Arcadia High School: The New Arrivals

Paige Turner

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It was 10:25 p.m., at the corner of Mi’ihen Avenue and Tyree Lane. Despite the presence of magic in the world, it was not so different from a traditional city street. The only sound which permeated the Arcadian streets were the low hum of magic orbs which acted as street lamps. The occasional growl of dragons or air-bus engines as they flew around the sky, though with each passing minute, these noises became less common. Although the buildings, walls, lampposts, and other structures had a more natural, fantastic feel to them, they didn’t really seem entirely unusual. Just another coat of paint, really. For Paige’s sake, it either made navigating the streets easier and more challenging, as depending on circumstance. Arcadia had no centralized style with its architecture, so areas and districts were easily identifiable. Specific landmarks, however, sometimes seemed to blend together, as much of it appeared to be whimsical nonsense.

Paige was writing in a book as Michael walked down the avenue. His attire was much darker than his school uniform, which was especially noticeable whenever he walked into the beams of the streetlamps. A long, well-worn purple raincoat, “complimented” by faded jeans and off-white sneakers. Atop his head was a baseball cap with the words “Fazbear Entertainment” on the front. Surprisingly, he wore a handkerchief around his neck. I guess he doesn’t need the one I got. The sneakers don’t blend well into the shadows, but at least the rest of him will fade in easily. Paige had worn black jeans and a dark blue hoodie with the hood up for this express purpose; the style was not her forte, but it would help in the long run.

“Good thing you came early,” Paige said, “especially since I had to go to the store a second time since you responded so late.”

“Sorry about that…” he replied. Mike looked uncertain, as if he were considering whether to leave or not. “Are we really going to break into the school?”

He must be struggling to grasp what is happening. Oh well, he’ll realize it soon enough. “That should be obvious.”

He put a hand to his head. “Are you sure? Why did we decide to meet three blocks away?”

“Well, it would look pretty suspicious if I just hung around the school for half an hour in dark clothes.”

“I guess that makes sense. Uh, what’s that book you’re writing in?”

“Nothing important,” Paige said. Mike seemed content, if unsatisfied by this response. “Here’s your stuff.” Handed to him was a pair of gloves and the second handkerchief. She had bought it for him, after all. “Let’s go.”

As they walked down the street, the school’s architecture peeked from over the street. Its arrogant grandeur during the day was gone, now replaced by a reserved isolation. Many a building, from churches to business offices, looked relatively stunning with their dimly lit windows and magical luminescence. Some abandoned structures even had moss which glowed in the dark. Arcadia High, however, was completely dark inside, almost as if there was a deep abyss residing behind its many arched windows. Its larger-than-life entrance door seemed so sealed off that it was practically part of the wall. Paige picked the lock in about a minute, and the two of them went into the bleak confines of the lobby.
 

Touko Fukawa

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It was easier to get in by the second floor.

Especially if you had the keys.

She jumped, and grabbed the edge of the now-retracted fire escape.

Easily pulling herself up and over the metal-grated platform, she gave the fire door attached to it a try. Locked from the inside. Why did she expect that? Paying that no mind, she stepped up onto the handrail, before leaping to a nearby classroom's windowsill. Digging her nails into the wooden frame, she yanked it open in one swift movement. Jackpot. No skills necessary, here.

Except, well, athletics.

She slid through the window like a cat through an open door- using the momentum to close it behind her without even thinking about it. That was easy. She'd had much more trouble getting into apartments before- so the practice had helped her quite a bit. If it had come to it, she would have simply broken the window, but thankfully she didn't need to be so crude. Now, the fun really started.

Based on what she recalled, there was a janitor or monitor of some sort on call at all times within this building. That would be an issue, but not a major one. If she was quick enough, it would be no issue at all- and if she wasn't, well, this wasn't a big job. It was simply data collection. Not like there was a dead body to argue over. Breaking into lockers was child's play.

That in mind, she approached the door of the classroom- opening the lock with her keyring, and easing it open with an ominous creak. It was Lyon that was the real issue- befitting that name, his wealthy parents had his house guarded by a pack of security guards like it was a goddamn prison. She would have to figure out his schedule out of the home to even have a chance. Confidence was important, not stupidity. And unfortunately, it really seemed like the best way to get that information was a locker raid.

She'd memorized the location and number perfectly, in advance. The first floor, by the janitor's closet.

Staying by the side of the halls and keeping her footsteps light, she made her way through the pitch black hallways; their only illumination that of dim street lights in the distance shining through the occasional window. In this lighting, and her outfit, she was scarcely recognizable anyway. Another thing that emboldened her. With her mop of hair down from its braids, in a simple tank top and shorts so short she could savor every last mark on her left thigh (with the bonus of quick access to the holster on her right), and the manic glow of excitement in her eye, it should have been clear to anyone she was a wholly different beast than their librarian. If they even thought to connect the two at all.

With a grin, she slid down the banister on the staircase, too.

No sense in not having fun while she was here after hours.

Her nerves were sharper as she neared the locker itself. Not only would she need to spend some time here to sort things out, it was close to the Janitor's closet. And he was one of the ones that had a habit of staying after hours- something she had confirmed last time, along with the location of the locker. That made this easily the most delicate part of the operation. Get her information, and get out. Perhaps if this were one of the other lockers, she would have time to idle, but...

She was about halfway through forcing open the lock with a pair of scissors when she heard the distant snippets of conversation.

Shit.

All at once, she leapt and scrambled, ending up somehow on top of the flat rooves of the lockers, in perhaps a two foot space between their top and the ceiling. Staring crouched in the direction she had heard the conversation, she looked like some sort of hideous gargoyle, with her mess of hair covering the majority of her face and hanging down. They were voices she recognized, in the back of her mind. She couldn't put names to them, but she could say one thing- they were certainly not the voices of any faculty members.

Other students.

She hadn't thought she'd be in good company for her crimes today.

Restraining herself, she managed to keep her voice down to only a breathy laugh.
 

Michael Afton

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“The basement door is this way, right?” Paige said as she and Michael turned the corner and walked into the hallway. Fukawa, crawled up in between the two-foot space between the lockers and the ceiling, stared down at them like a barn owl, watching them steadily grow closer to her.

“Should be. I can’t imagine it would be anywhere else.”
Michael replied, tensing up as the darkness of the hallway enveloped them. It almost made it pointless to disguise themselves with how hard it was to see. Worse, he couldn’t help but feel a presence within the hall, something practically looming right behind the both of them. The thought alone made his hands shiver with a coldness the gloves Paige gave him couldn’t protect.

“You nervous?” Paige asked, hearing him let out a muffled groan behind the handkerchief around his neck.

“Of course I am! I-it’s dark and we broke into the school!” He whispered, eyes darting around the hallway.

“Relax. The only person who should be here is the janitor, yeah? Easy enough to avoid.”

“I mean, I guess. What if someone else is here and DOES see us, though?”

“Seriously? It’s pitch dark in here. I can barely see you.”

“I still think we should use the flashlight.”


Paige rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and let him see a lit hallway when it’s supposed to be dark? It’s easier to keep the light off.”

“If stumbling down the hallway feeling for a doorknob is easy.”

“You complain too much.”
Paige replied before taking a step to the side. She grabbed Mike’s arm to drag him with her as she ran her hand along the lockers beside her. They shook, rattling like snakes, enough so that Fukawa could feel them approach through the cold metal. Her giggling grew louder.

Mike stopped, limbs locking up. If Paige could see him, she would have seen he looked like he had seen someone get stabbed in the stomach.

“What is it?” She asked.

“Did you… hear that just now?”

“The creepy laughter?”

“Yeah.”

“Nope.”

“You know, when you said the janitor wasn’t a ghost, I didn’t think I’d have to take that idea seriously ever again.”

“Did I say that? I forgot.”
Paige said as they finally walked past the sitting Fukawa.

The librarian could barely keep still. With how on-edge the boy was, she could only imagine the sheer terror on his face if she hopped off the lockers and snuck behind him right then and there. She imagined him jolting and jumping up into the air like a chaotic bolt of electricity if she just slithered behind him and whispered softly into his ear. It’d be adorable, if nothing else.

His girlfriend, however… she couldn’t see her face, but she cringed at her voice. Perhaps it was the way she spoke, with her words laced with smugness, loaded with a sense of indestructibility. Or, perhaps more likely, it was the simple fact that it was because of her interruption that prevented her from opening up Lyon’s locker. She had been planning the heist for days, and it was only ruined by the unknowable interference of a teenage tomboy.

Michael and Paige finally stopped at a lonely large door in the middle of the hallway.

“Here it is. You know what to do, right Night?”

“Open Mike Night, dude.”

“I refuse to call you by your full nickname on principle alone.”


Michael had to admit that the pun was pretty freaking bad. He walked over to the edge of a nearby row of lockers to peer by them and down the rest of the hallway. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll keep a lookout, Book Lady.”

Just as Paige got onto her knees to pick the lock of the basement door, she turned around with a confused and very disappointed glare at Michael.

“Huh? It’s Mage, Night. Mage. ‘Book Lady’- what?” She replied, sounding absolutely offended.

“S-sorry! It just… that was the name before! It came… out of my mouth.”

“Well, shut up. Stealth.”
She said before returning to the door.

Fukawa’s crimson eyes glowed brightly in the dark. A far grander heist had been planned for that night, it seemed.

What a terrible coincidence! Perhaps it’s time for a little payback.

Her tongue rolled out like a snake as she let out a small, but audible cackle. It reverberated around the hallway, the sound seeping through their disguises and directly into their minds.

“Well…”
she said, voice low, growling, “I wasn’t expecting company.~”
 

Paige Turner

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In that moment, the darkness of the room felt especially blinding.


“What- who’s there?” she whispered, looking around slowly, cautiously. A cold sensation crawled up her forearms, her sense of touch growing numb. Very little light seeped into this hallway, so little that it was hard to tell if her eyes were closed or not. She could identify Michael’s silhouette, which had huddled closer to her for safety. There was also enough light to see where the lockers started. However, there was not enough to see the other end of the hall. Not enough to identify where that voice came from. “Where are you? What do you want?”


“I could ask you the same thing, book lady!”


And then she looked up. Two rings shone a dim red, dreadful spotlights catching the two students in their escapades. Whoever or whatever possessed those eyes sat with legs crossed atop the lockers. Its form was difficult to make out, and impossible to identify. It looked human enough, but considering how magical this world is, it could be a pixie or a doppelganger or any other absurd creature that she had never seen before.


It hopped down from the locker, and paced around the duo. Its voice, with the edge of a knife and the elegance of a hatchet, held a mocking tone that felt particularly oppressive. “You’ve got a lotta nerve, coming here without permission. Don’t ya know you can get expelled for trespassing?”


Michael shivered beside Paige, a small distance separating the two. He had started stuttering, but nothing coherent came from it.


I can’t honestly blame him. Paige took a breath and responded. “Of course… of course we do.” She stared straight forward, trying not to look at the figure despite its inability to see her staring at it.


“So what, you just wanted to break a couple rules, huh? Huh, huh?!”


Paige remains silent.


“Hellooo! What are you doing here?”


“U-u-u-uh…” Michael, hunched over with his hands held to the chest, tried to gather his thoughts enough to produce a complete sentence. “W-we came here… t-to, uh-”


“Not you, Open Mike Night! I’m talking to little miss tomboy over here!” Michael backed away, putting Paige between them. She found that the eyes had shifted to her, and felt a few beads of sweat rolling down her cheeks.


“...We’re here to look for something.”


“Ooo, what kind of something?”


Paige hesitates once again. How much control do I even have? If I tell them, the plan may be busted, but if I don’t, then-


She feels something press against her neck. It was cold, pointy, and metallic, and it felt like the slightest bit more pressure would send it straight through her throat. She had no say in how this conversation unfolded.


“You’d better stop cutting up, before I decide to join you!”


Reluctantly, Paige looked away and muttered “We came to enter the janitor’s closet.”


The figure took the metal away from her neck, walked back, and gave a restrained fit of laughter. “That’s all?! If you wanted a delicious glass of bleach, the convenience store is right down the street!”


Responding with a nervous laugh, she tried to look this… thing in the eyes. “Heh… well, I’m... not that edgy. But we have a good reason to investigate.” This is a terrible idea, Paige thought before pushing through her fear. “I’m guessing that… you also… have some reason to be here? ...Right now?”


“Rightamundo, Book Lady! I’m also looking for something tonight. But I can’t leave witnesses, you know. It’s bad for business!”


Suddenly, an idea came to mind. One that might get the duo out of this predicament. Putting forth as much confidence as she could muster- not much, but hopefully enough- Paige turned completely toward the voice. “Well, if we are a problem for you, then perhaps we can strike a deal.”


Michael turned to Paige, violently shaking his head as if to say ‘What are you doing? You’re going to get us killed!’


