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Feb 28, 2020 8:01 PM
Turquoises in All Night Laundry.
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Someone knocks, sharply, on the door.

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That didn’t happen the first time.

The teenage athlete who’d previously been... occupied... lets out an exaggerated sigh, gets off of her, pulls on his underwear, and answers the door.

He blinks.

”Wait, what the -“

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The Amaris on the other side of the door has a gun, equipped with a silencer.

She shoots him.

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He gurgles, falls, gushes blood,

And dies.

She steps over his corpse - hugs her alternative version, hard, wraps her up in nearby blankets - and stands.

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Someone appears in the doorway. He winces, heavily, at the dead body.

”... um? I was looking for you but I couldn’t find you and then - what happened?”

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“Asshole,” says Amaris-J, with an illustrative gesture towards the corpse.

She mimes shooting it with the gun.

Dead asshole.”

And then she levels the gun at Caden, raising an eyebrow.

”Dead asshole?”

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“... yes to the first part, no to the second? Um, please don’t shoot me, I’ve already died twice and it really isn’t as fun as it looks?”

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The younger Amaris murmurs ‘friend’, hoarsely, to the older one; the older one nods, shrugs, and holsters the gun.

”Leave room, leave dream: do in next few minutes. Good luck. Goodbye.”

She leaves.

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“... do you need any help?”

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... she shakes her head, after a moment, and makes a little ‘shoo’ gesture. 

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“I’ll - go have my impending emotional breakdown in a corner somewhere, I guess, sorry. Um, good luck?”

 

He leaves.

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Amaris, after a few minutes of processing, calculation, and staring at the dead body, gets up, and puts on her previously discarded clothing.

And then she, too, leaves.

She doesn’t look back.

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“- girl? Girl, I cannot linger long, if I should live; if you are alive and of some consciousness, speak, else I should go and you should drown.”

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It’s completely dark, and completely cold, and she’s completely covered in still-sloshing mud, from neck to toe. She’s also just barely coming to alertness, glad that she’s leaning against a wall and accordingly without need to support her own weight, and rarely capable of speech on more ordinary occasions -

- he’ll have to settle for a dull ‘nnnnnnnnnnngh’ sound.

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It’ll do.

”Make sound, and stay still. I will get you, and we will go,” he says, starting to drudge through the muck.

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Oh, will he.

She thinks that this maiden is going to rescue herself, thanks but no thanks. She starts humming the tune to ‘I will survive’. 

She’s lying down, mostly, with only a little elevation from the wall. She starts drawing herself up - slowly, slowly - 

Her hair presses against her scalp.

She raises one hand up, tentatively, and - it’s a dryer, or a washer, just barely propped up by the wall. She can feel it, slowly sliding down, millimeter by millimeter.

 

Great. She’s about to be crushed to death. Or drowned. Or both. 

The fact that she’s still humming the tune of ‘I will survive’ starts to seem hilarious, all of a sudden. Because she’s not going to survive, you see. She’s going to die. She climbed out of hell with a magic scarf, crushed an impossibly beautiful green woman under a laundromat, relived her rape, made tentative friends with a ghost, travelled through time on several occasions, escaped from the clutches of someone who presumably ate four dozen eggs, every morning to help him grow large, and now that he’s grown he eats five dozen eggs, so he’s roughly the size of a -

She giggles, with an edge of hysteria, and switches to humming that song. Much less on the nose. Good job, Amaris, your death will be a little less ironic, now.

Ha, ha. Ha, ha ha, ha ha ha ha fucking ha -

Oh look. She’s crying. 

Her feet kick out, tentatively - maybe she can shuffle to the side, maybe she can make it -

It isn’t very wise, flailing around like that, when everything around you is being held up by fond dreams and thick, squishy, wet-sand-esque mud.

You might knock over something important, you see, and then where would you be?

 

She knocks over something important. 

The dryer falls.

Amaris dies.

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He hears the crash, and the squelch, and the abrupt cessation of sound.

 

He sighs. 

