previous: CharmanderChar1692 ch5
“Charli…?” the familiar voice echoed through the darkness. It was Vice, he was awake and possibly high on something that would make him superhuman. “Charli!” His voice went from a question to a roar. “I know you’re down here!”
With my back against the cold metal wall, I crept down the hallway towards an unknown destination. I could have been scooting towards a dead end for all I knew, but anywhere had to be better than staying in one place. I crossed my arms over my chest, shivering. It wasn’t really even that cold, I was just that panicked. ‘Happy thoughts; think of candy, popcorn, chocolate cookies. And now I was hungry.
I needed to stay focused. There was a story my grandma used to tell me; the truth about our family’s role in the 1692 Salem Witch trials. Our ancestors came over on the Mayflower, taking up residence in the North Eastern region of what would someday be the United States of America.
Father Charles ‘Charli’ Westmore was a priest, one of many tasked with interrogations. According to written records, he was known to have a remarkable sense of empathy. He could always see the good in people. And even though he never managed to save anyone from execution he offered forgiveness and absolution. He survived under the protection of the church, but as soon as he could, the young priest moved to Canada.
There, he married and had a daughter (who I am directly descended from.) His daughter had no idea about his past until she discovered his memoirs after he passed away at the ripe old age of seventy-nine. Did I believe the story? No, of course not. The man could have just been writing a fiction novel. However, I did like the idea of being descended from a survivor; someone who managed to escape the worst event of their lifetime with no blood on his hands. Perhaps I could be that strong (or lucky) only time would tell. ‘Nothing is impossible, you can survive this.’
Vice was banging on the metal walls. “Charli, sweetheart, where are you?” The sound of his footsteps were moving away from my current location. “You know I don’t kill my pet projects. You’re my baby, my love. I just want you to be the best you can be. Don’t you want that too?” he was giggling, laughing, and then he started humming. “Make of me a subject bound; tasting halls and hushed up sound.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. The song sounded like a church hymn combined with the promises of the devil. A ‘subject bound’ equaled devotion, but the idea of ‘tasting halls and hushed up sound,’ seemed contradictory.
“Do you know that song?” he asked, his voice was now noticeably closer. “Cast one: kept as pets, cast two: steers the flock…”
Was this about heaven? Was there a hierarchy?
Vice continued to walk and sing. “Cast three plumes and pelts, cast four: birds of song…” The gravel crackled beneath his feet.
I was frozen in place. What did it all mean? Thinking like an animal lover I was picturing the famous PETA billboard where a group of animals were lined up from ‘pets’ to ‘food.’ First was dogs, cats and other comfort animals; creatures who have no expectations placed upon them other than happiness and love. I assumed the second line referred to dogs and cats who actually had to work for a living; sheep dogs, seeing-eye animals, etc. The next two seemed to refer to animals who were kept around for something they can give; wool, fur, or song.
“Cast five watching dogs, cast six praying beasts, cast seven working horses…” Vice’s voice drifted away as he went around a corner. “Seven pillars under latch.”
Was he describing his followers, his creations? The idea made my stomach turn. “What was Annaleigh?” The words came out in a normal speaking tone but somehow his footsteps stopped.
Vice could hear me clear as day. “What do you know about my Annaleigh?”
“She was your daughter, the child of your dead wife. Was Annaleigh’s death an accident? Were you experimenting on her and she tried to escape? That’s what happened isn’t it?” That would explain why he had the journal with her name on it. “You wanted to mutilate her, to force her to become something you wanted her to be.” My mind flooded with images of all the horrible things he might have done to his own daughter. “You killed her, covered it up and then framed some innocent college kid!”
I don’t know what I was expecting to happen. The world went eerily silent except for the sound of my own tears. I was sad for Annaleigh, for myself but also for Vice. What I said was cruel, even to a psychopath.
And then I realized, I just gave my position away. (That was why he wanted me to keep talking.) Vice would be coming. I could hear his footsteps closer and closer. Soon, I could hear him breathing, sobbing. “Vincent? Are you there? I’m sorry.” Why did I call him by his real name? “Please let me go. If you let me walk away, I promise I’ll…” I’ll what? Not tell a soul? Not go straight to the police? Yeah right.
Vice’s reply came from just above me. “If you choose to be ungrateful, there is very little I can do to save you.”
“From my fate?” I asked sarcastically. Vice was just a bully playing God, because realistically he didn’t deserve to be on the level of any of the seven casts. He was worse than the rats and cockroaches that crawled the sewers.
“From this ugly world.” Vice’s steps started to go in a very specific direction. I could hear a few beeps, immediately followed by the sound of door after door unlocking remotely.
