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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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They'd both had it rough. Yeah, that was the fucking understatement of the day. Jennifer nearly smiled again. Melissa then asked a rhetorical question about that old phrase about things that don't kill you making you stronger. Jennifer hadn't known it was a Nietzsche quote, but wasn't too surprised to find out. From what little she knew about the philosopher, he was dark, depressing, grim, and convinced that nothing meant anything. He was also apparently wrong a lot of the time. Jennifer wasn't feeling stronger for not having eaten a proper meal in a week. She wasn't feeling stronger for having the blood of a friend on her shirt. She wasn't feeling stronger for being unable to stop a boy from killing, for being unable to even keep track of him.

Melissa started another train of thought, but quickly trailed off. Jennifer waited in silence. It wouldn't do to pressure her friend into saying something she wasn't prepared for, or into thinking too deeply about any of this. This was a situation where thought was a good way to lose the will to live.

It seemed Melissa was thinking the same thing, only she was worried about Jennifer. She didn't like that Jennifer was talking about her own death like it was a certainty, even though it was. This was part of pretending, though, part of maintaining the strength to go on. It didn't make anybody feel better to just wave the fact that they were all going to die in their fucking faces. Never mind the fact that that had happened every other time this program had been conducted. Never mind the fact that Jennifer was pretty sure no one with a single-digit kill count had ever survived.

Melissa questioned whether Jennifer's spirit would be compromised by assuming she'd die. The implications were clear: wasn't that a self-fulfilling prophecy? Likely it was. Jennifer had known since the start that she wouldn't make it, though. She'd nearly killed herself back on the first day. Searching back, she found she couldn't really bring to mind why she hadn't. There had been some good reason, she thought. Now, though, she was living out of habit and fear of the unknown. She was living to seize every little worthwhile moment she could before the end. It was funny. She'd been here a week. Back home, weeks had slipped through her fingers, lost to school and friends and long walks. She never thought about the time she spent. This last week, though, had felt like a year, had felt like a whole other life.

Almost like it would never end.

Maybe it wouldn't.

"I, um, thanks," Jennifer said. "But, um, but, Melissa... if, um, if it's safe that's fine but, um, but if something happens and it's not, I, um, I want you to get away. Don't risk yourself to keep me comfortable."

I've been alone before. Dying alone wouldn't be so much worse than dying with friends, right?

"And, um, maybe you're right. Maybe I'm being too much of a pessimist. But, um, I guess, um, it's just easier, you know? Maybe, um, I'm afraid if I get my hopes up it'll just be worse."

She sighed.

"But, um, but don't worry. I'll be doing my best to... to stay alive, and to, um, to keep you alive too.

"And, um, I'll... stay with you too."
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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