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13672 No. 13672
[x] Ask the man the day and date.
[x] Continue your trek homeward.

He stands there, at the corner of Dulcis and Rodolf and reads his newspaper--and his arms move downwards, just a little, surely unintentionally, and you can see his eyes move--back and forth and back and forth, rapid-fire every line about--about--but you don’t know anything about sports so you don’t dare to guess at that.

A side of the newspaper flops-crinkles-folds as he lets go with one hand to rub at his other wrist, adjusting the small black watch that is only a finger’s width too large--or perhaps larger--or smaller. Width and height and gaps and spaces. You can’t tell an inchworm’s length from the length of an inch. Reality has always been blurry at the edges--

But that is that and now is now and it is time to focus on now, if you’ll please.

The effort is great. You may pay for it at a later time, but for this moment--you’ll chain your mind, affix it to this point. It is a difficult task, and by the time you are done the inside of your skull aches and your ears are filled with the murmuring tenfold.

Tall man lowers his newspaper a little more, turns his head to look at--something. Raises his newspaper again.

This man--

You are used to this. You know this--action, situation, happening. There’s nothing wrong with it.

More importantly--

More importantly, what day is it?

And the thought is--ridiculous--almost unthinkable, which makes you think--how could you have ever thought it? It’s impossible. It’s a stupid idea. A stupid idea from a stupid person like you. You’ve got all your whorls tangled up.

But--but--

Humming murmuring mumbling tumbling.

So you come a little bit closer, and tall man turns his head again--looks at you--and the expression on his face is a smile, but stained and tugged at the edges and then he is looking not at you, but past you, over your shoulder.

“Hi,” you say.

Tall man says nothing, so you come a little closer. He smells. Sweet. Not sugar-sweet but poison-sweet and much too strong. His skin--you notice in the lightpost light--is glistening. Gleaming. Poison-gleaming, like potato chip fingers and the inside of chickenskin. There’s something off about that sort of reflection.

But--

“Hi,” you say, and step a little closer.

His smile settles unsteadily, and he folds the Sports top to back in a quick twist of the lilting wrist. “Why, hello there,” he says gaily. His voice is deep, and the smilecreases appear almost immediately underneath his eyes. “Now, what would a young boy like yourself be doing outside in the dead of night?”

There are no words to describe how thoroughly you dislike this person.

[_]

>> No. 13674
>“Now, what would a young boy like yourself be doing outside in the dead of night?”

[x] "I didn't realize the time, how late is it?"
[x] "Anyway I saw you had a newspaper and assumed you might be a well-informed man, and I am one in need of some sobering news. Could you tell me today's date and day of the week, sir?"
[x] "And just one more question, have read anything odd lately in the local news? Particularly, anything pertaining to insect infestation?"
[x] Intend to thank the man, wish him a good evening, and be on your way home.

Even if he is grotesque, he is still a human being, and the simple niceties you can offer is a fair exchange for simple information you desire.
>> No. 13718
[x] "Is it late...? What time is it, exactly?"
[x] Don't ask the day of the week or the day; it ought to be right there on the paper; top of it. Look at it as you ask him... or, if it's visible, look at what his watch says; it should have the day and date on it.
[x] Thank him, and leave.
[x] This isn't paranoia anymore: You know that you aren't all right upstairs like most people are, but even you know that there is something suspicious about this man reading a newspaper outside at night, in the same spot that other people do the same thing.

========
I'm going to post some things I've noticed. They start out strong and relevant, then towards the end, where the thoughts become shorter, it's more wandering thoughts. The first part is solid, though.

---------
>>12014
>(like moth-men and suit-and-tie-men that stand on street corners and look very grim).
>You have seen them--only a few times, but you have seen them, though it has been hard (level three is hard. Level two is medium) because they do not want to be seen, especially by you though perhaps that is wrong on your part, you cannot tell because for every teller there is a tellee and what will happen to--
>You dare not guess (because you already know) but you have seen them checking watches and reading grey-leaf newspapers that you know are only classifieds: unshaven man and bearded man and the man with the spiky hair, and sometimes they wear black ties and sometimes jean jackets and one time when it was raining you swear you saw balding almost stooping under the weight of a rubbery yellow rainjacket.
Boy, this kind of screams "surveillance." Especially the paper-reader. Now, this raises a few questions.
1) Are they police? Feds? MiBs? Independent contractors? Employees of the asylum we were probably in at some point?

2) They're watching someone, that's obvious. The knee-jerk answer is that it's the protagonist, but I wonder if just maybe it's our sister? Either one makes equal sense.

>>12781
>And the dog with the man leans around the corner, and at the corner unshaven man with the morning drew-watch and the classified papers very carefully, very silently, almost doesn’t lean away to miss the touch of a dog on his hairdust-brown trenchcoat.
Now, maybe he's got really good, hearing, or the paper is at just the right angle, but this not only reinforces the fact that the guy is aware of what's going on despite seeming to read... it also shows that he's trying very hard not to give away that he's doing it.

>“What is today?” you ask and the dog looks up at you, determines no threat, looks away, jowls hanging, tongue hanging, and he holds a leash around his neck and at the other end is fastened, securely, a man with thin eyebrows and a baseball cap that holds all his hair--and you think--surely he is--
The dog's reaction could be either a quirk of the writing, or a hint that this dog is probably highly trained. Determining no threat sounds like it's for tracking and/or subduing. Too bad the breed wasn't mentioned.
The man's hair being all bound up inside the cap sounds a touch odd. it makes me think of the rendezvous scene in the Pelican Brief, like disguising who he is is important?

>>13641
>And ahead of you--just ahead, as you consider the stitch in your side--hastily unfolding a newspaper from under his arm stands unshaven man--you think, for a second, that it is unshaven man, but it is too shaven to be unshaven man.
>You see only a glimpse before it is covered by Sports but you are sure. It is tall man. It is an easy mistake because they both have long faces and the same sort of chin but it is tall man, you are sure.
>Tall man is there.
Clearly, we rate 24 hour surveillance.

>>13672
>“Now, what would a young boy like yourself be doing outside in the dead of night?”
Better question, you shiny jerkoff: What's a creepy bastard like you doing reading the Sports section on the street corner outside, in the dead of night?

-------
Completely off the wall, but maybe our sister isn't Yukari, but Maribel. Or we're Maribel. Manribel? Whatever.
-------
"Edge" shows up an awful lot, at least a few times in the context of "understanding edges," or knowing how they work, or contemplating edges in general.
-------
Something else interesting. Apparently our mental train of thought lapses into strange/old English when the living fuck is being beaten or killed out of us.
See >>10980 and >>12369 .
...Also possibly when we cause it, as in >>11846, when Wriggle tries to fly us off and gets her ass slammed back firmly to the ground.
-------
I wonder if the story started off with us as the sister (explaining why we had a computer then, but not now). The Dissociate choice would have been her creating... us. Or something. This segues nicely into the She Is Yukari And We Are Maribel thing.
-------
I still don't know why Wriggle couldn't fly with us. there's some amusing irony in looking at how our feet are planted firmly on the ground when we''ve drifted off, and then get metaphorical about the meaning of that phrase, but there's damn for sure got to be more to it than that.
-------
I still don't know who the hell that lady was that beat us up and was willing to knife us for mouthing off to her, what she wanted, or what the hell crawled up her ass and died.
-------
Very briefly, I wondered if our sister's computer says "Ran" somewhere on it.
>> No. 13738
[x] "Is it late...? What time is it, exactly?"
[x] Don't ask the day of the week or the day; it ought to be right there on the paper; top of it. Look at it as you ask him... or, if it's visible, look at what his watch says; it should have the day and date on it.
[x] Thank him, and leave.
[x] This isn't paranoia anymore: You know that you aren't all right upstairs like most people are, but even you know that there is something suspicious about this man reading a newspaper outside at night, in the same spot that other people do the same thing.

I find it amusing that the last vote in this string of votes will likely send us into a fit of paranoia... But that isn't enough to keep me from voting for it.
>> No. 13739
[x] "Is it late...? What time is it, exactly?"
[x] Don't ask the day of the week or the day; it ought to be right there on the paper; top of it. Look at it as you ask him... or, if it's visible, look at what his watch says; it should have the day and date on it.
[x] Thank him, and leave.
[x] This isn't paranoia anymore: You know that you aren't all right upstairs like most people are, but even you know that there is something suspicious about this man reading a newspaper outside at night, in the same spot that other people do the same thing.
>> No. 13764
>top of it.
I should clarify that I meant the top header line on each page (usually lists page number, date, and section, depending on your city's paper)
>> No. 13806
File 123269348139.jpg - (94.21KB , 532x800 , 782817b7978b.jpg ) [iqdb]
13806
Short short short short I'm sorry but it's your fault

---

[x] "Is it late...? What time is it, exactly?"
[x] Don't ask the day of the week or the day; it ought to be right there on the paper; top of it. Look at it as you ask him... or, if it's visible, look at what his watch says; it should have the day and date on it.
[x] Thank him, and leave.
[x] This isn't paranoia anymore: You know that you aren't all right upstairs like most people are, but even you know that there is something suspicious about this man reading a newspaper outside at night, in the same spot that other people do the same thing.

And you do not want to talk to him and you do not want him to talk to you, and it is a situation where you know and he knows and he knows you know and you know he knows you know and if you could get things over with--finished--done--just like that, lickety-split--really--

That would be for the best.

Over. Done with.

Home is just around the bend. Why did you stop for this man?

Why did you stop, when it is so--troublesome--unwished--dangerous? Why did you stop? You could have moved around him, past him. Like the breeze. His eyes would have swept off his newspaper, but he would have never said a word.

Right now--right now--you could be knocking--the front door opens--your sister, your sister, who surely has been sad because you are gone, because she is your sister and she is lovely like that--she could be hugging you right now. You could drink a mug of warm milk.

Why did you stop?

And tall man is looking at you expectantly, his eyes flicking over to yours, then the newspaper gripped much too tightly, a paper bridge between his hands, and then his wristwatch, with its gleaming crystal face--

Just back away.

You can feel it--hear the tension in the air. Tension you caused. A sound like someone--something electric. Humming. A million telephone wires over your head--

You made a mistake. You broke the pattern. Everything had settled itself into some sort of uneasy equilibrium, and then you went and you put through it your fist--your fists--and it splintered and it shattered and tall man looks down at you with his rigor mortis lips.

“Is it late?” you say, and the words come out as a single entity--isitlate, isitlate, leavemebe--and the man’s eyes quiver and the ends of his mouth travel further towards the opposite edges of his face, even as impossible--surely impossible--as it must be.

“Why, yes indeedy!” he crows, and certainly if he is not careful Sports will read in two. “It’s--”

--a sudden spark in his eyes like yes-yes-yes--

Sweeps the paper under his arm in one fluid motion and a hand-finger to the face of his watch. Taps it. Taps it. “Why,” he says, looking directly at his fingernail (which, you notice, is neatly manicured). “It’s just about two o’clock!” Taps it. “Just about two o’clock!” he says again, and smarms full-teethed and you wouldn’t mind, particularly, if this person were to suddenly fall and hit his head on the sidewalk curb.

(Your sister would disapprove of that thought.)

And you do not thank him, do not say anything to him as you walk forwards--past--and he deflates onto himself in the corner of your vision, and the sickly sweet poison pyrethroid smell rolls away from your nostrils. You broke it, after all. And maybe it is broken beyond repair, and maybe it can be fixed yet with rolls and rolls of silver-shine duct tape, but either way it will never be the same again.

All you can do--the least you can do--is step away for a while. Let them say to themselves--the cracks are small. And then--the cracks are unnoticeable. And then--there are no cracks at all. I certainly don’t see any cracks? Do you see any cracks? There never were any cracks--

You try to ignore his eyes on the back of your head and your shirt and your pants and the heels of your bare feet, but you can feel it--much too well--feel a thousand tiny pinpricks landing on your clothing and your arms and legs and hair.

The grumbling mumbling humming has risen to an angry and almost metallic whine that threatens to wring your brain dry--vomit--suck the juices--and it does not matter because here you are, at the corner of Dulcis and Syringa, and soon everything is going to be alright.

(Someone is shouting behind you.)

(Tall man should just die die die die die--)

[_]
>> No. 13814
[x] What is someone shouting behind you?
[x] Whatever it is, it's not more important than getting home and letting your sister know you're alright.
>> No. 13815
[x] Make one quick glance behind you, just to verify that man is still where he is when you left him.
[x] Pick up your pace and hurry home.

The protagonist has a damn good reason to be afraid of him, he's way too suspicious. Why, I wouldn't be surprised at all if we turned around around just quickly enough to dodge a knife by a hair.
>> No. 13836
[x] What is someone shouting behind you?
[x] Whatever it is, it's not more important than getting home and letting your sister know you're alright.
>> No. 13840
[x] What is someone shouting behind you?
[x] Whatever it is, it's not more important than getting home and letting your sister know you're alright.
[X] Run home.

This is making me uneasy; I want to get the guy in that house as fast as possible.
I'm also sort of sad because we seem to have broken that newly found sense of balance we got from alice. Damnit.
>> No. 13870
[x] Make one quick glance behind you, just to verify that man is still where he is when you left him.
[x] Pick up your pace and hurry home.

Somehow, not at least looking back feels like it'll bite us in the ass somehow.

Maybe he's calling the dog-walker to seize us.
>> No. 13879
File 123289046450.jpg - (68.75KB , 600x900 , 6.jpg ) [iqdb]
13879
[x] What is someone shouting behind you?
[x] Whatever it is, it's not more important than getting home and letting your sister know you're alright.

And despite thinking that--thinking those violent terrible thoughts your sister would frown at if only she knew--if only you could tell her--be home and tell her, right now, at this very moment--

And despite thinking that, you turn and look, because you ears are not working--are filled with whirlwind and cotton and electric pencil sharpeners--it must be. So you turn and look, and see to see tall man’s mouth move, because maybe, then--maybe, then, you might be able to understand his words even if you cannot hear.

He is a block away, a section of weaving sidewalk over, and you are even now running away, your head turned awkwardly to look over your shoulder. The night is dim, even with the shine of the moon, and his mouth is receding.

It’s impossible, of course. You can’t read lips--right now--maybe ever--never--

But you can see well enough body, even if the body is a grey figure over black. The newspaper is whirling--spinning out of his hands, and he is running after--and the fact fills you with panic, screws up your stomach and makes your toes run cold: he is running after, now--a moment before he was still or still enough, and now he is running after--and he is shouting still things and things and his arm is swept out--strangely set--pointing to something off to the right--the left--

What is he saying?

You might be able to hear, if this fever pitch were not in your ears.

You might be able to understand, if you had remembered your decoder ring. You forgot it, didn’t you?

Don’t be silly. You never had--you never had--

You never had anything like that--Purple or Lorenz or Typex--so that’s silly--stupid, silly, stupid, silly. But you forgot something, right? You’re that sort of person, the sort who leaves his head at his feet to kick about. Some element. Some factor.

But you don’t understand as you turn the corner up the street and your feet mark the edge between walk and yard--or where yard should be. Of course. After all, someone went and replaced it all. You fell into a strange sleep, and when you woke up you found that all the grass had been never was. Someone. Agenda, rolling over the blacktop like a wave. Professional. Always been that way.

Always been that way--

Realization is waiting there, on some high branch, and you think that maybe if you step one-two-three and take one great grasping leap your fingertips might touch it, brush against it--

And the thought makes your hair stand--everywhere, on every inch of your body. Your legs and your arms, still, and your neck and your face and under your shirt, besides. Pulling and pinpricks. A thousand things no thicker than needles, grabbing--clinging--scratching--

--fall upon you.

It takes a moment or two to understand what is happening, and in that moment a hundred little things descend upon you from the air--a cloud--dust--

They are tiny and they are buzzing and they crawl and land and fly all over--under your clothes--around your neck--up your chin and face and you scream and you claw and you scream and as soon as you open your mouth they attack--surge--into every opening, into your eyes and ears and nose and mouth and there are things biting and biting at every piece of skin and tearing and fire--it feels like fire--and you scratch and scratch and catch them, underneath your finger nails, but there are too many--far too many, too many at once, and they don’t even have to break off from your face--instead--a hundred more--a thousand more, a million--a billion--from nowhere and everywhere crawling onto your hands and biting them, and you scratch and you tear and they are on your eyes--you cannot see--they are on your eyes, your eyes--and there is red in your mouth and you scream and you scream and you scream.

And then you stop screaming--feel your own voice abruptly cut off--because--and to scream was wrong, you think, because now they are down your throat and in your lungs and in your chest and your heart and your veins and bulging--slithering just underneath your skin, and you can feel them move and--

I don't--

[_]

---

I would have let you in, but you missed it.

I even slowed it down--gave you an extra segment of story--and you missed it.

There's nothing wrong--absolutely--nothing wrong--with missing it, but I have to say this because I have to say that it is--it was you. It was you.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
>> No. 13884
[x] I don't want to die. Being anywhere else would be better than where I am right now.

Well, that's how we got ourselves out of life-or-death situations before, by escaping to the other world.

But can it work in reverse?
>> No. 13886
>>13884

This man is an idea man.

[x] I don't want to die. Being anywhere else would be better than where I am right now.
>> No. 13930
File 123303785126.jpg - (8.92KB , 600x553 , 4.jpg ) [iqdb]
13930
[x] I don't want to die. Being anywhere else would be better than where I am right now.

I don’t want this.

Everywhere.

I don’t--want this--

If you don’t want it, then don’t take it.

I don’t--

If you don’t want it, then don’t take it. Idiot. You used to have a mind of your own, didn’t you? Use it! Or has it all turned to mash?

There are things against the side of your face, like stones or little pebbles, and some of them are moving--moving up and down your cheek, and towards your face. You try to reach up--up? to wipe them off, but your hand doesn’t move. Isn’t moving. Isn’t there.

Something in your vision. Brown. Large--too large. A shoe? It moves--ever slightly--and you move your eye--follow it--follow it--higher and higher--

Tall man? I wonder if it is--

But you can’t see his face from here--down here.

And someone is shouting something--somewhere, up in the stratosphere--but you can’t hear, either--that sound. Words. Too far away. It’s lost in the air between.

You can’t breathe, so you don’t.

Something trickles--tickles--from the edge of your mouth. Within moments, it is lost in the layer--the blanket upon you--the shifting, and the buzzing. Everywhere. Digging into the hollow underneath your chin. Burrowing into your tear ducts. Eating the skin of your back, drilling holes into your legs, and you can’t move--can’t move your arms, can’t move anything--

--and your vision, too--is filling up with--

I don’t want this.

I don’t want this.

I don’t--

Please--please--

Make a wish. Make a wish on your fingers and toes.

And you would squeeze your eyes shut if you could, and--you say--you can’t say, but you think, with death-throe clarity and the world dissipates: I wish--I wish--I don’t want to die--and maybe that is close enough--that is close enough after all, because in the back of your head there is a roaring like the arrival of you-don’t-know-what, can’t-know-what, and a voice cries: Legs, twitch! Arms, flap! Eyes, pry! and you fling the covers away and sit up and something darts down over the length of the bed and you hear a wet, rubber-like sound as it hits the floor.

Your eyes indeed are wide, and you look at the room--whose room? Whose room--this room, from corner to corner--mirror--window--and you in bed and this is not your own, and there is sound in your ears like wind or waves or storm.

There is a blur of movement, quick, as the door spreads away from the wall and quicker, and then hands grab you and turn you and your vision swivels and you face the Alice-is-her-name, full of life and worried eyebrows and speech. You look as she says and she says and her hands on your shoulder shake you, a little--gently--a little harder, but not so hard, and her face, you see, is beginning to bubble into a sort of panic and she stops shaking you entirely--pushes you over, onto your back--

--pins down your arms--

--and tangles your legs with her own--

--and you lie there, on the bed, looking upwards--looking at the ceiling, at the ceiling and nothing but the ceiling, because--you know--if you let your eyes flicker--just--flicker, just that miniscule amount, you will see her, her face so close that if you lifted your head just a little--craned your neck--

--you’d touch, you know.

The grip on your wrists is tight.

Slowly, painfully slowly, the sound of rain hail thunder winds away--away--until it is nothing more than the beginning of a choking at the back of your throat, and you close your mouth dumbly.

[_]
>> No. 13933
>--you’d touch, you know.

