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友達; Friends; Day 9; Open
Topic Started: Jun 24 2017, 09:13 AM (705 Views)
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((Nate Turner continued from Paths of Glory))

The library wasn’t much better than the basement, with so many corpses strewn about the shelves. It was a truly macabre feeling, walking through a building filled with the uninterred dead, left to rot like trash on the streets.

Nate swallowed. No matter how many bodies he saw, he still felt the same. It was hard to put into words: some mix of fear and misery, but neither really took centre stage. Whatever it was, it was a feeling he'd rather he never had.

“Matt? You in here?” he called out for a third time, not particularly worried about who might be around the next corner, or what their intent might be. In the back of his mind he knew he should probably be a bit more careful, but that was where the thought stayed. Maybe he thought finding Matt was more important, or maybe he just didn’t particularly care if he was heard by someone with murderous thoughts.

He rounded another bookshelf, and met with another body. He was ready to turn away, until her blue hair caught his eye.

“Nancy!”

He ran to her, crouching down, putting a hand on her shoulder and asking if she was ok. That illusion fell fast though, as he remembered where he was, what he’d heard on the announcements, saw the decay eating away at her face, smelt the copper clung to the wounds on her stomach. For a moment, he might have seen his old friend, but now he just saw a corpse.

“Nancy…” he repeated, lip trembling. This was it: the first time he’d seen one of his friends' bodies, instead of just hearing the name. Those words on the announcements suddenly felt hollow by comparison, just empty words compared to the physical sight of someone you cared about dead and rotting.

He had to cover his mouth, scrunch his eyes to stop himself. He didn’t want to cry anymore, even now, but it was hard. Those good times hanging out in drama, gone forever and the proof was in front of him. It was so hard.

Amidst the trial of controlling his emotions, he continued to think, remembering what Nancy had done. He didn’t want to, he just wanted to grieve, but the truth was undeniable. He had to fight the urge to burst into tears because Nancy was his friend, but what about the friends of Nancy’s victims? He’d lost count of how many there were, but it was a lot.

He stayed where he was, looking her in the face. What else could he do?
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((Min-jae Parker continued from Caraphernelia))

Jae hadn't slept long, or well. He wasn't sure what woke him - a noise, a half-remembered dream, something - but he had jolted awake in the dark of the storehouse and something about it was suddenly suffocating. The shape of Dorothy's body heaped nearby was suddenly horrible, and maybe it was the lingering paranoia from his encounter earlier in the day, but he had been seized with the irrational certainty that someone or something was in there with him.

He had left in a hurry. He couldn't tell what time it was. He had thought it was late when he first ducked into the storehouse, but the sky didn't seem to have darkened too much more since then. Maybe it wasn't as late as he'd thought, maybe the dark clouds had just made it seem closer to night than it really had been.

Maybe he was just losing his mind.

The island was too still and quiet now that there were so few living bodies to disturb it. The parts that Jae passed in his unsteady trek back to the asylum (always back to the asylum, haunted as it was) felt frozen in time again, just as they had been before Jae and his classmates had been dropped there. He felt like an intruder. He wasn't supposed to be here.

There was a sense of déjà vu as he slipped inside the asylum again and down the hallway. It wasn't as dark now as it had been the first time, but the recognition settled heavily on him as he pushed the library door open and stumbled to the nearest table, leaning on it for support and pressing one hand over his mouth to stifle a cough.

Was there someone there? Was he alone? Was he ever really alone?

Who's there? I'm armed.

Jae dropped the crossbow to the carpet and gripped the edge of the table with his freed hand, knuckles going white. Maybe he was losing his mind.

He stayed against the table, waiting for his cough to subside and his panic to settle.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Footsteps?

Nate snapped himself out of his focus on Nancy at the sound, wiping his arm across his eyes which had teared up despite his best efforts. Getting to his feet, he clutched a hand to his chest, swallowing his nerves.

