CHAPTER TWO

Gathering his black bookbag and shoving papers into it, he leaned over on his non-throbbing side and pulled open his desk drawer, yanking out his massive, plushy doughnut. The doctor had instructed that he sit on it for the remainder of his life, and though his hip now hurt like a fucking banshee, he refused to sit on it at school. What if one of the kids saw it? What if he rolled off its massive height, smashed his head against the desk, and died? Okay, so maybe that's a little far fetched, but Jonesy didn't want to look like an idiot, he just wanted to be normal again. And much to his dismay, knew that he never would.

Limping as he shoved it into the bookbag hooked around his shoulder, he jostled himself over in the direction of the door, the minimum light from outside the window casting in enough for him to see, thanks to the full moon. The only light that hadn't gone out in the power outage.

He took his time, finding his keys, grabbing his old coffee from his desk, dropping his shoulders, before stepping out the door and locking it behind him. He looked up onto the glass, with undrawn blinds behind it and read the block print.

MR. GARY JONES

A little post-it note was attached to the side of his name on the glass, winking a yellow smile. Peeling it off, he read it:

NICE TO HAVE YOU BACK,
MR. JONES
- ROSEMARY

The office secretary, a nice old lady who'd had a heartattack not a few days before Jonesy had left for Hole in the Wall with his three friends. He paused, as their faces hit him.

Beav. Pete. He missed them. He missed what they use to look like without fingers missing, without dicks missing, without the blood. Goddamn he missed them.

Forcing himself into movement again, Jonesy headed towards the handicap elevator, but then realizing that it wouldn't work in this power outage, he came to terms with the fact that his only option was the stairs.

"Doodilyfuck." Jonesy breathed thinly as he hobbled towards the stairs, looking down them. Through a meticulous process that made it the easiest on his hip, Jonesy reverted to a step, swing, stand, pause, curse, and step again.

To say that it was difficult, was an understatement. The stairs fucking kicked his ass.

With one of his hands constantly on the railing bolted to the wall, Jonesy made his way down the first set of steps, only about sixteen, then turned the corner and started to make his way down the last sixteen. Thank god he wasn't going up and thank god this school was only two stories tall.

He halted at the bottom, his hip screaming, and bent over, pulling on the pressure to try and ease it.

"C'mon Jonesy," he said to himself, gritting his teeth as he swung his hurt leg forward again, forcing himself to keep going. Why the hell did his desk have to be so fucking wide? And why'd the power have to go out? Jesus Christ bananas...

Finally, he reached the front door, opened it, hobbled out, turned, and locked it back up. The monotonous roar of the rain against the gray sidewalk shouldered its way into his ears and nestled firmly into his head.

Breathing in the fresh, wet air Jonesy's chest filled and he bucked up, beginning to walk. He made his way down the street, bookbag clutched to his side, soft with the doughnut inside. He squeezed it as he stepped out from under the canopies, feeling the rain stab his shoulders and he realized something.

He'd forgotten his coat.

Shrugging it off for fear of those baneful stairs again, he continued without stopping. His white dress shirt soon clung to his body, his tie dripping water down the front of his pants. It made his red hair turn dark and clump atop his head. His beard sifting the water from his cheeks and nose.

He walked as quickly at he could, taking deep breaths each time his hip twinged or argued, gently massaging it with his thumb.

A pair of headlights came from the darkness, dancing on their own as they pivoted towards him and rolled to a stop beside him, a door opening.

"Been thinkin' 'bout ya Jonesy," Henry's voice drifted from out the door as Jonesy leaned down, peering in with a smile. "And I can't let ya walk in the rain."

"Hey H." Jonesy reached into his bag and pulled out his plush doughnut, throwing it on the seat, turning awkwardly to try and get in. He wasn't ashamed of the doughnut with Henry, he was his friend, and he'd already had his fill at poking fun at his weakness.

"You got it?" Henry asked, putting his hand out towards his friend, he touched his arm, but Jonesy was already settling down, then swinging his leg in and shutting the door.

"Yeah," his head back on the headrest as the pain stopped bubbling, "golden."

Henry put a hand on his shoulder, and Jonesy turned to smile at him.

"Is that offer for a beer still standing?"

"Sure."

"Great."

~ * ~

"How's Carla?" Henry was bent over the countertop, his beer curled in his arm, his fingers spinning it on the carved surface.

