The Nightmare Catcher chapter 20.
"My death will probably be caused by me being sarcastic at the wrong time." -Carrie Reilly
Carrie made a large sigh as the brush made the last touch on the cold wall in front of her and backed away to see the result.
Her back ached after standing too long and her arms almost numb after holding it up. Time passed quickly in the underground when no sun or moon could show what the time it was to take a break or eat. Without interruption and having the whole room for herself, Carrie could spent hours and hours just drawing, sketching, painting without thinking of the time.
But it was harder she thought it would be.
Her eyes slightly burned of tiredness as she compared the drawing she had done on the paper with the big, still unfinished mural painting. The idea she first had in her head, translated onto a piece of paper, then to the big wall wasn't what she imaged to be. She had idea of a garden, but the first draft on the wall felt wrong and then she got other ideas, to her frustrations she had to restart all over again.
Carrie shook her head over it then tossed the brush and palette onto the floor in exhaustion. Unfortunately, the paint splattered over her skirt, covering the already dirty fabric and the paper that was covering the stone floor.
"Great..." She muttered as she tried to wipe the paint off with a towel, then gathering her things and packed up for tonight. Carrie made a quick look over to the wall again displeased with it, but her body, especially her back needed rest.
Walking back up to the living world, Carrie wondered if Mr. Masper was up there too waiting for her again. During the past two weeks, Carrie woke every morning with the small alarm clock Leila had given her. Not the usual clock with the numbers 1-24 or I-XII, but instead strange signs Carrie had never seen before, but it had the same function like a clock, which means ringing out loud, breaking Carries beauty sleep. Sh get threw it on the ground to shut it up. After eating breakfast with Dr. Lothario and Leila, she took her bag and headed out to the graveyard.
She learned which road were safest, bushes and trees she could hide behind if she met someone on the way and learned to be quite, quick and not stray away from the road.
Sometimes, Mr. Masper meet her at the end of the bridge and he accompanied Carrie to the church, but often enough she walked on her own and thanks to Mr. Masper`s small gift, she didn't need to worry about getting get her head chopped off by the giants.
She walked up from the cellar and moved into the big chapel, Carrie quickly noticed in the corner of the room, sitting and not unsurprisingly for Carrie, the mysterious Mr. Masper, on one of the benches, reading a book. Carrie and Leila have started to get less suspicious that Mr. Masper wasn't a serial killer, rapist, insane enough to be a threat, but unfortunately, Mr. Masper seemed to have a sixth sense to come when she least wanted him.
Sighing, she approached him, "Hello again Mr. Masper."
"Hello Lori, you look tired, been down in the crypt too long again?" Mr. Masper said, still reading his book without looking up.
"I'm fine. Just tend to be too caught up in my own world to realize what's going on around me."
"I understand," Mr. Masper murmured as he closed the book. "So easily seduced in letting your mind travel far away from this world. You must despise being here."
Carrie glowers at him and moves away. "It's not all that bad. I'm still alive aren't I? And you got something to lay your hopes on sometimes," she pointed her thumb turned towards the altar.
"You never thought that citizens of Gorgosseum would need a house to pray," Mr. Masper wondered.
Carrie raised an eyebrow, and gave him a small smirk, "I`m almost atheist, but I was surprised that you believe in something-" She looked up at the chandelier over her head "holy?" "
"It doesn't matter what religion you alone believe in. To have a sacred ground to mourn and pray for your ancestors or at least to have one minute of peace is something every person needs. Don't you think?"
"I`m an open book for new discoveries," Carrie replied shortly before starting to walk towards the exit. "Goodbye Mr. Masper." In a quick movement before Carrie could open the door, Mr. Masper moved in front of her and stopped her from going out. "Are you hungry?"
For a moment she was silent, her eyes narrowed at him, "Why?"
"You`ve been down in the room for almost eight hours."
"Yes, but I'm not exactly on the brink starving to death. I had a sandwich."
"It's on the house."
Carrie snorted. "If you were giving me a hint I'm so thin it's not my fault, but alright. Let's take a snack before I faint."
Hearing her answer Mr. Masper responded with triumphed smile on his thin lips, pleased that he finally had hooked her.
"`Let's see…" Carrie eyed the menu closely. "I take the Triggerfish with smashed potatoes, cheese, and carrots, a bowl with the spicy noodles with that strange seaweed in it, two pieces of those shark ribs and for dessert I take that green Ice cream with Smurion fruit together with chocolate, vanilla and lemon syrup, and a chocolate biscuit."
"Are you really going to eat all that up?" Mr. Masper said with disbelief. "Have you ever tasted Triggerfish before?"
