Spotify Soundtrack for this entry is here.
Sweetness on my lips, stuck in my teeth. So much sweet, cloying candy. Now a new figure slinks through the swinging double doors of the Last Chance Saloon. The question mark on his mask returning my quizzical stare. Another trick-or-treater?
No, this one moves too fast, lashing out at me with his weapon as Chum and R scatter to the sides. Ynk dashes forward, drawing the stranger’s attacks away so that I can slide my knife between his ribs. The creature barely flinches. I fling a handful of glitter from my pocket into his face as he turns on me, but he keeps coming. I try to flee and this time it is my back his blade sinks into. There is a mechanical whoosh as the hyposhiv injects its toxins and then….
I am staring at a bar, gleaming taps and tarnished silver. It is bright in here. Someone is shouting a word I don’t understand.
My arm is broken, the bones grind together when I move. I have a blade in my hand and I raise it, crouching. There’s a door on the far side of the room. I’ve got to get out. They’re trying to corner me. They’re moving in on all sides. They are shouting that word. Their faces are frenzied and angry.
I slip into the darkness as they pursue me, voices baying like hounds. I don’t know this place or this building but I do know the shadows, and I wrap them around me like a cloak.
I’ve got to get to safety. They are hunting me now. I can hear their blades sharpening. I press into the trees as footsteps crunch on gravel. There is a man in red robes stumbling past. He is coming to find me! He is going to see me here! I must attack.
I step from the treeline and sink my blade into his chest as fast as I can. He screams and others turn towards us with a shout.
“Rajah!” they cry that strange word, to rally the others? A battle cry? One darts towards me and I leave the red-robed priest to flee once more.
“Rajah, what’s wrong?!” the young man is on my heels, he’s fast. I dart and weave trying to escape. Down a path into the woods, crashing through the underbrush.
“Rajah, stop!” He hits me from behind and I roll across the ground.
“WHAT’S RAJAH” I scream at him, throwing glitter in his face.
“Rajah, it’s me! Miitheifs!” he knocks me to the ground again. I crawl across the dirt, scramble to my feet and dash for the trees. “Rajah, come back!”
This time I lose him in the trees and tuck myself into a pile of dried leaves. They are hunting me, I can hear their cursing. I see shadows and hear screams. Where am I?
I sit and sit, too terrified to move. My arm aches at my side. There is something moving in the darkness, a glowing red light. A person? He’s raising his arms at a tree… no a sign. There’s a sign in the road and he’s reading it. Clever. Maybe I can sneak over there and figure out where I am?
When he’s gone, I move out of the trees and back onto the road.
I’ve been wandering in the dark now for a while, flitting along the outskirts of the large lit building, the one the sign calls McBride HQ. The stranger is lurking too, I see him in the darkness like the glow of a hearth fire. I can’t tell if he’s following me. I keep my eye on that glow, watching for when shadows pass in front of it, using it as a defensive sight line to avoid others on the road.
The world keeps flickering, the moon disappearing. My legs ache from running, there is sweat in my eyes. I’ve got to keep moving. When I sit still, the ground starts quivering and the branches reach out to grab me. The earth is alive here, crawling with the rustling of insects and the whisper of voices I cannot make out. My arm is shooting pain, I need to find a way to immobilize it. There is sand in my fingers, from the pit in which I hid from the monsters.
Voices are drawing nearer, a new glowing man has appeared. I move away quickly but two others step onto the path, dark figures.
“Hey, are you okay?” a voice asks. Their hands are outstretched. “Who are you?”
“I don’t know.” I cry out, voice breaking with alarm. “Don’t come near me!”
“Shhh… hey, it’s gonna be ok.” the glowing one says softly. “Are you hurt?”
“My arm is broken.” I gasp.
“Would you like it to be fixed?” the glowing one asks, moving a bit closer.
I pause, my breath rattling in my throat. Yes. Make the pain stop.
“In this building here.” He points at the bright lights and the milling people. I shake my head sharply.
“No no no no no. Too bright. Too many. I can’t.” I start shifting into the shadows again.
“Hey, hey. Ok, we don’t have to go there. How about this tent over here? It’s a hospital. I can bring a doctor to you. It’s dark and empty. My name is 23. I want to help you.”