I leaned against the wall, desperately trying to focus my eye. I needed the map; something, anything. I was getting flickers of information; walls, doors, figures. There were figures moving from the various floors.
‘Cast five watching dogs, cast six praying beasts,’ that had to mean soldiers, front line warriors. That’s what was coming for me. Then there was the last, lowest cast of the loyal, ‘Cast seven working horses.’ That’s what I needed to look for.
Strangely the creatures seemed to be moving in all different directions. Some wanted to crawl to freedom, while others seemed to be actively looking for me. I knew I would need a weapon; something sharp or maybe a shield. First, I needed to find my way to one of the newly opened cells. The fact that Vice opened the doors remotely gave me a glimmer of hope; there was a strong wireless signal, even at this depth, I just needed to latch on (without being detected.)
This was easier said than done.
I scooted past the metal walls, finding myself in a corridor made of packed dirt, reenforced by wooden planks. And metal pipes? I could clearly see a series of small pipes connecting to something at the end of the hall. It was an elevator, or rather an empty elevator shaft.
As I gripped the cold metal pipe, I could feel the vibrations of a pully system that stretched down at least one floor. I could see a digital skeleton of the level directly below me (including the elevator car that was stuck there.
I was mentally debating over whether or not to attempt the climb. If I decided not to go for it, this would (of course) be a dead end. Such a decision would require me to find a new direction. ‘Did I really want to do that?’ On the flip side, if I did climb the pipes, I ran the risk of getting crushed by anything (or anyone) attempting to travel up a floor.
The choice was quickly taken from me. I heard the distinct sound of skittering; like a large mouse or other sewer dwelling creature. This was followed by the creaking sound of the hand cranked elevator car. Someone was coming up.
I took a step back. At first, I could hear the sound of someone using the hand crank, the same way Vice would, but this process appeared to be too slow for the creature. After a moment of screeching and screaming, they started to jump, bashing their head into the ceiling of the car. And then they started to bite, moving like a shark or a demon possessed by a crocodile. This continued until a head broke through; a female with pale skin and pastel blue hair.
“Hellen is that you?” my first guess was Flower since she had the iconic hair, but this girl’s hair was not the entity in control.
The girl flashed a mouth full of silver; braces, piercings, and fangs. “Guess again, bitch.” Her voice was dry, cracked, as if she had no access to food or water. Yet she seemed to have maxed out levels of energy. She leapt like a lion, landing on all four legs, uncomfortably close to where I was cowering.
It was Rylie Blue, but the Instagram model was looking very different. “Wow, you’re Rylie Blue,” I said with a forced smile. After all she was just a kid. “I’m actually a big fan.”
“Then you should be honored that I’m the one to take your head.”
Rylie grabbed me by the neck. thankfully her hands were not superpowered. Her blue, metallic acrylic nails were broken and chipped, a few were even hanging from their respective spots. Thankfully, her grip strength was mediocre.
I had been choked before, and not in a good way. So, I knew a little about self-defense from my local YMCA. I kicked at her stomach, failing, until I had my hand on her throat instead.
However, something still hurt. I could feel wetness on my neck, followed by a burning pain. It was clear the girl had been using her pointer finger as a carving tool; maybe to hunt for food, or perhaps to carve daily hatch marks into the wall.
Snarling, Rylie snapped her mouth at me. Her head jerked forward, over and over, in a motion similar to a rabid attack dog. Because that’s what she is. I could feel her droll hitting my face. Did she start out as a song bird and somehow get sentenced to being a dungeon beast? If so, why? What could she have done? Or was this Vice’s plan the entire time; to take internet famous people from all over the world, and well, for lack of a better word; fuck them up.
The heat of her foul breath was coming closer as my arms were succumbing to exhaustion. I pretty much knew for a fact the first thing she’d do once she had me: take a huge bite out of my face, like a double bacon cheeseburger. That was my main area of focus; protect myself, save myself from pain, blood, agony, death.
‘But why though?’
In a last moment of strength, I punched her in the face as hard as I could. This caused some of the silver to go flying. Hitting the wall with a clink.
“Funny, real funny. You think you’re real funny don’t ya.” This was followed by her spitting blood in my face. i wanted to scream but i made sure to keep my mouth closed, holding my breath. Rylie scooted back, spitting on the ground.
“You’re hurt. Let me help you,” I said in my calmest, most human sounding voice.
Rylie shook her head. “I need him to love me.” Although soft, the tone of her voice was an odd mix of sadness, lust and anger.
She was human; she could be injured, maybe even killed. ‘No, not killed. No one is killing anyone.’ I couldn’t do that. not even if she was some kind of dog-shark-demon who was literally licking her wounds.
“What?” she asked in a growl.
