The sun had set, but Beck and Ava were in the woods in search of Anna. It was Ava’s idea as, according to her, Beck knew the woods well. He didn’t want to do it, knowing that if Anna hadn’t already been found by the townspeople by now, they might run into one of them who would be on the look for one of the sisters.
With the aid of flashlights, they searched for several minutes. They held each other throughout the way with Ava constantly leaning close to him and shouting Anna’s name. He walked in front of her so couldn’t read her body language. However, the fact that she clung to him told him how frantic she was.
“Beck?” she said, stopping her desperate calls to Anna.
“Yes,” he answered without glancing at her by still looking ahead.
“I’m scared,” she said, gripping his arm tightly.
He stopped, glanced at her, and raised a brow. “You’re twenty-six. How can you be scared of the dark?”
She smacked his arms and glared at him, causing him to hiss.
“Hey!” he said, rubbing his arm. “What was that for?”
“I’m not scared of the dark, idiot,” she said, still glaring at him.
“Oh!” he replied, being agape. “So now I’m an idiot, isn’t it?
She bowed her head, a frown appearing on her face. “You’re not.” She sighed, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. I tend to cuss when I’m stressed out.” She tilted her head, though still staring at the ground. “I’m just worried about Anna.”
Seeing how much Ava loved Anna, he felt bad. Right now, he hoped that Anna hadn’t been found by the townspeople. Perhaps the next people to cross the path of these woods would deserve death more than Ava or Anna did.
He held Ava’s chin and raised her head so he could look into her eyes. “We’ll find her, okay?” He looked at the sky then back at her. “It’s not long since darkness fell. I’m sure she’s fine wherever she is.”
Her eyes shifted from side to side as she stared at him with worry prominent on her face. “How sure are you about that? I mean, you already said this place isn’t safe.”
“Mm . . .” he said, looking up. “It’s probably about fifty percent.” He looked at her again.
Her worry was immediately replaced with a frown, one which showed she was annoyed by his statement. “That’s not encouraging, you know.”
Not knowing what else to say, he said, “Just know that we’ll find her, okay?” as he stroked the side of her head.
She nodded as her gaze faced the ground.
Using the moonlight, he stared at her. She may have nodded, coinciding with him that Anna would be found, but it was clear as day in her demeanor she had doubts.
He thought of how he could comfort her and possibly relax her mind a little. Then the kiss he shared with her earlier, in the cabin, flashed in his mind.
Recalling that his abrupt action then had worked in calming her down, he thought to do it now. But aside that he wanted her to worry less, he most certainly desired to taste her succulent lips again.
Just as he leaned to kiss her, she gasped and leaned closer to him. In response, he held her by her waist to prevent her from losing her balance.
“Did you hear that?” she whispered.
“Hear what?” he said, looking at her questioningly.
That was when he heard crunching of leaves get louder and louder as though someone was walking.
“That,” Ava said.
He looked around with the aid of the flashlight, searching for whoever might be responsible for the crunching.
As he searched, Ava gripped his shirt, saying, “Are we—?”
“Think positive, Ava,” he said, interrupting whatever negativity was about to leave her lips. “Think positive.”
He felt her nod against his chest before he held her hand and said, “Follow me.” He dragged her away from where they stood. Soon, they bent down beside a tree. He looked at her, saying, “Switch off your flashlight.”
She did just that; he, likewise. Then he told her to shush while he gripped her hand.
For some time, the footsteps continued though they were distant.
Then Ava said, “Beck—”
Groaning in frustration, Beck set his lips on Ava’s.
It took a moment before she kissed his back, moaning lightly in his mouth. He took his hands to her face, holding her head in place as he pushed his tongue into her mouth. Again, Ava moaned; this time however, it was louder.
He really didn’t want to end the kiss because if he could, he would make it transcend into something more euphoric, but he had to. She had to know that being quiet now was a necessity.
