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Leaving Me Lonely Still; Shortly before the 4th announcement, Open
Topic Started: Dec 29 2010, 06:36 PM (3,474 Views)
MurderWeasel
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[ *  *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((Jennifer Perez continued from Final Third Foul))

By the time Jennifer finally stopped moving, it was night. There had been uncharacteristic announcements, Danya threatening them, blowing up collars, something about breaking cameras. Jennifer didn't care. She couldn't focus, couldn't concentrate, could barely even follow the words. It was too much. She felt like she was being pulled in a thousand directions at the same time, felt like she was going completely and irrevocably insane. She was scared, not of death by detonation or of players or of horrible accidents, but of herself. She kept flashing back to it, Jimmy, covered in blood, the corpse (Phil? Not anymore) lying on the ground, her smile, the moment of impact, the shattering chunk of wood. It was all just so unreal. So strange and different. She'd just let herself go, once again, let herself act on a whim, and she'd nearly killed someone. That was scary enough.

What really frightened her, though, was that she hadn't. She hadn't done it. At the very end, when she'd had the perfect opportunity, when all the restraints, all the reasons to hold back, had been stripped away, she'd found herself unsure. And then she'd surprised herself. Jennifer did not like surprises. Not when it came to her own psyche. She had always assumed that she was a powder keg, just waiting for the right trigger, the slightest slip of self control, to set her off. Since the start of this awful game, she'd been in a struggle to hold herself back, to protect everyone else from her. She'd lost. She'd lost, completely and utterly, had lost her direction, her morals, and yet she had still pulled through. All her fears, all her panic, all her stress and worry over the years, and she hadn't even know herself, hadn't even based her fears on reality.

Had she been wrong, at the beach? Wrong to challenge Jimmy? Wrong to spare him? There was no answer. They were beyond ethics. Beyond anything the world had prepared them for. Now, all that was left was what mattered to her. She'd sworn not to become anyone's entertainment. Sworn not to lose herself, not to allow herself to be changed by this game. Had she failed? She couldn't say. Surely none of her friends at home would have recognized her. Surely her parents, her brother, would have been shocked at her actions. Just as surely, she didn't feel bad. She didn't feel bad about anything anymore, and that terrified her.

But what could she do about it? Nothing. Fuck it all. Life was short, right? Best to just do her best. She inhaled deeply, exhaled. Opened her eyes (how long had they been closed? How long had she been sitting against this old tree, breathing in the damp air of this swamp? How had she come to be here?). Stood, legs and arms protesting, stomach rumbling. She hadn't had any food in... a day? More?

Fuck it. She'd been defeated when it came to acting a part in this game. Didn't mean a thing. She still had a role to play, still had things she wanted to do. Still had reasons to live.

"What you did doesn't matter. What you do doesn't matter. We're all going to die here, Jimmy. The only choice we have left is how we do it. And Jimmy, whatever you've done, whatever anyone else has done to you, you always have a choice. At the end of the day, you can always decide who you are. No one else can take that away from you."

Had it really been Jimmy she'd been talking to, there, or had it been herself? She'd spoken those words without grasping their significance, spouting the very platitudes she had been unable, no, unwilling to understand her entire life. Happiness was not the avoidance of conflict. It was not total peace. Happiness was doing selfish things sometimes, doing selfless things sometimes, and, in the end, just doing what was right.

And now, that meant she had two people to find. Nick and Maf. Goals. Something to do, somewhere to go. Always moving. Always walking. After all, what better way to bleed away the pain?

She wasn't scared anymore, so she started off.

An hour later, she was still moving. She stepped lightly, moving from dry spot to dry spot, always on the lookout for someone, for something. She held the icepick in her hand, now, used it from time to time as a tool, as help when she had to navigate particularly challenging areas. Her wrist was no longer sore.

The world was dark. It was night, late night. Maybe very early morning. Probably that. Probably the announcements would be soon, more deaths, more killers.

