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Rated: GC · Fiction · Tragedy · #2101818
Slippery bathroom tiles and Military school. The tale goes on.
"Ah." I slipped upon the smooth stone, probably adding a bruse to the side of my thigh in the process. My feet were surprisingly clean, and none of them seemed particularly damaged despite one of them venturing bare in some forest for hours on end. Who said anything about footwear being essential in this age and day? Shoes, sandals, and boots were items of the modern era, mostly used to shiled people from the toils of urbanisation. When great quantities of people gathered for an extended preiod of time, pollution caused people to islate themselves from their world. Wearing clothes, or shoes, or anything in general had grown to become a display of social status rather than something entirely necessary.

No clothing. I looked about, but found no clothing. Not even the clothes I wore before. When did he... When I went underwater. Of course he had. He had to be a quick walker, unless I had stayed beneath the surface for significantly longer than I thought.

"Do you prefer white, or black? I know you wore black before, but the clothes I ga..." he stopped in the doorway, teacup in one hand, a bundle of clothes in his other arm. I had the decency to cover my breasts by folding my arms, looking grudgingly at him where he stood.

"Are you hungry?" he asked, taking a sip of his tea.

"Do you own no shame?" I retorted in return.

"Very little." he asnwered, but let go of the bundle of clothes in front of me, left with his cup. I silently got dressed, despite my body still being rather wet, since there was no towel in sight. The attire was similar to before, only freshly washed. The underwear was no longer mine, either, which was probably was a good thing considering their condition, though one could wonder why they were not in a worse condition directly prior to my bath, as if they had been washed. He had probably seen me entirely naked before.

Tea

I calmly sat on the edge of the bed, sipping at some herbal tea or another, peppermint being my best guess regarding type, though there may be other things in it. Drugs for all I knew.

"You have to eat something eventually." the boy by my side, referring to the untouched plate of food beside me. I didn't feel particularly hungry. When did I last eat? I couldn't remember, most likely. My last meal was prior to the funeral, if I did. Remember it, I mean. I curled my toes in the light from the bathroom, studying them intently between taking sips of my cooling beverage.

"I'll have Sloan go shopping for some more fitting womans wear tomorrow," he conversed when I said nothing.

"I like this." I silently replied. It was baggy and comfortable, in contrast to a lot of clothing following my social status in the real world. I decided against asking about Sloan for the moment, though I had seen no others in this place other than the guy sitting next to me. Perhaps did he like referring to himself in third person. Some people did that.

"That's good. I'll still have Sloan go buy some supplies." he said calmly.

"You don't have to." I said. He didn't need to go out of his way to get clothes specifical to me. He was already grooming me like a house pet, providing me with a roof and walls, conversations and intimacy. The latter was not entirely welcome as of yet, but he kept it at a level just below outrageous and unacceptable.

"I want to." he retorted with a smile in his voice, and I stole a glance at him. He was looking at me. I returned my eyes to the bottom of my emptied cup. Small black dots of assumed tea remained down there, and I could with some artistic freedom I could probably see the shape of a country, or a dog, or perhaps a car in there somewhere, made like a little pointilistic artwork. People could read fortunes from this stuff. How on earth could this mean anything at all? Darling took my cup from me, along with the plate, went back into the darkness. Why didn't he use the lights? How could he see anything in there?

"There are people coming over tomorrow. I think I mentioned this before." he said when he appeared like a dark apparaition in the doorway.

"You did." I confirmed. I had seen none so far, but then again I had spent most of the day sleeping.

"If they ask, you know what to tell them." he said, sat down next to me.

"That I'm your wife." I replied.

"Mhm." he scooped over to what I assumed to be his side of the bed, lazily laid down on top of his blankets. Who didn't own duvets?

"Promise me something, will you?" he said, leaning over on his side to look at me where I remained seated with my feet grounded.

"That depends." I replied. I wasn't about to promise something I knew too well I was unable to keep. Like not getting into dangerous situations. Why I felt like being honest was another mystery, but one I didn't ponder too much about.

"For the time being, try not to accept anything they offer you." he said. I raised my feet from the floor, tucked them into the blanket provided.

"Like what?" I inquired, my head hitting the violet pillow. It was soft and graciously squishy.

