They're playin' our sound, layin' us down tonight
And all of these clouds, crying us back to life

The innocent are always the first to fall.

His first encounter with Raine and Etienne may have allowed him a place to escape, but deep down he knew that his death was inevitable. Against larger players like Blockhead Arian, Athletic Antonio, Spitfire Natalie, Sly Devon – and even those who weren't of any particular strength but had allies – he was doomed in a fight. Especially with that twisted ankle, which any person with eyes could see was swelling terribly.

Yet he pushed forward, looking for a quiet alcove to nestle in for the night.

He wasn't lucky this time.

Mitchell heard the raucous laughter of Laurel and Chase before they saw him. The hallway was dark. He launched himself for the nearest closet, without much success. The doorknob was jammed. His ankle weighed him down, and he allowed himself to hiss in pain. Out of nowhere there was Arian, with the two girls on his heels.

Mitchell's eyes widened, his heart pounding out of his chest. "N-No," he made out, staggering backwards into the wall.

Arian looked at him, not with murderous eyes, but not sympathy, either. "I don't know how to kill a person," he said very simply. Mitchell's frantic heartbeat slowed, but just for a moment. Arian reached into his knapsack, rolling a few pill bottles around, until he landed on a particular one. "Chase, hold him down," he commanded.

Before Mitchell knew what was happening, he was on the ground, Chase Kennedy pinning him down by the arms and straddling his chest. Her face had no mirth: her lips were a straight, grim line.

One pill. Four pills. Nine pills. Mitchell's eyes widened as Arian counted very particularly, before tossing the bottle back into his knapsack. And then those eyes started on him again.

Laurel's hands pressed into his eyes so he could not see. Chase's body was pressing down his chest. To complete the lethal trio, Arian started forcing pill after pill into Mitchell's mouth, down his throat. Mitchell's screams echoed down the corridor, his final view of the world masked by the hands over his eyes, pressing deep. His body writhed on the cold floor, legs kicking desperately to escape the grip of Chase's body. But it was too much – the combination of Arian's pills, Chase's weight, Laurel pressing his head to the ground and preventing him from inducing any sort of bile.

It took ten minutes for Mitchell to black out in the hallway. It took two hours for the pills to overtake his body and claim his life.

12th: Mitchell Davies.

Always the life of social media – but social media doesn't get far inside an arena, does it?

Payton hadn't made any allies, but he had recorded a lot on his phone. Too much.

He was posted up inside a closet in which he'd found some crackers and water, having a snack and looking through all the videos he'd taken, wondering how he got himself into this mess. He didn't notice the flickering light of an active camera, gently tucked in an upper alcove of the closet. He didn't notice the floor start to glow warm with wires running underneath. He didn't notice when the faucet behind him suddenly started running, overflowing, overflowing onto a live wire.

Nobody heard Payton's final scream. His whole life he had longed to be the apple of the whole world's eye, and in the end, nobody noticed his shocking death.

11th: Payton West.

It didn't take long for Paige to encounter another group – and being on her own, separated from anyone who could be of any assistance to her, she was no less terrified than Mitchell had been. Except instead of Chase, Laurel, and Arian, it was Antonio, Ailsa, and Natalie that she ran headfirst into.

At first she was almost relieved – Natalie had been her roommate, way back when things were normal. They had always been pleasant to each other, never getting into an argument. And she had chatted with Antonio once or twice before. Ailsa too. They had no reason to be against her, they were always as civil as she was.

They clearly didn't feel the same.

"I'm sorry, Paige," mumbled Natalie, before she launched herself headfirst.

Their alliance had a definite goal, Paige realized as she was knocked to the ground, Natalie's hands closing around her windpipe. Eliminate anyone who crossed their path. No niceties. No quick conversation. Extermination of anyone but themselves.

Paige couldn't even fight back. Natalie's hands were too tight.

10th: Paige Altham.

Raine and Etienne collided with Arian, Laurel, and Chase. It was the second morning.

At first, Raine didn't know what to do – after Mitchell had left them so easily, he wasn't prepared for Chase to tackle him. He was smaller, he was younger, it made sense. Etienne was lanky and quickly taken over by Arian and Laurel.

"I'm sorry," Chase spat out as she forced pills into his mouth. But she was sloppy, not calculated as Arian had been. She was focusing too much on putting her whole weight on Raine's upper body than keeping the mysterious pills in his windpipe. Raine choked, gargling on a mixture of saliva, bile, and crushed-up pill for a moment – and then he spat it to the side.

