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Aug 10, 2020 8:13 PM
Turquoises in All Night Laundry.
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She really shouldn’t be up this late.

She rarely is - her sleep schedule is remarkably well regulated, for a college student - but she’d made the unwise decision to go to a party, and the even less wise decision to spend most of it panicking in a corner. It hadn’t been until one in the morning, when she finally managed to make her way home, that she realized she would need to go out again and get her laundry taken care of. Otherwise she’d spend the rest of tomorrow feeling gross, and feeling gross made her anxiety harder to handle, and she’d probably end up sprawled out in the middle of a classroom paralyzed and gasping for air, and everyone would privately whisper about the mute, crazy woman -

So she decides to go to the nearby laundromat.

It has a sign, up front. ‘All Night Laundry’, written in bright, neon letters.

She feels a creeping portent of dread, at the sign. This isn’t surprising. She manages to feel as many as six creeping portents of dread each day before breakfast, and they rarely amount to anything. She goes in, anyways.

Aside from the sign, the place is… dark. Quiet. Seemingly unstaffed. There’s a little bzzzz at the die of her vision - a slight flicker - but it goes away, just as she notices it.

It’s just anxiety. The buzzing goes away, once she notices it.

And her mental map of the place is impeccable. She heads straight for the light switch, and - after a moment of fumbling - flicks it on.

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There’s a man, there, standing at six-foot-something-or-other; he startles at the sudden light, and hastily nudges something into a corner.

” - uh, shit, sorry,” he says. “Didn’t think anyone would come in, didn’t hear you, thought I could take care of my own stuff since nobody ever actually comes on Wednesday nights - sorry. You’re that mute girl who comes by sometimes?”

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Amaris make an eloquent gesture, collects her laundry basket from where she set it down, and starts fiddling with a machine.

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“... right. Uh, I have some stuff to do - you can probably do your laundry unsupervised - I’m gonna go do stuff, be back super quick, don’t go into the employees only area or mess around with the cash register or anything?”

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She nods, puts her clothes in the washer, fiddles with further knobs, and turns it on.

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“M‘kay. Bye.”

He puts on a heavy coat, and leaves.

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Amaris, having fiddled with the washing machine to her heart’s content, inserted assorted currency, and otherwise done as required of her, sits down. There’s an uncomfortable little bench, off to the side, which seems well suited for the purpose.

It’s... quiet, aside from the hum of the machine. Dim. Still as a forest in winter.

She sees dark shapes, flickering in the corners of her vision. She ignores them. She’s so, so tired, and everything seems shadowed and frightening and grand, and all of it will seem ridiculous in the morning. 

But she doesn’t think that the odd man’s behavior will seem ridiculous and ordinary and plain, come morning. She thinks that it’ll seem just as suspicious as it does now. And she isn’t majoring in investigative journalism - isn’t majoring in something that seems so obviously inaccessible, for someone who can hardly speak - because of a lack of curiosity.

She gets up, stretches a little, and goes to peer in the corner, where he’d kicked something or other -

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- and the television, towards the back of the laundromat, flickers on.

It shows static.

(Perhaps the hints of green, slithering in and out of view, are solely in her imagination.)

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... no. No, she doesn’t think they are.

Temporarily distracted from the corner, she peers down at the machine - the little tendrils of green must’ve been some mechanical defect, but they seemed like more than that, more like little tendrils of something vast and incomprehensible - and weren’t they so - pretty -

She turns the television off. It isn’t doing her overactive imagination any favors.

The flickers of shadows seem... louder, now. She spins around, once, when it seems like the change dispenser has ‘meat’ written on it, instead. 

It doesn’t. (Flicker). Everything is fine. (Flicker). Everything is normal. (Flicker). She is going to be fine.

She checks out the corner, again.

 

... that sure is a shovel, lightly encrusted with splattered blood. 

She puts in back in the corner, precisely as it was.

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She spends a few moments pacing, hands in her pockets, unconsciously walking on her tiptoes. It was a habit, ordinarily suppressed, with a tendency to resurface when she was stressed.

She is very stressed.

The man who welcomed her in - Zeke, she thinks, his name is Zeke - isn’t the person who ordinarily staffed this place. He’s the brother of the owner - Randy? Sandy? Sammy?

She hasn’t seen the owner for a few days.

She’s tired. So tired. She can - stop herself from going into a spiral about whether she’s about to be murdered, he probably isn’t going after random targets, if that’s what this is, if she isn’t just hallucinating - she’ll just go to the police in the morning with a written statement, if he’s being this careless with his murder equipment he won’t last ten minutes under official scrutiny -

 

One of the washers makes a horrible, loud, gross little sloshing sound. It isn’t her’s, she can tell by the location of the sound - she didn’t think that any of the other washers were in use -

She’s tired. It was going all along, and she just didn’t notice it until now, that’s all. Her mind is playing tricks. 

