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Feb 28, 2020 6:17 PM
Turquoises in All Night Laundry.
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- he hadn’t heard the door open -

He spins around, and pointedly avoids looking at her directly. The wind feels less like wind, now, and more like a uniform pressure, matting his hair down against his head, pressing down on his clothing -

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She takes three steps forward, blindingly quick, seizing his wrists with one hand, pulling down his head with the other -

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He looks, involuntarily, and sees something blindingly bright and blindingly green and beautiful beyond description -

And then he’s gone.

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

His hand, goes absently, to his pocket, and - a miniature flashlight.

How does he have a miniature flashlight. He distinctly remembers the blonde man searching his pockets, and there’s no way he could’ve possibly missed something that conspicuous - 

Whatever. He fiddles with it, for a little, turns it on, and continues drudging.

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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.

 

She almost panics - it’s a very near thing - but then the flashlight comes on, and she can see, just a little, and she’s only a little tempted to start catastrophizing.

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, and escaped from the clutches of a gigantic nordic man incongruously named ‘Zeke’. A dryer is hardly going to inconvenience her.

She can do this.

And she has a light of her own, doesn’t she?

She unwraps the bandage around her hand, just a little, just a touch - 

Green.

Green light pours out. The - washer, dryer, whatever it is - is still on top of her, but she can see that if she just scooted a little to the left - carefully, oh so carefully - and then just sort of nudged aside those linoleum floor tiles - 

She’s out. 

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And Nathaniel can see her!

He looks at the light, then looks at her, looks at the light then looks at her -

 

“... I will have questions, later. For now: the tunnel?”

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She nods.

He stays still, while she reaches him, and then they carefully, carefully walk out of the tunnel, and spend a while walking in silence, through the cold, and the mud.

(Is it her imagination, but does it smell... sweet? Like something putrid, producing honey to attract its prey.)

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(It isn’t her imagination.)

They eventually encounter a television, standing up in the muck, showing static in spite of its lack of power - flickering, in some metaphysical sense -

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He tentatively nudges it over, and it lands, face down, in the mud -

- he disappears, he collects the shard and goes into the room and opens the safe and reads the note and injects the medication and puts a flashlight in his past self’s pocket and puts on the backpack and is seized by the Woman in Green - 

And he reappears.

 

“... time travel is very complicated,” he reports, stepping away from the television. “You may have to assist me in standing.”

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(Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz - the television stopped flickering, at least, but she’s still cold and muddy and sleep deprived and haunted by a faint sense of unreality, of danger, of television static -)

She nods, and goes into a position where she can help him stay on his feet.

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And he - doesn’t seize, exactly, but he does abruptly need quite a bit of help staying upright. His eyes go unfocused, and he starts muttering, softly, in Russian.

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She can probably help him stay in place indefinitely, even when he’s only barely better than dead weight - but they can’t, actually, stay here indefinitely; it’s so cold, and the mud is even colder, and they’ll probably freeze to death.

So she starts moving, carefully avoiding the prone form of the television.

(She doesn’t think it’s really a television. She thinks it’s something else. Something old, something seen, something borrowed, something green -)

 

It’s hard. It’s hard and it’s horrible and it’s long, just getting to the end of the tunnel. And the end of the tunnel isn’t the end, really. It’s the beginning of a long, horrible little journey across more mud.

She’d heard Wendy - earlier, in the office building, when she went back in time - mention ‘buildings underground’. 

She knows, now, what Wendy had meant.

The Astro Sugar factory, buried beneath the surface. Several Astro Sugar factories, warped and mutated and twisted together, if she read the landscape right. All encased beneath a giant, darkened dome, with only one visible gap in the structure, at the very top.

There’s a little concrete island, twenty meters or so from the tunnel entrance, protruding from the mud. 

Just twenty meters. She only has to make it for twenty. fucking. meters.

One step, keeping an insensate Russian man who weighs more than she does from falling over, slowly freezing, as exhausted as she’s ever been. Another step, keeping an unconscious Russian man who weighs more than she does from falling over, slowly freezing, as exhausted as she’s ever been. Another step, keeping... 

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Step one: contemplate the ultimate futility of existence.

