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Day 54: Doctor's Office 5 (Dr. Venkman) [Fourth Shift]
you don't think it's too subtle do you?
whoyougoncall wrote in damned
It was amazing how much better one could feel after venting about suspicious goings-on at work with someone who shared said suspicion. Granted, that only upgraded Venkman from "annoyed" to "annoyed and vindicated," but it was still a step better than he'd been at that morning.

Unfortunately, being suspicious of one's employers did not grant one sufficient ground to stop working and start breaking down doors. One needed evidence for that sort of thing. Or at least a means of kicking some ass. And with the military around? Venkman had a feeling that the latter wasn't much of an option right now.

Thus, he had no choice but to go back to his office after lunch and prepare for his next patients. After not getting much of anywhere following the double-patient session the day before, he had gone back to the usual separate sessions, so he would have to be brief with each one. Don't want us getting too close to the people we're supposed to be helping, right, Landel? he thought with a roll of his eyes as he got the files in order. The PKE Meter still sat in his drawer, ready to be brought out in the event one of his patients seemed like the type who wouldn't blab about it.

[Scarecrow] [Izaya]

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Despite his best efforts to deny it, the Scarecrow got the feeling the nurse could sense his trepidation as they approached Dr. Venkman's door. It had only been a few nights since his nighttime visit to the office. He'd not managed to get one of the diplomas- after what happened to Scar that night and the events of the following evenings, it had slipped his mind almost entirely- but surely Dr. Venkman had come in the next day and noticed his office wasn't how he'd left it.

Thankfully, the nurse mistook the look of concern on his face for another. "Now, now," she said with a supportive pat on his shoulder, "there's nothing to be worried about. Dr. Venkman isn't going to be locking you in a room with tear gas. Or he'd better not." Her last statement was accompanied by an irritated sigh; clearly, she was still unhappy about the guards looming around every corner.

The Scarecrow stood by the door a moment as she closed it behind him, taking in the room. Everything looked in order, nearly exactly as it was the last week, but he felt so different somehow. Perhaps it was the movie, or maybe all he'd learned (what little there was, he thought) in the span of another week, or it could have been that the strangeness of the day was getting to him after all. He rubbed his eyes, still feeling the effects of the tear gas.

Well, standing around in silence certainly wasn't getting him anywhere. "How do you do, Dr. Venkman?" the Scarecrow asked with a deep nod.

Right, Hunk was in today. Or, correction, the wannabe Scarecrow of Oz. He had been the absolute most dense about real-world terminology out of all his patients the previous week. Venkman had to wonder if perhaps a week among other patients, some of whom were likely to know about the movie as well, would have called him out by now. By the heavier, more defeated slump of the man's shoulders, he was guessing he might be on to something there.

"Fine, fine thanks," he answered, gesturing toward the chair in front of the desk. "Still a little itchy in the eyes there?" he asked, flashing a faint look of rare, real sympathy Hunk's way. Unlike Ivan, Hunk was pretty likely to have been affected badly by the tear gassing earlier. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, man. That's not right what they did there," he apologized to start.

"Oh, don't you worry about me," the Scarecrow insisted with a shake of his head, slowly heading for the offered chair.

It struck him as odd that the nurse, Dr. Venkman, and from the sound of it, Wizard Landel himself, were all at odds with this Eagle character and his dark-clad orderlies. The Head Doctor had so much power at his side, what with his abilities to bring people from such far-off places, take away their original forms, and brainwash them. Was there really someone with even more power (and possibly even more wicked) than he was?

The Scarecrow clasped his hands together as he sank into the seat. Those stiff hands would never feel familiar. "I've got to admit it was a shock. One minute, I'm under the table with a friend trying to stay out of the way, and the next, I'm on the floor and everything is just awful. I don't think anyone is happy about what happened."

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure no one is happy except this Eagle fella', whoever he is. I wouldn't be surprised if he was watching from on high and getting his jollies off while you guys were taking all that punishment," Venkman answered with disgust drenching his usual calm tone.

But enough of that. For now, anyway. "Anyway, there's no way I shouldn't still worry about you. Even if that riot hadn't happened, there's still the stuff from last week I left you to sort out for yourself. How'd that go for you? Make any progress at understanding it all?" he asked, trying to keep any sarcastic bite out of his voice for once. He was genuinely curious to know the answer here.

Boy, had the Scarecrow ever made progress, though he wasn't sure he was any closer to understanding it in the least. He looked away, rubbing the still-shorter-than-the-rest-of-his-hair patch on his head idly.

