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Born to Die Part 2

Part 2

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avatar CaelChan
Level 48 : Master Sweetheart
535
This is a continuation of PART 1, found here. Please read that before you dive into this one, otherwise it will make 0 sense.

Reuploaded Chapter 7 onto here + since it was missing the end bit, made sure that was on there

Enjoy!~



Chapter 7: (Mist) Questions
I stared at the papers strewn about the table attempting but desperately failing to concentrate. Lilian was attempting to convey something, but it wouldn’t stick.

Blood splattered the room, the walls gouged with deep marks. Furniture was shoved haphazardly to the side, chipped and worn. I saw myself, hunched over, curled up into a tight ball in a corner. I was weeping, the dose of serum coursing its way through my body, a faulty batch that triggered the deepest animalistic instincts. My body shook as I clawed at my face, willing the pain to stop, crumpling to the floor as a wave of spasms coursed through me. “Mist!” Ezekiel frantically hollered from behind the deadlocked door, slamming his body against it in vain. “Let me in!”


“-As you can see, the ratio of-”

The door crashed open and suddenly I was in Eze’s protective arms as he gently rocked me back and forth, murmuring softly. But he didn’t know. He had no idea how unstable I was, how easily I could’ve crushed his windpipe. My hands itch to do that, the primal part of me screaming inside.

“-We can’t afford to lose any-”

I hissed, viciously swiping with a jagged blade. Blood droplets formed on Eze’s chest and he gasped in shock, shirt sliced and splattered red. Instead of backing away in fear, he leaned in closer, attempting to calm my frayed nerves. Without thinking I carved him up, each frantic shriek mixing into my inability to think, to reason. Oh the pain, the pain.

“-Which is why...hey Mist. Get a hang of yourself! Mist!” Lilian’s voice cut through the scene and I blinked head clearing. It was just a hallucination. That moment happened two years ago. My gaze drifted as I realized I had been shaking.

Lilian stared at me, face a mask of concern. “Another phantom?”

I nodded hesitantly.

She frowned, glancing down at the papers strewn across the table. After a moment, she sighed, putting her face in her hands. “If you can’t do this, please leave. I need someone in a sharpened mindset to dissect these numbers.”

“I’m alright...just shaken that’s all.” I murmured.

“We need to continue to subdivide rations and living spaces. It’s dangerous to have multiple families in one home.” She paused, pushing a tattered map towards my direction. “Reports have indicated raiders closing in on the central area, where we are.” Lilian shook her head. “That’s the basic gist of it. But seriously, you need rest. You’re frayed. Please, your health is important Mist.” She paused as if realizing how she sounded. “Idiot.”

I slumped against the table. “I suppose I should. That party is gonna arrive sooner or later.”

She waved her hand in a shooing motion, dismissing me. I sighed and rose, leaving the room and clomping down the stairs. A shout sounded and I swung open the door, hurrying to find the commotion.


“You’re telling me he...knocked over a shelf then backed up into a table, snapping the legs and sending the clothing to the floor, and then crashed into the delivery man, Mr. Griel?” I asked, incredulous. Eze nodded.

“That boy is the epitome of unlucky. I’m still shocked he’s alive. Next thing I know he’ll fall on a knife.” I sighed. Too many things to worry about.

“I hope you don’t mind but I picked out your dress for you.” He announced.

My eyes narrowed. “Of course you did.”

We silently strode through the plaza, heading towards the dress shop. “Are you alright Mist?” He prodded. “You never let me get away with something like this.”

I pressed my lips in a tight line. I couldn’t tell him that my hallucinations were returning. Mister Overprotective would flip, and I had my share of drama for a long while. “There’s just so much happening, it’s wearing me out,” I explained.

Eze cocked his head to the side, not quite believing my answer. He knew how to read me so well, it was unnerving. “Alright then.” He murmured.


My knuckles rapped against a worn oak door. “Uncle? Can I come in? It’s Mist.” I declared. A quiet grunt sounded from behind the door and I took it as approval, letting myself in.

A cigarette butt flew at my face and I ducked, the projectile missing me by millimeters. “I told you not to call me Uncle, it’s just William! I’m not old yet.” He sat by the table, hunched over with dirty, matted silver hair concealing his scowling face. A worn jacket hung loosely over his shoulders, and his wheelchair looked as if it needed a scrubbing.

I grinned, moving about the compact kitchen. “Sure William, whatever you say.” My hands closed around a boiler, placing it on a hot stove. The house was moderately clean, but a quick glance at the side room that served as William’s bedroom informed me that this place was still grimy.

“Kids these days, no respect for their elders.” He grumbled. “Wait. I’m not an elder. Don’t you take that out of context.” He wagged his finger at me.

Underneath his harsh scowl, I caught hints of a smile, and his viridescent eyes lit up. I fake saluted and bowed. “Yes, sir.” Joking aside, I snatched the packet of cigarettes from the table, pocketing them. “As long as you quit smoking. It’s gonna be the end of you I swear.”

“Well, I’ll live forever now won’t I? Being the exception is my forte.”

I shook my head. “Of course you are. On another topic, Unc- William, how has this family been treating you?”

He shrugged. “They’re nice enough, leaving me alone for most of the day and occasionally buying me a beer here and again.” He paused. “It is a bit lonely though.”

William James. Former marine and one of the few senior citizens living within these walls. He was a tough old bird, with a terrible attitude but fighting spirit. I supposed that was why he managed to survive. A year ago before a stroke stole his legs, William could, and would always beat me in most of our wrestling matches. I missed those times.

The water began steaming and I hunted down a teacup, placing a few pines at the bottom, filling it with the heated water and handing it to him. “Missing me?”

“Bah! As if! You’re no fun, kid. Always work work work. Ever try living?’

I focused my attention on clearing out the junk from the room, mulling over the words. It was true I supposed. I never really took the time to “have fun” anymore. ‘Uncle, can I ask you a question?”

“Go ahead.”

“Do you remember my boyfriend Ezekiel? A tall blonde guy with purple eyes I spent a lot of time with?”

“Are you questioning my memory? Of course, I do! You two were inseparable. Just like two sides of a coin.

“Well, decided to contact and collaborate with a very bad person from my past and didn’t tell me about it. It really hurt when I found out he would do such a thing, even after I had trusted him with everything. He even went ahead and told her a good portion of it.”

“Do you know why he did that though?”

I shook my head. “That’s the thing. He keeps proclaiming that it was for my own good and that he never meant to hurt me like he did.” I crouched down, back to William and shaking a moth-eaten sock from a pile.

He grunted. “Boys. Well, do you believe him?”

‘It seems so much like him honestly, so yes I believe it. I swear he has a superman complex.”

“So why don’t you forgive him?”

