53 - The Grip of Terror

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Nat fell back against the door frame, trembling.

This couldn't be real. This couldn't be happening. This was a dream, another terrible nightmare, and she would awaken to find everything back to normal. She squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself to believe it. 

But the steady throb in her shoulder rooted her firmly in reality, would not allow her to give in to the seduction of terrified denial. 

Liz had taken Liam, and the dog had followed.

She knew this deep down, a place of intuition and certainty.

The Devil takes what's his.

The room smelled of death. Fresh blood and gunpowder and sulphuric decay. She leaned forward and vomited, her stomach churning and heaving until there was nothing more. Her gut heaved, and the effort of it re-opened the coagulated wound on her shoulder. A fresh sear of pain hit her side as air touched the exposed edges where the bullet had torn past. 

She needed to call for help. She needed to call the police.

But the image of the hound, grown huge from blood and darkness and misery, loomed in her mind.

He was coming for them. He would run, undoubtedly, keeping pace with the van. She could imagine him, long dark legs flashing, fur rippling, glassy eyes level with the passenger window. Would he soak up the darkness in the night outside? Would he grow even larger, gaining sustenance from terror, until he could swallow the car whole? 

She could imagine Liz, gripped by whatever madness had driven her here, making a sharp turn of the wheel. Driving off the side of the road. Pulling off into a patch of desert and using the gun again, first on Liam, then on herself.

If she hadn't already. If it wasn't too late.

The police would not believe her. They might pursue Liz - might - but they could not possibly be prepared to face the hound. 

You could leave, she told herself. You could leave right now. You could still be free.

But Liz. But Liam.

She realized, with terrible certainty, that she needed to see this through to the end. She was the only person left who could. 

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