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Generated: Jul 17, 2021 5:49 AM
Post last updated: Jul 08, 2019 4:04 PM
it's not easy being green
owls and turquoises in all night laundry
Permalink Mark Unread

It's not often that the both of them are completely out of clean laundry, but the fact is that on this occasion they were both extremely busy at the same time and it didn't click that the other one wasn't doing laundry either until both their closets were bare. Aaaaaaand it's almost two in the morning. 

And this is what leads to a pair of twins hauling an enormous laundry bag to an all-night laundry in the wee hours of the night. 

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"...The lights are off."

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"They sure are."

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"Does this place or does it not say 24-Hour Laundry?" Edie asks rhetorically. She peers in the window. There appears to be a tv flickering in the back. "It looks like someone's here...and I don't see any signs talking about closures..."

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Emily checks the door. "It's unlocked," she reports.

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Nod. "If anyone complains we've got plenty of grounds to complain back. I don't wanna wear dirty clothes to class tomorrow."

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Nod. 

The streetlight flickers as she pushes the door open. The two of them haul the laundry bag in; Emily starts feeling around for the lightswitch as Edie drags the laundry to the side-loading machines in the back. 

"...The TV is off now," Emily observes. 

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"So it is," Edie says, sorting the clothing directly into the washers. "I guess that means there's someone here--HEY! HELLO? I DON'T THINK THE LIGHTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE OFF!"

 

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"Apologies!" Calls a voice from the back. "I'm afraid I had a migraine, and had to turn off the lights for a bit." 

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"Maybe put up a sign about that next time," Edie suggests. 

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Emily finds the light switch and flicks it on. 

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The voice is a tall, skinny blond man who looks like he hasn't been getting enough sleep lately. 

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Maybe that means that the migraine is just an excuse and maybe it doesn't. Either way, it's not really any of their business. Emily wanders over to help Edie finish loading the washers and start them running. 

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"I need to go out for a minute," the man says after a bit. "Don't go into the employee-only areas or anything while I'm gone, alright?"

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"Nah," she says, yawning. "I mean, yeah, we won't."

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"Good," he says, and exits pursued by a bear

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Mmmrf. They can't leave until their clothes are washed. But it's laaaate and they're tiiiiired. 

Edie thinks she saw a vending machine. 

...?

"Did he turn the television back on before he left?"

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"What--oh, you're right, that's weird. And it's...static...what?"

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"It's probably not actually our business," Edie sighs. She plunks change into the vending machine, retrieves two canned coffees, then stops at the tv to switch it off on the way back. 

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"Edie. What is that on the floor by your foot," Emily says suddenly. 

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"Hm?" She transfers one of the cans of coffee to the crook of the other elbow, bending down to pick up the speck of white. 

...

"This is a tooth." 

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"A tooth?"

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"Yep. Fresh one. Still has bright red blood on the root."

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"We...would have noticed if laundry guy was missing a tooth that recently. His mouth would be full of blood. Right?"

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"We'd have noticed more than that. It's an incisor." 

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"Time to go in the places he said not to go." 

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"Yep." She pockets the tooth. It's already been on the floor; her pocket lint won't hurt it, and maybe they can get it put back in. 

The obvious place to look is this door over here that says "Employees Only." She checks the door; it is not, in fact, locked. She opens it and peers in. 

"...Blood on the floor." She strides in, checking everywhere she can see for where someone might be hidden. Nobody in any of the obvious places...

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Emily pokes her head into the little closet-thing. 

"I don't think anyone sloppy enough to leave a tooth and a smear of blood lying around is probably going to have stashed their victims in some kind of hidden wall compartment we'd have to find by knocking on the wall until we find something that sounds hollow..."

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"Yeah. Let's check the basement."

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"Yeah..."

Exeunt office. 

At which point it becomes much more apparent that one of the washing machines at the front is making some really loud, kind of alarming banging noises. 

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The two sisters exchange a look before heading up front instead. 

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The washing machine closest to the door is being jolted by something inside it, that makes it rock as it cycles the clothes. 

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"I dunno if the noise'll bring back our presumed kidnapper and/or murderer but it's really annoying," Edie mutters, looking for the off switch. 

