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Chapter 2: Debri

Only after disaster can we be resurrected. Chuck Palahniuk

The atmosphere is misty, and the air is fresh and cold, a steady rain falls, and there is no wind. A residental district lies behind the hotels, no cars work and there is no power or phone service, fallen trees and utility poles block certain avenues. There are no signs of anything supernatural, these ruins are from natural causes. All of the houses are boarded up, several have their windows knocked out, and a few have been crushed by falling trees. The flood reached upwards of feet, anything below this line was submerged, the waters took the contents of the homes out to sea, leaving most of the buildings! first floors gutted. "ames stared out into the ruined town before them. #$ow.. we really lucked out...# he smiled, %ust the lightest inflection of happiness in his voice. #.. you proud of me& for helping everyone and getting us out&# 'e asked, looking up to his father, almost needing to hear it. (ut even if he didn!t, he knew it was fake. 'is father was never proud of him in his hallucinations. 'e %ust kind of hoped this would be an e)ception, since the rest of it already was. Christian blinked and looked out the door to the road that lay ahead. 'e shuddered, and blinked. #*t!s... +mpty.# he said, frowning. #even a hurricane +vacuation...# he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, shaking his head. *t was over, he was lost forever in ,urgatory with the soul of his Dead son and a group of people who would never trust him. this was it. This was his +ternity. Christian sighed, and took a few steps out and was hit by the -tillness of the Air. 'e shuddered again but was glad to be getting a little warmer. 'e looked back to "ames who looked +nthusiastic but the color was slowly draining from his face. Christian reali.ed how bleak he must have looked at that moment, his hair still slightly wet, his cloat clinging slightly to his body, his /ace dull and dead. 'e blinked, and realised that if for anyone!s sake, for "ames!... 'e would have to at least try and be helpful. 'e gave a lethargic -mile, #0ood %ob, "ames.# he gave the -toner a pat on the shoulder, wondering how much lamer it could get. -hould he ask him to grab his slippers and his ,ipe& ugh... Christian sighed and smiled, #As long as you think the others are 1k...# he murmured, #Then let!s get cracking. "ames started to smiled, giving a soft laugh.... he... hadn!t e)pected it... he liked it. 'e did a good %ob and.. Christian seemed to acknowledge him as his son.... this was wonderful2 'e smiled. #... should we venture out.. or look around the hotel for anything we might have missed&# 'e!d stick by Christian.. but there could!ve been something good in there.. who knew& 3et.. he wouldn!t go alone.. and.. being with his father made him happy... 1nly times he was happy now adays.. when his father and mother were around.. he was looking forward to seeing her. This was 4uickly shaping up to be the best hallucination he!d ever had. 55 6ayla was rather shocked that "ames, the kid who was eating lint off the floor, had found a way out of this hotel. -he was also surprised he saved them all from the flood. Then again, she as surprised she was even here. (ut she didn!t waste her time thinking it over, and left through the loading docks behind the others. 6ayla %umped down, her boots making a slightly soggy sound as they hit the ground below. And what do you know, it was raining out. 6ayla wanted to cry. The site of the abandoned town, boarded houses and ruins of something she was praying for, told her that they weren!t getting out of the hell like hotel building, because outside was like a hell in it!s own. 1nly on T7 had 6ayla seen something so dark and cold, she!d never even been outside of her own

neibourhood. And now, she was in the middle of now where. 6ayla!s eyes burned, and they threatened to tear over. -he breathed in, once, twice, then finally calmed down. -he hoped no one saw the embarrassing moment. /irst, she should find a phone, seeing as there was probably no one here, and call home. #8o5 not home.# 6ayla bit on her thumb nail. (ut with the sight of the fallen phone poles, what saw the chance of anything working. 6ayla rushed past Christian and the supposed son, 6ayla hadn!t cared to get the details, and walked farther from the hotel. Then she stopped. There was no way, she could go about this alone5 she sheltered childhood made even the neighbors back yard a unfamiliar place. 6ayla could feel the weight of panic and uncertainty weigh heavily on her shoulders5 her eyes burned again, but she sucked it up and slowly walked farther out into the mist. 'ugging her body tightly to stop the shivers of cold and fear, the brick heavy in her hand.

"ason sat up making sure the towel stayed firmly around him. 'e blushed thinking of the women. #Can we leave then&# 'e really hoped so. There were monsters and 9r Teddy wasn!t here. 'e forwned thoughtfully at the drier. #(ut can * have my bottoms back first please&# 'e produced his rare puppy dog eyes. #-ure buddy,# "im hoped from the washer and went to the dryer, "ason!s clothes had dried. #'ere you go, nice and toasty.# "im handed to "ason. "ason got dressed and then looked to the others. #Are you guys going to be okay&# #3eah,# said "im, #$e!ll be on in a few minutes. 9aybe (ella can help you outside or maybe look around here for 9r. Teddy&# $hile "ason talked to (ella, "im asked :iiko, #* know they kind of forced this on us, so if you want, * can get our clothes and get dressed now, or are you finally okay with this whole sharing body warmth situation&# As he waited for :iiko!s answer, he wanted to pose another 4uestion on to (ella. #*f you don!t mind me asking, if you find any more weapons, would you mind maybe sharing them. * know it!s a big thing to ask, but if you go off on your own it would be nice to have something to defend ourselves. *!m not trying to order you around, (ella. *, and *!m sure :iiko is grateful for your support. Thank you.# #;et!s %ust try to get a bit warmer, i5it!s probably really cold outside...# :iiko looked at "ason and (ella, thinking of something to say to them. #Thanks, (ella. 3ou really helped us and * hope the guy you like is ok.# $hile she waited for an answer, she hoped that "ordan was ok... 'e is, right& #1h god...what if he!s not... "1:DA8& A:+ 31< 16&# :iiko wanted to see him but not hurt...not again... "ordan was actually shocked that "im had lasted this long but knew the man!s days were numbered without meds. 'ell, his minutes were numbered2 :egardless, those who had been soaked were going to need vitamin C. 'e looked around the restaurant storage room for oranges, grapefruit or anything like that which might!ve survived the flood, all the while keeping an eye out for med kits or weaponry

Then he heard :iiko scream #"1:DA8& A:+ 31< 16&# and he hauled ass back to the laundry room to find that nothing was wrong at all. ,anting, he asked what happened and :iiko admitted that she was worried about him and their lack of weapons. "ordan wiped the sweat from his brow and dried off his glasses #That was all&# he asked #3ou were worried& 3ou can!t scream like that %ust because you!re worried5 * thought you saw some cultists or something...# #*!m leaving this here then. $hoever wants it, take it.# $ith that, (ella placed the 2=> on one of the dryers. #*!ve got a clever, it!s more my style anyway. "ason, are you coming with me bud& +ither way *!ve had well more than enough of this place, so it!s time * leave. *t!s pretty cold out there, * can tell %ust from poking my head out. -o bundle up or something guys.# (ella finished, wishing she!d worn pants and a long sleeve shirt to this little e)cursion. Though had she prepared for it, she!d have done a lot of things differently. At least she had her boots. -he thought back to :iiko!s comment about the guy she liked...yeah...she!d like to see him, but was pretty sure he wouldn!t want to see her, and could she blame him& 8o, she couldn!t. +ven if she died out here now, would he really even care& -he shrugged off the thoughts, and tried to focus...but her heart felt heavy as no matter how she tried to seal the ordeal away from her mind sadness still creeped in around the edges. "im watched as :iiko blushed at "ordan!s chastising her. "im felt it was perfectly understandable for :iiko to want "ordan to be safe , since it seems that perhaps "ordan had already in%ured himself once in the name of protecting them. "im felt that perhaps "ordan was being to insensitive to :iiko!s need for reassurance, but he also understand "ordan!s position too. 'e needed to search as much as possible and as 4uickly, while :iiko and "im had to rest and get back their strength to help in the search. "ordan was looking for meds to help "ack, and that!s when "im remembered the syringe of morphine he had in his %eans. To "ordan, "im says, #Can you hold on for a minute before you go& * %ust reali.ed * had a shot of morphine, * can give that to "ack.# "ordan looked at "im, #3ou had that the whole time and didn!t think about it til now& $hat the f??? is wrong with you&2 That guy could be dying, don!t you care&# "im looked to :iiko and she understood why it might have been so easy for "im to forgot to help "ack, the secret "im had shared with her. To "ordan he says, #$e!re wasting time, we should give this to him now. *!ll do it, you and :iiko can catch up. *!m sure she would like that.# "im looks up and smiles at :iiko who returns the smile, nodding in approval. "im takes the syringe from his %eans and then takes the 2)> offered by (ella @"im claims 2)>A. 'e then heads out of the laundry room in his blankets to the lobby, where "ack lays, barely moving. "ack!s lips are so blue they could be mistaken for black. 'e barely has the strength to chattering his teeth, clutching the his blanket around with all he could muster. Taking "ack!s arm, "im finds a vein and in%ects the syringe of 9orphine into "ack. "im wasn!t a doctor, but he knew enough to administer a shot. 'e did it a few times for his mom when her cancer was so bad she

barely had the strength to do it herself. (esides, even if he didn!t have that e)perience, if the %unky "ames could do it, how hard could it be& "ack weakly opens his eyes and seems to notice "im. #3ou...# #3eah, me again... Do me a favor, try not to die and mess with my conscience more than you already have.# "im then places "ack!s arm back under the blanket. 'e suspected that "ack would have tried to resist this if he had normal strength. 'aving people help him wasn!t his style, but he was barely able to hold his blanket together, let alone fight "im. As "ack!s eyes close again, "im leaves back to the laundry room where he hops back ne)t to :iiko. 'e wonders perhaps he should bring "ack here, to share the warmth with :iiko, but instantly re%ected it. 'e couldn!t trust "ack, besides, :iiko looked nervous enough with "im beside her. "ack would be fine, he wasn!t completely drenched like :iiko and "im were, he had been half submerged on a floating couch. The morphine and blankets should help and "ordan or someone else could volunteer some meds for later. /or now, "im %ust wanted to lay back and rest, but not so much to fall asleep. As he sat ne)t to :iiko, he felt that his eyes were getting heavy and he fought the passive urge to submit to slumber. #:iiko, your fever is gone now but * want you to walk around to keep your body warm# "ordan told her #Also, bring that blanket with you. 8o point in taking chances when we don!t have to. ,vt Dancer can stay here with ,vt ,arts until they!re ready for action... ;eave no man behind, right&# #That!s the marines, butthole...# "im said #$hatever# "ordan conceded #3!all take some :B: and snuggle up until you!re combat ready. $e!ll be back later to check you out but in the meantimeC don!t ask5 don!t tell, right&# "im flipped him the bird on their way out. :iiko wanted to stay but "ordan insisted that they must find more medicine in case anyone else got sick and she saw the wisdom in that, even if she didn!t like it. 'and in hand, they walked to the two story house and started to look around D,lease e)plainE :iiko asked #$hy did you refer to "im5san as private dancer&# -uddenly, and without warning, "ordan spun :iiko around in the air a few times, which turned into a slow dance while he sang AAaaaand I'll be your private dancer, dancing for money... Any old music will do D-till * do not understandE :iiko giggled Dbut please continue to dance with meE "ason was torn. -hould he go with the woman (ella or stay with the resting "im& 'e sat down. There was a monster out there and none in here, his logic proclaimed loudly. (ut 9r Teddy was not, came his heart!s reply. 'e rubbed his temple. A sort of 4uestion bubbled into his confused state. #Can!t we all go together&# This was like the monsters movies a stranger older lady at the home was obsessed with. -he always screamed when she thought she was being left alone. The killer will get me, she often cried in those moments. #There!s a monster out there. * think it likes brains...#

They had ended up searching the house after the dance. :iiko looked under couches, on tables, almost everywhere on the first floor. After she!d finished searching, she sat on a couch which seemed clean enough to sit on. -he wondered if "im was alright... 'e!d be fine. 'e was in the marines. And (ella would be fine too. -he had a really pretty accent, but she seemed like she could protect herself. :iiko suddenly felt bad for calling for "ordan before, she shouldn!t have been so selfish... -he could hear "ordan come down the stairs. DAre you alright&E he asked her. -he seemed very...uncomfortable for some reason. D<mm... 3ou!re the first guy who ever really paid attention to me like this.E 0od, she felt like she loved him, almost. -he!d never felt like this, felt the urge to be near someone and touch them. :iiko blushed and looked down at the floor. #$akarimasen# :iiko moaned D8othing here makes sense. 'ow can * know what to do when everything is wrong&E #The ancient 0reeks knew a special star# "ordan told her #*t was the first one they would see in the evening and the last one to fade at daybreak. The sailors loved it, and they would to steer by it whenever they could. They called it !+osphoros! and it was a guiding light for those who needed help. * want to be a guiding light for you# #+ee 1o -u /u :o -u# :iiko whispered DThank you...but *!ve been wondering... 'ave you been watching me&E :iiko wouldn!t really mind if he was. 'e seemed to be watching over her... A guiding light. :iiko got up from the couch and hugged "ordan. DThanks...E D$atching over you&E "ordan asked D*!ve been watching over you since those cultists. * will do this until my eyes are goneE -uddenly she remembered that she hadn!t taken her dose. -he didn!t want "ordan to know. -he was going to tell him but not right now. -he could tell him later. 'e wouldn!t care. (ut she would tell him about it later #* have to go to the $C# :iiko said D$ould you wait for me&E -he 4uickly took her meds, flushed the toilet and walked out of the bathroom. DThank you for waiting for me,E she said. D(ut... what do you think of me& * mean, um...E $ell, she thought, you messed this up. $as this going too fast& 8o, it wasn!t, minutes can pass like months and hours like years... -o it was like they!d been together for years. -he kissed him on the cheek. D8ever mind. * know that you wouldn!t leave me.E D$e should go back to check on the othersE :iiko suggested DThis is a good ideaE "ordan agreed D-ince * forgot to tell them to stay bundled up even when they are feeling betterE D1kay, let!s goE she tugged on his arm D$hy do you go the wrong way&E DThis stone is interestingE he muttered D$e have time to look at it first...E --

