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Electronics store

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Akira hadn’t actually meant to catch up with Mimi and Tammy that particular Tuesday. She had gone to the shopping centre by herself, immediately after school and had gone to HiFi Electronics after a new USB for one of her assignments.

Akira didn’t find anything odd about HiFi Electronics, since it was the only big electronics store on the island, but an outsider would probably have identified the place as a knock off of JB HiFi. It was all very yellow.

Mimi and Tammy were looking at USBs themselves, and Akira almost didn’t notice them until Tammy said: ‘Isn’t that the girl from the playground?’

Akira and Mimi looked up at the same time and locked eyes and Akira had no idea what to do for a moment. Then Mimi smiled. ‘Oh, it is. Akira, wasn’t it?’

Tammy and Mimi looked markedly different in the blueish light of the shopping centre than they had in the playground, of course. But Akira couldn’t help but think of the huge swath of blood that had covered Tammy a little over a week earlier.

‘Um, yeah,’ Akira said.

‘Akira, help me out,’ Tammy said, taking a step toward her. ‘Mimi should definitely buy me a phone, right?’

Akira went: ‘Um…’ and blushed. Despite the memory of blood, Tammy was still severely attractive. Still with fine black hair and fine features and dark eyes and blue eyeshadow that matched Mimi’s t-shirt.

Mimi spluttered out a giggle. ‘Wait until Thursday, at least. I don’t have the money.’

‘You do too.’ Tammy whined.

Akira decided that her random thought that these two were together was true, and tried her utmost to stop thinking about how stunningly good looking Tammy was. It didn’t help.

Mimi picked out a USB from a lower shelf, one of the really high storage ones, and scrutinised the price tag. Unknown to Akira, the price on this USB was about thirty dollars lower than it would have been off the island.

‘We can have a look,’ Mimi said. ‘But I would like to eat before our first paycheck, alright?’

Our first paycheck? That means I can do what I want with it.’

‘It’ll be in my bank account, so you can not.’

The two of them started away from Akira, toward the checkouts. ‘Oh…’ Akira muttered, watching Tammy go.

Mimi glanced back and smiled again. ‘Nice seeing you, Akira.’

Akira blushed, sure she’d been caught watching Tammy’s exit, and gave a little wave that would haunt her nightmares for the rest of her life. No more school nightmares for Akira. From now on it would be waving to Mimi in an electronics store. And also her classmates being crushed to death by a playground, but that was old news.

On the way to the checkout with a much more reasonably sized USB, Akira passed Tammy and Mimi, who were browsing the collection of handsets in the store. Akira didn’t hang around to catch the conversation, but she overheard a little bit of it.

‘For all I know, it’ll take days for the money to process. Would you rather eat or have a phone?’

‘Honestly? A phone,’ Tammy grinned.

‘Too bad, it’s still my bank account.’

Tammy whined, and it was absolutely adorable.

New job

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‘Well, this is all very encouraging,’ William said, after probably the shortest meeting of Mimi’s life. ‘Agnes, if you could give them the forms for payroll? Hopefully the two of you can get started right away.’

‘I’m sorry,’ Agnes said. ‘I only brought the one payroll form. I can dash and get another one for Tammy if everyone is happy to wait a minute?’

‘Ah, that’s alright. It’s a joint account,’ Mimi said, thinking quickly. ‘It tends to be easier that way with freelance work.’

Agnes nodded and glanced at William, who shrugged.

Agnes was not as old as Mimi had expected someone named Agnes to be. She was probably in her early thirties, with brown hair tied in a bun and weary brown eyes. She pushed a form across the table.

‘I’m sorry we don’t have a form ready for a quote,’ Mimi said, as she glanced over the payroll form. ‘I wasn’t expecting things to move so quickly.’

‘That’s quite alright,’ William said. ‘I’ll make sure you leave with a time sheet, and you can return it to Agnes on Wednesday when you return with the first drafts.’

Mimi nodded and started filling in her details on the payroll form.

‘It’s all quite exciting, you know?’ William mused, as Mimi was writing. ‘When my son suggested we update the design of the place, I was a bit wary. But talking to you, Miss… apologies. Talking to you, Mimi, has been very encouraging.’

