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Enveloped in his own pathetic remorse and loneliness he barely hung on to reality. He sat hunched over his shaking hands, grasping his blood caked forehead. He mumbled a few some things under his breath. He only lifted his head as a noise filled his ears. He glared at the scene, as a man tried to get through the wall of medical staff. He had not been the first noisy reporter to hear and then want the story. And Dakota sighed as he realized that he would not be the last.
"I'm here only for the story-" He struggled against one of the doctor's firm hold against her door.
"You want a story?" Dakota's husked voice filmed in misery lifted and fell in the commotion of the reporter. But he must have heard for he whirled around to face him. He seemed to be able to tell by Dakota's irritated eyes, pale complexion and the gaping wound on his head, that he had been involved. He retrieved a pad from his bag and flipped it open as an answer.
Dakota nodded and slugged ruefully, back to the couch which he had come from. The reporter followed and sat down on the opposite side.
"I am only telling you this 'cause I think it might help the search..." He snarled at the face that popped in his head and the reporter watched him with a lampooned expression. He sighed and looked back to the reporter, ready to commence his story.
"It all started with the damn flyer..."
“Please!" She begged, whining in an adolescent manor, as a pup would, wanting the warmth of another's touch. "Please, Dakota, can we go?” She now held up a neon flyer in his face; annoying him further, almost to his breaking point. He took the paper from her hands, and let his eyes skim over the false advertisement.
"Come on Victoria this is stupid." He pushed the paper down, moaning as he did, he looked up at her. Big mistake! She was making the face.
He fell into the deep green forest of her eyes, they were pleading and as big as milk saucers. Her bottom lip quivered, extended above her already quaking chin, hinting that she might just let a tear fall.
The, "Puppy Dog Pout", was used a lot in relationships, a technique in which the girlfriend would make the boyfriend feel guilty by a sorrowful expression. And of course his girlfriend had the look perfected to an art. He let an exasperated sigh release him and with it surrendered to her.
"Fine Victoria, we'll go."
Victoria pulled at his hand, as she almost skipped to the entrance of the "The Durmall Circus and Freak Show." Dakota snickered.
Yea you'd have to be a freak to enjoy this show. He thought to himself not wanting to hurt Victoria's feelings, as she marveled at the giant red and white tent in front of them.
He walked up to the entrance pulling out his wallet; he paid the man behind the glass booth for their tickets. And hurried along as Victoria pulled him through the line and into the tent. Still grasping to her hand Dakota entered the dark cave like structure and was completely blinded by the dark shadows around him. Miraculously Victoria led him to the proper seating area.
Then bright lights shot off like fire, out of the center of the darkness and sparked across the audience. Victoria had jumped alarmed by this but smiled to reassure Dakota. And as soon as the lights were on, distained music poured from old speakers mounted high in the corners of the tents. And right behind them came the carnies. Hundreds of different assortments of people flooded from the four corners of the tent. Something about the performer’s costumes and their movements had an air of mischief. It all seemed so odd, and clearly olden gothic. They were all dressed in purposely ripped and torn outfits.
Girl's fluttered down from the ceiling, levitating from sturdy beams placed out for them. They coiled and turned on their wires in pliant dance moves. Each dancer had a white painted face, with hollowed blacked eyes. Coated in black leotards with ruffled destroyed tutus, hanging around them like spider webs. And amazingly Dakota saw just how spider-like they really were. Bored with their nonamazing show he turned to Victoria.
He saw her gleaming over the amateur tricks and trite circus performers. He squeezed her hand lovingly as she laughed.
"Isn't it wonderful?!"
"Yes you are." he whispered not caring a bit that he apparently was missing the best show in the world, he cared only that Victoria was sitting next to him. And that she was glowing in her radiance tonight.
Drawing away from her for a second, he looked to the clowns. They bounced their ways through the collection of camels, tigers, lions, a performing bear and a gigantic elephant, which carried many a passenger on his wrinkled back.
The clowns did somersaults to the third ring where they pretended to dance with invisible beings. Dakota found their act troubling, and was slightly disturbed by their twisted faces. He frowned as they carried on in their derisory performance. He shook his head and looked to Victoria again, but she was looking intently straight ahead. He followed her gaze and saw what she was looking at. A tall man, dressed in an old ring leader's costume, he carried a cane and accommodated his look with a overly large satin top hat. Though he was just as morbid looking as his fellow performers, Dakota found him even more bizarre. One reason was that he was looking at Victoria, and only her. His face was so thin and white that it was almost transparent and to Dakota, to similarly resembled a skeleton. He strolled to the center ring, still his eyes glued on her. Dakota shuffled in his seat feeling uneasy. And as Victoria slowly took his hand he could tell her discomfort as well. He looked up into her eyes and saw how mortified she was.
