You Are Ever Prey

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Sleep, May 21, 2014.

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  1. It comes and goes,
    waves and flows.
    Today is the day the wall breaks.

    Everything was tinged with the uncertain clarity of a lucid dream. Claire Ashworth stood in an alley behind the Electric Mall, her hood low and a bandana tied around her mouth. In her hands she clasped a nearly expended bottle of black spray paint. She was transfixed, standing in a neon glower that seemed to snake its way through the alley to touch on her face. Claire's hands were smeared with black liquid that rolled and flowed from her palm, steadily forming a pool around her feet. The alley seemed to breathe in time with her, its battered bricks swelling with each slow inhalation.

    "Miss Ashworth," came the distant, authoritarian call, "what are you doing?"

    She felt her mouth move, but there was no sound. The acidic light crept into the alley. Dancing phantoms of light played on every surface, reflecting from rusted ladders and toppled trash cans. In their midst, perhaps at the exact center of their radiance, stood a figure of stark shadow; clutching a ruler in one hand and a book in the other.

    "MISS ASHWORTH," it boomed with such force that the spray paint dropped from between her fingers, "WAKE UP!"

    As the metallic can hit the ground, it exploded into a storm of black ink; draining all color from the surrounding world. All the colors but white.

    Claire Ashworth blinked and slowly lifted her head from between the pages of her bible. Fluorescent white bored through her eyes and the smell of hand sanitizer tickled her nose. Her teacher, Mister Ballard, loomed over her...a ruler in one hand and a book in the other. From behind his glasses and the jowly scowl, he watched her with something perilously close to ire.

    "I-I'm sorry," she managed to squeak before yawning at length, "I didn't mean to fall asleep, again, in your class M-mister Ballard!" Redness touched her cheeks and her mouth seemed to collapse as she made herself as small as possible in the seat. Her teacher merely walked away from her, satisfied with her being awake. Claire's hands were shaking, she noticed, but clean.

    A dream? Or...?

    Claire let loose a whispering sigh, brushing tangled strands of dark hair from her eyes. She felt sick and drained, despite having slept for a few brief moments. As she contemplated this, a roar echoed in the distance; the screeching of brakes and the sudden crunch of metal...followed by a rumble that she could feel through the legs of her chair. Smoke bloomed in bitter plumes outside the school window, from somewhere near the heart of town. Others had already stood to get a closer look, she lingered behind them; peering between shoulders and elbows to catch glimpses of what was transpiring.

    " that a car," Claire mumbled, staring in disbelief. Yet there it was, fit snugly into a freshly forced hole in the school's parameter wall. Bricks had been tossed across the courtyard, an uneven spread. The car was still on, it seemed by the grinding and squealing attempt of its wheels to find purchase. It's alarm was a clarion wail that stuck in her ears, but it wasn't the car she was trying to see.
  2. Sophie was sitting at her desk quietly, trying to decipher the messy inscriptions engraved on its surface by other bored students with a concentrated frown on her face. To her, it felt like receiving a message from previous generations wishing to warn their descendants; it was comparable to looking for Atlantis in the blue depths of an ocean, digging up lost pyramids of the ancient Egypt or cracking Nostradamus' enigmatic prophecies. Shelly... swells? No, smells. It's definitely smells. Well, good to know. Too bad the unknown informant didn't bother to mention a surname; now I'll have to shun all the girls unlucky enough to be named Shelly. Maybe I'll even include alternative spellings of that name, just to be on the safe side. And what do we have here? A phone number along with 'call me if you're up for some fun' comment attached. Okay, those epigraphs were decidedly less epic than any of the adventures mentioned above, but Sophie didn't complain. Mister Ballard, the Physics teacher, was a living proof of Einstein's theory of relativity; the time seemed to pick up a snail's pace during his lectures. Even counting dead flies forever imprisoned in the plastic bulb holder would have been more interesting than listening to his explanation of equations. She had gotten to the respectable number of twenty five before her attention wandered elsewhere.

    Oh God, I know I haven't been a good Christian for the last... well, for my entire life, but that was just a rebellious phase all the teenagers go through, Sophie established spiritual contact with the deity. I'm also sorry for threatening to kill your son after I found out I didn't get that shotgun for Christmas. Now that we have cleared up this misunderstanding, could you PLEASE make him shut up? No? Then could you at least turn his monologue into something interesting? No again? You shouldn't really be surprised about rampant atheism spreading all across the globe if you can't grant such a simple request to your faithful follower, the girl thought in frustration. Not that she had really expected it to work, but a drowning man catches at a straw.

    The routine was killing her; how mister Ballard managed to transform a science that dealt with inner workings of a world into such snore-fest of a subject was an utter mystery to her. Had he taken lessons on how to improve his boredom factor? Probably, because no-one could possess such natural talent. Grabbing her pencil, Sophie wrote 'Newton would commit suicide if he were to witness such travesty of his teachings,' tore the page out of her notebook, crumpled it into a small ball and threw the message at Allison. Bullseye! she cheered inwardly when it bounced off the ginger's head. Her classmate unwrapped her letter, then turned around to shoot her an annoyed glare. It didn't bother Sophie at all; Allison was likely just angry she hadn't been able to come up with such a cool reference herself. Jealousy could be a cruel mistress. Alright, what now? I guess I could start writing my essay about zombie apocalypse awareness, maybe include few tips on survival.

    The professor's voice suddenly broke out of its monotony and she almost fell out of her chair; luckily, it seemed Ballard's affectionate words were directed at someone else, specifically at Claire who couldn't keep her eyes open again. Sophie didn't blame her. Anybody who could stay awake during the whole lecture, pay attention and not pray for Azathoth's sweet assistance in vanquishing the human race at the same time would have to be some kind of a superhuman. Or robot. Or someone who has decided that emotions were nuisance and had them surgically removed. She was ready to sail off to the world of deadly infection, quickly disappearing supplies and improvised weapons again, but another strange sound disrupted the string of her thoughts. Huh? Participating in a mass hysteria usually wasn't her forte, mainly because her classmates were getting excited over completely mundane matters like love affairs blooming among their friends, yet this development forced her to join the crowd gathering in front of the windows. Sophie pushed few fellow students out of the way, ignoring their muffled cries of protest, and basically glued her forehead on the glass.

