Logs:Forty Winks - Introductions

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Forty Winks - Introductions

Characters: Alabama, Ajax, Ashton, Lambert, and Jacob as ST
Date: 2020-08-02
Summary: Trouble sleeping leads a couple of ghouls and a couple of changelings to come together and discover the most refreshing sleep of their recent lives. At what cost, though?
Disclaimers: Some implied violence


They all call the number. They get directed to an address. Show up at X location at X time. The X location seems a bit out of the way. In fact, it leads them to a manor house on the outskirts of town. Then again, how surprising is that? Rehab retreats and other studies use the same sort of backdrop. And there's a sign out front reading 'Meyer's Sleep Institute'. It seems legit. In fact, there was paperwork sent to those who signed up (to the address they gave) and they were told to bring out the filled forms with them. It's legit. Right?

The major is an old house with expansive grounds. It's actually rather peaceful, in a somber manner. There's a man waiting at the circular driveway to take their keys, park their cars, and direct them towards the front door. There, they are met by a staff member who gives them a key with a room number and directs them to wash up, get comfortable, and come back down at 8pm to the dining room for the official study briefing.

The rooms are decent. Modern, comfortable, nothing spooky. Private bathrooms to prepare in.

The dining room is easy enough to fine, laid out well, brightly lit. The mural overlooking the head seat is somewhat dark, but everything else is light. Namecards are present. Alabama and Ashton on one side. Ajax and Lambert on the other.

Somehow... Ajax and Alabama figured out they'd signed up for the same crazy sleep study and agree to carpool together. So they walk through the door about the same time. Alabama looks at everything a little skeptically... after all, who does these things anyway, except addicts who are in desperate need of the cash. She's an addict, but not for anything you can buy! Anyway, she takes the key, cleans up in the room then makes her way down stairs so she can take her place at the table. Is she the first one? She hums to herself a little nervously as she looks around and waits.

Lambert bounces on in lightly. He actually walked most of the distance that he could, and after refreshing himself is no worse for it. Despite his rather rotound nature, he likes a good, long walk. A second breakfast. Maybe a pipe of something illegal. He may as well be a hobbit, really - he is not that tall either. But something about him is as sunny as a spring afternoon with free champagne. He has slightly asymetrical features, and warm eyes, with an easy grin and a sensual mouth. He is also wearing an absolutely dashing shade of blue in a shirt, and a white pair of trousers with blue stitching in regular squares on the cuffs. He has little golden caps on his horns, for those who can see them. And he sits at his card - 'Lambert'.

One might ask why Ashton would want to join a sleep study. He's has a job that brings in income on a mostly steady basis, a lack of sleeping disorders and plenty of other obligations he can invest his time in. On the other hand, being paid as much as $2000 just to let people watch him sleep is a pretty sweet deal that won't introduce any real inconvenience to his life, since his work schedule is extremely flexible, being self employed. In addition, and more importantly, he'd never been part of a sleep study, so curiosity prompted him to call the number on the same day that he saw the ad. Life is all about new experiences.

Ashton's arrival and introduction to the manor's services is smooth enough to impress the young man thoroughly. He takes his time cleaning up, settling in, and truth be told, poking around his assigned room to satisfy the same curiosity that brought him into the study. When he finally heads down to the dining area, Ashton's dressed for what he assumes is an evening of formal dining. He has a midnight blue silk shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons, skinny black tie, black slacks and dark gray dress boots. Despite not needing glasses, except sometimes when he's reading, he has a pair sitting smartly on the bridge of his nose for the effect. His black hair is tied back into its usual pony tail, but also slicked with gel to try to prevent stray strands from sticking, which only partially works due to his hair's unique properties. Anyone who knows what he actually looks like would understand why. He also smells strongly of spring rain and growing grass. It's a strange, yet refreshing choice for cologne.

"Wow, this place is so much put together than Jake's..." Ashton mutters to himself while he glances around. "Aha!" He spots his name card and starts moving towards it, his boot heels clicking softly against the floor with each step that he takes. It's also around that time that he spots the other members of the sleep study. "Hi, everyone. I'm Ashton. Nice to meet you all. I guess we'll all be study buddies together!" He greets with an easily smile on his lips. He places his left hand over his right fist and bows at everyone before slipping into his sheet. And he also not so subtly checks out the two other guys in the group, because of course he does.

