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Poor Unfortunate Souls
Topic Started: Nov 12 2013, 11:37 PM (1,446 Views)
MurderWeasel
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((Skipping ahead/timeskipping us so we can get moving.))

So the new kid stayed with them, and it was fine. Nothing bad happened. He didn't shiv Adam in the back during the night. Well, maybe that was because Adam made real sure to stay awake longer than him. In fact, he'd been planning to trade off watches with Maynard and Natali and just let the new guy sleep the whole night, not trust him with anything at all until they knew him better, but at some point Adam closed his eyes for just a quick moment and when he opened them again it was with a jolt as the announcements played.

That James was a pretty funny guy. He had Adam going for a moment there, grabbing his sword and looking around for something to swing it at, some way to throw himself into violence instead of coming face to face with the loss of his head.

But it was just a joke. No harm, no foul, yeah? So Adam sat back down. His breathing was level the whole time. His face was frozen, a flat mask of anger. It did not soften as the deaths were read.

Lots of friends gone. Lots of classmates killing. It all had an effect on Adam, sure, but it was nothing to the very last name.

Danya said Natali was dead. That was absurd, of course. She'd gone to sleep. She was just a few feet away, in the shack with Maynard. They were probably warm and comfy, maybe all snuggled up and not gunked up and dew-dampened like Adam. These guys were real standup comedians, James and Danya. They were doing all this just for Adam, just to convince him of something stupid and laugh at him about it.

"Maynard?" he called. "Maynard? You awake?"

No sign of the new guy. Had he skipped on them overnight? If he had, at least he hadn't robbed or murdered them. Was he taking a leak somewhere? Adam didn't know. Didn't care. Right now, he just needed Maynard to let him know it was all a joke. Then they could figure out what they were doing today.
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For the first time in what seemed like forever, Maynard was able to achieve a proper night of sleep. Truthfully, he hadn't slept properly since childhood, with his nights often spent surfing the Internet, or completing homework or watching a new anime. But here, without distractions, and with a hefty amount of exhaustion bearing down on him, Maynard was able to deny reality for a few, blissfully uninterrupted hours.

And then it was gone too soon.

Reality returned to Maynard in the form of a harsh crackling, followed by a voice far removed from the one that’d spoken to them over the past few days. Maynard groaned and tried to roll over, trying to return to the pleasantries of his dream, only to find his movement restricted by a hand gripped firmly upon his shoulder. Natali was still fast asleep, and while he was glad for her getting a good rest, he couldn’t help but be slightly jealous of her escaping reality for just a little longer. It was some comfort, however, that she felt comfortable enough with him to be that close. Maynard’s head still stung from the familiar burst of feedback as he gingerly sat up, his vision clouded over by lingering traces of fatigue and a loose lock of hair. He gently pried away Natali’s delicate fingers, trying to focus in vain on the words the new voice was bringing him.

It was the beep that finally robbed Maynard of his stupor.

He couldn’t help but let out a quiet squeal as the beep pierced his ears, following it with a muttering of curses as the jest had been revealed. A mixture of relief and anger flooded through him as he adjusted to the sunlight streaming through the cracks in the shelter and the latest death toll. Natali had even managed to sleep through that as well. Weird. She’d seemed a light sleeper.

“Hey, Natali,” he whispered, bending down beside her. She looked so peaceful lying there. “I think you ought to wake up now. Natali...”

He gently shook her shoulder, and frowned as she gave no sign of response. Still, he’d never had to do that to someone before, so he might’ve been doing it wrong. He shook again, this time a little more forcefully. He would’ve tried again, but stopped himself before he could-

He couldn't hear her breathing.

Maynard’s mouth and eyebrows contorted in confusion as he grasped around Natali’ss arm, his fingers tracing around her too-limp wrist, desperately searching for something, for anything. But there was nothing, no matter how much Maynard’s brain searched for answers.

Well. That was weird.

And wrong.

And impossible.

The word “death” never entered Maynard’s head. All he could think of was the fact that last night Natali was there and now she wasn't anymore and she couldn’t be she couldn’t be not when they’d had so far to go and hadn’t done anything and who could’ve-

The others. They had to know. He couldn't let them find out just through the announcements alone. They deserved that much. He stepped forward tentatively, his legs buckling beneath him and his mind slowly fogging over as his heart tightened in his chest.

