The most prominent smell in the apartments is difficult to say. There's a mix of something rancid, which really isn't too different than the rest of the town so far. Still, it's damp and the wood creaks under their feet uncomfortably. Several things have either urinated, bled, died, or all of the above in this place, and somehow with even that description in mind it's not enough to capture just how ungodly it is.

It's hard to see and it's cramped in the hallways. They're stuck in single file, and Demyx finds himself uncomfortably in the middle, gritting his teeth as Saix is practically up against him and breathing down his neck. He doesn't want to squirm closer to Marluxia as they continue on, but he doesn't like at all how close they're all together. Demyx has never been claustrophobic, but he suspects he's going to develop that real soon. There's a dumb fear in him that's screaming that the walls will collapse at any second, but no matter how much the floors groan under them, he doubts it.

So far, they're lucky; the radio hasn't shrieked static in awhile, though a bit earlier on in the hallway they had the glory of facing off with rather skeletal-looking creatures that makes him think of the Dusks. The thought is uncomfortable, and he doesn't like so far how much the Heartless so far seem to be far creepier than anything they've experienced.

Being practically defenseless doesn't help, of course. Even though Demyx has the lead pipe in his hands, swinging it wildly at an enemy isn't so easy.

Saix, of course, bludgeons things like a pro -- which is a good thing, Demyx supposes, but he keeps in mind exactly whose fault it is that they're stuck like this. Not that IX can harbor the anger, if he feels even that. No heart, no anger -- but he's certain he's at least annoyed.

Either way, the diviner has been fairly silent.

They're wandering, mostly, even if Marluxia has a map. Most of the doors they've tried so far are locked, and the few they've managed open have offered very little in the way of clues and supplies. At best, they've discovered rotten food, and that's it.

Demyx has the distinct feeling they're going to be here awhile until they can get to the other side.

At various doors that are locked, Saix has tried brute force to kick it down or knock it open, but any attempts do not work. He has simply shrugged to them and remarked that if they are closed, they are meant to be closed.

IX suspects this is code for "you can't do any better than that, so don't try."

Since they've arrived and wandered in Silent Hill, estimating a length of time is difficult, but it's been a few hours, Demyx expects. Eventually, he's discovering a very difficult problem, and it expresses itself in a loud grumble in his rather empty stomach.

Marluxia only stops to give him a look over his shoulder.

"I didn't think our mission would take this long," Demyx defends himself. "Come on, aren't either one of you hungry?"

"It would be best to pause and get our bearings," Saix suggests. "Unless, of course, you oppose, Marluxia."

If it's up to XI, then Demyx has doubt that they'll pause at all. The musician tries not to look disappointed that Saix is seriously allowing Marluxia to make the call. For a moment, the plant-shaper raises a brow, as if he's not sure about taking either of them seriously -- but then, Demyx hears something unusual.

Someone's stomach growling. It almost makes Demyx twitch from all of the creepiness they've endured so far, but he knows it's a normal enough sound. Marluxia's expression goes flat, and the musician tries not to grin at him; obviously, XI is just as hungry as he is.

"If we find something edible, then fine," the assassin responds.

Silently, Demyx gives a little cheer.

The next room they take to is on the left-hand side; the interior carries the same rotten appearance as the rest of the damned place. The table is overturned, broken in half with various pieces scattered, as if something had landed or was thrown against it. There's blotches of black gunk staining it, almost fresh-looking. Marluxia noticeably wrinkles his nose in disgust; he and Demyx stay where they are as Saix approaches to look it over. He holds up the end of his crowbar, which is covered in the splatters of the Heartless-like creatures they've run into before.

"I'd say company is nearby," the berserker murmurs.

Demyx frowns. "But the radio--"

"Keep on you toes anyway," Saix advises. He pries off one of the legs to the table, thin on the bottom and thick on top with a couple of nails sticking out of it, like a crudely made bat. Standing, he holds it out to Marluxia, who simply gives him a look.

"So you want me to swing this around in my best impression of you?" XI asks, not quite sneering but certainly close to it. "This isn't much my style."

"Perhaps you should follow Demyx's example and keep your mouth shut and simply do what you must to survive," Saix suggests sharply. "At this rate, there's no telling how long we'll be wandering this place until we get to the antique shop."

Demyx can't tell if that's a compliment or not, so he decides frowning is the best expression.

