Needy was walking.
She’d been walking for around two hours — a benefit of being at least part-demon was needing to stop and rest wayless, which was probably something she would’ve appreciated more in PE class than out in the California desert. Not that it wasn’t helpful; Needy was pretty sure she’d have died of exposure months ago if Jennifer hadn’t passed some of her shit on.
Needy could run, even float — but walking gave her the time to think, and without Jennifer (oh, and without Chip, too) she had plenty of time to think, nowadays. It turned out that when Needy was left alone with her thoughts, shit got real, and gory, and mentally wrong, and — well, it wasn’t much of a surprise when she’d ended up leaving a chateau in Portland (having just kicked a succubi across an antique attic, who’d been working as a tour guide, feeding on visiting history majors) and coming face to face with Jennifer.
It wasn’t really Jennifer. It couldn’t be Jennifer, because Needy had wrestled with her in mid-air on her bed and impaled her through the tit.
Needy had killed Jennifer, but here she still was: invisible to everyone else, untouchable, able to walk through walls — all the hallmarks of Casper the Ghost from when she was a kid and all of the warning signs of a hallucination episode, like she’d had at the mental hospital. And in the middle of having sex with Chip.
Needy wasn’t sure if she believed in ghosts. She was sure she believed in Jennifer Check, though — sandbox love never dies — and she believed in succubi and revenge and by extension, Satan, so nothing was really off the table. It wasn’t as if she could go up to a hospital and get her meds to find out. They didn’t tend to prescribe you things if you were an ‘escaped murderer, suspected serial killer’.
The thing was, there wasn’t really any difference between Jennifer and the thing that had shared her body, if you ignored the man-eating part. There was still the same snark: the kind that cut into her skin deeper and deeper when it was used against her and made Needy grin when Jennifer had pushed it on others. That had been in life, though — and now they were both firmly out of it, society and the living world, Needy thought herself almost immune.
“This is a fucking snooze-fest, Lesnicki, and you know it,” Jennifer said, at her side for the first time since she’d set off from Oregon. Not that Needy was counting. “I miss the killing part. Can we just find a jackrabbit and —”
“Nope,” said Needy, stuffing her hands in her pockets. (She’d stolen the hoodie from the back of a chair in a San Francisco BabyGap’s changing room. It was kind of smelling worse by the second, but Needy had found a ziplock with either weed or oregano in the left pocket and hadn’t gotten around to smoking it yet.) “You don’t even eat anymore and I don’t want to have to fight off a coyote. Again.”
“God, you’re such a bitch,” Jennifer said, kicking a rock. It didn’t go anywhere; her floating trainer just glided right through. “Don’t mention eating. You’re making me be, like, ghost-hungry.”
“Not a thing,” Needy said. She paused. “Can you say that? ‘God’?”
“I just did, Needy.”
“But you’re literally possessed by a demon,” Needy pushed. “Were possessed. Whatever. Wouldn’t that stop you? Like, Hell-versus-Heaven type… shit,” she ended awkwardly.
“Language,” Jennifer said, but the way she flashed her teeth — blood red, like her gums, like the first night Jennifer had broken into her house and threw up gunk all over the kitchen floor — let Needy know she was joking. “I don’t know even if God exists, anyway. I mean, if He did, would He let this —” she gestured everywhere, wildly — “happen to me? To you? Like, Jesus.”
“Satan does, though,” Needy said. “He has to. I mean, that’s why you killed all those boys. Something made you into a succubus.”
Jennifer rolled her eyes. “You can’t let God, or Satan, be the thing that dictates your life, or un-life, because then you’re just a loser that’s being pulled by the strings of everything around you.” She shrugged. “Who cares if I was a succu-whatever? All I did was just act how I wanted to. At least, now, you’ve grown some balls doing the same.”
“You killed people, Jennifer.”
“I killed boys,” Jennifer said. “And you’ve done it too, hypocrite!”
“I stop people from dying,” Needy said. “I kill demons. It’s not the same!”
Needy stopped. “What?”
