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Minus Something; [Shoot First, Ask Questions Later]
Topic Started: Apr 11 2017, 07:17 PM (1,677 Views)
VoltTurtle
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The girl who dreams on the back of a giant space turtle.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"Eugh. I hate being up this early."

((Penelope Fitzgerald continued from Hyphaema))

Penelope yawned as the group trudged down the hall, towards the cafeteria of the asylum. They had gotten lost on the way over, the dingy and faded signs not giving them any clues as to how to navigate the labyrinthine halls of the abandoned hospital. They had soon found themselves giving up and taking silent refuge in the rooms of the asylum, waiting the rest of the night out.

Once the morning came, they immediately moved towards the cafeteria again, her worries about the status of their friends growing ever more frantic as they spent time away from them.

Eventually they figured out where they were going, and arrived at the doors of the cafeteria, relieved to be somewhere that they knew was safe. Somewhere where friends were.

Penelope took the initiative and pressed the doors open, announcing herself to the room in a jovial fashion reminiscent of how she would announce her return home after a night out with friends.

"Guuuuuuys! We're back! We're okay, no need to worry about... about us..."

Penelope was taken aback.

"A-Al? Why are you... how are you here..?"

Why was Alessio in the cafeteria? He had been her friend back at Cochise, but the announcements had shown that he had gone far off the deep end, way beyond the point of no return. Why would he be with Ben, and Lili, and Kizi?

Her eyes strayed around the room, looking for her friends. Lili was there, as expected, but there were two notable absences.

"...Is Ben not here? Did... did he never come back?"

"And... where's... where's Kizi?"

Her eyes had glanced over the pools of blood on the floor, only to stray back and lock on.

A song in the key of panic overtook her mind, she was unable to focus on anything else. That thick scarlet fluid that always made her breathing heavy, it was so blatantly fresh, and there was so much more than she had ever seen before in her life.

"Oh... oh no... no..."

Black spots danced across her vision.

"Not...... not........."

Penelope collapsed.
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VoltTurtle
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The girl who dreams on the back of a giant space turtle.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Penelope's eyes opened, her hand instinctively clutching her head in response to her head suddenly aching.

She stood up, lifting herself out of Raina's arms, swaying gently from side to side as she rubbed her eyes and re-familiarized herself with her surroundings. Black spots cleared from her vision as she looked between Raina, Johnny, and Al, only to briefly return as she noticed the blood spatters on Lili's clothes.

"I uh... sorry for fainting there," she murmured, as she turned her head away from Lili.

It had been a long time since she had last fainted from the sight of blood. The fainting spells would never lasted more than a handful of seconds, but the aftershocks often left her feeling bad for the rest of the day.

Her eyes strayed back towards the blood spatters covering Lili's clothes, only for them to dart away again.

"Okay..." She began, her head turned away from the person she was interrogating. "Where are Ben and Kizi?" She wondered if her questions had been answered before she had woke up. "And why is Al here and..?"

She glanced back over at Al, unsure of what to make of his presence. He had been her friend, but she wasn't sure if the Al she knew and loved was still there. He at least seemed to be friendly enough, given that Lili was with him and not yet another corpse, but she couldn't help but feeling distrustful. She hadn't been able to convince Astrid, and Astrid hadn't even killed anyone at that point. How could they have managed to calm down a known killer?

"Just uh... fill me in on what happened and what you know. And if you already explained while I was out... sorry about asking again."
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Penelope held in a scream as they read out Ben's name on the announcements.

Ben was dead. Jeremy killed him. Now Jeremy was dead too. Just like her other friends before them, they were gone, never to come back. How many more of her friends would die at each other's hands, before they could stop all of this from happening?

And now Raina was forcing Al to leave, and he was about to comply. Al had killed multiple people, and she wasn't sure if she could trust him, but did he deserve to be pushed away from the friends he'd known before all of this? He wasn't even fighting, he was leaving without even trying to touch the weapons they had. He was blatantly upset, like he had wanted to stay. As much as she wanted to take the chance to mourn those that had been lost, she couldn't just stand aside and wallow in her emotions as things fell apart around her yet again.

Who would she be if she didn't give everyone a second chance?

"No!" She shouted, clearing out the tears that were starting to build in her eyes. "Al is not leaving."

Ben didn't join up with her so she could just sit around and do nothing because it was easier that way. He joined her because he had a goal that he believed in, a goal that she had been shirking because of her emotions. Just like Penelope, Ben had wanted true peace for the island and a chance at redemption for them all, before the end of their lives. And if they could convince Al to put down his arms, then perhaps the killers all weren't truly a lost cause. Maybe all they needed was someone to talk some sense into them, and they would realize what Astrid failed to; that even if they killed enough to leave this place, they would still be dead, just on the inside, rather than the outside.

Maybe the goal that they believed in wasn't so lofty after all.

She clenched her hand into a fist, a sense of hope and triumph finally returning to her voice. "I'm sick of watching people die. I can't just sit around anymore and do nothing when if I just did something, I could stop all of this."