"Food. Items. Just general stuff." he specified.

"Got it." I replied, decided against arguing.

"It's just safer that way." he continued. Again with the safety. What kind of people would these be, possibly dangerous and handing out razors and drugs?

"I'll show you the premises tomorrow along with the rest. You'll have free access afterwards to all amenities." he said, sounding just a little like a commercial when he said it. Slightly bitter too.

"You make it sound like this is a resort." I commented.

"Sometimes I feel the same." he conferred with a sigh. There was definitely a snivel of bitterness there.

"You sound bitter." I voiced my discovery.

"It isn't that important at the moment. Now, I'm rather tired, aren't you?" he avoided the confrontation in a less smooth manner than his usual nonchalance. This was clearly a sensitive subject.

"No funny business. My lack of shame aside, I know about the terms of self restraint." he added when I gave him a funny look. I wasn't referring to our sharing a bed, though I probably should be, with the look, but I decided to leave it be. With a loud yawn I closed my eyes, feeling drowsy and rather content at the moment.

"Love you." muttered my bedmate. I was most certainly not going to respond to that.

"You're not going to say it back?" he asked after a few moments in silence. I kind of wanted to turn the light off in the bathroom. He'd closed the door, so only the crack beneath it was visible. Wait. When did he close it?

"Molestor." he muttered beside me. He was referring to the kiss, wasn't he. Definitely the kiss.

"Says the one who has seen me naked twice." I indignantly muttered back. I dared say that his actions topped mine, even if he had saved my life. I had been down with the fever too, and could hardly be held accountable for my actons.

"Do you want to even those odds?" he said. I felt myself blush. Well. No. He was supposed to be embarrased by the notion, yet his lack of shame kept me at a disadvantage.

"Good night." I said instead of saying anything to that comment. There was no way I would comeout victorious from such a discussion.

"Make that thrice, by the way." he added for good measure. Thrice? I'd been naked twice before waking up in the middle of the kitchen? Really? Who was the molestor now?!

"Good night." I repeated with finality, moving so my back was facing him. I needed time to process this.

A New Beginning

"Welcome, all..." I listened the speaker, a man significantly older than Darling. He had arrived during the wee hours, before the crack of dawn even bothered to make itself known, bowing profusely and being overly polite towards my pretend husband. I had seen it through a keyhole from another room, since Darling wanted to speak to the fellow alone. The now would be closer to noon, and we were in the gardens, a group of youngsters and I listening to the old fellow as he droned on about somethings. I was never one to have a long attention span at gatherings such as this. Responsibility. Respect. Opportunity. Yadda yadda yadda.

We were benched like spectators in a small low budget collosseum, our seating what looking like halved treetrunks in a half circle lowering towards the speaker. We were about thirty in number, young enough to be named youngsters by properly adult people if there ever were such a thing, and being lectured by a man looking distinctly like an educator of sorts. If I wanted to go back to school I would have gone through less trouble than what I had done. This might be a military school too, by the looks of the punks surrounding me. The adults standing in the frays of the sitting groups, looking ready to bounce should some of us decide to go on a rampage, could be an indication of this. I wouldn't put it past them, judging from their restless behaviour.

The overly lush grass tickled the undersides of my feet as the speech was concluded and the rounds commenced. Darling had said that he was the one to show me the grounds, but he was nowhere to be seen. A lot of other people were. People bustling about and working on things. Cooks. Cleaners. The works. The main house seemed to be off limits, and we proceeded to the next building. Classrooms. Desks in a clinic white, a whiteboard to the front.

It was a rather sizeable room, with plenty of space between the seats, enough so that two or three people could pass between them at a time. The older man spoke a few chosen words about responsibility again, along with the curriculum to be gone through there. The dark wooden floor along with the chandeliers told me that the room had not alway been intended for the job it was now assigned. The roof was far above, and tall windows gave it a well lit feel. It was almost like a ballroom.

We exited the room without checking out the small stairs by the teachers desk, leading to somewhere I was growing curious about.

The sun was nearly straight up above us, mocking me with its continued rule over the heavens. Where was my rain? Where was my churning clouds? Why did something so brilliant and warm have to represent the embodiment of my melancholy?

