Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 33: The Spirit is Willing

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Plucky Girl Reporter Cassandra True has quarreled with her friend Strephon over a job offer from Simon Knox, publisher of the prestigious Morning Star. Cassandra's roommate, Cecilie, suggests that she forget about Strephon and go with her to a club.

By the time she and Cecilie reached the Club Cyba-Netsu, Cassandra was having second thoughts. "Can't we go someplace else?" she asked.

"What's wrong with the Cyba-Netsu?" Cecilie asked. "It's a fun place."

"It's just kind of creepy, that's all."

"We've been here before and it's never bothered you." Cecilie frowned. Then she nodded and gave Cassandra a knowing grin. "Oh! I get it! Last time you were here was with him!"

"That's not it!" Cassandra couldn't very well tell her about the vampire; she'd just laugh. Cassandra wasn't even sure herself what she saw last night. It was all mixed up in her mind with Strephon and that weird Kurayami woman. "Couldn't we just go someplace normal, I mean?"

Cecilie grabbed her flatmate by the shoulders and shoved her through the club's entrance. "Girl, you need some danger in your life! Normal is the last thing you need!"

Cassandra hesitated as she entered the club. It looked the same as before; the same mix of goths, neopunks and ravers; fetsihists and eccentrics; but this time Cassandra could not help but feel something disturbingly wrong. The biker with the little fake horns glued to his forehead; were those really fake? The girl with the spiked collar who licked her lips as Cassandra passed, was that tounge forked? Cassandra shook her head and told herself to relax.

They sat down at their usual table. Cecilie ordered a Dark Delight. Cassandra ordered a Fuzzy Navel. Cecilie tapped out electronic greetings on her seat's laptop to one or two people whose usernames she recognized. Cassandra just sat and lurked. She didn't really feel like socializing. Her puppy avatar smiled at her from her computer screen. Why did she have to choose such a dippy avatar?

Cassandra felt extremely self-conscious, as if everyone in the club was staring at her. She was probably the only person in the whole club drinking a Fuzzy Navel. She glanced furtively around the room.

Someone was staring at them.

Cassandra tapped out an IM to Cecilie. She recalled Strephon's comment on how silly it was to send an electronic message to someone right next to one, but she felt safer this way; she did not want to be seen exchanging whispers.

CassE: That guy at that table over there is watching us?

Cecilie looked around. Then sent:

 SinGrrl: Who? iz he cute?
CassE: Across the dance floor. In the corner under the Guinness sign.

Cecilie saw him; a small man in a grimy coat with dark stains on his t-shirt. He grinned in her direction.

SinGrrl: i don't C a username logged in at hiz table. 

Cecilie waved at him and gave him a wink. The guy grinned back. Cecilie stood up.

"What are you doing?" Cassandra hissed, forgetting to use the computer.

"I'm going to see if he wants to dance."

Cassandra grasped her arm. "Don't," she said.

"Don't worry about me. I'm a big girl. I won't leave you alone, I promise."

Cecilie's carefree laugh did little to calm Cassandra. She was certain she had seen that guy before, but she couldn't place his face. She watched Cecilie go over to the guy's table. They chatted a bit, and then he rose and led her to the dance floor.

"Would you like another drink miss?"

The waiter came up behind Cassandra so silently that he nearly scared the wits out of her. She gasped as she recognized Ricky, the green-haired waiter from the night before. The vampire...

"What? Oh, no. I'm fine," Cassandra said. "Er, tell me. Do you know the name of the man who was sitting at that table over there? The one who's dancing with my friend?"

The waiter looked in the direction she indicated. "There has been no one at that table all night." He scanned the dance floor. "I do not see your friend."

Cassandra gave a terrified squeal. She had just remembered where she recognized the man's face. It was Greg Hans, the murderer and rapist; his picture had been in the Oracle only the week before.

She rose abruptly, knocking over her glass. "Excuse me!" she said and bolted towards the dance floor. Creatures of the night stared at her as she blundered through the dance. Through the flickering lights and bobbing heads she caught a glimpse of Cassie near one of the exits.

Franticly, Cassandra tried to weave her way through the dance floor. She reached the exit and burst through the door. The guy had Cecilie up against the side of the alley, apparently just chatting her up. Then he pulled the knife out of his coat.

Cassandra screamed. The guy turned to face her and she now saw that the stains on his t-shirt were bloody bullet holes. Only then did she remember the story that went with his photo: Greg Hans, suspected rapist and murderer, shot to death while resisting arrest...

"Hans, what are you doing here? You don't belong here." The icy tone made Cassandra's flesh creep. She whirled and saw Miss Kurayami standing behind her.

Kurayami slid past Cassandra like a wraith and confronted the dead man. "You are no longer welcome in my establishment," she said, her mask-like face stern and unforgiving. "Go."

The dead man's face twisted in rage. His lips mouthed a curse, but no words came out; only a thin, piercing moan. Then his body dissolved, like a forgotten mist.

"Good evening, Miss True," Kurayami said, turning to Cassandra. "I am sorry we had to meet again under such distasteful circumstances. I will have words with my doormen. In the meantime, please come back in and enjoy the hospitality of my establishment." She inclined her head in a courteous, but not obsequious bow, and gestured to the door.

Cassandra glanced to Cecilie. "You wanted danger?

NEXT:  Some of My Best Friends Are Dead

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