Informed Opinion

rating: +18+x

Blanche's Chat Room

User JosefG has entered the room.

Dear Blanche:
A while ago I was walking around in Level 0 and I saw a patch of black that seemed like a place where reality just… Stopped existing? Nothing was there, and when I dropped some stuff in it, it was just, well, removed from reality.

The whole thing generally freaked me out, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for while. I tried to tell my boss, but she just dismissed the whole ordeal, so I got over it eventually after I got busy with my life again.

I see… What exactly is your issue now, then?

Well, just when I stopped worrying about it, I saw it again during an expedition with my crew, except this time, with one of my friends by my side. As I mentioned before, I had tried telling my boss about this occurrence the first time I saw it, but she dismissed the idea entirely, so I just assumed that if I told anyone else about it, I'd get the same reaction. That's kinda why I'm contacting you now instead of finding a way out of this place to talk to another person. One thing she told me that stuck with me actually, which was why I decided to contact you. She said that it may have just been one of those bugs that eat matter you seem to love so much.

Ah yes, the Reality Bugs! On paper, it does sound similar to them, if I were to be completely honest with you. I can see where some of your boss' confusion came from…

But I digress, there must be reason for why you have decided to contact me, is that correct? Would you mind telling me your reasons?

Well, my request is that we could perhaps make an arrangement for me to come discuss it with you. I know you are very knowledgeable about those things, and you enjoy collecting information from people, so I think there is much to be said to you from my part which would most definitely interest you. There’s also something about it which I don’t trust, like a gut feeling that this could go wholly wrong, hence why I want to get an informed opinion from an expert on the matter, or well, lack thereof, haha.

Yes, some further research and discussion would be required for me to confirm this oddity. I'll be more than glad to welcome you as a guest at the Cygnus Archive, dear. My duty is to knowledge first and foremost, and knowledge has no value unless shared.

That would be much appreciated!

Oh, wait, I actually do need something else from you. Would you mind telling me where I can enter the Cygnus Archive from?

Entering the Cygnus Archive requires you to find a book, scroll, or other document with my signature on it. I've been told these are most often found in shelves throughout other levels of the Backrooms. If you would be so kind as to tell me which level you are currently on, I could send one of my books there, though I have no control over how close the book will be to you.

I'm in that, uh, Level with those weird houses in the dark? Let me ask Freya, I'll be back in a 'mo…

Yep, it was Level 9, my apologies for the delay.

Very well. I'll be sending you one of my books. Please take good care of it, will you? Oh, and feel free to read it if you'd like. It contains some of my research on those darling little Reality Bugs.

That is very much appreciated, I'll be over as soon as possible!

I eagerly await your arrival.

User JosefG has left the room.

Truth be told, the decision to contact Blanche was made on a whim. Josef knew that the M.E.G. would not heed his tales, but he knew that someone else, who was dedicated to knowledge first and foremost, would gladly accept his report. Besides, if someone could help him with Megumi's comparison, it was the person who'd documented them in the first place.

It had not taken him long to find the book she had told him she would send to him. Blanche had said that she did not guarantee that the book would be anywhere close to him, but as he searched the bookshelves of the house in a panicked frenzy, he found the book in question quite quickly. The entire time, Freya bounced impatiently around him, asking him panicked questions which he had neither the will or patience to reply to. As he found the book, he laid it out on a table, said a word of parting to Freya, and slid his finger across the signature, just as Blanche had told him to do.

A flash of white blinded him as soon as his finger brushed across the book's aged papers. When the whiteness cleared, he awoke to find himself laying on a plush, blue, velvet carpet, in a hallway full of wooden bookshelves. He groggily got up, and leaned against one of said bookshelves. As he took in the scene before him, he began to smell a pleasant scent of lavender wafting in his direction, which somewhat eased the grogginess he felt. The pitter patter of footsteps could be heard from not far off into the distance, as a kettle began whirring, signifying it was ready to be taken off the stove.

Still shaking, he got up from his position and wandered about, making as little noise as possible as to not disturb the person he was hearing in the distance. Then he realized that that person could be the simple reason that he came here in the first place: Blanche.

He was about to call out to her to alert her of his presence, when he suddenly heard a voice behind him.

"Pardon me Wanderer, I don't believe we have met before-"

He interrupted her with a scream of surprise, turning around and shielding his face. As soon as he saw that it was just Blanche, who looked surprised herself, he put down his arms, and breathed a sigh of relief. He began to speak calmly.

