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Cause what you see isn't always the truth
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June 3, 2015, late morning

While Arnold and Ella were discussing the merits of Noah's body of work, Edie was in the kitchen preparing a lunch tray. There was a turkey sandwich, some potato chips, and a glass of lemonade laid out on the tray. Edie normally loved to cook, but she wasn't putting as much effort into it as she normally would. They still had several casseroles and other dishes from friends and neighbors in case anyone in the house got hungry, but for the most part, Edie was content to reheat in a microwave instead of preparing anything grand. They needed to eat whenever they were ready, and as she saw it, most of them probably weren't in the mood to eat right now.

Edie sighed as she picked the tray up and began to walk towards the stairs. Since Kelly had locked herself in her room to watch Noah's stream, Edie had made it her duty to bring meals and anything else her daughter needed to her room. Kelly had been very low maintenance during this time. For the most part, she remained in her room and only left if she needed to go to the bathroom or needed a break. Even then, she tried to force herself to take care of herself. Edie spent some of her time waiting for a text from Kelly asking for more coffee or anything, but nothing came. Most of the time, Edie would only see Kelly when she came up to bring the next meal. Kelly would meet her at the door, hand her the old tray, then take the new one. Kelly would give a minor update on Noah, then go back into her room.

Edie slowly walked up the stairs, listening to the ice cubes in the lemonade clink against the glass. As she did, she looked at the photos along the wall of the stairs. There was her wedding photo with Arnold from almost fifty years ago, Kelly's high school graduation picture, a photo of Noah as a toddler, and the most recent one of the four residents in their Sunday clothes. What Edie also noticed was a much older photo, with Edie as a young girl, surrounded by her parents and two older brothers.

It was hard to believe Edie and her family had lived in this house for so long. The house originally belonged to Edie's parents, which they bought after they got married following World War II. Edie grew up in the house along with her brothers, enjoying a simple and quiet life together. Unfortunately, things didn't remain stable forever. Both of Edie's brothers were drafted during the Vietnam War. Her eldest brother was killed in action, while her other brother passed away from dysentery in a military hospital. Then, a year before Edie and Arnold got married, Edie's parents were killed in a car accident. To lose her entire family in such a short span of time nearly destroyed Edie. She remained at home, grieving their loss. It took a lot of love from Arnold and a lot of hope for their future for her to leave the home again.

Her parents left her the house, so Edie and Arnold were determined to make it a good home. Edie did her best to make it a good home, redecorating the home to make it feel alive again, learning new recipes to please Arnold, and inviting friends over several times during the week for Bridge and other occasions. When Kelly was born, Edie thought she'd fill the house with children so she could have a large family and make the home feel as lively as it did when her parents and brothers were alive.

But that would never come to be. When Kelly was three, she was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. All at once, Edie felt a wave of anxiety and fear pour into her system. She tried to distract herself with chores and other tasks, but instead found herself retreating into empty rooms to sob quietly. Fortunately for her, Kelly recovered and was able to leave the hospital. It was then Edie decided to not have any more children. More children meant more possibilities of an early death. She could watch over Kelly, make sure she was safe, and then relax once Kelly had moved out of the house and started her own life. Because of that, she took care to ensure she wouldn't get pregnant again, and told Arnold she didn't feel like they needed to have more children.

After Kelly's marriage fell apart and she moved home, Edie was pleased to have another child in the home. In a way, Noah living in their home made it feel like what it could have been like had she and Arnold had any other children. Suddenly, the home was vibrant again. Edie didn't worry about Noah getting sick or leaving prematurely. She could just be his grandma and dote on him like any other grandma would have. Sure, Noah wasn't entirely what she expected from a grandson, but he was still her family, and she loved all the joy he brought to the home.

Edie slowly passed by the photos and reached the top of the stairs. She had worried about what could have happened to Noah for all these years, but she could have never predicted that something like this would have happened. Much like the stray Vietcong bullet that pierced through her brother's neck or the drunk driver who ran a stop sign and collided with her parents, it was something completely out of her control. Now gloom was back in the house, and Edie wasn't sure how much longer she could distract herself.

She slowly breathed in and out, then walked down the hall to Kelly's room. She could hear some sounds coming down the hall, but didn't bother with them. It was probably Ella or Arnold messing around. She had other things to do right now.

Edie walked up to Kelly's room and knocked on the door.

"Kelly?" she asked.

There was no response. Edie knocked again.

"Kelly, it's your mother. Lunch is ready."

Still no response. Edie felt her heart start to race. There had to be a reason Kelly wasn't responding. Edie's mind jumped to the worst option, so she quickly moved to open the door.