    "It... certainly looks like that, unless it's a beginning of an alien invasion masquerading as a car crash," she responded to Claire, not even a hint of sarcasm detectable in her voice. While it wasn't the most plausible possibility under the sun, Sophie didn't consider it wise to exclude that eventuality entirely. After all, the protagonists of horror movies never expected it and it didn't do them any good in the long run. "Let's go check it out! Someone... or something... may need our help." Not waiting for any kind of approval, the girl rushed out of the classroom like a hurricane. She simply had to see what that was about.
  3. Sophie pushed past her, but Claire found herself a few quick paces behind her; words of caution caught in her throat. Yet, she pressed on. Rarely would the girl do something as uncertain as helping the stranger that crashed through her school wall. She had recruited herself to the cause of the man without hesitation, though there was the niggling doubt that something more serious was going on. It was that sense of foreboding that spurred her forward, on wings of worry and chance.

    The first wave shook my chair, she said as she ran along behind the other girl, and I don't think the impact from the car would have been so consistent...even for that short burst.

    There were others, still, joining in the rush to aid the man...and some rushing merely to observe the accident from up close. They ducked through the halls, Claire sliding as she rounded a corner too tightly and ramming her shoulder into the wall. A squeak of pain escaped her and she stopped suddenly, allow the crowd to rush onward as she nursed what was sure to be an impressive bruise. For a moment, she stood and rubbed. Then began walking. Her footsteps were quiet amidst the runners, slight scuffing beneath a passing wave.

    Finally, she reached the doors, which were already held open; the sound of the car idling echoing in her ears as she approached. The man had pulled himself from the car, showing only light injuries. Yet overhead is what drew her attention. From deep in the city, she could hear more sirens, car alarms and yelling. Smoke drifted from the Vice District, in twin pillars; reaching up to lick at the sun before breaking away.

    "It is something we can't predict," she said, stopping behind Sophie, "but it is the beginning of something fantastic."

    Redness touched her cheeks again, as she turned away, appalled by her abrupt social outburst...truthfully, she had no idea what she meant; merely feeling that it were true. She put her knuckles against her eyes and wished she hadn't opened her mouth. She hardly knew Sophie, but recalled the rather ominous rumors of her mental state. Tentatively, she turned herself around, standing just a few feet away from the car. The man was already limping away, shouting at those who tried to assist him.

    "Get off me, you little shit," he shouted as a student tried to get him to sit down, fear cracking his voice.

    Claire turned her attention to the car...and stared in wonder for a long time.

    "Sophie," she said, using the only name she knew in the immediate area, "look..." Claire pointed a slender digit to the hood of the car, where there were a twin set of indentions. They were broad and deeply set into the hood, perhaps they had even warped the engine below. Something in her was unsettled by their resemblance to a human hand, albeit with fewer digits...and the way the imprint seemed to be more intense around the edges; as though the hood had been grabbed.

    "W-what do you think did this?"
    #3 Sleep, May 22, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: May 22, 2014
  4. Sophie barely touched the floor as she ran; her physical education teacher would have probably fainted due to sheer shock had he witnessed the unusual bout of activity. Over the years, she had built reputation of a famous saboteur of anything even remotely sports-related. The captains of basketball teams who had the misfortune of getting her among their decent players could pluck out their hair in frustration and lament the inevitable loss, it didn't make sense to use a stopwatch when measuring her performance in cross-country and you would likely find her in cafeteria stuffing herself with junk food than trying to work on some muscles. What nobody knew was that her weak results in the athletic department weren't caused by crippling incompetence, but chronic lack of interest. Why would she strain herself to the point of exhaustion when the only reward would be a pat on her back and the professor's approval? That was so lame. Sophie didn't need anyone's praise to recognize her own value; besides, stealing the victories of her classmates could lead her astray to the 'too perfect' territory, and nobody would like her then. She had to be bad at something to maintain the balance. Plus, everybody knew that physical education was shoved into their curriculum as a secondary subject so that stupid kids could feel better about themselves. No sane teacher would actually let her fail this class.

    Now, when she had the proper positive motivation, Sophie sprinted like the female mini version of Usain Bolt. "Y-yeah, I felt it, too. All the more reason to investigate!" the girl responded to Claire. Maybe she had wronged the God when she accused him of inability to intervene in the Mister Ballard's hideously boring lesson; it looked like he just had to nudge the first tile of the cosmic domino to trigger the chain reaction. Thinking about it now, I'd prefer it to be just a coincidence. If it was the work of God, I would have to start taking that Christianity thing a lot more seriously. Attend churches on Sundays, avoid swear words and talk to him daily just to ensure my reservation in the heaven. Sophie did enjoy their one-sided conversations immensely, but executing that ritual daily would be just weird. Weird, time-consuming and unhealthy. Even the best friends had to give each other breathing space sometimes. Sophie didn't know if she was ready for such serious relationship!

    Few students from different classes got into her way, but she pushed them aside like a human bulldozer; standing between Sophie and any given object of her interest wasn't a bright idea, as many of them found out the hard way.The skill to slice through the crowd like a katana through flesh made her a desired asset at comic cons, but an enemy to all living things everywhere else. When she finally emerged into the sunlight, her mouth formed into a small, surprised 'o'.

    "Hey, I wouldn't be so sure about that. Something we can't predict? Definitely. Something fantastic? Well, if you're one of those wise people who have spent their entire lives preparing for the end of the world as we know it, then the second label applies, too. This, my dear Claire, is a textbook example of forthcoming apocalypse," Sophie said in a tone of a patient teacher explaining that one plus one equals two. She seemed to be remarkably calm for someone preaching the termination of a civilization; nothing about her resembled the crazed prophets that starred on the TV when there was nothing else to air. "Believe me, I've seen enough catastrophic movies to know where this is going. Sirens? Check. A lot of smoke? Check. People fleeing in blind panic? Check, check, check." The only detail that had yet to be ascertained was the nature of the apocalypse they were going to face. Would they fight weather's terrible mood-swings, earth-shattering quakes or hordes of zombies yearning to taste fresh meat? What if I have developed reality-altering powers and brought the zombies into existence? The disturbing hypothesis lingered in her mind for a while, but then Claire revealed more pressing matters to her. Sophie frowned, a thoughtful pucker gracing her forehead. "Uh... That's hard to say. A dinosaur, maybe? Or some kind of mutant? It does seem we can safely eliminate the zombie apocalypse, though. Damn, and I had such good ideas for that eventuality," the girl muttered under her breath, but still loud enough for Claire to hear.

