Floating down a river named emotion Who: Lucas and Vinnie What: Music and prophecy, oh my! Where: Pax, 9th floor When: [Backdated to] April 29, morning-ish
The kegs were a mistake.
Mostly, Vinnie thought as he blinked the mass of green above his head into the distinct pattern of leaves, the mistake lied in his propensity to become so drunk that he curled up where-ever he became tired enough to sleep. Although not technically true; for some reason he always ended up beneath one of those olive trees, even when his own room was less than five feet away.
Vinnie rubbed at his jaw, felt the scratch of a decent beard, and had enough time to wonder what day it was before the smell of blood hit his nose. The young man sat bolt upright, lips pressed together against a shout as he searched first himself, then his surroundings for the source.
Luck, of a certain manner, was with him in that it didn’t take long to notice the bloody entrails scattered everywhere (everywhere being a bit of an exaggeration, but in large enough quantity that Vinnie’s first thought was to wonder if they were human.) He leaned forward in a crouch, prepared to stand--and then jerked his head up at the sound of foot-steps.
Lucas had been hoping to get a good look at the ninth floor again, hopefully on his own, since his last foray onto that level with Gabe, but as soon as he left the stairwell he saw another figure crouching in the hallway. He frowned, for a split second not seeing a man at all, but a human-like creature with horns and hooves, furry from the waist down, but it was gone from his vision just as quickly, causing him to wonder if he’d even seen it at all.
The figure was leaning over the object of Lucas’s intense curiosity - the bloody entrails scattered on the floor - and the reason he’d hoped to come here alone. “Hey,” he said, careful not to startle him into falling face first into the bloody mess. “That’s...quite the grotesque statement someone left here, I think,” he said with a wince. ‘Not really the most eloquent introduction, Lucas,’ he thought to himself.
Vinnie’s automatic impulse was to deny any involvement in the spreading or procuring of said internal organs; but protesting without an accusation will only make him look like he has a guilty conscience. God, he hated having to think like this.
With a nod, he turned back to the gory display, the corners of his mouth twisted into a scowl. “Yeah, about five feet away from where I was sleeping.” And not a drop on him, although the part of him that grew up on horror movies now wondered if he were marked to be the next involuntary donor. The thought wasn’t as arresting as it should have been, in part due to something about the layout of the entrails tugging at him like deja vu; except there is no way he’d ever seen anything like this before. Trauma be damned, he’d remember this. Slowly, he asked, “I’m not a pathologist or whatever the guy who studies crime scenes for the cops is called, and going on my luck you probably aren’t either, but does something look weird about this to you?”
“Forensic investigator?” Lucas supplied with a small smile. He nodded slightly, taking the other man's meaning right away. “I know of what you mean,” he said, coming a little closer and looking down at the display with perhaps slightly too much interest. “It's as if someone placed them on purpose...in a pattern or something. I thought I was the only one who saw it,” he admitted, perhaps somewhat relieved that he wasn't going mad. Either that, or they both were.
Lucas looked a little closer at the display and frowned, seeing something there that gave him pause. He couldn't explain it, but he saw...shapes in the strange placement of the entrails, in a way that both revolted and fascinated him. “It's a goat...it's think…” he trailed off, canting his head to look at a slightly different angle. “Or...it's don't know. Something with horns anyway.”
Mutual madness is a distinct possibility, and one Vinnie could go on at length and with examples drawn from a childhood spent watching horror movies with his aunt. He’d already decided that his first--ok, third trip will be to the closest Catholic church, because he has never needed holy water more in his life.
(Something in him bristled at the thought, and involuntarily Vinnie rolled his shoulders to chase the itchy, uncomfortable feeling away.)
The eerie sensation doubled when the other man began to mutter about goats, rising gooseflesh on his bare arms. Vinnie's head jerked around to peer up, the memory of a weight on his head and at the end of his legs brought sharply from dreaming thoughts to waking. He'd felt the vibrations as his hooves had pounded the dirt.
Vinnie squinted at the other man, his mouth twisting under an uncharacteristic moustache. “‘Know of what you mean’ my ass. You are one of those forensic dudes, aren't you?” ‘Or some kinda pagan dude,’ he thought and was surprised that his mind went there first; this is something exactly out of one of those dumb pamphlets people used to shove under his aunt’s door.
