Chapter 1: Prologue
It seems like a lifetime since we worked on cartoons together. 30 years really slips away, doesn’t it?
If you’re back in town, come visit the old workshop. There’s something I need to show you.
Your best pal, Joey Drew”
You owlishly blinked your eyes as you looked at the letter that you had received in the mail—a letter that was meant for your father who was currently laid up in bed at the hospital. Yes, poor Henry had taken quite the nasty fall at his workplace recently, breaking his leg and a couple of ribs. You didn’t know how, but your father had always been a bit of a klutz. Walking further into the apartment that you and your father shared, you mindlessly wandered into the kitchen and threw down the stack of junk mail and such on the counter before taking a seat on one of the bar stools. Eyeing the old, yellowing parchment paper that looked like it had seen better days before.
But, it was the contents of the letter itself that really caught your attention, you had been aware that long before you were born that your father had worked in animation—he always made it clear that those had been the happiest years of his life. You don’t know what caused him to leave, what made him give up on his dream. The details were vague, something happened, your father left and then shortly met your mother who ended up ditching him with you the second you were born. Life had not been all too kind to Henry after he had left the studio, making him a single father to a baby girl and forcing him to work at a job he absolutely hated only because it paid decently well enough to afford the shitty apartment you both currently lived in. So, this letter intrigued you.
Why would a man your father used to work with suddenly make contact with him after 30 years? What would he so badly want to show your father to invite him back to their old workshop? You assumed that the workshop that was so casually mentioned in the letter was the Joey Drew Studios just on the outskirts of town. Yes, your father had never really left the town after leaving the studio, he wasn’t brave enough to fully let go of the past and wanted to stick close to it. Maybe he had hoped that Joey would have contacted him sooner, ask for him to return sooner—he most likely never expected sooner to be 30 years later.
You didn’t really know what to do with the letter, you obviously couldn’t give it to your father in the condition that he was currently in. Knowing him, he’d immediately want to go to the studio and catch up with his old friend—even though he was in no shape to be wandering around a worn-down animation studio that was most likely falling apart. That was the one thing that bothered you, everyone knew about Joey Drew Studios. They were aware that all that was left of the old animation studio was a rotting building that had been abandon and left to fade away with the memories of the wonders it created when everything started crashing down. You vaguely remembered those old black and white cartoons that would play on the television when you were younger.
They were only on air for a few years before finally being pulled completely when everyone became aware that showing reruns wasn’t enough to save the studio. It had still been kicking and breathing when you were but an infant but died all too quickly before you were old enough to grow any sort of attachment to its creations. Even though the building was everything to your father, it was nothing to you. With a heavy sigh, you ponder if you could get away with just tossing the letter, perhaps even find this Joey Drew’s phone number in the phone book and call him to explain the situation. To let him know that your father wouldn’t make their little meeting.
But, before you could make any movements, there was a sudden loud knock on the front door of your apartment. It was one loud knock after the other with the occasional rapid short knocks to follow before going back to being just one loud knock. It was as if the person on the other side was trying to create a musical flow with their knocks and was failing horribly. You mindlessly dropped the letter onto the counter and stood up, already quickly making your way to the front door to bring an end to the inconsistent knocking as to avoid having to deal with any neighbors that might become aggravated by it. “Yes?” you asked, yanking the door open just as the person on the other side prepared to do another series of knocks.
“Sup” James Anderson was the person that greeted you on the other side of that door, his unkempt blond hair a mess of shaggy curls as murky brown eyes stared at you with a joyous gleam.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at the college today, you know, attending classes?” you raised an eyebrow, sidestepping and allowing the blond to barge into your home.
“It’s community college, what are they going to do? Kick me out?” James snorted, waving you off as he made his way towards your kitchen as you only rolled your eyes and slammed your front door shut with the flick of your wrist. James was a strange fellow, along with being quite the humorous person, he was also a very curious individual. Always sticking his nose where it didn’t belong or going places he shouldn’t, sometimes you wonder how he’s managed to live this long. You both had been forced to work together on an art project back in the fifth grade and strangely had become the best of friends—he seemed to like how much more mature you were than him.
He felt that you balanced him out, that you were his voice of reason when he needed you—the little angel on his shoulder that would help stray him away from the devil that always tempted him to satisfy his curious nature. You didn’t fully agree with him, feeling that you too could fall into those same temptations as him whenever your curiosity was peaked. “What’s this?” you heard James ask as you entered the kitchen, finding that he had already discovered the letter that had been left to innocently wait for your return.
“Just a letter for dad is all, nothing important” you shrugged
“Nothing important? It seems to be asking your dad to come and meet this Joey fellow” James raised an eyebrow as he looked up at you. “Is he not aware that your father’s in the hospital?”
“I don’t know, why don’t you reread that letter and tell me” you said, crossing your arms as you patiently watched your friend read the letter once again before a look of realization crossed his face.
“So, what are you going to do? I doubt you plan on giving this to your dad” James was also aware that your father was a man that made rash decisions sometimes.
“Eh, I just plan on looking the guy up in the phone book and give him a call” you shrugged, finally taking the letter from your friend and folding it up before you tossed it back onto the counter while taking a seat on your bar stool once more.
“Boring” James suddenly said as he plopped down beside you on the other bar stool. You raised an amused eyebrow, crossing your arms and leaning back into your seat as you motioned him to go on. “I say we both go to this supposed meeting ourselves and inform him that your father is unable to make it” he widely smiled, seeming quite pleased with his proposition.
“Why? We don’t know this man, it would be safer to call him” you pointed out, watching how the blonde’s smile seemed to drop into a pout upon seeing that you hadn’t right away praised him for his idea.
“But that’s no fun” he argued back. “Come on, this will feel like an adventure—don’t you want to have an adventure?” his lips twitched upwards as he leaned closer towards you. “Look, I assume that the “old workshop” mentioned in that letter is referring to the only animation studio on the outskirts of town—Joey Drew Studios, right? Well, haven’t you always wonder what it’d be like to explore an abandoned building?” he asked. “Curious to see all that’s been left behind and see just how cruel time can truly be to those that have been abandoned?”
“Well…” you grew quiet, not really knowing how to respond. He was right, there was a bit of curiosity deep down inside of you that craved to see what that old studio was like. To see the place your father had once worked in and held a certain type of love for in his heart. But, you were also aware of why it was dangerous to go anywhere near abandoned buildings—rotting wood and vermin most likely littered that building which had you asking again why Joey wanted to meet your father there. Wouldn’t it have been easier to meet up in a bustling restaurant or a small café?
What did he have going on at that old studio that was so important that he wanted your father to come and see it? Your stomach slowly started to churn as your thoughts took a sudden dark turn, wondering if this Joey fellow might have had ill intentions for your father instead of just simply wanting to catch up. “Well?” James’ voice drew you out of your thoughts as you now stared straight into his chocolate colored eyes. Eyes that were filled to the brim with excitement and anticipation as he waited for you to yield to what he wanted or was he excited about the chance of you taking charge and holding strong in your earlier decision? You could never tell with him sometimes.
You were ready to stand firm with what you said earlier and tell him no, before stopping as you heard the faintest of whispers in your left ear. You could hear as that little devil of yours sweetly whispered out promises of adventure and feeding into that curious side of yours. That it was silly to think that anything bad would happen. You weren’t in a horror movie and your small town had such a low crime rate, so it was ridiculous to think that anything bad in the short amount of time you’d be in that building would happen. In and out, it was that simple, it wasn’t like you’d be there all day.
“I guess we could go—but we’re only going to be there for a few minutes, no longer than that” you said, quickly adding that last part when you saw the blond prepared to give a loud cheer. He stopped midway, his arms still stretched up into the air as a frown now tugged at his lips, but reluctantly agreed to what you said. Knowing that if he attempted to push his luck that would only make you draw back and even reconsider the idea of going at all.
“So, when are we going?” he asked, watching as you tapped your fingers on the countertop in thought before casting a short glance at the built-in digital clock in the microwave.
“Well, it’s three o’clock right now—soon going on four—and it’s at least an hour-long drive from the apartments to the studio, so we should probably go now” you hummed. “That way we can be in and out before it starts to get dark.”
“Right, lead the way, madame!” James smiled as he shot straight up out of his seat and mock saluted you. Not breaking his posture until you were up out of your seat and already making your way towards the front door. While slipping on your shoes and joking around with James as you both headed towards his car, neither of you ever thought to call your father and inform him that you were heading out. Then again, neither of you had been prepared for the secrets that laid hidden in that old animation studio.
Chapter 2: Chapter One
“Looks even shitter in person” James whistled as he stepped out of his car with you close behind, both of you slamming the car doors shut as you peered up at the small, old building that was slowly rotting away. The years truly had not been kind to it as it was obvious mother nature desperately was trying to reclaim the land that had been taken away from her when the studio had been built. What James had said was true, when looking at the building through photographs that had been taken of it, it hadn’t looked nearly as bad as it did in person. The woodwork and paint were chipping away and deteriorating quickly as the years go by and the constant change in weather seemed to just beat down on it every chance it got.
“Remember, James, in and out. We’re only going in there to meet with Joey and explain to him why my dad couldn’t come” you reminded your friend as you took a step closer towards the single wooden door that served as the only entrance to the building. The blond once again saluted you, marching his way behind you with a wide smile as he listened to the way you chuckled and shook your head. The door seemed to loudly creak as you pushed it opened, the sound echoing and bouncing off the walls as both you and your friend peeked inside, staring down the long hallway that stretched out before you. You were surprised to find that the lights appeared to be on—though dimmed down quite a bit that it seemed to give the inside of the building an eerie feeling.
From what you could see as you both stayed perfectly still near the entrance of the building, posters seemed to line either side of the hallway, each one broadcasting to you the name of the episodes that had once been produced at this studio. Each one also adored a black and white drawing of the animation studios mascot…Bendy if you remembered correctly. He was the one you remembered your father talking about the most, the one that he himself had helped create when he still worked at the studio. Though you could also make out that a couple of the posters on the walls held another character, one you don’t remember your father talking that much about—or maybe he had, and you just never paid that much attention when he did. You weren’t sure which.
James was the first one to move, finally walking further into the building and halfway down the hall before stopping to peer back at you. Quick to motioning for you to follow along as a smirk crept its way onto his face when he saw that you hadn’t moved right away. “What? Scared?” he mockingly asked, before bending his arms and resting his fists on his hips as he flapped his now bent arms like wings, stomping his feet around as he tried to mimic the sound that a chicken would make.
“You look fucking stupid!” you snorted, raising your hand to cover your mouth as a wide smile stretched over your lips. With a shake of your head, you entered the building, jumping and spinning around when the door suddenly and loudly slammed shut behind you. James also seemed to flinch at the sudden action, lowering his arms and looking at the door in surprise as he hadn’t expected it to shut so smoothly with how loudly it creaked when you both had pushed it open earlier. Looking at each other, the blond only shrugged his shoulders and was prepared to continue further down the hall before stopping as his nose suddenly scrunched up and his face twisted up into a look of disgust.
