This is Where I'll Stand When the Flood Comes

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Joined: August 11th, 2009, 7:39 pm

May 17th, 2017, 6:00 pm #1

((Nate Turner continued from Where Will You Stand When the Flood Comes?))

The coastline again.

Nate was cradling his legs, sitting on the sand, looking out at the water. The sound of the tide brushing against the land was soothing.

He'd left Hazel and Jordan, just like he left everybody. He hadn't said anything, just like the other times. He'd abandoned people, just like he always did.

He might have pondered what the point of it was, why he'd acted so terrible to the people who tried to treat him well, had he any energy left. The truth of it, though, was that Nate was moving without thought. No words, no emotion, nothing. A lost shell of a boy walking to his death.

He could hear birds, as he watched the sun reflect off the ocean and its swelling waves.
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May 17th, 2017, 10:56 pm #2

((Matt Moradi continued from somewhere else.))

Directionless. Matt had absolutely nowhere to go. It was just him, this island, and a bigger ratio of rotting corpses to living people. He'd been alone before. He once went a whole week in middle school without talking to anyone. What a nightmare. Thinking about what he did and what he wanted to do before getting dumped onto this place made him feel.. something. He couldn't understand what. Depression, maybe. Something like that. Just this terrible sinking feeling that comes when your life goes from 'normal' to 'this'. This. He wasn't sure what to call it. Maybe it was a game, or at least it looked like one at a glance, but it felt like more than that.

He spent far too much time thinking about the motives of his captors. His torturers. Everyone's. Was it really just terrorism? Terrorism over what? American imperialism? Laughable motive. Stupid. Everything they did was counter-productive to that. Ever since this circus started, things had gotten worse. 9/11. Iraq. Several dozen to a hundred kids being kidnapped every few years. Maybe it was a commentary on human nature. Eventually, he figured, people would stop really caring about all of this. It'd just become another fact of life. Terrorism was normal, to him. Growing up, he was never not imbued with the vague idea that a group of people with some nebulous goals not worth understanding would kill people. That seemed normal. Terrorism - ism. Like fascism. Communism. Socialism. Republicanism. An ideology in and of itself. The perfect idea awaiting the perfect century.

It was normal. Terrorism was normal. It was normal before he came here. It would continue to be normal after he left. The only difference was that it had decided to personally affect him instead of some far off group of people he didn't know. Drawing the shortest stick. Like winning the lottery. Those were the chances. The odds. Like winning the lottery.

He wondered if he should feel lucky.

The island - maybe someday he'd know it's actual name but for now in his mind it was just the island - had more people dead on it than the living. Maybe in those first days he'd have felt something resembling fear that he'd wander into some hastily formed alliance of psychopaths and eager murderers. Isabel was dead. Nancy was dead. Alvaro was dead. He figured Alvaro would have already started to rot. Getting held up in that basement - Sandy Bricks, he remembered him, his only memory of Sandy Bricks was him as a rotting corpse in a decaying basement - seemed quaint now.

Right now he was alone. That was the scariest thing to him. Having enough time to think. Maybe about what he'd done or what he'd have to do in the future. And who he'd be facing in the future. People probably stronger and more ruthless than him. People who might have guns. Swords. Grotesque ancient weapons that his captors thought of as some hilarious punchline (the funniest joke - the one that ends a life). He had to be better than those people. Meaner. Worse. He was going to win, go home, go back to normal.

And then, he wasn't alone. There he was. Nate. Nate. Nate who shouldn't be alive. Nate who by all means should have died before Ben, someone who was a good person but also someone whose life he cared very little for. For Nate he felt much of the same. He'd known Nate for a few days. His most interesting feature, right now, was no longer the fact that he was an almost adult man in the body of a young boy, but the fact that he was alive. Nate was a good person. A Christian, Matt guessed. Matt was an atheist. Supposedly a militant one but it was funny how little your religious beliefs, background, and everything else mattered when you came here. Window dressing for either walking corpses or the victor.

Somehow, Nate had survived. Somehow, Nate had managed to make it where people who were more deserving of life had died.

And that made him feel pretty good.

It made him feel like he had a chance.

