow. His neck had a raw, mangled look to it unlike any knife cut she had ever seen before.

And the reason came up and licked her in the face with a bark and a wag of its tail, leaving a large, red stain of blood on her cheek. Fang was there, staring happily at her, and from the looks of it just finishing his breakfast.

"Oh…Oh god no," she whispered and than, with a breath that hurt her lungs and a scream that seemed to rip open her throat she screamed. She screamed and screamed till the stench caught up with her and she threw up, all over Ben's chest. Tears streamed down her eyes and before she fainted she thought she saw something that would haunt her dreams for the rest of her life, she thought she saw Ben smile.

She was on the floor of the kitchen, the tile cold under her back, his hand warm against her cheek. She looked up expecting to see Ben, to realize that it had all been a dream and he wasn't dead, that she had just been pranked on by Mr. Subconscious and he would take her in his arms and all would be fine.

But instead she saw Aaron, his face pale and deeply distraught. In the background she could hear Monica asking what happened and why Fang was covered in blood, and why Steph was covered in blood, and why Ben wasn't in his room, and on and on till Stephanie felt that she would sooner die than hear her a second longer.

Then she could hear Aaron telling her that Ben was dead and could almost see her expression in her mind's eye. Her face would cave in and her eyes would get big. Her hand would dart to her mouth and than…right on cue she heard a thump behind her as Monica fainted.

Then she heard Aaron as he walked towards her and looked down at her. Gently he picked her up and took her in his arms. He slid her down on the couch and made his way to the phone. Once again he picked it up and than slammed it down cursing at everything he could think of. Then he ran into the hallway and disappeared in her room. She could hear him rummaging and than more cursing. He came out of her room and walked into Monica's. Same rummaging, same cursing.

"What's happening, oh crap man what's going on? First Ben's found hacked up in the shed, and now all the cell phones are gone," he said as he came into the living room and began to pace around.

"Okay, let's think this through," he said to himself. "Ben's dead that means there's a murderer up here. Okay, the phones aren't working so we can't call the police, all the cell phones are gone, and there aren't any people for miles. So what do we do? We have a truck, why not ride into town…yeah that's what I'll do."

He stood up and looked around curiously, a quizzical expression on his face. "Hey, where did I leave my car keys?" he asked himself and after a moment of searching spotted them on the mantle.

He got his car keys from the mantle and started towards the door when Stephanie said, "Wait, I'm coming with you."

"Are you crazy? There's a killer out there it's not safe," Aaron said with bewilderment.

"Oh, and so you think it's safe for me to stay in this house alone than with nothing or no one to protect me? Will that be any safer?"

Aaron stared at her for a moment and then said, "Okay than let's go, I'll lock all the doors and hopefully Monica and that weird girl will be okay while we're gone."

He did so and as they walked outside Stephanie asked, "Hey, where's your coat?"

"Don't know, couldn't find it," he replied with a shrug.

The trees were a blur of green as Aaron pushed on the gas pedal, his face locked in thought and hand clenched tightly on the gearshift. Stephanie felt extremely tired, her eyes dropping, her brain wanting to shut down, but whenever she got close to falling into that valley of unconsciousness she would see Ben, and that grin on his face.

She wrapped her arms around her, trying to keep her body from trembling, but it wasn't working, she was shaking more than a white person in the ghetto. She glanced into that wide expanse of white before her as they sped downhill, the truck bouncing uncontrollably as they hit 70.

She kept glancing at the rear view mirror to make sure that Fang was still alright, he had insisted on jumping in the bed before they left, his breath still stinking of blood.

She also gave a few sideways glances at Aaron, uncertainty clouding her mind.

Look at him chick, he's gotta be the killer. I mean you know he's a lose canon, he'll kill anyone in a heart beat. What if he found out about you and Ben, then he'd have a motive which means he's gonna kill you next. Oh you are so screwed said that cab driver voice once again, that no bull voice that "calls em like he sees em".

They drove in silence until suddenly Aaron dawned a new look, one of confusion as he stared this way and that. "Hey Steph," he said, "hand me that map in the back there, I'm not sure where I'm going."

