Posts Tagged ‘The Key’

Your Next Assignment

April 28, 2018

Robin yawned as she turned on her laptop. It was eight in the morning and she was busy shoveling eggs into her mouth as she waited for the computer to boot up. She had finished her previous temp assignment a few days earlier and she was starting to get nervous. She was sending out applications for real jobs but several days of no pay wore on her nerves. She could also feel herself getting too comfortable at home as the days passed from when she last went to a job and acted semi-professional. Her computer finally booted and she brought up her e-mail with her stomach tightening at the potential of interview requests or requests for additional information.

In fact, there was none of that. Robin did not have time to be disappointed, though, because the only e-mail she had received overnight was one from her contact at the temp agency, Stacy. It was really vague but it talked about a new assignment. She looked for a date and time and the other usual details but that was the odd thing. There was a request from Stacy for a meeting and it was not an address she was familiar with. She asked Robin to show up dressed casual and the time was ten in the morning on the current date. That last bit made Robin’s eyes go wide and she nearly spit out some eggs. That did not leave much time to get dressed and get to the meeting. Casual dress probably did not include pajamas.

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Robin hopped into her beat-up car and headed toward the meeting. In the frenzy of getting dressed, putting on makeup, and climbing into the car, she had had no time to consider what this job might be. She was used to tedious office work which was occasionally interrupted by actual research work where she felt a little like Nancy Drew combined with Indiana Jones. This was way out of the usual parameters and Stacy usually let Robin know exactly what was happening. This was weird and it set Robin on edge. She had spent her life making sure that her interactions with weird stayed strictly in fiction. Experiencing it now gave her a sour feeling in her stomach.

She arrived at the address and it was a series of storage lockers with no sign and nobody around. It did not even look like a business and instead looked like the kind of place junkies would shoot up. She warily got out of her car and that is when Stacy stepped out from behind a wall. The mousy office girl looked totally out of place in the worn neighborhood.

“Hey Robin,” Stacy said, looking up from a clipboard. “Welcome. I’m glad you made it.”

“Just barely,” Robin said. “You’ve got me really curious about this job, Stacy. I’m kind of feeling weird about all of this.”

“Well,” Stacy said. “I can understand that. Unfortunately, the name of the employer that is contracting you is to be kept confidential.”

“Umm,” Robin said. “How am I supposed to get my orders?”

Stacy smiled. “Well, I do have a solution here. The employer has included a journal in the welcome package that they say will tell you everything you need to know.” She held out an old leatherbound book and handed it to Robin. Robin looked it over an flipped it open and the pages were blank. She was more confused than ever. “Additionally, I am to give you this key and point you in the right direction.” Robin took the key in her hand and instantly felt strange.

“Point me in the right direction?” Robin asked. She felt as if she was suddenly underwater, all floaty but under pressure.

“Yes,” Stacy said. “In there.” Stacy pointed at one of the storage units and Robin felt herself nod.

Robin started to shamble toward the storage unit without another word. The world started to tilt side to side but she kept an eye on that storage unit door. She was still clutching the key and the journal as she struggled to walk toward that storage unit. Each step became harder and harder. As she approached the sliding door it slid open and she found herself desperately walking into the darkness.

It seemed like a moment later when she woke up and she realized that she was in a speeding car, heading down a highway she had never seen before. She reached down to grab a cold bottle of water and sipped from it as she drove. She held onto the wheel hard as she tried to look for some signs or some clue as to where she was. She looked down and the key from before was in the ignition. The journal was open on the passenger seat but she had no time to inspect it further. There was a post-it on the dashboard that said “turn here” and she almost missed the exit. She kept driving until she saw an open field to drive onto and she turned off the car and tried to breathe.

After a while, she took her seatbelt off and opened the driver’s side door to get out. As she started to slide out, something nudged her leg. She reached down to grab it and found that it was the hilt of a sword. What the Hell was going on? She settled back into the driver’s seat and grabbed the journal and as she did she saw a pen and a stack of blank post-its. She wondered what that was about. She looked at the journal and where it was blank earlier, there was now writing. A passage caught her eye.

