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And A Buck Short
Melissa didn't know how much time they had spent just looking out. Certainly more than enough time that any sane person probably would have told them to get off because they were sitting ducks up there on the roof. But no one interrupted them and Melissa was thankful for the peace they managed to achieve for themselves. Just sitting, watching, waiting...it was a nice change from the hustle that marked her first few days on the island. Of course, the fact that the people they were actually waiting for had yet to show up...well, Melissa wasn't particularly worried about that. They really were only waiting for Nick, after all, and he...well, he knew how to handle himself.

She sighed a bit, picking at the collar of her shirt as she continued to look out on the scenery. "Hey Jen. Before all this, did you have any plans for after high school?"

She didn't know why she was going with this train of thought, but Melissa just decided to run with it. It was better than nothing and...well, she was getting a little bit tired of the silence. She wanted to talk. Maybe it was just because she wanted to hear her own voice or something...she didn't know. It just felt right...to her, at least. She couldn't help but wonder if Jennifer was getting annoyed by her yapping... "I probably would have just gone to college and get some sort of science degree. Become a doctor or a researcher or something prominent like that. Make the parents happy, you know? Maybe even discover a new cure for cancer or something silly like that. Hah, I wouldn't even be able to come up with a name for it. Maybe they'll just call it the Li Cure or something dumb. China Woman in miniature disease-busting form."

"Now though...if somehow, someway, we get rescued? Oddly enough...I'd probably want to be a teacher. I dunno...I like helping people with math and stuff...at least whenever someone asked, I'd always try to help." She continued, taking in a deep breath as she remembered those times back at Bayview. "I think it'd be fun...teaching the next generation of adults. Heh...although maybe I'd be a college professor or something instead. Find someone I liked to be with...maybe marry, I dunno, I never was really good at making plans on my own."

"What about you, Jen? Anything like that?"

And A Buck Short
(Melissa Li continued from A Day Late.)

The sun was beginning to set as the two of them finally arrived at the Groundskeeper's Hut. Things were no better than they were at the Hall of Mirrors, really. No one else to greet them besides the sight of more dead bodies lying out in the open, supposedly free of earthly desires such as living. Melissa didn't know what to do with them. They had been out for a while...it probably was for the best to simply leave them outside. Of course, the fact that there was a body lying on the bed inside of the hut didn't really make things any better.

But at least it was safe at the moment and they weren't in any danger of dying. Jennifer...well, she decided to climb to the roof of the hut. Melissa wasn't sure if she wanted to join...it wasn't that she had a fear of heights...just more of an aversion, she guessed. She never was much of a climber either...always got paranoid that somehow she'd slip and fall and crack her head open or something. But here on the island...well, there were worse things to die from, weren't there? She might as well...talking to Jennifer would have been awkward if she had remained on the ground.

So she copied Jennifer, climbing up after her (although a lot more shaky and unsure) and eventually found herself sitting down next to her friend, staring out at the open land in front of them. It was almost beautiful, in a way...a vast expanse lit by the oranges of the setting sun with soft wind blowing through their hair. One of those Kodak moments, as it were.

Melissa didn't want to say anything. Just wanted to enjoy it in silence. So she kept her mouth shut.

A Day Late
She didn't notice Jennifer coming out of the Hall of Mirrors. She was too busy just staring out at the scene in front of her, basking in the sun and just...staring. Nothing else. She heard the voice and her hand tightening over her sword for just a brief second when fear overwhelmed reason. Basic fear...fight or flight. That was her choice. Then recognition set it and the brief adrenaline rush faded away and Melissa turned, smiled, and nodded. "Yeah uh...sure, just lead the way, I guess."

She didn't know what Jennifer meant by saying that the hut was better. Every place on the island was probably chock full of bodies like this one...the only thing that would change is that they'd be at a hut instead of inside a shattered hall of mirrors. Perhaps that's all that they needed to make it better...besides, carnival attractions always just seemed way more creepy when placed on an abandoned island and littered with the bodies of dead classmates.

Jennifer started walking towards their next destination.

So did she.

(Melissa Li continued in And A Buck Short. And this thread is closed, I believe.)

A Day Late
Go somewhere else? Melissa blinked in surprise as she heard Jennifer's suggestion. It was true that they had been there for while...but it hadn't seemed to be that long. It seemed kind of sudden to start moving after they had just gotten settled down but...well, it's not like Melissa really had anything against moving. Every place on the island was the same as another...all that mattered was who they came across in their journey. Just as long as they didn't go anywhere a killer was...Melissa was perfectly fine moving where Jennifer wanted to go.

Then again, it's not like either of them were psychic and could tell where killers would be lurking. In the end, it really just depending on luck like...everything else in this whole damn thing.

"Yeah uh, sure, no problem." Melissa said as she began packing things up into her duffel bag. She hummed softly to herself as she stuffed the bread and cracked back in between her clothes and gently tucked in her portable stove after that. Next was the yearbook and she blinked at it a couple of times, her fingers tracing across the still faces of her classmates. Some of her friends were still alive. That's what mattered. With a silent nod, she tucked it in and zipped up her bag. "All right. If...uh, if you want to leave a note, that's fine. Hopefully they'll um...be able to find it, right?"

"I'll be waiting outside, okay? I kind of want to get some sun, I guess..." She offered lamely as an excuse as she got to her feet, hefting her bag over one shoulder as she left the Hall of Mirrors. She shielded her eyes as she stepped out, blinking several times as she tried to get used to the sunlight streaming out. It still wasn't that late in the day, at least...probably had a few hours left of brightness before they had to get paranoid about shadows again.

The outside was such a morbid scene. One person, standing in the middle of a field of death.

Could have been worse, she guessed.

