“The menace of the world tried to separate us. I would break any law to be with you. Even if it was for only one last time.”
Friday - Dawn
Jack never hung up the phone; he only set it on top of the breaker box. I kept the weight of my body off of my left leg, and I fell into him. Jack caught a hold of me and brought his face to mine. His expression was severe: formidable. Despite his injury, he held to his vigor.
“If we step outside, they will kill us. Most of them aren’t even police,” he told me, intense.
“Jack, I’m afraid. I’m not ready. We haven’t had enough time together.”
“I know, Madalyn. I think I can get us out of this. Do you still believe in me?”
“I always have, Jack. I love you.”
I began to cry, and he caught my face in his hands, kissing me with everything he had.
“Stay in this hallway, and stay low. Don’t move unless I tell you to,” he instructed.
I could only nod my head.
“This is your last chance!” A voice shouted from outside.
Jack quickly moved from the hallway into the open kitchen, keeping to the shadows. I made sure to watch him so I was prepared to move on his signal.
“You’re welcome to come inside. But please remove your shoes at the door. I’d like to keep this clean.” Jack mocked.
He signaled for me to move forward and had me stop at the entrance to the kitchen. He yelled toward the ceiling, which caused his voice to disperse through the house. I could see the men outside looking in every direction, confused as to where his echoes were coming from.
Before they could answer, Jack had already moved up the steps to the second floor balcony. He drew an arrow from his quiver and rested it against his bow-string along the way.
“Maddy, to me,” he whispered. I moved as fast as I could and kept myself low to the ground. Each move I made was more painful than the next. When I reached the top, Jack let go of his bow-string. The arrow made contact with whomever had just opened the front door. Jack clasped my shirt and pulled me the rest of the way up the stairs. I could feel the gunfire vibrations in my chest. I let out a small scream, but Jack quickly held his hand to my mouth.
“They can’t know where we are,” he whispered.
It sounded as though there was only one gunman firing at the front of the house. Jack held his finger to my mouth.
“They’re coming in. Stay down,” he told me as he crept down the open stairwell, stopping half-way.
He sat still, watching both entrances to the house. He quickly, gracefully, pulled another arrow from his quiver and never hesitated in shooting. The sound of its impact could be heard distinctly, followed by a body dropping.
I lay still, but flinched in fear as Jack fired another arrow directly over my head. I held my eyes shut, only to open them when I felt him near me once more. He was standing directly over top of me, holding on to someone. I covered my mouth when I almost screamed. Jack laid the body down gently, so as not to make any noise.
He quickly turned his back to me, drawing another arrow from his quiver and letting it go. The man at the end of the hall let out a scream as he fell back through the window he came through. Not a second had passed, and Jack had already fired another arrow down the balcony at the front entrance. Another body fell on top of the one that already lay there.
“Watch the windows,” he whispered to me before leaping over the balcony. He rolled to the entrance when he landed, ripping the arrow from one of the dead men. None of the men wore any kind of police uniform. The body next to me had arms covered in tattoos. He looked more like he had been from a biker gang.
I jumped as gunfire sounded through the house, and voices screamed. I lost sight of my Jack, so I sat up, leaning against the wall at the entrance of the guest room. My vision from this position was better. The blackness of Jack’s hair could be seen more clearly than the rest of him. He moved too quickly. The second he crossed into a beam of light, a gunshot would follow. His silhouette stood, poised, in the center of the room, right on the edge of the headlights that shone through.
With a murderous elegance, he stepped into the light for half a second, letting the bow-string go. Not being able to see past the light didn’t stop me from knowing the outcome. The screams and cursing that followed told me that another man had fallen to Jack’s callous mercy.
I found myself troubled at his malignant pleasure. He bowed in the darkness to an unseen audience, using cordial mockery in raising a toast to his enemies. He simply walked to the entrance of the house and stood in the darkness of the half-open door, but turned his head away as he spoke.
