The Ground Won't Break To Save Your Fall

Joined: April 6th, 2009, 5:22 pm

May 27th, 2011, 5:49 am #1

((Ilario Fiametta III and Rhory Anne Broderick continued from Act II: A Mirror Dimly.))

Ilario was cold.

He had wrapped himself in what was left of his jacket, stained by salt water and blood and covered in grime, but the thin fabric offered little warmth against the chill of night. The light wind blowing in from the water made him shiver each time it caressed his shoulders, and he'd long since drawn his knees up into his chest in the foetal position. The coat had been stylish in a low-key sort of way once upon a time (not to mention expensive) but despite once being his favourite, the prevailing thought running through his head was that he would trade it a thousand times over for something thick and fluffy enough to conserve what little heat remained in his skin.

The Ferris wheel had not been designed for comfort. Some small animal had burrowed into the stuffing of the seat and removed massive chunks of it, making the slight cushion lumpy and uneven. The steel safety bar was stuck in the ‘engaged' position, forcing him to contort his body just to fit in the small space, and the whole thing squealed and shifted on its axis with every movement he made. But it was better than the control booth.

Metal groaned as Ilario shifted his upper body, eyes straining to make out the dark shape mere feet away. Rhory was there. A small and petty part of him hoped she was just as cold, just as stiff, just as tired and hungry and in pain as he was. Generic painkillers hadn't done much against the headache that still gnawed at his temples, although without the glare of light the dull throbbing had eased at least somewhat. Nausea still curled in his stomach even though he knew he hadn't eaten in far too long, vertigo making his head spin if his movements were too sudden. The tacky feeling of drying blood make the back of his head itch where Rhory had brought the stock of the shotgun down. Still, as bad as it all was, he was still alive. His skull hadn't split like a ripe melon.

He could still fulfill his purpose.

The deep and empty ache that was Frankie still filled him, but it was lined with the deep-banked fires of anger. It was her fault. The dark-haired bitch was the reason his sister was dead, the reason he had been unable to find and protect her. Not only that, but the damage she'd done to his body meant that for now he didn't have a choice but to stay. He couldn't die. Not here, not by her. Not without Rosa. But the concussion which scrambled his mind and made him too weak to fight forced him to follow her through the long grief-stricken hours, until at last they'd come to the fun fair. There had been bodies. Those he could not save, and those he had not killed.

They hadn't spoken much, him and Rhory. She had found the control booth and settled into it like a nesting bird, her gun and Ilario's held close. She had told him not to go far. He chafed under it, wanted nothing more than to rip her head from her shoulders and run until he found his remaining sister -- but couldn't. Knew he couldn't. Knew he had to bide his time, wait until the right moment. She thought he was complacent. She would learn soon enough.

But now here he was. Leaning his head against the back of the seat, he closed his eyes, dropping in and out of a fitful doze punctuated by dreams more a series of images, and familiar thoughts. In the morning he would be better. And she would see that he hadn't run, and think he was on her side. It would be so easy -- she was just a girl, just a small, scared, hurt girl -- a killer, though -- and he could take the gun and send a bullet to that sacred place between the stag's antlers.

Not much longer, he thought drowsily, his father (blood-stained and battered as Ilario himself) watching from a nearby tree, the ground turning from sawdust and grass to green carpet, turning back again, soft noises from the control booth worming into his mind and so that he blinked and woke, and then fell under the darkness once more.

Not much longer. And then.

His eyelids squeezed tightly shut, just for a moment. A damp track was carved in the dirt and blood coating his face, sliding over the purple-swollen bruises.

Then maybe it could finally be over.

marc st. yves
light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire
{food for thought}

phineas rosario
fall down seven times stand up eight
sebastian conway
can't see the forest for the trees
{book of sparrows}
(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)

Joined: July 23rd, 2008, 11:45 pm

June 15th, 2011, 3:49 am #2

Through all this, the dark-haired bitch watched.

The cramped booth was thick with smoke from her third cigarette. One of Kimberly’s, though it was too dark to see and her senses were too dead to realize it. The grimed glass was heavy with filth. It was amazing, she thought, that she could make out even the slightest detail of her companion or the carriage he’d packed himself into. Not that she needed to. The thing shrieked with a harsh, rusty coo that sliced through the tin-can walls of her perch each time he rocked or twitched. Even without the sound she’d know where he was. His location was simple fact. There was nowhere else for him to go.