However, the stranger closed their eyes, and it almost looked like they crossed their arms. “Interesting… You’ve got guts to give me an offer. Alright, spill the beans!”


“The offer is simple. We won’t tell anyone that you were here, even if we get caught ourselves. In exchange, we ask you to do the same, and also refrain from injuring us.”


They opened their eyes, a skeptical glare shining in the dark. “How do I know you won’t just rat me out to the police the instant you get out of here?”


“Well, that would make it easy for us to get caught, wouldn’t it? It may make them wonder why we were around the school so late. Depending on how tonight goes, I don’t want to give more incriminating evidence if we can help it.”


“Wait,” Michael whispered, “w-what do you mean… ‘if’ we can...?”


Paige bent over and quietly replied within his ear. “Don’t worry about it, just play along.”


A low hum rang through the hall as the unknown individual contemplated. Finally, they responded. “Okay, I love a little drama anyway! You better watch out for Mr. Janitor, though, he’s a crazy one!” And before the duo realized it, the stranger was already gone.


Michael stood there, looked at his companion, with the faintest hint of concern on his face being visible through the black of night. “Can we trust that thing?”


“I’m not sure, but it won’t do us any good to worry about it. Let’s head on.”


As Paige walked ahead, hand to the lockers, he gave a heavy sigh. “This isn’t very good for my heart…”





Eventually, the duo made their way to the janitor’s closet. Pale blue moonlight shimmered through a single window, bathing the closet door in an eerie glow. It was just a normal door, like any other in the building. However, the idea of what lay behind made its white paint feel like a bright facade. I’m going to enjoy ripping the blanket off this case.


Paige kept an ear out, checking if anyone was moving nearby. It was silent. She pulled Michael away from the door, in case someone was inside the closet and was able to hear them from within. “That creep told us to watch out for the janitor, so he’s probably inside. We should think of a way to lure him out.”


“But how do we know he isn’t patrolling the halls, and we just didn’t run into him?”


She shrugged. “We don’t. But he’s not a security guard, he’s a janitor with a secret. So if he’s only here to guard what’s in the closet, he’d be better off just standing out front or guarding from inside.”


Michael slouched over, arms folded. “I don’t know, it seems pretty dangerous…”


“Come on, Night, we need to get in there.” Mike was still slouching, clearly not understanding how futile it was to complain in this situation. They had already broken in; to backpedal would be to have broken the law for nothing. His emotions were getting in the way of rational thinking. “Look, I get it. You don’t want to get caught and expelled. But we need to keep going. If we don’t push forward, the strange things I told you about will never get resolved. So you need to buckle down so we can get to the bottom of this, alright?”


He looked away, though it was hard to tell through both the dark and his low-tipped ball cap. Eventually, he gave Paige a side glance. “Okay then. What are we going to do?”
 

Touko Fukawa

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In one swift motion-

She stabbed, and wrenched.

The locker didn't so much pop open as shriek like a car crash as she pried the lock completely off, tearing a hole straight through the metal. It was an uncomfortable noise- and she didn't like that it needed to be done, but beggars couldn't be choosers. She'd need to be swift, considering that in the distance, she heard some noise in response- perhaps her allies, perhaps her enemy. Who was to say?

"Jesus, what the fuck's-" The sound of someone in the distance mumbling. She'd need to hurry it up.

Flinging the door open, she made her inspection. Its innards were about as much of a mess as she would have liked to make its owner's. Papers and homework strewn about like a fucking typhoon had hit it. What a slob- maybe he needed the maids at school, as well. Made it difficult to get what she wanted to do done quickly. A shame.

"Well... st th- ...oor's..."

She shuffled through the papers rapidly, grasp eventually landing on what looked to be a small planner. School provided, of course. It was meant to be an assignment notebook, but as she flipped through it, it became clear he was like any other student in the school- it really just contained a menagerie of different things he was doing. Mentally, she took down a few dates and places- Saturday, the coffee shop downtown. Next Tuesday, the mall. There were similar others marked down for the next month or so too, which she burned into her brain.

"Hey, do- ...ee that...?"

Flinging it back to where it was, she rummaged about the rest of the locker. He hadn't left his phone here, which was a shame, but to be expected. However, he had left a few fun things- a watch, some thin chain necklaces, and some sort of older music player. They looked somewhat valuable. With a smile, she slipped them into her sleeve.

"What... what is it...?"

Her work done, she elbowed the locker shut, though it was pretty much worthless as a gesture. The thing was just scrap metal at this point.

Footsteps rang out through the halls, faster and faster, louder and louder. Like her heart, racing faster and faster.

"Might want to start running, you two! I'm outta here!" came her voice, raspy and harsh like a snake, as she glanced towards the door she had seen the two breaking into. She punctuated this with a laugh, which she made as quiet as possible. Sadly, that was still about the volume of normal conversation. Not that she waited long enough to even acknowledge what their little crime was, barely giving the door a glance as she made her way in the opposite direction.

The only pause she made along the way was to slip the valuables in through the vents of another locker down the hall.

And so her footsteps, growing faster and faster, disappeared up the stairs.
 

Paige Turner

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The sound of clashing metal had caught them both off guard. Michael, in particular, jumped out of his skin with a gasp, his flashlight clutched close to the chest. It was as if someone dumped a crate of aluminum cans out onto the floor. Paige quickly grabbed her companion by the arm, dragging him behind the corner of another hall. After all, it would not have mattered where the janitor was if he could hear that obnoxious racket anywhere near the closet.

“Jesus…” Mr. Jeffers could be heard from within, swearing under his breath with that shaky, suspicious tone of his. As he came out into the moonlight, his thin frame looked both elusive and fragile. His hair was ruffled, his shirt untucked, and his face was worn from the work he does every day. The janitor pulled out a light, closed the door, and hurried down the hall, completely missing the intruders planning to invade his personal space to investigate the loud clashing noise.

Watching after his shadowed form as he walked away, the duo snuck over to the closet and checked it out. It had not been locked. “Well…” Michael said, “at least the door’s open.”

Paige opened the closet, moonlight peeking past the open door into one corner. From what it looked like, nothing seemed particularly special about the closet that Paige didn't notice before. Although, just like last time, the lightbulb hanging from the ceiling was off, even though the janitor was just inside. Perhaps that was for a reason? Of course, Paige thought, it wouldn’t really help if he saw the light on from down the hall. Michael seemed to think the same, as he turned on his flashlight and shone it inside.

Immediately, the light revealed ruffles in the back wall, like it was made of cloth. Putting her hand to it, the cloth gave way a bit. “This is a curtain,” Paige said. “I get it… I thought it was weird that such a shallow closet would use shelves on the side walls, and not the back.”

“So he just… stands behind the curtain all day?”

“Well, what else could it be? Let’s check it out. I’ll go first.” Paige pushed the curtains aside, stepping over a low wall of janitorial supplies in the process. Michael kept the door open and looked about for anything he could possibly use to make a quick getaway, keeping an eye and ear out toward the dark hallway.



Dimly illuminated in blue, what lied behind the curtain was the most stereotypical stakeout office Paige had ever found. A small, grey, L-shaped office desk sat squarely against the left corner. A short rolly chair was pushed away from the desk. About ten to twelve large paper coffee cups sat along the far wall, the scent of ‘AsteriusBucks’ hanging in the air. They were complemented with a couple bags of fast food and several pack of crackers in a trash bin. Against the right wall were a pillow and sleeping bag, crumpled up as if to inefficiently conserve some space.

But most notably, there was a computer monitor on the desk at the left wall, with some image radiating the blue light in the room.

“Hey, Night. Come over here.”

While Michael was stepping over the supplies, Paige was taking a look at the monitor. Several images of some unknown room were opened in separate windows, and wherever it was, it was as dark as anywhere else in the school. There were some shelves, it seemed, but she did not see anything of note.

“Huh…” Michael was getting a good look at the footage. “I... don’t know where this is.”

Paige looked around, and noticed a cable running up from the computer tower and into the left wall. “Hey, that cable… Isn’t the basement on the other side of this wall?”

“I think so. Do you think…?”

“Yeah.” Paige rested her hand on her chin. “This might be recording the basement.”

“Yeah, maybe. Kinda odd, though, especially with it locked. What could he be-”

He froze, eyes as wide as a river, face as pale as a ghost. His glare toward the screen could have cut through steel.

Paige gave a worried glance. “What? What is it?”

Michael grabbed her by the shoulder and jabbed at one particular window of footage.

“W-what the fuck IS that?!”
 

Michael Afton

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Michael’s finger wavered over the monitor, pointed straight at something barely perceptible in the darkened blue room of the office and equally blackened basement. At first, Paige almost thought that Michael had gotten spooked again over nothing but a blurry image of a shelf.

That is, until one of the shelves started to move. It lumbered forward, its form murky within the static of the camera footage. It moved to the camera, each step making its legs visibly buckle. Yet, somehow, it kept shambling and keeping itself above the ground, like each stomp was being lifted by strings and then set down by a clumsy puppeteer.

As it approached the camera, Michael could see its head was buried within its hands. It couldn’t possibly see where it was going past those grotesquely-built hands, with fingers wide and claw-like, as if to tear at the very fabric of reality around it. He couldn’t see its body, but he could see… blood. It had to be blood, covering the creature in blackened ink from the top of its spiked hair to the bottom of its torn-up shoes.

“W-what is- is that a…?” Michael stammered, voice soft.

Then, the creature’s hands fell away as its head settled against the wall underneath the camera. It looked up, suddenly seeing the motion of the camera sliding back and forth in the basement room.

“Oh m-my god…”
Mike whispered, gasping.

The creature’s face looked pallid in the camera’s footage. Its skin had almost entirely rotted off, and Mike swore he saw flies buried within its cheek and eyes. The eyes, its small, pin-prick eyes glowing silver in the darkness, gazed up into the camera, gazed into the two teenagers staring back at the creature in the basement. The same black ichor coating its body oozed out of its open maw, where something… meat-like sat in various sizes of viscera within its jaws. But amidst all of the gore, the flies that ate at the corpse, and the ghastly illumination within its twitching eyes, something about the monster struck Mike.

“He… he looks like a… a…”

“A teenager…”
Paige replied, her voice soft.

Suddenly, a new voice, harsh and snake-like, interrupted them.

“Might want to start running, you two! I’m outta here!”

Footsteps. They echoed throughout the halls outside, fast, sprint-like, desperate.

“He’s coming back!” Michael whispered, his voice a hiss, but he couldn’t move. Not while that creature was looking at him.

“Come ON!” Paige hissed back, giving his arm a hard tug. Michael almost tripped as Paige pulled him out of curtain-covered office, his leg snagging the curtain before letting go. It flourished, like it was waving to them, urging them to flee through the darkness as the duo rushed out of the door.

They exited the room before Paige suddenly stopped. She shut the door, flinching as the close echoed throughout the hallway. She pulled out her lockpick and jammed it into the door, her movements rapid, shaky even, as she worked at the lock.

“Go go go go go go!”
Michael urged, about ready to completely bolt from his spot next to the lockers. The footsteps boomed around them, the keys hanging off of Mr. Jeffers belt ringing about like the bells of the damned, growing ever louder, ever more piercing, as he descended upon them through the darkness.

He could leave now, he realized. He could run now and leave her to her fate. He didn’t have to do this; he barely even knew her!

Yet... his legs remained locked in place, unmoving, until Paige gave the word.

“Got it! Go!” Paige said before whirling around, and with her word, Michael sprung like a rabbit, or a jack in a box, and ran with her down the hall. They didn’t stop running, not until they opened the massive gates of Arcadia High School and ran underneath the statues of gargoyles and griffins that loomed above them as they finally stopped on the very edge of the island that the High School sat upon.
 

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There had been a break in on the school last night, between 10:30 and 11:00 pm. Jeffers had told her the morning she had arrived that the school became unusually loud, than more than once he had to dash around the undead hallways to chase after footsteps, whispers, and the shrieking noise of destruction of school property – one of the lockers had been teared apart, with some of its contents incriminatingly scattered near the scene. Lyon's locker, to be precise.

That leaves the biggest suspect out, but brings a few others to picture. Colling's gang, from 3rd "C", a long-time rival of Lyon's group. Rudy and the other cheerleaders, who last month received a nasty prank on their own lockers after rejecting Brad. Paul from 2nd "F", one of the kids Lyon himself steals from every other week. The library prank this same week. The list goes on.

But Jeffers barely brought the locker's incident this morning. Instead, most of his usual stuttering was wasted on proclaiming someone had broke in on his closet, being convinced the back curtain covering the security PC was too out of place. Normally, he takes the time to flatten its folds as neatly as possible, in order to fool people to think it's a wall. When he came back from one of his patrols, not only it had "a million folds" (on his own words), but the job was so sloppy it even left a few inches uncovered for the right wall.

Besides that, no other reports. No missing school items, or revolved archives, nor broken apertures.

