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Rated: 13+ · Novella · Sci-fi · #2308240
2nd part of The Lost
Chapter 7:
There was a shriek of pain, and the sound of feet running away. Malcolm's ears twitched without warning, and he angrily rubbed them, still not used to movable ears. Ed was slowly inching toward the door, clearly hesitating whether or not he wanted to see outside. Following the shriek was a sharp metallic smell. Malcolm wrinkled his nose in disgust, but his insides shriveled in fear. Blood. Someone was bleeding. He forced his way out of Ed's arms and scurried to the door, worried if it was that Asian girl.

Antonio's minion lay dead on the floor, blood pooling around the body. There was no sign of Antonio or whatever had killed his minion, but Margie had her face on the wall.

"Are you okay?" Malcolm asked, concerned even though they barely knew each other.

"Am I alive?" she muttered.

"Yeah." Malcolm looked around. "Where did Antonio go?"

"Antonio?" Margie removed her face from the wall. "Who is Antonio?"

A new smell drifted into the air, fresh. Malcolm froze, alert. Someone- or something- was coming. And then it came- the other terrible, awful thing that had caused the death of Miriam. Malcolm growled as it came into the hall. Its fur and hands were covered in fresh, shiny blood. The sight freaked Malcolm out, but he tried to focus on his anger instead. The creature paused at the sight of Malcolm. It tipped its head curiously. It took a step closer.

"Get away from us!" Malcolm growled. "You... you big filthy beast!"

Ed came out and almost fainted at the sight of the creature. Malcolm glanced at him and Margie out of the corner of his eye.

"Guys, I want you to run when I say go, okay?" he said. "I'll join you after I distract it. Okay?"

They nodded. Malcolm slowly and regretfully went over to the dead person, refusing to look at them. The creature followed him, its gaze sharp and direct. Malcolm hoped it didn't think of him as nice, tasty prey.


Ed and Margie took off running. The creature's gaze immediately darted to them, but Malcolm, after some moments of self-convincing, threw himself at it. Its muscles tensed in surprise but soon pushed him off. His paw hit the ground, and he yipped from the pain. Oh, no. Now he was making tiny dog sounds.

The creature eyed him. It seemed reserved in its thoughts for a second, before it spoke.

"Making your plan in front of me wasn't a very smart move, you know. I could have easily found out what you meant to do."

Malcolm was so startled he didn't reply.

"You don't need to worry, though. I don't care about those kids." it looked back the way it came. "I'm just after Antonio and his scientists." It turned its gaze to him. "You can help me if you want. He did an experiment on you, too."

Malcolm was interested in hearing more about what the creature wanted to do to Antonio, but he realized that he had to go after Ed and Margie soon. If he didn't, they'd get very worried, and he didn't want to burden them with that. He gave the creature one last glare to show he still didn't trust it and ran the way they had gone.

The halls were empty, which was very confusing. As far as Malcolm was concerned, he and Margie were the only prisoners here. The floor was very cold, and he winced. He didn't have any shoes or socks anymore. Actually, he hadn't had any since Antonio had brought him here. Which was six months ago. He was starting to wonder how he hadn't gone crazy in that time period.

Margie and Ed were standing in front of an exit, clearly waiting for him. As he ran up to them, Margie pushed the door open. It led outside, to a nice little area of trees and grass. Margie shut the door, and they sped off, as far away from the building as they could get. Malcolm glanced over his shoulder at intervals to see if he could see the building in the distance. When it was completely out of sight, they stopped, panting like they had run a marathon.

"Please... tell me... you have... an idea... of where we are," Margie gasped.

Ed shrugged.

"Maybe we could steal one of their cars," Malcolm suggested. "If you want to go back."

Margie snorted. "As far as I know, none of us can drive. I would rather die from those crazy idiots instead of a car."

"Fine." Malcolm rolled his eyes, annoyed. "We'll just not make a plan."

"Who needs a plan?" Margie started to walk in some random direction.

Wherever they were, it was very peaceful. The trees were a bright green color and waved in the wind, which wasn't too cold and was thankfully blowing towards them. The grass crunched under their feet, creating a satisfying sound. It smelled so much like Malcolm's old home that he felt nostalgic. He thought he could smell a bit of water in the air, too. Were they near a lake? His question was answered when he spotted a small stream running through the trees.

Out of nowhere, a squirrel scampered out from behind a tree. It held a nut in its jaws, and it sat up and began nibbling it in the cute way that squirrels eat their food. Margie stopped and stared at it, fascinated by its cuteness. Malcolm found it adorable, too, but if he got the urge to eat it, he would try to slap himself. To his relief, he didn't.

And then he heard it: the sound of human footsteps. He looked around. Ed and Margie weren't moving, so it couldn't be them. He pinpointed that it was coming from their left, and he faced that direction, ready to attack if it was Antonio or one of his minions. Ed and Margie heard the sound, too, as it got closer. They froze, trying their hardest not to show their fear. Finally, someone emerged from the trees, holding a small white rabbit.

Malcolm's brain shut off almost immediately. It was a girl, but her skin tone, hair, and face looked so much like Miriam's that he couldn't think or move. Every part of his body felt like jelly. Was he hallucinating? Thinking of hallucinations made it worse.

Ed and Margie, though, relaxed. The girl's eyes fell on Margie, and she shrieked excitedly. She ran over to them, joy and relief painted all over her face. She handed the rabbit to Ed, and the two girls embraced each other.

"Thank goodness you're not dead!" the strange girl said as she let go of Margie. "We were all so worried!"

"How on earth did you get here?" Margie asked.

"We found a tunnel that led to that building," the girl explained. "We tried to sneak in, but we got caught." A sad frown replaced her smile. "Everyone else was captured."

Margie was still for a moment. Then, in a voice filled with cold hard anger, she said, "We're going back."

Ed's head shot around, and he shook his head desperately, indicating that he did not want to do that.

"Excuse me, sir, but we need to rescue them," Margie told him fiercely.

"Isaac's probably beat them up already," the girl said then laughed, but it was shallow.

Malcolm's mind broke out of its hold at the mention of Isaac. Life spread through his muscles, and he took a step toward the unfamiliar girl.

"Isaac?" he said. "Isaac is here?"

The girl jumped back in shock when he spoke. She looked at Margie and asked in a high-pitched voice, "That fox talks?"

Pure anger rushed through Malcolm when she said "that fox". "I AM NOT A FOX!" he yelled.

"I told you to stop screaming," Margie snapped, annoyed.

Malcolm took a deep breath and shook off his anger. "You said Isaac is here," he said as calmly as he could. "Was anyone else here? Like Yana? Or Jacob?"

The girl stared at him like he was possessed. "You know them?" she asked, her voice faint.

"They were here?" Malcolm's heart dropped in dread.

"Uh, yes," the girl said. "But- I mean- how do you know them?"

"How do you know them?" Malcolm shot back.

"I'm Isaac's niece," the girl said. "My name's Amethyst."

"I thought Isaac only had one sibling." Malcolm frowned, confused.

"Uh, yeah, I'm Isaiah's daughter." Amethyst looked at a tree awkwardly.

The words went through the processor in Malcolm's brain as slowly as a snail. He stared at Amethyst, not understanding. Did that mean Miriam had a sister? But how? She had never mentioned any younger siblings. Had the venom poisoning her made her forget? But how would that work? Finally he came to the conclusion that Amethyst was actually right. It would explain why she looked so much like Miriam.

"You're Miriam's sister?" he choked out.

Amethyst's eyes widened. "You- you knew Miriam, too?"

Malcolm's time to speak was up, and the words clogged in his throat as sadness overtook him. He missed Miriam so, so much.

The rabbit suddenly squeaked angrily and tried to get out of Ed's arms. He passed it back to Amethyst, not wanting to deal with another squirmy fluffy being. Amethyst turned the subject back to saving their friends.

"I'm not sure we'll be able to save them," she said to Margie. "The enemy has weapons, and we have nothing. We'd die if we went back."

