Actions

Work Header

The Boy Behind the Mask

Chapter Text

     Zacharie was that weird kid who wore a mask vaguely resembling a cat to school, and he never took it off. He didn't speak very often, either. Though when he did, it was almost always insightful and useful information. Everybody teased him for it, though, somehow, it didn't seem to get to him.

     Zacharie's messy and untamable black hair spilled over his porcelain white mask with a smile bearing three teeth and two large oval eye holes. They were covered with thick black material on one side that he could see perfectly fine through, though it was difficult to see his eyes through it. His usual attire included a white sweater with a heart in the middle and black leggings or black skinny jeans, and today was no exception.

     The only reason he wore the mask was because he had scars on his face. And he'd rather have people staring at him because he's wearing a mask and being mysterious than have people staring at him for scars echoing across his face. That, and he liked the attention. Well, some of the time, he did. Other times, people would tease him for it.

     He didn't really mind it, though. It usually didn't get physical, which was good, because if it did he'd have to explain to his foster parents why he came home with more scars than he already had.

     His school days were boring ones, he didn't dare eat at school in fear of seeing some of the scars around his mouth.

     Zacharie didn't really pay attention to his surroundings. He didn't need to a lot of the time, his height stood at four foot ten, making him very short and nimble so it was easy to get around people in crowds. Though somehow, someone else hadn't been looking where they'd been going, and the two bumped into each other. Zacharie, being shorter by many inches, stumbled back slightly, looking up to meet the... orange gaze? He had orange eyes? How peculiar.

     Aside from his unique eyes, the boy stood at about five foot ten, more than a whole foot taller than Zacharie. He wore a black baseball cap over his undercut. The top part of his hair (which was mostly covered by his hat) was colored blonde, and the bottom part was a deep chocolate brown. Much more attractive that Zacharie's pitch black hair, or a least he thought so. He also wore a baseball uniform for the school.

     "Sorry about that!" Zacharie said, a bit more than flustered. He laughed, and he was glad that the much taller (and attractive) one couldn't see how red his face had become.

     "It's fine." The man just went on his way. Zacharie thought he had remembered hearing him called the Batter around, he was supposedly the best baseball player in the league. And completely consumed with his talent. Sigh.

     Zacharie walked to class dreamily and with a half-smile on his face. He was in love.

Chapter Text

     Zacharie sighed, propping his head in his hand and doodling on his paper instead of paying attention to the lesson in front of him. His mind was wandering to earlier, how he had bumped into the Batter... and how tall and intimidating he was. Though oddly attractive.

     The teachers couldn't tell where he was looking, anyway, as long as he kept the mask at least tilted up slightly, so he could doodle and daydream all he wanted in class

     The lesson was taught with time to spare at the end of the class, so the teacher reminded everyone to attend the baseball game after school to support their team. Zacharie perked up a bit at that, and for the first time in that class, he actually listened to something the teacher said.

     "...four o'clock will be the JV game, varsity starts at five-thirty. Be sure to stay hydrated, it's going to be hot outside!" Zacharie began to pack up his things moments before the bell rang, slinging his backpack over his shoulder and headed for the library. That's where he spent his lunch period, he liked to read.

     He scanned his school ID card and practically made a bee line for the science fiction/fantasy section. Those were his favorite types of books, after all.

     Zacharie thumbed through the books. He had already read most of them, and there wasn't a title he didn't recognize. He picked out his favorite fantasy book, Majyk, and checked it out of the library. He could use a brush up on the series, anyhow.

     The rest of the day passed at an agonizingly slow pace. Dragging on and on, and seeming to loop unendingly.

     Finally, though, the school day ended. Zacharie had written down the times of the games on a small sheet of paper that he could easily reference. What he didn't know was which team the Batter would be on, varsity or junior varsity. If he had to guess, he would likely have been on the varsity team, though he wouldn't dare make assumptions, so the plan was to just attended both.

     Of course, it was only around three o'clock, and the JV game started at four, so he's have to entertain himself for a whole hour before the games. He dropped his backpack off in his locker (so he wouldn't be carrying it around everywhere) while thinking about what to do between the game times. Maybe he'd go to the library, maybe he'd just kind of... wait.

