CW and TW: disturbing imagery, blood, language violence, and implied relationship abuse
Slayers: Mind Games
By Logansblade [Byron Lin]
The raging storm outside kept all the Slayers huddling in a small circle, the lights flickering and flashing ominously. Joseph Locke, who preferred to be called by his surname, was a tall and stern man who didn’t talk much. But whenever he did, it was a good idea to listen up. He looked at each of his companions in turn. At one time, there had been as many as fourteen of them. Now only four remained. Four left to stem the onslaught of supernatural beings hidden to most others in the mortal world. But these four were special. They had been given the power to see these creatures, and fight them.
For more than four years the secret war had raged, sometimes in triumph, more often in tragedy. Their opponents had grown progressively more sinister and harder to beat. The number of Slayers in their cohort had dwindled sharply after the arrival of the Soulkiller, a super vampire with half a soul of a Slayer, the blood of the Rosabella, and the unholy powers granted to it as a super vampire.
“Locke, you hear me?” Brandon Coriander’s voice cut through his musings.
“What? Yes, what is it, Brandon?”
“I was saying, if this storm doesn’t let up, we’re screwed. There’s no way we can go out and dust some vamps.”
“Eager to kill something, are we?” Locke replied, a sly grin crossing his lips as he turned to look at his protégé.
“It doesn’t matter to me, I’m just tired of sitting around doing nothing.”
Each time the thunder boomed and lightning flashed, Jake Gallagher recoiled from watching the natural pyrotechnics.
“What’s the matter, Jake , scared of the storm?” Byron said in a half-jesting way.
“Shut up. As a matter of fact, I like storms. At least then the world knows how I feel since I’ve turned into a half-human, half-vamp,” the brawny man replied, crossing his arms and glaring at the shorter, stockier Asian.
“Hey man, chill out, just asking a question.”
Cassandra Sellas sighed and pushed a stray lock of her silky black hair out of her eyes.
“Come on, don’t you have anything better to do than snap at each other?”
“Well, we could be outside busting some skinnies, but since the weather’s gone crazy, we kinda can’t,” Brandon answered bitterly.
“That’s enough. We need to just wait out the storm. After it’s over, we can go on patrol.” Locke intervened, glowering from Jake to Brandon. Cass stretched and muttered under her breath in relief. A dark look crossed Jake’s face.
“Guys, I think I sense something. Somebody’s out there!”
Meanwhile, a silhouetted figure skulked in the dark, shrouded by the heavy grey rain clouds. It laughed menacingly, as though it could hear the conversation taking place inside.
“You may not be afraid of storms, little dhampir, but now let us see what you and your friends truly are afraid of!” Crossing its arms into an X, It opened its wide reptilian maw and a stream of chilling, unearthly words flooded from its throat, the bizarre ritual feeding off the furious energy of the thunderstorm.
“Izskaurza enoechlo iamdris, slevyarin. Lethis malkan trayba donaba. Cestrizus!”
A weird purple light emanated from the creature’s crossed arms and flowed towards the house. It slowly trickled in through the walls, drifting towards the four Slayers sitting near each other in the living room.
“Hey, what the hell is that?” Brandon said, spotting the strange mist as it floated ominously towards them.
“What do you-” Jake began, but he slumped to the floor as it wafted into his face.
“Shit,” Brandon muttered. Locke growled under his breath in agreement and Cassandra raised her hands warily, a faint silver light appearing at her fingertips. Locke saw what she did and shook his head.
“No, do not bother, this Dark Mist cannot be dispelled.”
“There has to be some way to-” Cass broke off coughing, and then she too passed out.
“It’s too late,” Brandon muttered as the mist enveloped him. Locke fell mere seconds after he did.
Jake slowly opened his eyes to find himself at the start of a long, dark, and winding passage lined with mirrors on either side of it. There was a line of flickering fluorescent lights providing a feeble amount of light as he set off unsteadily into the hallway of the liminal space.
