Early morning on campus. The sun still hasn't bothered to show its face...it probably has an early class it wants to avoid...and the air is chilled. Chilled enough that mist is rising from the glistening grass to make the old buildings look like they're floating upon it. The air is moist and clings to the flesh. The paths and roads are quiet for once and devoid of life. Scholarly life at least. But something roams through the fog.
Bundled up, trying to keep warm as she goes to the library, Amanda exits the dorms carrying her bookbag. She speedwalks, trying to stay outside for a short a time as possible.
Aurore might be somewhat upset to be described as a 'something', but she is - for the time being, at least - oblivious to the presence of anything else out here with her. Indeed, she's rather enjoying the mist and quiet, boot-heels producing softly muffled clomps with each step as she makes her way towards the athletics building.
Tendrils of mist curl around the legs of the women as they walk, clinging rather than dissolving at their presence. The women may not be heading for the same destination but their paths will cross in a moment. A shadow steals through the fog, low and fast as it approaches Amanda. It's tread silent. It's breathing adding to the mist. It is closing in on the oblivious bookworm...
Feeling the coldness of the mist, Amanda pulls her coat closer to herself. As the place is somewhat empty, it's easy for Amanda to spot Aurore, and she quickly hustles over to her. She smiles and says, "Hey! Heading to the Athletics building?"
Aurore starts slightly as she's spoken to, hauling her thoughts back to the here and now - before conjuring up a smile for Amanda. "Oh, hi there. Yeah. Thought I'd try to get in a swim before the place is too busy." Tucking her hands into the pockets of her overcoat, she hunches her shoulders a little to nudge the collar slightly higher. "What about you?"
The shape stops when it sees two women now...but only for a moment. Then it is sneaking forward again. Sticking to the dark, obscured even more by the roiling fog. A twig cracks loudly under its foot...certainly loud enough to be heard by the pair.
Amanda smiles. "Library. Figured I'd get time in before it gets busy and before my lectures," she says. Hearing the twig snap, she turns to look in that direction.
Aurore also turns her attention, peering over the smaller woman's shoulder to see if she can spot someone - or something - out there in the drifting grey.
Nothing moves at first but then the mist stirs. A figure approaches, rising to its full height as it does so. No longer interested in keeping quiet it lurches out of the darkness and into the light of a pathway lamppost. "Hey, Ladies" grins a male student - about twenty, drunk and without pants. "Want to buy some weed?" A pause. "No...wait...do you have any weed?"
With the student lurching out, Amanda takes a few steps back, bumping into Aurore. "N-No, I don't, I don't have any w-weed," she says.
Aurore puts a supportive and reassuring hand on Amanda's shoulder... but isn't feeling sufficiently heroic to step around in front of her. At least, not yet. "No, we don't," she answers the stranger. "You should go and find your buddies. See if they have any," she informs him.
"Yeah...my buddies" the man nods, drooling slightly. "Holy shit!" The reason for his exclamation seems to be his eyes falling on Amanda's generous chest. Then a grin for Aurore as he checks her out too. "Hey...you two going to a party? That would be a pretty awesome party." He reaches down for his jeans pocket...which is when he realises they seem to be missing. Not that he's too perturbed. "Aww...left my...pants..." His brow furrows as he looks around in the darkness. "Need to find..." He staggers past the women.
Amanda grumbles into her scarf as the guy exclaims at her chest. She lets him stagger passed, stepping away so he doesn't get too close.
Aurore had been about to suggest trying to find his clothes if his buddies didn't prove sufficiently appealing... and is quite happy to sidle farther out of his way as he goes in search of his jeans. She keeps one hand lightly upon Amanda's shoulder to provide reassurance, warily watching the drunken fool.
The man staggers away, singing loudly to himself - "I like big butts and I cannot lie...all the...men with the...something...I dunno." He's about ten feet away, barely in the light from the path now, when he turns to smile at the women. "Hey, you wanna come back to..." He never finishes his words. Suddenly his body shoots up into the air. He seems quite surprised and it takes him a moment to realise what is happening. By the time he attempts to scream he is flying through the air towards the roof of an old building that has been closed for renovation for the last year. And there seems to be something dark above him. Dark and big but it blends too well into the early morning sky to be properly discerned by human eyes.
With the guy shooting up Amanda takes several hurried steps backwards, pushing passed Aurore, but stops quickly. Glancing to her friend, she says, "I'm not imagining this, right?"
Aurore backs up as well... before putting both hands on Amanda's shoulders to steady *both* of them. "Oh crap," she says softly. "No... that... he really has been carried off by... fuck. Well, I'd heard there was some sort of problem around campus. Shit. Ahhh. Bugger."
The man is struggling now. They can see his body squirming against whatever holds him - but it is futile. He hangs about thirty feet over the refurbished building. And then he is falling towards the roof. His scream just manages to start before it is abruptly cut short as the man disappears from sight.
