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Paradise; This one's for all the marbles.
Topic Started: Nov 4 2014, 12:14 AM (5,505 Views)
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
This was almost worse than the shouting, the fighting and the pain. This was almost more unbearable than fighting for your life or arguing to live or facing a loaded gun. In those situations, Hansel had always been able to react appropriately, act in time, push past the obstacle or defeat the opponent or do what was generally required in order to live.

But these? The quiet moments, the heartfelt moments, the moments where you have no choice but to talk to someone and face everything you've been through and try to quantify, qualify, analyze? The moments when you had to admit that there wasn't a clock, or a time limit, or where shooting and fighting weren't an answer? Hansel didn't know what to do with those.

There were no room for them on the island.

Now, there were two people, and only one could walk away. A simple manner of subtraction. She asked him what to do - she told him she thought he knew what to do to escape, get away, retreat.

The way out.

She thought he knew, and deep down, he did.

He kept his eyes closed and towards the sunset as he lifted shaking hands, peeling back the gauze around his mouth and jaw, freeing up aching lips and shredded skin. The smell was instant in the midst of the gunfire - brimstone and fire and putrid air that filled the space where his cheek should be. He was skeletal, skin, bones, blood and bandage, and he kept his gaze hidden, expression neutral as he swallowed to speak.

"Yuh," he started, then stopped. Took a breath.

Take your time with these, Hansel. They may be your last words. No stuttering, no dicking around.

You can't be wrong.

"What would you change," he croaked, "if you could do it all again?"
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i'm not upset
[ *  *  *  *  *  *  * ]
He literally came undone down to the bone. She slid sideways until her head was resting on his shoulder. She was sitting with the entire Aroura senior class.

Mara's bandaged fingers walked across the grass like spider's legs and took hold of his mutilated hand.

He asked her a question. Would she do it all over again?

"I actually hate Disneyland. It's the rides mostly. I'm scared of heights."

What a stupid thing to be scared of. It was always a point of embarrassment. She had seen so many awful things, who knew if standing on a roof would cause her palms to sweat like they used to.

"If we were fated from the beginning and there's nothing we could do to change, it was meant to be. I was a brat... I would have appreciated what I had."

She sighed and felt herself become relaxed and empty. Her head swam and she didn't think she could move, but it wasn't too concerning anymore. Her questions about how to stop the game weren't that important.


They wanted them to fight to the death. To hell with what anyone else wanted.
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Her response got a smile out of him, a genuine curve of the lip on the un-ruined side of his face. The touch, the non-violent skin-to-skin contact had him doubting his decision a little, hesitation making him pause, but she'd sat beside him, leaned against him, opened herself to him.

The SMG was a foot, maybe two away.

But he squeezed her hand, revelled in this moment for a second, treated himself to human emotion. He turned his head to face the top of hers, the tangled, matted hair that slithered and snaked around her skull in an unpredictable mess of tendrils, and pressed his mouth against it slightly, breathed deep. She smelled like sulphiric smoke and raw sweat, fire and blood.

He pursed ruined lips against scraggily scalp, leaned back, his free hand reaching slightly for the SMG, hesitating, hovering.

The way out, he decided. The only way out. She knew it as well as he did.

His free hand curled into a fist, the slight movement for the gun exhausting him, sapping his energy.

His eyes slid closed, the back of his head resting against the wood again as he gathered strength for that final, long stretch to freedom. Just a few moments more, and it would be over either way. But which way? Which one of them would be able to walk? Who would the barrel turn against in its final moments?

Either way, it was up to him.

It was all up to him.

"I wouldn't change anything," he said, his voice soft, contemplative as the sun slid behind the treeline, dusk becoming night, the world sliding into sleep in preparation for a new, irrevocably changed day.

"Not a goddamn thing."

Gather your strength, Hansel. Decide either way.

You can't be wrong.

Hansel died sixty seconds later, still deliberating.

This time, when the train car pulled up, he had made his choice. The bag sat soundly on the bench, splintering the concrete and digging a hole in the tile floor. He left his shirt, too, and his belt, neatly folded beside them, eagerly anticipating the arrival of his new life. His fingers shook with anticipation, the harsh light beaming onto his tanned skin, watching as he bounced lightly on the balls of his feet.