"Oh, well, not in person, I guess? I'm Josef, we exchanged pleasantries on your chatroom a few moments ago. You sent me one of your books so that I could come here to, well, discuss something highly important with you."

"Oh, I see! Well, first and foremost, welcome dear Josef, to the Cygnus Archive! I am most certain that me and you will have a fruitful discussion, but first; Would you like a cup of tea? You look particularly pale, and you are shivering greatly! I've seen that a cup of soothing tea does wonders for your current disposition,"

"Yeah, I could, uh, do with a cup of tea just now. A camomile would be nice."

"Wonderful, I will have that prepared for you shortly. Follow me to my tearoom then, and we will begin this discussion you wish to have!" She said with joy, as she turned around and marched in the opposite direction. Josef appreciated her enthusiasm, but he still did not feel the optimism she had about the whole event. Nonetheless, he followed her, shuffling and stumbling as he got acquainted further with his current disposition.

Soon enough, they were both seated at a table, facing each other as Blanche poured the tea into each person's respective cups. "How much sugars do you take?" asked Blanche to Josef. "Five cubes, please." He replied. At this she raised an eyebrow, and pursed her lips. "Do you not think five sugar cubes is a bit more than enough? High amounts of sugar are detrimental to your health, I am most certain you do not want that jeopardized, correct?"

Josef shrugged, as Blanche reluctantly handed him the sugar cubes. He put them all in, and stirred the tea. "It's the least of my concerns currently, I'd much rather begin discussing the main topic as soon as we possibly can so I can ease this weight that I have deep inside my stomach."

"Very well then, so shall it begin." She said as she took a small sip of her own tea. "Tell me then, from the very beginning: How did this all begin?"

He took a deep breath, and sat back in his chair, restlessly bouncing his foot around as he began to tell his tale. "Well, it all started when I was on a documentation mission in Level 0. I had to go find the Manila room so I could update some old M.E.G. documents for my higher ups, when suddenly, on the way to the room, I saw this like, weird stain of darkness on the floor. Whole thing had me kinda unnerved, so I took out my phone to take a picture of it, and lo and behold, battery's flat, right? So I took some notes of it all, conducted some experiments- Actually, here, I'll show them to you!"

He reached into his bag, and took out the notes he had shown Megumi earlier. He handed them to Blanche, and she took them out of his hand, reading quickly through the short passages of untidy handwriting. She mumbled to herself after a while, ending her reading off with an "I see…" Before handing them back to Josef, who put them on the table for the time being.

"What else occurred, dear?" She asked curiously once more.

"Well, after that mission, I had to meet up with my boss to give her the information I got from the mission. I brought this thing up to her at some point, but she didn't believe me. She's actually the reason I came here, cause like, as I said earlier, she was the one who suggested it may be Reality Bugs… Well, to be frank, it took me some time before I decided to come here actually, I kinda got distracted with the fact that I got a promotion, which is where the next part of my story comes in." He paused, shuddering as he remembered his last encounter. "I got promoted to be part of a team, and we were tasked with going to Level 9 to get more supplies. At some point, me and one of my co-workers, Freya, got separated from the rest of the group after thick mist started to form around us, which as you probably know, signals The Mangled's arrival. We got into a house before that thing got to us, and as we explored the house… well, you know what happened after that."

Blanche pursed her lips once again, and studied him with a soft, sort of remorseful gaze. "From your notes, I can infer that this thing could possibly be the work of one of my dear reality bugs, but there is still a possibility that they are not the same. Have you read the notes I sent for you to read?"

Josef winced, averting her gaze. He realised he had forgotten the book. "Well, uh…"

Suddenly, the silence was pierced as a sound of screaming could be heard from far above him. As he looked up, he saw Freya, yelling for her life, as she fell from high in the library, and crashed onto the table, smashing it to pieces and spilling tea everywhere.

"Ow, owowow, damn it!!" She screamed. "Oh god, o-oh jeez, I think I broke a-an arm!"

Blanche, who just like Josef, had recoiled in surprise at the happening, now approached Freya, tenderly stroking the places she pointed to, checking for broken limbs. "My dear, you do not seem to have broken a limb, but you have taken quite the fall." She said, taking Freya's hand and helping her up from her position. "I don't believe we have met either, would you mind telling me your name?"