“What’s that smell?” he asked, instantly plugging his nose as he looked around before stopping as he finally took notice to the black substance that was dripping from the roof, creating a puddle off to one of the sides of the hall. “Is that…is that ink?” he asked, surprised to see ink leaking from the ceiling as he curiously took a step closer to see if his suspicion was right.
“Why would ink be leaking from the ceiling?” you raised an eyebrow, stepping closer as well to peer up towards the black stain mark on the ceiling that seemed to be steadily dripping the black substance. Being so close to it, the fumes were a lot stronger now and you quickly covered your nose as well as you stepped back and watched your blond-headed friend poke his foot into the puddle of ink—letting some of the substance drip on to his shoe as well and stain it.
“That’s definitely ink” James nodded, pulling his foot back and watching how he dragged with it a streak of ink that stained the wooden floor even more. “The longer I smell it the more I recognize it—it’s kind of similar to that gunk we had to use when we were making stamps in art class back in high school” he muttered.
“Let’s just find Joey as quickly as we can and go, the smell is already starting to give me a headache” you said, walking past your friend and out into the open and almost bare room that lied just beyond the hall. There wasn’t much to be seen, a few wheels turning on the walls as a desk looked to be tucked away in one corner while just in the other corner was an old projector that was on as its film wheels turned only for nothing but a single light to be crookedly projected on the bare wall in front of it. Besides the projector was a cardboard cutout of Bendy—a short, cartoonish looking devil that eyes were in the shape of Pac-Man while a large grin adored the rest of his face. He was completely black, with the only splotches of white being his face, gloves, and bowtie. Looking at him, he reminded you of the old art style of Mickey Mouse, the successful mascot to Disney.
You remember how bitterly your father would claim that Disney was the reason for this studios failure, but you felt that wasn’t true. You remembered how most people claimed that the studios' failure was that it had stopped producing animations on time, that its workers had started to slack off and nothing was getting done anymore—they claimed that that’s what killed it. Others claimed that children didn’t want black and white, they only wanted color and that was something Bendy couldn’t give to them. You were once again snapped out of your thoughts when James suddenly rushed past you, his feet loudly hitting against the wooden floorboards and causing them to shutter as a small ink trail followed behind him from where he had stuck his foot into that ink puddle earlier. He looked excited as he rushed over towards the cardboard cutout while you only gave a simple roll of your eyes and continued to examine what else was in the room.
Nothing much, a few chairs, another old projector that would have been found in a school, a long table as well as a large dresser and a couple of other things seemed to be the only other stuff to occupy the room. Old papers also seemed to litter the floor and walls as well along with fallen planks of wood that were scattered about, like they had fallen from the ceiling at some point and you had no doubt that they had. You also took note of the large cracks in the walls that were sloppily boarded up like someone had attempted to fix them, but not really fix them. There were a few doors scattered here and there or an open doorway that branched off either down into another hall or someone’s workspace. Wandering down one of the open doorways, you left your friend to do whatever it was he planned to do with the cutout and poked your head around the corner of the small hallway you walked down, only to find a small, cluttered workspace.
It held only a large desk and a small wooden chair, while both the walls and the floor beneath the chair was cluttered with nothing but old posted notes and papers of past drawings. There also appeared to be another poster on the wall and another Bendy cutout leaned up next to the desk, but you ignored both of those as you peered at the pieces of paper that were left on the desk. On it was a single, cute sketch up Bendy’s head with a happier, childish look to him. Beside the drawing was a sticky note that simply had the word “NO” written out in large, bold letters—making it clear that they didn’t want their employees drawing their mascot this way. Turning around, you eyed the boarded-up door that was located just across from the desk and peeked through the large gaps of the boards that looked like they had just been sloppily hammered down.
On the other side appeared to be just an open room and stairwell, nothing else—it made you wondered why the room was even boarded up in the first place. Suddenly, a small shiver ranked up your spine as you quickly turned around when you felt the feeling of someone’s eyes burning holes into the back of your skull. All that greeted you was that Bendy cutout and nothing else, only its eyes were staring you down as it held that same large grin as the other one. You strangely felt uncomfortable the longer you stared at the cutout and it stared back, a nervous chuckle slipping past your lips as you scurried your way back towards the main room where James was. “Find anything?” the blond asked once he saw you appear, the Bendy cutout from this room now tucked underneath his arm.
“Just someone’s workstation…James, why are you carrying that thing?” you raised an eyebrow, motioning towards the cutout underneath your friend’s arm.
“Oh? This? I decided I’m taking it home with me” James smiled. “Thought it’d look cool in my room—you know, having something that no one else will.”
“James, I’m sure there’s a least a million of those things scattered about this building, so it’s not that special.”
“True, but how many people do you know that own cardboard cutouts of old cartoon characters?” he smiled.
“Good point” you nodded before turning away from him to give one final glance around the room. “I don’t really see Joey anywhere, do you?”
“No, which is strange” the blond shook his head. “This appears to be the main room of the studio, so you’d think he’d be waiting for your dad here” he frowned.
“Uh, Mr. Drew?” you loudly called out, listening to the way your voice seemed to bounce around inside the mostly empty studio. Both you and James waited for a few seconds, looking at one another when you only received silence. “Mr. Drew? Are you here? My name’s [Your Name] [Last Name], I’m Henry [Last Name]’s daughter—I know you asked for my father to come and meet you but…well, some things came up and he couldn’t make it” you continued, once again only hearing silence.
“I, uh, know I probably should have just called, but my friend here—James—wanted to check the place out. I hope that was okay with you” you said, stomach now starting the churn the longer you both waited in silence for a response, any kind of response would have been great right about now. “Mr. Drew?”
“Perhaps he’s further inside the studio, in a place where he can’t hear us” James suggested, watching how you mulled over his words before slowly nodding your head. “Let’s just head deeper in and find him, this place doesn’t look that big, so it shouldn’t take us that long” he rested a hand on your shoulder and gave it a tight squeeze as he offered you a reassuring smile that seemed to calm your nerves just a little. Walking further into the building, you couldn’t help but take notice of the sound of ink dripping around every corner as well as the stickers of Bendy himself that looked to be plastered on every wall. Turning down the first corner of the short hallway, you both seemed to stop and stared at the words that were written in ink and smeared across the wall.
“Dreams Come True”
“I feel that shouldn’t be there” you muttered, listening to James lowly whistle at the sight before he grabbed your shoulder and continued to lead you further down the hall. Ignoring the writing on the wall and the large puddle of ink that was building up beneath it as if he didn't want to acknowledge it himself. You both slowed down when you came across a wooden door that had a bright light shining out from underneath it and the rumbling sound of music playing on the other side. “You think he’s in there?” you whispered.
“I don’t know, let’s find out” James whispered back, reaching a hand out and attempted to turn the knob…only to find that the door was locked. “Oh” he muttered, opting to instead now knock on the door as you let your eyes wander further down the hall.
“Ink Machine?” you tilted your head as you read the words that were hung above the open doorway at the end of the hall, inside sat a bulky piece of machinery that consisted of gears and bolts with a long snout hanging off one of the ends.
“Ink what?” James halted in his knocking, your attention now dragged away from the door as you both wandered further down the hall and quietly slinked your way into the room that held the large machinery. Beneath it was splatters of ink that also seemed to be leaking from the ceiling and dripping down onto the machine as well. There was nothing else in the room, only another cardboard cutout of Bendy—it looked no different from the one your friend was carrying, so you didn’t give it much attention. While on either side of the machine was two doorways, one that led into a small, open space that was cluttered with fall planks and the other only consisted of a large dresser.
“I’m not seeing Joey anywhere, let’s just go” you finally said, not liking this uncomfortable feeling you were suddenly getting. That feeling of being watched was back and with that strange writing on the wall back there, you were starting to feel that it was best if the two of you got out while you still could.
“But, there’s more to this building that we haven’t seen yet and I’m quite curious about how you turn this thing on” James argued as he moved closer towards the Ink Machine to get a better look at it, his curious nature getting the best of him as you crossed your arms.
“James, I’m being serious” you frowned, lips twitching upwards just a little as you watched the man’s lower lip jut out into a sudden pout as he crossed his arms as well—now attempting to mimic your stand.
“So am I” he said. “Think about it, if we turn on the Ink Machine that might be enough to catch Joey’s attention and make him come out here to see what all the ruckus is about” he looked proud with his logic after saying it.
“How do you even know that’ll work? Don’t you lie to me, we both know you only want to turn on that machine just because your curious” you narrowed your eyes.
“N-no” James avoided eye contact immediately as the sudden stutter in his voice gave away that you had been right, his curiosity was the only thing driving him in wanting to turn on the machine. He didn’t care if it attracted Joey or not, hell, you were starting to think that Joey wasn’t even in the building to begin with. The letter never did specify when the meeting was supposed to take place. “Come on, [Your Name], please!” the blond suddenly begged, dropping the cutout from underneath his arm as he fell to his knees and clasped his hands together in front of him, now staring up at you with those pleading brown eyes of his.
“Fine, just get off the damn floor, you’re making a scene” you grumbled as you let your arms fall back to your sides before jabbing a finger straight at the blonde’s nose. “But, after we turn on the machine and nothing happens, we’re out of here. Got it?”
“Yes, ma’am” James happily jumped back to his feet and gathered up the cutout he had dropped. “Now, I didn’t see any switches or buttons on the machine itself, so I’m guessing there’s a switch for it somewhere else inside the studio” he assumed, snatching up your hand the second he passed by you and exited back out into the hall, immediately making a sharp turn down another hall that branched off the one you had taken to get to the Ink Machine. You both walked in silence, automatically taking a right when you reached the end of the short hallway. This time you ignored the cutouts and work desk that were laid about, you didn’t even give so much of a glance to the few reels of film that also seemed to be shoved into some of the corners. But, you couldn’t help but notice the pipes that stuck out of the walls—the pipes that seemed to run with ink that you assumed was being led straight towards the Ink Machine.
“What do you think that machines’ used for? I’ve never heard of something called the Ink Machine before” James hummed, finally breaking the silence. Before you could answer, you both flinched as one of the wood planks from the ceiling suddenly fell, loudly crashing down onto the floor in front of you. Slowing down in your walking, you both moved in caution forward, not knowing if another plank of wood would fall again or not. Peeking your head around the corner and to the left, you both froze at the sight you saw at the end of the hall.
Chapter 3: Chapter Two
“Please tell me that’s not a real body, please tell me that’s not a real body, please tell me that’s not a real body” you quietly repeated as James was the brave one to move closer towards the body that appeared to be strapped down to a wooden table in the room at the end of the hall.