A Day Late
"I'll um...I'll see what I can do...when it happens, I guess." Melissa responded, a little uneasy. It was kind of hard to formulate a response to "If I die, I want you to leave me.". After all, wasn't that kind of a loaded choice in the first place? Well, right now it didn't matter. Melissa didn't want to think about it and so she just shuffled it to the back of her mind as she gave Jennifer a nod. "Yeah um...we'll both do our best. But um...let's um...let's worry about that when it actually matters, I guess."

She fell silent and poked at the portable stove, looking at the bread inside. She shook her head and let out a soft snort as she picked it out. It was warm, but definitely not toast-like in quality, so she just decided to give up on the endeavor and turned off the gas to the stove. She hoped she hadn't used up all the fuel inside...after all, it could still be useful somehow if they ever ran out of water and needed to purify stream water or something like that. She tore the slice of bread in half and handed one half to Jennifer, smiling a bit. "Hey...it's not much, but it's warm. Better than nothing, right?"

She laughed and shook her head before beginning to chew on the bread. Warm and tasteless, it didn't really do anything for her besides sate a little bit of the hunger inside of her. She reached for a cracker, popping that in as well and chewing thoughtfully. She swallowed, making a face as the mush went down her throat. "Every time I eat...I miss my mom's cooking. Heh...I'd kill for an actual cooked meal, you know? Even a greasy McDonald's hamburger. They already have McDonald's and Starbucks everywhere else in the world, you'd think they'd be smart enough to have some branches here. Imagine the chaos...everyone scrambling for a coffee or something."

A Day Late
Melissa kept silent as Jennifer began speaking, a hand covered over her mouth to stifle the sound of the occasional hiccup as she listened to her friend's words. She made no move to interrupt to argue...just listen as Jennifer had done for her. It was only common courtesy and besides...it's not like Jennifer was really saying anything that needed to be commented on. Jennifer recounted a bit of her time on the beach when someone else...a Phillip, had died in front of her and then went on to say that she couldn't bring herself to kill Phillip's murderer.

It made sense, in a way. It was one thing to say that you were willing to kill and another completely separate thing to actually do the deed. Jennifer simply was unfortunate enough to have the chance to do the latter while she...well, Melissa still had to see if she would actually do it if there was some killer standing in front of her. It was just one of those down to the wire things. Like the climax to some great book or movie...although if Melissa had her way, she'd rather leave the choice off in some sort of horrible cliffhanger.

Jennifer continued speaking, expressing her confusion and fear over everything. Her desire to get home safe, to not be a killer, to see her friends survive...it was all there and Melissa couldn't help but smile at her friend's words even if it was such a morbid topic. It was really what Melissa had expected out of the kind-hearted girl. It was almost saintly, her attitude towards everything, although her remark of when she was going to die stung. It felt too much like setting yourself up for death...if you had already given up, there was no point to going on, was there?

Melissa couldn't help but feel a bit hypocritical about that last thought...after all, she had given up too, hadn't she? Back at Bayview, she had just let herself be guided through her life by her parents, not actually taking charge of her own life and doing what she wanted to do. It was easier to just accept it and move on, but now...when faced with impending death...something like that just rung hollow in Melissa's ears.

She let out a tiny laugh, tracing a finger on the floor and nodding. "Thanks...thanks, Jennifer. We've...both had it pretty rough, huh?" She smiled. "Do you think that...Nietzsche quote that everyone tosses around applies to something like this? That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger? If so, then we must be pretty strong, right?"

"What I don't understand though is..." Melissa trailed off as she decided against her next words. She was going to ask again why people would kill to survive. After, the only true danger on the island were the dangerzones. It's not like anyone was actually forcing them to kill each other. It was simply the fact that someone would snap first and begin the wave of death. Short of commanding the terrorists to kill people or detonating things at random...Danya really had nothing on them. And besides, it's not like Danya would rely on either of those methods. They were boring. They weren't dramatic, they weren't sensational. And considering he was showing it all to the viewing public...why the hell would they want to watch that?

They were already eating up Survival of the Fittest at home so...if enough students had realized that at the start, maybe something crazy like no death happening would have been possible. Now? Probably not so much. And as for killing...well, if you thought about it correctly there...really was no punishment for returning home a murderer, was there? She could recall that the past three winners of the game had returned back to the US to some fanfare and the last one probably became loaded from all the TV deals and interviews he had done.

So really...not only did the winner get to escape the island, but he or she got to land a whole pile of cash in return.

In essence, it was win-win. All it took was to throw away your humanity and kill for the hell of it. A perfect deal from the devil. Fame and riches for your soul.

And definitely not a deal that Melissa wanted to accept. She shook her head and gave Jennifer a weak smile, trying to explain away her sudden silence. "Sorry...was just thinking about something. It's...it was nothing important. I um...wish you wouldn't be so...adamant about your death though. I...I mean it's...a possibility. But anything's possible, right? I mean...Aislyn was probably one of the strongest people on this island and she...well, you heard on the announcements. I guess...really, it all comes down to being in the right place at the right time?"

"So um...at least. At least have a little faith, why don't you? I'm...I want to make it. And you want to make it. But...if you already assume you're dead, doesn't that just compromise your...I guess, spirit?" Melissa said, frowning for a bit. "I...can't think of the right word. But...whatever happens. Whatever happens in this game um...no matter what. I'll stick by you, Jennifer, I promise. You're my friend and um...I will never abandon my friends if I can help it. Trust me. If...if the worst should happen, I'll be with you."


A Day Late
Melissa stiffened as she first felt Jennifer's arms around her in a gentle hug, but she began to relax when she heard Jennifer's shaky reassurances enter her ears. Melissa began to laugh...a helpless, sad laugh, but a laugh nonetheless as she wiped away the last of her tears and allowed Jennifer to comfort her. She fell silent, enjoying the comfort of the embrace and letting the silence surround her...until a hiccup broke it.

A hand flew to her mouth as another hiccup came after and she began to giggle, an embarrassed blush appearing on her cheeks as she quickly reached for a bottle of water. "S-Sorry...*hic* I guess it's cause I was *hic* crying so much. Hahaha..."

