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Sweet Billy; June 2, 2015 - Cemetary in Southern California
Topic Started: Nov 15 2017, 01:24 AM (99 Views)
I'm a Cactus
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do you want to go to war, balakay?
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It should have been raining.

For all of the agony that Nancy Ritch held within her chest as she slowly walked across the cemetery grounds, that there wasn't any rain felt wrong. No, today the weather had chosen to cooperate. The sun was shining, the air was fresh, and as she slowly tracked her way along the many rows of grave stones before her, she could have sworn that she heard a bird or two, singing their songs. This wasn't a surprise - it was California in June, after all.

It had only been ten minutes that the diminutive woman had been slowly walking through the cemetery, but the walk felt like an eternity. It was, of course, a familiar one - she had started off keeping track, but as the years passed on, she quickly forgot how many times she would walk this ordinary path. Many of the visits were routine; she'd be in the neighborhood, sometimes a cousin would be in from out of town to pay respects, things like that. But this particular visit happened to be the kind that destroyed her the most.

Before the ill-fated Southridge High School class trip of 2007, Nancy Ritch had fit in flawlessly with the other Moms that taught at the school with her. Perhaps she had been a little bit more of the "enthusiastic" sort, but there was just something about being able to be involved her son's life that had always tickled her fancy. After God had taken Allan away from them, Nancy had known that she would have to do her part to protect Billy. To try and fill her late husband's shoes. It had not left much time for moving forward, and Nancy had always known that her grief over his passing was too heavy for her to lift from over her head. But she'd never be alone, as long as she had Billy.

Helen had always carefully hinted at the fact that she needed to stop spoiling him, but... she just couldn't help it. The look of joy when she'd give him money to go to the game shop around the corner, and his excitement once he'd return with an army of nick-knacks? That was gold to her. Absolute gold. The memory allowed her a sad smile as she finally arrived - almost on autopilot, at the gravestone that she was looking for.

June 2nd, 2007.

She knelt down, and slowly traced her fingers over the engraving on the stone. That was the day. The day that God reached down from the heavens and ripped her heart in half. The day that her Billy, the crux of her entire world perished in the abomination known as Survival of the Fittest.

Nancy started to cry.

When she had first heard about the abduction, she had alternated between despondent and hysterical. Her fellow faculty members had naturally rallied around her and the school had allowed her to take all of the time that she needed, but truly, how much time would heal that wound? She was a teacher, so naturally she knew all about the terrorist organization. Teachers were briefed, told to take precautions, but... for it to happen to Billy's class?

Looking up from her tears, she again traced her fingers over an inscription, this time, letting her fingers rest on the name.

William Albert Ritch

Billy had been a lot of things - sweet, kind, and thoughtful, but he wasn't one for any sort of show of power. He wasn't even fit, contrarily he'd been rather portly. Nancy had mentioned his weight to Bill, but... she could never say no when he'd ask her to make a pie for dessert. He'd loved those pumpkin pies...

The thought racked through her body with a shudder, and her tears turned to a full-on sob.

She knew what they had all been thinking, and she never blamed any of her friends for it. Billy wasn't a survivor. He just wasn't. She knew that. The best that he could ask for was a quick and painless death. But Nancy knew... as long as he hadn't died, then maybe, just maybe there was a chance that he could come back to her. She'd clung to the updates like a life-line. Did he meet up with his friends? Was he injured? Was Billy still alive? Every affirmative kept her going.

And then the cameras had gone out.

When they returned? Billy was nowhere to be found. Everything went as planned, business as usual in that horrible event, but Billy and several others had vanished. Nancy had been devastated. How was she supposed to get updates if he wasn't there? It hadn't made any sense to her - at least, in the context of how her reality was unfolding at that point.

That was when she'd finally gotten up and started to watch. Maybe there was some clue, some evidence to what had happened to her son. It was difficult for her. A lot of the graphic, grotesque violence turned her stomach and she'd thrown up numerous times. There were times where her friends; even Helen-the-nagger, had tried to talk her out of watching any more. But Nancy had to. Any scrap, any shred of evidence that could have lead her to knowing what had happened to Billy? She needed it.

Nancy sniffled, and removed her hand from the headstone to wipe away the tears that had almost totally blurred her vision. The tears had stopped coming, but they had collected at the corner of her eyes. Blinking a few times, she looked up at the overcast sky and softly sighed, moving her gaze slowly back to the headstone.

