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Aluminum Bicycle Rods; Day 3.
Topic Started: Nov 18 2016, 09:02 PM (394 Views)
Iceblock
Survivor
[ *  * ]
((Melanie Beckett continued from Thursday's Child))

The asylum was foreboding. A rat's nest of rooms, and behind their doors, warm bodies, cold corpses. Crumbling stone stairs. Cracks of light through broken and barbed windows, through the hole punctured by a felled tree, until night fell and the building on the cliff above them might have well have been a tomb, reminding her of their doom.

How much of that was true, Mel couldn't say. With the experiences they'd just had fresh in their minds, the three of them had steered well clear of the building, so all she was left with was the images of it she spun from afar.

They had wandered for a while after leaving the tower. First she had caught up to Aiden, Serena in tow, and then they had let their feet lead them. It had been quiet, for the most part. Not the sort of quiet that was peaceful; it was the sort that let thoughts echo on themselves, amplifying their unease. Sometimes over the wind, she thought she caught scraps of conversations, and she thought most people must be hunkering down, waiting this out for however long they had left. The three of them had settled down for lunch somewhere out of the way, and had done the same for dinner. She didn't ration her supplies, even though she knew she was slowly running out.

When night began to fall, they made camp downhill from the tower where they had met. The cave was damp and uncomfortable, and there always had to be one of them that was awake and on watch for the tide, but the asylum was still too much and she was reluctant to return across the bridge. The hunting cabin had at least had beds, though, she'd had to admit more than once during the night.

Avoiding the asylum had still probably been the right choice. During one of her shifts on watch, someone had screamed from that direction, high up top, and chilled, she had pulled her jacket tight around herself. Aiden had seemed to be asleep, so she hadn't been giving him the victory so much as comforting herself. That had been what she told herself, anyway.

Morning came, and with it, the inevitable.

Now it was past noon. Mel sat in the sand, facing the waves as they broke in the distance. She had already cried herself out hours ago.

She hadn't gauged either of her traveling partners' reactions. Hadn't bothered watching their faces when the announcement had come and names were read out once again. The tears had come somewhere between the sixth and seventh name, when she'd stopped bothering to resist how she felt. Hearing that people were dead was hard. Was always going to be. But she hadn't reacted the same way yesterday... so this had to be about Sandy.

Where she stood with most people had never been too much of a concern for her - only with Astrid had there been an easy routine to settle into, the annoyer and the annoyee - but if she had ever thought Tessa was a kindred spirit, Sandy had been that times ten. They had been friends, for sure. She remembered the quiet sense of camaraderie between them in middle school - both artists, watercolor painters, even - until he had finally opened up in the years that followed. And she remembered the disappointment in his eyes, some days more, some days less, since the day she had told him she was planning to work with computers for most of the rest of her life. That was what a college major sorta meant. She hadn't liked it either. There was no good explanation to give.

She wondered if he had ever felt like that was a betrayal. She wondered if he had ever thought of her when he'd been brought here, too. Probably not. She'd been distracted by so many things that she'd put aside any worries she might have had about him, herself, and now the only thing she could do was realize that he was gone. Just like that.
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[ *  * ]
If there were any tears still on her face, she wiped them away.

Enough. Mel made to stand, her balance uncertain at first in the sand, but then she was up, still facing out to sea. Aiden hadn't said a word. If she'd somehow managed to scare him away by crying, it'd be almost funny later. If there was a later.

"They want to live, no matter what," she finally said.

There was a pause, but she was putting the pieces together, had put them together, should have put them together long ago. Other people must have figured it out already. Just like this.

"Other reasons too," she said, and watched the waves roll in. "But that's what started it all. Life's what the terrorists are putting in front of us, 'cause that's what they've taken away."

It made sense to her. Made more sense than anything else at this point.

The hate didn't matter. How people saw them didn't matter. Even having to be obedient to the terrorists didn't matter, when she had thought it mattered so much. It was just those promised years of life that mattered, those fifty, sixty, seventy or more years that had been taken away from them. If she saw it like that, maybe she would kill, too. She'd fly under the radar, waiting for her chance. She'd give in to the terrorists, be just another piece in their plan, do what they wanted instead of what she wanted, and betray everything she'd ever stood for and everyone she'd ever known, all for that reward that lay at the end.