Stephanie solemnly obeyed and turned around, and there she saw a pink purse. She picked it up and stared at it, curiosity etched upon her face.

"Hey, Aaron. Isn't this that new girl's purse?" she asked as she opened it and began to rummage through.

Aaron gave it a sideway glance and than glued his eyes on the road again. Stephanie's hands disappeared within the purse and resurfaced holding two cell phones, one light pink and the other dark blue.

"Hey, this is my cell phone! And here's Monica's. What's she doing with my cell phone?"

Aaron looked down at her hands for a moment and then gave a shrug, returning his eyes to the road, "Beats me, maybe she didn't wanna waste her minutes."

She turned and stared at him and that cab driver voice suddenly came back strong saying, Are you kidding me baby? How can you still think he's innocent after a comment like that? He's acting way to cool through all this; he doesn't seem concerned at all. He's even making jokes about it, jokes! If you ask me I think he planted the whole thing, maybe trying to make it look like it's that new girl, I mean he's the only one who has the keys to the car. How else could she have gotten in?

Now that was a good question, a very good question, one she couldn't help but to ask.

"Um…Aaron, if she did somehow take my cell phone…then how could she have gotten in the car, only you have the keys."

At that Aaron's eyes got big as understanding erupted in his mind like the juice in a chili when it's bitten into. He stared at her, his face getting red and said, "Steph, baby, are you accusing me of killing Ben? Oh, that's rich okay yeah I killed Ben, yeah and that would certainly have made sense with what he said yesterday huh? When he said 'ha ha you kill me' huh don't you think I've been thinking of that, don't you think that's been haunting me since I first saw that body?"

She was surprised to see that tears were welling in his eyes, but still the car ran and still he looked forward. "Ben was my best friend…and no matter what I would never have sunk to that…that's disgusting! Oh man these darn tears I've gotta stop."

He stomped his foot on the brake. Nothing happened. He stomped it again. Still the car kept running, downhill, at 70 miles per hour. A look of horror swept across Aaron's face as he stomped on the brake once more, still nothing.

"Oh god, oh no…the brakes aren't working Steph. Man I think they've been cut," he said in a whisper, seeming to be talking more to himself than her as he stared at the passing trees in disbelief.

Aaron's mouth went dry, his palms grew sweaty, his bladder let lose spilling hot urine all over his legs. He was suffering the first symptoms of premature shock, his body giving way to paralysis, his eyes going hazy, his breathing seeming to stop altogether.

Ahead Stephanie could see a curve in the road and she stared at Aaron's hands expecting them to move towards the right, but they stayed where they were, the knuckles white as he clenched it unbearably.

They missed the curb, continued into snow, the truck running past trees now, vaguely Stephanie could hear Fang barking outside, and than she saw it, a giant evergreen, smack dap in the middle of them.

She prayed for Aaron's hands to move, to unclench from the steering wheel and give it one solid tug, but she knew that tug wouldn't come. The tree grew bigger before her and she braced herself for the impact, almost invited death when she heard Mrs. Gobbs speak to her. She said Listen to me child, that boy isn't going to move, he's already dead, but you, you can still survive. Open that door and jump out, the snow will catch you.

Stephanie did just that. Seconds before the car hit she grabbed the door handle and tugged it, pushed the door open, and jumped out landing on the snow hard on her side, causing fresh blood to surface from her cut.

And Aaron, still paralyzed in his truck stared at the giant evergreen moments before he smashed into it. He could see a branch pointing outwards of it and suddenly he envisioned that tree as himself, ordering Stephanie around and telling her what to do. That branch was his finger as he pointed her out the door to close the shed. That tree was him. And he thought about how much he really had loved Stephanie, moments before that branch went through his neck.

Stephanie buried her head in her hands as the car crashed into the tree, a crack that seemed to almost echo in her bones exploded outwards and than the car exploded raining metal and fire all over.

