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86 Impostors

    --Eden POV--

    Aponi and I stand in the warehouse not far from the entrance with our backs still against one another. Just to our right sits an unreasonably tall rack full of wooden crates while the entrance is around twenty feet to our left. Below my feet sits the manilla envelope while the end of Eira's scythe's shaft sits below Aponi's.

    Aponi speaks in a low agitated voice, "Alright, I'll lean down to pick up the scythe, and once I'm back up, you do the same on your side with the envelope. Just keep an eye on your peripheral."

    "Go ahead. Just do it as fast as you can." I reply.

    Behind me, I can feel Aponi's back rub against my own as she lowers herself. I hear the scythe scrape against the floor as she pulls it up and, at the same time, a loud bang followed by a creaking sound echoes. Flinching from the unexpected bang I hold my breath and look up and to the right. My eyes fall onto the top shelf of one of the racks where I notice a large bend in one of the supports. Suddenly, the support snaps half of the top shelf collapses creating a ramp-like surface with Aponi and I at the bottom of the low end. The heavy-looking crates begin to slide rapidly toward the edge where we currently stand below.

    Aponi grabs my arm, "Eden! Forget the envelope; move out of the way!"

    I resist her pull, "I can't leave it! It's our only lead!"

    "Stop! Watch out!" she shouts.

    A wooden box hits the ground nearby and explodes into splinters of wood and canned goods. At the same time, I step onto the envelope and slide it behind me before allowing myself to move.

    Grabbing Aponi's arm together we both tumble to the ground, narrowly dodging a crate that crashes into the concrete where we were both standing a moment earlier. With more wooden crates sliding from the rack, we kick away from where the boxes continue to smash and explode against the floor. Feeling my hand touching something, I immediately recognize it as the envelope, so I pull it into my arms.

    Aponi again grabs onto my arm, "Eden, dammit! Stand up."

    "R-right!" I stutter.

    Allowing myself to be dragged up by Aponi, we retreat swiftly toward a wall just next to the door. Breathing heavily, we put our backs against the wall, and I glance over to find Aponi holding the two bear cubs with a furious expression.

    "Eden, you could have killed us both!?" Aponi yells at me.

    My mouth opens and closes, "I... But..."

    She holds up her hand, "Forget it! We need to get out of here immediately."

    Aponi turns her back to me, and I awkwardly place my own back against hers. The bear cubs squawk noisily in agitation while I grasp the manilla envelope tightly.

    I begin to stumble on my words while seeking to apologize and explain myself, "I-I'm sorry, Aponi. We ju-"

    Aponi tries to shush the bear cubs before addressing me, "Leave first. Talk later. Keep an eye out." she responds sternly in short sentences.

    I nod a bit dejectedly, and with the door nearby we exit promptly, but something completely unexpected greets us once we step outside.

    Three somewhat familiar shapes with their backs turned away from us. What looks to be Jimmy, except with a shaved head and a small build, stands to the far left. He wears a pair of blue workout shorts, gray running shoes with long white socks, and finally a bright yellow-orange shirt with the words 'Navy' written on the back. To the far right Kardama except with shorter horns stands in a black robe with a white rope wrapped around his midriff. Then in the middle, a woman that looks to be a bit taller than Eira stands with snow-white hair so long that it runs to her ankles. She stands with a graceful and respectful demeanor that makes it feel as if you should kneel before her. Her gown is intricate and beautiful, somewhat reminiscent of one that would be seen in a medieval renaissance fair, but still with its own enchanting flavor.

    Aponi and I both turn toward the direction of the three moderately familiar people.

    "Huh? Jimmy, Kardama, uh... taller Eira?" I ask with confusion.

    Aponi shakes her head, "Eden, don't move... this is too strange."

    I take a step back, "Yeah, I feel the same way."

    "R-r-r-recruit Williams! I-It's me, recruit Nolan!" the man reminiscent of Jimmy bellows.

    "The Blood R-R-R-Race is made-up," the demon says with a firm resolve.

    A strangely familiar voice speaks next, "Is that y-y-you Klena? H-H-Holly?"

