"If you should go skating
On the thin ice of modern life
Dragging behind you the silent reproach
Of a million tear-stained eyes
Don't be surprised when a crack in the ice
Appears under your feet
You'll slip out of your depth and out of your mind
With your fear flowing out behind you
As you claw the thin ice…"
- Pink Floyd, The Thin Ice
Dennis turned his head to look in the cell across from him, fearing the worst. Instead, he saw nothing he had expected to see. It was a girl, her flesh like pure ivory, her fragile body lying motionless on the glass floor. She was soaking wet, and a pool of bloody water had begun slowly spreading around her form. Dennis frowned, then looked to Royce, "Am I missing something? Who is she? You ever seen her before?"
"No, never," Royce replied, just as bewildered.
Within seconds, the girl began to stir. A sudden spasm went through her petite hands, folded over her stomach, and her fingers shook uncontrollably for a few seconds, making her diamond ring, which appeared to be one of the engagement sort, glimmer in the sparse light. Her eyes abruptly flew open and she inhaled deeply, a look of horror on her ashen face. She inhaled again, as though she could not get enough air into her body, and promptly went into a coughing fit. Quickly, she rolled over onto her stomach, choking and gasping as black blood and seawater poured from her mouth.
The two could only gawk in both disgust and ruefulness as convulsions wracked the girl's shoulders, forcing out the contents of her lungs for the past forty years. After a few minutes of retching, she ceased and let out a weak sigh, lifting herself up off her stomach and into a sitting position. Glancing back at what she'd just puked up, the girl herself cringed and wiped some traces of blood off her florid lips. This was going to take some getting used to. It was the first time she had been exposed to oxygen in decades. Closing her eyes, she ran a hand through her tangled raven tresses and began squeezing water out, shivering a little as the droplets ran down her back.
While it had been a less than grand entrance, Royce found himself unable to take his eyes off the mystery girl, intrigued by the apparition before him. He found himself completely apathetic to the fact that she wasn't even supposed to be here, that her being here could be dangerous. Instead, he slid off his hot rod, without the slightest hesitation, and walked up to the glass. Knocking lightly to get her attention, he waited until she opened her eyes before he spoke. "Hey…are you alright?" he questioned gently.
She looked to him and nodded slowly, expressionless. Her blue-gray eyes were shining extraordinarily bright, like gemstones in a dark tunnel; but the gleam did not come from vitality or a mischievous nature. It was the look of someone who was about to burst into bitter tears. Heaving another sigh, she pulled herself off the ground to her feet, a bit unsteady in her high heels. She went to hold onto the wall for balance, so she could remove her burdensome shoes, when her fingers brushed against the containment spells. They lit up at her touch, making her jump back in surprise. After a pause, she moved up again to examine the letters, poking at the script with her long fingernails. The writing felt warm to the touch and gave her a bit of a shock, as though they were electrified. Not exactly a pleasant feeling. She tried to keep her balance standing on her own, removing one shoe at a time and tossing them into the corner of her cell. Then, swallowing hard, she hugged her arms to her chest and stared around the room, taking in her new surroundings morosely. From one glass prison to another. She had expected this, expected Jack to take her somewhere else after the ghost vessel finally sank, but why here? And where was he now?
Royce watched her with an interest that went beyond just curiosity, while racking his brain for something to else to say to her. It was the way she had looked at him just a few moments before, her eyes swimming with tears, that made him desperately want to reach out to her, make her feel better. He wanted to see a real smile from her. But nothing came to him, and for fear of saying the wrong thing, he remained silent. He didn't want to keep watching her and staring at her like this; she'd probably get annoyed or creeped out. But he couldn't help it. Even in death, in her drowned and bloody state, she was a beautiful sight, and beauty had remained so obscure to him. He couldn't really remember the last time he had seen something that could be deemed beautiful.
