Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chapter 37 On the Run

Alex breezes quickly through the decayed city. Not even the soles of his shoes make a sound though we hurry, running through spots with no cover.

My shoes slam into the crumbling tar surfaces when we run past open spaces, but he never shushes me or makes me run quieter. We push forward, walking quickly for the most part, because after the sprints my breath comes hard.

By midday, we're close to the edge of the city and surrounded by the longest abandoned buildings showing the worst signs of decay. The rays of the sun bounces off of all the city surfaces-- the walls of the buildings, the concrete and tar covering the ground. My body sweats in places where skin meets skin, like my armpits which have probably stained my shirts with dirt and dust from the city sticking to the dampness.

With the sun high overhead, Alex stops us in a small alley between two old buildings close together that offer protective shade. He takes the water canteen out of the bag and hands it to me to drink from first as he looks around, listening like a cat with twitchy ears.

So far, things have been clear. If there are people looking for me, it's possible we've outrun them and are ahead. Alex takes no chances though.

The water, slightly lukewarm, fills my mouth and I swallow it with one big gulp that hurts. It's too tempting to drink more when I know we need to ration it, so I put the lid back on and tear my eyes away from it to resist the temptation. Alex needs some too.

I look up at him but don't call out as he cautiously steps to the edge of the alley. It looks like he's listening for something so I don't make a move or a sound. Alex stops just as another man comes into view.

The other man glares at Alex and crosses his arms. "Aw, fuck. It's you." He's not a tall man. His body is thick with bands of muscle covered in an old dirty tee shirt. Around his neck he wears a thick collar. He doesn't look happy to see Alex. Not until he notices me.

I haven't made a move, but the second he sees me, his face brightens, and the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Instinctively, I take a step back though Alex stands between us.

"I let you live. Let us pass." Alex stands tall, his hands balled at his sides.

The man scowls at that. It's clear that he won't back down.

Alex takes a step towards him and a slightly dazed look crosses the face of the man in front of Alex, but then he shakes it off. "That shit didn't work last time either." He shapes his lips as if to whistle, and before he has a chance, Alex is on him, slamming his fist into his face and knocking him back.

I run to the edge of the alley and stop just short of leaving it as if it will provide some means of protection for me if there is anyone else near by. The man grabs onto Alex with a grunt and tries to pull him down to the ground. Alex fights him, refusing to go down, though I can see him straining against the grip of the larger man.

When I hear the strained chuckle of the stranger, I snap out of it. Alex needs my help somehow. I look around for something I can hold in my hands and use against him. Despite all the abandoned buildings, there are no scraps laying around that I can use for weapons.

I'm half ready to attack him with my bare fists when the stranger laughs again. "Pretty little girl. The others'll like her." His breath is heavy as he struggles with Alex. He sucks in a large breath and expends it calling for the others. "Hey! Where are you, bastards?"

I freeze and listen for the footsteps of others approaching. There is no movement elsewhere on the street except for Alex and the stranger.

Alex suddenly breaks free, twisting his body with a groan and sliding out of the grasp of the larger man. He pulls a knife from somewhere on his body and, using the same momentum that let him free, jumps forward and attacks.

The stranger is off balance and on the defensive, using his forearms to deflect the attacks. Alex moves forward quickly, striking fiercely. A normal person would be torn to shreds, but the stranger doesn't look to have much more than scratches. Alex is aiming to maim, possibly to kill. This is like a more intense version of the fighting I'd seen when he was just playing. This is the real thing. And he can't lose.

Alex aims for the throat, but the large forearms block him. The one time he does get an opening, the knife nicks off the collar and scrapes against the skin under the stranger's chin and up to his ear. That bleeds right away, much more than his forearms. It's probably why he wears the collar. His throat is a weak spot not covered in bands of muscle.

They move too fast. It's difficult for my brain to keep up with the movement. Not until Alex finds a chance to smash his fist into the face of the other guy causing him to trip backwards and fall down. Alex stomps on the man's face hard enough to make the back of his head bounce off the cement.

The stranger stops moving then, and Alex kneels by him, the same way Jimmy did that first week so long ago, with his knife poised over the man's throat ready to cut over the collar. I gasp as I realize what he intends to do.

Alex turns at that. The man on the ground isn't moving, but he still breathes. If Alex doesn't do this, he will probably come after us. I realize this. So I look away. I turn away and walk into the alley to pick up the bag with the food and water in it.

As I toss it over my shoulder, the soft sound of dried grass crunching underfoot make me look up. Alex stands at the end of the alley, a hand on the building.

"I didn't." He says.

"He'll follow us. Won't he?"

I step over to him, checking him over for wounds or bruises. Other than a rumpled shirt with some spots of blood, most likely from his opponent, there isn't much else that I can see.

"He won't."

Alex sounds very sure about it. The body still lays behind him, unmoving. Alex tries to take the bag from me, but I push his hand away and encourage him to lead on. This is our last day in the city. Tonight we'll be sleeping out in the open. In the Wildlands proper.

