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Tuesday, 24 March 2009 00:00

Jack's Place #2 - A Place of Magic

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- Part One -

Amy held a stack of papers to her chest as she slunk through the empty corridors of city hall. This part of the building was unfamiliar to her. It was a maze of warped passageways that turned abruptly or trailed off at odd angles. The clicking from the heels of her black pumps echoed louder than it seemed they should. She stopped at each open door and peered inside to ask if anyone was there. Every room was silent and dark and there was never a response. None of the light switches worked. She decided to stay in the hallway, where at least there was a steady amber glow.

She heard a another set of footsteps coming closer. “Hello?” Amy called. She nswiveled on her toes, trying to gauge a direction, then set off toward her best guess, angling her way down a winding hall. When she came around the last bend, she saw a man in a dark suit entering an elevator. As he turned around to press the button for his floor, she saw that it was... “Tom!” A wave of relief came over her and she quickened her pace. Finally, she could get to a floor she recognized.

Tom clasped his hands together behind his back and tilted his head forward. The doors began to close.

Tom, hold the elevator!” Amy sprinted the last few steps and just managed to get her hand in to push one of the safety bumpers before they came together. The doors halted, then opened. “Hey, why didn't you—” Amy stopped when she noticed Tom was no longer inside.

Tom?” He wasn't hiding next to the electric panels, and none of the ceiling boards appeared to have been disturbed.

Amy sighed and pressed her destination, lighting up the “2nd floor” button. It wasn't like Tom to ignore her like that.

The doors slid together with a clunk, and the elevator jerked into a slow rumbling decline.

She glanced at her reflection in the mirror-like interior, to check her makeup. But discovered that her face appeared distorted and fuzzy.

How... odd.” Something didn't seem right here, she always checked herself in this elevator. She lightly stroked the reflective surface with her fingers, and the rough, bumpy feel didn't match it's smooth appearance.

Is this real?” Amy pinned the papers to her side with an elbow and pinched the back of her hand. She felt the pressure, but no matter how hard she squeezed, there was no pain.


A wave of lucid thoughts flooded into her mind until she felt awake. How did I get here? How did Tom disappear like that? What are these papers? What's with the reflection?

I must be sleeping. The thought of being so cognizant in a dream this realistic stirred some excitement within her.

Amy stared at her face again, with renewed clarity. It remained crooked and deformed, while everything else was reflected normally. She traced a finger along her cheek, trying to feel the distortions, but felt nothing odd. “Weeeird.

She thumbed through the papers she was carrying, and recognized them as copies of the documents that had gotten wet during the storm.

That's right, Amy started to remember some pieces from earlier in the dream, Colin sent me to the copy room. It was on the same floor as Colin's office, so she couldn't remember why she had gotten lost on an unfamiliar floor, or why it had been so difficult to find the elevator. Stranger things have happened in dreams, I suppose.

The elevator jolted to a stop, accompanied by a “ding”. The doors began to open and the shriek of metal scraping against metal stabbed at her eardrums. Amy pinched her eyes shut and pressed the palms of her hands against her ears until it was over, accidentally crumpling some of the papers.

Geesh, why did I dream that? There was now a single door before her, at the end of a long, dark hallway. She recognized the door as Colin's, but it shouldn't have been at the end of a hallway like this. She stepped out of the elevator and this time, her shoes made no sound. She tapped on the floor, first lightly, then harder until she was stomping—there was no sound at all. I have such a weird brain. She had tried to say it out loud, but there was no sound to her voice.

Amy gave up and started to close the distance to the door. She could have sworn she saw something shimmer in the blackness of the walls around her, but when she thought about reaching out to touch them, she felt a twinge of fear raise the little hairs on the back of her neck. She got the odd sensation that something was waiting for her to make a mistake. When she reached the door and tried the knob, it was locked. The fear traveled down through her chest and into her stomach. She didn't want to look behind her, she knew something was there. She banged on the door, but heard only her pounding heart.

Please Colin, open the door!

“Come in,” said Colin.

Amy tried the knob again, and this time, it turned. She slipped inside and closed the door behind her just as the dark presence reached it. She backed up a few steps, feeling a kind of weight pressing against the door, emanating past it. The danger was past now, she felt safe.

“What's up Amy?” Colin asked.

Amy turned on her heel. Colin was hunched in his chair in front of a stack of law books, and leaning over a particularly thick volume on criminal trial advocacy. His corner office at city hall was moderately sized, but so filled with extra file cabinets and stacked, multi colored crates of papers, that it was always cramped inside.

“Um, the copies you wanted.” Happy that she was making noise again, she smiled and held up the papers, even though he wasn't looking. She craned her neck to the side, trying to see his face, hoping his wasn't as twisted as her reflection.

