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友達; Friends; Day 9; Open
Topic Started: Jun 24 2017, 09:13 AM (702 Views)
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And I am still hungry.
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((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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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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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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"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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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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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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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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Jae pushed away from the shelf, only to stagger into the shelf on the opposite side of the aisle. He struggled to get his breathing under control, finally retrieving a bolt from his bag and loading it. How many did he have left now? He couldn't remember.

There was a sound nearby, something falling to the floor. Jae whipped around towards it, bringing the crossbow up again.

"Just-"

His voice came out in a rough, strained whisper. He wasn't even sure what he was trying to say. Just leave me alone, or just die. Something like that.

Jae lurched to the end of the aisle and fired again in the direction of the sound.
"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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Jae had straightened up somewhat, breathing shallowly but still breathing, fingers fumbling in the bag again for more ammo. He'd fired... twice? Not more than three times, surely. How much did he have left? There was too much buzzing in his ears and static in his vision for him to even work through the simple math.

And of course all of that was moot when a thick volume toppled off the shelf Nate had thrown himself against and smacked Jae in the back of the head.

He stumbled, gasping because he didn't quite have enough breath to yell, tenderness that he had all but forgotten about from the last time he had hit his head blossoming into pain again. A couple other books hit him in the back and shoulder, only serving to throw him more off-balance. He grabbed at the shelf with his free hand to try and regain his balance, but just ended up jarring his broken fingers, drawing up a pained whine.

The dizziness welled up, and he saw only static. When it finally receded, Jae was prone on the floor.
"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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Jae groaned into the carpet. When he felt in control of his limbs again, he gingerly reached up to touch the stinging spot at the back of his head. Fortunately, he felt no blood or broken skin, but it still hurt like a bitch along with his hand.

When the person on the other side of the shelf whimpered a "sorry" at him and fled, he almost had enough breath to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Slowly and painfully, Jae worked himself into a sitting position and leaned back against the shelf. So what had he accomplished here? Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch. He'd terrorized somebody who probably wasn't terrorizing him in turn and got another bump on the head for it.

Was there still somebody out there in the fading twilight, waiting for him?

Jae sat for a long time, surrounded by bodies in the darkening library, wondering.

((Min-jae Parker continued in Chew Until It Bleeds))
"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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