Chapter 9: Leá Monde Blues
They headed back through the quiet streets with Victor guiding them unerringly. Though well armed they were still quiet and none were in a hurry to use their new weaponry. Doubling back they went towards the direction of the looming forest and deeper into the residential area. Julia didn't like not knowing where they were going but she knew that the man leading them would never be able to forget every street and alley of the ghost town.
"Where are we going now?" Chuck asked.
"An old lumber mill." Victor said irritably. "It's where the Oblivion sheets are prepared. Or it was anyway."
"So there will be guards?"
"Maybe." the knight said quietly. "Maybe it will be abandoned. If it isn't we might be in more for then we can handle."
"Even with all this stuff?" Julia asked.
"Guns might not be enough." Victor said from in front of them.
"I don't like the sound of that." Chuck scoffed and he mirrored Julia's thoughts exactly.
"They have rune magic on their side, Charl- Chuck. We won't be able to properly fight back without some of our own."
"What about that package we found?"
"I don't know how it's going to help, to be honest." Victor admitted. "I do know that if we see a red glyph we're going to stop to apply a little just to be safe."
They continued down the streets and drew closer to a place that Julia never wanted to even see again. They weren't on the right street but even being near it was cause for concern. A weather beaten, off white hospital that was outwardly innocuous but in reality seemed to be a focal point for the town's animosity. She wondered if Victor was even aware that he was taking them close by it but she doubted it. He was always unfazed by the menace that normal people found in the smallest things in Silent Hill.
They were moving through an area of town with storefronts when Julia saw something that made her stop mid-stride. Chuck stopped abruptly as well and scanned the area while Victor froze with his hand hovering over his sword. Pointing at one of the darkened store windows the two men then saw what caused her reaction. Standing in the window of an ice cream store was a very out of place mannequin that had been placed – hopefully long ago – among a bunch of signs and pictures. It was posed in a typically sporty fashion but was devoid of clothes and any other embellishments save one. The mannequin was clutching a long, almost machete sized rusted knife in one hand that almost touched the window.
"Motherfuh..." Chuck started.
"Is that thing following us?" Julia whispered while half expecting it to jump through the glass.
"Don't be silly." Victor said.
"If that's the same thing from the car, I'm not aboot, er, about to find out. Cover me. With your guns." Chuck said and broke away from them.
"Chuck! Come back!" Julia hissed but he waved her off. Leading with his shotgun he gingerly opened the door to the shop and went inside.
"Men." Julia growled to herself and whipped out a pistol to train on the mannequin. She watched the Canadian come from behind the plastic man and prod it with the end of his gun. It didn't move on its own or react as he slapped the long knife from its inert hand. Using the shotgun he knocked the mannequin over and proceeded to stomp it to pieces as Julia breathed out a sigh of relief.
It was a strange thing to watch from out on the street and stranger still that it made Julia feel slightly better about the whole thing. Sure, it may have been an overly paranoid thing to do but it was better safe than sorry here. Once the mannequin was in too many pieces to be a threat Chuck returned to them with his shotgun slung over his shoulder.
"Happy?" Victor asked him.
"You do realize you just destroyed an inanimate object for absolutely no reason, right?"
"An inanimate object that won't be getting up and running away any time soon." Chuck added.
"You did look kind of silly." Julia grinned.
"I feel a little silly now. But I'll be damned if it pulls another stunt like back at that car when it's in fifty little pieces."
"Shall we proceed?" Victor ask, unsurprisingly annoyed by the entire incident. He led them into thicker fog but Julia wasn't worried. She was half sure that even in pitch black conditions her man could find his way around. She knew though that he was hurting without the use of his ESP or radar or whatever it was. Ever the perfectionist and always seeking to be cautious she knew that walking around without his special skill was driving him crazy.
The huge lumber mill rose out of the mist and they nearly walked by it before Victor slowed to a halt at the its corner. Peeking around the side he waved them over and they huddled together at the edge of the building.
"This is?" Julia whispered.
"Yes." he confirmed.