Freya winced as her bones cracked when she got up. "Fre-ow! Freya Ölafson, pleasure to meet you at last, Miss Blanche. I've heard quite a lot about you!"

"Ah, your friend over there has mentioned you a bit." She said, pointing towards Josef's direction. At this, Freya turned towards him, and immediately burst into a frenzy upon seeing him.

"Ohmigosh Josef, I was just sitting there, just, you know, reading the book on the sofa, when like, suddenly, that large thing we saw far away in the distance just came through one of the walls, and started making weird noises! I just screamed and ran upstairs, but I tripped at some point, and I landed over here, probably my hand brushed against the signature or something. It was wild." She looked at what was left of Blanche's table, clasping her hands to her mouth as she realised what she'd done. "Oh, oh nonono, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to-"

"Oh dear, do not worry, its quite alright." Replied Blanche, cutting her off. She waved her hand at the table, and it returned to the same state it had been a few minutes ago, leaving Josef and Freya in awe. She manifested another chair at a side of the table, and she took out yet another cup. "Would you care for some tea?" She asked. "Oh, and should I bring some supplies for your injuries?"

"Both those two would be much appreciated, thank you very much!" She smiled with joy, as opposed to Josef's nervous scowl. "I'll have some mint and licorice tea, if you have any of that, please." She then sat down, grimacing slightly as her injuries made themselves known once more.

The pair sat in silence until Blanche returned with the medical supplies. She began applying bandages to Freya's limbs, and stopping blood from escaping the gashes. "You did sustain a great fall relatively unscathed, would your bones happen to be made of steel?" She chuckled, which Freya replied to with another wide smile.

Blanche then turned to look at Josef once more, immediately becoming more serious. "As I was asking before Freya arrived here, did you take a look at my notes?"

"I'll just be honest, I guess" He began. "I didn't really read any of it, I just came here as soon as possible, I wasn't really that keen on whether or not it was bugs or not, I'm just worried as hell about the possible implications of this all."

Blanche nodded, a somewhat disappointed expression on her face. "I understand. We are here now however, we can take a look at them together if you want, I am in no particular rush to get this over with." She said. Suddenly, her face took a mildly worried expression, as she looked at the pair. "One of you does have the book with you, right? It took some time to write all those notes and it would be a shame if I lost them…"

Josef was about to begin panicking already, until he saw Freya was clutching it tightly to her chest the whole time. "Here you go, Blanche!" She said, giving the tome to her shakily and unsteadily.

At this, Blanche's expression relaxed, her concerns eased greatly. "Wonderful! So let us begin, then!" She said. "My first question to you is this: Did you see any other patches of it anywhere around the areas you found it in?"

"Don't think so, I'd have seen it in Level 0, but doubt I would've if It had been in multiple places in Level 9." He said. "That level is dark as *fu*-"

He suddenly lost his voice, to his great dismay. Distressed, he and Freya looked at Blanche for an explanation. "No swearing in the Archives dear, you wouldn't want to be impolite when you're at a guest's, would you?" He watched as she waved her hand, and he could speak once more.

He stood there, utterly gobsmacked and terrified, waiting for her to make another move.

"Pardon me if I intimidated you, dear Josef." She said. "I just hate it when people cuss here in the library, it paints such a bad picture of them… I do hope I did not make myself seem harsher than needs be, mind you."

"It's… it's ok really, don't worry." He replied. "Do you, err, have more questions?"

"Ah yes, those! We got a bit sidetracked, hmm?" She said, pausing for a moment, then speaking again. "You mentioned it was growing slowly. Are you sure that there wasn't the presence of any insects you may have not seen in the area?"

"No, but I assume I'd have seen them, since they are rather big right?"

"Yes, that is correct… What about the shape of this patch which you speak of?"

Freya butted in with this one. "Jagged for the most part, it's all like a giant firework's explosion, really." She said, wincing as Blanche applied the last set of bandages to her.

"Well then, that decides it then. I cannot simply deduce what this is by just word of mouth. I have to experience it for myself to see." She said, finishing up Freya's wound covering.

"Wait, you're not gonna have us find one for you, right?" He said. "It could take us ages to find these, we don't even know where they are!"

