*Chapter Thirty-Six*

Why had I agreed to this shit?.. I still don’t know how the Wolf had smooth talked me into doing the unthinkable, I should have told him to pass me by with this bullshit. We were gambling, with my life as the only bargaining chip, all bets were off and it was too late to fold.

“Throw down your weapons, kick them forward, and take three slow steps backward!”

“No!” I screamed, as I clicked off the safety on the gun I had to my head, staring the General in the eye. “I want to see the kid! Bring him out or I’ll end it all right now.. I’ll splatter my goddamn brains across the ground and you’ll have NOTHING! I swear to God I fucking mean it, you bastard!”

“Haha, so I see you grew a set of balls since we last met and you look different, your skin.. It’s glowing, like the power you posses has its own luminous source shining from within you. I must have it, I won’t stop until I do!”

“I know, that’s why I’m here to make a deal. Give my group the boy unharmed, and you can have me..”

“Just like that, huh?” He asked skeptically, narrowing his eyes.

“Just like that!”

“And you expect me to believe your people don’t plan of retaliation, they’ll do anything to keep you, just like I’ll do anything to get my hands on you..”

“I’ve made this choice of my own accord, they know that.. Dr. Jhedav has her samples and notes on me, that’s more than enough to develop a viable cure, they don’t need me anymore.. I’m free to make my own decisions.”

“You know full well what I plan to do to you.” He replied with a smirk, giving his stern persona a sadistic overtone.

“Yes.” I answered showing no fear, the insouciant look on my face, so vacant and detached.

“Good.. BRING OUT THE BOY!” He commanded to one of his officers, none in particular but they all seem to know their roles, about twenty five of them in total.

I watched in my peripheral, as three of his men went to the other side of a jeep, there was some shuffling and I heard Kahlil’s voice. He sounded roughed up but no worse for wear, that was until they finally brought him into my line of sight, I stifled my urge to scream.. I don’t know if in anger, or horror.

“You’re a fucking monster!!” I yelled at him, feeling my eyes begin to water, but I refused to let him see my tears.

I also fought the urge to take the gun from my head, and point it at the sadistic son of a bitch, yet I knew better. My life was my only leverage here, OUR only leverage, the only value in this transaction. An icy unforgiving wind blew by, the sensation brisk upon my exposed skin, the lightly padded coat I wore not enough to protect against the weather, thou perfect for the occasion. Khalil was blindfolded and gagged, while two guards had his arms, dragging him forward. My eyes jumped between the General and the boys now missing leg, cut neatly a few inches below his patella.

“You ate his fucking leg?! What is wrong with you!?!” I screamed.

“How dare you, we saved this poor boy’s life! And I didn’t eat his leg, there would have been nothing to gain from it..” He replied, looking insulted, but then his cryptic smile returned. “That’s not to say one of my men didn’t barbecue it up, no use in wasting good meat.. Aye, boys?”

The crowd of men and boys began to laugh, all finding the man’s humor amusing, I felt disgust that the gift of life was wasted on these scoundrels. A deep growl escaped my lips as their laughter only got louder, I couldn’t quell the searing fury that boil inside me, and it threatened to spill over. That’s when I heard the car approaching behind me, it took the General and his men a moment to notice it, but when they did they were on high alert. The cherry red mustang pulled up beside me, and three men began to search the the car but they didn’t engage, once they stood back the sole person inside got out.

“They send an old woman to do a man’s job?!”

“Says the old twat, sitting behind an army of assholes..” Granny snapped, giving him the finger, as she strolled up with a weird newly acquired limp.

“She’s here for the kid so let her have him, and when they are far enough away, you’ll get what’s due to you..” I said to him, before the two of them kept at it, and soiled our deal.

He sneered at her and signaled to his men to hand Kahlil over, her eyes got wide when she saw his condition, the guards took his gag loose and lifted his blindfold. One eye was nearly swollen shut, and he had swelling along the jawline, he looked so afraid. They pushed him towards us, forcing him the indignity of hobbling on one foot for their amusement, even raising their guns when we moved to help him.

“Eh, eh, eh.. We made a deal, so make your way over here.” The General commanded eyeing mere skeptically, as I still hadn’t lowered the 9mm, I kept pointed at my head.

I moved it and put the barrel in my mouth, giving him a defiant gaze, to let him know I wasn’t playing any games. When I met the boy halfway, there were tears in his eyes, and he struggled to speak.

“You.. You came back for me, you really came back? I knew you would, there was always something different about you.”

“C’mon kid, Granny is gonna take you far away from these bastards, there are people there that can take care of you, you are safe with them” I said, as I used my free arm to help him stabilize, until the older woman could help him into the car.