He had to think. Think Scarecrow, think! Though Dr. Venkman was a highly intelligent individual with multiple diplomas, the fact of the matter was that he was working for the Wizard Landel. There were certain details that couldn't be told, whether because the doctor wouldn't believe him or because it was something he ultimately didn't want the nurses to know. The Scarecrow shook his head to himself as he pondered a hole into the ground. He wasn't very good at being secretive. How could he tell Dr. Venkman he'd actually seen the movie he was supposedly a part of? That it was surely some trick put there by Wizard Landel for him to find when they were magically taken to town during the night?

When it came right down to it, it sounded fantastic even to the Scarecrow. Of course, so did the entire concept of a movie- that they could have a visual record of a story, but the characters were played by people who only looked a great deal like who they were supposed to be, was surreal enough.

Oh, he was sitting so quietly for too long! "Well," the Scarecrow started, trying to fill the silence before he'd actually pieced together an answer, "I suppose just a little. On our trip to town, I visited a store that had a movie called, 'The Wizard of Oz.' That is the one you were trying to tell me about, isn't it?"

Venkman's eyes widened a small fraction. He nodded in Hunk's direction, granting him a look that showed he was genuinely pleased with what he was hearing (at least as pleased as he could have been following the rest of the day's events). "I'm impressed. You're actually acknowledging it. I was expecting you'd come back here determined to stay as much in the dark as you were last time."

Granted, there were still a few things wrong with Hunk's statement. He still spoke of the movie from the perspective of someone who had never seen The Wizard of Oz before, which was completely untrue. At the very least, Hunk had read some of those books before, and Venkman doubted it was just that; the voice, the gait, everything was pretty similar to that old film performance. Maybe a little more worn-down this week, but he could still envision the character there for sure. Hunk's delusion still had a very solid hold.

But a small breakthrough was still a breakthrough, even if it didn't fix everything. It was still one of the best things Venkman had heard all day. "So, yes, that was the one I was trying to tell you about." He gave a short shrug, hands both palm upward. "Too bad they wouldn't let you take it back here with you. I might've let you watch it. In fact, I probably could set that up for next time, if you want?"

Dr. Venkman seemed to take the Scarecrow's answer well, despite that he'd not put much thought into it. Maybe it was too much thinking that was holding him back sometimes? Surely not. The problem might have been that he was trying to think too much without having a good brain in his head.

He nodded along with Dr. Venkman's assessment, only half listening until the end. "Oh, I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far yet," the Scarecrow said with a nervous laugh. There was a moment of hesitation: did the doctor somehow know about the night of the enchanted doors? Or that the former strawman actually had said movie in his room? Or that he'd already seen most of it? He was truly a wise man if he could skirt so close to the truth without knowing it.

But how sad it was for someone so learned to not know about Oz! Sangamon had said that people didn't believe there was an Oz, and that it was the same for the places most everyone else at Landel's came from. There was a part of him that couldn't help but want to convince Dr. Venkman of the Wizard Landel's deception, but if there was any day to do it, this certainly wasn't it- not with the Eagle's guards in every hallway. Even without a brain, he knew better than the tempt them to action again.

"I have been speaking to a patient who has seen it," the Scarecrow added, feeling another gap of silence stretching thin. "He said there was a strong resemblance between me and one of the people in it, and that he could see how I'd get mixed up. Why is it that so many folks here are like me, thinkin' they're someone they're not?"

Speaking to a patient who had seen it? That made sense. Most people were more likely to believe someone they saw as being in their same peer group, as opposed to feeling like "truth" was being handed down to them from some authority figure. That was how most conspiracy theories got started (including a few that Ray and Egon had fallen for in the past). Did that mean that Hunk would be more willing to listen to what Venkman had to say to him this week? It seemed that was the case so far.

"He's not kidding. You really do look like the guy," Venkman said with a nod, gesturing toward his patient briefly. "My guess for you specifically is that you saw the movie at some point in your past, but maybe pushed it back into your subconscious along with some other memories, and now it's manifesting in this new personality you've got going." That was a weak explanation, but it was something to start with, at least. They were far from reaching a full picture on this (or any) case so far.

"As for everyone else?" Venkman shrugged. "The human brain is complicated, man. That's pretty much all there is to it. There are so many neurons firing down so many infinitely tiny, branching pathways that stretch across so many different lobes and layers that if even a few pathways get jammed up or re-routed, then the whole operation goes haywire. It's kind of a miracle that you and I are even speaking coherently to each other right now, when you really think about it.

"So it makes sense that with all the billions of people on Earth, at least a few are gonna have some problems with their brains, right?" he finished. "Just so happens that this facility is geared toward treating a few specific kinds of problems, which is why you see so many of them in one place."

It almost sounded... logical, the way Venkman described it there. If one counted out all the other issues that Landel's had, up to and including the suspicious military presence, it sounded downright reasonable.

