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Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying; [ASK FIRST] [Content Warning: Polite Conversation]
Topic Started: Aug 16 2016, 07:47 PM (3,439 Views)
frogue
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[Georgia Lee Day continued from Zum Glueck In Die Zukunft]

There was a darkness to the island, Georgia Lee thought. She didn’t think of herself as superstitious; she had never once knocked on wood or thrown salt over her shoulder, and when once she had broken a mirror she had simply swept it up and moved on with her life. Georgia Lee didn’t believe in ghosts or magic or auras, but she still could not deny that there was something somehow sinister about the island. Something off.

She didn’t think it was just the purpose that the island was set to, either. There was a rugged beauty to it she supposed, but Georgia Lee was confident that even had she been here voluntarily, she would have found the island unsettling.

It was the structures, she decided, that were so off-putting. They were old, clearly, the architecture old-fashioned and outdated, and they were falling to pieces. The road they walked along was full of cracks, and grass and weeds grew out of them. In places, a root had broken through the cement, which bulged out around it. They came, eventually, to a large imposing building, where a tree had smashed its way through a window.

It was like the island was attacking everything artificial on it, like the ground itself was eating the roads and the trees attacking the buildings. She knew, from a rational point of view, that this reclamation had started after whoever had lived here had abandoned the place, but it was hard not to imagine it happening the other way around.

It wasn’t abandoned now, though. As they approached what transpired to be a hospital, Fiyori had asked her repeatedly whether she could see anyone, and Georgia Lee had told her that she could not. It wasn’t clear to her whether the girl was looking to meet these people or to avoid them, and Georgia Lee didn’t ask. For the most part they had walked in silence. The walk wasn’t short and the bags weren’t light, and Georgia Lee had spent most of the second half of their trip waiting for Fiyori to complain. She hadn’t, not once, and Georgia Lee had been impressed despite herself.

The building, once they entered in, was in a state of utter ruin. Jagged splinters of wood jutted from shattered doors in places, and a blanket of leaves, dirt, dust and broken glass coated the floor. Footsteps and voices echoed through the corridors, though it wasn’t possible to tell where they came from, let alone who was speaking or what they were saying.

The effect, needless to say, was disquieting. Georgia Lee had glanced at Fiyori’s face, but if the other girl was bothered at all she wasn’t showing it, and so Georgia Lee too tried to keep up an exterior of calm and confidence.

They found themselves, eventually, in a foodhall of some sort. Fiyori collapsed into a chair, her long limbs folding themselves beneath her poncho. Georgia Lee drew her lips tight, one hand on her hip, the other holding the strap of the bag slung over her shoulder.

“No sitting down, not yet.” She lifted the bag off of her shoulder and let it fall to the floor, with a thump that echoed throughout the large, still room.

“We need to get some tables in front of the doors, maybe some benches too. Barricade them up, make this place secure. Once we’re safe, then we sit.”

Georgia Lee moved to one of the tables and placed two hands under the end of it, giving Fiyori a look of expectation.
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The girls shifted the tables in front of the window and the doors, lying them on their sides. They'd proved heavier than they'd looked, though they weren't as heavy as she'd have liked. It hadn't been easy getting them in place, but it also hadn't been impossible, and it wouldn't be impossible for someone outside to push past their makeshift barricades; not if they were really determined to get in.

Still, at the very least it'd by them some time, though Georgia Lee didn't know for what, exactly. To escape maybe, or to make peace, or to push back - she supposed, really, that it depended on who it was that was trying to get in. The thought of anyone trying to break through their improvised defenses was a little frightening to Georgia Lee, but she didn't think it'd come to that. On their way through the hospital they'd tried nearly every door they came past, and a number of them they couldn't get open. When that was the case they'd simply moved on, and she imagined that anyone coming across this room would act in a similar manner. As long as they kept quiet, kept their voices down and kept out of side, she thought they would be safe her; at least for a while.

Georgia Lee took a seat at one of the remaining tables, placed the bag she'd been carrying atop it, and began to sort through her new possessions.

