Building up a sweat felt good; the rhythm felt good.

Chelsea hadn't wanted much for the weekend then to spend it indoors practicing, but the familiar buzzing of her phone as it vibrated against her reminded her that the universe had other plans. Frowning, she placed the drumsticks at her side and gave the monitor a glance.

Dill, again. Her lips curled - it wasn't that she didn't want to hang out, exactly, but...

Staring up at the ceiling, Chelsea watched the dust float around the room. Sweat pooled from her arms to the floor, and the drums seemed to whisper to her that it would be fine to put it off, for today - for awhile - for as long as she liked. And it was a powerful lure - but she'd always considered herself diligent.

Sure, let's talk. Where do you want to mee -

Chelsea paused, deleting the entire message.

Sure! Where do u want to meet?!!

Frowning, she spent a few minutes looking for icons that weren't too funny, or too flirty. Settling on a heart that appeared to be dying from blood loss, she sent the message and went back to drumming.

It took Dill a lot longer to reply then she'd expected, and when he did, his response was much longer than she felt necessary.

And she couldn't help but feeling a little disappointed that she wasn't what he was worrying about.

Chel I've been feeling really bad about everything & thought you and I need to talk because I'm really down please can we meet at B's for coffee

Still, it was weird for Dill to worry about punctuation. It was weird for Dill to write more then a sentance. Hell, it was weird for Dill to not just show up and want to do something - not that she blamed him there. Tapping her fingers against her drums, Chelsea blew a strand of hair out of her face and decided on replying with a terse "Okay."

Texting her parents that she'd be gone, Chelsea threw her messenger bag over her shoulder and walked into the blinding summer sunlight.

Bailey's coffee wasn't too far down the street, but it was usually jam-packed with people (most of whom were just using it for the wi-fi these days). Not only did Chelsea not see a single jogger in unflattering spandex - the road felt oddly empty, even deserted.

Dill was sitting out in front, by himself. His hair was damp with sweat - not from exertion, but worry. It sagged over his face like a terminally ill mop, and combined with his posture to make him look more overweight then he was. Chelsea frowned and bit her lip again - it was clear he hadn't been sleeping.

Waving, she took a seat next to him.

Turning to stare at her, face to face, Chelsea could see how unwell he looked. Had he really been freaking out so much over breaking that? Everything seemed entirely hilarious to her, and she laughed unconsciously - quickly covering her mouth and grinding her teeth in case someone showed up, though no one did.

For his part, Dill didn't seem to care - and when he spoke, eyes locked on hers, his loops moved slowly - robotically.

"Can you hear me, Chel?"

Dill's face continued to pulse and swell under his own sweat - and then, suddenly she could see the fissures in it under his skin. Tiny little cracks that should've shown bone or muscle or SOMETHING, but just displayed empty space. Dill wriggled in his chair half-heartedly - and slumped forward as the air let out of him like a wheezing balloon.

Chelsea screamed until her lungs were sore - only to find the normality of looking at another human's dead body - Dill's dead body - becoming familiar far too quickly. Bile rose up in her throat, and she forced herself to ignore it. She reached for her cell phone, fingers shaking.

Of course the signal was dead. Damn it..!

Taking a deep breath, and apologizing quietly to Dill, she ran back towards her house as fast she could.

It was the old woman in the road that stopped her - face stretched up as if someone had snuck a pufferfish under her skin while she wasn't looking.

And despite the fact that she couldn't see the woman's lips, somehow Chelsea knew what she was saying.

Then, collapsing under the weight of her ancient, wrinkle-clad form, the old woman deflated entirely like Dill had.

Chelsea tried her best to keep calm and not to cry as she opened the garage door and hesitantly looked around for anything - for anyone. The temperature had been turned up to eighty degrees, which was still less then the heat outside. It took her a moment to register that she'd turned it back down, and another to register dad sitting at the dinner table, looking at mom.

What had been mom.

He turned around slowly, lines under his eyes stretched pale and huge and bulbous. As if from a great distance, he sought out her, staring back at him - trying to find her lips.

Chelsea walked closer, even though her body was trembling, so that he could see her clearly, and dad spoke.

"I was cold. Mom's gone."

Chelsea wanted to close her eyes - but she couldn't. Maybe he'd know. Maybe -

But even as dad's face started to swell and distort, she saw the familiar words form.

"Can you hear me, Chelsea..?"

Then she closed her eyes, and waited, and cried.

"Of... Course... I can't hear you..!"

She choked out slowly, and sank to the ground.

Finally, the dust grew too thick and the temperature too scalding, and Chelsea left the house behind her, taking only what she felt she needed as she did.

Outside, a few things had changed - a few sad piles on the ground that she hadn't noticed or registered as having once been human, a few trucks parked with strange, uniform precision, tiny insects already swarming over them - seemingly unaffected by the world around them.

Chelsea knelt down and watched them go about their brutal work, silently.

The ants turned back and parted ways like a river of tiny brown carapaces, staring at her - or rather, past her. Chelsea whirled around so quickly that she fell onto the warm concrete - as from somewhere far away, she felt the sound, unmistakeable, of distant drumming.

And one by one, the tiny little ant heads detached and rolled to the ground, and Chelsea trembled, waiting for the end to find her. But her temperature remained constant, her breathing normal, her skin didn't swell up and sag and slip through her fingers as she held her head in her hands.

Relief flooded over her, giddy and effervescent - and with it, the knowledge of what she needed to do. Walking calmly back to her house and sitting at her drums, Chelsea tapped her feet against the garage floor, bringing herself to time with the distant beat. Then - she began drumming until her vision grew clouded and her mind grew blank.

It felt good to work up a sweat, after all - and the rythym was good.

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