The dimly lit room was freezing and unnaturally quiet. The steady breathing of the dozen soldiers behind him and the low hum of machinery operating a wall away were the only audible sounds. The floor and walls were shabbily but effectively lined to trap in the cold and decrease the amount of energy needed to keep the room chilled.
Footsteps coming down the hall seem to echo like a lion's roar in that dead room. Stiffening slightly at the sight of his employer the old soldier genuinely hoped this meeting would be brief. The man coming down the hall wore a long black robe that concealed his entire body from the neck down. What was visible was a harsh face and long nose that held no humor or trace of compassion.
"Commander Hulme." His employer said softly.
"Sir." Hulme nodded.
"I trust things have been taken care of?"
"The cargo is in position and appears to be more stable then projected." Hulme rattled off in a finely honed military fashion. "Energy consumption is comparable with accepted limits. No damage was sustained to the equipment in the freezing process."
"What of the...other matter?"
"The target seems to have left the area. His residence was thoroughly searched and several stacks of the requested items were found."
"The target left no clues as to currents whereabouts. We recovered evidence that there was more then one person in the room at some point."
"Interesting, interesting...what else?"
"The building was searched room to room but no substantial evidence was found regarding the original assignment."
"I see. Anything else to report?"
Hulme shifted uncomfortably which was unusual for a man like himself. "Only a suggestion sir."
"The guard here appears to be...over staffed."
"Are you presuming to know more about the situation then I do, Commander?"
"No sir I-"
"You're being paid, handsomely, to do what I tell you to. If you had any idea how much it cost to secure the contents of this room you would not question my judgment."
"I did not presume to know more than you sir. It simply seemed like a waste of resources to keep such a well hidden room guarded like this."
"I'm not paying you to think, Hulme.
The soldier grit his teeth under his face mask. "Understood, sir."
"You would do well, Commander, to put it out of your mind."
"I am leaving. Refer any other suggestions to my liaison."
The robed man spun on his heel and clopped down the hallway out of sight. Hulme ordered his men to seal the room and take up their position nearby.
"Commander?" Corporal Janus asked as the massive door slid shut. Hulme turned to look at the young soldier but like his entire troop Janus' face was covered by the black mask and infrared specs.
"Why did you let that prick walk all over you?"
Hulme sighed. It was up to him sometimes to keep discipline up even if he didn't want to. "I could tell you the usual, Corporal. That he's paying for this action which makes him our employer and valued customer. That obedience and excellence are what this company bases its reputation on. But when it comes down to it, I just don't want any problems. I want this assignment to go smoothly and quickly."
Janus nodded after a second or two. "Well I can't argue with that sir, it's just...that guy is kinda creepy, ya know?"
"Corporal," Hulme said thoughtfully, "I think creepy is just the beginning."
There wasn't much for Charles Taylor to do these days. The insane asylum he was staying at eventually ran out of videos and magazines for him to kill time with so instead he had to keep himself entertained. It was a nice little routine: an hour of exercise in the morning, shower afterward, breakfast and then some kind of creative outlet. Monday was painting day, Tuesday he penned memoirs, Wednesday was the dreaded group activities day, Thursday he did intricate coloring books made for adults and Friday he folded origami. Weekends he did nothing but relax in the day room and watch TV. It wasn't hard to get what he wanted on the tube when the other patients were so out of their minds they had a hard time telling where they were.
After the first year or so he managed to scale back his medication after talking with Dr. Pardee. The doctor was kind old man with a soft smile and intelligent eyes that reminded him of a small town practitioner back in Chuck's hometown that knew all of his patients personally. Pardee agreed that he had made a lot of progress and coupled with good behavior ordered the medication decreased. Sometimes it felt like he was here when he shouldn't be but that feeling went away almost as soon as it came.
His crime, the reason he was here, and the reason he did not deserve to leave was simple. Nearly two years ago he wandered into Silent Hill on accident. Believing he was on a mission to save the friend that came with him, the 'friend' turned out to be a hallucination incarnated to a real person by the town's dark power. The truth of things came back to him eventually in the worst way.
His dearest love had spurned him for another man and in a black rage he murdered her in his bedroom. The town showed him the truth and he was forced to face it without the aid of his imaginary friend. He thought of taking his own life but he turned himself in to the authorities instead. Unconcerned with going to prison he expected only punishment the rest of his life. This truth and his memories were never far from the surface of his consciousness.
This morning it was Thursday which was usually coloring book day . He would ask for his special set of colored pencils that were supposed to be for everyone but nurse Dix made sure no one else used them. He was very grateful for that small consideration. In a place like this those little things meant the world.