[x] Touch can be okay. Remember times when your sister's touched you? That was okay, wasn't it? Eye contact, too, can be okay. Remember times when you've been worried about your sister's mood or about what she's thinking, and remember how relieving it feels when she returns your inquisitive stare with a reaffirming smile? Smile.
[x] Say hello to Alice and that you're sorry if you frightened her. It's just that you were in the process of being devoured by by insects before you got back to Gensokyo.
>> No. 13942
File 123307128334.png - (104.67KB , 382x271 , Beavis_and_Butthead.png ) [iqdb]
13942
>pushes you over, onto your back--

>--pins down your arms--

>--and tangles your legs with her own--

>--and you lie there, on the bed, looking upwards--looking at the ceiling, at the ceiling and nothing but the ceiling, because--you know--if you let your eyes flicker--just--flicker, just that miniscule amount, you will see her, her face so close that if you lifted your head just a little--craned your neck--

Are we doing it?
>> No. 13959
[x] Touch can be okay. Remember times when your sister's touched you? That was okay, wasn't it? Eye contact, too, can be okay. Remember times when you've been worried about your sister's mood or about what she's thinking, and remember how relieving it feels when she returns your inquisitive stare with a reaffirming smile? Smile.
[x] Say hello to Alice and that you're sorry if you frightened her. It's just that you were in the process of being devoured by by insects before you got back to Gensokyo.
>> No. 13982
[x] Touch can be okay. Remember times when your sister's touched you? That was okay, wasn't it? Eye contact, too, can be okay. Remember times when you've been worried about your sister's mood or about what she's thinking, and remember how relieving it feels when she returns your inquisitive stare with a reaffirming smile? Smile.
[x] Say hello to Alice and that you're sorry if you frightened her. It's just that you were in the process of being devoured by by insects before you got back to Gensokyo.
>> No. 14020
File 123331970787.jpg - (107.28KB , 334x500 , 3176479057_79c40399c3.jpg ) [iqdb]
14020
Sometimes I can't understand a single vote.

---

[x] Touch can be okay. Remember times when your sister's touched you? That was okay, wasn't it? Eye contact, too, can be okay. Remember times when you've been worried about your sister's mood or about what she's thinking, and remember how relieving it feels when she returns your inquisitive stare with a reaffirming smile? Smile.
[x] Say hello to Alice and that you're sorry if you frightened her. It's just that you were in the process of being devoured by insects before you got back to Gensokyo.

And then--

And then--

And then and then and on and on you remain, there as you are, atop the bed, watching--watching nothing in particular. Woodbeams. Sunbeams. The solitary hairs that curl apart from the rest on Alice’s head, untamable by brush or basin. You focus on one--on that--will focus on that, until you can think again. It stands sharp-stark in your vision, and the world and Alice’s face blur before you--behind you, too, you know, even if you can’t see it. Because you haven’t got eyes on the back of your head--but you can see on this side Alice-is-her-name, and before you can stop yourself, you are--have been--looking at her--at her--

Face.

And your eyes snap straight and the only thing that saves you is at the last moment before movement--claws and jaws. Medusa, with snakes slithered far past the doorframe, yet still rooted in bone. Stone, you think. Stone. I’m stone.

You’re already stone. Sculpted fine, but stone nonetheless, fitted with gears and wheel and wires and weaving. Nothing inside, you see. Out for lunch since the day you split. And then blink--

Blink--

And after all it is only Alice-is-her-name, and her hair is not strings and her skin is not scales, warm now, loose now that you have become small and still inside her fists. Relax. Relaxed. And her face seems to unfold itself and the around of her eyes untenses, and she is no longer a women holding you against her bed but a women holding you, against her bed. Warm now, and this time there is nothing to save you, no slit pupils or vampire teeth, only soft--soft--

“S…sorry…”

Your apology is whispered. You mean it. You always mean it, but that doesn’t change anything.

You turn your head, embarrassed.

I look like a human being, don’t I?

It’s not my fault. I never told you I was. You only assumed. It’s your fault--yours. Inside, I am--Elephant Man, Elephant Man, spitting toothpaste over the papers and knocking over the corner trashcans.

The soft and warm leaves your wrists, and leaves your legs, and she settles at the edge and the end of the bed and directs towards you a strange--but gentle--expression.

“I heard you screaming from outside,” she says--explanation. It is short, but it tells you what you need to know. Screaming from outside, so she rushed into the house, and who was screaming, I wonder?

It’s me.

You prop yourself on an elbow, trying to climb to--at the very least--something like sitting. See. See her eye-to-eye, or face-to-face if you cannot manage that. “Sorry,” you say again, and it sounds just as pathetic.

She sighs, and wipes her hands against her dress (blue blue still blue), and looks away, walking across the room. “You had a nightmare?” she asks.

No.

Alice turns, for a moment, to look at you again, and the expression on her face is muddled.

Bugs, eating me alive.

And she does not Understand or understand because she asks again:

“A nightmare?”

And again you say no.

Bugs were eating me alive.

She nods and says, “You were affected by your run-in with Wriggle, huh,” and you do not understand her, either. It’s an almost comical sight. The two of you upon the same level, but standing atop different mountaintops. Understanding--ununderstanding. Twins in it, the two of you, like a mirror of could-haves (and that, too, has preyed on your mind more than you would like to think--that phrase--could-have).

All you know is this. All your life.

But you know one things and that is that Wriggle Nightbug was not bad, was not a run-in. A run-in is what harms you--bites at your pantleg. A dog. A bulldog. Eating it. Eating him.

Wait.

Wait.

And suddenly you are at the edge of something marvelous with the cord around you and ready to jump.

A run-in’s a bad thing.

And Alice looks and Alice listens--which was why you looked at Alice, and so you see and so you continue--continue as you know how, with your sentences laid out one by one by page-flip, slowly.

“With a youkai--usually, yes.”

(You don’t know what that is.)

“Wriggle was nice,” you say, and it is a little louder than you thought it would be, so much that it surprises. “Wriggle was nice. She said to be taking me to the village.”

And then--and then--

The stars went out.

And Alice stands, and you know that she does not know what to say because that is how it always is.

“Sang, and said she’d eat me.”

“That sounds more like Mystia than Wriggle,” Alice says, tilting her head, and you have another name to put in your rolodex and she changes the subject.

“Are you hungry?”

[_]
>> No. 14023
[x] "Yes."
[x] Check your body for welts, red marks, or other things that can be caused by insect bites, just to make sure that what you experienced was real and not a nightmare.
[x] And if you do have anything that proves you've been attacked, show Alice, and explain to her the insect problem where you come from.

I mean, I can only guess as to why the protagonist went from being in his bed in the other world, to being on the other side of the neighborhood. Either he's jumping around randomly there like he used to do when he went to Gensokyo, or Alice is right and that really was just a nightmare.

And if it actually did happen, it might just help Alice understand what we're going through. After all, she said she'd help us, right?
>> No. 14033
[x] "Yes."
[x] Check your body for welts, red marks, or other things that can be caused by insect bites, just to make sure that what you experienced was real and not a nightmare.
[x] And if you do have anything that proves you've been attacked, show Alice, and explain to her the insect problem where you come from.
>> No. 14036
[x] "Yes."
[x] Check your body for welts, red marks, or other things that can be caused by insect bites, just to make sure that what you experienced was real and not a nightmare.
[x] And if you do have anything that proves you've been attacked, show Alice, and explain to her the insect problem where you come from.
- (x) In fact, maybe tell her that last part anyway.
>> No. 14097
>“Wriggle was nice. She said to be taking me to the village.”

Mistakes and mangled sentences all around me.
You understand? I mess up, no matter what I do.
But you can find the meaning, though, right?

I'm not dead.

I'm not dead
>> No. 14106
>>14097
We know.

We understand.

We can wait. We are patient.
>> No. 14142
[x] "Yes."
[x] Check your body for welts, red marks, or other things that can be caused by insect bites, just to make sure that what you experienced was real and not a nightmare.
[x] And if you do have anything that proves you've been attacked, show Alice, and explain to her the insect problem where you come from.
Tell her about the last part even if there aren't marks.
>> No. 14180
[x] "Yes."
[x] Check your body for welts, red marks, or other things that can be caused by insect bites, just to make sure that what you experienced was real and not a nightmare.
[x] And if you do have anything that proves you've been attacked, show Alice, and explain to her the insect problem where you come from.

“Yes,” you say, automatically. No thinking. A simple question. Yes or no. There no connection to emotion from it, no room for strange thinking and so you answer immediately.

Alice almost-smiles downwards, towards you, and for a moment you are afraid that perhaps it is strained, that she would rather have you out of the house now now now instead of cook for you--but that’s only a thought. For a moment. The smile is real--at least, as far as you can tell.

I can’t tell a lot.

“Well, then,” she says, brightly. “I’ll just be back in a little bit, then, alright?” She doesn’t wait for an answer. Doesn’t expect one.

Does she know me that well in so little time?

No, surely this is--before. Like jigsaw pieces. The her of before and now meshing well with the I of has always been. Coincidence.

She wants to try to solve your problem, you remember, and can offer no explanation for that except for charity, which is unfamiliar to you.

Your Sister, however--you have received charity from her, have thanked her again and again over and over in your mind and sometimes from your mouth, love her--love her with a brilliance you can’t describe. But this is other-person charity, not formed by blood or love.

You don’t understand this very well.

You don’t understand this very well and the things you don’t understand don’t make sense, no matter how you turn them over and over in your mind, shift and rotate the sides--click-click-click. Each side a single color? That’s impossible.

And so you wait for--you-don’t-know-what. Inspiration. Some sort of lightning from the gods, to set off the ends of your brains--

“Mystia.”

You try the word upon your tongue. The tip, the sides, the center and the back. Say it again: “Mystia.”

That is two names to faces you know, now--of two people. Wriggle and Mystia. Three, including Alice. Wriggle and Mystia and Alice. Gather them and fix them before the labels fly paper-thin out of your hands--

Wriggle and Mystia and Alice again. Alice is here, and Wriggle was taking me to the village, so the only one left is Mystia, and Mystia is--Mystia is--

You’re not really sure, but she made the stars go out. And--that was--a bad thing, you think. You think.

You don’t remember for sure, and there’s little hope of understanding what you can’t recall. All there was--was words. Talking, the both of them, but the meaning was lost even if the words weren’t because you were missing it--the meat in between. And so you--

Something happened, right?

(You are sitting at the kitchen table, a fork in your hand, chewing something. You look down at the plate. It looks a little like some sort of meat--something brown--cut into pieces. You can’t remember how you got here. Alice sits across you, leafing through a thick, leather-bound book.)

“Um…”

Muffled by the little things in your cheek and your teeth. You swallow and grunt and Alice looks over the top of the page. She doesn’t acknowledge your sounds, but asks:

“What exactly are the circumstances of you leaving and entering Gensokyo?”

You aren’t sure what she means by it, so you say--nothing. Just look at her over the back of her book and she understands that, a little, at least, so she tries again.

“You keeping traveling between Gensokyo and the outer world.” She pauses there, to see if that much at least is apparent to you. It is. “So, there has to be some sort of pattern. Something that happens in each case that you go from…” She stumbles. “here to there. Or there to here.”

She doesn’t wait for you to confirm, just continues.

“I’ve gathered all my books on this subject.” She nods towards a corner of the kitchen, and you turn your head and look at a small pile, each stacked up on each. There aren’t many, but the books are thick, and you wonder: did she read through all of all of them in a single night?

No. Of course not. Only the relevant parts.

What was the question?

“Sleep,” you say. That was what she asked, so you answer. A pattern. It happens--

“When I sleep,” you say.

Alice hms. “So, whenever you go to sleep, you wake up in Gensokyo, correct?”

Yes.

No, wait, no.

You wake up, yes. I wake up. But I’m not really awake. I’m asleep.

Alice pauses. Just as I thought, she doesn’t understand. “Well--in either case, it only happens when you fall asleep, right?”

Maybe.

She sighs. “I was hoping for something useful--well, I’m not saying this isn’t useful--but it doesn’t really help me.” Stress there, on me. Me. As opposed to--other things. Other people.

You bring a finger up to trace your face--bumped, and greased, but no more than ever. There is no change from before the night--you say that, think that--before the night, and not the night before because the night before had--things. Watches and flies and sidewalks, and your face--you’re sure that your face must have been--

But it isn’t now, so there’s no point in mentioning it, and you look up, straight at Alice, who has been looking at you--you see--

“I think I may have to ask someone else for help,” she says, and looks away, an embarrassed expression on her face. The books, in the corner. Did she really read through all of those?

Back to you--

“That’s alright, isn’t it?” she asks, and her mouth is strained.

[_]

---

I need to speak seriously for a moment.
This story--this whole thing, bleeding--I didn't do it right. That's how it feels--that I didn't do it right.

I messed up.

I know I messed up. I should have--I should have written it this way instead of that way, prompting--should have written them in certain fashions--

I keep staring, and it feels--wrong wrong wrong wrong.

What I want to ask is--

Would you like to restart?

You would have a little of an advantage, but I don't mind. Would you like to restart? I'll give you--things. Sentences. Choices.

I don't know. I don't know.
>> No. 14187
>Would you like to restart?

Absolutely not.

It's perfect the way it is. Perfect.

[x] Yes. She doesn't have to ask permission to help you; you have faith in her good judgment.
[x] Thank her for the meal, and wash the dishes afterward. Don't ask to, lest she refuse out of politeness.
>> No. 14188
>Choices.

Even if we didn't restart, this would be good.
>> No. 14194
>Choices

This seems to be a large portion of what's making this hard for you, and us. I'm sure you've heard it before, but we have no idea what to do - which makes us choose things that you don't want to do, or know what to do with, or leaves us ignoring important bits without realizing it, or what have you.

This is your story, mind - If you're not satisfied, do what you want with it. Add choices midway through? Retcon things? Axe it and start over, saying you can do better this time, really, just this one more chance, it'll be better.

So far - and I don't know what this means to you but I'll say it because it needs to be said - I've read this story. From the beginning-beginning I've read it and it's been fantastic, at least as far as what you've written. Every step - where we land might not be where we want to go, but the step itself - it's a good step. It feels good, reading it.

So please. Do what makes you happy, with your story. And whatever you do, I'll keep reading, because I know you can write.

You're worth it.
>> No. 14195
>>14194

Also. Waiting to vote this time, until there's a hint of what direction you'll be going.
>> No. 14254
File 123429366213.jpg - (114.04KB , 500x334 , 3176479067_1475e19f7e.jpg ) [iqdb]
14254
[x] Yes. She doesn't have to ask permission to help you; you have faith in her good judgment.
[x] Thank her for the meal, and wash the dishes afterward. Don't ask to, lest she refuse out of politeness.

This girl--

You can’t do anything but look at her. You can’t speak. You can’t move. You just--sit--your mouth ajar and look--and look--and you ask again, because no matter how many times you ask you can’t seem to understand, not at all.

Why is this girl so helpful?

You’ve done nothing--nothing right. Your whole life has been that way--zigging when you should have zagged, pulling when you should have pushed. Everything falling out of your hands the wrong way around. So, you weren’t surprised at all as the people around you started to disappear--

Sure. Sure--you would see them every now and then and then they would turn away or suddenly become very interested in what the man on the other end of the telephone wire had to say--and that was how you knew it was on purpose. A month or two, and then--

Until all that was left was your sister, who stayed because she is lovely and she is held by blood. It’s not your fault, that--that last. It’s the way things turned out (you tell yourself). As soon as you were, it was too late for you to weren’t, so you became--became--like a limb without muscle, half-paralyzed, attached. We cannot operate.

Except, now--

Now this girl has seen you, and has received you--twice received you--take you to a bed and fed you and held you and asked nothing in return.

You don’t really understand at all, except for that single string of thought connecting her to the face of your sister. Sister is lovely and Alice is lovely and both are so nice to you it hurts.

Because you don’t deserve it.

The selfless caring for the selfish--

It makes you so happy and sad and so sick at the same time, and you look down at your empty plate and say, “Yes.”

(You can’t look at her.)

“Anything you do is good,” you say, and you are quite certain at that moment that you mean it in the ways you didn’t--did, do now, because--this girl is lovely, lovely, lovely.

You can do anything to me.

You can hear her stammering. Did you upset her? The table, fliptop-over-chest and the teabags rushing through the air like little missiles? Legs sprawled out into the air like that--stumbles and mumbles. You glance, once--and only once, when she is not looking at you, and her face is tinged red, like a sunburn. No, not a sunburn--a sun--under the sun. Only a moment’s sun, and the skin--

Never mind. Never mind.

‘Flush’ is--

Never mind, you think, forcefully, and it grinds reluctant to a stop--pretends to.

“There’s a friend of mine,” Alice who is lovely is saying, and you screw your ears towards the face and listen. “Well, I like to think of her as a friend, in any case--which is to say--”

Her teeth and tongue and flaps all run together, and like Babel she Babylon, you think, and also think: off-balance. I’ve upset her, after all--but she seems to realize this, after a second or two of sounds you don’t understand and she looks away once more, clears her throat.

“A-anyway,” she tries again, “I’m certain my friend will be able to help you--and even if she can’t, she’ll surely know someone who can.” And her faint half-smile and the sureness of her voice are infectious, and you nod, and stand, and--

Wait.

Stop.

It’s wrong, what you’re doing, you know. Blood looks after blood without recompense, and that is natural, but this woman, this girl--

What are you going to do in return?

You don’t deserve this--you understand that you don’t deserve this--but simply understanding isn’t enough. There has to be--and you can’t think of the word. Return. Return. Understanding-return-symbolic--

Shake it off. You can start by--

And you look down, just as Alice is saying, “We can leave after we eat, if you’d like,” and you stand and take the plate under your thumbs and see the little brown greases jog and look at Alice and say:

“Sink.”

And she looks back, and you can see things under her eyes looping about before she can figure out what you mean: “Ah, no--” she shouts, and she is back to sunlight and sputter. “You don’t have to, you know--I can just have the dolls--ah, they aren’t here right now, are they--”

Never mind. I see it.

You take your plate, and you nearly take her plate before you think--well, perhaps she isn’t finished--and you turn the tap and the water gushes and you wipe with soap and a rag, thoughtfully provided by the countertop edge and whatever’s looking after you after all. Alice says things, somewhere in the background. They’re all important things, but they are all the same thing, too, and they all amount to you-don’t-have-to.

I have to.

I would call it a debt, except to imply that you require anything in return would be an insult--but to imply otherwise would be worse, somehow. Leave me alone. Let me pay you back in raisin fingerprints and shirt drop splotches.

And when you are done, you turn to Alice who is looking at you from the corners of her eyes, and ask, “Are you finished?”

“Yes, but--”

You take her plate as well, and perhaps Alice almost Understands by this point, because she does not protest further, only looks after you with guilty eyes.

Guilt? What do you have guilt for?

You think that, but don’t say it, and tug at the border of cloth and skin, where sleeve might have been if you’d worn sleeve, and look at Alice and look away from Alice, and Alice says, quietly, “Would you like to go now?”

Yes.

“Well, follow me, then,” she says, and you do as she walks--opens the door--stops just by the door’s edge. “Ah--”

“You don’t have any shoes, do you?”

Of course not, you think, looking down at yourself, sleeveless and shorts. Nobody wears shoes to bed. That would be--that would--

“Well, it can’t be helped,” Alice says, and as you step out into the sun after her she with one hand lifts at the surface of her dress, near her waist--just for a moment, as she steps into her shoes set outdoor the house--and then turns--and the edges flutter out and she extends her other hand towards you--offer.

Off her.

[ ] Accept the hand.
[ ] Decline the hand.
[ ] I would rather stay--
>> No. 14255
[ ] Accept the hand.
>> No. 14257
[X] Accept the hand.

Progress.
>> No. 14267
[x] Decline the hand.

The last time somebody grabbed our hand, it wasn't very pretty.
>> No. 14276
[x] Accept the hand.

We have to confirm if last time was a fluke, and if it isn't, then this is pertinent information Alice needs to know anyway in order to help us.
>> No. 14280
[x] Accept, but first...
[x] "You might not be able to fly with me."

This was a beautiful update, and blushing embarrassed Alice is wonderful.
>> No. 14285
SUDDENLY
VOTES
>> No. 14311
File 123450856411.jpg - (39.83KB , 706x800 , 69610213.P8OrA03p.jpg ) [iqdb]
14311
[X] Accept the hand.

The hand is pointed towards you, palm skyward, slightly cupped, pale and white and fingers long, and you flinch.

You don’t understand.

You don’t want to understand, so you flicker your eyes--hand--her face, and back to her hand and back again, standing there barefoot off the doorway’s edge. You hear the wind through the trees around you, and the hairs on your legs and your arms stand tall. You shiver. There’s a ghost of a memory, somewhere, walking over the place they’ll bury you in. You can feel its footsteps pressing through your skull, bone-soft, carving each step like a spoon through cream.

And when the bone is gone, it ducks down, makes sure no one is looking, and puts its fingers through your mind, scooping for the memory--

A split-second of almost-annoyance frizzes overlaid upon the image of Alice’s face, and she makes a minute gesture--a flick of the wrist, fingers stretched then curled again. Talons, you think, and then who’s got the talons here? And the panicked prickles under your neck dive deeper--deeper--into themselves, inside-out until outside is in and they can begin again--as you do not understand and continue to do not understand.

Because she wants something asks for something, and you are only making trouble.

I don’t understand.

And you look at the hand and the hand and stay silent.

“Well, grab on,” Alice says, and your eyes rise to her face once more, and her expression is not--blessedly--is not angry, or exasperated, but full of impossible patience, and you think again: this woman is lovely.

Funny. Funny funny funny you should call her a woman when you do not call yourself a man.

But there’s no strangeness in it. She is a woman, but I am no man. If beauty is truth, it stands--that one should be ladled out to match the other, and so--I’ll take truth, because truth hurts, and she can take beauty. I don’t need it. It would be wasted on me.