There had been one point where she could have almost recited Billy's every word, verbatim from his time within Survival of the Fittest. Nancy had poured over the footage, playing back and rewinding his travels - from waking up in the box to his encounter with that foul-mouthed redhead, and to their original disappearance. She had done this for weeks, to no avail. Slowly, her friends had stopped coming around, and once that Rizzolo boy had emerged as the sole survivor, everyone had given Nancy a wide berth. Billy was officially declared dead. The school had put her on long-term disability, and she sat in her home, continuing to pour over the footage at her computer. She refused to believe it, refused to allow that God would punish her in such a way. First her husband, and now her son? It was unfathomable. She would keep looking until the day that she found him.

Then one day, around a month after the end of Survival of the Fittest's third attack, someone posted a link online that began to circulate - the "lost cameras" were no longer lost.

So Nancy had watched. And she found her Billy. She watched, as a group of students came together, intent on escape.

She had watched, as Billy removed the explosive collar that bound him to the island.

She had watched, as it looked like her Billy was going to come home to her.

She had watched, as the terrorists found the students, and opened fire upon them.

And she had watched, as her son; her kind, sweet Billy, took a bullet in the chest.

The memory, again - hit her like a punch to the solar plexus, but instead of sobbing, Nancy tensed. Her hand moved back to the gravestone, this time to steady herself, as she stared at the epitaph carved into the granite.

She had screamed, her co-workers who had returned in support almost propping her up in her chair, but could not believe her eyes when Billy had gotten up. It was a miracle. But then, instead of retreating, he had taken a bandoleer of grenades, and...

Nancy Ritch had watched in abject horror and total silence as her son, her Billy, had confidently dragged his dying body down from the roof, rounded up his fellow students, and blown up the entire armoury, with them inside, killing an entire squad of those Godforsaken terrorists.

Her fingers traced the epitaph, over and over. She sniffled, and smiled a sad smile. This headstone was all that she had of Billy. No body had ever been recovered, and she knew that no body ever would be. The explosion that had killed him had destroyed an entire building, probably vaporized him.

"Loved for the little boy that you were, the special man that you became, and the wonderful son you will always be."

The sorrow was, at times, overpowering, but as quickly as the tears came for Nancy Ritch, she took comfort in knowing that the tears and the sadness were always followed by an immense feeling of pride. Much as it was right now. The smile remaining on her face, Nancy slowly rose to her feet, standing in front of the headstone, never letting it leave her sight.

"It's been eight years, honey. Eight years today."

She paused, blinking away a tear.

"You would have been twenty-six. We just had your birthday. It was nice, some of the ladies came by and we made you a cake."

Four of Nancy's closest friends had been stopping by, each year on important dates pertaining to Bill. She had never been the same since his passing, and the once-enthusiastic, over-protective woman was but a shell of who she had once been. Those days were often the hardest for her.

"I think about you every single day. Especially with all that's happening right now..."

A new batch of children had been abducted, and the Survival of the Fittest attacks were again in full effect.

"I'm so sad that you're not here. That I couldn't keep you safe." More tears. "But I know that you and your father are with the Lord, and you're watching over me. And I'm trying, Billy. I'm really trying to keep going."

Two years ago, Nancy had briefly checked herself into an inpatient care facility.

"You didn't get to do all of the things in this life you wanted to, Billy, but..." The smile reappeared. "... I just wanted to tell you again how proud of you I am. Nobody gave you a chance, Billy."

She paused, momentarily ashamed.

"Not even your own mother. But you proved everyone wrong, didn't you? You didn't come home. But I understand. You had to protect your friends. You had to give them the best chance that you could, and in the end?"

Nancy straightened up.

"You took as many of those bastards as you could, and you sent them straight to hell to deal with the devil himself. You became the man that your father would have been proud of. I know you were scared. But I was so proud of you."

She once again wiped her face, sniffling and lowering her head, finally looking at the grass in front of her. After a moment, her eyes rose once more.

"I love you, sweetheart. I miss you every day."

Turning around, Nancy took a step away from the tombstone, but paused for one last look back.

"But I'll see you soon."

With that, Nancy Ritch turned and walked away, back down the familiar path, leaving the tombstone, the grass, the cemetery, and that one, faint chirping bird all behind her.
---
The Future

The Past

Meanwhile...
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