"Games," you say with zero context.
Before Cici can inquire further, you continue. "In the dream I always have... like... extra abilities based on whatever game I played that night. Like, Magic Mustachio gave me jumping powers."
"Is-- is that really a thing," Cici asks, "or is this just an excuse to play video games? Be honest, 'cuz I don't mind if you just--"
"No," you insist, "it's a real thing thank you very much. ...I don't need an excuse to play video games."
You lead Cici to your bedroom.
While Cici looks at your room, you take stock of your games.
Your computer is a monstrosity you mostly frankenstein'd together, able to play (and record) a wide variety of console games in... mostly acceptable quality. You do have two controllers, but--
if Cici plays a game you've previously played (like Crush Souls or Mustachio), you can determine if she gets the same abilities, or if she gets a separate set. You can then play a game you haven't played before to find out what it does, maximizing how much information you obtain.
On the other hand
If you both play something new--a multiplayer game--it would probably be more fun and you'd be able to learn what a new game does in the dream while learning if it grants you and Cici the same bonuses.
The problem is that you only have one multiplayer game.
And it's Magic Mustachio Extreme Beach Volleyball.
And it was made by a different studio than most Magic Mustachio games and it's a bit
Staring at your bed, Cici suddenly has a revelation. "Damn!," she exclaims. "I got so excited about pizza I forgot to grab my sleeping bag." She shrugs, and shoves more pizza in her mouth. "Oh, well, I can go back for it later."
You take a breath.
"Okay," you begin, "I... think I've decided what the best game to play would be. For purely scientific reasons."
"There's nothing scientific about this game," Cici declares. "That is not how boobies work!"
"Look--" you sigh, "I swear to God, the game contributes a significant amount to the lore of the franchise--"
"I'm not judging you," Cici states, "but I am gonna have questions."
You end up... sort of tilting the monitor so you can play from your chair and Cici can play from the bed. While teaching Cici how to play, you also tell her about your experience heading to Kate's house.
"Oh, you can call animal control if you want somebody to escort you next time," Cici says. "You'll get Bebe or Deedee, and they don't have anything better to do."
...And you tell her about sitting down for tea with Kate's mom, Heather.
You ... leave out that Kate has kind of a hot mom. You do mention her mom's very nice house, though.
"Kinda makes me wonder why Kate doesn't just do her concerts out there," Cici remarks.
"It's too far of a drive," you reply, "and for how big it is, there's no garage."
"Do you need a garage to have a concert?," Cici asks.
"Nah, but it loses some of the..." what was it Kate said? "...the mystique."
You alternate explaining what you learned from The Back Room (about the house, at least; you leave out some of the... unrelated stuff), and more about the game. Specifically, that it was made by a studio that mostly does... er, fanservicey fighting and action games, rather than the usual company, Yamauchi. A lot of the sports spin-offs get outsourced and while the things they contribute to the Mustachio lore are rarely referenced or treated as canon by the main games, they're still interesting to incorporate into--
"So why is this character just the princess but with bigger tiddies?," Cici asks, switching which character she has highlighted on the select screen to demonstrate.
...You end up explaining a lot more of the nuances of the Mustachioverse than you do the backstory of the house. Cici does seem to enjoy herself, at least.
"My question is," Cici begins, attempting to juggle playing the game and eating pizza, "if the witches that owned your house were the same ones running the old library... why does the old library look like that and your place looks like this? There's symbols and stuff on the walls at the library, and ritual business everywhere. Your room's... almost clean."
Hmm. "Maybe the feds wiped this place," you suggest, "but not the old library. Maybe there were arcane symbols and shit on the walls before the men in black got here. ...Maybe they just saved all the bad witch business for the library, and didn't do anything too weird here. My dad used to say don't shit where you eat."
"Do you ever think about calling 'em?," Cici asks. She pauses. "Your parents, I mean."
"No," you say without hesitating.
A brief silence follows, filled only by the sounds of the game.
You breathe out slowly... and continue. "They made it pretty clear that if I didn't break up with Lora then they'd be kicking me out. No job, no car, totally cut off, because I insisted on being queer. ...If they didn't wanna live not knowing what happened to their daughter they shouldn't have been ready to fucking throw me out on the street. It would have just been the same situation the next time."
