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Haunted Reality; Continued from Desolate Dreams; Open
Topic Started: Nov 22 2016, 04:51 AM (1,148 Views)
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((Ben Fields continued from Coming Out Of The Closet))

The camera considered him. He was probably something of an idle curiosity, like a mess of desiccated roadkill.

He didn't know what to say.

He didn't know how much time had passed. The sun had merrily taunted him every time he'd huffed and puffed his way past a window, in pink and yellow tone ribbons of sea to shining sea. At some point it had become a dour grumble of bulky thunderstorm heads and the tap of earthen tears against grimy glass. Probably more appropriate. Maybe. He didn't know. Really, he didn't know a damn thing. That much at least, he understood now.

Ben had bound the wound on his arm. Had just been one wound, as much as it felt like many. Even pain couldn't be trusted anymore. Pain melted his brain out of his ears, much like blood melted out of his wound and thickly soaked his clumsy attempts at first aid in a brackish strawberry jam. The ache wasn't dull more than it was impossible to describe. Words simply failed to make sense of the nerves of the limb he'd once thrown monster curveballs with.

They failed everything else, but that went without saying at this point.

So Ben just gaped at the camera like an idiot for a while before he fumbled a march onward. Left foot, left foot, and another fucking left foot for good measure.

The hall was just a line-em-up of metal doors. They looked heavy. Maybe once he'd have laughed at them for batting practice, but now the effort seemed a bit much. There was some vague stink in the area. Reminiscent of the corpse in the basement. He'd walk into it at some point.

Or at least walk past a door that was actually left open. If by a bit. He'd take it.

He could see a lot of black fabric, weakly trembling. Shaped like a person. Maybe was a person, but Ben was hesitant to be sure. If eyes were described as oceans and lakes his was the Dead Sea. Lifeless even before he'd found his game over. He could trust them as far as he could rip them out of his skull and throw them. So he had to be sure.

Ben pried the door open with a solemn carelessness. Good hand on the door, and a sort of halfhearted shove to make it's hinges obey his frail and irrelevant will. It was a person. Some girl, familiar in theory but not to his decomposed peat-fed memory. She was crawling serpentine, with something of a fetal flavor.

...

And Ben still didn't know what to say. He was going forwards, but it was sans even pretended assurance of a plan. He'd called in his brains for reinforcements, but the distress signal was ignored. That left Ben with chunks of a body and a clumsy mouth. Not much of an offering. And honestly, it wouldn't do. But here Ben Fields was, sitting his pasty ass on the ground beside the girl, just close enough that they could avoid each other's gazes, just far enough that it was awkward. And, oddly enough, Ben still didn't know what to say. Seconds worth of silence was all he could come up with. And the exit plan was several eternities additional. Mission fucking accomplished.

"... You okay?" Of course Ben managed to pick the vague coward question. Saying it in a weak tremolo that broke pitch as his arm sent him a neatly typed reminder of his agony in full triplicate 'fuck you'.
V7

V6 - Like you imagined when you... were young...
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Silence reigned with an iron lockjaw. The girl tried to drag herself up. Failed. Somehow, Ben found that familiar.

"No."

Also familiar. She wasn't okay. Ben should have seen that coming. Why the fuck had he even wasted the breath on asking? He watched her examine her smeared, molten face in a mirror. Bold of her. Even a mirror was too much of himself to handle, there and then. More silence, more fucking silence. Ben's head was empty white noise and static. His head was a quiet morning's in his Mom's SUV, with the radio off and everyone busy with their own brooding thoughts. Peaceful. Like the eye of the storm.

And then the argument would break out, and Lana would start crying.

She'd asked a question. He hadn't even thought to respond until he was already seated. He was on autopilot. Without an actual destination. What was he supposed to say in response to that? Maybe the obvious? No, he didn't want to kill. Not her, not anyone. His damn intentions had been to save people. To fight the good fight. To march against an unbeatable evil. To go down with fists swinging and guns blazing. To be a man. That had been what he'd come here for.

Lies.

All he could answer with was 'no'. "No, it's not like that." Empty verbiage. That's what he'd really come here for. Something weak and powerless and pointless, like everything else he'd done.

"I'm..."

Silence. Loud, blaring numbness, like the rest of his blood and air deflated arm.

"Sorry. I've gone through a lot just in the last two days." That tremble in her voice said everything she hadn't actually said. Ben remained mute. He tried to nod, but the gesture faded away before the abandoned ruins of his neck had even begun to creak.

