At this point, James was getting tired of reawakening within strange new places, finding it to be rather taxing upon his mind. Especially when it happened three times in one night. As his eyes flickered open, he noted that he was on a bed. A mattress, within a sizeable shed. Various gardening tools were stacked around him neatly. His body had been cleaned up of blood and other such fluids, making him feel rather refreshed with a sharper mind.
Now where am I, he pondered. What the hell happened to those vampire guys? Did they fight each other? ...did something else? What WAS that thing?! Shit...my head hurts worse than my jaw did. Can't even see straight.
He gently got up, testing his body to see if anything was broken. Other than a sizeable bruise on the left of his body, he appeared to be fine if a little sore. He opened the door of the shed to find himself within broad daylight. The very sensation of seeing the sun again after so long lifted his heart. He realised that he hadn't seen the sun since Chorrol, after what felt like days in Silent Hill.
A huge garden was before him, beautifully resolute with a variety of plants from decorative flowers to nutritious vegetables. One or two workers were busy tending to them, robed in black and white. James recognised the clothing to be that of nuns. This was more evident by the large church-like structure before him, the rows of vegetables lining a path towards it. One of the nuns looked up and gasped with surprise at the raptor, before immediately running in.
"WAIT, it's okay I won't hurt-"
"SISTER! SISTER HE'S AWAKE!"
"Wh-hey, hold on! I'm not gonna hurt you!"
The other nun who hadn't run off looked up at James, smiling softly. She appeared to be somewhere in her 50s, wrinkles showing beneath thick spectacles. He greeted her gently.
"Hello stranger, do please wait, my sister is just getting someone to come down."
"Uhhhh okay...um...where am I?"
"Why, you're at the Las Vegas Orphanage dearie! Poor thing, we found you on the road completely in a state, and to think a friend of ours almost ran you over completely!"
"...yeah...I DO remember a car."
"You should be fine, he took you here so we could heal you up. One of our sisters was especially interested in you, she's just coming now."
James waited for a few minutes, admiring the almost heavenly garden and its immaculately-kept produce. He was almost tempted to take one, despite never being one for vegetables. Soon, two nuns quickly approached him from the orphanage. One was just as old as the other garden caretaker, the other quite young with pure blue eyes and a tiny button nose. Her voice was perky and high-pitched with joy.
"Uh h-hi. Um..."
"You feelin' okay sweetie?"
"Y-yeah well...my head hurts bad and I got this bruise-"
"Oh dontchoo worry, that'll fix up good in a bit! You hungry?"
"...you know what I am, uh...you got any meat?"
"Sure, we got some bacon or fish if ya like!"
She smiled happily at him, but the moment he saw two sharp teeth, he backed away in a sudden fit of panic.
"T-t-t-TEETH, VAMPIRE, GET AWAY!"
"What are you...OH, heeheeheh, don' be silly, I'm not a vampire!"
She quickly removed her habit to reveal her face completely. She had thick blue-and-white hair that pomfed out into something like a well-groomed wavy lion's mane. Her features were also most definitely feline, with whiskers coming out of her cute little kitty nose. James also noted she had huge white paws with white pads as both hands and feet, yet they were as dexterous as a human hand.
"I'm a cat girl, name's Felicia!"
"Oh...ohhhh thank god."
"Oh most certainly," chipped in one of the nuns.
"S-sorry I uh...just had a bad experience with vampires."
"It's okay," said the catgirl with a smile, "what's yer name?"
"Uhh James. But s-some call me FG."
"Oooh what's that stand fer?!"
"Uhhh it's a silly nickname, never mind, you can call me either."
"Hmmm, I already know lots of James, so why don't I call ya FG?"
"Hehehe, okay FG, let's get yer tummy all fulla yummy!"
The orphanage interior was rather resplendent. Children skittered back and forth throughout the converted church, huge stairway bannisters to slide down onto the large hall floor. It wasn't a massive church, medium-sized at best with the front hall enough to hold 200 people. An organ was in the main hall, which Felicia and James veered away from to reach past the living quarters to the kitchen.
It was certainly a kitchen fit for a king, and definitely for an orphanage. Rows of cookers lined the walls with two fridges and freezers, with assistants and chefs bustling back and forth with today's meals. James remembered seeing such a kitchen back in Dreamland, and fond memories of food came flooding back to him. He immediately turned ravenous as Felicia checked up on everyone.