"So where are you from?" some kid tried to start a conversation with me. I called her a kid because it made me feel unfairly superior to her, and I really felt like being unfair and unreasonable at the moment. I wouldn't say that to her face, though.

"Around." I said in the most vague tone ever, producing a polite half smile to remain within the borders of what was acceptable behaviour. If Darling could do it, so could I.

"Harsh." a guy said with a smirk. I wasn't sure whether he found my offstanidshness amusing or just outright harsh, as stated. Glaring obviousness was known to be coming back into fashion when least expected.

We walked back outside, only to enter another building, where I promptly found my second home away from home. It was a library, the kind one would only imagine in great fantasies or old tales. Tall like the other building, though winning ever so slightly. It divided into no less than three stories, opening up towards the middle, where a breathtaking windowed view to the blue sky awaited. It might be less impressive now, of course, but when the stars came out to play... The books had to be in the thousands, probably covering a range of subject I would very much like to have a look at. It had been ages since I last sat down to just read, without any immediate reason other than to still my itchy curiosity. Having to read something made it a hassle, so I rarely read things I should read.

"Miss, could you be so kind and do as I say?" I turned to look at the man speaking, only to realise that he was referring to me.

"I'm sorry. I didn't get that. What is it that you would want me to do?" I said, managing another half smile. I may have invested too much passive aggressiveness in my reply judging from the look it earned me, but what was done was done. But why were everyone bowing?

"The rest of you may leave, except her." the voice came from in front of me, though I was busy watching the humble retreat of the ones behind me to turn my head forward just yet. Darling had not told me anything about bowing, or acting humble. He had told me that the other guests may be dangerous, and that I to be safe should tell them I was his wife should they ask. Ah. I had not told the girl from before. But people had behaved nicely. I had behaved somewhat nicely. I finally turned my head when the door to the library closed, only to stand face to face with another man.

"So you are the one." he said, slowly making the rounds with his eyes, from head to toe. He then calmly walked around me, getting the full three dimensional look. The others had bowed in front of this man. No one else were there to be bowed to.

"I suppose so." I replied. Vague statments demanded vague concurring. Who I supposedly was was yet to be disclosed in this conversation.

"He made a fair choice." the man continued commenting. He had grey hair with white streaks in it, and enough wrinkles to be labelled as seasoned, albeit not quite ancient.

"Thank you." I replied, took his statement as a compliment rather than a comment on a piece of merchandise.

"I did tell him to get a wife, mind you. If not I would acquire one for him. I did not expect it to happen so soon, is all." he continued to explain, as he finally stopped walking around me, standing face to face once again. He was just a smidgen taller than me, enough for our eyes to be grossly on the same level. At least we were referring to the same thing with our vague comments, by the sound of it. This was about Darling and his acquisition of a wife, namely me.

"You may call me Father, for the sake of convenience." he added. So now there was Father in addition to Darling. Actual names seemed irrelevant in this setting. Also, the reasoning behind this nickname seemed awfully familiar.

"So convenience is your deal." I commented. This guy had the same strange highlights, and spoke using the same weird reasoning. He also wanted me to call him Father. It could be a coincidence, or the two of them were related.

"Pardon me?" the man, Father, said. He was a smidgen more polite than Darling, I'd give him that.

"He speaks about my safety all the time. For the sake of my safety. You like convenience." I replied. It made his smile broaden and his eyes narrow in amusement.

"I suppose you are right." he concurred. I wondered if the punks I had been with earlier were similar. I wondered who they were, and what their purpose was. I doubted the lot of them were fished out of rivers like me.

"Are you proficient in any type of weaponry or fighting style?" Father continued on, dragging me back into the conversation. A weapon? Why was that relevant?

"I can shoot a bow." I replied, though I didn't expect him to be particularly impressed by the notion. It was something I preferred to keep a secret.

"A bow?" he questioned. Yes. I was rather old fashioned that way.

"A longbow." I specified, blushed lightly and looked away from him for a moment.

"In this day and age? How amusing. Are you any good?" he did not react the way I had expected. I stole a glance at him. He seemed surprised, but not about to laugh.