The compass and the flashlight went straight into her pockets, and the map and the two slim books she set aside for later reading. The first aid kit went aside too, so as to be inventoried later on, and the black case filled with delicate metal tools went on top of it.

The food she set out in front of her. The bread and the crackers were basically pure carbs; not great long term, but worth loading up on if there was a lot of exercise in the future. There was a calorie count on the ration bars that easily exceeded what she'd take in on any given day, and assuming they weren't really moving around too much, could probably be stretched to last for two without too much difficulty.

If they were smart with their food, and they were careful, this could be made to last weeks. The more pressing issue was the water. There were four half-litre bottles, coming to two litres total. This was what Georgia Lee would usually drink in a day, and it certainly wouldn’t stretch long past that. They’d need to find more.

She gathered the food and the bottles back up and returned them to the bag. That was the entirety of what had come in the pack, that she had inventoried, but it didn’t account for all her new things. She touched the collar around her neck, gingerly, like one touches a bruise or a sore that one expects to hurt. It was cool metal, solid and seamless all the way around. When she’d been doing things, when she’d been active and moving, it had been easy to ignore. Now, sitting here in the quiet it was impossible to get it out of her mind. Every time she swallowed she could feel it against her throat; a constant reminder of the sort of place she was in, and of what she’d need to do to survive.

The other reminder, of course, was digging into her ankle. Fiyori’s glasses were still safely hidden in Georgia Lee’s boot, and the way they had chafed at her foot on the walk over here had felt like a penance for her manipulation and her coercion. She supposed she should get rid of them – toss them out the window or something – but somehow she couldn’t quite bring herself to. Holding onto them for a little while was clearly not honest, but it wasn’t outright evil, he didn’t think. Getting rid of them altogether felt unjustifiable.

Fiyori was staring at her, arms folded, clearly expecting something. Some great plan, perhaps; some strategy to get them out of here. Georgia Lee wanted to grab her and shake her, scream in her face that she didn’t know what to do, she didn’t know what she was doing, she was doing the best she could and why couldn’t Fiyori figure stuff out, for once? Georgia Lee did not grab her and shake her, however.

There was something of an art, she had realized, to managing Fiyori. Too much pressure and the girl would rankle and rebel, but too little and she would sense weakness, and that would be the end. Fiyori was, fundamentally, a predator – if she smelt blood she wouldn’t be able to help but bite, and so Georgia Lee had made sure to keep her voice strong, keep her back straight and keep her feelings to herself. She hadn’t cried, not once, and she was fiercely proud of that.

Wordlessly, Georgia Lee pushed her chair back and walked to the kitchen. Crockery was strewn everywhere, and most of the drawers were pulled out. She picked up a kitchen knife and ran her finger along the blade; it was so dull as to be almost useless. Georgia Lee dropped it, and it clattered into the sink. She tried to picture this place as it had been before it’d been abandoned: sleek, clean, efficient. Now it was a ruin; it was the corpse of a kitchen.

The taps were rusted, and it took a lot of effort just to turn them. A few drops of brownish sludge spurted out, and then: nothing. This was going to be a problem. She returned to the dining hall, and took a seat opposite Fiyori, who was looking at her with a sort of bored bemusement. Georgia Lee indicated the water bottles.

“This is going to be a problem. The food will last two, maybe three weeks. The water’s going to last a matter of days, and I don’t have a clue where we’ll get more: there’s certainly none running here.”

It wasn’t enough. Fiyori wasn’t sticking around just for her to point out problems. She wanted plans and solutions and tactics. Georgia Lee leant forward.

“A place this size though, there’ll be water somewhere. Water heaters maybe, or a water tank. We’ve got enough time to look around, and if we go out at night, when people are sleeping and we’re extra careful, we shouldn’t be putting ourselves at too much risk.”

Georgia Lee didn’t think she was anywhere near as confident as she sounded, but there was nothing to be gained except strife, by letting Fiyori see her as uncertain or afraid. Georgia Lee would hacve to pretend not to be scared, pretend not to be lost and confused and alone. She would pretend so well that Fiyori would be completely fooled, and If Georgia Lee was lucky she might just be able to fool herself too.