She unscrewed the cap and began to drink, hoping to somehow drown out the hiccups. After draining maybe a third of the bottle, she put it away and took a few deep breaths. No hiccups yet. It seemed to work, so Melissa put the water bottle aside as she separated herself from Jennifer. She looked away, still a little flustered from her whole ranting and crying spree. "Sorry about that I guess...I guess I just got kind of frustrated. I'm...I'm really lucky to have you here with me, you know. Hah...I'm really glad I met you outside that cinema."

She fell silent, her gaze focused on the ground as she fiddled with the bottom of her shirt. "Hey...Jennifer, what do you think is gonna happen to us? Do you think we have a chance to live? I mean...look at us. We have a sword and an icepick and...I know neither of us wants to kill anyone. But...what if it becomes necessary? What if someone like...like Maxwell comes after us?"

"What are you going to do, Jennifer?" Melissa said softly. "I...I would fight. I know that...I would fight him and I wouldn't...feel an ounce of regret if I had to kill him. People who kill like him...indiscriminately and without reason beyond their own selfish goals and desires? They...they aren't people anymore. They're monsters..." Her hands tightened into fists. "They're monsters who think only of themselves...do they think they'll come home heroes? People are watching us. Watching them. Everyone knows...and frankly..."

She gulped and shook her head. "The worst thing is...I don't think they care anymore. Why do people even watch this dumb...dumb thing? Maybe it's like...other reality shows or stuff like that. People can take happiness knowing that out there...there are people who are in a worse situation than they are. It's sick if you think about it that way...the human spirit that allows it to just...not give a damn anymore."

She chuckled. "I...um...read somewhere. On the internet when we were back at Bayview. That people...as we are, we can only care about so many people in our lives...that beyond that limit, people just become another blank face. They called it uh...what was it? The Monkeysphere or something? It...it was a nice article. I liked reading it. But I doubt anyone at home watching really cares right now, huh? And they're okay with that..."

"But um...back...back to the point." Melissa sighed and raised a trembling hand to her hair, brushing it back a bit. "I...don't want to die. But if someone...if someone tries to kill me just because they think they need to in order to escape then...then screw that. I'm not going to lie down and die. I decided that when I saw Sebastian kill Kayla in front of my eyes...that if I was in that situation, I would do the same thing Felicia did. I'd fight...and I might even kill to protect myself."

"And...I don't want to have to ask you this...but I hope you'd do the same." She mumbled. "I want to survive. I want you to survive. I want my friends to survive...I'll do whatever it takes to achieve those goals...without mindlessly killing."

She looked helplessly at Jennifer. "Do...Does that make me a bad person? Am I a hypocrite? Is something like that even possible in this?"

"Heh...you probably think I'm crazy for talking about all this gloomy and depressing stuff...I'm sorry. If...if you want me to leave..."

Melissa felt miserable. After Jennifer was nice enough to try to reassure her and cheer things up, she had decided to go ahead and mess that all up by continuing to talk and probably say things that made Jennifer hate her. Well, as things stood...at least it couldn't get worse.



A Day Late
"Yeah...I was thinking about that, actually." Melissa nodded at Jennifer's suggestion to boil creek water to get rid of things like bacteria and germs. The thought had lingered in her mind...but then she had looted some water bottles from the people at the infirmary so it'd be...at least a while longer before she'd have to resort to something like that. "I still have some bottled water left. ...Maybe I should just turn this off so we don't waste fuel..."

But she didn't. It just felt nice getting some use to the thing she had been lugging around for a week. Even if it was a use that probably wasn't going to get them anything at all, the soft sound of the burning flame was kind of soothing. In a whole campfirey outdoorsy type of way...when you ignored the fact that the both of them were inside a hall of shattered mirrors. She blinked when she heard Jennifer's question about what she had been doing on the island and Melissa offered a weak smile, rubbing the back of her head as she tried to think of the best way to put it.

"Well...I woke up in the swamp and um...found one of my friends." Melissa began, wondering if she should just leave out names or whatnot. It wasn't like she had hung out with any killers so there was no reason to hide it, but...she felt uncomfortable. She didn't want to burden Jennifer with her own problems and experiences...after all, her friend was already going through way too much as it was. She decided to just give names in the end. It'd make the whole thing easier to say. "We met up with another two girls...oh, my earlier friend was Aislyn...Aislyn McCreery. She uh...got announced this morning."

"Anyway um...we met with two other girls. Felicia Carmichael and Samaya...I can't really remember her last name." Blinking, she dug into her duffel bag and brought out Felicia's yearbook. A sad smile crossed her face as her fingers brushed against the cover...she wondered if she would ever be able to bring it back to the other girl. She brushed the thought aside as she cracked it open and began flipping through the pages. "This is her. Samaya Boen-Hilstrand. They were both really nice girls..."

"We kind of just...wandered around. Aislyn took charge...she was the one with the plan and all and she was trying to watch out for us, so I guess she got...kind of brusque and blunt at times, but she wanted what was the best for all of us, I'm sure." Melissa explained. She wondered why she had to add that last part. Maybe it was to convince herself of that as much as it was to help tell the story. "We went up the mountains and uh...that's when Samaya uh...she...somehow died. I...have no clue how it happened. It was just one moment she was fine, one moment she was on the ground."

She sniffed. Had it already been so long after Samaya's death? Actually...it hadn't been that long at all. She shook her head and continued on. "A-Anyway um...we kind of moved on after that. I mean...there wasn't anything else we could do, was there? So...we just moved onto the infirmary and met up with another one of Aislyn's friends. Samya. Uh...lemme find her..." She flipped through the yearbook again. "That's here. Samya Franklin. She was nice...somehow had managed to get trail mix with her."

She smiled at the memory. "Anyway...things kind of just started falling apart. We got into an argument with Aislyn and she stormed off and...uh..."

