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The second he stepped out of the car, rain obscured his sight for a great deal. Thick droplets clung to Landon's cropped hair, seeped through the thin coat he wore and leaked down his neck. It felt like blood. At least the scabs prevented any water from getting into the injury, though Landon pondered how good it was to pour a bucket of rain-water on any dried up wound. Bell took a moment to find his bearings and before long they were both searching around the front door for a key.
Landon felt along the frame, but there was nothing there.
Landon pondered Bell's reassurance that afternoon, stating that 'everybody had a key hidden somewhere, just in case'. Well, what if their just in case was a neighbour or family member rather than a random location? Landon nodded back at Bell when the other suggested the round the house and try the back door. The grass beneath them was threatening to become sated on the downpour.
Landon almost bumped into Bell when the other stopped. He caught Bellwether by the shoulder and peered at what the other saw: awake parents. Shit. Were they watching a movie or what? Actually, this could be to their advantage. Sound would be playing and with some luck it'd be some type of action movie. It'd cover up any sounds they'd make. But it wouldn't put either of the parents to sleep.
Landon knew better than anyone else that parents checked on their children before heading off to sleep as well. There was just something of that parental instinct which prevented sleep before knowing all was well with the spawn.
"Shit," Landon muttered.
"Do we wait them out?" he hissed under his breath.
If they found a key, they could stalk them on the couch too.
They didn't look so fierce without any weapons, tied up in each other's arms. A loving couple, they appeared. "Could ambush them," only...they'd hear the door's lock rattle, if they even found a key. Their timing would have to be perfectly aligned with whatever those two were watching.
"Find a cracked window and toss a dart..." Landon snorted. It wasn't a serious idea, although Bell might be able to, if he drew on the goat's strength for speed.
The neighborhood was quiet and peaceful, save for the storm that had begun lashing up and down it. He looked out at the night and felt dread pooling in his stomach. It was all too easy to imagine himself as one of the ordinary citizens lying in bed, rather than the predator lurking to destroy their sedate little lives. He shifted uncomfortably, but there was no denying this. This was what he did. Getting squeamish because it was a kid this time was only deprecating all those whose lives he'd interrupted before, not holding his morals.
He took the sedatives from Landon, nodding. He had. But now that he was holding them, they felt much heavier than they had before. This was...this was a complete and total violation of someone's life. This was entering someone's castle and making off with their child. It was worse than what he'd done before. But it wasn't. It was the same. It was all the same, protecting humanity, avenging those who couldn't be avenged. He would do this, and he would escape safely, like he always had before.
"I thought that was the plan?" Bell replied, suddenly nervous. Was he supposed to have more of a plan? That was already more plan than he usually went into killing a goat with. Maybe that was poor forethought on his part, but...it was the truth.
Landon stepped into the storm, and Bell only hesitated half a second before following. Now was the time to do this, before anything happened. Before he thought about it too much.
The rain came down hard. He didn't make it two steps before he was soaked through, even with his jacket. Lightning flashed and thunder roared, wind gusting hard enough to send him staggering to the side, water lashing against the side of his face as the wind blew it towards him. He squinted to make out Landon, then led the way, hunched against the wind, towards the house.
Walking up to the front door made him feel vulnerable, watched, but no one leaped out and no dogs barked as he approached. He felt under the front mat, but was not rewarded. He hadn't expected to be. Bell nodded to Landon; back door.
His footsteps squelched in the grass as they made their way around the house; it wasn't quite wet enough yet to leave footprints, but it would be on the way back. They'd have to be careful. Through one of the windows, he saw a light, and he froze, holding his hand up so Landon stopped as well. Mom and Dad were in the living room, curled up together on the couch and watching a movie. He almost laughed. Their plan had gone sideways already; that had to be record time.
'We have to.' The words echoed in Landon's head. There was certain finality in the words they both needed. They were going to do this, whether they liked it or not. Whether Bellwether-goat liked it or not. Killing goats was what they did and that was all the argument they needed. Landon nodded. Bell was right.
