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Poll

Choice

1. Take care of it now.
- 0 (0%)
2. Secure the front.
- 0 (0%)
3. Lay low.
- 4 (50%)
4. ssssssssssssssss
- 4 (50%)

Total Members Voted: 8


Pages: 1 [2] 3 4 5

Author Topic: The Ends Act 5: The Return  (Read 6395 times)

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jsnlxndrlv

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2010, 04:18:03 AM »

1. With Jessie at the top to keep the ladder from falling prematurely, we should be able to get down, get Max, and get back up again without dying. I doubt we'll get out without injury, but this is the right thing to do.
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Romosome

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2010, 06:51:56 PM »

Fuck it. No point in keeping our life if we lose our humanity.

1.
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Friday

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #22 on: November 04, 2010, 09:07:14 AM »

1. Climb down, grab him under an arm, climb back up one armed.

The choices that led you to this play through your mind briefly. Finally you decide and snap back to the present.

"Hold on, boy," you say down to Max. "I'm coming."

As you turn to descend the ladder, you glance up at Jesse.

"Cover me."

Jesse nods and crouches at the edge of the roof, 9mm pointed down.

"I only have a few shots left," she says.

"What about your shotgun? Extra clips?" you ask quickly.

"In the truck," Jesse says.

"Fuck," you swear, and start down.

You make it to the bottom, Max whining the whole way. You swiftly gather him up under one arm, sweating, breathing hard. You gather yourself for a moment. Climbing carrying a dog and with one arm is going to take strength, and you don't have much left after running near continuously for almost twenty minutes.

"Come on!" Jesse shouts from above.

Max reaches up his head and licks your face.

The first crawler rolls up over the backyard fence and is promptly splattered by Jesse. Two more immediately follow. Then five.

Bang. Splut.

First step.

Bang. Bang. Splut.

Second step. Third.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Fourth. Max is heavy on your right side.

Bang. Bang. Click.

Halfway now. The ladder seems endless, sheer. Your body aches. There isn't pain, just sheer fatigue. Your adrenaline is long gone, used up in the chase on the highway.

"Come on!" Jesse yells again, reaching down.

You force yourself up another step.

"You could just drop the mutt, you know," says Benny from above you, smiling down like acid rain.

"Fuck you," you mutter.

"Why are you bothering to save him anyway?" Benny asks, dripping gore down onto your face. Time seems to slow, Jesse's frantic yells and face near frozen to your warped mind. "You know he's infected, now. Bite into a crawler back at that store in Limestone."

"Go away," you say, forcing yourself up another step. Behind you, you feel the crawlers like angry red ants on your skin reach the base of the ladder. The first throws up a tendril like a grappling hook.

"What are you gonna do, force him to drink beer?" Benny laughs at you. "What if the infection has progressed to far in him? You've got to remember he's got his own version of Mr. No Face now. Little miss red fingernail."

The anger is helping. Pushing back the fatigue. If you didn't know better, you might think Benny was actually trying to help you. Another step. Almost there.

Jesse's arms so close.

The crawlers literally nipping at your heels.

So close. Just drop the damn dog and escape.

You glance down at Max's face. He returns your look with eyes deep and solemn.

You reach down inside yourself to find that last little bit of energy, and hoist Max one-armed into Jesse's waiting hands.

She quickly places Max onto the roof and turns back for you.

You smile.

The crawlers latch onto your legs, your waist. Curling around you like a lover's legs.

Jesse screams.

The crawlers climb onto your torso. Past your head.

"Jon, no!"

You jerk the ladder sideways, throwing the crawlers and yourself down into the long grass. You feel something break in your leg as you land.

Above you, Jesse's screaming grows dim as the crawlers swarm over you.

Max comes to the edge and looks down, his eyes sparkling.

So it's finally over.

A crawler rips out your eye. You barely feel it.

Part of me is glad. I can finally sleep. No more voices in my head. No more fighting to stay human, to stay sane.

A crawler grasps your neck with a writhing vine, constricting, cutting into your flesh.

"It's over," you say softly.

Benny leans over you. His eye is cold.

"It's not over until I say it is," he whispers.

A sudden strange memory. You and your mother, on the beach, building a sandcastle as the waves rolled in, playing their endless song.

Jonathan! Look! A jellyfish!

What is it, Mom?

Be careful. They can sting you.

It's so weird!

Let's leave it alone.

What if it dies?

I think it might be dead already, honey.

What kind of animal is it? It looks like an alien!

I'm not sure, sweetie. It kinda does look like an alien, doesn't it?

I want to put it back in the water.

Be careful. Use your pail.

Ouch! It bit me!

I told you to be careful, honey!

Owieee!

Sweetie, come here. Let me look at it.

"You always were kind of an idiot," Benny says.

Behind him, Jesse and Max fade to darkness.

"It's time," Benny says simply.

************************************

1. Die.

2. ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss
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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #23 on: November 04, 2010, 09:20:16 AM »

You pause.

Something is happening to the Other.

A strangeness fills your being. A sense of... expectation.