Cigarette paper unwound itself between her left-handed fingers as she brought it to her mouth and sucked. The back of her throat felt like charcoal. She was grateful to feel it at all. Feeling had left most other places, fled most inches of paling skin or purpling fingertips. She vaguely remembered feeling. She remembered being on a rotting blue floor, mourning Ethan and Jack with those fingertips and promising to never feel so much pain again. It was funny now. She hadn’t known real pain then. She hadn’t known the garish splashes and deep cuts that would come later. She couldn’t have known the true feeling of emptiness until her own blood and puss staged an exodus and her nerves wilted back into her bones. She hadn’t known anything back then. She was never meant to. It was all too stupid and brutal to know. So she took comfort in the fact that feeling was gone and exhaled. Knowing was easier without feeling.

She crushed the spent cigarette against the panel and flicked the filter to her side. Her left hand went for the ragged box, slumped and filthy in her lap against the stock of the AK, and then stopped. Nicotine sparks rattled across the fog she’d created as she stared down at her sleep-fearing fingers. She blinked through the smoke. What was the point? She may have only just learned pain, but she knew exhaustion well. She’d spent eighteen years of dark brews and white sticks building against it. She’d clawed against it for weeks at a time and got chunks of it stuck under her fingernails that she could never quite dig out. No matter how much oil and smoke she filled herself with, it broke thorough. It always won. She was just so god damn tired. So why fight it? What was there to fight it for? She peered through smoke and grime at the screeching thing before her and knew he was tired too. Knew he was fighting it. The tossing-turning shrieks said as much. Maybe part of what kept him up was the nightmare haunt of failure, but she knew that wasn’t all. His insomnia was wholly unlike hers. He still had a reason to keep awake.

She didn’t know Rosa well. She knew of her, of course. It was impossible not to. High school halls were built to echo with names like hers. But Rosas weren’t meant to be known. It would break the illusion, and school halls are useless without illusions to funnel through them. The brother, though, he had to know her. Blood is too thick for echoes to ripple through. So, what was Rosa? Was she still Rosa the Bitch? Was she colder than her open legs suggested? Rhory didn’t think so. Not with her brother’s warm desperation. Rhory knew ice queens. Blood didn’t make them matter; if anything, they just froze it. They didn’t open their arms or part their knees for any other reason than building a vice. They bend their joints to grab, trap, control. They were the kind that dreamed of December weddings. They settled for October if time was short. They made their college roommates maids of honor while they asked their sisters to be the videographers. They were the kind that shopped for wedding dresses too large for them and with empire waists because they knew how large the bump would be in five months’ time. No, Rhory thought. Rosa was no ice queen. She had enough blood left to know that it wasn’t made to withstand the cold. Whatever the Fiametta siblings had the brother was boiling over with.

The rust-metal screams stopped. He was asleep now. She envied it. The nicotine cloud still crackled around her head like it was trying to push out a storm. Exhaustion wasn’t winning. Not yet. She looked for distraction. Her left fingers had already taken to twisting at the thick layer of cling cocooning her right hand in the absence of pinched cigarettes. Dark ghosts of a stain soaked through the middle. Not blood anymore. She wondered if it was even pus. Her fingers were darker and cooler hues each day and she could hardly twitch the barest movements from them anymore. She hadn’t changed the bandages in a while. She didn’t see the point. She’d known from the first attempt that infection would find its way in. It hadn’t worried her then and it only inconvenienced her now. After all, the wound wasn’t one made for survival. It wasn’t a defensive scar. It was there because her outraged hand had cried for someone’s neck and she’d been content to pacify it. It deserved every inch of rotting skin it got. She wasn’t planning on outliving it anyway.

But living wasn’t the problem. Not for her, at least. Her life wasn’t a part of their deal. Fiametta was the one that needed to survive. Rhory didn’t believe in karma, she didn’t believe in absolvement, but she did believe in justice. She believed more firmly in punishment. If he died here, neither could touch him. This place was free of any justice. Out there, he’d have to face what he’d done. He’d have to live with murder for however long he chose to live. She didn’t care what he did after. She only knew that they both needed him out.

She also knew that the only things keeping him alive were two triggers, and she wasn’t able to pull either of them.

His gun had been digging tracks in her thighs for hours by now. She’d taken it out of her bag just after he’d settled into his carriage. It hadn’t been the gun she’d kept as a threat for the journey before. She’d used Davis’s gun for that. She knew she couldn’t fake the same competency with the AK as she could the shotgun: it was too heavy and bulky and her ruined digits couldn’t wrap themselves around the trigger quite convincingly enough. So she’d kept it in her duffel instead, where it could collide with her hip at every step to remind her it was there. She’d thought about burying it. It seemed wrong not to. Somewhere in the woods they’d walked through was Jackson’s body, rotting out whatever little of him was left. He would never get a real burial. The gun would be close. It was there because of him. It held a part of him. She could almost see the black finish split into strands of his hair. She could give him a funeral. He deserved at least as much.