"Good enough." I said with an awkward smile. I wasn't about to say that I was world champion material, but I tended to hit my target. I also tended to stay clear of targets I doubted I'd hit, hence my doubts about that world champion gold medal.

"Would you care to demonstrate?" he asked. Ah.

"In here?" I asked.

"Is that a problem?" he asked back.

"It's a library." I stated.

"It's my library." he retorted stubbornly while still holding the polite tone matching his appearance.

"I don't have a bow." I said. Even if I went with the flow and decided that shooting my longbow on here, I had no bow of mine to shoot with in the first place.

"That is easily amendable. I should have one nearby." Father declared, and went in a steady pace towards wherever he thought he may have a bow hidden away. It would seem that the second floor was the place to look.

"Why are they afraid of you?" I asked while he descended the winding flight of stairs, and he momentarily stopped.

"They are showing respect." he corrected me, before making the final climb. While it looked like a very weakly built wooden construction it did not make a single sound, so only the steps of Father could be heard.

"Fear too." I argued. He turned around from his search through a large casket.

"As should be expected." he said matter of factly. When he obviously did not find what he was looking for in that casket, he moved a few bookshelves over to the next one.

"Should I bow before you as well?" I asked. Perhaps was I really rude in this situation. I had a a feeling this was what the male educator had tried to convey to me before being asked to leave. Did he think I was being reprimanded at the moment. It didn't feel that way.

"No. Absolutely not. You are of my House now." he said, sending me a huge smile from the second floor.

"Your House?" I questioned. Was he... was he referring to this as his house?

"Family. I mean family. Ah. Here it is. Would this do?" he held up a very nicely done bow from what I could see. If it had been in a casket like that, already strung, I could not account for how well it would serve as a bow, but I was not about to tell him that.

"It looks fine. What about an arrow?" I replied. He didn't say anoythng, but closed the casket, made his way back to the main floor.

"Here." he held up the bow with both his hands, so I could get a better look at it. It was beautifully carved, ivy being the main theme to it, coloured in an emerald green in contrast to the dark brown. I took hold of the wood, lifted it and tryingly tested the string. It was in excellent condition. If I didn't know better I'd say it was just restrunt. The arrow was in a similar dark brown, the tip ornamented with twirling circles and glinting in the light from the rooftop window. This was not a traditional practice arrow. It was a ceremonial one, and with a pointy tip meant to penetrate the target.

"What do you want me to shoot?" I asked. Most of the things in this place seemed expensive, in contrast to the more rustique feel of the kitchen I woke up in that time. It still had a welcome feel to it, this library, a place where I would feel comfortable spending hours on end just reading.

"Whatever you feel you're capable of to show off your abilities." Father suggested. Whatever would show off my abilities, huh. How far was I capable of shooting with an amount of accuracy? How far was I comfortable shooting while believing in my accuracy. The answers to these questions clearly differed. And then there was the issue as to what to shoot at. I looked about. A book was out of the question. The items did look expensive and one of a kind, and were unlikely to withstand the force of the metal in this arrowhead.

"I really should be doing this outside." I commented, tryingly touched the tip of the arrow with a finger. It was really sharp.

"Don't worry so much. What about that pillar over there?" he said, pointed. Ah. A pillar huh.

"That should be easy enough. It'll leave a mark, though." I said.

"That is amendable." Father said with a smile. These people...

"Are you Sloan?" I asked, was for a moment assaulted by the mental imagery of this person shopping for womens clothing.

"No." he replied, ending my imagery in a flash. Okay then.

"Then who is?" I asked, placed my arrow, drew the string.

"You'll find out." Father said. I decided on a spot, adjusted my aim, let it go. I grimaced slightly when I saw my aim being off. It hit the pillar. Of course it did. I knew I would hit such a target. Just not the exact spot I had decided on. How frustrating.

"You seem displeased." the man commented.

"I missed." I said. It was my fault for getting too hung up on that apot, that one place I wanted to hit to show off my ability.

"Ah. Sorry. I got too focused there for a moment." I smiled apologetically, scratched the back of my head. He chuckled.

