Log:The Other Side of the Mirror
The Scholar leads Creepshow to one of the morphing rooms, saying, "I remember Bastian thinking he wanted to show you this place," he says. "Since it was one of his better memories. And after that, I had something else in mind." He's dressed the same as before: the Sisters of Mercy shirt he came back from Oregon with, dark gray OSU hoodie, denim jeans.
The Creepshow shows up looking quite a bit different than her suit-and-tie self. She wears an orange halter-top sports bra and baggy black gym shorts, her hair tied into a series of six knots that arc over her head from one side to the other. Herr septum ring and a few hoop earings adorn her as far as jewelry, and she has a leather satchel pack on her back stuffed with water bottles and snacks from thee dispensary.
"Ready to go."
The Scholar gives Creepshow's outfit an appreciative smile, turns and opens the door. Beyond is a rocky desert, just at dusk; enough light for them to walk by, the sky overhead already fading from watery blue to orange at the horizon. There's a broad, dark mountain range and paler foothills dotted with desert scrub to the West, around which a well-broken trail leads.
The gentle breeze through the door is just right for a walk, the heat of the day radiating back off the ground to keep it comfortable despite the clear night. "Should hit full dark by the time we get there," he says, and steps through the door and out onto the trail.
Eyebrows lift in an appreciative expression as she sees the view, then Creepy steps in after him, trundling along. Her legs are short and so she doesn't cover as much ground as he does with each step, but she looks to be in decent shape - built solid with muscle beneath the padded, feminine curves. "This, like, Utah? I think I've seen pictures before. Thanks for making it non-date specific so I didn't turn into Max on entry. I don't think I'm ready for that again just yet. I will be, one day. Just... not now. I need to be new me for a while."
The Scholar keeps his place slow and measured so Creepshow has no trouble keeping up with him. It takes him a bit to master this; Bastian was used to walking alone, and Colorado's as tall as the Scholar is.
"Eastern Oregon, actually, but I avoided the dates so we wouldn't turn into them." He winces, nods in agreement with that sentiment. "Lyle and Ethan wanted to have dinner at the house Ethan and Colorado stayed in after the Lodge. I agreed, but it was still...difficult." He's quiet for a few steps, shrugs. "It's easier, being Sebastian. The worst things he recalls can be undone simply by bringing the right people with him. Bastian has far too many of his own bad memories."
The desert around them is as noisy in the encroaching twilight as it is during the day. Insects chirp and click, poorwills make their cooing hoots as they spin and turn in search of dinner, and bats flit overhead, their high-pitched voices almost out of range of their ears.
"You met Ramona," says Creepshow, keeping up well enough. "Esme's... I dunno. Esmerelda was my first life, but also my most brief and vague. She never stuck too much. And you knew Bella, at least vaguely, so... I don't plan on doing any visits to them anytime soon, either. But this is nice. Being me, spending time with you."
She considers him sidelong. "What do your door and room tell you about yourself? Do you think there's a word or anything that sums it up? I keep wondering if we aren't... concepts? We keep playing variations of a certain type of character."
"It is," the Scholar agrees, and gives her a warm smile. "And if we're to keep gathering up these lives, the real foundation for ourselves will be us here. We have to be careful to not get lost in what was."
He continues, "My door's a bit...surrealist," he says after some thought. "What with the bookcase that's a dam, and the young man reading in the middle of the forest. But then inside the walls are all bookcases as well, so, I assume it must have something to do with studying. Knowing." He mulls that over. "I've only had the two lives, so I guess I can't say for sure, but they were both naturalists, both went to college. Sounds like a theme, in some way." He gives her a sidelong glance in return. "You?"
"A student of nature," says Creepshow, nodding. "Always learning. It fits. And yeah, that's what I meant about rooting our relationship, such as it is, here. Each life is different. Sometimes we might barely touch, like in Prosperity. If all we really have is Bastian and Max, it won't hold. Things like this help."
She considers the question turned back on her. "I'm clearly the woman on my door. I dunno if I killed all those at my feet, or just revel in it. Not sure it matters. I'm naked in it, too, so... I'm sex, death, violence - all in one. A freak. A monster. But I feel like it's a monster with a purpose. I show people the monster inside them, make them confront their own darkness."
