Disclaimer: I don't own anything except the story… lets just leave it at that to make things less complicated.
The glare of white sand shown in the bright noonday sun like the soft glow of a lone moon lost in a universe of shining saffire blue ocean water. The island's grinning crescent shape added to the effect. It was small, lonely, a vacant paradise full of palm trees and exotic birds. It was untouched by the poisoning effects of human habitation, save for one small dwelling surrounded by a dark forest of palms.
The building was a fortress, a quaint and eloquent castle. It was beautiful, in an eccentric sort of way, built out of rough gray stones, surrounded by a spider web of deep green vines. A haze of magic, so strong as to nearly be a tangible entity in itself haunted the castle like a ghost, all radiating from one single person, the island's lone inhabitant.
She had no name and an empty storybook. She knew that was important somehow, though not why. She had power to do anything she wanted to. Though she was young, very young, she had the appearance of an ancient hag, a witch. Like the entire island, she seemed to shine with a sort of inner iridescence, to soar across the psyche on the wings of a dragonfly.
Deep green eyes reflected in a small crystalline globe made of the sea, yet solid to touch. Metaphysics that defied reality, and nurtured evil were reflected in her single magic object. She could hear music, all around her, coming from within. She knew she could make this music real, if only she could find the right voices. If only she could find the right voices…
"Florence Vassey!" The name came to her suddenly, the person, the character. Anything that came that quick had to be right, she thought. "And… Mark… Cohen…" She smiled crookedly as these two people appeared in her crystal ball, one a deceptively normal middle aged woman, and the other a young man with glasses and wild hair. But there had to be a third. Three to start with and thousands to add. "And Dinah, yes Dinah. The three of you will do beautifully. Do come to my island my dears…" There was a thunderous cackle, and the castle dissipated into the sand.
Dinah winced and tightened her grip on Greaseball's couplers as something alarmingly bright flashed before her eyes. The light didn't go away as it should have. Instead I grew brighter, painfully brighter. It was the kind of light that seared the brain and melted gears. She wanted to cry out but couldn't. Then Greaseball wasn't there anymore…
"What the hell…" Mark blinked, giving his surroundings a confused stare. The congested streets of New York City were gone, swallowed up by a great flash of light. He was… he didn't know where he was. Somewhere green and sandy. It would be almost pleasant if only he knew what the hell was going on… "Roger?!" He called out his friend's name. After all, no more then a few seconds ago they had been sitting together in a run down little café… "Helllooo… is anyo…"
He was unable to finish his sentence as he was sent staggering backwards by an astounding impact. His head hit the sand, which was surprisingly hard… a perfect contrast to the surprisingly soft female who had just landed on top of him.
She seemed dazed for a moment, but then quickly slid off of him, a light pink blush creeping across her features. Mark couldn't help but stare at her, not only because she was rather attractive, but also because of her absolutely bizarre mode of dress. She looked like a waitress getting ready to attend a roller derby, with coppery brown hair and snow white roller-skates.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" She said quickly, brushing herself off, and smoothing her blue and cream checked skirt. Her voice had a rather cute southern twang to it. She got up quickly, looking at the ground below her feet as if it were some sort of vile demon. "No tracks?" She muttered under her breath. Her voice was very calm despite the look of terror that was slowly etching itself into her features.
"Greaseball!!!!!!" She suddenly yelled, more shrieked. Mark didn't know weather to laugh, run, or try to comfort her. He wasn't exactly accustomed to having pretty roller-skating girls fall into his lap and then start yelling out strange words. She was silent for a moment, as though waiting for someone to answer. "Greaseball!!!!!!!!!!!!!" She called out again, this time sounding more frightened. She carefully moved a few feet, nearly tripping as sand caught in the wheels of her skates. Mark grabbed onto her arm to steady her.
"Whoah… you might want to take those off." He said, gesturing to her skates, "Do you have any idea where we are? I'm…" He stopped, seeing that she wasn't really listening to him. Rather, she was looking down at his feet with an absolutely perplexed expression
"Where are your wheels?" She asked quietly, only after staring for a good two minutes.
"My wheels?" The girl nodded. "Well… um… I don't really have any…" Mark shook his head, and looked once again at the girl's skates, "They aren't good for traveling over sand… do you know where the heck we are?" The girl shook her head, fear creeping back into her features.
"No…" She seemed to have this talent for sounding like she was perpetually whining. "Do you?" She added. Mark shook his head.
"Great." He muttered. The girl, her eyes once again fixed on his feet, shook her head despairingly.
"I don't think it's so great. Did you just get here also?"
"Yeah, big flash of light and…"
"Same here…" Suddenly the girl looked him right in the eye, "What are you?" She asked.
"Erm… my name's Mark…" The girl didn't seem particularly satisfied with his answer. She gave him a small, polite smile.
"Yes… My name's Dinah." She curtseyed slightly "But what I meant is…" Her eyes lit up suddenly. "I get it!" She exclaimed loud enough to make Mark step back a few inches, "You're a passenger aren't you? But how did you get so big? Usually I can fit around fifty of you inside of me…" She paused just long enough for Mark to wonder if what she had just said was supposed to be some sort of strange pick up line. "I'm a dining car…" She said slowly, as if she wondered if a passenger could understand such a thing. Apparently it couldn't.
"You're a what?" Mark asked incredulously, looking Dinah over from head to skate. "Like waitress?" Dinah nodded enthusiastically.
"Yeah! Like a train waitress…" Finally something dawned on Mark.
"You think you're a train?!"
Florence yawned, and tried to pull her covers closer around her. The only problem was that there weren't any covers… or any bed for that matter. Only a vast mahogany floor stretched smoothly out beneath her. As cheap as the motel she had spent the night at was, she very clearly remembered being provided with a bed.
She opened her eyes, and entered the nightmare. She was on a huge stage, surrounded by a vast sea of plush red seats. Above her head black velvet curtains that seemed to be made of pure shadows, and were suspended by thin ropes like the sky preparing to fall on her. The only person in the audience was a single misshapen old woman.
"Good morning Florence. It's so nice to have you…" The woman gave Florence a crocked grin. Her voice was quiet, but rough like sandpaper. Florence sat bolt upright on the stage.
"Who the bloody hell are you?" Were the first words out of her mouth. The old woman didn't seem overly concerned by the anger in her tone.
"I trust you'll enjoy your stay here my dear. You should find most of your… needs have been provided for." The hag had a sinister look on her face. "You mortals certainly do have interesting habits. You'll find food when you're hungry, drink when you're thirsty and… other accommodations. I'll be getting your scripts to you shortly, and if you find you need anything, just call my name."
"Your name?" Was all Florence could think to say, still in a half awake stupor.
"Oh yes! I don't have one. Pity." There was a flash of purple smoke, a brief invisible shimmer of reality, and then the old woman disappeared before Florence's eyes. The empty stage stretched out imposingly behind her. For once she knew that there was truly nobody on her side.
"Let me get this strait… you woke up on this stage, some woman appeared before you, said we'd be getting a script, and then disappeared in a puff of smoke?" Dinah listened to the two who called themselves Mark and Florence go over the details their abduction for what had to be the forth time. She was not a happy dining car. As if finding herself in a strange place among passengers with no tracks wasn't enough, she didn't understand half of the things they were talking about. To add to her problems, there was also the distressing fact that Greaseball most definitely wasn't anywhere in sight, or even earshot.
"Was she a passenger also?" Dinah piped in. Florence merely rolled her eyes. Dinah was beginning to get the sinking suspicion that she found her annoying. Mark nodded.
"Yeah, I guess she was." He said patiently, but not without looking at Dinah as though she had three heads. Dinah smiled. That made sense.
"I thought so!" She said triumphantly, "You see, for the most part trains try to avoid disappearing in puffs of smoke…" There was a long moment of silence in which Dinah was painfully aware of the fact that her two companions were staring at her again. "Did I say something wrong?" Florence sighed. Mark shook his head.
"No. nothing. Your fine." Mark said in a tone of exasperation. Dinah pouted and went back to listening quietly. She was feeling very outnumbered.
"This sucks." Mark said softly, looking from Florence to Dinah. Both nodded in agreement.
"This has to be a dream." Florence said, giving her arm a quick pinch. Dinah watched this quizzically.
"Only question is weather I'm dreaming or you are." Mark agreed.
"I didn't know passengers dreamed!" Dinah said, "I thought only trains did that." More exasperated stares. She'd have to learn when to stop opening her big mouth. At least nobody had told her to shut it as of yet… she hated when people told her to shut it.
She sighed and got up off the floor of the stage. She wasn't being of any use to the passengers anyway, and they certainly weren't of any use to her. They were completely off the rails, in more ways than one. Maybe if she looked around a bit more she'd find Greaseball. After all, she had been holding onto his couplings right when she disappeared. Maybe he had been brought here with her, and simply gotten misplaced along the way. Maybe he was wondering around right now, looking for her. She'd find him!
There was a convenient ramp leading on and off the stage, as if someone had been expecting her. She was glad of it. She didn't think she could manage those weird stair things that Mark and Florence had used. The two passengers continued to talk, plan, and gripe as she left, evidently paying her no attention.
She was almost out the door when something bright flashed in front of her eyes.
Electra's eyes widened in fear, and all of her sleek black and tan fur stood on end, making her look almost fluffy. Where was she? What had happened to Etcetera and Sillabub? One moment ago she had been playing in the junkyard, and now she was standing in front of a weird looking human woman with wheels on her feet. She hissed, and ducked underneath the first object she saw, which just happened be one of many red velvet chairs.
"Is this the woman who appeared before?" The wheeled woman was asking. She started to roll over towards Electra, who hissed warningly. Electra was to scared to even wonder why she suddenly understood human speech. Another woman rushed down what appeared to be a huge stage, even bigger than the ones Gus had once performed on. She ducked under the chair to get a look at her. She was so little! Well, actually, she was the same size as Electra, but usually humans were so much bigger than she was. Other then that she was very normal, with brown hair put up in a bun, and business like apparel.
"No." The woman said, "Our evil mastermind doesn't have ears and a tail…" A human man joined the small group staring at Electra. She tried to duck further under the chair, but it was far to small for her.
"She looks almost like a cat…" The man said, in a disbelieving tone.
"A cat?" The woman asked.
"Well if that one can be a train…"
"She isn't a train. She's a mentally unstable girl in roller-skates."
"I am to a train!" A wheeled foot was stomped close enough to Electra's face to make her uneasy. She closed her eyes, trying to escape, praying to the Ever Lasting Cat to get her out of this situation, to let her wake up and go back to chasing rubber mice. The conversation raced passed her, the words to fast to catch. Harsh words, like when her humans called her a baaaaaaad kitty… but they weren't directed towards her.
"Enough!" The man shouted suddenly, sending an empty silence out across the room. "here kitty kitty kitty." He called softly, in a nice voice. Electra smiled a bit. He was using a nice voice, so things must be alright. She crept slowly out from underneath her chair. She sniffed his hand tentatively, before rubbing her head up against his chest. "That's a good kitty…" He said in the same nice voice. Electra purred.
"Something very strange is going on here." The wheeled girl commented, but everyone ignored her.
"What's your name kitty?" The man asked.
"Electra…" Electra whispered, sniffling. The man was nice, but the situation was still scary.
"I'm Mark, and these are Dinah and Florence." The man—Mark replied. "Do you know anything about how you got here?" Electra shook her head despairingly…
"I was playing with the other kittens and then…"
"This is ridiculous." Florence interrupted. Mark put a finger to his lips.
"It's okay…" He said gently, in a tone that suggested he didn't have any clue exactly what he was doing, "We'll get you back home with the other.. um.. kittens. We're all in this together now." Electra nodded. She thought she heard Florence whisper something to the effect of, 'nobodies on nobodies' side'
"Alright…" Mark said slowly, obviously frazzled, "So I guess we should go outside and look around. See where we are… or something. We can't just stay here".
"But I can't" Dinah whined in response, "The sand gets all caught in my wheels, and then I can hardly move!" Mark shook his head.
"Then take them of." Florence half suggested, half ordered. Dinah went very pale.
"Take off my wheels?" She asked horrified, "That'd hurt!" Florence shook her head.
