figure straight on, the body slamming into the windshield.
When the bus finally came to a jarring stop, they were all silent. The front windshield was cracked down the middle, flecked with what looked like black blood spatter. Cal opened his door and climbed out, the empty street ahead of him lit by the carâs headlights. He looked around, expecting to see a crumpled body lying in the road, but there was nothing. He felt a tap on his shoulder and he whirled around, expecting the worst.
The simpleminded girl from the Boardwalk was standing behind him, her hair wild around her porcelain face. There was black fluid running from her left nostril and the corner of her mouth, and her left shoulder was out of joint, hanging limply at her side.
âYou,â Cal whispered, unsettled for maybe the first time ever in his life.
Heâd radically misjudged her. There was still a vacuous look in the girlâs violet eyes, but she was not simpleminded. He realized this, too late, as she smiled in his direction, revealing two rows of utterly inhuman crocodile teeth and a forked tongue that flicked out in his direction, tasting the air.
âI want to play with you.â
Her voice was soft and melodic, but frightening in the context of the black fluid and her injuries. She reached out with her good arm and touched his chest, her fingers smearing black fluid across the front of his neon-green tank top.
Inside the bus, the others watched as Cal took a step backward. The girl dropped her hand, her beautiful face scrunching up in a frown of confusion. With a violent shake of her torso, she snapped her disjointed shoulder back into place and smiledâbut there was nothing happy about the angle of her lips.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
When Abra realized they were leaving, that her chance was slipping away, she didnât think. She just stepped into the road. There was no pain as she slammed into the glass windshield, cracking her head and tearing her shoulder from its socket, only the thrill of excitement, and knowing she was going to share herself with creatures that were as deviant on the inside as she was on the outside. But then heâd stepped away from herâthe only one whoâd been bold enough to catch the eyes of the women on the Boardwalkâand she realized he was scared, his fear a heady musk leaking from his mouth and his pores. Confused, sheâd tried to touch him, to let him know she just wanted to play, but the fear smell only increased and he moved even farther away from her.
She wanted to be human, so she could cry and bang her head against something hard until the skin and skull split open and the brain inside was mashed to a pulp and she didnât have to think anymoreâanything that made the pain of being so alone go away.
These men were supposed to embrace her. Theyâd come her way once, and sheâd dropped the ball, so nervous she hadnât been able to talk. Now here she was again, ready to join them for the night, but in the space of a few hours something had changed. She was a pariah even to these monsters.
She howled in pain, her mind on fire with misery and angerâand then she stopped thinking at all and began to act.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
The girl lashed out with her right hand, driving her fist into Calâs chest. With a wet, sucking sound, she extracted his heart and hefted it into the air so the others could see it in the glow of the headlight. Eyes rolling up into the back of his head, Cal pitched face-first onto the asphalt, where he stayed, unmoving, as the girl threw the bloody thing on the ground and stomped it into pieces with her bare foot.
When she was done, she leapt catlike over his body and raced to the driverâs-side door of the bus, where the others were sitting in stunned silence, watching the action play out through the cracked windshield like a scene in a violent action movie. As soon as the girl made her move for the bus,