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06 March, 2011

The Rising - A Short Story


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PT. 1
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They said it would change our lives; that we would never have to be afraid again – That we would never have to be afraid. They didn’t say much the whole time we were there, so I remembered that piece clearly. Some days I try to remember what it was like before, but I can’t. I’ve heard after a traumatic experience your memory purposely blocks things out, so you don’t have to relive them, and maybe that’s what has happened with us – all of us – when we were still all together, before what happened.

*******
All I heard was loud yelling followed by a wet thud, as there was a connection between a fist and flesh – I wasn’t sure whose – as I readied myself behind the grocery store’s brick wall; peeking out, eye’s fixated on the sliding doors.

“Go!” Rown screamed, as he flashed out of the doors clutching a 10lb bag of apples over his shoulders and peeled into the parking lot where I took off after him, both of our chests now heaving while we sprinted towards the woods. Rown struggled with the apples as he ran; the bag was coming undone and Macintosh apples spilled from the bag like a trail from Hansel and Gretel. I stole a glance behind me as the grocer – a huge man – was running after us as we tore across the pavement and up the cement barricade leading towards the forest. In one fell swoop I grabbed the bag from Rown and swung it over one shoulder, securing the bag’s opening, and quickly climbed the cement dam and loped into the trees, Rown – relived – scurried after me.

“I told you I should have gone in,” I sighed, as we walked over the forest floor, twigs cracking and crunching under our worn sneakers. “The bag was way too heavy for you to carry. Plus your face is bleeding, what are we going to do for that now?” Rown frowned as he dragged behind me, gingerly touching his split cheek where the grocer had socked him and examining the blood on his fingers.

After about 20 minutes of navigating through the thicket of trees, we finally stepped into the familiar clearing, exposing makeshift huts and lean-to shelters we had constructed several months ago. A small figure came out of one of the 4 huts and stepped up to us, shooting me a raised eyebrow when she noticed that the bag of apples had some casualties, as she took the bag from me.

“I take it you didn’t go in?” Mila muttered to me as she grumbled back into the hut she came out of. A taller boy, no more than 14, emerged out of the lean-to when he heard the noise of our arrival.
“Hollo, Rown! Welcome back!” Jin beamed as he rushed over to greet us. He took one look at Rown’s swollen face and made a concerned face. “I got just the thing, be right back!” He spun on his heels and hightailed it back to his hut, disappearing inside. Rown glanced over at me and rolled his eyes, I gave him a knowing look, which made him sigh noisily and shake his head. Jin appeared in front of us with a cloth and a handful of leaves. “I pricked myself on a thorn yesterday and figured out if you put these leaves on a wound it helps it.” He offered his hand of leaves to Rown. He took the cloth out of Jin’s other hand instead, pressed it to his face and mumbled a word of thanks.
“We’ll prepare dinner, go wash up Rown, and take Jin.” I nodded my head towards the little babbling stream, it gurgled as it wound its way in-between the trees and past our clearing, giving us a great little lagoon to use to bathe. I turned and headed towards the middle hut where the apples were before Rown could roll his eyes at me again.

“Why would you let him go in there himself? Jesus Hollo, only Rown would get punched by the grocer. We can’t let him go back in there now; did he see your face too?” Mila looked concerned as she stopped cutting apple slices and stared up at me.
“Rown is a smart guy, and he’s fast, I didn’t expect him to take such a big bag,” I gathered the slices Mila had cut and threw them into a cracked plastic bowl, which we had found floating by in the stream. “He’s just a little careless sometimes; his pride is definitely something that gets in his way.” I looked around Mila’s hut, this was the biggest we had, and was the one that was constructed the best. It was the size of a standard bedroom, and housed a small area where she slept on leafy bedding, a crude bench constructed out of wood, and a childrens pink plastic chair Jin found in the parking lot a few weeks ago. Where we were standing was a little table we used to cook or prepare food we had.