"...What happened to Lora?," Cici asks.
"Her parents gave her the same ultimatum," you reply.
Your mind forms a hundred ways to say it before you settle on
"She took it."
Another long silence.
"I feel kinda weird not having parents," Cici finally admits. "I mean, I don't blame you for not calling yours, I just--" She shakes her head. "...You ever feel like you're not really an adult? Sometimes I look around the library and I'm like... wow, they really let me be in charge. I'm here by myself, I shouldn't be responsible for all this."
"Fucking..." you stifle a bitter laugh, "constantly."
"Really?," Cici asks, genuinely. "I thought it was just 'cuz I... you know."
"Popped out of thin air, fully grown?" You shake your head. "I've been growing up for 21 years, I'm still waiting to magically turn into an adult. The thing I realized about my parents is that I don't think they ever hit that point, either, or maybe they found it and somehow stumbled back. They're... they're fucking childish, putting their fingers in their ears and refusing to listen to anything they don't already agree with. They want to feel oppressed, they want there to be some nefarious gay agenda they can rally against because their own lives are so fucking vapid and hollow--"
You realize that maybe you should bring up what Marlow said.
Not to question Cici about it, just
...so she knows.
"There's..." Ugh. "There's something else someone said in The Back Room."
Over pizza and digital volleyball, you explain Marlow's conspiracy theory about the Misuschaqua Wildlife Resources Act.
You expect disgust. Anger, maybe.
You sort of feel like you deserve disgust and anger, but
"He's kinda right," Cici says, sounding neither disgusted nor angry. "There are 26 of us. Me and Bebe have been trying to track the others down, actually! Especially whoever A is. We're all letters, see--I'm C, Bebe's B--"
"--Why A, though? Specifically?"
"Well..." Cici gives a small shrug. "We met Gigi, who confirmed she's partnered with a Double H.
B, C, and D together,
G and H together...
E and F are probably together, too."
...Huh. "But A would be by herself," you mutter.
"Yeah!," says Cici. "She doesn't have anybody. She might not even know she has sisters, so we've been tryin' to track her down. I don't think I was given any anti-civilian training, though, it's all... zoo keepers and stuff. If we were secretly gonna turn on the town, we'd be really bad at it. I wouldn't rule out secret programming, but like... man, if I have hidden talents and I'm not allowed to know about 'em, I'd be mad."
"...What's it like?" You ask without really thinking about it. "Sorry if that's weird or... personal, or whatever, I've just never--"
"What's what like?," she asks. "The whole training thing?"
"...Yeah." You nod.
"It was..." Cici takes a moment. "It's like I'm 15 different people. It's like... I'm so many people, I don't even know who those people are. It all just blends together, but... badly. I can't tell who's who, and I don't know where anything came from. I know how to do first aid on a tiger--but I don't remember learning it, or why I wanted to know how to do that, I just... I know it. It's just there. ...You wake up, confused about who you are or who you aren't, and they say your name is Cici and you're gonna be animal control. ...And you go, okay."
It's maybe the most somber you've seen Cici.
There is very little smile there.
"And you just... get used to it. Being all those people and trying to make them be you. You get... feelings. You miss people you don't remember, you remember places you've never been. Deedee picked it up almost immediately, Bebe... I think she handles it a little better than me. ...I still feel like I'm waitin' for it all to click one day."
You're already this deep, you might as well bring it up.
"...I haven't met Deedee yet."
Cici finally pauses the game.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, she rests her face in one large hand.
"...She takes her job real seriously. And I don't blame her! She's good, she's better than I am. ...She wanted to be a real police officer. Took the tests and everything."
"...And it didn't work out?"
"No," Cici says, "she passed all the exams! ...A couple o' times. She just said... it's not always that simple, and she stayed with animal control. She's been kinda distant since."
You hear your front door slam.
"Hey," comes Kate's muffled voice from the living room, "I'm gonna burgle this house since some nerd left the door unlocked."
You and Cici emerge from your room.
Kate is waiting, with a six pack of beer and... a backpack.
"I have nothing to steal," you point out, "except my computer, and you'd have to kill me."
