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Smoke Screen; Let's settle the score (PM for entry!)
Topic Started: Nov 28 2016, 04:18 PM (501 Views)
Pippin
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party wurmple never sleeps. only dances.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((Astrid Tate continued from Quickdraw))

It had taken over a day to take effect, but Astrid felt as though she had regained her sense of self.

She had been so close to losing it, though. She had stumbled around in the depths of the asylum for hours on end, barely able to see two feet in front of her, and her mind too clouded and confused to think of grabbing her flashlight, or even to care that she was wandering in circles. The same thought, in turn, wandered around and around her head, drowning everything else out, pushing to the side anything logical or coherent.

A fake. She’d been protecting herself with a fake. She’d been defending herself with nothing.

She had been far from an easy target, though, down in the echoing hallways, seeped in torture and murder. Oh no. Astrid had been on edge every second. Every time her own splashing footstep reverberated and echoed, she froze. Whenever she heard something that sounded like other humans, she stopped and turned to go the other way.

She had flinched. She had shrunk into the shadows. She had curled up against the wall, feeling the allegrissimo of her heartbeat. Eventually, she had found the stairs. Then the cycle continued again.

She had wandered until she reached the entrance of the ground floor. She had wandered outside, in the grounds and gardens, until it had grown dark, and then she had wandered back inside. At some point she had slept. At some point, the sound of the announcements had roused her from her sleep and washed over her, a select handful of names, both present and absent, sticking somewhere in her mind, the rest disappearing past memory into nothingness. Then she had gotten up, eaten something, and continued wandering.

It had only been a few hours ago that she had stopped wandering, and started walking, and thinking again, and then walking with purpose, even though she had no location in sight.

And now she was sitting on one of the sturdy wooden chairs in the asylum library, arms folded, staring down at the fake gun lying in front of her.

It couldn’t have been more different from the lobotomy lab, really. It was bright and peaceful, light streaming in through the glass ceiling, a room filled with carved oak and the smell of old sun-bleached books.

It was almost cheerful, if one ignored the corpse lying by the tables with a gash in his shoulder, like Astrid was trying to do.

Joshua. That was the corpse’s name. They had talked more than once, back at school, mostly Astrid asking him about his illnesses and the like. He had seemed pleasant, then. Not a total waste of space and time, at the very least. She had wanted to do something for him, some sign of respect to the boy, but she couldn’t bury him, and there was nothing to place over his face; a book seemed more disrespectful than not, and she would be needing her jacket in the next few days much more than he would.

In the end, she had done nothing, and had sat down at the table and stared at her gun. They had only been acquaintances at best, after all.

It was the first dead body she’d seen so far, however. It was… different to how she’d expected it to look. It was on the verge of being peaceful looking, lying still with its eyes closed, but it didn’t quite make it. The gaping wound, the complete lack of motion; it was like one of those art pieces that took something normal and subverted it horribly. It made Astrid’s stomach lurch every time she caught a glimpse of it, or thought about it for too long.

So. She focused on the gun, and all the thoughts and decisions that spiralled off of it.

It wasn’t going to be doing any damage to anyone, not physical damage anyway. But was it completely useless? No. No, and in fact, now that Astrid had been given time to recoup her thoughts and put her plan back on track, it was still a better ace than some of the awful shit other members of her class had no doubt been assigned. You just had to be focused. You just had to be smart.

Penelope had managed to avoid making her way onto the announcements, and somewhere deep inside, Astrid was glad, almost instantly crushed by the memories of their encounter the previous day. She wondered what they’d say to each other if they ever met again, when Astrid had done her bit to survive and Penelope was still milling around searching for her ever dwindling collection of friends.

There were names that had carved out a regular home on the announcements now. Nancy, Isabel and Kimiko. No doubt, they would be staying there over the next few days. It did nothing but strengthen her resolve, merely prove that what she thought was right. Penelope was wrong, and anyone with a shred of logic remaining could see it. Some people didn’t deserve to get off the island in anything other than a body bag.