     Despite what probably would have been the right or sensible choice, Zacharie decided to just kill time by walking around campus.

     It would be quite poetic to say that his footsteps echoed through the empty halls, though that wasn't exactly true. Lingering students hanging around by their lockers hummed in discussion, and the after school clubs were in session. Some of the doors were open, and Zacharie could hear murmuring and laughter coming from the clubs. His footsteps hardly made a dent in the toned noise filling the hallways.

     He walked into a part of the school that was a bit less traveled, now would be the correct time for such eloquent phrasing. As he walked, he passed the old baseball field nobody ever went to.

     Zacharie stopped, looking out at the abandoned baseball field with curious eyes. The Batter was there with the pitching machine set to its highest setting, and yet the Batter seemed to hit every single ball that came his way.

     Zacharie watched in awe for quite some time before Batter began to feel the gaze on him. He stopped and looked over his shoulder to see some strange boy in a cat-like mask staring back at him. The two stared at each other from across the field before Zacharie decided to say something, shouting out towards the other.

     "Don't you have a game to be getting to, amigo?" As Zacharie said this, Batter looked down to the watch on his wrist and shook his head.

     "Doesn't start until 5:30." Zacharie clicked his tongue on the roof of his mouth. So he was in varsity baseball, how fancy. Zacharie continued to stand there and watch for a while, fascinated with how determined and dedicated the Batter was.

     Batter eventually got rather... uncomfortable with Zacharie watching him. He walked over to turn off the machine and brought his bat with him as he walked over to the boy with the mask.

     Zacharie wasn't exactly leaning against the fence, more like he had looped his fingers through the small openings in it. The Batter did the same, though he stood quite a bit taller than him. When the two were right next to each other, their height difference was much more noticeable and apparent. The Batter practically towered over the small form of Zacharie.

     It was just about then that the Batter recognized Zacharie. "Didn't I bump into you earlier?" Batter squinted his bright orange eyes, looking into the eye holes of the mask and attempting to see through the thick layers of fabric.

     "Sí." Zacharie replied, nodding a bit. He was blushing just out of view. "And, again, I'm so sorry about that."

     The Batter shrugged, loosening his grip on the fence and tightening his grip on the bat. "Why were you watching me?"

     "I love baseball." Zacharie didn't know the first thing about baseball. He supposed he could either admit he was basically stalking the other, or he could say he enjoyed baseball.

     "What's your favorite team?" Batter seemed to immediately perk up at the mentioning of baseball. Crap.

     "I dunno," Zacharie shrugged, pulling off a stunt no man should be able to pull off, "I like all of them, but I guess if I had to pick I'd say the Brewers."

     He had literally just thought of a random name and had hoped it was a valid team. And apparently it was, because Batter started to talk about their wins and losses this season, and how they were absolutely crushed by the Dodgers.

     Zacharie listened and nodded at appropriate intervals, not so much interested in what he was saying and more so intrigued by the silky sheets of his voice that were being spoken. Before either of them had noticed, it was 5:18, and the Batter had to get to his game before it started so his team could go over the lineup.

     "I'll walk you?" Zacharie asked hopefully. The Batter accepted his offer, glad for some company, and the two of them walked to the other baseball field.

Chapter Text

     Zacharie slipped his hands in his front pockets, feeling extremely giddy on the inside as he and Batter walked in silence to the baseball field. He didn't know why he felt this way, and right about then wasn't the right time to be doing a feelings analyzation.

     They reached the field all too soon, and the Batter turned to Zacharie. "Will you be watching the game?"

     "Of course." Zacharie said. That was his plan, anyway, though he wouldn't dream of telling the Batter that he came to the game just to see him. A ghost of a smile made its way onto Batter's face, and he turned to go join his team in the dugout.

     Zacharie wasn't the first person there, there were people that had shown up for the junior varsity game and stayed for varsity, and people were beginning to file in in small groups, chittering and laughing as they took their seats. Zacharie decided to take a seat near the front, but not completely in the front. He figured that would be a good enough view, but, knowing zip about baseball, he truly had no idea.

     The game passed by what would generally be considered eventfully, though, again, the masked boy didn't know what was going on. However, he cheered when others cheered, (and especially louder when the Batter was up to plate), and watched the game, trying to make a guess as to what was going on.

