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Autumn Keane last won the day on September 22

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About Autumn Keane

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    Shelly, MT

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  1. Her faded bicycle looked utterly out of place on the edge of the beautifully manicured lawn, and before she even made it to the door, Autumn could swear she heard the faint sound of whirring gears and gyros as automated defense systems prepared to eliminate the peasant who dared approach the manor. At least, that's what it reminded her of: some grand, lordly estate way out in the middle of Nowhere, Montana. The two-story ranch-style home was huge, with a tall fence enclosing what she could only assume was probably a golf course, tennis court, and personal air strip in the back yard, and the timers on the dazzling array of outdoor lights kicked on just as she was wondering if she was supposed to tip the butler when he answered the door. It was later than she'd meant to arrive; only the faintest glow of daylight still lingered on the horizon, and the path lights delineating the boundaries of the front walk created pale half-moons on the bright white concrete. She hadn't really planned on being out after the trip to Helena with Sean and Sara, and she did feel a little twinge of guilt about spending time with the others, when the twins hadn't been there- they'd been involved in all of whatever-this-was longer than she had, and it just felt wrong somehow. Especially since Marissa had, uh... said they were friends.The redhead rubbed her palms on her denim-clad thighs and tentatively pushed the doorbell.
  2. The redhead stared at him in stupefied amazement, cheeks still flushed from the sheer, uninhibited, unadulterated thrill of whoosh!ing through the air around the campfire like a toddler at an amusement park. Was he... was he serious? "Are you serious?" she asked as soon as the thought crossed her mind, utterly incredulous that he could possibly not know that it had probably been the coolest-to-date thing that had happened to her. Seriously. Like, better than finding out the best way to use the handheld showerhead. "Wait." Regarding him through narrowed eyes, Autumn reconsidered. He was... weird, maybe, but not stupid. He had to be fucking with her. "You're not serious." Right? The unspoken question, one merely suggested by the tentative nature of her declaration, received an equally unvoiced answer: a twitch of the lips that might have been a smirk, but could also have just been the flickering of the firelight. "You really- UGH!" she huffed loudly, rolling her eyes and pushing the unruly tangle of curls back out of her face as she spun on her heel. "Fucking Bannon, I swear!" As she turned, the newest, still uncertain addition to the group saw Lilly curled into herself, shaking, with Clara nearby and dropped all pretense of being annoyed. She wasn't crying, was she? As she approached, the other two girls were talking, and she shoved her hands into her jeans pockets; keeping them out usually meant she was expected to offer or receive hugs, or consoling shoulder rubs, and she still wasn't sure about the whole physical-contact thing with people she had to admit she didn't really know. "Hey," she began, interrupting as politely as she knew how. "You okay?" Her gaze darted first to Clara, who always seemed to have her shit together, and then back to Lilly, unsure whether things were already being resolved.
  3. "Mmmm," Autumn nodded in agreement, swallowing a sip of coffee almost as black as her grandfather had made it. She'd taken loads of cream and sugar in the stuff, as a little girl- more like coffee-flavored milk, Owen had always teased, while her grandmother chided him about the caffeine stunting her growth. "Yeah. I run, and try not to scream." There was an awkward pause, and she leaned around Sean a bit to regard the well-built young woman driving with a somewhat abashed smile. "Sorry, it's just... I'm still not sure how I feel about all this, y'know?" Sinking back into her seat, the plainer of the two redheads present blew lightly across the tiny opening in the plastic lid of her coffee cup. It was her first time in a wrecker, for sure, and it was cleaner inside than she'd expected, for some reason; she could see her own image reflected in the windshield. There was faint yellow-purple bruising that discolored the smattering of freckles around her eye, a small but angry-looking line running through her eyebrow, and swelling on one side of her lip from her meeting with the cafeteria door roughly 24 hours prior. "It's like it's not real, like if I never thought about it again, just erased yesterday from my mind, everything would go back to the way it was." She shook her head, dismissing the thought. "I can't though, and it won't. I just don't feel like it has anything to do with me, to be honest. I'm not like that. I'm not like you guys. I'm just me."