“[Your Name], it’s not a real body” James quietly responded. “At least somewhat not a real body” he quickly added as he uncomfortably stared at the cartoonish wolf’s body that was strapped down in front of him. You slowly moved closer yourself, stopping just beside your friend and tightly holding onto his arm as you both examined the toon in front of you—noting just how realistic yet at the same time cartoonish he appeared. Ink-stained the wood behind him as if to represent a bloodstain as the wolf’s chest had been ripped open exposing only his ribs and inky blackness inside. Like a classic cartoon character, his pupils were nothing but x’s to help represent that he was dead.
“He looks just like one of the characters on a couple of those posters…Boris, I think” you breathed out, remembering that had been the name you had caught in your short glance at the posters you both had passed by when you first entered the building. You were reassured that your guess had been right when you caught sight of one of those said posters on the wall, the name “Boris the Wolf” plastered near the bottom as it held a drawing of a cartoonish wolf holding a clarinet.
“Okay, but that doesn’t explain why he’s here, looking all real and not real at the same time” James breathed right back, eyes wide and skin pale as whatever excitement he held in wanting to turn on the machine slowly started to drip away. The sound of ink dripping was quite loud and clear in both your ears as you hesitantly looked around the cluttered and messy room, feeling sick at how thick the smell of ink was in this room—as if it was trying to imitate the smell of rot and blood that one would be struck with upon finding a dead body. On the wall was more writing, words smeared across piles of paper that were tacked onto the wall.
“Who’s Laughing Now?”
In a way the sentence was quite morbid considering the sight that laid before you, there was a door to the other side of the room, but neither of you paid any attention to it. “James, do you still want to turn on that machine? Because right now, I think leaving is a better option” you quietly said, turning to look at your friend who still hadn’t removed his eyes from the toon’s corpse in front of you.
“Who says it’s dead? For all we know, they could have just been doing some type of Frankenstein shit before the studio shut down…yeah, they...they could have been trying to make life-size replicas of their mascots!” James suddenly proclaimed as he finally snapped out of the trance he had found himself in and looked at you.
“James, that doesn’t sound any better” you couldn’t help but stressed, neither the idea of toon torture or Frankenstein revival helped in making what was before you look any better. “We need to leave” you grabbed hold of your friend’s shoulders, lightly shaking his body around as you stared straight into his muddy eyes. Eyes that kept shifting around, looking from you to the corpse as if he was ranking his mind for ways to turn this around. To make up excuses that what you two were seeing wasn’t truly as bad as you were making it out to be. You weren’t sure if he was doing this because his curiosity truly clouded his mind or because he didn’t want to accept that this was no longer just an innocent empty animation studio you were wandering around.
“You said we could turn on the Ink Machine” James suddenly whispered, now forcing his eyes to stare straight at you and ignore the mess before you—as if his mind no longer wanted to acknowledge its existence. How fun that must be, to be able to ignore and forget the horrors you see just because you don’t want to accept that they’re there. Sometimes you couldn’t help but envy James for that trait of his, that trait that came along with his curious nature. You wonder if it was a byproduct of the little devil that must have been whispering in his ear right now, tempting him to stay determined and go through with the task at hand. He may claim that you’re his angel, but sometimes you feel that he loved the devil on his shoulder more than he loved your logical thinking.
You realized that you weren’t going to win this fight, that the voice of reason had no say in the matter—all you could do was sit back and watch, perhaps satisfying his curious needs would make this all end quicker. Turning on the machine might just snap him out of whatever daze that little devil had him in and make him see that all of this was just pointless and nothing more than a waste of time. “Okay, we’ll continue with the task at hand and turn on the machine” you murmured, watching how those brown eyes once more lit up in excitement as the blond spun around on his heel and started to charge down towards the other end of the hall. You couldn’t tell if his quick movements were because of his excitement or if he subconsciously just wanted to put some distance between him and the cartoon’s corpse. You watched as he halted midway across the hall and stared down the hall that you both had taken to get there.
“You hear that?” he suddenly asked, making you furrow your brows as you tilted your head to the side and listened closely only to here…nothing. There was no sound, there was nothing but the eerie silence of the building. He took off before you could say anything and quickly you followed, your feet making a loud ruckus as you jogged to catch up your friend who seemed determined to find the source of whatever imaginary sound he had heard. It wasn’t long before you both came to a halt, curious eyes now staring up at a tape recorder covered in dust that innocently sat up on top of a shelf—lend up against the wall. “Who’d leave a tape recorder here?” James tilted his head, reaching a hand up to press down on the play button.
“Would it even still work? It’s probably been here for—”
“At this point, I don’t get what Joey’s plan is for this company. The animations sure aren’t being finished on time anymore and I certainly don’t see why we need this machine. It’s noisy, it’s messy, and who needs that much ink anyway? Also, get this, Joey had each one of us donate something from our workstation. We put them on these little pedestals in the breakroom.
To appease the gods, Joey says. Keep things going. I think he’s lost his mind, but hey, he writes the checks. But, I tell you what, if one more of these pipes burst. I’m out of here.”
The recording ended, the voice that had spoken was a man’s voice and had a layer of static over top of it that had the two of you straining to listen closely to hear what was being said. The words themselves gave you an unsettling feeling—what did he mean by appeasing the gods? You thought this was an animation studio, not some weird cult. Your thoughts were broken when a loud snort left James, as he looked at you before jabbing his thumb towards the tape recorder. “Get a load of this joker, “appeasing the god,” pfft! They made cartoons for goodness sake!” he chuckled, shaking his head as he waved off any red flags that should have popped up.
You gave a nervous laugh, slowly nodding your head as you cast a small glance at the tape recorder. Tempted to play it once again and hear what had been said once more, part of you felt that the person speaking hadn’t spoken in the playful tone that James felt that he had. Across from the shelf that the tape recorder sat on was a short hallway that took a sharp turn to the right. You both decided to explore down it with you left trailing behind your friend and staring down at the cutout that he continued carrying with him. It felt like Bendy was mocking you with that grin of his as he watched you with mischief eyes, you were almost tempted to hiss right back how he was the one being shamelessly carried under some strange man’s arm.
“A projection room” James seemed pleased with the room you two entered upon reaching the end of the hallway—an open room lined with chairs that faced a large projection screen.
“This must have been where they screened the episodes before releasing them to the public” you hummed, looking around the cluttered room. Like every other room, there were planks of wood and paper scattered about while the shelves themselves were caving in and cluttered with debris, cogs, and rolls of film. James was the one to move further into the room, curiously wanting to get a look at the old projector that sat in the back—you don’t know why considering that it looked no different from the projector in the main room.
“Hey, there’s a button” the blond suddenly pointed out, moving behind a wall as you were quick to join him. Indeed, a button with the word “Flow” written on it innocently sat in the middle of the wall while a board rested above it with the words “Ink Pressure” spelled out in large, black letters. “You think it’s connected to the Ink Machine?” the blond asked, looking towards you.
“I don’t know, maybe” you shrugged, watching as your friend looked back towards the button before suddenly jabbing it with his index finger, a look of disappointment crossing his features when all it did was make a small clicking sound at him but did nothing else. “This place barely has any power to begin with, so I don’t know what you expected to happen” you deadpanned, watching as the blond fell into deep thought.
“Is that so” he muttered before snapping his fingers. “There’s still that room on the opposite side of that…” he trailed off, stopping himself from speaking the words that he wanted to say as to avoid showing acknowledgment towards the cartoony corpse that you two had recently discovered. “There’s still that room, perhaps something of interest is in it” he took off before you could react. Quickly you followed, both of you ignoring the closed wooden doors that lined the hallway—having quickly caught on that any room deemed important only had an open doorway leading into it as if to make it easier for people to slip in and out without the hassle of opening and closing a wooden door. You both kicked up a ruckus with your running, your footsteps bouncing around as the floorboards beneath your feet seemed to moan and shutter in protest, warning you that there was no solid ground beneath them and that the studio could have had a basement.
Rounding the corner into the room that lay on the opposite end of the hall of the dead wolf, was what you guessed was the breakroom upon spotting the pedestals that had been mentioned in the audio log. Behind each pedestal was a shadowy portrait of certain items while at the end of the large room was a lever with the words “Main Power” spelled out above it. On either side of the lever were pipes that were stained black from the ink that course through them as a box built right next to the lever told you and your friend that the pressure was low. “Donate something from our workstations” James mumbled as he looked around at the empty pedestals and the portraits that were hung up on the walls behind them. “I think those pictures have something to do with what we need” he suddenly claimed.
“Really, I never would have thought that” you deadpanned.
“That’s right you don’t think” the blond quickly shot back, jabbing his finger into your nose as a playful smile adorned his lips before he straightened his back. “So, let’s see. We got a picture of a doll, a music note, a bottle of ink, a gear, a wrench, and a book” he listed off all the items that shadowy figures decorated each picture. “Let’s split up and search, that way we can find them a lot quicker” he suggested before wincing as you suddenly struck the back of his head.
“We are not making the first mistake every other idiot makes in a horror movie!” you hissed. “I don’t care if this is me being paranoid, but with the corpse and that audio tape, I think it’s best we stick together.”
“You’re right, it’s best we stick together as a trio” James nodded.
“A trio?” you raised an eyebrow, watching as your friend once again adored his playful smile while he sat the cutout that was underneath his arm straight up. Wrapping an arm around its nonexistent neck.
“Right, you, me, and Bendy here. We’re a trio.”
“Why am I even letting you carry that stupid thing around” you muttered, pinching the bridge of your nose as you turned on your heel and left the room. Only to flinch away the second you turned the corner and was met face to face with another Bendy cutout that hadn’t been there before. “Shit” you breathed out, resting a hand on your chest to calm your now fast beating heart.
“What’s wrong?” James asked, coming up behind you and stopping as he spotted the Bendy cutout that innocently sat there—staring at the two of you with that eternal grin that all his cutouts seemed to wear. “Was that there before?” he asked, tilting his head as he poked at the cutout with his own cutout and watched how the one in front of you two wobbled at the sudden disturbance.
“No, it wasn’t and that's what unnerves me” you said with the shake of your head, fully pushing the cutout in front of you over and stepped over it. “The longer we’re here the more I just want to leave” you grumbled. You both soon found yourself wandering around the entire studio, collecting the items you needed as you discovered that doors that were once locked were now open and you even found an old punch-in clock that looked to be in pristine condition. You grew to hate that punch-in clock in the short span of time you saw it as James seemed to have taken an instant liking to constantly punching the single card inside the machine over and over—repeating cheesy dialogue you would expect to hear in a sitcom. You had to forcefully drag him away from it and continue your quest in fetching the items that you needed.
During your search, you even came across an old-timey radio in one of the rooms that had originally been locked and you had been the guilty one to turn the radio on, finding solace in the old-timey music that started to play from it and take away the eerie silence of the building for a little while. It took a while, but eventually, you both had collected all that you needed—arms now full as you made your way back to the breakroom and carefully started to place the items where they rightfully belonged. You couldn’t help but get this gut-wrenching feeling that something bad was going to happen if you two went through with what you were about to do. But, chose to stay silent as you knew that once this was completed, your friend would be satisfied and the both of you could finally leave. Once everything was set up, James stood there for a moment, staring long and hard at the lever and the box that informed him that the pressure was still low.
