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Part Six

  She had had nightmares about this moment, about her brother burying the blade of his malignant ax in her chest. Its unnatural heat was as intense as she had anticipated, but it took a backseat to the sensation of her veins collapsing on themselves, as though her blood was being pulled from her body drop by drop.

  Rebecca wasn’t sure why she had survived the initial attack, but she was alive.

  For the moment.

* * *

  Stairs proved to be a nasty hindrance to Olivia’s escape, the wound in her leg cruelly reminding her of its presence at every opportunity. The girl couldn’t help but whimper with every step; even supporting herself with the handrail offered only the mildest reprieve in sensation. Her mind tortured her with visions of Morgan grabbing her by the head and violently wrenching it free, her last sight being her newly headless body tumbling down behind her casually discarded skull. No matter how hard she tried, the obsessive thought remained, only growing more twisted and tortuous with every replay.

  When she reached the landing, she hazarded a glance back at the stairwell dotted with her blood. Above her thundering heartbeat, the steady clomp of the firefighter’s boots filled the air. She doubted he’d attempt to run her down with her bleeding, not when he thought she was at his mercy.

  She hoped, anyway.

* * *

  Rebecca found the strength to get her hands on the ax’s handle, but that was as far as it could take her. Wrapping her fingers limply around the grip ultimately resulted in only the faintest push, upon which the woman’s nerves protested.

  She lacked the ability to even cry out, instead dropping her arms to the floor.

  The woman didn’t know what disturbed her more: her sudden inability to vocalize her discomfort or the exhaustion that seemed to creep up her body in a cold embrace.

* * *

  Olivia stumbled into the geoscience room, heavily nursing her bleeding leg. Caving briefly to the pain, she threw herself against the door when it closed, bracing herself upright long enough to catch her breath. With gritted teeth, she seized the first aid kit from off the teacher’s desk and limped as quickly as she could to the one of the heavy lab tables near the rear of the room. Shivering in the breeze infiltrating the building, the girl settled onto the floor against a cabinet underneath the black tabletop, obscuring her from the main door. Placing the pikepole down in easy reach, she opened the first aid kit.

  Wincing, she peeled up her pant leg and went about wrapping the wound. Even as she worked, fresh blood seeped onto the floor and into her drenched sock. Occasionally, she would cast a glance at the door behind her, grateful that she had been right and that Morgan was enjoying his time as deliberate hunter.

  In the final stretch, she focused on finishing the work on her bandage. With shaking, desperate fingers, she taped the material in place. Satisfied, she grabbed her weapon and stood up only to throw herself immediately back down again, hand clamped on her mouth to stop the scream of shock.

  Morgan had infiltrated the classroom silently, somehow even masking the sense of bleakness he carried with him.

  Tears stung at the girl’s eyes as she pressed herself against the table’s lower cabinets, wishing she could will herself to be smaller and her breathing quieter. She wondered if it was possible that he didn’t see her, that some merciful kindness had taken pity on her and allowed her one grace.

  Carefully, slowly, Olivia tilted her head and peered out into the darkened room from her position. She couldn’t see anyone. Her eyes darted across the shadows dancing among the desks, and after convincing herself that she had just imagined the malefactor’s presence, she uncovered her mouth and returned to resting against the cabinet.

  That’s when the hand clamped around her head.

  She was pulled into the air, dropping the pikepole in her panic. Dragged across the surface of the desk, she was released when her head protruded just over the edge and left dangling above the floor.

  Morgan was reaching back to plunge his hand down against her neck, seeking to decapitate her in one blow. Sensing the impending aggression rather than accurately divining the intent, a spike of adrenaline coursed through her veins and she threw herself off the side of the table, rolling onto the floor and knocking the wind out of her. In the same instant, a chunk of the table was torn free and sent clattering to the ground.

  Scrambling to turn away from her attack and get upright at the same time, Olivia was caught in the attempt and dragged down to the floor. She screamed as her hands fought to get purchase on the tiling. Instead, she found the handle of the pikepole and clamped her hand around it.

  The killer released her and took wide steps over her. Olivia flipped onto her back and plunged the hook into Morgan’s kneecap, his intimidating form immediately buckling in on itself with a gurgled roar. The girl took the opportunity to rise and try to run, only to have her foot snagged by the predator. Again, she was brought to the ground. She looked at firefighter.

  Glistening in the dark was fresh bone where his jaw had only just been removed. Charred flesh—red and dripping with ichor—spider-webbed across its surface. He was healing.

  She kicked out once, feeling something hard and slick crunch underneath her shoe. The second blow was met by the bone buckling completely under the assault, and she was released. This time, she was able to get out of the room.

* * *

  She couldn’t feel the heat anymore.

  The pain had died down into a dull throb.

  Wasn’t that a good thing?

