The next day, FG began his search across Las Vegas for someone who had the magical or scientific know-how to deal with interdimensional portals. He was surprised to find it not an unpopular topic among the populace, mortals and demons alike greeting him with various levels of hostility as to his inquiry. The humans, as he had secretly expected, were more hostile than the demons.
While the creatures were unusual in daytime with their bizarre bodies and nightmarish gaits, the true creatures came out at night, something that unnerved him after Silent Hill. Even without that telltale fog and the signs of civilisation, it was hard for him to recognise other monsters as civilians, some of whom were actually friendly. Spindly aberrations with insectoid maws, twisted cadavers that had once been some proud beast of nightmares now worn down with suburban Americana, all of whom were just as approachable as anyone else.
He kept his distance from vampires however, not wanting a repeat experience of his first night in Vegas.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas after all, thought FG to himself with a nervous chuckle.
The city was just as spectacular as he had imagined it to be. From all he saw of it in movies and photos, it was a neon sinners' paradise. Lights shining all around him, huge rainbow archways glimmering eternal, seducing his weaker wills to gamble all he had. He could hardly believe that people actually lived here, walking around the famous commercial districts where five different kinds of casinos lined up on every street.
He always thought they played up the whole casino angle of Las Vegas too much, that surely there weren't this many. Surely a city like this would not be so centred around the flow of cards and slots. He knew now that they weren't lying, at least for this alternate Vegas. The only difference besides the monsters, was the fact that night time in this world was now the colour of blood. A bright red moon hung above them all, a bleary demonic eye gazing upon its new world.
I wonder how long demons have been here, thought the raptor. Humans don't seem to take it too well. But then, what else is new? Least I'm seeing some of them become friends...I guess. God I hope this place doesn't get fog...can you get fog in the desert? I dunno...alright, where next?
His search so far had been fruitless however. Despite the allure of the city, even within the influence of the Makai, there was little science or magic to be wielded or spoken of in terms of what he was searching for. As he travelled through the city, he also pondered on the demon he had first encountered in a graveyard far away. The words he spoke of, what he could remember of them, confused him somewhat. Something about darkness. He decided to ponder on it another time, trying not to get sidetracked.
Eventually however, his search turned up with an interesting source at a bar. Apparently there was someone who had some knowledge of dimensional planes within the city. Unfortunately for James, it was a vampire who knew this.
FG eventually managed to find his location at a hotel surprisingly nearby, only several blocks away. He felt lucky to have ended up in such a popular area of town, finding the Golden Gate Casino and Hotel. The place was like a relic from the 1920s, apparently its main selling point being "the oldest casino on the Fremont Experience". James had to admit, he was quite impressed.
The front lobby was humble yet classy with solid mahogany, elevators with wooden doors, an exquisite mini-bar complete with pianist. Not all of it however was styled in the traditional way, for there were also areas closer outside that played up to the modern ritz of Las Vegas. At first he was enraptured, wanting to hang in the bar for a while to savour the atmosphere.
Sarah would have loved this place, this is PERFECT for her...no...just...focus James. You'll get home soon, just find this vampire guy.
"Uhhh scuse me?"
He asked the bartender, a surprisingly sharp-suited zombie who despite his sickly green pallour, took very good care of his smooth skin. James particularly admired his brown hat, emblematic of the 1930s.
"I'm here to meet a vampire guy."
"Certainly sir, sparkling or non-sparkling?"
"Pfft hahaha, just kidding, I love to mess with new customers a bit. Do you know his name?"
"Ahhhh yes, let me just look. Do you have business with him?"
"Yeah, I'm looking for someone who can help me with dimensional portals, and apparently I hear this guy knows something about it."
"Ah, I see, lemme just look."
The zombie pulled out a register and scanned through it, making sure the newcomer was unable to see. His withered bony finger traced down smoothly across the pages until he tapped one name.
"Maraviggio, Room 103. I'll call him for you."
