Home > Gun Shy(3)

Gun Shy(3)
Author: Lili St. Germain

Karen was the girl who’d already had three abortions.

Karen was trouble. Karen was in trouble.

But Karen wasn’t in trouble anymore.

Because Karen was fucking dead.

“Pike, get that fucking rope down here, man, hurry!” I begged.

I know I’d said the smell wasn’t so bad in the well, but that was before I’d seen what the smell was. Now, it crawled inside my nostrils. It laid a home on my tongue. It burrowed into my cheeks.

And then I remembered that I’d drank the water.

I’d drank dead Karen water. Dead girl juice.

I gagged violently, one hand up against the wall. I was terrified — of what, I’m not sure. She was already dead, after all. She was hardly going to hurt me.

Something brushed up against my face and I yelled again, jerking my head away from where the sensation had originated. My heart leaped when I saw the rope, a crudely fashioned bar attached to it to wrap your legs around while you got hoisted up or down.

I grabbed that rope for dear life. “Pull me up!” I yelled. The rope started to jerk almost immediately as Pike wound it up above. Relief flooded my body, right through to the marrow in my bones, and I closed my eyes momentarily as I took a proper breath.

But the rope was frayed, and I was heavy.

The rope snapped.

I fell.

The fall ended just as quickly as it had begun when I slammed face-first into what was left of Karen. I screamed without opening my mouth, my eyes level with hers, a tiny worm making a hole in her face to burrow into.

Her eyes had some kind of cloudy film over them, like my grandfather’s eyes when he’d developed cataracts, but it was still as if she were watching me through the dirty windows of the beyond. I pushed away, heaving my body up and sticking to the opposite wall.

I’d lost the flashlight in my fall. My eyes slowly adjusted to the dark at the bottom of the well, Karen’s face coming into grainy focus. I stared at the milky blue-white of her dead eyes until the sheriff arrived and hoisted me out with a winch.

Something changed in me while I was down there. Some part of me died with Karen, sucked out of me and into her unseeing eyes. I still remember now, years later, the way I laughed at Cassie before I went over to the well. How light I felt. How easy it was to breathe.

I don’t laugh much anymore.

Once I was finally at the surface, I ran as far away from the well as I could get. Cass tried to touch me, but I pushed her away, pushed Pike away, falling to my hands and knees in the dirt. I leaned over, the sight of her on a constant loop inside my head. Karen. Dead. Her blood in the fucking water.

Her blood inside me.

I stuck a finger down my throat and gagged. Nothing came up. Fuck, no. I wasn’t going to go on until I had the water that I’d just drank OUT of my body.

I stuck two fingers down, further, and threw up all over the grass. That strange, metallic taste returned to my mouth, masked by bitter stomach acid.

Dead girl juice. It took me months before I stopped tasting her in my mouth.

A bunch of kids found the other half of her floating in Gun Creek a few hours later.

My friend, Chase Thomas, was one of the kids who saw her lower parts, wedged underneath a grille in the water intake pipe that fed the whole town, legs dancing lazily in the current.

For a long time afterward, people were talking about how strange it was that Chase and I had found a half of Karen each.

How convenient.

Almost like they thought we killed her.

 

 

CASSIE

 

 

NINE YEARS AGO

 

 

I’d only seen a dead person once before. My grandfather. Even then, it was after the funeral home had done their magic, embalmed him, taken away the pale death and made him look like he was simply sleeping. White-haired and fragile, he was like a life-sized china doll, laid neatly in his coffin with his fishing hat and thick-rimmed glasses. It was only when I touched his hand that I felt his death. So, to me, death was cold. Death was waxen cheeks and liver spots, grey hair and wrinkled skin.

But when I saw Karen — or what was left of her, that part of her — death stopped being cold. Death became a savage thing; it became fresh and cloying and violent.

Death became our living nightmare.

Leo, he had it the worst. For weeks, he couldn’t drink anything without gagging. Said all he could taste was Karen. The only thing that could wash her away was whiskey or vodka, any spirit that burned as it went down.

So he drank, and he stayed in his room, and for weeks he couldn’t even look me in the eye, let alone touch me.

I still loved him. I always loved him. But Leo Bentley was never the same sweet boy after he came out of that well.

 

 

THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

CASSIE

 

 

NOW


I am a girl with a darkness inside me.

 

* * *

 

Carefully placed. Cleverly concealed.

 

* * *

 

A darkness that could devour you.

 

* * *

 

One hand on a cold pane of glass, watching the snow fall outside. It’s pitch-black out here, far away from bright city lights. You can’t see a goddamned thing. You can only feel fingers digging into your hips, hot and insistent, a tug of hair, a smack of skin, and the snowflakes as they fall through the weak pool of light that the porch light illuminates below. And the pain. He’s not gentle when he uses me to satisfy his want.

I think he likes it like this, up on the bed, against the window, as if somebody might see. But nobody could ever possibly see. It’s too dark. No streetlights. No houses for a clear half-mile in every direction.

 

* * *

 

Just us, and the silence, and the darkness.

 

* * *

 

And the snowflakes, steady as they fall, through that yellow beam below.

 

* * *

 

You could never count them all. One blink and you’d miss some. One sharp stab of pain that drives your face into the mattress, and you’d miss plenty.

 

* * *

 

And that’s the point, I suppose. You keep counting. You watch the snow fall, and you count every snowflake your eyes can catch until it’s finally over.

 

The darkness wasn’t always there. I was bright and shiny once. There was no tarnish at my edges, no very bad thing that existed inside me. I had a mother, and a boyfriend, and a life. I was loved. I had plans and goals and aspirations.

 

* * *

 

One moment and they were all gone.

 

* * *

 

I know what you’ll think after you hear my story.

You’ll think I went mad when I saw Leo being burned alive, or when I gazed down at my comatose mother in the hospital after, as words like brain swelling and head-on collision drifted through the air, meant for me but headed somewhere beyond.

 

* * *

 

Or maybe, maybe, you’ll think it was during that first time, on the kitchen floor, a tangle of limbs, palm pressed against desperate lips, fingers squeezing wrists until it felt like they would snap.

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