“Get up,” Daniel growled from somewhere behind me, and I felt myself being lifted up by his arms.

I was on my feet and he was holding me. But something felt so wrong. So very, very wrong. In pure panic attack mode, I started fretting about nothing, just feeling and instinct.

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“I wanna go back,” I said. I pointed at the door with all the might of my loosely flailing arm. My inner self knew exactly what I was trying to say. I want to go back inside and see my friends. I wanted to go back inside and get help. But it didn’t come out that way.

“Shhhh,” Daniel said. His voice sounded like poison, dripping maliciously, and affected me similarly. “We’ll make you feel better.”

And I was being dragged off. Literally dragged. He pulled me towards the darkness and I couldn’t move my legs in any fashion, so my lower body fell in an awkward thump and my feet dragged in the dirt behind me. This was so wrong, I thought stupidly. What could I do? What was going on?

There was a truck up ahead in front of us. I saw Hank go into the driver’s side. Were they taking me to the hospital? It didn’t feel like that but I didn’t know anything at this moment.

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“Please stop!” I cried out, trying to raise my voice. To his credit, Daniel did stop. He hoisted me up so I was on my feet again and I felt remotely in control. He grabbed hold of my shoulders.

“How are you feeling? You don’t seem too well,” he said. I looked up at his face. His eyes sunk into obsidian black holes. There was nothing good in him. It ruffled me to the core.

“I need to go inside,” I whispered, my words slurring without my control. I tried my hardest not to lose my balance but it seemed that my muscles were on the verge of total atrophy. The fear of being totally helpless was indescribable. If I wasn’t feeling numb already, that would have done it.

“You should come with us,” he sneered. Yes, sneered. It wasn’t just in my head. My worst fears were coming true. I tried to play it cool. Cool in the best way I knew how. It got me to the front of the pit in packed rock concerts.

“I’m going to puke,” I feigned while managing to put my hand to my mouth. It wasn’t that far off, I think I could have hurled anywhere.

But he just dug his fingers into my skin and put my face up to his. “That never bothered me, darling.”

And then he was kissing me. His slimy, slobbering tongue all over my mouth as I tried so hard to keep it closed. In any other circumstance I would have drawn up my stunt training skills and bopped him one up the nose, but I couldn’t even move my arms. They were blocks of ice, laid down by the sheer, rebellious failure of my nerves.

I’m drugged, I thought, fleetingly. It was the most horrifying thought of the day.

I turned my head to avoid the disgusting, cold tongue that licked my lips and face. I looked away. My brain focused on the dull details. The way the stars looked above the dark mountains, the way the mountains were a moody haze against the darker night sky, the way the bar and the town of Red Fox barely threw any light towards the heavens. It was cold enough outside to make me shiver in my long-sleeve shirt, the air was fresh as anything except for the wafts of booze coming from Daniel’s face. Was I about to go on autopilot? I didn’t even care. And that sickened me with every tired ounce I had left.

And then I was on the ground. My legs gave out in slow motion and I went along with them. The back of my head hit the dirt without any pain. It just kind of sank into the chilly, soft earth, as if it were a well-worn pillow, waiting for my slumber.

I wanted to close my eyes and pretend whatever was going to happen was just a dream, but I couldn’t. They were open, observing everything. The moon behind Daniel as he started to undue his belt and zipped down his fly. His hands as they flew to my own pants and started fiddling with the zipper. They looked like yellow talons, wrinkled and dry with slick claws at the ends. I felt them slice part of my stomach near my belly button but the pain was masked by the terror in my heart.

I never thought it would be like this. I never thought that if I was ever assaulted or raped, that I would just lie back and take it. I had so many scenarios that I had played out in my head. Where ever I was, I would spin around and deliver my own defense. Maybe it was a kick to the balls, or maybe it was some adrenaline-filled horror where I ended up jabbing my keys into a guy’s neck. It was terrible but effective and though I’ve doubted I would able to act without mercy, I was now faced with the truth that I may be fully conscious and unable to do a single thing. It didn’t seem fair.

Regardless, I tried to fight Daniel off. It didn’t work. My hands were flying towards his face in an awkward manner, unable to fully make contact with him. He laughed and continued take off his pants until they were down by his ankles. My own pants were not all the way off but they were ripped and sticky, maybe blood from where he clawed at my stomach. He then pinned one of my hands back above my head. This was the most vulnerable, the most exposed, I had ever felt. I closed my eyes and prayed that I could find the strength to fight back.

I felt a surge flow through me. I opened my eyes and saw Daniel’s face inches from mine, that sinister snarl on his disgusting lips. His eyes weren’t even human anymore.

I turned my head away from him and looked away at the darkness between him and the truck. A small, low figure skirted past. It moved awkwardly, but quick, like a human running on all fours. It had a long leathery tail dragging behind it. It disappeared around the truck. I looked back up at Daniel to see if he had noticed. If he had, he probably welcomed it. His face seemed to contort before my eyes, his nose stretching out, growing, into a beak of some sort.