"So then what are we going to do? Sit here and watch the birds fly?" Margie angrily kicked the ground. She was fidgeting like crazy.

"I don't know," Amethyst said helplessly. "We're just kids. We shouldn't deal with this."

Margie suddenly brightened. "Do you have your phone?"

Amethyst nodded and handed Margie her phone. Margie checked the service and almost threw the phone onto the ground in rage when she saw there wasn't any. She waved her arms around while muttering about stupid phones. Amethyst took it back, carefully avoiding getting whacked. They all stood in silence, trying to figure out what to do.

The real question was, could they? Or were their friends just going to die?


A red dot blinked on a screen. Antonio sat in front of it, tapping his fingers on the desk as he fell into a pool of thought. He almost felt like laughing. Kids were so crazy. Malcolm should have known running away from him would almost be impossible. Antonio transferred the image on his computer to his phone and grabbed a gun. If the kids tried to attack him, they would be in for a deadly surprise.

He would go to them alone, of course. A group would not be stealthy enough, and some of his minions were clumsy idiots. He walked through the halls of his new hideout, hating that he now had to keep a lookout for Claudia. She was determined to kill him, so he had to make sure he was prepared if she attacked. Although he had been pleasantly surprised to learn that she could climb walls like a gecko. He wondered what sort of abilities Malcolm had.

The dot stayed still, indicating that Malcolm had not moved at all. Curious. Were he and his friends trying to plan a way to save their friends? If Antonio had to be honest with himself, he was getting sick and tired of these pests constantly trying to save his prisoners. But maybe he could use their stupidity to his benefit. Now that Isaac, Alexei, Victoria, Yana, and Jacob were his prisoners, he had more test subjects! Not that he needed to test anything anymore.

There was still the final piece to develop, but Antonio was sure he could keep his subjects in check until it was ready. He checked his tracker again and went to one of the main emergency exits. He went through it and was greeted by a splendid day. The dot was still in the same place, moving by less than an inch in any direction. Antonio was surprised they weren't running away, but at least it made his life easier.

He made sure to keep his footsteps as quiet as possible. Malcolm's hearing was sharper now, so he needed to be careful. He hid behind trees as he slowly approached his targets.

Amethyst, Margie, Ed, and Malcolm were standing in a circle, looking grim and being unusually silent. He was outnumbered by them, but he could incapacitate them and bring back some of his minions. He crept up slowly behind them, trying to keep out of their line of sight. Just as he stepped out of the trees, a large gray shape lunged at him and tackled him to the ground. He screamed in anger, punching it in the face. The creature snarled, teeth showing.

The kids, alerted by the sound, spun around. Their eyes widened when they saw the creature pinning Antonio to the ground. He winced as her claws dug into his left arm. The kids looked at each other, silently sharing a plan, and ran off, back in the direction of the building. It was obvious they were taking advantage of Antonio's moment of helplessness. He cringed as Claudia put a couple of claws to his throat. Silently and secretly, he pulled his gun out from where it was squashed beneath his back. Claudia, too focused on killing him, didn't notice it. Antonio winced as her claws pricked his throat. Swiftly, he brought the gun to her chest and fired. She shrieked in pain and let him go. She fell to the ground and desperately pawed at her chest, trying to find out what he did.

Antonio got up and looked in the direction the kids had run. They had a head start, but he would catch up to them. They would never be able to stop him when they were in his hideout.

Chapter 8:
Nine years ago

There was a part of the woods that children loved to play in. It had been deemed safe for kids to venture into, and so they did. It was a lovely area, with beautiful flowers and leaves littering the ground. They loved the crunch as they ran over it, chasing each other filled with that young, childish energy. it was a safe place, the only safe wooded place for them in that playground. They never would have imagined the threat that would have shattered the safe, quiet, sheltered place where little kids played.

It all happened on a pretty bright sunny day, a day you never would imagine would be the date of a terrible event. Three kids were playing tag in the sheltered area, throwing a ball at each other. Their laughter was loud, but the plants absorbed it so that nobody outside could hear it unless they were close. Which someone was.

A girl named Jamie threw the ball at her brother, Jack, who missed it by a fingertip. The ball thudded on the grass and rolled under a thick, dark green bush. Jamie and the other kid, Olive, glared at Jack. Jack shrugged, not willing to stick his arm under the bush despite the fact that there was nothing dangerous there. Finally, Jamie decided to get it herself.

She crouched next to it and reached under the branches and leaves to grab the ball. She smiled in triumph as her hand closed around the ball. As she was pulling it out, though, another hand grabbed her wrist. Startled, she shrieked, trying to pull away. The bush rustled, and a person stood up. The shadows from the trees hid any details, but the kids knew it was a person.

"C-can you let go of me?" Jamie stuttered. Her thoughts spiraled, and she told herself that it was just another person from the playground. Still, her palms began to sweat.

The person stepped out of the shadows. His dark brown eyes roamed over the kids. He stroked his chin thoughtfully. What was he thinking? The kids did not know; they couldn't guess. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a black, shiny, metal object. The kids recognized it immediately.

"HELP!" Olive shrieked. "SOMEONE'S HERE, AND THEY HAVE A-"

Jamie and Jack's eardrums shook and hurt as a bang erupted from the object. Olive fell to the ground, unmoving and silent.

"Grab them! Quick!" the person ordered someone.

Three other people hurried out from the trees, cloth and rope in their hands. Jamie and Jack understood what was going on; in a panic they tried to run, but the adults were quicker. They were dragged out of their play area, into the woods where it wasn't safe, according to their parents. The third person took Olive up and walked alongside their companions. Jamie and Jack panicked, realizing that no one could see them. No one would find them. They were being taken far away, to a place neither of them knew.


Present day

Things were going very, very badly. Which was an understatement since Isaac, Alexei, Victoria, Jacob, and Yana were now Antonio's prisoners. They had been shoved into a room clearly made for two people and not five. It was so tight they were all stepping on each other's feet. They were furious at being caught and terrified of what Antonio might do to them. Or will do to them because there was no way he wouldn't after capturing them. He might gloat about it first beforehand, but he would still do something. They actually weren't sure what, which made it even more terrifying since that meant they had never truly understood what he had been doing. The unknown was always scarier than the known.

The room's temperature was increasing from cramped body heat, and they were just starting to sweat. Nobody spoke; they all were certain of their impending doom and opted to wait until they were brought out to try and make a run for it. It was the only thing they could do at this point. Still, they avoided each other's eyes, not wanting to see their own fear.

It was so silent you could hear a pin drop. Then, without warning, the heavy lock on the outside started to rattle. There were no windows, so nobody could look outside, but they stilled, trying to figure out who had come for them.

From what they could hear, the lock was being taken off. The handle slowly turned down and opened. There had been a little bit of light, but now it poured in eagerly, ready to take up all the space. In the doorway, looking very relieved, were Amethyst and Margie.

Isaac, Victoria, and Alexei were joyous to see them, but Yana and Jacob decided that the fact that Amethyst and Margie had saved them was inferior to how they were even there.

"How on earth did you know where we were?" Yana demanded immediately.

Amethyst and Margie looked at each other. "We've been opening every door we found," Margie explained. "It probably wasn't the best tactic, but who cares."

"Me," Amethyst said.

Isaac brought her into a huge hug, tears filling his eyes. "Thank goodness you're okay!" he sniffed. "I thought Antonio had killed you!"

A small gray fox walked out from the blind spot of the doorway and squinted at everyone in the small cell. It edged behind Amethyst's legs, seeming to feel embarrassed or nervous.

"Where'd you find that fox?" Isaac asked, noticing it.

The fox's fur puffed out at the question, and it started growling in anger.

"Oh, boy, here we go again," Margie muttered.

Isaac was about to ask what she meant, but the fox had already opened its jaws and screamed.


Everyone who wasn't Amethyst or Margie jumped back in shock.

"HOW DID THAT FOX SPEAK?" Jacob shrieked, pointing at the fox like a terrified old grandma who just saw a ghost.


