It was a dreary day, and Kuir stared out the window of the cabin as millions of snowflakes pirouetted to the earth like ballerina dancers waltzing downwards. The sky was dark and there was a thick, gray sheet of fog that was creeping and inching towards them, so cloudy that it made it hard for him to see the landscape. But Kuir imagined in his mind the blanket of pure white that stretched over the land, covering the hills and valleys, and he could envision the moist heaps of snow, poured one on top of each other, he could close his eyes and see the sleek, black branches of the trees, naked without their colorful leaves, like a peacock without its feathers, could imagine the green blades of grass poking out from underneath their fair coating. He sighed, and his breath fogged up the window. Smiling, he picked up his finger and made a circle in the fog, then closed one eye and looked through it like a peephole. What he saw suddenly made his face go pale.

There was someone limping through the blanket of snow, a man in a fur-coat, someone who carried a rifle, and there was blood on his hands, on his face and everywhere, splattered like crimson raindrops and deathly ink blots. The man had a black eye-patch over his right eye, there was a haggard look in his other eye, and his face was grim, the face of a victim. Some of the blood began dripping down, seeping through the layer of snow and spreading a red stain, and Kuir realized the blood was fresh. He almost screamed in horror but covered his mouth, for the man was limping and moving slowly towards the cabin…toward them.

Kuir jerked up and turned around, scanned his surroundings briefly, making sure none of his friends were there, and then he bolted up the stairs, taking them two at a time. His feet made loud creaking noises on the wooden steps, and by the time he had reached the top of the stairs his girlfriend Savanna was up. He saw her yawning and rubbing her eyes and getting up from her bed, pushing the covers away and standing up, looking at him curiously.

"What's up, Kuir?" she asked. "What are you doing up so—what's wrong? Why do you have that look? Kuir, did you take your meds?"

"I took the damn meds," Kuir grumbled sourly, then stated, "I saw a man outside, he had a gun and he was bleeding." He paused for a breath, and noticed the way she was looking at him strangely. He walked up to her and held her hand. "I'm not delusional, Savanna. I'm not seeing things. The doctor said I would be fine if I took the meds, and why would he lie? Please, you have to trust me."

Savanna looked at him seriously, her eyebrows raised, and then she smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "I suppose you're right, Kuir. Alright, then…I'll wake up Tern and Jessie. You get your brother and his girlfriend, alright?"

"Sure," Kuir agreed, then after watching Savanna head off to the other room, he headed off in the semi-darkness and walked until he saw the wooden door hanging slightly open, the sound of deep masculine snoring coming from inside. He sighed and pushed the door open, and stepped inside. A lithe body on his left side stirred, and as Kuir looked with surprise, Alejandra was grinning at him as she lay on her side, her shoulder resting on the bed. Her deep brown eyes smiled at him underneath her wild raven hair.

"You're awake?" Kuir asked dumbly. "But I was going to wake you both." His eyes drifted over her, noticing her tank-tops and short shorts, and her olive skin was a sharp contrast from the light-blue of the fabric. He raised his eyebrows. "Special occasion?" he asked innocently.

"Wouldn't care to share," she shot back, winking at him, then yawned, her droopy eyelids hanging low. "And for your information, I couldn't sleep," she said. "Thanks to King Roar-A-Lot over there. Now I'm all peppy. Wide-awake. Ha-ha, you know I'm kidding. I need a mug of coffee."

"You could drink some of that Monster," Kuir said, nodding towards the can on the floor, next to his brother's backpack and suitcase. "It's packed with caffeine, and it doesn't burn the tip of your tongue. Tastes hell of a lot better, too."

"Oh ha-ha, no gracias. That's where Tommy gets his kicks. He says it substitutes for his…you know, addiction." She said the last part softly, and Kuir nodded.

"It was a rough time for him, but he did pull himself together. He is my big brother, after all."

Alejandra face soured when he said that. "They say snoring is genetic, does that mean you snore too?" She held up her hand, waving him off. "Wait, I don't even want to go there. Is there any cure for it, do you know? Something to stop Tommy from doing it?"

"Well, there is a thing called earmuffs, but if that fails there's always the good old nasal spray."
"Nasal spray?" Alejandra said slowly. "You mean a liquid you spray inside your nostrils?"

