DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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NIght 58: Mines
Thoughtful
stlg13bomber wrote in damned
[From here.]

Carter gave the cave a quick scan for bats as soon as he was stable enough to hold up his flashlight. Nothing bad so far, but it would be best to write a note quickly and leave.

"Hey, can you keep an eye out?" he asked as he sat down on a nearby rock and held his flashlight under his chin, juggling it with his notebook. "There were some monster bats in here last time, but they hate lights so they're not too hard to get rid of."

Now, what to write?

Dear Claire,

I hope you are well. We are all doing okay at Landel's and everyone is pretending very hard that you are dead. Venom is very good at it. I don't know where you are which is probably exactly what you wanted but I hope I will escape and see you soon. Also look out for bats if you are in here because we got attacked by several. They do not like light so shine a flashlight at them or blow something up, that should help. I miss you a lot.

Love Sincerely,

Sgt. Andrew Carter

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Having not felt that spinning feeling in sometime, the Scarecrow nearly found himself on the ground after they were spirited away; however, he was surprised to see the ring worked as promised, whisking them far from the institute to what he supposed was the rugged terrain to the north, given the surroundings. He supposed it was just Depth Charge's that didn't work for one reason or another. He felt the air pulled from him as they changed settings; he wrapped his coat around himself tighter, turning on his light to do as instructed.

As he stood in silence, his mind wandered to Depth Charge yet again, and to Rosemarie and her friend the Major. As much as he tried, he couldn't help but feel badly- yes, they had done the right thing, but it was also their fault his friends would be facing the consequences. Worse was that he felt that telling anyone might only make things worse- the guilt-laden secret burned in him like a fire, trying to consume him from the inside out.

He looked over his shoulder, watching Carter writing. Perhaps he could do that as well, when the morning came- leave a note on the board for his friends. Nothing that gave details, of course, but he had to know that they were alright. If anything happened to one of them, especially Mele or Kibitoshin, he'd feel just awful. Well, more awful than he felt already, anyway.

The silence got to him again, so the Scarecrow spoke to keep himself from thinking anymore. "What are you writing?"

"I don't know exactly where Claire is, so I want to leave notes in a bunch of places." Carter put his name and rank at the bottom, then very carefully tore it out of his notebook. "This would be a good place to hide if you didn't get attacked by any of the bats. Even if she's out right now, she could come back and see it."

She might not even be in the area at all. And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, it meant she might have gotten out to Doyleton or hitchhiked a ride to somewhere else completely. Maybe she'd finally found that person she was looking for...

No time to spend on dreaming. Carter stood up and folded his note with the greatest of care, then stuck it under a rock. He left a corner sticking out so she wouldn't miss that it was there.

"From here we can walk down the mountain again and see if we can find that forest I saw the night we got the teleportation rings. When we escaped from the stalag the woods were the best place to hide, especially at night." Of course Scarecrow would be happy to follow him around. Hadn't he done it last time? And this was important business, trying to contact a fellow agent.

The Scarecrow nodded, numbly ready to follow instructions without question. He'd caused enough trouble on his own for one day- he had been the one with visible reservations about turning in the name, and the one who'd gotten rid of the evidence in the first place. He eyed the note Carter left under the rock as they started walking, wondering if what he said was true.

"Did your friend really manage to escape?" he asked after a few moments. It wasn't that he doubted Carter, but that he'd always wondered, ever since Kaiji's disappearance, if it was possible. Mele insisted he'd probably run so fast that he'd simply made it out. While, in his heart of hearts, the Scarecrow knew the chances of that weren't high, he liked to believe it anyway- he didn't like to turn a blind eye to the truth, but it wasn't hurting anyone for him to think it so.

The thought that Kaiji was home, rather than lost in the world outside the Institute and trapped into thinking he was someone he wasn't, like Dorothy, made his insides turn.

"I'm sure she had to," Carter replied as he carefully inched his way through the piled rocks at top of the slope. "People faking their deaths used to happen all the time back at the old stalag, it was an easy way to make sure no one came looking for them. And Claire's the smartest girl I know, she wouldn't go down like a chump."

That was what he had to keep telling himself or the world just wouldn't make any sense. She was a survivor, she'd told him that she was. The institute couldn't have just broken her.

Besides, no body. You couldn't be sure unless there was a body and all he'd heard was the post on the bulletin board. She was probably out in a restaurant right now drinking a shake and eating a hamburger.

The Scarecrow followed along the path, edging himself by the rocks after Carter. He had to admit that while the shoes felt tight on his feet and he preferred the feeling of the ground beneath him, the boots were doing a fine job of protecting his feet from the rough terrain. If only they could protect other things.

He'd not considered someone could fake their death, especially since he didn't think a great deal about death in the first place, other than how it could happen and what he could possibly do to prevent it. It didn't help that his view of death and what caused it was fairly limited: all he had to go on was what he'd heard from other patients (named Depth Charge and Abe), and what he knew as a scarecrow. Fire wasn't good for either body, and water apparently only served as an end to wicked people, given that he'd been in the shower several times and never melted. Being torn apart was much easier to fix when made of straw.

