East of Omaha

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The shadows are moving, I swear. I don't know if it's the lack of sleep catching up to me or loss of blood, but those fucking things are starting to slither across the concrete towards us. I blink away the nightmare, shaking my head. My companion regards me coolly with those haunting eyes of hers. Those eyes... made of flashes of silver, of steel. I was done in by their colorless stare the moment I found her huddled in a pile of blankets in an SUV. What's that been, now... a year... No, over a year, I think. Surprised we made it this long.

I don't know that I'd ever tell her how much that stare of hers creeps and captivates me. I can only glare back, the silence stretches for a moment, and in it the piercing shrieks of the outside world press into the flimsy boards that some asshole thought would work for walls against our solitude.

"What were you, in the before?" her voice is raspy, soft.

Not soft in a feminine way, but soft as in low volume. It's a voice hardly used, strangled and strained in the effort to push out the words. Her lips fail in the scope of the talking those grey eyes of hers do.... But it's the first words she has uttered in days and it's a relief to know we're on speaking terms again, even if it's only because death is pressing in around us, forcing her to feel obligated to conversation.

I don't mind. At least it's a distraction from those fucking shadows crawling in through the door crack behind me.

"In the before." I chuckle. A sound even less pleasant than her out-of-practice voice. "Is that what you call it?"

She tilts her head, the pale blonde strands of her hair casting her eyes into shadow. "There was a before, when the world made sense-- And this is the after."

She tilts her head back to the other side, a ray of light shimmering across the colorless pools of her irises from the dirty window above us. "And after this, there's nothing."

"A philosopher." I grunt. "I think I like you better as the silent, weird kid."

"I'm not a child, we both know that. You only pretended so Deo-" she pauses on the name, her lips drawing back into their thin lines as pain flashes across her face at the too recent memory.

Yes, up until a few hours ago there were still three of us. I wonder if she's been counting down the little ragtag group as I have. I could handle three of us.... But now we're down to one and a half... the odds of us making it at all slipping away with every breath.

I get it, honestly I do. I'm the reason she's alive, but I'm also the reason her friend is dead. A lot of people thought a lot of things about me, in 'the before' as she puts it.... But what I did for a living didn't mean I wasn't a person. I just did things that nobody else wanted to—for one reason or another. It didn't matter to me as long as the cash was legit and the checks cleared. Everything in my life was fine, until a snitch got away from me. I hope he got what everybody else has got by now. Everyone, but this girl here... can't say I can include myself anymore.

I shift, careful not to move my arm too much to let off the pressure or let her see. I'm not ready to admit that I'm going to be leaving her alone soon. Not yet, not yet.

She clears her throat. "Anyway, what did you do, before all this? I've wanted to know for a long time."

I meet her inquisitive face, and the strength to lie leaves me. I could tell her I was anything. I was a rich CEO who banged three girls at the same time every Tuesday, I was a bartender who used to overcharge my regulars, I was a janitor with a wife and five kids just trying to make ends meet...

"I was a bad man." The words hang heavy in the air, but there's no taking them back.

She just sits and stares at me a moment, those silver eyes draining me of what little resistance I have left. Christ, I'd tell her anything just not to get lost in those lucid pools. It's so unsettling, how undone I get about her.

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