There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
You couldn’t remember the last time you had so wanted to die. In the darkness of the cellar, you could barely make out Sadie’s form, but you could hear her ragged and furious breaths, and could feel how badly she was trembling. You tightened your grip on her nightgown, both to keep yourself grounded and to try and calm her down.
You felt her shift, and instinctively moved closer to her. “They have to sleep sometime.” She muttered, and you weren’t entirely sure if she was talking to you or herself. “And once they do, we’re gonna slit their fucking throats.”
A shiver went down your spine. You had never seen Sadie this vicious before. But then, what should you expect, given how brutally Jake was killed by men he wanted to help.
It had all happened so fast. One second you’re welcoming the gaggle of men into the house and trying to work out who would rest where, the next your ears were ringing from the sound of a gunshot and Jake was on the ground, blood slowly pooling around him. You had no idea you could scream so hard for so long.
Your hand went to your locket, fingers wrapping tight around the cold metal as you tried to calm your racing heart, and steady your breathing. “Sadie I-”
You immediately shut your mouth and moved closer to Sadie, feeling her tense up. “They’ve gone quiet.”
She was right. The sounds of the men partying had suddenly stopped, leaving everything eerily silent. You looked up, and were just able to make out Sadie’s face. It was hard, mouth set in a half snarl and she had a wild, angry look in her eyes, like when you were both children and she was about to fight some of the neighbourhood kids for picking on you.
Sadie took a step forward, but then immediately pulled down and covered you with her body as best as she could when gunshots rang out. You shrieked and instinctively curled into the fetal position, momentarily forgetting that you were in the cellar, and unlikely to be hurt.
The sounds were faint from the cellar, and were made even fainter by the blood pounding in your ears. You remained silent and still, and watched Sadie to see what you should do.
Then, as quickly as it started, the gunfire stopped.
You finally exhaled, shakily, and kept your gaze on Sadie. “Do-do you think they’re gone?”
Sadie raised her head slightly, squinting at the hatch that lead into the cellar. Sadie cautiously approached it, going up the small set of stairs, and tried to open it, but it barely budged. “Fuck.” Sadie growled. She paused, then gestured for you to come over, never taking her eyes off the hatch.
You quickly got to your feet and raced to Sadie, staying behind her. “What is it?” You didn’t dare raise your voice above a whisper.
You did as she asked, and picked up voices. They were clearly men’s voices, but it sounded like only two of them, and you didn’t recognize them. The voices of the men that had forced you and Sadie into the cellar were familiar to you. Their hoots and hollers haunted you, even in your sleep.
You clung onto Sadie’s nightgown again, your knuckles going white.
The two of you listened with bated breath as the strangers spoke and walked. You could barely hear them through the floorboards, and you flinched when the footsteps moved almost directly above you.
“What are we gonna do?” You asked, so terrified that you could barely hear yourself.
“We-We’re gonna-” Sadie gulped, and for the first time you saw uncertainty in her eyes. “I don’t know.” Hearing the defeat in her voice and feeling her deflate made you move closer to her. She let out a shaky breath before turning to face you and firmly hold your shoulders. “The second we get the chance, we’re runnin’. We’ll face whoever is out there and we are gonna get the hell off this damn mountain.” She swallowed again. “And, [Name], listen, if it comes down to it, you gotta run without me.”
Your eyes widened and you immediately grabbed Sadie’s arms. “No.” You said, somehow able to make your voice firm. “I’m not leaving without you.”
“[Name]!” Sadie squeezed your shoulders and made her voice more forceful. “I’m not debatin’ this with you. If you have to choose between savin’ me and savin’ yourself, I want you to choose yourself. I want you to get Gladys and get someplace safe. Do you understand me?”
It was clear that Sadie really wasn’t going to budge from this position, but you still hesitated. “Sadie-”
“Do you understand me?”
There was a tense pause, and you could feel Sadie was trembling.
Blinking back tears, you nodded. “I-I understand.”
“Good.” Sadie abruptly pulled you into a hug, squeezing you tight. “I love you [Name].”
You trembled and sniffled as you hugged Sadie back, burying your face into her shoulder. “I love you too Sadie.”
The two of you stayed that way a few moments longer, until you heard footsteps over your heads again.
Sadie quickly let you go and turned around, watching the floorboards.