You have no lips. No mouth. But something forms. Something alien. Your body twists in shape and form to give birth to this thing inside you.

You struggle. Twisting. Finally a low sound emerges from you, born of strife and blood.

"Mo... ther?"
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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #24 on: November 04, 2010, 09:25:09 AM »

You suddenly halt.

David looks down at you, annoyed.

Something is happening to Wolfy.

You look up at David wordlessly, unable to express what you feel or know.

"What is it?" he asks suddenly. "We have to go. We can't stay here."

He shoves some more cans off a shelf into the cart.

"Wolfy..." you say slowly.

"Christ, not this again. Come on. You can cry later. We've got to get going."

You don't move.

"Nicole, honey, we -- honey, what's wrong? What's wrong with your eyes?"

You can't answer him. You are far away. Sometimes you go far away.

"Wolfy is with his mother," you say. "He's coming home."
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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #25 on: November 04, 2010, 09:29:41 AM »

Interesting. The bond is stronger than I anticipated. Perhaps he will find his way back to her after all. Perhaps then I can fully investigate the mutation.

But I must be cautious. If I'm not careful, he'll soon be able to hear me --

An image of a face, turning to look at you.
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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #26 on: November 04, 2010, 10:02:41 AM »

And then Benny standing over you.

"Rather than offering you and your idiot voices the illusion of free will, allow me to choose for you."

2. ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

The vines without become the vines within.

"Time to stop fucking around. Time to let me in," Benny says.

You open your mouth to protest, but Benny, quick as lightning, shoots his arm down your throat, choking you with sudden foulness.

"You've been making your own choices for long enough," Benny says, even as he reaches deeper within you. "I've played the role of court jester to your king for the last time."

You try to scream, but all that comes out is a constricted gurgling.

Benny narrows his eyes. Pushes deeper. Within you you can feel his arm (vine) pushing down, down toward your center.

The crawlers hesitate, unsure. Their vines go limp around you even as the ones inside you tighten.

"You fucking colossal idiot. Don't you realize resisting me is killing yourself? These things on you don't give a fuck about anything but the meat on your bones," Benny says even as he strains further.

You know he's right.

"You know I'm right, Wolfy boy," he says.

But do you prefer death to whatever Benny is offering?

"You don't have a fucking choice. I'm tired of waiting around for you to get done pissing your pants."

This seems like it might be true.

"You always have a choice," says another Benny. One with two eyes.

"Fuck off," Red Benny says.

"You can live as a monster, or die a human. It's up to you," says Human Benny. You recognize him from the hallway. From the dream of Jacob dying. When he called you by your name.

"No, it isn't. Not anymore," says Red Benny.

You close your eyes.

I choose to die.

"NO YOU FUCKING DON'T. NOT WHEN I'M THIS CLOSE," Red Benny screams above you.

The world begins to dim.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!"

The beach is near. You can hear the lapping of the waves. That endless song.

You take a step toward it.

"NO!"

Reality distorts, bends, twists, plays back over itself like a bad record.

Your mother's face, so beautiful. Her hair blows in the sea breeze.

"NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO"

Your mother's face, rotting, falling apart. Her left eye droops from its socket. Behind it a nest of worms.

The ocean turns red. The sky to blood.

You take another step.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO--"

You suddenly feel a jerk. The beach vanishes like smoke. Your eyes flash open.

Jesse is dragging you inside the house. Max whimpers and touches your face with his.

The rug burns you as she violently pulls you across it. Slamming the door shut behind you.

You watch, bemused.

Jesse grabs you again, dragging you through the kitchen. Down the cellar stairs.

The door slams shut behind you. It's dark.

About thirty seconds pass. You can hear Jesse fumbling around in the dark.

Finally she lights a match. Set alight a small lamp.

She approaches you gingerly. Max whines softly, looking at you.

"Are you alright? The crawlers suddenly backed off for some reason. I took the chance to drag you inside. We're lucky this cellar was here. You son of a bitch, trying to kill yourself to save a damn dog."

You don't reply.

"Hey, are you OK?"

You reach up, feel your face. Both eyes are intact.

You get to your feet.

"I'm fine," you say. "Thanks a lot for pulling me out of there."

Max whines at you, a different pitch.

Jesse looks closely at you in the low light.

"Are you sure you're OK? You got pretty swarmed. I can't believe they didn't hurt you."

"Just lucky, I guess," you reply.

You smile at her.

Max growls.

Jesse turns to look at him, distracted.

You move quickly, while her attention is elsewhere.

Max barks threateningly and lunges. You're quick, but he's quicker.

Before you can reach Jesse, Max slams into you with surprising force. You bring up your arms but too late, Max has you by the throat.

"Max! What the hell --"

Max sinks his teeth into the flesh of your neck. His growl is deep and menacing.

"Oh, shit, Max has gone crazy! I have to --"

Fucking christ. I was so close. Fine. I'll play it cool for now. But I'll be back, brother. You can bet on it.

The red within you fades.