    Most of the people would just stand there, staring at the prints in confusion, but Sophie generally didn't fit in the 'majority' pattern and this situation was no exception. "We've got to find out, ideally before we encounter it." She went into her running mode again, this time to chase the escaping driver. "Mister! Mister! What - what happened to you?"
  5. "Uh... That's hard to say. A dinosaur, maybe? Or some kind of mutant? It does seem we can safely eliminate the zombie apocalypse, though. Damn, and I had such good ideas for that eventuality,"

    "Well...I...I'm relieved to hear we won't be torn to pieces and gorged on by the living dead...but this is-"

    The girl had darted off, again, in perfect form, after the stumbling man. He turned upon hearing her, wiping away a small tendril of blood from beneath his eye. He appeared largely unharmed and excruciatingly average, despite the incredibly grim expression on his face.

    "What the hell do you mean what happened," he growled at the Sophie, waving his arm toward the wall and then his car.

    His brown eyes lingered on the idling vehicle for a moment before he abruptly turned away, a grimace deeply set onto his visage. There were other kids gathering around and a few staff members making their way through the crowd. Claire had taken up following Sophie, again, though the knot in her stomach spoke of bad ideas and bad endings. She lingered a little bit behind as the man started talking, thumbing through her book. She recalled something like this, a similar scene splayed out in the rough lines of a manic sketch.

    "Keep him talking," she whispered ahead, automatically and lightly touching her fingers to Sophie's shoulder. Claire was uncertain about touching her, but the motion was fluid and quick.

    "It came out of nowhere, alright," he let loose an exasperated sigh, "and I didn't see much of it. Just a shadow, then a terrible someone laughing from inside a trashcan or something...then I was here," he gripped at his hair and tugged on it with some force. He turned back and forth, looking at all the gathered students and teachers. "It looked like...hell, like, uh, what do you call those things? A jester? Bigger than it had any right to be and faster than..." The man trailed off, staring into space, straining as though he sought a distant whistle or call.

    Claire froze between pages, catching only part of what he had said. Slowly, she looked up; to the man, then to Sophie, then to her book.

    It stared back, a harlequin's vicious grin; a metallic mask covering the face of a too-large head situated on a scarecrow's frame. It was in ragged motley, carrying a lantern in oversized hands.

    "Did it look like this!?"

    She brushed past Sophie and held the book aloft, practically shoving the page at him. He recoiled after the brief moment it took him to recognize the drawing and uttered a curse.
    #5 Sleep, May 23, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: May 23, 2014
  6. Sophie suppressed the urge to roll her eyes; people could be so dense sometimes. Her immense efforts to communicate with her peers bumped into the wall of ignorance daily - she suspected their low vocabulary could be blamed for that as her sentence structure was flawless from grammatical standpoint - but it usually didn't hinder her that much. After all, the topics her classmates chose to discuss weren't really of pivotal importance most of the time. They avoided serious, profound themes such as cheats in the Spyro the Dragon series like a damn plague so they could indulge in eternal debates about cosmetics and other frivolities. She had a firm belief that Lovecraft was right in his assessment that human minds weren't ready to wander too far away from their comfort zone and so she considered the barrier to be an automatic defensive mechanism of sorts. The previously beneficial mechanism had, however, turned against her in this particular case like an autoimmune disease going batshit crazy against its own body. Sophie simply had to know, and nothing could stop her! This man has probably endured a tremendous trauma, so his brain isn't working like it should yet. I have to be patient and supportive, otherwise I would be risking facing aftermaths of a post traumatic stress disorder. That's never pretty.

    "Well, I'm asking what happened before you crashed into the wall and completely decimated your car," the girl stated matter-of-factly, as if the question was as common as interrogating a vendor whether they had a freshly baked bread today. The scientists had proved that calm, neutral tone of voice worked best when dealing with scared animals, home fire victims and infuriated clerks; utilizing the same approach only made sense. "Don't worry, though. I'm sure a good mechanic can repair it and if not, well, you can always sell the spare parts that didn't get damaged too much and buy a bicycle. It's a much cheaper method of transportation and Mother Nature would thank you for thinking green. The advantages are everywhere you look! Now, could you tell us what turned that car into a pile of scrap?" Sophie was proud of her little speech; it radiated empathy in such concentrated dose it could probably give someone cancer. I just hope he won't answer with something smartass like: 'Physics did it.' It would be a fitting karmic punishment for skipping Mister Ballard's class without permission and even though she admired all the diverse ways the fate could screw you over, now wasn't time for that.

    The touch on her shoulder felt light, almost like ephemeral caress of butterfly wings, but it still startled Sophie a little; the years of watching cheap horror flicks had influenced her opinions on unexpected groping significantly. Let's just say that few unsuspecting boys had already ended up with a fancy black eye as a souvenir from that adventure. Luckily for Claire, Sophie was distracted enough not to resort to violence immediately. "Gah! Don't sneak up on me like that, Claire. Seriously, I wrote a whole blog post about my aversion to unsolicited touches. Why does nobody read my blog? It's interesting, well-written and... Oh, yeah. Priorities. Could you share the information, mister? No pressure, but knowledge is power and we'd like to... ehm, survive."

    Uh oh, the girl thought as the man finally spilled the beans. Erupting volcano or homicidal mutants escaping from their labs where they had been used as guinea pigs for experiments too horrible to contemplate would have been a more merciful scenario; that guy's sounded like a synopsis of a surreal movie too convoluted to appeal to the mainstream audience. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knew what this meant. While zombie apocalypse type of catastrophe would have forced them to reach the bottom of their physical capabilities, the the surreal madness would inevitably test the endurance of their minds. Jump scares, weird symbolic monsters straight out of Silent Hill, horrifying revelations; it would be a paradise for the lovers of the macabre. Well, at least until their awakening in a hospital bed where they would find out it had actually been one big delusion that was somehow supposed to represent adolescence. Or that they had snapped and killed their loved ones in their vicious frenzy. Or something. Surreal movies had never really been her cup of tea.

    Claire suddenly stole the spotlight by bringing a strange notebook to everyone's attention; it took but a single glance to the man to recognize her drawings as a perfect replication of reality. Sophie raised her eyebrow in wonder. Could the mysterious recent happenings be connected to Claire in some obscure manner? No, scratch that. Coincidences don't exist; of course there must be a reason behind that picture. Well, reason other than over-active imagination. Perhaps she's some kind of a living antenna catching signals from outer space... Or she's a human-jester hybrid who is going to learn her ancestry soon, discard her fleshly mask and join her parents in their murderous rampage? The possibility number two was rather distressing, so Sophie pushed it back into the unused corner of her mind forcefully. She leaned closer to her classmate, touching the painted harlequin pensively. "Where did you get inspiration for drawing this, Claire? Do you have more of those?"
  7. In his hand is clutched not a flower, but a knife.
    He has lost his appreciation for the beauty in life.
    Zero or twenty two?
    I can promise he's forgotten or that he never knew.

