Blood Fed Gods-Chapter-8
Chapter 8: Carolyn Roberts, October 10, Year 0
I kept telling myself, ‘if you don’t show it, you don’t feel it. If you don’t show it, you don’t feel it’ as I walked away from Jessie and Dave. I’ve learned through hard experience that no one likes a whiner. Put on a fake happy face, be bubbly and cheerful and everything is always better.
It wasn’t until I’d gotten out of sight that I let myself breakdown. I sat on the stairs and sobbed. When I first looked through the telescope, I had no idea what I was seeing. It took a few seconds for me to realize I was looking at an upside down image. I saw people jumping out of windows and off the roof of Timberline High School, right into a sea of zombies. Maybe they thought the fall would kill them. Maybe they weren’t thinking at all.
All of the exterior doors I could see were open and zombies were flooding inside. Someone at Timberline must have opened a door and let zombies in. Other people probably panicked, stampeded for the exits, and ran yelling and screaming into the streets. The zombies saw them, started screaming themselves, and drew more and more zombies into the horde.
I cried for Jessie’s parents, Tom and Mary O’Neil. I cried for her brother, Jason. I cried for Jessie and then I started crying for my mother.
I don’t know why I cried for my mother. When I was little and my mother was still pretending to raise me, she’d always told me, ‘Tell the truth and shame the Devil’. Well, the one time I told her the truth about one of her boyfriends, she’d beaten me, screamed abuse in my face and called me a lying little whore. Jessie saw my bruises, coaxed the story out of me, and took me to her mother. I remember how it felt when Mary put her arms around me and told me that I’d be all right. I don’t know what she and Tom did, but the boyfriend vanished and my mother was coldly distant to me from then on. Why had I stayed so long with that bitch and why was I crying as I thought about her? Why did I care that she was probably dead?
I didn’t know Jessie was there until she put her arm around me. I jumped up.
“Relax, it’s just me.” She murmured, “I know you miss them too” as she patted me on the back. I was some kind of pathetic. Her family was dead or dying and she was comforting me. I couldn’t believe I was letting her down like this. I should be supporting her, not the other way around. It was so embarrassing to be so weak. I didn’t want Jessie or Dave to see me like this.
Where’s Dave? For an instant, I panicked. I couldn’t lose anyone else. Then my mind started working again. He’s on the roof with the telescope; he’s okay there. I made sure my voice was calm when I asked, “So where’s Dave?”
She looked up toward the roof then back at me. “Dave said he’s going to keep an eye on the zombies for a while. At least that’s his excuse” she lifted the corners of her mouth, “but he’s probably just trying to avoid us emotional women.”
I gave another sob and hugged Jessie tight. She’s a horrible liar. Dave would crawl through broken glass to comfort her. I knew the real reason he wasn’t here. She understood how much I hated looking weak. She’d probably asked him to stay up on the roof a little while longer to give us privacy. I couldn’t believe that in the middle of everything, she was still thinking about me. I pulled back and met her eyes. “Thank you.”
This time, she gave me a real smile. “For what?”
“Thank you for everything.” I wiped my eyes.
I stood up when Jessie did. Her voice was low as she asked, “Do you think they’re still alive?”
I wanted to break down again. Instead, I put my hand on her arm and lied. “There’s a chance.”
Tears welled up in her eyes again. She bit her lower lip as she considered what I said. Then she straightened her back and said, “Yes. There’s always a chance.” She turned and walked downstairs.
I followed her back into our workroom and watched her pick up her belt. She sat down cross -legged on the floor and looked at nothing.
I wanted to say something—anything—to try to make it better for her, but there wasn’t anything anyone could say.
Jessie looked up at me. I heard the effort she used to keep her voice steady, “Right now, there’s no way for sure to know how my family is doing. I have to believe they’re okay, and I know that they’d want me to do whatever I have to stay safe.” She looked down at her hands. “It’ll probably take a couple hours at least for all the zombies to clear this area. Our backpacks and tool belts are ready; we should get our stuff together and get ready to go.”
I rushed over to her and knelt by her feet. “We don’t have to leave today. It’ll be sundown in a couple of hours. Even if we don’t run into vampires, it’ll be a lot easier to avoid zombies during daylight. We have food and water to last for weeks. We can wait for your family.”
