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A Delicate Machine
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“...Goodbye.” Cass hadn’t expected to meet Jae a second time. No, an active absence of expectation still implied some semblance of thought, and Jae had been far from theirs. Would there be a third meeting, a third thought? Would it mean anything to either of them, if there was? Did even the most temporary of proximity start to feel familiar or comforting if everything and everyone else had fallen apart around you?

Regardless, Cass stood there for a while, after Jae left; staring blankly at the space left by his absence. Then, slowly, almost reverently, they approached the baton he had left behind. They picked it up, collapsed and flicked it out a few times. Snick. It was still useless as a weapon unless they could fight to overcome their natural inclination to not bludgeon another human being over and over again as they cried and bled and as parts of their body started to fail and give way under a remorseless flurry of blows; nothing like the easy abstraction of the twitch of a finger transforming fire and powder into a more efficient demise.

Mustering that sort of rage at anyone other than themself wasn’t a bit of personal growth that was particularly high on the dwindling list of Cass’s priorities, but If nothing else, it felt good to have something to hold onto, and it made a satisfying noise. A sorely needed anchor to the physical world.

With both intruders gone, there was nothing stopping Cass from returning to the bedroom, from glancing at and then trying to forget the still-open notebook, containing Cass’s first and only attempt at immortalizing Trav’s face. It had turned out twisted and ugly until they had finally and violently X’ed it out, immediately regretting it afterwards as it felt like watching him die all over again but already beyond the point where the drawing could be repaired, if it was even worth repairing in the first place.

They settled down in the corner, not wanting to trust the comfort of the bed. All they had to do was remember that sleep could be death, and... just keep existing. Too tired and too hurt to focus on anything that could make life still worth living, but still clinging to every last moment of consciousness. Even if it hurt and even if their entire being and their soul if they had one was screaming at them to create, to live, did they deserve even one of the string of chances that they had been given one after the other, still alive when so many others weren’t, what right had they to be even close to happy, of course they should shut up and sit still and be grateful for the fact that their mind was still theirs-

Snick. Sleep equaled death.

The sound and the sentiment repeated. Eventually, they slowed, becoming separated by spaces. Then sentences. Then paragraphs. Then pages. Then-


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