‘I’m glad to hear it,’ Mimi said. ‘That’s what I’m here for, you know? To bring your vision to life. I wouldn’t want to try to create a whole new brand for such an established business, after all.’

Mimi passed the form back to Agnes.

‘I’m sure you two can find your own way out, if you don’t mind,’ William said. ‘I need to discuss a few things with Agnes. And don’t hesitate to call either of us with any questions or clarifications you might have between now and our meeting on Wednesday.’

‘I look forward to it,’ Mimi said.

Tammy nodded and followed Mimi out the door and, back out in the corridor, she spoke for the first time since they’d arrived at the hotel. ‘That seemed to go well.’

Mimi nodded idly, wondering how many doors she’d counted on the way in. ‘It went astoundingly well, Tammy,’ she said. ‘Not only are they paying me at level five casual, but they’re not putting any limits on my hours or schedule.’

‘I don’t know what any of that means, Miriam,’ Tammy said.

Mimi choked with a laugh. ‘Don’t call me that, please. It means that it’s very good money. And I can raise it to exceptionally good money by working a few hours on weekends.’

Tammy nodded along. ‘There, now you understand my makeover skills.’

‘Oh, if you would accept hugs I would hug you, Tammy,’ Mimi said. ‘This is literally the best job I’ve had in my life and it’s only been a minute.’

‘I wouldn’t mind a hug, maybe.’ Tammy shrugged.

Mimi put an arm around Tammy’s shoulders and Tammy tensed up, very obviously.

‘Maybe another time.’ Mimi let Tammy go to open the door back out into the hotel. The corridor had seemed much shorter on the way in.

Interview at the hotel

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Mimi certainly wasn’t mentally replaying the feeling of Tammy’s breath on her face as her roommate applied her lipstick. She was absolutely admiring the gaudy cladding of the Island Hotel as she waited for someone to come and meet her and Tammy.

Tammy looked good, of course. She couldn’t not look good. But she’d gone for a similar sort of semi-professional look to Mimi. Tammy had on a black skirt and pink t-shirt with a midriff, red jacket. She had on black eyeliner with little wings, red lipstick and a touch of red eyeshadow.

Mimi couldn’t help that think Mimi had the look of an off-duty supervillain or something. It was a notable colour scheme, that firmly drew attention to her thin waist and strikingly dark eyes.

Mimi, however, was not thinking about how good Tammy looked, she was thinking about the aesthetic disaster that was this hotel lobby. The carpet was dark green with gold highlights, the walls were panelled wood, with brass fittings and slightly too-bright white lights where she supposed there would once have been gas lanterns, if the hotel was really that old.

It would probably make for an easy job, though.

So distracted was Mimi by examining the décor that she almost missed an older man in a black suit approaching the two of them.

‘One of you must be Miriam Stevenson,’ he said, in a very bassy, warm voice, a matching, warm smile on his wrinkled face.

Mimi stood up. ‘You can call me Mimi,’ she said. ‘This is my… collaborator, Tammy.’ She hoped the man, who was likely the owner, hadn’t noticed the pause. Tammy stood up.

‘Ah,’ the man nodded deeply, almost a little bow. ‘I’m William Barclay, the owner of the Island Hotel, for the moment. Thank you both for coming on such short notice.’

Mimi deep-nodded back. ‘It’s not trouble, I’m not staying too far from here at the moment.’

‘Oh, and I apologise for prying, would you be the ones who rented the Fraser House? On Seaside Street?’

‘That would be us,’ Mimi said.

‘It’s a very small town, you understand,’ William said. ‘News gets around about these sorts of things. It’s good tidings for me, of course, we haven’t had an experienced designer on the island for nearly a decade now.’

‘Oh,’ said Mimi.

‘Well, enough small talk for now, if you’d follow me upstairs, I’ll fill you in on the work and we’ll see how it all feels.’ William turned and beckoned them as he walked past the restaurant and started up the stairs.

The stair railings were the same dark wood as the wall-panels, the only accession to modernity was metal stair edges with yellow tape on them. Otherwise the décor was identical to the ground floor.

