It takes a few moments for Jackson's body to slump forward, but when it does, I hurriedly roll him off me before clambering to my shaking knees. I know from my own experience with the injection that he'll be out for a few hours, at least, and when his body remains still before me–save for the gentle rise and fall of his fluttering chest–I know he is out for the count.
The thought does little to comfort me. Jackson doesn't deserve to still breathe after everything he has done. It was his actions that led to Muriel's spiral into the darkness, his actions that led to her disappearance, yet I'm supposed to let him walk away from it all unpunished?
I can't, I won't, and slowly, as though my body is being pulled by a magnet, I lean toward him, itching to cover his face with my palm, to take the breath from his lungs the way he took Muriel's sanity. The pads of my fingers reach the corner of his mouth before I freeze, the touch of his skin sending a shockwave through mine.
If I kill Jackson in the name of revenge, there will be no going back. I'll be betraying Reece once again, showing him I am nothing but the murdering animal Jason claims me to be. I'll be proving Marine World right about me, that I'm not safe to be let out into the human world, but most of all, I'll be denying myself of the chance to be good.
Because it is not enough to just be human–I realize that now. It is about being a good human, and to be a good human is to be faced with the choice to do wrong and choose right, instead. I may not have been given a lot of choices in my life, but my ability to do right despite the wrong that has been done to me is the one choice I will always have.
The one decision they can't take from me.
Slowly, I pull my fingers away, my arm feeling heavy against the cold night air. The sound of voices jerks my head up, and I see Reece has now gained control of both guns. Jason stands before him, his eyes like poison as they burn not into Reece, but into me.
"Grab Jackson's keys, Aura," Reece says, his tone eerily calm.
I nod briefly, my hands skimming Jackson's hips for his car keys. My mind flashes back to the way Rob and Jackson had done the same thing to me in order to take off my tail. I push the memories to the back of my mind, wrapping my hands around his keys before pulling them out.
"Now get in the car," Reece says. His voice is cold, dangerous, and I immediately do as he says, hurriedly making my way to the passenger seat of Jackson's truck before sinking into the cold, leather chair.
The action is enough to remind me how exhausted I am, and every limb seems to mould into the seat, grateful to now have the chance to relax.
Jason seems to mutter something to his son, and Reece turns his back on his father, glancing over his shoulder to give him one last look before he climbs into the driver's seat. I expect Jason to charge after us, but he simply stands and watches as Reece switches on the engine.
I tense in my seat, able to feel Reece's emotions radiating off him like an impenetrable force field, trying to keep me out. He switches on the headlights with a quick flick of his wrist, shining a spotlight on Jason's forlorn expression, as well as Jackson's unconscious body sprawled across the wet gravel.
Reece throws the car into reverse before stopping and my eyes fall to Jackson's body, laid in the perfect position for our car to run right over him. For a second, I think this is exactly what Reece is about to do when, with a scowl, he reverses the car again and yanks on the steering wheel, speeding out of the parking lot so fast it is as though Jason is sucked away into a vortex of darkness.
We career down the empty road at full speed, Reece's silence feeling like a weight on my chest. I don't know how long we drive for before I finally gather the courage to speak, hoping that if I do, it will thaw the ice that has taken control of his features.
"Reece," I begin, my voice sounding scratchy. "I–"
He suddenly swerves the car to the side of the road before slamming on the brakes, forcing my hands to fly out and grip the dashboard as I'm abruptly jerked forward. He cuts the engine and, without a word, gets out and slams the car door behind him, the harsh sound of metal slamming against metal conveying every word he's too angry to say.
I watch from the window as he walks into the distance, stopping only to let out a growl that sends a flock of birds scurrying from the trees and across the ink black sky.
My heart pounds faster, my mind scrambling to formulate a plan that doesn't end up with me being captured. I'd hoped amidst the chaos, Reece might have forgotten how much he must hate me, or at least be able to forgive me. But I can see now Reece isn't the forgiving type. I glance over to the keys hanging from the ignition, my survival instincts telling me to take them and drive.
To turn on Reece before he can turn on me.
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Marine WorldScience Fiction
A featured story|Wattys 2018 Winner| Seventeen-year-old Aura and the three other genetically modified humans in captivity have been planning an escape from Marine World for months, but when one of them going off the rails leaves the rest under scrut...