Coriander walked side-by-side with the orange tomcat until they reached her home. He turned around and began to leave immediately.

"See you later, Cori-dander," he said in a facetiously snide manner.

"See you around, nobody." She slipped inside without looking back.

Diggory blinked, feeling stinted, before turning and walking away.

Coriander sauntered about the house, happy to be back in the calm environment where she could plop down for a nap whenever she chose – which she did just then, on the windowsill in the living room.

She woke up and turned her head lazily toward the inside of the house, toward the living room. She nearly yowled aloud when she saw the figure standing in the middle of the room. It was a woman, her skin taut and chalky and her hair thin and brittle. Shrunken eyes peered from sunken sockets; they observed the room, looking nervous only for the tightness of the face. Coriander could feel her heart beating painfully; she hoped that the young woman couldn't hear it. A spindly hand reached out to Coriander, and eyes turned soft with pleading; but the feline was paralyzed with fear by the acuity of the vision. Finally, the woman turned, white dress hanging limp, and her bare feet carried her around the corner into the parlor.

Coriander leapt up, alarmed but steady, and ran to the safest place that she could think of – Corinne's bed, that is – and climbed in, crawling under the covers to go back to sleep.

When she woke up, Coriander was at first confused. The room was tinted a navy color, and a dark mass lay next to her own feline form. Then the chips fell into place – she'd slept for a long while, and Corinne was now sleeping next to her. Suddenly, she remembered the ghastly woman and started. Was it all a dream? she asked herself. The answer escaped her. The sleeping Corinne's steady breath calmed her. Abandoning pride, she snuggled up next to her human companion; there she felt safe, comforted, and stable. Warm and contented, she drifted back to sleep.

Elsa didn't go to bed Tuesday night; instead, she was up wandering the halls. Normally, her wandering was exploratory in nature, but tonight, she felt purposefully aimless; something was amiss, but she could not quite place it. The dorm was too quiet, too early, and the few noises she heard were not usual, organic, spontaneous. There was something different about them, and it gave her chills. She walked further and further down the hall, pushing door after door open to pass through, barely repressing a jump or a shutter each time one thudded closed behind her. As she walked, more and more of the dorm rooms she passed were uninhabited – this particular building had the lowest population, as it was always the last one to be assigned. The halls were dark here, matching the rooms that lined them. Elsa walked and walked – until she saw something that shouldn't have been there.

She couldn't deny it – she was scared, but she approached the narrowly open door anyway. Moonlight cascaded through the old window onto a pallid young girl, purifying her face and falling into her lap. At her shoulders, it was difficult to distinguish between her hair, like spun silver, and the beams of the bright orb. As Elsa poked her head in the door, the girl began to hum that same beautiful, eerie melody. Elsa could feel her heart beating oppressively against her sternum like the hooves of so many racehorses. She was very nearly certain that the pale girl would be able to hear; her fear was intensified.

Elsa now had half of her body on either side of the threshold; the door pressed against her midriff. The young girl turned and looked at her, her gaze even. Her beautiful face was sorrowful. Elsa froze, her eyes wider than those of a sweet doe, paralyzed with fear. Unable to tolerate it any longer, Elsa bolted. She ran full-speed to her own room without looking back.

Corinne woke up Friday morning and dragged herself out of bed reluctantly. It was absolutely freezing, and her night had been wracked with such terrors that she felt as though she hadn't slept at all.

In her dream, she had been in a small farmhouse. Nothing grew in the exhausted, soft gray soil in the surrounding area – not trees or grass or even weeds. She could see nothing but the dreary horizon on all sides, save the small house itself. The sunken wood porch creaked under her feet. She stepped down onto the rocky soil. Dilute clouds mantled the sky above her, completely obscuring the sun. As she looked upward, something else weighed on her. This was what it felt like to be the last person on earth, she thought, to know that one would never again see another human being. As that thought occurred to her, something appeared in her peripheral vision as she scanned the thin, distant line of the horizon.

A small, dark mass sat unsettling on the border of the earth. The mere sight of the unknown object unnerved her, but seeing nothing else, she began the journey toward it.

Corinne seemed to near the object sooner than she should have. As she grew closer, the ambience around her grew bleaker. To her surprise, the soil and clouds became even more colorless as if to match her faltering morale.

When the heap was only about one hundred yards away, Corinne began to distinguish just what it was. Moving closer, she halted abruptly when she became sure. The young woman began to stumble backward, head shaking wildly back and forth, mouth agape. The crippling fear and isolation washed over her anew; she hated her existence, her presence. She wanted nothing more than to disappear, to be so far from the mound of hollow, empty bodies. Corinne shrieked when something touched her face. Her eyes snapped open, and she sighed in relief. It was only Coriander, rescuing her from the worst nightmare of her life.

Corinne splashed her face with frigid water and looked in the mirror, hoping that her reflection would reveal something to her – what she was looking for, she did not know. After a few moments of fruitlessness, she sighed and began to ready herself for the day.

Coriander padded into the living room and pawed The Picture of Dorian Grey off of the shelf. She had heard good things about it. Corinne came in, looking puzzled at the sight of the book lying open before the cat.

"Oh, I'll pick it up later!" she said, flustered, and tramped out the door.