(ella stopped for a moment before leaving the loading dock, waiting to see what "im and "ason would do. *t was pretty clear that "ason felt comfortable around "im, that!s a good thing. 'e!d found someone to keep him safe that made him comfortable. $hereas she herself was a stranger to him, and no matter how nice and polite a stranger is, it!s still a stranger. -he pulled the clever from her skirt, brandishing it, and preparing to trek outside into the rain. -he caught a glimpse of the seemingly tough, and confident 6ayla. -he looked as if she were about to cry. (ella could smell the panic and fear on her, let alone see it. Apparently she!d figured her out wrong. The girl had acted the way she had before as a front. (ut it wasn!t in an effort to be something she wasn!t, so much as an effort to not break down, or so it seemed to (ella. ;uckily, at least in this case, (ella had lived a rough childhood, and an even rougher %ourney into adulthood. *t made for a bad past, but in this instance her hardened and gritty past made her more prepared than some. -he was afraid of little, and used to being in horrible situations. -he was used to taking care of herself. 1f course this didn!t always mean she wanted to, but she was used to it all the same. -he did wish she had someone she could trust to venture out with. "im and "ason both seemed 4uite trust worthy, she didn!t even begin to doubt their motives. -he wanted to trust "ames, but he seemed in his own little world constantly. Then again she wanted to trust everyone...but she knew better. -he sighed, and sucked it up, moving on through the street past 6ayla after taking a long look back at "ason sticking close to "im, who was resting. -he hated leaving them...but she honestly wasn!t sure they wanted her around. -he %ust didn!t want to see either of them hurt. (ella wandered for a few minutes and a colorful sign reading #*sabel!s Tattoo ,arlor# caught her eye. -he loved tattoos, and had a good many of her own from various artists, some from 8orth America, some from ( *t was as good a place to check out as any, and the rain was cold. The front door had been blasted inward in a showering of glass, so she let herself right in. 7arious, large art decorations filled the walls, and she smiled as she looked at all of them, in what appeared to be a dark, yet 4uiet little building. (ella rummaged through various folders and books of tattoo designs, digging through desk drawers, and opening cabinets in hopes of uncovering something useful. -he sifted through supply cabinets being careful of inking needles, though she was sure she!d find some medical supplies somewhere, afterwall every tattoo parlor had antibacterial wipes and things of that nature on least ones that weren!t shady did... (ella walked past a pile of filthy debris into a back room, most likely used to store materials for the shop. The darkness there was thick, light only emanating from between slats in the boarded up window peering ominously into the small back room. <sing her hands to guide her, (ella stumbled around further into the darkness before hearing a clanking noise somewhere behind her, that made her %ump, startled. Turning 4uickly, she bolted from the dark back room to come back into the main room to find the pile of debris no longer there. *n it!s place a tall, skeletal looking monstrosity stood. *t looked as if it!s legs had been severed and metallic stilts had been bolted to the rotting flesh of it!s thighs to replace them. $hat was left of the torso was e4ually decaying and putrid looking. -ome sort of gear work made for it!s midsection, in place of a stomach. *ts arms had also been severed and long, %agged and rustic blades now took their place. (y the looks of 'AD been the pile of debris she!d passed before. A thick coating of sweat began to coat (ella!s face as she tried to compose herself, and drew her clever from her skirt. *t was clear she!d have to find a way past this thing, it wasn!t going to let her %ust walk on by. -he braced herself for combat, and slow,y very slowly began to strafe around it. -he waited for it to attack, intending to throw out a counterattack. The gear in its midsection looked like an e)cellent spot to

strike. $ith luck she would connect with enough force to break the rusty looking thing and hopefully topple the whole monster over in the process. -ince it seemed like this thing was holding the broken monstrosity together at the middle, it might work. /ear wracked her, but did not overwhelm her. -he!d never faced anything so monstrous as this thing. Though she!d been through a lot, having survived numerous firefights in (, as well as more close 4uarters combat encounters to count. -he had to keep her head here more so than anywhere else yet. -he had to stay defensive and sharp minded if she wanted to survive here. -he!d try and topple the beast, and then escape, hopefully fast enough to secure help from someone else, hopefully someone able, like "im or Christian. -he took to a low combat stance, held her clever before her, and moved her free hand closer to her face in an open clasp, as if in a knife fight. -+veryone had left e)cept "ason, who seemed hesitant to leave "im behind. :iiko had seemed to have improved greatly while "im, still felt a bit under the weather, his fever becoming evident. 9aybe it was all the running around he had done, helping others, :iiko had hardly moved a muscle and rested. "im had tried to get some rest, but apparently it wasn!t enough. ;ooking to "ason, "im says weakly, #"ason... * think maybe *!m going to stay here and rest. 3ou should go with the others. *!ll be okay...# #(ut... (ut you!re sick...# "ason looked as if he was going to start whimpering. #*!ll be fine,# said "im, his head aching slightly. *t wasn!t %ust his head. 'is amputated leg and the tips of his fingers ached as the chill finally thawed out of them. ,utting on a brave face, "im add, #(ella will watch you, or you can stay here... (ut * really need to rest. *f you see anyone, maybe if they have some meds, pass them along. (ut if you go out, please be careful.# <nintentionally letting a frown slip onto his face, "im adds, #*!m so sorry * can!t be too helpful right now...# $hile "ason decided what to do, "im gently laid back and although he had been fighting it for several minutes, the urge to sleep finally overtook him. -hould he leave "im alone& +specially with the monster in the hotel& "ason looked at the sleeping but pale "im. 9edicine he asked for. 9aybe "ason could find him medicine& (ut where would he find some& And were there more monsters lurking. "ason straightened. 'e had to be brave. 'e was a grown man2 (ut without 9r Teddy... 812 "ason stood up and stretched, rolling his shoulders back and standing firm. 'e had to be the adult now. The street when he walked onto it was disturbingly 4uiet. 'e couldn!t see anyone. 'e felt lonely and chilled. "ason hugged himself but still continued forward. 'e had to find medicine. 'e remembered something as found himself looking at a gas station. -omeone once said they sold everything. 9aybe the sold stuff to make you feel better& An old run5down car slumped in a corner. *ts rusted metal pocked with dirt brown that looked like blood. "ason cringed but checked it anyway. The pumps lay lifeless and drained of petrol, like a vampire!s victim.

'e checked the bins around them in and between in each pump. Then he made his way to the building. The door was tight and "ason had to s4uee.e his way through it only to almost trip on various item laying dangerously behind it. The place looked like a hurricane had been through. 'e looked at the shelves and even under them before making his way around the back of the counter. 'e scoured the nooks and crannies there too. Another door led to small private room where a bunch of dead televisions sat. $ires connected through the wall no doubt leading to defunct camera!s. A small bo) toilet was hidden around the corner. "ason held his nose and checked that too. /inally he made his way back round to the front door. "ason stuck his hand into the moldy bo)es and moved them so he could open the door easier. As "im slept, he dreamed the usual nightmares that haunted him. The burning hut in the middle of the desert surrounded by the night skyC the owner, an innocent man "im had mistaken for the enemy and killed staring at him. The air swirled with wind, carrying the sound of screaming children upon them, like ghosts haunting him. As always, "im laid on the ground, his right leg still attached, but barely, ruined beyond repair. The funny thing is he could still the pain in the dream, a phantom pain, another ghost haunting him. 'e waited for what would happen ne)t and prepared for the man to grab his in%ured leg and drag him into the inferno. 'e had gotten used to it by now, in fact he had accepted it, he now he deserved this punishment for the sins and failures he has committed. *t didn!t make it easier to endure, but he has accepted it. 'e waited and waited and still his tormentor did not move. "im didn!t understand, he never waited before. /rustrated, "im finally calls out, #$hat!s wrong& $hy aren!t you punishing me&2 * deserve it2# The man only shook his head, another action he had never done before. "im was shocked, these changes frightened him more the old nightmare that over time had become familiar and routine. #$hat do you mean, no& * don!t understand.# And with that, the man fades and the darkness above him is replaced with a shining red, like the setting sun. *n this glow, he can see further into the desert and see that he isn!t really in a desert at all. 'e is standing near an ocean, upon a beach. As this reali.ation came to him, the wind picked up, the screams it carried growing in multitude. -ome of the voices sounded fairly familiar... "ason& 6ayla& (ella& :iiko& "ames& As panic rose in "im, something wet hit his face. 1ne drop, then several, slow at first but then rapidly coming down. Touching his face, "im pulls his hand back and sees that his hand is covered in blood, followed by more drops of red falling into his palm. $ith a start, "im awakens and that he has his hand to his face. *t is dripping wet, but the moisture here was clear, it was sweat. /eeling his head, he notices that his fever has broken. *t takes him a while to get over the shock of the nightmare, but when he does he that "ason is gone. /ear fills "im, an irrational terror that perhaps his dream has crossed over and claimed "ason and the others whose voices he heard. Fuickly getting dressed, "im steps from the dryer and sticks his head out of the entrance to the laundry room. #"ason& "ason&2 $here are you buddy&#

8o answer. "im steps from the entrance and looks around, wondering where to begin looking for the boy. "im comes across a room titled #Call :oom.# -tepping inside, "im sees the room has numerous desks, each e4uipped with a computer and phone. The desks are set in rows of three, with three desks in each row. This room seemed to be where the hotel took it!s calls from the rooms and transferred to food services or the main desk. ,erhaps "ason was hiding here, under one of the desks. "im looks under each desk. $hen he sees that "ason is nowhere to be found, "im then decides to search the drawers of each desk and behind the monitors of the computers. 'e then checks behind the actual computer units and under the phones for anything small.

Christian frowned, and looked back, and scowled. ;ast time it had practically been a game of musical chairs 5 each person practically had to fight for a room to search, there were so many of them... 8ot anymore. Damnit. Christian blinked, #* think they!ve got the rest of the area covered for a bit.# 'e gestured to those moving into the neighborhood. #$hat say we finish the %ob, %ames&# he asked, smiling. Christian noticed first the :ecords room on a balcony overlooking the loading dock. he smiled and stepped in. 'e glanced around the bountiful filing cabinets and breathed the slightly warmer air. Time to get to work. Christian first steps up to and around the central desk, moving his hands over the papers on top to check everything, ;ooking at the ,aperweights and pondering if they were useful. 'e then checks the ;amp and tries the computer 5 to no avail. 'e then opens each of the desk drawers and scans their contants with his hands, carefully. 'e and "ames then tag team the /iling cabinets all over the room, each one taking one cabinet at a time. They search through each file, and Christian particularly keeps an eye out for any familiar names on files or overheavy ones. /inally, they check the coat hanger, which still carries three coats. Christian picks a nice, warm one that seems to suit his %acket and shirt. 'e takes the other coat and hands "ames the final one, so they can give them to the others later. "ames had agreed to follow his father as help search the records room. 'e made sure to be thorough, wanting to further impress his father. he was doing so well2 'e had to keep going. *t was the only way this was going to continue in his favor. *f they found nothing, atleast they!d know there was nothing there and not that they left something behind. The two then moved on to the "anitor!s closet. There was promise here. *t was a storage closet. Chances were good they would find something. And if not& They!d move on. They checked all the shelves, the floors, between ob%ects on the shelves. *nside any bo) or bin they found. +ven in the mop5holder5cleaner contraption that "anitors use.. "ust incase there was something there. -6ayla took to the misty streets on her own, the brick securely in her hand. 'er destination was the house5 even though a tree sat comfortable on top of it, crushing in the roof, 6ayla wanted to get out of the rain and the ominous mist. -he pushed open the wooden door, that swung back on it!s hedges before coming

out of the frame entirely, it hit the ground with a wet thud. The room inside was tossed onto it!s back5 everything was toppled over and wet. 6ayla pulled her school "acket tighter around her tied it off5 luckily for her it was dry. -he knew that upstairs would be off limits, then again she!d never been in an abandoned house5 for all she knew the floor was gonna break in on her in any moment. -he sat down on the driest piece of furniture she could find and pulled off the boots, pulling the laces free. Then she took off long5 stained now5 socks. -he rung them out, then set them aside before putting back on her boots. 8ow her legs where bare at the knee!s, showing pale skin that seems to never have been touched by the sun before. -taying on the first floor, 6ayla looked in cupboards and under cushions. -he came in and out rooms, mostly looking around instead of touching anything. -he didn!t open any doors that where close already, and checked the kitchen especially for food and a new weapon. 'er kept her eyes and ears open, %umping at any little sound. -udden 6ayla gasped sharply scaring herself as he runs into a cut5out of a chef. -he, then, and suddenly sees something beyond the cut5out that is large and seems to be moving. The face has detail, the head has hair5 and he wears a suit... like he!d %ust gotten out of church. Then then cold ground against her naked back5 a terrible smell and pain. And yet she couldn!t find her voice. -he couldn!t even whimper. -uddenly she comes back to reality5 her face drenched in heavy flowing tears5 and held the brick in her hand, crushing her small fists around it till her knuckles where white. -he stepped softly to the side going the opposite way then the thing. 6ayla tries to make an escape around the opposite side of the counter top island, not getting close to the monster at all. Able to stay small, 6ayla would crotch behind the counters and keep note of where ever the shadow and sounds move away from them, keeping her distance and staying hidden. /inally when the monster!s back was to her location, she %umps on the counter and slams her bottle of vodka across the back of it!s head and flicks the lighter on against the flammable li4uid turning him into a torch. The Creature ignites, and turns, by this time 6ayla has already ran out the door and back toward the 'otel. The adrenalin in 6ayla!s blood sent her running through the mist. 'er face was covered in trails of tears, and dirty on her face. 'er eyes where blood shot, and she could hardly see in front of her. -he wanted back into the hotel, into the bed she woke up in. -he was going to have to run away, again run away to a new town, new life, a new nightmare. 6ayla!s foot caught on a rock and her she fell forward. 'er breath was heavy, as she tried to talk, cry and gasp all at the same time. #...though * walk through the valley of shadow...22# -he gasped and tried to calm herself down. 'er hands where against the road and she looked down, on her knee!s. The adrenaline was now turing into fear, and a uneasy feeling. 6ayla wanted to throw up. #6eep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings22# 6ayla reali.ed she was now simple yelling random psalms that she had memori.ed, in some attempt to free herself of this hell. (ut then again, if this was hell5 there would be no 0od for her now. 6ayla slowly got back up, feeling her knee!s shaking. -he hugged her self, taking note that she was indeed unharmed5 but very shaken up with fear and bad memories. 6ayla continued walking forwards, where she began to hear the chatter of people. At the sound of them, she began to run towards the others, till she was sprinting again.

"ordan had found a newspaper article and was reading it when all hell broke loose. :iiko wanted to help but he refused, dragging her inside the (ayou Fueen ((F D*f * help them then * can!t watch youE he insisted Dand how do you propose to help& $e have no medicine2E

D(ut when we find medicine, do you promise to help&E :iiko asked DCertainly. As long as it does not endanger youE he replied, handing her the article and a pen D'ere, read this and circle all the names while * look aroundE Recent Deaths: Suicide or Something More? By Roy Doltan A bizarre series of deaths have begun taking place in various and distance areas of Glaves recently. At first the cases seemed like suicides or cases of reckless self-endangerment. ut as more eeriely similar deaths continued to occur, this reporter thinks more is going on. !oing some investigating, I've uncovered interesting evidence that the police have no answers to. "he first incident happened a little over a month ago, when #orace $ongrave, the keeper of the Glaves $ighthouse, seemingly fell to his death from the top of the lighthouse to the ground below. At first, it was ruled an accidental death, but there was no sign of any slick surfaces and the safety rails were firm and well maintained. "he ne%t assumption was suicide, but that was &uickly ruled out when 'rs. $ongrave swore she heard her husband screaming in terror before hitting the ground. "he last and only other possible e%planation was homicide and that was ruled out even faster, for in the beginning of their investigation, they found the door to the lighthouse locked and the keys needed to lock and unlock the doors still inside 'r. $ongrave's pocket. $ater dusting for prints showed that no one other than 'r. $ongrave had handled the keys. (ne could suspect that if the door had remained locked that 'r. $ongrave had not entered and climbed the lighthouse, but his death was confirmed as being from a fall of great height. #aving no other e%planation the police ruled it an accidental death. "he ne%t incident seemed more cut and dry when, )ason 'ars, a hiker was found dead, also from what seemed to be a fall inside the Glaves conservation park a week later. #e was found near a tree, where several broken branches were littered around him, which were stripped from the same tree. "he police were able to surmised that the young man must have been climbing the tree and lost his grip and fell, desperately grabbing the broken branches as he tried to hold to something. "his theory would be fine e%cept for two things found in the forensic report. *umber one, the in+uries sustained from a fall of that height would be deadly indeed, but the pathologist claims that the in+uries suggest a fall much higher than the tree in &uestion and any other trees near the victim. "he other thing was that the branches found around the victim. Although they were indeed pulled from the tree, they seemed have been snapped off the tree in an upward angle, not down like one would e%pect in the falling scenario, &uite the opposite. It seemed as if the boy had been fighting from being pulled up, as strange as that sounds. *ot willing to gamble on suspicions, the police ruled the death an accident as well. And +ust yesterday, another case similar to this one has occurred inside the city of Galves itself. #anna ,orune was found dead in the middle of the Galves' main street, an apparent leap from one of the roofs. -eeing the scene myself, I see doubt in this. #er body is directly in the middle of mains street, not on the sidewalk where you'd e%pect someone would land from +umping off a building. *ot only that, the buildings here are only a two or three floors high. I will have to check with a coroner to know for sure, but I find it hard to believe these heights would be able to kill. "he more I look at the evidence and their contradictions to logic, I have to wonder what is happening in Glaves. .nfortunately, only time and further investigation will reveal this mystery. I can only pray another victim isn't claimed by these strange occurances. "ordan found some pills so he and :iiko left the restaurant to find the others.