Ajax is slow to enter, his gaze cast here and there. "I hope they don't kill me because Winter'll kill the fuck outta me," he mutters to the other ghoul. A shrug follows as he starts moving again after entering the building. After a few seconds he finds the name card marked for him, and goes to take seat in front of it. He's still loking around, as much curious as he is anxious in this new place.

Once they're all seated, more or less, the appetizers are served. Cheese, crackers, fried cheese and crackers, bit of vegetables srved with cheese and crackers. There's a theme, and it's a delicious on. Once that's served, a man enters the room. He's dressed in a dark but simple dining jacket that he looks out of place in. He's in his mid-late 50s and has a mix ethnicity. He steps up to the head of the table adn looks at the four who have gathered. He smiles.

"Welcome to the study. It's a little different than most. You will take no medication, you will not be hooked up to any equipment. Sound therapy is what we do. After dinner, you will return to your rooms and simply do what you feel like doing. You may hear some strange sounds. In the morning, we will re-group, share our experiences. Do not worry if you can't sleep. Do not force it. The results will help us to ensure that everyone sleeps better. And for that I thank each and every one of you."

He smiles. "Enjoy tonight. Please fill out the form left in your rooms. And tomorrow, we will regroup over breakfast. Until then, enjoy your dinner. I recommend going to bed early, as well, for most effective treatment."

Soon after, the other courses arrive. Stew, roasted meat, baised vegetables, mased potatoes and squash. Delicious but heavy. Food-coma inducing.

After the man leaves and the main course is served, Alabama looks at all of her 'study buddies' and smirks, and, keeping her voice very low she shares. "Does anyone else feel like this is something like a 'last supper'? She grins and laughs. Because even if she is getting this massive creep-vibe, she's not leaving. That's 2K will get her all sorts of stuff. "I'm Alabama, by the way." She offers an intro then turns to Ajax. "Don't worry -- if Miss Winter tries to murderate you, I'll step in and tell her it was my idea. Then she can murderate us both." Bam laughs.

Lambert likes cheese. If anyone checks, yes, the Satyr does actually eat goat cheese. Think about that, late at night, at 3:00am. Mind you, to the ghouls, he just looks like an ordinary blood bag - if an intensively charismatic and friendly seming one. He likes his second serves. And his third ones. He really likes the meat - if there is any on the bone, that's what he goes for, mostly. He says brightly "That all sounds excellent. Just no panpipes, please - I'm allergic." A big smile and he says brightly "Hellloooo," to Alabama "_My_ name is Lambert Petropolous." Yeah. He spotted a hot girl. He lifts his glass to the man who has entered "What is your name, sir?" Lots of white teeth. Only Ashton sees how sharp they all are. Maybet he man answers before he goes, maybe not "Hello," he adds to the two gentlemen "This is all a lot of fun, right? Free food - and I didn't even have to cook!"

"Great choice of accessories," Ashton complements Lambert with a wink and a pointed look at the gold caps on the satyr's horns that the other sleep study participants probably can't see. He responds to Alabam's comments in the same low voice. "Hey, maybe this is giving off 'Last Supper' vibes, but I'm with Sir Lambert here. Give me free food and you have me for... Ok, not life, but you have my attention for at least that one meal. Maybe you can ask if you can bring something back to this Miss Winter of yours when you ask for that forgiveness? She sounds like a tough boss... caretaker...?" The word "relative" is on the tip of his tongue, but he glances between Ajax and Alabama, who look -extremely- different and holds it for now.

"And there's the food!" The arrival of appetizers has Ashton's eyes lighting up, literally to anyone who can see the pale silver glow that emanates from them. He doesn't waste any time partaking in the cheese heavy food. "Good thing I'm not lactose intolerant. Both my parents were, but I didn't inherit any of that silliness," the young man comments between sampling the various cheese dishes on the table. "Sir Lambert... Sir Lambert... Your name's so familiar and you're obviously part of an... exclusive crowd. You won't happen to be affiliated with Ravenstone Plantation in any way, would you?"