Blanche smiled at him. "Oh, no, not at all! I can't even leave the library as is, although I do dearly wish to, mind you… no, I assume if you've heard a bit about me, you'll know that there are other means by which I can do such things."

Josef took a quizzical glance at her. "What are you implying? He said.

She chuckled. "Well, if I want to get the most accurate results without leaving the library, the best place I could do that is from a first person perspective, directly through my subject's memories, which is precisely what I do! For the next few steps, I'm going to need your full, undivided attention, Josef. I am going to enter your head, and I will make my final verdict on this whole situation once we get to your memories of this oddity."

Blanche had taken him to a separate room for the duration that the process would take. Despite her interest, Blanche barred Freya from entering, stating that "The privacy of my guests' thoughts is as sacred as a temple." Which Josef had appreciated greatly. The two now sat in said dimly lit room, which had in it only a singular circular table with some books and papers strewn about on it, and two small chairs which were positioned around it. Blanche cleared out some of the books, mumbling about untidiness as she did so, and began telling Josef about the process as soon as she was done.

"Now dear, what I'm going to do is quite simple. I will be entering your headspace, and we will both be experiencing your memories once more from a third person perspective. The aim is to experience the effects for myself, just as you did the first time, so I can then compare and contrast with my knowledge of Reality Bugs. We are going to start out at a sort of empty room, and from there, we can begin the exploration of your memories: All you have to do is think of the memories you wish to show to me, and we will be there. Do understand that there are some associated risks with this however: Try to think only of manifesting your memories whilst in there, a busy train of thought will result in instability of your mind, and a possible expulsion of the whole process, which would result in some, well, possible consequences for both of us. Mind you, nothing life threatening occurs, but there is a reason I don't store much books in this room. Is this understood?"

"Noted." He said, now a tad terrified of the whole process. "Anything else I should keep in mind?"

"None that I can think of right now, the important details have been cleared up. Now then, shall we begin?"

"I guess so, then."

"Very well then, let the process begin!" She said, as she extended her hand to his forehead. As soon as it made contact with his forehead, he felt light-headed for a while, and suddenly, he was warped, thrust into a world of light and colours. He heard several voices, some his own, and some of his familiars, as he spiralled down quicker and quicker into a colourful spiral of memories.

As soon as it all subsided, he found himself in a small, blank, white room, with only Blanche by his side. She looked at him, helping him adjust himself as he took in what had happened as he walked around the room groggily. When he got used to his surroundings, and stood up straight, she spoke to him once more.

"Ok dear" she began. "You're the captain now. Take us to the memories you wish to show to me."

"Alright then, I guess… Uh, do I just, like, think really hard of those memories, or?"

"Precisely; Focus all your energy on the thoughts you would like to share with me. You should find this a bit daunting at first, but you will get used to it in good time."

"Alright then…" He said, as he closed his eyes and began focusing. He thought of the first time he saw the Darkness in Level 0, thought of the wallpaper, and the smell, and the sounds of the lights, and…]


He opened his eyes briefly, and found himself in Level 0 once again, with Blanche by his side. An older version of him stood in front of him, playing that same stupid word game he was playing on that day. The older version walked away from them, so he signalled to Blanche that they should follow him, as to not lose track of their objective.

"Ignore the word games" he told Blanche. "It's pretty embarrassing in hindsight." Blanche nodded with a smile, keeping her eyes on Old Josef as he went about his antics.

"Tear in the wallpaper, check" he murmured.

"Stain on the carpet that smells like sewage, check".

"Patch of black, che- wait, what?"

They both watched as Old Josef stopped dead in his tracks to look into the room the Darkness was in. As Josef watched the memory unfold, Blanche cautiously made her way towards the Darkness, crouching as she got near it. She watched as Old Josef threw the tissue, and then did the same thing as him, manifesting a tissue of the same quality and throwing it into the hole to test it for herself.

The tissue was fully devoured, the same way it had been when Old Josef threw it in. Blanche furrowed her eyebrows at it, speaking incoherently to herself, and then put her hand over it to feel the temperature that Josef had described. After this, she got up, and turned to Josef once more.

"It is peculiar how this phenomenon works, it is quite similar to my Reality Bugs, but not entirely the same." She said. "For one, I am certain their residue does not exert any temperature differences, neither does it cause a haze to appear around the affected area. There's also the fact that you mentioned that this thing was growing, correct? The Reality Bugs' residue, on the contrary, always shrinks, since the fabric of reality constantly fixes itself up."

