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Prepare to Burn; open
Topic Started: Aug 13 2016, 07:19 PM (1,534 Views)
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((Cristóbal Morales continued from i can't wait to be sad and alone on the edge of the universe))

There was movement. Someone silhouetted against the light from outside, before slipping into the darkness just as quickly. Cristo blinked a couple times to let his eyes adjust again after the sudden intrusion of the light.

Now, he felt a trickle of fear, something that had been absent so far. People were dangerous in so many ways, he knew. But he stood anyway, grunting softly as his muscles protested from being hunched up so long. His fingertips just brushed the handle of the spear as he rose, but he left it at his feet.

"Hey," he called softly.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Cristo drew in a breath in surprise; he hadn't quite expected to be recognized, for some reason. "Yeah," he called back. "Um, it's Cristo Morales, not Luz." Crisanto wasn't here, he remembered. That was... good. Yes, good. As much as he'd like the support of his friends and teammates in this awful situation the fewer of them that were here, the better.

He recognized the girl, too. Small, pretty, unusual name. He'd seen her running before, and hanging around the fine arts wing of the school when he sometimes slipped in to practice the piano. "It's Tara, isn't it? Something like that?" Despite the sheer weirdness of their surroundings, he felt the familiar twinge of embarrassment and nerves at not being certain of remembering someone's name.

He also had no idea what to say next. He took an uncertain step towards her. "I'm, uh. I'm alone. And not... not armed." Not untrue, strictly speaking. The spear remained on the floor, and his movements would definitely be noticeable if he went to pick it up.

"Are you... looking for something?"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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"I'm the second baseman," Cristóbal answered automatically, not letting himself think about "is" and "was" and what they meant. "Cris is the pitcher and team captain." The one who was supposed to come up with the plan, he added silently, and was quietly repulsed by his own longing to see his friend step out of the shadows and greet him here.

Tara was looking for supplies. A weapon, really, let's be honest here. Cristo tried not to think too hard about what that meant, even though she sounded like she didn't really want to have to use a weapon against anybody. Neither did he, right?

Right.

Cristo took the chance to move a few more steps towards Tara, one hand trailing the shelf next to him. "Depressing's one word for it, yeah..." he murmured.

But he couldn't afford to give up, whatever "giving up" entailed now or in the future. He didn't have a plan, had barely any supplies, but he had the knowledge that he couldn't give up. "Have you, uh... have you seen anyone else yet? From our class, I mean." Of course she knew what he meant, what else would he mean? Dumb, dumb, dumb.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Lizzie was here. A potential friendly face. Another hole in someone's heart when the inevitable came. Cristo chewed his lip and didn't give voice to either of those thoughts. Tara and Lizzie obviously hadn't stuck together, and as for the second thing...

Well, Tara had already said it well enough. Their fragile morning peace wouldn't last. All across this place, the chains would come off. Someone would snap, whether from fear, or anger, or a simple misunderstanding going too far. It didn't matter the reason. You could never take it back.

A barely-audible sigh left Cristo's lips. "I don't suppose you have any sort of plan, do you? I'm blank."
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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What Cristo could see of Tara's smile in the dim light unnerved him. Her following words were no better.

The cameras... he'd forgotten about the cameras, for a little while. There had been no whir of motion, no indication that they were zeroed in on him while he remained still and huddled in the corner. Now he was up and moving, and they were surely tracking his every breath.

He shuddered.

There was something off about Tara, too, something just under the surface there that he couldn't put his finger on and wasn't sure he wanted to. Maybe she was a little unbalanced from all that had happened. Maybe she did have a plan and just didn't want to let him - or anyone watching - in on it. Maybe she was just an odd girl.

"I... see," was all he could come up with as reply.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Cristóbal actually started at Tara's question. Things were quickly progressing from unsettling to outright wrong here (moreso than they already had been, at least), if he took her words at face value. And if he didn't, well... he didn't know what sort of deeper meaning he was supposed to be looking for.

"I don't suppose I've ever thought about it," he said finally. He didn't want to think about it, especially not here and now.

"Peacefully, I guess." Vague enough to keep trying to keep his mind off it.

"What-" Cristo began and then stopped himself. He'd been about to reciprocate the question out of habit, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. It was too absurd, too inappropriate.

