> Back Issues > Issue II > Hermy's Run II

Hermy's Run II: The Awakening

by Brad Beard

Ten year old Christine knelt down and picked up the remaining kernels of dog food on the floor of the shed. She stood and dropped them into the bowl she held in the other hand and backed out of the shed through its low door. The sound of barking and whining dogs was in the air and she shook her head at their pleas. Shoving the door shut with a prod from her knee she turned toward the runs. The dogs leapt and cried at her but most had already been fed, despite their claims of hunger. Her eyes fell on one of the runs and she grimaced ever so slightly. This had been Hermy's run. The dog had been one of her favorites until the day it had turned on her mother. Her mother now was confined to a nursing home, an invalid. The event had left a scar in her memory that ran deep. The events following her mother's injury were even more chilling. Merna Gatarmi, now a good friend of Christine's, had then warned her that the dog was evil and that its bite was more than simply infectious. Merna insisted to this day that the dog's bite had robbed its victims of their very souls. The dog had been shot to death by Pat Wilson, the sheriff. Christine had believed Merna back then and still pondered the truth of what the psychic palm reader claimed. But the time had gotten on and a year had passed and it seemed that her mother was simply lost in a nearly comatose state. Hermy had bitten three others as well, three men. Two were veterinarians and one had been the deputy serving under Sheriff Wilson. They too had gone into the odd comatose states in which they were awake, yet strangely devoid of consciousness. Christine arrived at her destination and shoved the bowl of food through the slot at the bottom of the gate of the run. The dog dug in greedily, wagging its tale.

A movement caught her eye and she stood up straight to peer down the slope at the road. Her father's car flashed in the sun and dust billowed up from its tires. Christine's eyebrows rose as she realized the speed at which the car was traveling. That was very unlike her father. She turned back toward the drive at a walk but then began to jog as the bearing of the car spoke of urgency. Christine reached the drive a moment after the car came to a halt and was enveloped by the grey cloud of dust that had been racing after it. The passenger door popped open and her father spoke urgently.

"Christine, get in. Hurry. We're going to the nursing home. Mom is awake."

Christine frowned and then her mouth fell open. The cloud of dust blew away from her and she burst out. "She's awake? You mean she knows who she is? She remembers?"

"Yes, yes," demanded her father. "Get in."

Christine leapt into the passenger seat and her father accelerated, bringing the door slamming shut. With out care for the tire marks he was making, he turned the car in a wide circle over the grassy field. Once on the road, he shoved the accelerator down and they shot off down the road, leaving dust from the gravel drive in a long tailing cloud.

Once at the nursing home, the two jumped from the erratically parked car and ran for the door, Christine beating her father there by only inches. They burst in and the receptionist had no time for even an 'excuse me' as they ran by toward the well-known room of Marla Dapple. They came to the door and slowed their speed to a jog and entered. There sat Marla Dapple on the chair by her bed. She looked up at them with full awareness in her eyes. Christine waited a moment for her mother to speak but her mother's face did not change.

"Mom?" breathed Christine in a voice that told of a mountain of restrained emotions buried very close to the surface.

Marla Dapple's face then broke into a wide smile. "Darling," she beamed.

Christine ran to her mother and threw her arms around her.

"Oh you're so strong," her mother said with her mouth muffled against Christine's shoulder. "Where's the rest of the family?"

"Huh?" uttered Christine. "It's just me and dad. Gosh, we're going to have to catch up on so much."

Kevin Dapple came forward and Marla stood. She looked at him expectantly and he put his arms around her.

"Oh, you've missed me haven't you?" said Marla returning his squeeze.

"You don't know, said Kevin. "Let's get you out of here. Let's go home. That's where YOU belong.

"Oh, yes," said Marla. "I do want to leave here."

Christine hugged them both and they stood together for a long moment.

Hours later Christine sat in the kitchen of her parents house and smiled to herself. Her parents had insisted on time to themselves and she did not mind. It was good to have her mother back, even if she did need to be reminded of her own daughter's name. Other than getting her mind back into the present, she was fine, a smiling, happy woman. Christine thought of whom she could tell and her mind flashed to Merna Gatarmi and Sheriff Wilson, whom she was now allowed to call Pat. She would call Pat first. Then afterwards she could have a long, warm talk with Merna. She picked up the phone and called the small, meagerly manned police station of the town. The phone rang only once before it was picked up.

"Sheriff's office, Sheriff Wilson speaking," came the man's voice from the other end.

