The Dreamcatcher's real target becomes apparent
In an act of sheer desperation and frustration, Mikey bit down on the vine acting as a gag. He didn’t really expect it would help at all, but it was something and he needed to try. A shrill shrieking sound filled the air as the vine in his mouth curled quickly away. Closing his mouth, he felt himself slip forward as all the vines loosened slightly.
Bob’s voice filtered through the trees; he sounded close now, but Mikey hung limply, almost unconscious, unable to fight any more. The forest appeared vast and without his help in finding him, it seemed quite possible that Bob would pass by without even noticing him. But within moments, the sensation of hands pulling at the living noose at his neck, filtered through, even though he was unable to even acknowledge a presence. Suddenly able to breathe again, Mikey gasped for air; coughing as, in his eagerness, he took in too much.
“Mikey, are you okay? Mikey!”
Mikey glanced up, his eyes almost closed.
“Bob,” he whispered hoarsely.
One by one, Bob snapped and wrenched at the vines holding the young bassist. Finally able to pull his friend clear of the tree, Mikey almost fell against him overcome with relief that Bob had found and freed him.
“Mikey, can you hear me? We have to get out of here. Do you understand?”
Mikey nodded enthusiastically; the very last thing he wanted to do was to stay put. Leaning heavily on his friend, Mikey allowed himself to be guided to a clearing. He sat, almost fell on the ground and rubbed his neck as he gathered his strength again.
“Where are we?” he asked still unable to take it all in.
Bob frowned. How could he tell him? The explanation, however true, was outlandish.
“Mikes, we’re in Gerard’s comic book.”
Mikey stared up, almost waiting for Bob to laugh and tell him the real explanation, but it quickly dawned on him that Bob wasn’t joking. This was real.
“You… we… we’re…”
“Yeah, I was like that too,” he replied with a faint smile as he watched Mikey’s reaction. “When I woke up, I was in this tiny room and…”
Bob stopped speaking as he saw Mikey’s eyes grow wide as he spoke. Turning quickly, Bob was relieved to see nothing behind him and turning back to Mikey, was puzzled by his reaction.
“You’re… you’re as white as snow! So am I!”
Bob nodded, sympathetically. He had freaked out when he had noticed, what now seemed an eternity ago. Mikey’s own realisation coming immediately after a near death experience only seemed to make matters worse.
“We’re in Gee’s comic? In it? You mean we’re drawings? How?”
“Mikey,” Bob dropped to one knee and held the bassist’s arms. “I know this is freaky, and I don’t know how this has happened or anything. But I do know we’re stuck here. He’s after all of us. If there’s one thing I remember from reading Gerard’s story draft, it’s that he needs us to draw out our energy to boost his own powers.”
“Gerard’s story? I thought he was crazy! When he woke from the crash, he was trying to tell me, but I didn’t listen!”
“Crash?” Bob’s eyes widened. “Is he okay?”
Mikey nodded. “More so than I realised. He was trying to warn us, we thought the crash had done something. You know, hit his head or something.”
Bob shook his head. “This is very real. Are you okay now? We have to keep moving, try to find a way out. He can do anything he wants to us, we’re in the comic, all he has to do is draw it.”
Mikey frowned; puzzled by the statement. He was now aware that The Dreamcatcher had somehow come to life, and he could, at a stretch, accept that they had somehow been trapped in the comic, but he was at a loss to know what Bob was referring to.
“Hernandez, the new artist. He’s behind all this, we’re in his studio now.”
Mikey stared in horror at the revelation. Hearing the words, it made perfect sense, but somehow he had not made the connection.
“Gee doesn’t know! He’s going to come here to talk to him about it, isn’t he? He’s going to walk right into a trap!”
While they talked, Gerard had wasted no time getting dressed. He felt perfectly fine, if a little stiff and bruised, but his brother was in danger and very possibly their friend. He couldn’t stay cooped up in the hospital. He had to find out what was happening and stop it, somehow. Propping himself up against the side of the bed and pulling on his boots, Gerard looked up at Frank.
“He went to get a doctor…oh fuck! That was ages ago!”
Hearing the alarm in Frank’s tone, Gerard pushed himself away from the bed and headed for the door. Frank had already had the same idea and was ahead of him.
In the corridor, the two musicians pulled up sharply as lying on the floor, only a few doors down were three lifeless, pure white bodies.
“He’s here!” Gerard gasped. “This is all my fault.”
Frank pulled the singer around to face him. Gerard’s face was almost as pale as the bodies in the corridor.
