East Grove Hills by XYZ.

I've seen the cover art before — Spelunker's Quest has it. Is it an example image that comes with Inform?

In any case it's an odd cover for this game. It's more of a fairy-tale, fantasy, adventuring type of cover.

East Grove Hills
An interactive anecdote by XYZ
Release 1 / Serial number 100930 / Inform 7 build 5Z71 (I6/v6.31 lib 6/12N)

Press any key to continue.
It was five minutes before the end of the world. Well, the end of the world for us, anyway. Yue, Jenny, and I spent those five minutes trying to barely scrape by on some sort of presentation in AP Lit.

Room 1-03
The classrooms at EGHHS can't really be distinguished by their physical features alone. This room is (was?) an English classroom. All the typical features of a classroom were present: neatly arranged desk-chairs facing a whiteboard and the teacher's desk, oppressed-looking students, a dictatorial teacher, etc. The windows faced to the school's courtyard.

It's worryingly early in the game for proofreading failures like "sort of the load".

Jenny, Yue, and I were giving a presentation on something vaguely related to literature. No, wait, it was the social issue presentation. No, wait, I think it actually was a presentation on some book or another. I completely forgot. For AP Lit (officially known as Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition). We were situated awkwardly in front of the class. Jenny was leaning on the desk at the front, staring at the other students while smiling in her own oddly creepy way. Yue looked very awkward as she shuffled papers on the lectern. I was sitting in front of the computer, pretending to mess with the Powerpoint presentation in order to look like I was doing something. I was sort of the load for this project.

Yue was standing at the lectern, trying to give her presentation.

Jenny was staring at everyone else in the class.

The teacher sat at her desk, grading us.

> x teacher
She has a name, but I only knew her as 4th Period Teacher. The teacher was using the last ten minutes of her life grading us on our presentation.

"So, let's start," Yue said to the class. We had decided that she was to go first and last in the presentation since she was the only one among the three of us who could speak comfortably in any situation. So then the presentation began.

> i
I don't remember what I was wearing or carrying. Even if I had, it isn't important.

I had heard that people were expecting our presentation to go awesomely because we were some of the smartest kids in the school. Not that we weren't, but that has no relevancy towards our presentation performance. When you have two practically socially isolated people and one very awkward person, getting up in front of the class and giving a speech can never go well.

Anyway, it began. "Okay, so we're going to talk about..." Yue was talking. I don't remember what she was talking about exactly. I was clicking to advance the slide whenever she told me to click. Jenny was still standing at the front and looking creepy.

> x me
My name is Thomas Wu. If you don't really care for your life, you can call me "Tom." What about me? I'm 16. I'm a junior at East Grove Hills High School. Which sort of doesn't exist anymore, except it does.

"Well, you guys probably all know that we're doing the book ..." Yue continued. Yue really sucked at giving presentations, but Jenny and I were probably worse. Jenny's idea was to make a computer game, but that was shot down. So we're going with the most generic option available. Powerpoint it was. She was starting out by talking about the plot. Giving the main plot points and all that.

> x yue
Yue Zhang was my sister's best friend and my sort-of friend. She was the first (and probably only) friend we had here in East Grove Hills. I don't even remember how we met, or why we got along so well, except that we did. It was strange, because she wasn't like us. She seemed normal, except for her embarrassingly heavy Chinese accent and strange name. Unlike us, she did things normal high school students did, like play sports, go to dances, hang out with other people, etc. And she had better grades and was more talented in just about everything than both of us. Sure, her parents were legendary for their "Asian-ness" and cruelty, but she really was super-talented. Ms. Perfect, she was often called.

It was one minute before it happened. Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought the clock's ticking sounded louder and louder. Maybe it was just my boredom. About my boredom. It was only a few minutes in, and I was already getting bored. Yue's voice was droning on and on. She was speaking in an almost perfect monotone. Jenny looked a little bored now, too. Still, she was interrupting Yue now and then. I kept clicking though the slides. We were on the fifth slide.

> x jenny
Jenny Wu was my sister. Actually, she was my cousin, but it's all the same. Adoptive sister? She was the one person I really cared about. We were pretty much outcasts for our entire lives. We were weird. She was sort of crazy at times, coming up with all sorts of crazy scenarios and stories, not knowing what was fact and what was fiction. Sometimes we would have contests, arguing over who had less friends or was more socially awkward. I generally won, but it was close. I really loved her, I think. No, not in an incestuous way. But she really was probably the only person I could call a friend.

"Ok, so the next important plot event is..."

The clock's ticking noise kept bothering me. When I looked at the clock, the minute hand was somewhere between six and seven and the second hand had just ticked to exactly six. I didn't hear the clock's next tick because that was when the bombs exploded.

On a night like this, I would typically be staying at home, lurking on internet forums and playing crappy text adventure games. But tonight is prom night. Which makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. Even if it hadn't happened, I still wouldn't have gone to prom. I don't think my sister would have gone either.

But anyway, I'm starting to ramble. Now onto the important stuff.

It was approximately 8:25 PM when she called me.

"I'm at the park." she had said. "You should come here now."

This was the third time she had called me ever, and I was too floored to respond. "Okay, you're coming. Good," she had replied to my silence. At least it beats playing crappy adventure games the whole evening. So, without making any sound to my parents (not that they would care anyway), I left my house and began walking to the park.

Park Place
Welcome to Park Place, East Grove Hills, Minnesota. Home of me. And a few other people I knew, but I think they're dead now. Not that it makes much of a difference. I didn't really know them. Multicolored houses with perfectly manicured lawns and tall, verdant trees line the gently winding street. The intersection with Pines Avenue is to the north.

She told me that she was waiting for me at the park. It's north, then east, then north again. Stupid text adventures are making me think in compass directions.

I used to walk on this route nearly every day. Possibly one of the symptoms of my utter lack of a social life. My parents and my sister used to walk around just for the sake of walking and exposure to the outside. I don't think we're ever going to return to that.

> n

Pines Avenue
Pines Avenue is the main road through this corner of the suburbs, with sidewalks and a median. Townhouses flank the sides of the road, filled with the typical suburbanite stock. The way to the park is through Dalton Street, which is east of here.

There's something creepy about the fact that there almost aren't any signs that people actually live here. No cars are on the roads, and no people walk on the sidewalks. It's not like that many people died, but it seems like everything has changed since then. Maybe it's just my perception. Maybe there's something screwed up with the way I see things.

Prom. It was supposed to be a sign of our school's "resilience", of how the school managed to "persevere despite the immense tragedy that has befallen us." No matter what happens, prom must always go on. The student council and school administration sent us all personal letters, telling us that we could come for free. So that was where the donation money was spent.

> x houses
What does one expect from houses in a stereotypical suburb? The one thing that distinguishes this place from a Levittown is that the houses actually all look different, with colors ranging from green to beige to pink. They're all two stories tall with two-car garages and semicircular windows greeting the street.

> e

This is getting to be a lot of reading before I've really been able to do anything.

Dalton Street
This is yet another boring little suburban street. I'm pretty sure I know a few people who live on this street who aren't dead, for a change. But I'm not really acquainted with them. I'm not acquainted with most, no, nearly all people at my school. To go to the park, just go north and get on Flanagan Street.

The first priority of the district administrators was getting everyone back into school. We were treated to just one month of no school before we were herded to a bunch of random buildings in order to at least keep up the pretense of education. The old EGHHS building was pretty much totaled by the bombs, but they got enough money through donations to fix it for next year.

> n

Flanagan Street
Yet another typical suburban street, curving towards the park to the north. People who don't live in this neighborhood always get lost around here, since the streets are so similar. I think this is around where Alan Lee lives, but I'm not ready to visit him.

