Log:Making a New Friend
The Addict actually got out of his pajamas today. He's in jeans, bare-footed, with a t-shirt stretched over his chest like a second skin, showing his lean and fit form. His hair is piled atop his head in a messy bun. He sits at a table with a book closed beside him. What he's gotten from the dispenser is a fine cambert baked in brandy with peppercorns, served with crostini and slices of fresh green apple. He's barely tucked into it. He's also got a glass of wine, something white and French.
The tall, thin form of the Deviant arrives, the tips of his spindly fingers pressed together. He is dressed in minimalistic black, as he seems to almost always be, with a black turtleneck sweater featuring a hem with a line of off-center black buttons that run from the bottom hem up to the neck, tight black trousers, and pointy black shoes that make his already long feet seem even longer. All angles, this one.
He pauses near the entrance, there, looking the Addict over. Then he begins to move again, swiftly, to the dispensary. "Good evening," he greets as he goes, even though no one can possibly ever judge the time of day here.
The Addict looks up, and his smile softens his features. "Would you like some of this?" he asks, gesturing to the cambert. "I'm afraid it's way more than I can eat by myself. It pairs well with champagne, but I'm trying it with savignon blanc." He takes up his glass. After a drink, he says with a little laugh, "I was a bit of a snob in Prosperity. It never really came out, but it was there."
"No, thank you," the Deviant says, though he inclines his head as a sort of thank you. From the dispensary, he's brought a tall glass of black liquid that doesn't look terrible appetizing. He joins the Addict at his table, glancing curiously to the book. An unspoken question there: what is he reading? "A snob in Prosperity. And now?"
The Addict nudges the plate toward the center of the table, just in case the Deviant changes his mind. The book is a history of technology from the early 20th century to the beginning of the 21st. "When it comes to food, I think I might still be. My father, in Prosperity, he used to take me to the finest restaurants. He taught me about the finer things." He taps his temple. "I barely remember. It was all backstory. The day I arrived in Prosperity, he died. That's fresh, but his life is a blur. I just know he would've approved of this." He gestures to the baked cheese with his wine glass.
The Deviant raises his glass. "To your 'father,' then." Yes, there is something of the quotes around that word. He takes a large swallow from the glass and sets it down again, taking out a couple of long cigarettes. He offers one to Martin, wordlessly.
The Addict takes the offered cigarette with a murmured, "Thank you." He drinks to his phantom father, then sets the glass down in favor of the cigarette. "Are you looking forward to whatever Encounter they'll put us in next? Or dreading it? Or, I suppose indifference is a possibility. I'm giving living in the moment a try, but it's hard not to think about how it'll change one. I find myself hoping I'll die."
"I'm looking forward to work," the Deviant answers, almost cryptically. What does he mea by that? He lights a match from a book with one hand -- pretty dexterous. The light is then offered to the Addict first. He studies Addict with those gray eyes that are so very hard to read, and really don't blink too often. "Why do you hope you'll die?"
The Addict leans across the table to catch the flame, and he puffs until the cigarette is lit. Then he sits and rests his elbows lightly on the table. In contrast to the Deviant, the Addict is an easy read. Those dark, soulful eyes are an open book. Friendly, perhaps too trusting. He's a babe in the woods here. "I've heard from more than one person that it's easier to shake the persona if it doesn't survive. The transfer from there to here isn't as traumatic. I guess because your story is over. You're not leaving behind a wife, a child, or anything untold. It's just over."
"Mm." The Deviant lights his own cigarette, puffing hard on it with his head raised, then watching the smoke as he exhales. His soft voice with its lilting accent carry his words along: "Of course, there's the possibility that the trauma is supposed to be a part of the experience." He looks back at Addict, staring into his face. "If I were running a place like this, and putting my little dolls into stories, I'd want those stories to be as rich and complex as possible, which could be trauma. Am I right?"
The Addict tilts his head. "Are we little dolls?" he asks, grim amusement flickering over his features. He ashes the cigarette and says, "It might be part of the Encounter experience, but avoiding pain is part of the human experience. It might sound uncooperative, and I'm comfortable with that little bit of defiance." His gaze flits over the Deviant's face. "You're the first person I've heard looking at it from the perspective of our keepers. I'm not entirely sure there's anyone in charge. What if all this is an automatic process that has been going on and on for ages, forgotten by its creators?" He wrinkles his nose. "We could be going through all of this for no reason whatsoever."