I didn’t have an answer for that. Why didn’t I? Ezekiel still held a dear place in my heart, clearly shown by how I reacted whenever he was around. He was like a drug. I couldn’t think when he was around me, touching my arms or caressing me with his gaze. “Well, I-”

A shoe hit the back of my head and I spun, just as another one flew past my head. “You’re an idiot Mist. With that long of a pause, it’s clear your heart has an answer, even if your head doesn’t.” He huffed, wagging a finger in my direction. “Children these days. Ezekiel came in about two weeks ago begging if I knew how to get you to forgive him, claiming I was the only person you fully confided in. He even got on his knees. If that doesn’t show me how much he cares when I don’t know what does.”

I collected William’s shoes, placing them back at his feet. “If you say so, Uncle. I just don’t know. Maybe I’m just terribly stubborn.” My mouth quirked into a sad smile.

“Give him a dance and see.” William nodded sagely. “That’s how I wooed the girls back in my day. Like last week obviously.” He suddenly snorted. “Just no funny business you two. Since I’m your self-proclaimed guardian, I will personally watch you two. So hands off!”

I couldn’t help it, laughing outright. “You won’t have to worry, gramps. I won’t get all touchy.”

“It’s WILLIAM. I’m not old. Yet.” He grumped, mumbling under his breath. “I think I liked Uncle better than that. Go bother someone else now why don’t you? ”

“Yes, sir.” With my spirits lifted, I grinned, planting a kiss on the coarse skin of his cheek, and left.

Chapter 8 (Ivory): What a Beaut
Ivan was the epitome of unlucky. First accidentally drawing blood in an infested area, and then managing to wreck a stall within moments. Not to mention all the smaller incidents at Mist’s underground bunker. We both furiously folded and stacked clothing, Ivan as inept as ever. It’s not that hard to fold a shirt but he somehow made it seem like rocket science level.

After an hour and explaining to him for the fifth time, I threw down the shirt completely exasperated. May apologetically shook her head and moved to assist while I sat there. A foggy memory surfaced, an excuse I could use to get away from this mess. “I’m going to go see the dress Mist picked out for me. I’m late anyway.” I announced.

May nodded, completely convinced. I didn’t look for Ivan’s confirmation and strode briskly away. He made the mess, so it was his responsibility to solve it.

It took me about thirty minutes to find the dress shop, mainly because I got lost along the way. The shop was tucked away among the others, nothing remarkable to make it stand out. I couldn’t even name the material of the building. What gave it away was the simple black dress in the window, signaling the contents inside.

The moment I stepped foot inside, I was greeted by two women, one appearing middle-aged and the other who resembled her. The daughter I guessed. Both were petite, with Asian features, jet black hair tied into messy buns frayed from labor.

“You Ivory?” The older one asked.

I nodded. She dragged me inside while the other ran off towards the rear of the store. “We hurry. There are only two hours before the party. No time to waste!” I was positioned on a low circular pedestal as she fussed, frantically taking measurements and muttering to herself. After a moment she dashed off, stating that she had the perfect dress.

Her daughter crept forward, almost tentatively. “I’m really sorry about my mom, she’s very on top of things and works non stop.” She paused. “You can call me Jennifer. That’s the name I’ve decided to take...after all this mess.” She waved her arms in the air. “My mom is Mrs. Lee I guess, but she would prefer people call her Auntie Zhi.”

“Jen!” A familiar voice called, and Mist appeared in the doorway, wearing a stunning gown. It was full length, almost sweeping the floor with a bateau neckline, fading from a shimmery silver to a deep cobalt. Swaths of gold wrapped around the full-length sleeves, mimicking stars. It was sheer until her hips until it fanned out with layers of black lace and silken fabrics. Poking out from under the dress we’re strappy, open-toed shoes that weaved between her toes.

“I told you not to move off that turntable. Shoo you.” Jennifer motioned, hurrying over. “Don’t go ripping my dress now, or it’ll cost you.”

Mist rolled her eyes, and I noticed that the aesthetics of the dress didn’t stop at the neckline. Swirling golden swaths decorated the right side of her face, curling around her eye and ear. Her makeup was bold, brilliant winged eyeliner, silvery eyelids, and a perfectly contoured face to highlight her large doe-like eyes and full lips. And finally, her hair was done in a loosely braided crown on the right, the remainder of her hair cascading down her shoulders in light, bouncy curls.

“You can stop gawking now.” She muttered in my direction, and I snapped my mouth shut, finally realizing it hung open in shock. “Aren’t Jen and Auntie Zhi amazing?”

Amazing was an understatement. Zhi and Jennifer were geniuses. “Are they going to do the same to me?” I wondered aloud.

Both had disappeared during the exchange Mist and I had, but Jennifer reappeared holding a bundle of red cloth. Mist took a seat in an adjacent chair while I was propped up on the pedestal, fabric shuffling as they pulled it over my form. In the same motion, I felt my clothes slip off me, immediately replaced by the silky cloth. “Hold still for the next hour,” Jennifer commanded, and I nodded.

I stood as they worked, taking measurements and talking to themselves in another language. I had no idea what it was. My reflection stared back at me, and I noticed just how hollow my cheeks were, just how starved I looked. It was unnerving. I tore my gaze from the mirror, bent on not looking again. Instead, I focused my gaze onto Mist, who was staring absentmindedly out the window. “So….” I ventured. “What’s up?” That was lame.

She grunted. “A lot of things really. I never thought I would be back here so soon.” Her gaze turned soft, mind slipping into the past. “It’s only been a month.” She murmured, almost to herself.

“Since you broke up with Ezekiel?” I prompted. Her head snapped to my direction. I rolled my eyes. “It’s pretty obvious. He still fawns over you and well, you remind me of a deer licking their wounds.”

“Huh, a deer. That would be me I guess. Stupid lion decided to maul me then run, and now expecting a morsel. It’s like he’s a-”

“-jackass.” I finished.

“-succubus.” she corrected. “But I suppose that works too.”

We both grinned at each other.

I took the next step. “What exactly happened?”

Her expression immediately became guarded, smile fading. “It’s nothing really. He just broke my trust in the worst possible way, that’s all.” From the tightness in her eyes and her sharp tone, it was clear I should drop the subject.

“Do you know where we are in the world? You mentioned sectors before, but I have no idea how to picture everything.”

She visibly sank in the chair, shoulders relaxing. With one hand, she created a loose tilted downwards L. “We’re in the state of California, right about here” she pointed to the center. “It was originally a farming area, known as the Central Valley. I believe it was one of the top exporters in the world for crops. Anyways, it’s a valley, outlined by mountains. Luckily the population is less dense than say, Los Angeles since almost everyone farmed.” She frowned. “LA was impossible to reclaim. The population was massive.

There are two other havens, Waterfront,” She pointed to the leftmost part of her hand. “And Treetop.” She pointed somewhere close to her thumb.

“But I’m digressing. The sectors are simply how we divided each area.” She swiped the air with her finger into a lopsided grid shape. “Roughly like that. It simply goes 1-58, starting from the uppermost section on the left and going right. Like a book.” She shrugged. “My Base is in sector 14, and Valley is in sector 31.”

I nodded. It made sense, roughly. Mist yawned. “Anything else?”

