(Note: Part 2 updated with two hyperlinks representing alternate story paths into Venom. If feeling adventurous, taking the second link inside the gray box jumps to Kandy’s beginning in Venom, “3. Purgatory of Pain.”)
Dark shapes appear. Swaying, the hazy shapes surround me. They appear like smoke, their swooning motions leave wispy trails. They dance in slow motion. Turning around, I find more of them, a mass of smoky forms in every direction. They dance, waving arms building smoky clouds above their heads.
Purple haze lifting, dancers increasing in speed, the smoke trails fade leaving solid forms. Clothing ripples out of the blackness. The ghosts dance, their pale forms turning and moving on a wood floor. Dark columns holding purple rods rise up into a white fog where lights spin splashing red like blood dripping from the mist.
Thunder erupts, pounding into the floor. Another dull boom, and another, the increasing beat becoming alive, sharpening. The dancers stomp to the beat, their movements increasing in speed. A chorus of guitars join in, and music explodes.
The prickly sensation of déjà vu crawls beneath my skin.
Standing at the center of the dance floor, I search the crowd for Steve. White shirts and waving colored bracelets glow in the black light. Some of the eyes glow as well like phosphorous disc floating on white orbs. The discs bounce and weave. The floor shakes to the beat of the drums and dancing feet.
On the stage, a woman with deep crimson hair screams into a microphone. Her voice, harsh, shouts about blood and death. Behind her, the band shakes their heads and stomp while they work the music into a demonic chorus.
I dance into a storm riding the edge of shadows, my dress floating about me like smoke.
Spotting a familiar face watching me, I dance my way towards him. Watching in wonder as I defy the light, the crowd parts for me. The young man doesn’t look much like Steve. Shorter and too scrawny, the young thing appears to lack confidence dropping his gaze from mine. The sea of sweaty bodies flows away, and I swoop in on my prey.
He tells me his name.
Satisfied I have Torx, I smile and say, “Nice to meet you, Steve Reynolds.”
Standing right behind Torx is a wraith smoking in and out of the shadows like a dark fire eating the air.
“I’m sweet like candy,” I say. The sinking feeling of having done this before pulls at me. My feet grow heavy. I spin away from the wraith, and tug at Torx’s hand. Glancing back, I say, “with a K.”
This is my memory playing out. My memory eaten by Steve, returning to me because he’s in my head and has been all this time. He never stole this man’s memories. He might have peeked inside and only taken a taste.
It all starts making a twisted sort of sense, the déjà vu and my old club Steve has been visiting. It’s like time travel, but Steve calls it revisiting a memory. Somehow something changed there in that moment I thought I had killed him. Some serious messing with Fate’s tapestry.
“I’m looking for vampire ice,” says Torx.
“I have what you need,” I say, pulling my prey onto the back stairs.
Glancing back, I search the dance floor. The wraith is gone, but I spot Stratton and his bodyguard slinking through the crowd. I curse Zee. I curse the magistrate for getting here so fast. Feeling time crushing down on me, I pull Torx stumbling up the stairs and into the VIP lounge. I push him into the balcony room and slam the door closed.
The music is loud as ever, pulsing through the glass and trembling across the floor. My groove cuts a line down the center. At the sofa, I spin around and wave my hand in a come hither. Money already in hand, Torx approaches with a goofy grin on his face. Sometimes I can’t believe how willingly they come, but without venom it would be a savage pain even masochists would deny.
Holding out the money, Torx takes a wobbly step closer. His face loses color, and his gaze drops to my midsection. “Is this going to hurt?” he asks.
With both hands, I grab the extended arm, pulling the sleeve up. Pushing his shoulder up, his arm backward against his elbow, I lock my prey into a prone position dancing on his toes in a fit of pain. I bite down crunching through tendons, blood shooting out.
In a violent spasm, Torx screams like a girl.
Cool toxins flow out, and warmth gushes inside. More than I can handle, blood rushes down my chin splashing onto my dress and onto the floor. I taste the alcohol, the drugs, and a lifetime of poor eating. There is nothing sweet about Torx.
Looking up, I find my mark standing in the room. The same business suit, the same buzzed hair, the wraith watches me with his nebulous violet eyes spewing smoky wisps curling over his head. Is this my Steve? I realize I’ve already given up drinking, the mess dripping on the floor.
