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peppermint island park

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When Jorel came to, he was drowsy, and the first thing he saw were bars. Not even the sort of bars one could expect after a routine night at the drunk tank with the boys. But a wall of bars entrapping him on all four sides, held fast by a padlock… he was in a fucking cage. What. The hell? Rusty thick iron pipes welded to a solid roof and floor, barely one meter high and probably less than that across. 

 

Blinking in confusion, Jorel's eyes didn't adjust to the musty darkness enveloping the small cage and with it, him. His brain was foggy, slow from laziness that wasn’t the normal groggy way one felt after waking up.  He'd passed out with drugs in his system before and this was an eerily similar experience. The last thing he remembered…  shit. He didn't remember. He didn't remember anything, not how he got here or what happened before he did.

 

He just knew he was in a small cage in… in some creepy fucking basement. It was cold where he was, dark, damp with the faint miasma of earth and mould on the walls.  Through the gloom, he could see shapes, the distinct outlines of furniture that he couldn't immediately name, but when his eyes finally decided to start being team-players, he saw what was before him. 

 

Cages. More cages. Just like the one Jorel was stuffed into. In fact, there was one right beside him and when he looked over, a pit dropped into his stomach. Aron… Wherever Jorel was, he wasn't alone, his friend shared the predicament. Aron wasn't awake, instead in the same medicinally induced slumber that Jorel just awoke from. Aron was propped up against the wall of his cage, his head lolled unconsciously onto his shoulder. Thankfully, he was breathing, his shallow breaths a soothing balm to the immediate concern Jorel was struck by.  

 

But other than being senseless and probably drugged out of his mind, Aron appeared unharmed. A dry stream of blood ran down from his nose but that could be from anywhere.

 

Jorel propped himself uncomfortably against the bars, their metal pressing into his back as he reached through them. He stretched his arm out and tried to touch Aron, but when he couldn't, he needed to angle himself another way. So with the bar against his throat, cutting off his air, he managed to get his fingers to curl around his friend's wrist, if only just. 

 

“Hey. Aro.” The hiss of Jorel's whisper carried far, he gave Aron's arm a firm shake, making both their cages rattle. When Aron wasn't waking up, Jorel quickly checked his pulse, pressing his fingerpads against the blood veins shining blue through his pale skin. A slow, faint thumping was all that could be found, barely present but there. 

 

“Aron.” Jorel snapped a second time, a little more forcefully, shaking Aron again but to no differing result. He was knocked out good. 

 

“It's no use, homes.” Came Dylan's voice from across the room. When Jorel looked over, Dylan was lounging in a position as comfortable as the limited space allowed, idly braiding locks of his hair into little plaits. Like Jorel and Aron, their Hispanic was locked in a cage that Jorel hadn't noticed until now, and by the sobriety of Dylan's rarely sober voice, he'd been awake for a while. 

 

“He's gonna be out for a bit still.” Dylan went on, focusing on tying up the end of his braid with a pink loomband instead of meeting Jorel's line-of-sight. 

 

“Dylan, where the fuck are we?” Jorel demanded but why would Dylan know? He was probably equally confused. Letting go of Aron, Jorel straightened slightly to get a better look at his other friend, noticing that relievingly, he too seemed unharmed. 

 

“Dunno.” Dylan shrugged. “Last thing I remember is we were down at The Deal Breaker - us an' Danno. We was drinking an' shit, getting high as fuck, then nothing. Straight up blackness, esé.”

 

Now that he mentioned it, Jorel foggily recalled throwing back shot after shot at their favourite bar. The night was old but they were celebrating something, though he didn't recall exactly what. 

 

“Why… why is Aron still out?” Jorel glanced back to Aron, yet asleep in his little cage like a fucking dog. Seriously, what in the seventh circle was going on here? 

 

“I'm guessing our drinks were spiked and they gave us all the same dose but didn't consider BMI. Aron es muy pequeño, the drugs’ll take longer to get out his system.”

 

That actually made a lot of sense. Body mass index played very strongly into how quickly drugs wore off. Jorel was bigger than Aron, Dylan had size on them both, the order that they came to was to be expected. 

 

“Where's everyone else? Johnny? Danny? Matt and Jordon?”  As his eyes fully adjusted to night mode, he could see that while there were many cages down here, all but three were empty. His, Dylan's, and Aron's. 

 

“Dunno that either. As far as I can tell, it's just us here.”