Her voice was quiet, when she spoke, but Georgia Lee felt she sounded strong. She sounded like a woman with a plan. She sounded like someone who’d survive.

“Other than that, we’re in good shape. It’s not like this place is impregnable or anything, but nobody’s getting inside easily, and I don’t know that they’d bother to try. It’s enclosed, it’s warm, it’s safe. We’ll be okay here.”

She folded her arms, mirroring Fiyori’s pose.

“Now I guess we just wait.”
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“Last three years, Fiyori. I’m a junior.”

The correction was reflexive, Georgia Lee couldn’t have helped herself had she tried, but the second the words were out of her mouth she could see Fiyori’s nostrils flaring.

In principle Georgia Lee was right, she knew; she was a junior, and why should she not be able to tell people that? Was it her fault Fiyori couldn’t remember her age? It was a service that one was given, when one was corrected – a mark of respect, almost. If nobody bothered to correct you, you’d just run around being wrong the whole time, and then where would that get you?

Still, now was not the time to be clinging to etiquette. She’d have to apologize. Georgia Lee looked down at the table, feeling deeply uncomfortable.

“Hey… sorry, that wasn’t necessary, I know. Force of habit.” She raised her eyes to meet Fiyori’s.

The temptation was to blame the situation, say that it was too stressful, too strange for her to be tactful, but this was deeply unwise. Fiyori wasn’t looking for excuses and she wouldn’t respond to professions of weakness. The best thing for Georgia Lee to do was just to acknowledge her mistake and move on. She cleared her throat.

“Anyway, I’ve had my differences with our classmates, sure, but… honestly you were the worst. I don’t mean offense by that or anything, but just that… look, if we can get along okay, I doubt any of the others are going out of their way to come after me.”

Fiyori’s face was a picture of doubt, like it was so hard to believe that people wouldn’t hate her. Georgia Lee felt her face beginning to grow warm, her temper getting sharper. How dare this girl think she knew her, when she had only ever seen her at her worst, and only then because she brought out her worst, with the teasing and the bullying and the constant harassment.

She paused for a moment, counting to five in her head before speaking again. She’d come to far to let her temper get the better of her.

“What about you, Fiyori? Any grudges that people have been nursing for you?”
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Despite Georgia Lee’s best efforts, a smile crept onto her face.

It was hearing Fiyori and Bradley were on bad terms that did it because it was so normal and because they had that in common and because of course they were. Under the poncho and the cynicism and the permanent leer, Fiyori was still a girl, so of Bradley had been absolutely vile to her. If the old adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” held true, Bradley’s very presence on this trip would probably serve to unite everyone with a pair of X chromosomes.

She could see looking at her like she’d grown a second head, and Georgia Lee laughed out loud at the puzzlement on the girl’s face.

“I’m sorry, it’s just… do you think there’s anyone at this school who doesn’t hate Bradley? I mean he’s just so…”

Thinking of Bradley’s flat, hamburger face brought back memories of revulsion. Bradley was a festering sore of a human being, someone who lived only to disgust and outrage everyone around him, and women in particular.

“I remember once, we were in line at the cafeteria, and I notice him staring at my, y’know, at my crotch. This is freshman year, I’m wearing these… these light grey jeans, I don’t think I have them anymore, and I kind of… I guess I freak out a little. Just in my head I mean, I get scared, I think maybe I’ve torn them, or there’s blood, or I’ve left them unbuttoned or I’ve spilt something or I’ve wet myself or… y’know, whatever. A million things. So I look down, and they’re fine. There’s nothing wrong.”

Georgia Lee ran her thumb along her brow and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear.

“So I ask him ‘Hey, what’re you looking at?’, and he looks me in the eye, and he says…” Georgia Lee chuckled, amused despite herself. At the time she’d been mortified, but now, looking back it was actually almost funny. There was nothing like the threat of death, she supposed, to put some awful lump’s adolescent cries for attention in perspective.

