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A Delicate Machine
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((Cass stood frozen in the bedroom, trembling hands covering their mouth.))

They couldn’t breathe. They could breathe in a technical sense and fill their lungs and exhale and live for a few minutes more, but if they did then it would reaffirm their existence and if they existed they could be noticed by whatever or whoever was out there now, separated only by a rotting wooden door whose lock had long failed, and Cass never really thought about how loud their breathing was but it couldn’t be that loud, could it, but maybe just because it was something they never thought about that meant they never heard it, they knew their breathing should be there so they didn’t hear their breathing but the person out there didn’t know, so it would be new and unexpected and clearly audible and Cass breathed again for they could only hold their breath for so long before their inhaling became a loud and desperate gasp which would be heard, and the person out there didn’t seem to be moving so maybe they hadn’t heard but maybe they were just waiting, maybe they just knew Cass was trapped and they were enjoying themselves, like Isabel-

A pencil and notebook sat on the bed next to them. Cass had found it in the doctor’s office where they had spent the night, once the darkness and the cold had overcome their hatred of the confined asylum and the “people” it held; but by that point it had been too dark to draw, and by the time it was light enough to see again they found that they couldn’t focus, that their hands were unsteady and their wrist hurt and that everything came out wrong, ugly, it wasn’t their art it couldn’t be their art this couldn’t be the last thing they ever made, and they kept trying and trying but it never got any better and eventually they gave up entirely because they didn’t want to disfigure any more innocent paper and it felt like finally giving themself up because who knew if they would ever have another chance to sketch with a clear head, who knew if they could even aspire to be “kind of okay” again, they were an artist and that was the only thing they had left and the only thing they were good for but when even after days of longing they couldn’t do anything worthwhile with the miraculous paper and pencil they had been granted when so many others were dead-

Cass hadn’t slept.

They had tried, at first; but then they had gotten to thinking that they didn’t have Trav now, that anyone could find them at their most helpless. That when waking up wasn’t a given, falling to sleep was a hell of a lot like dying. That they weren’t sure if it’d be more frightening to have their final moments be a dreamless void, or an inconsequential and irrelevant jumble created entirely by their subconscious. Though death was still a paralyzing terror, at some point living had become less important than being fully conscious of their demise.

After the announcements that insulted Trav’s memory one last time but blessedly confirmed Clarice’s continuing existence, Cass had left the asylum again, clutching the notebook close and carrying their two bags; hoping that the cold air would sufficiently replace rest with a chilling artificial alertness. It would have been safer to keep the notebook in a bag, but their hazy mind feared that if they stopped touching it, left it out of their sight for even a minute, that it would disappear.

Sadly, the only thing the wind did was once again make Cass regret their choice of clothing; now very tired and very cold. They had ducked into the hunting cabin for shelter, fought the urge to just collapse onto the bed. Had only just began to settle in when they heard someone else enter the building.

After another few minor freakouts, Cass took a deep breath. They couldn’t just stand there forever, both in a philosophical sense and because they were starting to sway on their feet and collapsing would be a pretty unambiguous way to draw attention to themself. All they had to do was figure out who, exactly, was out there. From the sounds of things, it was a guy out there; but even if it couldn’t be Clarice there was still hope of him being someone vaguely friendly.

They crept up to the bedroom door, hoping to press their ear against it to hear… something helpful? Unfortunately, their sense of balance had been entirely ruined, and instead of leaning in, they leaned against the door; opening it and bringing Cass with it, sending them to the floor with a quiet “Fuck!”

In a panic, they scrambled backwards until their back was against the wall, and found themself staring directly at the grotesque, battered body sitting in the living room chair. It moved. Cass shrieked.
a tribute for the dead and dying

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I know my soul's freezin', Hell's hot for good reason · The Hunting Cabin