Next Chapter -->


  1. Yikes, how did I miss this? I blame Blogger and the stupid way they count the time the draft is started as the posting time instead of the actual posting time >:(

    That must have been pretty shocking for Paula, seeing Alex fight like that, even though she already has some sense of what he's capable of. Curious to see how their night in the Wildlands turns out. Hopefully they don't encounter too many problems.

  2. So it would appear that the effectiveness of Alex's ability varies from person to person. As though the mindset of the victim can overpower it to some extent, if that makes any sense. I wonder how many men are with the assailant, they certainly weren't too quick to come to his aid. Guess he isn't at the top of anyone's list XD.

  3. So Alex's ability doesn't work on everyone. That makes sense; he would be a very dangerous man indeed if he could control everyone just by catching their eyes. I've got about a dozen questions about that but their strictly for my own curiosity so I'll let them go ... for now.

    Interesting that Paula realises Alex has no choice but to kill the stranger and turns away to let him do it, but he is the one who makes the decision to let him live (again, it seems). I doubt the stranger will be any more grateful for that the next time they meet and I have to wonder what makes Alex so damn certain that it isn't a mistake to leave him alive.

    And where are the strangers buddies? Or was he just saying that as a tactic to put Alex off balance, getting Alex to change his beat as he prepares for more and hopefully take advantage of that.

  4. Seems as if Paula is adjusting since she understood that he'd have to kill him. I'm such a hopeless romantic that it's sickening! I thought it was sweet that he didn't kill him, for her?

    I hope they don't encounter too many more of these strangers! My heart would break if something happened to either of them!

  5. I wonder if it's that Alex's ability doesn't work on everyone, or if it was that the stranger knew what Alex was trying to do, so he was able to shake himself out of it. Maybe Paula could have done the same thing when Alex used his power on her, if she'd had any idea.

    Interesting that everyone else is assuming that Alex didn't kill the guy because I would have assumed that he did and that he was lying to protect Paula. He certainly looks dead and Alex seems very sure that he's not going to come after them. You couldn't be 100% sure of that unless he was dead.

    Sleeping out in the open in the wildlands? Sounds like a high potential for danger there!

    Anyway, great update!

  6. Van, you didn't miss anything. You responded minutes after I posted it. I think that's a record for me, lol.

    You're right. It would have to be shocking to see. As for the rest, we'll see next week. I am looking forward to pictures of the woods I will admit, lol.

    Migy, yes, I do think the mindset of the person he's trying his little trick on is important. A person who knows it's coming and is stubborn enough could fight it.

    And apparently, no, he isn't, lol.

    Illandrya, lol! I love the "...for now." Ominous! Perhaps one of these days we should have a discussion about it. It's good to bounce ideas off others. But yeah, I don't see Alex's power being very simple, though it is effective and still dangerous. But a lot of it depends on the person he's facing and the situation.

    Oh you ask a really good and important question here! Two actually.

    Also, you're probably right that the stranger won't be any more grateful the second time around, lol.

    Qui, she's trying. I think she's still uncomfortable with the idea though. Haha, I thought it was sweet too actually that he felt a need to not do it and come back and tell her that he didn't.

    Well there is the end goal, so we'll see where they go from there!

    Carla, I think it's a little bit of both. One on one with no distractions plus this guy has fought with Alex before. Paula might be able to fight Alex if he tries it again, if the thought occurs to her.

    Ha, good point! I will confess I didn't even think about it, but you've made some good points.

    Thank you.

  7. I'm so late and I've been so anxious to find out what's happening!

    Did Alex really spare the guy for Paula? I have to admit I love her attitude. She seemed to treat it as almost sentimental on Alex's part. More and more I see her mother in her.

    Alex had some difficulty overcoming the man, or did I misunderstand that? If he was confronted by a large group, he's not as powerful as he seemed to be.

    I love the interactions, and the way the dry grass crunched, and the fact that Paula simply turns her attention to something else.

  8. SB, aw, it's okay. I'm glad you stopped by at all!

    You know, I'm surprised at how much she's like her mother too, lol. I do see more and more of her mother in her. Not always a great thing, but better than nothing!

    No, you understood perfectly. Alex did have trouble with this guy. He has a good power, but it's not as easy as it looks even for him!

    Thank you! I was a very nervous about this chapter writing all action. It was tough for me. I'm glad you got it!

  9. Wow, you shot this beautifully. I like the way we're seeing subtle shifts for both Alex and Paula but I fear for them, it's not like there are many happy endings in their world.

  10. I heart your photography skills Lunar! You have a keen eye for telling your story visually and by the written word.

    I like the contrast between Alex's quiet movements and Paula's loud - skill versus innocence, nice!

    Also, I wonder - perhaps the guy isn't dead physically but mentally. Could Alex, having removed his collar, been able to use his skill to kill his mind? Maybe his will? He wouldn't be a threat but he wouldn't exactly be dead either. Hmmm....

    The mind just fills with possibilities.