    'Klena!? That woman who is she!?'

    One after another the three turn around with big wide grins as if seeing an old friend for the first time in a long time.

    "Fuckin' **," Aponi whispers taking a step back. "T-That's not actually them, is it? No, definitely not. They're impostors."

    The three faces stare at us with heads tilted, and skin that looks oddly... wrong. However, what is utterly horrifying is what is missing.

    "They have no eyes!?" I hold up my blood saber, "They don't even have eye sockets!"

    Jimmy tilts his head at such an extreme angle that his neck cracks as if he has broken the bones within. "I-I-Is something wrong?" Jimmy stammers.

    The three impostors start to step forward and Aponi immediately drops the scythe while raising her rifle. While the scythe comes to rest upon the ground Apoini yells, "Don't come any closer!"

    The bear cubs stand on Aponi's shoulders, squawking loudly and as fiercely as they can manage.

    "Recruit W-w-williams. You should n-n-never raise your weapon against an a-a-ally." impostor Jimmy stutters.

    "Fuck off," she says with a commanding voice. "If you come any closer, I'll blow that weird-ass crooked lookin' smile off your damn face."

    **Tap. Tap. Tap.**

    Suddenly, behind me, I can hear the sound of someone's shoes rapping against the concrete, "Aponi! Someones behind us!"

    I spin around and prepare to bring my sword down upon whatever it is only to stop myself abruptly. To my surprise, a young boy that looks to be around seven with light brown hair darts around me and runs toward Aponi with his face staring at the floor.

    "L-l-let go of Mr. B-B-Bear!" the young boy raises a sharp splintered piece of wood that looks to have been salvaged from the broken crates.

    Panicking, I try to grab the child by his collar, but he slips by. However, Aponi doesn't even turn around, but simply glances back and kicks her leg behind her. Her boot slams into the child's face with a loud thud. Expecting the child to tumble backward my expectations are shattered when the boy barely stumbles and bumps into my leg instead.

    The boy shakes his head frantically, "St-a-a-ay away mean n-n-nurse!"

    The child whirls around and raises the broken piece of wood to slam it into my thigh. With my senses heightened and adrenaline pumping, I grab his arm tightly. Despite all that and his small size, he somehow overwhelms me, and I pull my leg away. The boy continues his motion and the piece of broken wood fragments against the hard concrete. He jerks his face upward as if to look at me, but I'm startled to find his face is completely devoid of eyes like the others.

    "N-n-no more needles, Doctor!" The boy grabs my wrist and squeezes making me feel like he might snap the bone. He raises the small bit of wood left in his hand and slams it into my arm.

    "Ah!" I scream in pain.

    Blood runs down my arm, and now knowing this is no child, I clumsily swipe at his arm with the saber. To my surprise, the saber cuts through the boy's arm like paper, and I stumble away with his hand still clutching my wrist tightly. Disturbingly something wet rubs against my wrist.

    "Give t-t-that back!" the boy screams.

    Just as I'm about to rip the arm from my wrist, it releases me on its own, and my eyes go wide when it begins to use its fingers to crawl back toward the boy. My mind utterly overwhelmed, I swiftly move back to Aponi, where the standoff between her and the others continues.

    "Sorry, Eden. I didn't expect that boy to be able to put up any resistance at all. Still, I can't take my eyes off these three for more than a couple seconds."

    With the manilla envelope stuck between my armpit, I remove the splinter of wood. A pained look flashes across my face, but I push it away, "It's okay, I didn't expect it either... but to me, that just means we can't let them get any closer."

    The boy who seems to have a weird fascination with the cubs tries to move around to get closer to Aponi. I step over to block his path, "Little... whatever you are, stay away a-and, uh, there won't be any more needles."

    The boy shakes his head and stomps the ground, "Mean nurse! Always lying! A-a-always lying!"

    "The N-N-Night Demons were weak!"

    "What are we going to do Aponi?"

    "What are we going to do? We're gonna first try to leave, and if that fails... we'll kick their ass."