“To slay the beast, grasp the sword and do not back down”

She shook her head and slipped out of the car but grabbed the sword and drew it from its sheath. It looked really old so what was it doing in this car she had never seen before? She had no chance to think about it further as she heard a growl behind her. She turned to see some sort of dog creature, crouching in the tall grass. It charged and she dodged to the side as it sailed by. It lunged again and instincts took over and she slashed at it with the sword. It fell to the ground still and bleeding. There was a sudden pain in her arm as she watched a tattoo of the dog creature form. What was going on?

The Key Part 11

April 13, 2016

The Key

Robin stumbled out onto the pavement and punched the alley wall.  She felt so helpless but so grateful to be out in the open air of the city again.  Her world had never been normal but it had been normal for her.  Now she was learning how strange things had been while she had turned a blind eye to it.  She had no idea which way was up anymore.

She walked along the alley and there was R, leaning against the wall.  He looked a little like a puppet with cut strings.  When she got near him, he looked up and for some reason, she thought he would bark.  He did not do that.  Instead, he pushed himself to his feet.

“Robin!  I looked everywhere for you.  Something told me that here would be where I should wait,” R said.  He brushed himself off but it looked he still had some dusting of broken glass on his coat.

“I’m tired of all this Nightmare on Charles Street bullshit!” She yelled at everybody and nobody.

“Are you alright?”  R asked and something in his eyes made Robin calm down a little.

“No. I’ll never be alright again,”  Robin said.

“What happened?”  He asked.  He reached out to her but she stepped even further out of reach.

“Let’s just say I think I know where the tattoos come from and I want to throw up.  Where’s my car?  The damage is bad, huh?”  Robin asked with no small amount of sarcasm.  She wanted to change the subject but there was no cheerier subject.

“It’s completely gone.”  R said.

“Well, it was being crushed when I ran.  I guessed it would be totaled.  Crap!”  She said and kicked a loose piece of concrete.

“Well, yeah that’s probably right but it’s just vanished too,” He said.  He was looking at her like he was afraid she might explode again.  “There’s not even broken glass on the street.”

Robin just stared at him for a few moments.  “What?  Oh great.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  The weird stuff keeps happening.”  She walked toward the front of the building and R followed.  The street was absolutely empty and the street lights were working again.  It was as if the attack had never happened.  She had half expected the car to be pristine and waiting for them there but it was indeed gone.

“When you ran, I tried to follow.  Before I could reach the building, something huge swatted me.  I flew through that window,”  R said.  He pointed toward a window that looked clean and untouched.

Robin looked up at that.  “Jeez, are you alright?”

“The coat stopped the broken glass and I’m just bruised a lot.  But thanks for asking,”  R said.

“I’m a little too self-centered sometimes.  I forget this horrible crap isn’t just hitting me, it’s happening to people like you too.  What happened then?”  She asked.

“The building kind of coughed me back out onto the pavement.  I tried the door and it was locked and then that thing swatted me again, this time into the alley.”

“You didn’t want to be in that building trust me.”

“Well, it wasn’t a picnic out here either.  I woke up in the alley and started investigating the situation.  Unfortunately, there was not much worth investigating. So I waited for you.”  R said.

“Well. I’ve had enough of the forces of darkness for tonight.  I don’t know if I can sleep but I’m so tired,” She said with a yawn and a scowl.

“Where do you want to go?  Back to check in on the, um, ladies?”  R asked.

“Oh hell no.  I can’t deal with that anymore today.”

“Well then, where do we go instead?”  R asked.

“My place should be relatively safe now.”

“Are you asking me over to your place?”  R asked with a bit of a smirk.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Robin said but she did grin just a litle bit.

“Alright.  How do we get there without a car?”  R asked.

“I’ll call an uber.  A few people have tipped me free rides, actually.” Robin said and pulled her phone out.   The battery was completely dead.

“Damn it!  That stupid spider trap took so long that my cell is dead.  I guess we’re walking until we see a taxi,”  Robin said without explanation.