He hadn't walked all that long. Blood of the other Ben was still fresh on his pipe. He looked awful. Matt was well fed but he looked awful. He raised his voice and tried to make his footfalls seem louder than they were to alert Nate of his coming. Didn't want to surprise him. Maybe he had heart problems or something. It would be the funniest thing in the world to him if Nate won. Whatever it was that made Nate who he was - less than five feet tall at what, 16, he was only guessing - he figured it shortened his lifespan. He wasn't going to be a doctor. He was going to be a dentist. Medical facts weren't his forte, so he could only guess.

"Hey, Nate." he said. Then he just stood there, not entirely sure of what to say next. It wasn't good to see Nate alive. Seeing Nate alive meant that Nate was probably going to be killed by someone worse than Isabel, Nancy, whoever else. Someone ruthless. Someone who probably wouldn't have any problem with killing Nate if it meant going home.

"It's good to see you," Matt said, lying. "How has, uh.. how've things been going? Good?"
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May 18th, 2017, 6:11 pm #3

He could hear footsteps on the sand behind him, but he couldn’t process them. He would’ve completely ignored Matt, had he not called out his name.

When Nate heard that, he turned around, slowly. Not surprised, just a reflexive response to being called.

He recognised Matt, but at the same time couldn’t. He was someone he’d spent a while looking for, or at least thinking about looking for. Someone he had wanted to apologise to for leaving when the guns were firing, even if Matt had left before him. Someone else he’d left behind during all this. None of that meant much to Nate right now.

His mouth opened, but only slightly. There were no words.
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May 19th, 2017, 2:45 am #4

Nate had turned around and all he offered in response was just staring at him. No words or anything. No I'm fine. Matt figured that the past few days must've been really hard on him.. Ben dying, dozens of dead people, and more. Matt guessed that Nate knew a lot of people.

Or maybe he just didn't recognize him because he hadn't bathed in a few days. He'd kill for a mirror right now. And a razor. His beard was out of control or as out of control as it could get after a week of not shaving. Nate opened his mouth and said nothing. Matt sighed. Guess he had to do the talking.

"Me," he said, sounding unconvinced of what he was saying. "I'm doing pretty good.. I got a lot of food. Lot of food." Food taken from the dead. He hadn't eaten Jerry's precious bread yet - the one loaf that took precedence over mourning Toby in his now dead ally's eyes - and maybe he never would.

"Things sure have changed a lot in the past week, huh?" He sounded painfully awkward. Trying to make small talk with someone he didn't think was going to last another twenty four hours. Maybe not even twelve hours. Hell, he had made it this far. Maybe he might win. Matt cracked a smile. Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. He was going to kill Nate if he had to. He was going to win.

He scratched the back of his neck and looked down at the pipe in his hand. Still bloody. The first impression he left on the other Ben rapidly drying onto it.

"You hungry?" he asked. Oddly altruistic. He was in a good mood and he couldn't say why. "I'll share if you are."
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May 21st, 2017, 8:28 am #5

More words from Matt, continuing to fall on deaf ears. The gears in Nate’s brain were fighting against all the noise, all the debris, all the horrible mess in his mind, to actually respond.

“Matt.” Nate finally whispered in recognition, barely more than a whimper. He continued to stare at him, mouth agape. The sound of his voice has been the only clue, everything else about the figure seemed fuzzy. The blood, the weapon, the attitude; it didn’t mean much of anything.

“Where did… what was…who…?”

Attempts at questions, utterly failing. Coherent sentences were gone, but he wasn’t even aware what he was trying to ask to begin with. It was some holdover from earlier in this nightmare, back when they’d first been separated, where he’d imagined their happy reunion. Like echoes.

“Matt.” He repeated, turning away from the ocean and onto his palms and knees, staring up at someone he wanted so desperately to talk to.
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May 21st, 2017, 8:41 am #6

Matt stared back at Nate, who belted out some incoherent jumble of words that could hardly qualify as a sentence. Questions that died in birth. Despite his best efforts, Matt could not discern the meaning of whatever it was Nate was trying to say to him. He wanted to say something, that much was obvious, but whatever it was it wasn't coming.

So Matt just stared back down at him for a few moments, not really sure of what to say next. Eventually, he decided that the least amount of words would be less confusing.

"Yes?" he asked. One word. All he needed.
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May 21st, 2017, 9:52 am #7

There was a drawn out silence, as Nate continued trying to think. The sand felt gritty beneath his palms, and the sound of the ocean groaned behind him. The once relaxing sensations now were an unwanted distraction, that made a hard process that much harder.

