23rd Aug 2021, 1:02 AM

Small talk your way to the bathroom

Small talk your way to the bathroom

Deep breath.

Don't freak out. You're fine.

Everything's fine.

You discreetly wipe some of the blood from above your lip, then begin to navigate through the crowd of people you're as of recently more or less acquainted with.

Ezra's here, talking to Maria's dad.

"How's it going?"

"Fantastic!," says Ezra. "Mr. Emperatriz has agreed to assist me in bringing you that coffee table sometime tomorrow in exchange for a few items from my bottlecap collection."

Maria's dad nods. He helpfully pointed out earlier that Casa de la Salamandra might be more accurate than Casa del Salamandra.

"Th-thanks," you reply.

You wanted to invite Maria, but she was out when you visited the grocery store; you asked her dad to let her know about the potluck, but... well, still no Maria. Has he not seen her since then? You didn't even think about it, let alone ask, but--apparently like half your brain has been in another dimension all day.

You keep moving.

Bebe turns as you approach. "Giiirl I always thought potlucks would be lame, but this has been a blast! Good job, Plaire!"

Bebe and a friend of hers, whose name you sort of caught but she has a bit of an accent and it was loud in here and you would have felt like a huge asshole asking her to repeat it? So you've been hanging back and hoping her name just happens to casually drop in an unrelated conversation--

"Hey," says Lagi.

Lagi, who caught you off guard just by showing up but, as you should have remembered if you hadn't been in a fog Lagi IS Afu's older brother, it makes sense that Afu would invite him, and Lagi seemed surprised to see you so it's likely Afu didn't tell him exactly what it was, or underestimated how quickly you would get into contact with Lagi after Kate scored you his number.

Afu and Lagi's mom waves at you. You wave back. She is also here.

Either they have a really cool relationship with their mom, or this was unplanned and some hijinx ensued in the Afu/Lagi household. You learned her name quite clearly when she and Afu arrived, but you have forgotten it like a big idiot.

And the... uhhh

you actually blank a little on the last guest, currently chatting with Cici.

The uniform.

Furniture & Whatnot.

She was the employee that helped you find the flasks.

Yes. Her. That one.

You remember her, uh


and definitely remember the context of her being here.

. . .

Hmmmmnope you're full of shit, you actually have no recollection of talking to her post-flask acquisition. Brain, why are you like this

You unleash both a soft throat clearing and a suggestive head motion to Cici. She politely excuses herself from what definitely sounds like a conversation about anime (Furniture & Whatnot Girl's suggestions aren't bad but... they could be better) to open your bedroom door and guide you in.

Cici hazards one glance back to make sure nothing's going to explode in the living room before she follows.

. . .

Oh, right--Ezra, understanding the importance of both a ghost hunt and a potluck at your house in particular, let Marlow off work early so he could get things sorted. Afu arrived with his mom and has been helping Marlow set up the business. Marlow's wife--

ooooooh you do remember that pretty clearly, Mrs. Tuck is a little sassy and while you get the impression she does trust her husband (even with a house full of young ladies), she also knows that having his wife hanging around him all night would--well--the words she used were "bust his balls a little"

Marlow's been in good spirits, though, and in a brief moment where his wife was distracted he revealed he actually likes it when she comes along for ghost stuff, she's just not really into... well, ghost stuff. If it's something fun like a haunted zoo or a haunted nightclub (or a haunted potluck), she's eager to tag along, but otherwise Marlow can't get her excited about the paranormal.

The three of them, hearing the door open, turn toward you and Cici. Cici shuts the door behind her.

"We're about done setting up," Marlow begins. "I had to do some manual adjustments, since your house, it... well. I mean this in a technical way, but your house has weird energy."

You give a passing one moment finger on your way into the bathroom; crossing the crowded living room has sucked all the energy out of your body and you don't feel like trying to come up with a short, secret-keeping-type excuse for all present. Cici clarifies on your behalf. "We might have more weird going on."

"Afu?," Marlow asks.

"Yeah," he replies.

You don't see what ensues in terms of motions and signals, as you are grabbing toilet paper and dealing with your nosebleed, but you do hear some muttering and about two people walk out after presumably acknowledging this is either out of their depth or outside their interest, respectively. With a wad of tissue shoved halfway into one nostril, you walk back out to just Cici and Marlow.

"I've been in another fucking dimension since we talked at the library," you blurt out.

"Yeah," Cici concurs, "you have seemed kinda out of it--"

"NonolikeI--" you interject, "I have literally had some significant fraction of my mind existing in another reality for the back half of today." ... Given a small, shocked silence from the room, you clarify a bit. "Okay, literally might not be a word that applies here because I think the whole place was constructed out of allegories and feelings and shit, and it might not have been a whole reality at all, it might have been between two of them. ...But part of my brain was there while the rest of it was in the real world."

To your slight surprise, Marlow's the first to respond. "...So you only projected part of your mind, and only got part of the way to your destination?"

Cici joins you in stopping to stare at Marlow.

He gives a small shrug. "I've read a thing or two about astral projection. What you're describing's new, but the logic sounds pretty solid."

He's not wrong; you didn't fall asleep, per se, but if Darkness was right you might have disassociated, which probably switches around at least a few similar parts of the brain. Given all the arbitrary rules and odd... er... design choices in this entire dream world powers system, it wouldn't be too out there for the house to think ah, she's having an episode, that's basically 15% of a sleep. The only catch is...

"I wasn't in the house for a lot of today, though," you mutter, checking your bloody tissue. "I wasn't even in the house when this started, we were at the library. Like, the new one, the one Cici works at. Normally I can fall asleep all the way outside my house and not go into the dream world, why did wigging out today take any of me outside my body?"

"New library's haunted," Marlow suggests.

"I'd have noticed, thank you," Cici replies. "Trust me, I've heard a looot of rumors and I have a looot of free time. I'd have found SOMEthing!," she says, before turning her attention to you. "Maybe you're learning how to do the thing without the house! Wait, what happened to the you that was halfway there, then?"

