Part 24: irAScible
As a quick reminder, this path branches from the very first meaningful choice of the game- A and E and the twins have already paired up, which leaves Jasmine, Marco, Ray, and Simon to pair up for their first time venturing out into the stations. During the very first route of the game Simon chooses to pair with Marco, and all of the routes/endings up until this point have come from that decision. This time, however, we're going to make a different choice...
BGM: Ambient Strain
We can split the team any way you like. I don't mind if you pick who should go with Ray.
Yeah, who has to babysit him?
Ray narrowed his eyes in his direction. Yeah, I didn't trust Marco with Ray, in the end. I felt like... a fight would really break out if I put them together, which meant I really didn't have much of a choice.
Finally, somebody new to explore with for once! Even if it's Ray, it's like a breath of fresh air.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Ray was intimidating, and nobody could've faulted me for not wanting to go with him, but I didn't want to let him team up with either Jasmine or Marco. What won out in the end wasn't logic, but my friendship.
I'll go with Ray, then. J, you can go with M, I trust there are no issues?
She slowly nodded at me. For some reason, I felt as though she was dissatisfied with the outcome, despite having given me the choice. At least then Ray and Marco wouldn't fight... And Jasmine would be safe, too. Marco wouldn't do anything to her. Though, knowing Jasmine, she could've been the one who would've done something to him...
She could be fairly headstrong at times.
Thankfully, I didn't have the time to regret my decision before everyone decided to move on. Since everyone had their teams set, the twins impatiently entered the train first. After noting it wasn't moving yet, my group followed suit. I figured the system was automated to some degree, or... maybe the mastermind behind all this could see us.
A shiver ran up my spine at that thought. Were there scanners on the doors or something? Cameras we couldn't see? Suddenly, I grew very self-conscious.
Don't think too much about it. I did earlier and, well, things didn't go well for my head.
She sighed in discouragement, closing her eyes for a moment. I wordlessly agreed with her. The doors closed and we were greeted by a pre-recorded speech telling us what the next station was.
With all this, I had almost forgotten- the train had French diction here. It seemed the next station was a... garde-manger, whatever that was.
At this point, Simon decides to strike up a conversation with the rest of the group, but we've already seen all the options here. As such, I'm going to skip this section, as well as when A and E leave the train, as the dialogue is completely unchanged from the other path. Things only change once the train stops at the station that holds the library:
BGM: Ambient Strain
As the door opened and nobody moved to take the lead, Jasmine took her chance and offered her duo to be the next sacrifices. In a manner of speaking.
Okay, okay. Let's go then, J. There's no point in wasting any time, huh? Like, it's best to be in the first picks. It's a little like when you're in gym class at school...
His voice became fainter as he walked into the distance. I couldn't hear what stupidity he was saying anymore. When the two of them vanished behind the open door, it closed, and the ones on the sides of the train did the same.
Very shortly, it was on the move once more.
I wonder if this is all just a farce and we'll be able to just walk out or something...
I mumbled to myself a little. No one else paid any mind to it. Glancing over, I looked at Ray, the companion who would spend a while with me in a room doing who-knew-what.
Chambre, huh? Normally that station isn't that kind of room.
Why, what is it?
I have made the decision to cut the next little bit of dialogue out, as it has a weird and tasteless no homo joke here, and it's not even really interesting enough to make fun of! Thanks game!
BGM: Ambient Strain
The twins' body language was categorical: neither of them moved, and they remained far from us, as if telling us we were the closest to the doors and we should go.
It doesn't matter which one we take since they're all the same anyway.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
He vanished outside. I looked over at the twins, deciding to convince them to be allies instead of enemies for later.
Take care, okay? No matter what, stay safe. If you need help, remember you can count on each other. And, uh... if we meet again, I'll lend you my help too, okay?
Sure, sure. Now move along, or you're gonna miss your ride, Mr. Benevolence.