"That's the idea," Kuir explained. "See, when you're snoring, your nasal cavity is blocked and you can't breathe through your nose, so have to get air from your mouth. And that's when it happens. 'Course, you tell that to Tommy and you won't be telling him anything new."

"He knows about the spray?" Alejandra said incredulously. "What's his problem, then? Does he test all his girlfriends through this kind of ordeal?"

"Only the ones he likes a lot," Kuir said jokingly, and then he became serious. "Actually, he doesn't like using it. He says it reminds him of the old days…snuffing. You know how it is, he was all the perfect law-abiding citizen when he came out of rehab. 'Course then, it wasn't a surprise when he enlisted for the army."

"Oh, I never knew," Alejandra said, looking stricken. She blinked a few times and her eyes fell on Tommy. "Is it me, or is it kinda early? It's all dark. Tommy barely got any rest. He just fell asleep awhile ago after we—" she cut off, apparently realizing where this was heading. "Well, whatever it is, you should wake him and tell us what's going on, if it's that important."

Kuir nodded, and then went over to the other bed and nudged the figure sleeping there until he stirred. "Leave me alone," he said gruffly. "Go away…" He drifted off, his face buried in the pillow.

Kuir sighed, and was about to push his brother again when a hand pressed down on shoulders. He turned his neck and saw Alejandra coming up behind him with a mischievous smile. "Wait," she said. "Let me teach you how it's done." She leaned forward and whispered something into Tommy's ear.

Tommy shot up as if he'd been shocked. He threw his covers aside and sat up in his bed, his eyes settling on Alejandra. "You were saying—" the grin on this face faded when he saw Kuir. "Sup…bro? What are you doing?" he turned back to Alejandra, his shoulders slumped. "So you weren't serious, then?"

Alejandra just smiled and shook her head. "Dios mío!" she exclaimed, chuckling. "Men are such animals."

Kuir look at his brother, who was bare-chested and half-naked, and sighed. He walked over to where Tommy had tossed his clothes, picked up his white t-shirt and threw it at his brother disgustedly. "Put some clothes on, for god's sake. There's someone coming. Alejandra's going to wake the others."

Tommy frowned, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. "Someone's coming to our cabin? Hmm, a visitor, perhaps?"

"He had a rifle," Kuir said seriously.

"Well, then a park ranger or someone else…why do you look so worried?"

"Because he was bleeding. He needs our help."

Tommy looked shocked momentarily, then nodded. "Yes, so Tern is the one with the first-aid kid and the supreme knowledge in all things medical," he said wearily and matter-of-factly. "Look, as much as I'd like to go down and chat with the guy just to make him feel better, there's nothing I can do to help him that Tern can't. I mean, even a painkiller will take the edge off of him. Besides, it's still late in the night and we could've gotten some sleep. All of us. What's the big deal anyway?"

"He's got a gun," Kuir reminded.

Tommy laughed. "So do I, a loaded pistol ready to fire. Do you figure that makes me a trigger-happy maniac too?"

"He's got a point," Alejandra pointed out.

"Well," Kuir said hesitantly, "he looked suspicious. Let's just check it, ok, and if it's a false alarm, I'll make breakfast tomorrow. Eggs and bacon. Win-win situation. C'mon, I'm waving it right in your face."

Tommy sighed, putting his t-shirt on over his head and getting up from his bed. "Might as well listen to you, Kuir, I'm all wide awake now. Go on out, me and Alejandra will be changing. We'll be right out."

Kuir nodded, and walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him. He began to climb down the stairs, and after a brief moment when he was halfway down the steps he heard voices greeting him, not kindly.

"What the hell did you wake me up for, man?" Tern asked.

"Maybe he's nocturnal," Tern piped up. "Like he only functions at night, like a vampire or something."

"That's just stupid, Jessie," Tern stated. " There's no such thing. It's far more likely that he's an insomniac who has trouble falling asleep?"

"Aw, shut up, Tern. Go stick your diagnosis up your—"

"—Uuuum this may be a bad time," Kuir interrupted, "seeing as you all are cranky, I think it frank to remind you that there is a stranger headed towards this cabin. I should say man the battle stations, because it's blood I saw on his person."

"There's no one out the window, Kuir," Savanna said, her arms folded.

"Well, what do you mean there's no one there?" he said, sputtering. "Did you check the window? Did you go outside and see him?"