He snapped the container shut and pocketed the sedatives before climbing into the driver's seat. Thunder clapped in the distance, flashes of light on the horizon. Landon stared at it for a moment and watched as the first, thick droplets hit the front window.
Without hesitation, Landon started the van and switched on the lights.
He set the wipers on low. Having radio on felt wrong somehow. The cheery melodies weren't appropriate. Landon shut off the noise.
Finding the kid's house wasn't particularly hard. They still had the address from the time they picked up the van, after all. Landon checked on his phone and parked at the end of the street.
He shut off the engine. Best they didn't wake up any neighbours with the flashing lights of a van and steady rumble of an engine. Two dark shadows moving through an already tumultuous night would be easily mistaken for some moving branches.
The rain had steadily increased in intensity.
Landon brought out the sedatives and handed them over to Bell.
"You wanted to call the shots, right?" he offered. After the parents had been sedated, they could get the kid. Actually. The kid was bound to hear something and investigate. That'd be the time to snatch the boy up and subdue him. Hopefully they could get at least one of the parents sedated before the other woke and started stirring up a fight.
Or they could draw out the father first, lure the man downstairs or something.
Landon looked at Bell. It'd be too risky. The other parent might call the cops or something.
"Right, do we have a plan?" Landon said, hands clammy. "Other than find the key, get in, sedate dad, mom and then subdue the kid?"
Landon looked around. The streets were deserted because of the weather. Rain lashed against the windows. Now was as good a time as any. Landon made sure his bat was on him and stepped out of the van.
He sighed. They were both wavering where usually they had no questions. Wasn't that enough of a sign that they shouldn't do it? But then again, there was the threat of the goat. If they didn't, and it wanted them to, there'd be consequences. Of course, the opposite applied, too; if it didn't want them to and they did, there'd also be consequences. Playing a guessing game on the goat's will was a guaranteed way to lose.
"Probably not," Bell said, scratching his neck. It'd been a real coincidence that they'd been close enough to a kid to see the sign in the first place. He couldn't imagine the hunters had happened to find him.
But then, a coincidence...was it no coincidence at all, but engineered by the goat from the start? But it wasn't like he'd chosen the van. And there were coincidences; the goat didn't engineer everything in his life.
"I know," he muttered, about Landon getting hurt. He knew and he didn't want that, but...either way, if they violated the goat's will, he got hurt. And he had a point. It was a goat. They'd never paused for a moment before, even if it was a woman or elderly or...whatever, so why stop for a kid? He knew his goat didn't care what age it was. It never had. And if it was the same as waitress goat, then...well, he'd had no qualms about killing that goat, which meant it probably wasn't one that his goat wanted to protect. Though...it wasn't as though his will was the goat's will. He still wanted to kill sinewy-goat, even though the goat had insisted it be left alone.
"I...I think we have to," he said. They'd never left a goat behind before. It wasn't...it wasn't done. The sky flashed white, and somewhere in the distance, thunder grumbled, threatening rain. "I saw him, so we have to kill him. That's the way it goes. That's the way it's always gone." It didn't matter the age or the appearance or the strength of the opponent, they had to kill them once they appeared. Even a kid.
No. It wasn't a kid. The kid was dead. His face went blank, emotions retreating. He'd almost forgotten, hadn't he? He'd almost fallen for the goats' trap. It wasn't the kid. It was the kid's murderer. They were avenging the kid's needless, horrifying death. "Let's go," he said, climbing into the passenger's seat.
Apparently it was an unexpected question to ask. Bellwether had been fairly adamant about killing the kid as quickly as possible before they laid down for a nap. Now however, there didn't seem any of that towering, dominating will of the goat's present. Perhaps the nightmares had shoved the pushy nature of the goat aside. Landon realized that was unlikely.
"The goat didn't seem too angry at having to deal with the hunters," Landon muttered. Even though he'd been vulnerable, what with being sedated, and he hadn't been healed, the goat hadn't made it worse either.
"I wonder if the hunters knew it was the kid," he said thoughtfully, stepping away a little further as Bell sat back. Landon peered at their surroundings, but nothing stood out.
