OXRO- Episode Nine

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Blood and Bone 

 Asia sucked the sodium-rich blood from her bottom lip. The fragile skin tingled as her espresso eyes watched the fire devour everything in sight including the pile of matchsticks that just moments ago were the place she sought shelter. She readjusted her back against Ethan’s car and dug her Converse covered heels into the gravel-laden driveway.

Asia had to do this quick because the fire was moving across the dry grass like fresh lava. She swiped a stream of sweat off her forehead then rested her hand on the back of Shaka’s muscular neck.

“Okay boy,” She inhaled looking up at the black cloud blocking out the yellow sun. “Here goes nothing.”

Asia should have clenched her teeth. Grinned her molars. Tears should have run from her eyes as she gripped the iceberg shard of glass lodged in her thigh. Blood poured down the sides of her mocha thigh as she pulled the shard from her raw flesh. The ridged edges of the glass split open the delicate skin on the palm of her hand as she pulled the shard up.

Asia’s guttural screech should’ve echoed through the barks of the ancient trees as the end of the glass scraped against her femur. Instead her gaped mouth exhaled a steady stream of carbon dioxide. She dropped the glass shard on the ground.

“Scar number four.” Asia rubbed her blood-drenched hands along the sides of her overall shorts. She braced one hand on Shaka’s back and the other on the hot ground, pushing herself up. She grunted as she straightened her wounded right leg out. She gasped in heavy deep breaths as she watched the scarlet blood slithered down her leg and soak her white converse.

A heavy crunch of gravel cancelled the measured movement of Asia’s lank chest. Shaka snarled as Asia slowly hobbled to the direction of the disturbance, directly behind her. Her eyes drew in the man, his brown North Face hiking boots with a Beretta PX4 in the laced-on holster, tan cargo pants, deep green tank, sculptured biceps, clean shaven head, and stern chestnut eyes. He raised his wrist to his mouth, “3345 is alive.” His orotund voice cut through the roaring fire.

“What’s 3345?” Asia limped around the car closer to him. Smoke travelled to her mouth giving way to a throaty cough. She used the back of her hand, free of the cut on her palm, to cover her mouth as another cough escaped through her lips. “Who’s alive?”

“Stop!” He ordered gripping the handle of the gun in the holster on his hip. “Do what?” He talked to the person Asia couldn’t see.

“Who are you talking too?” Asia inched closer as Shaka moved with her.

“I said stop!” He backed up pulling the Desert Eagle .50AE out of the holster. Asia froze. “She looks normal. I can’t.” He bit his bottom lip. “I know…it’s my duty.” He cupped his other hand under the gun handle.

Asia’s hands shot up. “Wait!” She locked her eyes with his feeling his intense heat burn into her skull, churning her frantic stomach. “You don’t have to do this. Whatever this is!”

“This is what I trained for.” He clearly uttered.

“I didn’t—” The sound of a bullet slipping into the gun’s chamber silenced Asia. She dropped to the ground like an anvil pushed over the cliff by Wiley Coyote. The heat from the bullet burned a river of fire into her shoulder as it flew by her. Pebbles sprinkled into her hair as Shaka leapt into the air.

Screaming, growling and chewing polluted Asia’s ears as she crawled to the kicking man. “Shaka! Heel!”

Shaka backed off the man quickly sitting down as blood dripped from his stained teeth onto the driveway.

Asia glared into the man’s dimming eyes as blood surged out the craters in his neck and shoulder. “Why?” Her eyes burned, more from the confusion and uncertainty that clouded her mind than the smoke that enveloped her.

His eyes stopped drinking in the fragments of clear blue sky not blocked by the smoke cloud and settled on Asia’s misting eyes. “It…is…my duty.” He coughed on the blood pooling in his throat. A river of blood glided out his mouth. “To activate you.”

“I don’t understand.” Asia propped his head against her knee as more blood flowed from his mouth.

“There’s a knife in the second pocket of my shorts on the left side.” He coughed then gasped for air. “Take it and drive it in my heart. Then you’ll understand.”

She irately shook her hand, freeing the tears that hung in her eyes. “You mean kill you.”

He clenched her hand that lay on his chest, “I mean activate you.” His eyes fluttered open and closed. “Do it. Do it, now.”

Asia squeezed her eyes closed with one hand in his; with her other hand resting on his second left pocket. None of this was making any sense. Her brain throbbed on the verge of exploding. “Bomb in cabin. Ashlyn attacked. Cabin exploding. Kill.” Her hand slid over the cold metal knife in his pocket. “Activation.” She pulled the knife out his pocket.

“This…is…your…duty.” He took her hand and held it over his chest.

The knife rattled against the gold crown ring on Asia’s finger as his faint hand dropped from hers.

Asia’s eyes settled on the flickering fire in front of them. Her mind transported her to a time where things were less complicated, where she was around the only people that truly mattered in her life. The sky was dark. The only light shone from the campfire in the middle of them as they hung out behind a curtain of pine trees. Crickets and owls provided the soundtrack for the night as their voices fell only on each other’s ears.

“Two marshmallows or one?” Eric dug in the plastic bag of white puff ovals.

“One.” Ethan tore the bag away from Eric with his red and black letterman jacket draped over his knee. “Smores only need one marshmallow.”

“Okay.” Oliver rubbed his hands together. “Story time.” His eyes shimmered behind the campfire.

Denver groaned wiping graham cracker crumbs from the scruff around his mouth. “Not another ghost story.”

Oliver peeled back the silver foil around the Hersey’s bar, “What’s wrong with ghost stories?” He sunk his teeth into the milk chocolate.

“Ghost aren’t real.” Eric clarified as he swiped the charred marshmallow off the stick with two squares of graham crackers.

Oliver licked the chocolate off his teeth, “Neither are vampires and werewolves but ya’ll love those stories.”

“I like stories with real villains,” Ethan affirmed plunging his stick into the fluffy marshmallow.

“Like who?” Oliver asked. “Maleficent.” He chuckled.

“I’m not the one that cried at the end of Lion King.” Ethan snarled.

“You’re the only one in America,” Oliver stated. “Everyone cried. Mufasa was a king.”

“How did we meet?” Asia’s quiet voice interrupted the silence that had fallen over them. “Because…. I don’t remember. I just know…one day… summer… I was getting on my bike and ya’ll were at the curb waiting on me and I already knew your names.”

“I take it back,” Denver confessed. “Tell a ghost story because she’s creeping me out.”

Asia pulled herself out of the memory. She steadied her trembling hand. “1…2…3…” She plunged the knife through his sternum and into his vital organ. His heart stopped. Asia gasped as he did, holding hers in as he released his last breath. She slid her hand over his face, closing his eyes as she slowly exhaled. Heat surged through every vein in her body as a slow trimmer quaked under every inch of her skin. She flexed her back as the fire swirled up her spine. She dug her nails into the back of her neck as the fire erupted into her cranium. Her mouth dropped. Her vocal cord opened as a visceral, animalistic scream ripped from her throat. The scream stopped. She closed her mouth and felt her eyes as a dull pain vibrated around her irises.

Run. Asia heard Ashlyn’s voice in her head. She pulled her knee from under his heavy, limp body and stood up pushing the tear away from her eye. She kicked off her Converse, slipped on his hiking boots, peeled the gun from his hand and did as friend instructed. She ran.

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