Until I Saw You, Part 1: A Pattern Broken
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Entry #11

It's been a month now since I first entered the level. I'm finally starting to understand the modus operandi of this place; Crossing the settlements here, even traveling inside of the buildings—feels like I'm walking to an oasis. A building even the size of a small apartment takes around 1, 2 hours to get across. I was supposed to be gone for around 8 hours, but—I know damn well it's been way longer.

But I don't want to stop yet. If anything, I can't stop. I've barely gotten enough extra food and water to last me for a bit more than a day. If I stop now, I don't know if I'll be able to get this far again. So… I need to keep trying. At all costs.

Entry #12

I've figured out another thing about this level: While time appears to slow down whilst moving across buildings, going up and down them appears to stabilize it. At least, time doesn't move as slowly; The sun doesn't appear to set so late.

That being said, I've only been traveling through the towers in the settlements of the Scraps. While narrow, the insides of the towers are massive, with hallways scattered throughout. I ignore those hallways as much as possible and make my way up the stairs. It's exhausting, but it's efficient enough.

But… good god. It'd be easier to suffer through this if I wasn't so alone.

Entry #13

The resources in these towers grow scarce. I don't know how many I've already been in—if I even left the first few at all. I don't have the strength to go further into the buildings, especially not with more and more Bandits running around the deeper I go. The refrigerators and vending machines are starting to come up empty; Though on the bright side, I've got plenty of flashlights, lamps, and extra batteries. I've been avoiding radios, though. If that blasted song plays one more time, I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep myself from smashing those things in. …Eh. Maybe not. Someone might be liking that song more than I do.

Between runs, I've been looking around for an exit. Well, either that or a community, at least. I've heard, supposedly, about the only two exits that exist: down South to the Road of Ruins, and up North… Going there is even worse. I don't have much time. At some point, those Bandit fuckers will find me… and by then, I won't have any means to run. I'm not sure what else I'll be able to do once I get to that point, so I need to find another way out as soon as I can.

I should probably put this away now. Who knows who will end up finding me he

A radio clatters to the dusty floor, just to the right of the table that was knocked over the doorway Mason had to walk through. The voices of Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" glitch and distort from the impact, the pitch drastically lowering, until eventually coming to a full stop. He quickly stands up, chucking his journal into his dusty brown, ever-fraying satchel, and picks up his rusted metal bar. Anxiety courses through his veins as he sweats buckets almost immediately, the putrid, rancid stench of rotting corpses not aiding the easing of his fear. He was on the top floor of one of the towers in this settlement, which was a high 20 feet or so; The only two ways out of the building are through the door in front of him… and out of the window. Slowly, Mason makes his way to the entrance, his weapon at the ready. He breathes shakily, slowly counting to five.






"Oh fuck, wait, don't!" Someone cries out, raising her arms to cover her head. Mason, his bar midway in the air, lowers it and sighs heavily in relief. She freezes at first, but when his weapon is lowered, she lets out a hearty laugh, the warmth in her laughter melting a bit of the tension away. "Quick reflexes there, bud! Bandits wouldn't last a chance around you." He curses beneath his breath as a small smile creeps up his face, wiping the sweat off of his forehead.

"You're… you're human." Mason's voice croaks. He finds himself surprised by how hoarse it sounds; he hasn't used it in a while. Has time really passed so long? Mason clears his throat in slight embarrassment.

The woman chortles once more, almost sarcastically. "'Course I am! In the flesh, and none of it falling off like the Wasties. What's your name, pal?" She offers a hand to him, her mountainous energy a polarizing aspect to Mason's more tense, cautious nature.

He hesitates for a moment before taking it and giving it a reluctant shake. "Mason. You are?"

"Angel," she replies, eyes gleaming, almost too excited to see another human being. A few more moments pass when both realize they've been shaking too long; they then let go, chuckling awkwardly as they do so. Angel shuffles a little, her hands on her hips. Stuttering for a second, she asks: "So, uh—how long have you been here?"

Angel was of small stature, her red hair peeking out of the grey hood of her black jacket, which greatly complemented a startling pair of lime green eyes. She held with her a large, worn backpack and a bat that had a haphazardly made stake pierced through one end to create some kind of axe. There was something about her that was refreshing to Mason. So refreshing, in fact, he had nearly lost his words.

Mason sits down on a heavily worn-down refrigerator that had toppled to the side. He fidgets with the freezer door, opening and shutting it every now and then. "A month, maybe more. Time sucks in this place. It took me two hours to get here from the settlement up North."

"A whole month? Well damn… I've been here for two weeks. Well, I—I think so, anyway… yeah. As you said, time is—well it's all sorts of fucked up here." She ends her sentence with an almost nervous giggle as she takes a seat next to him, leaning back against the wall.

They sit down together for a while, comparing rations and discussing how they ended up in the level. Angel was stranded in some kind of blue void, nearly starving when she suddenly ended up there. Mason, on the other hand—well, he couldn't remember. Since the time he fell asleep in Level 11 a month ago, his reality had become sand, scrap metal, and zombie-like entities which never let him shut both his eyelids.

