[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/suIvOQ4.jpg?1]] [p ] [size10 Mornings were the absolute best. In the bedroom of his small apartment, he could lounge in his cozy bed with a soft blanket as the sun went from breaking the horizon to gently warming his cheek. He had lucked out when landing the place, seeing as it faced nearly unobstructed views on the quieter side of Hillside Town. His internal alarm clock always seemed to ring with the sunrise as well, giving him every opportunity to see it. When the sunlight touched his face, however, he knew it was time to leave his bed and prepare for the responsibilities he needed to face.
Normally, these responsibilities would be his job, his parents, and sometimes calming Hana down from the ledge as she struggled through her first year of medical school. He had a new project today, however, and it wasn't the novel he had been working on for nearly 4 years. It was a more community based project that he had been urged to join for the sake of a friend. His friend had been incredibly convincing too, going on about how his family had been involved in the initial founding, how it would benefit the community! Oh think of the children! Kim smiled as he finally left his bed and dressed for the morning. He imagined his friend had gone on like a Catholic mother guilting her child... but it worked. Here was Kim, awake on his day off and spending it removing and helping in small renovations for the old center.
Of course, these would only be the beginning steps. According to the Hillside Town Community Outreach, the group that was running the project that his friend also conveniently held the treasurer spot for, there was still some debate as to what this building might be used for next. While the general idea was for a newer community center, upgraded from its 70s drab to something more modern and safe, some of the group had thrown out ideas for a theater or a garden or homeless shelter.
Kim shook his head and prepared a thermos for coffee after he was dressed. If he was going to survive today, he would have to be caffeinated. As soon as the liquid was secured into his thermos, cream and sugar packets added to the compartment in the lid, he hopped in his car and made the drive across town to the old building.
It wasn't as dilapidated as one might expect. Except for the obvious signs of wear and tear from weather and lack of use, it appeared to be sturdy. If anything, a lot of the outside damage was mostly cosmetic. The inside was a different story, however, filled with mold and dust and rotting fabrics. The only reason Kim knew this was from touring the joint after he agreed to his part. A few of the group had already gathered outside when he arrived. It appeared as if they were waiting for everyone before starting. Someone had brought a Ford to haul away things to the dump. It belonged to an older man with permanent laughter lines on his face. Kim greeted him first with a small hug.
[b "Hey, Mr. Carter,"] he greeted the man. [b "Are you still teaching?"] His former teacher and college mentor gave a nod and a big grin. [b "You bet'cha!"] he chirped back. [b "I brought along a couple of the juvie students with me. That's Claire, and that's Oswald."] He pointed to a pair of grumpy looking teens who already looked bored. Kim gave a little nod in greeting. There was also a stranger's face in the crowd, someone he wasn't familiar with, but that was bound to happen. There had been a small influx of new residents to their smaller town. Mr. Carter caught the eyeline of Kim and dragged him over to the stranger.
[b "This is Mercy's boy, Gabriel. I didn't get to know him, but I taught his mother when she was in school. Shame she left without a goodbye though!"] Mr. Carter rang out the introduction with ease, and Kim gave another nod of greeting, clutching his thermos tightly. [b "Hey there,"] he murmured, his voice dropping to just over a mumble. His demeanor shifted to a more reserved one, a bit less comfortable with bothering newcomers.]
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/IBtk6xD.gif]] [center [pic http://orig14.deviantart.net/65b7/f/2013/011/5/a/divider_by_ladymidnightsolace-d5r6814.png] [font "Times New Roman" [size12 If one thing was true about Gabriel, it was that he was decidedly [i not] a morning person. He was physically capable of getting himself out of bed, sure, but at what cost? Gabriel liked his sleep, and he was an even bigger fan of sunsets. He would watch them all day if he could. The warmth of the day giving into the cool of the night always brought him a sense of peace he couldn't-deny. This was a project he had finally been willing to peel himself from the sheets for.
His rightful home was New York City. He'd been there since he was 10 years old, and he loved it there. He had a good job at a music store, a decent apartment (if you could do the maintenance yourself, anyhow), and things seemed to be going well... At least until he got a letter from the bank. He had to travel back to Hillside to take care of his moms old trailer. That stuck with him like a weight in his chest, but he put in for a bit of time off at the music store and found himself on the doorstep of the old place, pushing the key into the lock and stepping inside.
Yeah, no, fuck that, the inside was dirty as shit.