"Pat," beamed Christine. "Guess what? My mom is O.K. She remembers who she is and she's already home."

"What?" returned Pat in amazement. "Really?"

"Yes," said Christine, bobbing in her seat. "They released her from the nursing home. She's recovered."

"That's fantastic," replied Pat. "I can't believe it. That's such good news. I think about your mother and Alan all the time."

"It's great," laughed Christine. "We can all be happy again."

In front of Sheriff Wilson the light signaling another incoming call flashed.

"Christine, I'm getting another call. I'm going to have to take it," he said with disappointment.

"O.K. Pat," she said. "I just wanted to tell you the good news. Have a good night."

"Goodnight," Pat returned.

Pat Wilson pushed the flashing light in front of him and spoke. "Hello, Sheriff Wilson speaking."

"Ah, good," said the woman on the other end. "This is Sunrise Rehabilitation Center. We have some good news for you."

Pat's mouth fell partially open as he prepared to hear the unbelievable.

The woman continued, "Alan Parker has recovered. He has recovered in full. If I read things correctly, you just might have your deputy back in the saddle in no time at all. He's headed for your town right now as a matter of fact."

Pat held the phone and said nothing. His mind reeled at the thought of Marla Dapple and Alan Parker both recovering on the same day.

"Are you there, Sheriff Wilson?" came the woman's voice.

"Yes, of course." said Pat. "That's wonderful news."

"I've got to run, Sheriff," she said. "I hope you have a nice reunion. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," Pat returned without conviction.

Pat sat at his desk with a deep frown. Alan recovered. Marla Dapple recovered. That was quite a coincidence.

"Is there something wrong?" asked his deputy from across the room.

Pat looked over at the man whom he had hired in Alan's place a year ago. The young man smiled back with his ever-present grin.

"I have a job for you Martin," said Pat. "Do you remember the vet and his assistant that had the same affliction that Alan did?"

"You bet I do," replied Martin from behind his desk. "Those guys gave me the spooks."

"I want you to find them and see how their doing." said Pat. "I want you to do it now, if you will. I'm going out on an errand. Just call me when you've got any information."

"Sure," said Martin with a shrug. "Where are you going?"

Pat gave half a grin. "You don't want to know."

Merna Gatarmi hurried her old body across the floor toward her ringing telephone as she held up the bottom of her full length, many-colored robe. She grabbed the receiver and put the phone to her ear and spoke, "Hello?"

"Merna, it's me, Christine," came the young girl's voice through the ear piece.

"Oh, hello, pumpkin," said Merna with a smile. "You're up late."

"I sure am," said Christine. "Mom's home."

"What?" said Merna in confusion.

"Mom's home," repeated Christine. "She's O.K. She's back to normal."

The beginnings of a smile faded from Merna's face. "She's home with you right now?" she asked.

"Yes, she's with dad," said Christine proudly. "Everything is O.K."

Merna did not speak as her expression turned to concern. "How is she behaving, Christine? Is she acting the way you remember her?"

"Well, she's having some problems remembering things, but she's doing fine," answered Christine.

"Do you remember the talk we had about this?" said Merna. "About what really happened?

Christine frowned. "Merna, that isn't true. My mom is O.K. Her soul wasn't destroyed. She's awake and alert. You must have made a mistake."

"Honey," said Merna and paused. "I think you should take care. What I saw was real. Just take a good look at how she is acting."

"Merna," scowled Christine angrily. "Mom is fine. Don't try to tell me she isn't. I'm going to hang up now. Good-bye."

The phone clicked and Merna jolted slightly at the sound. Then she looked about her room absently as her mind raced.

In the kitchen, Christine turned as she heard footsteps behind her. Her mother stood in the doorway wearing a skirt and a brown leather jacket.

"How come you're dressed to go out?" asked Christine.

"Who was that?" asked her mother.

"It was Merna," said Christine with her frown returning.

"I don't want you to call her again," said her mother in a flat tone.

Christine's frown of displeasure turned to a frown of confusion. "How come?"

"Merna is a crazy old woman," said her mother. "You'll do no good listening to what she has to say.'

"But, you don't even know her," said Christine weakly.

Marla paused for a moment without speaking, then said, "You're father told me about her.""Huh?" said Christine with a hurt face. "Dad never told me he didn't like her."

"Well, he told me," said Marla. "Drop the subject."

"I'll go ask him myself," said Christine with a pout, rising from her chair.