I guessed I could differentiate the twins this way: G was the shy, quiet one who was probably smarter than she looked, and H was the ball of sass. I reached into my pocket, about to put on my cap, but I refrained at the last second. The movement had been automatic, as if I was so used to putting this thing on before leaving the car. I wasn't on the job right now.
Hey, don't go without me!
I called for him, but he had already proceeded too far to hear me. I didn't even get to watch the train drive off when I entered the little lobby beyond the doors. I barely noticed the little console attached to the door, and the fact the latter closed right after I entered. I moved upstairs almost immediately.
This is... a bed?
No, this is a sandwich... of course it's a bed, what do you think?
I looked at the alcoves where the beds were situated. They were scattered over two layers. In total, there were eight beds, reminiscent of bunk beds more than anything else. For some reason, that fact bothered me. Eight... it was always the number eight here. Eight participants, eight collars, eight beds- what else was eight? Ray's brain cells?
I finally found Ray: the man was occupying one of the alcoves.
Wakey-wakey, Ray. I think we should search around here before we take a nap, even if you really want to.
Yes, I want to think about stuff too, but while we're doing that we should still search to find a way to open the door...
Ray sat up on the bed in surprise.
What do you mean, open the door? The door's fine.
When I walked in, the door closed behind me almost instantly. I guess it's supposed to do that when the pair is inside, to trap us in.
Ray groaned. Dealing with him was going to be a pain, I could already tell.
I didn't take you for a lazy person. Didn't you say you wanted to think and not sleep, anyway?
I'm not lazy. I've just had a big day.
He took his flask out of his pocket and drank from it. I lifted a questioning brow.
Lazy and drunk, too?
I'm not drunk. You wouldn't get it...
He put the container back in his breast pocket. Surprisingly, he didn't get very angry about it, despite the fact I clearly probed the hornet's nest. At first, I'd done it to get a rise out of him. Now, I didn't understand why he didn't react the same way as usual.
Let's start then. Search this area since you're already at the beds, and... I'll look over there.
He didn't seem to have a problem with it, voicing a few weak and annoyed words of acknowledgment. Pretty much what I expected from him, but now, it was time to search this place. I was hoping my friends were having more luck than I had.
BGM: Active Search
As always, in a new place, we check the map.
Fascinating. There's a lot to look at in this room, but I gotta start with the poster of 'The Magnificent Zachary'.
Ray, come see this. It's an old poster for a has-been magician called The Magnificent Zachary. I think he was an illusionist or something?
What about the poster?
I dunno. I thought you might know more about him since you're older.
The guy took a drink from his flask. Assuming he wasn't masking his interest, I must've been following a red herring.
Well okay! Might as well look at some of the other stuff on the right side while I'm at it, starting with the mirror.
Behind myself, I could see Ray doing whatever on the beds. I thought he was searching, but I wasn't sure. Was he... sleeping? In the middle of an escape room?
Ray, I can see you. Get up.
Shut up, I want to sleep. I had a big day. Kids like you can't get it.
I left him alone before he put me to sleep: the big sleep.
Let's see... this table looks clean. In fact, it's clean enough to reflect my face off its surface. Is this a study group or something? Surely, nobody ever ate here. The pantry wasn't even here either.. we passed it by earlier.
Talking to yourself like an insane punk now, are you?
Before I interact with anything, I'm gonna check out the stuff on the left side.
Interestingly enough, the shoes and boots here looked like the ones the others wore.
Are these... our shoes...?
Before we take a closer look at the shoes, let's check in on Ray again while we take a peek at the beds.
Hey, I thought you said you wanted to look elsewhere and I'd search this area?
Just making sure you're doing it correctly.
I can't just have you trash this whole place up. I mean, look at the state of those beds already! It would be really hard to find anything if you made the mess even worse.
Leave me alone. I didn't touch those beds. In fact, if I did throw everything out, wouldn't it be easier because it would be all over the place?
Is that what you say to other people as justification for avoiding cleaning up your room?
No, I just don't need to do it.
