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All the Cool People

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They pack all Amy’s things, every last one. Sam’s adamant that Amy leave no hint she ever existed. He doesn’t say why, doesn’t mention his dad or his brother, but Amy knows; she’s not going to forget the look in Sam’s eye when he advanced on her with a knife. They have no way to carry baggage any distance, though, and most gets tossed in dumpsters in dark alleys on the way to the transit station.

Her mother they leave where she fell on the living room carpet.

They buy two tickets to Madison, because that’s the first bus to leave. For an hour they huddle together under harsh florescent lights, waiting, as far as anyone knows just two more broke kids on the road with no one in the world but each other and nothing but love to their name. Some of that’s true, Amy supposes.

Sam notices her holding onto her pendant, the moon-and-stars on the chain. “It’s pretty,” he says.

“My mom gave it to me,” Amy tells him, and that shuts him up.

They wait. She traces circles on her jeans with her finger, and she doesn’t speak again, except once. “I’m hungry,” she says.

He scoots back a little to let her up, wordless, wide-eyed. She shoulders the lunch bag, the one with the thermo lining, and goes to the bathroom. Inside a closed stall, she unzips, and she pulls out a mid-brain in a Ziploc bag. They don’t keep as well this way, cut from the rest of the brain and half-frozen in ice, but the jars were too big and too heavy, and they clanked.

She bites the pituitary directly out of the brain, one monster mouthful squeaky with bits of gray matter. It all goes down her throat in a single cold lump, tasting of nothing.

Her mother would tell her that she’d eat it and like it, and she does, because she has no idea what’s going to happen when the lunch bag is empty.

Sam’s still sitting where she left him. “Better?”

She can’t answer. She settles back on the dirty tiles floor and leans her head on his shoulder. “I’m glad you came with,” she whispers.

Tentative, weirdly clumsy – she’s seen what he can do with his fists – his fingers reach up and stroke her hair. “Yeah.”

When their bus is called and they get to their feet, Amy twists her fingers between Sam’s and holds on.


Three days in, on another bus – the last one for awhile unless they scrounge up some cash, although Seattle sounds as good to Amy as anyplace – Sam wakes up and catches her fingering her necklace.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

“I know.” She doesn’t let her hand drop. “Me, too.”

“Is it...” He hesitates, but she doesn’t stare him down this time.

She needs words. She and Sam’ve hardly talked as much these last three days as they did sitting on the ratty old couch that first half hour.

Sam’s voice drops. “Is it a freak thing?”

She shakes her head. “I just thought it was pretty. Mom’d had a good week.” Sam doesn’t ask how her mother defined a good week. Smart. “She called it a birthday present.”

“Was it your birthday?”

Amy snorts. “Like two months earlier, yeah.”

Sam grins, and for the first time in days, she remembers why she was all tingly-excited to bring him home and clean up his bruises. “My dad, he gave me this .45 when I was eleven. I practiced on them before, but this was mine – he got a good deal on it, I guess. Then he took me out to the range and made me run a lap every time I missed.”

She tries to laugh with him and not let on that guns make her nervous, which is probably hilarious, considering. The effort doesn’t last long. “Did you ever kill anyone with it?”

Suddenly, he is wild-animal still. She isn’t sure whether he’s being the prey or the sneaky human trying not to startle it.

She clarifies, “Like, monsters or whatever.” It occurs to her that probably he thinks she’s asking whether he’s ever killed anyone like her.

“Um, not. Not with the .45. I’ve helped burn some ghosts,” he offers. “I got a black dog once, with a knife. It was just a pup,” he adds, as if to allay any inclination she might have had to be impressed.

“Nothing that looked like a person, though,” she asks.

“No, but my brother,” he begins, and stops.

Dean, Amy thinks. Sam hates his dad, or hates him like she hated her mom, anyway, which she realizes now was something else again. But she’s pretty sure he doesn’t hate Dean.

“There was a witch,” Sam says. “She was using me for this spell. I was the sacrifice or whatever. I don’t really remember much, but I remember seeing Dean cut her head off.”

“I guess that happens a lot, huh? Stuff getting killed to save you?”

He flinches, and she’s sorry, because it’s not like what happened is anyone’s fault. Her mom’s, maybe.

