The False Prophet

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The next morning, Hazen woke to screaming. Real screaming. He sat up from his mat and saw shadows of people running by his tent. They were shouting to each other in the local language he didn't know, but he head the panic in their voices.

A gunshot blasted from the direction of the temple, and Hazen winced.

After scrambling out of his blankets, he looked down at his tattooed body. He wore only boxers, but there was no time to dress in his robes. Sliding into his shoes, he flipped open the tent flap and exited into the freezing air.

Monks and nuns ran screaming and shouting from the main yard that stretched in front of the temple. They hurried by Hazen, seeking shelter.

"Renny!"

Hazen stooped to open her tent flap, but she wasn't there. He next went to Jazzmon's tent, then Oryan's with the same results. More monks ran around the corner of the temple, and Hazen saw they looked absolutely terrified.

Against any natural instinct, Hazen ran where the crowds were fleeing from. He turned into the front yard of the temple and saw monks running to the stables to hide. Still more monks and nuns hurried in the opposite direction into the temple doors, none taking the time to remove their shoes. Once enough of them had cleared the yard, Hazen saw the source of their fear.

A brown-haired, thin, tall man in European clothes stood in the center of the yard. He held a gun pointed at Oryan and Renny, who looked like they'd been working in the stables.

No, thought Hazen. Oh, God!

A breeze blew, reminding him he was half-naked, but he fought off a shiver and took a slow step forward. The man had his back to Hazen. If he could sneak all the way across the yard...

Renny, her face tense with fear, saw Hazen around the man. She returned her eyes to the stranger between them so she didn't give Hazen away. He couldn't see Oryan's face, since the stranger was equally tall. Then Hazen noticed something burning on the ground in front of them.

"You're Vin, aren't you?" said Oryan.

"Indeed I am!" Vin didn't seem to care who heard him, and he waved his free arm while he spoke like they were old friends. "And hello to you, dreamer! It's taken me a really long time to find you guys, hasn't it?"

The yard was clear now, but Hazen saw monks peeking out from the stables. He took another step and checked his footing for anything that would make noise if he stepped on it. Bumps covered his skin, but he held his mouth closed so his teeth didn't chatter.

"What..." Oryan had his hands up, and Hazen heard the fright in his friend's voice. "What do you want?"

Vin giggled. "That's what Lhamo asked right before I shot him. Renny, you should know Lhamo tried to talk me out of taking your book. He put up a good fight, but..." Vin motioned to the small fire between them.

The prophecies! thought Hazen. All Renny's notes!

The notebook was little more than black char now, a few flames still licking the pages.

"What do you want?" asked Oryan again.

Hazen then realized that his friend had spotted him approaching. Oryan was trying to keep Vin distracted.

"I'm on a mission to get rid of you dreamers, obviously. I've seen so many fun things since Sonyeah's been gone. I'm thinking..." He scratched his head with the gun before quickly pointing it back at Oryan, then Renny. "I'm thinking that if I get rid of all you dreamers, the happy endings won't exist anymore! Then I can control the things I see in my nightmares!"

He's a lunatic, thought Hazen as he took another step.

Renny was trying to be brave. "Don't do this."

Vin aimed the gun at her, then at Oryan, then at Renny. "I'll do whatever I want!" He jumped up and down as he shouted, "I am the true prophet!"

And with that, he shot Oryan in the heart.

"No!"

The scream came from the temple entrance, and Hazen looked to see Jazzmon in the doorway. Seth grabbed her from behind and pulled her back inside for cover.

"Ha!" Vin kept the gun on Renny but looked at the temple now with a wide smile. "Seth, was that you? Why don't you come say, hello?"

Wind swept over the silence that followed this.

"Well, that's just rude!"

Seth's voice called from the temple, "Let them go, Vin. This won't accomplish anything."

"Oh, that's where you're wrong! I-" Vin saw Hazen in his periphery and backed up to keep the gun on Renny while also able to watch his challenger now.

Shit, thought Hazen.

"Hello, fellow nightmare-er! A bit underdressed for these parts, aren't you?"

Hazen stopped where he stood and lifted his hands. Despite the cold, he felt himself sweating. "Vin, don't do this. We can get you help."

"Help? I don't need help. That's the whole point. I want control. I'm trying to liberate you too, you know! You and Jazzmon. If I get rid of your dreamers, you won't have to see alterable futures anymore! You'll see only the real future, like me!"

Hazen answered carefully. "No, thank you."

"You think I came here without seeing how this all plays out? I will kill the dreamers, Hazen. I've already got Jazzmon's." Vin motioned to Oryan's body as if his point wasn't clear. Then he motioned with the gun to Renny. "Once you're free of her, you can have more visions and then go watch it happen in real life!" He winked. "Or, you know, help it out a bit. That's pretty fun too."

Renny was looking at Hazen, crying. She mouthed, 'I love you,' which was almost more than Hazen could take.

Don't believe Vin, he thought. Please, don't believe him. This has to be alterable!

Vin looked at Renny. "You're the writer, yeah? Don't you think it's so cliché that the girl always has to die to teach the guy a lesson?" With a smirk, he aimed the gun at Renny's head.

"No!" Hazen's body moved forward before he knew what he was doing.

Suddenly a loud, strong voice shouted from the stables. "Vin!"

Vin, moving fast, spun to face whoever addressed him. He pointed the gun at Hazen, causing him to slide to a stop and lift his hands. Vin then moved the gun back and forth between Renny and Hazen.

Mino, who'd only this moment broken his vow of silence, stepped out of the stable. The pudgy monk held a shotgun aimed at Vin, and he stepped forward to stand in the yard a few body lengths from Vin.

Vin scoffed. "Mino? Really? Everyone here knows you aren't going to shoot-"

Mino fired, hitting Vin square in the chest. The tall man fell backward to the dirt. His head rolled to face Hazen, but his eyes never blinked again.

Several hiding monks emerged at once and ran to Oryan's body to check him. Mino held his gun at the ready and checked Vin, kicking the gun from the man's hand.

"Renny!"

Hazen ran to her as she slumped to sit on the ground. He knelt beside her, his whole body numb with cold now, and pulled her into a hug. She shook in his arms.

Jazzmon ran out of the temple and pushed monks aside to reach Oryan. When she stood over him and saw he was for sure dead, her face twisted and she sank to her knees to cry over him.

Seth arrived to the small crowd. He put a hand on Mino's shoulder before coming to the prophets.

Renny sniffed and looked up at him. "Lhamo? Is he really dead? That first shot we heard..."

With a single nod, Seth glared over at Vin's corpse.

Hazen looked where someone had accidentally kicked the black remains of Renny's notebook.

Was this all for nothing? he thought.

Jazzmon continued towail. 

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