The Deviant chuckles. "We might be," said through a mouthful of smoke. "Little dolls." He nods as Addict speaks of defiance. His thin eyebrows arch at what might be, to him, a compliment. "An automated process still had creators once." He taps his head with one pointy finger. "One must think like them if one is to understand. And if there's no reason for it all?" He glances aside for a moment, the tip of his tongue pressing the bottom ridge of his teeth. "Then the servants can surely overthrow their masters. No system is foolproof."
The Addict looks around the dining room, taking it all in for consideration. He takes a drag off the cigarette, and his shoulders relax. Nicotine is a nice, soothing friend in these tense days. "You're not wrong," he says. "It might be a design flaw, that we live different lives, pick up different information, new skill sets, then come back to this place and remember it all. Eventually, we're going to have the intelligence and skill to do something about our situation."
"Precisely," says the Deviant, his lips curving up into a thin smile. He reaches forward with one skinny finger to slide a bit of cheese onto it; the finger then disappears into his mouth. "I'd like to think I was put there to assist with that." He laughs, leaning back. "I must say, I've been having a grand old time here. It's almost like being on holiday."
The Addict tilts his head curiously. "Is it? I mean it must be. A break between lifetimes. There's nothing required of us, our needs are met." He takes a drag from his cigarette and leans back, taking up his wine glass. "I'm having trouble assigning meaning to the bigger things," he admits. "Like what all this means. I go to bed praying I'll wake up here in the morning, so that I can see Arthur and we can be us just one more day. Beyond that..." He shrugs and shakes his head. "I don't know that I'm having a great time, but I don't hate it."
"At first, I was going a mite stir-crazy from the lack of work. I still am, a touch," the Deviant admits, flicking ash carelessly onto the table. "But now I've realized that it's an opportunity for us all." He watches the Addict speak again. "What would it be like for you if you went to bed praying for nothing at all, and woke up with the expectation that we can never truly know what's around the corner?" The glass of black liquid is picked up and drank from once more. "Just a thought."
The Addict leans back in his chair, thinking as he takes a long drink of wine. "Oh, I know we can never truly know. It's a pointless declaration of a wish to the universe for just one more day." He pulls another drag off the cigarette and ashes it in a smooth gesture. "What is faith if not another form of self-soothing? I don't expect God is going to help any of us. It just makes me feel better about losing another day to sleep."
The Deviant chuckles. "I'd venture to say there is no God," because of course he'd say that. He tilts his head, observing the Addict. "What else helps you to carry on?"
The Addict shrugs a shoulder and says, "You might be right. It doesn't make the search for higher understanding fruitless." He finishes the cigarette and stabs it out. "The search itself is worth something. Thoughts like that help me. The idea that, in a situation where nothing has any meaning, we get to decide what matters." He smiles faintly, fondly. "Arthur helps me. Just being around him. He has a brilliant mind." He sighs softly. "But he's not meant to be caged. I worry about what this environment might do to him."
The Deviant is taking his sweet time with that cigarette, though it's burned most of the way down by this point. "Are any of us meant to be caged?" It's a throwaway query. "Have I met Arthur yet?"
"Probably not," the Addict says, "but some of us can bear it better than others. I don't have a bright or creative mind, not like he does. I'm not a creator the way he is." He smiles a little, and it fades into sadness as he lowers his gaze. "You would remember Arthur. He's pale, very light hair, and his eyes have a reddish tinge to them. He's extraordinarily beautiful. You wouldn't have forgotten such a face. I don't think it would be possible."
"I see," the Deviant says, again arching one of those thin black brows of his. "No, I don't believe I've met him. And this extraordinary fellow was your lover in Prosperity?" He downs most of the contents of his glass and drops the cigarette butt into what remains; there's a satisfying hiss as it extinguishes.
The Addict smiles despite himself when Deviant refers to Arthur as his lover, and he nods. "Those final dark days in Prosperity, we were all so scared. None of us expected to make it out alive. Which is the only reason I told him how I felt. It never would've had the nerve otherwise." He sighs softly. "We survived, and it was a good year, what I can remember of it. My wife knew about us. She didn't mind. She accepted me, flaws and all." He glances at his wineglass with a wistful look, then takes another drink, finishing off the glass. "I was the luckiest man in the world."
"And now?" The Deviant holds him with his eyes and that unflinching, unblinking stare. It's hard to tell what he himself is thinking -- he's pretty impenetrable when he wants to be.