"Checked and re-checked, sergeant," Jessie said warily. "Any more of your invisible friends and ghosts you want us to gun down? Maybe we can all sit down outside in the nice weather and have a game of I-Spy and we'll all guess…I don't know, 'white'?

"Hey, cut it out, Jessie," Tern said firmly. "No need to get all sarcastic. He made a mistake, it's not a big deal."

"Alright," Jessie said, a light in his eyes. "Say, boss, what did this stranger look like? Did he wear a white tuxedo and a white cape and have a snow-white underwear over his white pants?"

"I'm flattered you care what I have to say," Kuir remarked dryly. "But I did see him, he had a black eye-patch and a fur coat, and he carried a rifle and was limping. And he was bleeding a lot."

Jessie chortled in laughter, and even Savanna raised her eyebrows. "Did he have a parrot on his shoulder and a skull-and-crossbones t-shirt? That would be wicked cool you know, I've always want to meet a modern-day dying pirate. Maybe he can sign my autograph before he gasps his last and falls over in his pool of blood and dies."

There was the click of the barrel of a pistol switching, and they both looked behind them. Tommy and Alejandra were at the bottom of the steps, and Tommy had his pistol in one hand and a can of Monster in the other. "Well, if you wanted to party with neo-apocalyptic pirates, you should have called me," Tommy said, pointing the gun at Jessie, whose face had gone white. "Sorry, I thought you were saying something about 'falling over a pool of blood and dying'. I might have been mistaken." When Jessie remained speechless, Tommy wheeled to his brother. "Are his descriptions accurate?" he said, a faint smirk on his face.

Kuir sighed. "I'm afraid he's just an idiot. But the guy did have an eye-patch. Nice job bring the pistol."

Tommy nodded, and holstered his gun. "Well, I doubt any crackpot is out this late and in this weather, since there's not a town for miles from here, but I say we have a little sit-down and let the clock run for fifteen minutes tops." He pointed at his watch. "I've already started the timer. Now let's sit. Bring out the Monster!" There was a hiss as the can tab opened, and he sipped from the Monster can.

They waited for a while, and suddenly there came a tapping sound on the door, once, twice, and thrice. It stopped briefly, and then there was a loud knock.

"It's him!" Kuir cried out. "Hey, I think he needs our help."

"That wasn't a knock," Tern said suspiciously. "That was like the sound of something hitting hard on the door. You get my drift?"

"Uh, no," Tommy said. "I'm not much for these mystery hub-jub and clues. But I do like pointing a pistol at the forehead of the bastard who did that and asking him what the hell he's doing here."

"Well, that's a lovely strategy," Tern commented. "That way he'll kiss up to you and tell him he's sorry, and even admit defeat. Especially if he's the bleeding pirate Kuir was talking about who would need medical help. Let's go greet him." He walked to the door, and the others followed him.

"He's not a pirate," Kuir said hotly, and then he looked over at the others. Tern was turning the doorknob slowly, and when he opened the door, everyone screamed and went crazy.

"WHAT THE—" Tern shouted, backing away, and the others followed in his example. Savanna inched forward to see and shrieked when she saw the scene. Alejandra was covering her mouth, her eyes wide open in fear and revulsion, and Jessie had his mouth hanging wide open, his face looking as if he'd seen a ghost.

Tommy looked grim, his face dark. "I think you should take a look at this, little brother. You were right about something."

Kuir inched forward slowly, and gasped when he was at the entrance of the door, looking down at the gruesome body below him. The woman was lying face down in an awkward position, her right hand outstretched in the position someone would rap of the door with their knuckles, and her legs outstretched. She lay bathed in a puddle of dark-red blood that had soaked through the snow, icicles dripping from her hair, her skin pale-white as if she'd been out in the cold too long. There were deep cuts all over her back and the sides of her body, and in many areas her flesh had been sloughed off, as if something had torn chunks of flesh out of her. Her eyes were gaunt and heavy, and wide open. They had the lifeless look of death in them.

Kuir turned away, sickened. He felt nauseated, like he was going to puke. His hand covered his mouth, and he was thinking rapidly. He turned and glanced at Tommy, who was staring at him.

"Good thing you warned us, Kuir. You're a smart kid, I always knew." Tommy was contorted, and looked like he was sickened with himself. "Dammit!" he swore.