“I wonder” he muttered, rubbing his chin as he looked lost in thought for a moment before snapping his fingers and suddenly shoved the Bendy cutout he had been carrying with him into your arms. “Here, hold him, I’m going to go try that button in the projection room again!” before you could protest, he was already running out of the room and leaving you and the cutout behind.
“Wait, James that’s—and he’s gone” your shoulders slumped downwards as you heaved a heavy sigh and stared down at the cutout in your arms. “That idiot’s going to get himself killed one day, I swear” a small smile tugged at your lips as you peered up when you heard your friend’s rushing footsteps once more as he returned.
“Did it work?” he called out as he came running back into the room.
“James, what happened to your clothes?!” your eyes widened as you noticed the black stains that coated his entire shoes and the lower portion of his jeans—no longer were they a blue color, but now a thick inky black color that seemed to drip and caused him to leave stain marks wherever his feet touched.
“Oh yeah, that” he said, coming to a stop. “There appeared to be a crack in the pipe in the projection room, the second I press that button it was already spewing out ink and flooding the entire room, luckily only my pants got ruined” he laughed, not at all bothered by the mess as he walked straight past you and grabbed hold of the lever the second he saw that the pressure had been restored. “Now, let’s start up that machine” and with that, he pulled down the lever.
Chapter 4: Chapter Three
The second the lever was pulled all the power in the room flickered off and left you and James both in darkness and the typical eerie silence of the building. You were ready to speak, ready to tell James that you had been right to think this had all been nothing more than a waste of time but stopped as you listened to the loud sound of gears starting to turn as the Ink Machine hummed to life. The machine was indeed loud as it seemed to just pierce through the silence of the studio and could easily be heard from inside the breakroom—the man in the audio log had not lied about his complaints of the machine being noisy. It made you wonder how the people that worked here felt, how they could even get any work done with such a noisy machine thumping away all day. You cast a quick glance at the blond beside you when he suddenly snatched the Bendy cutout from your arms to tightly hold onto with his own.
You couldn’t tell what he was feeling at the moment or what expression was on his face, it was too dark to really make out any facial features if you were being honest. You watched as he stood there for a couple of seconds before slowly moving forward, shuffling his feet across the ground and leaving behind a streaky ink trail as he slowly crept out of the room and into the hall. You followed, hesitantly peering down towards the room with the toon wolf’s corpse and couldn’t help but sigh in relief when you saw that it was still strapped into place—that it was still dead. There were lit candles on either side of its body that help illuminated it and make it look even creepier than it had the first time you both had come across it. James ignored the wolf at the end of the hall and was already creeping his way towards the sound of the machine with you hot on his heel, not wishing to be separate from him.
There was a sinking feeling in your gut as you both slowly maneuvered your way through the building—James now holding the Bendy cutout in front of him like some sort of shield—listening to the way the piece of machinery seemed to grow louder and unbearable the closer you drew to it. You gently grabbed hold of the back of James’ shirt and peered around the halls as if searching for something that might have been out of place—looking for something that could have changed. Nothing, not a single thing had been moved or misplaced as everything looked just like it had when you had been rushing around the building on your little scavenger hunt. A few of the lights appeared to still be on, illuminating certain sections of the hall and allowing you to finally make out the expression that your friend wore as you both walked in silence. He looked oddly calm, his eyes shining with both curiosity and hesitation as he led the both of you back towards the machine, it was as if he didn’t know if he truly wanted to see it anymore or not.
He stopped just short of the hall that would bring you both just outside of the Ink Machine room, peering back at you for a moment, the look of hesitation now outshining the look of curiosity as he looked almost scared at what lied before you. “[Your Name]” he suddenly mumbled. “I'm starting to have a bad feeling about this” his voice was barely a whisper as you peered up at him and slowly nodded your head in agreement.
“We’ll just take a small peak and then leave, we’ve made it this far…and who knows, maybe Joey’s in there now” you gave a nervous smile, voice wavering for a moment as you attempted to calm both yourself and James down. It didn’t matter if you both chose to leave now or a minute from now, you’d have to pass by the Ink Machine either way if you wished to get back to the main room of the studio, so why not take a peek inside and see just how it worked. The blond stared at you for a couple of seconds, mulling over your words before nodding his head as you continued walking. Rounding the corner towards the Ink Machine, you both came to a halt and was baffled by the sight before you.
“What the hell?” James breathed out, eyeing the boards that were sloppily hammered down and preventing either of you from entering the room. He lowered the Bendy cutout in front of him and frowned as his started to peer all around the two of you in search of the culprit. You hesitantly stepped closer towards the boarded-up room and peered in through the large gap to see inside, finding only a bare room and the now activated Ink Machine that gears were turning as ink dripped out of its snout.
“Hello?” you softly called out into the bare room to see if the culprit had boarded themselves up inside the room with the machine before screaming at the monstrosity that popped up before you. A mess of ink dripped down over its eyes as it showcased to you that same devilish grin all the cutouts around you seemed to wear. James flinched at both your scream and the monstrosity that shot its arm out through the gaps of the board towards the two of you—his grip loosening on the cutout in his hands and letting it fall to the floor as you stumbled backward and snatched up his hand. You didn’t dare look back to the sound of chunks of wood splitting and breaking as the creature from inside the room started to claw its way out while you bolted back to the main area with your friend following close behind. Perhaps it was the adrenaline coursing through your veins that were pushing you to run faster than the blond as normally he had always been the fastest of the two of you.
Ink seemed to spill from the ceiling and walls, pooling onto the floor and creating a dark abyss all around you as the smell caused you to gag and made your head throb. You dashed towards the main exit of the building, feet sloshing around as the ink now reached up to your ankles and was thick enough to slow you both down. James was babbling incoherent sentences behind you as his head turned in every direction—watching how the ink poured down like streams of waterfalls and stained everything it touched. You only ignored him as hope started to swell up inside you upon spying the main exit not too far away, your arm shooting out and hand reaching for it unstained handle before suddenly crying out as the floorboard beneath you finally caved in the second the tips of your fingers brushed against the door handle. The blond behind you reacted quickly, tightening his hold on your hand as his other hand grabbed hold of your arm and kept you from falling.
You felt sick the second you peered down the hole you were now dangling in, finding that the bottom was some long ways down and was already filling with a pool of ink from the way the ink that flooded the hall above was now pouring itself down into the hole. “Hold on, I got you!” you heard your friend grunt as he attempted to pull you back up but struggled as his feel only seemed to slide and slosh around inside the ink that was around his ankles. He seemed to halt though and quickly swirled his head around to peer at something behind him that you couldn’t see, but you watched how the color drained from his face as he instantly let go of your arm and allowed you to fall the rest of the way with him quick to jump in after you. You felt the way your heart leaped into your throat as your arms flailed around, hands trying to grab at something to stop you as you frightfully peered up at the blond that was falling right above you. His weight dragging him down quicker by the minute until he shot right passed you and landed with a loud “splash” into the pool of ink below.
You splashed into the pool of ink not long after, shooting straight up and pushing yourself to stand as you began to hack up the ink that had entered your nose and throat—the taste making you gag as you turned around in circles in search of your friend who hadn’t resurfaced yet. The mess of ink reached up to your thighs and was steadily rising as more ink seemed to flood into the room. “James? James!” you hacked out, your fear slowly rising as you splashed around inside the ink, turning around in circles more and more before screeching as a pair of hands suddenly slammed down onto your shoulders.
“[Your Name], calm down! It’s just me!” James’ voice seemed to instantly calm you as he turned your body around to face him. He was covered head to toe in ink, the substance staining every inch of his body and making him look no different from his own shadow and you were sure that you probably looked the same. He turned his head around, examining the room you both had fallen into that was slowly flooding with more and more ink before he splashed his way towards a valve that sat tucked away into one of the corners of the room on a single pipe. Peering at you for a couple of seconds, he grabbed hold of the valve and slowly started to turn it. You winced as you listened to how it squealed in protest at the movement while the ink in the room slowly started to drain away the more your friend turned the valve until you could finally see the wooden floorboards once again.
You peered around the room yourself now, there wasn’t much to see other than a door that was blocked off by a clutter of junk stacked in front of it and a broken-down shelf that held cobwebs, reels of film, and a single tape recorder. Curiously, you stepped closer to the tape recorder, glancing at James when he silently stepped up beside you to see what it was that had caught your attention. “It’s another one of those recordings, wonder what this one has to say” James reached out before you could protest and pressed down on the play button.
“It’s dark and it’s cold and it’s stuck in behind every single wall now. In some places, I swear this godforsaken ink is clear up to my knees! Whoever thought that these crummy pipes could hold up under this kind of strain either knows something about pressure I don’t, or he’s some kind of idiot. But the real worst part about all this…are them noises the system makes. Like a dying dog on its last legs.
Make no mistake, this place…this…machine…heck, this whole darn thing…it just isn’t natural. You can bet, I won’t be doing any more repair jobs for Mister Joey Drew.”
You winced at how rough the man’s voice sounded and how the layer of static didn’t seem to help either as the recording came to an end and left both you and James in silence. You looked towards the blond, watching how he shifted around and scratched at the back of his head—quickly pulling his hand away when he felt just how clumpy and disgusting the strands were thanks to the ink that was already starting to dry. Even you could feel how your hair was clumping up and starting to harden in certain places. “I wonder if this place still has running water” the blond was mainly speaking to himself as he gently took hold of your hand and led the both of you out through the only open doorway of the room. You didn’t say a word or argue with his actions, knowing that this was the only thing you two could do now—all you could do was walk further into the building and hope to find another exit. You also couldn't help but note how neither of you seemed all that eager to mention the monstrosity that you had encountered not too long ago as you both instead kept silent about it, almost like neither of you wanted to bring attention to it just yet.
You soon found yourself heading further down as you followed a series of stairs before coming across another flood of ink, this one reaching up to your hips as you both stepped down into it. James once again located the valve and turned it, this one squealing just as loudly as the last valve as all the ink drained away and allowed you both to continue. Once again you both had to drain away the ink before it was completely gone, and you were left with only a single door that swung open with ease the second you twisted the knob and pushed. Inside was an empty room that had a single pipe on the ceiling that appeared to be leaking a puddle of ink right underneath it. Both you and James looked around in curiosity, eyeing the heavily boarded doorway before your attention was dragged elsewhere.
On one of the walls there was more writing that you couldn’t help but read:
“The Creator Lied to Us”
“How’d he lie?” you muttered, scanning the words smeared across the wall in ink over and over in confusion. What was Joey doing when the studio was still up and running? What was your father doing when he still worked in animation? What even was this place? You felt the way your head seemed to just throb from the questions that bounced around in your skull the longer you thought about how quickly everything was starting to spiral downwards—how this building was no longer just an innocent animation studio in your mind, that it was now something much sinister.
