WINTER HAD BEGUN. SOMETIMES it was warmer, but then the snow would fall again and lie deeper and deeper, so that it became impossible to scrape it away. It was worse when the thaws came and the melted snow water froze again in the night. Then there was a slippery film of ice. Often it broke into pieces and the sharp splinters sliced the Justice's robes if they ever walked on grass.
A heavy frost had set in several days before. The air was purer and rarer than it had ever been, and full of energy. It began to hum in a very fine high tone. It hummed with the cold.
It was silent in the courthouse, but something horrible happened everyday. Once a sickness fell upon Maria's small son who was lying sick in bed at her home, and it killed him in a cruel way. He could be heard moaning pitifully for a long while. Maria was not at home and was in the courthouse, and when she heard the sad news she was beside herself with grief.
The terrible hardship that seemed to have no end spread bitterness and brutality. It destroyed all their memories of the past, their faith in each other, and ruined every good custom they had. There was no longer either peace or mercy in the courthouse.
"It's hard to believe that it will ever be better," Anna's mother sighed.
Alice sighed too. "It's hard to believe that it was ever any better," she said.
"And yet," Marena, and young new Justice, said, looking out at the courtyard through the office window. "I always think how beautiful it was before."
Alexander, who had settled himself in an office chair, suddenly stood up. "I don't know what it is," he mumbled and gazed out the window which Marena was looking through.
Everyone grew watchful. "What is it?" they asked.
"I don't know," Alexander repeated. "But I'm restless. I suddenly felt restless as if something were wrong."
Anna was listening closely. "I don't hear anything strange," she declared.
They all stood still, listening. "It's nothing, there's absolutely nothing to hear," they agreed one after the other.
"Nevertheless," Alexander insisted, "you can say what you like, something is wrong."
Marena said, "The guests are rushing inside."
Everybody looked down. A group of guests were running. They came from the farthest edge of the courtyard, the direction from which danger always came, and they were complaining to one another. Apparently something unusual had happened.
"Wasn't I right?" asked Alexander. "You can see that something is happening."
"What shall we do?" Anna's mother whispered anxiously.
"Let's get away," Alice urged in alarm.
"Wait," Alexander commanded.
"But the children!" Alice replied.
"Go ahead," he agreed, "go off with your children. I don't think there's any need for it, but I don't blame you for going." He was alert and serious.
"Come, Damon. Come, Daniel. Softly now, go slowly. And stay behind me," Alice warned them. She slipped away with her children.
Time passed. They stood still, listening and trembling.
"As if we hadn't suffered enough already," Legislative began. "We still have this to go through...." She was very angry. Anna looked at her, and she felt that she was thinking of something horrible.
Three or four Justices had already begun to chatter. "Look out! Look out, out, out!" they cried. The group could not see them, but could hear them calling and warning each other. Sometimes one of them, and sometimes all of them together, would cry, "Look out, out, out!" Then they came nearer. They ran in terror from hall to hall, peered back and ran away again in fear and alarm.
Suddenly all the people shrank together at once as though a blow had struck them. Then they stood still and listened.
It was He.
There was nothing they could do. The thought of Him numbed their senses and made their hearts stop beating.
The Justices were still chattering. The guests screamed. In the courthouse around them everything had sprung to life. People flitted through the building, yelling, "Run! Run!"
That mysterious overpowering feeling filled the courthouse with such strength that they knew that this time He was not alone, but had brought other assassins with Him, and there would be no end to the killing.
They did not move. They looked at the people, whisking away in a sudden jog and dashed from hall to hall in a mad way. They knew that all the people had nothing to fear. But they understood what to do when they heard Him, for no courthouse member could bear His presence.
Presently Maria ran up. She hesitated, stood still and then ran on again.
"What is it?" Alice called after her impatiently.
But Maria only looked around with bewildered eyes and could not even speak. She was completely terrified.
"What's the use of asking?" said Alexander gloomily.
Maria gasped for breath. "We are surrounded," she said in a lifeless voice. "We can't escape. He is everywhere."
At that instant they heard His voice. Five or ten strong. He cried, "Ho! ho! Ha! ha!" It roared like the sounds of winds and storms. He beat on the walls as though they were drums. It was wracking and terrifying.
He was coming.
