Dylan's gaze roamed the cabin, recalling what a mess it'd been the first time he and Wade had seen it. A particularly ugly battle with their father had left them both bruised, bleeding and fleeing into the night.
A storm had started it all. A heavy thunderstorm with tornado warnings had started his father drinking heavier than usual, both continuing without letup. It was the first time Dylan had realized the man was afraid of storms.
Dylan startled when he heard his deep voice in the quiet room. He hadn't intended to speak out loud. Skye had seen his scars, but she'd never asked about them. It was one thing to see them and another thing to talk about them. He knew now that she'd been waiting for him, and he kissed the top of her head in appreciation.
As the words came, he felt lighter somehow. He and Wade had held these stories for a long time, they needed to let them go. The words started to tumble out. Slow at first, then gathering force.
As Dylan spoke, her arms tightened around him, Skye now giving him the strength he needed. "It was when Dad came after us with a knife that we ran. He'd got a couple good jabs at me. The two of us weren't so big then, just a couple of scrawny, underfed boys. He easily got us under control when he wanted.
"We ran out into the storm. I remember it was so black I couldn't see anything. I got more bruises as I slammed into the trees. The heavens opened, and water streamed down their bark. My fingers went numb tryin' to hang on to them, as I caught my breath before movin' on. The rain beat against us, makin' our pain worse.
"The wind was howlin' like a pack of wolves readyin' for the hunt. It seemed to come from all around us. Couldn't hear each other shoutin'. It was only when the lightning flashed that we could see, just for a moment.
"So we got into this pattern. The lightening would flash and give us a view. Then we'd run as far as we could and wait for the next lightning strike. I don't know how long we did this. It seemed like forever. We kept lookin' over our shoulders. Waitin' to see him in the next flash of light.
"We headed toward the deep woods. It was far, but we figured the farther in we got, the less of the storm we'd feel.
"I knew these woods like the back of my hand even then, but in the storm, we lost our way. Wandered for a while. Finally, we came over a little ridge. When the lightning struck, we saw this little shack nestled in the trees. We headed for it.
"We huddled here through the night. It had half a roof then, no door, a good third of the plank was missing, but it was enough. We stayed here til morning. I remember the birds waking me up.
"I remember this bright, sunny day and birds singin'. Everything seemed clean and new. Then I moved. I was so bruised up, I could hardly find a patch of normal skin. Then there was the cuts. Wade's face was so swolled up, he couldn't see but out one eye.
"We said we'd never go home. Never see him again. But that was just a boy's dream. By morning, I was still bleeding, and Wade couldn't get it to stop. So we went back.
"Dad wasn't there and to this day, I'm not sure where he was. I don't know if he left of his own accord or if mom told him to go, though that would've surprised me. Mom must've seen us comin' cause we weren't to the door yet, and she came running. It was the only time I ever remember her huggin' me.
"She brought us inside and stitched me up. She musta said she was sorry a hundred times. She held my face in her hands when she said, "He's gonna kill ya. When he's bad off, it's all he thinks about."
"It was me he went after the most, on account I wasn't really his and all. I knew it in my gut when she said it. I knew I had to get outta there if I wanted to make it to manhood.
"So after we healed up some, we started workin' on this place, stayed here when dad got too bad. Fixin it up took a while. The neighbors didn't warm up to havin' a couple of Cole kids on the loose in their neighborhood."
Dylan snorted. "And after we realized we could ask for supplies instead of stealin' them, things went better. We started swappin' for things. We learned how regular people work together." Dylan waved his hand in a circle. "These people around here, they taught us. I'm not sayin' we turned into angels. The townsfolk sure never did care for us. But we got the edges knocked off enough that the mountain folk could stand us."
Skye lightly kissed Dylan. "This townfolk cares for you." Over his shirt, Skye traced the scars on his body that no doubt came from that day. "What you've been through is terrible, Dylan. It's a tribute to your strength and character that you've turned into the man you are. You must love this place. It was your sanctuary in a greater sense than a most people's homes."
"I do." Dylan nodded. "But I hate it too." Puzzled, Skye's looked at him, and he said, "It was a sanctuary, but it was something else too."
Dylan felt every muscle he had tense, then he sighed. Skye raised a hand to his cheek and stroked it. "What? What is wrong?" she quietly asked.
He moved to the edge of the couch, disturbing Skye as he did so. "Get on a coat. We're going to the overlook."
"I said get your coat." Dylan's frown deepened as he heard his rough voice. He hadn't meant to sound like that, but it was beyond his control. He felt like he was on the edge of something. An uneven rushing started in his ears. One he'd only heard a few other times in his life.
He felt the pull. The pull to go to the place he mourned.
Skye stepped up beside him, ready to go. He grabbed her wrist a little too hard. When she winced, he loosened his hold and slid his hand down into hers.
When she opened her mouth to say something, he stopped her. "Not now."
She nodded and hurried as they went out the door and up the trail to keep up with his longer stride.
He needed to gather all the courage he had for the story he had yet to tell.
A/N: Thanks so much for reading Sanctuary's Aggression! So I'm curious, who is your favorite character? Let me know in the comments below. :)
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Sanctuary's Aggression Book 2: The CapturedScience Fiction
#47 in Action/Adventure, #6 in post-apocalyptic. This sci-fi post-apocalyptic survival story continues with Skye and Dylan hope to enjoy the calm of Cole's Mountain. The community builds homes, plant, and tentatively rejoice that the worse is over u...