Saturday, October 19, 2013

Changeling: Session 5

When last we met, our heroes were subjected to some supreme mindfuckery inside the surreal night club known as The Box.

After receiving their consolation prize of $500 each, the group departs, going their separate ways.  Alia starts to head off, but Morgan stops her to make brief introductions and to hand her a flyer for their support group, on which Morgan scribbles her phone number.

As he heads down the alley, Wally realises that his nose is bleeding heavily and does what he can to staunch the flow.  He feels that the air seems to be carrying a charge, almost thrumming.  He turns and sees the others making their way, stumbling, down the alley behind him, and everything around him seems shadowy.  The door of The Box, however, seems to be backlit purple, and out of the shadows he sees creeping tendrils of darker darkness.  He turns and runs out to the street and eventually makes his way to Gareth’s apartment, though the entire way he feels as though he is being followed, although the feeling passes once he is in the apartment.  At some point in his travels, the light also returned to normal.

Gareth, Morgan, and Drake all head to a bar that Drake knows to still be open at this time of night. (day?)  For the first two blocks, Gareth feels intense unease, as though something is following him – the same sensation Wally had on his way home.  He looks around and sees nothing out of the ordinary, and after two blocks it subsides.

Goom returns to his lair and drifts off to sleep, where he has another horrendous nightmare.  This time he is in a MASH unit, suffering from some awful jungle virus.  Time passes and as his caretakers argue about what is wrong with him, he receives no treatment and gets increasingly worse.  He feels a throbbing pain in his right eye that only intensifies with time.  Eventually the vision in that eye occludes.  One night he is finally left alone, and, covered in filth and sweat, he rolls out of bed.  He searches the infirmary for a mirror and after registering that he appears to be young and fit as he was when he was in Vietnam, realises that his eye – the actual eye itself – has swollen to several times its normal size.  It is then that his eye explodes, and out of it pour dozens of honey bees. 

Goom awakens screaming and feels a warm wetness on the left side of his face, touching it, his hand comes away with blood mixed with some clear fluid.  There is also a hollow where his left eye used to be, and his eyestalk is lying on the outside of his face.  He feels no pain when he pushes it back into his eye socket, and gets some cloth to tie around his head to keep it in.  He makes his way to a hospital.

Meanwhile at the bar, Gareth, Morgan, and Drake are all drinking and discussing the night, each sharing what they experienced in their vision, although Gareth holds back some details of his.  They are interrupted by two ageing Jersey girls who start trying to hit on Drake and Gareth, completely ignoring Morgan.  When Gareth declines the offer, the girl who had been talking to him starts loudly berating him for being queer, and her friend joins in, prompting Drake to ask the bartender to throw the ladies out.  Gareth thanks him, though says that it is not necessary, he’s dealt with this sort of thing his entire life.  Last call is made and they depart, returning to their respective homes.

Alia goes out on the street trying to scrounge up a John or two so that she can make her money for the night – the guys she had gone to The Box with never paid her in full.  Due to the lateness of the hour (or is it earliness?) she is unsuccessful and only goes back with the $500 from the club.  Her pimp berates her, saying that she’s going to owe him in a big way, and gives her $100 out of the envelope.  Alia goes to her room to sleep, also falling into a fitful dream.  The four guys from the club are there, and they’re all fucking her.  She finds that she keeps drifting in and out of her body, sometimes experiencing it from her normal perspective, sometimes watching from across the room.  The dream turns violent and the first guy, the leader of the bunch, yells at her for leaving him in the club after he’d paid for her, as he starts beating her with a baseball bat.  She is out of her body and crosses the room in just a couple of strides, and tears off the guy’s head with her bare hands.  She sees that her hands have become claws, and she is covered in fur with zebra and leopard markings.  The other frat boys start to scream and run.  Now she’s in a dark hall and the first guy is there, head back in place, with a comically oversized erection, and he looks furious.  She sees that she is abused, bruised and bleeding.  He tries to take another swing at her with the baseball bat, but she lunges and tears his dick off.  The bat explodes against her head.  He runs and she gives chase, gaining on him as he trips over his enormous phallus.  She leaps at him, biting on to his foot and shakes him violently, and then starts consuming him.  Alia awakens suddenly, finding herself on the floor next to her bed, tangled in her sheets.