"Impressive, none the less. You should be proud." he said. Was there ever such a moment when one was truly proud of ones own accomplishments? Where there wasn't anything one could have done better, or with more precision? I didn't believe such an accomplishment existed. I did feel relief that I didn't make a complete fool of myself after claiming the ability to shoot a bow, but I felt like I could do better. I could strive for a higher level of competence. My stomach momentarily growled in agreement, and my cheeks felt like they were set ablaze.

"I am just about to have a cup of tea. Would you like a snack?" Father politely asked without commenting on the loud sound, though he might as well have with the clear correlation between the two.

"I... I was told not to accept anything from anyone." I blurted out without considering whether this man was even included in the "others" category. But darling had told me not to accept anything from anyone but him, food included.

"Is that so. While I don't think the boy was referring to me, it is a wise decision telling you to be careful. You should have a bite to eat though. I have heard it's been a while." he smiled at me.

"Say. I might have a job for you, should you be interested," he added in a thoughtful tone.

The Job

"I apologise for my tardiness." I bowed politely in front of the teacher, who seemed surprised I was even there. We were in the sports area, at least that was what I assumed it to be. A large field with lush, green grass, nicely framed by colourful trees in different stages of deleafing. The field roared summer. The frame screeched autumn. I was very confused.

"So what was it that he wanted from you?" he asked when my head rose again. What indeed. Father wanted to congratulate me for becoming a member of his family, and for me to shoot a bow at a pillar. In what world was this the avergae Thursday? Was it even Thursday? Did Thursdays exist anymore? Best not to ponder too much about it. My head might explode.

"Nothing in particular." I replied, nodded courteously once again, and looked at the group gathered, the awkward lunch they were, if not enjoying, at least experiencing. Tiny little sandwiches, a range of pasta- and potato salads, olives and meatballs and raw fish on little portion plates were amongst the dishes served, yet I touched nothing of it, as instructed. My hunger was slowly increasing, but I refrained from touching a single grain of rice or salad leaf. Instead I studied the characters present. The guy calling me harsh earlier in particular was a specimen of his own. He was arguing loudly with another fellow at the moment, the male teacher seeing danger in the waters and slowly approaching, though too late. Yep. A moment thereafter the opponent went down for the count after being slugged by Harsh Guy. He was green eyed like Darling, but more of an oaky or emerald intensity that made me think of summer and open fields. They were burning with anger, when they suddenly shifted to me.

"What are you looking at?" he asked in an almost hiss. Where were the other men supposed to keep track of the youths? I couldn't lust look away either.

"Honey!" I jumped from the suddenly hollered nickname, looked in the direction where he was coming from.

"Darling." I repeated, felt that it was rather awkward compared to the mental naming going on inside my head. Darling didn't look particularly pleased either, making me almost miss the group kneeling again. I did catch a whiff of fear in the emerald eyes that had spotted Darling before me.

"What did I tell you?" he declared once he was close enough to grab my hand. His hands were really warm. Today was a cold day, wasn't it. At least it was cold now. Colder than I had realised before his warm hands reminded me of how cold mine were.

"I'm not eating anything." I said.

"I said don't accept anyithing from anyone." he argued. But I hadn't.

"I haven't." I argued. I'd been careful. Or careful-ish.

"A bow. You accepted a bow." he said, lifted my hands, studied the palms, the fingertips, my nails.

"Oh." I muttered sheepishly. I hadn't considered that. It was just a bow. I didn't hold for long. But did give it to me, and I had accepted it.

"No marks." Darling commented, sounding surprised.

"It was just one shot. It's been a while, but I can still make a shot without getting blisters." I replied.

"Well. I heard your hunger's back." he said when the current topic seemed to be going nowhere.

"It would seem so." I replied, my hungered stomach choir-ing in.

"Good." he said, taking just a little step closer, ending his habit of keeping the comfortable distance between the two of us.

"Excellent." he continued, sighed. He still had my hand in his, keeping me from escaping his proximity.

"You're acting strangely." I said, looking at his face. He was distant. It was as if he wasn't quite there. And if I wasn't mistaken, his expression almost seemed... disappointed. Let down. Sad.

"I wasn't told that you would be here, Sir." the educator stated in a humble tone, and the Jade moved to look at the older male.

"It was quite sudden." he righted himself, took a step away from me again, though he did not let me go.

