As Wicked grows closer, no longer a penny in the distance, we split off into two groups. At first, I am placed with Brenda, which she doesn’t even try to hide her displeasure about.
Newt finalizes the decision, “This is good because Teresa and Tommy can keep all of us in the loop with their…connection.”
Brenda protests, “But I’m better off finding a way past Wicked’s security than guiding a bunch of Cranks.”
Newt replies, “Okay, then let’s switch. Brenda and Teresa infiltrate Wicked and let the Cranks in that Tommy and I will have brought. Then, we can all regroup in there and save our friends.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Tom nods.
“Thank Teresa,” Newt adds, acknowledging me.
“We couldn’t have done it without you,” Tom says, looking me directly in the eyes.
“Alright, let’s get out of here,” Brenda says, ready to go.
“Right, we can’t waste any more time. Good luck and see you in there,” Newt says in a chipper tone.
I feel tempted to hug Newt and Tom goodbye, uncertain if this is the last time we will all see each other. It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen. I don’t want to make the moment any more sad and hard to let go, so I start walking toward the abandoned building. After a moment of hesitation, I hear Brenda following in my footsteps.
A painful silence takes place between us, until Brenda makes it unexpectedly more unbearable, “What do you think you’re doing?”
Unsure of how to reply, I stay quiet.
“Don’t think you’ve got me fooled. This is another trap of yours and when Tom realizes that, you will be nothing.”
“Look, I know you are having a hard time believing this, but I only care about Tom. I’m done with Wicked. I’m really trying to prove it to you guys...Can’t you see what I’m doing right now?” I say, hurt.
“Yeah okay, but just remember that when you broke Tom, he never recovered. That led him to me and I am what’s best for him. He will realize that.”
Silenced by her words, I come to a stop in front of a massive abandoned building. This is it. “Before we continue with the plan, I want you to know that we are have to going to work together on this whether you like it or not. You might even have to trust me. If you can’t find a good enough reason to stick with me through this, then that’s your loss, because I am doing this for Tom and for everyone else that needs our help.”
Brenda responds with a simple, “Okay.”
Satisfied, I pull out the gun that has been resting comfortably and unused in my pocket. Brenda pulls hers out and together we blast the building, shattering any remaining intact windows. I start to worry: What If the Cranks are gone? They don’t come? To my despair and my delight, a mob of them appear, moving at full sprint. Brenda and I take off, running towards Wicked, being chased by Cranks with appetites.
“Tell the others,” Brenda yells, as the wind whips around us.
“Already on it,” I yell back.
I communicate with Tom: We’ve got them and are coming. Will be there in about 6 minutes. Can you be ready by then?
Tom replies quickly: Yeah, we are getting inside now. Will keep you updated. Be careful.
I reply: Will do. Same goes for you.
Brenda hits me hard in the shoulder, “Come on. They’re gaining.”
I dare a glance back to see that she’s right. I slowed down while talking with Tom. I sprint so fast that I feel like I’m going to trip over my feet at any moment. The rush of the wind in my ears and adrenaline pumping through my veins is exhilarating. Brenda falls a step behind.
“We are almost there,” I assure her.
Brenda catches up with me again.
My hair flies into my open mouth that is gasping for air. I try to yank my hair away from my face, but to no use.
Scared that we are going to be in front of Wicked with no way in, surrounded by Cranks, I call out to Tom again: We are really close. Please tell me you found a way for us to get in.
Tom replies: Yes, come around to the right side and there will be an unlocked door. When you step inside, the floor beneath you is a movable panel. Slide it and jump down, closing it securely above you.
I say: Okay, will be there soon.
Brenda and I whip around the right side of the complex to find three different doors. I leap to the first one and it won’t open. The second one doesn’t budge either. Panicking, I grab for the third one and it opens. I can hear the wails of the Cranks as they round the corner. I throw myself inside and find an empty hallway. Brenda shuts the door behind her, leaning against it with her weight. I scratch my nails against the metal floor, making an awful noise. I desperately swipe my hands around, looking for something to slide or open. I start to shake, the panic inside me rising and rising. The Cranks are at the door, pounding with their fists. Brenda can’t hold them out for much longer. I take a deep breath and focus. Think, Teresa, think. I pound on the floor and one area sounds hollower than the others. I kick my foot down on it and a small sliver of space appears. I fit my tiny pinky nail in the space and pull until the gap is large enough for a person to fit through. The Cranks have now managed to open the door and Brenda is struggling. I hear footsteps coming down the hall, more than one person is coming. I throw myself into the darkness, uncertain of where the ground is and how far I’m falling. Brenda jumps in after me, the cranks spill onto the floor, ones head dangling into the space.
I yell, “Brenda, shut it!” She clambers to her tip toes, barely tall enough to reach the top. She slams the panel shut as a Crank prepares to jump in after us. We are encased in a darkness so black that you can’t see the outline of your hand in front of your face. Screams are heard from above and other indescribable sounds like the ripping of flesh as one person is, well, eaten. Let’s just say I’m glad to be safely down here.
Tom calls out to me this time: All good?
Me: We’re in. Safe and sound.
Tom: Good. Ready to move on?
Me: Ready as I’ll ever be.
Brenda and I await our next order, crouching in the void.