Day 2 came to a close along with the betting circuits. As by law, the betting circuits closed the moment ten tributes remained which was brought about by Carnelia’s death. Artemis and Luther revealed the betting statistics. The top three tributes from top to bottom were Mortimer, Cat, and Wolvthorne. Artemis claimed to have taken a gamble and betted on Cat. Luther stuck with his Mortimer vote, uttering his signature catchphrase, “Always vote for the best story”. Their attention was diverted to the victor’s lounge where Candace Freeman (victor of the 4th Hunger Games) drunkenly accused Gill of cheating and then devolving into a rant about how unfair it was that District 1 hadn’t done well in recent years. Bacchus Johnson (victor of the 9th Hunger Games) blamed their district mayor Baron Moriarty for his materialistic viewpoints and encouragement for overindulgence spoiling the district youth rotten. Fabeline Granger (victor of the 15th Hunger Games) chalked it up to Candace being a privileged drama queen before making a snide remark towards her husband, Capital superstar Paris Dinkley. Candace broke a bottle over her head in retaliation. Silas MacIntyre (victor of the 7th Hunger Games) wrapped Candace in a bear hug and threw her out of the room. Fabeline was taken to the infirmary, where she was treated for a gash on her head, receiving four stitches. Back in the commentator’s booth, Artemis was so far deep in the juicy drama that she missed the arena’s great reveal.
After a light breakfast, Mortimer and Cat decided they were ready to push through the brush. They were still feeling woozy from the powerful smell but felt the need to persevere. Cat took the lead and used her sword to cut through the foliage. Mortimer kept the rear and scanned the lake, searching for any approaching tributes. After about ten minutes, Cat cut through the last bush and was mystified by what lay ahead. Mortimer caught up and turned to see the arena’s hidden surprise.
It was a derelict pirate ship nestled on a mound of sand. The ship appeared abandoned and worn down, the cameras spotting holes in the hull. It was also without sails, leaving naked wooden poles. Cat wondered why this would be such a big deal, saying the place looked unsafe. Mortimer agreed and guessed it wasn’t for floating, using the holes and lack of sails as proof. Cat suggested they check it out anyway, guessing this was where the final showdown will take place. He agreed and the two made their way up.
Now that the secret location was found, the gamemakers made preparations for the finale. The alligators were called back, but not soon enough for Peggy (8), who was ripped to shreds and cannon sounding as Mortimer and Cat climbed the ship’s ladder. Head Gamemaker Grimstone’s voice rang throughout the arena. He congratulated the remaining six tributes and instructed them to make their way across the lake for the final showdown. Suddenly, large stones rose from the lake’s depths, all lining up to create a path towards the ship. For those farthest away, a large blue light emanated above the ship. All the remaining tributes rushed towards the ship as fast as they could. Jassy (12) was the first to make it across the lake despite falling off the stone path three times. Andrei (2) and Wolvthorne (7) were both minutes behind her and after grabbing their supplies proceeded onto the stone path. Wolvthorne was following behind a disoriented Andrei and took this opportunity to lodge his axe into his back, fracturing his spine. Andrei roared in pain and anger, but his cries were silenced when he was thrown into the lake. His injury prevented him from staying afloat and his cannon sounded three minutes later. Horace (10) was the last to make it across, feeling weak from the smell.
Mortimer and Cat were already on the poop deck when the announcement happened. They were elated to discover the sulphur smell to not be present anymore and tore off their masks. They hastily surveyed the deck, looking for a hiding place or any sort of useful tool. Cat realized that the entrances into the bowels of the ship were closed off, leaving them stranded out in the open on the deck. Mortimer considered their options and surrendered to their only option: making a stand. The two brandished their weapons and waited by the ladder, waiting for anyone to climb up.
Jassy noticed this and circled around to the other side and found another ladder. Wolvthorne followed suit. Jassy crept up onto the deck and spotted Mortimer and Cat staring down the ship. She notched her last arrow into her bow and aimed carefully. Her accuracy was slightly off when she released, and the arrow landed in Mortimer’s left bicep. He grunted in pain, causing him to drop his trident off the side of the ship. The surprised Cat turned to see Jassy standing there shell shocked over her failed assassination attempt. Cat chased after her around the deck, attempting to swipe at her with her sword. While the two were distracted, Wolvthorne pulled himself up and narrowed his sights on Mortimer. Weaponless, Mortimer nevertheless stood his ground and faced him. Wolvthorne told him he would pay for killing his partner, but he scoffed and reminded him there could only be one winner. An enraged Wolvthorne charged with axe in hand. Mortimer dodged his attack and began to run across the deck. Wolvthorne continued in hot pursuit, with Mortimer continuously evading his attacks. This became a hilarious game of cat and mouse, Artemis flinching every time Wolvthorne’s axe was within an inch of Mortimer’s head.
