Author: Jinxyy PM
When all adults over the age of 20 mysteriously begin to express extreme violence towards all minors, those surviving must ban together to best protect each other. But what if one amongst them begins to feel himself slipping into the same aggressive instincts that the adults around them are showing?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Suspense - Chapters: 40 - Words: 130,315 - Reviews: 33 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 04-29-13 - Published: 01-25-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3095255
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Jared! Jared, wake up!"
Jared became aware of the voice before anything else, close to his ear. She was not loud in volume, but insistent, even urgent in tone. The voice seemed to be attempting to stay quiet enough that others could not hear, but not so much so that he himself would miss its attempt to awaken him.
The feelings of hands on his shoulders, of a strand of hair tickling his face, came into his consciousness a few moments later, and after that, the voice's identity. Mara…Mara was touching him, calling to him, trying to get his attention. What was it…what time was it?
"What…" he started, beginning to sit up even before he had opened his eyes, and that was when the other noises entered his awareness as well.
From a distance he could hear loud tinkling sound, immediately recognizable as shattering glass, and then a unrhythmic thwacking of a solid surface being broken through as well. It took him a few moments to understand that the noises appeared to be coming from the direction of the cafeteria, and that they most likely indicated that someone had not only broken through a window, but also the boards nailed across them.
Someone was here. Someone must know they were here too, because how else could the windows be boarded up if no one had recently done so? Someone must have seen his car and Alexander's, or perhaps gone looking for it…someone knew they were here, and they were breaking in.
Jared's eyes flew open in a hurry as this realization sank in, and he scrambled to his feet, his eyes darting in the gym's darkness to make sure that his companions were all present and accounted for, even as his eyes struggled to adjust to making out their forms without light to aid them. Rosemary was getting to her feet as well, directly beside him, and even as his head turned towards her she reached out to take hold of his wrist, a solid presence beside him, even as her eyes shone with ill-concealed fear. He could feel his own pulse throbbing, considerably faster than usual, and had he had time to worry about it, would have wondered if she could feel it too through the veins of his wrist.
Both his sisters were sitting up now as well, their eyes as wide and glittering with feeling as Rosemary's, and both had their arms wound around each other, Angelina's cheek pressed against Leigh's upper arm, Leigh's head swiveling back and forth between TJ and the twins on their mattress and her brother and Rosemary beside her.
"They're getting in," she breathed, and her voice sounded almost as small and young as Angelina's, shaking almost as badly as her own body. "They're getting in, they're going to kill us. Oh god, they're getting in-"
"Someone go turn on the lights," TJ blurted from where he stood beside the twins, and when Jared's eyes shifted in his direction, he saw that the boy was now standing apart from them, his arms tightly embracing himself, his head down. Near him Katarina was huddled on the mattress, trembling visibly, a barely audible whimper emerging. Alexander was crouched beside her, his hands on her as he spoke to her, seeming to be attempting to get her to stand, but when this didn't work, he simply hauled her to her feet himself and then kept both his hands on her, prepared to drag or even carry her if need be.
"Are you crazy?" Paulina hissed in response to TJ's suggestion, her voice not loud, but still fierce enough to echo through the gym's large space in a manner that made Jared cringe, looking with anxiety to the gym's entrance doors. "If we turn on the lights they'll know we're in here, they'll see us right away!"
She and Robert were both standing, their hands clinched so tightly that even from where he was standing Jared could see that their knuckles had both gone white. But despite the rising level of panic coming over their group, so heavy in its settling that Jared could almost see and feel it like a visible fog spreading over, no one had yet made a move to flee or hide. Everyone was standing in place, as if frozen by the inevitability of the confrontation to come.
The gym was very close to the cafeteria, if this was indeed where the break in was coming from. They had gated off the majority of the school. If whoever was breaking in had seen where they parked their cars, they could reasonably assume that this would be the area where they were located. If they couldn't get through the gates in the hallways easily, they would confine themselves to the area where they were…and it wouldn't take long at all before they would search the gym, the largest area available to them after the cafeteria. Whoever was coming would no doubt be coming very, very soon.