“Oh baby! Is that what I think that is?” you were snapped out of your thoughts when you heard James' sudden joyful laughter as you curiously looked his way. You warily watched as your blond-headed friend snatched up an axe that had been mounted on the wall and gave it a few test swings. The blade glistening in the light of the room as it cut through the air with ease over and over the longer your friend swung it around. He looked giddy as he tightly clutched the axe in his hands and directed his attention towards you with shining eyes. Quickly he directed his attention towards the boarded-up doorway and started to bounce around on the balls of his feet in excitement as he looked back towards you—as if silently asking permission if he could break away the wood that blocked your path.
“Go ahead, just don’t hurt yourself” you said, waving your friend off with a hand and watched as he madly started to swing at the boards, looking pleased with himself as he watched them instant start to break apart the second the blade of the axe touched them. You followed, keeping a good distance between you and your friend as to avoid being accidentally struck by the axe he was wildly swinging around as he destroyed every plank of wood that stood in your way. There was one single candle tucked away in the corner of the hall and barely provided any light as you both passed by it and came to a halt in front of another door that had a few boards nailed across it. James happily destroyed the boards but was disappointed when you stopped him from demolishing the door as well and instead decided to open it like a civilized person. “We’re not cavemen, dude, we can’t just destroy everything we see” you breathed out with a shake of your head and stepped into the room that laid behind the door.
“Oh, lovely” James smiled as he stepped in beside you, both of you now eyeing the pentagram that was drawn out in ink on the floor with lit candles positioned at the end of each point. “Where’s the edgy teenager that drew this?” he asked with a chuckle before groaning as he suddenly dropped the axe in his hands to clutch his head.
“James?” you worriedly questioned before wincing at the sudden sharp pain that shot through your head as strange images seemed to flash through your mind. Your hands instantly grabbed at your skull as your knees buckled in and you fell to the floor. Curling up in on yourself and whimpered as your vision started to blur and darken around the edges—faintly you could hear James collapse to the floor as well before finally you passed out.
Chapter 5: Chapter Four
You groaned, vision blurred and hazy as your head pounded and you tried to force your eyes open. Everything hurt, from your head to your toes as your limbs felt almost too heavy to move. There was a slight ringing sound in your ears as you shakily tried to push yourself up into a sitting position before flopping back down onto the ground with another groan. Sluggishly moving your head around, you noticed that James was still passed out—his chest gently rising and lowering as if he was taking a peaceful nap and wasn’t laid out on top of a pentagram. You opened your mouth, ready to speak but instead released a heavy sigh as you once again attempted to sit up and luckily succeeded this time.
You didn’t bother attempting to fully stand up, just taking a moment to sit there and let your head lull from side to side, taking in what else the room had to offer. When you and James had first entered both of your attention had solely been drawn towards the pentagram and that alone, but now you noticed just how cluttered the room truly was. From the chairs and dresser pushed off to one side of the room to the bare and falling apart shelf on the other side. In front of you were two coffins peacefully leaned up against the walls with James’ axe also leaning peacefully against one of the coffins which caused your eyebrows to furrow. You were certain that the axe had clattered to the floor when James dropped it, so what was it doing leaning up against the coffin like someone had placed it there?
You didn’t get to dwell on your thoughts any longer as your gaze shot over towards your blond-haired friend the second he moaned and shakily started to push himself up. “Shit, why does my head hurt like I just spent the other night downing drinks like no tomorrow?” he quietly moaned, suddenly curling up into a ball to clutch his skull instead of fully sitting up as you had. You didn’t answer him and instead slowly turned your head around to peer back at the way you had come, eyes squinting as you saw the large puddle of ink that seemed to be growing and your ears suddenly picked up to the sound of dripping. Something in your gut told you that heading back was no longer an option and this caused you to swirl your head back around to examine the room once again before groaning. Your skull seemed to throb in protest to your fast movements.
Slowly you raised a hand to gently massage your own head while you spared a glance towards James who was already pushing himself to stand as he slowly examined the room you were both in. His brown eyes suddenly lighting up as he quickly moved to snatch up his axe, cooing gentle words towards it as he turned it around in his hands—headache long forgotten as his excitement seemed to get the best of him now that he had his weapon of destruction back. “You’re so weird” you muttered with a roll of your eyes, a slight smile tugging at your lips as you slowly pushed yourself to stand as well. Stopping in your movements when you finally spied the boarded-up door in the corner of the room. James followed your gaze and without having to say a word he was already charging his way towards it and swinging his axe around.
This time you weren’t able to stop him from actually destroying the door as well after he broke away the boards and you couldn’t help but wince at the mess of splintered wood as your friend happily cleared you two a new path that led out to a dimly lit staircase that headed down. You followed the blond with slightly shaky legs that had you holding onto the wall as you both worked your way down the steps. Flinching and drawing back when one of the boards from the ceiling suddenly came crashing down and suddenly split it in two near the bottom of the stairs. James who was ahead of you suddenly back peddled up the stairs until he was beside you. You both looking at one another before slowly continuing downwards—being sure to keep a close eye on the ceiling above you to avoid any more falling planks.
“He Will Set Us Free”
You owlishly blinked your eyes, coming to a halt once you reached the bottom of the steps and saw the words that were scrawled out in ink on the wall at the end. Beside the words was a sticker of Bendy and underneath them were candles, a bowl, and…was that soup? James and you both slinked closer to the words, your friend snatching up the can of soup and twirling it around in his grasp while you peered into the bowl, blinking at the ink and rocks that were inside of it. “Bacon Soup?” James’ brows knitted together as he twirled the can around in his hand after reading the label, eyes now searching for any other writing that might have been on it before stopping as his stomach suddenly growled. You cast a glance at your friend’s stoic expression and then his stomach as it suddenly growled once again.
“Heh, kind of skipped breakfast this morning” he suddenly said, giving you a sheepish smile as you looked back up at his face with a frown when you noticed that his eyes were now trained on the can of soup in his grasp.
“James” you sternly said, eyes narrowing when you saw the way his grip tightened around the can until his knuckles turned white. “You wouldn’t, it's probably expired! You’ll get sick!” you frowned, watching how the blond slowly turned his head to the side to peer at you while his lips curled up into a smirk, eyes gleaming as if you just challenged him or something.
“Watch me” he whispered and before you had the chance to say anymore, he took the axe blade’s tip and harshly poked it through the metal top ‘til there was a hole big enough to let you peer inside at the coagulated broth as well as the dark chunks of meat that seemed to float around—it didn’t look appealing at all. James maintained eye contact with you as he threw his head back and pressed his lips to the gaping hole in the can’s lid, loudly slurping down the contents inside and taking large gulps as he heavily breathed through his nostrils. Tears pricked the corner of his eyes and you could see the way his face twitched, and his shoulders hunched as he forced himself to continue chugging the outdated contents. Your face twisted up in disgusted, gagging yourself when you saw your friend’s body jolt a bit as the gurgled sound of a gag came from him before he fully pulled the now empty can away. “Delicious” he choked out, heavily breathing as stay tears fell from his eyes and he strained his throat as if he was trying to keep himself from vomiting.
“Liar” you all but grumbled, watching as he carefully placed the empty can down. With the shake of your head, you gave the blonde’s back a comforting pat as he shakily stood there for a few moments, looking afraid that if he moved a single inch the contents he had foolishly consumed would come right back up. James had always been reckless and sadly if he ever felt he was being challenged, that reckless nature of his became dangerous. He felt like you had challenged him and as a result, he chose to eat expired soup. Your gaze flickered away from your friend’s shaking body as you spotted yet another tape recorder just innocently resting against the wall that also had a Bendy sticker stuck to it and a few lit candles around it. James looked reluctant to follow you as he hesitantly shuffled after you when you started moving.
One hand clutching his axe and the other looking as if he didn’t know whether it wanted to hold his stomach or cover his mouth. “If you’re going to vomit, better do it now and better do it away from me” you said with the slight wave of your hand as you stood near the tape recorder, watching as the blond opened his mouth to argue only to gag as he tried to speak before finally nodding. He didn’t get far, only turning away from you before he finally vomited up the contents he had eaten just seconds ago, his body already ready to purge itself of something so revolting.
“I’ve made a terrible mistake!” he almost seemed to cry after he vomited, releasing a couple of more heaves and coughs as if he planned on spewing more bile. Your nose scrunched up in disgust as you turned your head to avoid looking at the thick gunk of broth and undigested meat. You had wished he had gotten farther, but instead of voicing such things you only reached out and patted his back as he gave a few more heaves before straightening up and wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. He shakily turned back around to face you, ignoring his own puddle of bile that barely touched his shoes and gave you a strained smile.
“Why do you do these things to yourself?” all you received as an answer was a single shrug before he motioned for you to already start playing the recording while he continued to wipe at his mouth as a way to ensure he truly cleaned his lips. With a sigh, you did as he motioned, attempting to ignore the burning sensation in your nostril and your own need to gag as the strong smell of bile was already starting to hit your hard.
“He appears from the shadows to rain his sweet blessings upon me. The figure of ink that shines in the darkness. I see you, my savior, I pray you hear me. Those old songs, I still sing them. For I know you are coming to save me, and I will be swept into your final loving embrace.
But, love requires sacrifice. Can I get an amen?”
“I said, can I get an amen?” you and James jumped, the clear and almost demanding tone that suddenly spoke up taking you by surprise as soon as the recording ended. Your heads twisting and turning every which way as you looked around for the source of the voice only to be met with nothing more than rundown walls, dripping ink, posters, and another Bendy cutout further down the hall. James grip painfully tightened on his axe as he no longer looked pale and sick, instead, he now looked high on alert and ready to attack anything or anyone that attempted to come at the two of you. It took a while before you two felt comfortable to start moving again, finally forced to walk away and down the hall with the Bendy cutout as the vile smell of James vomit started to become too much for either of your noses to handle. You wanted to keep going, not wanting to stop and look at the cutout that mockingly smiled at you two, the cut out that had candles set around its feet and looking as if it was prepared to take offerings of praise and valuable objects.
James, on the other hand, didn’t want to ignore it, didn’t want to walk away and continue on your both search for a way out. He instead raised his axe and swung down at the cutout. It seemed to just shatter the moment the blade of the axe touched it, but that wasn’t the part that baffled you and James. No, you both were instead baffled by the incredibly detailed pentagram that was scribbled on the wall in ink that had been hidden behind the cutout. It unnerved you, just as it had unnerved you when you saw the first pentagram. You and James nervously looked at one another before looking back at the pentagram, only to jump when you found that the cutout was back.
It no longer looked like it had been shattered to pieces, instead it looked unscathed and continued to grin at the two of you. James' arm jerked, and he struck it again, destroying it once more and watched, waiting for it to regenerate. You didn’t really want to see if it would nor did you want to keep standing around, instead you took his arm and started to tug at it as you tried to drag him along with. “Hold on” he muttered, raising his axe high one again and you flinched, letting your hand slip away from him as you drew away when he started to repeatedly bring the axe down on the shattered pieces of the cutout. Not only hitting them but also destroying the wooden bowls filled with ink and rocks, creating an even bigger mess and leaving gashes on the wooden floor.