Josef put his hands up to his face, and through his hands, spoke out a muffled question. "Great, just great. So what now? What's the next course of action going to be?"

"Well, the wisest thing to do at this point would be to investigate the other sighting you had, since we need to compare the two and see if they are actually the same thing. It is your turn to do the work again, my dear. Take us to Level 9!"

Josef looked down at his feet, closed his eyes, and thought hard once again. He thought of the houses, the darkness, the fog, and the same way as it had happened the previous time, he opened his eyes, and found that he was in the house in Level 9 once again. A door behind him burst open, and Old Josef walked in, screaming for Freya to get in.

Josef and Blanche were not interested in him however, and instead, walked their way towards the living room, where the Darkness was. Blanche manifested a bright, white light, placing it onto the pals of her hand, and lighting it on the corner Josef had indicated to her.

Lo and behold, it was there, just as he had expected. Blanche did the same tests that she had done beforehand, whilst Old Freya and Old Josef exchanged their dialogue, like clockwork. As she got up from her position, she walked back to Josef once more, with a solemn, concerned expression on her face.

"I'm afraid I have some… well, less than pleasant news for me to tell you as soon as we get outside of this place."

Josef gulped. He gazed at her, taking occasional glances at his old self, who was currently panicking at the sight of the Darkness. "So, how do we get out now?" He asked nervously.

"Oh, I'll take care of that" she said, promptly reaching for Josef's forehead once again. However, Josef had already begun thinking of other things at this point. Before her hand could make contact with him, the room lurched forward, throwing them both on top of each other, and they were shot once more into another memory.

When the colours subsided, they both found themselves in another place. Chitter-chatter filled the room, a familiar aroma wafted throughout the room…

"Oh, god no…" was all he could utter as he realized where he was.

Tom's diner was just as vibrant as he remembered it, because this was how he remembered it in the first place. Old Josef had not arrived yet, meaning the memory had not yet begun taking place. He turned to Blanche, grabbing her by the shoulders. "Quick, g-get us outta here Blanche!" he said to her in a panicked tone.

"I'll do so right away dear, do not panic!" she said, reaching out to his forehead once more. When she made contact, she stood there, frozen, a surprised expression on her face. "Ah…" she began. "It seems that I cannot take us out of your mind. You're panicking, and your mind is unstable right now. Calm down first, don't panick any further or we'll be forcibly removed!" .

Josef looked at her in utter dismay. "Oh god, no no no, ok, whatever you do, don't go to that corner of the room, please, save me the embarassment." he said, pointing towards the general vicinity of Megumi.

Blanche simply nodded, and sat on an empty table at the far side of the room. Josef followed her, shaking, and he sat down, trying to calm down. He looked once again into the room, and noticed a peculiar thing: None of the people had faces, none of them spoke coherently, and each one of them had a hazy aura surrounding them. This did not help with calming him down in the slightest.

Blanche noticed him staring at them, and offered him an explanation as to what it was. "Things you don't remember clearly are omitted the same way you see before you. Your mind isn't a complete record of everything that happened to you, and be honest: Try to remember the faces of any of those people, and you'll find that you are unable to."

Josef did not feel any better when he learnt this. He was still shaking by the time Old Josef confidently walked into the room, throwing the doors open and taking a look around. Old Josef looked to the corner he and Blanche had avoided, where Megumi sat, reading the document she had been reading on that day. Old Josef walked up to her, and their conversation began.

All was going well, the pair had not moved close to the corner whatsoever in the hour they had spent there. Blanche had tried multiple times with fail to bring them both outside, at all times, it had never worked, so they had stood there, waiting for the memory to blow over, which Blanche had said would get them back to the blank white room they were originally in. Suddenly, the confines of the room began to grow smaller, the murmur of the memories growing more silent. Josef looked around, distressed, as he and Blanche were moved closer and closer to where Old Josef was.

"Ah" said Blanche, as she watched the event unfold. "You got more and more focused on that scene as time went on, so you stopped noticing the rest of your surroundings… I'm afraid there isn't much I can do here…"

Josef watched in utter horror as they got closer and closer to Old Josef and Old Megumi. They had arrived just as Old Josef was getting up from the table, and he turned to Megumi, and he began speaking.

"Alright then Meg, had a blast today as usual. Do give me a new task at some point, so we can do this again!