Astrid slowly stood up, slipping the fake gun into her jacket pocket, before walking through the shelves of books, idly scanning the covers. She would need to find someone, at some point, but she still had time. She could still wait. She wasn’t like one of those twisted psychos, getting a taste for blood on the first day and seeking out more like their lives depended on it.

She stumbled upon another body after a few minutes. It was nigh-impossible to tell who it was. Its face had been brutalised, swollen, beaten and bloody. Astrid took one look at it, and was forced to cover her mouth with her hand, a sickened noise making its way out of her as she hurriedly made her way to a different shelf. But a nameless faceless didn’t bring any memories, and it certainly didn’t bring any emotions other than revulsion.

Two bodies in the library, and her sitting there alive. Maybe this would be a boon, when all was said and done.

Astrid plucked the first recognisable title from the shelf she was facing. The Lord of the Rings Collection. She’d seen the films, but had never even attempted to plough through the books. Now was as good a time as any to start. She carried it under her arm back to her seat, plopped herself down and tilted the chair back slightly, and turned the front cover.
V7 BAYBEE

FOLDER OF DESTINY

"bryony and alba would definitely join the terrorists quote me on this put this quote in signatures put it in history books" - Cicada Days, 2017
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Pippin
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party wurmple never sleeps. only dances.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Time passed.

It didn’t go by quickly, like when Penelope had first entered the Lobotomy Lab, hours passing in the blink of an eye. It didn’t go slowly, either, like when she’d pointed the gun at her friend, each breath stretching out to last a lifetime. Time just passed Astrid by as if everything was normal again.

She was in a bubble, illuminated through the dome at the top, herself and the books and the gun lying on the table and the two dead bodies the only things floating in her tiny little world. She read, she shuffled in her chair occasionally. She turned pages. The gun lay there, and the shadows of the bookshelves slowly shifted as the sun dragged itself along the sky.

She heard the door to the library being opened, and the bubble popped. Astrid snapped the book shut and snatched the gun off the table, before turning in her chair to see where the intruder was. It wasn’t hard to find him. He wasn’t trying to hide.

Astrid stared at him, gun still in her hand, but hanging down by her side. She was still seated. Al was a similar figure to Joshua, really. A friendly sort, hell, possibly even extending to being a friend. Not someone she’d totally grown attached to, but pleasant company whenever they talked. ‘Harmless’, that was how she’d described him back at school. And harmless would still be the descriptor she’d apply to the boy, even with the weighty pickaxe by his side, with the way he was standing and with the paperback in his hand.

But then she saw the blood staining the metal of the pickaxe as her gaze swept over him, saw the droplets of blood reaching their way up the handle. She could have given him the benefit of the doubt, but she didn’t see Al as someone who’d just pick up a bloodstained murder weapon for no reason at all. Something had happened with him.

Well. It wouldn’t be too difficult to find out what.

“Hello, Al.”

Her voice was even and measured. There was no need to chew him out just yet, after all. There was still the potential for him to be following her own train of logic, realising there was only one way of escaping this waking nightmare. Her heart had still leapt in her chest the moment she’d seen the bloody axe, it was still beating at a truly alarming pace, but this wasn’t like the situation downstairs. She was in control here.

“There’s blood on your axe. You gonna tell me how that happened?”
V7 BAYBEE

FOLDER OF DESTINY

"bryony and alba would definitely join the terrorists quote me on this put this quote in signatures put it in history books" - Cicada Days, 2017
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Pippin
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party wurmple never sleeps. only dances.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
No.

It was such a simple little word, but it told Astrid everything she needed to know about what Al had done. He was trying to put on a little façade of calmness, of bravery almost, trying to convince her that he wasn’t a threat. If that was truly the case, then he would have been able to answer her question. ‘Someone was attacking me’ would have been a fine reply, ‘I took it to prevent someone from murdering anyone else’ would have been better. Hell, she would even have accepted ‘I was scared and it was an accident.’

