Choose Your Own Adventure


gillian_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title Choose Your Own Adventure
Synopsis Joseph accidentally spoils the ending. All the endings.
Date March 26, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

A church wouldn't normally be the first option for a moment of quiet reflection. At least not for this young woman. More suited to a library, or a coffee house, the dark hair falls around her face, bangs long enough to begin to touch her eyes, hanging across her forehead and covering up the scar that cuts down one side. Gillian's head is tilted back, looking up to the light fixtures. The place isn't warm, but it is quiet now. The later service ended a while ago. People shaking each other's hands, seeing each other out, and she's made no move to stand and leave yet.

In the very back corner, far from the door, she sits in silent. The psalms book remains untouched, she had been seated through the entire service. Seated and silent both. The only movement from her, movement that continues, is a shifting of her hands. A necklace, one of the few pieces of jewelry she saved from her apartment, the first, the second, the third, and finally the house she stayed in in Staten Island. The chain is idly played with, as she looks up.

For once, she's not tying up the knot in the back of her head. Nothing has tugged on it yet here, so she's taking the time to relax.

People take the heat with them. After the flood— well, the trickle of congregation, their arrival and subsequent departure, the bone-deep cold starts to leak back in, niggling between cracks in the stone walls, the spaces between doors, windows, faults in the roof. Joseph rubs the palms of his hands together, using the friction to warm them as he moves from where he'd shut, but not locked, the front door. Shaking hands. Asking names. Subtly getting people to promise to come back next week in the nicest way possible, all smiles and warmth.

They could use more people, and Joseph believes more people could use them.

He starts collecting up the psalms books, starting from the front. Some have been touched. Others ignored if only because there weren't enough sets of hands in today to grip them. Stubbornly refusing to put out less despite the senior pastor's warnings, because you never do know. He moves through the rows, collecting them lazily and only then does he notice not everyone has filtered out.

"Oh, evening," he says from a few rows away, even as he picks up another book and adds it to his small stack. "Didn't see you there." He's dressed as one can expect him to dress - a cream toned suit over a white shirt, buttoned high but no tie in sight. A wedding ring, a fairly simple brown-strapped watch, and neat if cheap shoes on his feet. His glasses are folded and tucked into his breast pocket, frameless glass peeking out enough to glint off the light.

Looking down from the ceiling, Gillian's eyes drift to the pastor, looking him over once. He'd been up at the podium. She may not be paying total attention to all the words said, the songs sung, she does recognize his face. And the clothes, the glasses. There's no motion to stand, but she does put her feet down from the back of the pew in front of her, where there's a small intent. Where her feet had been propped for a while.

"Sorry. Was just… sitting for a bit. I can leave now," she says. It sounds like her mind is preoccupied, elsewhere. So many people have questions, thoughts, concerns and worries. Maybe the church is the natural place to go to for getting them off of heavy shoulders.

"I haven't been to a church in a few years," she admits, shifting the chain in her hand around. A pendant is on the end of it, a silver cross. "My mom used to go a lot— used to take me and my siblings." Odd that she feels the need to say that to a stranger. "Do I need to go?"

He continues his journey through the rows, the leaflets collected up with patience and some reverence - he's careful not to curl the edges or spill them from his hands. "No, no," Joseph is quick to say, coming to the end of the row and placing the stack on the edge to put away later. For now, he's placing his hands on his waist for want of a place to rest them, casting Gillian a smile and a more studying look. "We don't typically shut the doors 'til an hourish from now. Y'welcome to stick around." The only jewelry he happens to be wearing is a wedding band of gold, and cufflinks of the same colour with engraved crosses, small and discreet, only eyecatching when the light gets there first.

The accent is Tennessean if to be accurately identified, but not particularly overt, vaguely inoffensive and mild even in contrast to the New Yorker voices he has to compete with. The sermon went over alright. Forgiveness through God, for God, by God. Amen. He rounds around the rows until he's in the same one as Gillian, but still with a foot in the aisle, presence as inoffensive as his accent.

"We get a few types coming around who haven't stepped foot in a church in a while. How'd you find it?" And because that can be taken literally, Joseph amends with, "How'd you like it."

"I saw a flyer, I think," Gillian says, glancing to the doors as if unsure that's the correct answer. It's close enough. "I was taking a walk," The safehouse that Teo stashed her in happened to be nearby, but she had been out walking at the time. "Saw one while I was out, snuck in after the service started." There's a shrug of her shoulders. Shifting in her seat, she puts the necklace away into her pocket. As he gets closer, she doesn't look intimidated, or concerned. Then again he's about as unintimidating as they come.

