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Death Is The Only Freedom...; (Private for now)
Topic Started: Jan 17 2017, 11:58 AM (1,007 Views)
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((Kiziah Saraki continued from If It Bleeds, It Leads.))

Once they were in the library, Kizi finally opened her eyes.

Of course, they had opened at some points during their escape, during their trek. But she hadn't looked. Had only noticed vague outlines, billowy colours, indistinct shapes. Her tearducts were alternating between flooding and clogged, and her visual sense refused to focus, refused to take notice of anything. Luckily Clarice had been with her. Luckily the grip on gun and bag remained strong.

Her other senses had been hit and miss. She hadn't heard anything memorable. A loud, humming din, that was all she could recall. Even when things must have been silent, bar their clumsy and bumbling escape and maybe the dissonant sounds of wildlife. But she remembered every scent hitting her nose, the jolting accompanying every twist and turn, the taste of her own tears falling into her mouth.

Kizi had landed on the library floor. On her back. Staring at the ceiling, as if it would contain some arcane wisdom. Probably as useful in her current predicament as every book combined. She hated to acknowledge book smarts were useless here, but there she was.

And then somehow, Clarice's softly spoken plea for help penetrated Kizi's bubble. It was strange hearing Clarice speak softly. And then it hit her. It wasn't that she was speaking softly. It was that she was speaking weakly. And that, that was unusual. Climbing to her feet, Kizi was quick to reply. "We have first aid kits. Tell me what you need me to do." She was already pulling it out of her bag by the time she finished her sentence.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi placed her first aid kit on a nearby table, and began pulling out the various items. God help her, she had no idea what to do. None whatsoever. She knew next to nothing about first aid. She had barely even picked up any oversimplified myths from TV, having rarely watched the sorts of shows where accidents and traumas happened. She knew next to nothing about why some of the stuff was here. She understood aspirin and bandages (why so many types?), but tweezers? Lighters? Alcohol pads? Was that for alcoholics going through withdrawal or something?

She grabbed at the non-adhesive bandages, but her grip was clumsy, shaking from undernourishment and fatigue and a heap of fear, and soon, the bandages had unrolled, a tangled mess in her hands. Biting her tongue, she felt frustration rising up. At her own failure, predominantly. She furrowed her brow, stifled a scowl, and began untangling the mess. "Bandages coming up."

She picked up the saline solution, opened the bottle, and let a little stream of the solution trickle onto the length of the bandage. "You put saline solution on it, right?" She should have asked that before.

God, she was useless.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Holding the bandages by her fingertips, Kizi held them up, not wanting to sully them with any dirt or grit that may have fallen beneath her fingernails or contaminated her palms. She hadn't exactly been the neatest or tidiest person over the past few days. Proper table manners had died pretty quickly.

Waiting for Bart to begin applying the antiseptic wipes, Kizi decided to be helpful in a more sanguine and muted sense. Distraction. That always helped when pain was on the horizon. And antiseptic wipes hurt, she remembered.

Kizi met Clarice's gaze, and followed it. She was examining the books. That was pretty in-character for her. Clarice was smart, after all. Just like the artwork in the therapy room, it'd been abandoned, left to rot and decay, subject to the whims of vandals and the erosions of time. A great shame, really. Faculties such as this were bound to have good libraries. Books that could make a difference. But no point in mourning that. There were far bigger issues. Ones that she could actually help.

"So, Clarice, maybe we can hold out here for a bit? Maybe get some reading done? Could be a safe and...uh...effective way at passing the time? I mean, not if you don't want to, of course." She hoped her spiel offered some distraction, some amelioration, from all the duress they were currently under. "Maybe we can try searching through all these books? Could be something...useful."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi knew that the suggestion that there was some sort of puzzle to solve, some sort of clue on the bookshelves, was insane. She was thinking maybe there'd be some sort of accidental lateral thinking benefits, or even just some cogent distraction, some form of help that could be found in the amassed literature-

No. That wasn't the truth. Kizi had once again been speaking without any real forethought. She'd just been letting words jumble out of her mouth. She nodded at Clarice's demurral, and continued speaking, hoping to serve as some kind of distraction from the pain. "Sure, sure, we can do whatever."

Kizi thought it was working, but she hadn't been looking at the wound. Too weak-stomached for that. She thought Bart was already rubbing the antiseptic on. When Clarice screamed, she realised she had been mistaken. It hadn't even begun. Kizi stepped forward, and had to resist the temptation to reach out and squeeze Clarice's hand. The bandage would drop if she did. And trail along the floor. Kizi was willing to guess that that wasn't sterile.