Chase was unprepared for this. She had no more pills to force upon him, and what she did have were in a messy pile on the ground. Hesitating, she scooped them up and plastered her hand over his mouth. Once again, Raine regurgitated.

Now Chase was angry – angry that he wouldn't swallow the pills, angry that she had to deal with this alone while Arian and Laurel got to battle his ally two-on-one. Her body acted faster than her mind could comprehend, and the next thing she knew, her fist was flying into Raine's throat.

The perfect angle, the perfect amount of power. With one swift jab, Raine's windpipe doubled in on itself in a sickening soft crack. His head lolled to the side – and everything that Raine had worked so hard towards, providing for his family, making his mother proud – was gone in a heap of skin, bones, and blood.

9th: Raine Harvey.

Soft as it might be, Etienne heard the snapping of bone, and his head whipped to see Chase rising from Raine's limp body. Something that he had never felt overcame him – rage, fury, vindication all in one. With blazing red vision he snapped his head back to Arian and Laurel circling in front of him. He sized up stocky Arian, and then nimble little Laurel, and he knew exactly how to exact his revenge.

He flew forward.

Laurel's head cracked against the ground. That alone wouldn't have done it for her, but Etienne's fingers were interlaced in her long hair, tangling tightly and not allowing for movement to writhe free. He pushed her head against the ground, again, again, again, each crack of her skull and guttural scream from her vocal cords resonating in that terrible winding hallway.

Arian's stomach dropped. Chase screeched, lunging forward, but hands pulled her back. Arian's.

"Why are you allowing this?" she screamed. Once again she lurched toward her friend on the ground, but Arian was too strong, wrapping her close to his chest with a grim expression.

Etienne was done. A pool of crimson emerged from Laurel's skull, face down on the ground, grotesque indents in her head in multiple areas. He rose.

"Y-You fuckers," he breathed out shakily. "Raine did nothing to you."

8th: Laurel Amory.

Etienne had signed his death note when he lingered around to spit fire at Chase and Arian. He wouldn't stop, couldn't stop cussing them out and crying out in fits of pain and anger. He turned to look at Raine for one split second, the body of his dear friend without the breath of life left within him. Finally, Arian let Chase go, and like a banshee she tackled Etienne. He was shaky from Laurel's demise, weakened by the sight of Raine crumpled on the ground. He didn't even fight it. With a horrific punch to the jaw, Chase knocked Etienne to the ground. Another hit, another jab, another beating.

It didn't take long for Etienne's body to resemble Raine's.

Their faces planted against the ground, legs sprawled, hands outstretched, never to move again. The three pools of blood grew larger by the second, Raine's and Etienne's trailing ever closer. It was almost poetic in the way that their hands reached toward each other, a teasing few inches from each other.

Can the deceased long for contact, for comfort?

It appears so.

7th: Etienne Devere.

Tensions were high among Ailsa, Antonio, and Natalie. It was evident that Natalie grew ill of Ailsa and Antonio's constant chatter. She wanted to go solo, leave this awkward trio, but everyone knew what couldn't be said: if Natalie left, Ailsa and Antonio would overcome her. It was inevitable. With Antonio's athleticism and Ailsa's willingness to get out and see her best friend again, there was no way Natalie could rise above their combined force.

Her way out came when the group encountered Devon Carmichael on the second night. They were looking for a bite to eat. Devon was looking for some much-needed rest.

Devon had been a loner most of the time, self-reliant and only talking to others when she really needed to. She had no allies to watch over her as she settled down for a shaky night of sleep after staying awake the entire first night. Inside a cupboard in a kitchen on the first floor she chose to rest, but didn't account for what should happen if she flailed in her sleep.

The cupboard door had sprung open when Devon shifted in a fit of slumber, lulling open and exposing a leg. Ailsa found it first, intrigued of who would be small enough to cram themselves in a kitchen cupboard. Gingerly she attempted to open the door wider – but didn't account for the squeaky hinges.

Devon's eyes snapped open. In an instant, her hand flew to the knife tucked in her boot, snatched the front of Ailsa's shirt, and sliced across her neck neatly.

Antonio and Natalie heard Ailsa's cry. Antonio rushed to save her. He was too late. Natalie fled the kitchen.

With wary eyes, Antonio saw Ailsa's body crumpled against the cupboard, and Devon Carmichael staring him down from her spot inside the cupboard. She was terrified, but her face was stony and without mirth. For once in his life, Antonio's biggest fear wasn't his father – it was the small girl glaring him down from her perch on the ground.

6th: Ailsa Aleese.