She paused, looking at a pool of stagnant water. It glowed in the light of the almost-full moon, reflecting a rippling silhouette of the overhanging branches. Somewhere in the distance, insects were buzzing. A frog croaked. As she stood still, the world was calm, peaceful. No gunshots, no explosions, just quiet for a time. No matter where she went, no matter what she did, she could always find moments of peace. Could always find something worth just standing and looking at, something to take away the fact that she was alone, that she had driven friends away and lost others to murder.

She was crying quietly before she knew it.
V7:
Juliette Sargent
Alton Gerow
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TDS
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[ *  *  * ]
((Samantha Ridley continued from Measure Once, Cut Twice))

Sam waded through the mud and muck of the swamp. She knew she didn't need to, there was enough high ground around her the keep moderately dry, but she figured if her legs were gonna get dipped in the cesspool anyway then who was she to delay the inevitable?

Besides, she was feeling rather low anyway.

Those strange announcements hadn't given away much information, and it was unlikely that they would have changed much, but the seeds of doubt had already been sown in Sam's psyche by the implications that could be drawn from them. Clearly someone had found a way to slip their leash, and Sam found this far less comforting than she would have had she heard it before meeting Simon. After all, while she still considered his and the girl's deaths to be mercy kills, it was unlikely they'd have made the same decision after this new information. Hell, Sam wasn't sure she would have even gone through with it if they had! She thought the chances of escape were a flat zero! With it raised even the tiniest bit she might have encouraged them to change their minds.


And then there was the Ishida problem. That girl that had attacked Sam was just as hot headed as Sam herself could get. If Sam ran into Ishida acting like that then it was unlikely she'd survive. None of that mattered in the end though, since she couldn't bring herself to hold onto the grudge that she had felt earlier. She was still angry at Ishida, she still wanted to make sure the girl didn't get off the island, but the burning passionate hatred she experienced earlier was now replaced by the burnt out cinders of passive dislike.

Sam saw someone in the distance, but couldn't tell who it was. She did not announce herself, in case the person was hostile, but neither did she attempt to hide herself, knowing that her bright red hoodie would make her get noticed before long anyway.
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MurderWeasel
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[ *  *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Time passed. Little else changed.

Jennifer stood, watched, waited. Somewhere in there, she heard a strange noise, or, more precisely, a cessation of noise. Someone in the distance, making the animals go quiet for a moment. She glanced over. Bright red hoodie. Someone else still wearing bright colors in this dismal place. Of course, Jennifer's own red shirt was somewhat worse for the wear. Sweat-stained, dirt-stained, blood-stained. It didn't even hide the blood (Phil's blood? Jimmy's blood? Guthrie's blood? Who cares?) that well. Her skirt, once bright yellow, was now dusty and dirty and just as stained as her top. She still had her bag of clothes with her. She could change whenever she wanted. And yet, she didn't want to. Didn't want the rest of her clothes destroyed too, didn't want that little part of her life to die as well. She'd poured hours into making these. Each article of clothing she had with her was a part of her, in a way.

She sighed. The other person was too far for her to make them out clearly, but they weren't Nick and they weren't Maf. She could see that much. Anything else, anyone else, was superfluous. But, then again, maybe they could help. She'd fucked up when it came to going back to the hall of mirrors. Gotten distracted. Still, Maf hadn't been on the announcements. There was that. That was something to keep her going.

She opened her mouth, about to call out to the other person, when the speakers crackled. It was dawn. Announcement time once more. It seemed impolite to shout over them, to gesture the other person forward, so Jennifer just waited, listened in that vague, detached way she had developed, dried her eyes. Only two of the names meant anything to her, and neither was a surprise. Phil was dead. She'd seen it. Almost seen it. Jimmy had apparently managed to survive and crawl off, had won some sort of fantastic prize for his efforts. Good for him. She didn't have it in her to hate him, to hate anyone. They were all doing the best they could.

Nick had killed again, too. He'd implied that he would kill himself, back in the tunnel, and then that he would hunt players. He was doing neither. Again, Jennifer couldn't care. She simply hoped that he was alright.

The danger zones were called. She wasn't in one.

