No wind. No waves hitting the sides of the pillars holding up the stone bridge elevated above the waters of the vast seas around the desolate, seemingly abandoned city. No honks of car horns, or the chatter of the doubtless thousands of people who’d be able to inhabit such an expansive location, the silence only confirming the long absence of life on these beaten streets.
Not a single sound.
Nothing… Besides the babbles of a little girl anyway.
“I spy with my little eye… something… blue!”
“Yes! You got it!”
“What a challenge.”
“Okay, um… Now I spy with my little eye… something… red!”
“Is it that car over there?”
“Yup-Yup! Point to you!”
“Oh. Thank you.”
“Alright, here’s a tricky one! Um…”
The young blonde sticks her tongue out the side of her mouth and puts a finger to her chin with her free hand. Her other one is currently wrapped around a thicker, lighter-skinned wrist as she’s guided along by Kuda. Just ahead of the two, Yuuta saunters along behind Bianca, who leads the pack across the long bridge connecting the small island they woke up on and the larger section of the city.
Cracks and holes riddle the pavement along with the bits of rubble, no doubt from the aftermath of whatever caused the cracks and made the holes. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes sit dormant and untouched, most actually looking rather well-maintained and some having a few dents and parts missing. Bianca takes care to lead the other three through and around the barricade of abandoned vehicles. Luckily, there’s just enough room for a rather open path, one big enough to make travel relatively simple.
“Alright, I got it!” Saya says. “I spy with my little eye… something… gray!”
Kuda immediately looks over to the many buildings across the water and points at a random one. “Is it that building?”
“Oh.” Kuda says with a bit of surprise. He looks over at another building. “Is it that building over there?”
“That is correct, Mr. Kuda! Very good!”
“I feel so blessed.”
“O—kay, getting a headache here,” Bianca says, not even turning to talk to the others. She spins her finger. “Wrap it up.”
“Okay-Okay, last one, I promise!” Saya says. “Kuda, this one’s for the win, okay?”
“Do I get a prize if I get it right?” Kuda asks.
“I’ll tell you my favorite Disney movie.”
“Wow, this got real so fast.”
“Okay! Here we go! I spy with my little eye… a dumb-dumb.”
Kuda’s eyelids fall half-closed. Yuuta snorts. Even Bianca can’t help but to smirk a bit.
In his most monotonous voice, Kuda responds with, “Oh geez. What a twist. I knew it would be hard, but this is just ridiculous. Things sure are heating up. A ‘dumb-dumb’, huh? Hm… Could it be… no, that’s not right. Or maybe… that can’t be. Oh wait. I got it. It all makes sense now. How could I be so stupid? Saya? Would the dumb-dumb happen to be me?”
“Hehehe! Ding-Ding-Ding! And that’s the game! Congratulations, Kuda, you are the new I-Spy champion of the world!” She mimics a crowd cheering and screaming. “‘He’s so dreamy!’ ‘I wish my best friend was as cool as him!’ ‘Ku-da! Ku-da!’”
“Skills for days,” Kuda says this in a strained, mock-pained voice. “So… why exactly am I dumb-dumb, Saya?”
She smiles. “Because you just played I-Spy with a bli—nd girl.”
Kuda’s expression drops straight down as he turns to look right at Saya’s smirking face.
“Hah!” Bianca says very loud.
Kuda hears snickering and looks over at Yuuta, who holds his hands over his mouth to stifle his laughs.
“H-Hey, you played the game, too, you know!” Kuda says, pointing at the cap-wearer.
“Hehe, I know. It is still funny,” Yuuta squeezes out between chuckles.
Kuda’s shoulders drop. And then he, too, snorts. He looks back at Saya again. “Alright. Nice one.”
“Thank you,” Saya says.
Kuda laughs again, shaking his head. “You’re welcome.”
“Alright, goobers, let’s cool it. Look alive,” Bianca says, hopping up the back of a car and walking onto the roof. She stands up high, getting a good look ahead.
Yuuta, Kuda and Saya stop beside the car and peer into the near-distance, just a ways away from the end of the bridge they’re on. The bridge leads into a road heading into a rather rural looking, small town setting with low buildings.
