Sarathi de

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The Room at Midnight


It is... dark. Black. Empty. The home of nothing at all. A voice drifts through the void, right at home, bright against the black, and fades into view.
The word lingers, and then we look down, down, down through the black and find her seated on... not the ground, but a ground. A background, perhaps, to her foreground in a sliver of not-quite-light.
Welcome to Midnight.

The players

INT. Master bedroom; Fern's house - day
It's a rectangular room with four walls, and all fairly well-decorated, with a susprisingly tasteful assortment of perhaps a few too many plants, mostly ferns, scattered around amongst the funiture in lieu of knicknacks.
FERN is sitting on a bed staring at the wall. The nearby window is shattered, with glass all over the floor, and the curtains are blowing a bit in the breeze.
Fern: I've been staring at a wall for three days now. I can't seem to remember much. After everything that happened, it's all... a bit confusing.
Fern: I think I remember something about goats. And the Architect. And a whole lot of universes coming together for one hectic instant to fix some unfortunate incident, but it's fuzzy, like it didn't really happen, or I wasn't really there, or maybe I just lost the part of me that really was there.
A goat wanders in, eating some paper.
Hi goatsy. I'm not here right now. Please leave a message at the beep.
Fern beeps.
Fern: I don't know. Some of the others apparently died and stuff, so I guess I got off easy, even though I'm pretty sure I really didn't hallucinate the three goats crashing in through the window right after.
The goat climbs up Fern's lap with its front legs.
Fern: All I really know right now is that there seems to be a goat in my lap for some reason.
The goat looks up at her hopefully, but Fern just sort of stares right through it.
Fern: And I can't seem to stop staring at the wall.
Hi there.
Oh, hello, wall.
You've looked better.
Fern: I also seem to be hallucinating.
The wall that's speaking just appears to be a normal wall. It doesn't even have a mouth or anything.
The fifth wall, shoved haphazardly into a corner between two of the other walls, however, is anything but normal. It's huge, bigger than anything. It doesn't line up with anything. It looks more like a window, or a hole, looking out on the cosmos. The entirety of the universe, or at least a universe, laid out before it. It's utterly black, but not.
Fern is very pointedly not looking at this one.
Fern: The problem is, I'm not sure what all is the hallucination and what isn't. For instance, the goats seem to be real.
Another goat wanders over and stops in the doorway. It makes a goat sound.
Mmm, goats. You like goats?
Fern: The wall in front of me may or may not be talking to me. But the fifth wall, that horrible hole back there that seems as though to be a window into the extended multiverse, I have no idea what is up with that.
Fern: I think it's been there all along.
There's a knocking from the front door.

EXT. Porch; Fern's house - day
Three mismatched weirdos who can at best be collectively referred to as 'people', NATHAN, DARREN, and YASA, are all at the door. Nathan is standing somewhat hunched-over-like in a trenchcoat and fedora and dark shades, looking Not Suspicious At All, and bangs on the door knocker a bit.
Yasa is in an elegant black dress, very high-heeled boots, and impeccably matched jewellery. Her black dreads are tied back in an elaborate bun. She leans down and tries to peer in through the peephole.
Darren, in jeans and a t-shirt, is slightly off to the side. He just looks bored.
Nathan knocks again, louder this time.
Fern, you useless fuck, you in there?
Oy, rude.

INT. Master bedroom; Fern's house - day
Fern hears this, but doesn't even look up.
You gonna get that?
Fern doesn't respond to this either.

EXT. Porch; Fern's house - day
That's sort of the point. Next up we're breaking an entering.
What is it with you and breaking and entering and kidnapping and larceny and fraud and piracy and grand theft and good god is there anything you haven't done at this point?
Shut up. I'm living my life.
Yasa gives Nathan a worried look.
(to Yasa)
He's exaggerating, anyhow. Only times I ever kidnapped anyone it was needed.
(yelling at the door)
Fern! If you don't answer, I'm breaking in!
No answer comes.
Eh, fine.
Nathan gets out a lockpicking set and picks the lock.
If you're not a hardened criminal, then why do you know how to do that?
Nathan pushes the door open and peers inside.
(over his shoulder)
Asks the wannabe hacker.
Yeah, and I'm sure you've done all the things with hookers.
Yasa ignores this exchange and heads inside.
(calling out worriedly)
The others follow.

INT. Fern's house, inside - day
They wind up in some sort of living room, with a kitchen area over an island opposite them.
It's a bit of a mess. Potted, as well as de-potted, plants are everywhere, especially ferns. There is a goat chewing on one of them. Mail is all over the table, and dishes, including the remains of an apparently goated meal, are all over the counter. Several cats seem to have taken up residence.
Somehow I don't think she's actually here.
So we check all the rooms, see if there's any signs where she is.
Yasa approaches some of the cats, but they just scatter.
Wait, you don't mean... something might have happened to her?
No, clearly not. I mean, it's not like she's been missing for the better part of a week, or stuff.
Obviously not.
They split up to search the rooms.
Nathan goes over to check out the kitchen area.
The floor on the other side of the island is full of bees. There is a beehive in the middle, surrounded by buzzing. Nathan gives it a long, unimpressed look before slowly backing away and leaving.

INT. Bathroom; Fern's house - day
A stray cat has taken over the guest bathroom. It growls as Yasa turns the light on.
Hi, kitty.
The cat growls some more.
Seen a tiny crazy plant lady around anywhere?
The cat growls.
I'll take that as a no.