She shakily got to her feet, staring at the mess of the F-150 and the last of her boyfriend. She felt done, defeated, dead. She tried to cry but couldn't find it in her, that energy needed just wasn't there, it seemed like the last of her emotion had exploded with that car.

She suddenly remembered Fang and squinted her eyes at the wreck. There deep in the smoke, she thought she could see some outline, possibly Fang, possibly just wishful thinking. Either way it was gone after a moment and she was left alone once again. She stood where she was a moment longer and than collapsed, unconsciousness trying to grab her once again, its frozen fingers wrapping around her brain, sinking into her head, chilling her heart.

Forget it chick, it's all over. Your miles from civilization and your bleeding like a dog in heat. Just lie down Steph, embrace the snow, invite Death, let go. It's not like you have a choice, either way weeks from now some kids just like you will be stupid enough to climb up here and they'll find you, frozen. Your lips blue, face pale, fingers stiffer than stone. Just lie down, feel the soft snow under you and let it take you to a cool grave.

The cab driver was a big pain, but for once his senseless pessimism seemed reasonable. The snow did feel oddly comfortable, and she did feel a little sleepy…maybe a little nap would do her…

NO! screamed Mrs. Gobbs shaking Stephanie out of her dreamy state. NO, YOU WILL NOT GIVE UP NOW! Now listen to me girl, we didn't make it this far for nothing, get your butt up and start walking. I'm sure there's gotta be something up the hill; you guys can't be the only ones here. Just start walking and don't you dare fall asleep, ya hear?

Stephanie wanted to listen to that voice, she really did, but she was so damn tired. Yet she somehow managed to get to her feet and stumbled around, trying to hold her footing. The world swam in front of her; blood ran down her side blackening the snow below. She took one shaky step, two, and fell to her knees again.

C'mon Steph, you can do it, get up…don't give up yet.

She struggled back to her feet and began to walk again, the first hints of a migraine pulsating through her head. The bitter wind clawed at her throat and invaded it making it hard to breathe. She gasped for air and continued forward. She was now a good 50 feet away from the burning wreck. She looked back, swaying on her feet and found that fire oddly compelling, like a bug zapper would to a fly.

It's warm next to the fire Steph, just walk on back there and warm yourself up. Just unthaw there and…well lets see from there, said the cabdriver.

Oh no, we're not falling for that one, just go forward Steph and forget about that fat pathetic excuse for a…whatever he is.

Hey take that back you old hag. Stop wasting our time, and let us rest in peace.

Let you…oh no don't give me that we're not dieing, we're not gonna be misled by you you mean, obese, worthless piece of-

You sure you wanna finish that sentence grandma?

The voices had now gone full out war on each other and Stephanie found that she couldn't take it anymore. She fell to her knees crying, the world now going up in black spots that swayed before her. Her throat felt raw, cut up, and burned uncontrollably making it painful to breathe. She took one giant breath and exhaled throwing up blood all over the white snow. And the voices just kept on talking even after she had fallen face first into the snow, smushing into it like fresh mud, the blood going back into her mouth. Pain exploded in her head, the migraine spinning out of control and following her into the darkness as unconsciousness finally caught up to her, finding her and tying her in its bonds, hoping to never let her go again.

She awoke to the smell of wood, not burning wood as she had originally expected, but just wood. Neither was there the cold of the air, or the padding of the snow, but she was in heat and on cushions.

She opened her eyes to see a dark, brown man. He had shaggy black hair, yellowed teeth (the little he had) and foul, nauseating breath. He gave her a cup of hot chocolate and patted her head.

She tried to sit up but found great pain in her side, the cut just starting to heal, the blood flow stopped. She stared back at the man and noticed that he had dark brown eyes and seemingly purple lips, which he continuously wet with a long black tongue.

"Um…Hello. I am Alfredo. This my house. I save you. You were very cold and…umm how do you say…um…bleeding. What you name?" he said in a strong Mexican accent, the kind you usually hear spoken at On the Border and well actually on the border.