But in the end, she knew it was too important for dirt. And if she wasn’t going to bury it, it needed able fingers.

She tilted her head back against the tin wall. It was lighter out. She could see the smoke seeping out around her. Fatigue fought up her spine quickly, forcing the nicotine into retreat. She knew what had to happen now. It was a relief. She didn’t need the guns. She already had her claws digging deep. If he turned the barrel on her, she’d just break them off in him.

Her work was already done. There was nowhere else for him to go.

She breathed in the last of the smoke and let her eyes close.

Joined: July 23rd, 2008, 11:45 pm

July 1st, 2011, 1:47 am #3

((Cowritten with faceinabook))

There was a cold and firm pressure at her temple. She wasn’t sure for how long. Her eyes stayed tightly shut against what little light the grime let pass. If there was any sound between them, she was unable to hear it. There was no evidence of time here. There was only the pressure. She kept her eyes shut. There was no need for them. She already knew the source. The absent weight on her lap betrayed it. All else there was to see was grime and an empty red gondola. So she kept her eyes closed, and she waited.

Finally, noise came.

“Rosa’s dead.”

Then, a single click.

The sound of his own voice echoed strangely in his ears. His tone was flat, calm. He had given up on hysteria. There hadn’t been tears since Frankie’s elegy. Kept at bay by the pills he’d swallowed down under Rhory’s watchful eye, her voice clawing through his ears as she berated him. She almost hadn’t let him have them. In some dim place he thought he should be grateful to her.

Perhaps the grief had been used up, left in breadcrumb tears that scattered along their meandering path. Maybe if he tried Ily could trace his footsteps back to where Rosa wasn’t dead and Frankie wasn’t dead and maybe farther back than that, off the island, into a green study.

But that wasn’t worth thinking about. What was important was the present. What was important was the girl -- woman, he corrected himself, she had lost any girlhood -- in front of him, the skin of her forehead dimpled slightly under the barrel of the machine gun. It was important that it was the AK-47. That was the gun that had brought them together. It was the gun that would force her out of the world and finally begin to make amends for this whole twisted wreck. She had kept him from Rosa. She had kept him like a dog on a leash, unable to run because if he did she would shoot. She had played with her control over him, chided him, insulted him, hurt him. She had been his trial of fire.

But he had come through it. Burnt and limping and oh his head hurt, slow waves of pain and vertigo that slid through the aching pathways of his mind, one eye swollen shut and his cheek a mass of bruises, he had given his pound of flesh and all the blood that came with it besides. But he was still standing. And he would be rewarded with her death.

His hands on the gun were perfectly still in their surprisingly correct grip. His finger slid over the trigger. Caressed it.

She opened her eyes. The booth was brighter than she’d imagined. Light reflected sharply off the ruined panels and forced her irises to painfully adjust. She forced her held breath out. Three syllables:

“I’m sorry.”

A pause.

“No,” Ilario said, “no. You’re not.” Just a fact. He shifted a little bit on his feet, adjusting his stance. The world didn’t seem entirely real under him but it was real enough to hold him up and that was all that mattered right now. “I was supposed to save her, did you know that? And Frankie. Not just -- not just on this island, but. From themselves. And now they’re both dead.”

At some point he’d stopped focusing on Rhory. With an effort, he sharpened his gaze, sweeping it across her face as though memorizing each feature before its inevitable destruction. He smiled once, a knife-edge grin flickering across his face. Gone before it could be anything but a possibility.

“Now they’re both dead,” he repeated. The words didn’t seem to mean anything in his mouth. They hung awkwardly in the air, somehow incomprehensible like a language he’d never quite learned. He hesitated, focus gone once more as he searched for a meaning in the sentence. She spoke before he could find it.

“You’re right.”

Her gaze was still fixed towards the red carriage, voice all smoke and ennui like it always was. “I’m not sorry. Not for you.” A pennon of dirty brown-black hair hid the boy and his gun from the corner of her eye, but she could feel the black of the barrel reaching out and raking at the side of her head. “I didn’t kill them like you killed Jack. I don’t owe you any fucking sympathy.”

“You didn’t kill them like you killed Davis either but you killed them just the same.” His voice snapped out like a whip.

She let out a thin, harsh bark. “You wanna talk about Bill, Fiametta? Let’s fucking talk about Bill.” Her brow pulled around the barrel. She kept her eyes on the grime but he could feel the heat pouring out of them from where he stood. “He murdered two people right in front of me-” Because of her, she meant, but he didn’t need to know that. She didn’t owe him that. “-right the fuck in front of me. He shot a boy in my arms.” Something cracked in her throat but she didn’t stop. “Then you know what he did?”

