May 12, 2004

Dr. Baelor and the Winged Man

It has occurred to me that I should perhaps try to be a bit more coherent. If not for my own sake, then for the sake of whomever I must show this to when I escape. If I escape. I must. Something is wrong. I am INNOCENT! I must keep this as a record of all the wrong that has been done against me.

The doctor. At first he stood a few steps away from the barrier of my cell, observing the poor soul within. Backlit, blue mist parted for him as he approached, but effectively blocked my view of everything else, as it always did. He spent a great deal of time staring at me, which I found not only rude, but also quite unnerving.

The man (I didn't really know if he was a man at the time) was tall, and stood arrow straight. He somehow managed to keep his head inclined at such an angle that his fedora cast a long shadow over most of his face. Clad entirely in black (like most everything in this place), he was not a welcome sight, though he was far more welcomed than the lurching Wassel or the pinging spider thief.

He kept his arms crossed over a broad chest when his hands were not tucked casually into his overcoat pockets. On the exposed lower region of his face, I thought I caught a glimpse of a smirk. I could feel myself leaning in for a closer look, but before I could complete the action, the smirk was gone.

I had been clutching the journal to my chest, sitting in my usual place against the wall. I could see his eyes shift to the journal, and this time, there was no mistaking the satisfied smile - a gleam of perfect white teeth. Gods, I wish I had a toothbrush.

A million questions raced through my mind, including one in regards to whether or not I should stand for my visitor.

Who was this man, who felt it necessary to stand in front of my cell and stare at me, saying not a word for what seemed an eternity? Should I feel relieved, or should I feel dread? Should I say something, should I try to plead my case? No, no. I do not even know what my case is. Should I ask this man what my case is? No, no. He would surely laugh, and like Wassel, explain that only I know what my case is.

And the bosses know it too.

Was this man a boss? A warden of sorts? He certainly had an air of authority about him, yet - Surely the warden would have better things to do than stare at inmates. I haven't a mirror, but I'm sure I looked none to flattering at that moment. Not to mention that I'm apparently a criminal, and this man was not. The only explanation I can conceive of, now long after the fact, is that he was performing some sort of routine checkup.

He began to speak. I know this not because I could hear his words, but because I could see his mouth - the only part of his face not shrouded in shadow - moving. At first I thought he was speaking to me, and I almost stood in order to move closer to him. With the slightest turn of his head, he exposed a clean-shaven jaw and short, dark sideburns under the fedora - I could see that he was not speaking to me. To whomever he was speaking, he had turned his head to listen to a reply.

Someone - someone hidden in the blue mist - stood behind the man. Before turning back to me, the man brought his hands up under his chin and formed a steeple with his fingertips. He nodded, as if contemplating whatever his hidden companion said, and then brought his eyes back to mine.

I must have been staring at him slack jawed, for I saw his lips smirk again. I think it is the only expression I will ever truly evoke from him - and I despise him for it. I was angry, suddenly - nothing so strong as a rage, but strong enough that I clutched my journal tighter to my chest and scowled at the wall opposite to me. If all this man came to do was gawk and smirk at me, and exchange what were probably bawdy comments with his companion at my expense (reveling in the fact that I couldn't hear them, no doubt), then I was just going to ignore him. I was NOT playing his game.

So there!

He let me scowl at the wall for quite some time. So long, in fact, that I thought he had grown bored - or at least satisfied with his 'routine checkup', and simply left. It is no surprise then, that the sound of his knuckle tapping the barrier of my cell sent me skywards. I had not expected that such a sound could possibly be created by anyone but me. Everyone else seems to pass through it as if the barrier isn't even there. But this man's knuckle hit substance, and the sound it produced nearly ended me.

In my startled state, my hands sent my journal flying somewhere off to the side, and then clutched my chest. Now that I think back on it, I wish I had given the man a good, accusatory stare that would inflict shame into the very depths of his heart, but, a) I don't think I'm capable of such a stare, and b) at that moment I was capable of nothing more than a deer- caught-in-the-headlights type look that probably made the man smirk even more.

He tapped again - probably to see if my blank, terrified gaze would register recognition. I felt my face relax, but I made no further acknowledgement of his presence.

