At the same time as the chair was being pulled, something else outside began twisting the doorknob.
“My God, Claude was right,” Abby muttered. She walked to the door quickly, stared at the tentacle for a second, then turned on her heel and went back to the bed.
“What the hell is that?” Gerard shouted, almost looking offended that something so weird had invaded his life.
“It’s…” she started, then shook her head. “Ah, God, trust me, you’ll find out soon enough without me wasting time on an explanation you won’t believe. It’s just something I need your help with, okay? Is that all right for now?”
He looked away from the door long enough to scowl at her.
“Oh, for…” Abby said. “Look, man, we’re going to die if we don’t do anything. But if you help me, there’s a chance we’ll get away from,” and she pointed at the door, “that. So, come on. We can have it out later. Right now, I gotta get your help or neither one of us will make it.”
Gerard looked back and forth between the Abby and the door, until he decided on the known quantity. “Okay…what do I do?”
“Give me a second,” she said, and went to the window, twitching the curtain aside. She leaned closer, cupping her hands against the glass and pressing her face into the space they made to try to cut out glare from the emergency lights.
The door on the other side of the courtyard stood ajar. She couldn’t make out much else, but there appeared to be an absence of glowing eyes and/or mouths roaming the area.
She pulled away from the window and let out a shuddery sigh. “All right,” she said. “I’m gonna need that chair. So…I’m gonna need you to take its place blocking the door.”
“Oh, screw that.”
“Listen, just push against the door but get your feet back as far as you can. Lean against the door while you’re pushing. That’ll get you away from the vine. I’ll only need a few seconds.”
“…Vine?” Gerard asked. “It’s a…a plant?”
“It’s a jack-o-lantern,” Abby said. Why not, the band-aid had to come off eventually. Gerard just stared at her, boggled, his eyebrows in their upright and locked position.
“Do you want me to tell you it’s a tentacle instead, Gerard? Is a killer octopus a better explanation?”
He shut his eyes and scratched at his chin. “It’s not a prank?” he asked softly, a few scratches later.
“No,” Abby said. “We passed ‘prank’ a few miles back.” She walked up and touched his shoulder, and he flinched, opening his eyes.
“They got Parky,” she said. “They got Gladys. They may have gotten Claude and Fleur. But if we stick together, if we fight together, they will not get us. I promise.”
“…Pretty inspirational,” Gerard said. “You should’ve been a teacher.”
Abby coughed out a sharp, bilious laugh at that. “Eat me,” she said. “And get me that stupid chair.”
He walked over to the door but turned back. “Parky? And Claude? Seriously?”
“Geez,” Gerard said, then again: “Geez.” Without another word, he put his hands on the chair and, with a mighty yank of his own, pulled it away from the door and the grasp of the tendril, sending the piece of furniture tumbling aside even as he maneuvered into place, bracing his hands against the door and stepping back, leaning at an acute angle.
The bumps and thuds started up instantly, but the vine, for the moment, withdrew.
“Get it,” Gerard said. “Go, go!”
Abby jogged the couple of steps to where the chair had landed and snatched it up, hefting its weight as she returned to the window. She shifted her grip to hold the back of the chair, raised it up, and flung it, full-strength, at the curtains and glass beyond.
The chair bounced off the window without incident, narrowly missing Abby on the rebound.
Of course, she thought. Can’t have people breaking glass and slashing their wrists here at good old Brightest Lantern.
“Oh, man…” Gerard moaned, and Abby glanced over to see he’d stepped back a bit farther. The vine had returned, questing this way and that for something to wrap itself around.
It can’t be bulletproof, or anything like that. How would you get out of the room if there was a fire? She pulled the curtains aside and saw a little starred dimple where the chair had impacted.
A weak spot. And if there was one thing Abby was a past master at, it was picking at weak spots.
She lifted the chair again and held onto it this time as she brought it down on that little white-enshrouded micro-hole in the window.
“Come on!” she shouted. “Break!” BAM “You!” BAM “Lousy!” BAM “Worthless!” BAM “Son of a –”
And with one last BAM, the window webbed and caved in into a shower of safety-glass pebbles.
Gerard sprinted past her and dived through the unobstructed window before she’d even dropped the chair. Not looking back to see what might be coming through the door, she jumped after him.
The night breeze was cool as ever, and it rustled the foliage around them. Gerard started to cross the courtyard, heading for the open door, but Abby grabbed the neck of his T-shirt, bringing him up short.
“Go around,” she whispered, “along the edge.”
They crept through the plants, making their way around the outside perimeter, tripping over the occasional lost trowel or length of hose. They got parallel with the far wall, and Abby indicated Gerard should stay back while she reconned.
He had no problem with that.
Abby snuck closer, cursing the lack of light. They’d moved slowly enough not to trip the motion detector on purpose, but what she would’ve given for a little pocket flashlight.
“Abby?” The voice came from the open door, and Abby would have recognized that kewpie-doll tone anywhere: Dove, found at last.
“It’s okay now,” Dove continued. “You can come back inside.” In silhouette, the night nurse, all four-foot-ten of her, peeked around the doorway into the courtyard.
Her friend on her shoulder peeked, too, its eyes and mouth merrily aglow.
Today’s Words: 1038
Total Words: 7931
Notes: One week down!