The smoke was long gone but the air was suddenly thick with something dark and cold and growling. “He looked up at the cameras and he bragged about it. You know Marion Summers? Pretty girl, wrote for the school paper? She was dying feet away from us and he was fucking congratulating himself.” Her voice had lost any calm now, jettisoned it with the spit that flew against the glass with her harsher syllables. Hurt and rage shook through her clenched teeth. “So I took a nice, big chunk of glass-” She raised her hand, bringing the hidden but still festering wound up with it “-and I ripped his fucking throat out. I ripped it out right where that goddamn camera could see it.”

“Then, I took that gun on the floor behind you, and I went back over. And I beat his fucking skull in. I made sure there wasn’t a single motherfucking piece of him left. And you know why I did that, Fiametta?” Her voice choked out, a coiled and wounded thing dripping with venom. “You wanna know why?”

“Because that’s what murderers like you and him deserve.”

The gun slipped. It traced a slow curve down the shadow of her cheek. Rested in the hollow of her throat where some divine thumb had notched her collarbone just so. Ilario’s fingers trembled. His eyes were locked on her face and unable to look away. His voice, when it came, shook as badly as his hands.

“Jack saved my life.”

Choking and writhing and gasping on breath that wasn’t there anymore until Jackson’s mouth sealed over his own and exhaled into his seizing lungs.

“I never wanted him to die.”

CPR, old first aid classes that never quite vanished from muscle memory, sealing his mouth over Jackson’s and exhaling whatever life he’d stolen, giving it back, giving it back a thousand times, until nameless faces had drawn him out of his mania.

“It was an accident.”

His voice steadied. His fingers wrapped tight once more around the sleek curves of the machine gun, bringing it up to nudge away dirty locks of hair. The barrel rested once more on her forehead as he took a deep breath, calming himself. He didn’t need to explain his reasons to her. She was here. She was his sacrifice. It didn’t -- it didn’t matter why she’d done it. She’d killed. She had to be destroyed. He had been shown the path.

But it wasn’t so simple. This all felt too familiar.

She’d done exactly as he had. She’d killed those deserving in order to save the weak. In the times he had stalked her, a hunter and his quarry, she had shown no signs of wanting to prey on others. His gaze flickered to her hand and the bloody ruin he knew was contained beneath the makeshift bandage. She was injured. And yet she persevered.

His breath and heartbeat remained the same, but his mind felt like it was moving at the speed of light. Eustace and his stag. The cross between the antlers. Not a sign to shoot, not a sign of sacrifice. A message from the Lord to have faith and stay true through the many years of sorrow.


These were his trials. His family had fallen and abandoned him in turns, his life reduced to nothing. He had placed his faith in his gun and it had led him to Rhory. Rhory who was as lost and unprotected as his sisters had been, as strayed as any of them. Rhory who had borne the cross in sunlight and who by some miracle he had not yet pulled the trigger on.

Rhory who was still alive while Frankie and Rosa were not.

The gun slipped from nerveless fingers and rebounded gently off the floor as a wave of guilt swept over Ilario in a choking mass. He had almost killed her. He’d been wrong, oh so wrong, and he had almost pulled the trigger. Somehow he’d been more mistaken than he’d ever thought possible. Rhory was not his sacrifice. She was his cross to bear. God had brought them together so that he could protect her -- why her and not his sisters he didn’t know, but it wasn’t for him to question. He would have time to grieve them later. He would see them again. He knew it. As a reward for his faith, for trying so desperately to atone, he would see them.

Rhory’s eyes broke from the grime and went first to the gun, still in a light aureole of dirt and dust where it fell. Hers sat darkly in the corner behind it. It played on the vague edge of her vision. She kept her focus on the other. Dark and sharp and jagged and elegant in some foreign way, like it really was the boy himself rather than his trophy-mounted head. She waited for the dirty air around it to settle. The dust-corona hung stubbornly, almost pleadingly, in an eerie sort of false glory that finally forced her to speak.

“It was not an accident.” Each syllable was measured, stern. Pockets of air forced out like cannon-fire. “You murdered him. You shot him in the fucking head. You can bullshit yourself all you want, you can make me your little scapegoat, but you’re never going to change the fact that you. Are. A. Murderer

Ilario forced himself to keep breathing. He forced air down into his violently protesting lungs. His fingers shook hard enough that he thought if he still had the gun it would have gone off by now, perhaps killed her already. He bowed his head. Clenched his fists at his sides.

