Wow. I really can't believe after all this time, Sniper is finally done. I did it! Wow.
Thanks so much to those of you who stuck it out with me! I am so happy to be done. I think so far, this is the longest story I have finished, and it feels amazing to be able to say that. :D
So you guys have earned it. Here is the revised and edited, and finished version of Sniper.
The violin wailed pleasantly in Anabelle’s ear as she toned herself to the music, slowly adding in her own part, a crescendo, and a new tune, dancing playfully with the other instruments. They created a beautiful melody, but she could hear none of it. There may have been other people on the stage, but in her mind, with her eyes shut tight, there was only her. She paused, slowly dying out, and then moments later coming back in. She tossed her hair out of her face. A harp joined the song, and she smiled to herself.
This was perfection.
A shot rang next to her, ruining her haven of music, and a searing pain roared up her shoulder. Her lips opened in a silent scream. She did not make a sound as she fell to the floor, and the last thing she saw was her mahogany violin falling to the wooden stage, blood splattered on the front, and the white strings yet humming a sad note.
Black around her
Black underneath her
But then there was red. She remembered the red. Blood.
She fell again back into sleep’s deep embrace.
When Anabelle woke, she found that the rigid blacks had faded to unpleasant browns and greens. She sat up swiftly, crying out as light-headedness overtook her body. Panic surged through her. Anabelle swung her legs over the edge of the bed on which she lay and slid off the side, nearly falling before a tanned hand pressed her gently back into the blanket. She struggled against him, increasing the pain in her shoulder, but subdued when it came to be too much. The momentum of her surrender sent her falling back onto the cushions, and releasing another wave of affliction.
“Sorry.” the man muttered. He began to walk around the room, gathering things; a bottle here, a rag there, and finally coming to rest at her bedside. He lowered the shoulder of her shirt, exposing her sweaty skin to his eyes. Her first instinct was to bat away his hands, but when he put a needle into her arm, she felt weak and sunk lower into her bed. The dim light allowed her little vision of her captor. She watched silently as he bared her skin, and dabbed a cloth at the accumulating blood. She gritted her teeth. The rag came away red. The man finished his work and bandaged her shoulder well, tightly, but not too tightly.
“Rest.” he said, quietly, “You have been shot.”
The shock of the sentence he had just said did not penetrate the haze that now engulfed her thoughts. Whatever he had given her, it worked fast. She closed her eyes and did her best to rest, the drugs enhancing her exhaustion, but found that sleeping in a place where you do not know is more than slightly unnerving, and found little rest in the burrow. She looked around as she was unable to move much. She finally found a digital clock. It was 3AM before she fell asleep.
Anabelle awoke, the ringing pain again enveloping her, threatening to drag her back down into the recesses of its warm blackness. She did not attempt to sit up, remembering the results of the previous morning.
“Who are you?” She could see the him walking around the room and look up when she addressed him.
“You can call me Alex, if that’s what you mean.”
She noted his soft purr of a voice and hated it instantly. Her eyes darted back to the ceiling and closed.
They popped back open. She bit her lower lip. “I’m Anabelle. Why did you take me here? Where are we?”
He turned back to his tasks without a reply. He came to her bedside moments later, with a syringe. She struggled to move away, but the pain rumbled back into her skull and she gave up. He pressed the needle gently into the bend of her arm, and she heard his voice- now a distant whisper,
“This will help you sleep. Goodnight...Anabelle.”
“You have got to stop doing that to me!” Anabelle said outrageously when she awoke the next morning.
“It was necessary for you to rest. Now that you are awake, would you like something to eat?”
Anabelle frowned and sat up a little, the pain having mellowed to a throb. “What time is it?”
“Eleven AM. The shooting was four days ago.” Alex set a plate in her lap. She glanced down at it with a sigh. Bread and...bread.
“Really? This is what you call breakfast?”
“No,” he said, turning, “That’s your breakfast. Anything more than that and your body will reject it.”
She glared at him. “What do you know about my body?”
“Plenty!” he retorted. Then blushed and looked at the floor. “I don’t want you to get sick.”
“That’s crap.” She said. She looked away and felt the plate lift from her lap. Momentarily, another took its place. A heavenly smell wafted into her nose.
Bacon, eggs and a slice of hot bread smothered in melted butter with a glass of warm milk.
A bite went down. Two. Four.
“Be careful. Don’t eat too fast.”
Anabelle looked up to see him observing her while eating his own breakfast. She scooped more in. After a couple more bites, her stomach protested. Her breakfast spilled over her front, no longer edible. Alex was at her side in moments, collecting it in a bucket, one hand on her back, the other bracing the pail. Once her spasms had resolved, her eyelids fell shut and she looked up into his face.
“You can say ‘I told you so’ now.”
He looked back at her as he wiped her forehead with a warm cloth. “I don’t believe in unnecessary spite.”
She rolled her eyes. He moved away and washed his hands. She cringed. They would both smell like puke now, she thought with remorse. He caught her eyes on him and nodded his head at her.
She breathed heavily once and lifted her eyebrows. “Any chance I could get a shower? Maybe I could wash my dress, too. I’d rather not smell like throw-up for however long I’m going to be here.”
Alex helped her off the cot and let her to a room with wooden panels on the floor and a wooden spout gushing water that flowed from the wall.
Throw your clothes out when you are in. I’ll wash them while you are busy. Soap is on the ledge on the wall.” He left.
