((edited slightly for continuity C:))
James and Morgan both looked on with wide eyes as Hannah struggled to separate the stake from Pascal. There was something comedic about the minute long ordeal, at least until they fully realized exactly what she was struggling with. The thing finally gave way with a sickening "squelch" and sent the girl slightly back with it, revealing a sizable hole in the corpse's chest, dark with a mess of coagulated blood. The wood was similarly drenched in the darkish red tar.
"I don't know if you've gotten any decent weapons yet, so...
Morgan reached dazedly up with a shaky hand towards the girl's offering. Since her hand was on the only dry portion, Morgan grasped the end covered in the sticky, clotted mess. She lowered it and gazed down will all the intent of a burned-out junkie.
She continued to look down at the stake. This thing had just been in a corpse. This thing had killed
someone. It was covered in his blood like it had been driftwood in a sea of tar. It had been in a sea really; a wet jumble of seaweed organs and coral bones, blood puddling up like water as the severed veins spewed their load. She could see in her mind's eye as its tip pierced the skin, the muscle, the lungs. She could feel it in her own chest.
She let it clatter to the floor.
James was on his knees beside her as soon as the thing hit the ground. His mouth was at her ear.
"Come on, let's get you out of there."
She swung her daypack on and he took her duffel. He helped her up after getting to his own feet, then steered her by her shoulders towards the back room of the oratory. He kept his eyes on the worn red carpet and away from his peers' gazes.
He swung the door closed behind them and glanced around the dusty room. Directly across from him was a large overturned desk with a chair off to its left, to his direct left was a large bureau, and to his right was a large mirror. Their collective largeness dominated the cramped room. All of it was blanketed with a heavy coat of dust. He walked over to the chair and quickly wiped the worst of the dust from the leather, then carried it over to where Morgan was. She dropped her bag to the floor and collapsed into the ancient thing. She buried her face in her hands. James dropped her duffel where he stood and knelt beside her.
"You gonna be okay?"
She slid her hands off her face with a slight sniffle, and looked at him.
"Yeah. I'll be fine."
He smiled a bit. "I'm just gonna go grab my shit then we're out of here. Sound good?"
She smiled back and nodded.
He got to his feet, walked over to the door, and began to turn the knob. At that exact moment the gunfire began.
There was a commotion on the other side of the door. The sound of something falling, yelling, and then a mess of footsteps. Something was wrong.
"Give me the chair."
She obliged. James tried his best to jam it under the doorknob. The back was just tall enough to make it slightly awkward, but otherwise it seemed it could hold.
Morgan's heartbeat doubled its speed. "What the fuck is going on?"
He shook his head and put his index finger to his lips. He led her to the far side of the room. He faced her and held both her hands and let out the lowest whisper he could manage.
"Someone has a gun. If we run we're fucked, the treeline is too far away. If they get in here just run the other way. Don't wait for me. Got it?"
She made as if to speak, then just simply nodded her head. He leaned against the back of the wall. She followed next to him. As time wore on they slid down towards the ground, propelled by fatigue and gravity. By the time they reached the floor their hands were again clasped. The rest of them descended further until they were both asleep on the dusty wood flooring.
Morgan came to consciousness as fluidly as she'd left it. For the first time in nearly a week there had been no nightmares. She was grateful for it. She stretched her legs out and was for a moment puzzled at why she couldn't move her fingers. She looked down and realized they were still twisted between James's. She carefully wriggled them out and gingerly removed his head from her shoulder. He gave a light snore and turned towards the wall. For the second time that week, she smiled.
She got to her feet with another stretch and a yawn. She cracked her neck and back and looked around the little dust-covered room. The one window of the room revealed a dull light mottled by a thousand tiny drops of water clattering against it. The chair was still in place and the rest was as dusty as they'd left it. She walked over to the mirror.
