|Characters:||Run by Michael for Seraphine)|
|Summary:||As the paranoia within the sinner Seraphine grows, the pressure is ramped up until she breaks.|
|Disclaimers:||Mostly non-graphic creepiness with some semi-graphic descriptions of Hell toward the end|
For a few nights after the attack, Michael volunteered to sit around the shop. "It's alright, sweetheart," he insisted, refusing any sort of payment. "I'm just a pair of eyes while you find yourself some proper security. It wouldn't sit right with me, leaving a girl like you alone after that." And, indeed, for those few days, it seems there's been no further trouble; he's a token of good luck, that kindly vagrant, even conscientious enough to keep himself out of the shop proper and lurk nearby so as not to drive off actual customers. He's miss Seraphine's very own Cerberus, seated outside the entrance of her personal Hell. And, like any old dog, when someone new and better is brought in, he's put out to pasture.
Said security guard was willing to work cheap. He's a college drop out, played some football back in highschool, built big with a pronounced stomach and arms near as wide as Seraphine's waist, his head shaved bald and his mustache immensely unflattering -- though he insists it makes him look 'dignified'. He and Michael spoke a little when he was new, and Michael checked in with him after the first shift just to be sure, and then..
He was gone, so as not to disrupt the business further. A day passed, and another, and the guard -- Zack -- did his job admirably. Tonight's as calm and quiet as the others, his dour glare intimidating a would-be shoplifter into fucking right off. Other than that spot of drama, there is.. nothing of note, tonight. Just boring quiet.
"I don't think you're gonna have much trouble, ma'am," Zack notes, during one long, especially dull stretch of time. "You want I should just.. close up for you? Nobody's buying voodoo with that wuhan around."
Seraphine has been incredibly grateful for Michael and everything he's done to help keep her not only safe but sane as well. This entire ordeal has left her pretty overwhelmed and somewhat terrified, giving her the shakes and causing her to drink even more than usual. She thanks Michael over and over for sitting near by to protect her those first few days and when Zack is hired, she assures Michael his efforts were totally appreciated, and invites him to stay if he'd like, but promises him she'll do okay with the new guard and that Michael can now get back to his life and such. She gives him a big hug and sends him on his way back to his life.
Seraphine nods to Zach's words of positivity and comfort even though she still doesn't feel safe. "Sure Zack -- it is pretty slow tonight. If you want to lock up before you leave, I'll head out. I'm going to walk home to the warehouse... I should be fine." She hopes she'll be fine, anyway.
"Alright, ma'am. I'll close up, and you get home safe." Zack's a simple sort of man; he doesn't have much of a grudge against anyone, and has little ambition, but he's reliable and big. He does a quick sweep of the perimeter, makes sure there's nothing out of place, and as Seraphine makes her way out, he takes out his little walky-talky, flicks it on, and mumbles into it, then returns it to its holster as though nothing ever happened. He takes to whistling as he locks up, content and innocent.
Outside, the wind's a little fierce; it kicks up in gusts of twenty miles per hour, and though the heat swelters and the air's too wet to even sweat, that sort of wind can make a person shiver when it hits them. Still, there's enough people around to be safe, and no sign of any interlopers making a bee-line for her, so.. walking home ought to be fine. She can strut and dazzle her way across the sidewalks, lovely darkling doll that she is, without a care in the world save the lingering trauma of the attack. Walk down this street, cross that corner, come to an intersection, and..
A car pulls up alongside her, some sedan. The man pauses, and rolls down the passenger side window. The other windows remain shut, obscuring vision of the backseats. He turns his head and looks at her. "Excuse me, miss?"
