Chapter 1: I
The air nipped at his skin. It was cold, but for some reason his very bones, the depths of his core, felt colder than the temperature could ever be. It must be an odd sight to whoever looked at him—a pale man shivering at the frosty air, platinum blonde hair tangled from the wind just standing there, looking up at the walls of the village. But he felt at peace.
No, he furrowed his eyebrows, that's what he wished to feel. Instead, he felt like something was… off, but he couldn't place what it was. It could be him, the people gazing curiously at him, the vultures lining at the top of the walls, waiting and looking at the man like prey, or the place, Dema, itself.
He felt a presence behind him. He knew it was a friend; ingrained instincts reassured him.
“Joshua? What are you doing?” a soft voice asked. Instincts were correct again. Well, they always are.
To answer the question, Joshua didn't really know.
“The feeling told me something… I'm not sure,” he said with uncertainty. “Something's supposed to be here.”
The other man just nodded, as if everything was completely fine and understandable. This was totally normal behavior for Joshua.
The platinum blonde turned to face his friend. “What about you, Tyler? Why are you here?”
Tyler narrowed his eyes and looked at the dark gray, cement wall—
No, not the wall, Joshua observed. The vultures. Tyler, with his brown hair ruffled from the icy wind, looked at the death-eating birds.
“I'm trying to find a way,” is all he said. Now it's Joshua's time to nod.
After what seemed about five minutes, Joshua knew they had to go back. Something itched in the back of his head. The more they waited, the more the itch became more prominent until it was alarming. Joshua turned to Tyler with a slightly raised heartbeat.
“Tyler,” the unmistaken urgency in his deep voice concerned the former. “We-we need to go back to our Localities.”
Tyler didn't question this, nor did he respond. He just turned away from the vultures and the wall, and walked away with his friend following him. As they walked away, the men saw one of the Bishops, Keons, and bowed their heads in respect. Joshua's senses screamed that something was wrong, the chill in his bones got colder, but he dismissed it, as it was rare to see a Bishop outside of the Glorious Vista or Necropolis.
Unbeknownst to them, one of the vultures flapped its monstrous wings and took to the gray skies, heading towards said Necropolis.
Chapter 2: II
Tyler and Joshua's mini-background.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
988_12moon_01 wasn't that impressive. In fact, none of the Localities were significant in any way. The Localities were just four sections of Dema, housing twenty seven buildings each. Gray buildings. With gray walls. And gray everything. The only other colors were the brown of the dirt and the plethora of colors in the sky. There are rumors that the Glorious Vista has trees ranging high and low, grasses and bushes of all shapes and sizes, flowers with rainbows for petals, and more flora and fungi than anyone could ever imagine. But those are just rumors; no one except the Bishops have truly seen the Glorious Vista.
Tyler's house was like any other house in their village. It has all the necessities that a house would have, but almost no personality. The only way you could tell it was the brunet’s living space was that he had many pieces of ink-stained paper decorating his bedroom walls. Not that anyone would ever see those papers anyways.
As he sat on his bed, he thought about Joshua's warning and Bishop Keons. He never doubted his friend’s instincts, but this caused him a headache for some reason. Why would the Bishop be there? Why did Joshua get so frantic? He needed answers, but Tyler is afraid that not even Joshua knows.
On top of that, he has to look for the exit to this dull, empty place.
Instead, the anxious man grabs another sheet of paper and his fountain pen, and starts to write. He spills out all of his thoughts, his worries, his concerns, his ideas, and anything else onto that paper. Soon, the paper fills up, and Tyler can feel his hand begin to cramp up. No, he will keep going. There is so much to write, but so little time.
He ends up being right— time seems to pass by quickly without him noticing. Suddenly, there's not one, but many sheets of paper covering the floor, and the ink for his pen has spilled across some of his writings. Another one of those days.
Tyler sinks down in the corner of his room, curls up, and buries his head in his knees. He needs to get Joshua. He needs to tell him his theories and plans.
Joshua lays on his gray bed in 988_06moon_07. It’s the exact same as Tyler’s Locality, and any other Locality. The only way they know what house and Locality they belong in is from the Compass. In fact, it's like the inhabitants’ unconscious mind—giving ingrained knowledge on where to go, what to do, and what their purpose is. Think of it as a type of conditioning.
For some reason, this Compass didn't really apply to Joshua. As a little boy, he was always thought of as “stupid” and “cursed” because he constantly forgot or didn't know what others remembered or knew. Over time, after the words finally got to him, Joshua wanted to prove to his disappointed parents and elders that he could belong in Dema, so he constructed his own internal Compass (with a little help) through tortuous meditation—
Some memories he would rather lock and throw the key away than even imply about them.
The strange feeling he felt from a couple minutes ago at the wall never left him, but now it is merely a lingering pressure at his temples. He worries about Tyler almost all the time, but this feeling is not the same as that worry. It was almost… dangerous. Threatening. A warning.
