Log:The Twilight Zone, Without The Fun
The professor/company man/librarian formerly known as Ethan/Declan/Nolan is sprawled on one of the sofas in the parlor in jeans and a dark blue button down, with Keds on his feet. He's a smidgeon younger than the occultist from Prosperity, and cleanshaven. Also, he looks hale and healthy and hearty, rather than the gaunt, pale, sickly man who suffered from the consumption in the Old West. He's got his arms folded over his chest, head on a pillow, as he stares at the MTV 80s broadcast on the television. Part of him thinks he remembers these songs and videos, but the rest of him isn't sure if it's just programming.
The Coward wanders in, a tumbler of liquor in his hand. He too looks healthy, practically glowing, really, compared to Colorado Colton. Otherwise he's the same age and even kind of dressed the same, in jeans, cowboy boots, and a button-down shirt rolled to the elbows. He pauses when he sees the newcomer, considering him, then comes over to slouch on a nearby couch himself. "Nolan."
The Pedagogue looks up and blinks at the man, and gives him a bit of a wry smile. "Sometimes. Hey Rado. Looking better than the last time I saw you." Which was a pillar of salt. He sits up and makes room for the other man on the couch. "Helluva way to go, man."
"Last time I saw you," the Coward starts, then shakes his head. "Lookin' better yourself, brother." He sits with the Pedagogue and offers his hand over. "How many times have you been out?"
The Pedagogue shakes the offered hand and shrugs a little. "Three that I know of. Ran into someone I haven't ever seen before here today though, and haven't been able to find Jeremiah who should have gotten here before you or I." He rests his feet on a coffee table so he can sit back again. "Right now, I'm just kind of enjoying being able to fucking breathe," he states.
"I'll drink to that." The Coward takes a long slow sip of whiskey. "Haven't seen Jeremiah, either." He grunts a wordless sound of acknowledgement. "Been out twice, now. You've done three? You got any idea, any idea at all, what the hell's going on?"
"I wish I could say I knew for certain, but I've worked my ass off trying to calculate everything I can. My room has a chalkboard. It's covered. I think I'm down to 'Science experiment with mass hallucinations and brainwashing', 'Aliens took us', or 'Something supernatural like we're in Purgatory like those people on Lost'." He frowns deeply. "Still stumped at how I know anthropology things, and how to build a space station. And how to banish demons for that matter."
The Coward shudders at the word 'aliens', going green. "You'd think they'd do us the courtesy of wiping our memories. Instead they got us wandering around here like drunks after closing time." Speaking of drunk, he tilts back the glass, then eyes its emptiness. "Get you something?"
"Is it weird that I'm weirded out by not being sure if I really like whiskey or if it's something someone else wants me to like?" the Pedagogue asks with an arched brow. "But I'll take a glass if you're getting up, 'Rado. No Sebastian yet? He made it?" So far. "Bella's here with me. Died side by side for the third time."
The Coward mutters, blackly amused, "Ain't weird to me." He mmns a negative. "Hope to Christ he'll be here, that he won't vanish like Jer." His voice drops to a hush, then he sucks in a sympathetic breath between his teeth and glances at the Pedagogue. "Sheee-it, McTavish. Can't decide if that's the most horrible thing I ever heard, or the most romantic. Maybe both." He gets up, ambling back to the 'dispensary'. When he comes back it's with an entire bottle of whiskey and a glass for Nolan.
"McTavish sounds so strange to me already. It's mingled up in my skull with Riordan and Drake. These places we've been, they're terrifying and terrible and horrible, but this is worse by magnitudes. Not knowing who the hell I actually am is maddening. At least in those other places I know myself. Here I'm so lost." He takes the glass and holds it out for filling. "Here I look in the mirror and see a complete stranger. There's nothing inside of me except those pretend lives they've thrust me into."
The Coward murmurs, "Know the feeling. Who the hell am I?" He cracks the seal on the whiskey (it has no recognizable label) and pours for them both. "Door to my room, it's got a picture on it of a man cowering from a fight." His mouth tightens. "What's yours?"
"It's complicated," The Pedagogue admits. "Crazy-looking guy perched on a cloud holding a compass over the Earth, the math kind not the direction kind, and these vines with a lamb and shepherd crook on one side, a beehive on the other side, and that triangle with the circle and all-seeing eye thing in the top center. And there's pillars and stars and I've spent so many hours trying to decipher it and I'm still clueless."
The Coward frowns. "Complicated, you're not kiddin'. Mine's obvious as the sun." He swirls the liquor, drinks. He gives the impression that he's been doing a lot of that. "Wasn't so sure, when I was Bates, but after bein' Rado, seems pretty clear. I'm a coward." He pulls a face--it doesn't sit well with him.