Their first stop.
• • • • •
The bridge is long behind them as the kids walk up to the start of the small town.As they travel, Kuda scans around the area. Just as they saw before, the buildings are much lower standing than any of the ones that could be easily spotted from their perch back on the island. They’re all spread out to leave large spaces and give the location a very open atmosphere. While there are a few cars here and there in the streets, most of them seem to have been driven up to the bridge.
A lot of the buildings are damaged in some way, shape, or form, with brick walls blown out, opening to the insides of stores, glass windows busted, doors left ajar — much like the building the children woke up in. Each step they take across the roads is carefully placed to not step on any of the debris and rubble.
“What happened here…?” Yuuta is the first to finally ask.
“Nothing good, that’s for sure,” Bianca says.
“Do you… think there is anybody in the city?”
“Honestly? I don’t. Too quiet. Too dead.” Something catches her eye and she stops in her tracks. “Huh.”
The others notice her pause and look to where she does, coming to a stop alongside the older girl. Fire. Inside one of the broken down buildings, embers dance across the broken remains of the structure, burning bright and hot as if just being ignited.
“Still going strong… Whatever went down here didn’t happen too long ago.”
“Does that mean whatever did this is still around?” Kuda asks.
Bianca looks down in thought. But she shakes her head of any idea she may have conjured up. “Doesn’t matter. We won’t be here long enough to find out. Let’s go.”
She continues walking down the road. Yuuta is quick to follow and Kuda isn’t far behind with Saya in tow.
More quiet streets. More buildings with broken windows and walls. More… deadness. The kids walk in silence, observing their surroundings. Bianca moves around one of the very few cars littered in the middle of the road and the others follow her lead. Only, Yuuta takes a second to peer into the window. Kuda gets a little curious and peaks in from behind. Nothing much to really note. The only thing noticeable is a toy. Some sort of big, white robot action figure laying on its side in the passenger seat.
Kuda gives Yuuta a look after he says that. He can see Yuuta staring longingly at the toy.
And then, in an instant, Kuda, Yuuta and Bianca turn on a dime when Saya screams. Bianca runs back to the other three with her baseball bat out and ready to go.
“What? What? What is it?” Bianca asks, looking around the area, alert. Upon not getting an answer, Bianca peers at Saya, who stares ahead, frightened. “Hey! What’s with you? Yo!”
“Bianca,” Kuda says. He points the direction Saya looks.
She follows Kuda’s line of sight. Upon seeing what he points at, her guard drops and her alertness is replaced with confusion and even wonder.
Seemingly growing out from between the concrete is a lone, blue flower. However, not just any flower. This particular flower… glows. It illuminates its existence through the darkness of the night in a way that it’s near impossible to miss it. Even if the children somehow did at first. Around it, a path of equally blue grass acts as its home. Strange particles radiate from the flower’s petals like a mist.
As Kuda finds all of his attention fixated on the flower, it’s as if all the other sound around drowns out, despite how little there was in the first place. The ambient static of the silence enshrouding the lonely city has cut away. And he swears he hears… a hum. Like the kind from a turned-on light… No. That’s not even close. Like… someone singing. Serene. Comforting… Enticing… Familiar…
“What is that…?”
Within that silence, Saya’s voice cuts in. She is still fixated on the flower. It’s almost like…
“Can… you see that?” Kuda asks.
“I don’t know… I’ve never done it before.” She takes a step forward. “There’s… a light… What is that?”
Rather than stop her, Kuda lets her walk closer.
“Dude… Is she really seeing that?” Bianca asks.
Kuda shakes his head. “Are we?”
Bianca tightens her grip on her bat and walks behind Saya. Then Yuuta, wordless, is next to go. Kuda soon joins them.
Saya comes within a few feet of the strange, glowing flower. Bianca stops her by taking her shoulder. “Hold on now,” she says. Together, they carefully take the last few steps. Saya lowers herself to her knees in front of the flower and Bianca helps her. Close behind, Yuuta and Kuda also kneel around it.
“Flowers don’t usually glow like that…” Bianca looks at the boys. “…right?”
