X. Blood on My Thighs
Gab was awakened by the sound of a conversation. Kim slept like an angel right next to him. Lloyd was asleep on the bench, his back turned against the wall. There’s some dirt on the floor, and there were familiar shoeprints leading to the acid-destroyed iron bars. He knew that it was very stupid to check it up close, but it seemed that he was being drawn towards it. He could see a pair of feet dangling playfully on the roof right above the window. He tried to eavesdrop as the owner of the feet continued its conversation with someone unseen at the moment. The feet were on the leftmost side of the roof, as if she reserved space for the one she was talking to.
“Is it true that you will carve your face on us if he fails? I think it’s okay because I never knew how to smile.”
‘Carve your face on us?’ What kind of twisted statement is that? Gab thought.
An incredibly deep voice of a man replied. “Sculpt. I prefer the word sculpt.”
“What’s your purpose?”
“To wear all the faces in the world.”
“Aren’t you contented with your own?”
“That isn’t even worthy of being a question. We share the same curse. People who stare at us after a long time end up cursed. Or dead. I want them to marvel at my beauty, even in the image of others...”
“Then are we both hideous? And is that your only purpose?”
“Nobody in this world is hideous. There are only those who choose not to be looked at. I do have another purpose. I want everyone in this world to spread my smile.”
‘My smile?’ What the fuck is this man talking about? Gab thought.
“Why haven’t you started it yet?”
“The millions of faces of the past who have my smile will prove you wrong. I have a closet of them, for I have started for as long as I can remember.”
“Well, where are they? … Those people.”
Gab wanted to step back, but he was already too close to the window. He was already touching the sill. Some kind of force was keeping him from moving.
“...When will you strike again?”
“When another of their futile experiment fails. When that guy fails.”
“Which guy? The guy we were talking about earlier? I put my handkerchief on his pocket before Onslaught unlocked the Asylum door for him.”
“Yes. THAT GUY BELOW US.” A horrendously long pair of dark feet shot down the space beside the girl’s legs. It had long toes with sharp nails. It bent down towards Gab; between the feet snapped a dark face, inches from his. It started with only two empty eye sockets, but a smile gradually materialized. Gab’s mouth seemed to mimic the dark monster’s mouth, smiling as wide as the monster’s. He seemed to be, again, paralyzed in fear as the monster’s smile became inhumanly wide, ripping the skin off his cheeks toward his ears. “SAY CHEESE.”
Gab woke up with a jolt, startling Kim who was actually crying. “Kim? Are you alright?”
Kim sniffed and stopped sobbing as Gab put his hands on her shoulder. “Uhuh. It’s just that…“ She sniffed again, this time fumbling for her hanky, but couldn’t find it. “I suddenly got all dramati, that’s all.”
“It’s… Not.” It felt awkward for Gab to say this despite his natural pessimism. He felt he had to be hypocritical right now to keep Kim from crying. “Stop thinking negatively. Nothing will happen to you but to mope on a corner if you keep up that mentality. Be strong, and remember, Lloyd’s a skilled leader and Kung Fu bitch. And I’m… Well, I’m very well-educated with Survival Horror games.”
Kim managed to laugh, tears were still in her eyes as they trickled down her face. “Nerd. Do you think I’m crazy?”
Gab was shocked. This must be problematic girl talk I am facing. What do I do? She’s… Pulling assumptions from out of nowhere. The next question might be, “Do you think I’m fat?”
Gab smiled. “No. Why the hell will you say that? You’re a very intelligent and cute girl.” He felt it was awkward to say it.
“That doesn’t make me disqualified for being a psycho…”
“Look, this whole asylum environment is getting the best of you. Get yourself together. Here. Have my hank-” Gab threw the hanky he got inside his pocket. It wasn’t his, and it was damp with blood. He reached for the fabric his pocket is made of. It’s damp from blood, but his thigh isn’t wounded.
It’s not his blood.
Kim looked confused. “What was that? A bloody hanky? Are you wounded?”
Gab looked at her seriously. “Uhm. No. It’s a napkin.”
Kim eyed him. “In your pocket. Was a bloody napkin.”
Gab was sweating. “Well… I have a fet- OKAY FINE. It’s a bloody hanky.”
“Whose is it then?”
“Nightmare’s.” Gab realized his mistake. He didn’t want to mess the situation up with his hallucinations. “I mean, I had a nightmare. That’s why I woke up like that earlier.”
“…Are you hiding something, Gab?” Kim asked in a way that she seemed to know exactly what was wrong.
“No! It’s just that… You might think that I’m crazy. If-“
Lloyd was awakened by the commotion. “What’s this thing about crazy?” He rubbed his eyes and put his glasses on.
Kim patted Gab’s back. “C’mon, say it. We’re your friends.”