After enough smiles and greetings back and forth, she asked for a hearty breakfast, receiving two plates of bacon, eggs and toast for both her and the raptor. They sat down in the dining room, the large table having been cleaned from an earlier breakfast for all the children. James was blissful at the wonderful meal, the bad memories of the night softening like the eggs in his mouth. Felicia giggled at her guest's pleasure.
"Heehee, enjoyin' yerself James?"
"Mmmmph...I've not had a good breakfast in years, not like THIS anyway. Um...thanks again for all this."
"No problem! So...you wanna talk about what happened to ya?"
"Uhhh yeah...sorry I'm a li'l rattled still."
"It's okay, just take yer time...I mean...well, what ARE you?"
"I'm a raptor. Velociraptor."
"OOOOH you mean a dinosaur?! I never seen one alive before!"
"Yep! So where you from James?!"
"Uh...Chicago, but it's not like the Chicago in this world."
"Oooooh, you're from like, some kinda other dimension?"
"Y-yeah! ...sheesh, people guess that really well huh?"
"Ohhh it's not that unusual here."
She waved her hand nonchalantly to emphasise how much of a deal it wasn't. James raised an eyebrow curiously as he asked:
"Actually, where the hell am I?"
"Well yer in Las Vegas, baby!"
"Haha, I mean the world I'm in. I mean, this can't be the Earth I know, we didn't have catgirls back home."
"Oooh well, this is the Makai realm. Thousand years ago or something, the Makai took over this world, and they been clashing and livin' among humans ever since! Not all of us are bad though, like me!"
"Yes, clearly your running of an orphanage and feeding a complete stranger is nothing short of eeeeeeeevil!"
She giggled at his overemphasis with a clawfinger in the air and a mock stern expression, rolling his eyes with a chuckle.
"Well, not everyone seems to think that..."
She frowned slightly, which encouraged the raptor to move closer and smile comfortingly.
"Well, not everyone is right, aren't they?"
"Hehe, nope. So...anythin' else you wanna ask?"
"Is this really Earth? Just taken over by demons?"
"Mmhmm! All kinds! Kitty-girls, werewolves, vampires, lotsa weird stuff, but people been gettin' better now! Now it's all kinda stabilised and we got like Makai running stores an' stuff!"
"Huh, well...that's cool I guess."
"So what happened to ya?"
"Oh...I got jumped on by this demon in a graveyard...can't remember his name, he was big and red with big black wings, beat the shit out of me and I...woke up in an alleyway with some vampires trying to suck the blood out of me."
"Ooooooh...well, good news is they didn't actually bite ya, so yer not gonna be a vampire!"
"Oh thank god."
"Bad news is...OH, there is no bad news, yay!"
"Hahaha, what are you on, girl?"
Felicia looked quizzical and examined herself briefly.
"...right, hehe...so uh, what else can I tell you?"
"Well, where ya come from James?! What's this other Chicago like?"
At that moment he stopped and shivered horribly at even trying to remember. His mouth turned dry and he almost wanted to heave.
No...I don't want to talk about home yet. Feels like a raw wound or something, I can't...
He sat back in his chair and put his hands to his snout, trying to calm himself down. His eyes widened as he tried desperately to block the memories of Silent Hill, both his and the town's. Felicia softened her tone.
"You...wanna talk about it?"
"Mm-mm...maybe later. I uh...need to think some things out, I had a really rough week."
"Okay then...anythin' you need?"
"Uhhh just need to rest thanks, like, for a while before I even think of doing anything."
"You know I'm actually kinda glad to be back in an orphanage, kinda comforting."
"Ohhh? You grew up in one too?"
"Hehe, yeah, back in another city called London."
"OOOH I know a guy from London, he's so cool!"
"Oh yeah, but yanno here London, not your London."
"Right, what's his name?"
"John, but I like to call him Jonny, he's so cute an' strong an' sweet, when he's not all mopey about things."
"Heh, sounds like a dreamboat."
She merely blushed with a most adorable kitty smile, her white furry ears perking up. James just noted the fact her natural skin colour was slightly tanned beneath her white furry features, though he could see little of her body in her nun habit. They soon finished up breakfast and Felicia guided him through the orphanage. James was enjoying various small flashbacks he was having to himself of orphanage life.
