The conclusion of Among Others is withing 20 pages! Get ready! Once I submit it for publication, I will private most of the chapters.
With her name displayed by the media, Collins knew it was only a matter of time before someone came to question her motives. Even if the fat man and young man with the broken face were never caught, if Collins never spoke of the night her and her posse brutally murdered the Stevens family, the court of public opinion had already convicted her of being the mastermind behind all these murders. All that seemingly innocent blood was on her hands. Then she realized she no longer lived alone.
There is no reason for any more blood to be shed than necessary.
Grabbing the old man and woman’s attention together made another choice.
“I want you two to leave.”
The woman with knotted red hair dropped her fork. Other than the tears marching down her cheeks, she stayed motionless. The old man’s eyes sank further into his skull. Fearing they might actually implode into two black holes, Collins added, “They know who I am.”
“So what,” the woman with knotted red hair retorted rather irritably. Collins could not tell if the woman was angry at her or with their position.
“So, they will come looking for me.”
“They will not likely do so gently.”
This time the woman with knotted red hair looked to the old man for reassurance.
“That is probably true.”
“Then you understand why I want you to leave.”
“Yes,” was all the old man Signed.
Collins turned back to the woman. She continued to look at the old man blankly like what was said came in the form of a foreign language she did not understand. Collins knew she understood. She wanted to give the woman a hug but feared she might not leave at that point.
Best to keep my distance. Distance myself from them. Let them go. They did nothing wrong. Not really.
“So, what then? You just want us to leave so they can break down your door and drag you into the street and let Normals have their way with you?”
Not having thought of it quite like that, Collins took a step back and tucked her dusty blond hair behind her ears before continuing, “I guess so. Yes.”
“That is stupid.”
The woman with knotted red hair sought confirmation from the old man who simply cocked his head and raised his already tight bushy eyebrows. She picked up her fork again, stabbed her last sardine, and shoved it into her mouth. Then she stood and brought her plate to the sink with great conviction.
Collins wished someone else would say something. Time was running out. Authorities might already be waiting outside the door. Her roommates had to leave now.
They need to leave now. What about this do they not understand?
The woman threw her plastic plate into the sink basin. Starting the warm water, she proceeded to scrub the plate clean. She shoved the clean plate matter-of-factly in the drying rack. Clapping her hands twice, she turned wiping her hands on her ragged jeans that once hugged her thighs, but presently draped limp around them like dirty washcloths. Collins watched as she chewed the last of her sardines as if she needed a clear pallet in order to Sign, which was probably a throwback to when the woman was able to speak not too long ago. She swallowed then leaned back against the sink, crossed her arms and stared at Collins.
She licked her lips a couple times. It was clear she wanted to say something though it was not clear what.
“I am not going anywhere.”
“But they will kill you too.”
“You took us into your home. You taught us to speak to each other. We were all a mess. This whole place was a mess.” Collins wondered if the woman spoke of her apartment. She hoped the woman meant the world outside.
“Still is,” Collins added.
“Yes. It is. But it is different. I do not know how. Or what exactly is different. But it is. And it is because of you.”
“I am sorry.”
“Do not apologize to me,” she Signed curtly, “You made us better. For all we know, you started something important. You said what we could not. Then you convinced us to do what we could not do. Look out there,” as the woman pointed to the television. “Others are starting to see. We are not alone. You did this. Do not be sorry for that.”
“People are dying because of me.”
“People died before. People will die after. The only thing different is you gave some of them a reason to live.”
Collins wanted to believe the woman with knotted red hair, but something still ate at her navel.
“Please leave before something bad happens to you two,” she begged her roommates.
“No. I hid my whole life. No more hiding. We are in this together.”
The woman with knotted red hair crossed her arms again defiantly. She did not look to the old man for reassurance in her decision. Collins did.
“Guess you are not as alone as you thought you were. Are you?”
“But you hate me for what I did, what I made you do.”
“No. I disagreed with your decision to send those idiots to do what they did. Whether we like it or not, we are in this together now.”
Looking back at the woman with knotted red hair, she was fishing a morsel of sardine out of her teeth with one finger like no discussion ever took place. The woman glanced over to the television without care to where her eyes wandered. Then her face flushed.
Catching her expression, Collins and the old man looked to see what the woman saw. There before them in perfect HD quality were mugshots of the fat man and young man with the broken face. Their faces looked like a distortion of camouflage. Skin toned concealer thick in random splotches, wiped away in other areas revealing their blue veined skin. In other spots concealer held on in thin layers where, if one did not examine too closely, might pass for a Normal.
The fat man had gained considerable weight. Even for his already large girth, that was saying something. The young man’s nose looked re-broken. His eyes swelled to squinting positions. Still he smiled in the picture onscreen. His missing teeth obvious. It was clear that evidence of their overnight gallivanting remained between several of his remaining teeth. An electric shock zapped through Collins navel at the thought she might be staring at remnants of her deceased friend.
I hope it was worth it, you little bastard.
Then she realized she barked at herself as much as she barked at the smiling young man with the rebroken face.