They started to walk down the deserted street.  As they approached a parked car, Robin was struck with a sudden wave of nausea.  She stumbled and leaned on the car and she felt a sharp pain behind her ear.  The car made a loud ker-chunk sound as all four doors unlocked.  Robin stared dumbly at the car.  The nausea had passed.  R watched from a few steps away.

“It was the key,”  Robin said before R could ask.

“The what?” R asked.

Robin brushed her hair aside and showed the tiny key tattoo behind her ear.  “I’ve had it since I was a baby.  Bad parenting.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” R said.  “Are we meant to take the car?”

“Meant to?  I don’t know if I believe in ‘meant to’ but we’re taking it because I’m tired,”  Robin said.

They got into the car and, after a moment, Robin held her hand over the ignition.  There was a sharp pain again and the car started up.

The Key – Part 10

November 28, 2015

The Key

Robin stumbled through the darkness. It seemed to be an apartment building but all of the hall lights were out. She had tried to open the door she had entered but there was no handle on the inside. She had bruised her shoulder trying to bust it open by force. Now she was walking down the hallway, desperately trying to get back out so she could find R. She tried to use wall to her left as a guide as she walked. She jerked her hand away as the wall felt strangely crusted with grime. Why couldn’t things just be normal? Who had brought her there?

All of the doors looked the same. In the dim light from her upraised lighter, all of the doors looked gray with odd wooden doorknobs she had never seen before. The walls of the hallway were gray too whether from paint or grime or both. There were no numbers on the doors either. Robin had no idea how long she had been walking. Her eyes were drowsy and her legs were starting to ache. No matter which hallway she turned, everything looked the same.

The whole thing was making Robin angry but it felt like trying to start a campfire in a rainstorm. No matter how angry she got, she felt even more tired. She thought about just lying down on the floor and starting again in morning. That idea made her extra angry. How ridiculous was this building if she couldn’t get out of it? There had to be more bullshit magic at work here. She felt a surge of fear and anger at that thought. The really weird stuff found her when she was alone. Her lighter went out.

A light flickered to life over a doorway ahead. Robin walked down the hall to approach it and basked in the light for a moment. She was a nightowl but near absolute darkness had a away of making anyone love the light. Well, at least for a moment. She balled her right hand into a fist and hammered on the door hard. The sound echoed down the hallway in a way that Robin just didn’t like. She looked down the hallway to see if the sound had roused anything. Not one door stirred in the darkness.

However, the door directly in front of her opened up and a middle-aged, attractive woman stepped into the light. She was wearing pink lingerie or maybe red lingerie that had faded. She had make up on for a night out but obviously no plans on going anywhere.

“Can we help you?” The woman asked in a reedy yet seductive voice.

“Only if you know the way out.” Robin answered as she backed up a half step.

“Of course we know the way out. How else would we go into the world?” The woman replied with a sickening grin. Robin had a sinking feeling in her gut.

“Can you” Robin started before changing her mind “No. Will you lead me out of here?”

“We can and we will not. Please go away from our door.”

“You keep saying ‘we’ and ‘us’ and ‘our’. Is there somebody in there with you?” Robin asked. She leaned to the side to try to look past the woman and into her apartment. She had no success.

“Of course there is.” The woman said and smiled. The skin near her right eye started to throb and something black appeared in the corner of her eye. Then tiny appendages sprouted and stretched that little black object. Suddenly a small spider had pulled itself free from the woman’s eye and crawled across her cheek and into her hair. “There’s lots of us in here.”

Robin did not wait for anything else and instead turned and ran. Immediately she found herself falling down a set of stairs she swore wasn’t there before the door opened. She reached out and caught hold of the railing and stopped her descent. She stood and realized she was at the bottom of the stairway. Ahead of her was a long, long set of steep stairs. She looked back up the stairs she had fallen down and saw the woman approaching at a brisk pace. Robin turned again and climbed the steps as fast and hard as she could, trying to get away.

About halfway up, Robin chanced a look back over her shoulder and saw the woman was far too close for comfort. She tried to move faster but a couple of steps later she felt the woman slam into her back and she fell forward. Instead of hitting the steps, Robin felt like they were both tumbling through the darkness for a long time. The landing was sharp and Robin was no longer expecting when it happened. Impossibly, they were at the bottom of another stairwell and Robin was in water.