So, someone broke in to mess up with Lyon, but also to peek into Jeffer's quarters. Was one of those a distraction, perhaps? If the objective was targeting Lyon, then it wouldn't make sense to mess around with the closet. The other way around sounded better: Lyon was an easy target, had a lot of enemies, and breaking a locker would make plenty of sound to distract a cowardly janitor into leaving the hidden desk.

Who would possibly be interested in the hidden desk?

There was one suspect that came into Amanda Waltzer's mind immediately after Jeffers ended his report: Michael Afton.

His head was stubborn, his resolve unbreakable. No amount of mind tinkering could take away the inhuman connection he had for those hellish machines his family worked with. This was a fact she had learned to live with, and at this point driving him away from the basement was a monthly routine she even scheduled on advance.

"Monthly" was a keyword. She had just dealt with him the other day. How could he get his curiosity back so quickly?

And for that, at nearly 15 minutes before the first bell, she had assembled a reunion with the only suspect she could gather at this hour.

The morning sun rays from the recently opened window glimmered all through her office's desk and onto the wall shelf on the other side of the room, it being covered with books and archives she barely revised anymore. Across her desk, separated from her with the wall of light, sat Akira Kurusu, the only nerd Michael hanged out with that bothered to show up at school on a timely manner. Like usual, his eyes didn't need to distract themselves in order to avoid contact with his professor’s, and his face showed a resilience most students could only envy at in situations like this.

And yet, his anxiety was so obvious it made her skin chicken up.

"Do you know why we're here?" she said, cutting the silence.

"The assignment due next monday?"

"I suppose. Have you run into any problems doing it?"

"Thankfully, no." He's lying. "Afton helped me." Mentioning Michael made his anxiety suddenly spike, but it quickly went back to normal.

This kid was too obvious.

"How was it working with Afton?"

"Good, I guess. He's so much better than me at the subject though." Not a lie.

"Alright, I'll go straight to topic then. What do you know about last night's break in? The janitor informed the administration this morning that someone had messed up with a student's locker."

A cold wave ran through her spine, signaling another sudden spike of anxiety on the kid, this time stronger and more lasting.

He didn't answer, and for a moment, his eyes shifted away from hers, towards the window. Several different thoughts ran through his head, one flowing into the other, but she couldn't discern any of them from this distance.

Amanda waited until his confidence came back. She could just make an excuse to his first period's teacher if they ran out of time.

After a few long seconds, he discreetly gulped. "I... do know about last night". Honestity. "I overhead a few students talking about it, but I didn't pay them that much attention." A half truth.

"And you didn't report it?"

"I didn't believe they would actually do it, and I was busy with something else." Another half truth.

"That's a serious breach to the school's honor, and a punishable misdeed, Mr. Kurusu."

His eyes widened a little.

Enough playing around. "Such an event could get you expelled in a moment, and I'm pretty sure you know that too."

Another anxiety spike.

"But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The last thing I would want is for one of my students to lose their life's opportunity over a silly, although grave, mistake. And I know you're lying about not knowing much about last night."

"Are you trying to bribe me?"

"You're quick – no need to explain myself then. You tell me what you know, and I won't report you to the principal."

He let out an exaggerated sigh, and relaxed his posture a little. "So, instead of getting me expelled, I sign out someone else for it."

"Pretty much."

Once again, his eyes drifted away as his thoughts started dancing on his head. His anxiety diminished, but that cold wind still coated his presence.

Their eyes met again. "And what if I lie?"

"Are you the kind of person who would lie in the face of a professor?" Yes he goddamn is.

The school ring took out his turn on the conversation, its loud noise permeating the room. Once it ran out of energy, she continued. "Don't worry about that, I can talk with your professor if needed."

It took him a moment to respond. "I don't know who broke in last night. They were guys from 3rd year, but that's all I remember." A blatant lie.

Now it was her turn to let out a sigh. There weren't that many people who would circle around her arguments like this, but those few who were, were a pain in the ass. This kid wasn't even good at it.

Time for a more direct approach.

She stood up from her chair, and circled towards Kurusu, who flinched slightly at the gesture, and she put her hand over his shoulder.

"Now tell me, Mr. Kurusu, how do you know about last night?"

Flashes of an after school afternoon crossed through his –and in turn her– head. He was with Touko, the librarian, both spying two other students from behind the main hallway entrance. His source? A girl on a cap (not a student of hers) and Michael Afton himself.

She knew it!

And just as it appeared, the flashback on his mind faded.

"I already told you," he said, following up on their original conversation.

"Yes, you did. And I believe is getting late." She let go of his shoulder.

He stood up himself too and tried getting away, but she interrupted his walk to freedom with another comment.

"One last thing." She grabbed his wrist and brought him back to her. His body froze in response, every tendon under her grasp as tense as steel wire. "I do not appreciate being lied like this, Mr. Akira Kurusu. From now on, you'll only talk the truth with me, for in this battlefield, you are nothing but a mere soldier at my command."

She let him go. "Have a nice day."

Waves of icy panic giving place to vibrating confusion and then shifting back to cooler auras emanated from him. It takes a little while for an order to drill itself on someone's mind, but eventually he went back to normal. His real usual self, devoid of anxiety and filled with empty thoughts, unlike the persona that entered her office a few minutes ago.

"Thank you. You too."

He exited her office, only the sound on his phone's ringtone and his steps filled the thick air of the room.
 

Michael Afton

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Michael Afton couldn’t get an ounce of sleep last night. The moment he and Paige had separated, he had gone to his car parked on the far side of the Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria parking lot, hands still shivering and his legs wobbling with every step, and then drove the rest of the way home in an almost delirious trance. All the while, the image of the undead teenager with the flies consuming its face trailed him like a spectre. Each attempt to close his eyes once he laid down on his bed only brought the gruesome image further into clarity.

It took all of his might not to just call in sick for school. After all, who would believe him? He’s already known as a delinquent, if one was to brutally understate what he did. Anything that came out of his mouth would just be more reason to not trust him. So, with darkened bags underneath his blue eyes, he put on his school uniform, lifted his backpack, and set off back onto his commute to the city for the school bus-ship.

As he drove along the highway, he couldn’t help but think back to where he and Paige parted ways after fleeing the school. After calling up a taxi-ship to get them off of the island the school was built on, they sat in silence for the trip back into the city, and once they finally reached the ground, they simply turned away from each other without exchanging a word. How could they, after what they saw?

No wonder that door was locked,
thought Michael Afton.

His journey to the bus stop was uneventful, save for the increasing amount of anxiety pumping within his chest. The school bus-ship only gave him an even more nauseous feeling as it carried him up, up towards the blue sky above before submerging in the darkened clouds forming around the school that suffocated it and obscured it from the city below. The suffocating feeling didn’t dissipate as the students on the bus-ship clambered out, with Michael leaving last so as to avoid the uncomfortable, predatory stares that always followed him throughout his school day. As he exited the bus, he noticed the bus-ship driver, a crustacean, staring at him with its long, outstretched stalks of eyes, its head cocked to the side. Michael stared back, confused and unsteady under the alien’s suspicious gaze. The bus-ship driver let off a low chitter, almost like a broken alarm, which was more than enough for Michael to hurriedly pace to the entrance.

He stopped just short of the iron doors of the castle. He gazed up at the building that towered over him; it almost looked like a mouth that threatened to swallow him whole. He felt rooted to the spot, the anxiety within his chest now spreading throughout his body until it locked up his joints and tightened his muscles like a robot slowly powering down.

What if Mister Jeffers saw him? How the hell was he going to keep his cool in front of the man who’s keeping a camera in the basement on a literal zombie? How would he know if the man wasn’t onto him?

Oh god, he thought, oh god. If he found out, he’d tell the principal, or his teacher. He’d tell somebody, and once that happened, he’d be expelled, and all of the last few months would be for nothing. He’d be on the street, the manor his own father wanted him to have once he grew old, the manor his whole fucking family was going to live in, would be sold to some disrespectful despot who’d “renovate” the whole thing, or even worse, be left to rot until it became like a tomb, or some other place where only the dust like to live in. At that point, the only place he’d have left to go to would be back to jail, because who else would take him in?

Who would want to? Who’s left to take care of him? Who’s left to even care about him?

His thoughts settle back to Paige. He recalled her questions, comments, her desire to have him join her for her heist. Despite it risking everything, despite her barely knowing him (or even worse, knowing all there needed to be known about him,) she still wanted him with her. It felt… weird when she asked that, and not even just because she seemed to conjure up memories of him that he had never experienced.

He realized he never really had someone put that much faith in him before. The thought alone calmed him down, and settled his mind for him to come up with a plan.

He hardly knew what time it was, but whatever it was, he needed to call Paige. They needed a plan of action for this, before someone found out what they did and really made their lives hell.

He stepped into the bustling hallway and walked through school, searching for Paige. When he didn’t find her, he ducked into a relatively quiet section of the school, with few students around, and pulled out his phone. He dialed her number: 124-160-0160.

“Come on, pick up, pick up!”
He muttered to himself as he slid the phone up to his ear. He hung his head low, his baseball cap covering his intense, fearful expression on his face.

“Are you busy, Mr. Afton?” Came a familiar voice from behind.

Amanda Waltzer…
Afton thought. Her voice sent odd chills up his spine.

He turned around, still holding the phone near his ear, the dial-up of the Nokia beeping incessantly.

“Would you mind a moment? There’s something I’d like to discuss with you on my office. But feel free to finish your phone call, if you need.”


“Ah… thank you, Miss Waltzer…”
He said, glancing to the side, “but can you… leave me be, for a moment? So I can make the call?”

“Don’t mind me. I’ll be waiting for you on my office, then.”


She seemed to give him a snake-like smile before turning around to walk away from him. Before she did, her eyes seemed to flash something foul, like a golden lightbulb short-circuiting before managing to gain control of itself. Those stares of hers creeped Michael out more than that of any other teacher, if only because it seemed to follow him everywhere he went.

The moment she seemed to be out of hearing, he re-dialed the number, only to be dismayed when it came up with nothing. What the hell was going on?

He looked down the hallway where Miss Waltzer had gone down. It felt… empty, once he realized he was the only person left standing around. He remembered her order: go to her office. He could refuse, but if he wanted any longer trying to take a dead call, he’d be even more trouble. Who knew what Waltzer would do with him if she got an excuse to expel him?

Left with no choice, he dashed to her office.

She was setting up her laptop on her desk when Michael entered the room.

“Oh, I wasn’t expecting you this soon. Please, take a seat.”
She replied, taking a seat behind her desk.

“R-Right…”
Michael replied, slowly sitting down in the chair opposite her. He tried to hide himself behind his cap.

“Alright, I’ll get straight to the point. Why did you come to the school last night? There’s no need for excuses - I already heard everything from Mr. Jeffers.”


“W-what?”
He exclaimed, his eyes widening in shock and fear. Oh fuck, he thought, fuck!

“He informed me of the incident. You sneaked up into the school with another girl. I want to know why.” Her expression, stone-faced and uncaring, was unmoved by his endless anxiety.

How did he find out? How the hell did I fuck this up? Michael thought.

“M-Miss, please, I… you don’t seriously think I’d do something like that, right?”
He said, his teeth chattering from the amount of lies spilling out of his mouth, “I mean… you know me, right? W-why would I…”

“‘Why would you,’ yes, that’s exactly what I need to know. But don’t worry about me.”
She leaned closer to Michael from her chair. “Administration won’t hear a thing. You have my word.”

“Won’t hear a word…”
he repeated to himself. It seemed to calm him down, if only a little.

“I… you know the rumors, right?” He replied, backing up into his chair as the teacher leaned closer. He felt smaller in her presence as she stared at him with serpent-like eyes. “I just… I heard about them and wanted to know if they were real. Honest! I d-didn’t hurt anybody, I swear. Jeffers didn’t get hurt…”

It took her a moment to respond. Something seemed to stiffen about her. “What rumors, exactly?”

“Y-you know… the stupid ones. The ones no one but stupid me would want to actually check…”


Her expression loosened up a bit. “Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“Why s-shouldn’t I be?”
He muttered, his demeanour darkening underneath the shadow of his cap.

“It’s a good lesson to learn. When you do something you’re not proud of, you shrug it off and try to fix your mistake. Do better next time. If you dwell too much on it, you’ll end up drowning in your own self pity.”

He cringed at her words, but she could tell not a single one of them got truly absorbed. She could see in his eyes, distant as they were, that he had entered another time, one only a little while ago, something one couldn’t ‘shrug off,’ or ‘fix,’ or ‘do better’ with. To him, those words might as well have never existed, for they meant nothing to him or to anyone else.

She snapped her fingers in front of his face. “You still haven’t answered my questions.” She stated, a bit irritated.

“W-wha…”
He stammered.

“The rumors. And why you followed up on them.”

“I… just got curious. I wanted t-to know if they were true.”
A half-truth.