The Scholar makes a low sound. "I suggested the same thing to Colorado last time. After Prosperity, before the Lodge. That we do things in these rooms, or maybe play music together, find things to read together--anything we could think of to share that would be here, in the between time that knits it together. To hold onto what we were." He reaches out to take her hand. "It seems to have worked. I think it might for us too."
He turns the idea of being a student of nature over in his mind alongside the notion that Creepshow is the woman on her door. "That could be," he says, and raises his eyebrows. "Explains why you were struggling before. Seems the kind of identity than can be an incredible burden." Much like the Coward's, he thinks, but doesn't say. And there's the question of the young man, studying alone in a huge forest. Lost, in a sense, for all he knows; the lake looming overhead a silent threat.
The sky continues to darken as they walk, slowly coming around the bulk of the mountains and foothills and into view of a broad, flat, valley floor. In the gathering dusk they can still see its pale, chalky gray and crazed with cracks. A salt flat. There's a sheen to it, though, like it's being viewed under glass: there's maybe four inches of water covering the whole expanse. The levels and angle of the failing sunlight are too low for it to reflect much at the moment, so it gives the impression of crackled glaze on the interior of some huge ceramic piece. "Here we are," the Scholar says, voice low and reverent.
"I was struggling," says Creepshow, "because everything I did and felt was at eleven. It was constant overload. It's exhausting being that intense and fierce in every aspect of existence. I didn't start that way, but Bella and especially Max were just so..." A shrug of bare shoulders. "They burned hot and bright, because neither had very long. And then they were gone. That made it impossible to balance back here. If I wasn't constantly burning, I didn't know what to do."
She steps up alongside him as they arrive at what he wants to show her, and she takes his hand in her own, squeezing gently. "It's beautiful," she agrees, taking it in.
"Wait until it's full dark," the Scholar says, bobs his eyebrows. "We can sit and wait for that, shouldn't be long now." Indeed, the first few stars and planets are already making their appearances in the sky. There's a long, flat shelf of rock that makes for a good seat; it's even still warm.
As he gets himself settled, he says, "I wonder if that has a chance to happen to all of us--if, over time, the accumulation of what we've lived hits a sort of plateau, and we have to evolve to a new state." He scratches at his beard. "Maybe you hit that state first due to your nature."
"Maybe," she allows, joining him. Creepy digs into her pack and pulls out water bottles, handing him one. "Maybe I wasn't what I was supposed to be. Maybe I didn't handle things how I was expected to. Maybe those who disappear had the same problem, but rather than work through it, they just faded. Maybe they ascended. Who fucking knows? It's a coin flip as to whether whoever's behind all this is benevolent or malicious. Are they giving us what they think we want, or tormenting us? Is there really a difference?"
Taking the water bottle with a murmur of thanks, the Scholar says, "I suppose it is--a coin flip, I mean." He pops it open and takes a healthy drink. "Given what some of us have been through, I can't say I think they're benevolent at all, but I agree there's maybe no difference anyways. We don't have a way to really qualify anything we're experiencing beyond the experience itself." He leans into her. "To that extent I'm always on the look out for an escape, but, more concerned with existing as...sanely, as possible." He pauses in the process of listing the bottle for another drink, "Which is turning out to be trickier than expected."
"That's just it, though," says Creepshow after a bit of her own water. "Everything they put us through fucking sucks, yeah, but we keep saving people, places, even the fucking world. If they just wanted to torture us, they wouldn't let us win. There'd be no survivors, no happy endings at all. But there are. Sometimes we get away, save the world, and it gives us hope. Why do that if it's all just malicious? Most horror movies have far darker endings."
The Scholar mmms, leans his head back to stare overhead. "That's true," he admits. "And they wouldnt let us make the kinds of connections we have been--well, they wouldn't let us keep them. It'd be more of what Caleb went through, with Addie, or," he makes a face, "worse." He's not going to think of worse (a trick he can thank Bastian for), but he feels it out there, lurking at the corners of his mind, just out of focus.
