Silence, like drifting feathers after a pillow fight, floated down over the clearing. The look of anger and determination in the girl’s eyes changed to a look of realization and then to worry. Reality set in, the reality of what she had done, the reality of her innocent past lost, and the reality that she had taken the life of another, seemed to wrap itself around her neck.
Decker’s reality changed too. His reality, up until that point, was that he was to be a hero. His dreams told him that much, but his perception of how he was to be that hero had been different than what it was turning out to be. He had believed that he would end up wielding a sword and fighting demon-like creatures in a world where civilization was nothing more than a thing of the past, and a goal to reclaim. The warrior in his dreams showed him a dystopian world of chaos, of destruction, and cities on fire with children screaming for their mothers.
There was no doubt in Decker’s mind that the blood splattered girl in front of him was that warrior. Her worried silver eyes, lack of tattoos and scars or not, told him that much. And she, indeed, needed a hero at that point, for without him she was doomed to suffer a life surrounded by prison bars. He could already hear the barking of Jacob’s father’s dogs approaching, which meant that he had already been alerted to what was going down.
“I did this!” Decker announced to his cronies. His announcement was met by dumbfounded stares. “Do you hear me?” he asked, looking around to each member of his gang. “Everything that you saw the girl do, everything that happened, came from me. You all were trying to stop me. You all saw that I had gone crazy and you all tried to stop me!” he added.
His cronies started to come back to reality. They took turns looking at each other stupidly, but the barking of the dogs was getting louder and they all sensed the coming doom.
“We don’t have much time! Tell me that you understand,” he begged.
“But …” Cree’s brother began.
“But nothing! You all have been listening to my rants and going along with what I’ve said; I’ve told you all about my dreams and what those dreams said was coming. I’ve told you all about the warrior that was in my dreams and you’ve all said that you believed me! She,” he said pointing at Whitney, “is that warrior! I am no longer the leader of the Onyx Ravens. She is! From here on out, if she ever needs any of us we will come to her aid! Do you understand?”
At first it was as if their thoughts were wading through tree sap. Their movements and responses were slow and reluctant, but Decker’s message was cutting through the sludge. They were all smart enough to know that trouble was on the horizon and Decker was offering them all a way out of it. He was telling them that he would take the fall, and on top of that, that they could also say that they had tried to stop him.
“Yeah,” they all began to say one at a time. “Sure Decker, whatever you say man.”
Decker walked up to Whitney and took the staff from her hands. At first her grip was unrelenting, but she let it go. Decker made sure that his hand prints were all over it from top to bottom. Then he went to Cree, began to scoop some of his blood from his chest, and wipe that all over him. “After I killed him I did this to celebrate my victory over him, got it?”
He pointed to Cree’s brother. “I tossed a necklace over there,” he said moving his finger to where the necklace was. “Get it and give it to her. She’s going to need it.”
Cree’s brother walked over to it, picked it up tentatively as if the necklace were a rattle snake instead of a stone on a chain, and brought it to the girl. He gently took her hand and slid the chain into it.
“Are you sure you want to do this Decker! I mean you’re going to go to prison for sure!” Cree’s brother exclaimed.
Decker marched up to him and stood before him. “I need you and everyone else to get committed to this. No matter what happens. No matter how many questions come, no matter how much pressure is put on you! I did this. I did all of it. Everything that you saw the girl do you say I did. Got it! Your brother died for a reason. Always remember that. If she gets pinned for this then your brother died for nothing! We will all need her later on! Even if you’ve never believed me before then believe me now.”
“Yeah but Decker, she don’t look nothing like what you said,” his cousin pointed out.
“The silver eyes, Ben! You see those, right? She don’t have the scars or the tatts, but other than that she looks exactly like a younger version of the girl in my dreams. Tell me you see that, Ben. Tell me that you are with me.”
“I’m with you, Decker. I don’t like it. She killed my fucking brother, but I’ll go along with it because you’re asking me to.”
The silence in the clearing was departing. The approaching dogs made sure of that and as the dogs closed the final gap to the clearing Decker’s staff began to whir to life.
“STAND BACK OR I’LL KILL YOU ALL!” Decker screamed at the top of his lungs. “I SWEAR TO GOD I’LL KILL YOU ALL!”
Tommy knew he had made a mistake by leaving Whitney in that clearing. He knew it as soon as he had done it, but his mind had been divided. There was a part of him that realized that Whitney needed him there, for guidance if nothing else. There was no doubt in his mind that she could handle herself when it came to fighting. She had proved that to him in the arena, and his dreams added to his understanding of that, but he also knew that it was his responsibility to make sure that Whitney was safe. Even if she could handle Decker and his gang didn’t mean she could handle anything that happened.
Jacob’s father was trailing behind him and the dogs were in front of him. Tommy wasn’t walking his way back to the clearing, he was running, and he was running with everything he had. His only hope was that Jacob’s dad wouldn’t trip over a rock and accidentally shoot him with the shotgun that he was carrying.
Tommy heard Decker scream out as his feet carried him closer to where he left Whitney. He heard him scream and he heard that his screams were threats and even though Tommy was running with everything he had before he heard the screams; he found it within himself to run even faster.
As soon as the dogs and his eyes entered the clearing, Whitney joined with him.
“Stand back Leighton!” Decker yelled at him as Tommy came to a halt. “Take one more step and I’ll ram this thing through you just like I did through Cree!” Decker was standing between himself and the body of one of his own cronies. Whitney was off to the side of him and her body was sprinkled with blood as if she were an ice cream Sunday instead of his sister.
A fog settled into Tommy’s mind, thick and cold like a block of ice, transparent and yet difficult to see through, his perceptions there, and yet as distant to his logical mind as if he were trying to read a letter (written with small lettering) from ten feet away.
Everyone was still positioned away from Decker, away from the dead body, and away from his sister, but looking to him as if he were the one that could provide explanations to the scene. He could provide no such answers. As a matter of fact all he could provide were questions and his mind also begged him to provide security for Whitney. He held his hand out to her; she slid both hands into the pockets of her jeans and slowly walked to him. When she got to him she lifted her hands, wrapped them around him, and hugged him tight with trembling arms. Her thoughts were empty as if his icy perceptions were somehow catchy and affected her own thinking, as well as his.
Jacob’s father had fallen behind, but finally reached the clearing, shotgun in hand, angry look spread over his face, like mashed potatoes splattered onto a plate. His dogs weren’t silent. They barked their accusations, directed toward Decker, but not limited to him.
“What the hell’d you do boy!” Jacob’s father asked.
“He tried to stop me!” Decker yelled, repositioning himself, staff in both hands as if he were the guardian of a tower. “He should have known better,” he added in a sinister, but calm tone.
“You put that thing down, Decker Albright. You put that damn thing down right now before I blow your God damned head off of you!”
“Go ahead, Jessup!” Decker replied. “You just go right ahead and make things right if that’s what you wanna do.” Decker took a step forward, his staff beginning to buzz through the air, his eyes focusing in on Jessup, wrists flexing, propelling the staff to quicker movement, and his feet bringing him forward.
Jessup’s gun roared and Tommy expected to see Decker fall. He did not. Instead the end of Decker’s staff exploded into shards, littering down behind him like solid raindrops. Somehow, Jessup’s aim had been true enough to shred the end of Decker’s staff, and it stopped Decker in his tracks. With his weapon destroyed, he suddenly seemed more compliant. He lowered himself to his knees, put his hands behind his head, and dropped so that he was face first amongst the grass. The sounds of sirens began to pierce the evening sky. Nobody dared to move. Not even Tommy, not even Whitney, as everyone waited to see what would happen next.