5th Mar 2021, 4:15 AM

Meet at the Back Room

Meet at the Back Room
"Well," you begin, "I'm glad you both made it out alright. Did... you happen to find out if the red countdown changed...?"

"We never saw a striped room."

Oh.

Oh, damn. That would help explain the bad time.

"We should meet up," you state. "Have breakfast or something. I need details or I'm going to go nuts wondering what happened."

Kate chuckles, taking another puff off her cigarette. "Sure, sure. Meet me at the Back Room, I'm pretty sure this burger place has like... things that aren't burgers. And it was so damn loud last time we could've plotted a fucking bombing and nobody would've--"

She stops; you faintly hear her yell it's a figure of speech, fuck off at a random passerby before returning to the phone. "--Anyway, yeah, just meet me here so you can see this photo."

"Alright," you reply. "See you in a bit."


You pocket your cellphone. You take a deep breath.


There's one more thing you want to do before you leave--you want Kate's mom to give you a reading.


You take a moment to psych yours--

"Are you heading out, Plaire?"





nooo "Yeah," you reply most unnervously, "I'm, uh, meeting Kate at the Back Room."

"Oh!," she says with a big smile. "Tell her I said hi! Did you sleep okay last night?"

"Yeah, I--uh--" get it together doofus "H-Hey, before I go, can I ask you to... uh..."

Several seconds of making a stupid face and vaguely gesturing with your hand while you try and fail to ask in a non-awkward fashion eventually conveys the gist of your request.

"Oh, you want me to check your vibe?," she correctly guesses but jesus christ that was not the wording you were looking for, no

"Y... Yeah."

Ms. Halford approaches you. She takes your hand.

You hold your breath and try not to think. At all.

Hold it in.

Hold it iiiin.

She smiles. Hnnng.

"You're frustrated," she says. "You're overwhelmed."

She has the read. Should you take your hand back? She's still kind of holding your hand but not like, definitively. She's not taking her hand back. You catch yourself starting to look down at your hands but you stop yourself just as you start, which may have made it look like you were trying to look at her boobs but you seriously weren't and now you're worried she's going to (correctly) assume that you're some species of small pervert--

"...Incredibly pent up," she concludes, gently releasing your hand. "You need to find some way to relax or you're going to blow up."

You shake your head. "I don't have time to relax," you state dryly.

Her smile turns into more of a grin. "That must be why you and Kate get along so well--I swear she actually looks for trouble. You both need to take a break once in a while, though."

Hmm. "You didn't sense anything... weird?"

She shakes her head. "Felt perfectly normal to me."


Deep breath.


"...We shook hands when I came over the first time, didn't we?"

Ms. Halford smiles, and nods. She tugs some hair from her eyes. "Yeaaah, sorry about that. There's..." She pauses. It's one of those big I wish there was a normal way to say this but I can't find one pauses, which you have gotten intimately familiar with recently. She finally relents. "...This has always been a weird town--I mean, it's why I decided to stay here--but lately it's gotten..."

"...Weirder?"

"Yeah," she confirms, her smile having steadily drifted away. "There's people I haven't seen in years showing up like they've been in hiding or something... and a lot of faces I don't recognize? Ninelives keeps getting smaller, but..." She sort of trails off. "I know, there's no way I know what everybody in town looks like, sometimes people just go off and do different things, it's weird for me to be suspicious of strangers, buuut--"

"--And to be fair I am actually new to this town," you add, "so you weren't totally off the mark."

Heather cracks a bit of a smile. "I worry about Kate," she says. "She's always involved in something, and it always turns out to be a big something. I guess I was just making sure you weren't a vampire."

You nod. You begin to make your exit,

but something else occurs to you.

"...Speaking of weird," you begin, hiking a thumb back toward "...the bait shop?"

"They do keep some strange hours," she replies. "...But I used to keep hours like that back when I owned a bar, so I get it. It might just be some oldtimers trying to escape their wives--there's nowhere to actually fish around here."

"...Indeed." You push your glasses up a little more dramatically than you probably should have.


Or just enough. "Thanks, Ms. Halford."