    She had turned the turned the book around, staring deeply into the haphazard gape of the bizarre harlequin's smile. The words were divided, not quite so perfectly as the thing's mask; but it seemed, that she had put a certain degree of effort into writing those words in the shadows of that abyssal grin. They were small and swooping, tightly pressed together and sloppy. Between blank spots of memory, through the obscured corridors of reason, Claire sought a specific memory. She could recall placing the tip of her pin against the paper and labeling the page; though it appeared that small note had been removed.

    Rather cleanly, too, perhaps by a sharpened razor, she mused, placing her thumb over the missing rectangle, Oh, right, Sophie asked me a question...

    After that brief moment, the memory seemed to be made of water; shifting and bleeding into other reservoirs of her recollection. The scene shifted and played through changing details; one moment she was sitting on her bed, staring out the window...and the next saw her leaning against her bedroom door, the book held aloft, scribbling madly. Cards came to mind, scattered across her floor; then suddenly stacked neatly beside her as she worked.

    She scowled, outwardly, for a moment, at the man, who stared at her with some uncertainty. He began taking slow steps back and Claire watched him from above the spine of her book, only her eyes visible to him.

    "I don't remember where the idea came from," she lifted the book slightly toward Sophie, "but I think I know what this," her finger traced a small line under the words in the harlequin's mouth, "is supposed to mean."

    The man had parted from them, preferring to speak to one of the teachers that had come running to the scene. Quiet words of fines and hushed curses drifted from them as they stood. Sirens, seemingly distant before, were wailing outside of the wall; casting interspersed flashes through the wound left by the car. Claire could have sworn that a finger was pointed at either herself or Sophie, although it was brief and dismissed offhand by a stern looking woman she didn't recall seeing before.

    How can I explain this?

    Hey, Sophie, it just happens that this thing I happened to draw a while back wrecked some guy's car and is now, most likely, running loose in the city...?

    No, that was a bit too straightforward and there existed no solid proof that this thing was even real.

    "The Fool," she offered with some confidence, "it's supposed to be a representation of The Fool. Do you know abou-"

    Words rolled on her tongue, but couldn't pass her teeth. She gave a sheepish sort of grin and put a hand on her face to hide a slight gag.

    "J-just a second," she managed to force out, before sinking slowly to the ground, "this is making me dizzy."

    Nauseated would be more apt, she knew, but was embarrassed to admit it. She drew in a couple of deep breaths and opened her eyes again; locking on to Sophie. Claire pulled the book close to her chest, trying to tune out the rush of cacophonic discomfort.

    "Do you know anything about tarot cards?"
    #7 Sleep, May 24, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: May 24, 2014
  8. Literary analysis had never been Sophie's hobby. She rather enjoyed letting her boundless imagination wander the places the authors had prepared for her with such care, but looking for hidden meanings in haphazardly constructed sentences full of would-be substantial words didn't sound all that appealing to her. Most of those incomprehensible texts were developed, at least in her opinion, in the deep state of drunkenness or the chemical-cocktails induced euphoria. Sophie appreciated their style - after all, it took a lot of courage to present such gibberish as a legitimate work of art - but she refused to participate in sending them love-letters praising their genius and nitpick the books as if they contained the key to the universe's salvation. The verses carefully written next to the harlequin seemed to fall into the same category; her mind just couldn't link the words into anything resembling order.Weird. Claire didn't strike her as a weak-willed individual that would succumb to the peer-pressure and destroy her health in wild drug orgies; heck, she wasn't even popular enough to receive an invitation card. Those events were generally pretty exclusive. Sophie herself had obtained the note requesting her involvement twice, along with the 'bring your own crack, we wanna try it' clause, but she had resisted the corruption every time. The title of one of the most popular girls in her class burdened her with certain duties; she had to shine like a lighthouse in the darkness to show her classmates the right path in morally questionable choices. Oh, and the malignant effects of drugs would also worsen her average reaction time in the video games, which would be unacceptable.

    Did... did Claire just cut out some words from newspapers, place them into a bag and draw them randomly to form this poem? English language wasn't meant to suffer through such treatment. As if the fanfiction writers haven't mauled it enough already. Claire looked to be trapped in some kind of a trance, yet she didn't demand the answers to her questions immediately. The jester-hybrid theory still couldn't be ruled out entirely and aggravating someone whose parents could squash a car as if it was an annoying mosquito buzzing near their ear didn't seem like the smartest course of action. Don't get it wrong, Sophie intended to fight for the humanity's independence, but... Well, if things were to get out of hand beyond repair, it would be good to have a friend on the other side of the fence. Heroic deaths were pretty epic in novels about knights in shining armor, yet she didn't rush to meet the same fate. Welcoming their new overlords warmly and then planning a large-scale rebellion was, on the other hand, strangely appealing. Sophie could already see herself standing on a rooftop in an edgy leather armor, a grim expression on her face. A wind would play with her hair while she'd inspect the battlefield, muttering quiet promises of vengeance to those that had killed her loved ones...

    Claire's voice interrupted her daydreaming and called her back to the reality. The girl blinked in confusion a few times, but the transition between the trip in her fantasy world and the harsh return was otherwise relatively smooth. "How can you not remember? I mean, the painting looks pretty detailed, as if you have spent plenty of time on shading and all the other fancy artistic thingies I don't really understand. It certainly isn't a doodle you draw within five minutes to escape the boredom in classes..."

    See? said the pessimistic voice in her mind. Another evidence for the hybrid hypothesis. She doesn't remember because her human part is forcibly concealing the memories relating to her mixed bloodline to protect the fragile balance of our planet! That must be it, but I'm willing to bet my shoes Claire's just a cogwheel in a machinery of doom. What will be next? Well, if the jesters are there, the logical conclusion is that the invaders are going to stick with the circus theme. So, that probably means... The bearded ladies? If there was an occupation that paid you for coming up with insane conspiracy theories, Sophie would be a millionaire within the first few months of being recruited. "I'd love to hear your explanation, though. I may be a cultural barbarian, but... well, I don't really get what is it supposed to say," she admitted begrudgingly. The whole situation reminded her of numerous English classes where the professor had hammered into their heads that the blue curtains mentioned in one scene symbolized depression and Sophie had felt like Alice in the Wonderland, except that all the funny aspects had been edited out by an overzealous moral guardian.