"She's fine," Jonesy stared meticulously at the peanuts before him, his fingers digging into their salty bodies, liking the sensation as they reefed and crowed back around his fingertips.

"She keeps getting this 'feeling' or something, whatever she calls it. She says she really wants a kid."

"A kid? Really?"

"That's what she says." He pulled out of the peanuts, bringing fingertip full of them up to his mouth, crunching on them.

Henry sat back from the counter, taking a swig of his beer. "You up to that?"

"I dunno..." Jonesy's hand unconsciously went down to his hip. "I dunno what I'm up to anymore. If this goddamn hip'd leave me the hell alone, I'd be fine with it."

"You want a kid?" Henry finished off his beer and motioned for the tender to bring him another.

Jonesy was silent for a moment, before he leaned back on his stool and stared at his half-full beer bottle. "I guess, I mean, I see the people on the TV all the time, playing in the park with their children and it wouldn't be so bad, 'cept..." He shrugged. "I dunno, maybe we could do some artificial insemination or some shit..."

Henry shook his head and grabbed for the new, full bottle handed to him. "Nah," he said dismissively. "Where's the fun in that? You fornicate into a cup and that's it..." He spread his arms wide with a displeased look on his face. "Why didn't you just marry the damn cup?"

Jonesy smiled, but it wasn't real.

Henry nudged him with his shoulder, leaning in close. "'It' still works, right?"

Jonesy looked down at his crotch and his smile turned real. "Yeah, my soldier still salutes."

Henry let out a pent up sigh of relief. "Thank god, I was beginning to worry about ya Jonesy. Ya poor bastard...if that was gone, I was gonna say you were done for..."

Jonesy laughed quietly and so did Henry, their first real laugh together since Hole in the Wall. It wasn't much, but it was enough.

Somewhere back in that hodgepodge library of a mind he had, Jonesy held an unmarked box with one piece of paper inside of it. On the paper was simple black type:

"I should have put that walking infection McCarthy out of his motherfucking misery."

But he didn't open the box now.

After the laughing quieted, they both fell silent.

"How's Carla doing?" Henry delved, breaking the silence by asking a question that he knew he had enough closeness with Jonesy that he could ask. Few people in Jonesy's life were privy to something so serious. Two out of the three of them were dead.

"Good." He spoke, surprised at how loud his voice came out. "She's doing good. She uh, made some new friends and we've been calling some support groups. But she's doing well."

Carla was Jonesy's wife now of two years, but he'd known her long before that. She'd gone to their high school back in the day in Maine, and back then, she held her appearance as a tough little young lady.

But when Jonesy had walked out into that street and gotten hit, she'd lost it. She had started slow, downing some whiskey to soothe her nerves as she helped with Jonesy's rehabilitation. But the monster soon took hold and swallowed her whole.

There didn't seem to be anything wrong, until Jonesy found out that she was stealing his Vicaden. Towards the end she was buying two bottles and stashing one for her, until Jonesy had finally confronted her with an ultimatum. Rehab or divorce. She opted for rehab.

While Jonesy had recovered well enough to go hunting with his friends up at Hole in the Wall, Carla stayed at her mother's house, completely unaware of the situations that would ultimately change her husband forever.

"That's good," Henry nodded his approval and took a swig.

"So what have you been up to? Lately?" Conversation without their two best friends was extremely difficult nowadays, the incidents all too fresh in their minds.

"Just - stuff." He waved his beer in the air uninterestingly. "I'm just gonna try to find myself a new job and settle down, maybe find a girl..."

Jonesy smiled and fished out some more peanuts. "Got anyone in particular in mind?"

"No sir. But you'll be the first one I call..."

Jonesy smiled again. It felt good to smile.

Suddenly, an image flashed into Jonesy's head.

A bodiless head with mud in its eyes.

Then, "you killed him." It was in Mr. Gray's voice. And Duddit's was wailing on the riverbank.

"Jonesy? Hey, you okay?" Henry's hands were at his back and shoulder as Jonesy was bent double over his barstool, coughing violently.

He tried to speak, but it only resulted in more coughing. Henry patted his back and consoled the people that looked his way with a nod.

When he'd caught his breath, Jonesy brought his hand up, wiping at his wet cheeks. "Yeah..." he whispered thinly, "I'm alright...."

"There's blood...." Henry pulled a napkin from the countertop and put it against Jonesy's chin, Jonesy reached down to swab at the blood dribbling from the corner of his mouth.