Meanwhile, Horace (10) finally emerged and noticed the separate fights going on. He decided to go after the girls, seeing the two men as a greater threat. Cat chased Jassy up to the steering wheel and managed to corner her. Jassy begged for her life, even offering to help defeat Wolvthorne. Cat remained unfazed and thrust her sword into her chest, sounding her cannon seconds later. Horace used the distraction to tackle Cat to the ground. He held her down with all his might and tried to wretch the sword out of her hand. She bit down on his hand so hard that blood began to pool. The crowds in Maximus Square were surprised by the power of her jaw. Cat ripped a flap of skin clean off Horace’s hand, drops of blood decorating her face. She regained possession of her sword and swung it back behind her. The blade lodged itself into the side of his head, sounding his cannon instantly. Out of breath, she limped to the railing and saw Mortimer was in trouble. She ran down the stairs to help her ally.
Despite the harrowing battle Cat was enduring, most of the attention was on the game of cat and mouse between Mortimer and Wolvthorne. At the same time Cat was struggling to escape Horace’s weight, one of Wolvthorne’s strikes demolished a wooden support beam that held a small above deck which would’ve led to the captain’s quarters. A particularly large cornerstone of the deck above fell onto Wolvthorne’s head, causing him to stumble back and collide with the ship’s edge. Mortimer used this opportunity to rush him and try pushing him off. Wolvthorne was much bigger than him and barely budged. However, Mortimer was successful in making him drop his axe. Wolvthorne headbutted Mortimer and shoved him to the ground. He attempted to choke him, but Mortimer twisted himself around and wrapped his legs around Wolvthorne’s torso. He used his elbows to push himself over his opponent’s back and pulled on his right arm all the while still keeping his leg grip. Wolvthorne struggled for a moment before wrestling himself free. He put him in a chokehold and slammed his face into the ground. He squeezed as hard as he could while Mortimer tried and failed to struggle. Many viewers in Maximus Square were cheering for Mortimer to fight back, mostly due to their betting money going towards him.
The prayers of the Buccaneers were answered when a sword entered Wolvthorne’s back and exited out his abdomen. Wolvthorne’s grip softened, enabling Mortimer to squeeze himself free. Wolvthorne turned to see Cat standing there with a determined look on her face. With the last bit of his strength, he lunged at Cat and pulled her into the blade protruding from his stomach. Cat let out a gasp as the blade entered her body. The Capital was shocked by the sudden turn of events but not as horrified as Mortimer. He grabbed the handle and looked at Cat. She looked upon him in sorrow and nodded her head. Mortimer unsheathed the sword from both bodies and thrust the blade into Wolvthorne’s brain, sounding his cannon instantly.
Mortimer thanked her for being his ally and a true friend. He quickly surveyed the skies. He leaned forward, brought his mouth to Cat’s ear, and began to whisper. The arena’s concealed microphones couldn’t decipher anything. Cat’s final words were, “Don’t worry. Patient confidentiality.” Her cannon sounded seconds later. Head Gamemaker Grimstone declared Mortimer Beckett of District 4 the victor of the 17th Hunger Games. Mortimer felt immense relief and let himself crumple onto the floor. The retrieval team arrived to pick him up and he came with them without a fight.
Mortimer was airlifted to the Maximus Hospital for medical examination. The arrow wound was stitched together and the cut over his eye received treatment, leaving two tic marks at the 2 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions. He was released two days later and was instructed to take it easy. Minerva escorted him back to the apartment, feeling happy he won. They reunited with Gill Henderson, who congratulated him for his win. While Mortimer admitted he felt grateful to have survived, he couldn’t stop thinking about Cat and how she was more deserving. Gill assured him that she sacrificed herself because she believed in him. He remained unconvinced, so Gill took him on a field trip to the Capital’s Oakley Museum of Art, recently erected by Silas MacIntyre (victor of the 7th Hunger Games) and Candace Freeman (victor of the 4th Hunger Games). It was there he met Phoebe Bentley and the two spent hours at the museum talking. Their intimate conversation helped Mortimer significantly, cheering him up enough to meet Gill at the Dipping Downer’s bar to drink with Bacchus Johnson (victor of the 9th Hunger Games) and Quarry Grounds (victor of the 12th Hunger Games).