"Then stay here." Florence said, "Wait to see if our mastermind comes."
"But I don't wanna stay here alone…" Dinah complained. Mark set a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"We won't be gone long…" He promised, "and… and maybe Electra will stay here with you?" He looked over at the cat girl, who shook her head.
"No… I want to stay with you." She nuzzled her head against Mark's arm.
"C'mon then." Florence said, starting out the door. She turned to Dinah, not unkindly, "We'll be back soon. And if you see the mastermind, try to find out as much about her as you can."
The Mastermind… it was interesting the sort of names her guests were coming up with—took a dusty book down from the heights of her cluttered shelf. It was her storybook, and it was growing. Growing words, growing pages, feeding off of he characters she had brought in. Perhaps she didn't have a story, and that was why she had to borrow the stories of others. They did have stories, amazing stories that they never knew. Darkened studies where tired composers poured of their creation, ancient Operas, forgotten texts. Things that they never thought about or saw. All they knew was their own little worlds, just as all that The Mastermind knew was hers. They didn't understand the power of a pen and paper to be the tools for creation, or the power of music as the tool that brought them life. They didn't know anything.
She flew over to her magic ball, her feet light and airy. She needed more characters, rich and exciting characters to fill her storybook. She didn't need just any character though, she needed a composer, one who could give her characters new life. The ball showed such a composer, a masked angel baring a punjab lasso. He was a tortured man, capable of exquisite evil and exquisite beauty. He was a ghost, a phantom. He was her next victim.
"My dear Phantom, you are cordially invited to my island," The Mastermind cooed in a tone of sickening sweetness. Barely a second passed before a masked man was standing in front of her, his long ebony cloak flowing majestically. For a moment the man's elegant strength seemed to permeate The Mastermind's own powerful mind. Then with the smallest flash of red he began to dart away, seeming almost to fly into shadows she had never known to exist.
"Oh no you don't…" The mastermind flicked her wrist, and The Phantom was stopped dead in his tracks. He starred coldly at her. If he was afraid and confused as he must have been, his icy glare did not show such feelings. "You are here to write a musical for me…" The pitch black sockets that were The Phantom's eyes seemed to flicker with interest, for only the briefest moment.
"I will do no such thing." His voice seemed to embody all that was sinister, filling the room with stony echoes of pitch black malice. It was also soft, and beautiful, like the swan song of a fallen angel. His voice was a sublime enigma.
"Oh?" The Mastermind demanded. She walked over to her bookshelf and retrieved her magic ball. She shoved it in The Phantom's face. Reflected in it's crystalline surface was the smiling face of a beautiful young woman with a long mane of flaxen blonde hair. The Phantom put his hand to his heart.
"Christine…" The Mastermind merely smiled.
"I believe you're fairly familiar with torture chambers…" She said darkly. She closed her eyes for a moment, and the walls around her shimmered into non-existence, each replaced by a perfect life sized replica of Christine. There were four of them in all, carefree, smiling girls with pretty faces and figures. The Phantom stepped closer, in a trance, reaching out a bony hand to touch the girl's face, then stopped as if he couldn't bare to do such a thing. "It wont work anyway." The Mastermind explained. There was an ominous sound, like thunder, and one of the replica's of Christine burst, crimson blood spattering everywhere, covering the room in it's holographic non-reality. The Phantom turned away at the sight.
"It's not real." He said in an agonized growl. The Mastermind giggled.
"Exactly. It's merely an image." She bowed before him, and gestured towards the now decapitated image of Christine. "Enjoy". With that she disappeared, leaving The Phantom to watch the second image of Christine meet its macabre end.
The Mastermind sat comfortably in her study, with her beloved magic ball. Her manacle laughter mingled with the tortured angel's sobs echoing from the room below her, creating an apocalyptic storm that embodied all that was insane. So many characters, so little time…
The ground was thick with weeds and roots around Mark's feet. It was slow going, and almost impossible to go very far without tripping. Every once and a while he'd glance back to make sure Florence was still following behind him, however slowly. He was glad they hadn't tried to bring Dinah along. She was a sweet girl, but she wasn't going to get anywhere with those skates of hers. Not that they were making it anywhere anyway. The only person moving at any speed was Electra, who apparently had the cat's ability to keep her balance on the most impossible surfaces.
"This is absurd." Florence muttered under her breath, as she narrowly avoided tripping over a root.
"Well, it's not anymore absurd than staying in the Theatre…" Mark pointed out.
"This whole situation. If it's a dream, it's certainly taking me long enough to wake up…" Silently though, Florence wondered exactly what she had to wake up to. An empty hotel room, filled only with cold knowledge and lost loves.
"I'd say I was tripping but…"
"Tripping?" Florence looked confused. Mark stumbled over a branch. Electra, a few feet in front of them, giggled.
"Um… what I meant was high on…" Electra smiled
"A tire then?"
"Um… no…" Mark said as patiently as he could. He looked to Florence, hoping she would know what to say.
"Because sometimes tires go very high… all the way up to…" Electra explained.
"I believe he means drugs…" Electra stopped. While floating tires were not something unheard of to her, drugs were.
"Well, I don't. do them… some of my friends…"
"Your friends sound like people of low repute," Florence interrupted.
"I wouldn't say that… my friend's are people with problems, just like anyone else. What about you? What are things like where you're from?" Florence smiled wanly at this question.
"Complicated. Extremely complicated. I don't suppose you've ever been to a world championship chess competition?" Mark shook his head, "I didn't think so. That's what my life is like. If you've never played the game, you wont understand it."
"Hurry up!" Electra called from somewhere far ahead of them, "You have to see this!"
"C'mon" Mark quickened his pace, moving as fast as he could considering the circumstances. His eyes widened as the woods cleared away before him, as if by magic. Suddenly he was standing on a huge beach full of snow white sand and sparkling water, a picture he'd expect to see on the front of a post card. Electra raced up to him and Florence.
"It's huge!" She exclaimed, "Just look at it! Isn't it wonderful? It's just like the ocean in Growltiger's Last Stand. Do you think there might be some pirates?"
"Apparently cat people have pirates." Florence whispered to Mark. He walked up to the water, as if in a trance. Huge waves rolled on and off of the beach, beautiful sea monsters foaming at the mouth, just waiting for their chance to swallow the beach up whole. He dipped has hand in the salty water. It felt warm and smooth against his skin.
"It is beautiful." Florence commented, coming up next to him.
"Yeah. Y'know, living in New York, sometimes I start to think that I've seen everything, that there's nothing new left. But I've never seen anything like this, ever." Florence nodded.
"It looks like we're on an island somewhere. Maybe we can set up a bonfire to alert any passing ships…" Mark nodded in agreement, but there was a slight look of doubt on his face.
"Yeah. Get the hell out of here and back where we're supposed to be."
Dinah sat with her legs dangling off the edge of the stage, and her head in her hands. She hated being left alone like this in a strange place. They had been gone for almost two hours now. She had already explored the little Theatre at length. It seemed that it consisted solely off the stage, the seats, and a tiny backstage area. There were also some stairs, similar to the ones that passengers used to board her, leading upwards. However, they were firmly barricaded, and Dinah didn't exactly trust her ability to climb up them anyway. The only thing left to do was wait, so Dinah waited with a growing sense of nervous impatience.
There was a soft sound from somewhere above Dinah's head, as if somebody was sobbing. Anguish and angelic beauty mingled in the sound, seeming to color the air inside the theatre with sublime emotion.
"H-hello?" Dinah called out nervously, looking at the ceiling. The crying became louder in response, surrounding her. It was the saddest sound Dinah had ever heard. "W-who's there?" No answer. Dinah curled up so her chin rested on her knees, and tried not to cry herself. The sound just kept getting louder and closer, until it was no longer crying. It was a shrieking tempest that wouldn't be silenced. Dinah closed her eyes tightly and tried to imagine she was somewhere else. Suddenly the crying went completely silent. Dinah looked up at the ceiling again, "I-is anyone up there?" She called in a terrified
voice. There was a horrible cackle, as a woman laughed maniacally, and then nothing.
There was an all to familiar shimmer, and the icy silence was replaced by a little girl with more curly red hair then Dinah had ever seen on a single head. She stood in front of Dinah for a moment, smiling through the look of disorientation on her face.
"Gee wilikers this place is big!" She exclaimed. She had a high pitched voice that seemed worn by just a bit to much sugary sweet happiness. She a stuck out her hand for Dinah to shake with such abruptness that she was taken aback. "Hiya! My name's Annie. What sort of a joint is this?" Her smile widened to the point that it was enough to make Dinah wonder if CB should try taking lessons from her. She took her hand reluctantly.
"Um… hi. I'm Dinah. I don't really know where we are but…" Dinah was unable to finish her sentence as there was another shimmer in reality—a very big shimmer. Within a few seconds the entire right side of the Theatre was taken up by a huge green plant. Dinah backed away slightly.
"Leaping Lizards!" Annie exclaimed, in a tone of excitement that made Dinah wonder exactly how lizards were relevant to the current situation. "That plant is huge!" The plant shook a tentacle like leaf.
"And it's moving…" Dinah stood up, pulling Annie away from the plant a little. The plant started laughing, an evil sound that sent shivers down Dinah's spine. Annie smiled vacantly, apparently unaffected.
"And it's got big teeth!" Annie clapped her hands in excitement. "Oh, lets go take a closer look!" Dinah looked at the plant's teeth nervously.
"Annie, I don't think…" But Annie was already rushing over towards the plant. Dinah followed quickly, trying to catch up with the very determined little girl.
"Yeah… that's right sweet thing, just a little closer…" Dinah stopped dead in her tracks as she heard the plant talk, something she was fairly certain most plants didn't do. Suddenly an arm like vine wrapped itself around Annie's leg. The little girl screamed, as she was lifted up towards the plant's gaping mouth. Dinah shot foreword like a bolt of lighting on roller-skates, and grabbed onto Annie's arm with all her might. The plant merely chuckled cruelly. There was a great crashing sound, and Dinah found herself face to pod with the giant plant. It seemed to study her intently, despite its complete lack of eyes. Then it yanked Annie out of her grasp, as easily as she could unhitch herself from an engine. He bit down hard on her, and swallowed most of her in one gulp, with a sickening slurp. A single foot fell from his mouth, landing by Dinah's wheels with a thud. A terrible puddle of red spread out around it. Dinah felt as though she might be sick.
The plant burped loudly, and licked its lips. It was then that Dinah realized that she was surrounded by vines.
The Phantom felt as though his heart was literally being torn from his chest. He could hardly breath, hardly see. All he could do was feel, as he watched Christine die over and over again. They were just images, holograms. They were fake, but they showed him things he never wanted to see. The logical part of his mind scolded him for his growing hysteria, but it was hard to control. He had been ill prepared for this situation. After all, it was not often that he was magically teleported out of his home and made to watch the death of his only love over and over again.
Finally, after what seemed like centuries, the images faded into nothing, leaving The Phantom alone with his racing thoughts. The silence echoed with Christine's fading screams, and The Phantom's mournful cries. Then The Mastermind appeared in front of him, and started laughing, nearly doubling over in maniacal school girl giggles.
The Phantom stood up, his cloaks swirling elegantly around him. In an instant he had resumed his façade of cold calmness, and the pain he felt existed only inside of him. He merely stared at The Mastermind as she regained herself.
"My dear Phantom…" She started
"I am not your dear Madam, and I suggest you free me immediately." The Phantom's voice was filled with quiet intensity. The unspoken threat hung in the air between them.
"Hmmm…. Well, I'm afraid that's simply not an option. Besides, I doubt you're in much of a position to protest. If I wanted to I could turn you into a spider and step on you…"
"Indeed?" The Phantom's voice was skeptical, and not even slightly afraid. Even if she could bring him to an end so easily, he thought, it might be for the best that she did that. It was difficult to dread death when one was already mostly dead.
"Indeed… though now is not the time to show you this. You'll see in time though for sure… I think you'll be very pleased with what I have in store for some of my performers…"
"I doubt that."
