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Carpe Noctum; Day 3
Topic Started: Oct 12 2010, 01:37 AM (4,915 Views)
Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((Nick Reid continued from F**king Science!))

To Nick, it all seemed endless. Walking through the clear-cut woods was almost like a long car ride, except instead of a humming engine and some book to keep him occupied, there was only his tired feet and the back-and-forth confluence of whirling bits of thought. Visions of winning the game, meditations on swordplay, triumphant imaginings of throwing his collar to the ground, showing the world his unprecedented genius. He passed stump after stump after stump after stump, marveling at how stupidly boring such a dangerous landscape could be, thinking of the trees that had spent hundreds of years growing, walking in the shade with the blade in his hand and a mission to accomplish...

He shivered heartily.

That way lies madness.

Soon stump after stump became tree after tree, and the whole thing was somehow even more dull and depressing. The shade held no comfort for him now. He pressed onward, but there was no visible progress to be made. For all he knew, he could be on some sort of vast, leafy treadmill. He could even be on some movie set. Like in Return of the King, he'd seen the special features where the elves are walking through an endless forest that's just a sound stage with a couple dozen fake trees. It was an almost foolish thought - but the way the week had been going, what could he really rule out? And after all, what better way could you top off murder and kidnapping than with a nice spatial anomaly?

After walking for an eternity that might have been five minutes, he'd crossed the stream and gazed once more at the all-too familiar mountain and the dark tunnel openings like missing teeth. One of those was the right one. The place where he'd found brief happiness, taken refuge, mur- acquired his sword. Closing his eyes, watching the mountain draw closer in the fading light of the first day - that one.

He knew he was right. There was a little trail of old gore by the entrance. He didn't follow it, because he sure as hell wasn't going to find a pot of gold at the end. It was a hopeful sign, though. Why would Jennifer move the body out if she was just going to leave the tunnels behind, too? And that kid, he wasn't going anywhere fast. He hadn't died yet - surely Jennifer hadn't moved him? It was an awful long time to stay in that tunnel, but if she treated him for shock or whatever, let him rest, spent the night, maybe, just maybe...

Well, there was clearly something going on in there. Indistinct voices ricocheted weakly off walls illuminated by his dim flashlight beam. His heartbeat picked up, he walked so loudly anyone could hear him, but that didn't matter, because the only ones who could hear it would be the girl that didn't want to kill him and the kid whose death he'd prolonged life he'd saved. He was almost there, the rusty brown trail of gore was growing thicker, it was almost the place that-

"Jennifer? Jennifer? Please tell me you're still in here."
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Nick rounded the corner. No Jennifer. No whoever the poor sap Tom had run through was. Just that disgusting puddle of blackening gore, filled with bugs and oxidized flakes and little bits and pieces, which made him try desperately not to think about how they'd fit back into a broken human head, at which he failed marvelously. Because trying not to think about something just -

Dangit, I just lost The Game, too.

Wasn't that just the best cherry on top of it all. It was like the world was tailor-made to get on his nerves or something. He stopped a moment to consider it. If he told everyone they'd won - he wasn't the British Prime Minister, but a contestant of SotF must count for something. Except that would involve stopping and talking to a camera, and talking right at the camera like the whole thing was some sort of documentary gone spectacularly wrong was on the alarmingly short list of things that weren't annoying to him at the moment, and

What? "Who the hell is Jennifer?" What kind of gormless jerk says something like that?

He swept past the murder scene, towards the ledge where he'd slept an eternity ago, shining the flashlight in search of the gormless jerk. It wasn't a long search. There we was, standing there, having the nerve to not know where Jennifer was or even who she was. He lowered the sword off his shoulder.

Whoa, there. Sane men don't kill over stupid crap like that. And you're the sanest guy in this place, yeah?

He lowered the sword grudgingly. "Look," he said, "Perez. Dark hair, Spanish descent or whatever. Armed with an icepick - hopefully. Unless maybe you stole it off the ground or something - and she's with a guy who I don't know how he isn't dead yet. I saved that kid's life, or what's left of it. And if you like yours," - Whoa, too far... "You can just tell me if you've seen them and go wherever to die in peace. Sound good?"
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
So, Nick had just threaten to kill the student standing in front of him. And David had just stood there and taken it. Nick really had to admire the kid. It took something to try to step back, disarm the situation. Talk things over, enumerate exactly why a murder would be low on each others' priority lists. He was smart and coolheaded. Maybe he'd go far.

