We landed in the woods behind Cephas’s farm. I knew the militia of Sector One would be on alert after seeing our jet in the sky. As we raced through the herds of cattle a strange feeling began to settle in my throat. My boot stepped into a puddle.
“That’s weird.” I whispered. “Why is there water, when it hasn’t rained?” James leaned down and shot back up. His lips pursed in disgust. My fingers went number and I could swear my heart stopped beating. “It’s blood.” My voice didn’t sound like my own. I scanned the field and I the sight before me was something out of a nightmare. Bodies lay scattered in the grass. The sliding door of Cephas’s house was shattered and bullet holes riddled the outside. In an instant, I was at a dead sprint towards the house. The smell of rotting flesh and dried blood hit me as soon as I entered what was left of the home.
“Cephas” I whispered into the empty home. No one replied. I stepped through the maze of bodies. Cephas must have used a machine gun to slay this man invaders. James drew his gun and kicked open the bedroom door. At the sight of Cephas’s broken body, my will almost shattered. The old man lay on his bed in a pool of his own crimson blood. Cephas’s bones bent in all the wrong angles. I dry heaved at the smell of his rotting corpse. James patrolled the room but found nothing. Cephas’s empty eyes stared up at the ceiling. I followed his gaze to the words scrawled into the wooden ceiling. “I gave you life and you betrayed me by throwing Myra to the wolves.” Guilt consumed my soul. My birth mother must have put a hit on Cephas’s life when she learned, that Cephas had sheltered Mark, Elizabeth and Charlie on my request. Cephas had paid the highest price for his kindness. Not only that, but he had kept my secret and protected me since I was a child. He was my mentor and most importantly, my oldest friend.
My knuckles turned ghost white as I griped my gun. “She is like a disease. She consumes all things I love without regard to the value of life.” I said. I made my way to Cephas’s side and started wrapping his brittle body in bedsheets. James started at me like I was crazy.
“We don’t have time to bury him.” His hand gestures were delicate like he knew I didn’t want to hear those words.
“We aren’t burying him. We are freeing him from this vile world.” I grabbed matches that lay by his bedside and stuck up a flame. “He isn’t a Tainted or impure. He was everything good in this world that has been lost.” I threw the beautiful flame on the bed and watch it spread across the bed and over his body. “I am sorry, old friend. Be free.” The flames fed on the wooded panels of the house as it accelerated through the room. James steered me through the smoke and out of the house. I drank in the bright flames that consumed a place where I had felt safe since I was a child.
“Are you okay?” James asked. The orange flames reflected off his blonde hair and burned in his bright eyes.
“I will be.” I turned and ran towards the Stadium.