Day Zero – Chapter 4 – Marin – 03

            “Cross that bridge when we come to it,” I murmured to myself, trying not to think about how we’d handle things when the others—more than just Carolyn—started to Awaken.  “Don’t be borrowing trouble you don’t need, Marin.”  There really wasn’t much I could do until we started to sort out what the nature of everyone’s attunement was, what they were sensitive to, what they could do if they could do anything more than just sense the things that went on beyond most of humanity’s sight.
            I glanced toward the open wall of the shelter we were in, watching what little activity was going on out there, watching the clouds continue to roll in, watching the wind lash the trees.  The ground trembled for a moment, then stopped.  Thom groaned.
            “Stop shaking the bed, J.T., it stopped being funny last time.”
            Hallucinating.  Great.  “Thom?”
            One eye struggled open, then the other.  His right eye, the one nearest to the knot on his head, was bloodshot—that wasn’t surprising, though, not wholly, since the bruise from the knot did extend down past his eyebrow, not quite surrounding his eye fully, but coming close.  His brow furrowed slightly and he hissed, wincing.  He mouthed my name before coughing, then tried again.  “Marin?”
            I managed to smile, swallowing against the sudden lump in my throat, trying to force levity into my voice.  “Hurt much, Thom?”  Soften the blow if I can.  But I think he probably already realizes how bad it is.  Probably.  He’s not stupid, and there are just some things you can’t deny.
            “Like a bitch,” he rasped, starting to shift on the mattress and stopping abruptly with a groan.  “Ungh.  Where am I?”
            I picked up the cold pack from where it had fallen alongside his head when he’d started to move, turning it over in my hands.  His brow furrowed and he hissed again in pain.  I just shook my head.  “On a mattress near Robinson and Copeland.  Why the hell didn’t you drive to Chicago, Thom?”
            He frowned up at me.  “…what?”
            “Not that it matters now, but that interview was important to you.  Why didn’t you go?”
            Turning his head away, he mumbled something vaguely at me before starting to struggle to roll onto his side, cursing and hissing in pain.  I shook my head, sighing.
            “Hold still, damn you,” I mumbled, putting my hand on his shoulder and holding him firmly but gently against the mattress.  “They didn’t drag you out of that stairwell at Mac so you could kill yourself trying to sit up.  Wait until Jacqueline gets here so she can tape up what hurts the worst.”
            Thom glared at me, that trademark Ambrose glare—I’d seen it once, from his father, aimed at him.  God, was that family a strange dynamic.  All I could do was smile weakly at him, brush the thumb of my free hand along his brow.
            “Please, Thom?”
            He sighed, sagging back, staring up at me.  His lips barely moved as he spoke.  “You’re talking about Jacqueline taping me up.  This isn’t a sprained ankle.  Mackinac collapsed on me.  I should be at a hospital.  What happened?”
            I bit my lip.  “You know what happened.  Probably better than I do.”  Maybe better than I do.  Probably.  Your sensations were always sharper.  Is that why you keep trying to ignore them?  What was it that you felt that made you think it was better to imagine it all away?  “I walked all the way here from the mall, Thom.  There’s…there’s not much left.”  Never mind that I can’t remember most of the walk.  I don’t have to be able to remember it.  I know what I did see wasn’t good.
            He swallowed, squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them again, staring up at me.  “Maybe it’s just these couple of counties.  Maybe it’s not…”  His voice trailed away as he watched my face.
            Thunder rumbled in the distance.  The ground trembled again, though not from the thunder.  It stopped again.  Thom grimaced.
            “Guess they were wrong,” he whispered softly, sighing.  His hand found mine, squeezed it.  “It really looks that bad?  How many?”
            “Lived or died?” I murmured softly.  He just looked at me and I sighed.  “A lot of dead.  I don’t have a number on how many survived here.  Looking like maybe forty, maybe fifty.  Not really sure.  That’s what’s left here.”  Not that I’ve even seen most of the survivors.  Scattered all over, doing…doing whatever they’re doing.  How many left before I ever made it here, tried to go home—to go back to homes that probably aren’t there anymore?
            “Not many,” he murmured softly, closing his eyes.  “Food?  Water?”
            “What, you’re hungry?”  He’d better not be worrying about logistics when he had half a building come down on him.
            He opened his eyes, glaring at me again.  I smothered a rueful smile, leaned in to kiss his forehead gently.
            “Worry about yourself for more than a few minutes, would you?”
            Thom managed a smile.  “I know how to do that?”
            Annoyingly so, sometimes.  “At least the sense of humor’s survived intact.”
            A loud crack echoed off the buildings.  It sounded like gunfire but deeper and was followed by rumbling that wasn’t born from the sky or the ground.  The sound left my ears ringing a little, so loud and so close.  The rumbling hadn’t stopped and the ground shivered a little, far more shallow than any of the earthquakes we’d been feeling.
            My hand tightened around Thom’s hand.  What was that?


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