Several vivid leaves fell to the cool pavement below the remnants of what homes they once thrived upon, leaving a colorful display on the normally gray earth. The fall months seemed to pass quickly in the year as winter approached rapidly around the small town burrowed in the middle of nothing. Every tree had withered into a mass of lifeless gray, the bare roots and branches mere skeletons of their former selves, a true form of beauty yet filled with a sorrow unmatched by any other. The cold winds moved the desolate beings in a dance that would send shivers down the spines of the most emotionless of creatures.
The town was quiet as the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, few humans daring to go out after dark due to the dreaded sounds that slipped through the cracks of their windows at night. Terrible calls of the damned and shrieks of those some might call innocent to the cruelties of the world. The rumored source of these sounds crawling up from perdition itself lie up the hill, where even the law force dared not to dwell for too long. The Grimton House for the Insane, the accursed land was named, called a place of no return in small children's stories and the hushed undertones of mothers and fathers.
It took up the land on the top of the tallest hill with its three main buildings and two smaller ones hiding within their ghostly shadows. The entire area was fenced off by a large iron gate several feet in height, symbols and warnings carved into the decaying trees at its perimeter by the manic patients. North of the grounds lay a dense forest that was rumored to hold the more problematic tenants of the insanity ward, or at least the corpses of those the owner had 'taken care of' before violence and massacre broke out. Any being unintelligent enough to walk upon the grounds without a proper warning to the groundskeeper or owner was never seen again, possibly cannibalized or killed on site by the patients trapped inside that old iron gate to another world.
Once, children had a game of disobeying their parent's warnings and dared each other to run to the gate of the mental institution, seeing who was brave enough to go the farthest up the hill without getting caught by an adult. This game was abruptly stopped when the first child went missing. Strict curfews were assigned to all the citizens until the little girl could be located. Her parent's pleas for the police force to find her finally made the town gain permission to visit the grounds for a short day.
They found the little girl, but she had already been greatly disturbed and corrupted by the mystics behind the walls of the house. She giggled with a insane gleam in her eyes and muttered things about the asylum being filled with the walking dead, monsters with hypnotizing neon eyes, and doctors' with syringes filled with liquid that shined like mercury but burned like acid. She was never returned to her parents and was only allowed back into the town on her sixtieth birthday, her remains sealed in a locked coffin that was buried several miles away from the town's cemetery, the locals afraid she might infect the souls of their dead or even walk among the living once again.
Two men dressed in a midnight blue uniform hurried up the long pathway of the hill, a sharp smell of fear rising from them spiking the winter air. A young woman in a long robin's egg blue dress walked between the two men, shackled in steel while the officers held tight onto her upper arms in case she decided to attempt an escape. They neared the pitch black doors of the main building of the grounds, known as the offices of the insanity ward. One of the men let go of the woman momentarily to knock on the thick doors, his palms sweating from the gloom surrounding the gray wood of the building. Before the man's fist could make contact with the cracked wood, the doors slid open without a sound as if they were nothing but air.
A tall man who appeared close to his twenty seventh year stood formally just inside the door, his pale skin seeming to glow within the dusk’s faint light while he sized up the three with unusual but friendly eyes at were a dark enough blue that they nearly looked black in the fading light. His dark brown hair was hidden under a funny ragged top hat, the rest of his attire like that of a ringmaster. If the woman did not know any better, she would have thought the two policemen were taking her to a circus.
“Welcome to the Grimton house. How may I be of service?” His young voice said, a light British accident ringing alongside the smoothly spoken words.
“We have a new client for the insanity ward.” The slightly plump police officer said, pushing the woman inside quickly with his sweaty hands as if scared of the unusually dressed man whom was widely known as the groundskeeper of the asylum.
“Make sure she gets to your master.” The other officer said, already taking a few steps back to their car. The young groundskeeper nodded softly as he smiled, eyes half lidded as if pitying the two men softly.
“Do not worry. I shall make sure she gets to the master. Please have a pleasant day, gentlemen.” The man said, tucking the handcuffed woman inside the building before closing the door behind them, the two officers scurrying back to their car in a pace a few steps slower than a run in an almost amusing jog. The woman sighed slightly, not looking at the man as he walked up to her, carefully undoing the handcuffs with the impossibly gentle touch of his fingertips.
“Hello, young lady. Do you have a name?” He asked, taking her hand in his cold grasp and brushing his lips against it lightly. The woman was silent as she avoided looking at him, staring off at the stained red of the painted walls of the long hallway. “Oh, where are my manners?" The young man chuckled, a light flush making his pale cheeks turn a healthier color. "I am called Ace within these walls. I am also a client here.” His smile did not fit the hollowness of his face as he let go of the younger woman’s hand, watching as she dropped it like lead.
“I am Ame.” The woman said sternly and Ace nodded, not as if he was taking note of something important but as if he was agreeing on the fact that it was hers.
“Well, Miss. Ame, if you will follow me, I will take you to Master Grimton.” He insisted lightly before he started walking down the long dark hallway, Ame following closely after a brief moment of hesitation. “So why are you here, Miss. Ame?” Ace asked.
“You can just call me Ame, and I'm not supposed to be here. I was framed for the murder of my late husband.” Ame snapped, omitting the details to this stranger she did not know nor enjoyed the business like company of. Her husband had been a workaholic of a man and had surprised his family by settling down in one town, let alone get a wife. He had been a quick tempered man, rather unromantic, and uninterested in anything that wasn't his law firm. Still she could have never harmed him. She loved him. They fought sometimes, even in public if the matter was important to her enough, but never to the point of wanting to physically hurt each other. It was a mistake to take off to a motel a few nights ago after a particularly brutal fight. Someone had seen it as a perfect excuse to off her husband, most likely someone on the wrong end of a divorce suit her husband loved to take up.
Ace glanced back at her over his shoulder before stopping abruptly, the widowed woman almost stopping a little too late, barely an inch away from brushing against the back of the dirtied exotic outfit the mysterious groundskeeper wore.
