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   Chapter 44 The Fire

After Grace By MatheusHMacedo Characters: 13939

Updated: 2018-01-05 17:34


The men threw me to the floor, the women jumped off their cots. The two men who had dragged me inside lifted their rifles, keeping everyone back. I raised myself up to my feet and faced them. "Get out, " I warned. They remained in place, defiant.

The smaller of the two lowered the other man's gun and slowly they both left the room.

"You're hurt, " a high voice called. I turned to find Seth's little sister standing behind me, her brow wrinkled with worry. I bent down to her.

"Can you go to the back and see if you can find me a sharp piece of wood, like the ones Vicki needed?" she nodded and ran off. The others remained, watching me.

"Vicki's dead, " I said quietly so Rosemary wouldn't hear. Some of them cried, others only stared at the floor.

"We've tried it our way, " I said. "Hiding. Hoping others would step up so we didn't have to. It didn't work."

"Their way didn't work either, " Eleanor said. She was older than the others, or at least looked to be.

"Maybe it would have, if we had helped them, " I told her.

"You can't know that."

"I don't know it. But what I do know is that they hung Vicki out there and left her body for everyone to see as a warning. As a message. I know they locked the best of us in a freezing cold shelter to die-- I know that the only way things are ever gonna change is if we change them. If we weren't prisoners, we could hunt, we could rebuild this place."

"We'll die, " one of the younger girls said. She was about my age but seemed like a child to me.

"We are dying!" I told her. "We can die the way we have been, quietly starving to death in the night, or we can make some noise." I said. "The people in that shelter would have come for us. They've been taking care of us for months."

"How would we do it?" the young one asked. Rosemary hurried back through the crowd, handing me a long, sharp wooden stake she'd pulled from a crack in the wall. I took it tight in my hands.

"By force, " I answered.

#

"Help!" Rosemary screamed as she ran through the road. "Please!" she shouted, her feet crunching on an undisturbed carpet of snow. I watched through the frosted window as she came from the left, crossing in front of the granary and continuing on. Two men came jogging behind her, trying to catch up. Before she was out of view completely, another man rushed out from the front and swung his arm out, wrapping them around her waist. The two finally caught up, all three men huddled around the young girl.

"You two idiots trying to have your way with this one? She's barely nine years old." They shook their heads at him.

"We were patrolling, saw her run, she just went nuts!"

"What happened girl?" the man asked. The girl wept.

"She's lost it, " the other man said.

"It's time, " I told them as I moved to the door. Whatever Vicki and the others hadn't stripped from the building, we took. The girl beside me slipped three nails between her fingers as she closed her hand into a fist, her palm was wrapped in cloth to keep it from getting injured. The others had similar weapons, it was the best we were ever gonna get. I squeezed the wooden stake. "I'll get the one on the left, " I said, having recognized him through the window. I took the door's handle into my free hand and pulled it open. We darted out, moving fast and silent toward the small cluster of men at the other side of the road.

As we inched closer, Rosemary's eyes rolled back and she began flailing on the ground. The men held her down, frustrated. "What is it!" one of them shouted. "What's wrong? What do you want?"

The girl stopped moving and opened her eyes. "Nothing, " she said. We were there. The other women attacked the two men ahead of them, slashing at their throats and stabbing at their chests. I wrapped my fingers around the hair of the man at my feet and pulled his head back. It was the man who'd held Vicki's rope.

"Remember me?" I asked, and ran the stake under his chin.

Silence followed as the women stood and the men did not. Rosemary looked up to me, blood streaks running across her face.

"How'd I do?" she asked.

"Perfect, " I told her.

I took the rifle from

ife."

"Give it to Annie, " he said. "I don't want it."

When we reached the unguarded shelter, I grabbed the metal handle and pulled but it wouldn't budge. It was locked.

"I have it, " someone said behind us, we spun around, my rifle aiming up. Marcus held a key in his hand. I gave him a hug and took the key, opening the door and running inside. We hurried down a set of stairs which was mostly overtaken by darkness.

"No lights?" I asked.

"They ran out of gas for the generator, " Marcus said, pulling a flashlight from his belt as we moved deeper into the tunnel below.

"Who's there?" a voice called from the dark. Another flashlight blinked on, its beam finding Marcus in the black.

"Marcus? That you bud?"

"Kill him, " Marcus whispered. I raised my gun and squeezed the trigger. The muzzle flash lit the entire tunnel. The man fell back as the bullet dug into his skull. I ran to the door and turned the metal wheel which placed the locks.

As the massive door leaned open, Marcus's light shone inside and we saw the pale faces of the whole group that had tried to escape with Vicki. They backed away as we entered, afraid of who it may be.

"Annie?" I called. The light found her frightened face amidst the others. She rushed to me, throwing her arms around my shoulders and squeezing tighter than she had ever done before.

"You came, " she said as she trembled beneath my palms.

"I'm here sweetheart. Right here, " I said, squeezing back.

"I thought we were gonna die, " her voice broke and she buried her face into my neck, trying to hide the tears. "I thought they were going to leave us in there forever."

"It's not over, " I told her. "We still have to fight." I gently pulled back and looked into her eyes. "Can you fight?" I asked. She nodded, wiping the tears from her face. She smiled when she saw Marcus beside me. She moved to him, taking him in her arms.

"Where's Vicki?" she asked. She must have seen it in my eyes because before I could speak she began shaking her head. "No, " she uttered, her voice small and fragile. "Not her..." she collapsed into Marcus' arms. A roar of gunfire rumbled somewhere above.

"We have to help them, " Ron said as he stepped out of the vault.

I stepped closer to Annie. "It wasn't for nothing, " I told her. "We couldn't have done it without her." Annie turned to me, her eyes red with grief. "We'll make it count, " I said, handing her Rosemary's knife.

"I'm with you, " she said. "We all are."

Behind her, those who had been taken prisoner stepped to the edge of the vault beside Ron. They were cold, tired, but their eyes showed only a determined resilience. "We're with you, " Ron repeated. I turned my eyes up to the white light cutting through the dark above and climbed.

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