Seven seconds. That’s the amount of time I had where I planned to kill everyone and everything that crossed my path. There was nothing to hold me back; I went completely animalistic in that moment. I was wholly and utterly distraught, and there was no way for me to get rid of that feeling without bringing it upon someone else. And I would’ve done it, too. Except one thing–or, more accurately: one person.
I roared with every ounce of anger and misery I had in me. Every set of eyes in that clearing was on me. And then came the only thing that could stop me, the one voice that could prevent me from going berserk on everyone.
My name echoes in my ears as I recognize the voice. My eyes find his, all the way across the clearing, next to the treeline. Even from here, I can see the look of shock on his face, along with fear. And it brings me back from the edge: the edge I was so close to falling into and never coming back. His distress makes me realize that what I’m doing right now, wanting to kill all these people, is not me. Marcus was at fault. No one else. He’s gone, and now I’m left with his power and his rank as leader. And I will not reign like he did. I will do better than my predecessor, and I am not a murderer. Although my body count is up to three now.
My anger leaves me, along with my glowing eyes and sharp claws. It feels like the life is sucked out of me, and all I have left is my grief.
“Everyone go home,” I say loudly. “We’re done fighting. I–I will contact you all soon and we will have a meeting on what’s next for us. Leave.” No one even twitches, still frozen in shock from my display of power and aggression.
“Leave!” I scream at them, shaking them out of their stupor. With a look of fear in their eyes, they slowly trudge into the woods, leaving just Elijah, Sarah, and myself. And the bodies.
I feel Sarah’s and Elijah’s eyes on me but I’ve spoken and done all I can. The adrenaline from fighting is fading, leaving with the devastation of what happened.
Suddenly, I’m standing over Logan’s body, looking down at my dead sister. I don’t remember moving. I failed.
I collapse onto the ground beside her, fumbling for her heart on the ground. My hands find it and I try to shove it back in her body, I try to make her heal.
“Logan, Logan, please, please, please,” I sob. “Please, I need you. Don’t leave me, don’t leave me, don’t leave me. I’m sorry . . . . I’m sorry.”
I don’t know how long I sit there begging for her to wake up, to just start breathing and wake up. Maybe hours. She never does. She doesn’t heal, she doesn’t wake up. She’s dead. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
My throat gets hoarse from screaming and my crying fades into weeping eventually. For me, the only thing that exists right now is Logan. I don’t know where Elijah and Sarah are, if they’re even still here. All I know is that place in my heart, that place that was her emotions, that was her, is gone. Dead. Empty. I’ll never feel her joy, or fear, or excitement, or anything again. I never knew how much I felt her with me until now, now that she’s not there anymore.
I’ll never get to find out just how far The Merging was going to take us. Whatever destination we were progressing to has been cut off abruptly.
I eventually must cry myself dry, and I just sit there staring at her for a few minutes in silence. I feel a warmth on my back and I realize Elijah has joined me, maybe even a while ago, I just didn’t notice. I don’t know how he’s here, or why, but right now I don’t care to find out. I’m just glad that he is.
I take a look around and see that it’s just me and him.
“Wh–where’s Sarah?” I ask quietly. My voice is so weak and mixed with me sniffling I’m surprised he can understand me at all.
“She was–was really out of it, so I told her to just go home and try to rest. So I hope that’s where she went.”
I sit there staring at all the bodies on the ground. So many. Seven, to be exact. Sure, Z and Tiffany will wake up, but the rest . . . not so much.
And the smell. Oh god, the smell. A mixture of blood, sweat, urine, and feces. It literally smells like death. All these people: John, Logan, Marcus, the two men whose names I never bothered to learn . . . they’re all dead because of me. I don’t feel bad about Marcus. Not even a little. But John? It’s my fault he was involved. And those two men, including the one I myself killed, they were just taking orders. In fact, I’m not sure if they could have chosen not to; I don’t know if Marcus used his mind control technique. Logan. That–I can’t even think about that right now. Maybe not ever.
So many dead people. Too many.
What have I done?
I bring myself to look at Elijah in the eye. I should be mad at him. I should be yelling and screaming at him, but . . . if he hadn’t been here I don’t know what would’ve happened. So I can be mad at him later.
“I–I think that we should–should leave.”
“Okay,” he says gently, nodding. “We can go to the police station and tell them–tell them there’s been some kind of animal attack.” He sits there and waits for me to agree before getting up. I know he won’t make me do anything until I’m ready, and though I’m far from ready, I nod anyway.
He pushes himself to his feet and holds out a hand to help me up. I look at Logan’s body one last time, then take Elijah’s hand. Somehow, forcing myself to stand up is the hardest thing I’ve had to do today.
My knees feel weak, my legs feel weak, my arms feel weak . . . everything feels weak. I feel weak. When I see all the blood on the ground, all the–the human entrails on the ground, I’m suddenly on my hands and knees retching, emptying my stomach.
When I finally finish, I wipe my mouth and Elijah helps me to my feet.
“You . . you need to call your brother,” I say.
“Juliana–” he starts.
“No,” I cut him off. “You need to call him. He’s probably worried sick and he’ll have to come when we go to the police . . .” I trail off when I hear movement behind me. Someone–someone’s standing up.
“Julia?” I turn around, finding Tiffany behind me. She woke up. Her eyes glance down and she freezes. I realize she’s staring at Logan’s body. Her eyes come back up to mine and she starts with a barrage of words.
“Julia, I’m–I’m so sorry. This is all my fault, I could’ve convinced my dad not to do this. I could’ve stopped this all a long time ago, but before I met the two of you, I was just like him. I wanted Logan to die just as much as he did, and I know now that she hated herself for what she’d done just as much as we hated her, and she didn’t deserve this.
“And I’m so sorry for lying to you. I’m sorry for using you just so my father would know any plans you had. I was so wrong.”
She says this all without taking a breath, it seems like, and I feel completely overwhelmed. My mouth gapes open but I can’t get anything out. I–I can’t talk to her right now. My brain feels completely fried, and I don’t think I can handle anything else right now.
Does–does she know about her dad? I don’t think she does. She hasn’t seen his body yet. What’s she gonna say then?
Well, it seems that Tiffany and I have more in common now than ever before. She has a dead dad and sister, I have a dead dad and sister. Our families have been intertwined for years. Except now, it’s much more complicated. My sister killed her sister, which made her dad kill my sister, which made me kill him . . . it just goes around and around.
What–wait, what is that sound? Is that . . heartbeats?
It is. Not just one or two, either. No. There are at least fifteen or twenty, if not more. They’re in the trees. Not literally, but they’re in the woods somewhere ahead of us, on the ground, though as hard as I try I can’t see them. Footsteps break twigs and leaves, then fall silent. If I listen hard enough, I can hear breathing.
I’m still frozen with my mouth gaping open when I hear it–a whistle of something flying toward us. I see a speck of movement behind Tiffany, but I don’t have time to react.
Tiffany’s green eyes are gazing into mine, hoping desperately for my forgiveness, when the silver arrow flies through her chest, sticking out of her body from both sides. It pierced her heart.
Tiffany looks down to the arrow in her chest, then back up at me. She gets out one last word before she crumples to the ground.