Chapter 26: Your own personal Jesus
Mandy felt a great sense of relief when her feet sank into the sand of the beach. The sun was starting to peek through the trees behind them and warm their backs. It had been the longest night of her life. They had set out to save themselves hours before, they had chosen to be moved. To set their own pace. Be their own saviors. Not be saved.
The beach was an indication they had almost achieved their goal. Just beyond the mountain they’d find their escape from the Hell they’d been living. All she could think of was finding a motel and sleeping all day. Putting the blood and carnage behind her.
The ocean waves moved steadily, back and forth, completely unaware of the night’s prelude of terror. The beach was peaceful. All that could be heard was the crashing of waves.
She could see the bend of the mountain they’d walk around to freedom. She picked up her pace, but the others must have also as she didn’t gain any ground on the three in front of her. They were walking in a zigzagged line. She could see everyone was weakening: Maggie had shoved her pistol in the back of her belt and walked with a limp; Martha kept shifting her rifle around on her back and shoulders, unable to get comfortable with it anymore; and while Elderton still walked tall and strong, her shotgun always in her grasp, she could tell her feet were getting tired as they dragged across the sand.
The mountain was only a football field’s length away.
The sun was shining over the tops of the trees. The sea looked like glass and glistened with the rays of light. It was getting warmer.
That’s when they heard the screech of a mad woman.
They all turned about.
It was Wendy from the sheriff’s office. She came tripping and limping out of the woods. One of her legs had been shot and was covered in blood. She growled and screeched at the top of her lungs. Mandy was afraid she’d draw attention to their narrow escape, even though they’d likely put some distance between them and the others.
“Who has ammo?” Elderton asked.
“I’m out,” Martha said.
Elderton turned to Maggie, but she simply said, “Same.”
Elderton reached Mandy. Mandy had run out of ammo back at the church as well, so her gun was of no use. She shook her head.
“Dammit,” Elderton said. She pushed Mandy behind her with the others. “Ya’ll run. Get around that mountain. I’ll take care of Wendy.”
“No, that’s stupid,” Mandy said. “We all get out.”
Elderton placed her hand on Mandy’s shoulder. “This is my problem. I know you know what I’m talking about. I have to face it. I can’t run from it.”
Mandy bit her lip. She knew what she meant. It was the same with her father hours before. He was her problem. All her short, damned life. She always knew deep down there would be a reckoning between her and her father, she just didn’t imagine it would involve her shooting him.
She didn’t know what had gone on between Elderton and Wendy, but she trusted Elderton after everything. And if she said she was a problem she had to face, she trusted and respected that.
“Besides,” Elderton said as she gripped her shotgun like a baseball bat, “I can whack her upside the head with this, I’ll be fine. I will catch up to you all.”
Martha stepped forward and hugged Elderton hard, like someone hugging their best friend goodbye. The night had brought them together. Maggie stepped up next and gave her a hug.
“You better be right behind us,” Maggie scolded.
Wendy screeched in the distance.
Mandy hugged the longest. She could feel that Elderton’s heart rate was fast. Elderton was scared. When they exited the hug, Mandy stuck her index finger in her face. “You don’t go out this way. Got me?”
Elderton smirked and took hold of Mandy’s finger in her hand. “I won’t.”
By and by
Mandy slowed down from her running; she turned just before she rounded the edge of the mountain. She looked back and saw as Wendy finally caught up to Elderton.
Elderton swung her shotgun and caught Wendy upside the head. A screech.
The clash continued.
Mandy turned away, afraid to watch. She ran around the bend and caught up to Maggie. They could no longer see Elderton and Wendy, but occasionally heard the screeching. Eventually, they heard nothing. Elderton was all alone.
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