Rating: A healthy PG-13
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things that go Bump
Chapter Length: 2407 words
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes: I am giving into the will of the people and posting this next chapter before another person yells at me about the cliffhanger. :D
I ended up in an alley. It looked like every alley in Chicago and I looked down it to the street to see if I could place it. I couldn’t see the end of it. I guess dream alleys don’t have to have an end.
I could see Murphy, hunched down behind some garbage cans. She had her gun out and was breathing heavily. I walked towards her. There was an old, cracked mirror leaning up against the wall by some garbage bags and as I passed, I could see my reflection in it. I had taken on the appearance of how Murphy saw me, subconsciously. Dream Me was a bit taller and skinnier (like I needed help with either of those things). My face was sort of gaunt and my eyes were very dark, almost dangerous. My hair was wilder than I try to wear it. I had my hockey stick in my left hand and it had no runes or anything on it. Murphy couldn’t see those, so to her, it was just a regular hockey stick. My clothes were worn, but comfy and I had a pair of red converse sneakers on. I don’t own red sneakers, but I won’t hold that against Murphy’s subconscious. I continued down the alley.
“Hey Murph,” I said.
She whipped around and pointed her gun at me. Dream Murphy appeared as she saw herself. She was a bit chubbier than in real life (though, hardly chubby by definition). Her hair frizzed a bit and she was less in control, sort of nervous looking. Not as confident as Real Murphy. She was also quite small. With my added height and her lost height, I towered over her like a monster.
“Get down!” she hissed, and yanked at my hand. I obliged and crouched behind the garbage cans with her. “How did you find me?”
“Uh, tracking spell,” I said. She nodded, as though it made perfect sense to her. I guess Dream Murphy believed in magic. I wish Real Murphy was a bit more like Dream Murphy. “What’s up?”
“I don’t...I don’t know,” she said, looking confused. “I’ve been here for so long. Every time I move, they shoot, but I can’t see them. They won’t talk to me either; I don’t even know who they are. Sid and I got split up. I hope he’s okay.” She bit her lower lip, something she never would have done in real life. She wouldn’t have shown me she was afraid.
“He’s fine,” I soothed her. Not a lie. “I saw him.”
She looked relieved. “I tried to call for back-up, but the radio won’t work,” she explained. “How did you get past them?”
I looked back down the way I’d come. It was a total dead end, a brick wall rose high above us. I thought rapidly.
“I used a veil,” I said. I suck at veils in real life, but maybe Dream me could pull one off. “It makes you sort of invisible. I’m gonna cast one and get us out, okay?”
Murphy gave me a skeptical look. I guess Dream Murphy had a limit to her willingness to believe in magic too. I gave her a confident smile and offered her my hand. She took it without hesitation and I drew up the best veil I could. I didn’t know how magic worked in this kind of situation; if it worked when you were walking through someone else’s dream. I figured it couldn’t hurt though and went through all the motions.
“Alright,” I said. “Let’s go.”
I stood up and a bullet promptly flew over my shoulder. Murphy pulled me down again. I glared at her. Her stupid subconscious ruined my crappy veil. She looked small and lost though and all the anger melted away from me. Poor Murph. It said a lot about her, what she feared. What her nightmares would be. Alone, afraid, in danger from an unknown force. Probably an unknown force I brought down on her. I impulsively gave her a hug and she sort of slumped into it gratefully. Real Murphy would never have done that, either.
“It’ll be okay,” I promised. “We’ll figure this out.”
She nodded against my chest and didn’t pull back, so I kept my arms around her until she wanted me to let go. The calmer she was, the easier it would be to get her out, I figured. The more upset she was, the worst the nightmare would get. Dream physics. She practically snuggled with me, which was so unlike Murphy that it sort of freaked me out. I’m not complaining though. She’s actually a very good snuggler. She was all tiny and fit perfectly in my arms.
“I think I have a Plan B,” I said, after contemplating for a bit.
“Is it better than Plan A?” she asked, hopefully.
“Yes. You know my bracelet?”
“The one with the coins on it?”
I held out my wrist and decided they could look like coins, if you didn’t know what they were supposed to be. I wondered if it looked this gaudy in real life, or if it was just Murphy’s opinion of how it looked. I was very fond it of it, of course, but I didn’t wear it for the sake of fashion.
“They’re shields,” I explained. “I can make them deflect bullets, just like forcefields in science fiction. I can set it up in front of us and the bullets’ll bounce off.”
Murphy pulled away and made a face at me. “Veils and shields. Can’t you do anything without your stupid magic?”
“Not really. I’m sort of a total loser without it,” I admitted. Feeling slightly hurt, I added, “It’s not stupid.”
“Sorry, Harry,” she said, with a sigh. “Do you think it’ll work?”
“Yes,” I said, confidently. “But you have to believe it will, too. Just like Peter Pan.”
“If don’t clap my hands, will you die?” She teased, looking a little more like Real Murphy. I grinned. “But I don’t believe, Harry. I think it’s a bracelet. It’s not going to protect us.”
“Do you trust me?”
She had to think on that. “Yes.”
“Do you trust me to get you out of here alive if I say I will?”
No hesitation this time. “Yes.”
“Then that’s all you need. I promise we will get out of here, Connie. Okay?”
I offered my hand again and forced a little of my will through my bracelet. “I know it doesn’t look like it, but it’s there,” I said. “Alright?” She nodded. “Good. Here we go.”
I stood up and aimed my wrist forwards. Bullets flew again but this time they stopped a foot in front of me and bounced off with blue sparks. I resisted a whoop of triumph and pulled Murphy behind me. She held her gun out, around the side of my shoulder, peeking slightly above it. I think Action Murphy is adorable, but don’t tell her I said that.
