Gerard wakes inside the cage
Glancing to his right, as the car moved into his peripheral vision, Mikey saw the grinning face of the driver of the car, now only inches from him, forcing him closer and closer to the wall. Refusing to give in and spurred on by the sight of the gun levelled at him, Mikey picked up his speed.
The car lurched forward suddenly, passing Mikey by a few feet. Before he had time to react, the driver’s side door was thrown open and the brakes applied. With no time to stop, Mikey crashed headlong and at full speed into the door. The force of the collision drove all the air from his lungs with a deep and violent groan. Every bone in his body shaken and jarred, Mikey felt as weak as a kitten as the searing pain rendered him helpless. Crumpling to his knees, he slumped against the still open door, no longer able to support himself.
Feeling rough hands on his arms and around his waist, he was unable to fight as he was dragged into the back seat of the car. Once inside, he was vaguely aware of his wrists being bound behind him, before giving in to the welcome blackness that engulfed him.
As he woke, Gerard curled in his extended arm. Even before his eyes were open, his hand was on the back of his head. His fingers felt the matted stickiness of his own blood in his hair. The area was still tender and particularly sore. The dull but persistent ache, that seemed to emanate from a few inches below the cut, felt almost as if it would break apart his skull, splitting it open from within.
“Welcome to my studio, Gerard,” a familiar voice greeted him. “I’ve waited patiently for a long time, just for this moment.”
Rolling onto his back and pushing himself up onto his elbows, Gerard found himself still unable to focus his eyes. Even his first few words were incomprehensible as he tried to clear his double vision. Groggily, he eased himself up onto his knees as a figure loomed into view in front of him. As his sight slowly returned to full strength, he began to make out the features of the man standing before him, and with that image, the bars that separated them.
“What the…” he managed as he curled his fingers around one of the bars.
Looking up, his mouth opened, ready to speak, but for a few seconds no sound would emerge. During those brief moments, Gerard pulled himself to his feet. Still staring, his breathing quickened as, finally, he found his voice.
Hernandez smiled. The young singer clearly had no clue that he was involved and had provided the medium through which The Dreamcatcher could push through into reality.
“You might well look shocked,” Hernandez grinned mockingly. “After all, you’ve been used and taken for a fool.”
“Used?” Gerard gasped. “You’re behind all this?”
The stunned singer moved forward a few inches, now gripping the bars with both hands. Anger bubbled up from deep within as he thought about how he had been played.
“People are dead because of you!” Gerard yelled furiously from within the cage.
“And it’s not finished yet,” Hernandez sneered. “There are at least five more victims to be taken before he is truly free.”
“M… Mikey and Bob?” Gerard paled at the thought that they may already be dead.
“That’s right,” Hernandez taunted.
“You… you killed them?” Gerard stammered, praying it wasn’t true.
“They’re not dead yet,” he snapped, much to Gerard’s relief. “But you and your friends will die to bring him into this world permanently.”
“Not if I can help it, you bastard!” Gerard screamed, the venom bursting from his voice.
Pushing his arm through the bars, he tried to snatch at the artist’s arm, but Gerard’s still slowed reactions worked against him. Hernandez caught his wrist and twisted his arm viciously. Crying out in pain and shock, Gerard’s ability to fight drained suddenly and completely as his shoulder and elbow neared dislocation.
“I suggest you calm down and accept that this will happen, there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.”
Releasing Gerard’s wrist and shoulder, Hernandez pushed him forward into the centre of the cage, as he, in turn, stood back quickly.
Turning back to face him, and cradling his arm, Gerard stared for a few moments before putting his next question; he had to admit, he was at a loss to understand.
“How did you bring him to life?” he asked quietly.
“I didn’t, he was already alive. He is a living being, always has been, he just needed to break out of the dream world.”
“How do you know all this?”
Hernandez smiled faintly; he had a feeling that Gerard would be crushed by the explanation.
“The same way you know,” he began. “He entered our dreams.”
Gerard’s eyes widened with a mixture of surprise and horror at the words. Memory of the forgotten dreams came flooding back to him as he spoke the words. It had been real. The dreams had been real! Hernandez laughed harshly at Gerard’s expression.
“Yes, my friend, you were made to forget them. The Dreamcatcher entered your sleeping mind and sowed the seeds of a story and a new character, carefully outlined and complete. You would see him, exactly as you wanted him drawn, but you would forget the dream. Then what? You need to find an artist, one that could do him justice. But there really was only one man who could draw him the way you wanted, and that was me. Why? Because I’d seen him!”
