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Rivers of Sadness and Mutual Need; Day 7, after the announcement. Open.
Topic Started: Apr 11 2017, 09:42 PM (896 Views)
dmboogie
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((Well. That was stupid and overdramatic, wasn’t it?))

It was amazing, how much better Cass felt with… however much sleep they had gotten in their system. All they knew was that they had fallen asleep around midday and had woken up to a sunrise. At some point, they had forgotten the nominal purpose of their continued existence, hadn’t they? Experiencing your last moments delusional and miserable was hardly more accurate to what Cass considered to be their true consciousness than a dreaming death would be.

Their neck and back were sore, their wrist still ached (oh, hell. you need to change bandages every-so-often, don’t you?) but they were still able to face the gray morning with brightened eyes. Sadly, comfortably drawing under the open skies seemed to be a lost cause even if the rain had stopped, unless they miraculously found a jacket or a sweatshirt or even just another shirt, jesus christ in hindsight the thing they regretted most was wearing their stupid, still pretty tanktop. Still, the hunting lodge happened to have a romantic air to it, carrying the idea of isolation with it even while it neighbored the homes of those who weren’t prisoners and patients. Chairs were a plus, too.

Cass grabbed their notebook, pencil, baton, and bags and once more moved out into the living room. It was still too a bit too dark to try and give Trav a proper sketch - and while he deserved so much more that was all Cass could do for him, now - so instead they enjoyed enduring their breakfast in peace until the sun found them. Afterwards, they turned back to the promise of art with a more forgiving mind until the announcement found them.

Clarice was still alive. So were Jae and Dorothy. The other names didn’t mean much from their limited perspective and dwindling supply of generalized empathy. It was darkly satisfying to hear that karma had caught up with Isabel, and though they were surprised and somewhat concerned by Dorothy’s involvement in the matter; they couldn’t find room in their heart to blame her for whatever had driven her to join the procession of the Ides of May.

Would the island be a safer place, without its biggest monster? Would it be a more treacherous place, with other, unbloodied people trying to fill the gap? Only time would tell.

And as time was the most precious possession any of them had left, when it became clear that remaining in the lodge wouldn’t automatically separate Cass’s head from their shoulders, they returned pencil to paper, artist to art.
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dmboogie
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Two sharp cracks would have fit the narrative better, wouldn't they have? A familiar leitmotif, ushering the ghost of Trav's demise back into Cass's mind even as they tried to recapture his life; unwelcome but not alien.

But no, instead someone had fired a fucking automatic shotgun at them - twice - and generally ruined every bit of serenity the quiet scene had scrounged up.

Cass started and shrieked, sending their pencil rolling across the floorboards, instinctively clutching the notebook to their chest for several seconds of wide-eyed panic. The material world had long since faded out of focus, and it took them far longer than advisable to remember that their invisible assailant could still be around, scrambling back into the nearby bedroom to take cover, neglecting to slam the door behind them because holy shit there wasn't much a door could do in that situation.

They pressed their back against the wall, checking themself for shock-veiled injuries before realizing that, just judging by sound, that hadn't been the sort of gun you can get hit by and still have the luxury of suffering from it later. It would have been prudent to dramatically snick Jae's gift and wait for the shooter to enter the room, but it was still where they left it, leaning against the armchair.

Hiding wouldn't work. Only so many places in the lodge to check, and the bed was too low for Cass to fit under. All it came down to was whether the shooter had made the conscious decision to hunt and kill Cass or if they had just... not thought a lot?

"Jesus fuck, please, hey, I'm not a threat or anything, alright?" Cass called out with ringing ears and a quivering voice. "I don't have a gun or a knife or anything like that so just - so just like - I've got two bags out there and they've both got stuff in them and you can like, take the stuff if you want it, I'm not willing to die for it or anything! I'll just, stay in here and not hurt you and you can stay out there and not hurt me and then you can leave with all my stuff and..." They trailed off, realizing that there hadn't been any response yet. Any footsteps, any dramatic gun-cocking noise that you'd probably have to make in order to fire your gun again? Cass didn't really know how they worked.

Their ears had been kinda fucked, but the ringing was slowly starting to die out. Still nothing. Cass tentatively waved their injured hand in front of the doorway to check if anyone was waiting with a twitchy death finger, but seconds passed and they still possessed all their limbs. Next they carefully peeked around the corner. Everything was exactly the way they had left it, other than all the new holes that had appeared in one of the walls.

Trying not to think about how easily that could have been their head, Cass waited a few more minutes, just to be safe. No response, no shooting.

They went back out into the living room and closed the front door. They spent an annoying amount of time trying to find their pencil again. They dragged the armchair into the bedroom, then closed that door. They tried to complete Trav, but found that their heart was still racing and that they were glancing back up at the door every few seconds.

At this point, they honestly weren't sure whether they were more terrified by how close they had come to death without any warning or realization, or more annoyed by how random and inconvenient it had been.
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All it took was one knock to defeat Cass's attempt to turn the bedroom into a hermitage. One reminder that there was more to the world beyond the room's four decaying walls; not content to let Cass deal with it on their own time. Earlier, they would have sighed and gone to answer it; but the aftershock of the shotgun's salutation kept them in their seat.

