Gemma’s arms began to change first, growing longer, and her fingers stretched out, ending in black talons. The skin on her legs shifted from smooth flesh to gray and scaly, ending in the sharp-clawed feet of an emu.
As her torso lengthened and thinned out, her dress tore and split in two. It became a short skirt at the bottom and a small halter top above, where her collarbones and skeletal ribs jutted out.
Her eyes had already shifted into the odd yellow of a bird, but they grew larger, taking up more of her face. Her mouth lengthened and stretched out, so her lips were pulled back around row after row of sharp, jagged fangs. Her skull had expanded, and her lustrous brown hair thinned into wisps.
Gemma was no longer there. She had become the monster.
The tops of the trees were swaying and the branches crunched. Above them, Alex could hear the sounds of Thea and Liv yelling and screaming, but it sounded completely inhuman. He felt like he’d suddenly slid into Jurassic Park, and any second a Tyrannosaurus rex and a pack of velociraptors would come running out.
Marcy was still crouched by Kirby’s body, and though she seemed reluctant to leave him, their position felt too exposed to Alex. They should be getting weapons or hiding, but he didn’t want to just leave her like that.
Then Liv and Thea came flying out of the trees, and Liv slammed Thea into the pavement only a couple feet in front of Marcy.
“Come on.” Alex grabbed Marcy’s arm and pulled her to her feet. “We have to get out of here.”
They scrambled out of the way mere seconds before Liv threw Thea into the tree that Alex had been standing in front of. And she’d done it hard enough to make the thick trunk crack loudly, though the tree didn’t fall over.
Alex and Marcy hurried around to the back of the Gremlin, but with Marcy hobbling so badly, he didn’t dare go farther. She leaned against the back of the car, and he crouched beside her. He peered through the smashed windows to watch Liv walking toward where Thea leaned up against the tree, catching her breath.
“You’re old, Thea,” Liv said. “You think that makes you stronger, better, but it doesn’t. You’re weak and slow.”
And Alex realized that Liv had a point. Thea had started out strong, but she’d very quickly lost her stamina. Liv clearly had the upper hand, and he wasn’t sure that Thea would be able to take her on unless she got help soon.
“You’re just so damn cocky, Liv. I can’t wait to smack that smug grin off your face.”
“I’d like to see you try.”
Thea stood up and smacked Liv, hard enough that Alex could hear it from many feet away. Then they both moved so suddenly, he couldn’t see much other than a flurry of feathers as they took flight.
“Let’s go.” Alex took Marcy’s arm and started leading her around the car. When they reached the driver’s side, he said, “Get in the car.”
Marcy shook her head. “We can’t just leave her.”
“We won’t,” he assured her. “Just get in the car.”
The door didn’t open all the way, so Marcy had to slide in through the small gap and carefully sit down on a seat covered in broken glass. She tried to pull the door shut, but it creaked loudly, so she stopped.
“Do you think she can still drive?” Alex asked through the broken-out window.
“You kidding me? Lucinda can always go,” Marcy said. “But where am I going?”
Thea suddenly fell from the sky, landing on the side of the road with a sickening crunch. She groaned, which was the only evidence that she was still alive, and Liv floated down, landing on top of her.
“You had a nice, long reign, but your time is up,” Liv said as she wrapped her hand around Thea’s throat, making her gurgle and moan as she struggled to pry Liv’s fingers off.
Throughout the fight, Thea and Liv had been knocking down trees and branches all over the place. There was a thick, sturdy-looking branch only a few feet away from him, so Alex ran over and grabbed it.
He’d just picked it up when Thea spit in Liv’s face. Liv cackled loudly, and as Alex ran toward her, Liv tore into Thea’s chest and ripped out her heart. Two seconds too late, Alex swung the branch with all his might and struck Liv across the back.
“Not smart, little boy.” Liv glared at him. “I was almost gonna let you get away.”
She stood up and tossed Thea’s heart aside, so it landed in dirt and pine needles. She walked slowly toward Alex, but he didn’t run. He held his ground, and when he heard the car’s engine clunk and rev, Liv didn’t look away. She just kept walking toward him.
And then, suddenly, the car flew into life and slammed into Liv. Marcy drove the car right into a tree, and she kept pressing on the gas, pinning a screaming Liv between the car and the tree. The engine smoked and made all kinds of noises that no car should ever make, but Marcy didn’t let up.
Thea rolled over and stood up, as blood dripped out from the gaping wound in her chest. One of her wings had completely snapped, and it dragged on the ground as she walked over to Alex. He couldn’t help but gape at her, because he was pretty sure that she was a zombie siren at this point.
“Gimme the stick,” Thea said wearily, and held out her hand, so he handed it to her. Then she walked over to the car. “Shut it off. She’s not going anywhere.”
Marcy did as she was told, which made it easier to hear the sound of Liv’s laughter.
“You’re half-dead, Thea. You really think you can do anything?”
Thea climbed onto the hood of the car, the dented metal groaning under her feet.
“You won’t hurt me,” Liv said. “Penn will kill you if you hurt me. That’s why you never stood up for your other sisters. You can’t touch—”
“Shut up,” Thea said.
Using the stick like a baseball bat, she swung. The wood connected hard with Liv’s face, and it shattered, splinters flying everywhere as the stick broke in half. But along with it, there was a terrible crunching and ripping sound, and Liv’s head flew off, landing a few feet away in the road.
Her mouth was open wide, like she was trying to scream, but only raspy breath came out. The lack of a head didn’t seem to slow her body down, and her arms clawed blindly at Thea, scraping down her legs and sides.
Thea didn’t seem to notice, though. She bent over Liv’s bloody, gaping neck and reached down into it. Alex grimaced, but he couldn’t look away. The moonlight made it harder to fully appreciate the gore since the blood didn’t show up quite as red, but when Thea ripped the heart out from Liv’s chest, her arm covered in dripping, dark liquid, he definitely got the picture.