"See you later, Plaire!"


The walk back to the bus stop is uneventful, aside from some big-ass birds flying overhead. You also see something roughly frog or lizard sized escape into the dirt as you walk toward it. You give the walk some hustle in an attempt to squeeze a little exercise out of it, but your jog quickly deteriorates into a power walk.

You note that the bait shop is currently closed as you pass it.

WEIRD HOURS INDEED.


On the ride back into town you finish reading your library book. You were hoping the final section would be about how to nurture your slightly sick house back to health, or maybe guide it on its bizarre journey into becoming whatever it is that a house isn't.

It is not that kind of section though.

Instead, the last portion of the book talks about things that can accelerate the madness of a house. ...Things like (just, as an example,) the improper use of magic.

Oh yeah.

Yeah buddy.

More specifically, something as simple as failing to say goodbye when using a ouija board* can leave a house exposed to psychic weirdness, further deteriorating its... psyche. Broken circles, misdrawn sigils or mispoken spells, or magic being used against its design (you're not even sure what that one means) can render a house more vulnerable to the kind of thing that freaks out houses.

*Failing to properly close a ouija board session can actually cause a LOT of problems, and the book is pretty serious about ouija board safety

So, in conclusion: helping your house would mean learning what the hell you're doing with all this dream stuff, in addition to needing more furniture. It's a shame all this magic bullshit would probably get you arrested--otherwise it'd be a pretty easy topic for videos.

Videos that you still need to make.

Preferably today.

Overwhelmed indeed.


The bus pulls up to the strip; you thank Cherry and cross the parking lot to the Back Room.






"There she is!," Marlow declares.

He slides a photograph across the counter as you approach--like, an actual photograph, out of a camera. "Found this diggin' through the ol' family pictures."

Kate points at the photo. "Check this shit out."


It appears to be a family photo, taken in a library around Halloween. It's not the library Cici works at; you can only assume it's the old library. Pictured in the photo are, in no particular order:


• A (slightly) younger Marlow Tuck, whose Halloween costume that year was a set of normal, everyday clothes--but with a plastic alien rigged to look like it was bursting out of his chest;

• What you would guess is his wife, dressed like a scarecrow;

• Their daughter, who looks like she was in her early teens when the photo was taken; she's dressed as a vampire, and

• Her little brother(?), whose costume is that of the protagonist from a shonen anime you're aware of but have never actually watched.


You're not... exactly sure what you're looking for here.

You look up at Marlow and Kate, confused; as if anticipating your reaction, Kate gestures for you to look a second time. "There's five people in that photo."

You look again.

. . .

You don't see any other people in the--


OH.


oh shit you're staring right at her


She's in the background. She doesn't really blend in but your eye is naturally drawn away from her. A tall and thin young woman with freckles and tan lines, and wild hair you would describe as... eh, maybe dirty blonde?

She appears to have realized she's been caught in the picture; she's smiling awkwardly and waving at the camera with one hand,

putting a book back on the shelf with the other.

She also has a name tag, but she's too far back and the picture quality's too poor to make out what it says.


For Halloween she was dressed as a witch. Pointy hat, the whole nine.

"That's her," Marlow remarks. "That's the old librarian."

Old feels wrong to say; she doesn't look much older than you in the photo. The previous librarian. You don't recognize her at all, and you're pretty sure you would remember this face. There's something about her eyes that you just can't quite put into words--even in this blurry photograph, her eyes convey... something, something... off.

Kate actually sums it up better than you could. "She looks like she's seen some shit, huh?"

"Yeah," you mutter.


Seen some shit indeed.


Average Rating: 5 (1 vote)
Load my Place Save my Place


5th Mar 2021, 4:37 AM
The Beardman Cometh!
Oh DAMN

OK, does Marlowe know anything more about her? Have we already asked that of him? And did we already discuss vampire possibilities with Kate's Mum, or did she bring that up herself?

