Log:On Reality and Beaches
The Addict is feeling informal today. They're in comfortable jeans, with a soft, sage-green v-necked pullover made from thin wool. Their hair is slapped back in a bun, and they haven't bothered shaving today, leaving a sparse beard. They're sitting sideways on a cushy chair, one leg draped over the arm of it, and they've got a book on the poems of Cattulus on their lap.
The Analyst appears, once more, in the doorway. He is wearing a similar outfit to yesterday: a button-down shirt (deep blue, with some kind of tiny pattern on it) over jeans, black Converse, and a navy hoodie over the shirt. With his tousled hair and glasses, he wouldn't look out of place in a modern start-up, if there was actually anyone here who knew what that was. "Ah," he says, nodding to the Addict, hands moving to clasp behind his back. "Hello there."
The Addict looks up and smiles amiably. They close the book and sit up a little. "Nour, was it?" they say. They gestures to come forth, relax. "I like your shoes. How are you adjusting?" They even unknot themselves from their sideways sit to present a more welcoming posture.
"Yes, Nour." The man who calls himself Nour blinks, as though he's considering something. "Is it strange for me to have a name? When I woke up here, I knew it's what I was called." He steps into the room, slowly looking around. Not that there is a lot to take in; there really isn't. And he looks at his shoes, sounding surprised: "Thank you." The Analyst glances back over his shoulder and smiles. "I'm not sure I understand what I'm adjusting to. Knowing that would help." Although he seems a little uneasy, he settles down into a seat near them. "I seem to recall your name being Briar."
"Unusual, yes," Briar says, "but that's cool. It's important to know who you are, and this place doesn't really allow for that, most of the time." They set the book aside and offer a hand to shake. "Briar, yes. Welcome to whatever the hell this is. I don't think any of us really know, but you're going to hear a lot of theories."
"No doubt." The Analyst takes their hand. His own is cool, smooth, and small, but his handshake is fairly solid. Behind his glasses, his dark eyes move over Briar's face. "There were some high tensions here last...night, if that's what it was."
The Addict's hand is smooth and soft, and that manicure is on point. "It happens," they say with regret. Briar's big, dark eyes have a warmth to them, even as they talk about unfortunate things. "For some of us, this place is respite, for others a prison, and some of us carry our pain in different ways. Don't worry about Oz, the guy who got stabbed. Even if we die here, we just wake up the next day more or less the same as we were before."
"Did he get stabbed?" Nour doesn't sound all that surprised, though his eyebrows raise a little. He nods at this news about death like it's par for the course. "Interesting." A beat. "Have you died here, Briar?"
The Addict makes a so-so waggle with their hand. "Broken bottle to the face, stabbed with the jagged glass bits. She worked him over pretty well." They shake their head, then. "I've never died here. I try to stay away from the violent outbursts. Last night, I got the idea to pack a picnic basket every morning, so if I have to hide in my room, I'm well-stocked."
The Analyst's expression is neutral, though he frowns slightly. "If you had to take those steps," he says, "then it must be pretty bad." He has a soft, clear voice.
"The stabbing is rare," Briar's quick to say. Then they sigh and gestures vaguely around the place. "People are curious what this is, how it works. Occasionally, someone gets the bright idea to break something to see what happens. What happens is that, the next day, it's fixed and right where it belongs again. They're trying to get out of here. I'm just trying to relax a little before we're thrown into another life."
"Another life?" The Analyst heard the tail end of that conversation yesterday, but otherwise, he hasn't spoken to anyone. Not that the Addict knows this. So Nour looks patiently at him, waiting for further information. There's never enough information.
The Addict says, "At some point, you're going to wake up, and you're going to be living someone's life somewhere. I've been a wealthy scion of a cursed house in 1902, and I've been a rock musician in 1989. After the lifetime or the story ends, we wake up here again. While you're in the story, you don't know about any other life. You really think you're that person doing those things. Then you come back here and remember it all."
The Rogue heads towards The Facility - Hall of Rooms
"Hmm." Nour slowly scratches his chin, looking down at the floor. "Does that mean that this version of us...is 'real,' and those other versions are projections? If you believe that memory defines us as people, that may very well be true..." He glances up at Briar again, dark eyes probing him through his glasses. "What do you think, Briar?"
The Addict thinks about this, then admits, "I don't know. This version of us is more constant, in that we return to it." The intense scrutiny causes them to duck their gaze and smiles shyly out of reflex. "I think reality is relative. I know, that's a copout, but reality is largely subjective, isn't it? What I experience is real, but not to you, and vice versa. I think we're constant, and the lives we live are happening on some metaphysical level, but, uh, yeah. This is real."