A boy had come out and picked the fox up. He put his hand over its mouth to shush it. A harsh silence fell over the room, replacing the shock of seeing a fox talk.

"Ed?" Yana choked out at last. "Y-you're here?"

"Antonio got mad that he told us about part of his plan-stuff-or whatever he calls it," the fox said, calm now that no one was calling it a fox. "So he's basically made him a prisoner."

"Can we please not have a big reunion right now? Anyone might catch us," Margie reminded them, looking around nervously. She didn't want to get shoved into an empty, cold room again.

"Fine," Yana said, glaring at Ed. "We'll talk later."

Ed started foreseeing his demise at that sentence. They hurried out of the building, thankfully not bumping into anyone, and made it to the parking lot. There were still plenty of cars there, and they tried to find the one they had used. Margie, Ed, and Malcolm uselessly trailed after them as they had no idea what the car looked like. It had been parked near the entrance to the tunnel as that was the most optimal spot for escape.

"Here it is!" Jacob said excitedly, pointing at a car with a bloodstain on the front. It was the same silver-gray color.

Isaac joined him and pulled the driver seat open. Just as he did, though, an ominous bang echoed through the air. Everyone stared in shock as Isaac gasped. Jacob dashed to the other side as his dad fell to his knees, clutching his stomach.

"Get in the car!" Alexei screamed.

Broken out of their trance, everyone moved swiftly to obey. Victoria had to pull Jacob and Isaac into the car as Jacob was frozen in place. Alexei roughly pulled out of the parking space and drove as fast as he could without speeding into the tunnel. Yana looked over her shoulder to see a familiar figure running towards them, a gun clutched in hand. Her stomach flipped, and she turned her head, unable to look any longer. The parking lot faded behind them, and with it, a piece of them.


Alexei sped down the tunnel, faster than he should, but no one in the car cared. All they wanted was to get as far away from Antonio as they could. In the backseat, Victoria had taken off her jacket and pressed it onto Isaac's stomach. It was, unfortunately, white, and a dark red stain stood out even in the dark. Jacob was having a panic attack, and Malcolm was wondering why the car smelled so strongly of blood until he saw the chewed up hand on the ground. Ed got his arms scratched while Malcolm freaked out. Isaac was moaning in pain, and Amethyst was sobbing while Margie awkwardly patted her back.

Alexei was relieved to see the light of the exit show up. It was getting more noisy by the second, and everyone was about to snap. "We're almost there!" he said to the others.

Normally, they would have cheered, but Isaac was getting weaker every second. Everyone was focused on making him live long enough to go to a hospital. Amethyst and Jacob were practically having a seizure now.

The stairs came closer by the second, and soon they arrived. Alexei rushed out of the driver seat to help Victoria, Jacob, and Yana carry Isaac out. He yelped as he tried to walk to the stairs.

"Ow! By any chance, did you see where it went?" he asked weakly. "It feels like it broke something!"

"Yes. Your muscles," Jacob tried to joke but failed miserably and just sounded panicked.

"I have never felt more useless in my life," Malcolm muttered as he, Ed, Amethyst, and Margie followed the Isaac-escort. "Why did I have to become something small?"

"You're very cute," Margie said, attempting to be encouraging.

"NO! ANYTHING BUT THAT!" Malcolm groaned, covering his eyes with his paws.

"What's bad about being cute?" Margie asked, irked.

"I don't want people to go 'awww' when they see me." Malcolm shuddered as if imagining it.

"If you're adorable, you can coerce people into doing whatever you want if they're vulnerable," Margie pointed out. "You could get more snacks," she added slyly, patting her pocket.

Malcolm didn't reply, so they fell back into a serious silence, wondering whether Isaac would survive.

Victoria and Alexei called the ambulance, and they waited in silence. Isaac had fallen unconscious. Jacob was holding his hand and silently begging him to stay. The ambulance arrived, and they followed in Isaac's car.

They left the hospital with Jacob crying into Yana's shoulder.

Chapter 9:
The night was peaceful. The soft sound of cars in the distance barely made an impact on the quiet one-story house. In a small room, a baby slept in a crib, clutching her toy rabbit tightly against her chest. An eight year old girl sat cross-legged not too far away, watching her sister sleep in fascination. It was amazing how comfortable she was, sleeping without a care in the world. The girl looked over her shoulder at the door, knowing that the sound of voices had woken her up. She had thought it was her sister at first, and even though the baby was mumbling weird noises in her sleep, that wasn't what had woken her. The girl had then come to the conclusion that it must have been her parents, but she didn't want to be found awake this late at night.

Another bout of words reached the baby's room, and the girl's curiosity grew. She had to find out what her parents were talking about. If she didn't, her entire existence would be compromised. Her life depended on it. Her sanity depended on it. She crept out of the baby's room, imagining herself as a spy on an undercover mission to discover the plots of her enemies. The enemies who wouldn't let her stay up past 10. Such a criminal thing.

Her parents' door was closed, but it was easy to crouch down next to the bottom and listen closely. The girl pressed her body against the wall, trying to make herself flat like the spies on TV. The conversation was clear now that she was close.

"I can't believe you argued with him," her mom was saying. "I told you not to listen to your brother, but you went ahead and risked yourself anyway!"

"What if he's right?" her dad argued. "What if this is all wrong?"

"It's too late," her mom said. "We're in, and we can't leave. Besides, we never questioned the policy until last year."

"Are you seriously saying you don't mind it?" Her dad sounded horrified.

"Of course I mind!" her mom snapped back. "I don't want to lose her! But what choice do we have? If we don't, he'll kill us both and take her anyway!"

"Maybe we can pretend she died and hide her somewhere," her dad said hopefully.

"You really think he won't know what he did?" her mom scoffed. "He has eyes everywhere. We would get caught, and we'd be risking her anyway."

Her dad sighed. The girl imagined him running his hand over his hair like he always did when he was stressed. At least he didn't yell, like her uncle did when he was mad. Her uncle was a really strange man.

"So we just... lose her?" he said faintly.

"She might survive," her mom said. "It might work. It worked with that Claudia girl."

"And look where she is now," her dad retorted. "Out running all over the place, killing-"

Just before he could finish his sentence, the baby began to cry, sensing that a child was listening and deeming the Claudia topic not child friendly. The girl's parents fell silent, and footsteps started to head towards the door.

"I'll go calm her down," the girl's dad said, putting a hand on the handle.

Shoot! The girl scurried away from the door and ducked behind a chair, praying her dad wouldn't see her feet through the bottom of the chair. The baby's crying faded away, and her dad reappeared with the baby in his arms. He closed the door, and the girl was free to hurry back to her room.

She sat down on the bed, thinking about what she had just heard. Who had her parents been talking about? She had missed so much context. She slid her blanket back over her, thoughts flying around like bats in her head as she fell back to sleep.

The next morning her parents were making breakfast when the girl walked in, unaware that their daughter had overheard part of their conversation. The baby was babbling happily as she dumped her milk onto the floor. The girl patted the little blob of hair on the baby's head and sat down at the table, stifling the urge to question her parents about what she had heard.

"How did you sleep, Miriam?" her dad asked, no longer sounding like the world was going to end.

"I dreamed about flying pigs," Miriam said. "Don't know why."

"Don't worry, we all dream weird dreams." Her dad wiped up the spilled milk. The baby sprayed more onto his head, giggling as he jumped back.

Her mom laughed. "Oh, Amethyst's so silly." She took a towel and handed it to her husband. "Thank goodness you haven't taken a shower yet."

"I am never getting in her range again," her dad said, wiping it off.

"Can I go outside?" Miriam asked.

"Breakfast is almost done," her mom said. "You can go after you eat."

"Please?" Miriam begged, looking up at her mom with the cutest expression she could muster.

Her mom sighed. "Fine. But don't be out too long."

Miriam was already rushing to the door. "I won't!" she called back.