“Oh lord and master and governor of all, father of our lord Jesus Christ,” he begins, in Russian. “Who desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that they may turn from his wickedness and live, willing that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. We pray for you to loose the soul of your servant -“

He continues on in that vein for a while, and concludes with a quiet ‘amen’.

And he’s never gotten particularly good at echolocating, but he’s practiced it, a fair deal, and it’s enough to give him a vague guess at his surroundings, combined with decent night vision. There’s a tunnel, leading out of the room, relatively unobstructed by debris; he walks into it, and continues on, for a while.

Trudge, trudge, trudge -

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He encounters a television, eventually, standing in the mud.

It shows static, in spite of its concpicuous lack of power source.

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... it’s flickering - or, no, the light is constant, but its flickering in some deeper sense, jumping in and out of his vision -

He nudges it with his foot - it falls, face first, into the mud -

And he disappears. 

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He lands in the laundromat. 

A clock on the wall says ‘1:53’ - AM, presumably, given the general darkness of the place. He peers, briefly, out the windows -

That’s... a moon. And that’s... the girl that he just saw die, carrying a laundry hamper, looking tired.

... time travel. 

It’s ridiculous, as an explanation, but it fits. 

He doesn’t know the rules, here - doesn’t know if he’ll break reality by changing anything - but he finds he’s distinctly disinclined to let events happen as they had. It’s embarrassing - first he’s taken down effortlessly by some random blond, then he’s entranced by some sort of bewitching gorgon and has to be saved by some civilian, then he lets that same civilian die - 

He turns sharply away from the windows, towards the employee’s only area where he’d been kept -

And stops.

There’s a shard of cheap, tacky plastic, lit faintly by some internal glow, lodged in the back of the television. 

It seems... important, somehow. Like one of those splash photographs, where most of the world is grey and only one object is allowed its color.

He leans down, grabs hold of it, and pulls it out; some of it comes out, and some of it breaks off inside, with a somehow distinctive ‘shrick’.

He stares at it, for a few moments, before pocketing it, and continuing to walk.

The door to the employee’s only area starts to open, as he reaches for the handle.

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Nathaniel is saved by the grace of outward-opening doors.

If the door had swung inward, he would’ve been finished, unless he’d tried to stab the man with plastic shard. As is, he can hide behind the swinging of the door, duck in under the huge man’s arm, and, miracle of miracles, avoid notice.

He mutters something in Russian, as the door closes, and looks around.

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His earlier self is tied up in a corner, thoroughly unconscious; the rest of the room looks as he remembers it.

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... including the backwards safe. 

He’d spent so long staring at it, wondering what it could possibly contain, thinking about what it could ssibly contain. It wasn’t like it became less obviously a safe, turned around so that it faced the wall, unless you were oblivious enough to mistake a large metal box for something more innocuous -

He notes that the lights have turned on, and that the blonde man is blabbering something to the girl.

He decides to turn around the safe.

It’s heavy, but the process doesn’t make much sound. And the rest is child’s play - he’s cracked more than one safe, in his time, and this one is so basic as to be trivial - 

- he opens it.

Quite contrary to his expectations, it doesn’t have even one eldritch abomination, waiting patiently to devour his face.

It has a tastefully black backpack, a miniature flashlight, and a note, written in his own handwriting.

Take out the tourniquet, and the medication, from the backpack; it takes some sting and pain from paradox, although painful it remains. Do what is needed, do no more, turn around the safe, and put on the backpack. Do not tarry.”

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Well then. Only one thing to do.

He ties the tourniquet, injects the medication with a practiced hand, tosses the syringe back into the safe, and takes out the flashlight and the backpack, putting the latter garment on. He closes the safe, and turns it back around, slowly, painstakingly, letting out little grunts of exertion.

He hears the same voice as earlier, outside, muttering indistinctly, and some truly concerning thumps and thuds and crashes; he ignores them. He feels wind picking up; he ignores it.

He puts the miniature flashlight in his earlier version’s pocket, and puts the backpack on.

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The wind is getting faster, faster, faster -

 

“Hello, Nathaniel,” says a beautiful, green woman, in a beautiful, green dress, from behind him.

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