I'm getting nervous. Before every social interaction (except for... never mind), no matter how insignificant it is, my heart always pumps faster, and I invariably get a tingling sensation in my stomach. Of course, that's what I'm feeling right now. Have I always been this awkward? Yes, I have. Even when I was in China before my real parents died.

> n

Olson park
I used to come here on walks with my parents (and my... never mind) on a regularity that would disturb my peers. When I went here with my parents, I always tried to hide myself, just in case there was someone I knew here. The high school's baseball team practices in the diamonds to the east, and the soccer kids play in the fields to the north. Northwest is the trail through the little forest and wetlands. To the west is the playground.

This is the first time I've been back here since... before? Nothing's really changed. Except, the park was never this quiet. Maybe it's my imagination again.

She's probably over by the playground. I'm getting nervous. This is the first time that I actually wanted to meet someone here (who wasn't a relative), instead of avoiding all contact.

> w

Why "playground" in lower case here?

playground
When I first moved here, I was already a little too old for the playground. That might have been part of why I'm so antisocial now. I was deprived of a critical bonding opportunity with my fellow children. I was plopped down here in the middle of puberty: an inopportune time for someone like me.

Digressions.

Pretty typical for a playground. An assortment of swing sets, climbing rocks, and jungle gyms adorn the wood chip-covered ground. There's a vague aura of creepiness here. Maybe it's because the playground is entirely empty. No, almost entirely empty. I mean there aren't any kids playing here. To the north a trail snakes off into a patch of pines. The way back is to the east.

She's here, sitting on the swing bench. It stops swinging. She's probably heard me, but she doesn't move. I think she's waiting for me to talk to her.

> x her
I didn't really know what to think about her. I sort of had a vague feeling of attraction towards her, but she always made me uncomfortable in a strange way. And no, part of that didn't have anything to do with my feelings. I thought she was always so controlled and submissive, and everything she did seemed forced and deliberate. Though it was a bit hypocritical of me to judge her like that, since I'm the same in more ways than I'd like to think.

> who is she
[she -> shed]
I'm sorry; English is not my first language. Try either a simpler phrase. Or a command with a verb. Because I love to be enslaved to hierarchical systems of command.

> save
Ok.

> talk to her
[1] "Hey."
[2] "Uh, hello"
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"Hello", she says quietly without turning her head. "How's it going?"

[1] "You know I hate generic questions."
[2] "Uh, I'm fine, I guess."
[3] "How are YOU doing?"
[4] Say nothing

> 2
"Well, that's nice for you. I'm not fine at all." She's not fine. What a surprise.

Now is when things start getting really awkward. My skill in small talk is not one of my assets.

[1] "Um, so why did you call me?"
[2] Say nothing

The street lamps suddenly switch on.

> 1
"I just want to talk."

[1] "That's boring."
[2] "Talk about what?"
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"Well, I wanted to talk about what I usually talk about. But the people I usually would talk to are all dead."

[1] "So I'm sort of a conversational partner of last resort?"
[2] "Don't you have other friends whom you can talk to?"
[3] Say nothing

> 3
I don't say anything. The silence is somewhat awkward.

"Hey, aren't you going to talk to me or something?"

[1] "So I'm sort of a conversational partner of last resort?"
[2] "Don't you have other friends whom you can talk to?"
[3] Say nothing

> 1
"Well, sort of. I'm sorry. But believe it or not, I've always trusted you. Right now, you're the only person I can be honest with right now."

[1] "Why is that?"
[2] "What about your wonderful Asian parents?"
[3] Say nothing

> 1
"That doesn't matter right now, okay? The point is, you're the only person I want to talk to right now. So, are you doing okay?" She returns to the generic "how are you"-type question. I hate these questions.

[1] "I'm still functioning on a basic level, if that's what you want to hear."
[2] Say nothing

> 2
I don't say anything. The silence is somewhat awkward.

"Hey, aren't you going to talk to me or something?"

[1] "I'm still functioning on a basic level, if that's what you want to hear."
[2] Say nothing

Can't I say something nice?

> 1
"That's better than nothing, I guess. I feel like I can't function anymore. I probably sound really whiny, but I'm serious. It's just... I don't even know. I always feel like something's wrong."

[1] "Maybe what's wrong is that I'm the only person you can talk to."
[2] "Your angst is really getting to me right now."
[3] "You're ranked first now. Why would you be unhappy?"
[4] Say nothing

> 1
"I'm sorry I haven't talked to you much before. I always thought that you just wanted to be by yourself. And you always seem like you're retreating from people when they get close to you."

[1] "So you think that I like being lonely?"
[2] Say nothing

> 2
I don't say anything. The silence is somewhat awkward.

"Hey, aren't you going to talk to me or something?"

[1] "So you think that I like being lonely?"
[2] Say nothing

Now the sky almost completely black, with only a few tinges of blue and orange.

> 1
"Look, I'm sorry, okay? I don't think no one cared about you. I care about you. Seriously. And so did Eric and ... never mind. Anyway, you don't have to be so negative."

"How can I not be negative? Without my sister, I'm completely alone. You don't know loneliness until you've not had one real conversation in three months." It's true. My sister was the only person who (I think) actually enjoyed being around me. And she's dead.

"Look, I'm sorry. I really am," she said.

[1] "Don't try to show sympathy for me. You can't understand."
[2] "Don't remind me about everything."
[3] Say nothing

> z
"Okay, seriously, please talk to me," she says without inflection. "Say something."

> ask her about herself
[Use TALK TO to interact with characters.]

> talk to her
[1] "Don't try to show sympathy for me. You can't understand."
[2] "Don't remind me about everything."
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"Okay then. But really, there are people who still care about you. Like your parents. Right?"

[1] "I'm adopted. Jenny was their real child."
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"Really? I never knew that. Or maybe I knew and then forgot. Uh, okay then. So, what is it like? Is it, like, really awkward? Sorry I can't think of a better way to phrase this."

[1] "Did you really think that we were actual siblings?"
[2] "I haven't talked to them since then."
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"Literally? Have you talked to anyone at all since what happened?"

[1] "Of course I literally talked to people."
[2] Say nothing

> 2
I don't say anything. The silence is somewhat awkward.

"So are you still going to ignore me? Why don't you say something?" She looks up at me as she speaks. I turn away.

[1] "Of course I literally talked to people."
[2] Say nothing

> 1
Yeah. I actually talk to people, surprisingly, even my parents, on occasion. Maybe an average of 50 words per day. My parents actually acknowledge me about once per day. Even that's a bit too much for comfort sometimes.

"I know that. I mean have you ever talked to anyone about what happened?"

[1] "Do you really want to talk about that?"
[2] "No. I don't remember talking to anyone about it."
[3] Say nothing

> 1
"Well, I don't know anymore. I don't really remember much. Maybe it was the blood loss. All I remember is that you saved me..." Yeah, I did. Sort of. Now that she brings it up, awkwardness will ensue. "Do you remember that?"

"Well, actually, I do..."

The ringing of the fire alarms was anticlimactic, but we still moved out of the classroom in a generally orderly fashion. We didn't know that almost two hundred people were dead or going to die very soon. The smoke and screaming students covered in blood running didn't help things, but we somehow didn't panic. The teacher dutifully was the last one out. I was walking next to Yue, and Jenny was a ways a head of me.

Suddenly changes to present tense for "Hopefully they won't notice".

The shooting started right after we left. Screams penetrated the air almost as quickly as the bullets. Sounds of gunshots and shrieks merged into a perverse opera. Everything was blurring in my vision. I had to run. I grabbed the person closest to me and ran. Ran, screaming without knowing what I was doing or where I was going. I was pulling Yue along. She was crying and screaming louder than I was. I stopped hearing anything. The sounds all blended together into a dull roar. There were what looked like people on the floor, but I didn't notice. They were shooting at me. Trying to kill me. All I wanted was to live. I almost pushed Yue off when she fell on my shoulder. My glance was just long enough to notice the red stain on her shirt. As I pushed through the inner front doors, I noticed the glint of a gun and red splotches in the snow. So they were trying to trap us. Kill as many as possible. I pulled Yue to the front desk. It looked protected, and they couldn't see under the table in the alcove. I pulled some poster over us. Hopefully they won't notice.

