((Irene Djezari Continued From the way to dusty death))
At some point, the running had stopped. With it, the panting, wheezing, and heaving eventually stopped too. She wasn't too sure where she was, other than some sort of library, or where the other girls had been, but it had been enough for her to find a corner and curl up holding her bag until she fell into fitful sleep.
She hadn't cried. She woke up to the sounds of speakers coming to life keenly aware of that, and the fact that she didn't cry when it was over. How messed up was that? People were definitely dying, definitely killing, and a lot of them were her friends on both sides. Abby, Barry, Kimiko, Nancy, Cristo...so many others, and you know what was crazy? She didn't really know any of them. Not really, y'know? Kimiko was probably the one she knew the best, and she never thought...well, she never thought lots of stuff. But she guessed she didn't really understand any of her classmates. If she went home and had to look at their families, she couldn't pretend she had anything worth saying to them. No insight or reassurance about what went down like you saw in the movies, some hourglass girl or chiseled dude clapping a hand on your shoulder and summing up why everything was gonna be okay in anything from a sentence to a 30 second monologue. It looked so cool and confident in all the clips, but that wasn't real. And that's how she knew this was. There weren't any reassuring words or cleansing tears that could flush this away. Just anxiety, awkwardness, and confusion. It was a lot like the life she was more used to, so maybe it was real after all.
Joshua's corpse really drove that home. She saw this one. Looked it all over, as much as it horrified and disgusted her. She needed to know, and now she did. There was no question that it was him, and that he was dead, but she had no idea what to do with that information. So now she was just wandering the library aimlessly, Johnny Three in her arms, looking at the shelves for anything eye-catching. Eventually, her fingers found a dusty spine and uncovered a single, eye-catching word: Gathol.
Llana of Gathol. The cover said it was "A John Carter of Mars romance." That name, John Carter, was kinda vaguely familiar, she felt like it'd been a movie recently. This book looked way too old to be a part of that, though, and that pulled her in deeper. Sure, maybe it was just an old book they'd made into a movie...or maybe she'd glitched the Matrix and found a clue to tell her that all this was some weird dream and she'd be going home any minute now, without another thought of dead friends and inadequacy. She didn't have to think about who else might be in trouble, or the blood she'd seen around Joshua or the Asylum, or how she'd abandoned the girls. She could pretend, for just a little longer, that maybe there was some chance this was all bullshit. Irene collapsed in front of the bookshelf, cradled the shotgun in her lap, and blew the dust away as she began to read.
"No matter how instinctively gregarious one may be there are times when one longs for solitude."
Page after page in the dim light, as if everything was normal. There wasn't a dead body a few rows behind her. She hadn't abandoned her friends. They weren't probably dead or dying somewhere. An entire class hadn't vanished and wound up in some freaky abandoned asylum in the middle of nowhere. Everything was cool with her and her trashy little 1900s fantasy romance novel in space. That clusterfuck of genre was the weirdest thing going on right now. Definitely.
Johnny Three lay across her lap, and seemed to grow heavier and heavier with every line of text.
It wasn't until the dust settled that she was fully aware of what happened. A scream, a book flying across the room, a hand finding a trigger as the sounds of thundering shots tore through the quiet hideaway again and again until her ears rang and the only guarantee she was still firing was the flash of the muzzle and the heavy kick of the shotgun threatening to throw her off her feet. Bits of paper and binding and mildew mixed with the smoke in the air to clog her nostrils, but even as she hacked at the air, she didn't collapse. She stood there, trembling with the force of the recoil, and the fear, and her own impotent anger, eyes boring through the glass of the dome up into the sky.
Somebody out there would probably write something really big and important and thoughtful about this whole thing. They probably already had a bunch of times in the past. Some great truth about people or philosophy or life that was revealed by how humans behaved under a microscope when you put their lives on the line and left them unable to trust anybody or anything. The kind of distant ideological debate she could probably sink into really easily back home when she was way over her head and just kinda babbling to try and keep up because she wanted to connect and try even if she didn't get it.
She didn't get it here either, but there was no one to babble to. Just confusion, and fear, and disgust, and anger.
Another ragged scream tore from her throat as she fired into the air. The sound of shattering glass tore her back to reality, and she scampered away to curl up against the wall with her bag. Tears came again, hot and bitter, but this time a scowl froze on her face.
Her bag bobbed at her side and Johnny Three pressed against her neck as she wandered out of the library, filled with a boiling desire to do...something. Anything. It was better than trying to think the situation through anymore.
((Irene Djezari Continued In They Stumbled Into Faith and Hope))