Anabelle let loose a deep breath and combed her fingers through her scraggly hair. She lifted her dress up and over her head with a cringe, and once unclothed, tossed her garments out the door, and stepped under the spout. A steaming torrent of hot water burned over her body, causing her to smile with pleasure, then gasped when it washed the dried blood from her wound, turning the liquid to a clear red. She glanced over her shoulder. Ten neat stitches lined the bone. Crusted red still stuck, so she rubbed her fingers with soap and, biting her tongue, dug her fingers into the wound, scrubbing it thoroughly with soap. She cried out many times, and her eyes smarted, but finally it was done. She sat down on the wooden panels, letting the solvent flow over her skin and wash away the grime and sweat.
An hour later, she emerged, the room full of steam. She wiped the vapor from a shard of broken mirror. Her hair was tangled, and her face was pale. Red scratches clung to her arms and legs. Tears began to fall down her face. A sob emerged. She jumped when someone knocked on the door.
“Anabelle? Are you alright?”
She took a shaky breath. “Yeah. I’m washed. Where are my clothes?”
A pause. “They aren’t quite dry. I’m putting some clothes through the door.”
Anabelle stepped back behind the door while he laid them on the counter, then shut the door behind him. She looked through the clothes. A man’s shirt, and a pair of men’s jeans. She sighed again. She seemed to have been doing that a lot lately. It was a long time before she put the clothes on, pants rolled up to avoid the drag, and walked out.
When she entered the main room of the little house, she saw Alex throwing some spices into a pot and smelling it every now and then. She watched him for a few minutes until her gaze made him aware that she was there.
“What-” she cleared her throat, “What do you want with me?”
He frowned confusedly at her, and tilted his head a little to the right.
She threw her arms open. “Well, I’ve been here for almost five days, you obviously want something. Why else would I still be here? I’m just using up your food.”
“Sit.” he said. She pulled a chair from the table behind her, and sat in it, crossing her arms over her chest. “Cut these.” he laid a cutting board in front of her with a knife, and a bundle of herbs.
She narrowed her eyes at him, but did as she was told. She began slicing them into thick pieces, and was about to put them into the pot when he stopped her.
“No! You have to cut them smaller!” He put his arms around her and held her wrists gently, displaying how to cut them smaller. “You slice them closer together, so that they dissolve better when I boil them. It gets more of the flavor into the broth.”
She took the knife back, and began to cut them again, smaller this time. He observed her for a time, and then nodded, satisfied, and then went back to his own work. When she had finished, she slid them into the pot, and sat on the stool, looking around with nothing now to do.
“Is that our dinner?” she asked, her stomach rumbling a little.
“No. Poison. You just mix this…” He poured some purple liquid in, “And this, and then you sprinkle this in, and you have poison.” he said, so casually that she wondered if maybe he did have it for dinner.
“I’m kidding.” he whispered, a faint smile emerging. “Yeah, it’s dinner. I don’t think you use beef in poison.” He beckoned her over, and she came to stand beside him.
“My grandpa taught me to make this. Beef stew. It has to be my favorite thing to eat. I’m running out of potatoes, though. James hasn’t come in a while.” He reached around her for a knife, and she nervously moved away.
He glanced down at the knife, and understanding filled his eyes. “I’m not going to hurt you, Anabelle. I wouldn’t have healed you if I were going to.”
She nodded once, and pursed her lips. A thought struck her. He wasn’t tying her up, and he hadn’t sedated her at all today. If she could find the door, she could leave if she wanted to. A crease formed on her forehead, and she got up.
Anabelle walked through the halls, finding her way into a bedroom, a study, and the shower that she had made use of earlier that day. Finally, she found a little room with a pair of boots, and a long coat, and a brown hat. After taking a few steps farther, she found a door. A screen door. She glanced through it and shoved open the door. When the scenery met her eyes, she dabbed tears away, hoping that her sight was deceiving her.
Another tear slipped down her cheek and she turned back to find Alex, leaving the vast expanse of water behind her.
She was on an island.
“Ah, there you are. I was wondering where you’d gone off to.” Alex said. He stood, hands stained purple, in the middle of the kitchen.
“Come here. I want to show you something.”
Willing her tears to stay behind her eyes, she followed him.
“Sit.” Alex gestured to a stool beside him. The counter in front of it held a bundle of recently washed greenery.
He handed her a pestle and informed her how to mash it.
“It’s different sometimes, depending on what wound you are trying to cure, but in this case, for your shoulder, you mash it up, and then you spread it all over. Like so.”
Alex snuck his fingers underneath her shirt hem again, and spread the mixture over her stitches. “It helps with the pain.”
Anabelle flinched away.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?
“Yeah, I was…” she paused, “just...I think I’m going to rest for a while. I...have a headache.”
Alex frowned and took her upper arm. “Do you want anything to eat?”
She shook her head.
“Here...” he led her to her bed, and helped her lay down. He made sure she was comfortable, and then left the room.
She smothered her sobs with the woolen blanket, and soon was asleep.
Anabelle ran from...something. She didn’t know what, but she knew there was something behind her. She looked behind her at the black tunnel and tripped. Her knees stung as they struck the cement, and something wet and warm sprayed onto her face. She lifted her hands to her face and her eyes widened. Blood.
A sharp pain clenched her spine, and she arched her back. Screams echoed in her ears. Her hands found her mouth, and she found that her own vocal cords released the sound.
“It’s okay, Anabelle, it’s okay,” a voice whispered, “I have you, it’s okay.”
Anabelle awoke, screaming with sweat dripping down her face, and arms. Alex stood next to her bed, holding her tightly against his chest. “It’s okay, Anabelle. It’s okay. Shhhh. It’s okay.” She gasped her sobs away, gripping the edge of the bed as she erased the memory of her dream.
Anabelle breathed quickly, doing her best to quiet her tears and still her beating heart.
