Title – Urban Nightmare
Rating – R (for language)
Summary – Six kids, one all too familiar world.
A/N – Very loosely based on a certain episode that will be obvious when you read it, but I'm not going to spoil it here.
A/N II - And shall we try that again with the correct formatting??
It was Eric's idea. You've got to believe me.
It was always Eric's idea, good or bad. You don't know how persuasive he could be if he put his mind to something, or if there was a quick buck to be made.
I know that's no excuse, but you have to understand what it was like for us. We didn't have anyone else. We looked out for each other, and we took care of each other. At least we tried to.
It worked ok, in the beginning. It was fun. I never thought much further than the next few hours. And I never thought it would come to anything like this.
You have to believe me, Officer, it was just a game. We never intended it to be anything else, just something to pass the time. I had no idea how our game was going to end.
'Where is Dungeonmaster when you need him,' complained Eric. 'We're never gonna get out of this.'
'Let me try a spell,' said Presto. 'Hocus telpus, find us some help-us!'
'Oh, please!' muttered the Cavalier as Presto spoke. 'That's never going to…'
'Greetings my Young Pupils!'
'Dungeonmaster!' shouted Bobby enthusiastically. 'Are we glad to see you!'
'Still playing the same old games, eh, kids?' the old man asks as they come running up.
'Yes,' replies Presto. 'S-s-s-so we need a r-r-r-riddle.'
'I'm not as good at it as I used to be,' the old man says as he sits down on his favourite bench. He pulls the bottle out of his paper bag, and looks round at the six children. 'It's a bad one today. I'm not sure I can help, today.'
They groan in unison.
'Oh, p-p-please!' says Presto. 'We just need a little r-r-r-riddle to help!'
The old man waits for a few moments, digging in his carrier bag for a two-week old newspaper, the he looks around at them all with bleary, red-tinged eyes.
'Just say I do,' he replies cautiously, 'just for the sake of argument, mind. You kids promise to piss of and leave me in peace to go to sleep?'
They all nod and the old man stares at them for a while, his face screwed up in thought. Then he puts the bottle to his lips and takes a long swig then belches.
'Okay then, kids,' he says as he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. 'If you can't see what you're looking for, you're not looking in the right place.'
'What!' exclaimed Eric, glaring at the diminutive old man. 'That makes no sense!'
Dungeonmaster stared back at him, unmoved.
'Er-ic!' said Diana. 'Stop it!'
'If you can't see what you're looking for, you're not looking in the right place!' echoed Eric. 'How dumb is that!'
'Stop begin so rude!' she said with a scowl.
'But…' Eric looked about round, to where their Guide had once been.
The old man on the park bench has lain himself down with the old newspaper over his chest, his eyes shut and the bottle in the brown bag held tightly under his arm.
'He's gone!' said Bobby.
Eric gave a forced sigh.
'Typical! I don't know why we rely on him. He never does anything but vanish when we need him the most.'
No one rose to join in the familiar argument. There was a short silence.
'C'mon guys!' said Hank. 'Let's get going!'
We played the same game as usual. There was nothing different about it that day. We were all there, the six of us, just the same as usual.
I know how it sounds. I know it's dumb, but we liked it in the Park. It was big and we could hide. You see, Enger didn't know all its secrets and there were plenty of places we could go to wait for him to leave, and plenty of places to hide when it got dangerous. We thought we knew all there was to know, and we thought we could get ourselves out of any trouble.
We looked out for each other, you see. At least, we tried to.
'Quickly guys, in here!' Hank told them.
The forest suddenly turned thicker, the grass long and lush. They struggled on, towards the other side. They were all growing tried, and they all knew it would soon be time to rest, and maybe forage around for some nuts or berries.
They trudged on through the trees until they came to a small clearing. It was as good a place as any to stop, so one by one they slumped down.
'I'm starving,' says Rob. 'You're always staving,' I say. In addition to being about six foot nothing, he has a metabolism that is off the scale. The boy does nothing but eat. 'How about we leave and go and steal some food from Joe?'
'It's too far, and my feet are killing me,' Diana says. 'How much more walking are we gonna do today?'
'We can't go much further…' I start to say.
'Too fuckin' right!' interrupts Eric. 'The sidewalk's just past those fuckin' trees! And this is getting dull. Something's got to happen.'
