“Hello…? Is anyone there?”
Day ? Month ? Year ?
GM: Beep. Beep.
Medical equipment chirps and hums. Green lights flash in the dark. Blackness envelops Amelie like an all-covering blanket, but she can make out the faint contours of a bed against the flickering, sickly lime light. A hospital bed.
Amelie: Familiarity. Amelie has been here before.
The faint outline is clear enough. She slowly attempts to lift her arm, trying out her own faculties. She remembers the rough feeling of hospital linen on her face and a nurse holding her hand while half-cooled pieces of molten slag were pulled from her back. Small town hospitals take horrifically many minutes to put someone under, and those minutes feel even longer to someone with a 14-year-old body that refuses to stop screaming.
She isn’t new to terror. The memory is enough to dull her nerves and make her consider how she’ll live after this. It’s calm. Uneasy, but calm. It’s a hospital, however, this is good news. She isn’t dead.
GM: Amelie’s arm lifts without resistance or impediment.
There’s a second arm underneath it. The flickering light casts a sickly green haze over the steel handcuff around its wrist.
Amelie: Odd. The calm moment hits a small bump, and then a bigger one as it sinks in. More than one set of arms, and a set of shiny handcuffs. Is she on top of someone?
Amelie takes a moment to process the disturbing sight before slowly trying to sit up. She turns to look at the pillow she’s sure her head was resting on.
GM: It’s hard for Amelie to see much of anything in the gloom. Her room has no lights. No real lights. Just the flickering adjacent machinery.
She stares. She strains her eyes. She waits, for that heart-pounding fraction of a second.
Then she realizes.
She’s staring down at her face.
Her own face.
It looks so pale and gaunt. There’s a pale feeding tube snaking into the nostrils. The short black hair looks greasy and unkempt. The dark-ringed eyes are closed and unresponsive.
But it’s her own face.
Amelie: Her own face, for a split second, registers as someone else’s. It feels like a dream, like it’s her mother laying in bed underneath her. Panic rises in the young woman’s chest before it hitches.
Her mother doesn’t have that ugly chin, that short and bramble-thick jet black hair, and her lips are much thinner. Or at least were.
This is her face.
Panic rises again. A cold hand grabs it from her gut and drags it back into the depths, leaving her tempered but not broken. For a while she just stares at her own face in half-pity, half-confusion.
Is… is she dead?
She stares at the motionless girl who’s chained to a bed. The feeding tube signals an extended stay.
No. She is alive. The steady sharp staccato of the machine tells her so. Despite the deep unease in her gut, she holds on to her nerves with an iron grip as she slowly rises. She slips feet out of feet, hip out of hip, and gets to her second feet to stand over herself.
GM: Amelie stares down at herself. The sickly light gives her face a ghoulish cast, or at least what she can make out amidst the gloom. She’s dressed in a plan hospital gown. She looks thinner. Gaunter. Hollower. Eight sets of interlinked handcuffs secure her arms and legs to the bed’s plastic railings.
Amelie: It doesn’t add up for Amelie. Why chain her down here?
Or rather, why chain down this other body of hers.
Her body. All of the hard work she put into it, and she now looks so fragile and broken. Why does she look so thin? What is the date?
It feels as though her mind is trying to veer from the actual question, the how and what of her looking down on herself with her body still alive. She almost expects the sound of a folded wooden chessboard, and the clinking of bones, Death himself come to play a game.
Amelie leans in and tries to find the nurse call button. Maybe someone can turn on the lights if they come in.
She doesn’t feel like groping in the dark. Not so soon after the LaLaurie House.
GM: Amelie can just make out the hazy outline of white and round-shaped by one of her—or, she supposes, her body’s—handcuffed hands. It has a keypad and intercom.
Amelie: There. She leans in and presses the button, careful not to touch her own body.
GM: The tips of Amelie’s fingers sink through the button.
It remains still.
No answering voice crackles through the speaker.
Amelie: Amelie starts briefly, pulls her finger back, and looks between it and the button for a few moments.
It slowly clicks into place. Her body there. Her finger sinking through the button. This whole situation. Is this her soul? Stepped out of her body? She’s still alive. Her body is still sitting there without ‘her.’
She reaches down, slowly and carefully, and tries to see if she can touch her own face.
GM: Amelie’s fingers sink into the hollow, green-lit cheek like hungry talons ready to tear the flesh loose. Its eyes remain closed.
Amelie: Amelie shudders and carefully pulls her hand back. This is all so strange. She turns, takes a few steps away from her body, and tries to find another source of light or even a door.
