|Jacks and Aces|
|Rating||Teen (explicate content)|
Hey guys. I know you guys (well, I hope) like this story, but I'm going to try and get this published, so I can't post too much content online. So, I'm stopping here. Sorry.
The campfire’s loud crackles easily drowned out the screeching, forlorn cry of a single crow, perched high in the branches of the gnarled trees, which echoed around the woods. Sparkling embers waltzed around the roaring flames of crimson and lemon yellow and coral, and the hazy light attacked the darkness that surrounded it. The firelight reflected in her eyes, the deep blue of the irises glowing, and heated her.
Vixen tossed another arid stick into the fire and the flames instantly bellowed, releasing a prison of cinders and a cloud of smoke into the moist atmosphere, twinned with a burst of sudden heat. Her fingers fumbled across the moss-cloaked floor, searching for the smooth, cold handle of her slingshot; she eventually found it, concealed under a bundle of rotting leaves, the band loose and stretchy.
Her ears pricked up at the unmistakeable sound of light footsteps, and her thin neck craned up in time to see a plump squirrel hurriedly scampering across the landscape – Vixen immediately looked round for a weapon. A tiny, irregular-shaped stone sat beneath the rubble of rotten, collapsed trees, and she positioned it on the band of the sling. The pebble zoomed through the humidity, slicing the mist, and collided with the squirrel’s temple; the animal halted its dash and stumbled uncontrollably across the ground. She took her chance and raced towards the confused animal; hand outstretched, she scooped it up in her left palm. The leaves trembled as Vixen slammed the squirrel down and the floor and crushed it with the sole of her gristly leather boot. Blood swam through the leaves, staining them. The meat was tough and chewy, yet it settled her grumbling stomach. The pearly white stars began to gradually fade against a soil bed of navy blue and the clouds gathered, signalling that it was about three o’clock in the morning. Vixen had gotten used to staying awake and alert from dusk ‘till dawn, so her eyelids never drooped and fatigue never battled her. Anyway, she needed to stay alert for any Aces crossing the area.
The rays of sun peeped through the colossal groups of clouds, illuminating the area, scattering the forest in brightness. The river rushed briskly, foaming in several places, splashing the beds in benumbing water. Vixen eagerly clambered towards the stream, dodging the slippery area, and leapt onto the flat rocks protruding from the fast-flowing surface; she dipped her cupped hand into the rivulet and poured the contents into her mouth, moistening her barren throat, before diving into the water.
Shivers traced up and down her spine as she glided through the liquid, soaking her clothing and scarlet locks. Vixen hoisted herself up onto the riverbed and vigorously dragged her fingers through her hair, de-knotting the tangles, making the locks flicker like a waterfall. The dirt which soiled her flesh fell, and revealed the tattoo to the world. A fancy, black J – the thing that would identify her as a Jack. As one who should have been killed seventeen years ago.
There must be hundreds of Jacks hiding, Vixen thought as her baby blue eyes stared at the drawing scribbled onto her wrist. They hold at least two executions every day. Where do they find them all?
Her thoughts were interrupted at the sound of jaunty, musical laughter materialising from the outskirt thicket, and she immediately scrambled out of the stream and raced into the thick, dense woodland, hopefully out of sight. Her sight darted round, looking for a decent hiding place, and she fell upon a gargantuan tree reaching high into the clouds. She’d climbed thousands of trees before, this would be easy; she gingerly placed one careful foot on a splintering stump, crumbling the weak bark that desperately clung onto the trunk, and swiftly ascended up the bulky branches. Vixen had learnt how to move stealthily through the woodlot, how to dodge the bony twigs and parched leaves that blanketed the floor, how to clamber up a tree without rustling a single leaf.
Finally, she found a comfortable spot where the stout trunk forked in two, and the jade leaves offered brilliant camouflage. Just as she had managed to hide herself, her eyes caught a silhouette shifting around beneath the shrubs. A young girl, a little older than Vixen, emerged from the bushes. She’s definitely an Ace, the thought swam in Vixen’s mind as she took in everything about the Ace girl; long, brunette curls cascaded down her square shoulders, soft, maroon eyes and cardinal lips adorned her tiny, tanned face. Beautiful, it took effort for Vixen to draw her eyes away from the gorgeous girl.
