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Will was tired.

They’d spent the first few hours of the party playing games and gorging themselves on chips and soda, but it was later at night now and none of the half-dozen kids scattered about Sammy’s living room could muster enough energy to sit up properly, let alone play another round of twister.

Will was snuggled between Bethany and Parker atop an oversized beanbag, an embroidered blanket draped tightly over the trio and a large half-empty bowl of popcorn between his knees. He struggled to fight back the increasingly heavy weight of his eyelids, none to eager to be the first kid at the party to fall asleep. It wasn’t late enough for his friends to forgive him for it, and they were known to use the skin of any early-nighters as canvases; the victim waking up to a face adorned with a plethora of crude drawings. It was all in the name of fun, and they’d never targeted anybody who’d be unable to brush it off with a smile and a laugh, but Will just wasn’t feeling in the mood for that right now. Besides, he was at Sammy’s house, and that kid had as many films as Will had clothes - who knew what hidden treasures he might be privy too tonight!

A large television set was vaulted to the opposite wall, its glossy screen blank as the boy situated beside it thumbed through the considerable DVD collection tucked beneath him. Sammy was well-known amongst his peers for being a complete aficionado of film, as well as being a perfectionist when it came to party planning. If he didn’t find the sort of film that suited every member of its audience right away, then Will knew they’d be in for a long wait. Not that he minded too much; Bethany and Parker were swell company, and they’d never been lacking in conversational topics.

“Mum’s like obsessed with older movies,” Sammy half-murmured to nobody in particular as he examined the cover of another case, eyes dancing across it as he quickly read over the synopsis. “Like, I’m sure she had a crush on some guy named James Van Der Somethingorother when she was a teen - we’ve got all of his stuff.”

He idly tossed the DVD onto the ever-increasing pile of rejects, before pausing and steeping his fingers beneath his chin, lost in thought. Will looked up at that, watching his friend with a great deal more interest than he had before. Was he about to make a decision? Will could hardly wait - anything to distract him and keep him awake just a little longer. A coy smile quirked across Sammy’s lips as he stood up, hefting up a rather large box set in his wake before shifting across towards the sleek DVD player that flanked the television set. Will quirked an eyebrow, curiosity making itself known as he tried to get a glimpse of the set’s title, eager to know what he’d be watching for the next few hours.

“What would you guys say tooooooooo a little bit of
Survival of the Fittestttttttt?”

Parker whooped and Bethany cheered, but Will’s face was frozen in shock, nary a trace of emotion etched upon his usually warm features. SOTF was basically an unknown entity to him, his parents having placed a firm ban on the show and everything to do with it; even going so far as to cut articles from magazines and newspapers that did as little as mention it. He understood why they’d do something like that - the show was notoriously violent, he’d heard, and his fear of blood only exacerbated that part of the issue, and he was still young - as much as that fact annoyed him. But it was such a large part of his generation’s culture, and there wasn’t a day that went by where he hadn’t found himself feeling out of depth or completely clueless in a conversation when the subject was brought up. It was getting on his nerves, truthfully; there was nothing he loved more than talking to other people, and having his ability to do so hindered by his parents’ restrictions over a television show of all things was more than a little annoying.

Even so, he didn’t want to disappoint his parents by neglecting to grant their wishes.

At the same time, it’d just be a few hours, nothing more. His parents mightn’t even find out about it.

He could feel Bethany’s eyes on him and turned towards her, noting the concern marring her face. She was one of the few he’d confided in about his parents’ restrictions and his fear of blood; she’d always been so understanding and caring about things like this. With her by his side, he knew he could avoid any potential mocking or disappointment from his friends. But at the same time, his curiosity about the show and its allure and everything about it was beginning to win.

“Why not?” He said, affixing a warm smile to his face. “It’s just a show, after all.”

((Will Brackenrig continued from Rosebud))

Will was tired.

He hadn’t stopped moving since he’d left the transportation centre, unable to find a place he felt appropriate enough to rest and compose himself in. Memories flashed through his mind as he walked aimlessly throughout the resort; the first time he’d watched SOTF relaying itself over and over. It’d seemed such a casual thing back then, back when he’d pulled the blankets over his eyes and could distance himself from everything, almost pretend like it wasn’t real kids having their lives abruptly snuffed out by their peers. But not anymore. The show had brutally proved just how real it was when some girl he didn’t even no ended the life of one of his classmates over no discernible reason.