    Then Claire suddenly staggered; for a moment, it seemed her knees would collapse under her weight, so Sophie supported her quickly by clutching her shoulders. "Are you okay? I hope it's not some chronic condition; medicaments are a rare commodity in any kind of apocalypse. I don't know why, but it's like all the pharmacies always get demolished first." Or maybe it's just a beginning of her transformation, sang the same aggravating voice in her head, but she silenced it skillfully. "Anyway, what I know about tarot cards can be summarized in a single statement: They exist. Yeah, it's not exactly encyclopedia-like level of knowledge. So, what do they have to do with this... This mess?"
  9. Claire was thankful for the support and offered a smile in the way of thanks.

    "I'm's just overwhelming," she chewed over it, breaking the questions and problems into pieces before attempting to swallow any of them. First and foremost was the question of her memory; those hazy spaces in her life where things overlapped in a mad and shattered babel, or simply silence existed. Second was the drawing, though it was truly a tertiary mystery that she believed to be linked intrinsically to the first.

    I should be more focused on the problem at hand, she whimpered internally, not my inability to commit parts OF MY OWN LIFE to memory. Something serious is going on! Pull yourself up!

    There was bitterness there, Claire knew, but it seemed unprecedented and callow of her to internalize it while Sophie was steadying her. She mumbled her thanks, but it seemed to come out an indistinguishable jumble of embarrassed syllables. Claire felt a bit of heat rush to her cheeks and the sure grip of Sophie's hands on her.

    "The words," Claire forced out abruptly and opened the book again, taking a moment to find the harlequin, "are symbolic. In most tarot decks, the Fool is depicted as holding a flower in his left hand. This represents a kind of wanderlust and positive attitude toward experiencing or learning all that you can in the world," she relaxed, finally, when her knees were done shaking and her voice was done with its undulating dance through pitches, "replacing that with a knife would...I don't know, imply that the meaning is inverted? If that's even possible, but it seems to be what the second line says" she cocked her head to the side as the police confronted the man that had crashed through the wall.

    It seemed that most of the students had been ushered back inside, leaving the courtyard slightly more quiet than it had been. The Sun lingered overhead and a light breeze kissed the leaves of swaying trees, giving an uncomely sense of peace to the area. Even the sirens seemed to be a little more distant, for a moment, as though they had steadily been decreasing in volume; though Claire knew that wasn't the case. She turned her eyes back onto Sophie.

    "Zero or twenty two," she said, running a finger beneath the line, "is the card's place in the deck. That just...depends on the type of deck you use."

    I use the Universal tarot, supposedly well suited to beginners, she bit her lip thinking about it, and the Fool is labeled as 'zero'. Does it really have anything to do with what's going on...? Absolutely, came a steely response, perhaps her own voice, is it not a bit too much to hope for that this is a bizarre coincidence? Of course it is. I recognized the drawing and so did that man...I really should have thought to get his name.

    She turned her eyes again toward the man, who was being lead away by a small entourage of enforcement officers. Their eyes met briefly, but Claire looked away first, focusing her attention on a few shifting blades of grass.

    "I can promise he's forgotten or that he never knew..." Claire cupped her face with almost steady hands, thinking about what the line could mean, "I-I don't know what that is supposed to mean." She didn't want to explain again that she didn't remember, but it would be terribly rude to leave the question lingering.

    "I'm sorry, but I don't remember drawing this," she was biting her lip again, "I don't remember a lot of things. It's not for lack of concentration or...or," Claire let herself trail off, still staring into the page, "or not wanting to remember or anything like that, it's just...a side effect of one of my medications," she didn't know why she was lying to Sophie about the medicine, as she hadn't taken it in three days and it didn't have any particular effect on memory, but it was the only thing that came to mind.

    She cleared her throat, pulling herself upright, finally and closing the book again. The sirens were fading into the distance and the courtyard seemed calm and undisturbed; save for the hole in the wall. Yet, unease had settled deeply into Claire's core.

    Somewhere in the world there is a mad harlequin with huge hands, smiling as it brandishes a bloody blade. Somewhere in this city, right now, it's waiting in the shadows.

    "I'm leaving," she announced to Sophie, stepping through the breach in the wall, "you''re welcome to come with me," the words were thick and seemed to catch in her throat, something Claire had always cursed herself for.
    #9 Sleep, May 25, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2014
  10. To say that Sophie wasn't an overly emotional person would have been an understatement. In fact, certain people could swear on their honor she was just an advanced robot placed in the human population as a secret super-soldier project by government; the proofs were hidden everywhere. The heartbreaking pictures of sad kittens didn't send her into despair like they did to every decent human being, the director Cameron's efforts that he had poured into his greatest masterpiece Titanic had only elicited few laughs over the general stupidity of the plot from her and she couldn't care less about the fate of starving children in Africa. Sophie didn't consider that concrete trait of hers to be a disadvantage; fickle teenage drama diverted attention from truly important matters, like obtaining all the platinum relics in Crash Bandicoot. Her parents protested their daughter was 'wasting her youth' and predicted she would 'die as an old maid if she didn't crawl out of the basement from time to time,' but Sophie figured the desire for grandchildren erased all the rational thoughts from their brains. Wasting her youth? Pffft. What a nonsense. How many students her age could pride themselves on saving numerous civilizations or winning more combat tournaments than they could count? The girl guessed the percentage of such accomplished individuals equaled to percentage of honest politicians, so she cherished her cold attitude that allowed her to focus... And that was why her own reaction to the physical proximity caught her off guard.

    Claire was shaking like a leaf in her arms; a strange sense of familiarity washed over her and a mysterious impulse prompted her to change the stabilizing hold into a full-fledged hug. The second impulse, much more obtrusive than the first one, whispered bizarre sentiments to her consciousness. 'Her skin is so wonderfully soft', 'I bet her lips would be even softer' and 'They'd probably taste like strawberries' were among the saner of the bunch. Sophie's willpower stat was rather high, so she wrestled both urges into submission before they could drive her to join the ranks of molesters, but the sudden feeling of necessity still left her speechless for a while. Uh... What? I can't imagine a worse opportunity to start exploring my sexual orientation; romance subplots always end tragically in the apocalypse settings! It's an irreversible law of drama, and I should know better than that. Something has to be influencing my judgment. Hmm... Claire has to be emitting some pheromones into the air. That's a common superpower, particularly in eerie aliens. How else would the hybrids come into being when they look so scary to us humans? Elementary, my dear Watson, another case solved. Keeping healthy distance from her is essential, but I can't express I know more than I should. Carefully... Carefully... Sophie abruptly let go of her shoulders as if she was burned; subtlety had never been a part of her skill-set.

