The frozen rain splintered through Claire's coat, making her skin turn to ice. She needed to find a place to stay but the streets were empty, every house dark and abandoned. She ran up a set of stairs and ducked under the small roof of a porch, earning a small amount of time to warm up again before she went back into the cold. Her eyes roamed around the barren wasteland that was once her town and they stopped at an opening that lead into an alley. There, a small movement. She saw it again as she trained her eyes intently on the black abyss in front of her. She swore she saw something, someone even, duck into that alleyway and stand there a moment. Looking at her the same she was looking at it, then it had ducked down the alley again and disappeared from sight. There shouldn't have been anyone there at all, just like she shouldn't have been there. The old neighborhood was quarantined from everyone ever since the war ended seven months ago, it was said that it was dangerous and infectious to anyone who entered. But Claire needed to come back, to see where she had lived, and close the door that had been left open for so long, even before the war had ended and she left. She hadn't anticipated another soul to be there with her. But there was now, and she needed to find out who it was at all costs.

She ducked off the porch and back into the rain, feeling the cold blister into her skin once again like hot coals. She ran towards the alley quickly, not wanting to be in the rain or seemingly abandoned town longer than she had to. When she stumbled into the small space she found herself faced with a row of small shops. All of them were boarded up and the smell of charred wood lingered in the air. Mucky black ashes, wet and muddy from the rain, stuck to her shoes and in some spots where rain hadn't quite reached, it billowed up into the air, choking her with it's horrible stench of rotted corpses and houses long gone.

Her mission to find the shadowy person was forgotten for a moment when she came across the small shop her next door neighbor had owned. Dauer's Clothing, they had sold clothes to anyone in the district for almost nothing, since most couldn't afford much of anything and clothes were usually a last priority to the families around here. Tears clogged Claire's throat as she pulled a fallen board from the window and peered into the store after using her palm to wipe away the grime that had been on the glass, she looked in at the racks of shirts and shelves of shoes covered thickly in undisturbed dust. She couldn't remember the last time she was there, and it made her want to vomit. She wanted to remember absolutely everything about her old town and the things she had done. But the memories dwindled on the edge of forgetfulness and she begged to bring them back but they didn't, they teetered and threatened to fall into the black hole of erased thoughts. One little bump and they twisted off the platform and into the darkness, only the residue of a memory left behind could be barely remembered by Claire.

Her mind snapped back to reality when she heard the screech of a cat around the corner, back onto the street where the alley leads out on another block. Claire pushed away from the window and ran towards the sound, turning the corner and witnessing a frail cat running and hiding in an overturned crate. Something had spooked it obviously and Claire just knew it was the shadowy person she had seen. Another crash up the street had her careening her neck to see someone that she knew was there, but she saw no one.

Her legs stung as she ran, the skirt she was wearing stuck to her pale, bare legs and made them colder than before. She had seen the person this time, seen them look at her from under a black hood and then take off down a side street. And now Claire was on a mission to catch whoever it was and ask them why they were here. Her steps faltered slightly when she thought, again, that she shouldn't be here either. But that was beside the point, she was here for a reason, she didn't think that person was. She didn't question her silly thoughts but she knew the truth deep inside, she didn't want the person there while she was looking for a place to grieve. That was the reason she was chasing them. She wanted, needed to be alone for this moment. And that person was invading her moment and it made anger swell up into her stomach and rocket towards her throat, battling for first place with her heart as that seemed to be rising into her throat as well as fear began to lace itself into her adrenaline and sadness.

An alleyway faced her once again, this one didn't have shops, it was just a barren path in between a few crumbling buildings. She slipped into it, maneuvering her way around broken glass and fallen brick walls that had spilled into the walking path. A black shadow slipped around the corner and Claire knew she was close to catching the person, whoever it was. What she didn't know is that the person was purposely letting her catch him. She ran around the corner and let out a small scream as someone grabbed her arms and shoved her hard against the wall.

"Why are you following me?" a voice grumbled from under the hood.

"Why are you sneaking around?" Claire shot back, surprised that her voice didn't crack or waver. Her teeth slowly started to bounce off each other as the cold settled into her system. When she was running she was warmer, but now, as she stood still, she realized how soaked and cold she was.

"Maybe I’m looking for something."

"Well I am too."

"I know; you're Claire." he said quietly. She froze when he said her name, he knew her, he knew who she was and she was alone with him in this dark place that wasn't hers anymore. It was no one's but maybe his, this could just be his dark place now.

"W..who are you?" her voice cracked and she cursed herself for not sounding strong anymore. The man's hood fell back a little as he turned his head and looked down the street, as if he was looking for someone.

"Skipton, Skip for short." he let go of her right arm, cold immediately rushing to the spot where it had been, and held out his hand to shake. She reached her hand up and shook his in the extremely small space, noticing how large it was compared to hers, and how close it was to her chest.

"How do you know me?" Claire asked. He turned back towards her, and with the black hood pushed back, she saw that a smirk was on his lips.

"I know everyone that's been here, or, in your case, came back. I'm a keeper of the town you could say." Then he took her hand in his and started dragging her down the street.

"Let me go!" She squealed, trying to pull her hand from his iron grasp. But it didn't work, and the cold was making her go numb so she didn't have much of a chance to escape from this man. Skip, not The Man, his name was Skip.

Just that small fact made everything a little better. At least she would know the name of the man that killed her. So wherever people went after death she wouldn't have to deal with the misery of not knowing the name of your killer. A weird thought, Claire realized. No one would find it comforting to know the name of their killer.

