A Mother’s Sacrifice
A hooded figure raced through the streets, feet splashing like giant water balloons in ankle-deep puddles. In her arms was a damp bundle, only identifiable as a baby from the small cry it gave. She ducked beneath a store’s awning to protect her child from the onslaught of rain. The baby cried softly.
“Shh,” she urged, stroking the child’s head. She made a fearful glance to her left, brushing her soaked, sandy blonde hair away from her eyes. “They might hear us.”
How anyone could hear over the pounding rain and constant thunder, one can only guess, but this woman quaked in terror. A flash of lightning illuminated her surroundings. For a moment, she thought she saw a shadowy figure silhouetted against the sky.
Though she tried to assure herself no one else would be out in this weather, the thought felt far from reassuring. After all, the only people who’d brave these conditions were those searching for her and her child. Little did it comfort her that they were as unaccustomed to the weather as she.
The woman pulled the blanket away from her baby’s head and looked into his deep blue eyes. She couldn’t bear the thought of their parting, but as long as her child remained with her, he would never be free; he would never be safe.
A clap of thunder startled her from her thoughts. She thought she saw somebody again out of the corner of her eye. It was no longer safe outside. For the briefest of moments, she stared longingly at the store in front of which she had taken cover—before remembering what she could do.
The woman cradled her child in one arm and pressed her other hand firmly against the door. The lock clicked. As she entered the building, she held up a hand to silence the intruder alarm.
Turning the lights on would surely announce her presence, so she closed her eyes and concentrated. The room was soon illuminated in varying shades of green. Though she would have preferred actual light, she could at least see. Night vision had always been one of her strengths. A rare ability. But still one she feared her pursuers may have also possessed.
The room turned a blinding green with each flash of lightning. Fear surged within her. It was only a matter of time until they found her. With the resources at their disposal, her pursuers could be anywhere, do anything. She felt alone, vulnerable; she stood no chance.
Though the woman knew her death was fast-approaching, that wasn’t what bothered her. No, it was the thought of her child, of the life he was sure to have if they found him.
She jumped. A clock behind had chimed. She glanced at it to see it was three o’clock in the morning. Her heart pounded in her chest. A few hours from now, the sun would rise; she would be visible, even more vulnerable than she already was.
Her child let out another small cry. She caressed his head lovingly. “Please, be quiet…please.”
But the child didn’t recognize her words; he could only sense her anxiety—and it did little to stop his crying. Louder and louder the child wailed. Thunder cracked overhead. The once intermittent lightning now flashed almost continuously, nearly blinding her. The time for her night vision had gone.
She turned her head and gazed at the unrelenting storm. With each flash of lightning, she feared they’d see her. With each boom of thunder, the baby cried more loudly. And as she stared out the window, she let out a cry nearly as loud.
Standing beneath the awning, right outside the window, was the figure of a man. His eyes were staring directly at her. Without a second thought, the woman turned and dashed through the crowded shop. The door burst open behind her, and the intruder alarm sounded for a few seconds before the man disabled it.
Objects crashed to the floor as the man hurtled toward her. She turned around and saw his figure. Pointing her finger toward the large grandfather clock that had just chimed, she made it slide across the floor, right into the man’s path. It knocked him off his feet, which she hoped would provide her the few seconds she needed to escape.
Her child cradled securely in her arms, she rushed past shelves of countless antiques: beautiful vases, worn flower pots, old paintings. If it came to it, she knew she could use these to hold him off awhile.
The sound of heavy footsteps told the woman her pursuer had regained his footing. She wrapped her left arm tightly around her child and pointed her right behind her. Though she had no idea what she had sent flying, it must have hurt, judging by her pursuer’s swearing.
The woman spotted a door to the left and whisked herself through it. She closed the door, then held her hand over it. The lock glowed for a moment. Although this ability wasn’t a specialty of hers, she hoped it could hold for at least a few seconds.
Her pursuer approached the door and tried to push it open. It didn’t budge. The woman knew she should take off running, but she felt compelled to stare into the eyes of her attacker for the first time. She recognized his dark eyes, his reddish-brown hair. The man was one of her husband’s top assassins, a man who never failed to get his quarry.
She took off running. The assassin swore loudly as he threw his body against the sealed door. She immediately realized the room she had entered was windowless, so she enabled her night vision. Even with the aid of her ability, however, the room remained difficult to navigate.
The door burst open. Her attacker stumbled into the room, blind, sending crates crashing to the floor. The woman felt the first surge of hope in hours. Her baby still cradled in her left arm, she dashed through the storage room. With a flick of her right wrist, she sent enormous crates flying in all directions.
A few moments later, she spotted the store’s backdoor. Hastening her pace, she broke through it. The room behind her lit up with a momentary flash of light. Her attacker surely saw her. But she didn’t turn around to check.
