I howl when we're apart
drag my teeth across your chest to taste your beating heart
Sunlight filters in through the windshield leaving a dusty dappled pattern on the dashboard. Well, what can be seen of the dashboard through the empty cigarette cartons and parking tickets.
The centre of the bench seat is a serving platter of home packed lunch and convenience store goods. Apple danishes wrapped in plastic, a basket of cherry tomatoes fat enough to pop like zits, corned beef sandwiches with grainy mustard and shredded cabbage, and thermos full of tea.
Chloe hammers a beat on the steering wheel, buzzing with that nervous energy that couldn’t even be taken from her in death.
She takes a cursory look around before reaching under the seat for her own boxed lunch.
Max, sitting in the passenger seat keeps her eyes on the bushes ahead of them. She pops a cherry tomato with her teeth, enjoying the feeling of the seeds dripping down her chin. She sucks the pods back in with her lower lip. She reaches for another tomato.
The drivers door creaks open and Chloe slides out to pace in the parking lot and eat.
Max appreciates the gesture. The smell of decomposition and formaldehyde really puts her off her appetite.
Her eyes can be tricked into seeing raw ground beef where there is brain tissue, her nose is not so easily fooled.
She makes the mistake of looking at Chloe just as she’s shoveling in a large chunk of grey matter. Her fingers are still on the palate between grey and red. Max blows out a breath and puts her head between her knees.
This is so fucked up.
As she resurfaces, the edges of the bushes start to shudder. Max reaches for her camera to catch the shadows of half-human half-canine limbs brushing branches away.
Tawny hair gets lit up by the sunlight as it emerges. A few fly-away hairs wrapped around twigs make little victory flags.
Kate shakes her head (not unlike a dog) to try and knock them loose. Weary, pale, and wearing torn stockings she makes her way to the truck. Chloe waves a bloodied hand. Max tips herself out of the cab to jog and catch Kate in a hug.
Kate smells like wet earth, rotting leaves, dog, and something that’s pure Kate.
“Hey, how you feeling?” Max says in her “Kate voice”.
“Like I just chased deer all night and probably rolled in the unspeakable.”
Max raises her eyebrows and tries for a reassuring smile.
“Gross, Max. I feel gross.”
“I brought you some lunch.”
“I can smell that.” Kate says.
She pushes the hair out of her eyes and Max watches her pupils expand. Kate bemoans her… condition, but Max thinks the giant puppy appearance suits her.
“Hey, you didn’t kill anything this month, that’s a win.” She says.
Chloe’s smoking against the hood of the car by the time they get back. She’s wiped her hands on her tank top in a grotesque parody of the shot that ended her life.
Kate gives Chloe a world weary stare as she reaches into the cab. The way she unwraps the paper around her sandwich is delicate and deliberate. Very Kate.
Long runs in the moonlight and an increase in body hair wasn’t originally on the table for the eldest Marsh daughter. Kate had plans. She was going to go to art school and become a children’s book author, settle down with one point two kids and raise them in a good Christian home.
But, at age thirteen she got mauled by a werewolf on her way home from school and excommunicated by most of her extended family. They saw the devil’s taint in the bites. Like she had somehow succumbed to temptation by being a random target of assault.
Blackwell does, however, boast a fantastic art program, so the children’s books aren’t a no-go. Chloe, known for her wonderfully inappropriate sense of humour, has suggested on multiple occasions that she write an updated Red Riding Hood.
Max agrees silently to this.
Kate is looking between Max and the remaining sandwich. Her nostrils are flaring and she has a faint trail of drool glossing her lower lip.
“Go ahead.” Max says.
She can’t help but giggle at Kate literally wolfing down a roast beef sandwich. Kate is the picture of poised. Her spine is so straight it’s like she’s being tugged upward toward heaven by an invisible line.
Now, ‘beast mode’ Kate is a big fluffy puppy who likes cheese danishes and rolling in grass when no one is looking.
Chloe is picking between her teeth with snaggled nails.
“So, are we ready to head back to school? I’ve got a history paper to bullshit my way through. I could know the firsthand account if Max weren’t such a selfish--”
“My powers so do not work like that Chloe. I can’t just pull up in a tricked out police box and take us on a family friendly history-altering adventure.”
Kate looks up from her danish to look between them.
