Oblivion Falls: Present Day.
Mark walked slowly through the ruined building carefully surveying his surroundings as the snow crunched beneath his feet, his breath exited his mouth in an icy cloud as he exhaled into the frosty air, a cold wave rolling through his nostrils as he took a breath from the frigid atmosphere. As always, it was cold out, fortunately his thick coat kept most of the cold out whilst still leaving him with a good degree of mobility. Once he would have worn body armor that would have adapted to insulate him from the cold but he'd long since given it away to a stranger who had needed it more; that had been one of the last times he had seen anyone he'd not met before since the Cataclysm. His coat would have to do in terms of protection and insulation; though heavy it was at the very least functional and warm.
He trod forwards and entered what appeared to have once been a bedroom, grateful to be out of the biting wind and stopped to take a look; its interior was tattered and broken with an appearance of disuse and abandonment, a splintered and broken bed lay against one wall and a bare wooden desk against another, and beside that, a tall bookshelf. A single book lay abandoned alone on the middle shelf, curious. He walked over to take a closer look; the cover was unmarked and despite the cold and damp, the binding was undamaged. He picked up the book and sat down on the desk before flipping it open. Most of the pages were blank, apart from a few entries at the beginning detailing the writer's experiences. However at the very end, a single page of writing caught his eye. The page read:
I walked alone amidst the silence,
As shadows crawled across the world,
And though the sun still glowed above me,
An icy chill did come and grip me.
And as I walked 'mongst city ruins,
The clouds did bring their frosted flowers,
And snowflakes spiraled ever slowly,
To land between the lonesome alleys.
The dark of night was fast approaching,
As I strode down narrow path,
Though none but my shadow walked beside me,
I felt those silent eyes observing.
The path I climbed to hill above me,
Till ruined city was but a speck,
And there I sat beside the gravestones,
That I had known since world's end.
Without a single friend beside me,
I soldier on, no hope, no reason,
I watch and wait as world around me,
Falls apart in winter's grip.
To think that of all those I knew,
I alone was left here waiting,
The sole survivor, last one standing,
When cold winter brought its icy death.
And though I know that none shall ever,
See or hear what I have written,
I sit here writing 'midst the silence,
In hopes that I am not alone.
He looked up as a shadow slid across the room. The grey gloom above him darkened, an unmistakable sign of a brewing storm. As snowflakes began to drift down through the ruined ceiling he turned to leave, heading out into the grey snow covered streets with his flashlight in hand. He paused at the doorway and then turned back, returning to take the book with him. Perhaps he would find a use for it someday; you never knew when a little paper might come in handy. He pocketed the small bundle of paper and with one last glance at the decrepit building he turned around and stepped back outside into the blistering cold.
The streets were covered in a thick layer of ice, and Mark had to step carefully in order to avoid falling. His flashlight was the only source of light in the growing darkness, a lone beam of light that pierced through the gloom and shadows. He was alone. But in the dark alleyways eyes always followed him, watching and waiting, shadowy predators, born from the aftermath of the Cataclysm. He walked on, ignoring the eyes that followed; they were a normal part of life now, he had grown used to them just as he had grown used to his isolation. Eventually, he arrived at the doorway of a bland grey building, one that looked just like any of another dozen or so around it, all in similar states of disrepair, opening the door and disappearing inside.
"Claire, get over here!" Elsewhere in the ice locked city, Claire was interrupted from her sleep by Valerie's voice. She let out a sigh before opening her eyes, knowing that she would get no more rest for several hours at the very least.
She pulled herself up from the pile of sheets she had been resting on and moved from the sleeping chamber into the common room, which contained the kitchen, storage area and weapons locker. Valerie stood by the storage area while Ed and Sam sat on the floor by the weapons locker where Will was teaching them how to assemble, disassemble and use a revolver. At 30 years old, Valerie was tall and strong and carried her well built frame with confidence and grace; she had been an enforcement officer before the Cataclysm and her years in the force were still reflected on in her build and attitude. Because of this the role of leadership naturally fell to her.
Twelve years older than Claire and the eldest amongst them, of the bunch Valerie carried the most experience and skill. An old city kid by birth, she had known the city in its prime before the Cataclysm and she had been the one who had picked out their little hide away. The old building they were living in was located somewhere close to the center of the ruined city; Valerie said that its name used to be Aphelion before the area was almost completely torn apart.
Circumstance had brought them all together and now necessity and companionship bound them tight, though they all were unrelated they functioned effectively as a family unit now. There had been others too; a Daniel, as well as Claire's older sister, but both of them had disappeared awhile back while out foraging for supplies. It had been almost two years now and still their loss weighed heavily on the minds of the remaining survivors. Their isolation would seem to make them small and vulnerable seeing as the city wasn't exactly a friendly place anymore, but they weren't quite as helpless as they seemed. Valerie, Claire, and Will were all well versed in the handling of firearms and weapons and could take care of themselves, and through their work so far they'd managed to keep everyone alive in spite of the danger.