“Time for us to kill you.” The woman said and this time the sound was both raspy and reedy and terrifying. The woman grabbed Robin’s neck and used the grip to push Robin’s head under the water. Robin barely caught her breath and tried to hold onto it as the woman squeezed her neck under the water. It felt like ages that she was under as she struggled against the iron grip of the woman’s fingers. Eventually, she was pulled from the water roughly. Robin felt that now familiar otherworldly energy welling up deep inside. “Why won’t you die?”

Robin grunted and sputtered but glared at the woman. “Just give it to me already. Just give it to me. I want it!” She yelled the last as if it had been an incantation. The woman wretched and gagged above her and a giant spider emerged from the woman’s throat and through her open mouth. She leaned down and Robin tried to shake her head, to get loose but it was no use. The spider crawled down and into Robin’s mouth and she gagged herself but it went all the way down. There was intense burning deep inside of Robin and she shook and trembled as the woman let her neck go.

The burning sensation started to surface toward Robin’s shoulder and Robin tore at her shirt to expose the skin. She looked down and saw the spider there in tattoo form but it was moving as if it was struggling to get free. Robin touched it and it shied away from her fingers or at least it tried to. She focused on the thing and very slowly it stopped moving. She looked at the woman, slumped against the wall and saw something of stunned relief in the woman’s eyes. A black mist spewed from every pore and again the mist or smoke screamed with an otherworldly voice.

Robin looked around, feeling a little dizzy. She realized she was sitting in the middle of an alleyway and the woman wasn’t moving in front of her. Nervously she reached to check the woman’s pulse and it wasn’t there. The woman wasn’t breathing either. Robin was way too tired now. She found herself drifting off as she leaned on the wall across from the woman.

The Key Pt. 9

July 27, 2015

The Key

They got into Robin’s car and the mood was tense as they drove off into the night. The silence was uncomfortable as R shifted in his seat to get comfortable. The car was just a little bit small to fit his legs correctly but he was managing. He had thrown his coat in the backseat to gain a little more space. Robin didn’t want to look over at the muscles showing through his shirt. She was afraid she might start ogling him again. She was too determined, too focused on the task at hand to risk distraction. This put her in a bad mood again but it was easier to be angry than scared.

“Where are we going?” R finally asked after twelve blocks. He was interrupting the smooth hum of the street. It was only then that Robin realized she had caught nine greenlights in a row. Weird.

“I have no clue. I need answers.” She said, hopefully shutting down conversation.

“Have you thought about how all the weird stuff always seems to find you? Maybe we could use that to our advantage?”

A red light caused Robin to stop the car and she took the opportunity to turn and look at R. “I’m not going to bother with sarcasm. I’m too tired. If your solution is to sit somewhere and wait then I can’t do it. I can’t sit back, do nothing and wait for bad things to happen to me. That’s I’ve done this whole time. I tried to ignore blackouts and weird tattoos with my shitty waitress jobb. You know what? I want that shitty waitress job and a quiet life and I’m going to get it if it kills me.”

The car was silent again except for the heavy breathing coming from Robin. R watched her while her eyes went back to the road. Right on cue the light changed to green and the silence returned for a while.

“Feel better?” R asked.

Robin took a deep breath as she thought about it. “Yeah. A little.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“We’re heading to my place. That’s where the Doll was. If I’m supposed to turn people back, it’s as good a place as any to find another victim of whatever this is.”

There was a sudden grinding noise underneat them and the car slowed to a very loud stop. They were both out of the car immediately. The car’s tires and wheels looked like they had been chewed up in a giant lawnmower.

“What the hell happened?!” Robin screamed. “Whatever it is, it owes me a car!”

Before R could respond, all of the streetlights started to go out and all the lights in the building around them. All around them was darkness except for the headlights on Robin’s car.

“I think we have more important things to worry about.” R said as he pulled his coat and gun from the backseat.

