Diana In the Dark

By Ryk Brink All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Mystery

Daddy's little darling

Darkness, and then an eye opens, I open my eyes and he’s there.

“Come on &&^%^$(*()*&

I wanna show you something”

A little boy with a bowl cut hairstyle is leading me down a tight white hallway.

There’s a door, he wants me to go through.

What’s on the other side?

The door is huge I can barely reach the handle, it’s turning red, the door, it’s melting. What’s in there?

“A surprise

I did it for you”

Shapes start to appear in the red goo the door is turning into. A face is pushing through the malleable door.

It’s my face, it’s a mirror.

A sudden jolting and my face hits something hard and flat and I’m thrust back into the land of the living rather unceremoniously.

My head hurts, I’m still seeing spots, but that’s all I see, there’s something over my eyes. I can almost feel all the veins in my neck, my brain feels like someone slam dunked it through a stained glass window.

I can feel something wet and warm on my face, getting colder, shit, blood, it has to be blood. “I’m bleeding” I cry out to the dark to no one in particular.

“Relax” A woman’s voice says “It’s just drool- you can wipe it off when we get there”

“Get where?” I ask stupidly.

“Prom, of course” Wendy said.

I try to move but my hands are strapped with ties to something at my side and I can’t move them. But I can feel the car plaining over wet roads, feel it turning, stopping, we’re moving.

“Don’t move, don’t be dumb” Her voice was tight, stern with a bitter frosty bite. “Don’t bother screaming, we’ll just crank the radio up, the windows are tinted no one can see us in here.” She said with a cool commanding calm in her voice.

“Wendy, what’s going on?”

She laughed and said “What’s going on? We’re going to prom, didn’t I just say that?” The car slowly ground to a halt and I heard the driver get out of the car. “Just gotta make a little stop along the way”

“Wendy I-“

“I should have known it was you. My mom warned me about you, you’ve always been jealous of me- how did you know?” I heard the jewellery on her arm jangling as she talked no doubt gesturing to someone blindfolded. “I bet you felt really fucking clever sending me those little notes- how clever do you feel now huh?”

The passenger side door to my left opened and something big and heavy was slung at my side.

“Don’t make a fucking noise puto, don’t make me shoot you!” A man’s voice said.

The door shut again and the large sack of potatoes started to writhe and make groaning grunting noises in the seat next to me.

“What the fuck Denny, I told you not to hurt him, he’s fucking bleeding”

“I had to hit him with the gun, big white boy wouldn’t come on his own, thought he was a tough guy”

“Now I’m gonna have to clean him up, you better not have got blood on his tux.” She screeched.

“What the hell’s going on? Is this- a prank? – It’s not very funny” The potato sack said in between pained groans.

“Paul!- Is that you?”

“Diana? – are you?” He said groggily.

“Just stay cool” I said.

“What the hell Di?” He groaned.

“What’s going on is I’m not going to let you white trash pieces of shit ruin my senior prom.” Her voice got fast and high pitch. “Already close to ruined it having it in that fucking lazer arcade. I wanted it at the beach club, but noooo that wasn’t cool enough for little miss ‘ooh look at me I’m so quirky and interesting’!” She made a clucking sound in her throat trying to get more spit in her mouth. “Me being the great friend I am let it slide, but no you gotta stab me in the back and try to ruin it”

“Wendy?” Paul said. “What’s she talking about, what’s going?”

“Would you just shut up you fucking meat head daddy’s boy retard.” She took a deep breath and filled herself with sweetness and light and said. “We’re gonna be there soon and we’re all gonna dance and have a great time and then me and Brody are going to be crowned prom king and queen and then-“

“Then what?” I said.

She laughed and I could feel her shifting closer to me, the leather creaking under her toned brown buns. She took the sleep mask off my face and put a small gun to my head, my small James Bond-type gun to be precise. She looked over at Paul and squeezed her thin drawn on eyebrows as tight as they would go. “Oh for fucks sake.” She tutted as she pulled out a tissue from her purse and spat in it rubbing furiously at the small nick at the side of Paul’s head where Denny had hit him.

She stepped back after she was done to get a good look at him. “There, you look great” She sat back in her seat in the front of the limo with the small purse pistol trained on us. Wendy was in a gold taffeta dress looking like a real princess. Paul was in the tux my aunt picked out for him tied to one of the arm rests with a plastic tie the same as I was. He was slowly, fading in and out of consciousness like he took a hit of Nyquil and whiskey.

