"We tried to be better, but we aren't. I don't think anyone could last more than a week here if they weren't willing to do bad things." - Alba Reyes

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A Delicate Machine
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When the harsh light of morning accompanied by a gentle shove came to dissolve Cass's nightly dreamscape, they rarely remembered their dreams; and the new day brought no exception. It irritated them, honestly. What better place to draw inspiration from than a world with no rules, no limitations, a blank canvas they could effortlessly shape however they wanted? They'd looked up techniques on how to lucid dream, had tried their damnedest to follow them. Nothing ever worked. At best, they'd be left with faint, scattered impressions; like what you'd get if you drew a landscape in pencil and then erased it, staring at the ghosts of lines to try and piece them back together again into one coherent whole but it just stays barely out of your grasp, and fades and fades out of your memory until you've never even known what you lost; except for maybe stopping in the middle of the day to wonder why the hell dream-you had been so convinced that being on fire was normal, then you shrugged and go on with your real life.

None of that mattered, did it?

Cass only managed a halfhearted "Morn" at Trav before the announcement came on. They numbly listened to Tracen speak; weren't sure whether to be offended at his careless jab at them, or grateful that they'd even merited noticing. 'Unspecified gender.' What an absolute asshole, even on top of being a murderous bastard. They briefly wondered how Vinny was doing, with their ever-admirable confidence in themself, being themself, before the announcement continued.

Jae and Vanessa had been right. Nancy, Alvaro - both killers. That revelation paled to what came next, though. Cass's fears for their friends hadn't been unfounded. They were still alive, thank god, but Clarice's boyfriend had killed one of her close friends before being killed himself. They couldn't imagine what she was going through. How hard must it have been to lose someone you loved twice? Once when they became someone, something else, a comforting presence turned to mortal dread in the blink of an eye and a failing heartbeat, and then again when they themselves become a victim, when you still haven't let go entirely? All Cass could only hope was that Clarice hadn't been there to witness it all, to have those dying moments imprinted on the back of her eyelids and robbing her of any peace she could have had. Better to leave it an abstract grief.

Trav said nothing. Cass followed suit and tried not to let their distress show.

"Not yet, at least," Cass said in reply to Trav's oddly blithe remark. The food in his hand reminded Cass of their own empty stomach, and they fished their own bread out. The food and water would likely only last them another day, two at the most. What was left to them, then? Die of thirst alongside the ocean? Become vultures, picking through the remains of their dead classmates? In the end, it was a problem for the future, and Cass tried to turn their mind towards more pressing matters.

"But I'm, uh, probably as fine as I'm going to be with heading out whenever you're ready. You did say you other people to find, yeah? Not gonna have much luck if we just stay up here." They still weren't ready, not really; but if Trav (bless his heart) was going to remain with Cass, they couldn't weigh him down and prevent him from finding the people who actually mattered to him.
a tribute for the dead and dying

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Five Finger Death Punch · The Rooftop