"Max, I'm OK. I'm back," you manage to gurgle.

Max immediately releases his deathgrip as soon as he hears your voice. He whines softly, apologetically, and licks your face.

You pat him. "Good dog."

Jesse looks absolutely befuddled. She stares at both you and Max with a single widened eye.

Remember, bro. You still owe me that favor from before.

***********************************

1. OK, this might be more than Jesse can handle. Hell, it's probably more than you can handle. Make up a cover story.

2. She deserves to know the truth. It's gotten more than dangerous to be around you.

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jsnlxndrlv

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #27 on: November 04, 2010, 10:21:33 AM »

Voted #2 because "she deserves to know the truth", but it's up to her whether she leaves.
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Friday

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #28 on: November 12, 2010, 12:15:26 PM »

2. She deserves to know the truth. It's gotten more than dangerous to be around you.

You open your mouth, unsure how to begin.

The silence begins to stretch.

"I need a drink," you say, finally.

Jesse's look of confusion remains. You glance around the cellar. Just normal junk. An old radiator. No wine or alcohol that you can see. An old frayed mop sits in the corner, collecting cobwebs and dust. Little red spiders hang suspended in mid-air around it. Crawling. Waving at you.

Christ, I really need a drink, you think.

You can hear the scratching of the crawlers upstairs, clawing their vines against and under the cellar door. The strange prickling feeling intensifies. You feel that you could almost close your eyes and see each and every crawler upstairs like some sort of sonic echo, red blobs in the darkness.

The lamp burns with a low hiss. You gather yourself, take a long breath.

"Jesse, I don't think it's safe to be around me anymore."

Max whines in the dark.

Jesse slowly cocks her head. "I don't think it's been safe to be around you for awhile," she replies.

"I mean it," you say simply.

Jesse regards you for a long time. The shadows of the flame dance on her face, her neck.

"What just happened? Tell me," she says.

"Benny," you reply, and pause. "Benny ... took me over. He was going to kill you. You're not part of his plan. I guess Max could sense that I wasn't myself, maybe. The way I talked. When he had me by the throat Benny subsided to the threat of death, but I don't think there's really anything stopping him now. He can control me whenever he wants."

"Benny is a figment of your imagination," Jesse replies.

"Yeah, I know. Doesn't make what I've said any less true."

"Listen, can we talk about this later? Like, after we've escaped from this cellar?"

"I guess," you say, glancing around. "Is there another way out of here?"

The two of you search the room, peering into the dark corners. Some steps opposite the ones you came down lead to a trapdoor in the ceiling.

"Locked," you say, pulling on the padlock.

"The key's gotta be around here somewhere," Jesse says, looking at some shelves.

"Probably upstairs," you reply tiredly.

"There's no way we're making it past those crawlers," Jesse says, looking back to you.

"I know," you say.

Silence.

"Do you think they'll just go away if we wait?"

"Who knows? I doubt it," you answer.

"Maybe the key is down here," Jesse says.

Wordlessly the two of you return to the search. Tools on shelves above an empty icebox. You grab a large wrench from the wall.

Jesse regards you.

You shrug at her and head over to the trapdoor. Clutching the wrench tightly, you slam it down onto the lock.

No good.

"You got any bullets left?"

Jesse slides out the clip. "No. Empty."

"Fuck," you say.

You try hitting the lock a few more times, but are unable to dislodge it. Frustrated, you rattle the door with both hands.

"Cut it out, you'll attract them," Jesse says.

You drop the wrench on the floor and sit down on the step, rubbing your temples. You've got a pounding headache. Strange red dots swim in the blackness behind your eyes.

"I think this might be the end of the road," you say.

Jesse comes after and sits down next to you.

You turn to look at her. Her face is dirty, smeared with blood. Probably yours. Her one good eye regards you evenly. She lifts a hand and places it on your shoulder.

"You should have left me down there. You should have stayed up on that roof."

Jesse just shakes her head and smiles. "And what if I did? Would I be in any better shape than I am now? Those crawlers probably would have found another way up there."

You have no reply.

"I'm tired," she says finally, leaning into you. Her hair drapes over your shoulder. The lamp hisses on, casting a dim light upon you both. Max looks out at you from the gloom, curled upon the floor.

You close your eyes.

*******************************

You awaken suddenly, feeling the sun on your face.

It's morning. You must have slept all through the day and night. Your back and neck ache.

Sunlight?

You squint in the glare.

The cellar doors are open, leading to ground level. Sunlight spills inside. The lock lays shattered on the steps next to the discarded wrench.

Jesse and Max are nowhere to be seen.

You get to your feet.

So she left you. Well, you can hardly blame her.

You slowly climb the steps to the outside, still blinking. You can't hear the crawlers anymore. They must have left at some point. You emerge into the backyard, barely twenty feet from the fallen ladder.

On your own again.

Jesse could have gone anywhere. You best look inside the house for any supplies. You could use something to eat. And maybe there'll be some beer.

Just as you begin to head for the backdoor, you hear the approaching noise of a vehicle. You cautiously make your way to the corner of the house and peek around.