“…he says ‘You gonna eat that?’”

Fiyori smiled, and Georgia Lee smiled with her. Then one of them started to laugh, Georgia Lee couldn’t’ve said who, and the other joined in with her. The girls laughed and they laughed and they laughed, until Georgia Lee felt tears in her eyes.

There was something so comforting about thinking about Bradley, even in all his awfulness. It was because it was so familiar, she decided. It was so common, as much a part of Kingman as any other annoyance, like the mosquitoes at night or the heat in the summer, you had Bradley at the school. He was a pain, of course, but he was Kingman’s pain, for whatever that was worse.

Georgia Lee’s laughter faded, as she realized Bradley was probably dead by now. She couldn’t count the number of times Bradley had annoyed her enough to want to end him, even just by being present. Now he was around people not only permitted and equipped to do that, but encouraged? If he was still alive, Georgia Lee didn’t see it lasting.

She looked down, no longer finding anything funny.
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A silence seemed to stretch between them. Georgia Lee rubbed her temples, then slid her hands back, drawing her hair out of her face. Fiyori was looking at her hungrily, but no more hungry than usual, Georgia Lee thought. As for herself, she was looking… she didn’t know. Tired, probably? She tried to remember if there’d been anything reflective in the kitchen.

It was a good plan, but it wasn’t wise to tell Fiyori that. If Fiyori started thinking that she could make good plans, she might start wondering what she needed Georgia Lee around for, and that wasn’t a road that Georgia Lee wanted to go down. No, she needed to find fault.

“…The scissors will get blunt,” she said, finally.

She thought for a moment more, as the girls sat in silence. Then, Georgia Lee took the pair of scissors from Fiyori’s hand and placed them with one handle on the side of the table, and the other hanging off of it. She brought the heel of her hand down on the overlapping handle, hard, and the screw holding them together came partially out. She hit it again and the blades of the scissors came apart.

Georgia Lee handed one back to Fiyori.

“Here. This way only one pair will be ruined.”

With the other blade in hand, Georgia Lee looked down at the table in front of her, and thought about who she trusted.
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She thought about her classmates, and she thought about trust.

She could remember, about a year ago, sitting in some class. Which class it was exactly wasn’t clear to her – she thought it might have been calculus, or something along those lines – but it didn’t really matter. They’d been told to pair up, and Georgia Lee was sitting, waiting for people to come and ask to be her partner. She answered nearly every question that was put to the class, she was nearly a week ahead on her homework, and she was generally acknowledged to be far and away that class’ best student. Her classmates, she reasoned, would be falling over one another to partner up with her.

Georgia Lee had sat at her desk and she’d watched her classmates pair off with one another, and she’d started to wonder whether they saw her sitting there. Maybe, she thought, they didn’t see her at all; they’d somehow missed how she knew every answer and how she handed everything in at least three days before it was due. Maybe they somehow didn’t know her worth.

She'd stood up, to make herself more visible, and she’d looked around and seen girls she’d thought were her friends, huddled together, already talking about what was their project. Still nobody came and talked to her, and Georgia Lee stood, watching everyone settling into their groups, until she had realized it was only her standing and everyone else had started to work. She’d sat down, then, and she’d done the project on her own.

Her grade had been the highest in the class, but as they’d been informed of this Georgia Lee had looked around, and the eyes that met hers were certainly not filled with admiration.

It had been humiliating, when she was standing alone in that classroom. Georgia Lee could remember her face burning, her hands tense against the desk, her eyes not making contact with anyone else’s. It had hurt, being left out like that, and it had left her feeling lonely, and feeling unwanted. She’d closed her eyes as she worked that day, and tried to pretend there was nobody else in the classroom, just her, by herself.

The feelings of distress and embarrassment came back to her now, as Georgia Lee recalled the incident, but mixed in with them was a strange, fierce pride. It had been hard, and it had been lonely, and she’d wondered and worried so long and so often how much better and easier and nicer her life might be if she hadn’t set herself apart from her fellows. At times it had been awful, and what had she done? She had done nothing. She hadn’t changed and she hadn’t compromised and she hadn’t let all the ire and jealousy and insecurity in the world turn her into someone she wasn’t.