"Don't. I can do wonderful things for you as well. I can make you as beautiful as your voice. I can give you your Christine. Wouldn't you like that?" The Phantom was silent, "It's your dream. And you would make her happy, much more happy than he who she is with. All you would have to do is compose a musical for me. It's not difficult. Think well on that." The Mastermind made as though to walk out of the room. The Phantom's hand reached out for his Punjab lasso. It seemed to slip out of his grasp, flying into the hand of The Mastermind.
"Oh, and my dear Phantom." She cracked the lasso against the floor like a whip, "Keep your hand at the level of your eyes." With that she was gone.
Mark heard a shrill screaming as he approached the Theatre. It sounded like Dinah. He exchanged glances with Florence, and broke into a run as the screaming became muffled. The brush around his feet obstructed their way, and only Electra was able to move quickly.
"Everlasting Cat!" He heard her calling out, "Hurry up! It's trying to eat her!" Mark quickened his pace as best as could.
"What is trying to eat her?" Florence called out, but the cat girl didn't respond. It didn't matter. They would find out soon anyway.
Mark skidded to a breathless stop by the open door of the Theatre, where a horror stricken Electra stood frozen, watching the grisly scene within. What looked like a monstrous Venus fly trap had taken over more than half the room, and it's snake like vines were stretching out even further. A pair of silvery roller-skate clad legs protruded from it's monstrous mouth, kicking wildly in a desperate and seemingly futile attempt at escape. To add to the strangeness of the situation, the plant appeared to be laughing maniacally as it tried to devour it's uncooperative feast.
Mark stood still, frozen. He didn't know what to do. He was in shock. He found himself watching Dinah's struggle with glassy eyes, as though it were some late night horror flick. Suddenly Florence handed him a sharp stick, and went racing in past him.
"Come on." She said impatiently, to his surprise running straight at the plant. He could do nothing but join her. Electra climbed up to the top of the plant, also holding a sharp stick. She pushed it furiously into the center of the pod. It seemed to try and look up, surprised if a plant could feel such an emotion. Dinah's legs still dangled from his mouth, but the struggle was getting slower. It struck Mark that there couldn't possibly be much air inside the plant's mouth.
Florence stuck her stick into what would be the plant's throat, if plants had throats. Mark struck its nose.
"Watch out!" He cried as a long vine almost wrapped itself around Florence's leg. Electra was riding the plant as though it were a bucking bronco. She tried to use her stick to pry the plant's mouth open. Mark and Florence joined this effort from below. Mark swung his stick at the plant's snout as if it were a baseball bat. Somehow he managed to cut off a sizable chunk of its leafy flesh. Whether out of surprise or pain it suddenly opened it's mouth and Dinah came tumbling out, nearly on top of Mark. He grabbed her arm. Already Florence and Electra were racing out, carefully avoiding the vines that tried to capture them in their grasp.
Dinah was wide-eyed and shaking, staring at the plant as though it were the grim reaper himself. Mark broke into a run, dragging her along with him, not at all gently. They had to get out of there. He reached the door, Dinah in tow, and turned around to see Florence using her staff to try and cut away at a thick vine that had grabbed onto Electra's tail. Finally it came loose, and the two ran for the door, hand in hand. They reached their destination, and the door slammed shut behind them, blocking the ravenous plant and its deadly tentacles. It didn't seem far enough away. Mark found himself dragging himself and Dinah into the shelter of nearby trees, plants that were far more benign than the one they had just encountered. Florence and Electra joined him breathlessly.
Mark finally had a chance to look Dinah over, who was being eerily quiet. She seemed unhurt, if a little disheveled. She was trembling violently, pale and terrified looking.
"Are you alright?" Mark asked lamely. Of course she wasn't. She had just nearly been eaten by a giant plant. Dinah's face crumbled, and her only response was a whimpering cry, that turned into a sob as Mark awkwardly wrapped his arms around her. He had never been comfortable with people crying, he could never figure out what to say or do to make them feel better. He sunk down to the ground, cradling Dinah in what he hoped was a comforting hug.
"I-it's okay…" He soothed, trying not to sound to clueless, "It's alright, you're safe now." Florence put a hand on his shoulder.
"You're doing fine." She said softly. Mark smiled at her.
"That was an amazing plan. I would have never been able to think of something that quickly." Florence gave him a wry look.
"I could tell." She paused a second, "You did a good job getting her out of there quickly." Mark grinned.
"Thanks." He said, still rocking Dinah in his arms. It was getting easier, and her trembling was becoming less pronounced. Electra got down on all fours, and gently rubbed her head up against Dinah's arm, letting out a soft purr. Florence watched this exchange, really smiling for the first time since Mark had met her.
"It was very courageous of you to climb up onto that plant Electra." Florence said. Mark nodded in agreement.
"We make a good team." He said. His companions nodded. For the first time he didn't feel like he was all alone on the island.
Where Night Is blind
The Mastermind sat watching the scene on her magic ball with a bemused look on her face. Perhaps bringing the Audrey II to her island hadn't been the best idea, no matter how nice its voice happened to be. After all, she wasn't sure exactly how a giant plant could be integrated into any musical, and it certainly didn't help to have it eating her other performers. The Mastermind sighed. This would have to be taken care of.
She closed her eyes, mentally disconnecting herself from the room around her. Colors swirled and sparkled, combining until her mind's eye had a clear view of the Theatre. Reality shimmered as her astralobe entered the room an instant before her physical body. Then she was standing in front of the great leafy monster that was the Audrey II.
The plant licked its huge lips greedily, its tentacles automatically reaching out to grab its seemingly helpless pray. A vine slowly began to wrap itself around The Mastermind's leg, deceptively gentle at first. She wrenched her leg free.
"Awww..." The Audrey II said, slowly running a vine down the Mastermind's chest, in a way that was apparently meant to be seductive, "Don't play that game with me..." The vine wrapped itself tightly around her. She started to laugh.
"I don't think so..." The plant started to crumble into it's self, leaves and vines melting away until it was a pale, pint sized version of it's former self contained in a tiny flower pot. Its lips puckered hungrily, but no words came out. The Mastermind lifted the little fly trap up so it was at face level.
"I'll play whatever game with you I wish sweetie," she said as though she were talking to a frightened puppy, "And if you're a good little plant, and promise not to eat anymore of my guests, I'll change you back to your normal size..." The plant nodded its pod furiously in agreement. The Mastermind watched this critically. "I don't believe you. At any rate, I don't see any harm in letting you stay like this for a few days." The Mastermind placed the Audrey II on the edge of the stage, and then let reality shimmer around her.
It had taken Dinah a long time to calm down. Even now, she didn't feel calm so much as merely composed. Her mind kept flashing with the image of Annie's severed foot, and the cold strangling insides of the plant's mouth. She wasn't crying anymore though, and at least she felt like she could function again. She gently untangled herself from Mark's arms, suddenly feeling very self-
conscious. She sniffled and rubbed her eyes.
"Thanks..." She said softly, wanting to say more, but not sure exactly what. Electra purred at her. "Y'all saved my life..." She gave her companions a small smile. It was strange to think that a couple of passengers and a giant cat who she had only known for less then a day had come through for her like they had, and the gratitude she felt towards them was immense. Mark smiled gently at her.
"It... was nothing." His tone was awkward but in a way Dinah found that sort of sweet. "Are you sure you're okay?" His face was so concerned... Dinah found herself smiling broadly at him. She threw her arms around him in a quick bear hug. When she pulled back she noticed he was blushing slightly. She hugged Electra next, who licked her cheek. Florence stood watching al of this, with a look of aloofness that Dinah chose to ignore. She got up, and flung her arms around the strange passenger woman. Dinah was surprised to hear Florence laugh slightly.
"What?" She asked.
"Nothing. You do seem to be feeling better..." Dinah nodded quickly.
"Now, what are we going to do about the plant..." Mark started. Dinah felt her throat tighten at the mere mention of that horrible plant. She didn't even want to think about it anymore.
"Kill it!" Electra said cheerily, picking up he stick. The end of it had been stained green. Dinah shook her head quickly. Her voice rose in fear.
"No! stay away from it... if it wants to stay in the Theatre let it, just as long as it can't get at any of us..." She paused, realizing she had grabbed rather tightly onto Florence's arm. Florence yanked her arm away. Apparently any affection between the two of them was still extremely limited. "Before... it ate a little passenger girl..." She explained, trying to sound calm, and failing miserably. She wasn't exactly sure whether or not she had liked Annie, but she had never wanted to see her or anyone devoured by a giant plant.
"Oh dear..." Florence said. Dinah nodded.
"A-and I don't know what I'd do if I had to watch it eat someone else..." She admitted. Electra sighed and put her stick down. She had wanted climb on the plant again. Dinah sat back down on the ground, leaning against a tree.
"Well, with people just appearing out of nowhere..." Mark started, "You never no if..."
"The point is, anybody could appear in that room, at anytime." Florence said logically.
"And become plant food." Mark finished, "We have to at least go see if there's something we can do about it..."
"I'm not going back in there!" Dinah said, surprising herself with how forceful she sounded.
"We never said you had to..." Mark said gently. Dinah pouted.
"I don't want to stay out here alone either..."
"No," Florence said, "I believe it would be safer if we stayed in pairs for the time being. If nothing else, this island is unpredictable." She started towards the door to the Theatre. "Mark, you're with me. Electra, you stay with Dinah." Electra plopped down next to Dinah with a sigh.
"I wanted to fight with the plant again." She complained. Florence continued to speak, ignoring the cat girl's protests.
"If at any point we require your assistance, I'm sure our screams should be more than efficient as a means of alerting you." Florence smiled wryly. Dinah felt something jump inside of her.
"Don't go in there!" She pleaded, getting up off her spot on the ground. Mark put a light hand on her shoulder.
"We'll be careful." He said quickly. With that he turned to follow Florence into the Theatre.
The Audrey II felt a warm heat coming towards him, as the light clap of feet against wood reverberated through him. He couldn't see, so much as sense, the humans coming towards him. In the midst of the battle he had had with them, he had heard the two that were approaching called Mark and Florence. Of course, this didn't really matter. It all amounted to the same thing. To him, supper was the first, last, and middle name of every human he encountered. He started to crane his stalky neck to try and get a better view of them, and then thought better of it. He was small again. His only hope was to look innocent, and hope they'd feed him. A powerless villain was a dead villain, unless he was smart.
"Where'd it go?" Mark asked, looking about him in a state of disorientation. The Theatre was once again nearly empty, no longer a malign jungle of hungry vines. Florence sighed.
"Don't tell me the Mastermind brought in a giant plant for the sole purpose of frightening Dinah, and then just sent him back to wherever the hell he came from." She complained. Mark laughed lightly.
"I guess that'd be kinda anticlimactic, huh? It couldn't have just disappeared without a trace."
"And why not?" Mark nodded, still searching the room for some sort of proof that the plant had been there at all.
"Good point" Suddenly Mark came across something he had never wanted to see. A child's foot lay surrounded by a crimson puddle of blood. "Florence... come look at this..." The woman came over quickly, and looked sick as she gazed down at the severed foot.
"We had better dispose of that before Dinah sees it. I doubt she would hold up very well under the sight." Mark nodded.
"How are we going to move it?" Mark asked.
"Pick it up." Florence suggested, elbowing Mark to indicate she expected him to do this particular task.
"But it's covered in blood..."
"I noticed." Florence's tone stared to take on an irritated edge, "Would you rather I took care of it?" Mark shook his head
"I wouldn't touch that. You never know what sort of things she could have been carrying in her blood... HIV.." Florence rolled her eyes, and reached down to pick up the child's foot. It's clammy wetness turned Florence's stomach.
"For goodness sake... I'm not queer, and I certainly don't have to worry about such an... illness." Florence said the word illness distastefully, as though she thought the disease was something far more disgusting than any mere virus could ever be.
"What does being queer have to do with anything?" Mark wondered aloud, watching Florence throw the foot beneath the stage. Florence looked at him as though she couldn't quite believe that anyone could be so daft.
"Listen, I may have taken it up with a Russian, but I can assure you I would never..."
"A Russian?" Mark questioned.
"Yes, and you may insult me however you wish for it. I can assure you I am not a communist, and..." Mark stared at Florence in a state of complete and utter confusion.
