What the hell did I do?
I had no clear answer to give.
The blood was still there, dripping now, down the wall and from the ceiling. It wasn’t an illusion, or a trick of the eye. So very real, and so very wrong.
My attention was divided, trying to make sense of the situation, finding how to address Lawrence, and figuring out what to do next. I wasn’t making much progress in any one of those avenues.
Couldn’t think? Then move. I had to make progress somewhere.
I crawled, on my hand and knees. I wanted to use my other hand to go faster, but it was still burning. The one finger.
I didn’t get far. I wasn’t trying to. I made it to the base of the wall and sat, letting myself fall and letting the wall keep me propped up.
My eyes roved over everything again. Worse than before. Not only in how visceral it was, but in my actual ability to see.
Shadows flickered around the edges of my vision, making whatever images I saw to be blurry and undefined. The intense light reflecting off the white walls and tile didn’t help, making it even more of a burden to understand anything. It hurt to look, and it hurt to try and look.
The bodies weren’t moving.
They were just dark shapes, now, but they weren’t moving, trying to get up or showing any other signs of life. Strewn about, torn apart, spilled everywhere. So much blood, and none of it was mine.
Okay, not true. I did have some blood on my hands, when Granon had cut my finger…
When Granon had cut my finger clean off.
My head was down, looking at my hands, palms open. All ten fingers were there.
But there was nine, if only for a brief moment. I had felt the knife cut through the skin, muscle, bone, then muscle and skin again. There was no mistake about that. Everything happened so fast, but that one moment seemed to stretch, as every fiber and piece of my finger was ripped away by the sharp edge of a cold knife.
And then the fire.
It contrasted against the cold blade that had cut me. A sudden burst of heat, then numbness…
Trying to piece together what immediately followed was impossible.
I fell to the floor, Lawrence arrived…
And here I am, now, failing to fill in the blanks.
My thoughts caught back up to me, and I hadn’t learned anything new. Nothing to report to Lawrence.
Hold on, Lawrence.
He had arrived, Lawrence was here.
“Lahw-” I started, but a rough edge scraped my voice away. It was dry. The realization that followed was immediate and clear.
I was thirsty.
I failed to properly address him, but Lawrence was spurred to action anyways. He hurried over to me.
“What, you can’t get up? Here.”
He didn’t bring both hands forward, instead keeping one pressed against the side of his head. He seized me by the arm.
His hard tug sent a surge through my body. I shut down again.
Lawrence pulled up, but all he managed to do was hold my arm up. I was still down, back to the wall, hunched a bit, coddling my other arm, my hand and finger throbbing, now.
“Wendy, come on. Um, I don’t know what happened, and she doesn’t seem to be in the mood to talk. Hey, Wendy, get the fuck up!”
He pulled and tugged even more, until he started yanking, but it was fruitless. I wasn’t complying.
“Shit, hold on, let me get her up first.”
Another hand touched me. That only made things worse.
I felt myself getting lifted, my back getting dragged up the wall.
I resisted, pulling back, trying to shake him off. I didn’t want to be here, but I was still out of it, but I didn’t want help. I didn’t want anyone touching me.
“Hey, hey!” Lawrence said, struggling to get me on my feet. “We don’t have time for this. We need to get going!”
I was of two minds. I recognized that it wasn’t a good idea to stick around, that someone would be coming to investigate or happen upon this very soon. I also understood that fighting Lawrence on this now wouldn’t do us any favor as far as the dynamic of the gang.
But, on the other hand, fuck everything and fuck everyone.
“Let,” I started, feeling the itch in my throat, the coarse, scraping noise that was my voice, “Go!”
I threw out my arm, the one Lawrence had been pulling at. He went from him trying to move me, to him doing what he could to hold on.
Useless. I was too fast, too strong.
Lawrence grip gave out, and he slipped, flung away to the other side of the hall.
He crashed bodily into the wall, not making a sound at the initial hit or when he collapsed to the floor. His back was to me, I couldn’t see if he was breathing or not.
The regret I felt was instant.
I fell, too, sliding back down the wall. Still watching Lawrence, hoping he’d move or give me some notion that he was okay.
Then, he coughed, hard. It gave me relief.
