It was a great human failing, Will considered, that people rarely looked above their eye level. Great beauties of nature and architecture gone forever unnoticed because mankind had learnt to no longer lift their eyes to the heavens. This recognition had served him well in the past; in his work, in his travels, and yes, even in his residence at the sanctuary.
The ceiling over his head was high and arched, swooping beams intricately chiselled with designs that spoke to an elegance of creation. The windows were high set, catching the last of the afternoon sun through its coloured panes and casting the entire spectrum of colours across the room, lingering in the dancing motes of dust high above his head. It was a beautiful sight indeed, but one that was completely negated by the cold stone piercing his back and the slow trickle of blood pooling under his neck.
Inching his head slowly to the left, he rolled his ear flatly into the sticky liquid. The move bought his face squarely in line with a large pair of rather smelly feet, one cased within a scuffed black converse, the other merely a sock, its grey wool now red and gummed, collecting blood as it travelled down the leg. The body wasn't moving.
Shifting as far as he could, Will headbutted the foot away. "You're bleeding on me," he muttered.
From somewhere above his head Henry sighed, "I said I'm sorry, man. But I'm dead, what do you want me to do about it?
Will wanted him to move. He wanted him to get his sticky feet way from his head. And he wanted him to help him get sweet, sweet revenge. But he also knew the chance of this happening (at least successfully) and so merely issued his own sigh.
"Speaking of which," Henry continued irritably. "Why am I always the one who ends up dead in these things?"
Will had no answer for him. Mainly because he was right. Everything was supposed to be random - as close to reality as possible, but fourteen deaths Henry's way had done little to support the assertions of random happenstance.
It had started simple enough - well, as simple as anything at the Sanctuary ever could be - with one rogue abnormal let loose in the halls leading to mayhem and injury for all. Unfortunately it had managed to knock out all power access and completely separate from each other all the inhabitants of the Sanctuary in the process, leaving them all fighting (or chasing, rather) blind. The Big Guy had decided a little situational training was in order, a good scenario or two to smooth out any problems so all this wouldn't happen again. Magnus agreed and approved of this plan, and all was well.
But then the Big Guy had gotten excited.
And the last person you want designing and implementing your training scenarios is an excited Sasquatch.
They started popping up at random intervals (after all, he had said, you never know when disaster will strike) and had covered a wide range of scenarios, each more dire than the last.
But, Will thought as he entered into his fourth hour lying on the cold floor, the only thing he had learnt from all these scenarios was to fear the Big Guy.
Quite possibly the most difficult (not to mention irritating) component of these exercises was that the Big Guy took the 'surprise' element of the manoeuvres entirely to heart. His day had started with the Big Guy yanking him right out of bed. One minute he was basking in the warmth of his covers, wondering how much longer he could afford to linger in bed, and the next he was cowering, hogtied, on the ground, his face smooshed into the weave of his carpet.
Like he said, not that unusual for a day working and living at the sanctuary, but he'd had enough. And he wasn't the only one.
When Henry rose from his prone and mangled position, rising from the dead once more, Will was grateful. Though it was strictly forbidden to move once rendered neutral in these scenarios (so as not to offer unrealistic aid to the survivors), the rope restraining his wrists and ankles were starting to bite, and Will wanted nothing more than the ability to scratch his own nose - the itching of which had invariably settled in for the long haul around hour two.
Shuffling closer, leaving a lovely trail of sticky blood along Magnus's pristine floors, Henry started working on the ties. It gave Will a small degree of satisfaction that it would be the Big Guy himself who would be scrubbing the fake blood away. They had been slow to realize this fact, but once Kate had made that connection they had been diligent in their attempts to smear as much of the stuff over every surface they could lay their sadistically imposed injuries on.
"Looks like he's refined his recipe," Will said, nodding to the red stain.
"He has," Henry agreed, licking some of the 'blood' off his hand. "Less lumpy - he's taken it easier on the corn starch. He's added something else too... can't identify it though."
He offered his hand out to Will, sticking it right in his face. "Ah, no thanks. You'll figure it out eventually."
Henry shrugged and returned his attention to the knots at Will's ankles. Finally untied, Will stretched for all he was worth. Hogtying him was one thing, but leaving him like that had entered into the realm of cruel and unusual.
"Are you going to go help Kate and the Doc?"
"No," Will confirmed, jumping up and down slightly, trying to return the feeling to his legs. "I owe Kate for last time -" she had changed sides midway through the scenario and decided to aid the 'infiltrators', locking Will in a hall closet and then conveniently 'forgetting' to release him until the next day. "And Magnus? Well, she's still under the deluded impression that these scenarios are beneficial."
Henry nodded, couldn't see fault with that logic.
"Besides," Will continued, settling in on a clean patch of floor. "How would I explain how I got free? Saying you turned zombie didn't exactly fly last time."
Magnus had been quite disturbed by the idea of Henry as a zombie, though she refused to explain why. And as for the Big Guy, well, getting help from the 'dead' was pretty high on his list of punishable offences. Henry had not fared well in the next scenario.