Melissa looked down at the yearbook, her finger tracing across all of the smiling pictures of their fellow classmates. How many of them were dead? A lot, she knew that...Felicia had wanted to cross out names. To mark everyone who had died in Danya's experiment. "Anyway um...actually you probably heard Felicia's name in the announcement too, right? That was um...it's complicated. But Felicia was trying to protect all of us from Sebastian...and she was forced to shoot him. He had already killed two people in front of us...and he was going to kill again, it was obvious..."

"I can still hear the sound of her gunshot...and the sound of that girl's collar exploding. It's a sickening sound, you know that?" Melissa said, blinking rapidly. She brought her hands to her eyes and began rubbing at them, soft self-recriminating laughter escaping from her lips. "S-Sorry I didn't...after that happened, I promised myself I would be stronger. We uh...me, Felicia, Samya...we just went our different ways, you know? Bad memories and stuff. And I told myself I would be strong enough to survive in this living hell. I would find a way to just live and protect the things precious to me but..."

The tears began coming out in earnest and Melissa futilely continued wiping at them, sniffing. "I don't even know why I'm crying! But I mean...I met so many new people and even in a dumb stupid crazy thing like this, I even made some new friends. And then they just disappear and just things happen and people change and...it's really not fair, Jennifer. How can people keep doing this? How can all those people in Danya's organization go out there and kidnap teenagers and tell them to kill each other? And why do the teenagers listen to him?! So many people die and they just keep killing and killing! Do they think they're having fun? That they're showing that they're superior to the rest of us cause they can kill?"

"Oh god...I'm ranting..." Melissa said, sad laughter still escaping from her lips. She reached in her bag again, pulling out one of her spare shirts and began cleaning her face. "I'm so sorry, Jennifer...I didn't mean to do this. You have your own problems and your own worries and I shouldn't burden with you with mine. It's so selfish...it's just that talking to you...you're the first person I can talk to like this and it just feels good, you know?"

She sniffed again. "I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry, Jennifer..."

She felt the tears again...tried to will them to stop. "God...I think I'm going crazy. Hahahaha...I'm supposed to have better emotional control than this. Oh god...I feel so stupid."

A Day Late
Ah...It was Nick Reid, then. The one with more kills...although that didn't really make a difference in Melissa's eyes. She gulped, looking at Jennifer seriously as her friend began to explain what had happened in the past. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest as every explanation and rationalization washed over her and when Jennifer was finished, Melissa was left feeling just a bit...dull. It was obvious that Jennifer had trouble saying all of that...one glance was enough to figure that out. But the way she had said it...the way she had stayed with Nick throughout all that had happened. Melissa wasn't sure what to think.

'What am I supposed to say? She isn't a bad person...she just wanted to help someone out, didn't she?' Melissa thought dismally to herself. 'Any good person would lend a helping hand to someone who was suffering, killer or not. Wasn't that what it meant to be a good person? To offer aid regardless of circumstance? To even offer help to someone who you should be afraid of...I can't fault her for that, can I?'

'But he was...he is a killer!' Melissa thought to herself, playing the other side of the argument. 'She knew about that when she first helped him! How do you know she hasn't done anything else? Why does she still stay with him? It's enough to have just helped him once, but now they're traveling together and doing...what? Is he protecting her or something? Trying to use that to atone for his killing? There's no way to atone for murder...'

'I can't paint the two of them with the same brush. Let's pretend that Felicia had somehow killed Kimberly and she told you all about it. Would I condemn her for getting revenge on Aislyn? No...I wouldn't...hell, I might even cheer...' The thought was saddening. 'I need to find out why...I need to talk to Nick Reid. If I can just get the whole picture, maybe I can decide on something for real but for now...I can't...I mean, Jennifer's my friend. And unless something drastically changes, she'll always be. I can't toss that aside just because of a situation that I don't have full grasp on...'

A pit formed in her stomach and she shifted uncomfortably, the silence feeling almost like a blanket that smothered everything else in the area. She had to say something...had to say something to reassure Jennifer and...something. Melissa didn't know. But she had to say something.

"Hey...it's...fine." She managed, a shaky smile on her lips as she tried to put her thoughts into words. Nick was a killer, yes...and apparently one who actually killed for the sake of killing, but...no, Jennifer had faith in him and by extension, Melissa would put a little bit of faith in him. Just a little bit...until she could speak to him face to face and find out...find out what made him tick. Made him do the things he did. It was too much to judge on Danya's words and a few moments of interaction. To condemn him with only that as her information?

No, that was impossible. Isn't that why she had wanted to talk to Peter? To talk to Rob? To find out why they had done the things they had done. She had known them in school...had known they were nice, kind people at Bayview. The only difference was that she didn't know Nick...but Jennifer did and if she had spent as much time with Nick as it seemed then...well, Jennifer's opinion carried heavier weight than her own.

And that was it. The twisting in her chest began to unravel and her smile became a bit more steady. It became easier to talk.

"It's...fine, really. Jen, don't worry about it...I'm not going to do anything stupid or yell at you or anything. I'm not my parents." Melissa began, a choked laugh coming out at the end of the joke. "If you have faith in him...if you think that you can...make him stop killing then..." She nodded. "Then I'll believe that too. I just hope you're right..."

She sighed and shook her head. That...took a lot more energy that she had expected, compacting her disjointed thoughts into words that could properly convey what she thought about the situation. She lifted one finger, a slight, comforting smile on her face as she wagged it in Jennifer's direction. "Don't...don't say that he became a killer because you called him one, though. Don't...don't put his crime on your shoulders, Jennifer. That. I...you know, that will just crush you. Your words may have had an impact, yes, but do you think things would have been so much different if you hadn't said it? I mean...I don't know...but...you shouldn't feel guilty over someone else's actions. In the end, we're the masters of our own destiny...at least we should be, right?"

