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Wallflower - Oneshot Collection

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Claudette Morel bides her endless time in the Entity's realm immersing herself in her many botanical hobbies. Picking flowers, discovering new, otherworldly plants that grow in the fog, tending a small garden near the campfire... There's not much else to do, after all. She's grateful at least that she's still able to delight in her most favorite past time in such a horrid place. Had she been unable to, she's sure she'd have lost her mind by now. 


Currently, she's occupying herself in a personal refuge. A clearing she discovered a short distance from the camp. Nestled within the center, a small pond. She always finds herself admiring the plants that grow in the water: the lilies and cattail. Even the water itself; it's a marvel how calm it is, despite the chaos surrounding the rest of the fog folks' daily lives.
Claudette's fingers gingerly weave together a floral crown over her lap. It's comprised of weeds, long grass, and lilies of white and pink to adorn it. Usually, she'd opt to use dry plants, but a little variety now and then really spices things up in the realm where nothing ever changes. 

She's just about finished with her project. She lifts the crown from her lap and holds it in her hands, admiring her lovely job. Back in the real world, she never indulged in activities like these. Her botanical knowledge was repressed and only presented through her fingertips to the internet chatroom forums she spent most of her time on. She's since learned and almost mastered the craft of weaving these intricate crowns, however. A small smile graces her lips as she raises the crown to place upon her head. But no sooner does she place it to rest, than she sees her form deteriorating into a plume of black fog. Then she's helplessly whisked away into one of the Entity's dark games...

 

 


 

 

The trial went to Hell fast.

The location, Coldwind Farm. Claudette would have been grateful to be placed in Coldwind any other day, as the expansive cornfield offers amazing concealment. But their killer this time around is the Shape. A large man as quiet as he is menacing. Claudette's never heard him utter a peep, much less a word. Two gens surged to life within the first ten minutes, as there hadn't been any sign of the victims' chosen tormentor. And the reason why soon hit them like a ton of bricks. All four survivors were working together to pop a gen' when Feng Min was snatched off completely out of the blue. The other three had scattered as The Shape drove his blade through her ribcage, killing her almost instantly... Claudette heard Jeff's scream from across the map soon after.


Together, Dwight and Claudette work to repair the last generator, nervous sweat accumulated on their foreheads. They know the Shape must be lurking somewhere in the shadows, just watching and waiting to strike... Claudette's hands are entangled within the bundle of wires in the machine. The pistons atop it are pumping at a steady, fast pace. She gingerly uncrosses two wires and the machine roars to life... The whirring hum of the exit gates powering up rings across the grounds. Both pull away from the active generator and put distance between it. A faint heartbeat can be heard, the entity's warning thumping against their skulls, chilling their blood. Dwight sweeps a sheen of sweat from his face with the sleeve of his arm and gives Claudette a light nudge.

"You go get that door open. I'll distract him." There's confidence in his voice, although betrayed by the fear displayed through his posture. His hands are bunched at his sides, his legs shake, and his face is pallid.

Claudette offers him a reassuring smile and turns to head for the closest gate. "Run him around long enough for me to get the gate open. I'll wait for you."

Dwight's never been the bravest or most headstrong of the bunch, but what he lacks in courage, he makes up for in an underlying sense of loyalty to the rest of them. He understands that togetherness is what gets them through trials, same as Claudette.

Claudette's arrived at the gate and the thumping has since ceased in her head. If the Shape is on Dwight, he doesn't have long. She grasps the heavy switch of the panel beside the gate and yanks it down. A slow, mechanical hum churns. One bulb flashes to life.

She hears Dwight scream in the distance.

Another bulb lights up. Dwight screams again. Claudette shudders and urges the gate to power faster. "Come on-"
The gates power up and each door slides open with a rusted squeal. Escape is dead ahead, but she can't leave him.

Claudette leaves the gate and rushes in the direction she heard Dwight's scream. She can make it, she can help him get out too.

Mere moments later, she hears the heartbeat in her head. Then she catches sight of the Shape, carrying Dwight over his shoulder as he moves purposefully through the corn. Dwight bleeds from a bad wound slashed across his ribcage, but it doesn't inhibit his struggle. He kicks and punches, squirming futilely to free himself. The Shape is headed toward the shack. Claudette can make it there first.

She cuts through the corn, staying out of sight as she nears the shack. She quietly vaults the window into the crude hovel and hears the heartbeat thumping louder as she creeps silently toward the pallet laid against the doorway. He's almost here...

As soon as she glimpses the Shape step into the entryway, she slams the pallet down with as much force as she can muster. He staggers off guard, stunned by the hit as Dwight topples from his shoulder. Claudette shouts, "Run!"

He does without a moment of hesitation. Claudette vaults the window and heads after him.
Dwight's running in the direction of the gate, Claudette tailing close behind him. The thumping in her head grows stronger, the hair on the back of her neck stands up. Myers will be right on her in seconds... Dwight runs with fervor ahead of her despite his bleeding wounds. They've exited the cornfield and the exit gate comes into sight. Relief rushes over Claudette, but it's only momentary.

"Ah-!" A sharp cry escapes her as cold steel slashes across her back between her shoulder blades. She staggers forward and hits the ground. The wound oozes blood and pain jolts through her. Ahead, Dwight comes to an abrupt stop, his head snapping back over his shoulder. Claudette urges, "J-Just go!"

Dwight's face is grief-stricken, and hesitation flickers across his features. But he knows all too well from many past experiences that his effort would be in vain. Neither of them would make it out then. He spares Claudette one last guilt-ridden look and turns back around, hobbling through the exit gate. His form disappears into the fog beyond. Claudette's solace in watching Dwight escape is sapped away and replaced by panic as she's snagged up by the neck in the Shape's vice-like grip. She's lifted off the ground and left dangling helplessly in the air. She punches and kicks at him, but her fight isn't enough. She knows what's coming; his blade plunged through her chest... She shuts her eyes tight and waits.

...But nothing happens.

Claudette re-opens her eyes and sees the Shape's head tilted. Confusion writes onto her face. What could possibly have engrossed his attention like this...?

And the answer becomes quickly apparent to her. His head's tilted up at an angle; he's looking at her flower crown. Claudette's puzzled. Why does he seem so fascinated by it? She's curious, but her urge to escape bests her curiosity. While he's distracted, she makes one last bid to get free, kicking both her feet hard against his chest. The force is enough to completely wrench her free from his grip. She lands unsteadily on her feet as he staggers back, then she turns tail, yearning for escape. She doesn't get far at all, as one of his large hands suddenly snatches a fistful of her dreads. She trips back and screams, thrashing and trying to pull free. He yanks her back to him with little to no effort. And the next thing she knows, his blade sinks into her back. She cries out sharply and tries to pull away, but he rips the blade out and thrusts it in again, deeper even. Claudette's struggle ceases with a whimpering cry. She goes slack and the Shape's grip on her hair yields as he allows her to collapse on the ground at his feet.

Claudette lies curled up fetally, her chest hardly rising. Blood exudes from her mouth. She can hear the Entity's whisperings in her head, lulling her consciousness out of her broken body...



The Shape stares down at the dead girl, watching the form of her body deteriorate into a plume of dark fog, tethering into crackling embers that dissipate. A pool of her blood remains. And resting in it, the flower crown that had adorned her head. Moments of stillness follow before he slowly leans down and gingerly grasps the crown up into his hands. He leans back slowly and tilts his head as he admires the flowery creation. He thumbs specks of blood from a white petal and hums deeply.

 


 

 

Claudette was returned from the punishing grasp of the entity following her death a few hours ago. Now, she sits upon a log, resting against Jake's side as he tinkers with an old watch he found during one of his strolls through the fog. He's been speaking, some commentary of his current task, but she's tuned him out, opting for silence instead. Her gaze rests on the ground as she tries to sort her disarray of thoughts. Her mind is still boggled after the trial. It had gone as they often do, of course, but the killer's attention seemed heavily invested in the flower crown in those last few moments before he killed her. 

"-dette?"

Why was he so interested in it? After all, he must've seen stranger things in the fog. Dwight once entered a trial garbed as Santa's little helper-

"Claudette?"

Claudette's gaze snaps up to face Jake as he nudges her none too gently back to reality. "Hm?"

Jake raises a brow. "You alright?"

Claudette nods. "Yeah, just... just tired." She shifts beside him and rests her clasped hands on her lap. There's no reason to dwell on the strange matter any more than she already has. Maybe it was just his first time seeing a flower crown...

Putting it out of mind, her gaze finds the watch that rests in Jake's open palm. "Have you gotten it to work, yet?"

Jake sighs. "Nope. I've taken it apart and put it back together, but the damn thing just won't tick." He tucks the watch down into the pocket of his hoodie and bitterly mutters, "Maybe we just aren't allowed the concept of time here."

"Or maybe you're not as good a repairman as you think you are, Jake."

Claudette's snarky remark earns her a playful jab to the ribs. "That hurts, Claud'," Jake chuckles.

Claudette smiles softly before she stands suddenly from the log, prompting Jake to frown. "Where you headed?" he asks.

"I'm... just going to take a walk." When Jake makes a move to stand, Claudette shakes her head. "I-It's fine, I'll go alone."

A frown forms on Jake's face, but he respects her decision with a small nod. "If you find anything cool, bring it back?"

Claudette nods. Then she starts away from the campfire.




Claudette's left the camp far behind as she traverses the woods. She hugs her torso for what little warmth she can offer herself in the cold fog. And soon, she arrives at her destination.
She smiles as she enters the clearing and approaches the pond. She kneels at the edge of the water and reaches out for a water lily. One with vibrant pink petals. She'll need to make herself another crown. She was disappointed to have lost the first one, but this is a good way to occupy herself, so she can't complain.
Her fingers just brush one of the petals when she notices a large, dark shape in the water's reflection looming over her own. Realization strikes like a ton of bricks and she cries out in fear as she throws herself back. Back right into the legs of the Shape. Her back is pressed against him and her wide eyes snap up to see the blank face of his pale mask staring down at her. She screams in fear and throws herself forward, right into the pond. She scrambles away, the water soaking into the fabric of her skirt. Breathing out rapidly in fear, one hand is raised out in front of her in a defensive matter. The Shape stares back, unmoving. Only the faint rising of his chest is any indication that he is indeed real.