A little while after, there comes a moment of silence between them, a period of serenity that neither had felt prior to their meeting. Mason looks to the side, noticing that Angel had somehow dozed off. As much as he tried, there was no way he could deny admiring the way she smiled in her sleep as if she couldn't be more at peace. It was almost… ethereal. He eventually snaps out of reality, lightly smacking his forehead in his own ridiculousness.

Mason leans back against the wall and sighs, a feeling of sleepiness washing over him—when was the last time he felt this way? He closes his eyes…

"Into the blue again, after the money's gone… Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground!"

Out of nowhere, the radio crackles up, once more playing "Once in a Lifetime", though now lacking the distortion it had before. It startles both Mason and Angel awake as they instinctively grab their weapons. Realizing there was nothing but the creaks beneath their feet and the repeat of the song's refrain, they settle down.

Mason chuckles, leaning on his bar and rubbing his eyes. "Man, if I—if I hear this dang song again, I really might go insane before I make it out of here."

"God, you can say that twice," Angel replies, clearly amused despite her fatigue. She reaches over and grabs the radio, turning one of the knobs all the way to the left, lowering the volume until there was nothing more than a small hum. As she places it down, she asks, "Well if you could… you know, if you could be listening to—to anything else right now… what would it be?"

He pauses for a moment, searching for an answer. "Why don't you… hm. Why don't you go first?"

"Let's see… well… I suppose I could—I suppose I could play it for you, I guess. It's been a while since I've played anything. You don't mind, do you?"

Mason's eyes light up as she takes out a ukelele from her bag, a wide, excited grin creeping upon his face. Angel runs her fingers along the somewhat thin strings and the discolored soundboard, tuning the instrument carefully. "Are you kidding? I haven't heard any other song than that busted tune for ages now. Go right ahead!"

Angel's hands shook (from excitement or nervousness, Mason couldn't tell) as she held it, adjusting her sitting position to be able to play properly. "Just, uh—just don't be, you know, don't be shocked if my voice turns out to be horse shit. I haven't really, uh—haven't really sung in a while."

"Oh, please. I can assure you that I'd be worse."

Angel chuckles, then settles into concentration. Taking a small breath, she begins to sing…

"Quiet as the city air on a summer night after it rains
Faster than a bolt of lightning, the speed of a Japanese bullet train… a train

Angel's voice was rich and broad, with hints of vibrato decorating every last word of every sentence. Even still, every lyric was handled gently, almost playfully as Angel looks at Mason. His heart skips a beat in recognition of the tune. It'd been months since he'd last heard this song. In his excitement, and despite his own voice, he couldn't help but pitch in…

"People say I'm quiet most of the time
If only you knew what goes on in my mind
(If only you knew, if only you knew)
What goes on in my mind
(If only you knew, if only you knew)

She laughs aloud, surprised and delighted by his musical interjection. They continue singing, any final bits of tension leaving them. With every note sung and every chord strummed, they moved closer to one another.

"People say I'm quiet most of the time
If only you knew what goes on in my mind
(If only you knew, if only you knew)
What goes on in my mind"
(If only you knew, if only you knew…)"

A final outro plays as both keep their eyes on one another, small smiles resting on their faces. It isn't until Angel finally stops do they realize what they're doing, looking away almost immediately and sheepishly chuckling.

"That was… that was nice," Mason says after a few moments, turning to gaze at the turn of dusk.

"Heh… yeah. We should, uh—we should do that again sometime."

After a few more minutes of rest, Angel finally stands up, dusting her pants and picking up her belongings with a determined smile on her face.

"Well," Angel begins, looking at Mason with a small, hopeful smile. "It's been long enough. Sun's about to set soon—we should head out. Don't know the next time we'll have a sit-down like this again."

Mason looks up, almost surprised. "'We?'"

"Of course! What, you're expecting me to leave you here after you almost killed me and bonded with me after?" Her response cracks him up as she offers her hand. "Come on. As you mentioned earlier, it's gonna take a few hours to traverse this hell hole, but I know a place that's safe from them Bandits. We'll get there just before twilight hits. You trust me?"

Blood rushes up to Mason's cheeks; he couldn't tell if it was due to the warmth of the level or the way the sun's rays peeked through the cracks of the tower's window and made Angel's crimson hair glow. He nods quietly and takes her hand, using the bar to pull himself up. They walk out of the tower. Together.

Entry #14

It's been about a month since I first entered this level. Since then, I've met someone new: Angel Douglas. She's… a refresher from the hell I've been through. She's going to bring me somewhere safe, where I could stay for a while. I can't be more grateful.

You know, for once, I feel like this pattern of searching, hiding, and sleeping has finally broken. My hope to escape remains the same, but… my goals are new. Something in my heart has blossomed in this dry, desert hellhole. And I don't plan on letting that go for a while.

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