"This building is huge." Chuck murmured thought it was a superfluous observation. The mil took up nearly the entire block and went up three floors. Made from a red brick that had faded almost to brown it looked older and even more abandoned than the rest of the town.
"Logging used to be big a century ago." Victor explained. "This building was empty before the calamity struck. We were set up in the basement where the paper processing equipment was stored. Perhaps we can find some sheets laying around down there still."
"Any chance the Dark Man will be here?" Chuck asked softly.
"Doubtful." Victor shook his head. "If they're still using the place to process sheets then they'd have a death wish. He would have known about this place before I would have. If they are here then we're in trouble for sure."
"Because it means they're either not scared of him anymore or they've found a way to defeat him. Neither bodes particulary well for us." the knight said. "Are you both ready?"
"I was." Julia grumbled.
"Remember to be as quiet as possible. I'd much rather avoid conflict and bypass threats instead of running in and starting to shoot." he advised them. With a nod from the other two he stole forward to the side entrance and carefully pulled it open. They slipped into a dusty, gloomy building even less bright than the church. Its windows were grimy to the point of almost complete opacity and Julia had to let her eyes adjust to avoid running into the many object simply laying around.
Picking his way carefully forward towards the rear of the the room Victor moved quietly and Julia imitated him. Feeling out each step before taking it she avoided tripping over hammers, garbage and discarded wood scraps that littered the old factory floor. Bulky machinery filled up the space and almost everything was caked in thick dust.
Reaching the back of the room Victor motioned them to join him by a set of heavy, iron bulkhead doors built into the floor. Gripping the large, wrought iron handle he slowly lifted up and shook with exertion to keep the door from creaking. Chuck helped ease the weight and together they set one of the doors down gently against the floor with only faint metal squeaking. The stairs downward were completely black and Victor whispered, "No lights just yet. At the bottom of the stairs there's a door. Just feel your way."
Tapping his metal foot Victor climbed into the stairwell and worked his way down. Julia looked at Chuck who only shrugged as he followed the knight into the dark hole. Not wanting to get into trouble but also not wanting to die on a set of stairs she couldn't see Julia wasn't thrilled to take up the rear of the three person procession. The steps were cold, filthy and she had to move her foot in a circle to feel the edges of each one. Glad to be wearing gloves she steadied herself on the equally gross wall as they moved to the bottom.
It was some fifteen steps down when she finally touched the floor. Julia could not see her own hand in front of her face and put it out to avoid running into Chuck's back. A few feet away she heard a door being slowly opened and a slash of light cut through the darkness around her. She could see the outlines of Chuck and Victor in front of her as well as bright illumination pouring out from the corners of the door Victor had cracked.
"Oh shit, is someone here?" Chuck said in a hushed tone.
"What are we going to do?" Julia asked just as quietly.
"We have to find out what and who is here." Victor whispered. "There's going to be a number of storage rooms before the main mill. Let's see if we can find out what's going to before letting anyone know we're here."
"What if it's your old friends?" Julia worried.
"I don't want to kill anyone!" Chuck whispered vehemently.
"I don't want to either but if they're in there then at least shoot to disable." Victor urged. "They won't hesitate to kill you if they can."
"This sucks!" Julia said.
"Deal with it. Now, directly across from us at the other end will be the main stairwell for the building. The sheet room is right next to that. All of the other room will be smaller offices and storage. Stay behind me and be quiet." Victor instructed. Cracking the door enough for them to squeeze through he entered the basement level first. With ample light to see Julia stayed an arm's length behind Chuck as they followed.
It was definitely modern technology keeping the basement lit up. Mold grew unchecked along the floor and the cracks in the walls which were of questionable integrity. Creeping along foot by tense foot they were almost halfway to the other end of the building when Julia very clearly heard men laughing. Victor froze at the front of the column and Julia immediately put a hand on her gun. After a second the sound disappeared and the knight quickly led them to the nearest intersection to hide behind.
"Crap." Chuck whispered when they had all gotten out of the main hallway.
"Definitely have company." Julia agreed.
"What do we do?"