Marluxia snorts. "If you think I'm going to--"

There's static screaming to life, but not from the radio. The TV against the wall is suddenly on; though the screen is cracked, the image isn't much distorted -- not that there's anything to see but snow. There's a muffling sound, like a voice trying to speak up from the television.

Demyx winces and covers his ears as the radio starts to react, a high-pitched sound coming from it along with the usual static crackling along. Marluxia might be wincing -- Demyx can't tell -- but Saix hasn't moved from his spot, staring intently at the screen.

There's an image that seems to struggle to be seen -- a person. It's not clear, a mop of stringy hair framing a man's face. Lips are moving, words can barely be heard.

Slowly, VII advances to the television, kneeling down and scowling as he reaches out to touch the screen. "You...?" Saix murmurs.

"Don...kitch... go in th..." the voice can barely make out.

Demyx is still gritting his teeth against the noise from the radio, not able to hear much of anything -- much less the man speaking on the TV.

It's suddenly clear, both the image and the words; the man has dried blood splattered across his badly shaved face, tired but determined eyes, and he shouts through the static,

"DON'T GO IN THE KITCHEN!!"

IX stumbles back from the sudden shout; Saix stands away, as if startled, though by the man's face or the words the musician can't tell. The radio barely dies down, the high-pitched sound gone but the familiar fuzzy noises staying.

There's an ungodly squealing noise from the direction of the kitchen, and the musician can't help but freeze and he's certain that neither Marluxia nor Saix know quite what to make of this. They aren't moving either, though the diviner is looking towards where the sound came from, squinting faintly and clutching his crowbar much more tightly.

Eventually, Marluxia is turning to the kitchen, as if to purposefully disobey the strange warning from the television. Demyx wants to snap at him and not do something that'll get them in a tight spot, but he doesn't find it in himself to say anything, much less move, though he hears Saix giving a growl and moving to stop the assassin.

"He said not to go in there," VII hisses at him, trying to ignore the sound of something wriggling around in the kitchen, as well as an increasing sound of something banging against metal.

Marluxia prefers to act like it's not giving him an unsettling feeling. "We don't even know who 'he' is, much less if we take a warning like that seriously. And I am tired of you giving me orders, Saix, especially when all of this is your fault anyway."

The diviner can't argue that. He gives an annoyed sigh and steps away from Marluxia.

Eventually, Demyx's legs start to work finally. He stumbles after Marluxia, who is shining the flashlight towards the noises, and the radio only becomes louder. Around the corner, he looks and he sees--

It's that pyramid thing again, moving enough to bang the Heartless-like monster against what looks like an oven. The way the pyramid thing moves is far too suggestive; the monster dripping the black, oily gunk is the one making the squealing noise--

Until the pyramid thing is tearing it in half.

Demyx is stumbling back before either one of them, his appetite gone in a flash as his stomach rolls uncomfortably in him. The only reason he's not vomiting, he bets, is because he hasn't eaten in awhile, but he's gagging and holding his mouth anyway. The image is still not gone from his mind.

Saix seems to do the smart thing, and he's booking it out of the room, slamming the door shut. The noise is loud enough to put sense back into Marluxia and he's turning around to leave, grabbing Demyx by the hood and dragging him along; he's sure the timing couldn't be better as he hears the pyramid thing start to move in slow, heavy steps towards them.

The door slams shut behind Demyx with the flat of Marluxia's boot. Saix is leaning against the wall, holding his head in one hand, muttering, "How did it get here so fast...?"

"Who the hell cares?" Demyx manages to sputter out. "We need to get out of here; I don't think any amount of swinging a pipe will hurt that thing! And-- uh, ugh." He's not throwing up, he's not, but he doubles over and holds his stomach. He can't tell what part of him is faking emotion and what part is actually fearfully disgusted, but he's certain memory has to do with it and that's enough to make him feel sick.

The radio has gone quiet for now, but it's not comforting. Marluxia gives him a light shove and it's enough to wake Demyx up to move.

"We'll find a room that locks, then," the assassin says. "If it has actual food, all the better."

No one argues the idea. Saix closes his eyes and nods, and Demyx doesn't do anything, but his nerves are humming and he's ready to just leave this damned place.

Marluxia is taking lead again, but his stride is a little less arrogant now.

They wander, mostly, or as much as they can in a straight hallway like this. All the doors so far are already locked or have no lock to them. When they stop in front of a door to try it, Marluxia stops, noticing a note taped to it. He pauses, then tears it off. Giving it a look, he shrugs and offers it to the other Nobodies behind him.