Front Desk
I was in relative safety. The front desk was a brick hexagon with one side open, and that side was covered by a chair and a few posters. Just to be safer, I put Yue underneath the side of the desk that I thought was least visible. I can't see anything from here. I can't see the shooters, but I know they're here. One of them is somewhere around the commons and the other one is outside.

[1] Say nothing
[2] "Are you okay?"
[3] "Does it hurt?"
[4] "Are you going to be fine?"

The rate of gunshots was lower, I thought. Maybe everyone was already dead. I hear a door opening. The outside shooter was probably coming in.

> 2
Stupid question. She stopped crying for just enough time to whimper "yes".

[1] Say nothing
[2] "Does it hurt?"
[3] "Are you going to be fine?"

It was eerily quiet. No more gunshots for now. I think I heard some slow-moving footsteps. Maybe it was the outside shooter walking in. Walking towards the other shooter.

> 3
She nodded as the tears continued to run down her cheek.

[1] Say nothing
[2] "Does it hurt?"

"No! What are you doing!", I heard a familiar voice shout. Rapid footsteps were followed by gunshots, and then a scream. No, it was more like a groan. Jenny's body dropped to the floor of the commons. My heart was about to explode. I was on the brink of either going catatonic or running and screaming.

> listen
There aren't any gunshots, at least.

Still no more sounds. I was trying as hard as I can to resist going out.

More inconsistent tenses — "Time passed", but "There aren't any gunshots".

> z
Time passed.

I heard some indistinct voices. Must have been the shooters. I could barely stop myself from rushing out.

> listen
There aren't any gunshots, at least.

There was a gunshot, and a body hitting the floor. No screaming this time. Then there was another gunshot and someone collapsing. Everything was silent.

This examine response isn't a good enough excuse for leaving out descriptions. I was just talking to Yue — I ought to be able to see her too.

> x yue
I don't have photographic memory. There are some things that I just forgot, or never noticed in the first place.

> x me
My name is Thomas Wu. If you don't really care for your life, you can call me "Tom." What about me? I'm 16. I'm a junior at East Grove Hills High School. Which sort of doesn't exist anymore, except it does.

> i
I don't remember what I was wearing or carrying. Even if I had, it isn't important.

> z
Time passed.

> l
Front Desk
I was in relative safety. The front desk was a brick hexagon with one side open, and that side was covered by a chair and a few posters. Just to be safer, I put Yue underneath the side of the desk that I thought was least visible. I can't see anything from here. I can't see the shooters, but I know they're here. One of them is somewhere around the commons and the other one is outside.

> save
Ok.

> get up
Commons
Everything was red. I could barely see the tiles of the floor beneath the blood and corpses. The smell was the worst part. Everyone here is dead. Almost everyone.

Jenny was lying on the floor, clutching her stomach.

> x jenny
Jenny didn't look very good. At least she was alive. The wound on her looked bad. It was a direct stomach wound.

> get yue
I don't have photographic memory. There are some things that I just forgot, or never noticed in the first place.

> d
I either can't go that way or I don't want to.

> in

Front Desk
I was in relative safety. The front desk was a brick hexagon with one side open, and that side was covered by a chair and a few posters. Just to be safer, I put Yue underneath the side of the desk that I thought was least visible. I can't see anything from here. I can't see the shooters, but I know they're here. One of them is somewhere around the commons and the other one is outside.

> get yue
I don't have photographic memory. There are some things that I just forgot, or never noticed in the first place.

> carry yue
I don't have photographic memory. There are some things that I just forgot, or never noticed in the first place.

> talk to yue
I don't have photographic memory. There are some things that I just forgot, or never noticed in the first place.

> e
I either can't go that way or I don't want to.

> u
Commons
Everything was red. I could barely see the tiles of the floor beneath the blood and corpses. The smell was the worst part. Everyone here is dead. Almost everyone.

Jenny was lying on the floor, clutching her stomach.

The police and ambulance and fire trucks arrived. It was pretty quick, actually, but they didn't help much. I helped move Yue and Jenny and the other wounded kids. Jenny was already unconscious. They told me to help out and not just stay by her, but I couldn't move.
It was sometime in January. Two or so weeks before what happened. The three of us were meeting at our house for the Lit project.

Home
This is the only room in my house that I really care about. Or, one of only two rooms that I really care about, the other being the bathroom. My sister and I lived here. It's where we slept, ate, studied, etc. By the way, it wasn't "weird" at all to sleep in the same room as my sister. We refused to bow to social pressure to separate. What would have been the point? Anyway, it didn't matter, since just about no one has come here. Except Yue was here on that day. But it was for academics, so it shouldn't really count.

The room itself isn't that special. The two beds were at opposite walls of the room. There's a desk with a big desktop computer on it and a smaller desk with a laptop on it. A bookcase lied against the south walls. Clutter of all sorts filled the floor: mostly books, with papers, CDs, computer components, and other stuff that I can't remember covering up most of the rest of the floor.

"So, this is you guys's room?", Yue said, as if searching for some conversational topic to break the awkwardness.

"Yeah. Um, so, what do you think?", replied Jenny.

"Oh yeah, by the way, hey Thomas. I didn't notice you for a second," Yue said as she finally turned and looked at me.

We were probably the most awkward three Asian-American teenagers ever.

Yue is standing in the precious open space and pacing uncomfortably.

> save
Ok.

> talk to yue
[1] "So, let's talk about the project."
[2] "Um, so should we go downstairs and work?"

> 1
"Yeah. About the project. What exactly should we do the project on?" Yue was completely clueless, as usual. Jenny didn't know either.

[1] "I don't know what we should do."
[2] "So does anyone have any ideas?"

> 2
"Well, uh, I don't know," said Yue. "I guess the safe thing to do is a powerpoint. One for each section- characters, plot, symbolism, and everything. What else can we do?"

"Well, we could do a computer game or something. Thomas is good at that sort of stuff, right?" Thanks, Jenny.

"No." Yue was more emphatic than usual. "How would that even work? And the presentation is in two weeks. We don't have time for that."

[1] "I can make an interactive fiction."

> 1
"What's that?", Yue asked.

"You might call it a text adventure," Jenny said. "They're basically adventure games but with text. See, what you do is..."

Jenny explained everything about interactive fiction. Yue was still skeptical. "So, how would that relate to our project?"

"I actually don't really know yet. But it could definitely work."

[1] "I can just try to make something, and if it doesn't get done that's that."
[2] "Actually, I don't really want to do that."

> 1
"Just don't spend too much time on it," Yue said.

"But if he doesn't spend time on it, how would he finish?", Jenny responded.

"I'll just do it if I have time," I said. "So let's get to work or something."

Ugh, meta. Did we have to drag in the meta?

And we did. It wasn't too bad, more mediocre than anything else. Yue put the most work into it, and I tried to make an interactive fiction game. Inform 7 was harder to work with than I thought. Still, I managed to get a basic framework done. Despite being failtasticly bad, it was barely playable, and had a semblance of a plot which had nothing to do with the book. I never did finish it in time for the presentation. After what happened, I turned back to my failure of a game. Jenny and Yue were going to be in it. I was going to be in it, too. It's the game you're playing now.

It's the first day of the new school year. We're all back at East Grove Hills High School. The first thing that happens in the day, of course, is the presentation, about how our "resilience" and "courage" and "determination" or whatever has allowed us to rebuild and come back here and let ourselves be educated again. It's going to be something like that.