Gabriel abandoned the initial cleanup plan in favor of going to the local supermarket for supplies, and had found himself staring at a recruitment flyer. Normally he hadn't given much thought to these flyers, but when he'd seen a picture of the old community center he and Matt had spent so much time in as kids on the front of the flyer, he'd given in and called the number... and found himself in the old building at the crack of dawn.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/w8MmacF.gif]] Gabriel tugged on a pair of work gloves as he heard his mothers name, and his head snapped up only to see Mr Carter approaching him with a face he didn't recognize. In a town where everyone knew each other, being a stranger had him feeling a little bit anxious. He shoved the feeling down, and offered the guy a grin, holding out a gloved hand for a handshake, only to falter when he realized that the man's hands were full. [b [#757575 "It's nice to meet you. I'm Gabriel McKenna."]] [pic http://orig14.deviantart.net/65b7/f/2013/011/5/a/divider_by_ladymidnightsolace-d5r6814.png]]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/suIvOQ4.jpg?1] [size12 [b "It's nice to meet you. I'm Gabriel McKenna."]
Kim stared at the end with some confusion at first. He didn't expect someone from outside of Hillside limits to be friendly like the other small-town residents, but he figured it wasn't outside of the realm of possibility. He switched the hand that held his thermos and gave Gabriel's a brief shake, his grip a bit loose so he could pull his hand quickly back. [b "Kim Jun-Seo,"] he formally introduced, causing Mr. Carter to chuckle and waved the "juvie" kids over. The girl, who looked too scrawny to do much lifting and had stained her hair pink ages ago, came by with a slightly more optimistic attitude.
[b "Mr. Carter, what are the chances someone died here?"] she asked, looking absolutely fascinated with the idea. [b "Claire, no one died at the old Hillside Center,"] Mr. Carter 'assured' her, earning a small pout from the girl. Kim wasn't as comfortable around the teens either, seeing as they appeared to be going through some sort of phase. He could hardly handle his own stress. Mr. Carter gave another laugh, this one more hearty, and waved a hand to bring the last couple of stragglers in, making him the de-facto leader of their tiny group.
[b "Remember everyone,"] Mr. Carter began. [b "We're just here to get the basework done of cleaning out the old center so the outreach group can come in and do the real work. Everything is being loaded up into Hillary's truck and my car to be taken to the Town Hall to be sorted and either disposed of or categorized. If you see anything unusual"]- [b "Like murder evidence!"] Claire chipped in. The woman who Kim assumed was "Hillary" elbowed her and shook her head. [b "Or anything that might indicate records of previous residents, we'll need to document those first to take to town hall as well. Mr. Smith was very interested in those documents for the outreach group."]
Kim rolled his eyes. Of course his friend was obsessed with the town's former residents. That seemed to be his favourite past time, documenting local history as if it were worldwide news. He never really gave any explanation aside from "personal interests" though. As soon as Mr. Carter concluded his speech, the small group began inside the old center.
The inside hadn't fared as well, but at least it was well put together enough to allow them to start on the first floor with ease. There was old furniture that was loaded into the back of Hillary's Ford. Mr. Carter had Clair going through any documents they found, something she did with the hopes of the ultimate murder mystery she fantasized about, and the other teen who Kim learned was named Eddie, worked with him and Gabriel to move furniture out. Apparently, everything in there was going to be replaced, and what could be salvaged would be sold to raise a little extra money for the shelter. Kim realized he had barely touched his coffee by the time late afternoon rolled around, busy as he was. Mr. Carter had taken to cleaning after everyone, and was wearing rubber gloves and carting around cleaning supplies most of the afternoon. Bags of trash were added to the obviously lost-cause pieces taken from the home, and Hillary drove off with Eddie and another group member to unload it at the dump after having run what appeared "salvageable" to the town hall for inspection.
[b "How do you guys like pizza?"] Mr. Carter asked as he carefully dumped a bucket of what looked like dirty mop water down the kitchen sink. Kim shrugged, unwilling to rock the boat either way. [b "Have you two seen Claire? I think we lost her to the stacks."] No sooner had Mr. Carter made his inquiry than the remaining trio of people heard the excited squeaking and thudding steps of young Claire, who had dashed out with what looked like a heavy box in her arms. For someone who was so little, she appeared to have more strength than Kim had initially anticipated. [b "Guys! Check the box. Guys! This box! Right here. In my arms. Ow... Going down..."] Clair set the box on ground and sit next to it with a groan. Kim curiously opened it, and true to her word, old films labeled and left in canisters were stacked neatly in the box. [b "I'm sure this is what Mr. Smith meant,"] he murmured, taking one of the canisters out and checking the label. It was a simple date and letter. It didn't even have the year. [b "October 9th, M. Mean anything to anyone?"] Kim held the canister up. It looked akin to an old Super 8 film. [b "I don't even think there's a camera that plays these anymore."] [b "I might have one,"] Mr. Carter said. [b "Old hobby of mine. It doesn't hurt to watch a few before we turn them in."] Mr. Carter looked a bit impish in his suggestion, never one to turn down a good mystery either.]