"If I'm wrong my hand is probably not the only thing to get broken," he muttered sourly. Four or five years should be peanuts for a goat. Landon wondered whether goats gained much strength during that time. Well, they could if they applied some strange tactics to accomplish the task. Like Robert and Bellwether.
This goat had chosen a child to hide itself however. A kid wasn't going to get around that much.
"It's up to you," Landon said with finality. The nerves he'd felt before took turns fretting about bashing a kid's head in using his bat and getting his limbs broken by an angry goat for disobeying what were such obvious clues.
The waitress had recognized them, and then so had the kid.
Or was that the shell's dim awareness of something be off. The kid couldn't possibly recall who they were. It was typical, because Bell had chosen the van. Sort of. They both had.
"I don't know, I'm sure the goat wanted us to at least know the kid was a goat," Landon muttered. Usually that meant the goat had to die. Why would this time be any different. Landon brought out the sedatives and glanced over them in the dark. Fingers ran by the zipper.
"It's a goat...since when has that stopped us?" Bell was always very particular about killing any and all goats that crossed their paths. An ordinary goat, hadn't they found themselves wishing for that?
Landon's reassurances brought peace, somehow, security piling thick over him like a blanket. He wasn't quite ready to pull away when Landon did, though the other only backed away far enough to plant a kiss on his forehead. Normally he would have protested, but right now, it felt comforting more than anything.
Neither of them wanted to kill the kid. But they had to. It was the goat's will, wasn't it? He felt tired. He didn't want to. The kid was still a kid, for all intents and purposes. To his parents. To his friends. To the world. An adult...an adult was different. Most of them were assholes anyways. But a kid...? It was different.
"Yeah," Bell said quietly. He understood. He would've been much crueler to Landon much earlier than this. Besides which, Landon's balls would probably have been kicked a few times already. Landon had always been the gentle, kind one of the two of them. Which didn't necessarily say a lot, given his personal tendencies, but still.
Would the goat-- Bell looked at him, thinking. Was that why he was so hesitant? Was the kid not one of the goats they were supposed to hunt? There were some that were off limits. Sinewy-goat, for example. "Um," he said, clearing his throat. He pulled away and sat back, pushing his hair out of his face. "Um, maybe that's why...maybe that's why we had to deal with the hunters? Maybe it wanted us to get them away from the kid?" The hunters had came to them, but what said the goat didn't make that happen? It could have engineered it in a hundred different ways. Made his notice of them obvious. Had him leave behind hints, against his will, that he and Landon were following the hunters. "Something made them switch quarries, after all," he said quietly. And he knew that if he noticed a goat was stalking [i him], he'd take care of that one before anything else.
"What if we...made a note and came back to him?" Bell suggested. "In a year or four or five?" It was a long time to wait, but he'd rather wait than kill a kid. "Let him go for now, but come back later when it's easier?" It was only an ordinary goat, after all. It had exhibited no unusual abilities or extraordinary powers. It was a kid, no more, no less, until they bashed its head in. And it would remain a kid--or a human, at least--until someone did.
"I mean, what if you're right? What if the goat is sicing me--us--on the weirdo goats? The kid isn't a weirdo goat," he said. Was that a hint to leave it be?
Bell's hand was hesitant and Landon furrowed his brow, opening his mouth as if to say something. There was a feather-light touch, something appeared to dawn on Bell's face and Landon's expression turned to confusion. Okay, that was. Unexpected.
And then hands wrapped around his waist, arms following, and he was held closely by Bell.
"Glad to see you too?" Landon squeaked. He cleared his throat and even though his hand still held the bottle of water, Landon returned the embrace. At least there was no one around to see, what with it being kind of dark where they were parked. The heat had died down too, which was a blessing. Landon felt Bell's body shake. He wasn't sure whether it was fear or anything else.
Going by the nightmares, it was probably fear though. Landon knew Bellwether's reaction could go either way: violent or frightened. That meant no throttling this time at least. Landon ran his hand through Bell's hair in a soothing gesture.
