Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chapter Sixteen: The End

Allyson could see Archer's words floating like plumes of smoke across the air in front of her. She felt somehow outside of herself, like she was witnessing the whole revelation from far away - from a safe place. How can this be? she asked herself over and over. These two men, the two people who seemed to care about her the most, were betraying each other over her. What had she meant to them?, she wondered as she watched herself shake her head, push her plate of rations away, get up, and run out of the cafeteria. As the door to the room slammed shut behind her, she was suddenly in herself again, feeling every beat of her heart, and every emotion flitting across her mind's eye.

She ran forever, through the twisting halls of the bunker. She needed to find Tyler - she needed to tell him everything that had happened this day. It had to end. One way or another, it was going to end. The Returners needed to survive and they needed to be strong - especially on the inside. This petty infighting would only cost them everything they had worked so hard to accomplish - what she had worked so hard for. In her emotional haze, she wasn't quite sure where the meeting hall was - she was sure Tyler was there - but her instinct fueled her and she felt that she was heading in the right direction. Around one bend, then another, and then the large metal double doors - she had arrived.

Allyson threw open the doors and entered with determination - tears welling up and threatening to uncover her inner turmoil. She took two steps and then stopped. Her eyes grew wide - there were no words for this - her body froze in terror and her throat closed in shock.

The meeting hall was devastated - the metal table was dented to the floor, papers scattered about in all corners. The hall was empty save two men. Tyler stood in the middle of the hall, his shoulders heaving and his breathing loud. He showed clear wounds on his arms and chest, but he was not faltering - adrenaline was staying his fatigue. Allyson was shocked to see Tyler in this way - she could only vaguely remember the last time he had returned injured with the scar - but she was horrified by what she saw next.

It was Dorian. He lay face-down on the cool concrete floor of the bunker. A small pool of darkness spread out underneath him. He wasn't moving. At all.

"Tyler!" Allyson broke out of her trance - she regained her breathing - and she hurried across the room to Tyler.

"Stay back Allyson!" He put his hand up to stop her, but he was not facing her. He was still transfixed by the scene in front of him. "Don't come any closer." He slowly turned his face to her.

"We need to get out of here. They're on their way."

Allyson's brow furrowed. "I ... I don't understand, I thought you said this place -"

"They know, Allyson. They know about this place. It was ... him." He pointed without feeling to Dorian's body. "I caught him leaving the communications room in a big hurry. He ... he didn't have clearance to be in there, so I was suspicious. I confronted him about it, and he suddenly attacked me. We fought our way in here, and then ... this."

"Oh God, Tyler - what did Dorian do?" She looked at Tyler. She waited with anticipation, but she knew what was coming. Somehow, she knew, and it secretly terrified her.

"Before he lost consciousness, he said 'They're coming, Tyler. You've lost. They know you're here, and they know Allyson' s here. Deiana's on her way.' That's why we need to go - we need to make it to Triss' by tomorrow. Who knows how close they -"

The bunker's alarm system punctuated his thought. Suddenly, the lights in the bunker went out, and the deep red alarm lights replaced them. Allyson looked around in terror, not understanding what this all was.

"Oh God, Tyler ... are they-"

"Yes! We've got to get out of here - come on!"

She felt his sweaty grip on her arm and then she was being pulled out of the destroyed meeting room - out through the double doors - and then back into the maze of corridors. Thoughts, questions, they were are pushing against her mind - her head felt heavy and it throbbed. It was overwhelming. She was swimming in her confusion and terror. She was drowning in it all. Allyson had lost track of where she was until she heard Tyler's voice screaming to her.

"Allyson, God dammit! Listen to me! You've got to keep up, we need to get to the southeast exit!" She looked into his hard eyes - he was trying so hard to be kind to her, and she knew it - and nodded quickly. The pair ran past armed men heading in the opposite direction, trying to head off the attack. The alarm sounding throughout the close quarters was deafening, along with the screaming of orders and the panic of the others. It was chaos.

"Just a little more to go, Allyson!" Tyler released his grip and she suddenly felt alone and scared, like a child. "Hold up here, I'll go on ahead and make sure the exit is clear."

"Hurry back Tyler!" She yelled after him as he disappeared around the right-hand bend.

She did not have to wait. All she heard was the shot fire. Then, everything seemed to go silent. All Allyson could hear was one sound. Footsteps. Unsure, precarious footsteps. Tyler's footsteps.

He appeared slowly from around the corner, still looking towards the exit. He didn't even have a chance to look at her as his body began to slump down towards the cold ground. Allyson felt herself scream, but she couldn't hear it. There was no sound now. All she could do was look down at Tyler's body, slowly writhing into death on the ground in front of her. As if to draw the curtain over him, shadows appeared, covering over Tyler and entering into the main hallway. She couldn't see anyone, but she knew they were there. Then she heard the voices.

"There she is, Williams - Allyson Rhodes - target acquired. She's the one General Wilson wants. Take her."

The shadows began to move up the walls as the figures began to approach Allyson. There were three of them - huge, superhuman - and they covered the entire hallway. As the lead figure grabbed her arm - and was not alone any longer - suddenly everything went dark. The hood flew over Allyson's head and was pulled tight around her neck. The voice spoke once more.

"Here's a message from your sister, Ms. Rhodes."

They were the last words she remembered hearing.

It was like being born into the arms of a concrete wall. Except less lovingly.

She could feel a bone break - or at least what she imagined a bone-break felt like. She was definitely bleeding, from her knees and elbows from being thrown to the ground at the very least. She knew that much, but little else. The hood over her head took more than her sight - she felt completely swallowed in its thick, suffocating fabric. This has to be a nightmare, she thought between nerve endings screaming from one end of her to the other. The feeling of many hands groping, clawing, scratching at her body, it was like an experience that no one knows, but everyone thinks about in their darkest fears. And just when she thought that she had to wake up - that it couldn't get any worse without her brain shutting down -

The night was dark - pitch black, stars looking away in horror and shame. The night was dark, and it was cold. Allyson could only feel the darkness - the cold she knew already. The night was dark, and it was cold.

And the dawn could only flicker against the horizon. The night was dark, and it was cold. And it would be long.


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