The woman listened closely to the reply, ready to strike if the answer was inadequate, ready to erupt from the ground like a tarantula if the boys suddenly became spooked and began the movements and utterances of flight. Instead, she smiled wildly at the sound of the other boys as their cracking voices spilled into mocking laughter.
The first boy coughed out a few more chortling breaths and then said with defiance, “She’s dead, you pillock. Her skeleton is at the bottom of a lake somewhere in the Back Country.”
“So everyone says, but how do you know that’s true? If they never found her body, how can you know?”
“Because the girl killed her. And her mom was there and saw the whole thing. They saw her dead body splayed across the ground as they left. That’s how I know. Are you the only person in the Southlands that hasn’t heard the story?”
“I’ve heard the story, but back to my same question then: where is the body? Why is there no body?”
“How many laps do you want to take around this ‘body’ track? Hmm? I don’t know where the body is exactly. It was probably dragged off and eaten by dogs. Or something. The System doesn’t seemed too concerned about it, so why are you?”
“I’m not concerned about it, I just…”
“Or maybe,” the first boy interrupted, “maybe they did find the body and The System is covering that whole night up. Did you think about that?”
“No.” The boy paused, indicating he was considering the explanation, and then asked, “But why would they do that?”
“Because that’s the kind of crap they do! I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.” The first boy’s tone was now curt, irritated, and any more talk on the subject of the body’s location was likely to propel him into raw anger.
The woman groaned in ecstasy.
“And anyway, she’s not here. How could she be here? She was killed in the Back Country not here at her cabin. Think about things before you spit up your stupid theories. Besides that, the System has probably been through this place a million times by now. The cabin is empty. There’s no one here waiting for us.”
The boy paused, and the woman could almost see the wide eyes of the boy, his chin jutting out slightly, taunting another challenge.
“But…I guess if you’re scared you should stay back here. I honestly don’t really give a crap. I knew I shouldn’t have brought you along.”
The woman listened intently, in some ways hoping the boy would call the bully’s bluff and keep away from the property. So soon after her hibernation, she was somewhat concerned she would only have strength for one of the boys right now—maybe even two if she was quick with the first. Three would be a challenge, so if one of them had to escape, she’d rather it be the sensible one. Not that she was more concerned about him than the others, but she figured the prudent boy would be too frightened to tell his tale to anyone who mattered. At least not for a few days anyway. And by then she would be gone. By then she would have begun hunting again.
Official release date is November 25, 2016.