"Love you too," he replied without hesitation.
"Won't leave," Landon promised.
They remained like that for a while, though Landon didn't mind. Their embrace harboured the same peace of a few days ago, when there weren't any hunters and waitresses to deal with yet. Or kids.
Bell's voice broke the peace quite effectively.
"Me either," Landon said with a sigh. Wait. Did this mean the goat's intent wasn't to go chase after the kid? What would happen if they didn't go? Would they get reprimanded? Having his hand broken for the third time wasn't exactly a good alternative. Landon shuddered in the chilly evening. It smelled heavy with rain. Which was a good thing.
Rain would cover their arrival and departure a lot better than anything Landon and Bell could come up with off the bat.
Landon sighed out and pulled away a little. He kissed Bell's forehead.
"You were having a nightmare -I figured I'd give you some space, since..." Landon shrugged. To prevent them both the grief of mutilation.
"You think the goat would let it slide if we forgot about this one?" he suggested almost shyly. Their idea was ludicrous. There was just so much that could go wrong about it. And even if everything went smoothly -when had that ever been the case for them?- they'd be murdering a child.
Landon uncapped the bottle of water and took a long drink. He wished it was alcohol.
Bell woke up suddenly, a profound sense of loss infiltrating his consciousness from his dreams. He rolled over, looking for Landon, but the bed was empty. It was just him. All alone. Landon was gone.
Then...had it not been a dream? He curled up, sad and lonely, guilt falling heavy on his shoulders and pinning him to the bed, heart heavy with loneliness and loss. Landon was dead, and it was all his fault. He'd killed him and the goat had eaten him, and there wouldn't even be a body to bury. He was all alone again. Completely alone.
The van creaked, shifting beneath him. Bell sat up, confused. Was that...Landon? But he was dead. It couldn't be. Almost in a trance, still dazed from sleep, he stood and hunched his way through the van to Landon's side, then reached out--carefully, afraid his hand would go right through this apparition--and touched his cheek. No. Landon was alive. He was warm and living. Alive. He hadn't killed him. He hadn't. He wasn't guilty. He was fine, Landon was fine, everything was fine.
His hands wrapped around Landon's waist and pulled him closer into a bear hug, not worried, for once, if anyone saw. It didn't matter if they saw, because Landon was alive, and everything was okay. He nuzzled up to the man and breathed his scent in deeply, reaffirming that this was warm flesh and blood, that Landon was alive and safe and whole. "I love you," he murmured, shaking with leftover fear and worry and relief. "Don't leave me. Don't go."
He didn't want to part for a while, afraid that when he let go, Landon might disappear and vanish. He didn't want to risk it. "I don't wanna kill a kid," he mumbled. He didn't. It was fucked up, and he didn't like that the goat was manipulating them into it. Or was it? It had wanted them to kill waitress goat, though. Was this punishment for acting too slowly on that?
It didn't matter, though. As long as Landon was with him, he could do anything. Even kill a kid, if he had to. As long as Landon was there, it would be alright.
Once Bell was done shedding his coat and jeans, Landon left his coat on the front seat and joined on the make-shift bed. Soon, the almost oppressive heat in the car was broken by a gentle breeze from the windows and Landon sank into a lower state of consciousness simply because of the warmth.
He caught Bell's breathing deepening into sleep and then followed suit not long after. Despite not having done much of anything, Landon felt tired. Sleep was deep and dark, up until the point where Bellwether's twitches and dreams disturbed Landon's rest and infiltrated the bland experience.
The images were unhinged at best. He was stood in the super-market they'd visited the other day, only to walk up some stairs in the back, through a dark hallway and make it to their room. It was the room they'd rented back in Europe: blood was on the floor. The trail lead to the bathroom where the forest-floor was littered in matted blood.
Except where Landon had expected the young boy to be positioned, there was Alice. She was playing by herself; a tea-party, like she'd have in their back yard.