He shared his own tales to Felicia of his growing up, the parts that weren't so raw after Silent Hill, which even then made the cat-girl pout in empathy. He was also glad that the inhabitants of this world didn't seem to care about his non-human appearance. In that time, he soon explained his personal quest to her, to return home. Eventually, after passing through bedrooms and playrooms and hallways, the two returned to the main entrance.
"You feelin' any better now James?" asked Felicia.
"Oh yeah I feel a lot better thanks...uh...I don't suppose you know a good place for me to start looking for ways to get out of this world at all?"
"Mmmm nope, nothin' coming to mind sorry. And much as I'd like ya to stay here, we kinda can't."
"Oh I understand, totally, I mean I am a stranger and all, that's fine."
"Heehee, glad ya understand. But...yanno, you COULD try the local hostel! It's a block south an' they got a lotta folks comin' from all over! It'd be a great place fer you to get some real sleep too!"
"Yeaaah I guess so...yeah you know what I will! ...but I don't have any money."
"Well, what about those things in yer satchel?"
He looked down at the satchel still attached to his waist.
"What about 'em?"
"I bet you could get a good price fer 'em at this pawn shop I know."
"A pawn shop? Uhhh...I dunno if I wanna sell these."
"Oh? Well it's just an idea, but if ya wanna get some quick cash, check it out, it's called 'La Aventura de Plagas', just north of here down Marlin Avenue. The guy's a li'l weird but he'll give ya good money!"
"Uhhh alright then, thanks again for helping me."
"No problem! You take care now!"
With that, James left the orphanage grounds with a well-wishing wave, smiling at the cheerful cat-girl and making his way throughout the streets of Las Vegas. He didn't even recognise it to be like a city of his own world for the multitude of non-humans roaming the streets. The city felt just as grubby as Chicago was, which admittedly soothed him somewhat.
Humans of varying abnormalities walked around him, as well as one or two stranger beings that slithered or skittered along pavements, moving like spiders on their human-like legs. For the most part however, he saw nothing truly inhuman, yet he did not feel out of place. Taking his chances with the idea that he needed money, having no idea how long he would stay here, he decided to head towards the pawn shop Felicia mentioned.
After one or two inquiries upon directions, he soon found the store. A large single paned glass window was barricaded across the front of the store, with various knick-knacks behind it. The banner was sickly-looking, almost as if it were pulsating from its veiny textures over the words "La Aventura de Plagas". James didn't really want to encounter Spanish again for a while, as he gently walked in through the front door.
The bell tinkled emptily within the darkened atmosphere of the store. The raptor, even with his eyes, could barely make out the details of some of the smaller items. Some of them looked strangely familiar, from cone-sized stone monoliths with a single ruby eye, to various strange coins and rings. Others he was completely unaware of, such as various guns and rifles.
He jumped at the sound of a deep throaty voice from the back of the store, where a strange man stood staring at him. The store owner was covered in dark purple robes, eyes deeply bloodshot to the point of fully red.
"Uhhh...hi there, uh friend of mine told me about this place so I was just...looking around."
"Hmmm...wot are ye buyin'?"
The merchant spoke with a hoarse Cockney accent, sending shivers of nostalgia through the raptor. The smell of market stalls along the Thames hit him briefly.
"Ahhhh actually I have a few things to sell, maybe I can get some money from them."
"Ooooh...wot are ye sellin'?"
"Lemme show ya."
James gently pulled out the sigil stone. He had the feeling that he was going to stay in this world for a while, and being stuck in Las Vegas, he knew one thing. Without money, you were getting nowhere. The pawnbroker was most intrigued by the deadened sphere.
"Oooooh, wot's this now?"
"It's a sigil stone. It was once a power source for a gate to hell, though it's...kinda deactivated."
"Ahhhhh. A relic eh? Don' get a lotta those round 'ere. I'll buy it at a high price!"
"Really?! Alright then awesome!"
"Would $500 suit ya?"
"Uhhh...wow that's a lot but this IS Vegas, will that keep me going for a few days in a hotel?"
The merchant rubbed his cowl, trying to make a proper estimate for such an intriguing relic without losing too much money. Eventually he offered:
"Alrigh', 'ow about $750, that'll give ya sum extra."