"I don't understand it," the assassin remarks. "Probably nonsense."

Demyx takes it, and he knows Saix is staring over his shoulder to read it.

Abstract Illusions Can't Work.

"What?" Demyx mutters. It doesn't make sense.

Saix is moving away, looking at the door Marluxia took the note down from. His fingers trace over the numbers: 302.

"We should go inside," the diviner says. "Demyx, let me have that."

The musician shrugs and hands the note to VII. "All yours. Does it make sense to you?"

"Not really," Saix admits, neatly folding the note and putting it into his coat. He offers no other explanation, and Demyx supposes he'll have to just accept that.

The door creaks as Marluxia opens it, glancing around inside before he steps in. The other two follow him, listening to the assassin announce, "Well, it seems to have a lock."

After they're all inside, Saix shuts it and turns the lock. Turning the knob, he gives the door a try, and nods satisfactorily as it stays shut. Even more relieving, the radio stays quiet, and there seems to be no sign of much besides the usual rank smell and appearance of the room. It's not quite as sparse as the others, though just as broken down. A couch, stray chairs -- there's even a bulletin board with various news articles pinned against it, all fairly old-looking.

Demyx is hesitant to step towards the kitchen. He still feels sick, especially with the thought in mind of what they found last time.

"I'll look," Saix volunteers. "Demyx, go and see if you can find anything useful."

The musician glances to him, then nods a little. Some activity might help calm his nerves, he supposes.

Marluxia seems either bored or easily distracted; he's turned away, looking at a desk littered with papers, the only thing really standing out being a framed photo. Not that Demyx is really paying attention; he turns and looks over the bulletin board.

The clippings are various and Demyx can't keep his attention to it, mostly because they don't seem too important and he feels squeamish as it is. Reading about a little girl being a burn victim and some guy named Isaac Stone committing suicide isn't precisely comforting to him. He turns away from the board and sets about exploring the room, though in the end he finds little to be useful to their situation.

Eventually, Saix returns, tossing a bag of potato chips at the musician; IX almost doesn't catch it, looking inside and feeling relief that the food isn't rotten. Almost immediately, he's shoving a handful into his mouth and eating.

"If you think I'm going to eat that--" Marluxia mutters, narrowing his eyes.

"I think you will, if you don't want to starve," Saix responds, shoving another bag into the assassin's hands. "Eat."

It's not exactly a meal, but Demyx isn't complaining, though he hears XI grumble and reluctant crunches of the chips can be heard.

There are better desires than greasy, salty potato chips. The idea of ripe fruit and juice running down his chin is far more delightful, especially while being trapped in such a place full of decay and lack of life. Demyx has little taste for meat, but even that wouldn't be such a bad thing at the moment, something more filling than this -- but he isn't going to whine.

This will do, and sleep is just as ideal. He glances at Saix -- who seems to be a particularly fast eater and there's no sign of an empty bag from him -- and Marluxia. Neither one of them look quite so eager to go back out into the hallway and explore.

"We can sleep here, right? I mean... c'mon, I'm exhausted. And it still feels like we have a long way to go." Demyx is expecting frowns of disapproval from them, but so far Saix only has a blank look and Marluxia prefers to look at something else in the room. "Come on--"

"We'll have to take turns. Quiet as this room is, we aren't safe anywhere in this town, I can promise you that," Saix says. "An hour for each of us?"

More like a nap, Demyx thinks sourly to himself, but he doesn't argue. "Yeah, sure."

"I'm going first," Marluxia cuts in. He doesn't wait to give Saix a look, as if demanding some opposition. "Well?"

"Fine with me," is all the diviner says.

XI scowls and turns away, pushing by Demyx to claim the couch. Dust flies up as Marluxia attempts to get comfortable on it, keeping his back to the other two Nobodies as he attempts to sleep. As Demyx is finishing his chips quickly before XI goes to sleep, Saix is turning away and sitting at the desk with scattered papers. The musician supposes out of any of them who has the patience to go through it all, it might be Saix.

It's quiet, and Demyx's eyelids feel too heavy already. He sighs and takes a chair so he can sit by the berserker, though he knows VII barely counts as company, especially when Saix isn't even giving him a glance of attention.

"So... these monsters we're seeing. They're definitely Heartless, right?" Demyx knows to keep his voice low. Marluxia is already mostly unpleasant, and he fathoms a cranky one is even worse.

"Mm. Yes, they are," Saix murmurs, taking his time to put the papers into piles.