Eventually, he stopped, not saying a word as he soundlessly backed away and down the hall you both had originally been heading down. His eyes never left the mess he had created, and you didn’t really want to look back at it yourself as you instead followed beside him, keeping a hand on his arm to prevent him from tripping over his own two feet as he walked backward. It wasn’t until you reached the end of the hall, did he finally direct his attention elsewhere other than behind you two, instead he now focused his attention to the thick mass of ink that seemed to flood the hall you two needed to cross to continue onwards. You almost didn’t want to go, mind suddenly thinking back to the way the upper floor had become flooded with ink in a similar manner when that…thing…had appeared. Your heartbeat seemed to quicken at the thought that that creature was possibly lying in wait for you both to step your feet into the mess of ink, so it could drag you down.
You were jostled out of your thoughts by the sound of splashing as James walked right into the hall and started to work his way through the mess. He seemed to force his legs forward, forcing the thick liquid to splash around as he moved through it and almost refused to let it slow him down. “You coming?” he asked, stopping to look back at you with questioning eyes as you blankly stared at him. Part of you knew you should have been mad at him for not being more cautious, for just walking right into the mess of ink without a thought of concern or danger. But you should have also been angry with him for his recklessness of drinking expired soup.
Instead, you couldn’t find yourself to be angry, you had known him for this long and knew that this was how he functioned—how unaware he was to possible danger a majority of the time. Just seeing him act the same way he did every other time for some reason seemed to soothe you, just seeing him act like himself calmed your fast-beating heart as you nodded and hesitantly took a step into the room, shivering at the ink that immediately started to seep it’s way into your pants legs as the gunk seemed to reach up to the middle of your calf. You both worked your way forward, only your heavy breathing and the sloshing of your feet feeling the air before you came to a halt and sucked in a sharp breath as someone passed by the open doorway at the end of the flooded hall. He sounded as if he was muttering to himself and his body—from what you could tell from the quick view of him—looked like it was covered head to toe in ink as he carried a Bendy cutout under his arm. “Hello!” James was the first to speak.
“Excuse me! Can you help us?!” quickly he started rushing down the rest of the hall to catch the man. “Hello!” he called out again when he didn’t get a response as you followed after and soon you both finally reached the next room, turning the corner that the man had disappeared around. You were only greeted with a shelf filled with expired Bacon Soup, a wall, and a Bendy cutout that appeared to be hiding another pentagram.
“Where the hell did he go?” you asked, uncomfortable and hesitant to walk closer to the cutout as your eyes desperately flickered around the small dead end for any signs of an opening the man could have gone through.
“Maybe we’re so high off the smell of ink that we hallucinated him” James suggested, you couldn’t tell if he was joking or being serious, but it didn’t matter. Hearing such an explanation seemed to calm you more than you think the real answer would have. You both ignored the shelf covered in cans of Bacon Soup and continued on your way, stopping once again to stare at the sight of a large stone statue of Bendy that was coated in cobwebs.
“Why?” you asked.
“Why not?” James asked in return and that was all either of you could leave it at as you looked away from the statue only to find that your path was now blocked by a gate. Beside it was a lever that had three flashing lights next to it. Pulling the lever did nothing really, no matter how many times you and James pulled it down and then pushed it back up nothing happened.
“Maybe it needs power” you blindly guessed, peering at the flashing lights beside the lever. “Let’s look around” despite being the one that suggested it, you didn’t like the idea of having to go back through that hall of ink. First, you had moved back over towards the statue and searched all around it before moving over to the shelf of soups and after pushing them around and listening to James silently gag behind you from the sight of the food you discovered a switch hidden behind one of the cans. “Did that do something?” you asked the blond as you pressed the switch.
“I think so, one of the lights isn’t flashing anymore so I guess that’s a good thing” he responded as you nodded. You didn’t think it took too long to find the rest of the buttons, even if the last one had been hidden behind a board, it wasn’t too hard of a task and you were already back at the gate, pulling the lever down. Slowly the gate raised up, shaking the walls around it as it loudly groaned and moved its way upwards. Greeting you on the other side of the gate was a boarded-up doorway that had James already excited as he held up his axe and ran forward. You watched him chop away at the boards like a madman, smiling gleefully back at you like a child on Christmas day.
Entering the new room, you were greeted with more ink, more posters, another Bendy cutout, and a wall covered in records and painted music notes as well as a single speaker up in the corner. “Music Department” was painted on the wall, giving you an idea of where exactly you were in the studio. “Strange that they would put the music department way down here in the basement” James whistled as he looked all around him at the mess before wandering closer towards the single tape recorder that rested against the wall.
“So first, Joey installs this Ink Machine over our heads then it begins to leak. Three times last month, we couldn’t even get out of our department because the ink had flooded the stairwell. Joey’s solution? An ink pump to drain it periodically. Now I have this ugly pump switch right in my office—people in and out all day.
Thanks Joey, just what I needed, more distractions. These stupid cartoon songs don’t write themselves, you know.”
The familiar voice of the man from the last recording sounded so different, he sounded so frustrated and angry, nothing like the calm and almost loving tone he had used in the previous recording. What had been the switched? What had made him go from being annoyed to lovingly talking about some savior? These questions nagged at you, they ate away at you and it felt like you were truly the only one that was unnerved by these recordings as you chanced a glance at James who looked slightly uninterested. His attention more focused on the axe in his hands as he twirled it around before looking up and around at the bare and rundown room.
He was the first to move, to march he way over to the open doorway of the stairs with you trailing close behind before coming to a stop just right behind him when he halted. “Looks like the stairwell is flooded” he commented, peering down the steps at the ink that flooded the bottom of the steps and blocked the door. Right next to the stairwell was a lever with the words “Power” right over top of it. You knew it was pointless, you both knew it wasn’t going to work or be that easy, still, you watched as your blond-headed friend pulled the lever and stared down at the pool of ink that was still there. Still in the way.
“Maybe I can cut the door down” James suddenly offered, frowning as he watched you shake your head.
“That’d only flood the next room and we don’t even know if that room isn’t already flooded itself to begin with” you pointed out, already turning around and ready to head back into the previous room. “That recording mentioned something about a switch in the guy’s office, let’s find where that is” you suggested, only to scream as your body stumbled back when you looked forward and witness…something come bursting out of one of the puddles on ink that stained the floor. It was humanoid shaped, it’s body unnaturally skinny near the waist and covered in nothing but ink and before you could blink it was already dragging itself towards you, wheezing as it left a trail of ink behind it.
“Oh shit” James breathed out behind you, shaking his head and finally reacting when the monstrosity suddenly lunged towards you, it’s hands dripping with ink as it made a grab for you, only to recoil back and away when your friend’s axe suddenly jammed itself into its neck. It seemed to weakly groan and attempted to make another grab at you before bursting in a mess of ink that covered you and James when he hit it once again with his axe, this time striking the head. You didn’t have much time to relax before more of those monstrosities started to pop out of the other ink puddles in the room.
Chapter 6: Chapter Five
You were scared, your body scrambling further back and closer to James who tightly gripped his axe, his own body shaking as he took an offensive stance. He kept readjusting his grip on the handle of the axe, frightened that it would go sailing from his hands due to how sweaty they were. Slowly he raised it high above his head, swinging it downwards and then all over the place like a madman when one of those creatures slinked close enough. You flinched and shrunk away, scared that he’d accidentally strike you in his frenzy and panic filled attacks if you weren’t careful. He wasn’t much of a true fighter and neither were you, his attacks weren’t going to be clean and precise, like a frightened child they were going to be messy and all over the place.
Once it was over—once it seemed like it was over, the blond lowered his weapon and shakily stepped forward and turned his body around in slow circles. Looking for any signs that there were more of those things to come, swallowing thickly and giving a shaky smile with a small nod of the head towards you once he was sure it was safe. You flinched, jumping when the lone speaker that hung the wall suddenly kicked up and started to play very, very old fashion joyful music that didn’t seem all that appropriate to the events that had just happened mere seconds ago. You and James hesitantly started to explore, first heading up a set of stairs to see where they lead and found yourselves in a room with a single projector that overlooked a stage with chairs, instruments, and another Bendy cutout. James flicked on the projector before you could object, eyes blankly staring at the old animation of Bendy that crookedly and silently played out on the screen.
You stared at it for a few seconds before letting your gaze drift down towards the single tape recorder that rested beside the projector. “Why isn’t there sound?” your friend asked, dragging your gaze away from the tape recorder and beside you. You thought that he had been joking at first until you saw the blank look in his eyes.
“This is the music department, James, this is where they orchestrated the music that was to go along with the cartoon” you explained with a sigh. “They needed to see what was happening on screen to know what to play and how slowly and quickly they needed to play it” you explained it the best you could, in a simple manner with the best knowledge you had. To you, it sounded like a logical explanation. You almost forgot about the recorder, you almost wanted to forget that it was still there waiting to be played. Did you want to play it?
Did you want to hear any more of what the people who used to work here had to say? You weren’t sure, but something inside you—that curiosity that dwelled within—wanted to play it and it was that part of you that won over. Your fear and nervousness meant nothing at that moment as you pressed down on the play button and let the voice of this newcomer take over.
“Every day the same strange thing happens. I’ll be up here in my booth; the band will be swinging and suddenly Sammy Lawrence just comes marching in and shuts the whole thing down. Tells us all to wait in the hall. Then I hear him, he starts up my projector and he dashes from the projector booth and down to the recording studio like the little devil himself was chasing behind. Few seconds later, the projector turns off.
But, Sammy, he doesn’t come out for a long time. This man is weird, crazy weird. I have half a mind to talk to Mr. Drew about all this, but then again, I have to admit. Mr. Drew has his own peculiarities.”
It ends there, that’s all the man had to say and the only thing it offered was more unease. You wondered, did this all happen when your father still worked here? Was he aware something was wrong and was that the reason he left or had he been ignorant of the whole thing? The music still continued to loudly play as you both found yourself already descending the stairs, not wanting to speak of the recording, and back into the main room of the music department only to round across to the other side of the room and down another hall. “Who’s there?! I have an axe!” James suddenly shouted, jumping at the loud sound of a light turning on in one of the rooms and start to flicker.
Investigating only lead to a dead end, all that greeted you in the room with the flickering light was a heavily flooded stairwell and neither of you was too pleased with the thought of attempting to wade through the ink just to explore a room that was flooded in a sea of black. Moving on, you opened the first door you came across only to be greeted by an organ piano. Covered in layers of cobwebs and slightly boarded up around the pipes you were the one to take a step forward and curiously press down on some of the keys to see if it still worked while James hung back near the open doorway. It still worked, the sound it played was loud and clear, acting as if it hadn’t just been sitting here for years with no one to attend to it. What made you flinch though was the loud, muffled cry that came once the reverberating sounds of the keys came to a stop.