"Do you really think all that stuff… forgiveness… do you think it works? Can people be forgiven for things that they do… or have done… or helped do? Can anyone— even God— really forgive something like that?"

These are the kinds of questions that she can't help but ask herself. So many people are dead set against forgiveness, so hearing a point of view for it…

His eyebrows lift a little just after the word works comes into play, vague amusement without being condescending, or so is the intent. "I dunno about works," he says, looking out towards the raised area where the podium stands, the leaflets clasped between two hands before he's moving to resume picking up the little books. "That implies having forgiveness do something for you, and that depends on what you expect, don't it? God forgives all because He wants to forgive. He wants us all to be closer to Him - each and every one - and forgiveness is the most important thing. Lot of people see it as a selfish act, t'make themselves feel better and you know, it does that."

He takes his glasses out from his pocket, opens up the arms a little and inspecting the glass rather than the girl. The hem of his jacket is used to clean off the particles of dust, the smeary fingerprints. "But in the end it's for God. We owe it to Him to owe it to ourselves." All of this is delivered easily, as if it were second nature. If it comes across preachy, well— it's in the job description.

There's a hint of a nose scrutch as he speaks, but the more said, the less Gillian's expression seems to mock it. It makes sense. Forgiveness can be selfish. It can be just to make someone feel better about things they have done, or helped do. But… "Ourselves," she repeats thoughtful, voice raspy, raspier than sometimes due to the cold chill in the air constricting her throat. Could also be cigarettes that caused such a thing, but she doesn't smell of them right now. Maybe in her younger youth.

"I just— there's a lot of people out there who look at someone and think they can't ever be anything beyond what they have been… even if they weren't always like that. What they did is all they are and all they ever will be… and yet at the same time, they'll forgive someone who did something just as bad, if not worse…" She shakes her head.

"I guess people aren't as… close to God… as God would want them to be." It's strange talking about God. There's that nose scrutch again. "I'm not really… good at this stuff. I guess you could say I'm a little lost. There's stuff I'm supposed to do, stuff I need to do, and not everyone, not even the people who are important to me, would agree with it. And I sometimes wonder if they're right.

"…I'm used to talking to bartenders and not pastors," she suddenly adds with a laugh.

His line of sight finds its way back to Gillian as she speaks, and gives a chuckle, too, at her last sentiment. "Iii… could've said the same thing when I was your age," Joseph says, tone off-handed and self-deprecating, deviating from the lecturing tone of his voice, more conversation. Two easy modes to switch between, back and forth, when one's needed.

"And for someone who's lost, you sure did find your way here okay," he adds, with a slight shrug from one shoulder. "Hopefully it help. Is helping, or will. I dunno how much at the start you missed, but my name's Joseph, by the way."

The fact that he's talking on a conversational tone, and not insulting the whole… bartender thing… it makes Gillian smile faintly. This brings out her dimples as her eyes start to follow him the closer that he gets. "It might've. I still don't know how I'm going to deal with… certain people… if they decide to tell me I can't do what I think I need to do. But that doesn't mean I won't do it anyway."

There's a stubbornness to her smile as she moves to stand up finally, planting her feet on the floor and grabbing a bag that sat next to her. She gathers up the pamplets and books around her, bringing them the distance between them and holding them out.

"Gillian," she responds simply, leaving out last names, but seeing no reason to slip into one of her disguise names. They seem dumb half the time.

They're talking in generalities and as certain as Joseph can be in his beliefs and the advice he dispenses, it's hazy ground when the subject itself is masked. He gives a reserved 'mm' at her words, gently agreeing that in general, yes, it's good to do what you think is right.

Generally. In the aisle, Joseph pauses when she goes to collect up the last of the literature on her row, smile deepening a little in gratitude as she moves to hand these over. "Thank you," he says, taking these and tucking the papery stack beneath one arm, in order to free up the other hand, offering the handshake as he's done so many times today. Clean hands and not ones that haven't seen toil, it seems - there's a couple of scars here and there, the skin of his fingers calloused from guitars and woodwork. A little at odds, perhaps, with the rest of the shiny, saintly demeanor, although hard work is in itself saintly, in a sense. "It's nice to meet you, Gillian."

"Nice to meet you t— " That's as far as she gets when their hands touch. Palms lock briefly, fingers meet. There's a flash in the young woman's eyes, a glimmer. If God gave a purple glow, then someone might consider it to be the light of God. That knot she hadn't paid attention to isn't in existance. Gillian had chosen to let it lax. The surge of energy pours out of her, flooding into the man. She feels it. There's a sudden awareness of what has happened…

And then everything else slams out of context.

