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Strike for Power

This originally was a writing prompt that turned into a longer story. I have no regrats.

- Turan

Writing prompt from the book 5000 writing prompts: Any person who kills her will inherit her power.


 

Running through the woods, Alex tripped over a stump and rolled across the leaf-covered ground. Dirt and rocks cut and bruised her skin as she tumbled. With a hard groan, Alex pushed herself up. She couldn't waste a single moment. They were hunting her.

Wiping the tears off her face, Alex stifled her pain. There was no room for error in her escape. Who knows what power they possessed in return. She pushed herself to her feet, not even bothering to brush herself off. Picking up the pace, Alex forced into a light jog. Her body ached and screamed at her. How long had she been running? Internally she cursed. If only she never killed that stupid boy, she could be free.

It was two weeks ago when she took the shortcut home. It was a small path through the forest beside a small flowing stream. Alex had taken this path every day since starting school, taking it to and from home. It was a beautiful, forgotten, beaten path: overgrown from years of neglect. She had stumbled upon it one day when she was running from her dad.

He was drunk, yelling at her for something her mother did or didn't do. Alex couldn't remember the reason anymore from how often it happened. Since then, she’d explored each pathway and where they led. It was a convenient secret, leading her across town to just about any place she needed to go. It wasn't long until Alex had each path and section of the forest memorized.

Even more surprising was how no one ever knew about the connected ways, nor did she bother to tell them. Her biggest fear was that more people would find them, ruining her only solace away from the forsaken town.

Only today, it was the first time she had ever come across something on the path. Alex froze, feeling the adrenaline kick in, chilling her to the core. Should she run back to the school and wait? She never needed a backup plan for this type of situation.

She shuffled awkwardly. Looking forward and then back down the path to the school, she debated her options. A small yowl caught her off guard. She jumped at the sound. Was it a wounded animal?

Alex waited a moment longer before clenching her fist tightly with determination. Taking a small breath in, she decided to step forward. Timidly approaching the body, Alex spotted reddish fur, glowing from the flashing sunlight that broke through the tree coverage. It was a fox, a large one to boot.

With more confidence, she rushed to the beast’s side, checking to see if it was still breathing. The fox whimpered at her touch, shivering in fear weakly. It broke Alex's heart.

The fox must have been afraid she was a predator. With a soft voice, she stroked its fur gently. "Shh. Don't be afraid. I won't hurt you."

The creature pulled itself up weakly and tried to run away. Right then, Alex spotted the blood-soaked fur on its leg and shoulder. She gasped with concern. Who could have done this to the poor animal?

Tenderly, Alex slid her arm under the fox's body and lifted it. The poor creature yipped, struggling against her hold.

"Please, be still. Your hurt, little one. I just want to help you."

Placing it down again, she touched her fingers to the frightened fox's cheek, stroking it softly to ease them. The fox's eyes widened, almost human-like. It panted heavily and stared back at her, scanning her eyes for a moment. Alex continued to rub her finger along the fox's jaw line. Again Alex reassured the poor mammal.

"It's ok. You'll be safe in my care."

Her words were enough for the beast to relax. Letting go of its resistance, the fox slumped into her arms. Alex waited a moment before slowly moving her hands towards the fox's paws. She checked to make sure no bones were protruding or any missing chunks. The fur was matted and dirty, some of it with dried blood.

Poor thing, Alex thought. Without hesitation, she swooped the fox into her arms tightly and ran. If she could get to her tree house quick enough, she could get provisions for the little one before getting caught.

Alex prayed that her dad was still out so she could sneak about without being questioned. Time was of the essence. Weaving through and down the path, Alex made quick haste.

Before she knew it, the view of her backyard was in sight. She slowed down, kneeling behind a bush to quickly scan the house windows. The lights were all off, and there was no movement that she could see. Perfect, she thought with a smirk.

Alex bolted out of the forest to the base of the tree house. There was a small ladder that led to the top. It took a bit of manoeuvring to keep the fox tightly to her chest and ascend the shaking ladder.

Thankfully the little creature was light that it posed no real difficulty. Reaching the top, however, was the real struggle. Balancing as much as possible, Alex grabbed the latch above to open the trap door. It was a little tricky, but after years of sneaking full arms of food, clothing, and toys from her room, Alex had become a bit of a pro.