The victor’s interview arrived and gathered a decent turnaround. Artemis and Luther wore matching outfits, reminiscent of the clothes swamp tour guides wore before the Dark Days. During the opening monologue, Luther expressed how pleased he was of the recent games giving them powerful personal journeys with the victors. Artemis said that while he was no Ashley Chen (victor of the 13th Hunger Games) or Sherpa Kapoor (victor of the 16th Hunger Games), she greatly enjoyed Mortimer’s performance. Mortimer entered the stage sporting something completely unexpected. His now famous tattoo was visible, but the suit he wore was intricately cut around it. The top half was sky blue while the bottom half was dark blue with wavy patterns making it look almost like the ocean. The funny part was him wearing a cap with a small cartoonish gator's head attached to the front.
Artemis and Luther started off by marveling at his outfit, calling it a revolution in fashion design. Mortimer attributed this to Minerva, the same person who polished the tattoo for the pre games interview. Artemis asked if he would get new tattoos, him saying he is planning on it. The first half of the interview was casual, covering topics of tattoo suggestions, his time at the bar with Bacchus and Quarry, and Minerva’s hard work on his outfit. The games eventually came up in conversation with Mortimer describing it “as if walking in a wet blanket that was also in the sewer”. Luther asked about the alligators and what motivated him to wrestle them. Mortimer tensed up but answered that he was trying to save Pearl. Artemis asked how much of a role she played in his victory. Mortimer credited her for getting the ball rolling in helping him realise to not give up on humanity. He saw her as the little sister he never had and wished he would have thanked her. Luther noted that since she got the ball rolling, it was someone else who broke through to him. Mortimer realised he was talking about Cat. He expressed how he felt she deserved to win more than him and how he chose to not let her sacrifice go to waste. Artemis admitted that while she betted on Cat, she was glad he made it, calling her Golden Victor material. Mortimer appreciated her sentiment. Luther reminded them that he was certainly a Golden Victor, citing his impressive chemistry skills and literally wrestling with an alligator. Him and Artemis dismissed Mortimer from the stage to rapturous applause, calling him “Captain Gator”, which became his victor’s nickname.
Mortimer was invited to some parties in the Capital. Gill accompanied him and stole the spotlight numerous times when requested to do shanties. Mortimer would dance along always with a drink in hand. He returned to District 4 and received a warm welcome from its citizens. He used the stage to openly apologise to those he turned away and for being a hoodlum. His reunion with his girlfriend Meridia was passionate and heartwarming, but not as much as the one with his father. Two weeks later, his request for Edward Beckett to undergo back surgery at the Capital was improved with a letter of recommendation personally penned by Gill. Edward’s damaged spinal disc was replaced with a flexible prosthetic. However, the surgery was a minimal success, removing some of the pain and enabling him to walk only small increments with assistance from a cane. Mortimer felt dejected over this but was humbled when several townsfolk pitched in to craft a wheelchair for him. Mortimer and his father partnered with Gill to start a rehabilitation center to help the injured and disabled workers of District 4 and the Island Bases. He further expanded his knowledge of chemistry and medicine, becoming District 4’s chief doctor. He crafted pain medication from the SHC compound delivered to him by Phoebe Bentley and prescribed them to various members of the district.
Mortimer made right by his promise and mended his relationships. He and Pearl’s father Alexander Riverstone crafted new nonalcoholic drinks, a certain cherry lime drink inspiring the Johnson’s Jazzy Juices future classic: the Beach Blanket. He also patched things up with Meridia’s father, the two often going on fishing trips together. His reputation only grew and grew until he was elected mayor of District 4 by the 31st Hunger Games. Mortimer grew closer to Gill and mentored alongside him until the next D4 victor was crowned. He became good friends with Phoebe Bentley as well, supplying him with chemistry textbooks and new batches of the warmweed’s SHC compound. In honor of Cat, he had Meridia etch a sea green ribbon tattoo, which represented mental health awareness, around the treasure chest. He was also friends with Corpse Beckford (victor of the 10th Hunger Games) who gifted him and Meridia tattoo inks for his birthday. Quarry Grounds (victor of the 12th Hunger Games) was also in Mortimer's good graces after he gifted Edward a special redwood cane with a beautiful marble topper.