Claudette stammers, "P-Please, don't hurt me!" No sooner does the plea leave her mouth than she takes notice of what's grasped in his right hand. Her flower crown...? The flowers are all but wilted now and the weeds that tie them all together are crusted with dried blood. Confusion writes over Claudette's face as she lifts her gaze to meet his mask. "Why are you...?" She trails off, swallowing a hard lump in her throat. He doesn't respond, but she takes some comfort in the fact that he appears unarmed. Although, a man of his stature surely doesn't need a weapon to inflict fatal harm upon someone...

As the silence pans out, Claudette wills herself to stand. She picks herself up out of the water, the cold, crisp air chilling her wet legs. She hugs herself and returns her fearful gaze to the crown in his hand. "Y-You brought it back for me?" Again, her inquiry remains unanswered. The Shape only silently stares back. Claudette hums nervously. She just wants this interaction over.

"You can keep it. I'Il-I'll just make another."

The Shape suddenly reaches out, startling her. She flinches back as his hand touches her chin, then he angles it upward, making her face him. She's reminded again of how large he is. And just how much she wants to get away from him...
She holds her breath as he slowly raises his other hand and places the crown upon her head. Claudette shudders in fear but otherwise remains deathly still. Once the Shape seems satisfied with his placement, he drops his hand back to his side. His other still holds her chin.

Claudette tentatively lifts her hands and touches his wrist. "T-Thank you," she stammers out.

But the Shape doesn't relinquish his gentle grip on her chin. Instead, he thumbs her cheek, a slow caress that sends a shiver down her spine.

It seems apparent now that he doesn't mean her any harm. But that hardly makes Claudette any less afraid to be in his company. A feeling of intense dread has crept in. She's not used to being so close to a killer that doesn't have any intention of killing her. Hoping to draw this strange interaction to a close, she speaks, "I'll make you one. A matching one..." Her fingers brush over his. She swears she can hear a sharp exhale escape his lips under that mask.

The Shape's hand remains on her chin a moment longer before he drops his arm back to his side. But he makes no other move. Claudette furrows her brows. Goosebumps stipple her skin as she turns slowly and kneels back down. She can hear his low breathing behind her, but no movement. She hates having her back to him. She half expects him to brandish his knife out of nowhere and bury it through her spine.

Claudette's hands shake as she gathers lilies and weeds from the pond. She can't steady them, no matter how much she tries. But she gets fast to work, beginning to weave a crown for the killer behind her.




Claudette tucks a white lily securely into a bundle of woven weeds and pulls back to examine her finished work. The crown is obviously rushed, but she could hardly concentrate, what with the large, intimidating man's presence behind her... She's grateful she's managed to finish it, though. She breathes out slowly in relief and holds it tenderly in her hands as she turns to present it to the Shape. But she must've been so engrossed in her craft, that she only just now realizes he's gone.

 

 


 

 

Since her strange encounter with Myers, Claudette's been on edge, although she's been unable to discern why. He hadn't harmed her, but he really took a strange interest in the flower crown. And more surprising yet, he even returned it to her. The silent man's never visited any of them out here in the fog. Or maybe he has. He IS the Shape, of course. They'd be none the wiser if he was creeping around the woods in their company...

Claudette's been pulled into many trials since and quickly lost her flower crown. But she's made a habit of replacing her lost crowns with new ones, so as not to enter a trial without. She hopes that if she runs into Myers again, she can finally gift him with a crown. It seemed like he wanted one, so she'll at least oblige and fulfill his strange curiosity...




On another ordinary day (or, as ordinary as they come for the many survivors of the fog...), Claudette's snatched away from the campfire and heaved into yet another trial.
Four gens were popped fast, but disaster struck, signaled by Jane's scream across the wreckage yard. David was sacrificed after, and Adam's demise followed.


Claudette's working furiously to repair the last generator, but she can see the Entity's otherworldly spiny tendrils lifting Adam's discorporate form into the dark sky. She knows she doesn't have long. She works fearfully, tense, and on edge. She hasn't seen the killer once in this trial. She worries it must be one of the stealthy ones... They may not be as brawny as the others, but they're equally as terrifying.

Claudette uncrosses and strips a collection of wires, and the gen comes to life. She hears the ring of the exit gates powering up in the distance. She releases a relieved breath and turns to make a break for it, but she rams right into a wall.

...Which she realizes in horror isn't a wall. It's the solid body of Michael Myers, A.K.A, the Shape.

Claudette gasps out in fear and scrambles back. But she's snagged so suddenly by the bicep that she jerks right back into him. She punches and pries at his hand, her heart thumping fast in her chest. Her struggle comes to an abrupt pause, however, as Myers raises a hand and touches the flower crown that rests upon her head. Claudette's struggle ceases then.
She was so gripped by the fear of being in his company that she'd forgotten completely about her little unorthodox objective.

A frown forms on her lips. "O-Oh. Um-" Her right arm is still trapped in his grip, but she lifts her other and grasps the crown before removing it from her head. "I-I wanted to give this to you. You left before I could, back at the pond..."

She receives no response, only Myers' conventional silence. Claudette sweats nervously when he suddenly unlooses his grip on her arm. She isn't even given time to react as he leans down and hooks his arms behind her knees. Then, she's lifted right up off the ground, a startled yelp escaping her lips. She's sitting trepidatiously upon his locked arms, face to face with him. Her heart beats wildly, more than it's ever done in a trial. And that's saying something, considering she's always being hounded by blood-lusting killers... Puzzlement writes over her face as she suddenly understands the meaning behind the action. She tentatively reaches out and places the crown delicately on his head. She makes sure it's tucked securely over the faux hair of his mask. And with the crown placed, she murmurs, "There."

She fears now he may just kill her. He got what he wanted, surely all he'll do now is sink his blade into her chest-

Claudette's throttled from her paranoid thoughts as Myers suddenly pulls her forward, startling her. She grasps his shoulders to stay balanced and she remains silent, exhaling a quiet gasp. His face is only mere inches from hers now. She can hear his breathing humming behind his mask. Moments of tense silence follow before he begins walking. Claudette holds onto his shoulders to avoid toppling off of him as he makes long strides. Baffled, she inquires, "W-What are you doing?"
Her answer comes in the form of the ethereal hum of the open hatch as they near it. Claudette's fast-beating heart relaxes into a steady tempo.

Myers comes to a stop just before the hatch and sets the girl down. He pulls back to his full height and remains silent and still. Claudette stays where she is, tuning out the melodious chime of the hatch as she faces Myers. She's unsure of what action to take next. Does she just leave? Does she thank him? She briefly considers the possibility that he may not even speak English. It would explain why he's always so silent... 

Uncertain of how to appropriately express her gratitude, she decides on a rather risky move.
She leans forward and wraps her arms around his waist, hugging him. He's as startled by her action as she is, judging from the way his body tenses up. 

Did she really just hug a killer? Yes. She's hugging a killer... Sigh. Her social graces never were the best... 

Myers doesn't return the intimate gesture, as expected. Claudette hums nervously and pulls back. She just might be pushing her luck... So, with one last nervous glance up at his lifeless mask, she turns and steps toward the hatch. A sudden chill jolts up her spine as she feels Myers' hand ghost over the back of her neck. She pauses a moment more and leaps down into the dark void of escape.

 

 


 

 

 

The campfire crackles, smoke billowing up into the dark sky. Claudette sits crisscross a few feet from the flickering flames. Her knees are brought to her chest and she's wrapped up in Jake's hoodie, although he's currently absent. He was drawn into a trial while they sat together...

Since her last meeting with Myers, Claudette's felt a sort of weight was lifted off her chest. Satisfaction from finally being relieved of the crown she made for him? Or just to know she won't have to worry about any more intense encounters with him again? Whatever the reason, she's glad the whole dilemma's been resolved.

Jeff is scribbling away in a sketchbook across the fire from her. Kate is humming a soft tune as her fingers dance over the chords of her guitar. Claudette sighs wistfully. She enjoys moments like these around the campfire. Despite the grim reality they're all trapped in, she takes comfort in knowing she'll be able to gather around a warm fire with her mutual acquaintances. And yet, she still seeks a private solitude.

Claudette rises to her feet and steps away. Her movement momentarily draws Jeff's attention up from his sketchpad, but he returns his interest to it. Everyone's so used to her wandering away from camp, they've stopped questioning it. Only Jake will occasionally try to tag along and join her on her quiet strolls. As he's currently absent, however, Claudette walks away without his badgering insistence to join.




Claudette walks the small path carved through the fog and soon arrives at the familiar clearing. She still hugs Jake's hoodie as she approaches the pond and kneels. She's not here to make another crown. Rather, to just admire the solitary beauty of her personal haven. The way the fog glides gently across the water, how the water striders dart across the surface, causing small ripples. Even how the wall of fog only encircles the clearing, but is absent within it.
She breathes out in contentment and tucks herself up within the hoodie, closing her eyes.





Claudette stirs awake, her slumber disturbed by a dark sense besetting her dreams... She squints open her eyes as she lies curled up in an almost fetal pose on the bank of the small pond. Slowly lifting her head, she scans the area around her. And her heart nearly leaps from her chest when she sees him.
She shoots up into a sitting position, her hand clutching the fabric over her chest. Her wide eyes are glued to the still stature of Michael, who stands only a few mere paces away.

Claudette quickly averts her eyes to his hand, noting that once again, he's come unarmed. Willing herself to relax, she eases up and lifts her gaze back to his mask. She speaks softly, "Why are you-" She trails off as she's only just noticed the flower crown that rests upon his head. The one she'd gifted him... Seeing he's kept it all this time tickles her in a funny way. However, the crown is wilted and dead, the flowers devoid of color and the weed weaving broken.
Claudette hums and tilts her head.

"D-Do you want another one?"

Myers, of course, doesn't respond. At least, not verbally. He slowly tilts his head, mirroring hers. Claudette can't get a read on the large man. She sighs in frustration. But she presumes he must be here for another crown. Why else would he return?

She shifts a little and turns to face the pond, resting on her knees. She throws a look back over her shoulder at Michael and timidly pats the grass beside her. "You can sit and watch me do it if you want. M-Maybe you'll even learn how to make your own..."