"Sit down," said her mother in a cold demanding tone. "Don't you go near that bedroom. You can speak to your father later. It's time for you to go to bed."

"But mom," argued Christine.

"Go," said Marla in a tone that left no room for argument.

Christine gave a snarl and then turned haughtily in the direction of her room.

Merna Gatarmi paced her floor with her arms folded at her chest. Her mind was running over the events of the past year at a furious speed. She remembered seeing Marla Dapple sitting in the hospital without the slightest hint of the aura that made human beings what they were. Only a minute later she had seen the vet and his assistant in the same state, being led about like the zombies that they were. Then in the woods at the Dapple dog kennels, she had seen the dog, Hermy, bite Alan the deputy. There she had been horrified as she saw the aura of the young deputy disappear into the evil dogs mouth. She had run from the police car and in the woods she had met the greatest evil of all. A dark shadow of a man had approached her. His breath smelled of rotting death and he had told her that the dog had been his creation. He had told her that in the dog's gullet the souls that it consumed were destroyed forever. She had shut her eyes and the evil presence had vanished.

Merna Gatarmi finally stopped pacing her floor and picked up the phone. In a moment the phone was ringing. She sighed in relief as the receiver was picked up at the other end.

"Hello," came a woman's voice.

Merna froze. Then she took a breath. "Hello," she ventured.

There was a pause and the woman on the other end spoke, "May I help you?"

"Yes," said Merna slowly. "May I speak to Christine?"

"Who may I ask is calling," the voice came back with a hint of aggression.

"This is Merna Gatarmi, she replied as her hand trembled.

The woman on the other end uttered a low laugh. "Hello, Merna How have you been? I was hoping I'd get a chance to speak with you again. What did you say to Christine when she called?"

Merna sucked in her breath. Then summoning her courage she spoke, "What would I see if you were standing before me now? Would I see the clear aura of Marla Dapple? What would I see?"

"Frankly, Merna," came the voice, now much lower and more threatening, "I doubt if you would see me coming."

There was a crackle of static and the line was cut. Merna held the phone away from her ear and looked at it as she realized that Marla Dapple must have pulled the phone line from the wall.

"Good God," she uttered.

Suddenly headlights flashed through her window and there came the sound of a car coming to a halt. She walked over to the window and peered out. Two shapes sat in the front seat and Merna squinted to see them inside the darkness of the car. Then, without shutting off the car lights or engine, they emerged. Merna frowned. These men were familiar. Then a spasm struck her chest. These two she did remember. They were the two veterinarians who had been bitten by Christine's dog. They looked up at the house and their eyes met hers. Merna's mouth came open and she uttered a moan of fear. The eyes of the two men were dark and full of hate, and behind them was blackness where there should have been the aura of a soul. Merna screamed and ran. Her hand hit the wall and a moment later the lights blinked out as she swatted the switch. Now only the car lights shining through the window lit the room. Her front door was an oak masterpiece with an oval stained glass window dominating its upper half. She looked at it in horror as the shadows of the two men fell upon it. She looked about for a means of escape and her mind flashed to the kitchen. There was the only other exit from the house, now blocked by an antique sewing machine. Merna gasped and ran for the steps that led to the bedrooms upstairs. Her old body fought her as she pushed with her legs to mount the stairs. Behind her came the sound of breaking glass and then the creak of hinges. She reached the landing and turned. In front of her now were three bedrooms. Merna clutched her robe at the chest. She was trapped. Foots steps sounded below as the men searched the first floor. In desperation Merna ran for the first door, her footfalls thumping on the wooden floor. Now downstairs the sound of heavy feet came toward the stairs. Merna looked about the room and saw only the closet to hide in. It was a freestanding wooden cabinet with richly carved doors. Merna headed for it and stopped. There they would surely find her. Then her face spun toward the door as she heard the men stomping up the stairs at a run. In a split second decision she dashed for the window. Its old lock was clumsy and she pushed at it with effort until it gave, then she grabbed its upper sill and pushed.

"There you are, you bitch," barked a savage voice behind her.

With the window only half open, she turned in shock. There stood the two men, just inside the doorway, with savage looks of hatred on their faces.

"We're going to suck the life right out of you, bitch," snarled the one closer to her. "Right after we break every brittle bone in your body."