Yuuta points at the flower in question. “That one does.”
“Well… is it safe?”
Kuda shrugs. “Seems like it to me.” He then reaches out to grab it.
“Dude!” And Bianca grabs his wrist just before he does. “You’re just gonna grab it?”
Kuda stares at her for a second. “…Yeah.”
She stares back. Then she just lets go. “Whatever, man,” she says, shaking her head.
The white-haired boy proceeds to carefully wrap his fingers around the stem. With a light tug, it slides from the ground. Not snap, or tear, but simply slide out, as if it was meant to be picked. Bringing it closer causes Saya to flinch back, something Kuda notices.
“It’s okay,” he says. Kuda reaches down and takes Saya’s hand. Slowly, he brings it up to the flower. When the stem grazes her fingers, she jumps again. Kuda gives her a second to calm down. Once she does, he carefully moves the flower into her smaller hand and closes her fingers. He takes his hands away from hers and lets her do the rest.
Saya brings the flower in close to her face. The blue of the petals reflects off the blue of her eyes. The mixture of color and the light from the petals gives off the allusion of her usually misty, empty eyes having full pupils. Her lips part slightly as she takes in what she’s, somehow, seeing.
“It’s… warm,” she says.
“Yeah,” Kuda says.
She closes her eyes and takes in a deep breath through her nose. The mist radiating from the flower enters her. Her entire body noticeably relaxes. Kuda can swear he even sees a sort of glow wrap around the outline of her form. But it was mostly likely just his vision messing with him. Saya reopens her eyes with a soft smile on her lips.
“Wow…” she says. “I’ve never done something like this before. Is this what it’s like for you all the —“ She cuts herself off suddenly when she turns to Kuda and then jumps back, pushing into Bianca, who sits behind her. Her jump also causes Kuda to jump.
“Whoa-Whoa, easy!” Bianca says.
“W-What’s wrong?“ Kuda asks, reaching out for her. However, when he does, Saya pushes more into Bianca, looking terrified, near-hyperventilating. Kuda quickly retracts his hands. “Wait…” He peers between his hands and Saya. “Can you…?”
As if the same idea hits her at the same moment, a great deal of her fear vanishes. And she asks, “Ku…da…?” As if she’d forgotten about the fear she felt just moments before, Saya crawls closer to Kuda and reaches out for his face, but doesn’t quite touch him. “Is that… you?”
“Dude, what is going on right now?” Bianca asks.
“It’s like… there’s something here.” Her hand hovers over the features of his face. “Like a bunch of little lights. Like… I’m supposed to be seeing something, but it’s not all there.”
“How are you seeing anything?”
Kuda looks to Saya’s dropped flower and picks it up. “You don’t think…”
Saya notices him holding the flower. “Can I keep it?” She gives Kuda a pleading look. “Please?”
Kuda turns to Bianca for the answer to that question. She shrugs. “I mean… Sure, why not?”
Saya’s smiles her bright, toothy smile and she does a little hop of excitement. Kuda prepares to hand her the flower, but then stops short. Instead, he looks up at her hair.
“Hang on,” he says.
Saya looks confused, but calms down and waits. Kuda reaches up and takes a good amount of Saya’s hair hanging over her ear. Like threading a needle, he carefully inserts the stem into the slot in her hair, making sure it’s kept secure and in-place.
Kuda leans back to get a good look at her. Yuuta moves in closer as to get a look also. His eyes light up at the sight. Kuda smiles. Saya waits for a response, fiddling with the flower in her hair.
“That will do it,” Yuuta says.
Saya smiles with a little blush. “I feel pretty..."
Kuda looks like he’s about to say something, but he catches himself at the very last second, biting the corner of his lip. Yuuta notices this.
The cap-wearing boy’s eyes wander away from the scene, looking around the area. His eyes wonder up the exterior of a building the group happens to be parked in front of. When his gaze reaches the top, his jaw drops.
“Um... Um!” He furiously pats Kuda on the shoulder.
Kuda looks very much annoyed by the pitter patters. “What-What?” He asks, turning to Yuuta. The boy in question simply points to the top of he building.