The glow in her eyes isn't just there, the hand she's unconsciously clasping to also glows, as does hers. A shared energy between them, something she can't think to break.

The bag drops off of her shoulder, falling to the floor. The first round of images makes her arm shake, her body tense up. It's already begun. Present sound disappears. Sight fails. What she sees, what she hears, are not what occures around her.

A sudden jerk, like she got struck in the chest sends her falling backwards the glow fading from her hand, but not her eyes, which remain open. The thrashing soon follows. One vision? No. Not one. Not this time. Not for her. Willingly given to her? Not that either. Something else happens to be at work here.

No scream passes through her lips, just gasped attempts to breathe. It's not a short experience, either.

That's never happened before. Joseph's gaze jerks down to their joined hands and the preternatural glow radiating from the contact, his own arm jerking in an aborted attempt at yanking away as his mouth parts in a silent reaction. But it doesn't hurt, so he keeps a grip, even when he looks up to see the low, purple glow emiting from the center of her eyes.

"Oh— my goodness— Gillian?"

But she's gone, in the way others just go, but he didn't do anything, he doesn't think he did anything— as the woman suddenly crumples, all of those neatly stacked leaflets go falling too in a small avalanche of prayers and songs. Joseph even treads and slips on them as he moves for the woman's side. Whatever she's seeing… it's terrifying. The worst he's encountered it seems.

"George! Pastor George!" he yells out, voice already going raw at the sudden shout, from speaking for over an hour and now screaming. But there's no reply from the offices and he can't remember if the senior pastor went home or not— Joseph moves to try and still Gillian, stop her from hurting herself.

That's not easy when she sees herself get hit by a truck. Get shot through the chest, twice, in broad daylight. An explosion beating out the windows not so far away from her, arms up to escape the debris. A child, reaching up small hands to be picked up, a joyous laugh and smile. The impact of the car she's in suddenly swerving, smashing into a wall. Men in black fatigues suddenly crashing through a doorway, guns pointed and there's no where to go.

Events. Moments. Significant. Painful. Joyful. Disgusted. Faces she recognizes flash through her visions. Faces she does not. The teleporter who left to the south. A face that should be scarred, but is not. The man in charge of Phoenix while the boss is locked away. Gabriel. Her brother. The captured wind. The know-it-all cat. The old man theorist. The old man in the bed, standing on his feet. So many faces. More she doesn't know, some she recognizes fleetingly.

Sometimes they are positive, helpful, lovers, friends. Sometimes they are negative, hateful, hurting, killing. Often killing her. Flickers and flashes so fast she can't grasp them completely, so harsh that she can't stop trashing. Finally a yell breaks through, a pained sound at a particularly vivid image of her own demise. The sight. The sound. It's all enough to send an illusion of pain, a sympathetic response.

The pastor keeps her from banging her head against the pew in a particularly violent thrash as she tries to get away. The softer images, the nicer sights are too soon followed by something terrible. There's no medium. No rest.

They're supposed to last a few minutes at most. It lasts much longer.

Each step she takes could lead to her death, each decision could take her on the road to her last.

The only relief comes when the light in her eyes finally goes out, when sight returns, hearing. She stops making whimpered sounds. The ceiling is there again. It's not falling on her. It's not shifting to something else. But someone will have a mess to clean up as she rolls away from the hands against her, and empties what meal she happened to have on the nicely cleaned carpets. Probably not the first time this has happened in the church. But probably the only time it's happened like this.

His hands go out, then withdraw when the woman's back curls under the strain of being sick all over his carpet. Also a first. Joseph shuffles back for a moment before again, shuffling closer. Almost like a dance of indecision. He reaches out to draw her hair back, making a soft, hopefully soothing sound. No words, unsure of what to say, still blinking and bewildered and wondering if there are cleaners that come out this late at night.

"Here, you stay right there, I'll— " Go be useful. Leaving behind the scattered leaflets surrounding them both, Joseph is moving from the main area of the church and disappearing at a hurry around a corner. Perhaps giving Gillian a chance to collect herself, as well as return with a box of tissues and a glass of water. Both of these he puts on the edge of a pew, and goes to offer her a hand up.