"Were you guys totally porking in there?," Kate asks. "Having a primo pork sesh? I can come back later, just know that I brought--"
she hoists the beers skyward-- "♪ party favors ♪"
"I don't think that's how porking works," you reply, and also "what's in the backpack?"
She places it, and the beers, on the floor... and begins to retrieve something from within the backpack.
"I was thinking, like, what should I bring to the most haunted house I'm ever gonna walk into, and there was only one real answer--"
Slowly, Kate retrieves a ouija board.
"No," Cici says immediately. "Hell no."
You, also, have to quickly shake your head. "Have you seen zero horror movies?"
"You can't fathom the number of horror movies I've seen." Kate holds the ouija board out with both hands. "You want answers, don't you?"
You breathe out slowly.
She's not wrong.
"We have better shit to do, anyway!" Cici declares. "Plaire found out there was two witches in this house, and one of 'em probably worked at the old library."
"We don't know they were witches," you point out. "That's pure speculation at this point."
Cici looks past Kate, out the glass of the front door. "...It is gettin' pretty dark, though. I think we should visit the old library as a group, while we're all three here together, but... maybe in the morning. We can still try the game thing with Kate--"
"No," Kate says, her eyes gradually widening. "Old library. Tonight. Ouija board."
"No," Cici says both more sternly and almost as a gasp.
"You had..." You take a second to breathe in. Focus. Nothing to be ashamed of, these people know what you're about. "...Anxiety medication. Last time."
"Had?," Kate slides the ouija board back into her backpack, only to pull a familiar unmarked pill bottle from her jacket pocket. "Have. You want Brainsate, I got Brainsate. I also have its good friend--" and from her other pocket, she pulls out a fairly large bag of--, "--a fuck ton of level. I told you, I got us covered on party favors."
Cici smiles, shaking her head. "That is... really illegal."
Kate grins back. "Gonna throw me in the pound, officer? I'm warning you, I'm a biter. Dude, let's get fucked up and fight ghosts. Let's make learning fun."
"Pshhh," Kate opens with a wave of her hand, "only if you hit like... 80% of your maximum heart rate."
You continue. "--And ouija boards are dangerous even by occult standards. It's like an open line; literally anything, any demon or spirit or... whatever else might be floating around this house can hop on and claim to be whoever they want. There's no way of knowing if what you're getting is accurate, or even who it's from."
There's a brief pause before Cici speaks up, giving you a definite look. "...I thought you were raised super religious?"
"Yeah," you reply, "privately schooled. I was taught about the sinister tools of Satanism instead of sex ed."
Kate smirks. "Do you--"
"NoIdon'tneedhelpwiththat," you blurt out. "I-- it's an old joke yes I know about sex now."
Kate's smirk erupts into a much wider grin. "Okay, fine, no ouija boards. We need to do something besides playing video games all night, though, and if you don't like my plan A..." Kate empties a couple of Brainsate into her hand and passes them to you. You don't swallow them yet; you mostly get anxiety in social situations. You'll definitely need them later, however. As she's screwing the lid back on and putting the bottle back in her jacket pocket, Kate continues. "...You're really not gonna like what else I got."
You squint as you stash the pills in your pocket. "...Why? What was your plan B?"
"So." Kate grabs one of the beers from the floor, opens it, and then begins to obtain a slice of pizza with her free hand. "Ms. Temperance Walsh is on business. Out of town business."
You squint harder. "And the mayor?"
Kate grins. "She has a meeting with the chief of police at 10:30 pm... at the station. The mayor's office will be totally, 100% unstaffed." She takes a bite of her pizza.
"Wait--" Cici also grabs another piece of pizza, "you wanna break into the mayor's office? Are you crazy?"
"The mayor has the spooky house's history," Kate says before taking a swig of beer. "We can find out exactly who owned this place, and everybody that's had it since then. She kept it at the office before, I'll bet it's still there."
"We tried talking her out of it," you tell Cici. "But Parsons doesn't want me to know anything, she just wants me to sell her the house."
"If we don't take the history by force," Kate says, "we're probably not getting it. It's not like the mayor's just gonna suddenly change her mind."
"You guys just got done almost getting arrested," Cici points out.