Ashton's chatter pauses when the host steps up to make a speech. A thoughtful noise vibrates deep in Ashton's throat after hearing the explanation of the how the study will work. He even stops eating to concentrate on the details, nodding every so often to indicate that he understands the instructions. "Sounds pretty easy peasy. Maybe I should be joining more sleep studies in the future."

'Breakfast?' Ajax echoes. He hasn't touched the appetizers, but the sight of dinner definitely drtaws his attention. At least until Alabama's suggestion. "I don't- I don't think that'll help either of us." He laughs sheepishly and rubs at the back of his neck before looking to the others. He grabs the name card with his right hand and turns it to the others. "Ajax Freeman, and I know, right? When's free food ever been a bad thing," says the young man not being too mindful of whatever he might put in his mouth.

Once everyone is settling in, the man nods and takes his leave, allowing them to relax and enjoy dinner. There are people around ready to give directions should anyone have trouble finding their rooms but overall they're left alone to enjoy dinner, to mingle with each other, and to explore the manner.

Dinner is good. There's a fair mixture of meat, vegetables, and desserts, all of them heavy and rich. The furniture is all comfortable, luxurious, hard to stay awake on. There's even music, with a stereo system available in just about every room to control it, and a wide range of choices. Tonight, they are all living large. There's something about this place that is just comfortable, relaxing.

After dinner, they have a little time to mingle amongst each other.

With her belly full, Alabama kicks back in one of the big chairs and if an after-dinner drink is offered, she'll definitely take that. Otherwise she simply picks at the desert and yawns a bit, happy to chat and enjoy everyone's company. It's an interesting bunch, for sure! "Okay, before we retire for the evening... should we have like a secret code to get everyone's attention if something bad goes down?" There is really nothing to suggest anything bad might happen. Everything has been good and positive so far, in fact. But Alabama is a suspicous, cynical little ghoul. "Like we could knock morse code against the walls. Or at least knock against the wall -- like 3 times or something? Just in case, you know?" It's a thought, anyway!

'Sir' Lambert? Well, Fairest do sometimes put on airs, and not even Lambert is immune. He beams at Ashton, and he says "Why, _thankyou_." His accent is just faintly Greek. Mostly American, but there is an edge of Olympian to it. He adds "Nice engravings," to Ashton, despite the fact there are apparently none visible. Then he beams, and when he smiles, he can light up a room "Oh yes. I'm the Head Chef there," he says, putting some more food on his already overloaded fork "Michelin Star." He adds "Perhaps you should come over for supper some time. I take requests for the right sort of people."

He turns his head to Ajax, and nods firmly. He may be a three star chef, but free is free - and inclined to make him good natured. If there _is_ alcohol - there might not be for a sleep study? - he goes for that too. Lambert is an indulgent sort. His face goes slack and pleasant, and his dark brown eyes are hooded now - goatish to the other Changeling. He picks up a toothpick to remove a fragment of meat and then he says to Alabama "I'll headbutt the wall three times." Is that amusement? "No brains inside, so it does no damage."

"Oh, fuck! It's your brownies and leftover baba ganoush I've been snatching every time I stay over! I'm that guest of Jake's who keeps emptying out the fridge every few days!" Ashton exclaims with obvious delight at Lambert while he scoops some braised vegetables over the mashed potatoes on his plate. He'd already finished two heaping portions of everything, an odd sight when the person doing the gorging is of Ashton's relatively small stature. "Man, this stuff is good. Not quite nearly as good as your cooking, Sir Lambert, or Gilles', but much more than adequate. I'm so glad I joined this study. Think they'll feed us like this for breakfast too?"

After what seems like an obscene amount of food, Ashton sits back with a happy sigh and pats his stomach, which isn't somehow swollen to twice its size. He doesn't even loosen his belt. "I know there's plenty of horror movies and Internet fiction about sleep studies going terribly wrong, but this seems like a pretty classy institution, Miss Alabama. I'm sure everything will be fine. But if something does try to murder me at night, I'll gladly knock three times on the wall like Sir Lambert suggested. Uhh... with my head. I think mine's a bit more breakable... I'll just use a heavy piece of furniture."

