Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 2
Rob and Michael did quite a lot of dancing. The dance floor was packed and the tunes just kept coming. Michael was surprised he knew so many, he really hadn’t expected to; time parallels were a strange thing. But he enjoyed being able to get lost in the music and not think about where he was for a moment, or who he was chasing.
Despite being a night club owner in his own reality, Michael couldn’t keep up with Rob. Trying to keep his wits about him and orientate himself every time he slipped through had eroded his stamina. When it was his turn to buy drinks he used it as an opportunity to take a break.
He sat down for a moment to catch his breath and observe the room. His eyes swept across the bar on the other side of the dance floor and the backs of two women caught his eye; one had long dark hair, the other with blonde. Rob came over and joined him.
“What are you looking at?” He tried to follow Michael’s gaze.
“Those two over there,” Michael nodded his head toward them. “One dark, one blonde. Isn’t it time we did some asking?”
“Let me catch my breath first. What do their faces look like? I'm fairly sure I haven't seen them in here before.”
And as though she’d heard him the blonde turned round on her stool to face them.
The hairs on the back of Michael’s neck prickled. He stared at her, unable to accept what he was seeing. It was Isabella. And she was looking straight back at him.
“Looks like she's already interested, Michael.” Rob smiled turning to Michael. He faltered. “Hey Mike, are you alright man?”
Michael knew she’d recognised him by how intently she was staring back. He waited, wondering what she was going to do. The girl next to her turned to see what her friend was looking at, and Michael found himself blinking unbelievingly at Annie. She became motionless upon seeing him. They seemed to be waiting for him to make a move. He didn't.
Rob was getting a little worried. “Mike? Mike, who is she? Do you know her?”
Michael uttered one word without taking his eyes off them, “Isabella.”
Rob was shocked. “Hey? What’s she doing here?”
“What I want to know is how she managed to get here.”
Rob frowned. “What do you mean?”
Isabella had started to move, collecting herself together. Annie followed suit.
“There’s no time to explain now, I've got to get hold of her. She’s got the answers, I’m sure of it.”
Rob wanted to ask more, but Michael had already gone, pushing his way across the dance floor.
When he saw them move towards the exit he picked up speed. People found themselves pushed aside or thrust backward as he made his way through. Rob followed, but was more cautious, not wanting to upset anyone further.
Michael was certain that Isabella was responsible for his being here. His Uncles’ words rang in his mind: “Soon you will realise you were groomed for it by someone here.” She had come out of nowhere and picked him to be with, sidling up to him one night in his nightclub, and making a play for him until he succumbed. But yet she had been evasive, both about her past and committing to him in their relationship, and would never quite let him go. Then Annie had arrived, her best friend, just in time to sweep John off his feet.
When John had gone Annie had disappeared entirely. And when he didn’t return Michael struggled to come to terms with it, but rather than be supportive Isabella had backed off. It was this that has sparked Michael’s suspicions when he had slipped through, among a litany of other tells. Now the girls were here, and he was sure it wasn’t a coincidence.
The only question that stumped him was what they had to do with Him; how come they were a part of His sick games?
When Isabella and Annie reached the exit door and pushed it open Michael was only a couple of steps behind them while Rob was still crossing the dance floor. When he went through the door the girls were rushing away up the alleyway behind the club. They didn’t look back.
Michael took this opportunity and in a few long strides had caught up to them, but just as he was making a grab for Isabella’s arm Annie spotted him and let out a scream, and they both started running. Fortunately Michael had hold of Isabella’s sleeve and managed to pull her back, swinging her round to face him.
“In a hurry Isabella, surely you’ve got time to talk to me?”
“Leave me alone, Michael.”
“How did you get here? And who are you really Isabella? Did HE send you?” Michael backed her up to the wall of the alleyway so she couldn’t wriggle out of his grasp.
“Leave her alone!” Annie was behind him, thumping him on the back. He pushed back against her and she lost her footing, sitting down on the ground with a hard thump.
“I'm not answering any of your questions Michael, unless you let me go!” Isabella wrenched her arm free and Michael stood waiting.
“Come on then, say something.”
Isabella was rubbing her arms. “I don't know what you want me to say.”
Michael let out an exasperated laugh. “What’s your connection to Him?”
“I don’t know what you’re taking about.” She refused to make eye contact and kept trying to look round at Annie. Michael took her arm again to get her attention.
