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BATIM Flash Fiction

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    There was a funny thing about the door to Joey’s apartment. It was broken. During one of the loops, Henry had ever so smartly tried kicking it open when the ground didn’t collapse underneath him. Which caused the door to splinter. Which meant things could get into his apartment from the studio. Which is how Joey ended up with Sammy Lawrence dirtying up his couch with his ink. He wasn’t sure how Sammy had found his way up from the music department, & Sammy seemed equally, if not more, clueless about his predicament. None of the ink creatures had enough free will to leave their designated areas unless the storyboards demanded it. Yet here he was. The inky prophet. In his apartment.

    “Sammy!” Sammy ignored him, staring instead at the TV screen. It was playing Animal Planet, & Sammy seemed really intrigued by the sheep.

    “Sheep, sheep, sheep.” He sung to himself, a small smile growing under his mask.

    “Sammy!”

    “What?” The inky man yelled at him, not even looking away from the TV. He was no longer humming, & despite the mask covering his face, Joey could just tell that the old musician was annoyed at having his show interrupted.

    “What are you doing in my apartment?” At that, the prophet finally looked at him. Joey took a step back, the mask’s pie-cut eyes seeming as if they were staring straight into his soul.

    “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m watching sheep TV.” Then he turned back to the screen, humming a song to himself again. Joey could no longer hear the words, as if Sammy was singing for himself. Maybe it calmed him?

    “WHY?”

    “Cause I can.”

    “No, you can’t.”

    “Yes, I can.”

    “Out! Get out!”

    “Why?”

    “Because you’re NOT meant to BE HERE!”

    “Ok, Boomer.” Sammy shrugged, & uncurled from his comfortable position on the sofa. There was a massive, black stain in the centre when he stood up. Joey immediately dreaded the moment he’d have to clean it. Then, Sammy sauntered past him, & back through the door to the studio. Joey was left in his living room, absolutely fuming. 

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    There was an angel hiding behind the mask of a demon. One Alice Angel, trapped in a world with no rules, & no escape into a better life. Days went by underneath the studio, & chaos still reigned, no hope rising on the horizon. There was only her, in her little hideout, surrounded by beasts & monsters & demons. She didn’t want to believe that she was one of them. She was better than them! Surely Joey wouldn’t hurt her like that, surely she was an angel in a world of demons. She was Alice Angel after all, the light in the darkness, the shining star of the Bendy show!

    Susie knew better. An angel didn’t hide behind the grotesque face of a demon. A demon hid underneath the facade of an angel. She called herself a saint, she justified her actions with righteousness. But deep down, Susie knew she was no angel, that Alice would never reach that beauty, that perfection she longed for. They longed for, Alice would whisper in the back of her mind when it was Susie’s turn at the steering wheel. Susie knew better. There was no we, no us. Alice was the one in control, Susie was just strung along for a ride she never consented to.

    While Alice was out there, ruling over her own domain with an iron fist, Susie retreated to the back of their mind, in hopes that she wouldn’t have to witness the atrocities her cartoon self performed. In those moments, she wept, cried for the days when everything was ok. For the days she had fame, the days she had admirers. For the days when she had a family, when she had love, & happiness. She longed for the days, sitting quietly in the recording booth, surrounded by people who cared for her; Norman, Joey, Sammy. For the days when she saw the colours around her. Jack’s bright blue eyes, so full of gentle joy. Wally’s red hair, popping up all over the studio wherever the janitor went. Shawn’s washed out green jacket that he always seemed to wear. Now, all that there was around, was black. And Susie’s heart itself felt black & rotten, pumping ink instead of blood. She wept, & she cried, & drowned in the ink & in her lament, hidden away in her own head, a prisoner to her own body.

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    Henry found himself in a back room, at one of the lower levels of Joey Drew Studios. He was almost startled by the robotic looking Bendy sitting atop a bench right in front of him, but he had already witnessed so much weird stuff that he honestly couldn’t be bothered to be surprised. He simply looked over it, its grotesque smile & metallic body, before shrugging & turning away. Atop another table, Henry found another audio log. The name written at the top was near indiscernible, thanks to all of that godforsaken ink, but he did make out the first name ‘Lacie’. How curious. He couldn't remember ever meeting a person with such a name, but then again, he couldn’t remember ever coming across such a place as Bendyland either.  

