Chapter 5.2- Human Gristle

30 Aug

Okay, so I’ve had some time to mourn Oscar and Rylo, and I’ve decided that maybe it’s okay to be happy about generation five. Maybe. Things are still looking pretty bleak, though.

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Over the years, Briony’s cave has become cluttered with the detritus of unfinished projects. A pallet she was going to use to make a bed, some warped metal she was going to use to make a ladder, an old fridge she was going to use for… something.

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Every few months she feels inexplicably compelled to break the boredom by doing something, anything. Once she’s dragged something down into her grotto, she immediately loses interest and returns to her usual activity of moping around.

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One summer day Briony runs into a few weak aspira bushes clinging to a patch of dirt in the cliff face. She hasn’t thought of aspira in years, but decides that since she’s found some she might as well use to it liven things up a bit.

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The aromatic smoke filling the cave brings back strong memories of years ago, from when she was with her mother. They had never used aspira in the daytime, only at night so they could sleep soundly with a sweet heaviness in their limbs and no worry of zombies. Most nights they had slept in a warm tangle of arms and legs in her mother’s bed together, waking up with the sun and giggling under the covers about the dreams they had had.

Her mother had been able to bring any dying plant back to life, and could make a poultice to heal any wound or illness. This had kept Briony believing her mother had had magical powers for years, a claim she had furiously defended to her dad on their first day together.

The syrupy sensation slowly fills Briony’s limbs, and a shimmering haze clouds her vision. Something shadowy dances in the corner of her eye, and she stands up to go investigate.

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She steps closer and squints her eyes, trying to make out the blurry form. Then the thing comes into focus, and Briony recoils in horror.

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A shake of her head and the vision is gone, and a new one has taken its place. An eerie figure looms against the outside sun, casting a dark shroud over the cave.

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Blood pours from gashes in its face, and it emits a shuddering gasp not quite like a zombie and not quite like anything living either. It reaches for her through the smoke, and Briony spins around and runs.

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As she makes for the farthest cave wall she catches a glimpse of something slumped over, something twitching weakly. She slams into a boulder and squeezes her eyes shut.

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She opens them again and the scene has changed. Blood-soaked, twisted bodies litter the cave floor. Briony screams, and feels her nails digging into the rock behind her.

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Again she squeezes her eyes shut, and upon opening them the terrible specters have disappeared. It’s reassuring, and she again presses her eyes with her hands, and comes away with her hands soaked in the cold sweat that drips down her forehead.

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The hallucinated corpses have definitely disappeared, so Briony stumbles for her little pool. A splash of water would bring her back to her senses.

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She sinks to her knees and cups her hands to bring the grey water up to her face. It dribbles down her cheeks and onto her knees, and this definite physical sensation serves to steady her. She peers down into the water, watching the ripples of the drops sliding off the end of her nose. A white shimmer catches her eye, and she squints to bring it into focus.

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Another drop falls, and as the ripples clear a new scene of horror emerges. Bits of human gristle lie tangled in the weeds growing at the bottom of the pool, and the hollow eyes of a human skull stare blindly back.

“Briony, go!”

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She collapses in terror and spends the night curled up on the cave floor, pressing her ragged nails into her palms to fend off the visions that come to her even with her eyes closed.

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The next morning she kicks out every last cinder of her fire and throws the few remaining logs out into the bay. Briony has no notion to repeat last night’s adventure, and the rest of the aspira remains untouched.

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For months after the dreams follow her, leading her to resist sleep. Every fly that buzzes past startles her awake and induces visions of demons and death. She often only falls asleep when the sun just begins to rise again, slumped against the cave wall.

This morning the dream starts with the clatter of a pebble down the cliff face and the splash as it finds water. Then it’s approaching footsteps, and Briony thrashes herself awake.

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Silhouetted against the sea and sky, Briony’s nightmare steps into her waking life.

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Briony shrieks, and shrinks back against the rock. Her hands feel around for anything sharp to use as a weapon but tremble too violently to pick anything up.

“Whoa, whoa, sorry!”

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The thing drops its axe and throws off the hideous mask, and Briony makes out the face of a young man looking perhaps more frightened than herself.

Her panic turns to a boiling fury, and she pulls herself up the cave wall and onto her feet.

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Briony: What the fuck is that thing for?!

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Guy: The mask? Safety. People don’t try to mess with you, or eat you, when you look unhinged enough to wear something like that.

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Briony: Oh, maybe my dad was onto something.

Guy: Huh?

Briony: Nothing. What do you want?

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The man peers at her.

Guy: Wait, I know you!

Briony: No you don’t.

Guy: Yes I do. I saw you in the water years ago.

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Briony knows he’s right, and groans.

Briony: Sorry, wasn’t me.

Guy: Come on! You were drifting along inches from death. I tried to help you but…

Briony: Nope.

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Guy: Either way, you look like you’re living pretty rough. Is it just you?

Briony narrows her eyes and says nothing. Although never having seen it herself, she knows what men sometimes do to vulnerable girls. She decides to choose her words carefully and get this guy out of her cave as soon as possible.

Guy: Listen, I think you should come back with me. I’m Michael. My gran and I have a safe place with plenty of food. You look like you need food.

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Briony relaxes, deciding that anyone who says “Gran” has just got to be harmless. But he’s still an unwelcome annoyance, and Briony keeps her cool tone.

Briony: I don’t need anything. Now please take your axe and your psycho mask and go.

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Michael: Seriously?

Briony: Seriously.

Michael: Come on, it’s two day’s walk. You don’t have to stay long, just get fed and healed up a bit, some clean clothes…

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With this last offer his eyes drift down to her tattered rags draped over barely covered skin, before flicking guiltily back up to her eyes. He looks up at her almost apologetically as though he were a puppy caught chewing at a shoe.

Briony: No! Go away!

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She glares at him as though he could be willed away by the sheer force of her frustration, and to her relief he gets the idea.

Michael: Wow. Fine then. Enjoy your rocks.

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He picks up his axe and hoists the hideous skull mask back over his head, and then steps out into the chill morning air. He clambers nimbly out onto the rocks lining the cliff face, and is gone.

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Briony groans and slumps back down onto her makeshift bed. The rest of her morning is spent dwelling on her sense of indignation at having been disturbed.

Briony: Walks in on someone else’s home, and has the nerve  to offer help! Roaming around in a skull like that like a complete nutcase. Seriously.