 

“Where is here?” Jorel proceeded to press Dylan like he was an automatic answering machine, but their Hispanic wasn't really into it, dropping the braid from between his hands.

 

“Jorel. I don't know. I was just as senseless as you when we were brought here.” Dylan bit, agitated with the interrogating when he was just as clueless as the next guy. 

 

“Fine. Calm down. I'm sorry.” Jorel put his hands up in surrender, blowing his cheeks out irritatedly. May God strike him dead for wanting to know how and why they were in  damn cages in this strange place. And speaking of, if Danny, Johnny, Matt and Charlie weren't here, where were they? Oh, Jorel had such a bad feeling about this. In no world, under no magnifying glass, could the circumstances be the detonation keys to anything positive. 

 

He decided to turn to the cage to find a way out.

 

For the past hour while Jorel still slept, Dylan had been striving to free himself from the tiny, cramped space, and came to the conclusion that it was bootless. The iron was cast, the lock needed something to pick it with, and there were no weak points. Quite simply, it couldn't be done. Therefore, the Hispanic continued braiding his hair while Jorel tried his luck working the lock. He wouldn't be able to overcome it but Dylan planned to let him find that out himself.

 

And after realising the futility of his attempts, Jorel opted to start kicking the door as a way of forcing it open. But it wasn't going to open. 

 

“... Relly?” Groaning weakly, Aron sounded brittle when his god-awful nickname for Jorel rolled off his tongue, his voice little above a whisper. His eyelashes batted, slivers of dull brown visible when he could open them just enough to see in blurring motion. 

 

“I'm right here.” Abandoning the lock, Jorel replied readily, quickly reaching through the bars again and laying his hand over Aron's. It was to let him know he wasn't alone in the unfamiliar dark, so Dylan better take back that weird look he just gave them.  

 

“I'm right here.” He repeated reassuringly while Aron slowly took in their surroundings through narrowed eyes, straightening his spine slightly. Confusion was written in the lines of his frown, chapped lips parted. 

 

“Where… where are we, Rell?” Aron asked hoarsely, trying to clear the clouds from his brain as if blinking a lot would do it. 

 

“What's going on? Why are we in cages?” As his lucidity crept back in bit by bit, Aron's questions started to sound less mumbly. He pulled his hand out of Jorel's, sitting up against the bars, running fingers through his hair.

 

“I promise you, Aron, that I don't have the answer to either of those questions.” Jorel admitted, a certain grimness to his tone when he sat back. “I also don't know where the others are. Neither does Dylan.”

 

“... Dylan's here too?” Having not realised their young ‘un before, Aron scanned the surrounding area for him, spotting the lonely cage on the far side of the basement. Dylan waved to him when he caught Aron's eye.

 

“Hey.”

 

Exhaling in a troubled fashion, Aron's hand glided over his face, pausing to pinch the bridge of his nose. 

 

“Hi, Dilly.” He grumbled, beyond himself in perplexion. He would pay a good sum of money to be told what the fuck was going on. 

 

Chewing on his lip, Jorel pressed his sneaker against the door of his cage, pushing with less than half of his strength but he wasn't expecting it to budge.  It was just something to do while he thought their uncertain situation over.

 

If the others weren't here, where were they? Aron, Dylan, and Jorel himself hadn't been dealt any physical damage, so there was a chance that was the case with everyone else too. Fingers crossed. 

 

Maybe they hadn't even been captured and right now, at this very moment, they were looking for their lost bandmates. It was worth the hope.

 

But optimism aside, all three of them jumped a mile when the door at the top of the staircase opened, casting a rectangle of light into an otherwise lightless room.

 


 

 

“- This is fucked. This is fucked!”  

 

“Lower your voice.” Danny hissed, glaring at Matt through the slits in the mask he was gifted with as recently as earlier that evening. It covered his face up until his mouth, made of golden mesh crafted against a matte black plastic base. A cross was carved around the left eye, adding that extra bit of scariness that his puppy brown eyes normally lacked. Though right now, they were steely hard as  Danny set to work opening the rusty screws of the air vent with a pocket knife. 

 

It was difficult to describe where they were, an old theme park built upon a small rocky island within sight range of the mainland. The lights of beautiful Los Angeles twinkled in the distance, glimmering on the dark ocean waves and soft frothy seafoam. When the tide came in, it cut them off from the only road leading to this place and as of an hour ago, they were trapped here until the morning. 