“And those rumors may be… ?” She said, encouraging him to finish the sentence.

“... Liquid running underneath the door. People say it’s from pipes, but… I wanted to know for sure.”

“I see.”
She paused for a bit, her eyes drifting away, but soon they found themselves back onto Michael’s. “Did you find it to be true?”

He opened his mouth to speak, but something stopped him. Why would she ask him that question? If Jeffers told her everything…

“Y-yes… it was just pipes.” He said.

“I see. Well, there’s one last question, before you can return to your failed phone call.”
She crossed her arms, and leaned back in her chair. “Who was the girl accompanying you?”

“... How’d you know my phone call failed?”

“You came here pretty fast, but that’s beside the point.”


“Y-yeah…”
he said, eyeing her underneath his ball cap, “and I… don’t know what you mean.”

He couldn’t let Paige fall with him. He’d fall, but not her. She didn’t deserve it.

She paused her game a bit, observing his reaction. When that didn’t bear anything, she said, “Your friend didn’t want to ditch you out either. Kurusu, I mean.”

He snapped his head up, revealing his widened eyes. “A-Akira?”

“Yes. He knew about you and your friend’s plan, and confessed it this morning. I suspect that’s why he skipped class today. However, he didn’t want to talk about you specifically, if that makes you feel better.”


He looked like she had just shot her. He promised not to tell anyone, Afton thought, and he…

“I… I see…”
he whispered, voice low, trembling.

“So, will you tell me who your friend is?”

Michael… kept his mouth shut.

At the lack of response, she sighed. “Alright, I think that’ll be it for today. You may go now.”

He visibly relaxed before getting up out of the chair. He didn’t dare look back at her as he left the room.

He had to find Paige. He had to get her out of here before the wolves catch her too.
 

Paige Turner

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“Are you going to check out those books or what?”



Touko was glaring at Paige, who had been caught loitering at the front desk while gazing off into the distance. She hadn’t even put her books down yet. Snapping back to reality, she replied: “Oh, sorry, I was thinking.”

The librarian muttered some unsavory remark under her breath. “...second time… can’t even think…” Having noticed that Paige simply put the books on the table without response, she gave a side glance with narrow eyes. “What… no smartass remark?”

“Sorry, your free trial has expired. You’re going to need to cough up your dignity to continue this service.”

With a sigh, Touko picked up the books and writing their numbers down. As she did so, though, it seemed as if she was a bit on edge. Well, she was always on edge- it was her defining trait- but even more so right now than it was the last two times they talked. Her hand clutched the pen so tight, Paige could have sworn it was going to break, and she seemed more stressed than annoyed.

“Hey, you look as sour as a grape. You okay?”

“H-huh?!” Caught off guard, Touko’s hand slipped and etched a thick black line through some of the numbers on the list. She growled. “Look at what you made me do!” She tore the sheet off and started rewriting all the numbers.

Dude, I was just making sure you were alright. Paige took a bit to control her irritation, then asked again: “I’m sorry, but are you doing alright?”

“That’s none of your b-business! I know your type.”

What the hell is going on-

“You just want to stir up trouble in things that aren’t your concern. You’re more of a brown nose than a common housefly. I’m not letting you drag me into your whirlpool of drama!”

And just like that, Touko turned back around and continued checking out the books. Paige just stood there, not really wanting to continue the conversation right now It was unclear to her whether that was one of the best or worst experiences she’s had at school so far, but it was certainly something alright. Lunch was almost over, so when the books were all checked out, Paige said her farewells and left for class.


. . .


Third period was boring. Mike had been trying to call her the whole time, but she put her phone on silent after the first call because she was in class and multiple calls would make things suspicious. That was the only interesting thing that happened during class, though, and fourth wasn’t looking to be much fun either, so Paige receded back into her thoughts for the duration of class.

...It’s so strange. The way it looked, the way it moved; it was so different, so unreal. And yet, given this world’s pension for magic, I completely believe it exists. I guess it’s cause I’ve been here a couple weeks. Is that thing some deformed mutant, and was it born that way or transformed into what it is now? Or is it some failed lab experiment, artificial life gone awry?

Well, I’m not gonna take that. Already in too deep, and there’s not a chance on the Vegas Strip that I’m gonna sit and be expelled for some pathetic scandal. Besides, if that creature escapes, it might damage the school, and that could get the whole place shut down for a long time, if not permanently. Like hell I’m gonna let that happen.

As for Jeffers, though-


“TURNER!”

Snapping back to reality, Paige felt a sense of deja vu as Mrs. Mitz Frasnier was staring straight at her. A couple students were snickering, to her chagrin.

“Get your head out of the clouds and explain to me what the error is in this-”

“You forgot to mark a negative sign somewhere in the middle, so the answer skewed way into the thousands.”

“Hmm.” Mrs. Fraznier gave her a skeptical look as she turned around to the whiteboard. “Yes, Jack added by accident because he forgot to mark the 215 as negative…”


. . .


As soon as the bell rang, Paige swam along the current of students leaving school, this time trying to flow on out of the building entirely. Rumors had circulated all day of the heist they did, so she knew that it would be best to leave as soon as possible. Good thing literally everyone tries to book it out of here every day.

As she neared the school’s iron doors, she saw a shadow from the corner of her eye. Michael, in his ball cap, rushed over from down another hall to catch her before she left. "P-Paige! I... sorry, I-I was calling a lot today, umm... I wanted to catch up to you b-before you left!"

“Dude, I was in class. Don’t call people in class. What is it?”

“Oh, er… it’s, you know…” His skin was especially pale, like he was actively allergic to vitamin D. He had bags under his eyes, and was sweating profusely; he doesn’t seem to have gotten much rest.

The hallway was starting to clear, and Paige had already made a point to get out of school as soon as she could. This chat would have to take place somewhere else, somewhere where people couldn’t hear, or at least wouldn’t care to listen. “Alright, but I’m hungry. Let’s grab some grub. Got any recommendations?

“Ah, well… there’s this local noodle place downtown that’s pretty good, if you l-like that. Um, there’s one popular stand that has good burgers…” Michael said, an unconfident smile forming on his face. “Then there’s, uh… the place I work at. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzaria. It’s pretty cool, actually! It has talking robot animals.”

Paige stood with her mouth agape. There’s no way this is for real. After a bit of awkward silence, and with Michael’s smile beginning to fade, she replied: “Okay. Alright. We’re going to get pizza. This, I’ve gotta see.”

"Oh! Good! You'll like it, hopefully. I know the way!" He trailed forward, a bit of pep to his step, while Paige followed behind with her arms crossed.


. . .


It took them fifteen or so minutes from the bus stop closest to school to get to the restaurant. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria had two giant windows surrounding the big metal door at the front, and none anywhere else. Atop its front was a neon sign with the restaurant’s name, as well as depicting what one could only believe was the eponymous Freddy himself: the head of a brown bear in his black hat and bowtie smiled out into the open sky

“Here it is,” Michael said with the faintest grin.

It was hard to look into the windows due to the sun’s glare. All she could do was look up at Fazbear’s cheeky grin.

This is actually happening.

“Are you impressed?” He walked over to the door, pulling it open with a firm tug. Singing, chatter, and childish laughter billowed out from the doorway. The building was a deafening echochamber fit for youth. Reluctantly, Paige followed him inside.

The checkerboard floors and cartoonish decorations, combined with the sound of children, all set off Paige’s signals at once. It was as if this were some forbidden place where only parents, kids, and employees were allowed; the rest were not welcome. She noticed a couple parents glaring at them, even. It was not an atmosphere she’d have expected to endure this evening, especially given the recent circumstances.

This might have been a mistake.



“So. This is where you work?” Paige asked. It then suddenly occurred to her that this is, indeed, where Michael works, and she had a hard time holding back her uproarious laughter. A snicker slipped through the cracks nonetheless.

Michael didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he wasn’t even fazed at all. He just smiled like it was the best job in the world. “Heh… yeah, I do. We should grab a seat, follow me!”

“A-alright,” she said, calming down a bit, “let’s go get our food.”

He shuffled a bit down one of the halls while Paige followed suit. They passed through several families and coworkers, a couple nodding at Michael in acknowledgement as he walked past. With each step, the singing grew louder. With each stride, the cheering grew brighter, until eventually they had reached the dining hall.

Numerous rows of tables and booths lined the room, draped with multi-colored fabric and dyed with pastel colors. Most were filled with parents and children, only serving to heighten Paige’s sense of displacement. A disco ball, glittering from the ceiling, was surrounded by a bunch of balloons which had detached from their chairs and tables, and they would hang there until the helium eventually escaped.

The biggest attraction- the stage- was round, circular even, and large enough to hold probably five or six people side-to-side across both sides. Unfortunately, though, it was shrouded in a red curtain, and a sign sat in front that read ‘Sorry! Freddy and the Gang are out for vacation, but they’ll be back soon!’

Paige snapped her fingers. “Dang it. I guess that means they’re under maintenance.”

“Yeah…” Michael, despite working here, didn’t seem too distressed by this fact.

He pointed to an open booth near the middle of the room. Paige proceeded to sit at the far end of one side, laying her legs across the rest of the seat as if she were relaxing in bed. “So. Let’s get talking.”

Michael adjusted his cap, slouched over on the opposite end of the booth. Even had a smile on his face, though that didn’t last too long. “Well, uh… I wanted to talk about the, ah… the break-in?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“It’s bad, Paige. You gotta know th-this is serious, right? I-I mean that thing… it’s just down there.” He planted his face in his hand.

“Of course I do. Something needs to be done about it. It could cause a lot of havoc if left where it is.”

“No wonder the j-janitor was so nervous. H-how long has he had that thing locked up?”

“Probably up to about a month, since that was the last time the basement was accessed by a student. Considering he had a bunch of stuff for staying up late, I’m willing to bet he’s been tracking that thing for a while now.”

“Y-yeah, no kidding.” Michael said through gritted teeth.

“We should try and gather more information about it. Something may turn up.” Paige slumped a bit in her seat. “Of course… I’m not actually sure where to go from here…”



They sat there for a bit, wondering where they could find a clue, when Mike suddenly jerked up with a gasp. “I remembered something. He… The janitor knows. He knows we did it.

A sense of anger rose within Paige. This couldn’t be real. With one eye peering from beneath the bill of her cap, she said: “How certain are you about this?”

“Pretty certain. My… my teacher told me. She said he told her about it and she knows it was me.”

She had locked the door before they left, and even though they almost got caught, she had made almost certain they didn’t get seen. Michael had a bandana on, and she kept her hood up the whole time. I thought we were blended into the shadows rather well, how could he have known?

He continued: “A-Akira told her about it, too…”

Akira? Akira, Akira- “Oh come on, that Koromatsu kid?!”

Michael laid his head on the table. “Kurusu. And… well, that’s w-what she said.”

“Did she call you to her office or something?”

“Yeah…”

“What does she know? Tell me.”

“She… knows I was involved. She also knows you’re involved, but… doesn’t know your name. She also told me t-that Jeffers told her everything.”

Michael’s teacher knows he was involved, and also knows Paige is involved, but doesn’t know her name. Jeffers saw the two, and she apparently double-checked Michael’s identity through Kurusu. Hold on a moment, something isn’t right…

“She… she scares me. She said she wouldn’t rat us out to the administration if I told her everything…”

Paige stiffened as an idea started to form in her head, much like a ball of light appearing within a sea of darkness. “Why not?”

“I… I don’t know.” Michael lifted his face so that she could see it. “I… didn’t tell her anything about you.”

“So you’re fine for now? No suspension, or detention even?”

“Seems like it… Dammit, I d- I don’t like this. She isn’t going to the principal… is she?”

If what the bullies said is true… “Michael, that doesn’t sound right at all. This seems very suspicious.”

“It does?”

“For instance, she didn’t punish you, even though she knew you broke in. Just a simple talking to, not even a detention? I know high schools are more lenient than they need to be, but that’s just silly.”

“Well, I guess, but...”

“Also, she said that the janitor told her everything. So, why would she bother Akira if Mr. Jeffers told her everything?”

“I... “ He turned silent, frowning.

Paige sat for a moment, hand on her chin as she worked through her skepticism. “Now that I think about it... why didn’t the janitor tell anyone else that we did it if he knew it was us, or even if he had his suspicions? In other words, why were you called by your teacher, but not by the principal?”

“Maybe he doesn’t want the principal to know?” He slumped over, as if recalling the monitor on the desk, and the monster that laid within its pixels. “Because then we’d… we’d tell the principal what w-we saw.”

“But then why didn’t your teacher tell the principal? Why would Jeffers confide in anyone if he was worried about getting found out?”

“...Maybe… he...” Suddenly, he froze.

“‘Maybe he’ what?” Her gaze bore into him, drilling into his mind as to reveal his thoughts.