Ain’t nothing wrong with talking to yourself, right??

Chapter 5.1- Slimy Green Algae

23 Aug

Hello and welcome to generation 5 of Zombies and Yu. If you’re feeling happy about it, go away and don’t come back.

Sorry… it’s been sad around here with all the deaths. And also I’ve been crazy busy becoming an adult and stuff. Finished uni, got a car, applied for jobs, got a real adult job. Once it starts in September my schedule will be back to normal and I will be able to write more… yay!

Anyways, we ended on a bit of a cliffhanger last time. Like, Briony literally jumped off a cliff. Let’s see how that went down.

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The sun climbs over the horizon. As the scarlet light of a new day takes hold, the waves relent and give way to the calm stillness of morning.

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The rays of sun bring warmth to the upper layers of the water, coaxing life back into the things that make their home there, as well as the things carried along by the current.

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By mid-day, anything that had been sleeping in the cool cradle of the waves has awoken to the rays that set the water’s surface ablaze with a piercing white light. Fish, insects, and other creatures drift along, following a course set by the earth and wind and waves.

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Amidst the usual fragments of life and death that dwell on the surfaces of seas floats a girl, hovering somewhere in between the two extremities.

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While undeniably awake, she lies perfectly still as she drifts along. She has already tried moving today, but the painful complaint of her limbs and ribcage keep her convinced that her best option is to relent to the will of the waves for now.

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In truth, there’s nowhere else for her to go anyways. Even if she were to make the effort of forcing her stiff limbs to swim, she knows there would be nothing on land to welcome her back.

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So, she carries on drifting, slipping in and out of consciousness. As she stares up at the blue abyss above her, she imagines the relief it will be when the blue abyss below her finally swallows her and she disappears.

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While out on the surface of the water it seems as though the world has stopped in favour of endless blue, elsewhere life carries on.

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“Any luck there?”

“No. The fish here don’t bite for worms, they’ve gotten so used to rabbit entrails.”

“Oh, well. Fish would be nice, but we have enough for tonight as it is.”

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A shout.

“Gran, look!”

“That’s not one of the dead ones.”

“I’m going to check it out. I’ll be careful.”

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Under the water, Briony can hear the stirrings from the shore.

“Hey, are you alright?”

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Her limbs scream against movement of any kind, but she forces them into motion.

“Stop, come to shore.”

But that’s the last thing she wants to do. She pushes forward, away from shore, back out into the blue where the sea can swallow her up in peace.

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The boy’s calls grow more distant, and Briony presses on. She rounds a curve of the land, and then he’s out of sight.

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She groans and rolls over to face the sky. Something resembling sleep comes over her, and the water takes her.

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Tangerine-hued light permeates her eyelids, bringing her back to consciousness. She becomes aware of the sensation of the pebbly sea floor brushing against her feet and fingertips. A wave swells, and then her shoulder is pressed up against a rock. The sensitive side of her ribcage protests, so she rights herself in the water and looks around.

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The mouth of a grotto looms before her, illuminated in orange light. With the setting sun comes the cooling of the water, and Briony’s not sure she can last another night drifting out here.

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The slick rocks offer little handhold, and she repeatedly scrapes her knees and wrists as she laboriously drags herself out of the water. The pain and exhaustion of her body keeps her moving at a snail’s pace over surfaces she could have stepped over any other day.

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The sun is long set by the time she reaches flat ground. Her whole being screams for sleep, and she barely notices the twinge of her ragged knees and palms as they bleed against the rock surface.

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And then her body simply collapses, and she sleeps draped over the damp boulders of the cave.

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Morning light filtering through the rocks reveals the struggles of the night.

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Looking over, Briony only remembers flashes by moonlight of bashing in heads with a rock she found on the ground. It seems to have done the trick, but for all she knows she could have been bitten. Every inch of her hurts, and she doesn’t have the strength or motivation to check herself over for bites.

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If she turns, she turns. But in the meantime, she needs water. There’s no way she could safely get herself down to the bay and then back out again right now, but a stagnant little cave pool proves her saviour.

She crawls to the edge of the pool, finding that the water rests in a depression and is nearly too far for her to reach. She extends her arms to try to bring some water up to her mouth but it too weak to support herself. She tumbles down the rocky bank and lands in the shallow pool, earning herself some new cuts and bruises.

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As she moves herself back into an upright position she can feel the squelch of algae and slime against her skin. Strange cave creatures swim away to hide from her, but as she again loses consciousness they accept her as part of their new landscape and carry on their lives around her.

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Some time later she awakens and remembers to be horrified by the slimy little creatures making a home out of her. She’s beginning to feel some strength coming back into her body, and is able to pull herself out of the pool without too much pain.

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For the first time in two days she’s feeling fully awake, a fact she hugely resents. With consciousness comes memories of storage lockers creaking open, a rusty car on a precipice, the words, “Briony, go!”

There’s also the smell. Two zombies wasting away in the sun fill a cave with rancid air quickly, and Briony knows she’ll need to do something about it soon.

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She stands, and her head reels. Having not been upright for days, the blood rushes out of her head and there are a few moments of unsteady blackness before the world comes back into view. While she’s glad to be able to stand, the ordeal has left her with a pounding headache.

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The most she can do now is drag the corpses to the edge of the water and tip them in. They drift around below the surface with vacant eyes staring up at her, and she hopes the waves will take them away.

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Her throbbing head falls into her hands, and a crying spell shakes her. It only ends when she becomes distracted by the debris and knots built up in her hair. She absently tries to comb out a thick mat with her fingers, and then gives up and heads back into the cave.

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The next days pass in much the same way. At first she cries, but later she just waits for sleep. Weeks go by, and her cuts heal and her hair grows into a wild tangle. After a few months her clothes become tattered and thin from constantly being scraped against the rocky cave walls.

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She learns to choke down whatever she can pull out of the stale pool. Snails, minnows, sometimes just slimy green algae. She becomes one of them, just another part of the food chain in the mucky little ecosystem.

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Years might have gone by, but still it feels like the car and the storage units was yesterday, and everything since has been one long grey today.

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In the time Briony has been in her cave of depression Carys has grown into an adult and married some guy called Saul.

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Graham, the weird looking one, is now a teen. He’s a good kid I guess.