There's a tinge of concern in her question that punches you right in the chest. It takes you a second to realize she might be afraid you ended up where she and Kate did, in the dream proper but outside the dome. You quickly clear it up.

"It was dark," you begin, "not just visually, but like... I don't even think I had a body when I first woke up." You try to tell the story quickly, as there is still a potluck going on in the living room--but it's a lot of ground to cover, and several times you have to pause because you genuinely struggle to recall the events. It feels like they happened to someone else, at times, while other moments you remember better than anything that happened to your actual... you. You manage to cover the basics, though--the Grandiose Paradoxes, Human Survival Instinct, the Between, the Choir, the fact that you were unceremoniously one-shotted by the alleged weakest member of the trio--

"But why try to take the HAT?," Cici finally asks.

"Dunno," you reply. "It seemed funny at the time? It just kind of popped into my head? I thought maybe if I could hold onto the hat while I got knocked out, I could see if it came back to the real world with me."

"The Theory of Human Survival Instinct," Marlow mutters.

"You've heard of it...?" You remember Marlow being familiar with the work of Dr. Leopold Finch, so you had hoped he might know something about this.

Marlow gives a short nod. "When he was starting to become a big deal, Finch was invited to a few scientific conferences. Rarely the same place more than once, 'cause his talks were always wild, but he did give some talks and a few managed to get streamed. One of those talks was about..." He pauses, smiles a little, trying to word it correctly. "Okay, so in science fiction humans are always average, right? Or in fantasy, or in... anything. Dwarves are tougher, orcs are stronger, elves are more dexterous. Aliens are always smarter, or they live forever, or they bleed acid or... something. Something. Humans are never magic and never the most advanced. We're never the best at anything. We're just kinda there.

But--if you believe in aliens, or that elves are real and just in another dimension, or what have you--hell, even if you don't believe in all that, think about evolution, all the other animals in existence and how our brains work and all the horrible stuff we've invented, and ask yourself--how the hell are we still here? Top o' the food chain, haven't bombed ourselves to death or burnt out the sky, haven't been conquered by anything from another world. Mankind lives despite everything."

"I mean," you chuckle dryly, "not for lack of trying. Mankind lives despite mankind."

"Exactly!," says Marlow with a point. "Right now, I can guarantee somebody's got a weapon that could wreck the whole world. Radiation and prevailing westerlies, that's all it takes. There's been so many egomaniacs, and zealots, and general lunatics to pass their finger across the button, but--here we are. That's one threat out of... I dunno, billions, maybe countless. Asteroids, gamma rays... evolving viruses, big-ass solar flares, black holes. We're past due for a shift in the magnetic poles, I hear. Dr. Finch put down two reasons for this: one, extraterrestrials might be keepin' us alive for a lot of the same reasons chickens are doing so well."

Cici squints. "Aliens are taking our eggs...?"

"Not--" Marlow has to keep from laughing, "not that, necessarily--"

"Fuck," you add, unashamed to laugh about it, "they're turning us all into flaky, crispy sandwiches."

Marlow sighs, fighting back the grin, and continues. "There's all kinds of... chemicals and energies and god-knows-what that are pretty unique to humans. Now imagine not all aliens are meat-based, or even carbon-based, or even three dimensional and it's easy to picture a universe where Earth is basically the farm that farms itself."

You point out, "We'd notice if aliens showed up every time we're about to blow ourselves up, though."

"Right," agrees Marlow, "which is where Finch's second idea comes in: the Human Survival Instinct. Short version: all humans are tied to a collective unconscious that goes into alert mode when we're about to extinct ourselves. One person alone can't see the full domino effect that could lead to something like that happening, but all sapient minds on the planet working together without realizing it? We'd be damn near psychic. All it'd take is one gut feeling or a random decision to go left instead of right, and after that the butterfly effect kicks in and bam, humanity saved."

"So humankind is invincible," you jest. "I can stop worrying about climate change."

"Well... no, not yet," Marlow chuckles. "Dr. Finch also speculated it might start failing us--technology's moving faster than evolution, and it's a biological function, not a magic spell. Given time we could figure out a way to kill ourselves even the Survival Instinct can't stop until it's too late. ...Then you take into account all the scientists out there trying to make things that are almost human, but not quite--"

"Hey now," Cici rapidly interjects.

Marlow puts his hands up quickly. "No, I don't mean clones or genetically engineered people like WE'RE familiar with, I'm talking much stranger. People are editing their own genes on livestreams and printing little monsters with stuff they bought online, and don't get me started on what the next big bioweapons look like. I'm sorry if this comes out wrong, but--"

He hesitates, visibly.

Cici is bracing, visibly.

Marlow, seeming to recognize that no Survival Instinct will save him should he choose his next words poorly, instead holds up an index finger.

"Plaire," he says quickly, "can I borrow your internet for a second?"

You also hesitate. "...Ssssure."

He keeps that finger skyward until he reaches your computer, where he quickly opens a browser, navigates to a video uploading website quite familiar to you, and does a quick search. He brings up a video. He maximizes the window.

You see a man in a suit. You don't recognize the man; he looks like... every single pale old male politician thrown into a blender and left to melt in the sun for two weeks. He's doing an interview in front of the national capitol, all but confirming he is in fact a pale old male politician.

The man states, quite clearly in response to an unheard question, "...We must confront the truth, that attempts to grow the perfect worker with modern science have mostly lead to disappointment. There were a number of unexpected legal hurdles. Lab grown assets have under-performed in every field. Some of the best people I know are working on the next stage, though--it's a marathon, not a sprint, and I am confident that with more of these projects being taken into the private sector where there are fewer restrictions and a freer flow of ideas, the lab-grown workers of tomorrow will be more dedicated to their roles, more consistent at staying on task and less contentious--"

"Who is he?," Cici asks in her normal cheerful tone but much, much louder.

