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Deb, Sanura, and Gale had disappeared into the nether-realm of the jungle, separated in mere seconds from the outside world, isolated and insignificant. The flames spreading back in the camp, diffused through the brush, or one of the signal flares streaking through the night sky provided the scarce light by which they moved. The sounds of gunfire from the refugee camp, human screams rendered strange and discorporate by the dense vegetation surrounding them, or an occasional muffled explosion served as reminders that they had not, in fact, left the world behind. In truth, they had traveled less than half a mile.

“We have to stop,” Gale said. Deb nodded. The two lowered Sanura to a sitting position.

“We won’t be safe here,” Deb said. Squatting, she wiped sweat away from her eyes.

“We have to get help,” Gale said.

Deb exhaled through her teeth. “There’s a compound a few miles from here.”

“Yeah, that scientist guy, Selivanov,” Gale said.

“The guy’s a nutcase,” Deb said. “But I suppose that’s the best shot we have.”

“We can’t get there at night,” Gale said. “On foot.”

“What if,” Sanura wheezed, “it has spread?”

“She’s right,” Gale said. “It may be even worse there.”

Deb didn’t answer, just stared into the dark.

A sound of breaking sticks and rustling leaves drew their attention. A flare burst overhead, bathing the jungle growth in white as a man staggered into view of the three
women, naked from the waist up and splashed with blood. The skin over half his face had been torn away, as had one ear. His lower lip was gone.

“We must pray!” He stumbled towards them. “Pray for forgiveness!”

Gale gasped with recognition. “Father Sullivan?!” The flare died, abandoning the world to blackness once more.

“Sinners!” the man shrieked. “God is punishing us! Sodom and Gomorrah!”

“Father!” Gale reached out to him in the darkness.

“Sinner!” He threw himself on Gale, his hands tearing at her. She fell beneath him. “Whore!” Globules of spittle and blood spewed from his mouth, his words slurring into growls. He tore Gale’s shirt, his nails digging deep scratches along her collarbone.
Deb brought the stock of the machine gun down where she guessed the man to be, finding the back of his head; he rolled off to the side. Gale got to her feet.

Deb stared down at the unconscious man as an explosion back at the campsite turned the night to day. At his mangled features, the grinning bloody mouth. Even the priest had tried to kill them. Everyone seemed to be trying to kill them. Kill her. Deb felt anger rising like sour bile in her throat. Anger and resentment. Resentment of the threat to her safety. Resentment of those who had sent her here, put her in harm’s way. Resentment and hatred. Hatred for those who wanted to hurt her. Hatred of the priest. She hated him for what he’d tried to do. She wanted to hurt him. She wanted to kill him. The flames from the explosion burned down, the light dissipating. With a snarl, Deb raised the gun to smash in that repulsive face before it disappeared from view.

She stepped back, the stock of the AK-47 dropping to the ground. Deb swayed, shook her head.

“You okay?” she heard a voice asking. The doctor. Gale.

Deb shook her head again. Gale clasped her arm.

“I don’t know what came over me.” Deb said.

Sanura screamed as the priest came crawling towards them on all fours, growling and drooling. Deb raised the gun, hesitated. He had almost reached them. She squeezed the trigger and the top of his head split open, spewing blood and grey matter. Deb recoiled, tossing aside the gun. The light died.

“No!” Deb whimpered.

Gale caught her before she fell. “It’s okay,” she said. “It’s okay.”

Deb steadied herself. She nodded.

“We’ll need that.” Gale stooped, feeling for the gun.

“We have to get out of here!” Deb muttered.

TheCheezman • June 7, 2020

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