(Selfish, you know you are selfish, willingly coddled--fed by bottles--)

Fancy that, fancy that, when she’s got just as many wrinkles as you do. When she’s just as long as you. And yet stoop, and eat from her hand--

And you choke down the waves of shame and disgust, and perhaps it is because you are busy with this that you do not think as you take her hand, and Alice smiles and says, “Hang on tight,” and you look up from your twisted fingers and her face is and looks heavenly and her hand squeezes yours, like a mother holding her son in a bustling crowd, and she--

--lain in the hospital, remember? And then you faded away, and came face to shirt as you sat with The Great Wriggle Nightbug--

--you lied--

--you lied, but that’s not important--that is important, that is important and you are going to pay for that someday but right now--

--and her fingers were cool as they took you by the wrist, and--

“Wait,” you say, but

genteelly, Adalheidus: kick & soaroffgraund, trip-toeline marking rippless the aerie and pirou-ette wimbleton! We monmentairily drifted ought-leafting, cought surtainly fingertrapt at the end of her grope. Unground you whiffles the Petros dust, the Weindy dust, and heavensings you waitless--and the Virolent Thou uprises, and whisps: imposible, end almust abreedily, shyew vyews a grinny picksure, and tags and tugs and statches o’er the flyingal (hongnails and hornetstring, Mizz Virolent)--plicks Adalheidus’ winglets dawn to nubbins, erascing her morthernhuman width out o’ width o’ wodths! Gch--seys larvlaey loady Adalheidus, and feells us humpety-dumpety boddily among the gnawnythings, and theresheld stays, betrixt boader and floader, and layn we too, the I and I agrin (the Virolent Thou) whom, seesawn: alice right with the whirled, sinks intow her amorald bey and quits, hopefolly follyvermore. Boneys knackle, and

but it is time--a little time--before you can comprehend the colors in your vision. Too hard a knock on the head. Something might have gone rotten up there. Mold.

Penicillin.

And now here you are, knees scraped and palms smudged, wind sweeping up and into your clothes, and Alice sits by, looking just as you imagine you appear--dazed, eyes not quite there, lips parted, hair tossed. A tear--short, but undeniably existent--leads up the hem of her dress, and you think, I should probably turn my head, but it doesn’t really matter at all--the cloth is all the way down to her ankles. You can’t even see her knee, after all. There’s no point to this modesty.

(You feel something like--agreement. A That’s right deep inside of you. Of course. Of course. It’s your own thought in the first place, isn’t it?)

Her eyes are green and dull and are you, and she asks with a note of bare panic--“Are you okay?” and you feel that same ashamedness again.

She is--really lovely, isn’t she?

You went tumbling and the first thought on your mind was--Am I alright? Am I alright? Are my fingerbones loose of their joints? Has my jaw been knocked a-kilter? Do both my ears point in the direction they ought? I and I and I alone, while she--regained her tongue, and the first thing she spoke of was of you.

The facts dance on your tongue, so you keep your mouth clamped shut and nod.

“Ah,” says Alice. “Good.” And for half a ‘good’ she is looking straight at you, and then as the other half arrives she is looking at something very far off, through your head.

“Good,” she says again, mumbles.

Her eyes shudder, focus, refocus--on you, on elsewhere, on you--back and forth and back and forth and close and wide and far. She stretches a hand towards you--towards nothing. Feels at the air, fingers clutching absently, hopefully--

Falls, limply. Fingertips trail at the dirt and the grass.

“Just…just give me a…”

She sways. Her eyes--

“I…”

Are you okay?

Stupid. Stupid.

“Where did…” she breathes.

Falls.

She falls at you, and somehow--you think, a miracle (but there are no things as miracles) because your arms raise themselves on their own and they are about her--

--and you are holding her against yourself, you look and you see, and she is warm against your arms--all of her--and she is spilled against you and you feel her breathe, even through your shirt--

(Even in the wintertime, I wore it--no sleeves--)

And she is warm, you think again, and she lies across you and she is lovely and she is warm.

[_]
>> No. 14315
[x] Apologize. It happened again. You don't know what it is, but it happened again. Tell her that it's your fault and whatever it is, but you'll fix it, so she shouldn't hate you.
[x] Hold her until she finds the strength to stand.
>> No. 14317
File 123451802086.jpg - (43.21KB , 312x445 , earthbind.jpg ) [iqdb]
14317
Dammit... Saw this coming.
>> No. 14322
[x] Apologize. It happened again. You don't know what it is, but it happened again. Tell her that it's your fault and whatever it is, but you'll fix it, so she shouldn't hate you.
[x] Hold her until she finds the strength to stand.

Told you guys that was a bad idea.

In b4 we go back to our world and find out it now has robot maids or something similar.
>> No. 14342
[x] Apologize. It happened again. You don't know what it is, but it happened again. Tell her that it's your fault and whatever it is, but you'll fix it, so she shouldn't hate you.
[x] Hold her until she finds the strength to stand.
>> No. 14352
[x] Apologize. It happened again. You don't know what it is, but it happened again. Tell her that it's your fault and whatever it is, but you'll fix it, so she shouldn't hate you.
[x] Hold her until she finds the strength to stand.
>> No. 14370
File 123478651959.jpg - (139.08KB , 500x334 , 3180066090_0e87c97297.jpg ) [iqdb]
14370
I've done some terrible things. Do you understand me?

Been unclear and blamed you for it. Punished you.

So--it's short. Because it's not your fault.

---

[x] Apologize. It happened again. You don't know what it is, but it happened again. Tell her that it's your fault and whatever it is, but you'll fix it, so she shouldn't hate you.
[x] Hold her until she finds the strength to stand.

She is--

The thought is a parasite, burrowing itself through your brain, devouring the useful parts--if there are useful parts left--and leaving you with this, this primal base.

Id.

Something was destroyed a long time ago, you think (shouldn’t think now, what are you thinking thinking now? You have more important things to consider, but), ego or superego or half of one or fifty percent of the other. Some combination. Intellect. It dissolved, and it’s still there (and you think of screens and screens and what kind of screen is that) but it’s beyond repair, now.

Wrong.

That’s wrong. That’s absolutely wrong. If you want your mind back, you just need to bring her with you--blonde and tall and beyond your grasp. You’ll never catch me, though. You’ll never catch me. I’m guarded by tooth and claw and all sorts of dangerous things.

Alice’s arm is in the grass. It shouldn’t be there, you think. It’ll get dirty. You take it--difficult, to hold her one-handed--and tuck it underneath her chest, between the two of you.

“Sorry.”

You mutter it--mumble it indistinctly. From your mouth, it sounds like anything else--false, and without meaning. Lip service. When you were little, and still mingled with the people who looked a little like you, you weren’t a good person.

I’m still not a good person.

No, but you’re a little better now, whispers your head, and you have to agree.

You kicked someone, once, and when they made you apologize you hung your head low and said that--

“Sorry.”

Said it just the way you’re saying it now.

It doesn’t matter that you mean it this time.

It still sounds the same.

That means something. That means something. Fold the thought inside yourself and keep it safe. Keep it secret and keep it safe.

I’ll forget it.

You’ll forget it, and we’ll remember it. Fold it deep inside. Fold it--

“It’s my fault,” you say, and Alice doesn’t say anything back because Alice is not here right now.

“I don’t know how to fix it.”

Alice breathes out, breathes in, and if you hold your breath and try you can hear her heartbeat in your ears.

[_]
>> No. 14387
[x] Bring her back inside the house. Put her to bed.
[x] Go into her kitchen and attempt to make soup. Keep it hot, in case she's hungry when she awakes.

Role reversal.
>> No. 14405
[x] Bring her back inside the house. Put her to bed.
[x] Go into her kitchen and attempt to make soup. Keep it hot, in case she's hungry when she awakes.
>> No. 14413
[x] Bring her back inside the house. Put her to bed.
[x] Go into her kitchen and attempt to make soup. Keep it hot, in case she's hungry when she awakes.
>> No. 14453
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14453
[x] Bring her back inside the house. Put her to bed.
[x] Go into her kitchen and attempt to make soup. Keep it hot, in case she's hungry when she awakes.

So you drag her.

You don’t know how to make it better, but at least maybe you can make it look better and perhaps truth will follow appearances or appearances will become truth--some or other. Bread or butter. You can’t have one--you have to have both. Either. Her shoes scrape scrape-itty-bump against the stones--against the steps--against the floor, dragged by her shoulders with your hands hooked under her arms and your back screaming.

Scrape-ity-bump. Scrape-ity-bump-and-with-each-ity-her-foot-JOGS-in-to-the-air-and-bump-lands-scrape-ity-bump.

Scrape-ity-bump.

You find the bed. The bed is in your room--not your room, never your room. The room you were given--the room she graciously provided. Scrape-ity-bump. You lug her, drag her onto the bed. It’s her bed now. It was always her bed. You can’t put her in the other her bed--you’re not allowed to be there. You shouldn’t even be allowed to be here.

You drag and roll her and lay her upon the sheets until her head is at the head of the bed and her foot is at the foot.

Under, you think, and that is true. She should be under--covered by a layer of blanket. Two layers, if necessary. It’s very necessary, especially in the cold winter days--they tell you, earnest. You can’t relate. One blanket, you might understand, and pretend to understand if you didn’t, but two?

You can’t breathe when things are like--

And in the summer days you can’t even wear one--spread eagle-winged and jumping-jack with a limb to each corner of the mattress. You can envision a death like that, steamed alive, like a vegetable. To become a vegetable: I wonder, would it be like sleeping?

That’s a bad thought.

That’s idle musing.

That’s a bad thought, no matter how you look at it.

And Alice, who has been lovely and sisterlike in all her dealings with you--lies upon instead of under, because her clothes are too thick.

Frills, and layers.

You would take them off, but that would be wrong. You would place her underneath the sheet, but that would be wrong--too warm, even for winter, and it is not winter. Even long pajama pants--

She is warm already. You lay a hand on her brow, try not to wince at the touch of grease and wet. Yes. Warm. She’s warm.

“Sorry,” you say again--you say again. You are killing something inside of you, something that halfway--at the very least, at the very least--deserves it. “I, um…”

And now?

When I laid sick, sister brought me soup.

Soup is nice. Broth is nice. It’s a memory you hold dear--red, and liquid, and tiny spots of fat floating over the top. Chicken. Sometimes you ate it with rice and the chicken itself, but often you were content to simply slurp down the soup by itself--as soon as it cooled off. Any attempt beforehand would leave you gasping, and perhaps your tongue would become burnt and raw--

Alice is too warm beforehand for soup, but the idea occurs to you anyway: making soup, and waiting for the steam to die, and then--and then--

I’ll think of and thens then.

And so you turn, step-step-step into the kitchen, and then and then is now because you do not know how to make soup.

Disgusting. A boy your age doesn’t even know how to make soup? And you don’t, after all. It’s not like I deliberately set out not to learn, you know--it’s not like I would have never taken the knowledge if it was offered to me. It just didn’t happen. It just didn’t happen. You understand, right? I’m not in the wrong.

That’s a lie.

You know that, too.

You check on Alice again. She is very warm, and her face is soup-colored itself, red and splotches all over. There is a towel in the kitchen--you think there is a towel in the kitchen, near the sink, and find you are right, and you soak it with water and put it on Alice’s forehead where it drips down the sides of her face and onto the bedcovers.

I saw it once, in a movie.

You wait in the kitchen, staring into a corner of the room, and you think that maybe when you return she will be cooler, but she is not. It is only half an hour or an hour of purposeless wandering and wondering and looking at your hands (wet at first, but they dry soon enough) and a temperature like that is bad. This is not something you saw in a movie, but something you saw from life.

You rewet the towel and place it again. It doesn’t help, or appear to help, but it makes you feel a little better.

[_]
>> No. 14471
She has a high fever. You need to cool her down quickly, and that means an ice bath.

[x] Find the bathtub. Fill it with cold water.
[x] Look around the kitchen for a refrigerator or an icebox; if its not in the kitchen, look for a cellar, either inside or around the back of the house. If you find ice, dump it in the tub.
[x] Without removing her clothes, submerge her while holding her head above the water so that she doesn't drown.
[x] Check her forehead regularly; if it's no longer hot, then you've broken the fever, and should take her out of the tub.
>> No. 14488
[x] Find the bathtub. Fill it with cold water.
[x] Look around the kitchen for a refrigerator or an icebox; if its not in the kitchen, look for a cellar, either inside or around the back of the house. If you find ice, dump it in the tub.
[x] Without removing her clothes, submerge her while holding her head above the water so that she doesn't drown.
[x] Check her forehead regularly; if it's no longer hot, then you've broken the fever, and should take her out of the tub.
>> No. 14496
Hello. I think I was going somewhere, but I got lost, and wandered here instead. I think I was looking for a nice story to spend the night in. Is this a nice story? It looks like a nice story. Can I stay here for a while, please?

What? Oh, no, I won’t stay for free; that would be lazy and mean and I don’t like doing those kind of things. No, I’ll pay, somehow. I don’t really have any money, though…could I help around the house or something instead? I really don’t know how good of a helper I’ll be, but I don’t want to just sit around and do nothing. If you’re getting something special, you should try and give something special back, right?

Hmm? Ohh, well, I guess I don’t really know what I’d be the best at doing. I mean, I see a lot of other people staying here too, and I guess it looks like they’re trying to help like I want to…they’re probably better than me, though. I’m just a weird guy. I can’t really think like other people think, or at least I think that I can’t. I’m not really sure. I mean, sometimes I make sense to me and not other people, but then sometimes I make sense to other people and not to me. Yeah, I know, that doesn’t really make any sense at all, does it?

Maybe I’ll just sit here in this corner and think about things. I’m not a very good thinker, either, but I guess I could try. Everyone seems all confused and worried, like something bad’s gonna happen, though. Should I try to help with that, maybe?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A high fever is a bad thing, but putting Alice into an ice-cold tub might even be a worse thing. What if something happens to you while you’re taking care of her? What if you fall asleep, or disappear or something? Would she accidentally fall into the tub without you? Or would she catch hypothermia from wearing all those freezing clothes?

[+] Look around the kitchen for a refrigerator or an icebox; if its not in the kitchen, look for a cellar, either inside or around the back of the house.
[+] Wrap some ice in the towel and keep it on her head. Maybe near her neck, too.
[+] Check her forehead regularly; if it's no longer hot, then you've broken the fever, and you can take the ice away.
[+] Those faceless girls…they helped you before, didn’t they? Maybe they could help her, too. Try and find them if Alice’s condition does not improve.

I don’t know if it’s a good vote or not. I’m just thinking about things, is all. You should never vote without thinking. That’s how stories get confusing.
>> No. 14503
Now that I’m here, I suppose I should try and earn my keep.

I don’t claim to be very good at picking up little details about stories. Small elements that may be only said in passing, even if important, can pass me by where other people might pick them up. I also can’t claim to know just what’s important and what’s not. I guess you could say I’m a very schizophrenic reader: I don’t get to choose what my brain retains and what it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter how deeply or how shallowly I read, the result ends up being the same.

Thus, I won’t try to dirty my hands with the fine detailing of this story. All I can do is brainstorm and try to give advice. I can’t say that it will be good advice. All I want to do here is think, and encourage others to do the same.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Many conjectures have been made as to what is going on…who is doing things…how events happen.

But what I want to ask is…why?

Why is the protagonist like he is? Why does he have trouble thinking about things? Or perhaps…does he even have trouble? I realize he may be difficult to understand, but he is understandable. There is method to his madness. He can think. He can reason. He simply does it in a different way than is the accepted societal norm. Does this make him, for lack of a better term, “insane”? Is he mad or deranged? Or is he merely confused about the world around him? Some of the most intelligent minds of Earth’s history were considered hopelessly lost during their earlier years, and sometimes only after their death did the world see them for the geniuses they truly were. They were rejected not because their minds were broken or useless, but because they were merely different.

Does this make our protagonist a hidden genius? No. But he should not be dismissed as a lost mind. He has a story to tell, a past to remember:

>>14254
>You’ve done nothing--nothing right. Your whole life has been that way--zigging when you should have zagged, pulling when you should have pushed. Everything falling out of your hands the wrong way around. So, you weren’t surprised at all as the people around you started to disappear--

>Sure. Sure--you would see them every now and then and then they would turn away or suddenly become very interested in what the man on the other end of the telephone wire had to say--and that was how you knew it was on purpose. A month or two, and then--

>Until all that was left was your sister, who stayed because she is lovely and she is held by blood. It’s not your fault, that--that last. It’s the way things turned out (you tell yourself). As soon as you were, it was too late for you to weren’t, so you became--became--like a limb without muscle, half-paralyzed, attached. We cannot operate.

Something happened to him. He wasn’t always like this. He slowly became this way. To discover what is going on in his life, I think we must first discover what was going on in his life. The past affects the future in innumerable ways, and a single cause may spawn infinite effects. To cure a disease, you do not treat the symptoms, but the ailment itself. And you cannot cure this disease unless you know exactly what the disease is.

We should by no means neglect the present, because the present is full of trouble that, unless addressed immediately, cannot be undone. But once we have time to ourselves, we must solve this underlying problem. If you do not know who you are of all people, how will you be able to find out who anyone else is?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some other points/theories to consider:

+ The protagonist’s thoughts are troubled enough. Do not make them worse by introducing open-ended or philosophical votes unless you are confident that you know what will happen.
+ Do not be so quick to blame everything on Yukari, if indeed she is affecting anything at all. The unknown is far more dangerous than the known.
+ When dealing with Gensokyo from the outsider’s perspective, there are often two constants: Maribel Han and Renko Usami. Do not fail to neglect either one of them in your calculations, no matter what you do.

I now address the woman by the bus…
>>10749
>>10798
>>10859
>>10980
She knew him. The mere sight of him made her rage:
>You know of annoyance and you know of anger. They are pictures you have seen on a thousand faces in the past--sick of your point answers and your thin face. But this is not annoyance. This is not even anger. This is rage, ice cold dry smoldering beneath the surface, focused straight into the back of her eyes. This is new.

She then expects him to remember her, or perhaps is reiterating to him that he does not. Notice that she never asks, “Why don’t you remember me?”. She threatens him with a knife to jolt him into remembering, which also fails. When she is convinced that he does not remember, she seems to change tactics, and merely mugs him. But why would she be so concerned of him, so agitated, so enraged? Why did she kill him for asking "Do you do this to everyone who forgets your name?"? Why does she smile at him before killing him?
>And then suddenly that expression, that wrong expression is gone again and the thankful smile is back and her face shines…and it is a genuine smile, you can tell, the muscles beneath the cheek and the rising beneath the eyes and it is lovely, really.

Another point that concerns me:
>And it’s you she’s aiming at. There’s nobody else in this cold street--even the cars seem to have turned in early. Empty. Like someone moved through the roads and ate everything it could find, and now you and this girl are alone…
It could be fanciful imagery, but it may be worth considering as a supernatural effect.

One last point, and perhaps the most important:
>You know this person, but not from a memory.
Now, he may just “know” her because he’s staring at her right then and there. But consider this…consider that perhaps he knew her in the past…consider that perhaps his heart and soul feel that she is important while his mind either does not or cannot…consider that perhaps the reason she is not from a memory is just that: he has no memory of her. He has no memory of a lot of things, though he seems to recall certain mysteries nevertheless.

It all circles back to the why. Why does he not remember her if he “knows” her? Why does he remember some things and not others, and in varying degrees? Why does he think the way he does?

We must find the woman by the bus. Somehow. Ask you sister, ride the bus around town, investigate the neighborhood you saw her at. She knows something. Something important.

I have a feeling that she may be either Maribel or Renko, regardless of whether or not the protegonist’s sister is also either Maribel or Renko. And if they both are…It’s just a feeling. Nothing more.
>> No. 14505
>>14503
>A high fever is a bad thing, but putting Alice into an ice-cold tub might even be a worse thing. What if something happens to you while you’re taking care of her? What if you fall asleep, or disappear or something? Would she accidentally fall into the tub without you? Or would she catch hypothermia from wearing all those freezing clothes?

You have this bad habit Owen of thinking too much, and then putting your mental ramblings to words.

First of all, you can't catch hypothermia when you have a fever, by definition.

Second, Alice is a youkai; she can't drown or die from sickness, but the protagonist doesn't know that. What's important here is to show her that the protagonist is concerned.

Third, being immersed in cold water will rouse her to consciousness more quickly than letting her sleep it off. It is in consideration of the fact that he may be whisked away at any time that the character should attempt to break the fever as quickly as possible.

When you remove her from the tub, you'd take the clothes off as a matter of course; not because there's danger of her becoming hypothermic, but so as to facilitate evaporative cooling in the event of a relapse.

The concern over falling asleep is a bit ridiculous. The narrator is unreliable, but he's not that unreliable.
>> No. 14509
>>14505
>You have this bad habit Owen of thinking too much, and then putting your mental ramblings to words.
I know. I'm working on it, but I have a hard time discerning how much of what I say is irrelevant, and how much is actually useful. Usually in real life I just keep talking and make sure to ask every two minutes, "Am I making any sense, or should I just shut up?" I should probably tone it down, but I'm new to this story, and I really don't know how things work around here. Is it better to say what's on your mind, or go with the flow? I just want to help. This is a brilliant story, and I'd like to do as much as I can to see that it gets what it deserves. If random analysis and brainstorming is what it deserves, I'll be right here.