Auditorium
This is the auditorium of East Grove Hills High School. It's one of the more undamaged parts of the school. No one was killed here, at least. All the seniors were here for some sort of presentation. A speech on all the generic stuff like courage and resilience and all that. I was sitting by myself, as usual, somewhere in the very back of the auditorium. The principal and some other officials are on the stage.

"As we all know,..." What a horrible way for the principal to begin. I scanned the auditorium, looking for Yue
>
x principal
She's the principal of this school. On the day that the massacre happened, she wasn't at school. Lucky for her.

"East Grove Hills High School is still here..." And I thought it was supposed to be an optimistic speech. I still don't see Yue anywhere. She should be pretty noticeable. There aren't that many Asians in the school.

> l
Auditorium
This is the auditorium of East Grove Hills High School. It's one of the more undamaged parts of the school. No one was killed here, at least. All the seniors were here for some sort of presentation. A speech on all the generic stuff like courage and resilience and all that. I was sitting by myself, as usual, somewhere in the very back of the auditorium. The principal and some other officials are on the stage.

"In the face of enormous tragedy, the students and staff of our school have..." Typical generic stuff.

My cell phone is vibrating. It's probably Yue. Since she knows how much I hate texting, she actually called me.

"Hey. Can you get out of there?", she says. "I know you want to. It's okay."

"Sure. I'll come," I whisper.

"Great. Bye."

> out
I can leave unobstrusively since I'm sitting at the back. Yue was waiting for me outside.

"I couldn't stand being in there," she says. "Everything's so disgusting." My thoughts about the administration have rubbed off on her.

"So what do you want to do?", I ask.

"I don't know. Just... get out. Well, I thought about what Jenny would do if she were here."

"You're not Jenny. What do you want to do?"

"This might sound strange, but I really thought of this." That's a bad sign. She seems more like Jenny now. "How about let's form a club to challenge the school's social paradigms? I don't mean to do this now; I just wanted to talk about it. We can create our own social space where extreme introverts, people with mental issues, and generally weird people can hang out and talk about stuff. Basically, a club for people like us."

How elitist. "By weird I presume you mean not "ghetto", not "goth", ..."

"Okay. Let's filter people out by calling it the East Grove Hills Philosophical Society or something like that."

Yue's plan might be elitist, patronizing, and hypocritical, but it sounds fun. If it succeeds. "Sure. Let's start." Jenny would have loved this.

*** The End. ***

Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game, or QUIT?
>
restart

East Grove Hills
An interactive anecdote by XYZ
Release 1 / Serial number 100930 / Inform 7 build 5Z71 (I6/v6.31 lib 6/12N)

Press any key to continue.
It was five minutes before the end of the world. Well, the end of the world for us, anyway. Yue, Jenny, and I spent those five minutes trying to barely scrape by on some sort of presentation in AP Lit.

Room 1-03
The classrooms at EGHHS can't really be distinguished by their physical features alone. This room is (was?) an English classroom. All the typical features of a classroom were present: neatly arranged desk-chairs facing a whiteboard and the teacher's desk, oppressed-looking students, a dictatorial teacher, etc. The windows faced to the school's courtyard.

Jenny, Yue, and I were giving a presentation on something vaguely related to literature. No, wait, it was the social issue presentation. No, wait, I think it actually was a presentation on some book or another. I completely forgot. For AP Lit (officially known as Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition). We were situated awkwardly in front of the class. Jenny was leaning on the desk at the front, staring at the other students while smiling in her own oddly creepy way. Yue looked very awkward as she shuffled papers on the lectern. I was sitting in front of the computer, pretending to mess with the Powerpoint presentation in order to look like I was doing something. I was sort of the load for this project.

Yue was standing at the lectern, trying to give her presentation.

Jenny was staring at everyone else in the class.

The teacher sat at her desk, grading us.

> i
I don't remember what I was wearing or carrying. Even if I had, it isn't important.

"So, let's start," Yue said to the class. We had decided that she was to go first and last in the presentation since she was the only one among the three of us who could speak comfortably in any situation. So then the presentation began.

> x teacher
She has a name, but I only knew her as 4th Period Teacher. The teacher was using the last ten minutes of her life grading us on our presentation.

I had heard that people were expecting our presentation to go awesomely because we were some of the smartest kids in the school. Not that we weren't, but that has no relevancy towards our presentation performance. When you have two practically socially isolated people and one very awkward person, getting up in front of the class and giving a speech can never go well.

Anyway, it began. "Okay, so we're going to talk about..." Yue was talking. I don't remember what she was talking about exactly. I was clicking to advance the slide whenever she told me to click. Jenny was still standing at the front and looking creepy.

> x jenny
Jenny Wu was my sister. Actually, she was my cousin, but it's all the same. Adoptive sister? She was the one person I really cared about. We were pretty much outcasts for our entire lives. We were weird. She was sort of crazy at times, coming up with all sorts of crazy scenarios and stories, not knowing what was fact and what was fiction. Sometimes we would have contests, arguing over who had less friends or was more socially awkward. I generally won, but it was close. I really loved her, I think. No, not in an incestuous way. But she really was probably the only person I could call a friend.

"Well, you guys probably all know that we're doing the book ..." Yue continued. Yue really sucked at giving presentations, but Jenny and I were probably worse. Jenny's idea was to make a computer game, but that was shot down. So we're going with the most generic option available. Powerpoint it was. She was starting out by talking about the plot. Giving the main plot points and all that.

> talk to jenny
It wasn't my turn to talk. I was to give my part of the presentation last.

It was one minute before it happened. Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought the clock's ticking sounded louder and louder. Maybe it was just my boredom. About my boredom. It was only a few minutes in, and I was already getting bored. Yue's voice was droning on and on. She was speaking in an almost perfect monotone. Jenny looked a little bored now, too. Still, she was interrupting Yue now and then. I kept clicking though the slides. We were on the fifth slide.

> listen
I don't remember exactly what I heard. It wasn't too good, I would think.

"Ok, so the next important plot event is..."

The clock's ticking noise kept bothering me. When I looked at the clock, the minute hand was somewhere between six and seven and the second hand had just ticked to exactly six. I didn't hear the clock's next tick because that was when the bombs exploded.

On a night like this, I would typically be staying at home, lurking on internet forums and playing crappy text adventure games. But tonight is prom night. Which makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. Even if it hadn't happened, I still wouldn't have gone to prom. I don't think my sister would have gone either.

But anyway, I'm starting to ramble. Now onto the important stuff.

It was approximately 8:25 PM when she called me.

"I'm at the park." she had said. "You should come here now."

This was the third time she had called me ever, and I was too floored to respond. "Okay, you're coming. Good," she had replied to my silence. At least it beats playing crappy adventure games the whole evening. So, without making any sound to my parents (not that they would care anyway), I left my house and began walking to the park.

Park Place
Welcome to Park Place, East Grove Hills, Minnesota. Home of me. And a few other people I knew, but I think they're dead now. Not that it makes much of a difference. I didn't really know them. Multicolored houses with perfectly manicured lawns and tall, verdant trees line the gently winding street. The intersection with Pines Avenue is to the north.

She told me that she was waiting for me at the park. It's north, then east, then north again. Stupid text adventures are making me think in compass directions.

I used to walk on this route nearly every day. Possibly one of the symptoms of my utter lack of a social life. My parents and my sister used to walk around just for the sake of walking and exposure to the outside. I don't think we're ever going to return to that.

> s
I either can't go that way or I don't want to.

> n

Pines Avenue
Pines Avenue is the main road through this corner of the suburbs, with sidewalks and a median. Townhouses flank the sides of the road, filled with the typical suburbanite stock. The way to the park is through Dalton Street, which is east of here.

There's something creepy about the fact that there almost aren't any signs that people actually live here. No cars are on the roads, and no people walk on the sidewalks. It's not like that many people died, but it seems like everything has changed since then. Maybe it's just my perception. Maybe there's something screwed up with the way I see things.

