Hernandez receives his just rewards (This chapter only available from the main menu - drop down won't find it!)
“They’re here,” he sneered as he glanced at the still compliant frontman. Gerard’s blank facial expression was animated only by his eyes, which glittered with a combination of fear and bitter hatred behind the enforced passive mask.
“I know that despite losing your free will to me, you can hear and understand every word I say.” The Dreamcatcher began. “Rest assured, I will remain nearby to keep tight control over your actions. I know what you’re thinking, but there is no escape for you, not for any of you.”
Placing the key to the door of the cage on a nearby table, Hernandez and The Dreamcatcher withdrew to an adjoining room and quietly closed the door. As the door clicked shut, Gerard woke as if from a deep yet refreshing sleep. Suddenly alert and aware, he ran his fingers down one of the bars as if seeing them for the first time. A scraping sound of something like a chair moving a few inches on a wooden floor caught his attention and his head turned sharply at the noise. He found himself holding his breath as he listened intently for any clues as to the source of the sound and only moments later, was rewarded by the sound of a familiar voice.
“Vincent?” came the call from beyond the door to the studio.
“Frank!” Gerard yelled urgently.
No more words were needed; Frank and Ray knew all too well that they had discovered much more than they had expected to. Bursting through the door, the two guitarists stood open-mouthed at the sight of Gerard locked in the cage.
“It’s Hernandez,” Gerard announced as he moved to the cage door. “He’s got Bob and Mikey too.”
“Where’s the key?” Ray asked, glancing quickly around the room.
“Over there,” Gerard pointed through the bars. “On that table.”
Nodding briefly, Ray fetched the large brass key. Inside the cage, Gerard dipped his hand into his pocket and allowed his fingers to curl around the pen.
“Where are Bob and Mikey?” Frank asked as Ray turned the key in the lock and opened the heavy barred door.
“He’s got them in there,” Gerard replied, nodding to the other door. “Hernandez is out looking for you guys, it’s safe.”
As he stepped from the cage, Gerard motioned Ray into a ‘thank you’ hug and, happy to have found and released his friend, Ray accepted the gesture gladly. Gerard curled his arms around Ray’s back, but instead of a friendly pat, he stabbed the pen into the guitarist’s shoulder. Ray emitted a weak cry of pain that was already fading before it left his lips, but it was enough to draw Frank’s attention. As Gerard allowed Ray to fall to the floor, Frank’s eyes widened in surprise as the scene unfolded before him.
Staring purposefully, Gerard blocked Frank’s exit back into the studio, knowing that if he tried the other door, Hernandez and The Dreamcatcher would have him. But Frank was frozen to the spot as he gazed at Ray’s unconscious form lying on the floor. It was impossible to say whether the colour was draining out of him or the ink was pouring in, but within seconds Ray was devoid of all colour. His face deathly white, his features suddenly in sharp relief, his entire body merely a mass of black, white and greys.
Stunned by what he had just witnessed, it took Frank a good few seconds to even register the danger he was in. Looking at Gerard, he could see the turmoil in his eyes, remembering only now what Ray had said at the hospital when he had explained that Gerard was now under the control of The Dreamcatcher.
“Gee!” Frank cried. “Fight him! You have to fight!”
“I… I’m trying…” Gerard’s brow furrowed with the agony of the effort.
The words were no sooner out of his lips than he was racing forward, knocking Frank backwards and pinning him to the wall.
Shaking off the sheer disbelief of what was happening, Frank reached up to grab Gerard’s wrist as the pen descended towards him. Gerard was proving unnaturally strong and it was taking all of his effort merely to fend him off.
“I’m sorry, Frank.”
Frank’s eyes connected with Gerard’s, they were dull and lifeless and he knew beyond question that Gerard had again lost the battle. It was almost as if his strength doubled in that instant as his hand came sharply down and the pen pierced the skin at the base of his neck. Grimacing with the pain, Frank felt his knees give way beneath him and by the time he hit the floor, he was unconscious.
Gerard watched helplessly as the process repeated itself and finally Frank faded before his eyes. A feeling of extreme nausea lodged itself firmly in the pit of his stomach as he reflected on his, albeit unwilling, part in their fate.
The door to the adjoining room opened once more and Hernandez emerged first. The expression on his face was one of elation; very much the look of a man who had almost everything he wanted well within reach. Joining Hernandez, The Dreamcatcher wore a self-satisfied smirk. They both appeared to revel in their success, but, Gerard noted as he watched in silence, that success appeared to mean something different to each of them. The apparent discrepancy would shortly be explained.
“And now,” The Dreamcatcher announced, “it is time to reveal two secrets that were withheld from you during my visits to your dreams.”