“You don’t need his love.” I racked my brain trying to think of something I knew as a fan, any piece of information that could bring her humanity back.
“You don’t know,” she said through tears, her nails scraping a nearby wall. “You don’t know! Everyone thinks they know me! No one knows me!”
“I do know,” I said, sitting tall with the best possible posture. There was one line, a lyric that became the iconic motto of her brand. “Life’s a dance and love’s a curse.”
“What?” Rylie asked in a giggle. Her voice was confused even nervous as she crossed her arms over her chest. “What did you say.”
“That was the name of your album, right? During an interview you said that those words were something you mother used to say. Is that true?”
Rylie hugged herself, rocking on her knees. “No, no, no.”
“You were going to use it to launch your new makeup line. You wanted to dedicate your success to her, maybe even buy her a house one day.”
“That was the past,” Rylie said with a snarl. “My mother was the past. She IS the past!” Her eyes were glowing in the darkness. “Vice taught me to live. He gave me a reason to live!”
With remarkable speed, Rylie lunged at me. It was clear she intended on attacking with her main weapon; her disgusting, silver jewelry covered mouth.
I dodged her attack like a bullfighter, causing her to ram into the dirt wall. This caused the whole space to tremble. I felt my mind freeze up.
“You can’t be afraid. because they sure as hell aren’t,” said a male voice. I assumed this was my conscious or maybe a guardian angel, but I didn’t have much time to think about it.
The metal of her mouth and lips made contact with my arm, leaving cuts similar to a shaving razor. Somehow, she missed me with her actual teeth, so I had to assume that would be her next goal.
I tried to punch her, hoping I could pick away at her life bar like some kind of videogame boss. With each hit I was causing jewelry to go flying. This gave me hope; just like me, she was made of flesh and bone. I managed six good hits before she bit down on my hand.
“Fucking bitch!” I screamed in pain, balling my fist. in my mind, my goal was to tear away from her grasp even if that meant giving up part (or all) of my right hand.
I wasn’t going to give up without a fight. With all the strength in my arm, I kept punching. I was waving my arm back and forth in an arch, hitting whatever surface it could reach. All while her teeth were sinking into my fingers. This was now a battle of wills.
For a brief moment I started to laugh. I once read somewhere that human fingers were as easy to bite through as a carrot. According to internet sources, the only reason we can’t do it to ourselves is due to nerve pain.) Lucky for me that didn’t seem to be true. Don’t get me wrong, I could feel her metal teeth grinding into my muscle tissue, but the harder I held on to her lower jaw, the less pressure she was able to inflict. I pulled as hard as I could. The fact that I felt pain meant I was still in control. My body was my own. Soon I could no longer feel her upper teeth.
In my mind, my goal was to close my hand; to feel my fingernails digging into my own palm. The harder I gripped the less I felt. Thankfully, in the darkness I couldn’t see how much blood I was losing or how badly damaged my muscles and nerves were.
In my mind I was a zombie; dead, strong, invincible, and kind of hungry. I would never get out of here; never see freedom, experience love, or even McDonald’s chicken nuggets. This sucked! This was fucked up! I was going to die here and that was fine; great; awesome!
This revelation gave me the strength to punch her with my free hand; over and over. The glorious crunch, crunch, of her bones, clink, clink of her jewelry. I could feel myself weighing her down. Eventually I was on top of her, with my knees on her chest. ‘This feels nice. I could do this all day’
I sank my kneecap into her neck, holding it there with all my strength. “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep little Rylie.” I knew I was taller and heavier than the young Instagram model. All I had to do was survive, until she stopped moving.
For a brief second, she released my hand, causing a rush of pain to shoot up my wrist, to my shoulder. The sensation was a pain unlike anything I’d ever experienced. (And it was so glorious.) I drew my hand back and punched her again (or at least I assumed that’s what I did.)
In the distance I could see a small, but abnormally bright light. It was either a phone or some sort of tactical light. “Alicia, is that you?”
There was no reply. The light was coming closer, briefly hitting me in the face. Although not long enough to blind me, it was long enough for the stranger to verify my face. This was followed by the sound of male laughter. “Vice?”
“You’re really bad at guessing games, aren’t you?” the man was taller than Vice, his voice deeper with a notable accent. He panned the light over my hands, revealing what I had done. “At least you’re good with your hands, I see.”
I looked down at Rylie’s face and screamed. I scooted backward, nearly falling into the elevator shaft. Leaning against the wall, I stood up on shaky legs. There was something in my hand. “What’s in my hand?”
The man moved the light back to Rylie’s face. She was missing her lower jaw and with it, the majority of her silver bling.
I looked at my hand and screamed again, followed by an unending chain of shrieks. I had torn off her jawbone. And I was still holding it. ‘Why am I still holding it?’