Alex hesitantly laid his palm on her hair, and smoothed the now-drenched strands away from her face. Though her shivers still racked her body, her sobs had subsided.
“Are you okay, now?”
Anabelle bit her lip and nodded slowly. Alex took her hands and examined the cuts-results of her sharp nails. He helped her to sit up, and stepped away momentarily, returning with a wet cloth and some bandages. He gently wiped away the red liquid, but she still winced at the sudden pain.
He paused, and then finished by wrapping her hands in gauze.
She lifted them helplessly and muttered a “Thanks” beneath her breath.
Alex nodded once, firmly, and exited the room, leaving her alone.
The days she had been there turned into weeks, then months, until Anabelle wondered if she would ever go home. She marked the beginning of every day with her screams and punctuate their conversations by asking him why she was there. He would either ask her to do something for him, or ignore her completely until she began to wonder if she had even asked the question in the first place. And so it went on and on until one night, Anabelle sat up, yet another dream haunting the backs of her eyelids. But this time, it was different.
The blood was drowning her. It reached up to grab her like hands as it filled her mouth and nose, stealing her ability to breathe. She screamed at the figure who stood in front of her.
“What do you want from me?!”
A knife plunged down into her again and again. It didn’t hinder her actions, when she surveyed her body, there were no cuts, but every time, she felt undying agony, and her screams increased.
She fought free of her torturer’s grasp, twisting the knife from the bloody fingers - cutting her own in the process - and ran. She looked back to where she had knelt; No one was there. She kept running, the liquid up to her knees, now, growing thicker with every step until she collapsed around a corner.
“Anabelle…” he said in a sick, sing-song voice, “Anabelle, come back to me, my dear.”
Her teeth dug into her lower lip, biting back the scream that threatened to give away her position.
“Anabelle…” again, “Anabelle, I promise I won’t kill you if you come out now. I can’t promise you won’t lose a finger or two,” he said, nonchalantly, “but you will definitely be alive and kicking.”
“Anabelle, you have to come back,” a desperate voice cried out, “It’s a dream - it’s all a dream!”
Anabelle plunged the knife deep into him, with a yell as he rounded the bend next to her. He screamed. Deep, and loud, and real.
“Anabelle...Anabelle, I need you to get me the plant I showed you. Anabelle...Anabelle!” he screamed. She pushed her hands to her ears and pulled her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth.
Her blood-red eyes cleared and she yanked oxygen back into her lungs.
Alex sat on the floor, screaming through his teeth. “Anabelle, get me the herbs! Hey, listen to me! You’re dreaming!” he gasped, “I just...need you to get me the medicine!”
She sat down hard, the knife still attached to her hand.
She dropped the knife and brought her hands back to her face, they tore at her hair as panic overtook her body.
“Anabelle, do you hear me? It’s okay, just...just get me the herbs. It will all be okay if you just...just...just…” his breathing slowed and his eyes fluttered shut.
“Alex?! Alex!” she tore out of her stupor, and rushed to the cupboard, knocking over containers and bundles of herbs in search of the right one.
Black. She remembered it was black. And the leaves were small, and intricate.
Her hand wrapped around the bundle that she found and she slid to the ground in front of him onto her knees.
“What-what do I do? Alex!” she shook him. “What do I do?! You have to tell me! I don’t know how to help you!”
His eyes pried back open and shut again. Sweat began to form on his forehead and lips as he put forth effort to speak. “The...the pestle...” he rasped, his head falling from side to side. When Anabelle grabbed his hand, his body convulsed, shaking uncontrollably, his neck snapping every which way.
“What? The pestle? Is that what you said? Alex!” Tears flooded to her eyes, descending down her cheeks. “Alex...don’t leave me alone.” she said to him, then again to herself, “I don’t want to be alone...” she sobbed, gripping his hand, and leaning her head into his shoulder, until all of a sudden, the door burst open and a man shoved her away from Alex, and tossed aside a paper bag out of which vegetables and green leaves tumbled.
“What happened?!” the man shouted, searching Alex’s body, and fingering his clothing rapidly. He turned and grabbed her shoulders, shaking her with each word. “Tell me what happened!”
“His-his leg.” she stuttered through her sobs, “The knife. I-I was sleeping and-and…”
The man grabbed the black plant from her shaking fingers and held it to his nose. He scowled and cast them aside, drawing a syringe from a bag that lay at his side. He filled it with a green liquid. “Damn fool.” he muttered, and he drove it into Alex’s leg pressing the plunger hard as though the harder he pressed, the sooner effect would take.
Alex twitched twice and was still.
“Is...is he dead?” she was almost afraid to ask. She wiped her swollen eyes on her sleeve and forced herself to look at the man.
“No. He’s sleeping. But he very well could be dead within the hour if you don’t do what I tell you to do.” he looked back at her as he held his hand to the wound.
Anabelle nodded at him. “Okay.” she said quietly.
“I need you to get me a glass of water, a cloth, gauze, a needle, and the bottle of alcohol from my bag.” She retrieved the items for him and he began patting away blood with the cloth which he had dipped in the water. He poured the alcohol over Alex’s leg and Anabelle winced in pity.
The man finished washing the wound, stitched it up, and wrapped Alex’s whole thigh in gauze, finally sitting back on his feet. He turned to Anabelle.
“He’s okay for now.” the man got up, groaning and gripping his back as he drank the remaining water from the glass. “Now,” he said, gulping it down, “I think you had better tell me exactly what happened.”
The man didn’t seem overly affected by the story. He simply closed his eyes and shook his head, repeating his before-mentioned crass comment about Alex being a fool.