“...Maybe the teacher d-doesn’t want anyone to know either.” Michael brought his hands to his head, practically blown aback by this revelation. “Maybe sh-she…

“Maybe she knows.”



For a second, there was silence. Then Paige’s expression lit like a light, as if a jigsaw puzzle had clicked into place. “That’s our lead.” She sat up in her chair, gesturing her hands to help her focus. “I’ve been thinking about this all day. The janitor’s really skittish, and he may not even know anything else about the monster. Plus, I think we’ve learned as much as we can from the closet, and the odds of us getting back in are slim. I think it’s about time we check on your teacher’s homework.”

“My teacher’s… homework?”

Paige just sat there for a good second, hoping that Michael would get the point.

“...You w-want to dig up stuff about Miss Waltzer?”

“Is that her name? Yeah.” Thank god, I could’ve died right here if you were that dense.

“That… oh God.” He shook and shifted in his seat, avoiding eye contact with his companion. “I… how do we know it’s possible? Like… how can we get anything on her?”

“Hmm…” Paige put her hand to her chin. “Well, we can’t be sure she’s actually doing anything wrong right now. So let’s start with standard info, and work from there.”

“Y-yeah… standard info…”

“...You know what I mean by that, right?”

“Maybe?” His voice was hesitant, so definitely not.

“Easy to access info that we could find by just asking anyone.”

“Ah… makes sense. ...Wait, so… maybe some records on her? Like in the library?”

“That’s, uh, less than standard, but a good idea nonetheless. Actually… I’m guessing you wouldn’t get much of a response from people. So perhaps we can divide up accordingly.”

Michael tilted his head, cupping it in one hand. “Divide up…?”

“I’ll look for info about the teacher that everyone knows by asking around, particularly cause I know nothing about Waltzer. Meanwhile, you go look for her record and see if there is any useful information inside.”

“Ah, okay. Yeah, I can… do that.” He took a deep breath. “God, I… if she finds out about this, we really are screwed.”

“Well, let’s plan for that later. I need more details first. But for now, we need to tread carefully.”

“Careful… right.”

Paige leaned on her left arm, right eye peeking from under her cap. “And I mean the ‘leave school ASAP, come to school as close to the bell as possible, and try not to be seen by staff’ kind of careful.”

“I have class with her, though. Sooner or later, she’s gonna… try and stop me, maybe.”

“Hmm, that’s definitely an issue. We need to work that out, then, but I doubt she’ll try and talk to you again tomorrow.”

“I hope so… Well, I h-hope it all goes well. Don’t get caught, you hear?”

Paige smirked at her companion. “You got it.”

They ordered pizza from a man in a bear costume, with Paige snickering like a child, and after they ate, they separated on their way home.


. . .


It was the early morning, a hearty Tuesday with dew on the grass and a sun mostly obscured by the buildings on the street. Paige found herself double-checking the stuff in her backpack, as she normally does in the morning on the way to school. To be fair, it was a tad redundant to do so on the school bus… ship… thing, but that really didn’t concern her too much. She had her books right now, and even if she didn’t, she knew the current material well enough not to need them.

Truly, the only reason she cared was for one in particular. She pulled out a hefty tome out from the pack- easily the largest inside, with no competition besides chemistry. The cover was orange, with pictures of metal pathways and a forestful of wooden beams adorned with giant metal gears. An ocean of sand was depicted as swirling and flowing below it all, imagery that, Paige figured, would remind most in this strange world of Govermorne.

She opened the tome to a new page and took out a pencil. This page, as with many others before it, bore numerous signatures that read “Paige Turner.” She erased one of the oldest-looking signatures and wrote a new one in its place before putting the book back in her pack.

As the busship pulled up to Arcadia High, she stepped out and stared at the building. There’s a scandal going on, and that's so much more interesting than the magic behind it all, she thought. There’s something odd with that picture.

“Excuse me.”

Paige looked down toward the entrance and saw an old woman with wrinkly skin and tall heels staring at her, walking ever closer. She hesitated to walk any closer to this woman, particularly because of her piercing eyes: eyes that stared at your soul, eyes that tracked your every movement, eyes as cutting and cunning as a snake’s. However, running away simply wasn’t an option.

“Would you mind telling me your name?”

. . .
 

Touko Fukawa

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The library was quiet for only a fleeting few moments, early in the morning. Before the teachers let themselves in to make a racket with the copy machines, and before the students who lived closest to the school found their ways to the tables to chatter with their friends... There were perhaps ten or fifteen good minutes of silence for her, from the moment her key clicked open the lock to the point at which some middle-aged dipshit would set their cup of fresh coffee on one of the stacks of paper on her desk, leaving a sludgy brown ring on it.

She counted today.

It was only seven.

Touko couldn't say she had ever had the displeasure of being in one of Amanda Waltzer's classes, and yet the woman strode up to her desk like they were old friends. Like she was owed her attention. The hair on the back of her neck bristled up, not with fear- more with resentment- as acidic bile seemed to flow into her throat, drowning out the bitter smell of instant coffee that seemed to perfume all of the teachers at this damn school. Ah, yes. Her first interruption of the day. How she looked forward to it.

"Good morning, miss Fukawa." A saccharine disposition- like the Sweet 'n Low she probably dumped into that disposable drink cup of hers moments ago. The teacher's face carried the lightest of smiles, pleasant but distant. At least she knew it- she knew Touko wasn't interested in this conversation whatsoever, so she'd better make it quick.

Certainly she could tell by the assistant's demeanor, if anything, as her shoulders wilted and her eyes flicked upwards for only half a second to meet her face- before falling back to her work. "...Morning." Touko was loathe to call it a good one. But she was loathe to call any morning a good morning. She took in a shaky breath, trying to steady her mind enough not to come across as entirely confrontational. "What... What do you want?"

"I'm just here to grab some papers from the printer. I just figured I'd strike up some conversation while waiting."

I'd rather drop dead on the fucking spot than indulge you in your little "conversation," lady, was what her brain and face said. What her liar of a mouth said was simply "whatever..."

"You heard about the break in over the weekend, I take it?"

The librarian's nose turned up in a scowl. "...What, is this an interrogation?"

"Oh no. I was simply wondering if you had... heard anything about it beforehand."

"You think... I'm the type to be p-privvy to anyone's gossip? Hmph..."

"Calm down there. I was just asking."

"...Ugh... I heard Afton was planning on breaking in. With s-some... Other girl." A face was plastered in her mind, but the name escaped her. Patricia, or something. "But... It's not like I know for sure. He doesn't... seem like the type to... go around m-messing... messing up lockers like that." Who did? Did the girl? Did she even seem strong enough to manage it? She didn't know. She didn't know, but that bile in her throat went nowhere. In fact, its acrid taste made its way up to the back of her tongue now, her anxiety brimming- despite Miss Waltzer's suggestion.

She needed only look at Touko's face to see that anxiety, of course. It was plain as day. That her brain was moving too fast for her words to keep up. "Is that all? You didn't hear anything more over the weekend?"

Her mind writhed in discomfort as it tried to access her memories. But it was like she was slamming her fists against a brick wall. The weekend? The weekend... In the vaguest sense, she knew she had fallen asleep on Thursday, and woken up on Monday. But the time in the middle was blank. It was as if she had slept through the whole three days. "I- ...I don't remember." She swallowed the acid in her throat.

It was like a rat, digging in its claws against a metal door. It was like trying to slit your wrists with a plastic spoon. Scratching until your nails tore off, blood gushing from your fingertips. Digging at your flesh until it stained deep purple with bruises, skin rubbed raw and blistering. There was more. She could tell for certain that there was more. Something she'd forgotten. It couldn't have been a coincidence that just those few days were missing, right? And yet, they were nowhere to be found. There was something wrong, something deeply concerning about their absence.

It made Touko sick to her stomach. Or maybe that was just her panic moving on to attacking her body itself.

And the teacher felt in some way the same.

But she righted herself quickly. "Hmm, I'll be sure to keep your statement in mind. Oh, looks like my print order is done." The little smile on Waltzer's face had faded entirely now, as she found herself back in her own world. Back in a reality not colored by Touko's warped mental state. "I'll see you later, miss Fukawa."

There was no response.

Touko buried her nose back in paperwork.

She'd still rather have died than participated in that conversation.
 

Michael Afton

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Sometime later….

-----------------------------------


“Afton, wait!” Akira called out to Michael. He stopped in the middle of the hallway, freezing up.

Akira caught up to him, sliding to a halt. “Listen, there’s something I need to talk with you about. Would you mind going to a less crowded space?”

“... Why?”
Mike replied, visibly tightened, like a coiled-up spring just itching to be sprung.

He scratched his hair. “Well… Anyways...” He eyed the other students dashing around the hallways. Then, he bowed to Mike. “I’m sorry I missed on the electronic’s project. I… couldn’t get to school that morning.” He looked back to Mike. “Yeah I know it sounds stupid, but...”

Mike finally glanced back at the bowing Akira, which caused him to flinch in shock. He stared at him, bewildered by his display.

“I… that’s alright…”


He straightened himself back, and, once again, looked at his surroundings. A group of girls were glancing at them from afar, and some other students who passed gave them weird looks, but other than that, none really seemed to care about them.

“Ok. I hope things work out better. Anyways, that was all.”
Awkward, Akira tried to leave, only to stop when Michael spoke again.

“That… that was it? That’s all you wanted to talk about?”


“Yes. You can… go back to whatever you were about to do.”
He glanced away from Mike.

“I… was just gonna leave, but…”

Afton suddenly couldn’t look in his direction anymore.

“...But?”

“... but, well…”


He shivered, a loud, exhausted sigh escaping from his lips.

“Well… I guess you wouldn’t want to… I mean, I was thinking we could hang out one day, but... “


He shook his head. “I guess you wouldn’t want that…”

A slight frown appeared on Akira’s face. “What...? Well… We can hang out, if you want.”

“You don’t gotta be polite now, dude.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Look… I’m just saying, if you hate me, you don’t have to pretend you don’t. No one else does, and… it’s for good reason. Hell, you’re probably better off for it, right? No one would call you crazy for sticking with me…”

“I don’t hate you. It’s just that stuff happened and I couldn’t make it in time for the physics’ class. I didn’t ditch you. At least, not on purpose.”

“It’s not… I’m not talking about that.”
Mike said, his brows narrowing, stunned by Akira’s seeming mockery.

Akira mirrored his expression. “Then what are you talking about?”

“... About what you told our teacher. About what me and… a friend were planning.”

“I… didn’t tell anyone about that!”
He replied, looking at the floor.

Suddenly, he glanced back up. “Wait…”

He stepped forward and looked directly into MIke’s eyes. “Did she tell you something?!”

“... Yes. She… told me you told her.”

“Oh...”

“Did you, Akira? D-Did you tell her?”

“No. But I know she already knew it. Look...”
He glanced at everyone on the hallway. “Let’s go somewhere else.”

“I…”


He glanced at everyone else as well. After only a few moments, he silently nodded, trembling.

Akira takes Mike to the 3rd floor bathroom.

“Ok, look, there’s… this thing with that teacher. I know it sounds crazy, but… we shouldn’t be near her, let alone follow her to her office. She… does things in there.”


“Yeah. I… kinda figured.”
Mike said, his voice racked with scratchy unease.

“Ok, I’m going to sound like a complete madman, but… Ms. Waltzer can read minds. And she read mine yesterday morning. She called me to her office, and I can’t remember what happened there, but I’m 100% sure that’s how she knew about you guys.” He looked away. “It’s… still, kind of my fault that I eavesdropped on you, though.”

“She… read your mind?”
Mike replied, eyes widened.

“Yes. And she reads yours too.”

“She read my mind?!”
He said, growing louder.

“Yeah… it’s weird, I know. But even if you don’t believe me, don’t… just, don’t go with her if she calls for you. Make up a stupid excuse, or just refuse. But whatever you do, don’t go with her.”

He looked like he had been struck by a thousand bullets, and yet, as time slowly passed, he looked more and more convinced of the seemingly crazy theory being brought to him.

“So… so that’s how she knew. That’s how… how she knew about what we did.”

Akira looked at him, his eyes widened. “Wait… You believe me?”

“I… Akira…”


He gulped, sweat forming on his hands as he clutched himself. Akira could see the sweat staining the arms of his school jacket as his terror grew.

“I… can I tell you something… j-just as crazy?”

“Of course. Go on.”


“... Ms. Waltzer… is hiding something. In the basement. There’s something down there and she… she doesn’t want anyone finding out about it.”


“I… think I could see that.”
He frowned in thought.

“You don’t… really believe that, do you?”

“I would believe anything at this point, to be honest. What’s in the basement?”


His fingers tightened around his arms, like he was trying to rip them off.

“There’s… a thing. Like a creature. It… it looked like a dead person. It had flies covering its face and it was just… walking around down there, and staring at the camera like it knew we were there. Something was dripping from its mouth…”

“Does Ms. Waltzer know that you know about that?”


