Journey Ch. 4Mature

As she slid out of the shower, a bare five minutes of water, but still heaven to her aching, stressed body and mind, Angela sighed in relief. It was a respite from the madness of her new nightmare realm, a moment of normalcy under which she could forget the horrible tales of the crypt below, and the macabre art supposedly practiced there, as well as the frightful sight of the ancient guardian above. She was still scared shitless, she had to admit, but at least now she could push her awareness of horror into a back corner of her mind. 

As she climbed into the clothes that had been found for her, an orange jumpsuit that clung to her a bit, she wondered idly if Rabbit had influenced the size selection. It was creepy in the extreme to think of her brother's eyes being upon her in such a fashion, even though what looked through them was not remotely related to her brother or her. Rabbit was an anomaly that Angela hadn't quite grasped yet. Multiple personalities, or schizophrenic tendencies had not been part of any doctor's diagnosis she had ever heard or read for her brother. For that matter, in most cases, so far as she knew, the original personality was usually predominant, and if it was flawed, whether by brain damage or autism, then the rest of the personalities would be too. And yet Rabbit seemed very intelligent, perhaps more so than her brother had been before the accident. Would Michael still be around if the two began to push and shove?

"Michael? I'm dressed now. If you like, you can brush my hair." she called. Michael had taken great comfort in his sister's hair after the accident. He had not been able to stand physical contact, hugs, handshakes, and even a kiss on the cheek would often result in a cringe. But if Angela sat still in front of the mirror, Michael would initiate contact, in his own time. It was a show of affection for him, one that was ritualistic, and slow, and so one that he could cope with. He would brush her hair slowly, counting out exactly one hundred strokes. If a brush wasn't available, he would use his fingers, and Angela could watch the contented smile slowly slip over his lips. She could see that it was a comfort to him, even if he wasn't able to express it verbally.

Michael slowly opened the door, clutching the wall for support. Normally, it almost brought tears to Angela's eyes to see him this way, but now it brought almost a bitter sense of relief. Her brother was answering her call, not the mysterious and creepy alter ego. She let the tension ease from her shoulders, and closed her eyes, smiling softly as Michael tugged gently through a few of the knots in her damp hair. Her brother was still here, with her, and he was alive and well. Somehow, too, she was certain that he had been a big part of making sure she awoke. He loved her as much as she did him...and if he did not himself hit the controll panel to awaken her, then he had bargained with Rabbit to do so. 

"Michael...did I thank you?" she whispered.

"For brushing? I like it, sister." he smiled softly, looking down at her. "No need to thank."

"For waking me. You woke me, didn't you."

"Rabbit...Rabbit woke you. I only help a little, help find you." He continued softly stroking, frowning slightly, as if he did not wish to speak...or did not like the topic.

"But you told him, didn't you? You wanted your sister with you, and you fought for what you wanted. I'm proud of you. You can thank Rabbit, too, if you like..."

"Don't talk about him. He is quiet now. Maybe asleep." Michael paused, in his brushing, almost as if losing count. "He scares me." 

He looked into her eyes, in the mirror, something that was completely out of character since the crash, enough that she worried Michael was yet again gone. Somehow, however, she still recognized him and it sent a surge of hope through her...he was talking to her, directly, not absently, as if from a distance. But his words frightened her. "He is dangerous, Angela. To you. He doesn't like either of us."

Angela forced herself to breathe..."Keep brushing, Michael...relax and take your time..." She waited a moment till he had resumed.... "Can you tell me where he came from? If you can, then tell me...if not...don't wake him Michael. I want you to stay with me. I want to spend time with you."

"The dark...he came from the dark, and quickly. He woke me. He was inside the darkness, not outside...the machines...the dreams...he came from there. Running. Scared of something. Scared me too..." He paused once more, so Angela whispered softly, wordless condolences, until he resumed his brushing...

"You are speaking better, Michael. How long have you been awake? Can you tell me?" 

"Not long. Rabbit woke me...Made me run. Showed me I could walk, and talk again. Showed me I could wake others. Always looking for you...but files only numbers...descriptions, doctor's access."

"You woke others?" 

"Yes...Rabbit told me to. 12 others...All girls, your age, you...your pretty hair..." he shuddered... "He's waking...I don't want to go away." He began to stroke once more, counting softly the strokes... "He's coming...He scares me...but he's helping me too...I can think better now...I can see more. I follow where he goes....up here..." he tapped his head... "Don't tell him. I don't want him to know. He's fixing me...but I don't think he means to...He wants my body for himself." 

Again the shudder overtook him, Michael closed his eyes, still stroking her hair, murmuring softly... "Pretty hair...pretty sister's pretty hair..." schooling his face back into it's former, somewhat vacant stare, only to begin blinking suddenly. "He's right, Angela. You do have pretty hair." The voice was Michael's, but cool, and distant...the cadence not at all like her brothers' fragmented but soothing tones. 

She wheeled, growling under her breath. "Don't touch me! I was talking to my brother. I want to keep talking to my brother."

