Penelope's Death

Cast: date: 'August 29, 2012'
place: 'Palace Fitzrovia'
participants: 'Fu-Chung, Caleb (storyteller)'
synopsis: 'Fu-Chung Lee and Penelope Althea Dane spend their last night together.'
log: "There is something to be said about nice (read: expensive) hotels. And that is that if nothing else can be said, they spare no expense when it comes to amenities. Pool? Of course. Full spa? Can't leave that out. And, of course, would any spa be complete without a sauna? Unthinkable! Almost as unthinkable as Penelope passing up an uncommon chance to enjoy one.\n\nNaturally, she's seized the chance. A good steaming followed by a dip in the pool is the key to long-lasting youth, you know? And if you happen to have a certain somebody to indulge in that particular key with, it's all the better. Sure, that's also probably why she's less interested in enjoying the steam and more interested in a lap to sit in and a mouth to kiss, but with no one else around at the current hour to object or get in the way, why waste the opportunity? Except, of course, stopping a kiss to add an interjection. \"You see?\" the girl coos, \"You see what I told you about the steam being good for you?\"\n\nFu-Chung luxuriates in the luxury, luxuriates in the steam, luxuriates in Penelope's accent and attentions. The combination of it all has a smile fixed in place on his face. \"I should have known better than to disagree with a goddess.\" There's a playfulness to the compliment, and it is followed by a content sigh. \"I should be in Germany right now, but,\" he narrows his eyes mischievously, \"for some reason I'm happy I stayed.\" The look he gives her is as accusing as it is teasing, but in no way does it successfully convince he is anything but happy.\n\nFor a brief moment, Penelope twists her face into a pout. The least serious, least convincing pout that anyone could likely hope to manage making. And a moment, it changes again into a poorly concealed grin and giggle. \"Germany's so dreary and dull and-\" A brief pause while she searches for the word- \"German. Too much beer and not enough steam, I think.\" But she doesn't know. And likely, doesn't care. \"London, though. Exactly enough of everything. Exactly enough beer, exactly enough steam. Exactly enough Fu. Unless, you go to Germany, and then there won't be enough Fu, and I will be very sad. I may even cry.\"\nIn a moment of feigned resolve, Penelope sits up very straight and serious-like, and lightly taps her finger against the tip of Fu-Chung's nose. \"So, you can't go to Germany, unless you want me to cry. Maybe you can go for a little bit.\"\n\nMoving his right palm to his heart, he looks at her with jaw dropped and eyes tragic. His voice matches his expression: a complete mockery of true sadness. \"I would rather stab myself in the heart than make you shed a single tear, dearest Penny. I'd rather cut off my ear and let a German eat it than see your eyes pool with moisture.\" Fu-Chung's act drops, and a smile springs back onto his face as he lowers his eyebrows and speaks now with a flippancy in his voice, \"Plus if it throws off the Fu shui… we can't have that.\" He knows puns make her groan, but they make her smile, too.\n\nThen there is a seriousness on his face, and a thought clearly being considered. It's obvious from the way his eyes are a touch squinted as he watches her reaction like he's testing her. \"How would you feel if I stayed here? …See how things play out?\"\n\nNo groan is elicited, but a roll of her eyes is. Same thing, really. But at the suggested course of action? Well, that has Penelope turning her gaze to the ceiling and cocking her head to one side, and then to the other in thought. \"Now there's a thought to consider,\" she says, \"But don't you imagine it might be just a bit warm, staying here in the steam too long?\" She is, of course, not serious with regards to this question. The happy expression on her face when she meets Fu-Chung's gaze again says as much. \"I'll tell you what.\" Finally, the girl stands up. \"Let's have a dip in the pool to organize our thoughts, and then I'll give you my answer. Unless you're afraid of cold water.\"\n\n\"Afraid of cold water?\" Fu-Chung asks with his left eyebrow high and his right low. Rather than answer her, he hooks his hands under Penelope's armpits, stands and throws her over his shoulder so her hair is hanging towards the ground and the tops of her thighs are against his torso as she kicks her feet. Running towards the pool, he declares with so much pride it must be comical, \"I was born in cold water!