There was a long moment of hesitation. “I’m seeing things. And I recently dreamed about one. You guys might think I’m crazy-”
“Trust me, I know crazy. You’re not,” Kim assured Gab.
Lloyd shifted to intent sitting towards Gab. “Go on.”
“There’s a little girl with demonic red eyes following me. Sometimes, she’s invisible. Sometimes she’s standing in front of me and trying to open her eye as if she’s having a hard time opening them. When I look at her eyes, the area around me trembles and dark soil starts to swallow everything, gradually starting from her feet. When her eye opens, she cries blood, and so does I. This phenomenon stops when her eyes are closed... I fear what would happen if ever her eyes fully open.”
Lloyd looked bewildered. Kim was huddled next to Gab, unmoving. They knew there were more as silence filled the gap.
Gab continued. “I also saw a twitching... Man. I’m not sure of the gender. It seems to be a lunatic in a tattered straitjacket. He apparently has mastered controlling the four loose long straps on him with blades in the end, bending and contorting his body to move the blades at will. It can crawl on walls for some reason.”
The two listeners didn’t know what to do. Lloyd was speechless. Kim felt like saying something but suppressed it.
“There’s also a western-looking man. A cowboy in black, it seems. He wears a hat and a matching duster. I don’t know much about him but he is deadly precise in aiming despite having blindfolds.”
Lloyd was alarmed. “I think I saw him too. I was watching this room from the roof of the opposite building. I thought I was hallucinating. My eyes might be correct since you saw him too.”
Kim felt rather sad. “I feel so left out. I haven’t seen any of them. Isn’t it too odd that we should believe supernatural things right now? I mean, don’t you guys brush ghosts and other mumbo jumbos off?”
“I don’t believe in ghosts, but seeing is believing,” Gab answered grimly.
Kim pushed the bridge of her glasses. It seemed to Gab that people with glasses have this habit when getting serious. “There must be a logical explanation for this.”
“After experiencing all of that? Too realistic for special effects, sleight-of-hand or any other trickery,” Gab replied. “Unless it’s Chris Angel or David Blaine we’re dealing with.”
“I prefer Steve Grey, the Brain Rapist.” Lloyd stood up. “... I’m gonna go to the bathroom. All this talk gave my bladder some ammunition.” He left the room with a click on the door.
Gab noticed the negativity in Kim, who was looking away. He thought he needed to lighten up the mood. “What do people in Plants VS Zombies world seek when they get infected?”
Kim was startled by the sudden jump in topic. She wore her curious face look again and smiled. “Where did that question come from?”
“From the god of humor. I am his messenger, you see.”
“Who’s the god of humor?”
“Are you gonna answer my question or not?”
“Well… Umm… Brains?”
“Correctamundo, Dr. Mundo. What do vegetarians seek when they get infected?”
“Uhh… Still brains?”
“Nope. Grains. What do railroads seek when they get infected?”
Kim let out a laugh. “Are you serious? I mean, they don’t. They’re non-living.”
She thought she got the pattern but was skeptical of this sudden foolishness. She laughed either way.
“What do my internal organs seek?”
She figured it would be something that rhymed with brains, but brain seemed to be the only organ that sounded like it. “Uhhh… Your brain?” Then again, she suddenly realized that he forgot to say “if they get infected”, but it’s too late. She has unleashed the beast with a wrong answer.
“I don’t care what my other organs would seek, but my heart would still be seeking… You. BOOM!” Gab rocketed his fist up but with a pokerface.
Kim looked unamused. Gab looked embarrassed. She laughed her signature laugh again and gradually stopped as Lloyd went inside.
Gab rose from the bed. “W-well, I think it’s my turn to gather information. See ya.” He said, closing the door in the same manner as how Lloyd did it.
Lloyd smiled. “What was that about?”
Kim smiled at Lloyd. “He said a pretty lame joke. But I laughed.”
The hallway was silent, but there were unsure faint whispers from the other rooms. Gab could feel eyes on him, but he didn’t dare peek through the iron bars.
“Hey,” Someone beckoned, probably a psycho. Gab tried to ignore it but it went persistent and kind of urgent. “Hey, you! Wavy-haired guy! Come here!”
He went near the bars, keeping a safe distance. “What?” He scanned the room and found the man lying down his bed and posing like Slaking, the Pokémon.
“Hi,” the man said. The man didn’t look like he belonged there, having no facial hair, looking clean and being in modern clothing.
“Uhhh… Hello. What do you want?”
“To be painted.”
“Like one of your French girls.”
Gab was dismayed. “Screw you.” He tried to leave but the man rose from his bed and went near the window. “I have something important to say.”
Gab was disappointed a second time and tried to leave, but the man called out again.
“Just kidding! Here’s something good I have to say!” The man said urgently.
“You say it best when you say nothing at all, psycho.”
“You say it best when you don’t say that to Paul.”
