“I’mma kill ‘em!” Denver fumed peering out the bay windows clenching his fist. “I’mma kill every last one of ‘em!”
Denver couldn’t see anything. The rage that surged in his teak eyes blinded his vision. Images flashed in his mind. He had only felt rage like this three other times in his life. He was a level-headed dude, so he could play back every time he lost his cool like an old episode of Law & Order: SVU.
The first time he saw red was back in third grade at Copper Wood Elementary, Kenny Lillard shoved Asia down on the crisp summer grass because she didn’t want to be his girlfriend and give him a kiss. Kenny Lillard lost two front teeth that day courtesy of Denver’s blue on blue Nike’s. Denver was suspended for two weeks and had to receive therapy for anger. The judge referred his parents to a good therapist.
Denver managed his anger through seven incident-less years until ninth grade rolled around. Blockhead, needle nose Craig Fenmark activated his anger. The first day of school started off swell. His mother made his favorite breakfast; chocolate chip waffles and a raspberry smoothie. Asia’s big brother, Cole; drove Asia, Ethan, Eric, Oliver and Denver to school in his brand new four-door Dodge Ram. The sun was shining. The windows were down. J. Cole blasted through the speakers; all was well until they got out the truck and Craig dubbed him, Ethan, Eric, and Oliver Bitch Fish. Ethan shrugged Craig’s comment off and Oliver insisted it was just ritualistic high school hazing, normal protocol. Then 2:30 rolled around and in the crowed hallway a wide hand slipped across the back of Denver’s head accompanied with the words Bitch Fish. Denver didn’t know what happened, one second his backpack was draped on his shoulder and a second later he was bashing Craig’s blockhead into a circle with a geography textbook painting the walls burgundy. A month at an alternative school and Coach Lewis persuading him to funnel his anger into football curbed his lust to inflict pain.
Football cured him. It cured him until a year ago when he quit the team tired of it sucking up so much of his time. He wanted to focus more on his classes. The field of psychology began to intrigue him profoundly. He couldn’t get the theories of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud out his mind. He spent many of his evenings reading book after book on the fourth floor of the library. Until, one night he cut his study session short. It took ten minutes for him to walk back to the dorm. Denver swung open the dorm room door with haste; Asia and Ethan were taking him to Casino night at Kappa Gamma Sigma. All he needed to do was change and meet up with Emily. Surprise, surprise he didn’t have to search far for her. There she was in Oliver’s bed running him like she was a cowboy in a past life. Denver fumed, his nostrils flaring like a bull. Emily pulled herself off Oliver assuring Denver it wasn’t what it looked like. With one motion he pushed Emily to the side and wrapped his hands around Oliver’s neck. Denver and Oliver tore through the room like a tornado until Ethan and Eric finally ripped them apart.
Although Denver’s vision was blurred by ferocity his other senses were still working. His skin absorbed the dreadful dismay floating all around the cabin. He smelt the angst that sweated from their pores. He could taste the saliva in his mouth that tried to push down his trepidation. While his ears picked up the panic heavy in his friends’ loud voices.
Eric gently laid Ashlyn’s body on the sofa. He pushed a wet, matted clump of hair out of her blue-black face. He yanked the ivory blanket off the arm of the couch, shook it out and spread it over Ashlyn’s blood laced legs.
The noise that bombarded the living room earlier was now a distant memory. The music was off; the video game was paused on Yasmin’s man hiding behind a bullet-riddled sedan.
“She needs to go to the hospital.” Yasmin nibbled on her bottom lip. Her three years of biology classes didn’t prepare her for this. She could tell you what artery transported blood out of the heart and how to dissect a fetal pig but determining if Ashlyn had a concussion or brain swelling was way out of her expertise.
Asia held her lion’s mane hair out of her face, “The next town is eighty-five miles and Houston is a hundred and forty-two miles away.” She didn’t want to be selfish but she didn’t want to go to another small town she’d never heard of either.
Yasmin lowered herself on the coffee table and grabbed hold of Ashlyn’s warm hand. There was one thing she could tell without a medical degree, “Her pulse is faint.”
“We can’t just leave!” Eric paced. “We have to file charges! Tell the police.”
“Yes, we can! “ Jordan affirmed. “And we are! I’m not staying here!” He ran upstairs.
“Asia.” Eric pleaded for her levelheaded rationale.
“Maybe he’s right.” Asia looked up the stairs wanting to go pack her belongings too. “I didn’t see a police car for miles.”
“We’re not leaving!” Denver escaped the anger that clouded his vision. “Someone has to pay for what they did.”
“Who are you going to make pay?” Leslee threw her hands up. “We don’t know who did this.” She pointed to Ashlyn as tears flooded her eyes. “This whole thing is wrong. I want to go!” She backed-up towards the patio, she had to get Ethan. He’d know what to do. He always knew what to do.
“Run.” Ashlyn’s weak voice muttered from the couch.
“What?” Leslee stopped in her tracks.
Yasmin leaned in, stroked Ashlyn’s dirt streaked forehead. Ashlyn whimpered as her arms wobbled as she pushed herself upright. She wanted to cry but she couldn’t. Her tear ducts were on empty. She wanted to see their faces but she couldn’t. Her eyes were too swollen for her to open them
“Run?” Yasmin’s voice shuddered. “Run for what?”
“The Hunters.” Ashlyn’s mouth slowly moved. Her eyes danced behind shut eyelids. She wanted to say more but her brain was jumbled, shaken like an egg-free of its shell. She took a deep breath quivering from the placidity cloaking the room. “The Hunters are coming.”
“What is that suppose to mean?” Asia held onto the couch trying to steady her quaking knees. “Ashlyn! What does that mean?”
A low growl rumbled from Shaka’s body as he arched his back—the noir hair on the back of his neck erect, digging his claws in the floorboards with his golden eyes locked on the front door.
Ashlyn twisted her face towards the door trying to open her throbbing eyes. Light leaked into the moiety of space she could pull her swollen, purple eyelids up, “Their here!” Ashlyn’s chest heaved swiftly. Her bladder dropped as urine soaked into the couch cushion. “They’re going to kill us all.”
Eric leaped up, “We should go!” He whispered as if someone was listening to them. “We should go, now!”
Jordan ran down the stairs with his duffle bag draped around his shoulder. “What?” He asked looking at their shell-shocked faces. “What’d I miss?”
Leslee rushed pass Jordan, “I’m getting Ethan!”
“Wait!” Yasmin shouted holding up her hand like a traffic cop during rush hour. Every part of her froze. A stagnation only rivaled by the State of Liberty. Her heart, the only thing moving, thudded against her ribcage. “You hear that?”
They all stopped, slowed their breathing, clearing their minds of the apprehension that setup shop there. They listened.
“Ticking,” Denver said as he lifted Ashlyn off the couch.
Eric looked up at the oak beams in the ceiling with the low noise ringing in his ear. He’d heard it before. Sergeant Bullock played it at one of his ROTC drills. He called it intensive training. “Bomb!”
In two point five seconds Asia and Shaka got out the front door. In two point five seconds Eric, Jordan, and Yasmin yanked up the bay windows. In two point five seconds Leslee slid back the patio door. In two point five seconds Denver pushed Leslee out the door. In two point five seconds Ashlyn let go of Denver’s hand.
In two point six seconds, fire rained from the ceiling. In two point seven seconds, lumber splintered in the atmosphere. In two point eight seconds, glass shattered seeking a new home to slide into. In two point nine seconds, smoke-choked back oxygen-rich air. In two point ten seconds The Hunter’s loaded their guns. The hunt was on. Their mission started now.