"Here you go, are you okay honey? I'm so sorry, that's— " Mortified, is a good word of the emotion managing to break through the earnest concern. "That's never happened— quite like before, here let me help you…"

Stupid. Fucking. Handshakes. Gillian's seen the effects on other people, but it never quite… How could she be so stupid. How could she just walk right into it again. God— she had a kid somewhere in there, didn't she? There'd been a brief porn section of some kind, too. Faces, bodies and features bluring together. Definitely not appropriate for a church. And the multiple deaths. Dozens and dozens of different ways. Still reeling from the vision, she's barely managed to get up on her knees again when the man comes back with water and tissues.

The hand gets a long, suspicious look, hesitant.

Only once she's sure she can feel the knot in the back of her head does she reach up, take the hand. She immediately wipes out her mouth with the tissues, a disgusted look to her face until she can drink some of the water. A bitter gulp, but it goes down.

"Always walk right into it," she rasps thickly, even raspier than she'd been minutes ago. "What's it— what's it supposed to be like?"

"It's…" A hard question, is what. Having never seen it for himself, with the accounts of others to rely on. Joseph's calm and earnest demeanor has fragmented into something more nervous, watching her rather than looking at her, and now distancing himself once she's on her feet. "It's usually something I— choose to do, I definitely wasn't intending to— I'm sorry, I really am. Here, siddown." No physical urging, he only touches the back of one of the benches and moves aside, eyebrows seeming to have now permanently knitted into a concerned expression.

Maybe he should have stayed home after all. Nothing works the same way as it used to, not here. "What you saw was— the future, I guess, if— " He clenches his teeth together, clearly frustrated with his own stammering and uncertainty, and moves to sit down as well in the pew in front of her, turned to look at her with his arm folded on the back of it. "I touch people, they see the future. A future," he's quick to add, because if there was any indication there, what she saw was not particularly pleasant.

Oh if only he knew.

There's a laugh as Gillian settles back onto the pew. It's bitter, probably as bitter as the drink that she forced herself to take. A future. Nothing ever works how it's supposed to, not around her. But this. A hundred ways to die, all because of choices she makes, decisions she pushes. For reasons she doesn't know, it didn't give her that. It always seemed clear that she pretty much walked right into it. Tomorrow, a week from now, a month, a year, five years, ten years, twenty years… no matter the time frame, no matter her age.

"I need to— go. It's fine, it's… I just need to go."

There's definitely nothing steady about her even as she moves to reach for her bag, has to look down at the… "Sorry about…" Oh he knows, she gestures. There's no attempt to finish. Leaving means she won't have to help clean it up, right?

The future. Pieces of futures. Starting to slip away. Blur together like a bad clipshow in a movie.

She could dissolve him of blame, tell him it's her fault. There's a moment (not long) when she considers it. "I'll… see you later." If she survives the next decision she makes, at least.

He doesn't go to stop her, or even stand up as is polite to wish her goodbye. His gaze wanders towards his own hands, the glow, he'd made her eyes glow, and their hands… Nothing works the way it should. His hand goes up to pinch the bridge of his nose for a moment, before she's delivering her noncommittal goodbye and Joseph just nods, mutely.

It's really only when she's moving through the pews to make for out that Joseph stands up, holding out an imploring hand though she's far too far away for it to be an offer of further physical contact. That hand settles at his side again. "Listen, I can— if you do come back, I think I owe it to you to help you figure out…" The normally so articulate man trails off, gestures vaguely. Things.

"You at least find an answer?"

With the bag pulled over her shoulder, Gillian isn't running to the door, but she's definitely walking briskly, leaving the glass and tissues behind on the pew that she sat on. It's possible she would have ran if she could have. That's not exactly an option. The voice draws her back even if the hand doesn't catch her. Glancing over her shoulder, she meets his eyes for a moment. "I guess."

A hundred ways to die. A hundred possibilities. Those might be exaggerations, but it puts things… in perspective. If only she knew exactly what led to what. "Maybe next time… it'll work the way it should." Next time, she won't be a fucking idiot. "And you can help me piece together a future." Rather than try to figure out all the pieces of futures that slammed into her mind.

At least now she knows how Eve felt. She turns around and shuffles quickly the rest of the way to the door. And then… she's going to need a cab.

Joseph only nods silently, mouth pulling into a forced and rueful thin-lipped smile, waiting until he hears the door open and close before sinking back down to sit, hands placing on knees clad in dark cream fabric. He has a lot of cleaning up to do, and it's not something he's rushing to do.

Maybe it's this city. This time and place. Bad futures leaving people glassy eyed and stammering. It can't be entirely his fault - except that she never asked for it. He stays where he is for a while, until reflections turns into procrastination. In all fairness, that takes a while, before moving to clean up the mess they both, in a sense, made.

<date>: previous log
<date>: next log
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License