"I'm sorry... you've completely lost me." Florence let out exasperated sigh.
"So, now what?" Mark asked, purposefully changing the subject.
"I suppose we get Electra and Dinah. There don't seem to be any man eating plants in here at the moment."
"Oh Phantom..." The Mastermind shimmered into existence, "have you been considering my offer?" The masked man nodded mutely, without turning to look at her. The muscles on his back were knotted, tensed to attack. "Good." The mastermind cooed, putting a solicitous hand on his shoulder. His entire body seemed to flinch, and tighten further at her touch. "What is your decision then?" The question was asked gently, but the unspoken threat was all too obvious. He didn't have a choice.
"I'll write it." The Phantom hissed, shaking her hand off harshly. He whirled to face her, moving towards her with deadly intensity. "But if I find at any point that you have been lying I will make you sorely wish you hadn't." The Mastermind smiled at him.
"Agreed. You do as I ask you, and you will have your reward. In the meantime..." The Mastermind waved her hands. "You are above the Theatre. I have unlocked all the doors, and you are free to interact with my other guests as you wish. Or if you prefer," There was another quick motion with her hands, and a tiny crystalline globe, a perfect replica of her own magic tool appeared before The Phantom, "You may watch them through this. You will find all of your needs have been provided for. Now you must excuse me, I have a cast to assemble." With that The Mastermind was gone.
"So..." Electra said, sitting down next to Dinah, under the shade of a tree, "Are you really a train?" Dinah nodded.
"Of course... I've never been anything else." She still looked nervous, Electra noted, as if she expected to have something jump out her at anytime. In this place, that fear didn't seem to be to far fetched. Electra smiled at her.
"My friend Skimble works on the railroad." She said, unable to keep herself from staring at Dinah, "I've been there with him before, but I've never seen a train that was anything like you."
"Most of the cats I've seen are tiny things... and they never say anything but 'meow'." Electra laughed.
"Well, we don't usually speak train language! Most trains I've seen are big hunks of metal, not at all pretty like you..." Dinah blushed.
"The passengers are strange to." Dinah commented.
"You mean the humans?" Electra asked.
"I... don't know. I mean Mark and Florence."
"I mean them to. They're to tiny!" Electra exclaimed.
"To tiny? For passengers they're huge! I couldn't imagine trying to stuff something that big inside me... they'd overload me in a second!"
"You actually carry people inside of you?" Electra asked.
"Well, yes. Passengers and food."
"So you work for the humans then?" Dinah nodded. Electra's ears perked up in surprise,
"Wow... the humans work for us." She said proudly.
"Yep. They feed us, and brush us, and stroke our fur... they make adorable little pets, but they're not really smart enough to be good for anything else." Dinah nodded.
"No... I don't think I ever have met a very smart passenger! Well... Mark and Florence are a bit different I guess..." Dinah said with a slight smile.
"I know! Who'd have ever thought that humans were actually capable of intelligent thought..." Dinah giggled at Electra's comment.
Suddenly Mark and Florence were calling their names. Dinah got up quickly, nearly loosing her balance as she tried to skate over the sand.
"Oh no.." She murmured, paling considerably. Electra raced out ahead of her.
"Come on in, it's safe!" Mark's voice was a bit muffled by the door of the Theatre, but his words were unmistakable. Dinah picked up her pace as much as she could, while Electra disappeared into the Theatre.
Dinah reached the door, peaking in carefully. Florence, Mark, and Electra were standing in the middle of the room, all in one piece. There was no sign that the monstrous plant had even existed. Dinah entered slowly, still expecting the plant to suddenly jump out at her.
"Where'd it go?" Mark shrugged. Dinah smiled, glad that it was gone. Then something struck her. "But if it just came out of nowhere, and then disappeared... couldn't it come back again just as easily?"
"Possibly," Florence said, not sounding overly concerned, "We'll have to deal with that when we come to it..."
"So you do think it's coming back then?" Dinah asked. Florence sighed.
"I don't know. If it does, we'll take care of it. if it doesn't... all the better for us." Electra walked up to them, carrying something small and potted in her paws.
"Hey, look what I found!" She exclaimed, walking close enough so Mark, Florence, and Dinah could see. Inside the pot, there was a tiny venues fly trap type plant.
"What a strange and unusual plant..." Dinah said softly, leaning in to get a better look. Mark grabbed onto her arm.
"That looks like the plant..." He said. Dinah shook her head.
"But how could it be the same plant? It's not big enough..." She reached out as if to touch its tiny pod. Suddenly it shot out, snapping at her finger with alarming speed. Dinah jumped back several feet. "That's the plant!" She said quickly. Electra raised it high above her head, making as if to smash it.
"Wait!" Mark said. Electra looked confused, "Well, you can't just kill it... it's stuck here just like we are."
"It tried to eat Dinah!" Electra argued.
"Yeah!" Dinah agreed. Slowly though, her face softened a bit, "But it's so small now... and it wouldn't be fair to just kill it while it's like this. Maybe we could just... I don't know. Bring it into the woods or something?" Dinah paused for a second, looking at the tiny plant. It seemed so harmless now, but she knew it really wasn't at all, "Very far away from here..." She added quickly.
"That way if it returns to its normal size it can eat another little girl." Florence said dryly. Dinah looked as though she might cry.
"It won't really do that, will it?" She asked.
"There's no way to tell." Mark said. The plant seemed to be busying itself with trying to snap at Electra's arm. He quickly took it out of her hands, holding it far away from himself.
"So if we can't kill it, and we can't get rid of it..." Electra started.
"We'll feed it!" Dinah interrupted, "If we keep it well fed, then it won't be hungry, so it won't try to eat anyone who appears in front of it." Dinah smiled broadly, proud of having come up with such a good idea. She took the plant out of Mark's arms, resolutely heading for the theatre door. Florence rolled her eyes.
"And what exactly do you expect to feed it?" She asked, snatching the plant out of Dinah's grasp.
"Um... mettle I guess."
"Yeah. I'm mostly mettle, and it tried to eat me before so..." Dinah couldn't help but notice that once again the passengers were looking at her strangely, "What?"
"You are not made of..." Mark put a silencing hand on Florence's arm, "Never mind. We'll feed it mettle. Let's just be rid of the bloody thing." She handed the plant back to Dinah and started to walk away. When she turned to look back however, she was still standing there, holding the plant at arm's length. "What?"
"I can't go out there, remember? There aren't any tracks, and the ground's to rough..."
"Fine." Florence snatched the plant out of Dinah's grasp and headed out the door. Mark followed silently behind her.
In his silent little prison above the theatre, The Phantom watched the events below him with fierce intensity. Despite all she had done to him, the crystal ball The Mastermind had given him was a wonderful convenience. He had always been able to observe from the shadows, haunt the recesses of The Opera House, and come and go unobserved. However, despite all his talents, there was always the slightest insecurity, the tiniest chance that some how he could be captured, once again be at the mercy of the human race which he so abhorred. Now he could watch their activities with the same feeling of safety that a spectator at an opera was privileged with. Now he could despise them at a distance.
It wasn't getting him anywhere, and at any rate it was boring. He pushed the magic ball away from him just as it began to show the image of Florence walking out of the theatre door carrying a plant in her hand. The Phantom's skeleton like fists were balled, as his entire thin frame seethed with anger. They didn't even know what they were doing on the island. Never before had he seen a director quite as irresponsible than the Evil Mastermind, or a cast quite as unfit to perform his music. After all, what sort of musical could he write that would include a man eating plant, a giant cat, and a talking train, not to mention whatever else The Mastermind decided to throw into the mix? Some things needed to be taken care of, and it seemed he was the only one to do it.
"I don't understand why Florence is so mad at me all the time." Dinah pouted as she used the ramp to skate up onto the stage. She plopped down near the edge, allowing her silvery legs to dangle off the side. Electra followed, holding her long brown tail in her hands like a child holding a stuffed toy.
"Yeah." Electra agreed, "I miss having big dumb humans." She got down on all fours, stretching out so she was half lying in Dinah's lap. Dinah shifted slightly, a confused look crossing her features.
"What are you doing?" Electra got up, crossing her furry arms.
"Nothing. Your lap's to small." Dinah looked down at her lap, not seeing any sort of size deficiency.
"For?" Dinah asked.
"To sleep on." Electra said in a soft, defeated voice, "Usually when I'm at home, I sleep in my human's lap, and they stroke my fur." She crossed her legs, "But now everything's to small. There was a sound from above them, like a creature of some sort was caught up in the boards of the ceiling. Electra sat up on her hunches, and hissed warningly. A red and black shadow swiftly soared above their heads, accented by the tiniest flash of bone white. A sheet of paper came fluttering to the ground, like a single snowflake on a bright summer's day. Dinah reached out to pick it up. On it there was a short note, scrawled in frantically elegant handwriting.
"You have been selected to perform in a musical of my making. I expect that each of you will keep your voice in top condition. Further information will be supplied at a later date.
Sincerely, The O.G." Dinah read out loud. She and Electra exchanged glances.
"We're here to perform in some musical?" Electra asked, clearly confused.
"That's what it says..." Dinah glanced over the letter again, trying to verify that that was what it really said. "It's signed O.G..."
"I don't know." She looked up at the rafters, "But I have a feeling we're going to find out."
The sunset melted into the island's white sand, staining it a million different colors. Shades ranging from crimson to a creamy yellow spread across the sky, until the only colors left were black and silver, and a thick blanket of silence had settled.
The Mastermind sat calmly in her library, pouring over the world presented in the glass confines of her magic ball. Her guests were asleep, she had made sure of that. They were lying in a nearly perfect row across the stage, with Electra snuggled up close to Dinah. In the moonlight, the Mastermind's demented countenance took a sort of youthful sweetness that never showed itself during the day. She was at once mischievous pixie joined with an evil hag. She was cursed with a vision, the catalyst of all insanity.
"More characters..." She muttered under her breath, in the tone of a mad woman waking up from a fever dream, "I must have..." Suddenly many different faces were appearing before her on her magic ball. Their histories, who they were, flooded overwhelmingly through her. There were so many characters to choose from, the good, the beautiful, the strange, and the magical; they were a million brightly colored threads that made up a thousand rich tapestries. The Mastermind knew that if only she could weave them together, she could create the most beautiful thing the world had ever seen. First she needed more strands though.
"Ah, yes..." Another person appeared before the Mastermind. This man was hunched over with age. He wore rags, and his hair was stormy and wild. The Mastermind felt something jump excitedly with in her. This man, like her, had no name. He was an enigma. He was merely mysterious. In a flash he to was asleep in her Theatre.
"We were all brought here against our will by a demented old hag, who may or may not be the same as the 'O.G.' who has been sending us letters," Florence stated in a business like tone, "Apparently we are all expected to perform in a musical, and the casting will take place shortly." She looked around at her companions, "You've already met Mark. I'm Florence" She pointed to the cat girl, "That's Electra, and yes she is a giant cat. The girl standing next to her is Dinah, who believes she's a train. There's also a giant man eating Venus fly trap outside the Theatre "
"Another interesting morning." Mark said with a sigh, heading over towards Florence. From behind him he could hear Dinah telling Electra just how much she had not liked it.
Florence stood in the corner, her shoulders tensed almost angrily. A ragged man lay curled up by her feet. His hair was a wild gray, and his face was an ageless mass of wrinkles.
"Are you going to wake him up?" Mark asked. Florence shook her head mutely, her lips pursed into a scowl.
"Why? So I can meet another deranged cartoon character?" She nearly shouted. The old man shifted in his sleep, but did not awaken. Mark looked concerned.
"Florence... are you okay?" Florence gave him a strange smile.
"Yes. I've gone absolutely mad, but I'm perfectly fine."
"Nah. You're not any more crazy than the rest of us..." Mark said softly.
"Oh. That's comforting. I'm no less sane than a cat, a train, and an alien transvestite. Thank you Mark, I feel so much better." Florence retorted sarcastically. Mark shrugged.
"Sorry... That's about the best I can do right now. Maybe we'll both wake up soon and..." The sleeping man at Florence's feet whirled into motion, as he stumbled up onto crocked feet. His brown eyes seemed to sparkle, as for a moment he stared at Mark and Florence. Then he smiled a toothless smile.