It’d done so again, once the announcements played.

Davis, Lisa, Taylor, Austin, Damion were all gone, with only half a second’s worth of mentioning as acknowledgement. The only name he didn’t recognise on the dead was Eden, a girl he supposed must’ve been from the other school. He tried being as sad for her as the others, but it was a difficult task. And Lucy, Lucy was gone. He’d been so ecstatic to meet up with her so early, had rejected his mentor’s pointing out the disadvantage of allying with her in his joy, and had let her run off without even a word of protest. And now she was gone, and he hadn’t even had the chance to say goodbye to her. If he’d just said something-

No. He couldn’t do that, couldn’t let himself get caught up in guilt and self-pity. He was alive when perfectly innocent people were dead, and he couldn’t afford to spend a second of the extra time that’d been afforded to him letting himself wallow in sadness. He had to figure out a plan, had to do something; it’d been important before, but now, when his friends were dropping like flies around him, it was essential. How disrespectful would it be to his friends’ memories if he didn’t spend what time he had doing something?

But before he formulated any plans or did any of that, he had something to say.

He was only able to pluck up the courage once he’d entered the museum, the exhaustion and onslaught of emotions he’d been fighting back forcing him inside despite the uselessness of the building from a strategic viewpoint. He’d quickly made his way into the depths of the area, pausing only once he arrived at the café, thinking it to be the best place to compose himself and deliver the message he knew he needed to. Will was currently seated in the depths of a hardback chair, belongings strewn about the table that stood before him. Packets of sugar and salt and an assortment of garnishes dotted its surface and the floor around it, and the intricate light fixture above him danced lightly with the shallow breeze that was passing through an open window vaulted high upon an opposing wall.

Will toyed with one of the sugar packets, finger tracing absently along its ridged edge as he pondered over what he ought to say as his introduction. He wanted to choose his words carefully. He knew there’d only really be one chance for him to make a ‘camera speech’, only one chance to explain everything before he got down to business, and he didn’t to screw up or make anything unclear whilst relaying his message.

His voice was tight as he began, feeling like sandpaper in his throat - a combination of nerves and disuse.

“Hey everybody. I’m Will, of Davison Secondary. You’ve probably had a dozen of these things already, and you’re probably going to get a dozen more after this one. But what I’m about to you all is important. I’m not going to yell or scream or outline what I’m going to do for you all. Plenty of other people have done that already, but none of them have said what really needs to be said.

“This show is evil.

“Look, I don’t expect you to listen to me, and if you turn the TV off now I wouldn’t blame you. There’s a reason why this show has been such a powerhouse in the entertainment industry. It’s all because of you - us - the viewers. I used to watch this show too, back at home. I used to think it was the best thing in the world, used to ramble on endlessly about it with my friends and spend hours watching reruns and browsing forums. All that time I tried to forget the fact that it was real people, kids just like me and my friends and my sister, tried to forget the fact that I was expressing disgust over the murderers they talked about on the news and cheering one on half an hour later. This show is poisonous, and I’ve only realised that fact now that I’ve been thrust into it. Most of you guys, thankfully, won’t be put in my position. None of you will have to face your friends dying, or your own impending d-death.

“Be glad of that. Be glad of the fact that that’s never going to happen to you. Because when I watched this show, I wasn’t. I wasn’t thankful for the fact that it wasn’t me they’d chosen. I wasn’t thankful for the fact that I’d get to keep living while hundreds of other kids were having their lives cut off, all in the name of entertainment. I didn’t think about that. I just thought about who’d score the next kill or who’d die next. I didn’t think about the important stuff. And now, I think that if I’d had someone spell this out for me, maybe I would’ve. Maybe I’d’ve considered exactly what it was I was watching.

“Look, I don’t expect you to stop watching. If I was in your position, I wouldn’t.

“Just... Please... Notice what’s happening here. Think about it, even if it’s just a little. Please.”

His voice trailed off near the end, no longer able to fight back the tears that’d threatened to spill over throughout his speech. But he’d done it. He’d said his piece. He could rest a little easier on his conscience, could maybe stop feeling the pangs of guilt from having taken such a pleasure in watching this show, could start planning what he was going to do now that the world was falling to pieces.

Will withdrew the sandwich he’d been provided with from the depths of his backpack, unwrapped the wax paper that protected it, and began to eat.
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The Program 2.5
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