The interior of the limo was huge. The ceiling was much higher than you would expect and coming in at a cool five three I was almost certain I could comfortably stand up in there. It was almost as a standard bus. It was wide with black leather couches on all sides and a large bar-like table with cushioned corners all the way around stretching out the length of the interior. To top it off there were blue strobe lights around the ceiling making it look almost like a mini travelling strip club. It was missing the stripper pole though. No fog machine either.

I looked down and I was wearing one of Wendy’s hand me down dresses she wore to the homecoming dance last year. The insult to injury received. Pretty in pink my ass.

“You two make such a cute couple” She smirked. She turned and tapped the glass between the passenger compartment and the drivers cab and said “Denny you’re driving like an old lady, are we there yet?”

“Couple more minutes” He shouted back “You know, we’ve got some time” He said, his voice taking on an odd tone.

Wendy turned a redder shade of gold and said “Not here dummy” She turned back to look at me, her eyes becoming sharp slits, making a sucking sound with her gums. “You think you’ve got it all figured out don’tchoo?” Her valley girl accent slipped a little, letting a little Cubano slide in. “I took a look through your littl kit, some sick shit in there, you got the letters, you were really gonna do me like that, after all I’ve done for you?”

She sighed and her and relaxed her muscles with the gun hanging languidly in her lap as she laid back in her seat spreading her legs. “What was the plan? Gonna blackmail me after I made you?” I had a feeling somebody made me but not her and not here. “No one in that school would even know who you were if it wasn’t for me. You’d just be a nobody.” That’s what she didn’t get, that’s what she could never get, I wanted to fade into the background, I didn’t ask to be popular, I wanted to be a nobody, I just wanted to fit in. “You wouldn’t have him for sure.” We both looked over at Paul as he dozed, very still slumped in the corner of the limo. “Shit I might have to cover the cut with some make up or something.” She tutted and looked back at me with half lidded almond eyes “Now you’re gonna lose it all”

She thought I just wanted to black mail her, that was a step up I guess from what I was actually planning. “You’re gonna kill us?” I said dim as ever.

“You see another way out of this, you promise not to come after me or squeal on me?” She laughed. “The funny thing is I probably would have just given you money if you asked.” She smiled sadly “What are friends for right?” She gritted her and made her eyebrows angular again pointing the gun at me “You think I’d let you ruin my prom? We’re going and you’re going to behave, because if you don’t I’ll put a bullet in both of you. Dump your bodies in a snow drift in aspen then I’ll pay a visit to your Aunt.” She looked left then right out the window like she was trying to see her reflection. “I mean you could have told her anything.”

“No- she doesn’t-“ Something bubbling up, something new. A whole world created and then destroyed. My aunt, my sister, she built a life for us and now as her reward she’d get a bullet in the head from her sister’s best friend. Bedded in an unmarked grave because I was too smart to just be normal.

“You read the letters, you think you know the truth, shit my mom doesn’t even know, they’ve got her so doped up she probably thinks she did kill the old man. She probably wanted to.”

“Why did you-?”

“Do you actually care?” She looked at me with her head tilted, the gun at an angle like she was trying to see under a veil. “You don’t give a shit, just trying to buy yourself time” She sucked her gums.

“You know I hate awkward silences” I said.

She smiled. “I should kill you right here next to your boyfriend, but then I wouldn’t get to see your face when I’m crowned prom queen.”

“What about Brodie, when he sees this-“

She picked up her phone and looked at it “He already texted me, he’s meeting us there, had some family shit, ergh, like I care.” She said throwing the phone down on the leather couch.

“You’ve got your brother”

“Th-fuck that s’posed to mean?” She rattled the gun in her hand as the accent slipped again. “You have no idea what it’s like being the little rich spic in Orange County, surrounded by all these rich white people people”.

I rolled my eyes “I’m sure it was a nightmare.”

“Shut the fuck, what do you know? Denny was the only one who understood and it almost destroyed him. My dad found out and he was gonna send Denny away to a reform school, I couldn’t let that happen, I couldn’t live without him.”

“Stop, you’ll make my mascara run” I slipped a canine tooth out as I smiled, trying to break the ice.

She laughed and let out a little tear which she cauterized with her finger to stop her make up running. “Look in the mirror baby, nobody’s making dent in that shit” She chortled.

What did that mean. I looked in the reflection of the passenger window and saw a dim reflection of what looked like a Mexican clown but I knew unreservedly was me. “Oh goddamit, spray tan, really?”

