Are You Afraid of the Dark?
The Tale of the Midnight Whisperers
A.N.) Are You Afraid of the Dark has no affiliations with me, nor am I profiting in any way from this lil' fic!
Also, I don't remember the character's names on AYAotD so bear with me, cause I don't intend to take my dork level quite so high as "dorktastic" by looking them up. It's enough that I was instantly compelled to write this the moment I saw the Are You Afraid of the Dark section. *shakes head* One hell of a slippery slope, I tell ya.
And, Erhm. I started referencing Labyrinth and Forbidden Games as a joke. And now I think I'm gonna have to call this one a crossover. A really weird, totally unintentional crossover. Whoops? ;)
The woods weren't quiet. They couldn't be, not with the buzzing cicadas and the clatter of branches knocking together, not with the wind whispering through the brush and the leaves rustling. There's far too much noise in the forest for quietness. And yet it was. There was only silence around the ring of stones that marked the campfire for the Midnight Society.
"I call this meeting of the Midnight Society open, and begin by asking if you've ever heard whispers as you drift to sleep, the sibilant hiss of voices coming from the dark corners of the woods, the almost-words of the shadows? It's easy to turn back and pull the covers above our heads, to walk back inside and lock the door, to convince ourselves that what we hear is just our imaginations, but what if it wasn't? What if, the things we think we hear, are exactly what they seem?"
James dipped one hand into the velvet bag and let the talcum-powder feel of the chalk coat the tips of his fingers before dipping down and pulling out a handful.
He tossed it into the fire and the flames stretched upwards with a hungry whoosh.
"I give you, The Tale of the Midnight Whisperers."
* * * *
Sarah Williamsburg was a slender girl with long ebony hair. She lived in a fantasy world where a dark prince would awake her from slumber by dripping peach juice onto her skin and then licking it off. Well, he was more of a king, really, and it's not as though Sarah really minded waking up to that sort of thing, even though it did tend to get a little sticky some days....
Lia stopped typing and cursed quietly to herself. Why was it that whenever she started writing something HE would come into the picture? A dark prince, king, knight, magician, hell, what did it matter? He always wore black, there was always some sort of leather involved and he always had magical powers.
Lia was beginning to feel as though she had some sort of complex. Maybe a mental condition. Perhaps she could advertise in the local want ads:
Need: Tall dark and studly. Male. Possessing M.P. and penchant for obsessive behavior. (Preferably towards me.)
Am: Slight, blonde, overworked, underpayed, and desperate.
Please answer. I repeat, am DESPERATE.
She toyed with a strand of pin-straight hair and then felt her lips curl up reflexively as she reread her ad. She held down the back-space key until the phony advertisement and every line of Sarah's story was gone, leaving a blank white screen and a slim blinking cursor indicating that she hurry the fuck up and type something.
When inspiration finally hit it was in impotent dribbles instead of the more heady outpourings of genius. Lia shrugged it off, sometimes just getting something onto the page was enough; she really shouldn't be picky. She knew that it was when the cockiness appeared, when the ego started inflating and the Id started shaking its baby rattle in her metaphorical face that she needed to worry. Because that's when inspiration dried up faster than a cup of water poured out onto desert sand.
After a couple of pages of Jenny Thorn's exploits with a hot studly guy with electric blue eyes and magical powers, Lia gave it a rest. She had work at her humdrum office, with her humdrum boss and her barely-large-enough-to-turn-around-in cubicle to look forward to. Her nightly tappings at the computer had eaten into her sleep again, and she could look forward to either slathering on enough base to slightly disguise the bags under her bloodshot amber eyes or she would wake up late and be forced to go to work looking like a crack addict with no fashion sense.
She sighed, it wouldn't be the first time that Lia had been forced to go with option number two. The bad thing about being a night owl? It was hell waking up in the morning. Go figure. Probably something psychological with that one too, now that she thought about it. Maybe a hidden desire running towards masochism? Lia lay down and clicked off her bedside lamp.
After about .05 seconds Lia's eyes popped open and she heaved an enormous jaw-cracking sigh. Her brain didn't want to shut down even though her body was already anticipating the pain of the all-too-fast-approaching morning and the roll-out-of-bed routine that generally followed it.
Fuck. Fuckity, fuck fuck.
Lia scanned the expanse of pale ceiling above her, her night vision adapting so that she could make out the general outline of her furniture thanks to the streetlight seeping through minute cracks in her blinds.
Lia raked her nails down the familiar cotton of her worn bedspread and fought another sigh. Her mouth was actually open to give in to the urge when she heard it.
It. Something. Almost, almost like a whisper, if a whisper were filtered through layers of cotton and more sensed than heard.
Lia strained to listen even as her fingers clenched into a death-grip onto her comforter and her heartbeat began to gallop. There! Again.
Her hands slowly pulled themselves toward her face—and what do you know?—the comforter followed, allowing her to burrow gratefully beneath its soft folds. Maybe she was already asleep? That would explain everything, Lia decided, as she tried to force herself to breathe normally instead of doing the weird panting thing that her mouth had begun on its own.