You looked back at James to see if he had heard it as well, his shoulders were stiff, and his muscles were tensed as he stood up straight and let his eyes dart all around the room and the hall in search for the source of the sound. Shakily you pressed down on a few more keys to see if that same cry would sound out again once you were finished, quick to draw back and away from the piano when it did. You didn’t want to hear any more, you didn’t want to know what or who was making that sound either. Already you were ushering James to go, to leave the room and continue onwards without a second thought. Further down the hall, you were met with another one of those awful cutouts and more ink, ink that was squirting out of a pipe and blocking your way to the door that led into Sammy Lawrence’s room.
From the long window that let you peek inside his room, you could already see the switch that had been mentioned in the tape recorder. “Well, there’s the switch” you said, reluctantly stepping into the mess of ink and further dirtying your clothes just to press your face close to the glass to get a better look inside. It looked like a normal office except for the large switch with the words “Power Control” over top of it and the writings on the wall that read:
“It’s Time to Believe.”
Looking towards the leaking pipe, your interest was brought towards the innocent tape recorder that rested against the wall. James had a look of temptation on his face, not towards the tape recorder but instead towards the glass of the window. “Don’t think about it, even if you break the glass there’s no guarantee that we won’t get a nasty cut and I don’t think getting a large gash would be a good thing to have in this building” you said, already thinking ahead. With how much ink there was coating this place, you were almost guaranteed that if you got a cut and wade through this mess you’d get an infection in no time. It was already bad that you were now finding yourself ignoring and becoming used to the burning sensation in your nostrils from the large intake of ink that you had been smelling since you arrived in this horrendous place.
James complied, letting himself relax and pout a little before deciding the wade through the ink and towards the tape recorder where he pressed play.
“So I go to get my dustpan from the closet the other day and guess what? I can’t find my stupid keys, it’s like they disappeared into thin air or something. All I can think of is that they must have fallen into one of the garbage cans as I was making my rounds last week. I just hope nobody tells Sammy, because if he finds out I lost my keys again, I’m out of here.”
James had gotten bored long before the recording had ended and had already wandered right past you towards the punch in clock that innocently rested in the corner of the room. You rolled your eyes upon hearing the familiar ding of the machine and the amused laughter that left your friend as he made a cheesy remark, similar to how he had the first time you two had a run-in with those punch in clocks. ‘Maybe finding those keys might be a good idea’ you thought to yourself after the recording had ended, you were grasping at straws by this point. You knew you had to cease the flow of ink leaking out of the pipe or at least drain the flood of ink that was currently blocking your way into Sammy’s room. Maybe finding the custodian’s keys and getting into his closet might help, maybe it won’t, you wouldn’t know until you tried.
There were only two more doors for you to really check, the one behind you and the single door both you and James and walked right past in the short hallway while heading this way. You gave the door behind you a quick check, giving a heavy sigh through your nose when it turned out to be locked before turning to James who had decided to take it upon himself to try the other door. “It’s open” he smiled, peering back and motioning for you to follow before disappearing through the open doorway. You barely stepped through the door before he was already coming back out with a look of disappointment. “Nothing” he muttered.
“Did you check the trashcan?” you asked, remembering the remark that the man in the recording had made. Remembering how he mentioned that his keys could have fallen into one of the garbage cans while he was collecting trash. The blond nodded, the look of disappointment was still on his face and for a moment you had to wonder if he was being truthful and knew why he had to check the trashcan or if he was only lying because he didn’t want to go back into a room that had nothing to offer. Backtracking, you peered into every trashcan you saw, disappointment gripping your heart each time you discovered them empty and it wasn’t long before you both wandered into the recording room where all the chairs and instruments you saw from the projector booth laid. You found success in this room when you peered into the trashcan, discovering a set of keys and further into the room was a glass window that peered into a recording booth with another tape recorder resting underneath it and tucked away in the corner.
You were the only one to wander closer towards it, your friend giddily moving closer towards the old instruments that were covered in dust and looked as if they hadn’t been touched in years. James always did have quite the love for music—for instruments, not all instruments but some of them. You ignored him and how he moved about the small stage, touching and looking at the various instruments that decorated it and instead peered into the recording booth that walls were covered in papers and had a single microphone dangling from the ceiling. Without a second thought, you scooped down and pressed play on the tape recorder before continuing to look into the booth through its window.
“It may only be my second month working for Joey Drew, but I can already tell I’m going to love it here! People really seem to enjoy my Alice Angel voice, Sammy says she may be as popular as Bendy someday. These past few weeks I have voiced everything from talking chairs to dancing chickens, but this is the first character I have really felt a connection with. Like she’s a part of me, Alice and I, we are going places.”
The certainty in the woman’s voice was loud and clear, the way she spoke and how proud and confident of herself she was, was something you picked up on quickly. It seemed to almost leave a bitter taste in your mouth as you wondered how those feelings and thoughts possibly destroyed her when the show was canceled. But, a small part of you almost wishfully hoped that that hadn’t been the case, that she had simply used those feelings of hers to move on to other careers and make a name for herself…but that was only hopeful thinking. Her voice was unfamiliar and one you never heard before, a big sign to you that she never made it big like she thought she would. You could still hear James moving around on the stage behind you as you cast a glance at the closed gate beside you before looking once again into the recording booth.
When the recording was done and over with, you stepped back and away from it and cast a passing glance up at the projector booth, flinching when you spotted the two Bendy cutouts that peered down at you from the window of the room beside the projector’s booth. Almost as if they were watching you and your friend as you wandered around. “James…” you called back to him, hesitantly taking your eyes off the cutouts and continuing towards the door. “Let’s go, we found what we were looking for” all you heard was a small whine followed by the pounding footsteps of your friend as he jogged over towards you and fell in step beside you. The walk back to Sammy Lawrence’s room was uneventful and neither of you even bothered to cast a glance at his door as you immediately went straight for the only locked door you both had recently come across.
You didn’t even bother looking back at the blond as you blindly shoved one of the keys into the lock, hoped it was the right one and twisted it. The satisfying sound of a lock being undone met your ears and when you swung the door open you were only met with a rundown shelf that barely had anything of importance on it other than a measly tape recorder. “Exactly how many of these are there? Does no one use pen and paper around here?” you asked, slowing becoming irritated as you found yourself becoming tired of these recordings. You could have just ignored it, just turned around and refuse to give it a second glance, but in the end it didn’t matter what you wanted as James easily reached over you and pressed play on the machine.
“Every artistic person needs a sanctuary. Joey Drew has his and I have mine. To enter, you need only know my favorite song:
The banjo playfully plucks,
The banjo once again strums its’ melody,
The drum thunders in triumph,
The piano delicately calls.
Sing my song and my sanctuary will open to you.”
“Looks like we just found our next clue in what to do” James said, smiling at you as he ignored the cans of Bacon Soup that were scattered about the shelf. You so dreadfully wanted to complain, wanted to ask why someone would have to go through such a troublesome act to be granted access to this man’s supposed “sanctuary,” but instead you kept your mouth shut and nodded with a sigh. James seemed to mumble to himself, recounting the instruments and the order you needed to play them in which seemed to brighten your mood just a little. James wasn’t complaining just yet as he lead you both back to the recording room, so you didn't either. You didn’t dare cast a glance up at the projector booth and James was too busy running around to care to peer up at it either.
He went through the motion in one fell swoop and when nothing happened he did it again…and then again…and then again and each time he was met with the same results. “I’m doing this right, right?” he asked, looking to you for guidance as you thought back to the recording and relayed all that was said.
“Yes” you sounded sure of yourself, but a small part of you felt unsure if you both were doing this right. “Maybe we’re missing something” you muttered, looking about the room before your eyes landed on the screen that the projector was meant to play on. “It’s worth a shot” you shrugged.
“What’s worth a shot?” James curiously asked before following your gaze as you pointed up at the screen.
“Maybe we need to play his favorite song along with the moving picture” it was such a wild guess and you truly believed that it wouldn't work but James didn’t seem to have the same thought process as he nodded his head and ran right out of the room with you hot on his trail, not feeling comfortable enough in being left all alone. You ran all the way around the bend, through the main room, and up the stairs into the projector booth were you both came to a halt before evening thinking about turning on the projector itself as you peered down into the recording room.
“Those weren’t there before, were they?” James loudly whispered to you as if frightened that the cutouts that now stood around the recording room could hear you. They all smiled, peering up at you with those Pac-Man shaped eyes of theirs. Just looking at them made you sick to your stomach.
“I don’t think so” you shook your head, neither of you too eager to return down below, but knew that staying up here wasn’t going to be of any help either. Swallowing the fear and the unease, you were the one to flick on the projector before you both took off running to return to the recording room were you were painfully greeted to the sight of nothing—no cutouts, just chairs, and instruments.
Chapter 7: Chapter Six
You both didn’t have time to question it, running on limited time as the projector continued to play out its reel of film. James was the first to move, already running around the room and playing the instruments in the order that he remembered and when he played the single note of the piano key, a light flickered on above the gate that slowly lifted itself and revealed a long hallway that led towards a single value with the word “Flow” neatly written on a sign above it. You didn’t really want to be the one to go near it, to tread down such a long hallway that would make you feel like the walls were closing in on you and there was no escape if any of those monsters from earlier decided to come popping up. James didn’t blame you, he looked hesitant as well, even with a deadly weapon in his hands he didn’t feel safe or comfortable. But eventually, he was the one to go, slowly creeping down the hall towards the value with you hesitantly following behind but staying close to the doorway as you watched him turn the value with all his might when he finally reached it.
He turned around with a reassuring smile, shooting a thumbs up as if that would comfort you which it kind of did as you returned his smile before turning away yourself. Jumping and stumbling backward before losing balance and falling on your ass when one of those Bendy cutouts suddenly popped up out of nowhere and peered right at you before disappearing from view once again. James was already rushing down the short hall, squeezing right past you and rushing out into recording room with his axe held out. He may have looked ready for a fight, but the fear in his eyes and the lack of color in his face as he heavily breathed was enough to tell you that he was terrified of facing the person. He looked all around the room as you slowly and carefully pushed yourself back up and shuffle towards him, almost not wanting to come out of the sanctuary when he seemed to tense up the moment his gaze flickered up towards the projector booth.
“Who are you?!” he suddenly shouted as you faltered in your steps a little. “You’re that same guy from before, aren’t you?! Aren’t you?!” he sounded frustrated, he sounded scared like he didn’t know what to expect as he tightened his grip on the axe and continued staring upwards until you finally passed through the doorway and looked up towards the projector’s booth as well. Breath catching in your throat as you spotted the man that you both had only saw a glimpse of earlier. He was covered head to toe in ink and only wore a single pair of overalls as a stained and dirty Bendy mask covered his face.
