PART 2: GREG
I was crouched low under a work bench in an old, dirty shed in the backyard of a house that was in similar condition. I held my breath, and I noticed how the fear of being chased by the S.A.L.E. never went away, regardless of the number of run-ins. I felt the same way I did the night my parents disowned me. And the day Joseph died for me.
Joseph. The Affected man who kept ahead of the S.A.L.E. for three years. It was beginning to feel so distant. The memories of him telling me and teaching me about the S.A.L.E. Even though I lost Joseph not too far from Michigan, the very start of my journey, I wouldn't have made it to New Jersey without his help. I thought about Joseph almost every day and the things he told me about the S.A.L.E., like why they do what they do: rounding up the Affected mercilessly to take them to who-knows-where.
I was scared tonight. Not just because the S.A.L.E. was after me as usual. Not because I was dumb enough to follow a group of them, trying to find out what they knew about me and my whereabouts. Bone-chilling fear had its hand on me because of what I overheard. When they heard I was in the area, they dispersed small groups throughout the state, about one to each town. They were walking through a local trail because they've found me in the woods before.
I was tailing them a safe distance behind and off the path. The grouped stopped because one of them had an earpiece and he had gotten a message. After he was done he relayed the news to him group. Those words I would never forget.
"I just got a message from high up. It's from the head of the S.A.L.E, to be specific. Apparently the rules have changed. The dead or alive status no longer applies. The boy is to be delivered alive. Force may be used as necessary."
I don't know why, but hearing about the mysterious, rarely mentioned Head of the S.A.L.E., my blood ran cold. That was one person I didn't want to meet.
Then he spoke louder, yelling almost.
"Hear that, Bishop? The Head has plans for you!"
And that was the moment I snapped. The vision of that dark road spurred me into a fearful sprint away, attempts at being discreet completely discarded. There was no way they knew I was there, he was just yelling it for intimidation and he was lucky enough to have me around to hear it. I hated myself for that. Joseph would have been disappointed.
So that's how I ended up being singled out to this town and why I now sought refuge in a shed. I sat there, enveloped by darkness, slowly breathing the dusty air in an out while I listened to plan my next move. The S.A.L.E. sirens were beginning to fade and I knew I didn't have much time. Over time, I had noticed they came in waves. Three to be exact. The time between them and how quickly they were executed varied. But the first was always the wheels.
They chased you on cars and motorcycles for while and tired you out.
Then they scattered people on foot around the area, searching thoroughly in all possible hiding places.
Then, the final wave came. The helicopters. They flew the helicopters over with big guns and they used their land forces to guide and direct them, setting up ways to corner and trap Affected fugitives.
If the car sirens were fading, it meant the second wave would be coming through. So I had two options. Run now and try to get farther away in the time slot between waves, whose length I did not know and existence I was not promised. Or I could stay in a shed while they looked for me. Although it served me well during the first wave, a shed is an ideal hiding place, meaning anyone who had time would think to look there.
Knowing I was a sitting duck by being stationary, I slowly crept toward the door of the shed. I opened the door a crack and peered out. I scanned the area I could see, and although I didn't see any of the S.A.L.E., I saw the telltale beams of the flashlights attached to their guns, sweeping at varying distances.
I knew I didn't have a chance out there. I couldn't fight them. My powers aren't exactly subtle. It'd attract anyone else in the area. Maybe if I could use the element of surprise when they came instead of my powers, I could take them out silently and even make it through the third wave.
Knowing that was my best bet, I closed the door and crawled back under the work bench. When I got under there, my knee came down on something hard. I didn't know how I avoided feeling it the last time I was down there. I felt for it with my hand and felt a wooden handle. I moved my other hand along it and felt cool metal. It was curved and had sort of a rounded, but sharp edge.
It was a hand shovel. I knew it would come in hand. I worked myself all the way under the bench and pulled the shovel close to my chest. In the dusty darkness of my hiding place, I could hear my anxious heart beating like a wild drummer who was caught up in the moment.
Over all that, I could hear the two men outside the shed, undoubtedly with the S.A.L.E. Salesmen. All this time, I didn't know what to call these people who had pursued me mercilessly. I just called them workers, or agents, which they in a way were, but not as much as they were Salesmen. That term was perfect in so many ways. They followed me and would not leave me alone, just like people persistently trying to make you buy things. And the first four letters were S-A-L-E.
"Did you guys check the shack behind the house on Greystone Street yet?" said the first Salesman. Then there was a pause. There was a tiny, barely audible voice that spoke. He was on an earpiece.
"Okay," he said into the earpiece. "We're going in," he declared, now talking to the other Salesman. The shed door swung open and light filtered in. From where I was, I could only see from about their knees and down.
I only saw one flashlight beam, meaning only one of them had their gun out. I saw the beam drifting from nook to cranny, and I knew they'd find me in no time. I gripped the handle of the shovel tighter and tighter, while forcing myself to keep my breathing calm and quiet.
