Corin led Andris to a place that she had referred to only as "The Restaurant," which was somewhat confusing to Andris. Restaurants didn't seem like the kinds of things that would still exist in the apocalypse, let alone be a place where one could sleep.
He understood when they got there, though. It was more of a tavern than anything. There was a rustic dining room half-filled with patrons, and a counter which guarded the entrance to the kitchen. Andris glanced at the food on the tables—mostly variations on soups and stews, with occasional chunks of bread or a beef-jerky-like substance. They weren't the portions he had been used to seeing before, to be sure, but food seemed unexpectedly abundant here. A few patchwork corridors had been constructed through the walls, branching off from the central room, presumably towards living quarters.
"Alright," said Corin, "just talk to Galiel and he'll get you a room." She gestured to the only person behind the counter.
Andris raised an eyebrow. "Just like that? Do I need a way of paying them or...?"
"Nah, he doesn't turn people down." Considering her job done and her minimal explanation sufficient, Corin called over her shoulder and sauntered off towards a particularly rowdy group that cheered when they noticed her.
Andris approached the counter hesitantly, getting his first good look at Galiel. Maybe it was the fact that the only people he had substantially spoken to so far had either kidnapped him, controlled armed guards, or used unsettling mind-powers, but Andris thought the smile Galiel gave him was the warmest he had seen in a long time. Galiel was a large man with a brilliantly-colored Hawaiian shirt, which clashed horribly with his auburn hair. His face had an odd, ageless quality to it; Andris couldn't have said if he was 20 or 50.
Galiel leaned towards him and asked pleasantly, "Hey! How can I help you?"
"I just need a room." Andris was not sure if he was doing this properly, but tried to speak as if he were.
"Oh! Absolutely." Galiel bent behind the counter. Andris could hear him rummaging through... something. "I should've known," the man started saying above the cacophony he was making, "I've never seen you here before." Galiel stood up and placed a combination lock and a small piece of orange plastic in front of Andris. "The Captain didn't give you too much trouble, did he?" he joked.
Andris smiled a little, pleasantly surprised that someone here actually seemed personable. "No, not really." Still, he was a bit wary to say anything bad about that guy. If the Captain ran the park, Galiel might work for him, too.
"Ah, good to hear. I know he can be... a bit much. Anyway! Are you familiar with these?" Galiel pointed to a bike lock.
"Yeah," Andris said, glad to have something more firmly in his memory. He guessed things that were further back were a bit easier to keep a hold of.
"Great," said Galiel. He pointed to a piece of plastic with numbers scratched into it. "Here's the combination. Keep that on you, and don't lose it," he said seriously, sliding the piece of plastic toward Andris. "And keep this," he pointed to the lock again, "on your door. Got it?"
Suddenly, Galiel glanced past him, and got a strange look on his face. "I'll take you to your room in a minute, sir. Sorry about the delay, but, please, make yourself comfortable in the meantime."
Galiel gestured to one of the chairs nearby, and as Andris turned toward it, he did a double take. A tired-looking man with dark hair was shifting uncomfortably under the weight of what appeared to be a pile of multicolored fabrics, but was actually, upon further examination, an unconscious person in some eccentric costume.
"Sir?" said Galiel.
Andris snapped out of it. "Sorry. Uh..." he grabbed a seat at a table close by. He had to admit, he was tempted to see what was happening, and it wasn't like it was wrong to listen—this was a public place.
"Welcome back, Carmine," Galiel said to the man.
The costumed one twitched, then their head shot up—it was then that Andris noticed they were wearing a decorative, full-face mask in addition to their tacky regalia. He supposed it wouldn't be strange for there to be festivals or carnivals in the apocalypse, but why wasn't anyone else dressed up?
Carmine set down the masked figure, though they were still tightly gripping Carmine's shoulder to steady their swaying. They looked up at him and sang, "Ah! Fancy seeing you here."
The man seemed to be somewhere between concerned and irritated, but tried to give them a smile. He turned his attention to Galiel and requested "the Usual."
"What am I in for now?" the masked figure asked with a sigh.
"You tried to teach Ditto how to lucid dream," Carmine explained.
"Yeah, so?" The masked one pocketed the lock and the plastic from Galiel without even looking in his direction.
Carmine answered exasperatedly, "So, half his teeth fell out." Andris unconsciously tensed up. What?
"We're self-sufficient here," the figure declared, "I'll make him new ones." Now, Andris was really confused.
