Loved and Lost by Schroering1 November 27, 2020

Chapter 14

TRAVIS

JANUARY 25

I start to leave a lasting impression on humanity, they barricade themselves somewhere they won’t have to listen. I corner a feisty office worker, and his annoying girlfriend shows up to blemish my perfect track record. And in turn, I’ve had Penny, Ava, and the sharpshooter all on the ropes, and one of their circle has shown up to ruin my fun.

Entropy. Whenever there is any semblance of order, it will shatter under the inevitability of chaos. 

Penny’s nose was broken. Her eye blackened. Her shoulder snapped out of place. She had cuts, gashes and bruises covering her forehead, arms, and chest. I must’ve bruised her windpipe with how hard I was squeezing her throat. And she still didn’t relent. I could’ve gone on, I still had a ton of ideas for ways I could make her squeal.

One of my biggest mistakes was allowing myself to knock her out cold. I became frantic trying to wake the girl back up. I shook her, kicked her in the side, and was about to start cutting into her when I felt a sharp agony force its way through my side.

I flew up into the air to escape my assailant, and when I turned around, the sharpshooter was wielding a blood-tipped spear. He struck towards me again, and I hovered higher to counteract the weapon’s large radius. Even Avalonia seemed ready to have another go, having resummoned her dual blades. They were both staring at me, their gazes unwavering and confident.

Frightened, I took off into the sky, away from my foes, and back toward the vacant city streets of Auburn. Once I was sure that none had pursued me, I perched myself on the roof of a complex, leaning against an air conditioning unit to catch my breath.

Now that the adrenaline of battle had worn off, I began to notice all the wounds that had been inflicted on me. A good portion of my sweater had been torn up, and cuts on my torso were starting to bleed through it. I was panting, breathing heavily, and when I took the time to cough, I found my hands stained with blood.

My knees shook, and fell out from under me. I caught myself on my hands, but my arms were wobbly, I could barely hold up my own body weight. I rolled over onto my back, staring up into the cloudy grey sky. Shakily, I put a hand to my heart, and kept myself steady as I watched the clouds pass by overhead.

Slowly, I began to feel my breath get back on track. With some of the pain starting to subside, I began to gain back the ability to concentrate on my powers. One by one, the wounds on my body started to close up, and the blood that came with them started to dry. I even fashioned myself a new sweater.

I wasn’t in mortal danger anymore, but I couldn’t go back and fight. Penny, Ava, and the sharpshooter may not have been extraordinarily capable on their own, but even at my strongest, I wasn’t able to triumph over all three of them. Not with all of them coming at me one after another. Even then, Penny alone gave me a run for my money when it came to swordplay. I underestimated them.

My heart was pounding out of my chest, and it seemed like I couldn’t take in enough air no matter how hard I tried. Any one of the trio could’ve flattened me in that state… 

Avalonia was smart and adaptable. Since her meeting the sharpshooter, not only had she suddenly managed to match me in powerset, but her martial arts skills had improved drastically. When the Auburn Demon first confronted her, Ava’s strategy was to simply try and push me away. Now, it took a considerable amount of effort to hold her back. However, my mere presence seemed to shatter every single nerve she had.

Penny was more confident, more of a traditional fighter, clearly trained with a sword. I couldn’t get a leg up on her in combat, and I admired that she was just as adept in the art of killing as I was. She didn’t fight to protect Ava, or the sharpshooter. She didn’t even fight to protect Nielson. Her desire was to drive that sabre through my heart, and that mentality ended up being her downfall.

The sharpshooter was new, and I didn’t have enough time to get an accurate read on him. He composed himself well in front of me, though not well enough to realize that one shot wouldn’t be enough to kill me. A second one possibly would’ve put me down for good, but he either didn’t know that, or more likely, he had an extreme overconfidence and didn’t care enough to fire again. The spear was a different story, but also so situational that I had about a million ways to counter it.

Penny kept her mouth shut, and I was not in the mood to knock down every door in all of Auburn looking for Nielson. Ava and the sharpshooter were no doubt also out to stick my head on a pike. I needed to eliminate the threats if I had any hope of progressing much forward. Poisoned priorities aside, I needed to shift up my approach.

I would have plenty of time to think. If there was any common sense left in their brains, they would no doubt lay low until their former sabre-wielder was back on her feet. Then they’d come hounding for my blood, and I would be ready. Ava was the weakest link, and with a few flicks of the wrist, a few well-timed scorns, and some duct tape to keep her from flapping her gums, she could be the perfect bargaining chip.

