Ellen leans forward, cups her forehead in her hands. Her body twitches as she relaxes a bit. She sighs out and reaches a wiry hand to the coffee cup.

"I don't know. I don't know what it is. I--"

She laughs oddly, tossing her head up a little, sending ripples through her hair. Her fingers close around the cup spiderlike, and lift it up to her lips, where it hovers uncertainly for a moment. Her head, seeming as if the coffee cup in front of it may as well not exist for all it cared, blinks three times.

"I just-- fuck. I'm not safe here. It's like I'm not safe here. Like.. like something is wrong, horribly wrong with this place. Something permeates everything, something is.. is seeping through every.. every"

She swallows, the underside of her neck convulsing quietly, as her hand tips toward her. She sips it, a gentle ripple passing down her hair as the head jerks back. The cup tips forward again, her head returns, lower now, a little. Her movements are all jerky, violently wrapping, sudden, determined, as if there are powerful robotic servos lying beneath the skin, lending some unholy strength to the explosion of each tiny movement. And they are all tiny movements. She never jitters, but each action that breaks out of her constant stillness does so as a gigantic conscious epic sweep executed so simply, so directly, it appears to the viewer to be a twitch. Just a shift in position. She squints for an instant and then sighs again.

"What the problem is, really, though.. I... oh, I feel so stupid saying this, don't want to say it really.. I mean it's so naive, so melodramatic.. but still, it's there... it.."

The girl across the table gently uncups her hand, leans forward fluidly, lays the cup at rest on the table in front of her. She is a film of a person moving played back in slow motion. She moves like she is underwater. She leans back into her chair. Her eyes seem to always be just barely closed, just barely. When she finally speaks, her voice comes out distinctly louder than would be expected from watching her.

"What is it?"

Ellen snorts very slightly and sets her cup down on the table. Her hands return and fold into her hair, where they hold her head up.

"I don't know. I just feel-- *always*-- like i'm being *watched*. Like tiny invisible eyes see my every move from every angle. It feels like hell. Nothing is safe, I feel like I have to be alert every moment, like I have to be sure not to do anything wrong or I'll be caught. Even when that makes no sense. Because something is watching. Oh, this is just so silly. I'm certain I'm just being paranoid. Either way though it's awful..."

The girl tosses her head just slightly. Her hair moves along as if gravity somehow did not apply to it. Her sweater folds and unfolds along the top of her shoulders as they resettle as if they obeyed a different code of physics from the rest of the room.

"It's natural to feel unsettled when thrust into a new place. Until you adjust yourself and fix the workings of the environment in your mind, you will mistrust it. Perhaps in the end you will find the place is simply not right for you, but more than likely you simply must become accustomed to it."

The eyes flick open.

"This is your first time to live in an apartment, isn't it?"

Ellen stays for a moment silent and unacknowledging. Then she suddenly falls back into the chair, leaning her head back to address the ceiling.

"You know what it was, really, that started me on all this? Really? Started this whole train of thought? The first day I was here, in the lobby. Waiting for the manager to come so I could get my keys. It was the security camera. I could have sworn it was following me. I mean, fuck, it's a security camera, that's its job, but still. It was acting conscious. It seemed to just be singling me out specifically somehow, wherever in the room I went. Not that it was, understand, just that it seemed to be, and that was what started me thinking along those lines. Such a little thing. Funny how you get set off like that, isn't it. One tiny spark of an event and suddenly you're spiralling into paranoid delusions."

Her head falls forward and she stares, slightly squinting, slightly tilted, into nothing in particular.

"Well, OK, that and-- OK. Listen to this. Listen to this and tell me if I'm crazy. Because this is the really weird thing. Ih--

The voice stutters violently for a second, and then with a sudden harsh break of static falls abruptly silent into a low, steady, barely audible hum.


I switch the audio feed over to the node in her bathroom but it is too remote, too weak. They are not talking loud enough. The murmur of voices is audible but no words form within them.

Oh, and just as this was getting interesting.

I begin to gather the things I need for a reinstall-- oh, but shit, that's one of the ones where the microphone is part of the camera and can't be individually replaced. I don't have any more cameras. And I can't possibly add wiring. How am I going to get that thing _fixed_? I don't think there's anywhere left that can fix that particular model.

I'll just have to take it out altogether and swap it with the one in 223. I don't need audio in 223 anyway. Oh, but I won't be able to get into 223 until tomorrow afternoon. I won't have time to do all this tomorrow afternoon.. where am i going to find time to do all this tomorrow afternoon?

Her lips continue moving, cold, gray, and inscrutably textured, cryptically warping themselves in unearthly kaleidoscopic patterns in the silence.

I tell you, sometimes it's hell being a janitor.

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