Chapter 42

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It was midday when Carl and I got back into Mortis. Even though I was having a great day, I couldn't shake this weird feeling. Why didn't Joan question me about Adam? I watched the leaves blow through the deathly silent town. Not a soul in sight.

"Lauren!" I turned to see a smiling Jo approach, his smile turned to a thin straight line when he caught sight of Carl next to me. "Can I talk to you?"

I turned to look at Carl and motioned for him to leave. He grumbled something incoherent but complied. He walked off into his own house with his shoulders slumped.
"What is it you need, Jo?"

"I need to talk to you." He smiled again and grabbed my wrist, leading me through the town.

"Why is everything so quiet?" I asked him and he shrugged.

"I don't really know. The guards seem to be missing and Joan was really off this morning. Maryse is sitting in the house, not saying a word. She's worried about something." Jo explained and sat down on the black metal bench behind the row of houses.

"What did you need to talk to me about?" I asked him again, my voice distant. Where could they all be? Why are the guards not guarding the gates?

"I-I wanted to tell you that I really like you." He blurted and looked to me for acceptance. I stiffened and turned my head from him.

"Jo- You know I can't. I-"

He cut me off with a deep sigh.
"It's him isn't it?"

I bit my lip and nodded slowly before rising and leaving Jo where he sat. I cared for him, but he was nothing more than a friend to me. I loved Carl and I couldn't betray him, even if we only made up. I sighed and cursed the whole situation. I was far from the bench when I finally stopped.

"Why does drama follow me everywhere?" I sighed and smoothed down my unruly hair.

"You seem to feed off it. You love the attention." Joan's voice echoed off the walls before she stepped into the light. She looked different, like she was about to do something really bad. She didn't seem bad when I talked to her the other times.

"What do you want?" My tone was more harsh than I anticipated. My nerves were getting the better of me.

"Do you know why I named this town Mortis?" She asked, dodging the question completely. Her wirey blonde hair wasn't tied back into an updo, like normal. It was down, reaching her shoulders, seemingly giving her a more crazy and intimidating look. I decided to play along with her game.

"No, I don't believe I do." I replied, my voice laced with annoyance and sarcasm. She chuckled and clasped her hands behind her back, earning her a warning stare.

"Mortis is 'Of Death' in Latin. This town was born of death. When the world was reduced to nothingness, we emerged. We are the survivors of the end of existence." She laughed. Nothing about this was right, or even remotely normal.

"What is this really about?" I asked and she flicked her gaze to the wall and back to me.

"Your words from the other night stuck with me," She began. "The world is broken and it is cruel. We were living in the past and I'm going to change that for the better."

"I'm glad you agree with me." My voice was cautious, and I backed against the wall of the nearest house to give me cover to place my hand over the hilt of my machete.

I was startled at the sudden commotion from around the town. The eerie quiet was quickly replaced by muffled shouting and screaming. I moved to go see what was happening but before I knew it Joan was upon me, her knife aimed at my chest.

"We decided that you have caused us enough trouble and we need to be rid of you. Permanantly. Firstly, I needed to disengage you with the others because of your inability to be easy to deal with." Joan's voice wavered but her dagger was firmly held at my chest.

"So kill us?" I cocked my head to the side curiously, even though my heart was pounding. "It's not your way, why not let us go?"

Joan laughed darkly.
"I'm sure you're an intellegent girl, and you know that I value the safety of my town."

I let her talk while I mentally estimated how long it would take for my blade to slit her throat before her knife came in comtact with my skin. I heard a scream and some more shouting, even some crying which I expected was from Judith. My blood boiled and the anger was becoming harder to control.

"I applaud you for your ability to hide your true nature from me. But you are out of practice, and are you sure you want to take me on?" I spat, hoping that she would re-think what she was about to do.

"They'll be here any second to take you to the others and rid you from this desecrated land." Joan growled but her hands shook. Although, I didn't doubt her ability to take a life.

I firmly grabbed the hilt of my machete and cut through the belt loop holding it in place. With one swing I could do it, if I aimed it right. I inhaled and stared at Joan, not trying to make it obvious. She gripped her dagger, waiting for the guards to rescue her. I exhaled and brought the tip of my machete upward with one hand, slicing into the soft skin of her abdomin.

Joan writhed and twisted, her body spasaming as I used both my hands to twist the blade inside her body. She looked up to me and a pool of red blood fell over her pink lips. Then she fell backwards, hitting the ground and leaving slick red blood on my machete. I snapped myself into focus and tore my eyes from her corpse. Loud footsteps were getting closer and closer to where I was, in between two white houses. I cursed and sprinted, making my way to the other side of the town.

"She's dead! That bitch killed Joan!" Someone yelled and my breathing quickened as I pushed myself through a door and into one of the empty houses.

I cursed and ran into the living room of the house, giving me a direct view of the pathway through the town. I couldn't see anything out the window, just some movement from down the road. I inhaled deeply and sprinted up the wooden stairs and into the master bedroom of the small two-story house. I found the window and kneeled down, pressing my forhead against the cool glass before gazing out to the town.

I wasn't ready for the sight that befell me.

There is no way out of this one.

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