Prom. It was supposed to be a sign of our school's "resilience", of how the school managed to "persevere despite the immense tragedy that has befallen us." No matter what happens, prom must always go on. The student council and school administration sent us all personal letters, telling us that we could come for free. So that was where the donation money was spent.

> e

Dalton Street
This is yet another boring little suburban street. I'm pretty sure I know a few people who live on this street who aren't dead, for a change. But I'm not really acquainted with them. I'm not acquainted with most, no, nearly all people at my school. To go to the park, just go north and get on Flanagan Street.

The first priority of the district administrators was getting everyone back into school. We were treated to just one month of no school before we were herded to a bunch of random buildings in order to at least keep up the pretense of education. The old EGHHS building was pretty much totaled by the bombs, but they got enough money through donations to fix it for next year.

> n

Flanagan Street
Yet another typical suburban street, curving towards the park to the north. People who don't live in this neighborhood always get lost around here, since the streets are so similar. I think this is around where Alan Lee lives, but I'm not ready to visit him.

I'm getting nervous. Before every social interaction (except for... never mind), no matter how insignificant it is, my heart always pumps faster, and I invariably get a tingling sensation in my stomach. Of course, that's what I'm feeling right now. Have I always been this awkward? Yes, I have. Even when I was in China before my real parents died.

> n

Olson park
I used to come here on walks with my parents (and my... never mind) on a regularity that would disturb my peers. When I went here with my parents, I always tried to hide myself, just in case there was someone I knew here. The high school's baseball team practices in the diamonds to the east, and the soccer kids play in the fields to the north. Northwest is the trail through the little forest and wetlands. To the west is the playground.

This is the first time I've been back here since... before? Nothing's really changed. Except, the park was never this quiet. Maybe it's my imagination again.

She's probably over by the playground. I'm getting nervous. This is the first time that I actually wanted to meet someone here (who wasn't a relative), instead of avoiding all contact.

> n
I either can't go that way or I don't want to.

> e
I either can't go that way or I don't want to.

> w

playground
When I first moved here, I was already a little too old for the playground. That might have been part of why I'm so antisocial now. I was deprived of a critical bonding opportunity with my fellow children. I was plopped down here in the middle of puberty: an inopportune time for someone like me.

Digressions.

Pretty typical for a playground. An assortment of swing sets, climbing rocks, and jungle gyms adorn the wood chip-covered ground. There's a vague aura of creepiness here. Maybe it's because the playground is entirely empty. No, almost entirely empty. I mean there aren't any kids playing here. To the north a trail snakes off into a patch of pines. The way back is to the east.

She's here, sitting on the swing bench. It stops swinging. She's probably heard me, but she doesn't move. I think she's waiting for me to talk to her.

Boo. Proper response to kissing needed.

> kiss her
I should keep my mind on the game.

> x swing
It's a swing bench made entirely out of metal bars. That's all there is to it, really.S

The street lamps suddenly switch on.

> get on swing
I walk towards the swing bench, with the wood chips making soft noises beneath my feet. As I move to sit down next to her, she turns and looks at me with a quizzical expression, before turning away from me again.

She's on the swing, then she's in the middle of the bridge again. When did she get off the swing?

playground (in the swing bench)
Pretty typical for a playground. An assortment of swing sets, climbing rocks, and jungle gyms adorn the wood chip-covered ground. There's a vague aura of creepiness here. Maybe it's because the playground is entirely empty. No, almost entirely empty. I mean there aren't any kids playing here. To the north a trail snakes off into a patch of pines. The way back is to the east.

I see her here, at the middle of the bridge. She is leaning against the railing and looking downwards at the river.

> x bridge
You know, I don't notice everything in my surroundings. What good would it do if I did? Anyway, I'm just trying to excuse myself for not noticing what you were talking about. Conservation of detail, you know.

> x her
I didn't really know what to think about her. I sort of had a vague feeling of attraction towards her, but she always made me uncomfortable in a strange way. And no, part of that didn't have anything to do with my feelings. I thought she was always so controlled and submissive, and everything she did seemed forced and deliberate. Though it was a bit hypocritical of me to judge her like that, since I'm the same in more ways than I'd like to think.

> swing
What do I want to swing?

> swing on swing
There's nothing sensible to swing here.

> talk to her
[1] "Hey."
[2] "Uh, hello"
[3] Say nothing

> 1
"Hello", she says quietly without turning her head. "How's it going?"

[1] "You know I hate generic questions."
[2] "Uh, I'm fine, I guess."
[3] "How are YOU doing?"
[4] Say nothing

> 1
"Cut out the metacommentary. You know I can't stand it when you do that. Anyway, I'm really not in a good mood."

An understatement.

[1] "Uh, I'm fine, I guess."
[2] "How are YOU doing?"
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"If you insist on turning my question into another question, that's fine too. I'm not doing well at all. So how are you doing?"

[1] "Uh, I'm fine, I guess."
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"Well, that's nice for you. I'm not fine at all." She's not fine. What a surprise.

Now is when things start getting really awkward. My skill in small talk is not one of my assets.

[1] "Um, so why did you call me?"
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"I just want to talk."

[1] "That's boring."
[2] "Talk about what?"
[3] Say nothing

Now the sky almost completely black, with only a few tinges of blue and orange.

> 1
"Of course. Small talk bores you like nothing else. I should have remembered. So let's get to the point."

[1] "Talk about what?"
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"Well, I wanted to talk about what I usually talk about. But the people I usually would talk to are all dead."

[1] "So I'm sort of a conversational partner of last resort?"
[2] "Don't you have other friends whom you can talk to?"
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"Yeah. But to them it's as if nothing ever happened. Everyone's so eager to forget. Maybe they aren't, but everyone seems that way."

[1] "No one wants to remember what's happened."
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"Yeah. Of course. But I can't forget or even pretend to forget. Anyway, let's talk about the present right now. Are you okay? Are you functioning, at least?" She returns to the generic conversation starter question. I hate these questions.

[1] "I'm still functioning on a basic level, if that's what you want to hear."
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"That's better than nothing, I guess. I feel like I can't function anymore. I probably sound really whiny, but I'm serious. It's just... I don't even know. I always feel like something's wrong."

[1] "Maybe what's wrong is that I'm the only person you can talk to."
[2] "Your angst is really getting to me right now."
[3] "You're ranked first now. Why would you be unhappy?"
[4] Say nothing

> 3
"Fuck you. (talk about precision f-strike). Was that some sort of joke? I'm not really a murderous hyper-competitive jerk. Really."

[1] "I'm sorry. It was just a joke. And a bad one at that."
[2] "Have you really not thought about that?"
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"At least your parents have thought about it," I add.

"You know, you're really a jerk. You've thought about that as well, right? So how do you feel now that you're ranked second?"

[1] "I feel great."
[2] Say nothing

> 1
That statement was made with maximum sarcasm, but I don't think she noticed.

"Yeah. You do, right? And don't forget your new great essay topic. So have you gotten over your sister already?" I don't know if she noticed me twitch.

[1] "I've gotten over her already, and she wasn't my real sister anyway."
[2] "I was being sarcastic."
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"Did you really think that I was glad that the massacre happened?", I ask.

"Well, I guess that's fine. But you're still a total jerk for bringing that up. Even if you now just made me think of what you just said... Anyway, let's change the topic. Excuse me if I'm insensitive, but do you... think about her often?"

I knew she was going to talk about that.

[1] "Every moment."
[2] "No, not really."
[3] Say nothing

> 1
"So do I. She was the only person that was a real friend to me."

"What about your whole posse and such?" She actually had a group of friends that she hung out with. They're mostly dead now.

