Monday, February 6, 2012

It's over at last

God help me it's over. Last night I found the first flat place I've seen since I entered this strange and eldrich realm and I slept for what feels like the first time in ages - which can't be true, I did sleep while I was stuck in Shady Lawn. I awoke this morning to that voice booming from the sky again.

"James Phillip Carlson. You have overcome every obstacle placed in your path. You have been found to possess courage and determination. You are strong. You have proven yourself WORTHY. What do you desire?"

It was unnerving to hear this speech delivered in the same cold emotionless tone that the voice used when condemning another man to death for smoking a cigaret but I replied. "I want to save Janice. I want her to be safe from these monsters, that's what this whole journey was for. It's why I put myself through this hell. Her safety is the only thing that matters." The voice boomed from the sky once last time. "It is done. Prepare yourself James Phillip Carlson." With that a hole tore in reality, or what passes for reality in this place. Through it I saw a tower ascending to the heavens, so tall I could not see the top. It was wrapped in wire and string and cloth. Corpses hung on the wall. Many of them I recognized. I should after all, I was the one who hacked them to pieces in the lobby of their office building. From somewhere high in the tower I heard the screams of someone being tortured. I drew my sword and stepped through that gaping wound in space to find myself at the gate of the tower. It was guarded by a Puppet, this one dressed like Mr. Punch from the Punch and Judy puppet shows. He was surprised to see me, tried to tell me no one could enter because they were filming the new episode of Candle Cove, "Prisoner of the Skin-Taker". I cut him down where he stood and took the keys dangling from his belt.

The outside of the tower didn't prepare me for what I found inside. If you've ever seen a site where a TV show or movie is being filmed you probably know there are usually cables everywhere, hooking up the sound equipment, the video cameras, the lights, and everything else a film crew needs. Here the cables were made of flesh. The boom mics dangled from the ceiling on marionette wire and sinew and each had an ear grafted to it's end instead of a microphone. One of the camera men, well camera Puppets, swiveled towards me when he heard the disturbance and his camera blinked at me. The camera's eye was green. I saw the "manufacturers" logo on the side of the camera as he turned, "Newborn Technologies Incorporated". In the middle of the room at the end of a leather leash held by Horace Horrible was Janice. She looked terrified but her mouth was forced into a hideous grin as if the corners were being pulled up by strings. She was kneeling at the feet of the Skin-Taker and Pirate Percy was waiting off camera apparently for his cue to come rescue her. Janice was dirty and bruised and I doubt any of it was makeup. When I came in she turned her head to look at me but it was quickly, and probably painfully, twisted back by the being pulling her strings. The Wooden Girl. She was sitting in the directors chair, the body of a young girl carved from wood and wrapped in tangles of string and wire her face painted on with a perfection pageant contestants can only dream of. She turned slowly and looked at me. "The teacher actually made it. Skin-Taker, kill him and get back to work. The show must go on." While I had everyone else distracted Percy, God bless him, took advantage of the situation and did something I think he's wanted to do for a long time. He rushed on set and cut the leash that Horace was holding Janice by, in the same fluid motion he reversed the stroke of his blade and took Horace's head off at his buck teeth. Blood mixed with cotton stuffing as Horace went down, and for some reason the Wooden Girls control of Janice seemed to slip. Percy shouted at her to run and she started fighting her way to her feet. I barely had time to cut down the camera Puppet before the Skin-Taker was on me slashing and thrusting with his own blade. For all his bragging to Percy on the show about being the better swordsman he fights with more rage and brute strength than skill and I found his blows easier to parry than the Skin-Taker doppelganger in that strange realm. I quickly disarmed him and took his head off just like I had the duplicate yesterday. He dropped his weapon and began what would have under other circumstances been a comical scramble for his head. I kicked it away like a soccer ball and let him scramble for it, I had more important things to worry about.