But he was too late. Just as soon as he’d reached the shelter’s entrance, he heard the word Natali, clear as day beneath the clouding of his hearing and the drumming of his heartbeat. For a moment he stood there, his mind blank and his heart tight in his chest as the reality of the situation finally broke upon him. But only for a moment; Adam’s voice breaking through his grief.

Maynard clasped his hands to his face and stumbled forward awkwardly outside. He noticed that Gabriel was gone for a fleeting instant, but paid it no mind as tears began to roll down his face and his breath caught in his throat.

“Adam…”
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That one word, his own name, told Adam everything. It made him believe, in a way the announcements never could have. A thousand dry repetitions had nothing on one expression of emotion.

Natali was dead. He had barely known her, but he'd felt like they'd become friends. They'd been together, watching out for each other, traveling and surviving, and now she was gone and it was over something stupid. He should have caught it. Like, fuck, people didn't just drop dead. There'd been signs. She'd stumbled, and she'd complained about headaches, and had their been blood trickling from her ears? Had Adam carried her when she couldn't walk?

No, it had just been her stumbling. It had just been the rubbing of her head. And Adam, he'd stumbled and rubbed his head sometimes too, because they were tired. Maybe they should've rested sooner. Maybe this endless march was a bad idea. Maybe Natali would've been dead either way. When had it even happened?

Adam took a deep breath. He wouldn't cry. He couldn't cry. Maynard was going to cry, so Adam couldn't. He had his role, and he would play it. He took a moment, tried to keep his voice level. Even he could hear the waver.

One word. One emotion.

"Shit."
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Maynard struggled to keep his breathing steady as Adam reacted, shaking gasps passing through his lips as his knees knocked violently together. Everything was both too loud and too quiet, every little sound seeming both amplified and muffled. Tears continued to run their burning trails down his face, as he clenched his eyes shut and took the deepest breath he could.

And he screamed.

It wasn’t much of a scream, more a strangled yelp that cracked midway before dissipating into nothing but choked gasps for air as he struggled to remain upright. He didn’t want to cry, and he didn’t want to panic, but there was nothing he could do to stop. He just wanted Natali back, for everything to be as it was just a few hours earlier. He hadn’t known her too well - scarce exchanged more than a few words back at Aurora - but he liked her, he truly did. She didn’t deserve to go out like she had, without anybody there to comfort her or tell her everything’d be alright.

In the blink of an eye she was gone and there was nothing they could do, and Maynard kept trying to tell himself that, but it wasn’t working. He couldn’t help but place every ounce of blame on himself. He should’ve noticed. Adam had been leading them, keeping them all together - he‘d have had other things on his mind, surely - but Maynard, no, he’d been by her side and he hadn’t noticed anything.

But she was gone now, and there was no bringing her back. He’d wallowed in his grief with Daniel, and he couldn’t let the same thing happen now. He wanted his friends back, but there was nothing that could be done. What would they say if they saw him standing here, shaking and crying and not being any help to anybody? He wasn’t going to forget them. He wasn’t going to waste his time anymore. He’d lived and they’d died when they’d had so much more to do, and wallowing in pity was something they’d never have done.

He had to be brave. For them. It was the hardest thing in the world, but it had do be done. Otherwise, what was the point?

As his breathing gradually settled, Maynard ungracefully brushed away the tears that streaked down his face, and looked towards Adam, the one who’d brought them so far. He was the real brave one. Over everything that’d happened he’d never once faltered, something that Maynard both admired and was truly grateful for. The swearing, that was nothing. Surprise was all it was, it had to be. Leaders like Adam got surprised from time to time, didn’t they? Nothing abnormal.

Maynard shuffled forward delicately. Bravery. That’s all he needed to have. But bravery’s nothing if you don’t have a plan, right?

“Adam, what do we do?”
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"We say goodbye," Adam said, "and we keep moving."