"Though at first I seem a mystery," He started grandly, circling them, "I am not the strangest thing in history. And seldom does what is nefarious, initially just seem... mysterious." With that the Man scampered off, seeming to disappear beneath the stage. Florence looked just about ready to strangle someone. She turned to Mark.
"I'm going out, alone. I'll be in the woods if anyone needs me..." She started towards the Theatre door. Mark made as if to follow. "Alone."
"I thought we decided that we were going to stay in pairs..."
"I don't care!" Mark could do nothing but watch her go.
The Phantom approached The Mastermind, no hint of caution in his steady gait. He frowned beneath his mask, allowing the thin sheet of whitewashed plastic to hide his inner fury, even as his façade of composure was becoming even thinner.
"I have informed our guests of why they have been taken here Madam." He said in an even tone.
"I know." Was the Mastermind's only response.
"I assumed as much. And exactly how many more do you intend to capture? The Mastermind grinned, seemingly finding something very amusing about this question.
"Many! Very many. You can plan on a large cast."
"I see." The Phantom growled.
"Any suggestions?" The Mastermind flicked her wrist, and suddenly she was holding her magic ball. "I think I can make the cast very interesting for you my dear. Look close now." The ball was thrust at the Phantom's masked face, where it stayed suspended in the empty air before him. For a moment a smiling face appeared on it, then it shattered into a thousand bright stars against the wall.
"You don't want Christine?" The Mastermind asked innocently. The Phantom's voice suddenly became as twisted as his face, as a thousand emotions swarmed dangerously out towards The Mastermind.
"I don't want to see her pulled from her home, so she can perform like a monkey for your demented entertainment!" Her yelled maliciously enough to make even The Mastermind back away. He turned his back on her, his fists tightly bawled. The Mastermind, suddenly filled with rage, gripped his shoulders tightly.
"And do you think you have any say in who I bring to my island for my musical?"
"Christine is off limits."
"Oh is she?" The Mastermind sneered.
"Yes." The Mastermind let out a growl like a rabid wolf. A great bolt of thunder rocked the entire building. The wind began to howl outside as if were trying to tear the island apart, and rain spattered above them with the strength of silver bullets. Now it was The Phantom's turn to back away.
"I will not allow you to harm her. If she is brought here, then there will be nothing you can do to make me write your musical."
"Is that what you think?" The Phantom merely nodded, full of quiet intensity. The Mastermind's face contorted in blind rage, as she gestured to her ruined magic ball. The shattered glass swirled around the room, like a swarm of angry hornets, before finally recollecting into their normal smooth shape. With another gesture, a huge organ appeared, suspended over The Phantom's head. To The Mastermind's displeasure, he did not try to scramble away, or even move to protect himself. "Aren't you going to run?"
"No." The Mastermind just starred at The Phantom for a moment, then she let out a furious holler. The Organ came crashing to the ground, but not on top of The Phantom. "You... you just play your organ! Now!" The Phantom simply walked over to the Organ, and began to play, his magical music accenting the sounds of the storm outside. The Mastermind spun, and then she was no longer standing before him. Reality shimmered crimson.
Florence raced through the woods, not caring where she was going, or heading the thorns that stung her ankles. All she wanted was a little sanity, and all she could find was an endless wood. It was beautiful and wild, like a corrupted Garden Of Eden. There was no escape in sight. Finally Florence stopped, as the trees cleared and she reached the beach. This was not the time to run through the trees like one possessed. She sat down by the tranquil ocean, with a soft sigh. There was nothing she could do but wait for the situation to change and make the best of it while she had to. With that realization the sky opened above her, and a dark rain came pouring out of the once sunny heavens, soaking Florence in less than a second. Thunder ripped through the sky, and the water in front of her was no longer calm.
Florence hardly had time to scramble away as a gigantic wave tried to swallow her up. Suddenly the beach was no longer a safe place to be. She did the only thing she could do. She returned to the woods, and began to make her way back towards the only shelter she had found on this island. The trees seemed to have come alive, as the wind blew them every which way, some even being uprooted in the tempest. Florence broke into a run, as the forest darkened to pitch black, moving swiftly and blindly. Then light and sound flashed instantaneously besides her, and the entire forest was illuminated by flames.
Electra let out a frightened meow as the sky above the Theatre let out a loud rumbling, like the stomach of a hungry pollicle. She leapt behind one of the chairs, trying to hide from the terrifying sound, but it only became louder. All of her fur stood on end, as she huddled in the growing darkness.
Dinah and Mark both followed after the cat girl, and Dinah got there first. She quickly gathered Electra into her arms, rocking her back and forth comfortingly. Electra cried softly, and snuggled in as close to Dinah as she could. Dinah just kept her arm's tightly wrapped around her, feeling terrified tremors run up through her with each new blast of thunder.
"Shhh..." Dinah whispered, "It's gonna be okay sweetie. Mark and I are right here, we wont let you rust..." Dinah continued to speak soothingly to Electra, smiling as she relaxed into her arms. Electra slowly began to feel calmer, even though she hardly understood half of what Dinah was saying. Somehow the words coming from her beautiful train friend didn't have to make sense to be comforting. Electra purred, and hugged Dinah tightly, surprised to find herself hoping she would never let go.
"It looks like a hurricane out there..." Mark said worriedly, looking out the window. With each new gust of wind, the seemingly thin glass threatened to shatter in his face. Dinah nodded, also wearing a look of concern.
"Florence is out there." She said softly, meeting Mark's gaze in the darkness.
"I know." Mark paused, looking at the door. "I've got to go out and look for her."
"But... but you can't!" Dinah said, "You're not going out there alone... you won't stand a chance in this sort of wind."
"I have to try!"
"Not unless we all go! We decided that nobody was going to be left alone anymore." Dinah argued.
"But you can't with your..." suddenly they were interrupted, as The Mysterious Man came scrambling out from beneath the stage, past Dinah and Electra, past Mark, and out the door.
"You wait here!" he announced, with a toothless grin, "I'll find all who need finding." With that he disappeared into the woods.
Florence spun around, trying to escape the flames that reached out closer and closer towards her. There was no hole in the great firewall that surrounded her. She was stuck. The rain, rather than extinguishing the flames seemed to feed them, and it was so dark. Florence shivered, a sort of desperation running through her. She had to escape, but how? Then a knurled hand wrapped itself around her own.
"Follow me..." A swift voice said, then she was being dragged away, straight towards the flames. She tried to pull away, but the old man who pulled her was surprisingly strong. "Just come, just follow..." He was saying hurriedly. Florence had no choice but to obey. Soon she was weaving through the flames as if guided by an angel, with each movement barely avoiding having her skin scorched off her bones. She squinted, as a spark nearly flew in her eyes, and like everything else it was nearly avoided. Smoke filled her lungs instead of air, but she kept pace with her strange guide until she was safely out of the flames.
Florence's knees sank deeply into the rain soaked ground as she fell in a fit of coughing. Desperately her lungs tried to expel the smoke she has inhaled, even as she inhaled more from the fire that was burning so close behind her. Suddenly The Mysterious Man was pushing her up to her feet.
"Go!" He yelled, but before she could turn to look at him, he was gone without a trace. Florence unthinkingly stumbled to her feet, running haphazardly in the direction she hoped the theatre was in.
Frank glared at Electra warningly. He was soaked, dripping wet from head to toe. Dinah skated coldly to the other side of the room, Electra following her. Mark was the only one who stayed to great Frank.
"Quite a storm we're having out there..." He said nonchalantly, with out even tearing his gaze away from the stormy window to look at Frank.
"Obviously!" Was Frank's haughty reply. "I trust you're going to provide me with some towels and..." Mark sighed.
"Listen, does it look like we have any towels... or anything for that matter?" Mark said, looking round the dark theatre, "We didn't exactly have time to pack before we were brought here..."
"Florence!" Mark was interrupted by Dinah's ecstatic cry. Florence entered the theatre, soaking wet and coughing violently. Soon Mark, Dinah, and Electra were standing around her.
"You're soaked..." Mark said sympathetically.
"What happened?" Dinah asked, gently pulling Florence further into the protective warmth of the theatre.
"A fire..." Florence gasped between hacking coughs. Dinah patted her back as she doubled over in another fit of coughing. Mark took off his shirt and quickly wrapped it around her dripping shoulders. Frank cleared his throat dramatically, forcing his way into the little circle around Florence. He snatched Mark's shirt away from her, using it to dry his own leather clad body.
"That's not yours!" Dinah yelled, trying to pull the shirt away from him, "and you can't have it!"
Then she noticed the look in Frank's eyes, and did the first thing that came to mind. She ran.
The Mastermind watched the events that unfolded in her magic ball with her arms crossed and an angry snarl on her lips. First there had been the fire. Truly that was her own fault, but it irked her to see two more of her guests nearly be killed. This just wouldn't do. She willed herself to appear before them.
"You will NOT act this way!" She shouted before reality even solidified.
"Hey Florence... is she The Mastermind you were talking about?" Dinah whispered, interrupting The Mastermind's menacing speech.
"You shut up!" The Mastermind ordered. Then she turned to Florence, "And you never, ever go out into one of my storms again, foolish woman!" She waved a hand, and Florence was once again her dry, stately self. Her coughing fits also ceased. "Now I fully expect you to behave... all of you! You have a musical to perform in, and I expect everyone to be in top condition. If you want to kill each other after the show, by all means do so. And somebody take that plant in out of the rain." The Mastermind blinked out of the room with a furious growl, returning to her own little study.
"Idiots." She muttered to herself. They were like children who just couldn't behave. She had expected a docile group, interested in performing and not much out. Now she was finding that their interactions were a drama in themselves, that constantly switched from being intriguing, to being trying. Beings such as these had never existed in her world, and whether they were meant to or not she was going to bring in more.
"What was that all about?" Mark whispered, as he followed Florence through the woods. The rain had stopped for the most part, but the ground seemed to be one thick soup of mud. Water still dripped from the over hanging foliage.
"She's a very disturbed woman, with to much power." Was Florence's response, "The dangerous type."
"You believe we're really here?" Mark asked. Florence shook her head despairingly.
"I don't know. There was a fire in the woods... flame surrounding me. I almost died. It felt real." Mark reached out to take her hand, real sympathy written on his face. Florence jerked her hand away, shaking her head.
"So your life's a game of chess, huh?" Florence nodded in an agreement. "What's it now that you're here?"
"A game of chess."
"How do you figure?"
"Chess is a very complicated game." Florence stopped as they reached the little clearing where they had deposited the plant. "Lets just get the plant and get back to the theatre. There's no telling what sort of trouble Dinah and Electra will get into while we're goner." Mark made a face.
"I'm not sure I want to know." Florence just took the plant under her arms, and started to walk back towards the theatre.
Stranger To The Rain
1Dinah lay tiredly in the semi-darkness of the theatre, afraid to close her eyes. The combination of a train eating plant had been enough to keep her awake for the last four nights since she had come to the island. It seemed that every time she closed her eyes she would open them again. Somebody shifted nearby her.
"Mark?" She whispered under her breath. The passenger's response was muddled and unclear. "Are you awake?"
"How come?" Dinah got up and scooted in a little closer to Mark, hoping they could talk with out disturbing anybody. Mark seemed hesitant to answer.
"Is he awake right now?" Dinah asked.
"I wouldn't know." Mark shifted into a sitting position. Dinah looked around, seeing only shadows in the darkness.
"Dinah?" A sleepy voice called.
"Electra? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up." Dinah relaxed slightly as Electra crawled over and curled up against her.
"The closest I've ever met are electric engines, and those as a rule aren't very sweet." Dinah said.
"I'll keep that in mind when I'm buying train tickets." Mark's voice was extremely tired, as if it would fade completely any minute.
"You go to sleep." Dinah whispered, "I'll keep watch for now."
"Me too." Said a soft voice, slightly muffled by Dinah's arm.
"And Electra too." Dinah added. Mark didn't reply. "I think he's already asleep." Dinah said. Electra shifted against her.