Janice was screaming in pain. As I watched the strings implanted in her by the Wooden Girl writhed to the surface of her skin and fell to the ground. I don't know how it happened but she was free! The Wooden Girl was shocked as well she shouted at Percy to behave himself at once and stop Janice from escaping. He, as he put it was "Disinclined to acquiesce to her request." Unfortunately, his strings were still functioning. With a gesture from the Wooden Girl he jerked into action moving to block Janice's escape as the Wooden Girl conjured more strings from the air and sent them streaking towards Janice . . . where they simply fell to the floor millimeters away from her skin unable to touch her. She screamed at Percy to kill Janice rather than let her escape. He tried to fight the pull of her strings but I could see that he was he losing so I rushed down and got between him and Janice. I locked blades with him and leaned in close enough to speak to him without the Wooden Girl overhearing. I told him "Stop fighting Her Percy, and fight me. It might be the distraction Janice needs to escape." He nodded that he understood and we began to duel. For some reason the Wooden Girl actually seemed to enjoy this, she relaxed her control over him so he could fight with his own skill, much more skill than the Skin-Taker (still scrabbling after his head) had mustered. If I'd been in better condition I would have almost been a match for him but I was tired and still in pain. Even though I could tell he was holding back to make the fight last long enough for Janice to make her escape I knew he was going to kill me in the end.

Then I remembered the episode where he and the Skin-Taker fought, how they would occasionally slash for each others strings rather than their bodies. She wasn't pulling his strings at the time but I could still see them extending up towards the ceiling and trailing off into space, or possibly just moving in a direction that humans aren't aware of. My first strike at his strings missed and I was distracted enough that he got in a solid blow, I felt a pain in my left wrist and my hand went numb but I ignored it and fought on. I saw something slowly taking shape near Janice. A door. No, a Door, the kind that leads to the Empty City. I swallowed and hoped that when I said I wanted her to be safe from the monsters ALL of them were included, not just the Wooden Girl and her minions. My attention shifted back to Percy quickly as he scored a light wound on my right cheek, just under the eye. Nearly blinded me completely. Another attack at his strings severed the one connected to his left arm and the arm went limp, hanging by his side as if dead. I redoubled my effort then and brought him to one knee by severing the string to a leg. As he went down I saw the Door open and Janice fled through with tears in her eyes, but at least she didn't have to watch me and Percy cut each other up anymore. I hope she's somehow safe even in that place and I hope that against all odds she finds her way out. Percy looked up at me with his porcelain face and said "Finish it Mr. Carlson. I've been trapped like this too long. For every time I disobeyed Her the Queen made me cut off part of myself and She replaced it with a part from a doll. There is nothing left now of who I used to be and if you let me live She will hang me from the Tower still alive for the cloth birds to peck at with their needle beaks."

Regretfully I severed the strings connected to his torso and his head, and if he hadn't needed to change heads to change his expression I think he would have smiled as he died finally free of Her. I only wish I had gotten the same mercy. As I dealt the final blow I felt strings dig into MY flesh and felt my limbs move under Her command as She turned me to face Her. Her painted face couldn't change it's expression anymore than Percy's could but I could see she was furious. "You cost me a Janice!" she shrieked at me. "Not only that the Skin-Taker will take weeks to repair after you cut his head off and kicked it across the room. But worst of all you cost me a Percy. That Percy was relatively new, it had only served me for three years you bastard! I hate it when someone breaks my toys." She actually stamped her Goddamned foot there like a petulant child throwing a tantrum. "You owe me a new Percy, Carlson. And we need to clean up this mess so we can get back to filming again as soon as possible. Now lets deal with that little problem with your hand before we get started."

Damn, this took me forever to type. Understandable I suppose trying to type with this hook. I hope Janice is able to escape the City somehow and get home at last. I hope I find the new Janice before the Skin-Taker does. Thanks to him needing repairs I get a head start. I wish I didn't have to do this but She has my strings and if I disobey She has promised me a peg leg to go with the eye patch and the hook. James Carlson is dead, only Pirate Percy remains now and the show must go on.

