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“I knew he’d be trouble,” Max snarled. Daryl grunted in agreement. The color drained from Henry’s face as he looked at Jim. The old man seemed unconcerned though as he barely registered anything that was going on. He continued to potter around his little dwelling, mumbling to himself as he went about his business. If Henry had had more time to think then he would have been envious of Jim because the old man seemed happy in his ignorance. Even though a broken mind would have been more difficult to heal than a broken bone, it may have been easier to live with.
Knowing he had no other choice, Henry climbed out of the pit. He took hold of the rope that dangled over the edge and clutched it in his hands. The coarse twine dug into his raw skin as he hauled himself out of the pit. His feet kicked at the icy sides of the pit and flakes of it fluttered off, covering the toes of his shoes. By the time he’d steadied himself and brushed himself off The Duke had joined them. Fury ran through Henry’s blood and he clenched his aching fists. It took all of his self-restraint not to lunge at them. The Duke looked so calm, considering the fact that he’d just killed a man and the commune had been under attack. He stood with his legs spread wide and his hands on his hips. His long grey cloak spread out against his arms, revealing the pistol that was hanging by his side. Henry felt entirely impotent and his insides crawled at the thought of being at the mercy of these people.
“You want me to get rid of him boss? He’s more trouble than he’s worth,” Max said, his fingers wrapping themselves around the handle of his gun and his eyes flickering with desire.
“Not yet,” The Duke said, his voice as cool and calm as ever. “I must apologize for the chaos that you’ve witnessed since you’ve arrived. I cannot imagine what you must think of us. But you see, there’s a new order in this world. There’s a new golden rule – do unto others as they would do unto you but do it first. That’s the only way any of us are going to survive here and as the sooner you realize that the better. There’s a place for you with us if you want it, but you have to earn our trust.”
“I have to earn your trust?” Henry exclaimed incredulously.
“Of course,” The Duke replied coolly, “what else do you expect? You run around this place with no idea of what’s going on. You don’t know what happened with those people, you don’t know anything yet you’re so quick to judge us.”
“You were the ones who found me! You dragged me here, I never asked for this!”
“We rescued you from the wilderness and not once have you thanked us. We’ve taken you in, we’ve fed you, and we’ve made sure you’re healthy. Look around you,” he spread his arms wide and his cloak fell loosely about him, “everybody is safe here. Nobody is complaining. The world ended and we’re surviving, what else do you expect of us? Do you not think that perhaps the problem lies with yourself? Spending all that time alone…it’s understandable that you may be a little paranoid. Henry, believe me when I say that I’m here to help you. We’re survivors Henry. You lived out there on your own for God knows how long. You’re a survivor too. You belong here. We want to know how you survived. We want to know everything you know. It shouldn’t be possible but somehow you did it, you found a way on your own. But you’re not on your own anymore Henry, you can help us and we can help you, you just need to let go of your fear and realize that you can trust us.”
Henry stared at him. The Duke’s eyes betrayed no emotion and for a moment Henry started to doubt himself. He was exhausted and he’d spent so long along. Was it possible that he had interpreted things incorrectly? His head throbbed and he began to feel disoriented. The strange faces of The Duke, Max, Daryl and Jim flashed before his eyes and the world was becoming a blur. Their faces shimmered and morphed into his family and he almost broke down in tears when he thought of them. He could almost hear his children’s laughter and smell his wife’s perfume and he had to clench his jaw to prevent it from quivering.
He hated this frozen wasteland and everything in it, and at some points he wished he could die but no, he had to survive and see him again. The three of them were too smug though, and too confident. Henry knew that if he didn’t take action they would break him. He glanced down piteously at Jim and vowed to himself that he would never end up like that. He had too much to live for to be lost in the chaos of the mind.
“Tell me what happened to your family, tell me why you lied to me and told me they were still alive,” he said icily, just managing to keep his voice from cracking under the tension. The Duke’s cool façade slipped for a second as Henry witnessed panic and pain flash in his eyes. Max and Daryl’s jaws dropped and they looked shocked. The smug grins were wiped from their faces as they turned towards The Duke to await his reaction. In that moment Henry knew the difference between him and The Duke; to him family was a source of strength, but to the Duke it was a weakness, and Henry was ready to exploit it. For the first time since he had arrived Henry actually felt some independence, and that he wasn’t at the mercy of these men. The surge of confidence was noticeable and he stood taller. He stared unflinchingly at The Duke and smiled.
To be continued ……. Please share 🙂