There were a lot of bullets as we moved down the alley. They pinged off my shield with a steady rhythm that echoed in between the narrow walls. My wrist started to heat up, but I concentrated on holding the shield steady. It was the longest alley I’d ever seen. We walked and walked and there was just no end to it. My arm was getting tired and the hot metal of the shields bit into my hand. Finally, there was an end in sight. I could see streetlights. We made it to the threshold and there was no one there. No one to be shooting bullets at us. They stopped abruptly, once we had reached that conclusion.
“Maybe they ran?” Murphy answered the unvoiced question.
“Maybe,” I agreed. I didn’t believe it. If we were out of danger, Murphy would be waking up.
“I’ll try my radio again,” she said. She reached for it on her hip and pressed a button, but before she could say anything, her head snapped up again. “Did you hear that?”
“I didn’t hear anything,” I replied, Listening.
“It sounded like - “
That I did hear. A child crying out, terrified.
“Murphy, no!” I tried, but she was already racing off the in the direction of the voice. I swore loudly and went after her. She obviously didn’t know the Laws of Horror Movies. One being that ‘it’s never what it sounds like’. It’s right up there with ‘if people are being murdered, don’t take a bubble bath’. “Murphy - “
I chased her down the street and around a corner, then into another alley. That’s another Law of Horror Movies -’ never go into the alley’. I got to her just in time to see the shape of Anna Murphy fall to the ground. Murphy fell to her knees beside her, shaking her and calling her name. Anna’s eyes opened up and she started to laugh in a very unsettling way. Then she bent and contorted and ripped apart to become the biggest, ugliest monster I had ever seen. Reality has nothing on what your imagination can do and Murphy’s imagination was talented. She backed away from it until she was near my feet. I hoisted her back onto hers. Then something else stepped out of the shadows and it was much worse. It was me.
Murphy was justifiably confused. She ignored the monster completely in favour of gaping at me. Other Me. He was pretty much my twin, as Murphy saw us anyway, only he looked a lot cooler than me. He had a long black duster and a proper staff, which he held with the sense that he knew how to use it. His clothes were neat and slick, all black. He had an ugly sneer on his face and that was aimed at Murphy, who shrunk back from it, into me. She looked between me and him several times and the dream world shook, trying to sort out the kinks in logic.
“Murphy,” I said, and she shrunk back from me, too. “Murphy, that’s not me. It’s not the real me.”
“I – what if neither of you are the real you?” she demanded. The world shook some more and I stumbled sideways. “I never know which one I’m going to get.”
“Look, he’s clearly the evil one,” I pointed out. “If we were in a movie, he’d be twirling his mustache and cackling.” I looked at him again. “Besides, I couldn’t afford that coat.”
Murphy closed her eyes and slid down the wall to the ground. Other Me smirked and took a step forward, monster at his side. I got between him and Murphy and threw up my shield again. He made the same movement in a mocking way.
“I don’t know who you think you are,” Other Me said. “But just back off and you can run away. You’re not the one I’m interested in. I don’t need to hurt...me.”
“Like I’m gonna believe that,” I replied. “You’re Darth Harry. Back off.”
I rolled my eyes. Or, he rolled his eyes. He rolled my eyes? In any case, eyes were rolled at me and he raised his staff. A burst of red light shot forth and hit my shield, hard. It pushed me back, sliding on my feet, but didn’t hurt me. I raised my hockey stick and shot back. He stumbled, but his shield held too.
“Murphy,” I said. “Murphy, you have to help me.”
“Leave me alone!” Murphy yelled. A glance behind me showed she had her head in her hands. “I’m so tired of all this.”
“Snap out of it!” I yelled back. “You are a trained member of the Chicago Police Department and you are cowering like a girl. Get your ass over here and shoot me or I swear to God I will let every cop in this city know what a pansy you’re being!”
There were a few long moments of silence and I thought it was all over and Murphy was just going let us both be killed. I didn’t matter if I fought like hell; the only person who could end this was her. She needed to be the one to defeat her fears. Which were apparently, at this point, me. No guilt there.
“I’m sorry, cowering like a what?” she asked, stepping up beside me. She had her gun up and pointing at Other Me.
I beamed at her. “Like a wimpy little girl in pig-tails, Murph.”
“I’m going to shoot you next,” she warned.
“Just take him out first.”
Other Me was looking a little less confident now. His eyes darted from one side to the other, thinking. I tried to predict what he might do next, considering I should know how he would think. I didn’t anticipate what he would do though. A vicious sneer broke out on his face and he waved a hand at the monster by his side. It began to twist and shrink until it was the spitting image of Anna Murphy again. He grabbed it by the shoulders and forced it in front of him, resting the top of his staff against her temple. Murphy’s gun faltered.
“It’s not her,” I reminded her. “It’s just an illusion.”
“Mommy!” Anna wailed. Tears streamed down her cheeks. “Help me, please! I’m scared!”
Murphy closed her eyes. I thought she was going to lose it. Then, inhaling deeply, her eyes snapped open, her gun rose again and there was a bullet through my head. Right between the eyes. Other Me fell to the ground and I fell into darkness and did a front somersault back into my body. My eyes blinked open at the ceiling of Murphy’s hospital room.
“Jesus Christ,” Kirmani said.
I sat up, feeling like overcooked pasta and realized I was on the floor. Kirmani had at least gotten a pillow under my head. He might get a Christmas card from me this year. I got to my feet, immediately toppling forward. I caught myself on the railing of Murphy’s bed.
Her eyelids were fluttering and I held my breath. Kirmani grabbed my arm to hold me upright while we both waited. A couple of blinks and then her eyes opened. Her lips moved. I had to lean in to hear her slurred words.
“Not a wimp,” she said.
“No, Murph,” I told her. “You’re a totally kick-ass chick.”