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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5. part 5

Scout and Demoman are left now. I wander the halls, trolling for them. If Scout could still speak, I probably would have found him much faster. I do find him, eventually. He is hiding in a room that we all know about, one that he goes to whenever he’s feeling especially upset and lonely. He whimpers and curls up into a corner, and squeaks at me. It’s the closest he can get to a desperate plea for his life. But we both know better. He looks so hurt before I sever his neck against the wall with Shovel’s blade. Such a shame. I loved that boy like a son.

I’m not sure how long I wander around the base, looking for Demoman. It feels like it could be days, but my sense of time is so badly damaged from years underground, I don’t even know anymore. Eventually, I find my way back into the room with the Announcer, and there he is, laying each of the bodies out, on their backs. I just walked in on their funeral. Demoman sees me come in, even without his peripheral vision, and looks at me.

“Ye come tae kill me to, eh?” he asks.

“You gonna make this hard?” I ask back.

“At least ye weren’t lonely before,” he says, probably speaking more for himself than I. “I should a’ suspected it was you who would snap. Ne’er trust th’ nice ones.”

“You think I wanted t’ do this?” I ask. “I had to. I had to save you somehow. This was the only way. Can’t ya see that?”

“Ye’ve gone daffy,” he says. “An’ when I’m gone, ye’ll have no one. She’s still watchin’, ye know. She’s just not doin’ anythin’ fer wotever reason. She’s gonna wan’ a least one toy lef’. An’ that’ll be you.”

“How do you know that?” I ask.

“I know this bitch well enough t’ know how she works,” he says. “Face it. Ye’ve doomed yerself.”

I was already doomed a long, long time ago. I walk over to him, and he looked at me with that one, damning eye, and he spreads out his arm. Dumb bastard fancies himself to be like Jesus, I guess. I feel particularly ornery, and I beat him to death with Shovel. I’m crying while I do it, and I don’t even know why. Then it hits me. I just killed the last friend I ever had.

And then, it’s just me, alone. I stare over the bodies of the men who were once my friends, and what I did finally starts to sink in. I’m a murderer. I sink to my knees and I sob, and the Announcer just laughs.

Of course, I can’t bury them. The Announcer shuts off this room to all the others in Steel, and she watches me. I do not move. I do not know how long it has been since I last moved, and I do not care. But I think. One day, after some thought, I get up and I walk away.

“LEAVING?” she asks.

“Yeah,” I say.

“WHERE WILL YOU GO?” she asks me.

I cannot answer. Instead, I wander. The base here is much larger than it used to be. Doors open for me that had been locked a long, long time ago. I wander past large tanks of gas, all hooked up to the ventilation system. I know they are gas because I can hear their hiss, though I do not know why kind it is. I had never seen this room before, and I keep walking, trying not to consider the implications too much.

There is a ladder in front of me, now. It leads up into the darkness, a long way up, to be sure. I climb it, slowly, steadily, tired as I am, until it’s so dark I can’t see a foot in front of my face. Finally, my head bumps into something. It’s a hatch. There’s a large, round handle, and it’s hard for me to turn it on this ladder, but I manage. It occurs to me too late that this may lead to the outside world, with its scorched, poisoned earth, and its radiation. It also occurs to me that I stopped caring.

I push it open, and light bleeds in, blinding me. Sunlight. The light hasn’t been blocked out by toxic clouds, by dust, and I when my eyes finally adjust, I see a clear, blue sky. I see birds. I see a giant billboard advertising Coca Cola, and I see an airplane fly by behind it, leaving a long, white trail.

I feel nauseous. The realization hits me like a wrecking ball to my gut. She had lied to us so many times, I did not think she would ever lie to us about this. I fall to my knees. We were tortured, punished, driven mad, and I became a murderer, all for nothing. Demoman was right. She has had her revenge.

I open my mouth. And I scream.

 

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