...The washing machine claims the load is already finished. Joy. It's glitchy. She bends down, peering into the space between the washers, careful not to get so close that the violent one can knock into her, looking for the power cord to shut the damn thing off by force. 

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--Only to be suddenly yanked back by the waist by Emily so hard that the two of them crash backwards into the plastic seating. 

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"Ow! What the fuck!?"

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"There was some kind of hand reaching for you out of the washing machine!!!"

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"...What?"

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Before Emily can respond, the machine gives an extra-violent, extra-loud jerk, twisting on its base before landing with a clang, now at a diagonal from its previous position. An even more violent motion sends it crashing to the side. The lid flies open. 

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And...something...crawls out. 

It's vaguely humanoid, but nobody would ever mistake it for a human being. It's almost skeletal, but pulsing shadows fill it out where muscles should be, and green points glow from within its three eye sockets, the one on its forehead visibly off-center. Irregular horns curl up from the sides of its head, and as it pulls itself free of the machine, skeletal wings with shadow membranes pull themselves clear from its back. 

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"Hi," Edie tries, hands up, palms out. 

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The creature lunges at her. 

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Yeah fuck this. 

Edie dodges to the side, looking around for anything she can use as a blunt force weapon. There isn't a lot. 

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"Hey, ugly! Leave my sister alone!"

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This successfully diverts the creature's attention to Emily. In an unnerving burst of speed, it lunges at her, clawlike hands outstretched--

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"shitno--" Edie breathes, and lunges to knock Emily out of the way--

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--And the creature's lunge takes it over the two of them--

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But now it's between them and the door--this isn't the only entrance, though--the two of them back away from the creature, trying to move smoothly enough not to provoke it if it has a startle reflex anything like a normal predator while still putting as much distance between them and it as possible--

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--The creature continues to be way too fast, turning and lunging again, now at the both of them--

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--okay forget subtlety run--

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--And Emily's foot lands wrong on an empty detergent jug, which slips out from under her at the worst possible angle, twisting her ankle and bringing her to the floor with an involuntary yelp. 

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Edie, still holding on, is brought down with her. She tries to angle the fall so her own body covers Emily's as much as possible. 

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The creature looms over them for a moment

and opens its mouth

and there is light

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END OF CHAPTER 1

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Zeke isn’t in a great mood.

Popular media told him, once, that things could always get worse - that no matter what happened, there would always be somewhere lower he could go, some lower pit in a prison, some deeper melancholy, some stronger woe - but he’s getting kind of skeptical, honestly. 

He’s surrounded by something grey and plain - the courtyard of the old French sugar factory, of sorts, not that he can really tell.

In one part of it: Zeke. Close by: a woman who doesn’t remember her name. On the other end: something very, very green.

‘Buy a laundromat and the lot for it’, they said. ‘It’ll be valuable management experience and you can hand it off to someone else after a few months’, they said. ‘You’ll end up being transported into a weird limbo, with only an amnesiac and an elder god for company, by your sole part time employee’, they definitely did not say.

The greying sugar factory around him is, and has been, fairly still; Zeke hasn’t been. He hasn’t left the main courtyard, but within that main courtyard he’s been running in circles and doing calisthenics and weightlifting with improvised materials and so on. He’s spent hours rambling at the woman with amnesia about personal anecdotes, and occasionally letting her get a word in edgewise. He’s grumpily refrained from flirting out of ethical concerns. He’s avoided looking at the green elder god thing, he has no idea what’ll happen if he does that again.

Even so, he’s still incredibly bored.

... and then two unconscious chicks fall out of the sky.

This isn’t actually the most bizarre thing that’s happened to him this week. Unfortunately. At least it’s interesting.

”... uh.”

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The amnesiac doesn't notice this happening until they hit the ground, having been curled up and brooding on her problems, such as being an amnesiac. When she hears the thud, though, she looks up and startles, then gets to her feet and hurries over to them. She checks their vitals and examines them for injury with a casual competence that suggests some kind of history of medical training, then looks up at Zeke. 

"They're alive. I don't...think they broke anything, or got concussed."

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“That’s... nice, I guess? - should I, like, put them behind something? So they don’t look at the thing when they wake up.”