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/IBtk6xD.gif]] [center [pic http://orig14.deviantart.net/65b7/f/2013/011/5/a/divider_by_ladymidnightsolace-d5r6814.png] [font "Times New Roman" [size12 [i October 9th. M.]
Of course that meant something to him... but it was probably a coincidence. October 9th was the last time he had spent at this community center, nearly 18 years ago, with his brother. His brother named Matthew. M. Gabriel had to take a slow breath, quiet in his step back from the kids crowding around the box to look at the relics, while the rest of the adults deliberated how to watch them.
Gabriel's brown eyes were locked on Kim's hand as he pulled the canister from the box, his heart pounding anxiously. The chicken-scratch on the side of it looked all-too-familiar, and the anxious wreck found himself on autopilot as he stepped forward, taking the canister from Kim with a polite murmur of apology. He brought the object closer to his face and peered at it, studying it over with an intense expression, and then his eyes snapped up to Mr. Carter.
[b [#757575 "I need to see what's on this."]]
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/w8MmacF.gif]] He hadn't intended his voice to come out so demanding, so obviously anxious, and shaking, but he didn't have it in him to school his tone before speaking. Not when one little letter had his head spinning. Not when he was so close to possibly finding out something he'd been wondering about for 18 years. [b [#757575 "I think my brother made these."]] [pic http://orig14.deviantart.net/65b7/f/2013/011/5/a/divider_by_ladymidnightsolace-d5r6814.png]]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/suIvOQ4.jpg?1] [size12 The commotion seemed to start up a little, but it died just as quick. The cannister was gently removed from Kim's hand, and he looked up to see Gabriel holding it, a strange look on his face. He didn't quite understand the sudden desire the other man had until he mentioned a brother. Mr. Carter blanched at the suggestion. [b "What do you mean, brother? I thought your mom only had one boy..."] There was a wave of guilt in the old teacher, but that guilt was quickly smothered with determination.
Kim straightened up and quickly stepped away from the box of films. Even Claire stepped away from the treasure she found, looking a bit worried at the implication of the contents. [b "I'll get my projector set up,"] Mr. Carter promised Gabriel, patting the young man on the shoulder. [b "Pack these up into my car, Kim, and we'll go back to my place. Hilary, can you get Claire and Eddie back to the group home? Gabriel, let's go."]
The group uncertainly shuffled apart at that point. Hilary rounded up the teenagers to transport them back to where they resided, but the remaining group loaded up the last of the untouched documents... save the single box of films. Kim picked it up, but left Gabriel with the cannister he had retrieved. A few of the other films were labeled with similar handwriting, dated and claimed with the simple letter "M". [b "You okay?"] Kim asked as he hoisted the box up into his arms. [b "We can sort these back at Mr. Carter's."]
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/IBtk6xD.gif]] [center [pic http://orig14.deviantart.net/65b7/f/2013/011/5/a/divider_by_ladymidnightsolace-d5r6814.png] [font "Times New Roman" [size12 Gabriel hadn't meant to cause a scene, nor had he meant to cut the day so short, but he couldn't help a tidal wave of relief that hit him when Mr Carter said he was going to set up his projector right away. If Mattie was still out there, maybe these films would be a clue. Some of them were dated after they'd left, and it made him wonder if...
No, he didn't want to think about that.
He pushed the thought aside as quickly as it had come to him, and faced Kim with an uncertain expression, baring his expression honestly instead of hiding it away. He shrugged a shoulder. Was he okay? Well, he probably would be at any rate. As his brain calmed down a little bit, he was more... embarrassed, he found, than anything else.
[b [#757575 "I will be. I didn't mean to put a stop to everything so quickly..."]] he admitted, his voice quieter than normal. Gabriel didn't feel embarrassed very often, he was a very live-life-with-no-regrets person, but it felt like his world was upside down.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/w8MmacF.gif]] [b [#757575 "I'm sorry. I hope it won't put us too far behind schedule."]] He followed Kim toward the door, clutching onto the canister like he was terrified of dropping it. If this was something between him and finding Mattie, then he would hold onto it for dear life. [pic http://orig14.deviantart.net/65b7/f/2013/011/5/a/divider_by_ladymidnightsolace-d5r6814.png]]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/suIvOQ4.jpg?1] [size12 Kim shook his head, looking a bit relieved himself. [b "It's okay. We've been working hard all afternoon, and there's still a few more days before the outreach group has to make a decision."] For someone who wasn't totally immersed in the group, Kim held a lot of insider information on how the group operated. He followed Mr. Carter out to the car, hauling the box of films with him and keeping pace with Gabriel. He had to admit he was worried for the young man. Never in Kim's life had he seen someone deal with such a life altering bit of news... aside from himself that is. Then again, could one classify closeting themselves as "life altering"?
Kim wasn't about to touch that question, so after he packed the box into the car, he decided to pack [b that] question with it.