“You were framed?” He asked, looking straight ahead of him as his voice changed from friendly to a more severe tone. Ame softly nodded, knowing he could not see her but she was too afraid to speak to the man looming over her even when he was not even looking in her direction. “Then I do not see why you did not run the second those police men turned away from you.” Ame looked down at the floor, her expression tired as a few strands of her knotted hair fell from the loosening bun tied at the back of her head.
“I don't want to run anymore. I just want to take the punishment even if I don't deserve it. I want to rest.” She looked up from the dust covered floor, her face older than it should be while her voice barely rose above a whisper. Her blue eyes were dark with wariness and defeat as a few blond strands of her hair fell into her eyes. She had been fleeing from the police for nearly a week ever since she was identified as the murderer under false pretenses, panic forcing her to make the decision that ultimately made her look more guilty then innocent. She turned herself in after becoming tired of the anxiety of stepping foot into the public eye even for the smallest of tasks. The court case opened and closed in an afternoon after a plea bargain of momentary insanity, the sentence being the insane asylum until she was 'better'.
The two stood in silence in the deserted red hallway of the asylum until Ace spoke again.
“Trust me. You are going to regret not running.” He spoke no more and started to walk down the hall once again. Ame watched him move away from her, hesitating before glancing behind her. To her surprise, there was a wall only a foot behind her, covered in as much dust and cobwebs as the rest of the hallway as if it had always been there. Ame reached out, brushing her fingers against its surface, finding it as real as anything in this world. When she pounded a fist against the peeling red paint, it was solid, clearly not an illusion. She turned back around in a panic to see Ace, waiting for her to follow him with a solemn face. His eyes seemed soulless as if he was nothing but a doll, waiting for a master to pull his strings while she was led deeper into the building with him.
“W-Why can't I leave?” She asked, the fear clear in her once strong voice clear as a bell would be in the dead silence surrounding them.
“You’re trapped now. Just like the rest of us.” Ace explained, holding a hand out toward her before bringing it back to him in a gesture for them to proceed along the curving hallway. “If you will, Master Grimton does not like to wait. He gets testy if things do not go according to schedule.” Ame's shoulders sagged in defeat, not knowing of anything else she could do but walk deeper into the twisting world beginning to unfold around her despite the knot of fear inside her.
Ace stopped as an old oak door appeared on the left wall of the long hallway, the smell of a fireplace warming the chill air like a long awaited exhale.
“Here we are.” He announced as he turned to Ame, his almost pitying smile back in its place. “If you do not want to make your stay here worse, only answer the questions he asks you. Don’t speak unless spoken to. Always stay polite. I hope to see you again, Ame.” Ace bowed politely before opening the door to the room, his fingertips the only part of his hands touching the wood again. Ame stepped inside and was immediately hit by the thick smell of cigar smoke and leather, having to wipe her blue eyes from the burning smoke to focus on the figure sitting behind a large oak desk covered in taxidermy birds. The glimmer of the pieces of a pocket watch that had been taken apart for closer inspection caught her eye on the desk as the figure set down one of the clock's gears.
“Welcome, my child.” A deep voice boomed from the dark leather chair nestled just behind the desk. “Please take a seat.”
Ame did not pause in sitting in the old wooden chair the man motioned to, worrying the inside of her cheek as she sat straight as she could. The man looked in his late forties or fifties with a sharp face, thin oval spectacles framing his unnervingly blue eyes as they turned their calculating gaze upon her.
“I am Master Grimton. May I ask your name?”
“Ame Loreton.” Ame replied quickly as polite as she could, following Ace's instructions despite feeling her heart race from the piercing eyes staring her down as if she had committed a personal offense to them.
“Miss. Ame, how old are you this present date?” Master Grimton asked, looking over his glasses as he examined the young woman, moving his hands to a folded position under his chin.
“Twenty four. In a week, I will be twenty five.”
“Young.” Master Grimton nodded with a warm smile that did not reach his eyes plastered on his lips, the fire in the brick fireplace crackling loudly as the taxidermy animals felt like they were stalking Ame like their next pray. Their beady eyes making the hairs stand on the back of her neck. “What is your blood type? Do you have any family?”
“My blood type is O and I don’t have any family that is alive at the moment.” Ame responded, refusing the urge to fidget from the fear the room was rising in her. Master Grimton nodded once more, taking a thin ink pen off the desk and writing down the information on a faded yellow piece of paper in a large leather bound notebook.
“Sir Ace will show you to your cell, Coal.”
Ame opened her mouth, about to question or correct him before the oddly dressed man returned, reminding her that she should say silent when she turned at the sudden sound of the oak door opening. Ame nodded obediently in Master Grimton's direction before leaving the stink of the smoke and leather filled office silently with Ace.
The two walked down the seemingly endless red hallway again, Ace a few steps ahead of Ame. She rubbed her upper arms, the sudden lack of heat in the hallway greatly contrasting the warmth from Master Grimton's office, causing goosebumps to coat every inch of skin exposed to the cool air. She was regretting her short dress when the last words Master Grimton said crossed her mind again. Her thoughts plagued her, the brief meeting of the owner of the asylum unnerving her as much as the strange aura the building gave off.
“Why did he-”
“He renamed you. He does that to most of us.” Ace explained before she could word the rest of her question. "It's his way of separating us from what is out there and what is in here." Ame nodded briskly as she stepped lightly behind him, feeling like the lead paint chips who were suspended in their slow battle to fall from the walls were watching her closely, wondering if she was going mad or if there really was more to this asylum like the old stories. She jumped as she heard a scream from a locked room they past, the metal barred door appearing out of nowhere as rows of them faded into sight along the hall. “It is not a good thing to be renamed. It means Master Grimton has chosen you to go through what you're hearing.” Ace's face grew dark, the hollow in his cheeks contrasting greatly as the warm light from the red hall faded into dim bulbs coating the new gray hall in a faint glow of dusty white.