“I don’t know… but I know Mr. Jeffers knows. And he… he must have told her about the break-in, and she must have read your mind and saw us and realized it was us who did it or at the very least she suspected… oh god…”


Akira could see tears start to form in his eyes. “She’s… what is she planning? She hasn’t even said anything to me this entire day. She hasn’t done a thing! What is she planning?”

“I… don’t know. But I can assure you… She’s dangerous. We should call the police.”


“Who’s gonna believe us? This is literally us saying some zombie is walking around the basement and two school faculty members are involved! That… that sounds crazy, right?”

“Yeah, it does…”
He paused for a moment. “I’m guessing your friend knows about this, too?”

“... Yeah. She’s… she’s the one that told me to avoid Ms. Waltzer.”


He narrowed his eyes. “... What did she tell you about her?”

“Well… I kinda put two-and-two together a bit, and she… well, she thinks we need to know as much about her as we can. So I… I’d go looking for her record. Find out stuff from there.”

“I’m not sure if I’d like to participate on that, but if I find out something, I’ll let you know.”


“O-Okay…”
Mike replied, wiping tears from his eyes. He goes quiet for a few moments before his wet, red eyes gazed at Akira again.

“Do you… actually not hate me?”

“First things first… Are you ok?”
He looked concerned.

“I… I’m fine. Just… I’m just scared, man…”


He glanced away. “Well, to be honest… Me too.”

He locked eyes with Mike, determined. “I’ll promise you I’ll do something about this. And no, I don’t hate you.”

Mike couldn’t help but smile, but even something like that felt stiff, held back immensely by a crushing weight of some sort.

“Well… do you know why people hate me?”

“I’ve heard rumors, but I have a hard time believing the kind of weird stuff in them.”


His smile noticeably widened. It seemed racked with both joy and pain, like he was barely restraining himself from revealing some awful truth.

“I… I see. That’s… that’s nice of you.”

“Alright, so… If I remember, did you want to hang out with me?”

“... Yeah. I’d… I’d like that.”

“Do you have a place in mind?”


“Ah… well, there’s the place I work. We have a movie theatre, a planetarium… there’s a bunch of cafes too, plus arcades. If you like pizza, I definitely have the place for you… provided you stomach dancing animals.”


He smirked. “I’ll take the challenge. Let’s go with pizza.”

“Okay! F-Follow me.”


Michael walked to the exit of the bathroom, a slight skip in his step, energy barely escaping his shell.

On the school entrance, a loud “meow” caught their attention. It was a black cat hiding behind a bush.

Akira glanced at Mike, then back to the cat, and then back to Mike again. “Can you give me a moment?”

“S-Sure…”


And by making sure no one was looking, Akira sneaked past the bushes to meet with the cat.

After a few minutes, he came back.

“Sorry for the wait, but check this out.”

He showed Mike the cat he just found, who was now inside his bag. It was a black cat of some sort, with soft fur and round, blue eyes. It purred, delighted.

“Huh… you find a stray?”

“... Yeah. Now, where did you say this pizzeria was?” He closed the now cat-holding bag.

“Ah. It’s only so far away. Shouldn’t take much longer than fifteen minutes or so to reach it once we get off the sky island.”


Michael led Akira and his cat to the bus-ship stop to get them out of the school and back into Arcadia.

They got into the bus.

“So, have you always lived here?”

“Well… not all my life. Actually only moved in fairly recently. About a year or so ago.”

“But you don’t come from another world, no?"

“Ah… well, I do. I was born and mostly raised on Cevanti.”

“So, you’re an alien.”


“Well, no. I’m a human.”
He replied, chuckling a bit. “If anything, you’re the alien.”

“Yeah. Back in my home planet, there weren’t flying buses.”

“Your home planet sucks, then.”
He said before suddenly pausing. “That… wasn’t too harsh, right? I didn’t mean to offend, I just… wanted to be kinda funny…”

“Dude, there’s nothing that doesn’t suck about my home planet. Compared to flying buses, at least.”


“Huh… what is your home planet?”

“I’m from Earth.”
He shoved his hand on his face to stop himself from laughing. “I can’t believe I just said that seriously, goodness!”

Michael couldn’t help but laugh a bit himself. “Huh… Earth. Doesn’t sound familiar… you must be one of those people, then.”

“An alien?”

“Yeah, that’s about right.”

“Well, I can’t be the only one. There must be some other alien from my planet. My people should be out there.”
He made a dramatic head swing. “I refuse to believe otherwise.”

Michael only laughed harder, guffawing like a parrot. “D-don’t worry about that. There’s more aliens on these planets then you’d think. It makes life real interesting, actually, finding people from completely different planets from completely different galaxies.”

“I really am living on a science fiction world, huh…”
he muttered mostly to himself.

“Oh hey! We’re here!”
 

Michael Afton

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“Hope the animatronics aren’t still inactive for maintenance this time…” Michael said, opening the door to the restaurant for Akira to step inside. Checkerboard patterns line the floor of the hallway in front of them.

“Animatronics?”

“Robots that look like animals. They’re really cool. You should see them in action.”

“Can we talk with them? I always wanted to talk with a real robot.”

“Hell yeah you can. They can react to most anything you say.”


A smile lit Akira’s face. “That’s awesome!”

He chuckled, a wide, proud smile on his face. He led them into the main dining room, the most active part of the restaurant, where kids and parents walked about as they went from room to room, trying out various games and eating various slices of pizza. Drawings of animals, such as tall, bipedal bears and chickens, were connected on the walls via tape and buttons. The sheer crowd alone was enough to make it difficult to navigate, but eventually, an empty table towards the back of the dining hall came into view.

“That looks like a good spot.” Michael said, pointing to the table.

“Sounds good to me.”

They sidestepped a few kids and some tables in order to get to their target.

It took a bit of agility, but they managed to reach the table. Michael Afton, gentleman that he is, pulled out a chair for Akira to sit before taking a seat opposite him.

“Thank you,” he giggled, imitating a young girl, before accepting his seat.

The giggling was infectious enough that it made Michael giggle back. “Don’t worry. You haven’t seen the cool part yet.”

“I wonder what that would be. This place is so colorful.”

“It varies from day-to-day, although if I remember right, Chica- oh…”


His smile curved up, looking impish, revealing small, little teeth behind his lips. “Almost spoiled the surprise!”

“Let’s see how surprising it is, then,”
he said, while glancing around the place, still smiling.

Akira saw a disco ball hanging above the crowd, sparkling numerous different colors as light beams shot into it. He noticed the colors coalesce into stars, bears, birds, bunnies, and foxes as they impacted the stone walls of the room around them. Waiters and waitresses wearing purple uniforms and a Fazbear cap similar to the one Mike wore all the time weaved through the crowd, carrying boxes of pizza and occasionally animal masks on their faces. But the thing that caught his attention was the massive stage sitting directly in front of the all the tables and people. It was large, covering almost the entire front half of the room with its round, brown set-up. Red drapes hung over it, hiding everything behind it from sight. Several microphones connected to massive speakers were set up at the front of the stage already, with several lights of various sizes set up at the two sides of it to light up the performers.

“Hehe, trust me. There’s a reason this place is popular.”

“Do you work here?”

“Yeah. Janitor, mostly, but… well, I also helped… make the robots… sorta.”

“You help with the robots’ maintenance?”

“Well, usually I just clean up after them. They tend to spill a lot of weird gunk out of them. But I did help code them.”

“I didn’t know you liked coding. That’s amazing.”

“Heh… thank you.”
He replied, a small blush appearing on his face.

“Well, I’m not that talented myself, but when I was in middle school I joined the gymnastics club, and I learned how to do a few pirouettes. Sadly, I’m too rusty for that now, with so much studying I have to do for high school.”

“You could do pirouettes?”
Michael replied, now suddenly having to wonder what Akira would look like doing pirouettes.

“Nothing too impressive, but I was proud when I learned to walk on my hands.”

“Oh my god… that’s amazing.”

“It is cool, but not really useful, unlike coding. Maybe one day I could show you, after I get some practice back.”

“Heh… I’d like to see that.”


Suddenly, a drum roll echoed within the dining hall. The lights started to dim. "Ladies and Gentleman!" An announcer roared over the intercom, prompting applause.

“Is this the big surprise?” he asked, clapping his hands alongside the public.

Michael smiled as he nodded, turning around to face the stage.

"Put your hands, paws, pincers, and claws together for a special performance by our backup singer! She's been dying to show you all her moves all day long! Are you ready?"


A resounding 'YES' was all the announcer needed. The curtains slid up, slow, smooth. A music box played a soft, somber waltz. No animatronic stood on the stage.

Then, Chica appeared. It seemed that she almost floated, the yellow chicken's slender feet sliding across the stage with dexterity unlike that of any robot before. She stopped in the middle of the stage and bowed to the audience, obtaining applause. She was clad in a pink ballet dress, a white party bib, and the yellow plates of her costume. She danced with grace and a cheeky smile on her face. Her limbs moved seemingly without limits, making movements too smooth for the normally jerky robot, yet her arms and legs jutted out, pointed out, slid about in ways no human could ever recreate.

Akira leaned closer to Mike. “When will I get to talk with her? I want to ask her out.”

“You might get the chance. I’d personally ask out Freddy, though.”

“Is Freddy hot?”

“He’s got the bear look to him, yeah.”


Akira laughed at that. “Yeah, let’s ask the robots on a date. Let’s also make sure there aren’t kids around.”

“Heh… yeah…”


He seemed to tighten up, his giggly, bubbly jovialness soon locking back up until he had stiffened entirely. He looked around, as if the room had suddenly gotten a little too crowded for his taste.

Eventually, the lights come back up, and Chica stops dancing. She bows to the audience once more to roaring applause. It only grew louder, more riotous as the rest of the Fazbear Band walked onto the stage. It grew louder still as they proceeded to walk off the stage and into the dining hall itself, smiles on their faces as waves of parents and children alike went to see them.

Michael’s eyes visibly widened. He started to shuffle about in his chair, now no longer making eye contact with any of the robots coming through the crowd.

“I think there are too many kids to go and ruin it for them by taking their turn with the robots… “

“D-don’t worry… they like to come around and talk to everyone. H-heck, they even scour the whole restaurant just to f-find someone to talk to.”


Akira gave Mike a hard look. “Weren’t you excited for the show?”

“I was, yeah. T-this is… well, t-this is the part I don’t look forward to.”

“Oh… Why not? Do they dislike teens?”

“Oh no, they love teens. Especially cute ones. They just… don’t like… don’t like criminals. Especially a criminal like me.”


He frowned at that. “Would you prefer if we left?”

“N-no!”
He said, jerking up, waving his hands about as if to hold him still.

“T-this place is great! Really! It’s just… well, they love kids, okay? They’re like a bunch of parents. So it’s… it’s who they are, really.”

He shuffled a bit. “Uh… tell you what… I n-need to go the bathroom. If they come by here, uh… order anything you’d like. I’d l-like pepperoni and pineapple. Uh… if Chica comes over here, ask her out for me!”

He suddenly hops out of the chair and bolts into the crowd.

As soon as Mike left, Akira also sat up and followed him to the bathroom. He waited near the door for Mike.

It was becoming increasingly clear as time moved on that Mike wasn’t coming out of the bathroom.

Suddenly, Akira heard a loud, robotic, gentle “Greetings!” emanate throughout the hallway.

Akira looked to the source. A brown bear with a black nose, tie, and hat started walking towards them. The main man himself, Freddy Fazbear, had apparently found it delightful that they were off in the corner, and sought to cheer them up. His paws behind his back, he held a gentlemanly stance. He looked down at the raven-haired teen, a toothy smile on his robotic face.

Looking at the bear, Akira waved his hand so slightly. “... Hi,” he said to it.

“Hello, young delinquent!” Freddy said, repeating the action back at Akira. His oval, plastic eyes slid to gaze at the bathroom.

“I take it the bathroom is currently full?” The bear asked, taking some time to adjust his hat upon his head despite it clearly being attached to his head.

“Yes, it is,”
he muttered, but he quickly found his voice again. "What’s your name?”

It took the robot a moment to register the question. Once he did, he promptly reached a massive, patchy hand up to his hat and tugged on it. It popped off, revealing a small, metal nub for it to stick on. The bear bowed forward with a jerk, eyes closed, top hat grasped in one hand while the other moved to his breast.

“Freddy Fazbear, the singer of the Funtime Rock Band! It is a pleasure to see a new teenager here!”

He relaxed his posture a bit. “It is a pleasure to meet you too, Mr. Freddy Fazbear.”

The bear opened his eyes, gazing at him with a level of warmth impossible for a human to have, a warmth that oozed artificiality.

“I take it you’ve been keeping your grades up in school?”

“Yes, of course! Nothing but straight up 100’s.”