"Twice," you add. "Trespassing slash resisting arrest and arson, respectively."
Cici nods. "Do you really wanna push your luck again? This soon?"
"I don't know how often we're gonna get a shot like this," Kate says, "or how often I'm gonna hear about it. It was total luck I overheard all this at work."
"...Was it?" You squint anew. "What do you think the odds are you were being fed that information?"
Kate's eyes widen. "Oh, fuck, good point. Trying to break in might just be what the mayor wants us to do. Having the chief of police quote-unquote occupied just makes the fucking trap sweeter."
Cici stops, looking from Kate to you. "...Look, I'm not on Team B&E here, but isn't it a little paranoid to think it's a setup?"
"No" is your blunt reply. "I'm trying not to get all... crop circles, Zone 50, UFOs did Easter Island about the forces involved with this house, but I will absolutely expect the worst thing I can imagine from the methods of the human, or... er, vampire element. One, likely two persons were unpersoned, and I'm still not convinced that the fire at Maria's wasn't a frame job. For me, or Kate, or both of us, but a frame job of some kind."
You heave a small sigh.
"When I die in the dream I just wake up. There's no second chances if we get fucked in real life, and they are trying very hard to fuck us and they've been pretty damn good at it so far."
"...That's fair," says Cici after a moment or two.
"Yeah, maybe not breaking into the mayor's, then," Kate remarks. "...Tonight, anyway."
It's Cici that sighs this time.
"We gotta do it eventually," counters Kate. "It's that or get the dental off the corpses when we find 'em."
"Why," Cici begins, "do we keep assuming the bodies are buried here?"
"Uh, 'cuz it's haunted?," replies Kate with a shrug.
"I'm mostly joking BUT--" you hold up a finger, "--the lack of occult... markings, or whatever, or any dark altars or... tools, anything for the haunting to be focused on, means we ARE probably missing something. It... there has to be a source, right? Something we can... burn, or cleanse, or bury to... fix the house."
"Unless it's JUST the house," Cici replies, taking another bite. "You're gonna have to hose the walls down with holy water."
"Haaaunted insulaaation," says Kate, wiggling her beer and pizza as she cannot free her fingers. "Feeding the worst raccoons you've ever seen."
You find yourself lightly smiling. "And right before I finish dramatically exorcising the foundation, I'll be like Jesus was a carpenter, motherfucker."
"So wait," Kate starts, "are we really committed to there being bodies buried in the house somewhere, because I am definitely cool with staying in tonight if we're gonna find skeletons."
"There is NO reason to believe there's bodies buried in this house," Cici states definitively.
"...Aside from the lack of bodies elsewhere," you add. "The maybe-possibly-witches had to go somewhere, they didn't just disappear."
You know someone's going to say it.
It's Kate. "...Unless they did?"
You can't actually rule that out.
What if the original owner(s) just... spontaneously stopped existing, and that's why nobody knows their name(s)
"UuuuugggGGGGHHHH being awake is the STUPID part," you say, loud enough to get a little echo in your living room. "Everything is just a bunch of question marks! I don't know SHIT. Everything is MAYBEs."
"Well Plaire," Kate says with the smile and the tone of a game show host, "if you're not planning on going anywhere or, say, getting your heartrate up to 80% of its max..."
You smile, but sigh, shaking your head. "I'm still not sure if the... dream... dungeon counts as physical exertion? I don't know what's going on with my body while I'm... uh... out."
"Maybe that's what happened to the witches," Cici suggests. "They smoked level and the nightmare blew their hearts up. And it was covered up by Big... uh... Big Drugs."
Kate smiles, finishing her slice of pizza. "You're terrible at conspiracy theories, but if I ever become a rapper I'm calling myself Big Drugs."
"...There has to be something I missed in this house," you mutter, mostly to yourself. "But it's kind of a small house, and I don't have... like... even a crowbar or anything, I don't know how much searching we could feasibly do."
"I have a crowbar," Kate mentions off-handedly. You and Cici both stare at her as she attempts to juggle her can of beer and retrieve the level from her pocket, at the same time. "In my backpack."
You start to ask, but decide not to.
Cici does, anyway. "Whyyy do you have a crowbar?"
