“Come out, James. Don’t you want to have one last race?” taunted Luke from the shadows. We were in a large room of the factory. I couldn’t remember who suggested that we split up, but I knew I couldn’t face him on my own. I needed to get the others to come aid me without giving away my location, so I quickly sent a text to Regina, carefully covering the light from my phone with my hand. His footsteps were getting nearer, and I had foolishly backed myself into a corner in my effort to hide. When I saw his shadow, I threw all I could muster into a spell to toss him away, but he wasn’t the one coming around the corner. I saw Emma’s look of surprise as she flew through the air, cracking her head against a steel beam as she hit. There was so much blood. The terrible werelion filled the room with his laughter as he sauntered toward me. “You think I’m the menace? At least I don’t kill my friends in a panic.” he told me with a wicked grin, causing his large, pointed teeth to catch the light. I tried to set him on fire, but he was thrusting his clawed hand through my abs before I could get the spell off. In the end, I was nothing but a failure who murdered my dear friend.
I woke in a cold sweat yet again, feeling even less rested than before. I didn’t know how many nightmares I had throughout the night, but I wasn’t going to bother trying to sleep again. I had enough trouble trying to fall asleep when I was wrestling with my conscience over the idea of killing someone. The nightmares exacerbated my sleeping problems tremendously. Luke had killed me numerous times throughout the night. My friends died in my dreams as often as I did, if not more. The worst for me were the ones where Luke was actually a nice guy. In one of my dreams, we had killed Luke before he noticed us and before we noticed his little sister behind him. I didn’t honestly know if Luke had any siblings. If he did, how would they deal with their brother’s disappearance? How were his parents going to deal? I already knew what Ai would tell me. She would say that his parents were probably the ones who taught him who to kill and when to kill. We only were certain that Luke had killed once, but even I couldn’t deny that he likely would again. Even if he hadn’t wanted Nathan dead, Luke obviously didn’t have the self-control to avoid killing when he was angry.
By the time Mila warned me of the girls’ impending arrival, I was already showered and dressed, sitting on my bed as I meditated. I opened the door to find them smiling and chatting away as if this was just another day. Regina paused mid-sentence when she looked at me. Then she asked, “Did you sleep at all, James?” I shrugged and told her that I had slept enough. Emma still said, “Regina and I were heading for an early breakfast, man-slave. Are you sure you don’t want to try sleeping a bit more instead of joining us? We’ll tell the others that you needed some more shut-eye.” I wrapped my arms around their shoulders and started heading to the stairs instead of replying. Regina gave me an appraising look when I started chuckling to myself, which only made me laugh harder. I explained to her “I was just imagining how lopsided we look with Emma being half a foot shorter than you.” Then Emma squirmed away enough to playfully punch me in the side which made me laugh again. I inquired “What? Was I supposed to give you a few inches for awesome hair?” She rolled her eyes at me but smiled all the same. I truly was liking magenta on her now that I was getting accustomed to it.
When we arrived in the kitchen, the twins were already giving Marco and Jarod a rough time to which Marco was replying, “How was I to know that you wouldn’t want your normal breakfast simply because you two were joining the others?” I could only assume he was joking as I took in the enormous amount of foods covering the table and spilling onto two carts. Due to my nightmares the thought of this being a last meal occurred to me, putting off my appetite. I put on a smile and did my best to eat after Jarod shot me a worried look for the umpteenth time. The smile eventually became genuine as the exuberance of Ai, Mai, and Marco filled the room. Marco was telling tales of his exploits in Italy once more, this time speaking of a time he stole a chicken and convinced the previous owner to accept part of the soup he made with it as payment. Mai said, “I don’t know about this chef of yours, James. He steals food, improves upon it, and wants you to thank him for giving a little back.” Marco only smiled and shrugged, looking comically mischievous. I replied “I think Aaliyah covered that in his contract, so I actually profit off his theft.” Marco then told us with a dramatic sigh “I would have noticed before signing it, but that contract could sink a ship.”
Breakfast was over all too soon, and the sense of dread crept back from wherever it had hidden. As we walked to the car, I looked around at my fellow executioners and thought we didn’t look the part. Regina wore white shorts, a pink babydoll t-shirt, and white sunglasses. She could easily pass for a model on break to anyone that recognized the designer clothes. Emma might have been a singer for a punk band with her plaid pink skirt, pink babydoll t-shirt, spiky green belt, and green bracelets. Ai and Mai were dressed to match as normal, each wearing tight leather pants and a turquoise shirt that hung off one shoulder. With the twins wearing jewelry and designer boots with short heels, I would never have guessed they were planning to get into a fight, although this couldn’t be much of a fight with Luke outnumbered. Ai and Mai had scouted out his movements over the past couple days while I was working and noted that he entered the factory every morning around eleven, giving us yet another advantage. Regina acquired a copy of the factory’s layout from her father’s secretary, stripping away some of Luke’s advantage from knowing the area better than us. The current plan was to have Ai enter from the side door, Mai to enter from the back, and the rest of us, excluding Jarod, would enter the front. Jarod would be sitting in my car, acting as surveillance and our coordinator.
Emma, Regina, Jarod, and I hopped in my car while the twins took their bikes and followed us to the factory. Jarod handed me the glasses from his tablet, so he could have eyes inside as well as ears. The twins had us all download a conference call app that we would use through bluetooth headsets. The twins begrudgingly allowed Jarod to connect to their phones via Mila, which would hopefully allow him to overlay our positions on the map of the factory once we were inside, since the rest of us were all for the idea. As we sat waiting for Luke to appear, part of me kept hoping that he wouldn’t show up. I knew that would be postponing the inevitable, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t ready for this. “I’m taking these, man-slave. Your expressions are too priceless to miss,” said Emma as she reached around me to steal Jarod’s glasses off my face. “Whoa. I can see everything with these on! Don’t I look way cuter in them than James, Regina?” she teased. I smiled and said, “You know she does, Regina. No use arguing it.” Regina laughed and rolled her eyes before saying, “Fine-fine. Emma’s the cutest, but covering such a perfect face as yours can only detract from it.” I quickly turned to stare out at the factory again, but I could see my blush in the mirror. The other three were laughing jubilantly until we heard Mai speak. “He’s here, guys. It’s time.” I took a deep breath and slowly let it out. The time had arrived.