You see, I came to know about "Joseph's" telling of my little visit in a rather different manner than any usual update... a manner that still makes me grin even now.
After I left the Cafe, I'd spent the next twenty-four hours or so changing areas to ensure my trail would be long cold by the time he posted (as I knew he would). In all honesty and with what I'm sure doesn't come as a surprise: I rather don't like people knowing my exact location. Makes things too complex. So, I've learned how to disappear. Comes in quite handy, really.
In any case, by the time I was content with my location, it was daylight... but that didn't exactly prevent me from finding myself a motel room and getting a few hours of much-needed rest. I was sound asleep with only Kali and Loki for company... when my cell phone rang. Woke me up enough to answer it, but not really enough to make sense of the onslaught on my eardrum that followed my barely-conscious greeting. Didn't even bother with 'hello' back before the scolding began. Honestly, the Highers have quite poor manners. It's embarrassing. Truly.
As it currently stands, they seem to be rather... agitated that I'd paid "Joseph" a visit. I was warned to pay better mind to my boundaries as I've been "forgetting [my] place" as of late and that I wouldn't want to be "reminded" of them. That is was not up to me to "run off for a social visit" when I had work to do and so did those I was bothering. I was told that I'd been "slacking off" lately. That I should have reported in sooner for my next assignment. That a Proxy such as I should be more thankful for the "longer leash" given to me instead of yanking for even more and abusing their astounding generosity.
They also mentioned something about "Joseph's" standing being rather "toxic."
Warned me to "not associate with a sinking ship."
So I took a moment to reassure them that "I've always tried my utmost to keep my distance from sinking ships... hence why I tend to ignore the lot of YOU."
Strangely, they didn't find that funny. I know I most certainly did.
In any case, I am being ordered (better late then never, yes?) to apologize to "Joseph" for disrupting his lovely evening of working himself up into higher blood pressure. Since I'm certain my little visit ruined the concentration of him and his entire team (who weren't there. I didn't realize my reach went so far!), I hereby vow to never return... without bringing some biscuits to have with the coffee. I'm certain I could remember this nice little recipe I used to make for special occasions way back when...
I don't think they appreciated us chatting, "Joseph."
Either that, or you made them so excited when you said I could have died. I do hope you don't get too much flack for the little bit of aid you gave me, brother. I know they would have probably preferred me left to my predicament.
Just as they themselves are doing.
I suppose at this point there is no true need to hide why I paid a visit to the Squad Leader. "Joseph" has made my present health level public, so it's not as though any further damage can be done. Everything he said was correct. I placed a lot of faith - perhaps blind faith - in that man's hands. I required his insight into a matter. Insight that, as far as I am aware, only he could have possibly given me at the drop of a hat. Trust was a required detail. Otherwise there would have been no point in the visit. I'd already decided before I'd even entered the looped area as to what lengths I would allow him to go to in order for him to make his... diagnosis, shall we say.
The horror on his face was rather priceless. Nearly a Kodak moment. It alone spoke volumes on how screwed I mostly likely am at this point. He needn't give me specifics. No detail of 'what' was going to help me. All I required from him was the confirmation that I was not paranoid...
Or, more accurately, that I hadn't developed hypochondria.
It didn't take me long after leaving the Cult Town to realize that something was not as it should be. I had attempted to take some time to mend, you see. I had injuries to heal. A vast amount of sleep to catch up on. Proper nutrition to regain. As well as... something of a cold to clear out of my system. It hadn't been all that bad at first. Just a feeling of being 'off', for the most part. A bit of a fever. Nothing to be overly concerned about, considering the scale of what I'd been exposed to for a near month. My lungs had been giving me problems for a week or two by that point, but again, I put it to exposure. I monitored my condition closely, as I would have been a fool not to... but I still thought it would clear, if only given time.
Amongst this... I'd begun to notice a strange smell in the air of my motel room from time to time. Especially upon waking. I still can't quite decide on what it reminds me of, but if I had to make a connection... I'd say sulfur. A sour, sharp smell that also stung the tongue. The first few times, it was only just strong enough to take notice of. Only just.
And then I woke up in the middle of my third night away from the Cult... and the smell was so strong it had me gagging. Choking.
I can remember how panicked Kali and Loki were in their cage. A mess of cawing and flapping wings.
They wanted out.
As did I.
I'd been feeling uneasy ever since I put the Cult Town behind me... but that was the first time since I enlisted in the Service that I'd left my room in the middle of the night like that. That was the first time since I enlisted... that my instincts screamed for me to move. To run. That I wasn't safe where I was. And I didn't ignore that warning. I gathered my things together quick. However, when I went to grab the food I had bought just a day prior... I decided it best left.
It had already begun to rot.
At that moment, I knew. I knew without a doubt... that I had a new friend. In my mind, it was the final flag.
I had been the one to organize the destruction of His Cult.
And now I know that The Plague Doctor wishes to return the favor.
I have not seen Him yet. At least, I do not believe I have. But I know to my core it is Him.
With luck, I am ahead of His Game.
If not... I am simply in it. Nothing more.
That being said, I still needed someone else to confirm what was happening within me. To make clear just what level of the Game I'd skipped ahead to. For that, "Joseph", I will thank you again for your honesty and assistance. The drugs have helped. Though I will only use the others when things get worse. As they are sure to quite fast.
The Highers now know of this as well.
Their response... was to assign me to my next mission. An Elimination.
I am not surprised.
I am writing this from her hotel room. Colleen Flemming. Her corpse is sprawled on the floor to my right. Blood already having formed a think pool of crimson beneath her neck. Skin pale and eyes dull. I didn't have time to play, unfortunately. I'm simply having a quick bite to eat before I move on. It pains me to think I gave her story such an anti-climatic end... but I have other matters to take care of.
Other missions will have to wait.
Right now, there's someone I need to see. Someone I've been putting off meeting for far too long... and I think it's high time we got better acquainted.
After all, I may be the prey for the Beak. But that doesn't mean I'm not a hunter myself.
Time to make your bets, my Friends.
Wish me luck.