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"I guess. I don't see the same things you see when I look at it, but I don't know what they'll see. I'll help."

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And so the unconscious people who fell from the sky can go be unconscious in a slightly safer place!

And Zeke can pace around and occasionally poke one of them on the shoulder.

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After a few minutes: 

"...Nn?"

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He takes a few steps back.

“... hey.”

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She sits up. 

"What the fuck."

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And sees a man - who really looks like he ought to play football professionally - with a television cord trailing out of the back of his head! And architecture. And possibly the woman with amnesia.

“I’ve been thinking that for a while, so, like, props to you for saying it out loud? - hi, I’m Zeke, I don’t know what the fuck either.”

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"You've, uh, got something on your head."

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“Yeah, I got the memo a while ago, it’s super creepy and it connects to the green... thing... do you know a ton about what’s going on?”

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"I just wanted to do my laundry and then there was a skeletal demon."

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“I just wanted to fulfill the condition on my trust fund and then there was a creepy guy named ‘Jan’, and, like, who names their kid Jan, right, and then he cheated and made me look at a weird elder god and now I’m stuck in purgatory or something. So, you know, mood.”

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"--Jan?"

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“... did I, like, not mention the name before? - I didn’t, I guess. The creepy guy was totally named Jan Forester.”

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"That name sounds familiar. And--important. The way the green thing feels important, but more--real."

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“That’s... gonna be honest, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with that information. Maybe your memories are coming back, or something.”

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"It doesn't feel like my name."

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"Your memories?"

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"I can't remember anything from before I woke up here. Not even my own name."

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"Have you had any trouble forming new memories?"

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"I don't think so...but it's hard to be sure. There's so little down here to remember." 

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What’s Zeke, chopped liver?

”- except for the weird green elder god,” he says, instead. “The weird green elder god is totally memorable but I super don’t recommend, like, looking at it or interacting with it, just a heads up.”

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"Well, I know I haven't forgotten about the green elder god--or you--but if I've forgotten an hour here and there of staring at it or listening to you talk, how would I know?"

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Ooh, burn.

“I dunno” - he turns to Edie - “and do you have, like, specific questions about stuff, I can maybe answer some specific questions.”

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"--You said you owned the laundry, right? When did things start getting weird, do you know anything about the skeleton demon, what can you tell me about Jan?"

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“There wasn’t anything super weird until that motherfucker - the weird stuff started when that asshole made me look at the green thing, I don’t know about the skeleton demon but it sounds bad, Jan was a rando I hired and never super talked to but I’m still pretty sure he was gay and making up his girlfriend? He wasn’t, like, obviously a cultist or a scientologist or anything freaky.”

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"Super off-topic but why do you think he's gay?"

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“Just kinda had that vibe? There’s not, like, anything wrong with that, or whatever, sometimes you can just sorta tell.”

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"I didn't pick up anything like that but I can't claim to have gaydar. And the creepy would probably have overshadowed it." 

She pushes herself upright, and her hand lands on--well, it looks like glass to her. She picks it up and examines it. 

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"--Uh. That's. Concerning. Did it come from the demon?"

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"--The demon was zero percent made of glass."

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"--So? That's a shard of bone."

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“... I’m seeing, like, a rusty iron thingy.”

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"Con...cern. Gonna wanna see what Emily thinks once she's awake..." 

She looks around. 

"What's with the TV?"

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“The... TV?”

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"Yeah...it's..."

She trails off. 

She is looking in the direction of the green thing. 

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“- oh wait shit are you seeing the -“

He moves to block her line of sight -

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She steps forward before he can get between her and it, deftly weaving around the sofa. She looks entranced. She holds her hand out...

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--A tendril of something green lances through her arm in two places--

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--And she collapses to her knees, screwing her eyes shut and holding her arm to try to keep the blood in. 

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Zeke looks at the woman with amnesia! She might have. Any idea what to do. About someone suddenly having a coil of patinated copper in their arm. 

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"Ordinarily I'd say to leave the impaling object in but I have no idea what that stuff is or how hazardous it is. Blood loss is at least a known danger...damn, I wish we had something sterile with us..."

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The other girl begins to stir. 

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He’s increasingly suspicious that the woman with amnesia used to work in medicine, but this probably isn’t the best time to bring that up.