The Addict methodically dips a piece of crostini in the melty, boozy cheese, and he puts an apple slice atop it. "She's gone, and my daughter will never grow up. I feel like I'll never be understood the way she understood me or loved the way she loved me. I'm lucky to have had it, but it's painful to think I might not ever know what it's like again." He crunches into the gooey, cheesy crostini. At least there's good food to be had.
The Deviant strokes his chin. "You're very fixated upon it," he points out, "even though there's no evidence it was even real. It /felt/ real, though, is that it?" He smiles a wee bit. "I suppose that's all that matters, when it comes to memory. How it felt, the impression it leaves."
"It was my life," the Addict says. "Whether it was real or not doesn't change the feel of it or the fact that I experienced it." He considers over another bite of crostini, then he swallows and says, "It affected me. Continues to affect me. It made me a better man, to have known and been known so completely. If I still love and miss a fabrication, well." He smiles a little. "She was my fabrication."
"Well done, then," says the Deviant, his voice breathy and a bit amused. "If only I could tell you tales of my own. Alas, I haven't any." He doesn't actually seem too broken up about it at all. "One amasses multiple lifetimes of memory here then, from how the others talk -- is that right?" He strokes his chin. "Makes me wonder if the creators are storing memories. Stockpiling them, if you will..."
The Addict nods and says, "That seems to be the way it goes. Though we don't bring back everything. Martin was a lot smarter than I am. Book smart, really sharp-witted. I'm a bit more scattered, and I don't retain everything I read like he did. I remember how to research, though. I can still dance, I still have knowledge of fine foods. It's just that some of the sharpness got lost in translation. On the other hand, he got dulled down by laudanum, and I don't."
"Is he, still?" the Deviant asks. "Dulled by laudanum? It /is/ curious that certain drugs are available in this place, but others aren't, don't you think?" He taps the side of his empty glass, holding the cigarette but as it is, with one ovular fingernail.
The Addict says with a small, wry smile, "He isn't much of anything anymore. Not the way he was. I'm him, but I'm not. I don't know any other life but his, but I talk different, I dress different. He was always a bit of a deviant, but I'm far worse." He eyes his wine glass. "I do think it's interesting, now that you mention it. There's no functional need for alcohol or cigarettes, but they give us those. I don't know if I'd go back on laudanum if I had access to it. I don't have the same physical pain he did."
"Mm." The Deviant is, of course, amused by the idea of the Addict's deviancy. "Yes. They give us alcohol and cigarettes, but where are the opiates? The narcotics? The hallucinogens? Why keep those from us -- unless, of course, it's to force us to abide by some arbitrary moral code." He snorts, like maybe all moral codes are a bit arbitrary. "Tell me, have you seen much evidence of people doing things society might'nt approve of? Orgies, extortion...murder?" His eyebrows go up again, curious. "I know one was killed in service to an experiment, but if that is all -- then truly, I'm impressed by how well our 'masters' have kept their slaves."
The Addict shakes his head slowly as he says, "I only know of the one murder." He lowers his gaze, adding, "I don't know about any, um, orgies. People seem to stay mostly to themselves. I think maybe the trauma keeps them in line more than anything." He toys with his empty glass. "We all wake up in our own beds, regardless of where we spent the night. I bring Arthur coffee in the morning." He smiles a little, briefly. "Maybe they keep opiates from us so we can't obliviate. Maybe we're meant to feel this, all of it."
"So." The Deviant puts his hands behind his head. "The trauma keeps the prisoners in line, so they do not rebel or ask too many questions in between experiments. That's clever, really." There's some begrudging admiration there. He stares at Addict for a moment and adds, "But one could easily drink oneself into oblivion, or worse. I'm sure it would be possible, unless there are limits on how much alcohol one can conjure up from the dispensaries." He waves a lazy hand in their direction.
"It's not the same," the Addict says. "Alcohol versus opiates. The opiates hit immediately. Alcohol takes some time, and the longer you drink, the more it takes. Besides, with alcohol there's no guarantee you'll stop caring. Sometimes it has the opposite effect and you care too much. With opiates, it's such a small task that accomplishes so much. One pill, one shot, a few drops of tincture, and you're there. It's rather neat. Alcohol is messy. It lacks dignity."
The Deviant chuckles. "Oh, I'm well aware of the effects of opiates." It's interesting what one knows and one doesn't. He may have no memories...but he knows about /that/. "That doesn't mean alcohol can't ruin one's life and one's mind. Any one of us here could abuse it in such a fashion, yet no one chooses to. I find it fascinating."
