Frank likes green flowers.
The music was loud, beating against his eardrums as if it had a personal vendetta against him. Gerard took a great long drink from the bottle of vodka he held in his hand and nodded his head to it, shaking out his shadow-dark hair in a gesture of release. Because that’s what he felt. Release. The drink had taken a fast hold over his senses, heading them in a new direction far away from the stress and towards freedom and fun. He had never felt so great.
The room was dim and he couldn’t see straight anyway but through the dark he caught sight of her. Small and slim, with long hair the colour of soot which cascaded down her shoulders like some kind of macabre waterfall. She smiled coyly at him, brown eyes twinkling in a mischievous, pixie-like fashion and the next thing he knew they were face to face, dancing along with the thousand other couples in the room.
“You’re so beautiful,” he told her as she danced, one hand propped comfortably upon his shoulder.
“What?” she cocked her head slightly to the side.
“You’re beautiful!” he yelled over the pounding of the base.
She didn’t wince as his breath, heavily laced with alcohol and cigarettes hit her. On the contrary, she smiled flirtatiously and threw her hair back over her shoulder. Time seemed to count for nothing as they danced, staring deeply into each other’s eyes, bodies wrapped around each other, feeling as though their very souls were entwined. Gerard laughed out loud and she did too and it was as if they were one person instead of two strangers.
“Hey, easy rock star,” she giggled as they bumped childishly around the tiny bathroom, his hands clumsily pawing at the apple-green dress wrapped around her torso.
He looked up and she met him with a kiss that tasted so suddenly wrong that Gerard pulled back immediately.
“What?” she asked, obviously hurt.
“Wrong,” he shook his head. The faint buzzing sound was beginning to fade and he found himself thinking straighter and straighter. Finding his tongue he struggled to form a whole sentence. “This is wrong.”
“How? Why?” she frowned.
“I have a girlfriend,” said Gerard, racking his brains for her name. “LynZ. Yeah, LynZ.”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, she’s not here now, is she?”
Catching sight of the bottle still clutched in his hand, Gerard shrugged. “Guess that’s true...”
“So what’s the problem?” she pouted and at her words Gerard found that he didn’t know either. And in another second LynZ was gone from his mind. All that remained was the vodka in his hand and the girl trying to get into his pants who was just as intoxicating as the drink itself.
But as he raised his hand to touch her cheek he withdrew it sharply when it was suddenly drenched scarlet. And it was everywhere, dragging down the locks of her hair, seeping through her dress, every part of flesh that he had ever touched was covered in it. He tried to block out the terrible sight with his hands, realising only that they also were also soaked red. She took a step towards him. The lustful look was gone from her eyes. It had been replaced with anger and hatred.
“You,” she screamed, pointing a perfectly manicured finger. “You did this to me!”
“No,” Gerard protested but it was untrue and she knew it. She leapt onto him, hands bent into claws, scratching at his eyes. He tried and tried to fight her off but she was too angry...too angry...“Dammit Gerard, wake up!”
He woke up. Frank was bent over him, forehead creased in worry, his eyes wide and frightened. Alicia was next to him, looking almost equally anxious.
“Well,” Gerard heaved himself into a sitting position. “That dream sucked.”
“No kidding,” Frank said. “You were screaming like a bastard, for Chrissake. It wasn’t funny.”
“I’ll bet,” Gerard shook his hair out of his eyes, resisting the urge to sigh in relief when he saw that it was reassuringly red instead of its prior black. He was shaking all over and his skin was slippery with sweat. Frank bit his lip nervously, his tongue poking out of the small metal ring. Gerard tried hard not to think of him covered in blood but the dream flashed into his mind and he squeezed his eyes shut against it.
“Well, if you’re okay,” said Alicia briskly. “I think we should get a move on and try to find the others.”
“What about food?” asked Gerard, a thought suddenly occurring to him. “We haven’t eaten or drunk any thing in three days. Why are we not dead?”
Both Alicia and Frank looked at him with a demeaning exasperation that irritated him immensely. “Oh Gerard,” Frank shook his head despairingly. “It’s really very simple. We haven’t been gone for three days.”
Gerard raised an eyebrow. “We haven’t?”