Things were complicated when it came to his relationship with Meridia. Initially, they grew much closer, her giving him sea serpent tattoos on both his arms in addition to the ribbon. Unfortunately, five months before next year’s game, the two broke off the relationship. However, after the tumultuous 18th Hunger Games, the two reconciled and married a week before the reaping of the 19th Hunger Games. The two had five kids, naming his first daughter Katherine, after his deceased ally.
Mortimer was one of the four Golden Victors to disappear alongside Vixen Furtherson (victor of the 14th Hunger Games) after Savannah Pickett (victor of the 6th Hunger Games)’s death before the 41st Hunger Games. Days after the 47th Hunger Games, the underground terrorist group The Phoenix Fighters leaked two dossiers days apart. The first revealing reports of many accidents taking place on the military island bases. It also highlighted some cases of peacekeepers overworking and in some cases beating workers. The same dossier also revealed how Edward Beckett’s ‘accident’ was actually caused by the Faroe Island Base’s assistant supervisor Plutarch Manson. Manson was found dead in his Capital apartment three days later, his throat slit.
The second dossier revealed evidence of the reapings being tampered with over the years, whether it’d be names added, taken out, or scrubbed. The second dossier instigated some chaos in the districts, which was hastily subdued by the peacekeepers. Mortimer was never seen again, though there was heavy speculation regarding his possible membership in The Phoenix Fighters. On occasion, Capital navy ships and submarines would be attacked and looted under mysterious circumstances. One survivor named Lemuel Stanton blamed everything on a ‘ghost submarine’, one no one could see on the radar nor in person. A fair pocket of Capital analysts suspected Mortimer but lack of evidence kept his bounty from increasing.
I’ve been doing a deep dive into the Duggar train wreck in preparation for the documentary coming up. Reading court documents, police reports, AMAs, Google, this subreddit, obituaries, news articles, etc. The common element in their descent into disgrace is arrogance, hypocrisy, hubris, or whatever you want to call it. Every step of the way.
2002-2003: Pest (12/13 yo) starts molesting young girls 🤮 JB runs for US Senate and loses. Pest sent to “work camp” as punishment for molesting girls, but no licensed counseling was ever given.
2003: JB, Meech, and Holts made aware—JB brought Pest to pedo-friend state trooper to “report” his crime, but trooper failed to investigate and report. 😒 Kayleigh writes letter detailing abuse and slips it in a book.
2004: Despite knowing they had a seriously disturbed son who had molested their own daughters, JB and Meech debut their family in 14 children and pregnant again. 🤑
2006-2007: JB runs for Arkansas State Senate and loses. 😮💨 Kayleigh letter is found by her friend and shown to parents in the church. 4 more shows aired including one airing after the Oprah debacle in late 2006 (Family was in Chicago filming an interview, but it was cancelled when Alice tipped off Oprah that Josh had molested 5 girls). Oprah alerted Arkansas CPS. A second person (one of the letter readers) also alerted CPS at this time. A police report was made. Apparently, CPS investigated but we don’t know the outcome of that.
2007: Alice and others start posting on OG snark boards about Duggar family dirt including molestations. 🤔 These rumors simmer for years.
Sep 2008: Josh and Anna get married (Pa Keller knew about Josh’s past yet allowed this.😓)
2008-2015: They really played with fire 🔥 here. An 8-year-run on national television portraying a wholesome, Christian, pure family.
2013: Josh moves to DC to work for Family Research Council, a right wing organization dedicated to “family values” and “traditional marriage”. 🤢 2014: Meech records transphobic robocall that says in part, "I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space.”🤬 2015: Lesbian couple protests Meech’s robocall by kissing in front of TTH with marriage certificate in hand. 🏳️🌈 Photo goes viral and InTouch seeks them out for an interview. One of the women, Tandra Barnfield knew about the Duggar family secrets and pointed the reporter in the right direction to obtain a FOIA for the 2006 police report. InTouch publishes the police report and 19KAC was cancelled and Pest fired from FRC. 🌞
June 2015: JB and Meech, Jill and Jessa appear on Megyn Kelly - JB and Meech lie and revictimize their daughters 😔
Aug 2015: Pest goes back to AR in disgrace only to have the Ashley Madison scandal erupt just 3 months later-so much for “family values”🤡
Dec 2015-2021: Wait, they come back only this time without Pest. Counting On comes back on for another 5 years. How did this show not jump the 🦈, I do not know. JB apparently pocketed all the money made from the show leading to a rift with Derick and Jill who had to sue to be paid for their work on the show.