Myers doesn't move. Claudette returns her gaze to the pond. She reaches out to collect a few lilies when she hears shifting behind her. And Myers startles her half to death when he takes a seat down right beside her. Amusement momentarily flickers across Claudette's face as she watches him cross his long legs. Then his masked face's gaze shifts to hers. Claudette pauses a short moment before she continues collecting the flowers. She glimpses their reflections upon the surface of the water, baffled by the outrageousness of the whole situation. The Shape, a menacing, silent killer, sitting crisscrossed beside her as she weaves him a flower crown. Will he keep returning? The idea isn't as frightening as she would've initially thought it was. After all, he doesn't come with the intent to harm her.

Myers still sits idly beside her as her fingers weave roots and weeds together. Claudette's humming a faint tune as she works.

She never figured she'd be the type of person to grab his attention... He always seemed more intent on Laurie or Kate. But of course, more intent on killing them. Many strange things happen in the Entity's realm, and Claudette's long since given up on trying to understand any of these odd occurrences. Although, unlike the many others that plague her slumbering mind with nightmares, this one won't leave behind any haunting memories. If Michael continues to visit, perhaps she'll even begin to associate him with good memories...


Chapter Text

A chilling gust of wind sweeps a cluster of dead leaves over the trail and causes Claudette to shiver. She's wandered quite a distance from the campsite and she's beginning to miss the warmth of the fire. It's just another one of those days where she got so caught up in the moment, gathering flowers and foraging the fog, that she hadn't tracked her distance. However, she's curious to see how far the fog extends. The possibility that it's infinite briefly occurs to her, but she's more encouraged by her curiosity rather than concern. She doesn't fear she'll run into any trouble; as far as she knows, the killers don't have free range into the fog as the survivors do. Their daily lives here would be so much more chaotic if they did... And they're all grateful the Entity holds at least some restraint over its murderous servants...


Another chilling breeze almost convinces Claudette to turn back. Almost. She sighs as she wraps her arms around herself. She wishes she had come out more appropriately dressed... And as if granted another sign, she hears crows cawing in the distance. They hardly ever leave their perches. Unless disturbed-
Claudette halts in her steps as dread begins to creep in. But she shakes her head, denying the possibility of danger. She's being silly... There's nothing in the fog. Nothing but birds, bugs, and the occasional blighted squirrel... She continues moving and freezes again in place as she makes out the distant sound of... footsteps? They're approaching from just ahead of her, not behind. So it can't be any of the others. Fear tells her to run, but again, her curiosity trumps it. She's rooted still in place as the footsteps grow nearer, then the source is revealed. A small group of people has stepped out of the wall of fog ahead, freezing still as they see her too. And they appear just as surprised.

Once the initial surprise has passed, Claudette gasps in relief. "O-Oh-," She straightens up and begins to relax, a small smile forming on her lips. "You startled me..."

When her heart has settled to a calm pace in her chest, her eyes dart between the four, quickly discerning them. A girl with vibrant pink hair and dark makeup around her blue eyes who stands at just around Claudette's height. She wears a long blue sweater and black leggings. To her left, a taller woman with brunette hair tied back in a ponytail. Beside her, a man garbed in a black hoodie and grey cargo pants. He has a dark complexion and buzzed hair. And the last man, wearing a camo hoodie and denim jeans. Dark circles surround his eyes and he has a well-defined face blemished by scars. He has a black undercut. Claudette double-takes; she doesn't recognize any of them...

"I-I haven't seen you guys around the campfire before. Are you all new here?" she asks.

The surprise has left the strangers' faces, replaced with ease. The taller woman of the two answers. "Yeah, we're pretty new..." She offers up a smile and uncrosses her arms.

An odd tension hangs in the air. It's gotten colder, Claudette's noticed... She questions, "What are you all doing way out here? Do you need help finding the campfire?"

The question garners a soft laugh from the shorter girl. Claudette raises a brow. The man clad in black replies. "Nah, we're good... Have our own spot a little back that way, actually."

More confusion crosses Claudette's face. "You do? I didn't think there was anyplace else but the campsite out here."

"Guess you haven't looked far enough, then."

"Hm." Claudette briefly wonders if there are even more survivors she's yet to meet in this expansive fog. There could be dozens more, just cut off from the rest of them...

The second man still remains silent among the four strangers. He's watching her with piercing grey eyes. Claudette swallows and backpedals. Something about them gives her goosebumps...

"W-Well, it was nice meeting you." She turns to leave, urged on by the naggy feeling deep in her gut, but she's suddenly seized by the arm. She spins back around and is face to face with the colorful goth.

"Don't you wanna see our crib?" She flashes Claudette a contagious smile, revealing two rows of braces stamped over her teeth.

Claudette hums. "M-Maybe some other time-"

"Like you've got anything better to do here in this shithole," The silent man finally speaks. His voice is husky, hinting that he may be a heavy smoker.

Claudette's attention averts to him. He's crossed his arms over his chest and he scrutinizes her with a raised brow. "You must be bored out of your mind if you're out here picking flowers."

Claudette subconsciously drops the flowers she holds in her hands. In truth, she just doesn't want to share their company at the moment. She's sure there will be plenty of time to meet and greet when they finally make their way to the campfire.
...But her gentle nature compels her to yield to the offer.

"Um... I suppose a visit couldn't hurt." She is curious to see what she's been missing here in the fog. 

The goth gives her a smile. "Cool."

The other woman chuckles and nudges the quiet man. "Didn't think you of all people would be able to convince her. You don't exactly have a silver tongue."

She turns and starts away from the group, headed back the direction they came from. The other two follow suit, and the girl clutching Claudette's arm tails after them, enthusiastically pulling Claudette along. Claudette offers no resistance as she follows.

 

 


 

 

During the walk, Susie, the goth, introduced herself and her three friends. The man in black, Joey. The other woman, Julie. And the quiet man, Frank. None of them inquired Claudette's name, however. And only around ten minutes or so later of traversing the fog, it clears and their destination appears in view ahead of them. Claudette's struck by sudden dread at the sight of the Ormond Resort lodge.

She freezes stiff in place, wrenching her hand free from Susie's and drawing the group's attention. They all stop ahead of her, appearing confused. Joey raises a brow. "You alright?" he asks.

Claudette draws back away from them, warning, "T-This is the Legion's resort! We aren't supposed to be here!"

Julie sighs. "It's fine. That guy hasn't been around in a while... Figured it was safe enough to bunk up here."

Claudette shakes her head. "We can head back to the campfire! Wouldn't you like to meet the others?"

Frank scoffs. "We can meet those clowns some other time." He's already begun walking toward the lodge. Joey follows. Susie and Julie give Claudette encouraging glances.

Julie reassures, "Come on. If the guy shows up, we can all kick his ass."

Her reassurance isn't quite enough to deter Claudette's anxious fear. But she isn't allowed any more indecision, as Susie grasps her hand again and tugs her after them.


Claudette shivers as she's pulled along into the building. It's cold, as it obviously lacks heat. Why the four would even want to stay here is beyond her.
She's pulled up the stairs behind Susie, shuddering as she glimpses the Legion's crude tag on the wall. They're all headed down the hall as she speaks, "The Legion's multiple people, actually..."

Joey glances back at her over his shoulder. "Really?"

Claudette nods. Ahead, Frank throws open a door into a room and enters.

"At least two different people, I think. A man and a woman... There may even be a third... I-I haven't run into them enough to know for sure yet, though..."

She enters the room behind Susie, taken back as she turns slowly on her heels. It's a large room, definitely more comfortable than what her and the others were offered at the campsite. There's a red couch pushed against the wall under the window to the right, a small coffee table resting before it. Against the opposite wall from the door, a grey reclining chair, and to the left, an oak dresser. There's an old brown rug spread over the floor.
Joey notes the surprise on Claudette's face and laughs. "We've got the whole setup here."

Frank's taken a seat in the reclining chair while Susie and Julie rest on the couch. Joey sits atop the dresser and Claudette stands near the door. Despite the coziness of the room, she isn't any less afraid to be standing on a killer's grounds... The four discern her discomfort and Susie pats the cushion beside her. Claudette opts to remain where she is.


With the four settled, Julie asks, "So, you got a name...? Or should we just call you flower girl?"

Claudette tentatively answers. "I'm Claudette."

Joey murmurs her name quietly and follows up Julie's question with his own. "Can we get to know a little bit about you?"

Claudette shifts uncomfortably. She feels she's being interrogated. "W-Well, I'm--"

"Shy?" Julie interrupts. She smiles in amusement. Claudette's face flushes red.

"I'm...not the most social creature. I like to keep to myself. That's why you found me so far from the campsite."

Joey tilts his head. "Hardly see that as a reason to avoid those other guys. What, you don't think you fit in?"

"I-It's not that, I just-," Claudette trails off. She clasps her hands behind her back in a timid manner and roots around for an answer. When she can't come up with one, she shakes her head and changes the subject.  

"Can you tell me anything about yourselves? Why haven't you come out to visit the others yet? How long have you been here?"

Joey scratches his jaw as he considers his response. "Err, hard to tell... We've been here a little while."

Julie follows, "We just didn't want the extra company. Same as you..."

"Hm." Claudette fiddles her fingers. She doesn't quite know what to ask next. She knows there's plenty of options, but none come directly to mind. Her mind just completely blanks and she winds up questioning, "What are your favorite colors?"

Julie laughs and Joey snickers. Amusement flickers over Frank's face. "Straight out the gate with that one..."


But Susie humors the question with a smile. "Mine's pink. What's yours?"

Claudette isn't granted the opportunity to answer. Frank switches topics suddenly with a shake of his head. "We're not about to play twenty questions like a bunch of damn toddlers..." The corner of his lips tugs up into a strange smirk. Claudette shivers. He goes on, "So, tell us more about this 'Legion' bunch."

A silence falls over the room. All eyes are on Claudette as if waiting to gauge her reaction. She begins, "I-I think they're friends... Or at least acquaintances. Each member has a different mask, their signature. I've never seen beneath them, but I think they're more human than the rest of the killers."

Frank's smirk doesn't waver. "Masks, huh?"
He appears suddenly amused as he reaches down beside the chair and grasps a hold of something Claudette's only just noticed rests beside it. He raises it to full view and her blood runs cold.