But this was the third Thursday of the month. That meant sometime before noon one of the nurses would call his name and he would be led to a small room to wait for his lone visitor. This happened each and every month at the same day and same time. The person that always came to see him might not have been a person at all but it was the only friend he had. They would talk about a great many things in that short two hours and he would always feel better afterward. It gave him something to look forward to in an otherwise routine life.
He waited patiently in the day room for the nurse to call his name. He channel surfed for a few hours before realizing it was past noon and his name still hadn't been called. Springing to his feet he went to the counter to see what the hold up was.
"Hello Chuck." Nurse Page said somewhat less monotone than usual.
"Hi Diana. Is my guest here yet?"
"We haven't had anyone sign in yet today. Are you sure your guest is coming?"
"Has to be. Its the twenty first isn't it?"
"Maybe he's late or something. I'll just go wait a bit more."
"Okay, but don't be too upset, sometimes people just forget." Nurse Page said.
This one did not forget. The man coming to see him was no ordinary person but the very instrument of Silent Hill that forced Chuck to face the truth about himself. In the town he assumed the man, the Dark Man as Chuck called him, was just another of the town's oddities but he was as real as anyone else here.
The hours ticked by and Chuck began to worry. Did he do something to offend his friend? Troubled, he tried to focus on the TV but it was no use. The one thing he looked forward to in his sad life was apparently over and there was nothing he could do about it. Chuck cut back on his activities over the next few days and simply stopped doing them on others. After a week or so even Dr. Pardee came by to ask how he was doing. Just like that he had gone from relatively stable to despondent. It was made worse by the fact that he knew what it was that was bringing him down and he couldn't even get a message to his friend to ask what was wrong.
After a few more days of lounging around Dr. Pardee came in to see him with two of the larger orderlies that worked there. Chuck's eyes went wide at this unexpected development for never in his entire stay did they threaten him with that much force.
"What's going on Doc?"
"Some men are here to move you to a different facility Chuck. The FBI is here to move you."
"What? What do they want me for?"
"I don't know Chuck but they have the proper authority. This whole thing sounds like a misunderstanding but I promise I'll get to the bottom of it as fast as I can."
One of the orderlies moved forward with a pair of hand cuffs. "Hands out." he commanded gruffly. Chuck was thoroughly confused but did as he was told. The cold metal closed in on his wrists and Dr. Pardee led the procession down a series of halls. They turned into a room with no windows where three men waited. Two of the three were nearly identical in dark glasses and gray suits. They stood behind the third sitting at the small table in the room. Chuck was plopped down in the only open seat at the table facing presumably FBI agents.
"That will be all Doctor, thank you." The one in front of him said. His voice was a cold and monotone rasp that was mildly creepy. His accent was something Chuck wasn't familiar with if it was an accent at all. His face was stony, harsh, with a head bald and eyes like a hawk. Decked out in an expensive black suit with white undershirt and blazing red tie the bald man was downright imposing. Dr. Pardee and company left the room all too quickly. The door to the windowless room shut and Chuck was suddenly uneasy.
"You're Chuck Taylor am I right?" The bald man asked. Chuck nodded hesitantly.
"My name is Agent Byrd. These are agents Troff and Sconoman. Do you know why we are here Mr. Taylor?"
"I have no idea." Chuck said truthfully.
"We know that you came into contact with Nolan North during his time on VisCom's executive board. We know you met with him a number of times. We're here get the information what exactly you did for Nolan and how much you were compensated."
"What are you talking about? I've never met anyone like that."
"Mr. Taylor, the FBI has no patience for your denials." Byrd continued. "We have audio and visual documentation of these events. Now, we are prepared to offer you a generous plea bargain if you cooperate. If you don't..."
"This is absurd." Chuck stammered.
"...then we will be forced to go to re-trial and incarcerate you in some of the roughest prisons on the planet. Is that what you want Mr. Taylor?"
"Look, you're not listening. I don't know what is going on, I've never met a...whatever the hell that guy's name was and I didn't work for anyone! The only job I ever had was in Canada!"
Byrd folded his hands and rested them on the table. He had the cool demeanor of a viper waiting for its prey to come into striking range. "I see you do not wish to cooperate. Agents, escort Mr. Taylor outside while I finalize the paperwork."
"Hey! Hey! You can't do this! You've got the wrong guy!" Chuck protested as the two men hauled him roughly out of the chair and back into the halls. It was like something in one of his bad dreams only this time it was too real for comfort. As much as he didn't want to admit it the thought of leaving the asylum was mildly frightening. To add to the anxiety these men were taking him away on false pretenses to who knows where.
