Even people being obsessive and solitary in the facility eventually have to eat. The man who was Professor Ethan Drake spent the last several days furiously trying to work out what were things he experienced in reality, versus what was fake. The chalkboard in his room is covered entirely in his neat, small, handwriting, split into sections of memories he has sensory data attached to (experienced on the island), versus memories without it (snapshots). There is also a section dedicated to everything pre-island, post-age 35, which he knows must be manufactured since he currently can't be older than that.
The Pedagogue is sitting at one of the tables in the dining room, with an anthropology textbook in front of him, and a plate of bacon, eggs, and toast at his elbow. There's no sense of time in this place, so he may as well eat breakfast. He has a notebook and pen out and is trying to answer some of the quiz questions in the book, without reading it first, to test if he really knows anthropology or if that was all fake too. He's in sweatpants and a dark green t-shirt, with bare feet. Oh, and he looks 20 years younger than he did on the island.
The only measurement of time is falling asleep and then waking up. Unless someone has found a way to accurately count those cycles, they blend together, one into the next. There is not even any way to tell how long each period is, whether they sleep for a few hours, or days, or weeks. It probably does not matter.
The Survivor has also been a solitary entity. And how not? If her room is like everyone else's it is tailored to her exact nature and must be comfortable. She emerges twice a waking cycle to visit the dispensers and to acquire some new books and then vanishes, and thus it may be that so far their paths have not managed to cross at all. Many of the doors in the hallway seem unopened, still. Not that any of this especially matters. She bears a more than passing resemblance to Elena Firenze, though her skin is the pale shade of someone who may never have actually been in direct sunlight. Her hair is a little darker, a little longer, slightly messy, but mostly she is the same. She wears BDUs and a long-sleeved shirt that hugs the upper half of her form, along with soft-soled boots that let her pass like a ghost, as she has on so many occasions. But this one is a bit different. This time she spots the Pedagogue and comes to a halt near the entrance to the dining room, head tilting to the side as she studies him. A thoughtful frown emerges in time as, no doubt, her own discordant shards of deja vu try and align.
Ethan senses the light change from a shadow in the doorway, and he looks up from his notebook. Both brows raise. "Elena?" He asks, standing suddenly. "Is that you? You're here too?!" He looks just slightly relieved at another familiar face. Clearly, the absence of Hailey and Velma has greatly disturbed him. "How did you die?" he asks, pulling out a chair for her as invitation to join him.
"No," is the obvious response to that. To the first part of it. That attempt at recognition. It isn't even a denial; there's no emotion in it, she's just correcting a mistake. "I did not." The same, there. This cannot be Elena. The Survivor has the posh, polished accent of someone who learned British English somewhere far from England; Received Pronunciation, with a bit of a twist to it. She takes a breath then and shakes her head. "I am going to get a cup of coffee and then we can talk." Is their absence any less disturbing than her presence? She is going to go get that cup. And a saucer. And what looks to be a piece of biscotti, dipped in white chocolate. It takes literally about a minute before she comes back and settles in a chair. If the one he pulled out backs up against a wall, she will sit there. If not, she finds one that does right nearby.
The accent throws the Pedagogue and he scrubs a hand down his face as she heads to the Dispensary. He retakes his seat and closes the book and notebook, shoving them aside to return his breakfast to its rightful place in front of him. He digs in, dipping his toast into the yolk of his fried eggs. When she returns, he asks with a wan smile, "What should I call you then? Not that I really know what to even call myself. I guess Ethan does fine for the time being."
"Whatever you like." She picks up her snack and snaps it in half. "Just. Not. Elena." Most of the crumbs end up on the saucer. That might be its whole purpose, once she removes the coffee cup, and that she accomplishes by curling all of her fingers around the ceramic. "I wish I could say that I was glad to see you but I do not believe it would be entirely true."