“You… zombie bitch,” he said, breathing out the words, “I told you… we don’t have time for… this.”
I was blinking, erratic, eyes stinging from sweat getting in and how much it ached to look at anything.
Blood, I needed blood. But I didn’t want to go after Lawrence for it, and I didn’t want him to see me use the other bodies, instead.
Everything I was feeling was hard to parse. It all mixed together.
I was confused, hurt, and on a more worrying note, scared. I had no angle to approach this, no way to wrap my head around it. I had been betrayed by my own body, it doing something behind my back. All I had was the aftermath to gather any clues about it, and it was almost too hard to look. I couldn’t accept any of this.
Horrid, an ugly feeling that sat heavy within my chest. Pressure. It was suffocating, both physically and mentally. I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t focus on anything that wasn’t the confusion and the hurt and the fear.
This wasn’t like me. I wasn’t supposed be like this. This wasn’t part of my design.
Wendy, V, we had to be the antithesis to what came before us. Stitched together by a different fabric, made to hold, no matter what outside pressure tugged and needled. I wouldn’t come apart, I wouldn’t pull back, I’d press forward.
Don’t count me out just yet.
I raised my head, trying this one more time. I wouldn’t rely on Lawrence, or anyone, not here. No one else could help me with this. Had to do it on my own.
I lolled, letting my upper body hang. Before I could falter and split my chin open on the cold, hard tile, I brought my hands forward, catching myself. Both hands.
That middle finger was stinging, pulsating at the miniscule amount of pressure and weight I was putting on it. I could have relented, lifting that hand back up, but I pushed through it, letting the hurt of it fuel me to spur a change. To move.
I brought a foot under me, wincing as I did it. I wasn’t used to this, the pain, the fact that I had an injury and that feeling persisted. I didn’t get hurt, I didn’t succumb to damage, I had powers that put me above people. This… this was bringing me down, to that level, their level. People.
A hard thrust with my foot, and I lifted myself back up, using my other foot for regain balance. I wasn’t standing completely straight, I was still hunched, my body a bit sore, my hand feeling as if I had stuck it in a fire. Wasn’t at my level best, but being that was a luxury, now.
As if to touch base with myself, using the hand that wasn’t fucked up, I ran my fingers down my back and around my waist, right above the hip, feeling where the bullet and gone through me. There was a small hole at both ends, ruining my jacket and the shirt underneath. I poked a finger through the hole at the back, touching skin. No tears or rips or anything broken, nothing protruding.
I drew my hand away, seeing the blood at the tip of my finger. My blood.
That, I was used to. That, I was fine with. I’d been shot at before. It still discombobulated, and it was hard to shake off, but I’d manage to walk away, debatably alright. I could deal.
This, though, this was nothing I’d ever experienced. The lack didn’t even apply here, this was too foreign for anyone to comprehend. Too off, too wrong.
It was all wrong.
A rough, scratchy sound tore me away from constant, looped thoughts. Lawrence. He was moving as well, hands pressed to the wall behind him, using his legs to slide up to a standing position. He managed about as well as he could, still hunched, his legs not all the way straight.
He looked right at me, and I looked right at him.
I willed the sentiment at him, knowing he wouldn’t actually pick that up. My throat was too dry to talk.
Lawrence opened his mouth, but he didn’t speak, instead putting a hand into his pocket. His hand came back up, an object in his hand, lifting up to his head.
“Yeah,” Lawrence said, eyes still on me, but it didn’t seem like he was addressing me. “She’s here. V has come to.”
Lawrence dropped his arm, and swung, letting go of the object. It finally clicked to me what it was as it made an arc through the air, across the hall.
I caught the phone. It hit my finger, and it flared up again. I was almost sent back to the floor from the intensity.
I tried to keep my focus on Lawrence, though, to try and dull out the throb and burning. It hardly helped.
“She wants to talk to you.”
He added another piece, but I couldn’t catch it, him muttering under his breath. Wasn’t a pleasant mutter, though.
One of my hands was useless for picking up and grabbing at the moment. Fumbling around, switching grips while not properly standing or balanced, made for what should have been a simple task, into an arduous and frustrating process.
I got it, but it took some bending, an awkward lean. Through my foggy eyesight, I could have sworn I saw his lips curl up.
