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   Chapter 6 In The Pines

After Grace By MatheusHMacedo Characters: 10365

Updated: 2018-01-05 17:14


"Don't-- don't stop--" I stammered through labored breaths. "Keep running."

We sped through rotting living rooms and muddy backyards. Annie and Camden just a few feet ahead of me. She took his hand in hers and squeezed. "Left!" I said, they darted into the alley between two white houses. Another sharp snap broke across the sky. I couldn't hear the bullet hit, I didn't know if they saw us or were just trying to keep us scared but I wasn't about to stop and check. My legs burned. My shins felt like they were about to crack at any second. With every step, I could feel the bile in my stomach churning. Annie twisted back when she heard me struggling. "Drop it, " she said.

"What?" I blurted.

"The bag's too heavy!"

The straps dug deep into my shoulder. Tom had been carrying all the weapons but I had the food, water, and blankets. "I can't, " I told her. "We need it."

"They're behind you!" Camden shouted. I looked back and saw two men enter the alley we had just run through. One had a shotgun-- he was out of range, but the other carried a hunting rifle. He lifted it up to his eyes and fired. The grass by Annie's feet erupted. She jumped high in the air in reflex. I pulled the pistol from my belt and pointed it towards them. I didn't stop running, I didn't aim, but I fired round after round in their direction. I hit nothing but air and dirt but it was enough to put a good distance between them and us.

Sweat flooded into my eyes as I fought to keep running. I followed the sound of Annie and Camden's steps as my head began to pulse. Inch by inch I began to slow down. Just as I thought I would collapse, hands tore at me and before I knew it, my backpack was on the ground. "Now run!" Annie shouted, taking my hand in hers as another thunderous shot clapped behind us. I did as I was told, leaving the bag with all of our supplies to the men chasing us. I could feel myself get light again. I wiped the sweat off my eyes, we pushed through our pain and vanished back into the woods.

#

"They're gone, " I said, finally able to breathe again. I looked to the long nature trail falling down the hill behind us. I could see deep into the forest as streams of sunlight poured through dead orange leaves still clinging to their trees. We kept moving farther and farther into the forest, every step widening the gap between us and them.

"Are you okay?" Annie asked, her eyes searched for something in me, but there was nothing there. No sadness, no grief, only the electrifying pulse of utter shock.

"Yeah. I think so. I don't know, " I said.

"Was he your friend?"

"I was just getting to know him."

"He was good. He's the only one who tried to help us, " she said. Then she looked me in the eye. "Well, besides you."

"Let's keep moving, " I said, not sure how to respond to any of it. Even though I had seen it, I still hadn't accepted the idea that the man I had just been talking to and learning from was dead.

"How do we get to your camp?" Annie asked as she towed the quiet Camden behind her. We had run in the wrong direction. I had no idea where I was

s finger. I did the same.

Figures appeared on the school roof. Each slowly taking a spot on the ledge. Their hands were also tied. Some of them limped, others could barely stand. They were only silhouettes behind the layer of dust on the glass. Two more figures appeared, a man and a woman, these remained behind the others, they both were armed with assault rifles.

"Jesus, " I said to myself. The two figures raised their weapons and began to shout. They pointed the barrel of their guns to the sky and fired. One of the skinny shapes on the ledge jumped, then another and another. I turned away but I could still hear the cracking thuds. I watched the flaps of peeling white paint on the ceiling-- the hanging crystals from half collapsed chandeliers swaying in the wind. One by one, each of the prisoners jumped to their deaths.

When it was quiet, I put my eyes to the window again. The roof was empty. Those kneeling on the ground below were made to stand. The man who'd been shouting at them cut their binds. They stood and solemnly walked past the mess of fallen bodies on the grass and entered the school. Behind them, the gunmen followed. Then I saw it, my backpack.

It was being carried by two men, one fat, the other adorned with muscles. They had remained after their comrades had gone inside, rummaging through the contents of the bag, pulling out food cans and water bottles and stuffing them in every pocket they had.

A woman with a long brown ponytail and black leather jacket came between them and put her hand in the bag. The larger man tried to push her back but she returned his aggression with a punch to the nose. The muscled man laughed. The woman pulled out two blankets and wrapped them around her shoulders as the injured man covered his bloody face with a dirty rag. She stuck her tongue out at him before traipsing into the school. The man covered in muscles threw the bag on the ground as they went inside. The backpack lay empty and flat, like a the corpse of some forgotten animal.

This would be harder than I'd thought.

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