Between the howling and the haze of the storehouse, the distant squeal of someone’s breath being ripped from their lungs, and the paranoia that any time spent not in motion would greet you with a crown of corvids; Macmillan’s home gives way to a fear that does not force you to scream. Rather, Macmillan’s home fosters the sort of enveloping anxiety that can only spawn from the entity. Whoever begged it for the fog, however, could fuck right off into the spider-legged abyss.
It isn’t the creeping dread that gets to David, but whoever was erratically blowing the generator on the far end of the property. No matter who it was, they’re about to either have a faceful of bonesaw, or a faceful of fist. Forget that he, himself, had been bleeding since the start of the match. A handicap unto himself for the sake of adrenaline and adrenaline alone. Whoever was inconveniencing him, was about to have a much worse time. That much was simple. He knows damn well that there are only two left, and the kickback of a failing engine grates on him more than the actual sound of the nurse’s wheezing. It’s simple. You repair the generator, leave, repeat.
Another miss, the generator crackling with all the mechanical dysfunction it could muster. At this point, whoever’s wasting time is either an idiot or deliberate. But judging how David had previously seen Meg hauling ass out of the storeroom, and Ace’s luck seemed to have entirely choked early match leading to a pitiful escape attempt, there’s only one answer. Sputtering a string of incoherent swears, David slinks along the back wall of the property, keeping an eye out for any possible streaks of white or screaming. At any particular noise, he stops, dead in his tracks. Another screech, and he moves.
Another miss, yet again, and he’s standing behind Dwight, who has yet to look behind himself, David still keeping an eye on the nurse, whenever she did blink into view. The lack of care, or blatant distraction was starting to get to him.
“You enjoy fuckin’ around with your life, Fairfield?” A blunt statement, loud enough to hear over the manual cranking of the gaskets. Dwight starts, shoulders going tense, only to have David reach over him and press his hand against the generator to avoid another eruption. “The fuck’s with you?”
There’s silence, only collapsed by the near shriek of the nurse and Meg yelling some chain of expletives in regards to “Teleporting-through-trees-fucking-bullshit”. In any other case, David might have barreled out into the open himself, cackling about Meg’s agitation and “Baghead” being seemingly off her game. Instead, he draws his hand from the generator and presses his hand against the concavity between Dwight’s shoulder blades.
“You’re bleeding.” Dwight finally mutters, hands finally becoming more still. “How are we supposed to get out if you basically stab yourself the second you get in the lot?”
“Ya do a generator, then ya leave.”
“Shut up. You know it’s not that simple.”
David draws his hand back, only to crouch on the other side of a generator, prying at old wires and waiting for a further explanation. A generator in the distance howls with a newfound power, only to be followed by the a distant wheeze and Meg’s yell- finally hit. David flinches prematurely, and Dwight flings his hands up as the sparks fly. The heartbeat never comes. David continues, staring down at his work.
“You ever think one of these days we’ll die and that’ll be it?” Dwight mutters, barely audible under the clattering of metal. “Like, maybe Ace isn’t back at the campfire, but just. You know.”
David doesn’t look up. “Don’t be a right fuckin’ idiot about that. We always come back.”
The cranking stops, and David peers over to see Dwight still crouched on the floor with his hands on his knees. Prayer-like. Meditative. As if he’s trying to center himself in the oppressive fear of death. David knows the nurse has this effect on people, but fears be damned if it didn’t drive him mad with a weird aggressive sense of superiority. Or some miasma of despondency.
“Look, ya always tell people ya need them to survive so you survive. You’re fuckin’ lucky I happen t’ be someone damn capable of keeping people alive. Have some faith.”
“Don’t be stupid.” Dwight shoots back, fingers tracing the underside of the generator. “You go looking for fights, and consequences be damned if you get hurt. As far as I’m aware, you’re more help off a hook than on one.”
There’s a vague pulse, and David stands; not so much insulted by being told to shut up, but impressed. “A’right, ya made your point. Now get th’ fuck outta here.”
“I said get out.”
There’s a beat as Dwight stands, only to be shoved out of the ring of debris as the nurse enters the ring, Meg bolting after her and gesturing to the generator. Between Dwight and Meg on opposite perimeters, David realizes he’s in for an awful fucking match. Her saw raises, still covered in what he assumes is fresh gore, and barely misses. David darts from the ring, towards the storehouse, trying to drag her as far from the gen as possible. Muscle memory from bar fights and debt collecting, he knows damn well how to run and evade like a madman.