Hopefully the Wooden Girl won't read this and notice my disobedience with these final words. Parents, if you're reading this, don't let your children watch Candle Cove. I know most of you can only see static and it seems odd if harmless to let them "watch static and make up pirate stories" but it is anything but. And watch over your daughters carefully. She wants a new Janice and I must bring Her one. I have no choice in the matter. Don't let it be your little girl.

Oh God.

It's been a few hours since my last post. I'm in a lot of pain as I type this up. I just had an encounter with what looked like the Skin Taker. I'm pretty sure based on what happened that it wasn't really him, just this place messing with me again but the after effects are all too real.

I was hiking up the slope when he dropped down from the trees on his strings and laughed. He said there was no way I'd be able to save Janice, I didn't stand a chance against him, hell even Percy could take me in a fight he said. He said that he was just going to kill me now and save me the trouble of making the trip. I barely got my own blade up in time to block his cutlas. Good thing I fenced in college I guess. Have you ever tried to fight a skeleton with a sword? You stab or slash and half the time it either just bounces off or slides through a gap in the bones. That second is what got me in trouble. My blade wound up trapped between his radius and ulna and before I could get it out he slashed across my face. He took my left eye. I thought I was going to pass out from the pain but then I had a surge of adrenalin and got my sword out of his arm and brought the blade down on his skull. I took a big chunk out of it and there was a face underneath. My face. I took another swing and managed to sever his vertebrae taking his head clean off. After that he faded away. I cleaned up what was left of my eye and made an eye patch out of some gauze in the first aid kit. Heh, between that and the cutlas I'm starting to look like a regular pirate. Surprisingly it looks like the terrain is leveling off. I'm going to move on a bit further and see if there's a spot flat enough to lay out my sleeping bag. I'm tired and I hurt and I just want this to be over.

Friday, February 3, 2012

I'm really glad I didn't drink that bottle of Beam now . . .

First of all I'm sorry if you guys haven't heard from me in a while, judging from the date on the last comment by Robbert Dillinger time has gone screwy again. I don't know if it's been days weeks or months for you guys but I put that post about our escape up an hour ago. I'm, uh, not traveling with Jack anymore. This place killed him. We were just hiking up the ever increasing slope (I swear we're slogging up a fifty-five degree slope now, if this keeps up I'm going to need climbing gear) and we had stopped for a break. He'd been rambling on about how he'd been framed for the murders and how "They" had convinced everyone he was insane and that he was going to hunt "Them" down and make "Them" tell the truth . . . really crazy stuff but it's still possible the Fears were involved not just psychosis. But, we stopped for our break and he spotted a pack of cigarets and a lighter in the grass.

Well, he was overjoyed. Said that he hadn't been able to smoke since he was committed to Shady Lawn and he'd been dying for a cigaret. I tried to tell him that I didn't think it was a good idea to smoke cigarets that appeared out of thin air in a place like this but he didn't listen. Next thing I know he's taking his first drag in months and this voice booms from nowhere "Jack Dylan Simons. You have given in to temptation. You are UNWORTHY." and the ember of his cigaret raced down to the filter, went into his mouth and he . . . burned up. He went up like a freaking candle. The flames were hot enough that the gun he was carrying melted down, some of the bullets cooked off but fortunately they didn't hit me. Before I could even think about trying to put him out he was reduced to ash. There was no anger in the voice, no malice, no human emotion at all. Then, in the same neutral tone the voice said "James Phillip Carlson. You may take your supplies and continue your journey." I turned around and there was everything I had to leave behind at Shady Lawn packed carefully into my duffel bag. I shouted at the sky for a while demanding an explanation but the voice didn't return. What the hell kind of place is this that Jack probably being a murderer wasn't enough to make him unworthy but lighting up was a death sentence? Clearly I'm being judged by something, but for what and by what standard?

 Well, back to my hike. Hopefully the sooner I get where ever it is I'm supposed to go the sooner I get out of here in one piece and can get back to my rescue mission.