The knife felt light in Ben’s hand, though his thoughts burdened his mind. Voices behind him silenced, and a firm hand grasped his shoulder.
“The Artist is proud of you. To think you found someone who mirrors his first medium so well. Jessie, Melody, I think the resonance in the names prophesies of their destinies. Can you take the same step toward artistic enlightenment? Will you make her beautiful?”
Ben grasped the hilt of the knife tighter. If this doesn’t work, then at least I died trying to save more than myself this time. Ben turned to Braxton and saw the fear overwhelming the Officer’s swollen and bloody face, but didn’t miss the glance between the knife, Ben, and Melody. Ben didn’t dare give away his plan, so he set his jaw, took in a deep breath, and let it out.
“Yes, I’m ready to make someone beautiful,” Ben said.
Once the heavy hand fell from Ben’s shoulder, he spun and jabbed the knife upward. The cut of the blade didn’t reach the large man’s neck like Ben hoped, but it caused him to stumble backward. A bright red slash up the center of the large man’s chest bled out into the white of the hoodie. Ben didn’t wait to see if it was enough. I will not let them take another person from me. With the thought fueling what remained of his energy, Ben lunged at the man, knocking him over, and plunged the knife into the man’s throat.
Ben felt another hand on his shoulder as he tried to push the knife deeper into the man’s throat. Thinking it was another apprentice, Ben spun and slashed at the arm, which turned out to be Officer Lyle. Ben stopped right then. Tears welled in Braxton’s eyes, and Ben couldn’t tell if they stemmed from the cut or Ben’s violence. No one else attempted to stave off the madness. The other patrons stood next to the stage, watching, but no one spoke. Where did the other apprentices go? But they could see none.
A stampede of heavy boots and metal on metal echoed around the black walls. A voice called from the other side.
“Officer Braxton Lyle, are you still alive?”
Braxton turned to Ben and nodded.
“Yes, he’s still alive,” Ben said. “He can’t speak because one apprentice broke his jaw.”
“One of the what?”
“One of the, well, someone broke his jaw.”
“Are there any other cultists in the room with you?”
“No, not alive.”
A slit opened in the far wall and grew until SWAT Officers pushed through the opening. A shimmer of silver reflected off the red light until the white lights of the building took hold. Ben squinted at the bright artificial light. Blood dripped from his right hand that held the knife. The closest officer raised his weapon and asked Ben to set the knife down. Ben complied. Out of the corner of his vision, Ben saw Melody stir.
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