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   Chapter 17 Xipe Totec

After Grace By MatheusHMacedo Characters: 8504

Updated: 2018-01-05 17:20

We were escorted through the camp like prisoners. All eyes turned to us and the sound of people working subsided, replaced by a never ending hush of whispers as they watched us pass through. Our weapons were taken to the reserve, only those assigned as guards were allowed to carry them within camp boundaries.

I had forgotten how small it all was. Though it was a different spot, they'd set everything up exactly how we had always done. I couldn't believe so many people lived in such close proximity to one another. What once gave me comfort was now suffocating.

Doctor Hamilton and with Mrs. Whitmore rushed out to us when they were told of our arrival. Both seemed ages older than I remembered. The doctor waved off our armed guard, the men left without protest. "They need water if you have it, " Vicki told the doctor as he looked over the children.

"And Tom?" he asked, turning to me. I shook my head. His eyes drifted to the ground, as if trying to read the dirt.

"Come on, let's get that grime off your face, " Mrs. Whitmore said as she took the children by the hand and led them to the medical tent.

"We should have helped you, " Hamilton said looking up to me. "I'm so sorry Grace."

"Why didn't you?" Vicki asked, stepping between us. He turned to her in pained surprise.

"Vicki--" I said, but before I could finish, she pushed past us in a huff following the kids to the medical tent.

"Your face..." he said, putting his fingers on my chin and turning my scarred cheek toward him.

"It's fine. Don't even feel it anymore."

"Come see me when you can, " he said and gave me a smile before turning to leave.

"We have to run, " I told him. "It's not safe here." He looked back and considered what I'd said.

"Let me take a look at the children, then we can talk, " he said and left.

I felt naked without my weapons. As I stood there, not knowing what to do with myself I began to feel their stares and hear their murmuring whispers. I crossed into the treeline and headed for the river. I took off my jacket and laid it on a large boulder on the shore. My hands were sprinkled in small cuts, my arms painted blue and black in bruises I didn't know I had. Sweat and dirt covered my hands like gloves. I dunked them into the freezing water. The hair on my arms stood up and the cold made me shiver, made my body want to fight. But I kept my arms in, I let the cold burn as long as I could before pulling my hands away.

My reflection burned orange on the water as the last light of sunset dipped behind the

let her go. She's got no place else."

"Why did she leave?" he asked. I thought about it for a moment, then it made sense.

"She's trying to make me be something I'm not."

He put his hands at his hips and looked around at the people as they readied themselves for another cold night. "How can we trust another group to take us in? How can we trust anyone?"

"If there's no one we can trust, then we're dead already, " I told him.

A scream shattered the silence. We turned our eyes to the other end of the camp. The people froze, everyone looking in the same direction.

Something moved on my left, it was Damen, he was one of the newly appointed guards. Slowly, he raised the M4 assault rifle he carried to his shoulder, aiming at the darkness ahead.

"Put it down." I whispered, trying not to move.

"What? Why?" He kept his eyes to the scope, scanning right to left. Other guards around the camp did the same. No one else moved. The soft crunch of boots on snow sounded to my right just beyond the treeline. "We're surrounded. Put it down." He turned around, anxiously aiming in every direction.

I kept my head forward, turning only my eyes toward the approaching footsteps beside me. Out of the black came a skull, its glossy frame tinged blue in the moonlight. The man beneath the bone mask had painted himself in black mud. Cries and gasps rolled through the campsite as more and more of them came from the woods. Loose teeth hung stringed from their necks, jaw bones and bear claws adorned their otherwise naked shoulders.

"Don't, " I said as Damen's breathing became more and more shallow beside me. "Please--"

"Cut 'em down!" he yelled, and squeezed the trigger.

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