"Enjoying your stay, I trust?" It wasn't really a question, but he seemed to take some pleasure in speaking the words - his smirk curling even more. "I'm told that our accommodations can be rather lacking in the comfort department, but our customers are loyal."

I remained silent for several moments, giving him what I'm sure was a dull stare. In truth, I was sorting through my questions, trying to figure out what the best plan of action would be. I had no idea where to start, and I began to fear that if I started with a certain question, the answer would take me to a place where I would never find out the answers to my other questions. There were so many, and I tried desperately to think of a place I could begin.

"What is this place?" I couldn't help it. No amount of frantic thinking and submergence of not-quite-so-necessary questions could subdue my curiosity. And once I had silently voiced that initial question, I couldn't stop. I had to get them all out now lest I never had a chance again. "Why am I here? What have I done - no, even better, WHO am I. And while I'm at it, who the hell are you?" My anger had returned, and I fought the urge to scowl at the wall again. With my hands free of a journal, I could even cross my arms to add to the effect.

"Indeed," the man replied after a pause, banishing my thoughts that perhaps he hadn't heard my silent questions. And then I thought he would leave it at that. My glace tore back to his face, as if to DARE him to leave it at that, but I was greeted again by that smirk. "Where are my manners? I have been terribly rude, haven't I?"

"I didn't even get a phone call," I muttered, but he ignored me, making a sweeping gesture with his hand, removing the fedora from his head in a grand display of chivalry. What a dolt! If he hadn't been so damnably striking, I would have given him a smirk of my own and returned my gaze to the wall.

But that wasn't the case, I can only pray to the Gods and hope that I didn't make an arse of myself. Unfortunately, I can remember quite distinctly how self-conscious I felt at that moment. Hair not brushed, skin unwashed, I was clad in a pair of dark, non-descript draw string pants and a v-neck tee-shirt of similar material. On my chilled feet I wore nothing, and the dirt and grime were clearly visible. If my nose had not been so numb from the constant barrage of horrid smells, I would likely notice how horribly I, myself, smelt.

"Allow me to introduce myself, madam, as the humble medical practitioner at this establishment. Doctor Baelor, if you will. While your general comfort- levels are of no interest to me, I accept it as my responsibility to ensure that the likes of you do not - shall we say expire? - before your final appointment." By final appointment, did he mean death? If so, then why did he not just come out and say 'death' instead of playing word games with me?

"That is certainly a weight off my chest," I replied, not quite sure what to make of what this Dr. Baelor had just told me.

"You will not think so, after a time," the doctor smirked, placing the fedora back on his head, face once again lost in shadow. "In fact, I think you will find that your inability to scratch your own eyes out, or even asphyxiate yourself, will drive you quite mad, and so it should." The low chuckle he emitted must have been evoked by the look of sheer disbelief on my face, and it made my stomach feel like a block of ice. "Go on - try it, if you must. I assure you, it is quite impossible to die in this place unless it is your allotted time. And you have quite a ways to go, Snatcher. Quite a ways. I shall bask in every second of it, along with the rest of Limbus."

At that moment, I took Baelor for an evil man. A vile, stinking (though I couldn't smell him from where I was - and from the look of him, he probably smelt quite decent), evil man!

Where the hell is Limbus? Probably some obscure Canadian prairie town, I'm sure - though, I can't quite recall where Canada is either. Is it a country? I just can't remember!

"I don't - quite understand," was all I could manage, still lost in the incredible nonsense Baelor was spouting at me. "What - what is a 'Snatcher'? What are my crimes? Where is your proof that I am the culprit?" As I spoke, I somehow ended up on my feet, staring not-quite-at-eye-level with Baelor. His arms were now crossed, and I mimicked his stance. He tilted his head back so that his face came out of the shadows, and I saw that he had cocked an eyebrow. So I did too. When he raised a hand to his chin and adopted a meditative stance, I contemplated doing the same, but refrained, as the gesture didn't seem to serve my purpose. Whatever that was.

"Host persists at being absent," Baelor muttered, rubbing his chin with his raised hand. "Rather unfortunate, if I do say so myself. Alas, it is a small sacrifice, one I'm sure many will overlook for the greater good, yes?"

Whether he was talking to himself, or to the creature that remained hidden behind him, I know not. All I know is that this Baelor character was no longer speaking to me as he looked me up and down, and then let his eyes rest on the collection of full food trays in the far corner of my cell.