The train car made no noise as it slid smoothly into the station stop, and the boy in white stood at the train car doors, smiling at him as they slid open.

"Ready, I see."

He nodded, grinning, and took the boy in white's outstretched hand as the boy in white pulled him into the car. Suddenly, he was bathed in warmth - a soft, light glow that surrounded his body. On the car were dozens of people, smiling and waving at him, offering cheers and congratulations as he stepped into their circle, their hands caressing him, comforting him, consoling him.

He smiled into their grins, laughed into their mirth, as the train car doors slid closed. He closed his eyes, smiled at the ceiling as the train car started to move, their hands securing him among them, taking him amongst their number.

In the instant before the car slid on soundless wheels into the dark tunnel, in the moment before the world went black, his eyes opened.

Their smiles had turned sinister.

B067 - Hansel Williams: Deceased
1 Student Remaining
A list of the dying, a list of the damned.

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i'm not upset
[ *  *  *  *  *  *  * ]
He responded. He wouldn’t change anything. She thought it was a weird answer as she closed her eyes. He kissed the top of her head. Mara felt treasured. For the first time in her life she felt worthy of love even though she wasn’t perfect. She didn’t need to be.

“We’ve both….been through so much and I can’t imagine being alone now. At least with you here, I have someone to talk to. Someone who understands…”

The light in the park dimmed. Her grasp on him became loose. Mara fell to the side, unconscious in Hansel’s lap.

The first stars peeked out from behind the sky while a voice spoke once more from the loudspeakers. It washed over her, muffled sound to the lifeless looking pair. Not long after, another set of voices approached.

“This isn’t like the last one. I don’t think she’s doing it to be difficult. I really don’t think she can get up.”

“Someone shake her.”

A pair of hands grabbed her by the shoulders and gently nudged her. Her eyes fluttered open and saw a man in what looked like a SWAT uniform with two women behind him; a stern looking Asian woman and a scowling blonde. He shined a flashlight in her face and she blinked slowly, watching everything swim in and out of focus.

“My name is Sonia, this is Cecily,” explained the woman. “Congratulations, Miss Montalvo.”


“You are the winner of Survival of the Fittest,” said Sonia.

Mara looked back at the boy she’d been sleeping on, now slumped over and staring with half-lidded glassy eyes. She broke out of the man’s hold and held onto Hansel in a tight hug.

“What are you doing? You have to help him!” she shouted. Mara buried her face into his chest.

“Some winner,” sneered the blonde woman, Cecily, crossing her arms. She was beautiful, polished and haughty. This woman seemed so familiar.

Mara felt a hand on her shoulder and she looked up and saw a blurry version of Sonia.

“That’s not what we do and even if it was, it’s too late. Come on.”

Four or five more identically dressed people now accompanied the SWAT man. He held out a hand. She hesitated a moment before putting her hand in his and nodding. The man nodded back and helped her to her feet.

“Do you have any additional weapons on you?”

“No,” Mara replied shakily, though two of them began patting her down anyway.

“Gross,” sighed Cecily, looking at both teens. “I thought she was supposed to be some kind of beauty queen or something. Figures the first one of these trips I go on I get to see the messy wreck. At least Calvert was cute and the other ones were fun.”

Sonia held up a hand but Mara suddenly mumbled something barely audible even to herself, staring at Cecily.

Cecily put her hands on her hips and bent down to Mara’s level.

“Did you have something you wanted to say? We had to come all the way out here to pick you up because you couldn’t walk your dainty ass to the pick-up point like all the other winners.”

She mumbled a second time, still inaudible, staring daggers at Cecily.

Cecily balled her fist and moved in when suddenly Mara jumped forward. She grabbed hold of Cecily by the cheeks and mashed her face against the woman’s viciously. Mara held onto the kiss, covering Cecily in grime and blood: hers, Joey’s and Finn’s until something struck the side of her head.

In the seconds before she went unconscious and fell into the arms of a SWAT member, all she remembered was Cecily’s infuriated, filthy face and Sonia doubled over in laughter.

((Amaranta Montalvo continued in V5 epilogue: Desiderium))
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