He crouches down and pokes girl number two on the shoulder. 

“You awake?”

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"Nn--I guess...what the hell..."

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"Weird skeleton demon thing?"

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"Yeah...izzat how you got here too?"

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"No, but your friend woke up before you did--I don't remember how I got here, or anything else--please tell me you're carrying pads." 

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"Not on a midnight laundry run, why--?"

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"Your friend looked at the glowing green thing that's what got Zeke trapped here by accident, and it, uh, pierced her arm in two places. I need something sterile to bandage her with." 

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"--Shit, Edie--"

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She grabs her arm. "Don't look."

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"Yeah okay--ugh--" she squeezes her eyes shut. "Point me at her and away from the thing?"

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Zeke feels like he should be getting emotional over all this but mostly he’s just low key disassociating! Fun times.

“Can I just, like, pick you up and put you down next to her, I could totally do that - otherwise you can, like, keep facing the direction you’re facing, back up three steps, and shuffle to the left until we say stop, and you should be good?”

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"I was imagining being led more than picked up but if you can and you wanna go for it."

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And lo, she is unceremoniously picked up and deposited next to her sister.

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She opens her eyes and hisses in dismay. 

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The amnesiac picks up the item of uncertain substance and hands it to her, then pulls off her shirt, leaving her in only a bra underneath. 

"I'm not sure what this is, but it's sharp, and probably less dangerous than the stuff that's in her arm. Cut off the wire at one end, but don't pull anything out until I have something to bandage it with. Zeke, your mobility is limited. Stay here, use this to make a tourniquet," she hands him her shirt, "and try to stand between her and the green thing, just in case. I'm going to see if I can find a bottle of alcohol or something to sterilize the wound with." 

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“I don’t super know how to tie a tourniquet.”

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"Just tie it as tight as you can on her upper bicep, it'll be better than nothing."

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“Kay.”

He crouches down and does that. 

(An idea is nibbling at the back of his brain - something about the sharp thing, and other things it could cut - but it hasn’t quite coalesced.)

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And the unnamed woman goes off to search for some kind of disinfectant. She feels sort of dizzy, like she's in two places at once, but she has to focus. 

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MY DREAM

By Edie, age 6

Hi! I'm Edie. I am six and a half years old. 

Today we are at Grampa Jacob's house. Except it's not a house, it's an apartment. An apartment is like a house, but littler, and in the same building as other apartments. A mansion is in the other direction, it's like a house but bigger and there's sometimes only one in a whole block, and Mama's mother lives in one but we don't go there because Mama's mother is Bad. We live in a house, which is in the middle. 

There's a pond in the backyard, except that that hasn't happened yet. 

Anyway we are not at the house right now. We are at the apartment, with Grampa Jacob. Grampa Jacob is very old. He writes books and goes traveling to talk to people sometimes, about the Bad Thing that happened when he was young. He says it is important to tell people who are too young to remember about Bad Things so they won't do things like them. He won't tell me or Emily the stories about the Bad Thing, because we are too young. But he lets us see the number on his arm, that the Bad People gave him during the Bad Thing.

I asked Mama once whether that was the kind of Bad her mother was but she looked shock and promised me that no, her mother was just a very selfish person, she wasn't *really really Bad* like the people who hurt Grampa.

Grampa says that there are lots more people in the world who are the same amount of bad as Grandmother but much more active about it than she is. He says he knows a lot about people doing Bad things because he had to learn a lot about it when he was young, and he still has the skills. He says no matter how much he tells people about the Bad Thing, people still do bad things. 

I tell Grampa I know all about people doing bad things. I tell him about the bad things people do at school, and he looks sad. He tells me when I grow up I will have to worry about much bigger bad things, but since I am a little girl and Mama is rich I shouldn't have to worry about them yet. 

I tell him I am a BIG girl. He laughs and scoops me in his lap and says until I am too big for him to do that I shouldn't worry about any bad things bigger than bullies at school. 

Right now I am drawing. 

I need a lot of green crayons but I have lots and lots of crayons so I'm okay. 

They're Emily's and my crayons but Emily isn't here right now. My new friend is. I don't know her name yet but that's okay. 