“What is happening to them?” Ame cautiously sped her steps to see Ace's face in a clearer way, still thinking over if she really desired to know as they passed the sounds of a woman sobbing in another cell. Ace stayed silent as if he never heard the question.
They stopped before a door, the number five hundred and fifty seven carved into the bleached wood and only two deadbolt locks located on the outside.
“Here is your cell. You will be sharing with Slink and myself. Slink will not be back for a few hours and I will return after my appointed rounds some time after midnight. Every night at eleven, we are allowed to wander the mansion but never to leave the grounds.” Ace informed, pausing for a heartbeat before suddenly looking as if he was late for something urgent.
“Who is this Slink?” The question was passed her lips before she could ask the many others filtering through her mind. She watched him erupt into a fit of not so subtle fidgeting with the crimson blazer of his suit.
“Do not worry. He is a kind man deep down. He will not hurt you.” He said before opening the dark, windowless cell. Ame stepped inside, looking at the bleak walls and three tiny dirty beds barely managing to fit inside the ten foot cell and feeling a tightness in her throat at the sight. “I will see you tonight.”
Ace quickly closed the door after a short dip of his head, the creek of him bolting it shut grating on Ame's ears. She sat on the empty bed in the corner, feeling the cold silence swarm around her as she pulled her thick blond hair out of the hastily done up bun. She attempted to readjust it to keep herself calm, failing to and letting it flow across her shoulders with a sigh as she wondered what exactly this horrid place held for her future. If it would allow her one.
She let herself cry silently.
Ame jumped as the door to the cell slammed open, men yelling loudly in the hallway outside the door as someone was thrown inside the small cell by the back of their neck. A man a year or two older than herself sat up as the door was shut, teeth gritted and a well used scowl on his face that looked as if he had been born with the expression.
“Fuck! You didn’t have to throw that hard!” The man cursed as he rubbed the nape of his neck and dragged himself to the bed in the opposite corner from Ame. A trail of blood was dripping from him and smearing under his feet on the floor, the location of the wound not visible. His face had many deep scars though she could still tell that he had once been handsome despite the scowl he wore. His body was thin enough that he must have been starved for many weeks, his skin sticking to the ribs underneath in a sickening way. His unwashed blond hair had a few blue streaks in it, most likely dyed artificially that way before he was taken to the asylum. The eye not hidden by his tangled hair was a light copper, the color bleeding from his iris and into the once white part of his eye as he glanced down at the arm he had been hiding against his chest. It bled badly, a long strip of skin missing from it to show a thin layer of tissue separating the elements of the world from raw muscle. The young man's breath came in short gasps as if he could not get enough air into his lungs, his fingers stained with blood as he started rubbing the wound, numb to the pain or ignoring it with practiced ease. He looked over at Ame, his hair falling away from his other eye and revealing that it was a natural green rather then matching the artificial copper of the eye she had seen.
“Are you-?” Ame started.
“Yeah, I’m Slink. Ace must have told you about me.” He said, a hushed hurry hidden inside his voice. Everyone in the insanity ward seemed glittery as if they were wild animals lined up for the slaughter house. Ame's heart started beating quickly as the screams she heard in the long gray hallway came to the front of her mind. “And to answer your next question, yes, I have a weird eye. I got that at this hellish place. Does everyone have to mention it?! Damn!”
“What exactly is this place? I-It's not like what those silly children's stories say it is, right?” Ame stuttered slightly, becoming more afraid the longer she was in the Grimton house. She clenched her hands in her lap, swallowing nervously and wondering if Ace was good on his word that Slink would not harm her.
“It’s a hell on earth to anyone who stays here.” Slink said, lying down on his bed as his bare chest heaved heavily. “The patients within these walls are used for...experiments. Ace probably left out that lovely tidbit in his introduction.”
“Experiments?” Ame's eyes widened at the word, the nervous knot of fear in her stomach tightening and forming into a bottomless pit.
“Yes. Three tips for surviving more than a month here;” He grinned, the expression not fitting his face and looking more then a bit man. He held up three bony fingers, dirt caked under his broken nails. “Don’t bring attention to yourself. Stay way from any needles. And most of all, don’t trust Ace.” Slink folded a finger after each tip, letting his hand drop back down to his left arm to rub violently against the blood welling up along the thin exposed tissue. “Ace is Grimton’s pet. He doesn’t get any of the torture treatments no matter what he does. Lucky bastard.” He rolled over onto his side to face away from Ame, starting to scratch his skinned arm like he would rather rip it off than endure the itching ache spreading from it. “Also, don’t eat the food. It’s just another experiment and most of it contains poisons or sedatives that will knock you out for hours, if you're lucky.”
An echoing ringing that sounded like a large grandfather clock filled the cells and hallways, chiming eleven times before churning out a low, haunting tune. The very sound of the first sharp chimes would wake anyone with a start and make any animal howl in pain from the achingly high pitch before each was soothed by the deep rumble of the crawling song after the initial chime. Slink sat up on his elbows and smiled faintly, the scars from months of torment on the corners of his lips to the top of his cheekbones making his smile look wider than it was.
“We can roam now.” He informed Ame with a sharp jerk of his head in her direction, a mischievous undertone in his voice. He stood from the dirty bunk he had been lying on for the past few hours and ripped the old door open after two subtle clicks of the deadbolts unlocking, making the door slam against the opposite wall without anything touching it. Ame jumped at the loud bang, still too tense over sharing the room with this odd man to relax in the slightest during the silence between them. Slink turned to her, a bored expression on his face and an annoyed sigh slipping past his lips at how startled she became from a simple noise.
“You coming or staying in this cramped room?” He asked, sounding as annoyed as he looked from having to be around the panicky woman. Ame stood from the stained gray sheets and slowly walked outside with Slink as a few other patients appeared in the hallway, each looking grave and empty of a soul but pleased as they slipped out of their too small cells. Ace was walking down the hallway with a tall stride, watching each tenant leave their rooms as if ready to police them elsewhere should they need to be. Slink's eyes narrowed at him as he passed them, taking a moment to eye Ace's back warily before turning to walk in the direction Ace came from and abandoning Ame at their cell door. Ame watched Slink leave, feeling uncomfortable at being left alone in the winding hallway. She clutched a hand to her chest to hide its trembling before deciding to walk in the direction Ace had gone.