"My wife is not taking this job. I am not certain how much you have been told, but I will not have her around these people." he declared with a slightly failed sense of calm. His sadness and disappointment went over to an almost trembling yet suppressed rage, before he turned, with me in tow. We left the bunch in a relative hurry, heading for the house with the flowery wallpaper.

Humanity

"You should have told me." he muttered sourly, pouring milk into the bowl of flour, then some eggs. He should have done that gradually while stirring profusely. The pancake mix would be a hellish mixture of lumps now, and he would have more problems evening it out than he strictly needed to.

"Told you what?" I asked. He was still angry. For what reason I did not know.

"What you are." he said with his teeth clenched.

"What I am?" I asked. What was I? He hadn't asked me a single question about me other than whether I liked old names or not. What should I have told him?

"Yes." he retorted, stopped to send me another intense glare.

"Then what am I?" I asked. It was clear that he had an idea about this, and was pissed off for not knowing sooner. Was this about the bow? Was being an archer so enraging?

"I don't know. Not human." he said with exasperation. Not human?

"What are you talking about, not human?" I said, my voice raising with my gradually increasing panic.

"You're not human!" he yelled at me, momentarily stopping his task of beating the lumpy mixture smooth. I was taken aback. This person was nothing like the one who was making french fries the other day. He was scary, like everyone seemed to believe. After the pancake mix was beat into submission, would I be next?

"Then what the hell am I?!" I yelled back, trying to suppress my shaking limbs. That was right. I didn't know this person. We'd only met a day or so ago. He'd saved my life, but who was he, really? What did he want from me?

"You tell me!" he screamed. I needed to get out of here. I needed to get away from this new, frightening entity that stood in the same room as the nice fellow who wanted to serve me tea and get to know what kind of food I liked.

"I'm human." I said. My voice lost its spunk along with its volume, replaced by a dangerous shiver soon to be reduced to sobs. My eyes were growing awfully watery, but I did my best not to cry in front of him, since that would mean he'd won. Tears were apparently not his strong suit.

"You're not." he argued, though his volume dropped as well. The window. It was behind me, still closed, and probably not too easy to open. I'd broken windows before, hadn't I? It only required the right tools, and the right moment.

"Hey, why are all these..." and the moment arose, when the girl on the sill made an entrance, opening the window and creating a moments distraction. I seized it, jumping out the window before Darling had the time to fathom the consequences of her arrival, and before I could get to the consequences of a fall from that height.

The landing was less than kind, but not quite cruel, allowing for a discontent moan to replace broken bones. And then I was running. The shadows grew longer, darker, more scary all around as I quickly darted in between autumn-coloured leaves, feeling the temperature race downwards with every naked step towards the forest where I could rest. I could rest soon. Only a little while longer, and I could breathe again. Just a few more paces, and I could solace my sore feet. A little bit more. A little bit faster. A little bit...

The trees cleared, and I intinctively jumped when I encountered what I thought to be a hole in the ground, though I in truth knew what it was that I did. My mind was just on the slow side to fully comprehend that there was no immediate landing spot beyond that final leap of faith. Snow started twirling around me, cold and fierce yet still soft against my damping skin as I fell into winter. Into death.

Reality

Broken. I had to be broken. That cliff... Why did I leap off a cliff, of all things? What kind of stupidity, what kind of folly could lead me onto such a destructive path? Oh. Yes. I opened my eyes, half expecting to be back in the bed in the kitchen, having Darling making pancakes, asking me whether I preferred bacon or cheese on top. I wanted it to be a bad dream, that confrontation from before. I wanted it to be a dream so I could continue to pretend that we were indeed husband and wife, two strangers who just happened to trust each other despite knowing next to nothing about one another. It was a dream too good to be true. His fury was the reality.

Snow was what met me as I opened my eyes. I was on a road, old tyre-tracks telling me that cars had been here since snow started falling, but possibly a while ago. Time must have passed cruelly by again. I weakly got up on all fours, feeling my hunger sapping my strength away. I still managed to get up after a few tries, feeling the snow bite into my bare soles. My whole body ached, and I was feeling disoriented, but I was alive. Alive and well, in a relative sense. With great effort I set off, following the road towards somewhere away from my homes. The sun was nowhere to be seen on a day such as this, and soon light would be robbed prematurely from the remnants of the day. I needed to reach whatever somewhere I could get to before darkness left me alone to waste away.