"What's wrong?" Kuir asked.

"The pistol…I didn't think I'd need. I only thought I'd need three bullets. One if I missed, one if I managed to wound 'Person X' superficially, and the second to finish off 'Person X', deal the mortal wound. I played the wrong cards." He stared at his brother, and then glanced briefly and everyone around him. "I need to run upstairs and get more bullets. I'll be right—"

"Oh no, you'll do no such thing, boy, and if you even so much as raise the gun at me, I will end this boy's life. And if he or anyone else so much as jerks their body, I will shoot you." Everyone turned their eyes and looked for the source of the voice outside. And there he was, stepping towards him, his fur boots scrunching down on the thick-packed snow ever so slowly. He limped towards them, had on a fur coat, a black eye-patch, a black hood to cover his bald head, was missing two fingers on his right hand, and he had the rifle clutched in that hand, pointed directly at Kuir's chest. There was a trail of blood behind him, and his leg looked it hurt, because his limp was more pronounced now. There was grisly blood all over his body; it was as if he was drenched in it. He was smiling, and showed them his front two teeth that were missing "See, it's a little psychological game I've cooked up. You two are well-connected, I'd say, very close. Best friends maybe, but a friend doesn't usually call another friend a 'smart kid'. The term is usually…brotherly." He paused as everyone in the cabin stiffened, each one of them like scarecrows, afraid to make even the slightest move.

Kuir's heart was racing, and his mind was whirling around, telling him he was going crazy, his life had always been miserable, ever since he'd been diagnosed with schizophrenia and how he understood that he didn't see the world with the same eyes that everyone else saw it. And now the Lord Almighty had stamped the postcard that was his life with the bold words, 'HELL'.

For the first time since he had been out of rehab, Tommy was truly afraid, like he had no idea of what to do. He knew was beaten at his game. He was trembling; he knew this was all his fault, that he could have prevented this somehow, and then it all came back, the terrible desperation and need to use, to get high, get in that comfort zone where everything blurred into la-la land. He tried to make himself move, but he was afraid to even twitch, and his mind had shut down, gone in lockdown and he didn't have the keys to it. He was alone in the dark.

The man was chuckling. He was clearly enjoying this, getting some satisfaction out of it. "You see how beautifully this fits? That dead women down at your feet, son, I don't care the least bit who she is, but I know that she was running, like me, running from what-do-you-care-to-know, and I waited for the exact moment when she collapsed and you fools swung the door wide-open and gawked like morons, and big brother with the gun turns his back on the danger because he forgot his ammo, and now, big brother can't move because he cares about little brother, and little brother can't move because he cares about big brother, and everyone else can't run away because either they care too damned much about the two brothers or they're too stupid to do anything, because they're afraid they're next." He was laughing hysterically now, saliva dripping from the corners of his mouth.

There was a deadly silence, an emptiness of sound, and then the man said off-handedly, "Big brother, be as kind as to chuck the pistol towards me, underhand." There was a deeper silence, and the stranger sighed. "You better do what I say and fast, you know."

Tommy's face was stone-hard as he walked next to his brother, and tossed the pistol underhand. The gun flew up, and landed a few feet from the stranger. The man frowned, then walked forward and kicked snow over the pistol, burying it. When he looked up at the teenagers again, he seemed calm, more relaxed.

"Very well, since this is awfully boring, let's play another game, we'll call it 'Follow the Leader'. You kids familiar with that? Ok, the boy in the front of the door, you start walking towards me and stop right there," the man said, nodding towards a spot to the right of him, "and the rest of you follow him one by one, single-file line and no pushing or shoving, and then everyone turns and faces me, until you're all side-by-side. And you better make it quick, or I'll start shooting at random now."

Kuir pursed his lips in anger, and said nothing, but he began walking with long strides, and then stopped where the man had told him to. Savanna had followed him, and then Tern, Jessie, and finally Tom and Alejandra. They all stood shoulder-to-shoulder, facing him.

He was grinning now, and then he lowered his rifle, apparently fearing no threat. He stared at them savagely, and his eyes came to Kuir. "You, boy. Speak your mind. You know, I fancy a little bit of democracy, as long as it doesn't get out of control."

Kuir was shocked for an instant, and then he regained himself. He looked at the blood still on the man, and he seemed to nod. "The blood. It's not yours, is it? It's someone else's."