"Stay here." Victor said. "I'm going to go over to the doors and see if I can make anything out."
"Vic! What if they hear you!" Julia protested.
"Aim carefully." he suggested. Sliding the long, gleaming sword out of the scabbard the knight tip toed down the hall. Julia didn't like any of this and moved to the other side of the intersection to get a clear shot at the door. Chuck stayed where he was as Victor skulked down the well lit hall. Keeping a pistol in her hand she fidgeted uncomfortably as he neared the thick doors by the other stairwell. Sliding up to them Victor paused as the faint sounds of conversation drifted back towards Julia. After an agonizing and interminable minute or two he started to back up towards them and hurried the last twenty feet to safety. Chuck joined them as Victor sheathed his sword and Julia silently warded off a heart attack.
"There's a few of them in there." the knight reported.
"How many?" Chuck asked.
"Not sure. At least four or so. I don't think the doors are locked but we won't be able to just walk in without them knowing. The room is big but those doors are loud."
"They have to leave at some point." Chuck reasoned.
"Don't be so sure. There's enough room to set up a decently sized camp site in there."
"Well what if-" Chuck started but was interrupted by the beginning of a sound from far away that reached them ever underground. It was a long, drawn out siren reminiscent of an air raid siren of yesteryear. Julia felt a stab of panic in her gut and each one of them knew well what the sound meant. It heralded the beginning of the change to the true Silent Hill, the one lurking just below the surface of the one they were in now. The area around them was about to morph into something dark, something unholy that would be the stuff of nightmares.
All Victor had to do was point at one of the doors and they all scurried to get into it. Julia opened it to find a small storage closet which she went into anyway. Chuck crammed in after her and Victor backed in last as the horn continued to blare from some unknown location. The ground began to rumble as the ample light of the basement started to dim and Julia fought the urge to panic even as she was pressed together with the two men. Victor shut the door behind him as the lights began to fail completely and they were again plunged into total darkness.
"Ow, man, watch the shield!" Chuck complained.
"Get your elbow out of my stomach if you're going to bitch." Julia whispered harshly.
"Quiet, both of you!" Victor ordered.
Julia hardly dared to breath as she heard the sounds of things moving out in the hallway. She could hear the sound of a heavy door being opened and quick, deliberate footsteps entering the hall. Despite the cramped quarters she jumped when she heard automatic gunfire rip through the silence like a thunder bolt splitting a calm lake. More quick foot steps and another short burst of bullets came afterward and she heard the moan of a dying Silent Hill monstrosity from all too close by.
"Clear." a man said from around twenty feet away.
"You see that shit?" someone else said proudly.
"I'm 2 for 2, baby. I'll put 20 down that says I get the high score today."
The procession of soldiers laughed and stomped away to the nearby stairs and the sounds of their voices faded as Julia sweat due to both heat and anxiety. "Let's go!" Chuck urged and Victor thankfully opened the door to let them spill out into the hallway.
It was as dark in the hall as it had been in the room they occupied and she heard the click of Victor's helmet light. His powerful beam revealed a radically different version of the building they had been in just moments ago. The paint peeled walls that seem ready to fall had been replaced with solid stone walls. Far from flawless the walls featured deep cracks and fissures which split the rock like rivers snaking through a desert. The faint glow of light could be seen from a few of the openings leading Julia to think that there was a light source behind the walls struggling to get free.
Fumbling for the flashlight in her bag of ammo Julia clicked it on held it in her fist horizontally. Drawing a pistol and steadying it on the back of her flashlight holding hand she had the gun and light pointed in the same direction. It had a name like Barry or Terry's grip that she couldn't remember but an instructor at the gun range showed her how to do it with a flashlight once and she'd loved the concept. It was also true that she had seen it on TV before and didn't mind mimicking the fictional characters on them but she did resolve to try to stop using entertainment for matters that affected her survival.
