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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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((Jennifer Perez continued from Somewhere That's Green))

Taking a detour through the mountain, Jennifer was beginning to suspect, was one of the dumbest ideas she had ever had in her entire life. It had seemed like such a good plan, when she stumbled upon the entrance after a few hours of walking. Once again, she had managed to avoid people. She had even, while passing through the inland woods, managed about five hours of sleep, propped up against a tree and shielded from view. Her back had been stiff for the next hour, and her left shoulder still ached, something not helped by the bag she carried over it, but it was worth it for the energy she now had. She had started moving again a few hours after nightfall, and had found the tunnels, and, after checking her map, had determined that they would let her dodge the wide open area in sight of the gazebo and the fun fair, and reach the house of mirrors from the East.

She didn't know for sure why she was going. The odds of Bill having delivered her message by now were low. He probably wouldn't share it all. Most likely, he'd warn Maf away, tell him some crazy girl was setting a trap for him.Maybe that would be enough, though. Maybe he would understand, would turn up anyways. Or maybe Bill would sneak ahead, lie in wait with Deidre, and they'd murder Jennifer. That was why she was moving quietly and slowly, why she planned to scope things out before rushing in.

The tunnels looked like a fairly straight shot on the map. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case at all, and she was no longer really sure which way she was going. There had been at least two branches. She didn't know how to use a compass. Didn't know how to find the surface. She was navigating by the dull blue glow of her cell phone. There was a flashlight in the first aid kit. She'd seen it. But that had limited batteries, and she figured she might need it more later. Besides, the glow of the phone would be so much easier to mute in a hurry, if it came down to that.

Also, the phone had a clock. It wasn't right, she was fairly sure; whatever had jammed the phones had prevented it from automatically adjusting its timezone, and the number it showed seemed somewhat implausible, making her wonder if it had been scrambled somehow, to prevent it from being a tip to any would-be rescuers. Still, the minutes side of the equation seemed about right. Right now, that part read :58:47. Another hour nearly gone. How long had it been? She was pretty sure she'd woken up fairly early on in the program, and she'd been doing a lot of walking. The rest and her slow pace were the only reasons she still felt as good as she did.

A short time later, a crackle rang out, echoing through the tunnels. Jennifer jumped and tried to fumble her phone away, but instead dropped it. It landed on the floor with a crack, and there was no more light. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. She remained silent.

And then it started. The awful voice. Danya. The man who had had their teachers murdered. The one responsible for all of their impending deaths.

It did not surprise Jennifer that the killing had already begun.

She sat down on the tunnel floor, ignoring the dirt and dust, and leaned against the wall, as the names and the jokes flowed over her. She didn't want to hear. Didn't want to remember. Didn't want any of those faces coming back. She had to listen for a few, though. Just a few names. The others didn't matter. Could be ignored. Could be dismissed. It was terrible that people had died, but she just couldn't feel anything for them right now. They were statistics, just like she would be before this was done, before long at all if she wasn't careful.

The names that she was listening for—Maf, Victoria, Bounce, Melissa, Alice, and all the others—failed to materialize, on either side of the equation. Her friends and those she cared about were not dead, or killing. A small comfort. She failed entirely to take note of the killers, which, once she realized it, caused her some concern. There'd be no way to know if she was in danger, so she'd have to keep her guard up, but not devolve into paranoia. Just... just stay sane. Normal.

The only bit that gave her any pause was the naming of Paige Strand. She hadn't known the girl well, but Paige had a boyfriend. A now presumably distraught boyfriend. He was the person on the island Jennifer felt for most at the moment. The survivor. The bereaved. For the dead, there was nothing. For the boyfriend, there was nothing left.

She almost cried again.

Some time later—she didn't know how long; her cell phone had been destroyed by her earlier carelessness—Jennifer started moving again. The house of mirrors was not a danger zone. Neither were the tunnels, or she'd have been dead already. She was still lost. She kept her right hand on the wall, walking in a straight line. Wasn't that supposed to help with mazes? Her left held the flashlight. The icepick remained in its customary position.

She would get out of these tunnels, and find somewhere to hide, near the mirror house. Then she could search from there, using it as a base, until time ran out, one way or another. She'd have to be careful, careful not to hurt anyone, careful not to be hurt herself. Careful, cautious, calm. Sane.

Even though the whole fucking world had gone crazy.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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Spelunking · The Tunnels