"Keaton Scott," Marlow replies, stopping the video. "Cheatin' Keaton's our current Secretary of Commerce--before that, he was Attorney General of Misuschaqua. Sixteen federal investigations just during that period, and he skated by on all of 'em. Assholes like that are mad that you are a human being," he says to Cici. "Think about the words he used--more dedicated to their roles. The engineered are quittin' the jobs they were 'made' for left and right--striking out on their own and doing their own thing, and that's bad for the bottom line. Corporations rigged the game from the start, but y'all are winning anyway... so they're trying to push it farther. They want to use the same process to make something less capable of making its own decisions. They tried to stop you with laws and contracts, and that didn't work, so now they want to cut sapience itself right out at the source. There's companies right now trying to build something only pseudo-human out of human DNA, like a brain dead golem or a... a meat robot."

Jesus Christ.

"He didn't just say cops, either," you mutter as you stare at Keaton Scott's gruesome lich face. "Or even soldiers, he said workers. ...Even non-engineered workers have been demanding better pay, cheaper medical and shit like that, and it's been an uphill battle the whole damn time. Fuck giving workers what they deserve when you can just replace them, right?"

Marlow nods. "I'm old enough to remember the whole plan being pitched as supercops, stronger and faster than your normal police... but a lot of people saw which way the wind was blowing from day one. AI's been kind of a crapshoot so robots are out, and replacing all the workers with genetically engineered people... well, it turns out they're still got dang people. The fellas at the top won't be satisfied until they have workers that'll never quit, workers that won't ask for raises, workers--"

"--That don't dream," Cici finally states. "...I get it. I mean, I don't get it-get it 'cuz it's terrible and crazy, but I get that it's going on. They want more muscle and fewer brains."

You adjust your glasses. Mull it over for a moment. "...And if the Human Survival Instinct is in the brain..."

"Then we'd be screwed, as a species," Marlow affirms. "That generation of engineered folks would be blind spots in the collective unconscious... and you can bet your ass they'd sell like hotcakes, too. I think Leo Finch gets a little carried away sometimes, but he's been right on enough so far that, uh, I'm not comfortable gambling on him being wrong about this. Even if he IS wrong, it all still bodes real badly for workers' rights and tube people rights and... hell, human rights, ALL of 'em."

"The Grandiose Paradoxes were definitely talking like the Survival Instinct is real," you point out. "Like, name-dropped Dr. Finch and everything. My only question is... what the fuck is the Choir, then?"

A brief pause.

Marlow shrugs. "Truth be told, I don't remember him mentioning any Choirs. It HAS been a minute since I watched those talks, though."

"Are you sure you even have it?," Cici asks. "Just because those three were hanging out between dimensions don't mean they're right about anything."

"I..." you pause.

Hoo boy will this be something to try and explain

"...Yeah," you finally conclude. "My mind was kind of... stripped down in there. I could hear the... they're not voices, but like, concepts. Ideas. Urges. Suggestions. It all blends in with mine--none of it's telling me to like, burn the house down or anything, and the ones that feel more off also feel the weakest, if that makes any sense. It'd be indistinguishable from my own brain if it wasn't for like--"

You hesitate, because this is about to sound even more questionable than hearing voices already does, but--

"--I... I think they might remember things I don't. There's some... vague, passing familiarity with the previous ally of the Choir that I... I don't know if I just can't access it myself or if I'm fucking AFRAID to because god only knows what happens if I just dive in and crowdsurf this weird fucking hivemind, but they know something, and now I'm looking back at all of our problems remembering shit--like the back door, and I'm wondering if that wasn't the Choir helping somehow. Or the girl in the photo--would I have seen her without the Choir, or would I have struggled like Ezra did? Like... I don't know. I don't know shit about fuck. I don't know what it is and I don't know who they are."

"Sounds like a positive to me!," Cici replies. "We've got enough freaky stuff to fight, if some other freaky stuff wants to help I say let 'em. As long as they're not trying to take over your body or anything, don't worry about it!"

"Could just be another feature of the house," Marlow suggests. "It keeps secrets, it projects your mind to another world... can't say I'd be surprised if it boosts your brain power, too. Maybe it's giving you cleaner access to the collective unconscious, or maybe all those ideas you're getting are actually yours, just bigger and better put than you're used to thinking them. ...Or it's an alien presence acting like your own ideas to lull your into a fall sense of security, I don't know."

Cici gives him a stern glare.

Marlow puts his hands back up. "I said I don't know! I'm just trying to cover all the bases here."

Average Rating: 5 (3 votes)
Load my Place Save my Place

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23rd Aug 2021, 1:21 PM
o7 One small thought for a man, a few billions saved for mankind.
25th Aug 2021, 9:13 AM
Another Guest
I just want to say, your Theory of Human Survival Instinct is awesome :)
26th Aug 2021, 5:54 PM
The concept of this "Human Survival Instinct" seems familiar...
23rd Aug 2021, 1:48 AM
Do we try to fall back into the swing of what everyone was up to on this side of reality? If I recall, some of this was to actually attempt to relax. Maybe that idea's shot. But it's a party, after all. I think a lot of our more pressing concerns are definitely "later," problems, if only by a few hours.