He holds up a mask with a crude grin etched across the white face. He tilts his head wryly. "They look anything like this?"

The already uncomfortable atmosphere in the room is replaced suddenly with a leaden one. Claudette must look like a deer caught in the headlights under the steely gazes of her company. Their features flicker with amusement and Claudette sees a hint of malice behind those faces. Her wide eyes dart back and forth between them as she takes a small step back, shrinking under their watchful eyes. Her mouth's gone dry and her hands shake at her sides.

Frank's smirk is a full-on grin, nearly identical to the one plastered over the mask. He leans forward in the recliner and teases, "You wandered a bit too close to our turf, flower girl..."

Claudette tries to maintain her cool, but she's a trembling mess, almost paralyzed in fear.

"I-I didn't know-" She trails off. She doesn't believe they'd hurt her outside of a trial, surely it can't be allowed. But who is she kidding? Does she actually believe the Entity would have those rules in place? Or that these deranged killers would follow them?

She backpedals toward the door, but she bumps back into Joey who's moved behind her to block her exit. "So soon?" he speaks.

Claudette spins to face him. "I-I won't come by again!" She tries retreating back away from him, only to bump into Frank next. He stands behind her with his hands shoved down into his pockets.

"You haven't even learned anything about us yet, Claud'..."

Claudette faces him next. Her fear makes way to anger. "I've learned enough! You're all killers!"

Her sudden outburst takes them all off guard. Herself included. Julie claps her hands together. "Ooh, she's got bark!"

Susie still sits idly by on the sofa, remaining quiet. Frank lays a hand on Claudette's shoulder, offering an eerie smile. "Stick around, we won't hurt you. Promise."

Claudette bristles under his touch. "A-Am I supposed to take your word for that?"

"We may be killers, but we're honest ones. Besides, this isn't a trial. We've got free roam out here..."

He removes his hand and steps back to retake his seat on his chair. Joey's resting back against the door now, his arms crossed. He's blocking her exit like a club bouncer. When Claudette glances back at him, he gestures over at the sofa. She sighs.
She doesn't think she has much of a choice in this matter. And the last thing she wants to do is tick them off... She makes her way over to the sofa and takes a seat between Susie and Julie. She rests her hands on her lap. Frank grins. Claudette trembles.

Julie crosses a leg over the other and speaks, unwilling to let the room sink into another tense silence. "So. Why are you so distant from the others? We figured you'd all be one big happy family by now."

Are they really supposed to just continue on with the conversation? Pretend as if they hadn't just revealed themselves to be sociopaths and murderers?

They're all waiting for an answer. Claudette squirms. "I just-... I get nervous."

She knows there's no point in holding anything back now. So what if they know her favorite color, or her shoe size, or her deepest, darkest fears? At the end of the day, they'll still be killers. And she'll still be the victim... Outside of trials, she won't be running into them again. She won't have to worry about them judging her... 

"I was never good with people. I didn't know how to act around them... I hardly had any friends back in the real world and my circumstance now hasn't changed that. People have always been a challenge for me, is all..."

Claudette's gaze rests on the floor. She doesn't want to face them. 

"It was the same for us," Susie responds. 

The killers' guest is visibly tense.

Joey tilts his head. "What was your childhood like?" He seems to be asking in genuine curiosity.

Claudette purses her lips. "I struggled in school at an early age. I could never concentrate, my mind was always wandering. I was obsessed with plants and bugs-"

"Bugs? Gross," Susie pipes up.

Claudette's face flushes in embarrassment.

"I-I just thought they were interesting."

Her fingers curl over her lap. "I knew I was disappointing my parents. I hated knowing that. That while I indulged in the things I loved, they only saw more and more failure..." Her hands bunch into fists. "But I started getting better. My parents encouraged me to pursue the things I loved. When they weren't pressuring me to become someone else, I was able to become a better me."

Her hands shake now. "B-But none of that mattered in the end. Because I'm trapped here now and everything I had before is gone."

Silence falls over the room. Claudette's jaw is tense and she briefly lifts her head to discern her company's reactions. But she can't get a good read on them. Susie's avoiding her gaze, Julie fidgets beside her, Joey pouts. And Frank only stares, intensely studying her. Claudette hangs her head again. Joey's the first to break the silence.

"You've got me all depressed now, damn."

The room comes back to life. Julie nudges Claudette. "You still have your weird love for bugs and plants. That's gotta count for something."

It doesn't.

Susie reaches over and softly touches her hand. Claudette tenses and pulls away from the contact before abruptly standing up. "Can I go now?"

Frank raises a brow. "You get us all worked up, then decide to leave?"

Claudette nods quickly. "Y-Yes, please."

Frank eyes her silently the following few moments. Claudette sweats and shifts on her feet. Frank sighs.

"Fuck off then." He waves her off as he leans back into his chair.

All eyes are on Claudette as she steps toward the door. Joey steps aside and opens it for her. Claudette glances back over her shoulder and sees disappointment flicker across Susie's face. But she can't discern Julie's expression. Frank eyes her with contempt. Neither of the three stand to stop her. Once the door's opened, Claudette turns and makes a quick exit.

 

 


 

 

It's been a while since Claudette's run-in with the Legion. Since then, she's remained close to the campfire. She wanders less, spends more time with the others. They've all taken notice, but no one's questioned her.

Up until now.


Claudette's sitting on a log in front of the fire and Bill sits on the opposite end smoking a cigarette. She's always wondered where he gets his seemingly endless supply. But she was never curious enough to ask the old war veteran. Bill's side-eyeing her. Claudette sighs.

"What's been botherin' you, kid?" His gruff voice is laced with concern. Bill's always been great at reading people. While he'll usually keep to himself, sometimes he feels compelled to say something. Claudette swaps her gaze from the fire to him.

"Nothing, Bill."

He grunts. "Noticed you've been moping around here a lot lately. What, you run outta' flowers to pick in that fog?"

Claudette shakes her head. "I just wanted to spend more time with you guys. We're all stuck here, I just thought I'd get to know you all more... I-I hardly know a thing about you, for instance."

Bill chuckles. "I'm a grumpy old man with a bad knee and a nicotine addiction. Not much else to me, kid." He plucks his cigarette from his lips and flicks off the ash. Leaning forward with a tired groan, he presses, "Come on, spill the beans. Someone botherin' ya'? I'll put my foot up their ass."

Claudette shakes her head at the offer. "Really, I'm fine, Bill."

The old man hums and slowly shakes his head. "None of you damn kids like to talk. Well, no one but that loudmouth David-"

"Oi, I can hear ya', you ol' knob!" David sits just across from them on the opposite side of the firepit. He crosses his arms over his chest.

Bill chuckles. "I know!"


He replaces the cigarette to his lips and mutters, "Louder than Francis..."

Claudette fidgets when she feels a cold sensation suddenly overtake her. Her gaze drops to her arm which begins to disintegrate into black fog.

 

 


 

 

As soon as Claudette's released from the Entity's grasp, she materializes back into being. The first sense that strikes her is the sudden cold. She hugs herself. Then her vision returns to her and she realizes why.
She's at Mount Ormond Resort.

A chill runs up her spine. It's... strange, being back at the lodge under these different circumstances. But she won't dwell on the feeling. She has to repair generators and get out.

She creeps around the lodge building and hears an active generator nearby. She follows the source and finds Meg and Dwight working together. When Meg spots her, she calls over, "Hey, give us a hand!"

Claudette approaches and kneels to get to work. Meg sighs beside her and complains, "The sooner we get out of this trial, the better. I'm freezing my ass off..."



The three work diligently and the generator soon roars to life. But no sooner does it, than they hear the approach of the killer. Everyone scatters immediately.
Claudette just rounds a wooden divide when she collides directly into somebody else. She begins, "I'm sorr-" Her voice ends in a fearful gasp as she realizes who she's run into.

The Legion. And judging from the stature, it's undoubtedly Frank. Claudette kicks herself. She should've noticed the uncanny resemblance when she met them in the fog. But in her own defense, she had always spent more time running from them, than speaking to them.

Claudette backs away, trying to steady her fearful breaths. Frank slowly shakes his head and clicks his tongue beneath his mask. He flirts, "Good seeing you again, flower girl... I'll give you a headstart."

He doesn't need to tell her twice.

Claudette spins on her heels and runs, putting as much distance between them as she can. She can hear the heartbeat pounding in her ears as he gives chase. She winds around divides, trees, and eventually ducks behind a mound of snow. The heartbeat is gradually fading as she catches her breath. She lost him...

She sighs deeply. She was hoping her interaction with the Legion wouldn't affect her following meetings with them in trials. Even Frank giving her a headstart seems a sort of ill omen for what may come...
Claudette remains in place for a few moments more once the heartbeat has silenced completely, then she creeps out of hiding to go search for another generator. 




Sometime during her work on a gen', Tapp's scream reaches Claudette's ears from across the map. He doesn't scream a second time. He must've been moried...
When she's nearly completed the gen', she hears Meg scream next. Claudette's blood runs cold; he's killing them.
Her fingers are still buried within the wiring of the generator when a cold hand touches her shoulder. She jumps in fear and spins around, coming face to face with Dwight. He apologetically puts up his hands. "S-Sorry."

Claudette relaxes immediately and turns to continue her work, but Dwight gently snags her wrist. "He's not hooking anyone. We won't be able to get the remaining generators done. It's only a matter of time until he makes his rounds and finds us."

He pauses a moment, his brows furrowed as he seems to contemplate something. He hesitates, "I-... I'll take the fall so you can at least stand a chance at finding the hatch."

Claudette frowns. "You don't need t-"

"I'll do it, Claudette. It's fine."

Dwight releases his grip and offers Claudette a reassuring, yet weary, smile. She doesn't have the chance to reply before they both suddenly hear the faint heartbeat thumping in their heads. Dwight exhales shakily and darts out from behind cover. Claudette stays put, waiting with a stark frown plastered over her face as the heartbeat slowly fades.
She remains where she is for what feels like hours when she finally hears Dwight's scream on the other end of the trial. Then an eerie silence follows. Claudette moves out of cover to go locate the hatch.



