He couldn't make out what they were saying, he just wondered who the fuck they were, and how bad has his luck turned this time.
Maybe those protestors really had meant business. But this didn’t seem their style, not by a long shot.
Maybe it was a joke, the staff at DeeDee's club had seemed a bit off, extra shady and maybe a little mental, even. Something about them had put him on edge, but really, most strangers put Jonny on edge these days.
Fuck that, it didn't matter. He had to get the bloody hell out of there, the only thing that mattered, he didn’t have time to wonder.
He stood next to the bed now, and looked around for a weapon or a key, anything within reach that might be of use. He could maybe pick the lock, if he could just get his hands on something useful. Then maybe he could jump out the window before the two threats turned their attentions on him again.
A lamp lay shattered across the bed, but the remains were too small to make an effective weapon. His jacket and all the handy things in its pockets lay on the floor, out of reach. He thought of the other thing in his pocket and determined to get right the fuck out of there all the more.
He took a deep breath to keep the lid on his panic.
The handcuffs, the smell, the gloom, it all made for a large deck completely stacked against him. Something big and ugly pressed against the wall between his conscious and subconscious, and it could cripple him any second now. The struggle had brewed up a perfect storm. He had to move fast, if he stood any chance at all.
But the jumbled mess between his ears had other plans, as usual. The shadows began to shift into other things, squashing his shabby hopes for a fast escape. He squinted at the moving forms as his ability to sort out what was and wasn't real slipped away.
Bones? Skulls? Rotting corpses? Spiderwebs? Yes, massive spiderwebs made of chains, or the illusion of such, danced and rattled in the shadowy corners of the room. Strange symbols painted and carved on the walls. Other shadows, voices and figures, parts of another place and time, they all rose up from the gloom and advanced on him.
Then came the pain, rupturing his head, just as he had grown to expect. He scrambled for some hold on reality, but it only slipped all the quicker through his mental grip.
The voices in his head mixed with the voices across the room, and none of it made any sense. They hissed vicious things that he could hardly hear, not remember at all, and yet feared with every fiber of his being.
He clung to the headboard as the hallucination took him.
- - - -
"He's — not even listening to us —"
(“little piece of shit never listens”)
"— like he's not even here…"
(“we’ll keep you here for as long as it takes”)
- - - -
He doubled over in pain, with only the wall and the bed to keep him upright.
The contents of his stomach, not much more than that shite American beer, bubbled up from his belly. He couldn't believe the smell of the room hadn't already pushed it up.
He exhaled and tried to force the room to stop swimming, now leaning heavily on the headboard to which he was chained. He raised his head to look at the two women across the room, trying to ground himself back in this very important, very alarming reality. With great concentration he stood up straight and brought the two figures back into focus. They had just turned their focus to him.
"How hard did you hit him?"
(“— tried to hurt himself again —”)
"— Not THAT hard…"
(“we’ll just have to see about that”)
In the blink of an eye, the newcomer zoomed from across the room to right in his face.
A short, staccato shout burst through his lips.
His phantom ordeal still had its hooks deep in him, as if the real one wasn't disturbing enough. Cornered between the bed and the wall, he looked up into the half-real, half-imagined face.
"No," the villain mirage said, "Not that hard at all. There’s something else wrong with him."
He? She? Jonny honestly couldn't tell. The figure was tall, maybe six and a half feet, and looked rather like a large man until you saw the knockers. The voice had had a female tone to it, though. Not feminine, but it purred with a smooth lull that if he had to make a guess, he'd say female. She was hideous regardless, and wouldn’t stand much chance as human with the features fate had dealt.
Her breath reeked, a combination of cesspool and decaying flesh, and his stomach clenched again. The lingering effect of the hallucination gave her glowing red eyes, uneven and bulging in their sockets, along with sharp, jagged fangs lurching behind her lips. He couldn’t be sure because he could never remember them, but this seemed a bit over-the-top, even for his top-shelf level of waking nightmares.
He wanted very much to back away, right through the fucking brick wall.
She grabbed his left hand, still free, and stretched him along the wall. He strained against her grip, but she was much too strong.
"Wh – what –"
She pressed him firmly against the wall with her body, and stood so he couldn’t see what she was doing.
Fuck. What the hell was she doing?
The other set of handcuffs lie ignored on the floor, and there was nothing over there to cuff him to, anyway. Could he dare feel relieved at that? Probably not.
He stared at her back, trying to guess what would come next. She’d just pulled something out of her jacket pocket.
"what're you doing –"
She gave silence and a quick, forceful, jerky motion in response.
A stabbing pain shot through Jonny’s wrist and he screamed, long and anguished.
She stepped aside to show him: She'd pinned his wrist to the wall with a fucking stiletto.
His head grew faint, his knees buckled. She grabbed his jaw on his way down, squeezing his face as she forced him to look up at her.
"Now do I have your full attention?"
- - - -
Jonny shut his eyes tight and shook his head, desperate to clear this nightmare beyond nightmares. But nothing changed at all, no matter what he did. He didn't understand it, this just couldn't be happening.
The shock of the initial pain had cleared, and his enemy's massive form now knelt beside him.
She wrapped an arm around his captive shoulders and yanked his head to the side. She began to trace the many scars along his arms. He cringed but had no retreat, not even an inch from her inspection.
The blur of sights and sounds, he doubted much of it actually existed in the real world. But her touch, all the physical sensations, the damage, that sure as fuck felt real. His arms sure as fuck weren't moving. Even if his perceived restraints were an illusion of some sort, something really fucking painful held him in place.
“It looks like you've been cut before." Her voice oozed and rumbled, an oily sludge over sharp gravel.
