A/N: So this is my first actual fanfic that I plan on writing to completion. Any constructive completion is appreciated; I'm new to writing fanfiction. This is basically Susan's story after The Last Battle. C.S. Lewis mentioned that the demon deity of Calormen had his own realm, but beyond that it was never actually explored. I thought, while writing about Susan's ultimate fate, it would be interesting to write a story set in Tash's realm, which I have dubbed the Nightmare, and explore the Calormen pantheon and their relationship to Aslan, at least how I see it.
Disclaimer: Y'know what? Screw it. You all know I didn't write the original Chronicles of Narnia. Is this disclaimer even necessary? C.S. Lewis has been dead for years. You get the picture.
It was late that night when Charlie came home. He opened the door to the barracks and collapsed on to his bunk. "Hey, airman," greeted Jones. "Tired?"
Charlie opened one eye and looked at the giant of a man. He sighed. "Twelve hour shifts every day this week and I was out last night with my girl," he groaned. "You do the math."
Jones laughed. "Ha! I wish I could, but I was never no good in math," he said.
"It means I'm tired, you big lunk."
Jones laughed again. "Well, sweet dreams princess," he joked and made his way toward the door, but stopped after a few feet and turned around. "Oh, and by the way, you got a letter from your girl. It's on the nightstand."
A letter? That was unusual. Letter writing was for the clichéd high school sweethearts, separated by a sea and a war while they both eagerly awaited to be reunited, only for the man to come home changed and distant, like in all the war movies.
Susan, on the other hand, lived barely an hour away. Why didn't she just call him?
For a few minutes, Charlie debated with himself. Should he open the letter, just to see what she wrote? Or maybe it wasn't important and he could read it tomorrow morning before roll call.
For a little bit, he chose the second option, until his curiosity finally won out. "Goddamn it, Jones," he cursed. If his friend hadn't let him know about the letter, he wouldn't be in this bind, would he?
Fumbling around, he opened the letter and read it quickly. It was from Susan's landlord. But why didn't Tunlaw call him?
Firstly, allow me to apologize for sending a letter instead of calling; the phone lines are down all up and down the street.
Susan is missing. I don't know where she's gone off to, and I haven't heard from her for three days running now. The door to her flat is locked, and my key suddenly doesn't work. Please, come to London as soon as you can! I've notified the police, and they merely shrugged me off, said horrible things and told me I was a neurotic old man.
And then Charlie was suddenly full of energy and despair. Tunlaw wasn't one to fuck with him (few people were), and it was unlike Susan to just vanish. "But I just saw her last night!" he said to himself. So, if it wasn't Susan last night, who did he take to dinner? But that was ridiculous; Tunlaw probably went senile, finally.
Still though…Charlie knew he loved Susan. He sighed. Would he really want to take a chance, knowing she might be in danger? Maybe he just didn't see Susan in the hallway for a couple of days, and she went missing after last night. Either way, he mentioned his key suddenly wasn't working, so someone had changed the lock.
The only explanation Charlie could think of was that Susan changed the lock on her door because something or someone was making her feel unsafe, threatening her enough that she felt she had to take such drastic measures. The last thing she needed was a creep stalking her. And she was too terrified to tell me…
Charlie crushed the letter in his fist, grabbed his sidearm and flew out the door. He ran as fast as he could to Captain Crain's office, who had stepped outside for a quick smoke break and nearly collided with him.
"Whoa! Dammit, airman!" he spat. "What in God's name are you doin'?"
"Sir!" said Charlie with a quick salute and held up the letter. "Sir, I have a letter, from a lord-land, I mean landlord, about Susan, and—"
"Compose yourself, soldier!" Crain snapped. He ashed his cigarette against the wall, letting the butt drop into the soil below and stomped on it. "Get inside, Charlie," he ordered.
Charlie did as told, but before he had taken a seat, he stuck the crumpled up letter in Craig's face. "Please, sir, there's no time," Charlie begged.
Crain grabbed the letter, made his way towards his desk, pulled a pair of reading glasses out of the top drawer and read it, muttering to himself as he did. After a moment, he threw it back down on the desk, turned to his radio and said to Charlie, "you're lucky you did a damn fine job in Korea, airman." He turned to the radio. "Get me a transport to the village—get a cab to London, or a bus, or whatever the fuck you can do to get Perot to London. Now!"
"Thank you, sir," said Charlie. He saluted again, this time a proper salute, and not a hasty one.
"You have one day," Crain warned, unmoved. "If you're not back by roll-call the day after tomorrow, you're doing another twelve-hour shift. Understood?"
"Sir, yes sir!"
The ride to London was agonizingly long. Charlie was nearly sick with worry, and yet he found his mind wandering back to when he first met Susan.
It was two years ago, in January of 1953. Charlie had just been transferred to RAF Lakenheath on security detail after three years in Korea. He and a couple of other airmen had gone down to London on their first night off, finding themselves in a dimly lit pub with the simple plan of getting shit-faced.
But Charlie's plans of drunkenness went out the window the minute he saw her.
She was with a group of her own friends at a booth, no doubt relaxing after their own long day. The girls surrounding her were nurses, still in uniform from the day's shift, but she was clearly not one herself. She was older than the rest of them, and they were already three drinks deep, judging by the number of margarita glasses that littered the table.
Except her. The tall one with the jet-black hair was clearly not as buzzed as the rest of them, happily chatting away with each other.
And then she looked up. Charlie's reflexes failed him as his mind told his head to move away, to avoid meeting her gaze, but it was too late. She saw him, calmly got up and fluidly, gracefully, made her way over to the bar and sat down next to him.
She motioned to the bartender, though truth be told she didn't have to, as the greasy man was enchanted the moment she sat down. "Whisky straight, please," she ordered. Her voice was lovely, like silk from another world.
"You don't mess around, do you?" said Charlie, and he could have slapped himself immediately.
She smiled, a sweet smile Charlie nearly dropped dead at. "Unlike most women, I know what I want," she declared.
Charlie's thoughts were racing. This girl wasn't destined to be a simple nurse or a housewife, like most women of the 50's. In fact, she was dressed formally, the kind of style he'd seen the students around King's College don. "Fancy yourself a cut above the ordinary, do you?" He was on autopilot, his brain going into panic mode as his heart beat faster than it ever had in his life. He was afraid of having a heart attack. "I would have to agree."
She smiled again as she turned to him. "Susan," she introduced herself, but she might as well have been trying to establish first communications with a dim-witted Neanderthal, as Charlie was stunned. She cocked her head in curiosity when he remained silent. "Don't you have a name?"
"Y-yes," he stammered. "Charlie—it's Charlie. Charles for short. I mean Charlie for short." He stuck out his hand for her to shake, but it was sweaty and trembling.
She laughed, clearly amused at his fumbling. "Are American soldiers always so shy?" she asked.