Unfortunately, it would take quite a bit more than swordsmanship to get what I wanted from Penny. Anyone could wield a blade, few could pierce a soul. I just had to drive it in a bit deeper… 

Souls aren't used to being directly challenged, much less overcome. The only thing that could hold one back would be a more dynamic version of its own kind. The eternal turmoil of death had conditioned and hardened my soul into something that barely resembled a shadow of its former self, practically unbreakable, yet still susceptible to being overwhelmed… 

But yet, I still stood tall, unflinching and unwilling to kowtow to a lesser force. They speak of turmoil, but know naught of what it is like to truly suffer. Oh, boohoo, your boyfriend went on vacation without you. If that’s all it takes to shatter your heart, we’ll see how well you can hold yourself up when you hear the call of the reaper.

Would the end of humanity be in the form of a bang? A whimper? A thundering silence? I  did not know, but if humanity continued down its current path, I knew the end would bring with it a trail of blood. 

Wiping my pants clean of dust, I lifted myself back to my feet, gazing down upon the dagger in my palms.

Yes, yes… A trail of blood.

And a glimmer of purple.

As I straightened myself back up, I couldn’t manage to shake free one of the remarks that Penny had spouted off during our duel.

 

“Where. Is. Nielsen?”

“…Where… …You’ll never hurt him again…”

 

The realization came swiftly. This wasn’t the first time I had been stabbed in the back, but it was certainly the most painful. 

No one, and I mean, no one, crossed the Auburn Demon and got away with it.

 

AVALONIA

JANUARY 25

The clock goggles always made Tockman seem almost robotic, but now that he was without them, I realized that he wielded the most human set of eyes that I had ever seen. Even while Tockman kept up his facade of determination, they were greatly flawed… I guess that’s what was so human about them.

Tockman’s signature pair of glasses were lying on the dashboard of his car. The ride to the hospital can’t have taken more than five minutes, but it was the longest five minutes of my entire life. Penny’s unconscious body was resting in Tockman’s back seat, and neither me nor the doctor knew if she would wake up ever again.

Even in those uncertain times, I was able to keep myself sane. Or, well… Sane enough to heal the cuts and bruises on my skin. My leg was a different story, but by the time I had given up trying to put the bone back into place, I could at least stand on it without toppling over. I would probably let the hospital look at it once all was said and done.

The second we arrived at the hospital, the doctors took one look at Penny and snatched her away from us. I was left with a frantic Tockman in the waiting room, who was pacing back and forth, unable to stand still for more than a moment.

I was worried too, but… I had been around so 

much tragedy that I seemed to have developed a kind of coping mechanism. It barely even phased me anymore. Even still, the weight of the situation, and seeing Tockman so distraught, it took a considerable amount of effort to not burst out into a fit of tears.

Why couldn’t things just go right for once…?

I was about to say something when the awkward silence was broken by Tockman himself.

“Do you believe that a man like me could be redeemed?”

“…That depends. Redeemed in the eyes of who? Of me? Of Penny? Of yourself?”

“Of everyone, Ava. I’ve worked so hard to prove myself… And the one person who gave enough of a damn to allow me the chance… She could be dead! Because of me!

“Tockman… When push comes to shove, life can shove. Are you going to let it walk all over you, or are you going to raise your head high and give it all that you’ve got? I made the wrong choice once, and it broke me beyond repair. I refuse to allow the same thing to happen to you!”

“…Where did all of that confidence come from?”

“From you and Penny!”

“U-us?!”

“Of course! You two have helped me more than I could’ve ever dreamed of!”

“...A good deed does not produce a good man.”

“But a good man can produce countless good deeds! Trust me, with your determination, you’ll soon be looking at the horizon in the rear-view mirror!”

“I don’t know. I think I got my confidence from Penny…”

“I think she got it from you.”

“Really?”

“Well, yeah! No one can talk about changing the world as much as you do and not have it start to rub off on people.”

“I guess you’re right… I just wish that I hadn’t shoved her away like I did. Maybe if I had just listened, I could’ve been more than a mad scientist to her.”

“With time travel research on hold, I don’t think that there’s anything you can do about the past. But there’s something you can do now! You can be the man that you’ve always strived to be!”

“I just hope that I get the opportunity.”