A burnished, home-made bow was slung over the girl’s shoulder, and a torn leather quiver of blunt arrows was strapped to her arched back. Her lengthy, delicate fingers enclosed round one of the cleverly-designed arrows, and she clipped it to the taut bow string. She dragged the rope back until it reached her large eyes, then released the point; it spiralled, clipped the edge of a shrub and zoomed off in an awkward direction. Vixen fought back a scoff, shoving the lump in her throat down, and silently laughed at the girl’s terrible aim.
“Stay there!” Vixen jumped at the sudden roar that leapt from the east. The girl froze, and the leaves below her feet crunched like bones as the bow slid from her grasp. A tall, brawny man, clothed in a black police outfit stormed through the thicket, also clutching a bow and arrow, accompanied by three more huge officers. “Stay there and don’t more, you Jack bitch!” He pulled back the cuspate point, aiming for her pulsing heart, and fired – the girl leapt out of the way, yet the blade sliced the now-pale flesh protecting her arm, and brought her down to the floor, screaming in pain.
“Please! Please! Just kill me now! Don’t send me away! Please!” the girl screamed, writhing around like a worm in bleach, hot blood pulsating out of the ugly gash and spreading across the dirt ground. The man tossed his bow to the other man and stormed forward, his face terrifying. His sausage fingers grabbed her arm, right on the wound, and hoisted her up onto her feet. “I knew we’d find one today!” his deep, masculine voice boomed, and he shifted her lace top up, revealing her slim waist, and the fancy J tattooed onto her hip. “Yep, you’re a Jack!” he bellowed in her face, and his hand shifted from her bleeding arm to her mass of brown locks; he yanked her across the floor by her haircut as a string of piercing, screechy screams slithered from her mouth, slowly out of the view of Vixen.
The redhead tried to shake the image from her mind, yet it took a remarkable amount of effort. She silently placed her foot on a stump and cautiously began to climb down, the bark scraping down her cheeks, leaving a trail of thick black dirt. She leapt to the floor silently, landing perfectly on the balls of her feet, and warily began to follow the screaming girl. Sharp branches swung down and attempted to lacerate Vixen’s pallid flesh, yet she hurdled them and carried on through the forest; after ducking an old tyre swing and dodging out of view several times, she finally reached the outskirt thicket that hid the scary, dense woodland inside. She was greeted by towering, monstrous grey buildings, plastered down in an open clearing; Vixen watched, disguised behind a bramble bush, and her milky blue eyes watched as the man dragged the female Jack through the glass revolving door, surely never to be seen again.
The tweeting of the birds rang like bells in Vixen’s ears as her eyes opened a crack. She was greeted by the brilliant blue of the sky, the irregular-shaped clouds floating round the pool, a flock of blackbirds soaring through the air in a perfect ‘v’ shape. Her head pulsed, attacked by the memories of the dream she’d had the previous night: she’d dreamt of that girl. She’d dreamt of that girl being pulled up onto a public stage and being stabbed multiple times by a number of Aces in suits and ties. Well, that’s what was going to happen to her.
Her stomach began to grumble in protest against its emptiness, so Vixen briskly descended the tree and started hunting. Her slingshot loaded with countless sharpened stones, it was only a few minutes before she’d killed a family of squirrels nestling under a patch of damp moss. Vixen arranged a small pile of arid sticks, arranging them in such a way they never collapsed, and took her flint’n’steel chain from around her gaunt neck. The spark caught instantly, resulting in the sticks suddenly alighting, and a wave of heat spreading around the forest like an ocean. She grabbed one of the freshly skinned squirrels and tossed it into the flames – it crackled and popped, and only took a minute or two to cook. Vixen sank the square, white pearls in her gums into the meat and chewed, fat and sinew dribbling down her chin.
She was just about to cook another squirrel when she heard something. Thinking it was just an animal scraping the floor, Vixen shook off all feelings of nervousness and tossed the corpse into the roaring flames. “Freeze! Stay there!” that same deep, masculine voice echoed in her ears. The animal began to burn and blacken in the fire, yet Vixen ignored it. Shaking, she craned her neck up to be greeted by the same face. That group of men, that stocky one at the front, the same bow and the same arrow loaded. “Oh, sh –” she only had time to break away from cussing when the man released the shaft. It zoomed through the air in the same direction, aiming also for her pulsing heart. Vixen’s instincts took over, and she dived from the path of the point; the arrow missed her and buried itself in the bark of the tree she’d slept it. After a quick glance at the man, who was occupied with loading the silver bow, Vixen hoisted herself up onto her feet and tugged the stick from the tree bark. She pulled the string of the slingshot back, now loaded with the arrow, and fired. The tall, slender man to the left of the archer fell as the point dug into his temple, and blood lazily oozed out onto the floor.