His robotic jaw moved up into a smile. “Good! Me and the Funtime Rock Band condone good grades. We have a song just about that that we’ll be performing tonight, if you are interested in how to get even better grades!”

“I’m sorry, but I have to be back home at that hour. But I’ll make sure to come back and watch your other shows whenever possible.”
He walked towards the bear. “When do you perform, Mr. Fazbear?”

“Hmmm…”
Freddy said, tapping the bottom of his chin with an oversized index finger, “if my first mate Chica isn’t pulling my leg again, roughly another hour.”

“I’ll make sure to be there then.”
He smiled at the robot.

“Hehe, good.”

He raised his large hand and planted it atop Akira’s head, patting him like a little dog.

“Be a good little whippersnapper, now! Don’t go punching people in the face!”


It’s also around that time that Akira realized that Freddy’s hand was bigger than his entire skull.

“I… won’t?”


He chuckled. “Good! It’s good to keep your parents proud! Even adopted ones, for they are family too!”

“... Yeah. Now if you excuse, Mr. Fazbear…”
He pulled himself away from his furry hand. “I have to check on my friend.”

Akira dashed to the bathroom.

Sure enough, he could see Mike shoes hiding underneath the wall of a bathroom stall.

He started washing his hands, while paying attention to the hallway’s sounds.

“... Akira, i-is that you?” Michael whispered from behind the booth.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“... Are they done?”

“I don’t know. But one of them followed me here.”

“Oh… w-which one?”

“Mr. Freddy Fazbear. He’s… Kind of unique.”

“Ah… yeah, him. He’s basically an enthusiastic old man. He’s pretty swell, though, right?”

“Yeah…”
Akira didn’t sound too enthusiastic about that. “But it was cool. Talking with him. It didn’t feel like a person, but not what I’d expect a robot to behave either. It is a pretty good show, I must admit.”

He heard him chuckle behind the booth. “I’m glad you like the show. It’s… well, I love it too. I love it a lot. It’s special to me.”

“Then why did you run away?”

“... It’s the animatronics themselves. They… well, I’m not scared of them, but… they’re scared of me.”

“I… see.”


Akira peaked through the bathroom door to the hallway.

“I think he’s gone.”

“Nothing else coming our way?”

“I don’t think so.”


He heard the lock on the booth jiggle a bit before the door slid open. Michael stepped out, now looking significantly calmer than before.

“Also…”
Akira glanced away. “I kind of promised the bear I’ll be there for the next show too. In case you want to leave early.”

“Ah…”
Michael said before looking down. “Well… as nervous as I am…”

His smile returned. “I d-don’t wanna miss out on the next show either.”

Akira smiled at him too. “Alright. Let’s go back then, and hope our table is still empty.”

“Alright. Did you get a chance to order a pizza before you came here?”

“... No. Sorry.”

“Ah. That’s fine. We’ll just order one together, then.”


They went back to the main diner, and found a new table to sit in.

It was a bit closer to the stage, which had the curtain covering it up again. Most of the rest of the patrons had settled down from the initial fervor, and had gone back to eating pizza in the dining hall.

Michael sat across from Akira, back to the stage so his focus was only on Akira himself.

“So… what brought you here to the Crossroads? Er… more specifically, what brought you here to Erde Nona?”

“I read it’s the ‘Arbiters’ who did it? I don’t really know why I was sent here specifically.”

“Yeah, me neither. I don’t really know if anyone does. They’re kinda… m-mysterious, like that.”

“Hasn’t anyone found a way to contact them? Or even prove they exist at all?”

“Honestly, I dunno. You’d t-think they’d b-be discovered or s-something by now, but I don’t t-think anyone’s found anything. Course, I… wouldn’t look, since I’m a local and all.”

“Maybe they don’t exist, and it’s a myth created to explain cases like mine. But I couldn’t prove that either.”

“Huh… so, the v-verdict now is a resounding ‘I dunno?’”

“It’s a good way of saying it, yeah.”


Akira noticed one of the waiters coming their way to attend a nearby table. He waved him and, as soon as he was done with the other family, the waiter came to their table.

“Wait, what should we order?” Akira said to Mike.

“Oh, uh… what are your favorite toppings?” Mike asked, reaching to the side of the table to pull out a menu. He opened it up, flipping through the black and red pages of foods and drinks until he reached a ‘pizza’ section. He showed the variety of sizes and toppings to Akira.

Akira glanced at the endless list of options and, in a decisive manner, pointed to a random topping. “This one. Onions and eggs, please.”

“Pepperoni and Pineapple as well, if you please.”
The waiter nodded, jotted their decisions down, and left.

“Pineapple? Is that something you can order on a pizza?”

“Yeah. Is that… not a thing on your home planet?”

“I never heard of it. But then again, I don’t eat pizza that often. My mom doesn’t like ‘junk food,’ as she calls it.”

“A-ah… that stinks.”


He giggled a bit. “Maybe I can convince your mother if I gave her delicious pineapple and pepperoni pizza. She’d be converted then.”

“Not unless you prepare it yourself. Only then, she may consider joining your cult.”


He laughed as he leaned forward a little to rest his head on his propped-up hand. “Even so, I hope you like the pizza. It’s actually rather good. The animatronics aren’t just there to prop up bad food.”

“Wait, are you implying they serve bad food here?”

“N-no! I’m saying it’s good!”
He said, startled.

“Oh… Ok, forget what I said then.”

“Hehe, don’t get me fired now. I still work here.”

“Speaking of that... Why do you work here? Wouldn’t it be better to find a part-time job somewhere that doesn’t overlap with school hours?”


Mike shuffled in his seat, tightening up. “Well… I do like working here, but… well, the main reason is that… no other place would actually take me.”

“Oh, I see. That’s a good reason.”


He chuckled. “Yeah, I suppose it is. They just… didn’t want to be associated.”

He cleared his throat. “And what did you do before coming to this planet? Did you join any clubs?”

“Ah… well, I was mostly tinkering with the robots my Dad was making for the longest time. He held shows to show them off, and that got people interested.”

“Is that how you learned how to code?”

“Hehe, yeah! It was… difficult.”

“I can imagine. Doesn’t make it any less cool.”

“Ah, come on, it ain’t that cool. Not as cool as your pirouettes.”

“Anyone can do them with a little bit of practice. I can assure you it isn’t that much what I can do. Except stretch your legs at a 180° angle. That one is not for everyone.”

“That sounds… incredibly painful. Are you sure that’s not cool?”

“Well… I did start doing it because I thought it was cool, so…”
He stretched his arms. “But come on, you helped design the most impressive robots I’ve ever seen. That should count for something too.”

“Heh…”
Michael replied, finding himself blushing yet again and a smile he can’t resist having. “I guess it does… thank you.”

“Helloooooo!~”


A robotic, oddly chipper voice echoed around them both.

“Hey, isn’t that the chicken robot?”

Michael turned to look for the voice, and was immediately met with the aroma of freshly baked pizza. He looked up from the boxes they sat in.

Chica, a yellow bird animatronic, with yellow, smooth plastic for her chassis, stood by their table, bent forward with two pizza boxes in her hand. Akira could see a bib on her chest poking out a bit with the words “Let’s Party!” imprinted on it in colorful words and surrounded by painted on confetti and dots. She still had the pink ballet dress that she had for her dance on.

“Greetings.~”
She said, voice low, slightly sultry.

“Hello, Miss… ?”

“My name is Chica, mister Kurusu.~”


Akira looked at Mike. “How… ?”

“Teehee!~”
She giggled, her voice high-pitched but surprisingly pleasant. Her beak, orange and slightly rotund, curled up in a smile.

“We’re part of the Funtime Rock Band, silly!~ We know everyone’s names and their faces.”

She gazed at Akira. “Especially a face as cute as yours.~”

He scratched the back of his head, glancing away. “Well, thank you.” He looked back at her. “You also look cute on that dress.”

The pink, circular mounds of plastic planted on her cheeks visibly brightened. “Akira-senpai.~ Are you flirting with me?~”

He leaned back, his eyes slightly wider than usual. “No, of course not! I was returning the compliment.”

She somehow managed to look disappointed. “Ah.~ Thank you, mister Kurusu.~”

She leaned forward and set the pies of pizza down for them. As she did so, her eyes noticeably glanced to Michael… and locked onto him. It stayed like that for a while, her smile having completely disappeared, before she slid her left eye to look at Akira.

“Enjoy your meal!~ I hope you’ll be here for the show! It’ll be nice to see a cute face in the crowd.~”

“We sure will. Thank you, Miss Chica.”


As soon as the robot left, Akira leaned closer to Mike. “How the fuck do they know our names?!”

“Um… they got a recent… system installed into them. Real recent. It’s, uh… a criminal database system, among other things.”


Akira looked at him, confused. “What?”

“A year or so ago… well, I just want to say that something horrible happened, and the people in charge of this place wanted to make sure it never happened again. So they added a whole bunch of s-stuff into the robots. They can pull information off of anyone they’ve seen with facial recognition, and from there, access any information on them that’s publicly available. This means that, f-for example… if they see someone committing a… a crime, they’ll… intervene.”


His eyebrows frowned. “And I am on a public database? A ‘criminal’... public database?!”

“O-only if you’re a criminal! Or, well, have committed a crime.”


Suddenly, his eyes widened. “You… have you?”

“Of course not. But maybe we should hang out elsewhere.”

“I-it’s fine! Th-they aren’t dangerous, I swear. They never actually hurt anybody. They might hold y-you down, but I swear they’ve never hurt anyone. They just… stare, more than anything e-else, and that’s o-only at…”


He bit his tongue, recoiling at his words. He looked down, letting his cap shield his face from sight.

“Well… !“ Akira said, his voice as low as his indignation allowed it. “I don’t want to be called a ‘criminal’ in the middle of a crowd full of kids and their parents!”

“T-they won’t, trust m-me! Hel- heck, they don’t h-hate anyone that much. If a-anything, they’ll just say you’re being a bad i-influence, which… okay, that might not be better, but they won’t be that impolite about it, is… is what I’m saying…”


Akira sat up. “I’m sorry, Afton, but I can’t stay in a place like this. Where can I pay for my pizza?”

He turned silent for a few moments before whispering. “Y-you can pay up front. There’s a p-person there who y-you can pay.”

“Let’s go together. We can go somewhere else to pass the evening.”


His smile, small as it is, returned at the suggestion.

“Y-yeah… that’ll be fine.”


He looked down at the uneaten pies. “You… want to bring these along? Chica’ll eat them if we don’t.”

“Yes, please. I still have to taste that pineapple.”

“It’ll be good! I swear!”
Mike stammered as he stood up, taking both pie boxes in each hand. He lead Akira to the front, Akira paid, and they left the restaurant. Upon stepping into the parking lot to head to the sidewalk, Mike spoke up again.

“Sorry…”

“Don’t be. The show was fun, and the robots, amazing. And I did fulfill my dream of talking to a robot, so I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.”
He faintly smiled at Mike.

Michael gazed at Akira, taking a few moments to register the smile. Once he did, he glanced away, smiling himself. Akira could tell he was forcing it, though, like he was holding something back immensely.

“Look…” He glanced away. “I’m sorry it ended like this. It isn’t your fault the robots said weird things about me.”

“... No, man…”
Mike replied, shaking his head, “it… it is my fault. I’m serious.”

He looked back at Akira, staring into his eyes. “It really is my fault.”

“But it’s fine. We can still enjoy our pizza.”

“Ah! Y-yeah, the pizza…”


Suddenly snapped out of his depressive aura, he offered a pizza box to Akira.

“Wait, let’s find a bench first. Is there a park nearby?”

“I… think so, actually. Down in the Pastoral District.”

“Let’s go then.”
 

Paige Turner

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The next day, it was time to hit the rumor mill once again. While Mike was familiar with Waltzer, Paige couldn’t say the same. She had spent lunch yesterday asking about who she was as a person, and now had a fairly decent grasp on her popularity (or lack thereof) amongst the student body. Now it was time to dig up some real dirt. The hallways may have been mostly empty that day during lunch, but it would have to do.

“Amanda Waltzer, age unknown. They say the old bat’s been around since before this school was even built. Alright, that’ll be 50 cents.”

“Um, I don’t think there’s anything really weird about her, but she does give me some weird vibes.”

“That condescending biscuit eater told me to stop running in the hall!”

Paige didn’t know what a biscuit eater was, insult-wise, but didn’t care to ask.

As she was leaving to find another student, she heard the sound of sweeping not to far away. Is that Jeffers? She decided to change her route toward a different hallway. It wouldn’t be good if he had caught wind that she was still snooping about. Of course, it was entirely possible that Waltzer could catch her, but with no real way of knowing what Waltzer looked like, it was a risk that had to be taken.

“She once gave me a B-Minus on my paper instead of a B… because I didn’t put my name on my paper.” They promptly burst into tears after that.