“Hope is no substitute for willpower.”

“…I taught you that.”

“You did. You’ve got quite a way with words, doctor.”

“Now, I think that one came from Penny.”

Flashing a subtle smile, Tockman sat down in a seat next to me, and I could hear his heartbeat slowly creep down until it was inaudible once more. We shared solemn recollections of the peppy assistant, and a silent agreement was made to never again take her loving personality for granted.

Once the atmosphere around the room had brightened up with the light of Penny’s lingering influence, Tockman did something that I would’ve previously thought to be unheard of.

“Here,” Tockman offered, holding out his hand for me to admire what rested upon it: his glasses. I was looking at them close enough to see the second hands simultaneously ticking along the glass lenses.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

“I know you were curious about them earlier, so… If you wanted to take a closer look, I wouldn’t object.”

“Th-Thank you, Tockman… That’s very generous of you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

The glasses were of expert quality, and as I moved the invention around in my hands, I was able to admire every little detail. The fine wooden frames and the effortless turning of the hidden gears spoke kindly of the hands that crafted them.

“You made these?!”

“I did. When I first opened the clock shop, I knew it needed something to set it apart, so I spent a week or two tinkering and came up with them. They ensured that I would never lose sight of my greatest passions.”

“But you never ended up selling them.”

“No, no… I didn’t.”

“What changed your mind?”

“I didn’t have enough faith to believe that they would sell well. Others clearly don’t take time as seriously as I do.”

“Maybe not, but I’m sure they would at least get a kick out of them!”

“Perhaps you’re right…”

We sat together for a while. Tockman got on a tangent or two about time, but I listened, for once. Then when I talked about my acting career, I noticed that he was listening as well.

Travis was wrong, pure and simple. No one could live free of others. Maybe they could survive, but they would never truly live. I only realized that once I was introduced to Penny and Tockman.

Something was crippling humanity, and trust me, it wasn’t love.

 

TOCKMAN

JANUARY 25

The sudden fit of coughing emanating from Penny’s hospital room sent me into a panic. I had been frantically fearing the worst from the very beginning, but that was the tipping point. I couldn’t stand ignorance for another second.

Penny looked worse than I had ever seen her before. The wounds were one thing, but what hurt me the most was seeing Penny confined to the hospital bed, gasping for breath once her coughing stopped. I once thought that there was absolutely nothing that could stop Penny from bouncing around every single room that she entered, but now, she could barely even move. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

“Penny? Penny?! Are you okay? It’s me, Penny! I-”

“…Zizi?”

The question was quiet and soft-spoken. Penny seemed a bit excited despite her weakness, and she evidently resolved to get a closer look at her visitor. She sat up to get out of bed, but yelped in pain the second that she was upright, falling back onto the cot. Even still, Penny tried again and yelped once more, shaking and holding her head with a pale hand.

Well, if there was one thing that could never be halted, it was Penny’s spirit. Whether that was a positive or not depended on the scenario, and at the moment, it could’ve crippled her. I rushed over to help, gently easing Penny back down and laying her head back onto the pillow.

“Zizi, I… I’m sorry… I couldn’t do it…” she whined.

“No… No, Penny, it’s not Zinovi… It’s me… It’s Doc.”

I sighed, taking a seat next to Penny’s bed. She was rubbing her head and wincing, evidently dealing with a major headache or maybe even a migraine. Once she was able to register who was speaking to her, though, her expression dropped. She weakly rolled over in her bed, turning her back to me.

“Hey, Penny… Are you doing okay? I heard you coughing, and was worried there may be a problem with your breathing.”

“…”

“I know you might not wanna talk to me, but I just came to check on you. Ava and I have been so worried…”

“…Get out.”

“Come on, Penny, I just want to talk.”

“Get out.”

I paused before continuing more gently. “I brought your journal.”

In the weeks following our fight, I had kept the journal on my person, in case Penny ever came back for it. After all that had happened, I figured that she would like to have it back. It turns out, I was right, as Penny then rolled back over to look at me.

She began to reach out in order to take the notebook out of my hands, but I simply set it down on her chest to save her the trouble.

“You’ve got some pretty good stuff in there.”

“…Sure…”

“I mean it. I read over all of your stories, and there’s real potential for some exciting narratives!”

“You looked through my notes…?! Since when did you give a damn about books…?”

“Well, I care about you, Penny. Of course I was going to be interested.”

