Cobwebs of the Past
A Chip N' Dale's Rescue Rangers story by Morgan Kohl
Dale pressed his face to the glass and growled. "You'd better let us out right now, you mean ol' spider, or I'll... Or I'll... I'll do something! And it'll be really nasty, too!" Okay, so that didn't sound quite as menacing as he'd planned.
Victoria laughed lightly. "Oh Dale! What exactly will you do? Get my nice clean aquarium all dirty with noseprints?" She skittered towards them and put her four hands on the glass in front of his face. "There is nothing you _can_ do. You are trapped. You are in my control." She turned and sneered nastily at Foxglove. "That goes for you too, dearie."
Foxglove narrowed her eyes to slits. She summoned forth all her rage into the most hateful thing she could think of to say. "You're a bad person!! If I wasn't behind this glass, I'd hit you! On the nose!!"
Dale gasped in shock. "Foxy!"
The words didn't even scratch Victoria's hide. "Ah, but you *are* behind the glass, Foxglove. And there you shall stay. You see, I have learned a very important lesson from hearing tales of you Rangers' fantastic escapes from the clutches of your enemies. It seems that their downfall often results from their own over-elaborate plans for your dismissal. Conveyer belts, deathtraps, killer machines; it's all much too complex. It leaves you too many options for escape. I have learned from the failures of my peers and from my own."
She paused for a moment to let them contemplate this. "You'll see no candles, no coffins, no fake magic spells, no little notes this time. Only plain, flat glass surrounding you. At midnight tonight, it will be one year ago precisely that I tried to enact my revenge on you for the first time. I failed. But I know why. I was much too sure of myself, then. I left too many things to chance. Not so now.
"Simplicity will be the key to your deaths."
Foxglove had begun to cry. "But why do you want to kill us in the first place? We never did anything to you!"
Had glass not separated them, Victoria would have slapped Foxglove across the face. "LIES!" she hissed. "You know full well that you stole my Lou from me! You and your friends killed my Lou! You killed him!"
Dale was angered at the accusation. "Aw, we did not! We're Rescue Rangers! We just don't _do_ stuff like that!!"
If looks could kill... Victoria eyed the chipmunk as if she could strangle his lying throat with only her gaze. She sprung at him like a cobra. "He _IS_ dead! He has never returned to me. The *only* reason that could be is if you killed him!" Her voice resonated with the utter certainty of the truly mad.
Victoria stepped back to snarl at them both. "That is why you both shall die here tonight! You took my love from me, Foxglove. Now I _will_ take your love from you. And you will _watch_. And then you will die as well!!"
"...gonna bore us to death talking?" Dale mumbled sarcastically under his breath.
"I heard that, you cursed brat!!" Victoria snapped viciously.
The black widow then smiled. A dark, mirthless, evil smile that even Widget would have shied from. "You want to know how I will kill you?" she asked quietly.
"Not really, no," Foxglove replied truthfully.
"Oh, but it's no fun if you don't know how much you will suffer! And suffer you will, my dear bat," she intoned, gazing with dripping menace straight into Foxglove's terrified eyes. "You will watch Dale die right in front of you, helpless to save him, and then you will join him in death as well." Her utter certainty filled her words with even more awful power.
Victoria walked over to a bulky industrial control box that hung on a cable from the ceiling. She turned a big grey dial and pushed a big red button, then a green one. A loud rattling, whirring sound came from above, sounding like it was coming closer.
"Cast your eyes skyward, my victims," Victoria commanded. "Tonight, it will be death from above for you both!"
Foxglove and Dale squinted against the bright lightbulb overhead, trying to see what was now positioning itself directly above them.
"The aquariums you are in both hold sixteen gallons. The water tank above you contains around forty gallons. Simple arithmetic says that's more than enough to drown you both."
Dale spoke up. "But I thought I was gonna die first so Foxy could watch me." He immediately cringed. He hadn't meant it to come out like that.