- Get dream deets from Kate for sure
- Food. Inside the tummy. Needed.
- Ask if Cici is OK
- Make vids, but that can happen later and is already on the agenda
5th Mar 2021, 6:05 AM
Gigafreak
...Maybe notify Kate that we shook her mom's hand last time and found out she can read minds that way this time...
...Or maybe not, since that would just make this weirder. ...Weirder than it has to be, anyway. This place and this mess is weird enough already.
5th Mar 2021, 10:38 AM
Snervalton
+1 to all of the above. Also, ask Kate if she has any mental powers similar to her mother's.
5th Mar 2021, 6:10 PM
Limrix
+1, and ask Ezra if he has any advice on dealing with haunted things. He does have the dolls after all.
5th Mar 2021, 4:41 AM
BiscuitCookie
So considering we have Plaire specifically have this happen to her the same day she notices the weirdness of the baitshop.
What if there is somewhere to fish except something also causes a lake or river (more likely a lake) to not be noticed?
5th Mar 2021, 10:40 AM
Snervalton
Or maybe there's an underground lake? Marlow told us when we first met that some strange things happen in the old mines in this town.
5th Mar 2021, 3:28 PM
Pkrankow
A fishing pond can easily be hidden by a privacy fence. A hundred feet of fence can easily hide several acres of land from a particular viewpoint.
5th Mar 2021, 5:07 PM
Snervalton
Maybe so, but wouldn't a fence like that be kind of expensive? Seems like it would be out of place in a poor neighborhood like that.
5th Mar 2021, 5:30 AM
Cass
vampire baitshop vampire baitshop!!!
5th Mar 2021, 5:39 AM
Cuttlefish
Kia ora, I'm back from the depths after dropping off near the end of BiM due to life stuff. I've finally caught up to date - thanks for another incredible story so far Morgenstern!
5th Mar 2021, 8:07 AM
AlphaExile
So...What are the odds that the old librarian is now the mayor?
5th Mar 2021, 1:11 PM
lapdragon
What are the odds that the previous librarian is still living in our house?
She apparently has the ability to fail to be seen - what if she's dropped this whole whammy on the house?
5th Mar 2021, 5:18 PM
Tep
What are the odds she's in the attic?
5th Mar 2021, 8:45 AM
psychoshen
I think we should discuss dream details and recording equipment over breakfast with Kate and Marlow (assuming he's not working at the moment). If he is working and Ezra let's him step away, make sure to thank Ezra and maybe let him know the ring came in very handy. I'm sure he'd be pleased to know his treasured possession found a good home.
5th Mar 2021, 10:32 AM
The Beardman Cometh!
5th Mar 2021, 10:52 AM
Snervalton
+1. Invite Marlow over to do the recording and maybe to stay the night to experience the dream if he wants to. Ask him if he has any tips on how to de-haunt a house, how to use magic "properly" and stuff like that.
5th Mar 2021, 11:12 AM
undeadDreamer
It occurs to me that Ezra might also know some magic stuff that might be useful. Also +1 to talking with Marlow for a bit.
5th Mar 2021, 12:19 PM
5th Mar 2021, 1:51 PM
5th Mar 2021, 2:21 PM
5th Mar 2021, 6:12 PM
7th Mar 2021, 7:24 AM
5th Mar 2021, 10:55 AM
Snervalton
Ask Marlow if he could help us communicate with the last owner of the house who died inside it. Having your body explode would probably be a strong enough life event to create a ghost. Talking to that ghost first-hand would probably give us more reliable information than that sketchy reporter guy ever could.
5th Mar 2021, 3:43 PM
BloodyPaladin
Talking to ghosts seem like a terrible idea for house and mental health. Information is power though so... Yes to ghost, no to inevitable Ouija suggestion on all grounds. In fact if one is found in Spooky House you should frisbee it into the nearest sewer with extreme haste.
5th Mar 2021, 10:57 AM
Snervalton
Ask Kate about the list of names in her trailer. Why in the hell did that one name have two checkmarks?
5th Mar 2021, 10:57 AM
Snervalton
Take a photo of Marlow's library photo with Plaire's phone.
5th Mar 2021, 12:20 PM
Lunar Waffles
want to test of the "spell" works with photo clones?
5th Mar 2021, 12:26 PM
Snervalton
That's a good idea too, but I was thinking we could ask other people around town if they recognize her.
5th Mar 2021, 6:12 PM
6th Mar 2021, 1:55 AM
7th Mar 2021, 7:24 AM
5th Mar 2021, 2:10 PM
BJBlack
About this photo... Ask how old it is. You could use an approximate age for the former librarian and her yet-to-be-seen sister. Also, although you've basically concluded that the librarian bought two Dream Rings, it would be nice if Ezra could positively identify the librarian as the buyer.

