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   Chapter 45 Animals

After Grace By MatheusHMacedo Characters: 8918

Updated: 2018-01-05 17:34


Silhouettes played like shadows across the bright white doorway above. I took point, ascending the stairs one step at a time toward the daylight. Marcus walked beside me, his gun parallel to mine, both of us expecting a hail of gunfire at any second. But it never came. Instead, the door above swung shut, metal hitting metal with a bang. We froze. The sound of a key turning and locks falling into place made my heart drop.

"There's a second key?" I asked Marcus.

"This is the second, " he said. "One of the guards had the original." I ran up and pulled on the long handle but it wouldn't move. The door was sealed shut. "Is there another way out?" I asked. Marcus simply shook his head.

Outside, the muffled sounds of chatter bled through the thin crack lining the door. "Get comfortable in there!" a woman shouted from outside. The others laughed. Then, silence. "Who's that?" someone asked outside. I listened close.

Bang, bang, bang! Gunfire exploded from the other side until the voices were all gone. We waited, guns half raised as the sound of the key sliding back into the lock clanked through the door again. I put the rifle up to my shoulder as the door fell open and the white light nearly blinded us all. A shadow greeted us but my eyes couldn't adjust. She hurried inside and pushed my gun down. "The others are pinned down at the armory, " she said. Her face finally coming into view. It was Lily's sister, Margot. "We gotta go now."

I put my hand over Marcus' gun, lowering it. "She's a friend, " I told him, and turned to her. "Right?"

"Look around you, " she said as she led us out. Seven of Mother's fighters lay dead by the door. Seth, Ron, and Annie took guns from the fallen men and women. Seth threw his arms around Margot.

"Whoever you are, thank you, " he said. She briskly patted his back.

"Lily..." I began. "Lily—"

"I know, " she said. "I went back to the house. I don't know what happened, but I know it wasn't you. Let's go." She began moving toward the gunfire.

"Spread out, " I told them. "We're coming in from all sides. Save as much ammo as you can." I turned to Annie, "stay by me." She nodded.

"Come on, " Margot said.

I followed her as she made her way towards the armory, dodging right and left between the wooden barracks. We approached the fight from behind. A squad of Mother's army had taken cover in front of the door and were firing a relentless barrage into the archway. I raised up the rifle and pulled back the bolt. The others waited for my shot. The gun rattled against my collarbone as I fired at the unsuspecting men and women ahead. Gunfire rained from all sides. We cut them down in se

ad, I raised the shotgun over my head like a club. Hunger and pain fell away as I readied myself to feel his bones crack under my hands.

"Don't, " a man's voice softly pled behind me. I turned to find Joseph standing in the hallway, watching me. "This isn't you."

The man below me coughed blood through cracked teeth. He was starting to regain his senses. "Maybe it is, " I said.

"I was angry, " he said. "I made a terrible mistake. I lost myself. You're not like them."

My hands tightened around the heavy gun. Then, my grip loosened and I let go of the shotgun all together. I reached down to the revolver and put it over the man's face. I fired.

Relief washed over me. Joseph was right. I didn't have to be the animal I thought I was. I hadn't heard him approached but before I knew it he was gently putting his arms around me.

"I wish I could take it back, " he said.

"It's my fault. I left you. I'm so sorry." I gave myself to his embrace the way I had countless times before. This is where I felt the safest. This was where I learned I wasn't alone. "I'm sorry I didn't come back, " I said.

He held me tighter, tears falling from both our faces. "Don't, " he said. "You couldn't."

"How do you know?"

"I know who you are. You would have come back if you could have."

"You were right to be angry. I just left you there--"

"You were trying to save the girl." He pulled back and looked me into my eyes. "You're always trying to do what's right, " he smiled.

A bullet exploded through his forehead, blood splattered across my face. Joseph's limp body crumbled to the floor, slipping like water through my hands, landing with a dry thud on the marble floor below me. Mother stood behind him, white smoke slithering like a snake from her gun.

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