The man grinned. "Well thank you for noticing, yes. I take it you all thought I was some bleeding pig? Well, the limp was real enough, if there's any concern left in any of you." When everyone remained silent, he laughed. "It was a joke. Loosen up, kids. You're going to all die anyway, why not make it worthwhile and enjoy yourselves for the time you have left? Ask some questions, I'll tell you the secret before you die." He said the last part slowly.

Jessie's eyes widened in fear, and he backed away a few steps. "No, no. I don't want to die. You're crazy, you're freakin' insane. You are a bloody murderer with a sick, twisted mind, and you're not going to kill me!" After he'd screeched the last part, he turned and began to run.

"JESSIE!" they all screamed, but their voices were muffled by the loud bang of the rifle.

Kuir turned and looked. There was a bullet hole through the back of Jessie's head, and it was bleeding. His legs instantly gave way, and he slumped and fell to the ground. Kuir turned back to the man. "YOU KILLED HIM!" he screamed. "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!"

The man was slowly running his hand over his rifle, tickling it with his fingers. He looked up. "I had to do it, you understand. If he ran and I let him go, then you would all follow the same course and scatter and run. I hate when I have to chase down rats. It's awfully annoying. And if I wounded him but didn't kill him, you'd all rush to his aid, and the discipline I have instilled would be for naught." He leaned forward, his eyes widening in eagerness, "You see, I need you in perfect shape, and I need you to follow my orders. Do you want the truth? I'm not going to kill you, not if you do everything I tell you to do. You see, I don't murder people for no reason." He paused, and then reached into his pockets, pulling out five strings of thick rope. He threw one of to each of them. "Now I'm telling you to tie this low around your feet, and I will give the reason, it's so you guys won't run. As soon as you guys put them on, I'm going to leave, and I won't even wound anybody. But that's the deal."

"That's ridiculous," Tommy roared. "How do we know you're not a lying psycho? You seem to be fitting the role pretty well. Why the hell should we listen to you?"

The man looked at Tommy with deadpan eyes, then cocked his rifle and suddenly shot Tommy in the thigh.

"OOOOWW!" Tommy screamed, his hands going to his leg wound as he cried out in pain, blood flowing down into the snow. "SON OF A—"

"NOW YOU LISTEN TO ME," the man yelled, over the anguished cries of his girlfriend Alejandra, Kuir, and the others. "YOU ALL HAVE NO CHOICE IN THE MATTER. DO WHAT I TELL YOU, AND I WON'T SIMPLY SHOOT YOU ALL NOW."

There was a quietness again that was periodically interrupted with the painful sobs of Tommy, and then everyone began tying the ropes around their legs.

"Can I please tie Tommy's legs for him?" Alejandra said hoarsely, her voice cracking, fear and misery written all over her face. "Please?"

The stranger waved her off disgustedly. "Oh, quit whining and begging, you stupid little girl. Go ahead and tie the rope for your boyfriend."

When everyone had finished tying the ropes around their legs and they are all sitting down, the man smiled thinly, and then said in a whisper, "I said I wasn't going to kill you, but I didn't tell you something else. You see, I'm going to use you as bait."

There was a long silence, as everyone looked at each other and then looked away, stared at the ground or just zoned out, and Kuir bit his tongue and finally he couldn't stand it any longer. "What are we being used as bait for?"

