Donna & Elliot
[All stories in this series:
1: Drew 2: Vicky 3: Egs 4: Danson 5: Egs & Danson 6: Nelle 7: Elliot 8: Emmeline 9: Josie 10: Nelson 11: Jase 12: Hilda 13: Jase & Danson 14: Drew & Vicky 15: Donna & Elliot 16: Creature]
Egs nodded to the police officers on guard outside Donna and Elliot’s room as she and Danson entered. They nodded back and continued the crossword puzzle they were doing together. Guard duty for two criminals who couldn’t move wasn’t exactly the highlight of their careers, and neither could be bothered to comment on the pillowcase that Danson was folding.
Inside the room, they both dropped their eyes until Elliot was blindfolded.
“If that comes off, you get a new hole, got it?” Danson warned him, “I don’t care about any trouble I’ll get into, I will shoot you if I think that thing is coming out.”
Elliot nodded slowly, one hand coming carefully to his face to adjust the blindfold into a more comfortable position. His face was free of burns, pale but for his lips which were a bright red.
Danson sat where he could see both patients, allowing Egs the freedom of the room.
She took a look at both charts, translating what she could. Both of them had heavy burns on various parts of their bodies, and would likely be stuck here for some time, undergoing treatment. They were both heavily medicated – a cocktail of antibiotics, nutrients and painkillers – as the drips hanging by their beds could attest to.
Putting them in the same room saved them putting two sets of officers on guard, but it was less convenient for questioning, Egs realised, turning to Donna first. Any information she could get from her, was information she didn’t need to get from Elliot, and that was good.
As Elliot lay still in his bed, Donna, it seemed, was ready and willing to talk. She had been one of the kneeling chanters, and the fire had licked away her hair, and much of the flesh across her face and head, leaving very little to see. Even the skin that remained was whorled and discoloured past anything recognisable. She was covered in thick goop, cooling the burns and keeping them from exposure to the filtered but painful movement of the air. This wasn’t a sterile room, but it was as close as the small hospital could make it, and both Egs and Danson were aware of the germs they carried about their persons.
Egs sat on the chair by Donna’s bed.
Donna turned her head to face her, and gave a slow grimace Egs presumed to be a smile. Then, unprompted, she began to talk. Her voice was slow and soupy, thanks to the medication and the goop covering her face, but she enunciated even when it clearly hurt or required a depth of effort to pull out of the fog. She was determined to be understood, so Egs simply sat and listened, her small recorder running to catch every word.
“I grew up in a small place, went away to Uni, stayed away as much as I could. I came back when my dad died – mum left when I was a baby, dad never remarried, it was just me and him. S’pose I shoulda gone back to see him more but I hated that place, every minute growing up I just wanted to leave. Like, I had this fucking sign on my head saying “Easy Target” for every asshole who wanted to be a prick. So I left and I stayed left. When I came back for dad’s funeral it was like a totally different place. Even the little places that had survived for years were mostly shut up, I think the old record store was all that remained of the good memories I had. I used to hang out there, just leafing through records and tapes and cds, buying something when I could. I had my first job there, too, it’s what got me going on sound engineering – that’s what I went to study at Uni. I work…I did work, probly not anymore, but I did work at the place just outside of town, you know, Stunted Plant studios? They’re not huge but they’ve got a good rep.
“So after the funeral, there’s all this paperwork and shit to get through and my dad’s stuff all in this rented place. I just had the stuff boxed and into a storage space near here, but there was still all this paperwork and the probate stuff. It’s a fuckin bitch. So I gave up tryna puzzle it out one night, went out for some drinks, wound up a bit sloshed, right, and I met him.”
She gave a slight nod in Elliot’s direction.
“He starts tellin me all about this creature from between dimensions and how it gives you whatever you want, for a price down the line, and all that shit, and I told him he was a bullshitter – cos you would, right? – and he’s all “Lemme show you then!” and so I went with him to this warehouse – not the same one that got burned, smaller, and less people. There were maybe 5, plus Elliot and me, and they had these robes and this stuff was drawn on the floor. And there was this cage with, like, a bunny in it. And I don’t remember much – every time I try to remember how all this stuff works it gets blurry – but I think the bunny was the sacrifice, and we all added our blood to it and asked for something. And the thing, it spoke to one of us – that one got what they wanted – and then it was gone.
“I dunno why I kept doing it, even in bigger groups, even when the sacrifices got bigger. When Elliot said we needed to satisfy the thing with people – like, specific people the thing demanded – I got scared and I tried to get out, but Elliot told me the thing’d just come get me. And the thing came in my dreams and said the same. And so I went to this one, just til I could figure a way out, but there isn’t one. Like, put me in jail, I’ll plead guilty for whatever I’ve done, I will, but it’ll just come get me anyway and it’s not even like you’ll believe me it’s real but that won’t matter, it’ll still come.”
Donna ended her story with a small wail and Egs reached out automatically to pat her hand, drawing back only at the last second as she remembered the pain that would cause.
“Donna, first of all, I want you to know that we, both me and my partner over there, believe you. We know this creature is real, though we’re not certain yet what it is or how to stop it. But we’re finding a way. Second, I’m willing to help you bargain down your sentence. If you were coerced, and you cooperate fully, we can help you. Your sentencing will depend on exactly what we uncover, but we’ll do what we can to minimise it. Thirdly, thank you for telling me all of that. Will you speak to me again, when I have more questions? I’ll need to get as much detail as I possibly can, but we’ll do it in stages so we don’t exacerbate your pain too much.”