Step two: consider how the odds are stacked against you so hard it’s not even funny, anymore, it’s just sort of sad. 

Step three: shiver at the cold, at the mud slipping against your skin, at the smell of something sugary and decayed, at the psychosomatic sensation of maggots writhing up your arm, at the hints of green light peering out of corners and dark places, at the complete certainty that you are going to fail and die a miserable death.

Step four: keep walking, keep moving, keep breathing and fighting and clawing your way up against everything that’s trying to keep you down, it’s hard and it would be so, so easy to stop, so easy to panic and flail and drown and die - but you don’t you won’t you won’t.

Step five: succeed.

Step six: collapse, and dream.

 

Amaris succeeds. She doesn’t know how, but she lugs the Russian man over the mud and the muck and she climbs up onto the island and she drags him up, and she pants, and she shivers, and she rests, for a moment. She opens up the backpack and discovers two space blankets and more heat pads than she knows what to with. She rolls the Russian onto the space blanket, breaks a few heat pads, and wraps him up, and then does the same with herself. She feels shaky tendrils of warmth, tentatively, painfully make their way down her limbs, and she’s so tired...

Amaris dreams.

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Amaris Baker’s Dream, Age 11

 

She’s at the theatre. 

She’d rather not be at the theatre, honestly, stage productions are lame, but her parents think she needs more ‘culture’ or something, so the theater she is at. It’s playing ‘Hamlet’, except it’s one of those weird versions of Hamlet where everything is super modern, and people’s ‘rapiers’ are really guns, and stuff. 

But she sorta likes it. Like, she doesn’t like like it, but it’s okay. All of the actors are good at delivering their lines, and this Gertrude seems way more complex than the way she’s presented in the written version, and there’s something relaxing about being allowed to just zone out and stare at something interesting, you know?

... though she didn’t want to zone out and stare at that ‘something interesting’. 

You know. The green one.

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The green one seems to have other plans. 

 “A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,” says Claudius, on stage, “he by chance escape your venomed stuck, our purpose may hold there - but stay, what noise?”

That’s supposed to be when Gertrude arrives on stage.

It isn’t.

 

”One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,” says the Woman in Green, fluttering onto the stage after a pause. “Your sister’s drowned, Laertes.”

Every actor on stage pauses to stare at her, awed; everyone in the audience leans forward in their seat.

Laertes still manages to say “Drowned? O’, where?” in a small, awestruck voice.

 

And then he isn’t there. There’s nobody else in all the theatre. 

The Woman in Green smiles slightly, and turns to face Amaris, leaning forward.

”At the bottom of a hole in the ground,” she says. “Covered in mud, pointless, insignificant, panicking, pitiful, alone. Is it not sad, Amaris? Is it not sad, being so alone? I can be your friend, Amaris, and everyone can be your friend, and everything can be perfect forever. Everything will be perfect forever, Amaris. Everything will be fine. You just have to look.”

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That isn’t how this is supposed to go. 

But this is her dream.

And there’s someone else, who lives in her dreams, who comes out on special occasions - 

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And she isn’t alone.

And there is somebody else in the entire theater.

He looks at the Woman in Green, not seeming awestruck in the slightest.

”... hello, shadow,” he says.

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“Hello, little boy. Thank you, Amaris, your cooperation will no longer be required.”

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What is it with the Woman and vaguely ominous statements - 

Whatever. 

Time to grab Caden’s hand, dart over to an aisle, and commence RUNNING THE FUCK AWAY.

(And fidget one scarf-scrap off of her wrist, just in case -)

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The Woman in Green gives them a moment’s head start.

Then she takes a few steps backwards, starts running forwards, leaps like a wild cat about to make a kill - 

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No time to think -

They’ve reached the back of the theatre, by now, and it’s about level with the stage -

She flings the scarf towards one of the rafters; it wraps around it, and holds. 

She grips Caden’s hand, holds onto the scarf for dear life, and swings them both over rows and rows of cushioned seats, to the stage.

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They only narrowly avoid the Woman in Green’s midair trajectory. She claws at them, ineffectually, making a sort of hissing sound - 

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And then they’re on the stage.

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Caden really hadn’t thought that would work.

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But it did. 

She darts to the left, leading them backstage - 

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