There we four of us; runaways or homeless; either way we didn’t have anywhere else to go. I had a family once, years ago. My mother was so high on pills and booze she didn’t remember who I was most of the time, and my stepfather was more concerned with gambling our money to make sure there was food on the table. When I was 8 I came home from school and found two syringes on the kitchen table, when I was 11 I hid in the bathroom while my step father whored my mother out to his friends for cash to pay down his debts. When I was 14 he cornered me against the wall and punched me in the head repeatedly until I blacked out. I regained consciousness in a heap in the back yard, realizing he had thrown my body outside and locked the door after I passed out. I never looked back that night; I took off and haven’t seen them in almost 3 years. I lived on the streets for a while; I tried a shelter once, but awoke in the night to two men trying to smother me with a pillow to steal my shoes, so I never went back.

Mila lived with her grandmother until she was 14. Once her grandmother died, the state decided to put her into a distant uncle’s custody until she turned 18. We don’t know much about what happened, but from what she’s mentioned he abused her savagely until she took off one night, not long after she got there. I met Mila in a soup kitchen in Boston; I immediately thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on. She was skinny and pale, I could tell she wasn’t doing very well on her own, which hadn’t been long I learned. I was a decent looking guy with blonde hair and grey-blue eyes. Someone told me I looked like a young Topher Grace once, so when I introduced myself she smiled and allowed me to sit down with her. Mila had gorgeous red hair that cascaded down her back like a waterfall; her glowing green eyes shared more than her words ever did. From her past she developed severe trust issues but soon overcame them and let me take the role of the provider. Since that day we’ve been inseparable; we quickly became fast friends and developed an untold level of trust over the past 2 years. 

About a year ago we met Rown, a kid who was always getting into trouble with the police, his parents, and basically everyone he met. He was a really nice guy, but sometimes he came off as abrasive or uncaring because he distances himself away from anyone who tries to get close to him. His sister died in a car accident when he was younger, and from then on he explained that he was never the same. He ended up setting fire to his principal’s car, and that’s when his parent’s didn’t know what else to do, so they threw him out. There was a group of homeless men who Mila and I stayed away from, but they had picked up Rown and were using him as a mule for transporting drugs. One day we heard shouting and we found Rown in an alley fresh from being gang beaten by some of the men, and we took him under our wing after that. He was a runner, he was thin and had wiry brown hair and brown eyes, but he had long legs and could grab unguarded items outside of stores and was gone before anyone noticed. 

Not long after that, Rown was caught stealing and was taken in by police. He eventually escaped (we never found out how), but not before his face was plastered all over every police station and local convenience store. We decided to get out of Boston and go up north to Ontario, trying our luck with a new country and an absence of disgruntled Boston cops. We traveled to Hearst, a town in northern Ontario where we could disappear and try our hand at living remotely. We built huts, we fished with homemade lures, trapped small animals and we sometimes wandered into town, very aware not to call attention to ourselves since we resided close by. The small town grocery store sits on the boarder of the Boreal forest, and when we needed to we would creep down and nab anything left sitting outside on display; food, items, or anything of value.

Then there was Jin; I met Jin a few weeks ago at the YMCA and youth shelter. I was there looking at the job wall – I sometimes picked up odd jobs for a little money – and he was staying there. I had grown rather familiar of the place, and had never seen him before so I asked the receptionist. She whispered to me that he has been in and out of foster homes all of his life, and nothing stuck, so he was here, refusing to go back to his most recent foster family. I'm not sure how it happened but one day I took him back to the clearing with me and he wanted to stay with us. Rown was not impressed from the get go, thinking Jin was annoying and needy, and always getting in the way. He would also point out Jin was one more mouth to feed, and one more person to hide. Begrudgingly he allowed Jin to stay, and we built him his own lean-to against a rock bed, which he seemed delighted with.
The clearing housed 3 huts and Jin’s lean-to, each one was pretty well crafted as we learned to build, and fix things ourselves. The little money I collected helped buy us whatever else we needed to get by. To be honest, we were a pretty tight knit family unit already, and I was just happy being around them. After we had eaten a couple of the apples from the stolen bag, and lazily sat by the fire outside Mila’s hut, we all went to bed. Unknowing to us, this small bit of happiness together was the last we would ever have.