"Now,'re gonna hurt a guy's feelings. And here Michael was telling me that you wanted to thank me. Such a show of gratitude. Makes me wonder what you were really talking about." He shook his head, stepping back..."You know, I didn't ask to be saddled with a gimp." 

"He's not bastard, you better take that back!" She raised her hand, angrily...

"So now you're going to hit me? Hit him? What a good sister you're turning out to be." His eyes were cold, glittering with barely concealed malice, even as his lips curled into a contemptuous smirk. "Look, your brother is fine, you're fine, and I'm fine. Now I think you'll agree I had a lot to do with that. Let's not forget it."

"You...You're right." she muttered... "Thank you."

"Oh, that sounded sincere."

"I mean it. Thank you. It's just...well, you interrupted a private moment. It's creepy. One minute I'm talking to my brother...the next...well...I'm not."

"Well, I suppose that's a reason to freak out a bit. But I am wondering? How did the subject of the girls come up in this private moment? Certainly not the most tender and loving of subjects."

"I asked him about awakening he had managed. That is when he told me you did it. I had you to thank."

"The girls though...he didn't expect you to thank me for them did he? No...he didn't like the task. Did he tell you why we woke them? We did it together, you know. I needed his help to find them. To find you too."

"No...he didn't say why. You know he didn't get a chance."

"Decoys. We woke twelve girls, set them to awaken at roughly the same time, so that we could get to you in the confusion." He shrugged. " looking for me, and thus by extension, Michael, and by further extension, you."

"What happened to them? Where are they?"

"Around...or dead, most likely. Unless they woke up quickly enough. Michael heard one sobbing yesterday. Wanted to play the hero. Not gonna happen. My brother isn't the nicest fellow, and neither are his friends." He gazed at her, as her mouth worked soundlessly, unable to come to grips with the callousness he displayed. 

"It's a long story." He looked up at the corner of the room, and swore. "And one we really don't have time for. Move!" 

He shoved her towards the door. She looked up and saw nothing. Then she realized what he was looking at. A video camera. Surveillance. It creaked as it moved, attempting to follow. A little red eye blinked on the dusty box. She stared, frozen a moment, noting that the lense of the camera was clean, though the rest was dusty. Someone was watching, and someone cared about upkeep...if not cleanliness, then functionality. A harder shove knocked her through the door. "Move!" shouted Rabbit. 

As she stumbled out the door, she heard it. The clank of metal on concrete, the scrape of more metal along the plas-crete walls. Whatever it was, it sounded huge. It was huge. The head appeared pitifully small against the mass of shiny metal that shadowed the far doorway. As it got closer, and the pale fluorescent light illuminated it's face, she could see its' drooling visage clearly, old, sallow, pale yellow, the sneering smile missing several teeth. It was a human face, but only barely. The skull was capped in metal, rivets obscenely surrounding his head, from the forehead on back. His left hand, more accurately steel claws, made the scraping noise, dragging ominously along the plas-crete wall.

She backed up slowly, staring into those crazed eyes. Rabbit barreled past her, as if to simply leave her behind, then screeched to a halt, looking absolutely pissed. "Alright! Alright! I'll fucking get her, you whiny gimp!" He turned and grabbed Angela by the hair, brooking no argument from her in getting her to move, yanking hard, till she stumbled and cried out. "Fucking stupid bitch..." he muttered, pulling her along, though she moved now on her own.

The metallic monstrousity rumbled, then roared, the deep voice completely out of synch with the old, senile, crazed face. "Going to get you, Rabbit. Gonna get you now, you sum'bitch! Master's not going to be easy on ya this time. Master's gonna let me tear ya apart, nice and slow!" 

Rabbit stopped, looking back incredulously. "You fuck! Master? You logged on! I warned you about the bastard, Troll. Why the fuck did you log on?"

The old cyborg cackled. "Maintenance, you sum'bitch...Maintenance." The mechanical nightmare suddenly lurched forward, claws out stretched to grab at Rabbit, who of course, was no longer available. "Troll works for Green Valleys! I always work for Green Valleys! Master showed me! Master is Green Valleys!" He cackled as he lurched into a run, after the fleeing couple...the laughter echoing after them.

Rabbit and Angela out-distanced the old cyborg fairly easily. Rabbit swore under his breath with each passing stride. Troll was by no means painfully slow, and he could keep going at this rate almost indefinitely. And if Troll was working for the man now, that meant that things were going from bad to worse. Ajax and Gabriel couldn't be too far behind....or ahead. He ran hard, pushing Angela ahead of him, trying to come up with a plan... "Okay, Michael, I'm bloody listening. Where the hell do we go?" His eyes widened... "Are you fucking nuts? You are! pet gimp has gone and completely lost his friggin' mind!" But he reached out and yanked Angela to a stop regardless, and turned left, opening the door to a stairwell, and leaping down into the darkness as fast as he dared move. 

"Next stop, Hell.", he whispered to the bewildered, frightened woman. And so they descended.

The End

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