Seraphine is happy to have Zack along to walk her home from the shop once they've locked up and put everything in its place. She doesn't even notice his walky-talky moment, and if she had, she would think nothing of it. Security guards are always talking into those obnoxious things anyway. The Darkling heads out and starts to wind her away around this street and that on her way to the warehouse. She is actually starting to feel good, and secure again. The way she used to about this city before the attack and graffiti and brick and all happened. So it catches her off guard a little when the car rolls up and stops - the driver addressing her through the newly opened window. She does indeed glance to the back seat, looking to see who is back there, but discovers it's too dark to see, if there is even someone back there. "Hello?" The girl answers tentatively. She doesn't really want to stop, and a deep seated fear is beginning to creep its way back up into her mind and body. But she's a southern girl and was raised to be polite. "C-c-can I hep you?" Gone is the old Seraphine who was confident and cocky. She's been replaced with new Seraphine -- a girl who appears to be afraid of her own shadow.
"Hey, yeah, look, I've been driving for twenty minutes and I'm lost and can't get this damn Google Map to work," the man driving begins, brushing his hair back from his head. "There's an Atomic Burger somewhere around here, right? Do you know where it is? I'm fucking starving." He's probably mid-twenties, clean-cut, has that vibe that almost says Mormon, just from the shirt and slacks. He looks imploringly at Seraphine, waiting. The backseats seem empty.
"Uhhhhh... yeah. I know where Atomic Burger is. Great burgers." She says, her hesitancy beginning to fade as she notes how clean cut and 'nice' this guy looks. Nobody in the back seat, that's good. At least she's safe standing here talking to him from the relative safety of the street. "Look, you're really close. Just about 3 blocks up this street, a right at Canal and you should see it on your left. STay in that left hand lane when you turn, otherwise it's a bitch to get over and no one will let you in." She smiles as she chatters on and on, giving him adequate instructions to make sure he'll soon be enjoying and Atomic burger.
"You're a lifesaver, Seraphine," the driver replies with a smile, letting out a sigh of relief and leaning back into his seat, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. "Thanks. God, I'm craving an Atomic Burger right now." He gives a little wave, rolls up the window, and the sedan rolls into motion, driving off down the road. Three blocks, right at Canal, what helpful directions!
The security guard has remained waiting and patient as befits an escort, arms folded across his chest, trying to look tough. "What'd he want?"
Wait. WAIT! Seraphine's mouth drops as the driver sighs and leans back in the seat after addressing her by her name... a name she never shared with him. She's so shocked, she can't even make mention of it before the man is already rolling away from her. She just stands there, her entire body on fire with frightened nerve endings pinging her with a sense of danger and foreboding. It takes her a second to register that Zach is even talking to her and she totally ignores his question for her own. "Did you know that man, Zach? I don't know who he was, not even remotely, but he seemed to know my name. Was he a friend of yours?" She all but begs him to reply yes to that question.
Zack scratches the back of his head and looks down the street after the sedan, squinting as he tries to examine its make and model under the streetlights. "Nah, I don't know him," he finally decides with a shrug. "Got a buddy with a car like that, but it's green." He turns and continues to walk, boots thumping on the cracked sidewalk, keeping an eye out for Seraphine's sake.
Poor, poor Seraphine, though. The man's voice lingers in the back of her head. His smile. The nonchalance displayed. Harmless, inoffensive -- yet he knew her.
He knew her name.
The world seems a little darker in light of that. The buildings around her are more like the bars of a prison, the rotting teeth of an old man whose rancid gums are the dirty streets beneath her feet. Who else in these crowds knows her? That woman across the street -- is she watching?
She is. She's just standing there, in an orange windblazer, staring across the street. Tracking Seraphine's movements with her head.
There's something deeply wrong with the world.
Zack's boots are pounding the pavement in time with Seraphine's heart which is threatening to come pounding out of her chest. "Wait, you're moving too fast Zach, stay by my side." Before she was nearly trying to lose him, now she is clinging desperately to him as the world around her warps and flexes with her growing fears. Fears that she has managed to stuff down into a small place inside her, but have all come bubbling to the top again. And then she sees the girl. How can she miss her in the orange jacket? "Zach... is that woman staring at me? Do I look okay?" She wonders suddenly. Why else would she be watching her? At least that is what the sane part of her mind tells her.
