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From what Barry gathers since being pushed back into the Light, The Beast feasts once a month on anywhere between two to as many as six victims at once. He seems to have The Horde stake victims out the weeks prior, and the week of, the ritual begins.

Dennis knows that Barry knows this, of course, and that’s just fine with him, because he also knows the things that Barry does not know. He does not know where, when or how these things happen and to whom they happen to. It gives Patricia some peace of mind, at least, to know that Barry—while being allowed to direct the Light for now—is working completely in the dark with regards to The Horde’s plans.

Barry knows, too, that The Beast slumbers in the Train Yard when he is not in the Light, and Barry can only guess that this Train Yard is somewhere deep in Kevin’s subconscious, where all things go when they are dark and tired, worn and frayed, violent and feral.

What Dennis does not know, though, is that Barry has been seeking this place out whenever he is able to slip away. He was somewhere close the day They found Themselves in the mud, his presence in The Room of Chairs lacking as They all scrambled atop each other to avoid the chaos of the real world. He is able to search for the Train Yard while he sleeps in his chair, and he slips into the darkness leaving the chair empty as he seeks it out.

He hopes he has not been missed too often.

What he will do if or when he reaches the Train Yard, however, he does not know. Face off with The Beast? Reason with him? Try to have him give Barry an explanation for his behavior? It is a stupid endeavor, he knows, but he must do something. Anything. He can’t just sit idly by and passively watch the horrors he’s been privy to without an attempt at ending it. He feels so helpless, and feeling helpless makes him want to retreat, and if he retreats then The Horde will wreak pain and suffering wherever They go.

That is something he can not allow.

Most of the Collective are asleep this time of night, and Those that aren't asleep have no interest in why Barry is still awake at--god, what time is it?. He glances at the cheap pre-paid phone he bought earlier that day and realizes it's so late that it's transitioned into early. He can't sleep, and he can't let go of the Light to rest, as he's worried that Dennis may decide to take it back and push him out. That leaves him wide awake at 4:30 in the morning, immediate surroundings scattered with a variety of heavily-drawn designs on sketch paper that he's been poring through, adjusting and altering for the last six hours.

He sits cross-legged on a wooden floor, occupying the space of a cozy loft in the family room of an empty two-story house in the suburbs of Eastern Abington, devoid of furniture and lacking water and electricity. This would have been very risky if the house was not nestled at the very rear of the property lot, lacking a backyard but sporting an ample front yard complete with unkempt garden foliage and wrought-iron fence with gate encasing it. The property and lot are shaded with large autumn trees, orange and yellow leaves still holding on to what green they have left like a sailor clinging to his boat during the last storm of the season. These trees partially obscure the house, giving it a privacy that Barry appreciates as he rubs his fingers together in an attempt to rid them of the smeared graphite that is ever-present when he draws.

Then Patricia is sharing the Light with him, and he is startled by her sudden appearance.

"Oh my god Miss Trisha," Barry breathes. "Give a boy some warning before popping up places, would you?"

Barry, I'd like to speak with you before anyone else wakes, if you are otherwise unoccupied. That, of course, is not a considerate statement; rather, it's a firm request that he put his drawings away and focus his attention towards her.

"Sure," he says, the word lilting up at the end indicating his wariness.

Oh my dear boy, it's nothing you don't already know, she coos. He puts the loose sheets his drawings are scribbled on away in a sturdy manila folder and waits for her to continue.

"Do you remember, ages ago, when we first met Miss Cooke?" She asks this question out loud, and They share the Light equally, the two of Them entwining together in a paint bucket, two different colors not yet quite mixed to make a new one. "When The Beast declared her pure? That she is of the more evolved?"

This is a conversation riddled with landmines. Of course he remembers, how could he have forgotten the feeling of The Beast for the first time, the raw energy that seeped from Their body, the endless roar of the vastness of it filling Their ears?

"Sure." The word is guarded and Patricia knows he is on the defensive already. She will have to maneuver carefully. While she knows Barry isn't necessarily a real threat to Their work, she would rather he not be a hindrance to it.

"Kevin has been gone for so, so long, and we are unable to summon him," she continues. There is a pause here as she mulls over her next few sentences, knowing they must be well-received and believable in order to achieve her desired results. "Casey...can. She has been able to from the beginning. Kevin's full name in the media has dulled the effect of his conditioning to it, but she may be able to bring him back to us for good."

Barry has a theory that Kevin, too, is in the Train Yard. He worries that this means, rather than being safe and protected by the Collective, he suffers in silence, plagued by The Beast and the heat of The Beast's rage and pain and the augury of his inevitable rule. He worries that, given enough time, The Beast will assimilate him, integrate with him, and Kevin will no longer be, The Beast left as Their Primary and the reason for Their being ceasing to exist.