“Matt?” he whispered, far too quiet for anyone to hear. He could hear the coughing echoing through the library, but that didn’t mean anything. His heart started to beat just a little bit faster.

He edged towards the noise, away from Nancy and the hatchet still at her side. With caution, he peered around a bookshelf, letting him see that his guest was not Matt after all.

Nate didn’t know Min-Jae, and only barely recognised him as someone from Cochise. He also caught sight of the crossbow laying on the ground, ready to be picked up and fired if need be. He swallowed again, gripping the corner of his concealing bookshelf.

“Hello?” he called out, though his voice caught in his throat on the first try.
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Jae's head snapped up at the sound of a voice nearby, brain only sluggishly following his physical reaction to process that it didn't sound particularly threatening. If it was someone with the intent and means to hurt him, they would have done so already. Anyway, he was armed. Crossbow at his feet, knife in his belt, taser in the bag.

Jae breathed in as deeply as possible between the tail end of his coughing fit and the charnel house stench permeating the library and turned to where the voice had come from. The light was dim but not gone yet, and he thought he could make out a figure behind one of the shelves.

Samuel hadn't called out to him. Nobody with self-preservation likely would at this point.

"What?" He rasped.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Nate stood where he was, looking at Min-Jae. He didn’t really have an answer to the question, not having thought this far, as usual.

“Um, are you ok?” A stock question, but it would have to do. He looked a lot better than Clarice had at least.

He searched for a name to go with the face, but he was coming up empty. It was a bit weird when you thought about it. How long had it been since he’d seen someone but not known them before hand? Asuka, maybe?

It was weird, and it wasn’t reassuring. Still, that crossbow hadn’t moved, so there was that.

“Are you hurt, or sick?”
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You know, out of all the things that Jae expected to run into here, he hadn't really been prepared for the possibility that he'd bump into someone who didn't know who he was. He was used to being recognized, by appearance if not by reputation. He didn't think that the figure half-obscured by the shelf and the fading light would be calling out to him so easily, so concerned, if they knew who he was.

Hurt? Yeah. Sick? If that's what you wanted to call it. He certainly wasn't well, in a lot of ways.

Jae straightened up somewhat to regard the person hiding behind the shelf for a moment.

"Yeah," he said finally. "You could say that."

He pulled the nearest chair over and dropped into it, keeping his attention vaguely in the direction of the other person while he fished for a water bottle in his bag. He gulped down several mouthfuls, wiping his mouth on the back of his sleeve when he was through. It eased his throat somewhat but didn't do much for everything else that was bothering him.

"Do you know what time it is?"

If he looked up, Jae could catch his reflection in the library's glass dome ceiling. His face was hollow and pale, framed by lank hair and with dark shadows under his eyes. He looked like he was already dead. He could only imagine what his fellow library patron felt looking at his face.

Jae absently scratched at the bandages covering the gash on his face and wondered when the last time he had changed them was, before something else occurred to him.

He couldn't see the other boy clearly behind the shelf, couldn't quite make out his face. If he had to guess, Jae would have said that he was short and probably white, and that was the best he could tell.

"Have you seen somebody in a mask running around here?"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Nate gripped the corner of the shelf as Min-Jae downed his water bottle, regarding him back in kind. His head shook in response to being asked the time, still holding his position as the trivial question took a backseat to the current situation.

Between the drinking and the bandages on his face, Nate was naturally reminded of earlier with Clarice, whom Min-Jae didn’t look much better than. Nate was hesitating to lend a hand so soon, although he wasn’t proud of it. Still, the dishevelled stranger across the library was a far cry from the familiar face in the flooded basement, and the distance between them was preferable to none.

“A mask?” he replied, raising a quizzical eyebrow at an odd question. “I haven't seen anyone in a mask, sorry.”

As if the place wasn’t miserable enough, had someone decided to rip off some slasher movie? It would sound almost stupid if it wasn’t disturbingly possible by then: Nancy’s corpse was still in spitting distance, after all. It wasn’t someone he hoped to meet soon, that was for sure.