Merna gave a gasping cry and turned back to the window. She shoved and the window slid up, sticking as it neared the top. The men rushed forward and Merna threw her leg out the window. The first man grabbed her wrist and she let go of her hold on the window and let herself fall outward. The man's grip slipped and Merna's body fell. She hit the slanted roof and slid. With a scream she rolled to her belly and clawed the shingles. Her nails did no good and she did not stop until her toes hit the gutter. The aluminum bent under her weight and Merna cried out. She looked up and saw the men looking down at her. Without a second of hesitation, the first man crawled out, his eyes never leaving Merna. His feet held on the shingles and he slowly came down at her. Merna dug her knees into the gritty surface and pushed herself away from the gutter. Then she raised herself up onto her hands and knees as the man bore down upon her. With a wail Merna scuttled to the side and the man snarled. His hand reached out for her, grabbing onto her sleeve.

"No," screamed Merna. She pulled away but the man's grip did not yield as he began to pull. The second man came up behind the first and his hand reached around the other's shoulder at Merna's hair. With a scream, Merna clawed out at the closest man. Her body weight shifted as her nails tore his cheek open. His balance was lost and her sleeve tore from her robe as he fell. His back hit the roof and he slid headfirst the last foot and pitched over the edge. He fell without a cry and his decent ended with the loud report of bent metal as he struck the hood of the car below. Merna fell to her back with her feet nearly at the gutter. The second man was upon her in an instant. Below lights flashed and the snarling man looked down. Merna rolled and scrambled to her feet. She scurried with slipping feet up the roof as the man came after her. With a quick glance she looked down to see the sheriff's car pulling up to the house.

"Pat," she screamed.

Hands grabbed her shoulders and spun her around.

"Pat," she screamed again into the wrathful face of the demon before her.

The man swung a fist and she yanked her head to the side. The fist glanced off her cheek and across her ear. She grunted and cried out in pain. The grip of their feet on the roof loosened and they slid several inches downward. Despite their slide, the man brought his knee up into her belly. She grunted and her balance was thrown backward. They slid together another foot down the slope.

"One last bone before you go," hissed the man.

As he brought up his knee, Merna let her body drop. The knee came up to her chest and she wrapped her arms around it with a grunt. Her rear hit the roof and the man fell backward as he grabbed out at her. His hand wrapped around her wrist and the two of them slid. His feet came to the edge of the roof and slid over, his free hand grabbing the gutter and stopping their slide. But the balance of his body was over the edge and only his grip on Merna kept him from falling. The man looked up into her eyes.

"If I can not take your soul, I will at least end your life," he growled with his teeth bared.

Suddenly the night was split by two cracks of a pistol. The man grunted and he and Merna slid. Three more blasts sounded out and the man grimaced with effort. With a face of enraged defeat, his grip on Merna loosened and then broke. He fell and Merna slid headfirst on her belly. Her hands grabbed onto the gutter and she stopped. Below she saw Pat with a face of fear looking up at her.

"God, Pat, help me," she cried. "I'm hurt."

Pat disappeared and a moment later she heard him climbing out her window onto the roof. Hands grabbed her ankles and she was hauled upward. When her waist reached the peak of the roof, she swiveled her body up into a sitting position. Without a moment of hesitation she threw her arms around the sheriff. Though they had once been at odds, Pat responded by putting his arms around her shoulders.

"They were trying to kill me, Pat," she said in a voice still full of fear.

"I saw it Merna," he answered.

Then Merna's head came up from his shoulder and she looked into his face. "They were bitten by that dog. They were the vets. Do you remember?"

Pat clenched his jaw and his eyes widened.

"Marla Dapple is one of them," demanded Merna urgently. "She's at home with Christine right now."

A minute later Pat sped down the road in his patrol car with Merna beside him. Their faces were tense as they shot down the wooded road that led to the Dapple home.

"There's the beginning of the fence," snapped Merna pointing. "We're almost there."

Suddenly a man stepped into the road in front of the car. Pat stomped on the brakes and the car slid and pulled to the side. Merna screamed and Pat gritted his teeth as the car left the road. It bumped down through the ditch and came up into the trees with a crash of breaking wood. The car came to an abrupt halt against a large tree and the two of them pitched forward. Their seat belts stopping their forward motion, they slammed back against the seat.

"Oh my God," gasped Pat. "Did we hit him?"

Merna sat stunned and only blinked.

Suddenly a fist smashed through the window by Pat's head. He let out a yell of shock and the hand grabbed his shirt and jacket at the chest. With brute strength, he was pulled out through the window and thrown to the ground. He looked up in shock and saw Alan, his former deputy, standing over him.