But you're right; I completely forgot the "Alice is a youkai" part, so now my vote seems kind of silly. Though here's something to think about: if you're going to be modest enough to keep her clothes on in the bath to begin with, why no shame in taking them off to help her dry?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To the author of this story: I'd just like to say that I am in awe. This is something more complex than I could even dream of writing, and you're doing a fantastic job with it. Please don't feel bad if sometimes the votes are slow; I realize that a story needs votes to live, and this story deserves much more than it's getting, but sometimes you just have to live with what you have, and don't let it get you down. Write because you want to write. That is Rule #1.
>> No. 14511
About Maribel and Renko:
You are aware that this story's real-world takes place probably in the US (and somewhere near a Walgreens), right?

Did not think about that other thing, thought. Consider me bricks'd.
>> No. 14512
>>14509
>if you're going to be modest enough to keep her clothes on in the bath to begin with

It's more that there's no time to waste. The situation calls for immediate action.

Secondly, in the likely event she wakes up during this, it'll be easier to justify yourself. The question going through her head would be not so much, "Why is this guy taking off my clothes?" As it would be, "Why are my clothes dripping wet?"
>> No. 14513
>>14512
See, this is why I can't brainstorm on my own. I know that I can think of smart stuff, but I need other people to help me sort out the stupid stuff first. Problem is, if I'm too afraid to say anything at all, none of the smart stuff ever gets out, but if I talk I can't help but mix the stupid in with the smart.

This CYOA has an atmosphere I think I just need to get used to. I really can't get a good feel for how the votes/discussion work around here just by speed-reading the story. Unfortunately, until I arrive at that point, you're stuck with me rambling on and on about foolish and poorly-reasoned nonsense. Such as right now.

>>14511
Another instance of me not thinking things through. Though, the author might have decided to use Renko and Maribel in America anyways; I don't know, I just thought it was a point to be addressed.

And by the way, when you say "that other thing", which part were you talking about?


...Perhaps I just subconsciously want this story to have the discussion it deserves.
>> No. 14515
>>14513

You're using too much brain in a story that's about heart.
>> No. 14545
But using too much heart has its dangers as well.

Owen knows this well--remember? All he had to do was tossing a sad-looking girl in our path, and we'd dash off a cliff if she asked us to.
>> No. 14550
>>14545

You're trying too hard.
>> No. 14555
>>14550
...trying too hard?
>> No. 14558
>>14555

Or maybe you're just an idiot.
>> No. 14559
>>14513
"other part" was about the speculation on who they might be in the spoilered section.
>> No. 14562
>>14558
I'm an idiot, yes--you know. I know it, too. Safety caps and childproof lids that you can't get past even if you tear at them with your teeth. The canine teeth are the most useful--

Feel free to gnaw away at the bits of me. I can't feel it anymore.

I'm writing.
>> No. 14638
File 123537351195.png - (174.71KB , 1049x754 , Hooray!.png ) [iqdb]
14638
>>14562
>> No. 14659
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14659
[x] Find the bathtub. Fill it with cold water.
[x] Look around the kitchen for a refrigerator or an icebox; if its not in the kitchen, look for a cellar, either inside or around the back of the house. If you find ice, dump it in the tub.
[x] Without removing her clothes, submerge her while holding her head above the water so that she doesn't drown.
[x] Check her forehead regularly; if it's no longer hot, then you've broken the fever, and should take her out of the tub.

Alice is warm, and you put your hand upon her forehead, once more, to double-check. Yes. She is warm. Is she warmer?

You can’t tell. The heat of yesterminute is burnt away by the heat of the now. You should have thought this through. Should have followed a system--

Take her temperature with one hand, then take her temperature with the other.

It wouldn’t have worked. The first hand would have cooled in the meanwhile--

Of course, of course. It falls silent, and you can’t help but think: it’s easy for you, isn’t it? It’s easier for you, I mean. You’ve got something. Juju.

Juju? And you imagine a terrible smirk and you reply--I don’t know the word for it (and it falls silent, its point made).

It takes you tries to find the room that is the foremost in your idea. The kitchen has two doors from it. The kitchen has three doors, and one of the doors is the door from the hallway, so you check the others.

One leads out.

There’s another thought--another idea there, nosing at your stem, its body coiled securely around your spine, but you don’t have the time to consider it. You’re inside a moment here. Tick tock. There’s a great monster, up there--great monsters--somewhere in the sky, eating away at lost time--past time--and eating away at Alice’s time, too. It starts at the feet. It always starts at the feet. What did they say about snow? Extremities-go-first.

This isn’t snow, though. This is heat. The wrong end of the spectrum altogether, and you close the out-door and try the other.

The first thing you see beyond the hand and the door and the doorknob is brown--a single shade of brown that seems to have swept over the room like some like of fungus. It is dust, you think immediately, and move, unsure, towards a spot on the wall lit by a patch of sunshine coming though--even it, hesitantly, and it is sunshine, coming through--the small, cubbyhole-like window. You sweep your hand.

It is dust. No, that’s wrong. There is dust--clouds of it, coating your hand in what’s left of things rubbing against each other. It’s dust--but there is not-quite-dust, too. Brown, and stringy and dry and tiny, and in your hands, though nowhere as thickly about it.

Wood. Leftovers from drills and cuts and all kind of woodwork. It’s wood--

And your eyes open, and you turn your head and look and there is, after all, wood about, hulking beams and blocks of it, stacked high and low and in each and every corner of the room, it almost seems--eight--but surely they don’t stack that high--and some are even already carved--

Except--

They aren’t quite--

This is a leg.

This is a leg.

This is a leg.

You draw your fingers back, quick, quick, and look again--look again--really look again this time, instead of simply glancing and dismissing it all from you even see--

There is a leg, set out in front of you like dinner on a plate, and past it there is another leg, and past it there is an arm and an arm and a torso and another arm and a leg and a leg and a head--a head--there is a head there, lifelike but for its lack of color and the fact that it has no face.

There’s no blood, you think.

She’s all apart, you think.

Galathea, you think.

You step away and close the door and double-check that it is closed and try the next door instead.

---

You found the bathtub, eventually. You were looking for the bathtub, and that was the only way you could find it--by wandering from room to room to room until by happenstance or eventuality--

It was the only one left. That’s why I only found it now, you see. There was kitchen and mine and closet and out, and then you found her room at the very end, nearest that you could reach next by the front door. It was her room--you could tell, instantly. Small whispering in the back of your head and intuition--

You couldn’t--you can’t trust your intuition, but sometimes, when it’s backed up by the other one and there are no flies in your head, you think--you almost think--maybe it’s not all bad, all the time.

Alice’s room is uninteresting, and you respect her for that instantly. There is a bed, and drawers that hold things, and a source for light, and not very much else at all. One looking casually might consider it bare.

There’s no personality.

There’s no-thing wrong with that.

But your room is just like this, isn’t it? Simple and spartan--though the tidiness, in her case, almost seems to have a method to it--a method beyond just “and clean”. No, there’s…duty here. A goal. Gotama asceticism.

And there is a door further, and you almost-but-quite-simply-don’t smile--after all, there is Alice in the other bed, and she is lovely, and she is ill, and it is your fault--because there is a bathtub. The wheels are there, as clear as they ever are in the front of any tub, and the knob the rightmost excitedly, listening to--it’s music, like music--the sweet high-pitch of something rubbing against something else. Mice in the gears. The torrent begins immediately, and you probe the water-fall with your fingers.

It’s cold. You leave your fingers there to ascertain it stays cold, and leave to fetch Alice.

It is difficult--difficult to carry a human being, as difficult as it is to carry anything.

You manage. You manage a sort of stumble-forth, only backwards, your head turned because human contact is--not for you, not ever for you, although you hope, sincerely, in the back of your mind someday, though you are too low to receive a gift like that--but even so, a stray hair tickles at your face and she smells of--smells of her (like freshly and clean and honesty) and you swallow, hard, and hurry--hurry--hurry, still backwards, almost tripping over your heels, your arms around under hers.

She makes a sound, you think, maybe. Something between a hum and a word--

There is too much water, so you drain the tub, a little, and stop the water until it is a depth not overhead but at least a little overear--you think, you think. You think, and that is good for you, good for you, and you allow a brief surge of triumph before you remind yourself that the reason for your triumph, in the end, is Alice is ill and you did it to her, and that is nothing to celebrate but at least think it through--think it though, to make up for the thinking you didn’t before, and you do not think enough, because you tip her over the edge and she lands right-side up, right-side up, at least you managed that--but with her clothes on.

You should remove her clothes.

You give an imperceptible nods towards, and reach for the girl in the bath, and then stop just as your fingers touch--cloth, and skin, and maybe both.

That’s wrong. This is wrong.

The image of--sadly shaking a head.

That’s wrong. This is wrong. I won’t do it.

Alright, and there’s nothing else but silence and breathing and water, rippling from end to end.

---

You come back to yourself.

It is dark.

What time is it?

Alice is here
Alice is in the tub.


It is dark.


It is dark.

There is
There is a knocking sound.

[_] Answer the door.
[_] Be very quiet.
>> No. 14660
[x] Answer the door.

Marisa?
>> No. 14673
Vote, you niggers.
>> No. 14674
[x] Answer the door.
>> No. 14703
[x] Answer the door, but be careful.

I have a bad feeling about this. Nothing good ever comes out of this guy zoning out like that. Still, answering the door seems fairly safe. If it's an enemy, they'll just come through the door anyways.
>> No. 14708
[x] Answer the door.

I, too, have some misgivings: I want to check to make sure she's still alive, first, but it is dark (how dark?) and our protagonist would probably spend too much time re-orienting himself and checking on her, and by then the door-knocker might give up and leave.

Also:
1. Somehow, I don't think Marisa would knock. If she does, it's only a formality, and she'd probably breeze right on through as soon as the door was opened. So perhaps it's... I dunno... Reimu? Maybe. Lighthouse Reimu is going to be hell on him. Heck, maybe it's Shinki.
"Just wanted to see how you were doing, dear, and-- ....Who are you and why do you have my daughter in the bathtub?"

2. That timeskip... Did we fall asleep/doze off, or were we awake the whole damn time?
If the former, then are we actually still in Gensokyo? That would be a first.
If the latter... well, that's sort of creepy. Or concerned. It's all about how you present yourself.

3. It never said which door was being knocked on, if one was even being knocked upon. Just a little more unnecessary paranoia for you all, there.
>> No. 14710
>>14708
>1. Somehow, I don't think Marisa would knock. If she does, it's only a formality, and she'd probably breeze right on through as soon as the door was opened. So perhaps it's... I dunno... Reimu? Maybe. Lighthouse Reimu is going to be hell on him. Heck, maybe it's Shinki.

Marisa might knock if Alice told her that she was entertaining a visitor.

Patchouli is another possibility, in the event that Alice told her you both were coming, she might have sent her familiar to check on you.
>> No. 14717
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14717
[x] Answer the door.

It knocks you out--dislodges you from your traces, the hole you’ve somehow fallen into--slid into without at all meaning it. You’re still being pulled out of it. You don’t understand.

Knock knock knock knock knock--

Where are you?

Who are you?

And you are here, and Alice, and tub, and fault, and--

Knock knock knock knock knocking. There is a sound. Knocking. Someone rapping at the door, and your breath turns to frost and your skin turns to stone.

Because--because--because--

(knock knock knock knock knock)

People are people, you understand? People are--smirking, careless things. One person is alright. One person--you can dig and dig through each other’s skulls, and maybe take a look quick-look at each other’s gears, and smile and nod and understand and maybe you’re alright with each other, in the end (in the beginning) and it is full points and even better if that person is lovely sort of person too (Alice was lovely too, Alice will drown if she turns her head, Alice is, Alice is).

Three’s a crowd.

The knock knock knock knock knock knock knocking. Evenly spaced, but quick and slick and there, there--constant. Quick. Knock knock knock quick quick quick quickly--

Three’s a crowd.

Quick quick quick quickly.

And some bit of your mind, the bit in the middle (nougat, or maybe caramel), the bit that likes to look at car crashes before they happen and walk you into the middle--says--

Well, three is a magic number, isn’t it?

Is it?

Knock knock knock knock knock knock--

Well, triangles are the strongest. They don’t fall over, you see. Their sides--their sides--

Their sides don’t fall over as the cars pass overhead, and that is true.

Okay, okay.

Okay then.

Okay. But if I regret this (you say), I’m never listening to you again (you say).

Knock knock knock knock knock--

It’s a promise you’ll never be able to keep, and you know this and you know this and you leave Alice in the bath (stay as you are, but for just a little bit) and walk down the gallowsway towards the front door turn-the-knob and--

“Oyyyyy, Alice, your dolls suddenly went defective--”

I am not Alice.

And she stops and opens her eyes and her smile crumbles at the edges until it isn’t at all. She looks at your face--looks up at her face, and you think--she’s as tall as Alice, about. And then you think--I’m taller than she is, by far.

Funny. Funny funny funny. That means I’m much taller than Alice is. I wonder why I--

She is black and white, all sorts of cloth, and it is certainly not alternating or striped or anything along that vein, but facts are more than you can handle with the buzzing and the fear inside your head, so you put it in a vault, to inspect later, and satisfy yourself with the simple: some parts of her clothes are white, and some parts of her clothes are black.

Okay.

Okay. I can manage that.

There is an illusion, though. Trickery. Crooked lines that are really perpendicular, once you take the zigzag backgrounds away:

What kind of hat is that? Black and tall and almost threatening, even with the white ribbon wrapped ‘round (as if to mark as pure)--

I don’t like it.

I don’t at all like it, how it bobs and waves with her head, almost--almost--almost flopping over with every shake, every nod, and with its weight you know it will fall over--should fall over--must have fallen over by now, surely, except that it hasn’t. Somehow it simply stays there, atop, prominently askew.

(“Huh,” the girl said, stepping backwards almost as if rearing away from a threat, her hands clenched around the handle of a broom.

Streetsweeper.

Past her shoulders, you overlooked. That’s wrong. Wrong. There aren’t any streets that I can see.

And there was nothing left to say and nothing left to be said--except--except--so you didn’t say anything.

“You’re not Alice, are you?” the girl said, and you thought--oh yes--oh no. Of course not. What do I say? Oh, three’s a crowd, a crowd, a plethora--

But that ‘are you’ threw your head off of your shoulders, just a little. You wondered--unable to imagine the resemblance, but maybe--

Do I really look like Alice?

“In that case--” And the grin returns, and there is something instinctually unlikeable about it, you think--it is wicked and sharp and not nice, not nice.

“We’re both not supposed to be here, right?”

And the hands about the broom are--twitching, twitching, ready--

[_] Be open
[_] Be closed
>> No. 14719
[+] Be open. Tell this girl why you’re here and how (you think) you got here.
[+] Tell her about Alice’s fever, quickly. Maybe she knows a better cure than cold bathwater.
[+] Make sure you tell her why you put Alice in the bathtub before you show her, to avoid any misunderstandings.

Being closed is going to get us nowhere fast, and we can’t afford to be left in the dark if we have the opportunity for some illumination. This girl seems a little wily, but she seems to know Alice pretty well (since she commented on the nature of her dolls, indicating she’s been around her long enough), who is one of your few friends, and looks can be deceiving at first sight. Best to hold off on judgments until after you start to know a person. Especially in Gensokyo.

Trying to rely on meta-knowledge as little as possible here, because when you assume, etc. etc.

Random speculation: I wonder if Alice’s dolls can only function when she herself is conscious? A puppet without a puppetmaster is nothing but a lifeless block of wood, after all. Extensions of the master’s hands, as it were. However, I certainly hope that the protagonist’s unusual effect on Alice didn’t directly damage the link between her and her dolls. That would be horrible.

>I am not Alice.
Proof that the protagonist is quite sane.

>and you think--she’s as tall as Alice, about. And then you think--I’m taller than she is, by far. Funny. Funny funny funny. That means I’m much taller than Alice is.
Additional proof that the protagonist is quite sane. You just can’t argue with this kind of logic.
>> No. 14720
[+] Be open. Tell this girl why you’re here and how (you think) you got here.
[+] Tell her about Alice’s fever, quickly. Maybe she knows a better cure than cold bathwater.
[+] Make sure you tell her why you put Alice in the bathtub before you show her, to avoid any misunderstandings.
>> No. 14722
[x] Be open. Tell this girl why you’re here and how (you think) you got here.
[x] Tell her about Alice’s fever, quickly. Maybe she knows a better cure than cold bathwater.
[x] Make sure you tell her why you put Alice in the bathtub before you show her, to avoid any misunderstandings.
>> No. 14724
>“In that case--” And the grin returns, and there is something instinctually unlikeable about it, you think--it is wicked and sharp and not nice, not nice.

>“We’re both not supposed to be here, right?”

>And the hands about the broom are--twitching, twitching, ready--

The admittance that she herself is "not supposed to be here" is presumably meant in confidence: Either she thinks you're here to steal Alice's stuff, like she is, or that you have some kind of relationship with Alice that is to be kept secret in return for turning a blind eye to whatever it was she was planning on doing.

[x] Be open. Tell this girl why you’re here and how (you think) you got here.
[x] Tell her about Alice’s fever, quickly. Maybe she knows a better cure than cold bathwater.
[x] Make sure you tell her why you put Alice in the bathtub before you show her, to avoid any misunderstandings.

None of that changes our course of action, though.
>> No. 14728
>>14719
Making basic observations is not anything close to approaching proof of "sanity". He's somewhat aware of his immediate surroundings and situation, but his train of thought is constantly spinning off on wild tangents rather than putting the observations together into a coherent mental model of reality. He sees, but he does not understand, he cannot think and react rationally. He clearly has a thought disorder, disorganized schizophrenia or the like.

If you really want to understand this story, you need to realize most of his thoughts, opinions and reasoning are complete noise, and focus primarily on his direct observations of the world. Of course, this is something the protagonist is unable to do. Consider: are you helping guide him toward sanity, or just acting out of character?
>> No. 14730
>>14728
It was a joke. A sarcastic joke said with a straight face that is nigh-undetectable on the internet. Though past experience may have told you different, I can make them.
>> No. 14733
[x] Be open. Tell this girl why you’re here and how (you think) you got here.
[x] Tell her about Alice’s fever, quickly. Maybe she knows a better cure than cold bathwater.
[x] Make sure you tell her why you put Alice in the bathtub before you show her, to avoid any misunderstandings.

>>14720
Plusfag! I've missed you so.
>> No. 14862
Updates?
>> No. 14869
File 12360404516.jpg - (75.51KB , 600x600 , Nilgun Kara.jpg ) [iqdb]
14869
[x] Be open. Tell this girl why you’re here and how (you think) you got here.
[x] Tell her about Alice’s fever, quickly. Maybe she knows a better cure than cold bathwater.
[x] Make sure you tell her why you put Alice in the bathtub before you show her, to avoid any misunderstandings.

And that’s right, isn’t it?

Because--really, you aren’t supposed to be here. You’re supposed to be--elsewhere. Home--

That’s right. Home. You’re supposed to be home, after all, where everything is familiar and besides that, you think--you think--you think you may have made your sister sad. Your sister is lovely, has never been anything but lovely to you, but you have made her sad--you suppose. Because--aren’t you supposed to be home?

Worried sick.

You are--she must be--

And you don’t like thinking about it at all so you think about other places where you are supposed to be. The library. Yes. The library. You will go to the library and the electronic doors will say swish, and Flint will look at you and scowl and say that you are late, late, where have you been and you might say that you have been sick--

(Worried sick.)

A great rolling feeling goes through you, leaving your head in tatters and your stomach grasping at the roof of your throat.

(That is not a lie--that is not a lie. You have been sick. You are sick, or else you wouldn’t be here.)

That’s right. I’m not supposed to be here.

And--

You wonder if your mouth is the one with the knife at your breast, because you said--you said what you said, and suddenly it is cold--not the outside or the inside but the eyes--the invisible lookings from her eyes, like spotlights. Searchlights, or knife-lights. On you, and you think--

That was not the answer she wanted.

That was the answer she wanted, after all.

And she merrily smiles, genuinely smiles, and if a girl could grow fangs--

“Eh?” she says, and her grip is steady, you notice--has steadied considerably. She hold the broom oddly, at her side, but close--at some strange angle to her, a leg away from upon. “So, what’re you stealing, then?”

I wonder what sorts of things you’re stealing, then, she says, and the idea of it is--in flames in your head. Flames on the side of your face. Almost angry. You should be angry, but you don’t deserve to be, so you feel shame instead, as if the thought of it--the ridiculous image of you prying open the back door and carrying out--what, plates? Wooden--

--don’t-want-to-think-about-it--

--the idea is--ridiculous, and yet, even only thinking about it feels as bad as having done it yourself.

“I’m not stealing anything,” you explain--try to explain--

Wait.

Remember? Remember? There’s a disaster here, and this girl has arrived in the middle of it like a dart.

Maybe she…

“Alice is in the bath.” You change the subject--you change the subject, that is true, but in this case it’s necessarily.

Skull’s grin, you realize. That’s why. It reminds you--an itching, in the back of your head. It might not look like it, but it reminds you of one.