I'm pressing harder than I need to because I am mad. I'm mad at one of the bullies at school. Grampa says the bullies are only a little bad and MAYBE when I am a grownup there will be much worse bad things but it doesn't FEEL that way. 

Grampa nods and says that the thing I have to remember is that most of the kids at school aren't as smart as I am, and don't have parents as good as Papa and Mama. He says that people have reasons for doing things, and if they're doing bad things it probably means they need something and they don't know how to get it. 

I ask Grampa what the people who did the Bad Things to him--the Nazis--needed. 

Grampa looks sad and says they were hurting, and they thought that blaming the hurt on other people would make them feel better. He says they were wrong, and they were adults and should have known better, and anyway there is no excuse for what they did. I nod. I don't know what they did exactly but I know it was really really really bad. Then he says that the bullies are just children, and that doesn't make what they're doing okay either, but I can stop them much better if I know why they're doing what they're doing and try to teach them better before they're grownups, than if I just hit back. He says hitting people who try to hit the littler kids might teach them not to, but it might just teach them to only do it when people like me aren't looking. 

I tell him Mama already explained that hitting is bad and I am much more creative now. He smiles at me and ruffles my hair and tells me that that's good, but his point still stands.

I show him my drawing. 

He asks me what it is. 

I tell him it's a monster. A really BIG monster. And I don't think hitting would work on it at all. 

He nods and tells me that the Nazis were a really big monster too, but they were a monster made of a lot of people, and monsters that are just big and monsters made of a lot of little things are very different. 

I ask him if he tried teaching on the Nazis. 

He says people tried, but they didn't understand at first that the Nazis were a monster. He says the Nazis were defeated, in the end, by hitting--well, not exactly, but sort of--and sometimes that's what it takes. He says he doesn't know very much about my monster, but he trusts me to be smart and brave and do my very best. 

Then he tells me to get the Grandma Box. 

The Grandma Box is a pretty wooden box that Grandma owned, with some of her stuff in it. It's got her old recipe books, and some of her jewelry, and a pretty red scarf. 

I never met Grandma. She died before I was born. But I'm named after her. And sometimes, Grampa sits with me and Emily and takes stuff out of the box and shows it to us and tells us stories about her. 

This time, he takes out the scarf, and ties it around my neck. 

He tells me that Grandma was smart, and brave, and she still ran and hid for a very long time, before the Nazis got her. But she survived. They both did. He says that the most important thing, sometimes, is surviving, and even if I can't do anything else I should do that. 

And then I wake up. 

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Zeke is standing a bit back from her, blocking her line of sight with the green thing, fiddling with the sharp object of mysterious substance. This fact probably doesn’t register next to the sensation in her arm.

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"Ow, fuck."

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"Edie! Are you--no, of course you're not okay--we're working on getting the, uh, thing, out of your arm--where did that scarf come from?"

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"...Scarf?"

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Emily makes a gesture towards her own neck. There is now a scarf on Edie's neck, bright red and silk like the one in the dream. 

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"...Uh..."

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“If a purple dinosaur showed up out of nowhere in two seconds I wouldn’t be, like, super surprised, to be honest, this place is batshit crazy. Congrats on the scarf.”

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"...The scarf came out of my dream."

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"Wait--is that the scarf from the Grandma Box?"

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"Yep."

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“... is the Grandma Box as slasher flick as it sounds like or is it, like, some completely ordinary thing that someone decided to name like it was a hip horror movie.”

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"...It's a box of keepsakes of our grandma, who died before we were born and who I was named after."

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“- oh shit that was totally insensitive, wasn’t it, uh - sorry, I’m getting kinda primed for dramatic reveals.”

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"A little, but under the circumstances I'd call it forgivable. Shit, my arm hurts." 

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"We're not taking the stuff impaling your arm out until the woman who can't remember her name comes back with something to sterilize it with." 

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"Nnnngh makes sense. Ow. ...Hey, Zeke, show her the sharp thing, I wanna know what she sees it as."

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He holds it up and waves it around vaguely in front of his face.

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"...It's...obsidian?"

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"Looks different to all of us--I see glass, Zeke metal, the amnesiac bone."

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"--Huh. That's...not...objectively weirder than everything else..."

