Pieces of the Puzzle
Wandering the field of soft, white light, Chris found the strength in his legs leaving him. He had to find a place to lie down. His body was somewhere else, handcuffed down to a couch, sleeping, but his consciousness was here, meandering around, looking for a place to rest, to find safety. Somehow, he knew although he didn't know where he was, it was very dangerous here. Claws and teeth lurked around every corner.
And apparently, big white beds with sleeping friends, too.
Taylor lay in the king-sized bed with, strangely, a black and white tuxedo cat snoozing on the pillow above his head. The cat had formed a loaf with his body, legs tucked underneath him, and occasionally let out a purring snore.
Chris would have climbed right in, as comfortable and inviting as everything looked, but there were four frightening, bloody handprints on various parts of the end of the bed. He swayed in place, unsure what to do.
"Get in the bed before they come back. Stay in the light."
Chris looked to his left and gasped. He was dreaming, right? The man standing there was Kurt Cobain, looking exactly as he had when he died. Except for the very odd fact that he was wearing a leather collar with three spikes left on it, with a chain attached. A leash. "What the fuck am I dreaming?"
"It's not entirely a dream. Your souls are in real danger here." Kurt pointed to the bed. "You see how the edges are in shadow? Stay in the middle with Taylor. Stay in the light." He gave Chris a light shove toward the bed.
Chris started to climb in to Taylor's left, trying to avoid the bloody handprints. "Hi, uh, I'm Chris."
"I know." Kurt looked over his shoulder.
"Why are you here?" He laid down next to Taylor. "Oh wow, this is the most comfortable bed ever."
"I'm trying to help. Like I said, you guys are in danger here, and I'm being allowed to try to help you stay alive." Kurt checked to make sure every part of Chris's body was inside the field of soft light that shone on most of the bed.
"Why?" Chris asked.
Looking over his shoulder again, Kurt said quietly, "Because Dave has made himself a beautiful life, and you guys are his friends. So much would be destroyed if Nicky Kelly gets what he wants. I can't sit back and allow that to happen."
A strange clucking, like that of a chattering bird, came out of the white mist beyond the bed. The sound wasn't intelligible to Chris, but it did have a rhythm to it, like something was speaking out there. Kurt responded, "I know. I was about to go look for him." The chattering continued. The sound made Chris's head hurt a little. "Yeah, I'm aware of that, Boddah. Jesus, will you chill out? ...I'm going right now! God. I just want to make sure this guy is tucked in first so one of Kelly's demons doesn't rip his arm off for a snack. Is that okay with you?"
"Cronk, cronk!" the bird-thing said.
Boddah? Chris tried to remember where he'd heard that name before, but only after he pulled all of his limbs close to his body and moved in next to Taylor, clearly within the boundaries of the light.
Taylor smacked his lips like he was thirsty. "Beer looks good," he mumbled in his sleep. "Can I have some?"
The cat stretched and yawned.
A piercing roar came out of the mist. Chris felt his entire body tense, and a cold chill swept up and down his back and limbs. Oh God, this was quickly becoming a nightmare.
"Munchie get off the counter!" Taylor yelled in reaction, and took a deep breath through his nose before going limp again. The cat growled deep in his throat, but otherwise did not move.
Chris glared at him.
"Fuck," Kurt exclaimed. He took off toward the noise.
Dave knew this was the mindscape, the place he'd been before, the place where Taylor was asleep and helpless and where Kurt had kissed him for the first time in twenty-three years. But where in the mindscape, he didn't know. It was all just a field of white. Where was the bed? Where was Kurt? Dave's legs were giving out. The Morphecil was putting him to sleep, through and through. Soon, he would float on a soothing, black cloud.
Nearby, something screamed. It was a horrible, terrifying sound.
Dave stumbled and fell. A creature enveloped in a black hooded cloak came and stood next to him. Dave couldn't see its feet; the cloak reached the floor. As he looked up, and up, and up, he realized the creature stood about eight feet tall. One hand made of clacking human bones held the other end of a chain, wrapped around its fist. The hood shifted and he could see beady black eyes and a sleek beard of feathers, and then a grey-black beak cried, "Auck! Auck! Auck!"