“Better than your pale ass goth shit.” She said cocking her head. “Baby I made you look good.”

“You made me look like a clown whore, did you apply this with a shotgun?”

“We’re almost there” Denny called through the little PA system in the limo.

“Show time” She said smiling. She reached over me and cut the ties with a little fruit knife from the mini bar. I looked down at the gun and then up at her and over at Paul. “Don’t even think about it.” She spat.

She moved back, her head bowed for the lip of the door and signalled with the gun for me to get out. Denny got out the driver’s side and went around the side of the car to cut Paul free. I got out the car and stretched my legs. It was night again, I’d been out all day, she probably fed me Xanax to keep me pliable so she could dress me and do my makeup. My whole body felt and sore stiff like I was living doll rented out by a submarine full of sweaty otakus.

“Wake up pretty boy”. Denny was a tall lean Hispanic man dressed in a loosely fitting limo driver uniform with the top two buttons undone. I can see why she liked him, he was pretty much a male version of her, I wonder if they used the same eyebrow pencil. A chiselled jaw on a swarthy face and even darker hair and pencil thin moustache. He slapped Paul who was roused enough to indignantly stand, faltering a little before erecting to his full height of around six one.

“Remember my brother will be watching, so don’t try any clever shit or he’ll be paying your Aunt a little visit, got it?” She put the gun in her golden D&G purse and clipped it shut. “I still have this so if you fuck this up, all bets are off girlfriend.”

“Got it” I felt like a wrung out tube sock, I wanted to drop to my knees and just die right there. I slept but it was an unrestful semi-death like I’d been hung out to dry.

I looked up at the big black open empty sky, no moon, no light, just a blanket of dark sky lit up with the orange pollution of every damn light in the state.

We were in the parking lot of the lazertag place. I couldn’t tell the time, Wendy had taken any such devices used for such things away from me, which is understandable. But I assumed she would be fashionably late to her own funeral. Parking lot was littered with limos and rented sports cars. I then idly glanced back in my stupor at the vehicle we had arrived in seeing it for the first time from the outside. It was none other than a white stretch hummer. Classy.

“Subtle”

“I knew you’d like it” She said.

The front of the lazer arcade was a lit up like a movie theatre like it was some grand screening at Mans Chinese. Bright spots and strobes inside. A big stone awning with the Fuzion lazer tag sign on the front. I’d never actually been, it just kinda looked cool from the outside, driving past it with my Aunt/Sister. And I knew it would kind of piss off Wendy. I drilled into her the fact she chose the venue for the home coming dance, which was a golf club. I mean come on, how preppy is that? Plus it had the floor space and the lights and the food. The whole place was rented, no kids, did I mention I hate kids? I thought I’d get a kick out of watching all the people that pretended to be normal all day long chasing after eachother with toy guns, their hearts filled with playful virtual murder. But of course they weren’t actually pretending, like me.

I heard it’d been closed for a while. Some kid died here and they shut the whole thing down but with a little cutting of red tape it was under new management and back in business. Nothing stops the wheels of commerce in Orange County, not the living nor the dead. We passed the threshold which was carpeted like a theatre lobby, as in it was sticky, almost more gum than fabric. There were a few arcade machines and unmissable signs everywhere warning of impending epileptic fits.

As soon as I stepped foot inside I knew I picked the right place. The smell of popcorn and nachos the sound of shoes clipping and squeaking on linoleum floors. The pleasant cool darkness like the inside of a movie theatre. It was all black lights this and neon that, like the inside of Joel Schumacher’s sex dungeon. Obviously being on the prom committee meant I’d been in here before but all the times before it was in the day time with all the lights on. Tonight it was a completely different animal, just like me.

“Move” Wendy said through her teeth, poking me in the back with her DG purse. Those things are pointy.

She marched us past rows of foosball machines. People I barely recognised from school throwing the little balls in the holes in full prom regalia. Something about playing whack a mole in a prom dress made this whole thing seem worth it.

But I could tell Wendy hated it by the indignant sneer. “So fucking tacky” she mouthed as she watched Francine Hammond from my English lit class mount a ridge racer bike. No side saddle? Very unladylike.

Denny waited in the car, he was a few years older. He dropped out of high school to do little more than couch surf and sample a wide selection of drugs and likely crack house diseases so he wasn’t invited.

