Author's Note: So here it is. The first chapter of the novel I've been promising you guys for a little over a month now. This is set post-movie, and is a lost more like the Hellblazer graphic novels than the movie is. It's actually kind of like a cross between X-Files and Constantine, though you won't see any other characters.
I realize this first chapter is probably different from anything you've ever read before in this section. Please don't let that turn you off to the entire fic. I promise you, if you stick with it you will eventually figure out what's going on. And no, the whole thing is not written in stream-of-consciousness. That would give me one major headache.
A huge thank you to ZeldaDragon for helping me figure out what the heck I'm doing with this and not getting mad at me for asking question after question.
Also, cookies for Bagpipes5k2 and BohemainCane04.
And um…cookie dough?...for all the people who reviewed the two one-shots that precede this novel. If you haven't read them, you might want to.
I don't own Constantine. At least, not until they announce when the DVD will be released. Then I will be running to the store and buying him as quickly as possible.
Ravenscar. Night. A too-bright neon-lit –straight ahead corridor. Amazing how hospital corridors never curve. A maze of parallel paths, never bending, never coming any closer together. Incredible how people can get so lost in a maze of uncurving hallways.
A watercolor painting on the wall—some mountains. A sunset. Children's drawings, chilling in the knowledge that each and every one of the artists is terminal. One particularly good one, made in fingerpaint and pieces of paper—a butterfly, wings scorched, fluttering limply above the wreckage of a fire.
Somewhere down the hall, the click of a latch and a door opens a crack. An inhalation of surprise—this door isn't supposed to be unlocked. A face in the shadows, filled with fear and a touch of exhilaration. A face that hasn't seen the world outside Ravenscar's Mental Hygiene ward in years. A face filled with hope, an all but alien emotion in this place.
A moment longer, a baited breath, then the figure appears in the hallway.
A woman, middle-aged, silvering blonde hair. Pale skin, too pale, made that way from depression and lack of sunlight. Blue eyes, also too pale. This place has taken the color from them, bleached them until they are nearly transparent. Only the veins left, bloated little red veins, swollen and gorged on too many tears. Fat veins thrive in the eyes of grief-stricken people.
Another beat, the woman waiting for the proverbial shit to hit the fan. Something must be wrong here. That door is never unlocked. Something unlocked it and that something did it for a reason. She knows she is not alone here. It shines in her face, shows in the wrinkles turned a pale sickly green by the neon lights.
A noise, halfway down the corridor and behind, something strange and echoing. The woman turns frightened beyond belief. Something coming. Coming to take away her freedom. Again. Like the others. Like everything. Her own private sentinel, always watching. Ever-present. Guarding. Denying. Separating her from her one chance at freedom. Happiness.
Trapped. Always trapped. Invisible bars on the backs of tired eyelids, dancing greenorangebrown, tiny throbbing, struggling blood-vessel bars at night just before sleep comes.
Penance. A terrible sentence for crimes committed in the naivety of youth. Death forever looming behind every door, around every corner. Safer behind bars, but miserable. Better now to have five minutes of doomed pleasure than an eternity more of imprisoned monotony.
A hand on the siding of the doorway wall, for only a moment, and then it is gone. There is nothing. The woman looks and looks, but there is absolutely no sign of the hand, solid only a moment before. But the feeling remains, the feeling that something is still there, still in the hallway. Coming closer. A shape, though invisible—a presence, really—a sort of sucking-in of the air around the doorway. Utterly hidden and blatantly clear.
Tightening in the chest, constricted breathing. A feeling of something coming. From behind.
The woman turns again, not fast enough, never fast enough, always just too late.
Nothing. Quiet. Too quiet, and then—
Hanging in mid-air. There. Impossible. And utterly present.
Seeing is believing.
Closer and then—
No, not a knife. A saw. A bone-saw, the kind that belongs in the morgue. The kind that does unspeakable things to poor innocent bodies, the blind doctors use to do unspeakable things to barely-cold corpses while shell-shocked spirits watch in mute horror. A grisly welcome to the carnage of the afterlife.
The woman tries to run, and collides with something. Something hard. An iron bar, hanging next to the saw. She falls, unconscious, and the saw descends.
Crimson, seeping out onto the white tile floor. Color in the barren bleached-bone landscape of the desert that is Ravenscar.
Life, draining away.
Only a matter of time.
A lifetime erased in the span of a few seconds.