Evolution

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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.

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“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.”

 

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What’s Your Function?

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The following is based on the events of the most recent Dystopia Rising game. Dystopia Rising is a live action roleplaying game put out by the amazing people at Eschaton Media. It is a dystopian waste land in the time after humanity was destroyed by the zombie apocalypse. This world is dark, frustrating, and a world where zombies are no longer the terror, but a way of life. The character of Jeanie is my own original character. The rest of the characters are property of the players who created them and the story tellers who ran the plot.

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“Have you been training with Caleb?”

Jeanie stared up at the man from where she’d been sitting with her research notes in front of her. “What?”

“I asked you a question. Have you been training with Caleb, like I told you, or have you been sitting here, staring at paper, being lazy.”

Jeanie rolled her eyes.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me. Everybody needs a function. They don’t need people being lazy and doing stuff for ’em. Now, are you a functional unit? Did you do your job and train with Caleb?”

“I’m not a unit.” Jeanie looked up from what she was studying. “I already told you this.”

“You’re an Iron. Of course, you’re a unit. And answer the question.”

Jeanie sighed and put the bundle of notes down on the table. “I don’t have a number. I’m not a unit.”

“Of course you have a number. Just cause you don’t know it doesn’t mean you don’t have it.”

Jeanie rolled her eyes and picked up the bundle of research again. Her eyes scanned the writing, trying to find the last spot she had been reading.

“So, you’re just gonna be lazy then?”

Jeanie sighed and flung the bundle onto the table. “I’m not lazy and I already told you, last time I saw you. Yes, I trained with Caleb.”

“What did he teach you?” the man crossed his arms and rocked his hips.

“To use my knives.”

“How do I know you’re being serious?”

“We spent a half hour sparring. He bruised up my right shoulder real bad. Cut me up a few times with his knife. I clocked him in the jaw real good though.”

“I don’t see no cuts.”

“He’s my mate and a priest. He healed me up. He doesn’t like to see me hurt.”

“He’s a priest? So, he’s lazy?”

“No.” Jeanie sighed. “He teaches people to fight so they can defend themselves.” She paused and grimaced. “That’s his function.”

“He’s a priest. So he’s lazy!”

Jeanie groaned. “No. He’s not. He’s a hard worker. He is teaching me to fight.”

“Good! Means you won’t be lazy. You’ll be a unit with a function.” His gaze shifted to the left. “Excuse me,” he started in as he hurried off to get someone’s attention.

Jeanie stared at him for a moment before lifting both middle fingers into the air and shaking them back and forth.

“Jeanie, what are you doing?” There was a chuckle, a kiss placed upon her forehead, and a familiar spear was placed on the table next to her by a black furred paw.

“Just expressing my feelings to the idiot Hansfield who keeps on insisting that he treat me like a slave.”

Still Alive

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This story takes place in the Dystopia Rising world, after the events of the recent national game known as Downfall. Now, I was not at Downfall, but that does not mean the events of the game did not effect my character. In fact, they did and in a major way. So here is her response to Downfall. As is normal, Jeanie is a character of my own. The other characters mentioned are from other players. The world is a post apocolyptic zombie filled wasteland, created by the amazing people at Eschaton Media. You should seriously check this stuff out. It’s amazing.

**********

Jeanie stared down at the letter in her hands.

My God! He’s still alive!

Still alive? That could be only one person. Everyone else, every other person memorialized in her tattoo, she knew whether or not they were alive. That was partly because of the colors involved and partly because she had been in touch with all but one of those who were marked with green ink. All but one. Only the one had ever been questioned.

She glanced back down to the words on the small page.

My God! He’s still alive!

The Iron shoved the note roughly into the black pocket hanging from her hip. This couldn’t be happening. He left her. He was the one who had decided to get so wrapped up in his science that he walked away. And stayed away. For three years.

It was easier to think he was dead then to think he had left.