Pedagogue nearly chokes on his whiskey. "Coward? Maybe someone who has a lot of fear in them, but you sure as hell didn't run away from staring down Barbas. That's a hero, not a coward. You're good in my book, even if you worked for the Company back on the Noc." He grimaces. "Man, that is so messed up. I hated you there but you were such a good man in Prosperity." He ponders. "Hey, uh, weird question. Do you feel like, um, you like guys still while you're here? Or was that programmed?"
The Coward glances over, surprised at Nolan's reaction. A reluctant smile tugs at his lips. "Did it for Bastian. For him, I could be brave." He shrugs, smile turning brittle. "I don't blame you none for hating me then. Bates was a nasty piece of work. I hate his lyin' guts, too."
He's also surprised by that question, and he pauses to think about it. "Well," he says, thoughtfully, after a few moments. "I think that's...me. It's a little hard to say, of course, but, I think that's me."
"I've been attracted to both, men and women. On the Island especially, that one you missed I think. I just worry about, if this here is real, but I don't remember who I am, do I have a wife or a husband or kids somewhere out there? Am I involved with someone here? Would being with anyone here in the facility be cheating on them if I can't remember?" Leave it to the Pedagogue to overthink it.
"I think I like women too," the Coward says reflectively. "Bates had an ex-wife. He didn't really," he adds, tone bitter. "Just a memory I was told to think was real." He bows his head. "Yeah. I hear you. What if we have families? What if we were taken from 'em?"
"I was pretty fast and loose on the Island, but I was devoted to my dead wife on the Noc. Talk about whiplash after that second wakeup," Pedagogue mutters. "I don't know if I can trust myself here, in this place. I'm really struggling with wanting to go and hold Bella all night, and worrying there's someone I'm hurting by doing so."
The Coward sucks on a tooth, turning that idea over in his whiskey-lubricated mind. "We're in a terrible situation here," he ventures. "Nobody can blame us for what we got to do to survive. If that's true, if you do have someone else on the outside, well. Is it worth thinkin' about? While we got to do tricks for some mysterious 'benefactors'?" Consciously he uses the title the demons had in Prosperity.
The word benefactors has the Pedagogue turning momentarily green. "That brings up the other underlying question. The benefactors in Prosperity. Some of them I've seen in the other places, or they were those snapshots. Like David Akala, who sponsored the festival on the island? I swear to God, that was Mo."
The Creepshow arrives from The Facility - Hall of Rooms.
The Coward looks over, eyebrows high. "You're shittin' me. Really? Mo? Any of the others?" He snaps his fingers urgently. "The fella on the Lud, my superior, damn I can't remember his name, but he was a general, and he turned into that monster. Could that have been the same...hell, I don't know, the same entity?"
"I can't be sure." The Pedagogue admits, but he leans in as if feeling this theory might have legs. "I mean Mo was pretty grungy and subservient and Akala was just really a vague thing in my head, knowing OF him and his supporting the festival but, yeah, I think it was the same so, like, was he like us, and in one of these places somewhere being held and thrown into the mix? Or is he a fabrication reused by whoever is doing this to us? Or is //he// the one doing this to us?"
"Thorson!" the Coward says, hitting his forehead with the heel of his hand. "Thorson, that was his name. Mo was only subservient until we knew who he really was. After that, he didn't bother hiding that he was a lord of Hell. Treated us courteously enough I suppose, for a child-killing demon, but we were beneath him and he made sure we knew it."
Down the hall comes The Creepshow, much like she always is. While some, like The Pedagogue, change age quite drastically from life to life, she remains about the same each time around. Early twenties, short and slight but with firm curves, sharp features and bowl-cut hair with bangs. Sometimes the hair changes a bit, darker or maybe longer, but not much else. When she comes out into the parlor for the first time since her return, not counting stealthy runs for food or drink, she's hesitant. Almost skittish. Her large, dark eyes drift from point to point before settling on the two men currently talking.
"I heard you out here," she says quietly, crossing quickly to the one she knew as Nolan, Bella's shyness remaining at least for now. She's dressed in a gray tank top and black boxer shorts, her feet bare.
The Pedagogue holds out a hand for the slight woman, to pull her onto the couch with himself and Colorado. "Hey, we were just discussing how we sort of recognized some of the demons human suits from our other lives," he explains. "Anything you recall?" There is whiskey nearby, a little leftover bit of Nolan for him.
The Coward nods somberly to the Creepshow. "Never did get a chance to thank you for defending the ranch against Delgado's men." He looks just like he did in Prosperity, although he's healthy now, vigorous. So, actually, he looks considerable different from Colorado Colton. Holds himself different too.