     The game ended shortly after the Batter hit a home run at the bottom of the seventh, causing everyone to erupt into cheers. Zacharie just smiled and clapped as the other ran around the plates seemingly without a care in the world. The Batter was lifted up onto the shoulders of the other teammates as they continued cheering, melting into loud talking and laughing. Zacharie was the only one left in the bleachers at this point, save for the baseball equivalent of soccer moms staying behind for their sons. Zacharie figured he should probably leave then at this point, so he stood up and began to exit the ballpark

     The Batter noticed Zacharie leaving. He hopped off the shoulders of his teammates and jogged on over to the masked boy.

     "Hey, headed home so soon?" Batter asked softly. Zacharie nearly spun around and laughed with glee at the other's voice. He didn't, though, instead turning his head slightly so his mask faced the baseball star.

     "Yeah," Zacharie replied with a shrug, "I've got a project that won't do itself."

     "Ah, okay." The Batter replied indifferently. "Talk to you later, then."

     Zacharie retrieved his backpack from his conveniently located locker, and headed off campus. It was getting a bit later than he would have liked it to be, so he made sure to keep walking at a decently pace. The silence in the streets unnerved him.

     He made it home, and found his foster parents doing what they normally did: cooking and watching television. Typical stuff for a "typical family", which they honestly were not.

     "I'm home," Zacharie called out. Katie, his foster mom, hopped off the couch to greet him.

     "Where were you?" Katie asked concernedly, "Your father and I were so worried!"

     "At the baseball game," Zacharie replied, shrugging softly. Upon hearing the commotion, Zacharie's other parental unit, Pierre, came from his post in the kitchen and enveloped Zacharie into a hug.

     "Don't keep us waiting like that," Alex said, ruffling Zacharie's hair. It's not like it was doing any more damage to it than it already was.

     "I thought I told you about the game earlier in the week."

     "We didn't think you'd go to it," Katie replied, "You're not exactly the sportiest person around, you won't even watch college football with me."

     Zacharie just shrugged, choosing to keep his mouth shut for the time being. His foster parents didn't exactly seem to mind, Pierre dashed back into the kitchen to save his food from burning into a flaming inferno, and Katie's attention was snapped back to the red dirt rivalry game after the opposing team made a touchdown. The masked one went to his room and set his bag down, his cat rubbing against his leg and purring in the most insistent manner. Humans adore that. Zacharie picked up his cat and held him in his arms, stroking his fur gently.

     "Hola, Pablo. Nice to see you." Pablo just purred and rubbed against Zacharie's hand, snuggling up to the warm human whose arms he lay in.

     Zacharie sat down on his bed and set Pablo down next to him, slipping his laptop out of it's case and booting it up. His first priority was to complete his homework, then he'd spend the next hour pretending he had more homework, but actually surfing the internet like the introvert he truly was meant to be.

     However, during the research of a Very Important Article, an external link caught Zacharie's eye. He clicked the link, and it redirected him to a local news page.

POLICE INVESTIGATING STRANGE DEATHS GO MISSING

          Over the course of the past week, there have been inexplicable deaths at various locations in the nearby area, and they all look like they were murdered by a rather large dog, too large to be an actual dog. The victims' bodies are torn to shreds and several limbs seem to be missing, which the police have concluded cannot be caused by a dog. The police on the case mysteriously disappeared on Tuesday, and have not been heard from since. The remaining police on the force are still unsure as to the causes of the deaths, and have issued a warning to all citizens to stay inside their homes past 7 pm. If any suspicious activity is spotted, please report it to the police immediately. 

     The article made Zacharie feel slightly nauseous, and a feeling of dread seemed to loom over his room now. The silence that was comforting now only seemed deafening and uncomfortable. Even Pablo seemed to be humbled by even being in the presence of such a heavy article.

     Zacharie checked the date on the article; it was written yesterday. No chance of it being outdated. He'd have to... he wasn't sure what he'd have to do, but he'd definitely have to do something about it, if only returning home earlier than usual.