“So in other words, you’re both a thief and a voyeur.” She laughs, head tilting-back-broken before you can say I’m not and anything-at-all and you can only watch, mouth open and stayed uncomfortably open, a hand hesitantly risen to--to what? Point out? Gesture? Useless. Better that you should have kept it by your side, so you belatedly do--keep your hands close but your lips closer.

She stops laughing.

I’m not that.

“Oh?” She leers. “Thief? Or voyeur?”

Your protests are feeble, now--what few protests you did manage to disgorge at all. “I’m none,” you mumble, weakly.

I’m nothing at all.

“Ah,” the girl says. And then:

“Well, it should be pretty easy to get rid of you then.”

And you think--that’s not right. If you get rid and you open your mouth to say it, but she steps back--sweeps back, and--

Suddenly--

Suddenly, She is--a very far distance away.

She is--a very far--distance--away--

Fast, you think. She’s very fast. She’s very fast, to go so far in a second.

(Something’s not)

Like a speck, almost. A figure in--the distance she’s covered, somehow. You have to crane your neck, almost--

She is a very far distance away.

She is--

She gestures.

[_]
>> No. 14871
Jesus Christ

[x] Run. Hide in the bathtub with Alice.

Safest place in a house lacking a sublevel!
>> No. 14886
[x] Run. She looks like a witch, moves like a witch, and in Gensokyo, it's a good bet she's a real witch.
[x] Hide in the bathroom with Alice.

What the fuck, Marisa.
>> No. 15023
[x] Hide in the bathroom with Alice. Protect her if necessary.

this is important
>> No. 15200
[x] Run. Hide in the bathtub with Alice.

I think the "run" is more important.

This marisa is mean...
>> No. 15236
File 123663607069.jpg - (102.90KB , 900x661 , image034.jpg ) [iqdb]
15236
[x] Run. Hide in the bathtub with Alice.

What does that mean?

Every gesture means something (you know that much), even if you don’t know it, it, it, it--a twist and a flick of the wrist, counting to four, thumbs up, thumbs down--and this gesture--the pointer finger stretched outwards from the girl you can hardly s--

--you can har--

--you can hardly see her--

(Because?)

Because she is a very far--is a very far distance away. You can hardly see her because she is a very far distance away--

And she points towards you, and you can see that, at least. What does that mean?

Because (so you know), sometimes a pointer finger means, “it’s you,” and sometimes it means, “it’s him,” and sometimes it means “you’re going to be hurt,” and--

The wall shudders.

The wall--shudders. It is--the wall you are standing next to. You are standing next to two walls, because you are in a doorway. There is the wall the door is attached to, and the wall the door is attached to, sometimes.

The--wall shu--

Both walls are--

I wonder why that is? It isn’t the girl. You decide that. You understand that.

The girl is--a--very far--distance--away. The girl is a very--

So it can’t be her.

The wall is shu--

The girl is a v--

These are two different problems.

These are two different problems!

Are you sure you don’t see any--

You shut down the voice that rattles about your skull like doorknobs and hobnails (because you have better--because you have more important things that need to be done, right now) and shrink the world into the palm of your hand. Here you are, standing with one foot in and one foot naught. And you take the roof off the house and look inside, and here is Alice. Alice is in the bath.

That’s your fault.

And without the roof, you can see it clearer--the walls to the sides of you, and the outsides of you. You’ve caught them in mid-swing, bad vibrations, both of them jostled to different degrees of in--but only slightly. But only slightly. Any more than slightly and this stiff breeze could blow the house down.

Wolf, wolf, who’s the bad wolf? And what is pushing at it, you think but make a list first, before you get ahead of yourself. Make a list.

Okay.

And last--point--last--point, what did you almost think? Last--point: the girl who is--

(I feel sick.)

The girl who is a very far distance away.

I want her to stay there. I want her to stay there. Don’t get close to me.

She won’t. The letter, but not the spirit, no, not unless the situation suits it.

So then, what you need to worry about is the w--

Alice.

What?

Alice!

And it is thunderclap and icewater and you make a sound that’s like a moan because I mentioned her, but I didn’t think about her at all. I even said that to myself: Alice is in the bath. I was making a list.

You were making a list.

Alice is in the bath. But Alice is in the bath, and I hope the girl doesn’t get--

But thinking about the girl makes your throat rise into your head, so you stop and refocus--refocus--Alice once again.

Alice is in the bath.

Alice has been good to you, and given you a bed, and food, and offered to help--

Although she never actually did--

--and offered to help! you shout-shout-shout and cough and now she is sick. Alice is in the bath.

If there is something you can do to help, maybe now is the time to do it.

Do what?

I’m not listening, you say. I’m not listening, and you close the door (and the door shudders, and shudders, and shudders with the walls but it cannot be the girl because the girl is a very far distance away) and go to the bathroom.

Alice is in the bath.

She has not turned her head or dipped her nose into the water, and that is a good thing, so you breathe out, softly, and let your heart rest in your ribs. Things are as they were left. Alice is in the bath, and Alice is still alright, and things will be fine as Alice remains alright, and--

Wait.

No, no, no. The thought comes to you, but you wave it away, as you would wave an insect away--buzz at someone else’s ear. I’ll slap you. I’ll slap you out of the sky.

That girl. That girl, with the band about her wide-brimmed hat, mockingly pure white. Isn’t she there? She pointed at you, and the walls shook--

Those are two different things!

She pointed at you, and what does that mean?

It doesn’t matter. That girl may have pointed at you, may have said all manner of strange things, but right now she is a very far distance away. Not at all near. Unless you are within arm’s length--

Unless she storms in, a wind at the door, through the door, past the door in down the hall and in the bathroom to meet you--

Whispers: if you think it, your mind will make it so.

And from the bathroom tub (the bathroom tub? Why did you when did you climb into) you hear a whumpf or a blam, and either or both is the sound of a door that is flung past its closed and swings about to punch a hole in the wall it is attached with.

“It isn’t any fun if I have to chase you, you know,” calls a voice.

It has to come from a very far distance away to reach your ears, you tell yourself.

That’s a lie.

It’s closer than it was before.

She stomps, and clatters, and you can hear her feet come nearer and your huddle against your legs at Alice’s feet (her shoes must be soaked by now, you think, her shoes must be soaked), trying desperately to recede into yourself. Pull yourself together. Yank and yank until your ankles are the same as your wrists, and your fingers the same as your toes, and the chest and your head and the rest is where the rest and your head and your chest will be. Flat against the bathtab back, a being of two dimensions, painted upon the wall. No. No, you can still be found like that.

A line then, Turn to the side and you can barely be seen--or even better, a point.

Yes.

Yes.

All of you, muscles and bones and mass, taking up no more space than an impossible point. Not even a person anymore. Your lips taken away, your arms unusable. Your heart--surely, you can’t call it a heart anymore, can you?

But that’s impossible.

Your hands aren’t strong at all, certainly not strong enough to make something like that happen.

And even if they were--even if you could--

The smaller you go, you know--the smaller you go, the more you force everything else to follow after. There’s no point in escaping if the escapee escapes the escape.

White-band hat girl, now, is even less of a very far distance away: click clack click clack clump, click clack click clack crump. Barely filtered. She is a room away, or the next room over, or perhaps--
>> No. 15237
File 123663612644.jpg - (32.44KB , 600x600 , 600px-Weeki_Wachee_spring_10079u.jpg ) [iqdb]
15237
It must have been a nightmare.

For the tortoise--for the tortoise. Clearly outmatched, and he knew it from the start. He probably wished for it to be over--for Achilles to reach him, to do as he wished--pass him, catch him, kill him. But instead, Achilles simply--

Achilles simply--

Just--always--came--closer. Never passed, but closed in over infinite increments, and every moment the tortoise must have turned his head over his shoulder, and and thought--oh, oh, he is closer still--

(All men have had that dream, in their childhood. All women, too. Running, and a monster that chases after, and in some dreams it catches them, sometimes. Don’t tell me that you have never--)

(But I’ve never--dream? I’ve never had a dream. You know this.)

(I know this--but it’s not safe here. The black-white monster is coming to fill you with stardust.)

Stardust? That’s very very strange--

(Now look! Look! And see!)

Alice is in the bath.

You are at her feet, and she is at yours. The bathwater has soaked her--into her hair, and into her dress, and into her shoes--all wet--and the cloth--what doesn’t float about and around and underneath her legs--legs--legs--clings--clings to her skin, so close it is almost as if the clothes are skin themselves, and you look and you follow her legs upwards, and you follow the crevasse between her legs upwards, until it disappears and you linger, until finally you can stand it no further and shift you eyes elsewhere, and you follow instead the curve of her hips underneath the blue and the pink, and the patterned lace, and you look and you look and you follow it upwards, up to her breasts, and the valley between them, slight and barely there, and you look, and you look upwards, and you follow the bump of her clavicle under her shawl, and you look at the slope of her neck and follow it to her chin and her face and you look at her face, flushed red, and you look at her lips and you look at her eyelashes, and there are droplets, tiny droplets, clinging to them, even though the slightest movement, you think, should disturb them--you think.

[_]
>> No. 15289
>>15244
You know we're in the bathtub at the moment, right?
>> No. 15291
>>15289

Yes. Why?
>> No. 15306
[x] Get out of the tub, and sit. Look as non-combative as possible.
[x] Tell the violent girl that Alice needs help. She can beat you up later, if it's still important after, but would she please help Alice first?

In before Marisa says "Whatever," and shoots us/leaves/ransacks the house and leaves/etc.

>>15291
Just wondering.

>>15298
I think that only works if they try to fly, but I'm not entirely sure.
>> No. 15326
>[x] Tell the violent girl that Alice needs help. She can beat you up later, if it's still important after, but would she please help Alice first?

Pretty sure we already tried that with:

>[x] Be open. Tell this girl why you’re here and how (you think) you got here.
>[x] Tell her about Alice’s fever, quickly. Maybe she knows a better cure than cold bathwater.
>[x] Make sure you tell her why you put Alice in the bathtub before you show her, to avoid any misunderstandings.

As the author has mentioned before, don't expect to be able to talk your way past potential threats. The protagonist will be lucky to get one syllable out before the impatient little sociopath figures it'd be fastest to kill you now and blame any of Alice's missing possessions on you later, then when she realizes that Alice is actually in danger, to take all the credit for resuscitating her.
>> No. 15459
Three different votes.

Please find concurrence, no matter how slight.
>> No. 15492
[x] Hide behind the door.
[x] When the black-white comes in, grab her wrist.
>> No. 15493
That does not help.
There are still three different votes.
>> No. 15494
[x] Hide behind the door.
[x] When the black-white comes in, grab her wrist.

Fine.
>> No. 15510
[+] Hide behind the door.
[+] When the black-white comes in, grab her wrist.

I'll go along with this, though I haven't really had time to analyze the post yet. Better to choose something bad than not choose anything at all. At least for now, anyways.
>> No. 15636
File 123722039720.jpg - (350.87KB , 1024x685 , 3321413542_39d475ef1a_b.jpg ) [iqdb]
15636
[+] Hide behind the door.
[+] When the black-white comes in, grab her wrist.

There’s a something inside you. Some bug or insect, buzzing around against your navel, stirring up your blood with its clear plastic wings. You don’t like it. It makes you feel like you’re sweating on the inside of you, like your muscles are bathed in grease and the all-sorts of dirty things that come with it. And yet--and yet--

Mud. Deep, dark. Take a stumble and fall. Don’t worry, be happy.

--have time for this.

The buzzing goes on, goes on, sound carried by your bones to the hallows of your ears. Clear as a day as a bell. You ignore it, like you do all the talking heads that aren’t talking to you--bus people, hallway people. Let the words pass you by--don’t let them stick onto your face.

You don’t have time for this.

That’s right. It is a cold-wash realization, and drowns the bugs and chokes the gills of the worms until they are still, dead still. Calms your beating heart. That’s right. You don’t have time for this, after all.

There’s a world outside your eyes.

Where are you now?

Tub, and Alice, and Alice is red--you look and see--Alice is red--her cheeks blush-red, and you are afraid to touch to double-check because if you actually feel it warm too-warm, that warmth will actually exist.

Sorry. I’m sorry. It’s my fault this happened, somehow. Right? I think--I think--it just might be--

The water is soaking up the cloth of your shorts.

You pull at the edge of the tub, grasp handover armover climb yourself out, your knees bumping against the smooth walls, your elbows sliding, your feet--your toes curl and push off against the bottom, and you are sure you have caused some ripples, there--maybe even splashes--but you can turn your head to see, because you are at once up--and over--and falling off the edge of the fulcrum, catching your head in your arms before it hits the floor. Drips. You can tell you will have been heard, surely, surely, because the water trickles up your legs and to your knees and hangs--hangs, painfully slowly begins to lengthen its tail--and then gravity is far too strong for it to last any longer, and it drops, making gunshots and thunder and sound barrier breakings against the bathroom floor.

And like a gunshot after all, that is a signal to--go!

Because--she will have certainly heard that, black-white. You have no illusions. You can hear her, click clack click clack thump thump thump through the doors and the walls even, as she looks from room to room to you and you know that it is only a matter of time before the bathroom is the next one so you scramble to your feet (and if droplets was gunshots, this is certainly atomic bombs) and claw at the walls with your palms and stand--

--stand--

And the door. The door is the important part, you think (are thought for you). There is only one way in or out of this bathroom, and both ways are the same, and that way is this door that you are standing in front of.

Another door opens. You can hear it.

Thump thump thump thump thump.

She is in the next room. You can hear it. Heavyset shoes heavystepped shoes with deliberation in every step, with a pause and a pause every now and then, peppered, as she rummages through bedsheets and closets, surely. You stand to the side of the bathroom door--push yourself against the wall, and that desire comes again: to flatten your body completely, to become as if paint and paper--

And the sound becomes louder, and the black-white becomes closer, and the sound becomes closer, and the black-white becomes louder, louder, far too loud, until all you can hear and all you can know is the sound of the earth falling around its foundation and everything tearing itself apart and the black-white is here, and the black-white is your eyes and ears and nose and mouth, and the black-white is right on top of you and the black-white is inside of you and the black-white is--

Thump thump thump THUMP THUMP--

And then--

Stops.

Stops.

Stops.

Stops.

Stops.

Stops.

Stops.

(She’s here.)

And the door flies open and the door swings around and crashes against the far wall and you see it bounce back a little and you think it must have caused a hole in the wall a hole and black-white lowers her leg and lowers her shoe and you breathe out and try not to choke and try to keep steady keep steady and black-white steps forward carefully carefully as if she hadn’t just kicked in the door moments ago and black-white stands assured and black-white walks forward a step and steps forward and you look and turn your head and look and black-white is there and stands, her eyes lit with a wonderful and terrible light, her hair shimmering, falling over and over and upon itself, in waves, her expression--a smile--gleeful and cocky and triumphant, as if she’s already done everything she means to do. She is beautiful, strangely and dangerously beautiful, and you think of the Sphinx, with its woman’s head and lion’s claws and eagle’s wings--

(Eagle’s wings?)

And she brings her hand up, cupping its edge against the side of her mouth, and calls, “Olly olly oxen f--” and you reach out like a man in a dream and grab her wrist.

She looks at you.

You look at her.

How strange, her expression says. How strange, you think. What was I trying to do, anyway?

“--ree,” she finishes, her voice flat.

“Uh,” you say, quietly.

And then she punches you in the face with her other hand.

---

There is black, and there is spinning, and then you think--you are thinking, after all, and then there is the feel of ground and sky and wind.

Don’t get up.

You’re very tired. You’re about to wake up anyway, and so you agree. There’s no point in getting up if you’re going to get up in a second--in a minute--in half an hour, whichever is it. That’s fine, isn’t it?

Don’t get up. Sterner, this time.

[_]
>> No. 15637
You just got knocked out by a little girl with a single punch. How does that make you feel?

[x] You never decide to get up, or you do and you lie to yourself in bed. You just get up.
[x] Get up.
>> No. 15643
[+] Get up, and look around you.
[+] If you find Alice, make sure she’s all right. If you find the black-white, apologize for grabbing her hand and acting strange; you only wanted to keep Alice safe, that’s all.
[+] If you find yourself not in Gensokyo anymore, get home and find your sister immediately. Tell her what just happened.

No point in getting up, but no point in laying around either, and you’ll have to get up sooner or later. Might as well be sooner.

> “Uh,” you say, quietly.
>And then she punches you in the face with her other hand.

We need to avoid stupid things like this from happening. We need goals. Goals we should try to follow, no matter what. We can’t afford to keep making mistakes like this, not when we have no idea what the big picture is. Personally, I’m for something along these lines:

In the real world) Keep close to your sister whenever possible. Make sure she knows what’s happening to you, and any thoughts or suspicions you might have. You won’t get anywhere in like unless you trust someone completely, and the bond between you two must become strong if you are to figure anything out. Also, try to find that strange woman by the bus, and avoid contact with any of the mysterious dark men, even idle chatter.

In Gensokyo) Keep close to Alice whenever possible. Make sure she knows what’s happening to you, and any thoughts or suspicions you might have. You won’t get anywhere in like unless you trust someone completely, and the bond between you two must become strong if you are to figure anything out. Also, remember your strange ability to prevent others from flying; while inconvenient for your friends, it could be just as inconvenient against your enemies. Above all else, remember: Gensokyo, is, dangerous! Never assume an unknown person will be a friend, or even indifferent to you. Always err on the safe side of caution until you know more.

Yeah, these need ironing out a lot, I’m afraid. I’m just trying to spark others’ imaginations, so that they might get better ideas from my brainstorming. I know I’m overanalyzing things and making too many assumptions, but I don’t like just sitting around not thinking.

Random speculation: Could Alice and your sister be linked somehow? Or perhaps your sister’s house and Alice’s house? The shifts between Gensokyo and Earth seem to have some kind of pattern, though I’m not certain. When you travel to Gensokyo near or in your own house, don’t you usually end up near or in Alice’s house?

More random speculation: Going along with the last paragraph, what if the dark men on Earth and the people that attacked you in Gensokyo are related, too? Could everything between the worlds be linked in parallel?
>> No. 15647
Alright, I've taken a note of all the "switching" that's been going on.

Home (?) -> Near the woods (?)
Near the woods (?) -> Bus
Bus -> Forest (Rumia)
Mid-way the bus route from the library to home (beaten by the unknown girl, first occurrence of "strange narration" while being beaten) -> Alice's house (encountered faceless girl)
Leaving Alice's house -> Hospital bed
Hospital bed -> Forest (met Wriggle, second occurrence of "strange narration" when Wriggle tried to fly us, threatened by Mystia)
Forest -> Car ride home from hospital
Home -> Mayohiga (threatened by Chen)
Mayohiga -> Home (threatened by swarm of insects, noted lack of plants)
Home -> Lake (wander into forest, fall unconscious, wake up later at Alice's)
Alice's house -> Grassy lot (apaprently some distance from home, almost reached home, but threatened by insects)
Near home -> Alice's House (third occurrence of "strange narration" when Alice tried to fly us)

Observations:

Another example of "strange narration" occurred when we were killed by Chen.

The first bunch of switching--up to the point we were beaten--seems more...unstable, perhaps? Or maybe the author was just making shit up at this point and hadn't yet figured out a system. Whichever.

Also, at some point we switched from "go to sleep in the real world at night, spend the night in Gensokyo, wake up in the real world in the morning" to "go to sleep in Gensokyo at night, spend the night in the real world, wake in the Gensokyo in the morning". Also, it seems apparent that unconsciousness does not mean for certain that we will be conscious in either world. In at least one case we lost consciousness in one world, then spent time during which we were conscious in neither world, and then woke in the other world. In at least one case we lost consciousness in one world and woke up in the same one without traveling to the other world at all.

Mid-way the bus route from the library to home (Evening? He's heading back from a job...) -> Alice's house (Daytime?)
Leaving Alice's house (Daytime?) -> Hospital bed (?)
Hospital bed (?) -> Forest (Nighttime. We make note of seeing stars.)
Forest (Nighttime) -> Car ride home from hospital (Evening? Sister begins to make dinner.)
Home (Evening?) -> Mayohiga (?)
Mayohiga (?) -> Home (Night)
Home (Night) -> Lake (Night)
(!) Fell unconscious after leaving lake (Night) -> Alice's house (Morning)
Alice's house (Noon, "a bite past twelve") -> Grassy lot (Night, "just about two o'clock")
Near home (Night) -> Alice's House (Daytime?) (Would this mean we slept at least 18 hours? Or could this be an author's error? The first case isn't impossible--I myself have slept 14 hours at one time.)
>> No. 15659
File 12372492559.jpg - (20.41KB , 638x479 , yume5.jpg ) [iqdb]
15659
>>15647
This suddenly made me think of Yume Nikki and these this story together and my brain is foam
>> No. 15695
Or it might be midnight, not noon.
>> No. 15759
[x] Get up, and look around you.
[x] If you find Alice, make sure she’s all right. If you find the black-white, apologize for grabbing her hand and acting strange; you only wanted to keep Alice safe, that’s all.
[x] If you find yourself not in Gensokyo anymore, get home and find your sister immediately. Tell her what just happened.