Join us next week to see what kind of cheery stuff our cave-dwelling, raw fish-eating heir does next time =/

Chapter 4.17- Horrific Crimes Against Fashion

10 Aug

Hi, welcome back! Sorry about missing the post yesterday, I was at a music festival, and it was rad.

Last we left Rylo and Briony, they were actually having a good time. Wut.

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Rylo is getting used to his days being filled with much more chatter than usual, and is finding that it really isn’t so terrible. Briony’s mind seems to be full of new ideas and adventures yet to be had, and can be mildly amusing to listen to her stream of chatter.

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There’s also more light-hearted goofing off than Rylo has ever seen in his life, but he’s realized that not every moment needs to be solely focused on survival. It can actually be kind of nice to spend an afternoon watching Briony tumble around as she tries to learn how to do a handstand.

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Her swimming skills really start to come along, but she still sometimes pretends she’s scared or cold or tired so Rylo will have to come hold her in the water as she builds up her confidence. Rylo half-heartedly keeps up the gruff, annoyed act with her as she clings to him, but they both seem to know he doesn’t mind at all.

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With zombie training, they start small. Whenever they run into something that’s her size, Rylo hands Briony a knife and lets her try it out. He always stands just a few meters away with his crossbow aimed directly at the zombie’s head in case anything should go wrong, but only has to actually use this precaution twice.

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After just a few tries Briony seems to figure out how to lure a zombie one way and then attack from the other. After each of her kills Rylo spends some time giving her advice and encouragement, and she infallibly begs to try out his crossbow next. He infallibly replies that she can try it out when her arms become strong enough to actually hold it steady.

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As she grows, she moves onto the bigger stuff. She becomes quite skilled at facing one large zombie or two smaller zombies on her own, but Rylo still watches her with his crossbow raised, just in case.

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Rylo soon runs out of advice to give her, but it becomes sort of a regular thing for them to spend some time just talking about whatever over top a freshly dead zombie corpse. Family bonding, yo.

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After they had met the family living in the car shelter, Briony had made a point of calling Rylo “Dad”. The first few times he had felt his throat close up and his eyes start to water, and had almost thought he was dying. But he hadn’t quite been able to tell her not to, so it had stuck. It took a long time to get used to it, and it wasn’t until their third year together that he stopped blushing deeply every time he heard the D word. Now, after five years together, it doesn’t faze him at all.

So yeah, time jump. Let’s check out the extended fam.

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We’ve got teenage Reuben, who is rebellious and brave.

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We’ve got child Mariella, who is messy and full of adventure.

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We’ve got Ben, who likes to cook and be handsome.

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We’ve got Siri, who turned out handy and brave and cool enough that I wish she was actually part of this legacy (cause ginger = wonderful).

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We’ve got Jeyna, who… exists.

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We’ve got Carys, who is generally just a nice person.

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And we’ve got horrific crimes against fashion courtesy of the sims game’s batshit randomization process that left poor Carys looking like this. Just no.

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And here is Oscar, who has lived happily into his eighties. His two next door neighbours are Sam and Joey’s families, so there’s never a day he’s without the company of his sons and grandchildren.

But listen guys, we knew this was coming. Oscar died. As soon as my game told me he was about to die I started stalking him at his house and just watched him do life so I wouldn’t miss him dying and everything. And then one night I wasn’t paying very much attention and he walked outside into the night and fucking died. It was weird and devastating and I missed it.

So I’m horribly sorry about missing his death, but he was old and happy and that’s probably how he would have wanted to go, without a whole bunch of fuss.

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Rylo and Briony are kind of just enjoying their post-apocalyptic lives these days. They like to follow lakes and rivers, and every night at sunset they gaze silently out at the colour show reflecting on the waves.

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Rainy days are the hardest. Rylo doesn’t like seeing Briony shivering and cold, and has become more bold in seeking out shelter when the weather is rough. Sometimes they go as far as creeping into the outskirts of a town.

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Briony loves exploring new places, and is always chiding Rylo to loosen up and explore urban areas more. While he is still extremely cautious, he’s become more inclined to give in to her requests when he sees the fire of adventure light up her eyes. Today they’ve found some old storage lockers set alongside a bay where the remains of a pier crumble into the water.

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Rylo is wary of setting up camp in such an exposed spot so far away from the forest he’s familiar with. But looking out onto the horizon he can see that the storm is nowhere close to abating.

Briony: It’s okay dad, we can go find somewhere safer. I’m not that cold.

Rylo: Briony, you’re frozen. We’ll wait the storm out here where we can get you dry and warm.

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Rylo approaches the nearest storage unit and pulls the door. It seems to be locked, but he knows that most locks have lost their strength to rust and decay long ago and can be easily coaxed open.

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Briony kneads her feet rhythmically into the earth in a sort of dance to keep her body moving and ward off the cold. She braces herself through a particularly violent bout of shivers when she hears a click, and feels something give way under her foot. Instinctively she jumps back.

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She briefly registers the strange metallic object that had been under her foot before there is a rush of air and creaking metal and the door to a storage locker swings open.

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Rylo stumbles back from the unit, shielding himself from the undead horde now pushing their way out of the metal box.

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In a moment he’s up and running with Briony at his side. Under one of his feet he feels a click, and hears another door swing open.

Rylo: Bri, don’t step on those!

Briony: Yeah, got that, thanks!

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Rylo searches wildly for an escape. To their right looms a wall of storage units, probably all filled with zombies. On their left they’re flanked by a sheer drop into the raging waters of the bay, while up ahead is a mountain of rubble and a caved-in basement.

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Zombies continue to spill out of the open storage units, pressing Rylo and Briony further back against the rubble.

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Backed against a wall, Rylo loads his crossbow while Briony clutches her knife in her frozen fingers. Rylo aims his bolts and takes down some of the nearest threats, while Briony readies herself for the coming skirmish.

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The throng advances, and Briony somewhat regains her sense of confidence from all those days spent practicing for this. While Rylo shoots at the closest and fastest threats, Briony lures them, ducks, and makes one rapid thrust of her knife into the decaying skulls. The rain and the cold are gone from her mind, and the world moves in a blur devoid of thought and ruled by speed and dexterity.

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And then there is a scraping of claws against her sleeve, and Briony wrestles herself away from the cold dead fingers now grasping for a handful of her hair. Through the din of snarls she hears her name being called, and follows it blindly.