“Let’s get him into his bed. He can’t stay here on the floor. He needs to be able to breathe better.” The man said, calmly. He hoisted Alex over his shoulder, taking care to make sure Alex’s injured leg did not bang against his hip.
Anabelle followed, now feeling rather useless, as the man lay Alex gently on the bed she had been using before it all happened. Her mouth closed, and her old habit of biting her lip returned. She hadn’t realized that was his bed.
“Now,” said the man, hands on hips, with a stern look chiseled on his face, “go get some cold water in a bowl and a cloth. I’m worried he might get a fever.”
When Anabelle stood there, unmoving, eyes glued to Alex’s face, the man sighed and moved in front of her, blocking her view of the injured on the bed. “Hey, Alex will be okay, but I need you to get me that water, yeah?” Anabelle’s distant eyes flicked to the man’s face.
“What’s your name?”
He smiled, little crinkles forming at the corners of his eyes. “James.” he told her, “Why don’t you go fetch me that water now?”
Anabelle pursed her lips and turned to leave, noticing for the first time that James’s accent was British.
Hours later found Anabelle sitting alone by Alex’s bedside. James had left, saying that he would return the following day to check on them. “When you see him sweating, wipe it off with cold water. Make sure it’s cold. Change it when it gets warm again.” he had said.
Anabelle found some bread that had been baked the previous morning and munched half-heartedly on it. She laid it aside after a bit, her appetite having nearly disappeared. Her dream seemed glued to her mind, something she could not remove. Every time she blinked, she was drowning again. So she stayed awake. The day passed slowly and uneventfully, as Anabelle tended to her patient, never leaving his side for more than a few minutes for fear he would awaken alone.
At about one o’clock the next morning, Anabelle woke up, her hand grasping Alex’s and her cheek pressed to them.
Her throat dry and sticky, she rose to retrieve a glass of water. When she tried to pull her hand from his, she was hindered. She glanced back to see his fingers tightly gripping hers, and his nearly-shut eyes staring back at her like lines on a paper. Her own tired pupils shot open. She held the cold cloth to his face, and patted the sweat away.
His lips moved just barely, releasing a croak that Anabelle couldn’t hear.
“What?” she put her ear so close to his lips that she could feel his breath.
“I said…” he coughed, “I said ‘good morning.”
Anabelle grinned slightly at him. “Good morning.”
“Think I could-” another cough, “Think I could get some water?”
Anabelle turned quickly, detaching their hands and ran into the kitchen where she spilled water on the counter in her rush to bring it to him. She slid her palm beneath his head and tipped the lip of the cup into his mouth. He gulped several times and would have continued had she not pulled it away.
“James said not to let you drink too much at a time.”
Alex laughed hoarsely. “James was here?”
Anabelle nodded. “He was the one who stitched you up after...after I…”
Alex frowned and grimaced when he sat up. He placed his hand on her cheek. “Hey, it’s alright. You didn’t know what you were doing.”
Tears slipped down her face, and he wiped them away with his thumb. “Hey.” he said, a smile in his voice. She looked up at him. “Thanks for taking care of me.”
She wiped her eyes on the back of her hand and reached for his cup of water. “Who is James?”
“James is…” he blew air out of his cheeks as he ran a hand through his hair. “James is...the reason I am still alive.”
Anabelle frowned. “Well, yeah, but who is he? How did you meet him?”
A far-away look came to his face. “Before…” he flung his hand in a semicircle around him. “Before all this, my family was actually really rich. My mom owned Marcks Industries-”
“The medical facility?”
“Yes.” he nodded several times before continuing. “So lots of money came in from charity, thanks, and sales. Marcus Blüd, owner of Blüd Enterprise-yes, the medical provider-was very close to my family. He was like a father to me.
“One night, I went to him for advice. When I asked the information desk where he was, I was led down to the bottom floor-the floor he had always told me was for top-secret research.” Alex’s eyes grew more and more distant. Anabelle took his hand again, and he grabbed it so tightly his knuckles went white.
“There were rows and rows of cells-not like...prison cells. They were made of glass.. Each cell held a person. Most were screaming-begging for release. The rest lay limp on the floor. Dead, I assume.
“When I found Blüd, he was watching some man in a lab coat stick a little girl with all kinds of needles. She couldn’t have been more than nine. She kept screaming-screaming for her mother, so loudly that they finally sedated her and she slept.” Alex paused, obviously trying to keep his calm. “Finally, Marcus turned and saw me. I asked him what was going on. ‘We are...researching, Alex. That’s what this company does. We are furthering the knowledge of the human race.’ he said. I told him that if he didn’t shut it down right away, I would tell everyone. I should have left without a word, because he told me that if I told anyone, he would kill me. ‘We wouldn’t want your mother to lose the only son she has, would we?’ he asked. So I kept quiet, went back to my everyday life like a coward.
“A year later, we were at his company picnic. He threw one every year. I saw someone tap him on the shoulder and beckon him into a different room. I followed.
‘I can’t do this anymore, Marcus,’ the man said, ‘It’s wrong. I have my own little girl at home, I can’t keep doing this.’ Blüd told him that he could leave, but if word of the research got out to the public, an assassin would find him, and kill him.” Alex shuddered. “A week later, it was all over the news: Blüd Enterprise had been kidnapping people off the streets and doing experiments on them to research human endurance. Anabelle, the man who told everyone, his name was Simon Lochton. Your father, Anabelle. I helped him get out. I gave him a new identity, and he escaped.”
Anabelle drew a sharp breath, and held her hands to her face as large, betrayed tears dripped from her face slowly, and then all at once.
