fallenbeanpole: (not really sure what to make of you)
fallenbeanpole ([personal profile] fallenbeanpole) wrote in [community profile] damned_institute2012-07-30 11:37 pm

Day 65: Music Room (Third Shift)

He must have been reading the bulletin board for longer than he thought, because it seemed like he had barely started conversing with the woman before the intercom crackled to life again to announce the beginning of a new shift.  The Once-ler settled on a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, and asked his nurse about the Music Room that had been mentioned.

A part of him had been hoping for a chance to relax by having a good old guitar session; such hopes were quickly dashed as it became apparent that the Music Room lacked the necessary instrument.  And based on the posters that decorated the walls, he assumed that the CDs provided would not fit his more contemporary tastes.  Rather than bothering to search the collection while supporting himself on his crutch (he was starting to really grow tired of it), the Once-ler settled down into a comfortable chair in the center of the room.

Having a bagged lunch, combined with the presence of recorders in the room, made the whole setting take on a school-like vibe.  Still, any food was better than nothing, and his appetite was reasserting itself again after a fairly unsatisfying breakfast.

[awaiting Skulduggery]

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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-07-31 05:41 am (UTC)(link)
After the initial shock had worn off, Skulduggery found that his predominant reaction to that death-rattle he'd heard in the Sun Room was annoyance. Not just at the fact that monster attacks here seemed to have unwelcome lingering effects, but also because he'd only just gotten used to blocking off his hearing by pressing his hands against his ears. It was a little trick unavailable to him when he had a skull for a head, and it was one of the more pleasant physical changes he'd had to endure. Pleasant, until it didn't seem to stop - or even muffle - that death-rattle. A potential solution offered to Skulduggery by this Institute, and then taken away without mercy, presumably along with some maniacal laughter. There was usually maniacal laughter in situations like this.

In an effort to escape the chilling sound and environment he'd been attacked in, Skulduggery asked the nurse where he was allowed to go. After some thought, he decided on the music room. While annoyance wasn't quite as bad as the anger he occasionally couldn't help feeling when things like this happened, it was close enough to be worrying. Music was always soothing in those circumstances. Maybe they would even have 'Girl from Ipanema.' Frank Sinatra was a staple of most music libraries, happily enough.

His nurse handed him a bag of food before she left, and Skulduggery sat down with a sigh. He really should try to eat something. The hunger would only continue to grow, and eventually rob his muscles of what little strength they already had. Resigning himself to the experience, Skulduggery glanced up at the tall, lanky man sitting across from him as he opened his bag. "Hello," he greeted the stranger with a friendly nod.
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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-07-31 07:31 pm (UTC)(link)
The last time Skulduggery had tried to swallow something was yesterday. A little bit of tea and runny egg speared on the end of a fork, and that had been difficult enough. Watching the man force more sandwich than could possibly be healthy down his throat was almost physically painful, and Skulduggery felt his entire throat subconsciously clamp down in anticipation of his own approaching attempt.

For almost three centuries, he'd had perfect control over his body. It was slightly galling to see that control fade away so quickly, and in so many different ways. Skulduggery mentally steeled himself for the meal, the same way he did for torture and fights and speaking to annoying people at the Sanctuary, before he pulled the sandwich out.

"Chicken, I think," he answered as he peered at the food. Was that easier to swallow than grilled cheese? The textures of food were a faint memory at this point. "With juice and... a brownie. How generous of them. They certainly don't spare any details with the pretense, do they?"
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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-07-31 08:23 pm (UTC)(link)
"I meant the mental institute," Skulduggery contradicted him. "I'm willing to bet that no one here believes the official story, and yet Landel keeps up the facade anyway. It's interesting." He tilted his head curiously. "How long have you been here?"

The way Skulduggery understood it, new prisoners seemed to arrive in small groups. He hadn't yet met anyone who wasn't a veteran, though, which had led him to believe he was the latest addition. Getting the opinion of someone as new as he was might be useful.

The Once-ler's introduction caught his attention, but not for any of the usual reasons a name like that might. It was strangely familiar, in the same way that the name 'Jack Skellington' had been. "Nice to meet you," Skulduggery replied as he brought the sandwich up to his mouth. "I'm Skulduggery Pleasant."

And with that, he took a bite.
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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-01 12:23 am (UTC)(link)
Last night? Skulduggery's gaze fell to the crutch, and the ginger way the Once-ler sat to keep pressure off his leg. It seemed like the man's first night had been slightly more eventful than Skulduggery's. Had that been decided by Landel? How? It couldn't be a question of guilt, because no one deserved anything worse than whatever Skulduggery had coming his way. Just chance, then. Chance, and a man believing he was master of his own little world.

Chewing, Skulduggery reflected, was what made the experience so strange this time. He was used to his teeth being the outermost layer in his mouth, but now there were lips covering them. It meant that he could move his jaw up and down without the food falling out of his mouth, but that didn't stop Skulduggery from taking it slow. He did, however, finally realize that the tongue wasn't completely useless.

When he decided he'd done enough chewing, Skulduggery looked back up at the Once-ler, moving the food carefully around with his tongue. "Two nights. Would you mind explaining how to swallow?"
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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-01 11:06 pm (UTC)(link)
"It isn't," Skulduggery replied after a few moments. Demonstrations of physical actions without even the basic context to help him understand did nothing except frustrate him further. "But thank you anyway."

