The last thing you remember is losing control of the car. It's not raining anymore, though the daylight sky is a pale, overcast gray. You're in an open, overgrown field, bordered by trees on one side and some anonymous back yards on the other. The highway is out of sight, though you can hear the faint rush of traffic if you listen. The car must have [crashed], obviously. After that you seem to have lost some time -- maybe you were in shock -- and wandered off. [[Take stock]].There aren't a lot of [people]<people| out and about right now, which is reasonable; it's hard to judge the time of day with the sky so cloudy, but it feels like maybe midmorning. Also, to be honest, the whole neighborhood looks kind of [run down]<rundown|. (if: (history:) contains "Cross lots")[(display: "locals")](else:)[(click: ?people)[(display: "locals")] ] (click: ?rundown)[(append: ?rundown)[. Gapped fences, peeling paint, sagging porches]] You feel like that's probably not a great idea, but they're [[not your kids->Cross lots]]. Presumably their mom or other relevant adult has an eye on them.Pinchy-faced white woman in matchy sweats, tiny ratty dog. You don't really get the feeling either of them is a friend to stranded motorists, and besides, they're [[almost to the corner->Cross lots]].You're a little chilly -- it's only April, and in retrospect you probably should have worn a sweater -- and still pretty disoriented, but otherwise you feel fine. The accident must not have been so bad after all, if you walked away from it without a scratch. For a minute you panic, wondering if you've given yourself total |amnesia>[amnesia.](click-replace: ?amnesia)[amnesia, like in cheesy movies or one of those old |lampshade>[computer games.] (click: ?lampshade)[But no, don't be stupid. //It's 2014. My name is Nicole. Calm down, Nicole.// You pull out your phone to check the date -- just in case -- but the damn thing is dead. |figures>[Well, that figures.] (click: ?figures)[God only knows how far you've wandered while you were out of it, but at least you're not totally out of reach of civilization. You can see a residential [[neighborhood->Cross lots]] from here, and by the sound of it, the [[highway->Backtrack]]'s not that far off -- probably on the other side of those trees.] ] ]Well, since you're fine, your crappy old Camry is probably salvageable -- it's a piece of junk, but it's yours, and you wouldn't look forward to trying to budget for a new one. Besides, you left your bag in there. You double back across the field toward the tree belt, hoping the car hasn't been towed yet.Down the way a couple of little kids are playing on a [[rusty swingset]](if: (history:) contains "walking a dog")[, and](else:)[. Some woman is [[walking a dog]] on the other side of a street, and] there's [[a guy smoking]] on his front porch.Close to, the house is even more dilapidated than its neighbors. A rain gutter, clogged with dirt and old birds' nests, dangles loose; the front walk is overgrown, and several of the windows are broken. It looks like nobody's lived here in years. But there [the guy]<griffin| is, lit cigarette in hand, leaning in his doorway like he's keeping it from collapsing. |griffclick>[Y]ou might as well [[approach him]]. (click: ?griffin)[(replace: ?griffclick)[(display: "Griffin") Possibly he's kind of an asshole, but y] (set: $gface to true)]He's tall, lanky, looks to be in his early forties -- older than you, but not so much older that you feel weird for noticing that he's handsome in a tired-looking way. Short hair, sandy brown skin, lots of laugh lines. Eyes that watch you with some amusement."Excuse me," you say, once you're within reasonable earshot. "Can I use your phone?" The guy blinks, then laughs like you've said something genuinely witty. "You're welcome to try, I don't know that you'll get far." [[Asshole->Very funny]].Double-click this passage to edit it.You fix him with your flattest stare. (if: $gface)["So that's a no, then."](else:)[(display: "Griffin") "So that's a no, then."] He holds up his hands, placating. "[[Come on in]]," he says, as if his porch steps aren't half [[rotted away->Maybe not]].You climb gingerly up the less decrepit half of the steps, which at least doesn't creak ominously under your weight, and follow the guy inside. The interior of the house looks, if anything, worse than the outside. The front hall is ankle-deep in dead leaves, with empty bottles half buried in the corners. Beyond is what was probably a dining room before it was trashed. One of the windows is half gone, shattered all over the floorboards, and there's honest to God graffiti on the wall. [[What is this guy, a squatter?->Seriously]] He catches the look you give him, and makes a face. "I know, //believe// me, I know." You eyeball the steps, then the guy, and turn away. "Yeah, never mind.""Is this even your house?" "Well," he says, "it was at one point." "Which means what," you say. He sighs, and rakes both hands through his hair, looking harried. You're not sure what he's done with the cigarette.=><= ##halfway house --- ''episode one: how the other side lives'' |warnings>[content warnings](click: ?warnings)[: death, decomposition, profanity, ableist language] [[Opener<-Play]]