They had to do something, and they had to do something now. But all the plans that Mara had made for them earlier in the day, should an attack occur, seemed to have left Jared's mind the moment that sleep came. As he looked to her, hoping that she, at least, would remember what she herself had talked about, or at least be able to come up with a new plan on the fly, she took a deep breath, seeming to search her own mind, before speaking.
"Pauli's right, we can't turn on the light. It will be harder for them to find us or get to us in the dark, we know the gym better than someone else will. You all know where the weapons are stashed in the gym, go get them right away, right this minute, but don't run! Walk fast, but walk, we don't need them to hear thudding feet. Don't scream, don't talk at all if you can help it…and you younger kids, Leigh and Angie, and Pauli and Robert if you want, anyone who thinks they would be better off not being in a fight, go to the girls' locker room, now, and shut and lock the door. Now, do it now, fast- but don't run!"
It took a few moments for them to seem to comprehend her instructions enough to begin to carry them out, but then they jumped into action, as much as was possible when moving as silently as they could, walking fast rather than running, mouths clamped shut against screams that no doubt wanted to emerge. Jared and Rosemary, Leigh and Angelina, Paulina and Robert, and Alexander and Katarina all remained physically connected to each other, with Jared and Rosemary and Paulina and Robert holding hands, Leigh and Angelina and Alexander and Katarina dragging along, nearly carrying the smaller of their pairs. Only TJ moved alone, and Jared could not tell if his intent was to hide with the younger group in the locker room or to stand as attempted protection with the older group outside it. His suspicion was that in the end, TJ's decision would have little to do with anyone's protection or interests, however, than his own.
"Why the hell didn't we lay down the baseball bats by the mats when we went to sleep…what the hell was I thinking…" Jared could hear Rosemary muttering to herself with disgust and dread prevalent in its tone as they speed-walked in the direction of the bleachers, where all the saws, baseball bats, and other vaguely weapon-like materials they had gathered to store in the gym had been carefully concealed earlier that evening. He squeezed her hand in lieu of a response, feeling nothing at all when she squeezed back hard enough that his hand actually ached.
He could see that Pauli and Robert were slightly ahead of them, that Leigh was struggling along with Angelina now dangling from her hip, too large for Leigh to comfortably and easily carry in the manner that she was attempting to, especially as the child was not helping Leigh to carry her more easily but rather lying as dead weight, her arms tightly around Leigh's neck. Alexander and Katarina were behind them, with Alexander still trying to get Katarina to move on her own accord rather than to give up and carry her. It was clear that Katarina could be in no condition to fight.
As Jared and Rosemary reached the bleachers, then circled around to their side, fumbling beneath for the weapons, Jared glanced behind him towards the others. The locker room was some distance past the bleachers, and none had yet reached it. They had taken Rosemary very seriously at her word and were not running, no matter how tempting the urge to do so must have been. If anything, he was beginning to worry that their movements were too slow, that they would not make it to the locker room in time, should they need to.
As it turned out, this worry was well-founded…because as Jared finally closed his fingers around the cool metal cylinder of a baseball bat, pulling it out and handing it to Rosemary, then pulled out a second one for himself, he heard a door open, considerably close to him than the ones by the main entrance. As he stilled, then scooted back from the bleachers and stood, he saw that the other door to the gym, the one used for exits out onto the small hallway leading to the coaches' offices just outside it, was now open, a dark-haired woman he did not recognize standing within its frame. She must have continued past the main entrance of the gym and around its perimeter to this particular exit…an indication that perhaps she, or someone who had instructed her, was familiar with the gym's setup. For this door, the door that Jared had disregarded as a potential entrance point, was the door that was directly beside the locker rooms. If they continued in that direction, then she would no doubt cut them off…perhaps literally. For in the woman's hand was a machete, its blade dully gleaming in the darkened room.
As the children all came to a halt, renewed fear settling deeply into their features, the woman smiled, but the expression had a vicious satisfaction to it more prominently than pleasure. She looked past the children closer to her directly to Alexander and Katarina, and when she spoke, she spoke to them alone.
