Lan, Cam, and Adam
Another familiar voice. Familiar was good, “Cam, that you?” I asked nervously, “I’m over here.” I knew the ginger about as well as I knew Thalia, but anybody even vaguely familiar would probably be good to latch onto until I adjusted.
“I… I can’t hear you, it’s too loud…” came a shaky answer. It was silent in the cave. “S-so many thoughts at once… can’t… seem to be able to shut my ability down... ”
“Just keep talking so I can find you.” My first instinct was to follow Camilla’s voice; so I made my way over, treading slowly and carefully over the damp floor of the mysterious cave to try and find her. “I’ve kinda got the opposite problem. I don’t sleep, I don’t dream, this is basically the exact opposite of what my power does.”
That earned me a shaky laugh. “Lucky you,” Cam huffed, but kept talking until her voice was right next to me.
I reached out carefully and placed my hand on Cam’s shoulder. “This is weird for both of us.” I admitted, trying to steady my nerves. If I was nervous it would only make things worse for her, and then two people are panicking. That was when I heard another voice nearby,
“Oh god damn everything! There’s no food here! Goddamnit why!?” Whoever said it sounded pissed. “Heh...hey...nobody heard that right?” His voice softened somewhat, but it still sounded pretty pissed.
Camilla’s cold hand came to rest on top of mine, as if she was trying to ground herself. I felt her breath get steadier as she listened to the new voice talk, standing still next to me.
I chuckled at the newcomer as he thought out loud, “I think everyone heard you, buddy. Where are you? Try to find us.”
“Crap.” The sound of shuffling followed as the voice’s source tried to move closer, though from the sound of mumbled pain and grunts, they weren’t having the best time in the dark.
“I can see your form, I think,” Cam’s voice echoed in the dark. “You’re kind of under us but not quite; I think you might be like… just lower than us? Is there a ledge close to you?” She was clearly trying to keep herself together.
“I keep a bunch of exploration gear in my backpack, and I REALLY wish it had come in here with us.” I sighed, stepping around Cam to face the same direction; I left my hand firmly planted on her shoulder.
The voice mumbled something, followed by some rocks tumbling over a ledge from the sound of it. “Yeah that would have been nice, I picked one of the best spots to be, a decent sized indent in the ground. Lovely.” The sarcasm was evident in the voice’s tone.
“You wouldn’t happen to have the ability to form stairs? That would be handy,” Camilla commented almost jokingly. My presence was clearly helping her to recover from the mess that must’ve been her mind at that moment, or at least it helped her enough to focus on cracking a joke.
“Cam, will you be alright without me for a minute? I can help him climb up. Not exactly been spelunking, but I’ve done plenty of climbing.” The only reply I got was a positive hum from her. She nudged me to go.
“Wait, I think I have a feel for the ledge, one sec.” The sound of dust echoed throughout the cavern for a moment and then the sound of shuffling, and the dark form started scrabbling it’s way over the top. “Little help? I’m outta shape…” A hand, at least that’s what I could assume it was, reached out to me to help tug them up and over the final stretch.
I kneeled down, extending my hand and grasping onto… whoever’s it was that needed help up. I had a pretty strong grip for someone my size, advantage of the martial arts training.
They were light, that much was evident when I pulled them up. They stumbled for a moment, before catching themself and standing still. “Whew…” They must have sighed.
I rose to my feet, keeping their hand in mine and pulling them over towards Cam where I placed my other hand back on her shoulder, guiding the new guy to place his hand on mine. “Welcome to the huddle! I’m Lan, this is Cam. What’s your name?”
Nodding, at least that’s what I assumed it was, it almost looked like a minor twitch, they shook my hand. “Adam. You too. Thanks for the hand, I probably would have waltzed into that ledge before I saw it.”
“Well, you seem to have a pretty laid back mind, Adam. Or I’m assuming it’s you,” Cam said, only to continue with a slight edge of worry to her tone: “Sorry, I hope that wasn’t inappropriate. I can’t exactly help it, you know.”
“Our priority should be grouping up with the others. There’s not a lot of light in here, so we should link arms. Stay together, and find more people.” I advised, trying to remember the books I had read on cave exploration.”
“At least if we fall and land on something sharp we all do.” His voice sounded both joking, yet contained traces of realism within.
“Easy boy. I don’t think Erina would put anything that dangerous in here with us.” I lowered my hand from Cam’s shoulder and looped it behind her arm, hopefully a more secure way of staying together.
“Yeah, I sure hope she wouldn’t. We don’t exactly know her that well,” Cam commented, but she seemed to trust me well enough. “Most the clutter in my mind is coming from our left, so I suppose the others are somewhere there. That’s where most of the minds are standing, too. I can sort of see where people’s minds are, so I can locate them even in the dark.”
“Guess we’re gonna find out how real all this actually is…” Adam muttered ominously. “Well then, let’s find the others, the faster we do that, the faster we get back to food. Those tasty Danishes…”
Since Cam was the least blind member of our group, I let her take the lead, wrapping my other arm around Adam’s to make sure we were properly connected. “So Adam, what can you do? I don’t sleep so I’ve got endless free time for reading and stuff.” finding out what everyone was capable of seemed like a good plan, plus it would help keep everyone level headed.
Adam didn’t speak for a moment, before he said wearily, “Antimatter, or something, maybe somethin with atoms? I dunno, I didn’t study too hard into it. Basically I can break things up to a certain level. Or maybe I change the things within them… I really should read into it at some point.”