She pushed the door open and moved in, nearly tipping the glass of lemonade over. She held her breath for a moment, then exhaled when she saw Kelly sitting on her bed, looking at her laptop. Kelly removed one of her earbuds and looked at her mother, turning the laptop screen away from where Edie could see.

"What?" Kelly hissed.

"Sorry, I brought your lunch," Edie said.

"And you just barged in? Jesus Christ, mom, think of what you could have seen."

"I'm sorry. I knocked twice and you didn't respond."

"Headphones, mom," Kelly said, pointing to the earbud still in her ear. "That's why."

"Okay. I'll knock louder next time," Edie said, smiling at her daughter.

"Fine," Kelly said, turning back to the laptop.

Edie set the lunch tray on the nearby dresser. The tray with Kelly's breakfast was still there, so Edie went over to pick it up. The eggs were half eaten, and the toast had gone cold. Only the coffee and orange juice were completely gone from the breakfast tray. Edie looked over at her daughter, who was watching the computer intensely.

"So, how's Noah?" Edie asked.

Kelly quickly glanced up, then back to the screen.

"Fine. His group went back to the beach. Apparently, one of the girls he's with has cystic fibrosis."

"Oh dear."

"Yeah," Kelly said. "Some other girl just showed up and they're still talking. Just the same crap they've been talking about for the last day or so."

Edie nodded. She collected the breakfast tray, then began to walk towards the door. She stopped before she left the room, then turned back to Kelly.

"Kelly, can I see him?"

Kelly looked up at her mother, some loose hair falling in front of her face. "What?"

"Noah," Edie said. "I just want to see him for a moment."

"Mom, we agreed. I'm the only one watching this," Kelly said, brushing her hair back.

"I know, I know," Edie said, walking towards the bed. "But if they're just talking, it should be no harm in seeing him."

"No, that's not what we agreed," Kelly said, pulling the laptop closer to her lap.


"Mom, please don't. This is my burden. Don't force yourself to see him in this game."

"Kelly, I just want to see him while he's alive. Please, I don't think that's too much to ask."

"No," Kelly insisted.

"Just a few seconds, then I'll leave," Edie bargained.

"Mom, would you please just-"

Just then Kelly jumped up in her seat, the laptop sliding off her lap and onto the bed. The remaining earbud fell out of her ear. Kelly let out a scream.

"Kelly?" Edie asked.

"That was a gunshot," Kelly said. "Fuck, I just heard a gunshot."

Kelly looked at the laptop, putting one earbud back in. Her eyes widened.

"Oh god..." she muttered.

"Kelly? Is he alright?" Edie asked, setting the tray down and walking around the bed to Kelly's side. Kelly held a hand out towards her mom.

"Stay away," she insisted.

"What happened?"

"Mom, please go!"

Kelly turned back to the screen. As she did, another figure appeared at the doorway. Arnold pushed open the door and walked in.

"Kel? I heard a scream. What happened?"

"Dad, go away," Kelly said.

"Is he okay?" Arnold asked.

"Maybe!" Kelly said. "Some bitch just showed up with a gun."

"Kelly, I-" Edie said, moving towards her daughter.

"Mom, I swear to God, get the fuck away from me."

"Kelly!" Arnold shouted.

"It's fine," Edie shouted to Arnold. "Kelly, what's going on?"

"They're now running," she said. "They're all running from that girl and-AAAAAHH!"

Kelly covered her mouth. Edie rushed over to her daughter, putting an arm around her. Kelly was starting to shake, her eyes starting to tear up.

"Kelly, is he-"

Edie turned and saw Noah on the screen. He was lying on the sand, his leg bleeding. The girl with the girl had come back out.

"What's going on?" Arnold asked, moving into the room.

"Noah's been shot," Edie said.

"What?" Arnold said.

"Oh god," Kelly said. Her eyes drifted towards her mother, then her father. Then she noticed something else standing in the doorway.

"Get out of here!" she shouted at the door.

Arnold and Edie looked at the doorway. Ella was standing there, peering in.

"I just-" Ella said.

"GET OUT OF HERE!" Kelly shouted.

Arnold turned around and walked to the door.

"Come on," he said to Ella, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Let's go."


"Let's go," Arnold insisted, pushing Ella out of the room. Ella turned back and looked at Kelly and Edie, wearing a concerned expression on her face.

Arnold closed the door behind him. Edie pulled the earbuds out of the computer. She could now hear what Noah and the blue haired girl were saying.

After all, that's what you get for drinking the SOTF Kool-Aid. You really thought playing their way will help you survive. But it won't, Nance. My life might end right here on this beach, but your life ended the minute you decided to kill.