‘Just through here.’ William led the way behind the staircase to a door marked ‘Staff Only’ and through it into a short hall with a few doors leading off it. Here, the carpet was the same, but the walls were cream-coloured plaster with no wooden panels or silver lights.

‘And here’s my office.’ William opened the door at the end of the hall. ‘After you. We’ll be joined by Agnes in a moment, my head of staffing and payroll, just to make sure everything is on the level.’

Makeover

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Tammy had to hold her breath. Not because her hands were shaking or because Mimi smelled bad. Tammy had to hold her breath because she was fairly sure she would start screaming if she didn’t.

Why had she done this to herself? What insanity could have possessed her to pick up the makeup that Mimi had bought her and say ‘hold still, I’ll do it.’

This was madness. This was torture. This whole thing was maddening torture, come to think of it. Why hadn’t she just picked out some clothes and left, or let Mimi change in the bathroom?

Why couldn’t she stop thinking about Mimi’s creamy skin and dull blue eyes?

Why had she agreed to get this close to Mimi? Just centimetres away, hand trembling just a touch and she ran a mascara brush through Mimi’s fine, blonde eyelashes. Just centimetres away from that warm gaze and those pink lips.

But Tammy wasn’t thinking about anything in particular.

Tammy certainly wasn’t thinking about how Mimi had said ‘oh, you can just tell me what to do if you want.’ And she absolutely wasn’t thinking about how she’d said ‘no, no, you’ll just mess it up, I’ll do it.’

And there was absolutely no chance that Tammy was thinking about what it would be like to apply lipstick to someone else.

Mascara done, Tammy took a step back and tried to take a deep breath surreptitiously through her nose. She was sure Mimi heard that wheezing gasp, but Mimi didn’t say anything.

The mascara did something, that was for sure. It really brought attention to Mimi’s kind, blue eyes. It brought attention to her face, just like the headband did. Tammy had been thinking about getting rid of the headband, but she changed her mind now.

‘Well?’ Mimi said.

Tammy didn’t snap out of it, not exactly, she was still very much not thinking about what it would be like to apply lipstick to Mimi. But she nodded. ‘Yeah, I was right. You’re sure you don’t want more makeup?’

Tammy felt almost like someone had stabbed her in the chest when Mimi looked down and shrugged.

‘Not really, just the lips probably,’ Mimi said, quieter.

It wasn’t so much of a reaction, but it was more than enough for Tammy to notice it. It was more than enough that she regretted saying it like that. She wasn’t going to apologise, though, that much was certain.

Tammy nodded and looked back into the makeup case that Mimi had bought for her. ‘Ok, in that case I think… you want to look professional? Not like an artist? A designer?’

‘Designers look professional. They say buzzwords and they get along with the people in marketing.’

Tammy frowned. ‘Fine.’ She ignored the blue-tinted lip gloss and picked out a matte, peach lipstick. ‘Hold still.’

Mimi didn’t protest or suggest that she could do it herself this time. She just did what Tammy asked and held still. She puckered up very slightly when Tammy told her to and Tammy’s hand shook just a little as she applied the lipstick.

Those cute, pink lips were just there, just and the ends of her fingertips.

But Tammy wasn’t thinking about anything in particular.

Mimi pressed her lips together when Tammy stepped back again and Tammy certainly didn’t regret any opportunities that she hadn’t thought about deeply enough to miss.

Outfit upgrade

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Mimi was tense, and her heart was beating a little too fast. She knew why she was anxious, and she was pretty sure it was bullshit. She wanted to include Tammy in this process, because it seemed like the nice thing to do and because she had a feeling it would be good for Tammy. So, it was bullshit that she was anxious about it.

On the other hand, she was standing in her underwear in front of someone she’d known for a week. Mimi wasn’t sure exactly when the last time she’d been this close to naked in front of someone was. It certainly wasn’t a relevant factor that Tammy was exceptionally good looking.

Tammy was looking between the clothes she had sorted on the bed and Mimi’s semi-naked body. Mimi was trying not to remember all the insecurities she’d had about her body back when she’d had time to think about it more.

It was totally normal to have a soft stomach and wobbly thighs. It was totally normal to have a clear line of freckles on her collar and be otherwise pale. It was all totally normal and Mimi didn’t need to be insecure about it.