“Have you seen Clarice Halwood? She was in the basement with me, and she went off to look for someone.”

Had she said who she was looking for? He was having trouble remembering, but he didn’t think she’d given a name. Could Nate have found them first?

“Was that you?”
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"Clarice?" Jae hunkered over, elbows resting on his legs, the now mostly-empty water bottle dangling from his fingers. Clarice Halwood, his grade. He didn't think he'd seen her at all here or even heard her name until just now. "No. I haven't seen her and I don't think she'd be looking for me." Unless he'd happened to kill one of her friends and that was why she wanted to find him, of course. No point in advertising that if this kid didn't already know who he was.

No sighting of his stalker either, apparently. All Jae had to go on to prove that it hadn't been a hallucination was the memory of a locked door and a moving corpse. If he went back to the solitary confinement rooms, would Conrad's body still be where Jae had left it?

Was the person he was talking to just cautious, or was there another reason for him to keep hiding?

"Do I seem like I'm going crazy?"

It took him a moment to realize he had spoken aloud.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Min-Jae’s question caught Nate off guard. It was a sudden thing to ask, and not exactly easy to answer either. He didn’t exactly have much to go off of, after all.

“We just met, so I don’t really know.” He replied, not moving from behind the shelf. He still felt like he should.

“Have you done something that you thought was crazy? I know what that feels like, at least.” He smiled a little to himself, thinking back to heading up to the bridge. It was a good thing he didn’t have much longer left to live, he supposed; he didn’t want to be carrying that memory any more than he had to.

Was that what Min-Jae was worried about? Again, there wasn’t really any way for him to know. Maybe he was feeling that bleak, maybe he was going crazy like Alvaro and Nancy. Maybe he already had, and Nate would be none the wiser. At least, he’d be that way as long as they kept the distance between them.

“Well, it’s not just you. I think everyone’s going crazy by now.”
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Jae gave his half-visible companion a thin-lipped, humorless smile in response. Had he done things that he considered crazy? Sure. Talking to corpses was crazy. Killing someone you hated for no reason was crazy. Wondering if you were seeing things, if you were really being followed and taunted by some weirdo in a mask was crazy.

He still wouldn't come out from behind the shelf. He had good reason not to. But was that all there was to it?

Jae drained the rest of his water bottle and tried to quash the thrill of paranoia in the back of his mind.

It's not paranoid if someone really is out to get you. It's not paranoid if someone really is out to get you.

If.

Was he going mad with guilt over his actions? Did he feel guilty?

Was somebody out there trying to make him feel guilty?

It didn't make sense for someone following him to ask about Clarice. It didn't make sense for someone to put on a horror movie mask and follow him in the first place. Nothing made sense. Jae had just slept but he was so, so tired.

He dropped the water bottle to the carpet and bent over to retrieve the crossbow.

"Maybe."

Maybe everyone was crazy. Maybe no one was. Which was the worse possibility?
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Nate waited for a response, even though he hadn’t asked a question. It was because he didn’t know how to move the conversation forward himself, struggling to find something to say after admitting they were all a bit mad. It didn’t seem natural to make small talk after that.

He was about to speak again, maybe try to find out a name at least, but he was cut off by Jae’s motion. “What are you doing?” he asked, but didn’t get a response. Jae aimed, and that’s when it hit him.

He let out a shrill squeal, scrambling behind the bookcase and to his knees as a copy of A Farewell to Arms sailed cleanly over his head, bolt lodged between the bindings.

“What are you doing? Stop it!” he shouted past the books shielding him from sight, panic rising as fast as he had ducked. He started to repeat ‘oh God’ under his breath, thoughts freezing up right as they needed to go fast. His eyes darted for something, anything, but in the end he just ran blindly, further into the shelves that separated him from his attacker.
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Jae hadn't actually intended to fire right away, but there was a sudden movement and he supposed that he had a twitchy trigger finger now. He missed, anyhow; his aim wasn't actually that good when firing at someone who saw him coming.