I hurled the chunk of gore into the darkness. “There, if I can’t see it, it never happened.”
This of course prompted the man to shine the light directly on the jaw. “You know, you can use that as a weapon.”
“No, thank you,” I said politely, as I attempted to stand, using the wall to balance my weight. Somehow, I managed to approach him for a handshake.
He shook my hand, allowing me to verify his identity: it was the patient. “Okay then, how about I keep it? It should come in handy when presenting you to Vice.”
I nodded, struggling to stay calm. I knew that was going to happen. Until I could find a way out, all roads would always lead back to VP. “What can I call you?”
“Call me…” he pursed his lips. taking a moment to think about it. “How ‘bout you just call me H.”
“H?” Did that mean what I thought it did? Was this Henry in a new body?
“That’s what I said.” He gave a blank expression, made even more difficult to read in the darkness of the underground corridor.
I wanted to get to the surface, or at least get away from Rylie’s dead body. At least I hoped she was dead. Death was, if nothing else, a way to cross the finish line. That was more than I had. “So, what now, H? Where to?”
“Next we get the hell out of here,” he said with a chuckle but not before putting the jaw into (what looked like) the pocket of his loose-fitting jeans. with his opposite hand he put his arm around my shoulder, leading me in the opposite direction. As we turned a corner there was a different elevator car available, one that was thankfully not torn up by a mutant Instagram model with shark teeth.
“How far down are we?” I asked. I honestly couldn’t remember how far I’d gone. There might have been hidden decline someplace taking me deeper then I realized.
“Just Two floors from the surface,” he replied with a cool sense of confidence, as if we did not just see a dead girl with a mangled face.
I reached for his hand, making sure to not glance down at the jawbone trophy. “Tell me something about the baby.”
“She’s safe,” the large man said in a whisper. “If we survive, I know how to find her, but if not, I know she’ll be given a chance at life.”
I nodded silently, cuddling myself closer to him. his body smelled like human sweat mixed with aluminum, like freshly washed soda cans. it was an oddly pleasant scent. “You smell like a really clean recycling bin.” I closed my eyes, finally getting a moment of rest. “Actually, you smell like a grocery store; Pepsi and Sunkist, and everything good in the world.”
He flashed me a smile, chuckling as we entered the hand-crank elevator car. “You’re so adorable.”
We came to the main floor where Vice and Alicia were sitting at a table, sharing a glass of blood-red wine. He stood up, clapping his hands in a slow, sarcastic manner. It was like something out of a movie. “Muy bueno mi querido amigo,” Vice stood up to shake the man’s hand. “Very good my dear friend. it pleases me to no end that you were the one to succeed.”
H bowed his head, “It was an honor.” He reached in to the pocket which was actually a saddle bag made from his tattered clothing. A very blood-soaked bag. I assumed he was going to reveal the jawbone; I was half right, or maybe more like a quarter correct.)
He tossed no less than six body parts at Vice, the gory pieces landing at his feet. His dark brown Italian loafers nudged away a severed hand, resulting in an unsightly stain.
Alicia immediately fell to the ground, crawling to clean him with her tongue.
I wanted to use my eye to see if there were any survivors still in the dungeon, but Alicia glanced up at me, locking eyes as she mouthed the word ‘no.’
H patted my arm. “Since I took it upon myself to return some of your tech, might I ask for something in return?”
Vice smirked, biting his tongue as he spoke, “Let me guess, you want to keep that one for yourself?”
“Would that be a problem?” my new friend asked. His face remained as stoic as a marble statue of a certain Greek God. (Zeus? No, that would imply sexuality. Hades? No, that implied evil or even darkness, although the H did fit. I needed him to be my savior; my Ares.)
“Does that mean you’re going to stick around?” Vice asked. With his arms crossed he looked like the grumpy, self-righteous supervisor from the movie ‘Office Space.’
“That shouldn’t be a problem. Just as long as I don’t end up in your private collection.”
Vice stood up. First, he appeared to be walking towards H in an aggressive manner. “Well, that would mean you’d help me grab new volunteers.” He started to walk in a circle around both me and my exotic guardian angel.
H gripped my hand giving it a gentle squeeze. I knew that was a signal for me to take the spotlight. I raised my shoulder, posing like a model. I leaned on H’s big strong arm, like an animal marking my territory.
Vice came closer, locking eyes with me. He was awaiting an answer. Choking back the bile in my throat I somehow managed to give him one. With my best sexy pout, I leaned in close, brushing my lips to his ear. I could smell the deep cedar notes of his cologne, but as I took a lick, he tasted like cinnamon. “I can be your Claire-bear.”
next: Charmanderchar1692 ch7