"Dakota can we get out of here?"
"Yea, I just want to go home." Dakota stared at her judging the fear in her eyes and then stood.
"Ok. Lets go." He pulled her up and pushed through the crowd of teeming people. He pulled Victoria in front as he turned over his shoulder and stared at the Ring Leader. He still kept a repelled mask over his face, and Dakota scowled back at him. As soon as they were outside surrounded by crisp, clear skies Victoria took a deep breath; as if clearing the vivid and horrid picture of the man in the center ring out of her head.
"What was that all about?" he asked still holding, firmly to her hand as her only protection. She shivered.
"I-I don't know. But did you see the way he was looking at me?" She turned to him, her eyes filled with terror. "It was as if he was looking through to my soul or something. And did you hear what he said?"
"He didn't say anything." Victoria turned pale.
"Yes he did...didn't he? I heard him. He said my name, and…Welcome to the show and…”
“And what, V?”
“This will be the last one you'll ever enjoy...'." she shivered again as she heard his haunting voice in her head. She grabbed firmly to Dakota's arm as he tried to make his way back into the tent's exist.
"Don't Dakota. Let's just go. Please." She did the face again, but this time it was real, and he surrendered immediately. He had never seen her so scared before.
"Ok." he took her arm. "Let’s go home."
"Thank you." she grasped tightly to his arm and hurried her pace. But as Dakota and Victoria tried to leave the close area for the circus, a voice startled them.
"Care to take a try in my Maze of Mirrors?" Dakota turned to an old man's feeble voice. Unlike the other carnies here, he looked near normal. Though he was dressed in a red vest and a small rounded circus hat lay on his balding head, he still held humanity to his eyes. He seemed no harm to them. Dakota eyed the small stand behind him, to which he was indicating to. He looked to Victoria.
"Wanna go in?" She shook her head quickly.
"No. Dakota lets just go home."
"O come on Victoria. You were the one who wanted to come here in the first place. Look there’s nothing dangerous in there." He pushed her forwards so she could see more clearly. He himself of course didn’t want to stay but he knew that later she would blame him for not enjoying her time at the fair. At least if they did leave now, she couldn't say he didn’t try. She looked at the stand for a second longer and then shrugged.
"I guess it would be fun to do before we leave. I mean we did already pay and all."
"Ok, my young ones just step through here and enjoy yourselves. O!-" he pulled Dakota's sleeve, yanking him back away from Victoria. He leaned in and whispered to him "-Not everything is as it appears." he then with more strength than Dakota would have thought, pushed him towards the entrance, and far away from him. Dakota shook off the old man's words and trailed blindly behind Victoria. She giggled at her reflection in some mirrors, that would either stretch her taller or shrink smaller. But frowned at herself in the mirror if it happened to make her look larger. Dakota laughed heartily for the first time that night, as she scowled at her obese self.
"Gaw, I'm huge!" she cried, placing her hands on her stomach to double the fact she was still the same size. Dakota joined along side her, she laughed at his image in the mirror. He was tall and flat, his face a twist of flesh. They moved through the other mirrors, Dakota stopped to look at a mirror that was solid red. It glimmered amongst the clear ones. He reached out to it and snatched back his hand as it burned at the touch.
"Hey V. Check this out." he called behind him, but after she didn't answer he turned and froze. Victoria wasn't there. All that was around him was a lone hall, and more mirrors. He turned away from the burning mirror and began franticly searching for Victoria.
Victoria turned to a mirror behind her that seemed to call to her. It looked normal to her eye, and as she neared it she saw no change to her reflection. She was about to turn when her body began to quake in the mirror. She looked deeply and jumped as her face melted into Dakota's. She looked around for him, expecting him to be near. But she was alone. And suddenly felt utterly afraid. She looked to the face again. It was her Dakota alright; a mess of blond curls bound on his head, his white skin and most admiring his lucid blue eyes. He looked so real, as if she reached out and touched him, he might reach out back to her. So her hand stood extended towards the mirror. But just as her fingertips brushed the cool glass, it shattered and through the cracked pieces she saw Dakota, bleeding. She withdrew her hand and backed away terrified as blood began to seep from him, and into her own world, covering the floor. She slinked away and screamed as the blood began to flow even more rapidly.