She let out a short giggle, began rubbing at her eyes as tears began to form at the edges. She didn't even know why she was crying but just saying all that...it was like all the pressure that had built inside of her was bursting out and causing all her emotions to go out of whack. "But...but I hope he manages to find us. I...want to talk to him. Talk to him and talk to Peter and Rob and...just find out why they did what they did. There are so many things I want to talk to about..."

She looked over at the pot, poked the piece of bread that was inside. It was probably dumb trying to toast bread using a camping stove meant for making soup or boiling water, but at least it was kind of warm at the moment. She poked at it and flipped it in the pot. Still soft...not toasty at all. She gave Jennifer a weak smile, trying to change the subject to something more cheery. "Heh...doesn't seem like we're gonna be getting hot toast anytime soon. Danya could have been at least nice enough to give me ramen noodle packs with the stove, right?"

A Day Late
Jennifer began laughing after her dumb little joke and Melissa's smile widened happily. It felt good hearing normal laughter...she couldn't even remember the last time she had heard someone laugh. Certainly not on the way here and definitely not in the infirmary...maybe in the swamp when this game had first started? She couldn't remember. The past couple of days had just melded together in a mix of bittersweet and bad memories and it was beginning to be hard to separate them. 'Genuine, pure laughter...it's like getting a little bit of heaven. ...Hee, that sounds kind of dumb.'

Jennifer continued with the joke, mentioning China Woman's ability to control time and referencing the bus that had contained all of them...heading for their senior class trip. Melissa's smile faltered a bit, the reminder ringing hard in her mind as she fell silent and looked at the ground, running a finger across the ground as she tried to think of something to say. It would have been great to actually...have China Woman exist. To have an actual heroine that could have saved them all from danger...but that's why China Woman was only a joke...a fantasy. Heroes didn't exist. There were no such things as heroes in the world that they lived in now.

Her friend continued on and Melissa nodded in response. "Yeah...I mean...things have been so crazy. It's really...not right at all, you know? How everything is happening...can you imagine that just a little over a week ago we were...just living at St. Paul?"

She let out a depreciating laugh. "...But I'm glad I found you, Jen. Definitely glad to see you haven't changed...this...travesty has messed so many people up that just seeing the normal you is like a blessing."

Melissa dug into her bag and began drawing out some of her rations. Thanks to Aislyn and the leftovers from the infirmary, she still had quite a few snacks left at her disposal. She took out her camping stove as well, laughing a bit as she showed it off to Jennifer. "Look what I got from the terrorists. A stove. At least they were kind enough to put the instruction manual, right? I've never been camping, so I've never had to do anything like this..."

She laughed again as she began laying out some bread, crackers, and her water. "Dunno how good a stove would be with this...but I guess we could try toasting some of the bread? I think I just read it in a book or something...but warm food just...feels better, doesn't it?"

She wondered if now would be a good time to ask about Nick. There had to be a reason why Jennifer had been hanging out with him, after all...and it was probably a good reason, since Melissa was pretty certain Jennifer wouldn't just be all buddy-buddy with a killer. Her right hand clenched as her thoughts drifted back to Sebastian...

"Hey Jennifer..." She started off. "That person you were hanging out with when I saw you uh..." She tried to sound non-chalant. "Nick, right? Um...which...Nick was he? Nick Reid or Nick LeMonde? I mean I..." She trailed off and finally just decided to drop the pretense. She looked seriously at Jennifer, her lips pressed in a thin line. "Whoever it was...Why? I'm not saying it was bad or anything but either of 'em...they're murderers, Jennifer. Unless they were all in self-defense I mean I just can't really..."

She fell silent. She felt bad...going from jokes to talking about warm food to talking about killers but...she had to know.

A Day Late
(Melissa Li continued from Keep On Smiling.)

Maps were liars. That's what Melissa had decided upon sometime during the journey to get to the Hall of Mirrors. It had seemed so short and easy when she had looked at it with her compass...sure, there was a scaling problem but damn if they didn't just go south and skirt the mountains to the side. But things seemed to take so much more...although it didn't help that every little cracking branch seemed like the prelude to an ambush by one of the feared killers on the islands. But their paranoia kept them safe and they were even able to grab some shut-eye along the way, staving off exhaustion for a bit longer.

The morning of the 7th day on the hellhole that was the island brought a lifting of spirits...at least momentarily it did, until the now-familiar crackling sound of the speakers resonated in the air. She was prepared to brush it off...after all, she already knew three names that would be on it and she had been lucky enough that none of her friends had been pronounced dead. Felicia had a gun to defend herself, Aislyn was strong solely on inner spirit, Aileen, Peter, and Rob...well, they hadn't gotten in trouble yet, why start now?

In fact, out of all the people she knew...Aislyn was easily pegged to be the one on top. There was no way she would go down before the rest of them. She was the strong one, the leader, the one with the will to survive and the drive to do anything to achieve her goals. But as the last of the announcements rang in the air and Aislyn's name pounded in her ears, Melissa found that she was still standing. She was still alive.

And Aislyn, the strong one. She had died.

What did that mean for all of them? That it didn't matter that you were strong or weak? That it didn't matter who you were...that everything was just left up to God's dice to decide it for them? What the hell kind of lesson was that? It made no sense at all. Was it luck that truly determined everything? That if you are lucky enough, no one could touch you? That you would live even though so many more capable people suffered and died? That wasn't right.

She was bewildered...she wanted to cry...to mourn Aislyn's death, but she couldn't even bring herself to summon the tears needed. She was in a daze...barely able to think about anything. She had barely even registered that Peter had somehow tallied up another kill in his column...she'd really need to have a talk with him about that whole killing thing someday. Jennifer had said something when the announcements were over...she had looked depressed too...maybe someone she knew had died too.

Melissa, herself though...she had just smiled her little smile and shook her head, saying "No, it's fine."

She wondered how Felicia was doing. Was she hunting down Aislyn's killer? Probably.