The man looked up and stared at him. He smiled devilishly. "Ah, at last! I was wondering when you meek lamb were going to ask me about the truth. Fine, I'll tell you the secret. You see, I'm going to tell you about it, but you're not going to live long enough to tell anyone else about it, because when you see it with your own eyes, then you'll believe me." He was speaking rapidly now, in hushed tones. "I gave it my nephews, and then my father's aging body. I killed them and left them for it to use. You see, it only eats people's brains, because it doesn't have one, and it's grown very restless, and it's demanding more and more. The brain is a delicacy to it, kinda like an exotic, juicy fruit. It has a nice taste to it, like sugarcane. Everyone loves sugarcane, it's so sweet. I killed my wife and my daughter and offered it to them, because the All-Knowing One told me that if I made enough sacrifices to it, it would leave me alone. But you see, it hates gunfire. It has sensitive hearing, so even the softest sounds are magnified to a hundredfold to it. Gunfire drives it nuts. So I have been careful. I walked around the village at night, breaking into their doors and slitting everyone's throats with a knife. See, a knife makes a soft sound when cutting into flesh, a very nice sound as the blood spurts out. So you see, I have been very, very careful. I'm so sorry I had to use a rifle against you all, but these things call for some extreme measures. It was my son's rifle, you know, I gave this to him for his birthday, but the All-Knowing One said I had to give up my son to it to save my life, and I did. I had to. It's very hungry, and it's coming for you guys now. Now you know, it runs very fast, but it doesn't like chasing. It gets tired very easily, because it's very heavy. A lot of weight on it, perhaps a ton or more. So that's why I made you tie your feet. Now you can't run away when he comes for you." He grinned at their astonished faces, even enjoying their unspoken anger and feelings of betrayal. "And he's coming very, very soon." He snapped his fingers. "In fact, he's already here." His eyes wavered behind them, and his arms raised up triumphantly. "Behold, I give you, EIRWIGA!"

They all turned their faces behind them in horror, and what they saw made the blood drain from their faces. It was a monster, with a bull's face with the symbol Ʃ plastered on the center of its forehead, with gigantic elf-shaped ears and a huge curving horn on its head, extremely sharp at the end, around which was tied a silver chain, with a pendant that looked like a twisted bone shaped like a spiral. It's grey diamond-shaped pupils stared out at them from large, unblinking eyes, rounded like a fish's. Its teeth were surprisingly blunt like a horse's, but they were long and stretched all the way around its wide jaw. It had bat-like wings as if it was suited for flight. Its body was that of a gorilla's, and it even moved like one, guided mainly on its two legs but using its hands for support. It's fingers were extremely thin, pointed spires that looked deadly. They instantly buried themselves into the ground each step it took, and when the monster lifted its limbs its fingers that were buried, bits of earth and debris spurted up and fell. It was as if its limbs were suction cups that latched themselves to the ground, and dislodged bits of the ground when they came up. It began walking towards them at a slow pace, but each step was menacing, and it drooled from its open, salivating mouth. It stopped then, and stood up straight on its two legs, towering over ten feet tall. Then it began howling in an eerie voice, and beating its hands against its chest, like drumsticks striking a drum.

"That is the ugliest thing I've ever seen," Tern said.

The man laughed one last time. "ENJOY!" he hollered, and began running the other way, as the monster called Eirwiga came down on four legs, causing the earth to tremble around it like a mini-earthquake, and began running towards them. The man had not lied; its speed was astounding, given its huge bulk.

Tommy's heart was hammering, his blood was rushing to his head and he was going crazy, but he had a plan and he knew he had to act fast. He lay down on his belly and began crawling with his arms, just like the army had taught him. He stopped when he was close, and then pounced fiercely on a patch of snow, his hands tearing through the snow and wrapping around the pistol underneath. He grabbed it and stood on his knees, and then aimed, his hands shaking, and pulled the trigger. There was a deafening bang as the bullet went and tore the calf of the man's leg. The man screamed, but the sound was negated with the thunderous howl of the Eirwiga. Tommy closed his ears, and the others did as well. It was like a fire-alarm, only a hundred times louder. As the man fell he turned around with a feverish insanity in his eyes, he aimed his rifle at Tommy and shot.

But Tommy had fallen face-first on the floor accidently, and the bullet tore through Tern's chest and pierced his heart. Tern fell down, lifeless as a doll.

Kuir cried out in shock, but the damage was done. The Eirwiga's howl increased triplefold as if heard another gunshot, and this time it was especially furious. It changed targets and ran full-speed at the stranger.

The man gasped, and tried to run, but now he could not even limp. Tommy had observed the weak foot of the man when he had been limping, and had cunningly shot the other one. The man collapsed on the snow and began to sob hysterically.

Meanwhile Tommy had gotten the Swiss army knife out of his pocket, and rubbed it against his ropes, loosening them. He threw them away, then got up and ran towards Alejandra, Kuir, and Savanna, and began to cut their ropes one by one.

"You planned this all?" Kuir said incredulously.

Tommy grinned. "A soldier's always prepared, bro. There, you're free. Now for your girlfriend."

Kuir stood up, looking at Alejandra, and asked "What do you think we should do now?"