Her smile turned wide upon seeing her 'daddy' and Bell was there, crammed into an impossibly small chair, sipping at some plastic little cup. Their grins turned wide, eyes black as the void of space.
Landon shot awake.
Bell was there, fighting his demons once more.
One of these days it'd be the death of him. Landon stretched out and sat up, pondering on whether or not to wake up Bell, but frankly, there'd only been one thing he'd tried which had worked.
He scooted down to the door and opened the thing, stepping out and stretching. It'd become dark. Shit. What time was it? Landon checked his phone. Still relatively early.
Nerves bubbled up inside of him, constricting his throat and squeezing his stomach. They were actually going to risk killing a child. Somehow it felt cruel, especially since they were aware goats didn't consider death a thing as long as there was a decent copy around. Had Bellwether-goat even meant for them to find the kid?
It'd meant for them to find waitress-goat however.
Or had it?
Were the hunters the bigger issue here?
Bell's apprehension...did it stem from the goat or just common sense?
Landon sighed and reached into the van to grab a bottle of water.
"Oh, I'm the lady now," Bell muttered, climbing into the back of the van. This time, he was more awake than earlier, and he climbed all the way to the back seat. A few experimental pulls and tugs showed that the back seat had the kind of give he'd expect from a back seat that folded into a bed; a little more searching revealed a lever hidden under a flap of fabric, and he pulled it and pushed the seat down. It flattened into a small, cramped bed, but it was better than sleeping on the floor. Opening the windows, then tugging the blinds closed on either side, he stretched out on the seat-turned-bed and closed his eyes, then sat up and almost violently shed his jacket and jeans, electing to keep his shirt and shorts on for the public's sake. It was hot in the car, even in the shade within it. Lying back down, he closed his eyes and waited for sleep.
It was a long time coming. Their day hadn't been very exciting; he simply wasn't that tired. For a while, he dozed, half-asleep but mostly awake, until boredom drew the blanket of sleep heavily over him. His dreams were mostly indecipherable jumbles of sound and color, though he knew for certain that she was always by his side, chasing him, supporting him, leaning on him, crying, screaming, smiling, laughing, all of them jumbled together until he couldn't tell one apart from the other. It felt like he was stuck on a roller-coaster ride, unable to tell up from down, left from right.
"See, you need me," she whispered, close by his ear. "Come back to me. You're so close. So much closer than you were. Come back. Don't you want to see? Don't you want to see what was left behind?"
He shook his head, wordlessly. She laughed aloud. "Liar," she said. "LIAR!" She charged at him and bowled him over backwards, tearing at his chest, and he fought back, trying to knock her away. Somehow, he got his hands around her throat, and he hung on for dear life--
Landon. Landon was staring back at him. He'd strangled Landon. Again. Bell let go and backed away, terrified, but Landon didn't move. He laid on the ground, still, perfectly still, as still as the hunters had laid, and as he watched, his goat, black and huge, impossibly huge, picked Landon up by the ankle and--
swallowed him whole.
Landon decided to take Bell's 'I'm fine' at face-value, rather than pointing out the obvious. It was clear Bellwether didn't want to be considered weak for thinking cannibalism was sickening and Landon understood. They weren't that different in that respect. Actually, they were very much alike in certain ways. Maybe that's why their match worked and clashed so badly at times.
"Yeah," Landon nodded. There was no turning back now. He'd promised Bell they'd go after the kid if they could confirm the death and it appeared they had. At least, someone's death anyway. The kid had been the only one reacting in a way to be expected of a goat. Bellwether-goat hadn't led them astray before, so why would it now? Sinewy-goat had vowed to leave them in peace after the ordeal on the freighter. Hopefully it'd kept true to its word.
For a second, Landon considered the other Bellwether.
If the lost this one, would the loss be great enough to search out the other -or others? It wouldn't be quite the same. Landon shook the thought as quick as it had sprouted, before it could take root. Nothing would happen with this Bellwether. Unless Bellwether-goat tired of the silly game it was playing and reset its shell to be someone else. Landon wondered whether that decision would resonate through to its copies, but then...that always left Benjamin.