They didn't have a backyard, so Miriam sat on the stairs, watching her silent street. It was always quiet in the morning. Around noon on the weekend, kids came out to play with toys. For some reason, she wasn't allowed to play with other kids. Her parents said it was so they wouldn't get attached when Miriam demanded a reason, which didn't make any sense. But she had decided not to question it. She was also home schooled, which she didn't like because the other kids went to school. In her opinion, it wasn't fair. She had stated- well, shrieked it- multiple times in an Isaac-like fashion, sometimes with the man in question standing on the side, sipping coffee.

She was almost nine, which her parents said would be a big occasion. They said that something very special and important would happen when she turned ten, and nine would be last year before that. They said to enjoy it while it happened. That didn't make any sense, but lots of things her parents said didn't make sense. They said people were terrible and that their job was to fix them, but Miriam barely had any contact with anyone other than members of her family.

The conversation from last night, though, was ranked in the top five weirdest things her parents had ever said. What piqued her interest was the last thing her dad had said before her sister had started crying. Who was Claudia, and who was she killing? If only her sister hadn't interrupted them. Then Miriam would have known more. She also had the terrible feeling her parents had been talking about her. It hadn't sounded like they were talking about a coworker.

If she had known what had been intended for her and what would actually happen to her, she would have run away at that moment.


There was an eerie and quiet atmosphere inside Isaac's car as it was being driven to a house near the lake. Everyone was frozen in a state of stunned silence. There was an empty space next to Jacob. Nobody looked at it. Nobody wanted to face the reality they would now have to enter. A reality without... no, they couldn't think about it. Their minds didn't dare stray even the edge of such a thought. How could it be true? It hadn't even been an hour since he was among them, breathing and alive. Deep down inside, they knew that this denial would only last so long.

The house they were going to was the very one Malcolm and Miriam had lived in. To think they had lived there only six months ago. To Malcolm, that fact seemed surreal. He had been stuck in a prison for so long, it had been hard to remember good times. It would feel weird to walk inside. Miriam's loss still pricked his heart, and now... well, he wasn't thinking about it.

It all felt like a dream. None of this was real. Why should they admit that what happened was true when it hurt them so badly? A hole had been made in their hearts, a gaping emptiness that threatened to overtake them.

The house increased the feeling. It was more dusty than ever, with layers covering everything. The lights were off, and it smelled musty. Margie sneezed when they walked in and wiped her nose.

"Do we really have to stay here?" she asked, looking around nervously. This place unnerved her, especially the torn fence she glimpsed from the front.

"It's the only place that Antonio wouldn't think about," Malcolm said. His voice was hollow. There was no emotion in it.

Margie fell silent, feeling stupid. Malcolm hurried further into the house, wanting to get away from all of them. This place was unfamiliar to them, but to him it contained many years of memories. He had lived here ever since he was small, alone with no one but himself and his instincts until he found Miriam. He roughly climbed the stairs; he was still unaccustomed to four legs. He walked to his old room, leaving paw prints on the dusty floor. They were very neat and cute.

The lights were off, and he was too small to reach up to the switch. There was enough light coming in to see, though, and as he looked around, he felt the hard press of nostalgia. This was where he had spent most of his life, but now it was not his home. He didn't have a home anymore. Tail drooping, he went out, not wanting to face his memories. They were supposed to be hiding here. How long, he had no idea.

He returned downstairs to find everyone staring at something. Clearly nobody had recovered from their loss. Jacob was not there; he must have not wanted to be around anyone. He was the one taking this the hardest. Malcolm jumped onto the couch and closed his eyes, hoping sleep would banish his worries.

He woke up in a dark void, alone. He looked around, but there was nothing in sight. On every side, in all directions, was darkness. He noticed he wasn't on all fours and looked down to see that he was a human again. When he looked up again, he saw a speck of red in the distance. Curious, he headed toward it. He didn't feel any sense of danger and wondered why. This was a pretty scary void. There wasn't even a floor beneath them.

As he came closer to the red speck, a strange smell filled the air. It smelled like something was burning combined with sharp tree-smelling candles. Malcolm wrinkled his nose, disgusted. Then he realized the speck should have become clear as he was only a couple feet away from it. Why wasn't it becoming more detailed? He stopped right next to it and crouched down, squinting.

It was blood, thick and shiny. With a startled cry, Malcolm leapt away, but the blood was beginning to spread. Scared out of his mind, he began to back away, but now there was blood all around him. It stained his socks, and a new odorous smell filled the air. Malcolm gagged, wishing he could just turn off his nose.

"You're all going to die," said a voice, echoing all over the void. "There is nothing you can do to prevent it."

All the blood disappeared, leaving a body lying where it had started. Its clouded eyes were fixed on Malcolm, who choked back a scream.

It was Isaac.

Malcolm leaped to his paws, the nightmare still fresh in his mind. He was breathing heavily, and his legs shook. Shaking, he turned around in circles, trying to get his thoughts on track. Ed watched silently, a look of concern in his eyes. If he could speak, he would have asked what happened. The concern turned to frustration. It was terrible not being able to talk at all.

Amethyst and her bunny were on the floor in front of the couch. Amethyst stared at Malcolm like he had been possessed by a demon while her bunny just glared at him suspiciously.

"Ho-how long have I been asleep?" Malcolm asked her.

"An hour or two," she replied. "You were shaking pretty badly, but nobody wanted to wake you." Her eyes were red and puffy, and her cheeks were still a bit wet. "And if you want to know, Victoria and Alexei are outside talking."

"Are they figuring out what we're going to do next?"

"I think they're talking about how we shouldn't do anything next," Amethyst said, her voice suddenly sharp.

"But- but Antonio-"

"Will just kill us like he did Isaac. I don't know if you agree or not, but I personally think that it's not worth it."

Malcolm wanted to protest. He wanted to believe that they had to bring Antonio to justice for killing both Miriam and Isaac. But a voice told him in the back of his mind that he was wrong. After all, what good could he do with what he was now? And he had seen Antonio's basically-a-cult with his own eyes. He had so many minions that could kill them. Maybe it was time to let the authorities handle it.

"I guess you're right," he said to Amethyst.

Chapter 10:
It was raining hard and fast. It pounded against the grass and dirt, turning it into mud and making it squishy and disgusting to walk in. Lightning flashed, and thunder boomed. People stayed cozy in their houses, trying to keep themselves warm with thick blankets and candles. They expected that no one would be out in this terrible weather, but they were wrong.

A horse snorted as the rain soaked its coat. Holding tight on the reins, a person scanned through the darkness, trying to find a place. The rain was starting to get harder, and he was eager to get himself and his horse warm. His coat was already hanging limply off his body. Lightning flashed in the sky, and it illuminated the place he was looking for. He turned his horse in that direction and led it into the stable beside it. He patted its snout affectionately and gave it fresh food stored against the wall. Then, bracing himself for a cold welcome, went into the house.

A man with long black hair in a ponytail sat playing a game of cards with a shorter, more plump man. A woman with bronze skin and dark brown hair hustled around in the kitchen, cooking something the person couldn't see but could definitely smell. It was wonderful and made the person's mouth water. The man with the ponytail looked up and saw the person standing dripping water onto the ground.

"Johnny!" He stood up, arms out to embrace him.

Johnny pulled off his coat and hung it on the coat rack, where it dripped water all over the floor. "Hello, Juan!" He looked at the plump man. "Hi, Marcus."

Marcus nodded to him. "You know he doesn't like being called Johnny, Juan," he said to Juan.

Juan waved off the comment and focused on "Johnny". "Laura's making dinner," he said, motioning to the woman. "Isn't my daughter such a skilled child?"

"I'm not a child," Laura said bitterly.

"Where's Diego?" Johnny, who preferred to be called Joe, asked, looking around for Juan's son.

Juan rolled his eyes. "That idiot? Why do you want to see him?"

"He's an interesting kid," Joe said, walking to the table. "He said he wanted to talk to me."

"Really?" Juan sounded mildly surprised. "He never seemed to show interest in you. Well, he never shows interest in anyone."

"I sure wonder why," Marcus muttered. He was staring at Laura, who ignored him.

"So you know where he is?" Joe asked, barely glancing at Marcus.

