It was a testament to the degree to which Steven cared about the others that he didn't cut into their rants and lectures, because in an awfully short span of time they managed to stoke the embers of anger into a conflagration of rage. It was the little things that hurt and twisted, the things they took for granted.
So Ian thought that the terrorists wanted them to go after the killers. That was a fair and logical point, and probably true. And so maybe in this situation, someone with the terrorists so obviously on the brain would leap straight to their desired conclusion and assume that stopping the killers could only be synonymous with ending their lives. It was a stupid assumption, but not an unfathomable one, and so Steven did not begrudge Ian his misunderstanding.
So Ian wanted to gather people and wait. Maybe that would work, if someone came to save them. Maybe it would keep them all safe. But it sure as shit would not actually make a difference. Hiding was something that people could do fine on their own, and hiding did not solve any of the root issues at play. It did not increase their chances of being saved, and it did not do anything for the vulnerable, for those with nobody to protect them.
So Cyrus thought that the deaths had saved the lives of the rest of the class, and somehow that made things, not better, but no, really, Cyrus was saying it made them better. Because, hey, tough shit for all those dead people, but thank God it's not us dead, yeah? Thank God we can hide in this place and pray for our rescue and maybe collect some other people to do the exact same shit so we feel like we're involved.
So Sharon thought that the killers would get killed. She thought maybe that made things better now, because, hey, they sealed their fates when they started killing, might as well throw 'em under the bus and let them bleed out so everyone else could live another day. That's what was really important, scrambling for those last little moments like pigeons for crumbs or desperate homeless for a handful of loose change.
So Sharon thought they could use other people to prolong their own existences. So it wasn't the best plan, but at least they could survive, because that's what mattered. That was all that mattered to everyone, and somehow they couldn't see it, couldn't see that that was the exact same thought pattern that created the killers and couldn't see that it was a booby prize.
So Karen Idel was outside, and she didn't look like she was trouble, but they were battening the hatches anyways just in case, had a whole plan set up so that they could deal with her, dispose of her if she was a threat, and nevernever they promisednever would Steven be in any danger, God forbid he be in danger. God forbid he risk his life here, because they had to survive, that was the Alpha and the Omega and man, fuck anyone who got in the way of that.
So fuck Karen Idel, and fuck all those kids out there killing, and fuck anyone who wasn't useful or didn't at least have the sense to shut the hell up and sit quietly while they all waited for their miracle.
So, now, fuck Steven, because his conscience wasn't good at shutting up and he had spent his life learning to pull the wool from his eyes and he'd learned to read between the lines. He'd learned to ask the right questions, and he'd asked them now, and the answers were as ugly as any he'd ever turned up.
They were Steven and Sharon and Ian and Cyrus and now maybe Karen. They were trapped on an island in the middle of nowhere, and more specifically they were holed up in a nasty mansion. It was mid-morning, and today was probably Thursday back in Seattle. They were, all of them in their class, to fight to the death, and they were, the four or now maybe the five of them, to hide out until all other options exhausted themselves.
Because. Because authority and biological imperatives conspired to thwart all things good and right in this world, and Death rode unchecked when no good man would stand and face him, knowing all the while that he would be cut down. Because they'd all given up, thrown away bright presents in the hope of maybe facing some dull future.
Steven tried not to break promises, he really did, but sometimes things didn't work out. Sometimes he made too many promises, and had to decide which to keep, and such was the case now.
"Sorry, guys," he said as he stood. Straightening, he felt a weight lift off his shoulders, a shiver run up his spine.
"I think you're wrong. I've been thinking a while now." And he had, because what else had he been doing but allowing his anger to ferment, to age and mature? He had said not a word while the others spoke and left and scouted and played house, not since his initial declaration, and yet all they had done was steel his resolve. Sometimes it was haste and hurt that spoke the truth, and even wisdom could recognize that.
"You can stay here, if you want, and maybe it'll keep you safe. Maybe you'll get rescued. I hope you do.
"I don't think we're going to be saved, and I can't walk away when my classmates are out there tearing each other apart. So I'm going to stop them. It's like I said: you can't hide from this, can't avoid being changed by it, so you need to make sure the changes are for the better. And if we're all going to die, I'd rather we not die like dogs. Seems a worthy enough cause to me.
"You can come if you want. No obligation."
So Steven stood and lifted his bag and his chair leg and he turned and got going, out a side door because he'd helped them barricade things and knew which one was the least heavily fortified, which would take the least time for them to replace if they wanted to bury their heads in the sand and survive. It wouldn't take him by Karen Idel, maybe through her field of vision, but he wasn't worried because he knew the names of those who'd killed and Karen Idel wasn't one of them.
More than could be said for five of their classmates. And however much he'd appreciated his cassettes and his notepad, Steven still had a reporter's mind, could still reel off a half-decent summary of an interview on memory alone, and he never forgot a name.
And there would be more than those five, he knew, a never-ending stream of anger and desperation and pain and that primal urge to survive, but what good was a task with an ending? What worked for Sisyphus would work for Steven.
((Steven Salazar continued in Messiah, Complex/Eat Your Heart Out, B098