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throw that pussy like i'm famous
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“Back at’cha, Kimmy.”

Rhory’s voice sounded more familiar to her now. More like it had sounded a week ago. Well-oiled from the talking she’d been doing all morning and afternoon. She gave Kimberly a two-fingered wave with the hand that held the pack of cigarettes. The bandages and cardboard crinkled in unison. She watched the girl shrink and took a swig from the bottle in her left hand. Eventually, an intact cluster of trees obscured her. Rhory imagined she could see her turn back just before she vanished.

It was a gentler kind of hurt. But it still stung.

After several moments, she felt at the rough brown cravat bandage tied around her throat above the collar. This one hadn’t soaked through. She was still vaguely worried. She’d lost so much blood over the past days. Her hand still oozed lightly. She felt dizzy and heavy. She wondered how much longer she could go like this. She decided however long she had would be long enough. She might not survive. She might have already failed. But, for the first time in a week, she thought it might really be worth trying.

She got to her feet slowly and creakily. Things needed to be done. She reached over Marion’s (no, her) daypack to her duffel and unzipped it. She reached for the Big Fuckin’ Knife. She hadn’t touched it in days. She set it on the log and stripped off her shirt. She carefully looped her bandaged palm through the handle. She let the tip of the Knife dig into a point just above where the dried blood ended. She was so sick of blood. She began to gently saw through the fabric, leaving the sleeve roughly severed halfway through the bicep. She noticed a small crust of dried blood pooled against the lip of the left cup of her bra. She’d missed it while wiping herself down with the water-dampened cuff of her right sleeve earlier. She scratched it off and pulled the henley back on. She admired her work. It looked ridiculous. She noticed the tail of the blue bomb peeking out from under the gray threads handing from the wreckage of the new cuff. She remembered how her mother had reacted to the newest of her inky self-mutilations. She’d warned Rhory that she could never be buried in a Jewish cemetery with all those tattoos. The corner of her mouth twitched. Rhory didn’t think that would be much of a problem anymore.

She replaced the Knife in her duffel, dropping it on top of the collection of dead kids’ bottles and food and the foolishly kept make-up bag and the mound of soiled rags that had at some time in the distant past been clothes, and moved back to the daypack. She slipped her fingers into the smallest front pocket and scooped the contents into her gauzed palm. The eight shells were surprisingly light. She remembered they’d felt so much heavier when she snatched them from Bill’s emptying body. She slipped them into a corduroy pocket and reached sideways for the glossy black form of the gun. She picked it up with both hands and examined it. She turned it over several times, puzzling over each alien appendage. It occurred to her that she’d never held a gun before. She’d hardly even seen one, outside of police belt holsters and television screens. She knew how to make noise with the pump. That was as far as she’d gotten. She prodded the parts with an index finger. Where did the bullets go? No, wait, shells. This was an important distinction, she knew. Bullets couldn’t do what had been done or Logan and Marion. These were shells.

Finally, a small silver trapdoor on the gun’s underbelly gave way to her probing. She held it open slightly and examined it closely. The size seemed right. She retrieved a shell and slowly slid it through the flap. It made a loud, satisfying click as it entered. She slid in a second. It nested in the gun easily. She repeated the motions with the remaining six red capsules. She looked over the gun again once she’d finished. Was that it? Would it shoot now? Did she have to pump it? What about the safety? She ran her fingers along the varying surface and decided against any further experimentation. She hoped she’d never have to learn the rest.

Still, she needed something. She could only bluff with the gun for so long. Kimberly had proven that handily. Her eyes fell back on the duffel. She may not be able to shoot, but she could stab. That much she knew for certain.

She released the Knife again from her bag and set it down on the log, next to the nearly-empty bottle and the red pack of cigarettes. She picked up the pack. She slid one of the sticks out and hung it from her lips as she placed the rest of the pack snugly next to her own in a pocket of the daypack. She produced the Zippo from the left pocket of her shorts and ignited the tip of the cigarette. She inhaled, held, and blew. The lighter went back in the pocket and the daypack slipped over her shoulders. The duffel strap went over the right shoulder. The gun’s strap went over the left. Her eyes went back to the Knife. She thought for a moment as she scanned around the log. Her eyes found the blood-crusted remains of the sleeve. She fastened the filter of the cigarette between her teeth, bent over, and gingerly picked up an end of the abandoned fabric with her right thumb and index finger. She took the other end in her left hand and pulled it taut several times. Satisfied, she propped the Knife up against her leg carefully and looped the fabric through the ornate handle. She tied a large knot and began to feel at her right hip. She carefully selected one of the more frontward belt loops and forced the fabric through it, ending in another knot. The weight of the knife caused it to begin to slip, so she added a second. Once it was solidly in place, she tested it, walking a circuit around the log. The knife swung uncomfortably close to the flesh of her leg, but never came close enough to threaten a wound. She wished it had come with a sheath. This would have to do.

The bandages made their familiar crinkle as Rhory pinched at the cigarette and exhaled again. She picked up the bottle and drained the last of the water before tossing it aside. She stared at the point where Kimberly had vanished for several long seconds. She turn and started off in the opposite direction. She hoped they wouldn’t meet again. She knew that there would be no talking and smoking next time. She knew that it wouldn’t be very long before she had to learn to use the gun.

((Rhory Anne Broderick continued in Act II: A Mirror Dimly))
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and you may say to yourself, "My god, what have I done?" · The Felled Forest: North