Genre: Fantasy/Mild Horror
Summary: After waking in a cage made of bone, Fabian meets a terrifying bruja.
By the time he awoke, Fabian was aware that something had gone terribly wrong.
The first hint of this was the fact that his head was absolutely killing him. Pain throbbed from the back, reaching around the sides of his head toward his orbital bone as though someone had smacked him across the skull with his old Louisville Slugger.
Without opening his eyes, Fabian tried to gain his bearings. Part of him wondered if he actually opened his eyes, would they simply explode from the pressure building in his skull. Lying on his back, he tried to figure out why his head hurt so badly and…was he lying on bars?
He pressed a hand onto the damp surface beneath his body, trying to ascertain what, exactly, he’d been ‘sleeping’ on. Fingertips brought him information that only served to confuse more. Whatever laid beneath him resembled short, thin bars. Not metal, something damp and supple. They were tied together with what felt like fraying twine of some kind.
Even more confused by his cursory observations, Fabian decided it was time to open his damn eyes.
Lifting his lids took Herculean effort. Fabian failed twice, a sliver of dull light enough to make the excruciating ache in his head worse by a factor of ten. On the third try, he managed it, opening his eyes to look around.
As he focused his blurry vision in the dimness, Fabian realized it was not bars beneath him. He stared above him, to the ceiling of wherever he’d found himself, his injured mind not able to comprehend for several seconds.
Fabian released a startled yelp, scrambling to sit up on the ‘floor’. He looked down, to where his hands had discovered those short, supple ‘bars’, finding they were not bars at all. He’d been sleeping in a cage made of what looked like human bones tied together with bits of red twine.
No. That was sinewy muscle.
His head ached as the panic set in. The bones were tied together at four corners, making a perfect cage large enough for him to sit up in, but not stand. Though the floor was made of bone – why were the bones still wet? – it appeared to be resting on expertly laid tile smeared with congealed blood.
Fabian lifted his head, nausea swimming to the back of his throat, to look outside of his cage. Just beyond his enclosure, he found a scene unlike any he might expect.
A sofa in soft white faced away from him, toward the large fireplace which popped and burned merrily. Wide windows were covered by snow-hued drapes that nearly reached the floor. The tile was a light color, maybe an off-white of some sort and a large, round coffee table appeared to be made of wood, but painted white.
Arty pictures were hung on white walls, illuminated by lamps of the same color with softly glowing bulbs.
Bone-cage aside, the entire place looked as though it might be photographed for an issue of Southern Style magazine, down to the silk flowers perfectly arranged in ceramic vases.
“What the hell?”
Fabian sat back, trying to figure out what was happening around the ache in his skull. It wasn’t until he turned to his left that he realized he was not alone.
Beside his own cage stood another made the same way, though the bones holding his neighbor ere significantly older, whiter, not smeared with blood.
The man beside him hardly resembled a man at all. Fabian moved closer to the edge of his cage, peering in the gloom to look at the creature beside him.
He appeared to be the mere husk of a human being, emaciated and withdrawn, as though all hint of vitality were drained from him. His skin was dark, though it clung tightly to his frame. Sunken cheeks gave the man a skeletal appearance, his dull, brown eyes devoid of life.
If he had not spoken, Fabian would have assumed the man beside him was a corpse.
“Hola.” Fabian replied carefully. “What…where the hell am I?”
“Don’t know.” The male replied, his voice a deadened rasp. “I’ve been here a few days. They brought you in a while ago.”
Fabian blinked, still astonished the male beside him was alive enough to speak, though he appeared to be unable to move.
“What happened to you?”
The male tried to smile, but the gesture came off more as a grimace. He shifted a little, the blanket covering him slipping down to reveal his emaciated chest, each bone protruding in a grotesque manner.
“She comes in, does her magic, and I fade away a little more.” The man replied. “I think this is the last time, that’s why she got you.”
“She? Who is she?”
His companion cast his eyes down, as though fear had begun to overtake him. Fabian felt a shiver of it chase his own spine.
Though Fabian knew witches were not meant to exist, he couldn’t shake the real, true fear that slid into his heart at the way his companion spoke the word. Was it the fact that he was sitting in a cage made of fresh human bones or the unnatural look to the man beside him? Either way, that fear traveled up his spine, sending his short, dark hair to stand on end.
Fabian moved toward the front of his cage, trying to find the opening. Perhaps he could shove his shoulder into it, find a crack to manipulate. There had to be a way out of this thing, out of this psychotically white apartment.
He tested several of the bone-bars, using his considerable strength to try pushing them out, pulling in, shoving apart. The bones, though the sinew did not appear terribly strong, gave not an inch. Fabian grunted with the effort, breath sawing out of his lungs as his head spun. Whatever his kidnappers had done to his brain was not getting better any time soon.
“Shh.” The man beside him whispered the word. Something sent the fine hairs at the base of Fabian’s neck to attention.
A beat later, he heard someone approaching, the sound of heels taping the tile in brisk fashion. Fabian scrambled away from the front of the cage, pressing his back into the still-wet bars.
Around the far corner of the living room, where a picture window displayed the Dallas skyline from a considerable height, came a woman dressed in white.
She wore wide-leg trousers and a silk blouse with no sleeves. Her slender body moved with ease and grace, the only sound the tapping of her skinny white heels on the even brighter tile.
