(If you’re wondering about the theme, I tried changing the eye-searingly pink sections of my first choice. Then I just went with something else)
(Warning! Implications of abuse, and a rather…bizarre ultimatum)
Annette huddled into the corner of her new residence, a prison cell that stunk of lemons. Nearby, Sagebear had a far smaller cage to herself.
The once pristine wedding dress was now becoming dingy, and grimy. Scattered about the cell floor was what remained of her ponytail. Annette was disgusted when she felt the badly-chopped knife cuts.
She couldn’t get the images out of her head, no matter how hard she tried. When she closed her eyes, all Annette could see was Bill dismembered before her. It took all her willpower not to vomit because of it.
Falling onto her side, Annette heard a door on the other side of the room open. Hazarding a glance, she didn’t see the pair of sunglasses she’d come to despise so much.
Instead, a hooded figure entirely in black came in. Said figure wore a horse mask that completely covered their face and hair.
“You’re a little late to the meme convention, don’t you think?” Annette quip was seemingly ignored. Instead, Horse-Face approached Sagebear’s cage.
Oddly, Sagebear didn’t react the way she would with anyone who’d appear threatening. She wagged her tail happily, further doing so when he reached in and pet her.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a key, and unlocked Sagebear’s cage. His peculiar behavior got Annette to sit up and watch him.
“What are you doing? Did The Builder put you up to hurting my dog?!” Annette lunged forward and reached out beyond the bars, but unsurprisingly didn’t get anywhere near them. “Get away from her!”
He still didn’t answer her. All he did was lead Sagebear to the front door of the room. Waiting for them was another figure, this time wearing a mask in the shape of an Ox’s head.
“Bring her back to where The Builder found them,” she heard one whisper to the other.
Dennis sat glued to the television, despite having it on mute and captioned. In the kitchen area, Sinbad was making Shark his favorite meal in an effort to cheer him.
Lolly had joined them, for once. She looked over at her still sullen brother. She sneered at him hiding his face.
“Jeez! The dog leaves, and you get a hamburger for it. Lucky bastard…” No one wanted to call her out on it, for fear she’d pitch a fit over being ‘yelled at’.
When Dennis turned his attention back to the TV set, his face went pale. He then uttered a noise along the lines of “Ohhhh…” He then muttered “Oh, Bill…”
“What about him?” Sinbad had finished surrounding a piece of cheese with meat before frying it. “That idiot always makes the news. He’s almost gotten his own segment on the news now.”
“Not like this,” Dennis gravely said before pointing to the TV. Within moments, the other three were at his side.
The images that were being shown across the screen caused Sinbad to jump back and yell “Holy shit!”
“I had a feeling he was gonna die early, but not like…” Motioning to the screen, Dennis hesitated. “Like that!”
Shark and Lolly just seemed too dumbstruck to say anything.
“What did you do to my dog?”
For the first time since he’d entered, Horse-Face finally acknowledged Annette.
“I didn’t do anything to her. All I did was send her back to where our superior found her.” He seemed to notice her glowering at him, and clarified. “Would you rather she be mistreated at the hands of that hubristic monster?”
Annette was stunned by the action Horse-Face took on her behalf. “What, and you couldn’t send me with her?”
Horse-Face shook his head. “Once you’ve been taken by The Builder, you’re…” He wrung his hands. “You’re effectively stuck here for eternity. You can’t leave this place unless they let you.
“But don’t worry,” he spoke as he approached her cell, “she will be in good hands, I promise. The Builder had no true use for her, except as a…as a target. We can’t do much against our master, but we do what we can.”
For whatever reason, Annette was amused. “A minor rebellion. eh?”
He shrugged. “You could say that.” He sat before her now. “We hate being here as much as you do-”
“You keep saying ‘we’. What, there’s more of you?”
Now Horse-face nodded. “Three others besides me. I guess I want to say four, but…You’ve still got your identity, and your eyes. Perhaps The Builder intends to do something with you, I don’t know.”
Annette didn’t know what he meant, but she just turned the subject back to the initial subject.
“When you say you had Sagebear sent back to where she was found, did that mean…?”
“I can’t believe Uncle Bill’s dead,” Shark whispered in a nearly emotionless tone, “And like that. Do you think…”
Dennis made a sound along the lines of ‘I don’t know’ before speaking. “I’m more worried about Miss Annette. She seemed eager to leave town after only a few days. But then, she was intending to leave anyway before she met Bill, but…”
Outside, Sinbad was heading towards his truck to get ready for work. Instead of getting into the driver’s seat, though, he yelped and fell back onto the lawn.
“Sinbad, what’s wrong?” Shark got to his feet, and went to check what shocked his fiance. Sinbad just pointed at who currently occupied the seat. “What…? Oh!”
In the driver’s seat was a very familiar dog. Her paws rested on the steering wheel, as if to make off with Sinbad’s truck.
“Sagebear! You came back!” Opening his arms, Shark caught Sagebear as she jumped toward him.
Sinbad pulled himself back up, raising an eyebrow at her. “Yeah, but where’s the blue chick? Kinda weird to see the dog without her.”
As soon as he asked, he spied a paper sticking out of Sagebear’s new dog collar. Grabbing it, he then scanned the writing messily scrawled onto it.
“What does it say, Sinbad?”
“Uhhh…” He cringed as he tried to decipher the words. “‘Please take care of dog. Blue lady can no longer care for her.’ Then the word ‘fuck’ repeated six times, and a drawing of Chester Cheetah arm-wrestling Mayor McCheese.”
-a few days later-
Dennis pet Sagebear’s head as he sat at the table, while visiting his remaining brother.