  4. Yeah, asshole. Watching where you're going, the redhead snapped internally. Just being in proximity to Captain Edgelord was killing her buzz- what kind of pretentious fuckhead wore sunglasses behind dark window-tint to drive at fucking night? He was a walking trope who clearly didn't recognize himself as such, and it occurred to Autumn that she probably would've hated him the moment he opened his mouth even if he hadn't almost run her over. It was unreasonable and irrational, but there it was. Maybe he's a celebrity or something? He definitely had the attitude for it and they did come through once in a great while- directors and producers mostly, trying to find a cheap location for filming or a cabin for recording albums. She gave the tall man a quick once-over, trying to separate her instinctive dislike from what she could actually see: expensive clothes, no label; clean shoes; pretty decent face, for a guy probably her dad's age; not skittish about exposing a little skin- weird, but okay; in good shape, definitely not a dad bod. Lots of money invested in the car, probably- it looked old. The kind of thing guys with money liked to show off. His eyes, though, with the smile not quite reaching them, reminded her of something else she couldn't put her finger on. Huh. Yeah, could be a celebrity. Could also be a drug dealer, or something, but don't they usually try to avoid getting noticed? Unless he didn't care if people recognized him, or didn't think they would? Autumn wasn't sure, not having a whole lot of experience with the criminal elements of society- well, except for her dealer, and she didn't really consider the occasional smoke "criminal." The planet was on fucking fire, kids were dying in internment camps, the oceans were full of garbage, and there was a possibility none of her graduating class would make it to middle age because alien twat-monsters from a Native American nightmare world were going to eat them; the fact that weed was illegal didn't rank highly on her list of concerns. "Nah," she allowed after a moment, her taut smile juuuuust earnest enough to pass the Mom test for sincerity. "Not too much." Following his gaze back toward the diner, she thought for a moment. They weren't her friends, not really, but... She could see the back of Cassandra's head through the window as she talked with Lilly. Fishing her phone out of her pocket, she opened Snapchat. "Oh! One sec." With a quick half-turn and her best selfie-smile, Autumn snapped a quick pic of herself, angling the camera slightly to include Mr. Black and adding the image of a clock face with the hour hand pointing toward the 6. Two taps later, and Cass's phone notified her of a new Snap. She put her own phone away, a half-smile of apology on her lips. "It's game night. Most of Shelly's either been through already, or will be. Bunnee's is kind of a tradition here, it's where people go to celebrate." She let that hang in the night for a beat, her smile fading by degrees, then: "Got a sweet tooth? The milkshakes here are to die for." "I certainly do sugar," his smile became a grin. "now you be careful on that bike going home, there's crazies driving around out there." He sketched a little salute her way with a couple of fingers and with a slight hitch in his step that may have been a skip, started whistling as he went inside the diner.
  5. Autumn had only been talking to Sean and Sara for a few minutes when her mom's name was called, and she forked over the cash she'd been given. "Hey, thanks," she offered, smiling as she took the thick paper bag nestled in a plastic one for the bike ride home. Then, to the other redhead, "See you in the morning." It wasn't until she was on her way out that she noticed the group of other students at a table together, which, for some reason, seemed odd. They weren't always together, were they? ..And, yeah, some of the others had been there earlier. She'd never really noticed them as a collective before, having met nearly all of them as individuals throughout their school years and childhoods growing up in Shelly. From the expressions on the girls' faces as she passed, whatever they were discussing looked like bad news. After weighing for a moment what the last bad news had been, the hungry redhead made her way to the door and back out into the cool night air. If it was important, she reasoned, like more weirdness she'd want to avoid, someone would text her. In the meantime, she had loaded fries and a warm bed waiting back home.