The young man turned into a corner hallway that morphed from the right wall, walking up a set of old dust covered stairs nearly the length of the two floors above them. Ame skittishly sprinted around the corner before the wall sealed itself, not sure as to where he was going but curiosity drove her into wanting to know more about the almost soulless slave of Master Grimton. Once she had reached the top of the long staircase, she could not see where he was along the flat section of roof on the tall mansion. The sky above them was a dark blue with a sliver of a moon lighting the dark brown tiles and brick of the three chimneys spreading black smoke across white speckles of flickering starlight. If one was to ignore the cracks and caved in sections of the roof and the stench rising with the thick smoke, it could almost be called pleasant. Ame could hear humming from across the roof. She looked down from the clouds of smug mingling with the stars to see Ace leaning against a far chimney on the slightly higher part of the roof that was still intact. His ring master’s hat lay beside him as he stared up at the stars and waning moon, strands of his dark brown hair hung in front of his eyes as he hummed a song to himself. He was unaware of his company as Ame walked closer to him, hearing him whisper words to the poignant song he hummed and watching him sway ever so slightly along to the nearly silent melody.
“Gently falling through the windless sky,
Not knowing how I could fly,
What could be happening to me?
Who or what will I be...
Who will save me from these depths of darkness?
Who will save my soul from living curse-less?
Will I just have to be left behind careless?
To wither in this pain of which I am hopeless?
To be lost forever?
To become a never?
I will be an empty puppet?
I will be a wandering soul or measly poppet?
My now forgotten lives...
My now forgotten hearts...
My now forgotten dreams...
Will they ever return?
Please let them return to me.
Please leave them be.
Memories of these disappear day by day,
Fading like undead decay,
Of which I have become.
Yearning for sweet freedom,
While I stand in a field of deadly kingdom,
I will be here for thee-”
He sang softly with a voice varying in pitch, too quiet in some parts and building to be too loud on others. He stopped as he sensed someone watching him from the shadows after several minutes, looking out of the corner of his eye at Ame with his lips parted a little out of surprise.
“I usually do not give performances unannounced.” He cleared his throat while his voice became polite as usual. He took the top hat lying next to him and placed it back on his head with a small florish, pulling down the rim to cover his eyes and his considerable embarrassment at being heard. Ace jumped down from the slightly higher part of the roof, landing like a cat on his feet. The tiles there creaked under protest at having even the slightest weight upon them.
“I should head back. I am not allowed to be up here until midnight. My rounds are not yet finished.” He passed Ame briskly and headed toward the long stairwell behind her. He paused half a dozen steps down and half turned around to glance at Ame again, tipping his hat up a sliver. “Perhaps I can show you the basement later. The people there are...different, but most of them are pleasant company.” He let a small smile slip before turning away and walking down the rest of the stairs without a reply.
At half past midnight, Ace led her through the winding collections of hallways and to a heavy bolted door on the side of a dark purple hall with ceiling taller than the others. He tinkered with the many locks of different shapes and sizes before a loud click sounded inside the metal, the door sliding open heavily to reveal an rickety staircase leading down into the dark pit of the basement. He glanced over his shoulder nervously as if to make sure no one had seen them or was following them before herding Ame inside and closing the heavy door behind them. It was pitch black, almost like an endless void and the old steps a staircase to hell creaking under their feet like waling souls. Ame was lost in her thoughts for a moment, an odd feeling that she was in the sky without the small specks of the stars overwhelming her before her feet hit the smooth concrete floor.
“Siren, are you awake?” Ace asked in a hushed voice beside her. A small yawn echoed then a slosh of what sounded like water hitting the side of a pond.
“Yes.” A young female voice flowed along the air like a fresh spray of mist. A small round object appeared from between a set of lips in the distance, glowing as it grew into a small orb before floating away from its source like a bubble. The room brightened a bit as the orb floated around, three more bubble-like orbs appearing in all different colors while they sparkled with a supernatural aura. In a matter of seconds, Ame could see who was making them. A young girl who was about seventeen swam in a large pool within the concrete of the flooring, blowing the bubbles with a clawed fingertip ready to catch them until they became solid orbs. She smiled up at Ame once the room was bright enough, staying afloat in the water with a small swish of what seemed to be a turquoise fish tail that give her an appearance of a mermaid, the only difference being that her arms seemed to be replaced with long black skin that stretched across the bone structure of what could be viewed as a bird's wings.
“Ame, this is Siren.” Ace introduced while the older woman took a step back at the sight of the girl, frightened at her appearance.
“Nice to meet you.” Siren smiled while she played with the ponytail of her long brown hair, the claws on the tips of her winglike arms catching in a wet tangle here and there. “I’m relieved to see another girl. Ever since I was locked down here, I've been stuck talking to stupid boys.” Ame laughed softly, noticing Siren was smiling more and slowly started to relax a bit.
“Who are you calling ‘stupid’?!” Came a sudden dark hiss from across the room, making Ame jump from the promise of violence it resonated.
“I forgot. Today’s not a good day to tease. Venom’s angry.” Siren said quietly in a singsong voice. One of her orbs floated across the room. Ame caught a glimpse of a man, about twenty-two, sitting as if he were a snake about to strike for a brief second in the glow of white light. He would have been handsome if his cold neon eyes that were hidden slightly by his messy black hair did not show his rage, and if two long fangs were not protruding from his snarling lips. He slashed at the orb with the long black claws extending from where his fingernails should have been, the orb cracking like glass and the iridescent light dissipating into darkness as soon as it shattered.
“Pissed off as usual, Venom?” Ace asked, tilting his head to the side in an almost cocky manner.