“Creepy story, wasn't it?” Amy asked, trying to get him to look at her.

Colin grunted.

“He seemed to believe it too,” she continued. “I wonder how much of it was true.”

Colin grunted again.

Amy noted his indifference, but continued talking just to hear a voice. “Do you think he really was crazy, or was he just yanking our chain?”

“No, I don't think he was crazy.” Colin folded a corner of the page he was on and closed the book, then lifted a hand to his face. She guessed he was squeezing the bridge of his nose—something he did often when he was annoyed.

“How come?” she said.

“Well, why do you think he told you guys that story?” He spun around in his seat. She was relieved to see that he appeared normal.

Amy tilted her head to the side. “I...don't know.” She decided to have a little fun, and sidled over to his desk, leaning up against it and giving him an inappropriately warm smile. She always thought Colin was adorable, even though he could be an arrogant ass at times. She never seriously considered fooling around on Tom in real life, but what could it hurt in a dream?

Colin frowned. “You must have some idea.”

“I really don't,” she said. She leaned close to him, bringing her chest to within inches of his face as she set the copies down on an empty space at the other side of the desk.

“Well, give it more than a half second of thought and see what you come up with.”

His indifference was killing the mood. She never had to work very hard to get the attention she wanted. Some steamy dream this is going to be. Still, it could be fun just having a conversation. “I honestly don't know what he was thinking, telling us that story. I mean, he said something about hoping we'd keep you from becoming like that Renley guy, but—”

Colin snapped his fingers and pointed at her. “Bingo! Unfortunately, he's a little late.”

“What do you mean?”

Colin rose from his seat and pulled a torn red bow tie from his pants pocket, holding it up before her.

“Hey, isn't that—?” Amy cut herself short when Colin grimaced. “Are you okay?”

Colin twisted away from her, trembling. She put a hand on his shoulder. “You know,” his voice was shaking, “I always wondered what had happened to my father. If he was like me or not.”

Uh oh. Amy&# 39;s stomach felt like it was doing a cartwheel. This could easily become a nightmare. She pushed herself off the desk and backed away.

“Then, we come to find out some old bartender killed him back in the 70's.”

“You're telling me... wait a second,” said Amy. Her quickness with numbers was one of the reasons Colin wanted her to join his team. “There's no way. Renley couldn't have been your father.”

“Oh? And why is that?” His voice was back to normal. She could see a grin on the corner of his mouth.

“You were born in the 80's.” Relief lifted Amy's lips into a smile. “You messing with me?”

“Yeah, I am.” Colin tucked the bow tie into his pocket, then abruptly bounded around Amy to come between her and the door. “But you know, if I wasn't, it stands to reason that I might have been lying about my age all along.” He lunged towards her, and jutted out his lower jaw. “Aaooooo!

“Knock it off.” Amy playfully punched him on the shoulder, although she felt that tickle on the back of her neck again.

“If you insist.” Colin backed up to the door and locked it. “If you'd rather I get... seeerious.” He leered up and down at her.

She knew that look, it was the response she had hoped for a moment ago, but it was unwelcome now. “Don't be a jerk.”

Don&# 39;t be a jerk.& rdquo; Colin whined like an annoying child, mocking her. He turned the deadbolt.

“Quit being weird, I mean it.” Amy took an uneasy step towards the phone. And who am I going to call, the nightmare police? I just need to wake up.

Colin covered his mouth with a hand in mock fear and shook his knees. Wake up... wake up. He then slid the chain lock and sighed, sliding his tongue salaciously across his upper lip. Please just wake up... now!

He took a step towards her, then crouched like a cat about to pounce when she picked the whole phone up and pulled the cord free from the wall.

She held it before her. “Colin, if you don't...”

Colin&# 39;s movement was a blur. In a fraction of a second, he was in front of her, a hand firmly around her throat. His irises were white, and his grin displayed rows of fangs, filling his salivating mouth.


~


The world went black, and Colin released his grasp. Amy was on her back, and she sat up and screamed into the darkness. She kicked and punched, but nothing connected. Once she realized she was in her bed, she sat still. Her breathing was heavy and her heart raced, but she managed to fumble around on her nightstand until she found the lamp and tapped it a couple of times, bathing the room in soft light.

“Hello?” She looked around. The door was closed. The only sound was the steady hum of her baseboard heater.

She felt her sheets, and they were soaked with sweat, as was her shirt—one of Tom's old Red Sox tees.

“Holy crap.” She picked up her cell phone and looked at the time. It was 2:15am. She hit redial and hopped out of bed. It didn't even ring once.

“Amy?” Tom said. He sounded wide awake.

“I'm sorry for calling so late, hon.”