Amanda looks to Aurore, and says, "Should, Should we go and check on him?" She glances to the building and asks, "Has that building been like that for a while?"
Aurore gulps, then nods... and nods again. "I, ahh... yeah. It has. And we probably should. I'm not sure that calling the campus cops'll exactly help here. Just get *us* picked up and drug-tested to see what *we've* been smoking...."
The building juts three storeys up out of the fog. No lights. No movement. A couple of signs warning against entry due to renovations...though there isn't a lot of construction equipment about. The front door is even open to the old history building with its three classrooms on each floor and a library on the third. Of course it’s all empty.
Amanda nods. "Have, Have you seen anything like this before?" she asks, looking to Aurore. Amanda takes Aurore's hand as they walk to the old building. "What...What do we do if we find anything?"
"Not... exactly," Aurore admits, swallowing audibly before managing to give Amanda's hand what she hopes is a reassuring squeeze. "And I suspect we run like crazy. But there's at least a chance we can get him out of there. Maybe anyone else who's been... taken. But there's a really, really dark side to this part of the world. I think we've just seen part of it."
Amanda nods, her hand squeezing Aurore's in return. "I-I could tweet this out, before we go in," Amanda offers. "Y'know, if something happens to us, people will know where it happened..."
"I was going to place a call or two, myself," Aurore admits. "But I'd advise against a public tweet. There are... groups that are not exactly keen for people to wake up to what's going on around them. It's far easier to discredit a witness than to admit to the problem."
Amanda just looks at Aurore, then back to the building. "If or when we get out of this, you're going to have to explain that to me," she says before marching into the building, dragging her friend with her.
Aurore *does* delay entry briefly - making a couple of very short phone calls... speaking quietly, and not in English. But within a minute, she's joining Amanda in pushing inside...
The air is damp but also stale. It seems that the doors and windows have not been opened in some time. There is no furniture inside...not even paintings on the windows. The walls are original wood, no longer buffed and polished, and dust motes float in the beams of moonlight that penetrate the windows. A broad winding staircase leads upwards into the gloom - all the floors leading off from the landings connected to it.
Amanda looks round, asking, "So where to first? Upstairs since he came in through the roof?"
Aurore pauses a short distance inside, frowning and chewing her lower lip as she glances around... then peers at the floor for any helpful signs of footprints in a dust layer, slimy tentacle trails, or anything of the sort. "Basement or top story would be traditional," she murmurs. "But up to the library first might make sense."
Amanda nods. "Up to the library then? Do....you know where it is?" she asks, turning to face Aurore.
There are no footprints in the dust that covers the wooden floorboards. No sign of passage of anything - isn't someone supposed to be working on this building? The steps creak under the climbing feet as the pair ascend towards the heavens. The air gets more pungent. A bitter smell...like ammonia.
"Library's on the third floor. Mostly just classrooms on the others," Aurore says softly, still looking worried, peering around apprehensively as the duo make their way upwards.
Amanda grimaces at the smell. "Urgh," she says. "What're the builders doing here?" she asks. "/Where/ are the builders?" She looks round, looking for someone, anything.
"Probably too early for them today, but there's no sign of anyone even having been active here recently," Aurore murmurs. "I really don't like the look of this..."
"Yeah, I want to leave, but I want to find out what's going on..." Amanda says.
The moonlight is starting to dim as the sun will soon rise. It is the darkness before the dawn and it is doubly pitch black in this gloomy building. They reach the second floor, the library on the floor above. The classrooms are empty. The blackboards bare though the faint remnants of writing can be seen upon them.
As they rise higher and higher the smell gets worse...and they can see the source. White droppings spatter the ground and walls as if dropped from the floor above. It must be a very big pigeon.
Amanda looks like she's on the edge of Nope-ing out of the building. "God, I hope we don't meet whatever made those droppings," she comments, as she covers her nose and mouth with her scarf.
Aurore fishes out a flashlight, though she turns it down to a dim glow before activating it - providing a puddle of illumination to help to show where to put their feet without - she hopes - drawing too much attention. "Likewise," she murmurs, tugging her own scarf up over her mouth and nose.
The landing of the third floor. The library is to the right and what looks to be teacher offices to the left. A huge pile of droppings can be seen just inside the door of the library.
Seeing the droppings, Amanda looks to Aurore and says, "Well, want to go in first?"
"Nope," answers Aurore promptly - then moves up to the door, flipping off the flashlight as she peers inside...
Amanda peers in passed Aurore, before turning to look round. She takes a few steps towards the staff office, hoping to see more in there.
The books have long disappeared from the library. The long tables covered by clothes. The clothes covered by droppings. There is no ceiling in this room. Instead it is open to the roof and the network of supports and pylons that keep it up. Over the center of the library seems to be a collection of branches, twigs, clothes and furniture. It looks like a...nest.
