DAMNED || LANDEL'S INSTITUTE

A Multifandom Asylum RPG


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Night 45: Main Hallway, 1-West
weight of the world
hajike_tobiume wrote in damned
[from here]

Once away from the safety of the patient block, Momo slowed down as she traveled along the left hand wall to cover her blind spot. In this position, she could easily draw her sword and deal with issues as they arose. Hopefully, there would be none.

Momo had too much on her mind to want to deal with anything she didn't have to.

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[Making haste from here.]

It was just after the Scarecrow made it out of the M blocks and into the main hallway and was about to turn to go toward where his map said that the F blocks were that it occurred to him that this plan of "find Mele and tell her to stay put because it's dangerous out here and she may not believe you but better safe than sorry" was not one of his best concoctions.

First of all, he had no idea which room Mele would be in, since he'd never bothered to ask. The map said there were lots of female rooms, and looking through them might take entirely too long. He could have loitered about the hallway that all the female rooms led to in the hopes of catching her before she got very far, but that didn't sound like a good idea either. She was probably long gone already.

He snapped his fingers, silently cursing his clumsy feet and even clumsier brain for not helping him think of a better idea. He concentrated for a moment. There was a good chance Mele could probably take care of herself, even if she didn't know who she was.

No, scratch that. When had he first met her? When he and Kaiji found her unconscious on the floor in the Horrible Hallway. He'd rather not put her safety at risk on a 'good chance,' especially if she was a beacon for trouble. He'd rather just find her and make sure she was all right himself. That'd put his mind at ease.

But how could he find her? A new plan was formulating in his mind as he opened his map. It'd take time, and was a good bit more improbable than he liked, but he had no better ideas than to simply go from room to room and see if he could find her before she got to the second floor. With luck, he might stumble into Scourge as well.

He took a look left and right. Well, she wasn't here. That was one hall cleared.

[From here.]

Feeling safer as he entered the side part of the hallway that had a fair amount of people going in and out, the Scarecrow took a seat along the wall, leaning his back and head against it as his hand trailed to his side and midsection. His body complained to him again, reminding him why it was more convenient to be filled with straw than stiffer stuff. Feeling was nice on most occasions, but aching was not as agreeable.

He closed his eyes, still irked that he hadn't a clue what to do next. Oh, if only he had his brains, he could surely think of a way to snap Mele from that wizard's spell!

His brains! His doctorate in Thinkology! Maybe he could try to make it to wherever they kept such possessions and get it, then he could--

No wait, that was on the second floor. That was not a place he wanted to go, especially on his own, and certainly not with his body sore and angry at him. That would have to wait until at least the next night.

[Remy]

[From here.]

More humans were moving in and out of this hallway, a few of them alone, but mostly in small groups. None of them seemed to take much notice of Remy.

He had to make another decision about which way to go, and he wasn't sure what to do. He could just ask someone where he was, but that idea presented a couple of problems: while he could understand everything people said, and read their books and their correspondence and their signs and everything else, he couldn't talk to them himself. He had been able to communicate with Linguini (and, more recently, a few others) with gestures and body language, but he'd never had what he'd call a real conversation with a human. They only understood his speech as squeaking.

He could have kicked himself for not testing out his voice back in the room where he'd woken up. On the other hand, even if he had, there was no way of knowing that he would have been able to tell he was talking like a human instead of talking like himself.

While he hesitated, he moved to stand against a wall, out of the way and hopefully out of any danger; it took him a few seconds to notice that someone else was there. The guy who sat against the wall maybe reminded him a little of Horst, at first glance... but nah, he didn't really look like anyone Remy knew.

"H-hi," he said, not knowing whether or not he'd be understood.

Opening his eyes, the Scarecrow took a quick glance around to make sure he was the one being addressed. There were still other people in the hallway, but only one nearby. "Oh, pardon me!" he said, putting a hand to the wall and getting to his feet. His injured middle didn't like that, and made sure he knew it.

"How do you do?" he asked his new acquaintance with a slight bow, trying not to look as sore as he felt.

There was nothing in the things this guy did to indicate that he saw anything other than a human standing in front of him... no fear or disgust or unfriendliness. And he could understand what Remy had said!

Remy felt himself relax a little, even though the man, when he stood up, was much taller than him. But still, the greeting was confusing; he wondered if he'd heard it correctly.

