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FORTY

The door crashed and John dropped the crappy pen, halfway through a word. The journal slid off his lap as he forced himself upright from the Indian style posture he’d assumed for the last five minutes so he could make his entry. Viktor was up in a half second. John backed away from the door, only to find himself pressed against the wall. The hot air had made him perspire a lot and he felt terribly unkempt. His brown hair was a mess, angling off in random trajectories. Another crash. They were breaking the door off its hinges. Splinters flew, stinging his face. He looked away and brushed his cheek. Another crash came, followed by the sound of buckling wood.

One more crash and the door exploded inward, swinging in an arc before smacking into the wall. John saw a silver object ricochet off the wall and bounce very close to his body. A grenade? They couldn’t just shoot him? The canister exploded with a flash and a pop and John covered his face. A girl screamed. Gray smoke washed over him, knocking him to the ground. He began to cough uncontrollably. A gunshot rattled the walls. Two gunshots. From the direction of Viktor. Then he heard something sickening. RAT-TAT-TAT! Something displaced the air past his body and he rolled on the floor. His eyes burned. His lungs seared. A deafening thump. He convulsed in a helpless attempt to breath, clutching his chest with his left hand, his right hand still cupped over his eyes.

John heard footsteps, powerful and deep. A jab in his stomach took what wind was left out of his lungs and he gasped, his right hand instinctively going to his stomach. He waited for the next jab. It came without warning. He rolled and screamed as his body was bombarded by blows and angry fingers. He managed to reach a crouch. Yelled for them to stop. Another blow to his stomach. The pain was greater than anything he’d ever experienced in any fight. It was beyond pain. It tested the limits of his mind’s ability to process blunt sensation. It sent a wave of white light through his eyes and made him spit out blood. For the first time in his life, he did what he swore was impossible. He blacked out.

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