But no. He hadn’t even attempted to lie, and in doing so, had essentially written his own confession. Astrid briefly glanced at the cover of the book, before fixing her gaze back onto Al, not wanting to lose sight of him for more than a second.

“Lord of the Rings,” Astrid murmured, idly running her thumb up and down the handle of the gun.

“You ever read it, Al? I’m simplifying things here, but the ring is basically this item that, if you hold it, you don’t want to give it up, no matter how much harm it causes you or the people around you.”

Without hesitation, Astrid raised the gun and pointed it at Al’s chest before he had time to blink. Slowly, almost lazily, she raised herself from her chair, keeping the gun levelled, unwavering.

“Drop it. Don’t do anything stupid, Al. I will shoot you.”
V7 BAYBEE

FOLDER OF DESTINY

"bryony and alba would definitely join the terrorists quote me on this put this quote in signatures put it in history books" - Cicada Days, 2017
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Pippin
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party wurmple never sleeps. only dances.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
A half-smile drifted onto Astrid’s face. She kept the gun trained on Al as she strode towards him, barrel aimed directly at his heart. It didn’t really matter where she was aiming; pulling the trigger, even just a foot away from him, would give him a sharp poke at best, and she was sure he was terrified enough of the gun that she could have aimed it anywhere at his body. But if she was going to keep up this act, why not do it to the best of her ability?

“You’re smarter than Penelope, at least.”

Astrid reached down to grab the pickaxe, eyes still locked on to Al in case he attempted a cheap shot. It was heavier than she was expecting it to be, especially with using just one hand; her heart leapt to her throat as she fumbled it, almost sending it clattering it back down to the floor, certain that if she did so that Al would seize the opportunity and take it back from her. She focused her grip, heaving the handle up, muscles straining as she tried to focus on both weapons as once, until it was comfortably resting on her shoulder.

It was only now, now that she’d finally gotten herself a weapon and followed through with this step of her plan, that uncertainty began creeping its way back in. This wasn’t the weapon she’d been planning to use when she’d chosen to go down this path, the only path that it made sense to follow. She wanted something that would make it be over with as quickly and as effortlessly as possible. No screaming, no crying, no bleeding out. Just one pull of a trigger, and that would be it, for both people involved. With the pickaxe… there was a lot more uncertainty involved. She wasn’t going to abandon it. She wasn’t going to be able to mug someone with a gun. But the potential for messing up a clean kill with it still made bile rise up in her throat.

And more pressingly, what was she going to do about Al?

He had killed somebody else. No doubt the announcements tomorrow would tell her who. That was the biggest sticking point. At the same time, she still considered him a friend, and she still wasn’t prepared to murder the people she cared about. She was still whole inside. She was no player, killing for the sake of it, or for the thrill, or whatever disgusting rationale those sorts of people came up.

Could she justify letting him go when she’d been planning on shooting Penelope? Yes, she could, because Penelope had clearly given up all hope, and had practically dug her own grave. She seemed to have accepted that she was going to die on the island, whilst Al, through his stark terror and poor decisions, was still trying to survive.

But could she justify letting him go when he was a murderer?

Astrid looked at Al for a few moments more.

“Stay there,” she ordered, before turning to grab the book back off of the table. She made her way back through the maze of shelves, past the dead body, back to the shelf with the prominent gap between two other dusty tomes.

“Alright,” she called out. “Get out of here. Like I said; don’t try anything stupid.”

Astrid stood still, and waited for Al to turn and leave.
V7 BAYBEE

FOLDER OF DESTINY

"bryony and alba would definitely join the terrorists quote me on this put this quote in signatures put it in history books" - Cicada Days, 2017
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Pippin
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party wurmple never sleeps. only dances.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
The plan, on paper, was simple.