This, too, was inevitable, wasn't it? Antonio had never anticipated bringing a knife to a fistfight.

The two stared each other down, Antonio a mere few feet from the cupboard. He saw the knife in Devon's hand, messy with the blood of his fallen ally. He'd experienced loss before, but never quite as visual or gory as this. And at the end of the day, Antonio wasn't a fighter. He had only known the rush of fleeing.

Devon slowly uncurled herself and brought herself outside of the cupboard. Antonio didn't move, frozen to the ground. Devon stepped over Ailsa's body and moved forward.

"We can make this easy," she said.

"I don't want to die," Antonio whispered.

Devon shook her head, hands shaky. The hardships in her life had absolutely not prepared her for the taking of a life. Deep down, she was still surprised that she had the guts to do it.

"I don't want to die," she echoed softly.

She didn't spring forward. She walked up to him, knife bared. Antonio whimpered, feet shuffling backwards. "I don't want to die," he breathed a final time.

"I don't want to be the cause," Devon murmured. The only sound audible above their gentle voices was the humming of the freezer behind Antonio – and it was then that Devon's mind alit with an idea. "Open the door behind you," she ordered.

Antonio's hands shook. He obeyed, eyes glued to the weapon in her possession. The stench of freezer-burnt meat overtook his senses.

"Now go inside of it," Devon commanded.

Once again, Antonio obeyed.

There were no more words exchanged. Antonio backed up against the far wall of the freezer, trembling. Devon walked to the doorway, almost seeming as if she was about to enter the small room with him. A painful smile quivered upon her lips. She shut the door. Locked it.

Her fingers turned the temperature dial. Cold, cold, cold as it could go.

She waited outside the door for what seemed like an eternity. When she opened it once more, Antonio's body was limp, his lips blue. His blood did not run, wasn't even spilled: it was just frozen.

5th: Antonio Chavitas.

Four unfortunate children remained: Chase Kennedy, Arian Jenson, Natalie Decker, and Devon Carmichael.

Chase and Arian spent the next few days occupied in a closet on one of the upper levels. If there was any chemistry between the two, it had evaporated into the same air as their friends' souls. Arian didn't make any moves on Chase; his spirit had dwindled down to a ghostly shell. Chase kept her head high, determination intact. She grew wary of her ally, unaware how many kids remained. She knew it wasn't just she and him. She heard footsteps outside sometimes but was too scared to emerge and find out who lingered in the shadows beyond the safety of their closet door. The pair grew fretful, and they grew hungry.

Natalie was thriving on her lonesome. She discovered Antonio's body not long after Devon had abandoned it, and with the knowledge that she didn't have to off her former ally, she grew stronger. She cooked up some of the meat from the freezer, trying to avoid the knowledge that it had resided in the same air where Antonio had breathed his last.

Devon was shaky. Two lives gone at her hand. She never knew herself capable of much more than survival, but this had gone too far for her. She walked the hallways, searching for anyone to interact with but her own wretched thoughts. She grew paranoid of every little noise, every shadow that seemed to move when she did, every creak in the ceiling beams that could imply someone walking above. She flung open doors with a racing heart, hoping to find someone inside, but her attempts were never fruitful.

Two days passed. Aside from Chase and Arian's tiresome conversations, nothing exciting erupted from this time.

Until one day Devon landed upon the correct door.

Chase had been sleeping, Arian had been fucking around with the strings of a mop, braiding and unbraiding them for hours on end. The noise of the door frightened them both, and their terrified screeches frightened Devon. Her knife clattered to the ground.

Arian spotted the flash of metal and sprung for it.

A tousle emerged. Devon was shaky, couldn't reach it in time. Arian's hands clasped around the handle. He swiped at her, slicing through her shirt and through her abdomen.

Devon gasped, desperately attempting to form words but found herself unable. She fell to the ground, grabbing at her stomach with breathless winces. Arian saw an opportunity, and he ran with it. Finding her neck, he pinned her down and drove the knife into what he hoped was Devon's heart. It landed. Devon screamed for the last time.

It took fifteen minutes for Arian to worm the knife out of her ribcage.

4th: Devon Carmichael.

Chase and Arian stalked the hallways for another full day.

Natalie had turned the dial on the meat freezer completely off after dragging Antonio's body out and laying it to rest next to Ailsa's. She looked down at her fallen allies with a mixture of discontent and longing, knowing that in a different life they would've been much closer friends. But they were gone, and their bodies were starting to reek. Natalie retreated inside the now-warm meat freezer and tried to ignore the fact that she had consumed only meat in the past few days.