 I awoke in the middle of the night to gloved hands viciously covering my mouth, while these two masked figures tried to wrestle me out of my bed. I fought back; swinging my fist and connecting with one of their noses as red blood exploded everywhere. It startled the second person, as I jumped onto his back trying to take him down. I heard a bloodcurdling scream – Mila – as I realized they were trying to get all of us outside. The first guy I hit jumped on my back, hitting me in the head until I let go of his friend. The next few minutes I had my hands and feet bound, and a rag over my mouth as I was being hauled and dragged out of the hut and into the clearing. Jin’s unconscious body was slung over a man’s back, as he was carried out of the clearing into the thicket of the forest towards the parking lot; it seems he was the easiest to take down.

I watched helplessly as Rown dodged and sucker punched the masked man lugging Mila kicking from her hut. Two more men sprang from Jin’s lean-to, knocking it clattering to the ground, and hurled themselves on top of Rown, who was yelling loudly, thrashing back and forth trying to break free. One of the men started slamming the palm of his hand into the side of Rown’s face to knock him down, until a second man grabbed his arm and said: “Alive.” 

We were all taken, all being lead or dragged single file through the woods, no shoes, feet being torn up from the undergrowth of the forest bed in the pitch black. At one point Rown threw his weight into the guy leading him, sending him cracking into a tree. It didn’t do anything, as three others ran from behind and hauled Rown to his feet, and cracked something over his head. I heard his body fall and the sounds of him being pulled over the brush behind me.

We got to the parking lot where two black cube vans with their back doors open waited for the men leading us. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a man in the van pour liquid from a jar onto a rag and pass the rag to the man carrying Mila. He shoved it into her face; I saw her struggle, fighting the unmistakeable effects of Chloroform, until she dropped like dead weight onto the pavement. The man effortlessly picked her up and threw her body into the first van beside Jin who was still out from his battle in the clearing. He slammed the doors shut and pounded on them, as the van’s engine ignited, and ripped out of the parking lot and down the road. I stared in horror as they threw Rown into the second van, already blacked out, and came after me. 1 driver, and 3 left over men held me down while I attacked, thrashed, and fought for freedom. The rag closed over my mouth and nose and the bitter smell screamed into my brain and my eyelids started to close. I knew if they got me into that van I would never come back, and as they loaded my body into the second van and closed the door, I look back on that moment and realize I was right.

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(Pt. 2)
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If someone asked me to remember what had happened to me that night, I would have said I didn’t know. I would have said I woke up on that cot with no recollection of anything after watching my friends beaten, drugged and being thrown into the van. I would have said I awoke to an IV in my left arm and both my wrists restrained, in a hard and scratchy hospital gown thrown over my waist and legs. I would have said as soon as I looked down at my exposed chest and saw the dozens of heart monitor pads stuck to me, or the tray of bloodied tools I threw up. Of course if I told you that I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth, because I was awake when they did it to me. 

*********
Groggily I awoke in a dark, windowless room. My head pounded and my throat was so dry and swollen I thought I wouldn’t be able to breathe. I immediately tried to stand up, until I realized that I was tied to a hook in the wall with industrial twine by my hands and feet. I managed to get myself into a sitting position, and leaned my back against the wall enough so I could survey my surroundings.

The room was maybe the size of a small bedroom, slightly elongated, and concrete. Mila, Rown, and Jin lay on the ground beside me; all similarly tied up with twine to what looked like boating hooks hammered into the wall behind them. Rown’s face was bloody and swollen; a dark stain on the concrete under his face told me the blood that once pooled from his mouth had dried, which meant we’d been in here a while. Panic flushed over me as I struggled to control my breathing, was he dead? His body has obviously been in the same position from when he was thrown in here, letting his gash willingly bleed and have time to stop. 

I studied his chest - squinted my eyes to see through the dark – I saw the rise and fall of shallow breaths under his torn t-shirt and air released my lungs in a painful flood of relief. I glanced beside Rown and saw Jin on his back, with a huge slit right above his right eye to his ear where someone had taken one crack to his temple and split his skin. Mila was off to the side, laying sideways in the fetal position, which probably meant she had come-to at least once and passed out again. Rage pumped through my veins which made my head swell and my heart thunder like a stampede. I threw my weight as much as I could opposite from the hook, trying to break the rope; at 18 years old, 6’1”, and 165 pounds I wasn’t deemed small and I was determined to try. I leveraged my bound feet against the wall and used them to push off, wrenching my own back and neck trying to throw myself as far as I could.