"I wanted to see if I could bring a crowbar into the nightmare zone?," Kate replies, before adding "Obviously." Finally managing to open the baggy inside her pocket, Kate pulls out a single stick of level and slips it into her mouth. She then begins to fish for her lighter, discovering it is not in the same pocket as the level. "And, y'know, I thought we might be breaking into the mayor's."
"...It's a pretty nice house, though," Cici remarks. "I'd feel kinda bad if we tore it up with a crowbar."
"Cici," Kate says firmly, reaching... across herself... and awkwardly trying to fit her hand into the opposite jacket pocket. The level is between her teeth the entire time. "You have to say yes to at least one cool plan tonight. It's the law. You've dangled wrecking a house in search of skeletons in front of me, don't take it away now."
"We do still have video games," you toss in, just in case.
"Yeah!," agrees Cici as she wanders over to also grab a beer, "Plaire's got a volleyball game where all the girls have giant tiddies."
You sigh. Internally.
Kate finally starts to light her level. "Plaire didn't tell me she had a game like that... but I think I knew. Somehow, I think I knew. Anyway,"
Kate, after taking a huge puff (in your living room, but it all happens so fast you're not even sure if you're mad about it yet), shoves her lighter back into her pocket. "It's your house and your sleepover, so it's whatever you wanna do Plaire." Over the course of a second or two, her grin returns. "You... filthy, filthy nerd."
"I think we should look for anything hidden in the house."
Before Kate can finish pumping her arm, you clarify: "Gently."
Kate takes a short puff. "Damn."
You take a long look at your living room, as though it may be the last you see of it. "We'll tear it up if we find anything weird, but... I do still have to live here for a while."
Kate gets a... tiny smile. "Dibs on searching Plaire's room."
"I'll search my own room," you retort, "thank you. I don't think there's anything going on under the floors--I've been walking around here for days and nothing's stood out."
"Yeah, but--" Cici starts, but then stops. You see her expression twist as she reconsiders how to phrase what she says next. "--But you're not... uh... very heavy...?"
Kate, after taking a very long drag, adds "You're travel sized, you gotta try jumping off of shit."
(Big Sigh would be your rapper name.)
"I'll... try jumping, then."
Kate points two fingers at her eyes, then one finger at you. "Jump high."
"Don't jump off anything dangerous, though," Cici says. "I can just stomp around your room later if you don't wanna risk it."
You march (heavily) to your room, attempting not to change colors over the discussion of your size.
You begin to tap on the walls, and jump on the floor.
Kate does the same in the living room, while Cici heads into the kitchen.
"Did you also forget a sleeping bag?," you shout to Kate.
"I know you basically escaped your old town, but," Kate pauses before loudly concluding, "I dunno, I figured you grabbed a couch or something on the way out."
"I got two!," yells the muffled voice of Cici, in between light thumps on the wall. "Sleeping bags, I mean! We can go get 'em later!"
You continue searching for a little while--becoming a little self conscious about how loud your stomps are compared to Cici and Kate's, and beginning to contemplate leaping off the bed--when you hear a much louder thud from elsewhere in the house.
Followed immediately by Cici yelling out. "Plaire?"
"Not me!," you shout back.
Another, somehow more hostile thud.
"...Kate?," Cici asks in a more... suspicious tone.
"Ffff... it's me, We're good," Kate finally proclaims, sounding like she's in pain. You and Cici both wander into the living room to find out what happened.
Kate is nursing her elbow as you walk in, but she quickly collects herself, looking from you to Cici.
"Hey," Kate says, "you guys wanna see something cool?"
--And without saying another word, Kate pulls a switchblade (?!) out of her pocket
and... opens it, or activates it, or whateverthethingwherethebladecomesout
and before you can properly begin to lose your mind
she turns and hurls it straight at the wall.
Like, Kate really turns her body into it.
The knife bounces off the wall,
and spirals through the air, knicking Kate across the hand as she tries to cover her face. From there, the knife tumbles to the floor.
A brief silence follows, though it may just seem longer and quieter in your head.
"What the hell are you thinking?!," Cici finally shouts. She trudges up to Kate, and you realize that Cici normally slouches a bit because god
she is actually somehow (SOMEHOW) larger than you thought.