“Bad dream?”

“Oh my God.”

“Me too.” Tom sounded concerned. “I was just about to call you. Colin went back to the bar. He thinks something weird is going on.”

“Like what?”

“I don't know. I was going to go meet him there, I'm worried about him.”

“Swing by and pick me up.” She couldn't help but feel strange about seeing Colin after the nightmare, but it would be okay if Tom was with her.


~


“That was the most realistic, creepy nightmare I've ever had,” Amy said, as she slid into Tom's dark blue sedan. “I woke up and thought I was still there, like the lights had gone out and I had fallen down or something.& rdquo;

“I know what you mean,” said Tom. “While I was on the computer, I fell asleep in my chair. When the nightmare ended, it was like I... teleported back, not like I had actually woken up.”

“Did you dream that Colin was a werewolf too?”

Tom laughed hesitantly. “Actually, I kind of dreamt that you were the werewolf.”

“Me?!” Amy sat with her back to the window. “I am so not the wolfy type.”

“Yeah, you're more like a werefox. You want to hear something messed up?” Tom flashed a crooked smile. “I looked up David Baker's file just for fun, and he was checked into Danvers in '73, after neighbors constantly complained about him screaming that he was being hunted by werewolves.”

“Shut up!” Amy put her hands on her cheeks. “I'm staying at your place for a while.”

“I haven't had a real nightmare since I was a kid,” said Tom. “But at least you were in it. It was actually kinda hot, until you started scratching me.”

Amy giggled. “Oh, it was that kind of nightmare.”

“Yep.” Tom placed a hand on Amy's knee and pinched a little. Amy jerked like someone had thrown a lit firecracker in her lap. Tom knew all her ticklish spots.

“Stop!” She grabbed his hand. “You know I hate that. So what did Colin have to say?”

“Well, he had a rough time sleeping also. He sounded pretty freaked out. I think he had it worse than us. Anyway, he said he was going back to Jack's Place to 'have a word' with the bartender.”

“Have a word?” Amy suddenly felt exhausted. When Colin needed to “have a word,” it usually meant his temper was on its way out the door. “Oh no.”

“Yep,” said Tom. “The shit is on the way to the fan.”

Tom gradually pushed down on the accelerator as the skies cleared. The dying storm had only sprinkles to offer by the time they reached the oldest neighborhood in Boston.

When they finally neared the place where they had gotten caught in the weather earlier that evening, they saw Colin's black Porsche Boxster parked partly up on the curb. Colin was walking on the sidewalk, quickly moving from building to building, looking at the signs.

Tom pulled up behind the Porsche as Colin made his way back towards them.

Amy rolled down her window. “Colin, what's going on?” Just seeing him melted away any fear she had. She was unsure how, but the contrast between nightmare Colin and real Colin was immediately evident.

Colin stopped next to them, and looked up at the unlit, unmoving, candy striped barber's poles next to the Boston Barber Co. sign.

“Wasn't it right here, next to the barber shop?”

Tom and Amy got out of the car, and all three glanced up and down the block. The closest thing to a bar were a couple of Italian restaurants, long closed for the night, but there was no Jack's Place. The streetlights were on, but no light shone through any window. The sidewalks were empty.

“Weird,” said Tom. “What's that?” he pointed at a small manila envelope in Colin's hand

“Contact info he can make use of as I'm suing his ass. I was hoping he'd still be around, cleaning up after closing the bar or something.” Colin looked at the buildings right next to the barber shop again. & ldquo;This is ridiculous. It was right here.”

“You're going to sue?” Amy leaned into Tom, prompting him to put his arms around her.

“If I can't get him arrested first.”

“For telling a scary story?” Tom gave Colin a sidelong glance.

“It wasn't that scary. Not scary enough for me to be hallucinating like I ate a bag of shrooms for lunch. He put something in our drinks, had to have.”

“Damn.” Tom put a hand through his hair. “I hadn't thought of that. But you don't think it might just be all of us stressing on the case, though? We've been through hell this week and...”

“I ran half naked down twelve flights of stairs, being chased by a half-wolf, half-Renley thing with giant bloody holes in his chest. When I got to the bottom of my building, I ran full-bore into Ted, my doorman, knocking him over and breaking his wrist. I started crying and screaming for him to save me from the undead werewolf-lawyer, which had vanished by then, of course. Then I took the liberty of puking and getting dizzy and falling in it. The damn bartender put something in our drinks.”

Colin went back to his search, without waiting for a response. Amy mouthed “wow” silently at Tom when Colin wasn't looking. She decided against telling her own story just then, thinking Colin might take it poorly for some reason. And she would never tell either of them she had been flirting with the idea of making a pass at Colin.