Astrid was going to put the book back onto the shelf, and then just wait. Wait for the tell-tale sound of Al turning and leaving the library, because that was without a doubt what he was going to do. He had looked terrified even before she had pointed the gun at him, and now she had both that and a pickaxe in her arsenal it was nigh-impossible he would try anything stupid. Then, with his back turned and his guard down, she would strike. She would run at him, and she would…

She would…

And this was where paper and practice diverged. She already knew her actions would be understood, no matter who it had been that had wandered into the library; she knew that even if the Harolds and the Penelopes of the world didn’t. And with a clear murderer at her mercy, someone who had killed for his own personal reasons rather than having been shoved into a corner, she would even be justified in killing him. She just had to pull the metaphorical trigger, and that was so, so much easier said than done.

Though she would never admit it, retreating behind the bookshelves had also given herself a little more time to psyche herself up, to totally prepare herself of what she had to do now. She didn’t move at first, when she heard the slight scuffling sound of Al moving. Then she tightened her grip on the pickaxe, and turned to run after him and sink the weapon into his back.

She froze. His footsteps were much more rapid than she had expected them to be. She should have known he was going to run from her, but there was something else off about them…

There was a thud. Astrid, nerves already on a knife’s edge, jumped. She took one step forwards to see what the hell Al was doing.

Then, with the creak of a great oak being toppled, the bookshelf to her left fell towards her, books tumbling off the shelves like autumn leaves, clattering against her. Astrid had enough time to cry out before the shelf completed its descent, crashing down on top of her, flattening her against the floor. The gun spiralled out of her grasp, flying across the room and skidding along the floor. She felt nothing for a moment, vision blurred, head empty, air squeezed from her lungs.

Then, when silence fell again, she could feel everything again, and she cried out a second time, an involuntary roar of pain. The hard metal of the pickaxe was pressed against her stomach at a painful angle, and one of her legs felt like it was caught in a vice. Her head had suffered the worst of it, however; there was a sledgehammer smacking away at her temple from the inside, and she could feel the tell-tale warm, slick feeling of blood sliding down her forehead.

Her head pounded, and she felt like she was about to be sick. She couldn’t say anything. She let out another cry of rage and agony, desperately doing her best to wriggle herself free.
V7 BAYBEE

FOLDER OF DESTINY

"bryony and alba would definitely join the terrorists quote me on this put this quote in signatures put it in history books" - Cicada Days, 2017
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Pippin
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party wurmple never sleeps. only dances.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Astrid could barely see. She couldn’t tell what was having the greater effect; the fact her good eye was pressed against the carpet and unable to see above ankle level, or the sickening blow she had taken to the head.

But she could hear, just about, over the incessant drumbeat inside of her head and what could only have been her heartbeat. She could hear another thudding noise, just as repetitious, just as rapid. Footsteps. Al’s footsteps. There was a sudden break in the noise, and Astrid’s heart went cold, as the realisation of just how helpless she was sunk in. She clawed out, trying to pull herself out from under the bookshelf before Al did what any sensible person in his position would have done.

The boy had other ideas, however, and the footsteps started up again, quickly growing fainter, the vibrations against the floor dying away, and within seconds, she was alone. She kept on struggling, determined to get out, catching up with Al her biggest priority. She wrenched her body forwards, trying to get as much of her body out from under the bookshelf in one go, a plan cut short by a sudden pang of burning agony in her stomach as she did so, letting out an involuntary gasp of pain. She breathed in through gritted teeth, the sick feeling in her gut dissipating momentarily.

“Al! I’ll kill you, Al, you little-“

Suddenly, her vision started to swim, all her energy sapped away from her, that one last cry of anger taking everything out of her. She reached out with her right hand one more time, before everything faded and she lost consciousness.

Silence greeted Astrid when she finally woke up again. She had no clue how long she’d been out for, and her situation hadn’t improved in the slightest. The pounding inside of her head and the sick feeling in her gut were gone, but there was still a piercing sensation in her abdomen, a head wound she was terrified to look at, and most importantly, she was still trapped underneath the bookshelf.