Once she flipped the trap door, she climbed the last few rungs enough to pull herself up, sliding to her bottom first, then brought her feet in before closing the latch. It was a small room; with a small bed in the corner, a battery-operated lamp, a travel-sized oven attracted to a solar panel battery, and a table with books, papers, and pens. From the roof hung a hammock full of clothes, bags of snacks and a few other blankets in case of cold nights.

Alex placed the poor animal beside her bed and reached for a towel. Grabbing an old shirt, she ripped it into shreds for bandages.

There wasn't much she had to offer the fox, and there was no fresh water to clean the wounds. Alex reached for a small cushion and placed it under its head. It was all she could offer for comfort until she returned from inside the house. Petting the foxes face, she reassured it.

"I have to leave you for a moment. You'll be safe in here. I will come back in a moment with fresh water and supplies to take care of your wounds."

She knew the animal couldn't understand her, but it gave her comfort. If she could help it feel at home, it was worthwhile. Grabbing her backpack from a hook on the wall, she swung it on her back and kicked open the trap door.

With a small jump, Alex skipped a few ladder rungs and descended quickly. Running towards the house on high alert, Alex opened the door silently.

Without turning on a light, she crouched low and tipped-toe to her bedroom. First, she needed a small blanket and towel. She rolled them up quickly and shoved them into her bag.

Next, she reached the bathroom, pulling out her cellphone to turn on the light. Quickly opening the drawer, she grabbed band-aids, gauze, and soap. There also was a white trash bag roll inside that she ripped off a few bags. It was just for precaution and to throw away what may have been too soiled by the fox's blood.

Lastly, she headed back to the kitchen. Spotting the clock, she watched the hand strike 7 o'clock. The chime rang as a flash of light crossed the wall. Ducking further, Alex sped to the kitchen pantry. A diesel truck pulled into the driveway, music blaring. It clunked hard, the gears grinding into park to stop. She was running out of time.

Grabbing several water bottles, Alex shoved them into her bag until full to the brim. With a tight pull on her bag strings, she lifted the bag and booked it to the back door.

The front door opened when she closed the back, hiding the noise. Ducking behind the door, she could hear the staggering steps of her father.

Just by the uneven pattern, she could tell he had been drinking. Figures. Alex waited a moment longer as the steps took down the hall towards the bedrooms. She pushed off and ran back to the ladder, climbing it gracefully. Lifting the trapdoor carefully, Alex slid inside the house and closed the door silently. She waited before sitting up with a heavy sigh.

Turning her attention back to the fox, it had drifted into a deep sleep. Hopefully, she was not too late to help the little creature. Setting up the supplies she gathered, she began to work. Pouring water on the small towels, Alex cleaned the blood and dirt away.

It took time to clear all the wounds and the discolour from the blood. Taking the gauze, Alex pressed them into the open wounds, then wrapped the shreds of t-shirt around the fox's body to hold them in place. She covered the rest of the injuries on the fox's legs and neck.

It looked like whatever was trying to attack the poor animal intended to kill it. What would have happened if Alex decided to pass it by and do nothing? She shuttered at the thought. It was better not to think about it.

Finish dressing the wounds, Alex slumped back, stretching out her legs. She watched the fox sleep peacefully in a deep slumber. She discovered his gender while cleaning his legs and thought now about what to name the little guy. Would it be ok to keep him until he recovered enough to leave on his own?

Tapping the bottom of her chin, Alex thought for a moment. The fox slept peacefully, curling up into the blanket she wrapped around him after she finished washing his fur. Despite the bandages, he didn't look to be suffering much. It made her happy.

Alex had never owned a pet before, and the thought of keeping a secret pet fox from her dad made her giggle mischievously. She would be like the character in a comic she read once, where a girl found a magic rabbit. They got into all sorts of trouble on their adventures. It was one of Alex's favourite books.

"I know," Alex rolled to her stomach, crawling in closer to lay beside the sleeping fox, "I will call you Flax. It’s the name of the rabbit in the stories I used to read."

Giving the small fox a head scratch, Alex smiled. Flax stretched sleepily, flicking his bandaged paw before lazily leaning his head into her hand. Alex giggled. Her head close to his, she whispered in a low voice.

"I wish I had magic powers, you know? At least then, I could leave here and take care of myself. Leave this terrible house. Leave this awful town. I hate it here."

Her smile faded. If only she could leave. With a small sigh, Alex closed her eyes. "Will you be my magical sidekick, Flax?"