(Also, loved this update -- Marlow's probably one of my favorites, lately.)
23rd Aug 2021, 2:21 AM
Portal In Time
Yep! We're the hostess of a whole get-together, let's try and keep things going smoothly. I reckon we've been in the bedroom for a good while, let's ask Cici for a refresher on everyone at the party and get back to business!
23rd Aug 2021, 5:52 AM
Lunar Waffles
+1 to re-getting the forgotten names, relaxing, and trying to enjoy the party.
23rd Aug 2021, 2:11 PM
+1, we've got pots to luck and people to talk to while fully awake this time. See if we ever actually invited Maria, and do so if not.
23rd Aug 2021, 11:59 PM
+1 - go eat some proper food (assuming we haven't already on autopilot)
25th Aug 2021, 10:11 AM
Another Guest
(same, Marlow brings some very nice to know worldbuilding :) )

+1, we will have a Dream night after the potluck, and the potluck is already happening, better to take care of it, then we can discuss more about betweeny issues.
25th Aug 2021, 7:47 PM
23rd Aug 2021, 1:53 AM
... Oh right 'Scuse me but I've got to go beat down Hunger with a monkey wrench real quick.
"Defective choir" my ass...
23rd Aug 2021, 2:04 AM
Hehe :3
23rd Aug 2021, 4:47 AM
For real
23rd Aug 2021, 3:36 PM
True facts. What the hell is defective about us? We helped out Mine just fine!
...At least until the end where we wanted her to do anything BUT the main story quest... but I digress.
23rd Aug 2021, 9:42 PM
Eh, wouldn't say that. We were doing all the last minute side quests before the boss to be fully powered up to curbstomp the bastard.
Still technically everything but the main story quest but it was the last one before the end of the game and pretty much everyone knew it.
23rd Aug 2021, 2:02 AM
Well, Plaire, not to be contrary or anything, and I love you punkin', but I feel obligated to tell you to burn the house down now. >_>

...Mostly. <3
23rd Aug 2021, 3:55 AM
Pssst... hey Plaire... burn it alllllllllll
23rd Aug 2021, 4:59 AM
actually wanna +1 this

if we gave her a "hehe burn the house down... just kidding, don't" idea, it might indicate that we have a sense of humor
funny either way
23rd Aug 2021, 5:50 AM
Lunar Waffles
okay, 1, we have guests over, 2, that's highly unlikely to work, 3, it might trigger some kind of wrath from the house. so i dont think its funny even as a joke. -1
23rd Aug 2021, 8:16 AM
ok thats fair
I'd delete my comment but

cant login at all v_v

so I'll give myself a -1 to balance it out lol
23rd Aug 2021, 9:02 AM
Well, maybe not pretending to actually want her to burn the house down, but I do think projecting sarcasm to Plaire could be a good thing. Sarcasm is her native language much more than sincerity.
23rd Aug 2021, 9:39 AM
Lunar Waffles
true, but i cant think of any good way to do it o-o
23rd Aug 2021, 11:25 AM
oh my god I was going to suggest that too if I didn't se it in the comments 😂
was also going to suggest we unionize for better hivemind pay and rights
23rd Aug 2021, 3:39 PM
How would she even pay us if we're just in her head? And what rights do we even have/need? Just roll with what we've got, we're already, technically, uninvited guests to her brainspace after all.
24th Aug 2021, 1:01 AM
"What do we want?" "HUGS AND COOKIES!" "When do we want them?!" "AFTER A NICE NAP!!" 😂
24th Aug 2021, 5:13 PM
The idea of a disembodied voice asking for cookies is very funny to me, so +1 to that and -1 to house burning
23rd Aug 2021, 1:09 PM
23rd Aug 2021, 1:38 PM
Annoshow 1.1: You should (not) burn your house down.
23rd Aug 2021, 11:56 PM
Burn it all to ashes /s
25th Aug 2021, 10:16 AM
Another Guest

I'm seriously torn between a sarcastic "burn the house down, sure that would help" and a "we want to unionize!" as a joke... but seriously, let's leave stuff that can understood as threatening or scary for once she's more confortable with us? Plaire has a lot on her table, and seriously does not know us yet to get jokes or sarcasm.

But hold those thoughts for once we are between again :D
23rd Aug 2021, 2:03 AM
Observe the apparati on the walls. At least one is Marlow's, I think it safe to say. Could the other be something that the house has revealed? Perhaps that's too much to hope for already.
23rd Aug 2021, 2:13 AM
+1 Either way it's interesting stoofs.
23rd Aug 2021, 8:21 AM
probably both Marlow's tools, but the thing on the drawer, and the square thing beside the door are both new

and the thing beside the door might be like
*installed*, which means that's unlikely to be Marlow's
23rd Aug 2021, 1:39 PM
We can probably wait until people go home to do this
23rd Aug 2021, 2:18 AM
Portal In Time
Let's bombard Plaire with some positive vibes and help subconsciously ease her worries about us, things are fine when it comes to The Choir!

No clue if that's how direct Choir Communication works, but it's worth a shot!

(EDIT: This wasn't meant to be a way to artificially change her mental state. It's to have the choir collectively give her a "thumbs up" when it comes to her talking about our priorities with her.)
23rd Aug 2021, 10:21 AM
23rd Aug 2021, 1:10 PM
23rd Aug 2021, 3:41 PM
+1, maybe even send some cat pics, it worked for Mine
23rd Aug 2021, 4:32 PM
Portal In Time that's creepy as hell. No brainwashing Plaire to be fine with us.
23rd Aug 2021, 7:20 PM
Portal In Time
Doesn't seem too different from your own suggestion, it just has less direct communication to show our intent and/or vibe.
29th Aug 2021, 7:29 AM
I'm telling plaire things and leaving her to form her own opinions and feelings about it. You want to directly pump feelings into her brain.
25th Aug 2021, 10:43 AM
Another Guest
I would give a +1 if Plaire could clearly recognize things that come from her and things that come from the Choir. At this point phrases and direct communication are easier to recognize as "Choir Bubbles" than vibes, so I'm -1ing this by now.