“Shut up! If I was not in pain, I would rip your head off.” Venom hissed angrily, baring his fangs at Ace as an animal would do when its territory has been invaded. He eyed Ace with his golden eyes, not breaking the stare despite the obvious urge to wince from the pain wracking through his body.
“That’s right.” Siren whispered to herself as if just remembering something. “They tried to drag Venom back to the DNA lab today.”
Ace turned to her, surprise making itself known upon his sharp features.
“Again? He's been there two times already. Master Grimton does not tamper with the DNA of a person more than twice. If he did, the structure would become too unstable for any valid results.” He announced as if he was stating a law of the asylum that was repeated until it was drilled into his head and it was always followed no matter what the circumstances thus far.
“Well, he didn’t just let them take him.” Siren whispered again, softly as if cautious to speak about the event. Her eyes shifted over to the hunched over man sitting in the darkness.
“I fought back.” Venom said, anger dimming in his voice but only slightly. “I always do and I always will.”
“And what happened?” Ace asked Siren, ignoring Venom entirely despite the annoyed glare that was tossed in his direction.
“They beat him and they rescheduled for later.” She stated quietly, glancing at the glaring shadowed man in the corner of the wide room.
The door above them clicked loudly before the heavy metal slammed open suddenly, startling the three in the soft glow of Siren's luminescent bubbles. The orbs floating around them shattered instantly as Siren's eyes widened at the sight of a towering figure appearing in the door frame before diving deep in her pool from hysterical panic. Ace grabbed Ame’s arm and dragged her behind the staircase in the darkness, one hand moving to cover her mouth in order to prevent any panicked noise from escaping her lips.
“Alright, Venom! Come quietly and we won’t suggest you for dissection!” A deep voice came from the figure looming in the blinding light at the top of the stairs.
“I’ll come with you quietly...when I’m dead!” Venom hissed, his chin pressed against his collar bone as his eyes seemed to physically bite into the tall man dressed in the all black pinstripe suit. Heavy footsteps echoed around the dark place as the unknown man came down the rusty stairway, Ace and Ame just under the his feet, breathing heavily in panic.
“Everyone’s tired of your attitude, Venom!” The man said, pausing at the bottom of the staircase before lifting a long metal pole that he had been carrying with an intent to harm, but Venom acted as if he had never seen the gesture.
“Yeah? Well, I’m tired of being treated like an animal, you disgusting excuses for human beings!” Venom hissed, baring his twin fangs and sitting up straight.
The man walked over to Venom like a bull would charge at a matador, his face flushed red in anger at the words spat at him. Only by the bright light coming from the doorway was the sight of the pole hitting Venom sharply in the side of his torso then the neck visible, the flash of silver and sickening sound of each collision drawing in the focus of the room. Two bubbles of air filtered to the top of Siren’s tank, silently telling of the girl’s worried presence.
Venom screamed from pain as the man beat him savagely, unnerving sounds that could only be deciphered as bones breaking under strain rose between the sounds of metal hitting flesh. The man stopped as Venom finally lay on the floor motionless, his fangs sunk into his own bleeding lip but his eyes still spoke of a determined homicidal intent. He bared his fangs again but could not move to sink them into the older man‘s skin, every part of him shot sparks of pain when he even thought of moving an inch. He just lay there, like a snake pinned down by a predator, still wishing to strike even if it knew could not or would die in the process. The man grabbed the back of Venom’s neck and lifted him up easily, making him hang like a rag doll nearly a foot off the ground.
“Let me go!” Venom said weakly, his voice more a hoarse whisper then a hiss now.
“If I did that, we’d be late.” The man had a malicious smile dancing upon his lips. He dragged Venom to the staircase and up to the door, making sure to hit the base of the captured man’s spine on each step. The door slammed shut, making the dust on the corroding stairway fall heavily onto Ace and Ame.
After a moment of silence and stillness, Siren came out of the water with a small splash as the other two crawled out from under the staircase. The three stared at the door in a form of shock, each needing a moment for what happened to sink into their minds. Siren rested her head on the side of the pool, looking worried at the corner where the black haired man had been beaten. She had a horrible feeling that she would not be seeing the man ever again.
Ace carefully rested a hand on Ame’s shoulder, gaining her attention before motioning that they should leave quickly else risk the possibility of being caught.
Venom was thrown onto a steel table, the cold metal biting the already bruising skin of his back. The man that had brought him into the small medical room tied him down with the brown straps connected to the table, leaving after his assigned task as Venom yelled obscenities toward his retreating form.
Another man, dressed mockingly in blindingly sterile white as if he were a doctor, brought out a cart of neatly lined up tools. His covered face seemed to grin even through the medical mask as he picked up and inspected a blood stained, clearly rusted saw. When Venom glanced at the selected tool, an animal instinct seized his consciousness and instantly made him thrash against the straps. obstreperous
“Let me go, you sons of bitches!” He screamed as the pseudo doctor approached him, dulled saw in hand. The white clad man held Venom’s struggling right arm still in an iron grip as he spoke, his tone that of a parent scolding a child.
“You’ve given us too much trouble, Venom. Thank Master Grimton for not ordering us to kill you and use your organs for...special experiments. Although, he did allow us to teach you to stay in your place.” The doctor placed the saw against the skin just below the young man’s shoulder, drawing at first just a pin prick of blood. “No anesthesia for you.”
A scream ripped its way through Venom’s vocal cords as the saw sliced through his skin with difficulty. The dull blade did not saw through clean, ripping the skin and flesh like a rabid animal as the doctor used more of his weight and strength to force the blade down, down, down, ripping and churning flesh into ribbons.
“Stop it!” He screamed louder as the saw’s movements slowed and started scraping against thick bone. He struggled frantically, trying to break the straps and pull the blade away from him. The doctor pulled the saw away with the grin still plastered to his face under the thin mask, a few of the saw's teeth bent in odd directions from the force used on it.
