Hard-Boiled

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Her eyes are closed. She seems to be chanting with everyone else. Not you too, Tig! I hoped you were able to get away from this. A fantasy, of course. Everyone who can be pulled into that shit pile will be. Now I have to get my parents out plus the minion who seems to be playing boss for the rest of them.

Dave helps me down the roof and notices my face. "Did you find them?" he says. I don't get it. "You parents? Are they here, in the crowd?"

"Yeah," I say, connecting the dots. Yeah, that's why climbed the roof, to find a solution. Actually, I may have the start of a plan in mind.

"I think I found a weak point," I say. "I just found out that one of my dearest friends is on top of the meat chute. She's behaving as if she was a priest of some sort. I think disturbing her could distract them from what they're... Oh." He doesn't know.

Dave looks at me seriously. He nods silently, then says: "They are here to sacrifice themselves, aren't they?"

Given what I've seen, this is pretty spot on. "How did you know?" I say.

"The mass control of these guys, the bloodletting ritual in the park... That god is not just messing with a human town. I think he's trying to wake up. He wants to incarnate."

"He can do that?" I say, angry at his unfair advantage. The chicken god has been a pain in the butt when he was just a spirit, what's gonna happen if he gets his hands on a body? I hope that's not what Tig's 'special role' is all about.

"OK," I say, "we need to distract Tig the best way I can. Can you maybe go and find a fork-lift to drive or something that could make them run after you? I will use the momentum to get up that meat chute and drag her down, covers and all. If you can, be careful not to hurt the people who follow you. They're not in their right mind."

Dave nods. "I know where to find some pretty cool vehicles," he says. "See you in five. Try not to die."

I grab a bunch of rocks and prepare to sneak back up the roof. There's no one to help me up now, but I manage. I don't have much time before it's my parents' turn to jump.

Another person has jumped, the metal container is almost screaming now. Then all of the sudden, the hail and thunder resume. What's going on again? There wasn't a cloud in the sky five minutes ago. It's making it hard to see, also, ouch.

I try to throw those rocks at Tig. Sorry, girl, it's for the greater good. You'll thank me when you're alive and out of here. At least that's the way it should go, except that I miss all my shots by a few yards. Damn! I should have gone with softball in high school. At least the factory minions around the chute haven't noticed me, probably thanks to the weather. Backup plan: maybe now they won't see me cutting the line. From what I can see, the meat chute actually has a ladder on one side. This is great news.

I jump down the roof in a great splash of mud. There's no time to be disgusted now. I'll complain later. Right now, I've got to be a cold-blooded machine. No, I'm not shaking.

I start scratching my arms and put on my best blank stare, then I walk towards the line like I'm a automaton. It's a pretty bad imitation, but I'm not sure the people in line would react if I showed up in a tiger costume. It's gonna be fine.

This tactic does allow me to get closer to the meat chute, but I have to shove the crowd quite hard to get through. They don't react to me in the slightest and just keep on waiting for their turn. I'm not gonna get them to awaken that way, that's for sure. Luckily the factory workers still haven't seen me yet.

Pretending to be brain-dead again, I edge closer to the chute's ladder. I'm not winning any Oscar for this performance, but it seems to be working. I'm dead if they come after me with their brooms and shit. I had to drop the concrete scraper for more credibility, so I'm unarmed.

The moment I put a hand on the ladder, though, I feel something hit me hard. One of the workers has lunged at me and grabbed my legs from behind. Busted! I shake him loose and try to climb, but two others latch on me like ticks. Let go, you fuckers! I have to hit Tig on the head before everyone dies in a literal pile of garbage!

I manage to get high enough to see Tig standing up, her covers undone. She is holding something above her head. It looks like it's a rock shaped like a big egg. Not a coincidence. Out of the blue, she cackles and even through the sounds of the storm and the chanting of the possessed town folks, I can hear it distinctively. Lightning bolts strike through the clouds, never touching the ground. More and more, I am convinced that she's playing a big role in what's happening. Before I can grab her, though, I am violently pulled back and I fall on my back in a pile of mud. They're all around me, the possessed factory workers, the dumb and deadly militia of that bastard chicken god. Maybe I can make it if I manage to grab one of their brooms before they hit me with it.

At that moment, we all hear a loud honking and an orange glow spreads on the walls of the coops along with a giant shadow. That genius Dave stole a working machine. It's a tracked vehicle but it otherwise looks like a small crane with a hook at the end of the arm. It looks like it's been made to do a lot of damage.

Most of the factory people lurch at the new enemy. I'm not sure what the can do to Dave, given that the cabin of the vehicle looks pretty airtight. The remaining guy grabbing my ankle isn't strong enough to keep me from getting free. I kick him in the jaw, because I heard it makes people go down pretty quickly. I don't wanna hurt him more than necessary, but I skipped on the only self-defense class I ever signed up for.

I don't think Dave can do much either. He isn't gonna try and break apart the crowd, because they're more likely to stay in place, look at him with empty eyes while they let him run over them. He could find a way to damage or drag away the meat chute, which sounds interesting, but to do that I have to get to Tig first.

She's still up and chanting. Apparently she needs more than a working machine threat to be distracted. Well, that's what I'm here for. Climbing up the meat chute's ladder as fast as I can, I throw myself at Tig, still standing and presenting her stone egg. I fall on top of her, dangerously close to the edge of the container. Falling almost one story would be a bit much, even when I really want to wake her up. In the meanwhile, following the gracious curve of a football, the stone egg swirls and drops to the ground, getting stuck in the mud of the factory with a 'plop' sound.

There is a great scream. It's coming out of all the mouths of the possessed combined, out of Tig's mouth, out of the meat chute trembling with outrage underneath us. It's a cry of pain and fury like no other. It bursts through all barriers. It's like the entire mountain is crying. I'm not sure if I still hear this or if I'm just feeling the unbearable vibrations. Suddenly, under me, Tig is all open. I can see though her like she's shallow water and I remember.

I am not Deborah. I am Tegan Shanney. I remember the day I found the egg.


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