For a half second while they moved him through the security doors he thought that perhaps something like that did happen. Perhaps his mind hid it from him again. But that was absurd; he'd never heard of the company or person he was supposed to have been working for and had rarely been in the States. He certainly was never involved in anything the FBI would care about.
The agents led him out to an unusually large van with a cargo area for prisoners. The windows were reinforced with steel mesh on the inside and the rear double doors had a large sliding lock on them. Was this really happening to him? The agents handled him roughly and shoved him into the back of the van before locking it tight. They went around to the front of the van which had two custom made bench seats. Chuck tried to get comfortable on the stool he was given and waited tensely for something else to happen. The two agents in the front were quiet and Chuck realized they hadn't said anything the entire time. The only person who spoke at all was the creepy Byrd guy.
As if on cue Byrd appeared at the steps of the hospital. He slid wordlessly into the driver's seat and fired up the van's loud diesel engine. When the bald agent backed the vehicle up he looked straight past Chuck as if he wasn't even there. This whole thing felt like a bad dream but he had to note the irony of the situation. A mental patient trying to tell everyone that they were crazy and they had the wrong guy. Maybe it was another mental trick after all. Byrd turned smoothly onto the road and in minutes they were on a highway going to an address unknown.
The air was breezy and warm. Sunlight filtered down through the clouds pleasantly onto the people gathered in the green meadow. It was a beautiful and timeless day somewhere in the wilderness with no sign of civilization in sight. Although it didn't seem like it this was a perfect day for a funeral. There was no building, no procession or pictures, just some chairs and a casket on the grass.
A man she had never seen before escorted her to the seat with her name on it though she had the vague impression that it wasn't her name. People were dressed in black suits and women wore large pillbox hats with thick veils. A low rumble of hushed voices and whispers filled the impromptu meeting in the middle of nowhere. The rows of chairs were arranged neatly in two sections facing the casket and the podium behind them. She did not recognize any of the other mourners and this bothered her for some reason.
The crowd quieted when a speaker took the podium. He was a few inches short of six foot, a stocky Hispanic man with a clean shaven face and a fine black suit. His face was somewhat rounded but jaw angular, hair black and spiked up forward. When he spoke his voice emanated rather than coming from his mouth.
"Dearly deceased, we are here to honor you as the wind blown leaves you are. The cold hand of hallowed autumn showed you the end and at last the winter of your lives has come. Yet in your stupidity you saw not the warnings around you."
The crowd rippled with excited whispering but the speaker continued over them as if they were not there. "You wayward leaves, so far from home only to be scattered by the chill wind and glorious frost. Lay your weary spirits to rest here. We consecrate this patch of earth that bore you and so you shall return to it. But go knowing this is one of many places to lay yourself to rest and that this journey was shortened by your hand."
The man on the podium spread out his arms grandly. "Let us pray, we sinful children. Will the assembled rise and pay their respects."
The mourners got up and filed into two rows to approach the casket. The man that had taken her to her seat led her somberly down to the front of the rows. Along side her men were talking and hugging sincerely while a woman sobbed near the front of the line. Funnily enough the day seemed as bright and optimistic as ever.
It wasn't until they were very close to the front of the line that she saw there were two caskets and both were open. Roses had been laid on both of the coffins and large flower wreaths rested by each end. She was dismayed to see her own face and body resting peacefully in the wooden tomb. Just as peaceful was her man, Victor, lying just as dead in the opposite casket.
"Kinda frosts your dick doesn't it needle cone?" asked the man on the podium. He was grinning wide enough to split his face in half and it made her uncomfortable.
"Wha-what?" Was all she could stumble out. The man on the podium came down to join her by her own casket. She had the vague impression that all of the other guests had somehow vanished in that brief moment. The strange man ran his fingers lovingly along the coffin's finely polished exterior. He picked up a rose and sniffed it with exaggerated motion.
"Do you know what this is? It's a Scarlet Carson. It's considered an honor to be buried with one." The speaker blew on the rose and it quickly withered in just a few seconds from his breath. The now brown petals fell to the ground and the stem disintegrated in his hand.
"But I digress. Do you know why I'm here?" he asked with a murderous smirk.
She shook her head yes even though she was extremely confused.
"You owe me."
"But I've never even met you." she heard herself say.
"665 Witchduck Road, Barrington, New Hampshire, oh three eight two five."
"Neighbor of the beast, eh?" her voice commented with a mind of its own.
"Repeat it." the man commanded and she did.
"Good. Remember, I'll keep my word if you do."
"Okay then." she nodded, having no idea what she was agreeing with.
The man offered his hand to her and said, " Ahtl tlacheenollee."
She took his hand and said, "Fire and water, flood and flames."
Then she woke up a sweat.