I took him for a man who at least had his stuff together, considering he looked a bit like some kind of office worker, but he had a lazy side to him too.
Guess its time to start poking at stuff properly. Just gonna start with the shoes and make my way right.
I tried putting them on. None of them fit, but none of them were my shoes either. On the other side of the room were the missing ones, because on this side I could only see the twins' shoes, A's boots, and Jasmine's shoes.
Ghnn... here. They fit.
I tried a pair on the other side. Strange, for them to have been here... As I removed my foot from one of the shoes, a little coin rolled out onto the floor. I grabbed it.
Next up, the light switch.
Turn on the fucking lights right now, okay? I already hit my damn foot on the corner of this bed.
I obeyed and turned them back on immediately.
This place looks kind of old. Look at the lights; a few are broken. Also, it seems really impractical to have the light switch here when the beds are over there.
Doesn't matter. Next time you turn off those lights, I'll turn your lights off too.
Unfortunately, trying to turn the lights off a second time just makes Simon get upset and refuse. I guess we can check out the rug now, though.
The rug felt so nice under my hands. I could pet the rug for ages and I wouldn't be bored. First, though, I cast a glance at Ray... He was asleep on a bed. Perfect. I seized my opportunity and rubbed the rug with both hands while on my knees.
Oh, this rug was just so great! It was fluffy and comfortable. Even if it wasn't a bed, I could probably sleep here.
What are you even doing?
I cast a glance up. Ray wasn't asleep- he was just lying down, and he saw me.
Uh, I was, um, searching for... pocket change.
I'll make you into pocket change if you don't take this escape room seriously.
Oh yeah? Well, how about you stand back up and search, too?
He gesticulated into the air with his arms, before dropping them onto himself or off the side of the bed. It didn't look like he was going to move from there. I needed to have a chat with him to convince him to help.
That's right, fucking around with the rug unlocks a conversation option.
I just wanted to know... about your drink, uh, what is it? Is it beer or something?
I needed to break the ice eventually, and I thought this would be helpful to do first. Since we would be trapped here for a bit, I thought it would be nice to get to know more about each other. Even if he didn't seem to care at all about sharing information.
It's not... ugh... Listen, its not alcohol, it's medicine, okay?
He ran his hand through his hair, visibly annoyed. It was pretty much the emotion he naturally showed, so I didn't pay too much mind to it.
I mean... if you wanna talk about it, that's fine, I won't judge or anything.
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
I don't really want to get into the details, but the medicine was partially made by me. See, I'm a teacher in a scientific field I don't want to elaborate on. I ran some tests a while back.
The people who let me in the know about this medicine, though, they were real shady. Like real, real shady. I had no choice, since all hospitals are now understaffed due to that damn pandemic. Time wasn't on my side.
He held the flask up to show it off.
Unfortunately, a side effect is that it makes me real... real violent. Like real angry. Maybe a bit paranoid, too. I hate it so fucking much, but I have to take it or else I might not wake up again.
He closed his hands in fists, angry at his powerlessness.
Yeah, okay. If you'd tell the others, I'm sure...
Listen, if I go too far, just remind me of what I'm doing and I'll probably realize it's no good and stop whatever daft thing I was going to commit.
I thought Ray was uncharacteristically smart for having developed that imperfect cure by himself, even partially, and with the help of that company. I could hardly mix cereal and milk together without making it burn up in flames.
BGM: Active Search
Well, I'll keep searching around.
Oh hey, and now that wardrobe is an option to search! That said, I'm still gonna keep going left to right, so the tables are next.
When I lifted one of the cushions, there was a little metallic panel embedded into the floor. That seemed pretty important, so I kept it in mind for when I'd know how to open it. There were four screws on it, but I hadn't found a screwdriver.
Maybe I didn't need a screwdriver, though. Was this the oldest trick in the book, or what?
Before we use the coin to unscrew the panel, lets check out the cabinets.