"I don't usually sleep at night. That's a human thing." Electra did indeed sound more alert.
"My engine usually does his runs during the day, so we sleep at night."
"Is your engine like you?" Electra asked. Dinah laughed lightly.
"Of course not! He's an engine, and I'm a coach. Big difference."
"So he's not a talking train person?" Dinah was momentarily confused by this question.
"Well... yes. I've never met a train that didn't talk. What I mean is instead of having a space inside him to carry people, he has a lot of diesel fuel." Electra wrinkled her nose. She had smelled diesel fumes coming from a gas station near the junkyard before. It wasn't nice stuff at all.
"Why would he want to carry that inside of him?"
"Well, it makes him go very fast, and he can pull a lot of coaches..."
"Ah." Electra said. It was evident from her tone of voice that she didn't quite get it. "Does the food inside you make you go fast and pull things too?" Dinah laughed again.
"No!" She said, between giggles, "Off course not! Coaches don't have their own source of power. Instead they have to find themselves the right engine to pull them around. I found Greaseball."
"Do you like Greaseball?" Electra asked.
"I love him." Dinah said dreamily. For a several long minutes Electra was completely silent. Then Dinah heard a muffled sob.
"Electra?" Dinah's voice was nearly dripping with concern, "What's wrong?" Electra didn't reply for a long time. She hardly knew what was wrong herself. All she knew was that she didn't want Dinah to love this Greaseball... whoever he was. She just wished she knew why.
"I... want to go home." Electra managed to say through her tears. She felt Dinah's arms tighten comfortably around her.
"I know." Dinah whispered gently, "I know..."
The Phantom was nearly buried in papers, as one beautiful composition after another was thrown into the heap besides him. His music was his magic. He knew he could write music that could make hearts soar or stones weep. The only problem was writing music that his randomly assembled group of performers could actually sing. He had yet to hear a single note from any of their mouths, but somehow he found it difficult not to doubt their skill. That and he was still waiting for the Mastermind to finish bringing performers, and get to work on the story of his musical. She would write the lyrics, and the plot was hers. She was very adamant on these two points. The casting would be a joint effort.
He sighed, rising gracefully to his feet. Though the doors had never been locked, he couldn't help but feel he was in a prison. He could observe as he chose through the little crystal ball he had been given, but he couldn't participate, even in the hidden way he had back at his opera house. It had taken him years to forge the trap doors, and hidden halls that were his entrance into the liar of the human race. Here he had only his room, and the open spaces he loathed so much.
Reality shimmered. In an instant The Mastermind was standing before him, a length of paper in her hands.
"Ah, Phantom!" She stepped over to him as naturally as if he had been a handsome young pupil of hers. There was something very unnerving about her complete lack of fear.
"What is it now?" The Phantom growled.
"I think it is time a brought in my final batch of performers." The Phantom looked up at her through his mask.
"Your final batch?" He questioned hopefully.
"You sound so excited!" The Mastermind commented. When she didn't receive a reply, she continued, "A rather large batch I think, but my final batch. I'll be better able to create my story when I know what I'm working with." The Phantom nodded.
"And how does this concern me?" He questioned. The Mastermind just laughed.
"My dear partner..." She started
"I am not your partner, in any sense of the word Madam."
"Would you rather be my enemy then?" An opaque image of Christine flashed before The Phantom's eyes warningly.
"No." He said, "I think not."
"Good." The Mastermind let that word hang in the air for several ominous moments before continuing. "As I was saying, I've come to ask your opinion on who I should bring into my musical."
"My opinion," The Phantom said coldly, "Is that you do not bring in another person, and you send your prisoners home right away." The Mastermind continued as though she hadn't heard him speak.
"Well, I want to bring in another train person..."
"Is that really necessary?" The Phantom was beginning to consider Dinah to be one of the single most annoying people he had ever been cursed to have to observe. He certainly had no desire to see another one of her running around.
"Yes. Now, I either want to bring in Greaseball... he's a..."
"He and Dinah are close." The Phantom interjected, remembering a conversation he had observed just the previous evening.
"Yes, I believe so." The Mastermind agreed.
"Leave him where he is." The Phantom said shortly. The last thing he wanted to watch unfold was the sickeningly sweet reunion of two lovers, a reminder of what he could never have. "What is the other choice?"
"Well, I was considering bringing in a sweet little steam engine... Rusty I believe." The Phantom didn't seem particularly interested.
"As you wish."
"He's on my list then. Now, there's also a young lady named Mimi..."
"What are her qualifications?" The Phantom asked in a business like tone.
"She's a dancer."
"Very well. Dancers may be necessary." The Mastermind grinned, with the air of a little kid in a candy shop. There were so many wonderful characters she wanted to share with The Phantom.
"You should be proud of me. I researched this well." The only answer she received was icy silence. "Maybe another cat..."
"Absolutely not." The Phantom ordered.
"But..." The Mastermind argued.
"We do not need another cat!"
"It's my musical, and if I want another cat..." The Mastermind seemed ready to hurl her magic ball in The Phantom's face.
"Then you obviously don't value my opinion on our musical."
"I'm bringing in another cat! Now, You can choose between either Victoria or Sillabub. Both are friends of Electra's." The Phantom didn't respond. The Mastermind's face contorted in anger. "Which do you prefer?" Still no answer. "Fine. I choose Victoria then. It's to bad, you just lost a lovely voice in Sillabub." The Phantom remained silent. "And... and I'm also bringing in a young lady by the name of Eponine. And... um..." Suddenly in the face of The Phantom's silence, The Mastermind felt all her well planned thoughts falling to shreds. She drew two names from the depths of her mind, "And the servant girl Yonah... and... and Amos...." Finally she went silent, her list fully constructed. "What do you think of that Phantom?" The Phantom, once again didn't respond. "It's your musical too!" She shouted indignantly.
"It is not one of my choosing."
"Then make it one of your choosing! You are my partner in..." The Phantom's cold stare was enough to silence The Mastermind, at least momentarily.
"If your plan was to make a partner of me, don't you think imprisoning and torturing me into submission was a bit of a poor start?" The Phantom laughed humorlessly. "While I am still your slave, I can never be your partner." The Mastermind just stared at him, before disappearing from the room in a shimmer of blind rage.
Mark stretched, and yawned in his half sleep. The beginnings of sunshine were just beginning to creep through the windows of the theatre, alerting its occupants to the coming morning. Florence was the first one fully awake, as she usually was.
"Mark?" Mark moved into a sitting position, fishing around the floor besides him for his glasses. Florence had to stifle a laugh. In the early morning light he was a bedraggled mess.
"Did I sleep through any disasters last night?" He asked.
"Not to my knowledge." Florence moved closer to him, "But I have a plan." Marked rubbed his eyes sleepily.
"It's to early in the morning for plans."
"Not for this one. It might just get us out of here." It was obvious Florence was excited, if only by the prospect of leaving.
"Okay..." Mark prompted, feeling more awake.
"We can start a small fire on the beach, and make sure it never goes out. Then if a ship or..."
"You're just thinking of this now?" Mark asked. Florence, for once, did not have a quick answer, "Listen, I haven't seen a single plane, boat... anything pass this island. Even if one did, this isn't a normal situation. This place is..." Mark paused, searching for the right word, "Magic."
"So I've noticed." Florence agreed, "But we have to try." Mark looked at Florence, so desperate beneath her calm façade. He couldn't do anything but agree with her.
"Good... we can go start it now if you like. You and I can be in charge of watching it for today." Florence said. Mark glanced around the theatre. Dinah and Electra lay asleep, close to one another as always. The plant sat still and silent in the corner of the room. Its leaves were drooping weakly. Dinah's diet of fruit and odd metal pieces didn't seem to be doing anything for it.
"And what about tomorrow?" Mark asked, with another glance around the theatre.
"Dinah and Electra. They may be insane, but I'm fairly certain they're trustworthy maniacs."
"Okay." Mark agreed, "What do you say we leave the others out of this?"
"Definitely." Florence got to her feet. "Lets get going then."
The Mastermind sat still and silent in her library, her magic ball dim before her. She had been up through the night, not watching her guests, not bringing more in, but thinking. She enjoyed having prisoners, and pets for her own amusement. That's what her guests were in essence. She was fond of them, true, but her fondness was that that a master might feel towards a litter of dimwitted puppies. The Phantom was not that to her, nor did she want him to be her slave. She wanted an equal, in at least intellect if not power. The Phantom was that, but he despised her. She didn't understand it.
She picked up her ball, gazing into it deeply. The caked face of Eponine appeared, showing the unlucky gamine singing her final love song.
"The Phantom bid me leave you be." She whispered into her magic ball as the girl's life waned. The Mastermind shook her head. The Phantom would hate her no matter what she did, even if she let him leave the island now. She watched as Eponine sang her final note, and her eyes closed in ever lasting sleep. She waved her hand, taking her dead body out of the picture, and setting it down gently on her own little beach. As an after thought she willed life into the corpse, readying it to perform.
She would bring in who she chose.
Next was the steam train Rusty. Dinah would be pleased to see him, The Mastermind thought. She willed him to appear in her theatre, and then moved on to the next person without a second thought.
Amos, a black leather clad youth upon a motor cycle. He was nothing special, but somehow he still intrigued The Mastermind. He was too sure of himself. He would be interesting to watch. Him she placed in her forest, to find his own way.
The Mastermind sighed. Why was this no longer exciting? Each new guest increased her feeling of hopelessness. Perhaps she had too much power over them. With a single wave she brought in the other three she had been planning to. Yonah, Victoria, and Mimi all appeared together, in the middle of her forest. The Mastermind set down her ball, and let it go blank. Letting out an angry yell, she threw it against the wall with all her strength. This wasn't right.
Yonah glanced around her in complete confusion. Noah's comfortable little home had been replaced by a vast and wild forest. How or why she did not know. Had she angered The Father some how? Habitually she reached out to touch the small marking on her forhead that labeled her as a daughter of the cursed race of Cain. The Father's wrath was not difficult to come by for her type. But what could she have done, besides the inherent sin of being born?
She would have pondered this further, but she quickly realized that she was not alone. Standing besides her was a snow white animal. She seemed more than vaguely cat-like, but her tall bipedal appearance made her an oddity. Surely Noah had yet to find a creature such as her to travel on his arch! Also staring at the cat-thing in obvious confusion, was a lovely Hispanic girl. Her outfit was sleek and tightly revealing, in contrast to Yonah's own modest servant garb.
The white cat was the first to break their frozen stance. She regarded each of them in turn, her posture poised and regal, before scampering behind a tree like a frightened squirrel.
"Okay... what rabbit hole did I just crawl into..." The girl sat down by a tree, looking extremely dazed. Yonah was the only one who stood her ground. She had been through enough in her life that not much scared her. This didn't mean she wasn't troubled and confused... she was. She just knew how to take it in stride.
"Excuse me, Miss?" Yonah made sure to keep her eyes averted. She did not know this girl, and she didn't want to offend her. The girl just looked up at Yonah as if she couldn't possibly be real.
"You don't know where we are, do you?" Judging from her appearance, Yonah suspected she would not. A quick shake of her head confirmed this. "Would you take it amiss if I asked your name?" Another shake of the head.
"I'm..." The girl paused, "Lost, very, very lost..." Yonah offered her a hand tentatively.
"I'm Yonah." She said softly. The girl wasn't looking at her forehead. That gave Yonah at least a little security. "Of the race of Cain." She added. She paused. The girl did not comment, or even look disgusted by the admission. Indeed, she seemed to barely comprehend it. "Servant to Noah."
"Uh-huh.." Her companion still seemed stunned, but she stood up anyway. "I'm.. they call me Mimi." She smiled ever so slightly. Slowly the white cat began to creep out from behind her tree.
"Sweet heavyside..." She muttered under her breath, staring at Yonah and Mimi as if they were monsters. Perhaps to her they were.
"Hey! You talk!" Mimi sounded surprised. The white cat backed away a bit, her tail swishing back and forth nervously.
"You... you understand!" The cat said. "And you're tiny." She crept a little closer, apparently picking up courage.
"Do you know how we got here?" Yonah asked evenly. The white cat shook her head. Somehow Yonah had been expecting that. "Who are you?"