“What’s wrong with him?” Bianca asks, leaning around Saya.
Kuda follows where Yuuta points.
And his eyes light up as well.
Bianca waits for a response. Only to get nothing. “What?” she asks. She’s forced to also look at the top of the building.
She reels back.
On the outside of the one story building, a large sign sits. All around its perimeter, small lights remain turned off, some of which are cracked or outright broken. The letters protrude from the surface and the words are very clear:
Or, as Yuuta so helpful says, “Ice-cream!”
And he’s off. Without so much as a look at the others, he darts from his spot on the ground and up the few steps leading to the wooden door of the establishment. It takes Bianca until Yuuta is pulling open the doors for her to realize that he just ran off.
She double-takes from the spot the boy was in to the spot he’s in now. “Hey! Wait a sec — Dude!” She lifts herself up and jogs after the excitable kid.
Kuda is still registering what is happening.
“Oh my gosh..."
He looks over at Saya. Her hands are above her mouth and her eyes are somehow lighting up even more than they already were before.
“Did he say ice cream...?” she asks.
Kuda blinks. “I want some ice cream."
“Me, too!” She hops up and down. “Go-Go-Go!"
Doing what he’s told, he places Saya’s hand on his wrist and lifts the two of them off the ground, following behind Bianca and Yuuta.
Yuuta rushes into the building, barely even looking around before he spots the counter at the other side and rushes off, weaving around tables and chairs to get to it. Bianca enters in after him, nearly running into the door as it swings shut.
When she gets in, she sees that Yuuta is just about climbing over the counter.
“Dude, slow down! There is not gonna be any ice-cream in this dump!"
She groans when Yuuta proceeds to do the opposite of what she says and runs off into the back rooms. Kuda and Saya enter the building. Kuda looks around at the place.
A very modest looking interior. Warm and cozy despite the cold treats that would have been served here. Despite the chaos outside, this place actually looks relatively untouched, sans a strewn chair here and there, but that could honestly be the result of a certain ice-cream lover dashing through with no regard for his surroundings.
In fact, the chairs are upside down atop the tables lining the tiled floors, like the place hadn’t even opened before... whatever happened happened. Spic and span like it had just been shined top to bottom. The only sign of wear and tear is one of the busted in windows by the booths lining the wall directly next to the entrance.
Not too bad, all things considered.
“Wow,” Kuda says. “This place looks like it hasn’t been touched."
Bianca leans on one of the booths and eyes the place. “Yeah, I guess it isn’t too bad.” She runs a finger along the table. “Not a spot of dust. Did we just miss the apocalypse, or what?"
“I dunno, maybe..."
Saya gasps. “Does that mean there’s still some ice cream left?"
“Dude, no, are you serious?” Bianca asks. “Even if this all just happened, this place doesn’t have a lick of power. Even if the place is stocked, all the goods would have melted by now —"
The kids all jump at the sudden yell from behind the main counter. Bianca rubs her head, “He’s gonna kill me one day…”
“Guys! Guys!” Yuuta yells from the back.
Bianca rolls her eyes. “Oh my god, what? What? Why are you so loud?” Yuuta sprints out from the back room, skidding to a halt, nearly tripping over himself. “What is it now?”
“Look!” He lifts his hands from behind the view of the counter.
In each one, he holds a tub with their exteriors incased in sheets of freshly frozen ice, the particles of which shine in the dim, natural lights of the area. Those tubs? Butter Pecan and Neapolitan. Looking as if they’d never even been opened.
Bianca’s entire form goes rigid and her jaw drops. Kuda audibly gasps. Saya… doesn’t do much, since she can’t really… yeah.
“No.” Bianca says. She throws her bag down on one of the booth seats and speed-walks over to Yuuta behind the counter. “No-No-No-No-No way.” When she reaches him, the young girl snatches one of the tubes from him and feels the outside. Just as she saw — cold-to-the-touch ice. Giving it a few squeezes even shows that it’s full to the brim. “That’s impossible!”
Shoving the ice cream back into Yuuta chest, she turns heel and walks to the backroom Yuuta ran out from. Yuuta looks over at Kuda and the boy looks back. Taking Saya by the wrist, Kuda goes to follow Bianca, and Yuuta does as well.