  6. Partially cocooned in a heavy, crocheted blanket she'd snuck out of her grandparents' house before the sale, Autumn leaned out the "window" of the half-finished tree house that looked toward Shelly proper, slowly exhaling a plume of smoke from between pursed lips. It tasted earthy, like fresh dirt and chocolate as it coiled out into the darkness, and the small stone pipe was warm in her hands- another ward against the cool night air. As she listened to the dull, distant roar of the crowd, gazing down the gentle slope of the hill to see the glow of the bright stadium lights against the black, fathomless sky, the normally restive redhead waited. She waited for anything to make sense, waited to wake up, waited for the bowl she was smoking to carry away memories of blood and fire and monsters like the remnants of a nightmare banished on that waking. But... It didn't. The showers, the hysterical crying, the bouts of vomiting in between- they'd just left her feeling numb and empty, an awful ache that hollowed out her insides. At least her face had stopped throbbing- small comfort- although she wouldn't know how bad it would look until the next morning. Taking another hit from the smooth, green bowl, she continued to wait, letting the smoke gently soften the sharp edges of the day as it rolled across her tongue. If she tried to talk to anyone about what had happened, they'd think she was crazy. Hell, she mused, slow ribbons of silver trailing lazily around her head. She probably was. The thought made her giggle, in spite of herself, and she left the pipe to cool on the framed-out opening in the wooden tree house wall, folding her arms across her chest and pulling the blanket tight. The collective voice of the crowd rose up in another cheer, and her eyes- tonight a brighter, Caribbean blue against the red of so many tears- focused on those distant lights. Everything had been so awful, so frightening, so chaotic, and yet life was carrying on without pause or consideration. It had been the same when her grandfather died, just… moving on. Moving forward. It was easier to think about it, now, with the soft, knotted strands of woollen yarn wrapped around her body and the insulation afforded by a little herbal refreshment wrapped comfortably around her brain. I could have died. Another cheer, an air horn. Whatever was going on down there, the crowds were eating it up. ...But I didn’t. The three people at Shelly High that she liked least, that she avoided as if their delinquency and bad reputations might somehow be contagious diseases, had protected her. Had made sure she got home. And because, unlike the nightmare Courtney-monster or the creepy lookalike teddy bear or the Shelly-tree, that fact still existed in their side of the horrorverse, she was forced to acknowledge it. Fucking… Jason Bannon, and the Evil Twins, had probably saved her life. Had saved her life. It wasn’t just some bizarro world delusion; Marissa, of all people, had cried on her shoulder. What was she supposed to do with that? The breeze picked up, rustling the leaves around her in reassuring whispers. She dragged a finger across the screen of her phone where it lay on the window ledge, idly chewing her lower lip as her brain lazily sifted through her options and condensed them into something like a plan. Hey, she tapped slowly. You said to come see you, about the hair thing. If you’re not busy Sunday- Autumn sighed, the air escaping her lungs in a long, soft exhalation- would you maybe want to hang out, or something? She tapped again. [Message Sent.]
  7. There were more cars in the parking lot of Bunnee's than Autumn had expected as she brought her bicycle to a stop in the loose gravel and braced with one foot; she'd assumed it would take longer for the crowds to clear the stadium and migrate here for celebratory carb-loading. After she’d spent most of the evening holed up in the familiar cocoon of her bedroom, Dana had banished her from the house under the pretense of picking up dinner. It was a reasonable idea, if your normally energetic daughter was sulking, or brooding, to give her something to do- a simple, straightforward task that required physical exertion and yielded delicious, measurable results. As Autumn had been neither sulking nor brooding, however, her mother's request seemed completely un-reasonable. It hadn’t been just a bad day, after all, and the badness had not only started early but carried on longer than it had any right to. Well, whatever. While an order of loaded fries almost sounded worth killing for, she wasn’t sure it was worth actually leaving the house. Still, she was here now, and even the long bike ride over hadn’t completely killed the warm, mellow feeling engendered by moderate indulgence in cannabis. Whatever the others might’ve thought about it, Autumn felt zero guilt for taking steps to avoid a mental breakdown after the day’s events. Nudging the kickstand down with her heel, she glanced up at a flash of movement in her peripheral vision. EmEffing Jason GeeDee Bannon. Stripping off a… pink? t-shirt. ...Yep. Shirtless. In the parking lot. Either her timing was really terrible, or really, really good. It wasn’t that he was stupidly hot or anything, she decided, watching with the single-minded interest of someone who was either pleasantly high, or a seasoned stalker. ...more that he just wasn’t even a little bit shy. It was some weird, dumb confidence thing guys had, probably. He just had more of it. The observation didn’t go unnoticed; as he