Victoria rolled her eyes at him. "Simpleton! You will die first! Notice that the metal screens your aquariums have for ceilings have been glued securely a few inches below the edge. This is so you won't be able to tread water up to the top and breathe through the screen. Notice also that on your side, a hole has been drilled neatly just above the metal screen."
The widow gestured to the water tank above. "When I press this little button on my control box here, a thin stream of water will pour directly into Dale's aquarium. It will fill. He will drown. You will watch him die, Foxglove, and you will be able to do absolutely nothing to save him. When he is dead, the water will begin to pour into your side. It will fill. And you will drown as well."
Dale and Foxglove were stunned into silence. They could only stare at the small, satisfied, businesslike smile on Victoria's face. Her plan was so cold, so calculated, so horrifyingly cruel. And the spider's calm control was the most frightening thing of all. There wasn't a trace of remorse in her eyes. She had gone beyond all rational thought. Both bat and chipmunk knew that it was impossible to reason with her. The couple tore their gazes from their executioner at the same time and looked to each other. The message in their eyes was clear; 'things do not bode well...'
"How did you put all this together?" Foxglove found herself asking, wondering how a tiny spider could move around forty gallons of water.
Victoria smiled breezily. "It was actually rather easy. People talk about how lazy cats are, but you'd be surprised at how much work one can do when you are highly poisonous and have the skin of their neck between your teeth."
Dale and Foxy both immediately felt sorry for whatever poor cat had been forced to aid Victoria's plans.
Victoria slithered over to Dale and put a hand on the glass. Her face turned sad. "I'm sorry this had to happen to you, Dale. But it does have to happen. While it's true you have caused me no harm, your fatal mistake was falling in love with a murderous little floozy like Foxglove."
Her words showed her true madness. Dale wondered if she was actually nuts enough to feel sorry for him when she was the one who was about to kill him! Her insult of Foxglove made his blood boil. He pointed accusingly at Victoria, his face twisted into an ugly scowl. "Oh yeah?! You wanna see murderous, go look in a mirror! I love Foxglove 'cuz she's the sweetest, nicest and bestest person I've ever known! She's a billion times a better person in her heart than you could EVER be!!!"
Foxy swooned happily. He was defending her honor!
Victoria sneered coldly at Dale. "Her personality is irrelevant. She took away my love. That is ALL that matters," she replied icily. The metallic chill in her voice made Dale shrink back. The spider seemed so devoid of compassion or emotion, Dale wondered if she could possibly be a robot.
Foxglove couldn't say a thing. This was all too surreal. She was having trouble convincing herself this was all really happening. She felt as if she might faint at any moment. She only hoped that if she did, she'd wake up safe on her perch at home.
Victoria skittered back to the control box and pushed a nondescript button. It 'beep'ed shrilly. She turned to her captives. "Goodbye," she said bitterly. The black widow turned away and vanished into the shadows again.
A grinding noise came from overhead, and then a small stream of water issued from the immense water tank and splashed through the screen that capped Dale's aquarium.
Their deaths had begun.
* * *
The water now came up to Dale's waist.
The aquarium filled slowly. Maddeningly slow. Victoria wanted them to suffer for hours. Neither Dale or Foxglove knew where she was now. They assumed she was watching them from somewhere in the warehouse. Their eyes were firmly on one another. They didn't speak, for fear that any words would bring uncontrollable tears. Together they sat, face to face, while the water pooled deeper and deeper around Dale.
For a while, they had been frantic. When the thin stream first hit the glass floor on Dale's side, Foxglove had screamed so hard, she thought her throat would burst. A scream of terror, of anguish, of defeat. Dale ran from the water and began punching at the glass with all his strength. He was in much better physical shape than he seemed, thanks to his fencing training and his regular Ranger duties. But still, all he accomplished was two aching paws and a few streaks of blood on the glass. Foxglove had tried her best, too. She flew up and into the glass at top speed over and over, hitting it with her side hard enough to make the aquarium shake, but not break. Dale finally cried out for her to stop for fear she'd hurt herself. Undeterred, she flapped up to the screen and attacked it viciously. Her only thought was that she had to save Dale. She bit at the metal with all the strength in her jaws, but she just couldn't get a good enough grip on it to do any damage. Dale tried running and slamming into the glass with his side. No help. Foxglove examined every millimeter of the plastic ring for signs of weakness. No help. Dale tried his best karate kicks; concentrating all the force in his body in one spot on the glass again and again and again. No help. Foxglove even tried shrieking at the top of her lungs, hoping she't hit a high enough pitch that the vibrations would shatter the glass. No help.
