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Biting The Hand That Feeds
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“You were a volunteer.”

It sounded as if Jackson had left a lot of things behind when he was taken into this game and from the sad smile and hitch in his voice it was apparent that he was missing all of them. She felt a little bad about asking him about them and bringing up these reminders of his life before all this, but she needed to understand something and was hoping his answer would enlighten her.

In his answer Jackson had mentioned things that ‘every kid on here wishes they could get back to’, the kind of things they associated with home and the things that made life enjoyable for them. Family, friends, the people important to them. Hobbies, past times, maybe even jobs.

When Alice looked inside herself to find that part of her that yearned to get back to her old life, to her family and her books and her whatever else… she was surprised to find that it wasn’t really there. And she didn’t understand why.

It was not because there was nothing she cared about back home, far from it. She adored her family. Her mother and grandmother were her entire world. The idea that they might be watching, like Jackson worried about the kids he played guitar for, broke her heart.

Her mother had given up so much, including her relationship with Alice’s father, just to be able to have her. She moved back home with her mother so Alice could be raised by family, even if it meant she had to commute hours each day to her job in another city. A caring, hardworking person who still managed to find as much time as possible to spent with her daughter, who Alice hoped she could be like someday, even though she had never told her so.

Her grandmother had been positively ecstatic at the thought of having her daughter and granddaughter live with her, especially since Alice’s grandfather passed on at a relatively early age. A kind, loving if overly doting matriarch who loved Alice dearly, her grandmother had always watched out for her, always cared for her and practically raised her. She had been a constant source of support in her worst moments and always there to share the best. She had introduced her to many of her favourite things and had an undeniably large influence on Alice growing up. While Alice would say she loved her mother the most, she was undoubtedly closer to her grandmother.

These were the people who she feared might have seen her kill two people. They were who she failed every time she so much as picked up her crossbow. Maybe that had something to do with her feelings, or lack of them, towards the thought of going home.

Alice glanced over at Jackson, noting that he still seemed to be wrapped up in his thoughts of home and therefore probably didn’t see the fresh tears finally forming at the corners of her eyes. Just as she thought she had finally run out, it was almost a relief to know this game hadn’t drained her of everything just yet.

Hastily wiping her eyes Alice turned her head away from her teammate, pushing off from the ground to stand up on shaky legs. Grabbing onto the edge of the counter and using it to support herself she was able to regain her feet. Looking down at Jackson she tried not to let her painful thoughts show on her face.

“I-I need to get some fresh air. Be… be alone for a while.” Leaving her bag behind she reached for her crossbow on the counter, hesitating slightly as she thought of her family, before grabbing it anyway. “B-be right back.”

She walked swiftly towards the large lobby doors, not looking back or giving Jackson any indication to follow her or chance to stop her. Once outside she walked to the side of the doors so that she couldn’t be seen through the glass and leaned heavily against the brickwork, already breathing hard from the stress of her escape.

Like she had done against the counter inside she began to slide down the wall, this time stopping herself before she got too far because she didn’t want to take a seat in the snow. With her knees bent and her head bowed she was practically bent double, tears silently falling down her cheeks, stifling any sobs before they could be heard either by Jackson or by anyone else who might be lurking around. She didn’t want Jackson to see her cry, as she knew she would as soon as she started to think about her family.

She missed them. Yet thinking about them only caused her pain rather than give her a goal to keep fighting for and there wasn’t much else besides her mother and grandmother she wanted to get back to. She just didn’t seem to have those things Jackson thought everyone had.

Alice had no friends to speak of, not any more, not recently. Her school life was spent trying to avoid the notice of other people for the most part, her social life was none-existent and she spent most of her time alone. Even though she was a fairly avid gamer she avoided online gaming entirely, not even interacting with people through the veil of the internet.

She loved her books of course, her overflowing bookshelf of old classics and beloved novels back in her bedroom, but reading had always been about escapism for her. It was about immersing herself in another world so she didn’t have to deal with the problems of this one. It wasn’t exactly the sort of thing you fought to get back to.

She had enjoyed school in a sense but even if she could go back it would be a challenge and a nightmare she couldn’t imagine before all of this began. Avoiding notice would be impossible after her time spent in the spotlight of SOTF. She would be hounded, people trying to talk to her, ask her questions, never leaving her alone. Worst of all would be the people who would judge her, their accusing eyes following her wherever she went and never letting her forget what she had done.

Unlike Jackson, unlike most people, there wasn’t much for Alice to miss in her old life. She couldn’t describe herself as a happy person. She spent most of her time worried, scared and stressed; just trying to gett through the day with a minimal amount of mental strain. A day where nothing happened was considered a good day.

There were time were she was content, spending time with her family, reading or playing her games, but content didn’t necessarily mean happy and those moments were only brief anyway. Maybe that was why the idea of going home didn’t make her feel any better. Because even though it was better than here it wouldn’t be any better than before. If anything it would be worse.

Even so, her family, her amazing family would make it worth surviving if she could get back to them. This thought, the thought of returning home and reuniting with her family, that should have been reassuring, only made the dread solidify in her stomach like a ball of lead.

What if her family didn’t welcome her back?

It was an incomprehensible thought. She knew her family better than to think they would turn their backs on her, but… irrational fear never needed to make sense to be terrifying.