We reached the entrance to the main staging area. “Remember don’t fuck this up and I just might let you walk out of here- be cool.” She took out her hello kitty phone and pointed it at me. “If I don’t text Denny every half hour he’ll pay your Aunt a visit, got it?” She gesticulated a little more as if I might’ve forgotten what a phone looked like or maybe she thought her hello kitty phone case was intimidating. After she was done issuing threats she turned her phone over to read the screen. She opened her pursed lips and tutted. “Brodie’s running a little” She sighed as she started to text him back. “He’s gonna meet us in the main hall, come on.”

The main staging area was a large open bar and restaurant with a balcony hanging over it. Of course all the restaurant chairs and tables had been moved to sides to make way for a dance floor. Which was located under the balcony from which the prom king and queen would be announced.

The room with the main lights off was completely different. This time it literally looked like a set piece from a nineties batman movie. The one that Arnie hammed up. Strobe lights, and spotlights darted from corner to corner over a neon jungle. Complete with glowing tropical plants and monkeys hanging from pillars painted with neon paint to look like Florida palms. One almost seemed to be winking at me offering me a glowing banana.

No thanks.

I smirked because I knew on some level this had to disgust Wendy, it was tacky and kitschy and smelled like corn syrup and old beer. Cool and dark, not bright and sparkly like she dreamed. This was my world.

She turned to us both, her face agape with a wonderful disgust and then without flinching it turned into the most sugary sweet smile. I had to duck to avoid diabetic shock “Have fun you two- and remember, I’m always watching.” She said waving like a duchess.

She turned with a dramatic wafting of her poofy dress like the wicked witch of the west. Disappearing into the crowd of faceless seniors accumulating around a large ornate punch bowl, an ice sculpture in the shape of a horse’s head above it “go Trojans”, I whispered.

“What?” Paul said

I jumped almost forgetting he was here. “Oh nothing”.

“So what the hell is going on?” He whispered harshly taking me roughly by the upper arms as if he intended to shake the information out of me.

“What does it look like?” I ask as innocently as possible breaking away from his grip. Keeping my expression one of open optimism ready to mould myself to whatever situation he thought this was.

“Err well it looks like we just got kidnapped and taken to the prom by your best friend.” He said as he touched the nick on his head where he was struck.

“Yeah- I guess.” I said ditzily.

“So- what the hell are we gonna do about it?” He pouted.

“I dunno, call batman- I mean by the looks of this place he’s probably gonna be here for like a charity auction or something.”

“You think this is funny? We’re literally hostages.” He said turning to scowl at me, as if that would help.

“Thanks for noticing, wanna dance?-“

He furrowed his brow in response.

“What? She told us at gunpoint we need to have fun, so-“ Just as I said it the now iconic Simple minds – Don’t you forget about me, came on, thanks breakfast club. Yeah I know American pie already did this, how derivative.

There was already a sizeable crowd of seniors slow dancing to eighties synth wave. I dragged him into the middle of them and forced his hands around my waist and brought him close, resting my head on his shoulder rather mechanically.

“Diana, what are we doing?” He whispered into my ear.

“If we’re dancing she can’t see we’re talking and she can’t shoot through a crowd of people”.

“So?”

“So what?” I hissed.

“Do you have a plan?” He asked.

“I thought you’d have one”

“Why me?”

“You’re like- I dunno- an army guy, sorta.”

“My dad is in the army that doesn’t mean I know how to escape a hostage situation”

“Well it was worth a shot” I said sinking into the nook of his shoulder. It really did smell kind of nice. Comforting, like sandalwood or something, must have been his after shave.

“We need to find a way to signal to someone” He whispered.

I stirred from a moment of dozing on his shoulder. “She said if she didn’t text her brother every half hour he was going to kill my Aunt, we need to find a way to deal with Denny first.” I said brushing away a little drool and make up gunk from his shoulder.

“How? She’s not gonna let us leave the main hall.”

“We’ll wait until they crown the prom king and queen, she won’t be able to do anything and she’ll be too distracted with the lights to see us” I said.

“And then what?”

“We take out Denny”

“Take him out?” He said as we swayed.

“Yeah you know, punch him, knock him out, you can do that right?” I said yawning on his shoulder.

“Yeah- I guess, I mean yeah I can do that.” He was still a little groggy but my Paul was coming back hopefully bringing with him a little piss and vinegar. You’d think some help from a certain dark entity might be invaluable but this certainly wasn’t his scene, far too- neon and crowded. Tacky sure, but fun, there was no moon in here, no dark chorus, no flapping of devil or angel wings. My monster was a wall flower it seemed. Much happier in some dark corner licking dew off the neck off a virgin victim than cutting up a rug surrounded by chirpy yuppies. Maybe he’d show up fashionably late too, the night was still young after all.