“Hello?” he called warily into the gloom. As he strode farther and farther in, two strange blurred figures began to swim in the mirrors on either side of him. As they came into focus, Jake recognized both of them. One was a petite girl with golden hair and pale smooth skin and clouded blue eyes. The other girl was slightly shorter, but had darker wheat-colored hair and tanner skin and greenish-blue eyes.
The man recognized the first one of them as Shanna Mallory, a former Slayer, and the other was his sister Alexa, whose face crinkled into a sad look as she spoke to him softly. “Jake, please don’t go any farther. Turn around and leave.”
“Why?” Jake said confusedly. “I want to know where this leads.”
“Don’t,” Shanna interjected. “Please, Jake, if you value your life, turn back,”
“Are you threatening me?” he said heatedly.
“No,” Shanna replied gently, “Just warning you.”
Ignoring the girls, Jake walked on, his eyes still darting side to side as he squinted down the dim passageway. When the end of the corridor came into sight, he spotted a truly enormous mirror that stretched the length of the wall it was mounted on. In the mirror, a massive armored figure materialized, holding a huge axe and with a booming laugh of menace ringing through the walls, chilling Jake to the bone.
“Fool, you should have heeded your friends when you had the chance.”
“I’m not afraid of you, Hellvenom.”
The demonic engine of destruction known as the Hellvenom laughed again and raised its armament, the Storm Edge.
“You may not fear me, but I know what terrifies you…” it replied, simply swinging the immense weapon downwards. Jake threw his arms up defensively to protect himself. The phantom weapon sliced through him and he felt as if he had been hit with a real axe. A cruel, rasping laugh echoed behind him. A figure cloaked in black loomed in front of him, its eyes glowing blood red.
“It is well known that mirrors are windows to a person’s soul. As it stands, I have taken the rest of it from you.”
Jake held a hand to his ribs, breathing heavily as his vision faded in and out of sight.
“Soulkiller…” he whispered, barely able to breathe.
“Yes, Dhampir, it is me,” Soulkiller mocked him. Reaching through Jake’s betraying body, Soulkiller withdrew the image of Shanna out of a mirror.
“Do you remember her, Dhampir? She was your first kill.”
Jake cast a cursory glance at the spirit of the beautiful girl clutched in the creature’s claws.
“I-I’m sorry,” he said quietly, unable to muster a stronger apology. Shanna merely answered him with a regretful and pensive gaze. Grinning wickedly, Soulkiller opened his jaws and tore into Shanna's neck. He pulled his fangs away from her and watched the spray of blood rush from the screaming girl as she vanished. A lance of wracking pain seared through Jake’s body, bringing him to his knees. He weakly reached out a meaty hand.
“She was quite sweet,” Soulkiller taunted him. “The blood of a virgin, especially if she is a Slayer, is such, as you would well know. Only, before partaking of her, you tortured her. You and I are more alike than you imagine.” As he lunged a second time, Soulkiller ripped the spirit of Alexa out of the mirror through where Jake’s heart was. A wave of grief and sorrow washed over him as he let out a howl of the mixed emotions.
“Lovely girl she was, Rosabella. Pity she had to die. By your hand.”
“No,” Jake said weakly, wiping the bloody spittle away from his mouth.
“She was your sister. You were bound by blood to protect her. Instead, you allowed the sangdes to overwhelm you. It drove you to attack, and to drain her. You killed her. Your blood thirst.”
“No!” Jakee xclaimed vehemently, spitting more blood out of his mouth and swaying as he did so. “Hellvenom killed her, not me!”
“Cause and effect,” Soulkiller said indifferently. “You still killed her, even if indirectly. Again, you and I are much the same.”
“No, you’re wrong! I will never be like you.”
“Is that so? Your heart is lying to you, and it is because of her.” He opened his maw again and lowered it over Alexa’s throat.
“Go to hell, you bloodsucking bastard!” Alex roared.