Jonny didn't have any response for that. He didn't say much at times like this. He tried to keep quiet. Engaging the nightmares only made them worse. So much worse. It was always best to wait them out, wait for Ginny to wake him up, pull him out of it…
Her inspection traveled toward his left wrist, the one she’d impaled, the scars across it partly obscured by fresh blood. He saw she used a long, jagged blade to trace them, not her fingernails as he'd thought and hoped. She pulled and twisted his head further and back until he could only see the stained ceiling and its massive hole that continued through several floors above.
Afraid to shut his eyes, Jonny stared into the darkness above and the darkness stared back down at him. Things started to take shape up there, in the inky black…
Her blade traced its way to the nasty scar to the right side of his throat. He gulped for air and felt the sharp point of the blade at his adam's apple. He shuddered against her grip, and she held him all the tighter.
The shadows above gave a fleeting impression of vultures laughing down at him from a tall and twisted gallows tree, shimmering metallic spiderwebs tangling all its branches. And then they were gone, returning to pitch black again. How far up did it go? Like looking up into the gates of hell…
“Yes, cut, and hurt, and burned… all over."
She slid his shirt up his body and wrapped it over his face like a hood. She renewed her grip on his chin and continued to trace his past injuries along his midriff. He tried again to draw away, but she would have none of that. She wedged her knee between him and the wall, pushing his hips forward, and giving her easy access to his chest and stomach and all the things beneath the skin.
"All these scars," she said, "hard to find a fresh spot to start."
Jonny gritted his teeth. Start? he thought. Start what? Her hand clenched his jaw harder, through the shirt, in case he got up the nerve to ask. The knife point tapped along the length of his sternum, then dragged a lazy, menacing circle around his navel.
She let go of his head and shifted her weight to his front, straddling his legs. She pulled the shirt completely over his head and twisted it around the back of his neck. It kept his torso exposed but allowed him to see again. She inspected around his collar and shoulders for more scars, then clutched his face between her hands.
"Tell me, did you do any of that yourself?"
Jonny blinked at her. A few were just the sorts you'd expect to be self-inflicted, but Jonny honestly couldn't say. Most of the marks across his body were a mystery to him, too.
But, staring her in the face, he could hardly think on any of that. Jesus fucking christ, the glowing red eyes. Her horrible fucking breath. No nightmare had ever been like this. The blonde must have slipped him a hallucinogenic. That might explain the extra peculiarities here. Either way, he was in for a bad night. He closed his eyes to her and tested his bonds again.
She grabbed his hair with both hands – hard – and forced him to look into her eyes. He felt her trying to… pull something out of him, trying to read something inside, in his nightmares, all the parts that he very much did not want to let out.
"Huh." She looked uncertain and puzzled.
She let go and stood up. Words came to his lips and he couldn't stop them from spilling out.
"Wh – what do you –" he swallowed hard. "wh’d-d'you want from me –"
Her knee connected with his nose, and broke it in a sickening, wet crunch.
The pain burst over his face, and her sinister voice punched its way through it, right into his ear.
"You'll know it when I take it from you."
• • • •
Marion truly knew how to make the most out of a victim.
Here in her web, she had everything she needed at her fingertips.
Her tools ranged from medieval instruments to brutal slaver’s devices to the most fashionable modern day BDSM gear.
Marion had created a miniature version of the Studio that Sebastian, DeeDee, and Silas shared, but sometimes she didn’t use a thing, just her own strength and claws and teeth. Every Dinner was different. Each told her how she should prepare them.
Tonight was a relatively simple dish. Nearly all her tools would go unused.
Marion did have a few things set up permanently, so she could enjoy herself no matter what she did to them. They could scream as loud as they wanted, but no one would ever hear. She could torture all night while only half an hour passed through the world outside. She could let them go and hunt them through the halls while they never ever found a way out. Every Dinner was different.
Nancy had ruined some of tonight’s foreplay, roughing Dinner up beforehand because she couldn’t handle a little curveball. You'd think someone who'd run around with Charlie Manson would've blossomed into something more than this silly little cow. Nancy would never make a decent vampire, and someday Marion would have to deal with her.
Yet no matter how dopey and ditzy, Nancy still did a bang-up job sniffing out and serving up tasty entertainments. Tonight, though it got off on the wrong foot, was no exception. Marion had never had anything like him.
Marion couldn’t exactly read his thoughts, but she got the gist of what was in his head – something severe, emotionally severe. His reactions were way out of line with what she did to him. Her prey had been through some very traumatic thing or things in the past.
Here in her lair, he couldn’t believe that any of what he saw was real. He hadn’t even realized yet that she wasn’t human. He kept explaining away her appearance with his nightmares, some insane hallucinations that he expected and was almost used to, though clearly not happy about.
At first, Marion was jealous. He was hers now. But his mind kept wandering, and that pissed her off.
Then she caught a whiff of the fear they brought on – unlike anything she’d smelled before. Whatever buzzed around in his head, that damned him to a level of hell she’d never known a bloodbag to endure. Once she realized that, she just had to tease and test him, until she got a feel for where his worst fears lay. She explored and pushed and pulled his triggers and made it all work in her favor.
Under close inspection, he was covered in scars, all over – short cuts, long slashes, small, round cigarette burns. A mystery – who had worked on him before her? Maybe he had a lot of enemies, or maybe he liked to hurt himself. Perhaps a little bit of both. She’d asked him, but the little piece of shit wouldn’t answer.
It took some deep exploration before she realized it: Even he didn’t know. Her curiosity might never be satisfied.
But no matter. His fears and dreads sang their way through her nose. She’d wandered into some foreign land, full of unknown spices and exotic flavors she’d never dreamed could exist.
Oh, yes, this Dinner was a special score. Her little mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped around her little finger would deliver a hell of a payoff before she was through.
• • • •