I Got Your Back

Back to back, Eli and I looked around in the deepening dark. I could see my breath.

“We’re gonna have to run for it,” Eli said, panting.

“You first. I got your back,” I told him.

“With what?” Eli laughed.

“Fuck it, let’s just go together,” I said.

“On three?” he offered.

In the distance, there was a gunshot.

“Sure. THREE!” I shouted, and we grabbed for one another’s hand. Running like hell, we jumped over potholes, snowbanks, public newsboxes, planters, curbstones, old piles of brush. While we were running for our lives I didn’t think of Cole laying in the parking lot, already cold, already done bleeding.

When we came around the last turn, I felt a stab in my side — a stitch that felt like a meathook buried in my flesh. I let go of Eli’s hand as I stumbled, but he caught me and pulled me up.

“C’mon,” he rasped. “Don’t fuckin fall down yet, nancy-boy,” he teased.

“M’gonna tell Addie you’re cruel,” I panted, struggling to keep up. Up ahead of us, the vans were idling, ready to go. Thuy was hanging out the driver’s side door of the middle one, screaming for us to hurry up — the third van wasn’t on, or idling. The doors were open, and it was empty.

As we neared, I could see Lydia on the pavement, a bullethole through her left eye. The meat of her kept twitching, while something wispy and black rose and dissipated from her lips.

“Let’s go!” Thuy howled. “Jesus fuck, they got everyone!”

“Addie?” Eli said, stopping dead in his tracks, his eyes huge.

“I’m here!” she called from the first van, in the driver’s seat, looking exhausted, but determined. “Don’t stop running. C’mon!”

Eli hauled me to the van with Addie and shoved me inside, getting in and pulling the door shut. The engines revved, and we peeled away, laying rubber and putting as much distance between us and Nothington as possible.

When we pulled away, this time, having lost all but the last four of us, I expected Eli to tell me ‘I told you so.’

I certainly wouldn’t have blamed him.

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