Stef stood staring at the door for a moment, wondering if the agent was watching her, wondering what he thought of her, wondering if the pleasant room was actually a gas chamber.
Bullets are cheaper than that, genius.
Was that supposed to make me feel better?
Actually yes, if you were going to die tonight, you’d be a corpse, so relax.
Sometimes, I really, really-
Hate me. I know, but you’d be dead without me, so say thank you and check out your new digs.
She experimentally jiggled the handle – it was locked, as expected. She turned and looked at the room – it was bigger than she’d expected, and a lot nicer than the cold cell she’d been expecting the spend the night in. Still, every object in the room held dangers.
The bed could be some sort of secret torture device, or one that subtly programmed people while they slept. The fridge could contain poisonous foods, or worse yet, fairy food that would trap her in this strange, new world.
Wait…is that a bad thing?
The ang- The agent hadn’t seemed like he was a frippy, fey kind of person that was going to be leaping around like the blasted crowing boy, but at the same time, he’d said it was all magic, so the possibility remained.
Poisoned contents or not, she crossed to the fridge and pulled it open. The subtle, new-white-goods smell hit her nose, and a question rose in her mind. She lifted her head and looked at the front of the fridge – it was suspiciously free of any branding, no company logo or name propped out at her. Inside, there wasn’t even a temperature dial.
He’d made water appear out of nowhere, and now it seemed that he’d made a fridge appear from nowhere. It was fully stocked – milk, juice, eggs, water, all the basics – and there were no signs that it had been sitting abandoned for a while, so either they’d been expecting someone else, or they’d prepared it in the short time she’d been there. Or she’d been asleep for far longer than she’d thought.
She pulled the water bottle out and took a drink before opening the freezer. Inside were a dozen frozen meals, each with neatly-labeled contents. She extracted a container of macaroni-and-cheese, and another of stir fry.
Holding the frozen containers close, she moved into the small kitchenette and gently placed them onto the counter. A likely-sinister kettle stared at her, and malevolent hot plates promised nothing but burny pain.
A seemingly-innocent microwave sat on the bench, and she cautiously placed both frozen meals into it, hoping that it didn’t leak radiation as soon as she turned it on. Three minutes later, it announced, with a soft ping, that her meals were done.
Sourcing a fork from the top drawer, she shoveled half of the macaroni into her mouth before even looking for a place to sit. She’d made an appearance at dinner-time at the mansion, but hadn’t stuck around, only showing her face long enough to hopefully keep them from being suspicious of her. She hadn’t eaten much, she hadn’t been hungry for food, only hungry for success, and she’d been close to completion.
Food in her stomach made her feel somewhat better. The wholesome taste of warm cheese abated worries that it was either poison or magic. If it was tasteless poison, then the associated death would likely be quick; and it wasn’t magic, M-word stories didn’t involve frozen dinners, and from-a-packet mac and cheese.
She slipped to the floor, back to the kitchen cupboard, fork hanging from her mouth and food balanced on her knees. She looked out at the room, the overriding colour scheme was obvious – blues and blacks, tempered by white and the occasional dash of silver. It was nice and mute, it was very corporate, it was very narc.
What’d you expect?
Not this.
She took another forkful of macaroni and wondered if she should sleep. Her body was somewhere between falling asleep on the spot, and wanting to climb the walls – too much adrenalin was apparently confusing, especially when it wasn’t used to any.
She moved the mouthful of cheese around and wondered if this was how she was going to live for the rest of her life. That’s what happened. First of all, the magic cat came, then gave you a locket, then you ran around in some little outfit that provided no armour whatsoever, announcing your attacks so that the enemy had plenty of time had to avoid them, still made it to school on time, got the guy and a memorable theme song. Yes. Exactly like that.
She finished the meals, then moved into the main area and stared down at the bed. She was fairly certain that it wasn’t going to open up and drop her through the building and into the secret torture basement where all the freaks lived, or subtly program her while she slept, but still, it bothered her.
