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datatime: 2022-09-26 03:51:33 Author:iTufnRha

"That way." He jerked his head toward the woods, then began to uncap the plastic jugs with rapidly reddening fingers. The animal was still kicking violently. The man stood up, pulled his rifle out of the snow and began to smash the animal's skull in with the weapon's butt. It took a minute to finish, but then the beast made a muffled, moaning sound, trembled and lay still. "I didn't think anybody else would be coming this way," the man said. "Thought everybody was long gone by now." He knelt again next to the body, took a knife with a long, curved blade from a pouch at his belt and cut a slit in the gray underbelly. The blood gouted. He reached for one of the plastic jugs and held it beneath the stream; the blood pattered merrily in, rapidly filling up the jug. He capped it, put it aside and reached for another as Sister and Artie watched with sickened fascination. "Thought everybody else must be dead by now," he continued, paying close attention to his work. "Where are you two from?"

"I know," the man replied, but he offered nothing more. "Lady," he said, "start opening those Tupperware bowls for me, will you?"

"Yeah, I think so." She had bruises on bruises, but nothing was broken.

Sister did, about to choke on the coppery smell of blood. He wiped his hands on the beast's hide and then slid the two jugs back on the cord and retied the knot; he put his gloves back on, returned the knife to its pouch and the filled Tupperware containers to his pack, and then rose to a standing position. "You two got any guns?"

He grunted, glanced at her and then went back to his task. The stream of blood was weakening. "Long way to walk," he said. "Hell of a long way, especially for nothing."

The wounded animal fell on its side a few feet away from Sister, its legs kicking frantically. She sat up, stunned and dumbfounded, and saw Artie struggling to rise, too. His feet went out from under him, and he flopped down again.

He reached up into the severed head, and the brains plopped into the big bowl.

"Oh. Right. Yeah." Artie watched the guts being stuffed into brightly colored Tupperware bowls. "No. I mean... I think you hit him, but he let me go and ran off."

"We came from Manhattan," Sister told him. "We're on our way to Detroit."

"The other one I shot at. I think you'll remember that it was chewing on your arm."

"You can put the lids on now," he said.

Sister did, about to choke on the coppery smell of blood. He wiped his hands on the beast's hide and then slid the two jugs back on the cord and retied the knot; he put his gloves back on, returned the knife to its pouch and the filled Tupperware containers to his pack, and then rose to a standing position. "You two got any guns?"

He reached up into the severed head, and the brains plopped into the big bowl.

A figure wearing a dark green ski mask, a beat-up brown leather jacket and blue jeans glided past Sister. He had on snowshoes laced around battered boots, and slung around his neck was a cord that pierced the necks of three empty plastic jugs, knotted at the ends to keep them from sliding off. On his back was a dark green hiker's pack, a bit smaller than the ones Sister and Artie carried.

"Yeah, I think so." She had bruises on bruises, but nothing was broken.

"Get away, you bastard" she shouted. The animal jerked her so hard she thought her leg had popped from its socket. With a scream of rage, Sister swung the duffel bag at it, clipping its snout, and the thing turned tail. But a second later another one was straddling her, its fangs snapping for her throat; she threw her arm up, and the jaws clamped onto it with brutal force. The wolf-dog started shredding the cloth of her coat. She swung her left fist at it, caught it in the ribs and heard it grunt, but it kept tearing through the coat, now reaching the first layer of sweater. Sister knew this sonofabitch wasn't stopping until he tasted meat. She hit it again and tried to wrench free, but now something had her ankle again and was pulling her in another direction. She had the crazy mental image of saltwater taffy being stretched until it snapped.

"Uh... Detroit," Artie managed to say.

"That way." He jerked his head toward the woods, then began to uncap the plastic jugs with rapidly reddening fingers. The animal was still kicking violently. The man stood up, pulled his rifle out of the snow and began to smash the animal's skull in with the weapon's butt. It took a minute to finish, but then the beast made a muffled, moaning sound, trembled and lay still. "I didn't think anybody else would be coming this way," the man said. "Thought everybody was long gone by now." He knelt again next to the body, took a knife with a long, curved blade from a pouch at his belt and cut a slit in the gray underbelly. The blood gouted. He reached for one of the plastic jugs and held it beneath the stream; the blood pattered merrily in, rapidly filling up the jug. He capped it, put it aside and reached for another as Sister and Artie watched with sickened fascination. "Thought everybody else must be dead by now," he continued, paying close attention to his work. "Where are you two from?"

"You run out of gas? Have a blowout?"

She heard a sharp crack followed closely by a third. The wolf-dog that had her ankle shuddered and shrieked, and Sister saw blood spewing from a hole in its side. The animal let her go and began to spin in a circle, snapping at its tail. A fourth shot rang out-Sister realized the beast had been pierced by a bullet-and she heard an agonized howling over where Artie Wisco lay. Then the others were fleeing, slipping and sliding and crashing into one another in their haste to escape. They were gone from sight within five seconds.

"You don't know that"

The wounded animal fell on its side a few feet away from Sister, its legs kicking frantically. She sat up, stunned and dumbfounded, and saw Artie struggling to rise, too. His feet went out from under him, and he flopped down again.

"We came from Manhattan," Sister told him. "We're on our way to Detroit."

"You run out of gas? Have a blowout?"

She did as he asked, and he started pulling out handfuls of bloody, steaming intestines. He chopped them up and began filling the bowls. "Did I get that other bastard?" he asked Artie.

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