Chuck clicked his shotgun light on and they swept around the new hallway for signs of unnatural life. Alone for the moment Julia relaxed just a little. In this version of Silent Hill one had to be doubly on their guard. "We'll check the door." Victor said slid his blade free. Leading them forward they stepped over the corpses of a couple leg creatures the soldiers had shot for sport. Thoroughly dead Julia still kept an eye on them as they passed towards the thick set of doors that they had seen in the first version of the building. Now changed into wood they were just as heavy looking and as the trio drew closer she saw some kind of red symbol carved onto them. Victor stopped short and quickly sheathed his sword when he too saw the symbol.
"Ash, everyone." he whispered and they hurried into a side corridor out of the door's line of sight. Setting down his shield he produced the small pouch they'd found in Rosewater Park, dipped his fingers into the soot and lifted his helmet to dab his forehead with ash. Motioning them closer he repeated the act on the other two of them. The sweat on Julia's forehead mixed with the ash and it stuck to her as she got a whiff of the smoke tinged powder that had another smell she'd never encountered before. It was almost like wood but had a distinctively organic component that she could not identify. It was probably best that she didn't know what it was as Victor applied another bit to Chuck's head.
Carefully putting the ash away the knight again put his weapon in his hand and led them towards the door. Julia had no idea what they were protecting themselves against or even if that was what was really going on but if Victor made them do it she assumed it was for the best. Stepping along quietly their lights played on the heavy doors and menacing symbol with their own shadows dancing in front of them. It was unnerving but Julia was moments away from wishing that the light show was her biggest concern.
As they drew closer to the door the air seemed to thicken around them until it quite literally began to impede her motion. She felt like she was walking through water that wasn't there and even lifted her hand up to test the new found resistance. The closer they came to the door the heaviest and harder it was to move forward until her limbs felt like they were being dragged down by air as thick as molasses. Victor slowly put up a hand for them to stop some ten feet from the door and he alone slogged forward through whatever it was that was restricting their motion.
Obviously struggling to get closer to the door Victor looking like he was doing some kind of idiotic pantomime of walking when the symbol on the door suddenly flashed to life. Blazing a bright, glowing red she could see all of the creepy details that were not apparent when it was a lifeless carving in the door. A large circle with arcane writing all around the edge there were three more circles in the very center. It burned an intense, almost malicious red that burned into her vision for a second before it just as quickly went dark as if it never made a move in the first place.
Quite simultaneously the heavy feeling in her limbs disappeared and she could move normally. Far too close to the door and possibly more enemies to ask what the hell had just happened she could only look at Victor as he turned back to them. Appearing just as confused as them he shrugged and pointed at the door handle. Frustrated at the lack of explanation Julia nevertheless gathered up at the door with the other two. Counting down on his fingers from five Victor reached one and then burst into the room. They charged in guns first but did not expect the bright light in the room to temporarily blind them as they blinked at their new surroundings.
There was indeed a camp set up inside the doors as Victor had predicted. Sleeping mats, food, ammunition and wooden crates placed together to form tables and chairs which filled the first part of the room. It had been half cleared of the lumber processing machinery which took up the rest of the space and looked like the floor above them. Built into the walls were numerous lights that ran on large batteries strewn about the floor which turned the dark room into near day with the artificial brightness. Julia realized with utter shock that this room was untouched by the darkness that warped the rest of the building and was almost like an oasis of normalcy in the nightmare version of Silent Hill around them.
Two men in black combat armor that somewhat resembled SWAT uniforms sat playing cards some teen feet away from them. Both the soldiers and the intruders froze and regarded each other with a considerable amount of confusion. One man's hand of cards slipped out and fell onto the floor with a quiet clatter. Not knowing quite what to do Julia simply stared at the men as they stared back and neither side acted.
One of the men's hands jerked back ever so slightly and only then did Julia notice that they were both packing sidearms on their belt holsters. Having never pointed a gun at a human person Julia was paralyzed with hesitation when Chuck stepped forward and said, "Don't move."
For whatever reason this snapped Julia out of her self imposed inactivity and she swung the end of her pistol up at the one on the left who had moved first. "Go get their guns." Chuck said to Victor and Julia didn't dare take her eyes off the soldiers to see what was going on to her left. Inching forward with his shield high and sword at hip level Victor moved from next to her to get closer to the soldiers.
