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She began to pant, tears running down her face. She heard the shouts getting closer; she was slowing down. They caught up to her, the tall one grabbing her arm and pulling her down, her head smacking the wall and pavement as she fell. She screamed, but knew no one could hear her. The two pinned her down as the third bound her mouth with a dirty cloth. He turned behind him, and came back with a different cloth. As he pushed it against her face, he whispered, “It’s ok, sugar. Don’t struggle,” and the world spun and turned to black.
Three weeks earlier.
Cassie ran to him, flying into his arms. She laughed as she spoke.
“I can’t believe you’re actually back! I didn’t think you would come until the summer?”
He put her down. “I was going to call, but I figured a surprise would be better.”
She smiled, and her eyes lit up.
“They let us out early on account of the flooding.”
“Oh my gosh, I heard about that! What happened?”
Jack chuckled. “Nothing too serious. Broken pipes, overflowed toilets; the toddlers partied so hard the building broke.”
Cassie burst into laughter. “Ugh, I’ve missed you so much! You have no idea how hard it is to tolerate work and school without my brother to vent to!”
“I can imagine. How’s mom?”
“She’s always going, going, going. She cleaned the entire house top to bottom in a day, she had so much adrenaline. She’s gone mental!”
Their laughter was cut off abruptly by a scream. Two dogs were running through the train station, their faces too gaunt to be pets.
Jack tensed, “Let’s go, Cass. Now!”
They ran, pushing through the groups of people not yet aware of the loose animals.
“We need to get out of here before they smell us.”
“I think,” Cassie said between breaths, “They’ve already smelled us.”
The barking got louder, and screams were erupting everywhere. There were more than two dogs now. Men and women with guns burst through the doors Jack and Cassie were racing toward. They skittered on the slick floor, and turned to run in a different direction.
They stopped so suddenly they tripped and fell to the hard concrete. Cassie shook in silence; Jack was still as a rock. He looked up to see a man’s shoes in front of him. He saw only the blur of one moving towards his face, and was out the next second. Cassie shouted, and the man whirled towards her, dropping down on hands and knees. Cassie whimpered, and put her head down. But the man was quick to grab hold of her hair, and yank her up to face him standing.
“How dare you run away from me, girl!” His voice froze Cassie to her core. He pushed his mouth so close to her ear, she felt his words resonate in her head.
“You know, you’re lucky I didn’t kill your brother on the ground like an animal. Too messy.”
She could distantly hear the sounds of the others in the station, all held by those carrying guns.
“Did you two really think I wouldn’t find you?” His breath smelled of spiced meat and vodka. He was drunk.
“I can hunt down anyone who doesn’t obey my rules. And I usually get rid of ‘em right away. But you look promising,” he eyed her up and down and smiled. “All grown up. Your brother, however, is not as useful to me. Should I kill him?”
Cassie screamed in his face. “No! Don’t you touch him! I’ll come with you! Please!”
He laughed, “You’re a piece of work, aren’t ya?”
He motioned to the man standing behind him. Jack was brought to his feet and dragged out of the station.
“Where are you taking him?!” Cassie cried.
“Where he needs to go, sugar.”
He nodded to the others, who proceeded to lock the doors, apart from the pair being guarded by two women. “Time to go,” he said, smirking at Cassie. She struggled, but stopped. He was too strong. She looked back to the people left in the station to see they had all been tied to chairs and benches. She saw cases being set on the floor, in the stalled train, and in people’s laps. Again, she whimpered.
As they passed through the doorway, she looked over at the man leading her by her arm. “Don’t do this. They’re good people.”
When he showed no response, she yelled, “Daddy! Please don’t do this!”
She heard the screams as the snakes poured from the cases, and hung her head as tears stained the floor.