"That'd be great thanks."
The zombified clerk walked over towards the phone and called the room, only to return a few minutes later with an apologetic grin.
"Sorry sir, but he's out of his room at the moment. Would you like to wait for him?"
"Uhhh if that's okay, can I hang out in the bar a bit and just order a few?"
"Go right ahead sir."
Smiling at the surprisingly eloquent zombie, his impression of the demonised Earth turning all the better, he sat down at the bar and ordered what he could. Thankfully, they had drinks he was familiar with, ordering a Jaegermeister to calm himself down with. The bitterness took some edge off his mind, as his claws softly tapped at the bar. He smiled at the bartender, a crooked-looking gargoyle with a hooknose reminiscent of a vulture, also in a sharp neat suit.
After his second drink, a human in dark blue clothes and jet-black hair sat next to him without ordering. Eventually James got the hint.
"Uhhh, can I help you?"
"Looks like I can help you," replied the man. "Vicentus Maraviggio."
He offered a hand to shake, his grin easily showing his larger fangs but without the slightest hint of animosity. James was nervous, but he politely shook hands.
"Uhhhh yeah, I been looking for ya."
"Lemme guess, you wanna know about interdimensional stuff, right?"
"Well, what I do isn't much, I mean, just 'cuz I'm in a higher rank than your usual bloodsucker and those as powerful as I am are pretty rare in the world, I guess I'm yer only choice."
"Hey, any choice is good for me, can you help send me back home?"
"...send you back home?"
"Yeah uh...I come from an alternate Earth, like this one but way more advanced and no demons. I've been searching for a way back for years, but nobody's been able to do it. So...can you?"
Vicentus pondered to himself. He had the furrowed look of a scientist which amused the raptor somewhat, waiting for a reply. He was also thankful that this vampire wasn't apparently so eager to kill for blood as some others were.
I wonder how he gets blood then, pondered FG to himself. Maybe he goes for wild animals, OOOH wait this is Vegas, of course! I bet he just finds a guy who was just killed in the streets and just sucks it out, yeah that's totally it!
"It's quite a complex ritual," said Maraviggio, "to send something like you to another dimension I got no idea about. And frankly, I can't do it. I mean, what I do is sending people to other dimensional planes of reality."
"You musta misunderstood. I can send someone to another PLANE of existence, not an entirely new dimension."
"What's the difference?!"
"An actual dimension is just a whole new world. A plane of existence is just the same world with some hidden differences, things we can't see. Yanno, stuff like ghosts and wavelengths."
"Well...you know about this stuff better than most, do you know anyone who might know how to send me to a whole other dimension?"
Vicentus pondered once more. He seemed the kind of guy who loved to look intelligent without showing off. James was disheartened at his mistake, but he waited for a potential answer to lengthen his search. Eventually the vampire snapped his fingers with an idea, before hesitating and pondering once again.
"Can't think of anything-"
"Oh come on! This is a demon realm, SOMEONE must know how to do it!"
"Well the only ones with power like that are like real powerful demons, and I mean like legendary guys. The kinda guys who in the old days before the human and Makai realms collided, they could switch back and forth between them. So if ya find some legendary demon...that's yer best shot."
"Legendary demon huh...alright. You know where I can start?"
"Sadly I dunno any of 'em in Vegas. And I'd know if there was one believe me, I like to keep updated about any particularly powerful dudes in my favourite city."
"Right...well, thanks. Hey, question."
"Don't the bright lights hurt you in this city? Cuz, well, you're a vampire."
Vicentus glared disapprovingly at such ignorance from the raptor, before he sighed with frustration and explained carefully.
"Since yer from another dimension, I'll excuse yer ignorant and frankly racist question to answer it. No, the bright lights of neon do not hurt vampires. It's only actual sunlight that does it. Actual sunlight contains ultraviolet radiation, which is something vampires are sensitive to. VERY sensitive. Ever get sunburnt?"