"Jesus," gasped Pat.

"Nope," said Alan. He lunged down at Pat and grabbed his chest with one hand as his other hand went for the sheriff's belt. His hand wrapped around the gun there and yanked it from its holster. Pat's eyes went wide and he reached out desperately for the gun. Alan shook him with the one hand as he turned the gun around with the other.

"Get off of him," screamed Merna.

Alan looked up at her with eager hate and pointed the gun at her head. She ducked down in her seat as the gun fired, the bullet taking out the passenger window in a spray of broken glass. But Pat Wilson reacted and kicked at Alan's knees. Alan fell and hit the ground hard, loosening his grip on both Pat and the gun. The gun flew only a foot away and both men lunged for it. They locked in a struggle and Alan's hands wrapped around Pat's neck. With merciless strength Alan began to squeeze. Pat gagged out once and then his windpipe was closed off. Alan snarled and his eyes took on a look of excitement.

"I'm going to eat your soul, Pat," he hissed. His face came down and his lips struggled to come over Pat's mouth.

Pat's face twisted with remorse and a gunshot cracked loudly. Alan gasped and went stiff. Pat Wilson grabbed Alan's choking hands and pushed them away from his neck. Alan lost his balance with his eyes still wide and fell to the ground beside Pat. Pat looked over at him and watched as the look of life passed from Alan's face. Pat's face twisted in pain and he stood up and coughed, letting the pistol drop from his hand. Merna was out of the car and looking at them both. Then her eyes looked down the road and she began to run.

"Mer-" began Pat and gagged. He took several steps after her and his head spun. He coughed again and began to shuffle down the road after the old woman.

Christine sat in her room with her light turned low. Downstairs she heard the front door slam as her mother left the house. She sat for several more minutes and then stood with a "hmph." She left her room and walked down to her father's door. She knocked and waited.

"Dad?" she called through the door.

No answer came and she called again louder. She frowned and went to the head of the stairs and called out. No answer from her father came back up to her. She returned to the door, and with a breath, put her hand on the knob. Turning it, she let the door move just enough so that she would have a crack to see through.

"Dad," she ventured once more in case he might be sleeping inside and not out on an errand with her mother.

She pushed the door open wider and gasped. There on the floor lay her father. His head was bloody and beside him on the floor lay a baseball bat. Christine threw open the door and ran to her father.

"Dad," she wailed. Her father's eyes were closed and when she put her hands on his chest his body moved loosely.

"Dad, wake up," she cried with tears springing into her eyes. She pushed against his chest and a barely audible groan came from his mouth. Christine gasped and sucked in breath through her sobs. Kevin Dapple took in a fuller breath and Christine pushed at him again.

"Wake up, Dad," she cried. "We've got to get out of here."

Kevin Dapple took in several more deep breaths and his body moved slightly on its own. Behind Christine the door which had been only partially open began to move. It opened slowly and in the doorway stood Marla Dapple. Her eyes were dark and a cold hate showed in them. Christine shook her father once more and he groaned louder than before. Marla Dapple stepped forward.

"Come on Dad," urged Christine. "There's no time."

Christine jumped to her feet and grabbed her father's arm with the intent to pull him across the floor. Her head turned and her eyes met those of Marla Dapple. She gasped and dropped the arm.

"I told you not to come in here," said her mother. Her voice was deeper and held none of the familiar tones that Christine recognized as her mother's voice. A draft of air brought the smell of rotting flesh to her that seemed to have come from her mother's mouth.

"You're not my mother," screamed Christine at her. "Merna was right. Who are you?"

"'Who' is not the word I would use, Christine," said the creature that was appearing less and less like Marla Dapple. "I am the one who made your dog what he was. He was my creation. But you killed him. But not before he emptied four perfectly useful bodies. Now I do not have to settle for a mere animal. I have even taken this body for myself so that I might more easily achieve my ends. I am saving your father for when the others arrive to eat his soul. I was saving you too. What a pity."

Marla Dapple came forward and Christine jumped back. With a smooth movement Marla Dapple swooped down and picked up the bat that lay on the floor. Christine screamed and ran back against the far wall. Marla hoisted the bat and came forward.

"I hate you," screamed Christine. "You killed my mother."