"I-If you don't mind me asking..."



"What's..."



"What's your name?"


"Ben Fields."

And before he could stop himself, the radio silence broke.

"What happened? You killed someone? Lost someone?" Her face reminded Ben of something. Crusty paste of dried tears, makeup running through yonder fields. Normally when a girl cried Ben would do something to stop it. Fix it. But he'd already failed to stop or fix anything else on this damn island. Same with this. He could only just watch her. Out of the corner of his eye. Mostly, he stared at the floor.
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"No I... didn't kill anyone. I couldn't do that. There's no way. There's no way..."

It was just words, wasn't it? Prettier voice than his even when it was busily fragmenting into fragile porcelain shards, but words no different than the words he'd spoken once. The lies and empty promises. But no. That wasn't it at all. Ben could see her in a way he couldn't really see himself. He could see the honesty. Raw, exposed, naked honesty. It was a truth, but it was an ugly one that weakly trailed down the sides of her face, running like blood from the eyes.

He believed her. Yeah. So that meant it was all the harder to look her way. He kept his eyes planted, but it was like running right against the face of the wind and rain and bullets. He had to hear it for himself as she said it. Slowly. Tortuously. A few syllables worth of fucking knives. The sort of knives that filleted clean to the bone, like preparing bloody fish and meat for a tableside dinner.

"..."

Ben silently watched her melt back into the concrete.

Was silence really all he had left?

The stasis of his life held on his next breath. That breath only took a moment, but he'd swear it was an eternity's worth of decay and crumble. Swear it on the damn grimy pocket-linty bent copper piece of was what was left of his own worth.

Penelope. He didn't remember that name. Maybe he'd never known her until this moment, or maybe his brain was already dead and the rest of his body was just marching to the dirge 'til it caught up.

His chest deflated, popped like a balloon. Something spewed out his throat in a trailing hiss.

"You're still alive." It wasn't really an assertion, or an exclamation. Not a comment, or an entreaty, or a question, or an answer, or any fucking thing really. He just said it.
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She'd said it.

And said it, and said it. She had a way with words, somehow. 'Ambulatory', that was a new one. Ben was reminded that he'd never been the smart one. Maybe another thing to etch onto his gravestone at the end of the longest day of his life.

Her message made sense, Ben knew that. Or rather, he understood it. She'd lost everything and everyone. If not now, eventually. It was a pretty straightforward point. Stark, in time and space and the echos between Ben's pubescent ear hairs. He didn't want to agree. There should have been some way to debate her. To fight her, without guns and bullets but with words. But fuck, he somehow couldn't do that. He would try, to be sure. It was pretty damn predictable of him. But he already knew he had nothing to show this girl. He hadn't yet put up a good show. Or even a damn show in the first place.

But he's dead now.

But he's dead now.

But he's dead now.


Ben had gotten the point the first time, but he supposed even the basics warranted repeating to somehow stick. Scratch that shit into the chalkboard, all Simpsons style.

"Don't apologize." Ben didn't need to look her way to know neither of them were looking at the other.

Another voice broke the facade. This one, at least, seemed to have a bit of life or vigor or whatever it was to it. It was memories of the desert and the deceased.

"Will." Ben probably should have been excited. Maybe should have moved his ass off the wall, or his two left feet, or the now stone cold nape of his neck. Should have Will with a salute and something like a hand to the shoulder, or a brotherly hug. Something. Something in solidarity, or in recognition of Will's pain, or. Well. Ben did none of those things. He just stayed seated there, eyes as aimless as the girl's besides him. He almost couldn't look Will in the eye at all. But at the last second he managed a glancing blow.

"It's me, yeah." The punctuation for Ben's words was just deafening silence. "And Penelope." That name hadn't meant a thing to either man in the room even minutes ago. Maybe it was still meaningless. Maybe the only damn names that mattered now were the ones that the terrorists taunted them with. Rea Adams, for one. "I'm... I'm sorry, dude."

It was spilling out before he could stop himself. Not even a lot of it. Less a Biblical flood and more the kiddie sippy cup.

"I fucking failed, dude. You, and Penelope, and... I had a plan. Plans. They were all shit." Ben didn't know if it was surrender. If it was it didn't feel nearly as crushing as he'd thought it would have. He still had a chest, he still had lungs. He was still somehow speaking. Saying things. "Sorry. To both of you."