pulled a plain white shirt over his head, the lanky teen caught sight of her. Then she felt her cheeks get warm, having (probably) been caught staring. Whoops. Unthinking, she jerked her chin upward slightly in a not-quite greeting, her lips twitching into the expected almost-smile shape, and trudged towards the door of the diner. She didn’t like the guy, but today had been weird; she’d been hugged by a Jauntsen, for crying out loud. Maybe she could afford to give them a little more credit. The front door jingled, and she blinked, startled, up at Lona and Clara as they walked outside. The latter looked tense, worried, and the former… Honestly, Lona just looked like hell, which might explain Clara’s demeanor. “Hey,” Autumn offered, the almost-smile replaced by a genuine one. Lona had been one of the few to reach out when her grandfather had died, a small kindness from someone else who'd felt loss, and one she’d never forgotten. “Small world, huh?” “Yeah, small world. I mean, it’s Shelly. It doesn’t get much smaller,” came the reply, an obvious effort on Lona’s part to engage in friendly banter despite the grim circumstances. She tried to smile, earnestly tried, but she just couldn’t seem to arrange her features in the correct pattern, couldn’t quite convey a heartfelt happy-to-see-you when everything, everything seemed to hurt. “Listen, we’re headed home. I think some of us are getting together in the morning, if you want to come.” “Oh.” She hadn’t expected that, to be invited anywhere, especially so soon. “Maybe?” the redhead hazarded. “Kind of depends on how I feel in the morning, y’know?” Both sisters nodded, at that; yeah, they knew. “Be careful, guys. See ya.” The door jingled again, and Autumn sidestepped the older couple coming out, chatting over their ice cream cones. Heading inside, she made her way up to the counter. As she waited for the order her mom had called in earlier, she hummed quietly to herself, swaying slightly to the music on the jukebox. It was nice, once in a while, to just be around people- not talking to them, not being talked at, but just around them. Everybody was doing their own thing, concentrating on their own lives and their own meals, the stuff inside their own heads; it felt good to be in the midst of all that life and energy without being the focus of it, a mental state only enhanced by being ever so slightly baked. It also enhanced her mouth’s ability to do things entirely on its own, without the buy-in of her brain, and around the time Sean chirped, “Great! I’ll text you tomorrow,” Autumn realized she’d just asked if she could go to a car auction with him. In Helena. ...And he was wearing a cheerleading uniform. Wait. What? “Uh, yeah, sounds great!" she heard herself say. "Getting out of Shelly for a weekend sounds… Honestly, it sounds amazing. I’ll talk to my mom when I get home, just to make sure she’s cool.”
  8. "It's..." The redhead paused abruptly, shooting Devin a weary glare at his use of the new nickname, involuntarily glancing in Jase's direction, and immediately regretting it. Why? Why did I give Mother. Fucking. Jason. Goddamn. Bannon my favorite hoodie to cover his junk? I mean, because it would've just been out there if I hadn't but, still! My hoodie! What was I even thinking?! ...Fuck my life. He looked for all the world like an extra from some porno version of Lord of the Flies, and the blood rising in her cheeks wasn't the least bit interested in how exhausted or miserable she was. It was a completely inappropriate thing to be (NOT) thinking about, and it wasn't like she'd never seen a naked guy before, but just, like... casually naked? No. Casually mostly naked. ...Which, somehow, was worse, especially with the look he gave her when she accidentally flinched and met his gaze. It was difficult to read: not quite a smirk, almost expectant, but also a bit like he was laughing at her, just behind the forest-canopy hues of his slightly narrowed eyes. The male Jauntsen twin wasn't any easier to gauge, for all that he seemed superficially open and carefree, and she had heard more than a few stories about his exploits. She was just glad that at least Devin's clothes were basically intact, or she probably wouldn't be stringing words together at all; it seemed somehow unfair to average-looking guys that a place like Shelly existed. Helpfully, her brain reminded her that she already wasn't stringing words together, which she was supposed to be doing, because three people were currently staring at her. Oh. "Um, yeah, no. Not exactly. It's in the other place." There was a faint quaver in her voice, one not born of weariness and neurochemicals, on the last two words. Licking her lips, she looked from Marissa back to her less patient sibling, scrupulously avoiding the final member of the dysfunctional group of high-school antagonists. "About 15 miles that way." She jerked her head in the direction of town, and Devin, for all his idiotic bravado, actually blanched slightly. "Bullshit," the handsome young hotshot muttered darkly, shaking his head. "No fucking way. It's in Shelly?!" "Deej," his sister interjected, tugging on his arm. "It gets worse." Autumn exhaled. "It's not in Shelly. We didn't see town at all. Honestly, uh... We were thinking maybe it is Shelly." She let the words hang in the air, folding her arms across her chest like a shield, a subconscious attempt to either ward off whatever that meant, or to shore up her emotional walls enough to keep moving long enough to get home. Maybe both.
