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396 A Conversation, The Fourth Mutator and the Ghost of Maryhill

 Day 67 - 7:49 PM - Maryhill Recreation House, Ortigas Avenue Extension, Dolores, Taytay, Rizal

The terrified scream echoed into everyone's ears. That scream broke the silence of the night. Even the insects in the surroundings of the retreat house could not help but scatter.

Since it could be an emergency, the soldiers nearest to where the scream came from immediately responded.

There, they saw a frightened woman sitting on the floor, trying to shrink herself as much as possible. She was shivering as if she saw the most frightening thing in her life. A plate of warm soup scattered on the floor and already spilled its contents.

One of the soldiers that responded to the scream immediately recognized the woman. After all, the woman was his wife.

The soldier was young, so as his wife. It was positive that they married after the day of the apocalypse.

While the young soldier pacified his panicked wife, the other soldiers scattered to find whatever the possible cause of her panic was. However, they found nothing.

The soldiers already blocked the rooms with possible entryways that were not in use. Since that was the case, entry without being seen by the patrols was not possible. There was no place to hide either without removing the blockade the soldiers made.

It took a few minutes of calming and several glasses of water before the woman regained her composure. That was when she started to tell her creepy story.

***

On the second floor, Mark heard the scream rather clearly. It was because he was precisely just above the source of the scream. However, there was no need for him to hurry up and check. He could sense that the soldiers already went to investigate the circumstances below.

Right now, he needed to deal with something else.

"So, what are you tailing me for?"

Mark spoke as he turned around, facing the direction he came from.

As Mark's question ended, a silhouette of a person could be seen emerging from a slightly hidden part of the hallway.

When the person stepped a bit closer, the person's appearance was revealed.

A sixteen-year-old boy who had quite a thin presence. Of course, even without seeing the boy's appearance, Mark knew who he was. The fourth Mutator in that group of survivors who were rescued in the Municipal Hall of Taytay Rizal.

He was the very same Mutator that was hiding his abilities for an unknown reason.

"I'm surprised. You managed to notice me." The boy spoke. "Those idiots didn't even realize that I'm missing again."

He did not have any ill intent, but his voice was filled with both self-ridicule and helplessness as he turned towards the stairs leading down to the first floor.

The atmosphere was then enveloped with odd silence. When the boy looked at Mark, the latter was just staring at him.

"Why are you staring at me?"

He could not help but ask.

"Because you didn't answer my question at all?"

Mark spoke with a questioning tone.

The boy felt awkward and scratched his head.

"That's... I'm just curious. Sorry." The boy awkwardly apologized. "I want to see who is this mysterious leader that those soldiers obey without question."

Hearing that, Mark raised an eyebrow. He never introduced himself to the survivors. He also told the soldiers not to say anything about him either. It was because he had no responsibility in taking care of the survivors they rescued. The best that they could say was that the soldiers and Mark's group just decided to travel together to get to Infanta, Quezon.

Nevertheless, this boy managed to point out the one who was actually leading the whole group. Not to mention that this boy was among the two youngest people in their group. The other one being a female at the same age as him.

"Well, then. I'll be going. Sorry for disturbing you."

The boy decided that there was no need to tail Mark anymore as he had been caught. Furthermore, he also missed the part where Mark vanished into the mist and appeared on the other side of the hallway. The hallway was dark enough to mask Mark's usage of his psychic ability.

It's not like he was hiding it though,

As the boy turned around and was about to leave, Mark decided to ask.

"So, why is a Mutator like you hiding your abilities?"

That blunt and straightforward question made the boy freeze on his steps.

Mutators, the boy had just learned about this word today. They were people who were bitten by the infected but did not turn and instead, they gained superhuman abilities.

He was also one of these, so-called, Mutators. However, he had been hiding that fact to everyone. The question was a total surprise to him.

The boy turned around with a wary expression.

"How did you know?"

"Do you really think that you're the only observant person around?"

That was an obvious lie. Mark even know that this boy would get it that he was lying. Still, that lie shook the boy up to his core. That answer had told the boy that Mark knew a bit more than just him being a Mutator.

The boy was troubled.

By nature, the boy was an observer. He had a thin presence that despite his above-average looks, he could blend in with the crowd without anyone noticing. It was as if he was a person easy to forget on a whim. That was why he developed the knack to observe people without getting noticed. Because of that, there were many things present around that others could not see.

Upon turning into a Mutator after he was bitten in his escape, this ability to observe grew further. It became easier to notice things around him that others would not notice even for a long time. This very same trait made him realize who was the actual leader of the people that rescued them. It was also the reason why he hid his abilities as a Mutator from his group.

No, he would rather not label himself as a part of that group. For him, he was different. Except for one person he valued there, everyone else was total idiots.

