Who is Virgil talking to during his Haunted House shift?
Warnings: mental disorders, insults, the r word, heart attack, bullies who see someone they think will be a shooter and decide to attack before it happens (that's actually happened to someone)
If you were to ask Virgil, he'd tell you he's known something was wrong with him his entire life. Unfortunately, he was born into a family that would remind him that he was "challenged", "off your rocker" or even "re****ed" for the sake of a power trip than actually get him the help he needed to specify what was wrong with him. And school wasn't much better since bullies would pester him. Why was he a target when though he kept a distance from everyone? Well, according to an old classmate, the bullies had an idea of what kind of person he would become and decided to break his spirit before he'd ever have the strength to pick up a gun. Well, the way Virgil saw it, it was on them for not knowing what it's like to have what he guessed was anxiety.
When he was 18, he decided he would earn an income in order to afford to move out and afford to go to a doctor since his family didn't want to do so. After some incidents of being shut down and questioning what all to put on his resume, he managed to score two job offers: bagging groceries at a local store and being a scare actor at a haunted house for the season. He was eager about the outcome due to not being expected to do too much at the grocery store (plus, the flexible schedule) and the fact that he loved the Halloween season.
Since the first day of his haunted house gig was before his first day at the grocery store, he took advantage of the fact that the lights were on in order to navigate the haunted house for the sake of familiarity. It was one of his first jobs and the last thing he wanted was to lose his ability to breathe as a result of getting himself lost. At some point, he made his way to some curtains with some small doors close to the floor. As he made his way into the room, he bumped his head lightly on something and he saw what he bumped it into: It looked like a detailed plastic lizard head with yellow eyes. As he felt the lizard, he noticed that there were handles and some buttons sticking out at the back of its head.
"I'm guessing you're intrigued?" he heard someone ask.
"Oh, yes I am. But... who's asking?" Virgil asked back.
"I'll give you a hint: You stroked my scales," was the response he got.
At first, Virgil was stunned by the idea that the lizard puppet was actually speaking to him, but he kept it in the back of his mind so that he wouldn't be tempted to tell others.
"Um... who are you?"
"Oh, my name is Devin. Most people who return here also know me as Mallory, but I don't mind that much since I'm half and half."
"So... you're a demiboy?"
"Yes I am. But, what about you? What's your name and identity?"
"Oh, um, my name is Virgil. I'm a cis gay boy, but I have yet to find the Bram to my Simon."
At one point in the conversation when Virgil wasn't talking, one of his more experienced coworkers found him and managed to get his attention.
"I see you're taking a liking to Mallory," the coworker, Casper, told him.
"Oh yea. So, what made you guys decide on the name 'Mallory'?" Virgil curiously asked.
"One of our former employees suggested the name after watching 'American Horror Story' and it stuck," they answered.
He was told that, on nights where he had to operate Mallory, he had to push the handles outward to make the head pop out from behind the curtains. He also found out one of the buttons operated the voice box and one of the handles opens and closes the lizard's jaw.
Throughout the season, Virgil was steadily able to juggle grocery work and haunted house work. He mostly kept to himself when around both sets of coworkers, but he was able to at least hold small conversations between at least one coworker from each place. Most of the time, though, he found himself talking to Mallory/Devin. Even though he was assigned to work different parts of the haunted house (and even briefly talk about make-up with some of the make-up artists when his role requires his face being coated), he was mostly operating Mallory and visiting him on nights when he wasn't. He continued to remind himself that Devin was likely in his head, but something about spending time working in that section made him comfortable.
It wasn't long before he was able to afford an apartment and get himself an appointment with a doctor. When he went in, he was hoping to have more than enough answers. As he was about to leave, though, he still had plenty of questions. As suspected, some of his conditions were anxiety disorder and depression. However, when he asked about the possibility of schizophrenia, he was told that he didn't show symptoms of it, especially since his family history didn't include it and he had no symptoms in his childhood. Virgil was glad to have the help and medications he needed, but... who was Devin?
On the last night, Virgil looked at the white board and saw that he was working on Mallory again.
"Nice, I'm working with Devin again," Virgil said without thinking.
It wasn't until he saw the shocked expression on Casper's face that he realized what he said. Before he could stammer out an excuse, they approached him and asked "Where did you hear that name?"
Virgil tried to explain where he heard it, but came up with nothing.
"Is something wrong with that name?" Virgil asked.
"Oh, no. It's just that, a few years ago, we had an employee named Devin Kaa who identified as a demiboy. He kept straining his voice and we could tell he was lying about taking care of it. The strain in his voice was evident when he was working on many of his shifts, but he liked giant lizard when it was relatively new. He was the one that named it Mallory, actually. One day, he operating Mallory and tried to call for help for something. However, the runner in charge of Zone 7 could only hear him faintly in distress before hearing a thud behind the curtain. Before the ambulance came, we were unable to find a pulse," Casper told him.
Virgil was stunned when he heard the story. Surely it was just a coincidence. There's no way he was actually talking to...
Virgil made his way to the lizard puppet and prepared to operate it.
"Upset about the last night, Virgil? I know the feeling," he heard in the voice he was familiar with.
"No, I mean, yes, I somewhat am, but... Casper told me about you," Virgil answered.
Virgil gently stroked the scales of the lizard head.
"I'm guessing you didn't know the nature of whom you were talking to?"
"I thought schizophrenia was one of my... problems."
"I never meant to give you that idea. But, after a heart attack on my last night on the job, Mallory felt like home for me until the season ends."
"Has anyone else talked to you?"
"Well, I've altered the voice box, but that's about it. As for you... it felt easy to trust you, for some reason."
"Well, I wish we met when you were alive. Maybe you'd make school worth walking through."
"Are you going to work next season?"
"Maybe. But do I have to wait a year?"
"If I find you on one of the off season gigs, maybe you won't have to."
They proceeded with the last night like it was any other night. However, when he said "good bye" to Devin, he smiled a little bit knowing that he wasn't as crazy as he thought.