"He's in his room messing with those tools," Juan said, showing great disapproval in his son's interests. He sat down in his seat again. "Want to play a game, Johnny?"

"He doesn't like to be called Johnny," Marcus repeated.

"Quiet, Marcus, you haven't known him as long as I have. Come on, Johnny, sit down."

But Joe was walking towards the row of rooms. He went to the farthest one and opened it. Inside was a young boy carving a wooden statue. The boy didn't look up as his door was opened, focused on his task. Joe closed the door and sat down on the bed, examining the statue. It was a messed up carving of the boy's father, with an eye crossed out with an x.

"Hey," Joe said.

"I don't know," Diego said.

"I haven't even said anything."

"You don't need to. I know why you're here."

"Are you sure you don't want to do this?"

"He'll kill us if he catches us."

"It will be worth it."

"What if he just finds more?"

"We'll destroy that, too."

Diego threw down his unfinished carving and glared at Joe. "Do you know what happens here when you're gone?"

"I have some ideas."

"Then you know he keeps Laura and I locked up most of the time."

Joe sadly nodded, even though it wasn't a question. He looked back at the door. "But not Santiago?"

"Of course not." Diego shook his head, scowling. "He would never hurt Santiago."

Joe rested his hand on Diego's shoulder. Surprised, Diego just stared at it.

"When we're done, I promise I will get you and Laura out of here," he said. The serious passion in his voice told Diego he was telling the truth.

Cold fear ran down his spine. "But what if he does kill us?"

"Then we'll go down in a fight," Joe said in a calm voice. Secretly he was scared on the inside, but he would not show it to this poor kid. "As long as we're careful, though, that won't happen."

Diego took a deep, shuddering breath. Joe took his hand off, letting him decide. It was a hard choice. A choice of life or death. He kept one eye on the door in case someone was outside listening.

"You promise," Diego said eventually. "That if we are caught, you promise that Laura will be kept safe no matter what?"

"She's helping, too," Joe reminded him. "Like, actually helping."

"Please?" Diego begged.

"Fine, but know she won't appreciate it."

Diego breathed a sigh of relief. Joe stood up. "I'll be seeing you tomorrow, then?" he said, meeting Diego's eyes.

Diego nodded, hands trembling. Joe opened the door and left the room. Diego picked up his carving and stared at his father's wooden eyes. Taking hold of his tool, he gripped it tightly and plunged it into the one that wasn't crossed out.

Outside, Joe took a shaking breath and gathered his composure. He could hear Juan laughing in the other way. He walked down the hall, ready to act like he wasn't plotting anything. On his way out, he caught Laura's questioning gaze. She was wanting to know whether or not Diego was in. He nodded. She nodded back.

"What's he doing?" Juan asked as Joe rejoined them.

"Sleeping," Joe lied.

"If only he would do that forever," Juan sighed wistfully.

You sick jerk! Joe held the remark back. Juan slapped a card down. Marcus cursed silently when he realized he had lost. Reluctantly he handed Juan money. Seeing Juan's cold, satisfied smirk, Joe knew, without a doubt, that what he was going to do was right. No matter what the consequences were, he would do it. Even if he and the others died for it.


Two weeks passed. Two weeks had Isaac been dead. Two weeks had he been gone.

Jacob threw another rock at a tree. The tree had been persistently bombarded with rocks for the past two weeks. Nobody bothered or talked to him. The others knew he needed space.

Two weeks had passed since Victoria and Alexei had made the decision to not go after Antonio. Jacob had been infuriated. He wanted revenge on his dad's murderer. He wanted to make him pay, to suffer. He wanted to watch the light leave Antonio's eyes as he died.

Another rock was hurled at the tree. Even though it hurt the tree, it helped to expel the violent thoughts going through Jacob's head. Unfortunately, it did not quench his desire to kill Antonio. He was so furious he didn't notice Margie coming out to sit next to him.

"Hi," she said nervously, mostly because Jacob looked like he was about to burst out in flames.

"What?" Jacob snapped, as she agreed with the adults' decision.

Margie sniffed, offended. "You're more impolite than usual," she noted. "All I wanted to know is why you're abusing a tree."

"None of your business."

"I was just being curious!"

Jacob stood up and walked away, refusing to look at her. Margie raised her eyebrows, irked to be ignored. Still, she turned and went back into the house. Jacob wanted space, and so she would give it to him. Not the greatest idea, though.

At the sound of the door closing, Jacob went back to throwing rocks at the tree. He was still sulking about the decision made.

Then, without warning, an idea popped into his head. He dropped the rock he was holding. Would it work? Was he stupid for wanting to try it? Pushing away the doubt, he headed inside. He glanced around, hoping nobody would come out and try to talk to him. He walked into the living room and was pleased to see Malcolm sitting on the couch.

Malcolm, who was chewing a cracker from the plate in front of him, wagged his tail to say hi as Jacob sat down next to him. "Margie just came by muttering about you throwing rocks at a tree," he said around the food in his mouth.

"I need to talk to you." Jacob completely ignored what he said.

"About what?"

"Do you think you'd be able to guide me through Antonio's base?"

Malcolm blinked, shocked and confused. "What? Why would you ask that? You aren't planning to go back, are you?" His gaze sharpened. "You aren't planning to go back, right?"

Jacob crossed his arms in a way to look defiant. "Well, what if we have to go back someday?"

"Why would we have to go back?" Malcolm tipped his head. "There's no reason, and someone else would die."

Disappointment struck hard at Jacob's gut. Malcolm obviously shared Victoria and Alexei's opinion. He wouldn't help him. He didn't want to avenge Isaac. Turning around, Jacob headed back outside without another word to Malcolm. Malcolm watched him leave, concerned for him, but stayed on the couch.

Jacob hesitated at the door, then looked at the kitchen. He slowly shuffled over there and peeked inside, checking so that no one was there. He opened the pantry, examining the food they had bought two weeks ago. They had gotten as much as they could so they wouldn't have to go back out while they were recovering from their grief. Jacob grabbed several packages and shoved them into the pockets. Giving one last, hesitating glance farther into the house, he opened the door and left, anger and the desire for vengeance driving him into the unknown.

Chapter 11:
It was a dark and cloudy night. Moonlight was choked by the clouds. Perfect for sneaking. There were barely any other lights in this small town, which meant they could creep around undetected with ease. Though that made it sound like they were doing something bad. In fact, they were doing quite the opposite. Sure, they were going to steal something, but they had it, for what they were going to steal was so dangerous it couldn't stay in it's current owner's hands. This was necessary for the safety and security of all people in the world.

At least, that's what Joe thought as he stood under a tree across from Juan's house. His foot tapped impatiently against the crumbled stone covering the ground. The town was as silent as ever, scarcely populated despite the pleasant temperatures. The area was poor, and everyone scrambled for a living except Juan, a renowned scientist of his country, known mostly for his obsession in keeping all of his actions a secret. Only a select few knew of his project, the thing he had dedicated his life to once he had discovered it. Joe was one of them, but he had hidden his distaste behind a mask of support. But it was time to shed the mask.

The door to the house slowly creaked open, and a face nervously peeked out. The person it belonged to was pushed out by someone from behind; he almost yelped, but a hand covered his mouth. The boy shakily walked to Joe with the help of his sister, who held his hand supportively.

"Laura. Diego." Joe nodded to the pair of siblings. "You came."

"Of course," Laura said. "There's no way I'm backing down from this."

Diego opened his mouth to speak, but his throat felt too clogged up so he just nodded.

"Well," Joe said after a long pause. "Follow me." He lit a candle, and they began their mission.

They walked through the night, the pebbles and cracked stone crunching under their feet. Nothing moved except them. Everyone must be asleep. As they headed away from the town, their nerves increased. Joe tightened his grip on the hat he clutched, and Laura gripped Diego's hand harder. Diego was cold and bloodless, a rag of nothing but fear. All he saw was blackness. There was nothing else, no one else, and it sent his pulse racing.

