With Its Head Cut Off

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A warm, pulsating egg of stone wrapped in a blanket... Tig wearing layers upon layers of clothes, staying at home all day long... My head is spinning. I don't know what's going on. I was Tig and now I'm me. I'm Deb again. What the fuck just happened?

Tig has passed out under me. The other puppets seem generally stunned. They have all stopped screaming now. I guess throwing the stone egg in the mud did quite a number on them. It's good, because there are at least three people I need to get out of here before they wake up and I do not fancy having a zombie fight right now.

The storm has died down just as fast as it came. All that remains is a lot of puddles. Every body in sight is drenched and caked in mud. If they don't end up jumping to their death, they're bound to catch a cold.

As carefully as I can, I drag Tig down from the meat chute. It seems safer to take her away first. Is she not the one that started this whole thing?

I have a hard time knowing what to make of what I've seen. It's a relief I don't have much time to think about it, because I would probably turn all those thoughts in my head for a very long time instead of focusing on just... dragging... her. Damn, this girl is heavy. I have to go down the metal structure and sort of let her fall on me. I put her on my back the best I can. Man, it's hard to save people. At least the townsfolk are still on the ground.

I start moving, taking notice of where my parents lay asleep. I have to find where Dave has gone with that working machine of his. I can't carry all of them on my own. I take a few steps and I get ankles deep in the mud. Perfect. I'm bound to make huge progress that way. At that moment, I hear him calling over the sound of an engine.

"Deb!" he says. He's covered in mud. He's coming my way in all his glory, flaunting his crane. That's perfect timing! I gesture at him, but he's not saying hello. He's saying watch out. Pointing at something.

Behind me, one of the suicidal townies has risen. By the time I manage to turn around with my shoes full of mud and a passed-out girl on my back, he's taken hold of the stone egg. He looks like a middle-aged school teacher, with a colored linen shirt, thin whiskers and a belly. I can't stop him from jumping in the meat chute. He's still holding the egg.

I should be getting sick of seeing people end badly at this point, very sick, but I'm distracted by the loudest and shakiest earthquake of the evening. Slowly, crevasses appear and the container seems to be collapsing onto itself. Muddy shoes or not, it's time to bolt.

I try to run towards Dave as the shaking ground is fighting me, giving me cold slaps of mud every time I try to get a foot in front of the other. Without much surprise, I fall and Tig falls with me. I try to load her on my back. She's awake.

To be more accurate, she looks like she's waking up after a week of non-stop partying. Disoriented, incoherent and with a serious headache.

"What... What the fuck?" she says, trying to get heard over the loud rumbling. I can't imagine what it's like to wake up in the middle of being shaken around like a fruit tree in an orchard, but she sounds more like herself than I've heard in a long time. Is this the real Tig, not the remote-controlled imitation that seems to be at the origin of this disaster? I try to make her stand, but I can barely stand myself. Around us, the people from the town seem to emerge from the same state. Is it over? Did the middle-aged teacher go and sacrifice himself for us? From the rumbling, I wouldn't think so, but it stops under a minute. The meat chute has completely collapsed, like it was never there. The clouds are definitely gone. The stars shine on everyone stumbling in a drunken stupor, not getting how close we've come to a serious catastrophe.

On that note, I don't wanna stay until they found out how many are missing. I don't want to see their faces when they understand what must be laying down in the ruins. Maybe I feel guilty, too. I saw all of it happening and I couldn't stop it. Come on Deb, change the music. I have so much to do right now, there's no time for self-loathing. I grab Tig, bring her up and scan the raising crowd for my parents. Here they are.

"Mom! Dad!" I say, waving at them. They look just as confused as Tig. Anyone would be. I seriously don't want to explain anything. Is it OK if I say I just woke up too? I just grab everyone and push them towards Dave and the crane without any explanation. I don't want to stick around. Who knows if the factory workers have gone back to normal? There's also a chance that this earthquake might have aftershocks, if it follows in any way the laws of the real world. The big one was enough for me.

"Hey," says Dave when we reach him, "you all OK?"

I look at Tig, who still looks like she has a major headache and my parents, who scratched themselves until they bled. They'll live, but 'OK' seems to be a strong word. We hear another engine approaching timidly. The factory workers? I hope not.

It's Dave's pick-up with Domenica at the wheel. She couldn't stay still, could she? I see the small face of Nathan poking from behind the windshield. Cutie, I'm gonna need to have a talk with your mom about where she can and cannot bring you. If I can be honest, though, I feel pretty happy that she's here.

Domenica gets down from the pick-up and briefly hugs me.

"I'm OK, Domenica," I say, smiling at her. "We're all OK."

"No you're not," she says and I can see she isn't just worried about me. There's something else. "Nathan warned me," she says. "This is far from being over."

She raises her voice in hopes of being heard by everyone. "All of you, please, you need to move now!" she says. "Get away from the hole in the ground, run if you have to! Don't stay near the... Oh, shit."

In the spot where the meat chute just collapsed, something is moving, rising from the earth. Something huge. A grotesque silhouette we all recognize.

From its headless, bleeding neck, it howls.


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