Good enough.

As the voice faded away, as the noises of the swamp continued, Jennifer called out, "Would you, um, like to come over here? It's, um, dry."

Of course, she wasn't really paying attention to the figure. For all she knew, by now she was talking to empty air.
V7:
Juliette Sargent
Alton Gerow
Lavender Ripley
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The morning announcement came on. There wasn't too much of interest to Sam, although it seemed that Ishida was back to killing again.

The person in the distance, likely a girl judging by the sound of her voice, invited Sam over to where she was. Sam started stepping forward before stopping to rethink the decision.

"Thanks, but... uh... who are you, might I ask?"
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MurderWeasel
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The person in the bright colors started forwards, stopped quickly, and called out, asking Jennifer to identify herself. She blinked. That was probably a good idea. No way to tell who anyone else was, whether they were benign or murderous. For all she knew, she'd just invited Reiko Ishida or Clio Gabriella over to sit.

Not that it really mattered. It wouldn't be the first time she'd sat down with a killer. Probably wouldn't be the last, not unless she died soon, anyways. That was one thing she didn't intend to do, either. Whoever it was clearly wasn't going to come out shooting. Still, it'd be good to be ready. Jennifer didn't grab the icepick, but she paused for a second, making sure it was still there.

It was.

And so, she called out, answering the question.

"I'm, um, Jennifer. Perez not Romita. I'm, um, not hur-not killing people."

Oops. Little slip there. That probably didn't sound very good. Not much she could do now, though. And it wasn't like she could claim not to be hurting people, not in good conscience. After all, what had she done here but leave a string of wounded and upset people in her wake?
V7:
Juliette Sargent
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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 Reid continued from All the Untested Virtue))

He balanced precariously on an old rotting root, slimy and springy beneath his feet. Eying his next dry foothold, he sprang forward. The seemingly solid knot of grass and dirt sank immediately, and before he could scramble onto a patch of gravelly earth, rank water invaded his shoe.

Nick let off a formless growl of frustration. Why he was hopping through the swamp like this, lurching and skipping over the marshy ground in a losing battle to keep his feet dry, he honestly didn't know. He hated getting his feet wet on a good day, but if an unforeseen sprint tore up his soaked skin now, it would be inconveniencing to say the least.

He'd have to work it out with the Brain Trust.

There was a lot of ground to cover since the last meeting. For example, those unscheduled announcements. They made his blood boil. If there was one thing he absolutely could not stand, it was being one-upped in a battle of wits. Liz Polanski could hardly have made him more furious if she'd...

...

...he couldn't really think of anything worse. Not only had she given him that massive slap in the face, she'd gone on to play Russian Roulette with his life before dooming his math teacher to almost certain death. He doubted he'd have the fortune to find her alive, but if he did, he'd have to show her what his own imagination could come up with. It was personal now.

But enough on that train of thought. He was expending precious energy getting himself worked up. Sliding off the log he'd sat on while he thought, he tried to get a good bearing on his situation. His map told him that the Inland Woods were a stone's throw to the south, which was good: There was the chance to intercept Liz while she made for the safety of a dangerzone. For the meantime, though, there was his attempt to find Jennifer, and he had to admit he was starting to grasp at straws. There were no real good clues to go on. All he knew is that she'd been both to the north and to the south of the mountain, courtesy of the corpse-strewn tunnel they'd both passed through. And with the tunnels being what they were, we couldn't be totally sure that-

Nick started like he'd just touched a hidden power line. Someone was introducing herself. Perez. Not Romita. Same voice. Same introduction. He stepped blindly forward into another shoe-soaking puddle, then jumped back and started rooting through his bag like a man possessed. He whipped his grimy, bloody shirt off and grabbed a clean one, black with a picture of the galaxy and "You Are Here" positioned near the edge. Then he poured some water over his hands, rubbing them over his face to erase some of the dirt and grime and spattered blood.

Satisfied, he lurched forward again with a determination that suggested his target might disappear at any moment.