Soon a mine came into view. A rickety shack had been built next to it, along with what looked like a barn. For the first time, a noise other than their breaths filled the air. It was a strange noise, something between a pig's snort and a dying wail. It was chilling and sent the hairs on their arms standing up. Joe changed the direction to the shack and opened the door, bracing himself for the horrors inside.

Diego screamed. Laura slapped her hand over his mouth, shushing him loudly. Joe froze where he stood, ice crawling in his skin.

The deformed body of a person lay on the ground. Half of their face seemed to have melted off into a black-green blob, and their limbs had been twisted into branch-like stumps. Their torso was half gone, and they could see the organs left. But it was clear something had bit into the person's torso. Something that might still be there.

Laura was the first to step forward, taking in the room with a disgusted look. "Give me the candle," she said. "There are some papers here."

"Of-of course," Joe sputtered, trying not to throw up. He was surprised Laura had shown no reaction, but he remembered that Juan had shown her some... things before this.

Laura held up one of the papers, and her eyebrows raised in surprise. Plans were sketched on it, with notes scribbled in the corners. They were all about digging deeper into the mines next to the shack, to find more of the deep black substance. She looked back at the corpse on the ground. The substance that changed people.

Another wail came from the barn. Laura gulped, remembering when her father had presented his first experiment to her.

"Isn't it beautiful?" he had asked her. She had blatantly disagreed, but he had ignored her opinion, as he always did.

Joe eyed the door to the barn in fear. "Tha-that thing can't get out, right?" he asked Laura nervously.

"No, it's pinned in," she replied. "I don't think it did that." She gestured to the body.

"Then what did?" Joe questioned, casting a suspicious look around the shack.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, something banged on the door, harsh and loud and fierce. Diego screamed and ducked behind Laura, shaking like a dog when the fire alarm goes off. Laura protectively covered his head with her arm, but whatever was behind the door didn't attack it again. Joe headed towards it and placed his hand on the handle. He glanced at Laura questioningly. She shook her head, silently telling him that to open the door was a stupid idea. Joe hesitated then rested his hand by his side again.

Laura went back to digging around the desk. Joe took another glance around the room then sighed.

"It's not in here," he said. "I think it might be in there." He gestured to the door with his hand.

"What makes you think that?" Laura asked, raising an eyebrow.

"He must have that thing guarding it," Joe replied. "It makes sense, doesn't it? To have his most precious discovery guarded by a monster that we know nothing about?"

It did make sense. It made too much sense. But the fact didn't make them want to go inside anymore than before. They were scared; they were not ashamed to admit it. Joe was right that they knew nothing about what was behind that door. It could very well kill them, tearing them apart until they were just like the corpse on the ground. However, they had a job to do, and they could not rest until it was completed. There was too much at stake to not finish it. So they went to the door, Laura and Joe covering Diego from view.

The barn was as dark as the night sky outside. The candle was barely a speck in the wide, barren space. A sharp grunt sounded through the darkness, as if whatever was there hated the light and wanted it gone. Diego buried his face into his sister's shirt like a five year old and squeaked fearfully.

And there it was. A long, greasy tentacle extended into the small area of light emitted by the candle. It wrapped smoothly around Laura's hand that held the candle. Her stomach flipped in disgust. With a hard, jerking motion, it twisted her wrist. She screamed in pain and dropped the candle. The flame ignited the dust and grass scattered on the floor as well as the wooden floorboards, and fire started to rise up from the candle. The light revealed Juan's beloved result of his secret experiments.

At first it seemed harmless, with a fat pig face. It's beady eyes rested on the three humans standing in front of it, frozen in fear. It's jaws unhinged, revealing thousands of needle-sharp teeth lining its jaws. More tentacles extended around it, heading towards the people. Diego and Joe screamed and ran out of the barn, panicking in the face of danger. Laura, despite all her instincts screaming at her to flee and escape death, stood her ground. She had spotted the vials filled with a dark black substance at the end of the barn, protected from the monster by a wired fence. It must be an electric fence to keep the monster out.

Bracing herself, she charged forward, not caring that she was racing into the jaws of death. She had to fulfill what they had come here to do. Even if she died doing so.


The silence in the house was unbearable to Amethyst. She hated the quiet. It allowed her buried thoughts and worries to crowd her mind, and she didn't like to think about those. When she was alone and it was quiet, she would always start to think about her parents and what they were like, but the most prominent thoughts were about her sister. She had grown up believing Miriam was dead, but then Isaac had called her one day, revealing that her sister was alive. Amethyst had been so happy, so excited to finally meet her. And then Miriam had disappeared. Reality had come crashing down around.

At this moment in time, though, her thoughts were not for her sister, but her adoptive mother. Had she moved to Isaac's neighborhood like she had promised, only to find no one in his house? Was she worried, or was she still at the little town she lived in, waiting for Amethyst to call her? Regretfully, Amethyst wished she had called her before Alexei and Victoria forced everyone to not communicate at all with their phones. She wondered suddenly whether Margie had told her mom she was staying up here longer. It had been two weeks, after all.

Amethyst picked the bedspread under her fingers, a habit of hers when she got worried or anxious. Margie sat on the floor below her, messing with a lamp. It was one of those lamps without the chain, and Margie was trying to figure out how to turn it on. She mumbled fiercely under her breath, but it wasn't enough noise to silence the storm in Amethyst's head.

"Hi," Malcolm said as he walked in. His greeting was muffled by the chocolate bar he was carrying.

Margie looked up, sensing the presence of chocolate. "Isn't chocolate poisonous to dogs and anything related to a dog?" she pointed out.

"This is going to sound weird, but Antonio said I still have a human digestive system," Malcolm said.

"How on earth would he know that?" Margie said, befuddled.

"I don't know, I was unconscious." Malcolm dropped the bar. "Could you open this for me?"

Margie obliged but still gave the chocolate a long look as she gave it back to Malcolm. He put it in between his paws and gleefully took a bite out of it. Margie watched him eat it in disappointment, for she had been wanting a piece.

"I thought you were hoping on the couch," Amethyst said, wanting to start another conversation.

"I was hungry," Malcolm told her through chocolate. "And I needed someone to open my chocolate." He went back to the chocolate.

Amethyst did not want the storm to crawl back. "Have you seen Jacob?" she asked.

"Yeah." Malcolm nodded. "He was asking some weird question about me being able to guide him around... that place."

"And you didn't think that suspicious at all?" Margie asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh, I did. I just chose not to think about it."

"Yeah, like he clearly doesn't want to kill Antonio," Margie remarked sarcastically.

Malcolm seemed to freeze in place. "You don't think he-"

"I do," Margie said. "So we should probably go herd him back."

"Well, what if he hasn't gone? Then we would be wasting our time worrying for nothing," Malcolm said. He did not want to get shoved into another finding someone mission.

Margie whacked his ear and headed out of the room. Amethyst wondered whether she should follow her or not. Would it help, or was Malcolm right? Still, if Jacob had gone to find Antonio, then she needed to get him back. She would not lose another person she cared about. And she couldn't let Margie do it on her own. Of all the people to lose, Margie was the one she wanted to stay the most. So Amethyst slipped off the bed and followed Margie. Her friend was looking around the kitchen, even under the table.

"Nothing here," she reported, standing back up.

"Maybe he's sleeping?" Amethyst suggested.

So they went into the bedroom he had claimed. It was actually just a random, small, empty room, but he had put a sleeping bag inside. It was empty. They approached the closet, ready to check inside.

At first it seemed like there was nothing inside. Then, a shape moved from the shadows and lunged towards the girls. Before they could scream, they were knocked to the ground, and the last thing they saw was the cold, blank eyes of a mindless monster.

Chapter 12:
Laura struggled to open her eyes. She could see the blurry images of a room around her, but she didn't have enough focus to see everything in detail. Her head hurt, and her limbs felt like lead. She could tell she was lying on a cold floor, and her arms gave way when she tried to sit up. Two people lay next to her, and she assumed they were Joe and Diego next to her. Her mind was replaying the events that had happened before she became unconscious.