     When Zacharie had 'finished' his homework, he went back into the living room to find his foster parents oogling over the tv and what seemed to be the last shreds of a football game. They usually liked it when he joined them, even if he didn't really watch or care at all. Just the company was nice he guessed.

     He sat down on the cushioned chair with the rather tall back that sat at an angle and next to the couch. People ran back and forth across the TV screen in a desperate attempt to get the ball for the final touchdown. One of the teams eventually did, and that's when Zacharie's step mother erupted into cheering, hopping up from her seat and throwing her arms into the air victoriously. Zacharie never understood why she did that, it's not like the people in the stadium or the players could hear her cheering and rooting for their team.

     After Katie had managed to calm herself down a bit, Pierre asked Zacharie about his day. Zacharie just responded with the usual "same as always, nothing new". Somehow, the conversation was steered towards the murder cases Zacharie had read about. He tilted his head to the side a bit as he recalled information to be useful to the conversation, even though he didn't speak up.

     "I heard that it's just a guy savagely mauling people to death," His foster mother said in awe.

     Pierre wasn't so thrilled with the talk of it being a human. "It can't be though, no one would do that to just... random people, right?"

     "I dunno," Katie sighed, stretching her arms behind her head nonchalantly, reclining back against the couch. "People do some weird and crazy things nowadays."

     "Maybe... it's an escaped zoo animal," Pierre offered to the conversation, folding his hands. "Perhaps a lion, or a crocodile."

     "That only attacks at night? No way. Plus, wouldn't officials tell the public if a dangerous animal escaped the local zoo? And wouldn't the people in the surrounding area hear the snarling or agonizing screams? Someone had to knock these suckers out before he did them off."

     Pierre only nodded at her logic, looking down at his hands. Zacharie made a mental note of all the things having been said by either party, this was a rather fascinating thing for him to hear about.

     After a bit more talk of this, then eventually talk of uninteresting things Zacharie sat through politely, he excused himself to bed, he was getting fairly sleepy. He trailed his hand along the smooth, off-white walls of the house as he went. When he got to his room, he began to change into his pajamas. That was one of his least favorite parts of the night, because he could see his burn marks and scars adorning his chest and upper arms. More lay dormant on his back, though, thankfully, he didn't have to look at those all the time. He slipped his pajama shirt on and walked over to the window, folding his arms on the windowsill and looking up at the stars.

     He brought a slow hand up to the back of his head, loosening the strings that kept his mask around his face and letting it fall into his open palms. Everything seemed so much brighter without a thin layer of fabric between his eyes and the world.

     Zacharie's face could be faintly seen reflected in the window. His face was a pale mess. Freckles ghosted his face on his cheekbones and left trails over to his nose, highlighting the single, long and broad line that went across his face diagonally, above his right eye, over the bridge of his nose, and under his left eye. His eyes were a forest green. Additionally, small scars adorned the corners of his mouth, scattered seemingly capriciously.

     He sighed, closing his eyes and pressing his forehead against the glass of the window. The cool surface soothed him.

     When Zacharie found himself slowly drifting off to sleep, he moved from his place at the window and slipped between the sheets of his bed, laying his weary head down on his pillow. Thoughts of slumber began approaching his consciousness as he enveloped himself in sleep and dreams.

     Zacharie was roused from his sleep by his phone, singing to him in order to alert him that it was time to get ready for school.

I come home in the morning light
My Mother says "when you gonna live your life?"
Oh Mother dear, we're not the fortunate ones
And girls
They wanna have fu-un
Oh, girls just wanna have fun

     Zacharie reached over and turned off his alarm, yawning softly as he slowly sat up. He didn't want to leave his bed, it was so warm and comfortable.

     Alas, he needed to get a move on. He stood up slowly, steadying himself when the blood began to rush from his head, making him dizzy. Zacharie changed into his usual ensemble, tying his mask into place as he slipped his phone into his backpack and dragged it downstairs with him.

     His foster parents weren't awake yet, apparently, so Zacharie slipped a bagel in the toaster for himself. The pop of the toaster, despite being expected, still made him flinch.

     His foster mom came downstairs, pulling her bathrobe around herself and yawning. "Good morning, Zach."

     " 'Morning, Katie." Zacharie spread cream cheese on his bagel. Josie sighed.