"Nope, but I like to taste something new and special." Carrie smiled at him as she gave the waiter her order.
"And expensive." Mr. Masper muttered as he rolls his finger around on his menu, "I`ll just take the tonight's special."
The place they were in wasn't a five star restaurant, but it was decent enough to give them a clean table in one of the corners, good service, especially in not throwing Mr Masper out because of his working clothes and Carries paint-covered clothes.
After ordering, the waiter came back with two wine glasses, put them on the counter, and poured the wine for them. After he was finished and left the bottle on the table, Carrie took it, sniffed, sipped it, and made a small grimace over the sour liquid.
Seeing her expression, Mr. Masper chuckled as he moved his glass to his lips.
"You haven't taste wine before?"
"I have, but never this bitter before," Carrie said grimacing and placed the glass down.
"The wine is pretty strong so be careful, your health must be very fragile and vulnerable when you still have a cold," Mr. Masper said when Carrie hadn't removed her scarf from her throat.
"Yes," She replied and tried to avoid the temptation not to move her hands up to scratch under it."
"Then a little bit of food will do you good and add more fat on your bones. If I haven't picked you up, you probably would probably have fainted. "
Crossing her arms, Carrie grumbles, "I'm slim, not anorexic and I never forget to eat."
"Snacks doesn't count which you probably got tons laying on the floor in the crypt right now. But never mind, would you like to share some of the progress on your drawings you're doing in the room?"
"I knew you would ask, but it a secret, but I got other things to share." Carrie moved down, picked up from her bag one of her sketchbooks, and handed over to Mr. Masper.
Mr Masper flipped through it, it showed mostly rough sketches of streets, the cemetery, people of different species, and other things.
"You`re so "humble"," Mr Masper smiled at her but as he turned another page his smile froze as he accidently caught a unfinished drawing of a man with stitched lips. Mr Maspers hands, holding the book hardened and his eye pupils widened. He got so lost in starring at the drawing that it isn't until Carrie said something to him and waved her hand in front of his face he came back to reality.
"As always, they're pretty good." He murmured and made a small shudder as he gave the sketchbook back. "Especially this particular the man with the damaged lips."
"It's nothing," Carrie said as she put the book in the bag and placed it beside her on the floor.
"Just a disturbing image that needed to be removed from my mind."
"Disturbing? How come?"
"It's nothing. I just want to...put him or IT down so I won`t be bothered with it again. If you`re not blind then you can guess who it is."
"Christopher...Carrion," Mr Masper said carefully.
"The very man."
"Have you met him?" Carrie`s face looked tempted to make a grimace, her eyes darting around the restaurant as if searching for someone who might swoop in and rescue her from this conversation, but seeing no way out the sight, her shoulders drooped in defeat. "Once and that it's enough for me."
Mr. Masper gave her a short smile and was silent for a moment, then resting his arms on the table, he leaned forward and said slowly, "He's terrible and very dangerous man."
Carries eyes widened. "So you have met him?
"Did he threaten you?"
"Are you afraid of him?"
"I...respect him and his methods. Not someone to mock or play with and standing here tonight intact and alive, he must have showed some kind of pity over your foolishness or rather...stupidity."
Once she heard this, Carries laughed, "Stupidity!? Ha! He's kind of guy who will leave you to pay the bill, if I ever meet him again I will..."
She stopped laughing and paused, biting her lower lip as she thought of something, "Never mind, I just wish to keep a low profile and not make any mess for me or my uncle and Leila or else it will be Leila will have my head on a plate before I can go back home."
"I won't stay here forever you know."
Hearing this "surprised" Mr. Masper clearly. "But you seemed to content living like here," He said with raised eyebrows.
"Well a little bit of sunrise or sundown now and then would be great, don't you think?"
"I don't travel a lot and I find the sun rather uncomfortable."
"But don't you feel depressed or sad that you living in an absolute midnight all the time?" Carrie wondered.
"Not at all and this is absolute midnight, but you really miss home?"
"Sometimes," she began, crafting the words slowly as they came out of her mouth. "Not really, but I suppose I never thought that this would be the way I'd spend my days, or nights here, that's all."
"What's are your dreams then?" he pressed on, ignoring her uneasy expression.
Carrie thought for a moment, "I want to be an artist."
"An artist, but you say that you don't like to display your work to people."
"I don't wish to show my paintings to people but art is what I live for. I feel like there's no purpose in my life, besides art."
"But the work you do for your uncle-"
"It's an entirely different matter between Illustration and Art." Carrie interrupted. "You illustrate from other people's wishes not yours. Art puts me in a place where I lose myself, completely."