"Refuses to eat," Baelor commented, as if dictating a note to himself. The mention of eating made my stomach feel as though it was scraping against my spine. I was terribly hungry - but not hungry enough to eat what this place provided. "Doesn't really help the situation much. I want you to schedule waves. Once daily. If she refuses, administer by force. We must draw the host out." He paused, eyes focused back on my face. The gaze was hard, calculating, as Baelor continued to rub his chin. "The sooner the better. I won't have any innocents on my hands."

"I beg your pardon!" I snapped at his mention of innocence. What was he about? What was (is) this host he keeps referring to? What is this innocence? MY innocence, obviously - but then why am I here? And if he thinks I'm going to refuse any further of these 'waves' he mentions, he's damn right!

Baelor seemed taken back by my outburst, and I can only assume that he didn't know I could hear him. Perhaps he had meant to block my senses while he spoke those words, but forgot. Regardless, he was not pleased with my newfound knowledge, and a scowl marred his pristine features. The hand that rubbed his chin fell from its place and reached into the depths of his overcoat. When Baelor withdrew his hand, he brought out a small syringe with what seemed an abnormally long needle affixed to the end. I shudder at the mere memory of it.

"Come here," he barked his order as if I would obey without a thought. He is obviously quite mad if he harbors such ideas. He could not have wanted me to step out of my cell to go to him. That would be a foolish assumption on my part. He must have wanted me to step close enough so as to administer the 'wave' through the barrier. That would explain the long needle but -

Why did he not just enter the cell? Surely he could have brought along reinforcements, or some sort of guard. Why did he insist on doing this in an illogical manner, when he could step in and administer the wave while someone else kept me in line? Nonsensical, nonsensical.

Needless to say, I didn't move a muscle, except the ones in my face that moved to mimic Baelor's scowl. "Do not make this any more difficult than it already is, my dear woman. Easy does it!"

"Bah!" I spat silently at his endearment, preparing a plethora of insults to follow. I did not give myself a chance to voice them, however - allowing the sight unfolding before me to effectively turn me into a block of ice.

As I reflect back on the incident, I cannot recall thinking of Baelor as a supernatural being. Despite our surroundings, he struck me as a normal man involved in abnormal circumstances. Perhaps it is for this reason that, upon seeing several, ribbon-like strips materialize out of the backlit mist behind him, I was petrified. Each strip started about a hands-width wide, growing wider towards the ends, tapering off into sharp points. They arched above Baelor like scorpion tails - a dozen or more in total, about six or seven on each side - ready to strike at me. They rippled and waved slightly, as though they really were pieces of fabric exposed to a slight breeze.

"I find your insistence on being difficult rather irritating," Baelor said, the smug note returning to his face. Before I could reply, one of the ribbons shot forth with incredible speed and lashed around my wrist. I was too startled to even attempt a protest. It was then that Baelor stepped aside, moving away from the ribbons that still stood ready to strike from above him.

And it was then that I finally lay my widened eyes on the doctor's companion. At first it was just a shadow in the mist, and I would like to say that what I saw was merely an illusion. The creature took one - two steps forward, and my notions of illusion were dashed. The doctor had been tall, I suppose. And upon standing, I learned that I was only about six inches shorter than he. But the creature materializing from the mist was at least two feet taller than us both - and I believe I began to cower like a whipped dog.

He is perhaps a man. Or at least very similar. In truth, I cannot stop thinking about it - the way his hulking, black armored form stood before my cell, ribbons extending from his back - one of which was still bound to my wrist. On his head he wore a black helm - a horned helm that covered his entire face save for a T shaped opening starting at the base and branching off at his eyes.

His eyes - deep pits beneath the helm that seemed to alternate between the pitch black that had been Wassel's eyes, and a deep, shimmering, crimson red - the same colour, I soon discovered, as the ribbons from his back like shredded wings. I can only imagine the uses such a creature - armored from head to toe - could use these lashing, rippling ribbons for. He was in no other way armed.

The creature paused just before the barrier, not bothering to look at Baelor as he extended its hand to the doctor. Baelor, who stood just off to the side, kept his smirk trained on me as he placed the syringe into the creature's hand.