And it was a double-bed, she hadn’t slept on one of those since leaving high school. It was impractical, there was too much wasted space. Nonetheless, she crawled up onto the bed, and rested against the pillows, the unexpectedly soft, feather pillows.
She fitfully tried to sleep – on top of the quilt, under it, on both sides of the bed, and at its foot. Nothing worked. She pulled the pillows and quilt over her, like a child building a fort, rested her head on her hands and stared over the end of the bed and into space.
‘All children, except one, grow up,’ she began to recite to herself. ‘They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!”’
The familiar words calmed her, the comforting story, the well-trodden path, all of it so wonderfully comforting in the face of her brave, new life.
‘This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up,’ she continued, plying the sheet between her fingers, drawing a rough map of Neverland in the ripples and bucks in the fabric. ‘You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.’
‘You must have been very young when you die-’
‘Shut up Dorian,’ she said to the memory.
‘Two was the beginning,’ she stumbled. Had to be that young, otherwise the memory would be clearer. Wendy. Garden. Get back on track. You’re doing my job.
She pulled out one of the pillows that was acting as a fort prop, and chewed on the corner. There was much about the children and their beloved crowing boy, but all of that was terribly boring.
‘He was Blackbeard’s bo’sun,’ she said to the pillow with a grin, the clash of swords ringing out in her mind, the scent of sea spray hidden just out of reach of perception. ‘He is the worst of them all. He is the only man of whom Barbecue was afraid.’
Even hidden under the safety of the sheets, the thought of the agent bursting in through the door and blowing her head off terrified her. Even though he’d put her in a room with a five-thousand dollar bed, instead of in a cell. He’d taken away the gun…put he’d still put it there in the first place. A gun to her head. A trigger he was going to pull.
Her world spun, and she gripped the pillow.
‘In the midst of them,’ she forced out, taking refuge in a place she felt safe, ‘the blackest and largest in that dark setting, reclined James Hook, or as he wrote himself, Jas. Hook, of whom it is said he was the only man that the Sea-Cook feared. He lay at his ease in a rough chariot drawn and propelled by his men, and instead of a right hand he had the iron hook with which ever and anon he encouraged them to increase their pace.’
You’re not afraid of Jas. Hook. You’ve never been afraid of Jas. Hook. You’re the opposite of afraid, and by most accounts, he’s terrible and the villain of the piece. How can you, a pirate, be afraid of a man in a suit?
‘As dogs this terrible man treated and addressed them, and as dogs they obeyed him. In person he was cadaverous and blackavized, and his hair was dressed in long curls, which at a little distance looked like black candles, and gave a singularly threatening expression to his handsome countenance.’
A gun, to her head. An intent to kill.
‘His eyes were of the blue of the forget-me-not, and of a profound melancholy, save when he was plunging his hook into you, at which time two red spots appeared in them and lit them up horribly. In manner, something of the grand seigneur still clung to him, so that he even ripped you up with an air, and I have been told that he was a raconteur of repute. He was never more sinister than when he was most polite, which is probably the truest test of breeding; and the elegance of his diction, even when he was swearing, no less than the distinction of his demeanour, showed him one of a different cast from his crew.’
You were able to stand up to the Captain. You imagined all those adventures when you read the book. You declared war on Peter Pan. Spyder…when you were a kid, there wasn’t anything you couldn’t do. You’re so pathetic now. Maybe this is your second chance to be a child. You’re tired, scared and strung out on adrenalin, go to sleep and everything will be clearer in the morning.
‘A man of indomitable courage,’ she said with a yawn. ‘It was said that the only thing he shied at was the sight of his own blood, which was thick and of an unusual colour. In dress he somewhat aped the attire associated with the name of Charles II, having heard it said in some earlier period of his career that he bore a strange resemblance to the ill-fated Stuarts; and in his mouth he had a holder of his own contrivance which enabled him to smoke two cigars at once. But undoubtedly the grimmest part of him was his iron claw.’
Her eyelids drooped. ‘Let us now kill a pirate-’