“What are Waterfront and Treetop like?”

She thought for a moment. “Well, treetop is kinda self-explanatory. It was once the Sequoia National Park, but it's been transformed into a treehouse like a town. Honestly, it’s pretty smart since the undead don't have the coordination to climb trees.

Waterfront was also a very genius idea. The city is located completely on the water. They’re mainly situated on boats, but I believe they’re starting to expand more. They’re anchored on Alcatraz, a tiny island in the San Francisco Bay, and well, zombies can’t swim either.”

“So we’re the ones who decided the most dangerous approach to build a haven from.” I thought out loud.

Mist shrugged. “Well kinda. Zombies are attracted by their primal instinctive sense of hearing and smell. There’s no thinking going on up there, meaning they can’t form the thought to charge the gate. Nor can they formulate a plan to get over the wall, especially since it’s made of plaster cement. It’s not going down anytime soon honestly. And with the watchtowers, we can see them coming from a good distance off.” She yawned.

“Sleep. No more talk. Tired eyes will mess up the dress.” Aunty Zhi suddenly snapped, as she hovered by my waist.

Mist just grinned but sagely nodded. “Yes Aunty, I’m going to take a power nap now.”

“Don’t ruin the makeup either.” Jennifer quipped from the other room.

I snorted and Mist rolled her eyes but laid back, careful not to smudge the work, and closed her eyes.

Within moments she was softly snoring.

(Here’s the illustration)



Jennifer and Zhi had transformed my dull, drab curveless form into a masterpiece, a smoldering beauty. The dress hung down to my leg, a cascade of crimson, shimmer of orange, and streaks of yellow, with a high slit along the side to show off my bronzed leg. It plunged in an asymmetric fashion, where the right dipped dangerously low and the left fanned up, extra pieces of stiff cloth branching off to flare into a flame My arms were left bare with only a strap along my right arm, showing off more skin. Soft flats completed the outfit. I slowly spun around, stopping to gawk at the mirror when I saw my back.

The dress plunged down along the left, revealing my shoulder blade. But what amazed me was the intricate wing design, a burning scarlet against my skin.

Makeup was applied, smoldering ashen eyeshadow, bold eyeliner, blood red lips. My hair was piled up in a messy bun, wrapped together with a braided coil.

Mist yawned, rising from her sleep. She stopped mid-yawn and stared, eyes running up and down my frame. “Holy hell. You look like...like a phoenix. Or a living flame. Both.”

Despite myself. I blushed. “Thanks.” I turned to Jennifer and Zhi. “It’s so beautiful! Thank you so much, both of you.”

Aunty Zhi grinned. “Pretty dress for a pretty girl.” Jennifer snorted at the comment.

I stepped off the turntable and Mist rose, passing a small stack of bills towards Jennifer. “Thank you so much again, both of you. Will I see you guys at the party?”

She nodded, staring at the bills, which I noticed had that same crown and rose design stamped onto each.

A knock sounded at the door and Zhi rushed to get it, snapping Jen out of her trance. She pocketed the currency and pulled Mist into a hug, whispering something in her ear.

A pair of footsteps neared us and I turned, just as Ezekiel stopped short in the doorway. Mist turned and blinked regarding him in a simple black tux, hair unkempt in his bed head style.

His eyes traveled up and down her form, and I swore I could hear his breath hitch. He opened his mouth but closed it again, at a loss for words.

“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” I offered.

He shook his head as if clearing away the fog from his mind. “No. She’s not beautiful. She’s everything more. Elegant, ravishing, stunning, exquisite, drop dead gorgeous-”

Mist help up a hand. “Ok, we get it. I’m pretty.” I noticed a deep blush forming on her cheeks, and was sure he noticed as well.

Eze grinned, confirming my thoughts then turned towards to me. “And you look lovely as well Ivory. Although if I were to go on listing, Mist over there would attack me.”

I huffed. It was true I supposed. “Let’s get going then, shall we?” Both of them nodded, Mist linking arms with Ezekiel, oblivious to the action as if it were natural. He didn’t miss it though, looking down and smiling to himself. I held my tongue, as this seemed harmless.



“We have gathered here to commemorate a historical moment in the survival of humankind. For seven years we wandered alone, aimless, fearing each sunset. With the invaluable help of countless courageous souls, in the last 1095 days, hundreds of survivors wake to hope, to the dawn of a beautiful day. For this, we commemorate tonight as a celebration, a toast, to a better tomorrow. I would now like to take this moment and let Mist speak.” A hard-faced, middle-aged, sharp-faced woman declared, speaking calmly and deliberately into a megaphone to address the crowd. We stood condensed in the central pavilion, before a temporary stage.

Mist strode confidently onto the stage, calmly taking the megaphone. “Thank you, Mayor Silvia. Honestly, I wasn't planning on attending this year's party. But anyway." She shrugged. "So excuse me if this isn't some perfectly worded inspirational speech.” She cleared her throat. “As the head of the Obsidian Rose Recovery unit, I drill into the heads of all our students that 'Every survivor is precious. Every life one less for the undead.' Some of you may be questioning why I’m bringing up a mantra recited during training. But I think even here, on the dance floor, it is important. Even as we look beyond these walls, a good portion of us never dream of going outside. Death awaits us.” The ghost of a smile appeared. “But it does not have to be this way. We cannot regard zombies as if they are simply monsters. No. They are human. Like us. Even after death. Before we can go mindlessly cutting them down, we must recognize that we are cutting down strangers, neighbors, friends, family. No one should ever forget that. Or it will make us, the living, the true monsters.”

She splayed her hands in a showing gesture. “I stand here today, in this very moment as a reminder at how terrible humanity has been in the past and can be in the future if the wrong moves are played.” She shook her head. “But for today, we will begin by taking the step in the right direction. Today is a day to turn an ugly reality into a stunning future. Today a stepping point, a promise for our future. And tomorrow is the day we change our fates for the better. Thank you.” She bowed and exited the stage without a glance back.

Silence. I glanced around, noting numerous shocked expressions. Not that I could blame them. Mist’s improvised speech was anything but cheery. But it was powerful.

I didn’t realize it but suddenly my hands were slowly clapping together, a lone sound among the sea of silence. My face threatened to grow hot but I held myself high, confident as I kept going.

One by one, the sound of applause rippled across the crowd, growing exponentially. Within moments, it was a roaring thunder, enthusiastic and full of energy, infectiously spreading through the crowd. I smiled, the first time in forever.



I spent the next hour in a daze. Mingling around was simple enough. My dress was eye-catching enough people would strike up a simple conversation with the “bold beauty”. It was tiring. I never knew what to say, how to answer questions about my life. I doubted simply stating that I had arrived earlier today would seem normal, and I wouldn’t talk about my past. It was more like couldn’t honestly. I was repeatedly questioned about my status. Surely if I could afford a tailor-made dress, I had high standing within society.