Alex is at work as part of a crew cleaning a local high school.  He’s mopping the front of the building, where there are several pay phones that line the walls – relics of an older time.  One of them rings, and he goes to answer it.  It stops just as his hand touches the receiver, and another phone across the hall starts ringing.  This dance repeats several times, and each time a phone stops ringing, it dispenses a quarter out of the change slot.  Finally, all the phones start ringing, and Alex lunges to answer one.  On the other end is his daughter, frightened and pleading.  She asks him why she can’t regognise his face, what is wrong with his face?  It is then that he catches his reflection in a window and he appears featureless – hollows where eyes nose and mouth should be – and the hand holding the phone appears to have no fingernails.  His daughter’s voice grows urgent, saying that they’re coming to take her, the same ones that took him, and that he’s got less than a month, begging him, “Don’t go.”  He hears her struggle with something, and there is a chittering sound on the line before the call ends. 

Across the hall, a closet door starts rattling, and when Alex opens it, hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of butterflies come bursting forth, completely covering every surface of the hallway.  The sound of their wings is deafening.  Alex gingerly makes his way through the swarm to a bathroom where he inspects his face which again appears totally featureless in the reflection, and he feels that his skin has gone malleable, with a putty-like texture.  He hears a coworker calling to him, and they begin trying to figure out what to do with all the butterflies, which are apparently very real indeed.  They try to clear them out, though before too long students and staff start arriving on the very confusing scene.  There is also a news crew that shows up to document this bizarre occurrence, and Alex does whatever he can to avoid being seen by the cameras and crew.  He makes his way away from the commotion and messages the group to see if anyone is awake.

When Gareth arrives home, he sees Wally asleep on the couch, a piece of paper folded on his chest.  Gareth gingerly picks it up and sees that TOUCHED is written on it – the same message and handwriting that had been on the back of one of Meagan’s pictures in the old meeting place.  He tires to gently awaken Wally, who comes to with a violent jolt.  Gareth shows Wally the message, and they both notice that the apartment is cold.  Too cold, to the point that they can see their breath.  Gareth begins to inspect the apartment, finding the window nearest his bed is open, with a bare human footprint lingering in the frost on the sill, angled as though it were stepping in.  He combs the room but finds nothing, asking Wally to look around, to no avail.  He inspects the rest of the apartment.  Nothing.  He can’t shake the feeling that he’s overlooking something, and the two of them do not sleep, with Gareth opting to work on an art piece, television turned on to local news to help keep him awake.

At some point during the early daylight hours, Gareth and Wally catch the story about the butterflies at the high school Alex had been cleaning (although they don’t know he was there).  That’s when they get his text message, and Gareth replies that he’s awake and at home.  Alex says he will stop at Gareth’s place on his way home, as he has to tell them about what really happened with the butterflies.

When Alex comes into the apartment, Wally freaks out, as he sees Alex’s visage changing as he moves in and out of shadows.  When he’s in the light, he appears normal, though when he crosses into a shadowy patch of the room, his face looks featureless.  Alex notices the same thing about Wally, although in shadow, Wally looks dead, though still with his face intact.  Both of them say something to Gareth, who doesn’t know what they’re talking about – they both look normal to him, regardless of the lighting.  Wally tries to leave, but both Alex and Gareth caution him, since they don’t know what is going on, and think it is safer to stay.  Wally decides he’s having none of this, and bolts from the apartment out to the street.

Out of an alley next to him emerges a monster.  It is a man, but not a man.  It has one large eye in the middle of its forehead – a Cyclops straight out of an ancient legend.  Wally screams and the thing steps out of the shadows into the sunlight, changing form, and Goom starts to say something to Wally.  In a blind panic, Wally turns and runs into the street where he is struck by a taxi.  Upstairs, Alex and Gareth hear the thud and squealing tires as the car screeches to a stop.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Changeling: Session 4

When last we met, our heroes had successfully gotten information on their missing friend and managed to break into her abandoned apartment to start investigating her disappearance.

Since Gareth's apartment is nearby and is the largest (he's got a decently sized studio flat which doubles as both his living space and his workshop for his sculptures and other art) they all go there.  They discuss the night club that was mentioned in M. Butterfly's letter, The Box, and decide to look it up online.   It is a very weird, decadent, artsy place, and they require reservations in advance - though no mention of a cover charge - and it is heavily implied that guests are to dress to the nines.  The attractions start at midnight, though doors open at 11:30.  The club shuts its doors after 4:00 am.

The group agrees to go that Thursday night, which will give most of them time to find appropriate attire.  Goom offers to scope the club out before, to see what they're getting themselves into.

Wally, who is staying with Gareth after his apartment was destroyed by a police raid, goes to work that night.  It is slow.  The only remarkable thing is a fellow wearing brown trousers, a puffy blue coat, and sunglasses (at night) who comes in to fill a Flonase prescription and leaves his newspaper on the counter.  After he leaves, Wally opens it up.  The headline is about the raid on his building, although scrawled across the page in black Sharpie is the message "Any nice dreams recently?" He folds it and places it with his things.  The rest of his night is uneventful.

