The announcer's game

It has been 113 years, 3 months, and 16 days since the Announcer trapped us down here. The only reason I know this is because she likes to remind us gleefully of how long we have been her prisoners whenever the occasion arises, which is far too often for my tastes.

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1. part 1.

It has been 113 years, 3 months, and 16 days since the Announcer trapped us down here. The only reason I know this is because she likes to remind us gleefully of how long we have been her prisoners whenever the occasion arises, which is far too often for my tastes.

Scout is curled up next to me, clinging to me like a baby monkey as he twitches in his sleep. It has been about 75 years since he was rendered completely dumb when his tongue got ripped out and stayed ripped out. We used to joke about how it made him more pleasant. Then, for a while, it seemed extremely tragic. Now, he seems to have gotten used to it. Being mute isn’t so bad, especially when there isn’t really much to talk about anymore. But he listens to me now. And having a good listener is a godsend in this hellhole.

Sniper is lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling. I can hear his stomach growling, but I know he doesn’t care. He stopped caring decades ago. He has become so lethargic, that on a bad day, if the Announcer wants to play a game with us, we have to pick him up off the floor and drag him. Heavy will sometimes lift him up and sling him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He can talk, unlike Scout, but it’s only in clipped, one-or-two word answers. Sometimes it’s just non-committal grunts. Sometimes, on a good day, you can strike up a conversation with him. And just when you think he’s slipping back into his old self, he remembers where we are, and shuts down.

Heavy and Medic are in the corner, going at it like rabbits. They don’t care that everybody can see them. The Announcer is watching, of course, but she’s always watching. We can hear her snicker sometimes. Heavy is extremely protective of the doctor. Well, he always was, really, but now he won’t let anyone touch Medic. At all. He likes to carry Medic around like a doll, and is always hanging onto him, touching him. Perhaps it’s because the Announcer tortures the doctor worse than the rest of us… or, at least, most of the rest of us. From what I hear, she likes to lock him in a furnace and burn him to death, over and over and over. And when he’s not in a furnace he’s being vivisected while fully, screamingly conscious. When he’s with Heavy, it haunts him less, and Heavy knows this. They are never seen apart from each other, always at arm’s length from the other unless forcibly, cruelly separated. The Announcer actually joined the two of their bodies together at one point, experimenting with different methods of fusion, but it hardly seemed to make much of a difference. The mental image of the two of them kissing while Medic’s head was next to Heavy’s on the giant Russian’s shoulders will be permanently burned into my memory forever. Her fun ruined, she separated them again. She likes to separate them whenever she can.

Demoman is sitting next to me, still trying to figure out where whatever cameras are that the Announcer may be using to spy upon us. I have told him many times that I don’t think there are any, but he is still convinced that there are. I can still hold conversations with him. The only thing keeping him focused is his intense and all-consuming hatred for the Announcer. Even after all these years, it has not died, or dwindled, or faded in any way. I cannot count how many times he has been killed, tortured, blinded, given his sight back, blinded again, and ripped up in so many different ways because he either tried to escape or just destroy her. Some day, he tells me, we’ll be free. I ask him what he plans to do if he manages to kill her or we escape, and he admits he has no idea at all. The surface world is ravaged by a nuclear winter, the landscape barren and desolate. There is no one else out there. And more importantly, I remind him, there are no women. Once we leave here and die, there will only be extinction.

Soldier used to hate her too. Now, he’s in his own corner, as far away from Heavy and Medic as he can possibly get, conversing with Shovel. What he’s saying is anyone’s guess; it all sounds like incomprehensible babble, and you’d be lucky to hear the odd English word bubble up from his throat. The years of being trapped here took an enormous toll on his already compromised sanity. He talked with Shovel before the End, yes, but things took a turn for the worse when he complained about the auras; great swaths of color, surrounding and emanating from us, apparently changing and undulating according to our moods. Nobody is sure if this was the Announcer’s doing or not. He has made several attempts on the lives of Heavy and Medic, and I sincerely doubt he even remembers why he hates them as much as he does. But they always respawn, and he has never totally given up. He only talks to Shovel, now. About 50 years ago, he stopped talking to us, turning his back on us as he held his conferences with his entrenching tool. He’s the only one of us that still has any of their weapons, and the only reason the Announcer let him keep Shovel is because she finds his conversations with it funny. He was so paranoid that she and we were listening in on him that he created his own language, so intricate in its design that none of us could ever hope to learn it. After a while, he seemingly forgot how to speak English. When we talk to him, he stares at us,