2017: Duggar sisters sue City of Springdale for leak of police report. Pest sues too, but is dropped from suit. They lose lawsuit and court documents are published revealing previously undisclosed information (much of it confirming past rumors).
Nov 2019: Pest’s car lot raided by HSI
Apr 2021: Pest arrested for CSAM
June 2021: Counting On cancelled
Oct 2021: 7th child born to Pest/Anna named Madyson Lily
Dec 2021: JB lies under oath—“can’t remember” “I’m not going to allow that, are you?”🙄
Dec 9, 2021: Pest convicted 😈
Dec 14, 2021: JB loses Republican primary 😵💫
They could have stopped the train wreck at so many points but 💰 🤥👺won out. Most tragically, if proper steps were taken in 2003, it’s possible that further harm could have been avoided and that things didn’t have to escalate like they did.
***edited as I find more info
Maria wants to be kept updated on the whole Daniel situation
. No - scratch that - she feels obligated to stay informed. She certainly doesn’t want updates in the sort of way that you want to eat ice cream. Rather, she’s keeping track of the situation sort of like how you keep track of a leak in the basement or a particularly stubborn toenail fungus.
I’m kind of sad I’m not using code names anymore because Toenail Fungus would be a great one for Daniel. Is it too late to go back? Has Daniel lost first-name privileges with ya’ll?
I probably shouldn’t make this any more confusing than it already is.
(if you’re new, start here
, and if you’re totally lost, this might help
When I updated Maria on how my conversation with the flickering man went, I also told her about the incident with the geology building ghost. At the mention of his name, Maria’s eyes lit up. I recognized the look on her face. It was the Rain Chaser Maria expression, when someone handed her a shiny tidbit of information like a new toy.
“Do you think his disappearance was in the news?”
She wasn’t asking me. She was speculating out loud. I sat there, staring morosely at my keyboard. We were in my dorm room. Cassie was out somewhere, I don’t know where, but she’d taken the petrified wood with her so I wasn’t worried.
“If it wasn’t in the town newspaper,” she continued, “it might be in the student one. Look him up online!”
“James is a very common name,” I replied.
She stared at me for a moment, her jaw stubbornly set, and when I didn’t move to open up a browser she pulled out her phone and started searching herself. I waited. She’d give up in a moment. There was no way this would be written down anywhere, not with the administration working to cover everything up and with students forgetting the ones that vanished.
“Let’s go to the library,” she said, tossing the phone aside.
“This was only ten years ago. They’re not going to have any books that’ll help us.”
“No, but they do have archives of the local newspapers, including the articles that weren’t posted online or have since been taken down. I just want to see if there’s anything interesting that happened in the timeframe that James went missing. It was right before graduation, so that narrows it down to just a few months worth of searching.”
It was actually a decent idea. However, I didn’t want her to follow through on it, so to stall for time while I thought of a way to dissuade her I told her I didn’t want to go to the library. That it made me nervous.
It wasn’t a great tactic but I never claimed to be good at thinking on my feet.
“What are you scared of?” she demanded. “If the library floods, we’ll just leave. No messing around. I promise.”
“It’s not that,” I said. I’m not worried about the library itself.”
I hesitated. I hadn’t told her about the administration’s involvement. I’m pretty sure I’ve told her some of my suspicions, because we’ve speculated on how the university has hidden all of this, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t tell her how the flickering man has confirmed there’s someone watching over all the inhumans, because then I’d have to tell her about the flickering man’s grudge and I am not getting her involved in that.
I hesitated long enough that Maria grew impatient waiting for me to decide.
“Ashley,” she said and there was a faint edge to her voice, “I thought we were better friends than this.”
“I’m just worried!” I blurted out. “I’m afraid I’m going to get you killed if I tell you something I shouldn’t!”
“Okay, but have you considered that maybe I could get killed by not knowing something? Aren’t you the one writing up a list of rules for people to follow?”
“That’s different,” I mumbled.
It is, isn’t it? I’m not telling them everything. I’m just putting in enough information to be memorable and sound ominous, in the hopes they’ll remember what to do if the time comes.
