Madelyns last dance, p.1

Madelyn's Last Dance, page 1

 

Madelyn's Last Dance
 



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Madelyn's Last Dance


  Contents

  Title Page

  Chapter 1 {The End}

  Chapter 2 {Crowd}

  Chapter 3 {Trio}

  Chapter 4 {Dark}

  Chapter 5 {Rebels}

  Chapter 6 {Trio}

  Chapter 7 {Guard}

  Chapter 8 {Town}

  Chapter 9 {Search}

  Chapter 10 {Trio}

  Chapter 11 {Search}

  Chapter 12 {Dream}

  Chapter 13 {Knowledge}

  Chapter 14 {Trouble}

  Chapter 15 {Return}

  Chapter 16 {Movement}

  Chapter 17 {Blame}

  Chapter 18 {Tracking}

  Chapter 19 {Approach}

  Chapter 20 {Moving}

  Chapter 21 {Witness}

  Chapter 22 {Meeting}

  Chapter 23 {Command}

  Chapter 24 {Watching}

  Chapter 25 {Reunited}

  Chapter 26 {Aware}

  Chapter 27 {Building}

  Chapter 28 {Hate}

  Chapter 29 {Rescue}

  Chapter 30 {Nightmare}

  Chapter 31 {Anger}

  Chapter 32 {Hunting}

  Chapter 33 {Eyeball}

  Chapter 34 {Steam}

  Chapter 35 {Following}

  Chapter 36 {Flight}

  Chapter 37 {Refuge}

  Chapter 38 {Buried}

  Chapter 39 {Safe}

  Chapter 40 {Predators}

  Chapter 41 {Turn}

  Chapter 42 {Containment}

  Chapter 43 {Engineering}

  Chapter 44 {Tracking}

  Chapter 45 {Vehicle}

  Chapter 46 {Distraction}

  Chapter 47 {Invention}

  Chapter 48 {Enemy}

  Chapter 49 {Playground}

  Chapter 50 {Feedback}

  Chapter 51 {Order}

  Chapter 52 {Distance}

  Chapter 53 {Return}

  About

  More - The Claiming

  More - Inhabited

  More - Extinct

  More - Post Grace

  More - Kill Cycle

  More - Migrators

  More - Accidental Evil

  More - The Hunting Tree

  More - Transcription

  More - Camp Sacrifice

  More - The Vivisectionist

  More - Lies of the Prophet

  More - Skillful Death

  More - Punch List

  More - Wild Fyre

  MADELYN'S LAST DANCE

  BY

  IKE HAMILL

  WWW.IKEHAMILL.COM

  Dedication:

  For Madelyn (sorry for all the terrible things I’ve put you through).

  Special Thanks:

  Cover design by BelleDesign [BelleDesign.org]

  Thank you, Lynne, for your editing.

  This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and events have been fabricated only to entertain. If they resemble any facts in any way, I’d be completely shocked. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of Ike Hamill. Unless, of course, you intend to quote a section of the book in order to illustrate how awesome it is. In that case, go ahead. Copyright © 2016 by Ike Hamill. All rights reserved.

  Chapter 1

  {The End}

  MADELYN FELT AN INSTANT of weightlessness as the stool was kicked out from under her feet.

  She fell.

  The rope tightened and her neck snapped.

  She couldn’t feel her body, but she knew that it was jittering and twitching by the way the world started to shake in front of her vision.

  She closed her eyes.

  Chapter 2

  {Crowd}

  “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Jacob screamed. He threw himself at the edge of the platform. He got his arm up over the edge and pulled himself up. His climb was short-lived. One of Cleo’s guards stepped forward and planted a boot on his forehead. Jacob fell back.

  Behind him, the crowd erupted in a dozen skirmishes. Some people demanded justice. Others defended the notion that justice had been done. Jacob scrambled back to his feet as Madelyn’s body shook and danced at the end of the rope.

  When he went for the platform a second time, it was Harper who stopped him. She pulled him back down from behind.

