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Seven Plus One

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“He’s okay. Everything’s okay.”

Kala watches Riley slide another syringe into Will’s bicep – so gently, tenderly, a caress that draws a sweet sigh from him. His eyelids flutter closed again, his flicker of consciousness swallowed back into the ocean, and eight become seven again. Seven, surrounding their two living, present bodies, one waking, one sleeping.

Riley’s friend—father-in-law—minds the boat and minds his business. Riley doesn’t see the worried glances he keeps casting her way, but her other minds, less obsessed with Will’s face, Will’s easy breath, Will’s warm skin under wondering fingers, are free to notice other things.

Do any of the others notice how Wolfgang stands apart from the group? Leaning on the rail, just out of arm’s reach. She can feel him behind her: the solid heat of his body, or maybe that’s her imagination, maybe it’s the boiling of his mind and heart that radiates to her.

If she turned to look at him, what would she see? Is he looking at Riley and Will, like all the others? Or out across the sea, to the horizon? If she looked, would there be anything to read on his face? So little expression, most of the time. . .but that doesn’t mean he feels nothing. Can the others tell what he’s thinking, feeling? Can they read her thoughts?

My father was a monster, and so are you. And so am I.

Her head rings with the din.

Twelve shots fired cold into a living man. Twelve full-stops.

And so am I.

And so am I.

And so am I.

Blood doesn’t make you a monster. Not the blood in your veins. Evil isn’t a heritable trait. But the blood on his hands (on the floor, on the walls, on six corpses). . .

She swallows down the phantom nausea, and then she looks deliberately over her shoulder to find him already looking at her. Both of them are startled when their eyes meet.

And then he nods. Like a promise, like something’s been decided. No, like he’s accepting her decision. Her judgment. Too quickly, he looks away, out over the water.

Monster.

No one has said it except for him. It goes without saying.

“You won’t kill us all. You can’t do it.”

“Maybe I can’t, but I know who can.”

So easy. Capheus the driver. Nomi the hacker. Lito the liar. Will the good cop. Who would never. Who couldn’t.

Who will never have to.

The syringe slips tenderly through skin, into muscle, but this time it’s her fingers depressing the plunger, and the arm is Wolfgang’s, the head in her lap is his. He smiles in his sleep, a smile she’s never actually seen on his face.

She snaps her fingers, and he rises, awake all at once. Face blank, guns in both steady hands. Twelve evenly-spaced shots and a spray of blood splatters his face, soaks his hair, drips from his hands but not from the gleaming black gun.

His eyes meet hers again. His wistful smile says, You understand. For a second, she sees herself through his eyes, robed in orange and yellow, crowned with flowers, shining in the sun.

No, she wants to say. But her mouth stays shut.

His arms tighten against his chest as he looks away again. Fists hidden.

The sun sparkles on the water, makes a halo in Riley’s bleached hair as she cradles her beloved, keeping him safe as he sleeps to keep them all safe.

It won’t last, you know.

She does know. They all know; even Riley, who doesn’t want to believe it.

They are one and they are seven, and they are eight with one missing. Seven waking, one sleeping. The glint of sunlight on water is blotted out by the storm that rushes in around them, screaming wind full of the crack and flash of guns and the sweet iron stink of blood.

Will passes her the gun. He looks at her, not at the man who sleeps in her lap, smiling like a baby without dreams.

“Time to wake our monster.”