Coriander read for about half an hour before setting off to the park with one of Corinne's scarves. She had been out all night a few days ago, running around town with Five without purpose. Memories filled her mind and put a bounce in her step. By the time she returned from the sweet recollection, she had arrived in the park. She wound her way through to the big row of foliage that she'd visited the week before.

Rordan came out and greeted her.

"Ah, Coriander, you've returned. I'll admit that I'm surprised."

"Why is that?"

"Ah, it's nothing to do with you; just that usually, they don't."

She followed him into the bushes to where Adelaide lay on her side. When she reached her, the elder spoke.

"Lay the object next to me."

Coriander obliged. The old cat pushed her head up and closed her eyes. After a moment of listening, she spoke. "The woman is having troubles of her own, similar to yours." She paused, receiving more information. "The cause of your problem escapes me, but I believe it is not a great danger or anything out of the ordinary. To be sure, I will need something else, something that is... part of the home."

Coriander nodded. "When shall I return?"

"Sunday," Adelaide answered immediately.

"All right. Thank you."

When Coriander left the park, she decided to follow the sidewalk.

"Hey there," she heard, "traveling mutt-style? Lost your class?"

She paused. "Shove it, Diggory." She resumed her walk.

"That's not so classy, either. What are you doing out here? What could possible possess a little dandy like yourself to break the rules?"

She huffed. "Don't think so well of your capacity. I find you nothing more than an ignorant tramp."

"Ignorant? Tihi monstrabo, you little shrew."

"Why are you even following me?"

"You followed me, remember? It wasn't even five days ago; you ought to."

Coriander continued walking for a few seconds before realizing that Diggory had stopped. She looked back; he was standing in place ten feet from her.

"This is your house, isn't it?"

Coriander's mouth fell open in embarrassment. "Yes," she said, and stepped into the yard, contemptuous of his smug gaze.

"Aw, Cori-dander. Poor thing forgets where she lives. Early onset dementia, perhaps. Sad, so sad-"

She howled in frustration. "I hate you, Diggory."

He cocked an eyebrow. "Okay. See you later," he said, unfazed, and trotted off.

When Corinne had walked into her Latin class that day, she had sat next to Elsa. Something was off in her fellow student, however. She looked gaunt, nervous, and had deep shadows under her eyes. Corinne had made a little small-talk before class had begun, and Elsa seemed normal enough in conversation.

Corinne looked over at her desk-neighbor. Elsa seemed distant, but Corinne didn't find this indicative of a problem; the professor was answering questions about the format of the upcoming exam, which the girls knew would have the same structure as the last one. Corinne remembered Elsa reaching out to her the week before and took out a notepad, scribbling two words. "Feeling okay?" She passed the pad to Elsa.

Elsa furrowed her brow at the words, then picked up the pen. "Just a little tired."

Corinne nodded. "Come over for dinner?"

She saw surprise on Elsa's face. "Okay. I make a mean wild risotto."

Corinne smiled at her. "Sounds good."

They didn't communicate for the rest of the class.

Corinne turned her attention back to the still-rambling professor. She had befriended the "weird girl."

When Corinne and Elsa walked in, arms full of groceries, Coriander was around the corner and out of sight.

"I love that book! The character development was thorough, but not overbearing or watery. Written so well," Corinne said.

"Yeah, there's something…poetic about the way that the structure of the novel fits the story. That author is a genius."

Corinne hummed assent. "I would love to be like her."

Elsa looked at her thoughtfully. She hadn't known about Corinne's dream of becoming an author. "You like to write?"

Corinne looked down and smiled sheepishly. "Well…yeah. Writing helps me to focus, to feel some sort of purpose and…I always assumed I'd end up doing it for the rest of my life. It is a bit of a ridiculous notion, it's not exactly an easy career to make it in and, even if you do it doesn't guarantee enough of a payout to survive on but…I love books. So much." She finished with a wistful look at the window.

"That's nice," Elsa said, starting dinner. "I'd love to read some of your stuff sometime. I like to draw but, I'm actually hoping to be a psychologist."

"Wow," Corinne said. "That sounds interesting." Though she wasn't entirely social herself, she'd certainly never have thought of Elsa as a people-person. The past few hours had revealed a lot to her about the girl she'd never bothered to know.

The young women continued to cook and talk about everything – books, music, hobbies. Corinne was surprised to learn that Elsa also worked at a bookstore.

"So what are the dorms like?"

"Well, I live in the worst dorm on campus," Elsa began, turning away from the busy stove to the sink, "but it's not so-"

Corinne jumped when she heard a huge metallic clatter. She turned to see that Elsa had dropped a pan on the floor – it was used, but empty, on its way to the sink.

"Elsa?" Corinne called in alarm. Elsa was staring beyond the counter and the sink, at the windowsill in the living room – it was occupied by a tortoiseshell.

"Oh, that's just Coriander."

Elsa didn't look at her. "…coriander?"

"Yes, you're not allergic to cats, are you?"

Elsa turned to her, making eye contact. "No, no, I'm all right." She picked up the pan. "I don't know what happened, I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it," Corinne plated the food. "Let's eat."

Thought their light, friendly conversation resumed, Elsa did not forget that she had seen that feline before.