Cold rain pelted the child’s face. He let out another loud cry. His mother wrapped the blankets back around him and continued running. When she emerged from the back alley, she found herself beneath store awnings on the next street.
The baby’s cries soon began to die down, for which she was thankful. She had no idea how many people were pursuing her, if more were listening expectantly for the sound of her child’s cries. For all she knew, a trap awaited her.
Rain pounded on the canopy above. Thunder cracked overhead. At least the baby’s cries would be inaudible over the din.
She passed about ten stores, all dark. Though breaking into another one crossed her mind, she knew she couldn’t hide forever. With a backward glance, she could have sworn she saw another shadow silhouetted against the lightning-crossed sky.
The woman reached the end of the awning. She feared her child would cry again when the rain began to drench him. But she had no choice. Stepping away from the awning, she rounded a corner and saw something that filled her with hope.
To her left was a building, lights glowing in its windows. The mother hastened her pace. As she neared the building, her heart leapt.
It was a police station.
This was a place to drop off her child, a place he had a chance at safety. Well, as long as her pursuers didn’t see her enter. Making a quick sideways glance with her night vision, she saw nobody.
The woman opened the door and ducked inside the police station. She immediately spotted two officers sitting at a table on the far side of the room. They looked up from their cups of coffee.
One of the officers, a man of about thirty, rose from his seat. “Are you all right, ma’am?”
“P-please,” she stammered, “take my child. Hide him.”
“What is going on, ma’am?” The officer’s brown eyes had taken on a look of alarmed concern.
“P-please, take him.” She shivered uncontrollably, noticing how cold the rain had made her. “D-don’t l-let them take him.”
The other officer rose from his seat. “Don’t let who take him?”
“You wouldn’t understand!” she cried, shuddering, glancing at the windows behind her. “I don’t have much time. Take him. Hide him.”
“Ma’am, just calm down,” said the first officer. “Take a deep breath and explain what’s going on.”
“They’re going to kill me. They’re going to take my baby, my dear Martin.”
“Who is going to kill you, ma’am?”
“You wouldn’t understand!”
The second officer stepped toward her. “Please, sit down. If somebody’s after you, we can protect you.”
She looked sadly into his eyes. “No, I’m afraid you can’t. No one and nothing can protect you after he decides to kill you.”
“Ma’am, you’re making no sense,” said the first officer. “Who is trying to kill you? We are the police. We can help.”
“No one can help.” She held out the child and handed him to the officer. He didn’t want to take hold of the baby at first, but, when she pulled her arms away, he had no choice. The officer nearly dropped the baby. The woman had already burst through the door by the time he regained a firm grip.
“Ma’am!” he called out. “Come back! Your baby!”
That was the last thing she heard before the door closed. She raced through the downpour, which had grown more intense since she had entered the police station. Thoughts of the dry comforts of home tormented her mind. But those comforts, she knew, came with a price. A life of imprisonment and servitude. Her world was in the grip of dark times, and her husband was behind it.
She had been taken in by him at first. The allure of power, she knew. Evil though he was, her husband was a powerful man, more powerful perhaps than any who had lived before him. Too late she had realized that, with such power, came evil, the deepest depths of darkness.
She couldn’t allow her child to grow up in that world and follow in his father’s footsteps as his brothers had before him, the brothers who were not her children. Cruel and despicable, they were, just like their father. She swore her son would never know evil, would never turn to the dark.
The woman tried to hold back the tears as she thought of her cold, wet son in the arms of the young officer. But there were more pressing matters at that moment. It was only a matter of time until her pursuers found her again.
She ducked behind the police station, where she saw a few patrol cars sitting unattended. Though she hesitated for a moment, the woman knew what she must do. She pressed her hand against the door. The lock clicked. After situating herself in the seat, she placed her hand on the steering wheel.
The engine burst to life. She put the car in drive and maneuvered it onto the street. In the surrounding din, the officers wouldn’t notice the missing car until the morning.
The woman made her way to the main thoroughfare through town, the car’s windshield wipers straining against the onslaught of rain. She checked the rearview mirror every few seconds as if she had a nervous tick. Any moment, she expected to see the lights of a car behind her. But the small town seemed empty apart from her and her stolen police vehicle.
The woman pressed the gas pedal nearly to the floor as she far exceeded the speed limit. Though the road was empty, she longed to be out of town quickly, more for her child’s safety than for her own. The farther she was from here when they found her, the less chance they stood of finding her son.
She made her way to the highway and started to drive even faster to the south. Where she was going, she had no idea. Anywhere was better than staying in town and exposing her son to the greedy hands of evil. It was better that he’d never know of the world where he was born. Better that he’d never know his father.