This isn’t funny.
“Hehk-” I tried, but my voice was locked up, my throat begging for sustenance. I coughed, even though it sent sudden aches throughout my whole body, making me shudder, shake.
“Oof, that doesn’t sound good. You holding up, Vivi?”
I knew that voice. I hadn’t heard it in quite some time.
I wasn’t sure if I should be relieved or pissed as all hell at hearing it.
A simple letter, and I couldn’t even do that right.
“Um, right. L-Boy was trying to explain to me what he’s seeing at your end, but I’m kind of having trouble visualizing it. Think you can help?”
It was pointless, but I tried anyways. As though the third time would somehow be a charm. Or maybe repeating the same thing over and over said something about me.
“Hm, doesn’t seem like this is going to work. Can you give the phone back to Lawrence, please?”
I listened without putting much thought into it. I hardly wanted to think at all.
I tossed the phone. I was out of it, weak, but the phone flung out of my grasp in a blur, hitting one of the lights above. It made a loud noise.
Not weak, rather my control was compromised. Which, for me, was even worse.
Lawrence had to step forward to catch the phone, getting his back off the wall. The phone had bounced off the ceiling, spiraling down.
It fell into his palms, catching it like he would a baseball. He stopped with one foot ahead of him, and set himself straight again, standing. Despite all his injuries, everything that was inflicted upon him, he was still able to move under his own volition. He wasn’t useless. And he was only human.
Lawrence put the phone back to his ear, watching me, being careful. I saw the concern in his eyes. For himself? For me?
“I told you she’s being weird. No, I don’t know what the fuck I’m looking at here. Yes, I fucking hate both of you for putting me through this. You all suck.”
It wasn’t coming, it was already here. It had been here. A massive headache.
The burning sensation from my middle finger seemed to spread throughout the rest of my body, like a cancer or disease. As if my body giving me message, loud and clear.
To go fuck myself.
I had very little grasp of anything that was going on, I couldn’t make anything connect. And any attempt was met with the equivalent of getting kicked in the head. Separating, taking everything apart, compartmentalizing, only did so much.
The bloodied hallway, the bodies… something I wasn’t willing to touch upon, anyways, but it was worth putting on the mental list.
Lawrence and D. Lawrence was here, and while D wasn’t physically present, she was on the other end of that call. I could reach her, if I was able. But I had my own plethora of personal issues plaguing me at the moment.
I need blood.
As I sifted through my thoughts again, Lawrence continued his conversation with D.
“You better stay on the line, D, or I swear to god I’ll, fuck, I’ll come up with something next time I see you, and it better be soon. No, I didn’t fucking miss you!”
Lawrence was going around, pacing, avoiding the blood and avoiding me, seemingly, he wasn’t trying to approach me.
He would, on occasion, look over me, presumably to make sure I was okay. I wasn’t, but it was the thought that counts, I supposed.
“Hold on,” Lawrence said, observing me, “I need to check on Wendy, first. She’s freaking me out. Her eyes are huge but she’s staring off into nothing, and she’s all bent over and breathing hard. The fucking murder hall I found her in doesn’t help, either. D? D. She looks like a goddamn zombie.”
Did I really look that bad? I probably did, if I looked as bad as I felt, and I felt like shit. I was doing everything I could to keep myself together, but it clearly was not enough.
Shit. I hated this, not being in control, not knowing, not being aware. This was all of my fears and anxieties being rolled into one, and, for added salt on the emotional wound, I was the root cause. Who was I supposed to direct my anger and frustration to? I had no outlet, no method of release, and I was afraid that, if I tried, something might happen again. Something even worse.
Shit. Had to prove Lawrence wrong, that I was fine. I had to make myself believe that.
With the phone still to his ear, Lawrence had stopped pacing, taking measured, slow steps to me instead. I swayed, ready to move and keep trying.
“Wendy, hey,” Lawrence said. I didn’t like the tone he was using. Too calm, patronizing, condescending. Like he was talking to a creature, instead. “Let’s try this again. Can you move? Like, under your own strength?”
I swayed again, leaning one way, tipping my weight so I was forced to move a foot forward to stabilize myself. A step. It was the best I could do without just simply vocalizing an answer.
