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They Stumbled Into Faith and Thought; (God, this is all there is?) - Open
Topic Started: Oct 23 2016, 12:46 AM (1,089 Views)
dmboogie
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A Delicate Machine
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((They wasted no time putting the asylum behind them.))

Too many identical, gray corridors; too many corners. Decayed as it was, it was still a hospital through and through - a place to wander and waste away; to die in a forgotten and sterile corner of the world. Nothing good could come from remaining in such a place. Besides, after hesitating to leave the roof for so long, it'd feel hollow if they just settled down twenty feet away from where they'd started, losing a reminder of the world outside and gaining nothing but a weak sense of security.

As they made their way down the asylum stairwell, Cass had paused once they had reached the landing where they had woken up the previous day. It meant nothing and everything; both completely nondescript, a meaningless transitional space, and a gravestone. Cass tried to remember what they had been feeling as the world ended, tried to picture their breaking self walking corpse-like up the stairs before them, mechanically walking forwards toward what could have easily been their death.

They failed, which was probably for the best. The mop lying on the ground was the only proof that Cass really had been there; that they hadn't just popped into existence shortly before finding Trav, before the world had starting seeming actually real. They needed to remember not to take his presence for granted. What would have happened if Cass had chosen any other direction, had descended instead of ascended? It wasn't worth dwelling on. Their life was going to be short enough without thinking of the mistakes they could have made. Cass picked up the mop for a second, thought better of it, and then leaned it against the wall. If it hadn't been for the piece of paper inside their bag confirming that it was supposed to be theirs, they would have mistaken it as nothing but debris. Even with that knowledge, Cass didn't have any particular obligation to hold onto a terrorist's "gift" and fulfill the unspoken expectation to cling on to every scrap they were handed.

Their walk was uneventful, though it felt good to stretch their legs after being cooped up on the roof for so long. Cass idly thought that it was perfect weather for a bike ride. Unfortunately, given the island's state, they doubted there were any usable trails. It would have been a perfect retreat under any other circumstance, with nothing preventing them from flying across the island, stopping only to explore the reclaimed nature around them.

The chapel's garden was proof enough of this, opportunistic weeds edging out mankind's aesthetic vision; some of which still shined through in patches. Comparing them side by side, Cass couldn't help but admire them both. Though the weeds were dull and prickly, they thrived without a care for their unwanted disorder. The flowers that remained were doing their best, too; remnants of likely long-dead people who had cared for them, arranged them to be pleasing to the eye.

It was everything they had hoped the chapel to be, honestly. Even without a faith to tie them to it, Cass had always respected churches and cathedrals. They were old, dignified beasts; places where people came to be granted peace. Though this one was old and humbled, it still carried a weight; and irrational as it was, Cass had dared to dream that even the terrorists had yet to violate its sanctity.

Of course, the real world was never that kind. It didn't take long for Cass to find Jane's stripped corpse.

They hated that they felt relieved as they glanced at her face, briefly met her dead, half-closed eyes; confirmed that she wasn't anyone that Cass cared about. They couldn't bear to look any longer than that, to take in the deep wound in her neck that all-too-clearly spelled out what had happened to her, quickly averting their gaze. Cass found it odd that they weren't breaking down into tears or vomiting or doing any of the things one would expect after finding their first dead body.

Maybe it just hadn't set in fully yet. Maybe the horror had been edged out by the fury Cass felt on Jane's behalf. Shouldn't it have been enough for her killer to take her life? What twisted rationale had lead them to then defile her memory, to leave her forever exposed and vulnerable in front of the uncaring eyes of the cameras? There was no purpose except spite; nothing to gain from it except a destructive satisfaction. Maybe that had been all it took. Cass would have asked how their classmates already sunken so low, if they hadn't a sinking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, the faceless sadist hadn't had to change at all.