Except…

‘Hmm,’ said Tammy, in the sort of tone she would use to insult Mimi’s car.

Mimi tensed.

‘Turn around.’

Mimi did it, tensely.

‘Alright, pants I think,’ Tammy said. ‘Turn the rest of the way around.’

Mimi turned back and Tammy handed her a pair of black slacks that had probably been in the bottom of her suitcase since she left Melbourne just over a year ago.

‘Hmm,’ said Tammy, again. ‘I’m seeing why you wear pastels.’

The pants still fit fine, and they weren’t badly wrinkled or anything. Mimi was glad there was no mirror in her bedroom. She could only imagine how pale she looked in just a pair of black pants and her cream-coloured bra.

‘Oh… maybe.’ Tammy picked a white shirt out of the pile. ‘Try this, might be too pale, though.’

Mimi pulled the shirt on.

Tammy shook her head. ‘Tuck it in at least, you savage.’

Mimi did as instructed.

‘Hmm.’ Tammy leaned from side to side, put a hand up under her chin, and frowned severely at Mimi. ‘How do you feel about heavy makeup?’

‘I avoid it.’

Tammy nodded. ‘That’s no good then, you look like a ghost.’

‘That hotel is probably haunted, so that’s fine.’

Tammy nodded. ‘Was that a joke?’

‘I guess.’ Mimi pulled the shirt off and threw it away from the pile.

Tammy shook her head. ‘Joking? At a time like this?’

Mimi shrugged.

Tammy held out a hand and Mimi froze, convinced for a moment that Tammy was about to touch her, of her own volition. But then Tammy stopped, tilted her head, and squinted. Then shook her head.

‘Try this.’ Tammy picked a pastel blue t-shirt out of the stack without looking. ‘You have a blue jacket?’

Mimi nodded and put on the t-shirt. Tammy was already ready with the jacket.

Tammy nodded, looking satisfied. ‘Just need to upgrade your normal look, you know?’

Mimi shrugged. ‘Thanks.’

‘Onto the makeup.’

Tammy agrees to help

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Tammy was lying in bed, trying not to think about anything in particular, reading a catalogue she had picked up one of the times Mimi had taken her shopping. But she wasn’t thinking that she’d enjoyed going shopping with Mimi because she wasn’t thinking about anything in particular.

The door opened, Mimi was there. ‘Tammy, I need your help.’

Tammy’s whole body tensed. ‘Oh, you’ve changed your mind?’

Mimi blinked at her, and certainly wasn’t cute about it. Tammy certainly didn’t think Mimi was cute. Her blonde hair was held back by a headband, showing the whole of her pale, freckled face, her pale blue eyes and pink lips. Not cute at all.

‘Oh, no.’ Mimi turned around.

‘Wait, what do you want help with?’ Tammy sat up in bed.

Mimi turned back around. ‘The internet is weird here, right? So I can’t find much work online. But I found an ad from the Island Hotel, you remember that fancy-looking place, looking for a designer for a rebrand.’

‘And you want me to?’ Tammy crossed her arms and wished she hadn’t.

‘I was hoping you’d help me pick an outfit,’ Mimi said. ‘I need to interview in person. Maybe you want to come with me? They might give us food or something.’

‘Oh.’ Tammy relaxed. ‘This is going to be hard, isn’t it? You have terrible taste in clothes.’

Mimi smiled, which definitely wasn’t adorable. ‘That’s why I wanted your help.’

Tammy got up and waved at Mimi to precede her out of the room. ‘I’ll do what I can, but I don’t have high hopes, alright?’

‘That’s fine,’ Mimi said. ‘I figure it’ll be fun, at least.’

Tammy definitely didn’t think it would be fun. She definitely wasn’t looking forward to it or anything. A thought occurred to her. ‘Do you have your own makeup?’

Mimi glanced back. ‘Um… not really,’ she said. ‘I have some old eyeliner and some lip gloss.’

Tammy nodded and darted into the bathroom to grab the makeup kits that Mimi had bought for her at the shopping centre last week, before… but Tammy wasn’t thinking about anything in particular.

Mimi was standing over her bed, hands on hips, gazing at a pile of clothes. ‘Alright, these are the ones I’m thinking might work. It’s a bit of upscale sort of place.’