That was where I started lying in earnest, instead of dodging questions. People never seemed satisfied that I knew Mist personally, or that I dabbled in combat. Stories were needed, so fake stories I gave. Within the hour, I was exhausted from this precarious line I had drawn for myself.

I closed my eyes, sitting on a ledge at the edge of the plaza. Within moments my head dipped, a light snore coming from my mouth.



Groaning, I opened my eyes. How long was I out? I rubbed my tired eyes, gaze traveling to the nighttime sky. It was noticeably darker than before, and if I had to guess, a few hours had passed. With a protest from my joints, I stood and stretched, famished.

At least the food was incredible. Assortments of meats, steaming bowls of soups, platters of entries laid steaming on a lengthy table, beckoning to be eaten. Which I gladly obliged with my ravenous appetite.

Chewing on a chicken skewer, I surveyed the area. Happiness seemed to radiate from the plaza, couples leading themselves out onto the dance floor. I even saw Mist get dragged over by an overly excited Ezekiel. Music played, none that I could define. It was slow, so I assumed something classy was expected, and I had zero dancing capabilities. Hanging out on the edge was perfectly fine, it gave me a breather from everyone.

I took a final bite of the skewer, munching thoughtfully. Where was Ivan? He would have loved this, the ability to be around other people besides me. My eyes scanned the crowd, failing to find his scrawny form. Nor could I locate May. Involuntarily, I smirked. They had clicked together during the tour. I would have to question him later.

Someone bumped into my shoulder, dropping a slip of paper into my hand. I frowned and tentatively picked it up, squinted at the words printed on the parchment, attempting to use my meager ability to read.

I k.n...know who you.. are, you mur...murder..er. I paled, rereading it. “I know who you are, you murderer.” My eyes snapped up, and a movement caught the edge of my vision. The blur of a person had disappeared into the main building, the first one I was in earlier. How did he know who I was? Even I didn’t know.

My feet were on the move, as I dashed after the figure. Throwing open the door, I scanned the first floor, cursing. Not on the ground floor then.

The next floor was empty as well, which left the last floor to be the only place left to check. My feet thundered up the steps, gasping for breath. The first thing that I noticed was that the first door was thrown open wide. I believed it was the room May and Mist shared. It seemed too suspicious, but I didn’t have time to search everywhere. I could defend myself from a trap.

Tentatively I tiptoed forward stopping along the side of the doorway. With a silent count to three, I leaped out into the doorway, fists raised, defensive.

And screamed in horror.

Chapter 9 (Mist): In My Head
I could feel the eyes of hundreds boring into my back, threatening to stare into my soul. There was no explanation for what I said. But it felt right. I shook my head as I disappeared from view. My brain was addled enough as it was.

The sound of a lone clapping filled the plaza, slow and deliberate. Within moments, it had become a sea of noise, my message sinking in. A sad smile spread across my face. If only people knew just who the real monster was, the person who paraded around in dresses with them, laughed and cried.

“Someone’s looking glum. Shall I kiss away the pain?” A honeyed voice cooed. Leaning against the backdrop of the stage stood Noah, bounty hunter extraordinaire. And a royal pain in the ass. He grinned, flashing pearl white teeth that contrasted with his creamy cocoa skin. Intense bronze eyes hinted a rakish playfulness,

I rolled my eyes. “In your dreams.”

He took my hand, planting a quick peck along my knuckles. “If the fair lady insists.” Looping my arm against mine, he nudged us towards the dance floor. “Care for a dance?”

“If you can keep up.” I grinned.

He chuckled, smiling at a memory. “Sure sure. I’ll have you know, I have a few moves up my sleeve.”

Mysterious. But at the same time, internally, I felt it had no effect on me whatsoever. Not a single flutter within the pit of my stomach, no trace of a racing pulse. My mind wandered back to a certain blonde haired, cocky, individual, and how he could leave me blushing with a single touch. Yeah, there was something wrong with me.

In a smooth motion, we merged with the mingling of dancers, adjusting to the beat. A waltz, was it? By Chopin? Classy, something Silvia would choose for her refined palate.

Step, two three, step two three, step. It was simple enough but delicate to the point that a majority of people couldn’t follow properly. Even Noah was having a hard time.

We spun, and I felt the tempo change, to something less taxing, something more romantic. Noah placed his hands on my hips and my hands found him, and we gently swayed. It was more peaceful, but I was a little off balance. There was no pattern to this dance, no set way to move. It set me on edge, not knowing.

He leaned in, chiding at my unease, “Lighten up, will you? You look like a robot executing those moves perfectly.” He stumbled, catching himself at the last second. “This is a party, not a funeral. You are a role model so look strong, alright?”

I sighed in exasperation. “Why me? The mayor is the head. I’m just a fighter.”

“And no one wants to follow a person who speaks from the safety of their home, who doesn’t know what hell looks like. You’re fighting on the front lines. People will rally to you because they respect and know you’re capable.”

“Yeah, I guess that makes sense..” I sighed again. “Anyways, onto a less serious topic, how has your recent job been?” We gently twirled, dancing to the beat of the music.

He snorted. “It’s ridiculous. They’re always clean up jobs, ‘oh Noah, can you and your squad clear out this or that neighborhood?’ It’s so boring honestly. Zombies are stupid, and don’t think, although they make for good target practice.” He made finger guns with his hands. “Bang bang bang. Heads fly, blood spills.” He cocked his head. “You should totally join me on my next expedition. Nothing like the thrill of the kill to pump adrenaline into your veins.” He grabbed my waist, yanking me towards him just as a pair twirled by. “Neato, isn’t it?”

I set my jaw, took a step back but nodded slowly. “Yeah...sure, maybe.” I prayed he didn’t catch the disgust in my voice, the quiet disapproval. It appeared the impact of my speech hadn’t reached as far as I would have hoped.

Oblivious to my discomfort, Noah rambled on, explaining in excruciating detail his expeditions, never failing to remind me at how exceptional he was at killing. I eventually tuned him out, sick feeling spreading through my stomach.

Instead, my gaze settled onto Eze’s form in the distance, as he chatted with various members of the crowd, and to my dismay, and at least half a dozen young women. A rush of jealousy coursed through my system, and I grit my teeth, smothering the feeling. Ezekiel had the right to speak to whoever he wanted, and it wasn’t my place to tell him otherwise. My mind screamed at me to make a break for him, to sweep him away from those vixens. I could feel my hands curling into fists, fingernails digging into my palm. No, this wasn't right.

A sharp stab pierced the space between my eyes, sending off sparks. I sucked in a breath, doubling over as the second wave of pain hit. Noah didn’t notice my condition at first, but once I buckled his eyes snapped to my form. Bending down, we stumbled our way off the dance floor, and he eased me onto a nearby bench, “Are you alright?” murmured concerningly.

I waved his hand away., “Water would be nice.” he nodded and immediately left, on the hunt for something to drink.