“And I thought my thing was creepy,” Cam said, but her voice didn’t sound mean.
“My Nana owns a bookstore. She could probably order something on particle physics to help you figure it out?” I offered, “probably not antimatter though. I don’t know a ton about it, but I’m pretty sure that stuff is bad news.”
“Might be something about protons or somethin’ then, I once destroyed half a trash can by staring at it for too long. My parents thought I was some sort of crazy after that. At least for a while. That was a weird day. Still, sounds like a nice book store.” He might have smiled, but I couldn’t tell. Cam had also fallen silent at that, just leading us on, occasionally stopping as if to check we were going the right way. I couldn’t tell if she had fallen back into her thoughts, or if she just had nothing to say.
“So it’s like...telepathy? Sorta?” Adam piped up. Cam was silent for a beat, but then…
“Uh, not really. Or kinda? Well. I can see into people’s minds. Mostly emotions, but also thoughts, here and there. I can see the people around me even when I close my eyes; they’re kinda like shadows, only white and bright. And fucking loud.” Adam must have snickered at the last bit.
“That last bit is gonna be super helpful in here, since there’s not much in the way of light.” I offered.
Cam chuckled like she didn’t believe me, but kept holding on to me.
“That’s up for debate. I mean I guess you’re right, altho’ you already know the drawback to it. It’s hella crowded in here,” she hummed, and I could only imagine she was talking about her head. I briefly tightened my arm around hers, a simple reassuring gesture.
Adam must have scratched at his hair, when the sound of nails running over scalp drew my attention for a moment. “Damn it, the cave tricked me. I came here for the food damnit! Not interactions! Arrrgh! Damnit...well I guess my cold demeanor is gone. Man… I was doing so well too…” There was the sound of Camilla’s breathy laughter.
“You can go back to not interacting soon, just wait a moment,” she replied in an amused tone.
“Although going to a support group isn’t really the best idea if all you want is free food.” I chimed in teasingly.
“The others are here. Except for the snarky dude, he’s a bit further away,” Cam announced. Indeed, there were noises around us. Adam’s fingers could be heard snapping. “Nice spy.” I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on in this guy’s head. I’d have to ask Cam about it later.
I chuckled at my own silent joke before speaking up, “Well, looks like we’re here.” I let go of Adam and Cam’s arms, but stayed close by to them without wandering off.
“Anyone else hear the sounds of something I’m pretty sure isn’t supposed to be within this cave? Besides us?”
“Yeah, reminded me of the time I got chased by a guard dog after sneaking onto a construction site. That was a weird day.” I replied absently. “Not as weird as today, obviously. But still pretty weird; it was right before I met Boxcar Joe, actually.”
“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned this Boxcar Joe person,” Camilla’s voice observed. She didn’t ask further questions, though. It was clear she was curious, however.
“His real name is Joseph Callahan, but everybody called him Boxcar Joe the magic hobo. I think it was a reference to some story he read online? He’s kinda the first person I considered a friend, and he’s the one who told me about Atypicals Anonymous. He was an old timer with the group; left recently to go back to his family in… not sure where exactly, but they’re further west.” I explained, not going into a ton of detail for the moment.
“No surprise with a nickname like Boxcar Joe the magic hobo…only people with weird powers get names like that.” Adam mumbled.
“He was never super clear about the kind of power he had; honestly I’m not quite sure he understood it himself. It was something to do with questions, or knowing who had information he needed. He taught me a lot, not just about being an atypical but about how the world works. One of the first things Boxcar Joe ever told me was that if you need to find something, ask the rats. The people society overlooks, the ones that are invisible to most people; the homeless and downtrodden.”
Adam nodded at that. “Makes perfect sense. The rats rarely let you down. I should use that as a quote in my book…” He trailed off into a mutter.
“Sounds like he was either mad wise or mad mad,” Cam mused. “Gosh, what I wouldn’t do to be able to have a drink right now.”
“He was definitely mad something, considering he taught a 17 year old how the ways of the hobo. Every tuesday I take a backpack full of sandwiches to one of the camps around the city, sit and chat with the homeless. You can learn some pretty interesting stuff from them.”
“You both have good ideas. Drinks, and interacting with the homeless. They do have a good few dark jokes at their disposal.”
“Oh, I mean things like… not exactly secret passages, but ways to slip around the city unnoticed, places that the world has forgotten.” I corrected Adam. This guy was weird even by my standards.
“And me killing for a drink isn’t exactly what I’d describe a good idea,” Cam added with a dry chuckle. I remembered the earlier conversation where she had revealed her sobriety to Thalia and I. Next thing I heard was the woman’s breath catching, and her hand grabbed the sleeve of my shirt.
“I-I can sense some weird thing getting closer…” she briefed, “It’s not human… and I can’t sense non-humans normally… what the fuck is it?”
“Probably whatever made that sound. Let’s split up for the moment, talk to everyone else and try to figure out some kind of plan. Just remember Cam, none of this is real. It’s just a dream, a mass hallucination.” aaaand there I go, reminding myself just how alien this whole thing was to me.
“Possible human mutants in simulated caves and no food, things just kicked into overdrive. Let’s get started.” Adam said cheerfully.
“On second thought Cam, I’d rather stick with you for the moment if that’s alright. This whole thing still feels wrong to me and I’m not sure how well I’d do on my own.” I explained nervously.
“Not fighting you there,” was the ginger’s sassy yet shaky response.
Snickering, Adam’s footsteps moved away to hunt out somebody else to interact with for the time being, though they were cautious footsteps.