She shook her head. “I know the odds against my family, Carolyn. I won’t give up hope but I know the odds.” Her voice quavered, “The only thing I can do for them is to do what I know they’d want me to do. Mom, Dad, and Jason want the same thing for me that I want for them: do everything we can to stay alive.”
She paused and took a deep breath. “I have to do whatever I have to do. That means I have to finish this utility belt.”
I slowly stood up. There were times when my best friend made me feel small. I picked up my belt, sat at my desk, used the rivet gun to add a couple more loops, and then just sort of aimlessly fiddled with it.
Jessie finally finished her belt. She looked up. For a long second we just stared at each other and then she gave me a sad smile. Her smile told me she understood and that I didn’t have to say anything. Then to my relief, she changed the subject, “How long do you think it’ll take before it’s safe to leave?”
I had no idea. I went to a window and lifted the blind an inch. For the past week or so, I’d seen seven to ten zombies every time I looked out a window. I saw three zombies walking in a cluster toward Timberline. I didn’t see any others. “I don’t think it’ll take much longer.”
Just then Dave walked in. “Hey guys, it’s time to get Jessie’s keys. I think the last of the zombies are moving away from the building right now.”
Jessie and I stood up and put our belts on. The weight of the hammer against my waist was comforting.
Dave hesitated as if he was worried we’d start arguing with him and then said, “I think we should go out the doors closest to the gym.” His voice became softer. “Jessie, we’ll grab a can of spray paint from the art room and leave a message for your mom and dad on the front of the building.”
We put on our backpacks and went to the art room to get a can of spray paint. When we got to the door that led outside, it was obvious that nobody wanted to open the door. I was about to reach for the door when Dave said, “Fuck it” and pushed the door open a couple of inches. He kept the door propped open with his body and looked out the crack. Then he pulled a small mirror from his pocket. He turned his face to us with a shrug. “All the bloggers said that zombies can’t see that well. I may be just wasting my time but …” He put the mirror out the door and slowly angled it so he could see the entire street. When he froze, I could tell he’d spotted something.
He slowly withdrew his hand and put the mirror back in his pocket but didn’t let the door close. I saw his jaw clench and then he whispered, “There’s only one out there, as far as I can tell. I’m going to kill it.
When Jessie grabbed his arm, he finally let the door close. He gently pulled his arm away, slipped off his backpack, and drew his crowbar. “No matter what we do or how safe we play it, we’re going to have to kill zombies. We might as well start now. Before Jessie or I could respond, Dave pushed the door open and ran outside.
Jessie followed him, and pulled out her wrench out as she ran. I wanted to follow them out, but I couldn’t move. I helplessly watched the door close behind her as I let my friends run into danger. Then I shook it off, stuck Dave’s pack in the door so it wouldn’t close and lock us out, and ran after them.
In life, the zombie had been a little old woman, and it couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds. Dave rushed it from behind and swung his crowbar like a baseball bat just as it registered his presence and turned to attack him. There was a thunk and the zombie collapsed.
Dave quickly scanned the street. “I don’t see any more. Let’s go to the gym.”
I asked, “Don’t you want to get your backpack?”
Dave answered as he jogged toward the gym. “It’s safe where it is for now. I’d rather not be wearing it if I have to take on any more zombies.”
We paused in front of the gym and looked through the windows and glass door. The glass was cracked and starred, and it was hard to see what was inside. Dave was right about the backpack. Jessie and I slid out of ours, too.
We walked into the gym with weapons in hand. As soon as the door closed behind us, Jessie shouted, “HEY!” Dave and I jumped and stared at her. She explained, “I don’t think any of the zombies got in, but if they did I’d rather have them come at us when we’re ready for it than walk into one by surprise.”
That made sense. We waited thirty seconds and no zombies. We got to the locker room, Dave opened the door a crack and shouted, “HEY!”
Nothing happened. He opened the door completely. A small wedge of the room became visible; the rest was completely dark. Dave shouted “HEY” again as he held his crowbar ready. Nothing continued to happen.
I pulled my flashlight out of one of my brand-new belt loops and clicked it on. I started to hyperventilate and my palms got sweaty. I walked past Dave toward my locker. It would have been easier to let Dave take the lead but I had to quit being a chicken-heart sometime, and there were a couple of personal items that I really had to have. Jessie didn’t mind the sanitary pads we got from the nurse’s office, but I couldn’t stand them.