With all that muscle Ajax is not at all a light eater. Like a hungry wolf he digs in, and doesn't look up until he's done. "Jesus," he groans when leaning back in his chair. "I haven't eaten like that since Christmas. I hope they don't feed us like this in the morning or I might not leave. Axe murderers and all." He barks a laugh, although now with the thought put in his mind he starts looking around again. "So, what's this about morse code?"

The bunch of them are allowed their dinner, and it's good. A wide range of food, from meat and potatoes to fancier items, and all of it delightful. They're left alone, to converse, to relax. Music plays in the background and it wouldn't take long for one of them to find the stero and change it up as they like. There's plenty of wine and liquor for those that want it. And no one really bothers them. Someone slips in every now and then to clear plates, to refresh things, but otherwise it's just the four of them.

It's not until midnight that they hear the first gong. Just one, in the distance. Weird, but easy enough to ignore. Fifteen minutes later, there are two gones. In the distance, barely heard over the music and talk. This continues for the next hour or two, as folks socialize. It's distant, but just a little closer each time, each increment adding a gone. But it's background, hardly a bother.

The time does pass, however. And soon it's so that point where a person either needs to go to bed or get in trouble.

Alabama gets the hint. The gong things are not obnoxious, but they are definitely persistent. Finally she rises from the chair, having drank a /lot/ of alcohol and acknowledging this is a sleep study and looks around at her study buddies. "I think that's it. Put a formk in me, I'm done. Night y'all, and ajax, just pound on the wall if anything goes wrong and i'll find you. Any of you. I'll find you. Night night!" And with that she waggles the key in her hand and heads to her room, soon to find her bed and fall easily asleep.

"Well, bed time, lovely conversationalists. I like you all," says Lambert, who is actually happy to go first. He likes all good things in life, and he likes other to enjoy them as well. He's a good speaker, and a good listener, but now it is time to go doze off "I just like headbutting things," he says to Ashton "Feels right, you know?" He has spent a little more time near Ashton than the others. Maybe too much oogling the female ghoul. But like sticks with like. Lambert now pats his belly again and heads up to go to sleep and get into bed. Alas for any nightly shenanigans, he sleeps naked. The bits have to air...and his tail prefers to not be squished all day. Even now it is kinked to one side due to the tyranny of pants. Lambert sleeps the sleep of the party animal - mouth open, snoring. Because he is fairest, it manages to be sweet rather than horrific as it SHOULD be.

Ashton stretches and yawns softly as time goes by and tiredness settles in. Since Lambert's busy oogling the female ghoul a lot of the time, Ashton might have felt obligated to cover the man one. But he also tries to be a little bit more subtle and it might not have been as noticeable. Overall, the socializing as been pretty pleasant overall, considering that they're a group of strangers that just met up, even if Ashton does have a slim connection to one of these strangers beforehand. He even ends up passing his cell phone number to the three other participants of the sleep study, on the optimistic assumption that they might want to keep in contact after the study's over.

"Night you guys. See you in the morning," Ashton says as he gets to his feet. As he starts to head off to bed like Lambert and Alabama, the young man stops to give Ajax a smirk. "Man, food is the way to a man's heart, isn't it? Maybe that's why they're feeding us so well. Get us to ignore the less unpleasant aspects of the study by pampering with delightful meals until we're too loaded with carbs and meat to protest. This job sounds pretty cushy, but you did hear the part they said about weird noises, right? I bet they're going to test out different patterns of white noise and background noise to see how we react to them. Some of those will probably be a bit unpleasant and disruptive towards sleep to people who are sensitive to them."

A little shake of his head and another smirk follows, then Ashton's disappearing into his own room. He doesn't go to sleep right away, even though the heavy food and luxurious surroundings are already having their toll on his concentration. It's a bit of ritual that he reads for at least half an hour before bed, so that's what he does after brushing his teeth and slipping into his pajamas. He eventually passes out with his Kindle lying on the mattress next to him.

Even after that meal Ajax didn't look particularly sleepy. He was still chatting it up until that first gong hit. "Well, that's ominous as fuck." He blinks a few times, turning his gaze to the source of the sounds as if he could see through the walls. It doesn't bring any respite to the young man, and he swallows hard. He stands after the next few gongs and stretches his arms. "Here's to hoping I wake up safe and sound," he jests before leaving to find his way to his own room.