He was coming into the heart of the courthouse. Then, with the loud tapping of running feet, a guest appeared in His very sight. The group heard the running of the guest grow fainter as he ran farther into the hall. There was a loud crash like thunder. Then silence. Then a dull thud on the floor.
"He is dead," said Anna's mother, trembling.
"The first," Alexander added.
The young judge, Marena, said, "In this very hour many of us are going to die. Perhaps I shall be one of them." No one listened to her, for a mad terror seized them all.
Anna tried to think. But His savage noises grew louder and louder and paralyzed Anna's mind. She heard nothing but those noises. They numbed her while amidst the howling, shouting, and crashing she could hear her own heart pounding. She felt nothing curiosity and did not even realise that she was trembling in every limb. From time to time her mother whispered in her ear, "Stay close to me." She was shouting, but in the uproar it sounded to Anna as if she were whispering. Her "Stay close to me" encouraged her. It was like a chain holding her. Without it she would have rushed off senselessly, and she heard it at the very moment when her wits were wandering and she wanted to dash away.
She looked around. All the people were running past, tripping blindly over one another. A couple ran by. The eye could scarcely follow them. A Justice listened as thought bewitched to every shriek that desperate Maria let out.
A guest was standing in a whole flurry of people. They paid no attention to him and he paid no attention to them. Motionless, with his head high, he listened to the onrushing tumult.
A Justice dashed up. He had come where the danger was worst and was beside himself with fear.
"Don't try to walk," he screamed to the others. "Don't walk, just run! Don't lose your your head! Don't try to walk! Just run, run, run!"
He kept repeating the same thing over and over again as though to encourage himself. But he no longer knew what he was saying.
"Ho! ho! Ha! ha!" came the death cry, from quite near apparently.
"Don't lose your head," screamed the Justice. And at the same time a short crash like thunder sounded sharply. The Justice fell among the others and did not move again.
The thunder cracked five or six times and more people dropped lifeless to the ground.
"Come," said Anna's mother. Anna looked around. Another Justice and Alexander had already fled. Alice was disappearing. Only Marena was still beside them. Anna went with her mother, Marena following them timidly. All around them was a roaring and shouting, and the thunder was crashing. Anna's mother was calm. She trembled quietly, but she kept her wits together.
"Anna, my child," she said, "keep behind me all the time. We'll have to get out of here. But we must go slowly."
The din was maddening. The thunder crashed ten, twelve times as He hurled His gun from His hands.
"Watch out," said Anna's mother. "Don't run. But when we have to cross the hall, run as fast as you can. And don't forget, Anna, my child, don't pay attention to me. Even if I fall, don't pay any attention to me, just keep on running. Do you understand, Anna?"
Her mother walked carefully step by step amidst the uproar. The people were running up and down, burying themselves under dead bodies. Suddenly they would spring out and begin to run again. All of Maria's family was running. No one said a word. They were all spent with terror and numbed by the din and thunderclaps.
Behind them the terrifying drumming on the walls came crashing nearer and nearer. There was a roaring of "Ha, ha! Ho, ho!"
Then Maria rushed past them across the hall. Bing! Ping! Bang! roared the thunder. Anna saw how one person tripped and then a crash of thunder broke out. He quivered a little and then was still. Anna stood petrified. But from behind her came the cry, "Here He is! Run! Run!"
There were gasps, sobs, and showers of blood. The air was throbbing with repeated thunderclaps and the dull thuds of the fallen and the high, piercing shriek of those who had escaped.
Anna heard steps and looked behind her. He was there. He came bursting out on all sides. He sprang everywhere, struck about Him, beat the people who were slowing down and shouted with a fiendish voice.
"Now," said Anna's mother. "Get away from here. And don't stay too close to me." She was off with a bound. Anna rushed out after her. The thunder crashed around them on all sides. It seemed as if the earth would split in half. Anna saw nothing. She kept running. A growing desire to get away from the tumult and out of reach from Him, the growing impulse to flee, the longing to save herself were loosed in her at last. She ran. It seemed to her as if she saw her mother hit but she did not know if it was really she or not. She felt a film come over her eyes from fear of the thunder crashing behind her. It gripped her completely at last. She could think of nothing or see nothing around her. She kept running.
The hall was crossed. Another hall took her in. The hue and cry still range behind her. The sharp reports still thundered. And on the roof above her there was a light pattering like the first fall of hail. Then it grew quieter. Anna kept running.