Then she huffed and leaned back on the chair. "But we don't get what we wish for sir," She said and took a small bread piece lying on a breadbasket and started to chew on it.
"But you just showed me your book? How am I different?"
Carrie hunched down, rested her elbow on the table, and propped her chin in her hand, and looked up at Mr Masper, who was watching her intently.'
"Maybe, I don't know you but-," , Carrie said, still chewing on the bread, " When you looked through my other books I was furious, but now… I don't know. Maybe it's useless to hide it from you because you have seen it and….you don't mind it."
"You thought that I would think you drawings repulsive and you a maniac?"
"For the most of the part...yes."
"No Lori, I don't think you either a maniac or a psychopath. You wish to express something deep inside your heart or set if free from your brain. It felt good to do so sometimes, but is this you? " Mr. Masper wondered, his eyes behind the glasses now tense and the wrinkle between his eyebrows deepened. "Do you always feel happy when you`re making these drawings?
Carrie`s hand was resting in the middle of the table and, spurred by the opportunity, Mr. Masper`s hand moved and made a contact with it. His cold fingertips traced tenderly over Carrie`s knuckles and then touched the gold ring on her middle finger.
"Do you always think of the darkness with all these horrible creatures in it? The pain, the anxiety, the horrors and suffering? Is it always there? You wish to have them on your side always? Nothing else matters than them and only them?"
"Please don't play head-shrink with me," Carrie groaned, removing her eyes from his and pulled her hand back from his grasp, pretending his touch didn't happen. "I had enough of them and curiosity isn't any reason to go through this much effort. All this, to befriend a girl who could be your enemy."
"Or perhaps a friend," Mr. Masper says casually and picked up his glass and took a sip of the wine, focusing on that other than looking at Carrie. She stared at him a moment, narrowing her eyes like she was trying to find the hidden catch to all this small talk. "Why do you even care?"
Mr. Masper couldn't help but take deep sigh over the question, "Considering it was I who offered the job and you accepted it, might as well get to know each other a little better, right? I'm genuinely interested."
Hearing this, Carrie`s nose wrinkled up like she had seen something intensely disgusting. "Enough of flatteries and I don't want to talk about it."
"You've got a real talent, you should be proud of it."
"Hah, sure and stop flirting with me Mr. Masper." Carrie says roughly. "I`m not kind of girl who would fall for silly flatteries." Mr. Masper`s gray eyes graced a smirk, but before he could response to it, the waitress came with their food. After placing the plates down on the table, Carrie eyes went large and furrowed her eyebrows at her plate and then up at Mr, Masper`s now very bemused look.
"You said you like to taste something new."
Carrie glowered down at the fish, trying to hide her revulsion. The Triggerfish looked disgusting like it had been far too long in the oven and its bulged out eyes were still intact as it looked up at Carrie`s face.
"Well?" Mr. Masper tone was very expectant. "Taste it. It`s not poisonous."
"If it tastes like shit, you still wish to pay for it?" Carrie muttered before stabbed a piece, lifting it tentatively to her mouth before taking a bite. The meat was slimmy and little bit hard to shew but… She let out a heavy sigh before mumbling, "It's good."
Mr. Maspers couldn't help but to show his smugness over Carrie`s expression.
"It's pretty good," She said again and took another bite, "Very good actually!"
"I knew you would like it, but I don't recommend to eat the eyes, they are very salty," He said as the waitress came with his plate.
For a while they sat, ate, drank, chatted for what seemed like an hour. Like the fish, the rest of the menu looked disgusting, but after tasting it was actually quite good.
Everything was fine except for one thing; Carrie was beginning to sweat like crazy. Wearing a scarf inside wasn't the best of ideas, but it would be her death if Mr. Masper saw Snake and put the pieces together to who she really was, but the salvation came with the cold and surprisingly a very good-looking dessert that soothed her throat. Except for the former discussion about Carrie`s imagination, the never-ending night passed by with safe and meaningless topics. It was the closest thing Carrie had gotten to being friendly, (except Leila and Dr Lothario.) in eons, and the longest for Mr. Masper had gone without wanting to shove something sharp and pointy into another person's skull.
Before both of them knew it, the dinner was done and it was time to take Carrie back to the bookshop, but the walk home began to be a little bit tricky both for Carrie and Mr Masper.
Not only did Carrie have too much of the "bad" wine (which Carrie, unknowingly had taken a little bit too much to calm her nerves and didn't know how strong it was), which irritated Mr. Maspers's nostrils as he inhaled it, Carrie's feet even got occasionally entangled along the way. After the third stumble, that Carrie almost landed her face right on the hard stone under her. Mr. Masper picked her up, together with her bag, and carried Carrie in his arms.
