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Waking Up To Ash and Dust
It was strange how she was clapping over someone blowing themselves up, but here she was, doing just that. God damn. What a way to go.

Miranda stopped clapping when she noticed Kat was waking up. Or awake. Either way. She had followed her out of the airfield, and they had stuck together. Miranda wasn't sure about her, though. She found herself recalling how she was worried that Kat would stab her in her sleep or something. That was still an issue. She could smother her face with a pillow, or poison her food, or worse. To put it bluntly, Miranda was scared of Kat. Some part of her that was still... like before, it kept telling her that Kat was just looking out for her. The other, new side of her kept imagining all sorts of gruesome scenarios.

Miranda had thought about sneaking away, but she couldn't. Kat was a friend, and Miranda hated all the emotions that came with that. It meant she couldn't just walk away, but it also meant that if Kat were to do something to her, it would probably be the most painful thing of all. It had been somewhat more easier to just stick it out alone. With two people, things got complicated. It wasn't even having to discuss things with her, or possibly having to share supplies, or anything like that. It was just the idea that Kat could easily change her mind.

The last remaining part of her told her Kat couldn't, wouldn't, do something like that. It was absurd. But you never know.

Pulling herself to her feet, she felt her stomach churn a little bit. Now that she was standing, she realized she still felt a little lethargic, as if all she wanted was to go back to sleep. But despite her body's protests, Miranda wanted to stretch. It helped calm her a bit, to stretch her body and perhaps exercise a bit. Maybe that's why she liked track so much, and practiced even in off seasons. It was easier to not focus on things if you were doing something physical, even something small like stretching your arms and legs.

Should they head out, or stay here?

Both had its pros and cons, honestly. Miranda didn't want to do a spectacular amount beyond stretching, but she still wasn't sure how safe it was here.

"Kat", she whispered. "You awake?"

Merry Christmas SOTF!
Ho ho ho! Danya Claus is coming to town, the scent of pines are in the air, people are freezing to death, and there's candy canes everywhere! Yes, it's that time of year again!

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Watch this. It's hilarious. : D

The Sound a Sloth Makes
Lana had still been lost in her thoughts, so when Stephanie approached, needless to say she jumped a bit. Stephanie was harmless. Okay, not harmless, but not willing to do anything to her, that was a better phrasing. And yet, she still was startled. Was it always going to be like this? Jumping out of her skin at every little thing? Probably. Her entire life, even if she made it home, was going to be like that.

It was good that she didn't slip off the rocks, or let go of the rod, though. Letting go of the rod meant losing it in the depths, while slipping down might have meant- anyways.

How was she holding up? Still scared, still out of it sometimes, still regretful. Sometimes she was better than she was before, but other times she... wasn't. She knew how things were. Even now, sometimes she would still space out, unable to process everything around her.

Nothing seemed good, really. It was all a mess, and she knew it. It was the sort of mess she couldn't fix.

"I'm fine", she replied simply.

She focused on the float dancing in the waves, tossed about without a care.

After a bit of thought, she asked "You?"

Stephanie couldn't have been doing well after the gates. Lana knew how it felt, using that gun to hurt someone. It... wasn't a good feeling. Sometimes she would still see Venice when she closed her eyes. And yet, the temptation was still there. It was burrowing into her. Lana knew how taking a life was hard, so Stephanie doing it on purpose must have been worse. They hadn't talked too much at all since they first woke up at the aviary, she realized. That realization made things worse. What if Lana ran away from Stephanie like what happened at the hotel? Or the other way around? No, Stephanie wouldn't do that, or at least she thought.

Perhaps, as she thought before, it would always be the two of them from this point onward. Could she live with being that alone? Could she live with someone coming after them for Venice or Brian? Could either of them? It was a thought that she didn't like dwelling on, but there it was.

General Goose's Evil Writing Lair (Now with Requests!)
A story about a wombat who goes on an adventure. The bad guy must be an evil sorcerer who wishes to take over the world by turning all the world leaders into gold. The wombat must defeat him using a tuna casserole, it doesn't matter how. He has a love interest wombat who is able to grow wings on any surface. He also has a sidekick in a bilby who can jump superhuman (or superbilby) heights. Aside from the sorcerer, they come across a magic sentient bouncy ball, a fire-breathing poodle, a dragon who is scared of mice, and a wendingo who has a secret fondness for cupcakes. At the very end of the story, everyone except the casseroled sorcerer have a dance party.

Make it happen. : D

Waking Up To Ash and Dust
((Miranda Millers continued from Out of the Frying Pan...))

Miranda forced her eyes open, only to be introduced to what can only be described as a literal world of pain. Her head hadn't improved much. In fact, it seemed to have gotten worse. She felt even more like she was going to throw up, and she had to squint her eyes a bit. It was horrible. Even now, she was scared that Baxter hit hard enough that she was bleeding from the brain or something awful like that. He better not have. Miranda wasn't sure what to do if he did.

It was cool in the office building, in multiple senses of the word. Cool as in the temperature was nice, even if sleeping with your back against a cubicle wasn't ideal, cool as in it was actually pretty neat. Well, it wasn't neat in the literal sense, but you know. It still creeped her out a bit how everything looked like the world had just ended, but by this point she was almost used to it. Almost was an important word in that sentence, but it was something that by this point was a normality. Though, she kind of realized earlier that there was some kind of nuclear power plant very close by. That wasn't a good thing. She bathed in the water the other day, and had casually slept nearby on multiple occasions. She better not get any kind of poisoning, either. That would kind of suck on top of everything.