"Trav, you - you shouldn't come over here. Fuck - there's a dead girl, and..." Cass trailed off, voice breaking slightly. Had Jane been important to Trav? If he saw her corpse, would Cass witness him break right in front of their eyes, see the Jane-that-was be instantly replaced by the Jane-that-is in his mind, the shock and revulsion inescapably burning the image into his memory? They unconsciously positioned themself between the two, hoping to shield Jane from view. "It's - she's - Jane."
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dmboogie
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There it was again; the terrible relief that Jane's death had remained an abstract tragedy. She could have been anyone and their reaction would have been the same. Horror, but not a personal horror. Cass hadn't known Jane, hadn't talked to her more than once or twice, and the moment they found her corpse would remain the strongest impact Jane would ever have on Cass's life. If what they had wanted was to destroy Jane's memory, the killer had already won, and there was nothing they could do about it.

These musings were derailed as Irene called out from behind Cass; causing them to shriek and whirl around. They almost tripped on Jane's corpse as they did so, transforming the tragedy into a slapstick comedy and degrading her even further. They didn't, thank god. Cass had always been infuriatingly easy to startle, especially when they were zoned in on their art; a trait that Marco took advantage of with irritating regularity. There was a strange comfort to that familiar shock, though.

That comfort faded as Irene emerged from behind the shrubbery that had been obscuring her, clutching a shotgun tight to her chest. Cass's stomach sank. She wasn't threatening them, didn't even look angry or confrontational in the slightest, but the gun was more than enough to terrify. Cass had never been comfortable around guns, even in theory, much to Chris's annoyance. She had taken them along to a shooting range once, hoping that familiarity would take the edge off their fear; but all it had done was cement it. Everything had been too loud, too easy. In the end, they couldn't take it; leaving after an hour. To Chris's credit, she had never brought it up again.

Back to the present. Irene. Gun.

Cass nodded in agreement as Trav expressed his displeasure with the entire situation. What Irene had said seemed odd, like maybe she knew something. Had she been hiding out in the church, armed but too frightened to do anything but watch as Jane was murdered before her eyes? It'd explain how shaken she seemed. Cass didn't want to know, didn't want to learn who among them had been a monster the entire time; but they couldn't help but guess, to demonize the people they disliked based off nothing more than a vague gut feeling of wrongness; a disservice even to the assholes among them. If Irene knew for certain, Cass had to ask.

"They got her?"
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Cass nodded slowly as Irene explained herself. That way of thinking made perfect sense, really. It was scary to think about the cruelty everyone hid in their hearts, to at least some degree. Intrusive, spiteful thoughts; harbored envy and wrath. That didn't mean humans were inherently evil, of course - most people wanted to be good, and thus acknowledged and dealt with those harmful impulses, hid them away so they'd never bet set aflame under the light of day. They could never go away entirely, though. Regardless, Jane's killer would have to remain a question mark, a constantly shifting silhouette that could bear anyone's face.

"There's not much any of us can do, anyway," Cass agreed with Trav. Even if Irene had known, what could they do with that information? Would either of them, spoiled by blissful isolation, have been able to fight for their lives at a moment's notice? Even Irene with her gun didn't seem prepared to use it, which was, for the moment, fortunate for all of their well-beings.

They wished they could echo Trav and Irene's sentiment and say that no, this wasn't normal or expected, that they could easily reject the others; but honestly? With the benefit of a day to prepare and think, Cass hadn't been surprised at all by the morning announcement's naming of killers, plural. The level of malice displayed by Jane's dead body had been a shock, but even that wasn't unexpected. It was the nature of the game, after all: reach deep into people's psyches and bring everything up to the surface. Slowly unravel some, enjoy a slow decay stretched across days of suffering. Sever others completely.