Jeanie turned and made her way outside. She pushed past anyone who was between her and the door. Who cares if there were slavers outside? She needed to be out of the Dunwich. She needed to do something. Anything. Not just sit around at the bar. She walked over to to Caleb and the group of new fish he was standing with. The Iron pushed her way into the center of the group and in front of the Ascensorite.

“Give me your armor,” she demanded holding her hand out for the piece.

“Why?” Caleb asked, slowly. Trying to piece together what was happening.

“So I can fix it.”

Caleb nodded and began to unbuckle the armor. “So, take some time. Figure out which weapon you want to learn and come find me later. Okay?” He slid his head out from under the large Keystone and handed the contraption to Jeanie. She immediately turned and began to hurry down the hill towards the workbench on the other side of the field, ignoring the steady ringing of bells that signaled Caleb was following her.

Upon arrival at the small building, she pulled open the door and threw the armor across the small room and onto the workbench. She threw herself onto the chair next to it and grabbed the armor to find any potential blemish, scuff, crack, anything. She needed to work on something.

The door creaked open and she glanced up quickly and then back down to the armor when she saw that it was just Caleb. He quietly sat down on a nearby chair, his knife in his hand. He didn’t say a word to interrupt her thoughts or her work.

What the fucking hell? He told her he cared about her. He gave her his last name and called her his daughter. And then he up and fucking disappears. Leaves without a trace and chooses not to return despite the fact that she had made it clear she wanted him around especially when she went into the gravemind. Instead, he fucking leaves her for some damn science project in his lab and he gets so freaking caught up that he doesn’t give any word.

Jeanie slammed her hammer into the metal of the keystone, banging out some of the dents in it. Her hand was tightly gripped around the handle, her finger nails digging into the palm.

Everyone thought he was dead but Jeanie had kept believing. He was just doing science. He would come back. He always did. But no. He didn’t come back. Eventually, even Jeanie had let go of the idea that he was still alive. Let herself be okay with the fact that he was dead and never coming back. For the longest time, the only reason she had stayed in Hayven was because she wanted to be there when he came back. Once she was willing to admit that her father had died, there had been no more reason to stick around. She had moved. She found her new home.

Jeanie sighed. She couldn’t find any more dents to fix.

“Give me your mother’s milk.”

Caleb looked up at Jeanie. “I don’t have any,” he said quietly.

“Bull shit. I want it.”

“I used it on Rain.”

“What about your collar?”

Caleb pointed to his bare neck. “It’s at the caravan til I can get more needles for it.”

Jeanie groaned and rolled her eyes. “Your armor’s done. Go back to teaching your students.” She turned and left the building. Caleb followed behind her, buckling his armor as he went.

She hurried back up the hill and into the Dunwich tavern, Caleb quietly following her the entire time. She glanced around and her eyes fell upon short pink hair.

Jeanie hurried over to the remnant girl, not caring whether or not Caleb continued to follow or not.

“Raven,” Jeanie interrupted the reaper’s conversation with Jerome. “Take me hunting with you. Now, please. I need to kill something.”

Home?

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The lake was quiet. No river hunters. No groans. No boats. No motors. No hard working dock workers fixing something up or singing their dock songs. Just quiet. Sometimes the breeze would cause a few waves to rock the docks for a moment. But otherwise, the place was quiet.

It was a good place to think.

Sitting with legs crossed and elbows on her knees, the Iron looked out over the quiet water. Unlike the quiet that was around her, her mind raced with the chaos of a hundred things that needed to be sort through. Thoughts of the past month and everything that had happened, everything that had been said. Nothing was understandable right now.

First there was Ripton. There was Cadence Lloyd and Bloom and Ruth. There were 9 pieces of the gravemind and a deal made and kept. There was a corn farm, kidnappings, torture. Hiding in the dark under blankets to keep her glow from being seen. Sliphox threatening to disappear, then promising to never leave. The archivist. The toy box. The wandering man. So many things.

Ripton was no more.