Consequences be damned.
He runs through the storehouse, spiraling between shelves of materials and a lit generator, hoping to lose her by the third blink. If the gates open, the other two can go. That’s all he needs, right now. For people to get the fuck out. He manages for three cycles, only dizzying himself slightly in the mess before launching himself out a broken window on the side of the storehouse. A lethal mistake, knowing damn well he couldn’t remember if she had blinked twice or three times before clattering out the windowpane.
For the record, he assures himself as the bone saw cleaves through his shoulder and his face hits the dirt, it was two.
The generator sputters to life around the same time he lets out a bark of pain, rolling forward with his elbow as the nurse watches, lifting herself through the window and pulling him off the floor. David hisses through his teeth, wriggling in her grasp and driving the heel of his palm into the back of her neck. The whole cycle is graceless as she hovers about the side of the building, only to return inside and descend the staircase. Another hard smack to her neck, with no luck. David curses himself in the red haze of the room, flung haphazardly onto a hook in such a way that the rust and blood finds its way back into his shoulder through the previous wound. The yell breaks into an agitated howl, throwing his leg out in an aggressive kick towards the nurse as she vanishes up the stairs.
Somehow, the bullshit of it all reminds him of another bar fight, the feeling of being clobbered over the head with a bottle of scotch in the moment you think you’ve done enough. You made a point, and now your point is laying with you in the starry haze of your own blood. If they knew anything about anything, the other two would leave. Appease the stupid god of the woods with some flesh and blood, lick their wounds, and get a good night’s sleep. He knows what it’s like to be taken apart and wake up reassembled under the willows. He can take it. There’s been worse.
His body goes limp on the hook, somewhere between resignation and the forced self-assurance that the others are smart enough to leave and carry on. His eyes close, ready for the event to end and the entity to scramble to collect whatever it desires at any second.
“To quote someone I know, the fuck is with you?” The whisper comes as a shock, and David is quick to open his eyes and stare down the man in front of him. “Since when do you just sit there-“
“Get me down or leave me, don’ sit here an’ lecture me when she’ll be back any second.” David is quick to interrupt, teeth gritting as he feels the subtle rattling of the hook. “Fuckin’- pick one.”
He barely has time to gripe before Dwight is grumbling underneath him, heaving him off the hook and back onto the floor of the basement. David stumbles, nearly collapsing into him with all the grace of a pile of bricks. He reels back, planting his feet firmly on the ground and giving Dwight a look that only dared him to make some comment about blood loss, near-death-ness or whatever the hell the lesson was. When nothing comes but an exhausted look, the two bolt out from the basement, Dwight seemingly convinced that David should stay a pace or two behind him.
They follow one another, silent up to the nearby gate, Meg already long gone. The exit is clunky and awkward, but fast all the same.
The terseness of the air is oppressive.
The campfire is crowded as usual, stories being passed around as a cheap cover up for the ever persistent feeling of doom. Save for two survivors, on the outskirts of the woods. No words come, for awhile. They stand, backs to the camp, staring into the vast nothing of the Entity’s realm. The wind howls, something like a warning to turn back. Go sit at the fire, it warns. No philosophising. Don’t dismantle your dread.
“You know, I ended up here because I got left in the goddamn woods.” Dwight admits to nobody in particular, cleaning his glasses. “Left to die by some drunk co-workers.” The spite is raw in his throat, and David knows that vague sense of shame. The abandonment.
“Least you didn’ jus’ wander in like a right fuckin’ idiot.” He laughs, trying to give some kind of support. Dwight gives him a look, but it begs for nothing other than the joking to stop.
“You think about it too, don’t you.” Dwight says firmly, still facing the horizon. “About dying, y’know, for real.”
“Pretty sure I’m already dead ‘for real’.” David states bluntly. “Far as my mates are concerned, I got brained out in some fight with some punks, an’ outright ghosted after that. Nothin’ left.”
“So you think we’re all dead?” Dwight asks, finally turning to face David, who’s staring at him fairly hard. As if he doesn’t want to be having this conversation for some collection of reasons. David realizes he must seem outwardly put out by the whole deal upon hearing the tone question. Worry.
Why the fuck does he have to worry?
David sucks air through his teeth as if he’s been punched in the stomach, looking away for a moment. “I didn’ say we’re all dead. Said I think I’m dead.”