>I think that only works if they try to fly
ITT lack of ability to read the previous sentence regarding wrist-grabbing.
>> No. 15820
File 123739704121.jpg - (137.96KB , 500x334 , 3180693014_0bb7b194af.jpg ) [iqdb]
15820
[+] Get up, and look around you.
[+] If you find Alice, make sure she’s all right. If you find the black-white, apologize for grabbing her hand and acting strange; you only wanted to keep Alice safe, that’s all.
[+] If you find yourself not in Gensokyo anymore, get home and find your sister immediately. Tell her what just happened.

You get up anyway, and you can hear the sound of expelled breath and worrying tones and I can’t help you, you know in your ears as the world shifts--turns--turns on its edge and rights itself. You are here. Where are you?

It’s dark. You hold your hand in front of your face, and squint, and barely see it. An outline. Black on black. You shake it at the wrist, and jerk your fingers--fist, palm, fist, palm--and there is the feeling like something moving in the back of your head. The fingers aren’t in front of you. The fingers are in your brain. Joints-deep.

You stop.

You look up. The moon shines barely through something thick and angry, and there are no signs of stars. You wonder if the moon is full. You can’t see it. You can’t be sure. How big was the moon, back when you could see it? You can’t be sure. You can’t be sure of anything except it is dark and it is night and it is grass at your feet.

Grass.

You recognize this, and pull the string of a memory buried deep in your mind, and it pulls at more and more and more until the picture is complete, curly-haired and splatter-brushed: grassy field.

Grassy lot.

You remember this, don’t you? You woke here before--last time, when Alice was nice and let you stay where you shouldn’t have been, ever ever ever. Alice was smiles and helpfulness, brimming over from her eyes, but now Alice is in the bathtub. Alice is fever-burnt and redding. Alice is…

You’ve woken here before.

It is parched. You can’t see it--can’t tell if it is green or yellow or dusty brown--but you felt it well enough when you lay there. Feel it well enough now, against your feet. Parched and dry.

Familiar.

Remember. What was it like, last time?

A square. A reactangle, not a square. Grass, outlined by houses on four sides--three sides. Three sides, of course. Or else how could you have ever left?

You wonder what time it is.

And--and--what happened last time, you think? Last time there was a grassy lot, and walking, and running, and then there was a man, and then there was your house (our house) and then--

And then--

You never quite reached it.

You have nothing to say to that.

You never quite reached it. There were wriggling things, things that bit at the flesh of your face.

Yes, that’s right. Yes.

You never--

I know.

Silence. The wind is cold and it is dark and you only know that you have reached the street when your foot wanting ground finds none and you nearly fall forwards off the curb.

Home.

You can get home from here, you think, realize. There’s a way home. You reached it last time--nearly. Steps away, bare steps away. If you hadn’t stopped to talk to that man--

But you can’t change the past so you only regret.

It was in this direction, you remember. Clear as a bell. Clear as daylight (no light, no light at all, and something is odd about that). Last time you didn’t know any more than you knew, but now you know better--down the street. That much is sure. Down the street, you turn, and hobblestumblestep almost-bare bear-directionally. You can’t see.

You can’t see very well.

There aren’t enough lights at all. If the moon were out, the clouds gone, you could maneuver--you are no compass, no needle floating atop water, but you could follow the path in your eyes, and your feet follow and follow your feet. Make a path--certain path, because this time you know the path. Traced it last time, by chance, and this time could deliberately, if not only for black and thick up top and you down below.

You can’t see.

Look, won’t you? Look.

(Where are the streetlights?)

And hands circle about you, palms out, feeling for things that are there and things that aren’t. Your fingers find metal, more than once. Metal doors, irregularly shaped. Metal handles. Something like shattered glass, and you pull your hand back slowly so as not to bleed. Cars, you realize. Cars. Only their outer shells have gone too far without repair. Eaten by the air itself. Rusted down and rubbed raw to fingerstumps.

You shiver a little, and it’s not because of the cold. You are cold, but you do not shiver because of it.

Where are the streetlights?

They are rusty, too--just a little, just a little, but they are there--but they are not on. Inert.

Not even a flicker.

And another car--another car--and this car is rusted too, and you think: I wonder if anyone parked his car right before Chernobyl--

The sidewalk slopes downwards driveway upwards driveway ends, and you stumble up and behind you there is an extra step to your step.

You stop.

That wasn’t me.

Silence.

You look, and your eyes are adjusting a little--just a little--to the darkness, and if you turn your head you can look at a house, a perfect suburban image except for the hole in the garage and the door ajar and the wooden desk-end cabinet, empty of drawers, shattered and strewn upon the front lawn.

That wasn’t me.

You walk. Carefully. Deliberately. One. Two. One. Two. One. Two three. One four. Two. One. Three two. One four. Two.

You stop.

Three. Four. Three. Four. And then those footsteps stop, too.

Silence.

[_]
>> No. 15823
Rumia?

[x] Turn around, can you see anyone?
[x] Take off your shoes, hold them in your hands. Try to move silently.
[x] If you hear the steps again, do not run, but change directions.
>> No. 15831
>>15823
What shoes?
>> No. 15931
Ho-leeee shit.

Where the fuck have we ended up?
>> No. 15938
>>1593
At the same grassy lot we ended up at last time, apparently.
>> No. 16010
>>15938
Funny, I don't remember it being so post-apocalyptic.

Unless we ended up in a crappy part of town/the neighborhood?

[x] If one is available, casually try picking up a good-sized rock without making it obvious you're doing that; heavy-ish but wieldable, easy to hold onto. Something good for cracking against someone's head, or at the very least, something that'll hurt if you throw it at them. Or something long you can swing, should you be especially lucky.
[x] Turn around and wait for the other person.

I really hope the first part will not be too complicated to pull off. It's a lot of words, but it's not really complicated.
>> No. 16136
updates? votes?
>> No. 16214
[x] If one is available, casually try picking up a good-sized rock without making it obvious you're doing that; heavy-ish but wieldable, easy to hold onto. Something good for cracking against someone's head, or at the very least, something that'll hurt if you throw it at them. Or something long you can swing, should you be especially lucky.
[x] Turn around and wait for the other person.
>> No. 16314
>>16010
Add to that:

[x] If they seem like a threat, use the rock to buy yourself some time, then book it home.

This may be a problem; we're at least... what, 3? 5? blocks away from the house: we're still in a grass-covered area, after all.
>> No. 16592
File 123811023995.jpg - (559.34KB , 566x700 , RichardColeman-5.jpg ) [iqdb]
16592
[x] If one is available, casually try picking up a good-sized rock without making it obvious you're doing that; heavy-ish but wieldable, easy to hold onto. Something good for cracking against someone's head, or at the very least, something that'll hurt if you throw it at them. Or something long you can swing, should you be especially lucky.
[x] Turn around and wait for the other person.

Somewhere behind you, somewhere, in the darkness somewhere is a thing with footsteps. Footsteps--footsteps, you know, are complicated. These footsteps have weight to them--weight, width, height--and you can’t help--even if you would prefer not to--guessing at its form. It is a tall thing, you think. It is either a thing that is very tall, or it is a thing that is very stout. Or (you think further, and you always think too far and that is your problem, or maybe your problem is thinking far but not far enough), or, it is a thing that might be of any sort of shape--and heavy feet. Stomping feet.

You don’t know.

(in the darkness from where you heard it before you can hear it again: the three-four, three-four, three-four stalking beat that is reaching for your shirtedge. This is only your imagination, however.)

Fine.

That’s fine, then, very fine (it isn’t). There is a thing coming up for air, coming for the back of your shoes. That’s fine (isn’t). Fine. But--and you allow yourself to feel cocksure, the barest hint of that strange flying emotion--while you will allow it to tail you, dog your feet and play with the hangstrings of your apron--that is all. You make that promise quick and there, thinking its implications only barely. Let it follow you. You will. Okay.

(Never make promises, a voice murmurs. Never make promises. They’re bothering things, things that grow. You cough up a wisp and sleep for the night, and in the morning you find that it has inflated itself--grown into a cloud, and then the morning after that, cotton, and then it fills your house completely until you have nothing left. Do not make promises, young man.)

“Too late,” you say out loud, cutting off a three-four three. Started up again--while you were lost inside your head.

You shiver.

It is cold and now you are afraid, afraid of this darkness and no-streetlights and three-four that draws closer even while you turn these thoughts over and over each other in your mind. New thoughts, now. New fear. A chill that spreads from deep inside your head down your spine and to your stomach, churning your last meal (what was your last meal?) before it blossoms into a smoky cloud that chokes your lungs. This thing, this three-four thing is close now, very close.

You duck--the left, but there is nothing to the left so you turn on your heels and move to the right, to the foot of some public building--you can tell it is a public building, because here on the black lot are fades of lines--parking spaces--and you turn your head and look and trace its edge, where its shattered door and crumbled wall run.

You are lucky, or maybe you are unlucky to be here in the first place (second place third place fourth), but there is something herethere, a dirtied white piece of stone-brick-clay-you don’t know--you don’t know at all what walls are made of, or coated with, or ever thought it would be important, but right now it is good enough to serve as a throwing-thing, a beating-thing. You grab it in a thin-fingered hand and bend your elbow upwards, resting the brick-stone-claw against the side of your neck.

I’ll hit you with it, you say to the three-four, and hope he hears. I’ll hit you with it. I don’t like to hit things but I’ll hit you with it, I swear--I swear--I swear.

Three-four. Three-four, three-four.

And he has a shape, now--a real mass and outline that he gained (or took) when you were looking away, in that second or two. It’s the shape of a person. You can tell it is a person, because it is person-shaped, just like the people you see sometimes when it is light and there is nothing to worry about--person-shaped, and walking towards you--with purpose. It is walking but it is not walking, too, stepping a bit too hard with each step and making the three-four sound with its shoes against the sidewalk-street--three-four, three-four, three-four three-four--walking and stomping, and a little bit of both and both of neither. Walking and stomping. Three-four, three-four, three-four.

He’s not used to his legs yet, you think, and the brick-clay-chalk is cold and a comfort against your chin. He lost his legs and he’s only now got new ones. They don’t quite fit so they shift and swivel. That why he looks wrong--moves in the wrong way, like those aren’t his legs and those aren’t his arms, either.

Three-four, three-four.

And he is looking straight at you.

You almost drop the brick-clay-stone, because it surprises you, and then you feel a bud of shame and embarrassment open up inside your face. Why was I surprised? Of course he’s looking at me. He couldn’t not be looking at me. He’s following me, so he’s got to be looking at me. Why was I surprised?

Because you didn’t expect him to have a face.

His face is closed, though. Look. Not happy, or sad or mad or angry or annoyed. He hasn’t got anything there (and the chill in the center of your stomach grabs--grabs--and you feel a little sick, for a moment or two).

Because you didn’t expect him to have a face.

But he has a face, after all. Siren-pitch in your mind. He has a face. Look. He has.

There is nothing on his face.

Ice cold.

[ ] As soon as he closes--strike.
[ ] Do nothing. Stay. Still.
>> No. 16712
[x] Do nothing. Stay. Still.

No face? Let's hope it's one of Alice's dolls.
>> No. 16726
...anyone ever noticed how he never notices/describes hair?
>> No. 16830
[x] Do nothing. Stay. Still.
>> No. 17007
[ ] As soon as he closes--strike and bolt for the house. Leave.

This is a bad circumstance. Leave.
>> No. 17207
[ze] As soon as he closes--strike and bolt for the house. Leave.

Changed my vote. What the fuck was I thinking?
>> No. 17258
[x] As soon as he closes--strike and bolt for the house. Leave.

oh shit oh shit
>> No. 17263
Tch.

Through the update halfway gladly and you votes change however we feel like it.

Not something that can be helped.
Not something that can be helped.
Just keep it the way it is now, and we'll be happy.
>> No. 17376
File 123862620386.jpg - (119.70KB , 500x538 , Auerbach_Head_of_E.O.W._IV.jpg ) [iqdb]
17376
[x] As soon as he closes--strike and bolt for the house. Leave.

His lips are a flat line across where his mouth should be. His nose is flared. His eyes--relaxed and staring and blank.

His eyebrows aren’t even turned, one way or the other.

Three-four, three-four, like sea legs on land or land legs on sea, and the fringes of his hairline sweep back in the night breeze and you shiver, looking at him. His face is blank. There is nothing on his face. There are eyes and a nose and lips and everything else, but they’re only holes there, meaningless. There is nothing on his face.

Even as his glasses dance on the edge of the arch of his nose, one lens cracked over the side of his face scratched, he doesn’t bring a-hand-up-a-finger-up to set them. They only remain--at the ends of his arms, hanging around his waist.

If you threw it now, the brick-wall-clay, you could hit him, probably. His face, across his glasses and his nose and his eyes. Leave a scratch better than the thin one he already has.

But you don’t move.

You just keep your hand there, next to your chin, as he comes closer, three-four, three-four, three-four--

--and he raises his arms, his fingers curling--

--and--

--and you hit him, suddenly, with a cold ferocity that surprises even yourself, your hand and the brick-clay-stone arcing over and down before you even understand what you are doing, and there is a split-second in which you think--

--sorry--

--before it connects with a flat, almost tinny sound--like a ceramic dish or a window cracking, and the man staggers as the chalk-stone-block connects and rebounds off the side of his skull.

And then he straightens.

There is no change in his expression. No cry, no grimace of pain, not even a frown--he only looks at you with that blank, straight-lipped expression on his face, patches of blood running down his cheek from the blow. He looks at you, and he steps closer--even close, three-four, and he again raises his arms to grab at you--

--and you hit him again--

--and again, he’s jostled with the force of the blow, and again he simply straightens up as if all you did was poke him--as if you never hit him at all--straightens up and raises his arms again with the blood running all the way down to his chin.

You hit him again and this time you hit him again even before he has the chance to lift his head, hit him and ignore the droplets of blood flying--marking the brick-stone-clay, clothes, the ground as he loses his balance under the repeated strikes, over and over and over again and still he just looks at you, raising his arms to grasp at your shirt, and you hit him and hit him and you feel something breaking but you keep hitting him anyway, even as he jaw shatters and his nose snaps and his eyes turn to jelly and eventually he stops grabbing and stops moving but still you keep hitting him and hitting him, until your arms burn and your legs give out and you can’t breathe because you’re crying too hard.

You sit there, sobbing, ineffectually trying to wipe at your face but only making it wetter with blood and that makes you cry more.

Eventually, though, your tears are spent and you manage to rise, shaking, to your feet, clutching the brick-clay-cinder between both hands like a lifeline, and you look at the body and you don’t look at the man’s face because he hasn’t got a face anymore, and you look away.

[_] Destination
>> No. 17462
Well, we just murdered some poor son of a bitch.

[x] You need help; you hurt that man and you didn't stop hurting him until he was dead.

What if your sister lost her face, would it be alright to smash her face in with a brick?
>> No. 17464
>>17462
This person did have a face, though, didn't he? He was just expressionless.

...wait, that's something to be more concerned about.
>> No. 17465
I think we just killed a ...robot? a zombie?

He was already fucked up before we got to him. He kept trying to take us, almost mechanically... I don't know what the fuck.

[z] Somewhere to wash yourself clean where nobody can see you, or see you on the way there. Maybe use somebody's garden hose?

[e] That brick has your prints on it. better wash it off, too.
>> No. 17472
>I think this was some kind of metaphocal facelessness. A sixth sense/intuition/mental re-interpretation of a feeling that this someone is without a soul or just that there's not PERSON inside; it just happens to be something wearing the appearance of one.

You sure do make a good argument for chalking this all up to the narrator's insanity.
>> No. 17474
>>17465
>His eyes--relaxed and staring and blank.

>Three-four, three-four, like sea legs on land or land legs on sea,
He was walking strangely and erratically, and had a dead, unfocused stare.

>and the fringes of his hairline sweep back in the night breeze and you shiver, looking at him.

>Even as his glasses dance on the edge of the arch of his nose, one lens cracked over the side of his face scratched, he doesn’t bring a-hand-up-a-finger-up to set them.
His hair was unkempt and blowing, and his glasses were broken and skewed. These are things people with any brain function at all would automatically fix or correct.

>His face is blank. There is nothing on his face. There are eyes and a nose and lips and everything else, but they’re only holes there, meaningless. There is nothing on his face.
I think this was some kind of metaphorical facelessness as seen through the protagonist's eyes. A sixth sense/intuition/mental re-interpretation of a feeling that this is someone without a soul, or just that there's not a PERSON inside; it just happens to be something wearing the appearance of one.
Almost like... a doll, perhaps.
I think it's no coincidence that Alice's dolls were described very similarly.


>He looks at you, and he steps closer--even close, three-four, and he again raises his arms to grab at you--

>--and he raises his arms, his fingers curling--
He was trying to take us, do something with us. That's bad.


>the man staggers as the chalk-stone-block connects and rebounds off the side of his skull.
>And then he straightens.

>There is no change in his expression. No cry, no grimace of pain, not even a frown--he only looks at you with that blank, straight-lipped expression on his face,

>--and again, he’s jostled with the force of the blow, and again he simply straightens up as if all you did was poke him--as if you never hit him at all--straightens up and raises his arms again
He kept coming back, over and over, no matter what we did, like either pain meant nothing to him, or, given what's been said already, this man was being used as a meat puppet of some sort.

I don't know what happened, but it seems someone killed this guy, and somehow zombified/doll-ified/robotized him and used him to grab us.

Now, this sounds like someone has to use outside means of getting you, like they can't risk being seen grabbing you (or killing you, possibly.).

But this makes the beetle thing look like child's play.

I can't help but wonder if Chen's nekocromancy is to blame.
>> No. 17475
>>17472
Doesn't change the fact that the guy was seriously fucked up before we touched him.
>> No. 17476
>I think we just killed a ...robot? a zombie?

I called it.

I fucking called it.


[x] Somewhere to wash yourself clean where nobody can see you, or see you on the way there. Maybe use somebody's garden hose?
[x] That brick has your prints on it. better wash it off, too.
>> No. 17477
>>17476

What did you call? Him being a zombie? Him being a robot? A zombie robot?

He sure did bleed a lot for either of those.
>> No. 17478
>What did you call?

That grabbing Alice's hand was going to result in bringing an effect like robots over to the other world.
>> No. 17537
>>17478
FFFFFFFFFFFFFF
You did.

I did not understand it at the time, but now that you mention it, grabbing Wriggle's hand brought us beetles.

Mother of fuck.
>> No. 17539
We should go grab Sanae's hand.

Also, I will note that the weird Canterbury Tales style funky English has come whenever we touch people that are working magic (Wriggle and Alice taking flight) AND whenever we have been attacked or otherwise touched by another who bears malicious intent (Chen, knife woman).
>> No. 17774
File 123898877449.jpg - (197.14KB , 406x600 , 01_1.jpg ) [iqdb]
17774
[x] Somewhere to wash yourself clean where nobody can see you, or see you on the way there. Maybe use somebody's garden hose?
[x] That brick has your prints on it. Better wash it off, too.

What did you do?

What did you--

The body was--the man was there. He was coming towards you with--coming towards you. He wouldn’t--he was going to do something. He was going to do something, something bad. Grabbing. You didn’t want to. You warned him--you said--

You told him you would hit him.

Right?

You told him you would hit him and you didn’t want to him hit, but he came closer and grabbed to do a bad thing. You didn’t want to, but you had to. He should have backed off. Should have--had no choice. You told him you would hit him, and he came closer, and you told him you would hit him if he came closer and he came closer so you hit him, hard, and then you hit him hard again until he stopped coming closer.

Right?

That’s what happened, right?

It wasn’t your fault.

You bend over anyway, stare at nothing in particular on the ground. Cough. There’s a bad feeling in the back of your throat, and you make little, breathy noises towards the gravel--like a string of gasps choked down, cut short--and taste something warm and disgusting, just fighting to spill upwards and over and out and splatter across the street.

Nothing comes, though, but a piece of the inside of your mouth. A white speck. Not even food proper, but it is enough, and the gods that don’t exist are satisfied. You stand up straight again, and wish you hadn’t--looking at the mass of red and clothes and running and--

Running, and--

It splashed, didn’t it?

And the realization comes again and slow and with a horror that has wormed its way comfortably in your bones.

Brick-clay-plaster. You turn it over in your hands, and both sides are red. Your hands are red, too, and your wrists, and your arms and your clothes and your legs and your face. You have to get rid of it. Someone might look at you, now. What would they think? They’d think--no, they’d know--they’d know what it is that you’ve done. It’s obvious like this.

You have to get rid of it.

You leave tottering red-paint footprints behind you as you take yourself--over there. It’s there, hazy in the distance, at the other side of the street. A house, like yours, with picket fence and green grass lawn and slanted roof. What does it have that your house has also? You think--hypothesize.

Garden hose.