But then there was the Grove. Ethan, the Full Dead, and his blunt questions that Jeanie answered with painful submission from years of slavery. The sudden and unexpected offer he gave. Legal freedom. No more slavers with her name on a list of runaways. No more painful encounters with Carthage Units trying to hunt her down. Protection. Plus the Dockworkers Union and the Summerwind Caravan no longer in danger with the Iron Works for helping a runaway.

And there was Sliphox. Her ascensorite. Caring, protective, and funny. The closest to full freedom that Jeanie had ever felt. Someone who promised to never leave and kept his promise with a rover’s sincerity. Someone who let Jeanie feel the joy of relaxing and was there to comfort her when she needed help. He would be at the Grove too. And he was her reason for getting up every day. He was her reason for living. He was what Cadence told her to find. What she understood in the gravemind and what Jess, the Snaking Bend guy, had told her to go be with.

Hayven certainly wasn’t trying to get her to stay. Dusty had proved that people didn’t want to talk to her. Shea was leaving. The Darwinists didn’t really acknowledge her presence. There was just the Dockworkers Union and they would be there whereever she went. But in the end, Hayven was lonely. People didn’t really care or seem to want her around. They just ignored her.

Except when they didn’t.

When suddenly all the Dockworkers were interrogating Sliphox to make sure he took care of Jeanie. When everywhere she turned, people were threatening him to treat Jeanie well. Jeanie asked them why. Yossarian said “because people care about you.” Sparrow had said that he would try to convince her to stay. He wanted her to see that this was her home.

But then, what was home? Was that where you lived? Then her home had been Motor City and now was Hayven. But people always said home was more than that. Home was where the heart is. But of course that didn’t make sense. Because then your home was in your chest and that’s not what people meant even if they never said it that way. And Jess hadn’t talked about home but he said it was okay to go to other places and move there even and if Hayven was really her home why would he say that it was okay to move away?

The Iron sighed. The worst part of having emotions was that now she had all these feelings and they would twist her stomach up into painful knots til she wanted to heave, yet, she still had no idea what to do with any of it. She still had no idea how to handle what she was feeling or what other people meant when they felt things or did things.

Jeanie stood and brushed off her pants. She’d think more on this later. Maybe Jimmy could help her figure out what it all meant. For now, she’d go see with the rest of the Dockworker’s needed done.

Understanding

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This story is based on the events from a Dystopia Rising event. Dystopia Rising is a Live Action Roleplaying game (and tabletop roleplaying game) put out by the company Eschaton Media. It’s epic and amazing and best of all, it has zombies. So, please, check it out.

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It was cold. Jeanie was bundled up in her jacket in the hospital. The jacket was reinforced to provide some protection but it was broken right now. The Iron could easily have fixed the jacket, but it was too cold to take it off right now. Autumn had come early and brought with it winter cold. Even Bravo had been cold, despite only just being finished with the burning season. Here in Ripton Falls it was almost freezing out. When she got back to Hayven, she would have to get out her cold weather gear.

There were two others at the table with Jeanie. On her left was a familiar face with antlers and paws, but the eyes were different. Instead of the protective glance Sliphox would give,there was something else. There was fear. Sliphox wasn’t there. Instead, this was Caleb. Sliphox had been sleeping for a day now and Jeanie had been protecting the young Ascensorite as best as she could, praying that Sliphox would wake up soon and bring the spark she loved back into those eyes. On her right side was a Rover, covered in flowing scarves and named Miss Rayleen. In front of her was a bundle of food, however she was missing the gentle smile that she usually had. In it’s place was a stern and sad expression.

“Jeanie, when you leave this room, you will tell your young friend here, and Charles, and that young lady, you will tell them my husband’s message. You will not come to see me again. And when you see Ruth, please forgive her.”

“But we can still try to fix things?”

“It’s too late for that. Now, go.”

Jeanie nodded. She was confused but she would listen. It seemed safer to listen. Something was about to happen. Things were going to be bad. Everything felt wrong.

