After twenty minutes of confused tears, Robin lifted her forehead from the table. She wiped her cheeks dry on her sleeves. She did not dare look at her tattoos for fear that they were still moving around. She walked around the bar and checked each door and shut off the lights. She didn’t know if the other her had counted out the register but after a moment’s thought she decided she really did not care. At least she discovered her share of the tips stuffed in her cleavage. She never stored things there but did not look a gift horse in the mouth.
She walked out onto the street and the lighting just felt really off as if everything was either too dim or a slightly different color. If she told anybody about this night, they would lock her up and throw away the key. She carefully walked along a seam in the sidewalk for a moment to test if she was still drunk. It looked like she was walking a straight line but how would she know? She decided to chance it and started to fumble for her keys. She thought this was the perfect time for a mugging but once again, she did not care.
Finally, she located her keys and opened the door of her crappy little car. The car started on the second and a half try and she started towards home. At these wee hours of the night, there was no traffic to slow her down or get in the way of her possibly intoxicated mind. It felt weird stopping at all of the red lights when nobody was around. These days you had to assume a traffic camera at almost every intersection.
She turned up the classic rock station to fill the silent void of the dead of night. She tried not to think too much about the term ‘the dead of night’ either. She changed stations rapidly when commercials started to come on. How could they try and sell her things when she was in this state of mind? Top 40 pop music hits started to fill the car. She did not usually like that kind of music but the beat was catchy and anything was better than silence or her own thoughts. Or worse, somebody else’s thoughts.
She pulled up to the outside of her apartment building and cringed as the hubcap scraped and ground against the curb. She thought for sure that she had woken the neighborhood but when she shut the car off there was that chilling silence again. It felt like a pregnant silence, full of the stored potential of the future. As far as Robin was concerned, nothing more needed to happen at the moment.
She stumbled out of the car and then stumbled up the stairs to the apartment she shared with her roommate. She spent what felt like fifteen minutes finding her key on the ring. She marveled at how all of the keys looked alike at night. The door opened and the apartment was completely dark. Annabella must not have come home yet. She walked into the apartment and spotted a flickering light out of the corner of her eye. That was the hallway to their shared bathroom. She headed for the hallway and when she turned the corner she stopped and stared. All of the little hairs on her arm stood on end.
Kneeling in a pool of blinking fluorescent light, there was a young girl with pigtails with her head bowed. The girl was motionless and immediately all of those alarm bells went off in Robin’s head. It was like the Beetleman all over again and she was still not sure what had happened there. She started to back out of the hallway. She did not need any more adventures or surprises. Just as she was almost out of range of the light, the girl looked up.
The movement was as if she was a marionette and she had been pulled upright by her strings. Her face was a doll’s face. There was really no other way to describe it. The puppet girl’s face was hard like porcelain or vinyl and was painted just like a child’s doll. The happy smile was painted on too perfect and looked frightening in the flickering white light. They sat for what seemed like eons and stared at each other. Finally, Robin started to back up towards the door. She glanced in the mirror Annabella had insisted on placing in the hallway and cursed her other self. Somehow this was Other Robin’s fault.
“Don’t go.” A voice said from within the perfect veneer of the puppet girl’s face.
Robin jumped at the sound and hurried faster, turning away from the little puppet. Why was this creepy little girl in her house? Why was she a puppet? There were too many questions and never any real answers. She hurried to the door but could not bring her tired legs to a run.
“Help me.” The puppet girl muttered, lips probably not moving. Robin could not bring herself to turn around and check if the perfect lips moved. She had a feeling they would not and did not want to witness it. “Help me.” It said again.
Robin could not wait anymore and fled from the apartment, slamming the door behind her. In a flash she was behind the steering wheel of her car again and thankfully it started on the first turn of the key. Tires screeched as she accelerated hard and headed toward her friend Stephanie’s house.