"Ben died because I didn't stop him when he wanted to leave out on his own. I knew that if he left the group he would be so much more vulnerable, not only to others, but to himself. But I didn't say anything because I was too caught up in being sad and angry about all of the gloom and doom around here. No more."

She took a moment to breathe, to calm herself a little. "Al is staying because just from seeing him for only a few moments here, I can tell that he legitimately wants to be better. He wanted an alternative to just killing more people to leave, and our group here gave it to him. To shun him now, when he's trying to turn over a new leaf, would go against everything that our group stands for."

"If we can change Al, then there's a chance we can change anyone. Even if there were apparently some serial killers among us all along, like that Isabel girl, most of us seem to want some way out. Some alternative." She paused, her tone turning somber. "We're just kids. Stupid kids in way over our heads. And if given another set of rules than the ones given to us by the fucking maniacs that put us here... maybe they can change."

"I... I know that we can't convince everyone. God knows I tried so hard to convince Astrid to not hurt anyone and she just wouldn't listen. But if there's no way we can convince some to change their mind..." She paused, the words she wanted to speak making her sick to her stomach. "...Now we have an easy way of disposing of them."

She took a deep breath, almost unable to believe the words that had just come out of her mouth. But that was the reality of things; if they couldn't convince someone not to be violent, then they had no choice but to defend themselves and the other peaceful island denizens that were still out there, waiting to be found.

"We are doing this. We are going to make this happen. We've lost so much already, and we aren't just going to insult the legacy of those that have been left behind by not giving Al another chance."
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VoltTurtle
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Penelope sighed in frustration at both Raina and Lili, not sure what to say.

Lili confirmed Kiziah had died, presumably at Al's hands. She held in the despair that was building up inside of her. This was her moment, she needed to stay calm and use her words.

"Okay... first," she began confidently, taking control of the conversation in the room, "I think you really misunderstood what I meant, Lili. Obviously I don't want to hurt anyone, but there are no doubt going to be people who don't want to listen to us, no matter what we say or do. And if we manage to gather up everyone that will listen, the people who won't listen will come knocking."

She took a deep breath in an effort to calm herself, keep her emotions in check. "As much as I hate to say it, we would either have to defend ourselves, or let them murder each and every one of us." She paused, passionate emotion returning to her voice. "I don't want anyone else to get hurt, but how dare you suggest I want to turn my back on what we're doing here? I've had this idea from day one, I've been wanting to get a peaceful group together this entire time. That's why we had... Ben... and... that's... that's why Raina's here. If it wasn't for me, you guys wouldn't have even had the confidence to do anything."

Penelope paused for breath, only to swallow nervously at what was next. She didn't want to say what she was about to say, she wanted to keep holding it back, but now was the time to let it all out. "And... Raina... I'm sorry to say this but... whatever you're dreaming up to try and escape, it's not going to work."

"As evil as the terrorists are, they have the brains and the brawn. They have years and years of experience doing this. This isn't an anime or a video game where the good guys win against impossible odds. This is reality, where the bad guys win when they have the advantage. We have no chance of getting out of here alive and... if you do something, trying to prove me wrong, they will just detonate the bomb they have wrapped around your neck. You'll be gone and I'll..." Tears began to well up in Penelope's eyes, her voice wavering as she spoke. "A-And I'll have watched you die. I'll be... I'll be all alone."

"I... I don't want to l-lose any of you guys. But we... we can't just turn away anybody with kills to their name just because... just because we're afraid of what they might do. If... if Kizi trusted Al enough that she wanted him to stick around, then... then I want him to stick around too."

"A-and if this... i-if this is how this group dies, then I might... I might as well just grab one of those guns and just... and just kill myself right here, right now. I don't... I don't want to see any more of you guys die, a-at least not without it being together, on our terms."

"I-If this group dies here, because we can't decide what we want, then there's no hope... there's no hope left for any of us."
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In an instant, everything that Penelope was working towards was gone.

She didn't move or speak when Al and Lili left–there was nothing else that could be said. If all of the words she had already spoken could not change Raina's mind and could not convince Al and Lili to stay, then nothing she could possibly say would.

Ben and Kizi had joined the ranks of the dead. Al and Lili had left, presumably permanently. Penelope and Raina had both admitted to not believing in the other's plans, and Johnny was as clueless as he had ever been. In just a few minutes, the pacifist group had broken up, and now outside of government intervention, there wasn't a shred of hope left for the lot of them. The terrorists had done it; they'd broken them. They'd put the class in this situation, and her classmates had decided that eating each other alive would be better than just accepting what had happened.

There was no hope left for any of them, and yet she couldn't even kill herself because Lili took the guns with her.

Penelope sunk to her knees and covered her face, hiding her tear streaked cheeks. Stinging water began to build up in her eyes yet again, despite her desire to stop crying and start doing things. Her actions had done nothing to stop what was coming, her willpower pointless and ignored.

She had no idea why she had even bothered to try. Deep down, ever since her confrontation with Astrid, she'd known that her plan would fail in the end. If her friends could be pushed to murdering one another for the sake of self-preservation, convincing them not to continue living–even if their continued life would be awful–was objectively impossible.