As "ason inspects the 0as -tation, he hears growling behind him, he turns and in front of him a decayed feral creature stands, poised to strike, staring at him. "ason is surrounded by a few abandoned cars, and the gas station is on the otherside of the dog. The Dog is waiting, waiting for "ason to make his move. "ason is unarmed. /A#########0/ "ason was able to control his bowels this time but couldn!t stop the scream from being emitted like a chaotic siren of dread. 'e frantically looks for a way out but can!t see anything. That is until he has a random burst of energy and inspiration diving for one of the abandoned cars. 'e scrambles to find one of the doors open. *f he does so he dives in and pulls the door shut behind him before scrambling to make sure all the other doors of that car are shut as well. The 9onster now circles the car, and growls everytime "ason reaches for the door. "ason is otherwise unharmed. -(ella walks past a pile of debris and into a back room, it is completely dark e)cept for a few shafts of light emitting from a boarded up window, (ella uses her hands to guide her. After a few minutes she hears a clamoring noise. -he pauses for a minute and returns to the main room. The pile of debris disappeared, and in its place stands a seven foot tall monstrosity blocking the door. (ella immediately halts staring at the monstrosity before her. -he withdraws her clever, preparing for the worst and scans the area for any sign of a way out, even if only for more maneuvering room to enter combat. there!s not too much of a way out, she steadies herself mentally and psychically. 6eeping a lower stance, she holds out the arms wielding the cleaver, and draws the empty hand closer to her face in an open clasp. -he begins to slowly circle the monster before, watching for any slight movement in it, and focusing mentally on containing composure and calmness to keep her head unclouded. $hile being uglier...and scarier than anything she!s ever encountered in her short life, it!s most likely not the most dangerous, as she!s lived through several firefights in ( and too many bouts of close 4uarters combat to count. -he readies her attack, but first waiting for the monster!s movement. *ntending to counter attack based on which angle it swings at her from, with it!s large blade like arms. (ella notices the gear like thing in the center of the creature, and intends to aim a hard strike to that area, with the hopes of breaking that gear, and possibly toppling over the beast. All the while staying aware of her surroundings, waiting for an opening to escape the broken down building, and to avoid tripping over debris. -he awaits the monsters attack, waiting for the chance to counter attack and hopefully knock it off balance, and then possibly escape. The (east approaches, using its arms to help it walk, in the manner of an ape, (ella backs behind a table. The 9onster crushes the table with its blade. The blade becomes stuck, (ella charges and strikes the gear with her cleaver, the creature shudders but the small cleaver is not strong enough to destroy the gear, it recomposes itself and slashes with its other blade, loses balence and falls forward. The blade managed to strike (ella in the stomach, slashing it with its rusty blade. As the monster struggles to get up, (ella limps out of the building holding on to her bleeding torso. --

A cold shiver violently awakened "ack. -till somewhat wet "ack noticed he was still in the lobby, no one was around e)cept the endless wet debri surrounding the room and wet paper stuck to his clothes. "ack stood up but nearly fell back down as he lost his balance for a second, must!ve been the cold that was still messing with his head. Thinking harder on it "ack reali.ed he should!ve been dead by now. All "ack recalled was him barricading inside that underground parking lot when suddenly a wall gave way and a surge of icy cold water rushed straight at him, pummeling him all over the parking lot before it spit "ack out into the lobby like an old toy. 'e soon lost consciousness after that and was sure he would die but he hadn!t. $as it 9a) that somehow managed to preserve "ack!s life& 8o. 'e recalled a familiar face he had seen before him as he lay motionless in a pool of water. *t was "im. 1r maybe a dream. -pitting wet paper even out of his mouth "ack moved to the e)it of the hotel, he pushed the doors open to reveal a little street before him with little shops, #$ell, it!s better than nothing,# he said to himself as he walked down the street. 'e hadn!t had a bite in what seemed like forever, "ack was looking around for a food store when he noticed a gas station a little bit ahead of him, surely there would be some snacks inside, he moved toward it. As "ack approached the gas station he heard a weird noise a little further on and he stopped in his tracks. $hatever it was "ack was sure it wasn!t a mere guard pooch, the growl was deeper and darker than any dog he had ever heard. -ilently moving towards the station staying behind the cars parked outside "ack saw a man sitting inside a car, he was about to shout out to him but noticed something disappear behind the car the man was in. "ack waited to see what would soon appear to be a creature that faintly resembled a dog, it was circling the car focused on the man inside and failed completely to notice "ack!s presence. The creature was more like a decaying corpse on four legs than a dog. Disgusted by the sight "ack notices his old comrade a little further on ahead of him, it was "im. "ack looked "im in the eyes and pointed towards the car, from "im!s looks "ack knew they understood one another, after all, they have worked together for so long. The plan was on.... -*n one of the drawers, "im finds a bottle of 7odka. Apparently everyone working in this hotel was a lush. "im didn!t know that working in the hotel industry was so stressful. Taking the vodka, "im heads out of the call room and looks around. *t seems that everyone had cleared out. 'eading out through the loading deck, "im surveys the open street and the various buildings on it. At nearby gas station, "im sees something that looks like a stray dog perhaps, padding around a particular dog. The animal looked horrible, it!s hair gone and most of it!s skin raw, "im could make that even from hear. At this distance, the dog fails to notice him, seemingly more interested in the car. After a while, "im could see why, there was someone inside. -4uinting his eyes, peering into the distance and past the grime of the windshield, could see that it was "ason. 'e looked scared, peeking at the windows to keep the dog in his sights. "im knew he had to do something and he started to move, when he noticed (ella stumbling out of a tattoo parlor, her shirt soaked in blood, her hand over a nasty wound. *f she didn!t get help soon, she could die, but "ason was in danger. 'e had seen Cu%o, and the idea of the dog bursting through the window and claiming "ason was vivid in his mind. 'e stood there, undecided turning from (ella to "ason. As he agoni.ed, "im wondered if perhaps his dream was coming true, the screams of his new friends and the rain of blood, a sick prophecy of death and pain that he could not fully stop. Deciding that (ella was closer, he goes to her first. 0oing to the doorway of the parlor, "im takes (ella under one arm and carries her to the curb. ;aying her on the curb, "im sees that he stomach has been cut severely, but it was manageable. 'e didn!t to find something to bind the wounds. ;ooking that it was a

tattoo and possibly piercing parlor, "im figures there must be some medical supplies. 'e goes in and easily finds wrapping gau.e and padding gau.e in the first chair ne)t to the entrance. "im hears a rattle and clinging in the back, but thinks nothing of it, (ella needed his help. 'e finds no antiseptic, but he has alcohol so he doesn!t worry about it and goes to fi)ing (ella up. ,ouring the alcohol on (ella, she lets out a grimace of pain, the first noise she has made the whole time, perhaps in too much pain from the wound. $ith the alcohol applied, "im lifts her shirt %ust enough to see the wound and places the padding gau.e over the wound and then wraps them with the wrapping gau.e, securing it tightly with a knot in the back. 'e cares her from the curb to the other side of the street, away from the dog. /inding a safe place for her, "im lifts her head up, she looked a little out of it from the pain. ;ooking into her eyes, he says, #(ella... 'ey222 $hat happened&# -he didn!t respond... 'e looked to the direction of the gas station, the thought of "ason in danger racing through his head. Turing to (ella, he tells her, #3ou should be okay here... * have to go and help "ason... * know you understand that * have to go... *!ll be back.# ;eaving her, "im returns to the sight of the gas station and wonders how to best help "ason. ;eaning on an old, beat down car (ella!s breathing was labored. The pain from the gash in her stomach was intense, but as it were she didn!t think she was bleeding internally. 8one the less she was completely incapacitated. -he rested her head against the bumper of the car and looked to the pale, gray sky above. -he had no idea what had attacked her, but things had went from bad to worse. -he thought, if she!d given "im the clever and kept the 2=> now she might be, that was selfish. This is %ust how things had happened. $hen she was GH she!d taken a bullet to the!d been worse then. -he didn!t think she!d live at the time. Thinking back on it, she was surprised she had. The hospital treated her however, and she made it out without any serious repercussions as a result, none physical anyway. This wasn!t as bad a wound, at least from what she could gather, but at the same time, there was no hospital to go to this time either. 'er head lolled to the side as she thought, and she breathed deeply, almost as if sighing. The pain from this action made her wince. Think positive, you can get out of this she told herself in her head. #* least *!m not spitting up blood.# -he said softly to herself aloud. -he thought she!d left this sort of thing behind in life. -he!d left ( years back to start over in 8orth America, leaving behind all the violence and hardships. $ had been good, this was bad, the whole situation was bad...but until now life had been worth living. -he!d made normal, good friends, met some decent guys, some not, but she was living like a normal twenty5two year old woman. -he had a normal %ob, an average apartment, and a friendly cat...she played video games and read +nglish books. That!s what she!d wanted for a long time, to %ust be normal, and not in a world of violence and bloodshed. -he couldn!t complain now. $hatever had gotten her in this place had to have had a reason. $hen and if she returned she could go back to appreciating her average life, that so many other people complained of, not knowing how good they had it. -he thought more...the past, loss. -he remembered what!d brought her into the shadier side of life in ( 'er boyfriend :icki had managed to fall into the wrong crowd long enough to get killed. 'e!d been tied up and e)ecuted with a sub5machine gun. -he had only seen the corpse, but it was enough. -he was young at the time, very young. -he hadn!t known what else to do other than cry...and try to get revenge. -he didn!t know much at the time, but was able to find someone to teach her, also deep into the crime life.

"aeger...he taught her everything he knew. (ut he wasn!t like a mentor but rather a captor. 'e kidnapped her, abused her, did things to her. (ut in the end he trusted her, taught her things. 'ow to use a gun, hot to fight hand to hand, how to...survive. 'e was a fool to never think she!d use these things against him. "aeger wasn!t much different than the step father she!d escaped from a few years back with :icki... (ella kept a blank stare, breathing heavily, as if trapped in a nightmare...but the past would not let go, it!s grip strong. -he could remember the night she worked up the courage to sneak into "aeger!s room. 'e was snoring loudly, and had no idea what was about to come. -weat poured over (ella like as if from a bucket. The switchblade she!d stolen from his front room gleamed in the slat of light coming from the hallway door a%ar. -he thought of the things he!d done to her her first year there, despite seeming like a decent fellow from the beginning. -he was a fool to have ever gotten into a car with him...%ust like kids were taught not to. (ut she was desperate for power...desperate to learn how to do something about what had happened to her :icki. 8one the less this was her first chance to redeem that mistake, since she!d managed to get this bastard to trust her. -he swallowed hard, and a tear rolled down her cheek as she plunged the blade deeply into his throat, twisting it harshly as his eyes shot open, and his arms reached for her. 'e gurgled something, but it was inaudible. -he winced, and pulled the knife from his now gaping throat...and fro.e. *n the dim light she watched the blood drip from the slender silver blade, heard the muffled gurgling from "aeger as his arms flailed for her for a split second. -he sobbed audibly now, and plunged the knife downward again. 8othing got easier from there. *t got worse, a lot worse. -he had nowhere left to go, and still hungered deeply for revenge. 8owhere to go but down when you!re already in a hole...and she did. (ella never did get the drug lord that had mercilessly killed :icki over a few thousand dollars. *t took four hospital trips for her to willingly give in to the police and detectives that would try and get information out of her as she was recovering each time. They took her into %uvenile custody care, and sent her away to america, to live with a foster family, who treated her 4uite well, like a normal teenage daughter. -he left broken, crushed and with nothing to live for. -he!d found love, care, and an appreciation of life in her new home however. $hen she!d gotten old enough, she!d moved away from her foster family, %ust a few blocks away. They still visited her fre4uently, and treated her like immediate family. They never asked what!d brought her to this life overseas, at least not to her. They %ust accepted her. They loved her. Coming back to reality (ella found herself holding a hand over her wound now, leaning against that broken down car and sobbing heavily. /or the first time since she!d gotten to this strange place, she!d finally broke down. -he cried softly, her breathing wracked with sobbing. -he didn!t want to die here...she didn!t want "im and "ason to die...and for all she knew they might be dying even now. -he thought of what "im would think if he seen her now& -obbing, crying, broken...a far cry from the tough girl he!d seen so far. -he sobbed more deeply and eventually cried herself into slumber. 'er body finally giving in to the e)haustion that had been brought on by everything up until this point. "asonIs heart pounded in his head, an incessant thump5thump. *t cosumed him as "ason stared wide5 eyed out onto the gas -tation lot and the decaying mass of canine flesh. *t paced like the tiger!s had at the .oo, e)cept this time the animal was on the outside and "ason was the caged beast. +very so often it stared with it!s lidless, mangled eyes into the car window. "ason ducked each time it!s ga.e lingered on him, and each time his heart pumped louder.

The inside of the car smelt of burnt ash and an underhint of metalic. The seat "ason was crouched on was little more then wire held together that dug into his knee!s and back. (ut the sense of touch and smell was secondary to his sight... and his hearing. +ven through the closed door he could hear the animal breath and growl. *t sounded watery and rough, like thick, gooey li4uid was sloshing around in it!s lungs. 'e peered again through the grimy window. The dog still paced and grumbled at it!s prey. "ason whimpered 4uietly. (ut there2 -omething moved past the dog, further down and towards the hotel. "ason immediately recognised "im. 'e attempted to cry out to the man when the dog turned his way. The yell faded to a s4ueak of breathy silence and "ason clapped his hands to his mouth. 'e looked to see where "im was and saw him turning away. "ason wanted to shout out but the dog... !,lease don!t leave me! 'is mind cried for him instead. "im faded from view for a moment and "ason felt for sure he was being abandoned until he came back into view again with (ella. "ason wanted to cry as he saw the blood. 'is eyes round and red, widened in horror. A monster had been mean to (ella2 *t looked worse then the cuts and scrape he had gotten in the past @and those had hurtA. 'e had never seen such blood before. 'is ga.e 4uickly glanced to the dog and he imagined those gnarled and rotten teeth tearing into his own flesh. :ipping him from the inside out. 'e moaned more terrified then he had ever been. "ason curled up still looking out the window, watching the monster. 'e rocked gently, as the blood continued to drum in his head. "ack aproaches the car and notices "im near it. They both see "ason inside screaming for help, they both look at each other and for a second forget their differences, glancing at one another have no need for words as both of them reali.e that two heads are better than one. "ack signals "im to move to the right side of the car, as he does so the creature catches his scent and moves towards his position while "ack silently moves to the left side of the car trying his best to keep a low profile and make no noise. ,eeking through the glass "ack sees the creature move around the car towards "im, "ack opens the door and grabs "ason by his arm, pulling him out with one 4uick %erk. $hen "ason is out of the car "ack waves his hand towards "im who opens the door on his side and starts crawling inside the car. The creature already circled the car and was on the left side, it stood there for a second growling at "im crawling through the car and then charged at him. "im manages to crawl through the car and fall to the ground on the other side in time, where "ason sits leaning against the back doors. "im pushes his legs against the door and shuts it right in front of the creature!s face. The creature started barking at "im from the inside of the car through the shut door, it soon reali.ed that it couldn!t get through so it turned around to %ump out the door it originally had entered only to see "ack standing there before it. "ack smirked and shut the left door entraping the dog inside the car instead of "ason. The 9onster doesn!t bark or growl, it %ust whimpers and scratches at the door.

"ames and Christian search the :ecords :oom, "ames after half an hour, "ames leaves the room to inspect another location, Christian continues to search through the various files, then he hears the door slam. Thinking it was "ames, he glances from his work for a second to see not "ames, but an unknown figure walk slowly toward him holding a fairly long steel pipe above its head. Christian!s breath leaves his body and doesn!t seem to return for several seconds as he sees the steadily advancing creature. 'e imediately puts the Desk between him at the (east, trying to get away from it!s weapon!s grasp. '+ blinks and thinks for a moment before shouting as loud as he can #"A9+-, :<82# he

then moved in accordance with the monster, making sure they were on opposite sides of the desk at all times. 'e relieves the wooden desk of the four ,aperweights and takes aim, desciding that at least G hit on the head and three misses is better than three hits on the chest and one miss. Aim small, get small. 'e throws with most of his force, careful not to strain any muscle or overe)ert himself. -everal of the ,aperweights miss but one hits! it!s throat and the other hits it!s head, causing it to stumble. The 9onster becomes enraged and throws its pipe at Christian, the pipe strikes Christian in the shoulder bruising it severely. Christian stumbles backward as the monster walks toward him, it takes the desks and tosses it to the 1therside of the room, Christian uses this to his advantage and lifts the hatchet, burying it in the shoulder of the slowly moving figure. The beast grabs Christian by his wounded arm and twists it out of its socket, and before the monster crushes his arm. Christian stabs it three times in the side of the head with his pen. The 9onster stands motionless with the ,en still in its head, and Christian!s arm in its grasp in an awkward angle. -"ames moves further into the closet and due to the lack of power55walks into the darkness and starts to feel around for anything worthwhile55then the door closes behind him. "ames stops for a second as he detects a soft growling noise in the darkness. "ames felt around in the darkness for a short period of time, trying to let his eyes ad%ust until he could make out the vague shape ofJ -19+T'*80 in the closet with him. There wasn!t much room, now that he thought about i. and that sort of noise never indicated something good. $ell, he!d %ust have to take this thing out, now wouldn!t he& -eeing about where the outline was, is was very hard to tell what was what. A vaguely head5shaped something was there, so he prepared the rock in his hand and, having both no fear and a mental thought that whatever this fakey5ass thing was he could easily beat it with enough force, he slammed the rock into its head. 'e didn!t stop at one.. no, he kept punching with his rock until he could kill it. *t was so cathartic. After all those years of abuse, finally being able to 6*;; something& *t was always so good in these hallucinations when he could, and only a few times had he actually done real5life damage to anything. <sually it was %ust wrecking something in the house like a table or a door. 1nly once had it been his uncle. 'e!d learned very 4uickly not to hit him again. "ames attacks the monster with his :ock, but it was too dark and he ended up striking its arm, then he felt the monster lurch forward, "ames continues attacking erratically, but he rarely hits anything, the monster now has poor "ames by the throat and against the wall. "ames finally focuses to strike the creature in the head, "ames is running out of air, so he hits the creature again, and again, and... , and CRUNCH!. The monster is now motionless, still holding "ames by the throat and with a fist si.e rock lodged in its skull. Christian winced, and slid the gored pen from the head of the /igure with his 0ood arm. 'e glanced around, and stepped out onto the balcony, pocketing the ,en and then gingerly ad%usted the angle of his arm. ;ances of ,ain shot up into his -kull and he ground his teeth. +ach step he took was a %arring, painful ordeal, but he worked his way down the steps at a fair pace. #"ames....&# he called fairly 4uietly, glancing at the Door "ames had went to search. Christian carefully opened the door to the "anitor!s Closet with his one arm, propping his dislocated one against his knee. 'e swore 4uietly as he fumbled with the Doorknob, but with one last twist it slid open, and he stepped back and took his arm again, letting the door creak open.