  9. Autumn was floored. She had no idea what to say, how to respond to an overture of this magnitude- from Marissa Jauntsen, no less. If the girl's tears and snot weren't smeared on the shoulder of Autumn's t-shirt, she wouldn't have believed it was genuine, but here we are. Even if she hadn't been in shock and on the verge of vomiting on her own shoes before having a nervous breakdown, the hug and... everything else was just layers of weird heaped on top of fucked up in some kind of worst-day-ever parfait. She hated it. She hated whatever that thing had been, hated that they'd been unceremoniously dumped in a wet dream crafted personally for Tim Burton by whoever made those Alien movies, hated people kicking monsters into trees and setting them on fire and turning into monsters, hated being dragged into a world that looked and felt exactly like hers, but which suddenly wasn't because people had some kind of powers and nothing made sense anymore. It wasn't a world she recognized, even as she caught the scent of the forest over the perfume of Marissa's shampoo. Familiar, but... changed. Was it like this for them, too? The others seemed mostly unfazed, at a quick scan of the clearing. Maybe they were used to it. Autumn, though, was not. She didn't belong here, not with these people, not with all this craziness. Mostly, she really, really wanted to go home. Physically exhausted and emotionally drained, the redhead did her best to summon up the words to describe what was going on inside her. "Marissa," she whispered hoarsely, taking a step back to hold the beautiful socialite at arm's length as their eyes met in a moment of genuine communion. Autumn was terrible at intimacy, and as she bit her lip, the breeze lifting the girls' hair gently, she wondered if she could find a way to convey her feelings. When she finally spoke, it was barely a whisper, her voice wavering with the involuntary shivers that still sent her trembling every few moments as her adrenaline and cortisol levels normalized. "You're not even my type." Eyes widening in shock, the predatory Jauntsen princess found herself suddenly pulled into a quick hug, and then released. "You could be, though," the still-shaky elf girl quipped lazily, conjuring a smile that was both uncertain and fleeting. "Besides. Can't walk it off if I'm not walking. Come on." "Hey," she called out more loudly, taking a few steps back toward the other teens still milling about. "We found your Tree."
  10. Game Time: Autumn isn't going, although she may have the live stream on in the background while she does other things- throw up, order delivery, shower six times, do laundry, have a nervous breakdown, eat dinner with her mom, cry some more.. You know, your usual teen stuff. Interims: In the interest of tentatively giving her a chance to prove her intentions, I think it would be fun for Autumn to grudgingly let Marissa give her a makeover- nothing drastic, but at least enough to get her to shut up about the damned split ends. She's spent a little time with some of the Fellowship here and there prior to game start, but she doesn't have any really close relationships with them and she's skittish of more crazy happening. I'd be open to smaller group interactions with her, ideally with the OOC goal of bringing her a little closer to a couple of the teens; her integration is likely to be a gradual one, even if her "initiation" was definitely not. Outdoor stuff is always an option for her, perhaps an overnight camping trip (although that may not be a comfortable notion for many of them), canoeing, that sort of thing over the weekend. Physical activity is an easy "yes" for her. Homework/study session is also a possibility, though she is super likely to get distracted.
  11. This list is subject to change as new songs are added! Spotify Playlist is here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/204gvdj7azaoZk5QrVAAfT Treehouse Tunes (Classic) Goodbye Stranger (Supertramp) Secondhand News, Gypsy (Fleetwood Mac) Come A Little Bit Closer (Jay and the Americans) Here Comes The Sun (The Beatles) Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum) Mr. Blue Sky (ELO) Fox on the Run (Sweet) Do You Believe in Magic? (The Lovin’ Spoonful) Wonderful World (Sam Cooke) Dancing in the Moonlight (King Harvest) Jackson Browne (esp. the “Saturate Before Using” album) Spirits Having Flown (The Bee-Gees) Brown-Eyed Girl, Moondance, Into the Mystic (Van Morrison) Sunlight (Jesse Colin Young) Seven Bridges Road (Eagles) Amie (Pure Prairie League) Owen’s Songs Live Forever (The Highwaymen) Only the Lonely (Roy Orbison) The Cactus Blossoms (esp. The “You’re Dreaming” album) Walkin’ After Midnight, I Fall To Pieces (Patsy Cline) Bonus: Cover Tracks (Bridge Over the Generation Gap) Teal Album (Weezer)(Africa, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Stand By Me, etc.) Mr. Sandman (SYML) Summer Songs for An Autumn Girl (Modern) Good As Hell, Truth Hurts (Lizzo) bad guy, all the good girls go to hell, when i was older, &burn (Billie Eilish) Gasoline, Nightmare (Halsey) Looking for America, Tomorrow Never Came, Get Free (Lana del Rey) Autumn’s Theme: Bron Y Aur (Blind Faith, Jimmy Page)