She had run to the monster guarding the fence. It had tried to catch her in its tentacles, but she had avoided them and gotten to the fence. The smoke had gotten thicker by the minute, and her side's heaved as her lungs attempted to expel the foreign particles. The gate had been partially open, so Laura had thrown it open as fast she could and dove in.

There had been a thick stack of bottles filled with a black substance. She knew that it contained almost half of the supply found in the mine outside. This was what they had to destroy. The oscuro, as Juan called it. She took two bottles and threw them out into the fire. There were many bottles to destroy, at least a hundred from his notes. As she was preparing to toss out more, a tentacle shot through the gate and whacked her on the head. It caused her to drop the jars. Glass flew from the point of contact and hit Laura. She screamed in pain as everything started spinning. The smoke was so thick she could barely see the bottles.

A rake had pierced the monster's tentacle as it was beginning to drag her out. It roared in pain, but Laura had been starting to fade out. The last thing she had seen was feet next to her arm.

And now she was inside a completely different building. There was tile here, grimy and dirty. Finally Laura's strength started to return. She propped herself on her arms, trying to blink out the dirt stinging her eyes.

Across from her, Joe, and Diego was a large chair with a velvety cushion. Sitting on the chair, looking regal and imposing, was Juan. He held a glass full of wine, and he smiled as he watched Laura get up. Without saying a word, he walked over to her and dumped his glass of wine onto her head. Laura shook her head, furious. Juan went over to Diego, who was shivering in fear, awake but unable to move. Sniffing in contempt, Juan let go of his glass. It shattered on Diego's back, and Laura's brother screamed in anguish.

"Words cannot begin to describe how disappointed I am with both of you," Juan said, not sounding disappointed or angry. "I'm even more disappointed in you, Johnny." He lifted Joe's face with his toe. Laura now noticed the blood leaking from Joe's side; he must have been shot.

"We did what we had to do," Joe said weakly.

"Do you think I didn't notice you were turning against me?" Juan asked, his tone turning hard. His anger was breaking through his mask.

"Your plans will only bring chaos and pain to everyone!" Joe said, sitting up with great difficulty. There was a large, dark stain where his wound was.

"That is the point, Johnny," Juan said. "You will not get to see it, unfortunately. You must die for your betrayal." He looked at Laura and Diego. "And not just you."

Laura spat at his feet. "You can try!" she yelled.

Fury burned in Juan's eyes at her disrespect. Lip curling, he kicked her in the face, breaking her nose with a loud crack. Blood poured down to her chin.

"Laura!" Diego gasped.

Laura pushed away the pain and wobbly got to her feet. Staring her father straight in the eye, she slapped him across the face.

"You're a monster, and I hope you die as painfully as we will," she spat.

Juan pressed a hand to his cheek and glared at his daughter. "Oh, you'll die painfully all right," he growled. He went back to his chair and held up a bottle that had been sitting next to it. He headed towards Laura, who met his gaze unflinchingly. "I'm going to force you to drink this," he said, opening the bottle.

"No need," Laura said, grabbing the bottle out of his hand.

He opened his mouth to protest, and Laura, seeing her chance, flung liquid into his mouth. Surprised, he choked on it. Panic flared in his eyes, and he screamed, "The antidote!"

As he was distracted, Laura darted over to Joe and Diego. Joe had lost even more blood, and his eyes were going cloudy.

"Leave me," he whispered as Laura crouched down in between them. "I'm dead anyway."

Laura had been taught by her deceased mother how to cure and heal wounds, and she could see Joe was beyond saving. She turned to Diego, frightened to see he was terrifyingly still. Holding her breath, she checked his pulse, but there was nothing. She pulled up his shirt and gaped at the deep, terrible wounds on his back. They were obviously knife cuts, which Juan must have done either when he caught them or when Laura was asleep. Diego's shirt was dark red, which must have hidden the blood on it.

Feeling sick, Laura ran to the door, desperately wanting to get away from the death. Hesitating, she gave Joe and Diego one last look and left, ignoring the comotion behind her as Juan tried to get rid of the poison Laura had dumped into his mouth.


Ed sat under the tree in the yard, unable to keep himself from staring at the broken fence. Yana stood on the porch, trying to think of how to express herself and failing. She rolled a pebble under her shoe and thought of how lonely she'd been the past few months. So worried and betrayed she had felt. All that time spent struggling with her emotions. Nobody had done anything. Yana kicked the pebble, taking her pent up frustration on it.

"You know, I wondered where you'd gone," she said, unable to hold it in any longer.

Ed shifted uncomfortably, knowing where this was going. She was mad at him, and he tried to shrink himself into the tree.

"Why didn't you ever text me back?" she asked, voice shaking on the last word. Ed guiltily looked down at his feet. He didn't know if Malcolm had told everyone he was unable to even make a sound anymore. His vocal chords had been removed as punishment for revealing information to his friends.

"Well?" Yana demanded, increasingly impatient. It was good to see she hadn't changed that much.

Ed pointed a finger to his throat and mouth and made an x sign. Yana raised an eyebrow, not bothering to get the message.

"Just tell me! I don't want to waste my time trying to figure out your stupid arm signs!" she snapped.

Ed mouthed, I can't speak, but Yana didn't know how to read lips. She huffed in anger and went over to him. Ed gulped and glanced around to find a way to escape.

"Just speak, Ed! It's not that hard! Did you lose your voice or something?" she sarcastically asked.

Ed nodded, confirming that he literally did. Yana sighed loudly in annoyance and leaned against the tree. "I hope you really did get taken against your will, or I will be so mad at you you'll regret you came back," she muttered. She walked to the fence, carefully stepping over the splinters of wood, and went in the direction of the lake. She wanted some alone time, to just let some calm, peaceful silence into her brain.

Ed decided to find Malcolm, who had seemed like he needed a lot of company the past few days. He got up and brushed stray leaves off his pants. When he went inside, though, he found an atmosphere quite different than what he had expected. Malcolm was anxiously pacing on the table in the kitchen. He was puffed out, and his tail was twitching. He saw Ed come in and relaxed, grateful that there was another person he could share his worries with.

"Amethyst, Margie, and Jacob disappeared," he declared.

Ed's mouth dropped open. Malcolm sat down, his stressed expression fading as he confided to Ed.

"Well, we thought Jacob had run away, so Amethyst, Margie, and I were looking around for him. I couldn't find him, so I tried to find the girls to see if they found anything. But now I can't find them anywhere!" Anxiety and fear filled his eyes again. "And there was a strange smell in the bedroom Jacob had slept in." He shuddered. "It stank, like body odor."

Obvious solution: Tell Victoria and Alexei about it. The adults would take the problem into their own hands and try to solve it, and he and Malcolm could stay here, safe in this hidey house with nothing but trauma to harm them. Granted, it was very dusty and making him congested.

The pantry door suddenly creaked open. Creeped out, Ed instinctively curled into a ball, thinking something like his brother would leap out and punch him. Malcolm's eyes narrowed, and he started growling like an angry dog. On the inside, he was desperately trying not to do that, but it was kind of uncontrollable.

The lights suddenly shut off, and a wild, monstrous shriek echoed off the tile, followed by the sound of tearing flesh. When the lights came back on, there was nothing left except splashes of red, fresh blood.

Chapter 13:
Drip, drip drip...

The sounds of rain pounding on metal pipes resonated throughout the tunnel. Jacob stood on the stairs, gazing out at the location where his father had been alive two weeks ago. There were still blood drops on the ground, and Jacob stared at them, wondering if they had belonged to Isaac, drops of his life. He took a hesitant step off the stairs, unable to deny anymore that he was scared and probably shouldn't be doing this. Seeing the blood, though, reignited his desire to find Antonio. To give himself a better, less selfish reason for killing him, Jacob told himself that it would stop Antonio from hurting anyone else. Yes, that was why he was doing this. He was definitely not doing it for revenge and revenge alone.

