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Memories

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     It had been on his mind all day, hovering around his head like a vulture that just wouldn’t go away. The memories. The ones he didn’t like to think about. Usually he was okay with them, but every once in a while they came creeping back up to him, not letting him go, and he would spiral out of control. As Norman sat curled up on the couch, playing with his phone, he vowed not to let that happen again.
     He was visiting Sammy and Bendy, as Henry was at work and he had nothing better to do. The two of them welcomed him into their house with no problem, and now they were all sitting on the couches, watching TV. Well, Sammy and Bendy were. Norman was too busy distracting himself to pay any attention to the screen.
     He scratched at the back of his neck, feeling where one of the wires connected into his skin, and then quickly pulled his hand away. A shiver passed through his body, and he took a deep breath through the vents on his projector. He felt those memories creeping up his back again, slithering through his wires like snakes, whispering things into his head. He changed positions on the couch and tried to focus harder on his phone. His vision felt shaky now, and everything on his phone’s screen was difficult to read.
     “Hey, Norman?” Sammy’s voice made him jump. “Are you okay?”
     “U-Uh, yeah, why?” replied Norman.
     “You’re shaking.”
     Norman looked down at his hand to find he was, in fact, shaking. He looked back up at Sammy and said, “I’m...I’m fine. Just...give me a minute.”
     He got up and quickly walked into the bathroom, shutting and locking the door behind him. He backed away from the door, shaking even more now. He couldn’t stop remembering. Remembering how he became corrupted.
     He saw ink crawling over his body, melting his human skin off as new inky skin replaced it. Wires were forced into his neck, shoved past his bones and nerves. He remembered screaming as he saw the projector come down on his head, fusing to his neck and spine. It was all black then, his vision not yet adjusted, but he remembered gurgling for help as a speaker was forced into his chest and reels were shoved into his shoulder and the pain god the pain was unreal it was inhuman it was like nothing he’d ever felt before and he thought he had died he wanted to die he wanted to stop he—
     Norman grabbed his head and doubled over as a sob hitched in his throat. His mind was racing now, overflowing with memories, overwhelmed with the past. He couldn’t think straight, could hardly think at all at this point, and he choked back a pitiful noise as inky tears flooded his lens and then spilled over the front of his projector. He sank to the floor, leaning against the sink cabinets, and pulled his knees to his chest, trembling like a leaf in a hurricane.
     He couldn’t let Sammy and Bendy hear him. They couldn’t see him like this. Not in shambles, not on the floor crying, panicking. He tried to be as quiet as possible, swallowing down his sobs, holding back any more tears for fear of breaking out wailing.
     There was no way he would be able to calm himself down sitting on the floor of Sammy and Bendy’s bathroom, alone. He needed someone. He needed Henry.
     The Projectionist held out his phone in front of him and shakily dialed his number, then put it to the side of his projector.
     Henry picked up in an instant. “Hello?”
     Norman wanted to speak, but all that came out was a small whimper. He was deathly afraid that if he talked, he would burst out sobbing. Loudly.
     “Uh, hello? Norman?”
     “H...H...Hen...ry...” whispered Norman, choking back a whine.
     “Norman? Are you okay?” asked Henry.
     “No...”
     There was immediate concern in Henry’s voice. “What’s the matter?”
     “I—I c-can’t—“ Norman gasped and desperately bit back a sob.
     “Norman, talk to me. What’s wrong?”
     “F-F...Flashb-back...memories—“
     Norman heard a whispered “shit” on the other end, and then Henry said, “Okay, just—just hold on. I’ll be over there in twenty minutes, okay?”
     “P-P-Please—hurry—“ choked Norman, tears pouring from his lens.
     “I will. Don’t worry, I’m coming for you.”
     Henry’s voice was soothing, and for the briefest moment Norman felt a small thing lift in his chest. He hung up, and Norman put his phone down. Memories were still flooding him relentlessly, and he gripped his reels in an attempt to stop them.
