At some point during the night, Dana goes back to her room to change into a camisole and pajama shorts (it's nice to be able to get away with going braless.) But she's so tired that when she sits on her bed for a moment, she ends up just falling asleep.
Dana jolts awake, images and sensations flowing away from her mind like water roaring down a drain. Blood on her face, her hair, only most of it hers- a decapitated head bouncing, the shock of cold water, the snarl of pointed teeth, a one-armed little girl dragging an axe- and Jules, Curt, Holden-
Dana's breaths come in little gasps. She yanks the blankets away and casts frantically around for a weapon.
Lamp. Lamp good. Lamp good yes.
The lamp has a reassuring heft. Her entire body taut, Dana creeps toward the door, alert to even the slightest ambient noises.
A twig snaps outside her window. Fuck this subtlety shit, Dana thinks, and runs.
So it's like 2 AM, maybe three, and the fire is starting to flicker down a bit, as if someone's hit the dimmer switch, but the closet holds wool and flannel blankets aplenty, and Curt and Holden finally got the space heater working, so the whole cabin has this nice, toasty glow to it.
Marty's telling some inane story about how a guy once cut him off on the highway while he was listening to a Kurt Vonnegut audiobook. He's getting really into it, gesturing more animatedly by the second- like, he's really pissed off about this, you know? And he just had this epiphany about how Vonnegut was right, man-
That's when Dana runs in- barefoot and on the verge of sobbing, her hair in disheveled tangles, gripping a lamp like she's about to shank somebody with it.
Marty stops mid-word.
Her friends- no, her family. They're all still here, still alive, and how is that even possible?
Jules un-nestles herself from Curt. "Dana, sweetie, you okay?"
Jules. Amazing Jules, Jules who can match her shoes to her earrings, Jules who is made of metaphorical sunshine and poodle fluff and who makes precalculus look so fucking easy.
When Dana got The Email from her teacher, she was too stunned to do anything but cry. She skipped all her classes that day and just hid under her duvet doodling geometric figures and rain clouds.
Marty left her the most comforting voicemail ever, and that made her smile a bit before the tears prickled her eyes again.
But Jules came to her dorm room with two bottles of bright pink nailpolish and a Styrofoam container of leftover cafeteria lagnasa, lured Dana out of her funk with ordinary gossip and an offer of hair-braiding.
Dana has never met anyone so genuinely loveable as Jules.
Did she even thank her for the lagnasa?
Dana drops the lamp and, heedless of its shattering, propels herself into Jules's arms. She presses her nose against Jules's collarbone and breathes flowery Victoria's Secret perfume.
"Jules," she says, her voice muffled and unsteady, and wraps her arms around the other girl. "I just. Love you so much. Okay? Friend love. You're the best friend anyone could ever ask for and please, please be careful-"
Curt makes a concerned sound and pats Dana on the back.
Holy shit, Curt. Why is she not hugging Curt?
Dana scrambles over Jules's lap and scooches between the couple to curl up against Curt.
She has not appreciated Curt enough. So brave, so resolute- she remembers a dim image of the way he was willing to risk his life for them, the way his courage ended up not mattering in a way that, to an outside observer, would have been hilariously fucking ironic.
Curt is amazing at recommending books. He knows about works of obscure literary fiction translated into English that have twenty viewpoint characters and six timelines, two of which run backwards, and he'll coax Dana into reading it and she'll protest about things like business and homework, but in the end she'll acquiesce and slip the heavy hardcover into her backpack, and in the end it'll be the best thing ever and she can think of nothing else.
Also, he makes Jules ridiculously happy.
"Do you need anything?" Holden asks.
Holden. In her dream, they were almost lovers. Dana doesn't know him as well as she knows Curt and Jules, but she'd like to. Not necessarily in a "kissing and horizontal tango" way, but she knows Holden is someone she can rely on. Reassuring and logical in a crisis, never willing to give up, sweet and kind and now that she has him in her life, she's going to take advantage of the friendship opportuntity.
Dana stumbles from one couch to another to rest her head on Holden's shoulder. He strokes her hair- a little awkwardly, but it still feels nice.
"Hey, Dana, did my secret stash tell you to smoke it? We've gone over what happens when you get stoned- you know, mucho with the shaking and the vomiting and the general not-good things. Leave the drugs to the professionals."
Marty, standing up and leaning against the couch, unharmed and unbloodied.