\" He stops at the edge of the pool and adds to his boisterous bullshit, \"I swam the frigid wastes of Lake Washington! I rode orcas through the ferry wake of the Puget Sound! No water can freeze meeee!\" He bends sharply, pulling down on her thighs and throws her back first towards the surface of the pool.\n\nReally, Penelope can't say she's surprised. Even were she not preoccupied with making a girlish squeak before plunging into the cold water of the pool, she couldn't say she was surprised. And even after she breaks back through the surface, sputtering and trying to remove water from her nose, she doesn't look that put out. \"Oh, you,\" she says, \"You come in here so I can give you a piece of my mind.\" Just a little put out. Tiny bit.\n\nBacking a few steps away from the pool, Fu-Chung might seem like he's going to walk away. Instead, he runs towards it, leaps and shouts, \"Cannonball!\" Hugging his legs, he crashes a few feet to Penelope's left and creates a big splash. Kicking up off the bottom of the pool, he pops his head out of the water a little closer. He's all smiles and feigned innocent as he asks her, \"A piece of your mind this time?\" He's already leaning back in the water and raising his hands defensively as if he expects her to playfully attack him.\n\nIf she was planning to do so, Penelope doesn't get the chance to so much as give Fu-Chung a mean look before he is once again back under the water. It's not because he was pushed or shoved down, no, but because of the sudden, stabbing pains in his legs, like thousands of ice-cold needles piercing his skin at once, as something pulls him under. In seconds, that icy, stabbing pain spreads to the rest of his body, and then it's gone. Whatever was pulling him suddenly pushes, and Fu-Chang is back at the surface, suddenly alone. Penelope is gone, the power has gone out and plunged everything into darkness save for the low, incandescent glow from the pool, and the air is suddenly very hot and humid. Or maybe there is a fine, fine mist in the air, and it's hot?\nBut perhaps most importantly, Penelope is gone, and given that its unnaturally dark for the London night, and her only options for leaving are back to the sauna or out to the rest of the hotel, it perhaps begs the question of just how long he was under the water.\n\nFu-Chung's expression is one of alarm as he reaches the surface and gasps for air. He turns this way and that, sputtering water out of his mouth, coughing and looking around even as he clumsily paddles himself towards the edge of the pool. \"Penny?\" he calls out in a hoarse voice. Another cough. He pulls himself up out of the pool, coughs one last time and forces himself to take a deep breath. Eyes, lungs and nostrils all burning, he spits into the pool and stands. \"Penelope?\" He glances up at the ceiling in an uncollected manner and starts to make his way towards where he believes the light switch is, as if that's going to illuminate the situation and the room all at once.\n\nThere is indeed a switch on one of the walls, but a flick of it, or even several flicks does nothing to change the room's present illumination. All it really seems to do, in fact, is cause the switch to grow suddenly warmer for reasons which aren't clear, which could perhaps be declared strange. After all, if the power's out….\n\nIn time with the temperature change of the switch comes a creaking and shifting sound from the door that leads out to the rest of the hotel. It has to lead there, because the door to the sauna was in the other direction. But that one likewise begins to creak and shift, from the sound of it. Add to the what could well be the low rumble of shaking windows, and the explanations thin out quickly.\n\nThe switch receives a momentary frown from the would-be user, but the creaking of a door causes him to turn his head in that direction. \"Penny?\" The pain in his legs doesn't prevent Fu-Chung from lifting one and shaking his foot to kick some water off, then repeating with the other. He walks without hurry towards the other door as he looks towards the windows, but he's not relaxed. The bob of his Adam's apple as he swallows is both audible and visible, or would be in the light if someone else was there to watch it. Like a child jumping into bed to avoid the monster under it, he starts to run towards the hotel lobby with fear peeling his bloodshot eyes wide.