But definitively is a good idea once Plaire has a better understanding of Choir support. :)
23rd Aug 2021, 2:51 AM
Given we've been out of it for so long, we could use 'I was half-dissociating in another dimension' as an excuse to ask Cici and Marlow for the names of the people we don't remember the names of.
23rd Aug 2021, 5:16 AM
+1 this
23rd Aug 2021, 8:12 AM
Good plan
23rd Aug 2021, 9:22 AM
23rd Aug 2021, 4:33 PM
23rd Aug 2021, 11:00 PM
Good idea
24th Aug 2021, 5:11 PM
+1 I feel like that will help ease the awkwardness a bit?
25th Aug 2021, 10:19 AM
Another Guest
27th Aug 2021, 1:19 PM
23rd Aug 2021, 3:07 AM
Hey! Choir here! We used to help a friend of Dr.Finch's. We can help you overcome mental blocks by thinking about things you're not able to think about FOR you and we like to make helpful suggestions or just urge you to overcome your anxieties. We're friends, and we're here to help.
23rd Aug 2021, 3:10 AM
23rd Aug 2021, 4:48 AM
I dont think that specific meta stuff works that well but +1
23rd Aug 2021, 5:46 AM
Lunar Waffles
+1 also, if we could, we would give you all the platonic comforting hugs your parents clearly never gave you -.-
23rd Aug 2021, 10:21 AM
23rd Aug 2021, 12:00 PM
Also, if you feel the urge to hug everyone, that's on us, we're weird like that.

Darn it why is that weird.
23rd Aug 2021, 12:44 PM
hecc I'll get on this +1 bus,
maybe it could work!

I've already given a headsup on my own comment below, so this is great
23rd Aug 2021, 1:40 PM
+1, we can maybe talk some other day during some meditation or something.
23rd Aug 2021, 3:42 PM
+1 and lots of hugs!!! :D
25th Aug 2021, 10:19 AM
Another Guest
Now that we're outside the between, I don't think if this is going to help much now, but eh, +1, it's worth a shot.
27th Aug 2021, 1:20 PM
All the +1s.
23rd Aug 2021, 4:48 AM
(My comicfury account seems to just not like logging in here)

We can take a second, drink some water, take a breath

then maybe ask Cici to help us host a potluck because we've never done that before (and also this chorister has no idea how potlucks go, don't really have those where I "live")

if we got time to ourselves, we can try to learn more about the Choir, maybe talk with Ezra, maybe good ol notGoogle, will be hard though because "The Choir" is absolute garbage search keyword.

We could ask Marlow about the equipment he brought in.

Besides that, we just gotta host the potluck, take a few breathers once in a while, few drinks of water, and then come back out. Plaire will need to pace herself, she has anxiety and is likely an introvert, even with the Choir boost, I definitely don't wanna bruteforce "wellness" into her, that's probably not how it works, but if it is, I don't wanna cause negative repercussions to her
23rd Aug 2021, 4:53 AM
(bro I really can't even edit my comment wtf lol)

I still dunno if direct communication is possible, but hey, worth a shot
Plaire, I just wanted to add, uhh, the other choristers are very enthusiastic about The Choir just being here to help. We are, but the subconscious ideas of 'Choir good! Don't worry about it!" might be suspicious, so this chorister is just giving you a headsup
23rd Aug 2021, 5:48 AM
Lunar Waffles
+1 XD
23rd Aug 2021, 8:19 AM
(I feel your pain on the login stuff)

Might be better searching for unusual medical studies on mental health, but I don't have key words. "The Choir" will not likely help as a search term in general.
24th Aug 2021, 5:09 PM
+1 to research and asking for help. I suggest looking up "the choir Dr. finch" or "the choir Edison Tesla Faraday" or "the choir darkness hunger and haunt"?
25th Aug 2021, 10:21 AM
Another Guest
+1 to take a second and host the potluck with Cici, once it's over, some Choir research should be good - maybe there are more Choirs around, or others who have access to a Choir and can give advice about it for Plaire?
23rd Aug 2021, 8:56 AM
We're not here to take your body, Plaire. I mean, we do sometimes self identify as a collective version of you referring to you as we and stuff, but honestly, not nearly as often as we did that for the last one!

Which is probably... Good? It means you have a stronger personality of your own, maybe? Or that we identify less readily with you which is maybe bad. Or good! It's all very simple and definitely a net positive, probably.
23rd Aug 2021, 9:16 AM
Lunar Waffles
+1 we're basically just as confused as you are, a little less so because we have some background in non-human stuff. but more or less, about in the same ballpark of confusion XD
23rd Aug 2021, 1:45 PM
Even the choirs running on !chan boards are more helpful than not, and this one is much better than those.
25th Aug 2021, 10:23 AM
Another Guest
"We aren't here to take your body, but we do a bit that may be interpreted by a worried Choir-wielder (Choir-supported? Choir-blessed? Choir-crowd thumbs upped?) as that yes we are!" does not sound like something we should say to her : p

