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The Ballad of Ackbar; Private-until-Solitair-posts
Topic Started: May 1 2011, 05:46 PM (1,970 Views)
Solitair
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Where modesty's ill manners, 'tis but fit that impudence and malice pass for wit.
[ *  *  *  * ]
((Roland Hayes continued from Bitti Rüya))

Roland had offered to trade weapons with Harun as they walked away from the gazebo together. The idea only stood for as long as Harun to point out that he didn't have any other weapons. For some reason, Roland got it into his head that Harun had both a sword and a gun with him, and he sort of did, but they were one and the same. The same goofy weapon that cut open his fingers and destroyed Rashid's neck.

Roland didn't want it anymore.

Mostly he just found himself trudging behind Harun, dragging a harpoon that felt more like an achor. Even if it was pristine and well-maintained, there wasn't much it could do to help him. There were scores of people with guns on the island, people who could kill him with a pull of a trigger and easily dodge any pathetic attempt at throwing the harpoon from a distance. But it wasn't pristine; Roland had done a terrible job of caring for it, dragging it along the ground and banging the blade against hard surfaces as he carried it. Now the tip was blunted, the sharp blades pitted and worn down. He doubted he could kill anyone with this thing unless he slammed it into their prone body. Were it not for Dutchy, he would have abandoned it long ago.

Neither of them knew where they were going or what they were doing. They just wanted to find some friends, any friends at all, and get some idea of what to do from them. Their search would continue until they found them, or more likely, when a well-armed killer would pick them off like grapes. No other possibilities existed, and the scary part was that Roland liked the other possibility the more he thought about it.

Why wait?

As the two of them reached the edge of the fun fair, Roland tossed his harpoon aside and fell to his knees. "Harun, stop," he said in a dull monotone. "I can't go anymore."

He looked up at Harun with dull, empty eyes. All his tears were gone; he'd used them all one Lily and Max and Rashid and everybody else. There were none left for him.

With a heavy heart, he lifted his hand to his head and pointed to the center of his forehead, right above his eyes.

"Shoot me. Right here."
WickedIcon: i just launched a baby wearing a denim jacket and a bowler hat across a hospital, through a window, killing several patients, destroying thousands of dollars of equipment, and finally coming to rest on the body of a presumably dead clown
WickedIcon: this is the best dollar i've spent in several years

chitoryu12I have yet to find gay sex that involves the men punching each other. I must not be on the internet enough

Turning Pages: Read some books along with me, why don't you?

V4:
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V5:
Arthur Wells: The Artist ... ... ... ... ?
Rose Matheson: The Sprinter ... ?
Ilya Volkov: The Wrestler ... ... ... ... !
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Solitair
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Where modesty's ill manners, 'tis but fit that impudence and malice pass for wit.
[ *  *  *  * ]
Roland looked up at Harun, waiting for Harun to continue his little speech. Seconds passed, and Roland came to the realization that there was no little speech. Roland expected Harun to make an impassioned effort to try and live on, to see the silver lining in their grim situation and hold out for the hope that the rest of the Activist Club could meet up again. Together the five of them could follow Sarah's plan and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, hitting these motherfuckers where it hurt, and maybe, just maybe, they'd get to see their families again.

But no. All Harun wanted to say to Roland was that he couldn't help him kill himself. He didn't even seem that opposed to Roland doing it his own damn self. He didn't have the energy to lie.

Roland could make it work. He remembered that several students had already pulled their collars, making what was probably the smart choice in the long run. All he had to do now was reach up, slide his fingers under that metal circle, and pull. It would only hurt for a second. He shut his eyes, held his breath, and waited for the moment to come, when he could finally get out of this wretched game.

But it never did.

The warm touch of the collar's metal on his fingers rose to the forefront of his mind. For some reason he expected them to be cooler, but that wouldn't make sense; his body heat had permeated the metal for the last hundred hours or so. It got mixed in with awareness of his shallow breathing. Roland grimaced and psyched himself up. This time he'd get it over with, yank his collar off with one quick motion.

But that didn't happen. His fingers gently pulled on it, never exerting any serious strength. It wasn't so easy when he had to do it himself, when he couldn't coerce a friend into killing him for him.