"I don't know. Well, I was really never being myself. I just put on social masks, to fit in, you know" No, I don't know. "It's what I've always been doing. With everyone. Except for, well, you and your sister. I guess I just sort of want to talk to her right now."

The ringing of the fire alarms was anticlimactic, but we still moved out of the classroom in a generally orderly fashion. We didn't know that almost two hundred people were dead or going to die very soon. The smoke and screaming students covered in blood running didn't help things, but we somehow didn't panic. The teacher dutifully was the last one out. I was walking next to Yue, and Jenny was a ways a head of me.

The shooting started right after we left. Screams penetrated the air almost as quickly as the bullets. Sounds of gunshots and shrieks merged into a perverse opera. Everything was blurring in my vision. I had to run. I grabbed the person closest to me and ran. Ran, screaming without knowing what I was doing or where I was going. I was pulling Yue along. She was crying and screaming louder than I was. I stopped hearing anything. The sounds all blended together into a dull roar. There were what looked like people on the floor, but I didn't notice. They were shooting at me. Trying to kill me. All I wanted was to live. I almost pushed Yue off when she fell on my shoulder. My glance was just long enough to notice the red stain on her shirt. As I pushed through the inner front doors, I noticed the glint of a gun and red splotches in the snow. So they were trying to trap us. Kill as many as possible. I pulled Yue to the front desk. It looked protected, and they couldn't see under the table in the alcove. I pulled some poster over us. Hopefully they won't notice.

Front Desk
I was in relative safety. The front desk was a brick hexagon with one side open, and that side was covered by a chair and a few posters. Just to be safer, I put Yue underneath the side of the desk that I thought was least visible. I can't see anything from here. I can't see the shooters, but I know they're here. One of them is somewhere around the commons and the other one is outside.

[1] Say nothing
[2] "Are you okay?"
[3] "Does it hurt?"
[4] "Are you going to be fine?"

The rate of gunshots was lower, I thought. Maybe everyone was already dead. I hear a door opening. The outside shooter was probably coming in.

> 3
She just shook her head.

[1] Say nothing
[2] "Are you okay?"
[3] "Are you going to be fine?"

It was eerily quiet. No more gunshots for now. I think I heard some slow-moving footsteps. Maybe it was the outside shooter walking in. Walking towards the other shooter.

> 2
Stupid question. She stopped crying for just enough time to whimper "yes".

[1] Say nothing
[2] "Are you going to be fine?"

"No! What are you doing!", I heard a familiar voice shout. Rapid footsteps were followed by gunshots, and then a scream. No, it was more like a groan. Jenny's body dropped to the floor of the commons. My heart was about to explode. I was on the brink of either going catatonic or running and screaming.

> 2
She nodded as the tears continued to run down her cheek.

[1] Say nothing

Still no more sounds. I was trying as hard as I can to resist going out.

> listen
There aren't any gunshots, at least.

I heard some indistinct voices. Must have been the shooters. I could barely stop myself from rushing out.

> z
Time passed.

There was a gunshot, and a body hitting the floor. No screaming this time. Then there was another gunshot and someone collapsing. Everything was silent.

> z
Time passed.

> x yue
I don't have photographic memory. There are some things that I just forgot, or never noticed in the first place.

> u
Commons
Everything was red. I could barely see the tiles of the floor beneath the blood and corpses. The smell was the worst part. Everyone here is dead. Almost everyone.

Jenny was lying on the floor, clutching her stomach.

> x jenny
Jenny didn't look very good. At least she was alive. The wound on her looked bad. It was a direct stomach wound.

> help jenny
I'm sorry; English is not my first language. Try either a simpler phrase. Or a command with a verb. Because I love to be enslaved to hierarchical systems of command.

> press wound
I don't have photographic memory. There are some things that I just forgot, or never noticed in the first place.

> x wound
I don't have photographic memory. There are some things that I just forgot, or never noticed in the first place.

> i
I don't remember what I was wearing or carrying. Even if I had, it isn't important.

> treat wound
I'm sorry; English is not my first language. Try either a simpler phrase. Or a command with a verb. Because I love to be enslaved to hierarchical systems of command.

> talk to jenny
"So, how do you like being the hero?", she asked.

I ignored her comment. "Are you okay?", I asked.

Stupid question. "Of course I'm not okay," she whispered.

"You're going to be okay," I said. "Just hang in there. Help is coming."

"No, they won't come in time," she said. "I'm going to die right here."

"If you think that, you're really going to die."

"And if I don't think that, I'm still going to die."

> g
"You idiot," I said. "What the hell were you thinking of doing?"

"Actually, I had a plan", Jenny said. "I was going to take down Michael and then kill Ming. I thought that Michael would hesitate because of me, and Ming was going to be terrible at aiming."

"You could have not shouted," I said.

"Yeah. I thought that they might, you know, be helped."

> g
"I can help you," I said.

"No, you'll just make things worse," she replied. "Look, I haven't said this enough, but I love you. I always have. And I love mom and dad, too. Tell them that. And tell Yue I loved her, too."

"Save your breath," I said. More of my tears fell onto her face.

"Don't be so sad," she whispered.

> g
"Jenny, I love you..."

"Now you're getting the hang of things," she said. Her mouth almost turned into a smile. I couldn't help it. I broke down, sobbing.

"There's really nothing to cry about. You're alive. Yue's alive. I think she likes you." She smiled. What an incongruous thing to say.
It was sometime in January. Two or so weeks before what happened. The three of us were meeting at our house for the Lit project.

Home
This is the only room in my house that I really care about. Or, one of only two rooms that I really care about, the other being the bathroom. My sister and I lived here. It's where we slept, ate, studied, etc. By the way, it wasn't "weird" at all to sleep in the same room as my sister. We refused to bow to social pressure to separate. What would have been the point? Anyway, it didn't matter, since just about no one has come here. Except Yue was here on that day. But it was for academics, so it shouldn't really count.

The room itself isn't that special. The two beds were at opposite walls of the room. There's a desk with a big desktop computer on it and a smaller desk with a laptop on it. A bookcase lied against the south walls. Clutter of all sorts filled the floor: mostly books, with papers, CDs, computer components, and other stuff that I can't remember covering up most of the rest of the floor.

"So, this is you guys's room?", Yue said, as if searching for some conversational topic to break the awkwardness.

"Yeah. Um, so, what do you think?", replied Jenny.

"Oh yeah, by the way, hey Thomas. I didn't notice you for a second," Yue said as she finally turned and looked at me.

We were probably the most awkward three Asian-American teenagers ever.

Yue is standing in the precious open space and pacing uncomfortably.

> talk to yue
[1] "So, let's talk about the project."
[2] "Um, so should we go downstairs and work?"

> 2
"Uh, I don't really want to go," Jenny said. "Let's just work here."

[1] "So, let's talk about the project."

> 1
"Yeah. About the project. What exactly should we do the project on?" Yue was completely clueless, as usual. Jenny didn't know either.

[1] "I don't know what we should do."
[2] "So does anyone have any ideas?"

> 1
"That's unsurprisingly unhelpful," said Jenny.

"So do you have any ideas or not?", I said.

"How about an interactive fiction game?", said Jenny.

"What's that?", Yue asked.

"You might call it a text adventure," Jenny said. "They're basically adventure games but with text. See, what you do is..."

Jenny explained everything about interactive fiction. Yue was still skeptical. "So, how would that relate to our project?"

[1] "I can just try to make something, and if it doesn't get done that's that."
[2] "Actually, I don't really want to do that."

> 2
"That's too bad," Jenny said. "Oh well. How about let's do an interpretive dance or a movie or something?"

"Just stop it, Jenny", said Yue. "We don't need to be that creative."

"You're no fun," Jenny retorted.

Soon, we actually started working. We managed to create a generic presentation or something like that.

"So, are we just about done?", Yue said.