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Ahead, Rylo is climbing onto a car perched at the edge of the sunken basement. Briony reaches the car and feels the bumper give way as she tries to clamber up. Her fall is interrupted by Rylo, who grabs one of her arms and effortlessly hoists her up like a rag doll.

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In no time the zombies have enveloped the car. Briony takes a tentative step away from the reaching arms and feels the chasm of empty air behind her. Thunder cracks overhead, and she steps firmly forward and draws her knife.

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Briony brandishes her knife, aiming desperately for a head, but is unable to get past the sea of arms reaching up to her and threatening to force her down into their depths. Rylo has run out of bolts and has begun kicking furiously into the hungry mob, only managing to hold back the few ambitious  zombies trying to climb up the hood of the car. Beneath them, the rusty roof sinks and forewarns collapse, while the force of the pushing crowd starts the car rocking dangerously toward the precipice. Again, an arm pulls Briony to her feet.

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Rylo: Briony, go!

Briony: What??

Rylo: Go!

Through her panic Briony finds his eyes, and immediately understands what he means.

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Briony: No, dad, no!

Rylo: Briony-

Briony: No!

He grabs her wrists and pulls her close as she continues to shriek hysterically and wrestle against him.

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Tenderly Rylo kisses Briony’s forehead, and then he releases her hands and steps backward.

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A forest of arms reaches up to receive him and the crowd compresses, obscuring him beneath an undulating mass of bodies.

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Briony’s steps ring against the hood of the car, and then she’s slamming into the mud and struggling back onto her feet amidst the corpses of zombies whose heads have been pierced by crossbow bolts.

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In desperation she looks behind her and is transfixed by the grisly scene searing itself into her mind. Zombies grapple with each other over handfuls of glistening entrails, and scraps of striped shirt flutter away in the wind.

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Briony is roused by the realization that one of the mob has broken away and is advancing towards her. She feels inside her pocket for her knife and comes away with nothing. She’s entirely out of time, and the words, “Briony, go!” resonate in her mind. She obeys.

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A mix of tears and raindrops blind her, and the roaring wind howls against her ears as she plummets off the edge of the cliff. The roiling waters of the bay rush up to meet her.

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Rain and waves and current clash against each other, and the storm rages on.

Chapter 4.16- Sorta Kinda Child Abusey

2 Aug

Wow! I’m back! So sorry about the unexplained two month absence. I went on a rather long vacation and am now actively trying to become an adult. That means looking for a job and other anxiety inducing things, so real talk: I might not be able to do as much writing as I would like. I still have about 6 posts that are already written so I will continue to post those regularly but the jury’s still out on whether I will be able to regularly churn out a post a week. Probably in the fall when my life settles down I will be able to do that.

Also I’m having this issue where a large amount of my screenshots aren’t loading. It is only a problem for me on chrome, on opera they show up fine. This is hopefully just a me problem, but if it is also a you problem please let me know so I can address it.

Anyways, let’s plunge right back into our story! Last time, Briony got left with a sorta kinda child abusey family, and then Rylo saved her using his super awesome teenager-murdering abilities. Mmkay? Mmkay.

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Rylo and Briony’s escape from the scene at the little hovel leaves them with the screams of a family in their ears, but thankfully with no pursuers. Rylo lets Briony lead, and she tears through the forest and across fields with seemingly no intent to stop. Rylo makes no move to slow her, knowing that it isn’t people she’s running from right now.

Finally her steps slow, and with each impact of her feet against the rocky ground Rylo hears her emit two words that start as a whisper and culminate into a scream, at which point she stops and turns around to face him.

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Briony: …fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you FUCK YOU-

Rylo: Briony, I’m sorry!

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Tears spill over onto her cheeks and she screams on, shaking violently.

Briony: You shouldn’t have left me there! You shouldn’t have!!

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Rylo: I know, I know, I thought it was what you wanted.

Briony: They pushed me into walls and made me eat on the floor and locked me up at night! In a pantry!

Rylo: Okay, okay. We don’t have to do that again. I’m not going to make you leave. I promise.

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Briony glares silently back at him with all her rage seemingly contained in her tightly balled fists and the sobs she struggles to swallow.

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Then, without a word, she turns and stalks off, finally coming to sit a few meters away. Rylo stands still, awaiting another outburst or perhaps an attempt to run away. Instead she remains with her back to him, glowering at the boulders ahead.

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As night begins to fall the air grows cooler, and Rylo builds a fire, periodically glancing over to make sure Briony is still there.

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The sun begins to set and still she sits brooding at the mountains. Wonder who she got that from.

Rylo uses a flaming stick to persuade a family of chipmunks out of their burrow, and soon finds himself roasting kebabs in the waning light.

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He starts picking at his dinner, burning his fingertips on the searing hot meat. A pair of soft footsteps make their way slowly to the fire, and Rylo keeps his eyes cast down onto his food.

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She seems to be trembling, this time not from rage but from the cold. Rylo breaks his cooking stick in the centre and quietly passes her a side. She takes a bite of steaming chipmunk and lets out a long sigh.

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The rest of the night is passed in total silence, and eventually they both fall asleep blanketed only by the heat of the fire. It would be difficult for either of them to sleep on the uneven, rocky surface on any other night, but after the today’s events they’re both so exhausted they don’t give it a thought.

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The next morning Rylo wakes feeling sore but well-rested. He watches Briony as she stands and stretches away the stiffness in her muscles, and he tries to discern some hint as to her mental state. Her eyes are red and puffy from yesterday’s crying, but when she looks back at him it doesn’t seem to be with any leftover anger.

Briony: So… where are we going today?

Rylo: I don’t know. Where should we go?

He stands and kicks out the surviving embers in their fire.

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Briony gives a faint half-smile, and then closes her eyes and spins on the spot for a few seconds. When she opens her eyes again, she’s facing due south. She marches off into this new direction, and after a few moments Rylo falls into step beside her.

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They wander aimlessly through the wild, sometimes with Briony leading and sometimes with Rylo leading. The crisp morning air soothes Briony’s swollen eyes, and the golden tint of early sunlight leaves them both with lifted spirits.

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Poking into every abandoned structure he comes across is just sort of what Rylo does, so Briony takes a break to practice her cartwheels while he checks out this old shed. When you’re like, nine, cartwheels are of the utmost importance. And you just know her mom had to have taught her to cartwheel.