“That-that man who shot me-”
“Was an assassin. Andrew Baker; A psychopath. Blüd was trying to get to your father. Simon took away all that Blüd held dear, so now he wants to do the same to your father. He wants you. But I’ve made him angry. He would have given up years ago had I not been there, but instead he wants to kill you more than ever. No one’s ever beaten him before.”
Anabelle crushed her fists to her eyes and rocked slowly from side to side, weeping loudly, Alex sat up enough to tentatively reach his arms around her and press her head to his shoulder.
“That’s why I brought you here after the shooting. I thought that Blüd had given up on your father a long time ago, but when I saw that he wanted you, I couldn’t let that happen. When I helped your father escape, Blüd killed my sister. James brought me here.” Alex looked up admiringly at their surroundings. “He saved my life, and now I am going to save yours.” he rubbed her back gently. “James brings me supplies, he gives me updates on my mother, and keeps her safe.” he paused. “I brought you here to keep you safe. But Anabelle, Baker doesn’t miss when he wants to kill someone. He wasn’t trying to kill you. He wants to scare you first.”
Anabelle untucked her hands from between them, and only half knowing it, threw them around Alex’s neck, hugging him tightly. He pulled her in closer.
They sat there for the remainder of the day-Alex doing his best to comfort her-and into the night. And when Anabelle came awake the next morning, his arms were still wrapped protectively around her.
Anabelle wandered into the kitchen to get them both some food and something to drink.
When she got to the table, she saw a neatly folded piece of paper. She snatched it up and unfolded it.
I take it he told you why you are here.
I’ll come back tomorrow to check on you. His leg looks fine.
Smiling, she folded it and replaced it on the table, so she could get their meal.
“Now gently lift me-argh!”
Anabelle smothered a laugh with her fist at his expression. “Sorry.”
He gasped and laughed with her. “It’s alright. Now slowly lift my leg, and put the cloth underneath. That’s it. Now dribble some of that alcohol on it.” She did as she was told and he gritted his teeth against the pain. New, fresh blood oozed from the cut.
“There. Good. That’s good, see? The blood means any infection is out of the way.” He ran his fingers through his messy hair, “See, I told you you’d be good at this.”
“Yeah.” she said, laughing, “Next time, we’ll move to the more difficult things like amputating your arm.”
A mock-worried look crossed his features. “Maybe keep you on the little things for now, like...stab wounds...and poisons…”
Anabelle smiled, then looked around, unoccupied for the moment. “What do you do all day?”
“Boring you, am I?”
Anabelle smiled a bit.
He laughed and then put on a thoughtful face. “Hmm...well, I have a few books...somewhere.”
She made a face at him. “Got a violin?”
“Haha yeah, I’ll just go grab one from storage.” he said, sarcasm strung through his tone. A breathy laugh came from his direction. “No, I never really got into instruments. Music, yes, but...other peoples’ not my own. You shouldn’t be playing anyway. Not until your shoulder is healed.”
Anabelle looked disappointed.
Alex continued: “My mother used to play piano, and before he passed, my father would play guitar for their duets. Mom could do anything she set her mind to.” his fond smile vanished. “James says she doesn’t play anymore, though. A result of my sister’s and my absence, no doubt.”
Anabelle’s brown knit.”She doesn’t know where you are?”
Alex shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know where we are. I had James bring me here. Whenever I go back to the city, I have him blindfold me.
“I told my mother I was in some trouble and I had to leave, and that was that. James brought me here, and I’ve lived here ever since. I only ever went back to watch you perform”
A smile kissed the edges of her mouth. “You watched me perform?”
“Of course! I had to keep you safe. Your father’s bravery saved hundreds, but after he left Blüd Enterprise, he didn’t have the money to keep you safe. So I did it for him.”
“Which of my performances did you go to?”
“All of them...”
“And for the record, that guy you dated a few months ago-he was a total jerk. I approve of the breakup.”
Anabelle gasped. “How many nights were you there and I didn’t even know it…?” She frowned. “Has Blüd tried to get me before now?”
Alex shifted nervously and chose to look at his hands rather than answer the question.
Anabelle scoffed. “How many times? Two? Three?”
“Five, but the third time, James took all the heat. I had the flu, and he wouldn’t let me help. I convinced him to let me see you play, but when I tried to protect you, he threatened to tie me up back on the boat.”
“All those times.” she whispered. Her lip was going to split if she kept gnawing on it like this. She swept a hand across her face. “Why?”
“Why protect me? And my dad! You don’t even know us!”
Alex looked at her for a long time before answering. “Anabelle, what Simon did...he had the courage to do what I could not. What I was too scared to do. If I had told everyone, I would have had the money to protect myself from Blüd.” Admiration shone on Alex’s face. “But your father...with nothing to speak of but a cheap house and a ten year old daughter...he did it anyway, and there is” he paused, taking a breath, “no describing how much I admire that. How much I regret not telling.” he slid his hand onto her cheek. “So...since there was no way for me to protect your father-he insisted on living a normal life- I had to protect the thing that meant to most to him and make it mean the most to me.” Alex paused, memory in his eyes, and then, almost as if he were thinking out loud, he said “I hadn’t expected you to be so beautiful, though. I have been watching you for years, but I never thought you would be this gorgeous up close.” a blush lit up his face, as he tried to take back his words as he did his hand. He shook his head, scattering the thought that had come from his lips moments ago. He cleared away Anabelle’s sudden tears with his thumb. “otherwise...my conscience would tear me up.”
She raised her hand to his on her cheek and said, “But you’ve saved me five times now, Alex. You don’t have to do it anymore.”