[b "Mr. Carter, do you need anymore help?"] he asked his former teacher. [b "Ya know, I might. Want to come with? While Gabriel is watching those films, I wanted to ask you something anyway."] Mr. Carter got in behind the wheel of the car, and Kim took the back seat, letting Gabriel have the passenger seat if he preferred.
Either way, the drive was ghostly quiet. Mr. Carter had a cottage-like house close to the high school. It looked like a cottage from a fairy tale with a flourishing garden, a rustic charm, and a pet dog lounging on the porch by the front door. When Mr. Carter parked, he hopped out of the vehicle and went to chase the dog back inside. Kim decided to collect the box again. [b "Mr. Carter used to help the theater department too,"] he explained to Gabriel, trying to break the silence. [b "I probably shouldn't be surprised he's got something that can play these things. Have you seen film this old before?"]
Kim brought the box toward the front door that Mr. Carter had left open as he shooed the dog into the bedroom. The dog was a lovely Border Collie who was already howling to meet the company. [b "Can't let you touch Pumpkin. She has a de-licing medicine on her coat, and it can make you sick if you get it on your hands and, or, I don't know, touch your eyes or your hands..."] Mr. Carter seemed to mumble under his breath as he wandered into another room in the house. Kim was used to this too. He set the box on a coffee table in the living room, comfortable in the small home. He had been tutored there quite a bit in high school himself.
[b "Mr. Carter has an open-door policy, so you should get comfortable. He probably went to get the projector."] Kim stuck his hands in his pockets. [b "What happened with your brother?"] he asked gently.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/IBtk6xD.gif]] [center [pic http://orig14.deviantart.net/65b7/f/2013/011/5/a/divider_by_ladymidnightsolace-d5r6814.png] [font "Times New Roman" [size12 Gabriel looked down at the film that Kim was asking about, his stomach twisting into a knot as a cold sensation started in his fingertips. His anxiety was acting up again and making him feel restless, and his fingers twitched, trying to stimulate the blood flow again. He followed Kim into the living room, giving the dog a quick glance, disappointed at the lack of dog cuddles to follow.
[b [#757575 "I've seen it... a few times."]] he admitted, sinking down into the soft sofa and turning over the canister in his hands. [b [#757575 "I was really young, though."]]
And there was the question. The one he'd been dreading. It always made his chest hurt, made him feel a little weak to talk about it.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/w8MmacF.gif]] [b [#757575 "My brother..."]] he murmured, focusing his gaze on his hands rather intently, a thumb brushing over the faded writing. So familiar... [b [#757575 "His name was Matthew. He..."]] The sentence was cut off as Mr. Carter came back, and his attention snapped up to the older man with the projector, his heart starting to race. [pic http://orig14.deviantart.net/65b7/f/2013/011/5/a/divider_by_ladymidnightsolace-d5r6814.png]]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/suIvOQ4.jpg?1] [size12 Kim gave a solemn node. Gabe had mentioned back at the center that the films may have been made by his brother. Matthew... that would explain the "M". Small world. As Mr. Carter came back, cutting Gabe short, Kim rushed to help him set up, though he wasn't much use to the older man. Vintage film was outside of his expertise. Give him a library, a day, and a few cups of coffee, and that might change, but he didn't need study materials at the moment. He needed... Well, he wasn't sure.
A part of Kim wanted to see Gabriel through this. He felt a bit guilty as an outsider looking in, but he was a bystander by nature. As Mr. Carter set up the projector and gently took the film from Gabriel, Kim took a seat next to Gabe.
Mr. Carter started the film, and there was a bit of flickering before the scene came on. The sound was warbled, likely a bit warped by age, but you could clearly hear a young boy playing on the floor of the old building. It was a bit of a shock to see, considering how used to modern technology Kim was. The little boy in the film was playing with some wooden blocks. [b "Hey, Gabe! What'cha building?"] The voice was from the person filming, and a hand shot into view as it pointed to the tower. [b "A surprise,"] Little Gabe answered cryptically. [b "Go away! It's not done yet."] [b "Uhg. Fine."] The camera panned. Then the position changed as the one filming got closer to a window. A woman, someone who looked too fried to function, tossed a suitcase into a car. When she glanced at the window, there was an audible gasp, and the filming boy ducked out of view, turning the camera suddenly back on Gabriel, who was happily playing.
The film cut suddenly, leaving a sick looking Mister Carter to check the film. [b "Looks like That's all that was there. Must have been the last thing they ever filmed..."] He looked over at Gabe sympathetically. [b "I'll call Hillary and see if she can swing by city hall and get the rest of them back here."] Mr. Carter exited again, leaving Kim and Gabriel. Kim looked over at the other man, a bit worried for the reaction. [b "Ah. I don't know what to say,"] Kim admitted. [b "You can tell me about him if it helps."]
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