"Claire, we're running low on food and water, firewood too. I need you to go out and try to at the very least find some water, and as much of everything else as you can." Valerie gestured towards the storage area, and Claire saw that there was little left in terms of food and water, and almost no firewood left. Once, they had had some kerosene lanterns which they could have used as a backup source, but they'd long since run out of fuel for them and so relied almost solely on fire crackling in the center of the room for light and warmth.
"I'm always the one searching for supplies, why don't you or Will do it for once?" Claire couldn't recall the last she hadn't been the one to go out when they needed to get something.
"We're both busy. I'm the oldest so I have to stay and keep watch, and Will doesn't have your experience; plus he's younger than you and he has to watch the twins as well." To the side Will grinned sheepishly as the two eight year olds gave up on working the guns and started clobbering him with the revolvers. He was third oldest in the group, with pale brown hair that seemed to almost be the colour of cardboard under the poor lighting, standing tall, thin and weedy. At times Claire wasn't sure if he even belonged in this frozen wasteland; he sometimes acted as though everything was normal and their life was just fine and dandy even though Claire was certain that he had known some of the life that had gone on here before the Cataclysm.
Claire scowled and turned away, an irritated look painted itself across her face. "He's only a year younger! And he lacks my experience because you always have me go out and find stuff instead. Why don't you let him go forage instead, while I watch the twins? It doesn't exactly look like they're actually doing anything anyways." She growled, glaring pointedly at the three boys who were fooling around. In the distance Claire heard Will exclaim "Ouch!" as Ed smacked him in the cheek with his gun.
"Come on boys, you're already eight for crying out loud, stop fooling around!" Valerie snapped. Turning back to Claire she gave the younger girl her response to her outburst. "At another time I might consider letting you do that, but not when we're so low on supplies. We need them, and we need them as soon as possible. Only you can do the job; you have the most experience on staying alive out there and you can get us what we need. Your sister taught you the best ways to find supplies and the spots where you can get them, didn't she." Valarie had a point, while Will had usually been assigned to duties within their little house, Claire had always been brought outside to explore and help out ever since the start of life after the Cataclysm; her sister had made sure that Claire knew how to stay alive even if she were on her own.
"Yeah, and she died for her troubles, didn't she. Went out on a foraging trip just like this, and vanished without a trace." Claire growled. Her eyes flashed angrily despite her black bang's best efforts to hide their piercing grey gaze which blazed with restrained frustration.
"Look, let's not get overly sensitive here…"
"Then don't bring my sister up dammit. I may be 'most suited' for getting this job done, but I might not always be here. One day I might just disappear as well. Will needs to gain this sort of experience, just look at him, does it really look like he's ready to venture out there if me or you ever get sick or something?" Though both Claire and Will shared the same thin and lean build, Claire's time outside had led to her putting some muscle onto her wiry frame, while Will remained the same skinny teen that he'd always been.
"Then would you prefer that you take Will with you?"
"No, he'll scare any sort of game away, he's a total clutz and you know it! And why is it ok for both me and Will to go, but not just Will alone?"
"Just you, or both of you; look, I'm even giving you a choice now." Ignore her question and brush her off, typical dictatorial behavior from Valerie, Claire mentally scowled without allowing it to show on her face.
"Fine, I'll go alone then."
"Good, then there's no need for such talk about disappearing. I'm asking you to go out and try to find us some supplies, it's not some sort of suicide mission; you've made supply runs like this hundreds of times before."
"Tsh…fine, I'll do it. But it'll take me some time, and I'll have to travel quite a distance, I could be gone for several days, maybe even over a week." Claire was reluctant to go out into the cold and ice, but they were quite low on food and water, and she really was the best choice to go out on her own to get them.
"…Why so long? It's never taken you that long in the past. I mean sure, last time you went out, you took a couple days to get back here, but over a week?"
"I already told you, the supplies in the area have started to dwindle. It's getting harder and harder to find the food and water we need, and I've been having to travel further and further out. With this little left to gather in the area, I'm thinking of looking elsewhere for some supplies."
"…Fine, hurry back as quickly as you can though. I don't like the idea of you staying out there by yourself for so long."
Claire walked over to the weapons locker, pulling out her armor and weapons, and began packing supplies and equipment for the foraging trip into her bag. "I can take care of myself Valerie; like you said, I've done this hundreds of times before," She said to Valerie as she strapped on her body armor, pulled on her winter gear and walked towards the doorway. As she was about to leave, she paused at the doorway when she heard Valerie's voice one last time.
"Claire, be careful and come back to us in once piece, alright?" Valerie's voice softened a little, and Claire saw a little of the concern which she was feeling finally enter her eyes though she was sure she was trying to hide it. Valerie always had tried to play the part of the tough cop.
Claire pulled her goggles down over her eyes and pulled up her hood before replying: "Yeah, I got it. The others will never know I left." Then she vanished into the backdrop of the snowbound city, her grey-white coat blending in with the rest of the ruins.