By: Clifton Tribble
"The concept of religion is one and the same with organized lying. With the exception that, in religion, every liar knows their lie to be the truth." - Unknown.
Her breathing came in gasps, every tortured and rattling breath sending white-hot pain through her already burning lungs. She was only distantly aware of this, however. The pain in her legs and bare feet, the aching that intensified with every frantic step forward, was merely background to the chaos in her mind. The condition of her own physical body was inconsequential when compared to the torture she felt at having her eyes opened for the first time. Never once before had she doubted him. When he spoke she, like so many others before her, simply accepted anything he said as truth. Any order he had given them had been followed without doubt or question. She had never considered how hollow that reasoning was. Never considered that perhaps he, like all those he touched, was human. That he could be corrupted by greed, that malice could enter his mind and guide his actions. He was meant to be perfect, he was meant to guide them all, and now he had crushed her delusions.
She risked a frantic glance back, her eyes having adjusted to the darkness that surrounded her after an untold amount of time of running. She considered the shadows all around her, darkening with every step she took away from them as if he were willing them forward to reclaim her. She looked back at the largest shadow of them all, stretched out mere paces behind her on the loose soil of the field. She had always considered the silver light of the moon to be beautiful but this night it was sinister, an impotent light that only hindered her escape from darkness. That silver light caused the building behind her to come alive, its shadow stretching out like some form of specter to grab her and bring her back to him. That couldn't happen, the only thing waiting for her back at that house was certain death or, at the very least, more lies and torment. She nearly screamed as the wind picked, carelessly tousling her golden hair against her face. She quickly bit down on the reaction, however, one inspired by fear and surprise.
The wind only brought more sound to her ears; heavy footfalls and hurried shouts sounded from behind her. Already they were searching for her, believing their actions to be completely justifiable as they coincided with his will. There was a point in time where she would have gladly joined them, completely disillusioned into thinking that by pursuing and running down a human being they were doing what was best for them. Now, she only continued to run. She couldn't explain herself to others, despite having known them for years. They most likely wouldn't even believe what she had to tell them, finding it impossible to doubt their leader. That or they would simply be overwhelmed by what she said, she knew the truth had nearly crippled her until the adrenaline took hold and forced her to run from the building, across the field. She had no idea where she was running to, most of her knowledge of the world beyond the compound had been forgotten, all she knew was that she had to get away from him.
That thought forced her to continue, providing her with determination that bypassed the ache in her slender legs, the burning in her weakened lungs. She wasn't running merely for self-preservation. She was running for all of those she left behind her, even those that were chasing her. She needed to reach someone, anyone, and tell them of what has going, of what he was doing. While that reason made her trek sound all the more noble, it did nothing to decrease the terror she felt. All she wanted now was to go home; back to what little was left of her family. She wished she hadn't pushed her sister away, the only person in the world who truly wanted to help her. She had left her family behind in favor of him, only to discover that he was just as corrupt as the world she was leaving behind her. That thought made her look back, to the dim beams of flashlights in the distance behind her. They were getting closer but she had far too much of a lead, she could escape. She could tell the world the truth. She could see her sister again.
She never saw it when the man stepped out in front of her, as if the shadows before her had warped themselves into the hulking form of some great beast. The scream that immediately attempted to exit her throat was immediately cut off by the figure's hands wrapping around her throat, a vice that robbed her of what little oxygen she could take in. She was dimly aware of being lifted off her, the grip around her neck only tightening. Memories starting flooding back to her. Her family was the only thought she focused on in her last moments. She thought of her mother to whom she never apologized to, of her father who she felt still owed her an apology. Her sister pushed herself to the forefront of her thoughts, reminding her of all the times she had tried to help only to be ignored and pushed away. The woman tried to cry as she felt the life draining out of her but she couldn't draw enough breath to do so. Instead she merely thought of her sister, of her name: April. She repeated in her head over and over again, hoping to convey some message to her sibling.
Somewhere in the distance, she heard a sickening crack, and felt an immeasurable pain shoot through her body. She hardly noticed it, however, before she went entirely limp in the massive figure's hands, her ivy-green eyes glossy and lifeless.