Georgia Lee liked who she was. She was proud of who she was. So some of her fellow pupils couldn’t see her worth; so what? She’d just add that to the already enormous pile of evidence of their idiocy.

Not everyone had been awful. Some of her schoolfellows had been smart, and kind, and friendly, and had noticed Georgia Lee and valued her for who she was. Theirs were the names she'd carved into the desk.
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Carving the names into the table had been hard work. Georgia Lee’s hand hurt, and she wiped it on the hem of her dress. Standing, stretching her back and ignoring the girl’s barbs, she peered over at Fiyori’s list.

One of the names on the list of people she trusted was on Georgia Lee’s own list. Three more were people she liked, and didn’t have a problem with, and another three she barely knew. The last name, though, was an issue. Georgia Lee tapped it with a finger

“Fiyori that’s… mmhmm, no,” she shook her head, “that’s not going to work. Look, I know you know him, I know you’re friends, but… I mean he’s unstable, right?”

Georga Lee was doing her best to be diplomatic. From what she’d heard, Ty Yazzie was more than simply unstable; the boy was borderline psychotic.

“Everyone else here, on this list… I mean you’re taller than all of them, and they’re… I know Alice. I know Aiden. I know Enzo, y’know, they’re reasonable people. If we get Ty in here, and he loses control, and he will lose control because even normal people lose control in this… situation, I mean… what can we do?”

Ty was a giant, a caricature of a “dangerous youth” with his mohawk and his piercings and his tattoos and his coke-can skin. Georgia Lee had witnessed his rage first hand once before, when he’d practically cornered her in the library after she’d noted how loud he was being. He hadn’t done anything there, but that was in a room full of people in an ordinary, peaceful school, and with his little girlfriend calming him down. There’d been circumstances where he hadn’t been so constrained, Georgia Lee had heard the stories, and she’d heard what’d happened to people who pissed him off, too.

“Everyone else on this list is fine, I’ll welcome them with open arms. But Ty… Fiyori, we can’t risk it.”
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At least they’d talked?

Fiyori said that like it was a silver lining and that worried Georgia Lee, who hadn’t seen a cloud. They didn’t need some consolation prize, not as far as she knew – Fiyori had been talking like they’d reached a resolution. If that wasn’t the case, if Fiyori thought they hadn’t resolved things and she wasn’t being open about it, well. That could be a problem.

It wasn’t worth addressing, Georgia Lee decided; there’d be nothing to be gained from pressing the girl at this time. Still, it was worth watching out for. She pocketed the scissor blade that she’d been holding.

“Look, moving on, I figure our main concerns are water, and people trying to get in. There isn’t water in the kitchen, but there’re still things in there that could be useful. If we grab a few pots and tape them to a broom or something, we can stick them out the window, maybe catch some water if it decides to rain. It’s cloudy enough, so I think we’ve a decent shot.”

Georgia Lee shot a glance out the window. The sky was the colour of refill paper.

“All the pointy utensils have rusted to nothing, but there’s pans in there which are in okay condition. I’m not saying we’ll need to hit anyone… I hope we don’t I mean, obviously, but if we do…” she left the thought unfinished. Fiyori would know what she was getting at.
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The table was strewn with flakes of plastic, dug out by Georgia Lee and Fiyori carving their lists. She brushed some aside with a sweep of her hand.

"There's no hurry. If it starts to rain, we'll hear it. In the meantime..."

Georgia Lee gave a little shrug.

"I suppose we just wait."
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There was a weight to the question, Georgia Lee thought. She leant back, meeting Fiyori’s eyes, searching for some indication of what the other girl was looking for. If there was anything there, Georgia Lee couldn’t find it.

“Law,” she said finally. “I want to practice law, in New York. Make good money, make a good name for myself, make… I don’t know, a new life. I want to travel, you know? See everything there is to see. Kingman’s so… I mean, you know Kingman. There’s nothing there, and… it just never seemed fair.”