\n\nRunning in the dark is rarely a good idea. Nothing befalls Fu-Chung when he does, luckily. But trying to exit poses a serious problem even when he does manage to find the door: It won't open. It's not as if it's locked, however. It's as if something on the other side is holding it shut. Like the light switch, the temperature of the door noticeably rises when he does touch it, but what could be more disconcerting is that where he touches it, pushes against it, it seems to push back.\n\nThe rumbling from the windows grows louder, and the air begins to stir and move rhythmically in regular pulses of motion. A breeze that originates from, and then retreats back toward the pool he found himself in. The door to the sauna begins creaking more aggressively, barely audible now over the sound of shaking glass.\n\nRecoiling so quickly he falls backwards, Fu-Chung shouts at the door from the floor, \"This isn't funny!\" When his voice reaches his own ears, however, he doesn't hear any anger in it. Distress is the main emotion there. He turns and tries to push to his feet, but they slip and slide in place a couple times before he finds purchase with his hands and starts to run again. He's heading towards the sauna. The window he looks at on the way causes his eyebrows to drop further and his lips to spread wide and flat; the lower one trembling. \"Penny…\" he whines. \"Where are you, Penny?\" When he finally notices the breeze coming from the sauna, which should be warmer than the muggy air rather than cooler than it, he stops. Lifting his hands to his head, he beings to hyperventilate. \"What's going on?\" barely escapes his throat.\n\nThe rattling of the windows grows louder. And then, it abruptly stops. The air in the room grows still once again, and the darkness surrounding Fu-Chung is plunged into dead silence. The only sound that doesn't come from him is the low, rhythmic creaking coming from the door leading to the sauna. It's moving, of course, the door. Just barely. Just a tiny bit inward (which is not a direction it was previously capable of moving, unless his memory is failing), and then back to being closed, only for this action to be repeated. If Penelope is anywhere, it would have to be in there. Someone has to be in there, for the door to be moving, and no one else was around.\n\nFu-Chung stares at the door for a few seconds and tries to compose himself. After he clears his throat and tries to take a deep breath (and fails), he walks towards the sauna door with agonizing slowness. Reaching out towards the handle, his hand quakes and, only inches from it, hovers with trepidation. He closes his eyes for a few moments, opens them, and grabs the handle and tries to open it quickly; like the momentum is the only thing allowing him to move.\n\nThe handle operates with no resistance. The door opens with no resistance. At some point, however, Fu-Chung had to have gotten turned around, or not noticed a third door leading away from the pool, or something, because it is not the sauna that greets him when he opens the door. It's a hallway, or corridor, or perhaps a large, empty expanse, who can tell? It's all pitch black save for a point of dim light somewhere ahead (hopefully, not at the other end, or there's quite a walk), and while it certainly doesn't look like it leads back to the lobby, it certainly doesn't lead to the sauna, either. Or seemingly anywhere else. There is no more rattling, no more creaking or shifting. Not even the air is moving, it seems. The only sound to speak of comes from somewhere ahead, past the newly opened door.\n\nThe faint, far off sound of a woman screaming.\n\nThe man stares off into what should be the sauna room with his mouth hanging partially open. Slowly, his head shakes from side to side like he's telling someone 'No.' That disbelief and awe are short-lived. It takes a second for his mind to process the scream. Fu-Chung narrows his eyes to slits as he stares through the darkness and towards that speck of light; towards that sound. His terror fades as a realization grows, or rather, his terror is shifted from one subject to another. Running forward, eyes wide again, arms pumping as legs circle, he cries out for that woman that might be The One. \"Penelope! Penelope, I'm coming!\"\n\nFu-Chung runs. Maybe as fast as he can, and that point of light is so far away. Things get light, though, while he runs. The space gradually becomes less black and more white, although it remains just as empty. And even as it gets whiter, and then painfully whiter, and then blindly whiter, that point of dim light is still so far away, threatening to become lost in the space around it. Even the screaming stops serving as a guide, dying suddenly in a wet gurgle and finally into silence. For a few, long moments, it's just Fu-Chung.