Creeping through the trial as stealthily as possible, Claudette eagerly hopes to hear the hum of the hatch, but she hasn't come close yet. She begins to fear Frank will find it first...

"You'll never find it at this rate."

!!!

Claudette jumps in fright and spins on her heels. Frank stands only a few mere meters away. And yet, there's no heartbeat...?
Frank makes a move toward her, but Claudette's already spun back around and is racing away.
She makes a beeline into the lodge, hoping to lose him inside. She throws her head erratically in search of a place to hide, then settles on a spot. She vaults over the front desk and ducks beneath it. She holds her breath and waits.

"We playing hide and seek now?"

His sudden reappearance makes Claudette squeak in fear and shoot up. She slams her head up against the underside of the counter and staggers away with a yelp. Her fearful gaze locks with the eyes of Frank's mask. He laughs behind it as he climbs over the desk.

"You've done more damage to yourself than I have. 'Haven't even touched you yet..."

Claudette's backed up into the wall. Frank effectively blocks her in. He shakes his head with a low sigh. "The others haven't seen you around. It's like you've been avoiding us-"

"Because I am." Claudette doesn't care if she ticks him off. She knows she'll die anyway. Why waste any more time here in this cold trial than she already has?

Frank scoffs. "But you were really starting to grow on us, Claud'."

"J-Just kill me and get this over with. I'm not doing this with you. Not with you all being killers."

Frank tilts his head, a gesture feigning disappointment. "You're breaking my heart."

He suddenly closes the menial distance between them, his bloodied blade finding her throat. Claudette rears back into the wall with a gasp and Frank hushes her. "I could kill you... I should, but... how 'bout this-,"

He pulls his blade back just a little, the cold steel only ghosting her skin. "I let you escape this trial, and you pay us another visit. That sounds fair, right?"

"A-And if I don't?"

"Then we'll pay you a visit. Say hi to your other friends while we're at it..."

Claudette raises a brow. "Other...?"

Frank chuckles. "Am I being too forward? I'll try not to move so fast..."

Claudette hums in response. She swallows a hard lump in her throat and stammers, "O-Okay. I'll visit."

"Good girl." Frank slaps her face with the flat of his blade and pulls back. "Get the hell out. We'll be waiting..."

Claudette trepidly inches past him to go find the hatch.

 

 


 

 

Claudette paces back and forth, her head hung and her arms wrapped tightly around her chest. She agreed to the deal with Frank, but she doesn't want to see the group of punk killers again. She has no business interacting with them outside of trials. And a part of her still intensely believes that it all may be a part of some cruel joke. Maybe they're planning something terrible... Bring her there and hurt her? Being as deranged as they are, it's not too far fetched to believe...
She wants to return to the comfort of the camp, be around the others for once. But she doesn't want to put them at risk of an unpleasant meeting with the Legion.

Claudette sighs and shakes her head. She agreed to go. She's not the type of person to go back on her word, even if that word is to a killer. She'll go just this once then she won't have to again. Only this once...




Around an hour later of wandering aimlessly through the fog, Claudette comes to a still. She doesn't seem to be getting anywhere. Is she not allowed to cross into killer turf? Is there some unseen boundary between the two groups in the fog? She's still pondering for an explanation when, as if on cue, the fog ahead of her parts and two forms step into view. Joey and Susie. Joey looks surprised. "Huh. I didn't expect you to actually show..."

Susie elbows him in the side with a smile on her face. "I did."

Claudette fidgets nervously. She wants to turn back. She musters up resolve and begins, "Why a-"

She's cut off as Susie skips to her and snatches her hand in her own. "Come on. You kept us waiting long enough."
Susie turns and partly drags Claudette along after Joey. But Claudette doesn't resist, even despite her discomfort...



The wall of fog ahead clears and the resort lodge comes into view. The company of three enter and head it upstairs. The hair on the back of Claudette's neck rises as she's pulled into that same lounge room as before. Julie and Frank are already inside.
Julie looks surprised to see them appear with Claudette in tow. "Hm. So she actually kept her word..."

Frank remarks, "I didn't doubt it. She's an honest girl..." He flashes Claudette a wry grin.

Susie releases Claudette's hand and she makes her way over to the sofa. Joey settles back against the dresser, his arms crossed over his chest. Claudette stands center in the room, her posture tense and trembling. All eyes are on her... Unwavering stares, silence... She speaks. "Why-... Why me? Why did you bring me here?"

Frank answers. "Because you're one of us."

Claudette shakes her head. "I'm not one of you. I'm nothing like you--"

"-You are. Just another social reject...," Julie interrupts.

"Yes, but I've never used that as an excuse to hurt people."

Frank smirks. "It's not our excuse, flower girl. It's our reason."

Claudette's mad. She finds her collected exterior dissipating. A stark frown writes over her face and her hands ball into fists at her sides. "So because you never fit in, you decided to start hurting people? That since those people couldn't accept you, you'd turn against them? Have you ever stopped to wonder why you never fit in?"

Her short outburst is proceeded by a tense silence. Frank stands suddenly from his chair. Despite her near-crippling fear, Claudette remains rooted in place as he stops directly in front of her. He leans down to level with her, his face mere inches from hers. "Have you?"

Claudette keeps her gaze locked to his. "I know why I didn't. I was different--"

"-Not to us."

Claudette doesn't respond. She doesn't have a response. The two have a silent staredown, but Claudette doesn't break her eyes away from Frank's steel ones. The intense silence is generously broken by Joey.

"You two going to kiss? Get the hell out of her face, Frank."

The comment induces a faint blush on Claudette's cheeks. 

Susie pipes up next, "Aren't we going to play Uno...?"

Claudette's attention turns to her and she sees Susie has a deck of Uno cards in hand. Frank steps back with a chuckle. "I dunno."

His eyes meet Claudette's again and he smirks cheekily. "You playing Uno with us, flower girl?"

Claudette's very off-put by the question. Her response fumbles out her mouth. "I-I... I mean-....." She trails off and clasps her hands nervously in front of her. "Um... sure."

Susie begins shuffling the deck as Julie takes a seat down beside her. Claudette uneasily steps over to the coffee table and kneels. Frank sits on her left, and Joey on her right. As Susie starts handing out cards, Claudette starts, "I... I don't know how to play."

Joey double-takes beside her. "You're kidding."

Julie laughs. "She was a wallflower, remember? Probably never had anyone to hang out with..."

"Your tragic backstory just gets more tragic by the second...," Frank comments.

Claudette stiffens under their remarks. Did they bring her here to scrutinize her? 

But Susie offers Claudette a kind smile. "We'll show you how. It's really easy."

 

 

Claudette was on edge for a good portion of the game to begin. But she's since relaxed in her current company... She's been mentally taking down notes on the four killers.

Frank is vindictive. Claudette hit him with a draw 4 only once and he's since retaliated with two draw 4s, six skips, and a wildcard against her favor. Claudette has a quarter of the deck in her hand. Julie's a cheat. She'll try to slip cards out of her hand while coercing her opponents' attention away with casual conversation. Joey and Susie have been quiet, however. Joey's got about eight or so cards and Susie's only holding onto four.
And so far, this isn't going the way Claudette had feared it would. No one's brandished a knife, threatened her, or shot her any sort of malicious look. Well, Frank had mean-mugged her a couple of times, but nothing beyond that.
And somehow, she's... having fun. For the first time in however long she's been trapped in this Hell, she's having fun. She's genuinely enjoying herself. Even back in the real world, she never had company like this. A faint smile graces her face.

Julie's just about to play a card for her turn when Joey's form dematerializes quite suddenly, disappearing in a plume of smoke and embers and startling Claudette. Taken for a trial, she guesses. His deck falls from his hand and lands on the floor. Frank glimpses them and scoffs. "Son of a bitch-"

Joey's hand consisted only of draw 4s and wildcards.

"He was going to fuck us up if the Entity hadn't snatched his ass."

Claudette can't help but laugh at the comment. She quickly stifles it, however. But she glimpses a smirk sneak onto Frank's face beside her. When their eyes meet briefly, he winks. Claudette's face flushes a deep shade of red.
Julie snickers across from them and Susie smiles.

 

 


 

 

In the end, the game was concluded after Julie was taken away by the Entity too. Overall, Susie had the least amount of cards in hand, so she won by default.

As she's currently shuffling the deck back into the case, Frank's returned to his seat, but he sits on the armrest of it. Claudette stands in the center of the room. With the cards packed up, Susie sets them aside and looks at Claudette, bearing a smile. "I had fun. Thanks for actually showing up."

She crosses the room and pulls open the door before heading down the hall. Her footsteps fade and Claudette tries to mask the frown that overtakes her features. There's a killer behind that sweet persona...

"You still think we're just killers?"

Claudette looks at Frank. He's watching her with studying eyes. In truth, she doesn't know what to think now. Rather than allow silence to fall between them, she opts to draw this event to a close.

"I came like I said I would. I'm leaving now."

Frank looks disappointed. "So you're a one and done kinda' girl then, huh?"
When he discerns the confusion on her face, he laughs. "Alright... You kept up your end of the deal."

Claudette retreats back toward the door. She grasps the handle but pauses in place.

"Why did you really bring me here? Why do you care?" She looks back at Frank. His gaze locks to hers.

He shrugs as he fishes a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. "You needed friends, didn't you? Out here in the fog, we all need somebody... Me, Joey, Susie, and Jules'? We all have each other. We serve the Entity and we get to keep that."

Claudette frowns. Frank goes on. "If you ever get too lonely out there, consider paying us another visit. Maybe we'll even team up and dish out some damage on Joey's conniving ass in another round of Uno."

A small smile forms on Claudette's lips. Frank returns it with his own. "See you, flower girl..."

Claudette leaves the room.

 

 

As Claudette walks away from the lodge, she hears Susie shout, "Thanks for coming by!"
She glimpses the girl standing on the balcony of the second floor, waving. Claudette returns the gesture.


She walks through the fog alone now, the lodge behind her. She doesn't know how to feel about the whole situation... Had she truly discovered the motives behind the Legion's actions here? Maybe they aren't just pawns under the Entity's thumb... Maybe they only do this for each other. If that's the truth, it's... understandable. Claudette knows how cold and desolate the fog is. How much worse it'd be if she had to suffer it alone. There's no denying that there's damage in each member of the group, but that coupled with the Entity's dark influence would've been all the push they needed to become what they are.
She can't hate them now. Not now that she knows them more for who they are, rather than what the Entity's shaped them into.