Maybe the Bishops have some answer? No. Last time they helped….
Joshua shakes his head to clear the thought. He will not go to the Bishops. Not ever again.
Maybe a nap will help calm him down. Naps always do a person good.
He changes into more comfortable clothes—an outfit of an oversized, gray sweater and sweatpants—and lays down once more, going under the black covers. After about fifteen minutes later, Joshua settles into a deep and well-needed sleep.
“Welcome, Patient 9880607-1,” an unfamiliar, disembodied voice spoke.
The aforementioned patient stood in the doorway of where he would be staying. Though, he couldn’t stay for long, as he was shoved into the room by guards and fell onto the floor. Not guards, he observed. Instead, there were people with black hoods laced with silver covering most of their faces. The hoods were connected to equally dark robes that trailed behind them. Who were these people?
He took in his surroundings as the hooded men went in after him. Gold runes littered the dark gray floor. They branched out nine ways from where he was sitting and ended in circles. The hooded figures all sat down in the circles around their prisoner, facing him. A shock of fear jolted through the patient as the door shut without a sound, the last slivers of light and hope escaping with it.
A sob tears itself from Joshua’s throat as he wakes. Not again. He will not go there again. He rakes a shaky hand through his platinum hair. He needs the comfort of Tyler; he needs the warmth to his cold, desolate mind.
this entire story was supposed to be a big project for my teacher, but she cancelled it and told us that it was now only 2 point extra credit and i'm here like :// okay then
[tags have been updated]
Joshua's nightmares/past will be in italics if you haven't noticed.
also the idea for his past was based on SWTOR (spoilers for kotfe) and vaylin's conditioning.
in marvel you can also kinda based it on Bucky's conditioning.
specific words = triggered response/behavior
why? well that will be revealed later...
The men find each other at the corner of Dema. It’s really strange, Tyler thinks. The walls of the village are in one continuous circle, except this one particular spot. The brunet has some of the papers with him. Only the important ones, though. The ones that make the most sense.
He offers one of the papers to Joshua as they sit down against the wall. “Here. I-I’m not completely sure, but you can maybe make something out of it.” Tyler studies his friend as he reads the paper. He looks jaded and the dark circles under his dark eyes look worse than yesterday. Tyler furrows his brows. He worries for his friend and the insomnia that haunts him.
Meanwhile, Joshua wonders what Tyler could have meant. The words read “gEt out. the compAss lies. they don't control you. get out. the compaSs lies. They don't control you. get out. the compass lIeS. they don't control yoU.get out. the comPass lies. they don't control you.” At first, is puzzles him, but the more he goes over them, the more he realizes the meaning. And that realization scares him so, so much.
“Well,” Tyler says expectantly. “What does it mean? Or, like, what do you get from it?”
“Fear… Although, I don’t think you realized it said ‘east is up’. Some of the letters are capitalized--”
“Yeah I knew.”
“--and it makes that phrase.”
Tyler blinks. “Oh.”
Joshua continues on. “Obviously, it’s talking about the Compass. And… I don’t really know how to feel about it.” He stops for a second. “No, that’s a lie. I feel fear and apprehension, which is strange coming from you.”
Tyler is the opposite of Joshua. It is said in the community that he has a little more than average connection with the Compass. Sometimes the connection flares up and he gets these… episodes. For Tyler to get something that says that the Compass lies? It’s alarming and contradicting to say the least.
Joshua makes a frustrated noise and stands up suddenly. “This just makes no sense!” he exclaims as he stumbles on his feet from exhaustion. “Why can’t I just-- I need to know.” He looks dejectedly at Tyler.
“We need to get out,” Tyler supplies. “This place is… it’s just not right. There’s so much wrong.”
The silver haired just nods.
“I’ll let you know of my plans so far. We’ll figure out how to get out of here. I promise you that.” Tyler offers a small smile before giving his friend another paper. “This is all I have for now, but at least it’s something. This corner here is my main exit. Why would they have a random corner in a circle? For exiting and entering. I mean, where else do they dispose the bodies for the vultures to eat?
Mentions of the cursed death-eater sends a shiver of dread up Joshua's spine. He knows they act as executioners, while the Bishops are the jury and judges. But that's besides the point.
The next thing that Tyler says catches Joshua off guard.
“I’m leaving in a week’s time.”
Joshua gives a startled expression. “What? Next week? We barely planned at all.”
His friend looks slightly regretful. “I… I know. But it has to be done and I can’t wait another second here. The walls seem to come closer every day and it’s beginning to suffocate me.” He stops for a second, then continues, “I need to leave as soon as possible, and by next week I should be ready.”
Both men are silent, waiting for the other to say something, anything.
“Alright,” Joshua finally says. “I’m coming with, though. Right?”
“It’s up to you.”
That marked the end of their conversation.