"How do I do what?" He sounded more curious than sarcastic.

"How do you... " The Scarecrow trailed off with a confused look. He'd never really put much thought into the idiom. "It's a greeting of sorts," he attempted to explain. "A greeting and a question of how you are at the moment."

Keeping one hand on the wall, he offered his other hand and a smile to the younger man. "I don't believe we've met. I'm Scarecrow."

"Oh." That made sense, and now that he thought of it, Remy could remember other phrases that people used that didn't quite mean what you thought they might mean. "I'm... good, I guess." His expression brightened. "I'm kind of confused, but -- good."

And then, wow, his first-ever handshake from a human. His smile got a little bit wider, and he took the hand carefully, and shook it. "I'm Remy."

The Scarecrow nodded as he shook Remy's hand. "Nice to meet you, even if these aren't the most pleasant of circumstances." He straightened his back, feeling just a tad better from his moment of rest; however, his mind wasn't comforted in the slightest. He had to do something for Mele. Leaving her like that was completely out of the question.

Thinking of her started a chain of thoughts that led to another question. He clicked his flashlight on and off idly. "Say there, Remy- you've not been to the second floor by any chance, have you?"

What does he mean, 'not the most pleasant of circumstances'? I've seen nicer places, but... The phrase was ominous, and Remy frowned. Without being aware of it, he held his hands in front of him, with his arms bent at the elbow, more like a rat than a human. He began to rub his fingers together nervously.

"Nope. I just woke up in some bedroom... I don't even know where I am. What's upstairs?"

"Oh! Oh dear." The Scarecrow put a hand to his chin, feeling the concern on his face. "You're new here, I take it." That same hand moved to the top of his head, giving it a rub as he put his thoughts together. This might take some explaining, and he wasn't sure he wanted to lead someone who was entirely new to this rather horrible place to the floor that always seemed to have a witch or enchantment or some other wretch lurking in the darkness. He'd feel even worse about this whole evening if he got someone who he had just met and had no idea what they could be walking into in trouble.

And that was all granted his new friend would accompany him to the second floor in the first place, though frankly, leaving him to his own devices was not an appealing notion either. Maybe he'd get started on explaining first.

"What's upstairs really isn't as important as where you are," he said, feeling a frown creeping onto his face. "This is an Institution of some sort. The nurses and doctors and the Wizard Landel- the guy who runs the place- are brainwashing people, trying to get them to believe they're something or someone they're not."

Remy nodded, defaulting to his usual way of answering questions from people, trying to follow Scarecrow's gestures and what was being said.

"An Institution... with doctors and nurses... you mean it's like a hospital?"

He'd never seen a hospital before, although from his limited knowledge of them, it seemed like they should definitely be cleaner than this, more like a kitchen. He knew of people taking rats to laboratories and experimenting on them; it had even happened to some of his relatives. This wasn't much like any lab he'd ever heard of, either. The only thing that sounded right was the idea that they had made him believe a lie about himself.

That didn't make sense. He could look down at his body and see that it was a human one. Everyone who'd passed by seemed to see the same thing. It couldn't all be in his head.

"Does that mean I'm sick?" He paused, then asked, in a more curious tone, "What do I look like to you?" The only way to be sure was to ask.

"Oh no, that doesn't mean you're sick at all!" the Scarecrow said with a shake of his head. He paused briefly, listening to what he was saying, noticing the strangely fervent tone in his own voice, especially for someone who until very recently had been wondering if he'd been crazy all along with the whole Scarecrow-from-Oz story.

He pushed that thought aside, continuing. "Like I said, they're playing a trick on you, trying to get you to believe you're something that you're not. I'm not sure why- I'm not sure anyone knows why, to be honest. Just trust me, it's not you who is sick."

He looked Remy up and down. "... Unless being human counts as 'being sick' for you. It may sound funny, but a good number of us weren't human before being brought here. Myself included." On second thought, telling someone he'd just met he wasn't originally human in a world where talking scarecrows apparently weren't the norm probably wasn't a good way to convince Remy he was sane, but he was starting to get used to people knowing what he had been based on his name alone. Even then, he'd gotten some strange looks.