He thumped on his chest with his fist, before taking a final breath and sitting up, announcing his win. Chalk one for Jonesy.

"He's good!" Henry called out to the staring patrons, then turned back to his friend.

"Peanut went down the wrong pipe," he announced as he beat out the last of the coughs with his fist before smiling weakly. "Shit..."

"You need to go home?"

Jonesy felt something in his stomach turn and he grabbed for it. "Yeah..." he confessed, and Henry helped him off the stool. His skin was slightly gray, looking like old cheese.

"Alright," Henry paid the tender then shadowed over his half-stooped friend. "This isn't some con to get me to pay is it?" He joked.

"No-" but Jonesy suddenly fell to his knees, clutching his stomach, keeping the bile locked down with his tongue. Something fought in his throat.

Henry's hands were immediately on his shoulders. "We need to get you to a hospital."

"No," Jonesy choked out, "I'm alright, I just need to get home."

Henry helped him towards the door, grabbing Jonesy's bag from the ground, and carrying it with him as they went out into the cold parking lot. "If you need to urk now, you better do it Jonesy, 'cause I don't want it in my car."

Jonesy couldn't manage a smile, but he did manage to hurl something red. It wasn't blood, because it was soft and gelatin like, but there was a blood string connecting it from where it now lay on the ground, up to Jonesy's lips. It was small, about the size of an eyedropper.

"Jesus Jonesy, that's all you got---?" but his amusement was immediately slain when he looked to the puke, the little gelatin mass moving.

"Aw fuck!" Henry was caught between stopping to inspect the mass and helping his friend to the car. He chose his friend first. He worked quickly, pushing Jonesy along - who was now having trouble even stumbling at the faintness in his head - towards the car.

Working fast, he rummaged through his keys, unlocked the door, opened it, and helped Jonesy inside, before turning back out towards the mound of snow where Jonesy had lost it.

He knew what it was.

Stomping back to the pile, he saw that it had begun to burrow, trying to hide, but its little tail still peeked out of the snow.

Tucking his hand into the recess of his coat, he used the fabric as a pseudo glove as he took a big handful of the snow around the baby "shit-weasel". It mewed and screeched and wiggled, muffled in his hand as he brought it out over the cleared pavement and squeezed his hand into a fist before it found the thought to bite.

There was a wet crack before nothing and he opened his coat fringe to see a mucus-leaking body crushed and sticking against the fabric. Unsure on what to do, he bent down and wiped it on the ground, hearing a startled moan from Jonesy behind him.

Turning, he saw that Jonesy had fallen out the open door, sprawled halfway out of the car, his eyes rolled up into the back of his head and his hands reaching out in desperation for something to touch. "I can't see! I can't see!" He kept yelling.

"Jonesy? Jonesy!" Henry swooped back towards his friend, grabbing him by the shoulders and lifting him from the asphalt.

"H? Henry! Help me! I can't see!" He was almost on the verge of tears, so afraid.

"It's alright buddy, I'm gonna get you to a hospital." He helped as Jonesy squirmed back into his seat, trying to help, but his body tried otherwise.

"NO! No..." Jonesy choked out, fighting against Henry as he pushed him back into the car. "No hospitals...what if...it's...it's..." He didn't have to finish his question, he knew what Jonesy meant.

What if it's Ripley? What if it's the byrus? And only now it's taking effect?

Jonesy didn't want to be sent off to some lab and Henry didn't want him to be either.

"I can't move my leg..." He said softly as Henry laid him back into the seat. There was blood on his chin again, black with little flecks of wet, bright red fuzz.

"You're alright Jonesy, just hang on." He buckled his friend in, dodging Jonesy's flailing arms as he hit the knob on the side of the seat and pushed the seat back, Jonesy calming somewhat at the movement.

Running, he vaulted and slid over the hood of his car and came to the other side with a jerky landing, fumbling through his keys to unlock the door.

"Hang on Jonesy, hang on..." He breathed as he fisted the keys again and forced them into the ignition, then turned them. "I'm gonna get you to my place..."

Jonesy's eyes were closed now, a sweat had broken out across his face. He was moaning something, it sounded like "Duddits" but he couldn't be sure.

The car sputtered before kicking to life and Henry hit the gas.

Jonesy moaned as his head flopped from side to side, his hands across his stomach, his moveable leg folded up against the dashboard as he rolled.

Mr. Gray had left a present inside Jonesy.