My efforts were slain when the wooden door slammed open and bounced off the back of the wall of our room. One man in a lab coat stepped in and looked down at me with no expression in his face. Another man in a red t-shirt quickly ran in behind him, and glared at me. The two had a brief dialogue, and the man in the lab coat looked down and smiled, “You’ll be out soon enough, lad.”  Hi accent was foreign and baritone and he stared at me for a second longer before walking back out the door, leaving the man in red standing over me. A slow menacing grin slide over his tan face, and I realized this was one of the men who took us from the woods.

The man watched me like a hawk as he made his way to where Mila lay. My heart started to leap through my chest as he slowly crouched over her, never taking his eyes off me. He gently pushed a strand of her strawberry hair behind her ear, tracing his fingers over her face, eyes daring me to do something. “She’s lovely,” His smile was sour and chilling. Fury kicked through my body as I bucked and kicked off the walls, trying to tear my body free. He stood up and in 3 steps he stood over me once again as he wound his hand back and it plummeted sideways into my face, striking me to the ground as dead weight. My head punched the concrete floor and I was instantly dizzy, my vision blurry as I lay from where I had fallen, now struggling to keep consciousness. “The bigger they are eh harder they fall,” was the last thing I heard from him, as he grabbed Jin from the ground and violently snapped him up, letting his head lull dangerously over the man’s arm as he was carried through the door. 

The next few hours happened like clockwork. One by one the man in red came into the concrete room and grabbed one of the bodies on the ground. The door opened each time and washed the room with light, and one by one each of my friends disappeared as the door was shut and I was left in the dark. Finally it was just me left, and the familiar baritone voice just outside the room reminded me I would be next. The man in red opened the door and stepped into the room; soon the man in the lab coat followed and looked over his glasses at me. He knelt down and gingerly touched my face where I had been hit. He made a disapproving sound and looked up at the man in red, sternly saying something to him in a different language. The two raised their voices before finally I was cut free, and with a man under each arm, I was picked up and ushered out the door.

I was strapped to a table in a white room with the man in the lab coat, and a female nurse. The next few hours I was injected with countless serums from syringes of all sizes. The doctor recorded each injection and the display on a machine I was hooked up to and adjusted additional syringes lined up on a table beside him. The nurse was now taking my pulse as I looked up helplessly at her, fear and pain in my face. She peeked over her shoulder at the doctor - his back was to us measuring fluids from a beaker – her face was apologetic, as she quietly whispered in a similar accent “you have to be awake for this, I'm sorry.” I phased in and out at this point, feeling everywhere from drunk to nauseous, making the doctor and nurse rush over and inject me with different needles until I was well enough again. The doctor and nurse now huddled in a corner speaking the same foreign language. 

I had time to slowly look around the room. There were dozens of shelves, with jars and boxes, and several tables with tools, some bloody, some clean. All of a sudden I heard a sound I hasn’t heard before – whimpering. I strained my neck but from where I was laying I could only see the tops of cages, there must have been dozens of cages, with animals in them. I couldn’t tell what they all were but I heard a dog, and a bird, all the cages lined up in a row along the wall of the room. My chest tightened and my heart raced, I tried to control it but I couldn’t. It felt like my ribcage was splitting apart, and pain seared from my inside and burned up through my arm where the IV was. The taste of metal was in my mouth, and I was suddenly aware my nose was bleeding. My eyes were panic stricken, as I rapidly regained feeling in my body. A machine sounded an alarm, and the doctor yelled instructions to the nurse, who frantically searched for something on a table. My body was turning red, I felt my skin heat and my breath seize, the doctor screaming now at the nurse. He ran over, pushed her aside and grabbed a syringe from the tray and stuck it in my neck. My eyes closed and I faded out into sleep.