We danced for a little longer waiting for them to announce the prom king and queen. Give us the distraction we needed to launch our ‘Plan’ if you can call it that. It wasn’t really much of a plan. Just wait til the backs are turned and punch someone in the face but this wasn’t exactly a spy novel. And I really didn’t need my Aunt/Sister to be butchered by some junkie she’d never met, that really would be tacky.

“Hey, I’m gonna get some punch, you want some?” I asked.

“Sure, just don’t go too far ok, I can’t see her. We have to assume she’s watching us.”

I sauntered over to the punch bowl trying not to trip over all the tassels and frilly things hanging off this ridiculous princess dress. I felt like some silly doll that was supposed to be sitting on a shelf or having a tea party with a stuffed bear not dancing and dodging bullets.

Some time had passed and the crowd around the punchbowl had dissipated and the puddle of punch had shrunk too. It was only about an inch deep of a cool looking pink liquid slowly getting room temperature under the spots.

That’s when I noticed the bowl full of cheese poofs and my stomach reminded me quite loudly that I’d been in a drug induced coma for about twelve hours and hadn’t eaten so much as a handful of lint lying on the floor of Wendy’s closet. So naturally like some half starved half crazy red squirrel (that’s the bad one right) I started grabbing literal handful of the disgusting puff balls. Filling my cheeks with the articial cheese flavoured corn starch balls of goodness. Caring not for the orange dust accumulating on my face and hands giving a sigh of relief when my stomach felt less inside out than it did a moment ago. Although lacking any actual nutritious content, they’d filled a hole and would have to do for now.

It was still pretty dark in the room so no one noticed me almost sticking my head in cheese poof bowl like a horse with a feed. I quickly used way too many napkins removing the orange dust from, well everywhere.

Why did I come over here again? Oh yeah punch.

As I said it was still pretty dark which made ladling the sweet smelling non-alcoholic liquid into the stereotypical red plastic cups much harder than it should have been. Nevertheless this slight challenge was nothing compared to my intellect and superb hand eye co-ordination. I almost patted myself on the back for pouring punch into a cup, it’s the small victories that count. I picked up the cups and was about to make my way triumphantly back to Paul when I noticed something. Something dark and oddly shaped at the bottom of the punch bowl hitting a bum note in the dark orchestra. The darkness giving me a little jab in the side to remind me it was still there waiting for its moment to bask in the spotlight. Better late than never.

Would he really pull the same trick twice? I thought as I put the cups down.

I picked up the ladle and did a quick one eighty to see if anyone was watching. But at that point everyone was either dancing or eating little wieners or starring into their cups thinking of something to talk about. I dipped the ladle in fishing for whatever the little surprise at the bottom of the punchbowl was, in the back of my head wondering where the little wieners had come from.

I moved it around, it was a large square piece of paper soaking up the punch. A moment of fumbling with the sticky sheet of paper and a happy spot light fell on me and it was lit up for a brief few seconds. Revealing what was a dark black and white photocopy of something that was a little too dark and wet to see. Further fishing bringing it closer to the surface got a reaction, a smirk, a happy sharp tooth glinting in the dark depths. I pulled it out of the sweet waters and let it drain and drip on the bottom of my faerie princes dress.

No doubt about it, it was a face, a face I recognised despite the fact it was smooshed into a copier. The likeness was uncanny, it was Ruez, what was left of him. I wasn’t dreaming, that was a Photostat of his head that had been polluting the punch for god knows how long and there was only one person who could have put it there.

The person who removed had his head of course. Now if I were still toying with the silly notion that that certain someone was me it would be a hell of a trick to have to keep that photocopy on me. Waiting for this moment only for it not to be found when I was stripped and dressed by Wendy. And then of course there was the task of taking a severed head to a copier which I didn’t own. So that meant going to a library which would go something like; “Oh hey Diana, what brings you here” – “Oh you know just gotta photocopy a severed of a gangbanger I may or may not have murdered. But it’s ok he liked to kill hookers, allegedly”. The idea alone got a chuckle from the dark backseat. It was a joke, a prank, one that only we would see the funny side of.

He/she/it was here, my plus one was sending me a message but what did it mean? “You forgot this”, “Heads up”?

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