“How long do we have to keep doing this? Your foreign blood is distasteful and is unwelcome on Chumash land,” he taunted with sadistic sarcasm. “It must be frightening to live with the knowledge that you are about to die and that your souls aren’t even safe in this place.”
I could see one of the police officers pushing someone else to go in, as they were apprehensive. The man inched forward, keeping his head low against his shotgun. Jack raised an arrow above his head, and the moment the shotgun was in view, he pulled the man forward by the barrel of his gun, driving the tip of the arrow through him repeatedly. The man made no sound when Jack ceased his assault after uncounted stabbings. Quite grotesquely, Jack hugged the man for a short moment and then let go, watching him fall away from his prowess.
Achak Rider, The Chumash Legend. The Spirit Warrior. To be on the other end of his exacting vengeance was a terrible thought after having witnessed the events of this terrible dawn.
Although he was fighting for our lives, witnessing his onslaughts was unspeakably terrifying.
Jack quickly moved as gunfire rained in the front door. His hair was brushed by the wind and debris from the bullets. I lost count of how many men had been dropped in the past three minutes. The thought was sickening.
“My grandpa should be here any minute, or he may already be here,” Jack told me as he brought himself to my side. He started to tell me something else, but was interrupted by small explosions, and glass shattering. Immediately there were several fires burning on the floors downstairs. More explosions erupted elsewhere, but I could only hear them.
“You can stay in there and die then!” a man called out. “Surround the house. No one comes out,” he barked.
“Jack! They’re burning down the house,” I cried.
He said nothing, but picked me up from the floor. We faded away from the upstairs balcony, into the guest room. He brought me to the window, opened it, and slid my feet out.
“Try to roll when you hit the ground, and go as fast as you can toward the trees.”
“What about you? I’ll wait for you at the bottom, and we’ll run together,” I replied.
“I can’t cover you from the ground. Now go.”
I was incapable of complying with what he wanted me to do. I would not leave him. I couldn’t. I began to pull myself back through the window, and he pushed against me.
“No, Madalyn! Listen to me,” he shouted and grabbed my face.
“I won’t go, not without you!” I bawled.
“Listen to me.”
“I won’t listen! I’m not going!” I yelled, forcing myself back inside, fighting the pain in my leg.
“You have to go, Maddy,” he said, trying to get me to flee.
“I will go, but only if you go with me.”
Four gunshots suddenly rang out in close proximity.
Instinctively, I jumped from the window and onto the police officer that Jack had let live only moments ago and buried my knee in his face. I pulled the gun from his left hand as he fell backward. Everything felt like slow motion. My mind was working faster than my body could respond. I pulled the trigger of the handgun that was now facing back at the cop. I didn’t check to see where on his torso I had shot him before I ran to Jack, who was leaning against the window ledge.
All the pain in my leg was cast aside as I caught a hold of him. He pulled me down as he fell. Quickly, desperately, I moved my hands over him. There were two more holes on the right side of his chest. Four shots had been fired. I looked for more injuries.
“Madalyn… Maddy,” he whispered to me, and coughed.
My eyes followed his voice, and I found his face. The right side of his head was soaked in blood, and I found where the third bullet had gone. His kind eyes were not looking at me, but at some other place, searching.
“Jack. Baby, you’re doing well. Hold on, help is coming,” I said, shaking his head and stroking his hair. “We’re going to go home soon.”
I felt a slight tug on my shirt. He attempted to get up from the floor, and I tried to help him.
“Okay, let’s get out of here. I’ve got to get you home,” he stammered and coughed, only to fall back down.
His hand lightly pulled me down to his level. I brought our faces together, where my tears were caught by the corners of his eyes.
“Please, Jack, I need you. You have to hold on. For me… hold on for me. Come on, let’s get up. We’re going home. We’ll sleep in your boat together, all night… Together.” I trailed off in despair.
The pain I felt in my heart could not be measured or scaled with anything earthly when I tried lifting his body. I couldn’t even drag him.