    That went well. Now I just need to connect with my inner poker player spiritually and act like everything is fine. The girl listened to Claire's explanation, a slightly twitchy smile of an asylum escapee frozen on her face. Her facial muscles, however, somewhat relaxed as Claire began to elaborate on the meaning of the little creepy poem; the logic behind it was still esoteric and dream-like, but at least it made more sense than the blue curtain. "Hm. I wouldn't interpret it like that on my own," Sophie said, caressing her chin thoughtfully, "but it does sound... I'm not going to use the term 'plausible' since that's too strong. What is that word's second cousin? Possible? Yeah, that's it." Her classmates running around like disorientated ants, the teachers trying their best to handle the panic professionally, the police sirens practically deafening them all; none of it concerned Sophie. She just stood nonchalantly like an island of calm in the middle of the rough sea, obviously analyzing Claire's statements.

    "The problem is that it doesn't really tell us anything new. That guy with scrapped car was pretty vocal about arrival of a giant jester with anger issues even before you pulled out your notebook. Too bad there's not some stealthy clue on how to fight that thing incorporated in the text... The last two lines don't seem to allude to some camouflaged weakness, either. I think it's probably attempting to say that the jesters were the original inhabitants of Earth, but they made the mistake of going on an expedition in the depths of space and forgotten about their home planet. I'm not so sure about the cause - it could be anything from mass brainwashing via memory control device from other, technologically supreme race to simple astonishment from all these new things to discover - yet it probably doesn't matter. Anyway, they obviously remembered and went back only to find out that their beloved planet has been infested by the disgusting parasites called humans. It's a reasonable assumption they would want to reclaim their property," she announced in a tone of Archimedes revealing his research of buoyancy. As Claire stammered her excuse for not being able to remember stuff due to her medicine, Sophie just nodded compassionately.The greedy pharmaceutical companies were notorious for deliberately adding unpleasant side-effects to their products in order to manipulate the poor patients.

    Claire's next idea, however, forced Sophie to gasp in disbelief. Gathering information about the imminent threat that would inevitably impact heir lives in likely dramatic fashion was one thing, heading straight to the inferno without any kind of preparation was something entirely else. Twenty levels of Wizard class with the local Dungeons and Dragons group wouldn't help her here; reality had the nasty habit of ignoring her in-game accomplishments. Still, Sophie found herself following her classmate for some reason, albeit she wasn't exactly brimming over with enthusiasm. "Are you sure about it, Claire? Do you have a plan? Shouldn't we at least loot the weapon store first? It's... a traditional thing to do in such situations."
  11. Aliens? Would that really explain anything? I suppose, thinking on it, that it could be possible. The situation doesn't feel like the work of aliens, though. Then again, I suppose that is their entire point in the matter. To be obfuscated and out of the way; manipulating the world through subliminal messaging and chemicals in the water. Or was that the government? Perhaps, if this is true, they could be one in the same. If that's the case, what can, what can we do about it?

    Claire occupied herself with these thoughts as she slipped between the car's mirror and an uneven outcropping of half shattered bricks. She was stooped, as to more easily slide through the wall, but all that seemed to accomplish was forcing the mirror into her chest as she struggled and kicked at the bricks to slide through. Despite her waifish physique, it seemed that she had chosen the worst possible way to move beyond the car. Of course, this didn't necessarily register until she was nearly out of breath from kicking and there was a bruise squarely in the center of her chest. With one final kick, she flung herself onto an empty sidewalk; landing squarely on her stomach. A long groan escaped her and she pulled herself to her knees, then to her feet.

    "No," she offered from the other side, with a quarter of a laugh before doubling over and crossing her arms across her stomach, "I don't have much of a plan, I'm just...curious about it, is all. As for a weapon shop, I don't think that will be necessary," Claire straightened herself, glancing down the first of three roads that merged in front of the school. There were numerous cafes and eateries in a long row, placed prudently to ensure that students on their lunch break, or on their way home, would be pulled in by their various scents and promises. Over their glass storefronts, arranged chairs and tables, heavy pillars of smoke drifted upward. It was a black tongue lolling over the rotten teeth of the city's skyline; seeking satisfaction in the warmth of a too bright morning. Certainly it was foreboding to hear the distant whimpering sirens and know that chaos was rising somewhere nearby, but for now, at least to Claire, the street seemed more peaceful in it had in recent months. "My father is fond of medieval weaponry, I don't think he'd mind if we borrowed some of his...collection."

    Really it was more of an obsession. Everyone in her family seemed to have one. 'It is befitting of our station,' her mother had once said, lifting a glass of wine to her lips from behind a massive tome, 'to devote ourselves to a noble pursuit.' Claire had never really understood what qualified as a noble pursuit, though through countless verbal sparring matches she had learned that most of the things she enjoyed in life were not applicable as a 'noble' or even 'worthy' pursuit. She wasn't even quite sure that 'their station' was a solid concept, it seemed to be an abstraction based on their net worth; which wasn't something that interested Claire. Regardless, her father collected fancy examples of steelwork and her mother had countless books and these were their passions.

    It chilled her to think of how much her father would mind her taking something from his collection, but it was necessitated in the face of an unknown crisis. Claire shrugged away the thoughts of her family, turning her attention to the quiet urban sprawl before her.

    There were no people eating or loitering, no lingering cigarette smoke snaking from between the alleys between the shops. No phones going off, no laughter or faint music. No gypsies or businessmen. Just a few silhouettes shifting behind small doors and clean glass. Aside from a passing bus, that path was little more than a graveyard; tended by an array of sultry baristas.

    It really is dead out here... Maybe everyone is seeing what happened? Maybe we should check the news.

    "So, you really think this is because of aliens," it wouldn't surprise her if the other girl was fully expecting an alien invasion, "I mean, it would explain some things, certainly, but given how little we know I think it would be best to," she scanned the road before them as she spoke, tracing the outlines of chairs and buildings with her eyes, searching for lurking shadows or grinning jesters, "I dunno, think about other options."