My eyes flickered around the crowd, one hand holding my head. A jolt shot through me as a mane of blazing crimson hair flickered by, disappearing among the crowd. “Natalie, where have you been? Mother has missed her favorite pet.” a velvety voice purred, and I whirled, a wash of cold setting me on edge. I knew that voice like the back of my hand, the very source of the fuel for my nightmares.

Empty space stood behind me, much to my relief, but simultaneously to horror. It was already dangerous that she consumed my unconscious hours, but the fact she was beginning to engulf my waking ones was downright terrifying. I glanced at my hands, taking a few moments to register they trembled uncontrollably. There was definitely something deeply wrong with me.

I felt the bench shift as another body sat down beside me. “Come here.” A voice murmured warmly, and I rotated myself so I was facing Eze’s concerned expression, his arms outstretched.

Without hesitation I fell against him, snuggling against the warmth. His arms encircled my form and I felt his lips on the surface of my hair. Immediately I felt soothed, the panic ebbing away. My eyes fluttered closed and I breathed him in, the familiar scent of leather, the rise, and fall of his chest, his steady heartbeat.

I couldn’t recall precisely the amount of time we spend nuzzled up against each other, but honestly, I couldn’t have cared less. Eze absentmindedly stroked my back, and I shivered, snapping him out of his thoughts.

“I’m surprised you didn’t sock me when I touched you just then.” I could hear the smirk in his voice.

“Maybe because I didn’t mind.” Hesitantly, I tilted my head up to peek at his expression.

Complete shock. He stared at me with wide eyes filled with disbelief.

“Earth to Eze, are you alright?” I ventured.

He shook his head, almost in a daze. “Dear Lord please restrain me for a little while longer…”

A small laugh escaped my lips.

I expected a lighthearted tease or even some suggestive commentary, but when he didn’t chuckle along with me I realized it wasn’t a joke. His face was deadly serious, eyes intensely sad. “Eze?” I whispered.

He tentatively brushed a finger against my cheek, almost as if I was a piece of glass that could shatter with one wrong touch. “What do I do?” He murmured to himself. “How do I express to you how sorry I am, how much I love you?”

Against my will, my heart skipped a beat at the sound of those three words. But no. Resist. That’s what I needed to do.

But why? Why did I avoid him? I knew he understood what he did was wrong and that he was trying to make amends. I knew he truly did care about me, in the years we’ve spent together. I knew him, down for his love of drawing to the way he seemed ashamed to love the color purple, the same tone as his eyes.

“I don’t know.” I began. “I just...I’m scared. And because of that...I’m pushing you away.

But you have to understand, Rebecca made my life a living hell. She pit me against other children so I could become her perfect soldier, her test subject. I’ve told you a good number of exactly what she did, and you’ve seen how messed up I can be. The nightmares, hallucinations, and simply the fact that I hurt you when I was in one of my fits terrifies me. It’ll happen again. Maybe I might even kill you on accident.” Tears prickled against my vision. “I’m broken Eze. That wound is not something you can lightly touch without expecting me to react.”

“You’re just like me you know. Saying that I have a Superman complex. But you’re the same. I know what I’m getting into. I don’t think I can ever fully understand the torture you went through, I’m going to try my damn hardest to guide you through each fit anyway I can.” His eyes found mine, full of sadness and regret.

“I’m sorry Mist. No, Natalie. I’m sorry I reopened painful wounds that you’ve been trying to forget. I know what I did was wrong.” I opened my mouth to reply, but he held a finger up to my lips, shushing me. “I know you’re still angry with me, and will be for a while. I just wanted you to know that while you may try to shoo me away with whatever tactics you can think, I’ll stick around. I’ll always be there for you.”

He stared wistfully into the distance. “Even if you rip off my legs, I’ll crawl to your side on my arms. Even if I’m not your lover, then I’ll be there as your friend.” His eyes were intense, staring right through my soul and I sensed the complete sincerity within them. He meant every single word

“Why me?” I puzzled. “There are so many other people out there, people who are normal.

He cocked his head thoughtfully. “Do you remember what you said to me when we first met?”

I nodded. How could I forget? “I told you to jump off a bridge.”

“Pretty much yeah. But then you said something else.”

“I remember. I said ‘If you die, no one will care. This world was not made for the weak. Go join your parents who are up in heaven. But the moment you do jump, you’ll make their deaths truly come true. They’ll die because there’s no one to live on with the memory of them’.” I paused. “Thinking back on it now, my words were overly harsh. I was...an inhuman killing machine. A twelve-year-old who was apathetic. But why did you bring that up now?”

“You saved my life right then. I saw my mother sacrifice herself so my undead father couldn’t kill me, but in the process, she lost her life. I was ready to die. I didn’t want to eat, drink, work, or even feel. There was no one left for me, nowhere to return to. Even the ragtag group of survivors I was a part of looked at me with eyes of pity. A fourteen-year-old without a will to live. Pathetic, isn’t it?

But when you said those words, I felt a fire spark inside me. It was pure anger. But also, shame. Your words hit me hard. It woke me up to reality. I suppose the first shred of emotion I felt within those few months, after the fall, was anger, and the will to prove you wrong. That became my drive, to annoy you as much as possible. Especially after you joined us.” He cracked a smile. “You taught me how to hunt, how to start a fire, how to disinfect a wound. There were harsh words, yet I could sense you meant the best for me. You saved me.” His eyes found mine, and I hadn’t realized but we had moved so we were inches apart from each other, and I was aware of his rapid heartbeat. “After all the years we’ve spent together, there has never been anyone else but you. Nor will there ever be.”

I felt myself blush. Hard. “You know, it’s kinda funny.” I shrugged nonchalantly. “I disappeared from this place to escape you, but less than 24 hours later, here we are.” My face grew hot as I realized what I was saying. But at the same time, it felt right. I knew I could talk to Eze about any subject, and I subconsciously knew he would never judge me for it. “I was...I was jealous that those girls were talking to you. It’s stupid yeah, I know.” I felt the heat rising in my cheeks, and I looked down, embarrassed. My petty side was getting the best of me.

I felt a light poke on my nose. “Even with women surrounding me, my only thoughts were on you, and how that mercenary Noah was stealing away your attention, how his hands were all over you.” He shook his head. “I don’t like him. His priorities are centered on himself and his own personal gain. Guys like that will backstab you in a heartbeat.”

At least the conversation took a lighter turn.

“Each person responds differently under extreme circumstances. I don’t blame him honestly.” I noticed Eze’s stormy look and amended myself. “It doesn’t make it right, I know. But it does explain why he’s willing to kill for survival.” I frowned. “And maybe pleasure at this point.”

“Well, whatever his reasoning, I don’t like him and I want you as far away as possible. He looks at you as if you’re prey.”

“Don’t you do the same thing too?”

He scoffed. “I think on some instinctual level, yes, but I’ve learned to look past that. You, my dear, are a predator worth fearing.” He grinned wickedly, leaning in. “Although, if you wouldn’t mind, I would hunt you any day.” Our faces were close, inches away, as he paused, reading my expression. “May I?” His velvety voice murmured, eyes dropping to my lips.