“Maddy… go and live… Run. Live for me. Go home and tell your mother that my last moments were spent loving you,” he whispered.
“I don’t want you to die, Jack. I won’t leave you -I never will. There is nowhere for me to go. I have no home without you, Jack. I can’t go on without you. I don’t want to. You have to finish saving my life again. We have to go… the house is on fire.”
Jack pulled and pushed at me simultaneously. His actions were desperate and heart-breaking. He squirmed in place as I held him, bringing his arm around me. He buried his face against me and began to cry.
“You are the most beautiful creature. Go, and live. Go out of the window,” he hopelessly added through his sobbing. “I don’t want to miss you. I don’t want you to miss me.”
Many gunshots resounded outside suddenly. Jack’s grandfather had most likely arrived, but I did not care to look. I recklessly held on to Jack’s face within the blood-stained grip of my hands, hands that had no idea how to help him. I could tell he was slipping away. Frantically, I shook his face.
“Jack, stay with me, baby. Come on. You’re going to be fine. I’m here with you,” I comforted, grabbing at anything to keep him clinging to existence. I kissed his lips, but they did not return to mine.
“I’m not kissing you good-bye,” he sobbed. “I’m nothing… I’m just a killer. I shouldn’t have left you, Maddy. I’m so tired… I can’t feel you… I’m cold.” His words fell over me like an avalanche. I was racked with grief, and I draped myself over his wounds, letting out powerful, yet silent cries. My own grief was suffocating me, and my heart held a substantial amount of weight.
“Help!” I cried out, my voice only air as I attempted to apply pressure to the side of his head. “Don’t talk like that. You’re going to be fine. I’m right here with you. Jack… please stay with me.”
“Madalyn… there’s something that I never told you…” he mumbled, with heavy breaths. “You made me want to live again.”
“Don’t do this. Don’t leave me, Jack. Don’t you tell me good-bye. Your grandfather told me about the day you were born. How you held onto life as a newborn little baby. Please do that for me now. Hold on for me, just a little longer. Can’t you hold on just a little longer?”
“Maddy… sweetheart. Let me see you. I want to see… your eyes.”
I cradled him in my arms, bringing his face close to mine and resting his back against my bare legs. He looked at me, cupping my face in his cold hand.
“Ava,” he said.
“It’s me, Jack,” I said behind heavy sobbing. “It’s Maddy. I’m here.”
“Ava… tell Cara how much I love her… tell her…”
“I’ll tell her, Jack,” I cried.
“Cara,” he then said through a blank stare. “Don’t be afraid.”
I cradled him, sobbing, feeling the long space between his light breathing.
“Maddy,” he softly cried.
“I’m here.” I cried, petting face.
“Tell Maddy,” he said, the nerves in his brain ending his rationality. “There is no one like her. I love her.”
I could feel the temperature in the room rising from the fire as I cried over him.
“I’ll tell her…”
“You know that space… that space between sleep… and being awake?” he added.
He exhaled and I waited for him to take in another breath.
The inhale I waited for never came.
“No… no… no…” I muttered behind my extreme sobbing. “No, Jack. I want you here, with me… forever,” I helplessly cried against him.
“Madalyn,” I heard him say, with no breath. “When it’s night… look for my star.”
After his words, I did not feel any spark of life. I violently rocked his body, trying to bring him back. My tears felt heavy on my face and I fell with them. The upset to my heart was too great to sustain consciousness. I did not fight against falling away, next to my Jack... my angel. I hoped the house would burn around us.
I was back in the ocean suddenly, drowning in the waves. I could feel the water on my skin and in my lungs. My dream had turned into a nightmare. The space between dreaming could not be found.
There was no more shooting outside.
Was it raining? Why was I feeling water?
The floor around me was empty and I could no longer feel Jack’s body. Had he already gone completely cold? I was cold. I felt weightless as I slipped in and out of consciousness.
Jack… My Jack. Come back to me.