Hunter’s entire body writhed and squirmed.The side of his head was partly gone. A creature, like some monstrous melding of insect and eel, protruded from Hunter’s shoulder and as they stood there rooted in horror it took a vicious bite of Hunter’s flesh.Taylor was suddenly gone.Dekka’s face was grim, her eyes wet.“I tried . . . ,” Hunter said. He held up his hands, mimicked pressing them against his head. “It didn’t work.”“I can do it,” Sam said softly.“I’m scared,” Hunter said.“I know.”“It’s ’cause I killed Harry. God has to punish me. I tried to be good but I’m bad.”“No, Hunter,” Sam said gently. “You paid your dues. You fed the kids. You’re a good guy.”“I’m a good hunter.”“The best.”“I don’t know what’s happening. What’s happening, Sam?”“It’s just the FAYZ, Hunter,” Sam said.“Can the angels find me here so I can go to heaven?”Sam didn’t answer. It was Dekka who spoke. “Do you still remember any prayers, Hunter?”The insectlike creature was almost completely emerged from Hunter’s shoulder. Legs were becoming visible. It had wings folded against its body. It looked like a gigantic ant, or wasp, but silver and brass and covered with a sheen of slime.It was emerging like a chicken breaking out of an egg. Being born. And as the creature was born, it fed on Hunter’s numbed body.Jerky movements beneath Hunter’s shirt testified to more of the larvae emerging.“Do you remember ‘now I lay me down to sleep’?” Dekka asked.“Now I lay me down to sleep,” Hunter said. “I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”Sam raised his hands, palms out.“If I should die—”Twin beams of light hit Hunter’s chest and face. His shirt caught fire. Flesh melted. He was dead before he could feel anything.Sam played the light up and down Hunter’s body. The smell was sickening. Jack wanted to look away, but how could he?Sudden darkness as Sam terminated the light.Sam lowered his hands to his side.They stood there in the darkness. Jack breathed through his mouth, trying not to smell the burned flesh.Then they heard a sound. Many sounds.Sam raised his hands and pale light glowed.Hunter was all but gone.The things that had been inside him were still there.

~ Michael Grant