That left what Penelope had said. Ben wondered if Will had managed to hear any of it.

Maybe her words would somehow matter where his hadn't.
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Ben heard Will. It went without saying. The room was too quiet and everything up through Ben's pathetic, labored breathing stood out. His arm continued to uselessly remind him of facts established long ago. Ben realized then that Will had a gun. The sort of man you could trust with a gun, yeah. A man unlike Ben Fields.

"Don't. Not your supplies." There was nothing else to be said, about his arm. Ben clutched at it with enough impotence to force it to limp into his lap, with a hiss he carefully bit down on. Regardless, too much of that damned agonized sound escaped for his liking.

He could hear the fucking camera still clicking, watching without a word. He could also hear fabric rustling. Will?

Penelope.

...

So. Was that it? Was Ben going to sit against a prison wall until his ass refurbished the concrete? Nothing else had gone his way. So went the things he'd done, the thoughts he'd had. The words he'd said. 'Sorry'. Apologizing for letting them down. Or, at least, for letting them see. Of all the fucking useless words he had left in him, 'sorry' had been the one he'd picked. Was that it? All he had left, empty promises. Emptier excuses.

Didn't look so good on him. So he put his chin up again. It felt heavy, but inertia felt heavier.

Penelope had spoken about her plans at length, hadn't she? All of them, right down to the atrociously penned final act. Ben had heard every single word, committed it to his disintegrated memory. And he'd just sat there. Feeling sorry for himself. Saying things that didn't matter. 'Coward' was a word too good for him. But, he realized finally, it was just a word. It was no sticks and stones. Nor was it guns, nor was it bullets. Ben was a coward, with each leg shorter than the other and each inadequate inch of height barely scraped off the yardstick. Still had enough words in him to continue to make an ass out of himself. Maybe that was all he needed.

Ben jerked his head Penelope's way, for Will to see.

"Penelope." Ben cleared his throat to clear the last bit of his own pointless tears he'd choked down. About damn time his voice stopped drowning in itself. "You mentioned a plan." 'Some stupid plan, where we would all die anyway.' "Think we all should try to make it happen. Got any details for us?"
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"Ben, you need it more than I do."

Nah, see. Bandages and stitches were for soldiers. Heroes. Boys and men who went out to the front and came back with medals and honor. Brothers who came home after baseball practice accidents still stubbornly clinging onto the groceries with what was left of their arms. Ben was none of those things. Not anymore. He refused to dignify himself with a single other word.

...

He'd need another word, though. A lot of them. It was a tall order. Eclipsed him by the heads of all the assholes in Cochise bigger than him combined.

The problem was Penelope. Her body language was also words, and they were pretty coldly bleak ones. To say nothing of the actual words she'd said. He didn't know what parts he agreed with or didn't, not at first. It was the sort of idealism that made great men, or maybe the sort that broke mediocre men over the knee. It was a plan that literally got them all killed. Ben had never even considered death an option, he'd tried to lead the battle cry and charge against it. Pickett's Charge, that first day, and every day after Ben kept waving the blunted bayonet until a boy with a real gun had made something very clear to Ben.

Death was very much an option. The terrorists mockingly reminded them of that. And the worst part was that people actually listened.

But no one had listened to Penelope. Ben himself wouldn't have back then, he'd honestly admit that. But he could listen to her now.

"I dunno. Sounds like a pretty good plan, to me." He didn't even know if he believed himself.

Contrails of dried tears were staining her face. He was reminded of how he was supposed to be the one drying tears when girls cried to him.

"I had a plan too, and it was shit." Ben needed to pick his words but there wasn't time to. "I let everyone down too, really. And I'm probably going to die..." The word 'too'. 'As well'. 'Also'. All good words in a certain time and place. Now was not that time, nor that place. "But none of that matters. It doesn't matter that people aren't going to go along. Those people are already dead, they just don't know it yet. Some people will go along, and for their sakes we need to reach them. Give all of us a better way out than dying alone and unmourned. We can still do that, for them."

Ben didn't know if he'd said the right thing. He'd never been one for the monologues. He was sure everyone watching at home was cringing or laughing right about now.

"If... your family and... your boyfriend watched you give up when there's... still work to be done, what do you think they'd say? ... You know."