GM: Amelie doesn’t feel the sensation of cool floor against bare feet as she walks away. She hears no no smack of flesh against linoleum. She smells none of the disinfectant and rubbing alcohol so ubiquitous to hospitals.
But most of all, she slowly realizes, she doesn’t feel anything.
No groans of protest from stiff muscles. No sores or aches and pains. No hunger rumbling in her gut. No overfull bladder to make her twist her knees. No full sensation in her bowels to void. No grease or sweat across her skin.
Her eyes strain against the gloom. She can make out no other lights. A closed door is visible across from the bed with her body. A thin, silvery-hued cord trails down from the body’s chest and across the floor.
Amelie: Numbness worse than opium, worse than that deep haze of nothing that delays your senses. Even smell is gone. The world feel like it’s on the other side of glass, or saran wrap. The light is gone, but there is a door here. But before she even thinks of reaching out, the silver glint catches her eye.
A sense of immediate urgency twists her gut. She crouches and grabs at the thing coming out of ‘her’ chest and tries to find the other end of the silvery cord. Possibilities swirl, each one more ridiculous or terrifying than the other.
But then again, here she is.
GM: Amelie feels a painful tugging sensation from her own back.
Amelie: The sudden sensation in a fog of nothing is like bright red tack on a naked cork board. All at once, the dots connect. To her horror.
She’s tethered to her own body. She’s literally tied to the other girl laying in that bed, tied by the cord the Greek Fates used to measure someone’s life.
Amelie carefully lifts the cord and tries to see how much slack she has.
GM: The silvery cord feels weightless in Amelie’s hands. There is no texture or sensation. She only sees it move when her hands move. She might as well be ‘handling’ the figures from a flashlight shadow play. When she lets go, the cord floats in mid-air.
Amelie: Amelie tries to get a feel for it while being as gentle as she can be. It’s pretty, if scary to think about. This weightless nothing is her connection, her line of oxygen at the bottom of an abyss.
With her lifeline realized, she carefully approaches the door, trying her best not to stretch or stress her tether as she grabs the door handle.
GM: Amelie feels no stress or resistance as she approaches the door. The weightless cord floats lazily in place.
Her hand sinks through the door handle like it isn’t there, at first. Then she feels resistance.
Amelie: Amelie gives a small sigh of disappointment before starting at the resistance. She’s finally grabbing something. She slowly turns the knob and pulls her wrist back, trying to see if she can actually open a door. If this fails, she can always stick her head out.
GM: The knob doesn’t budge. Amelie’s hand hurts. When she looks down, she can see through the appendage. Partly. It’s like staring through a heavy fog.
Amelie: She hisses, jerks her hand back, and takes a few looks through her fog-like hand. It’s scary, like damage to her soul, but she tries to touch it with her ‘good’ hand.
GM: The ‘bad’ hand feels solid. Mostly solid. Like wet clay.
Amelie: Fuck. That looks bad.
Amelie bits down on her bottom lip and looks back to the door. There’s a bit of hurt pride, but she forges cautiously onward. She presses her foggy hand against the door and tries to get it through. Maybe the distance is what hurts.
GM: Amelie’s hand is barely able to sink in before encountering solid resistance.
She pushes. Her hand hurts. Worse.
Amelie: She hisses again, pulls back her arm, and looks at her body while she waits for the pain to lessen. The door is impassible for now. Amelie looks around the gloomy room before returning to her bedside. She tries to swallow her fear and calls,
“Hello…? Is anyone there?”
GM: Amelie’s hand looks fainter than it did before. Nothing answers her plaintive call but the medical equipment’s steady beeping.
Amelie: It’s eerie. People doing this kind of thing in movies can walk right through doors and walls. But here she is, being hurt just for trying.
She stands over her body in thought for a moment, then wanders away to explore the gloomy room, using her tether as a line back to her starting point.
GM: The room is not large, but Amelie appears to have it to herself. There’s the medical equipment. Shuttered windows. A single chair. A bedside cabinet. There’s no cards or flowers or anything but the faintly glowing and beeping monitor on it.
And the bed, where her own comatose body lies.
Amelie: Now that her surroundings are mapped out, even minimal as they are, she takes a deep breath and starts to examine them more closely. She looks for a chart at the foot of her bed before reality reminds her of privacy laws. TV shows have betrayed her. In absence of that, she looks at the TV drip. There could be a written date for when it was put up and into use.
GM: Feb 10 reads a label written in black marker.
Amelie: Amelie puts a hand over her mouth and double checks. Is that the expiry or the date it’s been put up?