"Uhhhh nope. Scales man, kinda impossible to get sunburnt."
"Lucky you, alright, vampires are REALLY sensitive to sunburn, and by sunburn, I mean actual physical pain that irradiates our whole body and burns us to death. Got it?"
"Ahhhh, and normal lights don't have ultraviolet, right?"
"Well, normal lights no. Neon signs have kind of a harmless variant of it, stuff that you can actually kinda see. It's the REAL ultraviolet stuff, Ultraviolet C, that's deadly to a vampire, the kinda stuff you can't see."
"Ohhhhhhhhhh...wow, that's...huh, thanks for that."
"Glad to educate ya, now, anything else?"
"Uhhh nope I'm good here, thanks for the advice."
Maraviggio left the raptor be, who decided to have one more drink before leaving, wanting to savour the bar atmosphere just a little while longer. With nothing else left, he managed to walk back along the street to the USA hostel for a good night's sleep. Thankfully he hadn't become drunk enough by the time he waddled back to his hotel room.
"I think I'm getting better at thish."
He murmured this with a slight slur, placing his scissors beside the bed as he laid back on the firm mattress. Hands went behind his back as he pondered to himself on where to go next, thinking randomly aloud.
"Hehe, better thish than to rely on the nanos, sho I don't feel weak...yanno I never realished that, I alwaysh get a bit of a headache after usin' 'em. Hmmmm..."
A while passed as he tried to think on what to do next, thinking where in this dark realm someone could help him.
"Hash to be SOME place that knowsh how I can get home...I mean at least-"
Suddenly, an unnatural shudder went through his body, one that made him curl into a foetal position with a gasp. It felt like his stomach was being twisted, yet somehow worse. Pain coursed through him as it seemed to work from his heart and outwards, spreading like a disease. Stabbing pains ran through his veins, making him twitch and writhe.
"Wha...wh-what the-GAAAH! I...I can't...A-ah....nnnaaaaAAARGH! MY HANDS, THE FUCK'S HAPPENI-AAAAARGH!"
He felt his voice start to lose itself, shuddering and heaving as if ready to vomit his entire stomach out, grabbing the bed hard for comfort as he felt his eyes black out, his vision fading. In his most frantic anguished thoughts, he thought he was suddenly dying from a terrible illness. Perhaps one he had contracted somewhere across worlds that blinded him in a blackening agony, before he slowly lost consciousness. Yet that did not stop FG's body from shuddering on its own, spasming into violent seizures that shook the bed enough for him to fall to the floor. Eventually, his body stopped moving.
The nightmare returned to him once again. A dark heavy breathing he could hear all around him. An infinite blackness encorached upon him within the single pool of light he stood upon. A shadowy outline could be made out somehow within the dark, swirling around him. He felt he had seen that shadow before, somewhere. Somewhere before Silent Hill even. He tried to keep facing it, turning quickly on the spot, shivering with a sudden fear that had infected him so deeply.
The fear was so strong, so painful within his body, that he was forced down onto his knees, his heart aching with an impossible tightness. His heart felt like a watch wound up too tightly, just about ready to shatter itself into a dozen pieces. Weakened before the darkness, he was helpless before the shadow.
It stood in the light with him, a clouded veil with the barest resemblance of a face. Its eyes were blacker than everything else as it loomed before him, bringing its head down closer towards him. Within those eyes, FG saw five faces of himself.
One streaked in blood; one decayed to a scaled skeleton; one with soulless staring eyes; one with a single bullet wound bleeding at the back of his throat; and one burned alive to a rotting blackness.
All of them screamed back at him with their own five words.
They repeated it again, screaming louder.
The shadow beared down upon James, forcing him to curl up into a sobbing mess, screaming at his own reflections within those blackened monstrous eyes, begging them to stop. They continued to scream those five words back at him, each word sending a shiver of agonising fear right through his very soul. As the shadow touched his snout with its presence, the five screaming raptors within his eyes stopped, right before everything disappeared.