Those that return to their rooms will find themselves lulled by ghe gones. Every 15 minutes they chine, and there's another one. After a while, they become almost comforting. Steady. Yet, there's no belltower nearby. The source the the sound isn't obvious, but the sound itself is so steady that it /must/ be coming from somewhere valid, right?

It continues throughout the night, growing louder and louder. It might well wake the guests up. Yet the rhythm of it is easy enough to fall back asleep to. In fact, when morning comes, basking windows in daylight and waking people up, the guests might discover that while they felt like they were up all night long, they feel move reseted than ever. And while there's a sense of having had dreams, none of them can remember any of them, not right now. They do, however, feel /so rested/. Like they haven't been in years. Everything is so much clearer. Aches and pains are absent. Nothing can hold a person back, not today.

Downstairs, the dining area table is covered with a spread of fruit and bread. And an envelope. It's addresed to 'The Volunteers'. The servants and host are absent. It's just te four of them, although there's plenty of food to enjoy.

It's a miracle how -- those damn things kept waking her up all night, but when the sun rises, Alabama does indeed feel rested. It's an amazing feeling that her current life style never allows for! She is nearly skipping and definitely singing a happy little song on her way down to breakfast. "Guess we didn't need the morse code after all, huh guys?" She laughs. "Whatever they've got going on, they should bottle it -- they're going to be zillioniares!"

Lambert scrubs his face with his fingers - he is freshly shaven. The Universe wants him to sport a goatee, however Lambert does not agree. So he is all neat and showered and now in another bright shirt - this one orange. Grey trousers with white Greek geometric patterning up the outside. Not remembering dreams is...a bit odd for one of his people. He looks just faintly concerned about it. And being what he is - a young Spring Satyr - he never has aches and pains. He is however, fully rested, and so he bounces down. For a 'fluffy' guy, he sure can bounce - athletic. He has energy and a skip to his step. He says "...pretty odd I can't remember anything though. I'm a lucid dreamer - and I got nothing." He picks up an orange and then eyes the envelope "Want to get that?" he says to the others as he tears peel off.

"Fucking weirdest night ever," Ashton speaks into his phone on his way out of his bedroom. "There were all these gongs and chimes. I'm pretty sure that I was only half asleep most of the time, because I kept hearing them. But maybe I was dreaming, because I kind of remembering having some pretty weird dreams too, even if I can't remember any of it. You'd think I'd be dead on my feet this morning, but I feel entirely invigorated, Asher. Maybe you should try out this whole sleep study thing too. Have Samuel 2.0 fly you over and try to sign up. I can introduce you as my twin brother! I mean you sort of are... Uhhh... but we'll have to come up with a plan for how to keep people from murdering you on account of the whole pearl dust and brambles look you're sporting... Oh hey! I see the others. Talk to you later, Asher. Love you."

Ashton approaches the others at a fast clip after pocketing his cell phone. He's apparently going for a more casual look this morning. The glasses are gone, but his hair's slicked back again. His button-down shirt is replaced with a long-sleeve white v-neck shirt and he's wearing a pair of slim black jeans, but he's also sporting the same gray dress boots as the previous night. "Hey, people! Looking good everyone!" He laughs along with Alabama and gives her a thumbs up. "And they're going to feed us and pay us too! We've really hit the jackpot by joining this study."

His smile falters momentarily when he hears Lambert's comment about the lack of lucid dreaming, but snaps back into place quickly. "It was probably just a quirk of the weird noise thing they were doing, Sir Lambert. You feel rested too, don't you?" He keeps smiling cheerfully as he reaches for envelop addressed to the four of them.

"Understatment of the fucking week," Ajax replies. His eyes are lidded over and he moves like a zombie. "I could barely sleep with that damned gong. I thought I was in Hell half the night, and jumped outta my bed thinking something was gonna get me." He sighs, and rubs his face for a few seconds before sitting down. "Don't even know if I wanna eat at this point." He looks to the gathered group for a moment, and then asks, "Y'all mind if I just sleep here? I swear I don't snore."

