This was my original "second to last" chapter at Survivorblog. I had to replace it because I bite.

"Oh Jesus. Not Rhi. Not Rhi..." Renee sobbed as she watched her friend's blue, bloated corpse rotate up and out of the river. She wished she hadn't listed to her now, but it had seemed like such a good idea at the time.

"Nay, over here, quick!" She heard a voice whisper, at the top of the stairs to the mill. She saw hints of a familiar face illuminated in the dancing light of a kerosene lantern. he gestured, then vanished inside the mill.


She ran to the top of the stairs.

"Quick, close the door... He's out there..." he whispered, sitting on the bloody log, still embedded halfway through the blade of the mill saw.

"Keith! Rhi and Brandon, they're..."

"Dead," he said horsly, "I know. The others, too. I think."

"Did... you see them?"

"They looked dead to me."

"No. No. We should never have listened to Mia."

"You're shaking. Come and sit by me."

He moved the lantern to the floor. With the light beneath him, his shadow looked huge on the mill's wall and ceiling. She walked over, sobbing. Her one remaining shoe squished on the floor, as her bare foot was covered with the sawdust and wood shavings and worse from the floor.

"Oh, Keith. Thank God you're all right."

She sat by him and laid her head on his shoulder. Then she saw the bloody hand on the floor behind the lumber, reflected in the flickering light of the lantern. Keith's... class... ring...

She turned to look at the man she was sitting by. It was Keith's face, but something seemed wrong. Impulsively, she touched his cheek and his whole face just slid right off.

"Bitch," said the lumberjack grabbing her by the wrist and rising quickly.

She screamed, of course. For the first time, she got a good look at his face. At first, she thought he was some sort of devil, for it looked like a horn was sticking out of one side of his head, but then she saw its metallic surface reflect the flame.

"You... you did this to me... you and your tree spiking radical friends..."

"No, we're conservatives! Look at our clothes!"

"That's what they all say before they meet the saw."

He hurled her over the log and, despite her struggles, managed to bind her to it.

"I ran a good mill... it was nature friendly... never over logged... used water power instead of gas... never used any gas... and then one of your hippy friends spikes a tree... I knew if I cut enough of them down you'd come back... You'll all pay... every one of you..."

Suddenly, his ranting was drowned out by the sound of the spinning blade. Like a scene out of some old melodrama, Renee was being pulled towards it on the log. Little bits of blood and gore left over from Keith flew from the saw and splattered her face.

Renee twisted and struggled and, somehow, managed to free one of her legs. Lashing out like a whip, her leg made contact with the kerosene lamp, kicking it towards the deranged lumberjack. Immediately, all the sawdust and wood shaving on the ground turned the mill into an instant inferno. The blade whirled. The flames leapt. The lumberjack was ablaze. She felt the heat from the fire and screamed for her life.

Suddenly, she was falling. Somehow, the fire had collapsed the floor of the mill beneath her. The log hit the water and, miraculously, the force of the impact somehow snapped the ropes. Renee found herself dazed, half floating, half walking on the river bed.

She heard a sharp, whizzing sound as the spinning wheel dropped out of the burning mill towards her, missing her by inches. Finally, she crawled up to the muddy riverbank and collapsed. She tried to get up, but all she could do was lie there and cry. She thought she must be going into shock. Suddenly, she heard the sound of feet thrashing through the muck.


The lumberjack, horribly burnt, came rampaging at her - his whole body a mass of blackened skin, the bones of his left arm visible through the sickening, crisp meat.

Renee suddenly remembered that Keith was dead. This monster had killed him. All of her fear and sorrow turned to anger and, somehow, she pulled herself to her feet and charged at him, wielding her remaining black pump. With one mighty swing of her shoe, she knocked the spike the rest of way the way into the lumberjack's head.

He didn't even scream. He just froze, his eyes staring at her with a mix of hatred and shock. He feebly lashed out at her with his good hand, but the force of his swing just made him fall face first into the mud of the riverbank.

Renee didn't wait to see if he was dead. She ran as fast as she could, past the van, past the chopping block, past Brandon's body, through the brush at the edge of the forest, until she collapsed, dazed and sobbing, right before the tree stumps started.

Leaning on particularly wide stump, she looked at the rings in the light of the full moon. Each one, a year in the tree's life. She tried to remember what Mia had told her that the different kinds of rings meant, but all it did was remind of her Keith's ring. She wiped her tears away and struggled to her feet.
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