Log:Fear and Self-Loathing
It's not long after Creepy slams her door that the Scholar knocks on it, not quite as hesitantly as he did the first time. "It's me," he adds, just so that's clear.
"Yeah," Creepshow replies. Not come in, just that. It's likely implied, though.
She's in bed, resting back against pillows propped against the wrought iron headboard, her giant glass of rum and coke half empty and in hand. The lights are off and candles are burning all around the room. It makes the room far more moody and sinister but has the pleasant effect of obscuring most of the pictures on the walls.
The Scholar takes her confirmation for permission, or at least not a refusal. He pauses after stepping inside, eyes traveling over the changed character of the room in the candlelight. He moves to the bed, sits on the edge of it. "I like the candles," he says. "Do you just have them?" He gets a thoughtful look as he tries to sort out where he could put some in his own room, should he be able to find some.
"Came with the room," Creepshow replies, taking a big gulp of her rum and coke. "Like the attitude, the cuntiness, the damage I leave behind... It's a package deal."
"Mmmm." The Scholar takes a drink of his bourbon, considers her for a time. "Did you want to talk about it?" He nods towards her door. "About that. It's fine if not, but." His mouth twitches in a smile. "Max offered Bastian the same thing, once."
"About what? The symbol on my door?" asks Creepshow. "What's there to talk about? It matches everything else in here. And Max? Max wasn't me. She was a frightened kid who did her best to cope. She was - at heart - innocent. Sweet. A good person. Like I said, I'm not Max. I'm not a good person. I'm a freak, and a bitch, and I like to hurt people, push their buttons, make them squirm. Max pushed buttons to make people see that humans are the real monsters. Me? I am the monster. I do it because I like it. I get off on it."
Another gulp of her drink. "Go wait for Colorado. He won't ever hurt you. I will."
"I meant what happened out there," the Scholar clarifies. "But I think it's some of the same, come to it." He glances down at the bottle, thinking over what to say to that. "He said the same thing, actually. After Prosperity. That he'd just hurt me, that I shouldn't bother. That sooner or later he'd let me down, so I was better off without him." He glances up her. "And you already know how I feel about that. The same applies to you."
Creepshow actually barks a laugh at that. "He can't hurt a fucking fly. He'll never hurt you, not intentionally. You doubt me?" She sets her glass on the end table, then moves to get up.
"You doubt that I'd actually hurt you?" She paces slowly towards him. "With intent? You've seen my room. My door. That's what I truly am. Max was a nice distraction, but she wasn't me. I remember that now. Shall I prove it?"
The Scholar narrows his eyes at Creepshow on the approach. He caps the bottle and sets it aside, wary. "No, I don't doubt you. And in his case you're not accounting for the various ways he could hurt me which have nothing to do with malicious intent. Especially given our," he looks around them--not at her room so much as the Facility itself, "situation." He's tense, waiting for her to...well, he's not actually sure. Strike? Say something? Sebastian has him braced for the later, and Bastian for the former.
"Oh I'm sure, unintentionally. Anyone can. Anyone can hurt the person they love most without ever meaning to." Creepshow walks up to him, stopping just in front of him and looking up.
"But you'll forgive him because it wasn't done with malice. It wasn't intentional. Will you forgive me when I do it on purpose? When I'm cruel and know exactly what I'm doing?"
"It doesn't matter to him if I'll forgive him or not. The fact that he's done it will be enough for him. That's his nature." The Scholar doesn't let his guard down. This is unfamiliar territory for him, even for Sebastian, who was used to such things in a way Bastian never was. Or perhaps that's why he's on alert; Sebastian was all too aware of how this kind of game could play out. "It's less about what you do, more about why. Why be cruel to me? To push me away? To prove the point that you can be, that you will be? To serve your nature?" That unnerving calm in the face of a tense situation settles over him, familiar as though he were still in that unholy town. He sounds honestly curious about this.
"Because I enjoy it," Creepshow almost purrs. "Because I want to. It pleases me." She lifts a hand to brush knuckles along his jaw with affection.
The Scholar licks his lips. he keeps his eyes on hers, still tense. "What does--me hurting, or being right about yourself?" He raises an eyebrow. "Or both?"
"I know what you're doing," says Creepshow. "You think you actually get me, understand me, and so you'll play along. You'll take it because you think I'm just trying to push you away, so you you won't let me. See how I can't run you off? How you won't let me? It's all very flattering."
"No, I don't think I understand you. I knew a part of you for a week. An intense week, but a week just the same. That's not nearly enough time to understand someone, much less anyone like you, who's lived and been through so much." The Scholar glances aside a moment, back at her again. "Maybe there's no such thing as understanding someone. But I don't mind an opportunity to try. I think that's all anyone can ask of anyone else. To be accepted for what they are, to the extent they can do so." He doesn't quite smile. "If I wanted to flatter you I'd be saying entirely different things."
He can see a very slight shift in her. Subtle. "What do you want from me?" Creepshow asks in a quiet tone.
The Scholar relaxes a fraction, but he doesn't completely let his guard down. As factual and free of emotional burden as some of Sebastian's memories from before Prosperity are, they're quite informative. "That opportunity. That's all. I'm not asking you to change what you are, or be someone you're not. I know that won't always be someone that's easy to be with. That's alright. I know you can't promise not to hurt me. But no one can promise that to anyone, least of all us here." A real smile this time. "What matters is what comes after."
The hand at his jaw trembles and withdraws, moving to thread into and grip her hair. Her face slowly twists into an expression of pain and fear, of self-loathing.
