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Shock Treatment
Topic Started: Jul 4 2013, 08:24 PM (1,052 Views)
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((Joe Carrasco continued from In Situ.))

Joe could hardly remember what happened after the hospital. He just remembered running. And then walking when he ran out of energy. Traveling in a daze, without sense of direction or destination. All he knew was that he had to get away from Jessica and Jason or anyone else. That he had to get away from anyone he could hurt. He didn't see anyone, but in the state he was in he could have probably walked right by someone and not even noticed.

He just walked. On the way, he started scraping at the blood on his hands with his nails. But he scraped so hard that he scratched through skin. His hands started to bleed and just made everything messier. He didn't look down. But he could feel it and he knew it was there and it scared him.

When it got dark, and he was completely out of energy, he didn't bother finding a suitable place. He just dropped his bag, rested his head on it like a pillow and dozed off. He couldn't remember where he'd slept once he'd woken up and left. He just remembered that the dreams had been violent and scary and full of the colour red, though the specifics eluded him.

Once he was awake, he kept walking. And eventually, he saw a lighthouse and some cliffs. He wandered towards the cliffs.

There was a body there. It was the first thing Joe took proper notice of since he'd left the hospital. He felt an acrid, burning sensation at the back of his throat, and when he tried to cover his mouth just in case he remembered the blood on his hands, both from Jason and from his own mad scratching. He let out a small, desperate whine and instead covered his mouth with the crook of his elbow, the same way his father always told him to do if he had to sneeze and didn't have a tissue. ('Using your hands just spreads germs to everything you touch, Joe.') He shut his eyes and tried to ignore it, but there was no ignoring it. Another person dead. Maybe it wasn't him this time, but... that was at least two. Who knew how many there were that he hadn't seen...

Joe opened his eyes, drew a shaky breath and nearly passed out at the smell that was coming from the body. He couldn't quite place the name of the boy, but he'd seen him around school. Sporty guy, Joe was reasonably sure he was part of the popular crowd but not much more than that. Joe felt another surge of guilt at the fact that he couldn't recall the boy's name.

He inched past the body until he was close to the edge of the cliff.

There were no conscious thoughts in his mind about what he was doing at the edge of a cliff. He stared at the waves breaking at the edge of the cliff far below. Joe had never liked the sea much. Or the beach, for that matter. Too much sand, the water stung his eyes too much, and it lacked the adrenaline he got from biking in the mountains. He preferred staying at home and reading rather than swimming. But right then... those waves looked strangely inviting.

He stood there for a while. It could have been a few minutes. Could have been an hour. Looking at the waves and trying to block out the smell and sight of the corpse nearby.

Then the speakers across the island came on and startled Joe so badly he almost fell off. He managed to steady himself, though a little voice in his mind whispered that he shouldn't have bothered.

The man from the room... Danya... was speaking. Announcing kills. First one he brought up was Dave Russell. The boy that Travis had given pot brownies to at prom, who Joe'd had spent most of his prom night looking after and trying to help him through the ensuing panic attack. Jumped off a cliff. Joe looked down at where he was standing. ...Had Dave jumped from here? If Joe had been here a bit earlier, could he have...

"...our first kill came at the hands of Theodore Fletcher, who gunned down Gabriella Parker."

...

...No.

Joe felt like his stomach had vanished and his chest had tightened and his mind was suddenly screaming at him no no no oh god please no not her... Not Gabby.

'Theodore Fletcher... gunned down Gabriella Parker... pretty please don't shoot me... relying on mercy...'

...She was gone. Just like Jason.

Joe didn't cry. He'd used up all his tears already. But it felt like all his emotions were trying to shove themselves to the forefront at once. He barely registered the rest of the announcement. He heard Theodore's name again, as well as his own, but that didn't matter.

Gabby was dead. Theodore killed her. ...Theodore killed her when she asked for mercy, that's what the announcements said. Not a hot-blooded panic kill. Calculated. It had to be. Who could shoot someone else when they looked back and asked to be let go? That just... that didn't happen. No good person... no, even most bad people wouldn't do that! How could he? How? How?