Ethan blinks a few times. "Did I do something wrong?" he asks, confused. She used to call him Doctor Jones. Well, she didn't really but, well she sort of did once or twice on the Island. "How about Marion?" It's the first thing that comes to mind in relation to the movies. He sips some orange juice. "So I'm guessing we never really worked a dig together in Peru. I can't seem to recall anything about that other than 'it was'."
Elena did indeed call him that, somewhat fondly. "Marion," she ventures, repeating the name back as if the way it sounds is more important than the connection to the movie. "If you like. And no, you did not do anything wrong. I..." Here she trails off and looks down into the cup. "I do not think we did. I do not even remember Peru, only a few scattered impressions of it that do not mean anything now. They should frame what I think happened on the island but none of it fits together properly."
"No, none of it does. I picked this up off the shelf in the parlor." Ethan holds up a high level Anthropology textbook. "I took the quizzes in it, without reading it. I got them all correct. How can I know that much about anthropology unless I was an anthropologist? But I know I didn't teach it. I didn't teach Conrad, or Jesse, or Navid. There are no senses attached to those memories at all." He drops the book on the table. "This is absolutely maddening. How the hell am I," he gestures at himself. "This young? I mean, I could buy amnesia, or being in a coma, but I know on that island I was in my mid-50s. You look like you did there though, mostly."
There is a faint suggestion of a smile. Maybe familiar; maybe a dark twist on a familiar expression. "So you have come to terms with the fact that you are somehow alive, and moved onto the more metaphysical quandary of how it is you have aged backward and still remember everything you think you learned? Curious." The Survivor dips the not-chocolate end of her biscuit, but just a little. Enough to soften, but not to soak.
"Well, I've eliminated the probability that I dreamt it all. If I did, I wouldn't know the anthropology things. It still remains to be seen if it was programmed into me somehow." Ethan chews on a piece of bacon with a thoughtful expression. "How would they do that? How would they insert memories and knowledge into us. Maybe we need to look each other over for signs of it. Slots, ports, things like that. Unless it's some kind of hypnosis?"
"If you dreamed it all, would anyone else here remember the same thing?" There's a bare trace of curiosity in this, but not the somewhat desperate need to know that some people in the Facility seem to exhibit. The remainder of his suggestion is mulled over as she nibbles finally, but once she's done with that one bite her brows go up. "Does it matter?" The same curiosity. There is no sense of a right or wrong answer. Perhaps to her it simply does not, but she does invite his opinion, at least.
"Well it all depends, on whether or not I'm still dreaming. But you aren't supposed to be able to read text in dreams, or feel pain, and I've done both here, and on the Island for that matter. So the question still stands," The Pedagogue notes with a faint smile. At her final question his brow arches and he chuckles. "Of course it matters. Not knowing is the bane of my existence. I need to know what's going on. I need answers. Right now, I'm not even entirely sure of the questions."
Another glimmer of that dark smile appears. "But that invites an endless stream of questions. "What happened? How did you get here? Why are you here? Who is holding you here? What do they want? Why are you younger? Why do you only truly remember, experientially, that week on Grey Island? And so on, and so on, and..." She trails off, shaking her head. "I suppose it gives you something to do, anyway. Even if none of those questions seem to be things any of us can answer at the moment."
"Without questioning, what is life worth? We need to learn, to teach, to experience. It's the core of humanity. Maybe we're in the Matrix and Neo is going to pop out an any moment. But I don't think that's it. Neo didn't have to deal with the undead." The Pedagogue sops up more yolk with his toast. "Tell me something. Why did you choose that drink, the biscuit? Do you know you like that? Or was it just a hunch? Or random choice?"
The Survivor tilts her head. "Maybe. Are all questions worth the price that must be paid to answer them? Is it worth letting those who are caught here with us murder one another simply to learn what happens? Is it worth stripping away the basic human failsafe behind the notion that some things, like killing one another, are.... well, take your pick. Amoral? Wrong? Evil?" She dips her biscuit again, then studies it as she considers his other question. "I did not really think about. It is what I wanted. The coffee. The biscotti was an afterthought. 'While I am here...'"