Tammy edged around to put the makeup down on the desk and observe a pile of bland clothes. ‘You are a designer, though,’ she said. ‘Shouldn’t you look interesting?’

Mimi shrugged. ‘You’d think so, but that’s not been my experience.’

Tammy nodded a few times. ‘Get some more colour, at least.’

Mimi opened the wardrobe again, and pulled out a few, more colourful, pieces of clothing. ‘Alright,’ said Mimi, ‘where do we start?’

Tammy gave Mimi a look over, one of the many she’d given her newly acquired roommate. Mimi was dressed how she was normally dressed, which was basically fine if you were into that sort of thing, which Tammy wasn’t, to be clear.

Mimi generally wore jeans, pastel t-shirt and a dark jacket, with a headband to keep her hair out of her face. Nothing interesting, but it suited her. It was her cartoon character look.

Tammy was pretty sure she could make Mimi look better, but she certainly wasn’t thinking about anything in particular.

Out of money

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Mimi was sat at the kitchen island, staring vaguely out the window with a cup of coffee steaming in her hands when Tammy came down stairs. It was Sunday, and Mimi had woken earlier than she would have liked.

‘I’m concerned, Tammy,’ Mimi said, without really looking over.

Tammy nodded, opened the fridge, and took out some bread.

‘I’m running out of money,’ Mimi said, watching from the corner of her eye and Tammy made herself from toast.

‘What do you want me to do about it?’ Tammy asked, folding her arms as she stared into the toaster.

‘I’m not sure if there’s anything you can do,’ Mimi said. ‘I just need to look for work earlier than I’d like. But we’ll need to stop going out as much, too.’

Tammy nodded, and uncrossed her arms. ‘Hmm,’ she said.

‘Tammy, I’m not going to ask you about your life,’ Mimi said.

Tammy crossed her arms again.

‘Would you consider getting a job? Would you be able to?’

Tammy shook her head. ‘I would not consider it. That sort of thing is beneath me.’

Mimi smiled into her coffee. ‘Alright, I guess. I’ll need to look for something then. The rent on this place is paid for a month already, so it’s mostly food and petrol and the like that I need to worry about for now.’

‘Hmm.’ Tammy didn’t uncross her arms. ‘For now, I can accept going out less often. If I must.’

‘I’m afraid we must,’ Mimi said.

‘Hmm.’

‘I’m not kicking you out, Tammy.’

Tammy uncrossed her arms just so she could recross them more aggressively. ‘What do you want from me, then?’ she demanded.

Mimi opened her mouth to say something, then closed it and went back to staring out the window. The toaster popped and Tammy continued on the task of making breakfast.

The two of them glanced at each other out of the side of their eyes occasionally as Mimi continued to stare out the window and sip her coffee. Eventually, Mimi came to a decision and turned around.

Tammy immediately tensed.

‘I don’t want anything from you, Tammy,’ Mimi said. ‘I don’t know exactly why not, but I don’t. I guess I’m just telling you so that we’re on the same page.’

Tammy narrowed her eyes, scrutinised Mimi, but didn’t cross her arms again. ‘I already said I can accept not going out as much.’

Mimi nodded. ‘Then I guess we’re on the same page.’

Tammy nodded back. ‘I guess so.’

Mimi sighed. ‘Hopefully I can find some work easily. At least the whole cost of living crisis thing doesn’t seem to have come here in as much force as in Canberra.’

Tammy nodded and took a bite of her toast with butter and honey.

‘I’ve been enjoying going out with you, Tammy,’ Mimi said. ‘So I do hope I’ll still have the time for it if I find a job, you know?’

Tammy paused, mid-chew, and looked at Mimi for a moment. ‘But we’re not dating.’

‘No, we’re not.’

No one stays at the hotel

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‘No one actually stays in the hotel,’ Harry said.

‘Business types stay in the hotel,’ Akira said.

‘You think they’re business types?’

‘I didn’t say that.’

‘Oh, the Fraser House got rented,’ Harry said, pointing to the screen. ‘That’ll be them, I reckon.’

‘I’m not just going to turn up to their house,’ Akira said, reasonably.