Instead, Cass looked at Irene, saw themself in her anxious, curled stance. She hadn't been spared any of the pain that they had lived above for a day. "Hey - you, uh, want some company? Trav and I, we're not really doing anything, y'know? Maybe we could, I dunno, find a better place to be," Cass said softly, leaving out the 'because there's a corpse and you really look like you shouldn't be alone right now.' They didn't want Irene to feel pitied.
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dmboogie
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"Yeah, it's not a problem," Cass said; trying not to dwell on their envy of Irene having found friends to lose. They couldn't imagine any reasonable circumstance where you could somehow manage to separate yourself from the people you cared about during the last days of your life. Cass knew that if they ever found Bernie or Clarice, they'd give anything to stay with her; thoughts of being a burden swept away by the sheer comfort of being with a dear friend.

That didn't mean their disbelief at Irene's circumstances was any less stupid or uncharitable, though. Cass knew it was none of their business, and there had definitely been much left unspoken. Still, her luck stung. Just a little.

These thoughts derailed as a fourth person stumbled across the tragedy scene, unfamiliar and giving them nothing to go off of.

"Uh, hey." Cass waved half-heatedly.
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dmboogie
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What was there to say?

If it had been an ordinary day, if the four of them had simply happened to occupy a certain stretch of the hall at school at once or something, Cass doubted any of them would have spared even a glance for the others. Wade for Irene, maybe, but even she seemed at a loss from his appearance. Their new commonality of mortal peril was the only thing keeping them there; grasping for any shred of normalcy they could, even while one of them carried a gun while they exchanged hesitant greetings over a dead girl. Much preferable to the alternative, of course, and in the case of Trav it had paid off wonderfully. Cass only wished that they had met each other sooner. But sometimes? Normalcy still sucked.

It was almost a relief when Wade made his intentions clear, dispelling any need for social pretense and small talk. His dismissal of Irene as 'familiar' confirmed Cass's suspicions of their relationship, or lack thereof. Cass could understand not wanting to be around crowds of strangers, wanting to cling to a special, singular person while everything unraveled around you, but his insistence on "tag-teaming" regardless of his companion was troubling. It sounded strategic, and Cass couldn't help but mistrust anyone who was actively playing along and making plans. Wanting just one person implied that you didn't particularly care what happened to the rest.

"I, uh, don't think it's good - I just don't think any of us want to split up, y'know?" Cass said, awkwardly rubbing the back of their neck. They didn't want to assume Irene's position, but she definitely looked uncomfortable; especially considering how Wade was appealing to her specifically. "I mean, if you want company, I don't mind if you tag along, but..." They didn't want to completely alienate Wade, either, considering how fast Cass had been to assume the worst of him.
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dmboogie
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No one wanted to be alone. No one wanted to die alone. Funnily enough, Cass would have thought that'd be much preferable to the alternative. Jane hadn't died alone, after all. She'd died in the company of someone who had not only hated her, they had hated the idea of her existence. Was all-too-human malice really preferable to an quiet, apathetic emptiness? Wouldn't it be better to be left alone with your last thoughts? It was hard to think of anything more personal than death, after all. One last soliloquy to put the finishing touches on your life; one last portrait engraved in your eyes.

Even if you did have the chance to be surrounded by friends and family as you faded, why would it be desirable to accept their tearful embraces, to grant yourself a few transient moments of comfort at the cost of forcing them to witness your death, see the person they loved change at once into a thing; nothing more than an abandoned mass of meat and bone? It wouldn't make a difference to the newly departed you, but it'd stick with them for the rest of their lives.

A contradictory thought, considering how Cass had encouraged them to stick together, an action that'd ultimately only increase that chance of watching each other die. They knew it was selfish, but they still had no real desire to wander off on their own; to abandon Trav before he could be hurt by their inevitable loss. If only they knew when they were going to die, then Cass could just make an excuse and duck away when the time came; get the whole ordeal over with without impacting anyone else.

In the end, all that mattered was that it seemed like both Wade and Irene were sticking around. As a group, they quietly introduced themselves. Whatever talk followed next was simply a preamble for the finality of

((walking away and leaving Jane to rot.))
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