“Since when did you give a damn about me?”

“I was wrong, Penny. About everything… I see that now… Do you think… We can start over?”

Penny didn’t even dignify me with a reply, instead clutching the book in her arms and treating me as if I didn’t exist. I knew that she would likely prefer it if I walked out of that room and out of her life forever, but being alone wouldn’t do her, or anyone, any good at all.

“Penny, tell me a story.”

She looked at me and slowly blinked, but still didn’t say anything in response.

“…Tell me a story, Penny,” I repeated.

“…Why…?”

“I think I’ve talked more than enough. It’s time to listen for once. Besides…”

I shuffled a bit, biting my lip and looking down at the floor.

“I want to be the hero for once. A king in shining armor, with a fancy cape and a sword… I don’t want to be a tyrant anymore.”

After a moment of hesitation, Penny averted her gaze, instead turning it to the journal in her arms. She thumbed through the pages, looking upon the seemingly endless supply of scribbled ideas and doodles. Finally, she came to one she liked, and began to spin me a tale.

It was a tale of castles, and princesses, and mystical spells. With all the horror that plagued the real world, it shouldn’t have been surprising that I allowed myself to get immersed within Penny’s realm of fantasy. 

That being said, when I found myself asking clarifying questions, or getting mildly upset when a quest didn’t go as planned, the feeling was entirely foreign to me.

“You’re a really good writer…” I complimented as the story reached its conclusion. 

“Thanks…”

“Y’know… I… I’m sorry, Penny. I know that I don’t deserve a second chance, but you truly do mean a lot to me… M-Maybe… Maybe time travel can wait a bit… My research will always be there to pick up again, but I don’t know how much longer we’ll all be here.”

“I-… I don’t know, Doc. Everything is so stressful right now… Zinovi is gone… I haven’t seen my family in weeks… I don’t know if I can handle any more.”

“Come on, Penny… There’s not a single thing in the world that’s ever been able to put you down!”

“What about Travis?! He could’ve killed me!”

“But he didn’t. You stared down the Auburn Demon twice, and walked away alive both times. We sent him running for the hills! You gave me faith, Penny. Faith in you, in Ava, in all of us. We can take him down!”

“Do I look like I’m in a state to fight, Doc…?”

“Well, not yet. But when you are, I promise you. We’ll send Travis back to Hell where he belongs.”

Reminded of something, I reached into my pocket, pulling out that same cog on a necklace that Penny had always kept around her neck. After working on it for a while, I could practically see my reflection in the shining metal.

“I polished it up a bit and gave it a new cord. It’s as good as new.”

I set the necklace on her bedside table, and stood back up, heading back towards the door that led out to the main hallway.

“I best be going now,” I waved goodbye. “Stay strong.”

“I’ll try…”

“I know you will. I’ll hopefully see you later.”

“W-Wait… Doc…?”

“What’s the matter?”

Penny reached for her bedside table where her keys were resting. As I went to take them with an eyebrow raised, she glared up at me. 

“I can’t go home to take care of Cine for a while… I’m trusting you with him… He needs wet and dry food morning and night, water, someone to play with, and a long walk daily… Think you can handle the ‘mangy stray’ until I’m home…?”

I winced at her wording but nodded as I took the keys before sitting up again. She seemed to relax once I accepted this responsibility. I headed to the door to let her rest. 

“No problem, my friend. No problem at all.”

 

 

PENNY

FEBRUARY 13

In the dead quiet, my thoughts became louder than ever. No matter how hard I tried, I kept looping back around to my first visit with Doc. The only thing that I was able to register at first was the fact that words were being spoken, and in my disoriented state, I must’ve connected dots that weren’t even there. My thoughts were jumping around all over the place… And they kept coming back to that conversation with Doc.

 

I forced myself to sit up, my face turning a slight shade of green to go with my already pale face. My chest and head screamed in protest. I think I blacked out for a second because I regained consciousness laying back down on the cot. I grit my teeth and kept trying with the same result, each attempt getting more frantic and jittery. I was panting and crying by the 7th attempt. 

I couldn't be weak. I had to get up. I had to fight. If I didn't, Zinovi and my family and friends were as good as dead, and I just couldn't have that. I couldn't have that after how he was in my arms bleeding out, barely keeping his eyes open and struggling to breathe. My ears were ringing as I flopped back again and jerked from the impact, the jerk starting a coughing fit as I gasped for breath. I didn't realize I wasn't alone until my ears stopped ringing. Someone was shouting my name. 