"Someone, I can't remember who, suggested it might be a series of experiments." He shrugs, ambivalent to any real definition existing. "That could be more in line with the theory that it's neither benevolent or malicious. Sometimes the subjects in an experiment succeed, and sometimes they don't, but success isn't even always the point."
"At first I thought we were AI," says Creepshow. "A simulation. And maybe we are. Some think this is a prison, or Hell, or Purgatory. There's things that fit that, too. But there's this movie that Esme liked called Dark City. It came out in '98. It's about this guy who realizes that every night, when everyone falls asleep, these beings come in and change everything around. They give everyone new lives, new identities, new dynamics. And then they watch the next day play out. They're trying to understand humanity. I wonder sometimes if that's not what we are. Like you said, an experiment of a sort. Someone trying to understand us by putting is in scenarios and watching."
The Scholar bites his lip, nods. "That could make some sense. And it'd explain," he gestures, though it's so dark out now the movement of his hand is more suggestion than anything Creepshow can properly see, "why these keep changing. If someone or, something, is checking for reacitons, seeing what we do in response to the new possibilities." He grunts. "Like the TV showing us everything," he adds, and sighs.
As they've talked the sky's grown darker, and now the arm of the galaxy stretches overhead, faint white and blue and pale orange stars making a cloudy, indistinct shape across the blue black night. Beyond them, on the playa, is the same image, inverted. The water is reflecting the sky in a nearly pefect mirror, rendering the valley into a great swath of unvierse.
"He stayed an extra two days out here," the Scholar says, voice low despite there being no need. "He made up an excuse, took a few more samples to keep it legitimate. Just so he could see this a couple more times, soak it in. It was the kind of solitude he needed then." Somewhere an animal hisses in the underbrush, and a soft, dull whisper indicates the passing of an owl.
"About the TV showing the movie we lived..." Creepshow frowns, head tilting. "Was it meant to upset us? Or was it exactly what it was - a horror movie? If we go with the idea that 'they' don't understand us, would they understand that it might upset us to realize we were in a movie? I mean, I kinda get it, y'know?"
She nods, looking back out at the view. "I can see why. Ramona would have loved this. She'd never seen anything but a room and a station. Bella would've shrugged. Esme would take pictures of all the dead things, contrasting it with the beauty of the land. And Max? I think she'd like it, but mostly because you do."
"Exactly," the Scholar says of the TV. "I could even see a suggestion 'they' thought it was helping, maybe, letting us know what was going on. Until then we'd just stand around and wonder, trickle in, getting information in little bits and pieces. This way we could know, if we wanted to." He hadn't, and the Rogue had; he wondered, if there was a 'they', what they'd draw from such a contrast.
"An entirely acceptable reason to like it," he says, giving her a sly smile that's not really visible in the darkness. "I didn't want to show it to you just because Bastian wanted to show Max, though." He takes her hand again. "I wanted to show you because this is the sort of thing I think of, when I think of you." He looks out over the playa. "It's beautiful, but it's also incredibly harsh out here. Freezing at night, blistering hot during the day. No water. Very little to eat, if you don't know what to look for. You can't be out here if you're not prepared, or didn't evolve for it." He grips her hand a little tighter. "And both of those faces of it are dangerous and beautiful, and have a lot to teach us. We just have to know how to listen."
Creepshow listens and nods, taking in what he's saying and appreciating the comparison. "I get it," she says. "And thank you. It means a lot that you understand me on more than a surface level. I'm not sure how this new me is going to start manifesting the monster. I know she's still in there, I can feel her. Maybe she's letting me catch my breath and acclimate. Or maybe she's waiting for the best - or worst - moment to pop up. I'm sorry if that ends up being the case. I know it won't stay this calm and placid for much longer, but I'm glad I had it, and got to share it."
The Scholar slips an arm around Creepshows waist to pull her closer. "That's alright. I feel like, after your change, I have a better idea of what you were trying to explain. Maybe that won't matter, but I...feel, a little more prepared to weather it when it comes." He stroks her face. "Don't apologize for what you are. You don't really get a say in that, any mroe than I do, and you've been handed an incredible weight in that arena. I'm not going to judge you for any struggles you might have with it." He kisses her forehead. "Now. If you'd like to show me something...there's a drive-in we could talk this room into, and you can pick the movie. Something suited to the new you."