So refreshing! To wake up feeling this way. As they gather, the gongs start again, but they are fainter, futher away. Still, there is something reassuring about them. The envelope contains four cheques. Each for one thousand dollars. There's a note that reads "You will get the second half at the follow up appointment. Science progresses because of your involvement. You, each and every one of you, make a difference."

And, just like that, they are dismissed. To leave, to go about their business. And each of them will, over the next few days, notice something. They sleep /super/ well. They wake up feeling rested. They can't remember their dreams, but it's worth it, right? And yet... right before falling asleep, they can hear those distand gongs.

And, as days pass, each of the four being to notice something strange, They're being followed. Shadows in the corner of the eye which disappear when you look at them. the feeling of someone watching.

Yet... it doesn't matter. It felt SO good. They slept well for once in their life. The feeling of comfort, of being a part of someting, is strong. And it's more than just some self-help sleep jockey. This one, it feels /right/. There is aboslutely nothing wrong with this plae or this research study. Everything is /perfect/. Holy shit it's perfect.

It was a great experience, one that Ashton's sure he'll repeat at the drop of the hat. Who doesn't enjoy restful nights of sleep that leaves a person feeling like all is right with the world? That's how it is for him, so it must also be the same with the others, despite the initial reaction that Ajax had. But the days go on and his inability to remember all his dreams continue, the young man begins to get slightly suspicious. Yes, everything feels -perfect-, yet... there are those shadows that flicker at the corner of his eyes and he also begins to remember bits and pieces of at least one recurring dream.

A few days afterwards, each of the other three sleep study participants will receive a group text message from Ashton:

<<Hey, guys. I know this might come off a little odd, but... Can you text me back if any of you are getting the weird feeling that you're being followed? And does anyone else keep dreaming about a dark, faceless figure every night?>>

Two minutes afterwards, a second text message joins the first in the group chat:

<<You know what? Nevermind. I'm probably just watching too many horror movies. Should have known better after the horror movie jump scare I had a few weeks back. Sorry, guys!>>

Lambert does not, it has to be said, miss the dreams of running down and hunting herbivore-changelings in Arcadia. Nor the puzzled, broken faint memories of his Keeper and his rules and laws and strange brutalities. He might even associate waking well with lack of those strange nightmares. It sure feels bad to not be in the good parts of the Dream, but that might be btter than the worse....

Lambert does however, not react well to shadows in the corners. And given what he is, instead of running, he stands up, and tries to pugilise them. But alas, they are not there. He does, however, text back <<No. Uh. I think things are a little weird. No dreams is weird - for me, man. But I guess I'm nicely rested, and that's good. Come around to find me in the kitchen, sometime...>>

He may have felt refreshed and feel great after every night, but Ajax still remains haunted by that gong. Luckily, it might not be in his dreams since he won't remember that at least. When the message comes from Ashton he immediately gets a text back from the ghoul.

<<Not any more than normal. Sure there's someone after you?>>

You all sleep /so well/. Soo much better than you have in years, even. You hear the dong, dong, dong of that bell tolling, but it's reassuring. Lambert and Ajax come to love it, come to embrace it. Nothing is wrong. This is the best they've felt in years. The /best/. To question it would be almost sacriligeous.

And there's Ashton. It's all good. Everything is so good. Even the fact that they've left the manor and are all at their homes is ok. Even the fact that ever 15 minutes they hear a distance gong, that's ok. It's all ok. Theyu've never felt so rested.

They can sleep, finally. They /can/ sleep. But, late at night, with the lights turned off, they catch glimpses of /something/ in the shadows. Something moving. Something watching.

And, oddly enough, it's Ashton who first sees it. Like the others, he sees shadows shifting. He's had some of the best sleep of his life. But he sees... a shadow. It draws his attention. And, before his eyes, that 'shadow' of a man violently hammers another shadow's skull in. It's like a shadow show, but there's no denying it. One shadow just brutally obliterated another shadow's head and then, for a brief moment, seemed to look /straith at/ Ashton. And then it was gone, into the shadows.

And Ashton isn't the only one. Over the next few days, the others start to see it. Always out of the corner of their eyes. Violent crimes. Passionately brutal. But always in the shadows. And when one looks, it's gone.