Ben wasn't supposed to be 'that one'. The one that had to hold up a time out card, or wave a white flag to figure out how to to say the things that needed to be said.
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He'd gone and said it. Show him the playback and it probably would have hurt worse than the bullet-studded first grader smeared collage of fingerpaint reds he called a forearm. Nothing much convincing there, as far as Ben was concerned as a third party to his own voice. Webber had told him once upon a time that latitudes did not make for an argument.

He was almost surprised when she turned back to face them. Almost. The emotions like surprise or anything at all weren't so forthcoming, and not in the masculine stoic archetype sort of way.

There were things left to say, for sure. He still didn't know if he believed the plan. He'd tried to reason with a boy with a gun and he'd responded in kind. He had phantom pains, Phantom of the Opera wails still dully peeling his nerves to dinner mash. That shit was all the proof Ben needed to doubt if Penelope's plan would fare any better than his own. But even that aside, he could have said something positive, encouraging. But he didn't trust himself with that either. Because, in the end it was what was left of his decaying person that would have to say it. No, it wasn't about him anymore. Not his doubts, not his hopes. Ben Fields had nothing left to say.

He just solemnly nodded when she promised she'd make her family proud. That he could relate to. Could lose hours of sleep over in the near future. He evenly met her eye when she found his, much as he didn't want to see any bit of himself reflected in the veneer of soft cut emerald.

"Yep."

Ben was the last to stand. Figured he'd be the odd one out. He almost felt his heels give out from under him, but he wouldn't allow it. They still had work to do. In measured silence he extended his hand to hers, not quite all the way. A fist almost solid, save for the faltering tremble of unkempt and unaddressed pain. He had no doubt it looked fucking retarded to the average viewer at home, or the rest of them for that matter.

"Will, you in? Shit, I know you never liked Cochise much. Maybe none of us ever really did," Ben mused, recalling years of rumors and proof about resentment, about the desire for something more than the tumbleweeds and drug busts. Desires pretty clearly echoed in Will... in Rea. When Ben had ever bothered to pay attention, addled as he had been back then on testosterone and self-importance. "... But we can still make a difference, I guess. Make all of it mean something still."

Ben wasn't sure how to say it- went without saying at this point- but it was maybe something worth speaking up for all the same. He'd never said the name. Rea Adams. She could still be avenged, with or without... And yes, of course, at that moment Ben was forced to remember that Rea's killer had also once been a friend. Maybe it mattered, maybe it didn't.

"You taught me something once, Will. I still remember it. Qui audet adipiscitur."

And Ben still wasn't sure if, in any sense, he'd said that right.
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Maybe Ben hadn't said it right. 'Someone I have to find'. 'Sorry'. Will had said it better, at least. That said. The moment passed.



"Good luck, dude."

He couldn't bring himself to say anything else. Anything stronger, clearer, like 'see you soon' or 'keep up the fight'. Who dares, right? Ben couldn't even bet on a few extra damn syllables. All of his friend he was left with was a hospital's worth of bandaging. He glanced at his arm. The wrap he'd managed to improvise about as well as an underpaid Taco Bell employee wasn't too wet, not yet. Anyways. That didn't matter much.

"Guess we can't convince everyone immediately, huh?"

"Will's always been stubborn. He's a fighter." Ben didn't think too hard about it, he gestured for her to take the gauze, alcohol, antiseptic. It was about two handfuls worth. For both of them, probably, because hell if Ben had ever had much in the way of hand, height, brain, whatever. "I think he'll stay alive, I trust him. Then he might return to us."

Penelope was a bit hesitant, awkward. Hell, better than where she'd been only moments before. Kinda reminded him of a simpler time. Kinda time when there had been nerds wandering the halls of Cochise and there had been baseball practice and there had been locker talk. That sorta time. She was a bit evocative of it, when she wasn't busily contemplating terminal velocity. Heck, she even randomly invaded his personal space to drag him somewhere he had enough stumpy feet to walk to on his own. Switch the name and the face and it was just like home.

" ... Once you've made the plunge, it's not going to be easy to claw your way back up."

"Maybe. We don't know for sure, so we can deal with it if it comes up." Hm. No plan. Maybe plans had let the both of them down before. But it was too risky to leave to chance. "We should have a basic game plan. Try to rationalize with them or leave. Just in case of a worst case scenario." People to avoid no ifs ands or buts. Places they could meet in case of an emergency. Things they could abandon if they suddenly had to part with supplies. Practical things. The sort of things he'd dropped the ball on the last three days worth of his drooling over his own shirt like an ape.