Donna gave the grimacing smile again,”I’ll tell you everything I can, I promise.”
“Thank you. See if you can get some rest, now, while I speak to Elliot. I have to ask you not to interrupt, so if anything he says makes you think of anything you need to say, hold it until I come back to you.”
Egs nodded to her and moved to the other side of the room, sitting in the chair next to Elliot’s bed. The blindfold was still on, a frown pulling his thin eyebrows together, lips slightly pursed as if he was preparing to tell her to go to hell.
“Alright Elliot. You know who we are, I don’t doubt it. And you know we know who you are, and that the thing you’re playing with is real and means business. So tell me now, are you going to cooperate? Or are we going to have to do this the annoying way?”
Elliot was perfectly still for a long moment, his chest not even rising to breathe. Then all at once he pulled in a great gasp of air and let it out in a scream.
Egs leapt to her feet, gun pulled and pointed at Elliot.
Danson was by her side in a single movement, gun also out, using it to scan the rest of the room.
The two guards from outside had just enough time to get the door open, before they were shoved back out by an invisible hand, slamming against the far wall, both bodies slumping into a heap.
Shadows coalesced in the centre of the brightly lit room, dark tendrils reaching out to remove Elliot’s blindfold.
A shrill broken glass scream came from Donna’s bed and was cut off suddenly. Danson, glancing over, saw Donna’s body jerk once and be still, as another tendril reached into her mouth, shadows covering her face.
Looking down at Elliot, Egs gasped and took a step back. His eyes swirled with the same darkness, and his body rose from the bed, limbs dangling loose, a jagged smile on his face as he bared his teeth in victory.
A tendril reached around Elliot’s neck, grasped and tugged, snapping it and dropping him in a crumpled pile back onto the bed. His body twitched once, twice, then was still.
Danson had spun to face the shadows, and fired three shots now as Egs stared, frozen in shock for a moment, at the dead body.
Puffs of plaster showed Danson’s shots hitting the wall behind the shadows, and Danson forced himself to be thankful for the frangible rounds that wouldn’t keep going through the thin wall to cause damage elsewhere. Holding onto that moment of thankfulness to keep his cool, Danson holstered his gun and raised his arms.
“So? You have us here. Your puppets did their thing, and here we are. What now?”
Egs, hearing Danson’s voice, shook herself from her shock and, keeping her gun out, held low by her hips, faced the shadows with him.
As they watched, the shadows reshaped themselves, solidifying into something approaching a door.
Unconscious and held by multiple tendrils, Jase floated through and was dropped unceremoniously on the floor at their feet.
“This one,” something almost head-shaped said “Worked against me. He was too stupid to know it, but the people he worked for are my enemies. Tell me, is his life worth yours?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Egs demanded.
“A trade,” the shadows offered. “This one lives, in exchange for one of you.”
“Because I tire of these games. My energy ebbs and I must consume what I have taken to restore it. But I will not leave without a final sacrifice. I was promised many, and I have taken most, but you two are…troublesome. I will be glad to leave, but not without a tribute from you. I could take you all, but I prefer not to tire myself any further.”
As Egs and Danson stared numbly at the shadow creature, a deafening bang came from the doorway.
“Not fucking likely,” a gravelly voice said, and a number of glowing crystals flew across the room, forming a rough circle around the shadow creature.
Egs and Danson both turned, and saw two new faces enter.
“Sorry for the fright, those mystical doorways are a bitch to take down,” said the one who had thrown the crystals, stomping heavily into the room.
He carried a sawn-off shotgun, which rested over one forearm, and a large vial of dark liquid in the other hand. His dark trenchcoat glittered slightly in the light as he knelt by Jase, checking for a pulse and grunting as he pulled him out of the circle.
“This one’s alive. Good. Woulda hated to lose him just after I let him go.”
Danson opened his mouth, but the other man waved a hand at him.
“Yeah I was his minder, don’t gimme any shit, sometimes you gotta find a tool and use it even if it hurts you, them, and everyone else,” he stood, piercing everyone in the room with his eyes, running both hands back through dark hair which curled down across his collar. “You can call me all the names you like when we get rid of this thing. My colleague here has managed to isolate everything happening in here from the rest of the hospital, but it’s just a slow down in time, so it won’t last forever and we need to be done before they catch up.
The colleague was a short, red-haired, freckled woman with darkly intense eyes. When not looking directly at her, she somehow seemed to fade from view, but once your attention was drawn she seemed to thrum. Something about her felt like putting your hand on the track as a train approaches. She smiled thinly, but said nothing.
“Right, so I was Jase’s minder, I’m not anymore because we let him go, by his request, but we still try to not let our folk end up dead. Besides, we’ve been tracking this fucker a long time, and we figured it’d show up with you two so we had our metaphysical eyes peeled, right? So you get to help us, or my colleague will have you take a forced nap. It’s your choice, but make it quick.”
Danson and Egs looked at each other and exchanged an entire conversation in mere seconds, before looking back at the man and nodding.
“We’ll help,” Egs said. “Just tell us what to do.”
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