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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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As he worked, struggling with the unwieldy sand, Isaiah found his mind wandering, found himself trying to puzzle out what had gone down here. It was a simple mental exercise, something to keep his attention diverted from what he was actually doing, since the guy helping him didn't exactly seem interested in making conversation. He couldn't blame his companion. Dealing with the dead was awkward in a way Isaiah never could have imagined. It seemed so wrong to even consider levity, but forced solemnity would be insincere. Really, all he felt was sad. Sad that these two boys, for whatever reason, had lost their lives on this beach.

He just had to hope they were in a better place now. Given Bayview's populace, the odds were somewhat against it, though. He frowned for a moment. That didn't seem very fair. No questioning. Keep digging.

Some time later—he wasn't sure how long, though the hole had definitely gotten notably deeper—he was startled by a voice. Glancing up, he saw a giant of a boy, someone his digging partner quickly identified as Adrian. This Adrian immediately put Isaiah on edge, made him nervous. He wasn't a huge fan of the school's Caucasian population. He always felt a bit like they were judging him, sizing him up or viewing him as some sort of curiosity. After all, Bayview's minority population was not that notable. Sure, not everyone gave him that feeling. He had buddies on the baseball team who were different. Adrian, though, was a whole new world of menace, one whose presence was quite distracting. Isaiah wasn't exactly a shrimp, but he could see that he was nearly a head shorter than this newcomer.

So his digging buddy's jaunty response was not the best thing in the world. It seemed totally inappropriate for the situation, and potentially quite inflammatory, if Adrian had known the dead boy. Dougal. Isaiah now knew he had been called Dougal. Wait. There hadn't been a Dougal in the announcements, had there? That meant it was still going. No reprieve from the killing. Would it stay that way? Would the deaths continue at this frantic pace? How long would it be until someone caught up with Isaiah, killed him, too?

Before he could consider that thought for too long, another boy came down the beach, also asking what they were doing, also offering help. It renewed his faith in humanity that they could instantly find assistance, even while working on such a macabre task as digging graves for their classmates. The new arrival also shook him out of his worry over Adrian. They were his classmates, not his enemies. He was being stupid, practicing the very wrongs that annoyed him so much. Adrian would be fine.

"We're burying some people," Isaiah called to the newcomers. "We've got Dougal. If you two wanna help, wanna get"—he didn't know the other corpse's name, he realized, and paused for half a second, before finishing—"him, that'd be great. But you don't have to. We just figure it's good, you know, pay some respect to the souls of the dead?"

Good. Hopefully they would help. Hopefully they would get these two some peace. No, the bodies would be buried, even if Isaiah had to dig the second grave on his own. He wouldn't always have time for it, but since he did at the moment, leaving them to rot would be inexcusable.

He turned back to the grave, to his digging, keeping his eyes off the bodies as much as possible.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
Library Vee
Misty Browder drawn by Ryuki
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Milk of Human Kindness · The Beach: North