Fiyori’s face was opaque.

“I just always wanted more, you know? I still want more, I mean. I miss Kingman, I miss it so much more than I expected I would, but I’ve always felt like I belonged somewhere bigger.”

Her ambitions sounded strangely petty when Georgia Lee said them out loud. They’d always seemed so huge to her, so vital. Now, putting them into words they sounded childish and superficial. She could feel a blush creeping up her cheeks.

“What about you?” she said hurriedly. “What is it you’ll do, once we get out of here?”
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Of course the girl had no ambition, of course she did. It was an idiotic question to have asked, really.

Georgia Lee didn’t know which it was, nor did she know which would be worse – whether Fiyori simply hadn’t planned anything, and was expecting her life to somehow just work itself out, as if by magic; or whether she actively wanted nothing from her life, and was content to spend the rest of her days in Kingman, Arizona. Both were sickening prospects.

The girl wasn’t a halfwit. The plan with the names had been a good one, and on the bridge she’d seemed dangerously sharp. It wasn’t like she didn’t have some kind of intellectual potential; it just seemed she was content to squander it. Well, that was her own problem. It was enough of a battle for Georgia Lee to motivate herself; she couldn’t be expected to inspire everyone else as well. Long-term, Fiyori would have to solve her own problems.

To get to that point, though, they’d need to get out of here. Georgia Lee thought about where she’d want to be, if she wasn’t trapped on this island, or stuck in Kingman. The list was expansive.

“Everywhere, I guess. Everywhere and everything. South America and Asia and Europe and Africa. I want to see forests and jungles and plains and tundras and castles and canyons and cities and swamps and mountains and hills and oceans. Everything there is to see, I want to see it. What’s the point in the world being as big as it is, if we don’t experience it?”

She paused for a moment.

“Just… no more desert. I’ve had my fill of that.”
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“It’s not so weird.”

Georgia Lee leant forward, resting her cheek on her palm.

“I mean, I haven’t been there either, not really. I went with my family when I think I was about,2, maybe 3. I don’t remember any of it or anything.”

She could picture herself though, standing on the rim of the canyon, and looking down and down and down. It was a fabrication of course, an image pieced together from pictures and TV, not something that had ever happened in any real sense. Georgia Lee had never been much given to spending time in fantasy, and the vividness of her imagining surprised her.

It was this place, she supposed, that was responsible. Sitting here with Fiyori while their classmates slaughtered each other outside – it felt so much like a dream, so it was no wonder her dreams were feeling real.

She crossed her legs under the table, and felt Fiyori’s glasses against her ankle.

“Maybe I’ll go there after this is over.”
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Georgia Lee considered suggesting that they go see the canyon together, then thought better of it. It was empty sentimentality, and it’d only serve to make the other girl see her as weak. Georgia Lee regarded her in silence, instead.

A strand of hair had fallen across Fiyori’s face. The girl didn’t seem to notice it, but when Georgia Lee looked across at her it was all she could look at. She wanted to reach over the table and sweep it out of her face; tuck it behind her ear. Georgia Lee looked away.

She didn’t know how long they’d been in here for – perhaps an hour? It was certainly lighter than it had been, the sun now high enough in the sky to be seen out the partially-blockaded window, and the stale smell of the air had faded, or at least she’d grown accustomed to it.

Outside there were footsteps that grew closer, then faded. The halls echoed, and she couldn’t tell if it was one person or three. Georgia Lee realised she’d been holding her breath, and let it out all at once, feeling strangely numb. What would she have done if the footsteps hadn’t stopped? If the owners of the feet had tried to get in, perhaps even tried to kill her?

Georgia Lee didn’t know. She strained to hear more, to see if the footsteppers would come back, but the only sound now was from a bird, outside the window – Georgia Lee couldn’t tell one kind, but it was oddly beautiful. She found herself lost, listening to its whistling melody, and almost completely missed what Fiyori said next.

“Hmm?”