I saw the beam gravely gliding across the floor and towards me. Then it stopped right in front of the work bench. I saw the Salesman's knees bending as he crouched, coming to my level. There was silence as our eyes met and I knew the Salesman didn't really expect to find me here. He was the type who did his job but never expected to be a part of the action.
But whether or not he wanted it, I gave him action.
I exploded forward and knocked him onto his back with ferociousness, simultaneously driving my arm downward like a piston, lodging a trowel in his thigh. I sat atop him and landed three vicious blows to his face with my left hand.
Still aware of the Salesman behind me who was reaching for his gun, I yanked the hand shovel out of the first man and stood up while turning around, swinging it into his jaw. He reeled back with a gasp and backed into the wall. I charged forward and pinned him, the pent-up rage driving me. I held the trowel right in front of his chest, ready to drive it forward. The Salesman was dazed, eyes glazed over and his cheek bloody.
I stopped when I realized that I was seconds away from murdering a man. Joseph's final words rang in my head as I came to my senses.
Don't become the monster they're telling the world you are. If you do that, they've already won.
I just punched the Salesman on the injured side of his face and he crumpled to the floor. I looked behind me and saw the other one unconscious as well, and I knew I had dispatched them both.
"Only do what needs to be done," I whispered to myself as the shovel fell from my hand. I still couldn't take my eyes off of them and I couldn't help but feel horrible and just be ashamed at what I had been driven to in a matter of weeks. I hadn't cried since the first night they had chased me. But now, the warm tears began to fill my eyes once again.
No. I couldn't get weak now. I had no idea if the second wave was over or not and the third still had yet to come. I then heard the same tiny voice from before and looked at the Salesman I had stabbed in the thigh. It was coming from his earpiece and he wasn't answering. They'd know something had happened and they'd be coming.
I felt hesitant about leaving the shed, but knew I had to. I pushed the door open and stepped out, feeling naked and exposed. I scanned the backyard and decided to go to my right. I hopped the fence into the next backyard and kept going, staying behind houses. After about seven houses, I got close to the house and peered around the side of it and down the driveway. I saw four Salesmen and women hurriedly walking down the street in the direction I'd come.
I could see another, darker backyard directly across the street. I counted to forty when I was sure they were gone, then I bolted down the driveway and my feet carried me across the street, where I began to notice shiny patches on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. I made the unwise choice to stop when I got to the sidewalk to look at the patches of what seemed to be ice.
I then heard a sudden, sharp squeak behind me. I turned around to see a figure barreling toward me. It collided with my body and sent me tumbling backward, knocking the air out of my lungs. Pain shot through my body as I sat up, panicking and not knowing what was going on. The person who had crashed into me was already on their feet, and they were staring at me when I looked up.
The astonished faced of a guy maybe a year older than me was what I saw. His eyes were wide and shocked. I had never seen a non S.A.L.E. person out during the waves. Everyone knew to stay inside during S.A.L.E. chases. This was very confusing for me.
"You're… Bishop," he said. "Greg Bishop." I stood and took off toward the dark backyard, but I heard the boy's footsteps right behind me. His hand gripped my wrist after I had reached the backyard and I stopped. I regretted leaving the trowel.
"Wait!" he pleaded with me. "I need your help."
"Quiet down," I demanded. He did. "Tell me what you want. Quietly." I didn't know what this guy could possibly want. I was extremely on edge, especially knowing the final wave was coming.
"I'm Wes," he began. "And my sister, s-she heard about you on the news and she felt bad for you. She… is Affected too. But no one knows about it but me. I woke up tonight and she was gone. I heard the sirens and thought they were coming after her. Now I know they're not but she has no control over her powers and the S.A.L.E. are everywhere. They could easily see and take her."
As messed up as all that was, I couldn't risk getting caught. I turned on my heel and began walking away.
"Please," Wes hissed. "I'm begging you."
I kept walking.
"She's just thirteen."
Walked some more.
"She's why that ice is everywhere. They pick up on that and she is toast."
I began climbing the fence into the next backyard.
"She might die trying to save you."
I stopped. I was at the top of the fence with one leg over when he said that. And when I did that he knew he struck a chord.
"Someone has died for you before," Wes said. "And I bet it eats away at you every day. It does, doesn't it? Well you walking away is just going to double that guilt. It's going to haunt you for the rest of your life. Unless you are the cold, heartless asshole the S.A.L.E. makes us think you are."
I let myself down from the fence and walked up to Wes.
"Wes," I said, teeming with irritation at the guy for convincing me to help him. "I'm going to help you find your sister. But don't start thinking you know anything about me just because you got me to help you. because you sure as hell don't." As soon as I finished speaking, I heard a sound. A soft, distant, beating. Both of our heads turned to the sky as the sound grew louder. Cold realization set in as I realized I was hearing the sound of a helicopter soaring through the night, searching for its Affected target. The final wave had begun, and two Affected people were about to be swept away in it.