The three walk down a very short, metallic hallway and through a sheet of filters, probably meant to keep the cold of the freezer in. And, sure enough… they enter heaven.
An entire room covered wall-to-wall with just about any flavor of ice cream you can think up. Everywhere besides the door they entered in through has tubes upon tubs stacked up and down and lined up row-to-row all over the place. Not a single one looks like it’s even thought about melting. The sheens of ice across every surface is still very much frozen, as if they were just made that way ten minutes ago. Not a drip of water, not a melted hole. And it seems to not have even been touched yet.
Kuda and Yuuta look around the room with agape jaws. There’s even a hint of dribble running down the side of Yuuta’s mouth.
“Oh!” Saya says with a shrill shriek. “Cold! Where are we?”
“Um… Room full of ice cream,” Kuda answers bluntly.
Rather than answer her again, he looks to one of the walls and lets go of Saya’s wrist. He pulls out a random flavor and pops off the lid, seeing a full tub of white ice cream with spots of red. Kuda takes up Saya’s hand and drags her finger through the cream, making sure she gets a good scoop. He pushes on her hand and says’s “A—h.” Saya takes the hint and inserts her finger into her mouth. The second she does, her eyes sparkle and she gasps.
A huge, bright smile covers her face.
“How is this…?” Bianca asks, rising from the ground. “The freezer’s not —“ She feels the walls. “It’s not even on! The ice doesn’t even look ready to…!” She looks around. “Where’s Rocky Road?” She asks. Then turns and looks at Yuuta. “Find Rocky Road!”
“Oh! Um…” Yuuta scans the shelves of all the tubs until he find the desired flavor and pulls it out. “Here you go.”
Bianca yanks it away and throws off the lid. She is met with the rich, brown, creamy textures and white, marshmallow particles sprinkled throughout. She digs a finger in deep, taking a good scoopful, and inserts it all into her mouth. She toys around with the treat, savoring the taste.
Kuda and Yuuta watch from behind in waiting.
“…So?” Kuda breaks the ice.
Bianca turns to the three kids with her same, unamused stare. Then says, “…Break time.”
“Yes!” Kuda, Saya and Yuuta all say in unison.
• • • • •
Yuuta puts a huge scoop-full of ice cream into his mouth. One could swear he’s purring as he rolls the cream around his tongue. There’s so much in his mouth that a stream of dribble seeps out the corner and rolls down his chin.
“Oh my god,” Bianca says, taking up one of the napkins at the center of the table. She grabs Yuuta by the chin and turns his face toward her so she can wipe up the dribble. “Like a baby, I swear..."
The kids have all taken a seat at one of the booths with their assorted bowls of treats. Bianca and Yuuta sit on one side while Kuda and Saya sit on the other. Bianca’s bowl is rather plain, the simple delicacy of Rocky Road in hers.
Everyone else must have had a unicorn sneeze into theirs, because the amount of toppings almost defeats the purpose of the ice cream. Kuda’s is the most modest, an assortment of chocolates sprinkled into a nice layer atop what appears to be New York Fudge Chunk. There’s a lot of chocolate in his bowl, let’s put it like that.
Yuuta’s is a nightmare of all kinds of different candies — sweet, sour, chocolate and all. There are so many different candies that it’s impossible to even see what they’re atop of.
And then there’s Saya.
Bianca looks over at her. “We are in a building full of ice cream and that’s all you’re gonna eat?"
In front of Saya is a bowl. Not full of ice cream. No, that bowl is currently at the end of the table, untouched. In her main bowl is a mountain of gummy worms. So much so that they spill over the sides. Some of them even have residue of the pink ice cream she was going to eat.
And the kid could not look happier.
She throws another worm into her mouth. “Gummy worms are life."
Bianca turns to Kuda, who looks completely detached from the current conversation as he focuses solely on taking slow, sweet bites of his treat.
“Yo,” Bianca calls out.
She happens to catch him just as he inserts a spoonful in his mouth and he comes back to reality to look at her, the spoon sticking out from his lips.