Just as he released her mouth and before he could say anything, she whispered, “If I didn’t know better I’d say you enjoy kissing me.” A shy smile followed her statement.
“It’s the only way to make you quiet,” he told her, smiling back. “Just don’t say anything.”
Luckily for them, Ava did stay quiet this time as the footsteps faded. After a while, they weren’t audible.
“I think,” Beck said, filling the silence, “whatever that was is gone.” He switched on his flashlight. “Let me take you back to the cabin.”
He stood up but was pulled back down by Ava, whom he had been holding.
“No,” she said. “We have to find Anna. I’m guessing that person we heard was Anna.”
He stared at her like she was crazy. Whoever that was could have been anyone. Worse: it could have been Quinton. If it were Anna, she would have been calling out for help.
“Look, Ava,” he said, “I know you’re worried about your sister. I’ll continue searching for her while you’re still there. I don’t want to risk your safety.”
“What about you?” she replied, gesticulating to him. “You could die while searching for her. I don’t really know you but I can’t lose you too: you’re my gateway ticket out of this hell.”
He scoffed, seeing as how ironic it was for them to need each other. And you’re mine if Anna is a worthy sacrifice, he said to her in his thoughts.
“Fine,” he said, realizing that it would be better if Anna wasn’t searched for by him and Ava, “I’ll stay at the cabin.”
He rolled his eyes, knowing what she was going to ask. “Yes, I’ll stay on the bed with you.” If you were wondering, it wasn’t the first night that it happened. She requested for it the previous night but he rejected. This time, seeing that she really needed the comfort, he had to.
She grinned at him, looking happier than other times since he had seen her this evening. “Thanks. Let’s go.”
She stood and he followed suit right away.
“But first thing tomorrow morning,” he said as she dusted her clothes. “I’ll leave to search for her.”
She looked his way and nodded.
He gripped her hand and pulled her in the direction from which they had come from, heading to the cabin.
Several minutes had passed before Beck realized that the sobbing Ava was quiet. Since they came back to the cabin, she’d done nothing but cry over her sister’s whereabouts and safety. He could do nothing but hold her in his arms and stroke her back and arm.
He glanced to take a look at her, hoping she was asleep. Indeed she was with tears dried on her face and her mouth slightly open. Even in her sleep, Ava still looked worried as her face was scrunched up.
He gently removed her from his chest and laid her on her bed. He got off the bed and walked to the door. Then he looked at her one more time. He sighed and left the door into the corridor.
He swiftly made his way to leave the house, hoping not to miss the ritual. If it was successful, if it was being held this night, then he’d finally be free and continue his plan on starting life afresh.
Using the flashlight he had picked from the table in the living room, Beck ran through the woods, his mind focused on getting to the town’s clearing as soon as he could. His presence was essential; also, he had to be certain Anna was the right soul to set him and Strangeville free.
Just in time, he had gotten there, joining the joining the giant spiral made by the townspeople that stood about Anna, who was tied to a stake. Sara stood in the spiral, being the closest to the stake.
The stake was already on fire, and from the way it looked, she wasn’t struggling or shouting to be freed.
He bowed his head, feeling both melancholic and ecstatic that he and this cursed town were finally free as Anna looked like she willingly gave herself—although he knew it would break Ava’s heart. Immediately, Ava’s offer to start life afresh popped into his head. He never thought he’d take up on it. Thankfully, now he could.
Just as he raised his head to stare at Anna one last time, she shouted, “Let me go!” She began to struggle with the ropes but stopped as her screams filled the air right as the flames touched her. She kept screaming for her to be freed until the flames consumed her.
Everyone knew her cries only meant one thing: she wasn’t a worthy sacrifice.
Hey, guys! Today is my birthday so Iʼd really appreciate it if you told everyone you know about the book thatʼs been keeping you on your toes since last week. I know yʼall love this story so please share orally and on social media.
Also, feel free to message me tell relate your thoughts.
With love, Jerubel Keziah