"I'll help you look for that hammer," he said instead. Cristo turned to the shelf next to him and peered into the crumbling cardboard boxes, poking about with his fingertips to see if he would happen upon the shape of the desired tool.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Cristo was taken aback by Tara's question, and even more by how much it seemed to confuse her that he hadn't been mulling over all the various ways he might die. "Well- no." Of course the thought had crossed his mind, but he'd been trying not to dwell on it. What good would dwelling on it do besides making him want to curl up in a ball on the floor and never move again? He frowned and bit at his lip, trying to focus on going through the boxes he could reach instead of Tara's ever-increasing strangeness to him.

One of the boxes at least contained a few miscellaneous tools, but no hammer. Nothing particularly sharp or hefty at all, actually; it seemed like this warehouse had been pretty well picked-over by someone ahead of time. His musing on this was soon given a very welcome interruption, however.

"Wha- Abby?"

It was her. It was her! She was right here, right where he'd woken up!

Was it really allowed to be that easy?

He wanted to run to Abby, but he needed to tell Tara about the lack of hammers, and he should probably let Tara know that it was Abby and she didn't mean any harm and vice-versa, and, and...

Too many conflicting signals led Cristo to just make an odd shuffling motion as he remained indecisive which direction to move in first. There was so much he suddenly needed to do, to say, and all that his mouth could figure out was "Um," but he was grinning like a fool.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Any reply Cristóbal might have had was cut off by Abby closing the distance between them and proceeding to crush all the air out of his lungs. He couldn't say he particularly minded; he was, in fact, hugging her back just as tightly.

"Yeah, I'm-" Fine? Was he fine, really? Could anyone truthfully say they were fine and everything was alright here?

Probably not. But whether it was objectively truthful or not didn't matter.

"I'm fine. As long as you are too." There was more to say but he didn't know how. A conversation for another time, then, when they were less disoriented and frightened, when emotions weren't running so high and people could say anything that they didn't quite mean.

Cristo moved back from Abby just a step to look at Tara, but she'd gone. She must have not wanted to impose on their reunion, or maybe she thought Abby might be threatening, mind-boggling as that was. Either way, she'd slipped off silently when he wasn't paying attention.

"Um- Tara was here, but it looks like she left. She was looking for supplies." Enough of an explanation to hopefully put Abby at ease and reassure her that neither of them had been in danger, if they could truly be said to ever not be in danger while they were in this madhouse.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Cristóbal jumped slightly when the door opened again, heralded by the screech of metal. Light from outside sliced through the dimness again, and he squinted in its direction, trying to make out the figure hesitating by the entrance. "Tara?" The silhouette wasn't right for Tara, but it felt appropriate to ask anyway. Even if it also sort of felt like he was a dumb kid in a horror movie, calling out for someone familiar while a monster bore down on him.

Cristo rested his hand on Abby's arm and swallowed, trying to push those thoughts away. There were no monsters here besides the people who had left them in this place.

"Um..." he began again when the figure in the door didn't call out a response. "We're not going to hurt you. Say something, please." He wondered if he should go for the spear he'd left on the floor a few steps behind.

He wondered if it would make him feel better or worse to hold a weapon in his hands when he'd never done so before. He couldn't decide which one was a more desirable outcome.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Cristo let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, some of the tension easing from him as Kimiko revealed herself and Abby squeezed his arm reassuringly. His relief was quickly followed by a trickle of embarrassment; calling out to the mute girl to identify herself verbally was the kind of faux pas that would have left him socially paralyzed for a good while back home. It still tried to, the instinctive urge to retreat welling up, but Abby was talking to him, drawing him back into interaction, and he swallowed the embarrassed lump in his throat and tried to focus on her.

"I didn't see anything that looked like stationery, no. It's mostly toiletries and some tools here and there, but everything is labeled so we can keep looking...?"

Truth be told, Cristóbal was starting to tire of the warehouse and inching around in the dark, but he could weather it for a while longer if he needed to. Abby needed him to be strong. She hadn't said as much, but they'd known each other long enough that he could tell. He gave her arm a gentle squeeze in response and looked back to Kimiko to see if she could indicate whether she wanted to stay and search for something to write with.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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It took a few moments for Cristóbal to decipher the meaning of Kimiko's gestures, and he felt the familiar flush of embarrassment at misunderstanding people creep up his neck again. Kimiko probably couldn't tell though, and she was being patient with them, so he just rushed into a reply instead of apologizing.