(I theorize that Player's pen-pal in the dream is the sister, aged 5-15, and "Nat" is the librarian.)
5th Mar 2021, 2:34 PM
5th Mar 2021, 5:19 PM
Tep
5th Mar 2021, 6:11 PM
6th Mar 2021, 1:52 AM
confusedMage
7th Mar 2021, 7:25 AM
5th Mar 2021, 2:29 PM
BJBlack
"We never saw a striped room."

That's curious. The two striped rooms are spawn locations (bed & couch); that means they probably spawned in the starting room, with the flooding and the puzzle door.

(Would Kate remember the code, or would Kate + Cici bash the door down?)

Or they spawned somewhere completely different. Can't rule that out.

... Well, the details are forthcoming. No need to speculate too much.
6th Mar 2021, 9:00 AM
As a software engineering student I can confirm that improper spelling and/or use of magic can and most certainly will cause a lot of damage.
6th Mar 2021, 12:01 PM
undeadDreamer
...Plaire. We've come to a disturbing conclusion. Multiple people visited and assigned meaning to the old library. Now it's still there and nobody uses it as a library. A witch was the librarian. You may want to consider the possibility that we also have a haunted library on our hands.
6th Mar 2021, 4:32 PM
Crestlinger
*The bus pulls up to the strip; 'you thank Cherry' and cross the parking lot to the Back Room.*

Good, closed the loop on the bus at least.

Time to write stuff down! Everything! Before it fades itself!
6th Mar 2021, 4:39 PM
Pacifist Weird Child
Um.

Hedge.

Ask about the double accomplice experience, now that we're here. Also tell Kate her mom said hi.
7th Mar 2021, 7:23 AM
lilWitchPepper
Consider saying 'I'm home' when you get home, to remind the house that is a home and you're it's resident.
7th Mar 2021, 9:03 AM
BloodyPaladin
Incredibly silly im all for it. +1
7th Mar 2021, 9:50 AM
BJBlack
+1. Just because the ritual wouldn't be a magic ritual, doesn't mean it wouldn't be effective. It might also help Player's outlook, insofar as she may currently consider it "the demon shack that's trying to murder me" rather than her home.
7th Mar 2021, 10:12 AM
7th Mar 2021, 1:42 PM
37212513
I feel like I'll regret this if I don't mention it. As always, no way to know what lore our author has chosen to go with until the secrets have been reviled, however!... he did mention broken magic circles in this page, and spells cast against their nature. Call me syco if you must, there are reasons we who deal with mystic force tend to keep quiet, but I'll sense no one else mentioned anything on these topics, I'll share what I know. Spell circles rarely are required to actually use magic as magic is nothing more than force of will over energy controlled by focus, mind. Spell circles and runes help reduce the stress of the effort, but are almost worthless on their own, like an RC Car without batteries. So why would broken circles be dangerous? Magic and programming have a lot in common, surprisingly. Provide power to an incomplete program without proper guidance, especially one with a leak, and you've created a disaster. Spells are code, circles are circuit boards to take some of the load off, and like bad code, bad casting can cause corruption in the neighboring database (surrounding area). Broken circles can cast off radiation like effects, some harmless like fm signal interference, some as bad as gamma leaks, but only if powered. Those with a natural gift for magic tend to be drawn to laylines, natural flows of power throughout our world. Some of the strongest and strangest places of power are built on places where laylines intersect for the greatest effect. Stonehedge in a minor example. Laylines arn't the only way to power a circle, or any other conduit for that matter. One power source known to trump them all, is life, and we can only lose so much life force before our bond to the mortal coil breaks. Tick Tock....