The session begins with a cutscene…
“There are certain truths…and once you know them, it’s like slipping through the cracks of the world. You become lost in an alien place full of rules you can’t fathom and dangers you can’t know. Your life ends and you have to forge a new one out of ashes and forgotten things.”
“Eyes open soldier!”
You’re weak, like you’ve been in bed for a month, or maybe rehab. It takes a few minutes to remember where you were, which gives you a shot of adrenaline the moment you realize you don’t know where you are. You open your eyes, which is no small feat, considering they’re glued shut from misuse.
Rubbing the crust out of your eyes, you look down to the end of the bed at Boober, who is cowering there, his little pom-pom tail shaking in terror. That’s new. The insufferable asshole is never anything but judgemental. The events from Mason’s apartment come back to you, and a twinge of real fear seeps in.
“Boober?” you croak – your voice hasn’t been used in a while either.
“I’m glad they finally let you wake up,” he whimpers. “Susan…I think we’re fucked….”
You blink some stinging gunk out of your eyes and he’s gone.
You’re in a cell, which certainly wouldn’t be the first time, but this is no normal cell. The six by eight room seems to be made of a single poured material. Greyish, extremely smooth, a little mottled like a polished countertop. Everything is made of the stuff, from the toilet bowl to the shelf you’re laying on. There is no table or shelves for personal effects like in long-term lock-up. Fold-down sink over the commode is typical stainless-steel affair, and the roll of toilet paper looks normal. There’s a little mirror above the sink that looks embedded into the wall. Light is coming from a fixture in the ceiling embedded in the same way. There’s a panel on the wall made of the same stuff that you’re assuming is a door, but there’s no indication of that, it’s just a door-shaped seam in the wall.
You’re on a three-inch slab of memory foam and covered by some sort of synthetic blanket. You’re wearing coarse white Dickeys prison scrubs with a six-inch forest green stripe running around your body at chest-level. Sports bra and underwear made of the same stuff.
It’s comfortably cool, and there’s fresh air flowing but you can’t tell from where. It’s also dead quiet. You tap on the wall and discover the material is anechoic, so it feels like you’re in a coat closet. You sit up, but you’re extremely weak and know better than to try to stand very fast.
You jump as three loud tones ring out. It’s not a harsh sound, but it’s loud enough to wake up the dead even with the muffling of the walls. Right after the third tone, the door panel in the wall retracts into the ceiling shockingly fast.
Lesson one: don’t get in the way of that door coming down.
The door reveals another door, this one made of some inch-thick transparent material with a bunch of one-inch holes. The air pressure in your cell changes slightly as air flows in through the holes from the higher-pressure room beyond. From where you’re seated, you can see what looks like a large common room made of the same material, a large table and benches molded out in the center, and a number of other transparent “cell” doors like your own.
As to the rest of you – you’re all stirred awake by the buzzer, you find yourselves in identical circumstances, minus the hallucinatory muppet. Anyone yelling loud enough will be heard by the others. The stripes on the dickeys are different though:
-Daphne’s is forest green.
-Seamus, Mike, and Jamie’s are a light green.
-Emily, Hugo, and Emma have navy blue.
-Cole’s is a little wider, it’s dark brown with one-inch trim in bright red on the top and bottom.
-Margaret has no stripe.
The party stirs awake and begins the slow process of discovering their environment and introducing themselves to each other. After a time, the outer cell doors open and they are free to explore the common area. A number of discoveries are made through the discussion:
- All of the party have been kidnapped from their lives around the world. All of them report the same individual – “Dennis” or “Mr. Jones” – associated with the event. Seamus is the only one who doesn’t remember Mr. Jones, but Mike reports he was there after Seamus’ injury. Those who choose to discuss it report some sort of supernatural event, from the relatively mundane “his neck was obviously broken” to the extreme “there was a dead dragon that came back to life”.
- The prison notifies the prisoners through a series of sounds. The party has identified “food delivered”, “food doors closing”, “wake up/cell doors opening”, “cell doors closing”, and, most alarmingly “knock-out light” which renders the party instantly unconscious wherever they may be.