My heart thundered loudly in my chest, a deafening sound against the silence between us. Eze’s soft eyes, the way he was patient, accepting my decision. The way his slender shoulders angled in my direction, his whole focus solely on my presence. The way his arm encircled my waist, firm, but willing to let me exit if I so desired. But this was also a question of so much more. Did I forgive him, was it possible for me to let him in once again?

I should say no. I should push him away, tell him I didn’t need him. But that would be slander. In truth, I wanted him. Badly. The hunger screamed at me, to hold him, to touch him, to claim him. I needed him.

This wasn’t good. Ezekiel was the drug, and I, the wrecked addict. One month of abstinence wasn’t nearly enough. Meager samplings over the last twenty-four hours had me craving for more, even if I viciously denied it. I loved him, simple as that. To hell with the consequences.

“Yes,” I promised. A moment of pure delight crossed his face before his lips met mine. One hand cradled my waist, while the other cupped the base of my skull, pulling me in, closer. I felt enveloped, protected by his embrace. I responded with equal enthusiasm, my hands running along the length of his back, itching to slip under the fabric, to feel his broad back against my palms. My mind was completely, and utterly blank, the feeling of pleasure coursing through my veins.

By now Eze had moved on from my lips, slowly trailing kisses down my jawline to my neck. A low moan escaped my lips and he growled, gently pushing me until I was flat on my back, resting against the seat of the bench. I could feel his body lightly pressing down on mine, a brief moment to appreciate that he had the restraint to not crush me before the trail of kisses ensued. “Eze,” I breathed.

“OFF OFF OFF!” A familiar scratchy voice bellowed, and Eze grunted under the impact of something solid smacking into him.

With a single, sweeping motion, I felt myself being lifted and tossed until my view settled on Eze’s neck as he held me, princess style as he sprinted away from our assailant, chuckling to himself. Over his shoulder, I spied a very red-faced, well dressed William, as he shook his shoe angrily in our direction. “Hands off my daughter!” He bellowed, form shrinking in the distance.

Eze zigzagged between the sea of bodies, disappearing behind a random building away from prying eyes. Gently, he placed me on the ground, doubling over, shaking. For a moment I thought he was out of breath, but then realized he was silently laughing. “What’s got you so giggly?” I lightly demanded.

He straightened, traces of laughter still etched on his face. “Can’t believe I just kissed you. Then got cockblocked by Grandpa.”

I shifted uneasily on my feet. “What...what would have happened….if….if he hadn’t stopped us?”

A slow, lazy smile spread across Eze’s face and he stalked forward, backing me into the wall. He confidently placed one hand against the wood beside my head and leaned in dangerously close. “I wonder what would have happened,” he purred, “You, my dear are quite delicious.” He grinned, knowing he had me exactly where he wanted. “Shall we have another scandalous drawing session again?”

His intense breath tickled my ear, and I shivered in delight. My mind wandered back to that particular instance, just how blissful we had been together. My heart thundered in my chest, betraying yesterday’s bitter thoughts. I was sure it would burst from my rib cage at any moment.

As if sensing victory, Eze repositioned himself so that he hovered over my flushed form. But two of us could play this game. Instead, I leaned in, pecking him on the lips. “This prey doesn’t go down without a fight.” He opened his mouth in surprise at my forwardness, and at that moment I bolted from under his arm, taking off towards the street. With a wild whoop, Eze raced after my distant form.

It was an intense game of cat and mouse, my petite form allowing me to weave and maneuver my way around the sea of bodies. My eyes darted behind me, slight panic rising as Eze slowly started gaining. I pumped my legs faster, dipping into my reserve of inhuman abilities, and rocketing off. If he wanted to catch me, he’d have to work for it.

“Mist!” Jen’s frantic voice called from beside me as I whizzed by, and I braked roughly to a stop, blowing my hair out my sight.

“Hey, Jen! How’s the party?” I panted, attempting to catch my breath. Bent over, I looked up her and scanned her face, alarm rising as I noted the signs of panic, her wide eyes, shifting from foot to foot, fidgeting, and a shortening of breath. “What’s wrong?” I hesitated.

“It’s… it’s your friend Ivory.” She stammered and snatched my wrist, pulling me towards the main building. “You need to see it.”

I trailed after her, confused. What was going on? A prank?

Eze’s presence appeared, bringing up our rear. He gave me a questioning look, and I shrugged, confused. He took a moment to assess Jen’s distressed form, the way she quickly sped walked, dragging me behind her. As if he suddenly sensed the atmosphere, his jaw set, serious. The flirty conversations didn’t resurface, but instead, he followed, curious.

My eyes darted to various faces as we advanced forward, expressions becoming bleaker the closer we approached. Wasn’t the party supposed to be a happy occasion?

Upon reaching our destination, Jen stopped short before a pair of guards. They nodded towards us and stepped aside, allowing us to pass. My unease transformed into a panic. Guards meant a security breach.

We hiked our way up the two flights of stairs, and I stopped short as I took in the scene before me.

Ivan, pinned to the floor, arms disabled, while a guard, Leslie, I remembered, physically restrained him.

Mayor Silvia, speaking in hushed tones with her fellow higher-ups.

Ivory in the corner, retching up the contents in her stomach.

Another pair of guards, standing to attention before a taped off room. May’s and my room.

“Mist, thank goodness you’re here.” Silvia’s voice steadied me back from observing. “You’re the only one who really knows these two, and can give us a lead as to exactly prompted this tragedy.”

“Let me see what happened.” I murmured, brushing by.

‘Miss, I suggest you don’t.” Leslie’s voice rang out, just as I stepped near the doorway. I glanced at her, at the pained expression. “I know you were close to May.”

My heart plummeted. No.

Ignoring her warning, I tore into the room, stopping dead in my tracks at the sight before me.

Blood.

So much blood.

No no no. This was just another vision. Impossible. This couldn’t be happening. Not May. Sweet, innocent, lovable May. Anyone but her.

My breathing became labored as I took in the smashed furniture, streaks of blood along the floor and wall, the mutilated corpse that had been arranged like a bloody, blooming flower.

She was in so many pieces. Impossible to come back from.

I froze. This couldn’t get any worse. But it could.

Happy early birthday, pet.

Painted in gigantic smears of blood along the wall. May’s blood.

My vision swam, and I buckled, head in my hands.

Screaming.

Please no, not her.

That was my last thought before I lost a sense of myself.



“Natalie, you’ll do anything for me, won’t you?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Good, pet.” She ruffled my hair, in almost an endearing way. My six-year-old self-was skeptical, but not unwilling to believe that I could trust her. After all, all the shots were supposed to be for my unstable health. Even if it hurt. Bad.

She ducked down to my level, so I was face to face with that smile. Her red hair was pretty. “Today is going to be special, and I need you to follow exactly what I say.”

I nodded. Maybe if I tried hard enough, she would say she loved me. I couldn’t fail.