Or, you know, hers.

The thing is, if you’re going to run away with zero skills or prospects, then Sam’s not a bad kid to run away with. Between his knife and her claws, she figures they’re scarier than most people they meet. They find bars sketchy enough to let them in - seriously sketchy, in other words, because if people want to believe she’s twenty-one she can make it pretty easy on them, but there is no way with Sam – and Sam talks himself into a pool game. She finds herself a stool and a Shirley Temple and watches him play. She’s not convinced all the slips are intentional, but he’s not bad. He’s careful not to win too much. Sometimes they get shoved out the door empty-handed, but he looks so harmless that his beginner’s luck defense wins out more often than not.

So there’s food around, and they stay at hostels when they’re feeling rich and in emergency drop-in shelters when they’re not, and when the sun shines – even on the Puget Sound it happens now and then – they walk the pier or Pike’s Place, trying samples. On rainy days they tramp through free and almost-free museums; if he could, she’s sure Sam would live in the art museum’s Egyptian rooms.

They hold hands, sometimes. They cuddle, maybe as much for warmth as anything. No kissing. Amy can’t. She just... with her mom, and... She can’t, is all.

They talk, though: road food and new schools, best states, worst states. Sam claims Arizona as his favorite, all parched sand and high snowy desert. Chupacabra sightings are just bonus, he says. Amy likes North Dakota least. “It’s one big field, and it takes for-frickin’-ever to get through,” she tells him, and he nods the nod of one who knows. Wall Drug is a racket, they both agree, and the house on the rock is clearly the portal to some dread eldritch dimension.

It can’t last like this, Amy knows. They’re vacationing, not living. She sees the way Sam’s always glancing over his shoulder for the dad and brother he’s convinced will be there.

Anyway, she only has one brain left, and it’ll only save so long.

On day fifteen of the great escape, Amy wakes up feeling hollowed-out and faintly queasy. She lies still for a few moments, but wishing won’t make anything better.

She sits with Sam through breakfast, sneaking bites of his generic reconstituted eggs just to ease the empty feeling. They haven’t talked about this. She’d be just as happy talking about it never. It’s not until they’re out of the shelter in the sunshine, clean and bright, that she finally forces the words. “I’m gonna have to find something to eat.”

He opens his mouth, pauses, and closes it again. He swallows. “Okay.”

“My mom didn’t always... sometimes it wasn’t safe, getting fresh.”

He’s gone a little pale, but he hasn’t walked away yet.

“She got sloppy,” Amy says. “Greedy. That’s the only reason you found us.”

Sam’s listening with a concentrated intensity that’d intimidate her if a tablet of hieroglyphs hadn’t gotten the same reaction. “So, what?”

“Morgues,” she said. “Funeral homes, sometimes, but that embalming stuff they use is toxic. You have to be careful to pick the new bodies.”

“The funeral homes are probably easier to break into, though?”

She suspects her smile is a little watery. “I think so.”

“Okay. Let’s, um. Let’s go scope out a couple of places and we can try tonight?”

Freaks together, she thinks, and for the first time since long before she met Sam, she thinks she might cry. “Okay.”

They take mass transit out to scruffier parts of town, but not so scruffy that the mortuaries have barred windows. They scope out, like Sam says. Then they eat cheap gyros – or rather, Sam eats for the both of them and Amy nibbles at the edges.

“It’s just how I get,” she says when he asks. “When I haven’t... eaten, in a while. Normal food is great, but it’s not... It’s not the real thing.” She can’t look at him.

“You get that way a lot?” he asks.

“I sort of went on a hunger strike last year,” she says. “I mean, not like a rebellion thing.” Because if she’d tried, her mom would’ve bitchslapped her, claws out, straight into a wall. “Just, I didn’t want it anymore. Brains.” There’s a zombie joke in there somewhere. If Amy went to school at Monster High, her life would be nothing but zombie jokes.

“What happened?”

She shrugs. “Have you ever been so hungry you couldn’t think straight? You could hardly even stand up? Like that.”

He nods, unsurprised. She hates that there’s another person in the world that knows that feeling, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t fricking grateful for it.