“As admittedly awesome as that sounds.”
Kate swallows, “Time travelling adventures with a zombie and a werewolf. I’m sure there’s a teen romance about it in the works.”
Chloe scoffs, “Doubt it. Vampires are the sexy undead. Us zombies, we shuffle around and get fetishized in the weird Japanese shit.”
Max rocks back on her heels, unsure of how to proceed other than to pile into the cab of Chloe’s truck.
“Everyone fasten your seatbelts. Dying is no picnic.” Chloe says.
The bitterness in the cab isn’t coming from the tea Kate’s drinking. At the moment, Max feels protected by having meat shield from Chloe’s icy disappointment.
If only Max had reversed time to save Chloe before she got shot instead of a hamfisted resurrection spell bringing Chloe back to life like the lyrics of an Evanescence song.
Rachel would’ve done it better goes unsaid between them. It helps fill the canyon of distances that’s been straining their friendship for years.
Kate burps delicately.
“Well brought up.” Chloe says.
She puts on her sunglasses and peels out of the parking lot.
And if your heart stops beating
I'll be here wondering
Did you get what you deserve?
The hinges of the cab creak as they swing open. The seat is sticky and red. Chloe, slumped against the door, falls in a wet heap onto the pavement. Max swears and runs around the truck to pick her up. The cigarette clenched between her teeth now lies in a puddle on the concrete.
“Oh fuck, oh shit. Chloe hold on, I’m gonna get help.” Max drags her body across the floor.
Chloe’s bleeding out fast, her eyes are flickering rapidly, her skin is too pale. She’s going to die.
“Jesus Christ. Somebody help!”
Max staunches the blood with one hand.
“Max, come on man, I’ve got a great future ahead of me.”
“Should’ve thought of that before you decided to bring a gun to a gunfight, Dumbass.”
“Do you really want those to be your last words to me, Max?”
Max hears a bottle shatter, she and Chloe both jerk their heads up. Rather, Chloe’s head lolls in place.
Victoria Chase stands at the edge of the parking lot, bag of groceries dropped hard onto the pavement. Her eyes are fixed on the growing pool of blood under Chloe.
“Help?” Max says.
Chloe’s lips are grey and her breathing is the shallowest it’s ever been. Max has Chloe’s shoulders, Victoria has her legs, the bag of groceries balanced on Chloe’s stomach.
“Okay, left, left, left. We need to get to my room.”
“Do you have treatment for gunshots in your room?”
“I have my fucking spellbook, so that’s a start.”
Max thanks the various gods, including her own grandmother, for automatic doors. However, it’s past six and she needs to using her goddamned key card to open them, so it involves juggling, Chloe’s body and jamming one hand into her jeans.
“This is a nightmare.” Victoria grunts as a bit of blood splashes her sweater.
“My best friend is dying.” Max says.
Kate is in the hall with her nose in the air.
“Oh my god, Max. Chloe!”
Having the extra set of hands and superhuman strength really makes it easier. She carries Chloe to Victoria’s door while Max grabs the groceries and holds Chloe’s wound. Victoria opens her door and they all spill in.
“Okay, give me a second.” Victoria says.
Max drops the bag on Victoria’s desk. Blood is only oozing from Chloe’s stomach now. Kate’s legs shake, but not with the effort.
“Max,” Chloe says.
Max wipes a bloody hand across her brow, “I’m here, wh-what’s up?”
“Tell Rachel I’m sorry, okay?”
Max nods, feeling hot tears pouring down her face. She keeps nodding and snuffles.
“She’s dead.” Kate says.
Max’s legs give out and she keens. She can feel Kate’s uncertainty. She wants to comfort her, but Chloe’s covered in blood and Victoria has a white couch that says ‘bodies off limits’.
She hears the flapping of fabric and Victoria’s movement behind her.
“That’ll actually make this easier. I’m better at resurrection spells than healing spells.”
“My best friend. Just. Fucking. Died. Victoria. Can you be a person for just five seconds?”
Victoria purses her lips and scrunches up her forehead.
“Kate, can you put the body down on the circle please?” Victoria’s voice is flat.
Relieved to help and do something to ease the tension, Kate steps around Max to place Chloe on the transformation mat.
“You have a transformation mat just for resurrection?” Max says.