A pair of double doors wooshed open, and she pushed me into the white, sterile room with three doors, one on each side of the room. That’s how it was around here. Clean, never a speck of dirt to be seen. The doors hissed shut and I saw that mane of red hair appearing behind a side wall made of glass. A child raced out from an adjoining room, with the same matching hair, although it was a bit more ruddy.. Mother’s hand found hers and whispered something into her ear and she made a face as if she was laughing. I felt a pang of jealousy.

A scary man in a white lab coat approached, and I felt something cold being placed into my hand and I looked down startled. “You won’t need to use this, but it’s just a safety precaution, okay?” his low voice reassured me.

I nodded, slowly looking over the 9mm handgun I was given. I knew how to use one, pull the trigger then the bullet would kill someone. This model was lightweight provided a good balance between firing and stopping power. The recoil wasn’t that bad, although it did jerk me when I fired. I didn’t like these weapons, although mother was insistent I learned how to use one.

The man retreated to where mother stood, along with a few other people holding clipboards, and I was left alone in the uncontaminated room. The door on the opposing side of the room opened, and I heard a low snarl.

From the door, a figure rushed out, straight at me. I yelped, dashing to the left as it barreled past me, into the wall with a thud. It awkwardly rose and swiveled, until it was facing me again. Its body twitched uncontrollably, jerking at random. Saliva dripped from its mouth, and I could spot foam among the spittle. That thing was human. And, I knew her. Black hair, once shiny and flowing, was matted, knotted, missing in some places. Her once clear eyes were dilated, bloodshot. Bruises covered her, and she hunched over, animalistic. My arms shook. “Penelope?” I whispered.

She screamed, launching herself at me and I yelled, rolling away and dropping the gun. “Penelope!” I cried. “What’s wrong with you?”

“A case of rabies, that’s all Natalie.” Mother’s voice boomed from a loudspeaker into the room. I whipped my head to the source, terrified. “I need you to kill her.”

“I...I can’t.” I whimpered, as Penelope sprinted, swiping at me. I ducked under her arm, throwing out my leg and sweeping her from her feet.

“I thought you’d do anything for mother, was that a lie?”

“No! I would! But,” I hesitated, “Penelope is my friend. I can’t.”

Mother’s expression darkened. “You will kill her, or will die trying. I have no use for a child who disobeys me.” I opened my mouth to protest. “DO IT YOU LITTLE (insert a profanity word here)” She screeched.

My face slammed into the floor as Penelope tackled me from behind. I frantically squirmed, rolling until I was away from her clutch, from that foaming mouth. I knew if I got bit, it would be all over. I scrambled to my feet, narrowly missing another attack. Instead, I sprinted for the gun, snatching it up as I ran by and shifted around until I had the barrel facing Penelope. I fired, the bullet ripping through her leg.

The recoil jerked my arms backward, and I felt the cold smack as the gun connected with my nose. My head rocked back and I dropped the gun, clutching my bloody nose.

Slam. My head hit the floor, spots dancing before my eyes. Penelope crouched over me, snapping as she tried to tear out my throat. Instinct thrust my hands up, pushing at her shoulders to keep her head away from me.

Her hands encircled my neck, changing tactics. Squeezing, crushing my windpipe. I gasped, frantically, desperately trying to save myself. My vision started flickering, a black haze creeping inward. This was how I was going to die, wasn’t it?

“She can’t even save herself. Pathetic. I’m so much better than her, aren’t I mother?” A light airy voice tittered from the speaker and an image of that little girl clinging to mother’s hand, wearing an ugly little sneer entered my mind.

Red filled my vision. I was not pathetic.

My fist smashed against the side of Lilian’s head. Again. And again, with only one thought: Get her off of me. Kill her.

My punches never stopped, almost as if they were getting stronger with each swing, my rage fueling my strength.

Die. My vision turned fuzzy.

I’ll live.

Die. I felt my consciousness slipping away.

I’ll win. Kill her.

With a resounding scream, my fist bashed into Penelope’s head, splintering her skull. Another, sinking into her brain, destroying it. She slumped, suddenly limp, the light fading from her eyes. Or whatever was left of her after the disease had ravaged her sanity.

The body fell onto mine, and I pushed it aside, staring at the mess of a corpse. Oddly enough, I didn’t feel anything. My legs didn’t shake, I wasn’t panicking.

I just stood there. I did that. I raised my fist, flexing my fingers, which were unbroken., somehow. I killed her. Someone I knew.

My lips curled into a smile. That felt good.



My eyes flew open, and I took in the familiar faint smell of leather, face buried in a pillow that wasn’t my own. Just a dream. An old memory, one that haunted me. I took a deep breath. Focus on something in the present. My joints were sore and I felt stiff, bruised even. A pounding reverberated against my temple, a splitting headache that didn’t seem to want to disappear. My eyes wandered around the room I was in. A fluorescent light stared back at me from the ceiling as my side laid on a soft mattress, and I swiveled my head, taking in my surroundings. This was real.

A worn dresser, desk, fractured mirror, another bed. Stacks of books, papers scattered about. But prominently of all stood the paints heaved in the corner, haphazardly stacked upon each other. The walls were painted vibrant hues, scenes of a burning sunset, a peaceful shoreline. This was definitely Declane and Eze’s room. The painter and the sketcher, together in one room meant a creative storm was dreamt up constantly.

I felt a slight tug on my wrist and my gaze traveled down my outstretched arm as it disappeared over the side of the bed. A mop of golden locks peeked from beside the cot, and I scooted over until my vision was filled with Ezekiel’s curled form as he snored soundly on the floor, one hand stretched out, gripping mine. His warmth grounded me to reality, reminding me that it wasn’t a dream. I wasn’t back in the lab, a naive child, I was here, free.

He clutched onto my hand tightly, our fingers intertwined. I laid there on my side, studying the callouses, the scratches, the chipped worn fingernails. Lazily, my hand grazed his knuckles, tracing the ridges and valleys. My mind began to wander to another, happier topic.

I supposed things had changed between us from last night. And it wasn’t because of a death. I felt more grounded than I had in weeks, knowing with silent relief that he still wanted me. Yes, he did go behind my back and conspired with the person I despised the most, but after his confession the other day, I was certain, with an unshakable doubt that it was all for my sake. His eyes told the whole story. I once read somewhere that the eyes were the window to the soul. I was...wrong to have doubted him, and the two months we lost would definitely haunt me. Overly impulsive and dramatic, that’s what I was.

I sensed Eze’s breathing shift, a subtle sign he had woken. Absentmindedly, I stroked the top of his head, weaving the strands of hair between my fingers and patiently waiting.

Lazily, he stretched, and pivoted himself so he faced the cot, sitting criss crossed and resting his chin against the edge. His eyes met mine and his lips pulled into a lopsided grin, one that made my heart skip a beat. “What a lovely sight. I get to wake up to beautiful girl laying on my bed early in the morning.”

