Geez, this outfit is uncomfortable, thought Marisa, wanting to reach back and pull the fabric slowly creeping up her backside.
She didn't dare, however, with an audience of nearly five hundred people staring at the stage. As the assistant to The Great Alphonso, it was her job to help distract the audience from the magician's sleight-of-hand.
The amazingly fit blonde did just that in her pink sequined leotard, fishnet stockings, and high heels. Her gloved hands performed grandiose gestures as the magician turned milk into doves, called out card faces from decks he never even handled, and pulled improbable items from his top hat.
"My final trick of the night will require my lovely assistant, Marisa," boomed Alphonso. "Hasn't she been wonderful tonight? Give her a hearty applause if you agree!"
As the clapping filled her ears, Marisa apprehensively approached the center of the stage. Alphonso never used her in the finale before, and she had no idea what he had in mind.
Marisa stood in the spotlight with her arms folded in front of her, deciding to follow Alphonso's lead.
As the applause finally died down, Alphonso stood beside her and began waving his arms. He shouted "KAZAM," and Marisa was surrounded by a puff of smoke.
When the smoke cleared, Marisa was startled to find herself in a tight straitjacket. As she tugged with her arms, she nearly fell over because her legs were also encased in a sheath of the same material.
They hadn't rehearsed anything like this before. She turned to Alphonso to question him, but her face was covered with a muzzle. While it looked like a fancy medical mask to the audience, they couldn't see the phallic rubber protrusion inside filling her mouth.
"And now, my dear, ESCAPE!" bellowed the magician.
Escape? All she could do was blink! She tugged with her arms, but they were securely belted together behind her back. She shifted her legs, trying to find some play to help maintain her balance in her heels. She whined through the muzzle as she had no idea how she was supposed to get out.
She looked back at Alphonso, who appeared to be unhappy with the delay.
The audience just stared at her, waiting for her to magically unbind herself. As she continued to wiggle like a worm, she saw people begin to whisper to each other. More people looked as annoyed as Alphonso. Before long, some started to laugh at the ridiculous sight of the helpless woman.
Alphonso had gone from perturbed to angry.
Soon, the entire audience had erupted in laughter at her plight. What was she supposed to do? Was Alphonso at least going to come out and free her?
Marisa shot up in bed.
"Whoah..." she muttered. "That's the last time I drink chardonnay with Mexican food!"
Her coworker Jen listened intently as Marisa told her about the previous night's dream.
"Huh..." replied Jen.
Marisa looked at her. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Jen shrugged. "It's hard to say, but maybe you're worried about having to do something you're not ready for. How's your project going?"
"At this point, everything is going pretty smoothly," answered Marisa. "A week or so ago a dream like that would have made sense, but I'm not sure why I'd have it now."
"No idea," said Jen. "That was just a guess anyway. Until then, I'd avoid going out with any magicians." She winked.
"Oh, shut up," snorted Jen. "The one in my dreams wasn't my type anyway."
The red and yellow-clad woman known as the Blonde Fury crouched outside of the reinforced door, steadying herself for the upcoming confrontation. The murder of her parents, the obvious city government corruption, and everything else that had turned mild-mannered college student Marisa Blake into a costumed agent of vigilante justice led to this moment.
Inside was Albert Silk, the wealthy inventor who had bribed numerous city officials to increase his own wealth and eliminated those who didn't take his money. Such was the fate of her father and mother. It had taken years to trace the money trail, but it was all going to pay off once she was able to pound him into the floor.
She reached into her utility belt and pulled out five small explosives which she placed at various points around the door. She stepped away, took a deep breath, and engaged the detonators.
The door blew inward, and the Blonde Fury pounced through the opening seconds later. Two henchmen near the doorway saw her enter, but the surprised thugs were no match for her martial arts skills.
The room was some kind of laboratory. Benches lined the walls to the right and left, while the far wall housed a large computer system. A metal chair stood in the center of the room with several high-tech devices descending from the ceiling overhead. In front of the computer bank stood three more ruffians along with her quarry. She had to stifle a laugh. She'd heard rumors that Silk had created his own costume and taken the identity of Silkmoth, but he looked ridiculous in a white butterfly suit and top hat.
"Albert Silk, a.k.a. Silkmoth, your days of villainy are over!" she shouted.
Silkworm scowled and gestured toward her. "It's the Blonde Fury! Get her, boys!"
The three men charged around the chair toward her. She ducked low at the last minute, taking the legs out of the man in front. As he fell, the man behind him tripped over the fallen thug, leaving the third man to take a boot to the face as Blonde Fury flipped upward. A forward flip allowed her to grab the other two men's heads in each hand and slam them into the floor.
"Now it's your turn, Silk," she shouted, turning toward her nemesis.
"I don't think you'll find me such easy prey, Fury," growled the villain.
The heroine leaped at Silkmoth, but no sooner had she gone airborne than the villain shrunk down to the size of his namesake. Momentarily surprised, Blonde Fury wasn't ready for the flying punch the villain delivered.
The impact knocked her backward into the metal chair. Before she could get her bearings, strands of fibrous material shot from Silkmoth's costume and wrapped each of her hands around the arms of the chair. They were followed by more strands around her torso, legs, and a final one around her face.