"You coulda put your damn eye out!," Cici yells. "Is that what you want?! It's gonna be real stupid when we ALL gotta wear eyepatches!"
are still frantically bouncing your attention from the knife, which was sharp enough and thrown hard enough to draw blood from Kate's hand ON THE REBOUND
and the wall that it bounced off of
without leaving a scratch.
"Cici," you say quietly.
"And if you can't be responsible with a weapon--" Cici suddenly stops, realizing that you've said something.
You continue. "...It bounced. Why did it bounce?"
You may or may not mutter an additional "whydiditbounce" while Cici's expression slooowly contorts. You can see the gears turning in her head, her eyes widening as the pieces finally fall into place.
You realize that Kate is grinning wide, smoke pouring out of her nose like the dragon on a winning slot machine.
Cici turns, and joins you in staring blankly at the wall.
She starts to ball up her fist, but Kate stops her. "You do not wanna do that. Trust me. It hurts like a big oool' bitch." Kate passes her beer to the opposite hand, level in her teeth, so she can shake her arm out a bit.
Kate then takes a moment to pull the crowbar out of her bag.
She holds it out.
Cici looks at the crowbar, then at Kate, then at you.
Nobody says anything.
You simply nod.
Cici takes the crowbar.
Kate takes a step back, and you follow suit.
Cici takes a few seconds negotiating her grip, finally deciding to swing the crowbar with one hand. She stares at the wall, breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth, readying her stance--
you take one last glimpse at Kate, who looks like she's strapping in for a rollercoaster--
and Cici swings.
What follows is...
the strangest combination of noises you've probably ever heard.
You hear Cici's shirt.
Not the sound of fabric ripping, per se, but like
you're not a tailor and you're not an expert on acoustics but if you had to guess what a bunch of seams (stitches? damn okay you're definitely not a tailor) getting all torn simultaneously sounded like, your speculation would take you pretty close to this noise
and then the sound of iron hitting brick (stone? mythril?)
and the sound of...
something else. Like a metal... whining...
You finish wincing and there, before you as you open your eyes, is Cici
in front of a completely un-fucking-touched wall
holding a bent crowbar.
Not a scratch on the wall.
Not a dent.
Not a smear.
Just the wall.
Like it had not just had a crowbar physically deformed upon it.
Just the wall to your fucked up UNKILLABLE??? house.
No one has said anything for a while now.
Cici finally manages to unstun herself to practically whisper, "I'm sorry I bent your crowbar."
"Dude." Kate shakes her head, suddenly remembering she has level. She pauses to take a mighty drag. "That was maybe the coolest thing I've ever seen, don't apologize. Plaire, congrats on your invincible house."
"Is it the whole house?" You regret asking the question almost as soon as you ask it. You don't even think you really want an answer. If you don't finish the thought, though, you know someone else probably will. "Or is it just this wall...?"
"Only one way to find out," Kate remarks. "That's glass in the front door, right?"
"That is definitely NOT the only way to find out!," Cici notes (firmly).
You stare at the front door of your house.
"We can test the other walls first!," Cici insists.
"Imagine how useful it'll be--" Kate begins, picking her knife back up and... uh... de-blading it. "--Knowing whether or not the glass in your front door is unbreakable." She stashes the switchblade back into her pants pocket.
"I'm not throwing anything through anybody's windows," Cici finally states. She starts to cross her arms, but settles for putting her hands on her hips when her sleeves begin to try and rend themselves from the rest of her shirt. You definitely heard her shirt... unshirting itself during the big swing earlier.
She was planning to swing by her apartment for a sleeping bag, anyway. She can... hopefully also get another shirt. Before this one explodes.
Or not, it's y'know whatever
You shake your head. You keep picturing yourself trying to explain why you chucked a crowbar through your window, and even in your imagination it's not working out. "I don't think I can do it, either. I want to know, but--holy shit, if it doesn't work and I break my own window I won't be able to live."
She takes the bent crowbar from Cici.
Neither you nor Cici fight it.