“Didn’t your therapist talk to you about this?” Maria said.
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. So you’re not the only people I’ve talked to about my on-going therapy and how I’m trying to stop blaming myself for things I can’t control. I just didn’t expect Maria to throw it back in my face like this.
“Listen,” Maria said patiently. “If I get killed by a monster, it’ll be my own fault for pursuing this stuff. The only way you’ll be to blame is if you, I don’t know, trade my life for eldritch powers or something, which you’re not about to do. And honestly, if what you want to tell me has the potential to put me into danger just by knowing it, then I’d still rather know.”
“After all,” she continued quietly, “it’s putting you in danger and I don’t want you to have to deal with that alone.”
Anyway I got teary-eyed when she said that and said I was a bad friend and she said I wasn’t and then I told her about how I’m like 99% certain that the administration not only knows what’s going on, but that they’ve got a hand in controlling the inhuman creatures. My biggest fear, I said, was that they’d find out what we’re up to and come after us.
“Like what, we could get expelled?” she said.
“More like expelled from life,” I muttered.
“Ohhhh. Okay yeah I can see why you’re nervous.”
She’d broaden her search, she said. Hit a couple other years for the same timeframe at random. Make it harder to pinpoint what exactly she was looking for. That was assuming the administration was monitoring the library at all, it was a big campus with a lot of people and they couldn’t even catch the assholes that sometimes pulled the fire alarm in the middle of the night. She didn’t have much confidence that they could pull off mass surveillance to ensure no one found out too much about the monsters roaming campus.
“They let us run the Rain Chasers, after all,” she said brightly.
“I don’t think you were close to finding out anything dangerous.”
“Maybe not. But they also let it reform and this time it’s got a professor’s close guidance.”
Yeah. That’s right. The Rain Chasers were all set to dissolve and then the sponsor got involved and went to great lengths to ensure that didn’t happen. If the administration really wanted to keep everything secret, it would have been easy to just quietly inform the folklore professor that she needed to give her club up.
“Though they probably just need a group of students to use as human sacrifices in a pinch,” I muttered. “Like what they did with Patricia.”
“Nope, I know how this goes,” she said, standing abruptly. “Every time you bring up Patricia you then get all mopey and spend the evening doomscrolling the internet to make yourself feel worse.”
She grabbed my wrist.
“C’mon, we’re going to the library.”
Now, I have been to the library a few times since last year. While a lot of stuff is accessible online, sometimes it’s just easier to go to a section labeled with the topic you need to write a paper on and start pulling out books. I’ve found that’s a great way to get a lot of citations in a short amount of time. So I haven’t been avoiding the library. I also have gone there a few times with Cassie and even once with Maria since the school year started. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. I’ve tried to think back on the timeline of when I last went to the library. Was it before the graveyard visit? I can’t remember. I just know that sometime in between my last visit and the one I am about to describe, something has changed.
Maria’s research was uneventful, at least. She didn’t find anything useful. Unsurprisingly, the local newspapers' physical copies were deep in storage somewhere and would need a special request to get them out. Maria seemed about to ask for that, but I was in her peripheral vision signaling no, we shouldn't do anything that leaves a record of any kind, and she reluctantly told the front desk to not bother. We’d just search the digital archives instead. Which we could have done from the comfort of my dorm, but whatever, we were here so might as well stay and make use of a distraction free environment.
We got a couple computer desks and Maria started searching while I worked on homework. I think we were there for about an hour before I noticed something strange.
Someone was staring at me from across the room.
We were on the second floor, where all the computers were. The stacks were below us on the first floor. The layout of this floor was interesting in that they didn’t have enclosed rooms, but rather walls strategically placed to create alcoves that were out of sight from each other. Each section had a handful of computers, scattered in groups of two throughout the area. The alcove we’d taken was empty when we arrived.
The newcomer stood at the edge of the room, one hand raised to rest on the wall. I recognized him. We’d met before.
Water dripped from his bent elbow.
I elbowed Maria and she glanced up. She hadn’t gotten a look at the library ghost, on account of the whole almost drowning thing, so I mouthed who he was to her. Her eyes went big and there was a glint of excitement in them. I’d hoped she was over that but… I guess she hadn’t changed as much as I thought.
“Go talk to it!” she whispered.
“No!” I hissed back.
“C’mon, you’ve encountered it a couple times already, it has to be here for you. It’s fine, he’s helpful, right?”