So, -1 : p
23rd Aug 2021, 10:23 AM
Choir here:
Contact Dr. Finch. Tell him the goddess's choir sent you.
23rd Aug 2021, 1:43 PM
I'm in on pinging Finch, but we should be a little more subtle so as to not set off the anti-magic/Fed alerts. Maybe something like: Hey, I suddenly felt like I should write you a letter telling you, "I suddenly felt like writing you a letter, we have a feeling you'd know what this meant--I mean the music, you old rat".
'Hey, I suddenly felt like I should write you a letter telling you, "I suddenly felt like writing you a letter".'
Also, yeah, we should do this another time.
23rd Aug 2021, 4:35 PM
Maybe later Harmony. Probably not the time.
24th Aug 2021, 11:48 AM
Golden Astronaut
This would be a good idea at some point but Finch might get suspicious if we don't have some proof of our good intentions
25th Aug 2021, 3:09 AM
"Sorry if it sounds weird, but i have this idea of mine: what if Tesla, Edison and Faraday were little girls?"
25th Aug 2021, 3:27 PM
I think contacting Dr. Finch at some point would be a good idea, but I agree about 'not right now' and 'subtlety is key'. We could reference being a vent hermit in the communication; I don't remember if he was ever privy to the phrase back in the original story, but it definitely seems like the kind of thing that wouldn't have spread out outside their group. As for when, maybe we can draft up an email tomorrow or something, since we have potluck/dream prep to look forward to tonight.
25th Aug 2021, 6:14 PM
He got filled in on all that at some point in the Blood adventure - if you wanted to be really sure to ping his radar, ask how his wee lab rat is doing(what was its name again?)
27th Aug 2021, 1:23 PM
Whatever message is sent, it should be written or printed with red ink.
23rd Aug 2021, 1:28 PM
With the degree of weird that's been going on, having a good conversation with yourself in the bathroom mirror to recap everything would be not just enlightening, but Necessary.
Do start writing everything down on paper and on computer when able. Then on to the ghost hunt!
24th Aug 2021, 9:58 PM
+1 to write everything down
And then let's eat!
I am super surprised that she remembered all of that - but I guess since we have her POV everything that she sees, we do too.
Like we didn't see her looking for the attic, but she had notes on it
24th Aug 2021, 1:03 AM
Don't forget to help yourself to some of the various noms everyone's brought when we go back to the party proper. Is a potluck after all, let's see what everyone brought! :D The whole point of the party was to get some life and living in this house, so it's imperative we enjoy the party. :3
24th Aug 2021, 2:16 AM
+1. With most of the urgent stuff out of the way, it’s important to focus on the whole point of the potluck: making the house feel more like a home, stuffing our face full of good non-take-out-slash-microwaveable food, and getting some time to relax and not have to worry about everything that’s been going on lately. The supernatural stuff can hopefully wait until after the party’s over.
24th Aug 2021, 2:24 AM
24th Aug 2021, 5:10 PM
25th Aug 2021, 10:24 AM
Another Guest
25th Aug 2021, 4:11 PM
I'm not sure, but it doesn't seem like direct communication is presently possible with Plaire. She could try concentrating to hear us directly, but if that doesn't work, maybe try out free-writing -- try having her write out any direct messages we want her to read. Something like:

"Hey, Plaire, we think that one possible way of fighting Hunger is by proving her wrong with regards to taking initiative in your personal life. That said, you should seek out a love interest. We won't say who you should pick -- this absolutely should be your choice -- but it can be any woman or public transit vehicle you fancy. Really, though, even if it weren't a tactically sound move, you deserve to seek out some happiness for yourself, someone who'll make you really (or wheel-y) happy."

On an unrelated note, we should find out if Plaire actually tried inviting the mayor to the potluck. I think I remember people suggesting her for the guest list, but if Plaire did it in her fugue state, we should probably try to find out before the mayor actually arrives. (Hey, if we get in touch with Finch, maybe we can ask him if he and his pals still have that vampire hunting kit...just so we have some options available to us).
26th Aug 2021, 3:39 AM
Another Guest
+1 to trying free-writing, or trying to reach another between state, or other ways to make communication between her and us possible - at the very least, it will ease her mind about the Choir, and given how things have been escalating, knowing that one worry is not really something to worry is already a boon.

Also, YES. +1 to figuring out if the mayor was invited.
26th Aug 2021, 2:59 PM
+1 to Plaire deserving the knowledge that she's not alone and love interests are totally within her wheelhouse.
26th Aug 2021, 7:45 PM
On the subject of Plaire's potential love interests: I'm all in favor of her seeking somebody out but the suggestion that it should be Cherry the bus honestly baffles me. I mean, wouldn't Plaire want to be with somebody who has a fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional personality? The only personality trait that Cherry has demonstrated so far is a vague inclination toward a "fuck the system" attitude, and that was given to her by a programmer(page 43). This seems like wanting to have a relationship with Alexa. It's true that Plaire was once turned on by Cherry's pre-recorded voice(page 151), but a passing sexual attraction is hardly a stable foundation for a lasting romantic relationship.

By contrast, there seems to be genuine chemistry between Kate and Plaire. There was a vague air of flirtation when they first met and Kate expressed genuine admiration for Plaire three times, calling her cute, raw as hell and hardcore(pages 43-44). Feelings like that could blossom into a stronger attraction. Plaire and Kate's personalities complement and balance each other out nicely, Kate being the more impulsive and outgoing one while Plaire is more reserved and thoughtful. Lastly, Kate and Plaire have already shared some physical intimacy when they spooned at Cici's apartment. For all these reasons, I think Kate is the most appropriate candidate to be Plaire's significant other.
27th Aug 2021, 6:43 PM
Those are some valid points, for sure. It doesn't really matter to me who Plaire ends up with in the long run, though if Cherry gets disqualified on the basis of not quite passing a Turing Test, my own personal runner-up would be Kate's mom, haha. (Undecided as to whether Kate calling Plaire 'mom' afterwards would be funny or weird, though). Kate is definitely a good pick, though, and would likely have the most positive reaction of anyone when told "I asked you out partly on the advice of the extradimensional beings that live in my head", haha. (Which, come to think of it, is a conversation Plaire should have with any romantic partner for the duration of our adventures together, kind of like that "Myth of consensual sex" meme).

If, someday, we decide to try and liberate Cherry from the shackles of Mondol, I imagine she'll start developing a more fleshed-out personality (with our help, of course). I think it's something we should do irrespective of romantic prospects, though it's probably still a long ways off from doable. (I still think that Stygian circuitry or whatever it was could play a role in this).
3rd Sep 2021, 9:18 PM
-1. As much and Plaire and Kate would make for a good plot for us, having romantic feelings for what is (at least with the timer running) first and foremost essentially a battle buddy would probably be bad for dream runs. The added emotional connection would likely make it so they would be so concerned for each other's safety that they wouldn't be nearly as efficient as they need to be to succeed. Am I making sense?
26th Aug 2021, 2:56 PM
Cleanup, thank them both, and get back to the potluck.