But while she hoped Felicia would be safe, her thoughts weren't on Kimberly. No...she only wished that things hadn't ended so badly between them all last time. The shouting, the arguing...to have that as the last memory of Aislyn? That was her gift, wasn't it...her reward for being who she was. A weakling...a follower. If she had been there...if she had been as strong as Aislyn, would her friend still be alive?

And so in a daze, following but not really registering things, Melissa arrived at the Hall of Mirrors. And it was sickening. So many bodies were lying around...abandoned by their killers to lie and rot in the sun. She knelt next to one...recognized him as one of the Kronwall brothers...and the other one was lying nearby. What had happened? She didn't know...just like everything else in this game. She held none of the answers she wanted to have.

Didn't Socrates say that only people who admitted they knew nothing were the wisest? Melissa certainly didn't feel anything like that at all.

She got to her feet and walked past the dead bodies. Maybe later she'd find the energy to bring them inside or do something nice for them. For now, though, she just wanted to rest...rest and talk with Jennifer. Talk about what had happened, find out who the hell Nick really was, and just...talk in general. She headed into the building, hearing the crunching of glass under her shoes. Jennifer's voice called out to her a short distance away and Melissa went to the voice.

She found Jennifer standing alone in a relatively clear area of ground and Melissa smiled and shrugged at her. Jennifer looked like hell. Melissa guessed she didn't look much better...hell, she hadn't even changed out of her bloodied shirt. "Better than nothing, I guess."

She groaned, letting her bag slip off her shoulder and fall to the ground with a soft thump. Her sword quickly followed it, clattering onto the floor. Melissa followed it to the ground, sitting down next to it and hugging her knees up close to her chest. "My feet are hurting like hell..."

She laughed. "Odd, isn't it? So many of our classmates and friends are lying dead and yet here I am, talking about my feet." Her laughter quickly faded away and she just looked up at Jennifer with a soft, caring smile. "Hey. Come on...take a load off. We've got time to rest. Things'll be fine...I'm sure of it. I mean...come on, if anything...China Woman will save the day, won't she?"

She couldn't help but snort. That sounded so lame. But her smile was still there and with any luck...Jennifer's would be joining her.

Keep On Smiling
When she had asked, "What the hell is going on?", Melissa really had been expecting something that could count as an answer. What she got instead was...absolutely nothing. One of the boys behind the truck...she didn't know his name, only that he was carrying some sort of weird sword...gun thing, just gave a clueless response and immediately began digging in his pockets for something. The other people behind the truck didn't seem to be doing anything either and Melissa felt like she was going to be left with...pretty much nothing. She opened her mouth to speak again...maybe if she repeated the question an actual answer would surface.

She was stopped by Jennifer, though, who had jogged back to her and immediately suggested that they should leave. Melissa blinked and nodded, slightly taken aback by the sudden proclamation. It's not like the other three students were really threats and she knew Sapphire probably wouldn't try to harm them but...she took a closer look at Jennifer. She looked tired and exhausted...way more tired than Melissa had noticed at first.

And that sealed the deal. There was no way Melissa was going to abandon one of her few friends left on the island. She gave Jennifer a slight nod. "Sure, the hall of mirrors it is. It's not like I have anything in mind..."

Jennifer quickly ran off after that and Melissa walked after her at a slightly slower pace. She took a glance backward at the other students and stopped for a couple of moments, giving them a quick smile. "Hey uh...it was nice to meet you...I guess. Try to um...stay safe, all right? No killing."

She couldn't help but laugh in her mind. What was she doing? She sounded like a mother cautioning her children with that last line. Quickly just shaking her head and waving, she turned and ran off after Jennifer. There was something bothering her, though. Something that Jennifer had said...what was the name of Not Johnny?

'She said it was Nick, didn't she...? I remember hearing that name...from the announcements? Weren't there two Nicks, though? One of them had a lot more kills though. Nick Reid or Nick LeMonde...' Melissa thought to herself, troubled. She looked at the back of her friend, thoughts whirling around in her head. 'Just what has she been doing...? I guess the only thing to do is ask when the time's right...'

'Hopefully I get a better answer than "I don't even fucking know."'

(Melissa Li continued in A Day Late.)

The Basics

Handler Name: Tythanin

Your Trademark Character: Since she's the only one left alive, Melissa Li.

Current Status of Trademark Character: Wondering what the hell is going on in the logging road

Favourite Character: I...don't really have one, actually. If I had to choose, it's a three-way tie between Jeremy Franco, Aislyn McCreery, and Kimberly Nyugen.

Favourite Weapon: Don't...really have one of these either. Probably the flare gun, if only cause immolation is pretty awesome (in a gruesome sort of way).

Favourite Scene: The Scene is About A Hat. That stuff was classic.

Favourite Death: Dammit, stop asking me for favorites I never have any of these. I also don't read that much >_> But anyway...Eve Luther-Walker.


Favourite Thread: Uh... -=points to Favorite Scene?=-

Favourite Post: Now you're just being picky. This one.

Favourite Location: The Parish. There's something poetic about a religious spot being blown up to hell in the first days of the game. Just not sure what.

The Plastic Hammer Awards

Most Evolutionary Character: Like I said, I don't really read much of SotF. As such, don't really have an answer for this one. I mean...I guess Kimberly, but that's within a small pool of characters I bother reading about >_>

Most Revolutionary Character: Liz Polanski. Come on, getting Danya to send the terrorists out after you? Shows you're doing something, at least.

Most Unorthodox/Original Character: Jeremy Franco. Pretty certain he's the first one to really just treat the whole game like a business and frankly, it's pretty awesome.

Most Realistically-Portrayed Character: ...A lot, actually. I mean, with such a huge cast it's kind of hard to pinpoint one specifically as being "I would know this person". Pass.

Most Heroic Character: None of the characters I'm following are actually that...heroic. I'd pin Nick Reid for it, if only cause he's a fairly good tragic hero.

Most Villianous Character: Maxwell Lombardi.