Suddenly, a neon “open” sign flickered on in a window. Above the doorway of the building was an old style wooden hanging sign that read “Jack's Place Pub & Tavern”.

The three exchanged a variety of looks... It was right beside the barber shop.

Colin strode to the door and pulled it open, with Tom and Amy close behind.

“Now Colin,” Tom began. “Keep cool and don't say anything you might...”

“Alright, you sick son of a bitch!” Colin shouted, upon seeing Jack at his place behind the bar. Tom threw up his hands. “I know what you did, and there's an officer on the way here right now.”

The few other patrons all stood up. Tom put a hand on Amy's shoulder and moved in front of her.

Jack's face was expressionless, or his mustache was hiding it. He didn't move or say anything.

“Why did you do it?” Colin walked up to the bar and stood right in front of him. “To make your stories a little more fun? Get your kicks?”

One of the patrons closest to Colin, a large man with a clean-shaved head and tattooed arms, turned and walked to the far end of the bar. Many of the others were stepping back as well.

“You should probably calm down, Colin, ” said Jack. “I'll listen to whatever you have to say.”

“You're damn right you will.” Colin slapped the envelope on the bar. “You're in a good bit of trouble, sir.”

“What is it you think I've done?” Jack left the envelope untouched.

“You drugged us you dumb bastard!”

The lights in the bar flickered and the jukebox began sorting through its vinyl singles.

Jack frowned. “What exactly makes you think that?”

“Strange things have been happening to all of us,” said Tom. His tone wasn't angry like Colin's. “Amy and I had very vivid nightmares, like real life. Colin has been hallucinating, and became sick. We think it may be because of something we drank here.”

“All three of you, huh?” Jack shook his head. “Well, that's... unexpected.”

Amy flinched. What does that mean?

“What's that supposed to mean?” Colin snapped, mirroring Amy's thoughts.

“You're seeing visions. Always happens to those who have a little bit of the gift when they first open their eyes. But three of you together? That's... new.”

The “gift”?

“I'm not listening to this horse shit.” Colin turned his back to him.

Amy caught some flashing lights out of the corner of her eye. “Hey, I think the officer is here,” she said, looking out the window.

“Outstanding.” Colin moved beside Amy and had a look.

A police cruiser had pulled up behind Colin's and Tom's cars, and an officer was walking and shining a flashlight in the alleyways.

Colin tapped the window, but the officer didn't seem to notice.

The jukebox started playing a song with a catchy piano rhythm. Old 60's soul. Jack perked up at the sound, and he held onto the bar, as though expecting an impact. This didn't go unnoticed by Tom or Amy.

“Hey!” Colin shouted. The officer started to walk past the bar. Colin tried the door, but it wouldn't open. He shouted again and began slapping the window with his palm. The officer kept walking.

The music got louder, matching Colin's volume. The other patrons that had gathered at the back corner of the bar started mumbling to each other, and those who couldn't find a seat, crouched next to the ones who did.

“Tom,” said Jack. “You really need to settle him down, and fast.”

Amy grabbed his hand for comfort. Tom bit his lip and frowned.

Colin tried the door again, this time trying to force it open by putting all his weight behind his shoulder. It wouldn't budge.

Amy looked out the window. The officer had his hand on his shoulder mic and was walking past the bar again.

“Hey! In here!” Colin shouted. He began banging on the window with the bottom of his fist. “What in the hell?”

Colin grabbed a nearby stool.

The floor groaned like an old wooden ship at sea. The other patrons ducked their heads at the sound.

Wait, Colin!” Tom said, but Colin wasn&# 39;t listening. He lifted the heavy hardwood stool and rested it on his shoulder while he positioned himself. Then he wound back and swung, bellowing under the strain. The stool slammed into the window, shattering into shards and splinters. The glass remained intact.

The song skipped and then started playing slowly, making it sound deep and monstrous. Lights flickered, then shifted rapidly between bright and dim, causing the disorienting effect of a strobe. Black liquid creeped over the outside of the window from all corners, ignoring gravity as it coalesced to the middle. The last thing they saw was the officer walking towards his car before the outside was obscured completely.

The groaning in the floor became louder.

“Oh boy.” Jack ducked behind the bar.

Something pulsed next to Colin, a single great burst sending him flying, and knocking Tom and Amy to the floor. As Colin collided with a wall, he disappeared into it. Ripples formed like water at his point of impact. There was no damage, and after the ripples settled, Colin was gone.

The noises in the floor stopped and the lights went back to normal. The jukebox became quiet.

After a few seconds, Jack peeked over the bar. “Well, shit.”


 

 

 

 

Read 1748 times Last modified on Tuesday, 05 May 2009 02:26

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