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Chapter 9: Concern

I've learned a long time ago to stick to myself. When Z-day came, I found that the desperation in humans caused the worse of humanity to come out. From the beginning, everyone was pushing and pulling each other. Sacrificing and killing whoever they come across just hoping that it would lead to their survival.

As the years passed, those who are left changed. Large groups of survivors became targets for those who thought this barren wasteland was their kingdom. Taking everything that should rebuild society and scavenging for any scraps they could use.

Numerous run ins and close calls later, I forced myself to stay away from others. Only interacting them if needed.

Yet why, why am I trying so hard to help others now?

Bryce stared at me with a mixture of shock and betrayal. On the other hand, Richard was the embodiment of thankfulness and, understandably, confusion.

I can only imagine what mine was.

"Wait, Maire, are you sure?" Bryce questioned, his eyes flickering to the other man who held with a loud smile on his face. I could do nothing but gulp in return.

Was I sure? Wasn't it an unspoken rule of mine to devote myself to self-preservation. To avoid others and keep to myself? Sure, I'd forgive myself for taking in Bryce-hell even Richard. But offering to bring someone back to another place with more people was beyond what I should be doing. Beyond everything I stood for since Z-day hit.

Yet I found myself nodding wordlessly, making up some excuse for it underneath my breath.

"See, I knew you guys would be useful!" Richard cheered, smiling down at me with uncanny glee.

Before me or Bryce could react to his words, he already brought out his own flask. Taking a swig and soon thrusting it towards us. This sudden celebration he threw for 'us' was all too fast that allow a single peep of response. Thus leading us to be strung along as he tried to be cheery.

With a grumble, Bryce swallowed the contents inside. A pleased look crossed his face as he looked back at him.

"This is... what is this-actually no. Where the fuck did you find something like this?"

"We practically control the entire mall dude!" He replied with a laugh, "Jacked the winery and alcohol place for years!"

The two began to chat up the wonders of alcohol and what not causing me to sigh. Glad that they put aside the hostilities for now. Continuing on with habit, gathered our empty bowls of food and dumped it in the kitchen. A miracle the facet was even running but I was not one to question these sorts of things. Allowing the two converse behind me as I tried to pull my mind together.

It's bad enough that my previous excursion resulted in the dormant Zs to come back alive. I can only imagine how many bodies are crowding around the mall now. With a shake of my head, I forced the doubts down and turned to them. A smile on my face and my shaking hands hid behind me.

Within hours, we made a plan about what the hell we were going to do to get in. The long story short was to sneakily climb our way to the top and hope that whoever was still left would allow us in before the Zs realize we are there. It felt high risk, but the serious situation seemed to diminished as more causal chit-chat soon popped up. Richard curious as to what kind of damage we could do as we with him. Bryce spent a good half-hour discussing different gun models and tips to the other man. In all, with the help of jokes and swigs of alcohol, everything was good. A night of much needed laughter.

Yet the pain won't go away.

Without another word, I slipped right into the washroom. Shutting the door slowly and looking at what was there. What responded back to me was quiet and numbing. The pounding in my head still hasn't let up and now, in this empty space, seems to have found a more vicious power. My hands gripped the edge of the sink as I huffed and panted.

What's wrong with me?

My eyes slowly gaze up towards the mirror but instead of what should be me was now nothingness. The mirror long since shattered leaving a gap where my head should be. When was this broken? Was it before me? Or was it by me?

The more I thought, the more sparks seems to fly in my head. Sizzling the insides of my brain as I tried to piece together memories. Ones so buried and broken that it hasn't stopped punishing me from trying to remember.

knock knock knock

"Marie?"

Shit, Bryce.

"Hey dude, are.... are you doing okay?"

I blinked, my mouth opening yet my throat not wanting to let go of any words. Unbearable silence hung between us before I was able to let out a shaky sigh.

"Y-yeah.. I um.... My brain just hurts a bit."

"Hold on, I think I got some meds for you. Just give me a second."

With that, his footsteps left.

I took one last look at where my reflection is. A strange taste began to crawl up the back of my throat but I tore my gaze away. Stealing my nerves and heading outside. Just in time to intercept my friend who held a pill and his water bottle. I just thanked him, taking the med without a second thought and winced at how the water stung at the dry cracks in my throat.

I, soon enough, auto-pilot myself to where I dropped my gear. Hiking my bag and such onto me and testing the straps around my weapons. I could tell the both of them was staring at me. A fact which I tried to ignore as I slipped my helmet on myself. The familiar close space of it was comforting as I turned to stare back at them from behind a screen.

"So?"

They looked at each other before Richard spoke first.

"If you're not okay we aren't doing this. I have no need for someone who's just going to slow us down." The tone was flat and harsh. Almost enough to make me wince but I covered it with a shrug. Bryce was more offended on the other hand.

"Would you chill out?"

I saw Richard roll his eyes just as he slipped the gas mask on. A sigh leaving my lips as whatever argument that could've happened just defused. All of us too focused on getting our gear ready to care.

"I'll be okay. Let's just start this mission and get over with it." I tried to reassure back, my eyes flickering to Bryce. I could tell he didn't buy it but nonetheless slipped his own bandanna back over his mouth. Within seconds we were scaling down the building and heading to the mall. The previous day's rain drenched our surroundings as Zs slowly but surely came out of hiding.

As we ran I couldn't help but feel a pit in my stomach grow. Something was going to happen soon.

All I could do now is see how it goes.


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