It may be strange, seeing Creepy so shy and awkward since she's generally been anything but in previous times in the Facility, clearly a holdover from being Bella. She slips into the offered embrace and practically melds into him via osmisis.
"The Devil," she says. "On the Noc, he was the bartender at Total Eclipse. He was basically my adopted Dad as Ramona."
"Dammit. I think we're definitely on to something. None of them have been here with us. They've been on our side and against us in different lives. I really wonder if they're whoever is doing this to us," Pedagogue ponders with a scowl. He strokes Creepshow's hair, much as Nolan would Bella's. It's almost automatic. This is the third time they've died side by side. "I can't help thinking maybe some of these bonds from these...these other lives are real somehow, and we just can't remember here."
The Coward glimpses the other two holding each other and drops his gaze away. "Ol' Scratch seemed like an all right guy," he says in a musing tone, to cover up that he aches for Sebastian. "Tipped us off, and so forth."
"...Hardly anyone from those lives is here," Creepy points out, seeming to not buy into the conspiracy. "And some of them repeat from life to life, too. They just aren't... I dunno." She searches for the word. "Major figures. Sure. Sam was important to Ramona, but he was just a bartender to everyone else on the Noc. And Angeline - Pandora? There were three of her. I don't know that we can make any assumptions on anything, honestly. Everyone seems to think we're real people taken from the world and kept here against our will. Maybe this IS the world. Maybe we're it. Or maybe we aren't even people."
The Pedagogue groans at that though. "Yeah that's up on my board too, this is the Matrix and we were woken up. That would explain how I know the Dewey Decimal system AND how to run a space station." He sighs. "I wonder how long until they throw us back into their stories this time? Not everyone is back yet, and some folks are missing again. Rod, uh, Jeremiah should have been here before us, but he's not here."
The Coward huhs. "That synth was Angeline? The one I hacked, to get her to let Kolvak walk into the queen nest?" He shrugs, like, takes all kinds. But then he winces, rubs over his mouth. "If I was a praying man, I'd pray that Bastian doesn't vanish like Jer. Don't seem much point to praying, though." Down goes more whiskey. He's gonna need it.
"That's the other thing," says Creepshow, still cuddle-melded into not-Nolan. "Some people don't return here. Sometimes new people we don't know are here, with no memories at all, but then they're in the next life. I'm sure there's probably a logic or method behind it all, but we don't know it and I don't see the point of trying to guess." She shrugs.
"You're a lot more Zen about all this than I am, beautiful," Pedagogue says with a chuckle. "But here must be some kind of way outta here," beat, "Said the joker to the thief." He rubs at the bridge of his nose. "I'm going to go take a shower I think. I can still feel Prosperity on my skin. Man people did not bathe enough back in those days." He shudders and extracts himself from Creepshow, offering a hand to the Coward to shake again. "If I don't see you in the morning, I'll see you on the otherside." To not-Bella he murmurs, "Come visit later?" before he heads out.
The Coward murmurs, "Personally? I think about it because I want to get out of here. I don't plan on spending the rest of my life playin' craven for some megalomaniac." He nods to the man formerly known as Nolan and clasps his hand. "I'll see you there."
There's a very brief flicker of panic in her eyes when not-Nolan gets up and excuses himself, but it's quick. She bobs her head quietly in response to his question. "Yeah."
The Coward looks back at Creepy, catching her panic, but looks away again. "He said you've died together three times now," he says, quietly. "That's a hell of a thing."
She's never been like this before - clingy, skittish, it's not her. There's a clear war raging inside her as Creepy tries to reconcile these feelings with who she is. Or who she THINKS she is. What the actual fuck is wrong with her?
A nod at The Coward's comment. "Yeah. Didn't even know each other the first time, on the island," she says in a soft tone. "But we agreed to be sacrifices. We met for the first time and died beside each other less than an hour later. Second time was on the Noc. Only he could blow the core, so he stayed behind to do it. Synthetics weren't popular and evacuation was limited, so I went with him. We'd had a relationship of sorts that time, at least. His wife had died and I was his stand-in. He had trouble sleeping alone, so I'd just lay beside him so he could get rest. All of Ramona's other clients and most of her friends were dead by that point, so he was all she had left. Then this time we went out fighting Leviathan."
The Coward frowns gently at Creepshow, concerned. "You all right, Bella? ...Ah, I don't know what I should call you, if not that. You let me know what you want to be called." He sits forward, leaning towards her. "You and Nolan were beautiful, fighting side by side."
A slight shrug. "Esme. Ramona. Bella or Lupe. Any of them works, I guess. I was all of them. They aren't me, though. I know that much. They're..." She chews at her lip, brow furrowed as she considers. "Suits I put on. Costumes, maybe. I become them for a time, and then I'm here again. I know some people here ARE those people, those lives. Maybe it's a lack of anything better to hold onto, or maybe they connect differently in there than I do. I'm not like that. When I'm back here I feel like that skin is peeled off. This one's sticking a bit, though. It's making me twitchy."
