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After Grace By MatheusHMacedo Characters: 9371

Updated: 2018-01-05 17:13


Our shoes beat flat against the pavement as we jogged through the silent town. The roads were littered with yellowed newspapers and rolling styrofoam cups. All my life I had been taught that these empty streets and abandoned homes were among the most dangerous places someone could find themselves in, the Vesp would often come into a town from different points so anyone inside would be trapped before they had a chance to escape.

"Where are they?" I asked as Tom stopped at the corner. He put his back to the wall and peeked around it to the street beyond. I was covered in a thin film of sweat. Everything I thought I knew about my body was wrong. I'd always assumed I could run if I ever got into trouble, now I knew that unless you trained yourself like Tom obviously had, you weren't ready for anything.

"They're keeping the prisoners in that school, " Tom said. I slowly moved around him to see. The school was massive. Three stories tall and as wide as a city block. The windows had long ago been shattered by nature and man. Long shards still stuck sharp to the frames like an alligator's mouth hoping for prey.

"What's the plan exactly?"

"You know the plan, you cover, I go in." He crossed the street, eyes fixed on the school.

"What happens when you go inside? How're we supposed to herd a bunch of people out of here without, like, dying?"

"You hold the Vesp back while I run to you, then I hold them back while you run to the highway. We meet in the clearing. Come on, the library's where you need to be." He took off again. My knees burned as I tried to keep up.

"Cut through here, " he said and disappeared into a darkened coffee shop.

"Give me a hint, " I said, following close behind as we crossed through the back door and into the kitchen of a burnt down restaurant.

"A hint?"

"I'm not going to abandon you. I wouldn't even know how to get back to camp by myself. Just tell me, please. What do you know about me that I don't?"

He slowly opened the front door and peered outside. He signaled for me to follow as he spilled from the threshold and made a break for the library across the street. Fifty foot tall pine trees lined the back of the building, dead branches scratched the walls like juniper fingers trying to get inside. Tom pointed to the ledge on the roof above us.

"That's where you gotta be. Plant yourself like a Ficus, You'll get a clean line of sight if you get right there on the corner."

"Please?" I begged. He put a finger to his lips and shushed me.

"Pay attention. We're gonna try to do this as quietly as possible, but if shit starts going down, you don't hesitate." He shoved the rifle at me.

"How many of them are there?"

"I'm not sure, it seems quiet, we might have gotten lucky, the others may be out on a run. Go."

He jogged into the backyard of a blue and white Victorian house and raced toward the school. I breathed a frustrated sigh and moved into the library. The second floor ceiling had long ago given way and all the contents had come crashing down. Books carpeted the floor. I hurried to the roof.

From the roof I could see the entire town. As soon as I lay the rifle on the ledge, my hands clammed up so bad I could barely hold the gun. Just as I was starting to get nauseous over the thought of shooting someone, I remembered the boy's bloody hand in the doctor's tent. I took a long, deep breath and put my eyes to the scope.

The tops of the trees had already begun to redden as the sun began its quick descent. We had taken longer to get there than planned, most of it had been my fault. I was slow and full of quesitons, now, as the blue sky turned gray above me, it made sense why Tom was being so impaitient with me.

I could see Tom approaching the school from the left. He put his face between the glass on the south side window. I waited. He turned back to me and touched his index finger to his thumb: all clear.

He moved to the door, gun out in front, and slowly pulled it open. He disappeared inside. I wiped the sweat from my eyes. There were no sounds but that of the fall breeze whistling through broken windows and empty homes. I tired to look inside the school but all I saw was darkness. I turned my attention to the quiet street below, nothing moved. "Please hurry, " I whispered.

The back door flung open and out came three dozen men women and children. "Fuck, " I said, swiping the scope to the right, left, and back again, searching for any sign of Tom or the men who would surely be coming after him now.

Almost half of the prisoners had a different handicap, some were missing a leg, others had no hands. They ran through the town and disa

ppeared into the first homes and shops they could find. Tom came out after them, hands raised to signal he wasn't a threat. But the people were too afraid. They hid and wouldn't come out.

Behind the school, I saw three shadows move on the left. Three men, all wrapped in body armor, each carrying long guns. Tom still hadn't seen them. I fired a shot at the man in front of the group. I missed. They scattered for cover.

From here, their shots sounded like distant rocks being smashed together. Tom was pinned behind a car in the middle of the street. They knew where I was, I couldn't get a shot so I fired as close as I could to keep them in place. My hands began to shake. My eyes blurred. I fired again and again until the rifle clicked empty. I scrambled to find the extra bullets Tom had put in my pockets but they slipped through my sweaty fingers like slimy river stones. I pulled the bolt back like he had shown me and one by one slid the bullets inside. I put my eyes to the scope again, two men moved toward Tom from either side. As I was about to take the shot, I spotted the third man running behind houses and cars, coming toward me. I aimed the gun straight down at him as he sprinted toward the library but he was too fast. Before I knew it he was already inside.

The floorboards creaked and splintered as the man rushed up the rotting staircase beneath me. I jumped up and ran behind an old air conditioner on the other side of the roof. I lifted the rifle and aimed toward the closed door. As I sat there waiting, I felt as if my body was being slowly squeezed in a vice. For the first time in my life I was completely alone, with no one to call for help but myself. I could hear the sound of rocks smashing in the distance.

The door came apart as rows upon rows of bullets ripped through from the other side. They tore past my head and smashed into the concrete beside me. The man ran through, still shooting. I put my head down and fired blindly. Without holding it properly, the gun kicked backed, nearly flying out of my hands. Somehow I managed to hold on to it, firing shot after shot until I was empty. The rifle vibrated in my hand, any second I expected to hear a bang from somehwere beside me. Nothing came.

I opened my eyes wide, they burned from the concrete dust in the air. I saw the outline of a man slumped on the floor in front of me. As my sight adjusted, I could see the hole carved along his ribs. Bone and organs spilled through the gap. I almost got sick, but before I allowed myself to react, I ran back to the ledge and aimed my empty rifle to the car where Tom had taken shelter. He wasn't there. I scanned the street for the two other men but I couldn't see them either.

I turned the gun down to see if they were rushing me but there was no movement, if they were coming, I couldn't see them. I slung the rifle around my back and moved to the corpse. I pulled the gun from his hands and examined it. I had never seen one like it but it didn't take more than a minute to figure out how it worked, the principles were always the same.

As I slowly made my way down the stairs, it occurred to me that the other two men may already be here, waiting. I tried to keep quiet as I descended the old staircase but the wood wailed with every step I took. I moved between the bookshelves as I got to the bottom floor, gun shaking in my hands.

Every shadow dancing on the walls made my heart skip a beat. Every sound stung like ice in my stomach. Finally I realized there was no one in the building but me. I made my way outside.

In the stone white sky above me, the north star glittered alone and exposed. I had lost the ability to measure time, I still thought we had hours of daylight but somehow, between getting on the roof and now, I had lost most of the afternoon. I moved slow and cautious, careful not to make a sound. By the time I reached the street where the school was, night had already set in and I could barely see anything in front of me.

Yellow shells littered the ground, they rang like bells as I accidently kicked them. I was afraid to move, not knowing if the men had survived their fight with Tom. Unsure if I was being watched.

My hands burned with the cold night air, my teeth clattered. I swallowed hard and continued to walk. I rounded the corner and found the street I wasn't able to see from the library roof. The silence was so profound it seemed to whistle in my ears as I searched for any sign of him.

Then, a light blinked on behind the first floor window of a house down the street. I pulled the scope from the gun and looked through it. The light burned on again, it was a zippo.

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