Bianca looks to be stifling a snort. “You like it?"
He looks down at his ice cream. Then back up at Bianca with a blank face. He nods slowly.
Bianca keeps stifling the laugh. “Sure seems like it.”
“Kuda?” Saya asks, getting his attention. “Can I try some of yours?"
He blinks. “Sure.” He finishes his bite and takes the spoon out of his mouth. The boy scoops up some ice cream from his bowl, being sure to get a good assortment of his toppings, then holds it out. “A—h,” he says.
“A—h,” Saya mimics, opening her mouth wide. Kuda inserts the spoon in and she bites down. Saya rolls the ice cream around her mouth with a thoughtful look. She swallows, then lets out a satisfied sigh and leans back into the booth cushions. “Yummy."
Kuda smiles. He decides to sneak a gummy worm and toss it into his mouth.
“Okay, I gotta ask. It’s bothering me. How is this possible?” Bianca asks.
Yuuta looks up from his attack on his bowl. “How ish what posshible?"
“This. All of this. This ice cream hasn’t melted even a little. Like, look.“ She puts her spoon into the center of her treat and lifts it up to inspect the bottom of the bowl. “Even now, as we sit here and eat it — not a drop. It’s like it’s permanently frozen. Like, how do you explain that?"
Yuuta shrugs, swallowing his food. “Maybe you do not."
“No-No, that’s not enough, this is... this is wild..."
Kuda puts down his spoon. “Bianca, you said it yourself: it doesn’t matter. We’ll be out of here soon and we’ll never have to think about any of this.”
Saya, beside Kuda, plays with her gummy worms, pretending they’re screaming citizens and that she’s a huge monster.
“I don’t know either. But I don’t really care,” Kuda says.
Bianca looks away in thought. “I guess...” She shakes her head. “This one’s gonna bug me..."
As she’s about to drop a helpless gummy worm into her mouth, Saya lets out an elongated yawn.
“Tired?” Kuda asks.
She rubs her eye. “Sleepy-Sleepy..."
“Bet all that sugar didn’t help either,” Bianca says.
Now Yuuta yawns. “I am a little tired, too... Can we take a nap before we go?"
“You gotta be kidding. You were the one dashing around the place before and now you wanna sleep?"
“I am tired..."
Bianca rolls her eyes. “What about you, snow-cone head, are you... you...” Just as she tries to finish her question, Bianca , too, lets out a yawn of her own. “Ah geez..."
Kuda grins. “Are you?"
“This is all your fault!” She rubs her eyes and smacks herself. “I had to deal with you and your little girlfriend all night."
Kuda looks down. “Yeah... Sorry..."
“Wha — No, dude, I was just...” She sighs. “Alright, look. Maybe some shuteye is a good idea. It’s gonna be a long walk, so... You good with that, sock…”
She looks over at Yuuta and pauses in her speech. He snores away with his head just before his bowl on the table. Bianca then looks over to Saya, who, too, lies on her arms, which prop her on the table. Her back rises and lowers slow as she slumbers.
“Imma say that’s a solid ‘maybe’.” Kuda says.
Bianca runs a hand through her hair. “Well… You get some sleep, too. Got a long walk ahead of us."
Bianca leans back in her seat and crosses her arms. She closes her eyes. After a moment, she snorts.
“What’s up?” Kuda asks.
Bianca shakes her head. “Nah, it’s just funny. It’s gonna be a lot easier for me to sleep in this place than at Ocean View."
Kuda looks surprised at that. But he thinks for a second after. “Huh...” he says. When he looks back at Bianca, her chest rises and lowers rhythmically. Everyone is sleep now.
He pushes his bowl away and taps on the table restlessly, looking around the area. Unlike his friends, he seems to be wide awake. The boy pops his lips.
Kuda takes to looking around at his companions. Bianca is fast asleep, having not moved a muscle. Not even a twitch. Next to her, Yuuta has changed positions a bit, his face smushed into his arm, drool streaming out onto the table. His hand has wandered into his bowl of ice cream. That’s gonna be funny in the morning.