 

Trapped here with that psychotic bitch.

 

“What do we want to go in there for?” Matt anxiously asked when he quit yelling like a hysterical widow, rubbing his hands together in his fingerless gloves. Unsteadily, he gestured to the air vent cover Danny was trying to pry open. It was their ticket into the building that stood in the centre of the park like the fortress it was commanded from. 

 

And, if Danny wasn't wrong, this was the control room that used to operate the rides, cameras, other security measures and such. He used to come here every summer as a kid, and though it was over fifteen years ago to the date since his last visit, he still recalled the layout rather perfectly.

 

“This is where we saw her take them. It's where we need to go.” The blond explained, words strained as they came past his set teeth. He tried turning the knife, fighting against the rustiness of an ancient screw and the trembling of his arms showed the struggle. 

 

“Only Dyl, Aron and Jorel. We've got zero ideas where Johnny or Jordon are.”

 

“This is a start, Matt. We'll find Jordy and Johnny after we free the others.”

 

Exasperated, Matt took a harsh, shallow sigh, raking widened fingers through his gloriously curly mane. He threw a glance over his shoulder, uncomfortable with the still, unblinking way that wooden clown cutout behind them was grinning at him. Fucking freak.  

 

The drummer flipped it off then he resumed the discussion with Danny.

 

“Did you see her? She weighs like - ninety pounds, there's no way she's working alone.”

 

“Because she's a woman?” Unimpressed, Danny arched a brow when he looked to Matt, throwing back a shot of Respecting Woman Juice™ at even the slightest hint of misogyny. Jesus Christ, could Danny chill the fuck out? This chick roofied and kidnapped their friends! And Matt loved women, he'd never disrespect a single one.  

 

“Because I don't think she could physically carry four grown men out of a bar and into the back of her van.”

 

“Diana Prince could.” Danny returned to trying to pry the lid off, ditching the knife after the blade broke and resorting to his hands. He dug his nails behind it and leaned back with his full weight, his sneaker against the wall. 

 

“... What? Wonder Woman? Dan, she's not real.” Matt hoped and prayed and he'd suck God's dick so long as it meant that Danny was fully aware of that. 

 

“I know.” Danny grunted, his back to Matt. “Just saying she could.”

 

Matt blew his cheeks out, refusing to provoke Danny's argument further and just silently agreed with him. Not that he was incorrect, the fictional Amazon princess could probably fling even Johnny over her shoulder, no problem.  

 

While his blondie companion tried to make them an entry point,  Matt spectated with his hands on his hips, feeling distinctly useless while Danny did all the work, as per the norm. But if there was one person Matt could pick to be trapped on a psychopath’s  island with, it was definitely Danny. So really, luck was on his side. To just imagine having Dylan or Charlie here with him now… they'd put all their effort into playing on the ancient rides and forget they had friends to rescue. 

 

But Matt was almost certain this was not the way Danny wanted to spend his twenty-fifth birthday.  

 

With a clang, the birthday boy stumbled back once the cover finally gave way, losing his footing but lucky for him, he fell into Matt's arms before he could fall flat on his ass. But no need to thank the drummer for his lightning reflexes, Danny surely didn't bother; he got up almost at once, dusting himself off as he returned to the vent, now a gaping black entry point into the building.  

 

“Let's go.” Danny swung his leg in first and then the rest of him followed, but before he could vanish into the maw, he felt it necessary to make another remark.

 

“And, for the record, Becca Swanson can bench press over five hundred pounds... Y'know, in case you were wondering if a non-fictional woman could carry four grown men.” And with the needless bit of information, Danny pulled himself into the vent, on all fours for him to go further in. 

 

Behind his mask, Matt rolled his eyes. 

 

“Good for her.” Jaw tight, he muttered as he went in, on Danny's six as they squeezed through this passage that wasn't designed for adults to use as a doorway.  

 


 

 

Breath uneven, his every limb shaking, it took all the measly scraps of strength in Charlie to pull himself over the next rock. Shit, who was he kidding?  The term ‘pull’ implied he wasn’t torturously dragging his aching body across the sharp surfaces of granite and gravel, all towards the measly goal that he might be able to crawl onto the road overhead. But it seemed so far… and yet it was the only option, what with the dark sea brutally pounding the shoreline beneath. If his grip slipped, he might be unfortunate enough to fall into the fucking ocean, so up was the only way.