  12. Nope. That had been Autumn's immediate and instinctive response to the scene that unfolded/expanded/shifted in the seconds following her return to the clearing. Fire. Monster. Blood. Other people? Guns. The warping of reality, yet again, the queasy feeling like she'd just rocketed to the top of a roller coaster and was about to drop back down to earth. And then... the aftermath. People were wounded, the beast was gone. She watched it move past her, time and energy running past in a bizarre twist in which she, for a change, stood still. For that brief moment, she knew how it felt to be not the river rushing onward, but the silent, invisible stone around which it surged. It was a split-second of strangeness that somehow stood out from all the other horrors and bizarre, inexplicable events of the day. And then someone was talking... Lilly? Her pale, sea-colored eyes focused on the other girl, on the prone (and very naked) Bannon, and mumbled something in reply. Moving on autopilot, she untied the faded red hoodie from her waist and calmly, casually draped it over him for modesty. Lona said something, reached for her, but she lifted her arm, waved the other girl away. The songwriter looked terrible, why was she offering to help her? "I'm fine," she heard herself say. People were milling around all over, with reality reasserted. Weaving through them, she found her backpack, only slightly trampled, where she'd dropped it when Marissa had grabbed her arm. Methodically, numbly, she put one foot in front of the other and walked over to the pretty brunette, her jaw working as she noted the telltale signs of tears. "Hey." Autumn began quietly. "Do me a favor. When things settle down, tell them about the tree. Where it is. What we saw." She hesitated for a moment, then added soberly, "And, thanks." Before the warring sensations within her- the urge to scream, to cry, to vomit violently all over the dry, sere underbrush- sorted out the order of priority well enough to manifest physically in her person, Autumn turned back toward Shelly and quietly started walking. "Wait, hold up!" She honestly hadn't expected anyone to stop her, and she really didn't feel like talking, but the angel-faced devil-queen of Shelly High probably wasn't interested in an extended conversation, anyway- not with her brother half-conscious and bloody on the ground. The redhead paused and swallowed hard, blinking rapidly as she looked up at the clear, sunny skies through the canopy; she would rather choke on her tears than let Marissa see them. "Where are you going? Are you seriously going to just... just walk away after all this?" The other girl's voice sounded oddly un-bitchy, almost... concerned? The crunch of footsteps behind her stopped, and Autumn could almost picture Mari standing there, hand planted firmly on hip as she waited for an answer. She swallowed again, trying to ignore the acrid taste of bile. "Yeah. Yeah, Marissa I am. I'm going the fuck home." The pretty girl scout with the mouth of a sailor turned, resolutely not looking beyond the dishevelled, expensively-dressed young woman to the place where everything went irrevocably wrong. "I'm going the fuck home, I'm gonna hug my mom, and I'm not gonna talk to any of you," she ground out through clenched teeth, jaw tight with emotion. "Not about this, not about anything, not for a while. People almost died today because of shit that doesn't make any goddamned sense, Hell, your fucking brother almost died today, and you wanna know why I'm leaving?" There was something in the incredulous, near-hysterical cadence of Autumn's speech that reminded the curvier Jauntsen that, maybe, she wasn't the only one who only looked like she had her shit together. The redhead's cheeks were still flushed, both from the blast of heat and the sudden upwelling of grief and anger and fear as her face twitched, threatening to crumple. The gravity of what she'd just said- how awful it was to remind someone that a person they loved almost died, even if both of those people were the Jauntsens- suddenly occurred to Autumn, and she reflexively inhaled, eyes widening with remorse. "Oh, god, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean- ! I mean, he's fine, right? It's fine." There was no disguising the rising note of panic in her voice as she flailed for words, desperately trying to extricate herself from the situation. "I'm sorry, I just need to go. I can't- I've gotta go." She could feel her chest tightening, the knot in her stomach threatening to work its way up her throat, and shook her head, abandoning all pretense of looking composed in front of every high school girl's worst frenemy.