They're trying to get me to believe I'm something I'm not. Remy felt his own excitement begin to flag, to dwindle a little into disappointment. Being human wasn't normal for him, but it was something he wanted to hang on to for at least long enough to decide whether or not he would continue to like it.

"How would they do something like that? It sounds like a pretty crazy trick. I mean, wouldn't it be easier to get us to believe that we didn't used to be human?"

After a moment, thinking of the farm where he was born, he added, "Do you mean you used to be an actual scarecrow? With straw?" He couldn't keep the skepticism out of his tone.

The Scarecrow put a hand to his forehead. Great, he definitely sounded sick now. "I was before getting here," he said, knowing he was only digging a deeper ditch. "I can't really explain it any better than that. I just know that the people running this place are telling me that I never was a scarecrow, that it was just some sort of figment of an ill mind."

He thought of Dorothy and Mele. Dorothy might be out of his reach for the time being, but he still had a chance to help Mele, so long as she was within the Institute. "Not only that, but they've done something to one of my friends. She doesn't remember me at all! That's why I've got to get to the second floor. I've got to help her!"

Remy knew he would find it difficult to believe Scarecrow's story, but it was also difficult to dismiss it: if he was a rat, why couldn't his new acquaintance be a scarecrow? Although it did raise the question of whether or not there were people around who thought they were cars or pans or books.

On bad days, days when there wasn't even much garbage around, the colony used to eat straw. Not one of Remy's favorite meals by a long shot -- and even if some guy around here happened to think that he was made out of Camembert, that still didn't mean that he'd taste like it.

He disregarded the question on the tip of his tongue -- If you hate it here so much, why don't you just leave? -- when Scarecrow began to explain his friend's predicament.

"So why don't you just go upstairs? You've never been there before? And why does your friend need help?" Scarecrow's words had an ominous ring to them, and Remy was back to a mix of interest and confusion.

"Well, upstairs is... well, it's... " He stumbled over his words, trying to figure out exactly how to word what he thought of the Horrible Hallway. "It's less pleasant than this area, and that's saying a lot. There's a witch that lives up there, and these little somethings that skirt about in the dark and strike at your legs. Facing them alone didn't seem like a very smart idea."

He looked away for a moment, feeling guilty about leaving Mele in the state she was in, even if there was seemingly nothing he could have done. "Mele- my friend- she's in a room down the hallway. She doesn't remember me at all, even though I spoke to her earlier today. She attacked me, talking strangely and making it sound like we'd never met. They've tricked her somehow, bewitched her to be like that- I just know it!"

He took a deep breath, soothing the ire in him. It was rare for him to feel angry, but the Wizard Landel had gone too far.

Okaaaaaay. This guy thought he was a scarecrow, and Remy, knowing what he was himself, could almost accept that. He was completely comfortable with the idea of tiny somethings running around in the dark: for rats, the small companions would be ants or fleas, and he knew that, for humans, they were just as likely to be mice or rats. But a witch? Or the wizard that Scarecrow had mentioned a couple of minutes ago? That had to be a figment of somebody's imagination, and not a pleasant one.

"So it's scary," he said, catching the slight scornful note in his own tone. When he continued to speak, he sounded a little bit friendlier. "If you have to go up there, you have to go. I'm not afraid of the dark." He didn't want to say that there was nothing to be afraid of in the dark; there might be traps, or poison, or both. But he was relatively confident in his ability to evade them.

He wanted to know more about this place, this place that could make him human, and even if the idea of a witch was ridiculous, there had to be something about it that would frighten Scarecrow. It wasn't a matter of some woman with a heavy handbag or a guy with a big carving knife; it was more complicated than that. There was the fact that someone was messing with people's heads, but -- Remy realized he had to ask.

"If bad things happen here, why doesn't everyone just leave?"

"I'm not sure we can," the Scarecrow said darkly. He'd never tried to leave himself, but he'd heard plenty of stories during his stay. "I've only been here about a week, but I've met people who've been here far longer. Surely someone has attempted to get out of this place, but I expect the same sorts of spooks that haunt the second floor have barred anyone who has tried."

He paused a second, rubbing his side. It had finally stopped complaining for the moment. "Even if I could leave, I don't think I could go home," he said, pushing down those homesick feelings, along with every other concern that came to his mind when he thought of returning to Oz. "It's pretty far from here, I expect, and I wouldn't even know which road to follow."

