Island, p.11
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       Island, p.11

           Richard Laymon
 

  ‘No!’ he cried out. ‘Don’t touch it!’

  Kimberly touched it, all right.

  She grabbed its end and tugged. On its way out, it must’ve hurt him pretty good. He screamed so hard I thought my ears might bleed.

  He fell onto his side and curled up and squirmed and whimpered.

  I picked up the ax.

  When I looked at Wesley again, he was on his hands and knees. Trying to crawl away.

  Kimberly rammed the spear into his bare ass.

  It missed his anus (the likely target), but jabbed into his right buttock. He squealed again, and flopped down flat.

  Kimberly pulled out her spear and planted it in the sand by her feet. Then she pulled her father’s Swiss Army knife out of her bikini pants. She flung a leg over Wesley and sat down in the middle of his back. With both hands, she worked on prying open one of the knife blades.

  ‘Look out!’ Billie yelled from a distance. ‘Watch it! Thelma!’

  We both turned our heads and saw Thelma coming at us. Billie was chasing her. (Connie stood by the fire, watching. She’d put her T-shirt back on. She hugged her chest and rubbed her upper arms as if she had a chill.)

  Billie was faster than Thelma, but Thelma must’ve had a good headstart. Too good a headstart. Billie wasn’t likely to catch her in time.

  ‘Don’t let her interfere,’ Kimberly told me. ‘I’ve gotta finish him off.’

  Thelma must’ve heard that. She cried out, ‘No! Don’t you dare! Leave him be! Kimberly, leave him be, damn it!’

  Kimberly muttered, ‘Yeah, right.’

  I put myself in Thelma’s way, the ax at port-arms. I had no intention of hurting her, of course. I planned to block her, that’s all, and give Kimberly the time she needed.

  Coming at me, growling, stocky as a bulldog, she gave me a bad case of the creeps. This woman, normally so plain and innocuous and rather dumpy, had somehow changed into a raving lunatic.

  At the last second, she veered to avoid me.

  A quick sidestep put me into her path again.

  ‘Stop!’ I yelled.

  The rock in her hand came as a surprise. She hurled it, point blank, at my face.

  It almost missed.

  Nicked my cheekbone and cut a hot path all the way back to my ear. I stayed on my feet, but staggered a little - enough to let her slip by.

  Billie made a flying leap for Thelma’s feet.

  She came up short and plowed a furrow through the sand.

  ‘Shit!’ Kimberly shouted.

  Stumbling, I saw her still sitting on Wesley’s back. She had the knife open in her right hand. Her left hand clutched Wesley by the hair. The way he was thrashing and whimpering, though, I knew she hadn’t gotten a chance to use the knife. Her torso was twisted sideways as she watched her sister.

  ‘Stay back!’ she shouted.

  Thelma snatched the spear out of the sand. With a bellow that gave me goosebumps, she swung the spear at Kimberly. It whistled as it cut the air. Kimberly flung up her right arm to block it. The spear lashed in underneath her arm and whacked against her side.

  ‘Leave him be!’ Thelma shrieked, and raised the spear overhead to strike again.

  Kimberly was already tumbling off Wesley’s back.

  With a leap, I put myself in front of Thelma. I blocked her spear’s downward stroke with my ax. When it crashed against the haft of the ax, it broke in half.

  Half of it flew off into the darkness.

  Thelma still held the other half. She rammed it in low, shoving its sharp, broken end into my belly. It didn’t go in. Not very far, anyway. But it felt red-hot and rammed my wind out. I staggered backward, tripped over Wesley’s feet, and fell.

  Fast as I could, I raised my head.

  Wesley was starting to crawl away.

  Billie was on her knees, trying to get up. Thanks to her skid through the sand, her breasts had come out of her bikini. (Normally, I would’ve been thrilled by such a development. Not then, though. I noticed, but didn’t much care.)

  Thelma smacked Billie across the face with what remained of the spear. Down went Billie.

  ‘Get up!’ she yelled at Wesley, who was still crawling. ‘Get up and run!’

  She kept shouting as she rushed over to where Kimberly was struggling to stand up. She kicked her sister in the side and knocked her over, then kicked her again - this time in the stomach. I heard Kimberly grunt.