No help. Nothing worked. Nothing.
All that was left to do was wait for a miracle.
Sure, they'd been in deathtraps before. Plenty of 'em. But they'd never felt so helpless in any other before. Victoria had thought of absolutely *everything*. Her plan was indeed so infuriatingly simple that escape seemed impossible. They both wondered how she had gotten them into the aquariums in the first place. Never before had the situation seemed so hopeless.
Yet Foxglove did have an idea. But it was so repulsive to her, she didn't know if she could even bring herself to try. After she'd left Winnifred's service, she'd vowed to herself never to use the power again. Could she break that vow she'd made to herself?
Finally, she could stand her inner doubts no longer. She needed Dale's council and strength. Softly, she spoke "Dale, Cutie..."
"What is it, Sweetheart?"
"I have another secret I think you should know about..." She felt herself falling back in her memory to the night she'd revealed to him that she was a vampire. Her shame and her fear that he'd reject her because of it. Then she felt his love for her. She remembered how he'd accepted her and even helped her accept herself. She needed to feel his love again now.
Dale grinned lightly. "Uh oh. You're not gonna tell me you're a zombie too, are you? A werewolf? A space alien?"
Foxy couldn't help but laugh. Her dark thoughts disappeared as if blown away by a warm, gentle wind. It was uncanny how easily he could find the humor in any situation. How therapeutic it was for her to be able to laugh during her hardest times. Their laughter lightened her mood like a magic wand. "No, Dale. I'm definitely none of the above."
Dale expressed mock relief. "Whew! I'm glad I don't have to worry about you eating my brains or zapping me into dust! Drinking my blood is creepy enough!" He smiled at seeing her laugh. She was so beautiful when she laughed. His expression became more tender then. "I'm just kiddin', Foxy. You know I love it when it's your feeding time. It just feels so..." He searched for the right word. "...intimate, I guess."
"It does, doesn't it," she agreed.
Dale nodded. Then he leaned closer. "What is it you wanted to tell me? I'm listening." But before she could speak, he quickly interrupted "And before you ask, yes, I'll love you just the same no matter what you say. That'll be true forever."
Her heart skipped a beat at his caring words. She took a bracing breath and spoke bravely. "Um, this is really bad, Dale. Really, really bad. I won't lie. I'm so sorry I never told you before, but I honestly thought it would never come up again!"
He waved it off. "Aw, I don't mind. We've all got secrets. Heck, I stole a candy bar from Chip's desk once when I was a kid in school. I know it was bad, but it ain't the end of the world."
Foxglove's face drooped. "Oh, but Dale, you don't understand. This is worse than anything else! I'm still ashamed of it. I got it from working with Winnifred and I wish I never had!"
"But what is it? Come on, it's okay." He pleaded with her with his eyes. "Tell me," he asked gently.
She sighed. She bit her lip to keep from crying and let it out. "Dale, I know how to do magic!!" She cringed, waiting for his response.
Dale stared blankly. "...And?"
Foxy's jaw dropped in shock at him. "*AND*?!? Dale!! Magic is a bad thing! How can you be so calm!?"
Dale was really puzzled by this. "Foxy, I don't know why you think that.
Magic isn't bad," he stated.
"But it is!" she wailed, tears streaming down her face now. "Freddie proves it! I vowed I'd never use magic again after I left that mean old witch!"