She sat up shakily, struggling to take in her surroundings. She was in a small, dingy cabin that took no more than one sweep of the eyes for the grand tour. She could see a small kitchen in the far left corner and a small table at the right, and sitting in the middle were two small, wooden chairs and a radio that crackled with static at regular intervals.

She struggled to remember what happened and soon, before she felt she was ready, Ben's smiling face came into view, blood splotched all over his face and his torso cut in pieces. Tears suddenly stung her eyes and she retched, blood pouring out of her mouth.

Alfredo jumped up, his eyes growing wide and ran into the kitchen. He reappeared with a steaming pot and a large mug. He poured out a steaming cup of red water and placed it in her hands.

She drank some tea and introduced herself. The tea felt good against her scarred throat and her migraines had begun to subside. She suddenly realized how close to death she had just come and realized that she still had a duty. She had to bring the police.

She told him their whole situation, from the crash to well the other crash. He listened intently and Stephanie felt at times that he might not be understanding any of the things she was saying, but that was okay because just being able to talk to somebody was a relief in itself. She finished by asking him to use the phone, but of course it wasn't working.

"So…um…do you live here by yourself Alfredo?" Stephanie asked as she walked around the little shack of a house he had and noticed the two beds.

"Um no I live with brother. He out now…at city."

"Oh, okay I see, hey do you have a car, cause you know I was wonderin if you could give me a ride into town."

"Oh, yes but first I want you to tell me about that girl…the one you find on road. See my daughter, she run away, I been trying to find her for long time."

"Oh, well you know what? I could take you to her if you like, and well than you can give me and my friend a ride okay?"

"Sure," he said leading her out the door to his SUV. They got in and started for the cabin.

The SUV pulled into the cabin's parking lot and Stephanie and Alfredo climbed out and headed towards the door. Stephanie knocked, well not really knocked so much as banged the door till it splintered.

Monica answered it, her face deathly pale, her eyes sunken in, trails of tears marking her face. A look of surprise swept across her face but was gone in a flash and she said, "Oh, your back. Where are the police?"

Stephanie came in with Alfredo at her heels, sat down on a couch and told her all about the car, the purse, everything. Than she ordered Monica to bring the new girl down to see her father. Monica was gone into the kitchen in a flash.

"Finally, me and my daughter will be reunited," Alfredo said, in surprisingly better English than he'd chose to use before.

Monica came back in holding her and said, "Okay here she is."

The new girls eyes widened, her mouth opened and a gasp trailed out. She began to shake uncontrollably and started whimpering.

"Ah, my daughter, finally I have found you," Alfredo said with a smile on his face.

And at that the new girl changed entirely, her face clenched into a grimace of pure hatred, her bottom lip curled back into a sneer and she screamed, "NO, YOU WILL NOT TAKE ME BACK!"

She pushed Monica back and onto the floor and ran out the back door heading towards the shed. Stephanie made to go after her but Alfredo said, "Oh no let me, I'll reason with her," as he ran out into the snow.

Stephanie felt the last of her strength run out of her as she sat down on the couch, her side starting to throb again, her head starting to hurt.

"What was that all about?" Monica said as she took a seat next to her.

"I don't know, I'm just glad she's leaving. She gives me the creeps, and…oh god how can I deny it any longer? Two of my friends are dead because of that freak."

"So you really think she did it huh?"

"Of course she did it. We hardly know her, we found the phones in her purse, and…and…" Stephanie broke down than and she began to cry, tears spilling down her cheeks and collecting on the floor below.

"I wish we had never come here. Ben wouldn't be hacked up in the shed; Aaron wouldn't be…and Fang…OH GOD! So much death in such little time…" Stephanie said as she was embraced by Monica and cried in her arms.

Suddenly Alfredo started screaming. Adrenaline flooded through Stephanie and she ran outside with Monica at her heels. That smell was back again stronger than ever, making her stomach clench, and had there been anything left to throw up she felt she surely would have.

The screams were unbearable; they came to her from what sounded almost like another world, a place where such things like these happened, certainly not the world we all grew up in right?