Chase and Arian found her when they were searching for food, their stomachs empty and paranoias high.

Natalie was trapped, a fish in a barrel. She hadn't accounted for anyone to find her like this, not when she had assumed the only other one alive was Devon. After all, Devon was the only person she had seen in the entire place since day one. She thought her assumptions were safe in that everyone else had died.

But she was armed with a butcher knife, and additionally was much stronger and well-fed than the former duo of lovers.

Arian lunged first, but his stance was weak. He didn't even reach Natalie before she gave a great roaring shriek, lashing out at him with her knife. It cut through Arian's shirt, burying itself in his right shoulder. He hissed in pain, staggering backwards, expecting Chase to provide backup, but she was gone.

Neither Natalie nor Arian realized that the freezer door had closed.

Though Natalie was better nourished and stronger, Arian still had muscle and grit. Natalie was bony to begin with, without much physical strength. Arian lurched toward her. He sliced at Natalie's stomach. In return, she was able to make a hit on his forearm. Her opponent fell, smashing his head against a carton of beefsteaks. He groaned in pain, kicking out at Natalie. She lost her balance, cracked her skull against the wall. Arian struggled on the ground.

They hacked away at each other for what seemed like forever. Neither was strong enough to regain their footing. Writhing around on the ground, they slashed and cut at each other for what seemed like forever. Arian had a deep cut on his cheek; with a sinking feeling, he acknowledged that if he prodded at it with a finger, he'd be able to touch his tongue from outside of his cheek. Natalie's hair was matted with blood, her head pounding from smashing it against the wall. Eventually, they both held back for a moment, panting and patting at their wounds, and then…

"Did it get colder in here?"

Natalie leaned back against the wall. Her shirt was gone, slashed through nearly entirely by Arian. She could barely make out his face, there were so many cuts. The blood ran from his forehead down his eyes, blurring his vision. It was fruitless for him to wipe it away; his hands were badly nicked up.

The two remained like this for hours, their bodies tensing up against the pain and cold. They stared each other down, unable to move easily, and not trusting the other to not lash out.

Arian's eyes slipped shut after a while. Natalie kicked out at his leg, and he didn't move.

She leaned forward. Her fingers shaking, freezing in the temperatures that Chase had induced, drove the butcher knife messily into his chest. If he died from that or from blood loss was unclear. The only thing that Natalie could make out was that his body gave one final lurch, eyes rolling back, mouth open…

And Arian Jenson was gone.

3rd: Arian Jenson.

Chase opened the freezer after six hours. She took in the scene: her former ally a mess of dismantled limbs, torn clothing, blood. Natalie's knife stuck out of his chest, no doubt buried deep inside of his lungs.

Natalie was barely recognizable. Frozen blood ran down her face, skin from her scalp was gone in chunks to reveal frostbitten tissue beneath. She was curled up in a pathetic ball, against the wall, her lips a faint purple color. At the sound of the freezer door opening, her eyes fluttered open.

Chase and Natalie stared each other down. No sounds were made.

Natalie found it within her to raise a single hand to her neck, drawing a thin line across it.

Chase complied.

2nd: Natalie Decker.

"Will God forgive me for the three lives I've taken?"

Chase Kennedy was taken out of Detroit promptly for therapy and medical rehabilitation. She spent the months following in a dreamlike state, not speaking. Elle, Colton, and Sierra welcomed her without much verve. She was to become one of them; and finally, Chase realized what it felt like to have all joy stripped from her life entirely.

Victor: Chase Kennedy.

A/N: Six Feet Under by Billie Eilish.

Here we have it, the final end to Off to the Races! Four years since this story was birthed and I'm all too well aware that this finale is very, very late. Better a summary than nothing else, yeah?

Congrats to sock-feet-and-stirring-sand for Chase's victory! I loved this crazy bitch ever since you sent her in, my clear choice for victor ever since I received her, really. I hope I was able to do her justice.

I hope you're all staying safe in light of the terrible virus that has seemed to overtake everyone's life recently, washing your hands and social quarantining yourselves and all that. I'm doing online classes now, not by my own choice but my university's, and I am incredibly unhappy about it. Anyways, in light of recent developments and considering I have nothing but time on my hands, I'm considering opening a new SYOT. Isn't that terrible? I'm nineteen. I started on this site when I was literally twelve. Why do I keep coming back? … Couldn't tell ya.

Anyways, if anyone from this story is still out there and cares, let me know what you'd think about that! I'm actually very interested in starting a new story, for once. Isn't that wild.

Stay healthy, stay safe, and as always, I'd loooooove a review from you!