Maybe she will visit again. Maybe she does need friends.

 

 

Chapter Text

The blare of the exit gates powering up reaches across the wreckage yard. Relief floods through Claudette as she pulls her hands free from the wires of a pumping generator. She leaves the gen' and makes her way toward the closest gate, but she stops dead in her tracks when a strained whimper reaches her ears. She recognizes the voice almost immediately.
Upon creeping around a stack of crushed, mangled cars, she finds Kate with her arms elbow-deep in a jigsaw box, suffering terrible pain in a desperate bid to find the key to the reverse bear trap on her head. Tears streak her cheeks and blood spills down her arms. The sight is enough to tug at Claudette's heart-strings and make her grimace. Without a moment of hesitation, she walks up behind Kate and plants a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"Kate-"

Startled, Kate jumps in fright and yanks her arms free of the box. Once she's spun on her heels and identified her company, she breathes out in relief and shakes her head. "Y-You can't be sneakin' up on me like that, 'Dettie," she scolds. Her voice cracks as more tears threaten to spill from her eyes.

"I'm sorry," Claudette apologizes.

The trap on Kate's head is ticking at a steadily increasing pace. She cradles her lacerated hands against her chest and chokes out, "I've checked a damn near dozen of these traps and haven't found squat. This trap's goin' to split me apart if I don't get it off."

She faces the box again, willing herself to continue her search, but Claudette places another hand on her wrist. Kate faces her and Claudette manages a small smile. "Let me do it for you, Kate."

Kate's brow creases and her lips form a tight frown. "Don't you worry none 'bout me, hon'. Get on over to the exit gates. I'll either meet ya' there, or-..."

She trails off. Biting her lip, she makes another move to continue her search for the key, but Claudette insists. "Kate, let me." Her assuring smile has been replaced with concern.

Kate's brows draw together tightly, but she relents. She takes a small step back, allowing Claudette to take her place in front of the jigsaw box. "You're too good for your own good, 'Dettie...," she murmurs.

Claudette hums absentmindedly in response as she cuffs up the sleeves of her shirt. The jigsaw boxes hurt, as they're intended to. They hurt terribly. And as much as Claudette would love to keep her hands out of them, she can't stand to watch people she cares about going through the strenuous process of rooting around inside of one for the chance at finding a key. She was lucky enough to avoid getting trapped, so she'll take one for the team.
She raises her hands to the entry holes of the box and takes in a deep breath. She doesn't have long to work up the resolve to do this. The ticking of Kate's bear trap behind her is a grim indication of that.
Not allowing herself a moment more of hesitation, she inserts her hands.

The pain is excruciating. Tiny fast-spinning blades slice and shred her hands as she feels around quickly for a key. Claudette grits her teeth and whimpers as she endures through the pain. She has to hold back the urge to rip her hands free and run for the gates. The pain is so bad even, her legs shake and threaten to buckle beneath her. Kate lays a soft, albeit bloodied, hand on her shoulder.
Seconds tick on by, but they feel like hours. The agonizing pain is numbed out by sudden relief as Claudette grasps hold of a small key.

She wrenches her hands out of the box with the key clutched tightly in her bloody grip. She releases a shuddering breath and quickly hands it over to Kate. As soon as Kate unlocks the trap and drops the metal contraption aside on the ground, she throws her arms around Claudette's shoulders with an almost contagious smile on her face. "You just might be my new good luck charm, Claudette! Thank you, sweetheart."

Claudette sighs and returns the hug. She winces as she gingerly holds Kate. "Anytime," she murmurs.

Kate pulls back and takes Claudette's wrist in her hand. "Now let's get the hell outta' here. If that pig finds us, we'll have more than these nasty traps to worry about."



The two move hastily toward the nearest gate. It's already opened, as they had heard the rusted squeal of the doors parting mere moments ago. Meg was sacrificed, so it had to have been Ace. But they assume he decided not to stick around. Nobody wants to risk getting trapped by the Pig, especially during the Collapse. It'd be a death sentence...
They grow nearer to the gate, but both stop dead in place when they hear a metallic hiss. A blade unsheathing-
Instinctively, Claudette ducks with a yelp as a blade swipes over her head. She throws herself back against a wall of stacked cars and faces the perpetrator. The Pig stands mere feet away, her blade glistening with blood. Claudette shoots a frightful look at Kate.

"Run!"

Both of them split and head toward separate doors. But the Pig's on Claudette. And a fearful glance back over her shoulder reveals that she's gaining steadily, blade drawn and ready to gore her prey. Claudette winds around a collapsed car and darts for the run-down old shack ahead. She knows the other gate's just on the other side.
She reaches the window and jumps to clear the vault, but she chokes out a cry as she's snagged suddenly by the collar of her shirt. She's yanked back harshly and thrown on the ground. Fear writes over her face as the Pig stands before her, a trap held in both hands. Claudette tries to scramble away, but she's kicked hard in the gut, thrown over onto her back. The Pig straddles her and a trap is placed firmly upon her head and locked into place with a grating click. Metal hooks barb her upper and lower jaw.
Claudette fully expects the pig to heft her up over her shoulder, but the masked killer steps back instead.

"Better find the key. The clock is ticking," she coldly taunts.

Claudette swallows a hard lump in her throat. She's become an unwilling participant in the Pig's cruel game. Rather than sacrifice her and end the trial, the Pig's going to put her through the test. A very cruel, sick game... 
When Claudette remains unmoving, the Pig taps her wrist with her blade. "Tick tock..."

Claudette has no choice. She'd much rather be impaled by the Entity's hooked claws than have her jaws split apart, but the Pig would probably much prefer watching her evil creation go off... Claudette's back on her feet and quickly putting distance between her and the Pig. Despite the heavy metal contraption clamped over her head, she moves fast, panting in exertion and fear. The Pig doesn't even give chase, Claudette notices, and soon, she loses sight of her entirely.
She finds a jigsaw box fast and wastes no time inserting her hands. Gears spin and blades slash away at her. Her eyes water and she grinds her teeth.

Then there's that terrible laughter.

The puppet sitting atop the cruel contraption releases a giddy shrill of mocking laughter. It shakes its head as Claudette rips her hands free from the trap. She turns to quickly locate another. Each tick of her trap makes her heart skip a beat. She stumbles around a pile of wrecked cars and approaches another box. The earth rumbles and shakes; she doesn't have a lot of time.
Again, she inserts her hands and bears through the pain. Her hands are like minced meat now and she can hardly even feel them.

"You're not moving fast enough."

The sudden reappearance of the Pig makes Claudette jump in fear. She pulls her arms free of the trap and turns to stand face to face with the killer. Her blade is still drawn and her head is tilted. She's watching her prey expectantly. But Claudette won't continue to play her game. She can't. She knows this only ends one way... A choked sob escapes her quivering lips as she collapses on her knees, clutching her head in her shredded hands. The collapse is nearing its peak and her trap is ticking away. "J-Just kill me-," she pleads.

Her response triggers something in the Pig. She's snatched up by the collar of her shirt and slammed back against a wall of wreckage. She whimpers as the Pig leans in close, the snout of her mask only inches from Claudette's face. "You're giving up?" she seethes.

"T-There's no point-"

The Pig scoffs. She throws Claudette to the ground. "Worthless."

Claudette puts no more effort in trying to escape. She shakes terribly in fear, but her attention is caught by long, deep cuts carved into the Pig's wrist when she raises her arm to brandish her blade. Claudette blinks her wide eyes. "How did you get those?"

The Pig freezes stiff in place, blade still drawn back. Realizing the wounds on her arm are visible, she yanks her sleeve back down and jabs her blade at the jigsaw trap. "Finish the test," she orders.

Claudette stands slowly to her feet. She tries, "I-I have bandages--"

"Shut up!" Again, the Pig prods at the trap beside them. "Finish it."

Terrible dread fills the sinking pit in Claudette's stomach. She has no other choice. She reluctantly steps back toward the trap and buries her arms within it. The blades shred her hands and she bites the hooks in her mouth. But she's offered a sweet relief, if only momentarily when she grasps the key within. She yanks it out and quickly removes the ticking trap from her head. Her relief is, again, only momentary. As soon as she drops the trap aside, she instinctively ducks to avoid a swing from the Pig's blade. She turns and runs.

She's running toward the nearest gate. Escape is so close, but so far. She begins to believe she may actually make it but her foot catches on a large crack split into the earth. She crashes to the ground with a startled yelp and her assailant is right on top of her. Claudette rolls onto her back and stares with wide eyes at the Pig as she stalks toward her.

"You failed your test," she says.

She brandishes her blade and Claudette glimpses those same, deep cuts. Her brows draw together and her eyes flicker up to the face of the mask. She quietly inquires, "Did you do that to yourself?"

Silence befalls the Pig. But only for a moment. She growls and lunges forward, snatching Claudette up again, her collar gripped tight in her fist. She's gripping so tightly her knuckles turn white. She jabs the tip of her blade to the underside of Claudette's chin and leans in close. "Do you want to die slow, or fast?"

Claudette breathes out in fear and tries to recoil from the stench of the rotted pig mask. She raises her own hands and tentatively touches the Pig's closed fist. "L-Let me wrap it up for you. I know it must hurt--"

"Nothing hurts," the Pig growls.

Her voice wavers, which Claudette notices. She furrows her brows. "I brought supplies in to help people. Let me help you."

The Pig remains silent for a concerning amount of time. Claudette's arms stipple with goosebumps and her jaw is locked. She braces for what could very well come next. That sharp blade piercing her abdomen. Claudette eyes it fearfully, a nervous sweat sheening her forehead. Any moment now she'll feel the cold blade gore through her-
-But the blade is suddenly drawn slowly back into the sheath concealed by the Pig's sleeve. Claudette gasps as the Pig roughly releases her grip on her collar. Just as suddenly, she puts out her hand. "Give them to me. I'll do it myself."

Claudette fumbles a roll of bandages from the pocket of her jacket and they're snatched quickly. The Pig backpedals and turns away, beginning to wrap up her arm. Claudette stiffens. She could probably slip away and escape now. She could, but... something compels her to stay.