Lucas laughed, truly amused. “I assure you, I’m not,” he said, “though I am a doctor,” he said with a nod. “Although, this,” he said, canting his head towards the gruesome display, “isn’t exactly why I went to medical school,” he added with a slight smile. He considered the entrails for a moment and then let out a humourless laugh. “Interesting...they seem to be in a different pattern than when I saw them the other day. It’s as if these are new; they mean something different.” The words came out of him without much understanding, as if they belonged to someone else, and they surprised him a little once he heard them.
“Of course they’re new,” Vinnie agreed, the eeriness of the situation creeping in now that he was watching the other man instead of peering at the coils of viscera scattered (not scattered, something quiet murmured, not arranged but never tossed like a child’s toy) on the dubious floor. “I mean, using old guts would just be unhygenic, and what would the neighbors think?” Lucas grinned at that, looking up at the guy next to him with new interest.
The young man heard the shrillness beginning to creep into his jesting and pressed his lips and eyes both closed, the former scrunching up and the latter pressed together into a whitening line. Breathe, he told himself, breathe and do not raise your voice. You’re a scary asshole when you start yelling.
After a few moments breathing through his nose, Vinnie opened his mouth to apologize in a more even tone. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to--I was asleep right under that tree,” he punctuated with a vague wave, “and admittedly I was pretty shit-faced last night but I know this wasn’t there when I went to sleep. So that means someone came and did all this with me snoozing not ten feet away, and I never woke up. I’m kinda starting to freak out.” Not in the least of all by the urge he has to sit and listen to the other guy, whose name he doesn’t even know, talk about what he sees like this is some kind of lecture.
Lucas nodded and started to guide Vinnie away from the guts on the floor, towards a corner where he spotted some stone benches where they could sit. “Okay, come on, why don’t we sit down for a bit,” he suggested, using the same voice reserved for calming an unruly patient. He got them sitting and then smiled comfortingly at him. “I don’t think there’s anything with intentions to hurt you, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he soothed. “Think about it - whoever or whatever placed those there didn’t want to wake you, and didn’t seem to mean you any harm. I think…” he paused, a feeling of rightness settling over him. “...it’s not malicious. It’s not meant to cause harm, but to...maybe it’s a message of some kind.” A message only I can read, his thoughts finished for him. Something about goats, apparently.
Vinnie opened his eyes to squint at the other man, recognizing that tone of voice almost immediately. He’d heard it more than a few times during appointments in his youth, when his unlimited and nigh uncontrollable amounts of energy made it nearly impossible to stay still. “Oh yeah, you’re a doctor alright.” Lucas allowed an amused smile at the young man’s comment. And despite the grumble in his tone and his internal belief that he’s reacting in a perfectly normal manner, Vinnie rose from the crouch and allowed himself to be led over to the bench, unintentionally walking on the balls of his feet.
While settling onto the bench, Vinnie pulled one of his knees to his chest for a convenient place to rest his cheek. His first impulse was to scoff at the assertion that no harm was meant by the guts spread everywhere, because this is exactly how horror movies go. The feeling of familiarity stopped him; he didn’t remember seeing anything like this outside of movie marathons with his aunt, but perhaps he’d read about it in school? Something that would explain the urge to agree with the other dude’s assessment of the situation. “Maybe,” is what came out, the word drawn out into a drawl. “I’ve watched a lot of horror movies, though.” Said as though he expected that to encompass the entirety of how strange it is that their home has turned into something impossible, there are guts on the floor, and that looking at them invoked the exact nagging sensation of forgetting a word in one language mid-sentence. And then there was-- “So, you said you saw horns?”
Lucas watched him carefully, taking in his body language and general behaviour as he seemed to fold into himself on the bench. “Yeah,” he said carefully, glancing back at the mess on the floor and then focusing again on Vinnie beside him. “It’s vague though, you know? I don’t even understand how I get that impression from a bunch of guts on the floor, but...I just have this feeling, you know? That it’s trying to tell me something. It’s why I came back up here,” he added, shifting a little on the seat, more towards Vinnie.
“I saw them there the other day, but they were different, and I got a different feeling from them. That day it was butterflies. Today it’s goats...or something that has horns like a goat. Tomorrow it’ll probably be something completely different,” he said with a shrug and a disarming smile. “It probably doesn’t mean anything, and I’m just seeing things.”
