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datatime: 2022-09-27 08:36:29 Author:CHSSaKVK

But he had no intention of charging wildly across the stream, and maybe falling in. There was something about the water Rose hadn't liked, and he'd do well to be very careful; to watch his step in the most literal sense. The damned brook might be full of those little South American fish with the big teeth, the ones that could strip a whole cow down to its skeleton on a good day. He didn't know if you could be killed by things in a delusion, but this felt less like make-believe all the time.

Norman wrinkled his lips back from his teeth, making a grisly expression that wasn't a grin, and put one of Hump's boots on the first white stone. The moon sailed behind a cloud as he did. When it came out again, it caught Norman halfway across the little stream. He looked down at the water, at first just curious, then fascinated and horrified. The moonlight penetrated the water no more than it would have penetrated a flowing stream of mud, but that wasn't what took the breath out of him and brought him to a stop. The moon reflected up at him in that black water wasn't the moon at all. It was a bleached and grinning human skull.

Then she came around a bend in the path and saw the lightning-struck tree blocking her course. There was no time to swerve, and if she tried to put on the brakes she would succeed only in being impaled on one or more of the tree's dead, jutting branches. Even if she avoided that, there was Norman. She had gotten ahead of him a little, but if she stopped, even for a moment, he would be on her like a dog on a rabbit.

Norman saw her fall and laughed. She was going to get wet, it looked like.

Have a drink of this shit, Normie, the skull on the surface of the water whispered. Hell, take a goddamned bath, if you want. Just forget all this foolishness. Drink and you will. Drink and it will never trouble you again; nothing will.

He hurried down to the stream, trampling the delicate prints of Rose's feet beneath Hump Peterson's square-toed boots, reaching the edge of the running water just as Rosie gained the top of the other bank. She stood there for a moment, looking back, and this time it was clearly him she was looking at. Then she did something that brought him to a dead halt, momentarily too amazed to move.

Then she came around a bend in the path and saw the lightning-struck tree blocking her course. There was no time to swerve, and if she tried to put on the brakes she would succeed only in being impaled on one or more of the tree's dead, jutting branches. Even if she avoided that, there was Norman. She had gotten ahead of him a little, but if she stopped, even for a moment, he would be on her like a dog on a rabbit.

It sounded so plausible, so right. He looked up, perhaps to see if the moon in the sky looked as much like a skull as the one in the water, and instead saw Rose. She was standing at the place where the path entered a grove of dead trees, beside a statue of a kid with his arms up and his crank hanging out in front of him.

All this went through her mind in an instant. Then, screaming-perhaps in terror, perhaps in defiance, probably in both-she leaped forward with her hands out in front of her like Supergirl, going over the tree and landing on her left shoulder. She did a somersault, sprang dizzily up, and saw Norman staring at her over the fallen trunk. His hands were clutched on the fire-blackened stubs of two branches, and he was panting harshly. The breeze puffed and she could smell something besides sweat and English Leather coming^ from him.

The stone boy moved then. Its arms came down and seized Rosie's right wrist. Rosie screamed and beat fruitlessly against its two-handed grip. The stone boy was grinning, and as Norman watched, it stuck out its marble tongue and waggled it at Rosie suggestively.

'No'

'No'

'Want to do the dog with me?' the stone boy enquired of her in a grating, uninflected voice. The hands clamping her wrist were all angles and squeezing, bitter weight. She looked over her shoulder and saw Norman leap onto the bank, the horns of the mask he had on digging at the night air. He stumbled on the slick grass but did not fall. For the first time since realizing it was Norman in the police car, she felt close to panic. He was going to get her, and then what? He'd bite her to pieces and she would die screaming, with the smell of his English Leather in her nostrils. He would-

She did it right, too, kissing the tip of it at him before running for the grove of dead trees ahead.

She flashed her ass at me, he thought. Her bare ass. Maybe I've got something to flash at her . . . don't they say turnabout's fair play?

Did you see that, Norm old buddy? ze bool asked from its place inside his head. The bitch just flipped you off. Did you see it?

'You're not getting away that easy,' he breathed. 'I don't-'

She flashed her ass at me, he thought. Her bare ass. Maybe I've got something to flash at her . . . don't they say turnabout's fair play?

'Yes,' he breathed. 'I saw it. I'll take care of it, too. I'll take care of everything.'

All this went through her mind in an instant. Then, screaming-perhaps in terror, perhaps in defiance, probably in both-she leaped forward with her hands out in front of her like Supergirl, going over the tree and landing on her left shoulder. She did a somersault, sprang dizzily up, and saw Norman staring at her over the fallen trunk. His hands were clutched on the fire-blackened stubs of two branches, and he was panting harshly. The breeze puffed and she could smell something besides sweat and English Leather coming^ from him.

Rosie turned, feeling one of his outstretched fingers skate over the zat's single shoulder-strap, and bolted.

Then she came around a bend in the path and saw the lightning-struck tree blocking her course. There was no time to swerve, and if she tried to put on the brakes she would succeed only in being impaled on one or more of the tree's dead, jutting branches. Even if she avoided that, there was Norman. She had gotten ahead of him a little, but if she stopped, even for a moment, he would be on her like a dog on a rabbit.

It sounded so plausible, so right. He looked up, perhaps to see if the moon in the sky looked as much like a skull as the one in the water, and instead saw Rose. She was standing at the place where the path entered a grove of dead trees, beside a statue of a kid with his arms up and his crank hanging out in front of him.

'No'

Rosie turned, feeling one of his outstretched fingers skate over the zat's single shoulder-strap, and bolted.

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