The Optimist steps out of an anywhere room - when one has been kidnapped (maybe?) and placed in a weird environment, and one discovers a room that can be _anything_ one uses it. He is wearing board shorts and a t-shirt, carrying a towel with him. A pair of sunnies as well, no shoes. If the room permits, there is the brief image of a nice poolside area with palm trees and icecream stalls...but then the door is closed, and the newcomer is there.
The Addict glances toward the anywhere room as the door opens, and they lift their brows in faint surprise. A newcomer, and one Briar hasn't yet met. They sit up a little taller and say, "Hello, I'm Briar. I don't think we've met." They gesture for the Optimist to come closer. They won't hurt him, honest.
No tan is going to show up on the newcomer's dark skin. The man heads over immediately and offers a hand to shake "Hello! I'm Boots," he says to the other person "Or, 'Yellow'. Still deciding which sounds happier, you know? I'm, ah, new. I haven't met very many people yet. My door is the one with the Tsunami Warning Symbol and the surfer." He gives a smile, his bright white teeth standing out. Trusting guy.
The Analyst is a deliberate guy, and he considers Addict's words deliberately before they are interrupted. He is a small man with dusky skin and dark eyes, a mop of wavy hair on his head, dressed in a blue button down shirt which, upon closer inspection, has a tiny embroidered repeating pattern of paper airplanes. He's also wearing jeans, black Converse, and a navy blue hoodie. He glances up at the new arrival and smiles a little. "Hello."
The Addict shakes Boots' hand and says, "Boots? Goodness. It's nice to meet you. Boots sounds pretty happy. Yellow does too, but it has conotations of cowardice, and you don't look like a coward to me. My door is the one with the person in chains, and there's a broken scale, a spilt bottle, and some pills." They smile amiably. "Yay, me." They nod toward the Analyst and say, "This is Nour. He's new, too."
"I don't know if I'm a coward," says Boots "I actually don't know very much at all, to be honest. I'm trying to work things out?" He sits down, and tilts his head, glancing athte Analyst and smiling at him "I like your shirt," he adds, and he says to Briar "I see. Who was it...he is calling himself 'Dare' now - he was really conscious about his door symbol. I don't get why, though. I mean, mine implies I'm an idiot. Hello, Mr. Nour."
"Thank you," says Nour, inclining his head when Danny introduces him. But the 'thank you' is to Boots' compliment. "Pleased to meet you, Boots." Perhaps he likes his shirt, too. He looks he'd fit in in about any modern start-up. He also is wearing wire-rimmed glasses, which his player neglected to mention. "What is Dare's door symbol?" he inquires, intertwining the fingers of his small hands.
"It's a literal heart, bleeding," says Briar. "I wouldn't put too much stock int he symbols. Some of them are subtle, some of them aren't. Mine is a life out of balance, bound to intoxication. In my first life, I was addicted to laudanum. In my most recent life, I was stoned all the time. The bottle and pills are new, on the door. One of the things I like about this place is I lack nothing. If I want to indulge, I can just indulge. Zero stress or fear of scarcity."
The Optimist finds himself somewhere to sit, and then he says "Who actually makes those symbols?" He raises an eyebrow at talk of lives, and he says "Humn. And you don't get sick?" A little shake of his head, and he says "Well, it's nice to meet you both. I just wish I could work out why I'm here? I mean, at least I share a language, it could be worse. You could all speak something I don't."
"Hmm," says Nour, running his finger along the top of his chin as Briar describes his lifestyle in the Facility. He turns to glance at Boots, light reflecting off his glasses. "I suspect the ability to have common communication is intentional." He himself sounds like he's from the American Northeast somewhere.
The Addict shrugs and says, "The symbols are just there when we wake up. No one knows who's behind any of this, though there's some who are trying to figure it out." They settle back in their chair. "I don't think we get colds or anything, but if you drank poison it would make you sick, I think. You can die here, but you wake up the next day." Their own accent is Jersey with a splash of Brooklyn.
"That would seem so - otherwise if we were randomly selected, we'd have a lot more Cantonese speakers," says Boots "But English isn't my first language." He speaks it fluently enough - though his own accent is closer to Portuguese or Creole. Then Boots says to Briar "So they've tested it - that if you die, you wake up the next day. Hmm." He rubs the back of his neck, then he says "Those rooms next door - they seem lovely. Every time I open it, it's a new paradise. This is a bit awkward, I kind of want to introduce myself, but I don't know who I am."
"And in these other...lives?" Nour tilts his head, examining Briar. "If you die, what occurs?" He turns to Boots next. "Funny. The last time I opened one of the doors, it looked like a side street in Tokyo. Perhaps they change based on our desires."
"Oh, honey," Briar says to Boots, "we invent who we are every moment of every day." To Nour, they say, "If you die in one of your lives, you wake up here. I died last time. It was... interesting. I thought it would hurt more, but once shock sets in all you can really feel is the blood loss making you woozy." With a glance to the Anywhere Rooms, they say, "Whatever you want, that's what they make."