Maybe he would go far. That was a problem. Nick didn't know what kind of weapon the guy had. Was it a gun in his pocket? A dagger hidden up his shirt sleeve? Or some joke weapon, long-discarded? There was another student who had stood, weaponless, in front of a hardened killer - a killer who could've just made one simple motion and ended the life of one of the biggest threats on the island. He probably would have pulled that trigger had he known the danger of letting that bedraggled wretch go.

When you were playing to win, there was no room for error. Good guys always won because the bad guys made some mistake. Took a second to gloat, captured without killing, divulged their plans, installed a giant red "Blow it all to Hell" button on their doomsday device. The question, though: was Nick the bad guy?

Yes, he thought, he must be that bad guy, because so many people seemed to keen on killing him. But that also made him the good guy, because everyone knows that every villain is the hero of his own story. Voldemort wanted the power and glory of his birthright. Palpatine wanted to unite the galaxy. That one dwarf in Thud! just wanted to do away with the institutionalized dictatorship of the monarchy. Nick wanted to live. Was that really such a despicable goal?

David turned around. Just flat-out turned his back on the bedraggled wretch who had now come full circle. Did he know who he was dealing with? Didn't he know how easily Nick could snuff out his life? Swish, stab. Three minutes left on the clock. He'd turned his back... Was it trust, or sheer stupidity? Those two were practically the same. Maybe it was to make Nick lower his guard. Maybe he did have a gun in his pocket. And just when Nick turned around and said goodbye, David would whip it out of his pocket, spin around, take the sword from the scrawny beaten kid's still-warm hands.

There was another kid who had done that. Done that right here, right in this very cave. With this very sword. It was so cold in the cave, but Nick found himself sweating. A knot of heat in his stomach, not of fear or anger or pain or any of the other emotions he'd flown through at the speed of sound, but attentiveness, his heart beating to let him know it was there for him, a stomach churning uselessly to lend more valuable blood to his extremities, dumping fuel into his paranoia, letting it roar like a dragster, making his fingers tremble on the flashlight he held police-style so he could use it as a weapon, hunching his right shoulder against the strap of his bag, his right shoulder because his left needed to be free because his left held the sword because his left was dominan-

"SONUFA-"

David faced him again for whatever reason, letting his flashlight beam hit him full force in the eyes. Nick flung his arm up to shield his face.

His left arm.

The arm that still held the sword.
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
There was a searing pain in Nick's eyes.
There was a searing pain in his hand.
There was one searing thought in his head.

I am not going to die.

He didn't even have time to berate himself over the temporary stunning: he had ground to make up. He shifted his right shoulder, dropping off his bag. The movement snagged the back of his flashlight, which went tumbling onto the rocky floor. It didn't matter to him. He'd fight in the dark. he'd fight in the light. He'd fight in whatever twisted arena fate threw at him, light or dark, open or cramped, but the important thing is he would absolutely fight to win.

David had, unfortunately, struck true; Nick's bony hand throbbed with every frantic heartbeat. His vice-like swordsman's grip faltered and broke. The wrapped leather handle twisted its way out between his spindly fingers.

"No!"

The sword was his lifeline. His ticket off the island. To lose it would be to die. Just like Tom. He searched quickly, blindly for the blade. No dice. There had been a clang, a clatter on the floor of metal and stone. His right hand could engage the enemy but his left hand just clutched air. Hurt but not crippled, but that left him with only one

Arm. Elbow. His elbow swished in front of him, cutting a little arc through the darkness, and found a target. He didn't know what, but he swung again. Pummel it into submission, whatever it was. Take out the knee, take out the shoulder. He didn't care what. Smash, wound, break, give the enemy fewer tools to fight with.

He hit the wall, the hard, uneven, unyielding wall. More pain, but at least it wasn't the floor. Or his head. And then something hit him. That wooden rod that caused so much pain already. He grasped for it. No, stupid. Too long, to weak. He just needed his hands, his bare, bloody hands.