There was a noise from close by, and the kids all stirred from their rest, weapons at the ready. The trees began to shake, but no one could get a clear view. Hank held his breath, and arrow pulled, ready to fly.
Standing beside Eric, Bobby pointed straight ahead of them. With a plaintive whine, Uni burrowed herself in his arms for protection.
'Look out, it's a hydra!' he cried.
'It's a fuckin' hydrant, Rob!' says Eric sourly. 'And get that filthy bit of fur out from under my face! It stinks!'
'Uni's not filthy!' objects the boy, tucking his toy horse under his arm, like it was his only possession. 'And I fucking know it's a fucking hydrant. It's supposed to be fucking pretend!'
'Rob, stop swearing so much,' I say, hoping to calm him down. 'You know she doesn't like that word.'
Rob mutters one last, barely audible f-word and sits down to sulk. Near the back, Sheila is standing quietly, holding her blanket round her shoulders, just the same as usual. I try to smile at her, but she doesn't look at me.
There's only one thing for it.
'Look out!' shouted Hank as the huge seven-headed serpent reared up, the heads all bearing their teeth and snapping. The creature moved fast, with the speed of a true serpent.
It was looking hopeless. Nothing seemed to work against this monster, not this time, not even Diana's best tricks, or Bobby's Club.
They didn't have very many options if they wanted to get themselves out of this alive. And as much as it hurt to say, Eric's "plan" seemed to be their only option. Hank fired as rapidly as he could, directly at the creature's many faces, hoping that this would be enough.
'Let's get out of here!' Hank shouted. 'Now, while we've got a chance. Run!'
One by one, they ran.
'That was stupid. A hydra is a fuckin' stupid monster. There wouldn't be a hydra.'
'And how would you know, Mr Know-it-fucking-all?' snaps Rob.
'There's only one way to settle this,' interrupts Diana. 'Let's see Damien.'
'The old b-b-bastard told us to p-p-piss of,' objects Presto. 'You know what he's l-l-like after a few b-b-bottles. I d-d-don't want him to h-h-hit me again.'
'But we're supposed to be pretending,' Eric reminds them. 'We don't need to go crying to that stupid old man every time we get a fuckin' problem.'
'Well stop fucking arguing and get on with the fucking pretending!' says Diana, putting her hands on her hips and glaring at Eric.
'I want to see Damien,' says Rob loudly. 'He'll be able to think up something to help us out.'
'Fuckin' typical,' mutters Eric.
'You're not the fucking one in fucking charge are you!' snaps Diana. 'Hank, what are we gonna do?'
I shake my head, knowing whatever I say is going to piss off someone. But the group is obviously leaning to going to find Damien, so that's what I suggest.
Eric rolls his eyes and mutters a lot under his breath, but he still tags along at the end of the group when we go back to Damien's bench.
But Damien isn't there when we arrive.
'He's not here,' says Eric. 'Surprise fuckin' surprise! For fuck's sake, where's a bum when you need one!'
'Enger's probably taken him to the tank to dry out,' says Diana. 'That must mean he's close by. Maybe he'll find us.'
'It doesn't matter about Damien,' says Eric shaking his head. 'We can do just as well without him. And as for Vince, well he can just kiss my ass if we see him!'
'Really?' says a voice.
Somehow, they hadn't seen the approach of the Arch-Mage, now Venger was standing right behind them, towering over the Cavalier. Eric took a few steps back, lifting his Shield.
'Say away from us,' he hissed.
'Dungeonmaster has abandoned you,' said Venger. 'But I know of a way home.'
'You kids shouldn't be hanging around the park at night,' says Officer Enger, looking around the group with a frown. 'Go home!'
'B-b-but we l-l-like it here,' says Presto. 'We get to p-p-p-play our game.'
'Shut up, dickhead!' hisses Eric, whacking Presto on his arm. 'Don't tell him!'
'Games or no games, this ain't the place for you after dark,' Enger insists. 'It's too dangerous for you young ones.'
'Fuck dangerous,' says Eric.
Enger cuffs him round the ear and Eric staggers slightly, the look on his face as spiteful and angry as it could be. Eric has never liked Vince, and it was really showing tonight.
'Watch your fuckin' mouth, son!' says Enger. From his belt he pulls out his baton and points it at Eric. 'Don't be stupid.'