Even helpful inhumans can be dangerous. But she had a point. He was staring directly at me. I ground my teeth together and stood. His eyes remained steady on me as I walked over.
“So,” I said, “hi?”
Seriously, what do you say to a ghost? He stared back at me, a mournful expression on his face. I watched as a droplet of water ran down his forehead, along the bridge of his nose, and finally dripped off onto the carpet.
“Thanks for all your help last time,” I said. “That was scary. The eyeball is gone, by the way, but maybe you already know that…”
I trailed off. His gaze was unnerving, staring at me like that without speaking. He’d spoken to me before, so it wasn’t like this silence was required by his nature or anything. He was choosing not to say anything. I glanced backwards at Maria to see if she had any helpful suggestions.
“I don’t want you here anymore,” he said abruptly.
My head snapped back to stare at him. His expression hadn’t changed. It didn’t seem to match the anger in his voice.
“I didn’t bring the eyeball on purpose, I swear,” I said.
But he only shook his head at me.
“That’s not it. I can’t trust you anymore.”
Then he grabbed my arm and started dragging me towards the nearest window. I gasped and dug in my heels, but the library ghost is strong. I think that’s kind of unfair. Inhumans are stronger than humans just in general, but of all things I feel like a ghost should be an exception. Or maybe ghost is the wrong thing to call him.
Regardless of what he is, he is tangible, and he was able to drag me across the room as if he were a statue and all my cursing and punching came to nothing. Maria joined the fray, first grabbing hold of me and then putting herself bodily between the ghost and the window. He merely shoved her aside.
The window. Why the window?
Unless he intended to evict me from the library through it.
“I’ll leave!” I cried desperately. “I swear I will! I’ll leave and I won’t come back!”
Three feet away now. Two. His grip twisted around on my arm, as if he were preparing himself to throw something. I raised my arms to protect my head, breathless, wondering if I landed on something expendable - like an arm or my legs - if I would survive the fall with only a few broken bones.
Then the ghost stopped. He closed his eyes and sighed. And he vanished. Just… gone.
I stood there dumbly for a moment with my heart pounding.
“What… just happened?” I whispered.
“We’ll figure it out somewhere else!” She was already shoving things back into my backpack. “Let’s get out while we can.”
I wasn’t going to argue. We hastily packed up our belongings and hurried for the stairs. When we reached the first floor, we found that there was water up to our waists already.
Because of course there was.
Maria and I glanced at each other and her expression mirrored my own. This was bullshit. Total bullshit.
“Yeah, yeah,” I get it,” I mumbled. “We’re leaving.”
I sloshed into the water. At least this explained why the ghost had abandoned me so abruptly. He was probably off escorting someone lost in the stacks to safety. I had no intention to go find them. I wouldn’t be of any help and if the library ghost no longer liked me, then I’d only make it worse. The ghost would be enough. He’d done this plenty of times.
The water had receded at the exit and we stepped outside without any trouble. I was all set to go back to my dorm, but Maria wanted to wait and see if anyone else with wet clothing exited the library. She wanted to make sure whoever the ghost had gone to fetch made it out okay.
At least, that’s what she said. I think she also wanted to quiz me on why the ghost didn’t want me around anymore and I couldn’t tell her much. The only theory I have is that it’s because of my friendship with Grayson, but Maria doesn’t know he’s the president’s son and I’m not going to tell her that.
The ghost also didn’t like Patricia. I did tell Maria that, and Maria said we didn’t have much in common that she was aware of. She was quick to dismiss this theory, possibly because of the whole ‘Ashley gets sad when Patricia is mentioned’ thing.
Inside the library, the water steadily continued to rise against the glass doors. Students came and went, oblivious, and it was an unnerving sight to watch them open the door and step inside a wall of water. The water had risen to the ceiling by that point and it felt surreal to see people walking about underwater, unaware that anything was wrong.
Then someone slammed against the door. A woman. She was floating in the water, her long hair spread around her, and she was beating on the glass in an attempt to force the door open. This was who the library ghost had gone to save.
Except she couldn’t get out.
Maria was instantly on her feet and was running for the front of the library. Her immediate reaction broke me out of my shock and then I was right behind her. She had hold of the library door handle and was pulling as hard as she could. I joined her.
