Friday May 14th 17:50

Chloe is not happy. Her smiles disappear too quickly and she pays more attention to the wall than the movie on TV.

I don't know what else I can do to cheer her up. We already when to all her favorite places. I don't think either of us wants to go outside now.

I turn off the TV.

"Why did you do that?" she says. "They were just about to, blow something up. I think."

"You're not enjoying this."

She leans into the couch.

"Oh, Eli! Retirement isn't at all what others make of it. I feel like a shut-in."

"Well, what do you want to do?"

"That's just the thing!" She throws her hands into the air. "I don't know."

I bite my lip. She sighs and picks at the arm rest. If we sit here too long she'll want me to go home and stop worrying about her, but I don't want to leave.

I think of the last time I laughed. Sunny days and soft green grass leap at me and I smile.

"Chloe, do you want to do something fun?"

Her eyes gleam suspicious, but a smile tugs at her lips.

"What is it?"

"We have to go to the park."

I get up and grab her hand.

"And we need to bring a cardboard box."

ooo

"Eli, are you sure this is safe?"

We sit at the top of the Hill. The Hill is usually crowded with people, but it's deserted now.

"Yes," I say. "I used to do this all the time with my sister."

"You never told me you had a sister," she murmurs.

I don't want to lose the fun before we even find it so I push our cardboard sled off the Hill and smile at her.

The ride is slow at first, but then we're sliding down the incline so fast streetlights blur in the background. We shout and howl all the way down and then fall to our sides, laughing.

Chloe looks at me. Her eyes are electric. Her smile is miles wide.

"Again!" she says.

We race up the Hill and slid back down so many times we resort to rolling like logs. Our clothes are green in seconds. Chloe laughs so hard tears run from her eyes.

I chase her around with the cardboard for a while, but give up and collapse on the ground. She lies down next to me. We pant and chuckle and watch the sway of the treetops.

"I definitely needed this," she says.

"Me, too."

"So you used to come here with your sister… What does she do now?"

I clench my hands in the grass until my nails fill with dirt.

"She's, dead," I force out.

Chloe breathes in softly.

She says, "I'm sorry," and then, "How old was she?"

"Eleven."

She doesn't ask how, but instead says, "That must've been really hard for you and your family."

I hear myself go, "Yeah," and then the park is quiet save for the bugs. Something crawls on my arm and bites me, but I don't brush the insect away. I focus on the lingering pain and how badly I want to scratch the bite.

"I want to go down the hill one last time," Chloe says. "Then we can go home."

I like the sound of that. I roll on my stomach.

"You take the cardboard," she says. "I'm going to roll down. Whoever gets to the bottom first wins."

"Wins what?"

"A, uh, free spa day."

"That's only a prize for you!"

She laughs and rolls to the edge. I follow her, trying to close the gap.

A rock crumbles the front of the cardboard and slams into my knee. I shout and torpedo off my toboggan. I hit the ground on my elbow and roll out of control.

Ground is sky and sky is ground. I slid against scattered rocks. One tears into my back. I throw my arms out and skid through the grass on my chest before coming to a stop. My head is pounding and there are black spots in my vision.

"Chloe?"

Her name slurs in my mouth and I taste sharp metal. My tongue is swollen. I'm breathing hard through my mouth. Bloody saliva slicks the grass.

"Chloe?"

I push myself up and my knee caves. Every inch of my body aches and pulses, but the unmoving shape on the ground drives a stake of fear straight through my heart. I limp toward it, my labored breathing loud in my ears.

Pleasenopleasenopleaseno.

My chest heaves painfully.

Chloe lies perfectly still.

Her hairline bleeds.

Her whole body is torn.

"Oh, no."

My knees hit the ground; my whole body shakes. I look at the path she took. Rocks poke their sharp heads out of the ground like the growing teeth of a monster.

I'm too scared to check for a pulse. I'm too scared to move. This can't be real. None of it can be real. It can't. This has already happened; it can't happen again. It's not real.

It's not real.

But she is as still as a dead body lain gently on the bathroom floor and I sink into the grass, my lungs seizing with each breath. It feels like I'm drowning, a hand pushing me down into the water, and for once I don't fight it.

For once I am calm, here at the end of the world.


Finals, so many finals! D: But I did manage to edit this chapter a bit, so here it is! Tell me what you think, and as always, thanks so much for reading. :)