I stare at the tent he indicates. It’s very dark and comforting. A nice quiet place.
“Ok.” I agree, and let him lead me to the darkness. I perch upon the table, knife at the ready. The tent wall is slightly undone, flapping in the breeze. It’s a good escape route if something comes in. I file it away in my mind while the glowing one goes for help.
When he returns there are two figures with him. A glowing one and a dark one. They both approach quickly and I jump backwards, knocking over empty boxes.
“Hey hey, it’s ok.” 23 soothes. “They’re going to fix your arm.”
“Just one.” I brandish my knife. “Just the glowing one.” I can see him better, know when he moves. The dark ones are twisting shadow. The glowing ones are burning coals. 23 starts to move away, as the other glowing one approaches. I watch this new one move, all muscle and menace.
“No, stay with me!” I plead, grasping for 23, wide-eyed. The other one is circling behind me, I twist to watch him.
“Shhh… it’s ok. He’s gonna work on your arm. I’m right here.” 23 crouches in front of me, friendly face upturned. I nod down at him, biting my lip. I trust him, maybe?
“Ok.” I try and relax. The shadows of their glow are comforting, I watch it wash over my skin like fire.
Suddenly the shadows move sharply. The hair on the back of my neck stands up. I don’t know how, but I know the one behind me suddenly intends me harm. I drop to the floor as his fist sails past my head and punches 23 straight in the teeth. I don’t stay to see more, with a scream I throw myself under the walls of the tent and back out into the darkness.
“HOLD HER STILL.” They have surrounded me, their pounding feet and banded arms have made a cage from which I cannot escape. My blood is spilling on the ground from where their fists slammed through to flesh and knocked me to the ground as I fled. I scream into the night.
“HELP ME. THEY’RE HURTING ME. HELP ME.” I am choking on tears and pain and blood and they are holding me upright to slap hasty bandages on my wounds. “STOP HURTING ME.” The glowing ones are there, his fists are flying towards my skull.
I awaken to the crunch of my bones. They have broken my leg. I scream in pain, but they don’t care. They laugh as they hurt me.
I am in a room with others. I am on a bed. There is one narrow staircase at the end of the room to the room below. This is a trap. I am trapped. I am trapped. I am trapped. My mind is clawing at my skin. My arm and leg are broken. They have taken my knife. The one who knocked me in the dirt in the woods is there, grinning at me. His face has an evil countenance in the light.
They haul in the red robed man. He is gesturing with bound hands. He can see them for what they are. Monsters. We are trapped. We are trapped. We are trapped.
“LET ME GO.” I shriek at them. I have one good arm left. I feel for the blade at my side. They didn’t find that one. I draw it and stab the evil one violently.
“LET ME GO LET ME GO LET ME GO.”
CRUNCH. A man with a shield breaks my other arm and they wrest the knife from my spasming fingers.
‘Where the fuck is she getting these weapons from?” The evil one laughs, his fangs gleaming in the lamplight.
“WHY ARE YOU HURTING ME.” I don’t know these people. Why have they hunted me?
“It’s not safe for you out there.” They laugh at me. “You might get hurt.”
“I’M HURT NOW. YOU HURT ME.” I scream in their faces. They just shake their heads and laugh as my bones grind together.
“We’re keeping you here. We’ll knock you out again.” I choke on my sobs. I don’t want to be hit again. I don’t want to be laid out on this bed unconscious. I need to figure out a way out of here.
“You are the monsters.” I cry.
“Listen here you evil bitch.” the evil one cackles, brandishing my blades at me, but then he gets distracted by the gadgets in the red priest’s robes and turns away with my weapons.
“Can I sit with you?” there’s another glowing one, a woman. She has a broken arm like mine. I hiss at her but she proceeds unfazed. “I won’t hurt you.”
“Then help me. Can you fix me?” I whimper. She shakes her head, but sits next to me and touches my shoulder gently.
“What do you remember?”
“I was in the dark, I was safe. Then they tricked me and they hunted me.” I spit.
“You don’t remember who you are?”
I shake my head.
