When last we met, our heroes descended to the sewers beneath Manhattan to fight the Hand Made Man.
The gunfire is deafening, as all of M. Butterfly’s troops and the hired goons let loose on the spider-thing for a few seconds. As the tattooed man calls for light, the spider can be seen twitching on the ground, slowly dissolving into a colourless liquid. The soldier she’d been eating before is alive, though he’s wracked with spasms and his hair has turned white. Two of the soldiers go to him, administering a syringe of tranquilizer which calms him down significantly, before they aid him up to the street level. The tattooed man says that this reaction is normal for encounters with the Weird.
Goom takes a sniff of the spider liquid, really more of a goo. It is odourless, not just clean smelling, but utterly devoid of any scent whatsoever. Between that and the way it looks, they realise that this must be the same substance as the sphere Morgan found in her pocket after The Box. Goom can also smell the sweet/chemical smell of the Sand, strong in one direction, softer but still noticeable in another. They decide to follow his nose toward the stronger scent.
A soldier down the tunnel spots something and asks the group to come check it out. It is the spider-thing’s web, although to Goom and Gareth it bears an unsettling resemblance to the Kevlar hammock Goom had knit some weeks prior. Smelling it, Goom finds that it is also devoid of scent. They ponder if this is what Glamour smells like. They continue on toward the Sand smell.
Ahead is the sound of running water, lots of it, moving quickly. As they enter another juncture onto a metal catwalk structure, they see a whirlpool and water flowing through gate mechanisms controlling the waterflow. The water is acrid and smells of human waste. The room seems to be an older portion of the Manhattan sewer system, likely not updated much from the time it was originally built. As the water dies down and eventually clears out, they see that there is another tunnel beneath a padlocked grate. Goom smells the Sand most strongly through that passage, or down another way. Conversation turns to which way to go, as the best way is probably through the bottom, although they can’t be sure when the deluge will start again, and do they really want to risk drowning in shit?
As they discuss which way to go, someone comments about how old this area is, and how the metal they’re standing on must be really rickety. Wally happens to look at the catwalk where he stands. Before his eyes, the metal starts to corrode away, and he quickly looks anywhere else, stopping it. Alia does the same, but is not quick enough, and ends up falling through, just catching herself. Goom and one of the soldiers help her up, unscathed. The soldier makes some comment about how the “Dreamwalkers” shouldn’t be looking at the floor. Meanwhile, Wally and Alex take a ladder down to the padlocked grate to investigate it. There is a way to jam the sluice to hold back the waste water, although it wouldn’t be guaranteed to hold. The group opts to clear the less precarious passage first, following Goom.
There is a squish sound up ahead, and the group halts. As the tattooed man scouts ahead, Goom takes a deep whiff. It smells like… well, it smells like a vagina. As they follow their mysterious leader into the next room, they are met with a cavern of flesh and muscle. Goom and Wally try to will the vaginacave back into an actual wall, in the same way the metal had corroded just by thinking about it. As Wally throws himself into it, mentally, Alia doubles over in pain, and the wall quivers, turning back to stone. Alia yells that this is obviously her vagina, and could they stop.
The tattooed man comments that when he was down here before, fighting the Hand Made Man (for he was part of Yuri-ko’s original team) they saw some shit, but nothing nearly as weird as this. Gareth asks for the man’s name, but the guy replies that they’re better off not being on a first name basis. Weighing their choice of paths, the group opts to continue cuntward. As they enter into the tunnel proper, they can see blood vessels and hear a heart beat. Wally steps in something that emits a moan of pain and pleasure. His foot is in the mouth of a man who is crying as he moans and licks at Wally’s shoe. Wally steps away, disgusted, and Alia notes that the face is that of a past customer.
About 100 yards in, they start to hear many voices moaning and screaming, Alex noting that Alia’s is among them. Down the tunnel crawl dozens of figures, pairs, all in mid coitus and fused together where their bodies meet. Some are crawling across the ceiling and walls, others scamper at them on normal elevations. In each set, the female figure is always Alia. All of them, like Alia, have bestial claws. Drake fires at the foremost set, tearing a hole through one of its shoulders. The fight begins.
