"Paulie?" The frail, shaky voice echoed through the hallways. "Paulie, I'm scared…"
Paul carefully crawled further under the desk. He held his hand over his mouth, stifling his panting and struggling not to start sobbing. He couldn't afford it at this point.
"I need you… why aren't you helping me? Big brother…"
It's not really him Paul, it's not Mikey, Mikey's dead, Mikey's dead, Mikey's dead dead dead deaddeaddead—
"Paaauuuliiie! C'mon Paulie! We gotta go to the hospital! Please… please…"
His brother… no, that… thing's voice was getting more frantic.
It's not him. It can't be him. Nonono.
Paul listened closely, holding his breath and waiting for his heart to stop deafening him. There were footsteps. Tmp, tmp, tmp. Shuffling, uneven footsteps, accompanied with Mik—its sobbing and calling. As the sounds got closer, he could hear another voice. It wasn't calling or crying like the other. It was just whimpering and rasping. Paul steeled himself.
It's just one set of footsteps. That's not natural. He's not Mikey anymore, he's not my brother, he's just—
"Paulie, please! There's blood everywhere, I can't stop it! Please, for the love of god, just help us!"
Mikey… It… No, it couldn't be him… But.. .It sure as hell sounded like him…
He thought back to earlier. Maybe… maybe he had imagined part of it. It wasn't like he was in the best mindset to process information, really.
After all, they had just hit a kid with the car.
Paul rubbed his eyes, playing it over in his head.
Okay, we hit him. We hit him hard. Godammit, we were scared shitless. We didn't know…
We weren't worried too much about saving the kid, I guess. God, it was all a blur… I just remember yelling at Mike, then he jumped out of the car to try to drag him into the school, and then…
God, I can't even remember what happened clearly. All I remember is the kid springing up and wrestling Mikey to the ground. There was something weird about it, I'm sure…
Well… am I? Maybe it really was just the kid trying to get back up. There wasn't anything weird about what he did, I guess. Besides that ball he had, but…
Well… maybe it was irrelevant. Maybe… maybe I just imagined that flesh thing…Was it still Mikey…?
… I ran inside too quickly… I… I should've stayed behind to help him. I saw the blood, I heard his scream, I just… I didn't want this godammit.
But… what if there's nothing to hide from? After all, the kid obviously wasn't dead, and Mikey seemed… normal.
He hesitantly shifted his body out from underneath the desk. He stood up, carefully making sure to not knock into anything, and edged his way to the doorway. As he approached the opening, he could clearly see shadows making their way on the walls towards him. Two figures lurched along, one dragging the other. He peered out of the entrance, putting as little of his body out into the hallway as he could while still surveying the scene. He watched the larger figure's hair swing around in a way he knew too well, how it constantly darted around like a ferret…
Nervously, he stepped into the hallway.
"Little brother?" he called out, tensing up to run. "Hey, I'm here."
The duo turned with difficulty to look at him.
"Oh, thank god! Come on, we have to go take him to the hospital!"
As they advanced on him, Paul reflexively took a step back.
"That's, uh," Paul fumbled over his words. "Mike, I don't think we should do that…"
"Are you crazy?! Look at him, he's almost dead! Please! I can't just let him die! It was our fault Paul! We did this and… and…"
The boy stopped and vomited, clutching the other form tightly and taking in ragged breaths.
"Please, Paul… We hit him… I can't… I can't let him die…"
With these words, Mike collapsed to the floor.
Paul shouted, and ran over to his little brother. He crouched and started checking for a pulse on his neck. He ran his eyes over the familiar face, noticing every single minute detail, from the scar above his left eye, to the lip he'd bruised earlier, to his long, narrow nose. It was most definitely his brother.
"Paulie…?" he faintly murmured. "Is that you?"
"Yes, yes it's me, Mikey," Paul said with relief. "I'm here, I'm going to help you now, we're going to take you and this kid to the hospital, and everything is going to be alright. I promise."
The boy shook his head.
"Brother, you've done enough. I can't move on, I need more rest. Please, just stay with me right now until I have enough strength to move on."
"Sure thing, Mike."
The sensation wasn't subtle. Paul knew soon enough that it was over. And yet, he didn't regret it. Strangely, he felt…at peace. He closed his eyes as he felt the cold, clammy appendage attach itself to him and start converting him. It felt right…
Hey there Paulie, I'm glad you finally came! Have you met my friend?