The face that had once belonged to Christine's mother curled into a snarl. She swung the bat over her right shoulder and charged at Christine. With a scream of terror, Christine jumped to her right and collided with her father's large, tall dresser. The wood boomed as she struck it and Marla swung. Christine ducked and the bat smashed into the wood of the dresser, leaving a splintered hole. With a wail, Christine darted forward and Marla swung the bat after her. It nicked Christine's upper arm but she did not slow as she cried out in pain from the blow. With a snarl that showed her clenched teeth, Marla charged in a rage after the girl. Christine dashed past her father with a sob, as she knew she was leaving him, and she was out the door. Marla gave a howl that seemed past the abilities of her body and hurled the bat. It flew through the door and struck Christine in the back as she reached the stairs and she pitched forward. She hit the stairs full length with a grunt and slid down them on her belly, jolting as each step impacted with her body. Marla charged at the door but then stopped. Her eyes fell on the open closet and the golf bag within. A moment later she emerged from the bedroom holding a wooden ended club. She peered over the rail at the top of the stairs and saw the landing empty, with only the bat lying there on the floor.

"Christine," she called, though her voice was no longer feminine and the look in her eyes no longer human. Her hair hung in her face in dishevelment and her teeth showed in a snarl. "I'll find you," she bellowed.

In the living room, under a table hung with a decorative tablecloth, Christine huddled and tried to control her breathing. She had tried to flee the house but the thing that now inhabited her mother's body had pried off the door handles. She pulled her knees tightly up to her chest and listened as she heard the footsteps coming down the stairs. The footfalls came to the bottom of the stairs and turned into the living room. Christine took in a breath. She huddled closely and saw that her movement had made the tablecloth sway. Her face wrinkled in fear as the footsteps approached. She held her breath as her mother's body moved the tablecloth as she passed. The sound of her mother searching the room kept her from letting go of her breath, but she knew she would soon have to breathe. Then suddenly, as if hearing something, the footfalls raced off toward the kitchen on the other side of the stairs. Christine let go of the air she was holding and took in a gasping breath. She would have to try to get out of the house once more. She scooted out from under thetable, bumping it as she stood. In the kitchen, the Marla creature turned with a snorting growl at the sound of breaking glass. Giving a throaty snarl, she ran from the kitchen, holding the club up ready to strike. Marla's distorted body dashed past the stairs and into the living room. There in the center of the room, with only a sofa chair to hide behind, was Christine.

"I'm going to smash in your skull," uttered Marla's body in a deep, throaty tone.

She came forward like an animal with wide red rimmed eyes, holding the club back over her head. Christine screamed and backed away, but had nowhere to hide. Her back hit the wall and the Marla creature closed the space between them. She swung the club back until it nearly reached the floor behind her then swung. Suddenly she stumbled back as something struck her face. The golf club came down in a wide arc and smashed into the lath and plaster wall beside Christine's shoulder. The Marla beast managed to stop its backward stumble and looked over to its right. There stood Merna Gatarmi with the baseball bat in her hands. Blood streamed from the Marla beast's broken nose and as she opened her mouth, blood spilled from it. Her eyes looked at Merna in shocked wonder.

"What's the matter?" Merna spat at her, "didn't see me coming?"

The old woman hefted back the bat and swung. The Marla creature was too stunned to react and the bat struck her full in the side of the head. The bone of the head yielded to the blow and the neck bent to the side. Marla Dapple's stolen body swayed and the eyes rolled upward in a loss of control. Then, the body tipped and crumpled to the floor. Christine screamed and put her hands over her face.

Suddenly the front door burst open and Pat Wilson stormed through the opening. His face turned toward Merna and Christine. He rushed over to them and saw Marla's body on the floor. He bent, felt her neck and sighed.

"I told you to wait for me," he said, looking up at Merna.

"I found a rock so I broke a window to get in," returned Merna.

"I guess I can't be too angry with you," he said.

At the wall, Christine cried.

Pat Wilson, Merna Gatarmi, Kevin Dapple and Christine Dapple all stood on a green lawn in front of a grave. They all wore black and yet their faces held the peace of a settled score. Only Kevin Dapple frowned, with his head wrapped in a white bandage. With a sigh, he turned and walked off toward the parking lot.

"Do you think it will ever come back?" pondered Pat.

"It is hard to say whether you can kill such a thing," said Merna.

"It won't come back," said Christine. "Not as long as any of us are around to fight it. I think it knows better."

Pat and Merna smiled at her.

Merna nodded her head. "I think you're right."

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Revised November 19, 2002
by David Kraybill
©2002 Beard-Kraybill Studios