"Fuck it," he said, looking for his discarded harpoon. As he grabbed it and stood up, he wondered why he would ever not kill himself. It wasn't because of Harun. Everything that made his relationship with Harun fun and meaningful and enjoyable was gone. On the island, they weren't conversing idly, getting into political debates and shooting the shit about roleplaying and writing and college plans. They'd exchanged no words between Roland's request for a weapon and his plea for a bullet in the brain. On the island they were nothing more than flimsy allies increasing each other's chances of survival, a relationship maintained not by camaraderie, but by desperation.

It wasn't because of Dutchy, Sarah, or Bridget. The part of him that wanted and hoped for a reunion shrank by the hour, and the rest of him cursed the fact that he didn't make better use of the time he did get with the three of them. What did they accomplish, in the end, besides saving that one crazy girl who ditched them and threatened Dutchy? It almost made him cry again, thinking of how eager they all were to change the world back then. It seemed so easy at the time, when they had access to all the counterculture thinking in the world, when they could tap into the protest culture of a country that, if it didn't support them outright, at least tolerated them and allowed them their voice. There was no toleration here, no support network, nothing. Danya had reduced them to scared, green, untested kids in a cage. He'd shown them their Tiananmen Square.

It wasn't because of Lily. No matter how much he'd tried to dodge the issue by devoting himself to revenge, it didn't matter how much pain he inflicted on Rob. Lily would still be in the arms of God, arms Roland wasn't sure had room for him anymore. Could Roland really follow her path? Did it matter that Roland wouldn't have set foot in church if it weren't her church? Did it matter that he couldn't tell Acts from Ecclesiastes? He should have asked her while he had the chance. She wouldn't have been afraid of death, at least not her own. God, he missed her.

He figured it out as he wandered the fair and caught site of the ruined house of mirrors. It was a while since he'd seen so many bodies at once. Two with gunshot wounds, one with a gaping gash in his chest, and one in pieces, barely recognizable as a body at all. But then he saw a fifth, slumped against the entrance, next to a bag that looked conveniently full.

Were this the first day of the game, Roland's suspicions would have made him make the smart choice, the choice to stay away from the bag. He wouldn't have gotten within a hundred feet of it, let alone opened it. He would have gone another way, a way that didn't have a trap waiting for him. But it was not the first day of the game, Roland was in no sound state of mind, and a diet of stale crackers and bottled water had left his mental energy at an all-time low. He had enough sense to hold a hand in front of Harun, signalling him to stay behind while he checked it out.

He had just enough time to unzip it and see for himself what the contents were.
WickedIcon: i just launched a baby wearing a denim jacket and a bowler hat across a hospital, through a window, killing several patients, destroying thousands of dollars of equipment, and finally coming to rest on the body of a presumably dead clown
WickedIcon: this is the best dollar i've spent in several years

chitoryu12I have yet to find gay sex that involves the men punching each other. I must not be on the internet enough

Turning Pages: Read some books along with me, why don't you?

V4:
Spoiler: click to toggle


V5:
Arthur Wells: The Artist ... ... ... ... ?
Rose Matheson: The Sprinter ... ?
Ilya Volkov: The Wrestler ... ... ... ... !
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Solitair
Member Avatar
Where modesty's ill manners, 'tis but fit that impudence and malice pass for wit.
[ *  *  *  * ]
when you walk through the garden
you gotta watch your back
well I beg your pardon
walk the straight and narrow track
if you walk with jesus
he's gonna save your soul
you gotta keep the devil
way down in the hole


No matter what the occasion, no matter who sang those words, they never failed to get Roland excited and pumped for poetry in motion. Every season on The Wire, a different artist covered Tom Waits' Way Down in the Hole, a soulful Christian elegy that ironically reassured safety in a story where the decrepit institutions of the city of Baltimore could easily crush the little man who never had a chance at a better life. From the Blind Boys of Alabama's soulful blues rendition to Waits' original song with his trademark smokes-and-whiskey voice, each cover had managed to be unique and catchy and right in tune with the best show on television.