Alejandra smiled. "Tommy has a plan. We'll get out of this."

Kuir nodded, relief filling over him. His eyes fell again on the monster, and he watched as its fingers sliced through the man's body, and as it chomped his head, cracked it open like an egg and devoured the brain inside. He looked away, sickened, and turned to Savanna, who was standing up. He hugged her. "Are you ok?"

"I'm shaken, of course. Terrified. What sort of answer were you looking for there, seriously?"

Kuir smiled thinly, then looked at Tommy. "Do we run?"

Tommy looked at him. "You're kidding, right? This thing will run us down in no time. You saw how fast it got to that maniac. Now you're thinking, go in pairs. Boyfriend and girlfriend. Now that's cute, but it serves no strategic purpose. One gets caught, both get caught. We need to split up. Alejandra and Savanna, you two head in two entirely different directions. You can get the police and get back to your families in due time. Kuir, you too. I need you all gone."

The girls both nodded, and then ran off in separate directions.

Kuir felt himself lost. "But what about you…what are you going to do?"

Tommy looked at him gravely. "Brother, I'm going to finish this."

"No," Kuir said sternly. "Don't. You can't kill that thing, it'll—"

"Who said anything about killing?" Tommy snapped. "Look, just get out of my way and get out of here. I'm going to distract it so you'll all escape." He looked at Kuir's pleading face and stamped his feet. "DAMMIT, DO YOU HAVE A BETTER PLAN? MY LEG HURTS LIKE HELL AND I CAN'T RUN ANYWHERE EVEN IF I COULD, KUIR."

Kuir looked taken aback, then nodded. "At least let me stay with you."

Tommy stared at him. "No way," he said firmly.

Kuir looked at Tommy. "I get it, Tommy. I get why you did the drugs. I've known for some while. You were frustrated, weren't you? "Hey, how's your bro?" "Oh, he's just schizophrenic. Just found out." You were there when I was seeing things, and you knew, you wanted to make it better, but you couldn't. So you used."

Tommy stared at his brother, not knowing what to say. "You can stay," he said hoarsely. "Damn you, you can stay. But don't do anything stupid. And don't worry about me."

Kuir nodded, and saw the Eirwiga sprinting back towards them. They didn't have much time. "It's coming," he said unnecessarily. "Tommy, you only have two bullets left."

"One is all I need. Straight through the heart. Stay back."

Kuir nodded, and stared at the monster again. It was close, almost upon them. Tommy raised his pistol with both hands, his hands shaking, his hand on the trigger. He jerked as the pain in his leg intensified, and as his fingers twitched, he accidently pulled the trigger.

The bullet went and pierced through the chest, right where his heart should have been. The Eirwiga howled both in pain and the noise of the gunshot, and dark blood oozed, but it did not stop.

Tommy's hands were trembling as he handed the gun to Kuir. "A man knows when his end is near. Here, Kuir, finish the job. You know where to aim."

Kuir took it dumbly, and suddenly the Eirwiga leaped and extended a finger. The finger went straight through Tommy's skull, cutting it like bread through butter. It came out on the other end of his head. Tommy fell limply to the ground, his face twisted in terror. Eirwiga chomped down on Tommy's head, devoured his brain. Then it turned towards Kuir.

"TOMMY!" Kuir shouted, and looked at the Eirwiga with seething anger, again raising the pistol, looking for some weak spot. For some reason his pistol pointed straight between the monster's eyes. It would rip right through his skull, and then end his life.

Kuir smiled. "Sayonara, you bastard!" He pulled the trigger.

A dreadful silence. No earsplitting howl. Just the monster, staring with lifeless eyes. Dark blood oozing in rivulets down the hole between its eyes. Kuir grinned. He'd finally done it. He'd killed the Eirwiga.

Then the Eirwiga twitched. Its long fingers came out, and pierced Kuir through the belly. He coughed up blood in surprise, dropping the pistol immediately. The Eirwiga stared at him amusedly, as if laughing at him. And then Kuir understood. He remembered.

His last thoughts were something the man had told him. You see, it only eats people's brains, because it doesn't have one.

Kuir remembered Savanna, and he knew then that both she and Alejandra were going to die. He jerked once, finally, and then lay limply on the snow, as the monster cracked open his head and ate his brain. No one could escape the Eirwiga.