It was some kind of giant bird thing. A raven, maybe? Dave had never seen anything like that, and he screamed.
Kurt ran in and grabbed him, his feet almost sliding out from under him. "Stop screaming, stop, it's okay! That's just Boddah. Come on!" He hauled the other man up and threw Dave's arm over his shoulders, then ran with him toward the big bed. Dave tried to keep up, but Kurt was doing most of the work.
"That's Boddah?" Dave tried to ask, but Kurt was too focused on getting him to safety. "He's real?"
The roaring thing screeched again, much closer this time.
Before they made it to the bed, Dave realized that the chain in Boddah's hand led back to the collar around Kurt's neck. Boddah wasn't an imaginary friend, he was some sort of handler for...
For the dead?
Raven. Hooded cloak. Clacking bones.
He was Kurt's reaper. Boddah was a reaper, waiting for years for Kurt to die. Jesus, had it really been possible for that long?
Kurt said, "Upsie daisy," and tossed Dave into the bed. "Woo, you're a lot heavier than you used to be. You gettin' a little belly there, Dave?" He goosed Dave's tummy with an amused grin before picking up his feet and putting them into the bed too.
All the movement on the bed made Taylor turn over and mumble, "Bouncy bouncy."
"Hey, I've reached the ripe old age of forty-eight. I've earned this belly." Dave looked at Kurt's collar and his much more youthful face, his age frozen in time, and pouted sadly.
Kurt made sure every part of Dave's body was inside the light and breathed a sigh of relief. He sank to his knees next to the bed and leaned on it, laying his arms across it and his chin on his arms, taking a moment to rest. Kurt smiled at Dave. "Don't look at me like that," he said. "What's done is done. You lived on and earned every year of life beyond me. I made my bed and now I lie in it. It's okay." Kurt leaned up a little and fingered the collar. "I've learned to live with what I have to do. Or, not to live with it, but..."
"Don't do that. Don't joke about it," Dave said quietly.
"Why not? It's the kind of thing that can destroy you if you don't learn to laugh about it. Or maybe you just avoid thinking about it altogether?"
"Yeah, I guess. Just, not now, not now." Dave turned to his left to check on everyone else. Chris had fallen asleep next to Taylor, who continued to sleep as if he'd been deeply sedated, save for the occasional outburst of talking in his sleep. Curling up next to Taylor and snoozing for a while sounded great, but first, Dave had to make sure that Kurt was okay. "So why are you chained to Boddah? Is he actually some kind of reaper?"
Kurt nodded as he replied, "Very good, Dave. All those weirdass books you read to pass the time on the road sometimes pay off."
"One of them talked about psychopomps. Reapers. They're associated with different types of animals, like ravens." Dave watched the chain sway lightly as it dangled off into the mist. Boddah was keeping his distance. "I have a million questions, but I'm fighting sleep as it is. Let me just ask... are you okay? Why are you chained to Boddah?"
Kurt took a deep breath and sighed it out. "You're persistent with those questions. Because he's my companion while I try to make amends. For hurting so many people when I killed myself."
Tears came to Dave's eyes, but he did not shed them. "I'm sorry."
Kurt shrugged. "It's what I have to do. I've accepted it." He patted Dave's arm. "I need you to do something for me."
"Remember when you were working too hard and couldn't sleep and the doctor gave you the instructions for meditation along with the Morphecil?"
"Do you remember how to meditate?"
"Pretty much," Dave replied.
"Keep that in mind. I may need you to come in here and talk to me when you're not asleep. Meditation will make it happen," Kurt explained.
"Okay, I will." He paused, then said, "Kurt, earlier today, when Nicky was about to... you know what he was about to do, I heard your voice telling me to cry to get him to stop. What happened there?"
Leaning his chin on his palm, Kurt said, "Sometimes I can talk to you by telepathy, but it takes a lot of energy." He pointed from his head to Dave's. "I'm sorry I had to put those horrible pictures in your head, but we had to make the tears happen really quick. When I spoke to you, you could barely hear me, right?"
