ROADKILL: Book 5, Chapter 1
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” -Isaiah 11:6
“Bullshit.” -The Wolf.
I’d died six months ago.
Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? I died.
Only I hadn’t, not really.
I’d lay spread-eagle in our apartment in a pool of blood that no amount of rug cleaner would get out. My eyes were dull and blank as they stared at the ceiling. My gun was still in my hand, but it hadn’t done me much good, despite the dead monsters around me. I liked to think I’d taken a few with me.
I hadn’t seen it, of course, any of it, but it was what I imagined…with a little help of the rug that Niko, my brother, had ripped to shreds with his knife and thrown outside into the hall. And I’d seen my share of dead people, so it helped with the details. Yeah, I pictured it in great if not necessarily accurate detail even if I hadn’t actually seen it.
But Niko had.
Six months later and my brother still wouldn’t tell me if I was on the money with my description. I think telling me would’ve made the memory of the hypnosis-induced illusion worse, sharper. I knew it had seemed completely real to him then and even now, half a year later, I caught him once in a while looking at me like he couldn’t believe I was genuinely there, truly alive.
Too bad having little brothers with half monster genes didn’t come with mental health coverage. Pretty goddamned unfair to Niko, all things considered. And with the life we’d lived, those ‘all things’ would make horror movies look like kiddie cartoons. Demon driven deductibles—they were a bitch.
But since I hadn’t died in reality and Niko was faced every morning with half dried toothpaste in the sink, wet towel on the floor, dirty dishes on the kitchen counters, and a trail of clothes from my bedroom to the bathroom, I think the memory faded bit by bit. And that must’ve been one helluva relief because he didn’t bitch about my uber-slobbiness. He simply washed out the sink, hung up the towel, did the dishes, and tossed my clothes back in my room and closed the door. So, a relief for him, but kind of a worry for me, because that wasn’t Nik—not in any shape or form.
Niko had raised me from birth. And he’d been on my ass since birth as well. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but close enough. Pick up your clothes, do your homework, stop drawing cheat notes on your arm, eat your vegetables, quit trying to make out the porn through the scrambled gray zig-zags lines. I was in my twenties now, so it was a little different. Run your five miles in the morning. Spar two hours in the afternoon. Study up on how to kill F through H in the Mythological Creature Compendium. Quit trying to make out the porn through the scrambled gray zig-zag lines.
Well, some things never change. And porn channels were expensive.
Niko had come a long way in those six months. Although for all of them he would wake up in the middle of the night and stand in the doorway to my bedroom, making sure it wasn’t a dream. Making sure I was alive. Not that I’d actually had caught him doing it. I didn’t have to. I knew.
The illusion was my brother seeing me dead. The reality was that my brother would’ve torn the world apart if that illusion had been true.
So I wasn’t surprised he stood there night after night. He’d raised me, been with me my entire life. I knew him all right, knew where I would’ve stood if the reverse had been true. And then one morning I woke up and knew that night he hadn’t been in my doorway watching me sleep. How? The same way. I just knew.
And when I walked out into the hall, yawning and stretching to face his frown, that clinched it. “One,” Niko held up a finger. “Pick up your clothes. I am not your maid. How do I know this? A maid cannot kill you with a tube sock. I can. Two,” yet another finger, “toothpaste, towel, dishes.”
“All that under two?” I muttered, bending to pick up a T-shirt off the floor.