He reloaded the crossbow and then rose unsteadily, pausing for just a moment before stalking off between the shelves in pursuit. He wasn't even sure if he was following the right person, when all he had to go on was that the other person was short and Jae couldn't see him clearly. But god he just... needed to be doing something. He needed to not think, to not worry about whether the things that were happening were really happening or if he was just losing his mind, or if maybe everyone else had lost their minds and he was still sane.

There was static in his vision again. Maybe he needed another cigarette.

He kept thinking of Samuel, shapes moving in the darkness. Who's there? I'm armed. Don't let them see you afraid. Don't let anyone have the upper hand. Hurt them before they can hurt you. Do whatever you can to stay alive, even though you don't want to live. Kill the part of yourself that wants to die.

Jae caught a flash of movement and fired at it through the fading light.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Nate squealed again as another bolt flew past, slicing through the air inches from his shoulder. Between his heart pounding in his ears and what felt like a maze of bookshelves, it was impossible to keep a bead on Jae’s location.

He pressed himself against a shelf, chest heaving as he tried to listen for footsteps. “Is this it?” he thought to himself, in between the whimpers. Had this been what it had all been building up to? All the depression, fear, and agony over the past few days, just to get shot by someone he didn’t even know?

“Why are you doing this?” he called out, giving no thought to how it might assist his stalker. “I’m not trying to kill anyone! I don’t want to! I don’t want to hurt you!”

He felt his legs giving way, his back starting to slide down the shelf. The instinct to curl up into a ball and cry was overwhelming, as if that would solve anything. It had never solved anything when people picked on him, and it wasn’t going to save his life now.

So what was he supposed to do instead?

He checked around a corner for Min-Jae, saw nothing, and kept running.
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Jae stumbled.

That was what he got for trying to run around on an injured leg, feet snagging on the carpet, staggering to the side and colliding with a shelf. The shelf wobbled, sending a book or two tumbling to the floor, and Jae clutched at it with his free hand for balance.

He thought he heard a sob. He thought he heard retreating footsteps. He didn't even know who or what he was chasing.

"Leave me alone," he rasped.

Just... he didn't want to see anyone. He didn't want to jump at shadows. He wanted to die.

He wanted to go home.

"Leave me alone!"

The panic seized him and he couldn't breathe. It was this place. He shouldn't have come back here. He should have stayed in the warehouse with only Dorothy's corpse for company because at least he knew she was gone and couldn't hurt him.

Jae groped for his bag, for another bolt, but his fingers didn't seem to be working the way they were supposed to. He pressed his back against the shelf and clung to it for support instead, trying desperately to breathe in.

That's what you get for coming back here and chasing after ghosts.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
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Nate pressed against another bookcase, still trying to figure out how much distance there was between himself and Min-Jae. His fingers wrapped around a shelf, holding on for dear life, as his eyes darted back and forth for signs of life that wanted to take his.

Min-Jae was shouting, but what he was demanding made no sense. Nate wasn’t trying to bother him in the first place, he was just trying to say hello. He was the one being chased around with a crossbow for no reason.

How was he supposed to leave him alone!?

He stayed put, listening for the sounds of footsteps. Nothing came, just a terrible quiet, the only noise being the boys’ mutual wheezing. He clenched his eyes, fear forcing them shut, as his teeth pressed against each other.

This was what he’d been spending the last few days preparing himself for, what he’d said to so many people by now that he was ready and willing to face. Right up until now, dying had just seemed like something that was going to happen, and it would be the end of all this suffering.

Damn it, he really was an idiot.

He shook his head, disgusted at how naïve he’d been. He opened his eyes again, looking around. He had to get out of there.

He pulled away from the shelf, ready to keep moving, but as he did so, his hands caught the top of the books on the shelf below the one he’d been grabbing. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to knock them down onto the floor below.

It wasn’t loud, but it had broken the silence.
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