"That's because you were further away from the statue than usual. It's the whole reason this whole mindmeld is possible." Kurt spread his arms out a bit to indicate the area of white light in which they were all currently congregating. "It's why all of your minds come together when you sleep."
"What is it about the statue that makes this happen?" Dave asked.
"It's been mojoed. It's had a spell put on it. A witch trapped Kelly's soul in the statue and you guys accidentally let it out."
"Witches and witchcraft, all that stuff is real?"
Kurt had to laugh. He shook his head. "Your best friend is possessed by a ghost, your old friend who's been dead for more than twenty years comes back chained to a reaper, and you're questioning the existence of witchcraft?"
After a second to consider it, Dave had to laugh too. "Just because I'm open doesn't mean I believe in everything right off."
"Well, trust me, the statue's been magicked up its plastic ass."
"Why did some witch put Nicky's soul in the statue?"
Kurt clucked his tongue and shook his head. "I can't tell you that just yet. It interferes too much with fate." With a little grin, Kurt leaned forward and gave him a small kiss on the mouth. "You were always so curious."
Dave's eyes opened and closed slowly. "Am I going to be blind in my dreams now, like the last time he gave me the Morphecil? I really didn't like that."
Kurt frowned. "Dave, when you experienced the blindness, you just couldn't open your eyes. The drug is very strong and very sedating, but it did allow you to wake up just a little. The things you were feeling were really happening."
Swallowing hard, Dave said, "So the sicko did suck me off while I was out cold. What makes him think he can do whatever the fuck he wants to people?"
"Dave, he's really warped, and very dangerous. You've really got to humor him until we can figure a way out of this."
Over Kurt's shoulder, Dave saw someone enter the scene, or maybe it was something. It looked like a man dressed in a Fedora style hat and long, brown duster coat, but his hands had claws and his skin looked like leather. When he grinned at the sights before him, Dave could see his sharp, shark-like teeth. "Well, well... three in the bed and the little one said..."
"Kurt, you get in here with us," Dave said, desperately taking hold of Kurt's sleeve.
Kurt smiled at him. "You think I'm afraid of this waste of skin?" He winked, then stood up to face the creature.
"Well... lo and behold, it's the illustrious Kurt Cobain." He swung a set of keys on a chain attached to his coat. "Everybody's heard of you."
Kurt didn't acknowledge what the man had said. "I haven't had the pleasure of learning your name."
"It's Len, friend." He looked past Kurt to the treasure trove of souls in the bed. "You're taking care of all these guys? Since when has life meant anything to you?"
Trying to prove that the things Len said didn't faze him, Kurt sang, "That legendary suicide is such a boooore," and played air drums to follow himself up.
Len mock-laughed. "Come on, Kurt, we all know you're out of your league here. Kelly's my bitch. You wanna see the pictures of the sick shit I got him to do to his victims? Do you really want to be around when I convince him to cut your boy's head off? 'Cause Kelly's been listening to me since before you started talking to Boddah."
"I'm doing okay, friend," Kurt replied, putting extra, sarcastic emphasis on the word 'friend.' "Thanks for your concern."
The demon eyed the collar around Kurt's neck. He lightly touched one of the spikes. "Only three left, huh? You might be able to get rid of this one," Len wiggled the spike under his finger, "...but you'll never talk your way out of the other two."
Kurt couldn't help but be bothered by what the demon had said; he smacked his hand away. Len grinned and snickered. "Just be ready to get the fuck out of here when I send your precious Nicky back where he came from," Kurt said. "He can't keep that mojo working forever. The spells aren't even his."
"It's all in how you manipulate the power available to you, Kurt. You know that. It's how Boddah got you in here."
Kurt looked at the demon like he wanted his head to explode into a million pieces. "That's Mr. Cobain to you."
Len chuckled, a hand to his mouth. "Have you even considered that if you fail, your soul could be consumed here too?"
"What have I got to lose?" Kurt asked with a shrug.