“Okay, so you can move. Not well, but you can move. Wendy, I know you’re pretty stressed out right now, but I need you to take some of that fire you used to throw me at the wall, and kick yourself in the ass because we need to get going. We’re going to have to catch each other up on the way, because I know you have questions, and I… I want to know what the fuck this is.”
So many questions, and I had zero answers. Didn’t matter how many times I repeated the last few minutes in my head, over and over and over again, I couldn’t come up with anything worth saying, anything of value.
And I couldn’t even speak. My voice was robbed by my thirst.
Nothing to say, and no way to say it.
“What’s wrong?” Lawrence asked. A very, very good question. “What the hell is holding you back?”
I couldn’t even begin to answer that.
I opened my mouth, letting it hang, and stumbled forward. I was fighting the urge to leap at him and tear his neck out, juice spilling between my teeth and past my tongue. I was also fighting the urge to dive for the other bodies to get my fill there, too. I didn’t want him to see, I didn’t want him to know.
D had seen me, D knew. I was upfront with her about that. What was stopping me now?
I wasn’t aware that I felt those things.
Whatever it was, it gave me pause, it held me back.
I stumbled again, to the side, in the direction of the blood and bodies. I wasn’t sure on what I was trying to accomplish, but I was still operating on vague directives. Prove Lawrence wrong, make myself believe that I was okay.
It was so hard.
Lawrence pulled the phone away from his ear, his expression unreadable, but it wasn’t a pleasant one.
“Here, I’m getting nowhere with her. You’re on speaker phone, D.”
Another, digitized voice filled the hall.
“Man, this took a sudden and not very awesome turn. Okay, fine, I guess we have a couple seconds to spare. Wendy? Hi.”
“She just looked at me. I think that’s a response.”
“Let’s just go with that. As far as I was able to gather, it’s not looking so pretty over there, is it?”
“That is a severe understatement.”
“You said Granon was there? Is he alive?”
“I don’t want to look, D. I, I’m doing everything I can to not throw up here.”
“It’s kind of important. If he’s no longer a problem, whatever that entails, we need to provide proof to show that we won.”
“The fuck did you set me and Wendy up for?”
“I gave us an opportunity. Now hurry and find him. Take a picture if you have to. There must be some kind of way out of here, right? I’m sure you’re thinking along those lines. Just take it a step at a time.”
“What about Wendy? She hasn’t moved or responded. I’m worried it might be some kind of trauma or something.”
“Yeah I’m, I’m thinking. I’m only working off what you’re telling me. Um, I can only guess, but, Wendy? Are you thirsty?”
I am so thirsty.
“What does that have to with anything?”
“It might have to do with everything. Wendy, I know I don’t have to tell you this, but go ahead and drink. Lawrence, you’re probably scaring her so turn around and don’t look at her until she’s done.”
“Done with what?”
“Don’t tell me you watch a lady while she eats? How rude.”
“D, you have a lot to answer for, I swear to-”
“And promise I’ll give you the proper context. Right now, just listen, please?”
A warped sound, not from the device. Human, closer.
The man turned, his back turned, his face obscured.
Free, unshackled. No longer bound by the man’s gaze.
Movement, not a smooth or elegant.
On the floor, crawling. Insect. Insect. Wrestling control from more base instincts. The man was not a threat. Here to help. Back turned, meaning submission. Free to move. Indulge.
Fingers wet. Arrival.
Fingers met lips. Tongue. Swallow.
Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah–
I came to.
The effect was instant. The shadows digging and blurring my eyesight fell away, disappearing, like a veil being pulled off of my face. A wave of calm washed over me, and the finer controls over my own body were being returned to me. The burning and the fever was going away. I could see, again, and I could feel things that weren’t just abject dysphoria.
I sipped, not concerned over cleanliness or decency. Lawrence wasn’t watching, I was free to consume how I needed to. No reservations, no qualms about what I was doing.
I slurped, licking my fingers down to the knuckle, thrusting my fingers back into the puddle of red to scoop up some more, making it collect into my palms. I was still aware of that the bodies were there, so I maintained a distance, trying not to think about them as much as possible, blocking it out of my mind’s eye. I blocked out the deep grooves and scratches in the tiles, at the bottom of the puddle, I’d rather not consider where those might have came from.
