My heart’s beat scattered to the corners of my chest, putting pressure on my lungs as they attempted to let the air rush back in. Until I felt them expand once again, I was oblivious that they had ceased functioning at all.
Bloodied hands clasped my torn knees as my ragged hair swept the floor. It had started the night wound tight at the top of my head, but at some point, I vaguely remembered someone grabbing me by my ponytail and pulling it loose from its restraints. That person had ended with a knife in their gut if my memory hadn’t betrayed me like so many other things had.
Slowly, the irregularities in my chest ended their slow heaving, and I raised my head to survey what we had wrought.
Across from me, Landon stood with his back against the wall, his eyes held closed. He had tilted his head back so I could clearly see the scar across his neck, his own badge earned many years before I met him. He had placed it there himself, trying to achieve release from the insanity in his head. The marks on my own wrists reminded me of the same pain I had tried to escape, both failing in our attempts. But we had found each other and found that we were not crazy. Another person in this world understood the chaos we lived.
I watched as his adam’s apple bobbed up and down. He swallowed again. I was sure he was trying to compose himself before speaking just as I was. Catch our collective breaths now that we could.
I finally allowed myself to glance around the room. The darkened corners hid most of the splattered blood, but the squish beneath my feet let me know plenty could be found when the sun finally shown through the grimy windows.
The shack’s bare interior had hidden these people and had allowed their rabid pastimes to go unnoticed by the outside world. They had been ignored and their crimes along with them. I finally could breathe for the first time without the anger that gripped me from the inside out. The agony at thinking of the injustices and apathy of those we were meant to trust was gone.
Landon finally opened his eyes and swept them across the carnage still littering the floor.
“It’s done.” Years of pain and weeks of planning summarized in just those two words.
“It’s done.” I echoed. Our eyes locked, and that’s when I could see the anguish he still held inside. The words were said, the deed done, but the truth before us was we might not ever be truly free. The evil swirled in the air. It hung in my clothes and clung to my skin. No amount of scrubbing would ever have me be rid of the taint of this room.
Carefully I made my way across the space still between us. Tears that had refused to form finally found their home within my eyes and pooled along my cheeks. I reached out, stepping over an arm sprawled on the ground. The person it was still attached to lay sideways, its open eyes vacant to the world. They had been cold and lifeless even when the man had been among the living. Seeing him like this gave me no remorse. That arm, blood dripping off its fingers, would never hurt another child again. Honestly, my only regret was that I had only been able to watch him die but once.
My attention focused once more on the living man before me. The splatters upon his face were only interrupted by his own tears now crawling along his chin. We had both gained back our lives after this night.
I put up my arms to embrace him and realized I still held the machete. It clanged as it hit the ground. I no longer had use for it. Its need expired just as my justice had. I put my empty hands on either side of his face and just rested my forehead against his.
Again I breathed. His own arms, smeared red, enveloped me and pulled me in, so close I could feel his heartbeat as erratic as mine had been beating, in his chest. He pulled away just enough to be able to look at me. “We did it. Justice for Toby and Lyla and all the others still buried out there that the world had forgotten. All those innocent souls abandoned by the system and dismissed as runaways. Their screams in our dreams are finally silenced. These monsters have been put down like the animals they were. It’s done. It really is done. Can’t you hear it?”
He was right. It was deafening in its missing echo in my head. I had been plagued for years with their voices, their pleading, their screams as they made me relive the horror of their last hours over and over.
Only Landon had ever understood.
Only he shared this continuous cacophony in our heads. Years of therapy and disbelief and stints in wards and the voices were finally gone. These innocent lives that had been cut short and had pleaded for mercy and justice had been satisfied by our slaughter of their aggressors.
Four brothers littered the floor around me. Their bodies lying where they had fallen to our cuts and slices. The voices had wanted them to suffer, and gunshots to the head would have ended their lives too quickly to satisfy them. They had asked for blood sacrifices to replace their own beaten bodies callously used and abused, then tossed in shallow graves. While their corpses fed the worms and cockroaches, their souls had found us to carry out their desires.
Slowly we let go, each feeling our way through this newfound silence. Slivers of light were beginning to emerge around the doorframe, and I knew dawn would be upon us soon. Better for the authorities to find the mounds of dirt on the property where all seven of these poor innocent lives lay. Better to see the slaughter of the perpetrators in the full light of day and the shackles and blackened mattresses, heavy with dried blood from years of torture strewn between the dead.
I pulled out the burner phone we had purchased just for this moment.
“911, what's your emergency?” The monotone voice boomed out into the shack. A cloth over the speaker helped to muffle my own high-pitched cadence as I conveyed the address and need for an excavator to find the unmarked graves. I warned them of what they would find.
She repeatedly asked my name, and all I could answer was, “I was the guardian angel to these innocents and have laid their souls to rest. Now it's up to you to bury the bodies.” With that, I hung up. I placed the phone on the ground and grabbed the machete once more to use its handle to crush it. Picking up the pieces, I placed them in my pocket and went around to the one who had grabbed my ponytail and found my knife buried deep within his belly. His guts spilled upon the floor.
His hand grabbed my ankle as I straightened up, its grip weak and pathetic. His calloused fingers scraped along my skin, and I easily shook him off. Blood gurgled out of his mouth as he tried to say something to me, but before I could respond, Landon had thrust his own knife through the man’s throat.
The final light left the monster's eyes, the last one to journey to hell for what he had done. Landon extended his hand to me, “Let’s go. It's finally silent enough in my head to tell you how I really feel about you. Time to get along with our lives, Amy.” I grabbed his outstretched palm, and together we stepped through the door.
Amber highlights shone upon the clouds, and I blinked as the newly emerged sunlight hit my face with its unending warmth. A new day shone. The sunlight illuminated the ground, and we followed it out through the door. The past sealed itself with the dismal shack behind us, and the future lay before us.
Justice had been served by our hand.
It was done.