Most Tragic Character: Ahahahah. Felicia Carmichael. Man, one friend gets bitten by a snake and dies, another friend yells at her face and leaves, then she has to shoot someone in self-defense, and then finds out said yelling friend got killed? Sucks to be her.

Most Humourous Character: Jimmy Brennan is so over the top insane it's awesome.

Most-likely Winner: Uh. Most likely huh. No clue.

Most Epic Character: Jimmy Brennan likes to think he's epic and awesome, so why not toss him this category too.


Which character do you relate to the most? Jennifer Perez, I guess?

Which character do you feel the most for? Felicia Carmichael for all of the reasons I pointed out earlier.

Which character do you feel 'played the game' the best? If by playing the game, you mean murdering everybody in sight, Maxwell Lombardi. If not and you mean the survival part, everyone who's still alive.

Which character do you think had it the worst? Uh...Felicia Carmichael. Maybe I should start expanding my horizons.

Which character would you be willing to kill yourself? Maxwell Lombardi and Liz Polanski, probably.

Which character are you cheering on to win SOTF? Jennifer Perez, full stop.

Which character do you think has/had it coming? Maxwell, Liz, Hayley, Jimmy, pretty much everyone who's racked a high kill count (since I don't think many of those are self-defense kills). Jimmy's on there cause there's no way someone isn't just going to put him out cause of his attitude. Or at least self-delusions.

Which character do you think should NOT have died? Aislyn McCreery. Damn RNG.


Most Emotionally Moving Scene: Pass.

Most Disturbing/Gory Scene: ...Pass. I haven't read many of these either. Sarah's scalpel kills are pretty damn good though.

Most Pivotal Scene/Event: Faraday's Cages, I guess. Actually...it probably won't have much of an effect anymore, but it certainly was important earlier on.

Most Humourous Scene: Jimmy Brennan totally getting laid in the Gazebo.

Most Action-packed Scene: I...wouldn't say it had a lot of action, but In Theory, This Should Be Easy was just damn awesome all the way through. Definitely had the drama and tension down, even if there weren't that many "GET DOWN!" scenes.

Most Emotionally Moving Scene: I could swear I had one of these. Totally forgot what it was though. Pass.

Most Drama-filled Scene: It...does tension really count as drama? I'll just put In Theory, This Should Be Easy here again.

Most Unexpected Scene: Faraday's Cages. Come on, another collar neutralization event? Wasn't really expecting that. Does shooting Achlys in the announcement count?


Most Tragic Death: Double Pass.

Most Violent Death: Was there a death where someone just got hacked to pieces? That'd probably be it if one existed. Pass.

Most Disturbing Death: The one where that girl got set on fire with a flare gun. Immolation is kind of fucked up like that.

Most Unexpected Death: Does this really count I mean we see the rolls and I haven't really been following non-rolled deaths. Pass.

Most Original/Unorthodox Death: Richard Han's falling death. Dude didn't even get kicked off a cliff.

Most Humourous Death: Look above.

Predictions and preferences

Quick; Final Four for v4 - who's it gonna be? No clue, I'm not psychic. As for who I want to be in it, Jennifer Perez, Nick Reid, Felicia Carmichael, and Peter Siu. If Jennifer and Nick make final two, that will be an AMAZING last endgame to read and I want to see what happens.

Which characters do you intend to follow/currently follow closest/with the most interest? Jennifer Perez, Felicia Carmichael, Nick Reid...uh...Kimberly Nyugen. And I should keep track of Jeremy Franco but I lost him like three threads ago or something.

Are there any characters you wish you'd interacted with, but haven't? I wanna have Melissa meet Peter and Aileen again but beyond that...no, not really. Also they're alive. Oh, Cyrille. That would have been awesome to actually have Cyrille and Violetta meet up except I was a doof.

If you could change ANYTHING that has happened thus far, what would you change? Uh...I would've liked to change the fact that I wasn't paying attention at the beginning of the game and thus wasn't able to Swap Card Violetta when she got rolled. I had a lot more ideas for her than for Andrew, unfortunately. That's probably selfish but whatever.

Your thoughts on SOTF v4

How much did you enjoy/not enjoy V4? Jesus christ V4 is so much fun it's great actually being able to play through it instead of adopting a character late-game and getting rolled like two weeks after >_>

What do you like the most about V4? Mostly the characters. Kind of hard to really pinpoint one. It's like a big, fluffy cloud of awesome?

What do you think could have been better about V4? Holy shit less inactive kills. Probably not having a huge cast either...it's pretty hard to manage. I'd say that I'd like the threads I'm in to move faster but that would be hypocritical of me >_>

How would you compare SOTF to the original BR? Never read the latter. Either way, SotF is more awesome cause not only do I get to influence what happens but you get so many different ideas and writing styles cause of how it works.

Do you think V4 is more or less enjoyable than V3/V2/V1, or the same? Having only participated in a bit of V3, can't really say.

What do you think of the overall 'SOTF' story? Me likey.

Do you think V5 will be any more or less enjoyable than V4/V3/V2/V1, or the same? I think the game's just going to get better and better. Problems in previous versions'll just get fixed and ironed out. At least, that's how I think things'll happen.

How do you feel about v5? Can't fucking wait. Can we have a character concept thread up now please?

Keep On Smiling
(OOC: I have no clue what the hell is going on, but I'm posting now before going to the next post cycle because as it is, it totally skips me once >_> But anyway, yes.)

You never want to be known as someone that was dangerous. But when the person with Jennifer dropped his blade in ground between her and him, Melissa realized that he actually thought she was dangerous. And at a basic level, Melissa was flattered. Here she was, a Chinese girl with average height and glasses and probably one of the least threatening people around at school...and this kid in front of her thought she was dangerous. Must've been the sword. Bloodied swords really do make everything seem more dangerous.