I could see, but I closed my eyes regardless, to savor the taste, lose myself in the moment. To forget about everything that weighed on my mind. I had almost forgotten this, how good and sweet the taste was, how it seemed to cleanse my palate, how it-
It hit me like a kick to the teeth.
I was kicked in the teeth, sent back from the sudden and blunt impact to my face.
I heard a shout. Then I heard several.
On my back, eyes rolled back, mouth filling with blood. My blood.
My jaw had been forcibly shut, fast, tight. My tongue was out, between my teeth. I nearly bit it right off.
I started choking, convulsing from confusion and trying to cough the blood out. I sputtered, with some drool and blood trailing down my cheeks.
A high ring was singing in my ears again, but I picked up the other noise that were happening around me. Shouts. Footsteps.
“How the fuck are you still standing?”
“A real man does not let such setbacks stop him.”
“There’s a fucking hole in your shoulder!”
“I sense fear in your voice, boy, I see you tremble. Was our prior meeting an act? A show, to give me a false impression of you and your group?”
“Damn right it was! Jesus-fucking-Christ, this is insane, this isn’t real!”
“This is real, boy, and it’s also about to be over.”
The footsteps swelled in volume, and something told me the growing commotion couldn’t be ignored. This wasn’t like earlier, with the tension in the air, but Lawrence still being patient with me. This was much more pressing, much more urgent.
“Wendy! I kind of need you on this!”
Right. That was a good indication as well.
I put a hand to my face. I was healing, feeling things shift.
My nose had been broken, with blood spilling out onto my face. My tongue was cut, split almost in half by the teeth, with even more blood for me to cough and spit out. The muscles in my face and mouth pulled, setting things back into place, taking things out where they shouldn’t. That shifting feeling, hot, like magma moving under my skin. Bones mending, skin and muscle coming back together. Teeth pushed back into place.
I moved as I healed, as fast as I was capable. I had gotten some blood, but it wasn’t enough to cover everything, I wasn’t recovering fast enough.
But it would have to do.
I scrambled to my feet. I opened my eyes, trying to get my bearings. I fixed my glasses, surprised to see that they still fit on my face.
There was a lot of bearings to get.
People. A lot of people, not just me and Lawrence and…
Granon was here, that much I knew, but he was still standing. How?
He was there, towering over me, blocking the light, but his attention was squarely on Lawrence, who was on the opposite side of him, several feet away. Granon, though, was stealing the attention of everyone else.
He had a buttoned shirt, but it was undone, not due to any effort on his part, but there were so many hole and tears and tatters that it left little to the imagination.
Under his shirt was body armor.
Of course he has body armor.
But, whatever happened, whatever it was I did, it would only do so much in protecting him, now. He was clutching a shoulder, the fabric reddening around the area. I would have thought that he couldn’t use that arm anymore, but the way he formed a fist, and the way his muscles tensed, led me to believe otherwise. The armor, too, had seen some damage, hanging together by a thread. It looked like it would fall apart if he took another step. It certainly wouldn’t hold if he were to get into a fight now.
And it looked like we were all about to.
Others filed into the hall, moving in groups, holding firearms. I turned so my back wasn’t an easy target. More of Granon’s men, and part of me prayed it was the rest of them. If we made it out of this on top, then there wouldn’t be any stragglers left to deal with. And if Granon was going to make this his last stand, then so would we.
But… shit. We were outnumbered, outgunned. I could heal, but that didn’t mean that I’d survive this.
Their presence alone was enough to keep me and Lawrence still, waiting to see how all of this would play out.
Granon bellowed, and his men positioned their guns. At me, at Lawrence, meaning Granon was in their sights, too.
Where was everyone else? Hotel staff, security? D? Who was letting this happen, letting this situation escalate in the back of the Lunar Tower? What happened to this place being a neutral zone?
Granon bellowed again, gripping his shoulder even tighter. He swung with that arm, removing his shirt and armor in one motion. The body armor thudded against the wall. I could sense the weight of it by how the thing dropped to the floor.
Granon’s torso was like a wide canvas, colored in different shades of red, varying strokes of gashes and cuts. From smaller nicks to wounds that looked worrying, Granon stood as if he didn’t feel a thing.