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She executes the perfect double-cartwheel-somersault and glances back to see if Rylo’s done messing around in the shed yet, and sees him flinch back from a zombie emerging around the corner.

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Rylo tries to pull out his knife but the zombie is already too close, and he grabs it’s thrashing wrists in an attempt to keep it off him. He feels the cracking of bone under his fingers, and recoils back from the wildly snapping jaws now aiming at his hands.

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From his left he hears a high voice yelling a ridiculous stream of taunts that in any other situation would make him crack up.

Briony: Hey stupid rotten-face, over here! Come drag your butt full of mouldy meat over this way, come get me! Come eat me with your mouthful of nasty broken grody teeth! I’m a delicious little steak, just for you! That’s it, bring your dirty dead self over this way!

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This new offering catches the zombie’s attention, and it lurches towards Briony who follows up her tirade with a butt shake and some variant of the chicken dance.

It’s essentially this

mixed with this, and it’s just enough for Rylo to sling his crossbow around his back and plant a bolt straight into the zombie’s brain.

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The zombie collapses in front of Briony, and Rylo steps around the corpse.

Rylo: Thanks, that was pretty cool.

Briony: My dance? Yeah, I know.

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Rylo: Hey, have you ever actually killed one yourself?

Briony: I never had to, they were always too zonked out to come after me when I lived with my mom.

Rylo: Well, since you’re living out here now, you should probably learn how to do things out here. Killing zombies, getting food, that kind of stuff.

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Briony: I shall consume your knowledge through telepathic mind melding!

Umm wtf. When she talks to Rylo, her eyes roll back in her head cause he’s that much taller than her. Yikes.

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Rylo: I was thinking experiential learning.

Briony: Yeah, okay, that’s cool too.

And then they get into their 80’s workout gear and put on their training mix to pump them up for the epic training montage that is to follow.

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They start with how to choose a fishing pole and how to weave fishing line out of tree bark. Because they can’t just pull high-quality fishing rods out of their asses or anything.

Briony catches three fish on her first try using fresh gopher entrails as bait.

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With lunch and dinner secured, they then scare all the fish away with stone-skipping lessons.

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As the day wears on they move into swimming lessons. Briony has never been swimming before, having grown up on a hill, but soon develops a strong knack for splashing.

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Her knack for getting splashed back will probably take some time.

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In the days to follow they move into Fire Starting 101, a class that Rylo is more than certified to teach.

Sorry, that joke is probably way too dark considering what happened to Bri’s mom but whatevs.

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He then teaches her to track small animals, and how to build the simple traps to catch them. Briony picks up trap-setting easily, and Rylo thinks back to his early days in the Madhouse teaching himself to make these exact snares. He still remembers the first skinny rat he caught after weeks of trial and error, and the delight he felt at capturing that meager prize. It had been the first thing he’d eaten in days, but he had never gone hungry afterwards.

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One day, their wandering brings them here. The decaying cars propped on their sides seem to form a wall, and Rylo’s curiosity is piqued.

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He and Briony creep towards the structure, finding a person-sized break in the barricade of cars. Through the small passage they see something they hadn’t expected to find, and stand agape.

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Inside the walls, a woman snuggles a child, singing softly to her as a little boy plays by a fire pit. Behind them the stacked cars form some kind of shelter, and have been decorated with numerous potted plants blooming with red and pink flowers.

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The peacefulness of the scene is so unexpected they hardly notice the man looking at them in alarm.

Man: Uh, hello?

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Rylo and Briony are unsure what to say, and the man starts looking back and forth between them as though wondering how two such different looking people could come to be standing here together at his front door. His gaze lingers on Rylo’s weapons and strange fashion choices, and he looks uneasily to Briony.

Man: Uh, are you alright?

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Briony: Yep. Just passing through.

Man: You sure? Who is this man?

Briony: That’s my dad.

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Man: Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize!

The man relaxes and looks warmly at Rylo. Rylo feels a blush creep up his neck and suppresses a half-smile.

Man: Well if you two are hungry you’re welcome to come in. It’s just the four of us and we have more than we need. Our shelter’s not very big but our walls are strong if you’re looking for a safe place for tonight.

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Rylo looks down to Briony and waits with baited breath for her answer to the invitation.

Briony: That’s really generous, but no thanks. We’re doing good. It was nice meeting you!

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Man: It was nice meeting you both as well. It’s so good to see other families who are still hanging on. Good luck out there!

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The two carry on in the quickly darkening forest. It’s nearly nightfall and Rylo knows they have no shelter and no clue where dinner will be coming from, but for some reason he can’t explain to himself, in this moment he feels he has infinitely more than he ever has.

Alrighty, bit of a longer chapter than I usually write but that’s probably a good thing. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve written a chapter and felt like, happy.

It’s kind of a foreign concept here, but I think I kinda like it. Let’s hope it lasts.

Chapter 4.15- Direct Harassment

7 Jun

Hey, welcome back! We’ll start off the post with yet another birthday of a random spare, cause why not.

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This is Jeyna, Sam and Dorah’s youngest. They pretty much all look just like Oscar, so nothing too spectacular here.

Anyways, last week Briony found a new home and Rylo peaced out. Let’s see how that’s working out for them.

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When Briony had first stepped onto the porch, the woman, who Briony now knows to be called Carlene, thrust a broom into her hands and upended a bucket of water onto the floor. Briony was instructed to “scrub until all the water’s gone” and left alone.

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When this is completed Carlene instructs her to carry in two basketloads of wood to start the cooking fire for dinner. The first two loads are both deemed “not enough”, and Briony is directed to make the trip twice more, nearly toppling over from the weight.

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Rylo spends his afternoon trekking resolutely through the forest, straining to find the familiar sounds of birdsong and leaves blowing in the wind. Both seem to be absent on this still afternoon, and Rylo is acutely aware of the deafening ring of silence in his ears.

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Briony is then shown to the pantry and told to whip up some dinner. This is something she knows she’s good at, and thinks back to the spiced dishes she would help her mother make.

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This family has next to no spices, but Briony is nevertheless able to make a slightly flavourless but filling potato-based soup. Not quite tall enough to reach the oven, she teeters on a spindly old chair, nearly tipping over into the fire a few times.

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For his dinner, Rylo scrounges for more of the brown mushrooms that Briony had shown him. As he eats he realizes he must have acquired a taste for them, detecting a note of creamy sweetness he hadn’t noticed before.