Old Megumi laughed heartily. Will do Jo, d'you feel like taking another trip to Level 0?"

Old Josef put on a faux annoyed expression. Come on, Meg, ya know how I am, don't torture me like that again!"

She chuckled once more. I'll see about that then. Now off you go Josef, I've got some work I need to do and I don't need a nuisance like you following me around.

Alright then Momoza, see ya some other time! .

Old Josef turned around, and waved back at her. Megumi waved back, and continued her work with a noticeable grin on her face. At this point, the memory had already shrunk to the point where there was barely any place to walk around. What remained of the memory shook, and trembled, and the area around them grew foggy, and…


Suddenly, he was propelled up into the air, back into the cacophony of voices and colours from earlier. He felt himself go quick, quicker, even quicker than before, until…

He was propelled from his position on the chair onto a wall, hitting it with such force that he made some of the paint fall off. Strangely, he remained relatively unharmed to what other injuries could've been afflicted onto him. The rest of the room shook and trembled upon impact.

Blanche had sustained the same treatment, being thrust into the wall at roughly the same speed. As they recovered from the experience, the two got up, and looked at the catastrophe that had just occurred before them. "This" she began. "Is the reason I mentioned earlier as to why I don't keep any books here."

A knock on the door could be heard from outside, as well as the turning of the knob, which was locked. "GUYS!" Screamed Freya from the other side. "Are you two ok?"

Blanche hobbled towards the door. "Yes dear, all is good here, just a small issue has arisen is all. You may go about doing whatever you were doing beforehand, don't fret about us." She said somewhat calmly, considering what had just happened.

Blanche turned to look at Josef. She motioned for him to come back to the table, which he did gladly. The whole experience had sapped all of his energy, so sitting a bit to take it all in was just what he needed.

The two sat in silence for a while, until Blanche broke it. "You need not be ashamed of loving someone, Josef. It's quite beautiful to see two people interact that way."

Josef blushed once more. "N-no, don't get the wrong im-impression, I-"

Blanche cut him off once more, this time with a smile on her face. "Josef, I too loved someone at some point, well, in a different way. I know how you humans act when you 'like someone that way'. I may not be a human, or anything close to you all by any means, but I have spent plenty of time around them, and that does not exclude falling in love with them. The man I loved, Cristoph Von Haderach, was a delightful man. He treated me with such adoration and respect. He was a librarian, you know? That was how we met for the first time… Ah, but we are getting sidetracked now."

She looked at Josef, who was still blushing, with another smile, albeit this time it seemed forced. "Well, as I said earlier, the news is not all that pleasant. Good news, and bad news, in a way."

"Begin with the good news, please." Josef said, exasperated from the whole experience, but slightly less embarrassed after Blanche had told him her own experiences.

"Well, see, they are one in the same thing, in a way. See, the bad news is that, this thing is not the work of a Reality Bug, which means that we are in the dark as to what this thing could possibly be. But if that is the case, then we can now document it and send it as a separate article on the M.E.G.'s database. That way, we can perhaps encourage some more research into this thing. How does that sound?"

The hopeful sentiment was lost on Josef at this point. His fears were now confirmed. This thing was not just the work of a regular entity, but something much, much bigger. He turned pale and began shivering again, taking shallow, quickened breaths. "No, no n-no NO" he said, putting his head onto his arms as he sat down on the chair. "Oh god, that thing isn't normal, that's the outcome I didn't want. Oh man, oh gosh, what the hell am I gonna do?"

Blanche sat next to Josef, and put her hand onto his back. "There is nothing much you yourself can do now. You have your evidence, and you will have further evidence as soon as I write my entry, so spread the word. I am quite renowned around these areas, so my article ought to convince some people."

"It's not the point, Blanche" he said. "My problem isn't how I'm going to prove this to someone now, it's what this means for us, all of us. If that thing keeps growing the way it does right now, what will that mean for me? For you? All the people trapped in The Backrooms?"

"Do not despair so quickly, Josef. It's particularly early to be getting this anxious about something like this. We can work something out, we can overcome this, we can fix this." She said with a half-hearted smile.

Josef wished he could believe her with a foolish, innocent optimism, instead of having to face the harsh reality in front of him. As he sat there, her hand still on his back, he looked down to his feet, put his hands to his eyes, and began to weep.

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