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A long time passed: four weeks. My injury is healed. I think. It’s been bothering me less. My accuracy with the bow increased again, back to hitting with one out of two arrows. I’m no longer hunched over from the bag on my back. It even feels lighter. Do I get stronger every time an injury heals? I’ve been injured seriously twice—both time, I became stronger afterwards. Is it a coincidence? If I injure myself on purpose, won’t I get stronger despite not growing larger? If so, I should do it. But if it’s a coincidence, I’ll have hurt myself for no reason. I might not even heal properly. The risk isn’t worth it. I already know others can’t recover from everything. There’s still others outside, lying on the hill, their legs broken or missing. It’s been so long. Yet none of them moved.

Right now, I’m packing the meat. It finished smoking a while ago. But adding on more smoke should preserve it for longer. Right? I’m not actually sure. I should’ve conducted an experiment to find out. But it’s too late now. Even though four weeks passed, not a single prey came to the building. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention if they did. They could’ve checked inside, peeking through the windows. If they saw all the others, they’d definitely leave.

The others, they’re active. What are they stomping around for? Usually they’re idle, sluggish, unwilling to do anything. If they’re moving, they must’ve caught sign of prey. Just when I thought there wouldn’t be any while I was waiting, some arrived after I healed. How convenient. I finished packing away the meat first, wrapping the chunks in clear sheets before putting them in my bag. Then I moved to the window. I didn’t see anything, no sign of prey. The injured others outside weren’t trying to crawl. I must be on the wrong side of the building.

I opened the door to the makeshift smoke room, went across the hall to the room directly across. It had a window too. But there still weren’t any signs of prey. Were they already inside? The others downstairs are all moving. There’s faint voices too. I can’t discern what they’re saying over the others footsteps. In a crowded situation, the best weapon is a knife. There’s not enough distance to use my bow, too much cover for the prey’s if they’re already inside. The spear is too large, can’t maneuver well in a crowd. The metal stick too. Only the knife works. But it’s risky.

Actually, I don’t have to do anything. With over three hundred others on the first floor, the prey inside are as good as dead. But how did they get inside in the first place? Through the window? Are prey stupid enough to try despite seeing others at every step? They must be; otherwise, I wouldn’t be hearing them. There’s no sounds of eating or panic. Just in case, I looked out windows for the last two directions. There wasn’t any prey. If prey entered, they all entered at the same time, not leaving a group behind.

There wasn’t any screaming. The voices were still speaking normally. Where could they be? The layout downstairs, there shouldn’t be anywhere others can’t reach. Unless the prey hid inside a closet. All the doors were wide open, the rooms filled with others. Even after so much time has passed, the others haven’t dealt with them. I’ll have to check personally. Three hundred others, still unreliable. If only their intelligences could be added together. Maybe they’d add up to half a prey’s.

I went downstairs, stepping over the bodies that I used as a barricade to prevent the others from coming up. It was rotting, the smell pungent. Disgusting. But it works. As for the prey, it should be easy to find them. The others are all facing the same direction, shuffling into each other. It’s clear where the voices are coming from. Getting past the others though, a little more difficult. At least I’m not as large as a lot of others. It’s easy for me to slip past. If I was as large as Big Other, it’d be impossible to get through without killing.

“…cure.”

Cure? The others are loud, not just their footsteps. They’re groaning too. And drooling. They’re trying to press their way into one room. All of them are at the doorway; I can’t get in despite my small stature. But unlike others, there’s another choice for me. I climbed up an other, then crawled over. And stayed on top. There were so many others, it was like another ground—an unsteady, swaying, filled with gaps ground.

“We are a hundred percent serious. We’ve developed a cure. Come to the garrison.”

The sound is coming from above. On a shelf, there’s a black box with a thin stick poking out of it. The others are reaching for it, scratching at the walls. Other others behind them are pressing them into the desk beneath the shelf. It turns out there was no prey inside, only their voices. The box is a larger version of the long-distance communication tools I have. I think it serves the same purpose. But since it’s larger than the smaller version, it’s louder. Maybe the distance prey can communicate becomes larger too. I’m not sure. If I could speak, I would’ve experimented with them.

“Come to the garrison. Even if you’ve been bitten or scratched, we can cure you. We found the cure.”

The prey on the other end of the box must be trying to communicate with the prey I already preserved. It’s a shame I can’t respond. If I could, I could’ve tricked them into coming here. But it seems like the prey on the other end want prey to come to them. The garrison. Where is that? And the cure. Is it what it sounds like? If people have been scratched or bitten, they can be cured? It must be referring to the infection. The cure should prevent the prey’s flesh from turning black, prevent the prey from turning into others. Maybe, it can turn others back into prey? This garrison, I have to find it.

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Virlyce

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