“I’m sorry.” The words escaped in a hard rush of air, half-choked off as his throat tried to swallow them back down. His vision had narrowed and blurred in a wash of what could have been tears he’d just thought long lost, could have been exhaustion, could have been desperation. His heart beat a fluttering drumbeat in his ears. “I didn’t -- I didn’t --” Underneath him the floor writhed and dropped him hard to his knees. Pain moved in faint starbursts up and down his legs. One hand reached out groping for a gun, finding the familiar curves and lines of the AK-47. He shoved it blindly in front of him in Rhory’s direction. Kept his head down. Squeezed his eyes shut and curled his fingers hard into his palms as though the bite of nails on flesh would stem the overwhelming tide of emotion he’d been pushing back and drugging away.

“Oh, God,” he whispered, and didn’t know who he was talking to.

“I’m so sorry.”

Her words came quickly this time.

“Fuck you

He didn’t move. The insult washed over him and sank into his skin, felt like a living thing like some being born of her anger and hate and desperation was inside him and gnawing. He accepted it into himself. He deserved it. He deserved everything. He had been so wrong.

“I made a mistake.” His voice was soft and raw and the words slurred and became harsh in all the wrong places. “I didn’t -- I thought I was doing the right thing, you have to understand, I didn’t know.” He wouldn’t, couldn’t look at her. “I thought I saw -- and then the announcement, it seemed to make -- and you, I didn’t know what had, I didn’t know what -- and I thought -- and I fucked up, God, I fucked up so bad --” He choked on a breath and had to cough it out with one hand planted on the floor, stinging from the half-moon cuts imprinted into his lifelines. His head came up and his eyes found hers, pleading, desperate, so lost and so confused and so young. Twice words failed him. The third time they came and by some miracle came clear.

“If you want to kill me. It’s. I don’t.” Rushed and garbled and frantic but oh god, meaning them so much, “I’ll understand if you shoot me.”

Several seconds of dry silence. Even the growling thing held back its noise. Her gaze was hid under the line of her hair and all Ilario could do to keep time going was breathe. Then her hand went up ghostlike to the gun and that stopped too. Her knees creaked upward and maneuvered themselves with wooden grace until she faced him. He didn’t feel it when the gun left his hands for hers. He nearly couldn’t tell when its barrel tunneled into his gut. He only knew what filled his vision, all black and red and gray-green, and for several long moments it bled him of any breath and any feeling.

“We have a deal, you fucking coward.” Her face seemed farther all of a sudden, though it was close enough for her breath to singe his lips. “I already told you. You don’t get to take the easy way out.”

The cold steel nudging against his stomach was grounding, in a strange way. It pinned him to the moment like a spread-flat butterfly on some collector’s table, held him fast. It slowed his breathing. It rippled through the see-sawing maw of emotions tearing his mind apart. It brought focus and understanding.

She wasn’t understanding him now. He didn’t blame her. They had been speaking such different languages. She convinced herself that he was a cold-blooded murderer, and he had convinced himself the same of her. He had seen light that she had yet to. He accepted that. It would not be a trial by fire if there was a path through the flames. He nodded once, twice, hands stretched peacefully by his sides.

“Then I’ll make up for it.” His voice was soft. Still raw, but it had gained some kind of balance and seemed less on the edge of tears or screaming. “I’ll protect you. Rosa and Frankie -- I couldn’t. But for you I can. I’ll keep you safe.”

(pockets of sanity float up and burst on a surface of madness and Ilario has fought for how many days now through the thorny thickets of rage of fury of sweet bullet song and now he rests safely hidden among the clouds where none can touch him because somehow in this in-between place it all makes sense and he understands even if she will not-)

She laughed. The same harsh bark as before. He could taste the venom at the back of his throat.

“Stick to the deal, Fiametta. That’s all you owe me.”

The gun was back in his hands now and she was moving, twisting her way past him. He pushed himself behind the chair to make himself small for her. His elbow moaned against the tin wall. Several seconds passed. He never felt her move against him. He looked up to find her still. Her gaze was hidden under dirty hair again, but its line was clear. He traced it to the control panel. He tried to find what she saw but before he could she was moving again, her hand in her pocket now, digging for something that made crinkled cardboard sounds. An overstuffed box of cigarettes crawled out and ended perched against a large switch. He looked back to her. Her left hand was curled against the edge and for a moment she looked like she would kneel, like they do on Catholic pews. Instead, she slipped past him.

“You can carry the bags,” she called behind her, but he almost didn’t hear. His eyes were on the cigarette altar. All of a sudden, the gun felt too heavy for his hands.

((Ilario Fiametta III & Rhory Anne Broderick continued in This Will Eat You Alive))