"Do not think that I'm not willing to make forced-administration a habit with you, Snatcher," Baelor murmured. At the sound of the doctor's voice, the creature's eyes lit up with crimson fire. I am still wondering if the creature is somehow bound to Baelor - if he only responds to the doctor's voice, his command. Regardless, I do not wish the opportunity to investigate.

The creature, this winged man, closed his hand around the syringe and stepped through the barrier of the cell. Baelor remained behind, watching with the ever-present smirk. I wanted to shout at him, sneer at him for not coming through the barrier to administer the 'wave' himself - but before I could collect my words, I felt more of those crimson ribbons fastening around me. Now both my wrists were bound and held at my side, and I felt a ribbon sneak down around my legs, rendering me immobile. When I opened my mouth to silently shout protest, I felt a ribbon snake around the back of my head and over my mouth. The grip was firm, but it was in no way rough or hostile. The whole process brought me so close to the creature that I could see a blurred reflection of my wide eyes in the black of his armored chest.

"Please, please," Baelor said, and I could hear, rather than see the sneer on his face. "The good captain doesn't like a fuss - but, do excuse me, I have forgotten my manners once again. I should have known better than to leave the introduction to him- Captains of the Guard never have been ones for small talk."

I could feel a flash of heat on the top of my head, and I can only guess that it was the creature's eyes flaring to life again. It seems horrifying that his eyes could produce that kind of heat, and I hope to never be the victim of direct eye contact should the flare happen again.

"I imagine that if you keep this stubborn streak up, you and Captain Aaodyn shall become quite well-acquainted. Though, it hopefully won't take many waves to return things to normal." Bloody coward! Not man enough to step through the cell and administer it himself. No! Baelor has to employ the bloody captain of some heinous stygian force to do it for him! If only my mouth hadn't been covered at the moment, I would have given him a piece of my mind!

"So without further ado, Captain - I have other appointments I must keep. We can continue this conversation tomorrow, perhaps."

Again, I felt a flash on the top of my head as the creature - Captain Aaodyn - used one armored hand to clasp the side of my face and neck and hold me steady. Thankfully, the underside of his grip was covered in smooth leather and not the hard, metallic black surface that covered the rest of him.

I expected the creature to be harsh and careless with the needle - perhaps I even expected him to stab me with it. But his hand was so sure and his movements were so smooth, that if it weren't for the slight tender spot on the side of my neck now, I wouldn't know where he administered the wave. I do not know why he would extend such consideration to me. Baelor made it quite clear that I'm something to be loathed - and the way the doctor kept his distance, I'm to be feared as well. Perhaps this Aaodyn takes pride in his 'wave'-administering abilities, perhaps he has strict ideas about exactness, or perhaps it is just in his nature to be exact. Whatever the case may be, I simply cannot complain about the way the Captain of the Guard treated me.

Baelor, on the other hand, I would like to give a fat lip.

Aaodyn kept his 'wings' wrapped around my limbs as he backed away, only removing the ribbon around my mouth. He did not look at me as he passed through the barrier, finally releasing me from his grip.

I felt the effects of the wave immediately. My hunger dissipated, and my eyes felt heavy. I watched Aaodyn disappear back into the mist, and Baelor reclaim his spot before my cell.

"And how do you feel now?"

I wanted to sleep. I felt calm, distant - but not content, comfortable, or satisfied. While my hunger pains were gone, I still felt empty, unfulfilled. The 'wave' was meant to sustain me, not comfort me. Whatever else it was meant for, I shall perhaps never know.

"I have questions," I said silently, backing up against the wall facing the barrier, feeling an overwhelming need to sit and rest.

"And I have answers," Baelor replied, making a show of examining his fingernails. "But I shall not share them with you. You must understand this is all a necessity. Sacrifices must be made, and you are the sacrifice. Soon it will be over and you shall think of it no more."

It wasn't enough for me. My breathing had slowed and I was ready to pass out from newfound fatigue, but I couldn't let him leave me like this.

"What do you mean by host?" The word made me feel like a parasite, and I hated it. "What - what did she do for me to deserve this? Who is she?"

Baelor shook his head, shrugging slightly before turning to leave. "Now that, my dear woman, I hope you never know." He turned completely then, hands in his overcoat pockets as he followed Aaodyn's path into the mist.

"Then who am I?" I called out, silence meeting silence. If Baelor had an answer, I never heard it.