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** Pepper Clarke, female no. 23, continued from... I Can Hear the Bells

Was anyone looking for them?

It was a thought that had been dancing around Pepper Clarke’s mind since she and Patrick left the decrepit old town some time ago. Surely someone would realize they were missing, wouldn’t they? That something wasn’t completely right? Someone out there would have to realize that their kid, or grandkid in Pepper’s case, hadn’t come home when they were supposed to. Or would they? How long were they supposed to be on the trip, anyway? Better yet, where had they even been going? It wasn’t normal for her to forget things, but for some reason she couldn’t find an answer for any of her questions, as if that part of her brain had been removed or something.

She shivered, not from the weather (which had not made the change from ‘blistering hot’), but from a newfound sense of helplessness. Grimly, she scanned the horizon for any form of rescue, past some rocky mountains in the distance. She could almost picture a helicopter passing the mountains on its way to pick them up and free them from the ‘game’, or better yet, she could see herself, thinner and confident, leading her classmates across the perilous mountains into salvation beyond.

She’d be the hero, the one people wrote about rather than the one who wrote about them. Pepper smiled softly to herself as she clutched her still unopened bag closer to her chest, burying her face slightly into the rough material.

That would be the day. Fat ole’ Pepper trying to lead a group of kids across a mountain. Keep dreaming, girlfriend.

"Um, I think we're lost."

Jarred from her thoughts, Pepper glanced over at Patrick, whom seemed hopelessly lost as he studied the map in his hands. Which, by association, made her hopelessly lost as well, seeing as she’d been following him blindly since they’d left Ramona and Benny. Not to mention quietly. The two had barely talked the entire journey, which wasn’t to say Patrick hadn’t tried—he had—but Pepper was never really much of a talker, not until she was comfortable.

She wasn’t much of a toucher either, evident from her squirming as Patrick tried to reassure her that they’d find someone soon—which she immediately felt bad about.

“It’s, uhm, okay?” She stated softly, though it came off moreso as a question, “At least we’re not completely alone, right?”

She felt obligated to make small talk with him as the duo bounded toward the, admittedly, seedy-looking train station—eerily pock-marked with several bullet holes. He had been the one that took her on as his own responsibility, as humiliating as it was to admit.

“So, uhm, anyone… in particular you wanna find? Like, uhh, a girlfriend or something? Or a boyfriend if that’s what you’re into? ‘Cause, erm, there’s nothing wrong with that? Not to say that you look gay or anything, ‘cause you don’t, but, uhhh, uhm, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that either?”

She groaned internally, fighting the urge to rip her hair out.

Why on Earth couldn't she just be a normal human and interact with other humans in a normal way? Honestly.

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From Where You're Kneeling · Town Outskirts
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