Ask people about their hobbies, and maybe ask them about what kind of things they'd take camping with them? They might have some ideas on useful things to bring with you in unfamiliar terrain.
26th Aug 2021, 6:10 PM
+1. Ask Lagi how he's doing with acquiring those cybernetic implants he mentioned on page 153.
26th Aug 2021, 7:40 PM
Okay, the whole meta thing left me ill at ease to begin with, to the point that I hoped it would get retconned away again, but here we are. Significant portions of the community are making me cringe, and I need to put my thoughts out here.

Once, we might have been able to say that the community was just the various thoughts in Plaire's head, often pulling her in different directions. That could be complex enough by itself, but this adds a whole new problem.

Now, there is Plaire, and there is The Choir. They are separate entities. She and we are connected in a special way, but they are not the same person. So, this raises questions about the relationship between the two.

Not questions about what we can or cannot get Plaire to do, but about what we should or should not get Plaire to do.

Imagine, if you will, a relationship between two people. One person has more power than the other person. Maybe it's a lot more power, or maybe it's just a little; maybe it's physical power, or financial power, or social power. Is it alright for these two to have a relationship at all? The weak one could be victimized at any time. Is it better that they never interact at all?

I'm going to say that it's possible to have this relationship and for it to be a good relationship. But it has to be done the right way, or else it's a bad relationship.

I'll skip the long explanation and jump to the conclusion: The weak party gets the right to set boundaries, and the strong party needs to respect those boundaries. Do that, and the relationship is good.

Here's the analogy with Plaire. We, The Choir, are the powerful party — to an extent that we can all but dictate the thoughts in her head, a power well beyond any that normal people need to worry about — and The Choir's Ally, Plaire, is the weak party.

Someone else has already said that it's not alright to brainwash Plaire. I think he was on the right track in saying that, but we need more info on what is alright and what isn't alright. We've got people telling her to hug everything that moves, we've got people telling her to make out with the bus, we've got people telling her to give the mayor another chance. Which of these are good and which are bad? I'm going to say it's: Those that Plaire accepts are good, and those she doesn't accept are bad.

I'd like to see her say (for instance), "It's not alright to push me into a sexual relationship with anyone. That's my prerogative, you guys just butt out of it." I wouldn't like to see her say, "I've assessed that the mayor is an enemy, and you guys should drop any idea of cooperation with her."

But, respecting boundaries is a two-edged sword like that.

Here's my proposed action: Encourage Plaire to set some boundaries with us. I trust everybody recognizes that Plaire needs complete autonomy in this; we ought not suggest any boundaries, specific or general, as our "suggestions" themselves may exert power over her.

(EDIT: Then again, our good author might like suggestions so he doesn't have to create everything himself? Perhaps suggestions would be good for that...)

I suppose this is not something she needs to do right now, since there's a potluck going on and all, but she might want to do it now if she felt (as I do) that some ideas floating around were already getting cringy and violating.
27th Aug 2021, 3:38 AM
Right, because you've demonstrated that you have nothing but the utmost respect for the boundaries of others.

So you're now claiming to be concerned about the ethics of what we suggest to Plaire? Concerned that our suggestions might violate her boundaries? I doubt that, you've shown that you're willing to spew out any old nonsense you can think of in order to get your way, but I'll indulge you here for a while in the spirit of debunking every last bit of your stupid shit.

It seems pretty disrespectful to her boundaries to try to get Plaire to ally herself with Mayor Parsons, somebody who threatened her friend, is withholding documents that she's 100% entitled to and attempted an inappropriate intrusion into her personal affairs. After all, you wouldn't have typed pages and pages trying to cover up the reality that these things happened in the discussion thread on page 170 if you didn't understand just how poisonous they were to a future working relationship. Indeed, Plaire got pretty darn angry at Parsons for these violations of her boundaries. To try and pressure Plaire into working with somebody who had behaved so badly toward her would be extremely disrespectful of her boundaries. So by all means, +1 to encouraging Plaire to set some boundaries with us. She certainly seems to need them, what with a deliberately ignorant fool like yourself in the chorus who insists on clamping his eyes and ears firmly shut to all evidence that's inconvenient to him getting his way.

And by the way, you are the last person on earth who should throw around the word cringy. I've made reasonable arguments against courting Parsons as an ally and supported them with evidence. If you take issue with my position then you should deal with the substance of my arguments instead of just throwing out random adjectives. That's how human discourse works and when you present a position in an open forum you're going to hear the occasional counter-argument. The shitty, childish temper-tantrums that you throw when I disagree with you are completely cringe-worthy. Treating this story, which is supposed to be for fun, like an unfriendly competition and arguing as if your self-esteem is at stake is completely cringy. The flood of nonsense arguments that you've made in favor of your completely untenable position of allying with Parsons are beyond cringy. A person with the slightest shred of emotional intelligence would have bowed out with grace a long time ago. Your desperate attempts to gloss over the most glaringly obvious evidence against your position is completely cringe-worthy. And worst of all, and most disrespectful of the author's boundaries, is the sense of entitlement that would allow you to even consider trying to takeover as writer of this story by re-writing clearly established elements of Parsons as a character, you absolute most cringiest of CringeLords.
27th Aug 2021, 9:18 PM
"[Y]ou have nothing but the utmost respect for the boundaries of others."

I'm glad you noticed, Snervalton. I'm proud of that aspect of my moral character.

Thanks for the +1, too.
28th Aug 2021, 1:11 AM
Completely cringy from start to finish. If you can't make your case then you might as well spit impotent bile and venom. And you always make it clear that you've learned absolutely nothing from the experience! That's another thing to be proud of.
28th Aug 2021, 3:20 PM
Just because I choose not to make my case at this particular moment doesn't mean I can't, Snervs.

We'll go at it again when the mayor is more immediately relevant to the comic. Until then, if you try to engage me, I'll ignore you or troll you.

But, if you're missing the sensations of a debate with me, maybe you can find some activity that mimics the experience?