"I don't really want to die, to be honest," says Boots "I should like to avoid it - Tokyo? I would like to see Tokyo. But I haven't quite gotten tired of the beach of the Republic of Cabo Verde. Except there don't seem to be friends in there to take the praça." He frowns, then brightens "Unless I convince you both sometime - it is a traditional practice, you know? A walk around the town to meet up with your friends." As Briar talks about blood loss, the Optimist grimaces "Oh dear."
Yes, the Analyst looks like he does find what Briar says interesting. It's a strange sensation to try and piece out. Then he smiles at Boots. "But what if you don't have any friends?" He adds, "From the sound of it, death may be hard to avoid. Apart from in the usual way."
"No one died last night," Briar reassures. "It doesn't happen all that often. Vandalism is the greater worry." Then, to the Optimist, they say, "I'd love to go to the beach with you. I wouldn't know what to wear, though. It would depend on the time period. I haven't really existed in a time period yet where it's okay to be the way I am."
"I do not have any friends, yet, it is true," says Boots, who adds "I am sure I will make some soon. What is the usual way of avoiding death? I mean, don't eat bad food, I assume?" He adds to Briar "What is vandalism in this context? Oh, er. Hmm. I don't know, maybe what I am wearing? It's usually pretty much the same temperature day in, day out." If Briar means anything other than clothes, Boots does not appear to realise.
"What is the way you are?" Nour says to Briar. He glances to Boots. "I'd say it depends on the death. If I may ask," and he gestures to Briar, "how is it you died, during your last...scenario?"
The Addict glances between the two gentlemen, and they sigh softly. Really, they're adorable, in their way. The way they sit, one leg crossed over the other, there's a feminine edge to their movements. "I'm genderqueer," they say. "My swimwear might get elaborate, and I'll look amazing flaunting it, but not everyone is ready for that kind of phenomenon. 1989 wasn't safe, 1902 sure as hell wasn't safe. Chance tells me the future is safer, but I haven't seen it. I want to make sure I can be myself and not get hurt."
"Okay," says Boots, who adds "Maybe not Capo Verde then, erm. I'm not sure? I know it's the first African nation to remove provisions relating to consensual gay sex from it's Penal Code. People who are transgender have a special word - tchindas. After Tchinda Andrade, the activist." He pauses, then says "I must be from there, because I know the laws, I suppose?" Not that he is _certain_. He wrinkles his nose, and he has to admit "Africa is not always the best place, erm, for things like that. But it's a big continent."
Nour crosses his legs and folds his hands atop his knee. "It's interesting," he comments to Briar, "that you know a word that was not around, as far as I know, in either of the times you've lived through. It expands the possibilities of this place as a liminal space..." He turns to Boots, nodding, as though that only supports the theory he was just batting around in his head. But he doesn't comment on it outright.
"Chance told me," Briar says. "I didn't know there was a word for it, but he helped me understand. In 1902, it's not something Martin would've ever breathed a word of, and Danny was such a boy it never came up in 1989." They clasp their hands together loosely and say to the Optimist, "If we come from anywhere. Maybe they made us and just put ideas in our heads. Anyway, we could go to any beach, any beach at all. Let's just imagine a perfect cove with lapping waves, and tidepools, and we'll bring a picnic basket, or just imagine that one is there waiting for us. It could be empty, some deserted island somewhere. Or we could imagine a time when I could flaunt it and get the appropriate reaction." Which is due acknowledgment of hotness, of course.
"Oh! Liminal, as in..." Boots tries to think, then clicks his fingers "On both sides of a boundary, or, um actually _being_ a boundary?" Yeah. He might not remember college, but clearly he has been to it. "I know those words, too. And I'm not hearing them in Creole." He frowns, and then he says "No, I must be real, I think." A quick nod "I feel real, and by this point, anything else is splitting hairs. Yes, we could. Maybe with dolphins? Or we could go to the..." He is trying to recall "Carnival in São Vicente. Where everyone is always dressed up in lots of different things. Except I imagine no one else there is real. Are they?"
Nour nods to Briar, slowly getting to his feet. Then, to Boots: "You could also think of a liminal place as somewhere in between. A threshhold, if you will, to something else." He doesn't seem terribly interested in the idea of going to a beach or Carnival, but who knows? Maybe he'll change his tune. "A pleasure to meet you both. I have some things to attend to, but I'm sure I'll return." With that, he turns off and heads back out the archway to the hallway full of rooms.
