He was crossing the main yard of the logging camp from his cabin, getting ready to hit the road, when it struck. The last thing he saw was the streak of blue-white light coursing down from the tumultuous sky, he could hear it sizzling past snowflakes, and then the indescribable sense of buzzing, vibration hit as the energy raced down his spine and through his body. Searing red had streaked his vision, and everything had gone black.
Cold, the next thing he felt was cold. Stinging, biting his ears, stealing the sensation of his skin, seeping its numbness into his face, tingling in his limbs, burning through his extremities as he struggled to move them. His eyes tore open, and his lips, raw with cold and speckled in frost, cracked open, the stiffness of his jaw grinding as he did so. Light blinded him; sun, sunlight. He saw the evanescent puffs of his own breath condensing into smoke-like bursts as he rasped for air. It too burned going in, frigid in his nostrils, searing his airways, stinging his lungs. It was daylight.
Daylight? I've been out here through the night?
But how? I should be dead, he thought, his neck cracking as he heaved to lift his head. His bones felt frozen through, as if the joints themselves had frozen solid.
He glanced about the clearing of the camp yard. Something's wrong, he realized. None of the guys' cars were there. Only that broken-down pickup—he gazed over at it, noticing the splotches of rust between patches of snow that had fallen from its sides, its oxidized surface red like blood against the sterile white of snow.
The need washed over him again.
He was sitting in the driver's seat of an old black minivan, engine off. The seats were a cold black leather, the chill seeping out of them into his skin through his jeans.
He'd come down from the frigid mountains where the camp was in that pickup, with his few belongings, his laptop, his kit, a few changes of clothes, and his savings in cash, in the passenger's seat. It had taken excruciating hours of trying to get the truck to start, and even longer to reach civilization. He'd taken a room at a hotel in town, and layer low for a few days, the urge slowly building. It was overwhelming at times, but he tamped it down over and over… He couldn't possibly go for a kill anyway, in his condition. Recently struck by lightning? No, he needed a few days. So he'd taken them. And even then, he had to find a proper target, which was what he was up to now.
He was parked in a back alley in one of the seediest areas of the town. He'd heard on the news at the motel he'd stayed in that disappearances were happening increasingly in this area. Why not go and stake it out, he had thought. Tonight would be just fine to find a worthy target…
The crash of a a trashcan lid pierced the silence, snapping him out of his daze. In the flickering shadows, he made out the figure of a scantly-clad girl of roughly twenty stumbling between tall metal trash bins, a look of panic on her face. She was running, from what, he couldn't tell. He sprung into action, cranking the car, gunning the engine, so that he intercepted her path farther up the alley where she was floundering through the spilled detritus.
She paused for a moment of indecision beside the van as stopped.
Dexter threw open the door, calling out "Hey, come here!"
A look of horror crossed her face, and she started to run again, her gait lopsided and wobbly, he realized, because she was missing one of her high heels.
He jumped from his seat, catching up to her in a few strides, and grabbed her by the upper arm.
She jerked the other way, trying to claw his face with her free hand.
He caught the wrist, bringing it in towards her body, turning her as he did so that he was between her and whatever she had been running from.
"Hey, it's OK. What's going on?" He said, releasing his grip on her.
"You've got to help me, th-they're coming," she sobbed, tears trickling from her eyes, mixing with dirt and blood that was smeared with the running makeup she wore.
"OK, just get in the van." he replied, taking her hand to hurry her to it.
She panicked again, snatching her arm from him.
"How-how do I know you're not with him?"
"You'll just have to take that chance," he replied, shoving her toward the van as he yanked the back door open.
She scrambled in, still shaking with terror. He slammed the door shut after her, locking the van with the beeper as he took off up the alley toward the row of trashcans she'd stumbled through.
He heard a male voice shout, "Hey, come back here!" as running footsteps pounded up the alleyway. He reached in his pocket for the needle of sedative he carried, a dark satisfaction creeping through his mind.
He'd found his target.
Clanking on the roof of the building beside him drew his attention. Wait, someone's up there, he thought.
He heard a grunt, and looked up just in time to see a figure fling itself off the roof directly overhead—
The dark shape coursed downwards, air hissing between its limbs, as he tried to sidestep. Too late, he realized, when the jolt of its feet crashing against his chest wracked him, sending him sprawling, his head smacking against the pavement. His ribs were on fire, and it was hard to breathe past the enormous pressure on his chest. The figure, he saw, scrambled to its feet, and approached him, hissing. It crouched over him, lunging for his neck. He felt something puncture his skin, a vague pain as the world slipped away. A gunshot whispered into his ears just as everything faded away to the silent depths of unconsciousness.
As he came to, he felt the shuddering of deceleration on gravel, and the growl of an engine dying. He groped around himself in darkness, his fingers smashing against cold metal overhead, grating over rough carpet underneath.
I'm in the trunk of a car, he thought, his mind exploding in a pulsing, wordless rage to match the heavy throb of his head.
He took in a deep breath that expanded his chest, screaming silently as it sent a cage-like swath of pain coursing through his chest wall.
Shit, he thought. I've probably cracked some ribs….
He remembered the impact of feet on his chest. The hissing figure approaching, the gunshot.
He felt in his pocket for his needles, his phone. They were gone.
What the hell is going on? He wondered, as he heard the doors of the car slam shut, and the footfalls of multiple people walking from it, the rasp of something heavy being dragged across gravel. Heavy…..like a body?
A door creaked open and slammed shut some distance away, and he was alone again in quiet.
He felt around with his feet until he found the taillight, and struggled to roll over, which sent a wave of pain over him that stole his breath. A wordless groan escaped his lips as he tensed. He waited a few moments for the agony to fade, bending his knees and flexing his hips as far as he could so that he was ready to kick backwards against the taillight.
As the squeak of a door opening met his ears, he froze, waiting to see what was going to happen.
Shit. They're coming back, he thought. But if I fake being out, I could surprise them…
He instinctively tensed to fight as the crunch of footsteps on gravel drew near. He shut his eyes, ready to play dead, as he heard click and squeak of a key in the lock of the trunk.
Sunlight poured in, covering the backs of his eyelids in streaks of brownish-gold. He carefully cracked an eye, only enough so he could see in shadows, but shut enough, he hoped, so it didn't look open. He saw an enormous figure standing over him, reaching down to him. They're gonna get me out, he realized. This is my chance.
He forced himself to relax his body. Then the giant stuck a hand under his body, as if to pick him up. A low groan escaped his lips as he tensed with a spasm of pain.
Shit. Shit, shit, he thought, realizing his cover was blown.