Chapter 19: Trapped

John waited until he heard Alexander’s death throes wind their way out of the cellar. Then he ran.

The door had emptied him into the mansion’s backyard, a jungle of waist-high grass. He forged his way through, making a wide circle around the house until he was heading for the village. He could feel the shadow of the mansion looming over him, spreading its black fingers into every nook and cranny as the sun slipped helplessly away. He could sense its empty windows staring down into the deserted streets, searching for him, angry that he’d escaped its trap.

He’s dead. Alexander’s dead, he thought, and I still haven’t found Anna!

John’s numb legs carried him through Hallowdale and finally dumped him at the door to Tom and—no, just Donna’s house now. There he knelt in the dirty street and sobbed. The sun vanished, gone to its grave beyond the hills, and a sepulchral wind spread black clouds across the sky. Icy rain began to fall, threatening a turn to snow. When his tears finally stopped, John stood and went inside.

Donna was in the living area, sitting across from a weak fire. Her face was stony, her eyes red-rimmed and blood-shot. She just sat there, void of emotion. “She took the other one.”

John nodded as he collapsed in front of the flames. They didn’t warm him.

Donna glanced down and took in his appearance. “You’re foot is bleeding.”

John was surprised to find it was. He must’ve stepped on a sharp rock or something during his flight from the mansion. He hadn’t even felt the pain.

“Will you wait for the truck next week?”

“I can’t,” John muttered. “Not until I find Anna.”

Donna’s stony face softened a little. “You won’t find her. She’s gone, just like Kyle. There’s no undoin’ it now, but you can move on. Get on that truck next week, if you survive till then.”

“I can’t. I promised her.”

Donna nodded slowly, her eyes full of understanding. “Then you can stay here. You’ll never get your wife back, but maybe you’ll see her now and again. It’s what we all do, hold on for the hope of a glimpse. Even if we never see ’em, we feel ’em in the air. Changed. Terrible. Beautiful. Not like us anymore. Us, we’re just cattle, awaitin’ our time for slaughter.” A tiny smirk twisted her lips. “I guess you are stuck here with us. No escapin’ for you.”

“Why not?” asked John angrily.

“’Cause I can tell you all this. She don’t let us talk to outsiders. That’s why we couldn’t warn you at first.”

The rest of the evening was quiet. Donna and John sat by the fire until it choked itself out, then John retired to Kyle’s room. He didn’t think he’d be able to sleep, but the day of searching, running, and being afraid left him feeling old and worn, and it was so easy to let go…

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