Coming down the highway, opposite the direction you were going. A green and black SUV. It's going fast. As you watch, it suddenly veers off the road.

Heading directly toward you.

You quickly run inside, peering out the window.

The SUV parks just outside the cellar doors and Jesse hops out the driverside, followed by Max, who sniffs the ground.

You step outside. "I thought you left me," you say.

"I considered it," Jesse says, smiling.

You gesture at the SUV.

"Figured we'd need wheels. Truck was no good, and I don't know how to change a tire. Didn't remember seeing any cars on our way in, so I headed for the city to find one. You were out. Like a coma. I couldn't wake you. I needed a vehicle to move you," Jesse explains.

Max trots up to you and barks once. You put a hand on his head and scratch his ears.

"Oh yeah, I've got more good news," Jesse says. She reaches back into the SUV and tosses you a beer. "Found a couple of six packs in here. Guy who owned it was probably a real asshole."

She smiles at you.

You smile back. "Listen, I don't know if this is going to be enough anymore."

"We'll just have to find out, I guess," Jesse says. "I'm a big girl. I can handle myself."

"I guess so," you say, opening the beer and taking a swig.

"Didn't find anything in the house," Jesse says. "Looks like the place was cleaned out. People must have packed up and left."

***************************************

1. Head back to the truck for your extra supplies.

2. The crawlers might have returned there. Best to just head into town now.
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Friday

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #29 on: November 13, 2010, 03:20:01 PM »

2. The crawlers might have returned there. Best to just head into town now.

"Let's get going," you say.

Jesse helps you into the passenger seat. The smell of leather seats and molding plastic washes over you, the smell of a new car, and for a moment, you feel a wave of the old world well up inside you, a world where cups fit into cup holders and people drove to work in the morning sipping coffee and fixing their hair. A world where the most you had to worry about was next month's rent, or being late for work, or where you left your keys.

You run your hand over the smooth leather of the armrest, looking at an empty plastic water bottle in the door's cup holder. Your old life, the old world, seems remote and distant now, like an early birthday party remembered through a fog of years. You seem to remember having friends, having them over for a party, having a good time watching a movie on a flatscreen TV that you had saved and saved for. Now your friends were gone, and that TV was just a peice of worthless junk.

Jesse watches you as she gets into the driver's seat. Max had already hopped into the back.

"Strange, isn't it?" she asks, seeming to sense your thoughts.

"Yeah," you say, slowly.

"Do you think we'll ever get back there?"

You shake your head. "I don't know," you say truthfully. The already half empty beer can is heavy in your hands. A cool daze had settled over you.

Jesse looks at you for awhile, and then smiles.

"You know what I miss most?" she says, a glint in her eye.

You turn and smile slightly. "What?"

"Chicken nuggets," she says.

The suddeness and strangeness of the reply makes you chuckle. "Really?"

"Sure," she says. "I loved those little buggers. When I was a girl I'd always beg my mom and dad to take me to McDonalds, or any other place that had nuggets. I loved them."

"Happy meals," you say, the words feeling strange on your lips.

Jesse nods, and after a pause, replies. "Cable T.V."

You smile. "Pancakes and maple syrup."

Jesse starts the vehicle up and backs out of the yard, before swinging the SUV back onto the highway, headed into town. "The weather forecast," she says as the car begins to pick up speed.

"Videogames."

"Football."

"Superbowl Sunday. Chips and soda. Those plates stacked high with carrots and celery and dipping sauce."

"Shopping."

"You're such a girl."

"Hey, I said football."

"Yeah, well, you're a tomboy."

"I don't even like football."

"The internet," you say, switching back to the game.

Jesse laughs. "I don't know if I'll miss that."

"Comic books."

"God, you're such a boy. Comic books and videogames."

"Hey, I said, uh. Pancakes."

"Yeah, well, you're a tomboy."

You both laugh. In the back, you catch Max in the rear view mirror, grinning happily, his head sticking out the window.

The road goes by. A long period of silence falls over you.

"Boyfriends," Jesse says, looking sidelong at you.

"Never had one," you quip.

Jesse smiles, but a bit sadly. "Neither did I."

You glance at her, surprised. "Really? A pretty girl like you?"

Jesse only chuckles. "I wasn't. Not really. Stick thin my whole life. Boys used to tease me."

"They wouldn't now," you observe.

Jesse puts a thumb under her eyepatch and growls. "Yarrrr," she says.

"Ok, you've probably looked better."

"You're such a sweet talker."

"Seriously, though? Never?"

Jesse shrugs. "Never had much use for one, I guess."

"How old are you, anyway?" you ask, the old curiousity rising.

She only smiles. "Old enough for boyfriends, I suppose."

You shake your head, amused, and go back to staring at the passing fields. You're not far from the city now. The first light outside of town is just a few minutes away, you remember.

You pass the large sign announcing that you're entering the city. It's plastered with decals of organizations that exist within the limits. But something is odd about it. You can't put your finger on it, and soon you've passed it.