He withdrew his hand from her face. “Maybe. But in my mind, I can never truly repay your father.” he took her hand and rubbed her knuckles, studying them. “Besides…” he said, looking up at her eyes, “I kind of like having you here. So you may be stuck with me. Maybe I’ll never let you go.”
“What about my father? Does he know where I am? Is he okay?”
Alex smiled a bit. “James has been watching your father. He’s worried, but he’s fine. Baker tried to get to him the other day, but James sent him running.”
Anabelle laughed a little and opened her mouth to speak when a nearby crash caused her to turn her head.
“What was that? Get a whole lot of visitors out here?” she asked, smiling.
“I’m sure something just fell like a pot or something. I’ll go see what it is.” she rose to leave, and felt Alex’s fingers close around her wrist. She looked back.
“Here.” he whispered, handing her the kitchen knife, trying not to smile at the irony. “Just in case.”
“Ha-ha.” she whispered sarcastically, taking the knife and moving to the doorway. She quietly stepped into the hall, and looked into the kitchen cautiously, holding her hair back so as not to allow it to swing into view.
Heavy footsteps alerted her to another’s presence nearby. Three men stood in the kitchen, and another knelt on the ground, teeth gritted in pain. James.
Anabelle gasped and ducked back behind the wall. When no one made notice of her sound, she glanced again. There was a tall man and two short men. The tall man had blood-red eyes and a jagged scar going down the length of his face.
She had seen enough. She carefully returned to Alex. When their eyes met, her face told him everything.
“Help me up.” he whispered, urgently. She slipped an arm under his shoulder, and lifted him to a standing position. He nodded his head at the closet. “There.” Anabelle helped him to the doors which she slid open, doing her best to be quiet.
“To the left, there’s a handle on the floor. Lift it up. There’s a safe room in the floor. We can hide.”
When she lifted the door, blackness bellowed up at them. They descended. Anabelle hated the dark, and when they both sat with relative comfort on the dirt floor, she gripped Alex’s fingers tightly.
“The water!” she said, looking frantically at where she knew him to be. “If they see the ice cubes still intact, he will know we are here!” she pulled herself away from him despite his protests. “It will only take a minute. I’ll be right back.”
Unable to move unaided to stop her, he said “Anabelle?” she turned. “Be careful.” she nodded and smiled confidently at him before leaving silently. She closed the hatch behind her.
Once topside, she snuck to the table where the bowl was. She carried it to the doorway where she searched the hall for the intruders. Once assured it was clear, she passed into the kitchen where she proceeded to dump the liquid.
She hurried about her job, glancing up every few seconds for her own safety. A shout alerted her to a predator. She dropped the the porcelain object, shattering it, and took off down the hallway. She could hear the man in pursuit, his heavy boots thudding on the wooden panels beneath their feet.
She swerved unexpectedly around a corner and then another, finally finding herself lost among the maze of hallways. She sunk to the floor, gripping the knife tightly to her chest. A trickle of blood popped from her lip as her teeth dug into it, causing her to swallow the scream that welled up inside her throat. Then she heard him.
“Anabelle…” she shuddered and her breathing grew faster as she began to panic. That voice. It was Andrew Baker.
“Come back to me, my dear.” Tears rolled from her eyes, adding to the nervous sweat that already drenched her face. Her dream came back to her mind, unbidden as she shivered spasmodically.
“Anabelle…” it was him all over again. He was getting closer. She could tell-she could hear him. “If you come out now, we won’t kill you.” he laughed, sending goosebumps cascading over her clammy skin. “I can’t promise you won’t lose a few fingers, maybe an ear, but trust me, you will be alive.”
Anabelle tried hard to hold back her sobs. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block him out.
“But what about poor James here?”
They came back open. Wide open.
“Here’s a new deal: If you come out now, we won’t hurt James.”
“No, Anabelle! Run!” James’s voice shot into her ears.
“If I were you, I would hurry. James has a tongue and some other limbs that my men are a bit anxious to remove..” he was closer. “So I” closer “would” closer “hurry up” he was so so close. “if I were you.”
Taking a deep breath, and closing her eyes, Anabelle plunged the knife behind her, around the corner, and as she tried to draw it back, found her hand clamped in place by another person’s fingers.
“Missed me.” As she turned, she saw that Andrew Baker’s smiling face was mere inches from hers. She screamed as she struggled to get free, but his fingers-like the blood in her nightmare-would not be pushed away. Something heavy struck the back of her head, and just before her eyes shut, she thought she heard Alex screaming her name. He’s stuck. He can’t move, she thought, I have to help him out!
Then the black again.
Anabelle’s dreams surged through her mind, sending her body into spasms.
She sat in the dark, warm blackness washing over her, and then cold. As though she had been sleeping on a winter day, and someone had suddenly pulled the blankets off. She pulled her knees to her chest, and then spread her arms and legs realizing that she was flying. She crashed into the steel floor of a hospital.
A child’s laugh echoed off the walls, plunging Anabelle into shivers. Her blue-tinged view of the place blurred the edges of her vision, causing her to use the wall as a hand-hold. When she felt something wet slip over her feet, she jumped and her eyes flew to her feet.
“Barefoot,” she said, “Why am I barefoot?” Blood oozed out from between her toes, and she picked up her foot, watching it drip to the floor. Movement in her peripheral vision pulled her head up again.
Anabelle saw a little girl poke her head around the corner, looking at her, giggle, and then duck back.
“Come back!” she yelled. Anabelle rushed down the hall, pressing her hand against the wall. As she rounded the corner, the little girl’s back was turned to her. Anabelle stepped slowly closer, and when she saw something drip from the girl’s fingers, Anabelle grabbed the pale hand and held it in front of her face. Black. The girl flickered and suddenly was facing Anabelle.