And all of a sudden, all the depression and guilt that had been festering in him all day... it had all been shoved aside by a molten wave of anger.

Along with, at last, a direction.

Find Theodore.
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((Brandon Baxter, from Right Down The Line, It's Been You And Me))

When Baxter had awoken, Summer had been long gone. It was something that he'd been expecting, almost anticipating after what had gone on in that tent the night before. He'd gone outside to take a leak as the morning announcements had rung over the relative quiet of the woods, taking note of each name carefully and considerately before moving on to the next one. A few names surprised him – Theodore popping two in a day was a stretch – but nothing completely out of the realm of normalcy.

Zipping up his fly, he walked back towards his duffel bag, his gait slow and easy, a man taking his time despite the gears in his head turning a mile a minute. Hearing the names of the deceased – though he couldn't claim to know them well – made it all real, suddenly. Real and visceral.

There were people on this hunk of rock in the middle of buttfuck nowhere who had killed other people. And, for all he knew, they were willing to kill again.

Reaching into his back pocket, Baxter yanked the pair of blue and black gloves free, holding them up to consider them through squinting slits. How did someone win a game where the only way to the top was through the deaths of his classmates? How did someone emerge victorious when the playing field was foreign, the rules were unclear, and the consequences could be fatal?

It took a moment's deliberation for him to reach a decision.

Slowly, he held his left glove in place while he slid his hand into it, stretching the rubber and fabric to fit snugly onto his hand's shape. He flexed his fingers one by one, testing mobility, durability, fit. When satisfied, he repeated the slow ritual with his right hand, the sound of the forest fading out to a background din as he heard his name over speakers, as if tuning into a radio station.

“Ball is on the forty nine yard line. Third and long. There's the snap, and Ridley drops back to pass as the offensive line spreads. Ridley scans, looking, scanning for an option – Baxter's broken loose!”

The boy rolled his neck on his shoulders, hopping up and down, feeling limber, loosened, ready.

“Ridley moving to scramble, desperately needs to get rid of it, and Baxter giving chase – look at the speed on our young Washington native! Baxter runs him down, and – SACK! Brandon Baxter has taken Ridley down in the backfield for a seventeen yard loss!”

Raising a fist to his eager fans of trees and greenery, Baxter grinned into the morning air, gloves snug over his hands, armour in place. Whistling a light tune to himself, he swooped down to snatch the duffel bag with his grenades and toss it over his shoulder.

The answer was simple, really. In order to emerge victorious from this game, he needed to play it as he did any other game.

Harder than anyone and everyone else.

----

It was by a magnificent stroke of luck that Baxter found Joe Carrasco, standing by the Captain's Cliffs, nearby the mangled corpse of a boy. The body wasn't identifiable from where Baxter was standing, but as he began to make his way towards the figure, his fingers tightened around the large piece of lumber he had scavenged out of the forest. The stick was large and smooth; absent of bark due to his seeking, absent fingers on his aimless walk through the island. It had a solid heft to it, was about three feet long and covered in little knots and scars. He liked the look of it for a weapon.

At least, it was a start.

The second he recognized Carrasco, he dropped his bag off of his shoulder in an audible thud on the grass, an early warning sign that he was approaching. He knew of the boy as a too-thin, awkward Christian child, and beyond that was a complete question mark. Fun to make stammer, maybe push around a bit, but that's where it ended.

Tapping the stick against his left hand, he started towards the familiar face, a minor bastion in a sea of uncertainty. Now would be the time for tact, he thought. He'd be nice and friendly, ease the other boy into the thought of an alliance. Perhaps even share supplies. Tact was the watchword, and he'd utilize it.

“So,” he called, standing a few feet away from Joe, keeping Joe between him and the cliffs, “I thought you loved Jesus. Did Meyers make fun of his haircut or something?”

Yup.

Tact.
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Even though Joe had a goal in mind now, he could have stood at that cliff for ages. Because he still didn't really know what to do. He knew his goal. He just didn't know how to get there. He wasn't even sure what Theodore looked like. He just wasn't able to match up that many names with faces. He tended to only recognise his friends, people who stuck to the library a lot (and even then only in passing), anyone who was a friend of a friend and anyone who was... well... kind of a jerk. That last one had been more of a survival instinct.