Noah was facing down the girl with the gun, pointing that weird weapon Kelly mentioned yesterday at her. Edie held her breath, while Kelly was beginning to mutter to herself.

"Oh god. Please no. Please no," Kelly muttered.

So, do you feel like gunning down another peer in cold blood, or would you rather just walk away?

Survive? I think... I think you're misunderstanding the situation here.

Edie stared at the image of the girl. The girl was now talking about why she was killing people. The girl had apparently killed before, and she was choosing to keep killing in hopes of being remembered after all of this. Edie had never met anyone like this in real life. Someone who could rationalize and justify cruel actions and not even care about them. This is what Noah was dealing with on that island, and this is what was happening to some of the kids in their town. Edie would never have imagined an average student at Cochise High could be transformed into such a monster.

But Noah continued to speak to the killer. Edie just wanted to scream at him to run, but that wouldn't have done any good.

Okay, afterlife or no afterlife, is that really the best way to be remembered? I mean, I don't care about how I'll be remembered. I've got a family who will remember me. I've got a whole fucking YouTube channel that will last as long as the website does and as long as anyone cares to copy the videos to their channels. I mean, it's not the best thing to remember me by- certainly some of the earlier videos are shit- but I'd rather be remembered for that than for brutally slicing the heads off my high school classmates with some saw blade throwing garage project.

"Oh god, Noah," Kelly muttered, tears starting to fall down her cheek.

And what do you mean 'what are the chances you'd get out alive?' How the hell are you immediately counted out of this thing? Wasn't the last winner some beauty queen or something? Anyone can survive this game; hell, thirty-some kids in 2008 survived by just doing nothing. Okay, you might not be as physically strong as other people, but literally anyone can survive this game. 'Survival of the Fittest' is practically a misnomer at this point. For fuck's sakes, I don't even think anyone would believe I can win at the outset. I don't even believe I can win this! But I'm gonna try to survive, and I'm going to do it right. Besides, the ones people remember from this shit are almost never remembered positively.

Edie could take comfort in the fact that Noah wasn't going to compromise his morals for this game. But it was hard for her to hear that he didn't believe he could win. She wanted him to believe he could be the survivor, that he could return to his normal life. But even he was doubting that he could go home. Was he really losing hope?

So yeah, you'll be remembered and scorned for all of this, Nancy. Hell, that's how I'll remember you from now on. Congratu-fucking-lations! I hope you're proud for winning a Lifetime Achievement Award for Poor Decision Making. And I hope you're okay having your actions forgotten the next time this game is played and some coward like you decides to butcher their friends. Cause guess what: they will be!

"Noah, please just get out of there," Kelly muttered.

Edie looked back at her daughter, then to the screen. Edie was aware this could be Noah's last moments on Earth. He was staring down a killer, and his choice of words weren't necessarily the best. Maybe he was scared, or maybe his injury was messing with his head. Either way, Edie didn't pull herself away from the screen.

To her surprise, the girl was letting him go.

You say this is the only way, but believe me: you're soon going to realize just how wrong you were. Goodbye.

Noah turned, and began to hobble away.

"He's going to be okay," Edie said.

"If the girl doesn't shoot him in the back," Kelly replied.

Edie gasped and watched the screen. With every step Noah took, she was worried it would be the last. That the horrid sound of gunfire could suddenly strike him down. But nothing happened. Noah continued to run, and was soon far from the killer girl. Edie stepped away and leaned against the wall, putting her hand to her heart.

"Thank you, god," she said to herself. "Thank you."

Kelly stopped the video and covered her eyes with her hands. Edie looked at her daughter. Edie slowly stepped over.

"Kelly. Are you-"

"Please go," Kelly said.


"GO!" Kelly shouted. "Just leave me alone!"

Edie quickly moved away from her daughter, around the bed, and out the room. She didn't even bother to take the breakfast tray with her. She moved out into the hall, letting the door close behind her. She put her hand over her heart and continued to pant. As she did, Arnold emerged from Noah's room and walked over to her.

"Edie, what happened?" he asked. "Is he-"

"He's alive," she said. "He got away."

"Oh thank god," Arnold said, pulling his wife close and embracing her.

With that motion, Edie burst into tears, burying her face into Arnold's chest.

"That was the worst thing I've ever seen," she told Arnold.

"I bet," Arnold said. "It's okay. You don't ever have to see it again."

Arnold and Edie remained in the hall, with Edie continuing to sob into her husband's chest. Any sense of stability she hoped to keep in this house was gone, and Edie knew now that this home could never be what it used to be.
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