His body felt tense and uncomfortable, not just from the days of exertion without rest. Everything about the situation just felt wrong, just like it had from the very beginning. Even in his thoughtless state, what he had thought had been a respite from it all had really just been a mask. He’d never forgotten what was happening, even if he couldn’t acknowledge it anymore.

Looking at Matt was just making him feel sick. Of course he looked wrong, he’d transformed into a killer since their last meeting, but it wasn’t that. Someone he recognised, if barely, was grounding him, and he was finding himself pulled between delirium and reality in a horribly disorienting ride.

The most recent question he’d been asking himself when he was still thinking, to no end, managed to come forth:

“Why aren’t I dead yet?”
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May 21st, 2017, 7:39 pm #8

All things considered, Matt should feel pretty good. He was well fed and, surprisingly, he managed to sleep better here then he was ever able to at home. He didn't know why. Couldn't know why. It just was. He slept better here. Despite all that, he felt worse than normal. Maybe it was the constant walking around and the seething hatred he felt for his captors but every waking moment he spent here passed uneasily. Nate looked at him like there was something wrong with him. Maybe there was - he'd just killed two people in the past few hours and felt very little - but all he had to offer in response was a cough. A question. Why aren't I dead yet. Short and to the point. He liked that. No tap dancing around it.

"I've got no idea why you're still alive, Nate," Matt said, glancing over his shoulder. He had his back turned. Stupid. Slowly, he started to turn his back on Nate.

"Maybe you're gonna win, but... I doubt it. How long do these, uh, things, usually last? Can't be more than a few more days, right?"
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May 21st, 2017, 10:19 pm #9

Matt’s words resounded with Nate. Not the question, or even the dismissal: those were more things that went unheard. What came right before it was what stuck with him.

Maybe he was going to win?

He stared at Matt. Stared for a good few moments. Then he did something he hadn’t done in a long time, something he didn’t think he’d ever do again.

He laughed.

It was short, harsh, and abrupt, but it was a laugh. He wasn’t smiling, nor did he feel any joy: it was a laugh born from absurdity.

“Win?”

He clawed his fingers into the sand, gritting his teeth as a tightness pulled in his chest. His breathing was growing shallow, rapid.

“That…being the one who goes home. You call that winning?”

Going home, as everyone you knew and cared about lay dead behind you.

“Why would I want to win, Matt? Why would anyone want to win, and live after this?!”
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May 21st, 2017, 10:59 pm #10

Nate was asking him obviously rhetorical questions. He couldn't come up with much of an answer - at least not right now - but he felt like there was some kind of answer. Maybe he would figure it out but only after thinking further on the nature of this game. Matt heard Nate laugh behind him. Short and harsh. The laugh of someone who figured they weren't going to live much longer. Without turning around to face him, Matt spoke.

"You lose this and you're a loser forever. You're dead. You don't get any do overs." He thought for a moment. Maybe he should stop.

No. He had something to prove to him. "I don't wanna be a loser, Nate. I've been a loser my entire life. That's about it.. I mean, I don't wanna win because I want to get a job or get married or go to college." And then it came out. The real reason why.

"I just want to win because that's good enough. Just winning, you know? Making someone else lose. Living when everyone else died, even if it's for a second. That's good enough."
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May 22nd, 2017, 4:33 pm #11

He thought he knew Matt. Yeah, they’d only hung out briefly at the start of this, but he was someone who hadn’t tried to rob or kill him. That had to mean something in the midst of it all, surely.

How naïve that was, Nate was realising.

“Why do you want to be a winner like that?”

He was looking down at the sand now, neither of them looking at each other. He wasn’t sure that he’d be able to look Matt in the eye, even if it was what he wanted.

“Don’t you care that all our friends are dead? What’s the point of being the last one alive, just to say that you were? What’s waiting for you?”

He bit down on his lower lip, trembling but not crying. The emotions he’d managed to supress for the past few days were creeping up on him, but he wasn’t ready to break down again. It was too hard to keep doing that, even if it all managed to keep getting the better of him.

"I never thought you were a loser, anyway."

Whether he knew Matt or not, that was still true.
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May 22nd, 2017, 8:49 pm #12

He didn't know where that had come from. It just came out that way.