  Wesley, whimpering and sobbing, scrambled to his feet. I still had his ax.

  He didn’t come for it, though. He started to run, in a lurching jog, toward the jungle.

  Thelma yelled, ‘Run! Run! Go!’

  She followed him like some sort of rear guard, twisting and turning to keep her eyes on us.

  I used the ax handle to push against the sand and keep myself steady as I got to my feet. When I was up, I glanced at the others. Billie lay on her back, holding her face and moaning. Kimberly, curled on her side, made wheezy sounds as she tried to breathe.

  Connie was now dashing toward us, a spear in one hand. She must’ve decided to join the fray when she saw Thelma slam her mother in the face.

  She was still too far away to do a lot of good.

  None of the three gals on my team was in any position to stop Wesley’s escape.

  It’d be me or nobody.

  I’m not exactly a hero-type, but I sure as hell didn’t like the idea of letting him get away. So I hefted the ax with both hands and went after him.

  I would’ve caught him, too.

  And hacked him to death, probably.

  But Thelma, guarding his rear, turned on me and blocked my way. I should’ve gone through her. That’s just what I would’ve tried, if she’d been a guy. But instead, I cut to the right and tried to dodge past her side. She leaped and got in the way again. Head up, arms out, hunched over at the waist, she looked like some kind of butch sports-fiend determined to stop me from scoring.

  ‘Get out of the way!’ I yelled in her face.

  I dodged to the left, but she sprang in front of me again. ‘No no no no no,’ she said. ‘You think you’re getting him? No no no. Think again, shithead.’

  Meanwhile, Wesley had almost made it to the jungle.

  I’d wanted to nail him while he was still on the beach, but the chance for that was gone.

  ‘Get out of the way or I’ll chop you down!’ I shouted.

  ‘Like fun.’ Suddenly, she dropped her arms and stood up straight, her eyes wide with alarm at something going on behind me. ‘NO!’ she yelled.

  I whirled around.

  Connie, in mid-stride, launched her spear. Its long, pale shaft soared through the night high above our heads.

  I think they call such a throw, in football, a ‘hail Mary.’

  It flew over us and kept on going like a Tomahawk missile homing in on the naked, pale back of Wesley as he lurched closer and closer to the darkness.

  Thelma yelled, ‘Wesley! Look out!’ She bolted after him.

  Wesley twisted sideways and looked back. He stumbled. He fell sprawling. A moment later, the spear zipped down and planted itself in the sand - probably ten feet to his right.

  Behind me, Connie yelled, ‘Fuck!’

  I glanced back at her. She had quit running - must’ve thought the spear would take care of business. She looked disgusted and punched at the air with her fist.

  I spotted Wesley again, just in time to see him vanish into the jungle.

  Thelma was chasing him.

  ‘Wait up!’ she called out, and waved a thick arm. ‘Wait! Wesley! I’m coming with you!’

  A couple of seconds later, she was gone, too.

  Battered Angels

  Nobody went in after Thelma and Wesley.

  Would’ve been too dangerous, for one thing.

  For another, our ambush had turned into a disaster. We were stunned, disappointed, angry, confused- and injured.

  Mostly thanks to Thelma.

  After the end of the mess, we stood around togethe
r on the moonlit beach where it had happened. I had the ax resting on my shoulder. Billie, hands on hips (and breasts back inside her bikini), frowned toward the jungle. Connie was bent over, hands on knees, still trying to catch her breath after racing almost to the edge of the jungle to retrieve the spear she’d thrown at Wesley. Kimberly shook her head and shut the blade of her Swiss Army knife.

  We must’ve all been thinking about Thelma.

  ‘How could she do it?’ Kimberly said.

  Billie made a snorty sound. ‘She loves the guy.’

  ‘But he killed Dad. My God! Her own father! I can see how she might not turn on him for a little thing like killing my husband, but he murdered Dad.’

  ‘Oh, her dear Wesley wouldn’t do that,’ Connie said. ‘The dumb bitch.’

  ‘She knows he did it,’ Billie said. ‘She might not be a genius, but she’s not that stupid.’

