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This Be The Verse; Open
Topic Started: Oct 6 2016, 09:34 PM (2,287 Views)
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[ *  *  *  * ]
[Arthur Bernstein continued from Self Doubts and Hurricanes]

It had been a very quiet day from then on.

Arthur knew that Coleen wasn't the most talkative of people, but he didn't think things would be as silent as they got. When he had caught up to her after leaving the shore the previous day, she was already well on her way back in the direction she had come before. Arthur had said hello, gotten a small "Hey" back, and the two went on their way together. When the time eventually came for the two to find somewhere to hide out, they settled on the gym building. The interior was not untouched: a mirror had been shattered prior to their arrival.

Arthur remembered only a few other things of note from the night before. He had eaten some of his crackers and drank a few gulps of water before walking around the gym, looking at the different equipment that had been left lying around. At one point, he picked up a medicine ball, walked over to a weightlifting bench, and put it down on the headrest, walking off for a little while longer before he returned to his makeshift cot to sleep. He soon found that medicine balls made awful pillows, rolled the ball off to the side, and went to bed in silence. He did not remember his dreams that night.

The first droplets of the day's light from the windows in the ceiling were what woke him up the next morning. He rose from the bench gradually and yawned, stretching his arms out widely to his sides. He scratched at his face as he looked around the room, confused, for the first few minutes until he saw his bag on the ground and remembered where he was. If he had been facing one of the many mirrors in the room, he would've seen some of the color drain from his face. Instead, he stared deeply into his hands, unsure what to do next. Arthur's stomach decided for him - he soon became overwhelmed with hunger pains. Clumsily, he reached for his bag, pulled it close by the strap, and fished out a loaf of bread for breakfast.

His thoughts, dazed and confused, had yet to take the shape of words in his head. Instead, he felt only discomfort in his own skin, stretching his limbs out the furthest they would go, over and over and over, until they felt like they would rip from their sockets at any second. His eyes found a camera in the corner of the ceiling, pointing at his face. With two fingers, Arthur gave a little wave in its direction, and turned his eyes toward the floor as he ate.

Then, he heard shifting somewhere behind him, and remembered he was not alone.

"Morning," he said, turning to face his roommate.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
Arthur gulped down the last chunk of bread as Coleen woke up. She looked worse for wear than he did - even though Arthur hadn't given himself a good look in the mirror, he felt like he couldn't look too bad, being that there wasn't as much that could go wrong with features as average as his. As Coleen reached into her bag, Arthur put his own bread back down into his bag, zipped it up, and turned back to find Coleen gazing into her day pack.

"Hmm?" Arthur asked, tilting his head, "Something up?" From where he was sitting, he tried to get a better look at what could be inside the bag, but Coleen's frame blocked all angles he could've had. Besides, there wasn't much that could be going on in the first place. The worst thing that Arthur could imagine going wrong inside of a sealed bag is a bottle of water bursting, soaking all the contents inside. Now that would be a way to force someone to steal, or kill, or hunt for supplies. Pop their water bottles, just like they could pop their collars. In either case, a lot of liquid would be lost.

Arthur stood up from the bench and did some leg stretches, exercises he learned from playing soccer. Right now, there was nothing more satisfying to him than feeling his tired body and his tired mind come together in awareness and synchronicity like a finely constructed machine. He recalled a tidbit he read once about how older video games have input lag on newer televisions, meaning that the space in between, say, pressing the jump button and actually jumping was more easily perceivable. By stretching, Arthur imagined himself cutting out the input lag to his own body, hooking up to the proper hardware, so to speak.

He glanced over again at Coleen, and wondered if she would get up and do some stretches, too.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
"You can have some of mine," Arthur offered habitually, before realizing what he was saying. At home, Marie would ask him to share food all the time. Even if there wasn't anything in particular about Coleen that reminded Arthur of his little sister, he felt the same level of care towards her. "I mean, if you want," He added. Arthur knew that offering something and then immediately taking it back would look suspect, and either way, he didn't think he'd run out of food anytime soon. The assembled rations in the bag seemed enough for him.

Then, Coleen asked him about the time. "No clue what time it is," Arthur said, shrugging, "But if I had to guess, I'd say early morning." He hoped he wasn't just restating the obvious, but given the situation, it was all the information he had. Silently, he wished to himself that he carried a watch on him. If he could find one later, then he'd take it, even if it was off of someone's co-

"Bzzzzt!"

