((Jennifer Perez continued from Better Days))
It was late morning when Jennifer dragged herself out of the stream and onto the bank, shivering even in the warm air. She had found the water the night before, tracing it by sound, and she had drunk her fill, knowing that she was in all likelihood hastening her demise, knowing that stream water was supposed to be fucking awful for you, and not really caring all that much, because it sure beat dehydration. Her thirst sated, she had curled up and slept on the rocks, resting for a couple hours, until the rising sun had made it impossible for her to keep her eyes closed.
She had followed the stream, walking downslope, heading towards the sea again. She wasn't really sure why. A large part was probably that she only really had two potential directions to move in now. Her water bottles were gone, abandoned with the rest of her equipment. She couldn't really bear the thought of drinking from them again anyways, not after sharing them with Melissa and Nick. It would be too much like pressing her lips against those of the dead.
Nick was potentially still alive, of course, as was Maf. She hadn't heard them announced. That meant nothing. Announcements had been slow before.
So she was walking by the banks of the river, drinking when she was thirsty, trying to pretend the water didn't taste a little off, trying to imagine it was safe Saint Paul tap water. She sometimes dipped her hands into it. She'd probably washed them a dozen times now, for no real reason. After passing the bridge, the same bridge that was part of the logging road, the same bridge she and Nick had crossed shortly before meeting Melissa a few days before, the slight desire to be clean had become an inescapable urge. She'd managed to hold off for a little ways further, telling herself she was being a fucking idiot, wondering if she was turning into one of those obsessive people from comedy movies.
In the end, she'd given in.
Stripping to any degree was completely unthinkable. It wasn't just that she was possibly on camera. Jennifer had always been somewhat modest, preferring to avoid swimming pools and feeling distinctly uncomfortable in the lockers during gym class. Removing clothing while outside, in broad daylight, was out of the question. Besides, her clothes were dirty too.
So she'd found a spot where the bank wasn't too steep, and she'd slid down it, watching the rocks and gravel skitter ahead of her, finding the whole thing eerily reminiscent of her scare the night before. She'd managed to stop just short of the water, had remembered to remove her shoes and socks, which she had left with her icepick and pack at the river's bank.
Then she had just sat in the water, letting it chill her, flow over and around her. She'd dipped her head a couple of times, spelling the final end for any styling of her hair. Upon surfacing, she'd caught her reflection and nearly smiled. She looked like she had a bad case of hat hair.
After about ten minutes, she'd left, and now she was a few hundred feet from the water, sunning against a particularly tall tree stump. Her clothes were still bloodstained, but she'd at least managed to wash away the worst of the sweat, though she now smelled rather swampy and damp. They weren't clinging too badly, and were drying fairly quickly, though they would probably end up uncomfortably stiff for a while. Her socks and shoes lay to the side, the shoes slightly moist as well, since she'd slipped them on to avoid cutting her feet.
Her left hand was tucked under her shirt, her fingers brushing over her stomach. Her skin felt nice against her hand. It reminded her that she was still alive. Never mind that she could tell by touch that she'd lost weight. Never mind that she'd placed her hand initially in a fruitless attempt to quell her hunger pangs. Those were now lessening anyways, though perhaps that was merely psychosomatic. She'd collected more pine needles, and was eating those again, even though they were fucking disgusting, even though the gritty bits got caught in her teeth and the bitter aftertaste lingered like a coating on the back of her tongue, increasing in strength as time went on, rather than waning.
She was alive. She was alive, and she was alone, and she was lost, and she was sad, but she'd found another little moment of peace. There was always one more quiet instant in the future. The trick, she'd decided, was simply navigating between them.
((Meredith Hemmings continued from Aching Chest and Blurry Sight))
Meredith Hemmings was trying to ignore the obvious. Her mind was shouting at her, reminding her that she had lost something, but she was trying so desperately to forget about it. Ignore it. Worry about it later because it was all small fish compared to this whole situation as a whole. That place she was at with that group of students? The cell phone tower or whatever? It became a danger zone. She could have gotten her neck blown to smithereens. It wasn't easy to watch where everyone was frantically running, and she'd lost Gracie in the chaos.
That girl still had her book. But Meredith was trying so hard to forget about that. She was trying to move forward and think positively, and, being Pandora Black, it was hard to think positive half the time. That just wasn't cool for someone like her! Life was supposed to be dark and bitter and cruel. However, for the first time in a long time, Meredith didn't want to think about the darkness of life. The darkness would come later after she was torn limb from limb by a despicable monster, waiting for her flesh. And then her soul would be judged.
That's what she believed anyway. Almost everyone had their own beliefs about what happened after death, and that was one of many possibilities that Meredith entertained.
Alright, look for the prize. Look for the price. Keep your eyes peeled. Meredith had been searching for Gracie for an entire day, but the search had, so far, been rather fruitless. At first, she had desperately tried to follow the girl's general direction, but as previously stated, the chaos had prevented Meredith from focusing too much on the girl. But she had to be somewhere, right? Somewhere... Anywhere. Surely Meredith would run into her again and get her book back.
But, oh shit. What if Gracie tossed the Book of Life away? That book meant nothing to her, and she probably didn't want to carry it around, so... Ugh! Yeah, think positive. Thinking negatively would not help the situation at all. Find Gracie, and even if she threw the book away, maybe she'd know where she threw it. But what if Gracie was dead? It was a great possibility after seeing how reckless her little group behaved. Alright, so Meredith was searching for Gracie dead or alive. That sounded heartless, yeah, but Meredith needed that book! This was so... ugh! Infuriating!
She'd have to be careful with who she handed the book to in the future. This was just terrible.
Meredith finally decided to stop for a rest, as she had been searching most of the night, and the sun was now hanging fairly high in the sky. It was maybe ten o'clock, Meredith wasn't entirely sure. A quick check of her map confirmed that she was somewhere within the northern felled forest, but that was kind of obvious from all of the tree stumps littered about. She half kept her eyes peeled for Gracie, but she mostly just wanted a place to stop and rest. Perhaps she could eat her half-loaf of bread? Mmmm. Her mouth watered at the thought. She was about to cast her things aside and sit down to engage upon a grand feast of bread (maybe a few crackers that she had saved) when she noticed another student.
It was a girl, no surprise that it was someone that Meredith didn't automatically recognize. She was lying against a stump, her stained clothing somewhat damp. She was definitely resting, and Meredith wanted to rest too, so why not rest together? Maybe she could ask this girl if she'd seen Gracie or.. a book. No no, don't mention the book. Refrain from that, she didn't want to scare the girl. She just wanted some company, and yeah, Meredith used to be this withdrawn girl back in high school, but this wasn't high school, and she figured she could take her chances.
Meredith placed her things onto the ground and sat down a few feet away from Jennifer. Gazing at the girl, she busied herself with locating her half of bread. "Hello," she absently said, continuing her search.