That did of course not go as planned. Darkness came, and darkness coated the wintery landscape, while I went on as if in a ruse, barely keeping conscious yet remaining on the move.

"You are going to die." the voice was calm and sorrowful. Since I may as well be dreaming as awake, and since I was well past caring about most things but the next step ahead, I did not have it in me to be surprised by the companion beside me.

"So what." I muttered in annoyance and perseverence. No way was I stopping lest I be dead on my feet. If I was dead on my feet there would no longer be a reason to go on. Death was what it was, a companion much like the one wandering beside me. If I looked at her, would she be beautiful or terrifying? If I did sneak a glance I might fall, so I decided against falling for the temptation.

"You should go back." she muttered, silent yet easily heard through the biting wind. Or was it biting? Most of me was numb, my mind only registering some kind of agony scraping in and out of my sensory ability. I could not see whether the snow was really swirling all around anymore, or if the movement I felt was merely from me moving forward. Was I even on the road anymore?

"There is no going back." I replied to my imaginary friend, a statement filled with stubbornness as well as realism. I was well aware of the fact that even if I should decide that trying to find the new and dangerous Darling again was a grand idea, I did not know where to go from here. There had been a cliff involved, and a piece of time following that I had no recollection of. My only choice was to move forward, or stagnate and die.

When light emerged through the night, I did at first consider that this might be it. The light at the end of my timeline. When it split in two I was momentarily confused when the thought of having to choose my way to the afterworld struck me. Hadn't I made enough choices in my life? Did I really have to go on picking better or worse action after death? It hadn't exactly worked out that greatly in life. When a screeching sound followed, then a honk, then a slight collision with very cold metal followed my melancholy about my former bad choices, I realised that I was not facing the afterlife, though I was damn close getting there. Being hit by a car while I ailed between starving to death and freezing to death would do that. Thankfully the driver had excellent reflexes, well oiled breaks as well as season-appropriate tyres, so I did not suffer any major injuries other than some bruises. In hindsight those bruises may have been there all along.

And as I lay there, sprawled in the powdery snow, bathed in halogen light and wondering slightly where my imaginary friend might have gone, a face appeared above me. Above me because I was very much grounded, and most things would be higher than on my level at that moment.

"You're that girl." he said. That girl? What did that mean? I could barely move. I was pretty certain that my limbs had frozen solid from that little moment of inactivity. That was when my blighted brain finally caught the not brown but still indstinguishable eyes of the loomer. I'll be damned. Drew had arrived back in the picture. It ought to make sense, since I had walked for a similar-ish period from the scene of depravity to the house of french fries and inside longbow-shooting. This wasn't a residential are though, lest the power be out and I somehow had missed all the houses up till now.

"Officer Drew." I managed to stutter, stutter because my teeth were incapable of standing still. Damn, was I cold.

"Come on, let's get you out of the cold." he said without speaking any more, pretty much lifted me from the snowy ground and into the heated car. When he returned to the drivers seat he had been a trip to the trunk, retrieving what seemed to be a shiny shiny blanket, the kind one could see in rescue missions when people were very cold and needed warmth. He leaned over the stick shift and firmly packed me in, then sat down and drove the heating system to max.

"I take it you're not going to tell me where you live this time either?" he asked casually, sent me a friendly smile before setting the car into gear.

"I thought so." he continued when I did not reply, returned his eyes to the road, started driving. He was holding a relatively low speed, explaining why he was able to stop. How he was able to see anything was of course an issue...

"Homewards it is then."

"You'll have to excuse my brash actions. I know an upstanding girl such as yourself would be opposed to going home with a guy she just met, but I'll assure you I intend to remain a gentleman."

"I also talk a lot when it grows too quiet."

"So what have you been up to these last couple of days?"

"No one seemed to know who you were when I asked the people that were in that house."

"Then again they were lying an awful lot."

"Like how they didn't drink."

"So I guess you're not from around."

"You're of age, as your ID told me."
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