Suddenly, the walls of the gym began to crackle, sending Arthur's eyes darting around the room frantically. He grabbed his bag off of the floor, unsure of what the new sound could mean, and walked over to the side of the room that Coleen was on. He felt, strangely, drawn to her, almost as if to protect her.

He had felt a similar pull to Jasper and Henry, but, obviously, one pull won out over the other.

"You heard that, right?" Arthur asked, as the static sound continued on.

Then, the static gave way to a momentary silence. Dust froze in mid air, and all seemed right again with the world.

Arthur sighed deeply, but all too early, as he was soon interrupted by a voice that made him wish he had the static back to ring in his ears.

"Good morning ladies, gentlemen and those of unspecified gender."

"Oh, fuck off," Arthur muttered, listening silently to the announcement.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
The voice from the walls conjured up images of blood splatters and the sound of gunshots. No doubt about it, this was the man that introduced Arthur - no, all of them - to the game of death. The hair on the back of Arthur's neck stood on end as he listened intently to what he had to say. Coleen had stood up, fixing her eyes on him, and Arthur was unsure whether or not to draw back. He would say something, reassuring words for healing, not hurting, but he didn't want to miss anything important on the announcement.

He knew Jennifer as an acquaintance, and the thought of her dying so early on made Arthur's blood run cold. As the list went on, though, he realized that she had been the lucky one. His classmates had been brutally stabbed by each other, committed suicide by slashing their own wrists, making falling off of a bridge look like a slap on the wrist in comparison. Silently, he took note of the killers' names, checking them with what he knew of the faces they belonged to. He figured it would be easier to stay clear of all of them, not letting any exceptions through, but he didn't want to write off any potential allies, Kimiko in particular. He remembered her to be a Buddhist (or something like that, the exact words escaping him), so her having killed someone else just didn't click in his mind.

Barry's death hit him the hardest. He could remember Barry's smile, his relentless attitude towards life, his friendly disposition towards his teammates. The thought that the Iron Man could be one of the first to fall was not one Arthur wanted to sit with for very long.

Luckily, he didn't have to. Coleen asked him for something, pulling him out of his musings before they became too much to bear.

"Yeah, here," He said, reaching into his bag and pulling out the map. He unfolded it, placing his finger on the Supply Depot. "We were just over there, so we should be fine in regards to that," Arthur remarked, recalling Henry and Jasper and their departure in the opposite direction. Hopefully, they had been able to vacate the area too. Thank God their names weren't in the announcements, he thought to himself. He knew he wouldn't be able to live with the guilt if they were.

At least, given the circumstances, he wouldn't have to live with it for very long.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
It had all happened in naught but an instant. Bradley Floyd strode into the room with two girls behind him. He recognized one of them as Bryony, but the other he hadn't ever seen before, not even walking around town. As Bradley walked in, he saved Arthur the trouble of introducing himself, although he got his name wrong. Arthur's eyes narrowed, his brow furrowed. The girl he didn't recognize greeted him, offering a small wave of her hand and a whispered 'hello,' while Bryony just raised her arm.

"Not Leonard," he corrected curtly, "Arthur. My name is Arthur." He felt himself unconsciously taking a small step forward, putting himself in between Coleen and the others. If things went south, they'd be outnumbered, and Coleen didn't look like she was in any position to defend herself. He wasn't even going to start on correcting Bradley on his egregious error towards Coleen (What had he even said? Sandra something or other?) as he figured she'd correct it herself. Maybe that was assuming just a little too much of one of the shyest girls in the class.

It was strange to see Bryony and Coleen in the same room, for some odd reason. Arthur's mind wandered, a half-baked dream surfacing before his eyes. He imagined Coleen trying to talk to Bryony, but being unable to start the conversation. Bryony, being shy as well, was unsure what to do, and the two began to stutter at each other indefinitely in his mind. Silently, he pitied the meeting that had never happened. He wished he could write it down somewhere, and balled up his fist, his head still in the clouds. It could've happened, he posited, but he wouldn't have been around to see it either way. He preferred to spend his free time at home, and Coleen and Bryony probably did too. Still, the idea of the two staring at each other, silently, like two owls perched on the branch of an oak tree. Lost in thought, he imagined sitting underneath that oak tree, somewhere far away, and reading a book. He couldn't begin to fathom what he would give to be there right now and not here.