And knees, and elbows. They did their work too. Queensbury knew nothing about playing to win. They traded blows. Pointless. They'd just wear each other down. He needed to be in top shape, he needed to be unhurt, he needed to be strong he NEEDED TO WIN!

He pushed forward with claws and teeth and gouging and foaming and tearing and a sure of fury, a longing to feel the enemy die under his grip, bleed out his life in his arms. Too cramped. He'd never get a good swing. He needed the sword. No, he needed his bare hands and if the foe didn't have the sword then

Release. And then grabbing not for the weapons but for the shapeless foe, whatever it was, because it would never be a classmate and it would never be someone he'd known before or he'd never stay sane when he walked through the door at home and he couldn't let the darkness overcome him.

He saw Maxwell's face in Tom's face in David's face and he wanted to smash it so hard, in fact that's what he'd do, he'd smash it to little pieces but his hands were tied and

Maxwell. Bleeding. That face, the face of evil, the face of the devil himself, the face that was making him do this. Bleeding from the nose. Inspiration.

He drew back, gripped the head, shoved it back into the wall not like Tom this time but like himself, pinned there and helpless and receiving blows except there was no running away for him now, not for either of them, and he just needed his bare hands. No, not hands. Bracing the head, he drew his own head back and wrenched it forwards as hard as he'd ever done anything in his life.

He would shatter that face.
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
An hour flashed by in disguised as a few seconds. Or was it a seconds as an hour? Time seemed to have simply given up and wandered off for a smoke. He'd just stand there in the darkness until it made up its mind. Unless this was it, the end of time itself, where nothing even meant anything any more. Or maybe he was dead and this was purgatory or an island existing a a tangent to time, heck he was probably about to show up as a special guest on Lost or something-

All of these thoughts flashed by in a handful of seconds that he would recall as having lasted much longer than that.

But before that, he was fighting. Again. He'd never gotten into a fight in his old life, but his new life seemed to be just an endless chain of them, connected by brief periods filled with dread. Because he knew it would happen again. Heck, he was going for people. Dangerous people. Murderous people. What kind of strategy was that? But you needed to get the players early, kill-

Kill. His forehead made contact with David's nose. He felt it break, felt it shatter, felt it collapse. Crumbling inwards with a sound not unlike rubbing gravel together, leaking, gushing, spewing red all over his forehead and all over his face and all over his shirt. Nick felt his opponent go limp; he released his grip, and the kid collapsed on the floor in a heap.

Dead.

Another human life, gone. No, wait, maybe not. Yet, at least. The headbutt left a terrible pain between his eyes, but that was nothing compared to what he'd dealt. Maybe he wouldn't die right away, but there was no doubt the winner wouldn't spend a week roaming the island with his nose transformed from an "outy" to an "inny."

Nick turned to find the sword. He wasn't a cruel man. Proud sometimes, maybe, and a bit of a short fuse when he was so tired and so irritable. But really, who wasn't? Society, the media, hounding people the public disliked, beatifying those they liked, it was nothing more than a giant contest where the guy with the biggest ego wins. But he, Nick, he had reason to be proud. The only person you could ever rely on was yourself, and his self was competent beyond everyone else's wildest dreams. Surely nobody else would have the decency to do this, be so helpful to his classmate during his last moments on Earth, Calm, cool, collected, finish the job. Finish murdering his classmate for shining a flashlight in his eyes.

No, wait-

WHAM

The first thing he thought was that maybe the boy was dead, and his vengeful spirit had just delivered a haymaker. The second thing he thought was that time seemed so distorted, maybe it had stopped.
His third thought was that something had just hit his face-

His first thought was that time seemed rather distorted. Then the punch, and then the vengeful spirit hypothesis. That seemed to be right. Stupid chronology. He returned his thoughts to the situation at hand within a second that-

He returned his thoughts to the situation at hand.