And as they closed in there was no wind, the door was wide open, and they could see everything from 40 feet away and yet they still kept running, probably not knowing anything better to do.

In the shed was the new girl, a giant axe in her hands, a bleeding man on the floor. She had cut off his three middle fingers and then had started working on his left arm, the blunt blade not sharp enough to go through the first time.

Blood squirted out like an uncapped fire hydrant and it took her five hard whacks with that axe to finally get it through his arm. They got there as the bone was cut lose and she swung the axe into his neck spraying blood into their faces and making a small hole there. She swung it in again and a little more of it came detached, the tendons and veins snapping like guitar strings until his whole head hung back on his neck like a puppet that'd broke its string, and still it was attached, and still he was alive, and still he screamed although it was now more of a gurgling as blood pushed up and out of his open mouth.

That was all Stephanie was willing to see, she grabbed the shed door and swung it in place as Monica quickly locked it. They could hear her beating against the door now, screaming to get out, threatening to kill them both, and curses galore.

They turned to leave, but before either of them could start running the beating stopped. They both froze for a second and cringed against her wild voice as the new girl cried, "Beware of the other! He'll kill you just like I will if you don't get my out of this freakin shed!" Then the beating started again, harder than before.

They ran back into the cabin and Stephanie said, "Oh my god, oh my god, what are we gonna do? We have now two dead people in that shed, one crazy lady, and a crapload of body parts. Wait I know, Alfredo left his SUV, we could drive that to town and get the police, yeah okay let's do that c'mon," she said as she walked towards the door.

Monica stared at Stephanie as she walked across the room and than, with agility Stephanie had never been aware Monica possessed Monica got in front of the door, blocking the exit.

"Oh, my dear Stephanie, you think you're so smart don't ya? You think you've got it all figured out huh? Well figure this out you little smarty, we're not going anywhere," Monica said with a weird smile on her face.

"What…Monica what are you trying to say?"

"Sit down Steph."

"Why…"

"I SAID SIT DOWN; don't make me have to ask you again."

Stephanie sat down with growing trepidation, the cab driver was talking again but she wasn't gonna listen, that guy had been nothing but trouble from the start.

"Monica I don't under…"

She was interrupted by Monica's laughter, a chilling cold laughter Stephanie had never heard Monica use before.

"Of course you don't, see unlike you I'm good at keeping secrets"

"Monica you're scaring me."

"Did you really think I wouldn't find out, did you really think I was that stupid? All those nights that Ben was busy I would call you and lord behold your busy as well. How coinci-freakin-dental don't you think?

"Monica I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Don't give me that you little man stealing, two timing skank! You know exactly what I'm talking about; I'm talking about you and Ben!"

At that Stephanie gasped and looked away, her face bright red, her eyes on the verge of tears at the thought of Ben.

"Yeah I saw you in that room, kissing, hugging, promising what you can't give and sentencing me to the cutting room floor! What did you think I was, huh? Just some extra string you needed to clip to have a man YOU could control? Well when I saw that I came back in and sat down, acting like nothing was wrong. Not bad for a drama queen, huh Stephanie?

"I was plotting ways of getting back at you, at both of you, but nothing seemed good enough, and then God himself gave me the answer! The lights went out, that little man-whore of mine went all macho and tried to fix it, and I wasn't far behind. I followed him into the back shed, picked up the axe, and chop, chop," this last she said with a devilish smile and a burning like hell in her eyes.

"Oh, God no. Monica tell me this is a joke, this isn't real. You didn't kill Ben, that weird girl did, you didn't kill anybody!"

"Oh yes, and I liked it too. The way the axe went in with every stroke, like a knife in butter be it blunt, the way the blood spurted up and covered the walls, the way he screamed like a little girl! He pleaded for mercy Stephanie, but the price of infidelity is high and so he had to pay the piper.