  “You can’t help her,” Harper said. “She’s already dead.”

  “We can save her,” Jacob yelled at Harper. “If we cut her down, we can save her.”

  “They’re not going to let you,” Harper said. She gestured to Cleo’s guards. They had armed themselves. Cleo disappeared through the door to the inside of the shopping center, but she had left her guards behind to watch over Madelyn’s twitching body.

  The rest of the crowd began to disperse.

  Brook had her arm around Amelia. They stood with Jacob and Harper. The four of them looked up at Madelyn.

  Jacob was the first to turn away.

  Chapter 3

  {Trio}

  “FIND WATER,” NIREN SAID. “Soak these down.”

  He handed Ryan’s clothes to Caleb and turned his attention to the dirt. He scraped at it with his hands until he found a flat rock. After that, he used the rock to scoop way the forest soil. It was tough going with the roots, but they needed the cover of the trees until Ryan was strong enough to be mobile.

  Caleb came back with the clothes damp and muddy. Niren lifted Ryan while Caleb dressed him.

  “Why is he so weak?” Caleb asked.

  “He’s older. It takes more time to rebuild someone who is older. And I’m not sure the process completed properly.”

  Caleb helped Niren move Ryan into the hole. They pushed the dirt on top of his steaming body.

  “Will he make it?” Caleb asked.

  Niren looked up at him. The glance was his only reply. When only his face was visible, they stood and regarded their work.

  “That’s the best we can do,” Niren said. “We’re going to need him.”

  “I’m not certain about that,” Caleb said. He was looking up at the sky.

  Chapter 4

  {Dark}

  “FOUR HOUR SHIFTS,” JACK said. “The full schedule is posted on the wall inside. I just made a pot of coffee.”

  “Thanks,” Henry said. He dragged the chair back towards the wall. Someone had left a blanket. It was already wet from the heavy air. Henry took a seat. “What exactly is the point of this?” he asked. He pointed to the swinging corpse hanging from the noose. “Do we think she’s going somewhere?”

  “The old lady wants her body here for a week. She wants everyone to see her rot. We’re not going to let anyone try to take her off and bury her,” Jack said. He covered his mouth as he yawned.

  Jack was packing up his stuff and getting ready to leave.

  Henry wasn’t eager to be left alone in the dark with only a swinging corpse for company.

  “Do you really think anyone would try that?” Henry asked.

  “I don’t know. Aside from Carter, I didn’t care about any of those people she supposedly killed, and I don’t care about her. Just make sure she’s still swinging at the end of your shift and we’ll be done with this in a week.”

  “Yeah, okay,” Henry said.

  He watched Jack jump down from the platform and saw his dark shape cross the pavement to the woods. A second later, he heard the metal clink as Jack passed through the hole in the fence.

  He was alone with the woman. She had been a murderer. Now she was nothing but crow food. He was tempted to get up and go look at the schedule. He wondered how long he would have between shifts. Instead, he set his alarm and let his eyes drift shut. As long as he woke up before his relief came, he wouldn’t be in any trouble.

  # # # # #

  Henry’s
eyes flew open at the sound. He wasn’t sure if he had dreamt it or not. He held himself perfectly still. Against the wall, he was deep in the shadows of the overhang of the loading dock.

  For a while, he didn’t even breathe.

  His eyes got heavy as he waited for the sound to repeat. It had sounded like a strangled breath—just the kind of noise someone would make if they were still alive and hanging from a rope. Henry smiled in the dark and silently laughed at himself. When he was a kid, his little brother had always cracked him up. Somehow, Mark would imagine all kinds of horrible monsters that would only come out in complete darkness. Give him a little nightlight, and the monsters would all be banished.

  There was nothing about the woman’s corpse, swaying gently in the starlight, that should be any more scary than she had been when the sun was out.