  She honestly couldn’t remember.

* * *

  In her panic, Olivia shoved open the door to the girls’ bathroom and pushed the door shut. She backed into the large room, keeping her eyes fixed to the pale wood illuminated by safety lighting. The girl would not pry her eyes away until she was sure that Morgan wouldn’t smash his way in and tear her to pieces.

  When the immediate sense of panic died into a generalized uneasiness, she found herself gazing at a glisten smear of some dark liquid on the floor. Her earlier dread resumed in earnest as she realized that it was her blood. In a frenzy, she fell to the ground and yanked off her shoe, her blood-soaked sock the ultimate culprit of the trail she had left behind. Half-choking on tears, she peeled it off and prepared to throw it into the trash when she stopped.

  It was still tacky.

  Heart in her throat, she set to work smearing what she could on the interior of the stalls before locking the door and shimmying underneath the partitions to repeat the process. She managed to mark three of the stalls before running out of the bait. Even the blood on her bare foot had either dried or found a new home on the tile beneath her tread. She wadded up the sock and tossed it in the far corner of the room.

  She left the bloodied shoe behind with its cleaner mate before unlocking the door and slipping into the hall. Sidling down the hall as quickly as she could, she pushed herself away from her earlier trajectory, trying to create a safe distance between her and the blood trail. The moment she reached the intersection, she threw herself around the wall and slid down its surface. Eyes closed, she counted to ten before allowing herself to rejoin reality.

  The hall she found herself in appeared to be empty, inspiring her to look back from whence she came. It, too, was devoid of movement. Nevertheless, she waited.

  When Morgan glided like a ghost around the corner, Olivia fought to keep herself from instinctively withdrawing around the corner and thus drawing attention. The killer’s head was low, his gait limping. He appeared to be staring straight ahead, but with a sudden stop that betrayed some other means to sense the world, he ceased his forward momentum. After a moment of consideration, he turned into the cubby holding the restrooms and stopped again. His gloved hand played over the woodened surface, reveling in the hunt, before he gingerly pushed. However he had managed it, the hinges squeaked in protest—he appeared to want to further strike panic into cornered quarry.

  Olivia pushed her head back against the wall and looked at the ceiling. “What do I do, what do I do, what do I fucking do?” she asked in a whisper, fighting the urge to cry. “Okay, okay, okay, you bought yourself time,” she consoled. A loud bang from the bathroom, though slightly obscured, made her jump. Quickly, she pushed herself up the wall and charged down the hall. “He rebounds from injury,” she muttered to herself. “Hit him all at once,” she said looking over her shoulder at another muffled bang.

  She broke into a full run. “Chemistry rooms,” she decided.

* * *

  She wondered if the girl was okay.

  “Olivia,” she muttered, but it wasn’t necessarily something she had intended to say.

  Never the less, it gave her something to hang onto while her limbs went numb and her head lolled to the side.

* * *

  The crash that followed was less muffled and more echoing, continuing with a thumping clatter that spoke of a door torn from its hinges. Her ruse had been discovered, and Olivia feared that Morgan dropped the pretense of shambling speed in favor of his apparent serial killer teleportation when out of sight. The girl fumbled with the master key as she leaned against the chemistry room’s front door. Her struggle was punctuated with quick glances around the hall, but the fireman did not appear before the key finally behaved and the door swung open.

  She shut the door and ran to the rear of the classroom, between the heavy lab tables that every science room possessed, and stopped at the wall of chemicals. They were sequestered behind a pane of thin glass, but at this point such things did not seem particularly intimidating. “Come on,” she said to herself as her eyes flitted over labels unimpressive or incomprehensible. “Come on!”

  She glanced back at the empty class room before resuming her perusal of the chemicals. “It’s not enough,” she hissed in a panic. Her eyes fell upon a large plastic bottle of isopropyl, nested between a variety of medium-sized beakers and reasonably large flasks. She reasoned that she could create a Molotov cocktail provided that she could get a wick and a lighter, but that seemed to be a tall order in a school devoid of occupants.

  She cast another glance back at the main door, heart slamming hard enough against her chest to make her arms quake. Before she could return to her search, her eyes fell on a curious protrusion on the surface of the lab desks. She double checked—all of them had one of the nozzles, their pointed spigots giving the impression of a tiny, sharp-beaked bird poking their heads out of a hole.

  They were gas lines.

  The half-finished thought finally completed itself, and she swept toward the nearest gas output. Hands fumbling with the valve, she twisted it open only to find that it remained silent.

  Her eyes again went to the back of the room. In the corner, a heavy door suggested an answer beyond. She ran to it and found that its lock responded to the master key. The room beyond was dark and narrow, but a door at the end led to the hallway. Cabinets and loose supplies lined the room.