Vixen’s gaze shifted back to the archer, and his expression was anger, with a hint of fear embedded in there. He fired another arrow, which just missed her pale face, but took a clump of her scarlet hair with it. Her fingers fumbled across the cold floor, searching for a weapon, when her fingers enclosed themselves around a smooth, hard pebble. She shot it at the archer, and it bounced off his wrinkled forehead, yet showed no effect to the man’s focus. “Shit,” she muttered, and fired another stone before turning on her heel and fleeing through the woodland, listening to the sound of the remaining group’s heavy footsteps behind her.
"Shit!" she hissed again, as she hurdled a bulky log whilst swerving past a weird-shaped tree. Her sight found the violetly-rushing river, her gate to safety, just a couple metres away from her. She was almost there.... almost there...
"Got you, you Jack git!" Three fat fingers enclosed around Vixen's bony wrist, and the red-head's path was halted as the man yanked her across the floor, massaging the fancy J etched into her flesh, to assure himself it wasn't mud. His blunt nails dug into her scalp as he dragged her behind him, her body trailing across the bracken ground, leaving huge dirt stains caking her clothing; she refrained from screaming and repeatedly scratched and punched the officer's hands, yet he refused to let go. The river gradually faded away, the trees stayed plastered to the ground, no matter how many times Vixen asked them for help. They remained frozen there, watching their friend being dragged away.
"Stop squirming!" the man bellowed, and suddenly lifted Vixen from the ground. Her legs pulsed and ached with pain, yet that pain suddenly died as the officer grabbed her left arm and fixed it behind her back, surely snapping the bone. She couldn't stop the scream bubbling up in her throat; it echoed out across the now bland clearing. "Shut it, bitch," he said, and jammed his fist into the redhead's throat, effectively halting her cries. No tears fell from Vixen's sapphire eyes or moistened her cheeks, though most people would be howling. Not Vixen. She wasn't most people.
The building loomed over Vixen, sheltering her in its gargantuan shadow, as the police officer violently shoved open the sleek glass doors, revealing a gloomy corridor, consisting of burnished metal walls and accompanied by the vile smell of warm, fresh blood. Strangely fascinated by this mystery place, Vixen's twinkling eyes had only a few seconds to adjust to the darkness before the officer, his creased navy suit stained with the blood of the man she had killed, released the redhead from his strong grasp and immediately grabbed the slingshot nestling in her dirtied palm and firmly slammed it into his jacket pocket.
"Alright, bitch, time to find your cell," he grumbled, and clenched the sleeve of Vixen's forest green cloak in his massive fingers. The two started walking, slow and forlornly into the seemingly endless corridor as an icy finger traced elaborate patterns up her spine; it was only a couple steps before she realized that the dingy passageway was riddled with doors. Some were weak, feeble pieces of splintering wood, which could easily be cut down with a sturdy axe or maybe even a knife, whilst some doors were much more hefty and larger, and composed by stout layers of invincible metal and a collection of complicated locks.
The occasional drip of what she hoped was water caused her to jump a little, which surprised her, as she was used to peculiar noises emerging from nowhere - she had listened to them for years. "Right, here we go!" The officer tugged at Vixen's bony arm, and her head craned to be meeted by a voluminous gateway, adorned by an abundant amount of brass padlocks and rusted bolts, with the number '37' painted in orange letters. The officers sausage fingers snuck into the shallow pocket of his crumpled trousers and brought out a vast amount of silver keys - he plucked out a tiny object and pushed it into the various locks, each clicking open rhythmically. The bolts, caked in maroon rust, took a few more minutes to give way, yet they soon let go. "Get in!" he pushed the door open with extreme difficulty, grunting as sweat swiftly beaded up on his wrinkly forehead, and Vixen obidently stumbled into the cell. It was a perfect cube, also consisting of glistening metal walls, bits of terrible-quality furniture scattered around like the pine needles on the woodland floor: a bulky, slowly disintegrating bunk bed was one of them, shoved into the crisp corner of the room, the duvets torn and creased and the pillows flat and lumpy.
"I guess you're my roommate," a sweet, musical voice whispered from the opposite corner, and Vixen swerved round to be greeted by her. The girl from the woods. The same girl she'd seen get caught and sliced across the arm. The girl she could have saved.