"Alcohol is spectacular at ruining lives and minds," the Addict says with a quiet laugh. "Maybe they don't choose to do it where one can see, because it does lack dignity, but sometimes..." He shrugs and shakes his head. "Arthur keeps me from overindulging, and I don't think he realizes it. When he's with me, I don't drink myself to sleep. When I wake up, I bring him coffee instead of picking up a bottle. But out here?" He gestures around. "I don't want people to see me like that."
"Do you really think someone acting like a miserable drunk could hide it forever?" The Deviant's eyes take on an amused gleam. "I don't. Eventually they'd come out, and we'd all see the evidence of their debauchery." But he listens to what the Addict says, and then asks: "So, when Arthur isn't around, you're at the bottom of a bottle, are you?"
The Addict says, "Probably not, but thank goodness then for Arthur. He's more appealing than the bottle." He sets the empty glass aside, and immediately his hands are looking for something to fiddle with. Their next target is the hem of his t-shirt. As they worry the fabric, he says, "When Arthur isn't around, and it's nighttime, and I'm in my room alone, I drink. It's important to have rules. Otherwise one might get excessive."
"What would happen if one got excessive?" The Deviant asks, his long fingers entwined together before his chest. He has a certain languid grace to him, even though he is absolutely zero softeness, physically...save for those oddly plush lips.
The Addict grimaces and says, "I would make it someone else's problem, and everyone's got their own problems already. I don't want people to have to take care of me or pity me. I don't want their concerned whispers, or their annoyance, or anyone thinking I can't handle it. I can. It was like with the laudanum. I managed it fine. No one got hurt." He pushes a loose strand of hair out of his face with a sweep of his hand. "It helps me get to sleep when I'm alone. That's what it's for, and that's all I need it to do."
The Deviant leans in a little closer. "Perhaps there'd be less of a stigma around it," he says softly, nearly a whisper, "if you allowed yourself to let go. Fully indulge, just on occasion. It's a safe space for it. What could possibly happen? It's not laudanum, after all." He offers, "I've got no work on. I could watch you, you know, if you ever wanted to go into such a state, and keep it out of the hair of the others."
The Addict inhales sharply, and he lifts his gaze to study the Deviant. "Would you drink with me?" he says, "or would you only want to observe? It's not that exciting. I read, and I drink, and when I can't read anymore, I lie down and the room spins. I'm a quiet drunk." He bites his lower lip and glances aside. "Maybe too affectionate, but that doesn't matter if there's no one else around. Sometimes I write gibberish just to get everything inside of me out. I don't mind you watching, but I think you'll be disappointed."
Derrick brushes his lower lip with the tip of his thumb, looking at Addict. "What would you prefer? Drinking together, or being watched?" He smiles a little. "I'm not looking for a picture show, luv. I'm simply trying to help."
"Drink with me," Martin says, and he smiles suddenly. "Maybe that will help. The next time I'm going to bed alone, I'll find you, and we'll drink in my room. It's full of so much stuff, half of it I don't even recognize. Anette's going to help me figure it out. Like, there's makeup, and I don't know how to wear it. We can get drunk and try to work out what I'm supposed to be doing with this life, such as it is."
"Alright," the Deviant says, looking pleased. Inasmuch as that face of his can look pleased, because it's rather mask-like at times. "I'd be happy to. Just say the word and I'll be there, with bells on." He leans back in his chair a little. "Who's Annette? Another lover from Prosperity?"
The Addict shakes his head and says, "Oh, gosh, no. There was only ever Fleur and Arthur. Anette was a strong, fearsome woman, and I thought the world of her. She's still wonderful, I think. We hang out sometimes, here or in the parlor. It came up and she offered to show me. The lipstick seems fairly intuitive, but the eye stuff..." He shakes his head. "No one ever taught Martin about it, and I don't have anything else to draw from. But it's mine, so, you know, I want to see if I like it."
"Oh, I could help you with the makeup as well," the Deviant says. "Particularly eyeliner. Drunken eyeliner, quite a treat." He smiles, a little deviously. "Think of the fun we could have."
The Addict smiles, one of those open and pleased smiles that show dimples and a sparkle in his eyes. "That sounds like a good time to me. Maybe I'll try on some of the more daring stuff in my closet. It strikes me how this is an opportunity that won't come again, you know what I mean? Soon I'll be someone else, and all this self-discovery will be different when I get back. My tastes might change. All the more reason to take advantage while we can."