Vinnie, for his part, kept his eyes on Lucas and very firmly away from the viscera on the floor. “No, I get it. Maybe I'm crazy, but I get it,” he murmured in response to Lucas’ assertions that the guts were telling him something. “I don’t see anything, but--you know that feeling when you forget something, and you know you know it, but when you try and reach for it, there's nothing? That's what that--” here he gestures toward the guts, “feels like when I look at it.” Lucas nodded in understanding.
And even for someone who has weird emotional reactions sometimes, this was on a completely different level. Lock a dude up level, but at least he wasn’t alone in it and this guy seemed pretty rational about the situation. Maybe a little too calm, but the dude didn’t wake up next to them either, he came looking for them. Wait a minute. “Butterflies,” he asked, one corner of his mouth quirking upward. “You seriously saw butterflies the other day?” The small change in expression brought warmth into the rest of his face, the tension and anxiety beginning to fade. With the loosening of his shoulders, the grip on his knees also began to slowly loosen.
Lucas smiled widely. “I did,” he confirmed with a nod. “Blue ones, and then again later they were orange, though that was on a different floor. But before they showed up, I saw them here,” he turned his head just enough to refer to the mess on the floor not far away from them. “Just like I saw the...goat? Here today, I saw butterflies then. I still haven’t ruled out that the whole thing is just one big joke that nobody gets,” he said with a soft laugh, though thinking it was a pretty morbid joke if he was right.
He turned to catch Vinnie’s eyes. “You like butterflies? I wish I could show them to you, but I’m not entirely sure they were real, to be quite honest. They disappeared just as fast as I saw them.”
“I wonder if we could figure out what kind they were,” he mused, knowing the answer was less about identifying the specific breed and more about whether they were actual butterflies or something else. Wasn’t there a thing about the souls of the dead being reincarnated as butterflies in Japan? Or butterflies were really ghosts, or messengers of them, or something; he’d seen ghosts and the winged insects linked in more than one Japanese horror movie.
His thought process was interrupted by Lucas turning to meet his eyes, and then that question. ’Do you like butterflies,’ oh my god was this guy for real? Vinnie’s grin widened for the second before he pressed a loose fist against it, trying to stifle a giggle. Wanting to show him the butterflies was either incredibly sweet or white-van creepy; maybe both, humans contain multitudes. Regardless, Vinnie found himself slightly charmed by the gesture. “I have no strong feelings about butterflies,” he answered, voice muffled by his hand. A second later he’s pretty certain he isn’t going to burst into laughter (because then Lucas might think he’s laughing at him, and that isn’t why Vinnie wants to laugh at all.) “I do have strong feelings about where I’m going to kick whoever decided to lock us in here. I am not a violent man, but I will probably be an unemployed one when this is over.” And he just got that job, too.
Lucas grinned at Vinnie’s reaction to his question. “I only ask because...well, the other guy I bumped into yesterday seemed really interested in them,” he said with a shrug. He favoured him with a half smile, sharing Vinnie’s frustration. “Believe me, I’d love to kick someone over this,” he agreed, “but I don’t think you’ll lose your job over this. This is happening to everyone in the building...there has to be people on the outside who have noticed by now. It’s probably all over the news or something. And if not...hey, we can all vouch for you that you weren’t just playing hookey,” he added with a little smirk, trying to get a smile out of him. “If you need it, I can write them a letter explaining the situation...as best as I can…” he added with a little touch of incredulity. “Maybe I’ll leave out the butterflies and entrails bit,” he grinned.
Hopefully a story like this stayed to the local news; his aunt had worried enough about him the last few years, the last thing he wanted was more of the same. At least if she didn’t know, he could excuse any radio silence with the stress of moving in and getting a-- “Wait, seriously?” He couldn’t quite keep a surprised laugh from coloring his voice, even as he shook his head. What was this guy’s last name, Charming? “Nah, you don’t have to do that, it’s a dumb pizza job. I can find another, it’s just the principle of the thing, you know?” Plus the lost wages, and how not eating at work is going to mess with his food budget.
And sitting around worrying about it won’t do a thing except maybe give him an ulcer. Fuck that noise. “You know,” he said, after glancing over at the entrails as though they might have moved, “if you’re done with those, maybe we should go see if we can find those butterflies. Or--have you found the kegs yet?!” Because day drinking will solve everything and in no way contributed to him having woken up next to innards.
