Escaping the Devil: Chapter Thirty-One

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CONTENT WARNING

This story is rated Mature for adult language, sexual content, references to graphic violence, drug, and substance abuse. This means that this is intended for audiences 18 and up.


Eli hooked her arm under Yui’s, trying her best not to drag her out of bed.

The Siren’s face was bloodless. It wasn’t clear if it was from pain or dread, but Eli didn’t have the time to figure it out.
The community seemed to come alive around them. They could hear frantic footfalls outside the tent — worried whispers sounded like shouts in the quiet. Eli could hear the villagers’ questions murmured to the wind. How were they discovered? Who could it be?

It was only a matter of time before they made the connection that was in front of their noses. This blight was brought upon them by the strangers who abused their hospitality. The same strangers who were now trying to skitter out, undetected. Like the roaches they were.

Gunner took point, moving ahead of them. His body stooped, giving him a strange, loping posture.

“We have to get to the car,” he hissed over his shoulder.

“What about Serenity?” Yui whispered back, her bloodshot eyes trailing over the familiar tents and its people as if trying to commit everything to memory.

“They’ll be fine,” their guide replied, though even Eli couldn’t help but notice the lack of confidence in his words.
Villagers appeared from nowhere, emerging from their doorways and other nooks and crannies. All carried weapons — strapped to their backs, some cradled in their arms like newborns. Some were bold enough to move to the village’s perimeter, while others waited in the shadows.

It seemed they had prepared for this.

Something strange fluttered to life in her breast. Hope.

The trio kept themselves low to the ground, carefully ducking and weaving their way through the emerging villagers. They all were too distracted to take note of them — a silver lining.

Yui twisted in her grasp, her eyes widening as her attention shifted toward something in the distance. Eli’s senses were overwhelmed by the sirens that rang and the light that continued to strobe overhead. But Yui was distracted by something else. Something far past the perimeter of the village.

“They’re almost here,” she stage-whispered, her arm tightening around Eli’s shoulders. “We need to hurry!”

They plodded clumsily through the village, kicking up dirt as they moved. Finally, they reached their makeshift campsite and hurriedly gathered the essentials. Gunner’s jaw was tense, his gaze darting in the direction Yui had been looking. Eli wondered if he could see what lay beyond the boundary. Kicked up dust, and the barrier’s ever-shifting colors blinded her to the trespassers.

She should have been grateful that she couldn’t see Landyn’s hellhounds as they nipped at their heels. But instead, her dread only worsened, sinking like a stone in her belly. She would have preferred a countdown — a bomb tick, tick, ticking away in the corner, portending her end of days.

Everything felt like it was taking an eternity. The quiet morphed into a hideous clangor. Voices raised, calling out orders, issuing warnings. The alarm had blessedly stopped, and the valkyries’ song chased away the soul-penetrating ringing.

“We’re safe while we’re in the shield,” Gunner explained as his stride hastened, his eyes glued to their car in the distance.

“But the moment we step outside, we’ll be seen.”

“You mean… they still can’t see us?” Eli panted, shouldering more of Yui’s weight. The Siren was struggling to keep up with their rapid pace.

Gunner shot her a somewhat incredulous look. “Could we see Serenity when we got here?”

“No,” she frowned, glancing back at the village.

“They’re shielded. Sounds, sights, smells. No one can see the community unless they’ve been invited in.”

Yui yelped, shifting her weight to one leg. Eli glanced down and saw her bloodied toe and the rock it had collided with.

“Wouldn’t it be safer just to stay here, then?” She hissed through her teeth.

“If they’re here,” Gunner gritted, growing quiet as if scarcely believing the words he was about to say. “They already have a way in.”

The sound of tires approaching was impossible to miss. The trio set off as quickly as they could, their feet pounding as they ran. Eli felt a pain blossom in her side, her lungs burning with the added effort of supporting both hers and Yui’s weight. She stumbled, her toe catching on a jagged rock. Pain lanced its way up her shin. Somehow, she managed to stop herself from crying out. But Yui’s startled gasp drew Gunner’s attention.

With a snarl, he turned back. Then, with too much ease, he lifted her, holding the Siren to his chest.

“You okay to run, Eli?” He whispered, his eyes shifting to her foot.

“I just stubbed my fucking toe. I didn’t lose a leg,” she growled. “Get her to the car.”

In the distance, she could hear Elder Taraji’s voice. Smooth. Calm. But she couldn’t hear the outsiders speak.

The door creaked, and Gunner dropped Yui unceremoniously into the back seat.

A gunshot ripped through the silence, echoing hauntingly.

Yui sobbed.

Eli scrambled to get around the car.

Gunner climbed into the front seat. The engine turned over.

Her heart pounded in her ears as she raced around the car, sliding through the dirt as she tried to take a turn too suddenly. She frantically grasped at the car’s surface, trying to pull herself back to its safety. More gunshots came, and vicious, animalistic snarls poured from Serenity’s perimeter. Her hand closed around the door’s handle.

And then she felt it — the cold press of metal against her temple. A strong arm around her waist, tugging her away from safety.

Yui slammed her hands against the glass. She screamed.

Gunner met her eyes, slack-jawed, uncertain.

With a nod, she sealed her fate.

The tires squealed, the car’s back end fishtailing as he took off.

Gunshots sounded from around her, puncturing holes into the car’s bumper. She watched with her breath frozen in her throat, hoping beyond hope that they managed to escape.

“Don’t worry,” a stranger’s voice crooned into her ear. He smelled like burnt coffee, stale sweat, and something foul. “We’ll get them, too.”

He shoved her forward, steering her in the direction of their car.

Chaos continued around them. Screams and snarls — bullets tearing through flesh and metal.

Eli didn’t dare look back at the wreckage she left in her wake.

She couldn’t think of a more fitting send-off back to Hell.



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