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“Should I, like. Try using it to cut off the thing on the back of my head. Or would that maybe make us explode.”

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"Leeeeets wait until the person who knows more about first aid than either of us comes back and takes a look at it first. And like. Let her or me do it, since we can actually see what we're doing and don't have a horribly injured arm. But yeah, that's a good idea."

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He fidgets with the sharp object of indeterminable material.

”’Kay.”

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"Just be glad it's not impaled the way my arm is, fucking ow."

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“Yeah, I wouldn’t wanna be you - and could you, like, explain what happened there, like, at all? As far as I could tell it was just sorta ‘stab one: the stabbening’ but I don’t, like, know what it was like from your POV.”

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"The light...was really compelling. And then I walked towards it. Because it was compelling. And then some of it sort of went--through my arm. And it occurred to me that's bad. And bits of it were reaching out to other bits of me, so I closed my eyes, and that's when it changed from 'my arm is not transparent, something is wrong' to 'ow stabbed fuck shit ow time to pass out now.'"

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“I guess some light, like. Went through the back of my head.”

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"Con...cerning..."

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“This entire motherfucking situation is really super concerning and I really wanna break something but there isn’t a ton of shit to break and I wanna go home and snuggle my girlfriend and eat barbecue and adopt a puppy and break every last bone in Jan’s stupid body and his stupid face and his stupid - but instead I’m probably gonna die horribly, so, you know, fuck everything.”

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There is a soft sound of distress from behind him. 

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“Uh, sorry, kinda let the disassociation slip for a sec.”

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"I don't...want him hurt."

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“I... do...”

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"What will that solve?"

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“If you’re gonna get all ‘violence is never the answer, padawan’ with me about the guy who fed me to an old god, we’re gonna have to agree to disagree.”

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"That's not--I--" 

She folds her arms around herself. 

"I don't...have anything. Even a name. And he feels important."

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"If you have to hurt him to stop him, I won't--I won't say boo. But. Hurting him just to hurt him? I'll try to stop you." 

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“Not super sure how to respond to that, to be honest.”

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"Respond to it by showing me the back of your head so I can try to figure out how dangerous cutting the wire would be." 

Permalink Mark Unread

“Should I, like, be concerned about letting you near my head with a sharp object? Since you said you’re gonna stop me if I do something I’m predictably gonna do.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Emily can do the actual cutting if cutting is remotely safe. If I wanted to stop you proactively I would just make something up that would mean cutting the wire would definitely kill you if it were true, and then you'd be stuck here." 

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“I’d probably be super dead if you did that, actually, I’d cut it off anyways and at least I wouldn’t have that thing inside my fucking head - go ahead and look, I guess.”

He bends down so as to make this possible.

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She parts the hair around the wire, inspecting how and where it's joined to the skull. She prods it, gently, to see if the connection has any give. It doesn't. 

"I think the most useful thing I have to say is to be careful while cutting it off, I'm not completely sure it doesn't extend into the brain case at all."

Permalink Mark Unread

“Dunno what a brain case is. Emily, you wanna go ahead and do the honors?”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure. The brain case is the interior of the skull, you know, where the brain is." She gets up off her knees and holds out a hand for the shard.

Permalink Mark Unread

(Meanwhile, the amnesiac kneels down next to Edie to see what she can do about that arm.)

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He hands her the shard.

“Makes sense.”

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She saws gently at the wire, being very very careful even when the amnesiac does things that hurt extra and Edie swears loudly. 

Eventually, she gets all the way through, and the cord falls to the ground with a thump. 

Permalink Mark Unread

And Edie is sitting up and rubbing her arm, which is bandaged with the scarf, torn in half to cover both holes. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Zeke... doesn’t drop dead on the spot! Hooray!

He runs experimentally to the other end of the courtyard.

Permalink Mark Unread

The back of his head remains totally unencumbered, the wire that had been attached to it still laying still at Emily's feet. 

Permalink Mark Unread

 

He attempts a backflip, doesn’t stick the landing, and ends up sprawled on the ground! He’s totally okay with being sprawled on the ground! He isn’t bound to an alien monster from beyond the veil of space and time at all.

He’s maybe going to spend the next few minutes doing ecstatic acrobatics and weird calisthenic poses and running around while cackling.