Once he was situated, Granny gave me a final hug, before getting in the driver’s seat. I was surprised she could drive ‘stick’, but then again, that woman has lived a long life, she was no one to underestimate. I watched as they drove away, until the tail lights on the mustang disappeared, I waited a moment to turn around. I dropped the gun and kicked it towards the nearest guard, as I spun to face the General, he had the most sadistic smile and crazed look in his eye.

I started walking towards him, and his men split, giving me a straight path to their leader. He was standing atop of his largest tank, a heavily armored metal beast that could launch devastating missiles, and shoot steel piercing bullets from its Gatling gun. The undercarriage was shallow, no doubt reinforced as well, so I knew I had to get in close.

“You can stop right there..” He said, just as I reached the front of his vehicle, and motioned for them to frisk me.

One guard started at my ankles, the other had me hold out my arms and open my mouth, he searched it with his flashlight before he patted my arms. Just as they got to my torso, the guards could see the cherry red mustang was coming back, at full speed.

“GRAB HIM!” The General yelled angrily, but it was too late, I had already scaled to the top of his tank.

I slammed my fist into his face, knocking him back, and there was an explosion as the mustang crashed into the rest of their vehicles. There was rapid gun fire, coming in from the distance, I knew it was the Wolf and Husk. They were a little behind schedule but everything was going to plan. I unzipped my coat, revealing two belts of grenades, strapped around my chest. The General screamed in rage, and tried to pull his gun out, I knocked his wrist to the side as he pulled the trigger.

The bullet with my name, caught the driver in the back of the head, I headbutt the man and was certain I broke his nose. He grabbed me, and I slip from the coat, to make an attempt at climbing out of the top shaft. I was almost out, when a hand with a desperate grip, latch to my ankle.

“You’re mine.. You’re mine.. I’ll never let you go!!” He yelled, pulling me back down, but I swung my booted foot and connected with his face.

I kept my eye on him as I unstrapped the two belts, this time would be the end of this, I was sick of being the hunted prey.

“You think this is the end of this cat and mouse game? Sorry to tell ya kiddo, you’re always gonna be the mouse.. Hell, you’re the Holy FUCKIN Grail! Haha.. Someone’s always gonna be after you, the rest of your entire life is gonna be on the run! And guess what? Your fate will be the same no matter who catches up with you!”

I looked down at this man who was so drunk with power, and afflicted with a savage thirst for it, was this all the humanity left in the World’s End? His next words tore me from my thoughts, and brought me roaring back to reality, sealing his fate and my future.

“I would have given you a glorious death..”

Those were his last words, as I had pulled the string of pins and dropped the belts in the tank, I leaped down onto the concrete and started to sprint away. Someone grabbed my arm, and I looked to see Husk, grinning as he pulled me out of the smoke. We ran as fast as our legs were able, while the Wolf returned gunfire to cover our retreat, but we didn’t get far enough and could still feel the recoil of the concurring explosion.

The bridge frame shook and groaned, and fire started to spread, it was then I noticed we were on the wrong side. The plan was to make it back to the Betty, but now we stood separated by a crumbling bridge that was forcing us to vacate her. We had barely made foot to land, before it finally fell into the river, taking the General and what was left of his men with it.

“Wolf, where are we? how do we get back to the group?” I asked, as we walked along the strip of road, leading from the demolished bridge.

“This is the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers, the exact point in which they meet, this was once a great battleground for the First Nation tribes because of its bountiful hunting grounds. The Huron and Conoy tribes fought off the invading Iroquois from the present day New York area, there was much bloodshed but they eventually shared the land equally, until losing it to European settlers in the colonial era.”

“What are you Wikipedia?”

“No, but that’s exactly what it said on Wiki, when I Google it a couple years back.” He replied, flashing one of his signature grins, making Husk and I roll our eyes. “This is a town connected by three bridges, all we have to do is meet up with them on the other side, Caiden knows where the radio station is and I’ve given him instructions to rendezvous with us there if anything like this had happened.”

“But they have all the food, the sun is setting.. are we camping out in town or hiking it through the night?”

I wasn’t a soldier, no matter how tough I acted, these two men were technically trained and conditioned to do dangerous things with their bodies. They had been through countless life or death situations, what did they know about taking it easy? Probably as much as a child knows about tactical warfare I’d wager, and as I expected, the Wolf looked skeptical of staying in the area long.

“It’s a small town, there could be survivors or hostiles.. We don’t need the distractions, it’s best to keep moving forward.”

“But traveling after sundown has its own pitfalls, we’d be completely vulnerable, especially since we’re damn near out of bullets.”

“Either way we have to cut through town, so let’s keep moving..” Husk mentioned, noticing we had fallen behind, he turned around and continued to scout our path.