“Drown.” she said, and Anabelle did. Water was at her feet all at once, and it swiftly rose, so that soon it was at her ankles. She turned to run, but the opening behind her had disappeared and now she stood in a room devoid of windows or doors. The girl in front of her was swept away and soon disappeared, her obsidian hair the last thing of her to be sucked under. Anabelle ducked under the water to find the source of the flow, and after moments of looking around, spotted a covered drain that seemed to be detaining the water. She swam deeper and deeper, never seeming to get any closer, and then finally when she reached it, she pulled the plug. It seemed for a miniscule amount of time that the water level was going down, but then, when she looked again at the drain, a black cloud emerged. She put her face closer and found that it was not black, but deep red. Blood-red. It seemed to follow her no matter where she was.
The water and the room vanished and was replaced again by darkness. She looked down at the platform that held her feet, and saw her reflection in the black glass, then it shattered, and she was falling again.
Anabelle’s head shot up, bringing momentum to the rest of her body toward the ceiling, wrenched short of their destination when her restraints objected.
“Good morning, Anabelle!”
Anabelle’s tears blurred her vision, but the voice was unmistakable. Baker. As her sight cleared, she bit her lip in terror as he looked down at her, a cruel smile on his broken face, pushing his scar up higher on his face so that it twisted grotesquely, making her wince.
He ran a thumb down her jaw bone. She swallowed a shriek that rose inside her.
“So, here’s what’s happening, Anabelle. This-” he held up a syringe filled with a bright purple liquid. “Is my creation. It took me quite a while to make, you know.” he paced to the other side of her, looking intently into the glass. “Do you know what it does?”
Anabelle glared at him, and he continued his monologue.
“It’s a formula puts the human brain into a dream state that shows them all of their fears at once. Only, there’s another thing. We can see them, too. Right here, on this screen.” he tapped a computer terminal with his palm, letting it slide down the side of the screen.
Anabelle’s eyes grew wide as she realized what was going to happen.
Baker grabbed her wrist, flipping it over painfully, and lowering the syringe toward her popping veins. She struggled, and Andrew backhanded her across the face. Anabelle licked her lip, and tasted iron. Blood. Andrew slammed her arm back down onto the examiner’s table, and drove the needle into her arm. She barely had enough time to scream before the dreams came.
Anabelle stood on the edge of a skyscraper, a fierce wind blasting strands of her hair into a whip that cut her face. She whimpered and backed up against a pillar that stood behind her. When she turned to look, she was gripping Andrew Baker’s jacket as a cruel snicker made it’s way from his parted lips.
Screaming, Anabelle backed away from him, tipping precariously over the edge. As she zoomed through the air, her locks of hair rushing above her, all she could see was Andrew’s smiling face, taunting her. When she hit the bottom, she expected to be crushed to death. No such luck.
Searing pain pressed itself into Ana’s skin. She screeched as it rushed into her skull. When she managed to open her eyes, a red fluid finding her eyes, She took in the scene in front of her.
Alex lay defenseless on a table, his arms and legs and head held down, rendering him exposed. Thick red blood collected on the dips of his skin-his neck, his stomach, his wrists. To Ana’s great shame and horror, she herself was holding the whip. A hand settled on her shoulder, and moments later, another.
She wheeled around to face them.
On her left, Blüd. Grinning wide enough for Christmas. On her right, A tall, handsome man with jet black hair to match her own. Cruel, scared blue eyes stared back at her when she turned to him.
The frown dropped from her face as she realized who was looking back at her.
His lips smiled down into her eyes. “Hello, daughter.”
Alex rushed across the beach. Where had James put the damn boat?!
Earlier, when he had heard Anabelle screaming, he had shot up from his seat, causing pain to flood to his wound and he fell to the ground. He heard a moan and pushed through the pain to get to the top of the ladder. When he finally escaped the dark hole, the scene hit him. A bowl lay shattered on the kitchen floor, a dagger on the ground in the hallway, so close to the door. If she had only run a bit further perhaps she would have escaped.
Alex brushed his fingers over the blade, hoping that somehow this blatantly obvious reality was just a rabid nightmare.
“James!” he remembered. He rushed down the hallways and through doors, finally collapsing in despair when he heard yet another groan, followed by a choked cough.
“James?! Speak to me! I don’t-” he winced at the sudden pain in his leg. “I don’t know where you are!”
“Alex?” a dim voice droned, “You there? I’m-” cough, cough, “In the north room. I can’t-” he yelled through his teeth, “I can’t move! They shot me below my kneecaps!”
Alex stumbled to the indicated location and let out a relieved breath when he saw his friend yet breathing. He knelt to the ground, squeezing his eyes shut, and then opened them again to look at James.
“Hey. You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. My legs are a little useless, but nothing a good swig of beer and some crutches wouldn’t fix.”
Alex nodded slowly, pondering their next move.
He slid his arm underneath James’ and helped him limp to a chair nearby. He handed James his case, and with a pat on the back, and the retrieval of several sanitary supplies, Alex began to walk out the door, grabbing a knife on the way out.
“Where are you going?”
Alex came back to stand in front of his friend. “I have to save her, James. I can’t say why, I just do.”
“Keep going North until you see the city. You should be there in a few hours. Be safe, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
Alex smiled and turned out of the door with a wave.
“I’m coming, Anabelle. Don’t worry. I’m coming.”
“I can’t see anything.” Panic splashed through Anabelle’s words. “I can’t see anything!” She screamed.
Torment pulsated through her body, drawing her howls further into the void that was her prison.
When her eyes opened, she saw only a blood-drenched version of reality.
Blüd and Baker. They were here. They were here and they were hurting everyone. The screams. The screams.