Permalink Mark Unread

"We should do something about the name thing." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"--Hm?" 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, you recognized Jan's name. Maybe you'd recognize yours." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh. Well, it's worth a shot." 

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"Let's see...Mary Molly Janet Karen Susan Elaine Della Alice Amy Beatrice..."

Permalink Mark Unread

Headshake. "None of those sound familiar." 

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Zeke pauses mid-run.

”Anna Bella Cathy Della Emma Fran Gwen Hannah Ivy Jenny Katie Lonnie Mandy Nancy, uh, Olive Pearl Queenie Rose Sarah Tess Ursa Violet Wendy Xena Yasmin Zoey?”

Permalink Mark Unread

...Giggle. "No."

Permalink Mark Unread

Zeke shrugs and continues running. Running is great.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Beth, Becca, Jacqueline, Polly, Petra, Hanna, Lizzie?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"--That last one." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Lizzie?"

Permalink Mark Unread

Nod. "I don't know that it's quite right, but it's at least close." 

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Zeke overhears this! And does a set of spontaneous jumping jacks!

Permalink Mark Unread

"You're very odd."

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He tries another backflip and sticks the landing, this time.

”I’m totally odd. Very odd people, like, play the cello for their cats and own way too many stamps, totally odd people get kidnapped by aliens from beyond the void.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Were you very odd before you were totally odd?"

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“Nope! I was super odd - super odd people have, like, the best parties, we’re this whole elite club and we get to have tons of sex and stuff.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"That sounds less like 'super odd' and more like 'popular.'"

Permalink Mark Unread

“Popular people are really weird, honestly, I’ve always had a couple friends but I’ve never super seen the point of collecting them like Pokémon cards?”

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"I wouldn't know, I've--" pause. "I...think I've never had very many friends. But the fact that you could collect friends like pokemon cards, and go to parties and have lots of sex, puts you in a social cluster that I don't know what other word to give it."

Permalink Mark Unread

“I guess I might sound kinda like when a super obnoxious rich person goes ‘oh, yeah, I’m well off’?”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Kinda, yeah." 

Permalink Mark Unread

 

"I think everyone here except you is a super rich person. Awkward." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"...What, really?"

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“I needed to run a business for a while to keep access to my trust fund, the old owner of the laundromat wanted to sell, I bought a laundromat, and then instead of money there was an alien abduction, which, you know, that’s life? My sis doesn’t have a job but apparently she’s, like, ‘responsible’, and also if our parents tried to cut her off they’d probably, like, end up in a mysterious car accident.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm concerned about that last bit but not, on the whole, very urgently. Having the wherewithal to buy a business that casually probably puts you in the super rich category. My mom has a job, having a job does not disqualify you." 

Permalink Mark Unread

“My sister’s pretty concerning - I’m, like, pretty sure she’s involved with organized crime, and she does this thing where she alternates between ‘terrifyingly intense’ and ‘incredibly adorable’ and I don’t super know how to deal with it. We mostly don’t talk but our girlfriends are pretty good friends and we’re both at family dinners and stuff.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not sure I love this group being three-quarters rich, it makes me feel like I might be in some dumbass book with values I don't appreciate and people who whine about taxes, but on the whole this is an incredibly petty complaint." 

Permalink Mark Unread

“I vote New Democratic, if that, like, helps.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Some, yeah." 

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"It's pretty moot if we can't...get out of here." 

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Zeke clicks his heels three times. This fails to do anything.

”Yep.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"How much have the two of you explored?"

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“With the thingy still attached to me I couldn’t, like, get out of the courtyard? Dunno about Lizzie, I was kinda in my own head a lot.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not much. With no memories I didn't really have any intrinsic motivation to do anything other than just sit there listening to him and looking at the green light." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. Time for a more thorough approach, then. Let's not split up, better safe than swift." 

Permalink Mark Unread

“Yeah, if we’re in a horror novel we can maybe skip the step where we’re really dumb and end up getting picked off one by one? Obvious first place to look around is -“ he points at the door with a frosted glass window “- there.”

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Edie nods and strides toward it, Emily close in tow. 

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Zeke follows.

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And Lizzie brings up the rear. 