Because whatever had happened, whatever doubts he held about how he'd brought them this far, it was what he knew how to do. They'd keep on moving as long as they could, and they wouldn't dwell on this, certainly wouldn't ever come back. No good imagining what Natali would look like in a few days. No good wondering what had become of the newcomer. The announcements had exonerated him of any part in Natali's death, so whatever his problem was, he wasn't Adam's.

He didn't want to dwell. He didn't want to lead right now either, but Maynard wasn't going to step up and Adam had practiced keeping his stage face on. What would Paulo think? Or was he facing challenges of his own? He and Cooper had at least kept their heads down, but what if they were in bad shape right now, dying of head wounds of their own somewhere? The thought madehim want to punch something, but that wouldn't be keeping cool.

"We can find more people. Do better. Not let this happen again."

It was all they could do. No changing the past, so best to influence the future.

Adam considered shrugging out of his coat, walking in and laying it over Natali, but it wouldn't do her any good and then maybe he'd catch his death of cold. Besides, it let him feel cool, just a little cool even after everything that had happened, and he needed that. If he was cool, a chill badass, he could get through this. They could get through this.

Maybe the truly cool thing would've been to light a cigarette and say something wise and touching, but Adam's throat was tight and he was coming up blank on words, so he waited. Let Maynard do what he needed, then move out.
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Maynard nodded at Adam’s reply, meekly at first and then with more resolve, even managing a weak smile as he spoke.

“Yeah, yeah that makes sense. J-just a second.”

It made sense to keep moving. It seemed to be what kept Adam calm, to Maynard at least, and that was pretty high on his priorities at the moment. Adam was the leader, and Maynard didn’t want to break that in any circumstance. And if they kept moving, well, there was a chance they might find some of their friends too. Only a chance, though. Any hope he’d once retained of finding all of his friends and doing... something was now well and truly gone.

He entered the tent in silence, his chest still levelling unevenly as he did so. He kept his eyes clenched shut as he retrieved his bags and his blade from the ground, not wanting to look at what was once Natali. He wanted to remember her as she’d been in life; a source of comfort and optimism, and not as anything else. Even the brief glimpse he’d managed of her body when he’d first awoken was all but gone, the images buried deep in his consciousness.

He considered making a eulogy of sorts, addressing her parents and family via one of the many cameras mounted around the site, but dismissed the thought almost as soon as it’d entered his head. He was in no fit state to deliver a fitting tribute at the moment. He’d do it later, if he had a chance, when he had more time to prepare or whatever it was people did, and then he’d give her family the thanks Natali had deserved, the thanks he’d never gotten to bestow upon her in life.

He wouldn’t make the same mistake with Adam. He had to let the other boy know just how much he appreciated his help, in case anything happened. He didn’t want to think about anything else happening to the two of them, but he had to be prepared. He knew he did.

“Thanks, Adam,” he said, stepping forward and out of the shelter, back into the cool morning air. “For helping me get this far. Onwards, yeah?”

((Maynard Hurst continued in Reverie))
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"Onwards," Adam said. He nodded. Didn't smile. Didn't say what he was feeling and thinking, because he didn't do well with that shit. You didn't say thanks to another dude for helping you if you had to explain it. Maynard could say it because Adam had been the leader, and Maynard had been through some really rough spots. Adam had obviously given him a hand with it all. If Adam said thanks too, though, he'd have to say why, and that meant he'd have to talk about his feelings, and that would be terrible. It would wreck the perfectly good thing he and Maynard had going on. Maynard had helped him just as much, but it would have to remain understood in that unspoken way he was pretty sure they had.

He glanced at the shack again. He hadn't gone in, hadn't actually seen Natali. He didn't want to. He just gave it a slow nod. He could say it in his head: Later, Natali. Sorry.

And then it was time to move again, time to stop thinking about what had happened and move.

((Adam Morgan continued in Reverie))
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As for Gabriel, he'd reconsidered the wisdom of staying near people sometime during the night. Avoiding everyone had served him well so far, and while these people seemed nice enough, why rock the boat?

So he slipped away. He considered trying to lift the sword the guy had on him, but it was too risky. There were dead people. Maybe he could pick a weapon off one of them instead.

((Gabriel Lee continued in Everyone Dies))
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