Mark stared at the boy who had quite a lot of things going on his mind. He realized that this boy did not think that he was a part of that group at all. That was good enough. What he wanted from this boy was really his trait. Even if his ability as a Mutator was useless, the trait alone was valuable.

Since they encountered these survivors in that Municipal Hall. He noticed the plethora of emotions this boy was emitting despite the lack of change in his expression. Furthermore, on different things that his eyes saw or landed on, the emotion might change drastically. In his conclusion, this person was observing things around him up to the slightest detail.

This trait alone could make this boy a good detective. It was even applicable in observing and experimenting with the infected.

Mark wanted such a person since he was also collecting information about almost every kind of mutated infected they encounter.

While the silence loomed over the two people observing each other, the sounds of steps could be heard climbing up the stairs.

As the person reached the second floor, the person looked around. It was a girl, in that survivor group that was at the same age as the boy. When she saw the boy, she called out.

"Case! There you are! Aren't you going to eat?"

While calling out, it seemed that she did not notice Mark as he was blocked by the boy.

The silence was broken.

"You said that no one noticed that you are missing."

Mark whispered.

Hearing that, the boy was embarrased.

"She's different." The boy said with a muffled voice before sighing. "Can we talk later?"

The boy said with a resolute expression. It seemed that his mind was filled with questions that would surely prevent him from sleeping.

"Also, please. Don't tell anyone about me being a Mutator."

He whispered.

"Case! Did you hear me? Who are you talking to?"

The girl's voice echoed once more.

"Alright! Alright! I'm coming!"

The boy nodded at Mark before he left.

"Case, huh." Mark smiled. "What a fitting name."

As Mark mumbled that, he vanished into the shadows like a ghost.

Case looked back one more time before going down the stairs just to see nothing but darkness in the hallway. He shook his head and turned to the girl.

"Kaira, I heard a scream. What is that about?"

"That..." Kaira seemed a bit creeped out. "They said that someone saw a ghost. That is also why I looked for you."

"Alone? Aren't you scared?"

"There are soldiers around the stairs. Why should I be afraid?"

***

From another side of the building, Mark arrived at the area where the scream was heard.

Several soldiers saluted to Mark as they patrolled the area. Even though they saw nothing after the scream was heard, they could not just put their guard down.

Looking around, Mark felt a shiver on his back.

'That scream is not groundless.'

He thought. The temperature in the area was rather low and there was still lingering odd energy that was about to dissipate. A good indication that something had manifested here before.

"Sir!"

A soldier came to Mark. It was no one else but Lieutenant Baller.

"What did that woman see?"

"Sir?"

Mark suddenly asked and the Lieutenant was not able to process it immediately.

"The woman that screamed. She saw something right?"

Mark rephrased his question and the Lieutenant understood that Mark already knew a part of what happened. Of course, these soldiers could not believe the woman's statement immediately without proof.

"The woman that screamed is the wife of one of our soldiers..."

Lieutenant Baller narrated what they heard from the woman.

The woman was about to deliver dinner to her husband who was posted on the opposite side from the dining hall. That was why she was carrying a plate of food through the hallway. However, she felt cold midway and it was uncomfortable.

Following the cold, she saw the silhouette of a person walking towards her from the opposite side of the hallway. She did not think much of it as it could be another soldier or a relative of other soldiers.

For some reason, she found it hard to move.

The closer the figure came, however, the colder it became.

It was until she saw a clear view of the person.

The person was wearing a white frock similar to what the priests wore. She was confused as she did not remember any priest in the convoy. Also, after the apocalypse, they were educated in Bay City about proper attires to prevent being caught by the infected easily. A frock was a bad example of this.

Then, she looked at the person's face.

She froze.

The head...

It was not there...

She was totally terrified at the scene.

She tried to run but her feet would not move.

She tried to scream but her voice would not come out.

She tried to move her body but she was frozen.

All she could do was to shiver in fear as the headless figure passed by her.

The headless figure passed by her shoulder to shoulder.

When the figure passed where she could not see it anymore, the place she carried was thrown onto the floor as her body suddenly regained movement.

She slowly looked behind her, thinking that it was gone.

She was wrong.

The headless figure stood facing her.

Her fear overcame the loss of her voice and she screamed. However, she was so terrified to run. She could only curl into a ball at the side of the hallway until the soldiers came.

No one saw the figure. She also did not see how it vanished.

***

"Should we test her psychologically? Maybe, encountering too many dangers in this travel affected her mentality."

Lieutenant Baller asked as he did not believe what happened himself.

"Why are you going to test her? She's not mistaken though."

Mark said.

"Huh?"

The Lieutenant stared at Mark with confusion.

"I mean, I chose this place to spend the night because I know that this place is haunted."

The Lieutenant froze.