A new voice came to him from the darkness.
"You shouldn't have done that."[/i]
He woke up with a start, clutching his heart with throbbing terror. Nothing changed within the room other than him now being on the floor. He cautiously climbed back onto the bed, and gently rocked his knees back and forth. He soon started weeping. He hadn't cried from being scared of a nightmare this badly since he was a child. For the rest of the night, he left the TV on until exhaustion allowed him a peaceful sleep. His only comfort was the illusion of company that television offered him.
The next morning, the terrors of last night had not entirely left him, and he awoke from his bed with a rather shaky feeling all over. He cautiously had his breakfast, glad to have something normal for once with bacon, toast and eggs once again, sitting alongside various guests.
A few humans, a couple of zombies, and two inhuman creatures that James had no idea of, but had gangly limbs and long tongues like spider-ladies. He was somewhat reminded of Japanese horror movies. His rather shaky disposition alerted one of the guests' sense of empathy.
"You okay sweetie?" asked a normal human woman with a French accent.
"Uhhh...just had a bad sleep is all."
"Awww...out partying it up? The walls may be thick but you did make QUITE a ruckus last night."
"Heh, just a few drinks, nothing big, was just a...bad sleep."
"Well, hope you enjoy the rest of the day."
"Come on Caroline," said one of the inhuman females with a scratchy voice, "you can't just say hello to everyone."
"Why not? It's always nice to say hi to new folks!"
"Not every new folk wants to hear it."
"I don't mind it," said FG, "Just need to clear my head a li'l bit."
The inhuman creature who spoke slurped up a fried egg into her mouth with a very flexible tongue. James was impressed, and admittedly a little weirded out before she introduced herself, her accent certainly not American.
"I'm Anne, this is my sister Nancy, and this lovely lady is our friend Caroline."
"Uhh pleased to meet you. You been here long?"
"Ohh a week, we came to enjoy the sights of Vegas, like anyone else who comes here."
"We're from France by the way," said Caroline.
"Ohhhh really? That's cool."
"You're from England, aren't you?"
"Heh, originally yeah, but I moved to the USA years ago."
"Lovely, America is such an exciting country!"
"Even with all the tackiness and no history," said Nancy for the first time. "They have no sense of culture like Europe does."
"You cannot blame a country who has not had a lot of history," said Anne in defence. "Besides, they are so wonderfully enthusiastic about many things, and very daring people. In science, sports...sex. Not like most back home."
"Hah, I hear that," said James. "Though not like I had any better back home."
"Oh yeah, London's a goddamn shithole, least where I was living. Well, okay not ALL of it, I did live in a nice area afterwards but...I mean, people talk about Americans being racist, but yanno, British can be just as bad. What you expect from people who live on an island?"
"Hah, that is true!" said cynical Nancy. "I suppose everyone is a little bit racist, and no country shall truly be free from ignorance."
"Heh, yeah. I'm James by the way."
"Pleased to meet you James."
"So...what's France like then?"
The conversation with the French strangers eased him somewhat, helping him forget all that had occurred last night. The other guests talked to themselves while James spoke with Anne, Nancy and Caroline. He had never been to France, or knew any French people in his life, so he was given open season to ask on anything and everything. They in turn asked him about his home life.
He tried to avoid the issue of his being from another dimension, deciding maybe it was not the best time to explain it. He explained his time in Chicago, his leaving of London for personal reasons, retracking the same truncated biopic he had explained many times before. By the time breakfast was over, he was done with explaining, and the girls offered him their room number should he want to talk more.
As much as he was thankful for the offer, he wasn't sure if he would have anything else to find in the comfort of three French tourists. Even in his dirtier state of mind, he wasn't particularly inclined to humans or spider-human-things. But he kept the room number noted as he headed back out onto the streets of Makai Las Vegas, the daylight banishing the nightly creatures back inside.