"There are answers here, somewhere, Marion. We just need to find them. And I won't stop looking until I do," the Pedagogue vows quietly. He seems somewhat content in having things to learn and divulge. He pauses. "No one has killed anyone. Have they?" he asks, surprised. Then he adds. "I think maybe the things we do without thinking about it, without thinking it through, those may be the real us. The things they didn't program. The things we don't have to ask ourselves, and get an answer in return. Our instincts."
Have they? She does not elaborate. She nibbles for a moment, considering, then asks one of her own. "What about your room? Are you comfortable there? Do you like it? I wager it does not look anything at all like mine."
"It's all right? Comfortable bed. Clothes I'd wear I think, if I had a choice, art on the walls that seems to speak to me. Creepy ass symbol on my door though. Feels almost Order of Masons-y. Mine has a chalkboard. I ran out of chalk but the next time I woke up, it was full again." The Pedagogue watches her curiously. "Does that accent feel natural to you?"
"I would hazard to guess all of those things are at least as revealing about who we really are. Even the symbol on the door." That smile again. No humor in it, only a tangled little knot of darkness. "Have you seen mine? I might trade you; some kind of masonic symbol might be preferable." The Survivor and the Pedagogue are sitting at one of the tables. She's picked out a chair that puts her back to a wall, and they're both at some point in an eating cycle. Bacon and eggs for him, coffee and biscotti for her. And conversation, not half as odd as what else goes on in this place. Then she blinks. "What accent?"
"You're speaking with a British accent, Marion," the Pedagogue points out. Marion? Who the hell is that? "On the Island you were definitely American. Just like I was in my 50s, and now I'm not." He gestures at her with his fork, before spearing some egg and eating it. His glass of juice is nearly empty. "So how do you think they managed that?"
Today the Creepshow is dressed in a beautiful, designer wedding dress that's stained with blood splatters all over and shredded and frayed to match. She wanders out of the hall and is headed through the dining room and towards the dispensary beyond it. She seems entirely fine, outfit aside, and in decent spirits.
The Creepshow is enough to stop conversation. Or at least interrupt it temporarily. The Survivor does pause, gaze shifting to the other woman, and she watches for about as long as it takes the ex-Esme to traipse across the dining room before finally shaking her head. "I do not," she answers. "I genuinely have not given the issue much thought. It does not matter, at the moment."
The Pedagogue does a double-take at the woman in the blood-spattered wedding dress. "The photographer?" he calls out to her. She was the first to step up to be sacrificed. Can't be all bad, right? "Is that you?" He looks back at Elena and sighs. "You are way too complacent about all this."
It takes a moment - she's getting food, yo! - but the Creepshow comes back out with a big bowl of colorful, sugary kids' cereal and moves to join them. "I was," she allows, sliding into a seat. "But she wasn't me. More... someone I skinned and wore like a suit. Like you wore old-face."
At least food does not take very long to acquire here. If nothing else, it has that going for it. The Survivor offers up a languid little shrug. "I am not what I should call complacent. However, neither do I feel compelled to exhaust myself scratching at the walls like a rat in a laboratory experiment. We are here, and as it seems those who came before me have already made staggering attempts to tunnel and burn and die a way out, it seems to me that we are all, collectively, meant to wait here for something. We are not in any particular danger and I cannot fathom the idea that we're meant to be here forever." The former photographer's explanation is considered for a moment, and then she nods. "I believe that is a more accurate assessment of what we experienced. I was Elena for a very brief time, but Elena was never me, whoever I am."
"What's with the matrimonial horror show?" the Pedagogue asks, looking over her attire. He finishes the last of his toast and washes it down with orange juice. He grunts at the Survivor. "True enough. I just feel like I'm incomplete without an identity in here. I might need to find myself a name."
The Creepshow bobbles her head in agreement between heaping spoonfuls of cheery-colored cereal. "Only the week or so she was on the island have real memories for me. Everything before that is like stuff I read in a book. I know it, but it didn't happen. Plus some people lost accents, others gained accents. Some got older, while Professor Fuckable here got younger." A beat. "I admit I liked your older look a bit more. It had the naughty teacher thing going. As for my clothes? My closet is filled with crazy. I just pick what I'm feeling on a given day, and having died three times recently, this felt right."