She began to remove the dust with her hand. Her index finger was split against a crack she hadn't noticed. She brushed it off on her filthy carpi leg and sucked the finger with annoyance, then dusted the rest off more carefully. The reflection revealed a much older creature than she'd expected to see. The bags under her eyes were puffy and deep. There were numerous scabbed scratches zigzagging their way over her features. A small cluster of acne had begun to form at her left cheek. There was mud all over her neck and coat, and her once baby blue tee was dark with dried sweat. In short, she looked like hell.
Her hair, however, was perfect.
She turned from the mirror and looked at the sleeping figure before her. She began to wonder if she should let him sleep or wake him up now. Her thought was cut short by the sound of footsteps in the chapel behind her.
A voice called out from far behind him. He had no time to wonder who it was. He had to keep running. The pavement of the street below him thudded against the sole sof his sneakers at a slower and slower rate. It was gaining ground fast. He had to keep going.
He could feel it getting closer and closer. He tried to force his legs to pump faster but they only met more resistance. It was like he was running through water.
"There's someone here!"
He felt something vile brush against the back of his neck, then everything began to fade.
James squinted up at Morgan. Her brow was furrowed and she was whispering harshly through gritted teeth. Whatever had been lost of her hard demeanor the previous day had apparently been restored by the night's rest.
"There's someone in here!"
Morgan barely had time to register when James sprung up, nearly hitting his forehead against hers in his mad dash for the door. She turned to see his hear pressed to it. He turned towards her and whispered.
"My bags are still in there. If you here anything, run. Got it?"
"We need that gun
. We don't have a choice. Just trust me."
She had no retort. She simply glared as he quietly removed the chair, cracked the door and slipped out into the chapel.
There was a figure behind the pulpit. They were staring intently at something else, and hadn't noticed James's entry. So far, so good. James crouched, hugged the wall to his right and quietly made his way to the pews.
If he went down the center isle they were sure to spot him. He looked unter the pew. The fit would be tight, but if he were careful enough he could crawl under. His bags (and his patient, he now remembered) were only a few pews back. One he got them he could rush out the front doors, circle back to the entrance in the back for Morgan, and book it to the jungle. If Joe was still there, he could do nothing but leave him. He was surprised at how little guilt he felt at that thought.
James laid himself on his stomach and began to drag himself through by his arms. His coat zipper made slight scraping sounds against the floor as he went, but there was nothing he could do to prevent it. They
didn't seem to hear. After several arduous minutes, he finally looked up to see a body laying above him.
By the stiff feel of his arms, rigor had already set in. He hadn't been dead for too long. James wasted no time feeling pity for him. He struggled to break the rigor on the arm as quietly as possible. Eventually he gave it up as a futile task and instead wriggled the bag from the corpse's grasp. To his surprise, it came with relative ease. He had begun work on getting the daypack from under the cardboard legs when a nearby PA boomed to life.
James paid no mind to Danya's musing over the newly dead. He didn't need his affirmation to know shit had hit the fan. He was staring into a corpse's crotch at that very moment. No, he knew what part of these announcement were really important.
He was ready. The beeping in his collar had hardly begun by the time he reached the chapel doors. He could hear muttering from somewhere behind him. He didn't spare the time to look. He burst though the chapel doors and sprinted through the clearing. It wasn't until he reached the treeline that he realized Morgan wasn't with him.
((James Ellet continued in The Threepenny Opera As Performed By Potted Plants
The agonizing silence was broken by a booming voice piercing through the walls and to her ears. It was the last thing she wanted to hear. The list of the dead numbed her as well any anesthetic. It was more than she could bear. She sunk back into the chair as the smug voice droned on, crossing her arms and trying her very best to keep her brain from translating what her ears were receiving.
It was the sudden beeping of her collar that tore her from her stupor.
Morgan gave a frantic glance to the cracked door. She knew she had no time to hesitate. That didn't make in any less painful. Within seconds her bags were on her shoulders and her hand was on the handle of the door leading outside. A few seconds more and she was dashing towards the dark smudge of trees ahead of her.
((Morgan Ackland continued in A Convoluted Conventicle