GM: There is only the ‘Feb 10.’
Amelie: Amelie feels her legs wobble slightly. She knows she can’t look out the window for snow and hopes this is some kind of joke. It doesn’t make sense. Why does she have her own room and why are her limbs still handcuffed if she’s been in a… the thought catches in her head like a lump in her throat. But it explains why her body is so thin. Is she in a coma?
It barely feels real. She keeps that hand over her mouth as she strides to the door, listening closely for any activity on the other side. She can hear the beeps from the machine, why not people walking by or talking?
GM: Amelie’s weightless steps make no sound as she approaches the door. The ethereal cord trails behind her. No sound is audible but the steady beeping of the machines. Her hollow-faced, close-eyed, handcuffed lies motionlessly in the bed. If the bag is right, she’s at least 21 now.
Happy birthday to her.
Amelie: It’s like a nightmare being trapped in this room. Hell, maybe it is a nightmare, she’s even old enough to legally drink now. Happy birthday to her.
Amelie grits her teeth and walks over to the window. She has an idea. She tries to get a view of the outside world.
GM: She hears the approaching sound of footsteps as she turns from the door.
Amelie: She quickly moves just a bit away from the door so it doesn’t hit her. It’s hurt her already, even see-through as she is.
GM: The door swings silently open. An indistinct figure turns to close it and approaches Amelie’s bed.
Amelie: She follows it, trying to get a look at the face.
GM: It’s so hard to make out anything in the dark. Shadows cling to the figure like thick cobwebs. But in the intermittent, sickly glow of the beeping medical equipment, Amelie can make out one thing: long hair. Trailing as far down the figure’s back as she can see.
The shadowy figure leans over Amelie’s body, then draws close. Very close. Their hair trails over Amelie’s chest. They wrap their arms around her comatose body and pull it directly against them. Amelie’s handcuffs faintly clink against the bed railings as they pull taut.
Amelie: There’s a horrible feeling in Amelie’s chest as the figure draws her in. But… they don’t get into bed with her. They just pull her close. She walks up close to see what they’re doing to her body.
“You better keep your hands to yourself, whoever you are,” she says, loud as she likes, and right in the figure’s face.
GM: The dark figure burrows their face against ‘her’ neck. There’s a low sound, like a snarl… or a moan. The sound grows muffled as the figure grasps her body and rocks it steadily back and forth, an undulant motion that reminds her of a cobra following its charmer’s flute. Her handcuffs tug against the bed frame. It’s in the glint of reflective steel that she sees it.
Low slurps sound from the swaying figure.
Amelie: Amelie balks slightly at first. What is this freak doing, giving her fucking hickeys?
Then she sees it. Blood. Is this person is… feeding on her?
It’s impossible. But here she stands, a soul from her body sent here by what may be a demon or a ghost. Is this person a… a vampire?
There’s a flare of furious indignation as she sees herself being fed upon like a cow. She focuses all her ire on this THING and bellows out at it, “Leave me alone! Get up, you connasse! FUCK OFF!”
GM: The figure stealing her blood, the thing Amelie can only term… vampire, does not stir in the slightest at her anguished cries.
It just holds her.
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t just cry at it. She reels back, twins her fingers together, and slams both fists down on its back.
GM: Amelie staggers back as if she’s slammed her hands against solid brick.
The creature doesn’t turn or stir. Handcuffs clink as the vampire humps against her comatose body, hungrily sucking up the flowing blood.
Amelie: She hisses, grips her wrist again, and swears under her breath. It’s just like the door, she can’t hurt the monster sucking out her life.
She wracks her brain, remembers her earlier plan with the parking lot, and takes a deep breath. She remembers her pain management therapy, the grueling stretches and the horrible cold sweats, but she remembers the words of her therapist most.
Visualize, Amelie. Life is more like a dream than you think. Imagine it and put your will behind it.
She focuses her eyes on the vampire, releases her breath, and pushes the air as hard as she can, putting everything she has into pushing her will into the material world.
GM: The creature ravishing Amelie’s helpless body doesn’t move. It doesn’t flinch.
It just feeds.
The young woman can only watch, helplessly, furiously, as it sucks her veins dry like an overlarge tick. As it grows fat and battened on her lifeblood when she already looks so weak.
After what seems like an eternity of watching, however, the thing withdraws. Amelie looks down on herself. She looks so thin. So gaunt. So pale.
The figure strokes her handcuffed body’s greasy hair, once, then turns away.