  11. Rad, wow, thank you. I was under-impressed with my shots this time around.

    It's true, there aren't many happy endings in this world.

    Velvet, aw, thank you!

    Yes, that's it exactly. Skill vs. innocence.

    Oh that's an interesting thought. I wonder if Alex would be capable of that? My opinion on the powers is that they vary based on the personality of the user. So while two people may be telepathic, they wouldn't use the powers the same.

    Alex probably has all sorts of untapped ways he could use his power that might never occur to him.

    It is fun to think about and interesting to hear your opinion!

  12. It isn't easy to describe an action scene, but you did wonderful here, the sights, sounds, Paula's reaction. Flowed beautifully.
    I am surprised Alex didn't finish the job, hope that doesn't come back to bite him in that firm ass of his.

    And sleeping outside? Some potential for body-warmth cuddling, perhaps.

  13. With the whole Alex thing, it seems to me that after the person had been beaten down, he was probably more susceptible to his powers, so he could of just made the guy look at him in his daze and make him sleep....for a day or two... After everything else that's happened, I can't see Alex lying to Paula again. Though I guess he could of just maimed the guy.

  14. Well, crap.

    I apparently hallucinated about commenting on this chapter--I wasn't sure whether I did or not, and then I check and blargh! No comment. I'm very sorry! I think I read this the day you wrote it, but certainly the day memory skills have been taking a dive lately. :(

    Like the others, I wonder if Alex let the man live because of some reason connected with him, or if he did because Paula's first reaction was horror. It's amazing to see her stern lecture to herself, though--the thought that the man should be killed because he'd follow them seems like something the Paula we first met would never have endorsed. She's becoming more survival-minded in this situation, and I'm thinking that is a good thing. It also makes me think that Henri's approach all along shouldn't have been to keep her under lock and key if he wanted her to understand and appreciate why his tribe is the way it is, but to expose her to the reality of that place as soon as possible so that she could form the requisite attitudes.

    Sorry if that comment is incoherent. I suspect that all my brain cells are going to my baby, so I'm getting dumber by the minute.

  15. I'm finally caught up, and what a great chapter it was too :)

    This is definitely getting intense, I'm loving every minute of it, fantastic job.

  16. Drew, thank you. It was rather difficult for me, so I'm glad it worked out.

    lol! We'll see.

    Thank you for your comment!

    Migy, it's possible! Alex does seem rather sure that he won't be following them, so he must know something.

    Rachel, lol! It's okay. Thank you for coming back to comment.

    You're right. The old Paula would have been mortified at the thought. She's still mortified, but more accepting that it must be done.

    You're right. Henri probably shouldn't have kept her under lock and key. Ironically, Brandon tried to do the exact same.

    lol, you make perfect sense. Thank you for commenting!

    poida, thank you! We're so close to the end!

  17. This was a wonderfully executed action piece. I love it. It also shows a less than gentle side to Alex which I think is what these two will need more of as they approach the Wildlands.

    I was surprised Alex didn't kill the man. Maybe he isn't as hardened as Jimmy or my guess is more along the lines that he cares what Paula thinks of him and doesn't want or can't bear to see that look in a person's eyes when they've seen you do something monstrous and won't ever forget it.

  18. Carnaxa, thank you! I was really terrified of doing the writing of an action piece. Yes, they will definitely need this side to Alex. It's sort of a change that has come over him as he's moved out from the Southlands into the Wildlands, if it makes sense. In the Southlands, he can be cute and innocent, but as they move away from the comfort provided there and closer to his old life and his daughter, he does have to become tougher.

    I'm glad you're surprised. I admit I was a little too. But... well, we'll get back to this at some point, lol. (Love dropping clues)

    You're right though. I think he honestly cares what Paula thinks of him. Even if she thought she could handle it, he probably wouldn't want too risk it.

  19. Wow, that writing! That was vivid! If this were a movie, I'd be cringing and hiding my face in my hubby's shoulder, lol! (I'm a lover, not a fighter - more kissing please?) ;) But yes, very effective indeed!

    I'm very glad Alex won that fight! And I'm also very surprised (and proud?) of Paula in that she understood Alex might have to kill this guy - and was even at one point ready to grab something and jump into the fight herself! She's growing tougher by the minute out here!

  20. Laura, lol! But, aw, thank you. You know it means a lot when you say these things. (Though I'll shoot for more kisses, lol.)

    I had the same reaction to Paula too. I was surprised and proud of her. It only seemed natural after all this time that she's finally coming to understand the ways here, and even willing to get in the fight herself if she can.

  21. Wow, Paula has matured so much, I don't even think of her as a teenager anymore, her innocense is slipping away so quickly during this trip. I really look forward to seeing her by the end of this arc, I wonder how her interactions with Henry will have changed, because I hope they'll be going back together. I do wonder what on earth Henry will have to say to Alex though...

  22. Willow Weeds, it's true. She hardly feels like a teenager anymore. We'll see when she's reunited with Henri how she acts and if she's changed that much. Oh and what Henri will say to Alex, lol.