The door opened, snapping Arthur out of his flash delirium.

Speaking of silent owls...

Arthur opened his mouth to say something to her. The spear in her hands worried him greatly, the sunlight from above glinting off of it ever so slightly into his eyes. Before he could extend an olive branch to Kimiko, however, the girl he didn't know greeted her instead. At least she was being polite, he thought, relieved that things hadn't gone quite as bad as they could've. She was, after all, a killer, regardless of whether or not it was in self defense. At least Bradley hadn't been the first to spe-

"Hey Kimiko. Guessing they didn't let you keep a little gadget to write things down on? Because an internet connected device would be useful right now."

Arthur's jaw dropped slightly open as Bradley spat line after line at Kimiko, none of them in good taste. He wouldn't stop. Just when one line ended, another began, each one taking apart Kimiko's inability to speak further and further, as if she didn't need any more reminders. The already tensed fist by his side closed tighter around itself, and Arthur felt a quiet anger start to burn in the pit of his stomach. Bryony squeaked out a few words of protest to Bradley's side, but Arthur knew it wouldn't be enough to shake Bradley down.

"Enough," Arthur said, speaking from his chest and in a disciplinary tone, "Bradley, that's enough."

Just a few moments ago, he had thought about how it didn't make sense that Kimiko could've killed someone. Now, he was beginning to see what could've interaction could've egged it on.

And he didn't like it, not one bit.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
It all happened so fast.

Bradley had snapped at him, and Arthur was surprised that he wasn't expecting it. Given how he had been acting toward Kimiko, it was a given that he'd lash out if Arthur did anything to bring some sort of common decency into the room. The venom that seeped from his words stung worse than he was prepared for, and Arthur took a step back just as Coleen had stepped forward, past him. He had to keep every muscle in his body from walking forward, ahead of her. It would only add more tension to an already undesirable situation, he reasoned, and he didn't want to risk knocking down the house of cards they had built in that room that was already ready to fall down with the gust of an ill wind.

The words coming out of Bradley's mouth had lost all meaning to Arthur. He was snapping at Kimiko like a dog, spit and saliva flung from his jowls with each dehumanizing syllable. Layer after layer of insults piled onto her, barks with no bite to back them up. Kimiko stepped toward Bradley, and Arthur could see restraint in her face. It was taking her a lot to keep from piercing his chest, in the center of the room, while the three girls looked on helplessly. Arthur knew that, were something to happen, he would be the only one able to act.

Kimiko took the high road, anyway. She walked away from the situation, having realized that there was nothing she could gain. Arthur wanted to go with her, but found himself unable to move. That was fine with him, too. At least Kimiko was showing restraint. Even if it wasn't enough to keep her from flipping him off. Arthur knew it was the only act of retribution she could muster short of impaling him. She kept her cool. Arthur approved of that.

Then, Bradley snarled once more, and the house of cards came tumbling down. Arthur could do nothing but watch as Bradley crumbled to the ground and Kimiko ran away. He couldn't hear Coleen's screams over the ringing in his ears. The nameless girl rushed to Bradley's side and knelt next to him. Arthur knelt down too, but further away, the stench of fresh blood keeping him from getting too close. She was shouting, asking him to do something, anything.

"I don't," Arthur stammered out, his earlier wishful thinking dancing circles around his head, cackling all the while. He held a hand out and let it stay there, in front of him, reaching ever so slowly toward Bradley's back. "Bradley," He managed to cough up before he had to close his mouth to keep down the bile rising out of his stomach. Arthur turned his face to the ground, covering it with his outstretched hand. He couldn't watch as Bradley's soul came out, whimpering, from his body, and climbed down into the ground from where he came.

When he finally looked up from the floor, the nameless girl's hands were wrapped around Bradley's gun. Arthur's eyes widened momentarily before she spoke. She wanted to bring Kimiko to justice. Arthur nodded in agreement, trying to look strong. His hands were shaking still, and as he stood up he could feel his legs threatening to give way. His eyes turned to Coleen, then to Bryony. He couldn't look them in the face for longer than a second.

His eyes finally settled on a camera in the corner of the room.