The best part was that he didn't have to enjoy the all by himself anymore. He forgot how exactly he'd wrapped his sister into watching the show with him, whether she saw him watching it and got interested or he talked up the show and bargained with her until she caved and saw it with him, but either way, things went better than he expected. Slowly but surely she got sucked into the world of the show's fictional Baltimore, not even a stone's throw away from the real deal, and cared about the characters like they were real people. The fourth season finale drove her to tears by the end; she almost couldn't sit through the whole thing in one sitting.

he's got the fire and the fury
at his command
well you don't have to worry
if you hold onto jesus' hand
and we'll all be safe from satan (in the hole, in the hole)
when the thunder rolls (in the hole, in the hole)
but you gotta help me keep the devil (in the hole, in the hole)
way down in the hole (in the bottom of the hole)

Now it was January 2008, and they had just sat down to watch the premiere of The Wire's fifth and final season. It opened promisingly, with Bunk Moreland tricking a murder suspect into thinking a photocopier was a lie detector, and continued from there. Roland watched with his usual sense of rapture, occasionally glancing at Lily to see that she was enjoying it, too. She paid a lot of attention to it, mostly keeping quiet and watching, but something seemed different about her actions, and it wasn't until about a half-hour in that he knew what it was.

Lily just watched the screen wistfully, her reactions to the events unfolding more muted than ever before. The new revelations of what went on since the last season ended didn't get any reaction out of her, and the funny moments barely made her crack a smile. It was like Lily had seen this episode before, and now Roland was starting to get that feeling, too. Scene for scene, line for line, all of the spoken words in the episode gave Roland a funny feeling of déjà vu. But that was impossible; it just went on the air.

(in the hole, in the hole)
way down in the hole
(in the hole, in the hole)
(in the hole, in the hole)
way down in the hole


"You alright?" Lily asked, having finally been surprised, this time by Roland's behavior.

"Uh, yeah," he said, getting up and stretching. "Think I'll heat up a pizza for us while we're watching."

"You're gonna miss it."

"Tivo, remember?"

Lily nodded, still looking unsure and confused, while Roland walked into the kitchen and made preparations for the pizza. It took a bit less time for the oven to warm up than he thought it did, but Roland didn't notice, mostly operating on autopilot throughout the process. Why did he remember this, and why did it scare him so much? He searched his memory for something else, anything, and it took the searing kiss of hot metal on his fingers to bring him back to reality.

He cried out in pain and blew on his fingers, cursing his stupidity in forgetting to put on oven mitts. Lily had heard the commotion from the living room and rushed in, making the only sound in the house after switching off the TV. "Roland, are you alright?" she asked him.

Roland looked up and gasped, for the Lily he saw was mutilated and defiled. Hideous purple bruises covered her face, giving it lumps and making it misshapen and asymmetrical. Past her cut and bleeding lips he could see the jagged remains of shattered front teeth. But his eyes kept gravitating to the small round hole in her forehead, just to the right of center. He fell on the ground and backed up, but in the blink of his eye, Lily's face turned pristine again, pristine and sorrowful.

"You saw it, didn't you?" she asked him. "Oh Roland, I'm so sorry…"

Roland's mind scrambled to think of an explanation. As he thought, darker memories floated to the surface. "Who did- Rob?"

"I don't know why he attacked me," Lily said. "I was with Aaron Hughes, and we got in a confrontation, and Aaron ended up shooting him. We got separated, and Rob ran into me later. I guess he had a vest on. He just beat me without saying anything. I thought he was mad at Aaron and taking it out on me."

"He's a racist motherfucker, Lily," Roland spat out, remembering his rage. "He didn't need an excuse to kill a black woman like you."

For a moment, Lily couldn't speak, and Roland couldn't help but roll his eyes. Was she really so naïve as to assume there were no people like Rob in the world? Idiot. "But how do you know?" she asked.

"Everyone knows, Lily. They'd just rather not deal with problems like that, coming from their precious star player. Oh, and Danya flat out called him a Nazi in the announcements. Guess you missed that."

"Tell me you didn't-"

"No, someone else beat me to it. Double knockout." Roland shook his head. Another memory, his last one, suddenly came to him. He opened a daypack and found what looked like white slabs of soft clay wrapped in plastic. Then came a blinding flash and a split-second of pain. The end.

"C4," he muttered. "It was full of C4. It was a fucking trap!"

Lily had asked him something, but he didn't hear it, and now it didn't matter. "C4?" she asked.