His body was a result of something I had done, after he cut off my finger. I’d get another headache if I tried to remember what that something was, looping my thoughts again.
Granon stretched, and clapped his hands together. He really was a beast of a man.
“Come, boy, you come all this way to where I’ve been staying, where would my manners be if I do not provide some hospitality? We’re face to face, now, so let’s make a deal! Let’s settle this like men!”
Lawrence looked equal parts annoyed, scared, confused, to the point that he could laugh.
“Am I a boy or a man? What the fuck is happening?”
“Winner gets to decide. Come!”
Granon charged at Lawrence, as though he hadn’t taken a piercing wound through the shoulder, and other injuries across his body. He rushed with the strength of a bull.
And Lawrence was the matador, but he was wholly unequipped and unprepared.
Lawrence dashed to the side, just narrowly dodging his tackle. He bumped into the wall, and I saw him make a face. In pain.
“Wendy! Get over here and help! You don’t get to stand there and do nothing anymore!”
Granon turned, and pointed at me. He yelled in his native tongue, then gave us the general message.
“She does not move, and she does not speak! I will settle this with the boy, and then I take care of her! If she so much as coughs, you will turn her into shreds!”
Granon’s men responded by turning their weapons on me. Every single one of their guns.
It was risky, stupid show of power. If I actually did move, and they fired, there was no guaranteeing anyone’s safety, not even Granon’s. A bullet could ricochet, or someone’s poor aim could hit him directly. He knew that he’d put himself in harm’s way, giving that order. Yet he gave it, in spite of that.
Risky, stupid, but I complied. I didn’t move.
Various reasons. I didn’t move because I couldn’t. My entire body was screaming for more blood, fuel for healing. I hadn’t gotten enough to quench my thirst, and I had been interrupted by a boot to the face, requiring more healing there, too. I was tired, rattled, and afraid.
Afraid. Another reason why I didn’t move. I was afraid of getting shot. The loudness of it, the shock, the pain that followed. Powers or no, healing or no, the fear of it never went away. Especially not when there was the very real chance of a bullet going through my head, and I wouldn’t be the one that came back. Everything that I had tried to build would disappear, everything would have been for naught.
I don’t want to disappear.
With that fear seizing me tight, with my self-hatred boiling, I didn’t move a muscle.
Leaving Lawrence and Granon to fight it out themselves, Man to man. Face to face.
It was all on him.
We were going to lose everything.
Lawrence jumped away again as Granon charged.
The difference between the two was obvious. Lawrence was one man, but Granon was easily the size of two, with plenty left over. Breeds of a different kind, and Granon was built for fighting.
In dodging, Lawrence had managed to put some space between them, and he tried his first move. A kick, to where there was a decent cut on Granon’s side.
Hardly anything. Granon roared, either in actual pain or for some other psychological effect. For Lawrence’s part, all he accomplished was pushing himself off Granon, like being launched off a platform. The force of the kick made him stumble when he landed, a critical mistake.
Granon stalked over to Lawrence while he tried to get back on his feet, moving with an incredible stride for someone already so bloodied.
A sweep of his leg, his foot into Lawrence’s ribs. Lawrence would scream if he could.
Large hands then went out, and grabbed Lawrence by the collar.
He threw, but he didn’t let go. Lawrence was swept off his feet, his back shoved into a red portion of the wall, his feet kept above the floor. Lawrence hacked and coughed, then gasped for breath as sausage-like fingers wrapped around his throat.
Granon began to choke the life out of Lawrence.
My heart sank.
Lawrence tried to wrestle out of Granon’s chokehold, kicking, twisting, but all it amounted to was him flailing uselessly as Granon held him in place. He had already gone through so much punishment in recent months, weeks, days. From surviving a bus crash, to getting shot, to his now two fights with Granon. A human body could only take so much punishment, and Lawrence had reached his limit a while back.
The kicking started to have less kick in them, the energy behind the twisting dropped. Lawrence started to give out, the colors of his face turning white, his eyes bulging out of his head.
I formed a fist so tight I made crescent moon shaped imprints into my palms. Blood moons.
How could I be so frozen in my fear? Lawrence was dying, forced to risk his life in fight he had little chance of winning, and he was still fighting to the end. He didn’t have powers, didn’t have the ability to heal, and yet he didn’t run away. He was trying.
