End of Days Page 27

That was the front tire.

I stare dumbly at the ripped-up tire as it flops and wobbles to a standstill in the parking lot.

Then so many hellions pile onto my car that I can’t see the tire anymore.

I stroke the fur of my teddy bear. It’s all I can think to do.

Pooky Bear can’t help me in a vehicle. Not a lot of room to slice and dice.

That means I need to exit the car if I want a chance at getting out of this.

I sit in the car.

I wonder how long a person can stay in a vehicle.

But then, of course, the hellions begin pounding on the windshield.

Their bat faces and needle-sharp teeth scrape against the windows. How much force can a windshield take?

If they pound their way in, I’ll be in close quarters and won’t be able to use my sword or run. If I open the door, they’ll be on me before I can get my foot on the ground.

One of the hellions hops onto the hood, shoving the others aside. It’s one of the beefy ones who followed me from the Pit.

He’s carrying a rock.

He heaves the rock above his ugly head and smashes it against the windshield. The glass cracks into a million lines webbing across my vision. I take a deep breath as he lifts his rock again. I put my hand on the door handle and get ready to sprint my way out of here.

As the rock smashes down on the windshield again, I slam my door open as hard as I can.

All the hellions’ attention was on the rock, and I catch them by surprise. I manage to smack several creatures out of the way with my door. That gives me a sliver of room to run.

As soon as I get my foot on the asphalt, claws grab me. All teeth and spittle, it’s the side of hellions I haven’t seen in my sword dreams. They run from Raffe. With him, they are the victims. With me, they are the killers.

A hellion’s teeth scrape my cheek. Hands grab my arm and then claw at my chest. I hear myself screaming.

I grab its chin, shoving the head and mouth as far back as I can. For such a skinny little thing, it’s extremely strong. I’m twisted as far away from it as I can be while trying to snap its neck backward.

Its head is frantically moving back and forth, gnashing at me. It gets closer to my face, so close that I can smell its rotting-fish breath.

It gashes me with its claws, not even trying to save its own neck. It must be insane. I’m not going to win this battle.

My back is to the car. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see two others climbing past the door to get at me. I frantically look at one, then the other. No gun, I can’t draw my sword, and I’m trapped in the wedge of the car door.

The best I can hope for is that people get a few minutes to run while the hellions are busy tearing me apart. It’s a Penryn party.

Suddenly, they all stop.

Their bat-like faces lift into the air, their ugly nostrils sniffing madly. One of them shakes its head like a dog shaking off water.

The one that was about to reach my neck with its claws backs off, letting me go. The ones climbing over the door can’t back off fast enough. All around me, I sense terror.

They all run away.

It takes me a second to realize that I’m free and still alive.

In the headlight beams, a pair of legs walk toward the rush of hellions who are running from the car. The beam of light creeps up the person’s body as the legs move toward me until I can see who it is.

It’s my mother.

The hellions run. Away from the school, away from the people, and especially away from my mother.

‘What the hell?’ I stare, dumbfounded.

Then the smell finally hits my awareness. It reeks here. The windshield is splattered with Mom’s rotten eggs. Old yellow-and-black goo oozes across the windshield like a giant bird dropping.

The smell.

They’re running from the smell. They’re running with the same terror that the hellions did from the demon in the Pit when he hissed at them. Does the smell remind them of their evil bosses? Do they assume an angry demon lord is coming when they smell rotten eggs?

I stare at my mother as she walks toward me with eggs in each hand.

She may be insane, but she has seen and experienced things. Things that other people haven’t understood.

By the time she reaches me, the hellions have all run off.

‘Are you okay?’ she asks.

I nod. ‘How’d you do that?’

‘It does stink something awful, doesn’t it?’ My mom wrinkles her nose at me.

I stare at her, speechless, before I let out a weak laugh.

22

I walk into the grove with my mother. Another woman follows us a few steps behind.

I turn to her and say, ‘Hello.’

She bows her head slightly. She looks about the same age as my mom and wears a midlength coat with a hood that covers her head. Beneath the coat, a dress falls to her ankles and drapes over her slippers. There’s something familiar about her dress, but the thought flitters through my mind and gets pushed out by bigger things.

‘She’s with me,’ says my mom. I’m not sure what to make of her. My mother usually doesn’t have friends, but it’s a whole new world, and maybe I don’t know as much about my mom as I thought.

The grove is quiet except for the crunching of our feet and the sound of someone running toward us. I look back and see Raffe fast approaching on foot. He’s almost invisible with his dark trench coat and cap. He must have come running when he heard me scream during the hellion attack.

Both my mother and her friend freeze when they see his figure, but I put out my hand and nod to show that he’s with me. They continue into the grove while I drop back to wait for Raffe.

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