Jessie quickly opened her locker, took out her purse, and pulled out her keys. “I got them!”
“Okay, but hang on a second. I want to change out of my cheerleader skirt; I think jeans will be a better choice for travel, especially if the car won’t start.”
I rummaged in my locker. “Okay, jeans, T-shirt, purse, and the stuff I really want: baby wipes and a full box of tampons.”
Dave, bless his heart, blushed to the roots of his hair.
Jessie turned back to her locker and studied her Gucci purse. I remembered when she got it a year ago; she loved that purse. She stuffed her keys into one of her belt pockets, and with a sigh threw her purse back into her locker. “I think I want my jeans too, Carolyn.”
Dave continued to blush and look everywhere but at me.
“Dave, would you keep an eye on the door for a minute?” He looked utterly blank for a split second, and then made the connection.
Jessie and I changed into our jeans and T-shirts.
I left my purse in my locker and grabbed the tampons and baby wipes. “I’m good to go.”
We got out of the gym no problem, and the street was still clear of zombies. We collected our backpacks, and Jessie sprayed Mom and Dad, I’m going to Matt’s cabin on the wall while Dave and I kept a lookout.
We headed to Jessie’s SUV, and she repeatedly tried the remote as we walked up on it. The car didn’t unlock, but I hoped it was just the remote. I held my breath and crossed my fingers when she got behind the wheel and tried the ignition. There was no sound at all; her battery was completely dead.
Jessie forced a smile onto her face, “Well, we knew it was probably going to be like this. I guess we’re walking.” She paused and looked up at Dave. “Didn’t you say you rode your bike to school? On bikes we could get to Matt’s before midnight.”
Dave replied, “I really don’t like the idea of having to fight zombies if we’re on bikes.”
I broke in. “Dave, we can move faster and carry more with bikes. All the zombies we’ve seen are slow and stupid, and it’d be better to outrun them if we can and only fight them if we have to. If we’re careful and pay attention to our surroundings, they shouldn’t be able to surprise us. Biking to Matt’s cabin is going to be a lot faster and easier than walking”
Dave looked like he wasn’t convinced but then he slowly nodded his head. “Okay but what about you guys? You guys don’t have bikes.”
Jessie pointed at the wrecked and abandoned cars on the street. “I’m sure there’re bikes everywhere out there too. If we use State Street, we’ll go by Veteran’s Memorial State Park and the Willow Lane Athletic Complex. I bet we’ll find tons of abandoned bikes there. Worst comes to worst, just about everybody has at least one bicycle in the garage. It shouldn’t take long to find some.”
Dave’s road bike was in front of the Frank Church Building. There were a couple of rust spots on the cables and chain, and his tires had lost air, but otherwise it was fine. Dave had a small tire pump attached to his bike, and it didn’t take long to pump his tires up.
Jessie looked at her watch and then the sky. “We have about two hours of daylight left. We have to get going.”
In Junior High, she and I used to run cross country together. We took off at a comfortable pace and Dave hopped on his bike and followed us.
Abandoned and wrecked cars were everywhere, and it was eerily silent. A few buildings had burned here and there, but apart from a few broken windows, most were largely intact. It took me a little while to notice, but I didn’t see any animals either. The only thing moving on the streets besides us were bits of trash blowing in the wind.
Multi-car accidents blocked almost every intersection. Most of the time we got by them fairly easily, but a couple of times we had to climb over some truly massive pile-ups. I expected dead bodies everywhere, or at least inside some of the vehicles. There were no bodies but there were smears and splotches of dried blood everywhere. Almost all of the cars had open doors and broken windows, and a lot of them had bullet holes. I saw one that had a bloody face print on the inside of the windshield, and another with a blood spattered baby seat. I think the worst one for me was the crumpled pet carrier with blood and fur and a blood stained leather collar that had been bitten through.
I stopped looking too closely after that.
I guess that zombies ate all the bodies, and I was oddly grateful for that. I felt sorry for the poor people, but I was so glad all the bodies were gone. We hadn’t even gone that far yet, and it was difficult to stay focused and keep moving. I think bodies everywhere would have made it impossible.
I suppose that it’s just as well that Jessie’s 4Runner didn’t start. We never would have gotten out of the city; we probably wouldn’t have gotten ten blocks.