There was another man’s voice, although if it was one of the earlier men you couldn’t tell. There was a pause, then you heard the horrible sound of something scraping against wood, like something heavy being pushed.
“Don’t forget, run if you have to.”
You could only nod, as the cellar hatch was suddenly flung open.
During the next few seconds, time seemed to slow to an unbearable crawl. You watched as Sadie launched herself at the unknown man, shrieking like a woman deranged. You quickly followed her out of the cellar, finally seeing the rest of the cabin for the first time in who knew how long.
It was an absolute wreck, with broken glass, splintered wood, and blood, both old and new, everywhere. Jake’s blood had stained the wood where he fell, but you couldn’t see him, and you felt a new wave of grief wash over you.
“Well would you look at that! Two of ya!”
You looked back to see Sadie grab a large knife off the dinner table and wave it in front of her, keeping the man at bay.
Without thinking and fueled by adrenaline, you made a dash for the open door.
Just as you reached it, a bulky figure in black appeared, startling you and making you fall backwards.
“Micah! What the hell are you doing?!”
You quickly got back to your feet and looked around frantically for a weapon of some sort.
“Look at what I found Dutch!” The first man, Micah?, said with a cackle. “A couple of O’Driscolls!”
Unable to find anything, you went back to Sadie’s side and watched as another man in a large blue jacket entered the house behind the man in black.
“They ain’t O’Driscolls Micah!”
Sadie shoved you behind her and continued to brandish the knife, gnashing her teeth, a wild animal cornered.
Micah laughed, shoving the table over, causing the lit lamp to break and start a fire. You shrieked and backed away, Sadie remaining in front of you.
“You damn fool Micah!” The man in black, Dutch?, approached you both, holding out his hands as if he was trying to calm a wild horse. “Now ladies, please, calm down. We ain’t gonna hurt ya.” He took another cautious step towards you both. “Come with us, you’ll both be safe.”
You and Sadie looked at each other. You knew she didn’t trust these men, but with the spreading fire inside and the wild snow storm outside, you both knew that your choices were limited.
Sadie said nothing, but lowered the knife and cautiously approached Dutch. You stayed close behind her as he ushered you both out of the burning house.
Just as you stepped outside, you felt something heavy but soft fall on your shoulders. You looked up, and saw the man in the blue coat had draped a blanket over you, to shield you from the cold. It was a simple act, the kind any decent person would do given the opportunity, but it still made you smile.
“We’re bad men.” Dutch said, leading you both to tacked up horses. “But we ain’t them.”
As the man in blue lead you forward, you recognized the black and brown Dutch Warmblood that was hitched with the others.
Without thinking you ran to her, throwing your arms around her neck, relishing the heat that radiated off of her. “You doing ok girl?” You pulled away slightly, looking into Gladys’s big dark eyes.You smiled as she gently nuzzled you. “I know, I know. I’m sorry for being gone girl, but I’m back now. I’m back.”
You looked up and saw the man in blue was beside you, holding your blanket. You hadn’t even noticed that it had fallen off. “Yeah.”
“Mind if I ride her?”
For a moment, you hesitated, clinging onto Gladys protectively. But as your feet got colder and your arms more numb, you knew that there would be no way you would be able to ride her, at least not effectively.
The man nodded, holding out a hand.
Confused, you took it, and you were surprised as he helped you onto Gladys before he got on himself. “Be nice to him Gladys.” You said, patting Gladys’s flank, as you could tell she was more than a little apprehensive about this.
As the horses began to move, you turned and watched as the house Jake and Sadie had built, the house that had been your home these past five months, slowly burned and fell, half obscured by the snow.
“You got a name miss?”
You turned your head, and saw that Dutch was looking at Sadie over his shoulder.
“Adler.” Sadie’s voice was hoarse, and you could see the grief and sadness you were feeling in her eyes as she watched her life crumble.
“Sadie. Missus.” She didn’t look away. “I-he was my husband.”
“I’m very sorry Mrs Adler.” Dutch said, and he sounded sincere.
“What about you?”
You looked up at the man in blue. “I-I’m [Name].”
He nodded in Sadie’s direction. “You two family or something?”
“Cousins.” You clarified. As Gladys trudged through the snow to higher ground, you looked back over your shoulder one last time at the burning house.
You wrapped your arms tight around the man, pressing yourself against his back for warmth. “And she’s all I got now.”