We entered the nearest small town called Henderson just as the sun had fully set, it was dark and eerie like a ghost town, with maybe one or two working street lights. The moon was half full, and cloud cover was thick, ensuring we were cloaked in darkness. As we walked down Main Street, all the buildings and houses were shuttered, locked down, or ransacked.

“It looks like everyone just stopped, and dropped whatever they were doing when the news hit..” Husk commented, looking down at the trash and litter that filled the streets, I was surprised there weren’t rats, raccoons, or other animals scavenging the town for a meal.

“I change my mind, I think we should keep going..” I reluctantly confessed, feeling uneasy about this place, especially after the Wolf’s Indian battlegrounds story, long ago someone had decided it was a great idea to build a town on land tainted with blood, yeah, great idea. “This place could be haunted or some shit.. I think I saw movement in one of the windows we passed.”

“Are you sure you saw something?” Wolf asked, keeping a sharp eye on our rear, it was so quiet and eerie.

“I don’t know.. the movement was too fast, and didn’t make a sound. Look, let’s just keep going to the bridge and tough it out.” I replied, no longer interested in staying the night, this place was giving me major creeps.

At that moment, there was a blinding flash of light, and then the roar of thunder clapped loudly. Rain began to pour down immediately, then due to the cold winter air, it began to ice and shower hail. We ran to the nearest cover, under the canopy of a small grocery, the windows were foggy and it was too dark to see inside. I saw Husk lean in close like he saw something, but before he could make it closer to the window, some kind of siren or alarm rang out loudly.

We had to cover our ears from the piercing sound, and I felt something wet dripping from my ears, after inspecting my fingers I could see it was blood, possibly evidence of damage to my eardrum. I saw Husk point to the houses and storefronts we’d passed along the way, and one by one, the lights started to come on in a random sequence leading straight for us.

“Let’s get out of here..” The Wolf yelled, grabbing my hand, as he lead the way.

As we ran, men carrying torches seem to come from every direction, we tried to run down a side street but we could see more of them at the end of the alley. We cut to left at the next intersection, and in the distance, I could see the bridge. Her lights still lit up bright, probably from solar installments, yet she appeared as a beautiful beacon in the night.

The icy rain beat against my face painfully, as the three of us sprint as fast as our bodies were able, the floor was slick and the mob of villagers seem to be trying to close us in. I could hear a few of them yelling obscenities as they gave chase, while some threw empty bottles that shattered too close for comfort, there was a part of me that silently prayed for an attack of risen to show up and slow them down.

Just as we reached the foot of the bridge, there was gunfire from behind, I could tell they didn’t have many bullets by how sparingly they used them. Yet soon there was a pained yell, Husk had gotten hit in his arm, he had also been too close to the edge and the side barrier was short. The Wolf went to reach for him, but the other mercenary had already toppled over, landing in a hard splash in the dark water deep below. Suddenly an arrow shot past my head and caught the Wolf in his forearm, he growled as he ripped it out, and told me to keep running.

We got about halfway across, when I felt a swift sharp stabbing sensation in the back of my neck, and it felt like my body turned off like a light switch. My limbs had become numb, and I couldn’t feel anything until my face hit the ground, my arms had failed to move to shield the impact. My eyes were wide with shock and my nose was bloodied, I couldn’t get up..

“Oh shit.. It’s one of the arrows, I think it might’ve possibly severed your spine. This looks bad Loki, what the fuck do I do? Should I pull it out?!” Wolf was in a panic, Thou I could only see his boots as he stood over me.

“I can’t feel my arms, nor my legs, I don’t feel anything..” I answered, trying not to panic or go into shock, I was lucky my lungs still even worked. “The arrow has to come out, I might be able to heal..”

“Ok, just hold still.. um damn, my bad.”

“So not fucking funny right now..” I replied, daring him to laugh with my death glare, which quickly changed to concern as I saw a pale figure and flash of blonde dreads behind him.

As the Wolf went to pull the arrow out, there was a loud thud, and the large merc came crashing down on top of me, It had to hurt but I couldn’t feel anything besides fear and the thump of my heart racing. During the crash of his body onto me, I could hear the stick end of the arrowhead snap off, leaving it lodged in my cervical spine. It wasn’t hard to notice his weight was disrupting my breathing, and I could feel my head getting light, it was a struggle to keep myself from slipping away.

There was a sick and heinous laughter, similar to a rabid hyena, that frightened me back into the moment. Spots filled my eyes, as the blurry face of a familiar figure filled my vision, he wore a wicked smile and had piercingly cold cobalt eyes. The malice and hate emitting from them, were the last sight I would see before blacking out, yet the wicked laughter continued on into darkness.


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