“No,” replied Alicia. “Obviously when you rolled the dice and we left the real world we left time and space behind us. So no matter how much time passes here we’ll still be sitting next to the board back at your house with fifty odd people standing around us.”
“Oh,” was all Gerard could muster, rather taken aback. “Okay.”
“You can’t seriously be hungry, can you?” Frank frowned at him.
Gerard thought about it and discovered, not unpleasantly, that he wasn’t. Looking at Alicia and Frank, who were surveying him quite smugly, he could tell that they had stayed up quite a while after he had fallen asleep thinking this through.
“Come on then,” Alicia held out her hand to pull Gerard up. “Let’s go find Mikey.”
“Or Ray,” Frank put in. “Or Christa. Or LynZ. And if we have to, Jamia.”
When Gerard and Alicia had pulled Frank out of the floor, a low rumble echoed around the room and the wall began to crumble, finally falling away entirely to reveal their way out. They had hurried through it at once and it had closed up behind them for the next players to try their luck at. They had spent the night under a large willow tree in the middle of a field and when they woke they felt more cheerful and optimistic than ever now that there were three of them together and they knew more or less what they were doing.
Alicia picked her way determinedly threw the long grass, a single-minded machine ready to take down anything that got in the way of her finding her husband. Gerard and Frank kept a couple of paced behind her, wary of saying anything that could cause her to lash out at them for one reason or another. The sky was so miserable that Gerard felt sorry for it and soon the rain started to fall, thick and angry, plummeting towards them so fast they had to run for cover.
They crouched behind a wall of rock, listening to the wind whistle through the cracks.
“Goddammit,” Frank held his jacket above his head in order to shield himself a little from the rain. “They don’t make this difficult at all, do they?”
“Frank?” came a voice from the other side of the wall. “Frank, is that you?”
“Mikey!” Alicia exclaimed. “Mikey!”
Mikey stepped out to meet them. His lips were blue with cold and his hair was plastered to his skull but he was grinning wildly. As soon as he came into view, Alicia engaged him in a violent hug, throwing him completely off balance.
“I’m alright,” he said, patting her on the back awkwardly. “I’m fine.”
When Alicia had finally released him he turned back to Frank and his brother. “Jesus, it’s good to see you,” he told them sincerely. “I’ve been walking around on my own for...well, I don’t really know how long.”
“In this field?” Gerard gestured. “How big is it?”
Mikey shrugged. “Well that’s the thing,” he said. “It stretches for miles in one direction. I think...maybe...it’s never ending.” he shuffled his feet awkwardly. “I know how that sounds,” he mumbled.
“Not half as crazy as you think,” replied Frank bitterly. “I feel like a character in some kind of fantasy novel.”
Mikey raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
For the third time, Gerard repeated everything he knew about their predicament, Frank and Alicia filling in where necessary. The words had stuck in his head and he found himself speaking them as if reading them from a script. They barely had time to register Mikey’s shock when Sara appeared in front of them.
“Holy shit!” Mikey cried. “Where the hell did she come from?”
“A chicken’s egg hatched from beneath a toad,” said Sara sarcastically.
“Awesome,” Frank grinned.
“Fuck off,” she snapped. “Apparently I’m supposed to give someone another Chance card.”
Both Gerard and Frank held out their hands but she merely glared at them and tossed it to Alicia who caught it.
“There is a room with no doors, no windows, nothing but a man who is hanging from the ceiling. There is a puddle of water on the floor. How did he die?” she read.
“Bit fond of riddles, aren’t we?” Frank raised an eyebrow.
Sara scowled. “It’s not a riddle, it’s a brain teaser,” she told him through gritted teeth. “So shut up.”
Alicia read it through again and her face lit up and she laughed out loud. “I know this,” she said, waving the card in front of Sara’s face. “I’ve heard it before. Someone asked it me when I was still at school!”
She squeezed her eyes shut, forcing the memories out and then she smiled again. “He was standing on a block of ice,” she recalled. “And the ice melted.”
Gerard couldn’t help cracking up at the sight of the look on Sara’s face. “You’re not having a lot of luck with these are you?”
Sara stuck her middle finger up at him, clicked her fingers and was gone. The card had vanished. In its place was a thin rubber object clutched in Alicia’s hand. She surveyed it with bemusement. “What the hell is this?”