Remembering that it had taken a while in a car, Jacob wondered how he could get to the base on foot faster than a car. He came to the conclusion that that was impossible, as he wasn't Sonic. He would jog there as fast as he could. That would take forever, but it was all he could do. There was no way he would steal someone's bike or scooter, so he stretched his legs and began to run slowly. He had to conserve his energy. Thank goodness he brought granola bars.


Jacob stopped at the sound and looked behind him. A can was rolling slowly on the ground, obviously dropped there by someone. Great. He decided to ignore it, not wanting to waste time investigating who would throw a can in here. He kept to the side of the tunnel in case anyone came barreling down in a car. The last thing he wanted was to become a bloody, smushed human pancake.

Eventually he came across a dark spot of vital liquid from when the creature had killed some random nameless background dude. It was here where another ominous, loud crash sounded through the tunnel. Jacob actually paused here, looking around again. That sound hadn't come from someone throwing a can. In fact, it hadn't even sounded like a can. The noise had clearly come from a much larger metal object.

After concluding that nothing was there, Jacob turned around... to see a woman standing right behind him. Jacob screamed and threw his backpack at her. She stepped out of the way, and it thudded on the ground. The woman raised an eyebrow at Jacob.

"Seriously?" she said.

"I need to go somewhere!" Jacob yelled, grabbing the backpack and starting to run. The woman sighed impatiently and grabbed his arm. Jacob stumbled, dropping his backpack.

"I'm not going to harm you," the woman said. "I actually didn't even know someone was in here."

Jacob refused to say another word to this person, in case she might be one of Antonio's minions. After all, who else would be in the tunnel. If he resisted, she might take him to Antonio, which was what he wanted.

"What were you doing?" the woman asked. Jacob pursed his lips, willing himself not to make a snarky remark. "Not going to say anything?"

Yes, he wasn't. He stared into one of the lights above, not caring that it hurt his eyes. Then he noticed the bag the woman was carrying. It contained lots of stuff, given that it was bulging out like it was too full. Curiosity took his eyes off the light and onto the bag. What would she be carrying down this tunnel that was so important?

"It's classified stuff," the woman said when she saw him looking at the bag. "Lost kids aren't supposed to know what is inside."

A lost kid? Jacob felt indignant. "I'm not a lost kid," he snapped like a lost kid.

"Finally, some noise." The woman looked around. "We better hurry to the entrance. It might catch up to us at any moment."

It? Jacob checked behind the woman. Nothing moved in the distance, nor did anything move around them. Was there really something else in here, besides the two of them? It wouldn't be hard to avoid cars, so that must not be what the woman was worried about.

Another loud clang reverberated through the tunnel, sounding closer than before. Fear entered the woman's eyes, and she ran the way Jacob had come. Despite the fact that he, too, was scared, Jacob continued to walk in the direction of Antonio's base, determined to not let anything stop him. Whatever the woman was so scared of, he would get by it. It was probably nothing, just some weird paranoia.

Then out of nowhere a light flashed in his face, and he fell to the ground screaming and writhing in pain. His body felt like it was on fire, and he covered his eyes, which felt like they were melting out of their sockets. His skin crawled, and a liquidy substance ran over it. Jacob curled in on himself, trying to close his eyes, but they wouldn't close. The light was blinding, and he couldn't protect his eyes. Something grabbed his shirt and dragged him down the tunnel. Tears ran down Jacob's face, a result of his body trying to protect his eyes. They fell to the ground and sank into it as he was taken away to be the last trace of him in the tunnel.

Chapter 14:
The rock hit the lake with a loud splash and sank under. Yana stared after it, breathing heavily. After leaving Ed in the backyard, she had come to the lake to get any extra emotions out. Her anger had only grown with regret for snapping at him, though, so she had to get that out of her now, too. The lake shone in the sun, and it lapped peacefully at the shore. Yana envied its calm, serene nature. If only her mind could be like that. If only all their minds could be like that. Everyone was stressed, mad, or sad about something. it was getting sickening to be in that air for long.

She sat down, the dirt crunching under her shoes. Closing her eyes, she steadied her breathing, listening to the waves of the lake. They were loud enough to completely focus on them, so she did, imagining herself floating on them. Her muscles relaxed, but she had to open her eyes as she was starting to feel tired. This usually happened when she tried to calm herself down. She just fell asleep.

Leaves crunched under feet behind her. She turned her head to see her mom walking up to her. She was frowning, worry creasing her face.

A chill went down Yana's spine. "What happened?" she asked, instinctively inferring that something bad had occurred. That was probably a terrible sign of how horrible their lives had become. That thought just made it worse.

"Jacob, Margie, Amethyst, Ed, and Malcolm are missing," Victoria said. "Your dad and I are into the city to try and find them."

"Why would they be in the city?"

"It's better to look there than in the forest," her mom replied. "They might have just decided to wander around there."

But judging from the look on her face, Yana guessed she thought they had gone to the tunnel. Her stomach twisted.

"Can I come?" she asked, now eager for something else to do.

"No." Victoria shook her head. "It's better for you to stay here."

Without waiting for an argument, since that usually happened with these kids, she left. Yana bit her lip, unable to stop the storm of apprehension and fear forming in her brain. Something in her gut was telling her that bad things were happening. She took off her glasses and rubbed the lenses with her shirt, wondering why Margie, Amethyst, Malcolm, and Ed had disappeared. Jacob she understood as he had been pretty bent on being a problem. The others, though, were as equally subdued and stressed as the rest of them, so why would they go missing? Amethyst and Margie had been the most vocal about not doing anything for fear of anyone else dying. They would never join Jacob on some foolish quest to go murder someone.

As much as her gut urged her to go after her parents, the logical part of her mind refused. Yana was sick of going after people, risking everything to save them only for someone to die. It happened twice, after all. There was no point in going out. Putting her glasses back on, she headed up the trail to the house. Her parents' car was driving away on the dirt road, but her parents didn't see her waving from the house through the mirrors.

The house seemed colder and unfriendly without anyone else inside. Sighing, Yana sat down on the couch, picking at the stitches on her sweatpants. It was pretty cold for a spring day, and the house was colder due to the tile and wood being mean and sucking the warmth up. At least they had tea. Deciding that would be nice, Yana got up from the couch and restlessly walked to the kitchen. She opened a cabinet and took out the tea. Turning to look at the table, she had to stifle a gasp.

There was blood on the floor. Only drops, but still blood. Quite unsettling. Yana set the teabags down and went over to examine it. Someone- or something- had been injured. Had it been her friends? Had something taken them? Was this blood why her mother had looked so scared?

You're here for tea, Yana, not mysteries, she told herself strictly. Remember, you can't do anything. So she grabbed a teacup and put the tea in the microwave. Leaning against the counter, she began to wonder what on earth she could do now. Napping was off the table as she was literally making tea, so what could she do? What should she do? How could she take her mind off the disappearance of her friends? Was she going to have to wait here all by herself for however long it took to find them? But what if it took hours?

Oh heck no. Yana couldn't stand being stuck here all by herself with nothing to do for hours. There was nothing interesting to read. There was nothing interesting to do. Was she doomed to die of boredom?

Resting her head in her hands while groaning in frustration, she slumped her shoulders. Life sucked. Like, really, really badly.

For several hours she wandered through the house. She was so bored she played a card game with a broken vase. She won, but it only increased her impatience and boredom. Lying on the couch, facedown, she turned on her phone and checked the time.

It had been at least six hours. SIX HOURS. How had it been that long? No wonder she felt like she was going to die or go insane!

"What's taking them so long?" she grumbled angrily, pulling up the text app. No Wi-Fi or not, she could still text her parents. Where are you, she typed out furiously, making sure to add a few mad emojis.

Ten minutes later, there was no response. Her foot tapping fast against the floor, Yana turned off her phone and decided she was going to take no more. She would go out and try to find everyone else and actually do something useful. She put on her shoes and headed out the door, following the dirt road her parents had driven away on only six hours ago. It was five in the afternoon now, and Yana refused to waste any more time on useless, boring activities.

It was good of her to leave when she did because as she was going, something was creeping into the house to get her just at that moment.

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