     "You don't have to call us by our names, you know, we're your parents now." She rummaged through the cabinet, getting out the cereal and a bowl. Zacharie didn't respond after that, but just ate his bagel after slipping his mask up just slightly. She wasn't his mom.

     He finished his bagel and made sure everything he needed was in his backpack before heading over to the door.

      "...Have a good day." Zacharie didn't respond as he closed the door and began to walk to school.

Chapter Text

     The air around him seemed to be filled with millions of tiny lightning bugs in the dismal gray sky. Of course, it was just the way the headlights of the school bus shattered through the pouring rain, but Zacharie liked to think he was in a fantasy world all of his own. The nasty names being thrown around the hallways wherever he went were just drifting ghosts of the people they came from, but he was immune so long as he kept his eyes on the prize. Well... Zacharie wouldn't exactly be fond of assigning the materialistic term to another person, but, well, Hollywood has gotten the best of this generation.

     The fog around the school was so thick that it was difficult to see who it was with the unoriginal snide remarks this time. Zacharie found his way, though, and walked to his first class with a small sigh. The barren, pale landscape painting the room as an untarnished paradise sent shivers through Zacharie's spine. The cold and unforgiving classrooms were always his least favorite part of the day, aside from the exponentially unfunny comments strewn towards him.

     His next few classes weren't any more eventful. The storm outside didn't show any sign of rolling to a stop, and as the students hurried through the soaking rain, the school became in attitude as it was in the atmosphere-- dreary and dismal.

    Before Zacharie knew it, the day was almost through. The teacher he was supposed to be aiding preferred to run the class by himself, so he would let Zacharie do whatever he'd like so long as it didn't disrupt the class. So he'd sit towards the back end of the classroom, farthest away from any of the students as possible. For many reasons, almost too many to count, but the biggest reason was that it was a class of freshman, and he didn't want to get involved in the post-middle school drama that almost always occurred within such a group. The class had been passing by with such ease, surely the teacher wouldn't notice if Zacharie used his phone, at least for the purposes of filling up the mellow hum of class discussion with music.

     Before he found himself able to reach for his headphones, however, a siren began blaring through the school, echoing and bouncing from place to place. The teacher stood up and paused, counting the alarm's duration. Zacharie counted with him. A flurry of voices rose up in the class, some asking questions about the bell, others mumbling incoherently.

     The bell ceased ringing. A petrified look crossed the teacher's face.

     "Get under your desks," He hissed, scurrying for his keys. Panic fell upon the class as people rushed beneath their desks, whimpering and whispering anxiously. Zacharie followed suit, grabbing his backpack and taking shelter beneath the desk. The bell was ten seconds long, which meant that there was an armed intruder on campus, and the teacher only explained what was going on after the lights were off, the blinds were shut, and the door was locked. His terrified voice quivered as he spoke, letting the students of the class in on what Zacharie had deduced moments before.

     A hush fell over the classroom. The teacher hid beneath his own desk, and what seemed like hours but likely were only minutes went by before a shadow passed before the window. The anticipating air about the classroom quickly tensed to a fearful quiet. Zacharie looked up at the shaddow. It was human, and whoever it was was dragging something long and rounded behind him, metallic and uneven scraping taking the place of the silence. The figure's footsteps were staggered, unpredictable, leaving Zacharie in curious terror as he watched the intruder stop in front of their classroom.

     Zacharie braced himself as the door wobbled. There was a pause. He didn't dare look.

     A loud clash of metal was heard as the handle bent, and the door drifted open...

Chapter Text

     The door swung open with a crash. Heavy footsteps clicked against the monotonous linoleum, perfectly matching the color of the ceiling-- a rich, soft, and blissful gray. Something thick and dark dripped from the man that came walking through the door, steps rhythmic yet unpredictable, as if part of an off-beat orchestra. All that was visible from where Zacharie was hidden was the thick cleats supporting a thin and frail figure, and the back end of a baseball bat, saturated with an aura that made his stomach tie itself into knots.

     There was a moment of silence where nobody dared let out a breath- hoping, waiting, praying that things would be okay. This had to be a drill. It was the only logical explanation, the school was holding one of their district-enforced drills. Only, things were a lot more realistic than previous drills, sinking a hole in the notion that everything was fine.