“But I’ve already taken you there. See for yourself, Dhampir.” With a final evil laugh, Soulkiller disappeared along with Alexa. Through a haze of pain, sorrow, and helpless rage, Jake gazed into the mirror and saw with a thrill of horror not himself, but Soulkiller.
Cass awoke to find herself lying on a hard wooden bench in a dimly-lit locker room. As she stood up, she looked down to see a crimson-colored towel wrapped around her torso. Getting to her feet, she found a pair of flimsy flip-flops waiting for her and put them on, heading out of the locker room to wherever it may lead.
She emerged into a vast, eerily silent swimming pool. She gasped as she realized where she was. There was a lone upward staircase hidden under room 234, an abandoned classroom of Oakhaven High. It led to a musty locker room and the disused pool concealed just under the roof of the building.
Pushing damp hair out of her face, she bit her lip and tiptoed towards the water, a rising panic starting to bubble deep in her gut. With an apprehensive sigh, she undid the knot of the towel and set it beside her, dropping the peachy flower-patterned sandals on it.
The hairs on the back of her neck prickled with a sudden chill. A feeling waved over like ice cubes dropping into the center of her gut. Then a strong pair of arms wrapped around her waist as someone tackled her from behind and carried her with them into the middle of the shimmering blue waters. She reacted by instinct. Kicking her way back to the surface, she whipped her sodden hair out of the way and wiped more water off her head.
A familiar face rose through the water. It wore a wolfish grin and had the look of someone with both a Hispanic and Asian heritage.
“Lucas?” she said incredulously.
“Yep, it’s me, Cass.” Lucas Quesada, the muscular Filipino boy answered, a grin spreading on his face.
“Can we get out of the water?” Cass said, unable to keep the fear out of her voice. Her eyes flicked around quickly, searching for an easy means of escape.
“What’s the matter, don’t you like the water?” Lucas said, his face darkening.
“It’s fine, just that I don’t feel like swimming right now,” Cass replied, horrified by the suddenly dangerous glint in his eye. She paddled over to the side and pulled herself up. Lucas vaulted out of the pool and landed in front of her, almost toppling the dark-haired girl back into the water in shock.
“Come on, Cassy, this pool was special to us,” his wild grin returned as he put a hand on her neck and drew her close. She stepped back and slapped his hand away.
“Lucas, no, and don’t call me that,” she said, fear-laced adrenaline starting to course through her. She turned away but he caught her wrist with a forceful grasp.
“Ow!” she gasped in pain, a shocked expression crossing her face. Lucas pointed a finger in her face.
“Don’t you turn your back on me,” he snarled. Amanda suddenly remembered the moment she found out what Lucas was.
“When I first came to Oakhaven, I didn’t know anyone. I was sent here to live with my tio after my mom and dad split up. A lot of girls swarmed me when I showed up at school. But only you caught my eye. That makes you unique, since I’ve got a taste for girls like you.” His tongue ran over his teeth as his face pinched and he let out a hiss. He pulled Cass closer to him by her wrists.
“Oh yeah, I know all about you and your friends, girlie, but they ain’t here to help you now.” Again driven by instinct, Cass stomped on his foot and palmed him in the nose. The vampire yelled as he fell back into the pool. She bolted as he surfaced through a haze of blood and water.
Running to the door to find it locked, she beat at it with her fists, before breaking down with disbelief and anger. Then Lucas was right behind her, laughing at her.
“No one here to save you now. I guess you’re too pretty for your own good.” The vamp grabbed her around the waist and slammed her against the door and then away from it in the opposite direction.
Her defiance waning, Cass tried to push him off of her. A scream tore thorugh her throat as his vamped-out face lunged for her face when the doors swung wide open. Brandon stood in the rising mists behind him.
“I’m never turning on those damn showers again, but hey, it helped the doors.”
Lucas looked up and growled in frustration. “Slayer! How did you get past my cronies?”
“Torched ‘em with a lighter and a can of Axe.” He quipped. Lucas released Amanda’s terrified form and lurched for Byron, who snapped a roundhouse kick and knocked the vamp back.