Len immediately replied, "Over twenty years of amends." Then he added, "The chance to have your daughter forgive you."
Kurt stood and said nothing, only glared.
Dave swallowed down the lump of emotion in his throat. Their words were cryptic, but he thought he understood.
His smile widening, Len shrugged too. "It's up to you." He walked away as if on his way out, but took a moment to stop at the foot of the bed. He could see Dave was the only one still awake. "If you care about Kurt, you'll tell him to get out of here. Save himself." With that, Len strolled into the mist, his seeds of doubt clearly placed.
Kurt came to the side of the bed. "Good for him he left. I was just about to kick his ass," he said with a grin.
"Kurt... are you sure you're okay? After what he said..."
"I don't want you to pay any attention to anything that asshole spat out of his mealy little mouth. Okay?" Kurt hated that the things Len said were making Dave worry about him. "He wanted to get under your skin."
"But, if you're in any danger - "
Sitting on the side of the bed, Kurt declared, "I'm not leaving until you're all safe. I won't talk anymore about it."
The tone of his voice told Dave he meant it. "Will you stay here with me 'til I fall asleep?"
"Sure." Sitting crosslegged on the bed, Kurt reached out and brushed stray hairs off Dave's forehead. "You sleep off the Morphecil."
Dave wanted to ask more questions. There were so many things he didn't know. But the motion of Kurt's hand as he stroked the hair out of Dave's eyes was too hypnotic, and the drug too strong to resist anymore. His mind drifted off to sleep as his body had, and he eventually somehow made his way to Taylor.
Dave didn't recognize the room. He did recognize the person crouched on the floor of the kitchen, however, holding the black and white cat. "Taylor!"
Taylor barely had time to look up before Dave caught him up in a mighty hug. Dave noticed Taylor was wearing the clothes he had on the night of the séance. Taylor didn't hug him back because he'd have to let go of the cat, and for some reason, he didn't want to do that. "Shhhh, shhh!" Taylor shushed desperately. "He might hear you!"
Dave didn't want to waste any time. He took Taylor's face in his hands. "Tee, you have to wake up! You're possessed by the ghost we contacted through the Ouija board. If you don't take your body back, he's going to wind up killing us all!"
Taylor's eyes were glassy, unfocused. He held up the cat. "This is Munchie. He keeps me company."
Dave realized he was shaking, too. "Taylor, he's got you under a spell! Please, what do I have to do to wake you up?"
Someone screamed. "No, God, put that down!"
Dave followed the scream with his eyes. A man was handcuffed and tied down to a chair. Was that Nicky Kelly approaching him with a knife? Yes, it was Nicky. Dave recognized him from the picture.
Taylor curled in on himself, hugging the cat. Munchie made a sound that was half growl and half purr. "I won't look. I can't see anymore."
This was Nicky's house. These were his crimes. Is this where Taylor had been trapped all this time? In Nicky Kelly's memories?
Nicky climbed into the guy's lap and cut his shirt open, snickering. The man keened in fright. He made much louder noises as Nicky began to carve into his chest.
Dave felt the pain like it was his chest that was being carved. He looked down to see blood running down his stomach in thin rivulets. But he was no longer in Nicky's house. This was really happening.
Nicky, still in Taylor's body, had a small knife he'd taken from Dave's kitchen and was using it to carve letters into the right side of his chest, the side with no tattoo. Although Dave was still half asleep from the Morphecil, he could feel all of the pain of what Nicky was doing. Grimacing, he said, "Nicky, stop! What are you doing?"
"I'm almost done," was his only explanation.
Dave yelped in pain. As Nicky drew the last line in his skin, he realized what he had done.
MINE, it said. MINE. Nicky had marked him as property.
He sat back and surveyed his work, panting and smiling. Nicky dabbed at the word with a towel to sop up some of the blood. "If I went deep enough, it could be permanent."
Author's Notes: Oh yeah, and some chapters will be named after Birds of Satan songs. :D
Look at the amazing art Crisco_Twister (on Rockfic) did for me!! She really captured Kurt and my version of Boddah very well. Thank you, hon! I love it!!!