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How Do You Know it's Over if the Third Act Hasn't Even Begun?

How Do You Know it’s Over if the Third Act Hasn’t Even Begun?

There should have been noise. The grinding of giant gears, the rumbling of even larger machines. But the syrup factory had long since fallen silent. It was uncanny to an absurd degree; to be sitting in the very middle of what amounted to a gutted-out corpse. At least, that’s the first thing Doug’s mind went to. Admittedly, Doug wasn’t in the best frame of mind at the moment.

Three days. It had been three days since he’d watched the life drain from Abigail Hodge’s eyes. Since she’d whispered those two little words he’d so desperately longed to hear her say. It was still hard to believe that it was over. He kept expecting that shrieking laugh to reverberate down the hall at any moment. For her to bounce into the room and grin at him with her terrible shark’s teeth. “Wonderful, Doug!” she would say. “The emotion, the passion you had when you thought you were really killing me. Ohhh, I so wish I could experience that bliss just one more time!”

It was almost disappointing that she hadn’t.

What was he still doing here? Waiting for her to come back? So they could start this whole dance all over again? He’d gotten exactly what he’d wanted, hadn’t he? Abigail Hodge would never hurt him or anyone else ever again. He’d changed everything.

So why did nothing feel different? He’d done this for Mike, for Victor, for Jilli. Yet, Victor was still dead, his mangled corpse still twitching occasionally in the room just down the hall. Mike was still fucked in the head, he’d never go back being that naive, dumb shit he used to be. And Jilli? Well, there was no need to even say it, was there?

And that wasn’t even mentioning Doug. Of course, he had never thought that killing Abigail was actually going to bring anyone back from the dead, not really. But like… something should be different, right? Some inherent flaw with the world should be fixed.

Yet Doug’s hands still shook as he ran them through his frizzy, white hair. Even if Abigail was dead, she would never be truly gone. His own body was evidence of that. It wasn’t the end. Far from it. It would never be able to end. At least for him. And that was all that was left. Only that waiting, that knowing. Doug Bailey had been scooped out until there was nothing left. What was the point of living anymore anyway?

He was sure that he always knew, deep down, that there was only one way for all of this to be truly, finally be over. Or at the very least, he’d had his suspicions. Maybe that’s why he kept waiting for her to poke her head through the door.

Doug had always kept moving. Towards what he’d never had a fucking clue. But maybe it was time for him to stop.

His one consolation was that, at the very least, it would be on his own terms. For once. He was used to things just happening to him, or things happening despite him trying to stop them, or things happening when he knew he should be doing something but just.. didn’t. Because if bad things were always going to be happening to him, then why even try?

The room he’d been holed up in for the past few hours must have been a warehouse at some point, for it was cavernous and empty, with numerous metal girders hanging a foot or so down from the ceiling proper. It was directly under one of these that Doug had been sitting, shifting constantly in a hard, plastic chair. Of all the lights in the room, only one was really working, flicking dismally down on his head.

It made the white rope in his hands so bright it was almost a little hard to look at.

Ironically, somehow, after all the garbage life had tossed his way, Doug had rarely thought about killing himself. Yet he knew instinctively how to tie a noose. God, that was depressing. So, Doug, you’re turning nineteen in a month, what skills are you going to bring into adulthood with you? Well, I can sure tie a banger noose.

He chuckled to himself, part of him unable to believe that he was about to starve the world of such a comedic genius. “Well, aren’t you going to laugh?” he asked out loud, and to anyone else, it would have appeared rhetorical. But to Doug it was anything but.

He’d kind of figured they’d say something at the end, even a “So long, sucker,” would have been fine. But the three ghosts watching him from the edge of the light still said nothing. They just stared, more statue than human, with blank expressions on their faces. Well, in her defense, Cocaine might have been judging him a little, but she was burdened with the medical condition known as “resting bitch face” so he couldn’t be sure. Tragic, really.

“What, still got nothing to say, huh?” he glanced between the three of them. “I didn’t expect you ladies to tell me how much I’ve got to live for, but not even any words of encouragement? That’s cruel.”

Again, they did nothing, just remained as ghostly shadows wavering at the edge of the light.

“Not even you, huh Jill?”

Conscience blinked once. But that was all.

“Well, alright then,” Doug sighed, standing finally. “I guess that’s my cue.”

Oddly enough, after stalling for hours, once he stood, it was with very little hesitation that he hopped up on top of the rickety chair. It shook a little under his weight. He almost tripped as one of the wheels of his heelys caught on the plastic.

But he regained his balance and within a minute, had the rope tied to the beam above. After giving it an experimental tug, Doug nodded, satisfied. And then he jumped as he looked forward again and saw that they had gotten closer.