"Hey! Put me down," Carrie started to struggle, blushing over this damsel in distress scenario, but she couldn`t do a little more than roll feebly as Mr. Maspers hands held her back and legs was
tight and steady.
"PUT ME DOWN!"
"I don't want you to throw out the fish I paid," he said shortly, moving his head away far as possible from Carrie`s sour breath.
"I`m not drunk, my tolerance is like-," Carrie reached her other arm up over their heads. "-waaay up here. And what if I start to throw out the fish and that lovely dessert over your jacket?"
"I would toss you into the sea," Mr. Masper responded, the chilled tone hinting that he was tempted in doing so. "Except for that sour odor coming out from your mouth, I have this night been talking to a clever, smart, entertaining and the most suspicious and sarcastic woman I`ve ever meet. Don't let that wine spoil my opinion on you."
Carrie made an amused snort and crossed her arms, even it was a little bit difficult when Mr. Masper was holding her like a sulking child, "Oh, is that a compliment? Tell that to Leila so I won`t have another head aching lecture again from her."
After a couple of minutes of silence (a relief for Mr. Masper.), her eyes moved back to him, "As my relationship with you. Mr. Masper, is there someone or something in your life you desire for change?"
A grin, almost wide enough to split Carrie`s face, she moved her right arm and placed it over Mr. Maspers shoulders in a way to prevent him from dropping her down. "Every night you dig, burn, and watching the church. You're always doing that; walking, guarding, digging. A steady, routine life, but are you content with it?"
She didn't know where it came from or why this question suddenly appeared, but perhaps there was a kind of defence mechanism after his criss-cross questions about her, or maybe it was the wine who spoke. For this, Mr. Masper glared at her "There`s nothing wrong with a stable and safe life."
"If you're happy with it, but you're not. I can see that."
The corners of Mr. Maspers lips lifted slightly. "You say I'm not happy, but you say that you don't need anybody, why did you accept eating dinner with me? Is your self-esteem that low that no one thinks you're a pleasant company to be with?"
"I'm not having low-esteem, I just think that everyone is so plain boring."
"You think I'm boring and not to be trusted?"
Carrie's blurred and slightly, dizzy head thought for a moment, "Boring you're not , but I don't know if I can hand over my life to you."
Mr. Masper nodded slightly. "You`re a smart girl, when you're not drunk, but let me tell you that I'm a grave-keeper, I know how to handle roses with sharp thorns."
"And I wish for your future a good luck," Carrie said and just as quickly as it had appeared, her lips turned into a giggle, quickly turned her head aside and hid it in Mr. Maspers shoulder. Mr. Masper might have imagined it, but he thought he managed to catch slightly red cheeks.
When they reach the bookshop, which was luckily dark and silent, Mr. Masper put Carrie down so she could picked up the key from her pockets and unlock the door.
"Need some help?"
"No, I`m fine," But to her embarrassment, Carrie`s hands shook slightly as she inserted it into the lock. She turned to face Mr. Masper and he was watched expectantly.
For another long moment, they stared at each other. A slight breeze stirred through them, and Carrie shivered. To break the silence, she awkwardly, craned her head upward to try and see any stars
"It's very bright outside tonight," she said, "It's too bad that the red clouds are so thick."
"You rarely see any stars here in Gorgosseum. The few places you can have any clear view is on the highest point of the towers," Mr. Masper said slowly, still looking at her.
"Well...when the Carrions have any "Open House" I will go and take a peak."
"I doubt it," Mr. Masper muttered. "Not with that hag around to pester my life."
"Guess so but hey," Carrie said, only half listening to what he just said and didn't catch the two words "my life", and gave him a small and very surprisingly, a tender smile on her lips, "living here in Gorgosseum isn't so bad after all."
Somehow and before Mr. Masper thought what he was doing, his hand moved up and touched her cheek. His fingers tracing over her skin lightly and almost close to her lips, but this time Carrie didn't back away. Standing still as he moved his fingers, Carrie only gave him a slight frown over his boldness, and yet his touch, despite being covered with a glove, made her blood rush in the veins and her heart beat faster, making her whole body shudder slightly.
Feeling the shuddering and seeing Carrie`s blushing cheeks, the intense spell broke and Mr. Masper face froze, his eyes widened as his mind finally detected what he was doing and moved his hand away like he got burned by her hot cheeks.
"Go home, girl," he scoffed.
"We are already home and I am not a little girl," Carrie shot back automatically, making her take one step back away from him, blushing.
Observing her silently, and then like a magician, he held right before Carrie`s eyes "Snake" in his hand.
"Yes, you are."