  13. Elsewhere. Everything Autumn was thinking about, everything she was attempting to process and analyze, all the words and what-the-fucks disappeared as soon as the thing leaped from the sepulchral trees. They were distilled, instead, into impulses, impressions, and emotions, a turbulent storm of primal imperatives like fear and rage that demanded action. A choice. Fight? Or Flight? Marissa tugged on her arm, all but dragging the redhead as they stumbled/ran for Schrödinger's car, and there was nothing in her mind but the tangible thud of her heartbeat in the suddenly too-tight cage of her ribs, the sound of their panicked footsteps tearing through strangely soft earth and withered underbrush, and flashes of bluish light through the skeletal remains of the forest. Her internal compass recoiled at the wrongness of it, and without thinking Autumn seized the hand clasping hers and veered in the opposite direction, toward where the mirror of the camp and the trail would be. She turned. Looked back. Nothing pursued them, and the others didn't follow, but then- Light. Brilliant, coruscating light that, for a moment, wiped away the perpetual twilight of the nightmare world. Marissa stumbled in the loamy, cloyingly-sweet dirt as their forward momentum stopped suddenly, and she was about to protest at the indignity and stupidity until she saw her companion's face. It was like staring at a bow drawn taut, string quivering in readiness to loose a fatal arrow, so intent was Autumn's expression as she stared back the way they'd come. Just as quickly, the spoiled socialite was yanked forward again, continuing on course toward the potential safety of the vehicles. There was nothing to be done but try to keep up, because the only girl scout she knew wasn't giving her the option of falling behind. By the time they reached the border of the ruined logging camp, Marissa had had enough. "There," she gasped, tugging her arm free. The leggy brunette staggered, panting heavily and flailed a half-limp, beautifully manicured hand vaguely in the direction they were headed. "The cars," she managed in between labored breaths, and, exhausted though she was, it took only a few precious moments before the two girls were standing next to Devin's expensive deathwish on wheels, Marissa's ostentatious sweet 16 present, and a vehicular model of Jase's burgeoning masculinity. Or, three vehicles that demonstrated what theirs would look like after a few decades exposed to the weather. Everything was rusted and caked in grime, faded into pale shadows of their Rightside counterparts; the prettier Jauntsen twin hoped they were sturdier than they looked. Without pausing more than a moment to assess the situation, Autumn tugged at the rusted latch on the Charger's passenger door. It resisted several sharp pulls, and with a grunt of effort she grabbed the handle, throwing all her weight backwards. With a squeal of angry protest, it swung abruptly open, sending her sprawling into the burnt-sugar earth. "Oh, holy shit, finally!" As the redhead scrambled to her feet, Marissa slid over into the driver's seat, leaning back with a relieved sigh. Whatever that thing was, they were definitely safer in the car. "Hey," she began, trying for the casual tone her brother affected as the door clicked shut. Turning, she blinked. Autumn was standing outside the car, not sitting next to her. She was wearing that same intense expression as before, energy coiled in a fleeting moment of stillness before its inevitable, inexorable release. "Hey," she began again, a note of protest rising in her voice. "No fucking around, seriously, come on-" But the other girl was standing still staring at something behind the car.
  14. Elsewhere. WhatthefuckwhatthefuckwhattheFUCKWHATTHEFUCK The words sped through Autumn's mind in a rapid-fire mantra to ward off madness and evil, the breathless speed of their repetition keeping pace with the terrified pounding of her heart. This is not happening. This is not happening. Not. Fucking. Happening. Was there an upper limit on how many things couldn't happen in a day? A maximum threshold for impossibility? The white of her knuckles as she tried to physically press her lips into silence, and the irregular, arrhythmic hitching of her chest were clear indicators of exactly how not-okay the redhead was doing. No matter how brave a face she was struggling to put on, Autumn was staring over the edge of a precipice into an abyss filled with nightmares. "That's mine," she whispered hoarsely, utter horror draining the color from her face. "At the fair. I won that. How...?" She couldn't bring herself to finish asking the question to which there could be no good answer. Despite her terror, there arose in the back of her mind a terrible need to know. Was that blood? Why...? Why was it bleeding? Her whole body trembled, shivering like a leaf at November's frosty embrace, and she took a slow, somnolent step forward, her eyes wide and fixed on the awful thing that had appeared from nowhere. It was meant for her, a threat or warning, and she couldn't ignore it. Dimly, her mind registered that, beyond, the trailer was reversed, as if flipped left-to-right in a grim reflection, a mirror that should not be.
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