"I don't think they're real," Briar says, "but they might be, I don't know." They nod to Nour and tell him, "Take care." Then they shift to face Boots fully. Their expression is mild and amiable. "I would love to swim with dolphins," they say. "It would be nice to spend time somewhere sunny. It was grey and drizzly in Prosperity, grey and drizzly at Beaver Lake."
"I've just been, so maybe shortly, but right now I need food," admits Boots, and he gets up to collect a packet of crisps from the cupboard "Sorry about asking the serious questions but - why. Umn. Isn't everyone here insane?"
"I guess that depends," Briar says. "We're in a stressful situation, and people act differently under stress than they would if they weren't stressed out. We've lived traumatizing lives, and that's bound to affect one's psychological makeup." They get up and pad over to the dispensary. Soon, they're back with a long, tall glass of iced tea. "I think, all things considered, I'm fairly well put together."
"Yes, you are, it's just that everyone seems so well balanced for people who are dying, or being killed, or undergoing terrible things," says Boots, and then he stuffs some chips into his mouth "It's intense."
"It can be," Briar says. "Me, I just want to relax while I have the chance. I know I should be curious about what it's all about, but after being mauled to death in a bear trap?" They shake their head. "I just want to relax with some iced tea, maybe lounge on a beach, and be glad I can."
"That sounds wise," says Boots "I think that's very intelligent." He considers, and then he says "The other day I looked in one of those rooms and saw deer. Fallow deer, in an autumn environment. Very pretty - but not quite warm enough for me. I just wish I knew who I was. You seem to, mmm. Know who you are. How long did it take?"
The Addict says, "Aw, little deer?" They take a drink of their tea, then say, "I first woke up after my life in Prosperity. Martin's life was my guide, but I was still..." They gestures at themselves vaguely. "I wanted to dress like both a boy and a girl, and I liked my new clothes even though I'd never seen anything like them. But his personality was my personality. Then I came back from being Danny, and I'm different, but still me."
"Little ones, yes, very sweet," says the man, who also appears to have no urge to hunt them "You were still you?" he asks, and he says "I don't really recall any life beforehand. Still, it seems like everyone here has such intense...relationships. I mean, I think I got asked early on about my orientation."
The Addict shrugs, orientation is no big deal. "We live intense lives. Getting asked about your orientation is the least of the intimacy you're going to see around here. I don't mean people screwing on the couches, but people here tend to let it all hang out." Gently, they add, "Know that, for some of us, just being able to say 'I'm gay' is a death defying act. Maybe you don't come from a time where it's a big deal, but some of us are still living scared, and being here? Able to just be? It's powerful."
"I'm not sure how to feel about that," says Boots, a bit cautiously "I mean, I'm not intensely private, but I still don't understand a lot of this place. It feels weird. And I don't know who I am yet, if you know what I mean? I feel a bit confused." He nods, though "I don't think it's that big a deal when I come from. I mean, some of the older people are. You know. Weird about it?" He frowns. Old weird.
"In my last lifetime, as Danny, I was an activist for an organization called ACT UP, trying to destigmatize gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as fight for the rights of AIDS victims. We were loud because we had to be. We had to shout louder than their hatred. We had to make them see us. It was literally life or death." They smile a little, though there's sadness in the expression. "I'm glad it's not a big deal when you come from. Just allow those of us still fighting our internal battles to work it out in our way." They pat Boots' hand. "Confusion is normal. If you want my advice, just relax. You will be thrown into a lifetime, and you'll get to know us really well. It will affect you. Don't let it worry you too much. Just enjoy what there is to enjoy."
"I mean, I literally don't know what to say in response, I don't know..." Boots pauses "I may not be interested in anyone. I've no idea. Maybe everything is just uncomfortable slightly for me because this is a really strange environment. Maybe I'm from your future, I suppose? Though THAT is really weird too. If...we've just been made, maybe that's why I'm here, a different experiment..." He nods, though "I can probably relax, I think. I mean, my room's quite good. And I went skiing the other day. I suppose I could make a list of all the interesting things to do - try surfing! My door has a surfboard, and I don't know if I can surf."
The Addict gestures with their tea glass as they say, "There you go. Try surfing. Don't worry about the rest. If you're not interested in anybody, that's fine. If you're just still trying to get your feet under you, that's okay, too. If anyone tries to force you into something sexual, and you're not into it, you let me know." Their expression hardens just a touch. "I'll beat the hell out of them." Then they're all smiles again.
"Thankyou," says the Optimist, who then eyes the Addict, and his physical frame, before he says "I do know from Carnival that the most dangerous bouncers are the little ones." He? Well, he is nerdy, and has glasses, but under that, he is rather nicely built. The Optimist worked out? Who knows. He says "I'm going to try surfing, definitely. You could, too. If you wanted. I mean, psh. Beaches. Forever..." He rubs his temples "I think I need to take abreak to think about this for a bit."