This is possibly a dramatic interpretation of Barry's thoughts, but they slip this way when he seeks the Train Yard in the darkness, desperate and lost, alone on this potentially endless quest to find it. With The Beast as Their Primary, he fears that the rituals for his feasting will no longer be required, and that he will no longer have need for slumber, reigning havoc upon the Sacred Food as he pleases.

That cannot happen. The question is now, does he believe Patricia? Or is this some ploy for ulterior motives that she is so prone to have? Barry decides that it doesn't matter. He has no options until he is able to find the Train Yard, and that option is flimsy at best. Or maybe he is the one with the ulterior motive, and what he ultimately, selfishly, wants is to see Casey again, to breathe in the smell of her, to bask in her presence until he is unable to know anything but her.

"So what you mean to say is that we need to somehow make Casey realize she can trust us," Barry offers.

"Exactly."

The problem now, is how.

 


Barry leaves through the back door, the nothing of the backyard spilling deeply into the woods. He knows these woods vaguely--Lorimer Park, 200+ acres of beauty and solitude. He knows he could run into a hiker or biker, especially closer to the Fox Chase Line, but he tries to avoid being anywhere near the line altogether. It's been out of service since 1983, and some parts of it resemble exactly what he pictures the Train Yard to look like--all angles and metal, coldness and rust and darkness. There are trails in the Park as well, but he knows where they are and avoids those also unless going into town.

He found an adorable blue button-up cardigan draped on a clothesline yesterday, and he is wearing that now. The jeans he also swiped are a little tight on him, especially in the thighs, but he makes them work, and they don't look bad at all. The shirt underneath it is something Dennis had picked out from a donations bin--it is a collared, button-up thing that he insisted They wear, but Barry also makes that work by spreading the collar over the cardigan and undoing the top few buttons of the shirt. He still has the beanie, but he wears it low over his eyebrows and it does not look out of place that way due to the quickly encroaching autumn weather.

All in all, Barry doesn't think They look absolutely disgraceful, so that's a plus. In fact, he ventures to say They look damned fucking cute.

The beanie over his eyebrows make his features difficult to discern from the average white male in Philly, so he figures it's safe to go into town and grab a bite to eat. They have limited funds, and he'd already had to deny Hedwig a CD player and Jade a pack of smokes.

We can just go steal more, Jade says. I don't get why you're being such a Debbie Downer, Bear-Bear. It's not like you didn't get yourself a sketchbook.

Smoking is bad, Jade, Hedwig pipes in. Don't smoke, don't do dope, be like the pope. Et cetera.

I doubt the pope had our problems, little dude, Jade replies.

Stealing these riches of $71 from a woman at the grocery store had been a difficult ordeal begin with; They followed her for over an hour while she puttered around looking at wine for 45 minutes without walking away from her cart, Their stomach growling all the while. Barry doesn't think They should resort to other unsavory options quite yet, either. They have $33 and some change left of that $71, and will have to make that last as long as They can.

After half an hour or so he is able to reach a trail, then takes that trail down to a main road, where he catches a bus to ride into the city. Where They are currently squatting is inconvenient for sure, but it feels safe and removed from the world, and that's definitely something They need right now.

The bus is empty save for one guy sitting at the rear of it, and Barry takes a seat near the front.

"Nice sweater," the guy at the back says, and Barry doesn't think it's a compliment. Rather than act offended, he winks at the guy passive-aggressively and allows himself to relax comfortably in his seat.

"It's a cardigan," comes out of his mouth before he is able to stop himself.

There is a collective groan from various People in his brain. There is literally no difference, comes from Dennis.

Barry ignores how wrong he is and takes out his pre-paid phone, deciding to use a bit of the data to make sure he's not walking into a shitstorm in the city. There's an article about some teenagers that were found in a warehouse across town, but Barry skips that purposefully, scrolling through the rest of the news and deciding that other than the teens (the article was written a few days ago and nothing about it seems to be trending), everything looks peachy-keen.

He settles in his seat and is in the middle of reading some tabloids when he feels a thump in the seat next to him, his eyes coming up from the phone and staring at the empty seats in front of him. His stomach drops and he takes a steadying breath through his nose.

The man in the back has come to sit right next to him in the otherwise completely vacant bus, and Barry can't help but feel that this is not going to end well for himself.

Looking to his right, Barry flashes him a quick smile. "Hi there. Uhh. How are you?"

As Barry is slouching in his own seat, the man next to him seems to tower over him. Becoming very aware of this fact, he begins to slowly straighten up, the action uncomfortable in such a close vicinity to another person. Barry seems to be about two inches shorter than him sitting down, and this seems to encourage the man, as he slings an arm over the back of Barry's seat and leans in close.

There is a very tight smile on Barry's face as he leans uncomfortably away from him, but he is still trying to diffuse the situation. "Er, can I help you?"

"How much money someone like ya got on ya?" the man asks. He wears a simple white T-shirt and pants that have pockets on the thighs and loops running across them every which way, which indicates to Barry that he's either some sort of hiker or some sort of moron. Really? Cargo pants? Gross. The man has shaggy blond hair and light brown eyes that could be considered amber if he really tried--with some work and clothes that coordinate with them.