"My friend is going to secure your guns. You so much as-" Chuck said and almost at the same time both men went for their sidearms. Chuck's shotgun roared in the small space and Julia jumped at the abrupt boom in her ear. Victor charged ahead as the man on the right was blasted off his crate and everything slowed down around her. She heard another shot of a smaller gun go off and ricochet sound just before Victor crashed headlong into the man on the right shield first. Unable to do anything for fear of hitting an ally Julia stood in half shock as Chuck swarmed forward and Victor's bright blade flashed in the air.
Julia saw the knight lift his shield up and heard a sickening crack as Chuck trained his gun on the man he had shot. Seconds passed and she realized she was gripping both her pistol and gun with white knuckles. Swallowing hard she waited as Victor looked over at Chuck and then back to her. "Is everyone all right?" he asked.
Breathing out a pent up breath Julia holstered her pistol and simply dropped her flashlight from her shaking hands. Joining the knight she saw that he had slashed the pistol out of the man's hand and broke his face with the shield. Moving almost numbly Julia retrieved what looked like a Glock 19 from nearby the soldier's bloody hand and patted the man down for more weapons. Pulled a large knife from his boot strap she kept the gun in her hand and tossed the knife aside before joining Chuck. His man had taken some buckshot to the face and was bleeding down his cheek but seemed to have taken most of the shot on his armor and wasn't bleeding from the chest. Looking over at her the Canadian looked as pale as she felt. Disarming the second man Julia set their guns down on a farther away crate before slumping down onto an empty one.
"Well that was...Christ." she blinked.
"Who are these guys? What were they doing here?" Chuck asked and was still holding his shotgun at the ready.
"Mercenaries." Victor murmured.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure." he said and flicked his sword free of blood before sheathing it. "I know the Order. Their people are not...trained like this. I was right though, something's wrong."
"How so?" Julia asked as one of the soldiers groaned.
"Normally they'd only be here for a short time to avoid Nothing and Pyramid Head. These men look like they've been dug in for some time. Either they've found a way to avoid them or..." he trailed off.
"Or they've defeated both demons." Victor finished uncomfortably.
"Hey, I hate to interrupt, but won't those other guys be coming back? Like at any moment?" Chuck cut in.
"Oh. Right." Julia said.
"Chuck, get these two tied up somehow. Jewel get those guns and-" Victor stopped short as he scanned the room.
"What is it Vic?"
Pointing at the rear of the room he guided her vision to another set of doors. "Another room?" she asked.
"No...that shouldn't be there. It wasn't the last time I was here." he breathed.
"Is that bad?"
"I think...uh...anyway...Jewel, see those rifles over there? I want those guns broken and inoperable." Victor shook himself out of it. Chuck had creatively ripped the cords of some of the lights out of place and was using them to lash the soldier's hands together as Julia began disabling the combat rifles laid out near the card playing table.
"And their friends?" Chuck asked.
"I..." Victor started. "I don't know. Listen for their return, I have to see what's behind that door."
"Vic? Are you sure?" Julia asked worriedly.
He didn't answer as he moved away from them towards the back of the room. Julia looked up at Chuck who shrugged like there was nothing they could do about it. Field stripping the rifles she removed the bolts and dropped them into her bag as Victor moved almost mesmerized to the back of the room. She stood up and watched him put his hands on the door which was curiously barred from their side.
"Vic?" she raised her voice at him. Taking his hands down he turned and quickly strode back to her with determination on his face. "What is it?" she asked.
"We have to buy time. Bar the door or something." he announced excitedly.
"What? Why? What's going on?"
"There's something past that door." he said with a glint in his eye. "I can feel it. Literally, again."
She was concerned what that meant and how happy Victor was to engage his sixth sense but Julia finished her work swiftly to help the knight pull some heavy machinery towards the door. At least if they had to shoot their way back out of the room later they would have plenty of cover. It was a minor comfort but at the moment she would take whatever she could get.