Lucas smiled a little, “yes I’m done with those,” he laughed. “Although I wanted to take a look over here…last time I saw the butterflies they were at one of these,” he said, standing up and heading slowly towards what looked like an altar, piled high with food and wine and other objects. As he drew closer he saw that one of them was a stringed instrument. He let out a bark of laughter and reached for it. “What are the odds?” he asked, looking it over in appreciation. It looked like a small wooden U-shaped harp, and the strings were made of what looked like animal hair. “I think it’s a lyre,” he said, showing it to Vinnie.
The altar was kind of--ok, it was comforting, which in turn made it a little freaky. But more importantly, it was away from the guts. That more than anything prompted him to follow the other man, unconsciously rising to walk on the balls of his feet. As long as they don’t touch anything, it should be fine.
So of course what happens? “Oh my god something is going to eat you,” he proclaimed, a nervous giggle shaking his words. But nothing does, no bolt of lightning struck Lucas down. His excited smile drew one from Vinnie, drew him close enough to absently trail the fingers of one hand over the edge of the altar. “Looks like it,” he said hesitantly, squinting at the instrument. “Music history was a while ago, but I think so.” He trailed off, remembering an offer to jam from a neighbor who-- “Wait a minute. Do you play the guitar?” His traveling fingers stop on something smooth that feels almost like an inverted cartoon wave; all smooth half-circles in a neat row.
“I do!” Lucas said with a smile, picking out experimental notes on the lyre and finding that it was perfectly tuned, with a beautiful clear sound. “This isn’t exactly what I’m used to, but…” he ran his fingers over the strings again, creating yet another beautiful sound. “It’s familiar somehow.” His eyes drifted up and he spotted what Vinnie was touching and his brows rose. “What’s that?” he asked, picking out random notes from the lyre as if trying to learn the scales all over again.
The worried knot in Vinnie’s chest began to relax in the light of the man’s tentative plucking at the strings, and the distinct lack of from something ancient and vengeful. The longer he stood there, watching Lucas coax notes out of the lyre, the more it seemed.. Right, in a way he couldn’t quite vocalize. “You didn’t happen to offer a jam sess--” His attention was diverted by the other man pointing out that his fingers have stopped on something unusual. Vinnie looked down, his eyebrows drawing together as he saw something light brown and decidedly not the altar.
He opened his mouth to say ‘I don’t know’ and found the words stuck in his throat; instead, almost without his permission, he gently worked the row of reeds out from under the various other (’offerings’) leavings. “A flute,” he murmured, the answer coming freely as he raised the instrument. Vinnie intended only to look at it, maybe jog a few memories from his music history classes; and then he was struck with the sharp yearning to play it, which really he should have expected. To his credit he managed to hold out for three seconds before bending his head and blowing across one of the pipes, resulting in a rich note that has his face lighting up.
“Hey, that was you on the network then? I did offer to jam with someone recently, that must be you!” he said with a wide smile. “I’m Lucas, but I think I said that...I didn’t get your name?” he asked him. He watched him experimenting with the flute, that reminded him of something from the old Hercules cartoons he watched as a kid.
He grinned at the other man and held up the lyre. “so...wanna jam then?” he laughed.
“You didn’t, but that’s alright,” he muttered, his attention still caught by the smoothness of reed under his fingers, and how comfortably the flute fit into his hands. After a second he blinked, jerking his head up and adding hurriedly, “Sorry! Vinnie Romero, no relation to George.”
The introduction is followed by a warm smile that widened into a laugh, briefly wrinkling his nose. “Sure, why not? You lead and I’ll.. probably sound like a dying seagull.” Even as he made the joke, something at the back of his skull said otherwise.
Lucas smiled, “nice to meet you Vinnie,” he said, awkwardly shifting the lyre so he could shake hands. “Alright, let’s see how this works.” He sat on a nearby stone, holding the instrument in his lap and strummed a chord. It filled the space with music that sounded at once strange and familiar to him, though he couldn’t place where he’d heard it before. He did it again, and again, and soon he had a simple melody, predictable enough for Vinnie to join in with his own.
’Oh god why handshakes,’ Vinnie whined internally, careful to keep a smile on his face as he reached out to clasp the other man’s hand. Thankfully it’s over quickly, before he could begin to really worry about how badly he was failing at masculinity. Music was easier, especially when Lucas began to play; within seconds, Vinnie’s hips began to sway to the beat. He lifted his flute, drew in a lungful, and began to play. For the first beat he followed along; and then the notes began to spiral wildly, turning as lively and energetic as the mischievous twinkle in his eyes.