Hernandez turned a suspicious eye to The Dreamcatcher and cocked his head in a gesture of uncertainty.
“Firstly, my nemesis,” he began by introducing the topic. “I gave the impression that he was unknown to me, suggesting that it would be an interesting plot device. But of course, this is not the case; I know exactly who he is. He formally goes by the name Dreamweaver. Over the years there have been a great number of Dreamweavers, but only ever one at any given time; all unaware that one day they may be called upon to destroy me. Some, once they were made aware, have even managed to repel my attempts to break free of the Dream World. But this time, I opted for a much more cunning approach. Instead of an attack, I would create my own opportunity and even get others to do my work for me. And, my greatest achievement to date was to get the Dreamweaver himself to help me.”
“Him!” Hernandez laughed with disbelief as he jerked a thumb in Gerard’s direction. “He’s your nemesis?”
“Indeed he is.” The Dreamcatcher replied. “Or should I say, was? Now you see why it was necessary to force him to give himself over willingly. Under my control, he can do me no harm.”
“Genius!” Hernandez cried, brimming with delight and admiration. “So, nothing can stop us now?”
“I have the Dreamweaver and his four cohorts all ready to die. I have everything I need. However, there is one small detail remaining. The other secret I kept from you both.”
“What’s that?” Hernandez asked.
The Dreamcatcher smiled cruelly at his naivety, before throwing an arm tightly around Hernandez’s neck. As he gasped for breath and tried desperately to pull away, Hernandez gasped in shock as The Dreamcatcher began to whirl; turning ever faster, spinning almost out of control.
Still spinning when all else was motionless, Hernandez lost his footing and crashed to the floor. Glancing around urgently the moment he had recovered his senses, he found himself kneeling in the supply room of his studio, in exactly the same spot that he had been standing only moments earlier. Yet now, the room was in disarray; broken and apparently abandoned. Shattered glass and torn paper covered the floor, empty paint tins littered the room and broken easels stood at peculiar angles.
“What is this?” Hernandez demanded. “How did it get like this?”
“Look out of the window.”
The Dreamcatcher’s voice was calm and yet at the same time disturbing. Shakily, Hernandez rose to his feet to do as he was ordered. Staring through a grubby, cracked and broken pane of glass, he was at a loss to understand the view that he beheld.
Beyond the window lay a desolate wasteland. All streets and buildings were exactly where he expected them to be, but all were ruined and deserted.
“W… where am I?” Hernandez stammered, turning back to face The Dreamcatcher.
“Welcome to the Dream World.” He explained. “I was imprisoned here a long time ago. Each day, I rose to see the landscape minutely changed as changes in the real world occurred; a new building rose, an old one demolished.”
“Why does it look like this? Ruins? Deserted?”
“Tell me,” The Dreamcatcher smiled wryly, “if you spent two hundred and fifty seven years here, alone, ageless, undying, how would you feel?”
“Two hundred and… I’d go insane!”
The Dreamcatcher laughed at what he saw as the irony of the reply.
“Maybe I am? Who can say for certain? But out of sheer frustration and anger at my imprisonment, I destroyed this world many years ago. But now, it’s yours.”
“Mine?” Hernandez repeated, puzzled by the statement.
“Yes,” The Dreamcatcher replied slyly. “The one thing you would have most wanted to know is that the Dream World must always be occupied. I cannot leave without someone taking my place.”
“You…you can’t mean…? No! You lied to me!”
“Of course I lied to you!” The Dreamcatcher sneered. “You should have listened to The Dreamweaver’s warnings. But then, I was once like you; a greedy, small-minded individual, tricked into helping my predecessor. I at least had the pleasure of seeing him beaten and destroyed by that lifetime’s Dreamweaver, but I was still trapped here, in this lonely desolate place. It has taken two hundred and fifty seven long years to learn and harness the power of Dream World and now, finally, with The Dreamweaver and his cohorts about to die and you taking my place, I can finally return and take my revenge!”
“No! No, please! Don’t leave me here!” Hernandez begged as the horror of his predicament sank in. “Please, leave someone else; anyone, I’ll find someone for you. I won’t ask for anything! Just please don’t leave me here!”
“I have no interest in your wishes, needs or wellbeing. I care only about my own freedom.”
“Please!” Hernandez pleaded. “I’ll go crazy here!”
The Dreamcatcher’s mouth lengthened into a cruel grin as he started to fade from sight.
“Welcome to my world!”
“No!” Hernandez screamed, terrified, as he rushed forward, but it was already too late.
All energy drained away from the abandoned artist as he began to fully comprehend the terrible reality of his situation. Dropping to his knees, he emitted a low guttural scream, desperate in the knowledge that he was now immortal, forever trapped in an empty world.