Donners of the Dead

Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle

Book: Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle Read Free Book Online
Authors: Karina Halle
that’s funny? Eve needs to know how to protect herself.”
    His smile twisted. “A woman with a gun is a bad idea, boy. You’d be putting all our lives at risk.”
    “Only your life,” I muttered under my breath. From the way his lips twitched further, I knew he had heard me.
    He walked over into the center of the room by the roaring fire and addressed everyone. “I know we’re all worried about old Merv here pulling through. I know we’re all worried about finding what we’ve come out here to find. And I know we’re all worried that something or someone has already found us. But there just ain’t no use in worrying tonight. I’ll keep watch until sunup in case the finger-biting bastard comes back. Then we’ll start figuring out what to do.”
    With the phrase “finger-biting bastard” rolling around in my head, it was a wonder I got any sleep at all.
    *
    Overnight, five inches of snow had fallen and more kept coming by morning, prompting Jake to nail boards to the broken window. Meeks was in a delirious state, more so than I would have thought. In the end, it was only his pinky finger that was missing, not a leg or anything so crucial as that, and yet he kept moaning about being ruined for the rest of his life. After everything, I would have thought he’d be more concerned with how his finger was taken but he wasn’t.
    However, he was the only one who seemed unconcerned about that. As much as Isaac had been chomping at the bit to go forth to the next site, this morning he was hell-bent on finding the culprit. By now, theories about what it was were rampant, especially after they heard my testimony of what I saw. For whatever reason, Isaac and Hank seemed to want to track down this monster, even though the two of them seemed to have little regard for how Meeks was doing.
    Naturally, I had to come along. I didn’t mind, especially when Tim said he’d stay behind to watch over Donna and Meeks. The rest of us set out on a long expedition, everyone relying on me to lead the way. The smell of rotting meat only got me so far though. Whatever or whoever that was, they were long gone.
    When we paused for food—some leftover stew—Avery took the time to try and teach me how to load and shoot a rifle. I couldn’t say it was a success. Loading the gun itself was a long and complicated process, with having to put the right amount of gunpowder down the muzzle, then placing the ball in there and shoving it down as far as it could go, then adding cloth to the end, plus checking something called the firing cap. It was all way over my head, and even though we were doing this far away from the party, Jake would occasionally watch us and yell at Avery that he should be using a flintlock rifle, that his wasn’t a real man’s gun, that he was teaching me all wrong.
    The curious thing for me was that Avery was in very close contact with me the whole time, closer than he’d ever been, and extremely attentive. When he first showed me how to hold the rifle, he put his arms around me, embracing my back. He smelled so good, clean and familiar, despite the fact we were camping and surrounded by light snow. And yet…I felt nothing. I’d always imagined Avery and I getting closer in this sort of way, of course on the more romantic side of things, but my heart never skipped a beat; I never felt all shivery and new. I just felt like he was my good friend Avery teaching me how to shoot a gun. It was comfortable. Nothing more and nothing less.
    But by the time I was finally ready to fire at a tree for target practice, Jake shouted for us to get going. As if God waved his hand across the sky, it began snowing harder and growing colder, enough so that my bonnet was crusted with ice and my fingers began to go numb. Isaac wanted to go on and keep looking for the monstrosity, but Jake wasn’t having any of it, and even Hank seemed to agree.
    The ride back to the cabin seemed longer, perhaps because we were all growing more miserable by

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