"Not quite. We still have a little to work on," I said.

"So, will we meet again?", she asked.

"Not until the day of the presentation," said Jenny.

It's the first day of the new school year. We're all back at East Grove Hills High School. The first thing that happens in the day, of course, is the presentation, about how our "resilience" and "courage" and "determination" or whatever has allowed us to rebuild and come back here and let ourselves be educated again. It's going to be something like that.

Auditorium
This is the auditorium of East Grove Hills High School. It's one of the more undamaged parts of the school. No one was killed here, at least. All the seniors were here for some sort of presentation. A speech on all the generic stuff like courage and resilience and all that. I was sitting by myself, as usual, somewhere in the very back of the auditorium. The principal and some other officials are on the stage.

"As we all know,..." What a horrible way for the principal to begin. I scanned the auditorium, looking for Yue
>
x principal
She's the principal of this school. On the day that the massacre happened, she wasn't at school. Lucky for her.

"East Grove Hills High School is still here..." And I thought it was supposed to be an optimistic speech. I still don't see Yue anywhere. She should be pretty noticeable. There aren't that many Asians in the school.

> sleep
I am not feeling especially drowsy.

"In the face of enormous tragedy, the students and staff of our school have..." Typical generic stuff.

My cell phone is vibrating. It's probably Yue. Since she knows how much I hate texting, she actually called me.

"Hey. Can you get out of there?", she says. "I know you want to. It's okay."

"Sure. I'll come," I whisper.

"Great. Bye."

> z
Time passes.

"The heroes..." I tune out.

> z
Time passes.

I can leave unobstrusively since I'm sitting at the back. Yue was waiting for me outside.

"I couldn't stand being in there," she says. "Everything's so disgusting." My thoughts about the administration have rubbed off on her.

"So what do you want to do?", I ask.

"I don't know. Just... get out. Well, I thought about what Jenny would do if she were here."

"You're not Jenny. What do you want to do?"

So, as far as I can tell, I can't really do anything in this game except make minor changes to the way the conversations go. Yeah, I know, like Rameses, but this doesn't get close to pulling off the same trick.

Another go just to make sure.

"This might sound strange, but I really thought of this." That's a bad sign. She seems more like Jenny now. "How about let's form a club to challenge the school's social paradigms? I don't mean to do this now; I just wanted to talk about it. We can create our own social space where extreme introverts, people with mental issues, and generally weird people can hang out and talk about stuff. Basically, a club for people like us."

How elitist. "By weird I presume you mean not "ghetto", not "goth", ..."

"Okay. Let's filter people out by calling it the East Grove Hills Philosophical Society or something like that."

Yue's plan might be elitist, patronizing, and hypocritical, but it sounds almost fun. If anyone else joins. "Sure. Let's do this."

*** The End. ***

Would you like to RESTART, RESTORE a saved game, or QUIT?
>
restart

East Grove Hills
An interactive anecdote by XYZ
Release 1 / Serial number 100930 / Inform 7 build 5Z71 (I6/v6.31 lib 6/12N)

Press any key to continue.
It was five minutes before the end of the world. Well, the end of the world for us, anyway. Yue, Jenny, and I spent those five minutes trying to barely scrape by on some sort of presentation in AP Lit.

> z
I did nothing but look at the computer screen and occasionally glancing at Yue and Jenny. I probably should have looked at them some more, or at least done something. It was the last few minutes of normalcy.

> z
I did nothing but look at the computer screen and occasionally glancing at Yue and Jenny. I probably should have looked at them some more, or at least done something. It was the last few minutes of normalcy.

> z
I did nothing but look at the computer screen and occasionally glancing at Yue and Jenny. I probably should have looked at them some more, or at least done something. It was the last few minutes of normalcy.

"Well, you guys probably all know that we're doing the book ..." Yue continued. Yue really sucked at giving presentations, but Jenny and I were probably worse. Jenny's idea was to make a computer game, but that was shot down. So we're going with the most generic option available. Powerpoint it was. She was starting out by talking about the plot. Giving the main plot points and all that.

> z
I did nothing but look at the computer screen and occasionally glancing at Yue and Jenny. I probably should have looked at them some more, or at least done something. It was the last few minutes of normalcy.

It was one minute before it happened. Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought the clock's ticking sounded louder and louder. Maybe it was just my boredom. About my boredom. It was only a few minutes in, and I was already getting bored. Yue's voice was droning on and on. She was speaking in an almost perfect monotone. Jenny looked a little bored now, too. Still, she was interrupting Yue now and then. I kept clicking though the slides. We were on the fifth slide.

> z
I did nothing but look at the computer screen and occasionally glancing at Yue and Jenny. I probably should have looked at them some more, or at least done something. It was the last few minutes of normalcy.

"Ok, so the next important plot event is..."

The clock's ticking noise kept bothering me. When I looked at the clock, the minute hand was somewhere between six and seven and the second hand had just ticked to exactly six. I didn't hear the clock's next tick because that was when the bombs exploded.

On a night like this, I would typically be staying at home, lurking on internet forums and playing crappy text adventure games. But tonight is prom night. Which makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. Even if it hadn't happened, I still wouldn't have gone to prom. I don't think my sister would have gone either.

But anyway, I'm starting to ramble. Now onto the important stuff.

It was approximately 8:25 PM when she called me.

"I'm at the park." she had said. "You should come here now."

This was the third time she had called me ever, and I was too floored to respond. "Okay, you're coming. Good," she had replied to my silence. At least it beats playing crappy adventure games the whole evening. So, without making any sound to my parents (not that they would care anyway), I left my house and began walking to the park.

Park Place
Welcome to Park Place, East Grove Hills, Minnesota. Home of me. And a few other people I knew, but I think they're dead now. Not that it makes much of a difference. I didn't really know them. Multicolored houses with perfectly manicured lawns and tall, verdant trees line the gently winding street. The intersection with Pines Avenue is to the north.

She told me that she was waiting for me at the park. It's north, then east, then north again. Stupid text adventures are making me think in compass directions.

I used to walk on this route nearly every day. Possibly one of the symptoms of my utter lack of a social life. My parents and my sister used to walk around just for the sake of walking and exposure to the outside. I don't think we're ever going to return to that.

> n

Pines Avenue
Pines Avenue is the main road through this corner of the suburbs, with sidewalks and a median. Townhouses flank the sides of the road, filled with the typical suburbanite stock. The way to the park is through Dalton Street, which is east of here.

There's something creepy about the fact that there almost aren't any signs that people actually live here. No cars are on the roads, and no people walk on the sidewalks. It's not like that many people died, but it seems like everything has changed since then. Maybe it's just my perception. Maybe there's something screwed up with the way I see things.

Prom. It was supposed to be a sign of our school's "resilience", of how the school managed to "persevere despite the immense tragedy that has befallen us." No matter what happens, prom must always go on. The student council and school administration sent us all personal letters, telling us that we could come for free. So that was where the donation money was spent.

> en
I'm sorry; English is not my first language. Try either a simpler phrase. Or a command with a verb. Because I love to be enslaved to hierarchical systems of command.

> e

Dalton Street
This is yet another boring little suburban street. I'm pretty sure I know a few people who live on this street who aren't dead, for a change. But I'm not really acquainted with them. I'm not acquainted with most, no, nearly all people at my school. To go to the park, just go north and get on Flanagan Street.

The first priority of the district administrators was getting everyone back into school. We were treated to just one month of no school before we were herded to a bunch of random buildings in order to at least keep up the pretense of education. The old EGHHS building was pretty much totaled by the bombs, but they got enough money through donations to fix it for next year.

> n

Flanagan Street
Yet another typical suburban street, curving towards the park to the north. People who don't live in this neighborhood always get lost around here, since the streets are so similar. I think this is around where Alan Lee lives, but I'm not ready to visit him.