With that, she drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, she woke up with Flax still sleeping in her hand. He was awake, staring at her, waiting for her to wake up. Never did he complain or cry. Thankfully, Alex had some snacks stored away to feed them both breakfast. She sat on the floor, breaking off small chunks of her granola bar to feed Flax.

He was feeling much chipper, gleefully taking the small bites to chop down. After eating, Alex unwrapped the bandages to clean the wounds with fresh gauze. Only, when she pulled them away, there was no sight of any cuts.

In a bit of confusion, Alex chuckled. "Well, I don't know if I made the whole thing up or if foxes just heal fast, but you're all better now."

Petting the fox behind the ears, she frowned. "Does... this mean I need to let you go free?"

Flax sneezed in response. He looked upset and almost disagreed with her. Alex put her hands on her hip. "What, does that mean you want to stay?"

With a yip, Flax replied. He sat straight, flicking his bushy tail.

"Alright, if you insist. Welcome to Castle El'forte. It's my home away from home. Cause the real one sucks."

The alarm on Alex's phone began to ring, pulling her attention away. "Oh, shoot! I need to get ready for school! Come, let me take you in. Dad’s gone early in the day for work and always comes home late. If I time it right, I never have to see him. He doesn't bother to seek me out either."

With that, she offered her shoulder, and Flax hopped on. It was a start of a beautiful relationship.

Each day Flax would follow her to school, wait on the path until she returned and then they would play until it was time to sneak back up into the tree house. Alex finally found hope, living her days happy alongside Flax. But with everything in Alex's life, it never lasted. Two weeks had gone by, and this time when she came out of school towards the path, Flax wasn't there. Odd, Alex thought, calling out for him a few times.

"Flax? Flax! Where are you hiding?"

Maybe it was a game? Alex scanned about more before taking a few steps into the forest. Could it be a new game he was playing with her? Smiling weakly, she decided to play along.

"Alright, I guess I am just going to keep heading home! Don't try to sneak up on me!"

Alex continued, walking for a while, waiting. Nothing came after several minutes, which caused her to worry. Where did he go?

She stopped to look back towards the school with a frown. Did Flax maybe stay at home today? Facing homeward bound, Alex broke into a hurried jog. There was only one way to find out.

The forest was a blur when the tree house popped into view. Not wasting time looking for her dad, she dropped her bag to the ground and called out for Flax. Her voice laced with concern and fear. Looking up to the tree house, she climbed the ladder in a rush. The trap door was unlocked, making it easy for her to pop open.

"Flax, are you-"

All the blood drained from her face. Her body shook with rage as she dropped down the ladder in a frenzy. Racing the back door, she ripped it open and stomped inside. She didn’t have to go far. Sitting on a chair in the kitchen was her dad. His back to her as she stormed in.

"What did you do?"

He was lighting another cigarette, taking his time to reply. He deliberately took a deep breath of the smoke and exhaled, meeting Alex with an indifferent attitude.

"What the hell did you do to all my stuff?!"

Finally, he glanced at Alex. "I cleaned it out."

Flabbergasted, Alex shook her head. "Cleaned it out?! That was all my stuff! You had no right!"

Her dad slammed his fist against the table. "Don't tell me what I have a right to do in my own house! With my property! You've been wasting your time up there when you are supposed to be living here! Your lucky I haven't taken a chain saw to the tree to cut it down! You are too old to be playing games! Time to wake up!"

Alex shook with anger. How dare he tell her she needed to wake up.

"I need to stop playing games? Who's getting pissed drunk every night and wasting all the money on alcohol? Every day I need to fend for myself because my useless dad-"

Alex felt the dread trickle down her spine at how fast her dad shot out of the chair. His face was menacing. Puffing his chest out, he towered over her.

"What did you call me? After all, I have done for you? I’ve given a roof over your head. Even allowed you to spend night after night in that tree house: and for what? This disrespect? I know you think you are so clever. I saw the bags of bloody rags in the trash and the tiffs of fur all over the yard. You are hiding a damn mutt from me! You know the rules around here: no pets allowed! So, from now on, you are no longer allowed up in that tree house, and you’re getting a job to start paying for things around here!"

Alex took several steps back towards the wall as her dad yelled at her. His face was blistering red as spittle flung out at her. Her body did the one thing it could. It turned towards the door and fled. Her dad reached out, grabbing her shirt to pull her back before she could make it. It tore just enough for her to escape his reach. He may have been stronger than her, but she was nimble.