Arthur froze, save for the exhausted panting that wracked his body with each passing moment.

If Marie had been watching him, she would've just seen a man die.

The tremors returned, threatening to bring him back down to the ground.

He couldn't let those thoughts take over him. He needed to be strong.

"We'll find her," Arthur said, turning back to the girl with no name, "And we'll..."

"We'll..."

Arthur shook his heavy head, before he walked over to his bag and sorted through his belongings as he tried his best not to look upward.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
Arthur zipped up his bag, putting it on top of his bed, his eyes sweeping the room just in time to see Coleen walk outside the building to throw up. Suddenly, Arthur's own throat began to feel very dry. He turned himself away from the spectacle, his eyes resting on the corpse at the center of the room. At the very least, he couldn't suddenly start bleeding just by looking at blood. Arthur knew that when it came to vomit, he didn't have the strongest of constitutions.

That could've been me.

The thought crept up into his mind from beneath, wrapping cold fingers around his throat from the inside out. If Arthur had intervened, or said the wrong thing, any number of things could've happened to him.

Bradley could've panicked and opened fire.

Kimiko might see him as a threat and lunge with her spear.

As the nameless girl went on about finding Kimiko, Arthur's mind wandered to the paintball gun he had laid on the floor, propped on the wall against his makeshift bed. He turned around and picked it up, studying it with his fingers. A toy gun could be the only thing saving Arthur from certain death. He shivered, before turning back around.

"If you want to knock her out of the running," Arthur said, cradling the now familiar gun in his hands, "This might do the trick. Ever been shot with a paintball? Me neither. I hear they sting. Hard. Should be enough to incapacitate her without actually...without..."

Arthur shook his head. "You know what I mean."

Was he going to leave Coleen, just like that? Of course not. He wanted to bring her with him; he needed to make sure that no one died on his watch.

His eyes wandered once more, back to the body.

He needed to make sure that nobody else died, not while he was around. Not Coleen, not Bryony, not the nameless girl and not even Kimiko.

Not while he was still breathing.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
Bryony. Coleen. Neither of them were coming with them.

Except the nameless girl spoke like she was alone. Like Arthur wasn't going to join her. Like he didn't exist.

Was he going to go with her? He still wasn't sure. He knew Bryony and Coleen weren't going, and he needed to make sure they ended up alright.

For their safety.

For his own safety.

"Okay," Arthur said finally. He backed up, took a seat on the weight lifting bench. Staring down at the gun in his hands, Arthur began to wonder how it'd feel to be shot. Not just by a paintball, but by a real life bullet, of which there were probably many in the hands of his classmates.

Did he trust them? Any of them at all?

Did it really matter?

Arthur couldn't look up at the nameless girl, or Bryony, or over to Coleen, or over to...

To...

He couldn't even think of the corpse's name, as if speaking it internally was going to curse him to the same fate. It wasn't even a person to him anymore. Just a statue, never living, never dying, caught in the middle of fulfilling an unspoken yet eternal pact, that being that he would, some day, die, in exchange for the opportunity to live. Even in death, red liquid pooled at his knees, staining the ground, leaving one last mark on the space it had once lived through. The universe, in its unending, incomprehensible mentality, had merely let go of one last afterthought, casting it away into its crimson pool of forgotten memories and unwanted desires, unwelcome guilt and feelings rarely felt.

Bradley Floyd died a fool, held in utter contempt by all who had surrounded him in his final moments.

Maybe not all, but Arthur knew that at the very least one of them had felt that he had it coming.

Arthur shut his eyes, listening to the room around him swirl and stutter in its heavy silence.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
Arthur opened his eyes just in time to see the nameless girl leave the room. He could tell, deep down, that she wouldn't be coming back for a long, long time. Bryony's pleading had almost been enough for him to stand up and do something, almost enough for him to take charge, but every time he felt a surge of courage begin to flow through him, the smell of blood wafted up to his nostrils once more, and he was defeated. The nameless girl was stronger than he was. He had conceded, in front of Coleen, in front of Bryony, and in front of his sister miles away. He felt useless. He hated feeling useless.

"I'm not going with her," Arthur said, finally pulling himself up off of the bench with wobbly knees and a broken spirit. He turned toward Bradley's corpse, the sting of death hitting his eyes anew, screaming at him to look away. This can't just stay here, Arthur thought, Nobody should have to be reminded of this any longer. Slowly, he walked toward the corpse, each step bringing the scent of death closer to his nostrils.