Badd had said practically the same thing when Skulduggery asked yesterday, but was that really any surprise? If there was any sort of manual to being human, it came in a form only babies could understand, since they seemed to swallow perfectly well.

With the help of the same throat-massage as before, the food finally found its slow way down - past the windpipe this time - and, hopefully, into the stomach. It... wasn't nearly as painful as Skulduggery had been expecting, particularly since his teeth did the job they were designed to do. And the chicken didn't taste half-bad, besides.

Renewed by the victory, Skulduggery prepared himself for another bite. "So, Once-ler," he continued with much less dread in his tone. "Why would your name sound familiar to me?"
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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-02 12:54 am (UTC)(link)
Had Skulduggery been in full control of his facial features, he might have raised an eyebrow at the Once-ler's answer. As it was, he merely cocked his head at an angle that could be interpreted as skeptical, or perhaps just thoughtful.

Strangely enough, it wasn't the word 'thneed' that clicked it into place for him, although it certainly helped. It was the mention of a collapsing business, mixed with the idea that since Jack Skellington and the Scarecrow were both fictional characters, it wasn't a large leap to assume the Once-ler might be as well. It hadn't been the most memorable Dr. Seuss story, but Skulduggery remembered enough of it for the realization to freeze his sandwich's journey back up to his mouth.

"Thneed Incorporated?" he repeated, just to be sure he'd heard correctly. The death-rattle was gone, but it was entirely possible his ears were playing other tricks on him. "You wouldn't happen to know a fuzzy orange animal called the Lorax, would you?"
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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-03 02:17 am (UTC)(link)
The silence that stretched around them after the Once-ler's answer didn't get broken right away; it was punctuated with nothing but Skulduggery's steady, consistent gaze fixed on the Once-ler, even when the other man looked away. Skulduggery's forehead almost seemed to be creased by a frown.

"I always thought you were just a pair of disembodied skinny green arms," he finally spoke up. There was no maliciousness or amusement in his voice; only a polite curiosity. His eyes still on the Once-ler, Skulduggery took another slow bite of his own sandwich, wondering what else in the story had been cut out or embellished. He'd never particularly thought of any Dr. Seuss character as a viable, complex person. Of course, he'd never really thought of the Scarecrow that way, either.

The joy that flared up as Skulduggery realized he'd finally managed to swallow without the help of his hands was short-lived. The food must have somehow gone down the wrong way again, because Skulduggery very quickly found himself choking.
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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-03 03:16 am (UTC)(link)
It was such a strange feeling, not being able to get enough air. It was vaguely familiar in the same way that seeing old acquaintances from years ago was vaguely familiar, but it was new enough that Skulduggery could feel a genuine panic bubbling up. A small and detached part of himself experienced it all with a calm and cold intellectual interest, noting how the edges of his vision were starting to fade and his head was starting to feel light. Anything the Once-ler was saying got lost in the haze.

And then, finally, something large and filthy dislodged itself from his throat. And for what felt like the third time in just days, Skulduggery gulped down the fresh air with an infuriating gratitude that, once again, his fragile life had been spared.

After a few moments to make sure breathing had become second nature again, Skulduggery - with some difficulty - spat out whatever had made its way into his mouth, and... stared down at it in disgust.

It was a large hairball, of the exact same hair that had surrounded and nearly choked him to death the night before.

"Please," he almost pleaded with the Once-ler, "tell me this isn't normal."
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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-03 04:22 am (UTC)(link)
Ah. Perhaps a much more eventful first night, then.

'Brainwashed guy' caught Skulduggery's attention first and foremost. That was the more pressing concern for him. Badd and Yomi had each mentioned the brainwashing phenomenon. Skulduggery was worried about exactly how much Landel knew about his past, and how exactly this brainwashing process worked. The phrase 'glowing hair,' however, didn't pass by unnoticed.

"Do you remember-" Skulduggery began slowly, stopping when, with a loud crunch, something was suddenly resting uncomfortably between his teeth.

A horrible feeling gripped him, but Skulduggery reached up to pull the object out nonetheless. And sure enough, it wasn't simply an innocent piece of chicken. It was a lone fingernail, crusted with dried blood, identical to the ones that had scraped across Skulduggery's face last night.

Skulduggery's face didn't change, but his entire body stiffened. Without a word, the former skeleton dropped the fingernail and the sandwich back into the paper bag and dropped it onto the floor by the chair. He glanced up at the Once-ler, and when he spoke, the disgust was possibly even more evident than it had been before.

"I am never," he said quietly, "eating food again."
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[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-03 04:02 pm (UTC)(link)
His throat was dry. For one horrifying moment, Skulduggery prepared to swallow back whatever new terror he'd be coughing up, before he remembered that it was a perfectly normal human reaction.

"Word of advice," he managed to say, a slight croak to his voice that hadn't been there in centuries - mainly because of the lack of a throat to become dry. "If you're ever traveling through the Sun Room at night, and it seems a little too dark, run."

That would certainly be the plan for himself and Rita tonight. The library door hadn't even been that far away, but if running full-pelt was useless, then neither of them were going to take the chance again.