"What wrong?" Jesse asks, noticing your concern.

"I don't know," you say, glancing back at the sign.

Something is written on the back. You're already speeding away, but you can make it out:

One bright day, in the middle of the night,
two dead boys, got up to fight.
Back to back, they faced each other
Drew their swords, and shot each other.


And under it:

I'll be seeing you, tits.

The words bring a sudden flash of naseau to your stomache.

You turn away, knowing if you asked Jesse wouldn't see them. Max whimpers and licks your neck, sensing your discomfort. You idly pet him, and he curls up on the seat, watching you with worried eyes.

***********************************

The outskirts of town are littered with cars. Most of them sit motionless on the highway, but some are parked in the yellow grass and barren hills. A semi had flipped over across both lanes, forcing Jesse to drive off the highway in the dirt to get around it.

Most of the cars, though, were across the bare highway divider, blocking up the two lane side of the highway leading out of town. That side was nearly choked with cars, bumper to bumper, all piled up like sardines in a can. The sunlight reflected off of gleaming glass and metal, broken windows and shining hubcaps.

Jesse drove slowly on. Ahead, you knew the vet's building where you and Nicole, David and Jacob had stayed was getting close. Back when you were still trying to cope with the sudden strange new world you found yourself in, and had found a weird little surrogate family.

Now you were trying to pick up those small pieces that had gone missing. Jacob was gone, but David and Nicole were still out there. And now you had Max and Jesse.

You open your third beer. You don't want to drink too much, of course, so this will probably be your last for awhile. Strangely, you don't feel much different than before you started drinking. You wonder if that's a good or a bad sign.

The sky is cloudless and desolate. The emptiness of the road, the cars, and the fields begins to permeate you. You wonder if there's anyone at all left alive inside the city.

Other than Nicole and David, of course.

"What's that?" Jesse says suddenly.

You look where she's looking and see a solitary figure moving among the cars on the opposite side of the highway. For a second, you think it might be a survivor, but a second look shows the teltale signs of a Faceless. Even against the sun you can pick out the way it holds itself, the strange bowlegged gait.

"It's just a Faceless," you say.

"I know," Jesse replies, "but look what it's doing."

Jesse slows the SUV to a stop even with it. You watch the Faceless across from you. It seems to be moving back and forth between two empty cars. The person it used to be was male, but the clothes have been almost completely lost and the skin is sallow. You're not sure if it was a white guy or a hispanic, the skin has yellowed so much.

The vines are waving weirdly. Almost... desperately. The thing seems to be searching for something. As it moves back and forth, the weirdness suddenly clicks. It's repeating the same actions over and over again. It moves to one car, bends over a bit as if it was looking into the window, then lurches, turns and walks back to the other. It bumps into the door, once, twice, then spins, walks back to the first car, and repeats. All told it takes it about fifteen seconds to complete a circle. Even the way the vines move as it walks seem the same at any given point in the rotation.

Always before, seeing a Faceless was terrifying, revolting. But this time, you feel a strange sense of pity for it. Before, the Faceless were always threatening, alive, organic. This one is almost robotic.

Jesse cuts the engine. You can hear the thump as the Faceless hits the car twice in a row. It appears to give you no mind.

"What's wrong with it?" Jesse asks quietly.

"I don't know," you say. "Maybe it's broken?"

"Broken?" Jesse repeats.

You shrug.

You watch it in silence for another minute or so. Max whines, not paying any attention to it.

Suddenly you realize something more.

"I can't feel it," you say.

Jesse looks at you.

"You know, that weird aftermemory I get whenever I'm around these things. This one isn't giving me one."

The two of you continue to watch the Faceless stagger between the two cars on the highway, stuck in the middle of the traffic jam like some sort of confused dog. The thumps as it hits the closer car ring out regular in the empty day.

You open your door and step out.

"We don't have any weapons," Jesse observes. "Be careful."

You nod. "I just want to see something."

You slowly cross the empty dirt between the two strips of concrete. The Faceless continues to completely ignore you, repeating that endless trapped walk.

As you grow closer, you can hear a low warbling sound. Like a weird hissing static in the back of your mind. But this isn't the constant hisssssssssss you've heard before. This is intermitent, chaotic. Random.

Suddenly the Faceless stops midway in it's loop, facing away. You freeze.

Slowly, ever so slowly, like the first Faceless you met wearing that blue overcoat, it turns to face you. The hole where the face used to be gapes at you like a lidless black eye. The vines all wave with that strange rippling in the still air.

"Jonathan," Jesse's voice cuts through the stillness behind you.

The Faceless's arms, held locked around the torso like a man in a straightjacket, suddenly jerk, and then slowly come down, until they are being held at the sides like a normal human.

The chest has several rotten holes in it. Moving beneath the yellow skin you can see the worms, sluggish, writhing. One hole goes all the way through the man at the shoulder, but it doesn't look like a gunshot wound. Just... rotted away.

You and the Faceless regard each other, both silent, both motionless.