     Zacharie hoped that he was imagining the snarling and heaving breaths filling the room with an air of dread. Zacharie could feel himself begin to shake, cold sweat beading up on the back of his neck. He took a breath, forcing the exhale to stay in his chest for longer than he would have liked, as he hoped it wouldn't make any sound.

     Whoever it was drifted their way to one side of the classroom, almost as if their feet weren't moving at all. The sound of carelessly disregarded desks crashing to the floor mingled with the screaming of the students created a chaotic blanket over the looming dread that hung in the air. Even through the discord, Zacharie began to poke holes in this hour and decided that it must have been a dream. Yeah... a dream would have to make sense. It has to. Right? He just had to wake up.

     Zacharie snapped out of his thinking as he watched as the teacher slowly and shakily stand up from his desk, reaching for the gun mandated by the school, but it was already too late. A gun shot pierced the air with the sound, shattering a window. Water began raining in through the now open hole in the wall, accompanied by a strong wind that only seemed to make things worse. Not long after the window had broken, a sickening thwack echoed through the room. What could only be described as the sound a sack of meat makes when it hits the floor soon followed.

     The students were smacked with the blunt weapon one by one, and the panic in the room only seemed to grow as the students who fought back were... stabbed? and thrown back against the wall. Zacharie clutched his knees close, shutting his eyes tightly. There was nothing he could do. There was nothing he could do. He could hear the blood pounding in his ears, adrenaline leaving him lightheaded and sick to his stomach, and his shallow breathing wasn't helping. He wished he'd been nicer to his foster parents. He wished he'd given his... his mom a hug this morning. He wished he'd stayed home, and he wished he could disappear, slipping up his mask and burying his face in the soft fabric of his sweater, waiting, waiting...

     It seemed like forever, but the moment arrived where the classroom was dead quiet. Everyone was... dead... and Zacharie was the only one left. He didn't dare look up, warm breath heating the fabric beneath him and giving him a calming sense of security. It must have been only moments, but he could almost forget what had happened. His comfort was short-lived as he was forced back to now, interrupted by slow footsteps headed his way. Fuck fuck fuck. Tears began gathering at the edges of Zacharie's eyes as he realized that today was the last day of his life. There were so many things he had left to do. I-I haven't even graduated High School or attended college, or- or experienced a real relationship, I... fuck, I can't die today, I can't die, I... 

     The desk slowly scraped back from Zacharie's head. He could feel someone standing over him, and in the brief moment it took to realize that, his body made the decision. This was a life-or-death situation, a fight-or-flight conflict...

     And his body chose to fight.

     Something reached towards him, and Zacharie's fist made contact with whatever it was. He leaped up to his feet and his mask slipped to the floor, but that was the least of his worries right then. He could vaguely see a figure through his teary and blurred gaze, so he lunged. He was met with significantly less resistance than he thought. His jump was way over calculated, and the figure and Zacharie both went toppling to the floor. The person was trying to say something.

     Once Zacharie had the chance to wipe his eyes and let go of the breath he was holding, he looked at who he had pinned against the floor.

     "Cher Batter?" Zacharie exclaimed in surprise, feeling the blood rush to his face as he scooted back aways. The lights of the classroom had been turned on, and there was a rather large crowd of people he could see gathered just outside the door. Zacharie's eyes widened, darting around, trying to make sense of the situation.

     "Ow..." The Batter mumbled, sitting back up. "What the hell?"

     "What happened here?" The principal exclaimed more than asked, rushing over to the two boys.It was now that Zacharie began noticing the distinct lack of weight on his face, turning towards his broken mask with an almost look of panic on his face.

     It was now that Zacharie began noticing the distinct lack of weight on his face, turning towards his broken mask with an almost look of panic on his face. "H-huh?" He asked, the response more just the shock of his broken face-wear. He breathed in sharply as he collected the shards in his hands, turning his back to the classroom and running out the door. He just needed to... get away, the crowd of people was making him anxious, and he needed to fix his mask, and-

     The color drained from his face as he skidded to a halt outside the classroom. The school faculty was there, standing outside of the classroom, but the thing that shocked Zacharie the most was the mass of students pushing to get past the teachers. They unanimously looked at him, and there was a brief moment of recognizance before Zacharie regained his scrambled consciousness and bolted.