"There you are, my little bastard and his little whore. What, no hello, or has Kat got your tongue? It wouldn't be the first tongue she got hold of, that's for fucking sure."
"Mom," Katarina almost moaned, and though Jared didn't look back at her, he could hear the tears in her voice, the ragged unevenness of her breathing as she began to nearly hyperventilate. "Mama-"
"I don't claim a little slut like you," Della DeLuca spat, and when she lunged forward, she moved past all the other children, entirely ignoring their presence as she came at hers alone.
"RUN!" Jared screamed, and he grabbed at Rosemary with one hand, still clutching his baseball bat in the other as he began to pull her in the direction of the opposite door. He didn't spare a glance back to make sure that the others were doing the same, at least, not until the same doors he was running to as an escape opened, and a man and a woman appeared within their frames. The man held a handgun in his grip, the woman carried what looked to him like a crowbar in both hands, and though Jared recognized neither, he heard Rosemary suck in her breath beside him, TJ's hoarse whisper from behind him, and knew that they did.
Their parents…TJ's father and Mara's mother, the twins' mother…and as Jared roughly jerked Rosemary back in the direction of the other door, he could see a new woman stepping up to the place that Della DeLuca had evacuated, a long, sharp knife held up in one hand. As Jared met her eyes, his mother smiled at him. There was no warmth to her expression, but neither was the hatred of Della's. It was this lack of emotion in her face, even as she held the weapon she intended to kill with in her hands, that struck Jared to his heart.
She would kill him, kill his sisters, and feel nothing about it at all.
Behind him Leigh began to scream, and Angelina made no noise at all. But it was his mother's words that Jared heard, even above his sister's voice.
"Hey kids…let's get this over with, all right?"
There was little time to respond. There was not nearly adequate time to process the adults' presence and its full implications, let alone to plan out a defensive response to it. Even as Jared screamed for his sisters to run, to throw themselves beneath the bleachers where it would be harder for the adults to get after them, Della DeLuca was rushing past them, swinging her machete with uncoordinated but clearly determined arcs through the air.
Jared jerked out of her range, pulling Rosemary back with him and preparing to throw himself to the ground to avoid its slashing through the air. But Della didn't seem to have any intentions, at least straight away, of going for any other than her own children. She came at Alexander and Katarina alone, actually going so far as to put out a hand to TJ's chest to shove him out of her path as she attempted to chase them down.
They might have had some small chance of escaping her if it wasn't for Katarina and her inability to run. Alexander tugged at her arm with increasing force, screaming her name, screaming for her to go, hurry, but the girl could not or would not move, her eyes as glassy and panicked in their sheen as a dying animal's as she stared at the woman rushing towards her, her own mother closing in on her with a machete in her hand. Alexander seemed to realize this only moments before Della had reached them, and was in the process of bending to lift his sister into his arms with the intent of carrying her before Della's arm extended out, and she drew near enough to give a downward chop at them both.
As Katarina screamed, Alexander reacted swiftly, throwing himself down to the ground and yanking his sister down with him as well as he fell over her with his body, attempting to both cover her with himself and to roll them both out of the range of the machete's blade in one clumsy motion. He succeeded in protecting Katarina from obtaining any blows, but his efforts were not enough to prevent the machete from cutting deeply into the back of his upper left thigh. As he jerked away, hoarsely crying out in his pain, the machete lifted, then descended again, now burying itself in the meat of his left shoulder. Either Della had a bad aim, having so far rendered blows that were not placed in locations where blood loss would cause immediate death, or else she was attempting to drag this out, to really cause him and his sister to suffer before finally finishing what she seemed to see of as a pleasurable task to be completed.
Katarina shrieking, shuddering with her tears beneath her brother's now bleeding form. Alexander screaming almost incoherently at his mother, shouting for her to leave them alone even as the leg of his pants and the shoulder of his shirt stained red. And Della herself, her hair stringy and falling to conceal her features, contorted with angry savagery as she shouted back at them both.
