(Daddy) The Clean Up

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From up above the crowd Daddy sees it before anyone else. Even before the other wedding guests realize something is happening, he sees something about to happen, the sudden danger and drama in the room. The way the crowd unconsciously parts around him, drawing a presence into the room, without even really seeing the source. He's already forgotten whatever it was he and Jorgan were just talking about.

Jorgan_t: The outfits, I get it now. Wow. Wait so does Azelbeth die too?

Daddy isn't immediately alarmed. He's been alive in Wood2 long enough, launched and ended enough seasons of enough shows, to know that weird things happening is generally positive. Things happening? Good. There are so many jealousies, so many betrayals, so many revenges to enact on any given day in Wood2. It becomes the quiet moments, the slow, thoughtful pauses between action that create more problems than they solve.

Daddy watches a boy enter, making a series of snap judgements in the moment it takes to raise his screen. The disheveled clothing, the matted hair, the haunted look of desperation: The Thornes. He doesn't think in terms of positive or negative experiences, just: something is happening.

Daddy [distracted]: Meh, eventually.

This boy is shuffling through the crowd, making his way to where Qynka & Qannen are dancing under the spotlight, a beacon lit up before him, guiding him. It's the way he holds himself, like every step is a battle. Like his body is attacking itself from within, or like he's no longer in control of his movements.

Daddy raises his screen for the second time in an hour to point it at someone who apparently doesn't exist. A no one, with no history, no brand, no identification.

Daddy: Wait another one? Can someone pease tell me what narrative is even happening right now?

A gasp rises up in the ballroom. People are parting, stepping purposefully away from him. He's coughing, wheezing, limping. The new information races through the crowd and eventually to Daddy: this boy's eyes, as interesting as they are, have been leaking blood, are still leaking blood.

The dancing has stopped, the music has stopped, everyone is watching this half-dead boy lurch into the room, and it's only then that Daddy notices the other thing - that his weird, misshapen hand is actually another hand that the boy is holding, and it's too chalky and jagged to be anything but a real hand.

Daddy [turning]: Jorgan?

Jorgan_t: I. I don't know. I don't know.

Qannen's boy, the one with the hair, has rushed over and is trying to prevent the boy with the eyes from going any farther. He's saying You're sick you shouldn't be here, we need to take you to a hospital.

The boy with the eyes doesn't seem to hear, or notice, or care. He's like a zombie, just staring at Qynka and Qannen, putting one foot in front of the other, pushing forward, determined to get past the boy with the hair, to them.

A few people, the ones who were standing closest to the entrance when the boy came in, are doubled over now, coughing. In the span of seconds more people are coughing, and then more. Without even thinking about it Daddy pulls his shirt up over his mouth. He's seen enough about disease and contagion to fill a hundred lifetimes. This boy with the bleeding eyes is death.

Jorgan_t is making a mask from a napkin and motions for Daddy to do the same. A brief annoyance flits through Daddy's brain while he affixes the napkin around his mouth: he has a mask at home, in his suite. Knows exactly where it is and it matches his suit exactly. So annoying he didn't think to bring it. It's just been so long since he needed it.

Now the boy with the eyes has pushed past the boy with the hair and has his hands around Qynka's neck. He's dropped both the hand he was holding and his screen. How does this boy have a screen if he doesn't have a unique brand identifier? Daddy wonders. Somehow the idea of that screen being so unimportant to the boy that he would carelessly drop it is the most strange and blood-curdling part of this entire scene. Qannen is furiously throwing punches and elbows at the attacker but he seems either too dazed or too focused to notice. He's yelling, screaming at Qynka, something about raising awareness, and unincorporated areas, and the maze of choice that subjugates the male gender.

Whatever happens, Daddy's already thinking of the angles. The edits. The pieces he'll leave out to tell the story that needs to be told, the version that the public can handle.

Azelbeth is with her sister, kneeling over their mother's body. Alikatase is is sprawled out across the floor, seemingly unconscious. Her daughters are sobbing, trying desperately to rouse her in between their coughing fits.

"Jorgan, kill the live feed," Daddy says, not moving his eyes off the crowd. Everyone seems too occupied to film - for the first time ever - but just in case.

Jorgan_t nods and swipes his screen with a low, shaky exhale.

A random no one, Smairuhh, has run out from the crowd and inserted herself into the fight. She's trying to unwrap the boy's fingers from Qynka's neck. Qannen is clawing at the attacker's face. Even Qynka, who looks like she can barely breathe, is kicking out, trying to stab him with her heels. Smairuhh doesn't even seen to notice how she's getting jostled and thrown in between all of them, she's so determined to hang on.

Then the boy with the hair has one hand in the fray, trying to pull Qannen and Smairuhh off the attacker. What is he doing, Daddy wonders, before noticing that there's something in his other hand. In the midst of watching all this chaos unfold Daddy's heart rate has barely risen. But now, all at once, everything goes quiet and still.

Daddy: Jesus fuck is that a gun?

He looks at Jorgan, desperate for verification that he's seeing what he's seeing.

Daddy: Why would...why would they let him have a gun in here?

The gun goes off. Daddy and Jorgan flinch and crouch reflexively and by the time they look again Qannen and Smairuhh and the boy with the hair are on the floor. No longer facing any resistance, the boy with the eyes has both hands around Qynka's neck. He's lifting her up off the floor, dragging her back towards the entrance. The boy with the hair scrambles up from the floor and takes another shot and the attacker falls and the boy races to unhook Qynka from him.

The majority of the crowd is unconscious, lying on the ground, sprawled out lifeless. The ones who aren't are on their knees, coughing their lungs out, gasping for breath. Smairuhh is dragging herself through a pool of blood to get to Qannen.

That's when it registers: Qannen. On the floor, her limbs bent at unnatural angles even as the blood continues to bloom out around her.

Jorgan_t: Qannen.

None of this was supposed to happen. None of this was how today was supposed to go. Daddy's mind races ahead, tracing down all the narratives arcs that lead away from this moment, from now.

Jorgan_t: What do we do?

Daddy doesn't hesitate. The next few scenes are already rewriting themselves in his mind. He lifts his hand towards Jorgan's screen.

Daddy: Go. Do it. Get the body. Get Qannen out of here.

Jorgan nods, swipes his screen, and every zonny in the room immediately stops what it's doing and flies down onto the Qannen's body. Together, they lift her up and proceed to carry her out of the room.

There's a sob, and Daddy realizes Glitterstorm is still up here with them. Has been watching the whole thing unfold alongside them. She's shaking, terrified, completely in shock.

Daddy: Oh.

Glitterstorm [turning to Daddy]: What is happening? What is this? What just happened?

Daddy: Oh shit. Oh, honey. Come here.

Daddy puts a sorrowful look on his face and opens his arms to console her. As she steps forward into his embrace, he grabs her neck and tips her over the railing, sending her skull-first onto the floor.

Daddy [exhaling forcefully]: OK. Well,



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