Finally, he looks over at Saya. Like Bianca, she’s barely moved a muscle, still breathing soft. However, unlike the others, there’s a shiver running through her body.
His face scrunches up. He reaches up to his chest and grabs at where his heart would be.
It beats faster than normal for some reason. But he knows it’s mirroring Saya’s own. The shivers are not from a chill. Rather something else. Maybe a nightmare? Restless dreams? The boy lifts his hand slowly, hovering it over her face, contemplating stroking some of her soft, blonde hair. Maybe caressing her bare shoulder. But, alas, he pulls it back and only watches. Dejected, he looks away with a sad expression.
He quickly turns back as Saya seems to speak.
She doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t even look to have in the first place. Must have imagined it?
No, it happened. He didn’t imagine anything. He leans closer to get a better idea of what she’s saying.
He looks confused. “Huh?"
Then he’s taken aback. Tears stream down her face to the tabletop.
“Ah…!" Kuda looks like he’s in distress. He doesn’t know what to do. He looks around at Bianca and Yuuta, mouth open to say something, but nothing comes out. So, he only turns back to Saya, looking worried.
His breath hitches. The boy decides to reach out again, slowly, carefully. His hand hovers over her shoulder. He swallows hard. Closer and closer his fingers inch. His hand shakes but he moves closer.
Finally, with one last breath, he places his hand on her shoulder.
The very instance he does, Saya darts straight up from the table with her eyes wide open. The blue glow is more intense than they’ve ever been before. A mirror of what happened in the forest.
“A—h!” She screams.
“Wah!” Kuda jumps back with a shriek of his own, nearly falling to the floor. His scream causes a chain reaction in Bianca and Yuuta, who start awake, Yuuta shrieking as he knocks over his bowl, getting the cold pastry on his face. Bianca instantly sits up, looking around, alarmed.
“S-Saya?” Kuda asks.
Saya, continuing to scream, brings her feet up on the stall and pushes back into Kuda, away from the window.
“Saya, calm down! Saya!"
She keeps screaming, pushing into Kuda, pushing him almost out the booth. The tears from before stream out even more. Her eyes are frantic as she stares out the dark window.
“What now?" Bianca asks, getting out of her seat and moving around to Kuda and Saya’s side, grabbing the screaming child by her shoulders. “What’s going on?"
“I-I don’t know!” Kuda says, doing his best to keep his grip on Saya. “She just started freaking out!"
“Well make her stop! She’s gonna hurt her — Oh my god!"
Bianca loses her grip on Saya as she jumps back away from the booth, looking out the window. Kuda nearly drops off the stall.
“What? What?” He takes the opportunity to look at the —
His breath catches in his throat.
Outside, staring in, are a pair of floating red orbs. They look all too familiar. Like the monster from before.
The darkness of the outside obscures the rest of it, but it looks down on them from the outside. Unblinking. Unmoving. It only stares.
Yuuta finally looks out the window as well and screams himself, rushing out the booth away from the window, straight for Bianca, who holds onto him.
Kuda can only stare with wide, dilated eyes, shaking where he sits. He can’t look away. No matter how hard he tries, his eyes are stuck staring back into the abyss. And it seems to be staring back.
Saya continues to panic, holding onto his arms with a death grip, whimpering as she stares.
It stares back.“Kuda!”
He’s dragged from his trance as his shoulder is shaken violently. He turns around to see Bianca looking into him with frantic eyes.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!"
She takes his other shoulder and pulls him to a stand. Kuda doesn’t let go of Saya, dragging her with him as they stagger to their feet.
“Run! Come on! Come on!"
Bianca smacks him on the chest. This fully wakes him.
He’s awake. He bends down and sweeps Saya up, carrying her bridal style. Bianca wraps one of her hands on Kuda’s his sleeve and holds Yuuta’s hand tight in the other, dashing for the door with the boys in tow.
They all burst out the main door and run the around the corner, none of them daring to look back at the monster behind them.
Except for Kuda, who catches a faint glimpse of the beast. Bulky and tall. Impossibly long arms. And the teeth... sharp. Endless.
The eyes stare back at him. But it doesn’t give chase.
And the kids run for all they’re worth.