Victim # 2
Bob could feel his heart pounding so hard in his chest it felt like his ribs may crack under the pressure. Stepping back a few paces, he tried hard not to panic but his breathing was already coming in short erratic bursts. It was only when he began to feel light-headed that he realised that he wasn’t pulling in near enough air.
Air! The room was sealed completely; no doors no windows. And so small; there was no way he’d last for more than a few hours if he continued to panic. Realising that his life may depend on it, Bob forcefully calmed himself by taking a few precious deep breaths to restore his equilibrium. Concentrating solely on stilling his mind and slowing his breathing, he tried desperately not to think about suffocating in this tiny sealed room. Opening his eyes once more, Bob tried hard to look at the situation logically.
“This just isn’t possible,” he stated. “There has to be a door? I got in here somehow, so I can get out.”
Bob pushed a hand through his hair in exasperation before running his fingers along the three pale and featureless walls searching for the elusive exit. Standing back a pace after an unsuccessful search, Bob shook his head; his brow furrowed in confusion.
“This can’t be happening,” he sighed, pessimistically.
“And yet it is.”
Bob turned sharply, searching for the source of the voice, but it was clear there was no one in the room with him.
“Where are you?” he called, his voice displaying a nervous edge. “Who are you?”
Bob’s mouth fell open slightly as the deep impenetrable blackness of one of the walls and part of the ceiling began to fade. Presented with something akin to a two-way mirror, Bob realised that he could be observed but he couldn’t see out. But now as the blackness cleared, he could see the source of the voice clearly.
Staring up, he was confronted by a man so tall he could easily have scooped him up in his hand. Standing at a little less than six feet, Bob estimated that merely the man’s looming face was easily as long if not more. Losing his balance slightly as the shock seeped into every inch of his body, Bob took a small step back to reset himself. It couldn’t be real; any moment he would wake, he was certain. Once again, Bob felt his breathing coming to him again in short shallow gasps as he snatched for air. Finally able to look away, Bob looked beyond the threatening figure standing over him, desperate to find an escape route.
Beyond the giant lay an equally oversized room filled with stacks of paper, pens, art supplies and a couple of easels.
There really was only one way out and that was straight ahead. Part of him kept repeating that this was just a dream, a horrible, weird, freaky dream. Another part of him knew it was real; somehow.
Preparing himself to bolt from the time room, Bob found his legs uncooperative. In his terror, they were, initially, simply unresponsive. One more concerted effort saw him breaking for freedom.
No sooner had he fled the room than he found himself teetering on the brink of a very long drop, possibly forty feet with only what appeared to be a strip of wood under his feet.
With an unnerving laugh, the man raised an unimaginably large finger and, with his fingertip, pushed Bob back into the tiny room.
“Do you really think it would be that easy to escape?”
“Wh… who are you?” Bob repeated, deeply unnerved by what he had seen. “What are you?”
The figure laughed at Bob’s words and his distress. He could see that if Bob had been physically able to grow paler, he would have.
“I am your jailor. You would do better to ask yourself what you are.”
“What do you mean?” Bob asked, bewildered by the reply. “Who are you? Where am I?”
“Ask the correct questions and you’ll get your answers.”
“All right,” Bob snapped at the infuriating responses. “What am I?”
“You are my prisoner. You are bait. And, ultimately, you are food for my creation.”
“From you and your friends, he will extract enough power to take on the world. No one will be able to stop him. No one.”
As Bob gaped, deep in shock at the man’s words, the wall began to fade to black once more.
“Wait!” Bob shouted, reaching out a hand to call his attention. “Where am I? How did I get here?”
“You really don’t know?” The man laughed. “Are you certain, or do you just not want to face it?”
Bob frowned angrily as he continued to stare. “Where am I?” he demanded.
The man gave a condescending laugh at Bob’s distress. “You are now a character in the comic book. You can be seen but after I close down this window you can’t see out. There is no way out for you, you’re trapped here. You can’t even shout for help.” He laughed again before correcting himself. “Well, you can, but no one will hear you; the pages aren’t lettered yet. Your foolish friend has taken on more than he can handle this time. He is way out of his depth with me and with this comic book. It will be his last mistake.”
Ray and Frank walked slowly back to Gerard’s room. There were some questions Frank wanted to ask and others he was afraid to. Ray, soaked to the skin and chilling more with each step as they walked, adopted a gloomy attitude, wishing he could be instantly warm and dry.
“So,” Ray finally asked trying to distract himself. “Is Gee okay? You said he’s awake.”
“Yeah,” Frank replied distractedly. “Well, no… yeah… I’m beginning to think he might be.”
Ray rubbed his neck and frowned; Frank was making no sense to him at all.
“Frank…” Ray began hesitating momentarily. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Frank looked up, at first puzzled by the response, his brow and nose crinkled. Alongside him, Ray walked, staring at him with a baffled expression. Frank sucked in his lower lip before stopping in the centre of the corridor only yards from Gerard’s room.
“What would you say if I said Gee’s seen the same guy you did before?”
“Where?” Ray asked, no less puzzled.
“No,” Frank shook his head, “you’re not getting it. Ray, Gee is saying that there’s a guy after us, that he’s spoken to him.”
“Okay,” Ray creased one corner of his mouth. “What does that have to do with me?”
“The guy you saw…” Frank waved his arm in the general direction of the hospital entrance. “Before? When I found you in a fucking trance!”
Ray rolled his eyes and shifted on his feet.
“I wasn’t in a trance,” he argued with discomfort in his tone.
“Really? What were you doing then?”
“Look, I don’t know, I don’t remember…”
“That’s beside the point,” Frank cut in. “The guy you saw, I think he’s the one Gerard was talking about.”
“Someone’s after us?” Ray repeated with a dose of scepticism in his voice. “Well does he know who it is?”
Frank’s shoulders sagged; this was the moment he was about to look as crazy as Gerard had.
“He says it’s The Dreamcatcher.”
Ray smiled, faintly at first, then his grin broadened.
“Frank…” he laughed outright. “The Dreamcatcher?”
“Yeah,” Frank shrugged, hardly able to believe he had spoken the words.
“No,” Ray replied simply, with a shake of his head.
“Ray, I know how this…”
Both Frank’s and Ray’s heads snapped up as they heard a loud crash from Gerard’s room. Forgetting their discussion in an instant, the two guitarists ran the remaining few feet to the room, gasping in astonishment as they opened the door.
“Gee!” Frank cried, racing forward to assist his friend lying apparently unconscious on the floor near the bed, with the room in disarray. “Get a doctor!”
As Ray ran from the room to alert the hospital staff, Frank peeled the monitor cable from around Gerard’s neck, causing him to gasp at the sensation. Marks left around the young singer’s throat testified to how tight the cable had been pulled around him. Almost as soon as it was removed, he began to move and gasp for air. Gripping Frank’s arm, he turned terrified eyes towards the younger man.
“He… he was here… again…”
Gerard nodded. “He’s real, Frank, he really is. I didn’t do this!”
“Where’s Mikey?” Frank asked, hoping his brother could offer greater comfort.
Disregarding the pain in his neck, Gerard turned widened eyes quickly around the room.
“Mikey!” he yelled, pushing himself to his feet. “Mikey!”
Staggering to the bed, Gerard could see instantly that they were alone in the room.
“This is real, Frank! He’s got Mikey!” Gerard insisted; his anxiety level soaring.
Frank nodded nervously, not quite believing his next words.
“I believe you.”