As they leave the gyro place, Amy notices a newspaper abandoned on a bench. There’s an eclipse tonight, it says. Of course there is.

Breaking into their funeral home of choice is so easy it spooks her. Sam leads the way in with his flashlight. Breaking into the office is even easier, and from there they learn enough to know where to find the bodies slated for cremation, no viewing. No chemical taint there, only refrigeration.

The room has no windows to give them away, so Amy turns on the lights. No fumbling here; no monster hunting in the night. Sam stands guard while Amy rolls the first body out of its locker.

It’s a woman, ancient, all velvety wrinkles and liver spots. Her body lies quiet with a pretense of peace. Amy can’t help but think of her mother sprawled on a crimson, sodden carpet, eyes open, arms outflung. The peace was lacking then, but the stillness was the same.

It was her mother Amy learned this from, practicing on heads brought home for the purpose. Amy’s claws extend like they’ve been waiting for it, blades of potential violence cooped up in her fingers for too long. She turns the woman’s head and aims just behind the ear, like her mother taught her. She strikes.

It’s messy. Amy hates the scrape and crunch of skull fragmenting under the pressure, even though the cool refrigerated whiff of food untwists a few of the knots in her gut.

This first gland, she swallows as soon as she finally digs it out from the none-too-clean hole she’s made. She waits a moment while it settles in her stomach. The energy in it is already working its way out. Once the first giddy wave has passed through her, she tries to tidy up the gaping hole in the woman’s skull, swiping at blood, combing hair over to hide it.

There’s no way the hole won’t be noticed. She can only hope the funeral home people will be too freaked, too security-conscious to tell anyone.

“Are you done yet?” Sam whispers.

“Not yet,” she says. No time now. She has to move on.

Her technique gets faster, if not any cleaner. Six more glands she pulls from the sides of crushed skulls. She bags them and packs them away one by one. She rolls the last body back into its sanctum. “Okay,” she tells Sam.

He eyes her, and for the first time she notices the splatters of blood and juices across her shirt. Good thing she wore layers, she supposes. She untangles herself from all her different straps – messenger bag, lunch bag – and strips off her long-sleeve shirt. Once they’re outside, she stuffs it in a trash can. Then again, it’s dark; maybe no one would notice.

It’s well past midnight now. Find a shelter? Huddle someplace until dawn?

“I want to watch the eclipse,” Amy says, and that settles it.

It won’t start for hours; for warmth they walk, blocks and blocks, until they find a park, near traffic and well-lit. Amy cozies into Sam, hip to hip, and his arm comes around her like it’s been there forever.

“Thanks,” she says.

“For what?”

She shrugs into him, and he doesn’t ask again.

It’s a long vigil; the safe topics get exhausted eventually. Sometime past midnight, Sam asks, “So, do you have a tail?”

She turns around to stare. “No...?”

“Kitsune? Fox spirit?”

“Sorry.” She settles back. “Just the claws.”

There’s a long pause. “Can I see?”

Longer pause. He helped her steal brains, so maybe he’s entitled. She shifts enough to get an arm free. Slowly, she extends: first the hand, then the claws. Under the harsh street lamp they’re black; in shadow, they couldn’t be seen at all.

After a moment, Sam reaches towards them. Amy stiffens, holding her breath. She can’t feel him breathe either. His touch is almost ticklishly gentle as he traces her thumb claw in its nail bed. Then he exhales, and his hand closes around hers – carefully, still minding the claws.

“Freak, right?” she asks.

He laughs. “All the cool people are. Somebody said.”

Amy twists, finds his lips, and kisses, soft and quick. He stares at her looking sort of awed, and she snuggles back against him.

Sam’s drowsing on her shoulder when she sees the first hint of penumbra denting the moon. She shivers, and Sam sits up.

“Oh, hey,” he says, blinking. “Eclipse.”

They watch the transit of shadow crossing light, and Amy clutches her moon-and-stars.


“I’m the thing in the dark, right?” she says. “Better hope there’s a moon, or you’ll never see me coming.”

He fishes for her hand and holds it. “Heroes come out at night, too, you know.”

“Easy for you to say. I didn’t stab you in the heart.”

He doesn’t say anything. There isn’t anything to say. She pulls his arm around her shoulders and watches the moon go dark.