     He remembered when the ink was slithering all over him, him rising from its depths, his arms wrapped around himself, he was desperately holding on to those last frayed strings of his sanity. But one by one they snapped, and with each broken one he forgot more and more how to be human, until he was nothing but a screeching, crying monster. Everything after that was fuzzy. He passed out, then, waking up in the maze, and then he got to his feet and started to wander. For years, decades, this was his life. His fate. It was only until Sammy and Henry found him and made him remember that he became himself again.
     Norman nearly banged his head against the cabinets and bit back the urge to cry out. Everything was so painful right now. He wanted to die.
     Outside, Sammy and Bendy were starting to become worried.
     “Norman’s been in there for a while. Should we check to make sure he’s okay?” asked Bendy.
     “I don’t know. He has been acting kind of weird today...” replied Sammy.
     They got up from the couch and approached the bathroom door. Sammy knocked and said, “Norman? You alright?”
     Norman froze, terror flowing through his veins. Shit, what could he do? He stayed quiet, trying his best not to make a sound.
     “Norman?” asked Bendy. “We’re kinda worried about you.”
     The Projectionist curled in on himself, letting out a whimper. Evidently it was loud enough for them to hear, because he heard “what was that?” from the other side of the door. Through his blurred and inky vision he saw the doorknob being tried, and then he heard more frantic knocking.
     “Norman, are you okay in there??” questioned Sammy worriedly.
     “GO AWAY!!” spat Norman.
     He heard silence for a few moments, and then, from Bendy, “What’s wrong...?”
     “N-None—none of your—b-business—!!” Norman was dangerously close to falling apart completely now, sobs hitching in his throat.
     “Please, we just want to help...” said Sammy softly.
     Norman stared at the door, tears falling onto the floor in fat drops. He didn’t want anyone to see him like this. Only Henry had seen him so fragile, so vulnerable, and even then that was painful for him. But he was stuck between a rock and a hard place here. He was sitting on a bathroom floor having an absolute meltdown, and the only person who could even remotely calm him down was a whole twenty minutes away. Now two of his friends were worried sick about him because he had locked himself in said bathroom, and also screamed at them. But at least they were his friends. He really didn’t want to be alone right now. Maybe Sammy could help while he waited for Henry? It would be embarrassing, yes, but he was taking what he could get. He reached up and unlocked the door, then curled back up and muttered, “Sammy...”
     The door quietly opened, and Sammy entered the room and went still at the scene before him. Norman was an absolute mess. Crying, trembling, sitting on the floor, knees pulled up to his chest; he was pitiful.
     The corrupted human closed the door behind him and knelt down in front of the Projectionist, one hand reaching out to gently rub the side of his head.
     “Norman...” he whispered. “What’s the matter?”
     Norman turned his head away, ashamed. “B-B-Bad...m-memories—“ he hiccuped.
     “Bad memories?” repeated Sammy softly. “Of what?”
     “Being—c-corrupted—“
     Sobs overtook him then, and he wiped his lens to try and stop the tears but more kept coming. He bolted forward and wrapped his arms around Sammy, burying his head into his shoulder. Sammy let his arms come around him and rubbed his back wiring gently.
     “It’s okay, Norman. It’ll be okay. It’s over now.” he said quietly.
     “H-Hurt—so much—“
     “I know. It hurt for me, too.” Sammy let one hand come up to rub the side of Norman’s projector, placing a small kiss on the other side. “Don’t be afraid to cry, Norman. Let it out.”
     And in that instant Norman crumbled, letting go of any last attempt to stay composed. He began wailing miserably, not holding anything back. Sammy almost cringed as he heard his crying; it was horrible to listen to. He felt his heart break, and tears formed in his own eyes before he continued planting soft, comforting kisses on Norman’s head.
     Neither of them were sure how long they were there on the bathroom floor for, but it must have been a long time because soon there came another knock at the door, and then it creaked open. Norman looked up to see Henry step in, and he tapped on Sammy. Sammy released him, and he got up and practically glomped Henry, crying into his shoulder. Henry wrapped his arms around him, shushing him gently and hugging him tightly.