“This is not your fault, Gee!” Frank insisted. “You created a character, that’s all. There’s nothing could have prepared you for this. How could you know?”
Gerard nodded, his lips pulled into a thin line as he concentrated on Frank’s words. There really was no way he could have foreseen this. Even in his wildest imagination, it was impossible.
“He’s got Ray,” he whispered.
“Maybe not, not yet,” Frank urged. “Come on! Don’t give up.”
“I guess we follow the trail,” Gerard replied grimly, pointing to the line of bodies and general destruction further along the corridor.
Picking their way respectfully past the bodies, Frank and Gerard broke into a run, almost skidding as they turned the corner. A little further down, lay the body of a nurse. Again, the telltale draining of all colour in both her features and clothes; it was just so unnatural. The two friends noted with equal measures of horror and disgust that her arm and fingers had been positioned, in death, to point down the staircase opposite.
“He’s playing with us,” Gerard commented angrily, through gritted teeth. “He’s killing people just to do this!”
Nodding unhappily, Frank tapped Gerard’s arm. “Come on, Gee. We have to find him.”
Gerard turned his expressive hazel eyes towards his friend.
“No!” Frank snapped, reading the emotion and guilt behind them. “This is not your fault!”
“Then whose fault is it?” he asked bleakly.
“I don’t know,” Frank replied honestly. “But we’ll find out. We’ll stop it, somehow.”
Gerard nodded; he had to believe they could make all this right. Starting down the stairs, they could hear the noise before they had even reached the door to the floor below.
“No! Please! Let her go!”
Gerard and Frank exchanged quick glances. The voice was strained and muffled, but was clearly Ray. Bursting through the door, they looked to the right, to see The Dreamcatcher standing approximately half way down the corridor, a thick muscular arm wrapped around Ray’s neck, holding him securely. Against the wall, pinned by his free hand, was another lifeless pale body. She had been young, possibly an intern and now she hung dead in his grip.
“Let him go!” Gerard yelled. Then quieter: “Let her go too.”
“I’m too strong to be stopped now. You certainly can’t stop me,” the Dreamcatcher laughed. “See how weak you are?”
Tightening his hold on Ray’s neck, the guitarist’s face started to redden as he gasped for breath; his fingers clawing uselessly at the Dreamcatcher’s arm.
“Stop!” Gerard demanded. “What do you want?”
The Dreamcatcher smiled cruelly; his plan was working. He already had enough power to drain the life forces of almost anyone at will, of multiple people, not just individually chosen targets. Now, he had in his sights a special prize.
“You,” he replied simply.
Gerard swallowed hard as the dreadful reality sank in. Inside, he knew that he was the Dreamcatcher’s prey, but it appeared to him that he wanted to make him suffer along the way.
“You’ll let Ray go.”
It was more a statement than a question, but still the Dreamcatcher’s smile broadened into a sadistic smirk. He almost salivated at the prospect of taking the life force of the man who could grant him unimaginable powers.
“Wait! Gee, something’s wrong. If he wanted you, why didn’t he just come straight for you?”
Gerard glanced at Frank, his words made sense, but what could he do? Could he watch him kill Ray? It was unthinkable.
“What about Mikey and Bob?” Gerard asked, still having received no reply.
“You’re friends are relatively safe,” he replied with a sly laugh. “Now, will you come or do I break his neck?”
“Let him go, let them all go and I’ll come.”
“No, Gee! He’s…” Ray began hoarsely before grimacing as the Dreamcatcher’s hold on his neck tightened so much he couldn’t breathe.
“Let him go!” Gerard yelled, the tension and distress he felt etched across his face.
Pulling his arm back sharply, the Dreamcatcher allowed Ray to drop, now unconscious, at his feet.
“And now?” he demanded.
Gerard edged forward only to be held back by Frank.
“Gee, he’ll kill you, you can’t…”
“I don’t have a choice,” Gerard replied wretchedly as he uncurled Frank’s fingers from his arm.
There was no more to say. It was as if time was suddenly dragging and everything was taking place in slow motion. Reaching out a hand, the Dreamcatcher merely motioned a finger and Gerard was pulled by some unseen force, like a tiny fleck of iron to a powerful magnet. Now in his grip, Gerard felt as though all his free will had drained away. Staring back at Frank, it was as if he was already distant and beyond reach. In that moment, somehow he knew the Dreamcatcher would not keep his word.
“You lied to me!” he whispered as the knowledge came to him, almost instinctively.
“You had to offer yourself to me willingly, of course I lied to you. But in my world, there are no such restrictions, not any more. With you and your friends, I can break free of the comic book permanently and then no one can stop me!”