"Jennifer?"
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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MurderWeasel
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((Skipping for flow purposes, by TDS' request))

The moment stretched, seemed almost charged. Again, Jennifer wondered whether she had maybe finally made a fatal error, said the wrong thing to the wrong person and ensured her own death. If someone opened up with a machine gun, her only chance would be to drop to the ground and hope. But she didn't die, wasn't blown away. Instead, she was distracted by a noise, someone coming, from a totally different direction. She blinked, turned, didn't even have time to grab for her icepick.

And there, there in front of her, was one of the two people she had been hoping and dreading seeing. Nick Reid, current—triple, was it?—killer. Someone she had slighted and hurt and yet, shockingly, received mercy and care from. Someone who had spared her life for reasons she couldn't even begin to understand.

Someone who had said some very disturbing things last time they had met, and had written other disturbing things, which she had found and read and lost, and now couldn't even entirely remember.

"Nick," she said. "I, um..."

This was probably not a good sign. Words were failing her. It always happened when she wasn't thinking in sync with her speech. She achieved eloquence only in those rare moments when things were bad, when stress combined with anxiety and a desire to do something to produce a clear and coherent stream of vocalized thoughts. It had happened last time she saw Nick. She'd been crystal fucking clear when she yelled at him, told him to go die or something. Maybe she hadn't used quite those words. She really, really hoped she hadn't.

And now, here he was, still alive, a killer once more, and she should have felt terrified, panicked, afraid that he had snapped the rest of the way, afraid he was going to kill her, and yet the fear she had felt, the nervousness about another meeting with Nick, was melting away a little, replaced by relief that he was still alive. Jennifer didn't really want to die with any unfinished business, and she and Nick definitely had things left to talk about.

She hadn't said anything for a few heartbeats. Fuck.

"Um, sit down?" she said. Yeah. Real great. Real nice.

"And, uh, don't worry," she called back to the other girl. "You can, um, come over too."

Fucking brilliant. Hi, stranger, come and sit down with me and my friend Nick? He's a multiple-murderer, and we didn't exactly leave on the best of terms, but I'm pretty sure he won't gut you since he only killed one person in front of me. Actually, I'm not really sure, but what say we just hope for the best?

What a convincing pitch that was.
V7:
Juliette Sargent
Alton Gerow
Lavender Ripley
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TDS
Leader
[ *  *  * ]
The girl introduced herself as Jennifer Perez, and before Sam could respond another person addressed Jennifer. A voice that sounded oddly familiar... Sam was snapped out of her attempts to recall the owner of the voice when Jennifer offered her a seat. Sam nodded slightly in agreement, despite knowing that the others were too far away to see her. She began to slowly slog forward though the waters toward the others.
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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 moved forward on autopilot, paying just enough attention to avoid stepping into unpleasantly marshy ground. He'd found her, he'd really found her again...

A tempest of thought swirled with an intensity he could hardly stand. There were so many things to take in, to think about.

...ying a bloody sword...
...if she'll still think...
...icepick...
...her about Will...
...the announcements?...
...other person...
...killing himself...
...note on the floor...


And now Jennifer had asked him to sit down. That was a good start. He shook off a split-second of vertigo (Where did that come from?), putting down his bag and sinking the sword point-first into the ground in front of him. He had half a mind to grab Jennifer, clutch her to his chest and spill out all his thoughts to the only person he'd meet for the rest of his life who would see him as a person, listen to his feelings-

No. Too much. He'd have to preserve decorum. Besides, if she was in a certain mood, the icepick seemed like something that would slip right between his ribs. He bit his lip instead, and looked over at the compound bow, who was sitting across from him now. Could his luck get any better? He pondered the question for a moment and decided that yes, he could for example not have crossed the most prolific killer on the island, or, more obviously not be sitting on some Godforsaken island with a bomb around his neck and four people dead because of him.

That was all relative, though. He had to be realistic, calculating. Stay sane. Ignore the ghosts haunting what fevered naps he could manage and get a leg up on the competition. And to do that, there was hardly anything better than that bow. He'd love to see Maxwell try to laugh with an arrow through his collar. Or Liz, up on her high horse, thinking she was such a genius.

