Log:Figuring It Out
It's been a day or so since the Analyst has been seen outside his room. He hasn't even been out to eat or drink, but today seems to be a day for breaking that streak. He has claimed a chair and an easel from somewhere, along with a rather large canvas, to which he is applying paint. The patterns of color are fairly random, but by the look of concentration on his face, he is choosing each application of paint /quite/ carefully. Presently, he reaches for a book resting on the floor nearby. Casually, he tears out a page with a long *riiip* and proceeds to plaster the page to the canvas with the help of some dayglo green around the borders of the page.
The Addict emerges from their room. Their hair is piled on their head in a bun held in place by a pair of chopsticks. They're in denim shorts and a ribbed singlet, barefoot as ever. They peek first, then venture into the room. "How are you feeling?" They ask. Though they're a dead ringer for Diamanto, there are some differences in their mannerisms. Far more tentative, far less demanding. Their energy is much calmer. "I was just going to get something to eat. You want anything?"
The Analyst glances up when the Addict comes in, taking in the effect of their outfit and changed energy with a reserved, neutral expression. He's got a few differences from Bik already, though they are subtler than Addict/Diamanto's. For one, he has lost that amused, detached confidence, which leaves behind only a kind of fragile wariness. "Confused," he finally settles on. "But I'm learning the rules." The question of eating takes longer to answer, but he finally nods once and sets aside the palette with its rainbow of paint colors.
Another deviation from Diamanto, the Addict doesn't seem to find that fragility as a call to predtation. Their smile is kind, and they say, "I'll get you something." Then they disappear into the dispensary. Before long, they return with two plates, each sporting a fluffy gruyere and wild mushroom frittata. "I think I'm going to be going vegetarian for awhile," they say, somewhat abashed.
The Analyst wipes his hands off on the front of his shirt, while he stands up to join the Addict in a spot where there are at least a couple of comfortable spots for the two of them. He accepts the frittata with a gentle little smile, and sits down, but at first he just sort of stares at it, examining the creation with more attention than it probably deserves. Then, he turns that laserbeam attention back on his supper partner. "What should I call you?" he asks. "Calling you Diamanto feels wrong."
The Addict smiles a little, tucking a loose strand of hair behind their ear as they say, "When we're here, I'm called Briar. Dia lives in me, but we're not the same." They poke at their food, trying to work up an appetite. It's not too difficult. It's a damn fine looking frittata, and it smells heavenly. "Also, for what it's worth, I have no idea what's going on either. Three lifetimes so far, and I still don't know where we came from, who's keeping us here, or why. Everyone has theories. I don't, though, not really."
A shadow passes over the Analyst's expression, and he picks a big of egg out of the frittata with his finger to first sniff, and then awkwardly deposit into his mouth. His chews slowly, his brow furrowed as he experiences it for the first time. It must not disagree with him too much, because he picks another bite out and chews it over. "I like that name," he offers, finally. "Beautiful and tough. It suits you." Then his face falls again, and he adds, "Not that I... I mean, I don't really know you, do I?"
The Addict's smile broadens. "Thank you," they say. Then they say, "Don't worry about it. I'm not going to get offended." They eat a lot more daintily than Dia, too, who was practically a wild animal stuffed into a human's body. "We'll get to know each other. We're all we really have in here. No one else comes in or out. The people change sometimes, but we all go through the same lifetimes. Usually we die before we wake up here, but not every time."
"Perhaps I did die," the Analyst muses. He only reacts to that theory with a distant sadness as he uses his fingers to keep picking at the frittata. "I want to learn more about this place. I looked through some of the books, but I didn't find anything helpful." He tilts his plate, still kind of examining his food while slowly consuming it. "What is this called?" he asks, suddenly. "Does all food taste like this?"
"It's a frittata," Briar says. "Kind of like a quiche without a crust, not quite a souffle. Good food tastes like this. The stuff Chance eats barely qualifies as food, but to each their own. In my first incarnation, I was a bit of a food snob. The dispenser just makes what you ask it to." They look around the place and gives a small shake of their head. "I don't know if this place has a name. It's just some kind of facility. There are people who keep trying to figure out what's going on, but I just try to rest while I'm here."