Well at least there's no vampires out, thought FG. He still couldn't shake off the horror of his first night in Vegas. He also decided, in countering this, to just relax and explore the shops a little. Maybe a souvenir or something tastefully local would ease him. He had heard a lot of recommendations from the tourists on what to buy, and he explored down one particular shopping district.
There was little that interested him in terms of what he wanted to take with him on his travels. He was however intrigued by a clothing store called Forbidden Fruit of the Loom, which catered to human-sized demons. A very particular market, but FG thought there would be something for him to wear, being human-sized but technically not human after all. Not that he wanted to replace his jeans, but he was starting to feel them wear out from all the adventures he had been through.
The store was not as plain as he expected. In fact, the clothings were rather surprisingly extravagant for the prices they were at. At first glance, most of them seemed to be rather chic human clothes. But when he looked further, he saw some minor differences. Broader shoulders, thinner sleeves, even holes at the back for wings and tails of various sizes. The clerk noticed his appearance and sidled up to him, a rather confident brown devil. James was reminded of the red winged one who beat him down at the graveyard, but this one was smaller and more swarthy despite the beaky face.
"Good evening sir."
"Ahh hey there, was just curious."
"Indeed, I notice you have quite the human build on you. Mercenary, warrior perhaps?"
"Ahhhh something like that, yeah."
"Hmhmhm, well, as much as you have a fine chest on you, would you perhaps like something to cover that?"
"Mmmm nah I'm good, I like being bare-chested, got a lot more freedom to do it now too."
The demon looked him over, examining his potential new customer, especially the jeans. His eyes glared with intense scrutiny at the wear and tear.
"I take it you've had quite a rough time hmm?"
"Heh, what tipped you off?"
"Ohhh the cuts from various creatures, the natural tears caused by excessive physical acts, blood stains, the usual."
"You know, I just might have something perfect for you. You have no intention of wearing anything other than those, correct?"
"Uhhh yeah I'm pretty much sticking to my jeans, why?"
"Weeellll I have something that will make a fine companion with them."
The clerk headed over towards a sizeable section of undergarments, bringing out a pair of white boxers with red hearts all over them. James was rather perplexed by the choice.
"Huh, they look kinda spiffy, but...they look a bit gay."
"Well, they're a recent range from G 'n' G."
"Oh only the biggest clothing manufacturers in all of Makai, catering to both demon AND mortal types."
"...they don't seem very special."
"Ahhh, but you haven't felt its magical properties. Whatever clothing it binds to, even that of armour, it can restore them completely. Right down to the very threads. Your jeans for example, if we bind them to that, then they shall never remain tattered for long and will immediately repair them."
"Huh, really!? Would save me a hell of a lot in changing clothes, these are like my third pair and I'm kinda lucky they lasted this long."
"Indeed, and they're self-cleaning too! Perfect for a travelling warrior such as yourself."
"Shit, that IS cool! Uhhh...can I try them on first?"
"Sadly no, you have to buy them first, we tend to have...problems concerning 'try before you buy' with underwear."
"Ohhh...well...you SURE they'll fix and clean my jeans, always?"
"Absolutely. If you're not happy within twenty days, you can demand a refund."
"Sweet, alright I'll take 'em!"
With a strange but eager purchase, he took the boxers and immediately put them on within the dressing room. They were rather snug despite being boxers, though he did prefer briefs. He was happy with them though, a strange warm comfiness against his scales that soothed him. So far however, no effects came to cleaning or repairing whatever small damage had occurred to his jeans. But he had twenty days to return it, keeping the receipt in his satchel.
So far, things were turning out wishy-washy. His nightmare had shaken him up, but he found hopefully a magical remedy to his future clothing problems. No progress on finding a way home, but the atmosphere of the city was refreshingly closer to what he was used to. It soothed his aching heart, his homesickness calming down as he headed back out onto the street. His third night in Vegas however, was going to be his worst. It all happened, like many terrible things, in a hotel room. His hotel room.