"Sounds good! I'll take it!"
"Huheheha! Fank you...is that all, strangah?"
"Ahhhh guess so, thanks."
I kinda don't wanna sell EVERYTHING yet, thought FG, just enough to get me by.
The merchant handed him a fine wad of dollar, surprisingly similar to the dollar bills of his world, apart from some strange insignias upon them. He took them nevertheless and stashed them into his satchel, his Eagleland dollars kept separate in another pocket to avoid confusion. With that, he left the store, taking a business card for future reference should he have to find it again and sell other things.
For now, the raptor decided to wander the streets, entertaining himself with the various local shops and grabbing a drink of cola from one such place. It had been years since he drank some proper cola, and he knew that Vegas of all places would have the finest. With a slight rejuvenation from the sugary liquid, he headed towards the local hotel Felicia pointed out.
The hostel was quite a typical looking apartment block, simply known as the USA Hostel with what appeared to be quite a well-cleaned pool in the inner area. Flags of various nations decorated the front railings, and he had to admit, he had seen way worse places like this. With his encouragement pushed onwards, he stepped inside.
The front lobby was as sparse and kitsch as he expected a hostel to be. Nothing particularly fancy, but it was enough for him. A worn-out sofa, one or two sunset paintings to remind newcomers they were still in America, a front desk in reception opposite. The tinny music of some peppy easy listening was playing over an unseen radio somewhere above him. The receptionist himself was rather unusual. For starters, he should be dead judging by the half-skeletal appearance he exhibited. A tacky hawaiian blue shirt, a trucker's cap, and a pair of shades covered what little flesh remained on him, bare teeth clacking as he spoke.
"Can I help you?"
"Ah...u-uh yeah I'm uh looking to stay for a few days and wondered about the prices?"
"Well yer gonna have a great price here my friend!"
The zombie waved his thin meatless arm across the counter with pride.
"We run one of the finest hostels in the state, quality don't have to be pricey."
"Heh, cool, so uh...do you have a single room available for...three nights?"
"Sure do, we got a private ensuite room with one king-size bed. Air conditioning, wireless, pancakes in the morning and coffee or tea all day."
"Sounds great, how much?"
"$31.25 per night, not including taxes which bring it up around tooooo...$35."
Wow, that IS cheap, thought FG. I was expecting at least $115 or something for just one night.
"Wow that IS cheap!" said James, this time aloud.
"Alrighty then, you uh got any baggage we need to carry or-"
"Nah nah I got all I need here, I travel light."
"Heh, saves us some time, alrigh' then, cash or credit?"
"Cash, I'll pay you up right now."
The price of the room for three nights amounted to $105, well within the raptor's range for such. He wasn't sure why he picked three nights, he just liked the number as a good enough amount of time for him to get the most out of the short time he would be in the city. Should he have to stay longer, he could always pay more.
Glad I kept that sigil stone, that thing was worth a shit ton even if it's useless now...I think.
He was given his room key and allowed to see his new temporary accommodation. For such a cheap price, it was quite a fine room. A single king-size bed, a small personal bathroom with shower, a phone, even a regular-sized TV. Now all he had to do was find someone within those three days who could send him back home, while wrestling with his own internal thoughts. He was even starting to doubt his own primary objective, as he laid back on the bed, voicing his own thoughts aloud.
"What do I do now? ...do I even want to go back home anymore? What if that town was right? What if Sarah's...no...I don't know, that's why I have to go back, I need to know. I don't care if she's dead, what matters is...is that I come back to her, someday. But..."
He sighed deeply as he sat up, staring at his hands with a look of disgrace upon them. He bit his lip as he balled them up with shame.
"I couldn't do it Glenn...I can't be a hero like this. Like...Sarah's right. I'm just a common punk."
He brought his knees up close to himself, and pondered for a while on his next move. Felicia's help and company had helped him get over his traumatic experiences of before, somewhat. But that didn't stop him from thinking over the whole thing as he walked down the streets of this otherworldly Las Vegas. He tried his best to either forget or move on, but neither was going to happen, for now.
The temptation to stay and leave his quest grew within him once more. The only thing that stopped him then, was the wound of Daisy inside his heart. He knew what happened the last time he stayed somewhere, to start a new life.
It soon made him all the more determined to find a way back to Sarah.