Roland punched the tile floor with his hand, idly noting that it wasn't burned at all anymore. He wondered how long the pain would last this time. "And this just minutes, no, seconds, after I decided I wanted to live!"

"What?"

"I wanted to die, alright?" Roland glared at Lily. "I wanted to die after what happened to you, and after I got separated from Dutchy and all the other activists. I met Harun again, right after he killed Rashid, and that fucking broke me. But he wouldn't shoot me and I wouldn't do it myself and I just decided to go on and I didn't know why."

He paused to let Lily get a word in, but she didn't have any, just waiting for him to finish his spiel. "I know why now, though. It's 'cause of mom and dad. I just didn't want them to lose both their kids. Christ, I can't imagine."

Lily looked concerned, like she was thinking carefully about what to say next. "Roland… I guess the activists were planning on an escape?"

"Yeah, we were. I can't fucking remember what Sarah came up with. I didn't contribute shit, not even a good weapon."

"I was, too. It was me and Aaron and Aileen and that Naruto fan, Richard. But now that I think about it, I don't think Aaron was serious. He was just using us to protect himself."

"Is this going somewhere, Lillian?" Roland snapped.

Lily winced. "Well, would you have wanted to survive and get back to mom and dad even if you couldn't escape?" She danced around the elephant in the room expertly, like a motherfucking ballerina.

"You're asking if I would have killed," he clarified. "And yeah, if I had to and I could, I would have."

"Would you have followed that boy in the video?" Lily's voice began to sound hurt, sound offended. "Would you have turned on Sarah and Dutchy and Harun like he did his girlfriend?"

"Jesus Christ, you gotta fucking ask? Riz went too far, he went crazy, and his folks disowned him. Why the fuck would I do that?" He smelled burning pizza in the oven and didn't give a fuck, watching Lily scramble to get the pizza out and turn the oven off. "What about you, Lily? Would you have stuck with that crooked fuckbucket to the bitter end, just in case it turned out he was on to something after all?"

He could feel that burn her even as she offloaded the pizza with her back to him. "Maybe I would have, Roland. Maybe I'd find someone else to help. It doesn't matter now."

"But you wouldn't have fired a fucking gun, right?" he asked, unwilling to let the subject she brought up get dropped. "You would've just let everything go and let people walk right over you without a goddamn thought to how mom or dad or anyone else would miss you? Is that just not your problem anymore?"

Lily made a loud scraping sound, a spasm of metaphysical muscles jerking the pizza cutter the wrong way on the cutting board. "The thought did occur to me, Roland, and it hurts me too. But it would hurt me even more to know that I kept someone else from their parents and their future. I would never be able to live with myself for the rest of my life, and that would be just as bad as dying young. Maybe worse."

"You're gonna bring this back to God and Jesus, aren't you?" he shouted. "Was that your plan all along? Just play the victim and the martyr and try to get out of the game early and get to the Pearly Gates with a "clean" conscience and fuck the mortal plane? Gosh, Lily, that plan SUCKS!"

The pizza cutter clattered on the counter, and Lily started to tremble, standing ramrod stiff. "Here we are, Lily, and it's the same goddamn life as the last one! I don't see milk and honey, I don't see no Pearly Gates, and I sure as fuck don't see God!"

Lily whirled around and slapped him in the face. Before he could think, he slapped her right back, sending her clattering into the oven door. He gasped and bent down to try and help her back up, but she got back up on her own, wobbling to her feet.

"Oh God. Oh God, Lily, I'm so s-"

"Don't you ever say His name again, you fat sack of shit!"

Roland stared at Lily, dumbstruck, and Lily stared right through him. He didn't know how much time passed between the two of them before Lily started walking out the door.

"Lily, where-"

"Away from you," she said with barely restrained anger. "It's pretty clear we need some time apart while you get your act together. Don't come looking for me." She stepped out the door and vanished, leaving Roland all alone in their house. He followed her, only to find himself on the porch outside, a few neighbors giving him a curious look.

He trudged back inside and gripped the banister, then kicked a hole in the drywall next to the door. Would that hole stay there after he forgot about it? Would it stay in future memories? Would there be any future memories?