One thing at at time, he thought with a short shake of his head.

The Scarecrow did his best not to look as confused as he was- he felt his brow furrow and knew he couldn't have been doing a very good job of it. What Dr. Venkman was saying about the institute made sense: of course there were a lot of people there who supposedly thought they weren't who they ought to be, given the nature of the Institute (or the front the Wizard Landel put up during the day, anyway); however, as to why there were so many folks like that in the first place didn't get as straightforward of an answer. Whether he didn't know or the Wizard Landel kept him in the dark was uncertain.

There was one thing for sure: Dr. Venkman knew a lot about brains. It was hard to imagine someone with as many diplomas as he had could ever be fooled- it was another testament to just how convincing Wizard Landel could be. Perhaps he was a former patient as well and was just as brainwashed as Dorothy had been? That was a curious thought, one the Scarecrow tucked away for later pondering. Even though the doctor, with all his diplomas hanging prominently on the wall, had somehow been tricked into believing Landel's lies, the Scarecrow was confident he'd not follow suit once he'd found his own thinker. Clearly, not just any brains would do.

"About brains, Dr. Venkman," he started, looking at the floor a moment and shaking his head, "do they still work right even after they've been tampered with? They... well, during one of the sleep studies, they worked on mine, and I can't say things have gotten any better. If anything, they're worse."

He hoped his saying that wouldn't result in his being chosen for another sleep study, but it was worth asking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

asdfasdf sorry for the wait, bro!

"Worked on yours?" Venkman raised an eyebrow then. He knew vaguely about the sleep studies, but according to the Institute, details of said studies weren't relevant enough to therapy to be worth including in patient files. All he ever really got was a note that one had taken place, along with a very vague description of the result. He flipped open Hunk's file; in this case, the note read something about looking at brain waves connected to the senses, but as expected, gave him nothing useful beyond that.

It seemed harmless enough, just looking at brain activity on a monitor, but with everything else the Institute had been hiding, Venkman was curious to know whether that had been the end of it. Hearing Hunk say "tampered with" didn't help much, though he still doubted anything truly horrific had happened (ala the mysterious Zex). "So, what, did they hook up some electrodes and put you to sleep or something? What did they say they were gonna do?" he asked, keeping the file open in case he needed to make any additional notes. "If it's what I think it was, your brain should be just fine, but I dunno, maybe they did something different. Tell me. What happened?"

"Well..." The Scarecrow hesitated. Even if the nurses weren't listening right outside the door, the fact was that Dr. Venkman was on Landel's side either through bewitchment or his own volition. It was more likely the former, since a man so wise couldn't possibly ignore all the terrible things that happened at night (if he saw it at all, that was), but that didn't change that he was a part of the staff and believed the Scarecrow was supposed to be Hunk Howard.

All the while, the former strawman's hands acted on their own, one gripping the sleeve of his shirt while the other found that patch on his head again. The hair was still definitely shorter, but the stitching felt less prominent than before. Maybe it was gone? He couldn't tell- there was still a ridge where it had been, but that was possibly part of the healing process. He couldn't be too sure how long wounds lasted in such an unfamiliar body; to be honest, he wasn't sure the scars left by the events of that night would ever heal. His body trembled- not from the cold, but from remembering his sleep study. He was certain he wouldn't forget what had happened, no matter how hard he tried.

Not that he would try! As horrifying as it had been, the sleep study had given him a clearer view of the Wizard Landel. Even if it were all somehow true- what Dorothy and Dr. Venkman said, the movie, his having never been a scarecrow at all- the real truth was that the Wizard Landel was undoubtedly wicked. The Scarecrow wouldn't- no, couldn't allow himself to be fooled. He had to do something about his disappearing friends and Dorothy. He couldn't go home until then.

Oh, it seemed the Scarecrow had been thinking too much and that the clever little thing had felt it was time to turn off his senses again. Though he couldn't feel the bumps on his head anymore, he kept his hand there as he rubbed his fingers together with the other. It almost felt strange to be without his beloved sense of touch- perhaps he was getting too used to his human form after all.

A part of him wanted to tell Dr. Venkman everything, but he knew better. Not only was the doctor a part of the staff, but it was possible he wouldn't believe what he was told. He hadn't believed the Scarecrow was originally a strawman. Better put it in a way he would understand.

"They cut into my head, right here," answered the Scarecrow, his voice much quieter than he'd thought it'd be. He swallowed that lump that had formed in his throat, trying to think of just what he should and shouldn't say. "She didn't tell me exactly why they did it, but my senses don't work right sometimes now. I can't feel anything if I think too much. I can't taste or smell anything either, though I know it should be there. It's like being made of straw."

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