He looks back to see Dwight closer, brow furrowed. It’s not long before there’s a hand on his face, tracing the scar on his lip with a cross between nervous curiosity and a vague sense of outright compassion. It’s out of left field, almost. David’s hand settles barely above Dwight’s hip on reflex, keeping him within reach.
“You don’t feel more dead than anyone else.” Dwight states, quiet. “Depressed, maybe. Not dead.”
He nearly flinches at the accusation, but finds himself standing still. It occurs to him that the two of them have seemingly skipped some sort of steps, cordial friendship or whatever the hell preceded emotional support and post-near-death preening. But, here they are, assuring one another about their existing mortality and their personal downfalls. Frankly, David prefers this over all of the exhaustive repetitive bullshit. When you’re dying with people every night, small talk is pointless.
“You scare th’ shit outta me, sometimes.” David mutters, a half-laugh that only exists for a few seconds before being mentally strangled from existence. “Watchin’ you put your hands on a generator? Feels like I’m ‘bout t’ witness someone lose their fingers.”
Dwight rests his head against David’s collar, hands falling around him with a sense of exhaustion. “Take it up with my anxiety, then.” His voice is quiet, with the same bare amusement.
“Thought anxiety gets worse with th’ crowds.” David says, hand ghosting over Dwight’s back.
Dwight sighs in response, still pressing close. “Yeah, if it’s social anxiety. Or claustrophobia. But, I just don’t like thinking about dying- or other people dying. I freeze up.”
“Sounds like you don’t really fancy bein’ left alone.” David says, fairly quiet. Being insightful was never his strongest suit, but he knows a problem when he sees one. It doesn’t take much for Dwight to agree with him, either.
“I hate it.”
A longer silence, the two keeping close and fixating on the fact that whatever baggage they’ve been carrying around has been laid at each others feet. Maybe it’s the exhaustion from the dredging of emotion, maybe it’s the sheer relief of letting go. David can’t quite make out why Dwight’s hands begin to shake- grabbing at his sweater with some ragged desperation.
A panic attack?
No, not enough curling in on himself, his heart rate still arguably low. He shudders at the touch on his back, and David knows damn well this is the same erratic state he found him in earlier. Except more vulnerable, somehow. He presses his mouth to the top of Dwight’s head, reflexive in his protectiveness. Trying to keep him close and away from whatever eeking panic was trying to make its way through to them.
“Calm down.” He states, albeit vaguely gruff and unhelpful.“ I’m here, so you know damn well you’re not alone.”
“I-“ Dwight starts, hands tensing. “I get that. I know that. Just. Prove to me we’re alive, then. Anything. Show me that despite everything, the shitty booze, the hooks- we’re alive.”
The command is desperate in it’s tone. Begging for some vindication to snub the irrational fear that trails along with each round of the entity’s game. Desperate to prove there’s hope, or light, or anything that isn’t the unforgiving reality that the loop will never yield. David, for once in his life, is speechless. At least for a few moments.
The decision to kiss him was another haphazard combination of a sort of adrenaline-drunk and underdeveloped sense of touch starvation. Garnished with the idea that maybe there was something endearing about the smaller, quasi-neurotic man in his arms. The drive to want to do something stupid is there, however, he finds himself trying to do anything to make himself feel alive, too.
It doesn’t help that he’s a little too into the feeling of tense hands vaguely scratching at his back, like Dwight considers scrambling away. When David pulls back, he’s only met with another, desperation sinking in. David only slightly stumbles forward, an attempt to brace himself against a tree with Dwight between him, slightly pinning him. There’s a small whine, but Dwight keeps particularly close, content enough to relax when David pulls away to get another look at him.
“Alive enough?” He asks, his tone conveying a bizarre loudness without the sound. He seems proud, almost. Impressed with the energy and the motion of the entire act.
“For now.” Dwight says, quiet enough to only barely be heard. His hands have stopped shaking, sliding away from David’s back with slight hesitation as he pulls forward. The two let go of eachother, but still stand in close proximity, staring at the small blaze of light flickering between the trees. The silence loses it’s tension, melting into something comfortable. A state of understanding and acceptance in the moment, with fear finally subsiding.
For now is the state of life in the entity’s realm, where the wind stops howling, for now. The campfire is lit, for now.
They are all alive, for now.
And that is good enough.