This past Dystopia Rising game was emotionally tough for me. I don’t usually say it, but I tend to use the stories as a way of processing everything that’s happened on a weekend. So, when I have some very tough weekends, these are super helpful to me. So yeah…
Note – There are some topics here that can absolutely trigger some people, so be warned that there is self-harm described within the story.
“What are those?” the Ascensor asked quietly, his head tilted to the side with confusion.
“Playing cards,” she answered as she shuffled them up again, “Mister Oddfellow gave them to me.”
“What do you do with them?” He shifted the spear in his paw.
“You play black jack.”
“How do you play?” He sat down across from the Iron and rested his spear against the back wall of the medical center. He smiled gently as the Iron dealt out the cards and started to teach him the simple game.
The flames flickered around the logs in the fireplace. Red and gold dancing back and forth. Violently. Mirroring the pain from the memories and images racing through the Iron’s mind. A large mug of hooch sat in her hands as she stared at the flames.
“Why do you like my glow so much?” She shifted her head from where it rest on his stomach so that she could look him in the eyes.
“I’m ascending. I’m losing my humanity. But your glow, it’s like a lantern. It keeps me grounded.”
She nodded and returned her head to his stomach and looked back up at the stars. “Your bells, I hear them and I know I’m safe.”
Someone scraped their chair across the floor on the other side of the room. The Iron slowly turned her head to look and see who it was. She saw a flash of blue tribal markings on their outfit. Someone from Warsong. No one important right now. She turned back to watching the flames.
“Jeanie,” the Curie muttered softly, “You don’t have to lose all emotions to evolve. You can grow and use them.”
“But what about Sliphox?”
“Talk to him. Tell him what you found in the Gravemind. Tell him you love him.”
Jeanie sighed and slowly put the mug down beside her. It was cold in the room. She slid her arms into the brown leather coat. For a moment, she paused and the tears welled up in her eyes. Caleb had helped her find this coat when her other one started getting too thin.
Gentle paws rested on each cheek and his forehead rested against hers, but she still couldn’t look him in the eye. “Jeanie, I will never leave you. I will always take care of you and protect you. You are my mate and I love you.”
She quickly brushed the tears from her eyes. It was over. It wasn’t worth crying when that would change nothing. As she lowered her hand, she noticed the scar, a rover promise that he made to protect her, faded. The lightest shade of pink. It could barely be seen.
“Of all people,” Delta scolded her, “you rely on an Ascensor of autumn, an Ascensor of Hedon, and a Pure Blood of Hedon? You should be relying on your faith. The ones you are relying on are holding you back.”
“You want to take her choice away?” Caleb asked, appalled. It looked as though he was going to launch himself over the table to hit Delta.
“I want her to evolve.”
“Jeanie,” the familiar gentle voice began. “What do you want?”
“I…” she stuttered, “I don’t know.”
“She won’t know. She needs a pivotal moment. So, you fight me to the death. Or, I will take her from this town until she evolves.”
“Jeanie,” he gently and painfully asked again, “do you want this?”
Delta had made it clear that her reliance on others was holding her back. She held on to way too many people. She quickly glanced around the room. Someone was passed out with their knife on the floor next to them. She grabbed the knife and slid the blade into the flames.
The Iron then opened her bag to all the letters she had saved up. She began separating them into two piles. Muttering about what was going on as she went. Notes on science, the grave, evolution, radiation, disease… Anything of pure fact went to the pile on the left. The rest, went on the right. When the piles were sorted, the notes and facts were carefully returned to her bag. The pile of letters was then pulled into her hands.
A letter from Nevada on the railroad? A letter from Glitter about traveling safely through the wastes. A letter from Dorito about the Underground Iron Horse. A letter from Dusty about the family of Dock Workers. An invitation to Shea’s wedding and a letter about missing her Iron daughter. A note from Yossarian about her improvements in reading and writing. A note from Jinx about finding the mother of No-Glow. A letter from Medic on taking care of a burn. Letters from Cadence about finding her inner strength. A letter from Jimmy about surviving the tank heart. A card from Rosemary, who never gave up. Two letters from Sal hoping to help them both get through the frustrations of their strain. A note from her niece, Honey Badjur. A letter from the sister that had raised her. A letter from Russell on the rover’s travels. A letter from Disco on growing in the faith.
A pile of letters, people who had reached out to the Iron to help her. A pile of paper in the hands of the Iron. A flick of her wrist and the entire pile was tossed into the flames. The dancing red and gold swallowing the paper and messages of love.
One last letter, written on a scrap of fabric and still faintly smelling of spices, the first letter that Caleb had ever sent her. She gripped it tightly in her hand. A deep breath pushed the tears away from her eyes and the fabric was also tossed to the flames.
The Iron slid the white hat from Medic off her head. A second later, she pulled the Juggalo hat from Bones out of her bag. Both were thrown into the flames.
Jeanie then slid her necklace off and began tearing pieces off the chain. Goodbye to the beads from Wave. Goodbye to the anchor from Dusty. Goodbye to the craftsman charm from her Sister. Anything that she held on to as a reminder of the past, tossed into the flames.
The added fuel made the flames dance brighter and faster. The knife sitting amongst them glowing red from the heat of the fire.
Jeanie stared at the beaten and bloodied form of her Ascensorite, her Caleb, as he struggled to breathe where he was curled up in the snow. The snow around hims was slowly growing a deeper and deeper red.
“Evolution is supposed to hurt. Lean on your faith and not people around you.”
She carefully rolled up her sleeve. A tattoo of dots upon her wrist. Red for promises made. Caleb. Cadence. Blue for those she had left behind. Her sister. Emily. Black for those the grave had taken from her. Medic. Caleb March. Cadence. Ethan. Green for those who had left the Iron behind. Yossarian. Disco. Agustus. Shea. Doctor Thomas. Mister Oddfellow. All people she relied on and continued to hold onto. People who were holding her back.
She jammed the heated knife into the tattoo and dug into the skin. There was a sizzle from her skin meeting the red hot blade and a bit of smoke started to snake it’s way into the air from the tattoo. She wriggled the knife through the dots destroying every piece of their existence, the heat of the blade cauterizing the wound and keeping blood from dripping to the floor.
She dropped the blade to the floor and grabbed the cup of hooch, dumping the remaining alcohol onto the wound before wrapping her wrist up in a bandage. She’d find a doctor for it later.
The iron grabbed her bag and stood up brushing any remaining tears from her eyes.
“Be the bird, I know you can become.”
“Jeanie died with Caleb,” she muttered, coldly, pushing aside any emotion or memories and locking them away. “Delta gave you a precipice to evolve from. You held on to everything. You held on to Caleb. You were stagnant, an Iron who couldn’t get over the past. That’s all gone now.”
“Only a bird of prey, a Raptor, remains.”