To read the first story of this series, click here.

This was a nightmare.

It wasn’t even the kind of nightmare that involved running away from something, because Kari definitely would have run away if she could. Oh no, this was the kind of nightmare that made other nightmares look like cute, fluffy bunny rabbits. This is what happens when your luck turns. Shit.

Not only was she surrounded by cannibals, not only was she back to back with an enemy, but she now got to watch as bloodthirsty monsters shambled from behind trees, closing in on the whole company. I really should have just turned myself in. It would have been easier.

Her left arm still burned, blood oozing from the wound and seeping beneath her coat. She grasped her knife for all she was worth, her eyes darting from one person to another. Danielle and the man that Kari had decided to dub “Yellow Eyes” were grouped together, one of the creatures already at their feet. Kari quickly dismissed them; they’d be busy dealing with more before long.

Thing One and Thing Two were another matter entirely. They still circled her and Tattoo Guy, despite the outward threat. She wondered briefly if they consciously thought that they stood a chance, or if they were just stupid. Let’s be honest. It’s probably the latter.

Kari held up her dagger, watching the twins carefully in their mismatch clothing, waiting for them to attack. This isn’t going to end well.

She sensed rather than saw Tattoo Guy tense. She heard the clash of blades behind her, an indrawn breath. Then she heard his whisper, “Don’t have any more of those explosives, do you?”

If only. Kari gritted her teeth, whispering back, “No. Used the last ones up on you and the girl. I’m going to have to get resupplied.”

Thing Two paused in front of her and Kari tensed. Suddenly, he darted forward and slashed first at her face, then toward her stomach. Kari jerked to one side, narrowly avoiding the blade as it slid past her, nicking the leather of her coat. This is getting ridiculous. Enough is enough. Kari held up her own blade, watching the boy. It was time to go on the offensive.

“Terk. Dur. Enough! We need to go back! Now!” Yellow Eyes’ shout cut through the forest. Immediately, Thing One and Thing Two backed away from them, circling around and moving toward Danielle and her companion.

Time to go. Kari glanced at the surrounding trees as she took a few steps away from Tattoo Guy. If she could get a good head start then…

She felt her stomach turn as ice flowed through her veins, threatening to keep her fixed in one position, staring. Kari swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the sour spit that had suddenly filled her mouth as she realized what had truly happened.

They were surrounded. White faces stared from behind almost every tree. Rotten teeth gnashed against one another, pustule-covered limbs dragged themselves across dead leaves, yellowed, cracked nails reached toward them as the creatures drew ever closer. Kari spun around, her heart pounding harder. No, no, no. This can’t be happening. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Tattoo Guy raising his sword as if expecting an imminent attack.

There was a gurgling wail, a sound that no living thing could make. Kari jerked her head toward the noise just in time to one of the creatures sprint and launch itself on top of Thing One. The boy gave a startled cry, stabbing with his knife as he fell to the ground. The creature was suddenly clawing at him, ripping at his face as Thing Two rushed toward them and stabbed the creature several times through the head. The monster fell limp and Thing One rolled it off of him, getting to his feet. Kari could see that blood trickled down his face. Danielle and Yellow Eyes were stabbing other creatures that got too close, their faces unreadable under their hoods as they slowly backed away toward the direction of the metal house.

Tatoo Guy’s face suddenly blocked her view as he shifted in front of her. His green eyes watched her coolly and Kari’s grip tightened on her knife. No way is he taking me now.

“We need to use this opportunity to get out of here.”

Kari stared at him for a moment, examining the blonde stubble on his chin rather than looking into his eyes, “I’m sorry. You seem to have some misconception about how this works. You’re supposed to chase me and I’m supposed to get away.”

To his credit, Tattoo Guy didn’t look phased, “You seem to have the misconception that you can get out of here alive without my help.” As if to illustrate his point, a low moaning started. Kari winced; one of the restless had probably spotted its prey.

He has a point. Kari tore her gaze away from him toward the approaching white faces. She gritted her teeth and then glanced back at him, “Fine, but just so you know, I don’t usually let a guy get this far on a first date.”

Tattoo Guy didn’t look amused. There’s always a critic. Instead, he turned toward the nearest tree, sheathing his blade as he took a quick glance to Danielle and the others. Another creature had assaulted them, teeth gnashing as they hacked it to pieces. Kari shuddered as pieces of wet flesh plopped to the ground.

Tattoo Guy seemingly sized up the tree before kneeling down, lacing his fingers together. He glanced toward her, his face still impassive, “Step on, I’ll give you a boost.”

Kari merely stared at him, “Hiding up a tree isn’t going to allow us to get away.”

Tattoo Guy didn’t respond. Kari heaved a sigh and sheathed her dagger. Hopefully this guy knows what he’s doing. She grabbed Tattoo Guy’s shoulder; it felt warm against the chill of the night. She then placed one boot into his hand and suddenly found herself rocketing upward. Quickly, she grabbed the nearest branch and pulled herself upward, shimmying into position as stray leaves fell down from her passing.

From her perch, she could see how bad things really were. The forest was swarming with them, all converging on their location. No wonder the guy decided we should hide in a tree. She glanced toward Danielle and her group, and nearly gasped out a warning.

They had been backed into a thicket. The twins were hacking and slashing at anything that got close, but it was a losing battle, even Kari could see that. One creature lunged toward Yellow Eyes with a gurgling snarl. Thing Two stabbed it in the forehead as blood spattered across the forest floor. In the distance, Kari could see at least fifteen more approaching them, surrounding them. They’re not going to make it out alive. She felt a wrenching feeling in her gut. Even they didn’t deserve that.

The sound of a blade being drawn made her jerk her head back to Tattoo Guy. He was backed against the tree. She had just enough time to see two creatures spring at him with their unnatural gait, their faces torn back into snarls. Tattoo Guy crouched and stepped to the side as one of the creature’s lashed out with its sharpened nails. He then swung his sword at the second monster, neatly decapitating it with a spray of blood. The first creature howled, a sound that made the hairs stand up on the back of her neck. It lunged at him, teeth snapping. Kari saw Tattoo Guy’s eyes widen as he stabbed his blade through the thing’s mouth and out the back of its head. There was a sickening crack, then the creature fell still. He lifted his foot and pushed it against the creature’s chest, dislodging it from his sword.

Kari swallowed hard, noting that she wouldn’t be able to fight her way out later, “You coming up or what?”

Tattoo Guy didn’t respond. As usual. He wiped his blade off on the tatters of the creature’s clothing before sheathing it. He then turned, jumping and grabbing a branch next to Kari’s swinging himself upward with practiced ease.

He looked at her for a moment in the darkness before gesturing toward the next tree. “I hope you’re good at jumping.”


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