“How is it not the same?” Jennifer asked, coming to a halt next to her. She crossed her arms. Her fingernails were dripping black blood — plip, plip, plip — on the desert rocks beneath their feet. “I kill, you kill. We all kill for ice-cream. And dick.”
“I don’t kill for dick,” Needy said.
“I know that,” Jennifer said. “You murdered Low Shoulder because you were gay and emo about stabbing me. Well?”
Needy ignored that first part in full. “Well, when I get rid of a bunch of succubi, people tend to be happy that they don’t get murdered. It doesn’t matter how I do it, because they’d be dead otherwise, you know?”
“What, do you go around telling men you’re the reason they didn’t get murdered?”
Needy stared at Jennifer. “I —”
“Because otherwise, they wouldn’t know,” Jennifer said. “Nobody’s happy when they haven’t got anything happy to be happy about. You’ve never saved anyone, Needy. People die at some point anyway. All you do is speed it up because you want to. End of story.”
“Okay,” said Needy, starting off again. She got around three steps in before she whirled to her left, the rage taking over. “Actually, no. I do what I do because, weirdly, I got good at it after my best friend that I’ve been in love with, since, like, kindergarten turned into a man-eating cheerleader. I might stay under the radar, but if I don’t, do you know what’ll happen? With the amount of things I’ve done, they’re not gonna send me back to an asylum: shit, I’m going on Death Row. I’m 18; I’m not dying yet.”
“I died at 18,” Jennifer muttered, looking a bit taken aback. “You like-liked me?”
Needy spluttered. “I made out with you on my bed!”
“Why didn’t you fucking say anything, you useless lesbian?”
“The entire school knew!”
“I’m not the entire school, Needy!”
“No, Jennifer, you just tried to eat half of it!” Needy shook her head. “I’m arguing with a dead person,” she said, softly.
“A smoking hot dead person,” clarified Jennifer, quietly, “that you’ve been in love with since we were kids.”
“Thanks,” Needy said. “Thank you for the reminder. Jesus.”
They came to a full stop at the tail-end of a sand-dune, overlooking the city below. The smog around the buildings curled around the lights, the small dots of fluorescence like animal’s eyes glowing in the dark, like what she’d learned about in Biology class and gotten to know pretty well travelling through the Mojave.
The last time she’d been here, she’d had the ghost of Jennifer in her mind, following her doggedly until she’d gotten rid of Nikolai. Los Angeles had just been a back-drop. Now that Needy had the real thing next to her — or, at least, maybe the real thing — it seemed more beautiful.
She voiced this to Jennifer.
“Eh,” said Jennifer. The mottled skin around her glassy eyes crinkled into a smile. “It’s okay. Wanna make out?”
Needy’s brain kind of rebooted. “Uh —”
“I did say I went both ways, right?”
Yeah, when you were trying to kill me. “You’re a ghost. I can’t even touch you.”
“Ew, no. I’m the ghost of a girl that was possessed by a demon,” Jennifer said. “I can kiss you if I want to, idiot.”
After Devil’s Kettle, after all of the murders, after all of the fan-mail from weirdos who had a hard-on for serial killers, after all of the press releases and the media junkets and that one clip of her Mom saying that her Anita was a really nice girl that played on repeat for a while on CNN, it wasn’t the worst thing that’d ever been proposed to Needy Lesnicki. Far from it. It was possibly the best.
Needy cleared her throat, shades of the old Needy — more human, more shy, less likely to win Buffy Lookalike of the Year — coming back, unable to be pushed down by whatever PTSD she’d slapped together over the past few months. “Could you just hold me instead?”
“You’re such a lesbian,” Jennifer said, but she sat down anyway, arm raised to sling over Needy’s shoulder. The black blood ran down the BabyGap Weed Hoodie, rivulets pooling down her side and onto the dirt and sand below. “We should go to the beach.”
“Can you even surf?”
“If I drown, I’ll come back,” Jennifer said. “I’ve done it before.”
Well, Needy couldn’t argue with that.