She swallows a lump in her throat and shifts nervously on her feet. "Why did you do it?"

The Pig's snout shifts her direction, but she gives no verbal response. She continues to callously wrap her arm up. Claudette reaches out.

"Let me do it-"

The Pig spins around and snaps, "Why are you still here?!"

Claudette shrinks back in fear. "I-I'm just trying to help you." She reaches again, this time more slowly. She falters when she hears the Pig's blade unsheathe, but she persists until she's touching the Pig's hand. There's a surprising warmth to it... The Pig tenses up. But when Claudette remains unscathed, she continues. She grasps the roll of bandages from the Pig's hand and gingerly begins to wrap over the cuts carved into her arm.
The rot of the pig mask is unbearable, especially being this close to it. How this woman can stand wearing it over her own face is a mystery...
Despite the near-crippling fear of being in such close proximity to a killer, Claudette diligently tends to her. As she does so, she speaks. "When I was younger, I felt alone... I never went to anyone about my problems. I didn't know how to... And when I was really angry with myself, I used to hug my pillow. I hugged it tight and cried against it. I never--"

"-Cut yourself?"

The contempt in the Pig's tone is almost venomous. She suddenly snatches Claudette's wrist tight and forcibly raises her arm. "But you have."

Claudette's attention is drawn to the many lacerations carved into her hand. The numerous cuts still sting and bleed heavily, trailing scarlet lines down her arm. She tries pulling her hand back, but the grip tightens. She gives up and draws her brows. "Why do you hurt yourself?"

"I need to hurt something."

"Hurting us isn't enough?"

Claudette's remark seems to push a button. The last button. Nails dig into her wrist before the Pig growls and throws her back on the ground. She brandishes her blade and venomously orders, "Leave."

Claudette scrambles back to her feet. "I-I'm sorry. I just-"

"Get out!"

It's obvious now she's overstayed her welcome. Claudette takes a small step back, but she freezes stiff in place as a series of cracks chains around her. The ground shakes and rumbles, and she finds she can hardly stay upright. And she realizes with horror the cause. The collapse is here.

Embers rise from the scars in the earth and there's an awful roaring in Claudette's ears. Unbalanced by the tremors, she staggers and falls. And the last thing that registers to her is her own scream as the earth splits beneath her and dark claws sprout from the furious void below...

 

 


 

 

Claudette lies awake on her bedroll, unable to sleep. Her eyes are half-lidded as she subconsciously rubs her wrist in her hand. There's a terrible, stinging pain in her chest. A burning sensation, a reminder of the Entity's lingering touch as it broke and twisted her body at the end of the collapse. She can still feel the way her bones had snapped and her flesh tore apart...
She squeezes her wrist tight and shuts her eyes. Everything hurts.

"Claudette?"

That sweet, sing-songy voice belongs to none other than Kate. Claudette reopens her eyes as the flaps of her tent are peeled open and Kate pokes her head inside. She looks genuinely concerned. "When did ya' get back, hon'? You crept off 'fore I had the chance to properly thank ya'."

Claudette sits up with a small sigh. "Sorry."

Kate enters her tent and takes a seat, sitting crisscrossed in front of her. She reaches for and takes Claudette's hands into her own with a kind smile. "Thank you, 'Dettie. You're such a sweetheart. A whole saint."

Claudette manages a small smile in return. "I help when I can."

Kate squeezes her hands and gestures back at the tent opening. "Come on out. Sit with the rest a' us around the fire."

Claudette hesitates before shaking her head. "I'm fine, Kate."

Her company's brows draw together in worry. Kate rubs her fingers a moment before nodding in understanding. She releases Claudette's hands and stands to go. She's peeled the tent flaps back open when Claudette pipes up, "Wait-"

Kate stops and looks back at her. Claudette fiddles her thumbs. "Can we... Can we talk for a bit? In here?"

Another smile graces Kate's lips as she nods. "A' course, hon'." She retakes her seat and leans back, her chest out and her arms bracing her up. "Whatcha' got on your mind?"

Claudette chews her bottom lip and rests her hands on her lap as she considers her next response. Averting her gaze, she quietly asks, "Do you think the killers are anything like us?"

The question seems to catch Kate off guard. She raises a brow and rubs her chin thoughtfully. "I'm not sure... Some of 'em seem human 'nouf. That lot hidin' behind those silly masks... The Ghostface fella', maybe..."

Claudette shakes her head. "No, I mean-" She trails off with a sigh and bites her cheek. "Do you think they can still feel things like us? Anger, pain, sadness? Even happiness?"

Kate chuckles. "Well, I know some of 'em feel anger, that's for sure. The big gal with the cute bunny mask sure throws some furious fits when things don't go her way in trials." She shrugs. "I dunno about the rest of 'em... Personally, I've never seen any of 'em smile or laugh... Well, normally, anyway. The Doctor and that clown are always cacklin' all evil-like." She tilts her head. "Why do ya' ask, 'Dettie?"

Claudette hums in response. "Sometimes I just wonder."

She lifts her gaze and knits her brows. "They were all like us once. Just people. Sometimes I think they're... sad. That maybe some of them hurt, same as us. The Wraith always seems reluctant to hurt us. The Huntress tries to hold us sometimes, but then she squeezes too tight... And the Pig-"

Kate cuts her off with a click of her tongue. "Now don't you go worryin' yourself over these nasty killers, sweetheart. 'Cause that's all they are; killers. They hurt us without a second thought and it doesn't worry them none. Some of 'em probably enjoy it, too. Get a kick outta' it."

She leans forward and takes Claudette's shoulders before pulling her into a warm hug. "You need to worry more 'bout yourself. Make sure you're gettin' enough rest and such."

Claudette nods against her shoulder. "Thank you for talking with me."

Kate pulls back with a sweet smile on her face. "It's good to talk, 'Dettie. Gotta make sure you get it all out. Can't keep these things all pent up inside a' ya' or you'll just explode."

She stands to her feet and straightens out her top. "Feel free to join the rest a' us whenever ya' like. 'Til then, get some rest."

"I will," Claudette assures.

Kate smiles again and leaves the tent. As the flaps close behind her, Claudette lies back down on her bedroll. She hears Kate's footsteps fade and she's alone again in silence, left to her own thoughts. Her mess of distracting, muddled thoughts... A tingly itch nags the back of her head. Something's bothering her, but she doesn't know what.

She had hoped talking would help her to figure it out, but it seems to have only made it worse. She sighs.

 

 


 

 

Amanda sits on her knees, bent over a pile of scrap metals and miscellaneous tools. She's working diligently, scraping away rust from metal bands, replacing screws, taking measurements. Her free time mostly consists of finding and creating new ways to potentially test her victims. But the times she's not tinkering, she's wallowing in grief. In anger. Angry and wondering why she wasn't good enough for John... She did everything he asked, but better. Why couldn't he understand what she was doing? The people they captured didn't deserve a second chance. Even if they had passed their test, NONE of them were deserving of one!-

A screw pops loose and rolls away. Amanda curses and throws the rusted contraption aside. She clutches her head tightly in her hands and bends forward, slowly rocking back and forth.

-He told her it would be okay. But as she bled and her life seeped from the gushing wound in her neck, he only scolded her. He berated her! He told her that she had failed her final test. He told her she disappointed him. Amanda grits her teeth.

Why wasn't she good enough?

Her hand subconsciously finds her arm. She squeezes it tight and digs her nails into her skin. Her fingers trail down her veins toward her wrist, but she freezes stiff in place when her finger contacts more cloth. She had almost forgotten-

She cuffs her sleeve up and scrutinizes the blood-stained bandages wrapped around her forearm. She clenches her jaw.

Why did that girl do this? After everything she's done to her and her friends, why did she care? Amanda digs around and pries for an answer, but she can't come up with one. It makes her angry. It makes her fucking furious. Was that girl trying to manipulate her? Trying to get into her head? Because it didn't work!

...Or has it?

Amanda narrows her eyes and yanks her sleeve back down. She wants an answer. She needs one.

She's torn back into reality as the Entity's harsh, grating whispers fill her head. First quietly, then loudly, drowning out her own thoughts. It's time for another trial. Another test.
Amanda reaches back and grabs her mask. She pulls the rotted head over her own and breathes in deeply. The stench she once couldn't stand now excites her. The Entity's presence in her head lulls away her anger and replaces it with calm resolve.

When she finds that girl again, she'll get an answer. But she knows she'll have to wait. Wait until the Entity brings them together again.


But she can wait.

 

 


 

 

Numerous trials have passed since Claudette's run-in with the Pig. And she's grateful she hasn't been pitted against the woman again. Grateful and relieved, but... a part of her is also disappointed. She wanted to know more. She felt she needed to. To confirm if these killers are still anything like them, if there's any shred of humanity left in them. If they can still feel...

Claudette is sitting on a log beside the campfire. Adam and Dwight share a log to her right and Quentin's dozed off on the log opposite them. No one in the current bunch is particularly chatty at the moment. It's quiet... Claudette pulls at a loose thread on her sleeve. Then she slowly inches her sleeve up and rubs her wrist.

The Pig still feels. She knows it. But she doesn't know why. Is it suppressed grief? Sadness? Where was she before she was brought here? Who was she? Claudette's brows draw together as she considers the very real possibility that the Pig was just the same before coming here. It would explain why the Entity chose her. She could've been just as cruel as she is now...
Claudette sighs. She knows Kate was right; there's no point in worrying about the killers. They're here for one purpose, and that sole purpose is to hurt them. To do the Entity's bidding, whether willingly, or unwillingly. A game pitting predator against prey.

A sudden burning sensation in her legs tears Claudette from her thoughts. Her gaze lands on her feet and she sees her form deteriorating in a cloud of thick, black smoke.

 

 


 

 

Claudette grits her teeth as she fumbles her hands around within the box, hoping to grasp a hold of a key. But not to free a trap from her own head. Dwight was trapped and she's helping him search for a key; they both search separate boxes across the map.
Claudette bears through the pain, but it's all in vain as the little puppet toy laughs in her face. She pulls her mutilated hands free with an aggravated sigh. Dwight doesn't have long left-
She's only just turned to go find another box when she hears a faint scream, cut off by a sickening squelch and the snap of metallic jaws splitting apart in the distance.