'e gasped as he saw "ames under the weight of a beast almost e)actly the same as the one he %ust went head to head with. Christian moved forward a little too 4uickly and grimaced, but knelt and peeled the 9onster!s /ingers away from "ames! Throat carefully with his free hand. 'e grimaced and stepped back, shoving the beast from "ames with his good shoulder. #"ames&# Christian tapped the Teen, thinking he may be dead, but he moved slightly, shaking his head. Christian stood and breathed a sigh of relief, frowning. #;ook, * need you to relocate my shoulder... something like the one.... 8evermind...# he trailed off, #"ust %am the %oint back into place... and don!t try any of that %unk where you try and distract me... * can take it.# "ames sat himself up and looked over at his father, more than a little di..y now. Too weak and in too much pain to think clearly, he went with the motions and popped his father!s shoulder back in and sat down, rubbing his throat. 'urt an awful lot. 'e looked down at the monster. #... that!s new...# none had ever '<:T him before. -till, atleast that was e)citing.. #3ou okay, Dad&# he asked, a bit concerned.. all he knew was that his dad was hurt, even beside the dislocated shoulder... thing. And they needed to get out. Christian sighed slightly, #*!m fine... are you alright&# he chuckled, #(et that!s never happened in one of your trips.# he blinked, #$ise up... this is happening...# "ames hesitated somewhat and nodded. #$e need to book it out of here and go out with the others. * bet there!s more of these things in here..# and was, frankly, bored of those monsters. 'e!d seen two and nothing... had really done it for him. 8one were his mom and that was what he really wanted to find. Christian gave a huff, #$hat are you, Cra.y& *!m not going out there at all... don!t be a moron. $e!ve covered every inch of this damn hotel and found a couple.# he shook his head, #if there!s more of them, they!re out there.# he gestured to the 9isty fog. #:ight now one of those Children 5 # he stopped and shook his head #* mean !others!# doing air 4uotes around !others! #Are headed up against some other beast... chances are they!re already bleeding to death somewhere.# "ames paused, sighing. #... Dad, come on.. you!re safer in a group, right& $e have to go. -omeone!s waiting for us..# his mom. -he was out there somewhere. And now he had his dad.. so the ne)t part was, he found his mom. 'e got up, making sure his father was along for the ride, and e)ited the building, looking around. This was going to be fun. 'is lip gave a small twitch of a grin before fading once again. 1nce he and his father were out in the streets, he made sure to find a nice spot to rest, %ust so they could recover a bit. Christian put up his feet on a bo), #$e!re not safer in a group. Those morons aren!t helpful, it %ust makes it harder to make descisions... don!t you remember& * haven!t seen several people since the hurricane... indescisiveness ruined our chances of survival. $e need to stick together... but we don!t need them. 'e sighed, #Anyways, who!s waiting out there for us& 1ne of them& :ikko and That :acist fellow& 1r the hispanic new girl& or maybe 6ierra... *!m sure The in%uries *!ve suffered here are no match for what *!d recieve from her flailing arms...# he shrugged. #And...# he paused... #9ark....# he hadn!t seen him since the hurricane either. #1h god...# "ames frowned. #... 9om.. she!s out there and * intend to find her.# 'e said very seriously. *t was F<*T+ obvious he knew she was close. 'e wasn!t sure how, but.. it was a feeling. #... help me find her..# it wasn!t so much a 4uestion of !will you! as much as it was a statement of !do it!. 'e wanted his father to help. 'e frowned deeply. *f they stayed there.. in that building.. who 68+$ what could happen&& 'e almost felt safer %ust venturing out. :oom to run, atleast. *n there& 8ot so much. Christian blinked, and frowned, #3our mother... ;illian&# he frowned, and looked down. #3ou... ;illian...# he was at a loss for $ords. 'is eyes were gla.ed over, and it might have %ust been from the pain, or from the thought of some lost memory from long past. (ut he was silent for a moment or two... %ust a moment or two.

-123 4ears Ago $illian Anne -entzke orn )uly 25, 2678 eloved by all who knew her And right ne%t to it... 9aul Anthony -entzke orn April :th, 268; <hat would the world be to us if children were no more= "his was the $ast time >hristian saw his -on )ames. ,our years old, huddled under the umbrella held by his uncle ?incent. God damn he still looked terrible. 9ale, clammy skin like that doesn't come from lack of sun - *arcotics, 'ore likely. <onder if he still rapes teenaged girls... >hristian shook his head, along with the dark memories. "he memory of the $ast time he -aw his brother was not a pleasant one, though he had many pleasant... well, at least en+oyable memories from his $ong career. >hristian blinked and shifted slightly - he was after all crouching behind a tree in the snow. elieve you me, it was uncomfortable. "he voice of the 9riest was far off but audible, so he got comfortable and listened to the @ulogy of his <ife and -on. *obody stepped up to make a special -peech. *obody stepped up to pay respects. "here is no respect to an @leven year old who commits suicide or his mother who is murdered. In his uncomfortable coop, >hristian begins to think more about the last time he saw people... he wondered +ust how many times he'd looked at his $ate wife. 9robably somewhere in the "hree thousands. who knows, honestly, it's probably a hell of a lot more. #e breathed out a chill and blinked, wondering how many times he'd breathed. Aeally it +ust comes down to numbers. 'aybe not from the beginning, no, but there is -ome ordained number of seconds you live, breaths you take, times you look at your dead wife. funerals you attend. 'aybe the number is already known from the beginning. 'aybe not. ut there is a number, at the @nd of the day. #e had always been good at numbers... especially hiding them. )ames drops a flower into the grave after they have lowered the >asket in, and >hristian frowns, starting away from the scene thirty feet off. 'aybe he'd go to the theater, yeah. It's been a long time since he'd gone to the theater... and he could use a good handful of popcorn about now. >hristian walked down the road towards the *earest theater with droning 9olice syrens and 9riests who never knew who they speak of far off in the distance... very far off. -/arther off than he!d thought 5 Christian blinks and the fog clears from his eyes. *t!s not that fog that troubles him, though. it!s the fog outside. #-he!s waiting for us... we need to find her.# "ames repeats almost sternly. Christian slowly stands, and nods, shifting his arm. #3eah "ames... she!s waiting for us...# he smiled faintly and stepped after him 4uickly. #(est not keep her waiting...# "ames nodded.. that!s what he thought. 'e grinned %ust a bit, looking to his father. #/inally.. we can get on with this thing...# 'is mother was out there.. -he ran away long ago.. all because of "ames. $hen he was four he must have been a very terrible child, but he didn!t remember.

55 $ittle )ames, four years old and rather perky for that time of the morning, hurried down the stairs. #e looked around, smiling. #e didn't smell breakfast, but that didn't mean it wasn't in the process0 It was waffle day and his mommy always made sure to put e%tra ice cream on his.. and powered sugar... and whipped cream.. and strawberries0 ut it only happened once a month. #e knew it was today, though, because he and mommy made a calendar ).-" for that day and there was a circle around the date. It was up to him to cross out all the days leading to it. It was so e%citing0 "he boy hurried into the kitchen.. but all he found was the empty room. #e scrambled up a stool to investigate but found no one had been cooking.. the counters were clean and no waffles were to be found. ?ery odd.. #e rushed back to his room.. the bathroom, the living room, then finally his father's room. "here, he saw the man, a bit out of sorts but, to a child, it wasn't noticeable. /!addy0 <here's 'ommy0= It's waffle day0/ >hristian looked over at )ames and made a face.. /-he's gone, )ames/ "he little boy looked confused. /... but .. it's waffle day... where'd she go=/ "he older man sighed. /)ames... you're a very bad boy... she hates you. -he couldn't stand to see you anymore and ran away. 4ou should be ashamed.. such a terrible boy./ #e turned and started out of the room, leaving the young boy to stand there and think about it.. "he small blonde child looked down, tears welling up in his eyes.. why did his mommy hate him= <hat had he done= !id he ask for too much= <as it that he insisted on having waffles with so much= <as it that he had to have his mother with him all the time= <hat had it been= "he hugs, wanting her to sing to him, wanting to be read to= <as it playing with his toys and wanting her to +oin= 'aybe it was all of those things= 'aybe he made her mad.. he hadn't known0 #e had no idea00 "he boy finally fell over onto the floor and started to cry, +ust wanting his mother to come home so he could say he was sorry. -"ames looked down the street, taking a deep breath.. #... maybe this time *!ll really find her..# 'e had hope. 'e had to say he was sorry for being so spoiled all those years ago.

"ordan and :iiko found (ella in dire need of aid, so he went to work, the bandages loudly enough to catch the attention of the army boys #3ou call this a field dressing&# "ordan moaned #*t!s a %oke2 0immie your blanket, let me show you how to keep her alive# "im pulled :iiko away #* don!t need a refesher course, and she doesn!t need to see this...# "ordan paused #At least you got that right# he admitted #$hy don!t you two find some more drugs while -ampson and * take care of business& (ut remember her life means more than yours# #* took an oath to protect the citi.ens of my country# "im replied #$hich * have every intention of upholding. (ut * never swore to take abuse from you, so from now on you can watch your mouth#

They helped "ordan move (ella59arie to the hood of another car, while he used the cleaver to cut bandages, then he gave it to :iiko and kissed her D$e can trust this one first, but never go so far that * don!t hear your voiceE "ordan gave some pills to (ella and gently bound her wounds but the pain was so great that she passed out. "ack seemed concerned that the operation had been botched but "ordan insisted that everything was copacetic. (ella stayed still, and calm, not saying a word as "ordan dressed her wounds. The pain was intense, but she!d still felt worse and knew it. -he winced, but felt so out of it she really didn!t even care. *t wasn!t from anything other than the fact that she was %ust e)hausted and finally everything about the situation was setting in completely. That and the recollection of her past...horrible. $hy couldn!t what attacked her have been a human& -he was sure she could have taken it, unless it!d been e)tremely well trained. -he had enough knowledge and training in hand to hand combat to be pretty positive about that. 8o time for regrets now, shit happens. -he thought. 'er cheeks were tear stained as she looked up at "ordan and "im before her with sorrow filled brown eyes, then down again as if ashamed. 8ever making a sound, even as the pain got worse as her dressings were being changed. -he wasn!t so sure she liked "ordan much, but "im...she not only liked "im, she!d began to consider him a friend, even if he didn!t see her in the same light. 8one the less, "ordan was helping to patch her up, and she appreciated that all the same. *t then hit her as he!d given her some pills, she!d completely forgotten that she!d found a few vicadin that she!d stashed away. They might com in handy later given the current situation. -ighing a bit, wincing as she did so she succumbs to the fati4ue still working her over. -he began to droop off, possibly from the pain, possibly as a method of her brain %ust surrendering to being worn out. -he needed sleep... ;ooking at the dog whimpering pawing at the window, "im e)claims, #'oly crap, it worked222# 1f course it worked,# says "ack, #it was my plan.# -miling, "im replies, #That!s why * was worried2# "im turns to see "ason picking himself up from the street, rubbing his elbow, which he must have hit on the ground. 0etting up himself, "im approaches "ason. #Are you hurt badly, "ason&# "ason %ust shakes his head. #'e!s fine,# replies "ack coldly, raising an arm out to "ason. #8ot a hair out of place...# "ack goes to place a hand on "ason!s shoulder. #Don!t touch him222# shouted "im, sounding more concerned than he meant to. "ack %ust stared at "im, insulted. "im then adds, #"ason doesn!t like to be touched, so leave him be.# #$hatever...# "ack says before he turns to walk off to survey the area. To "im, "ason says, #Thank you... /or saving me.# #8o problem.# "ason seemed a little apprehensive, biting his lip and fidgeting. "im asks, #$hat is it, buddy&#

"ason looks at "im and "im suddenly notices tears building in his eyes, #*... * saw (ella... All that blood... *s she... *s she&# #-he!s okay, * took care of the wound and she should be fine. Do you want to see her&# "ason seems a little reluctant but finally nods in agreement. Calling to "ack to follow, "im leads them to the place (ella lies and finds :iiko and "ordan there already. "ordan gives him some crap about his bandaging. "im could care less, he was a sniper in the army, not a medic, he only did the best he could. 0oing to (ella, he could see that she had been crying, the tears dried on her cheeks . -he seemed to be in great pain, but he wasn!t sure that was all. -omething was bothering her. $as she emotionally hurt because she had been alone in the fight& "im feels shame for not being there to assist her and adverts his eyes from her ga.e. 'e turns to leave, wondering which place to go to best find some meds to help (ella with her pain. 'e truns to see :iiko slowly coming up to him. #$hat are you doing&# "im asks. #"ordan says * should go with you, maybe search. * has a hatchet.# -he shows the weapon to "im @not sure if she does, but "ordan posted she had it. $hen (ella recovers maybe nice to give it back.A, #* can help.# #1kay... (ut be careful, * don!t want to risk anyone else getting hurt, so stay behind me.# $ith :iiko %oining him, "im tries to decide which area to search ne)t. #Any ideas, :iiko&# :iiko was honestly shocked that "ordan had kissed her. -he had to kind of stand like a moron until she heard "im calling her to go search for supplies with him. #15ok...# -he waddled along with him until they stopped outside of a Te) 9e) restarant. #;et!s look here, it seems safer than any other place.# "im walked in and :iiko followed. K-earching...L :iiko and "im almost turn the place over looking for medicine. "ack silently walked behind "im and "ason back to the group that "im was with. 'e saw a bunch of wounded people there, some attending wounds, some apparently kissing, others %ust laying still. #Anyone got something to eat here&# he said to the people there. They turned to him but no one said a word, #The name!s "ack,# he added. -till no one replied. 'e shook his head and walked off towards some weird grey building. 'e walked inside and entered some apartment, it was eerie because there were no windows in it, they all were completely sealed. "ack flipped the light switch and a single light bulb light up nearly on the ground as it hanged from a long wire. "ason came wandering over to see what was going on, so "ordan asked him to look after (ella while he went to look for :iiko #Don!t touch me# "ason muttered #$hatever# "ordan replied #Don!t let anyone touch her, either... *!ll be right back with :iiko, okay&# "ordan thought he saw :iiko going toward the apartment with the collapsed roof, so he went in there to find her #;et!s look here,# says :iiko, pointing to a diner, titled ;upita!s Te)59e), #it seems safer than any other place.#