A young girl about 12 years old entered my room where I lay on the cot, and noticed the vomit. She hurried out of the room and returned a few minutes later with the nurse from the operating room. The nurse was carrying a stack of sheets and a bucket of water; she handed he bucket to the girl, set the sheets on the table, and disappeared again out the door.
“My mom said you were really brave today,” The girl had pale blue eyes, and blonde hair that landed in small curls along her shoulders, “no one has survived what you got before. That makes you really special.” She smiled at me, taking my hand in hers. I tried to respond but my throat was swollen closed. “Shhh, mom said you would be sore,” she then brought the bucket of water over to me fished a wet cloth out of it. She carefully wrung the water out and proceeded to clean my arms off, where I had thrown up on myself. “I'm not allowed to say much, but I know you’re probably scared,” the girl looked over her shoulder at the door and listened for any sign her mom was coming back, when she was satisfied she continued, “Your friends are fine, they’re resting, one of them is actually up and eating, the little one.” I closed my eyes and was flooded with relief, everyone was fine, and Jin was awake and eating. We were all alive.

The nurse walked back into the room wheeling another bed. She proceeded to make the bed up with the linen she brought in and motioned for the girl to leave. “I'm helping!” She pouted.
“This young man is not properly dressed, Silvia, you will leave the room please.” The nurse gave her the eye and the girl giggled as she skipped out of the room. The nurse looked down at me. “I apologize for my husband earlier; we did not know you would have a reaction like that. Are you in much pain?” She had the bed now beside the one I was on, and helped me hop over on to it, and then pushed the old bed towards the end of the room. “This should make you more comfortable. Are you still feeling sick?” I shook my head. “Good, the IV will help hydrate you; we couldn’t have you drinking anything beforehand so again I apologize.” She went to the IV stand and turned a dial. My eyes felt heavy and I drifted off.

I slept for a long time. I awoke in the bed feeling almost normal; no pain, my throat was as good as new, and the incisions on my legs and arms were almost gone. I then noticed I wasn’t connected to the IV and my wrists were free; my heart started to pound.
“I unbound you so you would feel more comfortable, Hollo. But please don’t try to leave, we have much to discuss.” The doctor in the lab coat was standing by the table, with a tray he brought over to me. “You may not have your appetite yet because of the IV, but you haven’t eaten in 2 days.” He put the tray on my lap; on it was a plate full of what looked like stew. My stomach growled. Was I out for 2 days? How long was I in the operating room? I made a mental note to find these out later and I hesitantly picked up the fork on the tray. The meat was gristly and the sauce was bitter, I choked on the first mouthful and looked up at the doctor. “We’re not a 4 star kitchen,” He replied, picking up on my displeasure. I thought back to the last meal I had eaten; the toasted apples. If I had known this was going to happen I would have bought a burger, I had no idea if that was the last meal I’d ever have outside of this prison.

I pushed it aside and figured I’d take my chances with not eating it. The doctor sighed and took the tray from me, and I cleared my throat. “I want to know what the hell is going on,” the look on my face showed that I was not going to be passive much longer, “and how did you know my name?” The doctor took a deep breath and looked at me.
“My name is Daniel Lupei, my wife is Ana and you met my daughter Silvia. We are originally from Romania; I was a doctor in biogenetics working for the Romanian Government. We primarily tested on animals, a hypothesis we were proving about cell transplantation and a few other things. A few years ago a well known animal rights activist group broke into our lab, freed the long term test subjects, stole unperfected serums, and set the place on fire.”

Daniel looked depressed and his head hung low; his voice quieted. “Using humans as test subjects was never my plan, I did not want to do it, but we were near a breakthrough. We were almost at a point where we were successfully splicing animal DNA with mutated DNA strands from humans, creating hybrids that had amazing supernatural abilities. Mice grew wings, a baboon developed the capacity for teleportation, and we even had a house cat who could breathe underwater. It was a miracle for science and nature alike. After our research was stolen, the Romanian government put me on a top secret project to try to see if our mutated strands could be used to give humans extraordinary gifts. If it was possible, it would rewrite biogenetic history; it would allow doctors to grow organs, it would eliminate Cancer dozens of other lethal illnesses, and it would allow for people to fight the injustice of the world – the evil.”