“I’m a necromancer, Max. It’s kinda my speciality.” Victoria says.
She’s pulling a box from her shelf and setting up multi coloured candles around the corpse. Kate plucks Max up from the floor and onto the couch. Max’s vision is still fixed on the wall. Kate’s warm, warmer than humans. Warmer than Chloe’s body.
“What’s the coin for?” Kate says.
Victoria has something in her mouth as she speaks, “Well, typically you leave some coins to pay the ferryman for safe passage to the afterlife, but these are to pay him off. He’ll tell the boss that she got saved by doctors or healers or whatever.”
“And for the record, you’re lucky I have the ingredients lying around.”
Max blinks and turns to see Victoria placing a lotus over the bullet hole.
“We need something she loved, something that she’d come back for.” Victoria says.
Kate speaks, “Well, Max is here.”
Max laughs, a brittle little choke, “Not good enough. She’s too pissed at me right now.”
Fishing into her pocket, she does dig out a pair of friendship bracelets, Chloe and Rachel’s.
“Why do you have these?” Victoria says.
Max feels her cheeks heat up, “It should be enough, right?”
Kate strokes her hair, she catches Victoria looking closely at them and then away. Her posture hardens.
“Pass it then.”
Max passes it wordlessly to Victoria, who balls it up and shoves it into Chloe’s palm. Kate’s blinking rapidly and keeps scrunching her nose.
“You okay?” Max says.
“I’m fine.” Victoria says.
She keeps her eyes on Kate.
“Just, heightened sense of smell stuff.” Kate says.
“That’s about to get worse.” Victoria says, lighting some incense.
Kate coughs, her eyes watering.
“I think I need to leave,” She says, “Max, are you gonna be okay?”
Max nods against Kate’s shoulder, “You should probably call her parents in case this goes south.”
She doesn’t even recognize her own voice over the ringing in her ears.
“Can I have one of your hairs before you go?” Victoria says.
“Moon magic is very potent, bringing a life back is gonna take more than I have in reserve right now.”
Kate plucks a few hairs from her cardigan and gives them to Victoria. She turns heel and leaves.
Victoria sniffs, she’s doing something with a pestle that involves something smelling strongly of pasta sauce.
“Are you going to make her into a pizza?” Max says.
“There is an herbal element to it. Can you light those candles?” Victoria says.
She’s rubbing at her face.
“Are you crying?” Max says.
“Fuck off, Caulfield.” She snaps.
Max is kneeling next to The Body. God, it’s like that episode of Buffy. Everything feels the same, just stretched. Like the moment before she leaps through time. Something is amiss.
“Why didn’t you just go back in time and stop her from getting shot?” Victoria says.
“I did. It happened every single time. I frozen time and moved the bullet. He just fired another round, and I couldn’t rewind after that.”
“Shit. The fates have cut the thread.” Victoria says.
She rotates her wrist in a non-gesture, “Chloe’s card is punched. She was supposed to die today. Nothing you could have done.”
“Does this mean the spell won’t work?” Max swallows hard.
Victoria finally turns around with a bowl full of yellow powder. She kneels by Chloe’s head and begins dusting a line from her forehead to the seam of her jeans.
“There’s a difference between life and undeath. This is a loophole. Her card’s punched, her thread’s cut, but she can still go on as something other than Chloe Price.”
Max grabs Victoria’s wrist. She flinches at the contact. Max makes sure to maintain eye contact.
“Will it be Chloe?”
“Yes. Same charming personality, same memories, but she’ll still be dead.”
Max drops Victoria’s hand and lets her continue.
“One more thing. Magic isn’t cheap. It requires sacrifice. This spell needs a life for a life.”
With a shaking finger, Max points to herself.
“Not you. Like, a squirrel or something. Hang on, I think I still have a rat in my bag we can use.” Victoria says.
Max whimpers, “This is so fucked up.”
“Yeah, well, do you want your best friend back or not?”
The door opens again. Kate stands there, her chest heaving, with her pet rabbit in hand. Tears are streaming down her face.
“Kate no.” Max says.
“Do it.” Kate says through gritted teeth.
Victoria looks between them, looking at both sides before picking her winner. She takes the rabbit from Kate, who pauses to stroke its ears and kiss it.
“Kate.” Max whispers.