"im nods and goes inside followed closely by :iiko. The front of the diner featured tables and cushioned seats bolted along the wall like any other restaurant, along with a few actual tables which had table cloths and fine wooden chairs, set out in the corners. The decor had a kind of te)an feel to it, but not overdone and cheesy, with colorful mosaic wallpaper. *t almost had a homey feel to it, and it almost reminded "im of back home in *owa and the small diner they had in the small town he lived. 'e didn!t smile though. All the good memories of that time were replaced with all the loss and death that had come later in life. 'e then noticed that he was standing in place, with :iiko pu..ling over him from behind. #;ook around here, *!m going to the back area.# 555 0oing through a set of twin swinging doors, "im finds himself in the kitchen. There had to some kind of first aid kit here, in case someone cut or burned themselves. "im searches through the drawers of the cutting tables and stainless steel counters. 'e then checks the above head cabinets. 'e is reckless, tossing utensils and pots all over the floor, desperate to find something to help (ella. 'e then heads to the dish washing area and checks under the empty sinks and and the above storage cabinets. "im is frantic, going through the pots and pans like mad. *t was his fault for (ella!s condition, he should have been watching after her... And "ason... And :iiko, too. 'e cared deeply about these people, their kindness and innocence has gotten him through this much and he didn!t want to lose them, not anyone else, not ever again. That dream he had in the hotel didn!t help matters, it gnawed at him, frightened him more than any of the older nightmares ever had. 'e closed his eyes and leaned against the wall, trying to block the images out as they came to him. $hen he finally opened his eyes, he found that his vision was blurry, filled with tears. "im wiped his eyes of the building tears and takes one finally look into the cabinets above the sinks of the dish washing area. There was nothing useful there, no first aid kit, no pills, nothing that could assist (ella with her pain. #Damn it2# shouts "im, kicking his good leg under the sink. 'is foot connects with something hard and he then hears a loud clunk of something hitting the ground. ;ooking under the sink, he sees a ;ead ,ipe has fallen loose. *t looked rather sturdy and heavy, and long enough to swing as an effective weapon. "im picks up the pipe and heads back into the dinning area where :iiko stood. #Did you find anything to help (ella, :iiko&# 55 (ella slept surprisingly well given the circumstances. -he dreamt of a lot of things, momentarily waking for a minute or two on occasion, then falling back asleep and dreaming again. This last dream was especially vivid, and felt so real. -he dreamt that her older brother, :udi had come to

the <-, but in a fit of anger for a reason (ella could not discern. *t was like she was watching him now, in her apartment from a top down view, like in a movie or something. 'e cursed in their native tongue, and hit a wall...but slowly began to sob. The vision went black and cut to a scene that looked like a funeral fact, it was. And there in a white casket lay (ella herself, her arms folded neatly over her chest, a look of serenity on her paling face. :udi was there as well, and kept a morbid, sour face, as (ella!s best friend 9arle wept ne)t to him, leaning on her boyfriend, /rankie!s shoulder. $hat the hell was this& -he thought to herself, staring again at her own corpse. $as she a ghost& 'ow!d she die in the first place& +verything slowly faded away. A new scene e)panded before her eyes. A peaceful, serene spring evening. A gentle wind blew through her hair, which was longer than it had been in a few years. -he was looking through her eyes again this time, and saw the tall, handsome form of 0lenn in front of her, smiling and caressing her bare shoulder. -he looked down to find she was in a lime green tank top with shorts on, the wind felt wonderful against her bare skin, as did 0lenn!s touch. "ust looking at 0lenn!s face felt wonderful for that matter. 'is long black hair flowing over his shoulders, shining radiantly in the light of a park lamp. They kissed, and she could taste spearmint on his lips. 'e looked so pale in this light, so white. 'e always had looked a bit pale, but especially so tonight. A strong, yet sweetly pleasant cologne came to her nostrils as she embraced him, looking at the darkened park around them. -he felt so safe in his arms...this was a moment she didn!t want to end. #*t doesn!t hafta be like this (ella. 3ou!re strong, you always were.# 0lenn said, resting his chin on her head as she pulled closer and buried her face into his chest. -he could feel tears coming. -he knew this was too good to be true...she knew she was dreaming, and any minute now she!d wake up. -he %ust wanted to stay here a while longer, %ust stay in 0lenns embrace as long as possible. -he sobbed softly into his tshirt. -he!d done so much to throw this away, but somehow fate was kind enough to at least let her have it back once more in a dream. -he didn!t deserve it. -he never did deserve 0lenn. 'e was too handsome, too kind, and out of her league. 'er sobbing was interrupted by a heavy cough from 0lenn. 'is checked rocked against her cheek. -he looked up to see pain on his face...he was sick..still sick. 'e looked down into (ella!s eyes, seeing them filled with tears, smiled through the grimace and said #*t!s alright (ella, *!m fine.# -he knew he wasn!t...knew he was lying. 'e probably wouldn!t get better...ever. "ust then (ella awoke, tears streaming down her cheeks again. -he!d been crying in her sleep... -he felt cold, alone...insecure. *t!d been almost a year since she!d had a dream about 0lenn, and reflecting on it hurt worse than any wound that be inflicted to her body. (ut at the same time thinking of his soft voice and his made her chest hurt, sighing heavily she sobbed. 0lenn never had gotten better. *n fact he!d gotten worse. (ella struggled to overcome the fear of seeing him in that state...struggling so hard that she sometimes put off seeing him in the hospital. 1n a warm "uly night, she had been out with 9arle at a concert and he!d went into critical condition. 'e made it out somehow though, and when she went to see him the ne)t day she could only cry and say nothing. -he got cold, and left without saying a word...she %ust couldn!t take it. -he came back though, and they argued. 9ostly because she was stubborn...but they argued all the same. And came to a mutual decision that it might be best if they no longer saw each other for a while. A break, not a break up. And so she left, both feeling a bit of resent at the time. *t hadn!t been a week when she got the call...the worst phone call in her entire life.

0lenn had passed away in his sleep the night before. 'is condition had worsened and he!d slipped into critical, but died peacefully within the hour. (ella recalled hanging up the phone in silence, as 0lenn!s father was still talking on the other end. -he stared blankly at the wall in front of her desk. -he had left him angry and frustrated, and felt such resentment the night she!d left herself. (ut in the end, that!s how things had ended, and now it could never be taken back. -he hadn!t gotten to say goodbye...she hadn!t gotten to apologi.e and tell him she loved him, and that she!d been selfish. (ella sobbed loudly, hoping no one was around to hear or see her in this state of total vulnerability. This was a nightmare, she was wounded, after running into a fucking monster...a real monster, and it!d actually attacked her. -he was alone, cold, crying, wounded and %ust... 8o, she wasn!t alone. There were others, even if only a few here who cared for her, enough at least to have helped her. $hile they were still almost strangers, some of them had become a bit more. 'er thoughts moved to "ason, and she wondered if he was alright, if he!d been attacked too...0od...he could be dying... +verything in her wanted her to stand and search for him and the others too. (ut she knew she couldn!t. -he was hurt pretty badly, and could do more damage by being rash. -o she!d %ust sit here...sit here and cry some more. -he felt like a baby, but couldn!t 4uit crying. $hen (ella didn!t respond, "im felt a little bit foolish that he had %ust opened himself up like that. A little embarrassed, he adverts his eyes from her and says, #:ight... * was %ust saying... 8evermind.# 'e 4uickly turns to :iiko and asks, #'ow are you holding up&# #1k, * suppose... * %ust wish "ordan was here... $here did he go& Thought he was taking care of (ella5 chan.# ,ointing to (ella. #* don!t know, but *!m sure he!ll be back soon.# :iiko nods in agreement and then "im adds, ##;ook... * want to give you this,# "im places his 2)> in her arms. #* can!t hold both of these in my hands,# gesturing to the 2)> and the lead pipe in his hand with his eyes. #9aybe now you can give (ella back her Cleaver, *!m sure she!d appreciate it.# (ella looked to sky, making sure not to look "im in the eye. #8o, it!s ok. -ometimes you!ve %ust gotta vent, it helps. ;ook..*...* did have a dream. *n the past * did a lot of bad shit to say the least. $hen Christian asked if *!d killed someone in the past, *...*!ve killed several in truth. ;ife was hard overseas, and * was young, stupid, and mi)ed into a whirlwind of bullshit that * shouldn!t have been into. Coming to America made a lot of things better. * began to live a normal life. * was able to do this thanks to an outreach program that took me in in ( * once had a good relationship too...but *...well * fucked it up. *t!s a fuck up * can!t fi) haunts me sometimes in dreams. *t!s all bad, but it!s made me learn to appreciate life. And as such...* don!t want mine to end now in this place. * appreciate the company, really * do.# -he said, now looking him in the eye.

"ames walked along, trying to find anything that could lead him in the right direction. 'e looked back at his father, giving him a sort of odd smile.. 'e was pretty happy... surprisingly, he was. That.. didn!t happen often.. so he smiled, en%oying his moment. 'is father was proud of him and he was going to help him find his mother2 (est.Trip.+ver. 'e finally stopped before a street and sighed.. his throat was really hurting... maybe he really should be resting.. At first he!d thought it was in his head.. but he really must have done something in that closet. 9onster or not, he was hurt. 'e plopped himself on the ground. #9y throat..# he said somewhat hoarsely, rubbing at the bruise. #.... really hurts..# They would continue when he was a little better. #3ou should sit too.. 3our shoulder must be killin! ya..# Christian gave a huff, #9ust be ,roactive... keep going.# he shifted his arm and grimaced, unable to ignore the pain5 but it really was getting better, as always abnormally fast. #$hat the hell kind of a place is this, anyways&# he thought out loud. 'e glanced at "ames, #$hat, you!re tired already&# he smiled, #$e can look around for some pain medication if you don!t feel like looking for ;illian anymore.# he said, not seriously though. 'e brought his hand to his eyes and rubbed them, yawning. Christian glanced up and looked around, #The others.... * think they left the 'otel... we should try and find them.# "ames gave his father a shocked look.. #... *!m not going to do anything.. instead of finding 9om..# 'e got back up, unhappy now. 'e didn!t want anyone thinking he didn!t want to find his mother. #The others don!t matter.. you and me and mom matter. That!s it.. * don!t care about them.. they!re.. they!re side characters. $e don!t need them..# he sighed, monotone as always. 'e looked to his father. #.. in my ne)t trip.. * hope you!re like this again...# .. if it was back to the coarse, calloused personality he was used to, he wouldn!t like it. Christian sighed, shaking his head, #"ames.... this is :eal. *!m real, they!re real, everything is real, this is happening.... and the conse4uences are... conse4uences. And itsn!t not %ust you, not %ust you and me, its a lot of people and they!re Dying "ames, they!re dying. -o you have to /ocus and 'elp them, "ames.# he blinked, #They!re not side characters, they!re people %ust like you and me...# he blinked, #probably better than us no less. -o look, you can!t %ust... %ust...# he sighed, and shook his head again. #;ets go.# $ind and mist blew around the streets madly, almost angrily, and Christian shivered 5 it seemed to be getting colder. 'e glanced to his right and saw a :oad, but a Car blocked his way. 'e got up onto it and helped %ames over but slipped on a puddle and fell to the ground. 'e moaned, and stood, lifting a hand. #*!m fine...# he uttered. he glanced to see what he slipped on... it looked like he!d slipped on rust. 8o... it was blood. 'e blinked, eyes wide, and turned, starting down a road that looked profitable enough 5 Commerce -treet. Commerce!d given him luck in the past, why not give it a shot again& Christian went down the :oad of -hops and banks, stopping at each building to go in, to the second floor, then roof, searching over each room carefully. *n the :esteraunts he gave a 4uick scan, searching through the cupboards but not crawling on his hands and knees to look under tables. *n the shops, he searches more carefully, looking through all the merchandise, through the cash register and all the drawers. 'e checks on and in all the desks, giving everything a once over, carefully not to run blindly into a hall with a monster. The last place on the road was a large bank. 'e searched through each of the teller!s cubicles and in the offices in the back. 'e checked the offices on the second floor and on his way back down, he noticed the 7ault door wasn!t closed. $ith "ames! help, the shift the massive slab of -teel out of the way, and

Christian walks down the steps. The 7ault is for the most part void of money, and has some paper that is wet and soiled. 'e searches through the drawers and bo)es, and on all the carts. -omething about this room is far too familiar... what could it be&

"ack leaves the little apartment and continues down the main street looking for something to do when he spots the lone tombstones silently absorbing the moonlight on a little hill %ust a little bit ahead of him. As he approached more and more tombstones came into focus, tombstones that bore crosses, stones statues crying the hurricane tears, rusty grates enveloping the land of the dead inside. 'e felt so calm standing before the gate into the cemetary, it was 4uiet, %ust a faint wind whistling in the air. 'e continued on inside as he closed the gates behind him. The Above 0round Cemetary is a series of concrete blocks in the mist, each containing the deceased. Coastal communities do not bury their dead underground, since floods are known the bring the corpses to the surface. All of these private tombs endured the storm intact. <pon inspection, each grave has a formal inscription, some have been worn away, others are still legible: is for ryan, -hot by a -hotgun. > is for >hristine, !ied for her !ream. @ is for @ric, -uccumbed to ,ever. # is for #allenbeck, whose ody was -tolen. ' is for 'icheal, ?anished without a "race. * is for *ina, 9erished giving irth. 9 is for 9hineas, whose "hroat was -lit. A is for Aiiko, 'auled by a !og. - is for -tapp, -tarved in a 'aze. ? is for ?yers, >rushed by a <orm. -"ordan is alone, and cautiously enters the apartment with the collasped roof, careful not to enter an unstable section of the building. "ordan does most of his e)ploration with his eyes, not his hands. The ceiling was actually in decent shape, e)cept for the bedroom, that is where the the plaster and wooden beams gave way, right over the bed. -uddenly the pile of debris shuddered and a great choatic

thrashing ensued, "ordan kept his distance by the doorway and observed. /inally, a figure freed itself from the bed and approached, walking in the manner of an ape, it struck theh wall with its arm, and "ordan felt plaster and water fall from the ceiling, he was in a house of cards with a monster. "ordan walks around and use his :ebar to mess with the gear in its torso while keeping a safe distance, "ordan succeeds in throwing the creature off balence, it falls backwards into a corner and begins to thrash around, "ordan backs away as the creature tries to stand, but instead tears a the walls with its blades. ,laster and water begin to fall on "ordan in growing 4uanities, "ordan realises that the creature might trigger to entire roof to collaspe and the monster knocks out a support beam in the wall, causing the remaining roof to collaspe on "ordan. -:iiko immediately set the cleaver near (ella, she didn!t want to go looking around more if she didn!t have it. Then, she heard something collapsing. 1h god... ran over there and hear someone breathing hard. #*!m coming2# :iiko yelled as she dug into the debris with her bare hands. "ack wondered who these people were and why the tombstones were in tact. -omehow one of the tombstones seemed familiar. (ryan. $as it someone he knew& As hard as he tried "ack could not remember anything about this name but it still stood out from the rest, beckoning at him. "ack looked around for a shovel but there was none around, #And this is a graveyard&# "ack wondered to himself. 'e decided to head off and find a tool to help him reveal that tombstone that was calling out to him. As "ack walked down the streets he noticed a collapsed building a little to his side, he made out "im and someone else clearing away the rubble. 8one of them had a shovel, "ack walked on. 'e walks down 9ain street and comes across a fire truck blocking the entire street and sidewalk, it can not be passed. The driver side door is locked and there is a message keyed into it: <hen you have me, you feel like sharing me. ut, if you do share me, you donBt have me. <hat am I= -At some point "ason had drifted off. (ut the it was hardly a restful sleep. 'is dreams were a dis%ointed nightmare. #e was being chased by a four-legged beast, howling and slathering at his heels. It wasn't always +ust a dog-like creature. (ccasionaly in his dream it would grow a doctor's coat and breath fireC other times it would start running upright, become a humanoid bodybag waving a sharp weapon. And each change was sudden, like he had blinked. "he places he ran through were familiar and strange. @yes peering through windows, wheelchairs idling on their sides, a long road with cars crushed and dying by the sideC and if he glanced closer he thought he saw bodies slumped in the front seats and a screaming face in the rear. #is voice was lost in a hollow of white noise and his nightmare continued relentless like the chasing monster. ut then in his dream he thought he could hear a voice whispering in his ears. An oh so familiar voice. '<here are you )ason=,' 'I'm lost,' ',ind me )ason,' '"he !octor has me,' '#e's hurting me0' )A-(*0,' ')A-(*...'