- Audio and, presumably, surveillance, seem to all be embedded in the light fixtures, which resist tampering.
- The party fails to make a correlation between the stripes on their clothes and their situations before becoming imprisoned.
- Jamie claims that a kiss from Daphne six months ago started his supernatural journey (that of being able to photograph some other parallel world in stead of his own). Daphne doesn’t recall meeting him.
- Hugo reports seeing Cole, very injured, strapped to a gurney in the hold of a container ship in the Gulf of Aden. Hugo was hired to get off the ship with Cole or, at a minimum, get a photo. He also reports that during the incident, Mr. Jones referred to Cole as a “bullet sponge” and strongly suggested not making Cole angry.
- Everyone has been unconscious a very long time, judging by their weakness. At one point, watermelon juice and clear broth is delivered through dumbwaiters in the wall of the common area.
After a period of forced unconsciousness, the party is served breakfast and discovers a simple digital camera waiting for them in the common area. There are no photos on the camera, nor is there a current date set, but the camera’s manufacture date is in March, at least a month after.
Jamie uses the camera and demonstrates his ability, which proves to be extremely alarming. The parallel place in his photographs reveals a horror show of tortured people scrambling madly at the closed doors of the prison. The camera behaves normally for everyone else who tries it.
Some time passes, then the large double-doors exiting the common area snap open a crack, there’s the click of a silenced firearm, then the doors snap shut again. The party looks around, trying to figure out what has happened, and discovers that Emma has been shot in the chest.
(Sorry, it’s me, and as you guys probably know by now, I’m incapable of writing short journals)
When she woke up, it was in what was most likely a cell, but it did not look quite like a cell, or rather what she imagined a cell would look like; she had never actually been inside one before, so her experience with them was limited to what she had read in books and seen in movies. The plexiglass with holes in it did not look right, at least like what she would expect the US Government to have. She thought there should have been bars, or perhaps a solid steel door. Plexiglass was unexpected. It made her think of the cells they had in Torchwood. The ones in the basement where they kept the aliens. Or maybe the cell that held Hannibal in “Silence of the Lambs”. Cages meant to keep the people on the outside safe from the monsters inside.
Monsters. The people who had most likely put her here had probably seen Ezra as a monster. Ah, Ezra. She knew she had probably been little more than a short-lived diversion to him, though he had seemed genuinely regretful at the end, before they came, when he told her he regretted not taking her up on the drinks she had once, shyly, asked him out for. Perhaps he had been a monster, but he had been kind to her, and he had saved her grandfather’s life once. She remembered the story; she had liked the story, she had found it, not romantic, never that, but something else, maybe a reminder that sometimes, miracles happen. Perhaps as a mystery. Perhaps something else, something she would find again a few years later, but then in the form of spaceships or magic.
She had, however, never in her life thought she would meet the man who had saved him. It had, after all, happened some seventy years ago. Had he been human, he would have been close to a century old by now. Of course, now she knew he had been even older. And he still remembered her grandfather, something that said, she thought, something about him. It might not be logical, but the man who had saved her grandfather, who still remembered his name, and the place, how could he have been a monster?
Briefly, she wondered if there had been anything more between the two; she had only mentioned that she had seen an old photo of him, and that he had known her grandfather. Those pieces of information, and her similarity to him, were all it took for him to know. His voice when he said her grandfather’s name, there had been a warmth there, affection, a touch, perhaps, of sadness. Almost an echo of what she had heard in her grandfather’s voice when he had talked about that day in Libya. The first time she could remember him telling the story she was eight. She had seen him looking at that particular photo with a wistful look on his face.
He had smiled when he saw her. She had walked over to him, and looked at the photo. Already at that age, she had been careful with things on paper; books, documents, photos. That particular photo looked worn, fragile, as if her grandfather had frequently taken it out and looked at it. She had not touched it, just looked. Her grandfather had been so much younger; she recognised him only because of the old photos of him and a grandmother she had never known, a pretty blackhaired young woman who looked nothing at all like Margaret. No colours in the old ones, but there were newer, a few, so she knew the woman’s eyes were sparkly green; her Irish blood, or so Dad used to say.