I grabbed hold and heaved, putting all my strength into it, but the door wouldn’t budge. The woman slammed at the glass with both hands, her eyes wide with terror. I lowered my center of gravity, getting more of my leg strength behind it, but still we could not free the woman trapped inside.
We were going to watch her drown, I realized. I felt the strength leaving my body and despair creeping in. She was going to drown in front of us and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Then another pair of hands - a man’s - joined us.
“It’s okay!” he yelled at the woman. “I’m going to get you out!”
He knew her. You could hear it in his voice.
And the door gave. It slipped open only an inch, but that was all we needed. The water began to escape in a rush and it felt like a deep, shuddering sigh emanated from the building. It relinquished its prey. The woman came tumbling out in a deluge of water. She sat there on the pavement, gasping for breath, looking around her in amazement that she was here, in the clean air, alive.
Then the young man grabbed her elbows. She stared at him a moment, he shook her a little, and that snapped her back to reality. Her eyes focused on his face.
“I came to meet you here - but - what happened?” he asked, bewildered. “I-I’ve heard the library flooded but thought it was just-just a story.”
“I just - I was - going to check out these books - it swept me back into the library,” she gasped. “I-I think I lost the books. I really wanted them too…”
He froze for a moment. Took a deep breath.
“How were you going to check those out? You have a stack of them in your dorm room that are, what, months overdue at this point!”
He was yelling in that sort of way that you use when you’re mad over something trivial because you’re too scared to yell about what you’re actually mad about, which is how you almost lost them. Look, I grew up in a big family, we did some dumb things growing up, I know what that sort of yelling sounds like.
Then she admitted that she’d asked him to meet her there so she could check them out under his name and that just made everything so much better.
Maria gestured for me to follow her away from the scene unfolding in front of the library. The rescued student was crying now and her boyfriend was sort-of-apologizing-but-not-really and it was better if they sorted this out between them without an audience. Staring at what could potentially turn into a very messy breakup if handled incorrectly was kind of rude.
“Overdue books!” Maria hissed. “She had overdue books!”
Maria huffed, apparently annoyed by my inability to read her mind.
“You’re trying to figure out the triggering conditions for all these creatures on campus, right?” she said. “So what’s the trigger for the flood?”
I opened my mouth to say ‘the ghost’ but then immediately closed it. No, that was wholly incorrect. They were connected, but the ghost didn’t show up until after the flood arrived and then it was to save whoever was caught in it.
“Getting lost?” I ventured. “We got lost and then it started flooding.”
“What if that’s not related though? What if there are multiple phenomena in the library and they have separate triggers? We were lost for a while before the flood showed up.”
I glanced back at the girl. What Maria was saying was starting to make sense. The rescued student had gasped out that she was on her way out of the stacks when the flood pulled her back in.
Our conversation paused for a moment as the boyfriend’s voice rose in volume for just a moment as he yelled, “You have to return them at some point!!” at her. We waited to ensure the shouting was done for the time being and then returned to our own conversation.
“So assuming the ghost, the flood, and the maze are all separate occurrences that sometimes happen together,” I said slowly, “we’d need to find triggers for all three. The ghost is obviously the flood. He rescues people from the flood.”
“The maze is probably wandering around in the stacks without other people nearby,” Maria said. “That’s what we were doing.”
“And then the flood is…”
We both glanced back at the girl and then over to the doors of the library, the glass doors catching the light just enough to obscure whatever lay behind them.
“It’s the library’s way of defending itself,” Maria said quietly.
It came for the girl because she had too many overdue books and no intention of returning them anytime soon. I doubt it was malice towards the library - my personal theory is she was likely prone to procrastination and then the problem had piled up until it was now a big problem and she was too embarrassed or too overwhelmed to address it directly.
I’ve never done anything like that, oh no, not me.
But the library had its own set of rules and she’d violated them.
“We were talking,” Maria said quietly, “the day it flooded on us.”
And I admit that we were being kind of noisy. Maria was excited. She’s loud when she’s excited. Libraries are quiet places. You are supposed to be silent inside them.
The library also flooded on the day the eyeball followed me there. Was it because I’d brought the creature with me? Or because I’d almost dropped one of their only copies of a book?
I think… this needs to be a rule. Something about how the library has its own set of rules and how you can’t break them… or something something bad things happen.
I don’t know, I’m finishing this post up well after midnight here because I make poor life choices so I’ll think about it and update the rules another day.[x] Read the current draft of the rules. Visit the college's website.