'e awoke with a gasp. !9r Teddy2! 'e whisper5begged. And then he cried. 'e sat for a while and let the sobbed his fear and terror and desperation. This was The Doctor!s game. 'e %ust knew it. The Doctor always hated 9r Teddy and he always liked to mess with people!s minds. 'e was a human monster, and "ason knew, 68+$, that he was responsible. 'e had to be. 1therwise something else darker then the evil man was causing this and The Doctor was bad enough. "ason listened to thrum of voice from the otherside of the car. *t made him feel safe comfortable. 'e slowly got up and dared to come around to the otherside. The blood spooked him, so much, so much, but the nightmare spooked him much more. 'e %umped and almost ran and hid as he heard and felt the shuddering of falling. And then when the pretty foreign woman suddenly ran past him, he stood stock still and stifled a gasp. $hat was happening now&2 "ason was brought out of his shock when he felt a body near him. 'is wide eyes cleared and he found himself looking at "im. !*t!s 16 "ason! he said, lightly, trying not to spook "ason further. "ason sniffled. This man was so nice to him, he saved his life, was looking after him. 'e trusted "im. *n his state of false calm and hopeless need for comfort, "ason uncharacteristically held out one hand and grasped the cloth of "im!s top. +ven going so far as to step a little closer. 8ot enough for body contact, "ason wasn!t ready for that, yet. Despite this, he tried to remain nonchalant at the action and attempted to make it seem insignificant. 'e changed the sub%ect. !*s, is, (ella 16 now&! "im looks down at "ason!s hand, the boy is holding on to the end of "im!s long sleeve, apparently wanting to keep "im close by. "im was flattered by this gesture, he knew how hard it must for "ason to really be around anyone. -miling, "im looks up to (ella, who was now standing up, and she returned the smile, happy for "im and "ason!s bonding. -he was wincing somewhat as she slowly walked around, but her color was better and she seemed to have some strength back. 'ere smile dissipates however as she turns to the direction of the crashing noise %ust heard a minute ago. :iiko had already dashed off to investigate. "im turns back to "ason. Answering "ason!s 4uestion, "im tells him, #3eah, * think she!s going to be %ust fine.# "ason smiles in response. "im looks up to (ella and sees that her e)pression has become more dire. 0oing to her side, with "ason in tow, he asks, #$hat& $hat!s going on&# #That sound, sounded like a building collapsing...# #3eah, * know,# replies "im, #* %ust no one was around when it went down.# (ella looks at "im, concerned, #* think "ordan went off in that direction. 'e could be...# #*!ll go check.# To "ason, "im says, #,lease stay close to (ella, * have to go help someone, okay&# The boy nods sullenly and releases his hold, a little sad perhaps to see "im go. As "im begins to trek off to the direction of the sound, "im hears (ella. #Do you think * should come&# #*f you!re up to it,# he replies. #(ut if you don!t feel one hundred percent, it might be to ta)ing. ;isten... The faster anyone of us can get there, the better the chance of helping, so catch up if you decide to come.#

(ella nods and "im turns back to heading down the street and turning a corner to find a large pile of rubble. -plintered wood, broken windows, and piles of bricks litter the area where once a building had stood. :iiko was madly tossing away brick after brick into the street, throwing broken planks aside with only the kind of strength a woman of her si.e, fueled with desperation, could muster. "im could her softly muttering through sobs, 8o... no,no,no... 3ou can!t be in here... 3ou can!t be2 ,lease...# As she cleared the debris feverishly, "im %oined in, careful not to go too far into the middle of the area for fear of crushing anyone still possibly alive under the weight of the debris. :emoving the outer layers as fast as he could he found himself advancing at a good pace. *n the mist, he makes out a figure who then reveals itself to be 6ayla. -he seems a little out of it, terrified and e)hausted. #'ey2# "im shouts in her direction. #$e could use some help here... $e think maybe someone could be under here, we need as many hands as we can2# (ella felt like hell. -he was sore, hey eyes burned and felt puffy and she still felt completely wiped out. To say she wasn!t feeling one5hundred percent was an understatement. Though she wanted to push herself, she knew in her condition she shouldn!t and decided it might, unfortunately be better if she continued to rest. -he also didn!t want to abandon "ason. 'e scared easily, and wasn!t as capable of protecting himself as "im or her... Though in the state she was in, she wasn!t too capable either. #"ason, *!m glad you!re ok. *t!s still kind of chilly out here, and * think * need to sit down...*!m not feeling very good. * got hurt pretty badly...still out of it. *!m gonna hop into this car, it looks like the windows are still whole, so it might be a bit warmer inside, and we can lock the doors. -o if you want to come inside and sit with me, we can do that, unless you wanna try and help those guys.# -he said, opening the driver!s side door and stepping a foot into the beaten and battered car. -he sighed, looking into the distance hearing the shouting and clattering of people trying to clear debris. #*...dammit...why do * have to be hurt now...*...* %ust don!t think * can do it...don!t think *!ll be much help...* need to rest...feeling so..e)hausted.# -he stammered...a look of sadness and worthlessness crossing her features. #*f "ordan is in that collapsed house...he may not...he might not have lived...# (ella trailed off, looking into the distance for a long time, distraught and silent all the while. /inally she broke the silence and stepped slowly into the car, sitting on the ripped and mangled seat. *t was a bit uncomfortable, but it beat sitting on the street. #" can stay with me, *!ll protect best as * can. "ust...* could really use the company.# At that she shut the door, watching "ason for a moment, hoping he!d sit with her in the car. -he looked down and tried to hold back the tears that promised to comeJ (ella sat alone in the car, but at least it was a bit warmer than outside. -he!d %ust stared out the dirty windshield, down the street at nothing in particular. Thinking on it, she!d locked the door, and tried her best to stretch out a little and get more comfortable in the cramped space. :est is what she needed, and it!s what she intended to get. $ith that she closed her eyes and attempted to drift off again. -he had to save strength and rest to be back on her feet soon. Despite their efforts, when they dig to the bottom of the rubble, "ordan is not there and there are no signs of him.

55 6ayla reali.ed she!d go a different way then the sound of the voices. The fog, and disorienting tears in her eyes had caused her to go off course, someone called her name5 but she only thought it was the wind. (ut slowly shapes begin to appear in the distance, and 6ayla walked up to the car that (ella and "asson are taking refuge at. The tears on face have tried, leaving lines in the dirt plastered to her cheeks. -he looks tired and is shaking from shock. *n seeing them, she 4uickly turns up to the car window and knocks, that!s when she notices (ella!s stomach. The wound was more horrible the anything 6ayla had ever seen, she instantly assumed (ella!s was dead. 6ayla gasped, %umped back and belt her stomach heave inside her. 'er mouth began to get wet, and her bottom lip felt like it was swelling up. -he leaned over and vomited. The smell was nothing compared to the smell of the rotting town, but it still made 6ayla weary and weak in the knees. -he was on her knee!s, one arm against the front of the car. *t took her a moment before she could collect herself. -he stood up, but averted her eyes away from (ella. -he had no idea how to help someone who was in this condition, she!d never, in her life... seen so much blood, actually, she!d never seen blood before other then at church when they received the blood of Christ. And that was not the blood of Christ. 6ayla looked at "ason, on the other side of the car. #Did she get... attacked too&# 6ayla!s voice shook. #*n the house5 * saw a man in a dress. 'e looked like a nurse but * couldn!t see his face55 then he5 he had a stick and *5# -he spoke 4uickly, rethinking the incident, completely surprised she wasn!t hurt herself. Then she noticed all the people at the collapsed building, but only by their voices, realising it must have been where the person calling her was coming from, 6ayla!s legs shook too much for her to walk now. #$hat happened&# -he muttered, putting her back against the passenger side window. After removing the ma%ority of the debris, "im can see no sign of anyone buried in the rubble. ,icking himself up, "im goes to :iiko, who is still going through the mess madly looking for "ordan. #* don!t think he!s here...# says "im. :iiko doesn!t respond to his words, as she is too preoccupied with obsessively removing every brick and wood panel. 'e thinks to reach out and touch her shoulder, but he second guesses and pulls his hand back. -he was too worried for where "ordan could be, she seemed so sure he was there. /inally after another minute, "im decides to finally place a hand on her shoulder. -he stops what she is doing and turns to him. #* don!t think he is here, okay& The building must have come down by itself with no one inside. 9aybe we should look around, or if you want to wait here, it!s fine. "ordan may have heard the collapse elsewhere and he might come back.# :iiko didn!t say anything, %ust turning back to the rubble, her lip trembling, her eyes glistening with tears. "im kindly rubs her shoulder, and without saying more, he walks away. 'e didn!t want to think "ordan was in that building when it went down, but if he was, he is dead more likely and if that was the case, he knew :iiko needed to mourn. 'eading down the road, "im that he still needs to find some meds for (ella. 'e comes across to main street and finds "ack there, staring at a fire truck with a message scratched on it. To "ack, "im says, #Thanks before for helping out with "ason... *t seems so much unlike you.# #3eah, well,# says "ack with a cough, #* haven!t been feeling like myself lately.# #9aybe that!s a good thing,# says "im. "ack only looks at him with a scowl. $ith that, "im turns to read the message and sees that it is some kind of riddle. At first it is a little hard to figure out, but a second look makes "im grin as he the answer.

#-o you think you got it&# "ack says reading "im!s e)pression #$hat makes you think * do or do not&# "im says reluctantly #3ou think * can!t read you after all those years&# #3ou think you can&# #,retty sure ... yeah# #$ell, any idea what it is then&# #*!m not good at thinking, you know that# #Are 3ou not good at thinking or some part of you that you dare not show isn!t&# #$hat!s that supposed to mean&# #8othing. -o what do you figure it is&# (efore "ack can answer he notices a woman walking up to them. 'er hands covered in dust, bruised knuckles, teary eyes. #$ho!s she&# "ack in4uires "im turns around and runs of to the woman. #Typical. Always the hero, aren!t you&# "ack says half silent. #At least * try,# "im replies turning his back to "ack. As :iiko approached, goes up to her and places a hand on the side of either arm. -he looked shaky, as if she might collapse at any moment. 'er face was drawn up, her lip 4uivering. #$hy did you leave&2 $ith "ordan5san gone, please don!t leave me right now2# $ith that she embraces "im and doesn!t let him go for several seconds. "im pulls her back and smiles, #* don!t know where "ordan is, all we can hope that wherever he is... That he is okay.# :iiko!s eyes water, but she manages to nod in agreement and steps back from "im. "im takes :iiko to the sidewalk and sitting her down at the curb, he tells her that he will be right back, and then heads over back to "ack and the fire truck. #-o,# said "ack with a agitated huff, #do you know what this means or not&# #*t!s a secret.# #$hat&# says "ack. #A secret.# replies "im. #Do you mind sharing it with me&# #-haring what&# asks "im , confused. #The answer to the riddle here.# replies "ack. #*t!s a secret.# "ack frowns at "im. #After all these years, all the things we!ve been through, and you won!t tell me what it is.# #* %ust did2# #3ou said the answer is a secret.# #That!s right.#

#-o please tell me2# "im looks at "ack 4ui..ically, #$hat is your problem& * told you what the answer is and *!m not going to repeat myself e)cept this one last time. *t is A -ecret2# "ack narrows his eyes and scowls his face, #3ou!re an idiot...# *mmediately scratching his answer on the side of the fire engine, the both doors fly open, revealing the street on the opposite side. #'uh&# "im says to "ack, #that was weird...# "im prepares to crawl through the firetruck until he hears a scream from behind him. 'e instinctively knows the owner of the scream and calls out, #:iiko2# Turning around, "im sees that :iiko is no longer there. 6nowing where she has gone, he heads back to the site of the collapsed building. There, he finds her holding a bloody body in her arms, he 4uickly the body is "ordan. :iiko is inconsolable, sobbing heavily and clutching to "ordan tightly. "im thinks that "ordan is dead, but he 4uickly catches a glimpse of him e)haling with some great effort. 0oing to :iiko, "im says, #:iiko, we have to get him out of this mess and clean these wounds. ;et!s get him back to where the others are and regroup, okay&# :iiko nods, and "im helps to clear the final bit of debris, all the while "im calls out for "ack, who eventually comes. #$hat is it&# #* need you to help me to carry this man, we need to get to the camp where the others are now.# #*!m not you!re damn slave2# said "ack. #And besides, *!m not going to help her...#, pointing a finger at :iiko. #-he called me a cultist, she thinks * had something to do with this2 -o she won!t get my help, and niether will her boyfriend.# :iiko stared at disbelief at "ack, trying to find the words, but before she could find them , "im replies to "ack sourly, #/ine...# ;ooking to :iiko, "im says, #3ou take one shoulder and *!ll take the other, we have to work fast.# :iiko 4uickly obeys and soon they were off, with "ack in tow. +ventually they make their way back to the camp and place "ordan onto the hood of the car, possibly waking up (ella. 'e notices "ason and 6ayla looking at him in shock, but he couldn!t focus on that, "ordan was his priority at the moment. 0oing to the driver side of the door, "im pops the trunk and searches there. ;uck shines on him, he manages to find a bottled water and he then uses it to clean the dried blood from "ordan!s head. 'e then takes his last bottle of 7odka and applies it to the wound. Although "ordan is out of it for the most part, a small wince escapes his lips. "im then applies the last of the bandages he found at the tattoo parlor, padding the wound before applying the gau.e tightly around the head and then securing it. "im steps back from the car, e)amining his work. #'e should be fine... $e might need to look for some meds, but he should be okay.# #$e don!t need to look, * still have some 7icadin...# -he took out the bottle and force "ordan to swallow it. #*t should be fine... * can keep him warm...# :iiko hugged him close to her and started whispering to him in

"apanese. -he started thinking while doing this. $hy didn!t he want to help...& -he wasn!t a bad person. 9aybe he was a cultist after all... 'earing something thud loudly on the hood of the car she!d been sleeping in (ella awakes to see the bloodied body of whom she thinks is "ordan on the hood. *t!s a bit hard to tell through the smudged, cracked and overall dirty windshield though. -he looks down to see the gash she!d been suffering from mostly healed, though it might add to her wide collection of scars. That mattered little. -he still felt a little sore, but other than that she was feeling fine. And she!d gotten enough rest for two or three days... Come to think of it, she wasn!t sure how long she!d been out... -hrugging she emerged from the wrecked car to see "im and :iiko trying to take care of "ordan, with "ack watching them, not participating. -he guessed then that "ordan had indeed had the building collapse on him she herself had heard crumble sometime before. #*s there anything * can help with&# -he asked, still a bit groggy after the sleep. To (ella, "im says, #* don!t know... Those meds :iiko %ust gave him might help for now, but we!ll need more if people keep getting in%ured this fre4uently.# 'e pauses for a moment to look down the street to the fire truck far off in the distance before turning back to (ella and revealing, #9ain street was blocked, but * managed to get it open. There are some places we can take shelter in, get out from the open. (ut first * think we should search around the remaining streets here. 9aybe you and * can search one way, while "ack can go on his own in another direction. $e can cover more ground that way.# As he waits for (ella!s and "ack!s decisions, "im goes back to "ordan on the hood. :iiko has climbed up ne)t to him, snuggling herself close to him, her hand on his heart. 'e was covered in so much dust, it was hard to tell his color, but it probably wasn!t good. $ith "ordan still out of it and not having regained consciousness for even a moment since being dragged out of the rubble, "im figures he must be concussed. 0ently turning "ordan!s head to him, "im asks, #"ordan, can you hear me& * need to respond if you can hear me, okay&# 'is eyes do not open, but he does issue a small unintelligible groan. "im bit his lip, it was a response, but he wasn!t one hundred percent certain it was intentional or involuntary. 'e then notices that :iiko is staring at him with concern. "im 4uickly looks away and focuses back on "ordan. #"ordan, try it again... Try to open your eyes or speak.# "ordan!s eyes barely flutter open, followed by a raspy cough and moan. *t was good enough for "im at the moment. To :iiko, "im says, #6eep talking to him, try to keep him wake but rela)ed enough to rest. $ith concussions it!s very dangerous to let the person fall to sleep, do you understand& Do not let him fall asleep.# :iiko nods and "im hands her the last bit of the bottled water for "ordan to drink, for his apparently dry throat. -tepping away from the hood, "im looks to the opposite side of the car to see 6ayla, standing side to side to "ason. "ason seemed a little apprehensive with 6ayla being so near to him, but that was %ust his way. 6ayla was adverting her eyes from the carnage much in the same way "ason did, wrapping her arms around herself as her legs trembled as if the were on the verge of collapse.

