Even though the vents were one of the very few places Miles could go that were vaguely safe he was still always on edge in them. Especially when he was crawling along like this. Knees slamming into the metal and echoing thunderously in the small, enclosed space.
One of his most frequent thoughts in the past ten hours has been ‘thank god I don’t have claustrophobia.’
But he did have plenty of other phobias. Bees. Clowns. Death. Thankfully, only the last was relevant in this festering wound of an asylum.
Or maybe not so thankfully. A swarm of bees or an overflowing clown farm would be welcomed over the piles of guts and puddles of blood that seemed to decorate every corner of this godforsaken hellhole.
With everything Miles had seen even in this short time, he had a feeling he was going to have a whole bunch of new phobias.
Unfortunately, somehow he felt seeking out psychiatric help after all this would only make things worse. Considering the situation. Last thing he was ready to do after escaping this shithole of a mental hospital was approach anything even vaguely resembling it.
Couldn’t think about the future quite yet though. Right now, he had a plan for the present.
Eliminate one of the biggest sources of danger, Chris Walker.
That was why he was currently crawling through the narrow air vent with an oddly bulky bag he was transporting with absolute care. He knew he couldn’t beat Chris in anything resembling a physical altercation but he had an alternate path, a longshot he was willing to try.
Appealing to Chris’s humanity.
He’d found many documents on Walker, one of Mount Massive’s most notorious denizens. A veteran soldier, saw god knows what overseas on several tours. Army police. Worked briefly as security at Mount Massive before they took him in as a patient. Whole mess of problems, including anxiety so bad that he decimated his own face. And, more worrisomely, a recent affection for ripping people’s heads off.
His mental condition not helped by the raging fuckholes that built and ran this rancid place. Turning Chris from a man to a monster.
From the outside, someone would probably think Miles was off his rocker himself but he honestly mostly felt bad for the man. Despite being grabbed by the throat and thrown through a window by him.
Not that that hadn’t freaked him out. God, even the idea of approaching Chris was filling him with dread. But as he reached the exit, he peered down at his stomping, enraged prey he knew what he has to do.
Calling out, his voice felt foreign after hours of only silence and screaming, “Hey. Big guy. Look up here, buddy.”
Jerking his head up brought a clang of chains that yelled at Miles’s flight response. Bidding him to disappear further into the vent.
But he didn’t listen to that, staying just barely poking out of the vent, “Your name is Chris Walker, right?”
The massive man looked more confused than anything, staring up at Miles in the most non-hostile state he’d ever seen him. Not used to being addressed directly anymore. For a second, Miles thought his pause was futile but Chris nodded once. Sharply, curtly, with a growled, “What of it?”
Lucid. Chris Walker was at least something resembling lucid.
“My name’s Miles Upshur,” Miles tapped his own chest, “I just want to talk to you a little bit. Small man to unreasonably large man.”
Chris grunted at that, empty eyes eyeballing him as he watched Miles dig behind him and procure two cans, two plastic forks. Both reasonably clean. Cautiously, Miles held one set down towards Chris. Nervously adjusting so Chris could only grab the can, not his wrist. Last thing he wanted was to pulled down from his high perch and ripped to pieces before he could even say a word.
Curling up against the side of the vent so he was a bit more visible, Miles cracked open the tab on the can and opened it. Oranges. Really the only thing he’d found so far. Always did like fruit, although god knows how old and/or otherwise questionable these are. Below, Chris did the same although he remained standing. Examining him like he was waiting for this to be a trick as he stabbed a fork in and fished out a slimy looking slice of orange.
God, the man didn’t eat great. Miles politely didn’t flinch at the man awkwardly trying to eat with no lips, mouth pulled back involuntarily.
“So, Chris,” Miles said, popping one of the pieces into his own much-more-intact mouth, “You were in the military police, right? Spent some time in Afghanistan?”
White eyes still glaring a hole into Miles, he nodded again.
“Don’t know which was worse for you. Seeing the horrors of war or being in this hellhole. Probably this place, honestly. Saw your files. You used to be a normal dude before these Murkoff assholes got their claws into you.”
Snarling, Chris tightened his grip. A small noise of the can crumpling, just once, seemed so loud in the otherwise abandoned corridor.
“Not looking to offend you,” Miles raised his hands, “You just tried to serve your country. Be a hero. Then you came back, tried to reintegrate with society using the skills you had, then they… they did this to you. Whatever cruel experiments this place does.”
Chris looked away with what should be his brows furrowed, inelegantly eating more of the oranges.
“That’s why I’m here, Chris. I’m a reporter. I got an e-mail from someone who was working here about the inhumane conditions they were keeping you all in.”
Looking back up at him. Curiously. At least, he seemed to be. Already finishing off the can of oranges, right down to drinking the syrup. All without looking away from Miles above.
Holding up the camera, Miles continued, “I’m here to record what’s happening here. Show the world. Get everyone in here help. Including you.”
Blinking. Staring. God, Miles wished the man could make any facial expression other than ‘pained grimace.’
“I mean it. I hear you, when you’re talking to yourself. I mean, I don’t think you’re going about it the right way at all but whatever it is you’re doing? You think you’re helping people. Somewhere inside you, you’re trying to do the right thing. You’re just a little confused about what the right thing is.”
Growling, the can crumpled far too easily in Chris’s hand. For a second, Miles thought he was going to throw it at him but instead it just hit the floor with a clunk. Chains rattling as Chris turned abruptly to begin walking away.
Fuck, that statement hadn’t gone well. Leaning out almost far enough to fall from the opening to the bloody floor below, he yelled for Chris to come back, “Hey, hey, hey, c’mon man. Don’t walk away. One more thing, alright?”
Stopping. Turning back to him. Staring.
“I know that you, uh, did all that business to yourself,” Miles said, circling the lower half of his own face, “Anxiety. Can’t blame you. If I’d have seen half the shit you’ve seen I’d probably be taking chunks off my face too.”
Another indiscernible look. All he had to go on was the man’s stance which seemed to relax a little.
“Anyways, I got something for you,” Miles said, moving his half eaten can of food further into the vent so he could pull an oddly shaped bag onto his lap, “Read about it in one of your files. Found it in one of the offices, confiscated personal effects.”
Lowering the bag carefully, Chris grabbed it. Trying to look nonchalant, Miles’s heart was going wild. His trump card. More than anything, this was his best shot at getting Chris to be alright with him.
Opening it, Chris pulled out the soft, pink object.
Mouth gaping, even more than usual, Chris sounded incredulous, “Little Pig?”
And it was. In his hands was an object he’d long ago made his peace with losing. His childhood toy, a rather beat up old stuffed pig. Mildly bloodstained but not looking much worse for the wear than the day he’d arrived here with it.
Above him, watching him gently touch his prized possession, Miles tried not to sound too victorious, “Thought you’d like that. Maybe feel a bit better?”
Chris’s voice was strained but, god help him, it almost looked like the man was smiling as he replied, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Miles nodded, picking up his oranges to resume his meager dinner, “Maybe, uh, remember that I’m just here to help you guys. Next time you catch me on the ground. In grabbing distance.”
Whatever look Chris was giving him it was indiscernible but going off the bag held tightly to his chest, Miles hoped he was happy. Not just for his own benefit. He wasn’t lying when he said he wanted to help here. Even if it was something small like this.
With another curt nod, Chris turned away and stalked off with the bag still tightly clutched to his chest.
Leaving Miles to wonder how things were going to be from now on.