  He checked his watch and then closed his eyes. Henry settled himself back into the chair. He still had thirty minutes before he needed to start looking alive. Henry smiled again. Look alive—that was a funny expression given his recent paranoia. He had witnessed the hanging from the back of the crowd. It was funny how some people had gotten upset when Cleo kicked out the stool. They knew the rules—judgements were final. If they didn’t want her hanged, they shouldn’t have voted that way.

  And it had been an efficient hanging. Cleo just kicked the stool and walked away.

  Henry wrinkled his brow and opened his eyes again. He tried to remember the last hanging. Hadn’t there been a step where one of the healers approached and verified that the criminal had died? Henry couldn’t remember if they had done that in the past. They certainly hadn’t done it for this woman. They had just kicked out the stool and walked away.

  With his eyes open, barely able to see the outline of the corpse against the stars, he heard the sound again.

  It sounded like someone with a bad cold trying to inhale through their nose. It was an uncomfortable sound, to say the least. Henry straightened in his chair.

  He wanted to go back to sleep, but there was one thing he had to do first.

  Henry stood up.

  He approached the hanging corpse. The sound stopped. He reached forward. All he wanted to do was check the woman’s pulse, just to be sure. He wasn’t squeamish. It would have been a much easier task if he had a nightlight. If Mark could see him now, his little brother would probably laugh at him.

  Henry stopped his hand at the sound. It was the metal clink of someone passing through the hole in the fence. Henry moved forward, to the edge of the platform. He took out his pistol with one hand and his flashlight with the other. He brought the two together at the end of outstretched arms and readied himself.

  The gun’s safety was off. His thumb rested on the flashlight’s switch.

  Henry pressed the switch and lit up the night.

  Nothing.

  Nothing out there moved. He swept his light across the paved area and then across the bushes that had grown past the fence. Satisfied that the sound had either been the wind, or just his fickle imagination, he backed away from the edge of the platform.

  Henry turned off his light.

  In the dark, he lost track of himself and took another step backwards into the swinging corpse.

  The hand closed on his shoulder.

  Henry screamed.

  Chapter 5

  {Rebels}

  AMELIA STOOD IN FRONT of the group. She looked like she would rather be anywhere else in the world. Whenever she glanced up and met their eyes, she immediately looked back down.

  “Carter was my cousin,” she said. “I know that a couple of you knew him.”

  Wyatt and Logan glanced at each other.

  Jacob shifted in his seat. He wanted to be the one addressing the group. Of all of them, he was most fired up about overthrowing Cleo, but that was exactly the reason why Harper had insisted that he stay quiet. Supposedly, his zeal would keep others from joining in their cause. And if they wanted to be successful, they needed people like Wyatt, Logan, and Scarlett with them. They were young, well-liked, and strong. They were the perfect allies for an insurrection. They just had to be convinced.

  “Carter wasn’t a bad person, but he was pretty easily persuaded. He followed Cleo blindly, and now I know that he was following Ryan blindly as well. I think that if he had really known what Ryan meant to do, he would have fought against him instead of joining him.”

  “And what was it that Ryan meant to do?” Scarlett asked. “Don’t tell me ghost stories about super humans. I’ve seen enough of those on the ether.”

  “The Option is real,” Jacob said. Harper put her hand on his arm to calm him down. He clenched his teeth and settled back into his chair again.

  Amelia started talking again to draw their attention.

  “I don’t know what you’d call it, but Ryan had us doing some really outlandish experiments,” she said. She glanced at Brook as she said this. “We dealt with that guy, David, to get some strange materials and then we built a machine that created an artificial Hunter inside a closed environment.”

  “What?” Wyatt asked.

  Amelia nodded. “The idea was to figure out how to take away their power, but I think that goal was fake. Ryan had us doing those experiments so he could find a way to transform himself and his group of followers.”

  Brook spoke up. “Caleb was tricked. He would have never done that on his own.”

  Amelia nodded. “We were all tricked. We built those devices and as soon as we were done, Ryan took us hostage and used the machines himself.”