If they had been watching her this whole time then they would have seen everything she had done. They would have seen her shoot that girl in the leg and stab that boy to death; they would have seen her stagger, bloody, away from that grizzly scene. They would have been privy to every bad decision, every mistake, every time she pointed a weapon at someone and bit by bit gave up on trying to be a good person and started thinking only of survival.

She wasn’t proud of the things she had done here, she knew her family wouldn’t be either. Would they really just accept her back? What would she do if her grandmother, who had always despised this show, slammed the door in her murderer granddaughter’s face? What would Alice do if she went home, only to find it empty?

She could picture all too vividly the scene, an overactive imagination working against her; Alice would push open the unlocked door to see a cold and lifeless house, all personal items such as pictures gone, the only sign of her family she could find a note on the dining room table with a short and simple message. ‘Don’t try to find us’.

Suddenly dizzy, Alice straightened and pushed away from the wall, staggering a few steps away from the theatre before finding her stride. She continued to walk, further and further away from the theatre doors, clutching a hand to her forehead, fingers threading through strands of hair as she fought to keep down the rising panic.

Tears fell faster. Her family was all she had to go back to and the idea that she wouldn’t even have that if she made it out of here was enough, as unrealistic as it was, to break any resolve she had managed to hold on to this long.

Why? What was the point? What was the point in continuing to struggle when all that would happen in the end was her being taken away from this hell and put in a new one? Let other people keep fighting; let them leave Alice where she was. People like Jackson had reasons to go home, things they were certain about. Alice didn’t know if the one thing she did have would still be there anymore.

Alice stopped walking and dropped to her knees, sinking into the snow and soaking her jeans from ankle to knee. She had managed to wander quite far from the theatre now, maybe a couple hundred feet, but that didn’t concern her right now.

She still held her crossbow and now clutched it to her chest. She wrapped both arms around the body of the weapon and just pressed it against herself, holding it like a small child would a teddy bear. The butt of the weapon rested on her thighs and the loaded arrow was positioned under her chin.

Maybe her family hadn’t seen anything; maybe they couldn’t stand to watch. Maybe they had seen but would be able to forgive her anyway; maybe they wouldn’t.

Maybe it was better not to find out one way or another.

“I’m sorry. Mom, grandma, I know you raised me better than this.” Alice leaned her head forward, tucking her chin down closer to her collar to whisper into the microphone. “I know I must have hurt you, doing the things I did. I was so stupid, this whole time. I made so many mistakes.” One of her hands moved, thumb slipping into the trigger guard of the crossbow. She raised her head and craned her neck forward, ensuring the arrow would hit its mark. “This is a mistake to. But I promise, it’s the last one I’ll make.”

She removed her thumb from the trigger.

Angrily, she grabbed the crossbow with both hands, hefted it above her head and tossed it out into the snow. She fell forward, ending up on all fours. Her head was bowed towards the ground and her hair hung down over her face, long brown tresses trailing along the ground. She curled her hands into fists and thrashed them against the ground, pounding the fresh powdered snow into slush until her hands hurt.

“Why am I such a coward?”

Too scared to fight, too scared to give up, too scared to run or hide. What did she want to do? What could she do without messing up or giving in? What did she want, really?

There was no answer to that. Alice didn’t know what she wanted and there was nothing she could do.

She was cold. She wanted to go inside again. At least she knew that much. And she could probably manage it without messing up or giving in half way.

Alice pushed off the ground, sweeping her hair back out of her face with a damp hand, and sat back on her haunches again. How long had she been out here? Jackson hadn’t come looking for her yet, so probably not that long.

Looking to where her crossbow had landed, Alice let out a sigh. She had actually managed to throw it pretty far. Pulling one leg out from under her she began to rise from the ground to retrieve it.

When she felt something jab her in the back with enough force to push her to the ground, it took a moment for the pain to register. She lay on her stomach, something piercing her back. An indescribably sharp, burning pain lanced through her abdomen and spread through the rest of her torso; so intense and so sudden that she couldn’t even scream. The air was driven from her lungs and despite the huge gasps she was making couldn’t fill them again.

Confused, shocked, she tried to turn her head to look over her shoulder, to see what was happening, and the pain intensified tenfold and nearly stole her consciousness from her. Through bleary, darkening eyes she could just make out a figure. They held something long in their hands. She… she couldn’t see they’re face.

Who… no, wh-why now… no.

Alice turned away again and moved her arms, trying to pull herself forward. Her legs wouldn’t respond when she tried to move them, she couldn’t feel anything from the waist down at all, and when she scrabbled at the ground in front of her all she was doing was pulling back handfuls of fresh snow.

The thing in her back was pulled free and Alice yelped at the burst of pain. She felt fainter now, surely losing a lot of blood but she couldn’t focus on that now. She couldn’t focus on anything. She just had one idea in mind, a goal from before… before this.

If I… the cross-crossbow. Get to the… bow.

She heard the crunch of snow, saw the tip of a shoe out of the corner of her eye, and heard rather than felt the spear pierce her heart through her back.

Alice Young – GH2 - Deceased
Program V3 Prologue
Michael Bair - Proud to be an American
Quote: N/A
Weapon: Brass Knuckles, Heckler & Koch FABARM FP6 Entry
Location: N/A
Status: Alive

The Departed
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