“Jesus Christ, this is my last minute on earth. Give a guy some space.”

But still, all they did was stare, like an enraptured audience. As if daring him to take that leap.

“Don’t crowd in all at once to stop me.”

He stood there for a good minute, with the rope in his hands and the dead factory around him. That’s when it struck him, finally, eighteen years too late: this shit sucked.

Why did it have to be him? Most people went through their lives with only a little trauma, maybe none at all if they were lucky. So why did Doug have to get the shit end of the stick? In the universe’s defense, some of it had been his own fault, but for the most part, everything that had ever happened to him had always felt so cruel, so targeted, even. Most people would have just given up ages before now, but then of course it was that very stubborn streak that had endeared him so much to a crazed, horny scientist.

And the worst part about that whole affair was that in the entirety of the Adelaide’s debacle, everything that had been done there, Doug’s sole contributing factor was to be Abigail Hodge’s sentient vibrator.

Hadn’t that vibrator gone and fought back, though? Taken revenge for all the shit she’d put him through? Okay, maybe the metaphor was breaking down a little bit. The fact of the matter was that he’d finally taken his person-hood back. He’d been the one that had killed her, after all.

But the irony of it all was of course that in his line of duty as chew toy, Abigail had left her fair share of marks. She’d taken whole bits of him, and no matter what he tried to do about it, for the rest of his life, those marks would never go away. Doug Bailey: property of Abigail Hodge. See? Look at his hair, the way his hands are shaking, even at this very moment. Who else could have done this, after all?

It was one final fuck you from her to him. Until he was gone, Abigail Hodge would never truly die.

That’s why he had to do it. He had to kill her once and for all. There was no point in hesitating now, was there? He’d already made up his mind, after all. And he wouldn’t want to disappoint his audience.

So, with very little fanfare, Doug slipped the loop over his head, and stepped forward.

He hadn’t really thought about what came after that, the jumping, that is. Doug had mostly assumed that he’d just pass out and that would be that. Alas, no luck there. He supposed he should have expected that. When had Doug ever gotten a break?

Gagging and choking, he instinctively kicked his legs, trying to make it back to the chair that was just an inch too far for him to reach. He didn’t even know why he was doing it. He didn’t want to save himself, but his body was simply doing this of its own accord, some final act of self-preservation he didn’t know he still had. All it was doing was making the pain worse. Spit dribbled down his chin as he gurgled.

How very dignified, he thought bitterly.

The three of them finally showed some kind of reaction. Cancer sighed. Cocaine shook her head, her bleach-blonde pigtails bobbing back and forth. Conscience just looked sad, and glanced down at the floor away from him. Doug couldn’t help feeling like he’d somehow disappointed them. What a pathetic last thought to have. At least now the edges of his vision were growing dark, so hopefully the horrible gagging wouldn’t last much longer.

Just as he was getting ready to stop feeling anything, Cocaine took one more step forward, pocket knife in hand, and cut him down.

He might have passed out momentarily anyway; he really wasn’t sure. But the next thing he knew he was on the floor, hacking up a mixture of mucus and spit—maybe there was a little blood mixed in there too. Despite himself, he gasped in a few lungfuls of air in between the coughing, then tried to sit up, regain a small amount of dignity, at least. But for a good minute more his arms wouldn’t even support his weight.

“Really, Doug? Really?”

Behind the whining in his ears, he distantly heard her speaking. Of course, it hadn’t been Cocaine who had cut him down, that would be stupid. Cocaine was just a dumb hallucination of a girl he’d known a long time ago.

The daemon who had stolen her face, however, certainly was not.

“How could you possibly be this pathetic?”

He blinked up at Kei, who was still brandishing the pocket knife in his general direction.

“It’s not hard,” he choked out, finally managing to make his way up to his elbows. Mother of fuck did his throat smart.

“I can see that.” Sighing, she put the knife away and grabbed his arm. Somehow, despite Doug’s current floppiness and the slight shaking of his extremities, she managed to wrestle him back onto the blue plastic chair.

Briefly, the thought crossed his mind that helping anyone was out of character for Kei, at least when there wasn’t anything in it for her. That was until he realized that this was not an act of kindness. It was an interrogation.

“So, Doug,” Kei leaned over so her face was level with his. “You wanna tell me why you thought it would be a good idea to kill yourself?”

He opened his mouth to no doubt say something incredibly clever, but Kei had clearly not actually been asking.

“Oh, wait, I know why. Cuz you killed Abigail Hodge and now you’re realizing that you’ve got nothing left.”