“Hey I know,” Gerard examined it interestedly. “You put it in your mouth and it helps you breath underwater. I think.”
“Why would I want to breathe underwater?” puzzled Alicia. She handed it to Mikey. “Here,” she said. “You have it. You haven’t faced your fear yet.”
“Come to think of it, what the fuck is going to attack us in the middle of a field?” said Frank.
“Maybe...that?” Mikey pointed.
They followed where he gestured but turned back round when they were still standing in the middle of a field behind a rock, alone but relatively safe. However, Mikey continued to point at a large lake, surrounded by the rocks, set into the long grass.
“It’s just a lake, Mikey,” said Gerard. “I don’t think it’s got anything against us.”
“It’s not just a lake,” Mikey groaned. “It’s our way out.”
“What do you mean?”
Slowly, he approached the water’s edge and gestured. Gerard crouched down next to him and peered into the murky dark. He was about to shrug and say that he couldn’t see anything when Mikey shushed him and instructed him to look deeper. So he looked deeper. And sure enough there was an odd bluish-green light glowing from somewhere at the bottom, the type of light that shouldn’t ordinarily lay at the floor of a lake.
“We have to go in there,” said Gerard.
“No,” Mikey replied at once.
Gerard rolled his eyes. “Come on, Mikey.”
“No fucking way,” whispered Mikey. “I’m not going down there. I can’t...I can’t swim.”
“Yes you can,” replied Gerard. “You’ve swam around the pool in my yard often enough.”
“A swimming pool,” Mikey nodded. “Not some goddamn fucking lake. There could be absolutely anything in there!”
“Like our way out,” said Gerard. But Mikey crossed his arms and stood, resolutely, out of the water’s reach.
“What’s going on?” asked Alicia, rushing down to the lake’s edge to join them. “What’s happened?”
“The door to our escape is in there somewhere,” Gerard explained. “But Mikey won’t go in.”
“Well of course he won’t,” Alicia rolled her eyes. “He’s got a fear of large bodies of water. Maybe there’s some other way out.”
“Do you not understand what this thing is about?” Gerard snapped. “It’s called The Nightmare Game. You have to face your nightmares. Your fears. Or you’re stuck here forever!”
Alicia opened her mouth to retaliate but at that exact moment the water behind them started to ripple and a loud squelching noise echoed across the surface of the lake. It grew as the ripples got bigger and then was suddenly punctuated by Alicia’s scream. Mikey and Gerard leapt out the way as something, something huge, grabbed Alicia by the stomach, pulled her into the water and was gone.
“Alicia!” cried Mikey, gazing desperately into the midst of the lake but there was nothing. Not even the slightest ripple.
“You have to go in Mikey,” said Gerard softly. “It’ll be over before you know it. Go on.”
Mikey nodded shakily, staring down at the rubber object in his palm. Slowly, he fixed it in his mouth and strode out until he was knee high in the water.
“What the fuck is going on?” Frank appeared at Gerard’s shoulder. “Why does Mikey think it’s a good time to go for a swim?”
“The door to our way out of this place is at the bottom of the lake and Alicia just got yanked under by a giant tentacle,” Gerard explained. He fixed Gerard with a bemused look. “Where were you?”
“Taking a whizz,” replied Frank shrugging. “Got a bit sidetracked. There’s a bush over there that grows green flowers. Green flowers!”
Preferring not to answer him, Gerard continued to watch Mikey wade out into the centre of the lake, shaking violently. Once he was waist-deep, he turned back to the others and they gave him a small reassuring smile. It was this smile that seemed to kick Mikey into action. He dove under at once and immediately vanished under the surface.
“So,” said Frank. “What do we do?”
“Wait?” Gerard suggested. “If there’s no abnormally huge night-marish creature out to get us what else can we do?”
Just as his words began to echo around the lake, another ripple broke the water’s surface. Gerard, whose back was to the water, didn’t see it. But Frank did.
Gerard spun around and something thick and slimy grabbed him from the waist, hauling into the air. He screamed and screamed as the world flashed before him, like he was riding some kind of dangerously fast roller-coaster. The thing that held him shook him over its head and his stomach lurched. Frank looked so tiny as he yelled up at Gerard from the ground. I think I’m gonna be sick, was the only thought that came into his head.