He had yelled for me, and I was standing here, doing nothing.
This wasn’t the lack, or any missing connections. This was me being a coward, running away when it actually mattered.
The realization choked me.
I want my costume, I want to wear my mask. Hide. I want to hide.
I inched forward, the feeling of bile rising in my stomach. My fingers dug into my palms even deeper.
Then, a burst.
It wasn’t from me. Lawrence.
He didn’t kick. With the last of his breath and strength, he lifted a leg, and thrusted. He didn’t remove his foot or pull away though. He kept it there, pushing, digging the heel of his boot in more and more.
Into the hole in Granon’s shoulder.
Granon shouted in another language, and seemed to double down, twisting his fingers around Lawrence’s neck, straightening his arms. Lawrence only returned the favor by pressing his heel into the wound even harder, faster, more desperate.
A sick game of chicken. Until either Granon let go, or if Lawrence died.
One of them gave.
Lawrence dropped down the wall, slumped.
Granon backed away, holding his shoulder, grunting all the way.
There was a pause.
And then Lawrence blinked.
A small thing, but I noticed it. I was looking for it, praying for it.
He was still alive, he still had a chance.
I tried to inch closer again, but a click behind me made me reconsider.
Lawrence began to dry-heave, body jerking, wild, tears streaming down his face. Granon’s attention had remained on his shoulder, having not noticed Lawrence. Was that a potential weakness? An exploit? If Lawrence could focus on that shoulder, or hammer on other deep cuts, then he might be able to pull this off.
He’d have to get control back of his body, though.
Shaking, heaving, Lawrence did what he could to slump forward, head hanging down. Slow, he brought his hand to his lips. His fingers disappeared into his mouth.
A sudden, hard shake, and Lawrence retched, and a stream of bile flew out of his mouth. Violent, harsh, fast, a brown and green mass of liquid waste was flung, far and strong enough that it curved in the air.
Everyone had a reaction. Granon’s men blanched, taking steps back, even though they were nowhere near him. Even I was granted permission to move.
Granon reacted as well, but with his attention having been elsewhere, it was delayed. He craned his neck to look, and leapt in surprise.
Anyone would have acted similarly to seeing such a sight. Women, children, men like Granon. But his response was a second too late.
Lawrence had been purposeful with his attack. He had intent. He had aimed right for Granon’s feet.
Granon attempted to swing his feet back, to avoid the vomit. But he had seen it a second too late, the floor already compromised by all the blood. Vomit splashed right under him, mixed with the blood, and coupled with his size and momentum, he slipped the second his feet returned to terra firma.
Bigger they are…
Legs over his head, his neck bore the brunt of the impact. I heard a very audible crack.
His arms fell beside him, his feet landing and pointing in different directions, outward. A stretch of nothing, a pause as it settled in that Xander L. Granon wasn’t going to be moving ever again.
Time seemed to have all but stopped, inside that hallway.
Both on the floor, only one of them still breathing. It wasn’t a possibility the majority of the people here saw as actually feasible.
Lawrence didn’t turn his head, but he moved his eyes. I met them.
A passing of the torch.
I turned. Facing the crowd of gunmen, all dazed, confused, and soon, very angry.
There weren’t any that had come the other way, from where I had turned when I was being followed. Maybe it was part of Granon’s ego, his arrogance, that led to his downfall. He assumed he would win, he thought he had power over us, and tried to use that to orchestrate a situation that would illustrate that to everyone present. A way of gloating. He ended up drawing up a different point, instead.
I took a step to them. They took a step away.
Lawrence had went above and beyond, not just for his own survival, but for my own, and for the gang. He could have been killed by Granon’s hand, but he fought back. He tried.
I had no excuses.
I had operated under three rules, the moment I walked into this hotel. They limited me, made me bend in ways I wasn’t meant to bend. A shape I wasn’t meant to fit.
I had broken the first and the most important rule, despite my best efforts. Now, I wasn’t going to let anything limit me, anymore.
Barriers fell and crumbled, inhibitions lifted. Something else was taking over. Something distorted.
Diving into the mob, diving back into the madness. But this time, it was an intentional descent.