They didn’t attack, they just…stood there, hugging themselves, sobbing to themselves. Henry felt like crying. Who were they? Poor workers caught in something they had no part in causing, just the victims of a horrific crime. Stuck with cold broken bodies and those bright, inhuman eyes. They stared and Henry stared back, unable to will himself to talk. Would they even respond if he did? They could talk, but could they understand him? Or were they just stuck repeating the same phrases they’d been sobbing for decades?
One worker, perhaps the one he’d seen on the balcony outside the room, came shuffling inside and stared directly at Henry. The two stood for a minute, the worker seemingly studying him, and Henry was struck with the question of whether any remembered him. Whether they even remember their own names.
“Have you seen him?” The worker spoke suddenly. Henry recalled the same phrasing being used by ‘Alice’.
“Have I seen who…? Are you talking about Bendy?”
That name drew a reaction from them all, a strangled moan of fear. A few burst into another round of sobbing.
“No!” The worker who’d spoken shouted. “No, not the ink demon…have you seen our prophet?”
In unison, the others mumbled, “Praise our prophet…”
The one in front of him shuddered. “He hasn’t come back…he said he’d come back! ...He always comes back for his sheep…” It looked at Henry with wide, fearful, blank eyes. “Have we sinned? Are…are we not worthy of salvation?”
At that point the worker broke down into sobs again and the terrible blank eyes were overcome with ink. “I just…wanna go home.”
Henry didn’t know what to say. Was there anything he could say to comfort them? He had seen Sammy, seen the ink puddle seep out from under a door and heard his cry of fear. The music director was probably dead, but…could he tell them? Should he tell the truth, that the one they praised was gone, or should he leave them forever waiting for a saviour that would never appear?
All the glowing eyes were fixed upon him, as if they could sense that he was hiding something. That terrible staring continued as he made his way across the room. It was only when he grabbed the flashlight and prepared to enter the vent that they moved, one grabbing onto his arm. Henry readied himself for an attack, but they didn’t. The one who’d grabbed him just muttered, “Please…don’t leave us too…”
Henry felt tears roll down his face. He had to save Boris…but these people deserved to be saved too! They were sentient, they weren’t just mindless searchers attacking everything in sight. He couldn’t leave them, but he couldn’t stay either…
“The ‘prophet’ is dead.” The words were a surprise even to Henry as he said them. There wasn’t much reasoning behind it, he just couldn’t leave the people here without telling them the truth. They might’ve stayed waiting for decades more, until they melted back into the ink’s screaming masses. He couldn’t let that happen.
“Or, at least, melted. Look, I don’t know what happened to him. But he’s probably not coming back.”
All sobbing ceased, and now every ink worker was staring at Henry. The silence was stifling. It suddenly occurred to Henry that, with nothing to live for, the workers might simply let go of their remaining sanity and attack him.
But still they didn’t attack. No speaking, no sobbing, just those glowing eyes. Then one dared to speak.
“…What will we do now? ...”
It was a question directed at Henry, as if he had the answers. He didn’t. When no answers came, the speaking rose to shouting, raw, distraught shouting.
“What will we do? Who will save us? Who will bring us home? …Who will save us from the Ink Demon? …Who will…”
The worker’s rant died off to broken muttering.
“Who will stop us from falling apart…?”
As if on cue, as soon as it asked that it began dissolving. First the ink dripping from its body increased slid off much quicker, then the legs merged so that the worker now resembled a swollen searcher. The arms and head dissolved too, until the only evidence it had existed at all was a small puddle of ink on the floor. Before Henry could react, the others followed.
He was alone in an ink splattered room, amongst the remains of people he once knew. Henry sobbed and sobbed, and the ink mourned with him.