But that wasn't the point. The last thing she wanted was some sort of misunderstanding and she was all set and ready to explain why the hell she looked like she came out of a slasher fic when there was a disturbance. There was some noise behind a truck nearby and suddenly the boy went into action like he was some sort of confident military man, heading over to the truck with his sword in hand. At least he sounded like he knew what he was doing but...she looked at Jennifer, hoping the other girl would be able to shed a light on what was going on.

She unfortunately did not.

Instead, Jennifer offered a smile...which brought up unfortunate comparisons to Felicia...which only became more unfortunate when Jennifer ran to the truck with her friend and greeted...whoever was behind it. A shiver ran down her back. This was just like what had happened with Kayla...well okay, it wasn't just like what had happened. But dammit, it was close enough. It wasn't fair. She had left the infirmary to get away from the nightmare...was it going to happen again? It wasn't right...shit like this should happen again...she could always see the two side by side.

There was a noise behind a place they couldn't see and someone went to answer it, only this time it was Not Johnny instead of the girl, Jennifer in this case. There were greetings exchanged. Things seemed great. "Hi"s weren't exactly the top of the friendship list, but hey, it was a pleasant greeting and it seemed things were going to be great. Something was going to go wrong. She knew it. This had happened before. She would take one step forward...maybe two, and then things would go to hell. It was her part...the world was waiting for her to do it.

And so she did. Even if this whole thing hadn't happened before, she would have tried to figure out what was going on anyway. A simple "Wait here" or "Hang on" wasn't really...something she liked being told. If they had at least attached a "I think someone's dangerous behind there so I want you here out of trouble", she probably would have been fine staying put but...

Well maybe that stuff was just meant to be left unsaid...who knew? Melissa certainly didn't. She grabbed her sword, digging it out of the earth.

She ignored both Not Johnny and Jennifer as she walked towards the truck and true to form, the shit hit the fan. Somebody ran out from behind the truck, Not Johnny chased whoever it was (thankfully not getting himself impaled on a sword somehow), and another girl ran away too. There was no actual gunshot, but that was fine. Melissa's mind managed to supply the gunshot for her.

She walked up next to Jennifer, a frown on her face. There was no killing yet. That was great...but the way things seemed, she wasn't so sure. There were three others behind the truck, two boys and a girl. She recognized the girl. It was Sapphire McLeod. She was a shy one...at least, that's what Melissa remembered from that time they had both gotten in trouble at Bayview's library. If it was any other time, she probably would have managed a "Hi" and a wave.

But now...now she just felt dumbfounded and so very, very out of it. Nothing right was happening and history was repeating itself.

"What the hell is going on?"

Keep On Smiling
A wide grin split Melissa's face as she heard Jennifer's simple "Over here" and she had to quickly wipe an elbow across her eyes to wipe away tears that she knew were beginning to form. There was no doubt about it at all...the girl in front of her was Jennifer Perez, a friend...one of the few ones that she had down at Bayview. It felt great knowing she had run into a friend...she hadn't felt this good since the beginning of the game since she had run into...Aislyn. She privately hoped that nothing would make Jennifer turn out the same way...she shivered at the thought of Jennifer screaming at her with that same angry look. Definitely something she didn't want to happen.

The other person...even with a closer look, she couldn't identify him that well. Looked kind of beat up, actually. She knew she had seen him in Bayview somewhere...his name was wriggling around in her brain, but she just couldn't grasp it long enough to remember. It was beginning to bother her, but Jennifer was with him. He couldn't actually be a danger, could he? He was reaching for a gun that was laying on the ground though, so...that was a bad sign. It wasn't like she was dangerous in any...Melissa looked down at herself for a moment. Her bloodied shirt and the sword she was holding in a death grip in her left hand stared back up at her. 'Oh.'

She stopped in her tracks a few feet away from Jennifer and the boy, a sheepish smile on her face as she motioned with the sword. "Ah...sorry if I scared your friend, Jennifer. This uh...well, a lot of things happened, actually. I was in the infirmary and just..." She sighed, the memories springing up unbidden in her mind. "Just...things went crazy. You really don't know how happy I am to see you right now...seriously. It's like a dream come true."

Things felt awkward for her now. She had wanted to see Jennifer on the island along with her other friends but now that the opportunity was with her...she found herself at a loss of things to say. What could she say? It didn't seem right to dredge up memories of what normal Bayview life had been like...maybe if it was night and they were around a campfire but the feeling...the scene didn't feel right at all. Here she was, having nearly gone crazy from self-recrimination (and possibly still crazy) and holding a bloody weapon in a hand. And there was Jennifer, fresh from just hugging some boy that Melissa didn't recognize. If this had been the beginning of the game, maybe it would have been easier.

But it wasn't the beginning.

It was the sixth damn day in Danya's sick experiment. People she had just gotten to know...gotten to become friends with. They had died. They had changed. Everything had changed so much since their innocent lives at Bayview. Melissa didn't even know what Jennifer had been through, but chances were it was just as shitty as the stuff she had gone through. So she said the only thing she could really think of to sum up everything.

She stabbed her sword into the soft dirt of the road, letting it stand free as she tucked her hands behind her back in a slightly formal posture. Her smile had dimmed...more to a sort of sardonic grin than an actual smile. "...Everything's gotten so fucked up, hasn't it?"


What's that sound? Oh, that's right! I'm sorry, but our special on the Andrew Mitchell death has expired approximately...several days ago, actually! It is a shame that we here at Tythanin's Chopping Block can no longer provide you with as much variety in our killing ways, but DO NOT FRET! We STILL HAVE WAYS OF MAKING YOU TALK I mean we still have ways of killing people with non-killers!

That's right! Melissa's never killed anyone before and she's actually in a good mood! Do you want to be the one to shatter it and send her down that dark and lonely path?! And not only that, you can DO IT IN FRONT OF ONE OF HER CLOSEST FRIENDS! Just imagine the trauma you can deal with JUST ONE DEATH!

Order today! Offers are limited until the time the RNG wants to screw me over!