Suddenly he began to plummet, fast and straight. “Frank! Help me!” was all he had time to yell before he was pulled into the ice-cold lake.
He tried desperately to grab a hold of any rays of sunlight that shone, warped and distorted into the water but he was moving so fast soon the surface disappeared entirely. He held his breath desperately as he passed schools of silver fish and stray strands of seaweed which got caught in his hair, such a vibrant contrast compared to the murky, dark green scene.
And that’s when he saw her. Alicia looked pale and ghostly in the green light and, his heart stopping just for a moment, Gerard thought she had drowned before he noticed a steady stream of bubbles issuing from her mouth. But she didn’t look right. She looked peaceful, serene...asleep.
But it was the thing next to her that caused Gerard to have to physically stop himself from screaming again. It was enormous, fleshy, pink and slimy, it’s blind, milky eyes staring straight ahead. A squid or an octopus...but no squid or octopus could be so massive. It sat, it’s back up against what used to be some kind of building but it had sunken and fell into decay. It’s many tentacles were wrapped around the pillars and the roof was just inches above its head and held in place by what looked like individual strands of seaweed.
The thing brought Gerard down towards him and held him next to Alicia. Gerard tried desperately to catch her eye but she seemed beyond consciousness. Maybe she passed out, thought Gerard as another figure came hurtling towards them.
Frank was also held next to Gerard and was writhing in frustration, trying desperately to release himself from the kraken’s grip. The result...it just held on tighter, causing Frank’s face to contort with agony.
“Where is he?” he mouthed at Gerard who shrugged.
And then they saw him. Combing back the water olympically in his hurry to free them, Mikey came into view. He wasn’t shaking anymore but he was still deathly pale and though it was difficult to tell in the water his face looked very much as though he had been crying.
He stopped just in front of his friends, glancing only once at the creature to make sure it was quite blind. He was hesitating and it seemed to Gerard that he was trying to decide who to help first. So he gestured towards Alicia, trying frantically to let him know that she was in the worst way. Mikey shook his head, implying that that was not what he was thinking although he did try to loosen the creature’s hold on his wife, only causing it to aim a fierce blow at his head.
Mikey recovered quickly and started to swim up, up until he was out of view. Gerard felt his lungs aching inside his chest, he looked over at Frank and saw that his cheeks were puffed up with the effort of keeping the air in. Hurry Mikey, he tried to telepathically told his brother.
Just then came a heavy thud that sounded loudly even underwater and the tentacles slithered back from around Gerard’s waist. He looked up. The kraken was bleeding dark blood into the green water and clutching at its great head where the roof of the building had landed and punctured its flesh. Mikey stood just above it, brandishing a sharp-edged stone with which he had used to cut the unstable sea-weed holding the roof above the creature’s head. The rest of the building also came crashing down and Gerard hurriedly pulled Alicia out of the way as the heavy stone flew in all directions.
As the rubble cleared they noticed a light shining from just behind where the back pillar had been and it glowed brightly and welcomingly. They swam over to it and at once emerged spluttering and panting on dry land.
Frank and Gerard clutched the floor like a haven, breathing in the clean, fresh air. Their chests felt like they would explode with relief and they collapsed onto the bank, staring up at the mountain bright sky. Mikey, however, was standing over his wife who lay unmoving and unresponsive.
“Alicia,” called Mikey, voice desperate. “Alicia, baby, wake up please! Please wake up!”
He placed his hands on her chest and pumped hard. Gerard watched them, his happy feeling of release dissolving as he looked down at Alicia’s cold, quiet face. Mikey kept pumping.
And suddenly her back arched and water came from her mouth, splattering across the sand bank. She spat it all out and coughed as more was issued, hanging onto Mikey as though she would fall back into her still, silent state if she let go for more than a second. Her eyes fluttered open and both Gerard and Frank laughed with pure elation.
“I’m okay?” she breathed.
Mikey smiled and held her to him. “Yes baby,” he whispered into her sopping hair. “You’re okay. You’re safe.”
Next chapter up Monday and a promise of Frerard! ;)