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A Delicate Machine
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Cass had rushed through the first few pages, expecting to be shot for their small rebellion at any moment. They regretted this as soon as it became apparent that they had Caedyn’s gracious permission, but it was already too late to flip back. They would just have to hope that those few panicked seconds had been enough, that it had been framed properly in the camera and that their hands weren’t shaking too much and that the lighting was good enough because even if they couldn’t control that last part at all they could still worry about it because they knew that even though this would be forever or at least the closest anyone could ever get to it wouldn’t be the whole of what had existed, it’d be a photograph of a photograph, and while they would still be forgotten dust one day they’d at least be dust with a label, a faded and scratched headstone that held the promise of a life once poorly lived, the anonymity of callous entropy rather than a hasty and unmarked grave, but that promise of eternity didn’t mean that Cass should be the first one to deface the engraving of their name before the winds and rains of time took their toll in turn-

Deep breaths. Cass’s hands would probably be trembling for the rest of their life, but they could still try to control it. They allowed themself a few more seconds per page, giving them more time to present the camera a good shot without giving Caedyn enough time to get bored and decide that it’d be funnier to shoot them once they had gotten complacent. Maybe she already had. Wasn’t anything they could do about that now, but the thought didn’t quiet their all-too-familiar rabbit’s heart.

Their vision of an unfinished future was already lost to them, along with every meaningless doodle - that wasn’t right, they might not be of much but their very existence granted them a place with the rest, belonging alongside every epitaph, for they were products of lead and care all the same and they still screamed that they had a right to be known, to be remembered, to be given the chance to have someone find meaning in them.

Next were the crooked voids that once could have been Wade and Irene. Next was Asuka’s sleeping face - without context all too similar to a death mask, they now realized.

Cass held their own dwindling lifespan in their hands, they now realized. Could literally measure it in pages, feel its weight. Nobody had ever told them that one day they’d get to tip Death’s hourglass themself. Now that was an image - the reaper, taken aback at the doomed soul slashing the string of their life with a pair of scissors, preferring their self’s savage blow to any stranger’s scythe-

An image that would die along with the rest of them, but without even the closure of a death rattle, no second chance through a camera’s grimy lens. They had wasted so much time! They weren’t ready to be done, yet! Cass had sat there, in their chair, out in the open! They hadn’t even bothered to barricade the door! How many more hours could they have bought by just trying, even a little? How many days?

Next was Clarice, and hundreds of pictures were running through Cass’s mind; feelings that dreams had left behind and people they had seen with interesting faces and moments where the sun embraced the earth and the wind carried freedom with it, all crying out to be reborn for the world to remember before everything stopped and

Next was Bernadette and maybe if Cass moved fast enough Caedyn wouldn’t be expecting it, maybe they could be faster than their bullet, like with Jerry, but Jerry had been an idiot with a knife and Caedyn was many things but she’d rather die than let herself be beat by the pathetic coward before her eyes, and their life might be worth something after all but it wasn’t worth risking the only thing that really mattered, anymore, and

Next was Trav, the closest thing to the real Trav left on the island, and Cass was tempted to linger here, to hold his image high until Caedyn read it for the white flag it was, to make sure that even if the rest of their work wasn’t salvageable by anyone who even cared that his smiling face would be promised eternity, and even though it’d be the least he deserved and even though it’d be the right thing to do and even though they desperately wanted to, Cass couldn’t, they couldn’t, not when they could still give themselves a few more seconds, and

Next was the product of days worth of failed attempts to draw Trav, and next were the scribblings the doctor who originally abandoned the notebook had made, and if Caedyn had noticed yet she wasn’t doing anything, and Cass slowed, feeling every second that passed, feeling every breath and every heartbeat and every tremor, feeling the tears that their eyes had finally found, so much for dying with dignity, and

Next was the notebook’s plain cover, before Cass clutched it to their chest, fingers digging into it, legs giving out under them, trying to fill their brain with nothing but the texture of what they had live for even as they sobbed and Caedyn began to speak, and

Hey, man! First off, fuck you for making me go through all this footage, I don’t care that I owed you after I flirted with that nude model you like and made things “””””awkward,“”””” you need to buy me like, at least as much beer as a decent therapist would cost me at this point. Shit’s not good for my eye holes.

Anyways, hope you’re happy, ‘cause here’s a portrait for you. Hang it in a gallery or something. Two kids are in an old, empty house. Woah, are those bullet holes on the wall? The hell happened there? Kinda makes me want to rewind the show! Kidding. I’m so not the target audience for this.

One’s standing. One’s kneeling. One’s crying. One’s grinning. One curls their fingers around a notebook. One curls her fingers around the trigger of a gun.

That a pretentious enough sales pitch for you?
a tribute for the dead and dying

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