Something about Aiden. How Georgia Lee knew him – right, she’d mentioned that earlier. It seemed like Fiyori hadn’t heard the feet, or simply hadn’t thought them a big enough deal to mention. Or was it some test, designed to see if she’d say anything?

Georgia Lee’s thoughts were wandering from exhaustion, or perhaps as some self defence mechanism, to keep from thinking about the situation she had found herself in. She snapped them back into focus.

“Aiden, right. I tutored him in maths… tutor him in maths?”

It was nice, for a moment, thinking of Aiden’s bird face and his carnival-barker patter. The boy spoke like a used car salesman and he’d had an interest in studying in his bedroom that Georgia Lee had suspected was less than wholesome, but when he’d been able to concentrate he wasn’t a bad student, and he’d certainly paid well. She’d set him tougher exercises than usual, as homework after their last session. Georgia Lee wondered if he’d done them.

She wondered if she’d ever find out.

Fiyori was clearly waiting for her to elaborate, but there was nothing more Georgia Lee had to say about Aiden, the poor, strange, tiny boy who was probably dying as they spoke. It was an awful thought.

“…It’s not going to be the same, is it? When we go back home, I mean. Nothing’s going to be how it was…”
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Georgia Lee pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Did you ever know Stacey Prescott? She’d have been a senior when you were a freshman, I think. In Cochise.”

Fiyori shook her head.

“She went to my church. We took the youth group I was in, and we did community work together, stuff like that. She was really nice, real sweet. Anyway, when I’m a freshman, so 2013, she gets in this car crash, and it’s… you know, it’s bad. I think it was raining or something, I can’t quite remember, but the car goes off the road and it hits a power pole. Stacey’s okay, but her fiance’s with her – I think it was him driving, maybe – and he doesn’t make it.”

Georgia Lee paused for a moment, lost in recollection.

“I can’t remember his name. A couple of years older than her, I think. He went to my church, but for the life of me I can’t recall what he was called. How terrible is that?”

Probably not that terrible, Georgia Lee realized, in the grand scheme of the state of their lives right now. She continued.

“Stacey breaks her wrist or something, but she’s basically okay. She goes back to her job, she comes back to church, she moves on, but… I don’t know. People treated her like she was made of glass, after that. Nobody asked her to do anything, nobody expected a thing of her. Nobody talked to her really, ‘cause I guess they didn’t know what to say. I didn’t talk to her either, I mean, I wasn’t any better. It was awful.”

She wrapped her arms around herself.

“People better not treat us like that, when we get back.”
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It was shocking, hearing Fiyori say she was sorry.

It was like the girl had just started speaking Chinese, the word was so foreign and unexpected. There was something somehow vulgar, almost profane, about hearing that word from that girl’s mouth. Georgia Lee imagined the experience was comparable hearing a pastor swear, or a nun “talk dirty”. The gesture she appreciated, but she couldn’t help but feel a pang of revulsion.

It was so… unnatural.

“I don’t want to be famous, Fiyori.”

The words sounded so petulant, like an ungrateful child. Georgia Lee hated herself as she heard them.

“Not just that, I mean. If people know me, if people recognize me… I mean, I’m not scared of it, but it’s not something I’m chasing. If I’m famous I want to be known for what I’ve done, for how good I am, not for… for murdering my friends.”

She met Fiyori’s eyes. They were startlingly blue, the bluest eyes Georgia Lee had seen on anybody, let alone a black girl. How had she never noticed them before?

It took her a second or so to remember that the answer to that question was tucked against her ankle, and Georgia Lee felt a sudden stab of guilt. She bit her lip.

“I don’t want anything from this. Not fame, not money, not… not anything. I don’t want there to be a single thing in my life that I can point to and say someone gave to me, and especially not these… these creatures. I know… I mean, I’m not naïve, Fiyori. I know things aren’t going to be how they were, but…”

She trailed off.

“It doesn’t matter. I mean The Secret’s a joke, right? No amount of wanting gets you anything. First things first is to survive, and we’ll worry about the rest when it happens.”

Georgia Lee forced a smile.
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