Demyx frowns. "But... why did some of those things look kind of like Dusks, but way creepier? And that drippy... black thing? And the pyramid thing."

The diviner frowns faintly, turning his head to look at Demyx. "When you look at a Dusk, back in the World That Never Was -- what do you think?"

The musician chews his lip a little, giving an honest answer. "I'm glad that I'm not like that."

"The Heartless that look like Dusks -- they remind us how much we're relieved to have the forms we do. Doesn't it? Or perhaps... it's the core of ourselves. Right now, we're just as powerless as a Dusk, after all," Saix continues, thoughtful. "Mm. Heartless, that look like things we think of, have thought of, maybe... felt, when we used to be whole."

Demyx raises a brow. "How's that possible? Heartless haven't ever done that before."

"Because this town is... special. The Darkness that drowns this place is so overwhelming, but so different -- unlike anything you've ever seen. Incredible, isn't it? How these things are twisted to represent matters that linger in ourselves."

"So the Shadow-like one is based on what we think of the Heartless, but..." Demyx scratches his head. "What about the pyramid thing?"

Saix glances away. "Who knows. Perhaps we should keep track of these Heartless. I know that if Vexen were here, that's what he would do -- and it seems like a good idea right now."

---

He knows this sensation.

Slowly, he's sinking. All around him, all sides, there is pressure; when he tries to move it's like swimming through molasses, and that's when he knows, he knows he's there again. Panic settles in and his pulse increases and his instincts are screaming at him to struggle. He tries, he definitely tries, but he can hardly move as he's being pulled down further and further.

He gags and he's drowning.

This isn't water, it isn't water, it's much worse, and the further he goes, he realizes that it's too late for him, and Darkness will capture him and everything inside of him will die.

He hits bottom.

It's that dead silence, the particular blackout when his senses are rising that he realizes he's been dreaming. Instinctively, Marluxia gags and rolls over onto his side, coughing and nothing comes out -- but he expects it.

"Marluxia?" Demyx calls out over his shoulder. "You okay?"

The assassin gives him a flat look. "Swallowed a bug."

"It's been about an hour," Saix cuts in. "Demyx, go ahead."

Getting up from the couch is almost a chore, but Marluxia manages it and with some grace returning to him, slowly. Demyx is all too cheerful to have his turn, immediately pilfering rights to the couch and plopping down onto his side and curling up like a newborn.

XI shakes his head and stands away.

Nothing seems to have changed much in the last hour, though silently he finds himself grateful. Something consistent is nice right now, and with no monsters joining them or jumping at the sound of static for awhile? Complete and utter relief.

Not that he'd admit to himself entirely that he's been completely disheveled with all of these events. Nothing makes sense in this place and it's almost as if Silent Hill is taunting them somehow.

Marluxia turns to look at Saix; the diviner has his back to him, sitting completely upright and perfectly. Lips move slowly, as if he's mouthing words as he reads them -- or trying to understand them. The way that VII is positioned is almost impressive, remaining completely still as if he practiced this since he had used to be whole as a Somebody.

"Find something interesting, I hope?" the assassin remarks. He doesn't hide the volume of his voice, not when he can already hear Demyx snoring.

Saix doesn't jump or turn to even look at Marluxia; the lack of physical attention annoys him, but at least VII answers him at all. "Various things, however nothing solid. These are but notes left behind of who might have been here -- or who have died here. With the Darkness drowning this place, who can possibly say for sure?"

He doesn't want to think that he's at all interested in whatever it is that Saix is reading or doing, but he looks over his shoulder anyway, not paying attention to their lack of personal space. The idea of making Saix uncomfortable at all has its merits; it's a stupid time for it, and Marluxia knows it, but he doesn't want to drop the opportunity of finding a way to make the other Nobody somewhat vulnerable -- or at least finding a weakness.

So far, he hasn't truly found anything.

He spies a sheet of paper written in Saix's terribly neat handwriting, dots on the "i"s far too circular and periods as well. It makes it easy to read, unlike the scribbles of the first six members of the Organization, which is like trying to make sense out of chicken scratches into actual words.

"'Dim Frame'? 'Slip Shadow'? I hope you didn't come up with those names; how uncreative," Marluxia remarks, snatching the piece of paper from the desk Saix is at.

"Mm," is the most verbal response Saix gives, though he reaches for the paper. XI holds it away from him.