I'm getting nervous. Before every social interaction (except for... never mind), no matter how insignificant it is, my heart always pumps faster, and I invariably get a tingling sensation in my stomach. Of course, that's what I'm feeling right now. Have I always been this awkward? Yes, I have. Even when I was in China before my real parents died.

> n

Olson park
I used to come here on walks with my parents (and my... never mind) on a regularity that would disturb my peers. When I went here with my parents, I always tried to hide myself, just in case there was someone I knew here. The high school's baseball team practices in the diamonds to the east, and the soccer kids play in the fields to the north. Northwest is the trail through the little forest and wetlands. To the west is the playground.

This is the first time I've been back here since... before? Nothing's really changed. Except, the park was never this quiet. Maybe it's my imagination again.

She's probably over by the playground. I'm getting nervous. This is the first time that I actually wanted to meet someone here (who wasn't a relative), instead of avoiding all contact.

> w

playground
When I first moved here, I was already a little too old for the playground. That might have been part of why I'm so antisocial now. I was deprived of a critical bonding opportunity with my fellow children. I was plopped down here in the middle of puberty: an inopportune time for someone like me.

Digressions.

Pretty typical for a playground. An assortment of swing sets, climbing rocks, and jungle gyms adorn the wood chip-covered ground. There's a vague aura of creepiness here. Maybe it's because the playground is entirely empty. No, almost entirely empty. I mean there aren't any kids playing here. To the north a trail snakes off into a patch of pines. The way back is to the east.

She's here, sitting on the swing bench. It stops swinging. She's probably heard me, but she doesn't move. I think she's waiting for me to talk to her.

> talk to her
[1] "Hey."
[2] "Uh, hello"
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"Hello", she says quietly without turning her head. "How's it going?"

[1] "You know I hate generic questions."
[2] "Uh, I'm fine, I guess."
[3] "How are YOU doing?"
[4] Say nothing

> 2
"Well, that's nice for you. I'm not fine at all." She's not fine. What a surprise.

Now is when things start getting really awkward. My skill in small talk is not one of my assets.

[1] "Um, so why did you call me?"
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"I just want to talk."

[1] "That's boring."
[2] "Talk about what?"
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"Well, I wanted to talk about what I usually talk about. But the people I usually would talk to are all dead."

[1] "So I'm sort of a conversational partner of last resort?"
[2] "Don't you have other friends whom you can talk to?"
[3] Say nothing

The street lamps suddenly switch on.

> 1
"Well, sort of. I'm sorry. But believe it or not, I've always trusted you. Right now, you're the only person I can be honest with right now."

[1] "Why is that?"
[2] "What about your wonderful Asian parents?"
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"You're kidding, right? After they called me half a child. And they still yell at me for getting an A minus. God, they're so ignorant. At least they mean well, I think. What about your parents?"

[1] "I'm adopted. Jenny was their real child."
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"Really? I never knew that. Or maybe I knew and then forgot. Uh, okay then. So, what is it like? Is it, like, really awkward? Sorry I can't think of a better way to phrase this."

[1] "Did you really think that we were actual siblings?"
[2] "I haven't talked to them since then."
[3] Say nothing

> 1
"Well, that's what you guys presented yourselves as. Why would I question that?"

[1] "I haven't talked to them since then."
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"Literally? Have you talked to anyone at all since what happened?"

[1] "Of course I literally talked to people."
[2] Say nothing

> 1
Yeah. I actually talk to people, surprisingly, even my parents, on occasion. Maybe an average of 50 words per day. My parents actually acknowledge me about once per day. Even that's a bit too much for comfort sometimes.

"I know that. I mean have you ever talked to anyone about what happened?"

[1] "Do you really want to talk about that?"
[2] "No. I don't remember talking to anyone about it."
[3] Say nothing

> 2
"Why would I want to?"

"I don't know why you would want to. I don't feel like I know anything anymore. Well, I just want to sort of ...it sounds cliche, but I feel like I have to talk about it before I get over it."

[1] "Okay then. What do you remember about it?"
[2] Say nothing

> 1
"I remember... well, we were in the presentation, and..."

The ringing of the fire alarms was anticlimactic, but we still moved out of the classroom in a generally orderly fashion. We didn't know that almost two hundred people were dead or going to die very soon. The smoke and screaming students covered in blood running didn't help things, but we somehow didn't panic. The teacher dutifully was the last one out. I was walking next to Yue, and Jenny was a ways a head of me.

The shooting started right after we left. Screams penetrated the air almost as quickly as the bullets. Sounds of gunshots and shrieks merged into a perverse opera. Everything was blurring in my vision. I had to run. I grabbed the person closest to me and ran. Ran, screaming without knowing what I was doing or where I was going. I was pulling Yue along. She was crying and screaming louder than I was. I stopped hearing anything. The sounds all blended together into a dull roar. There were what looked like people on the floor, but I didn't notice. They were shooting at me. Trying to kill me. All I wanted was to live. I almost pushed Yue off when she fell on my shoulder. My glance was just long enough to notice the red stain on her shirt. As I pushed through the inner front doors, I noticed the glint of a gun and red splotches in the snow. So they were trying to trap us. Kill as many as possible. I pulled Yue to the front desk. It looked protected, and they couldn't see under the table in the alcove. I pulled some poster over us. Hopefully they won't notice.

Front Desk
I was in relative safety. The front desk was a brick hexagon with one side open, and that side was covered by a chair and a few posters. Just to be safer, I put Yue underneath the side of the desk that I thought was least visible. I can't see anything from here. I can't see the shooters, but I know they're here. One of them is somewhere around the commons and the other one is outside.

[1] Say nothing
[2] "Are you okay?"
[3] "Does it hurt?"
[4] "Are you going to be fine?"

The rate of gunshots was lower, I thought. Maybe everyone was already dead. I hear a door opening. The outside shooter was probably coming in.

> save
Ok.

> u
I didn't want to die.

It was eerily quiet. No more gunshots for now. I think I heard some slow-moving footsteps. Maybe it was the outside shooter walking in. Walking towards the other shooter.

> l
Front Desk
I was in relative safety. The front desk was a brick hexagon with one side open, and that side was covered by a chair and a few posters. Just to be safer, I put Yue underneath the side of the desk that I thought was least visible. I can't see anything from here. I can't see the shooters, but I know they're here. One of them is somewhere around the commons and the other one is outside.

"No! What are you doing!", I heard a familiar voice shout. Rapid footsteps were followed by gunshots, and then a scream. No, it was more like a groan. Jenny's body dropped to the floor of the commons. My heart was about to explode. I was on the brink of either going catatonic or running and screaming.

> z
Time passed.

Still no more sounds. I was trying as hard as I can to resist going out.

> l
Front Desk
I was in relative safety. The front desk was a brick hexagon with one side open, and that side was covered by a chair and a few posters. Just to be safer, I put Yue underneath the side of the desk that I thought was least visible. I can't see anything from here. I can't see the shooters, but I know they're here. One of them is somewhere around the commons and the other one is outside.

I heard some indistinct voices. Must have been the shooters. I could barely stop myself from rushing out.

> i
I don't remember what I was wearing or carrying. Even if I had, it isn't important.

There was a gunshot, and a body hitting the floor. No screaming this time. Then there was another gunshot and someone collapsing. Everything was silent.

A lot of my attention while playing this was taken up by trying to work out whether I could do anything. Games where you can't do anything aren't necessarily bad, but it's a problem if I'm not sure whether I can do anything.

> u
Commons
Everything was red. I could barely see the tiles of the floor beneath the blood and corpses. The smell was the worst part. Everyone here is dead. Almost everyone.

Jenny was lying on the floor, clutching her stomach.

> get jenny
Why would I take random things around me? I'm not a kleptomaniac, like some adventure game protagonist.

> q
Are you sure you want to quit? y