It is this mention of three deaths that has the Survivor's brows going up a little. She looks at the former Dr. Jones, brows going up a little, as if this somehow illustrates a point she was trying to make. "Perhaps, after my experience on the island, I am a little bit more willing to accept that I do not really know anything. I distinctly recall profound cognative dissonance when the skeletons attacked the festival. Is being here, unable to explain how any of this functions, any different at its very core than that?"
"Professor...What now?" the Pedagogue asks with a laugh. "Well that is NOT going to be my new name. Not that I wouldn't mind some company, but, for all I know I could be a married man." He stands and gathers his dishes to return them to the dispensary. "Do you remember how all your photography equipment worked?" he calls after Esme, before returning and heading for the door. He grimaces at former-Elena. "I just have a need to know, that's all." Then he heads down the hall to his room.
The Creepshow nods as she watches the man go, perhaps a few seconds to long, then returns to her cereal. She spoons another heap and stops sshort of eating it. "Hate to see him go, but love to waatch him walk away," she muses, then eats. Chewchewchew. "Yeah. Everyone here is so invested in the fucking island. And finding a way out of here. Like THAT will happen. Food magically appears in seconds, fully prepated, in a box with no vents or openings, but sure, Shaggy. There's totally a hidden lever behind the books."
"Mmm." It's a very neutral response, as if the Survivor cannot decide if she likes the view or not. Or if she even cares. She resumes dipping her biscuit, then nibbling at it when the hard biscotti has become just soft enough to chew without being crumbly or crumby. "It seems," she says slowly, "That those who have been here the longest have the most extreme interest in solving whatever puzzle they imagine to be here. Or, as you say, finding the hidden lever behind the books."
"Not all," says Creepshow. "The very first one here, used to be Madison Wellson? She's let go of that identity and kinda settled in here. Even seems to like it. To be honest, I'm not exactly feeling trapped and tormented here, myself. It's like a vacation, just with a bunch of random, insane assholes."
"Have you looked in a mirror lately?" There is a particular dark mordancy in this that the Survivor cannot perhaps help, but that the Creepshow might appreciate, after a fashion. She does not even particularly seem to mean it, outside of the implication of the question. "It really is not so terrible, all things considered. At least the only thing here you have to worry about are those random, insane assholes."
The Creepshow blinks. Looks down at herself. "My insanity isn't at all random," she assures. "And my being an asshole has nothing to do with my insanity. I'm different." Because of course she is! "And no, it really isn't, even if I keep dying."
"Are you an asshole?" Legitimate question. The Survivor sounds genuinely curious, or as curious as she has been about anything so far, as if she genuinely has no preconceived notion of whether this is a thing or not. She finishes her biscuit in the meantime and brushes those last few crumbs off her fingertips, onto the saucer.
"I think I'm more of a cunt than an asshole," Creepshow says around a mouthful of cereal. "And I'm definitely not sane. I'm a mess. I like to make others messy. It's who I am, I think."
And suddenly, there's another one! She comes breezing through the door, rather unconcerned for the strangeness of the environment. It's a blessing, maybe, not knowing better? In any case, this one is... new. She's also wearing some kind of party appropriate (and conversely, casual inappropriate) mini-dress and... pouts slightly when she seems to realize there isn't actually a party. She's looking for people! There's two people, though, which is some number of people. She approaches!
"Hi!" comes a friendly greeting as the blank slate does what's natural and gloms onto the nearest faces she can find. "... are you OK?" That's for Creepy, probably because of the blood.
"Then you are clearly not the woman Elena met on the island," observes the Survivor. "She went out of her way to make something terrible... less terrible." If there is more to this thought it does not have time to complete itself because the Lover comes breezing in and she straightens up, head tilting about one degree. Two people is certainly some number of people, yes. A question resolves itself, challenging the concern for the Creepster. "Where did you come from?"
