Song: Vengeance by Zack Hemsey
“What did they want?” Two asked, standing over one of the guys.
“Don’t know,” I said. I was already stuffing water bottles and snacks into my bag. “But they know where we live. So we go to Five and regroup at his place.” I zipped the bag then looked down at Lulu still strapped to my belt. His ears were a little stained from the gunpowder, but I could still see that nice pink plush underneath. That dimwit had the nerve to try to snatch him.
“I’ll meet you there,” Two told me as I headed towards the door.
“What?” I spun to him.
“I promised Four I’d help her with something.”
“Are you serious? We’re under attack.”
“I promised her!”
“Why can’t you just say no to people!”
“She needs me.”
“Babe, I need…” I stopped myself and scoffed. “Whatever.”
“I’ll be right back,” Two said. “I promise.”
I swung my bag over my shoulder and headed out the door without another word.
Five lived across town, but he wasn’t home–out on some mission with Seven. So he told me where the key was and I let myself in. And twenty minutes and one warm shower later, I was feeling fresher than a pressed suit. I pulled on one of Five’s shirts and smiled at how the cotton felt on my skin. I never went out without my vest on. And since I was usually out that meant my skin and Kevlar were closer than white on rice. There were only two people I ever took my vest off around: Two and Five. So my brother and my husband were the only men who I’d ever let see any skin other than my face. And sometimes I wasn’t even sure about them.
I took a deep breath as I walked up to the window and stared at the Sun hanging over the city. Who were those guys that had come after us? And what did they want? Who did they work for? Was it–?
I heard it before I felt it. A rejection straight in my back. I dropped to the floor and everything swam in slow motion on my way to the carpet. I gasped for air and scrambled on my side to see who had shot me. And when I saw him, I felt the shards of the rejection shells shredding through my bones.
“I’m sorry,” Two said, holding my gun. He was leaning on one side like he’d been shot too, but there was no one else there.
“Why?” I breathed.
But he just limped out of the room and left me lying there on the floor. What had just happened? He had just shot me. With my own gun. In the back. This couldn’t be happening.
My body was heaving and swelling with each breath. I gasped and wailed, writhing on the floor like a dying bull. My insides were on fire with the blaze of anger rushing through me. And suddenly all I wanted to do was find Two and put a rejection through his head. I grabbed the side of a chair and pulled myself to my feet, shaking from the anger throbbing inside of me. I made my way out of the room and bumped into someone in the hall.
“Whoa!” Five screamed. “What just happened?”
I didn’t think before what I did next. I grabbed him by his shoulders and slammed him into the wall. Then I ripped the sniper rifle off his back and aimed it at him.
“Wait! Wait!” he shouted. “Relax. You don’t know how to use that, remember?”
“Don’t tell me what to do,” I warned him. And I shot him in his chest. But the recoil swung the rifle to the side and I ended up shooting his shoulder.
He dropped and I made my way down the hall, hunting Two down.
“I’m gonna kill you!” I roared. I fired feelings everywhere as I stepped: into the walls, ceiling, windows, and doors, until I made it out of the apartment. Then, in the hall, I spotted him limping around the corner and rushed after him.
But before I could take another step, there was another bang and I hit the floor.
I looked down at my side in shock and trembled at the feeling snaking through me like electricity. Did I get shot again? Then a figure stood over me wearing a black hood and a black mask covering everything but his eyes.
“Who are you?” I breathed. The anger in me was leaking out and something new was replacing it. Something I hadn’t felt in years.
“My name is Zero,” he replied. “The world needs better heroes, Eight. And I’m gonna make them–by breaking the old ones.”
“Why are you doing this to me?” I said, and I was horrified at how much my voice was trembling. What was happening to me?
“You should’ve known better than to let your guard down,” he said.
I squinted at him, but my vision was blurring. My body was trembling, my throat was tightening, and I felt a sound trying to escape that I didn’t even remember I was capable of.
The man in the hood knelt down and put the barrel of his gun to my cheek as I lay there whimpering. “That feeling running through your veins? That’s fear.”
Then he stood, aimed at my face, and fired.
Original artwork by Jessica Bryant