When she hears his voice, it’s like he’s speaking through her entire body. The hiss of his whisper is magnified a hundred times over until her body all but vibrates with it. She tries to shut it out, but can’t.
“I grow impatient. All of you players are in position. Let the games begin.”
“What was that?” Diane says. “Who the hell said that?”
“I don’t know honey, but this is fucked up. I’m having a bump.” The one called Valhalla says. “Barbie honey, you never told me your building was so messed up! I feel like a bastard at a family reunion. I mean, how do you live here?”
“It’s not normally like this.” The one called Barbie said. Their voices had dropped their falsetto’s. They were clearly afraid.
“I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” This was Moira. “I mean, Diane, don’t you have any booze? I could really use a drink.”
“Here honey.” Valhalla says. “Take my flask, its good scotch.”
LaWanda goes to a corner of the apartment that doesn’t have people. She needs to learn about this man that isn’t a man if they are to get out alive. She knows now that they are all prisoners. People can come into 69B, but they can never leave. Not with this shadow man as the master.
“LaWanda?” Moira says. “Are you all right?”
She waves a hand but Diane answers for her. “Let her be dear. She’s searching.”
“Searching for who?” Valhalla says. “She’s not going anywhere.”
“Will you please be quiet?” Diane snaps.
LaWanda goes into Diane’s small bedroom and closes the door. She closes her eyes again and almost right away is flying through the darkness of the ether. She sees shapes and shadows, light and darkness. She knows that these are people trapped in the building like they are. She recognizes some of them: Justin and Shane, Petunia sitting with someone she doesn’t know; she sees Rex, a cloud above his head and knows that he is intoxicated. She sees Hollis, but he is dark as if he’s being eaten from the inside out, as if his body is rotten. She does not see Blaine, Colleen or Elaine, nor does she see their light. She assumes they are dead. There is a woman at the front door about to knock.
LaWanda looks deeper into the smoke of the ether. She looks for the shadow man. She knows he is nursing his wounds. She sees him. It’s as if he is not only made of darkness. He is the darkness. It writhes inside of him like a flock of bats with red eyes. She moves to go closer and does not see him look up until it is too late.
“You want to have a look?” He says. “Come have a peek at me Witch. I’ll show you something fun.”
The blackness from inside of him becomes a puff of smoke, is a cloud, is a merciless fog. It closes around her until she can see nothing but darkness. When the shadows clear, she is in a house. She doesn’t recognize it; she has never been here before. She walks into what is the living room and sees something that takes the breath from her spirit.
A woman is strapped to a contraption, her back laid bare. An old man is standing over her, holding a scalpel. She is whimpering behind a layer of duct tape.
“Oh Helen, you know that there’s no use in begging. You brought this on yourself, you know. You really did.”
The woman makes to sounds. To LaWanda, they sound like fuck you. The older man laughs at her.
“Kill you? Why, my dear, would I want to do that? Don’t you know how much fun we’re going to have, you and I, together?”
“I want to play a game, Helen. Don’t want to play? You’ve already made your choice.”
The woman called Helen was whimpering in earnest now.
“It does no good to cry now, Helen. You knew what you were doing, what you did.”
LaWanda watches as he takes a black and white photograph from his pocket and shows it to her.
“Do you remember that day, Helen? I remember. It was the day you took everything from me. The day that the Twelve began. Now be a good girl. I need to write and I need some ink.”
LaWanda screams and pulls out of the darkness but something won’t let her all the way out and holds on to her, digging his nails into her flesh.
“Did you like that Witch? Did you like watching me kill my wife?”
Inside of the ether, LaWanda’s voice is soft like smoke. “You’re a monster.”
“True, I am, but I wasn’t always like this. This was a gift to me after I killed my daughter and son.”
“Why are you telling me this? Why me?”
“Why not you?” He laughs at her and releases her arm. LaWanda flies back into her own body but not before she hears him speak once more. “And clean yourself up. You’re dripping ink all over the place.”
When LaWanda comes back to the real world, she finds her arm dripping and covered in blood from where he touched her. She lets out a loud piercing scream and hears footsteps. “LaWanda!” It’s Moira. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
She stops screaming. She has to say this before she passes out. “Search the internet. Look for a woman named Helen and her son and daughter. They’re all dead.”
Then she closes her eyes. Going into the ether always exhausts her. She hopes that by leaving them, even for a moment, she is not putting 69B in danger.