"Dakota!" She yelled. She tore her gaze from the sight, and crashed into one of the mirrors behind her, as she tried to find him. She rebounded and kept running but with each turn ran into another mirror. She discovered that she was surrounded by them. She tried to hit at the mirrors but it was no use, they were too thick for her to break through. She screamed out again as Dakota's blood neared her. She slid down a mirror and collapsed to the ground. She regretted ever going here. Thick warm tears began to stream down her frightened face. She looked up, she was surrounded by a bleak darkness, and there was a coldness creeping into her. She let out a final scream for Dakota before she blackened out, and fell into the ocean of blood and tears.
Dakota ran through the dark hallways, fear gripping him like a leech. He turned to each mirror only seeing a reflection of his own, vexed self. He turned from each one until he caught a sight of pink the color of her jacket. He ran to the last mirror which seemed to be wear he saw it. He froze. He saw Victoria alright but it was only her reflection. She was standing in front of him, perfectly normal, with the exception of two elements. She was soaking wet, her hair stuck to her forehead and her clothes to her skin. And second, her eyes were closed peacefully as if she was sleeping. Dakota turned away for a second as he thought he saw another flash of pink. He then noticed that he was in a hexagon of mirrors and in each one, held a mirage of Victoria, sleeping.
Dakota then saw her image seem to undulate, in all the reflections, as if she were fading into the world past the mirrors. He reached out as if trying to call her back. But his hand naturally hit the glass. He pulled his hand back and allowed the images to fade and his shown again. He looked at his horrid and dazed expression and suddenly felt weak; as he swirled in utter confusion, the mirrors enclosed around him. He suddenly felt claustrophobia creep on him, and tried to walk, but every step he took he found himself smacking another mirror. He snarled as he thrashed at each reflection trying to find his way out. Then he stopped as he heard a shrill scream erupt from somewhere in the obstruction of mirrors.
"Victoria!" he yelled, he paused for a second waiting her reply but nothing came. “Victoria!" again nothing but the eerie silence. In his anger and humility at being stuck in a glass box, he began to smash at the mirrors with his fist; though it resulted in nothing but pained knuckles. He forgot about the minimal pain in his hands and focused on one glass. For some unknown reason the mirror stuck out to him, and he knew that it must be the way out. He backed as far as he could in his mirrored cage and reared up. He ran towards it and with as much speed as he could muster, using his own body as a weapon, perforated the mirror. Shards of glass shattered in mid air, some catching in his hair and clothes but most cutting him, one too deeply on the forehead. He cursed as he kicked the remaining mirror out and climbed through.
It was dark, too dark to see through and a stale taste hung in the air. He stumbled around, when a sinister laugh echoed around him. "Whose there?" he demanded. But only the distasteful voice came again.
"Dakota. Where is your Victoria?" the voice mocked him, Dakota ran forward running into a thick object directly in front of him. It felt like another mirror. But in the dark he could not tell.
"Dakota!" he stopped. That wasn't the same voice it had been earlier, it was Victoria's, she was crying out in pain to him.
"Victoria!" He yelled in the darkness. "Where are you?"
"Right here." Her voice was directly in front of him, but now spoke in an intimate whisper.
"Victoria?" He reached out but found no one there. A chill ran down his spine as he thought of what might have happened. He shook his head as if to shake the thought away.
"Where is she Durmall?" he yelled at the space where Victoria's voice was coming from.
"With me, now and forever." Durmall's voice, like an apparition came out of the empty space and Dakota backed away. Now he was beginning to get scared. All he needed was Victoria and then he might find a way out of this hell. But until he found her he was empty and lost. He turned around hitting another glass mirror. And Durmall's inhumane voice rose again, in a toying laugh. Dakota banged his fist in fatigue as he realized just how unconquerable Durmall was against him, without Victoria. He almost surrendered finding no way to be with Victoria again when the voice of the old man echoed in his head, and his inadmissible words now made sense "not everything is as it appears."
Thinking on his feet Dakota sunk to the ground, feeling that just beneath the mirrors was a foot of space. He reached under them and found that there was something on the other side; a tarp like fabric. He knew now that he was in the top tent and he tucked his fingers under the material to pull up the end. Before he did he heard Durmall's imperceptible voice.
“If you leave now Victoria will be gone forever!" Dakota froze. He hadn't thought if Victoria was still stuck in the tent, he had hoped by some miraculously span of faith that she had made it out. And for all he knew she had, but what if she hadn't? What if she was still stuck in this mirror maze of a nightmare? He dropped the tent immediately at the thought.