“Look at me Isabella. Tell me why you’re doing this.”
“Doing what Michael? I’m not doing anything, you are. Let me go!”
“I will not!” He took both her arms and pushed her hard against the wall. The thud was audible, but he didn’t feel sorry; not while she was playing His games.
“Tell me where He is, right now. And John, what have the two of you done with him?”
Isabella gave him a reproachful look, while wiping the back of her hand against her mouth. She looked at it expecting to see blood, but there was none, then suddenly spat in his face. Out of shock Michael lifted his hand to strike her, but the loud slam of the exit door stopped him.
It was Rob. He stood at the door observing Michael about to hit a woman. His expression was confusion and concern, but he clearly didn’t like what he saw. Michael lowered his arm.
“You need to tell me how I can get out of here Isabella, and where I can find Him. Don’t pretend to me you don’t know. You owe me that at least, after all you’ve put me through.”
Isabella stopped studying her feet and glanced up at him, this time with regret in her eyes. “I’m sorry Michael, but it was my job.”
“Yes, Job. You don’t understand. I have to go now.”
She moved to one side, stepping away from Michael waiting for him to grab her again, but he didn’t. The desire to fight with her was gone. Annie was back up on her feet and took Isabella’s outstretched hand.
“Can you at least tell me where John is? Annie? You must know where he is, seeing as you sent him here.”
Annie didn’t answer, only gave Michael a meek look and turned with Isabella to go. They started walking away, this time looking over their shoulder every couple of seconds to make sure he wasn’t following. Michael couldn’t believe he was letting them go.
“Wait.” He ran to catch up with them, but when he reached out a hand to Isabella's shoulder, it went straight through it. He looked at his hand in amazement. She appeared to be solid.
The girls stopped walking, and slowly turned to face him. Then they smiled; slightly sad, yet glassed eyed smiles. They appeared normal to begin with white, perfectly aligned teeth, but then they started to decay, first to a yellow colour, then a pitted grey; the gums corroding with them, ending in a putrid green.
Then they started to laugh and, like their smiles, these disintegrated too. In between their cackles Michael could hear His breaking through until theirs had faded entirely and there was only His.
The image of the girls faded along with their laughter, and just as they vanished Michael caught sight of a figure at the top of the alleyway; it was Him.
Michael stood quite still during all of this. It wasn’t the first time he’d witnessed someone disappear in front of his eyes, or turn into a putrid shell for that matter; only that morning it had it happened in a clothes shop. HE liked to appear as all sorts of people, using their bodies for His foolish games. But unless Michael could catch Him in his own true form, he didn’t stand a chance of getting home.
Rob was at Michael’s side. Having witnessed what had happened to the girls, he too had noticed the man appear at the top of the alleyway. He whispered, “Is that the guy from the shop?” Michael nodded, remembering that Rob had been there this morning too.
Michael was unsure what to do. He had given chase earlier that day and gotten nowhere. But tonight the figure hadn’t moved. It was looking at him as though waiting; the cackling had stopped.
Michael looked at Rob while contemplating his next move. If giving chase was useless maybe he should play with Him for a change, tease Him a little, and see how He liked it. A smile started to dance on Michael’s lips; it was about time the tables were turned.
Rob gave him a puzzled looked and frowned. He whispered, “What?” But Michael remained silent, staring deep into Rob’s eyes hoping he would understand and pick up on his intention.
Michael heard movement and spun round to see what He was up to. The figure had turned his back on them, but remained where it was. It took Michael a moment to understand this move, and then he realised He was playing him at his own game.
Michael could feel Him probing around in his head trying to make out what he was thinking, what his next move would be. Michael deliberately cleared his mind, thinking only of the grasslands and wide-open spaces. HE didn’t like it. He spun round again to face them, and just for a second Michael saw a look of annoyance cross his face.
That’s when Michael went, at that exact moment, running as fast as he could, determined to get Him this time. The figure leapt into action just a fraction of a second behind, disappearing round the corner at the end just as Michael reached it.
Michael carried on running, but faltered to a stop when he realised that He’d vanished again. With those kind of tricks Michael didn’t stand a chance.
Rob appeared at his side, breathing hard. “Wh ... where's he gone?”
Michael lifted his hands up with a shrug. “You tell me.”
“Oh God, not again!”
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