Then, a shadow passed in front of it. I heard a metallic clink in the back of the truck and a scraping sound.

And suddenly something dark and heavy swept past my vision and with a CRACK! Daniel went flying backwards off of me. I was dumbfounded.

“Perry!” I heard a disembodied voice cry. It was familiar.

I felt a hand touch my cheek and I looked to my right. Dex’s head was there, poking over me.

“Are you hurt?” he asked, his voice high and tight.

I tried to shake my head but it barely registered.

I felt him pick me up underneath the arms until I was up. I could barely hold myself up, so Dex turned me around and I fell straight into him. I clawed at his arms and back like I would never hold another person again. I whimpered, unable to express any of the millions of things I was feeling. He held me with one arm, his other holding onto a shovel that he apparently just pounded into Daniel’s face.

“I got you,” he whispered. “Was it just this guy?”

No, I thought. It wasn’t. There was Hank. There was an animal. I tried to speak but no words came out. I lifted my head with all my might just in time to see Hank coming around from the side of the truck.

Dex was fast. He spun around and saw him. In that instance he let go of me and I held onto the truck for support. Dex took the shovel and wielded it in the air like a baseball bat towards Hank.

I saw the back of the shovel hit Hank square in the face. I saw his face contort, then crumple with the blow. A splash of red and white flew out from the corner of his mouth. He flew backward and disappeared beneath the truck.

I looked at Dex. Something manic had taken over his eyes. He was almost grinning while his eyes remained the most determined beams of pure hatred I had ever seen. He raised his shovel in the air, prepared to bring it down on Hank’s face.

“No!” I managed to finally scream. “Dex!”

Then I hunched over on the truck, barely able to keep upright. My eyes averted from the violence. I didn’t know what happened next, but after a grunt and a long pause, I heard the shovel drop to the ground.

I felt him run over to me, his arms taking me in his, his hand propping my face up.

“Perry,” he yelled. “Hang in there.”

My vision started to fuzz out, along with the last few working components of my brain. My consciousness was in and out after that.

I remember a flashlight.

Some screams.

Doors slamming.

Bird’s voice.

I remembered being in a car. The lights on the console. People driving. Lying on the backseat.

I remember being lifted in someone’s arms. Smelling sweet tobacco.

The lights of the Lancaster’s porch.

People fussing and touching me.

I remember being carried up the stairs, seeing them rise and fall beneath me.

The bathroom. The toilet bowl. Puking. My hair being held back. Thinking about what I ate that day.

Then I was in the bathtub, naked. The water was pink and warm. I wasn’t alone and I didn’t care.

And then I was suddenly in the room, in my pajama pants and tee shirt, being lowered onto my side of the bed by Dex.

“You’re safe now, Perry,” said Bird’s voice. I gingerly rolled my head to the side, the coolness of the pillow pressing against my cheek and looked at the door. Bird was standing in the doorway, one hand on the knob, about to leave the room. “I’ll be just outside your door all night. With this.”

He raised his shotgun in the air for emphasis and then stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind him. I looked around the room, my eyes aching as they rolled in their sockets. It was just Dex.

He was sitting beside me and pulling the blanket up to my neck, tucking me in. He looked terrible, like he had lost twenty pounds in the last few hours. His eyes were melancholic and wired all at the same time. He smiled at me, sweetly, sadly, and brushed the hair off my forehead.

“How are you feeling?” he asked gently.

I wasn’t sure, so shook my head slowly. Bad idea. The room began to spin.

“Hey,” he pressed my forehead with his hand. “Take it easy. It’s OK.”

“I don’t remember much,” I managed to say, surprised by the weakness of my voice.

“That’s OK. That might be better.”

“You saved my life,” I said. He looked away, embarrassed, and began to pull back.

“No,” I cried out while pulling my hands out of the blanket and grabbing his arms. “Please don’t go.”

He chuckled. “Perry, I am not going anywhere.”

He straightened up and I let go. He kicked off his boots, walked around to his side of the bed and lay on top of the covers, rolling on his side to face me.

“I’m going to be here all night, remember?” he reassured me.

It was silly for him to be above the covers.

“Get under the covers then,” I said. He looked uneasy. I guess he felt it would be too inappropriate considering what just happened but I couldn’t explain how I just wanted him as near me as possible.

He hesitantly got under the covers, still fully clothed.

I rolled over on my side and stared at him. The room spun with the movement. Despite everything that had happened, and the things my mind didn’t want me dwelling on, I was too afraid to ask him for what I really needed.

“So what happened?” I asked instead.

“We should probably talk about this in-”

“I want to talk about it now.”

He nodded and sucked on his lip for a few beats.

“Do you remember being with those two guys?” he asked slowly.

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