And you are lazy and want to get it done and finished with, quick quick quick so you step directly across the lawn, which is yellow and brown and patchy and dead, and towards the dark and broken window and the garden hose upon its spool near the front door and you find the tap. It is decorated with spiderweb--you yank your hand back at once, even though you haven’t been bitten--never been bitten--don’t plan on it, so you brush them away, wipe your fingers on your pants (spreading the blood around still), and carefully--carefully--as if they’ll all arrive to bite in the second you touch--spin the handle, the knob, one way and then when it does not turn quickly in the other, and the knob revolves and becomes loose and--

--and--

--and the end of the garden hose, with its gaping maw remains dry and dry, and there isn’t even the sound of running water.

Oh.

Of course, you think.

You wipe your hands on your clothes, one more time for good measure, and then you turn around and there is another person there, across the street.

[_] Don’t come closer. I’ll do the same to you, I swear.
[_] Run. Run. Run!
-[_] Destination optional.
>> No. 17790
[x] Run. Run. Run!
-[x] Home.

Draw a bath. Burn the clothes.
>> No. 17792
>>17474
Everything can be attributed to our unreliable narrator except the following:

The man did not run away, and failed to apprehend us.

This is all we can be absolutely sure of (assuming the man did exist). And from only this, we can see that the man was not sane.

A sane man, if he were weaker than us, would run away after being hit twice.

A sane man, if he were not weak, would be able to avoid being repeatedly hit with a rock by a guy who gets regularly beaten by women and children.

>>17790
While it seems like we did know which way to go to get to home a little while ago, it is disturbing that the city seems to have fallen into such disrepair, and brings up the possibility that we are not actually in the same place at all.

A related thought: Before, we were surprised to find the plants dead. Now we are surprised to find the lights and cars rusted and houses broken. Will this also be explained away as having been always the case? Though this suggests that, wherever we are, we will at least be able to find our sister if we head where we think home is.

[x] Run. Run. Run!
-[x] Home.
>> No. 17797
[z] Run. Run. Run!
-[e] Home.

We are soooooo fucked.

So no more handgrabbing Touhoes, okay, guys?
...Oh dear god; think what might happened if we grabbed Yamame.
>> No. 17974
File 12392375533.jpg - (346.55KB , 751x600 , 22.jpg ) [iqdb]
17974
[x] Run. Run. Run!
-[x] Home.

You stand there, stalk-frozen, on somebody’s front yard, barefoot, one hand still clutching at the bottom hem of your shirt.

The person is barely there, a silhouette melting into the night sky--but you can see it well enough, follow it with your eyes as it--doesn’t move. Just stands there, arms down against its sides and head held level.

Perhaps it can’t see you.

Right? Right? It’s got human eyes, after all, and if my eyes are anything human--

Maybe it can’t even see, at all, in this darkness. That’s right--you can barely see, and your eyes are--young. Not young, perhaps, but they haven’t been floating in this mix as long as others’. They are young, and they can only barely see, and if you can only barely see, surely--surely--the it across the street is sightless.

You disentangle your fingers from your shirt and breathe again.

The person across the street turns its head, and your breath freezes at the entrance of your lungs.

Oh.

Oh--

Run.

Maybe it really can’t see me.

Maybe it’s just turning its head to look at something. Look at something else. Maybe it’s turning its head in the opposite direction.

Run.

You can’t tell. You can’t tell for sure, so I mustn’t act. It’s irresponsible--

Run. Run!

You step, hesitantly, to the side. A single step. The person across the street turns its head just a bit more--just a bit more--to follow you--

Run!

You run.

You run--almost fall, right at the beginning (how ironic, for you to be devoured here), run, run, and you are no runner, no marathon combatant but you can hobble well enough and even run for a minute or even less, and as you trod with hard, panicky steps down the street you turn your head and the person is walking now, following you--

Stalking, in that same stumblekneed fashion as that man--with the same beat, the same ungraceful rhythm: three-four, three-four, only this one is faster, you notice by the footsteps burnt into your brain. This one walks a little bit quicker--just a little bit, but enough that you can hear and even tell for sure. You turn your head again to make sure--and is it catching up?

No.

No, of course not. It may be faster than a walk but it is a jogging’s speed at the very most. You cannot run for long but you can run for now, and when you get to the point where you can’t run anymore you can stop and rest, if only for a few seconds, and by the time it reaches where you are, you’ll be gone--somewhere else entirely. You can keep that up. It will be difficult, and your ankles will burn, but you can keep that stop-start pattern going even if the person behind you never stops.

Sister, you think--you don’t want to speak out loud. The night air will strangle you if you do, seep into your bronchi and turn your chest to ice.

Sister, I think I can make it home.

The woman falls over the top of the fence, almost as if someone on the other side has pushed her, up and over.

She falls over the fence and lands, gracelessly, at the top of the driveway, rolling a small distance downwards, not ten feet ahead of you. You stop--slow your steps, even though you know you shouldn’t--you’ve got something chasing you, after all. Something behind you. But the sight is enough to shock you out of reason--make you watch, as the woman moves, almost hesitantly, pushing herself up with her hands flat against the concrete, climbing upon her legs, carefully, carefully--

She is young, you can see. You cannot tell ages--have never been able to tell ages, or height, or distance very well at all--but her hair curves to her shoulders and her face is unwrinkled (even turned to the ground as it is). She is wearing a uniform--you cannot tell what color, in this night, but you can tell it is a uniform, and then you see the emblem and the holster and you think--

Ah.

And you let your muscles relax.

Thank goodness.

Thank goodness.

You’re--inconceivably lucky, after all.

The policewoman looks at you--looks past you, and a bit of you thinks that you have been standing here much too long--and surely, that person with the three-four step must three or four steps right behind your back, but you have found some spark of life in this darkness and it doesn’t matter as much at all anymore.

“Help,” you say.

And the policewoman gazes through you, towards the three-four, three-four, three-four, and her hand floats, almost lazily, about the handle of her firearm--

--which isn’t there. Her holster is empty.

Sixth sense. Ice, in the back of your mind.

You dive--stumble--nearly falling over completely, the street scraping at your palm as the policewoman lurches towards you, her arms reaching out, one of them nearly clipping your shoulder. She says nothing, only slows to a halt--turns--makes a grab for you again, and--

Run!

--miraculously, misses again, somehow--even though she is right there, closer than even the first time, you manage to scramble backwards just in time, nearly tripping over your own heels, and then you turn yourself and--

Run!

--you run, your heart pounding in your throat, lungs burning, hands curled painfully into fists (one still tightly gripping the forgotten clay-brick-stone that serves now only as deadweight, unbalancing your body, almost sending your path into circles). You run. You have to run. They’ll catch you if you don’t run--three-four, three-four, three-four. There are two of them now, the original and the policewoman who climbed the fence after you--they’ll climb fences after you.

If they can climb fences, what else can they do?

You don’t want to think about it. Can’t think about it. It takes too much out of you, too much that could be used to power your feet and your legs and your everything else--the flesh. It has never been your strong suit--nothing has ever been your strong suit--but it’s the only thing you have to count on now. If you can’t run, it doesn’t matter what you think.

But you can’t stop thinking entirely, so instead of dread you turn to better subjects--marginally better. Try to encourage yourself. Nothing has changed here, you say inside your head. A little has change, but it’s only a little. A little isn’t worth much. You can outrun one--could outrun one, you were sure of it. If you can outrun one you can outrun one and another that is behind it. They step consistently, don’t they? With that three-four, three-four gait. You can outrun that, even if you rest. You can outrun that. Unless they speed up--

Wrong thought--wrong--

They won’t speed up, you scream inside your head. They won’t, they won’t, they won’t, but the seed has already sprouted and sent tendrils to devour the meat from your legs. You can feel your muscles weakening, crumbling into dust from the inside out.

Three-four three-four three-four three-four--

You can’t remember the way home.

You see the street you are on and a left turn, branching away abruptly and a cracked sidewalk path to the right and you realize, slick and quick and spit--you’re not sure what way you took home. There was a street, and you ran, and a greasy man and somewhere the bugs were boring into the flesh of your cheek--no, that’s wrong too--that came afterwards, when home was just around the cornerstones. Run it again, through your head:

I woke in a field, and I ran home, and the man smelled like sweets--

No. No, you skipped it. Try again.

I awoke in a field, and the streets, and I ran in a direction, and just before home came into view, I saw a man--

No! No! Again!

Woke in a field, ran--home came, a man at the curb stood--

Woke--the field--streets--ran home--saw man--

Woke field street home man--

Woke--

Too late, it says, too late, and the crossroads is at the soles of your feet and you pause--just for a second, to choose, and hear three-four behind you--

[_]
>> No. 17977
[x] Left.

When right is wrong, go left.
>> No. 18026
>>13672 and >>13806 are the incident he is trying to remember. Can anyone glean from them what direction we should be taking?

Worst case scenario is that the directions were given in the prior thread when he was on his way to the drug store.
>> No. 18027
>>18026
Oh yeah: What's a 'three-four' step?
>> No. 18029
>>18027
One-two are his own footsteps as he walks, and three-four are extra footsteps, the steps of a stalker.
>> No. 18296
[x] Left.
>> No. 18403
People seem not to want to vote hastily on this because it is potentially very important, but neither does anyone want to sift the actual route out of the earlier story. I'm also tempted to try to pull a another "leave" vote and just leave the situation alone... But hey, that probably wouldn't work well and we have infinite continues. Lazy route wins, sadly.

[X] Left
>> No. 18468
Damn, fine.

>>12763
Here is when we were going to Walgreens.

>>13596
Here is the part where we woke up and were beginning to find our way home before we ran into the man and the beetle swarm.

...Can anyone pick the directions in these apart, make a mental map of sorts, and figure out what direction we're supposed to be going if we want to head home?

...actually, a drawn map would be even more awesome.
>> No. 18844
File 124026404957.jpg - (157.57KB , 407x600 , 07.jpg ) [iqdb]
18844
[X] Left

And then break, to the left.

You don’t have time to think, don’t have any time to consider orientation, north, perpendicular--you are picking and choosing roads at random, hoping the one you take now isn’t likely to lead you flush against the wall, with a blindfold and a last cigarette. You don’t smoke. You smelt the stench of tobacco for a long time again and again, when your mother was still there, and then one day your mother was still, there, and the two of you were left alone, you and Sister, and Sister dropped her lives and loves and came for you to hold your head up and wipe at your tears.

You’ll never forgive yourself for it, and you know that Sister does not hold it against you, does not blame you in any way because she is lovely like that, so the best you can do it get home, get home and not be devoured by the three-four people on your heels. You’re picking and choosing roads at random, hoping the one you take now will take you to a familiar curb and a single-story house and Sister, in the kitchen, sitting at the table, looks up and smiles at you and you’re so happy that you might cry.

Soon.

Your eyes catch the remains of a street sign (your street’s sign, this street’s sign), its metal strip rusted at the beginning beyond repair, color faded to gray. If you try (and your eyelid twitches angrily), you can read what’s left of it--the end of it: ‘lling Lane’, it says, barely, and you think that it might set off a bell in your head if you could think about it and not just think about thinking about it.

But you don’t have time, and the three-four steps will be upon you if the blood from your knees rushes to your brain. Stop thinking, you think, and think again: stop thinking!

You read the end of the lane.

So soon?

And you don’t quite understand and so you keep running until the tip of your feet bump against the curb--the curb, another curb, one in front of you. This is a new road. This is a road that is new and absolutely new and absolutely devoid of memory. You were uncertain before, wandering without reason from corner to corner, but before, at least, there was the hint, the taste of familiarity on the wind. Now, though, you don’t know at all where you are. You’re lost, a speck of dust on an infinitely large map that extended in all directions--lengthwise, widthwise, up-and-downwise--

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. You are at the curb, at the end of your street, but a new one extends to your side, in either direction. Left or right? You think, mindful of the three-four at the edge of your earing. Left or right?

The mangled signpost says “Tumuli Lane”.

Left or right?

You pause again (a bad idea when being chased, you know, but you have to think think think) and then the world makes your decision for you: there is movement in the corner of your eye and you look--turn your head towards a silver SUV. You’re standing right behind it, parked against the curb instead of on the driveway of the nearest house, and for a moment you don’t see anything but the flurry of thin scratches on the rear window and the dark interior through it--

And then comes the movement again, and you adjust your eyes to look through the rear window and through the car and back out the front window, too. There is a man there. He is thin and his face is bony and sharp and he is leaning against the car, both hands flat against the hood and he is looking right at you.

Don’t get fooled twice.

You wait anyway, wait long enough to see it for yourself: the man stumbling around the car and in your direction, his footsteps uneven--

You turn around and flee in the opposite direction--the only direction left, with the two behind and the one here, and there are more coming to life around you: a wrinkled hand pushing open a wooden gate--another woman, her face splattered with red, stumbling through a bush--a shadow on the ground rising slowly, then beginning to lumber in your direction--

Like an ambush, you think, and barely sidestep a ragged-looking man--another police officer, one that wasn’t in your path a moment ago, who lunges for you as well--nearly grabs you, but he is tall and you slip past, pushing at his side and he stumbles--ambush. Tightening the noose. An old man with thinning hair and a white moustache grabs at your shoulder. You twist, knocking his arm away, and his grip--weak with age--falls. They weren’t just chasing me. They weren’t just clawing at me indiscriminately. They were driving you here. Herding--

A large, dark-skinned man wearing a business suit steps right in front you, almost casually.

The difference strikes you, immediately. He does not lunge at you, like the others. He simply holds out his arms--like someone trying to catch a football, following the path of the object with his eyes, where it is and where it’s been and where it will be so he can, securely--

Time moves like debris, floating at water level. Speeding up, as you step to the left, pathetically--try to feint to the right, and the man in the dark business suit doesn’t even lift a foot, only leans and just almost imperceptibly adjusts his stance and you think--I can’t dodge him, not at all--

You misstep and at the same time try for the other direction, hoping to dive and dip underneath his sleeve and escape around him, like the others, but even as you lower your head you can see him lowering his arms as well, and there is nothing you can do.

He has you in his grip almost instantly, catching up under your shoulders and lifting you off the ground humiliatingly, your feet kicking at his legs and knees frantically, with no effect--just like the other one, showing no sign of pain or even annoyance, and the worst part is his hands, because his hands are not cold or waxy or plasticine, as you somehow expected them to be in the back of your mind. They are perfectly normal hands, warm with the blood pumping underneath like any others’, and you try to flinch away, but the man has you securely, and you look up into his eyes and his eyes look back but there is nothing behind them.

You are screaming, and the man does not respond in any way to that, either.

And then his fingers relax, and you don’t notice, not consciously, but you are twisting desperately and trying to break out of his hands anyway so it doesn’t really matter except for the fact that it comes as a bit of a shock when suddenly it works, after all, and you fall onto the street with your legs crumpled beneath you painfully.

You look up.

The man makes no clear move to capture you again. His arms move, but only--just a little. Jerkily, like something malfunctioning. It is strange, but seeing the man suddenly act like that--like a watch that has had something inside of it chip, badly--is almost a relief. It’s thrown away its mask, you think, half-dreaming. Now I’ll show you my real face. It twitches, its face going lax--

And then it pitches forwards, and you scramble with a loud exclamation, barely on your feet at all, and you are suddenly as his face cracks into the pavement that you’ve just backtracked, towards--

You were running away, remember?

[_] Pick two numbers.
>> No. 18866
[19,42]
>> No. 18963
[ze] Four and seven.

SOMEBODY

HELP

ME
>> No. 18964
[x] 42, 13

They're coming out of the walls, man!
>> No. 18995
[x] ⅈ
[x] ∞
>> No. 19127
[x] 0
[x] ∞
>> No. 19128
>>18995
>>19127

No.
>> No. 19133
[x] 481516
[x] 2342
>> No. 19135
I see.

I'll simply discard yours, then.
>> No. 19257
File 124087277298.jpg - (72.24KB , 304x333 , swiftly tilting.jpg ) [iqdb]
19257
[X] 11
[X] 42

But you don’t remember. That’s the problem.

All you’re able to do--all you want to do, at the moment, is to scatter away from the man who now lies face-down in the street. That’s all that matters. He’s fallen down, somehow, but there’s no telling--no telling at all--any minute now, moment now, he may jump up and wrap your arms about your ankle--

Your back--

No, my ankle--I don’t have to worry about my back--my back is only--

“Jesus freakin’--hey, you’re going the wrong--”

What?

You look up.

You’re moving. Your body is on the move and your neck is attached to your body is attached by neck to your head to your eyes, so you can barely understand what you see. It’s a blurry snapshot image, caught by your mind as you blink.

Street. The dark-skinned man lies in the pavement.

His back is bloody.

His neck is bloody.

Behind him--behind where he would have been standing if he were still standing where he had been standing before he’d fallen--behind him--is a small, thin-faced girl. She’s looking at you, with an expression of--alarm? Surprise? Wisps of dark hair stick in directions from beneath a woven beanie. She almost seems--posed, but that’s only because you’ve taken a picture of only this very instant. Her stiff, red jacket is torn at one of the sleeves, and out of that sleeve is--

Who is she?

Breathe in.

Wait.

That girl, it’s--

Arms suddenly wrap themselves around your stomach from behind. Warm. Poisonous warmth. Your heart rattles and you look down at the arms and the fabric and recognize them immediately. It’s that policewoman--

You flail--try to knock her away, hit her chin or neck or something but the few blows you do manage to land are absorbed without a sound--

No. There are sounds. Voices. You can hear them, floating through the air, barely reaching you as you try ineffectually to pry her fingers away--

“--oot her! Shoot her! Just fu--”

“--n’t shoot her, I can’t see anything well enough to know wh--”

“Shoot her anyway! Blow her moth--”

“What if I hit him?”

“Who the fuck cares, you climbin’ asswipe? Shoot her! Shoot him! Shoot the freakin’ both of them--and where are you going?”

And other one is here, too. Another not-right man with blank eyes. He grabs your wrists before you can grab them away, grabs them tightly. Painful. It hurts. You can barely move your arms and all you can think is what are you doing before the policewoman--

--releases you --

And for a moment you think I’m saved and try to run but the man is still there, still standing there and still holding your wrists, and you try to yank them away but his grip is strong, almost impossibly strong, and you try kicking him and you kick at him and you kick at him and he does and says nothing, and as you rear your leg back to try again and try again and again suddenly there’s a third hand around your ankle and you are swept and falling forwards--

I’ll crack my face, just like the dark man--

And then another hand around your other ankle and then you suddenly stop, right there, dangling above the ground, realizing--they’re holding me--they’re holding me oh god they’re holding me lengthwise so I can’t fight back they’re holding me oh god they’re smart, they’re smart, she’s got me by the foot and him by the hand and I’m going to die--

There’s a sound kind of like breathing through a film of water.

Abruptly, the force at your feet goes slack and your shoes drop. You don’t expect it at all, and your feet miss the pavement, leaving the rest of your legs to take the blow. It hurts. It hurts a lot, and your knees scrape against the gravel as the man continues to drag you--never stopped dragging you as it walks backwards, never stopped even for a moment, pulling you by yours wrists with you in this odd kneeing position--at least let me stand, damn you, damn you--and your legs are bleeding and you are probably making sounds now, you think, whimpering, pathetic sounds, but you have always been like that, and--

Something darts into your view, something from above you (but everything is above you right now), something red and something else, long-shaped, and it points itself at the man’s head and then the red goes away, leaving the long thing there, stuck into the man’s eye, and then the man lets go of your wrists and begins to fall, and then you don’t see much of anything else because without anything holding you up, you simply flop over, like a dead fish, face-first into the street.

You don’t crack your face, after all--it’s more like a dull thud that echoes from the front to the back of your skull--but it hurts, anyway.

You have a dull impression (all impressions are dull, with your eyes squeezed tight and your face looking at nothing but street besides) of the world spinning around you.

[_] Let it spin, let it spin, let it go.
[_] Hold on. Hold on. Concentrate.
[_] Other
>> No. 19260
[x] Hold on. Hold on. Concentrate.
>> No. 19263
File 124089194474.jpg - (80.20KB , 401x276 , 122836843325.jpg ) [iqdb]
19263
[x] Hold on. Hold on. Concentrate.

>Wisps of dark hair stick in directions from beneath a woven beanie. She almost seems--posed, but that’s only because you’ve taken a picture of only this very instant. Her stiff, red jacket is torn at one of the sleeves, and out of that sleeve is--

Aw crap.
>> No. 19266
[m]Other

I'm curious about his family and what he remembers about them.
>> No. 19302
>>19263
I don't get it.
>> No. 19323
>>19302

The beanie.
The red jacket.
That was the mugger. The mugger found us again.

We're dead.
>> No. 19340
[X] Hold on. Hold on. Concentrate.

Hell, Gensokyo is probably friendlier than this and going back there (like we're being offered, I think) may be the best idea. I'm curious about that whole link-to-the-past thing, though...
>> No. 19364
>>19323
I was considering that.

And really hoping it was not the case.

>>19257
Anybody care to weigh in with an analysis of what the hell happened here, and what might be going on?
>> No. 19500
File 124125528043.jpg - (10.01KB , 250x300 , red_zipUp.jpg ) [iqdb]
19500
[x] Hold on. Hold on. Concentrate.

It’s going to spin so fast it’ll melt, you think. And when it’s all melted away, I’ll see again what’s underneath--the other--the--

You don’t know why you do, but you take hold of it even as it disappears around you. Your chipped nails dig into the darkness, in a last-ditch attempt to keep it from leaving. Strangely enough, it seems to work. The black smoke around you slowly begins to gather into itself again, to solidify into street and gravel.