"I'll get you both, you bastards, I'll make you pay for taking my life away from me! Chaining me to your drunk asshole of a father, my whole life down the drain, your fault, you ruined my life, all your fault!"
She had not yet reached them when Rosemary pulled suddenly from Jared's grasp, beginning to run. Jared turned towards her, even began to follow, unsure of where she was going, but she ran straight at Della, baseball bat held high in her hands. Jared saw that she intended to hit her even as Della's slashed at Alexander for a second time, and he moved faster, getting in position to back her up, defend her if necessary. Della was raising her machete again just as Rosemary brought the bat down squarely between her shoulder blades, knocking her off course hard enough for her machete to clatter to the floor.
"You little bitch!" Della shrieked from the floor when she was able to have the breath to do so, attempting with painful gestures and now shaking arms to right herself into a crouched position. When she raised her face to glare in Rosemary's direction, it was flushed with her rage, her lip curled to reveal the majority of her teeth in a manner that reminded Jared of a rabid dog. "You little bitch, I'll get you too for this. Mitzi, where the hell are you, did you see what your little slut just did to me?!"
"I'm a slut?! I'm not the one wearing spiked heels and cleavage at forty years old, just to go to my kids' school," Rosemary shot back as she cocked her bat backward, preparing to swing again. Her eyes never swerved from the woman's at her feet, ever watchful of her movements. "You need to refresh your knowledge of some common definitions, because the other word I think you're confused on is "mother." See, mothers don't hack their kids with machetes- it's just not very fucking appropriate!"
As she spoke she swung the bat, smashing the brunt of its barrel directly into Della's ribs with a sickening crack as her ribs broke on contact, Jared saw the other woman he didn't know- the woman Della had called Mitzi, had referred to as Rosemary's mother- coming towards them at full speed, her ax raised, clearly meaning to sink it somewhere into her daughter's anatomy.
"MARA!" he screamed, and as Rosemary spun, bat swinging out, Jared also lunged forward, his own bat thrusting out, aimed at Mitzi's wrists with the intention of causing her to drop the ax. This effort was met with success as Mitzi yelled, letting go of the ax and sending it clattering to the floor as Jared again swung out at her, catching her in the softest part of her stomach. Mitzi doubled over, retching and struggling for breath, and without needing to communicate their plans, Jared and Rosemary split focus, Rosemary moving to take over making sure that Della would stay down and away from the twins, Jared facing off with her mother.
He didn't waste time checking to see if Alexander was okay, and the boy was lying still overtop his sister, perhaps passed out, perhaps deciding that the smartest move would be to feign death or unconsciousness in hopes of being looked over. There was nothing that Jared could do for him directly, and there were many more issues at hand.
He could not afford to turn his full attention towards his sisters and the other three, could only hope that they would be able somehow to hold their own. All he could focus on then was the woman bent over in front of him, the woman who had moments ago wielded an ax. A woman who would kill him and his sisters if given opportunity…a woman who had tried to kill Mara. Mara's mother.
Could he kill her? Could he take his bat and beat her to death with it? He, who had until this point in his life, never badly hurt a living creature, let alone ended its life?
He looked at Mitzi Weldon and thought about her using the ax at her feet, slamming it into his sisters' faces or burying its blade in their spines. His grip tightened on the bat in his hands as he pictured this, and he widened his stance, his muscles tensing as if in preparation to swing again. But it was when he thought of her swinging the ax's blade at Rosemary that his decision was made.
With as much force as he could manage, Jared reared back his arms, then swung the bat directly into Mitzi Weldon's face. Just a few feet away he could see Rosemary doing the same to Della DeLuca out the corner of his eye and knew that if they would not kill the women, they would at least knock them unconscious, rendering them injured enough to be able to escape. He tried to block from his conscious thoughts the noises of the women's breaking bones, the gruesome sight of spraying blood and exposed cartilage as he hit Mitzi twice more, trying to think of her as less than a person, as something less than Mara's mother, but rather a nameless entity out to cause them all harm. If he stopped to think of her, or any of the adults, as a person, as a mother, he might be unable to go on.