“Down, Quixote,” The casual wisecrack stung the vamp like a whip. It swung a heavy right for Brandon, who ducked out of the way and planted his open hand firmly in the small of the vamp’s back, throwing it against the solid sandstone wall.
“Have a nice trip,” Brandon cracked as he hooked his shin against the vamp’s lower leg in a Russian leg sweep, pulling both fighters into the pool with a loud splash that washed over Cass, startling her.
In the pool, Brandon and Lucas brawled like the pair was pulling a bout of underwater shadow boxing. Brandon gurgled, as he needed to breathe, allowing his opponent to slam him against the wall of the pool with both hands and shove him up, connecting with a head butt as they broke the surface.
Dragging Brandon’s body with him, Lucas jumped out of the water again. He held Brandon by the sodden collar of his shirt and threw another punch, splitting his opponent’s lip. Cass struggled to regain her focus and her hand came across the wooden stake Brandon had dropped when he pulled off his flashy wrestling move.
She gingerly picked it up as Brandon and Lucas grappled, the vamp driving its knees into Brandon’s gut. Cass aimed the stake before throwing it, watching as it drilled the vamp right through the back and into the heart. Lucas shrieked as he disintegrated into dust. Cass lost her balance but tried to stop herself falling over. Brandon was there to catch her, ignoring his aching ribs.
“Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame,” he muttered into her ear. She laughed abashedly.
Then Brandon was staring into a long, grimy alleyway. Katherine Miller and Paul Lumis were standing next to him as people walked on by, totally oblivious. Then Brandon saw something move in the shadows. He dismissed it at first, thinking it was just a cat that had jumped onto a trash can, but the quiet swish of a cloak told him otherwise.
“Run,” Brandon said, throwing his arms out to stop his companions from moving closer. “Just run.” Then a burly cloaked form burst from out of the shadows, knocking aside trash cans as a fat calico cat shrieked and leapt out of the way.
“What is that?” Paul shouted, looking over his shoulder. Brandon thumped him on the arm. “It doesn’t matter. Just move!”
Then a cold, raspy voice cut across the darkness, making him shudder.
“Run, run, run, hahaha, you can’t run from the Reaper man!”
The three Slayers lit out, sprinting to get away from it. Paul stumbled and blundered forward, his clumsy legs tangling in each other. A scythe swooped down and took the gawky teen out where he was. Another cold laugh rang out.
“One couldn’t run from the Reaper man! And then there were two…”
Brandon and Katherine exchanged terrified glances as they charged headlong down the street. They whipped around the corner, the shadowy creature still hot on their heels, floating along as they struggled to outrun it. Turning into another alleyway for a shortcut, they were stopped by an inconveniently-placed chain-link fence.
“Crap!” Katherine yelled. Brandon swore in agreement. “Come on, over the fence!”
They clambered over before they fled down another side street.
“There’s nowhere else to go,” Brandon wheezed as they stopped to catch their breath. “We’ll have to fight it, whatever it is.”
“What?! Are you crazy? That thing will kill us both!” Katherine exclaimed sharply.
The thing swooped right through the fence. “Where are you going to go now, little Slayers?”
Katherine thought there was something familiar about the dark creature’s voice. “Edgar?” she said breathlessly. The avatar reached a pale hand for its hood and pulled it down. Edgar’s face appeared ghostly in the silvery moonlight.
“Hello, Katy!” With a wicked smile, he swung his scythe’s pole upwards and caught the girl in the jaw, knocking her off her feet. Brandon sprinted at him, throwing a sharp left hook. The punch caught the specter in the side of the face.
“Time to die!” Edgar shouted, bringing his scythe down in a deadly arc. Brandon threw his arms out to stop it. The point of the scythe thudded into his side. He groaned and fell over. Edgar pulled his weapon free and swung at Katherine, and Bran’s vision faded to a cloudy black as he saw the blade chop down….