Hernandez took a few steps back and settled himself in a chair at a table. As he looked up once more, he smiled as he noticed Gerard struggling to take in the bizarre tale.
“Yes, he came to me in a dream, several dreams, as it turned out. He told me how he could be brought through from the dream world into this, everything he would need and everything I had to do to make it happen. And he gave me this…”
Reaching into his pocket, Hernandez withdrew a pen from his pocket and held it up for Gerard to see.
“You see, drawing with this pen quite literally brings the comic to life. And not only that, I can use it to reverse the process. By simply piercing the skin, I can send a person into the pages.”
“Mikey!” Gerard cried, remembering how The Dreamcatcher had stabbed something into he back of his brother’s neck and only moments later, he was shrunk to a mere six inches. “He’s in the comic?”
“Yes, both Mikey and Bob are currently trapped in the comic, running for their lives. You see, I didn’t need your sketches to recreate him. I got the job because I was the only one who could draw him the way you saw him. But then, I knew him. None of the other applicants had that privilege.”
“Privilege! He’s homicidal! All he wants to do is kill! How can you work for him?”
“Most importantly, for me, when he visited my dreams, he told me what I could expect in return for helping him.”
Gerard took a deep breath before asking the question, he truly felt he knew the response already and that it would explain nothing.
“So, what’s in it for you? That’s what this really comes down to, doesn’t it? Money? Power?”
Hernandez smirked at Gerard’s indignant anger.
“Yes; money, power, position, certainly. But more than that, this is about recognition. Everyone will know who I am!”
“Fame! You’re doing this for fame?” Gerard gasped in disbelief at the shallowness of the response.
“No, my friend, you have fame, for all the good that it’s done you. What I will have, is glory! The world will be mine. Do you understand that kind of power?”
“The world will be his, not yours! You can’t hope to control him once he’s free.”
“I don’t need to control him, he gave me his word.”
Gerard gripped the bars so tightly, his knuckles whitened.
“His word! You fucking retard! What kind of total ignorant fucking moron are you? His word means nothing!”
Hernandez pushed his arm through the bars in a violent rage, seizing Gerard by the neck. Ducking quickly out the one-handed hold, Gerard grabbed the artist’s wrist, pulling back so the whole length of his arm was pulled inside the cage. Twisting his arm up the bars, he forced Hernandez to turn his back to the cage, pinning him against it. Pushing his arm ever higher with all his strength, Gerard reached with his free hand desperate to find the pocket containing the pen. With his fingertips brushing the tip, Gerard screamed in pain as Hernandez kicked back catching his right knee with enough force as to make it give way beneath him.
His grip severely weakened, it became a simple matter for Hernandez to pull free, shoving Gerard to the floor of the cage in the process.
“Nice try, Way! But you don’t get away that easily!”
“Do you honestly believe he’ll let you live after he’s free?”
“Of course! I’m no threat to him. I’m freeing him, he has no reason to kill me.”
“He has no reason to let you live either. In fact, he does have a reason to kill you! With that pen, you’re the only one who can send him back! With you dead, he’s truly free!” Gerard tried desperately to reason with him.
“I think you should worry a little less about me and a little more about you and your friends,” Hernandez threatened.
“Don’t think we won’t fight you!” Gerard warned in return as he got to his feet once more.
Hernandez laughed cruelly.
“You think so? You gave yourself up to The Dreamcatcher. He now controls your will. He can force you to do anything and the more you try to resist the stronger the control will be. You will capture your own friends as they try to rescue you.”
“No…” Gerard shook his head. “There’s no way I’ll help you!”
“Let’s see shall we?”
As if out of a mist, The Dreamcatcher appeared alongside Hernandez and immediately, Gerard felt his mind fighting for power over of his own actions. Grimacing as the battle inside him raged, he could hear the cruel laughter of his captors as he struggled to retain control. Within minutes, Gerard looked up, his eyes glazed, his stance submissive.
“Your friends will be here shortly,” The Dreamcatcher announced as he handed over a second pen. “They will try to rescue you. You will send them into the pages.”
Taking the pen and slipping it into his pocket, Gerard nodded silently. Inside, he could hear his own voice screaming at him to fight, but The Dreamcatcher’s control over him was simply too strong.