He said nothing, just standing there and swaying back and forth as he watched the two of you. “Answer me before I go up there and make you answer me!” James continued to scream, you didn’t know if he was screaming to act tough or because he was terrified of the silence that he was receiving as an answer. Part of you wondered if you should speak up—ask if the man would help, but one look at him told you the same thing it told James, this man wasn’t going to be of any help. He didn’t look friendly and the way his body was coated in ink made you second guess if he was actually human or not. But, in some way the man’s silence and appearance aren’t what scared you, it was James' reaction that terrified you.
He wasn’t one to normally get angry fast, he wasn’t one to scream at others or demand answers. If this was his reaction to finally seeing someone, then you were certain that that means he sensed something dangerous about the man. James was sometimes overly trusting you felt, but at the moment there was no trust in his voice, there was no trust in his face, there was only fear and aggression as he shouted at the man to answer. You were almost certain that this was a glimpse of how he really felt, that the reassuring smiles and the joyful laughter that would bubble out of him every now and then was nothing more than a pitiful façade that he had been wearing either for his sake or yours. But at the same time, you pitifully wanted to deny that this was the truth.
Because it scared you to think that someone like him that normally had no problem recklessly running into danger and rarely ever felt or showed genuine fear could truly be scared over the appearance of some man. But all too quick that fear and anger seemed to melt away from his face as his lips shakily forced themselves upwards and his grip relaxed just a little on the axe. “Come on now, just say something” his voice was calm and light, no longer holding that aggressive tone as he seemed to relax. “I just want to—” he took one step forward before screeching and scrambling backward as you recoiled and screamed yourself when those humanoid monsters from before shot out of the ground. They crawled their way towards you two, leaving behind trails of ink as raspy groans left their nonexistent mouths.
“James! James…t-the axe…James! The axe!” you grabbed at his arm and shook his body as he looked almost in a daze for a moment at the sudden appearance of the monsters. Confused how they had appeared when there were no ink puddles around. They were closing in quickly and for the first time since you both had picked up the axe, you ripped it from the blonde’s hands and started to swing it yourself.
It was heavy in your grasp and there were moments you feared you would lose your grip on it if you weren’t careful. Your heart was hammering in your chest and thundering in your ears as adrenaline pumped through your veins and you continued to swing at the monstrous creatures. You didn’t realize you had been screaming until you killed the last of them until you felt James’ hand on your shoulder as he stopped you from repeatedly hitting the ink stains on the ground and harshly jerking the axe out of the floor only to slam it back down. Your entire body was shaking, you felt dirty—you felt unclean with how much ink caked your skin and clothes, leaving a mess that made it uncomfortable to move and you had no doubt some of it had gotten in your mouth from the disgusting taste on your tongue. “They’re dead! [Your Name], they’re dead” your friend lowered his voice, turning you around to face him and gently wrapping his hands around the handle of the axe that you tightly clutched in your own.
You wanted to cry, but you couldn’t force yourself to as you instead relinquish control of the axe and shakily clung to the young man’s arms to keep yourself steady. You regretted giving a loud sniff when you felt your nose flair up and start painfully burning at the ink that seeped up it and down your throat forcing you to harshly hack and cough in disgust. Neither of you bothered looking back up at the man, instead, James kept a tight hold on you and lead the both of you out of the room while keeping a strong hold on the axe. For a second he looked tempted to lead you both back towards Sammy Lawrence’s room but didn’t. Instead, his attention had been drawn towards the one room that neither of you had been able to explore earlier due to how overflooded with ink it was.
There was no more ink, all of it had drained away and left nothing but a mess of puddles and streaks and out of sick curiosity, you let him lead you down the stairs. Both of you carefully holding onto one another to avoid slipping and falling due to how slick the wood and the bottom of your shoes were thanks to all the ink. It coated everything, and it was still dripping from the ceiling once you reached the bottom step and peered around the small room, finding another valve tucked away in the corner. James reacted accordingly this time around when one of those monstrous ink creatures appeared, flinching and lashing out at it before it had even the slightest of chances of lunging at the two of you. He refused to let his shock take over again, refused to let it freeze him in place like it had back in the recording room.
You were the one to turn the valve this time, struggling just a little to get it to fully turn due to how slick it was to tightly hold it thanks to the ink that coated it. “Infirmary” James muttered to himself, arms slipping away from you and looking back at the boarded-up doorway that blocked off a set of stairs that lead further down. “Why the hell would the infirmary of all places be down here?” he was baffled by this knowledge, letting his fingertips brush against the swollen, ink-stained wood but did nothing else as he backed away and looked back over towards you. You gave only a shrug and a small “I dunno” as a response to his question while swiping the palm of your hands to clean them of the ink that stained them even though you knew it was futile due to how soaked and stained with ink your clothes already were. You didn’t explore much of the small room nor did you care much to break away the boards and explore the infirmary as you both walked back up the stairs.
You lingered for a moment on the top step, unease settling in you as you chanced a glance back at James who patiently waited for you to keep moving. “What do you think happened to that guy?” you finally asked, it was bothering you. Was he still up in the projector’s booth or had he left and slinked off elsewhere when you two had been caught up in that surprise attack. James' grip tightened around the handle of the axe as a look of irritation flashed across his face before quickly disappearing as he shook his head and instead gave your back a gentle push as if to encourage you to keep moving. He muttered something under his breath, something you couldn’t catch but didn’t want to question and instead continued on.
Returning to Sammy Lawrence’s office, you were pleased to find all the ink gone, leaving nothing but stains and a soaked cutout behind. Entering the office, James followed close behind, wandering towards the desk and flicking on the radio without a second thought to let it play it’s jaunty tune as he peered down at the blueprint that was splayed out on the desk. Seeing him do such a thing, acting as if that was the most important thing in the world at the moment oddly enough brought a smile to your face and relaxed your nerves especially as soon as you saw the gentle smile that graced his face the longer he listened to the music before he started to hum alongside it. His hips swayed a bit as he twirled around to face you and with his eyes, it looked like he was tempted to ask you to dance with him before pouting when all you did was laugh and shake your head in return. That smile seemed to falter just a little as you looked back at the lever and with a shaky breath you grabbed hold and pulled it down without a second thought.
“You think it worked?” James asked, still letting his hips sway to the music as he moved closer towards you and continued to act as if he wanted you to join him in his dancing.
“Fingers crossed, the only way to know is to go back to the stairs themselves and flipped the switch over there” he nodded, now seemingly bobbing his head along with the music while smiling when he heard the small and soft snort that escaped your lips. He let you take the lead, marching along behind you and almost letting the axe now drag on the ground as you headed towards the staircase that would lead further down. Your whole body seemed to tense up though, heart stopping and face draining of color when you heard a loud “whack” followed by a strangled cry leaving James’ lips before both his body and his axe crumpled to the floor behind you. Your body seemed to start shaking as your fight or flight senses kicked up, your conscious screaming for you to run like a scared little rabbit.
“James—” you didn’t run, you instead twisted your body around and was soon met with a world of pain as something hard struck the side of your skull and forcefully knocked you to the ground. You groaned, vision blurring and now fading in and out as tears started to fill your eyes and through your hazy vision you only made out the blurred figure made up of black and faded white.
“Rest your head, it’s time for bed” a soothing voice cooed before you finally lost consciousness.
“There we go now, nice and tight. We wouldn’t want our sheep roaming away now, would we?” you groaned, barely able to open your eyes as your skull seemed to just painfully throb. Feeling as if it was ready to split itself open and let the contents inside spill out. Slowly you forced your lids to open, rapidly blinking to clear your vision before fearfully you started to look all around you.
“W-where…” you tried to move, you tried to jerk yourself up only to find yourself restricted by rope to a chair and unable to move. Your breathing slowly started to pick up as your throat painfully clenched and the words you wanted to say couldn’t seem to make themselves known. There were lots of things you noticed the more you let your eyes rapidly flicker about the room, from the mess of boards hammered in random places, to the barrels scattered about the room and the speakers that were mounted up on the walls, to the axe that rested against one of the support beams, and then finally down to the large pentagram drawn underneath your feet. Your head quickly turned to the side upon hearing a small groan which only caused the pain in your skull to intensify, but you didn’t care the slightest as you were overtaken with immediate relief when you eyed James. His head was sluggishly drooping downward and small grunts seemed to leave his lips as his nose scrunched up and a look of pain crossed his face, but other than that it didn’t seem that he was planning on opening his eyes anytime soon. Seeing him beside you and still alive was a great relief.
“No, we wouldn’t” that relief was short lived as your body tensed up and you hesitantly forced yourself to finally look at the man that stood before both you and James. “I must admit, I am honored you both came all the way down here to visit me” you felt sick upon seeing him this close up. Upon seeing the ink that coated his whole body and made your stomach churn as you felt that the smell that emitted from the ink on his body smelled stronger and fouler. James seemed to groan once again as his body finally started to stir and slowly his eyes started to blink open. He hissed in pain the second the light of the room met his vision causing him to quickly screw his eyes back shut.
“It almost makes what I’m about to do seem cruel” the man continued speaking as your heart seemed to just drop into your stomach while you forced yourself to keep staring up into the dirty and worn out mask of his.
“What…what a-are you going t-to do?” you fearfully asked, almost feeling short of breath the longer you stared at the black eyes of his mask and the longer he took to answer.
“But, the believers must honor their savior, I must have him notice me” was the only response the man gave, not fully answering your question as James slowly lifted his head.
“What are you, some Japanese schoolgirl wanting her senpai to notice her?” your friend seemed to bitterly spit out, his eyes squinted and not fully open or adjusted to the light just yet. You wanted to laugh at his remark, wanting to smile that he was able to still throw out a humorous remark despite the circumstances. The man seemed to just ignore your friend, the eyes of his mask still trained on you before suddenly he reached out and took hold of your chin. Bringing his masked face closer to your own as you attempted to recoil away from his cold, slimy touch.
“Wait, you look familiar to me…that face…” you were confused for but a moment before painful realization hit you with what he meant. People always did say you shared your father’s features, from his eyes to his hair color, there was a resemblance between the two of you.
“H-Henry!” you finally sputtered out. “I’m Henry [Last Name]’s daughter! You must know him, he used to work here!” you sounded so desperate, almost like you thought mentioning your father would make this man change his mind in whatever he planned on doing to you and your friend. “Please, we only came here because—”
“Not now” the man cut you off and simply waved off your words. “For our lord is calling to us, my little sheep, the time of sacrifice is at hand!” he sounded so sickeningly giddy as your breath caught in your throat.
“Sacrifice?!” James jolted at the word, body jerking in his own restraints as his eyes finally fully opened. “What the hell do you mean by sacrifice?! Sacrifice for what exactly?!”
“And then, I will finally be freed from this…prison” he continued, ignoring the frantic and fearful looks on both your faces. “This inky…dark…abyss I call a body” there was disgust in his voice making it clear that he hated his appearance, he hated how ruined and disgusting his body looked thanks to the ink that coated it. “Shhhhh…Quiet! Listen!” he demanded as your ears suddenly perked up to the sound of thumping and movement in the vents. “I can hear him, crawling above, crawling!” he seemed so excited, so joyful about the thing that was creeping above you three.