Dale wished he could put his arms around her shoulders to comfort her. He put his paw to the glass instead. He had to say something to help Foxy. Sometimes it was exasperating dealing with her low self esteem. Sometimes it seemed like she was finally okay, and then she'd find something new to hate herself over. He wished there was something he could do to put her heart to rest forever.
But at the same time, he felt such empathy for her. At one time, he'd thought even less of himself. He was so convinced of his clumsiness and stupidity, he was afraid to do anything at all, for fear of messing up yet again and hurting his friends. He'd thought of quitting the rangers for their own good several times, but Chip had helped him see the truth. Back then, Chip had been his strong, friendly voice helping him to see his own worth. Dale felt both fulfilled and honored to be Foxglove's strong, friendly voice now.
He thought a bit, and came up with a simile so clever it surprised him. "Foxy, listen; magic isn't always bad. I can prove it! Remember Cassandra, the gypsy moth? Her fortune telling was magic, and it helped us! Doncha see? The magic isn't what's bad. It depends on who's using it! Freddie was a bad person. That's why she used her magic to try and hurt us. But if YOU were to use magic, well, you're such a wonderful, special, caring GOOD person, I'm sure whatever magic you did would be just great!"
The words were like magic themselves. Foxy raised her head to him. Her tears had become ones of happiness. "Oh Dale... I never knew you were so good with words."
Dale smiled proudly, glad to have helped her. "That's what comes from years of readin' comic books!" They both giggled. "So, Foxypie, do you feel a little bit better about magic now?"
"Oh, _yes_ Dale! You're so smart!" she exalted. "Why didn't I understand that before?" she asked rhetorically.
Dale answered anyway. "Well, it's probably 'cuz you felt so bad about working for Freddie that when you left her, you started thinking that anything associated with her was bad. Heck, I'm surprised you don't hate your red hair!"
Dale's perceptiveness surprised them both. He wondered again if he really was smarter than he'd ever thought, and that Foxglove was helping to bring that out in him.
Foxy just smiled at him, her expression saying how right he'd been.
"Besides," Dale told her then, "I kinda already expected. I mean, it makes sense that if you spent that much time around a witch, you'd'a picked up a thing or two here and there."
"I guess so," Foxy replied.
"So," Dale asked then, "what magic powers do you have? Can you fly?" Dale bonked himself. "Oh wait. You're a bat. Of course you can fly. Duuuuhh."
Foxglove laughed out loud. "Oh, you're so silly! Actually, I only really know one magic spell."
"Uh, can you blow up stuff just by lookin' at it? 'Cuz we could really use that right about now!" Dale said, looking nervously around at the steadily rising water.
Foxglove allowed herself a little evil chuckle at the sudden thought of exploding Victoria's head like Gallagher smashing a watermelon. She shrugged. "I'm afraid it's not that cool a power, Dale. All I know how to do is influence other people's dreams."
Dale repressed his first instinct, which was to say 'What kinda lame magic power is THAT?' Wisely, however, he chose instead to say "That's, um, kinda neat. Where'd you learn something like that?"
"Well, one of the things Freddie had me do a lot was to clean up after her when she'd done one of her spells. One day, I was putting away her magic books, which was hard because they were so big and heavy. Anyway, one of them was laying open and I noticed a spell it said was for beginners. It looked easy and harmless enough. And I so wanted Winnifred to approve of me. So I thought I'd try it out.
"The book said if you wanted to peek into someone's dreams, all you needed was to know the person pretty well, they had to be asleep already, and you had to really believe you could do it. I read the spell over a few times and waited for everyone else to go to sleep. Then I tried it out."
Dale had become aware that the water had risen up to his chest while they'd been talking. The water's motion was so gradual, he hadn't noticed until now. His shirt was soaked. 'Oh well, I knew I was gonna get wet anyway...' he thought. "So, did it work?" he asked Foxy.