“Not every day I have tea while chit-chatting with you, Dudley.” He stared into the translucent liquid, feeling the dog’s tail slap against his leg. “I didn’t even know you were one to drink tea.”
“It’s Brisk,” Dudley clarified. “And not knowing just means you should visit here more often.”
To this, Dennis just chuckled. “That I do.” He then cringed for what he was going to say next. “Just going to address the elephant in the room, then: You going to the funeral?”
Dudley shook his head. “It’s enough of a shock to know he’s dead, brother. I don’t quite need to see the grisly evidence up close again.” He paused. “You?”
“Likewise, I suppose.” He began dragging his finger around the edge of his cup. “No need to. And then there’s the folks to contend with.” Just thinking about their parents was enough to make Dennis shudder.
When Dudley imitated this action, it proved their feelings were mutual. “Funny, how it just seemed obvious that one of us would die early. No offense, brother, but I had once presumed that fate to befall you.”
Dennis just waved it off. “Considering the life I lived before, I don’t blame you for thinking that.” He stopped his finger. “But say we did go. What would we say?”
Dudley shrugged at the question. “What is there to say? The man was a loud-mouthed, drug-abusing fool. Brother or not, I don’t think we could find anything appropriate to say about him.”
For a few moments, awkward silence descended upon them. Dudley broke it by changing the subject. “So what brings the dog here? Last I heard, she and her owner had vanished into thin air.”
“Oh, Miss Sagebear? We assume that something happened to that Annette woman, and she could no longer care for her. As for why she’s here right now? Well…”
“Are you happy the dog’s back?” Sinbad’s question was answered with a very contented sigh, and nodding. “You do realize you gave up going to your uncle’s funeral for this, right?”
“I know.” Pulling the sheets up over himself, Shark then huddled closer to Sinbad. “But going to his funeral would have been weird. For a lot of reasons.”
He didn’t need to elaborate on said reasons. Trying to forget about the morbid event, Shark just rested his head on Sinbad’s shoulder. Then he felt Sinbad’s hands sliding up his arms.
“Hm?” Shark then felt himself gently pushed onto his back. Above him, Sinbad loomed over him now. “You want to do it again already?”
“Nah.” Sinbad leaned back and crossed his arms, only to reach back and trace a finger over Shark’s chest. “Just, uh…Just wanna touch you, if that’s okay.”
His voice was husky, from what Shark presumed to be lust. The request was admittedly an odd one, but he didn’t seem to be too put off by it.
“Okay.” He relaxed back onto the bed, letting Sinbad begin to do his thing.
Early the next morning, Lolly spoke in hushed whispers over the phone.
“Hi, Grandma! Sorry I’m calling so early. Um…Can I borrow some money? I don’t know, enough to buy a nice fancy car? Like what you and Grandpa have.”
Apparently, her whispering wasn’t quiet enough to keep Sagebear from waking. Following the tone of her voice, the dog approached her. This was met with a subdued but clear animosity.
“Go lay down, you stupid mutt! No, not you, Grandma. Some dog’s living here now, and all it’s done is annoy me. So can you loan me some cash? I’d really appreciate it. I’m just tired of being in this pathetic little box, surrounded by idiots…”
As Lolly vented her supposed grievances, Sagebear padded back to the other room. Her feelings for the household were now officially mixed.
“You can’t possibly think you can do this,” Horse-Face lamented as he followed his superior to the cells. “And you know she won’t accept this either.”
“Oh, no?” The Builder pulled out a small box, holding it between their fingers. “This here might just change her mind. And she’s got the dress, why waste it?”
Wandering down the halls of the base, Horse-Face reluctantly brought up another subject. “You’re not going to…’sting’ her, are you?”
“Of course not!” The Builder retorted. “That would be pointless. But coming from you? I find that suggestion to be deliciously ironic. No no, I’ll not degrade her to the level of you and the other three twits.”
Stopping at the door to the prison cells, The Builder lay a hand on Horse-Face to still him. “Now wait here. I don’t want you to ruin this like you ruined that poor boy.”
Their words stunned Horse-Face into absolute silence. He watched in horror as they went to see Annette. His ears had the misfortune of hearing an overly-cheery, “Oh Miss Waverly~!”
Looking through the mail, Shark caught sight of something addressed to him. He was taken aback, considering he rarely ever got mail.
“There’s no return address…” Opening the envelope, Shark came upon a typed letter, giving him instructions:
Come to the ‘swamp basement’ house at 6 p.m. sharp tonight. Do not be late.
-An acquaintance (because you and I both know you don’t have friends)
Aside from the insulting tone, Shark was bothered that it only asked for him to come. The other three members weren’t requested for.
He was also worried that ignoring it would prove disastrous. Looking at the time, he realized he could get there if he hurried.
“Whoa! Where are you going?” Sinbad was in the process of making dinner when he saw Shark leaving.
Shark tried to think of a good excuse to give him. He didn’t want to outright lie to him, so he thought of something that hopefully sounded normal:
“I was gonna go to the store and look at stuff for Sagebear.” Grabbing his coat, he resumed his task. “You know, get her some more choices in case she doesn’t like canned food?”
The facial expression clearly showed that Sinbad didn’t quite buy it. Rather than persuade him to stay, however, he just nodded and went back to cooking.
“Just be back in time to eat.”
By the time Shark reached the swamp shack, it had already become dark out. Peering in, he could’ve sworn he saw something rustling in the dark.
“Did I get the wrong address?” He whispered to no one in particular.
Much to his fright, his question was answered:
“No, you got the right place.” Before he could turn and confront the unknown person, Shark felt his vision obscured. Then came a hard blow to the head, rendering him unconscious.