He saw them first. When the light cleared from Mary’s touch, he saw them. Through the outline of a tree, he could see his neighbours. Some of them, but not all of them. He saw LaWanda, front and centre. Standing to her left were Moira and Petunia. Shane was glad they had survived. To her right, however, stood John in full and garish drag as Barbarella. He had his arms crossed and looked pissed off, as usual. There was also another drag queen who wouldn’t make a bad looking man. He looked happier and slightly stoned.
Shane looked around behind them. The forest was still there, stretching back for miles, as if the apartment building head never been or ever existed. In front of them was the outline of a tree, the world they knew in front of them. When he saw John, Shane knew that his dream was shattered.
Shane had been in love with Justin for years now, but never had the courage to introduce himself. Now that he knew Justin, had kissed him, talked to him, he only knew he didn’t want to let him go. He had dreamed of having coffee in the morning with him, both of them at their computers, writing. Of waking up with him, Justin’s face inches from his own. Shane had dreamed of spending every day with him. It had been a brief dream, but the attraction he had experienced with Justin in the brief time he had known him was short, he had read all of his books, had wished for him from afar.
The sensible part of Shane knew he was being a romantic, that people didn’t fall in love with someone that had never talked to before this evening, that he was being unrealistic and flighty and foolish.
Looking up at him, Shane tried to keep his emotions down. To his surprise, Justin reached down and took a hold of Shane’s hand. “It’s okay.” He squeezed Shane’s hand and it sent hope into him that matched the beat of his heart. “Okay.” He could barely find his voice.
He moved to step through the trees into a living room that was surrounded by cats. They all stood sentry and their eyes should have been slightly unnerving, but he knew about cats-they watched out for you. Any animal was like that. What did frighten Shane was the fact that John was looking at him with poison eyes that chilled and frightened more than anything he had seen. However, he was joined a moment later when Justin stepped through and put his arm around him. Shane experienced another thrill and it gave him strength. He glared right back at John, AKA Barbarella. He would not be afraid.
“What the FUCK do you think you’re doing, with my man’s arm around you?”
“Why don’t you ask your man?” Shane fired back. “He’s the one with the arm.”
“I’m asking you! You’re trying to take my money away from me and I won’t have it, you listen to me, you fucking shit pig!”
“Um, guys?” It was Jo who stepped through next. “Can you keep your gay bitch fight drama until later? We don’t have much time.”
“Seriously.” Corey came through the trees and there was the sound of wind in the room. “Not the time or place for drama, here. We have enough of our own, thank you very much.”
“Fucking drama queen.” Petunia stepped into the room. “I mean we can hear you all the time, John. You give Justin so much shit.”
“You’re trying to take what’s mine!”
“Listen to me you trumped up piece of garbage. I don’t have a thing against men who need to dress up in women’s clothing. What I don’t like is people who are cruel hearted. Even putting on a dress can’t cover up what you really are.” Shane was shocked that the words came out of his mouth. “You can’t call someone your money when it should be his love your afraid of losing.”
“You little bastard!” John finally turned to Justin. “Are you going to let him talk to me that way?”
Justin nodded. “This is what I want. If we survive this, I want you and your sequins and pumps out by tomorrow.”
“It’s all a little fast isn’t it?” The woman named Moira said. “I mean, you’ve known Justin for all of a few hours, in a romantic way.”
“That’s like a few months in the gay world.” Shane said.
“Oh.” Moira looked pensive. “That makes sense, then.”
“You can’t do this to me! I’m a star!’
“Girl.” The other drag queen said. She took off her shoes and her wig. Shane thought it was very brave of him to stand there in stalkings, sequins and make up. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Why does everyone keep telling me that? For fuck sakes why?!?!” Barberella screamed at the other drag queen with a fierce and high pitched scream. She was turning red and it was as if the heat of his face melted away the make up. Shane thought it looked like the Wicked of the Witch death scene in The Wizard of Oz.
“John.” Justin said. “Shut the fuck up.”
John looked as if Justin had slapped him. Shane couldn’t help but feel bad for him though. He had been through some bad break ups before, but never trying to fight against an insane man who wanted them dead. That kind of sucked. He would have to remember to tell Justin that thought if they got through this.
Shane watched as John walked to the corner of the apartment and kicked one of the cats. All the cats moved as one, and Shane watched as they moved away from the walls of the apartment as if they were of one body. A mass of claws, fur and teeth descended on John and he let out a loud, terrified scream. John went on screaming and Shane held on to Justin harder, almost as if he wanted to be one with Justin; which, he supposed, was exactly what he wanted.
Wishing for it to stop, to make it stop, to please make it stop, when it finally did, he was the one to let out a sound of primal fear. It was loud and seemed somewhat final, , like a verbal exclamation mark.
At the sound of his brief shout, the cats fled back to the walls of the apartment, surrounding them in a circle. Shane wondered if this was one of the reasons cats were considered sacred in Egypt.
All that was left of John was a streak of blood on a sequined mini dress, a pair of cheap hooker heels and a badly frayed wig.
“You did well.” A woman’s voice, like bells moving through the trees. “Love must be claimed when you can. It is the only thing that can confront true darkness.”
Shane turned to see Jo speaking, but the words weren’t hers. Her right hand glowed with a black glow, like an on air light. Shane knew who was speaking. It was Lenore. “I do apologize. This seems so intrusive. I do hope you can forgive me. We’re running out of time, I’m afraid.”
“What’s going to happen?” Shane whispered. “What do you see?”
“They are coming. The dead are almost here.”