He stayed right outside the door frame, silhouette from the dim ambient lighting beyond barely imposing itself onto the ground. The sound of rain echoed in marching tempo from the distant, unseen window.

" ... Anything you want to know about me, or anything you want to be cleared up?"

"What are your friends like, the ones we're looking for? Feel free to embellish, stories about people without fucking guns and killing sprees sounds like a decent change of pace."
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"How does one describe one's friends with just words alone?"

Hell of a question. One Ben definitively couldn't answer. He could march though, and that he did. Fell into lockstep right behind Penelope, the crisp clap of his cleats half time to her double time. Syncopated sorta metronome to her verses. She spoke, brought some kinda life to the deafening silence. Girl had a lot to say, which was a refreshing change of pace. Ben wouldn't have exactly called it poetry, but he was listening about as attentively as he did back in English classes. As in, he wasn't so sure he was hearing what he needed to hear, but it at least sounded pretty good. Whatever that was worth.

" ... I think you... you know who... I'm... talking about..."

Shit. He hadn't meant to bring up...

"Yeah. I know." So it passed on that note. She needed a moment for calm, and Ben needed that same moment to berate himself for allowing her the opening. Conversation had become bladeplay, and his rotting fleshy globs worth of feet definitively struggled to maintain the footwork. Whatever. He was keeping up. It was good enough.

Good enough, like the way she described her friend. Ben knew that girl, vaguely enough, through the rantings of a certain asshole Darius Van Dyke. Hm. This was probably the most he'd ever heard about her in a single sitting and he was liking what he heard. 'Weeaboo'? Hell, why not right? Ben didn't even really know what that meant. Only negative in his book was along the lines of being the sort who pointed guns at...-

" ... Wait not like that...!" So on and so on.

Definitely an awkward, creepy insinuation. Maybe. Ben expected the familiar creeping feeling of vague, dissociate disgust but... nothing of the sort. Girls love girls, boys love boys. Ugly? Sure. But now that Ben thought about it... well, what was there to think about? That was the question. Who cared? Why had it ever mattered? Ben nodded slowly, patiently. To himself, as much as to Penelope. Maybe this was what being the bigger man was about. Maybe being unnatural and abnormal was a different sort of wrong, compared to the wrong of being a murderer and a thief.

Maybe he'd learned that lesson too late.

"I get you." Ben shrugged, as much Penelope's constant but fairly welcome shepherding of him would allow. "I've never been much for physical affection myself...-" and there were certainly a multitude of extant women to prove that very fact, on this very island perhaps... Hm. Morbid thought, that. "... But. You know." Yes, she certainly did. Once more Ben's charismatic speechmongering was absolutely victorious. "What I mean to say, nothing wrong with some hugging and-"

Shit. Almost said 'kissing', thereabouts.

"You know."

His brain was a wonderland, a la that generic fucker John Mayer track.

" ... Wording these kinds of things is... hard..."

"Yeah. I used to think words were simple. Times change, but I guess even if speakings no longer easy... If there are no words left to describe all this shit that's been dumped on us, well. We have to try." He nodded firmly. They'd left the pervasive smell of death behind, at least until they found it again. It was a step up, a foot in the right direction. "And if we have to ramble to convince others, that's what we have to do."

"But yeah, thanks for that. Your friend sounds like a class act. Mine, well. Not so much maybe, but some of them are worth looking for." ... By some thin margin, yeah. "I don't mean to rag on any of them, they're good people. Haven't shown... their names yet." Hardly the most effective euphemism, that. "Lucilly Peterson, Hazel Jung, Candice Banks, Nate Turner, Matt Moradi, Amanda Tan..." Fuck. He made it sound like a damn hitlist, rather than the names of people he still trusted. Too formal, too bullet point. Emphasis on bullet. Whatever. Move on. "Heck, give me Darius or Maxim, I'm not going to complain." Now that's a sentence he never thought he ever could have been held at gunpoint to say.

"Now that I fucking think about it I don't even know who all the people on this trip were."

He didn't know if there was any sort of conclusion to be drawn from that. Or rather, if there was one he wanted to say aloud. Yet of course, he'd allowed himself to say it.



"While it's still raining we should see if we can refill our water."
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She'd thoroughly said what needed to be said. No need to say anymore.

((Ben Fields continued in See The Needy Greedy Me We Bleed To Feed So Easily))
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