Goom goes to The Box that night.  It looks shitty - down a back alley, rusty door, a single unshielded bulb - although leading to it there is a velvet rope and the line that stretches around the corner is full of persons in black tie and other modes of elegant evening wear.  Two imposing bouncers, as wide as they are tall, man the door and patrol the line.  Now and again people are pulled who don't meet the club's standards, and they are sent away.  Others, though, are given a hard look by the bouncer and are allowed to just go in.  By 1:30 am no one else is allowed in and the alley goes quiet.  By 3:00 am, people start filtering back out.  At 3:45 Goom sees some of the people who had received special line treatment come back out, some looking rather ill.  By 4:00 there is only a trickle, and by 5:00 there is no one left.  He never sees anyone come out to lock up, so there must be some other way in and out of the property.

When the sun comes up, the group runs around to find some nice but affordable attire.  The most notable acquisition is, of course, Goom’s; he finds his suit in the garbage behind a costume shop.  It is a plum tuxedo with Liberace levels of ruffles on the shirt, and has patent leather shoes to match.  Dressed to kill, they meet again at Gareth’s flat.

Once in line at The Box, they wait for about 40 minutes before the bounce comes by.  He gives them a quizzical look and opens the rope to usher them through to the door.  A guy in line behind them loudly complains that Goom doesn’t deserve to cut the line.  Wally turns and shouts, “Sir!  That man is a European prince!”  Goom gives an intimidating look, and the man is cowed.

A European Prince
 Inside, the place is decadent and packed with patrons.  None of the group really has any money, but before that can really become an issue some of them are approached (or do the approaching) by flirtatious club-goers and the free drinks flow.  Goom, notably, is swamped by people, although he looks exceedingly uncomfortable. 

Wally senses that someone is watching them.  Looking around, he senses the noise level drop and his heart stops for a moment before it picks up the rhythm of the club.  Not just the music – everything and everyone seem to be moving in a rhythm that they are not aware of.  He knows they must be moving at regular speed, but he’s perceiving it all in this weird deliberate slowness.  He sees a cage full of butterflies burst open as the insects flutter out – some notice them, others don’t.  A big yellow butterfly lands on the bar between Gareth and Morgan.  Wally reaches his finger out to touch it, and as he does, it bursts into a puff of glitter.  He turns to leave and the lights completely cut out.

When they come back up, there is a man on stage dressed in a white suit (no shirt), and with devil horns spirit-gummed to his forehead.  He goes into his welcome spiel.  While this is happening, Wally tries to leave, but is denied by the bouncers, one of whom grabs him and says “It is not your moment.”  Wally opts instead to go up to the balcony, where he sees a young black woman in a tight white dress leaning over the balcony to watch the activities below.  She is with a group of “bros” who don’t seem to really care about her.
Various acts are presented on stage, of varying quality, and over all it is a very enjoyable evening.  Finally the devilish emcee comes back out to announce that the finale has arrived, and that they need a group of volunteers.  Before Gareth can raise his hand to take that invitation, the lights go out yet again.  When they come back up, there are spotlights on each of the abductee group, as well as the woman in the balcony.  Drake, Morgan, and Gareth go up willingly, although there is a bit of a struggle to get the remainder up there.  

When Goom and Alex approach, they start perceiving the crowd in slow-mo, as Wally had, and find they are unable to stop their forward momentum to the stage.  On stage there is a red door in a white frame, nothing more.  The emcee gathers them all around him and whispers, “This is exactly what you came for,” as he opens the door to reveal only inky blackness.  Goom goes through first, followed by Morgan, then Drake, Gareth, the unfamiliar woman, Alex, and finally Wally.  As each of them steps through, they get the distinct feeling of falling.  Wally hears the door slam behind him.

Wally feels a room rush up to meet him, as though he fell into it.  He is in a rustic cabin, roaring fire, the works.  Out the windows he can see that woods surround him.  He is alone.  He curls up on the ground and weeps until he can weep no more.  He notices a black van approaching outside, and when it opens, he sees it has a red interior.  Figures clad in black emerge and start rushing the cabin, so Wally retreats out another door, which leads into a hallway – this cabin is bigger than it seems.  Hearing the men in black entering the house, he steps into the first room he comes to.  It reeks of stale urine and shit, and he can hear someone whimpering inside.  He does not investigate, but goes to try another door.  The next room he opens he is unable to enter, as pouring out of it are teeth.  Dirty brown, diseased and broken, they’re coming with enough force that he’s afraid he’ll get crushed by them.  By this point the men have come into the hall, and they are brandishing syringes with yellow liquid.  Wally sees the red door (the same one from The Box) at the end of the hall, and he manages to wade through the teeth and opens it.  As he passes back through, he hears a voice say, “Soon.  Very soon."