A dying guest, with its neck twisted, lay on the floor. When he heard Anna coming he whispered: "It's all over for me." Anna paid no attention to him and ran on.
"This way!" called someone with a gasping voice. Anna obeyed involuntarily and found an office at once. It was Maria's husband who had called.
"Can you help me a little?" he said. Anna looked at him and shuddered. His chest had been shot open, warm oozing blood spilling everywhere. "Can you help me a little?" he repeated. He spoke as if he were well and whole, as if he were happy. "I don't know what can have happened to me," he went on. "There's really no sense to it, but I just can't really breathe..."
In the middle of his words he rolled over on his side and died. Anna was seized with horror again and ran.
She stopped with a jolt. A Justice was calling her. Again she heard the cry. "Is that you, Anna?"
Anna saw Marena lying helplessly on the floor. All her strength was gone; she could no longer stand on her feet. She lifted her head feebly. Anna went up to her excitedly.
"Where's you mother, Anna?" she asked, gasping for breath. "Where's Alice?" Marena spoke quickly and impatiently. Terror gripped Anna's heart.
"Mother and Alice had to go on," Anna answered. She spoke softly, but as seriously and as well as a grown up.
"I fell down. You must go on, too, Anna." Marena said weakly.
"Get up," cried Anna. "Get up, Marena! You've rested long enough. There's not a minute to lose now. Get up and come with me!"
"No, leave me," Marena answered quietly. "I can't stand up. It's impossible. I'd like to, but I'm too weak from running."
"What will happen to you?" Anna persisted.
"I don't know. Probably I'll die," said Marena simply.
The uproar began again and re-echoed. New crashes of thunder followed. Anna shrank together. Young Alexander ran up, ahead of the din.
"Run," he called when he saw Anna. "Don't stand there if you can run!" He was gone in a flash. Anna had hardly aware that she had begun to run again, and only after the interval did she say, "Goodbye, Marena." But she was already too far away. Marena could no longer hear her.
She ran on. The courthouse was still full with shouting and thunder. As night appeared, it grew quiet. But the excitement remained.
The first friend whom Anna saw was Maria. She was limping.
"Over in one of the offices a Justice has a burning fever from his wound. I just passed him. He's suffering terribly."
"Have you seen my mother?" asked Anna.
"No," answered Maria evasively and walked quickly away.
Later during the night Anna met with the female Justice with Damon and Daniel. All four were delighted to meet.
"Have you seen my mother?" asked Anna.
"No," Damon answered. "I don't even know where Alice is."
"Well," the female Justice said. "Here's a nice mess. I have to look after three children at once. I'm heartily grateful."
All three children laughed.
They talked about Marena. Anna told how she found her, and they grew so sad they began to cry. But the Justice would not have them crying.
Suddenly they saw Alice coming and rushed toward her. "Alice," cried Anna. She had seen her first. Damon and Daniel were beside themselves with joy and bounded around her. "Alice," they cried. But Alice was weeping and nearly dead from exhaustion.
"Marena is gone," she cried. "I've looked for her. I went to where she lay on the floor....there was nothing there....she is gone....my poor friend Marena...."
The Justice grumbled. "Did you see any blood trails? It would have been more sensible to find it than crying," she said.
"There weren't any trails," said Alice. "But...He...I think He got her. He found Marena."
She was silent. Then Anna asked despondently, "Alice, have you seen my mother?"
"No," answered Alice gently.
Anna never saw her mother again.
SO MUCH VIOLENCE
anyway its done c:
it will be a while till chapter eight
can someone help me make a title for the story?
Oh man, where do I start? I have to say, I really like this series, and not because the author is my moirail. I just love the way that she portrays emotions like sadness and grief, although it would be better to use allegories and other things to make it seem more relatdable to the common reader. The story direction is great as well. However, it seems more like an indent rather than a plot cornerstone. Still good though. I like how she describes HIM as such a demonic individual. Opposed to that, we have the death of the people he attacks. I wanted to see more description in the deaths. How did the main character see it and what vision did it implant on her mind forever? A good example would be to say that "Anna saw one man go down. He clutched his chest as holes began to appear on his back. They were bullet holes oozing with blood. The red liquid gurgled from his lips as he fell to his knees with a thud." Overall, I still like this story. Good job.
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