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Once her soup is ready, Briony serves the family. They say nothing to her, and in fact hardly seem to notice her.

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She retreats into a corner, leaning against the rough log walls as she eats her dinner alone.

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Meanwhile, Rylo builds his fire for the night. The air is chill and damp, and it takes some time for the dewy logs to hold a flame.

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Having finished eating, Aaron and the boys head off to their respective bedrooms for the night. Briony looks questioningly at Carlene.

Carlene: Wouldn’t want the dishes to sit out dirty all night.

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Briony knows it’s best to take the hint, and sets to work clearing the table.

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Inside the tiny kitchen she finds a bucket of water already waiting for her, and begins scrubbing the tower of dirty dishes. By the time she’s finished her eyes are heavy and her back is aching for sleep. She’s just finished replacing the last bowl in the cupboard when she feels a hand grab her arm and yank her backward.

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Briony can only comply as Carlene jerks her across the tiny room. The pantry door opens, and Briony is shoved in.

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Her head slams against a shelf, and she brings her hand up to feel for blood. The door shuts, and she’s left in the dark.

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Satisfied that she isn’t bleeding, Briony scrambles to escape. She hears the click of what can only be a lock, and settles back down on the floor.

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Lying on the hard ground, Rylo waits for sleep. The stars above seem to bore into his eyes, keeping him wide awake late into the night.

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For Briony, sleep comes with her head cradled between her knees and the wall. For long stretches she sits awake in the darkness, listening to the creak of the house in the wind.

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Morning is announced suddenly, with the door being wrenched open and light searing her eyes.

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Again she is dragged by the arm and ordered by Joshua, the eldest son, to get breakfast on.

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Rylo huddles by his fire, trying to soak in the last waves of heat before he has to move on for the day. It didn’t rain last night, but Rylo feels soaked to the bone.

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Over the course of the next few days, Briony learns the entire chore list that is expected of her. In addition to cooking and cleanup, she spends every second morning washing the family’s clothes. She works submerged to the elbows in some mixture of water and a harsh soap that Carlene makes herself.

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She’s also responsible for the general tidiness of the house, and has to make beds and pick up dirty clothes left out by the boys.

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Her least despised task is caring for the garden. Carlene only seems to have been able to grow cabbage, potatoes, and one weak tomato plant, and Briony relishes the challenge of bringing some life back into the garden. She builds up her courage to suggest to Carlene that the garden might benefit from ladybugs to combat pests, and perhaps even bringing in more fertile soil and replanting. Her advice is met with a cold hard stare, and a reminder to stick to her own chores.

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While Aaron is silently grumpy and completely ignores her, Carlene seems to become more and more ornery towards Briony. She seems to speed up as she walks past Briony, often coming close enough to knock her backwards into a wall.

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Joshua prefers more direct harassment. When he’s not cutting firewood or killing the zombies that get stuck on the walls, he jostles himself up against Briony, stepping in front of her to block her path. When she finally gets by him, he seems to enjoy the fact that it’s only because he allowed her to.

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Kane, who seems to be a few years younger than Briony, goes days without even looking at her. That’s fine with Briony, as she knows she’s too old to play in the dirt like silly children anyways.

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Rylo goes days without seeing any meat that isn’t rotting off a zombie. Finally, on the fourth day, he gets within a spectacularly close range of a red fox. It doesn’t seem to have noticed him at all. He inhales slowly, holds the breath, and releases his arrow.

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It sails high over the fox’s head, and the fox bolts. Rylo stands up in confusion.

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Frustrated, he takes aim again. He inhales, holds the breath, and stops.

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Rylo drops his bow to his side and watches the fox disappear.

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He walks for a time, and hits a lake. It stretches widely across the horizon, taunting him with the impossibility of continuing in this direction.

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Rylo considers his options. He could choose a direction, and follow the boundary of the lake. Or he could turn back.

His feet make the choice before his head fully understands it, but as soon as he starts he knows it’s the right choice.

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In a few hours, Rylo is crouched behind a stone wall, peering through a gate at a little girl loading firewood into a basket.

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Briony stacks the wood carefully, flinching at every aggressive crack of the axe behind her. With the basket as full as she can manage, she stands up to begin the trip into the house.

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Joshua: Hey!

Briony drops the basket and whirls around.

Joshua: My mother told you to bring in wood for a cooking fire. Not candles for a birthday cake!

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Briony stands frozen, until Joshua steps forward and starts kicking wood at her.

Joshua: Go on then, load up!

Briony rushes to fill the basket while being pelted with split logs.

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All the while, Rylo watches.

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The basket is nearly overflowing, and as hard as she tries, Briony is unable to lift it. She looks pleadingly at Joshua, who stares back with an ugly look on his face.

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Joshua: You lazy little shit!

Briony falls back as his hand cracks painfully across her face. Disoriented, she blinks tears from her eyes and scrambles away through the dirt.

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She hears it before she sees it. There’s a whoosh of air, and then Joshua collapses with a hole in his throat that definitely wasn’t there before.

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Rylo vaults over the wall and hurls himself towards Briony who is staring wide-eyed at the pathetic gasping boy.

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Rylo wraps an arm around her and sweeps her onto her feet as the air is cut by a high, piercing scream.

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The cry brings Carlene and Aaron rushing out onto the porch. Carlene gasps as she discerns her eldest son clawing weakly at the blood bubbling from the gash in his neck.

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Rylo hoists Briony up onto the fence, and she tumbles over onto the other side. By the time Rylo is over she’s back on her feet, running full tilt beside him.

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The last Rylo and Briony hear of the family is Carlene’s furious shrieking, interspersed with Kane’s loud sobs.

Man, last week you guys really outdid me with ideas of freaky shit this family was gonna do to Briony. Locking her in a pantry was pretty tame compared to cannibalism and forced wifey stuff. Stay weird, everybody.

Chapter 4.14- Theatrics and Absurdity

31 May

Oh hey. Welcome back to Rylo and Briony’s amazing road trip. Let’s first stop off at Joey and Marina’s house, where there’s been a birthday.

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Graham’s grown into a child, and I can’t pinpoint why, but he’s sorta goofy looking. Oh well.

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Rylo falls asleep that night waiting for piercing stomach pains or some other symptom to let him know that Briony has succeeded in poisoning him with their dinner of brown mushrooms. One never comes, and he sleeps through the night as healthy as ever.