The Analyst gives Briar a blank look. Apparently none of that sounds familiar to him, but he nods as though it was super helpful, and continues eating. "I probably can't help myself. I already want to /know/..." He gives a wan smile, and then randomly asks, "People eat cows, right? Do cows taste like this?" A beat. "What about corn? I know they eat kettle corn. I've seen them." He blinks a few times, then adds. "We. I suppose I mean we?"
The Addict shakes their head and says, "Cows don't taste exactly like this, but they can be really good. I'm just going to stay away from bloody food for awhile, because... yeah." They hang their head in contrition for all the murder and cannibalism. "You could ask the dispenser for anything you want and have a taste test, if you like. Not only will it pass the time, it sounds kind of fun. I mostly eat ice cream, since it won't do anything to my figure here. We wake up reset every day. You could die here and just wake up tomorrow like nothing happened."
The Analyst nods a little. "I might." He seems wary about it for some reason, and his brow furrows again at the information that dying isn't even permanent. "Hm." He looks at his fingers, holding another little bit of cooked egg. "If we can't die here, but we die /there/... Are we more real here? Or does dying make us more real /there/? Which do you think?" He pops the egg into his mouth and turns a curious look on Briar, waiting for their answer.
"Some people think this is real reality," Briar says. "That whatever else those other episodes are, they're not real like this is real. Some people think we're already dead and this is purgatory. Some people think it's aliens." The consider for a moment, over another bite of frittata, then they say, "I think we're alive. I think it's an experiment, but I have no idea who's experimenting on us or why. I think they're trying to figure out how we work."
The Analyst nods slowly. "We have to be alive in some sense," he points out. "Dead things can't think. And I'm thinking." He finally sets aside the remains of his plate, and wipes his hands on the front of his shirt. You know, like a caveman would. "Does anyone have evidence that something's in control here? Have they seen the aliens? An experiment makes more sense, I guess."
The Addict shakes their head and says, "No, we haven't seen anyone. Everything we need is given to us through the dispensers, and at some point every day we just fall asleep, no matter what we're doing. We wake up in our own bed, no matter where we were before. I think if they interact with us at all, it's while we're asleep. But there's no evidence they exist. That's the problem I have with working out what's going on. There's no evidence of /anything/ other than what you're already experiencing."
"What we experience /is/ evidence, of a kind," the Analyst points out. "I already noticed that everything gets put up at the end of the day. Anything broken gets fixed. And it seems like created things are left alone?" The last seems more questionable to him, but he lets it go with a shrug. "So what are the limits? What happens if you read half a book, create a work of art from half the pages, and then finish the book?" He waves toward the half-finished painting. "Where the boundaries of this prison are drawn, and how consistent they are, might give us more data."
The Addict glances toward the painting. "I was wondering why you were tearing apart a book," they say. "Will you tell me your findings? I've been accused of not being curious enough, and it's not that. It's just that I don't know where to begin. Definitely compare notes with others, though. Some of them are trying hard to figure this out. I just kind of like having somewhere to rest between these scenarios, and I'm very interested in the people."
The Analyst nods and even brightens a bit at the Addict's interest. "Of course. Perhaps you'll have some insight that I don't." He scratches the side of his neck with a slightly rueful smile. "Perhaps, if what you say is true... If I live through two or three more lives and experience death in each of them, I'll feel the same. But right now I feel..." He waves his hand in a vague gesture. "I think I was resigned to nonexistence. Instead I woke up to a new kind of existence, and a new mystery to explore. In a place where I don't need to convince anyone to /believe/ in me. I suspect that even if none of you knew I was here, I would still be here. It feels like a gift, at the moment."
"It can be," Briar says. "A gift. I think there's something inherently human about the ones who are trying to figure out how to escape, but I don't share their enthusiasm. I have a bed here, all the food I need, people I care about. What if, out there, wherever 'out there' is, it's worse? What if we're the lucky ones?" They finish their frittata and set the plate aside. "The one common theme I've seen in my lives so far is that there are monsters. This last one was the first time we were the monsters."
