Authors: E.R. Arroyo
I’m so proud of you.” It’s barely a whisper, and his eyes strain to stay open.
spill down my face as I press on his wounds. My voice is barely a whisper. “I
can’t lose you again. We’re getting you out of here.” There’s no way I can
carry him and Dylan.
listen.” He strains to breathe. “No anger. Just hope. And let people help
I cry with my head against his chest. Blood is everywhere. “I love you so
much. You can’t go. Your people need you. I need you.”
I am, you can be. All that I’ve done, you can do even greater things.” He
coughs and warm blood speckles my face.
I can’t, Dad. I can’t.”
forces out words between raspy attempts to breathe. “As long as you...fight
for what’s right...people will follow... you.”
wrong, I’m not a leader. I’ll never be as great as him. Never.
lay against his chest, sobbing hysterically. He manages to lift an arm and
stroke my hair once, then he stops moving. His chest stops rising and
falling. His heart stops beating. I press my fingers to his neck to check for
a pulse. I can’t leave him like this again, but he’s gone this time. Really
grabs me around the waist. He’s on his knees and barely able to hold himself
up, but he tugs me toward the door. “No!” I scream and I grab my father’s hand
one last time.
have to go,” Dylan mumbles. “We have to.” And he’s right. Together, we get
to our feet. Stumbling down the hall, we cling to each other.
we reach the elevator, I press the button. I help Dylan inside, then find
Vance. He’s gone, too, and another wave hits me. Everyone I love is gone.
Everyone but Dylan. I gag as I grab Vance’s body and drag him to the
lift him to scan his chip, and then his fingerprint. I cry harder as I heave
the body back into the hall and the elevator takes us up.
we reach ground level, the battle still rages, and it’s gotten worse. We spill
onto the ground behind enemy lines and half-walk, half-drag ourselves across
the lawn, hoping to go unnoticed. Dylan gets stronger by the minute, and
before long, he’s supporting his own weight. We jog toward the Underage
bullet hits the ground in front of us. Then behind us. Then one hits my thigh
and I go limp. Dylan keeps me on my feet, but I can’t put pressure on my leg.
shakes his head, squeezing his eyes shut. I can tell he’s fighting off the
need you to carry me. Please.” I clear my throat, tears stinging my eyes.
grunts as he lifts me, and I wrap my arms around his neck to help with the
weight. We move slowly, at first, but he tries to pick up the pace. I don’t
know how we manage not to get shot again.
can’t die, too, Dylan. Promise me. I can’t lose you.” I know I’m delirious,
but I can’t help it. Pain radiates through my entire body, and I think I’m
more injury than anything else at this point.
promise,” he says through gritted teeth. When a soldier comes after us, Dylan
fires my gun and the soldier stops.
we turn back toward the Underage center--toward freedom--Captain Marsiana
stands in front of us with her gun drawn and aimed at Dylan’s head. He stops
cold as panic overtakes us both.
can’t find the strength to speak, but I look in her eyes, begging silently for
her to let us go.
me with you.” She waits for me to nod before lowering her weapon and covering
us the rest of the way to the hole in the fence. She fires so many shots I
lose count, and eventually Dylan carries me through one of the massive openings
Max’s men made.
man’s land is covered in broken mines, and from the bodies we pass, I can see
that several of them were successful.
takes me all the way through the perimeter and into the woods. With Marsi on
our heels, he carries me all the way to the campsite, whispering things along
the way like, “Stay with me,” and “Almost there.” I cling to his shirt when he
sets me down, not wanting to let him go.
rushes to us. “Where’s Anthony?”
squall escapes me and I begin to sob all over again. I lost my father.
was killed, sir.” Dylan’s words are strained, but he keeps his hands gently on
my shoulders. “She’s been shot in the leg.”
nods, fighting back some sort of emotion on his face. With his jaw clenched
and his mouth set in a tight line, he kneels and assesses my gunshot wound.
“It’s through and through. We’ll get her fixed up in Mercy.”
around us, women and children are loaded into trucks, vans, and busses, along
with wounded soldiers. Our mission was a success. Yet it was the most painful
success I’ve ever known, or could imagine knowing.
lifts me again, and I groan. Then he sets me inside a car and climbs in beside
me. After wiping blood off both our faces, he holds me, comforts me, until the
vehicles start moving out.
I hope we’re not leaving anyone behind.
lay against Dylan’s chest with a fistful of his shirt, and he keeps his arms
tight around me. As we drive straight through to Mercy, I fall in and out of
consciousness and only vaguely remember Dylan wrapping my leg with something.
not right,” Dylan mutters.
eyes him through the rearview mirror. “What’s not right?”
should have been more soldiers than that. There should have been a lot more.
We should have been outnumbered.”
where were they, then?” Max glances over his shoulder briefly at us, then puts
his eyes back on the road.
we arrive at Mercy, I’m taken to a large space with a million tiny cots where
the wounded soldiers are being brought in. It takes a minute for me to realize
why I’m here: I’m one of them.
grab Dylan’s wrist. “You have to warn them about the withdrawals...the women.”
will.” He kneels beside my cot. “I wish you hadn’t come back for me. He’d
I prop up on an elbow with quite a bit of pain from a million injuries.
“Don’t. He didn’t die for you, he died for me.”
you almost died for me.”
Tears sting my eyes, but I try to bat them away. “I couldn’t leave Antius
without you. Not the first time, and not this time.” I grab the back of his
neck and pull his forehead to mine. “It’s you and me,” I whisper then kiss his
wrap my arms around him and feel something wet on his back. I pull my hand
away, and it’s covered in red.
around.” I pull his shirt up and find a gunshot wound in the flesh below his
shoulder blade. “You’re hit.”
slumps onto the cot next to mine, groaning. “I know. It hurt like hell.”
the longest time, we lie on our sides facing each other, and if so many lives
weren’t lost today--especially my father’s--I think I might be happy. And
someday I believe I will be. Because I choose it.
and I both go through simple surgeries and come out with a few stitches,
including the ones on Dylan’s eyebrow, and now we’re resting in a recovery room
with about fourteen other patients. Dylan made them scoot our beds close
enough that we could hold hands, but they forbade us from moving more than
that. And I wouldn’t want to. Purple-yellow bruises cover my ribcage, front
and back, and several mark my face as well. I have a gunshot wound in one leg,
and a stab wound from the metal fence scrap in the other. No, I don’t want to
a tap near the doorway, and Max stands there. His face is drawn, and he
approaches slowly. I try to sit up, but piercing pains keep me still.
you feeling?” Max holds his hands behind his back. He looks weird without a
death,” I say, with as much of a smirk as I can muster.
tiny grin comes and goes in a second. “We saved one hundred and ninety-six.
Women, children, and even a few men.”
I feel helpless lying here.
count thirty-six missing from our ranks.” He dips his head, looking at the
ground I guess.
sorry about your men.”
was a good sacrifice,” he says. “And so was your father’s.”
not worth my father’s death. And I only just got him back. I shake my head,
watching him through mounds of tears pooling in my eyes.
believed in you, Corinne. And so do I.”
nods. “You were right, you know,” he says, shifting his attention to Dylan.
“About the soldiers.”
happened?” He sits up even though he shouldn’t.
night when we attacked Antius, they attacked The City.” My thoughts
immediately jump to Tyce and his precious baby girl. And all those people,
does that mean?” I groan while I sit up, too. I can’t just lay here.
means we’re not done fighting.”
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