Officer Enger steps forward threateningly, lifting his weapon. Eric only half-half backs down this time. There is a look on his face that I've never seen before.
I half expect Enger to strike him, but he doesn't.
'Go home!' Vince insists.
'I can get you home,' Venger said sombrely. 'Just do as I asked and you shall go home.'
'What is it that you want us to do?' asked Eric, planting his hands firmly on his hips. Hank had never seen him so defiant before, and it worried him.
'Got to the Cenotaph at the edge of the world. Take the key that you find there and cast it away, into the Endless Chasms. And then I shall send you home.'
The group of kids were frozen still for a few moments, Eric included. But the Ranger recovered first. Whatever else Venger might be offering them, it was too dangerous to hang around here!
'Run!' Hank bellowed.
Venger fired red magic in vain after the escaping kids and they ran into the forest beyond.
We don't have homes, well, not really. The others never talked much about them so I don't know anything much about their families. Eric ran from his Dad years ago, I think there was some sort of fight as he has lots of scars that he always tries to keep hidden. Sheila and Rob were dumped after her assault, in spite of what they'll tell you. Diana has a Mom but she's working all the time. And Presto, I don't even know.
My Dad works at the dock, long hours, he's never there. So I hang out at the Park, with the others. Going to the Park was Eric's idea in the first place.
I know it's dangerous, we understand the trouble that we could get into, especially after what happened to Sheila. But we knew who to look out for, and which places to avoid. We were getting pretty good at it, too.
They gathered in a small clearing, hot and out of breath. No one spoke. Far away in the distance, Hank could imagine he heard the sound of Venger trying to find them.
'What are we gonna do now?' said Diana eventually. 'We can't go back that way.'
'We've got to go on,' said Hank. 'We've got to try and find that portal, just like Dungeonmaster said.'
'Maybe Venger might be able to send us home instead,' said Presto suddenly.
'Yeah,' said Eric with a nod. 'Who said that crazy old coot Dungeonmaster is ever gonna let us go home. Maybe we're just gonna be stick here forever doing his dirty work.'
'And good ol' Damien can kiss my ass as well,' puffs Eric. 'Fucking drunk! I can't take much more of this shit tonight!
'S-s-s-stop b-b-being s…'
'Shut up!' I snap suddenly. Presto and Eric fall silent.
There is a noise, the sound of motorbikes thundering across the grass, coming closer. Sheila shrinks back towards the trees, hugging her blanket tightly round her thin shoulders, trying to melt into the foliage.
'Orcs!' Hank cried. 'I should have known Venger would have his Orcs close by!'
'Shit, it's the fuckin' gangs! Again! Why can't they just fuck off for a change? Someone should tell them. Keep 'em in line. Enger's doin' such a fuckin' crap job! He's such a fuckin' dick.'
I am only half listening to Eric as he mouths off, and I watch as Sheila shrinks back again, her eyes wider and the fear plain on her face.
'We've gotta get the fuck out of here,' I say.
'That's easy for you to say!' said Eric with a sarcastic sneer. 'What are we gonna do? Fly?'
'Let's try and sneak past' suggested Presto.
'Sneak past Orcs?' echoes Eric. 'Great plan! And just how are we gonna do that?'
'I could try my Hat!'
'Don't be fucking stupid, Presto. This isn't a game! If they catch us…' Eric stops suddenly. We are all thinking the same thing. But no one says it.
The biker gangs are the things we really have to look out for. But luckily, few of them care about us one way or another. The gangs fight with gangs mostly, and they don't go out of their way to find us.
If one gets too close, like it did then, we have to make a break for it. We have ways out, and places to meet up, and all sorts of plans and stuff. Presto is good at thinking that sort of thing, keeps him occupied for hours sometimes. Usually we go one or two at a time, but this time something went wrong. I'm not even sure what it was, but we got separated from the other three.
We didn't go and look for them, it was too dangerous. Diana and I hid with Rob and we waited. It wasn't easy as Rob was getting pretty frantic about Sheila. It not that he didn't trust Eric, but you know what big brothers can be like. We heard some of the other gangs moving around so we stayed where we were. None of the gangs know of the hideouts we have around the park.
But I don't know what happened to the others, Presto and Sheila didn't tell me. When we met up again, they were scared, and in a way that I had never seen before. Rob was furious!