It was just them at the end, she remembers, leaning against each other and sharing a final joint and waiting for the apocalypse. He'd given her space to vent her rage against the glass-caged nightmares, then held her comfortingly when her fury dissolved into sorrow.
And he'd saved her life. With someone else to worry about, she'd stayed angry, stayed fighting. They'd snapped their strings and given the finger to the puppeteers.
Marty meant so, so much to her.
Dana wriggles from Holden's embrace and collapses against Marty, wrapping her arms around him. He hugs her back just as tightly.
"I wouldn't have shot you," she mumbles, even though she doesn't know why she's saying it. It's just really important that he understands her. "I wouldn't have, okay? I promise I wouldn't have."
"You might have," Marty says, his voice shaking a little. "I wouldn't have blamed you."
They cling fiercely to each other.
A long moment later, he lifts his head, strokes her cheek with a hand that she's surprised doesn't have blood on it. "You gonna be okay, Dana?"
That's where the head- Jules's head- bounced across the cabin. That's where Big Zombie broke through the door. She leans against him. "I'm not sure."
No one is entirely sure how to respond to that.
"So," Jules says, a little too brightly, "is anyone interested in playing Truth or Dare? Truth, Dare, or Lecture?"
"No. Nononono, we can't play that. Wait- does this cabin have a cellar? We have to nail down the door- duct-tape it, anything- we can't go down there-" Dana crawls across the floor, desperately searching for the opening. I can stop this.
Curt wrinkles his nose. "Dude. Why would a cabin have a cellar?"
"You're acting really weird, Dana," Jules says, all concerned and protective. "And I'm saying that as your friend."
She finds the spot where the cellar door was, traces its outline with her fingers- but there's no door. Just floorboards.
Only it was so real, so real, the cellar must be here somewhere, it has to be, she has to stop them- what if there are zombies in the woods right now?
"I'm sorry, I just-" and then she starts crying.
Dana acts majorly weird for the rest of the evening, freaking out every time she hears a noise outside, even if it's just an owl hooting. When everyone else starts to trickle off to bed, she takes the sharpest, largest kitchen knife from the drawer. "I'm going to wait outside," she says firmly. "They'll have to kill me last, so maybe I can buy you guys time." Okay, maybe she's acting kind of irrational, but there could be zombies.
Everyone exchanges nervous looks. Is it really a good idea to let the girl who's been sobbing for no reason go outside alone with an edged weapon? Seriously, though- danger to herself and others much?
"I'll wait up with her," Marty says quietly, and the other three relax.
Dana is alert, every muscle ready for battle; Marty sits back, smoking a joint.
Finally he says, "I had the dream too, Dana."
She looks like a startled fawn. "Really?"
"If it's the dream you're talking about, the one with the killing and the dying and the monsters… really."
Dana chews on her bottom lip. Then: "The tooth-faced ballerina?"
"The Angry Bad-Touch Tree?"
"Wish I hadn't seen it, but… again, yep."
She's silent for a long moment. "So what do you think it means?"
"I don't know. It's just a dream. Why does it have to mean something?" Which is Marty for "I'm not ready to talk about it yet."
Dana respects that.
They scan the forest in silence. Suddenly-
"Tell me what's going to happen tomorrow. Tell me there's going to be a tomorrow."
Marty looks uncharacteristically solemn and in need of reassurance.
The forest seems dark and menacing, and Dana wonders if they're just living in the calm before the apocalypse. The warmth from inside radiates against their backs; inside, their friends sleep peacefully, untroubled by horrifying visions.
And she's not alone.
"We'll sleep till noon," Dana begins, a little unsteadily. She tries not to look at the trees or think about what might emerge from them. "And then Curt will wow us all with his mastery of the pancake."
Marty cracks a small smile. The knowledge that her words are working emboldens Dana. She feels stronger, braver, as if a light within her is dispelling the darkness. "We'll go kayaking or mountain-biking or maybe just swimming, and we'll stay out till the sun sets. We'll collect twigs and make a fire in the fireplace. We'll roast marshmallows and get our hands sticky and play Would You Rather… and we'll try to ignore the dulcet tones of Jules and Curt having wild monkey sex."
Marty snorts with barely repressed laughter.
"As soon as the sun rises- you'll see. Everything will be normal."
"As soon as the sun rises," Marty agrees softly.
Dana and Marty lean against each other and wait for sunrise.
Or the apocalypse. Secretly, they're not sure which.