Even if they doubted the owner of that impulsive trigger finger was knocking now, they had little to gain and everything to lose from poking their head out the door a second time. Even if the knocker decided to enter, reassured by silence; Cass didn't want their last thoughts to be a lament of how much could have been saved by sticking to a corner.

The knocker turned into an intruder once, then twice. Cass clutched their sketchbook to their chest again, then relaxed as they saw Asuka's face. They weren't really friends, and while Cass had wanted to change that they had never built up the confidence to try and start... anything. Asuka was cool, after all. She was kind of like what you'd get if you took Cass and gave them an actual functioning brain, complete with existential thoughts that were actually worth thinking.

Thus, it was like a daydream come true to have her actually approach Cass and tell them that they were legitimately, sincerely interested in them. It was so pleasant that it wrapped around to throwing them completely off guard. "Um. Hi? You sure you got any to spare? I mean, I don't mind or anything..." They trailed off, not knocking exactly what they meant. Food to spare? Time or care to spare with a vague imprint of a person?

"Sorry. It's just - you hear any, like, shotguns recently? Someone shot at me and ran like fifteen minutes ago and I'm still pretty freaked out." They gestured to the holy wall back in the living room.
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Cass could count the conversations they had had since Trav died on their one good hand. Two explosions. Two avengers. Two murderers. Two sharp cracks. This left them woefully unprepared for Asuka's company. Every thought that came to mind found itself left behind as she moved on to the next subject, a sunbeam suited for the clear skies outside.

"...Yeah. I've, uh. Been carrying around two bags for a couple days now, so if you need anything I can share stuff too?" Cass said, accepting one of Asuka's ration bars. They had lost people they had known, and people that they had grown to know; but none of that had to be Asuka's problem. She had surely lost loved ones too, and Cass wasn't gonna ask her to open her heart any more to feel the absence of the friend of an acquaintance.

"Other than that I've been lucky? Relatively? Got stabbed once but I still punched the guy for being an asshole so I guess that kinda balances." And that was enough dwelling on their sorry life. "Sounds like you're making the most of your time here though, for what my opinion's worth. Trying to live instead of just surviving, right?"

They shifted slightly in their seat, staring down at the closed sketchbook in their lap. "I... admire that a lot, actually. I've just... been here. Probably will be until someone gets around to killing me." Asuka had been making a difference to people, not just selfishly hoping - and failing, so far - to find some semblance of worth within herself.
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Useless.

Cass couldn't really debate that, but it still didn't feel great to have it spoken out loud. Still, any discomfort was drowned out by Asuka continuing to pour her soul on the floorboards, too much sorrow for even two people to try and wade through. What did feeling sad matter in the face of this girl revealing that she had already tried to commit suicide by proxy?

Anything had to be better than just letting that sentiment sit there. Cass tried to think about when they had oh-so-recently felt numb and unfathomably alone, what they would have wanted to hear in the midst of their despair.

What they managed to say was "...Trauma's a hell of a drug." Given a second of thought, that wasn't actually the worst metaphor; even if it had originally sprung from the usage of a tired catchphrase. Forces your way into your veins, chilling them as it makes its way up towards your brain in order to rewrite it and leave you fundamentally changed, and even if you recover one day you might never forget the withdrawal.

Stupid. The human being in front of Cass was what mattered, not how much meaning you could read into an accidental turn of phrase.

"I mean, like... it's okay to be weak. I think. Not that I think you're - I mean, I am, too, but - it's not a personal failing? The not really feeling anything part, at least. Like, a lot of my friends are dead, but the only time I've cried was for someone I met like... fuck, was it five days ago? Six? That doesn't mean that I don't care about everyone else or anything, it's just... there's only so much bad shit a single human being can take before you start to shut down, right? Doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, or me." Cass trailed off, hoping they had made some sort of comforting point but at a loss for what it could be.

Doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me. Ha. This might be the first time in their life that their numbness actually was justified, but that didn't magically make everything else better.
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dmboogie
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Time to shine the spotlight on Cass, then?

It felt wrong to focus on themself when Asuka clearly carried so much hurt inside of her, even from before the world had ended, but that seemed to be what she wanted, and that's what really mattered, wasn't it? Not like Cass knew the right words to say to try and make anything better for anyone.

"...Uh. First, I guess, lemme just say that you don't need to apologize to me for anything, alright? I like listening to people," like was the wrong word, they loved to hear friends share their hopes for the future and things that make them smile or even just vague rambling about life, they didn't like to watch people fall apart in front of them but it was too late to take the implication back now- "so if it helped or made you feel better at or or even if it didn't... it's cool, y'know?"

Even their misgivings and Asuka's explicit wishes hadn't been enough to stop Cass from trying to help. Stupid. What were they trying to do, stall for time to try and think of something, anything worth saying out loud? They stared at the wall for a few seconds, fingers drumming on their notebook.