Alex walks through the door and exits onto another stage, and he thinks he can hear the sounds of The Box behind him.  In the audience are strange personages.  Some of them look like trees, others like animals, some others make no sense entirely – his mind cannot reconcile what they actually look like.  They begin to laugh at him, growing ever more hysterical.  On stage with Alex is his doppelganger, known to the world as the famous magician Konstantyn.  The doppelganger puts out the cigarette he’s been smoking and says, “It’s not long now,” as he turns to open a coffin that is sitting open on the stage.  Alex asks, “Where are they?”  “I don’t know, but we’d better get started,” is the reply.  “Started with what?”  “Your trick,” says Konstantyn as he climbs into the coffin and closes his eyes.  The emcee from The Box enters the stage and announces, “His final trick!  The vanishing half a man!” as Alex closes the lid (emblazoned with KONSTANTYN 12/25/13) and begins sawing.  Half way through he hears a whimper and sees blood on the saw.  The audience calms down, and the emcee suggests they’re growing bored.  Alex gives a flourish and opens the coffin for the big reveal.  The body appears un-sawed, although it seems as though Konstantyn ate his gun.  The emcee goes wild, shouting that he discovered Alex, “He’s mine!  He’s mine!” as he ushers Alex back through the red door, and as Alex steps through he notices that the emcee’s devil horns appear real.

Gareth is lying on a scratchy couch, with the smell of cigarette smoke lingering in the air.  He knows this place, has been here before.  It is a therapist’s office, although he can’t quite place it.  To one side he hears beeping, like hospital machinery, and he follows it through the office to a room cordoned off with heavy plastic sheeting.  Inside there are several figures milling about, all wearing big yellow biohazard suits.  Gareth looks down and realises he is also wearing one, albeit with a large red X taped across the chest.  The other people notice him and shake their heads.  He begins following the beeps, when he is approached by the mother of his boyfriend.  She tries to yell, “Your fault,” at Gareth, although between their two hoods, all he gets are the mouth movements.  She then tries to spit on him, to little physical effect.  Gareth turns towards the sound of beeping behind him and begins pulling on the plastic curtains, growing more frustrated.  When the plastic sheeting tears and the heavy material comes down, he falls to the floor next to a hospital bed with a half-skeletal figure on it.  Gareth gets up and sees on the side table a clip board with G.R.I.D. stamped across it.  He looks at the patient and knows it is Sam, although he is so sick and so emaciated he is only partially recognisable.  His lower body is swollen and full of fluid, and looks to be one large bruise.  Gareth reaches out to caress Sam’s face, whispering, “I’m so sorry.”  As he touches Sam, a tear forms and starts spreading down Sam’s entire body, spilling out putrid purple fluid.  Again Sam’s mother is there, now armed with a scalpel, and tries to attack Gareth, again accusing him, “Your fault!  Your fault!”  Desperate, Gareth pushes her away and she falls, and in trying to catch herself, she rips an IV out of Sam’s arm.  No longer receiving whatever pain medication was in the bag, Sam sits up in agony.  Gareth fights back the rising bile in his throat.  He begins backing out to the therapist’s office, and is followed by security personnel with dead eyes and hands going to guns.  He sees the red door to one side, and rushes back into darkness.

Drake is in darkness, although his body is lit as though in natural light.  He stands in the nothingness for a moment before he pitches forward, falling.  Now he is in a Porsche, speeding very fast across a bridge, a phone pole looming ever closer.  Next to him is a hot blonde woman with a blown out hair ‘do.  She purrs to him, “Choose.”  Drake knows her, although he can’t place her.  He hears a wet beating noise coming from the back seat and knows there is someone – something? – back there masturbating.  His steering wheel has a Club device on it, locking it on course.  He vaguely recalls having been a shareholder in that company, way back when.  The driver’s side door is the red door from The Box.  He knows he has a choice to make – stay in the car with the woman and the masturbator, heading dead on for a phone pole, or leave.  At the last second he opens the door and dives through.