In spite of her words no longer holding any meaning, words nonetheless poured out of her mouth as she lay crouched and crying in the abandoned mess hall. "I... I knew that this would all fail in the end, Raina, but not like this. I didn't... I didn't think that our group would fall apart, just that we wouldn't be able to convince everyone. But apparently... apparently we couldn't even convince ourselves."

She continued to cry, weak sobs escaping her lips every few seconds. She sat, ashes still clinging to her lower body, mascara still staining the skin on her face, clothing dirty and lightly torn in places. How could she have ever believed that an abject mess like herself could accomplish anything? Nothing she had done in her short life prepared her for the situation she found herself in. She just wanted to be back home again, see her sisters and parents one last time.

Her sobbing slowed to a halt as her sadness turned into numbness. Everything they had been doing turned out to be utterly pointless, their entire lives reduced to nothing but statistics to be gawked at in a history textbook decades from now. Where she had simply accepted the pointlessness before, she now felt herself wanting to embrace. Their lives and struggles were nothing in the grand scheme of things; why even bother to care? She would just hurt herself and make her short life even more of an unbearable experience.

She spoke again, her hands coming off of her face. "This... this is all some kind of sick joke. We go about our lives trying to do our best to be happy and then suddenly we have all of that violently ripped away from us, never to come back." She frowned. "And then... and then when we try to affirm ourselves, our rationality, our meaning, it crumbles in the face of what we are. A bunch of animals who can't handle the futility of their own existence."

"I can't even handle it myself. I'm so afraid... so afraid of dying. But I thought that maybe... maybe if I managed to do all of this, my sense of triumph would over come any of that animalistic fear that I still felt, but I was wrong. I'm still afraid, and Astrid was right. The only thing left to do in a situation like this is fall back on those base instincts. Everyone out for themselves and all that nonsense."

She inhaled and stood up, keeping her gaze aimed at the floor. Gears were turning in her head as she plotted a new course for herself. "...But I don't want to do that. All I've ever wanted since I got here is to fuck shit up, in my own way. And... if I can't convince everyone to put down their weapons and join together, then I guess I'll have to just rely on myself, and those that I know I can trust."

She looked back up at Raina and Johnny, her eyes tired but focused. "If we can't escape, and we can't get everyone to give up, then... maybe we could just mess them up in another way. They... they said that if you were the last one left and you didn't kill, you wouldn't be able to go home. But if someone like that managed to make it to the end, then that would show them the same thing that I wanted to show them. That you can't corrupt everybody. You can break us, you can beat us down, but you can't make all of us turn on one another. We would show them that their goals are just as pointless as everyone else's."

She rubbed the back of her neck, stiff from the hunching over she had done. "I know that whoever would take up that burden would have to deal with everyone else dying only to die not too long after. It... it isn't something that I think anyone could handle, but... I'm willing to bear that burden, if it comes to it. As much as I'd rather die right here and get everything over with, I don't know if anyone else would want to do it."

"So... are you guys willing to try to walk this path with me?" She asked, her voice timid and tinged with fear of disapproval. "You guys are all I have left, and I would hate to lose you too..."
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Penelope smiled and nodded her head, more than happy with the fact that her friends were still supporting her–even if they seemed to be hesitant to do so.

She walked forward and wrapped her arms around Raina, hugging her as tightly as she could manage. "Thanks," she muttered, into Raina's ear, "that means a lot to me..."

She held the hug for a long time, trembling slightly as she tried to contain all of the conflicting emotions she had felt in this room over the last half hour. She hugged Raina even tighter, trying to express just how much she appreciated her friend, how she appreciated her in ways that could not be expressed in mere words alone.

As the hug was held, Raina eventually whispered into Penelope's ear that she was hugging her a bit too tightly. She relaxed the hug, only to nuzzle her head against her best friend's shoulder.

Times of crisis nearly always brings out the worst in people, but it also brings out the best in those who shine the brightest. You always look for the helpers, you always find people who are helping. They were the helpers, they were doing what's right in a world so inherently wrong.

For the second time ever on the island, Penelope felt truly good about herself.

She eventually let go of Raina, only to take her hand in Penelope's own. "Let's just... stay here for a while. I think we should all get a chance to cool down after all of that. Maybe we can move somewhere else later."

She sat down at one of the cafeteria's tables, the only one sitting untouched in the room, taking care to face away from the pool of Kizi's blood that lay festering on the ground nearby. She motioned for Raina and Johnny to join her, and she did what she had not done since before the trip; she decided to meditate.

She took a moment to focus her thoughts, she took a moment to relax, she took a moment to clear her head. Good would always win, in the end. Even if their little group of pacifists would wind up dying in the here and now, the terrorists that had murdered them wouldn't be able to do so forever. Their deaths may be just as pointless as any other, but she could take solace in the fact that no matter what, the tragedy would eventually stop.

She breathed in, and breathed out. Even with all of the broken dreams around her, even in her time of great distress, she could still find peace with those that she trusted.

((Penelope Fitzgerald continued elsewhere...))
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