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dmboogie
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A Delicate Machine
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((They wasted no time putting the asylum behind them.))

Too many identical, gray corridors; too many corners. Decayed as it was, it was still a hospital through and through - a place to wander and waste away; to die in a forgotten and sterile corner of the world. Nothing good could come from remaining in such a place. Besides, after hesitating to leave the roof for so long, it'd feel hollow if they just settled down twenty feet away from where they'd started, losing a reminder of the world outside and gaining nothing but a weak sense of security.

As they made their way down the asylum stairwell, Cass had paused once they had reached the landing where they had woken up the previous day. It meant nothing and everything; both completely nondescript, a meaningless transitional space, and a gravestone. Cass tried to remember what they had been feeling as the world ended, tried to picture their breaking self walking corpse-like up the stairs before them, mechanically walking forwards toward what could have easily been their death.

They failed, which was probably for the best. The mop lying on the ground was the only proof that Cass really had been there; that they hadn't just popped into existence shortly before finding Trav, before the world had starting seeming actually real. They needed to remember not to take his presence for granted. What would have happened if Cass had chosen any other direction, had descended instead of ascended? It wasn't worth dwelling on. Their life was going to be short enough without thinking of the mistakes they could have made. Cass picked up the mop for a second, thought better of it, and then leaned it against the wall. If it hadn't been for the piece of paper inside their bag confirming that it was supposed to be theirs, they would have mistaken it as nothing but debris. Even with that knowledge, Cass didn't have any particular obligation to hold onto a terrorist's "gift" and fulfill the unspoken expectation to cling on to every scrap they were handed.

Their walk was uneventful, though it felt good to stretch their legs after being cooped up on the roof for so long. Cass idly thought that it was perfect weather for a bike ride. Unfortunately, given the island's state, they doubted there were any usable trails. It would have been a perfect retreat under any other circumstance, with nothing preventing them from flying across the island, stopping only to explore the reclaimed nature around them.

The chapel's garden was proof enough of this, opportunistic weeds edging out mankind's aesthetic vision; some of which still shined through in patches. Comparing them side by side, Cass couldn't help but admire them both. Though the weeds were dull and prickly, they thrived without a care for their unwanted disorder. The flowers that remained were doing their best, too; remnants of likely long-dead people who had cared for them, arranged them to be pleasing to the eye.

It was everything they had hoped the chapel to be, honestly. Even without a faith to tie them to it, Cass had always respected churches and cathedrals. They were old, dignified beasts; places where people came to be granted peace. Though this one was old and humbled, it still carried a weight; and irrational as it was, Cass had dared to dream that even the terrorists had yet to violate its sanctity.

Of course, the real world was never that kind. It didn't take long for Cass to find Jane's stripped corpse.

They hated that they felt relieved as they glanced at her face, briefly met her dead, half-closed eyes; confirmed that she wasn't anyone that Cass cared about. They couldn't bear to look any longer than that, to take in the deep wound in her neck that all-too-clearly spelled out what had happened to her, quickly averting their gaze. Cass found it odd that they weren't breaking down into tears or vomiting or doing any of the things one would expect after finding their first dead body.

Maybe it just hadn't set in fully yet. Maybe the horror had been edged out by the fury Cass felt on Jane's behalf. Shouldn't it have been enough for her killer to take her life? What twisted rationale had lead them to then defile her memory, to leave her forever exposed and vulnerable in front of the uncaring eyes of the cameras? There was no purpose except spite; nothing to gain from it except a destructive satisfaction. Maybe that had been all it took. Cass would have asked how their classmates already sunken so low, if they hadn't a sinking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, the faceless sadist hadn't had to change at all.

"Trav, you - you shouldn't come over here. Fuck - there's a dead girl, and..." Cass trailed off, voice breaking slightly. Had Jane been important to Trav? If he saw her corpse, would Cass witness him break right in front of their eyes, see the Jane-that-was be instantly replaced by the Jane-that-is in his mind, the shock and revulsion inescapably burning the image into his memory? They unconsciously positioned themself between the two, hoping to shield Jane from view. "It's - she's - Jane."
a tribute for the dead and dying

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