Creepshow seems content to cuddle into him, letting him draw her close. She feels different in his arms, softer, more curves than angles. More substantial. Max had been so light, so dainty, and while she's still petite it's a thicker kind.
"A drive-in? You gotta car in your pocket? And here I thought maybe you were just happy to see me." She smiles at the teasing, eyes heavy-lidded and feline.
"Hmm. What movie do I wanna show you? That's tough. I actually might need some time to figure that out. And there's the problem that a lot of things won't make as much sense to you with the frames of reference you have. Lemme think?" He might notice her way of talking is shifting over time, another little change.
The Scholar rests his head on the Creepshow's, lets out a long, slow breath. "I seem to recall some comment about a telephone pole," he teases in response, smiling enough to show his teeth.
"I figured the room would provide me with a car." He frowns, wondering if that's erroneous. "Of course...if it would give us a car, would it give us a plane, if someone knew how to fly?" Now he's wondering all kinds of wild things. He shrugs them aside for the more immediate question. "We definitely don't have to do that right now. We can enjoy this a while longer, maybe go make ourselves something interesting to eat. Once you've thought of a movie you can drag me off to a drive-in." After a moment, he adds, "We can steal a car, maybe."
"Ooo," she purrs. "Stealing a car could be fucking awesome. See? Now we're getting somewhere."
There's a moment of quiet, a slight, uncomfortable shift against him. "I have to admit, I'm nervous about sleeping with you again. It won't be what you're used to with Max. I mean, it's not that I couldn't put in that level of energy, but... it's not me, anymore. Max fucked like the world was ending. Maybe to her, it was. But it's not anymore. I just don't want to disappoint you."
"Mind you, I don't know how to steal a car, so either you need to do it or we have to bring someone who does," the Scholar warns her. "Bastian knew all about boats, so I could steal us one of those at some point."
He leans back so he can look down at her. The faint starlight reveals just enough of his face for her to see he's surprised. "Oh, sweetheart. You wouldn't disappoint me, not at all. I know I'm not entirely like Bastian or Sebastian, as far as that goes, and after what you just went through I wouldn't have assumed you were either." At least in this regard he can speak from prior experience. "It's a learning curve, being with someone here after in there. You rediscover one another, find new things to enjoy." He kisses her forehead. "And as utterly lovely as you are, I'm not in some kind of hurry. Whenever you're comfortable and want to."
He can see tears shimmer in her eyes, unshed. Creepy nods. "Thank you," she says softly, and she leans up to kiss him with new, full lips, eyes fluttering closed. Yeah, there are definitely noticable differences.
"Rado will also be potentially let down, considering how his last visit went. He'll probably say the same thing you did, though. He's too nice, like you."
The Scholar returns the kiss, gentle and slow, letting her set the tone of it. He strokes his fingers down her cheek to her neck, then trails his hand down her back. He laughs, a soft and quiet breath against her. "I am reasonably sure Colorado won't be let down," he says. "At least, if his reaction to seeing the new you was any indication." This close she can see the glint in his eyes. Oh yes, they've already had a conversation about that. "It's not so much about being nice. He's always been generous with compliments, but I think it's how he makes sure his lovers know how he feels. It's just his way of reminding us where we stand with him."
"I missed out on boy talk about my new body?" Creepy muses, thick lips quirking. "Gotta admit, it's different. I'm not used to having serious curves. Each of my previous lives, except Ramona, always wished they had more. Ramona's, I think, were a bit fuller, but not a lot. But yeah, the others didn't like being small. They had NO idea how much this shit gets in the way! And if not for the daily reset, my fucking back, man. Be careful what you wish for is what I'm saying."
"You did," the Scholar admits. "Don't worry, he's suitably enamored of it. I'm sure you can expect more absurd poetry on your door any day now." He's trying hard not to laugh about that. Really hard. (He succedes.)
One brow going up, the Scholar says, "This could be proof there is a 'they', you realize." He pulls a face. "So I guess I'll make sure not to wish for anything physical to change unless I really want it, just in case."