"Jonathan," Jesse says again, more urgently.

The Faceless's head begins to twist sideways. Bits of hair fall from the head. The hands rise from it's sides and reach for you. The vines go limp and hang like rotten tassles.

But you sense no hostility from this thing. Only... only some sort of desperation. It takes a single step toward you, and you notice that it walks like a man, not with that weird odd bowlegged gait.

Then, mid-second-step, it suddenly twists again, and the arms snap back up to cover the torso. With a strange groan, it resumes it's lockstep routine, once again ignoring you.

You return to Jesse and the SUV as the Faceless bumps into the car behind you.

**********************************************

"They're still human," you say as Jesse slowly drives away.

"That's not possible," Jesse replies.

"Somehow, it is," you say. "I know it. That Fac -- man, he... he was trying to reach me."

"Eat you, you mean," Jesse says.

"No, it was the man," you say confidently.

"How could that be? Look at that hole in his head! There's no damn brain left."

"I don't know," you say. "Maybe part of that man survived with the parasites. Maybe these things don't wholly eradicate you."

"I don't believe it."

"Look at us," you say. "We're both infected."

"Yeah, but neither of us have a hole where our faces should be," Jesse says, looking at you.

"Stop!" you say suddenly. Jesse brakes.

You quickly hop out of the SUV and run to a city cop car parked on the side of the road. The doors are both locked, but you smash open the window with a rock. Unlocking the door you slip inside. A pump shotgun lays across the backseat. You grab it and head back to Jesse.

"There's only one shell left," you say, having counted on your way back.

Jesse frowns. "That cop must have left it in there thinking it was empty."

"Who knows?" you say. "But it's enough."

"Enough for what?"

"Go back."

"Back?"

"To that man. I'm not leaving him like that."

Jesse wordlessly turns the SUV around.

"We could save the shell, you know," she says.

"I doubt one shell is going to be the difference for us," you reply.

Jesse frowns but stays silent.

Soon you've made it back to the Faceless trapped between the cars. You get out of the SUV once again
and walk back over to him. Jesse also gets out, which prompts Max to follow you too.

Both of you regard the Faceless while Max sniffs at a tire a car down the road. "He's so ... rotten," Jesse says, wrinkling her nose. "I've never seen one like that. Messed up, yeah, but not like this. God, he stinks."

You sniff, not having noticed before for some reason. The thing is quite rank. Like a garbage heap, decaying organic matter. Almost sweet, in a way.

You raise the shotgun, checking to make sure the safety is off. The Faceless stops as you do so, this time already facing you. But the arms remain up. It only stands there, the face not pointed directly at you like before.

"I'm sorry," you say. "But you're done suffering now."

You pull the trigger.

The Faceless collapses backward soundlessly. The boom of the shotgun startles some crows in a nearby field who rise up and scatter, cawing.

Jesse stares at the dead man. The worms and vines move more and more sluggishly until they fall still.

You walk around the car between you and bend down to reach into his jeans pocket, feeling the bulge of wallet and keys. Fishing them both out, you discard the keys and open the wallet.

"Brian Morseman," you announce. You hold up a picture of him smiling with a pretty woman in front of a tree. The woman is smiling in that fake photograph kind of way, but Brian's smile seems somehow sad but also real.

Jesse shakes her head.

The both of you head back to the SUV and continue into town.

********************************

1. Stop at the Vet.

2. Skip it.
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Cthulhu-chan

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #30 on: November 14, 2010, 11:17:32 AM »

wait, did we need something at the vet for Max?
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Romosome

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #31 on: November 17, 2010, 05:44:08 PM »

Vet could have medical supplies, drinkable water, drugs. Maybe more useful stuff if people tried to hole up there.

It could also be crawling with cavines.

I kind of want to skip it.
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Friday

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #32 on: November 20, 2010, 02:17:02 PM »

1. Stop at the Vet.

"Up ahead on the left is that Vets we stayed at," you say a few minutes later. "I'd like to stop there. See if we can find anything for Max, or any supplies."

"Alright," Jesse says quietly.

The road narrows to two lanes. Fields and hills give way to the outer industrial area on the outskirts of town. You pass an army surplus store, a roofing company, and a place to rent heavy machinery like booms and forklifts. The parking lots are empty.

"You think we should stop at that army place?" Jesse asks, echoing your thought.

"Yeah, maybe. I don't think they have guns, but they might have food, tents, and other stuff. On the other hand it's a pretty good bet it's been looted already."

"Only one way to find out," Jesse says, swining the SUV around.

She parks and you both get out. The large metal front doors are shut. All the windows are barred. A single pickup truck with all four tires flat and shattered windows is parked close to the road.

Max jumpsout behind the two of you and begins sniffing the ground. After a moment he trots back over to you and joins you in observing the building.

Jesse walks up to the entrance and pulls off a note pinned to the door. She's reading it as you walk up behind her. She finishes and wordlessly hands it to you.