The second one wasn't locked either, thankfully enough, and it contained a hammer of all things! I figured I'd keep this on myself since it was a highly useful tool in general. Smiley didn't tell us we couldn't take anything out of the rooms either, correct? So, that meant I was now armed and ready.
In the third and last of the drawers was a piece of paper. I unfolded it, expecting it to be some stupid gibberish, but it was actually more important than anything else...
I squinted at what I was reading. The paper was telling me someone in this group didn't belong? Instantly, I grew a little mortified. What if Ray would find this? No doubt, he'd spread fear, confusion, and paranoia to the entire lot. I couldn't afford to let him get a hold of this. This was too dangerous.
I decided I would share it with Jasmine and Marco later first, or someone more reliable at least. And what was up with that second half, too? It was full of grammatical errors. I stashed the paper away into my coat, crumpling it up a little in the process while I closed the drawers.
I found a hammer!
Good for you!
He really didn't seem to care about anything, did he?
How about the wardrobe?
Found anything in there?
The big man surprised me, causing me to fall into the wardrobe. Luck had it the sudden movement made the doors close behind me too, trapping me in an entirely different world.
Hey, stop being dumb. Come out of there.
Oh, yeah, there was no faun, no lion, and no witch here. This was just the normal interior of a wardrobe. I came back out with a hanger in my hand.
This is all that's in there.
Really? Huh. Give me that.
He swiped the hanger from me, and then left the immediate area.
You could say thanks, maybe?
I waited for Ray to be cooperative before I opened this just in case I found something spectacular. Using the large eight-coin I found earlier, I unscrewed the corners of the hidden panel. Opening it, I found... a little box with a lock.
What did you find?
This box. It needs a key.
Didn't find one. Want me to keep hold of it until you find what you need to open it?
As I picked up the box to give it to Ray, I spied a secret message on the bottom of the alcove. It was like a strange depiction of a hammer and a rectangle. What the heck could that have meant?
Well, only two options; lets start with the table, I guess.
This table was perhaps even shinier than the other table. No... the first table was a tiny bit shinier, upon reflection. It was hard not to reflect on it. Both of them were so shiny, they reflected constantly.
I need to get to the bottom of this. I won't rest until I've made sure I know which one is the shiniest table of the lot. Maybe I'll need to use the mirror by dragging one of those tables... No, wait, I need to put them together.
As I sat between them with them up on their sides, I realized all I managed to create was some kind of infinite mirror loop between them. This wasn't going to be very helpful.
Looks like the mirror is the right choice, then.
What the fuck are you doing?!
I'm breaking the ice. Hello, nice to meet you, I'm- ughk!
He grabbed me from behind with a hand, closing his fingers onto my shoulder. His digits were right next to my neck.
Okay, okay, ugh! I almost can't breathe!
He let go of me and returned to the beds, while I examined what was beyond the mirror. The broken opening was giving way to another room entirely. However, beyond the red curtain wasn't much of anything.
I obviously wasn't going to take it, so I came back through the small room. It was void of anything except for a strange machine that was used to record video. On the machine was a key, but it was broken. The thing I'd searched for this whole time was right here! But since it was broken, it couldn't be used to open the box.
As I went back through the mirror, I realized that it was one of those tinted mirrors like in detective fiction. This place was under observation, then? By whom?
The key to open the box is broken, Ray. What do we do?
Hmm... Keep looking around, I'll find a solution.
I stared at him as if asking him if he was serious about this. I didn't believe he would be much help, but... I didn't have much choice either way.
Heh, we're outta here.
Huh? Did you figure something out for the box that quickly?
He was saying it with such coldness, as if he was talking about killing a chicken or, worse, someone.
Relax, Simon. When has Ray ever been a threat to other people
Then with this dumbass pole of metal, it was just a matter of working it around the lock. Came unlocked in a few seconds. All this for the key, and we could've just done this from the start. Fucking hell.
He spat to the side before bringing his drink up to take a sip from it again.