Morgan is in a dress shop, trying on a wedding dress.  She knows this is the shop where she was Taken, but the dress is not the right style for when she was taken and when she looks in the mirror, she seems misshapen.  She hears a woman approach from behind her and whisper, “You smell good enough to eat!” followed by a sharp pain in her shoulder.  Morgan turns towards the woman who is wearing a purple prom dress and has blood on her mouth.  The woman licks it off, saying, “Sorry, it just tastes so good!”  She leaves to get another dress.  Morgan hears a whirring sound from elsewhere in the shop and, grabbing a wire hanger for defense, follows it to the main shop area where she sees several other women in prom dresses.  Again Morgan is told that she looks good enough to eat.  She declines the offer of another dress to try, and goes back to the dressing room to change into her clothes.  The back room she ends up in is wet and she sees her clothes on a steel table next to a whirring dentist drill – hence the noise.  As she approaches, she is overcome with the aroma of delicious, fresh gingerbread.  She grabs her clothes, and beneath her shirt on the table is a vial with a golden honey-like substance bearing the label “Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice”.  Morgan pockets the vial.  Turning, she sees the group of women from the shop, all looking at her with predatory eyes while she dresses, and they follow her as she goes out to purchase her dress, all the while standing around her.  She realises that one of them is carrying an electric carving knife and a silver platter.  At the other end of the shop, Morgan spies the red door from The Box, and she tries to excuse herself and starts walking toward it, but the women pursue her.  She runs, but one grabs her leg, bringing her down just feet from the door.  She feels and hears the electric carver cut into her calf, and there is excruciating pain as four inches of her flesh is cut away.  She somehow manages to get up and hobble to the door, where she pitches forward into blackness.

Goom is lying on his back, half immersed in water, and feels as though he’s hundreds of pounds lighter than he presently is.  He smells burnt vegetation, burnt flesh, and the unmistakable odor of Agent Orange.  There is machine gun fire in the distance.  The foliage above and around him is all tropical, all is occluded by thick black smoke.  He can feel holes in his torso and his hands are covered in blood.  Chunks are missing from his legs, and although he is alert, he knows he should not be alive.  He sits up and water runs out of his wounds, an eel wriggling out of a hole in his torso.  He feels immense pain as his jaw, torn apart (by what?  Bullets?  Shrapnel?) , separates from his face and is hanging by a thread on one side.  Every movement he makes causes it to swing, bringing excruciating pain.  He is overwhelmed by the desire to just rip it off, but he resists, and tears a strip of his G.I. uniform to tie it back on.  His blood has now gone tacky and he is surrounded by flies.  There is a small child nearby, naked, but so charred and ravaged by napalm that its gender is indiscernible.  Goom strips his shirt off, intending to clothe the child, and approaches.  The child raises its arms and unleashes an unholy scream as it charges him.  Goom grabs at it, and it wrenches away from him, dislodging its own arm in the process.  The charred bone hand grabs at Goom’s chest, tearing at his pectoral muscle, and a putrid smell comes from the wounds, along with maggots.  Goom tries to fight it, but is distracted by the sound of someone calling for him in the distance.  The child attacks him again, tearing into his lover.  He collapses and the child begins to eat him.  A burst of machine gone fire, gloved hands grabbing at him, dragging him away.  He hands lift him up and he is facing the red door from The Box.  A boot kicks at him, and he falls through into blackness.

Alia is in the alley outside the Box on her hands and knees as though she’d been thrown out.  She is still wearing the same white dress and high heels she’d been wearing that night.  She takes a moment to pick gravel out of her hands and knees and starts walking out of the alley to the street.  Though she’s walking at a normal pace, the street never gets any closer.  She is suddenly aware of a presence behind her, and starts walking faster, to no avail.  When she feels its breath on the back of her neck, she spins around to confront it.  There is nothing there.  Now she is aware of the presence behind her again, between she and the alley way.  She begins running back towards The Box, feeling the presence growing ever closer to her.  The club door is where it should be, but it is not the same metal door, it is the red door she had stepped through just a short while ago.  Not turning to see what is behind her, she sprints towards the door – heels be damned.  Just as she’s sure the thing will get her, she reaches the door and barrels through, stepping into a dark nothingness.

They all come to, suspended over the stage in straight jackets – any injuries they’d sustained during whatever they just went through are no longer apparent.  The Box is devoid of patrons, save for the emcee sitting at the bar, removing his horns, and the two large bouncers who lower the group down and set about undoing their bonds.  As they get up, each is handed an envelope containing five $100 bills.  There are seven shots lined up along the bar – one for each.  Gareth, Drake, and Morgan each drink a shot, and as the others decline, they finish the remainders as well.

The emcee asks how they knew to come to The Box, and Gareth mentions M. Butterfly.  The emcee is not unfamiliar, making familiar but vague references to her even calling her a whore at one point.  Eventually everyone decides they’ve had enough and leave.