Her grandfather had been ten years married when the war started; it had caused some noise back then. He had married an Irishwoman, and that was bad enough, but during and after the war, the Irish were even less popular in Britain. Even if Máire’s brother Pádraig had deserted from the Ireland’s military, the Defence Forces to join RAF and help fight against the Germans, Grandfather Stephen’s parents had not been happy with his choice. For as long as he lived, her grandfather was angry with the Irish government for their treatment of the Irish soldiers who had chosen to fight on Britain’s side during the war. When Margaret was born, they had been long dead, and Màire was dead as well, more recently. From what Dad told her, Stephen’s parents had never really come to terms with their son’s choice of wife. A part of life, sadly, things never happening because people ran out of time.
This day was the first time her grandfather had mentioned the man who had saved his life. It would not be the last, partly because she enjoyed the story, and partly because her grandfather seemed to enjoy talking about the man, even if he was vague on the details. He told her that it had been fifty years ago, exactly, May 29th, 1942. His Hurricane had been shot down over Libya, near a place called Bir Hakeim. A man had dragged him out of the wreckage and helped him back to his own side. All the times he told the story, he never once mentioned the man’s name, and she, being young, had never asked. She supposed it had added to the mystery. Learning that the man’s name had been Billy or Harry or some common name like that would likely have at least made it less mysterious. Or perhaps it was just that her grandfather by then was old, and his memory had started fading somewhat.
So maybe all the books she had read had twisted her view on things, but she was fairly certain that if there were now monsters involved in her life, Ezra had not been one of them. The other one, though, mister Jones, the man who had clearly been searching for Ezra, who had hunted him down and killed him, as if it were nothing, as if he had done it to others countless of times. Perhaps the label ‘monster’ would fit him better than it had Ezra.
She pushed the thought of Ezra away. She would mourn him in her own way and her own time. Not here, when they, whoever they were, might be watching. Besides, right now, she was almost angry with him. He should have left, should have moved on when his friend had disappeared. It struck her then, and she did not want to think about that, he might have stayed too long, partly because of her. She hoped that was not the case, that he had had other reasons to stay. Perhaps her staying with him at the end had made it slightly easier. That was an easier thought to bear, and she would hold on to that one for now.
But until she knew more, of the men who had taken her, especially this mr. Jones, of what was going on, she would keep the anger and pain inside. She had gotten used to that by now. Instead, she would treat this as a game, a puzzle to solve, because it was easier than remembering what she had lost.
She heard someone yelling, and walked over to the plexiglass to look. There was a room beyond it, and what looked like more cells like hers on the other side of it. Other prisoners, then. Perhaps like her, people who had seen things they were not supposed to see. Or, maybe, just maybe, someone who were more than just human. Her thoughts went for a moment to the man Ezra had mentioned, his friend who had suddenly gone quiet. Could he be in a place like this? Ezra had said he knew that his friend was alive, and that he feared they had taken him. These cells were meant to contain dangerous creatures, not someone like her, so some of the people she could hear might just be not exactly human.
The doors opened, rushing upwards as if they were trying to escape. Margaret peered outside for a moment, then stepped through the doorway. There were, indeed, other people there. Dressed much like her, but with coloured stripes on their jumpsuits. Some green, some blue, and one dark brown with red trimming.
It was a rather mixed group of people. One, Mike, was a teacher of philosophy; at last two students, Emma and Emily, one veterinatian, one computer science; Jamie, a photographer; at least one, Cole, who seemed to be some sort of soldier for hire, he did mention an employer, so he was not US military, at least; Daphne, who seemed like she had lived a hard life, quite a bit of it under the influence of one substance or another; and a couple of others.
Emily seemed broken up over something; she mentioned having seen her friend killed right before she was taken. Margaret knew she should be kinder, show some sympathy, maybe, but she simply did not feel like she could do it right then. If she did, she would have to think about Ezra, and she was not ready to do that just yet. Also, Emma seemed to be doing the sympathy part well enough.
She tried a couple of times to ask people what had happened to them right before they ended up here, with little success. Of course, if any of them had seen or experienced anything strange, or rather, something supernatural, they would probably not just blurt it out, so she decided she needed to start. She knew what to say, and what to do if none of them seemed to understand. All she needed was the opening.