"I woke up here a little while ago. Tara... Behzad, I think? She came in and looked around for a while, and then left when Abby showed up. You're the first person we've seen since then." He wondered if Kimiko had seen anyone besides them yet. She seemed on edge, but not panicked. That was good. Cristo wasn't sure what he'd be able to do if confronted with a panicking person. Kimiko had a good head on her shoulders, though, and little by little the remaining tension was ebbing out of him.

"I'll take one last look around the back for anything like writing supplies," he decided out loud. "Then I think it would be best to leave and look somewhere else. If you want to come along with us of course, Kimiko." Bolstered by the thought of leaving this dreary place soon and with friendly people around, he turned and made his way back among the shelves for a final sweep.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Nothing, nothing, and more nothing, at least as far as writing implements went. Cristo sighed. He'd been pretty sure that they wouldn't find what Kimiko was looking for here, but it was still disappointing. Maybe there was some kind of office or another supply building around though, or even a house that might have paper and pens laying around somewhere. He hadn't looked at the map they'd been given yet.

Rounding the corner of the last shelf that he had glanced over, Cristo called back to Abby and Kimiko. "Nothing here, sorry. It's probably best to look somewhere else." He retraced his steps, heading back to where he'd left his bag and the spear, intending to gather them up so that the three of them could get a move on. He missed the sunlight.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Something was wrong.

Cristóbal saw it in Kimiko's stance a split second before she dashed for the spear and spun to run. He saw it on Abby's face. He saw it as if from a distance as he instinctively moved to run after Kimkiko instead of just letting her go.

Of course something was wrong. Had he forgotten where they were?

Cristo could have frozen, but he didn't. This wasn't home, this wasn't school, and it was wrong. They all knew it, and something - that knowledge, baseballer instinct, who knew - spurred him forward after Kimiko. She knew it was wrong.

Maybe he thought that they could work something out. She was scared, uncertain, and they could forgive her for that if she didn't run away. Maybe that was it. Cristo wasn't sure himself, he didn't have time to think it over.

Whatever the reason, he dashed forward and grabbed her by the arm. "Wait!"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Kimiko was strong, but she was smaller than him. Cristo ought to be able to stop her, to talk her down, to do something that wasn't completely useless, but no words came in time.

Maybe that was irony, in a way.

For a second, Cristóbal thought that Kimiko had just hit him. He tried to recoil from the impact, tried to breathe in, and the glass caught him inside, a stinging embedded in his chest. As Kimiko wrenched out of his grip and dashed off, Cristo's brain refused to catch up, still trying to draw in breath even as he felt the dampness spreading in a patch on his shirt.

Cristo stumbled a few more steps in Kimiko's direction before the pain really hit him and he tried to gasp and the gasp became a deep, shuddering cough that sent blood welling up his throat. He spat instinctively and looked uncomprehendingly at the dark red splatter on the warehouse floor.

Kimiko had stabbed him, he realized, in the same not-breath that he realized that he couldn't breathe in anymore without tasting blood.

With a strangled gagging noise, Cristóbal fell.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Cristóbal knew he couldn't breathe but he kept trying to anyway, kept tasting blood, kept gasping and trying to just get enough air to say something so Abby would stop crying. He'd never wanted her to cry.

His thoughts were a jumble. Images of his mother, his grandparents, Dominic, Abby's family, the baseball team. All the people he'd tried not to let down.

At least he could say he'd tried.

Cristo's vision was going gray and fuzzy, and he tried to turn himself so that he could see Abby's face before it failed him completely. It was hard to focus on her, even this close. Maybe he was crying too.

He reached over with one shaky hand and let it rest on top of Abby's. He told himself it was good enough, even though she wasn't smiling and joyful like he wanted to remember her. He wanted to tell her that it would be okay to smile again, after this.

Maybe that was irony too, that this was what it took to think of everything he wanted to say.

If he'd had time, he could have written it all out, told her to forgive Kimiko for being scared and lashing out, told Abby that he loved her and he was fine with whatever way she loved him back, told her that she needed to live so she could take some words back to his family for him.

Cristóbal didn't have time. All he had was his last fading look at Abby's face.

By the time his vision went completely black, he'd nearly convinced himself that it was enough.

B021 CRISTÓBAL MORALES: DECEASED
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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