So how did he find Theodore and... and what? He didn't even know. Kill him? Lower himself to Theodore's level? Do the worst that he could do again, even though he knew better than ever what a horrible thing that was to do? He... he didn't think he wanted to do that. But he wasn't sure what he wanted. He just knew he had to find him and do something. Anything. Just... somehow make him answer for what he'd done to Gabby.

Joe would have stood there, thinking and seething, for ages. But the sound of someone dropping something heavy behind him snapped him out of it. Joe turned around, holding his hands out to steady himself because the moment at the edge of such a high surface made his head spin. What was he even doing at the edge of a cliff?

Brandon Baxter was there. Someone that Joe knew for being unfriendly. Any contact they'd had in the past had been restricted to mocking and, occasionally, a mild shove. But he was one of those people that Joe had always been particularly terrified of.

Joe still felt scared. But all things considered, he didn't feel as terrified as he normally did around him. Maybe there just wasn't enough room for fear.

And then... Baxter had to say that. And normally Joe could ignore any mean comments that came out of the other boy's mouth. But normally that mockery wasn't about murder. And maybe Joe deserved it, but Jason didn't deserve to be reduced to that.

“Don't tuh... tuh... talk about Jason. Don't muh... make him into a stuh... stupid joke.” Joe's voice cracked when he spoke, either out of an effort to hold back the anger or because he hadn't spoken since the previous day. He still stuttered, but for once... maybe for the first time ever... he managed to stare Brandon right in the face. Though the fact that he'd started playing with his fingers nervously while he was speaking gave away that he still felt afraid.
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It took the other boy's broken, scattered attempt at squaring off with Baxter to make him fully realize the gravity of his comment, remnants of shame from the previous night coupling with this fresh wave threatening to overtake him. Did he really just make light of another kid's death?

Another competitor's death. Jason was competition. So was Daniel, and Kelly, and Gabriella, and Dan. Each one that fell meant one less that was in his way to escaping the island. Clinging to the rationale, he folded his arms, shot Joe his best cocky grin.

“I would apologize,” he intoned, lazy satisfaction filling his voice to hide the mild quake that threatened to burst through, “but apologizing to a murderer doesn't seem my style. I will hand it to you, though – I didn't think you had it in you.”

Shrugging big shoulders, he walked around the corpse in slow, easy strides, his gaze down at the other boy. The quaking in his throat began to rise as his smile turned more into a grimace, a stinging sensation filling his eyes.

“So we're b-both competing for the same prize,” the larger boy forced out, his breaths coming rapidly.

Davidge shot. Dan dead. Summer's body beneath his fingers. Smell of smoke clinging to his clothes. His mom's face – her beautiful, weathered face – looking sadly on as Dave and him argued once more over household chores. The school he'd never see again.

The first tear leaked from his left eye, spattering against the shoulder of the body by his feet. Baxter angled himself away from Joe, keeping his head down.

“Why did you do it?”
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At first, Baxter's words caused a new wave of anger in Joe. Had it in him? Competing for the same prize? He was acting like Joe was ahead of him in some kind of... of... game. And this wasn't a game, even if the terrorists treated it like one. Joe had been trying to scrape together the words and guts to tell Baxter off for it when he realised that Baxter's voice sounded... off. Shaky. Joe knew bravado. It was all Travis ever seemed to project, even when stuff went really wrong. A stream of endless confidence, often at the wrong times. Joe's mind went back to prom, when Travis had cheerfully brushed off the fact that he'd drugged Dave without his knowledge and pranced off to continue his night with Stacey, not a care in the world. That was shameless bravado. And Baxter sounded far too shaky for it.

Fake bravado? That made more sense, didn't it? Who could be that chill and casual about murder? Even Travis wouldn't--he'd forgotten about Travis. Travis, Chuck, Marcus... he needed to find them, too. Before another Theo came along and did what he'd done to Gabby.