I stared at him, “you have got to be joking. You kidnapped us against our will and experimented on us, that has got to be illegal.” I started to get up off the cot; Daniel stepped up to me and put his hand on my wrist.
“Please don’t leave; I did this so you wouldn’t have to be helpless in the world. Homeless children who think they have nothing left, I have given you something that no one else will ever get to experience.” He looked into my eyes, pleading; his grip grew tighter on my arm.
“Daniel, let me go.” I said it with enough force I could feel him waver. I took my free arm and ripped his hand off my wrist. He suddenly yelled out something in Romanian, and the man in the red shirt came running to the door. He sent me a cold smile and came running over to me, leaping on top of the bed to get the wrist restraints back on. My heart started to race, and panic flooded my senses. I couldn’t let them keep me here I needed to leave - right now. A dull pounding sensation coursed through my brain, slowly gaining in frequency until it started to hurt.

I screamed out in pain, clutching my head as the man in red held me down and the doctor tied my legs to the cot again. My head felt like it was splitting apart.
“What did you do to me?” I yelled out, hearing the sound of blood pump through my ears, a sharp shooting pain was in my head; my hearing was cutting in and out. I could hear clips of the doctor and the man in red yelling to each other for help trying desperately to hold my thrashing body down. Ana came running into the room alongside Silvia, who took one look at me and her mouth dropped, while her mother ran over to the table of tools and grabbed a syringe. I knew if I was injected I would be put under and relocated – that wasn’t going to happen again, not this time.

Using my elbow I knocked the needle out of her hand and it scattered across the floor, Daniel jumped off the cot and dove for it, leaving the man in red fighting my arms into the restraints. My heart was beating so fast, and I felt another wave of pressure in my head. I shouted out, feeling like someone was sticking knives into my brain. The pain was too much and I closed my eyes as the man in red held my arms to my sides with his body, on top of me yelling for the syringe. Out of nowhere a feeling of calm came over my body, the pain was gone in my head and it was now replaced with a cooling sensation, like someone had turned on a fan. I opened my eyes and was face to face with the man in red, and the first emotion I felt was rage. His face froze instantly, as if he was a photograph, and his eyes rolled back into his head. My heart roared in my ears as I witnessed blood start to run down from his ears and nose, and his body convulse into a seizure, as he toppled off of my bed onto the floor. I turned to look at the doctor and the nurse - my eyes felt like they were burning - I made eye contact with Ana and she dropped like lead to the floor, blood pooling from her ears. The doctor was covering his face in his hands, crumbled on the floor, writhing about.

As the three of them lay on the ground, my heart began to subside, and I blinked my eyes furiously to try to calm the burning sensation. I looked around, panicked, and tore the leg restraints off as I jumped out of my cot and out the door into the hallway. Silvia was standing there, eyes wide in horror past me at her parents, not sure if they were dead or alive - I didn’t either. She looked up at me and slowly reached into her breast pocket of her dress and pulled out a tissue and took a step close to me. I instinctively backed up, but something about this little girl wasn’t threatening. She reached up to grab my shoulder and gently lower me to her level, as she dabbed my eyes with the tissue. As she pulled her hand back I noticed the tissue was soaked with blood, my eyes were bleeding. “I think that stops happening after a while,” she said, almost mechanically. “I told your friends they needed to leave, they’re waiting for you.” She stepped back and let me run by her. As I ran down the hall towards the other rooms I looked back and saw her run to her parents.

My pulse raced as I ran into the first room. It was a mirror of mine; cot, table, IV, but no one was in it, the cot was made up and the room looked unlived in. I ran across the hall to the third room, the bed was haphazardly thrown, like someone got up to go to the bathroom. I yelled out, but no one answered. I got to the last room and again, nobody was inside. I stopped, wheeled around and ran towards the big room I passed on the way to the operating room. I skidded inside, and noticed there were trays of half eaten food strewn on a table, one stool was on the ground - someone had left in a hurry. I ran back past the rooms to the end of the dark hallway, “Mila!” I screamed into the hall, “Jin, Rown!” I rounded the hall corner and saw Rown, hair matted to his forehead with sweat, and his bare chest exposed, two heart pads still on him.
“Rown, Rown, are you ok?” I yelled as I rushed up to him and grabbed his shoulders shaking him.
“I'm fine, there was a man here, he was in front of the door, I told Mila and Jin to run ahead and I could take care of him”, his breath was staggered and his skin was yellow.
“Rown where is Mila and Jin?”I grabbed his face and looked into his eyes, which were bloodshot.
“They went through that hallway, towards the exit,” Rown breathed heavily and his eyes were scared, “Hollo, I think I killed that man, I think I killed him. I didn’t mean to hurt him,” He started to cry, tears of exhaustion and pain rolled off his cut cheeks.
“It’s ok, it’s ok, we’ll be ok,” I grabbed him into a bear hug, and squeezed him, “we need to get the fuck out of here though, OK? Can you walk?”
“Ya, let’s just go.”