It had been a few days since the event with the playground. None of the adults had really talked about it at all. But kids at school had noticed that the playground was missing. Kids had noticed that Nathan and Matthew were missing.

Neither Akira, Carmen nor Jerome had said anything to anyone about that night. None of them had even spoken to each other in the last few days. It just felt like one of those things that goes undiscussed.

Except that Carmen and Jerome were avoiding Akira because she wanted to talk about it. Except that when she had asked one of her teachers about the playground, they had something vague about it being renovated.

True to the teacher’s adlibbed response, there was construction tape up around the tanbark pits now. There had been no sign of blood or the gory remains of Nathan and Matthew the next morning, when Akira had gone back to check.

‘I don’t know, really,’ Harry said. ‘But surely the more we know about them, the better, right?’

Akira shrugged. ‘I don’t see why it matters.’

‘Yes, you do.’ Harry grinned back at her from the computer.

Akira didn’t like to think of herself as a stalker, as few enough people did. But that didn’t change the fact that any time she spotted Mimi or Tammy in public, and they were always together or close enough, she hung around.

She didn’t talk to them. She made an active effort not to be noticed by them. But she hung around, and kept an eye on them. She technically wasn’t alone, either. People watched the two newcomers, the novelty still present even after the first week of their presence.

But Akira kept an eye on them. She watched them go about their business, if you could call it that. She watched them go out for meals and visit the few attractions on Bowen Island. She watched them interact, and she waited for something interesting to happen.

As much as she would have liked to disagree with Henry, she was pretty sure that soon enough, something interesting would happen with those girls.

The girls in question were not having an interesting time. They were having a nice time, though. Mimi was quite enjoying the companionship and she wondered if that was why she had been so alright with Tammy taking over what was supposed to be Mimi’s holiday.

Once, a few years ago, Mimi might have made the most of a holiday. She might have visited the attractions and markets and shopping centres and cinemas by herself. But she couldn’t help but think that if Tammy wasn’t here, she would just be doing what she always did in Canberra: nothing.

She would be sitting at home on her computer, doing freelance design and copy editing, and being depressed and hoping that nothing more would happen. And then something would happen and she would decide to move again.

Aftermath

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‘And so you, what? Just left them to it?’ Harry asked, slurping instant noodles from a foam cup.

Akira rubbed at her hair with the towel and shrugged. ‘I guess?’ She shrugged again for good measure. ‘I just wanted to get here and get the blood off, at that point.’

Harry shrugged back. ‘And they seemed fine?’

‘Not fine, exactly,’ Akira said. ‘One of them was covered in blood and the other one was… less covered in blood, and like really pale and whatever.’

‘I imagine she was freaking out.’ Harry pointed the plastic fork at Akira. ‘As you are freaking out.’

‘Of course I’m freaking out,’ Akira said, voice level. ‘I just saw two of my… acquaintances? Friends? I just saw two people get crushed to a pulp by playground equipment.’

‘Right. And she saw two strangers get crushed by playground equipment, and also thought her friend had been grievously injured.’

‘That girl… Tammy? Tammy was fine, just bloody from the head wound.’

‘I imagine she didn’t see what happened, so she would be closest to being fine.’ Harry slurped some more noodles.

‘She seemed more annoyed than anything,’ Akira said. ‘Like we were inconveniencing her by checking if she was alright.’

Harry shrugged. ‘I’m sure I would be like that, too, if it was anyone else.’

‘I guess. They were just… they didn’t want me to badger them or invite them to a stranger’s house or anything. What was I supposed to do?’

‘Get some contact details? For the police?’

Akira chuckled. ‘Yeah, because the police will definitely get involved.’

‘They don’t know.’

‘I just saw two people get pulped by a playground, I wasn’t thinking about networking!’

Harry shrugged. ‘No, you’re right. I’m just… they seem like an interesting factor, don’t they?’

Akira took a few, deep breaths. ‘Sure, yes, they do. But that’s only because they’re new and I don’t know anything about them.’

Harry shrugged again.

Not all that far away, Mimi and Tammy sat on what Mimi supposed was Tammy’s bed, and stared at each other.

‘Tammy, are you sure you’re alright?’ Mimi asked.

