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Ink-stained Heart

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Julie managed to reach her cubicle just as the bell signaling that it was eight o'clock chimed. She let out a soft sigh of relief and took her position at the desk before turning on the computer. Today was doomed to be another long day of doing the same work as usual; she could sense it. But, with an air of slight opposition, she began.

As a nineteen-year-old with little experience in the field, it was truly remarkable that she had managed to be hired by the boss of Marvelous Marigold Studios, a blooming graphic design company that was becoming increasingly popular with many important people in the industry. Yet despite this, she was hardly of any importance to the organization. In fact, it became blatantly clear to her over the past year that she was only hired because the boss's son had taken a strange liking toward her.

"Hey, Jules!"

And speak of the devil...

"Heyy, Max," she mumbled and absentmindedly waved at the male now peeking over the cubicle wall.

"How's it going? You look beautiful today."

Julie fought back the urge to flee to the break room, instead glancing up to give him a forced, pleasant smile. Looking at him from an outside perspective, he could easily be seen as attractive: his curly locks of black hair fell over his forehead in spiralling swoops, bringing out the curious sparkle in his blue-green eyes, and his jawline perfectly shaped a charming smile that always seemed to be warm and welcoming. His body, while not chubby, wasn't skinny either. It gave the appearance that toned muscles were hidden under his clothing, which was probably true considering how everything else about him was near perfection.

Everything except his personality, that is.

Sure, he conveyed the impression of a sweet man, but he was disgustingly similar to her ex-boyfriend, Ethan, a drug addict who had used her for his own sick and twisted fantasies and cheated on her multiple times. After she had found out about this, he hurriedly fled to another country with all of her money, leaving her in the dust with no one willing to support her. (cliche much?)

And that was when Max swooped in, attempting to serenade her and instead landing her a job at a major company. She could at least thank him for that. But if the girls he brought in every other week and constantly flirted with were any kind of evidence, it was obvious that he was nothing but a player, just like Ethan.

"I'm doing fantastic, thanks," she responded and pretended to be focusing on her work, hoping he'd fall for it and leave her alone. But of course, he didn't.

"That's cool," he trailed off in disinterest. "Soo, um... do you maybe wanna go see a movie with me tonight? I have an extra ticket," he held up two crumpled pieces of paper that she guessed had been haphazardly shoved into one of his pant pockets.

Julie couldn't help but wince. She was expecting a poorly delivered question like this, but wasn't exactly prepared for it this time around. She racked her brain for some sort of excuse to say no, but it was as if her mind had completely shut down. She silently cursed to herself, her eyes desperately scanning the desk for inspiration... until they finally landed on a faded envelope leaning on the monitor with several ink splotches smeared across it, something she had completely forgotten about until now.

She made eye contact with him once more and flashed another fake smile. "I, uh... I actually need to go somewhere important tonight. It has to do with my uncle," she bit her lip and pulled the sleeves of her shirt down, suddenly feeling anxious. It wasn't a lie; she really did have to be at a place that concerned her uncle Joey Drew, the animator behind many successful cartoons.

"Oh, I see. Mind telling me where?" Max tilted his head questionably. She almost rolled her eyes in annoyance but managed to catch herself.

"It's his animation workshop. He sent me this letter requesting that I stop by. Says he needs to show me something," she gestured to the envelope on the desk. Again, not a lie. He frowned but shrugged.

"Okay then. Have fun with that," he said before turning away and sinking back into his own cubicle.

She exhaled slowly, finally able to relax. With one last glance toward the letter, she went back to working her painfully long shift.

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Later that night, Julie found herself standing in front of a run-down excuse of what was once the cheerful headquarters of her uncle's famous animations. The wooden door was lopsided and bound to fall off of its hinges at any moment, and every window had been sloppily boarded up. Posters littered the ground around the building, all portraying Bendy the dancing demon and Boris the wolf, his most well-known characters. Trying her best to ignore the mess, she carefully opened the door and stepped inside.

The interior was even worse. The same posters were slapped on nearly every wall, and the floorboards creaked loudly under her feet. The air reeked of old mothballs and papers covered in what she assumed was scrapped concept art were scattered about. Peering down at a few, it seemed that most of them were sketches of strange versions of Bendy, one even featuring a halo and angel wings.

After she was done looking, she turned around and gasped in surprise when she almost stumbled over a large cardboard cut-out of the demon. She rested her hand over her chest in an attempt to calm herself down and shook her head. Soon enough, her shock was replaced with a cloudy confusion as to why Bendy was quite literally everywhere. Shrugging her concerns off, she continued exploring the rest of the workshop.

Every room that had a door was locked, and only one area that she had come across was labelled above the entrance: 'The Ink Machine.' Letting her curiosity overtake her, she hesitantly entered the room. Her mouth formed the shape of an 'o' upon discovering what must be the machine. It looked like nothing more than large chunks of metal crudely mashed together to make a bigger one. Gears were placed on the sides and the back, and upon further inspection, were the only things that showed any sign of it being functional. Could this possibly be what her uncle wanted to show her? She tried looking for some sort of button to turn it on, but to no avail. With an exasperated sigh, she took one last glance around the room before leaving.

After several twists and turns, she came upon a room with six pedestals evenly divided on either side. A lever with the words 'Ink Pressure' flashing above it indicated its function. Another sign next to it read 'Low Pressure' in the same lettering. She walked up to the lever and attempted to pull it down, but it wouldn't even budge an inch. Now aggravated, she stormed out, not bothering to examine it any further.

Not only was her uncle nowhere to be seen, every room was either locked off or provided no clues as to where he could be. And to add fuel to the fire already beginning to spark in her mind, the workshop was a complete and utter wreck. She let herself frown, severely disappointed that he would ever allow this given the fact that this was his life's work.

Yeah... 'was'...

Too involved with her own thoughts to be paying attention to where she was walking, she was taken aback when she fell against something slightly moist and foul-smelling. She took a step back and peered upward with a concerned expression which quickly morphed into one of sheer horror.

In front of her, lying against a wooden plank, was a terrifyingly realistic 3D corpse of a dissected Boris the wolf. His ribs were pried apart, sticking out like thorns on a rose, and the inside of his chest was a faded brown hollow where his vital organs should have been. His eyes, shown as full of joy and laughter on posters, were nothing more than lifeless x's, and ink splatters stained the wall behind him.

Julie stood in silence with her hands covering her mouth, barely able to force herself to take a step back, let alone process the horrendous scene before her. Her eyes were unwillingly transfixed on the mangled character and hot tears blurred her vision, threatening to flow down at any moment.

"Oh God, Boris... what happened to you?" she whispered shakily. "Did Joey do this?" the thought echoed repeatedly in her mind. She couldn't help but suspect this had everything to do with her uncle.

Before she could say or do anything else, a heavy drop of liquid plopped down upon her head. With her mind temporarily off of Boris, she furrowed her eyebrows in confusion and glanced upward just in time to feel a sharp pain in her side and be met with complete and utter darkness.