Zack maintains his pace as Seraphine rushes up to his side and clings. He slows for a moment, to let her catch up and grab onto his arm, and then the two of them resume their healthy pace. "... Yeah, she's staring at you," he says after a moment, looking out of the corner of his eye. "A couple people are." His voice is tense, his arm flexing, and Seraphine can feel the strength of the limb; he pulls her, turns away from the road, from a handful of staring people who are just looking her way. "This is weird," he rumbles, and he turns and leads her off the main street, looking around. "Let's just.. circle around, avoid the weirdos, yeah?" He identifies a path -- through a parking lot, cutting across near a bank, avoiding the corner crossing they were originally headed for.
He leads her that way, his presence a calming thing, a comfort. He falls silent, and Seraphine can watch the faces track her, until they disappear behind a few trees.. and then there's Michael, in his wheelchair, by the bank, near the ATM. He's white-knuckled, and staring at Seraphine.
Seraphine sticks to Zach like glue as he confirms she 'is' watching her, and they 'are' watching her... bits of information she didn't really want confirmed. "Please, Zach, get he out of here..." She begs the hired security guard, hoping he won't abandon her at this point. They come around the back and... there is... "Michael?" Seraphine stares at the man in the wheelchair. It's not impossible that he'd be here, right here, at this very moment, but it is a little strange. "What are you doing here?" She wonders, but it's more than just curiosity, it's darn near accusatory. This is an odd place and time to meet up with her friend.
There sits Michael, blank-faced as Seraphine accuses him. Yet his eyes are not upon her, not for any more than the briefest of moments, to feel his will slide over hers and insinuate itself. No, in this dark and desolate spot, where the street lights don't quite reach, on the cracked pavement near the ATM, Michael stares at..
Zack. Zack, Seraphine's guard, her protector these last couple of days. Good, reliable Zack, a looming presence, a stalwart ally. Zack, who smiles wide enough it must surely hurt his mouth. Zack, whose hold on Seraphine's arm tightens. Zack, whose head tilts to the side, further, further.
"Miss Seraphine, that isn't Zack."
Michael ignores her question with a comment of his own. "Huh?" She stares at him with a confused look on her face, feeling the grip of 'someone' on her arm where she was walking with Zach before. At least she thinks it was Zach. "If this isn't Zach, who is it?" She shrugs a little in her confusion and looks up at the man to her side.
"It's the monster," Michael declares, afraid, and when Seraphine looks up at Zack his face is transformed; his eyes opened wide, his mouth a snarling smile, and his teeth chattering together like he were freezing. Chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter, as his grip on her tightens.
Seraphine can't help it. She screams and start to lose her grip with consciousness all at the same time. Scared to death is possibly a real thing. Her knees buckle as she makes a lame attempt to pull away from the obviously much stronger creature and she just sort of collapses in a puddle of Seraphine on the ground. But unconsciousness would be too easy and too kind to her. Instaed she's left in a conscious state, her arm still intrinsically woven through the monster's as his teeth chatter like mad. She hears the sound, looks up to get a much better look at him and her skin goes icy cold with fear. "Michael... what is going on?" She whines and sobs.
"Don't you understand, Seraphine?" At this, Michael stares at her, and he is not the kindly man she's come to know; he's corpse-pale, dead-eyed, with all the imperious arrogance of the prophet and the prince. He sits upon that wheeled chair like it were a throne, slouched, elbow propped on the side, chin balanced on his knuckles. "The little broken doll, the changeling, the lost; did you believe you could ever lose yourself, truly? That if you gave yourself over to alcohol, it would help you forget? That you could find love with your little vampire, a union of monsters, and be a happy, normal woman?"
He laughs, and it's a cold laugh, a merciless laugh. "You are a sinful creature, girl, and you insult the Lord with your ways. You lead men astray, you peddle pagan witchcraft, you truck in cursed trinket and smiled lie. You offer your cunt to the dead, and in doing so degrade their holy purpose. You are a sinner! You are the wicked who has forgotten God's grace!"
He smiles wide. "And I am the wolf come to tear out your throat. Kneel, woman. Put your hands behind your back. Stay still."
Each command is cruel, cold -- and irresistible.
"Release the poor girl, Zack," he mentions after. "Didn't you hear me?" Zack obeys.