"Yeah, the pain's good! Well, not good. But it means it's working!" It was a platitude, empty and void of content. All Kizi could really manage right now.
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
And with that, Kizi stepped forward, and began applying the bandage. Her touch was as gentle and benign as she could manage, as mellow as possible without being weak. There needed to be some firmness, some certainty of direction. Otherwise she'd drop the bandages, or apply them haphazardly, or end up doing something stupid. Would drag things out more than necessary. And that would mean more discomfort for everyone.

Clarice, thankfully, seemed intent on keeping herself distracted. Clarice must have been aching like all hell, but still, she remained strong. Quite inspirational, really. Kizi looked up at her as she carried on wrapping, smiled as they briefly made eye contact, then looked back down.

"Well, what I'm thinking..." The truth is, she was thinking nothing. But if she kept talking, words would come out. Her instincts would kick in. "Is that, okay, we get all the non-players together. Like, form a community. And then in strength comes numbers." She blinked. Wrong way round. Hopefully nobody would pick up on that.

She stepped away, the bandage done. It looked decent. "And then...we uh...improvise."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi was forcing herself to look at Clarice's wound. Forced herself to endure the horrific sight, to not dwell on all the unsavoury insinuations staring at the aftermath of a violent act provoked in her imagination. She had to look at it. Partially to build up character, make herself more robust. More importantly, so that her bandage wrapping was accurate. Couldn't be sloppy with that. Couldn't have left it loosely fitting, or sagging, or the side of the bandage digging into the cut itself. She shuddered at that thought. Clarice deserved proper medical care.

And in a pinch, Bart and Kizi would have to do.

And then Clarice pooh-poohed her idea. Rather dismissively, at first. It hurt. She paused for a second, but carried on, finishing up the job regardless. And then the truth came out. And all the suffering that had been inflicted in the course of Clarice's past attempt. She looked down. It was dangerous. It was risky, asking them to indulge her in that little bit of utopian fancy. It was crazy. Reckless. There was no point to it, pursuing it would breed only damage.

She stepped away once the wrapping was done. Clarice had spoken wisely.

Kizi looked down, and bit her lip, and looked back up. She had to be firm. She inhaled loudly, bracing herself. "No. I'm not talking about just forming a big defensive team to fight against the players. No, I'm talking about something that hasn't been done before. Trying to establish a sanctuary, a refuge, a place of...calm in the storm." She looked down again, but carried on speaking. "It hasn't been done before, and there's nothing you can say to disprove that."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kiziah was open to constructive criticism. She wasn't thin-skinned, not in the slightest. She could enjoy a bit of good-natured ribbing, could listen to critiques with an unprejudiced and receptive mindset, could accept disagreements without even a trace of resentment or ill will.

But, maybe it was the stress getting to her, but Clarice was actually...angering her? She hadn't been angry in years. Indignant, sure. Furious about distant injustices or manipulating tyrants? Yes, of course. Exasperated, sure. Even a bit irked or irritable sometimes. But angry? Angry at a friend, a loved one, standing right in front of her? That was a strange feeling. Not a novel one, or an alien one, but she herself had to blink a couple of times, just to be sure that, yes, this was what she was feeling. She couldn't say why she was angry or whether it was aimed at Clarice or the situation, but-

No. She had to stop lying to herself. She knew perfectly well why he was angry. And Kizi knew it was directed at Clarice. She was dismissing her ideas, pooh-poohing them with a slightly arrogant attitude. "Of course I've considered all of that," Kizi retorted, a bit more snappily than she intended. Such bite coming in her voice was a bit strange, but it was warranted. She had thought about all those questions. Not in a rigorous or systematic way, but she knew those questions mattered.

She didn't know which answers she favoured, but she talked anyway. Let her instincts settle the details. "For your information, recruitment could be done through messages. There would be protection still. And, once together, yes, we can drag this game out, and do more productive things, and work on bringing someone to us. Hell, we're on an island. An inhabited island. Eventually search will work." She stood up, and made to storm off, but that was a step too far for Kizi. So she turned back around. "I'm trying too, but I just don't want things to go badly without some organised. I want to bring this whole SOTF thing down in flames just as much as you."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi shook her head. Clarice was being obtuse! No, no, that was crude of her to think that. Misunderstandings arose, people had cognitive blind spots, there was no point getting angry or indignant about that. She was missing the point though. It wasn't mean to think that. "There's only so many islands, and only so many that once contained an asylum, and-" Okay, they wouldn't know about the asylum. Good point. But whatever.

"Eventually, they'll guess it was SOTF. They know the modus operandi by now. They probably have like, psychological profiles built up to the wazoo. There's only a finite number of islands capable of hosting...a group of students this size." It was hard talking about things in such an analytical and clinical way, but it was easier than emotive language. "They'll find us eventually. Even more so if there's some sort of signal." Her voice dropped at that, her tone lowered. It was a plausible long-term goal, to use the group as a means of organising some jury-rigged communications system.