Opening the door with great force, she managed to slam it into his face. He collided hard with it, falling back to the floor with a roar. Alex didn't bother looking back, running full force towards the forest. Before she hit the tree line, she heard a yip from Flax.

Alex whipped her head towards him, spotting him jumping near a different pathway. She pivoted on the spot and bolted in his direction.

"Flax!"

The second she caught up, he turned and led her down the pathway. It was the pathway that took them out of town. Alex's heart was pounding, her legs weightless. Leaves, twigs and branches flew past her in a blur. All she could see was Flax sprinting like a golden light guiding her.

Ahead of them was a clearance leading them just outside of the town. Once on the other side, Alex would be clear from the town's borders and into the wilds. Her spirit soured. Finally, she was leaving this horrible place.

Reaching the edge of the treeline, Alex almost tripped over Flax. Stopping stiff in his tracks, he paused with focused eyes. Alex collapsed to her knees while panting. "What... what is it... boy?"

She wiped the sweat streaming down her forehead before looking into the clearing. Covering her mouth quickly to mute the startled scream, Alex spotted dark figures out in the opening. They were younger kids calling out, all taunting some being.

"Here, little weasel! We know you are trying to escape here! No use hiding! Come out and face your fate!"

Alex's eyes widened. Were they talking about her? How did they know she was trying to escape. A tug on her sleeve made Alex jump. Flax was trying to get her attention, pulling her off the path to the right. His eyes were wide with fear as well. Was Flax scared of the teens as well?

She had no choice but to follow. Alex did her best to sneak through the thicket. They slowly made their way downwind of the kids before Flax looked back at her. With a nod, Alex understood. They were going to try and run to the other side. It was the only way to freedom.

Reaching out to Flax, she gave him a soft pat. "We can do it. We are almost free of this place! We’ll start our own adventure."

It wasn't a reassuring speech, but it was enough to gear her into the ready. Alex looked across the field, listening carefully for the sounds of the kids in the distance. With a deep breath, she readied herself. "Alright, on the count of three. One, two…, Three!"

Both Alex and Flax bolted from the tree line. The open breeze greeted Alex, cooling her down from the sweat and heat of running. The field was longer than she thought. Just passing the halfway mark, she finally heard the cries of the teenagers. "Look! Over there! There it is! And there is another person with it!"

Alex looked over her shoulder to spot several kids running in their direction. Panic erupted over her, pushing her to run for her life. The last words she heard echoing in her mind rang clear as day.

"What do we do with the other one?"

"Kill them, too."

Alex glanced down at Flax running ahead of her. He looked at her with terror, sprinting in front of her to lead the way.

What was going on? Why did they want to kill them?!

A sharp whistle glanced by her ear suddenly. The noise made her veer off a little from Flax's path as she tried to dodge whatever it was. A second one flew past as she looked over her shoulder. The kids had enormous slingshots that harnessed to their forearms. One of the kids loaded it up again while running and shot it towards her. Unable to avoid the rock in time, it hit her square in the shoulder. "Ow!"

Stumbling a little, Alex now realized what had caused the wounds to Flax's body. It wasn't her they were after; it was him. Flax slowed down, meeting up to her side once more. He couldn’t help her with the pain, only encouraging her to run faster. Alex choked back her tears and focused on the tree line.

They just needed to outrun them all and hide. On the other side of the wilds, there was a river. If they could get to it, they might have a chance to escape them. "Flax, if we can get to the river, they won't follow us!"

The fox was more intelligent than he should have been. With a nod, he ran in front again and sped up. They were nearing the wilds quickly when the kids began to slow down. Alex laughed excitedly. "Flax! They slowed down! We might lose them before-"

SNAP.

The loud crack of a metal machine shot out of the ground ahead of her. Alex slowed down, realizing they ran straight into danger. Traps laid all over. Thankfully Flax was not caught, but he too crocheted low.

Leaves covered the ground heavily, covering any sights of metal that could glint in the low sunrise. It was the twilight hour, making it nearly impossible to scan for danger.

Laughter carried from the kids as they walked the rest of the way towards them. They needed to keep moving! Slowly Alex hopped about, avoiding large bundles of potential traps. A few times, Alex saw the teeth of the traps peeking out, but not often enough. Bumping her foot against the edge of one, it slapped, catching the edge of her pant light. Alex cried out, afraid that it would trip her to fall into another one.

Ripping her pants quickly, she needed to make her way faster. A rock smacked her head with a hard thud. A burst of laughter was short to follow as they all cheered. "Good shot!"