"Well when it was done I had realized that I was wearing Aaron's jacket and it was soaked in blood, so I had to bury it. But as I was burying it I found the keys to the car and so I had a few ideas. I took all the cell phones and put them in that weird girl's purse just to throw you off. And then I remembered once my mom had bled her brakes on accident and she explained to me how she did it. So I bled the brakes and I had but to fake a little faint, wait till you guys were in and out of the picture and my revenge was complete. But you had to come back, you had to survive! But no longer Steph, cause you need to learn something: eventually everybody pays for their sins!"

She lunged at Stephanie and cornered her into the couch, purposely pushing into the cut along her ribs. Stephanie tugged at her hair with one hand and tried to push her off with the other. Monica punched her in her ribs, bursting open the cut and allowing more blood to ooze out of that small mouth.

Stephanie groaned and slapped Monica across the face leaving a large red mark. She brought her head back and head butted her straight where her head had gone through the window allowing that cut to reopen and blood started running down her face in little rivers. Monica staggered backwards and fell off of Stephanie landing head first on the hard wooden ground.

Stephanie didn't wait to see if she'd get up. Cupping her hand over her bleeding side she ran out the front door and staggered towards the car.

The wind howled and the snow swirled. The clouds had gone dark gray casting shadows everywhere; taking away the pure appearance of the snow and making it look filthy. She opened the driver side door and climbed in, praying that the keys were in the ignition.

There they were, a little Mexican flag hanging from the key ring as it swung in place. Stephanie felt a great ecstasy as she turned the ignition and the car roared to life. She put her hand over the gearshift to put it in reverse. And a brown hand went over hers.

She froze, premature shock wrapping her in its ropes and beginning to tighten. Her eyes darted to the rear view mirror and, there in the darkness, she could see two brown eyes, messy black hair, and dark, very brown skin.

And suddenly she knew who this was, never having seen him before, but not having to. This was that other, the one that new girl seemed to be warning her about. And of course it didn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who he really was.

When that girl had said other what she really had meant was brother. Alfredo had mentioned a brother and who better than his own flesh and blood to hide in the back seat and…what? kill her? kidnap her? torture her?

"Hello my pretty," he whispered in her ear with a flash of yellow teeth and a smile from hell. He began to gently rub on her hand, the feel of his rough palm making her squirm and want to scream.

"You'll make an excellent addition to my…collection. I'd usually wait for my brother to come back first, but something tells me he's not coming back. So how about I do you myself?"

Her eyes plastered on the mirror she could see his left hand reach into his pocket and come out revealing a long switchblade. Stephanie had read of such instances before, and how sometimes when you're about to die things went in slow motion, but to her it seemed to go faster, as if some creep had set the whole thing on fast forward.

He swung his hand around the seat bringing the blade with it and pressing it against her throat. She let out a startled cry as the cold steel touched against her bare neck. Pain shot through her neck and up and down her spine, the cut on her ribs forgotten, as he gently pushed the knife inwards, a thin line marked in red appearing, little drops of blood were rolling down her neck and into her shirt.

Oh brace yourself now girl, it's about to be all over, said the cab driver. Yep, he'll just swipe it across, your throat will open and all that hot, oily blood will spill down your front and you'll start twitching like road kill.

Don't listen to that fat jerk, this cant be the end. Not after all we've been through. There has to be a way, it can't have been all for nothing! cried Mrs. Gobbs

But it had been, for Stephanie knew that there was nothing left she could do. She now had but to wait for that knife to bite across her neck, and than embrace the darkness.

He pushed the knife in deeper, causing more little drops of blood to drop, and gripped the knife tightly. Stephanie closed her eyes, waiting for her last pains.

And then she heard barks.

Stephanie's eyes flew open and out of the corner of her right eye she could see Fang, his head held low, his legs pumping at an incredible speed. He quickly dived through the open door, ran over Stephanie's lap, and flew into the back seat.

The killer had only enough time to say, "What the…" before Fang landed on his lap, wrapped his teeth around his throat, and ripped it out. The man began spasaming there in the back seat, blood running down his shirt, spraying all over Stephanie's hair and dotting the back of her neck like red freckles. His legs kicked out, once, twice, and than with a cry of anger he retracted the blade he had on her neck and stabbed it into Fang's back.