Oh dear, Patricia sighs.

"I have literally no money," Barry laughs softly. He's still leaning away from Cargo Pants, and swallows audibly. Barry's eyes flit over to the bus driver, and when their eyes meet in the rearview mirror, the driver adjusts it away to indicate he is not interested in getting in the way of this encounter.

"I don't think that's true," Cargo Pants states. "I think ya have money that's mine, and I think that ya should give it back as soon as ya can because if ya don't I'll take it from ya."

This little charade irritates Barry, and Everyone has gone quiet in the background.

"No?" he asks out loud to Them. "No help? Okay fine." He feels around for a second and feels that Dennis is the only one that is even remotely sharing the Light with him, which comforts him a bit.

Barry's request for help confuses Cargo Pants for a second and he leans back in his seat away from Barry, mulling something over. This guy is probably crazy, Cargo Pants thinks. I hate crazy people. And the gays. And this dude is definitely a gay. "Ya gonna hand over my cash or what, homo?"

Barry scoffs, feeling a rising heat in his chest. "Excuse me? It's called pansexual, you ignorant caveman, please learn your sexualities."

Thankfully, finally, the bus slows and stops at one of the transit lines and without skipping a beat Barry quickly gets up and away from Cargo Pants, taking the stairs off the bus in twos when the door releases. His cheeks are red and his brow is furrowed, tsking his tongue as he walks away from the bus down the sidewalk.

What an asshole! Jade rages. Give me the Light, I'm gonna fuck him up!

"Forget it Jade, it's not--"

Barry is interrupted by a, "Hey faggot! Give me my money or get fucked!"

Barry picks up his pace, eyes darting back and forth to see if anyone is entering or exiting the boutiques around Them. No one. Most of them are still closed, it's not even 8am yet and already Barry and Co. are being harassed by some hateful homophobe.

He makes a call and stops, retrieving his wallet and fumbling with the money inside, throwing the bills and coins down onto the concrete in frustration. "Take it, take all of it, I don't give a shit, just go to hell in a handbasket, asshole."

What the hell are you doing? Dennis is suddenly very close to Barry in the Light. That's our only cash, how the hell are we going to eat?

"We can get more later," Barry spits.

Cargo Pants catches up to Them, sees him talking out loud seemingly to himself and cringes a little. "Fucking freak." He bends down to start picking the bills and coins off of the ground and shakes his head as he does so. "This can't be all ya have, gimme the rest."

Above him, Kevin's body straightens and his head tilts, eyes hooded as they regard the man and shoulders squaring. Cargo Pants doesn't notice this and continues his money retrieval.

Dennis takes a hand and presses it against his chest, trailing it down to fix a small button that's halfway undone. He takes a step forward and suddenly his knee is smashing into Cargo Pants' face, knocking him back, a fine trail of blood flying from the man's nose as he falls backward onto the concrete. Dennis quickly takes a step back, narrowly missing the blood splatter. That was a close one.

"Don't get up," Dennis warns him.

Cargo Pants, of course, writhing and clutching his face and exclaiming more hateful obscenities, does not comply. He attempts to scramble to his feet but Dennis makes quick work of him and places his left hand on Cargo's back, pushing him back down to the concrete, right hand slowly curling into a fist. When Cargo Pants is sitting back on his ass, Dennis takes two steps forward, bends at the waist, and punches him square in the face. His fist gets blood on it and he growls out loud because of it--fucking disgusting, he needs to get that cleaned immediately.

Cargo Pants is out cold. His face is a bloody mess and his nose looks broken. Dennis can already feel his right hand swelling from the punch, and distantly hopes he didn't break any bones, but for right now he crouches low and wipes the blood off with Cargo's shirt. There is a breeze and the bills Barry threw on the ground plaster themselves to his shoes. Dennis picks them up, disregarding the coins, folds the bills neatly and gets up to retrieve his wallet off of the ground. Looking back at Cargo Pants--Mister Dennis that was soooo cooool!--he goes back to him, rifles through his pockets and finds $350 in his wallet.

Fuck yes, Jade hisses as They find the money.

Looks like this guy likes to go around nabbing peoples' wallet contents, not just Theirs.

Was that really necessary? Patricia asks, but she seems to say it out of habit. She's quite glad that They are able to overtake Their assailant.

Barry, on the other hand, would rather not have resorted to violence in that situation. This guy, once he wakes up, may start looking for Them, and this bus route is the only one They are able to take into the city. Hopefully They won't run into him again, but he can't guarantee that.

Dennis lets Barry have the Light again, which surprises Barry, but it's probably due to the smears of drying blood on his hand, so he doesn't question it.

"Well, back to hunter-gathering," Barry says, stuffing the $350 into Their wallet and continuing down the street.