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The Alliance

It was three years ago when the four of us decided to leave. We came from a bad town and worse families. We didn’t want to leave at first, because we were no older than ten or eleven at the time, but in the end, we decided the only way for us to get out was to take some initiative and leave. We tried to hitchhike to some other cities, catch a few rides across the state, but no one in their right mind would pick up four mangy-looking boys from the street. We all packed a bag with some jeans and hunting supplies, and we ended up in the woods. We didn’t know how far we’d traveled, but after a couple of weeks, we settled in a spot in the middle of the thickest part of the woods. We found our new home, and we lived there for three years.
“Come on, Murph! You never just do what you’re asked to!”

“Awe, Dane, give him a break, his momma dropped him. He ain’t right,” smirked Hunter. We laughed as Murphy sat still, silent. I decided to see if he was going to stay mad.

“You alright, Murph? You know he’s just messin’ with you.” He remained silent and unmoving- eyes looking forward but not seeing anything.
He was not alright. It wasn’t unusual for Dane and Hunter to gang up on Murph- they were brothers, and the unofficial leaders of our lopsided group. There were four of us- Dane, Hunter, Murphy, and me- Chris. Like I said, Dane and Hunter were the leaders- Dane was ultimately in charge and Hunter was second in command, mostly because he didn’t have the brain or the mouth that Dane did. Hunter’s name preceded his talents… he was stealthy, tricky, and the best hunter I think I’d ever seen. At thirteen, he could do more with a knife and some branches than any full grown man ever even tried to do. I was the middle man, too quiet to take charge, but too smart to sit back and just let things happen. I was the confidante, the voice of reason, and the only one of us with a set of morals. Murphy was a shell of a person, none of us ever knew much about him. Dane and Hunter dismissed him as deaf and dumb, but I saw past that. The look in his eyes when they made fun of him was terrifying- I almost ran away the first time I saw that look. Murph was smart- probably smarter than all of us combined- but he didn’t talk. He barely spoke a full sentence for the first three years after we left. Murphy was almost completely silent.
“Hey, Chris, just leave ‘im be for a while. It’s getting real dark, and we need to find dry wood if we wanna cook this stuff.” It was Dane. I turned towards him, nodded, and then looked back to where Murph had been sitting. He wasn’t there.
“Hey Hunter… You see where Murph went?”
“Damn, Chris, leave the kid alone. He just wants some time to figure out why his brain don’t work.”
“You guys don’t give him enough credit. He’s probably the smartest out of all of us, he’s just not a talker.” Because Dane and Hunter had a brotherly bond, I felt like Murph and I shared a secret alliance- unspoken, unquestioned, unyielding. I never mentioned it to him, but I always defended him when the other two messed with him.
“Yeah, well, just let him go and help us out for once, lazy. We ain’t gonna survive out here if you don’t do nothin’ to help us,” Dane said.
I was shaken up about Murph leaving at dark, but I made myself busy to forget about it. I got wood, made a fire, and pulled out all the food we had stored up. We always had some berries and plants that we just plucked from the ground or from trees. For meat, Hunter caught two squirrels and a scrawny-looking bird. It wasn’t until later that night around the fire that Dane noticed our lack of food.
“No fish? Those nets you set up in the stream don’t work, Chris,” he accused.
“They usually do, but it hasn’t been a good couple’a days, that’s all.” Murphy still wasn’t back, and I was getting nervous. What if he left us for good? He could fix anything, and he was the only one who could build the forts we slept in. What if he went back to the world? What if he told someone? I couldn’t go back… none of us could.
I stared at the fire thinking about all of the what-if’s for a long time. The night kept getting darker and darker, colder and windier. Finally, Dane and Hunter went to their little forts- dug-out holes in the ground with leaves for padding and some wood roofs over top to protect us from rain.
I stayed out even then, deep into the endless night, when the only noise was the commotion in my head. I couldn’t say when I finally went in, but it was the single darkest and loneliest moment of any night I’d ever experienced. I lie down, and fell asleep instantly.
I feel like as soon as I’d drifted to sleep, I was awoken with a start. However, the sleep in my eyes proved I’d been out for at least a few hours. The rising sun made the horizon bleed red, but I could still see the stars, the moon, and the darkness stretching across the sky to the west. I knew my subconscious picked up on something to wake me so suddenly. I poked my head and neck out of the fort and looked at the circle of forts around the fire. Dane and Hunter were still asleep. Murphy’s fort was still untouched from the night before.
Immediately, my mind and body went into panic mode. After all this time, one of us finally got caught. One of us finally got hurt, or worse, killed. I could hear my heart pumping faster and faster, ready to explode at any moment. My vision was blurry, I couldn’t see anything. My rib cage was going to shatter, I wasn’t breathing.
Then suddenly- I heard the noise that woke me up. The sound of crunching leaves and snapping twigs underfoot. I snapped out of my panic.


“Murphy!” I called his name- waited. Silence.
Once again I called out, “Murphy!” Still no noise. The footsteps had stopped. I once again grew apprehensive, and slowly crept out of my fort. I stood completely still. After a painful amount of time, I heard the footsteps. They were slow at first, then they became increasingly long, quick strides.
Suddenly, out of the darkness, I saw Murphy running towards me. I was relieved at first to see him, but then I saw the look in his eyes- the maniacal, crazy look that I saw every time Dane and Hunter made fun of him. He was sprinting at me, and he was only a few yards away when I noticed the blade in his hand. I caught my breath and tried to move, tried to speak, yell, anything… but I was a statue. I let out a single cry when he tackled me to the ground. Then- black.
At first, I could only hear their voices, but they sounded a million miles away.
“Holy hell, Murph! What’d you do?!”
“Murphy, what were you thinkin’? Chris ain’t never done nothin’ to you, or Dane here, or me, or nobody!”
“Murph, you’re crazy from bein’ out here all this time!”
“What were you thinkin’, Murph?”
“Yeah, what were you thinkin’?!”
Silence. I knew Dane and Hunter were yelling at Murphy, but I couldn’t tell whose voice was whose. I felt a gust of wind pick up, and everything became clear. I felt a sudden freedom and lightness that I’d never known before, and I could see them below me. I saw myself, too. I was lying flat on my back, stiff as a board. Dead.
They were surrounding me, staring down in disbelief. Dane and Hunter looked bewildered, while Murphy just stared blankly and took the brothers’ abuse and questions. He never defended himself, just kept his head down.
“So c’mon, Murphy, what were you thinking?!” Dane spat one more time. There was a moment of silence, then Murphy did something that no one expected.
He looked Dane straight in the eyes, and solemnly, calmly stated, “I thought it was you.”





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