"I don't know," she cries. "Who or what I am. I've died seven times. The lives I've lived have been... nightmares. And those nightmares are still better than here, because at least in those lives I know who I am. And Max? Max was the best of them, as much as she'd been hurt over the years, and all the shit she went through at the lodge. I want to be her. And I'm not. I return here and all the urges and impulses come flooding back. The pictures, the symbol on the door - is this who I am? I was an inch from saying some unbelievably cruel shit to you just now. I NEEDED to. That's me?"
The Scholar immediately frames his face with his hands. For a moment he's stuck in a moment that feels like it was only hours ago, in one of the anywhere rooms, and can't think of anything to say. Bastian would laugh and mutter something about how the more things changed the more they stayed the same.
His voice low and even, the Scholar says, "You didn't, though. Don't think I don't know what that took." He swallows, thinks carefully about what to say next. "It might be whatever this place wants you to be. I don't know if that's something you should fight, that might be difficult. It could even hurt you. But I don't think you're to blame for it either."
"Every time I wake up here again, it's harder," says Creepshow, her eyes squeezed shut, tears streaming. "I died, but I at least had a life. Esme sacrificed herself for a lost tribe of children. Ramona blew up holding the only man that ever really cared about her. Bella died protecting her love in his final moments. Max -- you know that one. Every single one of them died on their terms. Some of them loved, and were loved. And then? I'm here again, and it meant nothing. I'm here again and I'm hurting people. WANTING to hurt them. NEEDING to hurt them. There's been bits of that in my lives, of pushing buttons, poking wounds. There's been violence, death, sex, all the things on my walls. But here it feels like that's all I am."
"It meant something. Just because it was taken away--just because it wasn't the only life you've lead, doesn't render it meaningless." The Scholar sighs, strokes her hair, because he can't seem to stop doing that. "At the very least, Max meant something to Bastian, and part of me is him. What they had means a great deal to me. I suspect that's true of the others as well."
He drops one hand to her back, resting his hand there more out of reassurance than any attempt to pull her close. "That's not all you are. I know this place tries to reinforce that, but...we're all of those people we were, and we're this too, at the same time. It's ugly and painful, especially I think for you. But it can be beautiful too." He carefully brushes the tears from her eyes. "Someone who wasn't you, wouldn't have looked at Bastian the way you did in there. That's the beautiful side of it." His gaze shifts to the floor. "I wish it was easier on you here--that there was a way I could make it easier. I don't know that there is."
"I've been trying to keep them out," Creepshow says, moving into his embrace, head resting against his chest. "Saying they aren't me because the memories hurt so much. Being them, then not - it hurts so much. But then all I have is here. All I am is what I am here, and I hate her. I get that what I do is show others the truths they don't want to see. I'm the monster inside them."
A silent moment.
"So I can't keep doing it. I have to find a way to be Max and not want to die because she's gone."
He sighs, wraps his arms around her. "I thought about that, at first. When I was lying in my bed, earlier. I thought, I can't be Sebastian anymore then, can I?" He rests his chin on her head. "But if no part of me is Sebastian, I have to give up what I had with Colorado as well. I won't do that. And if no part of me were Bastian, I'd be giving up what he had with Max. I won't do that that either. I'm not just them. I'm this. Whoever I am." He pauses, brow furrowed, shrugs it off. A question for later.
"She can't ever be wholly gone. She's you. Part of you, anyways, just as the rest are. And while I think it's...diffiult, to keep pieces of them as well as this, maybe, in time, as this continues, it won't hurt so badly. At least I hope so." Because sooner or later he's going to have a life he despises, do things he can't stand, and he has to hope there's a way he can come to terms with that.
"It was the TV," Creepshow admits. "After you came to me earlier, I was feeling like Max again. Feeling like maybe I am still her. At least part of me. Finding out that when she - I - was dying, and the last moment we had was on that screen for anyone to see? It destroyed that. Max was just a character in a fucking movie. I died for entertainment, and our last moment, dying in your arms, was just a show. It ripped everything away from me. That darkness, whatever I am in this place, it came rushing back, and it was angry. That's what happened. That's why I almost hurt you. Because I was devestated, and she needed to make someone suffer. But I can't just be her, or I'll hate myself. So yeah, I need to learn to find a way to be Max. And Bella, and Ramona, and Esmerelda. I need to find a way to hold onto them even though it hurts."
She looks up at him, and he can see Max behind her eyes again, that frightened innocence. "Please. Help me?"
The Scholar grimaces, looks vaguely irritated and disgusted. "I've been trying not to think about that, on the television. That what we're going through is just, something for someone else's amusement." He laughs, bitterly. "Bastian felt that way, about the war. And HIV. That he and others had gone through all of that, only to see it made fun of, joked about, mocked..." He shakes his head, rubs at his eyes. "I suppose that's a bit of twisted synergy for us, from without and within."
He nods, kisses her temple. "Of course. I'll help you hold onto them however I can. If you can help me do the same. I won't...I know, sooner or later, I could be someone awful. And it'll be hard to reconcile that."
"I know all about being someone awful," says Creepshow. "I'm a professional at it. I really don't think it's who you are, but we never know what our next life brings, I guess, so yeah. I'll be there." She goes up on tiptoes to kiss him softly.
"Tomorrow I'd like to use one of those rooms and go somewhere. There's something I'd like us to do."
With a wry smile, the Scholar says. "Then I'll rely on your professional experience." The smile becomes more genuine, and he nods. "I'd like that too. Maybe you can show me places in Southern California, like you wanted to." He's not going to suggest they go anywhere in Oregon. No, definitely not. "Or we can go somewhere else entirely. Somewhere neither of us has ever been." That's a big list, in his case.
"I have a specific date in mind," says Creepshow. "After which, I was thinking I could introduce you to Esme and Ramona. You never met them. I'd like you to."
"I'd love to meet them. And in that case," he leans down and gives her kiss in turn, soft and light. "I await our date."