Long Time Coming

I’m drifting around aimlessly, taking a swig from the drink in my hand every now and then, when I spot Kimberly along one of the paths. She grins lasciviously at me, and I grin back. Kimberly has now hit on me more times than I can count. She’s good-looking and definitely wild; just my type – well, for a casual hook-up, anyway. And, because of Charlotte, I know for a fact that she’s a firecracker in bed.

Charlotte is the main reason I’ve rebuffed all of Kimberly’s advances. They were mostly monogamous, as far as I know. The breakup was over baby drama: they couldn’t agree on who the father should be. C’est la vie. Things were rocky in our little group for a little while, but we’re finally stable again. Charlotte and Kimberly are no longer a couple, but they’ve managed to remain friends. And thank goodness: Santiago and I knew all along that they wouldn’t last, but Kimberly really grew on us. We were both happy not to have to choose sides. For better or for worse, Kimberly is one of us. And now that she’s no longer attached to Charlotte, she’s fair game, I thought.

I curl an arm around Kimberly’s waist and pull her close. “Wanna check out the Pillow Room?” I purr, my face very close to hers.

She pauses. “Uhh,” she says, looking surprised.

I laugh. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you speechless before.”

She laughs, too. “And I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this drunk before.”

“Well, why don’t you accompany me over there? Keep me safe. You know…  just in case.”

“In case any wild lesbians decide to jump your bones?” she teases.

I wink at her. “Something like that.”

The Pillow Room is surprisingly empty when we arrive. Removing my shoes, I sit on one of the few cots that still has a mattress on the springs instead of on the floor. Kimberly sits down next to me. “So–”

I cut her off by pulling her face to mine. I kiss her aggressively, my tongue eagerly exploring her mouth. She answers by wrapping her arms around me.

I jump when door opens. Pepper bursts in with Kohana, who is one of the Saratoga hippies and Joani’s spouse, along with some other guy not too far behind them.

“I’m telling you, they were transcendental balls of energy!” Pepper is insisting to Kohana.

Kohana gestures to Kimberly and I on the cot. “Are they transcendental balls of energy, too?”

Pepper scoffs. “No, they’re lesbians. It’s different.”

Kimberly and I burst out laughing and sit up. Kohana and the other man join us on the bed while Pepper mutters more about transcendental energy and gesticulates wildly.

I glance at the stranger and stick my hand out. “Hey. Katherine.”

“Jerred,” he says, shaking my hand.

“So, what’s going on?” I ask.

Kohana answers, “Pepper’s taken… something… and now thinks that people are balls of energy.”

I glance at Pepper. “…huh. But not us, eh?”

“No,” Pepper insists. “The others were transcendental balls of energy. You guys are just people.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, bemused. Pepper cocks his head, contemplating me.

Kohana takes in our disheveled appearance. “I’m sorry, did I interrupt something?”

“Well, yeah,” I say. “We were just about to–”

“But it’s not exactly interrupting if you’re planning to join us,” Kimberly interrupts me.

I open my mouth to protest, then close it again. Oh, what the hell? I think to myself. It might be fun. My philosophy has always been that some dick every now and again can be fun, as long as it doesn’t happen too often, and the dick doesn’t want a relationship afterwards.

“Whaddya say, Katherine?” says Kimberly, a gleam in her eye. In response, I lean over her and begin making out with Kohana.

Soon there is only a tangle of bodies and limbs, and even I can’t tell who’s who.

Close Call

NOTE: This post contains spoilers related to the Lottery of Death.

As a player, I’m not entirely sure where in the timeline the Lottery of Death happens. I think that’s probably unclear on purpose; since it’s not the way things “really” happen (well, as far as we living people know, anyway).

People are in good spirits until the bell rings, signaling that the Lottery is about to begin. The room goes silent as ominous music fills the room. I sit close to Santiago, my left arm linked through her right. Nate already has a tear sliding down his face. I smile at him, slightly bemused. “Already?”

Santiago gives me a Look. “Well, yeah. This is scary,” she says. I immediately wipe the smile off my face and nod somberly. She’s right.

One of the two Agents of Death passes out small pieces of paper to write our names on: one for the least risky behavior over the past year, up to five for very risky. Everyone must throw their name in at least once. The second Agent collects the names in a hat from which they will pull the names of the unfortunate. I am unsure whether to put my name in two times or three, but in the end decide to go with my original instinct and put in three. Death announces that they need ten names. Ten? I think, looking around. steps There were roughly forty people. That’s a lot.

Death asks Pepper to pull the names. Pepper steps out of the kitchen and comes to stand at the front of the room. He reaches into the hat and begins reading off the names, not pausing for more than a second or two between each. “Sam. Tomasz. Max.” As each name is called, that person stands up and goes to the front of the room to wait.

“Simon. Leon. Ruben. Trevor.” The room is silent save for the music and Pepper’s solemn voice.

“Joani.” Gasps all around the room, and one high-pitched voice lets out a horrified wail of, “What!?” I am slightly shaken, myself. I knew Joani. Not well, but I knew her. She was a bit of a quack, but she was kind and she had a good heart.

“Dawn.” I hear a choked sob, and look over to see Charlotte’s shoulders shaking. I am sad for her, but feel surprisingly calm: lots of people were more risky than me and my friends. I become more and more relieved as names are called and none are people I am close with.

“…and Katherine.”

Santiago and I look at each other in shock. I hesitate, then realize they are waiting for me. I stand up to join the crowd of names that had been pulled, my eyes wide. This isn’t real. This isn’t happening. Santiago lets out a primal scream of grief that sounds almost inhuman. I jump, and look over numbly. Her face is buried in her arms.

“Please follow us outside. The rest of you, wait here.”

I fall into line in a daze as we follow of the Agents of Death dressed in black. As we march outside single file, I am filled with regret. “I made stupid choices,” I thought. “I should not have been so careless.” One anguished thought rises above the others: “I’m not ready to die!”

They lead us outside to a field behind the cabins. “Wait here. Do not speak.” We are left with the Angel of Death. I am standing amongst nine other people, and yet I have never felt so alone in my life. Tears stream down my face. We wait for what feels like forever before we are told to advance down the field. I can hear the distant strains of the same sad music from inside wafting down the field.

I see coffins in the distance. Only five? I squint in confusion. We are stopped about ten feet from the coffins. “Those of you who see your names in the coffins, lay down in them. If you are covered with a shroud, then you have passed on. The others who see your names in a coffin have contracted the virus, but you may not know it yet. The rest of you have had a near-death experience sometime later this year, but you survive.” My stomach drops as I advance, skimming the names in search of my own.

It isn’t there.

It takes a moment for the news to sink in. I’m not dead? I back away from the coffins and see the rest of the crowd starting to approach. Santiago rushes at me and envelops me in a bear hug. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” I find Charlotte and Kimberly and hug them, too. I look around at the crowd, which is a mixture of people embracing and sobbing. There are two bodies still in the coffins. I don’t remember who.

The music slowly dies down, and the Angel of Death faces us solemnly. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Leon.” The former disco star. I hear more gasping sobs from the people around me. The Angel of Death looks around sadly. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Simon.” The rock star? He was part of Urban Renaissance.

As the opening notes of Just A Little Lovin’ trickle from the speakers, there are no words. The vastly different cliques mingle, embracing both friends and strangers, united in their grief.