A nap? First a tease, now a 'nap'? Landon wanted nothing more than to just release this frustration. Nothing as off-putting as the imagery of beating a kid to death, he supposed. Landon shrugged. He wasn't particularly tired as they hadn't really done much today. Just some laundry and stalking around.
"I don't know, I guess," he muttered. If Bell tried and successfully fell asleep now, would that mean another set of hands around his throat in the next few hours?
Kicking Bell in the nuts wasn't any more inspiring than bashing a kid to death.
But before it was a goat, it'd be a kid.
If they drugged the boy up enough, it'd just fall asleep. No harm would come to the shell. Maybe the hunters were right about that one.
Landon settled into the driver's seat and paused the mechanical habit of firing up the engine. "There's nothing else we can do but wait," and food would be out of the question, judging by Bell's complexion.
"A nap is as good as anything," he shrugged and glanced over his shoulder, then peered at Bell. "Ladies first," Landon offered.
He walked away when Landon told him to, and felt better for being out of eyeshot of the macabre little scene. Landon inspected it more closely than he'd been able to stomach and apparently came to the same decision; the goat had taken the boy here. A pat on his back told him it was time to move on, and he gratefully left the little patch of bloodied earth behind.
Bell glanced up at Landon's question, then shrugged. "I'm fine," he said. Spooked, yeah. A little sick, maybe. But fine. He wouldn't even have been bothered by it if it weren't for the most recent revelation about the goat's increasingly gruesome habits. Did that make it better, or worse? Worse. Had to be. He wasn't sick out of sympathy, but because his own goat did the same. If it hadn't effected him, it wouldn't have ever bothered him at all. He'd never pretended to be a good person, but sometimes he wished he could.
"We go after him tonight, then, like we planned," he said, forcing those thoughts back. At least that part was clear, now, now that they were sure the goat had eaten the boy...eaten someone, but what was the likelihood two different goats had attacked in such close proximity to one another? It was waitress-goat, and she was now the boy. The boy was almost certainly a goat; they'd double checked this time, and this time, it had paid off. At least it would all be resolved, and they'd be able to move on. Maybe they'd even shake the hunters like this, though Bell doubted they'd give up so easily if they were used to chasing goats.
"Wanna take a nap until dark?" he suggested. He wasn't sure how well he'd sleep after everything, but they'd be up late tonight breaking into the boy's house; better to not be sleepy for that. Besides, it wasn't like he had anything else he wanted to do. Plan the break-in, but they had that mostly planned already. They could eat, but he didn't want to eat right now, after what he'd just seen. The van came up, and he plopped down in the passenger's seat and waited for Landon's decision.
Spiders? Landon shot Bell an unimpressed look and kept searching, hands in his pockets. For some reason, despite the weather being clammy and heated, he felt cold. Especially so when Bellwether asked Landon to come over and have a look. Bell's face appeared pale. There was something there? Landon approached carefully, half expecting to have a spider in his face at any second. Bellwether turned even paler, if that was even possible, and a little green around the gills. Landon peered down at what Bell had found.
"Calm down already," Landon soothed Bell.
There it was. Blood.
Thick, stale droplets of it.
Landon put a hand to Bell's shoulder as the other looked away.
"Just...wait over there or something," Landon muttered and crouched down. He didn't want Bell to puke on the only evidence they had. There were prints underneath the leaves: hooves. Were there deer here? Not very likely.
Besides, there would be more trails. This one seemed to just start and end here. Either the deer had only left depressions here or it'd taken huge leaps. Like those of a goat's. The only trouble with the blood was that they had no inkling as to whether their kid had been the victim or some other hapless infant had. Well, it had to be. It'd be too much of a coincidence, the kid's reaction and this.
The blood had dried. It was old too.
Matched their time-line. Sort of. Well, what did he know?
"Right, guess that confirms it," Landon stated and stood back up. He kicked at the leaves to cover their tracks a little and patted Bell on the back.
"Let's go back," he said.