We ran through the labyrinth of hallways, each connecting to another door until I saw Mila supporting Jin’s body by the wooden exit door. “Hollow!” Mila cried out as I rushed up to her, swallowing her and Jin in a violent hug. Mila’s face was streaked with tears and she had her head bandaged up covering one of her eyes. I looked down at Jin who was swollen, cut, and was a very dangerous shade of red. “Jin’s not ok, he’s not ok, the door is locked from the outside, we can’t get out, we can’t get out!” Mile shrieked, as Rown grabbed her head and buried it into his chest as she sobbed.
“Mila put Jin down, Rown help me with this door.” As Rown helped Mila with Jin, I started to throw my weight into the wooden door like a battering ram. The door was solid, and was not budging. I looked for the pins that held the door together, and there were none; this was a fake door, it didn’t open.
“This door isn’t real… it doesn’t open.” I looked back at Rown and Mila with panic in my eyes. Rown stood up.
“Stand back,” I got behind him, as he took a few steps backward, and threw his entire body onto the door. The wood cracked as loud as a gun barrel, splitting the wood and creating a crack down the center of the door. He looked back at me, desperation in his face.
“Do it again Rown,” I had no idea how someone so small had that much power, more so than me, but whatever happened to us here, we would soon discover it was changing us. Rown backed up again, a little farther this time, and threw his shoulder into the crack, it splintered loudly as Rown’s body was thrown clear through the door, creating a gaping hole where we could escape, and landed on the dirt outside.
I didn’t waste time asking, I grabbed Jin in a fireman carry and took Mila’s hand and passed through the door.
“Wait!” A female voice cried out, as I looked through the hole in the door into the building, which was located in the middle of a forest, surrounded by trees. It was Silvia, and she was standing looking out at us. “Take me with you.” Rown grabbed my arm and spun me around,
“Don’t listen to this brat, she’s one of them, they kept us here. We’ll find out way out of here, just leave her let’s just go.” He glared into my face, begging me to leave. I hear a yell.
“Oh my god, Jin!” Mila was kneeling beside Jin’s body, his face screwed up in pain and coughing blood. I dropped to my knees and took Jin’s face in my hands,
“You’re going to be fine, just hang on, just hang on buddy.” Jin looked up at us and smiled. His skin was blistering, spreading over his face and arms. I immediately withdraw my hands and shuffled back. Steam rose from his mouth and face as he reached out to touch Mila’s hand.
“No!” Silvia shouted from the doorway, as I looked over to see her shaking her head feverishly.
“No don’t touch him!” I yelled; Mila screamed as Jin’s handprint seared into her arm, burning her skin, the smell of burnt flesh exploded into my nostrils. She broke free of his grip and held her arm with her other hand while she watched in horror as Jin burst into flames, his body on fire in the middle of the forest floor. I heard Rown throw up behind me and I stood, steel faced, watching my friend burn before my eyes, and I couldn’t help him. I quickly grabbed Mila off the ground and covered her face in vain, as the smell of Jin burning filled the air. Silvia ran up to me, tears fell from her eyes and soaked her dress where they had fallen.
“Please,” She said quietly, “I have nowhere else to go.” Just then I comprehend the fact I had killed her parents in that room.
“Hollo, leave her, look what just happened? You want to trust her now?” Rown growled.
“She’s just a girl, no older than I was. She’s alone Rown. She has nobody.” Mila stepped up to Silvia and wiped a tear from her face with her thumb, and took her hand. Rown sighed,
“Here we go again.”
“I guess that’s it then, come with us kid.”

We walked the four of us down a dirt path leading into the forest thicket. As we entered it with no plan aside from the hope to survive the horrors we’d endured, we all knew our lives would be changed forever. And so we left; our old lives, our horror, and our friend, who all lay behind us and not one of us looked back.

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