“Caleb.” Jeanie stood and moved over to the Ascensorite. “Caleb, it’s time to go.” She could see the fear in his eyes. He knew something was wrong. Whatever would happen, Jeanie had to protect Caleb from it. She hurried him out the door and towards the still. They had to be away from the hospital.

“Jeanie, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know. But we had to leave. It wasn’t safe.”

“What was in the bundle she had.”

“Food.”

“She’s a Rover. Why didn’t she share the food? What’s going on?”

Jeanie shook her head. How could she answer what she didn’t really know? Caleb’s eyes were wide and he kept glancing over to the hospital building. Jeanie followed his gaze to see Charles walking over to them. “It’s a bomb,” he told them.

“A bomb?” Caleb’s face paled. “We have to go help them.”

Jeanie grabbed Caleb’s shoulders. “We can’t.”

“But people will get hurt!”

“We can’t help them, Caleb. We have to stay here.”

How do you get someone to not help? How do you sit by and do nothing? How do you cope with understanding what no one else sees? Cadence and Slink had both been right. She never should have learned or tried to get involved. Jeanie trembled as a loud explosion rang out from the hospital building and smoke poured out from the doors. Charles ran over. Jeanie tried to stop Caleb, but she couldn’t. She watched and shook. To help would lead to Ruth and Randall hurting the young Iron as had happened to Cadence on the beach. To help the farm was to be condemned by Ripton, one of the few places she felt at home.

Charles returned, a body in his arms. Miss Rayleen was dead. There was a large, gaping hole in her chest. Jeanie didn’t say a word as she grabbed Miss Rayleen’s body to help Carles carry the Rover. Neither had to speak. They both knew where they were bringing her body.

I went down to the river to pray, studying about that good old way. And who shall wear the robe and crown? Good Lord, show me the way.

Down the hill. Across the field. Past the morgue. Past the beach. Down the path to the lake. Jeanie carefully let go and watched as Charles waded out into the lake and let Miss Rayleen’s body float off into the water.

Oh, Mother’s let’s go down. Let’s go down, don’t you wanna go down. Oh, Mother’s let’s go down. Down to the river to pray.

Jeanie turned and walked back into the field. A lump seemed caught in her throat. Her body shook as she began to pace back and forth. The Iron brought her hands up to her face, trying to keep away the tears that threatened to fall. Why did Jeanie have to push Cadence? He had told her that he was afraid of it all. He had told her to slow down. He had told her that it wasn’t safe. He had told her that she might go crazy from it. He had very clearly warned her and she kept pushing him to teach her. She begged Bloom to teach her and explain. She made a deal with Bloom just to learn what Cadence and Slink already knew. She wanted to understand. but now, now all she wanted was to forget. She wanted to go back to when she knew nothing about the gravemind.

Jeanie heard bells and turned to see Caleb walking toward her. The tears began to slide down Jeanie’s cheeks. She didn’t want to talk to Caleb. She couldn’t tell him all of the things that were going on. He wouldn’t understand. She needed Sliphox. But he wasn’t there to help. He hadn’t been around since Coyote had killed him. Sliphox was sleeping and Jeanie was alone.

“Jeanie, I’m sorry,” the Ascensorite whispered as he wrapped his arms around the shaking Iron. The worst part of Caleb was how he sounded like Sliphox without being him. “I’m sorry that I haven’t been here all day.” Jeanie shook even harder as she latched onto the man holding her. Caleb had finally gone back to sleep. Sliphox was finally back. The tears fell harder as she tightly hugged her Ascensorite. “I’m sorry I haven’t been there when you needed me.”

“Everything is bad right now.”

“I know.”

“Everything hurts.”

“I know.” He held her close and let her cry.

“I wish I didn’t understand. I wish I didn’t know what was going on. I wish I could go and forget it all.”

“I know, but you can’t.”

“Why not? Why do I have to be the one who understands?”