She muffled her mouth with one balled up hand and listened warily, praying for something ridiculous to happen, for a giant purple dinosaur to appear, for her old dog, Sparks, to tap dance for a tambourine-playing monkey. She was praying for anything, anything at all that could, without a doubt, confirm that she was already asleep and having the mother of all nightmares.
The whispers seemed louder, and unless this was the portion of the dream where the lights flicked on and carnival music and confetti sprouted from the ceiling, she was most definitely not asleep. Her racing heart was telling her that she was a dumb bitch for ever trying to delude herself. Lia silently apologized to the furious muscle and gulped back the metallic taste on the back of her tongue.
Lia heard it clearly for the first time and terror gripped her in icy chains that held her immobile.
A playback of every time she'd ever heard the familiar shushing sound blinked into her head in a matter of seconds. Preschool teacher, one hand held to her lips. Movie theater, opening night. Funeral, Grandma Jane enclosed in wood and lowered into a dark hole. Shhhhh, shhhhh, shhhh.
Lia felt the distinctive grip of fingers latching onto the bedspread that was protecting her from whoever was making the god-awful noise. Slowly, it tugged with increasing pressure as Lia's heart stuttered to a stop in her chest and she let out an ear-piercing shriek.
The comforter was ripped from her quaking form and Lia's eyes popped open in abject terror.
A tall man in black leaned over her bed, one finger to his mouth, "Shhhhhhh!"
Lia locked eyes with the stranger and she could see him smile as his other hand reached for her. Her mouth was opened to scream again when his hand darted out and covered her eyes.
It was like falling into a black hole. There was a sudden drop and wind pushed against her as she fell like a rock. A blazing meteor of blackness and vertigo, Lia tumbled into hell with a fury that made Alice's rabbit hole seem like a cushioned elevator ride.
There was no impact, just a sudden and complete lack of falling which wrenched Lia so badly that she immediately rolled her head to the side and blew chunks. Her stomach continued to flip and flop as her fingers tingled and her brain scrambled for understanding. And please, please god, don't say that she lived through that to die from a heart attack now.
The whisper, when it came, was with a playful cruelness, "Shhhhhh."
Lia flopped her head away from the acidic stench of her own vomit and shakily wiped her mouth with her hand before looking into the enigmatic face of her torturer.
The terror she had felt had been burned away in her downward hurtle and she felt somehow stronger. Resilient. Like the carbon that clung to the pan after eggs burned. She was, somehow, whole in her destruction. Whole enough to dead-eye the asshole that had started it all.
Her throat was swollen and scratchy but she managed to force out the words: "Who, the fuck are you?"
"I'm here to answer your advertisement." Bright green eyes gleamed cat-like from beneath ragged black bangs. His voice was coldly mocking, a strange lilt making the words almost insolently sing-song.
Lia gathered her spasm-wracked body and pulled herself into a sitting position. Or attempted to, what she managed was a sort of half-crouched half-sitting posture that early man may have been able to identify with.
Lia noticed that she appeared to be sitting in grass, in a dark cave. And that her captor was smiling with equal parts menace and charm. A tiny bell went off in her head. She swept her burning, watery eyes up his lithe form and noted the leather of his boots and vestment before sliding back towards his inhumanly beautiful face.
Tall, dark, studly. Definitely male. And if her current circumstances were anything to show for it, in possession of some major magic powers. Check, check, and check.
His eyes gleamed at her in predatory amusement. Sort of like if a panther's gaze had locked in on a caged canary.
His mouth curled up into a smile so cold it cut as he drifted closer to her sprawled body. One hand reached out and tugged a piece of hair from the corner of Lia's mouth and released it just as deliberately.
"We're always there you know," His lilting voice held a dagger edge of viciousness, "listening in the shadows, watching, waiting."
Lia felt each word as it oozed from her raw throat, "Waiting for what?!"
"Waiting for a shift in time, a weakening between worlds." His fingers steepled together as he rose, graceful as a shadow stretching along the sidewalk.
Lia locked eyes with him, amber to green, gnawing terror to growing pleasure. His mouth quirked again before he answered the question she couldn't bring herself to repeat.
"Waiting to pull you in. You'll like this world, Lia, or you'll die." He shrugged and his eyes actually twinkled.
"My world." He crouched and leaned in close, closer, until his face was directly in front of her own. His brow wrinkled at the sour smell that still lingered on her lips and he stretched his face up, his mouth brushing her forehead in paternal irony.
"You're not the first to be pulled here, you know. People go missing every day; things disappear. Where do you suppose they go?"
Lia felt reality crumbling all around her as fear and denial smashed into her like a wave of defeat.
His elegant fingers tipped her chin up and she found herself involuntarily caught in the gleaming green of his irises.
"Welcome home, Lia." Something in those alien eyes glittered as his last word fell like a death stroke.