"Maybe we're dead and the afterlife is like. Randomly generated?"
<???> Dimension of Misfit Toys
This is definitely not Lassiter. Wherever the kids have ended up there are a few small but very noticeable tells. For one, instead of the rows of neatly parked cars in the Lassiter parking lot there's a baffling tower of vehicles spliced together in odd shapes as though someone has been constructing themselves an enormous scrapheap-themed jungle gym. For two, the sirens and chaos and noise of what had been a nearby riot has gone totally silent. For three, a very large blackboard in front of them has been ornately decorated in colorful chalk marker to read:
WELCOME! You're not in Lassiter anymore!
Beneath this hang smaller signs, and perhaps they've been intended nominally as directions because they come with arrows --
BUFFET THIS WAY ➡️ ➡️
CATCH SOME Z'S ↖️
FORGET YOUR TROUBLES! 🔀
CUDDLE STATION & PETTING ZOO ⬅️
BETTER YOURSELF ↩️
-- but given that the little arrowed signs are unanchored, rotating freely in circles from their slim ribbons whenever they are touched, this is not entirely a help.
Nanami has been staring at the sign for some minutes now. She's perched on the dented bumper of an aging grey Mazda 626 that protrudes out of the Frankencar Pile and frowning, deep. But, at length, she's hopping to her feet. "Can't be a trap," she declares, "we already wen come from hell." And off she's heading in the direction of BUFFET THIS WAY, or at least the direction that that particular sign is currently pointing.
Spencer is sitting on the ground with his back against the side of the Mazda, where he'd crumpled shortly after their inexplicable arrival. He'd crossed his arms, perhaps to keep his hands still or to avoid going fully fetal even with his head resting awkwardly on his knees. He stirs at Nanami's voice and unfolds himself, blinking without comprehension at their surroundings as if he'd been napping and only just woke up. Or perhaps thinks he's still asleep. "Nanami," he calls out -- sort of, his voice still too hoarse to produce the volume he'd probably intended. "Hey, you shouldn't wander off...by yourself." Realizing the futility of this he struggles to his feet. His hair is wild, kippah knocked askew, clothing rumpled, and bruises are starting to show all over, though none as alarming as the ones around his neck. He does not seem to notice any of this as he follows after Nanami, a little shaky and a lot like he's struggling to remember How to Limbs.
Gaétan has been a good deal quieter and a little paler since -- a little before this Jump To Whereverthefuck, actually. He's wandered the periphery of the Junkgle Gym -- warily, like he's expecting it to turn into a Decepticon and eat them -- but returns to this side of it at the sound of Nanami's voice. He's looking at the blackboard dubiously, and at Nanami more skeptically still, but he follows after the others. "Probably people are going to have to eat." He might be, just a little bit, trying to convince himself. "Though whether we should eat shit we find in some weird trash-heap fairyland is another question."
"Yah, you got the easy job, flatscan," Nanami is tossing teasingly in Gaétan's direction. "Run fast, don't die. Drive some car we never got. Half our friends they gonna be tired, yeah? Need calories after all that." Not that there seem to be calories in this direction. Which direction were they going? There are no more street signs and there's definitely not a road, but they're probably going the wrong direction all the same. At least, the landscape around them is changing as they move -- Nanami hasn't yet looked back, but the Tower O' Car has already vanished in their rearview. What had been mostly flat land around them is starting to grow up into swells of hillocks, arrayed with plentiful very mismatched furniture. Old dinged-up Ikea tables planted in front of ancient overstuffed couches, plasticky patio sets, chintzy folding tables up against weatherworn but sturdy hardwood antiques. Scattered around the furniture is a bizarre collection of odds and ends -- children's toys beside bottles of alcohol, library books up against piles of half-deflated basketballs, a new bicycle leaning against an old pinball machine, cotton balls and spoons and syringes set on top of beaten up board game boxes.
Nanami hasn't gone too far when she stops -- looks one way, looks another way, looks up at the very-normal-looking sky overhead as if it will divulge an answer. When it does not, she turns toward a half-finished jigsaw puzzle atop an adjacent picnic table. "He aha ka fuck?"