But he figured that he was right. Winning was inherently more noble than losing. Nate questioned him, asking him why he wanted to be a winner "like that." There was no "like that." There was winning and there was losing. The stakes in this game, for example, were so high that winning proved to be preferable to losing, regardless of what had to be done in order to win.

Nate questioned him if he cared that all "our friends" were dead. Irene was dead. Darius was dead. Those were just about the two - out of what, a hundred? - people on this island that he knew all that well.

Matt just stood there, not facing Nate. Too paranoid to turn his back on the rest of the island.

"Yeah, well. That's how it is," he said. "None of these people are my 'friends', Nate. They're, uh.. you know. Competition. I guess you're competition, too." He figured that'd hurt more to say.

It didn't.

"So.. I guess that's all I have to say about that. I'm gonna try to win. If I don't then I don't. If I do.." He had no idea what he was going to do if he won. He guessed that he'd figure it out if it happened. When it happened.

"I guess I do. That's about it. Are you hungry, or.. what? I've got a lot of food."
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May 22nd, 2017, 10:23 pm #13

He continued looking down at the sound, ignoring Matt’s ridiculous question. Something as trivial as whether he was hungry or not was so far removed from what they were doing, what Matt was saying, what Nate was feeling.

He thought back to Alvaro. Alvaro, he’d realised, had lost something during this, and maybe that’s why he acted the way he did. Whether that was what had set him off, Nate would never know, but he’d come to terms with it, as much as he didn't want to. Alvaro had changed, just like Nancy no doubt had too, and just like so many people must have by now.

Had Matt changed? He must have, if he could act like this, but it wasn’t the same. Matt wasn’t doing it out of fear, or whatever Alvaro’s motivation had been. If he was afraid, he was hiding it too well.

Nate couldn’t understand how someone could be so cold. This time, he knew that he didn’t want to.

He brought his head up. Even if Matt had his back turned, Nate wanted to face him when he replied.

“Are you going to kill me?”

He wanted to see, for sure, if this was really the person Matt had become.
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May 22nd, 2017, 10:38 pm #14

Just a little bit over a week ago, Matt wanted to go to college and become a dentist. Like his father, who he didn't particularly like, who also didn't particularly like his father, who was also a dentist. He briefly considered the hilariousness of this entire scenario. His father, an immigrant from Iran, having crossed an entire ocean, something almost unthinkable a thousand years ago, wedded a woman of similar background and had a son, who went on to kill two people in the span of a few hours after being kidnapped by a group of terrorists with vague inscrutable motives.

Was that it?

That's what all this was leading up to?

He guessed that he was just born to die like everyone else who had come before him. What made him different? He had his back turned to Nate and Nate finally asked him what he was going to do. Was he going to kill him? It was a good question. Does he speed along the process or just leave it up to nature? Matt didn't believe in fate. He believed in doing. And by doing something - i.e hitting an abnormally short boy in the face with a lead pipe, stolen off of a dead man by another man who was now also dead - he would kill Nate. By doing that, he would render all the time his parents had spent raising him null and void. Change so many lives with so little effort.

He didn't say anything. No "yes" no "no" no "good luck". He left.

((Matt Moradi continued somewhere else.))
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June 1st, 2017, 10:10 pm #15

Nate watched Matt as he walked away. He waited for the moment when Matt would stop and turn around, say something, but of course it never came. No answers, no insight, nothing.

Not knowing where else to turn, Nate went back to looking at the sand. He didn't feel much different to how he felt before, he realised. More conscious, as if that fog he’d been adrift in for the past while had gone away at least for now, but he still felt empty. He didn’t know any more about why he was here than he did that morning, and he didn’t feel any better about his inevitable death. The fact that Matt had admitted that he’d be willing to end it didn’t seem to mean much, either.

It should have. Matt was his friend, however short a time that had been, but now he was someone prepared to end his life. If they met again, there was no guarantee Matt wasn’t going to just finish him off without a word, with no second chances.

Still, in spite of how bleak everything seemed, he couldn’t believe that that was the case. If it was going to happen, if Matt really meant to kill him, then he would’ve done it then and there, surely.

Maybe that was naïve. That had been his outlook on this whole thing from the beginning, after all.

He gripped his arms, clenching his eyes. If only he could’ve stayed that way.

((Nate Turner continued in Paths of Glory))
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