“I’m a megafauna carnivore. It’s doing me a favor by removing the temptation, honestly.” Kate says.
Victoria whispers something to the rabbit and puts it on Chloe’s chest. It scrabbles and scratches.
Then she plunges a needle full of something clear into Chloe’s heart and leaves the syringe there.
“Hold hands.” She says.
Little hairs on Kate’s palm tickle Max’s own sweaty hands, Victoria smirks at a silent masturbation joke that Max can see cross her face.
Then Victoria starts to chant something. There are no lights or coloured smoke. Death doesn’t appear to play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ with them. Max can feel a pulling at her navel and like the energy is being drained from her through a straw.
The candles burn a little higher, then snuff out into smoke. A butterfly flutters in through the window and lands on Chloe’s nose. She scrunches it up and groans.
Max bursts into tears and grabs at Chloe’s arm.
She exhales the word shit and grunts.
“I can’t feel my legs and what I can feel is limp like a sad weiner.” Chloe says.
That makes them all burst into wet chuckles. There’s a knock on Victoria’s door and they all freeze.
“It’s me.” Taylor says through the door.
“Come in.” Victoria sighs.
She and Courtney come in with arms full of bagged blood. Courtney gags at the smell.
“Gross, we need to get some Febreeze up in here.”
Taylor licks her lips and hands Victoria a smell.
“You’re lucky I have my own stash.” She says.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll pay you back.”
“What’s the blood for?” Kate asks.
“This moron lost like three quarts. She’s functionally useless right now, like a deflated balloon.”
“Fuck you, Victoria.” Chloe groans.
Max chokes back a noise between a laugh and a sob. She feels boneless, no longer taught from stress. She needs to pass out, but the journey isn’t over yet.
“So? Fill me up?” Chloe says.
“It’s going to take hours and I’d rather you not stank up my room any more than you already have. Take your IV and get the fuck out.” Victoria says.
Chloe finally opens her eyes fully and-- holy shit. The pupils, once a nice washed out colour of blue, now glow around the edges. It’s as if a pot of ink was spilled onto her sclera, staining them a purple-black colour.
“What?” Chloe says. She sounds between groggy and aggressive. Drunk Chloe voice.
“Your eyes are pretty.” Max says.
Kate’s picking up her dead rabbit off Chloe’s chest. Her eyes get huge and her nostrils keep flaring. Out of the corner of her eye, Max watches her face elongate and her mouth open wide.
“Seriously, all of you get out of my room. I don’t want to watch Kate stuff her own pet rabbit into her mouth, and I want this punk garbage to stop stinking up my floor.”
Kate’s face changes back to human and she looks ashamed.
“Max can you?” She holds the rabbit out.
Max takes it and cradles it against her chest. It’s so soft and still a little warm. It must have been so scared to die.
It takes very little effort for Kate to life Chloe, despite the dead weight.
“Here, we’ll take her to my room.” Max says.
Pins and needles shoot through her feet as she struggles to stand. Kate’s already out the door and it’s not fair for Max to need help. She feels like a newborn deer. Using the arm of the sofa, she pulls herself to her feet.
“Victoria, I-I don’t have a lot of money. I do want to pay you back.” She says.
She keeps her back to Max as she sets about putting supplies away. Taylor seems to take the hint to leave and leads Courtney out.
“I don’t need money.” Victoria finally says.
“I can, I don’t know, take you somewhere special to take pictures. My powers are kind of limited.” Max says.
Victoria makes a strangled noise. There’s blood caked on her black nails as she turns and strides over to Max.
“I don’t want that either.” She says.
Max blinks and it’s as if Victoria has teleported in front of her.
“What can I do?” Max whispers.
“A kiss.” Victoria says, looking at her shoes.
“What?” Max says.
“Ugh, nevermind.” Victoria moves her hands to shove Max away.
Max darts forward and pecks her bottom lip.
It’s the first time she’s ever seen Victoria look surprised. A smile is creeping in from the corners of her mouth. Max leans in and gives her a longer one. It’s still just a pressing of mouths together. She can feel Victoria sigh through her nose. When Max pulls away she sees Victoria’s hands are balled into fists in front of her.
“Payment and a tip.” Max says.
Victoria doesn’t say anything as Max leaves with a click of the door.