Amelie: The young woman’s mind races against what she’s watching. She’s been in bed for months, being… being food, for this…
Her first instinct is to check the heart rate monitor, hoping her attention on the monster hasn’t killed her. If it’s still going, she knows she has to try to hop back into her body. She has to wake up.
GM: The closing door sounds behind Amelie. She stares at the monitor. If she had a heart, it might skip a beat. But the machine continues to beep.
Amelie: Amelie closing door signals the monster’s departure, but it’s the beeping machine that puts her back at ease. Marginally.
She is being used as cattle. As… as food.
New Orleans is every bit as mysterious as she imagined it as a girl. More dangerous than she could have ever feared too, it seems.
The monster didn’t see her, though. That’s something. She looks over her weak, emaciated form, and tries again. She pictures the door beside her. She pictures herself moving through it and standing in the hall. She tries to will herself through to give chase to the vampire.
GM: Amelie concentrates like she never has before.
Yet she remains exactly where she is.
Amelie: She deflates, takes a deep breath, and shakes it out. She walks over to the window to look outside again. Like she was going to before that… thing fed on her.
GM: Half-drawn shades cover the windows, obscuring Amelie’s vision. Her touch passes through them. She walks closer to the window, then peaks out.
The city is destroyed.
It looks like bombed-out ruins from a WWII newsreel. The skyscrapers are blasted-out husks. No lights shine from the broken-in windows. The streets are flooded with water and choked with debris: broken bricks and stones, piles of trash, hulks of abandoned cars, dented and rusted street signs, and other trash litter the area. It looks like it’s been flooded by Hurricane Katrina, but the storm wasn’t supposed to have hit this part of the city.
Amelie looks up.
The sky has no moon. There are no stars. It’s simply a black and gray morass. It rumbles ominously like a gathering storm. Tongues of lightning sporadically flick past screaming, hail-like rain. A stray bolt strikes one of the largest structures. The superdome.
Amelie: If Amelie were in her body, she can only imagine how hard her heart would be pumping as her wide eyes take in every inch of the scenery. The hospital room seems almost comforting in its normality next to this ruined, this warzone, this hellscape. Her eyes trace every detail and slowly make their way up towards the superdome until-.
GM: But it’s not the superdome.
It is a towering, hideously baroque edifice of dark might and darker ambition—if not madness. The architectural styles are a grossly misshapen jumble of classical, gothic, and fascist totalitarian. It steals elements from all periods while belonging to none of them, like some awful E.C. Escher puzzle whose mis-matching pieces were furiously jammed together by the violent hand of some incomprehensible, lunatic god. It’s immense. It’s severe. It’s soaring. It’s all hard, jutting lines and crenelations, wickedly tipped spikes and blades, soaring, off-kilter towers, loops and nets of chain, crisscrossing steel beams, huge sheets of pitted iron—it shouldn’t even be architecturally feasible, the gross edifice shouldn’t even be able to stand, and yet it does stand, even as the lightning blasts it with a thunderous roar, and it screams, the hundreds and hundreds of writhing, screaming faces smelted into the walls, crying out against the rain, their slick tears running down the bladed crenelations of this monument to misery, running down Amelie’s face, for hers is among them, and she feels the others crushing against her, the blades cutting her, slicing her, taking her, CONSUMING HER-
Amelie: Amelie screams.
She through every cell of her spiritual body. She’s in there. She’s encased in that wall of writhing moans, a screaming brick in a tower of jealous disquiet. It’s grabbing her, slicing her, tearing her. The weight is suffocating. Crushing. It’s too much. There is too much sorrow, too much misery, too much pain. It dwarfs her own. It dwarfs her everything. It makes her soul shrink and wail.
Amelie jerks her head back, clutching at her throat as if it can hear her, and jumps into the bed. She frantically lays down over her body and tries to sink in. She jams the tether in her back into her chest with shaking fingers.
She needs to breathe real air. She needs to see a real sky.
She needs to escape.
GM: Amelie dives into her body like a burning woman leaping into a swimming pool. She sinks into this emaciated, handcuffed, bedridden thing that is her only refuge, and sees nothing but black. She tugs at her cord. It doesn’t go in. She tugs and tugs. It floats out like she’s not even holding it.
Her eyes follow the floating cord’s path.
To the window.
It’s closer than it was before.
Bigger than it was before.
The room seems so much darker too, the shadows alive and hungry. She can hear them against the window. Moaning. Pressing against the glass.
It’s following her. It’s coming for her.
Amelie: Terror floods Amelie’s mind. She leaps from the bed.
There’s only one thing she can do.