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In the morning they continue on their journey to nowhere in particular. The next few days are filled with the same incessant questions (“How did you meet my mom?” “Did you steal that crossbow?” “Do you have a mom?”) all of which Rylo stoically ignores.

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On the third day, Briony seems to catch on, and her questions turn sarcastic (“Why are you such a nice guy?” “Where do the stars go in the daytime?” “Where does your poop go after you bury it?” and on and on and on). Finally Rylo cracks.

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Rylo: Enough!!

Briony: Does it stay in the ground forever? I bet the ground’s full of poop and nobody knows it.

Rylo: Why are you such an attention seeking brat?

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Briony: Because you stink like poop and act like poop and that’s where all the poop goes is into you and that’s what makes you the way you are!

The theatrics and absurdity of this outburst take Rylo aback, and he stands speechless, staring at this tiny exploding person.

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Then, unable to contain it any longer, he doubles over in laughter. Briony manages about two seconds of stony silence before starting to giggle.

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Rylo struggles to catch his breath, and notices some sort of tension, or some sort of weight seems to have been lifted.

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Rylo turns and resumes walking, listening for the reassuring sound of footsteps behind him. Question period seems to have ended, and they carry on peacefully for the next few hours.

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Of course, peace can only last so long in a wilderness populated by zombies, and its interruption is often signaled by a rustling of underbrush.

On high alert, Rylo swings his crossbow off his back, feeling the familiar coursing of adrenaline through his muscles.

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The cause of the sound stares back at them, its orange coat a sharp contrast to the surrounding foliage.

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It turns to run, and Rylo’s stomach growls.

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He takes aim, and a bolt lands squarely between the fox’s shoulders, pinning it to the ground.

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Before he’s even had time to lower his bow Briony bolts out ahead of him. She crashes through the brush and lands heavily next to the dying animal.

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Confused, Rylo approaches Briony, who is running her fingers gently through the fox’s bloodstained coat. She murmurs something quiet and song-like as the fox strains, its front legs struggling against the ground. It’s back legs are disturbingly still.

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Rylo: Briony, we have to eat.

Briony: I know. It’s okay. I just don’t want him to be scared and hurting when he goes.

Rylo: Okay.

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Rylo pulls out his knife, and Briony lets a few quiet sobs escape. Once it’s done, she releases a long, slow breath, and stands up.

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Rylo had been expecting some protest about today’s lunch, but Briony seems to have no qualms about eating the fox. Then again, it’s the first thing they’ve both had to eat today.

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Once they’ve had their fill, Rylo stamps out the fire and randomly chooses a direction. As they walk, Rylo wonders if Briony knows they have no idea where they’re going and essentially no chance of finding what they’re looking for. Rylo knows that this faint hope might be all that’s keeping her content right now, and decides to say nothing about it for the time being.

They carry on, stepping over logs and winding their way around the thicker brush. Rylo lifts a low-hanging branch to pass underneath, and then stops.

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Up ahead, the peaceful little dwelling that Rylo thought they’d never find stands sheltered in a meadow.

He knows it’s more likely to be inhabited by zombies or bad people than good people, and he creeps slowly towards it. Briony seems to understand, and her steps are soundless behind his.

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As they crouch behind the stone fence, they hear the noises of life. The rhythmic crack of an axe splitting firewood, the reluctant sound of weeds being pulled from the ground.

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Rylo: I’m going to take a look.

Briony: If they see you first they’ll be terrified. I’ll look.

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Slowly Briony moves up along the stone wall, surveying the scene of the little home.

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Closest to them, a woman tends her meager garden. Further back, a wiry teenager chops wood while a dirty little child huddles on the porch.

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His curiosity gets the better of him, and Rylo joins Briony in scrutinizing the little family.

Rylo: Looks normal enough. The wall isn’t great but the house has no windows so that probably helps with safety.

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Rylo: The only weapon I’m seeing is the kid with the axe, and he’s  pretty far off. Not much to worry about if they decide to attack us.

Briony: Uh oh.

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The gardening woman rises to her feet, looking back at them in alarm.

Woman: What do you want?

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Rylo and Briony stand speechless. The sound of logs being chopped stops, and they become acutely aware of the many pairs of eyes now fixated on them.

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Rylo: ….

Briony: Sorry to scare you, ma’am. I’m an orphan, looking for a home.

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Woman: Who’s that man, then?

Rylo: Uhh… nobody. I was just helping her find somewhere safe is all. Once she’s safe I’m leaving.

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The woman’s voice comes out flat and indifferent.

Woman: Well you won’t find a home here. I’ve got too many mouths to feed as it is.

Briony: Please! I can work!

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Woman: Aaron!

Rylo and Briony both stand feeling as though their hearts are trying to escape their chests.

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The door creaks open and a sleepy looking man lumbers out. Rylo and Briony take a step back, preparing to run, but the man stops on the porch and blinks his small bleary eyes. Briony tries again.

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Briony: I can take care of your garden, and clean, and cook, and mend torn clothes! I’ll work all day if I have to.

Rylo: She’s a good girl, and stronger than she looks.

Briony: Please!

Woman: Aaron?

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Aaron peers down at the scene disinterestedly. The woman turns, and joins him on the porch.

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She whispers hurriedly into his ear, and he seems to tolerate the conversation as an annoyance, offering no reply of his own. The woman stops whispering and looks expectantly at him. He offers a grunt and a non-committal wave of his hand, and then disappears back inside the house.

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Rylo and Briony, who have been straining to hear what is being said, watch nervously as the woman turns to face them.

Woman: Come. We have floors to be washed.

Rylo hears Briony breathe a sigh of relief.

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Wordlessly they turn to each other, and Rylo realizes he has no idea what to do next. Briony seems equally dazed.

Rylo: …okay.

Briony: Okay.

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And then she turns and walks towards the gate. She pushes it open and steps through. Rylo takes a few unsure steps backwards, and then turns and trudges off into the forest.

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Briony steps apprehensively towards the house, slows, and looks back. She watches wide-eyed as Rylo melts back into the trees, and then the strike of an axe against wood rouses her.

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Briony climbs the four creaking stairs to the porch, and the woman hands her a broom.

Chapter 4.13- That Dead Dog On Your Head

24 May

Hey guys. Last chapter ended with a not-so-awesome slumber party.