Clara--

Surplus was locked up tight. Couldn't get in. Something weird is going on here. I'm heading to grandpa's ranch. Stay away from any sick animals, I think whatever this is is affecting them too. One of them turned into this weird fleshy ball right in front of me. Carl is getting worse. We can't stay here. See you at grandpa's.

-- Jim


You drop the note to the ground.

Jesse rattles the front doors. "Locked up tight," she says.

"Back entrance?"

"I don't know. We could check?"

You both walk around the building, looking for a way in. There is a back door, one of those emergency ones at the top of a ramp, but it too is locked tight. Around back is a large open green army tent set up with a bunch of empty boxes and tables. One of the tables is stained with blood.

"If somebody locked it, there might still be supplies inside here," Jesse says.

"I don't know if we could get in. Even with a crowbar or something. It's like a fortress," you say, running your hand down one of the iron bars covering a window.

"Unless Max knows how to pick locks," Jesse jokes.

At the mention of his name, Max's ears perk and he looks at Jesse and whines.

"Well, it was worth a shot," you offer.

The two of you head back to the SUV. As you round the corner, Max begins growling.

A Faceless stands in the parking lot, between you and the SUV. As soon as it sees you, it emits a scream. The former man is tall and wearing a grey shirt with an american flag on it. Long blonde hair hangs in mattered streams over the gaping hole in the head.

"Great," you mutter. By itself, in the open, the thing is easy enough to avoid, but that scream will call every Faceless in the area to you, and worse, the Cavines.

Jesse is already moving around the slow moving Faceless to the SUV. You circle around the other side and hop in. Max is still growling as he gets in the back.

Jesse starts up the SUV and the three of you continue down the road. Another two minutes and you've reached the Vet.

"We shouldn't hang around here too long," Jesse says. "I'm not confortable with that thing so close, calling its friends."

"If we're quick it shouldn't matter," you say, though you have your doubts.

**************************************

1. Check out the Vet.

2. Skip it after all.
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Cthulhu-chan

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #33 on: November 22, 2010, 03:52:49 AM »

Just asking for trouble, at this point.
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Romosome

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #34 on: November 22, 2010, 09:36:22 PM »

We've already been there before. It'd just be a needless risk now.
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the asshole you hate

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #35 on: December 01, 2010, 10:55:52 AM »

stop atvet
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It was a fun visit. I hope someday someone figures out what I was saying in this post. Bye!

Friday

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #36 on: December 02, 2010, 08:17:36 PM »

2. Skip it after all.

You decide it's just to dangerous to stop so close to where you know the horde will be coming. You don't want to run into any Faceless, or worse, Cavines, especially without any weapons.

Speaking of which.

"I know a place we might find some guns," you say.

Jesse looks at you. "Oh?"

"Well, we could try the police station, or there's a gun shop downtown."

"Wait a minute," Jesse says. "I remember Kyle talking about how there was a National Guard armory in this town."

"That's right. I forgot about that place," you say.

"We've got no supplies at all," Jesse says.

"Don't they have electronic locks and shit in armories? I mean you can't just waltz in there."

"Maybe. We might be able to figure out a way in, though."

You shake your head. "The gun shop downtown is right near the crater here. Which means it's close to the nest."

"What about the police station?" Jesse asks.

"It's farther away. Closest to us right now, actually, but I don't know. You'd think the police station would be the first place that gets overrun by looters and panicking people."

"Maybe," Jesse says. "Or maybe there's survivors there."

"Who may or may not be friendly," you reply.

"Well where's this Church that Nicole is supposed to be at?"

"Across town. Not far from the armory, actually."

"If David is taking care of Nicole, he probably already has guns and supplies," Jesse reasons. "Might mean we don't need to pick any up."

********************************

1. Police station.

2. Gun shop downtown.

3. Armory.

4. Go straight to the church.
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Cthulhu-chan

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #37 on: December 03, 2010, 07:47:32 PM »

Fuck it, the armory.  The other two are janky, and bereft of arms is no way to go through life.
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Demogοrgon

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #38 on: August 03, 2011, 09:28:34 AM »

The armory is tempting due to the knee-jerk logic that we might find automatic rifles, grenades or rocket launchers -- and for the fact that it's closer to the church -- but a bit of research reveals some disappointing things about real-life National Guard armories:

* the guns are kept in vaults, behind heavy steel doors with a small number of tightly controlled keys; opening the doors in even ideal circumstances is a time-consuming task
* the guns are usually stored in various states of disassembly
* ammunition, if it is present, is stored separately from the guns; many of the people who know where the guns are have no idea where the ammo is
* Note the "if it is present" above. Most National Guard armories do not store ammo onsite. It is kept at a state armory and requisitioned by local armories as needed, immediately before training exercises. It wasn't stated what kind of armory this is, but if it is the state kind, it will be a full-blown military base.
* if working guns are present at this armory, it will be the place where we are most likely to run into survivors; highly trained, shoot-first-ask-questions-later survivors

Possibilities worth considering are that we might find supplies such as MREs, although like ammo, these are generally not stockpiled until prior to a training exercise. There's also a chance that there might be unsecured small arms from guards, or by some miracle they were conducting a live-fire exercise at the time of the disaster and were killed off, leaving the guns behind. Many armories have a tank or two sitting around, but I don't think it would be practical for our situation nor would it be likely to be armed.