  “Why didn’t you tell Cleo this?” Logan asked.

  “We tried,” Amelia said. “We fled to the woods after the building collapsed and we couldn’t find our way back. Jacob and Harper found us and by the time we got back to town, they were hanging Madelyn. We had just gotten back right then.”

  “You should have told Cleo,” Scarlett said.

  Jacob could tell that Amelia was losing them. They needed Scarlett, Wyatt, and Logan, but more than that, they needed to make sure that the three wouldn’t tell anyone else about their conspiracy. They had taken a big chance, trusting the tree harvesters, and everything rode on it.

  “Where is Caleb, anyway?” Wyatt asked.

  “Yeah,” Scarlett agreed.

  Brook answered. “He and Niren disappeared that day. They got infected by the experiment. Something was wrong with them.”

  “This is all kinda shady,” Logan said. “You’re the one who told us to escort that Darren guy out of town, and he tried to kill me. Now you’re saying that it was Ryan’s fault? It just doesn’t make sense.”

  “Listen,” Jacob said. He stood up. “You guys have questions. That’s a good thing. If you didn’t have questions, it would mean that you weren’t paying attention. You’re absolutely right. There’s something shady going on here. Amelia and Brook were told to do this research, and they told you to follow David. Caleb and Niren disappeared and all those others died. And here’s the thing—Cleo knows about all this. And when we showed up and tried to explain how Madelyn wasn’t really guilty, Cleo kicked out that stool. She’s the one who is really being shady.”

  Logan nodded. Wyatt and Scarlett looked at each other and then they began to nod as well.

  “So all we’re saying is this—we want to get enough people together where we can demand that Cleo tell us what’s going on. She’s supposed to do that, right? She’s supposed to tell us what’s happening in our own community. Instead, she has surrounded herself with those goons, and she does whatever she wants to do. How do we know that what she’s doing is safe? She punished you guys just for cutting down a few trees. Do you think that was fair?”

  “No way,” Logan said.

  “Exactly,” Jacob said.

  “So will you help us?” Amelia asked.

  “What do you want us to do?” Scarlett asked.

  “We want to take over the town meeting and demand that Cleo step down and answer to what she knew,” Amelia said.

 
“And we want a search party created to track down Ryan, Niren, and Caleb. Nobody knows where they went or what they’re planning,” Brook added.

  “I’ll help you with the first thing,” Logan said. “I think everyone should be accountable, including Cleo.”

  “As far as forming a search party,” Scarlett said, “that should be up to a vote. It’s dangerous. Everyone should decide on it.”

  Wyatt nodded.

  “Okay,” Jacob said. “The next meeting is in a week. Let’s figure out what we’re going to do.”

  Chapter 6

  {Trio}

  CALEB CRUNCHED DOWN THROUGH a bone. He frowned at it and then sucked on the end.

  “I’m sick of raw meat. We need to build a fire,” Caleb said.

  “We can’t risk it. We can’t let them find us until we’re ready to take on the whole town,” Niren said.

  “Then let’s take on the whole town now. The sooner, the better. Every second we wait, we risk them getting prepared for us,” Caleb said. He stretched out his feet.

  “Watch it,” Niren said. He moved Caleb’s foot to the side. Caleb was nearly resting his heel on Ryan’s exposed face.

  “I’m not convinced that he is ever going to be of use to us,” Caleb said, gesturing at Ryan. “We’re wasting our time waiting for him.”

  “You’re not even pure,” Ryan said.

  Niren and Caleb both froze. They hadn’t heard the man say anything since they had dragged him out of the collapsing building. He had been nothing but a burden. As they watched, Ryan emerged from the dirt. He stood and brushed himself off before he sank back down and sat against a tree.

  “What are you talking about?” Caleb said. “I’m ten times stronger than you.”

  “For now,” Ryan said. “But I’ve had a direct infusion. You were only tangentially upgraded.”

  “You couldn’t know that,” Caleb said.

 
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