The hair on the back of his neck prickled. Jennifer's presence brought that train of thought crashing painfully to the ground. No, he told himself firmly, he only counterattacked. Just sometimes, he couldn't wait for the attack first. That was right.

He shifted his hands nervously on the grip of the sword. Deciding finally to speak, he was instantly rewarded with a complete absence of thought. He should've known. It was downright obvious. Everyone knew that the bigger the moment, the more practiced the speech, the faster every last spark of imagination vacated the premise.

"Ummm..."
Not the worst start ever.

"Hey, uh..."
You got this.

"What have you been up to?"
Touchdown! Number 55 with the pass!"
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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MurderWeasel
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The girl in red was coming closer, and Nick was too. As far as possible outcomes went, this was pretty much optimal. No one was dead, no one was dying, and while surely everyone was armed, no one was whipping out weapons and preparing for a standoff or fight. It was going to be okay. Somehow, it was going to be okay. Well, maybe not okay, but no worse than anything else that could happen to them. She just had to not screw this one up. Every situation she had been involved with had gotten worse, more complicated, more dangerous. People had died around her. People had fought. It almost seemed to Jennifer that she was nothing but a spectator, a ghost drifting over the island, watching as others ended their existences. Of course, that was absurd. She had intervened, had fought herself, albeit only for a few seconds.

And then Nick opened his mouth to talk. For an irrational instant, Jennifer was terrified, convinced that spiders would come pouring from his mouth or something, or, worse, far worse, that he would be so changed as to be unrecognizable. Maybe he would act as though they had never met, maybe he would laugh at her foolishness, maybe he would threaten her, maybe her would give her some sort of awful ultimatum, tell her to kill this other girl (as she came closer, Jennifer could make out her features better. Samantha, she thought, someone she didn't know at all but had seen around school. And, hey, hadn't Samantha's name come up? It could be a real killer party here, just killers and Jennifer) or be killed herself.

But Nick wasn't that different, wasn't irrefutably insane or anything of the sort, didn't seem malicious in the slightest. Instead, he spoke awkwardly, shyly, sounding more like one of Jennifer's younger friends, one of the sophomores awkwardly asking her advice on inviting some pretty girl to Homecoming. It was enough for her to smile for half a second, though the smile died quickly when he completed his question. What had she been up to? That was... pretty loaded. He must not have been paying attention to the announcements. Probably didn't want to hear himself on them, or maybe he'd just forgotten who she had been traveling with, who she had patched up in back in the tunnels.

"Um," she began. "Um, I, uh, I don't know how to, um, Nick, Phil got killed."

The words were hard to speak. They felt like a betrayal, as if by acknowledging Phil's death now, she was making it true, making it real and irreversible and unchangeable. It was silly, though. Phil had been dead for a day. Nothing would change that.

"He, um, Jimmy Brennan killed him, and, um, and I..."

And she couldn't go on, didn't want to keep talking, didn't know what she'd say. I fought him? I tried to kill him? I let him go for no real reason? I don't even know what I'm doing anymore, Nick, and I envy you, because even if you've chosen to walk the killer's path, at least you have somewhere you're going, something you're trying to do? No.

No. She'd wait. She'd calm down.

"And, um, how about you?"

Yeah. Awkward. Awful. Something. She just had to hope he'd had a better time. She'd also, for that matter, have to hope Samantha didn't flip out, get scared and attack right there. Just now, Jennifer didn't think she could take violence. She just hoped Samantha would leave if she had problems, leave or run or hide or something, anything but more fighting.
V7:
Juliette Sargent
Alton Gerow
Lavender Ripley
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[ *  *  * ]
Sam stepped onto dry land and looked at the two other people there. The boy looked familiar, and still sounded familiar... Where had she seen him?

Sam sat against a tree, she wasn't planning on interrupting a conversation she had no part in anyway. She rolled up her pant legs so her legs could have a chance to dry.

