8. The Past: part II
It was a long time before either of them spoke. Jeff only held her close, still running his hand through her hair. She suddenly realized that she was shaking and that tears were streaming down Jeff’s cheeks. “Baby,” he began, “I thought you were dead. I thought you…” he trailed off and lowered his eyes, blinking fervently to fend off tears.
“Jeff,” she put her hand under his chin and gently lifted his head. Their eyes locked. “What the hell happened? What’s going on? You just smashed the living fuck out of Bobby!” Kris could see scraps of carrot-orange hair stuck on Jeff’s baseball bat, and Bobby was one of the few men on the island with hair that color. He was a dishwasher and a busboy in the evenings. This bat is a YBXS-32 Omaha XT Stiff (-12), made of ST+20 alloy. It has an extra stiff composite, reinforced transition and a 2 ¼” barrel with a patented Pro Cup end cap. Its grip is a synthetic, ⅞” standard handle. This is one of the best bats money can buy, baby. One of the best.
“Everything is so fucked up, Kris. Everyone’s lost it like some zombie movie bullshit. That tourist that bit you? He was the first…thing that I saw.” There was venom dripping in his voice as he spat the words out. “After you went down, Tommy was on top of him and tried to beat the shit out of him. Only it didn’t matter how many times Tommy hit him, because he never stopped The God damn tourist kept snapping his jaws like a fucking moray. Tore Tommy’s hand right off…Jesus, there was so much blood.” Jeff shook his head, trying to clear the memory from his mind. “Sweet Christ, Kris, how are you alive? I knew I needed to get you out of there but you were bleeding so much. I got you inside the office and laid you on the table and called 911 but the phone lines were already dead. You didn’t stop convulsing… I thought you were going to die, baby. Fuck, it was terrifying…” He didn’t continue. A long, deep exhale fell from his lips as he composed himself. Jeff reached behind Kris’s neck and pulled her towards him; their foreheads touched gently and they rubbed noses. The act known as “Eskimo kissing” in modern western culture is loosely based on a traditional Inuit greeting called a “kunik,” the narrator reminded her.
Jeff’s eyes scanned over her neck and shoulder where Kris was bit two hours previously. There was no wound to be found. The only remnant of an injury was a long-healed scar that stretched down her neck and poured over the muscles of her right shoulder. The scar swirled just above one of Kris’s tattoos. She had a matching pair of brightly coloured blue birds tattooed on either shoulder. They were her pride and joy; it would have been a shame to see one of them ruined.
“The fuck…” He started. Kris heard his heartbeat increase suddenly.
“Where you were bit, Kris. It’s…”
Kris reached her hand over to her neck and felt her skin. It was tough and almost leathery in its consistency and yet there was no wound to be found. “What the hell?” She whispered, horrified. Her world was crumbling down around her, and she could feel the screams around her pressing into her silent void. A small crack formed in the sphere of silence that she created around her and all of the sounds she had blocked out began spilling into her mind. Kris doubled over in pain and she was vaguely away of Jeff’s lips moving, but she couldn’t make out what he was saying. It was clear that she was going to throw up, and she pushed herself away from Jeff. Her stomach clenched as its contents expelled from her mouth, splashing down to the floor. She groaned as her body rid itself of the contents of her stomach, down to the yellow, burning acid in her intestines. Heaving again, she had an insane memory of her mother telling her to brush her teeth after throwing up. It will ruin your teeth! She had said. One of the oral manifestations of bulimia is smooth, outer surface enamel erosion. It is a major sign and most common effect of bulimic behavior. This loss of enamel and dentin usually occurs on the upper, front and inside surfaces of the teeth. The voice said and Kris added, Fight off tooth decay! Visit your dentist every six months to maintain optimal tooth and gum health.
Jeff placed his hand on the small of her back comfortingly, “I know, baby. I know,” he whispered. “It’s okay. Just let it all out.” Kris shook her head, a defeated expression across her face. Her dark blond hair fell loosely over one shoulder, “No. No, it’s not okay, Jeff. Nothing about this is okay. It’s fucked up and we are all so…screwed.”
“We’ll get to the truck and get the hell out of here. We’ll go into Greensboro and pick up Gabe before heading into the mountains,” he said softly.
Kris nodded her head slowly, forcing herself back into the silent void. She could feel the screams and voices trickle out of her consciousness and disappear into blissful, pure silence. Running the back of her hand across her lips, she stood up and took in one deep breath. Jeff reached over and cupped Kris’s chin in his hand and met her eyes.