Locke stood in a little cluster of trees, watching as the moon passed from out of a heavy cloud cover. A fog lifted as somewhere bells tolled to signal midnight.
A massive church appeared through the fog. He stole through the night and entered. He watched in horror at what took place. Edgar and Paul were seated at a long table, with Locke’s corrupted self.
“You do not like my repast? You have offended me. Die.” Locke watched on in horror as his condemned form tackled Edgar, driving him to the ground and forcing the teen on his back. Locke’s monstrous alter ego started reaching into his victim’s back. The crazed demon pulled the exposed spine free in a fountain of blood. Paul staggered back, screaming as the bloodied beast approached him. Paul couldn’t move fast enough, though, as he was caught by his jacket.
“You will love my main course,” the defiled Locke cackled, “Because it is you!”
Reaching down the throat, evil Locke found the heart and ripped it out, shoving the still-beating organ into the teen’s face and then drove his jaws into the hapless boy’s neck. The monster raised his blood-soaked face and laughed maniacally.
Then Locke was watching as Jake and Allan tensely questioned his corrupted form, which was bathing in a tub of blood. Only, instead of speaking to the two others, the wicked creature grinned wickedly as it caught sight of Locke.
“Ah, Joseph. So nice of you to drop in.”
“Why are you bathing in blood?”
“You could say this is my evening ritual. I am just soaking before the fight begins.”
“You’re a monster,” Locke accused him.
“I am you, you are me. Two sides of the same coin. The only question is, which one is truly the monster, the one bathing in blood, or the one creating a façade of control? You present a false face to your friends. Still, you know in your heart of hearts that you could destroy them all if you lost control?”
“I do not kill.”
“Oh yes? And what about Edgar and Paul? Or Allan and Jake? Or Katherine even?”
More twisted laughter assaulted his eardrums.
“The more you deny it, the more truthful it becomes. Open your eyes and accept that you're just as bloodthirsty as the creatures you hunt and kill in the name of the Archangel. Worshiper, more wine.”
A Shadow Priest approached. “Yes, master.”
Locke was stunned. “This is madness.”
Again, more sinister laughter answered him. “I am nothing more than a mere shadow. A darker side, shades of your past made whole and unleashed. I say this again: you are what I am, I am what you are.”
With his enemy’s cruel laughter in his ears, he watched as Allan went flying out a window, Jake’s neck being broken, Katherine’s head being slammed into a pillar, and his doppelganger falling from the rafters, bound to Brandon by a long snake-like chain as they pounded each other until the end.
The four Slayers all awoke at the same time. Jake still had tears in his stinging eyes; Cass was still shuddering from the cold pool water. Brandon struggled to pull in a steady breath, and a vague pain burned in his side, Locke came to, terrified by what he had seen.
“What happened to us?” Cass said quietly, the words barely audible.
“I believe we were put under a spell, to experience our worst fears as if they were real.” Locke said shakily, still in disbelief. “What did you all see?”
“I thought I was Soulkiller,” Jake replied. His shaking voice was tinged with horror and self-loathing.
“Lucas Quesada almost drowned me,” Cass whispered.
“Edgar as the Reaper Man,” Byron said in a hollow voice.
“And myself losing control over my darker side.” Locke finished.
More eerrie purple light surged in the room. The enigmatic spellcaster appeared, applauding them,
“I must say, well done. That was most amusing.”
Then the warlock morphed into the Archangel Tyrisus, who hit them all with light energy that slowly burned them into ashes.
A false start. The four Slayers surfaced to see the sun out, shining peacefully as birds chirped in the early morning. The storm had ended, and had dissipated during the night.
“Guys, that was all just a dream. Nothing more than a fucked-up nightmare.” Brandon said, looking around at his friends as he trembled. Then, another evil voice sounded inside his head:
Or was it? Bold of you to assume that, Bran.
The mind can be a strange thing. You can dream about what you fear the most, and believe it happened differently. Fear can take control of you, especially in the dead of night, when everything spooky comes out to play.