 

Gritting his teeth, he painstakingly reached for the next handhold, hauling himself another five inches closer to his goal.

 

This place he was at, it was the rocky bank of the only coastline road leading to Peppermint Island Park, that ancient rusted carnival, abandoned for over ten years in the aftermath of some accident few recalled the details of. 

 

The tide had risen to its highest, the island would be inaccessible until dawn, but that really wasn’t Charlie’s biggest concern at the moment. Staying alive was pretty concerning. So was finding his friends... Shit, he needed to find them and help and he would, as soon as he was able. But he wasn’t able just yet.

 

A long call from the bar he was at earlier that night, his clothes were torn and wet, his skin grazed and tender with bruising, fingers bleeding from the rocks he slowly scaled, slowly but surely. He just needed to get up onto the road. It’d be easier from there. It was only five meters away. Not that far at all. He just needed to get there.

 

If he really tried, he might have the energy to get off his belly and stumble onto his feet but these stones were very loosely lodged into the earth; one wrong step and he’d be sent tumbling all the way down the incline, back to where he started.

 

Not an option.

 

This might be a whole lot easier if his system wasn’t still half clogged with whatever the fuck was slipped into his drink at The Deal Breaker, but he did hope it wasn’t the same for the others. His friends had to have their full wits about them if they were going to stand a chance against that psychopath. But the chance wasn’t very likely, given how they were drugged out their fucking minds when last he saw them, so their lives might rely solely on whether or not Danny and Matt realised they were missing yet.

 

They should have but on the small possibility that it wasn’t the case, Charlie had to find help. Easier said than done, however, since the cold was beginning to ebb bone-deep, numbing his limbs and making them sluggish as if he were drunk. Well, he was drunk earlier, very drunk, but this had all been a very sobering experience.

 

Then again, getting thrown out of a speeding van on the side of a road, onto some goddamn shore rocks was always sobering, in his experience. Not that he had a lot regarding this.  

 

In some last-ditch effort to keep his brain wired and rolling to where it needed to get to, Charlie started mumbling the lyrics to one of the songs he co-wrote. 

 

“... We up in LA, represent Hollywood. West Side ‘til I die…” As some bit towards annoying a man who wasn't even there at the moment, Charlie decided to steal Dylan’s lines. He got so fired up and bitchfaced when someone sang his lines, it was amusing enough to help Charlie crawl his ass all the way to the abandoned road, every last inch until the gravel and granite became lovely smooth asphalt. 

 

“... Motherfucker, what’s good?” Panting, he planted an elbow and relied all of his weight on it, the last burst of effort prying a strained whine from his throat but he managed to get his body onto the roadside. Then he collapsed.

 

On his face, he just laid there for a second, breathing heavily, trying to catch his breath. His flanks heaved, his every muscle quivering because giving up had never been a sweeter notion.

 

… So what’s good with that? When this song’s a wrap, Deuce in the studio, got bitches in the back. 

 

Now was the time to stop being a weak bitch. Now.  Right fucking now. Making his cold hands into tight fists, Charlie pushed himself first onto his fours, then, after some mental go-going and swearing, struggled to stand. It was difficult, yes, perhaps more difficult than it should have been, considering there were drugs in his blood and adrenaline usually kicked into play during situations like this.

 

But it didn’t, he mostly just felt exhausted, like he could slump right back into the dirt and fucking sleep. Needless to say, he couldn’t let himself do that. 

 

Split lips slightly parted, Charlie blinked back the ghostly yellow glow of the streetlights, the rotted posts they were mounted upon so old that they swayed in the wind, threatening to break. 

 

He looked towards Peppermint Island Park, a black shape against a blacker sky, rising above sea level. The road ended just twelve feet from where he stood, sinking into the waves from whence it wouldn’t emerge from for hours.

 

… Huh, the lights of the ferris wheel were turned on, he dully observed, but could only make out tiny dots of white and red colour, running the length of the machine’s rusted iron skeleton. Red and white… the park’s theme, it’s why it was called ‘Peppermint Island Park’. A cute bit of trivia that wouldn’t help him now. 

 

With a heavy swallow, he turned his head to stare inland, the only way he could go until the tide retreated. The streetlights illuminated nothing but the strip of unkempt road, making the surrounding area appear even darker than it was. It reminded him that he was cut off and all alone.