The dog let out a loud whine, twitched, and than fell on top of the bleeding man, its black fur now as red as Clifford's. The stench, oh the stench was overpowering, she could taste blood, its metallic texture swimming in her mouth. She dived out the open door, struggled across the driveway, and collapsed a few feet from the door. From where she sat, her knees trembling, blood in her hair, dotting her shirt, in her mouth, she could see the cabin door. And she saw it open.

There standing in the doorway, blood running down her forehead in little rivers was Monica, her face pale, mouth pulled into a snarl.

Mrs. Gobbs was talking to her once more, ordering her to move, but she was frozen in place. She just stared as Monica, fire in her eyes, walked over to her and pressed her hands against Stephanie's throat.

She pressed her thumb into her cut, the blood now squeezing out. She began to smile, drool hanging from her lips as black spots danced in front of Stephanie's eyes. Her lungs began to burn, her eyes, feeling like they were about to pop out of their sockets, were watering, tears running down her face. She made deep gurgling sounds and struggled for a scream, not able to gather the air for it.

Monica stared deep into her, that gleam in her eyes, and said, "Now Stephanie you're gonna have to learn this lesson the hard way: all little skanks go to hell!"

She pressed harder still, Stephanie's chest now burning, feeling like it was about to explode. The spots were now gone, a small shade of gray in its place. She was dimly aware that somewhere far away thunder crackled, and lightning lit up the sky.

Her throat clicked, blood was beginning to puddle up in her throat and was slowly driven upwards and she began to feel like she was going to drown in it, just choke on her own blood. But as all powerful flows go this one had to find an exit and it did as it spurted out of her nose and stained Monica's hands brown.

Stephanie struggled to hear her voices, fought for a little bit of advice, but they had both abandoned her. No more tough English teacher, no more annoying cab driver. Just dear old Stephanie as she lay here, being steadily choked to death.

She was falling, falling towards that valley of unconsciousness, and moments before the darkness swallowed her she felt blood spill down onto her, burning her eyes. But in spite of it she opened them and saw Monica's mouth open in a giant O of surprise. Blood fell out of her open mouth and tears of it fell from the corners of her eyes.

It spilled from her hair from a source unknown and Stephanie felt the pressure of her hands reduce as she hung limply for a second, and than collapsed onto Stephanie. With a groan of disgust Stephanie pushed her away and crawled out from under her, looking for what had just saved her life.

And there, standing behind the dead form of Monica, holding the bloody axe she had used to break herself out of the shed in one hand, was that new girl. New fear erupted in her, and she began to crawl backwards, still gasping for air, her throat burning, chest aching with every breath she took, blood steadily falling from her nose. She stole a sideways glance at Monica and saw the giant hole, a gaping mouth in the back of her head, blood matted into her hair around it.

She stared back at the crazy new girl, expecting her to come running at her any second and chop her head off. But to her surprise the new girl dropped the axe and walked towards her, holding her hand out.

"C'mon, let's get out of here," she said as she reached for her hand.

Stephanie moved backwards saying, "Don't touch me you murderer, I just saw you kill your father."

The new girl stared at her in a quizzical way, and than rolling her eyes said, "Hello earth to girl. That wasn't my dad. My friends and I got lost up here and they found us. They…," her voice suddenly broke there and fighting back tears she continued.

"They killed my friends right in front of me, but luckily I escaped, I had to have my revenge. So that's why I killed him, and I see the other faired no better," she said motioning towards the SUV.

Stephanie sat a minute contemplating this, and than took her hand and climbed into the car.

They threw the bodies of Fang and the killer out into the snow and watched as their blood stained it brown.

"Let's get out of this hellhole," the new girl said and as they moved out of the drive way, the new girl driving, Stephanie saw the snow as it was, an abyss of blackness, but there in the corner, almost in the distance, she could see a bit of light and in that light she thought she could see Ben, a smile on his face and next to him Fang, his tongue lagging out like some lazy worm.

Stephanie felt herself drifting away again, not into blackness this time but into light.

She fell asleep with a smile on her face.

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