Interlude: Anatoliy

Anatoliy stalked through the halls, a tiny Working making his footsteps seem to echo and shake the floor, all of his Masks dropped to reveal his entire size, the duster hanging from his shoulders making him seem even bigger.

Somewhere ahead of him, Aggie was doing the White Rabbit trick with a follow-me Working, leading people into a rabbit-hole trap, and Dysmas, well, he was doing the Dysmas thing. Girls walked out of the trap a little woozy and lightheaded; boys walked out seeing spots and feeling discombobulated. And one or two would probably walk out Owned, assuming they found someone that met their tastes.

It was an easy enough scam, and, since Anatoliy was helping them with it, he could easily have gotten his own collared girl out of it. Hell Night was built for that sort of thing, and Aggie and Dysmas were really, really good at the scams. The whole idea, though, left a sour taste in his mouth, even as he lumbered along in his exaggerated size, chasing terrified Fifths towards their trap.

A girl came running toward him, her buttoned-up shirt soaked and stained with purple and green stains. Shiva’s group, working to drive them this way, probably unwittingly. She took one look at him, and screamed, a good, solid, echoing yell that made him wince, and cornered, running away again as fast as she could.

The carpet tripped her, or her foot caught on some trap, and she went sprawling, catching herself clumsily on her palms and one knee. He moved to help her up, dropping to one knee to bring himself down to a more human height, shifting a Mask to make his hands seem only large and not dinner plates as he did so.

She glanced up at him, and for a moment, looking at her straight on, one wave of brown hair half-covering her face, he thought she was Amanada, back for some inexplicable reason. Her eyes were the same moss-green, her skin the same tan Anda’s got after a long summer. But she was still human, no feathers and no tail, and she was terrified of him, staring at his hand as if he was going to yank her into the depths of hell.

Anda had been a lot of things, especially near the end – fierce, angry, loud, defiant, painful. And then, at the very end, as smugly pleased with herself as Ciro had been with her. But she had never been afraid of him; it was one of the things that had first drawn him to her.

She shied further away from his hand and, sighing ponderously, he stood. She scrambled to her feet, and glancing back at him with one last panicked look, fled.

She was running straight towards Aggie’s trap. From the back, she looked even more like Anda. The same skirt, even, that he’d so loved seeing her in, those first couple weeks, when everything had been so good. Her hip under the line of the skirt looked like it would fit his hand like Anda’s had, too.

He missed her. It was stupid, but it didn’t stop the longing. They’d had little over two months together, back in his first year of school here, and then he’d had years to watch her wander around the place, hating him, throwing her hate at him like a weapon, refusing to tell him what he’d done to deserve it, until he’d finally stopped asking, although it had never stopped hurting. She’d gone, graduated, and left him here alone – she hadn’t been above sabotaging the few chances at a relationship he’d almost managed to have without playing this place’s fucked up games – and still not at all clear on what had gone wrong.

He watched her slip beneath the surface of what looked like solid ground, in the sick black shadows cast by no light, her cotton-candy-pink-manicured hand sliding out of Aggie’s tinier hand, as Aggie “tried to help her," and, for a moment, not for the first time, he hated Aggie, and her predatory mindset, “red in tooth and claw” and entirely self-centered.

::Hey, man:: Dysmas’ whisper presented itself in his mind, amused and more than a little drunk-sounding. ::This one looks like your type. Should I save her for you?::

An Anda clone, neatly trussed up , dazed and willing to agree to anything, an Anda he wouldn’t lose this time because she’d never have a chance to think about walking away. Dysmas and Aggie spun their traps well. She’d Belong to him before she even woke up completely.

The thought made him sicker than the idea of taking Agatha to bed. ::No thanks,:: he thought back.

With an amused trailing ::Your loss,:: Dysmas’ whisper vanished from his mind, and Anatoliy stomped through the halls, making half-hearted scary faces at passing Fifths.


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