'Yuck,' Sam thought as she stared at the creatures that had attached themselves to her leg 'leeches....' After carefully plucking the parasites from her leg she returned her attention to the two sitting in front of her.
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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 listened in silence, if you could call it that. Surely someone half the island away would be able to hear the hum of his cogitation, the drum of his heartbeat, the quickening swish swishh of hot blood squirting into his brain like fuel on a fire. There was just a fleeting moment to begin spinning fantastic scenarios involving a brand new compound bow when Jennifer's hesitant "um's" and "uh's" coalesced sharply into disturbing form.

He'd left the cave thinking - no, knowing there was a dying man behind him. You weren't supposed to survive a stab wound like that. You weren't supposed to get up after that. He'd spent so much time pondering the weapon's form, evaluating its usefulness versus a cutting sword's. A slash would incapacitate quickly, but a solid thrust was the finisher, the coup de grace.

Which wasn't always true, of course - his thoughts skimmed his own mortschlag, his own "murder stroke." And then they kept going, fixating on an image of Jimmy Brennan...

Now there was fear. Not the bitterness and determination he'd felt as Maf's fingers closed around his neck or the desperate guarding of his own mortality from Will's grasping hands, but the overwhelming powerlessness of passing a fatal accident on the highway, the piercing jolt of wailing sirens, the insatiable longing to force the ambulance back on its course. It was a strange and frightening thing, now, to be counting the little rat of a boy among his competition. They were springing up everywhere now. There was nothing that could be done to stem the flow. Now it wasn't just Maxwell and Ivan to worry about but Jimmy Brennan and whoever else was beginning to snap, surging forward in a suffocating tide of killers. He thought for a moment that the island really might be too much for him to overcome. And then something worse came.

It was his turn to speak.

He turned to the other girl for a moment. He could invite her to come sit by one of them, pretend Will never existed, stretch the truth until he could smooth it over the tension like putty.

He had a lot to say, but to get any of it out would be monumentally awkward and uncomfortable. Maybe even insurmountably so. There just wasn't a good way to do it, but - no, he had the full force of the Brain Trust behind him. He was the Brain Trust.

He twisted his hands around the handle of his sword, grinding flakes of blood into the old bandage. "Well. After I left the cave-" Left Phil to die, I mean... "-I, um, did a lot of thinking. I came this close-" to shoving this freaking sword right through my heart.

He took a deep breath to dissolve the lump in his throat. "Well, you know what I chose," he said. "But here's the thing, the really big thing I realized. You told me - well, not specifically, but that there's no room for apologies here. There are two ways to play this thing. You can play to live, or you can play to survive. I'd be putting myself on your conscience, and I couldn't do that. But now it's just narrow escape after narrow escape. I mean, I can't just say 'hold up everyone, sorry 'bout that. Sorry about Daniel and Tom and David and Wil-'"

His heart froze before he finished the word.

"-liam."

Well, crap.
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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MurderWeasel
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[ *  *  *  *  *  *  * ]
The girl Jennifer was pretty sure was called Samantha and was half-sure had maybe killed someone seemed content to stay quiet and pick the leeches off her legs. Jennifer tried (and utterly failed) to repress a small shudder. Leeches. And she was wearing a skirt. It was good, so very good, that she'd kept out of the wet parts of the swamp. She'd have to check later, though, just to be sure. She was probably starting to starve by now anyways; she certainly didn't need parasites weakening her further.

Beyond that, leeches were just nasty.

Of course, all of that was entirely tangential. It was a little thing to notice, to focus on as Nick began his reply, just something to push her focus away, to deaden the impending pain. That wasn't fair, though, wasn't right. He'd listened to her. It was only proper to return the favor.

And Nick began to talk, stumbling over his words, trying to explain himself, trying to... well, no, not trying to justify, not at all. If anything, he was being straight with her, and that took a lot of courage, especially given how she'd reacted last time. It wasn't like she'd given him any reason to suspect she'd be any happier about his subsequent killing, especially if it had been murder. Of course, she didn't really have any idea what she thought about it, about him. It was all too blurry, too confusing. She chased her thoughts round and round, and always found herself running into that same blend of moral relativism, that same quasi-nihilistic certainty that nothing they did mattered anymore, not to anyone but them. Sure, her family would be just crushed if she started gutting people, but she'd never have to deal with their disapproval. Now, her whole world was these next few days, this next space of time until fate caught up with her.