We’ve got Rylo and his estranged daughter sleeping in a dilapidated shack, seething with hatred for one another. Good times, good times.

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Rylo is just dropping into that pre-sleep stage where everything is warped and sweet and syrupy. His frustration with the child across the room begins to ooze into a dream featuring a little girl named Link, his mother, a red-headed teenager, and a big hairy dog.

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He’s roused slightly by a creak of floorboards, but his dream state explains it away as the thwang of a crossbow as he makes a clean kill on a stag deer.

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Footsteps fall, nearly soundlessly, moving from one end of the room to the other.

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And then the little girl is falling backwards, gasping as her back slams painfully into the wooden floor. Something heavy and metallic clatters across the room, coming to a rest in the shadows. A thick, muscled arm restrains the girl against the ground, although she’s in too much of a panic to even consider running.

Rylo narrows his eyes and peers into her wide terrified ones with suspicion.

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He then sees the hammer glinting in the darkness. His voice comes out hardly more than a murmur, low and menacing.

Rylo: You are not doing this.

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She gulps, and he releases his hold on her. He eases himself against his wall, watching the girl scramble back to her corner.

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She holds her head in her hands, shaking violently. Rylo maintains his vigilant watch until long after she falls asleep.

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The little girl takes his words to heart, and they both make it safely through the rest of the night. Her crying spells seem to have lessened, and she spends her morning gazing into the fire, assuming the posture of an ashamed dog.

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Rylo: We don’t have to talk about your little stunt with the hammer last night. But we’re going to have to figure out what to do here.

The little girl stares silently at the toe of her boot kicking a depression into the dirt.

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Rylo: If you’re trying to kill me in my sleep, you’d obviously rather be somewhere else.

Girl: ….

Rylo: Any ideas where that may be?

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Her voice comes out barely above a whisper.

Girl: I don’t know.

Rylo: ….

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They remain silent for some time, while Rylo mulls over his options.

Rylo: Let’s go.

Girl: Where?

Rylo: I don’t know. Somewhere. To find you a family you want to be with.

Girl: ….

Rylo: Get up, we’re going now.

Finally she raises her face to him, revealing red puffy eyes and tear-streaked cheeks. Wordlessly she follows him.

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Rylo marches resolutely into the woods, the girl trailing a few yards behind him. He knows the chances of finding a good family willing to take in this child are almost non-existent, but he hopes that having some kind of end goal might take the girl’s mind off trying to kill him again.

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After a few hours of blissful silence, a voice pipes up.

Girl: Why didn’t you try to kill me back?

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Rylo sighs heavily, and tries to come up with a response that will shut her up.

Rylo: You’re not supposed to kill your own kid. Laws of nature and stuff.

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Rylo crosses his fingers for her to stay silent, and is massively disappointed when she replies in that ridiculous sassy voice he’s getting so sick of.

Girl: I’m not going to call you dad.

Rylo: Good, I don’t want you to.

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Girl: Hey dad, guess what I-

Rylo: No.

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The girl seems to be taking pleasure in testing his patience, and Rylo huffs and speeds up his pace.

Girl: What’s your name?

Rylo: Rylo.

Girl: That’s stupid.

Rylo: I don’t care.

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Girl: My name’s Briony.

Rylo: Also don’t care.

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Rylo and Briony push through a break in the bushes to find an abandoned helicopter. Of course, they don’t know it’s a helicopter, they just see it as an angular chunk of rusted metal. But Rylo does know it will make for decent shelter.

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Briony settles herself onto a rock and watches Rylo drag firewood into a pile.

Briony: Why do you wear that dead dog on your head?

Rylo: That dead dog was my friend.

Briony: Oh. Remind me never to be your friend.

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Rylo: Noted.

Briony: Did you kill him?

Rylo: Her. And no, but I did eat her.

Briony: You’re crazy.

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Another moment of silence, and then another question.

Briony: Have you ever killed a person?

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Rylo: Weren’t you there the night your mom died?

Briony: But like, really on purpose.

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The fire roars to life in it’s cradle of dried mosses and Rylo lifts himself back up off the ground.

Rylo: Yup.

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Briony: Why?

Rylo: Wanted to.

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Rylo lowers himself into a less dusty spot of grass and waits for the next prying question.

Briony: Just the one guy?

Rylo: Just the one guy.

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Briony gets off her rock and takes a step towards the fire.

Briony: …I could kill you.

Rylo: Oh yeah? How would you do that, assuming there’s no hammers around?

Briony: Poison.

Rylo: You couldn’t poison me.

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Briony: You’d better believe it, I could.

Rylo: Okay, how?

Briony: Plants. My mom taught me.

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Rylo: If you know so much about plants, why you haven’t found any we can eat yet?

Briony: Because I hate you and I hope you starve.

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Rylo: I’m not going to starve, I have a crossbow and about fifty pounds of annoying little girl to eat if I’m desperate.

Briony: You probably would eat a kid, you crazy person.

Rylo: You’re right, I would.

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Briony: Whatever. You can eat these brown mushrooms here. I’ve been eating them all along behind your back.

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Rylo: Oh, for fucks’s sakes!

He marches angrily off into the bushes to hunt down more of the mushrooms Briony claims are edible.

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Behind him, Briony lays down on the earth, staring up at the sky behind a frame of warped helicopter propellers.

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Rylo quickly finds more of the ugly rock-like mushrooms. He pulls one apart and tries to analyze its damp scent. Briony could be trying to poison him right now and he would have no way to know. He carries on collecting the mushrooms anyways, thinking that death might be easier than dealing with any more of her incessant questions.

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Rylo returns to the firepit and tosses some mushrooms to the girl.

Rylo: How do I know you’re not poisoning me with these?

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Briony: I’m not.

Rylo: Is that how your mom raised you? To poison people?

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Briony: My mom raised me to be smart, and to know how to use what’s around me.

She takes a bite, chews, and swallows. Rylo relaxes and bites into a mushroom.

Rylo: That’s a laugh. Last time I saw your mom she had no idea what was around her.

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Briony: …fuck you!

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Rylo: Can’t lie, this is actually pretty good.

And we’ll end this post here. I gotta say, I love Briony. That girl asks the burning questions we all probably have, and her homicidal threats are nothing short of adorable.

It’s like this, but with less chicken.

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