    Henry pressed the play button & was immediately met with a thickly accented woman’s voice, “The only thing that works around here is my ulcer. Half these people don't know a wrench from a dang steamroller,” Henry couldn’t recognise the voice either. Joey really build out since Henry had left, “Buncha morons is what they are. Spend their day in the warehouse arguin' over who's supposed to be doin' what or playing them silly games. Still, I'm not complainin'. I get most of my time to myself. Suits me just fine,” That made Henry chuckle. He could emphasise with Lacie on that, it was far nicer to work alone, undisturbed. It got him thinking, could they have been friends if he had stayed? Who knows, “Only thing that bothers me is that mechanical demon in the corner. Bertrum's been working on it for a month now. Says it will walk someday and maybe dance,” A walking mechanical demon? A shiver went up Henry’s spine. He was prepared to fight real demons, but machines? That was too much even for him, “All it does now is give me the creeps. I swear, when my back's turned, that thing's movin'." Henry begun regretting having turned on Lacie’s tape. His back was turned fully to the machine, & that unnerved him. Would it actually move? Oh, but he was being ridiculous. It was broken after all, its legs weren’t even attached to its torso. No, he was just being paranoid, the studio was finally getting to him. The machine wouldn’t move. Besides, Henry had more important things on his mind. He had a friend to save from an actual demon. The old animator schooled his expression, pushed his glasses back up onto his nose, & clenched his fists. Determination coursed through his vein as he turned towards the robot, before his blood run cold. There, atop the workbench, where once sat innocently the mechanical demon, now shone a word written in fresh ink: BOO.

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    The cartoon was never finished. It was never really meant to be finished, as Joey had scrapped the idea very early on. Something about such a premise just didn’t seem to suite him.

    The old reel was set into a projector. In hindsight, it shouldn’t have played. The projector had long since run its last cartoon, back when the studio was still lively & being used. Still, the light flicked on, & the Bendy cartoon title screen flashed onto the opposite wall. The word ‘Double Trouble’ then showed up next. There was a scene missing right at the beginning, where Bendy & Edgar the spider were meant to be standing together, laughing. What was shown instead, was a sketchy scene of Alice & Boris walking as they conversed. There was no sound playing, no music to indicate the mood of the scene. The music band hadn’t, in fact, even begun recording the music before the video was scrapped. Poor Mr Lawrence had almost pulled all his hair out, & his argument with Mr Drew was a legendary moment in the studio’s history. He had worked ALL NIGHT on that score. How DARE Joey throw it all away now?

    The next scene was fully drawn, & it was of Charley & Barley walking, as Boris & Alice did. They were both grumbling & angry, stomping around in an over-exaggerated manor. The walk cycle seemed to loop once, twice, before the reel finally cut to the net scene, in which the four toons bumped into each other. There was a great, big, sketchy cloud, that disappeared soon enough, followed by the four characters looking at each other angrily. A giggle was heard through the studio, the giggle of an angel right as the Devil Darling himself was meant to giggle in the background of the cartoon.

    The scene switched again, this time to the four toons standing back too back. Huge, cartoonish canons faced them from every side. BANG! A cut-out collapsed on the other side of the projector, & the screen turned into a blank scene with ‘smoke’ written on it. When it went away after a few seconds, Barley & Charley weren’t in the scene, while Boris & Alice stood in the middle, looking around themselves curiously.

    “Oh, but I haven’t even put the Butcher gang in yet.” Buddy Lewek had sighed when he got the message that they were scrapping the episode. He had put away the half finished drawing of Charley, & dejectedly begun on the episode idea that Mr Drew wanted, not on the idea that the young animator himself had come up with.

    The final scene of the episode was of both Bendy & Edgar. They were laughing together, matching mischievous grins on their round, cartoonish faces. They then turned to the camera, & begun waving towards the viewer. With one last cheeky wink from Bendy, the screen cut to black, & the projector gave out its last, sad whine, before switching off completely.