(Excerpt from The Janus Perspective Book 8)
Daybreak. In Pickettsville, this term means that daytime is truly broken. Any unfortunate soul who doesn’t find shelter by sunrise is as good as dead. That would be just about anyone except for Jenn. Kevin feels horrible for hitting her in the head and leaving her back there alone. For all he knows, she might be unconscious, face down in a puddle. She’ll never forgive him for doing that.
But she told me to do it.
She told you to knock out the OTHER Jenn, idiot.
I can’t tell the difference between them.
Despite the conflicting thoughts, Kevin continues toward his destination. Staying on the side of the road, he makes sure he can quickly dart behind a tree if he sees headlights behind him. Anyone driving a car would likely see him first, even in the light drizzle. The best he could hope for is that they mistake him for a shadow creature. Most sane people don’t go out of their way to attack shadow creatures. It usually goes the other way around. At the same time, very little of what people have been doing lately could be called sane.
Jenn’s description of the inside of the clinic sounded like everyone in there suddenly went on a crazed shooting and stabbing spree. At the start of this madness, there were incidents of groups of people killed by mobs of shadows. But what happened at the clinic was something on a whole other level.
Kevin steps into a veil of claustrophobia. It’s as if the night itself suddenly enshrouds him like a tight blanket. He looks around, trying to see if something nearby is the cause of this feeling. Even the crickets decide to grace him with their silence. Kevin slides off the road, gripping the baton tightly. He waits near a tree.
There are no dark phantasms that he can see. Too afraid to turn his light on, he tries peering into the dark woods behind him. He’s well beyond the last building in the office park, so it’s him, the trees, and whatever lurks among them. A swift breeze whips through the branches with a ghostly whistle, blasting his face with a stinging mist. He shudders.
Kevin continues down the road, this time close to the center. He no longer cares if he encounters someone. Maybe a kind soul will stop to offer him a ride. What if it’s Juan, Katt, and Ange?He would have to come up with a plausible reason why he’s walking in the wrong direction without Jenn. Kevin can’t think of a scenario where she would knock him down a steep hill and leave him at the mercy of vicious demons. Even if she really was the other Jenn, she saved his life more than once.
Shit! I need to go back and help her.
As quickly as the thought crystallizes in his head, a noise behind him dissolves it. It sounds like… Jenn?
Kevin turns around to see something moving toward him on the dark road. He can barely make out the white clothing fluttering in the distance. Moving fast. Running. Inhumanly fast. Jenn can’t run like that with an ankle injury.
Not Jenn. It’s…
Kevin’s eyes adjust to the pitch blackness enough to make out the entire outline of the dead girl he found near the cabin. He had nightmares about her a few times, but this is no dream, and she’s no corpse. All of his muscles tense painfully before coordinating into a desperate stride. He doesn’t want to know what will happen if she catches him. As Kevin runs for his life, a pitiful whine escapes his throat, turning into a shrill cry. The baton and flashlight are no longer in his hands. He has no recollection of ever dropping them.
Once Kevin stops screaming and commits to running full speed, he can hear the sound of swift bare feet between his own steps. She’s gaining on him. His chest heaves. Joints ache.
Please don’t let me fall. Please don’t let me fall.
He wants to look behind, but anything that slows him down in the slightest could be fatal. The rain pelts his face with large droplets. Gulping the air feels like trying to breathe syrup.
Kevin rounds a curve before passing a street lamp with an amber glow. He can hear ragged breathing behind him. Then there’s a loud crack like someone breaking a stack of two-by-fours under tremendous pressure. The scream that follows sounds like a thousand devils wailing in agony. Kevin can no longer hear the swift steps. Turning to look, Kevin sees her under the light.
The dim yellow glow creates a green tint on her pale, bluish skin. She’s lying face down on the pavement with her right arm bent in two places that clearly aren’t her elbow. One leg is twisted off to one side while the other is bent completely backward so that it’s pointing skyward. Her knee is hyper-extended so far that it’s almost dangling.
Kevin knows that he should continue running, but he can’t divert his eyes away from her catastrophic injuries. She lifts her head and lets out another deafening scream. Kevin covers his ears. He’s thankful he can’t see her eyes through the strands of damp hair. Jenn was certain this thing was some kind of manifestation of her dead ex-girlfriend Eliese. It’s probably the thing that tore through everyone at the clinic. Yet, seeing her in this broken state arouses a strange feeling of pity.
The only working limb is her left arm. She claws at the ground dragging herself toward Kevin. Her skin peels off against the rough asphalt. As her body passes into the darkness again, something sprouts from the breaks in her arms and legs. It’s difficult to see if they are tentacles or spider-like legs, but they elevate her above the ground. It walks toward him with a jerky motion.
Kevin doesn’t hesitate before breaking into a full stride again. The short breather helped. There’s no way he’s sticking around to see what else sprouts from her body. Kevin pumps his sore legs until he reaches more street lights and signs of the next subdivision. The rain pours in magnificent splashes. Kevin’s lungs are on the verge of exploding. The furious droplets against his raincoat make it impossible to hear whether or not the creature is still behind him. If she’s still pursuing, he lacks the strength or will to run anymore without passing out…