Over and over Anabelle cried out Alex’s name, hoping he had escaped so he could save her again. Guilt poured into her like a waterfall. He had already saved her several times over; by no means was he obligated to do it again.
He had no reason to.
“No one is coming for you, my dear.” as if reading her mind, Baker spoke the words that she was too afraid to put to thought herself.
He kept coming back. She couldn’t shake his voice from her head. Her words quaked when she spoke. “Let me die.” she rasped. Even speaking sent showers of pain cascading over her body.
Baker laughed that terrifying laugh again.
“Please,” she whispered, “Please let me die.”
“Never.” The syringe was dripping again, hovering inside her pale skin, trickling liquid into her bloodstream, slowly draining her of her life blood.
She knew the dreams would come soon. She could see them in the corners of her eyes, the breath that shallowly emerged from her rising chest. She heard them in the rasp of her voice and in the creak of the door as it opened and closed.
Despite the panicked thoughts that streaked through her mind, one kept materializing. She had to escape. She had to live. When her mother had died, her father had drowned in drink. He never really came back up. She had to survive. Her death would be the end of her father. She couldn’t leave him like that. Memories zipped through her mind: her father stumbling into the house after a night of drinking, her mother lying pale and dead on the bed that had once been white-now covered in red blood. And Alex.
She had to help him. She had to find Alex.
Anabelle wrenched her arms up and winced as she felt the old leather bite into her already-raw wrists.
Pain erupted from her throat in a scream. With everything she had, she threw her arms up and dug her nails into the restraints. A crack snapped through her ears and the pain grew into something worse than she had ever felt. She stumbled from the bed.
The lock turned. she struggled behind the door, gripping the wall to steady herself. The door opened, concealing her, and as the figure entered, she slammed the door. The man cried out as the structure slammed into his unprotected temple. Cradling his punctured skull, he turned on her.
Anabelle quickly swiveled out the exit, shutting the man in. He yelled incomprehensibly and banged on the metal separating them.
She spun around. Three choices. Left. Right. Forward. Where did she go now?
The boat rumbled underneath Alex’s pained feet, causing him to shift uncomfortably from side to side. His heart thrummed in his chest. Anabelle was close and he knew exactly where she was. Blüd Enterprise. The old building where all this started.
James had wanted to come, but his legs were getting worse, and there was no way he could have come with them without slowing them down. No, this was something he had to do alone. Unaided.
Water splashed up into his face. Alex sighed with pleasure as the drops cooled his fevered face. The air that rushed into him blew his face back from his eyes, giving him a heroic look that he didn’t feel.
An hour and a half later, he arrived. Stepping onto the land, he gazed up at the once-glorious construct. Gloomy boards covered the shattered glass windows, nails protruding from the ends. He closed his eyes, preparing himself for the rescue. He went over his plan: Get Anabelle, get Simon, get out.
Blood pumped through Alex’s ears, his head, his hands, his legs, throwing him into a hurtling run through the building in front of him.
Which direction next?
A scream erupted. Left.
Explosions of pain pulsed through his wound. Winces ebbed across his features, but he kept going. He had to find her. He had to find Anabelle.
Right, left, forward, right, left, forward.
Anabelle’s pattern of movement made her dizzy, and she thought she was lost.
The nearby pitter-patter of footsteps made her think that she was had been found out.
Glancing behind her, she could see someone chasing her. She ran faster, but she knew that he would catch up with her.
She would never escape them-him. Baker. He would always find her.
Anabelle’s stormy-blue eye’s darted from side to side.
Screams of advice from all corners of her brain echoed into her thoughts. Which way, WHICH WAY!
Clinging frantically to her head, begging the voices to stop, Anabelle sank to the floor.
He was coming. He was coming. He was coming.
Other than these words, all that ran through Ana’s mind was that she had to move.
She felt herself being lifted from her perch on the ground. Screams blasphemed the air as she tried to claw her way from her subduers. She felt her fingernails catch on something, and an alarmed shout rang from the lips of someone nearby.
Her arm shot out once again, hoping that she would get lucky. Nothing. Fearful, angry extensions clapped over her arms and wrists. She twisted, and writhed. Let. Me. GO! Her mind screamed, but no words were liberated by her lungs-they swam around in her head.
Something sharp was wrenched across her skin just above her wrist. Anabelle shrieked in pain, and her reward was a slap to the face.
“Stay still, my dear. It will all be over soon.”
Ana struggled and bit, jerked and pulled, but all that did was create a tighter vise of fingers around her wrists.
She felt herself lifted, and forced to lie down again on the gurney. She keened as she bit her lower lip, and finally submitted to the treatment.
When Anabelle’s vision cleared, submissive tears ran in rivulets down her face. She was done. It was over. Memories of her father wafted through her brain, setting a sad smile like stone on her face.
As the sweet sound of a violin drifted into her mind’s ear, Anabelle sunk into a sleep from which she knew she would not awake.
When Ana opened her eyes, confusion spread through her senses. They, too had been expecting their work to be done. Her vision focused, and she blinked once to dispell the specter she was certain was in front of her.
Anabelle’s face, now covered in dirt disrupted by white trails cut in by her tears smiled, and she reached her hand up to touch the face of the man who had saved her once again.
I may or may not be releasing this again a bit at a time, I'm not sure yet. Haha
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Also, my friend Rintarou finally got a blog!!! Woohoo! Way to get up there with the bloggers! <3 So you guys should totally check him out!! He's awesome, and his blog is fabulous. ;)
Time to go back to the real world and get ready for work.
I hope you all have a fantastic day, and I will hopefully write/finish more soon. :)