So what's in the box?
He looked at me with a bigger frown. True, my nickname was S...
I swear I have nothing to do with this. Are you sure it looks like an S? To me, it looks like a square eight. The number eight again...
I muttered that last part, while Ray handed me the key card. The little box was otherwise useless, so he threw it away onto one of the beds. Before it landed, though, I saw that Ray had taken something else in his other hand and was trying to hide it a little...
What you've got in your other hand.
Maybe the S card inside the box stood for sandwich.
Hey, there were two of them so we both can have one. Gimme that.
I'm real hungry, so, can't do that, I don't think.
You want me to open the locks?
Yeah, that would be great. I need a bit more rest here.
He grumbled, but gave up and let me have one, which I instantly ate up. I'd been completely starved beyond belief before this chance meeting with food!
You're gonna trust what Smiley left here for us? Fuck if I'm gonna eat this.
Could at least do something...
I muttered that under my breath again, this time out of annoyance, and I left him alone to unlock all the doors.
Let's see... the code is 1103711141. That's a lot of ones.
What'ch the chod?
Don't talk with your mouth full, Ray. The code is 1103711141.
Not that much more reliable, but a little more nonetheless.
BGM: Ambient Strain
On the way down to the station, I realized I was still holding the hammer in my hand. Swiftly, I stashed it away inside my coat. There was the possibility this tool might serve as a weapon for someone later, and by keeping it I was hoping to eliminate the threat. Not to mention, it could be useful in another room. There was no rule about having to leave behind the objects we found, right?
So we can go back, then... that's a relief. I hope the others will choose to do that too.
Are you the kind of person who always looks back and never moves forward? We could just keep going,, too. Not sure why you're so insistent on going back.
No no, I mean... Aren't you curious about what was in the first station we were at, too?
Apparently my reasoning went over his head, because he didn't seem to care one way or the other. I frowned in the face of that selfishness. Was his suggestion to leave everyone behind?
It's kind of useless to do that unless we found something of note. Since there was nothing here, we could just keep going for a while.
I decided to keep my mouth shut on the paper I found. Especially with him around, I didn't feel safe exposing the message. For all I could predict, he'd decide I'm the person who doesn't belong.
I know you don't care about the others...
Be that as it may, it's still a good idea to tell them about the scanner room, at least. It'll take a few minutes at most!
With a shrug, he took a sip of his flask. Thankful he was at least cooperative enough to wait for the train back home alongside me, I decided to chat with Ray a little. Even if he was antisocial, I was certain he might have some information for me.
Are you sure you're not drinking too much of that?
I wisely chose to acknowledge his retort and dropped the subject nigh-instantly, after he repeated what I said in a mocking tone.
The train set off right after the little three-step chime signaling its departure.
Anything good on the news lately?
His question took me out of my budding daydream. The surprise was most likely written all over my face since he frowned at me.
That was hardly time-wasting before- we were waiting for the train!
Whatever. I don't really watch the news, but last time I did, I heard about some explosion in New York. Even if I didn't care for the event, had my own issues to deal with, it was, uh... It was in their subway.
That was weeks ago.
Yeah, exactly. That event. Makes you think, huh? Since we're stuck in a metro, or a subway, or whatever the fuck you wanna call it.
I didn't personally believe terrorists were involved in that incident, but I kept quiet, thinking it best to not set him off and have him blow up on me.
Are you saying you think they're related events?
Maybe. That place got bombed really hardcore. Just feels... similar. I don't wanna hope there's a bomb here at all, but if there's one, well, I don't like it. I'd rather be miles away whenever this place gets blown skyhigh, you get me?
I silently nodded. Satisfied with my docile agreeing, he resumed sipping from his flask while leaning against the inside of the train. Maybe that medicine was making him paranoid, too.
Simon he literally said paranoia was one of the side effects, keep up.
What did I believe about it? It wasn't clear. Maybe he was right, maybe he wasn't. If he was, though... we were in some deep shit.