  ‘I think she just went nuts,’ I said. ‘All this stuff the past few days - and then seeing her father get whacked this morning - it unhinged her.’

  ‘You might be right,’ Billie said. ‘This sure wasn’t the behavior of a rational person, tonight.’

  ‘We knew she might cause trouble,’ I reminded everyone. ‘That’s why we didn’t let her in on the plan.’

  ‘Never thought she’d do something like this,’ Kimberly muttered. ‘Jesus H. Christ.’ She tucked the knife down inside her bikini pants. ‘We should’ve tied her up.’

  ‘Thought she was asleep,’ I said.

  ‘Well. Nothing we can do about it now.’

  ‘Let’s go on back to the fire,’ Billie suggested.

  So we turned our backs to the jungle. We walked side by side, me with the ax on my shoulder, all of us battered (me the only one bloody). We must’ve been a sight to see - if anyone was watching.

  Charlie’s Angels and the Tin Woodsman.

  All messed up and nowhere to go.

  Or whatever.

  I’m starting to lose it. I’ve been writing for hours, trying to get down all of last night’s events in this journal. My hand is turning into a claw - my mind into mush. Anyway, I’ve got to finish about last night.

  Before something else happens.

  If I let the journal fall behind, I might have real trouble catching up.

  On second thoughts, I’m going to take a break.

  Hello, I’m back. Took a nice swim, then sat around with the gals for a while.

  Maybe it was a mistake, but I finally admitted that I’m keeping a journal. I’d been telling everyone, before, that I was working on a series of short stories. But it was finally time to trust them with the truth. I mean, there’s only three of them, now.

  I wanted them to know about it. To know I’m not just fooling around while I’m sitting by myself for hours. To know there’s a record of our ordeal being kept. (Maybe it’ll be important for them to know that, at some point. Especially if something happens to me. Yuck. Made me feel squeamish, writing that little line.)

  We had quite a long talk about the journal. They wanted to know what I’ve written about them (which made me sweat big-time), but I explained that I wouldn’t be able to write truthfully if I had to worry about pleasing an audience. Finally, they promised to respect my privacy and make no attempts to sneak a peek.

  They’d better stick to their promises, or there will be some mighty embarrassed and angry people on this beach. (I couldn’t stand to face any of these gals, knowing they’re aware of certain things I’ve written about them.)

  Shit. They gave their word. If they read this stuff, they deserve what they get.

  Maybe I shouldn’t have told them.

  Seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

  Anyway, now that I’ve rested and shot off my mouth to the ladies, I’m ready to knock out the conclusion of last night’s events.

  I left off when we were on our way back to the camping area.

  Okay.

  We got into the firelight, and the gals suddenly noticed my wounds. They seemed pretty concerned - even Connie. In fact, she’s the one who insisted on tending to me. She told her mother and Kimberly that they should try to get some sleep. She would fix me up, then she and I would stand watch for the next few hours.

  I urged them to go along with it. I mean, they both seemed worn out and hurting.

  While Billie and Kimberly settled into their sleeping places, Connie grabbed a couple of rags. She went to the stream, dipped them in, and came over to where I was sitting by the fire. She made me turn so the firelight would shine on the wounded side of my face - the right. Then she knelt in front of me.

  The firelight lit up the swollen left side of her jaw.

  Where I’d punched her.

  ‘I’m sorry about that,’ I told her. ‘It wasn’t supposed to connect.’

  ‘Wasn’t, huh?‘

  ‘I swear.’

  She started dabbing at the raw trench that Thelma’s rock had torn in my face and ear. She was gentle about it, but every touch ignited pain. ‘I had it coming,’ she said. ‘I got in my shots, you got in yours.’

  ‘It was an accident.’

  ‘Sure.’

  ‘I never would’ve hit you on purpose.’

  She smirked. ‘If you say so.’

  ‘It’s the truth.’

  ‘What’d Thelma get you with, anyway? It sure fucked up your face.’

  ‘A rock.’

  ‘Look at this.’ She pulled back the rag and showed it to me. It was red with my blood. The other cloth was still clean. She used it to mop off the blood that had run down my face and neck and right shoulder and arm. Then she wrung out both the rags, squeezing and twisting them. Bloody water spilled onto the sand between us.