Dwight's dead.

Claudette's brows draw tightly together. There's nothing left to do now but to look for the hatch. Bill and Min were killed. Trapped. Although, neither of them had been able to find a key for their traps...
The search for the hatch is as nerve-racking as always. There's always the intense fear of hearing it slam shut somewhere in the distance, then the rumble of the earth as the collapse begins. The dread of knowing you stand no chance at getting a gate open before the killer finds you...

She creeps cautiously down the street along a white picket fence, her wide eyes alert for any sight of the sneaky pig. Before the trial, she was disappointed she hadn't seen the Pig as of late. Now she dreads seeing her. She was lucky enough to make it this long into the trial without coming face to face with the killer. But something tells her her luck will run out...



Five minutes later, and her search bores fruit. She's made it to the end of the street when she hears the hum of the hatch. She's flooded with relief as she races its direction, just itching for escape now.
She winds around a wall of hedges behind a house and spots the hatch between two trees. Claudette's practically right on top of it when she sees Her.
She backpedals so suddenly in fear and surprise that she trips over her own feet and lands flat on her rear. Her wide eyes are glued to the Pig as she creeps out from behind the tree. The masked woman raises her hand and slowly waggles her finger. Claudette gasps and scrambles back up to her feet. She turns to run, but she's snatched by the arm and finds herself being dragged after the Pig. She fights back, thrashing to get free, trying to pry her arm out of the Pig's grip. But the Pig unsheathes her blade, affectively ceasing Claudette's struggle.

She has no choice but to follow along. Her mouth's gone dry and goosebumps stipple her arms. "W-Where are you taking me?"

"Be quiet."

Claudette remains silent. The Pig drags her up the porch steps and inside the nearest home. The hum of the hatch fades slowly behind them. Claudette's hauled along through a kitchen, then into what she assumes was once a well-furnished living room. Only a soiled, red couch remains, pushed up against the wall opposite the stairs. The Pig throws her at the couch. "Sit," she orders.

Claudette takes a seat on the center cushion, resting her shaking, clasped hands on her lap. The Pig stops and stands just in front of her. There's intense silence before Claudette speaks again.

"Why did you bring me here?"

The Pig sheathes her blade. "I'm going to give you a test."

Claudette stiffens. "W-What kind of test?"

The Pig stares at her silently. Claudette shifts uneasily under her masked gaze.

"If you pass, I'll let you go."

"But if I don't?"

The slow tilt of the Pig's head is answer enough. After allowing yet another suspenseful silence to fall between them, she begins her query.

"What's your name?"

"My na-? C-Claudette..."

"How old are you?"

"Almost 20--"

"Almost?"

"I-I would've been, if-," Claudette trails off. She swallows and drops her gaze to the floor. Changing the subject, she asks, "Were the traps rigged?"

"I'm asking the questions."

"The-The others were trapped and none of them got those traps off their heads..."

The Pig silently scrutinizes her. "I wanted to talk to you. Alone."

That confirms Claudette's sneaking suspicion. Her skin begins to crawl. She curls her toes and brushes a lock of thick hair back out of her face. The Pig asks another question.

"Why were you angry with yourself?"

Claudette's eyes flicker with surprise. The Pig remembered the talk they had?  So their meeting's been on her mind, too... She fidgets and clasps her hands together.

"I... I felt alone. Misunderstood. And it was my fault... I always distanced myself, I wasn't good at properly expressing how I felt-..."

"That's it?" The Pig's tone carries incredulity. Claudette bristles up.

"I-I know our lives were probably nothing alike. I'm not going to pretend I know what you went through. B-Before, I just wanted to understand why--"

"You can't," The Pig interrupts. Her hands form tight fists at her sides. "Our lives are a test. John believed that those who were failing needed to see the value of their lives. That they needed to be brutally convinced to fight for it. To ENDURE for it. His philosophy was ignorant."

She spits the last word with venom. Claudette flinches. The Pig continues.

"If John had found you, he'd have put you through a test. You probably wasted away your life. Spent it locked up inside, never went out or made any friends..."

Claudette's brows draw together and she shrinks under the Pig's scrutiny.

"-He'd have given you a test that would've made you live your life to the fullest if you passed."

Claudette musters up the courage to speak. Her voice shaky, she replies, "So the tests were supposed to hurt people? If I had gone through anything like that, I only would've gotten worse. I'd be afraid to step outside-"

"Exactly."

The Pig's hands ball into fists. "The tests were pointless. The subjects never changed. They all remained undeserving of the second chance John offered them."

"John... Who was he to you?"

Claudette's abrupt question makes the Pig visibly stiffen. She appears to hesitate before whispering almost inaudibly, "My father... But he betrayed me."

The Pig's gaze falls to the floor, if the snout of her mask tipping down at an angle is any indication of that. Claudette tilts her head to the side. "Why-... Why are you telling me all of this?"

The Pig lifts her head. "I want to know what you believe. Do you think John was right?"

Claudette considers her next response carefully. She doesn't want to trigger something in the Pig, much like she had last time... But she knows that no matter what she says, there's a good chance she won't be walking out of here. The Pig could very well kill her anyway, whether she likes her response or not. So she gives her an honest answer.

"John was wrong. You're wrong. I believe we're all allowed a choice. That our lives shouldn't be under someone else's control or in someone else's hands."

The Pig's fists tighten. "Do you really believe that?"

Claudette nods. And she remains stiff in place as neither of them makes another move. The silence that follows is near deafening. And the stillness is blood-chilling... So, when the Pig finally makes a sudden move, Claudette jumps in intense fright. But she's taken off guard as the Pig slowly approaches the couch and takes a seat at the far end to Claudette's left. She sits forward, her masked-head hung and her hands tightly gripping the cushion. She speaks again, quietly.

"Did you bring bandages?"

Claudette's taken back, but she nods quickly in response. She digs into the pocket of her jacket and reveals a roll of bandages. The Pig cuffs up her right sleeve. Claudette's brows lift in surprise when she sees her arm is already wrapped. Still wrapped. Old, blood-encrusted bandages are wrapped around her wrist. They must be the ones she initially gave her...
Claudette scoots closer and takes her arm. The Pig tenses under the contact and the beady, black, dead eyes of the carcass head stare straight at her. Claudette begins undoing the old bandages, and to her surprise, there's...nothing underneath. The cuts that once lined the Pig's wrist are gone. Claudette doesn't remark on it, only setting the old wrapping aside and beginning to wrap on more.
The Pig suddenly tilts her head.

"What happened to your hands?" she questions. It seems she's only just noticed Claudette's brutalized digits...

Claudette continues wrapping. "I searched a few jigsaw boxes."

"But I didn't trap you."

Claudette hums quietly in response. She's just about finished wrapping the Pig's arm when her wrist is seized suddenly in her grip. Her breath catches in her throat. The Pig takes the bandages from her and gets to work wrapping her hands up. Claudette allows it. It doesn't seem she can decline the gesture, after all... Despite the unusualness of the situation, she tries to relax.

"Can I know your name?"

The Pig lifts her head and remains silent. Claudette takes that as her answer when a raspy voice quietly returns, "Amanda."

It's so easy to forget these servants here to torment them were once people like them... That they had lives, and family, and names...

Amanda sets the bandages and places the remainder of the roll aside. But she still grips Claudette's wrist in her hand. "Why do you care?" she whispers.

Claudette raises a brow. "A-About what?"

"Me."

Claudette doesn't have an immediate answer. And when her hesitation is observed, Amanda squeezes her wrist. Claudette begins, "I-... I care about everyone."

Amanda tilts her head in a gesture displaying doubt. Claudette goes on.

"I know what you are and what you've done, but I saw you were hurting. A-And I guess it's just in my nature to try to help people. I used to hurt and I didn't get the help I needed for a long time. I hurt more now, but I have friends who care about me and frequently check up on me. I-I just thought you needed somebody, too."

Amanda remains silent following Claudette's response. But she visibly swallows and slowly turns her head. Then she relinquishes her grip on Claudette's wrist. She raises her hands and grasps the hem of her mask. And surprisingly enough, she removes it completely.

Claudette double-takes. Although having already believed the Pig was more human than many of the other killers, she's... very, human. Long brown tresses, free from the confines of the mask, splay out over Amanda's shoulders. She has pale skin and brown eyes surrounded by dark circles. She looks noticeably unwell. She regards Claudette with sorrow, their eyes locked for what feels like forever. Claudette can't tear her gaze away. There's an unmistakable pain behind those eyes. There's humanity.

Amanda speaks again. Her voice is quiet and shakes. "Do you mean that?"

Claudette nods. "Yes."

Amanda continues to eye her silently before suddenly taking her wrist in her hand again. Her eyes flicker down as she rubs slow circles over Claudette's palm. The strangely intimate gesture only lasts a moment before she quickly relinquishes her grip and pulls back, then stands. She steps away from the couch and replaces her mask on her head. Claudette watches her quizzically, her head tilted. "Why are yo-"

"You passed your test."

Her face concealed again, she faces Claudette and cocks her head in the direction of the door. "Go."

Claudette doesn't move. "Oh. B-But-"

"-Or stay. And we could play a game..."

Claudette's face flushes. "A game-?" Her pulse quickens and her mouth goes dry. "U-Um-,"

When she remains where she is appearing indecisive, Amanda tilts her head.

"Make your choice."


Chapter Text

A quick update regarding my work here:

So, I ended up going offline again and I've since hit a pretty bad writer's block. I'm just juggling a lot of projects and stress and haven't found the drive to sit down and write out something decent to post. I knew I started this collection at a bad time, as home life isn't exactly stable at the moment, but I did it anyway because I'm just so stubborn. I'm hoping I'll get back into the groove of things sometime next month, and be able to update this and get started on a few other written projects I've been outlining. (A reader collection is one such project in the works. Feel free to leave suggestions for that.)

Until then, big thank you to everyone for taking the time to read my work and leave the kudos/nice comments! This collection was actually my first ever time publishing fanfiction, and I'm extremely happy it's gotten all the love it has! It was honestly unexpected and bolstered my confidence in writing. (And I'm sorry I siked you guys out with this chapter! Just needed to give the FYI.)