The concept did bring up some disturbing possibilities, though. What if the Wicked Witch had faked her death somehow, and now that he was gone, was causing trouble for Oz? Now that was something he didn't want to think about.

As they reached the top of the slope, near the edge of the quarry, the Scarecrow looked back down the hill toward the cave. For a second, he thought he saw a figure, an unnaturally bright spot against the darkness. Even from the distance, he recognized the familiar shape of his former roommate.

"Kaiji?" No sooner had he called did the figure disappear in the blink of an eye. Had he imagined it? Or worse, was it a spook?

Carter happily plodded along in the darkness, head and light to the ground. There was a possibility of snakes out here, or snake-scorpion hybrids with fire breath, but he'd probably be able to see them coming. He didn't even notice Frank had stopped until he was a few steps away.

Was Frank talking to someone?" "Who?" He shined his flashlight in the direction Frank was looking and squinted into the darkness. Nothing there but a bunch of rocks.

"Did you see something up there?" he asked, a little confused and just a tiny bit hopeful. If Claire really was here, if he could see her in person...

Though the flashlight did a fine job of cutting through the surrounding darkness, its beam never landed on the figure he'd seen. Oh, but he was so sure he saw someone there! And not just anyone, either- Kaiji. He'd only seen him for an instant, but he was so sure it was his former roommate. He wasn't sure he could convince himself otherwise.

Sliding back down the hill, he ran to the spot where Kaiji had stood, looking to the dirt and snow that covered the ground. No tracks anywhere. "I could've sworn there was someone here!" he said, more to himself than to Carter.

"Maybe it's here!" Carter said excitedly. He swung the flashlight around madly and tried to catch a glimpse of her. They could talk face to face. He could tell her how he hadn't lost faith and she could tell him how she'd managed his daring escape. Carter cupped his mouth with his hands, resting the crowbar on his thumb. "Claire! It's me, Carter! I'm down here!"

He waited, panting and hopeful, but only his own echo came back to him. Slowly his enthusiasm began to dim.

Must have been a trick of the dark.

"We should...probably keep moving," he mumbled, feeling a little embarrassed.

The Scarecrow met Carter's embarrassed look with one of his own. He would have bet the brains he didn't have that he'd seen Kaiji in that exact spot- and yet, they were alone. Perhaps he was just too hopeful, thinking of Carter's friend who had escaped. He wanted so badly to believe it was the same for his friends.

"I suppose you're right," he said, walking past the sergeant back the way they came. Perhaps the stress from the day was getting to him- it certainly had been wearing enough even without being able to ask how Depth Charge's night went. As much as he wanted to assume it went well, the fact was that his roommate had headed to the infamous basement. That was bad enough on its own.

He looked to the top of the rise again, only to see another figure. There was no mistaking that it was Mele— just as there had been no mistaking that it was Kaiji only seconds before&mdash, though as before, she was gone in an instant. Had she been bewitched again?

He said nothing this time, but his run up the hill was faster than before. He had to know.

"Frank? Hey, Frank, come back!" What in the world was he doing? Carter chased after him, stumbling on rocks and scraping his hands as he tried to pick himself back up again. "Don't go out alone, it's not safe!" What was he doing? There was nobody out here.

Carter topped the hill just in time to see a flicker of a pale face under close-cropped hair in the moonlight. He stared, heart pounding and terrified that she would disappear in a moment, but she kept staring past him.

"Claire!" he screamed, half-joyful and half-panicked that she was going to disappear again. Frank was forgotten as he scrambled to get to his dear friend.

He knew she'd be here. He knew it.

The Scarecrow reached the top of the hill, looking around for Mele, but it was the same for her as it had been for the shade of Kaiji he'd seen only moments before- she was nowhere to be found, having disappeared into thin air. He could possibly understand Kaiji having been out there, but Mele... she was still at the Institute, wasn't she? That was a troubling thought indeed.

Almost as troubling was the thought that, perhaps instead of his friends, these were just specters pretending to be his friends. After all, he had seen stranger things during his time at the Institute. Depth Charge had surely seen something that one night, or at least believed he did; there was always the chance the same was happening now.

"Carter?" he asked without turning. "You do believe in spooks, don't you?"

It was only after he got no reply that he turned, having lost track of his companion. "Sergeant?" Oh dear- that wasn't very good, was it?

It was hard to run and keep his head focused on the hills at the same time. Carter kept seeing flashes of her walking along the ridge but when he reached the top of the hill she was gone.

He tried to catch his breath, feeling his heart trying to pound its way out of his chest. She was here. He'd seen her, she was here. "Claire, where did you go? It's okay, it's safe out here! Come out and meet me!" Why was she hiding from him? He was her friend. They'd had coffee and everything. Was it dangerous, or did she think he'd turn her in?

He sank down onto a protruding rock at the top of the quarry and looked around in aching confusion. Why wasn't she coming out?

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