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RIGHT ACROSS the multitude of lurkers, we've reached the first building. We head to the back and find an access point from one of the windows. Bray and I get inside first, evaluating the area. Jace bends over and interlocks his fingers, the girls step into his palm and reach for my hand.
Once we're all inside we locate a ladder in one of the storage rooms. Using the stairs to head for the top floor, we position the ladder across to the next closest building.
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After making sure the receiving-end is safe, I give Bray a thumbs up. Amber balances across first, then Ella, Bray, Carmen, and finally Jace after he locked the ladder in place properly.
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"Guys," I glance out the window, "this is where it gets really tricky now."
"Ya think?" Carmen's being Carmen.
"Fuck me dead," Jace looks out the same window as me. "These last few buildings are pretty damn high."
"Guys y'know that storm that never really happened?" Bray observes the sky. "Yeah, well, look up."
We all look up at the polluted sky. Ginormous, slate grey clouds look down on us. The colour grey, the fires, and the hundreds of lurkers down below seep into our teenage brains. We were so damaged already and now we must also survive in a world that's losing its green. The sun has given up in strength except we can't afford to.
"Those clouds are something else," Ella breathes out, tiny ice crystals landing softly on her vanilla skin.
...She's something else.. I clear my throat, "let's try and get this done before the rainstorm." I walk over to the ladder and shake it to see if it's steady enough.
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Amber and I have gone across already. There was no problem until somebody decides to freak the fuck out, putting us all on edge - literally.
"It's okay, Carmen, you're totally fine," Amber nods, standing next to me. "You can do it. We believe in you."
'We believe in you?' Huh? What lame as shit is that? I try to suppress my chuckle but it comes out my nose.
"Dean, you egghead!" Amber scowls. "This isn't funny!"
"I'm sorry, Amber," I break into small laughter, "but just look at her."
Carmen has stopped midway in crawling position and refuses to move the fuck along.
"You're such a dick," Amber stares at me dead-seriously.
"Excuse me?" I am confused.
She returns her attention back at Carmen. "Look, hun, you're almost there. You just need to-"
"I'm scared!" she squeals.
Jace groans from the opposite building. "Today, sweetheart, come on!"
"Holy shite!" Bray exclaims. "The other herds caught up!"
Carmen looks up at it and then directly at the ground. She starts to cry, causing the makeshift bridge to tremble. The lurkers begin to get suspicious as they get an inkling in their rotten senses of our whereabouts. The last thing we want is for them to become aware of our location.
Carmen shrieks this time, the ladder rattles along with her.
"Fuck!" Jace tries to stabilise the ladder with the help of Ella and Bray.
"C-carmen," my voice comes out puny. The seriousness of the situation has just dawned on me. It has gone from a harmless joke to 'life and death'.
She looks up at me, so helpless and frightened.
"Relax," I word firmly to her whilst I feel the opposite.
"I-I can't," she cries. "I'm gonna fall..."
"Don't look down, Carmen. Focus on me, okay? Only on me and nothing else." In my peripheral vision, I can make out the lurkers getting dense between the two buildings we're in; directly under Carmen. She needs to get across now before we're all in grave danger. "Just take a deep breath."
She shakes her head, her tears literally falling out of her eyes like rain droplets. "Dean-"
"Like this," I inhale and exhale.
She copies me.
"Okay," I raise out my arm to her, "now come to me."
She starts panicking again.
"Don't look down," I urge, keeping track of her eyes.
She continues to sob.
"Trust me," I nod, holding my hand out, "I won't let you fall. I promise."
She gives me unconvinced eyes. "I'll fall, I know it..!"
"Hey, look at me. Do you really think I'd let anything happen to you?"
She shakes her head, quivering.
"Of course I wouldn't." I notice how she relaxes slightly. "Now it's not that hard. Just breathe and move across, okay? I'm right here."
Carmen gulps and takes in a deep breath of apocalyptic air. Next, she begins moving at a leisurely pace towards me. This is good, we're making progress, we're getting somewhere. Her arms are still trembling, resembling noodles and she looks like she'll have a mental breakdown any moment now. Fuck, when she said she had a fear of hieghts I didn't think she was being serious. Now I feel bad.
"That's it. There you go. You're doing great, Carmen."
She looks at the ladder, watching carefully where she places her hands. Every now and then when she glances at me, I nod, which I guess comforts her enough to continue moving forward. Then the bridge wobbles somewhat and she whimpers, doubting herself.
"You're almost there," I assure her. "Just a lil bit more."
Once she's close enough, I reach out and encircle my arm around her small waist, pulling her over before she, in fact, does fall.
"You good?" I ask her.
She merely nods and looks at my arms. I clear my throat and step away. Amber brings her in for a hug and I run a hand through my brown hair, so relieved. Today could have gone a heck lot worse. Over Carmen's shoulder, Amber gives me a soft smile.
"What?" I mouth to her.
She shakes her head, mouthing, "nothing," in response.
Bray, Ella, and Jace thankfully get over fine. We did it. Now one final challenge: getting back down.
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