\n\nAnd then, he is pushed, or perhaps flung forward into a solid surface that very suddenly gives way like a door swinging opened. There's nothing to stop his fall beyond that except for the floor, a cloud of hot steam, and a shallow puddle of warm liquid that fills his mouth and nose with the taste and scent of metal and stains his skin and face the color of rubies.\n\nSlip! goes Fu-Chung's hand as he tries to push himself up. He's trying to exhale through his nose and mouth at the same time to purge his olfactory senses of that invading substance. Managing to push himself up onto his knees, he lifts his polluted hands to his face and tries to wipe himself clean. He's blinking over and over again as he tries to get his eyes to adjust to the brightness and clear of the warm liquid that coats him.\n\nThat's when a thought strikes his shocked mind: Blood. He turns his head, spits and then brings his red hands up to his brow to try and block out some light. \"Hello?\" he asks, but it hardly manages to escape his throat. He's gagging.\n\nThe best news that Fu-Chung can hope for, perhaps, is that he is back in the sauna. The same one that both he and Penelope had earlier been occupying. If nothing else, it should be familiar, even if it may now seem to be unnaturally hot. Far hotter than it had been when they were using it. The second best news is that he hasn't somehow stumbled into a horror film yet. There is blood, and quite a bit of it, but that's all there is. But it had to come from somewhere, naturally. A smear of the stuff is plainly visible trailing back underneath the door leading back out to the pool. It's possible, despite his clear state of shock, that Fu-Chung might still recognize what is plainly wrong with this fact: Despite all of the blood in the sauna, the smear has all the look of having originated from the other side of the door.\n\nBlood doesn't usually make Fu-Chung react so strongly. Then again, he usually isn't shoved into it in such a state. He's struggling to hold back the bile boiling in his stomach as he steps towards the door on cautious feet. \"But-\" he asks himself as he reaches towards the door and pauses. \"Didn't I-\" he cuts himself off by squeezing his eyes closed and then reaches out towards the handle with a profound sense of déjà vu. Pulling it open more slowly from this side - Or was it that side? - he looks dizzy despite his wide eyes. He's completely oblivious of his hyperventilation.\n\nWhichever side it was, in the end, doesn't really matter. The smear was telling the truth, despite the puddle: The source of the blood did come from the other side of the door. Back in the pool area proper is a mess. There is an arm there. Most of an arm, at any rate, one end a ragged bite wound. There is a pile of gore where human intestines have be haphazardly dropped and tossed aside, as if discarded for being in the way. There are chunks of flesh and muscle thrown here and there, and part of a calf or thigh sitting on the concrete in what must be vomit or bile, standing in stark contrast to the amazing lack of blood for all the violence visited here. And there by the door, just waiting for a foot to nudge against it, is most of a head. The neck is no longer attached to it, the hair and scalp have been pulled partially away, and the lower jaw has been completely ripped away, leaving only ragged skin. The tongue, although torn and bloody, is still somehow affixed to the mess. But the eyes are unmistakable. They are wide and frozen in a mix of pain, fear, and surprise? But they are so familiar. There is only one they could belong to.\n\nEven though the head - her head - is at his feet, it's the pile of viscera that grabs Fu-Chung's attention first. He stares, eyes open to their physical limits, and then promptly bends down and vomits. Vomits just past the neck of the severed head. It's as he's vomiting that he tries to scream in horror upon seeing Penelope's face; her unblinking eyes almost staring right at him. The resulting sound is something that would churn the stomach of a witness; drowning and projecting vomit all at once. He sucks in a breath, gags, and dry heaves. There wasn't much more than champagne in his stomach to begin with, and now his guts are empty even of bile. Reaching out, he puts a hand on the cheek; blind as his eyes pool with tears. \"Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod…\" he whispers over and over until he starts to dry heave again. \"Someone help me!\" he leans back and screams, like a medic could just put her back together and make everything right again.\n"

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