As the fuckbeasts come at them with fangs and claws, the soldiers, thugs, and some of the group fire at them, Alia opting to leap forward and go claw to claw. One of the soldiers lobs a grenade, although it bounces into a hole before exploding, sending ripples through the flesh cave, knocking everyone off balance. Although some of the soldiers and thugs suffer wounds, one by one the fuckbeasts are taken down, even Alia’s dog gets a kill in. The remaining pair of beasts suddenly disappear in a puff of purple smoke, as does the fleshy tunnel, revealing a brick tunnel with a grate and archway. The tattooed leader remarks that he’s never seen the Dream recede like that, it would seem as though the dreamer woke up, but…
Goom smells the Sand grow strong, then weak, strong, then weak, like breathing. Proving that it wasn’t just a dream, they find a hole where the grenade went off, and twenty feet below is an old subway track. They drop a rope and all climb down, Wally again taking an awkward landing. Down the tunnel they spy a flickering light and hear a pipe banging, reminding Goom of what he’d heard when the Mole People attacked. Instead of the Sand, Goom smells the strong scent of iguana, specifically iguana. The lead group of soldiers approach the next tunnel opening and then start shouting, “Put it down!”
The room they all enter into is the same one that had shown up in the dreams of Alex, Alia, and others – a large room, the floor sunken, with arcing rows of seats like an amphitheatre and a convergence of several train tracks at the bottom. This time, there are no candle-eyed Mole People, nor is Alex’s daughter chained at the bottom, although he clearly sees a set of chains and manacles. The room is lit with hundreds of candles, lanterns, and so forth.
A wooden palate on train wheels sits in the center, and atop it is a door frame with another red door – this one, however, is not bright and new as other red dream doors they’ve seen, it is faded and peeling. Sitting near it is a fat man, very fat. He has a human face, but his body is a lizard’s, purple with green marbling, and he has one stubby wing on his back and one human leg instead of a lizard’s. Surrounding him are beakers, jars, soda bottles, all full of various substances. Wally recognises some of it as his product, likely dumped down the drain in a moment of panic. Lizardman is breathing laboriously, eyeing each of them. A company of eight soldiers surround him, all guns aimed at his head.
Goom approaches, and senses that the lizardman fears nothing, as though whatever he feared had been trained away. Wally also approaches, to inspect the containers. The lizardman asks, “Do I know you?” Wally doesn’t think so, but they discourse, and the man declares himself to be a half remembered dream, fading. He wanted to build something, but something reached inside and built him. He thinks he will wake up soon, and at that Wally steps away quickly. Lizardman says he needs to finish his work and gestures to a container of Sand, saying it makes all your dreams come true. Wally wraps his hand in his handkerchief and picks up the jar. Lizardman keeps saying to finish it, growing more agitated, and one of the soldiers blows his head away. Purple smoke emits from his corpse.
Gareth, Alia, and Drake hear the sound of autumn leaves rustling down a side tunnel, and they alert their protectors. Another group of soldiers advance that way, and soon shout for their tattooed leader. He rolls his neck, flexes his arms, and swordlike appendages spring from his hands, and he stalks down the tunnel. Alia and her dog follow. At the end of the hall is a giant FAO Schwarz teddy bear, a giant iron sewing needle piercing its chest, a golden thread, largely decayed, running through the eye and spooling on the floor. The bear’s head is worn away but the body, stuffed with cotton and straw, is shaking. Alia backs away and runs to the others.
|I imagine it like this, but more awful. So much more awful...|
Alex takes a moment to investigate the very real restraints his daughter had been held in during his dream before moving on to the door on the platform. While everything in the cavernous room is aged, the blood and hair on the manacles seem less than a week old, by Wally’s best guess. Alex tries opening the door, but nothing notable happens – he still sees the other side of the room through it, and no one else notices a difference. When he shuts it and reopens it however… he feels something being drained from him, the door is stealing his Glamour. As it does, the paint starts to refresh, becoming slick and new again. Through the doorway, he sees a hallway made from haphazardly assembled planks, lines going at all different angles, very disorienting. Standing on the other side of the door, though, Goom can see Alex.
Still looking through the door, Alex sees a creature of dark blue and grey. He feels as though he’s seen it before, but cannot recall. He’s seen enough, for now, and the door is abandoned for the time being, as Alia runs back in to report about the bear. Goom stays behind to watch the door while the rest of the group, plus four soldiers guarding Alex, return to the bear tunnel. From beneath the bear, they hear a faint rhythmic clicking. Wally and Alex try to walk around to the other side of the bear’s head, but the soldiers stop them and unload their guns into the toy.
Hundreds of rats pour out, screeching and running everywhere. The bear deflates, the rustling and much of its bulk having come from the rat colony. The clicking continues. Wally finally approaches to investigate, looking under the bear’s head. He finds a 10” plastic action figure, his arms and legs kicking at the ground. As one of the soldiers takes an easy shot at the doll, Alia has a sudden jolt of realization. This is the same doll that belonged to the little boy she encountered after killing the pizza man.