Fortunately, Ed got a lot of practice over the next few weeks. Kristen grabbed him and kissed him or pulled him into empty rooms to do other things seemingly at every opportunity. A few times she came in and took him out of class to have her way with him. None of the teachers reacted, except to tell the class to settle down from murmuring and occasional cheers.
“Do people around here seem to be acting weird?” Marisol asked Ed one day on the walk home.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, have you noticed how everyone at school has been following Kristen around?”
Ed shrugged. “She’s popular.”
“No one’s that popular,” said Marisol. “And before you say anything, no, I am not ‘just jealous.’ You are a bastard for even thinking it.”
The thought hadn’t crossed Ed’s mind.
“Plus,” said Marisol. “You notice how none of them wear shoes?”
“Huh,” said Ed. He had noticed that, but hadn’t really thought about it. “Now that you mention it, that is a little odd.”
It wasn’t just shoes. Many of the people at Okenville High had begun to dress like it was the middle of summer. No coats, no sleeves, no thermal underwear.
“Nurse Klingon said she’s never seen this many cases of frostbite,” said Marisol. “And she’s been to the frozen vacuum of space.”
Ed laughed. Marisol had been on about that for years, but Ed was pretty sure the school nurse wasn’t really a Klingon. Even if she did kind of look like one.
“So it’s weird, right?” said Marisol.
“Yeah,” said Ed. “I guess it is.”
“The question is, what do we do about it?”
Ed didn’t answer, and the conversation lapsed into silence. It seemed Marisol didn’t have any answers to her own question.
For Ed’s part, he didn’t see much need to do anything about it. He was involved with the girl of his dreams. Or he would have been, if he had any dreams. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a dream. And she was, as far as he could tell, crazy about him. He did kind of wish she would see him outside of school. He asked her a few times to dinner or the movies or a walk through the woods. She just smiled, kissed him, and said, “later.”
For now he was willing to take what he could get.
“This is my house,” said Ed when he and Marisol reached the edge of his yard.
“Oh,” said Marisol, shaken out of her reverie. “So it is.” She turned and looked Ed in the eye. “I’m going to figure this out, Ed. When I do, can I count on your help?”
Ed didn’t know whether he wanted anything to do with this. But Marisol had been his best friend his whole life. So what was he supposed to do.
“Of course,” he said. She beamed at him. Then she turned and walked up the road, and was gone.
The evening Kristen came to his house. She knocked on his window as he lay in bed. He just stared at her in shock.
“Well?” she asked. “Are you going to open up?”
“Oh,” he stood up abruptly and hastened to the window. “Sorry.”
“Help me through,” she said as she crawled through the window. He took her by the hand and guided her through. She straightened up on her feet and shook the melted snow from her clothing. She took her jacket off and handed it to Ed, who hung it on the door.
“Are you cold? Do you…do you want something to drink?” asked Ed. “I could get some hot chocolate, or…”
“Listen, Ed,” said Kristen as she began to unbutton her shirt. “I think you’ll agree that this isn’t working.” She bent down and unlaced her boots, and then slipped them off. Then she pulled off her socks, and began to pull her pants down.
“It isn’t?” Ed forced out.
Kristen shook her head. A spray of water flew off her hair and hung in the air like mist. “I’ve been trying and trying, but you keep resisting. So it’s time to try something new. Lay down.” She straddled his prone body and pulled off her unbuttoned shirt.
Clinging to her torso were half a dozen four-inch long scorpions. Their bright orange carapaces glinted in the light of Ed’s bedside lamp like they were next to a roaring fire.
“Don’t move,” Kristen said as pressed her exposed chest down onto his. “They don’t like it when you move.”
Twenty minutes later Kristen was angrily putting on her clothes.
“I don’t know why the fuck you would do this to me,” she said. “After everything I have done for you.”
“What? What did I do?”
“I’m sick and tired of these games. This has to end.”
“What?” Ed said. He tried to put his hand on her shoulder. She batted him away. “Is I them?” he asked. He pointed to the frozen, cracked husks on the ground that so recently were living scorpions. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what…”
“You know.” She grabbed him by the chin and forced him to look into her eyes. Her gaze felt like hot irons pressed into his retinas. It was uncomfortable, but he didn’t pull away. He had no idea what was happening. He had no idea what had happened when those scorpions crawled over him. All he knew was that Kristen was angry, and it was his fault.
“You know,” she said again. “You pretend to be foolish. I’ll have you know I never believed. Not for an instant.” She pushed him away and stepped towards the window. She wrenched it open and began to crawl out.
“Kristen, wait,” Ed said. She didn’t stop.
When she was most of the way through she turned to look at him.
“A reckoning is coming, ‘Ed,’” she spat. “Mark my words. I will have what I was sent to get. One way or another.”
Then she slammed the window. Ed raced forward and opened it. He was going to leap out after her. He was going to follow her and, somehow, convince her to see reason.
But he didn’t. When he looked through the window he couldn’t see her. She was already gone. There was nothing left to show she had been there at all, except melted footprints in the snow.