    Really, though, what is more plausible than aliens in this context? Magic? If the world were first inhabited by giant jesters, it could explain humanity's fascination with comedy. A perfect pie to the face of our former overlords.

    "But you're right," she began again, biting her lip briefly before speaking, "we haven't learned anything new from the drawing," but Claire had come up with a few new questions, "other than...well, nothing. Nothing at all," it was depressing that she couldn't bring herself to find something more impressive to say to her new friend, but that was the brutal simplicity of it. She knew that there was a connection between herself and the jester, at least through the proxy of her waking daze, but it was such a tenuous string of logic that Claire couldn't bring herself to pursue it in full. Though, truly, it would be a thing that lingered in her mind for days or perhaps weeks to come; this she acknowledged absently, turning eyes again to the triad streets before her...struggling with the decision to go home and pilfer her father's private stash of sweet loot.

    If I don't do this, I'll regret it. The first step has already been taken. Turning back would be a coward's gamble...and I don't think I'm much of a gambler.

    She laughed at herself, in spite of herself, out loud. Claire stifled it as quickly as it had begun, but it was still echoing in the distance when she let loose another slight giggle. Something absurd was in the air, something absurd and amusing and draped in all the horrible mysteries of the world. It was a palpable tingling on the back of her neck and arms that drifted to touch her navel and course through her legs; a sensation that could only be akin to electricity in the air...or perhaps an adrenalin fueled dread. The girl sighed it away, smiling widely despite the gesture. Her home, though it couldn't be called a mere 'home' by those who would behold it, was not too far off, sitting just out of view on a hill beyond the stretching road to their right. She lifted a finger and pointed in that direction.

    "Ready to raid the Ashworth armory?" her finger hovered, aloft, swaying slightly as she shifted herself on her feet, strangely excited "With any luck, we'll be able to avoid detection."
  12. Witnessing Claire's struggle brought an amused smile on her face; it wasn't a cruel smirk of a professional athlete watching an obese man sweating in the gym, though. It seemed more jovial and good-natured than gleeful. Crybabies could interpret it as a vicious attack on their ego, sure, but Sophie cared about those people as much as she cared about reproduction rate of storks in Northern America. "You know, perhaps you could pursue career as a tetris block. It's amazing how much space you can occupy at once when you're so damn tiny. No, really, it's impressive. I would have recommended you to check The Guinness Book of Records under normal circumstances since it never hurts to become famous - even as a freak of nature - but I guess that point is moot now that the horrors from humanity's worst nightmares are running rampant in the streets." The vast majority of her peers would have likely shivered at the unshakable serenity present in her voice while talking about such grave matters, yet it didn't even occur to her to collapse on the ground in nervous breakdown. Why waste your energy on something so utterly senseless? And they had the guts to call her 'unpractical.' Unlike Claire, Sophie studied the breach for a few seconds rather than cramming herself inside forcefully, trying to gauge which angle would be the most suitable for her purposes. Yeah, this should work. The girl then crouched and crawled through the opening with elegance of a lame mare, but without losing her balance. She narrowed her eyes when Claire admitted she didn't have a plan.

    Sophie herself wouldn't hesitate to admit wasn't a seeker of wisdom no matter how much you tried to stretch the definition; rationalism in big doses could be lethal for personality. She knew many people who had started out as individual with fresh opinions - persons unkissed by the dictatorial system - whose resolve to stay true to themselves had corroded in the harmful environment of the so-called civilized society. Every single one of them had capitulated, letting their character shrivel and die under the crushing load of mostly imaginary responsibilities. Their excuse was usually something along the lines of 'I'm an adult now, so I have to behave accordingly,' but Sophie understood the hidden truth, and it was much more sinister. Such dramatic changes in demeanor couldn't be caused some sort of epiphany; brain patterns weren't so easy to rewrite. Anyone with a working pair of eyes could see what was going on here. Either some underground laboratory mass-produced clones of every human being on the planet and then replaced the original with the replica if they didn't fit their standards or 'common sense' worked like a computer virus, completely erasing the previous data from the infected head.

    Since Sophie possessed a keen insight into the ruthless world of conspiracies, she also knew that the first option wasn't possible; it would introduce tremendous problems in the logistics department. That obviously meant the second alternative had to be true, so she generally steered away from the conventional line of thought, but the girl couldn't help herself right now. What was Claire thinking? More importantly, what was she thinking when she followed her automatically like a lost puppy? They had separated from the group, for god's sake; that translated to certain death sentence in horror movies in nine cases out of ten. Of course, that was just a silly subliminal message about power in numbers to preserve the sheep-like mentality prevalent among humans, but even Sophie would like to have few meat-shields at her disposal. And now Claire refused to equip themselves with some fine weaponry? She opened her mouth to protest, but her classmate's next statement about family armory sealed her lips. For a moment.

    "Are you serious? That's so cool, Claire! My father collects banana stickers, which is... Neither cool, nor useful. I don't know why I even mentioned it. Anyway, what kinds of medieval weapons are in your collection? Does your father specialize in European weapons exclusively or can I find a random katana in there? Not that I'd choose it as those blades can be notoriously fragile when you're not trained to use them, but I've always wanted to touch one." Sophie practically bounced as she walked, apparently entirely unaffected by the desolate ruins of once lively city. "I'm thinking of picking up a gladius with a shield; that seems like a solid choice for someone of my stature and experience. Dual wielding does seem to be very effective, but I'm not sure I want to prioritize damage over defense when the hitpoint system doesn't work in real life. Damn shame, if you ask me. What do you think? Have you practiced with some of the weapons? Do you have your favorite sword? Did you name it? Is the name of Welsh origin and thus unpronounceable? How many apostrophes did you use in it?" The waterfall of questions was endless; even though Sophie preferred firearms, she felt drawn to cold steel as well. Swords were mandatory for heroes, after all.

    "Well, yeah, it might be a little premature to just say it's an alien invasion," admitted Sophie after a second of deliberation. "I mean, when you approach this with open mind, the cause can be almost anything from mutants escaping from a secret laboratory to mass hallucinations from toxic vapors. I think it's futile to speculate further when we have no basis for our assumptions. Actually, the only thing that truly matters is whether the jesters are vulnerable to common weapons... I'm inclined to say 'yes', if only because they're certainly tangible, but I have no idea whether laws of physics even apply to them." She was very much aware you couldn't bribe physics like a corrupt cop, but the aliens could easily have a gear constructed for bypassing gravitation and other troubles. "You know what, maybe we should really spend some time in front of television; I bet the news will be full of this." Sophie shot a worried glance in Claire's direction as she erupted in maniacal laughter. Please, tell me this is not a warning that her sanity is slipping away. Not so soon! All the handbooks on survival advised to dispose of the loons at the first opportunity since they were like time-bombs, but she didn't want to hurt Claire. Her classmate may have been a half-jester hybrid in human skin, yet she listened to her theories and even expanded them. That didn't happen often; being a misunderstood genius had its downsides, too. Fortunately, Claire seemed to get a hold of herself quickly and Sophie could relax.

