((Penelope Fitzgerald continued from Haunted Reality))
Day four had been largely uneventful.
Penelope and Ben stood atop the roof of the asylum, looking out into the distance as the sun set.
She sipped from her water bottle that had been filled the day before with rainwater. The third announcements had reminded her so succinctly of the emptiness she had been feeling since she had arrived on the island and that had been steadily growing as the days went by. More deaths, the lives of entire people reduced to just a single sentence making fun of them for dying and mocking anyone and everyone who loved them in the process.
"More deaths... why... why can't they... why don't they see that this is all so wrong?"
'They're the ones we avoid, I guess. Gotta remember the names. Find the other ones that haven't been said yet, before it's too late.'
"I know I just... I don't want any more violence... none of this is fair... none of us deserve this..."
'Not gonna argue that... I looked a killer in the eye. I used to trust him. Used to think he was a friend, but well...' He pointed at his arm. 'We don't deserve it. We shouldn't fucking be here. But we're here, it's happening to us... We have a plan. About all that's left.'
It had hurt, hearing the names listed off, but what had hurt more was the fact that she didn't feel as hurt as she had felt listening to the first and second announcements. Maybe it was because the only name she really knew in those announcements was Henry's, and even then she didn't feel nearly as much hurt hearing his name as she had hearing Cristo's name or Sam's name...
She shook slightly, before gritting her teeth and regaining her composure. She briefly glanced at Ben before laying her head on his shoulder in an effort to calm herself.
More than likely she was just growing used to hearing about the deaths every single day. She was starting to care less and less, bit by bit, and realizing that tore her up inside.
And she knew that everyone else had to die if she succeeded. There would be no survivors of the kidnapping.
"I wish there was more that we could do than just condemn everyone to death in protest. I wish we could actually save everyone"
'Shit, I've never been the smart one. If we could find your friends maybe you guys would have the brain power to crack the code...'
'I guess if I have to die... Don't want to die the villain. Definitely others on this damn island who still think the same.'
"Y-yeah. Probably. Hero or martyr, it's better than turning into the bad guy yourself."
Escape from this situation was impossible. How could she possibly outsmart some of the most brilliant evil minds alive as a random girl that hadn't even graduated high school? She would just get herself killed. There was no option to be a hero, the only option was to be a martyr.
She would lament about how the only life she would ever live was going to tragically end early before it had even truly begun, but she just wasn't that kind of person. If it wasn't her life cut tragically short, it would have been someone else's instead. She didn't deserve to live any more than anyone else. She was one unimportant drop in an ocean of people. She would be forgotten quickly, and the effect she'd had on the world would be minimal at best... but she was okay with that.
The orange sky grew dark as the sun set below the horizon.
Penelope lifted her head off of Ben's shoulder, looking him in the eyes silently before taking his hand in hers.
"Let's get out of here, find a place to sleep."
((Ben Fields continued from Haunted Reality))
Two people he'd grown to loathe one way or another specific way. Hadn't spoken to either of them in what felt like... However many days the Coyotes had been islandbound times the psi of the bullet that had broken his arm to bits. Yeah. No reason to have ever spoken again, to either. They might as well have been dead to him. Now they were just dead, and he couldn't help but clearly remember their faces for how much they were both a plague onto his house. Ordinary faces belonging to Ben's ordinary grudges. One had stolen his heart, the other his friend's stuff. None of that was ever going to matter ever again. Ben felt something tense in his chest, something like an old geezer heart attack, something on behalf of all those petty ass things he belatedly realized he'd give anything to make matter again.
He'd left so many things unsaid.
Ben had changed his grease trap shirt out for a gray hoodie, the one spare article of clothing he'd packed for the day trip. A chill had settled into the spine of the island, like a bad flu only they weren't promised bedrest and chicken noodle. No promises but rain.
They wandered the asylum in a silence Ben broke.
"What were you hoping to become back home? Shitty old 'when I grow up' question, I know."
'It's fine! I guess... I guess I wanted to be an indie game designer. I had already made a couple of short games privately, and I actually released two on GameJolt and my Tumblr followers seemed to really enjoy them. They weren't the pinnacle of game design, but I thought they were good nonetheless. I thought I could go farther with that but it just... wasn't meant to be.'
He'd almost understood most of it.
"Sounds pretty fucking cool, but... Yeah. I guess that's what they call regret, isn't it? Leaving things undone. Unsaid. Whatever you feel about all of that."
'Well with the way I see it, I don't really feel too much regret... after all, everyone has a dream or two. Everyone has life goals that they want to fulfill. It's part of being human. If it wasn't my dreams being taken away from me, it would have been someone else's. If I had to choose between being in this situation myself or letting someone I don't know suffer in my stead, I'd choose to be put here.'
"I mean... Hm." He almost smiled. "Well said."
"Think I gotta change my bandages. Doesn't feel like it's gonna look any pretty. I think you should look away because of... yeah."
Turned out the rain never came. They were beached, among the few dry grains of sand yet to be swallowed by the vast ocean.
The announcements still haunted Ben, almost as much as the girl gently draped onto his shoulder. She seemed stronger than him somehow, despite being the one leaning into his support. Pillar of salt, pillar of sand, his crumbling body. They were close enough that he could hear the clink of her teeth gritting in stubborn resistance to the evil world around herself. Like the swish of the sword held aloft, defiantly into the air above the hero. His own body was also creaking like rigid metal and enamel, but that of the spent bullet casing pathetically flopping to the ground.
Unlike him she also had things to say.
"I guess if I have to die... Don't want to die the villain. Definitely others on this damn island who still think the same."
Ben fell silent as the island before them. The last rays of the suns dying light were bloody.
'Y-yeah. Probably. Hero or martyr, it's better than turning into the bad guy yourself.'
She was right.
But it wasn't enough.
"Let's get out of here, find a place to sleep."
"Hold on, Penelope." Their eyes and hands had met in silence, but Ben didn't quite crumble away. Not yet.
"Before we go." Ben paused a second too long. "I think you should say something for those people back home. You know, the people who shared those dreams of yours, the ones being sacrificed for someone else's. Give them all a last 'oorah."
"Uhh... okay. Lemme think of what to say."
Ben could empathize with that sentiment. He let some time pass in silence, contemplating the humanity of her hand in his. Like a fucking doofus.
"To... everyone back home. To my friends, my family, and my followers... To everyone that stuck with me and encouraged me and cared for me. Thank you for everything. I... I couldn't have made it this far without you. Know that... that even after I have long become dust, my heart is still with you... remember that, and remember that I believe in you just like you believed in me."
Well said. Went without saying.
"...I'm going to make all of this right."
No fucking regrets, and that was why Ben took heart in the speech she'd summoned in half a minute and a thimble's worth of metabolism. They'd let the terrorists take all the words from them while they'd cowered, while they'd broken promises. Penelope took words back, made them her own. She'd made it all matter again. Nothing bound them to this earth but duty, that soldier-ly pursuit of happiness. She was going to make all of this right. And Ben was going to help, damn every broken ass bone in his body.
"What about you, Ben? You should probably say something too."
But he still couldn't think of anything to say, so he shook his head and the two of them drifted away into the bleeding away of the light wise men called nightfall.
((Ben Fields and Penelope Fitzgerald continued in Hemochromatosis))