“Your name is Rajah. I’m Lasanya.” She says quietly, patiently. She points at another glowing girl who’s joined us. “Her name is R. You are in a crew together.” she indicates a patch on the girl’s vest that says Iron Rosie, then at the matching patch on my vest.
I look at the new girl and try to fake a smile. “If you care about me, save me? Help me get out of here?” I whisper, but she gives me a frightened shake of her head and looks away.
“Stop whispering!” The evil man shouts. “I will kill anyone that helps them.”
I shrink into the bed. There are footsteps on the stairs. Another glowing one is hauled into the room, hands bound. They throw him on the next bed over. He has the same patch as the girl R and I.
“Another one of Scarecrow’s victims.”
Lasanya speaks, “Rajah, this is Ynk.” The new captive barely glances at me. He is trying to twist the ropes around his wrists so that he can pull papers from his pockets. He starts squinting at the tiny writing, running his wrists over the paper to illuminate the words. So tiny. Tiny…
The room’s walls are closing in. I can’t breathe. I gasp for air. I’M TRAPPED. I’M TRAPPED. I’M TRAPPED. I gotta get out of here. I gotta get into the darkness and hide.
“Take us outside, please.” I beg. “This is a trap. If anything comes in I can’t get away.” I plead with the evil one but he’s ignoring me. I slide off the bed into the space between it and the next. The bound glowing one they called Ynk is still flipping through his pages. I whisper at him.
“I can make a scene, you can run. You have legs. Get out of here and get us help. They’re gonna kill us.” He freezes, but nods slightly to indicate he heard. He holds out his paper.
“Our names are in here. Maybe they’re not lying about that.”
I stare at him, trying to remember. But there’s nothing. His face is unknown to me.
“I’m thirsty.” I say. ‘There’s a flask in my pocket.” I could feel it sloshing when I ran.
“A flask?” the evil man asks incredulously, but he reaches in my pocket, “Ahh.”
“Let me check that.” a woman nearby says, she sniffs at it. “Uncle Todd’s. She’s sneaky.” They toss it to the side, and I lick my parched lips and glare at them.
“They’re going to gas the building!” a cry goes up from below.
WE’RE TRAPPED. WE’RE TRAPPED. WE’RE TRAPPED. My breathing is coming in gasps.
“Please, take us out of here.” I beg again. This time they listen, hauling us roughly downstairs and out into the darkness. There’s a crowd of fanged ones in scraps of light colored fabric.
“They’re going to kill us and feed us to them!” Ynk cries out, struggling against his bonds. They shove us against a tree and stand in a ring on guard. I catch the eye of a man standing nearby.
“Please help me!” I beg, trying to indicate my broken limbs. He regards me with pity, but turns his head away pointedly.
There is no one here who will help us. We are invisible.
“Look, we’ve got to put them somewhere.” Our captors are arguing among themselves. We have been left with only a handful of people now. The others have wandered away to fight or pursue their own interests.
“Take them back inside.” Lasanya suggests. I fling myself away from them.
“No. No. No. No. No. Not back into there. Not where it’s a trap. Not with all those people.”
“Shhhh…..” They stare at me with implacable faces.
“How about the hospital?” R suggests. She gestures at the tent from earlier.
“Yes!” I agree encouragingly. “If you put me there I will be so quiet, so good.” I will play the perfect prisoner. “I just can’t take the light and the people.” I try and sound pathetic. It’s not hard.
“We’ll put you in that dark corner.” they nod, carry us over and put us against the wall with the loose flap.
“Put him next to me, it will hide his glow.” I offer helpfully. When they turn to face out I whisper, “The wall here is loose. If you can get out of that rope we can roll out the back.”
“I’m injured.” he mutters back. “But I think there’s something here.” he gestures towards a bottle with a cross on top in his breast pocket. He starts trying to unscrew the cap. The movement starts to catch attention so I grit my teeth and fling my broken arm over his chest to hide it. Our captors look pleased.
“You two meant something to each other, you know.” Lasanya chirps. “I don’t know exactly what, but there is something between you.” I tilt my head at her, a sneer on my lips.
“And you? Did I mean something to you? Before you did this to me?” I ask, bitter edge in my tone.