The gun store is a relatively soft target with the potential of arming everyone to the teeth, but as was pointed out before: businesses that revolve around selling guns are almost always fortified. We are almost certain to run into steel bars. If the owner is still around, the people who own these places are usually Second Amendment types with fewer qualms about shooting people. The last time we attempted to get into a gun shop we ran into a barrier and, as Friday later revealed, would have died if we hadn't given up. Most importantly, it's next to a nest. Bad Things happen when we get near nests.

The police station has good possibilities. Cops carry small arms on their person at all times and -- much like Grand Theft Auto -- we've found shotguns in their cars. Uninfected police are much more likely to be benevolent than soldiers or survivalists. A drawback is that officers (living or dead) will not be carrying significant amounts of ammo unless they've established some kind of barricade, and if they're alive, it's dubious whether they'd be amicable if we marched in, demanded guns and promptly left.

I'm tentatively in favor of going directly to the church. The most obvious reason for getting guns before going to the church are along the lines of "they might be under attack and we will need to save them". However, whatever way we go about arming ourselves will consume time. Unless game logic is in effect and the bad guys wait until we show up to attack, the church could be overrun while we're off preparing for the church to be overrun. As has happened rather often, we could become separated from our transportation and be stuck running around buildings, which will also eat up time. The largest concern is that by going to the church we will cause it to come under attack.

At this point, being heavily armed is almost as dangerous as not being armed. Right now we are very close to flipping out and killing someone important with little notice. We are more likely to succeed if we have a gun when this happens. Imagine Benny's glee were we to be standing in front of the church with a bazooka. On second thought the Red doesn't seem interested in using weapons.

An important consideration is David's motivations. On one hand he is passively hostile towards us, so he might attack us and it might be necessary to have weapons to fight him. On the other hand, he seems reluctant to kill us outright; he chose to run away with Nicole rather than confront us. Carrying weapons might be a make-or-break situation for how he reacts. However, I suspect that he will be peaceful in either case. The Purple seems different from Red and Blue; it speaks with an inquisitive tone, like an observer or scientist. It wants us to reunite with Nicole so it can study us. Regardless of whether it's possessing David like the worms are possessing us or he is the Purple, I doubt that it would let him kill us unprovoked.
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I pressed my face against the glass, smiled as my breath made some pattern or other. The world beneath unfurled before me like a sail glinted in gold from this rich dawn sky. Awaiting the ship they had told me would come, quietly anticipating that which was to come. I couldn't yet see you, still obscured by the city. The towers of glass reflected your coming, silhouetted on the sunrise. Did I blink as I watched? Did I close my eyes?
I was not alone, I think it was the first time. Watching you rise splendid and graceful, I cheered as you sailed, a greatness unknown. I laughed as I waved and imagined you saw me. In the streets of the city, the windows of buildings, a million faces gazing upwards in wonder. A million faces together and cheering and smiling. You were the warmth of their hearts. You were the sum of their dreams. In the coldness of morning you brought warmth to their lives.
Giving this feeling of wonder I could not imagine you unlocking these thoughts, no book and no picture could ever convey this feeling, and morning had opened a door. I stepped into a new world. I watched you fly, saw you as a friend, the spirit of dreams. I imagined a new world, lands far away, and imagined those faces as you hung in their sky.

Demogοrgon

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Re: The Ends Act 5: The Return
« Reply #39 on: August 03, 2011, 12:21:45 PM »

The glitched out Faceless raises a few possibilities:

: it is a single case fluke
: it wandered out of range
: the nest is not sending out control signals
:: the nest has gone dormant
:: the nest moved
:: the nest died

The latter cases improve the appeal of the gun store, but I still think it's too dangerous. It could also mean that that part of town has been bombed.
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I pressed my face against the glass, smiled as my breath made some pattern or other. The world beneath unfurled before me like a sail glinted in gold from this rich dawn sky. Awaiting the ship they had told me would come, quietly anticipating that which was to come. I couldn't yet see you, still obscured by the city. The towers of glass reflected your coming, silhouetted on the sunrise. Did I blink as I watched? Did I close my eyes?
I was not alone, I think it was the first time. Watching you rise splendid and graceful, I cheered as you sailed, a greatness unknown. I laughed as I waved and imagined you saw me. In the streets of the city, the windows of buildings, a million faces gazing upwards in wonder. A million faces together and cheering and smiling. You were the warmth of their hearts. You were the sum of their dreams. In the coldness of morning you brought warmth to their lives.
Giving this feeling of wonder I could not imagine you unlocking these thoughts, no book and no picture could ever convey this feeling, and morning had opened a door. I stepped into a new world. I watched you fly, saw you as a friend, the spirit of dreams. I imagined a new world, lands far away, and imagined those faces as you hung in their sky.
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