As Edie reaches the glass door, Lizzie peers off to the side, through the gates, and comments, "Well, at least we're probably not going to starve." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Zeke peers in the same direction.

“I haven’t, like, actually noticed getting hungry? And normally I kinda eat a ton.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm hungry. What's--are those root vegetables?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It would appear so. I think I saw the words 'Astre Sucre' on one of the smokestacks, maybe this is supposed to be a sugar factory and those are sugar beets." 

Permalink Mark Unread

“Am I missing some kinda deep metaphor for the human condition, here, or is that really random and weird?”

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's kinda really random and weird but I just lost a lot of blood and sugar beets sound like the next best thing to juice and cookies right now." 

Permalink Mark Unread

“Should you be worried about, like, not accepting food and drink from the fae, or something, so far things seem pretty science fiction-y but I’m a little unclear on our genre. Also I can help lift you over the gate.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"I would love your help. You have a point about the fae thing but I think if we start ascribing this thing powers based on pure speculation we'll go nuts, and blood loss is a danger that definitely exists."

Permalink Mark Unread

“Kay kay! Do you have, like, solid enough core strength that I could lift you up by your ankles, or do you wanna get on my shoulders?”

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I normally have the core strength but I'm not sure how blood loss affects it and I do not super want to risk passing out unnecessarily while being held up by the ankles."

Permalink Mark Unread

“That’s one of the most valid preferences I’ve ever heard, honestly. I can, like, squat down, you can climb on my back and I can help lift you up from there, we’re good? - do you, like, have a plan for getting back on this side of the fence afterwards.”

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Lizzie pushes on the gate experimentally. It swings open smoothly. "Or that." 

Permalink Mark Unread

 

"Or. That. Yes." 

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“In my defense, nothing else about this situation has been super convenient? - let’s eat beets, then, I guess.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"There's the scarf? That's pretty convenient. And the concerning sharp thing being able to cut the wire, that was good." 

Permalink Mark Unread

(Edie is already making a beeline for the beet pile.)

Permalink Mark Unread

“I mean, the scarf doesn’t seem better than, like, tearing off some of someone’s shirt, and - I guess the sharp thing was pretty convenient. I totally appreciate it and all of its conveniently stabby ways.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"The scarf is probably more sterile than someone's shirt would have been, if it did spontaneously manifest from a dream and/or spend several years sitting in a box in a closet not being worn." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Especially in the heat wave that's been going around."

Permalink Mark Unread

“Man, I dunno. I was just, like, making a super generic complaint about our general situation?”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Super fair."

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Zeke walks over to the beet pile, grabs a beet, and attempts to eat it. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The flesh is tough but sweet, and parts under his teeth if he gnaws at it. 

Edie's is already half gone.

Permalink Mark Unread

He bets he can still finish his beet before she can finish her beet! Being competitive about tiny tasks is super silly but also super fun. Om nom nom.

Permalink Mark Unread

Since she has no idea that they're competing, he manages it. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Zeke thereafter continues eating beets at a more reasonable pace, content in his victory.

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Eventually everyone has eaten the maximum reasonable amount of beets. Edie starts stuffing more into whatever pockets are available. 

Permalink Mark Unread

 

“So, uh, through the frosted glass door of doom?”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Of doom? So far there's nothing to indicate it's any doomier than anything else in this place." 

Permalink Mark Unread

“This place has a pretty high overall doom quotient? Over there is the courtyard of doom. Up there is the sky of doom. I just had several doom-beets.”

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"--You know, given that apparently we fell, I'm not actually sure how doom-y the sky is." 

Permalink Mark Unread

“Dunno how important that is.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Dunno." 

She peers up at the sky. 

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... Zeke, too, peers up at the sky.

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There is a single star.

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“Uh.”

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"I...don't know what to make of that." 

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“- okay, so, uh, second try: through the frosted glass door of not-more-than-ambient-doom?”

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"Yeah," she says, and strides toward the glass door, swinging it open easily. 

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Zeke follows her in! What else is he supposed to do, awkwardly stand outside the doorway and juggle beets?

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"...Some kind of office." 

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"--Huh," Emily murmurs, pushing through the door behind Zeke and making for a wall calendar.