Seraphine stares, wide-eyed and mouth-opened as the blood drains from her face, leaving her pale and terrified. Each word, each accusation, each allegation, each charge... they all stack on top of her, weighing her down and more and more heavily until Zack lets go of the little Lost girl and she is left frozen and alone and scared. She is also powerless to disobey these orders from the vampire (who she didn't know was a vampire until this moment), and she kneels up, her exposed flesh of her knees grinding into the cement as she follows Michael's instructions; kneeling and putting her hands behind her back, just as he commanded her. The accusations ricochet around in her head... so many charges she stands accused of and can she say any of them are that far off? She /feels/ guilty in her confusion and disorientation.
"Are you even human?" The question slips from Michael's lips like a knife thrust to the heart, as he leans to the side, examining Seraphine from different angles. "If I focus, I can see the illusion; the lovely little girl with the long hair and the piercings, slim-shouldered, delicate, even. But that is a lie, yes, a lie; like the rest of you. Beneath, I see the truth. The tear-stained face, the veins like cracks in porcelain. A sign you are broken; maybe you're human, after all."
He smiles, not unkindly now, as he wheels closer. He reaches down to cup Seraphine's cheek. "You may not be human, but you are still one of God's creatures, as all things are; this is His kingdom, and you are his slave, as you are mine. You can be redeemed. You can repent. You can take this path you have chosen, and you can turn from it, pursue the light; pursue Goodness, and Obedience, and Faith."
He falls silent now, as the wind stirs, a plastic bag blowing between them and catching on his wheel. "Or you can continue down this path of sin, and I will show you where it ends. What is your choice?"
Seraphine says, "I'm human!" Seraphine finally finds her voice, even though she is definitely /not/ human as Bast has pointed out time and time again. But to the rest of it she stays silent, unsure where this is going or what part she will play in it. Tears - real tears - roll down her face where the faux tears usually trickle and fade. "Wh-where does the path of sin end? Hell?" She wonders as her mind works hard at figuring out what her next step is here. She still doesn't feel capable of standing and running, or even walking away. She feels compelled to kneel here and hear the man out. Right now she's inclined to repent her wickedness and hopefully be done with this insanity."
"When the hour of judgment comes upon you, wicked one, the earth will split like a knife carven through a man; the stone-flesh will break, and beneath your feet will the whole planet tremble. From these mighty fissures will spill forth all manner of demon, and smoke, and fire and evil, and you will be dragged screaming into them, into the dark places; you will suffer all manner of indignity beneath rough and inhuman hands. Your limbs will be contorted like the branches of a tree; your skin will be peeled across them like a painter's canvas. Upon your screaming face demons will take an accounting of your every sin, dipping their claws in ink and emblazoning them upon you."
Michael's voice is quiet, so quiet, as he paints this picture of violation and cruelty, reaching down to hold both of Seraphine's cheeks in his hand, cradling her face like a father. "God will not want you, and so you will suffer. You will suffer forever, until pain is the only pleasure you know." He frowns, and his eyes almost seem to water, his voice a-trembling. "Hell is real, sweet girl. Please, believe me. Hell is real, and you knock upon its door. And I swear to God, if you knock again, I'll send you there."
He bites his lip. He plants a chaste kiss upon her forehead, smearing the Vitae across her skin. And he whispers her to sleep, her mind putty in his hands.
Seraphine trembles violently as the visions of the apocolypse, or whatever they are visions of, are promised to her and implanted indelibly onto the canvas of her mind. "I won't!" She sobs. "I won't knock again! I swear I'll change my ways." Seraphine isn't even sure she 'can' change her ways, they are so ingrained into her. But at this very moment in tie she would promise the Devil anything he wanted to hear, and maybe that's exactly what she's doing. And then she feels the kiss and starts to fall into a semi-conscious slumber, her mind now completely open to the man in the wheelchair who is absoltuely and completely terrifying her -- perhaps in a way from which she'll never recover.
--Michael speaks, and Seraphine sleeps. When she awakens back at her store.. well, that's something she'll have to deal with herself.