    "Totally! I've never been so ready for anything. Wait, what do you mean 'avoid detection?' Can't you just ask your father to borrow the weapons since he's... well, your father? Not that I'm complaining about a stealth mission - those are my favorites - but still."
  13. "A tetris block?"

    Claire considered the possibility for a long moment, stepping from one foot to the other in a half-dancing kind of contemplation. She remembered playing the game often on her cellphone, during several of her middle school classes.

    "I'd have to be an L-block and I'm not sure how I'd even start on a resume for something like that" she announced, then sighed, as though heartbreak had crept in from somewhere, "Guinness would've been much better...I'd just have to get tattoos or something gimmicky to make sure people couldn't top my record," she put a finger to her lip and thought about it for a moment, wiping a few errant drops of sweat away with the other, absently noting that she had dressed too warmly for a day of adventuring, "like, hmmm, 'Girl That Impossibly Occupies More Space Than Physically Reasonable and Has The Most Facial Tattoos'. It's still a possibility, I suppose." She smiled at Sophie, watching her slide through in a more practical...though equally awkward way. Truly, it would have been easier for both of them to walk around, but Claire was now lingering on thoughts of pain. Facial tattoos did not seem to be a pleasant endeavor, nor did being listed in a book of world records for being completely graceless.

    Wait, that isn't true, Claire noted, remembering she was graceful when it counted, I've...what?

    Something about banana stickers had thrown her off guard. She had comprehended the entirety of what Sophie was saying, it just took her another few seconds to envision what her that collection must look like.

    "No," Claire said automatically, perhaps in too terse a tone, "I-I couldn't just ask him, it's a lot more complicated than it seems on the surface. He...would not be happy with having the question put forward and even less pleased with whatever explanation we...or I give him." She knew to tell her father about their 'plan' would be a terrible folly, earning Claire a lengthy and harsh talking to while Sophie would be escorted from the grounds by myriad maids and butlers. Neither seemed particularly terrible, but in a situation such as this, Claire no wish to engage her father in a verbal exchange, one which she invariably felt would only produce ill favor for herself. She shook her head, flailing hair into the empty air as she fought down the urge engage him about the matter anyway. No, she knew this had to be an action of subterfuge and high cunning.

    With a few steps toward the branching road on their right, Claire motioned for Sophie to follow.

    Best to practice non-verbal communication on the way, at least from time to time.

    This road was decidedly dead as well, though it was often far less populated anyway. Before them were the backs of the buildings they had witnessed before. Trash cans stood staunchly by the side, sentinels of waste over a concrete expanse. Gossamer bits of refuse drifted across the road, caught in the light breeze, dancing like nymphs with an elemental affinity for the dirty and disused. Claire watched as one such piece of tattered plastic drifted to collide silently with a bit of rushed graffiti; flying upward at the impact and sinking down as though it had been dealt a heavy blow. Brown bricks and barbed wire fences completed the feel of urban abandonment and imbued a very modern sense of paranoia. Though, it rarely seemed like anything happened on this road. Claire had taken this route countless times before, each as seemingly ominous as the last. The truth of the matter was that it was simply unsightly and unkempt, infused with the negligence that came with the idea of opulence; two wanting sides of one crushingly human coin.

    She took her steps easily, running her fingers along the brick as she went; using her periphery to look between the buildings as she passed. Again, they were cadaverous and dark; bereft of even flies or the refuse that gallivanted about the street.

    "My dad collects weapons from all over the world, really," she smiled, taking her hand from the wall and turning to Sophie as she walked, "if it has a blade or flange, it usually interests least so long as it can be construed as a martial weapon," while there were countless armaments on the walls and contained in various reliquaries, not one of them was a proper firearm, "A gladius," she rolled the word over her tongue in a near whisper, imagining, briefly, Sophie clad in gladiatorial garb with a bronze shield clutched in her hand, lit by the sun in a blood-stained sand pit and suddenly blushed "would suit you...well." Claire had preferred, in her mandatory lessons, to use blades of elegance, or at least what her father had labeled as such, thin things that took no strength but the strength to pierce an opponent; she found they had suited her best. "If I remember correctly, they'll be hanging right next to each other." Claire lifted her chin, thinking about something Sophie had said for a moment, "I was always under the impression that, when dual wielding, one would incur a penalty, at least in terms of accurate attacks, due to using a weapon in what could be considered your tertiary hand. Seems like the damage output would have to have a drawback like that, or everyone would be doing it."

    While she didn't know exactly what to say about a hit-point system being used in everyday life, it was a romantic kind of thought to imagine that one's wounds could not be directly fatal unless cumulative or critical.

    "I...I do have a particular weapon in that room," she acknowledged, nodding, "I named it 'Skovfrue'," Claire pronounced the word as adequately as she could, even using a proper inflection, "it's Norwegian and thankfully has very few apostrophes. As expected of me, I've trained with it as regularly as demanded," it seemed a near sorrowful admission, her head tilting down again and looking at some distant memory etched in the loose detritus of the street, "my father is serious about these kinds of things, so I practice once or twice a week with him and then move directly to studying with my mother."

    Studying may not be an apt way to say that, Claire admonished herself, but let the matter slide for her own benefit.

    Again, her thoughts turned back to an earlier part of their conversation.

    Aliens, mutants, anything. Whatever it is, can we really hurt it?

    "Well," she managed after working over the scenario and all its unknowns, "I doubt we'd really learn anything by watching the news. Of course, it is possible; just seems to me that we'd be taking a step back at this point. Personally...I don't want to hear how bad it is, not yet, or just how 'nigh' the apocalypse is...assuming it's nigh at all," she forced out a sigh, feeling like she'd already drifted too far out of what she construed as normal, "but it couldn't hurt to check the internet, at the very least. Maybe the countless urchins in the seedy underbelly of online society know what's going on? Even...even if they don't, I bet they'll have some interesting theories."
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