The Coward runs his hand through his curly blonde hair, made uncomfortable. "S'pose it didn't occur to me that some people think that's what they are. For me it's like waking from a dream. In this metaphor it'd be waking into a different dream." He didn't talk to anybody after the Noc exploded. He'd stayed away. This is the first time he's actually tried interacting with anybody in the Facility. "Anything I can do to help?"
"I don't know," she answers honestly. "Lots of people, after the island, thought they still were those people and this was quarantine, or the afterlife, or something else entirely. I knew then I wasn't Esmerelda Cortez, not really. The new faces that showed up from the Noc, some of them did the same thing. I get it, that's your only point of reference. If Sebastian, for example, arrives here when the rest get here, he might think the same. You'll need to be careful with him. You have multiple lives in your head now, but he'll have just the one. Never saw him in the others, and there's no way to know if he's one of us now. I know you want him to be, so I hope he is for you. I saw how having a true love affected one of us when they kept returning here without that person. It was the most horrifying thing I've seen, and I've seen some serious shit."
She's gone directly to the heart of what the Coward is thinking, and he winces, with a wry chuckle. "Didn't think I was quite that obvious." This calls for more whiskey, and he pours. "Should have known, I guess." He can't look at her when he asks, his voice quiet, "Was it true love? Or was it something we were required to do?"
"No fucking clue," answers Creepshow. "But this guy was in love with the same person two lives in a row, they even had the same name. But they weren't here. Not one of us. He tried digging through the wall with a spoon to get out and find him. I've seen others here have repeats like that, same face as someone close to them in several lives. I had Sam on the Noc who turned out to be The Devil Himself in Prosperity. But that's the only time I've seen the same face be a person's one true love again and again. That guy's not here anymore. I don't think I saw him in Prosperity, and his room door is blank now. So are a few others, like Thorne and Jeremiah. I dunno where they go when that happens. Somebody new will probably pop out of their old room here soon, new door symbol, new interior. Like a new version of them."
The Coward's mouth twists. "A spoon," he repeats in a wondering mutter. "Reckon he didn't get far." His head turns irresistibly towards the hallway of rooms, each with its unique pictograph door, before he makes himself turn back. "I miss Thorne," he adds with a sigh. "But not as bad as I'll miss Bastian if he doesn't show up."
The Creepshow snorts and shakes her head. "I don't. She fucking hated me. But Cillian and Nettie will be upset when they get back and see she's gone. That'll suck. So for their sakes I guess I'm sorry she's gone, but she never treated me that well."
"Fair enough," the Coward concedes, sort of dryly amused. "She didn't treat Bates that well either, but the bastard deserved it." He's busy putting walls between who he thinks he really is and who Director Bates was. "What's on your door?" he asks, somewhat out of nowhere.
Creepy quirks a 'brow. "You're kidding, right? Everyone that sees my door remembers it. Naked chick covered in tattoos and piercings, surrounded by mutilated dead bodies? It leaves an impression."
The Coward pauses, blinks, then laughs into his hand like he's had more than enough of everything. Whiskey, stress, weird happenings. Everything. "I remember it. I didn't realize it was you. Silly me."
"Who the fuck ELSE would it be?" Creepy asks, smirking. "I don't think you met me as Ramona, did you? But you knew Bella. And if the door is too freaky for you, do NOT look behind it. Ever."
The Coward tilts his head down at his whiskey, trying to control his face. Hysterical laughter is bubbling around in his chest and he's struggling not to give in. "Noted."
"I'm serious," she says. "There's a reason Nolan asked me to come by his room later. He has to be dragged into mine. It's traumatizing."
"Oh, I believe you," the Coward assures her, shaking his head. "I just--ah--" then he's laughing, hand over his face, fighting to stop because it sounds more than a little crazy.
"You just...?" Creepshow watches, 'brow quirked.
The Coward heaves in a breath, holds it, lets it out slow. His next laugh sounds more like a sob. "I just think I'm a mite overwhelmed at the moment, Bella. Will you please excuse me?" He stands, tall and rangy as ever, unsteady from whiskey and runaway emotion.
There's a frown at that, but she nods and gets up from her spot. "Need a hand getting back to your room?" It's offered gently.
The Coward, wavering, says with grave courtesy, "That would be much appreciated, Miss Bella, thank you kindly." He sort of reaches for her, then doesn't know what to do with his hand, and just lets it hang there midair.
The Creepshow steps in to let him drape that arm over her shoulder and use her for support. Quietly and cautiosly, she walks him to his room and sees him safely in.