Spence's hands are fluttering rapidly, but he seems perhaps a bit oddly unperturbed by the surreal vista. "Trauma does weird things to your brain," he offers, philosophically. "Not usually weird like this, though. It's gotta be someone's power." His eyes slide aside toward Gaétan, pupils dilating, though he doesn't shrink away or show any other signs of fear. "Like a telepathic illusion, or hallucinogenic pheromones, or..." He looks down at his hands. Waggles his fingers slowly. Squints at the table in front of Nanami. "Maybe we're dead and the afterlife is like. Randomly generated?"
He peers into a wooden crate beside a comically large heap of cheap holiday decorations. Reaches in and pulls out a bottle, returning to the others still squinting at it. "It's not food," he says, showing them the bottle of Pinnacle vodka ("Gummy Flavored," the label reads, above an image of a red candy fish). "But it might tell us whether we can eat or drink anything here." He unscrews the cap and takes a swig, then winces. His voice is even more gravelly when he manages, "Don't know what I was expecting. Tastes like vodka and Swedish Fish."
"Hah." Gaétan sounds fairly humorless about his Easy Job, even while answering offhand: "-- cross country. Plenty of practice." His jaw tightens, mouth twisting down momentarily as he closes his hand around a pile of foil scraps, balling them up tight. "Well, you're not shrinking." He's been watching Spencer drink the vodka with a suspicious kind of intrigue. "But I guess if you've gotta spend a month here for each -- swig of vodka you drink --" He lifts a shoulder, gesturing for the bottle. "Beats spending it at Lassiter."
"If this is trauma shouldn't we all have been hallucinating long-time back? Why we hallucinating together?" Nanami is poking at the pinball machine hopefully, but turns aside in disappointment when it demands quarters. "-- Guess the booze has calories, anyway."
"Oh! Did you want food?" This voice is coming very abruptly from back behind them. A young Japanese woman in wildly mismatched clothing, her hair tied back in a thick braid is sitting on top of a large oak table where she definitely wasn't a moment before. "You are in totally the wrong place for food, this place --" Her hand tips out around them, "is for losing your mind, didn't you read Charlie's signs?"
Nanami just squeaks at this sudden appearance, ducking behind Gaétan until it is clear they are not under attack. "-- I'm leaning towards maybe dead."
"In that case, l'chaim!" Spence takes a more generous swig of the candy-flavored vodka -- followed by another grimace -- and passes it to Gaétan. "I guess it could be telepathy and trauma?" He doesn't sound particularly disturbed by this line of speculation. "Maybe this is someone else's trauma --" He whirls around and sort of haphazardly tries to put himself between his schoolmates and potential danger with his near-complete absence of combat skills, though he seems to conclude pretty quickly the potential is low. "Oh, hey! Thanks, I'm not sure the signs are..." He struggles for a moment, presumably for a polite way to describe the state of the signage they saw, but gives up quickly in favor of, "We just got here and have no idea where we are. Would you mind pointing us toward the...place that is for food?"
Gaétan is regrettably right in the middle of a gulp of candyvodka when they get a sudden new arrival -- he's shifting in front of Nanami, whirling as Spence does, and his unfortunately timed spittake sprays half in the other boy's direction. "Hoshit --" could be to the newcomer or Spencer or both. "None of the signs said losing your mind? Where are we. -- Uh, sorry, I -- hi. I guess." This veeeery halfhearted attempt to recover into something like Having Manners just ends in confusion again: "... but really, where are we. Are you dead?"
"Oh, I might be!" says the other woman with a bright cheer. "I don't think so, though. You all came from Lassiter, right?" She's looking up-and-down at their very stylish scrubs. "This is like, Lassiter Limbo. And you must have wanted to lose your mind or else why would you be at Forget Your Troubles? Think harder about your stomach than your stress and you'll find the food." A small frown. "Probably."
"Wen lose our minds already," Nanami opines, and now she's taking the bottle. "No GPS, then? Just -- positive thoughts?"
But the other woman has already hopped down off the table to wander off -- and disappeared in alarmingly short order.
Spence winces less at being misted with vodka than he had at drinking it. "Lassiter Limbo?" He frowns, and is still frowning after their guide disappears. "And we get around here with some kinda psionic...oh, fuck it." He pushes the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. "I'm fresh out of happy thoughts, guys. Mind firmly lost, troubles might take a bit more --" He blinks. "Oh. Is that why there's booze?"
Gaétan is staring in the direction of -- well, what direction was it? The woman is gone, the landscape rearranged once again. He reaches to the side, making a small grabby-hand gesture for the bottle after Nanami gets a swig. "It's not quite fairy dust but for now it'll do."