     “Easy. Easy, Norman. I’m here. It’s okay.” he whispered.
     The Projectionist choked and sobbed, but he felt his anxiety lessening with Henry here. He nuzzled into his neck, smearing tears on him.
     While he was comforting him, Henry looked down at Sammy and said, “Sammy, do you think you could do me a favor?”
     “Yeah?”
     “Norman drove here, right?”
     “Yeah.”
     “Well, he can’t drive back right now, so do you think while I drive him back to our place, you can take his car and follow us? I’ll drive you back here once I calm him down.”
     “I can do that.”
     “Thanks.” Henry smiled at him.
     He and Sammy were on good terms, but they weren’t exactly the best of friends. Henry still had nightmares of the attempted sacrifice, and he would be lying if he said he still didn’t feel just the slightest bit of resentment toward Sammy for it.
     He gently kissed Norman’s projector and said softly, “Come on, let’s go home. Sammy’s taking your car.”
     Norman just nodded shakily and the three of them exited the bathroom, walking past Bendy. Norman waved goodbye to him, and Bendy waved back, a worried look on his face.
     They left the house, Sammy grabbing Norman’s keys, and Henry got in his car, Norman sitting in the passenger seat. Henry adjusted the rearview mirror to see Sammy entering Norman’s car. He started the car and exited the driveway, then started down the road, Sammy following him.
     It was about five minutes into the ride that Norman reached over to his hand and grabbed it, and then they were holding hands while he drove. He didn’t mind one bit, of course; Norman was still trembling horridly, and he’d do anything to relax him. They stayed like this for the rest of the way home, and it was only when they arrived at their house that Norman finally let go. They got out of the car, Sammy following suit, and entered the house, closing the door behind them.
     Henry turned to Sammy. “Just stay in here while I calm him down.”
     “Alright.” Sammy sat down on one of the couches.
     Henry led the two of them into Norman’s room and shut the door, then climbed into the bed. “Come here.” he said.
     The Projectionist followed him and snuggled up to him, wrapping his arms around him tightly. He was much calmer than he was before, not gasping as much. He was still shaking, still feeling just a bit overwhelmed, but he was doing better. He let out a small noise as Henry kissed the top of his head.
     “Tell me what happened.”
     “I-I was at their house...and the memories just...wouldn’t stop. So I...w-went into the bathroom to calm m-myself down and they got worse and I broke down...” explained Norman.
     Henry rubbed his back wiring, planting another kiss on his head. “But it’s all over now, you know that? You’re okay.” he soothed. “Nobody can hurt you anymore. I won’t let them.”
     Norman felt ease replace panic at those words, and he replied in a quiet voice, “You won’t?”
     “No. I’ll protect you with my life. You know I’d do anything for you, Norman.”
     Norman pressed his lens into Henry’s cheek, his own way of kissing him. He had stopped crying by now. “And I’d do anything for you, too.”
     “Do you feel better?”
     “A little. The memories are still there.”
     “Okay. Let’s just lay here for a while, okay?”
     “Alright.”
     The two of them pulled the blanket over them and cuddled together, Henry’s arm wrapped around Norman protectively. For a long time it was just them, arms wrapped around each other, soothing and calming. As the minutes ticked by the memories started to drip away, recoiling back to the dark corners of Norman’s mind. Soon he was relaxed, and it wasn’t long before he drifted off to sleep in Henry’s embrace, his light flickering off.
     Henry looked down at him and smiled tiredly. Thank god that was over. He carefully slid out of bed, making sure not to wake Norman, and walked back into the living room, where Sammy was waiting.
     “Is he okay?” asked Sammy worriedly.
     “He’s fine. He fell asleep. Come on, I’ll take you back home.”
     “Oh, thank god. Thanks for coming over and calming him down.”
     “Thanks for driving his car for him.”
     It wasn’t much, but in that moment the slight resentment seemed to fade away, and Henry was content with Sammy.
     He grabbed his keys and opened the door, and the two of them exited the house. They got in his car and he started it up, then backed out of the driveway and soon drove down the road back to Sammy and Bendy’s house.