"I want you to know," Kate tells you, "I wouldn't do this if I didn't have total faith in both my own ability to maintain a knife, and the power of your fucked up house, respectively. You're cool, and my friend, and I'm ready for you and Cici to just... beat the everloving shit out of me if this doesn't work."
and takes a step
and hurls the bent crowbar across the living room, straight at your front door window.
It's a hell of a throw. The crowbar's warped shape puts a little spin on it.
It's like everything is in slow motion, and yet it all happens so fast.
The crowbar bounces.
The fucking glass.
The glass is fine.
The door is fine.
The house is fine.
You look at Cici, who is looking at you like you're strapped to a bomb.
You then look at Kate, who turns back to the two of you with an impeccable poker face. Just, absolutely stone cold in light of the implications of your house being god damn indestructible.
She simply takes another drink... and has another puff.
"So," Kate says, "uh," long pause, "your house fucking rules."
"I should NOT have let you do that," Cici blurts out like she just realized it.
"I'm persuasive," Kate replies. "That's what makes me dangerous. That's what my math teacher used to tell me."
as though the house is going to come to life and exact retribution for your attacks upon it
Cici suddenly turns to you, still wide-eyed. "I would've bought you a new window. This was stupid. We should not have done this."
but the house does nothing
except keep being a house.
hmm sure hope that doesn't affect the dream
"Guys," Kate begins, "this is like the opposite of a thing to freak out about. Oh, and this slaps a huge list of potential motives on the mayor's profile. I would totes do unethical mayor shit for an indestructible house."
You have to mentally talk yourself out of loudly apologizing to the house.
You're not sure what kind of dead eyed stare into the abyss you're projecting, but Cici gently puts a hand on your shoulder. "Maybe we should take a break from--"
"NOT fucking this house up, 'cuz Plaire's house doesn't take any shit?" Kate takes a dramatic drag. "Yeah, I'm down for whatever."
"How are you excited right now?," Cici asks. "Level's supposed to like... level you out."
"I have rock and roll running through my veins," Kate announces nonchalantly before downing the rest of her beer.
Realization brings you back to reality. "You need stronger level," you point out.
"Or don't," Cici interjects. "You might actually blow your damn heart up."
You breathe, and take another hard stare at the warped crowbar still laying on the floor.
House. What is your deal, house?
Cici successfully crushes a beer can; individual objects brought into the house are not indestructible.
Kate successfully scratches the side of the stove with her knife; objects simply plugged in to the house are not indestructible, either.
...Which means your computer is not indestructible.
Cici successfully manages to chip off a little from the exterior of your house. So, the outside isn't indestructible.
"So the..." Kate takes a long drag of maybe her fourth level, "the invincible zone starts somewhere inside the house. Like, if we started drilling from the outside, we'd hit a section where it just... stops."
"What's really spooky," Cici remarks, "is that you don't have a porch light! There's not even a place for a porch light."
Somehow, the revelation that the house's exterior can be damaged just makes you more uncomfortable.
Like it's wearing the skin of a regular house.
Like if you tore all the siding off, the house's true form would be revealed.
Kate double-confirms by lighting some of your grass on fire (it gets put out quickly).
Cici, in an act that further warps the already bent crowbar, confirms that the floor is also immune to damage.
You successfully mark on the wall with a pen. Just a tiny line, out of the way where no one will see it.
So, that works.
And, finally, for the grand finale--
you and Kate (using a screwdriver that Kate has and Cici doesn't want to ask about) undo the front door from its hinges. Cici helps you carry it out to the front yard, where Kate successfully cuts a small knick into its surface. On the edge, where it won't stand out.
So: once separated from the house, the door is no longer granted the properties of the house.
You return the door to its original place, and re-fix it to the frame.
You also change your mind about apologizing to the house.
"House," you begin, looking up at the ceiling, "if this experience has been painful or offensive I am very sorry. We're just trying to understand you. I don't even know if you can hear this or not."
"Probably the right attitude," comments Kate. "I, uh, noticed something while we were messing with the door."
. . . ?
Kate... visibly hesitates.
She holds up her hand, still sporting the cut from earlier. She's been half-assed putting pressure on it with a handful of her shirt, which is, luckily, also red. ...Not quite the same shade of red, but
your train of thought is derailed as she lightly prods at the wound, drawing more blood
and then slaps her hand on the wall.