Several loud cracks began to follow closely behind them. Alex looked to catch the kids triggering several traps with sticks, catching ground behind them. What was wrong with these guys? Alex fought from sobbing.

Looking ahead, she spotted Flax yipping at her. He made it past all the traps and was waiting for her. He moved left to right, attempting to give her directions to weave through the traps. Her eyes were blurry with tears as she stumbled through the landmine field.

Again a rock hit her hard, this time in the leg, successfully tripping her. As she landed, the rock triggered a trap beside her. The snapping teeth caught her arm, cutting her.

Thankfully it only caught the outside of her arm and didn't catch the entire thing. The power of the snap could have broken her bone. There was no way Alex would get out of the field in time to avoid the hunting kids. The taunt of an older boy confirmed her feeling.

"I got you now, you bitch. What kind of powers are you going to give me?"

"Powers? What are-"

Before she could finish, the boy raised his arm high, holding a knife tightly. It plummeted towards her in slow motion, her body frozen with fear. Is this how I'm going to die? A flash of red flung in front of her, colliding with the boy as it pushed him back. Flax sacrificed himself to save her, biting at the boy's face and arms.

The teen cried out, grabbing Flax and throwing him off towards the side. Alex watched in fear, everything slowing down as Flax landed into a trap. The teeth jumped up, snapping into his side. With a horrifying crunch, Alex could hear the deep grunt from her friend.

Blinding rage took over. Alex grabbed at the ground, picking up a trap by the chain. With a painful roar, she turned towards the offender, flinging the chain towards him with all her might.

The trap flew in an arch, colliding with the teen's head, triggering the trap to snap shut. Alex stood stunned, watching the boy gurgled blood from his mouth. His eyes stared at her in disbelief.

It was the first time Alex experienced death firsthand. The body slumped to the grass, lifeless. Alex felt bile in her throat but swallowed it down.

Running to Flax's side, she pried the trap open and picked up his weakened body. Holding him close, she glared back at the other kids; they stood speechless. Without a word, she slowly trumped through the rest of the traps and ran into the wilds.

She didn't stop for a while until she saw the river. Stumbling over the rocks, she placed Flax's body down to look at him. He was still alive, barely holding on. Alex sobbed, petting his face.

"No... Nononono! Don't die on me, ok? Let me get some water, and I can clean this up for you..."

Pulling off her button-up shirt, she prepared to rip it into strips when a voice stopped her.

"Alex. Don't."

Looking down at Flax, Alex blinked in shock. He looked her dead in the eyes, speaking once more.

"Listen. Please. Kill me. Those kids, they won't stop until they take my powers. I want you to have it instead. If you don't and I die, it will be devastating to the town. You need to contain it."

Alex dropped her arms, shaking her head. "Flax? Kill you? No! I didn't mean to kill the other boy, but kill you? I can't!"

Flax lifted his head weakly. "You must. Please. Take the rock, and bash it against my head. Do it. Just think, you get to have your wish. You get to have magical powers and leave this place. Like you said you wanted, remember."

Tears streamed down her cheek as she stroked the top of Flax's head. Voices in the distance rang as the kids continued to chase them down, accompanied by several adults. One of which Alex recognized instantly.

Clutching at her heart, Alex closed her eyes tightly. The pain swelled her chest. She didn't have much choice. She killed someone, and now if caught, she’d be in much worse trouble. Running her hand slowly against the ground, Alex fumbled to grab a rock. Opening her eyes once more, she looked into Flax's fading eyes. "I love you, Flax."

"I love you too, Alex."

Clenching her eyes shut a final time, Alex raised her arm high and struck down against the ground. She did it several times, over and over, until the sickening sound became thuds against other stones. Or at least that's what she made herself believe.

Tossing the rock aside, Alex rolled herself to the side, turning her back to the corpse of her friend. The cries of people searching for her echoed close by while she sat. All the things Alex experienced in a short period; losing her closest friend, running away from home, killing the boy? None of this was like her adventure book. All she wanted was a friend, but now she had to do it alone.

"Good bye Flax."

Pushing herself up, she walked towards the river. Where should she go now? Alex was a wanted person for murdering the boy no matter where she went. All she could do now was run deeper into the wilds. Looking at the ground near the fox's body, she pondered his words. "Magic powers, huh? Guess I'll have to find out what they are on my own."

Stepping into the water, she began her new life.

End.


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