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Being a degenerate is okay these days
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((Raina Rose continued from Anemia))

Raina sat with her knees drawn up to her chin and her arms around them, staring out over the water. She tried to breathe the crisp, salty air in deeply, but she kept expecting to get a whiff of rot and copper once again.

Johnny had fallen asleep after a meager attempt at conversation. Though she was dead tired, Raina hadn't bothered to try sleeping; either insomnia or her memories would doubtless keep her awake. Her stomach growled, but she didn't bother to address that, either. She didn't think she'd be able to keep anything down for long.

So that was how it was now. She couldn't eat, she couldn't sleep, she couldn't plan, and she couldn't bring herself to believe any longer that she or anybody else sane had a snowball's chance in hell of making it out of here. She had believed that she was the one keeping Penelope afloat, not the other way around. Or maybe they were co-dependent. It didn't matter, really. Her rock, unacknowledged as it had been, was gone now and Raina was adrift.

Raina watched the shadows on the beach grow longer and longer as the sun dipped down, and she fought a shiver. Maybe she should have paid more attention to the weather. Maybe she should have sat outside the very first night and watched the stars to figure out which hemisphere they were in or something. Any of it would have been more use than hiding out and convincing herself that she was just brainstorming, or following Penelope around pretending that she really was willing to hold hands with Al and Dorothy and all the others who had bought into the madness until they all died together. It was all worse than useless in the end, but it would have given her something to do, something she actually believed in.

Penelope had believed in the good in others and love and brotherhood and all of that, but the world was so very big and love was so small.

She felt small, that was it. She had always been small, in the grand scheme of things, but she had convinced herself that she could still make a difference to somebody, somewhere.

Raina breathed in the salt of the sea and caught the glint of the sunset reflected in a camera lens out of the corner of her eye.

Maybe she still could.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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