"Victoria..." The cat whispered. For all her boldness she was still very young, and frightened. Yonah just nodded, not knowing what to say or do. Her randomly assembled group of companions seemed to be in a similar state.
Then a crocked old man burst out of the trees. Yonah jumped despite herself. Victoria's fur stood on end.
"Who are you?" Mimi asked. The old man's eyes twinkled.
"Though I mayseem out of place, I'm not the strangest in this space. If you think the only mystery is me, then follow now and you shall see!" The Mysterious Man seemed to nearly leap in the air, and then he ran off into the woods. "Come on!" He called. Yonah broke into a jog behind him, and the other two followed her example.
"Your actually gonna follow him?" Mimi whispered from besides Yonah. She merely shrugged.
"I want to see where he is going."
Before Dinah even opened her eyes, she could tell something was wrong. As usual, Electra was snuggled close against her, with her head cushioned against her chest. However, someone else was lying close on her other side. She sprang up into a sitting position, effectively tackling the man who lay next to her.
"You! I thought I told you to stay away from me!" She snarled.
"Rusty!" Dinah exclaimed, giving him the biggest hug ever. Rusty's eyes went large, as he looked around him in confusion.
"Dinah?" He pulled away, "What are you doing here?"
"I'm being forced to perform in a musical for some Evil Mastermind-O.G-thing."
"What are you doing here?"
"I... don't know." The steam engine looked as if he might cry. "Where's Pearl?" Dinah took one look at him and had to hug him again.
"Not here I don't think." She said sympathetically. At that moment Electra woke up. Her eyes widened as she saw Dinah hugging some strange man, with wheels like hers. She leapt upwards.
"Is that him?" She asked frantically, "Is he Greaseball?" Rusty made at face at this.
"Um... no..." He said, pulling away from Dinah. Electra relaxed slightly.
"Rusty, this is Electra..." Dinah introduced calmly.
"He's changed..." Rusty said, looking at the sweet furred creature in front of him. She was certainly not the haughty electric engine he knew.
"Huh?" Electra crawled closer to Dinah and Rusty, looking confused.
"Not that Electra." Dinah clarified, "This one's a friend." Electra smiled at Rusty as if to verify this. Dinah sighed, and got to her feet. She skated up onto the stage, and gestured for Rusty to follow.
"We'd better start getting you settled in." She said softly.
"I've been here six days now. I don't know when... or if we're going to ever get to leave. I can show you around at least.
Florence led the way down the vast stretch of beach. In the morning's light the ocean water shimmered invitingly. It really was beautiful. Only a complete fool wouldn't see that. Florence, however, wanted nothing more than to leave the island and the beach behind.
"I don't suppose you know how to start a fire using two rocks?" She asked, in her typical clipped tone. Mark shook his head no. "Well, I'm in bad company then."
"You don't know how to either?"
"I haven't the faintest idea." Florence said, all the while searching for a suitable clearing to house their little blaze.
"We'll figure something out." Mark assured her.
"No doubt." For a long time both were silent, searching the beach like children on a treasure hunt. Unfortunately, their search yielded little results.
Reality shimmered. In the distance something appeared that looked more like a heap of rough brown cloth than a person. Mark stepped a few feet closer, with Florence following behind him. Even as he approached the thing, it still didn't take on the appearance of a living creature. Rather it was a ragged old coat, with a greasy mess of brown hair protruding from it. Mark exchanged glances with Florence, before kneeling down besides the fallen creature. Now he could see that the old coat was more than just tattered and torn. It was the crimson color of shed blood. He gently moved it, so that they could see it's face. Florence gasped slightly.
The disgusting heap they had found seemed to transform, as if by magic, into a beautiful woman. Her face was deathly pale where it wasn't caked in dirt and grime. It looked as though she hadn't washed in weeks, and she was so thin that Mark couldn't help but think of those sponsor a child commercials he had seen on TV. However, despite all this, her face was smiling and she had the loveliness of a fallen angel.
"She looks ill." Florence said. Mark reached out behind her neck, searching for her pulse. He skin was frigid beneath his fingers.
"More than ill."
"You mean she's..." Mark's nod confirmed the worst of her fears even before she had the opportunity to voice them. Mark respectfully moved the body so it was lying flat out on the sand. He was about to walk away, when the corpse's thick lashes parted to reveal a pair of pale brown eyes. The only person more surprised than Mark was the ragged girl herself. She stared at him briefly, before scrambling up into a defensive sitting position.
"You stay back! You hear?" She ordered in a trembling voice. She had a distinctly French accent. She looked around her as if searching for something she could use to fend Mark off.
"Easy." Mark soothed, holding his hands above his head in compliance, "Nobody's gonna to hurt you..."
"Then your planning on turning me into that rat Javert, eh?" Mark shook his head confused. "Then what do you want of me? I can tell you that you ain't going to be receivin' any of it." The girl tried to get to her feet, stumbled as if dizzy, and quickly found herself back on the ground. She glanced down at herself, her eyes widening as she saw her tattered old jacket was stained with blood. "I'm dead..." She whispered, clearly stunned.
"You were." Florence agreed.
"Your not anymore." Mark added, kneeling protectively over her. "Who are you?"
"I'm Mark, and this is Florence." Mark gestured to himself and his companion in turn. "Do you think you can walk?" When Eponine shook her head no, Mark gently lifted her up in his arms. She didn't protest. She was every bit as light as Mark had expected her to be, a bag of bones hidden beneath a long coat.
"I think we're going to have to wait on the fire." Mark said. Florence nodded in disdainful agreement. "We're going to take you back to the theatre." Mark explained. For a long time Eponine was silent in his arms. Finally she spoke in a soft, mesmerized tone.
"Monsur , is this heaven or hell?"
Amos's motorcycle devoured up the road beneath him, reaching similarly inhuman speeds. In the quiet of the little town he was James Dean, young, rebellious, beautiful. Then suddenly everything changed, and he was flying through the sky instead of over an open highway. He came to a painful stop in the midst of a large green bush. Several furred creatures chattered indignantly at having a clumsy human land in their home. Amos simply looked around, stunned.
As much as he had always wanted to his sleepy little town behind him, he had never imagined the wild vista stretched out before his eyes. He had also never considered teleportation as his mode of travel. All in all, the situation was rather unnerving.
"Hello!" He called out as loudly as he could. "Is anybody out there?" The only answer he received was the sudden silence of the chirping birds around him. He growled, and began to work at untangling himself from the bush he was in. It seemed the more he fought, the harder it got to move. He muttered a few profanities under his breath, before calling for help in a louder tone. Still no response.
"Help!" Mimi looked up at her mysterious guide in confusion.
"Hey, didja hear that?" She asked. The old man's eyes twinkled merrily. Mimi couldn't help but thinking that he looked like some sort of cross between Santa Claus and a goblin.
"All that need finding will be found!" He said cheerfully, not even pausing in his speedy gait.
"I believe the cry came from that way." Yonah said meekly, indicating the opposite direction. The mysterious man paid no attention to her. She didn't complain. She merely followed, keeping her head bowed low. There was an odd little mark on her forehead, Mimi noted, that she seemed to be trying to hide.
They soon arrived at a lovely, ornate, building in the midst of the wilderness. The Mysterious man gestured to it, and then scampered back into the woods, seeming to disappear behind the trees.
"Well... I guess he wants us to go inside?" Mimi looked at her two companions. They were certainly strange, and she didn't know anything about them, but there was some small comfort in not being alone in this situation. Yonah nodded, almost eagerly.
"But... how do we know it's safe in there?" Victoria asked.
"Do you wish for me to go in first?" Yonah offered.
"Yes, please..." Victoria backed away several feet from the door. Mimi found something infuriating about that. There was no reason that Yonah should have to face the unknown by herself. She stepped up besides her, as she swung the door open.
The scene with in with definitely a strange one, though not clearly dangerous.. Behind the roller-skating girl stood an oddly dressed man, also in skates, and a black and tan cat person. Behind them there was a huge stage.
Yonah took a cautious step inside, and was nearly run over by Victoria.
"Electra!" The white cat ran out to meet her friend, skidding to a stop a few feet away from her, as she seemed to remember her composure. "I didn't think I'd see anyone I knew here. Please tell me you know were we are, and how we're going to get back to the junkyard..." Before Electra could answer, the theatre door opened, allowing in three more people.
"Florence! Mark!" The wheeled girl skated up to meet them. She glanced down to see what Mark was carrying in his arms.
"Hey Dinah...could you..." Mark started. Now it was Mimi's turn to leave Yonah's side.
"Mark?" She asked, stepping out to meet her friend, "Who's that?" She gestured to the girl he was carrying in his arms.
"Mimi! She... I..."
"My gosh, the Mastermind's at it again!" The Dinah interrupted, looking around her at all the new faces.
"Mastermind?" Mimi questioned.
"What Mastermind?" Victoria asked from her place besides Electra.
"The evil one!" Electra explained eagerly.
"Don't you mean the O.G.?" Dinah corrected.
"What O.G.?!" Frank asked indignantly. He walked over to Dinah, taking her arm possessively.
"O.G.?" Mimi echoed.
"Don't touch me!" Dinah yanked her arm out of Frank's grasp.
"Yeah, don't touch Dinah!" Electra stepped up besides her, and Victoria followed.
"WHAT'S GOING ON?!" Yonah suddenly yelled loud enough to be heard over the myriad conversations. For a moment there was absolute silence. Yonah bowed her head, abashed, refusing to look at anyone.
"Oh for pity's sake..." Florence muttered, breaking the quiet. "Everyone please sit down... we'll get everything straightened out." For a long time nobody moved. Then Mark sat down in one of the red velvet chairs, gently setting the girl he was carrying down next to him. Dinah and Electra followed the suite, also sitting near Mark. Slowly the rest of the group began to file into the chairs. Florence sat down on the edge of the stage, watching the group in front of her uncertainly. "Mark? Would you join me?" She said with calmness didn't betray her inner turmoil. Mark glanced at the girl he had been carrying, and then at Dinah.
"You'll watch her?" He whispered. Dinah nodded trustingly.
"Of course." Dinah agreed. Mark took his place besides Florence.
"Alright then," Florence started, "there are two possibilities here. One is that we are all dreaming, in which case nothing I say or do here matters anyway. The other, is that we are awake, and this is real. In either case, you are all probably wondering what's going on." Florence glanced over at Mark. It was his turn to speak.
"Yeah... and.. um,... here's what's going on. We're on an island. It's small, and wild, and.. we think magic." Somebody in the crowd chuckled, as if finding this to absurd to believe. "Anyway, we think it's run by this woman, with super powers, who disappears and stuff like that."
"We've been calling her The Mastermind." Florence added, "And we believe she is the one responsible for taking all of us out of our homes and bringing us here. Dinah and Electra," As she said this Florence gestured to each of them in turn, "Have also found a note stating that we are here to perform in a musical. It was signed 'O.G.'"
"And... yeah... that's just about all we know." Mark finished. Florence nodded stepping down off the stage.
"We are, however, working on a plan of escape." Florence said, looking once more out over her strange audience, before silently walking over to join Dinah and Electra.
"We're gonna have to work together, and hopefully get through this." Mark said, before he to left the stage.
Amos tried to brush himself off, having finally managed to untangle himself from the bush. He was a mess, and he was lost, and he hated it. He was free now, but what he was going to do with this freedom was beyond him. He would have to explore, see what sort of situation he was really in.
Suddenly, seemingly out of know where, came a tiny bowlegged old man. He gestured for Amos to follow him. Amos looked at him skeptically.
"Who the hell are you?" Amos asked. The Mysterious Man merely smiled.
"It doesn't matter. Come with me!" With that he was running off into the woods. The Mysterious Man didn't stop until he realized that Amos was not making any move to follow him. Indeed, he was just standing around looking confused. The Mysterious Man cocked his head to one side.
"You're not planning on following, eh?" He asked.
"Why would I want to follow some creepy old geezer?" Amos asked, turning away defiantly. The Mysterious Man chuckled.
"Because, son, perhaps he'll help you find your way."