“Why don’t you check ‘ratemyteachers.com’ and figure it out yourself?”

“I… guess I can tell you about Ms. Waltzer, yeah.” This plain-looking boy looked rather relaxed, though he definitely gave Paige a disdainful glare. As he was about to start talking, he looked at something behind Paige. She looked behind in response, but didn’t see anything; it was just a hallway with two other students chatting with each other. “Actually, nevermind. You’re just going to get me in trouble.”

As the boy walked off, Paige felt pissed. What do you mean, get you in trouble? You wouldn’t know trouble if it slapped you like a brisk winter breeze! But it was true that she was becoming something of a muckraker at Arcadia. That, and her image after having hung out with Mike, made it reasonable for guys like him to be skeptical. But that didn’t make him any less of a dick.

BRIIING

“Tch, already?” She sighed. It was too dangerous to leave school early; it would make her look weak, scared even, which could be capitalized by the opposition. Atop that, it would make the investigation harder because skipping would catch the teachers’ eyes, and she didn’t know anyone who could help her leave school early by legitimate means. It was best to keep going through the next two classes until the bell rang and the tide flowed to the front doors.



And thus, it came time to escape.

The crowd was as quick as it was predictable. Paige pushed and moved toward the front of the tide, slipping between the waves of pedestrians, but also without dwelling too far from the center of the crowd. That way, she would practically be invisible; you couldn’t see too deep into a crowd if you were standing at eye-level, even if she were moving faster than the others. So down the hall, then down the stairs, and down the next hall they went, until something caught her ear.

“Hey, I’m cleaning! Go around!”

That voice!

The crowd split into two at a 4-way intersection in the hall, though a majority of the students went to the right. It would be a death sentence to go left, she would be spotted in an instant. She would have to stick with the crowd and hope she avoided getting seen.

As she took with the tide, she happened to glance at the man who spoke earlier. It was Mr. Jeffers, standing in the middle of the hall with a mop in his hand. He, along with several yellow signs, a bucket, and a puddle on the floor, was standing between her and the exit. Damn, he prepared for this! He looked up while mopping the floor, but she couldn’t tell if he had seen her as the group pushed into the hallway.

The sound of feet clomping against the ground was more tense than before. Paige tried to make it to the front, but couldn’t bring herself to push forward. The thought of being seen as they rounded the corner back toward the entrance was too much; if anything, she fell farther back.

Of course, she would be safe no matter what happened; she could try again if she needed to. But it always turned out more satisfying to succeed on the first try.

There’s the door!

Just over the stream of heads, the door came into view. They were nearing another intersection that was just in front of the door. Just a little bit longer, and she would be free. Jeffers had probably seen her, but if she was fast enough, it wouldn’t matter. Then she could figure out her next move, maybe to check out Waltzer’s records and get more intel, or to take direct action. It wasn’t quite too late.

And then Paige was yanked out of the crowd by her arm.

“Excuse me, Ms. Turner?”

She turned her head to find an old woman with wrinkly skin and tall heels clutching her arm. Her piercing eyes were cutthroat, cunning like a snake’s. She looked completely unfamiliar, but perhaps Paige was too caught off-guard to recognize who she was. She clearly had some beef to settle, though.

“Yes, ma’am? What is it?”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you about your bracelets. You may not have realized, but they’re quite distracting.”

Huh? “...Are they? I don’t recall seeing anything in the student handbook about not being able to wear accessories.”

“Well, of course not, that’s because the issue isn’t that they’re bracelets, but that they’re… too noticeable. Frankly, dear, it’s a bit obnoxious.”

Paige was extraordinarily confused. Her mouth was agape, and she couldn’t think of what to say to this stranger. Did she come from the middle of the…?

The teacher’s gaze now stared daggers into Paige’s soul. “I have something to discuss with you. Please, follow me.”

Paige was pulled down the other hall, thoughts racing as to what is going on. Arcadia High was mostly empty now, as all the students had gone home for the day and all the clubs took place elsewhere. The sounds of their steps echoed, echoed, echoed off the walls, the tension in the atmosphere almost palpable.

It didn’t take her long to realize who was pulling her along. All the information she had gathered these past two days, and the current situation, made it obvious. “Ms. Waltzer, right? Would you mind telling me where we’re going?” There was no response.

How did she know who I was- no, nevermind that, how did she know my name? Michael told me she didn’t know it, so how did she call me out? Did she check the records? Did she stalk me until she knew what class I was in, and ask the teacher that way? Or maybe-

The basement came into view.

What the hell? Already?! I knew it was a possibility but…

Her vision began to blur. Perhaps she could let the scene play out, and escape the basement. The monster came to mind. Was it strong? Was it weak? Could it be avoided while they shared the same room? If it hadn’t escaped by now, could she hold out long enough to get help? No, that couldn’t work, it’s a basement, she couldn’t use the phone. No, no, the only thing to do is to get away now while I still ca-

“Ow!” Waltzer had yanked her by the arm so hard it almost felt like her shoulder had popped out of its socket. Well, I can still flail about and try to get loose- “Ga-ah! What are you-?!” Waltzer pulled Paige’s arms together. Damn it, she caught on! Am I that obvious? God, and I can’t expect to slump so low that she loses her grip…

Then, she could feel cold breath graze her left ear.

“Don’t try to escape. I have the power to completely immobilize you if I so choose. Now, be a good girl and stay put.”

Before she knew it, Paige was shoved onto the ground, hands behind her back. Waltzer’s heel dug into her back, threatening to tap into that red oil should Paige even dare to try and rise up. She looked up. Waltzer’s grimace seemed like it was making her face even more wrinkled than before. Her gaze glossed over, her posture stiffened like a board, her hands extracted the warmth out of Paige’s hands. This body language was all too familiar to Paige. It was the demeanor of a cold murderer at work.

Jeffers came down the hall, his eyes blacked out by the shade of his cap. He wasn’t shaking, or if he was, Paige was too unnerved to notice. He was moping around the area behind him, and placed a “wet floor” sign behind. A key was drawn out of his pocket, and slipped into the lock on the door. It clicked, and it released. The door opened. The hallway dimmed a shade.

Waltzer and Jeffers picked Paige up by the arms and carried her over to the basement. She protested. “H-hey, wait! Stop it, don’t you think it’ll be weird if I suddenly go missing?”

No response.

“I’m serious, Michael would wonder where I went! He won’t stop until he finds out what happened to me! Do you hear me?!”

No response.

The door was inches away.

“Come on, you’ve gotta listen to me! You’re basically dooming yourselves if you do this!”

They pulled her back. Then they threw her in. There was no response.

SLAM

Click



The railing was cold. She saw it as she was tossed inside, and tried to grab it to avoid tumbling down the stairs. She couldn’t see it now.

It was dark. Just dark. There was a door behind her. No light in the cracks. There were stairs beneath her. Spiraling, it seemed, the steps were awkwardly shaped.

The lock’s on the outside.

She pulled out her phone and called Mike’s number. But there was no service. Not even at the door, no. No service.

Only one way to escape.

Break down the door.

Thoughts were frantic, precise. No time to wait. There’s a monster downstairs? Fend it off until she can get out. Or just don’t get caught. Waltzer had a life, had other things on the brain, and had caught her. But that’s at the fault of clumsiness. A dark and empty room? More noise-sensitive, but light was dimmer. There was a shot.

And besides, as long as she had her book, she would be fine.

A crowbar, some metal tool, it just needs to do the job.

She turned off her phone- now it was silenced, lightless. Slowly, quietly, she stepped down the stairs. They creaked, but that would have to do. The railing was against a wall- she felt it- she can’t slide down. Creak, she must. Eventually, she hit solid ground. She was in the basement.

Hands wandered, and found her a shelf to search. Wood, finely made, but bare as a bone. Nothing to use. Feet followed the shelf’s guiding finger, hands sifting through the nothingness. The stairs were now but a myth, all that was were the shelves now.

...huh?

Stop. Wait. A noise? A voice? No… footsteps now. Dripping, maybe water?

There are flies, they’re buzzing to the footsteps. Oh, god, that stench, it’s the scent of death.

The scent grew stronger.

The flies buzzed louder.

She wasn’t alone.

The monster wasn’t alone, either.
 

Touko Fukawa

young lover's rage
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She wasn't surprised by Waltzer's entrance.


But she wasn't pleased by it, either.


Quite deliberately, she pulled her papers up and off the desk and into her hands, adamantly refusing to make eye contact with the teacher as she, somewhat appropriately, waltzed right up to the librarian's desk. Her smile was pleasant, but had an undertone like that of the cat left in charge of the canary. Or, in Fukawa's case, the hedgehog.


It was easy enough for Fukawa to tell she had malicious intentions.


But who didn't?


"Good afternoon, miss Fukawa." Her sweet voice wasn't quite as sweet now, a hint of bitterness seeping through, despite how well she tried to mask it. The librarian hardly dignified this with a response- instead giving Waltzer a small grunt, shoving a fountain pen aside. Not exactly gutted by the response, the teacher instead took a few steps to the left, so she could meet eyes with her. "I'm just here to check up with you about what we talked about this morning."


An exasperated sigh left her lips. "Fantastic. Well... M-make it quick. I'm trying to close up." If the teacher had increased her bitterness a couple percentage points, Fukawa increased hers tenfold.


Having expected this, Waltzer took it in stride. "Well, that's the problem. You're certain you don't remember hearing anything over the weekend? And you didn't have to come in to check on the library, or anything like that?"


"I... I already said! I don't remember anything about this! I d-don't appreciate you... trying to shake me down for information like this, when I already told you I have nothing to do with it! And... n-no, I don't have any weekend duties here... What would anyone need the library for during the weekends, anyway?"


Even if she had any duties over the weekend, they were scrubbed clean out of her mind. Along with the entire swath of memories that were kept in that portion of her brain. Gone, or perhaps... Inaccessible. Her fervent denial made Waltzer suspect the latter.


The manic, angry energy that filled her felt uncomfortably familiar, anyway.


If she was shutting everyone else up now, there was no need to take prisoners anymore.


And so the teacher sighed, leaning down a bit in the direction of Fukawa. "Right. Well, unfortunately, I'm going to have to ask you to come with me." She could see the librarian's shoulders physically sinking along with her heart. "Because you have information about the break-in, even if it's just circumstantial, I can't just let you go. I'll have to take you to the office to fill out an official form detailing what you heard and where you heard it from. Our school takes these things very seriously. The office closes pretty soon, so I'm going to have to ask you leave your things here and fill out the forms first, then come back for them later."


Fukawa gave the teacher a pleading look for half a second, before she accepted her fate with a groan, setting her papers down on the desk. She would really rather not deal with this. Honestly, she wished she had just gotten her ass out of the school as soon as possible so no one else could bother her today. But no. Her life could never be that simple.


She skulked behind the teacher with her shoulders hunched down and her eyes on nothing in particular, letting them wander over her surroundings nervously. While this wouldn't have been her first choice as the route to the principal's office, she didn't think much of that. Plenty of teachers had backwards-ass ideas of how to get around the school. And it wasn't like she had mathematically calculated the best ways to get around, or anything.


No, not just that. Her mind was also busy with something else.


The hallway Waltzer was leading her down was the one with the locker that had been trashed. This morning, she hadn't been able to go this way, since the scene had been closed off so that no one would mess with it. So she'd had to take an alternate route to class, and hadn't gotten a chance to look at it then.


Maybe that would have been better. Maybe it should have stayed that way.


The instant she laid eyes on the destruction wreaked upon the locker, her mind was filled with... many things. Most of them negative. She couldn't have set her eyes on it for longer than a second or two. But she was viscerally familiar with the shape of those dents in the locker. It hadn't been pried apart by a crowbar or something like that like she had expected, it had been stabbed. Stabbed by something sharp, something almost... surgical. Imprecise, but pointedly destructive.


All the anxiety in her body began drilling a hole in the pit of her stomach.


No, she did know who did it, didn't she?


Her eyes migrated to the tiles on the still-damp floor, freshly mopped and slick. How could she have been so stupid? She should have seen this coming a mile away. But she couldn't speak up now. No, now she was in full panic mode, where the world around her fell away. Her only choice was to say that Paige and Michael were in on it and deny what she knew- but why? Why did she have to be involved in this shitty situation?


She wasn't paying any attention to her destination and surroundings now, so she didn't even notice their footsteps dragging to a halt.


That made it so much easier.


Fukawa couldn't say she noticed being shoved as much as she noticed falling, suddenly. If she searched the very edges of her memory, maybe she remembered the sound of the basement door opening, but her mind had been on other things at the time. Of course she hadn't noticed.


Well, she wouldn't be noticing much of anything for much longer.


With a sickening series of thuds and a crack, she fell down the concrete stairs as limp as a sack of potatoes, landing on her head at the bottom.


Hot blood dripped down from her skull and onto her face as her last train of thought faded, along with the light from the closing door above.
 
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