He knelt down for a moment, briefly out of view. He emerged with a long bare wire in his left hand winding out of a coil from the inside of a cupboard under the table. Venom stared at it, eyes wide with fear at what was to come. He lashed out against the bonds holding him as the doctor grabbed a small knife and put it vertically against the saw’s cut. The doctor slowly pulled the knife down from the cut, forming a deep gash down to the tip of Venom’s forefinger. Discolored blood oozed out of the slit as the doctor yanked back the skin just enough to insert the bare wire into the meat and muscle.
The doctor placed the skin over the wire, burying it so the wire made a grotesque bump next to the bleeding slit. He reached over with a blood covered glove to a large black box on the side of the table, several white dials and switches littering its surface.
A simple flick of a switch and a rough grinding noise filled the small room. Venom screamed at the top of his lungs, drowning out the loud noise from the box before his throat seized up and refused to let him move. He felt the wire sting him with thousands of milliamps the small machine made, burning his arm black and flooding his veins with magma.
A knob was turned and the amount of milliamps surging through the wire went up, making his body thrash involuntarily and still as his muscles froze and contracted severely. Venom could not hold on much longer as he felt his lungs burn from not being able to gasp for air, forming tears threatening to fall from the corners of his eyes.
Suddenly, he could not feel the pain. He felt numb, not knowing if the doctor turned it off or his body just did not have the strength to feel it. Venom could feel himself getting weaker still as his eyesight faded in and out, the room span then turned black and white before becoming blurry. The heart beat in his ears nonrhythmic, stopping and forcing itself to start as a shock of electricity forced its way through it then stopping again. He felt as if he was asleep and dreaming of a bizarre world until the wire was yanked out of his arm harshly, tearing some skin off as it was removed. His body still twitched as the fake doctor took the saw off the table again, watching it gleam in the over head candle light before he turned to his current victim.
Venom was unaware of anything but his lungs gasping for air like he couldn't inhale enough of the sweetness that is oxygen.
“I hope you have learned your lesson, but, just in case...” The doctor said as he put the saw back on Venom’s arm. Screams rose again as the doctor put all his weight down onto the blade and sawed right through the remaining flesh, hitting the bone in the middle again. The doctor paused for a moment to place the saw back onto the table and unstrap Venom's useless bleeding arm. A heartbeat passed with a vile smirk gracing the doctor's lips under his mask before he grabbed Venom's arm and yanked.
The arm was viciously ripped out of the socket.
Another yank and the bone was torn out of the flesh, leaving a disgusting glob of meat and hanging skin drooping from the shoulder. Venom’s lifeless arm fell to the floor.
Venom panted, in so much pain that he could barely understand what was happening, all of it seeming like a illusion or nightmare. The doctor leaned over him, smiling through his mask at the pain in Venom’s eyes and the lips parted in a scream that was too shocked and painful to leave them.
“Now, if you are any trouble for us again, we won’t just dissect your arm!” The doctor picked up the lifeless arm, hugging it to himself in a perverted manner as he took it out of the room. “Put him back in the basement and don’t treat him.” He muttered to the man who had brought Venom into the ‘medical’ ward just outside the doorway. The suited man stepped into the room, taking off the remaining straps and throwing the dazed man over his shoulder.
Venom could not move as he was carried out of the room and back into the red velvet hallway. The man walked right by the bolted door to the basement. Venom watched the door disappear, his stomach finding a new way to twist to make him feel even more sick.
“Where are we going?” He whispered, his voice weak from pain and too sore from screaming to speak any louder.
“Section seventy-six. Master Grimton’s orders.” The man said, his voice very distant to the younger man’s ears even though he was right next to him. Venom tried to keep conscious as they went further into the manor, towards the back exit and the other buildings in the courtyard.
“Where’s that?” He asked after a moment, his head swimming as he tried to make sense of the words leaving his own lips. His own tongue tasted foul in his mouth. He felt like vomiting.
“In another part of the grounds.” The man said as if talking to himself and he might as well have been. He made a sudden turn into a doorway as Venom shifted into unconsciousness.
Venom woke up to his head aching, feeling as if someone had pierced iron nails into his skull. Rubbing his head to check, he could feel a small amount of blood in his feathered hair, no doubt there because his captors had seen it fit to throw him into the room he now occupied. He opened his eyes to see a girl holding a small voodoo doll, looking at him curiously. She had small wires in her skin that traced the bones in her body. Her lips were sewn shut by some of the thin silver wire. An awkward smile crossed her closed lips as she stared down at Venom with young sparkling blue eyes. She looked only twelve with the crimson bow in the dirty blond hair that came to the center of her back. She held out a hand, offering to help him up. Venom looked at her hand, uncertain if he should take it.
“It’s alright.” Venom looked up at hearing the youthful voice but the girl’s lips had not moved. After a moment, he took her hand and she helped him stand up. She giggled softly as she almost fell over from the strength needed to lift the full grown man. Venom swayed a little before using his remaining arm to support himself with the wall, glancing at the little girl as she let out the almost unfamiliar sound that was similar to crying. It took him a moment to realize she was laughing. No one made that little sound in the asylum unless it was crazed. He looked away from her to find himself in a hall exactly like the one he was in with the man, but this one was gray, dark and looked very unused.
“Where am I?” Venom asked.
“Section seventy-six.” The girl said. Venom looked at her again but her lips still had not moved.
“Who are you?” He asked but she did not reply. He looked back down the spider webbed hallway.
“I’m Liean,” The girl said as his gaze left her. “An undead puppet that was thrown in here just like you were.” Venom snapped his eyes to her at the words. She was still smiling as she started walking down the hall, her face disappearing from his line of vision. “Come on. I’ll show you around.” Liean said, her hips swinging in a playful way. Venom hesitated before following her down the aged hallway, unsure of what to think of the odd little girl. They passed chained doors, broken chandlers, turned over tables and unlit lights. This place seemed much worse and more abandoned than the basement.
Liean walked down the hallway as if she was used to the way the place was. The puff of her long gray dress flowed smoothly around her knees as she walked. “This way.” She said as she turned to a chained door. She glanced at Venom before touching the lock. The chains fell to the floor with no effort as the broken door opened, the dust filling the air about a century old.