Joe kept watching Baxter, trying to figure out for sure whether he was faking bravado or whether he was just that messed up. He couldn't see Baxter's face any more, though. He was looking elsewhere. But the wave of anger ebbed slightly, now that he knew... possibly... that it was And then Baxter threw that question at him. Why did he do it. Why, why, why. ...Joe didn't know. He knew Jason had been an accident, at least at first... but he'd shot at Finn and he still didn't really know why. Had he meant to kill Finn? He had just meant to scare him off, hadn't he, but he shouldn't have shot straight at him, then... was it because he'd registered Finn as part of one of the meaner groups at school--he'd seen Finn with Stacey a lot, and he knew she was kind of--not important, though, because it still wouldn't make it right.

"Doesn't muh... matter, does it?" Joe looked down at his feet, unable to keep looking. "N-n-nothing I can say that'll juh... justify it. I'm not... not going to m-make excuses."

Looking down, that brought the corpse nearby back into view. Joe shut his eyes, but the smell still filled his nostrils. He realised, once again, that his hands were still caked in blood. His fingers started to try and rub the blood off once again.

"And... I'm not competing. The... the... the prize isn't worth it."
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Baxter's eyes squeezed shut as he turned fully around, his broad back on full display to Joe. Staring down at the corpse, he mulled over the words that Joe said – the prize wasn't worth it – and frowned down at the mangled corpse at his feet. It was a poster board; a large danger sign that stated how their classmates were willing – able – to kill each other in order to be the last alive. He let Joe finish talking, absorbing the words, a rare moment in Baxter's life where he fully mulled the words of another before deigning to speak.

When he did speak, his voice would be under control. The panic would be fought down. The tears would be gone. When he did speak, he'd be every inch the commanding presence he insisted upon being.

It took him three tries to force the first words out. They were water logged, stuffy, and husky with effort, but they did not quake with the fear and emotion.

“Of course it matters,” he said to the ground, his blue eyes opening, willing himself not to sniff and ruin the image, “and you're already competing, Joe.”

No nicknames, now. Nothing but names between them. Turning, Baxter faced his companion, a small, sad smile working its way onto his mouth.

“Survival of the fittest. Survival, not biggest kill count. The game is to live to the end, and you're one of the people to prod it along.”

He stuffed his hands in his pockets as two more trails of moisture caressed his cheeks, the taste of salt dampening his mouth. Baxter let them fall.

“So yes, it matters why you did it. We all have to answer for – for something.”
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Joe didn't understand much of what Baxter was saying. Did he mean he was competing as long as he survived? Or that because he'd killed he was competing one way or another? Joe wasn't sure. But this whole thing wasn't a game. Games were fun, meaningless activities that people enjoyed. The only thing this had in common was that it was meaningless. Just pointless murder so the terrorists could prove whatever their vague point was.

The only part of what Baxter said that Joe really picked up on was the part about answering.

"Everyone answers for wh-what they do," he mumbled under his breath. "Nuh... nuh... nothing that happens in this... 'game'... will change that. And you cuh... can't change it, either." He didn't say anything else besides that. Trying to preach his views on it all wouldn't do anything. He didn't think anyone would be open for conversation at a time like this, and it was never something he liked to do anyway for fear of being seen as pushy.

He'd answer for what he did to Jason after he was dead. But until then... he had four people to find, for two very different reasons.

"I'm... I'm luh... looking for some puh... people. Friends. Travis Webster. Chuck Soileau. Marcus Leung." After a few moments of hesitation, he added, "I also nuh... nuh... need to know what thuh... Theodore Fletcher looks like. Or if you've suh... seen him."
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Everything answers for what they do. You can't change that.

Baxter nodded absently at the other boy, barely paying attention. “The only people I've seen alive on the island are Robbins and Rodriguez, over at the mall.”

He didn't mention Summer. Couldn't yet.

“He was a skinny pale guy. Wore a stupid hat, quiet type.” Baxter lifted his hand to simulate height. “'Bout yay tall. I wouldn't be too keen on tracking him down, though. Seems like he's conducting the crazy train."