"I was thinking I'd just stay here for the duration," Will said. "Claim I died from hyperthermia or extreme boredom or something."
"Sounds like a plan," Henry agreed, reaching into his jacket to pull out a red-soaked mass. "So, cards?"
By the time Kate arrived Henry owed Will $78, 406, four midnight feedings, two stock runs, and a pizza from Gachamo's. It was unfortunate for Henry that the stakes were high while his skills low - and very lucky for him that Will had a long term payment plan.
Kate stalked through the door with all the confidence of someone wielding a fully loaded nerf gun. The scowl on her face however, made it all too clear that her strategy had been unsuccessful. Entering behind her, the Big Guy walked her over to the boys and quite decidedly assisted her to the floor. He eyed Will archly, taking in his lack of restraints and his comfortable position amid the poker cards. Will just shrugged and smiled cheerfully, "I'm dead."
The Big Guy grunted dismissively. He didn't particularly like it when the players in his little game decided their own fate, but he generally overlooked it if it meant he won. Turning to leave, Will and Henry were forced to clamp their hands over their mouths to avoid laughing outright - there was no telling what kind of punishment that would have gotten them. As for Kate she just smirked proudly at the twenty or so nerf pellets strewn through the Big Guys hair.
Dealing herself in, Kate spared barely a glance in Henry's direction. "So, how did the great Henry How-died-he perish today?"
Henry sighed, tossing another makeshift chip in the pile (these scenarios had made then more resourceful - just not in the ways intended), "Steno bite."
"That's it?" Henry's deaths had become increasingly inventive.
"Oh no. Once the steno bit me I fell over one of Magnus's antique end tables and stumbled my way into an open nubbin pit. After nibbling my ears off, they then proceeded to sleep on my face, suffocating me."
Will and Kate stared. "But nubbins don't eat humans."
"Yeeeah I don't think he cares. The freak even had beanie baby nubbins made to pelt at me."
Will bit his lip. Yes they all died in these little scenarios, but the Big Guy really did seem to take perverse pleasure - some might even call it glee - in torturing poor Henry. "And did he get another one?"
"Yup," Henry stuck out his semi-bare foot. "I don't know what his deal is but that's fourteen left shoes he's nicked. He could at least steal them in pairs."
"Okay," Kate declared. "Will you owe me -"
"A lot," Will interrupted. "We get it."
There was a reason Kate was not invited to poker night.
The light from outside had long since ceased, the rainbow issued by the windows having dulled and faded to shadows. Once this would have made them rather uncomfortable, the stone of the floor being quick to draw out any remaining body heat, but gothic architecture nor abandonment by former friends could overcome Henry's ingenuity. The Boy Scout that never was, he had stashed several caches of useful material in all many of nooks and crannies about the old house. It was, after all, not easy to play cards without the use of lantern. The stores had been added to by all of them over the past few months and all were kept reasonably supplied with snacks, reading material, ammunition for modes of "non-lethal weaponry" (Kate-speak for nerf pellets), and the like.
All in all they were as comfortable as they could expect to be, given the fact that they were basically prisoners. It was now simply a matter of time, of waiting until their warden had decided they had received adequate punishment for their failure or until Magnus returned from whatever outing The Big Guy had coincidentally aligned with training with. This was, however, verging on longer than the norm.
But still, entertain themselves they would. And it was not long before the trio fell into their most savoured of pastimes.
"Abacination," Kate offered as she tossed a flimsy paper chip into the pot.
Henry barely considered, "Beheading."
Perusing his cards Will contemplated the ramifications of suggesting 'castration' before settling on the safer, "Choking."
And so it would continue with each bet: dismemberment, electrocution, flaying, garroting... Never were this group more inventive than when plotting revenge.
Will was startled awake by the flying open of the doors, the heavy solid wood slamming into the walls. Beside him Henry jumped, Kate turning a disapproving eye on him as he upset her rather impressive house of cards (she had gotten quite a bit of practice lately).
Thinking their salvation had come at last, they were rather shocked to see not the Big Guy, but Helen Magnus herself storming into their holdings, caught up in a storm of indignant rage. Muttering violently to herself as she crossed the room she threw herself down, gathering her long legs up beneath her and glaring angrily at the floor.
No one dared speak.
Finally realising that all eyes were on her she looked up, her expression fierce. "What?"
Will felt the weight of all eyes on him as they silently offered him up as their sacrificial lamb (they were getting good at that, he noted). "Um, are - are you alright?"
Magnus scoffed. "Alright? I'm dead! Me!"
Apparently this was her first encounter with mortality in the Big Guy's little escapades - and she didn't look too pleased about it. Perhaps things were finally looking up after all.
"Sooo," Kate ventured. "These training scenarios."
"Oh, completely terminated," Magnus assured, slicing the air with her hand.
They all sighed with relief, revelling in the joy that statement brought and settling into a finally comfortable silence. Until.
"Henry... where is your shoe?"