Kizi crossed her arms when Clarice decided to postpone discussion. She didn't challenge it, no. Clarice had gone through enough that day, had witnessed enough torment and tribulation. Being forced into a high-stakes, highly-charged controversy, that was inconsiderate. She nodded, agreeing silently to accept that this would be kicked into the long grass.

As she turned away, to continue looking through the library, she felt bad. A pang of guilt in her stomach, that for a split second she mistook for a growl of malnutrition. She was doing right by Clarice, and that was important. That was kind. That was nice. But when the announcements would next blare, how many more deaths? How many more Jennifers? It was a chilling thought. She paused in her tracks. Maybe she was doing the wrong thing? Putting Clarice's feelings over the lives of others?

No. That was ridiculous. It was egotistical to think that she could have such a role.

She walked off.

-

For the rest of the day, Kiziah was introspective. Friendly, warm, but not gregarious. She didn't stick herself out there. She could be forgiven for that, she hoped. Occasionally she pulled away, to pray or to stare into the camera, as if trying to muster the courage to impart some belated final words onto her family. The former was easy. Praying was easy. But talking to her family? Leaving them a message? That was a struggle. She struggled to leave them voice mails, so dependent was she on a back and forth, that ultimately all she ended up doing was asking nobody in particular if her voice was a timbre that Olabode was able to hear.

She had found three bags. Had shoved them away. If her plan for community would come to fruition, she would need supplies.

In the final hour before nightfall, she tried compensating for her early reclusiveness. Tried being as friendly as possible, tried sparking up conversations about hope and inspiration, or small talk, or casual observations about the island's natural beauty. Leaving a nasty taste in the air, that was something that would only sow regrets. For all their recent clashing, Clarice was the best friend she had right now. And poor Bart, collateral damage in the dispute between friends. He definitely didn't deserve the cold shoulder.

She went to bed aware she had been a bit strong, both in her anger and her plea for redemption. It was a regret, but a bearable one. So much better than the spectre of unanswered questions. That haunted her. Most of all with Jennifer. Something about having seen her on the island made her fate, the permanence of her loss, all the more real. She said her goodnights, did her turn on watch, and then, once relief arrived, fell asleep. Rather soundly, it had to be said. She had trusted Jennifer and Bart, but something about knowing Clarice was there made her feel even safer.

-

Morning came. The announcements hurt. There really was nothing else to say. Kizi retreated into a quiet corner, giving thoughts and prayers to each of the names, killed and killer, that came up. All victims of this barbarity. She blinked back tears. A now common ritual for her.

She stood up. The people who had left the bags might want them back. Leaving her own possessions with Clarice and Bart, she slipped away, gathered them up. It was cumbersome, and she no doubt looked gawky and cloddish. She avoided any falls or more noisy stumbles, though, and began heading back to where she had found them. Oh. She'd forgotten already. The library was not exactly user-friendly.

No. It was. The library was fine. She was just forgetful.

She headed to the entrance, and tucked the bags behind the door, just out of sight. Not sustainable, but it would work while she rested. Kizi looked at the sky. Rested her shotgun on the wall beside her. The weather was clearer now.
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Kizi was looking at the horizon, and jolted her eyes to the newcomer upon her arrival. Didn't recognise her, as awful as that was. She seemed friendly, non-violent, hospitable. Likely a junior, she hadn't hung out with too many of them. So, at least tentatively, Kizi would trust her. Would be hard for her not to. She still hadn't learnt to be sceptical. The only close call she had had (her relatively peaceful tenure on the island, statistically speaking, was a blessing, albeit a cruel one), the attacker had made no secret of their violent intentions. She remained hopeful that the other killers choreographed their actions as much.

Probably just wanted her bags back. Kizi smiled, a sincere smile, a reflex rather than a calculated move. "Sorry 'bout that. You alright? With the coughing and all?" Of course she wouldn't be alright. Nobody was. Awful situation. But still, the cough warranted concern. After giving Lili a space to respond, Kizi continued. "I'm Kizi. Kiziah. Guessing you were...are a junior?"

She had to choose her words carefully. She had to signal that she had no intention of being secretive or cagey, no malicious or selfish desire to keep hold onto the bags. But at the same time, she knew this game had incited some rather...duplicitous feelings in others. Not violent, not psychopathic, but ready to seize any advantage, to not abide by unspoken rules of fair play. It was the right thing to do, unless the girl was in some great state of distress, "So, is there something here you were looking for?"

Oh wait. No, that sounded rude.

Dammit.

"Like bags or anything?"