At the conclusion of his words, Baxter glanced back down at Dan's body, his gloved thumbs hooking into his jean pockets as he forced himself to view the gruesome scene. A moment passed, and then another, before he glanced back at Joe, hesitance in his eyes.

"Do you think... should we do something for him?"
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“Robbins? Lydia Robbins?” Joe rubbed his forehead, frowning. Someone he was quite friendly with, even if not to the extent of Travis or Chuck or Ga... or some other people. “Um... where was that?” Wouldn't hurt to find her as well, though he honestly didn't know what he'd do if he saw her. Maybe she wouldn't want to talk to him, after what he'd done.

Maybe his other friends wouldn't, either. Especially Marcus, they went to the same church, they had the same values. Killing was the worst of all the sins, they both knew that. Plus, Marcus was such a nice guy on top of that... there was no way Marcus would be okay with it. Suddenly Joe really didn't want to find him or anyone he knew. Didn't want to know what they thought, because it had to be bad.

But that was still outweighed by the fear that another Theo would find them.

Joe frowned a little more and repeated Baxter's description under his breath. “Skinny. Pale. Stupid hat. Skinny. Pale. Stupid hat.” He raised his voice to a normal volume again. “Okay, um... th-thanks.”

Joe looked back down at the body before shutting his eyes. He didn't want to look. He didn't want to have to touch the corpse, either. But... a proper burial was something everyone deserved. Even if it was a small send-off, at least it would be something.

“Y-yeah, um...” Joe looked at the edge of the cliff. He didn't really have the means to carry a body far. But... if they just rolled it off the cliff... “We could, um... puh... push it.” Joe made an awkward flailing gesture at the edge of the cliff and the ocean beyond it. “Worse ways tuh... to go than... to be in the... the water. Buh... better than r-r-rotting here. Right?”

Joe realised suddenly that he'd left Jason to rot on a hospital floor. Fresh surge of guilt. He should go back and... and fix that.
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Baxter raised an eyebrow, irritation bubbling from underneath the surface to simmer just below his tipping point. Hadn't he just fucking said that he'd seen her at the mall?

He tamped it down, exhaling quietly.

“At the mall,” he repeated, flatly. “Yeah, Lydia, I guess. I wasn't much interested in hanging out since Rodriguez has an erection for her or something.”

Rubbing at his beard, he stared down at Dan's corpse, mulling it over. “We should cover his face,” he decided, walking around the corpse. “I guess a water burial's the best it gets, since we don't have anything to dig him a pit. And we should... say something. I guess.”

Baxter looked down at his shirt for a moment, sighed out through his nose, and took off the outer layer – the large, blue 67 flashing in the light as it hit the ground.

As his fingers flew on the buttons, he raised his eyebrows at Joe. “Why do you want the scrawny fucker so badly? He shit on your breakfast cereal or something?”
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Joe went bright red and scratched the back of his head, studying his feet again. Right, Baxter had said 'the mall.' Even when there was so much more to worry about, Joe inwardly shriveled up because he'd made such a dumb mistake. At least Lydia was with someone. Joe remembered Chase in passing. Nice, calm guy. Not scary. Not the sort to... to...

He stared even more intently at the floor when Baxter started asking questions. What did he say? What did he say that didn't make him sound... like he meant to do something bad? He wasn't even sure what his end goal was where it was concerned.

"Um. Th... Theo, he... one of my friends, um... guh... Gabby P-p-parker. Theo, he... he..." Joe couldn't finish. He looked away from Baxter and the body. For some reason, this tune he'd heard Gabby play on her guitar once was jammed in his head, and it occurred to him that Gabby wouldn't be making music anymore. He still couldn't cry, though his eyes felt very itchy. He just stared at the horizon, not looking at anyone else.

Eventually, he said, "I, um... don't know the... the boy's name. The, um... the dea... deh... that guy." Joe glanced at the body before looking away again, shutting his eyes as tightly as possible. "I don't k-know who... who he is."
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With his shirt unbuttoned, Baxter pulled it off, revealing the muscular chest for a moment before slipping his jersey back over his head. He tugged the waistband down, feeling the breeze on his skin and sighing lightly before kneeling towards Dan.