"How do I set her free?" he spoke in languish, and the loathsome laugh of the devil himself broke through the shadows.
"Find me." he whispered before Dakota was compelled like nothing but a rag doll, through the tent's tarp walls and then threw the freezing rain that fell outside. He hit the ground but skidded through the black mud. He landed far from the tent, which now was black and grey, instead of its former red and white.
He stood, groggy from his flight and in lost over Durmall's words. He thought about running back to the tent to search for Victoria when a crack of lighting made him jump and whirl around him, to see where it hit. There, almost unnoticeable amongst the over grown weeds, was a slur of flesh and pink. He tore through the mud, sliding in his attempt to reach her before she vanished, turned into a mirror or any other form of punishment Durmall might inflict on him. He reached her, screaming out her name as he did. He slid right into her, and held his breath as she did not say a word to this.
He hunched over her, being a human shield against the course rain pelting down on them. He grabbed her head in his muddy hands, his blonde hair sticking to his face as her brown to her own. Even pale, and sickly she was simply breathtaking in her deep rest of tranquility. And Dakota thought for only a second that she might arise.
"Victoria!" he screamed at her. But she did not stir. Her eyelids remained closed in her serenity and he pleaded with any who might listen for her to wake up. To move, to show him that she was alright. "Victoria Elizabeth Lee open your eyes!!!" he yelled, and the horror in his voice could not even be covered with his sullen and frustration. He shook roughly as he suffered.
"Open your eyes. I love you...please..." He begged in a voice no louder than a whisper. He let his head fall in agony, and partial defeat and it rested on hers. He only lifted his head when tears began to fall from his now hollow blue eyes. He looked up at the sky, and as the storm raged so did he in vindication...
"...They found me still huddled over her. They told me I put up quite a fight; I don’t remember anything past the rain. All I know is she is still asleep and the circus was gone when I woke up. They told me that no circus had been reported or scheduled for that day..."
His head fell heavily to his shaking hands, and he mimicked the stance he'd been in before he had retold the story.
"And-" the reporter urged, his curiosity blinding him from Dakota's clear discomforted in persisting any longer. Dakota shook his head, in all hopelessness. "What about Victoria?"
He heard Dakota release a muffled cry of anguish and saw his back quiver, he sat not knowing how to comfort the boy. Finally Dakota, stopped, wiped aggravated at his tear stained face and raised a hand to a large white door down the hall. The reporter stood and followed Dakota's hand to it.
It was massive and held no window, but even through its thickness the reporter could hear the haunting sound of a girl's screams. His hand flew to his mouth as she cried out in hysteria and insanity. He turned to face Dakota who sat, his eyes closed, his head resting against the bleached wall. He looked so pale so deadly; almost like the performers he so horridly described.
"Is that Victoria?" He asked afraid for the answer. Dakota shook his head.
"That’s her, her body at least. But that's not my Victoria in there acting that way. My Victoria is still in that madman's corrupt mirrors trapped against her will within them." his voice faded away.
The reporter noted that Victoria was suddenly silent. He heard muffled voices in the room and a pained cry. He walked back to Dakota who spoke one last time.
"They said she lost her mind-" he cried out, so much suffering and resentment in his young voice. Then he shook his head with a hypnotic laugh, which scared the reporter. "But they are wrong, what she lost, what was taken from her, was her soul."
Dakota stood weakly and was surprised when the reporter dropped his pad to aide him. Dakota smiled sadly at the reporter’s attempt to help him. But he knew that from his present state, that no physical help could cure him.
"Thanks." he mumbled and turned away from him but the man spoke up .
"But wait!" Dakota stopped at the alertness in his voice. "Where are you going? Are you forgetting about Victoria just like that? How can you leave her?" Dakota cringed under the words. Then without turning or lifting his head spoke in a voice clear, and almost identical to the voice of his former self.
"Where do you think I'm going? Durmall is still out there somewhere, reeking havoc on another helpless fool who has been caught in his catastrophic game. And I intend to stop him, even if I can't retrieve my own Victoria back, or even lose my own soul to his warped power. I am as perpetual as one of those tainted mirrors of his..." his voice trailed off in the sounds of Victoria's earth-shattering screams and Dakota seemed to lower at the repeated sound.
"But how will you find him?" Dakota looked up while a vicious laugh escaped him, not nearly as haunting as Durmall's but just as immortal.
"I'll follow the screams."
Morris Plains, New Jersey
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