Dennis also kept silent, for once, as he examined the girl, trying to decide the best way to go about this. Her presence was a tortured one, that was for sure. More so than any ghost he had seen before. She was a bit nervous, jumpy like a rabbit, and looked very upset about being here. Join the club, honey he thought to himself. Still, he could see why Royce was so captivated at first sight. She was young, about his own age maybe, and reminded him of a china doll with her long black hair, delicate features, and pale skin. She was clad in a sleeveless powder blue evening gown, made of flimsy lace. Very European looking, but hardly modest. A provocative slit on each side revealed her legs all the way up to her mid-thigh, despite the gown falling to her ankles. It was probably a good thing that ol' Ryan wasn't here. He would probably have a fit. Still, for Dennis at least, the alluring illusion was ruined by the battered state she was in. It must have been really something, what the girl had been through. Various places on the gown were ripped and slashed. Her exposed legs were covered in bruises and lacerations. And though there was no denying that she met her death at the hands of the sea, Dennis was surprised her most distinct wound didn't kill her first: a knife gash just above her stomach, miniscule but deep. If she had not drowned, she would have most assuredly bled to death; blood was smeared all across her stomach and down the front of the gown.
The visible anguish in her smoky eyes and the inconceivable aura of regret that engulfed her reminded Dennis immediately of another tortured beauty, Dana Newman. But yet, this girl was no Dana Newman. There was something about her, Dennis decided, that told him she hadn't always been this way. As great as her sorrow was now, it hadn't always been interred so deep within her. She was probably very happy at one time, loved and in love, judging by the massive sparkling rock on her finger. But something must have happened, some ill-advised action she took that blew up in her face. That's how it always seemed to be: in one way or another, every ghost was partly to fully responsible for their own downfall.
His thoughts were halted when a familiar voice echoed from the floor above them. "I appreciate you bringing her here for me. It must have been quite a hike, coming here all the way from the Bering Strait…"
"Cyrus!" Dennis exclaimed wrathfully.
The girl whipped around to face Dennis. "Shhh!" she said, glaring and motioning for him to shut the hell up if he knew what was good for him.
"He's come back again…" Royce muttered, staring up and straining his ears to listen to every detail.
Another man answered him, but not the one Royce had heard the other day. "Oh, think nothing of it," he replied sarcastically.
The girl drew her breath in sharply, recognizing the other man's voice. Dennis turned to her, "Friend of yours?"
She frowned and shook her head, her gaze never leaving the ceiling, "Hell no…" she murmured. She spoke with a slight, lilting accent. "He is to me what Cyrus is to you."
The other man, the one the girl knew, continued, "Look, can't we make some sort of deal? Management doesn't have to know. Just give Monica back to me and we can work something out to where I can—"
"No deal, Jack. I hear you're not very good at keeping them. And anyway, where would you store her? The Graza is resting at the bottom of the strait now. You're lucky you were able to get away with keeping her with you as long as you did."
Jack growled, "You don't understand, old man. It took me forty years to collect all those souls. And then, just because I made a mistake, purely unintentional by the way, I have to start over again with a bigger weight on my shoulders than before? Well that's bullshit. I don't have time for that."
Cyrus laughed, "Don't blame me for your misfortune, my friend. Whether it was unintentional or not, it was still an error on your part. A particularly grievous one. Really now, how could one so eminent be outsmarted by a mere woman and a pesky little girl? I hope now you see that management will not tolerate your failure again. Nor will they tolerate you trying to cheat and cut corners around their guidelines…"
"I may not look it, but I've been around much longer than you," Jack said, fuming. "No matter what management says, it was a good idea. I snagged Monica before the ship went down because I knew she would get me to my new goal faster. She'd help me in capturing more souls, I was all she had left. Once I broke her spirit and her heart, she would've done anything for me."
Dennis and Royce shared a look upon hearing Jack's words, then glanced to Monica. Still gazing at the ceiling, her expression bore an extra edge of torment and anger. Everything he said was true. She had always known she was nothing more than a subordinate, one of his sacrificial pawns, but actually hearing him proclaim it, in front of people she didn't even know; that was different. She hoped she wasn't bearing evidence of her extreme humiliation at the moment, but the sudden heat she felt as her face flushed told her that she was.