Despite her fatigue, she drove through the next day, stopping only occasionally for food. Never did she rest for more than a few minutes time. The longer she stayed in one place, the better a chance they had of tracking her. People like her didn’t belong in the “normal” world. And though she didn’t understand how, she knew her pursuers could track her.
She had decided to abandon the police car. It would be too conspicuous. At a nearly deserted rest stop, she had taken the opportunity and grabbed another car. She felt bad for the people she had stranded, but her need was greater than theirs at the moment.
The woman made frequent detours to throw off her pursuers. Sometimes, she turned onto another highway, sometimes onto a deserted country road. All the while, she felt cornered. She could have sworn cars were deliberately following her, stalking her every move.
That night, she stayed at a motel in the middle of nowhere. From what she had read on highway signs, she knew she had stopped in a place called Arkansas and that she had come from a place called Missouri. Like the rest of the “normal” world, though, it was completely unfamiliar to her.
And that was her brightest hope, that her pursuers were as disoriented as she.
After staying awake for almost two days, sleep should have been easy to come by. Her mind, however, raced with fear. Though she had drawn the curtains across the window, she compulsively peered through them every minute or two. The motel’s parking lot remained still, empty, and silent.
Her eyelids drooped, and she collapsed into bed. Sleep, though, proved impossible. She couldn’t stop worrying about her fate, about her son’s fate. Was he, even now, back in the clutches of her evil husband? Did the police hide him as she had instructed them?
A car door slammed outside. She jerked upright in bed. As was her custom when she heard any sound, she peered through the curtains. When she did, she saw the very sight she had feared.
A man was slowly making his way right toward her door. His figure was shadowy and indistinct, but his gait had a purpose to it, something she had come to recognize in her husband’s best assassins.
With a jolt of terror, the woman realized there was only one exit, the one outside which the assassin stood. Her only chance was to fight. But what chance did she stand against a trained assassin, a man who had mastered abilities she’d never attempt in her wildest dreams?
The woman pressed her hand against the door, sealing it. It would hold for at least a few seconds. No time to grab anything, she dashed to the other side of the room.
As much as she regretted the laws she had already broken and the damage she had already done, it was time for a little more. She pointed her right hand toward the wall opposite the door. With a sound like a gunshot, a large hole appeared in the wall.
The residents of the adjoining room screamed and held their small children close as she sprinted past them. Seconds behind her was the assassin. The woman flung the door open and raced into the dark night. Cars and trucks rumbled past on a nearby highway.
She scrambled toward the highway, stumbling up a steep embankment. Her attacker was gaining on her. A whoosh of air flew over her head, accompanied by a flash of white light. Judging by its color, the man had only tried to knock her unconscious.
This filled her with a newfound sense of hope. If they weren’t trying to kill her, they hadn’t found her son. They needed her to find him. That, however, was one thing she’d never allow.
She finally climbed to the edge of the highway. Vehicles hurtled past at seventy-plus miles per hour, their drivers unaware of her predicament, probably making their way back to their families and their peaceful lives. The kind of life she hoped her son would have.
The assassin had caught up to her. This was the moment. There would be no more running, no more evading.
“You’ve given us quite a challenge, Amy. Never would have expected it from you.”
“I-I’ll take that as a compliment, James.” She attempted the most powerful pose she could muster, though her legs shook uncontrollably. All this time, she had known her death was fast-approaching, but, now that it was at hand, it felt completely different. Her heart felt so strong, so powerful. To think it would soon stop…
The man eyed her intently, a piercing look behind his dark eyes. “Where is your son? Where is Martin?”
“Somewhere you’ll never find him!”
“We shall see about that.” The man stepped forward and pressed his hand to her forehead. She had expected immeasurable pain, but instead it was her mind he assaulted. Images flashed before her eyes: Martin as a newborn, her smuggling him through the portal to the “normal world,” the shop where she had hidden…
With immense effort, she pulled his hand away from her forehead. She wouldn’t give up his location. Not after all this. She pushed the assassin. He tumbled down the hill, caught by surprise.
While he clambered back to his feet, she stepped to the highway guardrail and hoisted herself over it. She stood resolutely on the shoulder of the highway. A pair of headlights approached from a distance.
Motion out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. The assassin had climbed back to the top of the hill.
“Get back here now!” he shouted as he vaulted the guardrail.
The next few seconds passed as if in slow motion. She turned and stepped into the flow of traffic. The man inched toward her. She caught the look of horror in his eyes. A dazzlingly bright light appeared in her peripheral vision.
She turned and faced the light. A truck horn sounded. The lights grew brighter and brighter until nothing else filled her vision. Nothing else mattered. Her heart pounded its last few beats. She faced imminent death with the knowledge that her son Martin was safe.
The scream of her would-be murderer was the last sound she ever heard.