You lift your head.

Yes.

It is the street, definitely the street. Still, you feel it with your fingertips again, just to be sure. It’s undoubtedly the street, and undoubtedly gravel, and undoubtedly, only bare feet away from your cocked face is the man who had hold of your wrists: he is staring up at the starry sky unblinkingly, face still blank. Part of his face has red. The girl in the beanie and red jacket takes the knife out of his eye.

The girl in the beanie and red jacket.

Something in your throat tightens.

She isn’t looking at you. She isn’t seeing you, not yet. “Hey, Oldboy,” she calls, intently studying the blade gripped in her hands, “you want your knife back?”

There is a warm, mumbled chortling from behind you. You turn, quickly, quickly, half-scrambling to your fingers and toes before the pain in your face decides to remind you that you can’t--and come face-to-knee with a pair of pants, a neat crease running down each of the legs’ lengths.

You fall backwards, barely catching yourself before the back of your head hits the ground.

The man’s dark pants are formal, and the remainder of his clothes-suit follows. His waistcoat is wrinkled, at a certain state that seems a step to the left of torn, and he is wearing, too, beneath that, the sort of shirt with sleeves that are long with buttons on the ends. You never liked those sorts of shirts. You’ve worn them, once or twice--you have one or two in your closet, hanger-drawn, but they are obligatory, because there have one or two times when Sister has asked you nicely to accompany her somewhere nice, to be polite, and so must wear what you must wear. You don’t enjoy it, never enjoy it--it feels like someone is strangling your wrists--but it is Sister who asks so you follow her gladly.

I haven’t seen Sister in too long.

The old man, rubs his pointed chin with one hand absently, smiling through his thick, wide-ended moustache. His stance is relaxed--spry, despite the whites of his hair. The suitcase in his hands closes with a clear-rent click. “Na-a-ah,” he rumbles, rasps. “You can keep it. I put that thing back, I’ll dirty my case.” He laughs, again, and you have that distinct feeling of feeling lost, only now in word instead of place.

The girl in the beanie and red jacket makes a noise that is somewhere between a snort and a hum, and then turns her head a minute downwards and looks at you.

Straight at you.

And says--

“Whatever, Oldboy.” She huts her chin towards you--both her hands are taken. A knife in one and a knife in the other.

“So, what’re we doing with him?”

She says that.

And--

That’s it. There’s no burning rage in her eyes. No anger. Not even annoyance, or any sort of interest whatsoever. She looks at you because she’s talking about you and you’re right there, so why wouldn’t she look at you?

That’s it.

A wild thought occurs to you and it is: She doesn’t know who I am.

Of course not. She never met you, of course.

What do you mean, she--

“Hey,” she says, and squats down to look at you, eye-to-eye. You try to back away, crab-like, on your feet and palms which you are still re-lying upon, but your muscles won’t obey. They’re frozen. They prefer themselves to be whole, and maybe, they imagine, if they become very still and very quiet they will not be detected and cold cut.

“What the fuck’re you, huh?” she says, that terrible friendly smile on her face.

You don’t answer, because you’ve never been quite sure.

But maybe the girl in the beanie and red jacket was never expecting an answer at all, because she simply continues: “More’n that, what the fuck’re doing wearing this sort of shit?”

She stresses the question with a sharp poke to the chest, and for a second--a quickly passing second, but one extant, nonetheless--you think she has stabbed you again.

But, no. No. Somewhere, somewhen you weren’t looking she switched a knife to the other hand, where she now grips the both of them loosely. It is only her finger that she is using to still strike, again-again-again-again-against your sternum, each jab bordering upon painful--though, not quite.

“Uh,” you say. Your tongue is a muscle, too, and it has receded as well--so in place of any sort of answer you simply look down, towards your threadbare short-sleeved shirt and her finger racketing tap-tap-tap.

The moment your head dips she flicks the bottom of your nose. You cry out and clutch at your face with both hands, falling once again and again on your legs as the girl in the beanie and red jacket howls with laughter.

Another voice speaks, out of the darkness. “Um, Rinda?”

The girl in the beanie stops laughing at once, an ugly scowl falling over her face. “What?” she snarls.

She stands and turns away from you.

She stands and turns away from you, to look at the speaker. Completely turns away. All you can see, looking upwards, is the back of her head--dark, unkempt hair falling down to her nape, that woolen beanie of hers holding it against her neck tight.

It’s a miracle, you think.

Because--I’m sitting here, and the voice is out there, and somehow she is here, right in the middle--

Where she standing anywhere else--to the left, to the right--she would still be able to see you out of the corner of her eye. But she has lined up neatly, here, one-two-three in earthly syzygy, and you think--you think--wouldn’t it be wrong to waste it?

[_] Attack!
[_] Run!
[_] Do nothing
[_] Other
>> No. 19507
[x] Stand-up. Dust yourself off.
[x] Try to get your bearings. Where are you? Can you get back to your house from here?
>> No. 19509
I'm torn between
>[x] Lean over and peek at the new voice (does it sound familiar?)
and
>[x] Run (and look behind you).

>Rinda
Well, now we know who she is-- no, scratch that. We know her name; nothing more.
I wonder if we've been time-traveling, too. I can't think why else she wouldn't know us.

>“You can keep it. I put that thing back, I’ll dirty my case.”
How to interpret this... His suitcase (literally)? Or an investigative case (metaphorically)?

>syzygy
I think I've been waiting for you to use this word, Mr. Author.
I think you're the first, too.
>> No. 19541
I would like to begin to write tomorrow.

Please vote more, I beg of you.
>> No. 19542
[x] Attack!

Waste not want not.
>> No. 19543
[x] Stand-up. Dust yourself off.
[x] Try to get your bearings. Where are you? Can you get back to your house from here?
>> No. 19544
[x] Do nothing

>[ ] Stand-up. Dust yourself off.
>[ ] Try to get your bearings. Where are you? Can you get back to your house from here?

In before the mugger and her friend turns and sees you farting around and decides to slam you into a wall.
>> No. 19546
[~] Stand-up. Dust yourself off.
[z] Try to get your bearings. Where are you? Can you get back to your house from here?
[e] Take a peek at the new speaker.

All right, then.
>> No. 19642
File 124183768096.jpg - (134.59KB , 1200x882 , image432.jpg ) [iqdb]
19642
I have images of them all in my head.

I can't draw.

---

[x] Stand-up. Dust yourself off.
[x] Try to get your bearings. Where are you? Can you get back to your house from here?

You are certain you should do something.

But you aren’t sure what, so you stand up, and you look.

The girl--Rinda, the voice said her name was, Rinda--and you’ve never heard the name Rinda before but now you have--is still speaking into the darkness, facing ahead of you, her neck unguarded. A sudden image drifts into your mind, one of you grabbing--something, a sharp stone or a knife or something, and leaping towards her as she’s beginning to turn around--but it is too late and the stone-knife--stone--knife--

--stone, definitely stone. You’ve got that plaster-stone-brick, haven’t you?

No, you haven’t.

What?

You look at one hand, and then the other. They are both empty.

Now, when did that happen?

It must have been--before you washed your hands off the blood, yes. That’s when. You must have dropped it, and didn’t notice, or was it later? No, it was later. You picked it back up, and then you ran, and--

It is some distance away, in the street.

Oh.

When one of them grabbed me, then. The ones with the empty faces. That must have been when, instead.

And the brick-clay-plaster is too far away--far away enough that you can’t reach it without moving--you could never grab it and return and strike her with it, not without her noticing you before you were halfway to it. Certain things are impossible. This is simply something that can’t be done.

The girl in the beanie--no, Rinda-is-her-name--turns back around to look at you, baring her teeth, and your muscles lock once more. “Private Jibbers over there says to pack up.” She inclines her head towards the other person--where the other person must be. “So, you comin’?”

It takes you a moment to understand that she’s asking you a question. “Er--ah--”

“Right!” she says, as if the halting sounds you made were something coherent--something she wanted to hear--and she takes your wrist and yank at you almost violently as she begins to skip into the darkness, with you stumbling after.

---

She drags you after the others, down Tumuli lane running. You are not safe, despite this girl and her knife and the others. There are still stumbling things and standing things--on the sidewalk, in the yard, reaching towards you over the curb--

“--re really some sorta fuck-up, right? After all, headin’ straight to the middle on your own, you gotta be fucked up to shit to do that anyway, and if you’re doing it fuckin’ shoeless--”

The girl on the end of your arm does not stop speaking to you in that cheerful tone, even against your silence. Perhaps taken as acquiescence, you think, but still say nothing still, only try desperately not to fall upon your knees again--at the speed you’re being pulled along it will hurt, terribly. It already hurts, and the only thing worse than that is possibly it hurting twice.

It was buried up to its hilt in his face.

I really wish I had my brick-plaster-concrete--

The streets are emptier and emptier, you notice as you--the two of you--the four of you continue. More and more, there are less and less others turning to look after your group, until you reach the end of the street--as far as you can go--and there is nobody there that you can see at all.

The street goes further, but you can’t go further than there. Someone has cordoned it off with a fence--one of those schoolyard fences, you think, with links and more links set up in diamond rows--except taller than you’re used to, much taller. You look up it as you are dragged along.

The fence is topped with sharp things, twisted all about each other. They extend--the sharp things, and the fence below them--to the left and right in seemingly forever, zigzagging in right angles to turn around houses and blocks, running along the edges of other streets on the other side, where there is movement, and streetlights actually lit (though far too white--far too strong).

You squint against them in the second that you see the backlit figure. It is dressed in some sort of uniform--and then you can’t tell anything else, because Rinda has pulled you across the front steps of one of the welcome-to-suburbia houses and the figure is passed from your view.

The man at the front of your group--not the old man, but the other, the one you could not see before, when you weren’t near close enough--opens the front door. “Here,” he says.

He must be talking to me.

You must have only heard him by chance, though--his voice is thin. Not wavering, not stammering--simply thin. Something easily lost in a stiff breeze. His entire body seems that way, almost--thin. Thinner. His dress shirt covers as much as a dress shirt should cover, but you can’t help but feel that it is much too large atop and across the shoulders.

He looks at you with eyes that seem apologetic, running the first joint of a spindly index finger along one of his unnaturally high cheekbones in a gesture of apprehension. “Here,” he says, again.

It’s his left hand. He can’t use his right, because a gun is in it.

He opens his mouth once more, as if to say something else--then closes it, frowns, and enters the house. The elderly man follows behind, a crooked grin visible along the bottom of his thick, white moustache, and then comes Rinda who leads you inwards without choice. Once you are inside, the thin-faced man closes the door. He does not lock it.

That girl, Rinda, finally lets your wrist back to you, and you grip it to yourself, checking for fingers. They are all there, four fingers and also a thumb, but you don’t dare sigh with relief yet--you are still, after all, in the same room as the girl in the beanie and red jacket. She has knives. You look at her, as if to ascertain.

She has her arms folded across her chest. “So?” she asks.

What?

“I said, so?” She frowns, irritated.

That’s right, you think. She was talking. Somehow, I knew that, and I tuned her out anyway because--why did I do that?

Because you were thinking.

Because I was thinking, and then I tuned her out. Ignored her voice. I shouldn’t have done that. Not to--

She grabs your arm again, and this time her eyebrows are drawn low and her fingers in your flesh hurt (you hear the old man’s voice in the air: “Hey, careful, Princess, you’ll snap his wrist off,”) and this time the violence in the way she jerks your arm towards herself is intentional.

You do lose your balance, finally, and you think--I’m going to fall--I’m falling--I’m falling on her and when I have landed she will hurt me very badly, I know, I know because I have seen it in a cartoon--

When did you ever see a cartoon like that?

But you’re wrong, because she releases your wrist--catches you by the shoulders--digging her fingers into the hallows of your shoulder blades. You yelp, and instinctively try to twist out of her grasp, but she is stronger, much stronger than you.

Through a wave of pain, you hear her voice, a harsh hissing in your ear.

“So,” she repeats, stressing the word, “where the fuck did you go and pop your head out of? ‘Cause there’s no fucking way some dipshit like you survived all this time without biting it, which means either you’re the dippiest of all dipshits with some other somebody stringing you along--or you’re not a dipshit, after all, in which case you’re just shit, right?”

Her fingers dig deeper.

“Right?”

[_] Tell… [write-in]
[_] Ask… [write in]
[_] Say nothing.
>> No. 19649
[z] "If I told you the truth, you'd hit me."
[e] "...What happened to this place?"

Why do we transfer things over to our world?

...I keep thinking of the Kleinenflasche thing. A very dangerous game indeed.
>> No. 19655
[x] "If I told you the truth, you'd hit me."
[x] "...What happened to this place?"
>> No. 19668
[x] "If I told you the truth, you'd hit me."
[x] "...What happened to this place?"

Okay.
>> No. 19710
File 124209922020.jpg - (105.64KB , 700x700 , 47721e3452e115565650a4b0d2617220.jpg ) [iqdb]
19710
[x] "If I told you the truth, you'd hit me."
[x] "...What happened to this place?"

You try to answer--answer what? I don’t know. Answer something. Answer anything, just so long as it gets her to let go, please please please--but the pain sets your jaw and all you manage is a quiet whimpering.

“Ease up a bit, will you? You make with the questions first.” The voice of the old man comes again, admonishing.

The girl’s scowl is not easily caught through her face of rage-hate-kill you, but bits of it--a eyebrow there, a spot of cheekflesh, twinging--diffuse through, and her grip seems to slacken--barely, but barely is enough to breathe by and you catch your air and try to drive your heart from your lungs. You sit there, mouth open, gasping noisily like a dog, her fingers still there--warm spots that flutter from your shoulders to collar to high of your neck and back again.

If actions speak a thousand words then this is hypergraphia, scrawled upon every fingerprint-inch.

You reel in your dog tongue and dare to look into her face--Rinda’s face again. The anger is gone. She smiles merrily down at you, as playing with a small child.

(Wrong, that’s wrong. If anything she’s younger than you.)

Fingers-slide, fingers-dance, fingers-tap patiently and Rinda asks with tone sunshine-bright: “Well?”

Your throat is dry.

“If I tell you the truth, you’ll hit me.”

She slides her hand, smooth, up and down the sides of your throat. “Don’t be silly,” she says, and expression is something like pure understanding. “I won’t do something like that. Not unless you give me a reason to.”

That’s a lie.

Remember? I remember. I couldn’t have been a month ago. You can’t keep track of hours or days or anything anymore but surely (surely) surely it couldn’t have been that long. I left the bus--or maybe we all left the bus or you left the bus and I was standing there and you were angry and you were happy and you did all sorts of bloody-handed things. Remember?

“I woke up,” you say--babble--and your mouth tastes spit and bile and phlegm, “and it was like this. My fault--I mean--I was going home to Sister--”

(You can feel her hands, slick with--)

“And I woke up in a field because the blackandwhite hit me hard--it was dark and there weren’t any people--and then there were and they were--” You make a movement, a gesture, rolling with your shoulders and arms and chest. “--in their faces?”

You pause to see if her understanding does, but she only smiles so you continue anyway:

“And--I--and he wouldn’t go away, so I hit him, and that’s not my fault because he wouldn’t--I mean--”

You degrade further.

“And then I ran but there were a lot--I was dragged--and--”

And then you are lost even to yourself, your performance a dismal failure. You should have thought, you think. You shouldn’t have just spoken with that general idea to say what you wanted to say. You should have run a rehearsal in your head: lights, directions, costumes, tongue and lips and palate. You think that, with bowed head, and the girl’s palms paused around your neck and as if to underscore, the old man says: “Did anyone understand a whit of that?”

“No,” the girl says, and her face looks like an awful thing but she takes her hands away from your throat and smiles as you fall upon your knees--bend forwards--rest there, with your nose to a rug spotted with dirt.

There is no sound but you breathing loudly--again.

“What a fuckin’ dweeb,” the girl--Rinda--sing-songs, half-laughing. “What a fucking waste of shit!” And she giggles in the corner of your eye as you turn you face barely to look at her, twisting her hands around her wrists and in them the knives. She sees you see her. Catches you. She looks at you deliberately and you turn away quick-quick and try to shrink into yourself.

Her laughter is like freshwater and springtime and marble and pink. It fills the room like smoke. Cotton candy. Blanket.

Poison.

“He’s nothing but some fucking screwball who’s had the shit scared out of him,” Rinda says, smirking playfully. The old man shrugs.

“Fucking waste of shit,” she repeats. “Just fucking loony. Only in a bad way.” Pause. “Okay, fuck that. Where’s Captain Balls? I mean No-Balls?”

She looks around, and you look around to see what she’s looking at and see it almost immediately, though still later than anybody else. That man is gone. The other one, who was thin and like a wisp. He evaporated while you were busy--

“Motherfucker. Motherfucker left us to steal for himself, that fucking asswipe. I’ll fucking kill him.”

“That’s probably not it at all. He always does this, every house.”

“Fucking--I’ll kill him anyway. Fucker. That motherfucking piece of shit.”

“He’s securing one thing or another, or clearing out the house, maybe. Paranoid fella.”

“When did this happen?” This is you.

Snort. “Clearing out--cleanin’ out, cleanin’ out, that’s more fuckin’ like it. Going to swipe all the good shit before I can even serve to get a fucking leg on.”

“I’m sure he’d be convinced to split all goods attained, if you but ask.”

“The streetlights are out. When did this happen?”

“Fuck his goods. No no no no--don’ fuck his goods, fuck him.”

Gesture in the air. Something that might have come with a pipe in any other world. “You have to admit: he brings in goods after all, after all.” Gesture, like a pipe returning. “That’s true enough.”

“Yeah? Well, I’m got a feelin’, y’know, that he’s not deliverin’ half as much as he’s stiffing us. Fucker.”

“Why are all the people g-g-going? I don’t understand.”

“Hold on a minute.”

“Huh? Oh, what now?”

Pause.

You look at the old man. The old man looks at you. You look at Rinda. Rinda looks at the old man. You look at the old man. Rinda looks at you. The old man look at Rinda. You turn your face downwards and don’t say anything at all, at all.

“What? He pull a trick, or somethin’?”

“He said something,” the old man says, with a half-grin on his face. “For a moment. And it wasn’t Greek.”

“Eh?” Rinda rears back, a perfect picture of plot twists--surprise endings--romantic interests appearing out of nowhere. “What? Well, don’t just fucking stand there like fantastic fucking Mr. Popper’s penguins, say something!” She narrows her eyes and puffs her cheeks grotesquely at him, and the old man turns his eyes to you again.

“Say something.” He repeats her to you.

You do.

“What happened to the city?”

The sentence is straight-to-the-point. Clear, somehow. Impossibly clear. It’s a miracle.

The old man grins. “See?”

She laughs, tears in her eyes, going through all the motions--eyes shut tight, mouth stretched wide, doubling over with her hands on her knees for support. “I’ll be fucked!” she chortles when she can speak between jerks of breath. “I’ll be fucking fucked! How the fuck you that to fucking work, huh?”

“He did it on his own.”

“Bullshit!” She’s still laughing.

The old man holds up his hands in a display of mock surrender. “I say not.”

“Bullshit!” she says again, and somehow the idea of you being able to speak sends her into paroxysms further. The old man shrugs. The girl laughs. The old man shrugs again, harder. The girl continues to laugh.

You open your mouth, considering--but no. You close it.

[_] Go to sleep
[_] Fight for your question
[_] Search for the other man
[_] Other
>> No. 19712
[x] "I stopped asking people questions because people stopped being able to answer them. This has or hasn't changed."
[x] If you get an answer for your question, continue talking. If you don't, clam up and go to sleep.
>> No. 19723
[x] "I stopped asking people questions because people stopped being able to answer them. This has or hasn't changed."
[x]Think about Alice.
[x]Try to sleep.
>> No. 19742
[z] "I've been talking, even before he asked."
[e] "But, what happened to the city?"
>> No. 19743
>>19742
So you know, this is basically a slightly detailed version/addition to "[x] Fight for your question."
>> No. 19791
Careful, mates. This guy can't be trusted to put proper em-Phasis on the correct sy-Lable in order to make a witty point. Hell, I don't think I've ever heard anything witty from him at all...
>> No. 19795
>Careful, mates. This guy can't be trusted to put proper em-Phasis on the correct sy-Lable in order to make a witty point. Hell, I don't think I've ever heard anything witty from him at all...

Nothing mentioned really relies on fancy wordplay or intonation for delivery. Very much the opposite, >>19712 and >>19723 read as deliberately obfuscated, presumably to account for the protagonist's hobbled speaking skills. And >>19742 is at least cogent, if no longer sardonic, when stripped of inflection. If the writer thinks the end product needs more stammering and digression, then that's his prerogative.
>> No. 19813
>>19795
Speaking as >>19742 : Yes, that's the idea. Anything too long or too eloquent does not usually come out right. Keep it relatively uncomplicated, and he'll get the words out sooner or later.

Also, more votes are probably needed.
>> No. 19978
>>19977
/others/thustra
>> No. 20376
Bump because we remember.
>> No. 20552
I remember, back in the day...
>> No. 21208
:(