"Yes! It turned out I really had a knack for it. I looked in on Lou's dreams that night. He was having a nightmare about a giant Victoria eating him, or something. I don't blame him!" Dale smirked. "The book said I'd be able to make him dream whatever I wanted as long as I concentrated hard enough on the images and envisioned them going from my head into Lou's. I did a little test. I thought about Bud finding a big diamond and hiding it under his hat. I focused on that thought really, really hard. In the morning, Lou woke up before Bud and just as I'd predicted, he couldn't resist looking under Bud's hat to see if a diamond really was there!"
Dale laughed, picturing the dimwitted spider getting bonked by the snake when he woke up. "Bet he was disappointed! That was pretty clever, Foxy!"
Her mouth turned up in a small, proud smile. "Thanks, Cute stuff!"
Dale looked a bit puzzled then. "Okay, so you can do this really neat dream thing. Why'd you bring it up now?"
Foxglove's eyes twinkled. "Because I think I can use it to help us escape!"
The chipmunk's entire body snapped to attention. "Really? Oboyoboy!! How? How? Are ya gonna make Vicky dream that the Orkin man'll come after her if she doesn't let us go?"
"No, silly! We don't even know if Victoria's asleep or not!" Foxglove told him. "Nope, I'm going to try to get inside Chip's dreams. I'm pretty sure he'd be asleep by now. If I can, I'll tell him all about where we are and what trouble we're in. Maybe he can find us and get us out!"
"Wowie zowie! Foxy, you're a genius! I just wanna hug and kiss you all over!"
Her heart did flips. "Me too, darling! But I have to warn you, I have to go into a deep trance to do this. You can't do anything that might wake me or I won't get through to Chip. And I won't be aware of anything else around me. Promise me you'll just tread water until I come out of it, Dale. I may be a while, but please, don't try to wake me unless it's an emergency! I know the water will be rising, and I'll do my best to be as quick as I can." She gazed deeply into his eyes. "Don't you dare die on me without me getting to say goodbye, you hear?" She had to wipe away a little tear at that.
Dale gave her his bravest smile. "I promise."
It was the hardest thing in the world to leave Dale's side right then. He was in mortal peril, and she was about to completely ignore him. It hurt worse than any physical pain, but Foxglove did her best to be brave. She was doing this to save them. She KNEW she could make this work. It had to. She gave him one last look, then fluttered over to the center of her aquarium. She closed her eyes and did her best to relax. Soon, she was deep into meditation.
The light around her seemed to dim. Her heart and breathing slowed. It was like putting herself into hibernation. Soon, her mind was all that existed. Foxglove felt her body and her reality slip away. Her conscious and unconscious minds came together. She had reached a point of true calm.
Remembering her mission, Foxglove probed the realm of the subconscious mind; the world behind our eyes. She visualized Chip asleep in Rescue Ranger HQ. In her mind's eye, she could see him just like looking through a telescope. The image became clearer and clearer until she found her spirit floating above him. She could see his every detail and movement. She could smell the nutty, woody scent of his fur, hear his breathing and his relaxed heartbeat. She was there, in his room, hovering before his face.
Foxglove leaned over Chip's still form and reached out with her ethereal wings. She saw them dip into his head. His forehead made ripples like the surface of a pond. She felt herself touching his mind.
And then she was inside his dreams.
* * *
Chip squirmed wildly in his bed. A horrible nightmare was rampaging through his head. Dale and Foxglove were surrounded by water. His friends were drowning. Where was he? And then Victoria was laughing. Laughing at their plight from somewhere he didn't recognize. He had to help them. He had to...
Chip jerked violently in his sleep and fell out of bed. His heart was beating a mile a minute. His breathing was ragged. His eyes were wide and staring.
'It was just a dream,' he tried to tell himself. But he knew that was a lie as soon as it entered his mind. No, this was no ordinary dream. Or was it even a dream at all? He had felt an urgency much too strong to dismiss. He'd never had a premonitory dream before, but he knew enough about them to know that this was one. And the Rangers' most bizarre cases had shown him ample proof of much stranger paranormal phenomenon before. He knew he had to act. Now.
Like a flash, he was out of bed, out of his pajamas and into his trusty bomber jacket and fedora.
He had to help them.
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