A large courtyard filled with unmarked graves and a few rotting trees stood outside the door. The dark sky with sparkling stars shown above the courtyard as a dark figure sat under a large tree, apparently resting. Venom watched the unmoving figure as Liean looked around quickly.
“I thought he would be here.” She said to herself. “Come with me.” She walked down the hallway more, having to stop as she saw Venom was not following her. “Is something wrong?” She asked, sounding honestly concerned. Venom just stared at the sky through the door, a feeling of being overwhelmed entering his chest at the vastness he had not seen in years. Liean walked over to him and stood next to him, cocking her head at the sky as if to see what was so interesting.
“Why don’t you just escape?” He finally asked her.
“Why would we?” Venom looked at her, seeing that she was now facing him with a serious expression.
“What?” He asked, confused at the answer. The young man had been trying to find a way out of the hellhole of an asylum since he arrived and this girl was passing up the only chance. Liean turned around, walking down the hallway again without a second thought about the starry sky.
“We don’t belong out there anymore.” She said plainly. Venom stood there for a moment, gazing at the sky once more before following her. They passed more doors as Venom thought back to when Liean introduced herself, a little more unnerved than usual.
“What you said back there...about you being an undead puppet...” He started.
“I can’t control when I react or when I can speak.” Liean said, returning to her almost skip like walk. “I’m controlled by the man I’m going to introduce you to. He can’t move right so he uses me instead.” She turned to another door, once covered in chains but they rested on the floor to gather new dust. “Well, he can move but not like normal people. He doesn‘t like scaring the newcomers so he sends me out.” She added with another awkward smile before pushing opening the door that had been eaten by termites. Inside, a man with short, very light blue hair was chained to a wall by what appeared to be spider webs. The silk strings looked like they were used to restrain the man they held, who seemed only a year younger than Venom. The man had a black leather muzzle over his mouth, making it unclear as to what he was feeling. His wardrobe consisted of worn grey pants and no shirt of any kind. He looked up from the floor to see Venom through white eyes.
“It’s nice to finally meet you in person.” The man said in a light French accent. “I’m Rawur.” He examined Venom as Liean left the room silently.
“I’m Venom.” Venom said, taking a step back from the man’s gaze as it bore into his slim frame.
“What brought you to this asylum, Venom?” Rawur asked, his head tilted in an odd way to the side. Venom was a tad taken back by the sudden question. No one had asked him that since he had gotten there, four years ago. He watched the younger man for a moment, wondering why this man would ask for information of someone so quickly after meeting them. Venom looked down at the floor, figuring it to be no harm if he told some stranger a fragment of his past. Untouched memories flowed into his mind as he parted his lips.
Outside of the main town, near a port for the trading ships, an eighteen year old ran across the streets of a dark city. Sirens echoed through the air as the headlights of police cars followed him closely. The teenager panicked running as fast as he could, not wanting to get caught. He ran to the edge of the road and into a small outlook area. He stopped running and skidded to a halt as one more step would have meant his death. The young man stood at the top of a large cliff, the sea crashing against the sharp rocks at the bottom. The cars slid to a stop as police men rushed out, slick guns pointed at the young man.
“Put your hands behind your head and get on the ground!” A police man said over the few yards between them. The teenager shook his head, frightened as he pulled a gun from his jacket pocket. The police officers tensed as the barrel of the shiny black gun glinted in the lamp lights. The teenager pointed the gun to his head, threatening to take his life rather than be accused of doing what he would always regret.
“Of doing what?” Rawur asked when Venom stopped speaking. Venom did not respond, not aware that he had spoke almost every detail of the event and looking as if the question was an insult. Rawur understood but showed no sign of it on his face, not even a nod. “So you were sent here for attempting suicide.” He said finally. Venom slowly nodded after a moment. “I see.”
“So why were you sent here?” Venom asked, angry that he had let so much of his past slip between his lips, feeling as if the words had been forced to spill from his mouth from a spell.
“I was a mass murderer. I drained the blood from my victims and drank it, like a…vampire. The prison would not take me, fearing that I would kill the other inmates so this place took me. They threw me in here and put a muzzle on me. I found Liean, but when I first saw her she was just a crumpled mess in the corner. Just dry blood and mangled limbs. I fixed her up and found out her eighth birthday was fifty years ago. She can only talk and move if I let her.” Rawur said, sighing slightly in his muzzle as if he was tired of speaking. “Moving on, I suggest you rest and have Liean take a look at that wound of yours.” Venom looked down at his missing arm, noticing for the first time that dark blood was running down his side and staining his black pants. He nodded as Liean wandered back into the room, taking hold of Venom’s left hand and lacing their fingers together. She smiled up at him and led him back to the door. “Venom.” Venom looked back at Rawur at the sound of his name. “If you give me some time I could make you a replacement arm.” Rawur offered.
“Yes. It will take time but...I could make one that worked better than your original one.” Rawur said, chuckling afterwards. Venom hesitated for a moment before nodding again, confused and a bit warry of the gleam in the man's eyes at the agreement. The younger man smiled inside his muzzle as Liean pulled Venom out of the room and down the hallway.
“Here!” She said before pulling Venom into a cleaner room a few doors down. It was a dark gray and black tiled washroom with an oddly shaped ivory tub at one corner. Liean ran over to the tub pulling one of the silver levers on its side. “Ok, we only have hot water. Don’t ask why but we don’t have cold water for some reason.” She said while running her fingers under the steaming water, swinging her small legs as she sat on the edge of the bath. “Anyway, take your clothes off.” Venom’s eyes widened at what she had said.
“W-what?!” He said, looking a tad frightened.