Kyoko still loyally laid across her lap, as Miranda rubbed her forehead. It was just another day on this island. The island with nuclear power plants, amusement parks, farms, towns, and airports. She still wanted to know where exactly did they take them, and how did they find an island with all this on it?

The familiar screech on the intercom started, searing through Miranda's aching head. She winced at the sound.

"Good morning, kids."

It wasn't the same voice as before. Miranda tensed up, knowing that wasn't a good sign.

"My name's James. I'm the collar guy, and, well, I'm sorry to say, after two promising days, nobody actually managed a kill yesterday. You know what that means."

Right then, everything seemed to stop.

Miranda was frozen to the spot, as everything went through her mind at once. She was going to die here, in this cubicle, and nothing was going to stop them from killing her. Nothing she did helped, and now they were killing everyone. This was it. It was just going to be like this, and there was no chance for her after all. She tightly closed her eyes, waiting for the impact to end it.

It was only two seconds, but it seemed like a lifetime.

"Just kidding. Keep up the good work. Here's Danya with our main attraction."

She opened her eyes.

As the panic subsided, a scowl of frustration passed over her face. They... really liked taunting them, didn't they? It was probably some sick show for them, to tell everyone that hey, guess who's still in charge? That's right, them. In hindsight, it was kind of the sort of thing she would know better than to believe. After all, it made no sense especially from her perspective. But, how were you supposed to react when they said they were going to make the collars explode?

Miranda quietly listened to the announcement, and right away she got the answers she wanted. There wasn't too much of note aside from that. Once it finally ended with declaring the winner- or rather, winners- of the awards and how they were given sausages and ice cream, Miranda sat in thought for a few seconds. What exactly was she feeling? Anger, resentment, relief? Even remorse?

No, she realized. It was something even weirder than that.

Miranda smiled, and gently clapped. It was somewhat reluctant, but really-

"God damn. I'm impressed, Baxter", she said.

That was genuinely... wow. It turned out that he was stuck in the dangerzone, but instead of just sitting there and waiting for them to kill him, he blew himself up. Repeat, he blew himself up. In the past, she would have rolled her eyes at the idea of someone blowing themselves up with grenades. Especially Baxter; if you told her he was going to blow himself to smithereens before, she would have thought it was something like being a clumsy oaf. But nope. She hated to think of it like this, but there it was. Man had balls. It was pretty much the biggest "fuck you" someone could do in that moment.

As much as Miranda hated him when she was alive, she had to admit, Baxter had her impressed.

The Sound a Sloth Makes
((Double-posting to ward off inactivity. Excuse me))

You know, Lana had a lot of regrets. She regretted how things went between her and Dave at the Starbucks that day. She regretted how she hurt Venice. She regretted how Stephanie had to shoot Brian. She regretted how she had ran away from Ilya when he needed her most.

Most of all, she regretted being so weak.

Lana hated being weak. People wanted to dote over her, but she didn't want that. She prided herself on doing well at athletics, and how she at least tried to keep a cool head. But she was so powerless to stop anything. In the end, she was weak, and that's not what she wanted.

There were many options to stop being weak. But none of them seemed realistic.

She should stop on that train of thought. Instead, she should focus on fishing some more. It was still very relaxing, having something to do. At least she could do something, like get her and Stephanie something to eat instead of ration bars and crackers. It was strange what you took for granted sometimes.

The ocean still raged on near her, only seeming to get worse by the moment.

Stephanie, she wasn't sure what she could do. It was just the two of them right now, and frankly, it was going to probably be that way for a while.

Out of the Frying Pan ...

Of course Mara were to judge her. Mara had killed someone, herself, of course, but really. How was she supposed to act? Then again, it was still very strange what you ended up talking about here. But Mara too, she had changed. Somehow, that disturbed Miranda. Change was expected.

But this was something different in Mara, and needless to say, she wasn't the same person that she had ran into on the first day. Just like how Miranda wasn't... exactly the same either. Things change, people change, what could you do?

Miranda tightened the grip on Kyoko a bit as she went into some kind of lecture. Was she freaking out that badly? But it was justified, wasn't it? A lot of things had happened recently. Mara didn't seem to think that she was doing so well.

She frowned a bit more. Mara was acting weird, no doubt. Once again, though, Mara was leaving her life. Miranda tried to think of something to say. After what Mara had just said, there wasn't much that came to mind. But one came to mind:

"Good luck, Mara. Stay safe."

Her voice came out distant, faint.

As Kat spoke, Miranda realized just how hard she had been gripping on the spear. Her nails had been digging into her palm, and she loosened. A small pain still resided. She didn't kill Baxter? Was Kat sure?

"Are you sure about that? I ran into him at the homestead-" she struggled a bit through the memory. "-And I injured him. Don't know if he got out, since it was... yeah."

Her head still throbbed on top of it. Maybe she should have taken the pills. Miranda wasn't sure what she could do now. Sometimes she was sure she was going to make it. Sometimes she wasn't. RIght now it was the latter. Everything seemed to have changed so quickly.

Miranda forced a smile on her face. She wasn't so good at faking them anymore, she realized. But the part of her that worried about people she liked, the part of her that still wanted to impress them, still remained. And she hated it. It wasn't necessary at all to surviving.

"Listen, Kat", she began. "Things have been rough."

Miranda wanted to say something more, but she couldn't. She just couldn't.

"I think the only thing left is to... survive. That's it."

Miranda didn't dare look Kat in the eye as she spoke, her voice coming out weak. That was her head, she was certain. Her feet became moving towards the way she came, the sneakers echoing soft squeaks on the concrete. Miranda turned her head to Kat, wondering if she should say anything more.

What was there to say?

((Miranda Millers continued in Waking Up to Ash and Dust))