#'ey, are you alright& $hy did you run off when * called out to you for help with rescuing "ordan& Did something happen&# "ordan wasn!t really conscious, nor was he completely delirious either. Trapped somewhere inbetween, he spoke to people who weren!t there and heard voices which may or might not been from reality @whatever that meant latelyA and to make matters worse, it was happening in several different languages at once $hen his vision cleared, he thought he saw (ella and tried to tell her #* told you *!d be back soon...# in +spanol but he got confused and ended up telling her to #Trust in Allah, but tether your camel# in /arsii. 1r at least he meant to say that. *t might not!ve been (ella ne)t to him, his glasses were filthy (ut there were arms surrounding him, they gave him comfort and warmth. There was no doubt in his mind that it could only be :iiko holding him this way. Too weak to turn and face her, he simply declared how ashamed he was that he had failed her. *n 8ihongo. 'e hoped. ,ossibly in +nglish. 1r even ;atin. 8o, not ;atin5 anything but ;atin2 'e was bound to screw up the nominatives in ;atin, he A;$A3- blew the nominatives so he made sure to say it right in 8ihongo but he passed out while desperately tying to con%ugate the verb to be... "ordan was speaking nonsense, but there was only one thing she understood. 'e apologi.ed for failing her... D"ordan5kun, you could never fail me...E -he kissed him and hoped that he!d stay awake. +verybody was getting hurt, "ason thought sadly. 'e briefly glanced, almost wistfully, as the in%ured man was tended to lovingly by the "apanese woman. -he really cared for him. 'e stood 4uietly, trying to push out all the bad things, as "im spoke to the young girl at his side. "ason wasn!t very good with names. 'r watched from the corner of his eye as they spoke but his thoughts lay elsewhere. $hy were they in this horrible place& $hat were those monsters& $hy did he keep finding them when he went out on his own& And the all important 4uestion: $here was the elusive 9r Teddy& $as he even 16& "ason walked towards the rear of the old car and sat 4uietly in it!s shadow. #3ou think we!ll find anything here&# "ack in4uires looking back at "im. #$ho knows, won!t hurt to look, will it&# "im replies as he heads off. "ack overlooks the streets. $asn!t there another guy here& A scrubby little man. The one "ack pulled out of the car back with that demon dog. 'e was positive he saw the man here somewhere. Then he noticed a shadow falling from the side of one car. "ack approached the car from the side and saw that guy leaning against it, hiding in its big shadow. "ack leaned down before the man. #'ey, you okay back here&# "ack said to the boy. 'e shook his head slightly. #-orry, for %erking you out of that car, we had to act fast, you know. 'ey, what!s your name&# 'e in4uired. #... "ason ...# the boy said hesitantly. #The name!s "ack. 3ou thirsty or something& * got some 7odka here.# #.... 8o ...# #1kay. 3ou should head back to the others. *t!s not that safe here for you alone. 3ou wouldn!t want another monster to attack you, now would you&# #... * wouldn!t ...# #'ead back then, *!m gonna check the rest of this area and we should move on, stay there alright.# "ack got up and went towards the 9oody street.

D"ordan, please, wake up...E :iiko started trying to clean his face a little with her sleeve. D"ordan, * know we only met a couple of hours ago, but * love you. ,lease, wake up.E 'e seemed to feel better, but she wanted him to be safe... 55 Another worthless item in "ack!s hand and he ended his search, another blank attempt at bringing 9a) back to himself. 'e had never gone for so long without 9a) there to help him and guide him. "ack!s mind was slipping away from him. 'e wanted to scream his lungs out at this damn place that seemed to have no end. 'e wanted to scream at this shabby town and all these messed up events. 'e leaned against one of the buildings and slowly slid down until he hit the floor. 'e grasped his broken bottle in his hand and lifted it watching his broken reflection on the bottle. *t was only him watching back. 1nly "ack. 'e put the bottle to his wrist and cut it a little. The pain overcame him 4uickly but nothing more did. 'e e)pected another reply beyond this pain but to no avail. Then it hit him. $hat if "im was doing this& 'e!s the only one that knows "ack, he!s the only one that knows 9a) too, even though he couldn!t tell them both apart. *t made sense now. "ack had to find "im, he!d make him speak, one way or the other. 'is grin widened as he hastened his step along the lone street, a grin that spelled anything but reasonable. 55 As usual lately, 6ayla is mute to "im. -he won!t even look at him, turning her head away and adverting her eyes. A little hurt, he turns from without saying a word, figuring it was best to not say something that might upset her further. "im then turns to (ella and says, #1n second thought, it might be best if you stay here. *!ll go ahead and if you want to follow later, you can.# 'e then heads over to "ason, who is hiding against the back of the car. -oftly he tells "ason, #;isten buddy, *!m going to look for some medicine, but when * come back we going to move on and get away from /ido and continue to find a way out. 8ow, *!ll see you soon, * promise.# "ason even doesn!t look up at "im. (efore the boy had literally been holding on to him to stay and now "im fears that spending so much time away, going back and forth has damaged their relationship. 1ne last time, "im tells him, #* promise, we!re moving on. *!ll be right back.# 'eading up to the corner, "ack stops him and asks, #3ou think we!ll find anything here&# #$ho knows,# says "im,#but it won!t hurt to look, will it&# And with that "im leaves and finds himself at Cullen Avenue. The street is load along both sides of the street with cars of various lengths. ,ark benches laid across the sidewalks too with large lengthy branch trees providing shade. 'owever in this gloomy weather, the shade only created thick shadows. Fucikly "im begins his search "im looks on and under the benches along the road. As he does this, he proceeds to bust out all the windows in of the cars and searches inside them, looking in their floorboards, glove compartments and even popping open their trunks to look inside. Then he finally searches around the trees, to see if anything is hidden in the shadows of the gloom. (ella decides to follow "im, thinking back to the ambush she!d e)perienced, she figured if something similar happened at least they!d both be there. -he catches up 4uickly to watch "im smash out some beat up car windows, rifling through them in a

hurry. #'ey "im...* decided to follow after all. 'ey, * have some 7icadin, * found it a while back but forgot all about it.# -he looks distraught for a moment before continuing. #' you really think we!re gonna be ok& * mean do you really think we!re gonna find a way out of this cra.y ass place&# -he asks, folding her arms to stay warm. "im hesitates before answering. #'onestly...&# (ella nods her head, her eyes desperate for a response. "im stares blankly at her for a moment before bowing his head, gripping the pipe tightly in both of his hands. 'e thinks about the dream he had, the screams of the people here, followed by the rain of blood. *t was so strange, unlike any nightmare he had ever had, but it was %ust a dream, not some prophecy of doom. *t was %ust nonsense, brought on by fever and the fear of perhaps (ella, "ason, or :iiko being hurt while he was asleep. (ut still... /inally, he says reassuringly, #* think we can... -o long as we can keep moving. The only problem are these freak accidents that keep happening, the flood and then the building falling on "ordan. *t keeps slowing us down.# "im 4uickly looks up at her, his face wretched with angst. #3ou were hurt too... * was so worried there when * saw you with that wound... And "ason being attacked by that dog too... * was scared both of you were going to...# "im 4uickly 4uiets himself and forces away the anguished look on his face, replacing it with a smile. #(ut * guess it all worked out. 3ou!re healed and "ason!s fine now.# -lowly, a look of pu..lement builds on "im!s face. #3ou know, you never did say who was it that attacked you. $hat did he look like& $as he even a he& $as it a woman&# #*n truth *!m not sure what attacked me. The thing is, not really to brag, but * have a good deal of combat e)perience under my belt, and had it been a fair one on one, unless the guy really knew what he was doing, *!d have probably one. (ut this %ust appeared as if from a pile of debris. And * stress the word #Thing#. *t was large, really large and had the torso of a skeletal thing. -ome of it!s midsection was made from gearwork, and it didn!t really have limbs...# (ella trailed off, as if in thought for a moment. -he then continued. #*t, well it had bladed arms, long ones, and it seemed to walk on stilts, probably what made it appear so tall. * know it sounds cra.y, and up until now *!ve kinda been trying to pretend it was a hallucination...but * know it wasn!t. *t made little to no noise, and %ust stood there for a moment before striking. *t!s arms were so long, elsewise it might not have gotten me, * dunno. (ut it did, and as far as * know, didn!t really give chase when * escaped. (ut then again * escaped in a hurry, and was %ust trying to get *!m not sure.# "ason!s thoughts constantly drifted to 9r Teddy. Could he be looking for help& 9r Teddy was tough and while he wasn!t there "ason would have to be the tough one. "ason considered what the man, "ack said. 'e couldn!t very well hide away and pretend nothing was happening, no matter how much he wished it to be a bad dream. -o he would be strong. 'e stood on wobbly legs and almost hobbled to the otherside where the in%ured man lay on the hood. 'e suddenly stood awkwardly when he closed the gap. <nsure what to do ne)t. 'e certainly wasn!t going to

go walking by himself again, ever. "im promised they would all go together and find a way out. -o all "ason could think to do in the meantime was stand guard looking out for the others or other monsters. 'e tried to keep his ga.e away from the couple, giving them a little privacy. 'e shivered and held himself and waited. ;istening to (ella describe what attacked her, "im studied her e)pressions. 'er description of it was inhuman, monstrous, and insane. (ut she also seemed so doubtful of what she had actually seen when she had finished. -he didn!t seem panicked or e)cited either, which lead "im to his conclusion. $hen (ella had finished, "im looks her in the eye and tells her, #* believe you (ella. * can!t e)plain it, * %ust know you saw what you saw.# #'ow could you know that&# #The way you described it,# says "im. #3ou didn!t sound e)cited or over the top, so it wasn!t %ust your imagination or fear that made you see things. 3ou actually had a good look at it, so you!re not making it up.# #3eah, or maybe *!m cra.y.# "im shakes his head and grins, #8ah. 3ou!re not cra.y.# #$hat makes you think that&# #3ou still can!t believe what you saw. 1ne thing about cra.y people, they never doubt their madness, if they did, they!re not completely fruitloop. (esides, * know you, you!re not weak enough to loose your marbles.# (ella smiles a slight smile at "im. Together they head down the road after finding nothing in the cars on the street. The street leads down to a hill. At the bottom of the hill, flood waters still fill the connecting streets, blocking the way. As they turn away, intending to head back to the others, they hear a loud feral growl behind them, one "im had heard before no less than an hour ago with "ason.

Christian walked down Commerce -treet, beside the parallel parked cars abandoned on the sidewalk. (eside him the car starts to move and lurch back and forth on its shocks, in a #Don!t come knocking, when the van!s a!rocking# manner. Then the trunk suddenly opens and a 9onster is #thrown# roughly GH feet out of it, and is promptly #lifted# to its feet. The monster is identical to one he encountered earlier, e)cept that is wielding a fire a)e. (ehind Christian a twin of this monster falls out of a three story window, and is also #lifted# to its feet, they both approach Christian at the same time. Christian narrowed his eyes and glanced at the two monsters around him incredulously. #Damnit, 8ot fair2# he shouted. 'e cocked an eyebrow at their movement style, #They!re like marrionettes.... how do you kill a puppet& Cut the -trings2# he e)claimed, #(ut there are no fucking strings2 son of a (itch2 "A9+-2 "A9+-2# "ames arrives with a -witchblade in hand, coming out of a building across the street. 'e stands behind the one that came out of the 7an. The 9onster nearest to "ames does not notice him, or rather if it does remains steadfast in it!s goal to mutilate christian. "ames takes advantage of this -ituation to stab the (east in the 8eck, running the smooth metal into it!s -pinal cord. The monster stops moving in midstride. "ames, for the sake of safety, uses his rock to smash in the skull of the monster.

9eanwhile, Christain has been leading his monster in circles. 'e lifts his hatchet as he is led into a corner, fearing the worst. 9eanwhile, "ames tries to take the fire a)e from the cold grip of the monster that he has killed, but it does not budge, right when "ames contemplates using his knife to cut off the fingers of the monster, he glaces at the cornered Christian. The monster lifts its a)e above its head and Christian raises his hatchet to shield himself, the a)e is brought down on Christian!s forearm, cutting halfway into it and breaking his arm. The 9onster then savagely pulls the a)e free and raises its weapon for another strike, the a)e comes down again, then roughly a foot from Christian!s face. -o suddenly that the blood from the a)e is lands on Christian!s forehead. Christian sees "ames standing behind the monster with "ames!s knife burrowed in the back of its neck, the monster is motionless. Christian %umps up in a rage and then hacks away with his 'atchet, leaving the monster!s head dangling by the remaining neck tissue. Then Christian passes out. The monster is still standing. "ames is at his father!s side in moments. 'e!s frantic. $hat %ust happened2& 1h god.. oh god.. 'e was instantly calm. *t!s fine. 'e knew how to do this... 'e checked for vitals. 'e was alive.. he was not well... but he was alive. 'is arm was broken.. it was cut into.. 'e looked around for a moment... then tore some of his shirt.. but the break in the arm... ah2 'e knew.. 'e took an a)e from a monster, starting to break the handle off. 'e used said broken handle as a splint. 'e pressed it to his father!s arm and tied it as best he could with the fabric from his shirt.. Then he was up, bringing his father!s limp body with him. 'e wasn!t a strong kid, but he 'AD to get his father to safety. 'e managed to find the rest of the group, tiring himself out in the process. #... shit..# he swore, spotting "ordon.. that meant everyone wasted their goods.. his father wasn!t going to be helped here.. #.. can.. someone help me put him somewhere safe&# he asked, out of breath. 'e had to get his father on something to make sure he stayed warm and dry. #$e were attacked..# as if they couldn!t tell, #.. * gotta get him awake..# that.. he didn!t know about.. he had no smelling salt and he was a bit desperate.. though they!d have hardly known from his tone. #* have some vicadin but.. that!s all..# he stood there, supporting the larger man.. he legs shook a bit. 'e was 4uite worn out but.. if they wouldn!t help.. he was willing to stand there with him until he woke up.

"im walks down Cullen and breaks the windows in all of the cars and checks them, (ella runs up to him to assist him, they continue searching the street which begins to descend a hill. +ventually, they reach a point where the flood waters continue to flow. They %udge that the water is too deep to cross without swimming and fighting the current, they turn to head back. As they start walking up the hill they hear a feral howl behind them. A four legged figure %umps out of a second floor window and into the water, followed by a second dog on the opposite side of the street. The two dogs swim through the floodwater toward "im and (ella with remarkable speed, they will reach the street in a minute or two. "im knows that he cannot hope to outrun the dogs. $ith his leg he was not a 4uick runner and the dogs would be on him at no time. 'e turns to (ella and sees she is concerned as the dogs approach, waiting for "im to act. 'e figures he can give her time to escape and maybe take them down at the same time. As the dogs which the edge of the floodwaters, "im says to her, #(ella, get out of here2 :un2# (y this time the dogs have charged one following closely right behind the other. $hen the first dog gets within range, "im swings the pipe at it!s head, connecting with a sickening crack. The dog rolls roughly along the street and when it stops it doesn!t move, doesn!t get up, dead. "im prepares to rise the pipe for the second dog, but it!s too late, the dog is upon him, it!s %aws open. The dogs tears into "im!s right leg, ripping furious, pulling "im down to the ground. 'e tries to beat the dog off

with the pipe, but between the strength of the dog and the awkward angle of trying to strike on the ground, it was impossible. *t seems like he is trapped, until he sees a he sees the glint of (ella!s cleaver coming down, burying deep into the dogs skull. A 4uick yelp escapes the dog, then silence. -he then pulls the blade free, blood flying forth from the dog!s head, the dog flying backwards with the momentum of the blade, releasing "im!s leg. $ith thehe dog weakly twitching it!s legs on dog, (ella kicks and kicks at the dog before delivering two more finishing blows with the cleaver, killing it. $hen she is done, she rushes to "im. #"im2 1h, my god2 Are you okay&2# #3eah,# says "im, lifting his pants leg to show that the leg the dog had attacked was his prosthetic right leg, it was marked by several teeth marks. #0uess *!m %ust lucky,# he says sarcastically. ,icking himself up from the street, "im walks over to the dead animals. 'e is ama.ed at how similar they are to the dog that had attacked "ason. 'e didn!t mean %ust the same bred, he meant almost e)act replicas, both of them. They!re skin was the same worn and decayed, mummified look as the other one. 'e wondered if perhaps a virus had caused this, it might e)plain some of it but not (ella!s encounter with the monster. After some contemplation, "im finally turns to (ella. #* think we should get back to the others. To see what!s going on.# They both head back to the #camp# to see that "ames and Christian has %oined the group. Christian seemed to be wounded very badly, his arm suffered a deep cut, seemingly through some of the bone, shattered. *t was held together by a splint, but "im wondered if that would be enough. to mend it, the damage was too severe in his opinion. 'e!d %ust have to see how it goes. "im then heads to the other patient, "ordan. To :iiko he asks, #'ow is he&# #'e seems to be more responsive now, but he is still resting.# "im nods his head, at least that was some good news at least. "im then announces loudly to everyone, #*!ll be heading out to 9ain street to be looking for any supplies or anything else * can find. Anyone that cares to follow would be greatly appreciated, we can cover more area that way.# 'e turns to "ames, #$hat about you "ames& 9aybe you can find something to help your father or do you want to stay with him& 3our choice.# "im then heads to "ason, who was still at the back of the car. "im meets his eyes and says, #'ey buddy, * told ya *!d be back. Are you ready to move out&# (ella thought she!d rather not be alone. And as such had pretty much already decided she!d continue following "im. *f nothing else the last encounter had proved 4uite successful thanks to their teamwork. (ut inside (ella knew the reason she really had decided this was because she %ust didn!t want to be alone here. #"im, *!ll come again. *f we run into more shit we can double team it. *t!s safer that way.# -he said. -he wondered if he could sense her neediness, or anyone else for that matter. (ella feared little in the world, but being alone topped the short list she did have. $hen (ella asked to follow with "im again, "im could sense some urgency in her. 9aybe she didn!t want to be alone, or maybe she %ust wanted to find a way out of this place as 4uickly as possible. "im didn!t linger on it to much, he was glad to have the company and to have found a new friend to have his back.