As Silkmoth grew back to human size, Blonde Fury tugged at her bindings. She tried to get to her utility belt for a blade or solvent, but she was unable to reach it.
"Not so high and mighty now, are you?" boasted Silkmoth.
The heroine cursed, but the fibers covering her mouth reduced her outburst to indecipherable nonsense.
"You've been an annoyance for quite a while, young lady," continued the villain. He leaned in, stopping directly in front of her face. "I think what I'll do is hijack the TV channels and unmask you in front of everyone."
He started toying with the fasteners of her costume. "Perhaps we'll even entertain the option for some additional public humiliation..."
Marisa's cries woke her up.
"Holy crap, that was weird," she said. "Okay, brain, what are you trying to tell me?"
"You're trying not to laugh, aren't you?" asked Marisa, having just recounted her latest dream to Jen.
"No, no... okay, maybe a little," replied Jen. "It sounds like your mind is definitely trying to work out something. That, or you've got a kinky side you've never told me about."
"Oh, shut up," huffed Marisa. "I had a feeling I should have kept this one to myself."
"Two nights of vivid dreams with a similar theme definitely means something," said Jen. "I couldn't tell you what, though."
"Hopefully that was the last one for a while," bemoaned Marisa. "Until then, I guess I'll add old dudes in butterfly costumes to the people-I-shouldn't-date list."
Jen just snickered as she turned to head back to her desk. "I should hope they were never on it in the first place. Hope you sleep better tonight."
"Me too," sighed Marisa.
Marisa glanced out of the barn door, growing even more frantic at the setting sun. Her father was going to be furious if he found out she had spent the afternoon with her friends instead of getting her chores done on time!
Even though it was twilight, the barn retained the heat from earlier in the day, and Marisa was sweating buckets. She untucked her short-sleeved flannel shirt, unbuttoned the bottom few buttons, and tied it in a knot just below her sternum. She took a red handkerchief from her cut-off jean shorts and wiped her forehead, glad that she had the sense earlier to put her hair up in pigtails to keep her neck cooler.
She was nearly done. All the animals were fed, and most of the stalls were cleaned. The only one remaining was the sty of their prize hog, Alfred. With any luck, he hadn't made much of a mess today, and she could finish right before dinner.
Grabbing the pitchfork and wheelbarrow, she parked it outside of Alfred's pen. She opened the gate, and looked inside. Alfred stood at the opposite end of the sty, but was he wearing a top hat?
"Where did you get the hat, you goofy pig?" Marisa asked the animal. "Is that your dress outfit for your next showing at the county fair?"
Alfred grunted, staring intensely at the girl.
A sense of déjà vu and dread washed over Marisa. The hat seemed eerily familiar, and the expression on the typically genial pig was creeping her out.
Suddenly, Alfred charged forward, steam shooting out of his nostrils. Marisa's arms flew upward into a defensive position even though she knew she was no match for the six hundred-pound swine. She closed her eyes and screamed.
The impact never came. Slowly, Marisa opened her eyes, discovering an entirely new horror.
She was hanging upside-down in the barn. Her arms were pulled behind her back, wrists bound together and more rope encircling her elbows. Her ankles were crossed, and a short length of rope ran from her hands and around her ankles. Finally, a rope under her knees was looped over the baling hook, suspending her nearly fifteen feet above the barn floor.
Of course I'm hog-tied, thought Marisa dryly.
She attempted to call for help, but a knotted rag was tied between her teeth, muffling her cries. Based on the salty taste of her gag, Marisa assumed it was the handkerchief she was using earlier.
Marisa tugged against the ropes, looking for some way to get her hands free so she could at least get herself upright. The knots held firm, however, and the pressure created by her suspension made the ropes feel even tighter.
If I can just get loose, I should be able to fall into a pile of straw, she thought.
She glanced down to verify the straw pile's position and recoiled in horror. The pile was there, but her pitchfork was placed upright in the center, directly under her!
Just then she heard a small snap and felt herself shift. She looked up and saw the rope around her knees and the hook beginning to fray.
No, no, no!
She tugged harder with her arms, but the motion caused more strands of the rope to break loose.
Finally, the rope snapped completely, plunging the girl downward.
Marisa screamed and woke up.
Covered in sweat, she tried catching her breath as her heart pounded in her chest.
"That was the worst one yet..." she said aloud.
"I'll take that as a compliment," answered an eerie voice from across the room.
Marisa glanced up and saw a dark silhouette standing at the foot of her bed. His features were covered in shadow, but she recognized the outline of his all-too-familiar top hat.
She screamed as he lunged toward her.
Marisa's eyes fluttered open.
I hate that dream-inside-a-dream shit, she thought to herself.
As she went to get up, she realized her hands and feet were tightly bound to the four posts of her bed. She screamed again, but the sound was muted by the large rubber ball strapped between her teeth, and all that came out was a muffled whine followed by a stream of drool.
Wake up! Wake up! she pleaded with herself.
Her bedroom door slowly opened, and the shape from earlier filled the doorway.
"Now the two of us can have some real fun," said the not-quite-human voice. The sound of scraping metal filled the air.
Marisa yanked at her bonds, but they were too taut to get any leverage.
Oh God, why can't I wake up this time? she cried, her mind unwilling to acknowledge the fact she truly was awake.
Author's Note: This story is loosely based on the Alp legend from Germanic folklore.