“Do you expect to take a bath and have me clean your injury with your clothes on?” Liean said, before giggling. “Oh, I see. You’re embarrassed to take your clothes off in front of me because I’m a girl!” Venom blushed even as he attempted to quell the shock displayed on his face. Liean giggled again before turning around and covering her eyes with her hands, looking as if she was going to play a simple game of hide and seek. “Alright, now take your clothes off. I’m not looking! Just tell me when you’re done.” She said, smiling even though the black haired man could not see it. Venom waited a moment before undoing his ratty skull belt and taking his clothing off. He stepped into the steaming water and sat down, the water burning his pale skin slightly.
“Okay.” Venom said, showing his displeasure in his voice. Liean peeked through her fingers before removing her hands. Venom sat with his back to her, clearly not enjoying being in the bath with a young girl in the room.
“See that wasn’t too bad.” Liean said, smiling happily as she picked up a bowl of hot water and, without warning, poured it on Venom’s head. He hissed at the hot water splashing down on his skull as his hair was soaked, the water giving it the appearance of ink. He turned his head, glaring at her through strands of dripping black hair as she laughed at the way he looked. She turned him slightly after the small fit of laughter so she could see where his right arm had been. She took a white cloth that was sitting on the side of the tub and dipped it into the water before wiping the blood off his side. Venom winced as she wiped the top of his shoulder, the burning water dripping into his bleeding wound.
“I’m surprised you’re still awake.” Liean said, trying to make conversation so the tense atmosphere around the young man would disappear. “You’ve lost more blood than any one else I‘ve met before.” Venom stared at the steaming water that was turning a light purple from his blood.
“My DNA has been altered.” He said after a long silence, feeling as if he was admitting it by speaking of it. Liean nodded softly as she continued cleaning his wound.
“That would explain the color of your blood.” Liean said, finishing cleaning the fresh blood off his side. She washed the rest of his wound in silence.
The little girl smiled when she was done, standing up and turning away from him like before. He got out of the tub, taking the clothes Liean sat out on a decaying counter and quickly putting them on. Liean turned around again, putting bandages over Venom’s right shoulder before he put on the light gray button up shirt. The clothes felt like pajamas to him as she led him into the room next to Rawur’s.
It was dull and nearly empty with the gray rose patterned wallpaper slowly peeling off to show the faded white paint underneath. A small dresser sat across the room from a small cot propped up against the right wall. The room was barren of anything other than the cobwebs and few furniture. “This will be your room. Don’t worry; I’ll have your clothes clean tomorrow. Now, sleep!” Liean said in a motherly way as Venom crawled under the sheets of the bed. He felt strange taking orders from a little girl but also felt oddly relieved by it. He laid under the moth eaten gray sheets, thinking as Liean closed the door.
It felt nicer here than in the basement, though he did miss Siren’s annoying voice a little bit. He closed his eyes slowly as he got lost in his thoughts. For once, his insomnia did not keep him awake as he fell asleep quickly.
Venom flinched in his sleep, events of the day flowing into his mind. He woke suddenly in a cold sweat as the removal of his arm came across his dreams. He did not even want to dream of that torture. He sat up, taking off the shirt Liean gave him and examining the blood soaked bandages on his shoulder. He tossed aside the gray shirt and curled up like a snake, drifting to sleep again.
Venom woke the next day to the feeling that he was being watched. He sat up, looking around the nearly empty darkness to find no one else there. He began to think he was imaging the presence, after all, there was no place to hide in the small room.
“Why did you move?” A voice asked from above him, startling him and making him bare his fangs. Venom’s head snapped up to look at the ceiling to find Rawur lying on it, gazing down at him with his hands behind his head. He looked quite comfortable on the ceiling, seeming a little dazed as if he himself had just woken up. Venom leapt out of the bed in surprise, not expecting the younger man to be so at home above him. Rawur pushed himself off the ceiling, landing in a crouched position on the bed like a cat. “You looked peaceful when you were asleep.” He said while he adjusted his muzzle slightly, an obvious grin hidden behind it.
“You were watching me?” Venom asked, feeling a little angry that he let his guard down as well as uneasy about what exactly this man was.
“I like to observe people.” Rawur said as if it was a casual habit. “I find it interesting what you can find out when you watch them for a long time. It’s a habit I picked up when I committed murders.” He stood up, leaning to one side and slouching quite a bit. “I should warn you that I do suffer from Psychosis and Hysterical Rage. When I’m like that, please stay away from me or I cannot guarantee your safety. I forgot to tell you that yesterday.” He started walking to the door, humming a short tune. “Also,” Rawur said, pausing at the door. “We are not the only patients down here. Watch your back for some of them do not like unknown company.” He walked out the door to leave the black haired man to ponder the warning.
Venom discarded the borrowed clothing and pulled on his clean black jeans that Liean had silently set out for him. He moved to follow the blue haired being, only to find Rawur gone the second he stepped out the door. He looked down the hallway only to find a broken desk and a smashed vase that must have once been on the flat surface. Venom snorted quietly in annoyance before he walked down the hallway, wanting to explore this unusually clam place. Four doors down, he noticed two men standing at the bolted door as if waiting for him.
Two men walked into Master Grimton’s office, shifting nervously as their boss puffed deeply on a cigar as he lit it.
“You summoned us, Master Grimton?” One of the men said as he stepped forward, being braver than the shorter man next to him. Master Grimton turned his chair to face the men, his blue eyes searching them with disinterest before he spoke.
“Yes, I did.” He turned to the window, watching the trees sway in the fall wind as the smoke of the cigar floated into the already polluted air of the office.
“Venom has become rather large problem and threat to us. The police want him in jail, not here. But in Venom’s present…condition, it will complicate things too much.” He paused for a moment, thinking things over. “I want him dissected and the results on my desk, tomorrow. We will tell the police he committed suicide when we had our backs turned.”
“Yes, sir!” The taller man said, taking a step backwards in fear. Not even the minions of Master Grimton would speak against what he demanded. “We’ll send a team down to Section seventy-six right away.” The shorter and older looking man added, quickly moving to leave the office with his companion.
“Good. Good.” Master Grimton muttered, watching a flock of birds pass the window. A smile growing on his lips as the frightened men left.