"I'm gonna move him out of the way," He announced, "I can't look anymore, I don't want to, and I don't think anybody does." Reluctantly, as if having to push through a viscous bubble, he reached down and felt Bradley's shoulders. The stiffness of the body made Arthur sick, the crazed look on Bradley's face adding more fuel to the flame. Arthur knew that if he was going to get Bradley's body anywhere, he was going to have to take the spear out of his chest. He just wasn't sure if he could work it up within himself to do it while Bryony and Coleen were in the room. He put his hands around the wooden shaft a thousand different ways, but none of them felt workable. Defeated, he sighed deeply before reaching underneath Bradley's armpits and lifting him up. His feet still dragged on the ground, and Arthur hated the angle he had to stand at to avoid being poked by the hilt of the spear, but he was mobile.

Slowly, Arthur began to drag the body out towards the door.
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
"Well," Arthur said to the wind, "This is a fine mess you've gotten yourself into."

Bradley's corpse lay propped up against the outer wall of the gym, out of sight from the door. When he left with Coleen, he didn't want to have to look at it ever again. He heard footsteps pattering off in the distance, away from the gymnasium, and guessed that it had been Bryony's turn to leave. If she felt that she could make it on her own, then fine. He didn't mind. There were worse things that could have happened to her than running away. What if Coleen had snapped, or something? Crazier things had happened.

Arthur was alone, with the body, and the air on his tongue, and he hated every second of it. Not just the air, poisoned with the smell of death, but how he had began to think about Bradley as some sort of temple, a sacred object. Even his thoughts, for the most part, stayed clean of any words of disrespect toward the dead.

"This is hell," Arthur murmured, "No two ways about it. This is the end of the line for everybody."

Had any plans he made gone through? Were any of the thoughts running around his mind going to manifest into reality? Arthur thought he would stay with Henry and Jasper, and he left them as soon as he saw someone else walking his way. He promised to himself that he'd make sure that nobody would get hurt while he was around, and he knew where that ended up getting him. Arthur's promise to go with the nameless girl to find Kimiko? Empty. Arthur's promise to make sure that Bryony stayed safe, as well as Coleen? Void. His promise he made to his mother, in heaven above, that Marie would never have to see him broken and defeated? Broken the moment it was made.

Arthur bit down on his tongue. Hard. If Bradley's body was sacred, he was about to commit a cardinal sin.

Without thinking, he stomped his foot into Bradley's chest, grabbed the spear with all the force he could muster, and pulled it out, listening to the sickening squelch it made as it slid from its place. A torrent of blood spilled out after it, making the body newly wet with red. Arthur stepped backward, reeling from the impact that taking the spear had made, and thus avoided getting any more blood on himself than he already had. He turned the spear around in his hands. The wood had splintered slightly around the tip, and the metal end was dripping with viscera, but it was a better weapon than the miserable excuse for a gun he had started with. Turning away from the wind, Arthur spun the spear around in his hands, drips of blood and loose splinters flung onto the ground before him.

He looked over the weapon once more, decided it was clean enough, and went back inside to find Coleen standing in the corner, softly weeping.

"Deed's done," He said, a touch of venom to his words. He tapped the ground with the base end of the spear and heard the sound resonate through the gym.

"So, do you want me to leave you be, or do you want to come with me? Because I'm not going to stay here for long, and I don't want you linger here too long either."
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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[ *  *  *  * ]
It was settled, then. Coleen was coming with him. Arthur turned and looked out the doorway at the weary world before him. The island may as well have been resting on the back of a sleeping giant, threatening to wake up at any moment, Arthur thought, imagining himself writing as he straightened his hat, A fate that the pair would like much more than having to kill one of their friends.

He'd probably never get to write again, either, not that anybody would notice. A few months ago, he had promised to himself that he'd start to share some of his stuff with his friends before the year was up. Arthur thought about just how easy promises were to break, and it sent sour sickly feelings through his throat.

"Alright," said Arthur, "Where to next?"

[Arthur Bernstein continued in Honeysuckle and Pain.]
~~~~~ Creativity's Burning Pyre ~~~~~

NOW: V7

DEAD: V6

MAYBE: V?
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