You and Cici stare, both quite confused, as she withdraws her hand
and the blood she smeared on the wall begins to disappear.
...Not just disappear. It's like the blood is dispersing into the wall.
"You know," Cici says, "if you guys wanna sleep at my place again I'm sure Bebe won't mind--"
"We should probably not feed the house any more blood," you say aloud in a far more casual tone than you were originally planning.
You have heard ... at least multiple stories of corpses getting dumped in rivers, or bodies being left out in the wilderness, and a tiger or an alligator or something subsequently developing a taste for human blood.
The house doesn't seem to ... react, to the blood. At least.
It just keeps being a house.
Doing what houses do.
You really have no reason to believe the house is alive, let alone possessing animal-like intelligence.
You also don't know that it doesn't.
"So," Kate begins, "possible motives for bad guys to want the house. 1.) Something inside the dream itself."
"Wait, hold on," Cici interjects, "who're the bad guys?"
"I dunno," Kate replies, "Mayor Parsons? Mondol? That uh, one cop nobody likes."
Kate, with some help from Cici, has figured out more about the house in a matter of hours than you have in four days of living in it.
"Officer Johnson?," Cici clarifies.
Kate smiles. "Yeah. He would be a Johnson. Dude's a dick."
In general, Kate seems... better.
At this whole... mystery solving thing.
"I don't like him," Cici adds, shaking her head, "but I can't see him hatching a plot to steal the house."
"No," Kate agrees, "he definitely has the dead, hateful gaze of a man with zero ambition, but he's a massive asshole so I'm including him for completion's sake. 2.) The house is invincible, this pretty well speaks for itself, and 3.) The house is also, perhaps, a vampire?"
"Just because it drinks blood doesn't mean it's a vampire," Cici points out. "The house could be a sponge! Or like, a giant flea. There's a type of finch that drinks blood!"
You shake your head. "There being a giant sponge or unkillable flea hidden under the walls is infinitely worse than it being a vampire. ...Is there really a blood drinking finch?"
"Yeah!," Cici exclaims. "The vampire ground finch. They're tiny, but they have sharp beaks, and they drink blood from... uh... other birds."
Kate squints. And smirks. "What kind of birds were those again, Cici?"
Cici sighs. "I didn't think about it until I said it."
Kate squints harder. "Ciciiii--"
"Boobies. Okay? Nazca and blue-footed BOOBIES."
You loudly snort struggling not to laugh. "Like, exclusively?" Boobies is, in itself, less funny than Cici's nervousness about saying it. She blurted out tiddies earlier with no problem and yet
"AsfarasIknowyes," blurts out Cici. "Yeah, it's all... boobies."
"It's alllll boobies, baby," chuckles Kate. "NOTHIN' BUT BOOBIES" she shouts with volume but little enthusiasm (almost exclusively, you think, for the echo).
While giggling like kids at the idea that THE HOUSE JUST WANTS BOOBIES, MAN, the three of you spend some time searching for hidden panels, switches, buttons, or other out of place oddness. You notice Cici being careful not to pull her shirt in certain ways. More pizza is consumed. You meet back up in the living room at about 10:45 pm.
"New theory," Kate begins... only to then shrug, and grab another beer from the floor. "Anybody know any magic words? Open says me? Sabbra cadabra?"
You shake your head. "If it's not The First Lie or I Have A Right To Know, then I'm out."
Cici also shrugs, and also grabs another beer. "Maybe there's just... not a secret passage in the spooky house?"
"No," you say firmly. "The walls wouldn't be bullshit magic walls if there wasn't something to hide. I just have no idea how to open... whatever it is. Not being able to get into the walls OR floor just makes me more convinced there's something here. ...Something even the federal agents maybe couldn't get to."
There's a very long pause
before Cici speaks up.
"Maybe it's in the dream?"
You and Kate both turn to look at her. Cici shrugs. "Like, maybe there's a switch or something in the dream that opens up a door in here. I don't know!"
"That's..." hmm. "That's not a bad idea."
"That's better than what we have otherwise," Kate remarks, "which is a big ol' goose egg."