“Because the cycle made it your job. Because someone has to know, so that when the time is right you can go help them.”

“I hate this.”

“I know, Hun. I know.”

Beautiful

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This is a short story based in the world of Dystopia Rising by Eschaton Media. The main character is my own. But many of the mentioned character (Cadence, Sliphox, Francis Boss, etc) are creations of other players and story tellers. They are characters that have had a significant impact on the life of my character. This is based on the events that arose during the last game I played and many previous events before that. I hope you enjoy. And if you want any more information on the world of Dystopia Rising, feel free to check out http://www.dystopiarisinglarp.com

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Normally, walking a lone was noisy. Each step seeming to echo and call out to unknown threats. Here I am! A lonely Iron. Just perfect for the taking. Now, there were birds. There was a breeze rustling the summer leaves.

It isn’t that these things didn’t exist before. I just didn’t notice them before. They were not important. The existence of birds and a breeze were not part of the logic utilized in planning out the day before me. They were extraneous pieces of data and not worth analyzing. But now…

They are beautiful.

That night up in Ripton Falls. Standing with Cadence by the beach and looking up at the clouds, their reflection in the water. Then I could not understand. What made something beautiful? What made something impressive? What made Cadence so amazed to see the round shapes the clouds had made and the dark blues with their subtle yellow highlights? Then, I had not understood. Now the memory, still vivid and recent in the mind, brought up this… feeling… longing… There was a loneliness about that night. Desperation. It hurt. It brought a lump to the throat. But despite all of that, there was something peaceful about the sky. The clouds were perfectly shaped. They were the highlight to the night.

They were beautiful.

That first night with Sliphox. A battered deck of cards. The look of confusion on the Ascensorite’s face as he debated whether or not he should take another card. Cheeks pulled back. Eyes twinkled. There was a bit of shaking from the Iron’s belly… a laugh. A smile. That night had been absolutely perfect. It had been more than just probability and percentages. It had been more than just formulas and the science of the Vegasian card game. It had been Sliphox. It had been a chance to forget all of the troubles I had. It had been a chance to sit down and have fun.

It was beautiful.

Was this what it meant to have emotions now?

Having died so many times, it was hard to pin down just when the gravemind had taken them away.

The first time, there were so many feelings. Fear. I had never died before. Loneliness. Where had everyone gone. Why weren’t they coming back for me. Relief. Bones was still there. Then fear all over again. It was too late. We weren’t gonna get back to town in time. Then coming out in the morgue and just being overwhelmed with loneliness. Bones wasn’t there.

No, She didn’t take the emotions away then.

The second time, there was no loneliness to worry about. Everyone else was around. There was no fear, I had died before. I knew what to expect. There was none of that. There was only hunger. Loads of hunger. But hunger was not an emotion. It was a physical feeling, a cue that the body was in need of nutrients. That was it. Could that be when She took it all away?

Before then, the feelings existed. There was still the curl of a lip and the good bubbly feeling in the stomach when the rad rod shot out of the pipe in the reactor room. There was still the feeling of peace that came that first time in the tea shop, knowing that I was safe even though I understood nothing of what was said. There was still the safe feeling and the cared for feeling around the GDI campfires. There was feeling, it had just been hard to explain. It had been hard to understand.

Back at Motor City, Francis Boss and all the foreman had been very clear that you had to focus on the work. Don’t get upset. There is still work to be done. Don’t let anything get in the way of your work. It was always about the work. Feelings got pushed aside. Eventually, you didn’t quite notice them anymore.

But after the second trip through the gravemind. After the raiders left me to die by the lakefront…

There was nothing.

Cold logic and overwhelming extremes. Outliers.

She really had taken it all away.

But now, it is mine again. Through death, Doctor House had taken us to the gravemind. I found it. I figured it out. I took it back. My emotions are once again mine. They do not belong to Her anymore. They are mine. They are overwhelming. They are hard to sort through. But they are, once again, mine.

They are beautiful.