There were empty bullet cases and shotgun shells scattered everywhere. We went a couple of blocks before I found my first gun. I’ve never held a gun before but I’ve seen enough TV and movies to have an idea of what to do. After a bit of fiddling, I got the clip to pop out. It was empty.
Dave rolled up beside me. “Carolyn, I don’t think guns are a good idea. The noise will just attract more zombies. I think our best bet is to be as quiet as we can”
I shook my head. “Dave, it’s not just zombies we have to worry about. We don’t have the police to protect us anymore. Zombies are horrible, but people can be just as bad—maybe even worse. I’ll feel a lot better once I have a gun.”
Jessie chimed in, “Geez Carolyn, what an awful thought … but I think you’re right.”
Dave was silent for a few seconds and then gave a grim nod.
A little further on, Jessie found a smallish revolver, but it was empty too.
The next intersection had a Boise PD cruiser as part of the smash-up. There were empty bullet cases, shotgun shells, and pistol and rifle clips all around the cruiser.
A torn and bloody bulletproof vest lay next to a broken rifle. It was bent and battered like it had been used as a club.
There was a second, smaller bulletproof vest, ripped and bloodied like the first one. Nearby was a police helmet with a bullet hole in the top of it. I picked it up, looked inside, and immediately wished I hadn’t. It was caked with dried blood and flecks of bone and strands of long, dark hair. My stomach turned over when I realized what I was looking at: this gear had belonged to a woman, and she’d taken her own life with her last bullet before the zombies got to her.
I set the helmet down, and saw a shotgun lying partway under the cop car. I dragged it out and picked it up. It didn’t look broken, and it still had one shell in this plastic holder on the side. The downside was that the thing must have weighed nine pounds, and carrying it got really old after a few blocks. I ditched the shotgun but kept the shell.
Like Jessie predicted, we found several abandoned bicycles by Veteran’s Park. I was ready to just grab one and go, but Dave wanted to find ones that would fit Jessie and me. He passed on a couple that I thought looked good before he found two that satisfied him, and he had us straddle the bikes to make sure they were the right size. He wanted cage pedals like the ones he has, but there just weren’t any. The two he picked had clipless pedals—the kind that required special shoes, so we switched out those pedals with regular flat ones. Most of the better bikes had small packs underneath their saddles with bike tools, pumps, and inner tubes. Dave used CO2 inflators scavenged from those bags to re-inflate our tires; it took a lot less time than using the hand pump.
Once we had our bikes, there was no reason for us to go through the city center. We went due north up 36th Street, and then got on Hill Road, which runs on the outermost edge of the city. There were wrecked and abandoned cars here too, but not many. The intersections usually weren’t blocked with these huge pile-ups like they were in the built up areas, and the couple that were we able to get around without even having to get off the bikes.
We made good time until Dave and Jessie both got flats from glass shards or metal splinters from the last bad pile-up we went around. We’d brought all the spare inner tubes and CO2 inflators we could find, so it wasn’t a real big deal either time. We’d just finished fixing Jessie’s flat when Dave pointed to a street that headed due north up into the mountains. “That’s Seaman’s Gulch Road. It turns into Dry Creek Road and then connects into 55 out of the city. It’s a roundabout way of getting to 55, and there’s probably more elevation gain compared to straight to 55, but I think we’re better off going that way. Most of it’s undeveloped except for a small neighborhood up high, so there should be a lot less wrecks. If we stay on Hill we’ll have to go back into the more built up areas for at least a couple of miles.” He glanced up at the sun. “It’ll be dark soon, and I’d rather be outside the city when the sun goes down.”
Dave wasn’t kidding about the elevation gain. The road seemed to go straight up the mountain, but there were also a lot fewer wrecks. Since there wasn’t anything but dirt and scrub brush on either side of the road, getting past them was no problem until we were about three miles along.
The sun was on the horizon and the sky was dark blue, orange, and red. A thirty-foot section of road went through a cut in the mountain that had a ten-foot vertical wall on one side and a fifteen-foot drop on the other. A dozen or more crashed cars blocked the road, and three more had plowed through the outside guardrail and strewn themselves along the side of the mountain.
I stopped and Jessie coasted up beside me. We could hear Dave gasping for breath as he brought up the rear. Dave’s in better shape than he had been when all this first started, but he still has a ways to go.