Chapter Text

Zacharie ran until he couldn’t feel his legs, until his chest heaved and pushed and forced air in and out of his lungs. His thoughts raced, running marathons in his head, too quick to keep up with. He didn’t stop until he’d run through the school gates, and across the street, and down the block. He wasn’t sure where he was going, he just needed to get away. He rushed past the empty streets and seemingly vacant houses, where he tripped over a broken piece of sidewalk and crashed to the floor. He cried out in surprise, the pads of his hands scuffed the floor and had begun to bleed.

Zacharie sat up. Breathing was difficult. His heart pounded in his ears. His head felt like it was about to explode. He could taste a metallic flavor in his mouth, the reason he didn’t run anymore. A small daisy had pushed its way up through the rifts in the asphalt, catching Zacharie’s attention for a moment. Everything spun around the unmasked boy as he struggled to stay conscious, he couldn’t pass out in the middle of the street, in the middle of…

Where was he?

He looked up, away from the cracked cement, as it became easier for him to draw breath. The relief of having caught his breath and the happiness he felt when the street stopped spinning was quickly saturated with fear and anxiety as he realized he didn’t know where he was. The neighborhood around him didn’t seem familiar. Zacharie looked back the way he came, he didn’t recognize that either. He reached for his phone, and quickly realized that he’d left it in his school bag, back in the classroom he’d dropped it in.

His body shook as he forced himself to stand up. His palms had mostly stopped bleeding, but small bits of gravel had embedded themselves in the skin, he figured he’d deal with that when he got back home. Zacharie set off back the way he’d come from, or at least, the way he thought he’d come from. He wasn’t too sure, his mind was still vaguely disoriented and direction was hard to tell.

“Zacharie?” He turned towards the woman’s voice. A tall and almost painfully thin girl stood about ten feet from him. She wore a black-and-white striped shirt tucked into high-waisted pastel blue jeans, and her white bobbed hair framed her ghostly pale face.

“Simone?” He asked in disbelief, smile pulling its way at his face.

She grinned and came sprinting towards Zacharie, tackling him to the ground. “Je n’en crois pas mes yeux, mon petit canard est ici! Tu m'as manqué très beaucoup! Ç a roule, mon canard?”

Zacharie laughed softly at his old nickname as a wave of nostalgia passed over him, replacing his anxiety. “Je vais bien, je vais bien… mais, mon fille de sucre, je pensais que tu as déménagé en Allemagne après l'école primaire! Qu'est-il arrivé?”

Simone stood, gesturing with her hands as she spoke. “Enfin, j'ai fait! Ma famille et moi avons déménagé en Allemagne, c’est vrai, mais nous avons déménagé ici, allez savoir pourquoi…” She rolled her eyes at that, holding out a hand to help Zacharie back to his feet. “Pourquoi es-tu ici? Est-ce que ta famille a déménagé ici aussi?”

He took her hand, brushing his hands on his jeans. “Ah, enfin... c'est une longue histoire, c’est naze, t’sais? Bref, mes parents ne sont… ils ne sont plus ici.”

“Quoi?!” Simone exclaimed. “Je suis tellement désolé, j-”

“Ne sois pas désolé, tu connaissais mes parents tout aussi bien que moi.”

There was a silence between the two before Zacharie let out a gentle chuckle. “I seem to be lost, ma chérie. Do you know where we are?”

“Of course! Alma Drive.” Simone replied, hugging Zacharie again. He laughed sweetly. “Where are you going to?”

The two of them walked together and chatted about menial things that generally aren’t important to the character arc. It almost made Zacharie forget about the trauma he’d experienced less than an hour prior. Of course, until he thought about the fact that he almost couldn’t remember, which made everything seem all the more real to him. Narratives can be confusing, no?

“Ducky?” Simone asked, head dropping at an angle while she looked over at the other. “You okay?”

“Of course, Sucre.” He smiled gently. “Just thinking.”

“If you say so,” She didn’t seem convinced, but she didn’t press it.