“Zizi…?” I immediately froze and practically started crying tears of joy. It was Zinovi, here from the bunker already to pick me up! He was worried for me, and he was promising me royal treatment as I recovered, and I just had to get up to hug him! 

I kept trying to get up, to no avail. I held my head and winced as it pounded. My boyfriend gently helped me lay down again. 

“Zizi… I’m sorry… I couldn’t do it…” I panted. He probably would be upset that I didn’t finish the demon off yet, but thankful I was still ok and proud I at least tried… I finally could hear his voice clearly as the spots left my vision. 

“No… No, Penny, it’s not Zinovi… It’s me… It’s Doc.” 

My stomach dropped as I rubbed my head. I turned towards the voice and my expression fell. Zinovi wasn't there. It wasn't my parents or siblings either. It wasn't even any of my friends. The person distraught by my bedside really was Doc. He was the one that called out to me. He must have noticed my expression changing, because his face fell a bit more. 

“Hey, Penny… Are you doing okay? I heard you coughing, and was worried there may be a problem with your breathing.” My eye twitched and I stiffly turned onto my side facing away from him and curled up. Not only was I stuck here and couldn't move, but I was at the mercy of people I didn't want as visitors. Talk about a disappointment…

He kept trying to talk to me as I sat there fuming. I told him to leave. I wanted him out, but like usual, he wasn’t listening to me. He never listened. Nobody did, and the few that broke that rule were in the bunkers. Not even my cat was here to company me. God forbid if Pumpkin Princess showed up here too…

I zoned back to attention when he said the word ‘journal’. I turned to see him holding it out to me. He put it on my chest instead of just handing it to my good arm when I reached for it, making me want to roll my eyes. I could still hold things myself. I wasn’t a baby. I stiffened when he told me he looked through it. 

The bastard went through my journal…! Didn’t anyone teach him to keep his nose out of other people’s stuff?! He tried telling me that he liked my work. I was almost repulsed by that. I didn’t want him to like my work. 

“I was wrong, Penny. About everything…  I see that now. Do you think… We can start over?” My eye twitched. If it didn’t hurt to, I probably would have burst out laughing. He had to be kidding. I’d heard that line from a few people before and all it led to was being stabbed in the back not too far down the road if not once than twice or more. 

After a few moments of awkward silence, Doc said something that surprised me.

“Penny, tell me a story.”

…? What? Did I just hear that right? I uncurled from my position slightly. Not hearing more, I stiffly turned back around to see Doc staring at me pleadingly and almost expectantly. The look of confusion must have been clear on my face, because he repeated it again. 

“…Tell me a story, Penny.” 

He had a desperate gleam in his eyes. He was inviting me in. For the first time in the long months that I had known him, Doc was letting me talk to him. Talk at him, more like. And he didn't seem about to yell at me. I was honestly speechless. I slowly and gently opened my journal with my good arm, resting it on my lap. “…Why?”

“I think I’ve talked more than enough. It’s time to listen for once. Besides… I want to be the hero for once. A king in shining armor, with a fancy cape and a sword… I don’t want to be a tyrant anymore.” 

Was this the same Tockman that would yell at me for breathing wrong? I was still completely caught off guard and couldn't believe it.

…Maybe he did care…

Looking down at my lap, I felt a knot in my throat. I hadn’t written anything in weeks. For once, I didn’t really know if I wanted to be looking down at the journal or not. After more awkward silence, I swallowed down the knot in my throat and flipped through the pages to find a story I wanted. 

I settled on a story I didn’t really remember writing until I got to the end. This was a short story about a princess and her prince. I had written it after first crushing on Zinovi. When I finished, Doc seemed pleased. I was just awash with more emotions than before, and they were all exhausting me. Wouldn’t he just go away? I knew he’d forget about this nice stuff once Travis was dead, and nothing would change. Maybe there were openings at Zinovi’s work for storyboarders…

“Y’know… I… I’m sorry, Penny. I know that I don’t deserve a second chance, but you truly do mean a lot to me… M-maybe… Maybe time travel can wait a bit… My research will always be there to pick up again, but I don’t know how much longer we’ll all be here.” 

I felt the knot come back again. I knew he was bullshitting me. Playing things off ‘cuz I was weak and in bed and sick, unlike Ava who probably poofed her leg back to normal already and who was raring to go. I didn’t want to say anything in response, but my mouth had a mind of its own again. 