"Haunt?" Remy sounded a little less confident. It wasn't that he believed in ghosts -- he knew that the small vision of Gusteau, the one that seemed to have left him the night before, was a figment of his imagination. "How would they stop anybody? You could just find a dark place to sneak around behind them."

But all the things Scarecrow was saying were leading Remy to think that someone here -- the doctors and nurses? -- was going out of their way to scare people. That wasn't the only problem. The idea of all of this being some kind of elaborate cage bothered Remy more than stories about creepy things in the dark.

Only yesterday, Skinner had trapped him in a cage and threatened him. Was this more of the same thing, only on a much larger scale? And if that were true, what did they want from him? He doubted that the goal was to get him to develop a line of frozen entrees.

When Scarecrow suggested that it might be hard to find his way home, his brief reverie broke.

"But we're in Paris, right? That should help."

That frown crept back onto the Scarecrow's face. "I wish it did help, but I don't know where Oz- my home- is in relation to Paris."

He pictured that drawing of the United States of America he had tucked away in his journal, wondering exactly where 'Paris' would go. "One friend told me the Institute might be in a place called 'New Jersey.' I don't suppose that's close to Paris." If only he had a map, or better yet, his brains! Then he'd be able to think of a way to save his friends and get home.

He crossed his arms. "The Wizard Landel is powerful enough to bring all sorts of folks here from places I've never heard of, enchant those of us who weren't originally human into human forms, and it's likely he commands the nastier beings residing on the second floor. So long as you don't mind the possibility of said beings trying to claw our legs, suffocate us, or set us ablaze, I'd be in your debt if you'd accompany me to the second floor. As I said, it's not really safe to go alone, and maybe you can help me brush up on my 'sneaking around behind them' technique."

Remy's eyes narrowed into a shrewd look, as he tried to put together what he knew of the world. "I don't think New Jersey is even in France, let alone Paris. Isn't it in America somewhere?"

After a pause, he added, "I've never heard of Oz. Small town?"

He crossed his arms and listened, thoughtful, to Scarecrow's explanation and proposal. As he considered it, he tapped the fingers of his right hand in a cascade against his left forearm.

This guy had told him a lot already; he might even be a friend, or a candidate to be one, and the way he was describing the place they were made it seem like just another kind of colony. The second floor might be dangerous, but at the same time, being injured or suffocated or set on fire were all risks Remy was used to, as both a rat and as a newly-minted star chef. It wasn't hard to come to a decision.

"Yeah, we can go look for your friend. It sounds like we have to stick together here." He nodded along with his words.

The idea that he'd be able to help Scarecrow learn to sneak, though... Remy wasn't so sure about that. If it had been Linguini, that would have been one thing: Remy could have just pulled his hair. But the change in his own size, and the fact that Scarecrow wasn't familiar with the system by which Remy had controlled Linguini's movements, made that idea useless. He wasn't even sure a human was capable of the kind of stealth that was second nature to a rat.

The Scarecrow got that guilty feeling in his chest again. "I know where she is," he said quietly, his middle deciding to remind him why he shouldn't go back there without a plan. "It's how to snap her out of her bewitched state her I don't know. I'm sure I'll be able to think of something once we get to where we're headed." He loathed that feeling of not knowing what to do next- he'd expected he would never face it again once the Wizard had granted him some brains. Then again, he'd never thought he'd end up in a place like this, human and feeling pain and lacking his prized possession when he needed it.

"But believe me when I say I'm grateful for the company," he added with a smile. "Today has been a frustrating day, and the prospect of going somewhere so dangerous alone wasn't one I liked." He reached for his journal in his pocket, unfolding the map he'd copied from its pages. There were stairs on the other side of the hall- maybe there was a chance they could avoid the most horrible part of the Horrible Hallway entirely?

"As for Oz," he said, his eyes still scanning the map, "It's a country. I live in the Emerald City, the capital."

"Nope, never heard of it."

Remy scanned the hall, sniffing the air, not learning as much from what he smelled as he would have liked. Exploring would be a little bit more dangerous when he was larger and not quite in command of his senses in the way he was used to. There was a flight of stairs across the hall, a short distance away.

"Should we go that way? It seems like it might be easier than trying to get up into the ceiling."

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