"Oh, so you think these Heartless are being modeled after our own insecurities? That almost sounds wonderfully scientific," Marluxia continues, after glancing at the words on the sheet briefly; the way he says the word "scientific" no doubt comes off as disgusted.

He doesn't hide it, but Saix only shrugs.

"It is what I know, Marluxia. Eventually, perhaps we'll see other things." Saix raises a brow. "What are you insecure about, so that we might prepare?"

Marluxia thinks of drowning blackness.

But he doesn't give Saix the benefit of an answer; he just snorts and slams the paper back onto the desk before walking away to find something to do in the room.

---

"Look at this," his father might say, should the moment arrive; he would point with a green, scaled finger with a crooked talon, and all he could do was obey and watch.

He was a coward then, and one might suppose a coward he stayed. The emperor -- bless his soul -- never really blamed him for it; he was far too patient and simply smiled an easygoing smile and remarked it was the way of artists to prefer to keep away from conflict. As it was, they were a race of artists, whether or not his father believed it.

"Look at this," his father would say. "And remember their cruelty."

Humans were monsters. That was the lesson he was supposed to learn, anyway; they were monsters, the way they'd curse their kind and others like them, the "dark ones", and the humans would violate them and slaughter them.

So they hid in the depths of water, never to rise out, and he hoped quietly one day he'd become a human and never have to fear that persecution.

Because he was a coward.

"Look at this, and remember."

It's burned into his mind, even now.

The shriek of static is what causes Demyx to snap his eyes open; he's on his back, having no doubt rolled over on the couch, and he stares at the ceiling as he listens to one of the other two Nobodies jump at the sound.

Demyx sees something crawling on the ceiling, and it'd heading towards him.

"Uhh," is all he stammers out. He scrambles away from the couch just in time, as the thing leaps down at him and tears into the cushions.

It's... definitely a strange thing, shaped like a human body. Yet, it moves on all fours, the hands like the back legs and the feet the front, a head apparently settled between the thighs. Demyx has fallen onto his rear and he's scrambling back, but he can see its head, the mouth on sideways and crooked teeth tearing at the sofa.

"I think it's time to leave," Marluxia is hissing. "Demyx, hurry up!"

The thing is scuttling around like a spider, turning to stare at them, or at least it tries without a set of eyes for itself. As quickly as he can, Demyx is getting to his feet and grabbing the radio and his lead pipe, hurrying to the door to unlock it.

Saix is already moving, gripping his crowbar with a vice-like grip and taking a swing at the crawling beast. It's faster than it looks, dodging away with a sputtering hiss before rearing up on the hands, giving the berserker a solid kick in the chest, causing him to hit the wall with a loud thump!

Demyx winces at the sound of the diviner landing against the wall, but he manages the door open at last in spite of his hands shaking more than they should. The only reason that he finds he's not bolting out the door is when he hears something from Saix he doesn't think he's ever heard.

Saix panics and shouts at them, "Get it OFF!"

It's a prompt, unfortunately, to turn around and see that the thing's gotten its feet pinned against Saix, apparently stronger than it looks or that the diviner's gotten weaker -- which might be true, since he's the only one out of the three of them who hasn't even slept yet or quite visibly freaked out yet. Saix is trying to pry it off, but he can't, and the crowbar's been knocked to the floor.

Fortunately, it's Marluxia who moves, because Demyx can't quite yet. Maybe the imagery of Saix being vulnerable in any sort of way is still new and unusual to him, but the assassin has the table leg in his hand and he smashes it into the monster's side before it's teeth can manage to graze VII. It squeals and it's knocked over; Marluxia moves himself to slam the end of the table leg into the thing's skull a few times before it twitches and stops moving.

The radio goes quiet.

Saix slides down against the wall and holds his head, not looking at either one of them. He doesn't immediately move, and Demyx wonders if he will -- but he does, standing up and giving a quiet nod to Marluxia, as if that suffices as a thanks. XI doesn't demand one, but he seems smug about something. The diviner picks up the crowbar slowly, letting out a loud breath of air, not quite one of relief.

"Well, uh..." Demyx clears his throat to keep it from shaking too much. "I guess we just met Larxene's Heartless, huh?"

Saix gives him a particularly sour look.

The radio suddenly shrieks to life again and they're all wincing.

"Let's go already," Marluxia snaps at Saix, as if he's taking far too long.

The diviner picks up his pace; Demyx is out into the hallway, and Marluxia is following him. Saix only pauses at the desk, snatching the framed photograph and a sheet of paper before he runs to follow the other two.