And just where was his own mother, anyway? Why wasn't she coming after him?
All of this had taken place in less than thirty seconds' time. As Mitzi collapsed to the gym floor and Jared jerked his head up from her, eyes darting, anxious now to locate his sisters, he saw that Leigh had run with Angelina towards the bleachers as he had instructed them, with Robert and Paulina not far behind.
But his mother, he saw, his heart lurching, had either heard Jared's shout to them, or else had simply been able to determine their course of direction, for she had blocked off the end of the bleachers where the girls and Robert had been heading. The other end of the bleachers was a good sixty feet away, and in order to get to it, they would have to pass Mitzi and Della to do so, as well as Darren Cody, TJ's father, who was still standing, gun in hand, in the doorway of the main entrance to the gym. With Joanna Norwood standing in their path, the girls and Robert froze, seeming torn as to which direction would pose them the most risk.
Leigh tightly gripped Angelina against her as she continued to hold her, listing slightly to the side as Angelina herself wrapped her legs around her sister's waist, clinging to her like an infant monkey to its mother. Silent tears were streaming down her face, and Jared could see her legs shaking. Robert stood with his thin body just in front of Paulina's, holding her hand in such a way that they were connected, but he was attempting to act as her shield if necessary. Only Angelina looked the woman in the eyes. In two days she had barely spoken to any of them, even when she was made to feel as safe as was possible, but she spoke then, her words emerging through quivering lips in the soft, small voice of a child unable to comprehend what she was experiencing.
"Mama," she whispered. "Mama…"
But neither the words nor her tone, her bewilderment or Leigh's fear, was sufficient to cause Joanna to falter. She barely seemed to have heard her youngest daughter, and she certainly wasn't moved by her as she addressed them with exasperation, even going so far as to roll her eyes.
"You know, it's really rude to run away from me, I'm your mother, you know. Have some friggin' respect, already. Look, Leigh, Angie, come here a minute, we need to talk, all right?"
Even as she spoke she held up the knife in her hand, seeming unaware of the clear threat that this would propose to the children- or perhaps she simply didn't care how they viewed her at all.
"We have some family business to take care of," she continued, idly stroking her thumb over its blade. "So come here, girls, Jared…now."
"RUN!" Paulina screamed, seeming to come out of her temporary indecision when Joanna took a step forward, clearly meaning to come to them if they didn't respond to her request.
She yanked on Robert's hand, and as he quickly obeyed, Leigh seemed to need no further urging. She began to follow, somewhat slowed by Angelina's presence on her hip, even as both Jared and Rosemary tried to direct them, disagreeing on the safest destination, both still gripping the now bloodied baseball bats in their fists.
"Go to the other end of the bleachers!"
"The locker room, lock the door behind you!"
This seemed to confuse them as a group, and later, Jared would think to himself with intense guilt that it may have been the leading cause of what happened next. When Robert and Paulina, who had been heading for the bleachers' end, as Rosemary was instructing, came to a stop upon hearing Jared's shout to go back in the opposite direction, towards the locker rooms, then turned rapidly, they collided straight into Leigh with Angelina, who was continuing in the direction of the bleachers' opposite end. No one fell down or lost their balance for more than a few moments, but those precious few seconds of time in which they had to back off and reorient themselves was all that Joanna needed to catch up to them.
Her free hand snatched out, as Joanna seemed to be grabbing for Leigh's hair, but when Leigh awkwardly but nevertheless effectively ducked out of her way, stumbling and nearly falling with the handicap of Angelina's weight on her hip, her fingers seized hold of Paulina's instead. As Paulina screamed, jerking her neck hard to the side to try to pull herself from the woman's grasp, Robert hollered, thrusting his scrawny self in between her and Joanna, and Jared and Rosemary both ran towards them, bats drawn back in preparation to attack. But they were three quarters of the way across the gym floor, and Joanna was right there beside them…with more than enough time to release Paulina's hair, grab Robert by the collar of his shirt, and thrust her knife into the center of his chest, all the way to its hilt.