He wondered if a ghost like him could get drunk. He knew that his dad kept a liquor cabinet in his room, and sure enough, there it was, locked without a key. Roland's foot proven enough of a key, and soon he had a bottle of Kentucky bourbon in his hand. After a brief mental debate, he decided he wouldn't need the shot glasses, and just brought the bottle back down.

As he dropped back on the couch and held the open bottle up to his mouth, he remembered a special phrase that kept coming up again and again in the show. "All in the game," it went. "All in the game."

"You're goddamn right it is," Roland said, before tilting the bottle back.

-----

This will be the final entry of The Seeker, and unfortunately, your regular author, my son Roland, is unavailable. Last week he was abducted by Survival of the Fittest, the same program that he has spent a great deal of time railing against on this very blog, and less than five hours ago I saw his body disintegrate on live television, an explosive reducing his body to a ground beef and a bloody smear. It took me a long time to recover from seeing that, especially after seeing his sister's death days ago.

If you've never been a parent who's experienced the loss of a child, I can't explain the horrible, gut-wrenching feeling that accompanies the realization that your child is gone forever, or the empty feeling that stays with you for days on end. As a writer, I'm in the habit of attempting to convey similar feelings through my writing, but now I realize that none of my efforts could possibly encapsulate the real, horrible experience. Much like my son in his final hour of life, I seriously considered the possibility of suicide, going as far as holding a steak knife in my hands before putting it back down and resigning myself to a life without my beloved children.

Before he was kidnapped, I never paid much attention to Roland's pet cause of anti-SOTF activism. Like most people, the idea of opposing it never crossed my mind; I found the topic disgusting and moved on with my daily life, an attitude that my son characterized as ignorant, lazy, and far too prevalent in American culture. And just like most of you, I didn't believe that Survival of the Fittest involved real students dying real deaths in remote corners of the world, because I didn't want to. No matter how much I agreed with him on the shortcomings and moral failings of our government, I never truly thought that they would allow for routine abductions of innocent teenagers without any hint of resistance.

As my son suffered and died on the island, I looked through the archives of this blog, and for the first time I realize that this wasn't just an idle hobby of Roland's. It was a blazing passion of his, a way for him to spread political information in order to get people to care more about the world around him. Judging by the comments, it worked; I've grown to recognize dozens of regular contributors engaging in lively debate with each other and with Roland. Even at your most hostile, most of you have debated intelligently and brought up good counterpoints to each other.

There are, however, still people in the comments, and in the world in general, who adamantly refuse to believe in the reality of SOTF. Many of them admit to being fans of the show, but others are not. If any such people are reading this, I implore you to do research. Roland has already done most of the work for you, linking to some of the most prominent anti-SOTF sites on the internet and making explicit connections between some of your favorite "characters" on the show and real high school students. At this point, the only thing preventing you from coming to Roland's point of view is your own willful ignorance, and perhaps your voyeuristic delight in seeing people suffer and die in melodramatic fashion. Roland has already made his disgust viscerally clear in that regard and I don't want to start fights I have no intention of finishing online, so I will simply echo his sentiments and move on.

Reading through this blog has given me the desire to pick up where my son left off in political activism, but sadly I will not be doing so here. This is my son's work first and foremost, and it feels wrong of me to try and continue The Seeker in his wake. It breaks my heart enough to intrude with this one post, but I thought I could bring Roland's online friends some closure. It's the least I can do after all of the happiness you brought him.

I implore all of you not to forget about Roland, not to let him fade from memory as most of the victims of SOTF have over the years. Hopefully we can continue his work ourselves, and with luck, our voices will be heard, and our government will be forced to put this sick program out of its misery.

Sincerely,
Michael Hayes

B87: ROLAND HAYES - DECEASED
WickedIcon: i just launched a baby wearing a denim jacket and a bowler hat across a hospital, through a window, killing several patients, destroying thousands of dollars of equipment, and finally coming to rest on the body of a presumably dead clown
WickedIcon: this is the best dollar i've spent in several years

chitoryu12I have yet to find gay sex that involves the men punching each other. I must not be on the internet enough

Turning Pages: Read some books along with me, why don't you?

V4:
Spoiler: click to toggle


V5:
Arthur Wells: The Artist ... ... ... ... ?
Rose Matheson: The Sprinter ... ?
Ilya Volkov: The Wrestler ... ... ... ... !
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
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