We’d suggested he take a break a mile ago, but his masculine pride wouldn’t let him. Poor Dave; he did not look good. His hair was plastered to his head, his shirt was soaked through, and his face was an alarming shade of purple. He stopped and leaned forward over the handlebars. I was seriously afraid he was going to have a heart attack or a stroke.
Jessie’s eyes got big when she saw him. “Dave! Are you okay?” He grunted, swallowed and gave her a shaky thumbs up. He was still huffing and puffing, but his color wasn’t so bad. “Yeah … I think so … just … give me … a couple of … minutes.”
Almost two minutes later with his breath finally under control, Dave weakly said, “Hey zombies.”
Twenty seconds went by without a sound. Dave got off his bike and took a drink from a water bottle. He shouldered his bike and started to pick his way over the wrecked cars. He hadn’t made eye contact with Jessie or me since we stopped.
Jessie turned to me, rolled her eyes, shook her head, and silently mouthed ‘men’. I felt exactly the same way about Dave’s manly pride; I pursed my lips and nodded. She and I really tried to not to laugh, but when Dave heard us and straightened his spine, we just couldn’t help it.
We picked up our bikes and started up after him. I respect Dave’s brains, but what I like most about him is that he doesn’t stay offended for very long. We were climbing over a black Lincoln Navigator that had smashed head-on into full-sized Chevy pickup truck when he turned and gave us an embarrassed smile. “I’m almost glad we have to climb over this. It gives me the chance to catch my breath.”
Jessie gave him an innocent smile. “Really? I thought you were doing fine.”
Dave started laughing first.
I didn’t want this moment to end. I asked, “Dave, there’s a whole lot of nothing on this road, how’d you find out about it?”
He answered, “A little while back, we passed a mountain bike trailhead. I used to ride there with my mom and dad.”
And just like that the mood was ruined. I could see their expressions change as they thought about their families. I was kicking myself for opening my mouth when Jessie screamed in surprise and fell flat on the hood of the Navigator.
Her hands scrabbled across the hood, and I dropped my bike and grabbed her arms and pulled as something tried to drag her through the Navigator’s broken windshield. Dave yelled ‘Oh SHIT!’ and jumped onto the hood of a small SUV that was next to us. He had the crowbar out in front of him as he lunged past her feet.
Jessie had kicked herself free and scrambled into my arms. White-faced and wide-eyed, she gasped, “Dave! DAVE! Something grabbed me! It’s in there!” He was already head and shoulders in through the Lincoln’s windshield, and he speared the crowbar over and over into something that writhed and twisted in the driver’s seat.
He grunted in satisfaction, pulled the crowbar out, laid it down, and backed out of the windshield. Then he remembered. “Oh God! Jessie, are you okay?” She flung herself into his arms and buried her face in his chest. He stroked her hair and murmured’ “It’s okay, Jessie. You’re all right. It’s okay.”
I had to see what had almost gotten her. I pulled my hammer from my belt and slid across the Lincoln’s hood to get a look.
The zombie in the driver’s seat was enormously fat. The collision had been bad enough to crumple the passenger compartment and impale the zombie on the steering column. Its abdomen had popped like a rotten tomato; there was dried blood and guts and intestines mounded in its lap. Its head was gone from the nose up; Dave had speared it into pulp.
I’d expected it to smell horrible. It didn’t, and I wondered why just as my stomach heaved and I brought up breakfast, lunch, and last night’s supper—on the zombie.
When I was done, Dave was examining Jessie’s ankle. “Thank God you were wearing jeans. You’ll have a bruise where it grabbed you, but it didn’t break the skin.” He looked up at me. “Carolyn, you saved her life.”
Huh? All I’d done was hold on to her. He’d killed the zombie.
“If you hadn’t grabbed her, it would have pulled her in and bitten her”
Okay fair enough, I’d help save her. What I didn’t understand was how the zombie had ambushed her. And it looked like it’d been driving, too. What was up with that? Aren’t zombies supposed to be too stupid to do stuff like that?
Jessie voiced the questions in my head. “Dave, that zombie was behind the wheel. It had to be driving and it just sat there and waited until I got close enough to grab. Do you think that some of them are smarter than others?”