  Olivia remembered the phone in her back pocket and withdrew it. Despite a newly acquired crack, it functioned. She turned on the flashlight function and swept it through the room. Beside the eye washing station was a pile of safety lighters, each still in their packaging. Beyond that was a valve marked with both “Caution” and “Master Gas Line”. A dirty cloth smock hung next to a heavier, flame-resistant peer on a hook near the hallway exit.

  She picked up a lighter and tore open the package, lightly slicing her hand in the process. She placed the lighter in the basin of the eye washing station before yanking the smock from the wall. Returning to the main classroom, she opened the lab tables’ remaining gas lines. Next, she fumbled with the phone and found the voice recorder.

  “Please no, please no,” she whispered into the recorder, watching the visualization spike with the sound of her voice. She turned to the far glass cabinet door which held the isopropyl and beakers. She shut off the recorder and slid the phone back into her pocket. She wrapped her hand in the smock and smashed the glass, wincing at the sound.

* * *

  At some point, Rebecca realized she had either died or fallen asleep for brief moments.

  The tell was that, when she was awake, she had grown unable to feel much of anything.

  When she died, however, the sense of dread that Morgan carried with him seemed to smother her more viciously than it ever had.

  It inspired her to cling tighter to what time she had left.

* * *

  She collected the bottle, a beaker, and a shard of glass before slipping back into the side room. The phone was again in her hand, and she selected the sound file, forced it to repeat, and turned the follow up loud enough to be audible but soft enough not to arouse suspicion. Setting the phone on the floor, she slid it back into the classroom, the plastic clattering against the lab table’s cabinet. Finally, she eased the door mostly shut, but kept it open just a bit by jamming her remaining sock between the door and the jamb.

  Olivia turned on the gas lines before returning to the door. Splitting her attention between the classroom and her work, she sliced off a hefty chunk of the smock with the blade of glass. Afterwards, she filled the beaker up with most of the bottle of isopropyl before jamming the cloth into beaker’s neck.

  A startling bang announced Morgan’s arrival, though Olivia kept her panic quiet. Through the crack, she saw the killer had torn the main door off its hinges. The firefighter surveilled the classroom before resuming his stalking pace, confidence that he had pinned his prey for good this time.

  Quietly, Olivia rose and took her incendiary grenade with her. She pulled the safety lighter out of the basin and quietly opened the door at the back of the room, slipping quietly into the hallway.

  She kept low as she returned to the classroom’s main door, passing under the rear entrance’s window so as not to draw attention. In position, she leaned ever-so-slightly into the room. Back to her, Morgan approached the sound of the phone while tapping the pikepole against his open palm. She hefted the Molotov cocktail in one hand and sunk the lighter into the cloth, pressing the trigger.

  The first click didn’t produce a fire.

  Morgan lunged forward in an attempt to shock what he thought was Olivia.

  The second click failed.

  The firefighter retrieved the phone from the ground.

  The third click made a spark, but little else.

  With a crunch, the phone was destroyed.

  The fourth click made the cloth wick burst into flame.

  Morgan heard this.

  By the time Olivia swung around the corner, brandishing her weapon, Morgan had cut the distance impossibly fast. Her appearance with the flaming Molotov made him slow, his supernatural speed suddenly more concerned with anticipating the coming attack. With a scream of rage, the girl threw the beaker at the killer.

  She didn’t wait to see what he would do, opting to sprint out of the room the moment the Molotov was on its way.

  Morgan intercepted the bomb with the pikepole, spraying the flammable liquid in an arc that almost immediately burst into brilliance. The fire spread as the cloth continued its own pyrotechnic journey, shards of glass glinting in the orange glow. Ultimately, the disparate fires spread into the nearest pocket of spreading gas, engulfing the room in a series of deafening explosions.

  Olivia was nowhere near far enough away to escape being blown off of her feet and tossed into a wall like a rag doll. The girl collapsed to the floor, ears ringing and body feeling like it had been mulched by the force of it all. Weakly, she picked her head up to watch as Morgan, covered in writhing and hungry flames, stumbled out of the wreckage of the chemistry lab. He did not get very far before he collapsed and let the fire eat away at him.

  She wanted to fall asleep, to pass out and never wake up, but something compelled the girl to get to her feet. With legs that had turned to jelly, Olivia pulled herself along the wall. She only knew the fire alarm was screeching was due to the vibration she felt in her chest as she passed directly beneath one, information she would have found upsetting had she possessed the energy to care.

* * *

  Rebecca did not feel the explosion. Instead, she saw a brief burst of light at the edge of her vision, a flicker that only superficially—and much too briefly—fought back the impenetrable fog clouding her senses. Despite the world being mostly incoherent and unintelligible, the illumination stirred within her something that felt a little like hope.

  “Oliv…”

  She had wanted to say more, but her will had simply run out.

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