Warm, but not as warm as he should be. That was what Michael's sleep muddled mind insisted. He couldn't move at first, his body ignored him like he was still half dreaming. But his mind was starting to come clear.
He was alone and that was bad, that was alarming, but what turned the dial all the way up past horror was that Michael was bundled up in all the blankets and there was no warm patch along his side.
He wrenched himself awake. "Bam Bam!" He scrambled to his knees, feeling a mad, sick loss as he broke the blanket cocoon. That could have been the last sweet thing he did for you, the last sweet thing, the last- "Terry!" he called again, more to interrupt the runaway train in his head than out of any hope of a response.
As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he saw Bam Bam's keys and wallet sitting on the dashboard, along with a mug full of joints and something - he scrambled to the front - that jar of sage they'd grabbed. The connection hit him like a jolt of electricity. Michael grabbed one of the joints and smelled it.
Hope welled up inside him along with a pride so fierce it was almost painful. Atta boy, Bam Bam. Where ever Terry had gone to do whatever stupid, noble thing he'd gotten it into his head to do, he'd improvised a portable shield to get himself there safely.
Now, where did you go, baby, and did you make the mistake of leaving me enough to follow you?
Michael thought he had. He thought Terry took the bare minimum for what he needed and left the rest for him.
No time to waste. He snatched up the rest of the joints and stuffed them in his back pocket, then threw open the side door and hopped out, careful to stay inside the salt line. There was enough moonlight coming through the window he could see well enough. In particular, he could see the silvery sheen of dust on the ground, cut through with their footprints all over the goddamn place. But one track, straighter than most, stuck out. No other prints cut across it - wherever they met, these were the fresher set.
Lighting up one of the sage sticks, Michael traced it with his eyes. Towards the kitchen and-
There in the doorway was the scarecrow, bulkier than before and leaking blood. He knew what it wanted him to imagine.
"Bullshit," Michael spat. "Bam Bam figured a way around you and that's gotta burn you up, don't it? That's gotta-"
The jukebox in the corner howled to life and Michael started, turning to look involuntarily. Flashing rainbow lights stole his night vision before he could look back at the scarecrow. It didn't matter, he told himself, it was just another trick to scare him, he was inside their circle, which had kept it out all night, and on top of that he was wreathed in sage smoke. It couldn't get to him.
He was assuring himself of that fact when he felt the dry touch of twig fingers on the nape of his neck.
Jerking away, Michael spun. He could see it in the glow of the jukebox light as he scrambled back. It was planted inside the salt and brick dust circle.
Not possible, his mind protested, and then, absurdly, that's cheating.
A very nasty thought followed. If it could cross their protective line of salt, what good would burning sage do? Hell, it was standing in a cloud of it now. Bam Bam-
He shoved the thought away. If he allowed himself to entertain the unthinkable possibilities that led to, he would lose his mind. It all came down to a coin flip, which one of them it had come for first. And if this was its first stop, then he had better find some way to get out of this alive because Terry needed to be warned. No salt, no sage. Think.
It still hadn't really moved while it was being watched. The burlap body of it jerked as if in pain and more blood pulsed out, as if to contradict the thought, but that wasn't what he'd really meant. Michael kept his eyes on it though he wanted to look away. Even when it put on gruesome little shows like this, it had never changed where it was posted or even reached out with its spindly arms while any of them were watching.
Michael was afraid to blink, he felt like he was locked in a deadly staring contest. Colorful lights danced over the burlap surface where its face would be as the jukebox played. Gimme three steps, gimme three steps, mister, gimme three steps towards the door-
"Michael!" The sound of Terry's voice - thank God, thank God - nearly made him turn, but he caught himself at the last instant and kept his eyes on the scarecrow.
"I'm here! It's here. It won't move while I'm watching but the salt and sage ain't working, man."
Bam Bam had run to his side while he talked and he clamped a hand on Michael's shoulder. His grip was painfully tight but such a comfort. "I know. Hold on, brother, just hold on."
It was a struggle not to look at what Bam Bam was doing. He'd opened the door of the van. Not looking away from the scarecrow was just as hard. The burlap was bulging out in places, like something was growing inside it. Michael hoped to God he wouldn't find out what.
"Brother, I hope you got a plan."
"I do." Michael heard cloth ripping, followed by the familiar sound of a new bottle of Jack Daniels being opened. "Where's the emergency gas?"
"Back by the tire jack." Michael understood now what Bam Bam was up to, he just hoped he would finish fast. There was a place on the thing's abdomen where the burlap was strained to the point of splitting, and he could see a greasy, grey something through the stretched cloth. "You're lucky Buddy ain't here," he said. It got a snort of laughter despite his shaky delivery.
He heard Bam Bam's feet hit the ground beside him. "You ready to run?"
"Yeah," said Michael, eyes glued to the growing fissure in the burlap. The thing was splitting open like a rotten orange. "Ready when you are, brother, let's blow this joint."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bam Bam light the molotov. He kept on staring through the impact and the bloom of fire, then Terry's hand found his and he found himself being half dragged away. That brought him out of it, and he ran the hell out through the hole in the wall with Terry at his side.
They stopped running at the edge of the corn field. Michael threw his arms around Bam Bam and hugged him hard.
"Fuck, man, when I woke up and you were gone, I- well, I just about lost my mind."
"Sorry, Michael." Bam Bam leaned his forehead against his and closed his eyes. God, he looked dog tired, and Michael could feel how bad he was shaking. He brought a hand up to cup the back of Bam Bam's neck with a firm grip.
He couldn't help but rest there a minute. Finally, glancing at the firelight glowing out the bar's windows, Michael asked, "Is that gonna work?"
"Yeah," said Bam Bam immediately, so confidently that Michael pulled back to look at him in surprise. "I made sure it would."
"You gonna tell me about that?" Michael asked, still studying his face curiously. Brother, what did you do out there?
Bam Bam seemed to consider for a moment, then nodded firmly. "Yeah, I will. We got time walking back to that big road we saw."
Michael nodded, satisfied. Then he noticed something else for the first time.
"Where the fuck are your shoes?"
His response was drowned out by the sound of the van's gas tank exploding and, with it, the bar.
"Well, fuck," Michael muttered as he watched the mushroom cloud of flame disperse. "I hope that took out the VIN numbers."
"That van was our van," said Terry reasonably. "If we wanna firebomb it, we'll firebomb it, and there ain't nothing anybody else can say about that."
"That's right," said Michael, brightening. Bam Bam was talking sense. Far as he knew, there wasn't any law against bonfires in Texas. "Now what do you say we walk on back to the highway and see if these pretty faces can't score us a lift into town?"
Bam Bam beamed at him. With his face lit by fire and moonlight, Michael couldn't help but kiss him. Hand in hand, they started down the corn-flanked road.