"Yes, well, I was not allowed any unfair advantages in using my own little secret weapon: Mr. Rafkin. And you shouldn't have that benefit either. You'll just have to learn to accept it, as I did." Dennis scowled at the mention of his name, cursing Cyrus under his breath. If Cyrus could hear the on-goings of the ghosts downstairs, he didn't let on that he could. "You know Jack, you may be more experienced than I am in these sort of affairs, but you have much maturing to do. In mind, I believe you are still young and don't understand when you have your…toys suddenly taken away from you. In time, you'll see this is for your own good, keeping her here. We can't have you tempted to use her again, now can we? You have nothing to worry about, however. She's in good hands…"
With that, the voices ceased. Monica was the first to speak afterwards, her tone cold and steel-edged. "So that's what this is about. A business transaction."
Dennis groaned. It appeared Cyrus wasn't the only lunatic who liked making ghosts his prisoners. "Look…Monica…" he interjected with a sigh, "I know it's probably something you don't like talking about, let alone thinking about, but you've got to give us the 411 on this guy, Jack."
Monica ignored him, closing her eyes and rubbing her left temple. It didn't surprise her at all, that Jack would allow this to happen, but it still hurt all the same. Jack was all that she had left; she hated him with a fury she never knew rested inside her, yet she depended on him and feared him. He decided whether she remained on earth or was finally taken down to hell, where her sins of malice condemned her. And it was up to him whether or not she saw James again. He had fucking promised her, as the Graza sank from beneath them, that if she continued to help him, he would make her dream a reality. But he had yet to make good on that promise, and now it looked like he never would. Like so many others before, he had planted the seed of hope in her, waiting for it to grow until he wrenched it out of her grasp. And now James would never know…
Voices saying her name brought her mind back to the present. Dennis glowered at Monica, who still looked to be off in her own little world, lost in her thoughts. "Fuck it," he mumbled to Royce. "I'm not dealing with this again. Anyway, you heard what they said. Cyrus is just keeping her here for now, she doesn't have anything to do with us or the Ocularis. Fuck getting involved with this, let's just worry about ourselves."
"How can you say that?" Royce muttered back, "If the time comes that we're able to escape, we're not leaving her here."
Dennis sighed, "Look, I know it's a blunt way of dealing with things, but if she won't talk, that's how it's going to be."
"She's just upset. We have to keep pressing her though, this guy Jack could be dangerous. We still don't know the extent of his power. She'll talk, don't worry," Royce insisted. He looked back to Monica, who was beginning to pace the length of her cell like a restless panther.
"Oh then by all means, work your magic, Casanova," Dennis jeered.
Royce paused to give Dennis an icy stare before he looked to Monica, still pacing. He spoke as gently as he had the first words he spoke to her, "Monica, please talk to us. We could be here for awhile. And we haven't even been properly introduced yet. I—"
He paused in mid-sentence when she quickly turned to look at him. He'd finally gotten her attention. Royce smiled, but Monica didn't return the friendly gesture. The tears in her eyes earlier had been seemingly extinguished by a conflagration of flames that now emanated from her gaze. "I…don't give a fuck…who either of you are," she said slowly, every word sopping with a venom that vanquished Royce's smile in a matter of seconds. Monica placed one hand on her hip, looking between the two of them, "You think I'm gonna talk? I say, ha! What's the farthest thing I want from my mind right now? All you have to do is look at me, what I've become. That is the extent of Jack Ferriman's power. If you saw me before all of this, you would not recognize me." She shook her head in disgust, "You think you're going to be so clever, finding a way out of this. Stop kidding yourselves. In life, you may have had freedom, but that changes in death. They'll do with you what they want. They may let you get away for a little while, make you think you're safe, but then they pull you back again. It's senseless to hope for peace. Rest in Peace…what a cruel joke. There is no peace."
Giving them one last crestfallen look, she turned on her heel and retreated to a dark corner of her cell where she could weep alone, kneeling down onto the floor, careful not to touch the walls. Both Royce and Dennis found themselves unable to speak, contemplating her soliloquy of despair and both thinking the same thing: what if she was right?