Another challenge from author Chuck Wendig's site, this one to write a story that must contain three things generated randomly from the lists on the link attached.
So, I ended up with a pocket watch, a vampire and a resurrection. Easy; a Gothic horror in the style of Dracula, right? Well, not quite. It started that way, then something changed and I ended up thrashing out what you can see below. It's been a tough one to write, but I hope it's an enjoyable read.
The Raven burst through the door, cape billowing, but Mister Midnight was ready for him.
He had Betsy, an arm curled tight around her neck, a revolver pressed at her temple, as he backed towards the window, through which the Raven could see the airship making its steady approach.
“Once again, we see there is nothing you have that I cannot take away.”
The Raven said nothing, looking into the eyes of his love. She smiled, winked, then pressed her foot down hard.
Midnight bellowed his pain and frustration, releasing Besty and firing the gun.
The Raven felt the bullet smash into his chest. He looked at his nemesis in disbelief, face blurred behind the smoke rising from the gun barrel, heard Betsy screaming as the world faded to black.
Heaven consisted of a room, each surface rendered in a stark white, lit by a bulb far from the warm glow of candles he was expecting. There was a door to his left, while a mirror hung from the wall on the right.
At some point, the choirs of angel had sat him in a metal, high-backed wheelchair, like the one’s he’d seen in the sanatorium after the war, although this one thankfully wasn’t a commode. His ankles and wrists were shackled tight – none of the moves he’d been taught by the swamis and gurus of the far east could budge them – and his head was kept facing forward by the cushioned framework that surrounded it.
He could see enough, though, and he didn’t like it. He wore a white jumpsuit that felt like it was made from paper, itching inside his elbows, knees, and crotch. The sight of his hands disturbed him somewhat; gone were the thick fingers that could curl into a pugilist’s fist, replaced by knobbly joints and pale, thin skin through which the veins looked fit to burst.
The mirror was worse. In it, the costumed crime-fighter had been replaced by a shrivelled old man, one fastened into place for his own safety rather than to foil any escape attempts.
He knew the truth, of course. All a trick, a vision created by his enemies. Doctor Hypnos, it had to be; he was the only one of Midnight’s associates capable of something like this. Very clever, he had to admit; all these years of foiling schemes and outwitting manoeuvres, now reduced to a battle of wills. It felt apt, somehow.
A click. He tensed at the sound, but it was only the door opening.
A slim man entered, dressed like a Doctor but too young to be one. He had a clipboard and a pen in his hands, spectacles balanced on the end of his nose.
“Welcome back, Mr Jones.”
Yes, he thought, that’s my name. Jack Jones. Jackdaw, they used to call me, back in the trenches, before I came home and became the Raven.
“I’m Doctor Adamson,” he said as he sat on the desk’s edge. “You’ll have questions, of course.”
“You won’t beat me.” The sound of his own voice was a shock, as frail as his appearance. What had they done to him?
Adamson nodded sagely. “This is common for someone who’s been under as long as yourself. You see, none of it was real.”
He leaned forward, clipboard extended towards Jones. All it held were two images, photographs of the same woman in her twenties and sixties. “Betsy,” Jones gasped.
“Your late wife.”
Jones swallowed, clamping his lips tight before emotion could betray him again.
Adamson took this silence as his cue to continue. “When she died, you came here. We plugged you in, but you’ve lasted much longer than we’d anticipated. Your money ran out before your life did and,” his face turned apologetic, “our accountants forced us to pull you out. A difficult transition, I appreciate, but...” he shrugged. “It’s all been a dream. An incredibly good, high-resolution one, but that’s what you wanted and what we at Morphean Dreamscapes are here to provide.”
“Where’s your master? Watching through that mirror?” Jones had seen enough interrogation rooms in his time.
“Let me show you.”
Jones could only sit there as Adamson walked him. “View,” he whispered, turning the wheelchair to face the glass.
The reflection dissolved into a cityscape that was all steel and angles. Gone was the dirt and grime of the concrete jungle he was used to, replaced with clean and ordered blocks. Cold, somehow. “This is home now, Mr Jones.”
Everything came back. The life, the love he had lost, the Girl he saved on a regular basis in fiction that he hadn’t been able to in real life. “I can’t. Not without her.” A tear moistened his cheek.
Adamson’s hand pressed his shoulder, warm and reassuring. “There’s another option.”
“My God.” Jones gasped.
“Yes. In a way, it is. Or will be.”
Adamson had pushed him through a warren of dark, humid corridors that ended in a room containing a vast tank. A monstrous leech floated within, its bulk writhing as they approached.
“It powers everything, feeding on dreams and fantasies.” Adamson extended his hand to one of several beds connected to the tank by a tangle of cables. “You may stay if you wish, but this time you will not wake up.”
The Raven looked into the eyes of his love. She smiled, winked, then pressed her foot down hard.
Midnight bellowed, firing the gun.
The Raven felt the impact, a flare of agony as hot lead smashed into his father’s pocket watch, shattering it into pieces.
“We will meet again, Raven!” Midnight fired again, into the window this time, shattering glass before jumping out to take the rope trailing from the airship.
The Raven could only watch, wincing at the pain in his chest. It became a smile as Betsy embraced him.
“Are you ok?”
He nodded. The Villain had escaped – again – but the Hero had got the Girl. That was all that mattered.