So, could she blame Nick for killing? She didn't think she could. Nick was explaining his own philosophy, one she couldn't remember if she'd heard before, if she'd mentioned herself, even. He was saying how he'd been boxed in by now, how no one would give him a chance after what he'd done, the people he'd killed, Daniel, Tom, David, William.

William?

Who was...

Oh.

Nick had killed again, then, killed someone else. She should have felt afraid, should have felt threatened, but she didn't. What could he do, kill her? He wouldn't do that. He'd had the chance, back in the tunnels, the chance and the motivation. She'd screamed at him, emotionally battered him, and now he was back, he was back with two more notches on his belt, and he still wasn't going to kill her, or, apparently, Samantha. Jennifer glanced at the other girl, a little nervous, just maybe expecting to see an arrow pointed at her face and then never feel or see anything again.

Nope. No death.

She sighed. What could you say to something like what Nick had just said? Especially after shifting awkwardly for a few seconds, clearly stalling? And yet, she knew exactly what she had to say. Only problem was, it was fucking hard to get out, fucking hard to own up to her part in all of this. She'd tried. She'd tried so hard, first to be boring, to win that way, then to be decent, to not hurt anyone, then to at least bring some justice to this island. She'd tried and tried and tried and failed, and now there was only one thing left to do.

"Nick, um," she said. "I, um, I'm so sorry."
V7:
Juliette Sargent
Alton Gerow
Lavender Ripley
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[ *  *  * ]
Sam finished picking the leeches from her legs and glanced at the others. They were still talking, it was clearly a private conversation and Sam knew she had no part in it.

After a moment of thought, she decided that she had to keep moving. She had people to find before tomorrow's meeting.

She steadied herself against a tree as she rose to her feet and quickly grabbed up her things. Then she moved silently back into swamp.


((Samantha Ridley continued in The Kindness of Strangers))
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Now you may be wondering, who was wearing the bolo tie? Me or the shark? Answer: YES!
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
There was a terrible (or was that exhilarating?) moment, a moment where Nick was sure that out of all possible outcomes, none of them involved three students walking away from that spot unscathed. But it wasn't long - his heart pounded once, twice, three times in his ears - and nothing happened. And then Jennifer dropped the biggest bombshell of all.

She apologized.

"Hah!" A short, barking laugh that barely choked itself out of his windpipe. "Sorry? For what?" He thought back to the tunnel, that disastrous scene that had replayed itself so many times in the past few days. There was something to her statement - she'd yelled at him, hurled brutal words that would have him sulking for weeks in his old life, even invited him to cut her down while he was at it. But that was nothing, absolutely nothing compared to what had happened in that calm forest dusk. She'd cut through to him, reached through that sickening serenity, that sickening submissiveness, those sickeningly pretentious final words of his dream.

"When did you ever point a gun at me? Pull my collar? Give me a black eye? Choke me half to death? 'Cause that's just a sampling, Jennifer, a little sampling of what's happened. There's nothing to apologize for," he said, rising off his seat, flush with logorrhea. "You saved my life, you know that? Maxwell's the one that should be sorry. And Alex and Nik and Ivan and Maf and- crap!"

He turned to look at the girl picking leeches off her leg, size her up, make sure she wasn't trying to succeed where so many others had failed to finish the job. There was no arrow pointed towards his face, which was comforting. But the reason for that - she had disappeared, absolutely slipped right off the radar - was terrifying. What was she going to do now? Was she a scout? Was she by herself? Any second now, there could be a broadhead streaking towards him out of the woods, too fast to dodge, too potent to survive. He jumped back, scanning the woods furiously, brandishing his weapon at an invisible archer.

"She's gone!"
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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