It came when one of the men asked her what drug cartel she was affiliated with, and what she had done to end up here. Under normal circumstances, she might have been offended by that question. These were far from normal circumstances, though, so instead, she grabbed the opportunity and gave the answer she had planned, trying to sound casual.
“I had coffee with a vampire.”
For a few moments, the entire room was silent, and she felt everyone look at her. She was prepared to pretend it had been a joke, but then Emma said quietly something about having seen a dragon, and that perhaps someone would actually believe her.
Margaret had half expected something like that. Not a dragon, perhaps, but _something_. She knew that the worst thing she could do was to show any sign of disbelief. Not that she felt any; Emma was here for a reason, after all. Why not a dragon? Margaret herself had, after all, been drinking coffee and discussing literature with a vampire. It was not as if she had ever expected him to suddenly fall upon her and drink her blood or to turn into a bat and fly away. Granted, an owl would have been more appropriate for Ezra, seeing how much he loved books. Well, she had been drinking coffee, he had been just holding his, and they had discussed books. But a vampire, or something very much like it.
It had, subjectively, not been long enough for her to miss him. Or really believe that he was dead. That was something that she could not, absolutely could not, deal with right now. Could not, _would_ not, remember. Perhaps there would be time to deal with it, but now, they had more important, or at least more pressing, matters to deal with. She pushed the thoughts of Ezra away and tried to focus on the present.
Her comment did help some. People did seem more willing to talk. Emma had seen a dragon. Cole had been ripped apart by something that he was unwilling to describe, he seemeed unwilling to believe in whatever he had seen. Seamus, the Irishman, had been attacked as well, possibly by a small girl. Jamie took strange pictures, and by strange, he meant unnatural, and terrifying. He mentioned that they sold well, and a story popped into her head against her will. “Pickman’s Model”. No, she was so absolutely not going to think about that one either, except she could not help it. Jamie’s story was not exactly the same, but there was something about his story that reminded her of that particular story.
‘Stop thinking about it’, she told herself sternly. ‘If I have ended up in some strange story, let it be something more benign than Lovecraft and his insane world. A certain whooshing sound and a blue box would be very welcome right now. And a far better alternative than Lovecraft.’ Lovecraft was definitely not something she wanted to dwell on now. Better to focus on what mattered.
The coloured stripes, for instance. It was likely that they meant something. It could, of course, just be random, meant to confuse them. But for now, she would assume that the colours actually had a purpose. After asking a few questions, she thought it seemed unlikely that the colours had anything to do with where they were picked up. Possibly something related to abilities, supernatural or not. What worried her somewhat was that she did not have any coloured stripes. ‘I hope it isn’t the equivalent of wearing a red shirt,’ she thought wryly.
Obviously Jamie, at least, had some sort of supernatural ability. She suspected that Cole did as well; possibly healing fast or something like that. She had an idea on how to test that, if the man was willing. When it came to the others, she had no idea. Emma… Maybe, just maybe… there was something odd about her story. Not that she did not believe it, but when she had said that the dragon had been dead at first, and then it was not, Margaret could not help but wonder if Emma, perhaps unwittingly, had something to do with it no longer being dead. Also, Daphne, the woman who seemed to have lived a hard life, according to Jamie, it was after she had kissed him that his pictures had changed. Maybe it meant nothing. Worth digging into, though.
She suspected that most of the others would probably have some ability, and that the colours on their stripes said something about the kind of ability. But so far, the only thing she had was a theory for one from each colour group, not even remotely enough to figure things out. She did not know what she was doing there, though. Especially since she had no stripe, and she knew very well that her only link to the supernatural was through Ezra. Her books and her head full of weird facts did not count.
Margaret was fairly certain that their captors wanted them to figure something out. That was, most likely, why they had left the camera on a table in the common room. For Jamie to demonstrate his ability. She could see no other reason why they would leave a camera in the room. She suspected that they would get more clues or demonstrations of abilities in the near future.
And so, she was not entirely surprised when they heard a popping sound, followed by a gasp from Emma, and as they turned towards her, they could all see the blood on her chest.