“I’m more shocked that even though a beautiful girl was laying in your bed, you still decided to sleep on the floor.” I teased.

He flicked lightly my nose with his finger, smirking. “I doubt I would’ve been able to restrain myself if I did.”

I felt my face redden at the knowledge of what he meant and my rebellious mind wandered, picturing exactly the scenario.

He stared longingly at me as if memorizing my expression. “There it is. That lovely blush of yours.”

“Ha ha, very funny.” I looked away, embarrassed. Throughout our whole exchange, Eze hadn’t let go of my hand, not even once.

“How are you feeling? Honestly.” He murmured softly, tone devoid of the playful manner from moments before. Instead, it was filled with concern.

I shook my head slowly. “I don’t know. There’s a throbbing in my head, and I feel sore all over.” I hesitated. “Mentally, I think I’m alright though.”

He let loose a sigh of relief. “That’s good. Your headache would be from me bashing you over the head with a chair.” I winced, imagining the sight. “Sorry about that. After ah...well after what you saw the situation, you started screaming. If I had to guess, that’s where you snapped.” He paused. “Do you remember what happened?”

I shook my head.

“You threw Leslie, the guard pinning Ivan, out the window when she tried to stop you. It appeared as if you were trying to kill Ivan.” He cocked his head. “Do you recall why?”

I shrugged, sadly. “Not really.” I closed my eyes, thinking. My mind wandered back to the moments, struggling to recall something, anything. A sharp stab of bloodlust filled my thoughts and I gasped, eyes flying open. “Ivan was covered in blood, wasn’t he?”

“Yeah.” Eze paused. “Oh...oh I see. That is a plausible assumption.”

I nodded.

“Do you want to talk about it?” He ventured. An unasked question hung in the air. Could I handle talking about it?

“Not emotionally. Not now.” I murmured. But I would have to eventually. To find May’s killer and bring justice.

We sat in silence, both of us desperately attempting to find something to ease the unease in the room. We couldn’t gloss over the subject, yet at the same time I was unsure whether I would fall into another fit of hysterics if we did. I felt his hand reassuringly squeeze mine, reminding me that I was here.

A sense of security filled me, similar to the feeling from last night, as if I could tell him anything without the fear of being judged. Ezekiel wasn’t that kind of person, I was at least sure of that. Still, I hesitated. “I had a nightmare last night.”

His gaze fixated on me concerningly, all focus on the present. I mentally reveled in the idea that he was thinking about me, that he cared just that much. “Are you comfortable sharing?”

“Yes.” I looked down in shame. “It was about Penelope, and what I did to her. I murdered her in cold blood.” My voice took on a morose tone. “They keep coming, these terrible memories flooding back when I least expect them. And I don’t know what to do.”

“I see.” His jaw muscle flexed as he thought to himself. “I still loathe Rebecca for what she did to you, and it kills me to see you with these scars. Ones I can’t heal.”

“Eze, am I a monster?” My voice broke. “Because I feel like one.”

He suddenly rose from his cross legged position, and dragged me along to his desk. I sputtered in protest but he firmly grasped my hand, tugging my along. With his spare hand he pulled open a drawer.

Inside were dozens of beautifully intricate drawings, each consisting of a singular person.With a shock, I grasped a paper, studying the drawing of the back view of a person, staring at the stars. It was clearly me in the picture, as proven by the height and the lack of colour in the hair. It looked calm and serene.

I replaced it in the pile and seized another, this time a picture of a warrior, blood splattered yet triumphantly holding a sniper. My worn VSS Vintorez sniper, down to the accurate placement of the scratch marks.

Another, of me laughing, head thrown back to the wind.

Me, sitting bored at a council meeting, head slumped and on the verge of unconsciousness from boredom.

Me, visiting Waterfront for the first time and learning to swim, frightened but daring enough to jump into the ocean without a thought.

The pieces were endless, pieces of paper filled front and back, corner to corner with sketch marks or practice drawings of my character. I looked up at Eze’s solemn form, speechless.

He quirked a half smile sadly at me. “This is the result of two months of my insanity, the feeling of being seperated by you. I wanted to capture everything, each moment, expression, memory. As you can see” he gestured to the pile, “I was very thorough. No monster could make me feel this way.” He rotated my body so I faced him squarely. “You, Mist Natalie Evans are my muse, and the fire in my soul.” He frowned. “This is cheesy, but just reminding you from yesterday that there is no one else that will ever take up my heart except you.”

“This is- well- I have no words.” I sputtered. “But thank you.” I smiled. “I needed that.” After a moment, I nudged him playfully. “You wouldn’t mind me taping them up where everyone can see them then, show just how special I am?”

“God no.” His face reddened in embarrassment, and he covered his mouth with his hand to unsuccessfully hide the blush. “Sketching is such an unmanly, uncool thing to enjoy doing.”

I lightly smacked him on the shoulder. “It’s an amazing skill! No one would think less of you for being talented. At least, they shouldn’t. Or I’ll have to make them think otherwise.”

He snickered, as if imagining a petite beating. I bumped hips with him. “Your call of course.” I picked up another paper. “Although, these are a bit outdated now. I suppose you wouldn’t mind having the real thing to use as a model?” I batted my eyelashes in mock innocence.

His smile transformed into pure joy as he took in my words, and the meaning behind them. I was here and had made up my decision, a reaffirmation from yesterday.. “Maybe we should begin with something more intense, if you catch my drift.” He purred seductively.

I opened my mouth to retort, stopping mid thought as a loud knock sounded at the door. “Mist! Ezekiel! Mind coming out within the next century? We’re holding an emergency meeting at the council.” Lilian’s muffled voice sounded from behind the door.

“Give us a moment.” I called, and was returned with a quiet grumbling and the sound of feet shuffling away. I turned back towards Eze, poking him in the chest. “I suppose that session will have to wait then?”

He seized my wrist mid poke, and yanked me against his chest. “Such a temptress.” He growled in my ear. I shuddered in delight.

His expression shifted from flirtatious to serious within a heartbeat. “Stay close to me, alright?” He held up our hands, still interlocked. “Not even one arm’s length away.”

I opened my mouth to object and question why, but his worried gaze halted me in my tracks. There was always the chance I could go off again. I supposed I would give Eze the comfort at protecting me. “Alright. Lead the way.”
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Update #2 : 11/02/2018 7:34:39 pmNov 2nd, 2018

Chapter 9 added
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Comments : 4

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  • Chiaroscuro
  • Contest Judge
  • Level 51
  • Grandmaster Ladybug
  • November 2, 2018, 4:52 pm
Spicy.
  • CaelChan
  • Level 48
  • Master Sweetheart
  • November 2, 2018, 5:30 pm
:eyes:
That chapter made me happy 😄
not the corpse part

seriously you need to get this published when it’s finished!!
  • CaelChan
  • Level 48
  • Master Sweetheart
  • November 2, 2018, 4:23 pm
Yayay :3
oof ik pls not that

thinking about it, although I mainly wrote this as practice to get better at writing v-v

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