stares through us, as though we are completely alien beings. He does not recognize us. I can only guess as to what he is seeing when he stares at us, his eyes wide with terror, and his Shovel held high above his head, threatening us with decapitation should we venture too close.

Spy is probably the worst off. The Announcer apparently really had it in for him, as his body is constantly changing size and shape, mutating and cracking and stretching painfully. He’s not in the same room we are. He can’t stand to be seen. When he is, he tries to tumble away, violently throwing his constantly changing body away from us. He hates us. Whenever Medic is crying over whatever torment he has had to endure, you can hear Spy laughing. And when he’s not laughing, he’s screaming. After almost a hundred years of his cries, sometimes I forget to hear them. And sometimes I remember, and I feel bad for him, and I go to keep him company. All he can think to ask me is if I have a cigarette.

I have not seen Pyro in 100 years. Scout thinks he escaped. I’m not so sure.

There will be a game today. I know there will. The games are always at random. Sometimes days go by, and there is none. Sometimes there is more than one in a single day. For the past few weeks, there has been one pretty much every day, without fail. Of course, now that I’m starting to get used to it, she’s probably going to find a way to change it up. She always does that.

Scout’s awake now. He’s tugging at my sleeve, and looking up at me. His eyes, God bless his eyes; they still have a tiny, faint spark in them. It’s probably Demoman’s fault, telling the poor kid that we’re going to escape one day. I hold him close and I try to smile. “What’s up, boy?” I ask.

He can’t talk of course. Instead, he points up at the ceiling.

“Eventually,” I say. “Probably today. You know how she is.”

He frowns. He gets up, and he walks over to the glass window. He stares up at all the machinery just outside. All of it was once built by human hands. The Announcer knows this and it only fuels her hatred for us tiny, fleshy, imperfect humans. So she created this place to torment us, and she created the Things that act as her hands. There are many things, and each of them is more monstrous than the next. Sometimes I am sure that Pyro is the Things; each and every last one of them. Demoman agrees.

The glass panel opens, and Scout totters back. Sniper turns his head, and rolls it back into place. Heavy and Medic look up from their sodomy and look towards the exit. They are annoyed by this interruption, and Medic removes himself from Heavy, grumbling. I can swear I hear the Announcer laughing at this.

“GOOD MORNING RED TEAM,” she says, as though there’s still a BLU team. “HOW HUNGRY ARE YOU TODAY?”

Nobody answers. The question was purely rhetorical. It’s been three days since we had anything to eat. We’ve gone longer, but that doesn’t make the pangs subside.

“THERE IS A BEAST IN HERE. IF YOU CAN KILL IT, IT’S YOURS. GOOD LUCK!”

“I hate tha’ bloody cow,” says Demoman. He means the Announcer, of course. We have not seen the beast yet.

Seven of us leave the room. Spy stays behind. It hurts too much for him to move over great distances. We wander past the electrified computer towers, and, as I always do, I wonder which of them does what. Which one of them controls the respawn, which one of them controls the oxygen, which one of them controls our bodies and the monsters and the shifting environment around us? Sometimes I wonder if all of it is some sort of illusion, a nightmare playing out in my head while my body is in a coma somewhere else. Somehow, I doubt it.

A long time ago, I would have tried to figure out how all of her tricks worked. I’m past that now. Science has proven useless to me here. Here, there is only madness and hatred, fear and loathing. And the rabbit hole can always go down just a little bit further.

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