"Myself, well... fuck, man; I don't know. Knew I wasn't gonna get out of here alive right from the start; and I can't say I really wanted... really want to, anyway. I don't deserve to live any more than the rest of us, et cetera, et cetera. And for a while I just didn't think too much about that; and I spend the first few days just kinda passively hanging around someone who was too good to die here. But he did, and I'm still here, so it's like, the hell does that leave me?"

"And after a while I just like, thought back on my life and realized that art's really all I've ever been good for, all that's really kept me going through the years. It's all I am, in a lot of ways. So I went out, found a pencil, found this notebook. Ran into fucking Isabel in the process, but sill worth it. And now I'm here, in this house, and I'm going to draw as much as I can and I'm not gonna leave until someone decides to finally shoot me in the head. Hopefully they'll give me enough time to put my art away so I don't bleed all over it."

Now it was Cass's turn to laugh awkwardly.
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"This isn't about them!"

Asuka's philosophizing made sense and it even had a certain beauty to it, but it was wrong. Even though nothing good had come yet from Cass getting passionate, from having ideas that needed to be let out into the world before their skin couldn't contain them any longer, they couldn't sit still. Just one more friend to shout away.

"I'm doing this because I want to- because, because I need to and they don't get any fucking credit for anything I make! I'm not trying to defy them, I'm not even going to fucking acknowledge them! If the world was gonna end in a fire or a meteor or a flood I'd be doing the same thing, because I'd rather be fucking dead than not able to do art! And it's my art, okay? It deserves - I deserve more than to just exist to be an overly-elaborate middle finger. There isn't anything beautiful about that!"

Deep breaths. Deep breaths, Cass. None of this is her fault.
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Congratulations, Cass; you managed to raise your voice a little bit about something you cared about without bursting into tears. Of course, that selfish solace didn't matter one bit, since Asuka was crying instead. Stupid. Callous. Her reassurance of blamelessness didn't carry much conviction when it was delivered side by side with her sobs. It looked like she needed a hug, or half-believable reassurance, or anything, really; but from the moment they had met here there had been a strange disconnect between the two of them, a feeling of not being on the same page; and though it may have only been a symptom of Cass's continued isolation, it still brought with it enough doubt to leave them silent in their chair as Asuka weakly, bravely tried to continue the conversation.

"I... I can't think of anything to say," Cass said, idly spinning their pencil in their hand; gaze locked to the motion instead of looking at Asuka. "At least not anything worth saying out loud."

"It's like- everything that comes to mind is just... depressing shit. Like, the longer I've been alive here, the less and less I've been expecting to ever talk to another person again, I mean like, really talk; and even now that you're here, it's just..." They sighed. "I don't wanna talk about my dead friends, and I don't wanna talk about the 'future'. But if I try to think back on any sort of happy memory it just reminds me of how sick I am of these ration bars, and how much I miss my bed, and how much my wrist stings, and goddammit, now I'm just complaining like you're not exactly as uncomfortable as I am."

"I'm just not good at this. Sorry."
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Asuka deserved so, so much better than what Cass could give her. They weren't used to people actually expecting anything of them, weren't used to disappointing anyone but themself.

"...You really think that anyone who's still watching cares?" They managed to keep their voice quiet, this time; but they still couldn't bring themself to look directly at Asuka. "I said goodbye to my family and friends on the first day. Asked them to stop watching right then and there, if they even started in the first place. If they're still here, well, uh, can't say I'm happy about that." Cass would have glanced at the nearest camera, but they hadn't cared enough to figure out where it was.

"But like, the point I'm trying to make is... I don't care! At this point, I honestly don't care what anyone thinks of me!" They were only just starting to realize this, themself.

"My life doesn't matter any less if I don't try to spill my life story to a bunch of faceless strangers to try and make them maybe a little sad when I die! I-I know that there are already people who love me, people who're gonna be sad that I'm gone," despite how much Cass tried to convince themself otherwise at times, "So what does it matter if there isn't a single other person out there who gives a shit? Like, if an artist makes a painting and only shows it to one other person in their life, but it inspires that person even a little, it's just as meaningful as a painting that inspires a hundred! My life has meaning because it's mine, and that's all it needs to be!"
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That was a lot of (pretty, eloquent, how the hell was she able to talk like that) words for Asuka to say that she was, basically, sad and lonely. She was throwing out too many concepts at once for Cass to really wrap their head around them all, but that at least they got. That much they could understand and still ultimately not know what the hell to do with that information since, not matter what either of them thought the cause was, they were both deep in the same pit of numbness and uncertainty and if Cass had any idea how to handle that state of existence they'd... probably be in the same place, just kinda more okay with it.

Whatever. Hugs. Hugs were simple, and they had low-key and then high-key and then desperately been longing for one in the seven days they had been on the island, and though the atmosphere in the room was still vague and awkward, they knew that not letting go of Asuka was probably the first unambiguously good decision they'd been able to make in a while.

"...You can stay as long as you want. I don't mind," Cass said. "I'm not good with words, or- or much, but I'm not gonna leave you if you don't want me to, alright? I-I might not know what to say about anything, but I'll, uh, try. I'll try." Uncertain as their delivery was, their words were sincere.

((Even though the two melancholic wrecks would eventually have to separate from their hug, they remained together.))
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