“I-… I don’t know, Doc. Everything is so stressful right now… Zinovi is gone… I haven’t seen my family in weeks… I don’t know if I can handle any more.”

“Come on, Penny… There’s not a single thing in the world that’s ever been able to put you down!”

“What about Travis?! He could’ve killed me!”

“But he didn’t. You stared down the Auburn Demon twice, and walked away alive both times. We sent him running for the hills! You gave me faith, Penny. Faith in you, in Ava, in all of us. We can take him down!”

“Do I look like I’m in a state to fight, Doc…?”

“Well, not yet. But when you are, I promise you. We’ll send Travis back to hell where he belongs.”

Fuming, I was about to use whatever strength I had to yell that if anyone was going to kill Travis for everything he was doing and everything he already did, it would be me and me alone, but I was stopped by Doc returning the freshly cleaned and re-corded gear necklace to me. I watched him put it next to my bed. 

“I best be going now.” Doc was finally leaving, but after taking in everything he said, holding my journal close, and watching him put the fresh necklace aside for me, I decided to trust him for the first time in a while. 

“W-Wait… Doc…?” I reached for my keys. There was someone that needed me right now, and I couldn’t get to them. With these keys though, Doc could. Once he had them, I glared up at him. 

“I can’t go home to take care of Cine for a while… I’m trusting you with him… He needs wet and dry food morning and night, water, someone to play with, and a long walk daily… Think you can handle the ‘mangy stray’ until I’m home…?”

That was a test, and I’m pretty sure he knew it was one too by the look he gave me after I let him take the keys. I watched him leave and hugged the journal to my chest. 

 

This sucked. I was stuck in the hospital for a while until I was good enough to leave. There were no mirrors in my room, and I was conflicted about whether I wanted one or not. I probably looked like hell, but if I could make myself look less like a waking nightmare, that would be comforting. I couldn’t even sit up without pain, which made me feel useless. It pissed me off, too. Babies could walk and sit up on their own and I wasn’t even at that level anymore… 

I tried to tune out the talk the doctors and nurses had when looking over my x-rays. I didn’t want to hear them possibly talking about telling me that my organs were damaged too from the battering Travis gave me, let alone all the external damage I had already. 

Travis… I didn’t think it was possible for me to hate anyone or anything more before him. I needed to kill him. Ava was a wuss. She’d never do it. Doc had a gun and couldn’t shoot the damn thing’s head when he had the chance! 

As much as I was looking forward to killing the bastard, I didn’t know if I would fare as well against him as I had the first time. I was still really unstable in terms of emotion… One wrong comment and I would go feral again. And get my ass kicked again.

As days went by and I recovered bit by bit by painstakingly small bit, I reflected a lot on Doc and him trying to get into my good graces again. Of course, it only happened after I was the bitch and unloaded onto him. I hated thickheaded assholes like that. Can’t accept they’re wrong until you become the jerk. Even then, sometimes they’ll just take that one instance and make you into the bad guy. I wouldn’t put it past Doc to pull the victim card eventually, but at the same time, he seemed sincere…

Sleep was on and off again at best. The bed wasn’t my own, it wasn’t comfy, I was alone, everything hurt, the TV didn’t have anything good to pass out to, and I was too worried about Zinovi and my family and friends to sleep… Until I passed out from exhaustion some nights or during the day, that is.

When I did sleep, I was tormented by nightmares… Travis’ voice echoing in my head tauntingly as Zinovi’s body from the attack flashed before my eyes once again. 

 

“I’m going to kill everyone that you hold dear. Do you hear me?! Everyone! And I’m going to enjoy it!” 

 

Shooting awake after each nightmare, sitting up fast drenched in sweat only for my body to scream in protest along with my head, I could swear I heard him laughing at the torment he was causing me. He laughed harder when I started coughing again after flopping back each time. Sometimes, I could swear I felt my wounds burning, as if he just made them…

I seriously hoped that everyone in the bunkers was alright… Thankfully, the demon wasn’t attacking the hospitals yet, and I watched the news to make sure the bunkers remained safe. They never revealed their locations on air, but they gave updates. Every day they said they were stable and the people inside were alright. There were always more people joining them.

Thank God for the mayor’s plan… It seemed to be the only thing going right in Auburn right now…