Chapter 9: Natasha

Liars and Cheats

I wove my way through the crowds of people without a sense of direction on purpose. Music pounded, ripping through my eardrums, further exhilarating the throngs of people. Bodies slammed against each other, drinks spilled, glasses shattered, wallets and jewelry disappeared into the night. I found myself disgusted, and wondering how I had wound up in such a cesspool to begin with.

"Do you really not remember?" asked a voice. A man, wearing a suit that was much too formal for the event he was attending, and a silver tie, appeared from the crowd, taking my hand and whisking me off towards the dance floor.

"Don't touch me," I growled furiously, pulling away from him.

"Suit yourself Natasha," he laughed as he melded back into the crowd, "I was going to show you the way out." I glowered, and once again began my trek towards nowhere in particular. After a minute or so of walking it struck me how large the club truly was. The far wall appeared to be miles away, and a sea of people stood between me and it. I resolved to head for it, as there was no other visible landmark in sight, just the eternally writhing mass of people. I slowly pushed myself between bodies, convulsing with disgust upon touching them. There was no privacy. I was groped and pulled as I passed by, walls of hands pleading for me to stay.

And I made no progress. The distant wall remained continuously out of reach. For each step forward I took, it seemed to recede a step backward. And the music drained me, pounding my skull. I quickly grew weary and frustrated, and abandon my goal of reaching the far wall, instead merely wishing for a seat or a table.

"Natasha?" a familiar voice said, vaguely surprised. I whipped around to find myself face to face with the Six-Headed Beast. "I'm surprised to see you here."

"I'm surprised to find myself here... and you," I replied. The Beast smiled.

"Well, we shouldn't be too surprised. People only wind up in the Labyrinth when they're lost, and I think we can both agree, we're... lost," his voice was stilted, fake sounding.

"You wouldn't happen to know a way out, would you?" I asked, an air of discontent settling around me. The Beast's smile faded, and slowly his expression became one of contempt.

"What makes you think you deserve a way out?" the Beast asked.

"Excuse me?"

"You're a monster. We all are, Natasha. We deserve this place," the Beast produced a revolver from a chest holster, and smiled. "Look at what we do..." he aimed into the pleasantly oblivious crowd.

"Don't..." I whispered, but the Beast was deaf. He fired off a shot, one that was drowned in screams mere seconds later. The headless, grisly body of a woman feel heavily, landing with a thud. The crowd erupted into panic, fleeing in all directions. Except they had nowhere to go, the other, ignorant patrons refused to let them by. The Beast proceeded to massacre the terrified civilians.

"And you're no better!" he laughed at me. He exhausted four more shots before finally turning the weapon on me. I ran. I ducked, I fled, I weaved through the mob, shoving those who got in my way to the ground without discretion. I ran far, I ran until my lungs burned and the sound of screams and terror was slowly replaced with the repetitive bass of the music again. No one seemed to have noticed the Beast's slaughter, it was simply as if it had not happened. The party continued as it had, and yet I still ran. I ran. I ran into the Trapper-Spider.

"You!" I said shocked. The Trapper-Spider refused to acknowledge me. He stood motionless, staring off into the distance. Shell-like.

"Three of clubs," he said after a moment.

"What?" I took a step back, and for the second time a chill of unease ran down my spine.

"King of hearts," then moments later, "What?"

"Hey," I yelled, "Cut it out!"

"The hell?! You just said something!" I backed away and shook my head.

"Fake," I muttered, glaring out the hollow man. As I walked away, he continued to yell at his imaginary opponent, becoming irate, and then seeming to fall silent in defeat.

Once again I was lost in a sea of the faceless nothings. Anxiety ate away at me. I brushed him off, but he was persistent. I wondered which mannequin the purgatory would throw at me next. A question that was soon answered, as Zoë appeared from the masses.

"Oh why hello there Natasha," she giggled, wrapping her arms around my neck and drawing herself close. I pulled myself away, resulting in a torrent of laughter from her.

"I didn't expect to see you so soon," I said reproachfully.

"Ditto!" she replied, "How's the little assignment I gave Oktober going?"

"We ran into some trouble leaving Light," I said.

"Same," Zoë giggled, "Actually, I'm not quite sure how-"

"You got here, right? Me neither, it's worrying to me..."

"I could care less. It's been so long since I cut back," she laughed, "No sense in worrying about what you can't control.

"I couldn't agree more," the voice chilled me. Shade-like, the Oktoberist slide through the mass to embrace his daughter.

"Hello daddy!" Zoë smiled.

"How is my little girl," he asked, kissing her on the cheek.

"Oktoberist," I said stiffly, rooted to the floor in terror.

"Natasha..." he snarled, "How is your car?"

"Katie is fine..." I muttered.

"It's a shame I never got to see her," he said, his tone steeping in aggression. "You know, Natasha, I have a question..."

"What may that be?"

"Why," he growled, "Why? Why did you abandon me? Why throw me away like so much useless trash? Was I ever anything but the perfect servant? I did exactly what you said every time, I flawlessly followed orders. And you leave me. You leave me to rot."

"Not here," Zoë urged. But the Oktoberist was infuriated, and he wasn't about to stop.

"Was it the Trapper-Spider, did he convince you to leave? Do you just not need me anymore? Could you at least have the grace to apologize? Did you really need to steal from me? Just to seal the deal? You're a monster, Natasha. worthless hunk of life, just like every other waste of flesh on this planet."

"I didn't leave you," I said, calmly. The Oktoberist laughed.

"Oh, you didn't?" his voice was full of bitter mirth.

"It will all work out for you," I lied, "We're on the same side. We have the same goal, just trust me."

"And how am I supposed to do that Natasha?!" screamed the Oktoberist.

"Sir-" an indistinct figure had slunk up to the Oktoberist during his tantrum.

"Do you see this prison we're in, Natasha?! You put us here!" the Oktoberist screamed.

"Sir, please, you're ruining my party," said the figure. I recognized him as the silver-tied man who had approached me earlier.

"Dad, let's just go," Zoë uttered tearfully.

"That would be best," added the silver-tied man, "My apologies, Mrs. Natasha, I'll leave you to your party."

"My party?!" I exclaimed, repulsed and amused.

"Indeed," the man smiled.

"No, no, I don't want to stay here!" I pleaded, but the man was already dragging the Oktoberist and Zoë away into the thick branches of the crowd.

"I'm sorry, I already made my offer to lead you out. Now I guess it's up to your friends," he grinned.

"Can someone please just tell me what the hell this is all about?" I screamed, giving in to my frustration.

"Go on, Joshua, tell her," grinned the Oktoberist.

"I'm afraid I can't," said Joshua, "The only suggestion that I can make is that you try to relax and enjoy yourself. Aside from that I simply cannot help."

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