Carmine delivered each of his next words with great care, as if he was worried they might break before getting through to this person. "Sel, we are down to seven people."
A pause. "...I'm aware."
"You need to be more careful. People aren't gonna join if they think you're—"
"I know," Sel said indignantly. "But you can't expect me to censor myself—"
Andris suddenly heard Galiel's voice close by: "Are you ready?" Andris jumped.
"Oh, sorry! I can be a bit quiet," said Galiel with a chuckle.
Andris gave his host a polite smile and a nod. "Ah. That's fine." He was still somewhat shaken by what he'd just heard.
"Right this way," said Galiel, gesturing for him to follow. Unfortunately, Galiel asked Carmine and Sel to follow him as well.
Andris thought the strategy of not looking at Sel would work, but only a few steps into the hallway, and he heard a curious "I haven't seen you here before," next to him. "Are you new?"
Andris glanced at them. "Yes." The mask gave them the air of a walking, talking mannequin. It gave him the creeps.
"Welcome, then," Sel said in an exaggeratedly pleasant manner. "Has anyone told you about our Gift Shop yet?"
"It's closed right now," added Carmine quickly.
"But not for long," insisted Sel in close succession.
In an attempt not to be rude, Andris tried to make eye contact with someone. It felt a little awkward to look at Sel's eyes behind the mask, so he turned his attention to Carmine, whose eyes, he quickly noticed, were an unnaturally bright red. "No one told me about a gift shop," Andris said, looking ahead once more.
"Well, when it's open—probably tomorrow—" said Sel, "you really should stop by. That's where my cult is based, and we do all sorts of projects, performances, and parties there. It's a blast!" Andris tried his best not to show his confusion on his face. A cult?
"I'd prefer it if you didn't solicit here, Selfen," asked Galiel in a tone that was somehow both polite and pointed.
Sel began, "It's not solicitation, it's just information—"
"Look at that! Here's your room!" interrupted Galiel, turning to the group with a smile and gesturing towards one of the doors.
"Well," said Sel, "Thank you." Then, swiveling toward Andris, they added with a flourish of their skirt, "If you're curious, don't hesitate to contact me. Seems like we're neighbors now, anyway. Speaking of which." They pointed to themself, bowing slightly and acquiring an almost grandiose tone, "I am Selfen, Sel, The Illusory One, etcetera." They then gestured to Carmine, "And this is my lovely assistant, Carmine. Who are you?"
Andris almost considered giving them a fake name before realizing they literally knew where he lived. If he was going to get sacrificed to a cult tonight, that was simply his fate. "Andris," he answered.
"Andris," repeated Sel.
"Nice to meet you," said Carmine with a nod and a smile.
"You too," said Andris, somewhat relieved to see that Sel was already taking a peek into their own room.
Galiel then walked a few steps and put his hand on the door next to Selfen's. "And here you are," he said to Andris with a smile. "Just remember to keep the lock on the inside when you're in and the outside when you're out. You'd think it would be physically impossible to mess that up, but some people are... talented." He glanced over at the other two. "If you need anything, let me know. I'll probably be somewhere around the kitchen."
Andris nodded. "Thank you. Really."
"Of course," Galiel returned warmly.
As Galiel headed back to the main room, Andris opened the door to what would be his home for the foreseeable future. It was small, but he felt that it was at least not the smallest place he'd ever had to call home. There were a few tiny windows and some visible water stains on the ceiling, but at least the walls were painted in a pleasant, light blue. There was a dresser-desk that seemed homemade and a bed frame to match, where a fabric sack that was roughly the shape of a mattress rested with some quilts and a pillow. Andris smiled to himself a little. Although it didn't look incredibly comfortable, he could tell a good amount of care went into it.
He checked the bed for bugs—that habit had been ingrained in him long ago—put the lock on the door, and noticed there was a light switch. He flipped it, and to his surprise, a ceiling light came on. The wiring was obviously homemade, but he was still shocked that there was electrical light here at all.
Andris subsequently turned the thing off, took off his boots, and hung his jacket on the chair. Trying not to think about just how long he had been wearing those things, he settled onto the bed and closed his eyes, hoping to get some kind of rest. Still, in spite of his physical and mental exhaustion, the sounds and images of the day flitted in and out of his awareness rapidfire. Andris scrunched up his face and groaned.
He closed his eyes, tried a few deep breaths, and rolled onto his side, hoping that whenever he woke up, he'd simply find out this had all been a bad dream.