“I like to think so.” The woman flushes brighter red and turns away in the dark, upset. Good. I rest my head on the man’s shoulder while he slowly unscrews his medicine. He smells… familiar. Something good. I didn’t realize I’d said it out loud until he glanced at me oddly.
“We just need to distract them.” I whisper. The glowing girl named R is approaching with water. “I can’t walk but maybe you can carry-.” I cut off as R starts going through his pockets. She’s going to notice what we’re up to.
“Fuck this.” the man growls. He pulls the brew from his pocket with his fingertips and tips it back in his mouth. The women freeze as strength flushes across his skin, a healthier glow. He wrenches his wrists apart, breaking the ropes, twists his fingers in my vest and hauls me backwards through the broken wall, flipping me onto his back. I grunt at the pain but we’re free! Darting through the darkness down the road.
Behind us the cries have gone up. They are chasing us. They will be on us soon, our only hope is to split up.
“Drop me here!” I shout, and he tosses me into the bushes. I watch from the darkness as our pursuers dart past. I will wait until they’re gone and then crawl further into the woods. I can see them chasing him through the darkness, cornering him in the brush.
“We’re not going to hurt you!” they are shouting, and I can hear his defiant shout back, “What? Drawn and talk of peace!” and then they are closing on him, hauling him out of the woods and past me. I wait for them to disappear. If only I can get farther back…. but my leg is a dead weight… moving will be noisy and painful.
“Rajah?” the woman in red, Lasanya, is standing above me. I turn my head away and blink back tears.
There is no escape.
We are slumped on the porch, a compromise between leaving us at the crossroads and taking us inside. At least here I can breathe the night air, here the walls aren’t trying to close in. They’ve rebound Ynk. I wonder why they didn’t mangle his limbs the way they did mine. They clearly can’t really stop him.
23 has returned, looking none too happy about the bruises on his face.
“Now I know why they call you Vegasians, buddyfuckers.” he growls ruefully.
“Please, let us go.” I plead over and over, but it’s pointless to argue with him. He’s set on ‘protecting’ us the way he’s chosen.
A stranger walks up and addresses the other captive. “This isn’t going to mean anything to you, but Chloe died.” he turns to me and adds, “And Chum, a member of your crew is safe.” We both stare at him blankly and he wanders away with a shake of his head. A passing doctor asks if we’re ok. I want to laugh and cry at the same time.
“They’ve broken my arms and my leg. Please help me. Please get me out of here.”
For the first time I see pity and sympathy on the face of another. He hesitates. I put on my most charming smile. “I won’t run, I swear. I just want to be able to defend myself. Please.” I can see him wavering.
“Let me go ask.” he promises kindly and steps away to where Lasanya sits. In a moment he’s back, but he’s no longer looking at me, he’s looking at 23.
“She says they should hold hands.” he looks uncomfortable. I want to scream. What good will holding hands do? What comfort will that give? The futility of it all is absurd.
“MY ARMS ARE BROKEN.” I spit at him. “I CAN’T HOLD ANYTHING.” He winces and withdraws… then unexpectedly returns and begins taking out tools. He winches my arm into position and pulls out a glowing blade.
“This is going to hurt.” he warns, and then he’s digging in my flesh. I scream and bite my shoulder, but this pain is different, and after so long with bones grinding against each other within bruised flesh, this searing healing feels clean. It takes a while but then I am free. I fight against the rising urge to run and turn to 23.
“Can you untie him too?” Again, hesitation.
“Scarecrows injection should be wearing off soon.” someone chimes in. A healer steps up and begins treating Ynk’s wounds. She looks somewhat familiar. I feel like we’ve met before maybe?
The evil man walks past with my weapons. He hands them to the man in red.
“You’re going to apologize later, but before the poison starts to wear off I want to tell you that you’re a bitch sister-in-law but I love you.” and then he disappears into the darkness.
The world is spinning, rushing back in. I know this building. Max, my brother in red robes, is handing me my blades, 23 is frowning at me in the dark, and Lasanya is crying on the bench. Ynk is making that face I know all too well, the worried face that means he’s trying to hold it together. With a snap, the last of the fog clears my mind. Our eyes meet, full of anger and hurt.
I am Rajah Venetia Palazzo-Bellagi de Lux… and I remember everything.