Gab made face. “The shit did I just hear?”
“Name’s Paul! And I’m no psycho! I’m a prisoner, god dammit!”
“Woah, woah. No need to shout. And that’s what they all said.” Gab saw some sincerity in the man so he changed his perspective.
“You and your friends are in danger.”
“You don’t say?”
“No, I mean worse than being kissed by a group of boys who all look like girls and are campy as a whole, and that has many fan girls who don’t understand a shit they’re saying except occasional random English words that often don’t make sense.”
Gab got closer to Paul. “Okay, you proved yourself. Tell me more. We shold stop acting like we have superior music tastes, man.”
They both laughed but Paul was urgent.
“Every single person confined in this asylum is a guinea pig. You and your friends will be next. These civilians are waiting for the containment team to test you guys next. You think they’re keeping things out with those barricades? They’re keeping things in!”
Gab was speechless. He seemed to be right about his suspicion to the civilians in this facility.
Paul looked to Gab’s left and right, as if scanning the corridor for the presence of unwelcome people. “You’ve been seeing the urban legend icons, haven’t you?”
“What urban legend icons?”
“I’ve heard what you said in your room earlier, sorry. Lilith aka Nightmare, Robert aka Punchline, Jennifer aka Painkiller, Bison aka Onslaught, Louise aka Twitch, Billy aka Blindspot… And the Vanity Sculptor. All of them I have seen before. They said I was going apeshit and they locked me here. You see, my team in Robotics decided to reserve a room in Le Blanc Bouquet earlier than the others. Before the competition even begun, I was sent here, and my teammates and coach haven’t even checked my well-being here ever since. I doubt they’re still alive.”
“So what are those urban legend icons you were talking about?” Gab asked Paul.
“They are all part of this town. Bob wanted to reclaim his fortune and fame by doing a highly risky act. He was torn to shreds by lions after falling while in flames from a burning wire 30 feet from the ground, right in front of everyone’s eyes.”
“Yes, shit indeed. Jenny was a model nurse who was raped. She couldn’t handle maternity yet and was innocent. She died in overdose of morphine, found on her bathtub naked and studded with syringes full of that drug all over his body. Her face was beyond recognition due to the 309 syringes all over her head.”
“Yes, fuck indeed. Louise was found with her dead, mauled clan in their village. Yes, you heard that right. She. She was found with human flesh between her teeth and blood all over her face. She said she saved them from the devil.”
“Yes, crap indeed. Bison’s family was killed by his rivals, but the rivals were soon claimed to be missing by the locals. Next thing his customers knew, he was selling his rival’s flesh in their meat shop. He was cooked alive after being caught.”
“Yes, damn indeed. Billy was a bounty hunter who preferred to be tortured than let his wife die. His eyes were cut by a centimeter one surface after another until there was nothing else to cut. His wife was given the chance shoot him dead to end his misery. She did, but she did it to the torturers and herself as well. Brace yourself for this one.”
“Yes, sure indeed. Lilith had an enemy in school who bullied her in front of everyone, every day. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she used a cutter to slice the bully’s nipples off. Yes, you heard me right. Nipples. The bully nailed Lilith’s hands and feet like man Jesus on a tree in revenge, along with other bullymates, if there ever was a word. As the bully was gouging her eyes out with a scalpel, she ripped her hands and feet away from being nailed off the tree, grabbed the scalpel with her last strength and slaughtered them all except one. The survivor lived to tell the tale, but was soon found with grime all over him, and his eyes were replaced with nails gorged on his eye sockets.”
“I don’t know if I should laugh at the part where she cut the nip-”
“The last one is the worst. He goes by many names. Some called him the Cheshire, the Dark Hunched One, the Sculptor, the Vanity Devil and a bunch of other shit. No one has actually agreed what to call him, but I tell you… Much like Nightmare, try your best to shake off the stare from his vast, empty eye sockets. Once his smile completes, you’ll be smiling without your face, and you’ll see him walking with yours.”
Gab shivered at the thought. His bad dream boosted the goose bumps crawling from his fingertips. “So what do you call him?”
“I believe he’s called-” Paul was interrupted some things suddenly grouping, blocking the hallway. Gab saw angry vintagemen with knives and blunt objects. He had nowhere left to run but 309. “Run, young asshole! Escape through that acid-weathered window on 309 made by Twitch herself!”
“What about you?”
“Don’t bother. I’m a goner. The last 8 people who tried died!”
Right after Gab left, Paul was scratching his cheeks rather harshly. He soon began to smile on the corner. Gradually.
Gab ran inside their room, locking it as the civilians ran after him. Lloyd accidentally choked on the chips he was eating, shocked by Gab’s sudden entrance. Kim was near the window and was startled to see Gab so agitated.
“Quick, through that window!” Gab shouted. “No time to explain!”