reactions to other people's reactions

13 2 2

[the boys]

The boy with the hair and the boy with the eyes lose each other in the aftermath of the arena battle. Hundreds of human bodies all exiting as quickly as possible while they're looking at their screens and processing what happened and thinking about what it means to them and working on whatever's next in their multi-stage life plan to take over the city.

The shock of losing yet another friend to this city. The inexhaustible pain of it, but also the realization that their sudden deaths are foregone conclusions. Like, death was always the conclusion, OK, but this mission, their entrance into the city, has shortened their life spans considerably. That their plan, whatever it might have been, was never going to be equal to the task of everyday life in Wood2.

People are watching and rewatching the aftermath of the fight. There's alllll kinds of reactions and takes about Qynka. Debates about what it means that she was wearing a Raminashi shirt. And also what happened to Qannen is she alive? And is Arkkelina? And like who actually won the event? At the end bingey sort of went on and on about what an epic and satisfying event it was but never actually said anything about which team was the victor. But for sure: Qynka is the one everyone is talking about.

Some people are filming their reaction videos, and some are filming their reactions to other people's reactions. People are Liking and commenting and sharing the reaction videos and some are saying notes to themselves on their screens - ideas about how what they saw today can influence the next few cycles of their content. People are doing reviews of all the amazing new products that were on display during the battle and which ones people are excited to check out when they are released more widely in a few minutes. Plus all the brands building new opportunities on top of the event - Deep_Meaning has already announced a Bespoke Murderess outfit, in partnership with BXT9. Power+Sanity is running a poll to gauge interest in their newest culinary mode - the Reverse Activated Xanthan bowl. It's basically their regular Activated Xanthan bowl but with all the ingredients added in backwards to symbolize uncertainty. People seems enthusiastic so far; it's getting a lot of Likes.

All this stuff is happening on the TL while the bodies file out of the mall and back onto Emrata Street. You'd think it would be a nightmare of people bumping and crashing into each other but somehow it's not. The boy with the hair is the only one bumping into anyone and creating a scene, causing people to look away from their screens like Stop disturbing our content engagement. He's trying not to lose sight of his friend, who seems determined to put as much distance between them as possible, but also scrolling the TL to see what's happening, but also watching everyone around him b/c there is so much happening.

Everyone's movements are so practiced, almost choreographed; they're perfectly adept at unconsciously maintaining safe distance from each other. He saw a video once, when he was younger, about something called fish. The way they traveled in packs but seemed to be able to switch directions in unison without any signal whatsoever, and never bump into each other. Their fluidity and otherworldly grace stuck with him. It's like that.

As he gets farther away from the Arena Mall the crowd begins to disperse. He spots the boy with the eyes off in the distance, turning onto Stoermer. Just far enough ahead that he isn't completely lost. The boy with the eyes isn't going back to their warehouse in the Thornes, so where is he going? The boy with the hair feels certain that if he lets his friend out of his sight, he will never see him again. He'll just get swallowed up by the city, another piece of content digested and forgotten, never considered again.

The boy with the hair yells but it does nothing and he feels weird trying to communicate with someone like that so he texts the boy with the eyes frantically, with no response.

Finally enough people are out of the way that he can run, so he runs, pushing his way past the other bodies, not caring who he touches or how much it bothers them. In a burst of speed he gets his hands on his friend's jacket, pulling him to a stop, forcing him to turn around and have a conversation,

"Where are you going," the boy with the hair demands.

"Home."

"Home is that way," the boy with the hair says, pointing to the Thornes.

"Home home."

"What?" He looks around at the wall that encircles the city. "How? Why?"

"We're done here. Our friends keep dying and we are done."

"What is it you think you're going back to?"

"I don't know. But it's not this. This is a nightmare. I thought everyone here was an idiot, but it's us, we are the idiots. We are the ones who have no business here."

"If we give up now then our friends died for no reason."

"Yes! That's what I'm saying! They died for absolutely no reason! And we will too if we don't get out of here." The boy with the eyes turns to leave but the boy with the hair grabs his jacket and pulls him back around.

"I don't believe that."

"You don't believe you'll die?"

"I don't believe they died for no reason. There is no quitting, there is not turning back, there is no giving up. We have to keep going. We have to try."

The word hangs in the air between them like a zonny, foreign and evil. The boy with the eyes shakes his head. "You're enjoying this. This city has gotten to you. I knew it."

"I am finishing this job. Don't mistake my willingness to see it through to the end as weakness. That's you. You're the one running off scared. And to what? What are you running home to? Even if you can find a way out of the city, you'll just go back to your old life, with nothing changed? Our friends knew the stakes. The died because they believed in what we're doing. I don't have it in me to care that little. Nothing has changed."

"We trusted those idiots and our friend is dead. Every time we talk to someone in this city one of us winds up dead. We keep losing."

The boy with the hair puts his hand on his friend's shoulder, catching his eye. "No, we keep learning, about this city, about how it works. But you're right. We can't trust other people, we can only trust ourselves. You and me. It got us this far. It'll bring us the rest of the way."

"You are as mental as everyone else in this city if you think we're going to get another shot at Truuuly."

The boy with the hair shakes his head. "We're not. But something is about to happen, something we can use to our advantage. We just have to use what we've learned, what we know about this city."

The boy with the eyes looks at his friend, the people on their screens in every direction around them, the Arena Mall looming in the distance and the Wall, farther back, looming over everything. A sense of his friend's plan appears suddenly, unwelcome, like a rock in his mouth. "You- Oh my god. You think we're going to get to Qynka and Qannen." He pushes his friend away. "Now? After all that?"

The boy with the hair smiles. "No. We don't have to. We just have to get to their fandom."

///

///

Oops! This image does not follow our content guidelines. To continue publishing, please remove it or upload a different image.
Cutie Cutie Ghost ShowRead this story for FREE!