Well, she wasn’t exactly right, but she was half-right, he supposed. And he was in no place to explain to her the intricacies of his reasoning, so he just glanced at her sheepishly.

“Ugh, how did I know this was going to happen?” Kei stood again, rubbing the bridge of her nose. “You are such an idiot.”

Doug frowned. “Hey, wait a minute,” he interjected. “I don’t think it’s really your business to judge what I do.”

“That’s funny, Doug. You’re a real comedian.” There was a pause. “Wait, were you being serious?”

She laughed then as his eyes narrowed at her. He would have been happy that at least someone was laughing, but not her. Not at him. He didn’t have to take this anymore. He could laugh at himself all he wanted, but what gave her the right?

“So, what? You cut me down just to laugh at me?” he glared up at her.

“No, that’s just a nice bonus. See I’m laughing at you because you’re a selfish prick.”

“Excuse me?”

“You thought you were gonna track her down, stab the crazy bitch and then dip? Sure, all well and good. Normally, I wouldn’t give a single shit how you decide to go flushing your life down the toilet. But there’s just one. Little. Problem.” She leaned back in so close she could have bitten his nose off. “We had a deal. Remember?”

Doug sat back. His brain was still a little foggy. But now that he thought about it, that was ringing some bells, yes.

“Yeah, all coming back to you now? You’ve got nothing to live for, huh? Oh, you’ve got something to live for, alright. I’ve spent all this time working my ass off to make sure that your perfect little revenge went off without a hitch, that little Ms. Horndog Hodge got your knife—”


“—But you still haven’t done a single thing to fulfill your end of the bargain. And my deals are binding. You will do what you promised. You dying just makes it slightly more inconvenient for me.”

“The implications of that make me exceptionally uncomfy.”

“Yeah, no shit.”

But now Doug frowned. He did vaguely remember making some sort of arrangement with her, but the last couple of months were… well, a haze of blood rage and paranoia mostly.

“And you have no idea what we even agreed on, do you?” She read his mind.

“Listen, I could give you all the excuses in the world, but in the end, you’re just gonna call me names again, so why bother?”

Kei looked like she was about to say something, but then she just shook her head, looking annoyed. “I can’t believe I’ve been reduced to being a child’s babysitter.”

“You knew exactly what you were getting into,” Doug retorted. “So, considering that you’ve been putting up with my ‘pathetic’ ass this whole time, you must really want me for something. Um, what exactly was it again?”

“I haven’t told you yet,” she admitted.

In that moment, it wasn’t himself that Doug wanted to strangle. “Well, no fucking wonder I don’t remember! Just when were to planning on enlightening me? Waiting for the most dramatic moment, perhaps?”

“So what if I was?”

“And? Frankly, I don’t think you’re going to be able to top this one.”

Kei clenched her hand into a fist, but took a deep breath. “You know what? If it keeps you from doing anything else stupid, then fine. I’ll tell you.” She huffed, folding her arms over her chest. “You’d better pack your bags, cuz it’s finally time to get the hell out of this shitty little backwater.”

As Doug listened to her plan, he first frowned. Then he shook his head in disbelief. Finally, when she finished, he broke out into hysterical laughter.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” he managed in between fits. “I just realized that this whole time I’ve thought that you were the sane one in this little posse, but all along, you might have been even fucking crazier than I am.”

The words that had just left her mouth were so insane that even with everything he’d been through and seen, Doug thought she might be drinking copious amounts of piss. But why not? Why the fuck not? Maybe it was the irreparable mercury damage to the brain talking, but this stupid plan of hers actually, genuinely sounded so ridiculous that he kind of wanted to see where it was going. And besides, he guessed that he was under contract to do whatever she said for the time being, anyway.

A part of him wished, ultimately, that he’d gone through with the whole killing himself thing. But as he continued to sit there, still being alive, still breathing, another part of him realized that maybe he was being a goddamn idiot. Sure, he hadn’t been wrong. As long as he was alive, Abigail could never be gone, not really. However, she had to have known this. She was too much of a self-centered bitch to not have planned her own death right into the center of Doug’s torture. That being said, wouldn’t it be the biggest fuck you of all right back at her if he kept on living anyway?

In the corner of his eye, the three dead girls were still watching him, but they were further away now, more mist than persons. Though through that haze, he could have sworn that he saw Conscience smile, just a little. The curtain had not gone down completely on this fucked-up thing he called his life, not yet. So just as he always did, why not keep moving forward for just a little longer? Might as well annoy Kei as much as he could while he was at it. She was going to regret not letting him kill himself, but only in the most petty and annoying ways possible. Just for fun.

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Oh yeah it's about to get a little silly

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