Like, picking a fight with—and getting mauled by—a grizzly bear?
28th Aug 2021, 6:22 PM
Yeah, because your feigned concern about Plaire's boundaries had so much potential. I'm sure there's a really compelling argument there that you just choose not to make and you're not just copping out when you have no more nonsense to spew as usual.

And if I wanted to simulate your contribution to a debate I wouldn't need anything nearly as formidable as a grizzly bear. I'd just need some comical funhouse music overdubbed with the bawling of an infant going through its terrible twos. You're not a grizzly, you're more like the teddy bear that my dog chews up, throws around and occasionally humps.
30th Mar 2022, 8:14 PM
I came, a few weeks back, to a surprising interpretation of what you said here, Snervalton. I could be right or wrong about it, but if I'm right, acknowledging it might be a step toward defusing the animosity between us.

So, I'll give it a shot; it may be past the proper time for it, but perhaps it will help.

In this interpretation, you took my post above to be personally directed at you. If true, that would go some distance to explaining your "counter" attack on me.

However, it wasn't directed at you. I gave an instance of a boundary I would have like to see, "It's not alright to push me into a sexual relationship with anyone. That's my prerogative, you guys just butt out of it." That's a counter to behavior that I considered out of line in the community. Another behavior (not mentioned at the time) was some attempts of telling Plaire what to feel. You may have supported one of those, in which case my comment had bearing on you, but that would have been incidental, not personal.

You certainly didn't push it so hard that I felt that you, in particular, needed my rebuke.

If I'm right in this interpretation, I'm sorry that my comment wasn't clear enough—but not wanting to single anybody out, I wanted to keep the precise comments that had been bothering me as vague as I could, while still getting my point across.
27th Aug 2021, 4:58 AM
Another Guest
+1 for boundaries being set by Plaire.
27th Aug 2021, 6:12 AM
To be clear, the relationship between Plaire and the audience hasn't changed at all--its existence has just been contextualized and made explicit to Plaire in-universe. She's both failed to accomplish suggestions (making a video when her head wasn't in it) and refused to attempt suggestions she cannot bring herself to do (going to the gym) in the past, and is still fully capable of doing so. Ideas that may come off as intrusive or out of character have always been present, just as they were in Blood is Mine. There has never been a right or wrong suggestion. Plaire has already done at least a dozen things she herself would not have naturally elected to do (or even thought to do)--even something as simple and foundational to the plot as visiting a library or attending a concert. Things that were good for her, and made her stronger, and pushed her toward finding the answers she wants, but nonetheless conclusions she wouldn't have necessarily reached just talking to herself. The only thing that's changed is that Plaire now has a rough idea where this newfound drive, confidence and inspiration is coming from, and can act on those thoughts accordingly.

To be even clearer, this was always the plan--with the concept foreshadowed in Blood is Mine, but almost unavoidable in an interactive story about brains and the way we perceive reality (and more specifically, how our view of reality is shaped and altered through art, and drugs, and the media, and etc etc). It's a story about mental illness based on my own experiences with it, and frankly far more idealistic than the truth--because I'm still personally working on figuring out where all of my own intrusive thoughts and out-of-character suggestions come from. Making Plaire clear on the nature of it is, itself, establishing more boundaries than were present five pages ago. People are referring to it as meta, but--without getting into a huge rant about Blood is Mine to avoid spoilers for both that story AND this one--the audience interactive element has always been an active plot device, and as this story continues it's going to be increasingly clear why I'm finally cementing it in the text. It was inevitable, because reader suggestions have been behind the narrative since 2017. The tarot symbolism, the forms based on mythical entities, real worlds based on fake games--MDA is a story about stories (about stories) (and how stories shape us etc see the rant above about brains), and this is with Plaire having only scratched the surface of it thus far. If this is meta, I don't know even begin to know how to describe where it's going. I had the Grandiose Paradoxes planned out almost as soon as I had Plaire herself figured out. I almost jumped out of my chair when someone in the comments used the word noosphere before I got my chance to.

Plaire was always separate from and, paradoxically, synonymous with the comments section. Despite some key similarities, she's always been separate from the author, too. I can only instill in her the things I personally come up with, shaped by the life I've lived and the people I've known in my own small bubble. It's only by combining that perspective with everyone in the Choir that Plaire becomes an individual at all--not shaped wholly by Addersfield, nor shaped wholly by me.
27th Aug 2021, 9:14 PM
Well, even if the mechanics of the relationship between Plaire and us hasn't changed, our perception of that relationship has changed, yes? Hence the behavior change in the community.

I'll can the rant I thought to put here, and just say I think Plaire would benefit from exercising some personal power vis-à-vis us, and the Choir would benefit from some grounding and focus.
28th Aug 2021, 2:02 AM
Yeah, I know... dumb, but the logic makes sense in the way the story has played out so far. She still has time to slot something else into that Activity node as well, assuming VG isn't Plairs only option for powers. That idea hasn't actually been tested yet, it's a running assumption.
28th Aug 2021, 3:23 PM
I think the in-comic explanation of dream powers is that some game studios work something into their code that infuses dream powers into the player... hoping this potluck will also do that seems a bit on the unlikely side.
29th Aug 2021, 4:56 PM
Another Guest
Let's see what happens. Also, depending of our timetable, it may be worth to test modded/hacked versions of the games that infuse dream powers? To see if we can get alternative abilities?

...as I wrote this, it does not like that useful, but another one to the "Dreamland Experimentation" shelf.
29th Aug 2021, 4:58 PM
Another Guest
Also, as I wrote it, we're already going to have an unknown as to which powers our Accomplice will have this time - better to play it safe and pick a game that we already tested to reduce the amount of unknowns :/
29th Aug 2021, 11:02 PM
Is it not a bit odd that customs have a 100% Gay Rate, and by design (that's a tidbit from BiM; I don't think it's been stated in Alcazar), but the Free Will Rate is still so high that Cheatin' Keaton has a press conference with that statement in it? The various parts must have different manipulation difficulties...