There was someone else in the tunnel, unless vengeful spirits were in the habit of putting on flashing explosive collars. That someone was holding him up against the wall. As Nick's bruised head screamed a bubbling, roiling scream that echoed throughout his body, half-furious, half-pleading, because there was no way he'd die like Tom, smashed open with his glorious brains spilling onto the floor, the best brains in his class - screw that, in the school - splashed across cold, uncaring rock with wild abandon. Cruel ironic retribution from a universe that wouldn't stop teasing him and from classmates that wouldn't stop hounding him even after they were dead, because if ghosts were real, there were two of them that needn't travel far to dash his head to pieces in revenge.

The student spoke. Not student, figure. Shadow, form, phantom, something he didn't have to feel so bad about killing because it was telling him it would kill him or something, and he'd have to fight back. He couldn't die like this. He wanted to see death coming, feel it, meet his new friend by looking him in the eye, and he couldn't do that if he was trapped. The indignity of it all, trapped in a cave on an island he hadn't yet figured out how to flee. He didn't care what they wanted, he just wanted out. He spat, trying to find purchase with strangling hands, trying to wrench himself out of the newcomer's iron grip, trying to drive the kid's testicles into the roof of his mouth with his knee.

Just trying to survive.
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
It wasn't that Nick didn't want to give an answer. That wasn't the cause of his struggle. After all, he didn't have anything to hide. And if he did have something to hide, he could just lie through his teeth. Putting his game face on, covering up his depression, it had given him experience in that area. It wasn't exactly the same thing. But it was still a lie.

At the moment, he didn't really care about putting his emotions on display. Not if he could he could use anger, hatred, fear, anything to get enough adrenaline to break the giant's vicelike grip. But for Nick's tired, skinny body, it seemed there wasn't enough adrenaline in the world. Fists were laughably useless; scratching and grasping, annoyingly so; kicking, alarmingly so. He didn't really know if the guy would do to him, but if he wanted to kill him, he wouldn't be able to stop him. That's what was sending his heart racing. That was why he struggled so viciously. That trapped feeling, closing in on him, locking him in a room with the Grim Reaper. It descended on him just like claustrophobia, and in a sense, it was. Because his life depended solely on the actions of someone else, someone he couldn't trust fully because he could only trust himself. A chilling prospect.

He jerked his knee up once more, and then one massive hand closed around his neck. Powerful fingers dug into the sides of his neck and he wondered if he would just collapse like Buttercup in front of Fezzick, but even if he didn't it wouldn't really matter because whether his arteries were cut off or his windpipe was crushed he was totally helpless and the tunnel was closing around him and there was nothing he could do to stop it zero things he could do with his brain or with his mouth or with his body and then he'd just be a corpse a third corpse on the wall of the cave and there was nothing he could say no last words no talking him out of it

Pressure, gone. Lessened, at least - he was still caught in an unbreakable grip. What the hell did the kid think he was doing? Chickening out, letting Nick die a slow and painful death as he worked out how to wrap his tiny little mind around the idea of killing, which was so darned easy if you could handle the surge of emotion that came with it, just squeeze and hold and holy crap on a stick, he'd grabbed his collar.

For two seconds, it would have been easy to mistake Nick for a statue, a beaten, harried statue with a drop of blood collecting on the end of his nose, drawing from the rivulets oozing down from his forehead. He didn't know where, or rather who exactly the blood came from, and he really didn't want to discover whether it was his own or the deceased badly injured student's, languishing on the tip of his nose, breaking and falling with a nearly inaudible plip on the ground below.

And the kid holding the collar did nothing but let off a sigh. Was this a threat, or another attempt to kill him? Whichever it was, it was so incredibly stupid, maybe the single worst way to get the job done. He could try calling the kid's bluff - surely he knew what danger he was putting himself in, and he'd let go in fear of his own life. But if he didn't realize that missing an entire hand would toss his chances of winning into the dumpster, he might just pull it. So, which was it? Would he really-

"Do it. I don't care that I'll kill myself..."

Aw, come ON!

That was the icing on the cake. Nick couldn't out-crazy sane a guy who was just as crazy sane as he was. Now he would be forced to give in, he'd have to-

Oh, right. Tell him when I saw Jennifer. Not, like, kill myself or something. Kind of slipped my mind there when I totally almost died.