Dave paused and rubbed his chin. “Could be but I don’t think so. Figure that maybe half of the population turned into zombies on September 11th; a lot of them must have been driving when they changed. I bet that’s what happened to this guy; he was probably flying along when he zombified, and then wrecked. Looks like he hit the steering column so hard that it ripped him open and blew his guts everywhere. He couldn’t come after us because he was pinned inside, and he couldn’t scream because he couldn’t get any air into his lungs. If you hadn’t stepped within his reach, he wouldn’t have grabbed you and we’d never have known he was there.
“Oh, and yeah—a bunch of drivers turning into zombies all at once would also explain why there’s so many wrecks everywhere.”
Jessie shivered. “Well, that’s a good theory, Dave. All the facts fit; I hope you’re right. God, I really really hope you’re right.”
By this time, the sun was down and it was too dark to see into any of the wrecked vehicles around us, and I wasn’t too happy about all the open and broken windows.
My bike was on top of a midsized sedan, and I pulled out my flashlight and checked out the sedan’s interior very carefully before I went after my bike.
Dave said, “Carolyn, hold on. I’ll scout out a safe path for us.”
Jessie put her hand on his shoulder. “Dave, you’ve done enough. I’ll scout the path.” She shook her head as he opened his mouth. “I love you, Dave.” She turned to me. “And I love you too, Carolyn. How can I even begin to thank you guys for saving my life? At least let me pull my weight; I’m done with being the damsel in distress, and I can’t just let you guys do all the work.”
Before Dave or I could say anything, she had her flashlight out and climbed next to me. “Dave, can you hand me my bike?”
She set her bike down next to me and climbed on to the next wreck. She was as thorough as I’d been when she checked it out. “There’s no zombies in this one. Why don’t you guys hand me your bikes?”
Jessie was calm on the outside, but I knew she was terrified every time she climbed onto a new vehicle. She didn’t let it stop her, though. It seemed like it took forever but we finally made it over to the other side. All of the vehicles we climbed over were empty.
I was exhausted. All I wanted right then was some place safe to sleep, but we were in the middle of nowhere and Matt’s cabin was still over fifty miles away.
Dave echoed my thoughts, “There’s no way we’re going to make it to Matt’s Cabin tonight. We need to find a place to camp.”
I asked, “Where?”
Dave considered, “We got two options. Best would be a zombie-proof building somewhere, but first we’d have to find one and then clear it in the dark. Quick and dirty and reasonably secure is angle up the mountain for about a mile and sleep outside.”
Jessie and I looked at each other and said “Quick and dirty” at the same time. Dave nodded.
We got off the road and headed up the mountain. We tried carrying the bikes at first, but it was just too awkward and unwieldy. Rolling them along was much easier. We stopped when we were too tired to keep going.
During the day, the temperature had been comfortably in the seventies, but after sunset it rapidly dropped into the low forties. This was great while we were moving, but once we stopped, I was freezing. I was very glad we brought extra clothes. The hoodie, windbreaker, and sweats over my jeans helped a lot.
We’d found a shallow depression that was mostly out of the wind and had enough room for us and the bikes. A fire would have been wonderful, but I knew that that was out of the question without having to mention it. A couple of blankets would have been good, too—I wished one of us had thought to check some of the cars we’d passed.
Huddled up side-by-side with our backpacks as pillows I was almost comfortable. ‘Oh God,’ I prayed ‘please, don’t let it rain’.
I was too tired to sleep, so I watched the night sky. I’d never seen the stars so clear and bright. There was no glow from the city back the way we’d come, no headlights on the highway, no aircraft running lights, nothing—just the stars. It felt like we were all alone under an alien sky.
I was lying next to Jessie, and she’d turned to face Dave. She whispered, “Dave, why are you smiling?”
He answered, “It’s nothing.”
“Come on! Tell me. You look like you’re about to start laughing.”
“I was thinking about our first night at school. How we all slept on one mattress.”
“And that’s funny?”
I heard him move closer to her. I knew they were kissing. Dave whispered, “What’s funny is that no matter how miserable the situation is—and you’ve got to admit that it really does kind of suck right now—as long as I’m with you, there’s no place else I’d want to be.”
They started kissing again.
I’m happy for Jessie; I really am. I’m glad she has someone to distract her from her family, zombies, and vampires. I wonder how it’s possible for me to be so close to my best friend and still feel so alone.
Chapter 9: Ari Levin, August 2, Year 1