For life. But living and surviving were very different things.

She'd never wanted to work in an office, in a bunch of grey-walled cubicles, listening to middle-aged men droning on in conference calls, their fingers clacking against computer keys. Decades of living life between workweeks, of thinking up algorithms, debugging, and dealing with the cold, hard fact that computers only did what she told them to and nothing more.

Programming was creative work to some, but she would never love it. It made good money. That was what she would have done it for. To survive.

She wanted to live. She wanted to paint. To play soccer. To backpack through America, through Europe. To stick her head out of the window on a long car ride, chance of decapitation be damned.

So what the terrorists offered was just survival. One person would survive through it all. Maybe afterwards, they'd even live. Everyone else would survive and then die, having lied and cheated and killed, having scrabbled through the dirt just long enough that they had a hope of victory before dying having wasted what little time they had left.

Mel stood, her brow slightly furrowed and her fists clenched tight - and then, in a flurry of activity, she kicked off her shoes. Stripped off her socks. Tied the shoelaces together, and after looping her shoes around one arm and hitching her bag with the other, began walking towards the ocean.

"I say we live right now. You guys coming?"

She was doing this for herself, but wherever Sandy was now, maybe he'd appreciate it, too.
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Mel shot Serena a grin.

"Well, I meant figuratively, but if you want to walk on the beach with me, that's cool too."

She was watching where she was going, a little, trying not to step on pieces of driftwood or anything sharp, but she had wet sand between her toes, the scent of the ocean all around her. If there was any joy to find in this place, this was maybe the closest she was going to get.

"I wanna wander some more," she said, "really take this whole place in. Maybe we can find somewhere or something beautiful, maybe I can find a camera or some paints and make something that lasts for, y'know, just a little bit longer."

It was a whim, something spinning off her tongue, and it sounded right right now but maybe it'd sound wrong later, and that was fine. There was no future here for her. There was no long term to worry about anymore, and if she wanted to live like she was dying tomorrow, now was the time. Hell, she might even die today. As long as they didn't hurt anyone, she could chase any whim she had, no matter how wild, how stupid they might be.

Mel paused a moment in her walk parallel to the waves, and let them wash over her feet. She turned, again.

"That sound like your sort of thing? I mean, what do you want from here?"
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"Ha, you'd think I'd remember if I'd seen you at..." Mel's voice caught for a moment. "Uh, at art exhibitions around town or something."

She gave a light, half-hearted laugh, then looked back out to sea, trying to shake off the sense of loss that had silently returned with just a phrase. When she looked back, she noticed Serena blushing.

Maybe it was dimmer than usual, but a smirk slid onto her face, despite everything.

"Oh. I see how it is. I'm not gonna be the one to get in the way of true love," she said, holding up her hands in mock surrender. "And since time's an issue, we definitely ought to get wandering. You wanna lead for a while? Follow your heart?"

If there was any doubt in her own heart, maybe from a creeping echo or reminder of what someone else she'd traveled with had said before - she tucked that away for now.
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Mel hadn't quite expected Serena to take her teasing quite so seriously.

But she wasn't really surprised. It all sounded super cheesy, sure. Especially when Serena repeated the part about following her heart - but maybe that was as good a description as any. Might as well own it, then. Living as best she could, stranded on an island with a slight chance of explosive decapitation hanging over her, and choosing to find the things she wanted, choosing to do the things she wanted to do - that was following her heart, too.

Probably wasn't going to cut it as a romance movie, though.

"Yeah, Aiden, get your butt into gear before we leave you behind!" Mel shouted back in the direction they had come, cupping her hands around her mouth. She'd be surprised if he really was still asleep, or had gone back to sleep when she'd ventured towards the sea. Still, it was an excuse to make a lot of noise and back Serena up at the same time.

She didn't put her shoes back on until a while later. It didn't really seem to matter that much, and the sand was cool beneath her feet.

((Melanie Beckett continued in How Can I Take Off This Mask?))
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