"Did she?" asks Creepshow. "Or did she taake a lot of photos before she cleaned them up and made them look at peace, for own private collection? Maybe the while make-them-pretty thing was a cover for her indulging in her hobbies. " A shrug. "Or maybe both are true." She blinks at the new person. There were over 600 people on the island, and at least 50 here. She hasn't seen everyone. "Hello," she says.
The Lover blinks, wide eyed, at the Survivor's challenging tone. As an answer, she half-turns and points back down the hallway. "Um down there? I just came out of my room and took a left!" It's a plain, forthright answer. Though, after a moment, she adds in admission: "I was a little lonely, y'know? Oh, they have food here?" By the time she's asking this, she's very much violating Creepy's personal space, walking around behind her spot at the table to lean in and examine her cereal. Pretty. "Can I get some of this?"
None of this is really going to stop the Survivor from studying the Lover. Something about her answer wins a look of slight bemusement, one that puts a faint line in between her eyebrows as they drift together. Eventually she lifts her chin in the direction of the next room over. "You can get almost anything you would like to eat just in there." As for the Creepshow's statement, she does return to this, after a time, as she curls her fingers around her cup. "To be fair I have no idea what she did. Only that she volunteered to assist. I believe, at the time, Elena appreciated the offer, and the effort, and if she was covering something up?" She gives this the most dismissive of shrugs. "Who knows. I sincerely doubt any of us know much of what was going on inside of that week."
"Maybe," says Creepshow to the Survivor with a shrug. To Lover, she looks up, then points her spoon to the dispensary room nearby. "In there. Use any screen, choose breakfast, crereal, the fruit loops. Enjoy."
"Thanks!" is the happily chirped response to all the help she gets, and very promptly the Lover does just as suggested, heading to one of the dispensers. "Breafast... cereal... fruit loops!" Success! Soon, she's got her food, and comes back around to take a seat (too) near Creepshow, proudly setting down her matching bowl. "So you're not hurt?" she wonders, still lingering on that bit of worry. "Otherwise," apart from the *blood*, "I really like your dress. It's super chic! You know if you want to later, you could come by my room and we could try on clothes." It's a little forward! Then she snaps back to what seems to be the ongoing conversation, wondering of the Survivor, "Who's Elena?"
It really honestly takes about that long to get a bowl of cereal. It's near on miraculous. The Survivor has about enough time to get the last sip of her coffee done before the Lover comes back to join them. That offer, made to the Creepshow, to go try on clothes? That gets a look. A particularly blank version of incredulous. And a slow blink. But no comment. Not about that. "Elena Firenze is who I appear to have been on the island."
"...Try on clothes?" says Creepshow, arching a 'brow.b"Mmm. Maybe. I can bring the accessories. I have a ball-gag I've been wanting to break in that matches your eyes." It's said very casually, conversational. "I'm fine. The dress came like this. My wardrobe is... unusual."
The Lover digs promptly into her food once settled, eating while she listens to the Survivor. Or well, mostly listening. "Island?" This garbbled inquiry is made with a mouthful of fruitloops. But even if the word is unclear, the blankness of her expression speaks volumes. She has no clue what the other woman is talking about. Eventually she remembers to swall (har har), but even that doesn't go quite right as Creepshow gives her counter offer. She ends up hacking and choking for a moment, an accute case of fruitloop-in-the-airpipe. "... well I don't know. Maybe? I was thinking we get to know each other at least a little first." She takes it at face value. "But I'd love to see the rest of your closet, too!"
There's a moment where the Survivor is maybe trying to figure out where this conversation took that hard left turn. She continues to stare, her Look now expanding to include the Creepshow, to a lesser degree, and she gives one more blink for the ball gag. "Perhaps she will tell you all about it," she says, regarding the island. "I'll leave you two to your fashion tip exchange." And up she gets, not in any special obvious hurry, but it isn't as if there is much of anywhere even to go. Except wherever she's going.