"Umm..." Nick was pretty choppy at improv. And he wasn't normally in such an awkward situation. "We were in this cave, actually. Isn't that - not ironic, umm, funny? You totally heard me call for her, so, uh, you notice how I asked if she was still here? 'Cause I don't think she even left that long ago. It was early on the second day, I think. No, know. Like the "I know" kind, not-" Pressure on his throat told him his little tangent wasn't necessary. "So it was definitely the morning of the second day. I slept on that little ledge-, uh, right, so she came walking through the tunnel. And I talked to her, and she helped me wrap my arm. She was so nice, she told me I didn't deserve to die," he could feel tears welling up, but he forced his voice to stay smooth and unwavering. "I just - that meant a lot, you know, since the whole Daniel thing, and Maxwell worked me over, may he rot in pieces. So then there was this fight, and one kid was hurt real bad, so she was taking care of him, and the other, uh, well, he got killed, and someone dragged his corpse outside so I think maybe she was staying in here for a while because, you know, I don't think he was making very good company."

Nick was amazed by how much talking he'd done when he swore he couldn't get out half a sentence. The blood coming down his face was drying off, starting to get thick and sticky. He really didn't want to say any more. A sudden chill hummed up and down his ribcage as David's nose crunched horribly against his forehead. Bone shattering, snapping, crackling, splintering, spurting blood, something creeping up behind him but he didn't know what, some demon for whom solid rock had no meaning coming through the wall he was pressed against to wrench his spine right out of his body...

He shivered.

"So, uh, you're gonna let me go, yeah?"
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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Rattlesnake
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Goosebumps shot up along Nick's arms, hairs snapping to like a squadron of soldiers even while his face was burning with anticipation. Whether this would be the end of the road for him or just another regrettable speed bump would be decided within the next few seconds... he held his breath, hoping Maf would make his move and not just hold him there for 15 seconds, a minute, 62 seconds, whatever. That nameless ethereal horror was bearing down on him, but if the giant squeezed his throat he'd have something to fight against. He'd claw and kick and tear and rip the collar off his stupid neck, let him pay for his indiscretion, while he, Nick could finally die on his own terms...

And then he was free. He spent an awkward second just standing there, just watching the gloomy dark shape turn its back, tasting the freedom he'd longed for but finding it sour. It was over, and the kid hadn't even said anything. Just stopped. Walked away like Nick was some galling yet inconsequential spider on the wall instead of who he was, a living, breathing, human who had killed an armed man with his bare hands in that very cave-

Or maybe there was something else. There had to be a reason he'd been left alive yet again. How many times was this now? First, there was Alex, and Maxwell, and then Ivan... Nik, Maf, heck, Nick himself, they'd all had more than their fair opportunity to wipe him out. And they weren't bundles of sunshine, either. Ivan had gotten a BKA, he had three two three people die at his own hands, and Maxwell has far from innocent. It had to be more than chance. There was something out there, some cosmic thing that wanted him alive, something with a twisted sense of humor, maybe, but something inestimably potent. That was why Maf had turned away. He had to. There was no choice. There was no killing someone made invincible by providence!

He unfroze. There was Maf, bent over his bag like fate's big, fat marionette. He'd die eventually - they all would. But there was no need to rush things. The flywheel of fate was hooked up to the cogs of destiny, and once the car battery of really crazy coincidences started to send the electricity of something or other to the capacitor of...

Well, there was no point in rushing things at any rate. He'd done his deed for the day. He stepped past the prone form oozing onto the floor, daubing the walls in red, marking the cave so that the angel of death would pass over him for another day. Then, picking up his bag and his sword, he turned towards Maf.

Go teabag a bear trap.
"Thank you, good sir."

And then he was off to the races. The blood trickling lethargically down from his forehead crept down his nose, uncomfortably close to his mouth. He wiped it off roughly on his shoulder, but did no more for the present. He'd clean himself up later, when he wasn't rushing down a black hellhole with a flashlight in one hand, a four-foot instrument of death in the other, and a couple of angry ghosts to outrun.

((Nick Reid continued in All the Untested Virtue))
VeeFive


V4


NO. THERE IS NO MORE TIME, EVEN FOR CAKE. FOR YOU, THE CAKE IS OVER. YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF CAKE.

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