My God, he is handsome, Kris thought. His dark brown hair was cropped short and his shockingly green eyes burned into her. Light freckles peppered his nose and cheeks from long hours spent in the summer sun. He was 6’3”, stocky and absolutely perfect. At that very moment, Kris could not recall a single thing about Jeff that did not give her butterflies. She stretched up on her toes to kiss him and Jeff met her halfway there.
Their lips met and a thousand different memories of their relationship exploded into her brain. The memory of their first date to Ocracoke Island where they rode bikes through the town like a couple of tourists came to her first. She recalled their first kiss on the beach at sunset and the first time they made love. A distinct memory of holding Jeff’s hand was in her mind too, as well as the way his smell would linger on her clothes and skin. She could hear the swell of the waves and the call of the seagulls. It played like a video in her mind and her entire world was consumed by memory. Kris nibbled on his bottom lip gently and Jeff sighed as their lips parted.
“To the end of the world, baby. The fucking end of the world,” Jeff said to her with a small smile, “I’m not going anywhere without you.”
Kris smiled, her nose wrinkling. “I love you, Jeff.”
“I love you t–” He inhaled sharply and his body was ripped away from Kris. Jeff’s eyes rolled back into his head and he groaned deeply as deep, crimson blood bubbled out of his mouth. A sick, gurgling sound fell from Jeff’s lips as blood ran hot and sticky down the front of his shirt. There was a defeated, sad look in his eyes as he slid down to his knees before toppling over onto his side.
The tourist from earlier was standing in the doorway with a satisfied smirk on his face. Kris realized that in her shock and terror, she could not move.
“Kris, Kris, Kris…What are we going to do with you? You’re supposed to be dead, pet. You’re supposed to be following every single word that I say and now look. Look what you forced me to do, Kris,” the tourist gestured to Jeff with an open palm, “If you would have just died like you were supposed to, that never would have happened.”
The bat. You need to get the bat, she suddenly remembered. Jeff’s Louisville Slugger had rolled over to the side of her left foot. She only needed to crouch down and pick it up.
“So now, I’m going to kill you. And I’m going to kill you slowly and painfully because you couldn’t die like a good girl.” The tourist took a step towards her.
Kris, get to the fucking bat. It’s the only chance you have. She didn’t remember picking up the Louisville Slugger. Suddenly, she was Sergent Donny Donowitz from “Inglourious Basterds” as she lifted the bat. With a sudden burst of speed and strength, she swung it towards his right temple. A look of surprise registered across his face moments before the bat hit home with a wet thud. The tourist crumpled to the floor and onto his side. He rolled over to his back in an attempt to stand up, but before he could do so Kris smashed down on his sternum with the bat. There was a sick crack as the bones in his ribcage shattered. She moved down to his stomach and swung. His guts gave way under the weight of the bat and she moved to standing right above him. His skull exploded as she came down on his forehead with the bat. Blood peppered the floor, the room and Kris. With each hit, she would yell triumphantly. Again and again, she hit him until his face was nothing more than a decimated, liquified version of his former self. Teddy fuckin’ Williams knocks it out of the park! Fenway Park on its feet for Teddy fuckin’ Ballgame! He went yard on that one, out to fuckin’ Lansdowne Street! Batter up. You’re on deck! Two hits. I hit you, you hit the ground.
Kris felt herself gaining control of her actions and thoughts again. She was breathing heavily and she shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts again. It felt like she was drifting through a heavy fog. The act of beating the hell out of that man was a blurry, vague memory. Although Kris could recall the rage she felt, she could not quite recall swinging the bat. What had come over her? What had she become?
Jeff. “Oh Jesus, no. No, no!” Kris cried in anguish as the bat fell from her hands and the movie playing in her mind dissolved away. She fell to her knees and crawled over to Jeff. Blood-filled gurgles came out of his mouth as he struggled to breathe. Kris could see that his chest was inflating like a balloon with each breath Jeff tried to take. He groaned in pain and as Kris reached his side, his eyes were full of tears. Pure, profound sadness, regret and love spoke to her. It wouldn’t be much longer now. He shakily reached towards her and grasped her hand tightly. Leaning down to him, Kris kissed his forehead and silent tears fell from her eyes. “I love you, Jeff Restern. And I always will,” she whispered. Kris saw a faint glimmer of a smile before he took one last shuttering breath and the light went out from his eyes.
Kris’s body was shaking violently with adrenaline and terror. She remembered sobbing into his t-shirt and laying there with him for a long time.