The Analyst nods a little, thoughtfully, and his expression goes distant and a bit shadowed again. The fragility, that had momentarily faded, returns. "I still don't feel human," he admits, tentatively. "But I don't feel like a monster, either. /Am/ I a monster?" His gaze sharpens and focuses on Briar, suddenly. "What /is/ a monster? And who gets to decide that?"
The Addict's dark eyes are soulful as they say. "You've only ever known not being human. This must be such a shock to you. I don't know that you were a monster, but I was. I killed people. I ate them. I carried around this weight all the time that kept pressing me to attack, hunt, and kill. I don't know where the line of monstrosity is, but I know when it's been crossed."
The Analyst looks mainly puzzled. "Humans carry that same weight," he points out, mildly. "You only think it's different because you were human first, so you assume that the human way is the best way. Humans are like that." He accompanies that statement with a flippant little flick of his fingers. "Humans kill to survive every day. Do you think broccoli is not alive? Or do you just think it's okay because it doesn't know that it's dying?" He shrugs one shoulder. "The only way to avoid killing to live is to eat sunlight. And as far as I know, humans can't do that."
The Addict arches a brow. "I think cannibalism is pretty bad, though. In the life before this past one, I was a vegetarian, thinking about going vegan. It's just a bit jarring. Besides, I'm human now, and given our situation, I think embracing cannibalism would be, I mean, I'd lose friends fast, and you're right, I was human first. It's horrifying to me."
The Analyst shrugs a little, but he grows thoughtful at that. "If one of us ate another of us, do you suppose we'd still come back to life after? Even all the digested parts?" That distracted him pretty darn quickly. "I suppose I can't ask you to try that experiment, can I? Ah well." His attention returns to Briar, with an echo of Bik's birdlike curiosity. "Did you eat other gods, then? I didn't realize. Perhaps I would have been more afraid of you, if I'd known." A beat, then he adds, "Maybe not, though."
"I'm sure we would," Briar says. "We've put it to the test, minus the eating. If you die, or if you're injured, you wake up intact, as if nothing ever happened." They pause, then admit, "I don't think anyone has tried amputations yet. I tend to go to my room when they start waving weapons around." Their brow knits at Bik's question, then they say, "No, I don't think I did try to eat other gods or creatures." They laugh then and admit, "Dia wouldn't have hurt you. You were part of her family."
The Analyst nods a little, and seems satisfied. "See? Not a cannibal. Eating humans can't make you a cannibal unless you /are/ a human at the time." The full import of everything she said sinks in a bit belatedly, his thoughts having run away from him, and he does a little double-take. "I was?" He blinks hard a few times. "Then... I'm sorry I wasn't a better part of your family." He tentatively reaches over to give Briar a pat on the arm. For him, it's an oddly intimate gesture, in spite of the awkwardness of it. "But I was rather fond of you. Am fond of you. For what that's worth."
The Addict smiles softly at the pat, and it prompts them to shift subtly closer. "I'm fond of you, too. And you were exactly who you needed to be. I like that you're clever and have a sense of humor, even if Dia couldn't always appreciate it. You know, it's funny. My first incarnation, I was a scholar. So smart. Would you believe it?" Given Diamanto's rather animalistic intellect, she wasn't burdened with overthinking.
The Analyst grins slowly. "It was an odd sense of humor, wasn't it?" he admits. "But I suppose one must, if he is going to live a couple hundred years as a sapient scarecrow." He pulls his hand away to pluck at his sleeve. He laughs a bit at the revelation, but not unkindly. "I think I could imagine it," he admits. His gaze wanders back toward the dining room. "Would you like to try some ice cream with me? I think I'd very much like to see if it tastes as good as everyone says."
The Addict says, "It was a fantastic sense of humor." They can definitely appreciate it more than Dia did at the time. They nod then, quickly, and says, "You had me at ice cream." Getting to their feet, they say, "We'll get a bunch of flavors, then you tell me which ones you like. I'm a fan of strawberry, myself."
The Analyst climbs to his own unsteady feet, and once he's stabilized himself there, he joins her on the journey to get himself some ice cream. "All right. I'd like to try all of them. And a real strawberry. I've never had a real strawberry..." And he continues chatting about ice cream flavors as they head off to the dining room.