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"Do you hear me, Crawl?" Carl glowers at me sullenly, until I deign to respond.

"No." I reply softly.

A lighting flashes outside; a storm is raging.

I look at him sideways; his face is partly obscure by my layers of long hair, and I grimace as if face with a difficult decision.

He frowns and twists Stivvy's paw until it almost pops; until I turn around to glare at him. Stivvy's my giant, stuff teddy bear. Oh, it was a gift from my 12th birthday, from Steven, an old crush. Long story.

The thunder comes about 2 seconds later. Storm's around 2 miles away...

Not a comfortable distance.

"Direct your anger at someone else. Stivvy hasn't done anything to you, has she?"

Carl smiles, and reveals teeth so white, I thought for a moment that lighting has flash again.

"No." He replies just as softly. Then he cocks his head to one side gently as he listens to the sounds of the elements splashing against the bare windows. "But youhave, and since Stivvy's your possession, she'll have to suffer for your insolence."

"For my what?"

"For your insolence." He repeats.

"That doesn't even mean anything." I flicks my tongue at him, and brush some hair out of my eye.

"For your disrespect. For your insulting demeanor toward me, and everything I've said. For-"

"I know what 'insolence' means!" I assert, mildly annoy.

Carl immediately change tactics.

"Did you not hear any of the tales I've spun for the past half hour?"

"I hear you. I just haven't hear you yet. Let me think on it for a minute." I wrench Stivvy away from him, and holds her in my arms, thinking upon the implifications of what just occur between what is real, and what should have stay in people's dark imaginations.

Zombies.

That one word change my whole life.

Carl let out a deep pent up breath, and picks up some papper wrappers from the trash-strew floor.

He looks at me solemnly "Any girl of your age would have been broken by now. And not just on the inside."

"Any boy your age would've been hiding under a bed by now." I retort with a sickly grin.

"I highly doubt that, but perhaps some are already in hiding."

We grow serious again.

After a thoughtful pause Carl picks up the conversation again.

"So, what do you think we should do, as of now?" He waves aside my protestations. "No, I would like to hear your thoughts."

I pause for a long minute before saying anything.

When I did, it is not for a long time before I stop to catch my breath.

"We should-" I clear my throat loudly, then continue as if nothing have happen. "We should consult with our different alliances before making any decision. Remember, we cannot speak for all of our members. If if one or two disagrees, conflict shall arise, and then, it will only get worse from there. For what more do the undeads wishes for more than our polarizing? For our separation? It is their sole wish."

"Without any means to support themselves, the polarizing teams will break apart from our alliance, and seeks shelter with another alliance. We cannot affort for that to happen. We need to band together if we wish to survive in a world run by the undeads. Especially with the death of Cothar and Valor, plus commandeers of twenty-six of their former mates. We cannot risk alienating any of our remaining members."

"Therefore, I suggest that we don't make any concrete decisions beforehand."

Carl raises one eyebrow, and looks at me until I flinch violently.

Half a minute passes before he regains his calm demeanor.

"You're avoiding the issue at hand." He finally says.

"I'm avoiding nothing." I reply.

"The zombies marches south from Galinatoth. They will reach here in less than 4 days march. 3 if the weather abates. And you're telling me to go discuss this with my alliances? I need to discuss this with you, Crawl! And through you, your alliance!"

"Whatever."

I left the issue at hand, and walk downstair to dine.




It was cold the night I died. The snow, gray and soft from foot traffic, was piled high along the sides of the street. My breath made clouds of white vapor that hung like a fog around my face. I shivered and pulled a hand out of my coat pocket to tighten the scarf around my neck.

The city was dark. What candles that were still lit in the street-lamps were my only light. I looked around me. The dark, curtain-less hulls of buildings stared back, hauntingly. I was alone. But I wasn't scared. I was used to being alone.

The clock in the city's courthouse played its discordant song, then tolled the hour. I stopped to count the chimes. One, two, three… all the way up to eleven. I shook my head and started on again, my footsteps echoing on the empty street.