The blonde mane atop her head and been blown out, sprayed so that the ‘perfect tousle’ did not move.
If this was the bruja his emaciated companion feared, she looked nothing like the witches his abuelita cautioned him about in his childhood. Her face was youthful, makeup impeccable, with long lashes fluttering as she bat her baby-blue eyes.
“Evenin’, ya’ll.” She moved closer to them, holding her hands before her in a way that, sort of, reminded him of a T-Rex. The thought brought him no amusement for comfort. “I see our new friend is nice and awake.”
Her Texas drawl was thick, her voice light and somehow musical. Everything about this woman seemed designed to let the guard down, to draw him in. That, more than anything, told him the truth about this white-clothed woman.
She was a true predator.
“What do you want from me?” Fabian asked, finding his voice far stronger than he thought it would be.
“Oh, darlin’. Nothin’ much.” The bruja flashed a pretty smile, showing off a full set of perfect, white teeth. “I’m havin’ some friends over tonight and I’d be a pretty poor hostess if I didn’t offer refreshments.”
Fabian swallowed hard. The light in this blonde witch’s eyes somehow sinister, despite her Sunday school teacher presentation. His entire body screamed danger.
She approached his cage with a slight sway to her slim hips. He caught a whiff of perfume as she moved, a subtle hint of Chanel that he immediately recognized. Her eyes locked onto his, the shade of blue almost unnaturally bright. Fabian tried to break the contact, to look away, but he couldn’t seem to find the strength. She stood almost touching the bars, tilting her head as she kept his gaze locked onto hers.
A cobra, Fabian thought, hypnotizing her prey.
“Yeah, you’ll do nicely, won’t you?” She whispered the words, reaching through the bars as though to touch him.
Fabian pressed himself harder into the bars, not wanting her delicate, well-manicured hand to reach him.
Though he could see nothing in that hand, he suddenly felt a force wrap around him. It squeezed around his torso and arms, hauling him up with the finesse of a massive boa constrictor. Breathless, Fabian could make not a sound as the bruja’s power hauled him toward the front of the cage.
She pressed his face into the bars, the wet bone and sinew making him inwardly cringe as it stuck to his face.
Up close, he could see there were no cracks in the bruja’s appearance. Her skin was smooth, unworn by time. Her features were nearly too-perfect, her makeup all but invisible. This close, he noted that those Blue Bonnet eyes had swirls of lavender within the iris which seemed to move in hypnotic waves.
Almost immediately, Fabian’s body relaxed without his consent. In his mind, he thrashed and screamed, but his body would not obey, his mouth stubbornly refused to open.
Heart hammering against his chest, Fabian could only stare helplessly as the witch leaned even closer. Her lips met his through the gap between bones, no matter how his body wanted to get away.
The chilled flesh of her mouth was alien, unnatural. Fabian’s entire being recoiled. Unable to so much as blink, Fabian merely braced himself for what would come next.
It started at his mouth, a feeling akin to sticking his hand in a pool drain. The suction pulled at him, then spread from his face toward the rest of his body. Fabian was pulling away as hard as he could, aware that he wasn’t physically moving at all. Everything in him wanted to run into the night screaming, hating the helpless way he merely hung there, allowing her to do whatever it was she was doing.
As suddenly as she’d wrapped him in her magia, she released him. Fabian fell against the floor of his cage with a wet thwap, gasping as though he had been under water too long.
The witch released a happy little sigh, still staring at him from her side of the cage.
“Darlin’, you’re gonna make the girls so happy.” She drawled. “I just know you’ll satisfy us all.”
Unable to reply, Fabian continued trying to force air into his lungs.
The witch turned away from him, then, tapping toward the emaciated man in the neighboring cage. Her eyes dimmed a little as she looked at the wretched creature, something that he might have called sympathy written on her face.
“Well, Tony, I think the time has come for you and I to part ways.”
The other man said nothing. Fabian flattened his hands to the bars, trying to haul himself up to see what was happening.
Her hand reached through the bars of the cage, the white-tipped fingers stretching out in a clawed fashion. Fabian noted the faint lavender color weaving through the air, wrapping around the already dying man. Still unable to catch his breath, Fabian could only watch as the magic wrapped around the other captive.
He made no sound as she pulled whatever was left from him. His eyes went distant and dead a beat before she released him. Tony fell back against the bars, now nothing more than a leathered, hollow shell.
The witch made another move with her hand, a snap of her fingers. The body began to smoke, then immolated.
Fabian scrambled back from the flames, covering his eyes with one arm. By the time the flames died down enough that he felt safe looking, Fabian noted the witch had left the room.
The cage and its occupant were gone, vanished, leaving only a trace of ash on the white tile.
Unable to think clearly, Fabian sat back against the side of his cage, staring at the spot where the other man had been seconds ago.
I’m gonna die.
The thought reverberated through his head on a loop. He sat and stared, simply waiting for the witch to return.
When she did, hours later, Fabian had not moved. He did not move as she led her friends into the living room, a twittering gaggle of beautifully cruel women who looked almost like the bruja’s clones.
He did not speak as they took their turns, one by one.
And when the final witch removed the last of his vitality, Fabian welcomed the darkness beyond.