    "Kick o-o-our ass? Are you sure yo-u-u-u don't need Recruit A-A-Allen's help for that?"

    Aponi laughs at the impostor Jimmy, "Yeah, I don't think some weird eyeless freak is going to be able to antagonize me with something that happened years ago."

    Jimmy smiles and shrugs while the child reaches down to pick up his arm. The image is so surreal I nearly look away, but something catches my attention. I squint to get a better look, and when I do I can see what looks to be an eye circling around within a socket in the palm.

    As if to convince myself of what I saw, I speak out loud, "They... have eyes on their palms?"

    "Uh, eyes on the palms?" Aponi asks in a bewildered voice.

    "Yeah. I think so."

    Hearing me talk the four impostors stop smiling and go quiet.

    Aponi turns her head looking at the three on her side before chuckling, "You guys self-conscious about your eyes or something?"

    The three don't say anything anymore; instead, they start spreading out. In the corner of my eyes, I can see the gray things begin to build in number as if expecting something to happen soon.

    "Aponi, maybe, you should just shoot them. I... I bet nothing will hear us."

    Hearing me they wait no longer and charge us.

    "Shit!" Aponi shouts.

    **BangBangBang**

    The piercing sound of burst rifle fire reverberates throughout the tunnel as Aponi begins to fill the three impostors full of lead. At the same time, the boy charges toward Aponi or, more specifically, the bears. I swing, but this time the boy leaps back being extra careful to protect his hands. The envelope falls from my arms and papers spill from it littering the floor. Glancing back I can see the three impostors with their hands behind their backs taking the full brunt of Aponi's barrage.

    **ClickClickClick**

    Aponi runs out of bullets and tosses the rifle to the ground with a thud.

    With their greatest deterrent now out of ammo, I turn my eyes to the ground and then to Aponi, "Try the scythe or something, Aponi! It's the best thing we have now!"

    "I don't know how to use a..."

    Interrupting Aponi I continue, "Clearly their weakness has something to do with their hands. The scythe can cut through anything."

    "Dammit, I'll try it." She reaches down and picks up the scythe in the blink of an eye, "Now what? How the hell does this thing even work!?"

    I slice at the boy aiming for his shoulders, and keeping him at bay, "Just try doing whatever Eira does."

    She begins to swing it recklessly and the three impostors, now unhindered by rifle fire, bring their arms forward. The sound of spent bullets bouncing against the ground echoes as they slip from the impostor's flesh. Without further delay and with bullets still popping out of their flesh they commence charging once again.

    Turning my attention back to my front, I'm startled to find the boy is unexpectedly close, soI jab my saber forward and down on pure reflex. The saber runs through the boy's wrist and into his belly. I twist the saber and yank it from him detaching the hand from his wrist. However, before I can strike the severed hand he grabs it with his other hand and leaps aside. The boy gets a good decent distance away giving me some breathing room.

    "Forget it." I can hear Aponi shout in frustration.

    Glancing behind me I see Aponi trying to reach for her tomahawk with her free hand, but the cubs get in the way. "Get out of the way furball!" she yells.

    The impostor that looks like a taller Eira dodges away from the raised scythe and lifts her hand exposing sharp claws. Aponi gasps as the three impostors arrive within striking distance I hear a loud cooing sound and my eyes go wide as a shadow flashes in the corner of my eye.

    'More of those things!'

    I hear a painful scream, and I hold breath expecting the worst. "Aponi!" I scream, but once my mind has processed what's happening, I'm startled by the scene I did not expect, "Eh?"

    There stands the familiar girl with white hair, blood-red eyes, and sharp ears. Below her heel sits a disgusting gray mass of flesh that I recognize as the squashed head of the taller impostor with ankle-length hair. The girl holds a struggling and cooing baby cub by the scruff of its neck that seems to be chewing on an empty blood bag. While staring at the gory mess under her shoe she sighs and raises her head and starts looking back and forth as if taking in the situation. The remaining impostors stare nervously while backing away to group back together.

    Finally, she looks at Aponi revealing a hint of blood stuck to the side of her lips, "Can I have my scythe back, please?"
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