I’m uncertain if he can read my thoughts, but if he’s eating my memories, certainly he remembers them.
Take him, wraith!
The wraith doesn’t move, but I feel him draw closer. The grin appears to shift between cruel, love, and thirsty. Yes, terribly thirsty. The wraith wants it all, suck my life down, feast on my private thoughts and deepest secrets.
Realizing he has no interest in my offering, I release Torx and spin around stepping into shadow-time. Reaching into the sofa cushion, I grab my gun and twirl around through the rising purple mist stepping back into normal time, gun aimed at my target.
Gun oil tickles my nose.
I pull the trigger, and the world falls into slow motion. He moves, not in physical relation to me, but in shadow-time. His buzzed hair turns smoky, dark wisps rising, and his body fades into a ghostly, dark form. His luminous eyes sparks violet energy leaving a trail of tendrils behind him. He closes in, creeping within the violet shadows.
Unwilling to surrender my remaining secrets to him, I dive deeper into our entanglement straight into his Purple Hell.
The hammer pops, thunder growing quiet, swallowed by silence.
Walls crumbling away, ceiling fading, a violet storm erupts consuming the club as I backpedal through the ethereal sofa fading away, through the window. Falling, I watch the dark purple clouds raging across the sky and the wraith diving after me, arms reaching out. I fire my gun again watching the bullet disappear back into normal time.
Even in Purple Hell, gravity is a killer. Only the hard desert floor awaits me, so I twist around reaching for the other side. Through a curtain of shadows, a spray of mist, I find the dance floor rushing up at me. Moving in slow motion, two ghostly forms dance on the pedestal beneath me. I slip into normal time and fall upon a dancing girl.
An explosion of splintering wood, the pedestal collapses. I feel bones crunch beneath me as I topple over the girl rolling onto wood, another body, and onto the floor. A cloud of dust rises, and people dive away blinking in and out beneath the strobe light.
Standing, I enter the quiet place. My gun is gone, but it’s useless on this side of the shadows. Glancing over my shoulder, I spot the wraith, a slender dark form dressed in a black suit leaving a trail of black-and-violet smoke. I race around nearly frozen ghosts, catching an arm passing through me leaving a shiver of tingles. Spotting the hall, I charge through the hazy wall into the dressing room.
Turning for the locker, I bite my lip, concentrating, and pull my arms in, ducking, making myself as small as I can. A short step, I pass through the slender steel door, hoping like hell I fit inside. Another short step, skipping back into the world, I clasp my sword hugging it to me, and slip back into the quiet place, passing through the wall and spilling into another room.
Two ghostly men stand at urinals, and I feel relieved that the smell of urine and those damn deodorizer discs remain locked away outside the quiet place, but the memory attacks my nose turning my gut. Wash basins behind me, trash bin beside the hand dryers in front of me, I turn facing the closed door in the corner where I spot the wraith melting through the wood.
No longer appearing much like Steve, the wraith is a shadow defying the light. Violet smoke pours from a pair of pits, but otherwise darkness. I can only hope killing this thing will free Steve. Free me. Smoky appendages fly out, slender claws cracking with dark energy.
Diving backward, I tumble through the ethereal wall and return to the world, music crashing into my head. Leaping to my feet, I find throngs of people hurrying off the dance floor, passing confused faces of others, onto the steel stairs for the exit. And there I find him dressed in a white shirt without his tie, his blue eyes open wide, moving with the sea of bodies.
My Steve spots me, our gazes connect. He doesn’t recognize me at first, and even then the moment passes, and he glances around as if lost.
The wraith emerges through the wall, and Steve stands frozen watching it.
In a flash, my arms come to life, and I swing my sword upward, the sheath bashing across Steve’s head knocking the man over and fading into a ghost passing into the shadows. A dark claw lashes out, and I duck into the quiet place searching for Steve. Spotting his ethereal form fading away, I follow him into Purple Hell, my shoes skittering on the cracked soil.
Steve is gone. Spinning around, I search the desert finding black and violet clouds churning away on horizons. He must have passed back to the other side. Completing another circle, I spot a black fog rising from the ground spiraling into a vortex of violet electrical sparks and churning black smoke.
Final Dance continues on the next page…