Tammy sighed. ‘Yes, I’m sure. It was just a little scratch, like I keep saying.’

Mimi took a deep breath. She supposed they were home, now, and Tammy was showered and there wasn’t any reason not to say it.

‘Tammy, I saw your eye regrow out of your skull.’

Tammy huffed and folded her arms and scooted further away on the bed. ‘No you didn’t, you imagined it.’

‘I don’t think that’s true, Tammy,’ Mimi said. ‘It’s like… when I hit you with the car, or when you put those studs in. You just got back up like it was nothing, but it wasn’t nothing. I thought you’d died.’

Tammy squinted, and folded hunched closer to herself. ‘Well I didn’t die, idiot.’

Mimi took another deep breath and wondered why she was fine with this being Mimi’s room. ‘I was… it was really scary, Tammy. I didn’t want you to die. I don’t think that makes me an idiot.’

Tammy squinted for several more seconds before she straightened up very slightly. ‘That might be the first instance of good taste I’ve seen since I met you.’

The playground distorts

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Our stories firmly collide here as the climbing castle where Akira and her acquaintances sat collapsed in a particular way. The metal bars and plastic parts of the structure crumpled in on themselves as if trying to trap the seated teens.

Akira jumped from the collapsing structure with Jerome and Carmen. Nathan shrieked and Matthew screamed. Something hot and solid spattered Akira’s back as there was another scream from across the playground.

The swings had collapsed too, the bent metal slashing Mimi’s arm as she scrambled away and toward Tammy. She didn’t stop to check on the teens, just ran to Tammy.

Akira stopped where Jerome and Carmen ran, and turned back to the collapsing climbing castle. Nathan was completely gone, and Matthew was trapped by his left arm, still screaming.

Mimi skidded on the tanbark, and it would occur to her later to be grateful that she’d worn pants. Tammy’s head was nearly cracked all the way open, a wide gash showing through her fine hair and blood coating her face.

Akira jumped onto the crumbling castle and grabbed Matthew by the shoulders, trying to pull. But his arm was resolutely stuck and as Akira pulled, the structure crumpled over toward her, toward Matthew, and there was nothing she could do.

As Mimi lifted Tammy’s head, she could see the gash continued over the girl’s face, having completely taken out her left eye. But even as she looked, the gash was closing, the eye regrowing in Tammy’ head.

Akira stumbled back from the collapsing playground equipment, and forced herself to watch Matthew be crushed. More blood splattered out of the twisted steel and plastic, peppering her face and clothes.

‘Tammy?’ Mimi asked, still holding the girl. She must have been in shock. She couldn’t quite manage surprise.

Akira stood there and stared at the climbing castle until it had collapsed itself into nothing. She stood there and stared until there was only blood and pieces of two boys she had known.

‘Tammy, can you hear me?’

Tammy’s eye swam back into her head, and despite the massive gash across her scalp, she frowned. When she opened her mouth to speak, blood leaked out and it seemed she was missing a couple of teeth. She wasn’t missing them for long.

Weakly, Tammy pushed at Mimi. ‘Get off me,’ she rasped.

Gently, Mimi put Tammy back down on the tanbark. ‘What the fuck?’ she asked, quietly.

Akira looked around. Carmen and Jerome were nowhere to be seen. The swing set, the slide, the net, the spiny thing, they were all gone. There was just blood and meat and those two girls.

Akira hurried over, she was sure she’d seen one of them get thrown from the swing set. And there was that girl, fine hair and fine features matted and coated in blood and still somehow severely attractive.

‘Um…’ Akira said, not exactly sure how to start. ‘Are you two alright?’

The other girl, blonde and wearing a headband to keep her hair firmly out of her face, looked up. She had blood on her hands, but nowhere else.

Mimi looked up to see one of the girls who had been in the playground, shorter than her and with darker blonde hair cut above her shoulders. The girl’s face was speckled with blood.

‘I’m fine,’ Tammy rasped. ‘Headwounds are like that.’

Mimi nodded, taking in the flat tanbark pit where the playground had been. ‘Are you alright?’ she asked, eventually.

‘I’m not hurt,’ Akira said. ‘Just… traumatised, you know?’

Mimi nodded again.