Bryan's heart raced. Jerry's young and traumatized face poked out of the abused church. He saw Jerry dart back in, hiding from the people that pretended to be normal outside. Bryan jerked his head to Dan, and Dan's eyes narrowed, focused, sharp and attentive on the new objective.
"We need to get to him."
"I know. We need to get around to the other side of the church."
"I'll go around the left side, in the trees."
"We need to stay together, you lead."
Bryan stepped back and headed along the back of a solid stone building. He made sure to crawl under the window sill to avoid being spied by any occupants. Blood began to rush in Bryan's ears, or was it movement in the building he was hearing?
Bryan came to the edge of the corner. A pile of old fireplace wood sat chopped and covered in a fine coat of ash. Bryan leaned forward. Slowly. He tried to peer around the corner. His eye strained as it tried to see through the stone of the building with each creeping inch. Bryan strained, his eyes near popping out to peer around the corners themselves. The other side a bloody ax stood perched deep into a mangled heap of a former person. A single man stood above with his back turned. Large dark gloves and apron with splatters and specks of some long dried brown substance. The smell of copper heavy and thick able to be tasted with even the slightest inhales.
Bryan stayed low, and crept across the path to the next building's corner. The fear a wild beast pounding to escape his chest. But a push, a drive of a heaven only to be with his son once more, kept him moving.
The far left side was concealed by a building that ran its left, an old wooden structure. The wood sagged from moisture in locations. Knots revealed peep holes viewing grisly discovery in small ports by each passing.
Bryan looked back. Dan was crouched down behind him. Dan's face showed no more stress or anxiety than when they had met. The heavy drooping half-dollar rings around his eyes sagging and dragging the wrinkles out further. Dan's eyes were glass marbles, peering out onto the scenes of violence, but the reflections on those glassy balls caused no reaction to the adjoining body.
Bryan, however; felt as if his entire body was going to rattle itself apart. Grey streaks began to run along his face from the collection of ash on his brow. Tears of agony.
As Bryan rounded the next corner her froze. Another one of them stood before him, in a profile view. Covered in filth, the man stood, a light casting his shadow to Bryan's feet. Bryan remained tensed, unable to move to signal to Dan. The man stood, motionless. The solid slumping figure unwavering, and eyes unblinking. Finally, the man moved. He stepped forward, and out of view from Bryan.
"Keep moving." Dan whispered from around the corner, unaware of the terror that pumped in Bryan's veins. Bryan swallowed hard, something slumped down his throat, and he stepped off again moving around the buildings towards the back of the church.
The back of the church was fenced by a low stone wall. The duo hopped the stone wall with little effort. A single large wooded door provided the back entrance to the church where every Sunday had become more bleak. The back door's hinges sagged, weakened from a poor frame and heavy door. The burden of the door allowed the door to be pushed open easily.
The interior of the church was empty, the church had cleared out all belongings unlike the house from earlier. Empty candle holders protruded from the walls. Bryan stepped through first, steadily, but Dan pushed by. He walked without doubt down the hall. Bryan hurried along, attempting to be both quick and quiet on his feet, neither working.
Dan had stopped in the arch way into the next room. Bryan was only slightly separated, but the gap was an eternity to finish.
He didn't see the little body move towards him, but he noticed the bob of the hair. He didn't hear the grasp, but he felt the little restriction of a tight embrace. He didn't notice his own hands moving, but he felt the soft velvet like strands of hairs push between his fingers.
Bryan held Jerry tight against his chest. The empty pews from the church as silent audience in an empty room with ash that had filtered in to be their confetti. For a moment, to Bryan, all was right. There could be hundreds of the people outside, but they did not exist in this moment. Dan, did not exist within this moment. It was just Bryan and Jerry in a loving embrace with snowing ash.
"Are you ok?" Bryan asked still squeezing Jerry. He could feel him nodding rapidly and a small muffled yes escape.
Bryan looked over to Dan, a rustling catching his attention. Dan hadn't been moving. Bryan looked over Dan's shoulder. Dan gave a quizzical look. Dan turned to face the rustling.
From another section of the church a man arose from a doorway. Dirty sagging pants shuffled with his bear feet. A rusted ax in one hand. He turned, and saw them. He froze in a semi-crouch. His mouth hanging open, slack jawed. None moved, for an eternal second.
The man came full sprint towards them in silence. Bryan's eyes widened. A bright flash came with a roaring like a howitzer going off in the church. Another, and another! The charging brute lay face down. No blood poured out. Bryan shifted his gaze to Dan, who still held his pistol out.
From outside, somewhere near the walls of the church came a scream. The scream, blood curdling, and primal, a rage not heard since the great hunters vanished. The patter of sudden movement somewhere outside, and the rough entrance into the church rumbled in the air.
Dan rammed the pistol into Bryan's hands.
"Run, damn it." Dan spat out. He crouched down picking up the ax from the ground.
The first ones came bursting in from outside and along the path the other had come. Bryan jolted Jerry. Racing down the hall to the door he and Dan had entered. Looking back, only Dan's swinging shadow could be seen from where he last stood. His arms wide out, and his legs' shadows a single stilt, his body little more than single thick board in the dim shadow.
The two ran, haphazardly between trees and over low fences, tripping on rocks and roots. Behind them, the voices of pursuers, hunters. Bryan for once could focus, his son now with him, his soul purpose to ensure his escape. But over his own breaths, and heavy steps, the voices called for Jerry. The boy, they cried. Bring us the boy.
Bryan looked back. He couldn't see them yet. He could hear them. The forest they found themselves shook ash upon them, and moved the voices in circles around them.
Bryan looked at Jerry. Jerry's large doe eyes looked back in terror. Bryan looked up into the forest, and he saw his answer.
"Jerry, I need you to run, try and get to the truck."
"Goddamn it Jerry, fucking go!"
Jerry stared wide eye and him as he stumbled back. And Jerry turned, tears rubbing ash off him, and went off into the forest. Bryan shook, his first time swearing at his son.
Bryan waited. He saw the first one come, a locomotive of pain and chaos, making a line straight for him. Bryan raised the pistol. He had never shot at a person before. He shook. The pistol shook. The runner grew closer to him. He fired. He fired again. The runner dropped.
Another came speeding in. He fired, quickly, rapidly. To his left. Three shots. Another one came in. He fired twice more. Several more came up. He stared at his pistol, the slide locked back, the ejection port exposed. He stood, solid. His legs two vast trunks from the soft ash, boundless and bare, having made his final and only sacrifice.
- Writer, soldier, thinker, and science fiction lover. I just can't seem to find a way to divide my adventurous self of constant outdoor activity and exercise from my nerdy self playing games and going to conventions. So why not just be both?
I am a young professional living out of Tallahassee, Florida for the past five years. I have been on a deployment with the United States Army and continue to work outside of my other occupations to better myself mentally and physically. My passion for writing is driven by my passion for everything I find entertaining in life, and of course by my friends and family.