As she slowly, painfully, limb-by-limb, extracted herself from her wooden prison, Astrid could only think about two things. How lucky she was that no-one else had stumbled upon her, someone with a weapon and who wouldn’t pussy out like Al had.

And how, if she ever saw that worthless piece of shit again, she wouldn’t hesitate in killing him.

It took nearly an hour for Astrid to labour her way out from under the bookshelf. She shakily got to her feet, clinging to the nearest upright set of shelves for dear life as she did so, the pain in her stomach flaring up with every movement. It wasn’t hard to identify the root cause. The pool of crimson showed up well against her light blue jacket. Gingerly, she lifted her jacket and top up to inspect the wound, wincing when she saw it. The wound itself was fairly small, the blood staining against her top making it look bigger, but she couldn’t tell how deep the thing was, and there were some nasty looking purple bruises already blossoming around the puncture.

The culprit was just as easy to identify, as she retrieved it from under the shelves. One spike of the pickaxe had a fresh coating of blood. She must have pierced herself with it when it had been caught between herself and the floor.

Breathing heavily, still through gritted teeth, Astrid used the pickaxe to aid her as she stumbled to one of the windows to look at her head wound. It was better than she could have hoped for, in all honesty. It still needed bandaging, and there was blood coating her head; matted into her hair, two diverging streams trickling down from the source on her crown, one stream staining her forehead and the top of her ear read, the other cutting a red line down through her eyepatch. But it was mostly just superficial damage. A quick wipe with a wet cloth and it’d all disappear.

Astrid pulled a chair out, and set to work, setting the pickaxe down and grabbing the first aid kit from her bag, using her reflection to guide her. She wiped her forehead clean of blood, and was about to do the same to the streak down the right side of her face when something stopped her. She looked long and hard at herself, then chucked the bloodstained rags into one corner of the room and pulled the bandages out instead. It felt stupid even thinking it, but she wondered what Sophie would think if she saw her now, if she wasn’t on the island but looked this way anyways? She had always thought her big sister looked like a pirate. Maybe some bloody bandages and a streak of blood would exacerbate that thought process.

She wasn’t certain, as she finished wrapping a length of bandage around her head, but when she looked up and caught sight of herself, her thoughts instantly snapped back to Sophie, and she knew her idea had worked.

The stomach wound came next. After some deliberation, Astrid quickly threw off her jacket and tank top, before fishing around in the first aid kit for alcohol and some pads. She wasn’t going to be able to work just lifting her clothes up. She wasn’t happy about the terrorists seeing her half-naked, but if everything went to plan, they would witness her committing a much worse act in the upcoming few days.

As soon as the pads were securely pressed against her stomach, and tightly bound with bandages, she grabbed her clothes again, slipping them over her head. Then she leaned back in her chair, and let out a sigh. She stayed like that for a long time, the pain from her wounds slowly fading from constant sharp pangs to occasional dull reminders. Eventually, she got up, packed her first aid kit back up, and tossed it into her bag. She grabbed the pickaxe in both hands, looking at her blood on the metal spike.

There was a story from the Crusades, possibly apocryphal, possibly based in fact, about how new swords were forged. Instead of being plunged into a bucket of water to cool the weapon down, the blacksmith would instead thrust it into the body of a slave, the blood allegedly hardening the metal quicker than water would. There was symbolic meaning behind it, however; the blade would start it’s life in blood, and end its life in blood.

Astrid hefted the pickaxe up and rested it on her shoulder. It would start its journey with her taking her own blood, and finish by taking someone else’s. Her lips twisted into a grim smile. She pushed the library door open and left the smell of bloodstained wood behind her.

((Astrid Tate continued in A sea view to rest the soul))
V7 BAYBEE

FOLDER OF DESTINY

"bryony and alba would definitely join the terrorists quote me on this put this quote in signatures put it in history books" - Cicada Days, 2017
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