And before you ask, I don't know where Eric got that knife either, I swear. He never carried one before. Maybe they had a run it with one of the gangs. I don't know.
And if I had known he was carrying, I wouldn't have followed him.
'We have to go on, we have to get to the plateau and use the key,' said Eric.
'You don't really trust Venger, do you?' Diana asked incredulously. 'You've got to be nuts to think that he's really on our side.'
'Di, I don't give a shit one way or another, not about Vince. He's a stupid fuckin' dick who's always on our case. I'm sick of the whole fuckin' thing.'
There was a surprised silence. Eric's not normally as bad as that.
'What's gotten into you, Eric?' I ask eventually. 'Why are you being such a prick?'
'Fuck you!' he says to me, giving me the finger. 'You can all just fuck off!'
With that, Eric storms out of the hiding place and off towards the centre of the park and the War Memorial, in full view of anyone watching. The others just stand there and watch him go, even Presto. Even Diana. At the back, Sheila wriggles uncomfortably.
'What the fuck happened to him tonight?' I ask Presto. He just shakes his head.
'N-n-nothing m-m-m-m-much. N-n-not r-r-really.'
He exchanges a quick glance with Sheila, and I know there's something they're not telling me. Besides, his stutter gets worse when he lies. But I don't have time to ask fucking stupid questions.
'And you are just going to let him walk away?' I say. Sheila tugs her blanket closer around her body.
'I'm not going out there,' she whispers.
'Someone's got to,' I say. I look at Rob, Presto and Di.
'He's been like that for years, why take notice today?' says Diana. 'If he wants to be a fucking dead jerk, let him!'
I hesitate, then shake my head.
Hank ran after Eric, rushing over the uneven, stony ground, the others making their way far behind him. The Ranger tried calling but Eric didn't seem to hear, or didn't care that he was being followed.
Hank had almost caught up to Eric when they rounded the final corner. Before them was their goal. The final portal, the way home at last. The Cenotaph was dead ahead, huge and threatening in its black, sombre glory.
Suddenly, both boys stopped dead in their tracks. Venger was standing before them, right in front of the Cenotaph.
'I told you fucking kids to get out of here,' Enger says sounding furious. 'Tonight's not a good night to be here. You're gonna get hurt.' He shakes his head. 'Look, just run along and play somewhere else.'
'Stop treating us like stupid little kids!' snarls Eric.
'Stop acting like one and maybe I would!' Vince replies.
'You can't bully me any more!' Eric says, his voice shaking. 'I'm not gonna let you! You don't fuck around with me any more!'
I stare at Eric in stunned surprise. Vinve is looking at him in the same way.
'You stupid little punk!' Vince says, stepping towards Eric. 'If you're gonna be like that, then you can just come downtown with me and cool your ass of in a cell for a while!'
He reaches behind him to pull out his cuffs, and he takes his eye off my friend for a moment.
Eric is glaring at him venomously. It's a look that is so cold and terrifying, and from someone I thought I knew, that I'm frozen in place.
Enger takes a step towards Eric with his cuffs at the ready, and Eric lunges forward. I don't even see the knife, all I know is that Vince gives an animal-like grunt and his face crumples up in pain. There is a vicious sneer on Eric's face and he twists his hand.
That's the point that I realised he had a knife. Vince clutched at Eric's shoulders trying to keep his balance, his eyes glazing over. Eric yanked his hand away, and I saw that it was red, and I saw the knife.
It had a kinda short blade, and didn't look like it could do much damage, but Officer Enger dropped to his knees clutching his stomach. He stayed there for a second making a gurgling noise then toppled over sideways.
Eric didn't move. Not just then.
I didn't move either.
Hank stared in wonder at the transformation occurring before him, the light rushing around Venger, stripping away the old, Evil face and replacing it with a new, benevolent one.
The man stands up. The old Venger is gone. In his place is a very different man, though he still looks the same. Every trace of Evil is gone.
Behind him, a portal springs to life. It's their way home. It's only a small step, so close, and they're home. There's nothing to stop us.
Behind him, the others cheer, but the sound of their voices seemed far away.
Behind him, the others scream but their voices seem far away. There is the sound of shouting, and running, of activity of some kind. I just stare. Not long after, there was the sound of sirens.
And that's what happened. I swear it was just like that. You do believe me, don't you?
'Don't you?' I ask.