  She scowled at my lower wound.

  Thelma’s broken spear had gouged me just above my belly button. The hole wasn’t deep, but it had bled a lot. The front of my swimming trunks was soaked, and trickles had even made their way down my thighs.

  Connie shook her head. ‘We’d better just go over to the stream.’

  She took the rags with her. I carried the ax.

  Gaining possession of the ax was the best thing to come out of our disastrous ambush. Next to a gun, you couldn’t ask for a better weapon. Now it was ours, not Wesley’s. I planned to keep it close by.

  Connie led the way to the stream. We stepped down its shallow, sandy bank and waded in. The water felt great - slightly cooler than the night air.

  The stream is basically so narrow that, during most of its course from the jungle to the inlet, you can jump across it without much trouble. It is also fairly shallow. Ankle-deep in many places, knee-deep in a few.

  Connie and I entered one of the deeper areas. She faced me. We were out of range of the firelight. ‘You can put down the ax,’ she said.

  I swung it underhand, and let go. The heavy, steel head thumped onto dry sand near the shore. The haft dropped toward me, and splashed into the stream where it would be easy to grab in case of an emergency.

  Crouching in front of me, Connie rinsed the bloody rags. She stayed down. After draping one of the cloths over her knee, she reached up with the other and began to wash my wound. To hold herself steady, she clutched the waist of my trunks with her left hand, over near my hip.

  I couldn’t help but feel the backs of her fingers in there.

  Couldn’t help noticing how she’d tugged my trunks down a good inch - just by virtue of hanging onto them.

  Not to mention, her face was straight in front of my groin.

  I tried not to let these things affect me.

  They affected me quickly and obviously.

  ‘Not again,’ she said when my trunks started sticking out.

  ‘Sorry,’ I told her.

  She stopped patting the wet cloth against my wound. She lowered that hand, but the other stayed. ‘Don’t apologize, make it go away.’

  ‘Huh?’

  ‘You heard me. I’m trying to help you, and here you’ve got your thing in my face.’
/>
  ‘I don’t have a lot of control over it. You know? It just ... responds. To things like you.’

  ‘Things like me.’

  ‘Yeah, you. The way you look. Your hand there. The water. It all ... adds up.’

  ‘So then, it’s my fault?’

  I smiled. ‘Pretty much.’

  ‘I’m supposed to be flattered, or something?’

  ‘Maybe,’ I said.

  She looked up at me and didn’t speak for a few seconds. Then she said, ‘You had one when we were fighting, too.’

  ‘Yeah. When I was on top of you.’

  She dipped the rag in the stream, then lifted it and began mopping the blood off the area between my wound and the top of my trunks. ‘And when I took my top off,’ she said.

  ‘You noticed that?’

  ‘Of course.’

  ‘Thought maybe you were too busy slapping me,’ I said.

  ‘Ha ha, very funny.’

  She dipped the rag again. As it came up soaked, her left hand plucked the waist of my trunks away from my belly. She mashed the sopping cloth against my skin, and a flood washed down. It drenched my works, then spilled out through the leg holes of my trunks and streamed down my legs.

  Keeping my trunks pulled out, she dunked the rag into the stream again. She swished it around. ‘Would you like me to take my top off again?’ she asked. ‘I could do it, you know. Right here, right now. You want me to?’

  ‘Sure.’

  ‘Or would you rather have me pull your trunks down?’

  All I could think of to say was, ‘You’re kidding.’

  ‘Take your pick.’

  ‘How about both?’

  ‘One or the other.’

  It wasn’t a very difficult decision. ‘My trunks,’ I said.

  ‘Why?’

  ‘Sort of tight in there.’

  ‘I’ll bet. Why else?’

  I thought about that for a second, then said, ‘It’ll make it easier for washing the blood off me.’

  ‘Lousy reason. Give me another.’

  I shrugged. ‘Well, I’ve already seen ... you know, seen you topless.’

  ‘And once was enough, huh?’

  Woops.

  ‘No,’ I protested. ‘But it’s too dark here. I wouldn’t be able to see.’

 
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