Clarice appeared over her shoulder. Kizi smiled at her words. An implicit admission that the change in strategy was warranted. "Yup. We haven't got any...hostile intent. Were thinking of starting a community, actually. A proper safe zone. Bring a stop to this madness."
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[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Kizi smiled. This girl seemed nice. Kizi doubted one of the players would have attacked - their little trio would have the upper hand, of greater cover and weapons and numbers, if things kicked off. Kizi, however, didn't need to linger much on those hard-headed and unsentimental strategising. It was clear the newcomer did not warrant such callousness. Kizi gave her all the tokens of politeness that came naturally to her: grimaced in solidarity at the mention of butt pain, stepped to the side slightly so not to conceal her companions, smiled gregariously.

She was the girl who was looking for the bags. Kizi smiled, and nodded, and upon hearing the newcomer get the numbers down right, she stepped away, and pulled one of them into view, dragging it across the floor. She felt a bit lethargic, after having balanced all three of the bulky items at once. She could afford to cut corners. "There's two more right here, too."

And before she could extend an invitation, Clarice had done so. "Oh, of course!" Hospitality was second nature to her. She didn't need to be told that by Clarice, of all people. "Please, come in! If you want, of course."
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There was something...heartwarming about this.

That felt like the wrong word. It was simply someone rediscovering their bags. Finding supplies and material possessions. Not a heartfelt reunion or anything. But still, it warmed her heart. To see a reprieve from the hostility of the island, a (metaphorical) island of hospitality and goodwill amidst the chaos. To be a part of that. To know not everyone was abandoning basic decency. Gave her hope.

It helped that the newcomer seemed practically ecstatic at discovering her bags were safe. Ebullient, even. Seeing happiness in the flesh, that was a pleasure she wasn't sure she'd ever witness again. Small mercies, perhaps, but great things were built by small mercies. That was what was important. Kindness could not be abandoned. It had to be bound around their necks, written into the tablets of their heart, if they were to have any chance of proving these monsters wrong.

Kizi stood by, leaning against the wall. The newcomer had probably been in a similar state of mind to them. Expecting nothing but treachery, dishonesty, opportunism. And as she ate her bread, it was clear that she had seen fit to let her guard down, just a bit. In the context, it was the best compliment someone could get.
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Kizi nodded. Bart's suggestion, of bringing the newcomer on board, that was exactly her thinking. They didn't even know her name yet, just knew that she was a junior with an amicable disposition and a peaceable outlook. And that was what was important, after all. It was good to know that Bart was on the same page as her. She smiled at him. He was a good ally. A good friend. A hero in the making. She hadn't really known him too well back in Kingman. Not well enough, at least. But she felt she had come to know him better, despite the absence of small talk, than most of her other friends.

Of course, there was a risk the newcomer would say no. That she was waiting to reveal the same naysaying cynicism that Clarice bore. Or maybe she had settled into a routine. That she had plans for her final days. It would have been a pessimistic approach, sure, but one that Kizi could not have denied her.

The girl, quite possibly, had her own plans, her own affections, her own loyalties. Perhaps it would be futile to ask her. But that was no reason not to. It was just as likely that, as with most of them, she was looking for a purpose here. She was looking for guidance. That getting the newcomer on board could save her life, could even more dramatically mark the difference between the plan succeeding and the plan failing.

"Yeah. You're right." It was good to know that Bart had a good head on his shoulders.

So, she crossed the middle of the room, making sure her footsteps were loud enough that her sudden appearance behind the new girl wouldn't startle her. "So, uh...I missed your name and all, but...so, you know I mentioned that whole idea of maybe starting a safe community, try and bring people together? Would you be down for that?"

But then some sounds - ambiguous sounds, of uncertain source, and mystery was not a good thing here - began emanating from the entrance. Kizi turned to face the source of the disruption. She was about to ask if Clarice was okay, and then the shelf came crashing down. Before she knew it, trails of fire began coursing through the room, inciting the carpet, one tendril casting a foreboding line between her and Bart. Luckily, the newcomer, her bag, and her shotgun were on one side. Unfortunately, she was separated from Bart. Perhaps had they moved quickly, it would have been...not manageable, but something that they could have jumped across.

But no. No coordination, no foresight, so no reunion. They were separated, for now.

Kizi looked behind her. A window, starting at about waist-height and more than big enough to accommodate an escape, was the only exit she saw.

She bit her lip in trepidation. Still, if this was the hardest thing she'd have to do, she should consider herself lucky.

And she held the shotgun like a club, and tried bringing it hard onto the window.

It didn't quite bounce off. There was some give. A little bit of a crack in the pane. But still, it largely rebounded, and she almost fell to the ground with inept clumsiness. She was sweating already. Her muscles ached. Overexertion. The whiplash from...recoil? Could you get recoil from a melee attack?

And as she stumbled back, she spotted an unassuming service door to the side.

Oh. That could work.

"Bart! Clarice! Stay safe!" She hoped she would see them outside. Yet, with the intensity of the fire, she doubted it.

((Kiziah Saraki continued in Everything's In Solitude Except Character.))
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