The staff office is devoid of any furniture. It has long been empty and dust covers the floor...and a torn piece of paper that flutters when Amanda opens the door.
Amands steps into the office to pick up the piece of paper and read what's on it.
Aurore gulps, turning her head to convey a message to Amanda... only to discover that her back-up has moved off. She swallows once more, then sets about trying to sneak into the library, intending to stick to the shadows as much as possible as she takes a curving approach towards it... and what she can now see hanging over one side of it.
Scrawled on the paper is a phone number and the letters 'N' and 'Z'. There is a red stain on the torn edge - blood?
Aurore silently creeps forward until she is under the object she has spotted. It is an arm hanging over the edge of the nest. It does not move. No blood can be seen. There could be a body attached but she will have to scamper up into the roof to be sure. She could use the in-wall bookshelves as an impromptu ladder.
Amanda keeps hold of the paper, and heads out to the library. Not seeing Aurore, whispers, "Aurore?"
Aurore checks - via peering, rather than shaking and rattling - that the shelving really *does* seem to be securely attached to the wall, and not at risk of toppling over should she start ascending it... then looks around quickly and waves to Amanda. Reassurance that she's not disappeared (hopefully) provided, she then sets about carefully climbing up to get a view into that nest... and what she rather expects will be an array of horrific contents.
Horrific? Only if the rotting, half-eaten bodies of students are horrific. There are three or four - hard to tell - chewed up bloodied or decomposed corpses. The hanging arm belongs to a much less eaten one. It is the drunken man from earlier but now he is lifeless. His shoulders torn to shreds, his back broken over the large oval object he has been dropped upon. His blood seeping slowly down the shape beneath him that looks awfully like an egg. It is about three feet tall, grey and leathery looking.
Something shifts in the darkness of the roof.
Amanda watches Aurore, then glances at the ceiling. "Aurore?" she whispers, loud enough for her to hear. "We should get out of here!"
Aurore freezes in place - as much due to the need to fight the urge to vomit as out of fear of the shifting hint of motion in the gloom. After a few moments, she sets about climbing down once more, trying to move as quietly as she can...
Seeing Aurore start to climb down, Amanda quickly checks out the stairs to make sure nothing's blocking their escape.
That shape shuffles in the dark. The pair see clawed feet gripping a strut before it is gone again. Whatever it is large. They can hear it thud into the roof above it as it tries to get comfortable.
The staircase is thankfully unblocked. They can get out whenever they need to.
Amanda goes back to the library door, ready to get out with Aurore. She just hope's she's wanting to leave.
Aurore's return to Amanda's side is preceded by another gulp, the taller woman casting fearful glances over her shoulder - fear crawling up her spine with every step for which her back is turned to those briefly-glimpsed talons. She points to the stairs, expression questioning.
"They're clear," Amanda says, barely audible. "We leave now?" she mouths, "Please?"
Aurore nods shakily... and only then realises that she quite forgot to capture any photographic evidence for the Society. But perhaps she can borrow or hire a drone: something small and inedible that can fly over the building once and take some shots. Right now, she opts to focus upon the better part of valour, and the task of attempting to make her way as discretely as possible back down the stairs with Amanda.
Amanda heads down with Aurore. She taps her arm and show her the paper with the number on it.
The stairs creak underfoot as the pair slip out of the building. As they emerge from the front door the sun is finally starting to rise. The mist has dispersed and students are starting to stir and populate the grounds - at least the crazy ones that go jogging.
Aurore rather shakily peers at it, brow furrowing as she tries to work out the meaning of the letters. "Worth investigating," she murmurs, once down on ground level. Outside, she takes a steadying breath of fresher air, peering around as she enfolds herself in a reassuring squeeze. "Nnnngh. That's not good."
Amanda starts relaxing, as much as the cold will allow, once they're outside. "Do, do you want to investigate this? Looks like you're the one with all the contacts," Amanda says. "I'm just happy we got out safely."
"It's... not good up there," Aurore repeats, offering Amanda a queasily worried look. "Really. That's a nest. At least three, maybe four, bodies in there before today's. He's dead. Very. They all are. And there's an egg," she says hoarsely. "So if that hatches, it'll have another mouth to feed. If there's only one of it, that is. Maybe whatever they are pair for nesting. Fuck." She moves to run a shaky hand over her face... before stopping short, peering at her glove, then trying to dust off the crud picked up from the shelving. "I've no idea what that is."
Amanda sighs. "Look, I need to drop some stuff off at the library. Do you want to regroup later at the Waffle House?" she asks.
"Hah. I, ahhh. Sure." Aurore nods, a little distracted still, as she tries to haul her thoughts out of that nest. "I think I'll put the swim on hold for now, and see if I can do some research. See you at the Waffle House in an hour or two?"
Amanda nods, and offers a slight smile. "Sure! See you soon," she says, before turning to run to the library.