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   Chapter 21 Lykaia

After Grace By MatheusHMacedo Characters: 8742

Updated: 2018-01-05 17:22


The sun rose red over the barren trees, a new day was dawning. After I had spoken with Mother, I was left to my own devices. No more ropes, no more dark closets. I was free to roam as I pleased. At night, I had been given a cot like the others but only slept for a few hours. When I woke up it was still dark. I wandered the school, remembering my panicked run through these halls weeks prior. Everything looked different, cleaner somehow, though I knew nothing had changed. Looking back, I barely recognized the girl who left camp with Tom.

Once the day had begun, I walked to the library where the prisoners were kept. Some woke up when I entered, though I tried to be as silent as possible. The room was dark and it smelled awful. As I made my way towards the corner where Annie had been sleeping, I heard the others whisper and gasp.

"I knew she was one of them, " one woman said.

"Bitch, " was the only response.

"Grace?" I heard someone say. Joseph was mostly hidden by shadow, his right eye bulged black, blue and yellow. I was happy to see he was alive, but I still wasn't ready to talk to him. Every interaction we ever had now was run through a new filter in my mind. Every smile, every encouragement, once genuine, now a mask, a simple dose of daily medicine to ease his guilt. I continued walking, he didn't ask for me again.

I put a hand on Annie's back as she slept. Her eyes slowly rolled open. She sat up when she saw me. "Hey, " I said.

"Hi, " she smiled. "Did they let you back in?"

"I'm not... I'm not a prisoner anymore, " I told her. I could tell by her expression she didn't understand. "I have to keep you safe. Joining them is the only way I can do that. There's going to be a ceremony tonight. For me."

"But... they killed Camden."

"That was a mistake. He wasn't supposed to do that, Mother said--"

"Mother?"

"She's going to make sure he pays for what he did, " I said.

"You're on of them?"

"I told you, I have to be, to keep you safe."

"I don't believe you."

"Annie, this is how we survive. No one is looking out for us, especially no one in this room. We have to take care of ourselves, of each other."

"What about the other group?" she asked.

"I don't think there is one. I wouldn't even know where to look."

"I heard them talking about it, " she said and pointed to a few of the prisoners who had been here longer than us. "They know where it is."

I stood, about to walk over to the small cluster of gaunt men and women by the wall. Annie took my hand and squeezed, keeping me in place. Her voice wavered as she spoke, she was frightened

nk, " she said. I looked to Annie one last time. She had already begun to cry, as if she knew something I didn't, as if I was already dead. I drank.

A tremendous cheer roared from the crowd as the blood spilled into my mouth. Mother took the empty container away. "You're almost there, " she said. She stepped aside, behind her, Gunner was held down by two other men. Mother walked to the space between me and him and pulled two knives from her jacket. She spiked them into the dirt.

"We have been betrayed, " Mother said. "This man, who I've trusted for years, took matters into his own hands despite my instruction."

"I was just try--" Gunner began but the man by his side interrupted him with a heavy punch across the face.

"You all know who this girl is. You know who her father was. She's here to take the oath. She drank, and now... she knows who she is, " she looked at me and smiled. "A traitor will earn his way back into the family, or a new member will be welcomed. Nothing before this matters, " she said. As a group, everyone else responded in kind.

"Nothing before this matters, " they said. I realized that this was a fight to the death. If I won, I would be forgiven for killing Halter and Charlie, if Gunner did, he would be forgiven for disobeying Mother.

"Pick up your blades, " she said.

Gunner and I moved to the center of the circle. He bent down and took his knife. I did the same. Mother gestured for him to move to his corner, he obeyed.

"What happens to her if I don't make it?" I asked when I was close enough to whisper. She looked at Annie.

"She gets the same treatment as all the others."

I turned to move back to my corner, she took my arm and leaned in close. "Kill him, " she said.

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