#-ure (ella, we need to move forward and keep trying to find a way out of here.# 'e looks to "ason, who still seemed unresponsive. 9aybe moving him wasn!t the best choice for right now. $hat if they ran into more dogs or into that thing (ella had described& 'e didn!t want to risk "ason!s safety. "im figured he!d be safe with 6ayla, :iiko, and "ames watching after him. To "ason, "im says, #9aybe it!s best you stay here for now. 3ou can watch after :iiko and help with "ordan and Christian. $e!ll %ust be going to check on the places and be right back if we find anything okay&# "im wanted to touch "ason!s shoulder reassuringly, and had to fight the urge and pull his hand back. -tepping up from the stooping position he had been in with "ason, "im heads to (ella and the two both head off to 9ain -treet. The road itself was flooded, but the sidewalks were high enough to allow them to walk without much trouble. +ventually they find themselves at a series of store fronts, the first one that catches his eye is called 'eather!s Candy -hoppe. 0oing inside, "im sees the store is decorated with red and white striped pillars and the walls are covered with rows of clear ,le)iglas display cases. *nside these cases hold several sections of different kinds of candy. /rom li4uorish to %awbreakers, gumballs and candy mints, it was a kid!s dream. "im goes behind the counter which holds the store!s register, going through the drawers and cabinets behind it. 'e then opens the register itself, checking underneath the cash tray. "im finally goes through all the different sections and compartments of candy displays, raffling through them, feeling for anything unusual that might be hidden. $ith a smile on his face, "im turns to (ella and asks, #'ey, do you think "ason would like any of this candy& *t wouldn!t be wrong to take a little bit of it would it, for him& # #3eah, he might like some of it, the place is abandoned and all, couldn!t hurt. And like hard candy can!t really go bad or anything, * think.# :eplied (ella, glancing at the rows of sugary candy in the cases. #3a know, come to think of it...* haven!t eaten anything in a while...*!m kinda hungry. Candy isn!t my first choice, but sucking on some hard candy might help a bit...# At this (ella was stooped a bit looking through one of the cases. 1n a Children!s Table in the Candy -hop, "im finds the same book that he was given in *ra4, with the pictures of all the monsters inside. 'e looks up, (ella is gone. There is a bookmark in the book, something is written on it. "im starts to have a splitting headache, and begins to hear the screams of the children that have died that school. 'e passes out. "im awakens, alone in the 8ovelty -hop, he goes to the front door, he is locked in, trapped in this building alone. (ella finds a letter in the Cash :egister, she looks up, "im is gone. -he opens the ;etter, it is in ,ortuguese. (ella feels a crippling pain in her wound, and kneels to the ground, when she stands back up she finds herself in the Cigar -hop, locked in.

"ack walks from the 9oody -treet towards the bunch of people and "im when he sees "ames supporting the wounded Christian a little ahead of him. 'alfway between the group and himself. "ack stops for a second, #$hat if ...# he thinks to himself. "ack yells at Christian to watch behind him, as Christian turns around "ack sprints towards him, "ames can see the group well enough to observe the shock on their faces, "ames turns around again to see "ack charging him with a broken bottle in one hand and a maglite flashlight in the other. "ack raises the flashlight above his head as he is sprinting towards "ames. "ames looks back to see "ack running at him. Thinking as fast as he could, he drops Christian onto his good side, so as not to aggravate the broken arm any more.. and then, in a similar movement, let himself fall, 4uite limply, to the ground. This would give him the ability to fall 4uickly out of "ack!s path while still protecting himself, as going limp does help to avoid in%ury. 1nce on the ground, he rolled out of the way and readied his butterfly knife. As "ack runs to where "ames was, since the boy had timed it to be he was "<-T out of "ack!s way by the time "ack would!ve gotten to him @and since momentum sure helps with hindering a 4uick stopA, the blonde is on his feet with his rock and knife. 'e 4uickly attempts to elbow his attacker in the spine with enough force to knock him downC but does not attack in time, since "ack is running at full speed. "ames!s succeeds in dodging "ack, but fails in the counterattack. "ack charges again welding the broken bottle, "ames tries to counter with the :ock, however the weapon has no reach and is awkward to wield. "ack proceeds with the intention to wound "ames!s wrists with the bottle while staying out of "ames!s range. Clearly "ack is suited to knife combat since a broken bottle is more effective in a thrusting motion then a slash, and "ames!s flailing arms are also difficult to hit. This frustrates "ack, who wishes that he had "ames!s butterfly knifeC "ack then catches "ames!s %aw with a right hook, and "ames reels backward. "ames walks forward, with the bottle he intends to use the glass to slash "ames!s wrists to make them bleed dry. 'owever, the fight had lasted too long, and a few members of the group were about to intervene. "ack decided it would be best to take off, and resume this fight later. The boy looked somewhat bored, but angry all the same. 'e looked back at the others. #-omeone make sure my father!s all right2 'e has a broken arm. * don!t want it getting worse..# he returned his attention to "ack, addressing him in the direction in which he fled. #8ow what, e)actly, did * do to you& * seem to remember... * told you not to go in a flooding garage, * saved everyone else by getting them into the elevator.. * released everyone from the hotel.. * also seem to remember keeping :iiko out of said garage.. A8D * think, if * remember correctly, * went out of my way for.. some reason.. to keep she and "im warm. +ither *!m in the wrong for trying to do some good deeds or you!re in the wrong for being a dickhead.. let me know which it is..# he had no apparently anger in his voice, but he did seem as if this was a ma%or C'1:+ for him. 'e didn!t get this trip. $as it trying to tell him something& $as he not doing +81<0' for these people& 1h man, if this was one of those *t!s A $onderful ;ife type vision things he was gonna be -111111 pissed later.. "ack turned a corner and disappeared from the group!s eyes. 'is heart was racing, he couldn!t tell whether it was from the fight or all the running but it didn!t matter, none of it mattered because he failed to bring 9a) out. Again his plan was foiled. That knife was definetly beautiful, oh how pretty it shined. 9a) would!ve loved to have it and yet he did not show to claim it, otherwise he wouldn!t be running away like he %ust did. "ack vanished. There is a message written on a coaster, under a recently emptied drink. "ack glances upwards and notices that he is now in an Art 0allery, locked in.

"ack heard footsteps nearing him, he grasped the bottle readying himself for a brawl but decided otherwise as he noticed (acchus $ines (ar, a drink would do him well. A new plan too. "ames shook his head.. what the hell had happened..& *t didn!t even matter. 'e was by his father!s side again. 'e made sure he was all right. #"ust rest, dad..# 'e rubbed his own chin, looking at his cuts. This was insane.. what had he TA6+82& 'e did his best to think back.. he remembered... a car.. 'e!d been hitchhiking and he!d gotten picked up by a guy in a pickup. 'e!d offered to %ust sit in the back but the guy had other ideas. 'e remembered what he did with the man in that truck while he was driving. 'e hadn!t particularly cared if they!d crashedC it was all %ust payment for the ride. :eckless endangerment had never bothered him before. $hat else& ... right, he!d gotten to a town.. the driver was headed there and he wasn!t going any further. "ames had accompanied him to a bar, or the alley beside it. 9et up with some of his driver!s friends. 'e didn!t much feel like remembering what he did there.. That wasn!t what he was looking for.. what $Ait..& As yes, he!d gone to a motel with one of them. They!d... mi)ed some drugs.. he!d taken them.. and then, he passed out.. (ut. That seemed so long ago and the motel in his memory wasn!t the one he!d woken up in.. no elevator. That struck him as a bit odd, but he!d gotten relocated before while he was knocked out and he wouldn!t put it past the slea.y friend of a slea.y truck driver to do that. 'e!d been robbed of whatever he!d had with him. 'e seemed to remember having some good 4uality cocaine and several drops of acid. 'e couldn!t much remember what else. They!d used a lot of most of it, but when he!d woken up there was nothing. $ell, that did e)plain it.. never mi) good 4uality drugs with those of 4uestionable origin.. not that he ever followed that rule himself.. The boy sighed, running his fingers through his matted, greasy hair. $hat a mess he!d landed himself in.. 'e had no idea what part of this was real. ,art of it was real. it always was.. but what about it was real& The people& The place& $as his father real& 'e had no e)planation for it but he %ust knew.. something was different this time. *t wasn!t normal, but it wasn!t entirely a trip. 'e must have been coming down... he had to find something to take fast. 'e didn!t want it to end. *f it did, he!d lose his father all over again and he didn!t want that to happen. *f he had to be high from now on he would in order to keep this little bit of happiness he had left. "ames remained there with his father, resting with him.. 'e finally took out a pill of vicodin from the bottle he!d been hiding and popped it in his father mouth. #"ust take this. *t should help..# he sighed. 'e!d wanted to save that. (ut he needed to help his father. 'e couldn!t risk letting him get an infection. The boy looked around. 'e didn!t want to stand there in the middle of the street. 'e took them into The Admiral!s 9odel -hips Collection building nearby and sat them down. 'e didn!t look around. 'e %ust wanted to be out of the way. 8obody was around to watch them, so he had to keep them out of the way. The most looking he did was to make sure there was nothing else around to attack them. he %ust wanted to rest.. "ames and his father looked around the Admiral!s 9odel -hips Collection. They had been taking refuge in there and.. well.. may as well look around. They stuck together, searching the shop. "ames could use more medicine incase something else happened.. and he we sure their odds were better if Christian found some as well.

(ella blinked, looking from the room she now stood in and back down to the portuguese letter still halfway open between her fingers. 'er attention burning into the letter, her vision going slightly out of focus, everything beyond her hand a blur. Chipping blue nail polish gleamed from her short, tidy nails as her hand shook, the letter wavering slightly.

-he couldn!t piece together what!d %ust happened in her mind, and her stomach wound still ached. *t ached like grievous old wounds do when it rains sometimes. -ometimes forgotten scars tingling with life in pain at the notion of a gloomy sky. -he was alone again. "ust like she!d started this whole thing, alone, confused and disoriented. The place she was in was dark and smelled of cigars. -he slumped against the wall behind her, sitting on her heels and %ust thinking, lost in thought in fact. -he wondered if "im was ok. Thinking further she wondered if "im had ever been real in the first place. #1 meu Deus. *sso estM dificil.# (ella muttered to herself in her native tongue. -he was trying to gather her mind and stay calm, but it was so difficult now. 'er thoughts fluttering again, they moved back to the contents of the letter. I can keep you safe my love, +ust close your eyes. -he read it over and over again in her mind. *t 'AD to mean something. *t struck her then that it could have been from someone close...someone who!d once been very close to her. A whimpered sigh escaped from her as she knew the answer to who in her mind. *t may have nothing to do with anyone in her past...but even thinking about it...thinking about '*9 put a weight in her stomach, and made her eyes begin to promise tears. 0lenn. -he ran the name through her mind, seeing countless pictures of him as she did so. Thousands of flashbacks cascading into her mind at once. 'e smiled as he handed her a pink enveloped card. -he saw sweat on his nude form looming above her own in her apartment bedroom. The same, ta)ed face came now laying in a hospital bed. *t tried to smile, but the pain was more than evident. #8o...# (ella whimpered, beginning to sob softly. $iping her face she stared blankly into the darkness, the soft sobbing trailing away slowly. -he sat like this for several minutes. #6eep me safe...# -he said softly to herself, and slowly closed her eyes. *magery of 0lenn flooding back into her head as she did so. -"ason paced and paced. (eing look5out was boring, being behind the car was boring, getting wet was boring. 'e was bored, bored, bored. And agitated. "im had gone off searching and the lovebirds were so closely knit togethet, he doubted they knew he was there. 'e splashed through the rising water wondering if there were sharks in there& 'e!s eyes watered in sudden fear. $ere there actual -harks& $ith the monsters running around he couldn!t be sure anymore. 'e 4uickly found that there were such things as human -harks lurking around. Two men, one young, one older were leaning against each other and coming toward the car. The elder looked in%ured. "ason nervously stood and %ust watched them. The ne)t thing they were being attacked by the man who had helped him with the dog. "ason stood rigid, terrified as he watched the attack.

And then like that, the attacker left. "ason wanted "im2 'e wanted 9r Teddy2 'e freaked and ran to find either, completely forgetting the people around him. -:iiko pleaded D"ordan, * know we only met a couple of hours ago, but * love you. ,lease, wake up...E "ordan moaned softly #amo, amare, amavi, amatum...# #"ordan&2&# she s4uealed #Are you alright&# 'e paused and then replied #1nly in the loosest possible sense of the word... * can!t see through my glasses and my clothes are filthy. Danger of infection from cuts. Do you see any clothing stores around&# :iiko leads "ordan to Trend. 1utfitters where he grabs several large shirts and cleans himself off in the employees only washroom while she brings him up to date on what he missed. 'e tears a bandage from one of the new shirts and tightly wraps it around the cut on his forehead, then cleans his glasses carefully and thoroughly, then tries to find the most normal clothes that he can. D"ordan5san... There!s something * have to tell you...E 'mmm, maybe he wouldn!t remember if she told him now... #8andesuka&# he replied, stepping out of the changing room. :iiko took one look at his outfit and started to giggle furiously #6nock it off, this place sucks... 4(. find something decent2 8ow, what did you want&# #Ano...# she blushed #dai%obu...# then giggled some more and handed him some other clothes to try on. /rom inside the changing room he asked again what she wanted but :iiko could only giggle and tell him how kawaii his last attempt was D$hy should * suffer the abuse of 'ello 6itty in pinstripes&E he challenged her in return D$hile * have no wish to dress in filthy rags, neither should * seem like a clown... Already, they refuse to give us face. $hen we give them more opportunities to mock us, we shall come to deserve their disrespectE :iiko started to weep softly over his rebuke, but "ordan didn!t notice until he returned from the changing room with his latest effort. 1nce he saw her trembling back he tried to put his arms around her but she slapped them away until he held her tightly. #baka# she repeated into his shoulder #0omennasai# he whipsered D9y intention was not to wound your feelings, but you must remember that your life is in %eopardy now. 1nly with the utmost caution can we survive this trial, so we must strive with all our hearts to meet this challenge. *f the round eyes turn against us, then our chances become even less. Therefore, we must gain their respect to improve our situation5 this is all * mean to sayE #0anbare desuka&# :iiko sniffed D+)actlyE he affirmed, gently wiping her tears away D$e prove the strength of our character in the face of adversity and our efforts can never be in vain2 ;et us show them that we are both strong allies and foes to be recconend withE #-o desu yo2# she yelped, flashing the ubi4uitous 7 "ordan and :iiko vanished. "ordan is thumbing through the various fashionable clothes, and has ready found an outfit to appear respectful for the #round eyes# @or satisfy his vanityA, to pass the time he continues to browse for something better. 'idden deep among the colorful shirts, is a pale blue hospital gown.

'e touches the gown and the splitting headache threatens to divide his newly mended head in two. 'e falls on the ground, :iiko notices and runs to "ordan, she holds on to him and presses her face against him. "ordan!s pain subsides and the couple find themselves in an Art 0allery, locked in. 8ear them, a sole hospital gown is held by a wire hanger.

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