"It's just like Lettie to send me out in the lonely hours of the night to fetch her liquor," I said to myself as I rubbed the bottle of whiskey in my pocket and grimaced. "I do hate Lettie! Even if she is my sister…"

Suddenly noticing how eerily quiet it was, I began to sing to myself. "Ring around the rosies. A pocket full of posies. Ashes, ashes-."

"They all fall down."

I whirled around. "Who's there?" I called into the darkness before me. My hand grasped the neck of the whiskey bottle tightly. "I said who's there?" My only answer was my shrill voice bouncing off the cobblestones.

I laughed nervously. "Probably… a joke… a trick? One of Lettie's drunken friends trying to scare me, I'll bet." I turned back and resumed walking once again. But now, my footsteps weren't the only ones I could hear on the street.

Not letting on that I knew there was someone behind me, I kept walking at a steady pace. I could tell the person was not nearly the same size as me. There was a stark contrast between the sharp click-clack of my boots and the hard, pounding clomp-clomp of my pursuer's. This fact disturbed me and I began to walk faster. The footsteps quickened too.

Suddenly, I stopped. After a few steps, the person behind me stopped too. "Who's there?" I asked again over my shoulder. I snuck a glance behind me out of the corner of my eye. Whoever was there was a master of concealing himself in shadows. I saw no one.

Panic overwhelmed me. I broke out into a frantic run. The footsteps followed. I could hear the person closing in, their hot breath stinging the back of my neck through my scarf.

"Ashes, ashes. They all fall down.'" The voiced seemed to come from everywhere but nowhere at the same time, reverberating from the buildings. Tears began streaming down my face, spattering my scarf with tiny, wet puddles.

"Ashes, ashes. They all fall down."

"Stop it!" I screamed. I chanced a look behind me. I only caught a glimpse of a dark, blood red overcoat before I was face down on the cobblestones. My coat, soaked from ice and whiskey. The ground beside me, littered with glass shards from the broken bottle. Frantically, I sat up and turned around to face the stranger.

They stopped, just outside the pool of light from the street-lamp, so only their feet showed. Now I was positive it was a man. I could tell by the type of boots he wore. I tried to scoot back, away from him. But instead I cut my hand on a piece of glass.

"Ahh!" I gasped and held my hand up to my face. The cut was deep. I watched the blood begin to gush from the wound and drip down into my sleeve with a strange fascination. I looked up again. The man came towards me. His face still covered in shadows.

"Oh you poor thing." His voice was and melodious, but it did nothing to ease my fear. "You really did fall down. Let me help you." He bent down and took my bleeding hand, palm up in his own. His fingers were soft and warm, though he wore no gloves. "Oh look. You're bleeding." He sniffed deeply and leaned in towards me. The shadows on his face fell away. Finally, I could put a face to the footsteps.

I was expecting a grotesque monster, rabid, with wild eyes and pointed horns. Lettie always told me I had a rather morbid imagination. But no matter how much I wanted to hate the man, I could not. He was beautiful. Light, saffron-colored hair. Golden cat-like eyes with flecks of yellow and green. Nice, full lips twisted into a macabre smile. I could tell he was rich. Maybe an Earl of some sort? His clothes were well made, sturdy. Unlike my patched, hand-me-down dress. What was a man of his stature doing here? And frightening young girls, no less. He couldn't be more than 25, his face bore no wrinkles. Some strange part of me longed to stroke his porcelain cheek. But my fear kept me in place. All I could do was sit and stare into those eyes that were like swirling pools of amber.

He brought my hand up to those perfect lips. They parted as he inhaled deeply once again. His teeth were perfect too. All lined up in neat, pearly rows, except for two glistening fangs that seemed to grow straight from the gums as I watched in a fixated horror. His tongue gently caressed the cut on my palm. I winced and tried to squirm away. But the man held tight to my wrist. He slowly turned his attention away from my hand and stared so deep into my eyes, I felt he could see my very soul. My frightened face, reflected in his eyes.

All at once, I was not myself. I was high over me. Above the buildings and street-lamps. I could see the man peeling my scarf and the collar of my dress away from my neck. Why wasn't I moving? I saw the man sink those terrible fangs into my pale skin. A limp smile played about my lips. I watched with a faint tinge of shock as the life drained from my eyes.

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