The night stretched on, with Dennis staring at the strangers in silence as they all seemed to sway back and forth. Three were women, the last being a young man that was maybe eighteen; all had shaved heads and cuts that were sewn up with wire littering their bodies. They shivered in loose fitting clothing, not from the cold, but from something else.
They wouldn’t speak, Dennis was annoyed to discover, save if you touched them. That was when they got violent and attacked you, pounding on you with weak arms until you backed off. Dennis had a bloody nose from one lucky strike from one of the women, and had wadded up a strip of shirt he’d torn from her shirt to stuff up his nostrils.
After an incalculable stretch of time, Dancing Skeletons walked up to the cell, looking in with his sunken eyes. Under the dim lighting of the hall Dennis could see his sallow skin littered with tattoos, all of bones and skulls. He stood with hands in his jean pockets, gangly arms bent slightly as he smiled his gruesome smile at Dennis.
“How ya liking your new digs old man?” Dancing Skeletons asked with a snicker. “We go to great lengths to fill’em up, y’know?”
“What is this place?” Dennis demanded.
“This is the prison complex, where we keep the Bosses guests until he’s ready to see them. Once he sees them we do what we need to do to keep everyone compliant, ya understand?”
“No, I don’t,” Dennis said, grumbling as he stared at Dancing Skeletons between the bars, “maybe you could tell me more.”
Dancing Skeletons shrugged. “Don’t have to, I’m here to take you to see the boss right now. You going to cause me trouble?”
“No… not unless you intend to hurt me,” Dennis said.
Dancing Skeletons smiled, his brown teeth slick with sticky saliva. “Oh, I won’t hurt ya unless you make me. The Boss, well, he takes people who play around with his wife serious like, ya know?”
“For the last time, she was hitting on me!” Dennis exclaimed.
Dancing skeletons shook his head slowly, eyes never leaving Dennis. “Doesn’t matter. You were going to taste forbidden fruit, and that’s enough for a trip to Hell. If you’re lucky, you’ll be like these fine folks and come back.”
Dennis spared a glance at the closest woman, dressed in a loose shirt with a sewn-up neck held together with serrated wire in some grisly fashion. The wound was crusty with blood, and skirted around her throat, showing haphazard cuts and long stretches of incisions that left the woman scarred beyond reason.
Dennis turned back to reply, only to find Dancing Skeletons standing inside the cell, the door opened slightly. The thin man was monstrous in the dim light, with eyes that seemed to glow in the dark with an inner light, while his sallow skin looked extra sweaty as if he was too hot in the cool air of the dungeon.
Dennis panicked and lashed out with a fist on reflex. Dancing Skeletons bobbed around the blow and stepped close, ramming his elbow into Dennis’s sternum while grabbing his extended arm. Spinning him around, Dennis toppled to the ground wheezing, all the oxygen having been hammered from his body in the singular blow. Gasping for breath, Dennis looked up at Dancing Skeleton with watery eyes.
“We going to dance again, or are you going to come with me like a good boy?” Dancing Skeletons asked, extending a hand to Dennis to help him off the ground.
Dennis took it, thanking the man, and stood on shaky feet. “When I meet your boss, will he give me time to explain that this has all been a mistake?”
“Of course! Boss is reasonable, and I doubt he’d do something as rash as kill a man for something petty,” Dancing Skeleton said, “now you go in front of me so I can lock up. Don’t think about running, I can catch you.”
Dennis nodded, his body shivering at the way the man casually described the way his boss would kill someone.
Is this it? Dennis thought, no way am I going to die so easily…
Dancing Skeleton locked the door and told Dennis to down the hall lit up by covered electric lights. The hall sloped down into the earth, cobblestone pieces holding back the dirt that would come rushing in from all sides if it weren’t for the craftsmanship done by some skilled artisan ages ago.
They walked for easily five minutes, turning down certain tunnels until they stopped in front of a pair of mahogany doors set into stone pillars. Dancing Skeletons stepped up and rapped his knuckles on the wood, before a bullfrog voice croaked out.
“Enter!” The voice rumbled.
Dancing Skeletons pushed open the doors and walked into a room that smelled of old books and disinfectant, stone floors leading to shelving where books lined the walls, save for a far wall that housed rolling carts into small chambers that one would see in a morgue. A shorter, rotund man stood over a twitching body, cutting into it with a scalpel and a pair of tongs. He had no hair and looked like a large toad, albeit less green. A thin, lipless mouth and bulbous eyes darted up to look at Dennis, and it was in that moment Dennis felt as if a bucket of ice water had been poured over him.
“So,” the toad man began, “the adulterer makes an appearance.”
“I’d hardly call myself that,” Dennis said, his mind racing.
“I would,.” The man said, spitting slightly as he growled, “and in here, my opinion is what matters.”
“Okay… what can I do to convince you I didn’t intend to do anything with your wife? I mean, I didn’t know she was married!”
“Hardly my problem!” The toad harrumphed. He turned back to the body prostrate before him and severed a tendon before pulling it free from the body, laying the pink muscle out on a tray where countless others were placed. “Do you know what I intend to do with you, adulterer?”
“I think your man said you might kill me… but I think that would be a rash decision on your part! People will notice I’m gone, and come searching.” Dennis blabbed, hoping he wasn’t digging himself an early grave.
He seemed to amuse the toad. “Heh heh, like anyone would miss you! I’ve set up men to report your missing vehicle thirty miles north of here. It’s actually in a quarry not too far from here, but the police will never know.”
“But what if they do? Do you really want to be caught doing… whatever it is you’re doing, to me?”
“Just like sleaze, you only care for yourself. You know this person is still alive, yes?” Toad asked, stabbing his scalpel into the chest of the man, who twitched in response. “You haven’t argued about how I could be discovered doing my little experiments, oh no. You just think I’m going to kill you and be done with it.”
“What… what do you mean?”
Toad laughed and Dennis winced as a he felt something sharp stick into the side of his neck, and infusion of something cold into his veins rushing through a needle that Dancing Skeletons held. Looking back, Dennis blinked as Dancing Skeletons slid the needle back into his pockets with a smile.
“The Father will be pleased with what I have to offer from you,” Toad said, croaking a bit as he chuckled, “your flesh will serve us well once it’s been worked over a bit. But don’t worry about that… just have a nice, relaxing nap.”
Dennis would have said something, would have taken a swing at the rotund man. All he could manage was to gurgle as he slumped to the ground, cracking his head on the stone as he passed out in a swirl of colors.