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The Nightmares of Henry Stein

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The Nightmares of Henry Stein

Just how did this sleeping spell work anyway? Joey never expected to see beads of sweat forming on his friend’s face. “Maybe this was a bad idea,” he whispered to Henry.

 

Henry is deep inside Joey Drew Studios, pinned to the ground by Caestelis’s version of Bendy – the Ink Demon. The man can hear his Bendy crying out for him. He squirms, trying to get an arm free to reach the summons in his chest pocket before his little Toon can come to any harm.

Bendy comes running, but the demonic runes in Henry’s pocket are already heating up. They pour out a black power on the Ink Demon.

It repels Bendy.

Growling, the Ink Demon rips the summons from Henry’s pocket. Bits of fuzz drift through the air. Blood and guts splatter across the floor as well.

Even once the building darkness pulls the Ink Demon back to his home dimension, Henry lies on the ground, liquid gushing from his chest.

He looks at his Bendy, kneeling next to him. Dying is bad enough, but leaving Bendy behind – in such a hellish studio – that’s the worst part of meeting his end.

 

Henry bolted up on Joey’s couch. He grabbed his friend’s collar. “You did this!”

Joey pried Henry’s hands off. “I didn’t think dreaming through your creative block would translate into nightmares.”

Calming his breathing, Henry took his hands back. “I’m sorry. Maybe you shouldn’t stay as close. For your own safety.”

Joey frowned. “You make it sound like you want to try again.”

“Yeah. It felt so real. I… I just don’t want to leave Bendy alone back there.” Henry lay back and closed his eyes.

 

Henry accepts the summons from Caestelis again and finds himself down near the Ink Machine. But this time, it’s not his Bendy that’s with him: it’s Joey’s soul – his Joey’s soul.

The Ink Demon seems more interested in Joey than he did in his own alternate self: he fixates on the man. He bubbles into his beastly form and chases the spirit toward the inky moat.

Henry knows he’ll never forgive himself if he lets anything happen to Joey, even with Joey’s role in this whole mess. He cups his hands around his mouth. “Bendy, Caestelis is looking for you. He wants you home this instant!”

The demon stops. He turns and lumbers back to Henry, bubbling down to his eight-foot form on his way.

Henry removes the runes from his pocket and hands them to the demon, who is surrounded by black smoke. Bendy vanishes with the summons.

Walking toward the moat, Henry calls, “Joey, you alright?”

Yes. Thank you! I’ve just got to get back to my body now.”

 

Henry couldn’t say how he got to Joey’s apartment, but he knows it was curiosity that compelled him to visit. He takes a stool at Joey’s sparkling-clean counter. “What is it that happened to you?”

You always have questions, old friend, as well you should.” He pulls up his own stool across from Henry. “After you left, I grew more and more obsessed with fame and fortune until I tried to bring Bendy to the real world. I ended up with a demon.”

From that other dimension?”

Joey nods. “The attempt cost me my soul. Until you found me, I had to watch helplessly as my body followed the heinous path I’d inadvertently set up for it. Thanks for freeing me.”

Unsure if he forgives the current version of Joey, Henry walks toward the kitchen door. At least the Ink Demon’s reign of terror in the decaying studio has reached its end.

 

Joey sat across the room now, over at his drawing desk. His eyes flickered back to his friend’s face and he frowned. “More nightmares? I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this. Magic’s not something to be messed with.”

Henry twitched. His hands covered his chest.

Joey couldn’t let this go on much longer. The longer he watched Henry under the spell, the less it seemed he was actually suffering creative block – more like a fear of his own cartoon character. Maybe he should check for curses. Just in case.

He wheeled to the closet and unlocked the door. His hands ran along his grandfather’s old magic books until he found a likely one.

Magic playing on emotions? Maybe. But where did the magic come from?

As Henry dreamed, he read. Perhaps the exercise could give Henry some fresh ideas to distract him if he slept long enough, but it would only be a temporary fix. In the meantime, Joey would have to investigate what was going on between Henry and their fictional character.