"You're kind of stupid you know." Skip said, still dragging her since she refused to move her feet, or she couldn't move her feet. Which ever one sounded better.

"Excuse me?" She snapped. Skip stopped then, turning and looking at her, the hood covering his features so she couldn't tell if he had brown hair, or blonde hair, or even had hair at all. She couldn't tell if his eyes were blue or green, or if they were piercing or soft. She couldn't tell if they held the red vein like lines that proved of infection, or if they were clear and he was sterile.

"Running around here at dusk, in the freezing rain, in a school girl skirt. You're a stupid little child that should have just stayed home." A glare found its way onto her features and she tried to pull out of his grasp once again.

"If you'd let me go, I’d leave." She spat.

"If I let you go you'll get lost, and then someone else will find you. I'm not the only keeper around here sweetheart. But I’m definitely the nicest." Skip said.

"But the town is quarantined." she stuttered trying desperately to see into the darkness of his hood. The thought of a faceless man holding her captive sent numb shivers down her spine.

"You had no problem getting in over the fence, why would anyone else have a problem getting in? It's getting out that's the tricky part." Claire stared at Skip and her lip trembled but not from the cold. She heard a noise off in the distance, like a scream almost. And that's when her hand slipped from his grasp and Claire ran. Skip stood there, his hand limp from letting her go. Whether Claire acknowledged it or not, Skip had been the one to let her go, his own choices were the only reason she was skidding through the mud at the entrance of the alley trying to reach the fence and leave.

The fence loomed over her, standing at five foot five herself, and the fence over ten feet tall. It looked larger now, more intimidating and lethal. She went to grab it and start climbing but stopped, her hand a mere inch away from it. She heard a buzz, a sick feeling grew in the pit of her stomach and started to rise quickly into her throat. The fence was electric, one touch in this rain and she would be fried like a bug that flew into a zapper. She stepped back, tripping over some non-existent thing and falling to the ground. Her legs out in front of her, her mud and ash caked boots sneering at her from on her feet, repeating the words Skip had said.

"It's getting out that's the tricky part."

His words filled her mind, getting louder and playing over each other until her ears were ringing and she had to hold her head to keep from screaming profanities at the voice. It wasn't fair. This...this place was different now. It wasn't her home, it could never be her home again. She shouldn't have come here. That door she had wanted to close stood open, and every other door that she had opened slammed closed before she could cross the threshold.

".....Out that's the tricky part."

"Please let me out." she whispered, her hands covering her ears as she rocked back and forth in the rain. She sat there in the mud, just wanting to lie there and never get up again. She didn't realize someone was there until they were next to her, pulling her hand off her left ear and pushing their lips to it.

"You can't leave stupid girl." So close she could feel his lips against her ear, his bottom one almost curving around her ear lobe.

"I want to go home Skip." She sobbed, his name almost getting stuck in her clogged throat.

"You are home." He had pulled away, but still seemed to be maneuvering himself on her. Covering most of her upper body with his own, sheltering her from the rain. Claire shook her head quickly, her dark brown locks slapping her in the face with a cold wetness that went unnoticed by her.

Skip smoothed her hair back and leaned down to look in her face, she had replaced her hand over her ear, and tears streamed down her face faster than the rain. She stared into clear hazel eyes as Skip pushed his hood back. She examined his face, noting scars along his jawline and a cut with a bandage on his forehead. A small smile graced his lips and she felt her hands fall before she was being swept up into his arms and taken away from the fence.

"You'll like it here. People are weird, but no one is really normal anyway." Skip said, a lighter, happier tone taking his voice. She couldn't do anything but shove her face into his chest and cry.


"Don't worry Claire. Everyone accepts the truth after awhile."

"Accepts what truth?" The rain suddenly stopped and she realized that he had walked into a building that used to be an apartment building, it was located two buildings down from the fence. Warmth slapped over her skin like a blanket and she sniffed, wiping her face trying to dry it off but the wet sleeve she had used did nothing but smear a bit of mud onto her cheek. After Skip walked up a flight of stairs, turning sideways so she didn't hit her head on the wall, he kicked open a door left ajar with his foot and stepped inside apartment six. Skip laid her down on a couch and she watched as he pulled his hooded cloak off. He wore a yellow t-shirt underneath and plain blue jeans. A welcoming sight in all the bland grey and black of this place.

As he walked over and pushed the door closed, locking it tightly, she glanced around, noticing windows were barred or boarded over. She tried to sit up but Skip was there, pushing her down again. He sat next to her, running his hand through her hair like he had done back when she was sitting in the street. It seemed to comfort him more then it was comforting Claire at the moment.

"Accepts that you'll never leave, you're here forever." he finally answered with a sickly sweet smile perched on his lips. And Claire wished it would fall off because it wasn't welcome in her state of mind.

"But you can't live forever." she sniffed, leaning her head into his hand more despite her silent protests that she hated him, Skip kept silent and let her be as he stood up and walked to what she thought was the kitchen.

He seemed to have this thing about not answering questions until her mind was so full of other things it came as a painful shock. So she lay there, thinking about the world and thinking about what could have been. If only she hadn't come here, if only she had stayed in the shelter with her brother mourning their parent's death. Mourning them because they knew nothing about the horrible things their mother and father had done to fuel the attacks on their own town. But that's for another story, a story that comes much after the demise of Claire.

"Who said anything about living?" Skip asked leaning over the couch to stare into her bloodshot eyes with a smirk.
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So the prompt I was supposed to use was...She lays there, thinking about the world and thinking about what could have been.

I edited this and added some things that may have answered some questions every one's been asking. If not, well whatever.