"You okay?" Landon mentioned, regretting ever having insinuated that the hunters had been all but cleaned up by the goat eating them. What else was there though? Bellwether would've figured it out by himself too, if Landon hadn't mentioned it. And then he'd be the bad guy for holding back details.
Landon sighed and started back for the van.
This meant they'd have to kill the kid tonight for sure. Waiting any longer wasn't going to change a thing. Bell was right. They'd been stalling.
The path through the woods led to a little play area that looked as though it'd been built by kids, haphazard and pieced together. He ducked inside and looked around the den, shifting furniture and trinkets, but there was no blood, no evidence of a lost child. He stepped out of the den and took it all in, trying to think. "It probably wouldn't have done it right in front of all the other kids," he reasoned, thinking aloud. And what would a goat have left behind? Not bits of flesh, but maybe...if the kid lost a shoe, or tore his shirt...Maybe some blood, if they were lucky, or would that be considered unlucky?
He circled the den, batting stray vines and branches away from his face as he went. Low-growing palm trees obscured the floor, so he bent and lifted one--and abruptly jumped away, startled. That had to be the biggest spider he'd ever seen, and vibrant, poisonous colors, too. "I found a spider," he reported, backing away from the palm tree. Not exactly helpful, but definitely worth mentioning. "Fuckin' huge one."
Continuing his survey a little more warily, he found something a little more promising...or maybe less so. "Landon, come here," he said grimly. He'd found...something.
The forest floor had been stirred up, little footprints dug unusually deep into the earth; alongside them were strange marks made by no animal he knew of, somewhere between paw marks and hoofprints. The plant life and undergrowth were distributed; there were signs of a struggle. And here and there, though he wasn't sure, he thought he saw speckles of dark red-brown splattered over the leaves: blood.
"I think I found it," he said. It. The place the goat had killed the kid and taken his place. The place the goat had--had eaten the kid--
Bell swallowed and looked away. Oh, he was going to be sick. "Hurry, I don't wanna stay here long," he said. He'd puke. Or just...run away. He wanted to. But he couldn't. Landon had to see this. "Hurry, hurry," he urged him. The sooner he got away, the better.
At first Landon took the lead, taking them closer towards the school building, but at some point Landon fell back to let Bell take the lead. Bellwether-goat willing, it'd lead them to some traces. Shit. He realized late that this was very likely to upset Bell all over again. Not that he considered the other weak or sensitive, but Bell had taken the whole cannibalism thing rather hard. Who wouldn't? Landon looked at his feet and slowly followed.
The sun was soon blotted out by thick canopy and even though that ought to have been cooler, it wasn't. Moist clung like a thick sheet to the ground they walked upon and Landon wiped his brow. Why did kids like this place to play?
Landon caught Bell's gaze and nodded faintly. So there was a trace. Well, that was nothing remarkable, considering they knew kids liked to get away from their parents' overbearing nature. Paranoia danced around the back of his neck.
Did he even want to find anything here?
If they did find blood...
No. Landon was fairly certain the goat had eaten most, if not all, of the kid. It'd have to, in order to recover. The hunters were at least that organized. They'd have gotten a few hits in, maybe shot it down and got careless. If they hadn't killed all of it enough, it would've simply regenerated. Goats tended to do that.
Landon watched Bell's back.
He'd never loose the goat, but Bell was as visceral as any other human being.
Finally they followed the trail into what appeared to be some sort of den. An old, worn chair was set in a crudely built shelter. Little trinkets were lined up on wooden planks and it'd seemed some kids had even tried to nail a ladder to a tree-trunk to get up. Landon was almost surprised there wasn't a full-blown tree house up there, but maybe that would've been too hard for young kids to accomplish.
Landon scanned the ground, but there wasn't any blood. Not even a forgotten garment. So where else did these kids play?
"Looks promising," he muttered. Could've been the goat snatched up the young kid here and wandered back to the school to pursue its day as a new shell. The kid would've been late, probably. But that wouldn't be anything remarkable. Landon kicked up a few branches and leaves, aimlessly searching the close vicinity of their find.
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