"Well, I ain't your son, and I can find my own way." Amos turned to walk away, but The Mysterious Man stopped him.
"Ah, then you get on well with man eating plants." The Mysterious Man said. Then he started to scamper away from Amos.
"Man eating plants?" Amos asked, trying not to let his nervousness show through. For moment the old man was silent.
"Anything can happen in the woods." He said enigmatically.
"But, have you seen these man eating plants?"
"The question is, have they seen me?" The Mysterious Man was plainly amused.
"Not funny geezer!" Amos advanced threateningly towards The Mysterious Man. "Now tell me what the hell is going on here! Where am I?" The Mysterious Man gestured grandly around him.
"The woods." He answered. Amos muttered under his breath. "Nobody ever learned anything standing around here. Now follow me!" With that The Mysterious Man raced away. Amos waited until he was almost out of sight, and than ran after him.
The soft buzz of many voices echoed through the theatre as its occupants made their introductions, talked, gripped, and planned possible routes of escape. Some however, were completely silent. Yonah sat in one corner of the theatre, silently observing everyone. Eponine was also quiet, as she slept with her head resting against Mark's shoulder.
"Do you know what happened to her?" Dinah asked quietly, so as not to wake Eponine. Electra was near Dinah as always, and the train girl seemed to have gained another kitten follower in Victoria. Mark shook his head in negation.
"No, she was like this when I found her on the beach. I didn't think to ask her."
"She looks like she was shot!" Victoria piped in, seeming horrified at the thought.
"I looked her over." Mark said, "The blood's there, but I don't see any bullet wounds." Mimi, who was seated besides him, smirked slightly. "What?" Mark asked.
"Nothing." She said, with a wink.
"I only checked to see if she was hurt." Mark said defensively.
"Uh-huh. That's why you're letting her drool on your shoulder." Mark blushed. Mimi smiled, having proved her point. "So, that was a nice little speech you made." Mimi changed the subject.
"Really?" Mark asked.
"Yeah. Coming from anyone but you I'd say the whole magic island thing was a load of shit, but it was a good speech."
"You think everything we're seeing is real?" Mark looked at Mimi seriously. Before Mimi could answer, there was an angry cry from the corner of the room.
"We were planning on going down to the beach too start a fire to alert passing ships." The one who called herself Florence said gently, "Would you like to join us?" Yonah hesitated.
"Do you wish it?" She asked hopefully.
"If you'd like to come, your more than welcome to." Florence replied. Yonah smiled.
"I think I'd like that."
"Good. Mark!" Florence waved her companion over to her. He gently repositioned Eponine, and then went to Florence's side, with Mimi following him. "We're going to continue our fire starting attempts. Florence explained. She led the way out the door.
Amos looked disdainfully up at the ornate little building that The Mysterious Man had led him to.
"Yeah? Why are you bringing me here?" The Mysterious Man nudged him slightly.
"Look inside." He prompted. Amos opened the door a crack, and quickly shut it. Inside was the strangest group of people... and not-people... he had ever seen in his life.
"What's wrong? Afraid you'll see something you've never seen before?"
"No!" Amos said. He opened the door a little further this time. Before he could protest the Mysterious Man had pushed him inside, and slammed the door loudly shut behind him. All eyes were on him. A pretty looking girl in roller-skates, followed by what looked like two giant cats went up to great him.
"Hi!" She said cheerfully, "I'm Dinah. You're new here. Don't worry though, we'll show you around..." Amos was unable to protest as she dragged him further into the theatre.
Yonah watched the waves crashing against the beach with a feeling of cold apprehension. It had a sort of ethereal beauty that sent shivers running down her spine. Soon the entire world would be an ocean, like the one in front of her. Soon she would be drowning in its waters. The Father had told Noah to bring rats and skunks onboard his ark, and to leave her behind to die.
"Yonah?" Yonah looked up to see who was speaking to her. It was Mimi, "Hey, is something wrong?"
"No. Nothing." Yonah said quickly. "If we are to build a fire, we will need wood, and fire stones." Florence smiled.
"You know how to start a fire using stones?" She asked. Yonah nodded.
"Aren't we a good little Girl Scout." Mimi said. Yonah appeared confused at this comment. "You're really not from my time, are you?" Mimi guessed. Yonah looked down at Mimi's more than form fitting garb, a stark contrast to the dresses that women were expected to where.
"I think not."
"1987 AC, New York City." Mimi said. Yonah just stared at her, more confused than before.
"That's where, and when we live." Mark explained.
"Oh. I live in The Wilderness, with Noah and his family." Florence raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"The Wilderness?" She questioned.
"Yes," Yonah said, "The Wilderness... everywhere except for the Garden Of Eden."
"Wait..." Mimi said, trying to get everything straight, "do you mean Noah as in the guy who built the ark?" Yonah nodded eagerly.
"Yes! He just finished it. The animals will be boarding soon." Yonah couldn't help the pang of sadness that hit her as she said this. The animals would be boarding soon. Her beloved Japheth, who wanted to take her for his wife, would be boarding as well. She would not.
"This is nuts!" Mimi said. She certainly wasn't complaining. Rather, she sounded excited. "Lets see... according to the bible, Noah's Ark happened..." Mimi paused, not actually knowing the answer, "A really long time ago. A few billion years or something like that." Yonah looked at Mimi, amazed. So Noah had set sail as many years ago as there were stars in the sky? "You've gotta be kidding me!"
"I am not." Yonah said calmly, wishing that they could switch to a less painful topic.
"This place is weird!" Mimi exclaimed.
"You're just noticing that?" Mark teased. Florence cleared her throat loudly, calling everyone back to attention.
"Yes, the fire." Yonah said all too readily.
"Phantom?" The Phantom growled under his breath as one again The Mastermind invaded his little room. He ignored her, trying to look otherwise occupied. A chair appeared out of nowhere, and she sat down close to him. "You must have seen I've finished bringing in the cast." The Phantom nodded cruelly. "I hope in time you will be pleased with their ability."
"Ah. You brought them here for their ability then." The Phantom said sarcastically.
"Well... I brought them here because they were interesting."
"I have seen many interesting sopranos pass through the Paris Opera House. I have only seen one with any real talent." The Phantom said this, refusing to look at The Mastermind. He wanted nothing more to do with the despicable woman.
"Because you taught her!" The Mastermind sounded excited, "So teach them. If they don't ant to learn, I will force them."
"They are not worthy of my teaching." The Mastermind let out a disappointed sigh.
"Then be satisfied with what I have given you to work with. It was the best I could find. Now, I believe we have a musical to write."
Eponine kept her eyes tightly shut, as she slowly drifted back into a state of semi-consciousness. She had very clear memories of what had happened, her sweet death and her awakening on the beach. The only problem is the didn't make sense. The man who had found her had said she was not dead, but it wasn't as though she had merely gone to sleep in Marius's arms. The blood upon her jacket, and in her hair, was a testament to that. She had bled, but she could find no wounds.
Finally she opened her eyes, glancing wildly around. She was in a strange place, like nowhere she had ever seen before. There were people, and things, all around her. Most of them were clean, and dressed well if not strangely. As usual, she was the dirty fugitive, who didn't belong in any setting except the forgotten slums of France. She forced herself to sit completely upright, not to show these strange people any weakness.
"Oh. Your awake." A soft voice said. She turned to look at the darkest skinned man she had ever seen in her life. He had strange little wheels on his feet, and his clothing had the hidden sheen of rusted metal. Eponine jumped up out of her chair, momentarily pleased to find that her legs were now steady.
"Yeah." She said, in a tone of defensive fear, Yeah, I'm awake alright. And who are you then?"
"Rusty." The man's voice didn't sound threatening. Eponine couldn't think of anyway to respond.
"Ah." She sat back down in her chair, but she refused to take her eyes off him. Her heart pounded in her chest, as she sat surrounded and overwhelmed.
Rusty was silent, wishing he could think of something to say to this strange passenger girl. He had been afraid when he first entered the theatre, and still was, but being met by Dinah had absorbed some of the shock. Eponine was alone here, and from what Mark had told him she had very recently been dead.
"Are you feeling any better?" Rusty asked.
"Yes!" Eponine said all to quickly, sitting up a little straighter as if to prove this. Rusty glanced around, looking for anyone to help him handle this situation. Noticing Dinah on the other side of the room, he quickly waved her over. She came, followed by Electra. Apparently Victoria had found someone else to talk to.
"Rusty? I was just showing that new Amos boy around the theatre." Dinah smiled proudly. She was glad to be of use to others in this strange situation. "What's..." She noticed Eponine, "Oh! You're awake. How are you feeling hun?" Eponine respond right away, or even look at her. Rusty spread his arms helplessly.
"Alive. Can't see why, but I am." Eponine finally answered. Dinah sat down near Eponine.
"The Mastermind must've done something..." Electra commented.
"The Mastermind?" Eponine asked.
"She want's us to perform in a musical!" Electra explained excitedly.
"Well... Well I ain't performin' for nobody." Eponine said. She could feel a cold lump forming in her throat, trying to strangle her, and a tight knot between her eyes. She looked up at the ceiling, trying to fight against both of them. This wasn't right. She was supposed to die, and enter a sweet oblivion. She knew better than to expect heaven from a god that obviously cared so little for her, but she had never foreseen something this awful. At least before she had known her way around, and had her dreams of Marius. Now she was lost, and more alone than ever.
"So... this it!" She called out to the ceiling, "Heaven's as petty as Earth, it is! This punishment for stealing enough food to feed myself?" She sat back down, disgusted. Nothing she had done mattered. People like her were always punished for their evil deeds in the end, and what ever good they did was always ignored. She shut her eyes tightly, but was unable to stop the tears that came, so she just wept and wished for the rain.
Yonah knelt down in the sand, calmly rubbing the two white rocks she had found together. Occasionally one or the other would spark, but the wood she and her companions had gathered was never set alight.
"It is no use." She said finally, "I'm cursed." She handed the stones over to Florence, "Perhaps if you tried..." Florence did not take the stones.
"Nonsense. You're not cursed, and you're the only one of this who has done this before." Yonah laughed at the absurdity of this statement, and pointed to the mark on her forehead.
"Not cursed? What do you see upon my face?"
"A birthmark?" Mark said, not following her logic in the least. Mimi nodded.
"It's the mark of Cain." Yonah explained, wondering how these people could know so little of a story every child was told. "Cain and Abel were the first two sons of Adam and Eve. Abel was a good, obedient boy, who took after his father. Cain was defiant, and refused to follow The Father's rule. Because of this, The Father favored Abel. Cain was jealous, so he killed him." At this point, Yonah paused from her retelling of the ancient story, and shuttered. It was a constant reminder of stain of blood that was upon her soul. "When The Father discovered what Cain had done, he was furious. He cursed him eternally, as well as his children, and their children after them, through all generations. I am a daughter of the race of Cain, and his sin is mine." Once again, Yonah pointed to the mark upon her head, "This is the mark of Cain, that I bare so that I may be recognized for what I am. Later, Eve bore a third son, named Seth. It is his ancestors that The Father has chosen to save. I will be washed away in the coming flood." Yonah hit her two rocks together one last time. This time, the sparks found the wood, and a lovely blaze was ignited. "There." She said, getting up off the ground, "Your fire has been started."
"Good..." Mark said, looking at Yonah uncertainly, "Thanks." Yonah smiled at him.
"Mark and I will stay behind to watch the fire." Florence said, "Can you two find your way back to the theatre?" Both Yonah and Mimi nodded. "Good. I would like you to assemble a group to watch the fire, two people at a time. Have the next two people relieve us when night falls."
"As you wish." Yonah said calmly. Mimi hugged Mark.
"I'll see you later, 'kay?" She said with a grin, "I'll tell Eponine you missed her." Mimi followed Yonah back into the woods. After they had traveled a ways towards the theatre, Mimi's watch let out a series of shrill beeps. Yonah jumped, surprised.
"What is that?" She asked.
"AZT break." Mimi smiled sadly, "But I didn't bring anything with me." Yonah just stared at Mimi, clearly confused. "Yonah?"
"I think that you will survive the flood." Mimi said.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because the race of Cain still exists in my time. It just isn't written on our foreheads."