She walks towards the faulty machine, still walking on the balls of her feet.

It shakes, and shakes, and shakes, like it’s struggling to detach itself from its fellows. Some thick, oozing liquid slips down from the lid. It smells like brick dust, ozone, sharp and acidic and entirely unlike detergent. 

Maybe it’s water. Maybe the shovel wasn’t really there, and she’s dreaming, and she isn’t about to be chopped into pieces by a deranged Nordic football player -

She should stop the machine.

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... it’s broken. Of course. The dial is already at zero. It should be off already.

And - there probably isn’t a body in there, why would there be a body in there, but maybe there’s some clue -

She opens the lid, to see what’s inside.

 

Clothing. Of course. Excessively dirty clothing, but clothing.

She closes the lid. The machine seems to stop itself, and she resumes pacing and catasrophizing and trying not to hyperventilate -

The machine makes an unpleasant thud - it sounds like a gunshot, in the enclosed space. She startles back, trips, lands on her rear. It thudtwice more - she scoots back, rapidly, making a shrill sound - and then it stops.

Maybe she should unplug it. Maybe something horrible is going to happen if she doesn’t.

(Flicker, flicker, flicker, flicker -)

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She bends down in front of the machine, tries to ignore the continuing sloshing of dark fluid, reaches forward to unplug it -

There is a pale, manicured, green hand, with delicate green nail polish, at the edge of her vision, just for a moment.

 

She

Is 

Absolutely 

Still.

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Nothing else happens, just then. Amaris lets herself breathe, after thirty seconds have passed, and then slowly stands up, and starts backing up, cautiously, towards the other end of the laundromat.

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“Hello,” says a pleasant, feminine voice, coming from behind her.

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Amaris turns around, looks at her, and starts backing briskly away in the opposite direction.

(Her breathing is coming out very quickly, but it is under her control, she is under her control, she is not going to panic until she has a spare moment to panic -)

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Is she quite sure about that? It would be so, so very easy to panic.

Easier still to panic about how she’s dressed than how she’s imperiled, even - the woman in front of her, every feature perfect, every lock of hair in place, dress of beautiful emerald scales swishing as she moves, seems like the embodiment of divine beauty - it seems tempting, to kneel, to stare at her until the end of time, to pay attention -

The washing machine, behind them, rocks over onto its side, and spills dark fluid, everywhere. It doesn’t seem important.

“Do not be afraid,” says the woman in green, matching her stride for stride.

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Amaris can tell when she is about to be mesmerized by ethereal beauty and she is going to fuck that noise - it isn’t real, anyways, it’s - it’s some sort of glamor, she can feel her eyes twitching, she can feel the bzzzzzz of her surroundings ramp up, she can feel her breathcome fast and hot and smell the ozone, sharp in the air, she knows that this is not what that thing really looks like -

 

She closes her eyes, briefly - it feels like breaking a spell, like just barely catching a knife before it lodges itself in your throat, like the sudden gasp of air after you nearly drown - and summarily darts towards a nearby washing machine. She nearly slips, in the growing puddle of black, but she makes it over all the same.

She flips herself over it - all those years of gymnastics lessons, all those wasted hours, finally coming to fruition - and grabs a swiffer, brandishing it wildly with both hands.

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The woman is walking around the washing machines, gracefully, beautifully, as if her every step is carefully choreographed. 

“You are making this difficult,” she says - and isn’t her voice beautiful, couldn’t she just listen to it forever? “Do not. I will not hurt you. You will be fine, and you will be lovely, and then everything will be fine, and everything will be lovely, forever. I am not so frightening, am I?”

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Amaris carefully refrains from looking at her directly, and continues holding the swiffer, in slightly trembling hands.

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“... I was difficult once, myself,” the woman offers, conversationally, continuing to slowly stride towards Amaris. “I have been difficult, so many times. You have been difficult, so many times - but this is the last time, she awakens, this is the last -“

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Oh, look at that. She seems to have gotten in swiffer range. 

Have a swiffer to the face, and an Amaris rapidly scrambling towards the door, creepy green lady. 

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Cleaning implements do not seem to be particularly efficacious, in this instance. Perhaps she’d have better luck trying to clean up the puddle.

 

The woman in green seizes her by the hand, spins her around, and kisses her.

The world fades.

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She wakes up in a courtyard.

She stands.

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There’s a man there, about her height and age, and two people on a couch. The courtyard otherwise seems fairly empty.

”... um,” says the man. “Hello?”

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... she gives a little wave. 

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“You, um, fell out of the sky - I’m not as surprised as I would be if this weren’t probably the afterlife, but it’s still pretty surprising? Sandy and Wendy both just sort of spontaneously appeared on the couch. And have wires coming out of the back of their heads. And spend all of their time silently watching something that I can’t see. It’s weird and upsetting and I would like to receive a refund from the afterlife store.”

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