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     CASSIE HARRINGTON WHEEZED AS HER burning lungs gasped for air, her throat feeling uncomfortably dry

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     CASSIE HARRINGTON WHEEZED AS HER burning lungs gasped for air, her throat feeling uncomfortably dry. Her legs felt numb and unsteady, painfully sore from the constant running she endured before the fall. As she began to lift herself, the girl felt a sting of pain in her upper left cheekbone from where Billy had hit her. Wincing, the girl pushed against the tiled floor and began to blink away at her blurry vision, taking in her surroundings.

The first thing she saw when she gained back her vision was a boy with raven colored hair sprawled on the floor face down a few feet away from her, completely unconscious.

"Mike?" Cassie's voice spoke, her voice groggy and unfamiliar, even to her.

Sliding across the floor, Cassie desperately pulled herself over to the boy, wincing after every movement she made. When reaching him, the girl wrapped her arm around the boy and gently began to shake him awake.

"Mike?" She spoke again, more clearly.

"Get..." The boy began, his voice shaking. "Get away from me!"

Lifting his head, Cassie was able to see the dark, purple mark trailing with blood from his eyes all the way down to his jaw. His eyes were wild, breathing fast and shallow breaths as his whole body began to shake with fear.

"Mike, I'm not going to hurt you." Cassie spoke, taking his hand in hers and lifting him upwards. "Listen to me. He's gone. Billy's gone. You're safe. I'm here now."

Cassie expected the boy to yank his hand away, but he didn't. Instead, he relaxed. With tears forming in his eyes, he let out a breath, "Cassie..."

"It's okay." The girl assured him, pulling the boy into her arms. "It's okay. I'm here."

Resting his head on her shoulder, the boy let out a deep breath.

From behind the two, Max Mayfield pushed herself upwards and slowly moved towards them in confusion.

"Mike, Cassie...where..." Max began, her eyes quickly scoping across the area. "Where's Billy?"

Following her gaze, Cassie's breath hitched in her throat, "Where's El?"

"Come on." Max spoke, lifting the two up to a standing position. "I don't know how long we were out for, so we have to move quickly before it's too late."


Mike Wheeler led the group as they twisted and turned through the back corridor of the mall. With him being so tall, each one of his long strides were worth at least two of theirs. With the slightest of effort he out ran Max and Cassie, barely breaking a sweat.

Using the echoes of screams and pounding movements as a target, the group ran towards the sound until they found a familiar hallway.

"I think I know where we are." Mike spoke. "If I'm right, this door right here should lead us to the Gap."

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