Acceptance

Standard

Dark Room

It was almost silent in the tent. All you could hear were the pained gasps coming from the prone man in the middle of the floor, breath wheezing as the knife carved into him again and again. There was a faint groan, a sigh, and then a menacing voice.

“Where is he? How long have you been here?”

There was more silence, and then a faint chuckle escaped the man’s lips, burbling with the blood that coated his teeth. He shifted slightly, his legs twisting unnaturally as a broken bone popped out of the skin, “You…will never find him…” His breath wheezed again as he tried to keep from showing weakness. “You will never…”

Suddenly, there was the sound of something metal slamming down onto the ground, and something popping painfully. The man screamed and writhed as Alexa watched the torture. It’s necessary. They took Remmy. They took him, and they’ve infiltrated our ranks. Besides, he deserves it.

They had found a plant—someone who had taken Remmy’s face and had been spying on the town. He had managed to take down an entire room of gang leaders—or at least tried. Though if he really wished to succeed, why didn’t he wait until we were all alone? Why didn’t he pick us off one by one? Unless they expected other plants in that room. Unless they thought that other gang leaders would have died and been present…

Alexa pushed a pale strand of hair away from her face, feeling her features lock into the stony façade she was becoming so used to. I’m so tired of not knowing the truth. I’m so tired of this bullshit. Her eyes drifted toward the two others in the tent beside the plant: Sparrow and Smiles.

Sparrow’s face was locked into something vicious; his warped features twisted by peeling skin and exposed muscle. His dark coat made him all but invisible in the night as he reached for another tool—another way to torture. Smiles sat quietly nearby, her knife raised in case the plant tried to escape. The faint glint of glasses hidden behind her black mask flashed in the gloom as her small form shifted slightly.

Alexa gritted her teeth slightly, jerking her head into the night behind her, “The others want to talk to him. Finish what you’re going to finish, and let the others take him.”

Sparrow glanced toward Alexa briefly, his voice rumbling low, “You might want to be careful with that.” He reached toward the man on the ground, his fingers twisting in something. The plant gasped, crying out briefly. Sparrow spoke again, his voice quieter this time, “Very careful.”

Alexa watched for a moment, eyes scanning what she could see of Sparrow’s face, “I know.”

Sparrow shoved the man toward the entrance of the tent—a ragged sack of meat and bones and bloody cloth that fell into Alexa’s arms. She dragged him out, turning as dark figures approached across the open field surrounded by trees.

“Give him to me.” The voice was stern and rough, belonging to a Yorker with hunched shoulders, grey beard and hair, scars, and a ratty shirt. Alexa watched the old man for a moment before pushing the plant toward him. Chuck will get what’s needed.

Chuck grabbed the man hard, his mouth snarling as he shoved his hand into an open wound in the man’s back. The man screamed, jerking spasmodically as Chuck shouted, “Where is he?!”

“You’ll…”

“Where is he?!”

“He’s….with…”

“Where is he?!”

The man screamed again and then let out a low whimper, body still jerking, “He’s…Shambletown. He’s near…”

Chuck stared at the man for a moment and then shoved him to the ground in disgust. He glanced to the others with him, jerking his head toward one end of the field, “Let’s move.”

Alexa merely stood as the others walked away, her eyes fixed on the body before her. The man was shaking slightly, trying his best to crawl away despite his wounds—despite the fact that he was tied up. Alexa grabbed his arm and roughly jerked him to his feet, eyes flickering over his bloodied, mangled features. I wonder how long he’s been here. She set her mouth into a thin line. You could have made allies with the enemy rather than with a friend, Alexa.

Stars silvered the field in front of her, turning darkness into faint light. A cool wind blew through the branches of the surrounding trees as she started dragging him, following the others. He needed to be put somewhere safe for the time being.

His voice rasped out at her, hoarse from screaming, “Alexa, you’ve become what you…always hated, you know.”

She ignored him, continuing to drag him forward. Still as stone. Don’t listen. He just wanted to get a rise out of her anyway—probably wanted her to kill him.

“You’ve become what they trained you to be. Puppet of House. Puppet of Dantes. Puppet of Barnes. Puppet of…”

Still as stone. Alexa waited for that twist in her gut—that moment where she felt sick to think of what she’d done. Her brow furrowed as she continued forward. I do hate being a puppet—he has that right.

“You have become the perfect killer—just like they wanted.”

Alexa paused for a moment, glancing to the man she was dragging. A faint smile was on his face; he knew how to push the right buttons. He knew she would react. And shouldn’t I? She waited for that feeling—that tugging bit of conscience. She waited for the guilt. She waited for any type of feeling at all.

And then she slowly realized that it wasn’t going to come.

She looked down at him and murmured three words, “I don’t care.”

~

“Sometimes you have to embrace what you are. And I think I have finally found peace with myself—for good or ill.”

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