INT. Basement; Fern's house
The basement is completely empty aside from a bucket in the middle of the floor, full of what appear to be breadsticks.
Darren approaches it warily. He eyes it carefully. He picks up a breadstick and sniffs it.
Something shifts. There seem to be voices in the surrounding space. It's bigger than it was, emptier, and the lighting tilts...
What the...
Darren hastily drops the breadstick and everything goes back to normal.

INT. Living room; Fern's house - day
Yasa finds the back sofa room to be full of clothing dummies. Fabric and half completed projects are draped over them, and strewn across the furniture and floor. Several of the dummies have cats on them, which all procede to stare at her.
(threading her way between them)
Death broke out in chronic cats too.
The cats don't move, simply continue to stare, watching her as she passes.
She holds her hand out to one, but it just stares at her, so she pets it a bit. It continues to stare at her.
Tense, are you?
Giving the room a walk/jump through (the floor is a bit covered in obstacles), she finds it to be entirely devoid of Fern. She does find a goat, which quickly trots away as she rounds one of the sofas.
Leaving, she nearly collides with Darren, and they both startle in a mildly cliché manner.

INT. Master bedroom; Fern's house - day
To Nathan, there are only four walls. Fern is sitting on the bed, staring at the wall adjacent.
There is a goat sitting on the floor in front of her.
As he enters, Fern doesn't look up.
Nathan plants himself over the goat.
Oy Fern.
She doesn't move.
Midget. Crazy lady. DM.
Still no response.
(in a whisper)
Hahterite? Amear eona?

INT. Master bedroom; Fern's house - day
It's slightly later. Darren and Yasa have crowded in as well. The three of them are all standing around Fern at this point, and she's looking up at them curiously.
Fern: These are my friends. At least, I think they are. I remember them as such. I can't quite remember what I should be doing with them.
Are you real, then?
Fern stares at him curiously, and then smiles ever so slightly.
Fern: Friends. Yes. They're real.
Nathen picks up Fern and hoists her over his shoulder, turns, and wordlessly trods out. The others follow.
The fifth wall also follows.

EXT. Fancy restaurant - evening
It's busy. People are around outside waiting, and a GUY with a pedestal at the entrance is tactfully fending them off.
Yasa pushes her way through, walking deliberately and somewhat loudly as her heels clonk on the ground. Nathan and Darren are following, Nathan again carrying Fern. They're all still wearing the same clothes, though Fern now has a coat wrapped around her, and Darren a ratty jacket on. Nathan has lost his hat.
Yasa stops in front of the guy and stares down at him.
(looking up)
I believe we have a reservation.
And the name on...
(he stops, noticing Nathan and Darren)
Are they with you?
(leaning over the pedestal and leering a bit)
Darren pulls a cyan and hot pink checkered tie out of his pocket and ties it around his neck. Badly.
Do you always carry that?
You never know when you'll need to sell someone a previously owned coffin.
(to the guy)
The guy gives her a confused look.
Sorry, the name on the reservation. It's Shahanna.
(checking his book and then responding much more assuredly)
Oh, um. Yes. The rest of your party is waiting.

INT. Fancy restaurant - evening
Nathan's sister, ALEXIS, is at a large corner table, along with another pair of siblings: PERCY and MAYA. Some appetisers are on the table. Alexis and Percy are chatting. Maya is on her phone, and nibbling at some dumplings.
Nathan plonks Fern down next to Maya and scoots in himself.
Maya pokes Fern with a dumpling.
She... okay?
Ooo, food.
Darren sits down and digs in.
(looking at Darren very disappointedly)
They didn't seem to mind.
They have class and abide by all their customers.
Whatever that is.
Sounds expensive.
The opposite of you two, probably.
Yasa also scoots in.
Fern tentatively reaches out to poke an appetiser.
Everyone watches her intently.
She pokes it, and withdraws the arm.
Maya skewers it on a fork and jabs it at Fern's face.
You eat it.
Fern stares at it blankly.
Shove it in your face. Like this.
Maya demonstrates shoving the food in her own face, then skewers another one and hands the fork to Fern.
Fern stares at the skewered food for a bit, and then starts nibbling on it.
So what exactly do we think is wrong with her?
(shaking her head)
She can still speak, and seems to remember who you are?
Sort of?
It's like she's forgotten how to live. To be alive. She knows, but she's... forgotten.
Stroke? But that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Why not? Can't aliens have strokes?
I don't know. I'm a psychologist, not a doctor, and even if I were I don't think that'd really be my...
My only other guess might be some sort of PTSD, but if that's really the case, without some idea of what caused it, we'll never be able to properly address it or avoid potentially making it worse.
So what do we do?
Everyone just stops and stares at her, aside from Darren, who mumbles something about squirrels. Nathan smacks him.
We play the game. That's why you were looking for me, right? So that's what we'll do.
Er, are you sure? Are you up for that? There's a lot that goes into running a game, let alone a good one...
To bring a broken soul back from the abyss, you remind it what it is to live. You immerse it in the day to day, and slowly, it relearns how to function. That's the theory, anyway. I think... I think I just need to remember. May I borrow your sofa?
Of course. Whatever you need.
I think we all have a very long way to go.

Heap of mostly organised pieces