0.00005 seconds later . . .
In the space between when he pulls the trigger and when the hammer starts to fall towards the waiting 9 mm. bullet, I grab the black shadow blade from the gatherer behind me.
As the metal of the firing pin approaches the primer on the cartridge I hurl the blade forward faster than anything I’ve ever done in my entire remembered life.
My purpose was for that one moment.
That one throw.
This isn’t a pink dot at a carnival, and I won’t be winning a stuffed horsey.
This is pure evil, and I might be winning back my own salvation.
As the compression of the hammer’s metal on the primer starts to ignite the ammonium picrate inside, the black blade from the darkness enters his chest, taking Juan off his feet sending him hurling towards the ground
The bullet fires upwards as the gun spins awkwardly.
I run towards Juan’s body knowing I only have a narrow window to contain him. The Evil children were difficult enough, so I’m sure a full grown adult is nearly impossible to overpower. Along the way I extend my arms running past two more gatherers who provide me with their blades.
The bullet slug hasn’t left the barrel yet, and already I’ve thrown the two blades. Everything is happening at uneven, non-linear time. I know I’m not this fast. For sure, I’m supposed to be dead. But all I do is continue to react. Something inside of me pushing.
By the time I jump onto Juan’s tumbling body, two more knives are slapping into my palms as I fall to my knees, chopping at his chest.
This body driver has got to feel like the biggest dumbass ever. A real disgrace to Evil.
As I cut down into his body, the purple fluid spraying everywhere, I say, “You . . . should . . . have . . . pulled . . . the . . . trigger! You . . . blood-sucking . . . bastard!”
And then I deliver the fatal blow.
The gatherer’s long black claws dive into Juan’s chest, fighting for the transient soul that almost escaped us. Tearing with a ferocity I’ve never seen nor imagined, they pull the soul from Juan and race off into the darkness.
Not a thank you, or even a nod.
Juan turns to his side, retching and convulsing as he reaches for his chest. Mr. Green holsters his pistol as he runs over to his partner’s side.
“Juan, dime algo!” Mr. Green yells.
“Calla te, gringo!” Juan replies as he finishes throwing-up. “Is it out of me?”
“It’s gone,” I say, putting a hand on his shoulder. He looks up, his eyes watering as the gatherers slowly back away, one by one disappearing into the black abyss of the forest.
“Grab Juan,” I tell Mr. Green. At the same moment I pick up the screaming child and cut her free of the zip-ties.
We’re not out of the woods, yet.
Mr. Green supporting Juan, Ms. Josephine ahead of us, Ricky and Mr. Blue and the freed children, we’re all running as if the sky was falling. Thing about it: it actually is. The cloudy sky above us is bright, igniting with brilliant orange and fiery red as the Cotopaxi Volcano finally succumbs to its internal pressure.
Trees and burning and lava are exploding all around us as we run with the formerly black forest as bright as a summer’s day. Brighter, even. The ground is not just shaking, it’s moving. Chunks of uprooted trees and plants falling sideways and rising above us.
The ground that was flat is now uneven and nearly impassable, but we’re not hesitating. Not even for a second!
Rocks and boulders are being swallowed by the earth that was calm and complacent just hours ago.
These are the worst parts of revelations going on all around us as we run for our lives. This is a first-look at what the End of Days will be like. And it won’t be pretty. Behind us is a giant explosion, incinerating the clearing we were just at.
The trees where the children were being held captive and slowly drained of blood, they no longer exist except in our nightmares.
Run! Run! Run! I scream.
I can feel the heat on my skin as we race forward. And I hope we didn’t come this far to be covered in hot magma. That would be a real letdown. Epic-scale upset.
Tree after tree explodes around us like there were sticks of dynamite in them. We finally make our way past the last line of trees in this impossible burning forest. We find ourselves being hurried into several vehicles and I see father Pete helping us get to safety. This is an odd turn of events that I don’t have time to consider as we’re dodging Hell’s cough drops.
Before I know it, we’re racing away, a caravan of vehicles. Rescued children, battered souls, and uncomprehending minds, all of us wondering as we bounce around, trying to beat the rain of hot ash and spewed lava.
This is death, my new life.
We’re the actors when the stage catches on fire.
We are the paintings while the museum is burning to the ground . . . waiting for a miracle.
And I lower my head, laughing until the laughter subsides and gives way to tears. I just sit, bouncing here and there as my tears leave clean streaks in the make-up and stains of life-force that cover my face.
I don’t even know what emotions I’m feeling.
I just let them keep on coming.