“His name's Dan. Dan... something,” he muttered, wrapping the shirt around the dead boy's face. He tied the sleeves behind his head, knotting them loosely before standing again, fisting his hand against his mouth.

“Dan the man,” he said, voice hoarse. He cleared his throat, tugging at his collar, “I didn't know Dan from Jesus, beyond bumping into him in the hallways during lunch hour, but I know someone did. He had friends and family, maybe some pets, probably a girlfriend or something. Or maybe not. I didn't really...”

Baxter coughed into his fist, clearing his throat again. “It... sucks that he died. That blows, man. It blows even harder that he died here, alone, and that someone shot him. It'd probably suck getting shot. I don't know. Dan, uh... knows. Yeah.”

Kicking at the dirt at his feet, Baxter shrugged his shoulders violently. “Anyway, uh, God, if you're around or whatever, help Dan's family out. And shit. Amen. Let's get this dude in the ocean.”

Nodding at Joe, Baxter moved to grab Dan's feet.
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((Slight GMing in this thread approved.))

"Dan. Dan... Liu?" Though the announcement was hazy, since Joe had been mostly focused on what had happened to Gabby and what Theodore had done, he remembered Dan's name now. He was the other student killed by Theodore. Joe looked away for a moment, suddenly distracted. Theodore could be nearby, if that was the case. And Joe needed to find him, if he was. But... it was unlikely. And that didn't give him an excuse to run right now. Not before he'd paid his respects.

There wasn't anything he could add to Baxter's rambling eulogy. He didn't know Dan either. When Baxter was done, Joe bowed his head and shut his eyes, blocking Baxter out temporarily, before reciting quietly a prayer he'd heard at the funeral of his grandfather. Someone who he'd also never know while he was alive. He only knew the prayer in Spanish, since the funeral had been in Chile. He tried to hold his hands together, but he felt the dried blood on them and instead held them at his sides, feeling awkward and guilty as he did so. He finished by mumbling, making the sign of the cross as he did so, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." He wondered if Dan would hear him from... where he was now... and know it was a prayer, given that it was in a different language than what he probably knew. He'd probably feel the intent.

Once he was done, he reached down and grasped Dan's hands. He let go almost immediately, recoiling at the touch of the cold, stiff skin. "S-sorry. Um... I can... sorry." He shut his eyes once more and tried again, trying not to whine or cringe over it. He and Baxter stepped closer to the end of the cliff and, with one last heave, threw him off the edge. Dan's body fell down and was quickly swallowed up by the waves.

Joe looked down at the waves for a few moments, reflecting on everything, before turning back to Baxter.

"I... I have to go. Um... um, uh... d-don't kill anyone."

With those words, Joe left. His mind filled with images of Dan, Gabby and a skinny, pale boy wearing a stupid hat.

((Joe Carrasco continued in Come on, Everypony! Smile, smile, smile!.))
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As Joe left, Baxter remained standing at the cliff, watching the body fall and disappear into the frothy, angry waves that crashed over the jagged rocks at its base. Dan fell, shirt covering his face, limbs stiff and unwilling to yield to the wind that rushed upwards, ruffling his clothing and lifting his arm, almost as if even in death, he was trying to claw his way back up the rocky cliffside.

Someone had done this, he thought, grimly. Someone had killed this boy, without remorse or compassion, to further their own goals.

The silence chased the two as they stood on the cliff, Dan's body disappearing into the hungry ocean below, amidst rock and water, salt and sand. The silence permeated them, enshrouded them, no matter how desperately Baxter searched for the words.

What else was there to say?

Joe walked away, said something – and Baxter nodded mutely, his eyes remaining on the crashing waves below. Focused on the corpse that was no longer visible to him, he stood, buffeted by breeze and guilt, wonder and impatience.

Would he be able to do that? Would he be able to leave someone cold and clammy, lifeless and snatched away?

It was a long time before Baxter left the cliff edge.

He did so without any answers.

((Brandon Baxter, No Whammies))
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