Tuesday 30th March 2027: Evan, Richie and Sarah

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"If you two are going to be pussies about it, I'll go in myself," said Evan, running out of patience with Richie and Sarah's excessive caution.

"We're not being pussies, which is actually a very sexist thing to say," replied Richie, "but the door's locked, or at least blocked, from the inside. You know what that means."

"We've been watching the place for three hours and listening at the door for the last hour. We've seen and heard nothing, no people, no signs of people. That means if there's anyone in there, they're already dead. My head is fucking killing me since I ran out of fucking cigarettes, and we just found a chemist. It's divine fucking intervention, Richie. God wants me to have decent painkillers."

"You don't believe in God."

"I know. But I believe in painkillers."

"Maybe he's right," interjected Sarah. "I mean, we've been here for ages and haven't seen or heard a thing. I know everything behind the counter's been taken already, but there's got to be some more stuff in the back, right? And it wouldn't hurt to have a better stash of bandages and things too, just in case. Maybe it's worth at least trying." She didn't look completely convinced, though. Yet.

"See?" said Evan, looking pointedly at Richie. "Sarah's not being a pussy."

"OK Evan, if I help you break into the back room, will you stop being such an asshole?" Sarah was running out of patience herself.

"Probably not. I'm pretty sure this is just how much of an asshole I am. It's an integral part of my delightful personality. But you should still help me break into the back room. And if Richie doesn't want to be useful, he can keep watch. You know, for all the people who aren't going to attack us cause they aren't actually here."

"At the risk of being useful," said Richie, "You're both talking about how to break that door down when there's a wooden hatch right there, behind those shelves, that would be much easier to break. And I reckon Sarah could fit through it, providing she doesn't mind dealing with the corpses she's inevitably going to encounter once she gets in there."

Evan's eyes widened in disbelief. "Hang on. You saw that hatch, you actually noticed it while we were talking about the fucking door, and you didn't mention this before, why?"

"Cause you were being an asshole," replied Richie, smugly.

"Fuck you, Richie."

"Fuck you too, Evan."

Two loud crashes in quick succession served as an immediate distraction. Richie and Evan turned to see Sarah standing next to the set of shelves which now lay on the ground, in front of what had been the wooden hatch but was now a gaping hole in the wall.

"How the fuck—?" asked Evan.

"Sledgehammer," replied Sarah, grinning. "I brought it in from the car when we first got here, or didn't you notice?"

"I did not," said Evan. "But well done. You're refreshingly destructive, you know that?"

"I do. Now, one of you give me a foot up so I can climb in. I'll try and clear whatever's blocking the door so you can both get through."

"Are you sure?" asked Richie. "I know it was technically my idea about the hatch but I have a bad feeling about this now. And there's a bit of a smell coming from in there, isn't there?"

"Yes, I'm sure," replied Sarah. "And it's fine, I promise. I can't believe I'm saying this in such a casual tone, but at least if there's a smell it means there's a dead person in there, not a very quiet living one. Also, all the 'I have a bad feeling about this' stuff is so horror movie cliché."

"Yeah, but..." Richie's thought trailed off into silence, unfinished, as Evan leaned over, fingers laced together to create a stirrup for Sarah's foot. With surprising elegance, she stepped into his waiting hands and then slithered through the hole in the wall where the hatch had been.

Landing on the other side and lighting the torch she'd been carrying in her pocket, she was welcomed by what she assumed had once been the pharmacist, now decomposing, still wearing a white lab coat, surrounded by the empty packaging of a lethal dose of something. The smell was repulsive.

The door between the back room and the rest of the shop wasn't blocked by anything—it was simply locked, the key still in the keyhole, as if waiting for someone to find their way in and open it.

Evan stepped through the door first. "Well, isn't this just Christmas come early?" he remarked, opening his backpack and stuffing it with painkillers, antibiotics, allergy medication and whatever else he could get his hands on.

"Why are you lifting antidepressants?" asked Richie.

"In case all this gets too bleak and we can't cope," replied Evan.

"It's already too bleak."

"It might be, but you're coping, aren't you?"

"Barely." Richie's mind slid uncomfortably back to the day on the bridge, cold hands grabbing him from behind the railing. Evan didn't know about that. Neither did Sarah. He didn't know how to tell them, so he kept it to himself. It didn't matter anyway, not now. He was still here and so were they. No-one had jumped off anything.

"Shit, there are some high quality opiates on that top shelf," said Evan, gesturing to the packets above his head.

"Don't we have enough?" asked Sarah, whose pockets were stuffed with first aid supplies.

"You never know when you're going to need something strong enough to take more than the edge off. I have professional experience," answered Evan, dragging a folding chair over to climb on.

"Evan, don't," said Richie, looking uneasy.

"Why?"

"Because...just don't. I don't know. Leave it. Come on."

"It's fine. I'll just be a minute, then we can go." Evan opened the chair, put one foot on it and stood up, reaching for the top shelf to pull himself the rest of the way.

Neither Richie nor Sarah were quick enough to reach him as the shelf came away from the wall at exactly the moment the chair's hinges buckled. Boxes upon boxes of medication fell around him in an avalanche, doing nothing to deaden the sickening thud as the back of his head hit the tiled floor.

Falling to his knees beside Evan, amid the prescription-grade snowfall, Richie heard someone shouting. Only when Sarah pulled him back from the blood as it spread across the floor, did Richie realise the voice he was hearing was his own.

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