Anger gave way to fear for Robin as she tried to peer into the darkness around them. Just like the night before she could sense something big moving out there but she could not see it. It stayed just outside the limits of the headlights. In fact, it felt like several things and they felt very large. She had a feeling that she shouldn’t look but she had to. She kept peering into the darkness and felt both frustrated and relieved that she didn’t see anything. She looked over at R who was point his gun into the darkness. What a fool. He had no idea how pointless that was.

Suddenly something heavy landed on top of the car and splinters of plastic and glass flew everywhere. R and Robin shielded their eyes and looked back but neither of them could see anything. The headlights had gone out. Robin could hear the car being slowly crushed. He heart started to hammer in her chest. She trembled, shook and then she bolted. She ran through the darkness without any idea where she was going.

The Key Pt. 8

May 23, 2015

The Key

Robin burst into the apartment at a fast clip, hands sweeping her hair from her face in a nervous gesture. She started toward the couch, ready to get some answers. She was ready to get this over with and she had tunnel vision for the doll girl. That was when Kim stepped directly in the path of the charging bull that Robin had become. Robin stopped short and blinked and was about to let her have it. Kim had been helpful but not necessary and she was way too nosy.

“You look like you could use some tea.” Kim said as she held up a cup. The momentary delay allowed R to make his way back into the apartment and catch up to the speedier Robin.

“I hate tea. Move please.” Robin responded, waving the steaming cup away and looking past to the girl on the couch. She looked like she was waking up, eyes fluttering. Kim deliberately moved back into her field of vision. Robin frowned at her but her urgency was starting to fade.

“How about some coffee?” Kim said with a smile that said she knew she had stared down a freight train and won.

“Um… fine.” Robin grumbled and grabbed the mug she was offered. Kim pointed toward the kitchenette area and Robin slunk over to the counter and put a little milk in her coffee.

“Hey, can I have the tea? It smells pretty good.” R said, shooting a glance over at Robin who shrugged.

“Of course. Let me talk to the patient before she’s interrogated, please?” Kim said as she pointed again to the kitchenette. R gave her a sheepish smile and lumbered over to Robin with his tea held carefully. Kim walked over to the girl on the couch and knelt down and spoke softly to her. Robin kept shooting glances over at them but kept her mouth shut and kept sipping coffee.

“Are you alright?” R asked, those brown eyes studying her. Despite her sudden bad mood she couldn’t help but blush and feel foolish for being angry. She felt all twisted up inside. She felt like her whole life up until now had been a lie. How much control did she have? How much control was possible?

“I don’t want to talk about it right now.” She said and took a long, silent sip of coffee.

“Hey, I think we’re ready to talk now.” Kim said from the couch.

Robin walked past R and felt him trailing behind her like a giant, well-armed, trenchcoated puppy dog. She set her coffee cup on the counter and did her best impression of a happy person as she approached the girl on the couch. The girl was beautiful and petite. She had platinum blonde hair with a slight curl and big blue eyes that sparkled with what looked like innocence. She looked around the room like she had never looked around a room before.

“Hi. My name is Robin. This is Kim and this is R.” Robin said, pulling up a chair to sit near the couch.

“Where am I?” She said in a tiny voice.

“My friend Carly’s house. It was the closest place to rest.”

“Dude, what’s wrong with my voice?” The girl asked, panic fighting to the surface as her eyes went wide.

“I… well we wouldn’t know. We’ve never heard your voice before . Let’s just all calm down, ok?” Kim said, looking hard at Robin for a moment. Robin held up her hands in silent agreement.

“No no. My voice sounds really weird. I feel really weird. Why do I sound like a chick?”

There was a silence like death that hit the four of them like a tsunami, sudden and without warning. Robin felt her thoughts try to flee the situation. She saw the way the girl’s chest rose and fell with each breath. She noticed the way the girl’s hair brushed her shoulders when her head moved. Then she noticed the tears forming in those blue eyes and she felt herself pulled back into the situation.

“Wait, what?” Robin said, glancing back at R and over to Kim. Both of them gave her wide eyes but no help. “Who are you?”

“Kevin… wait, I can’t remember my last name.” The doll girl said, his voice trailing off.

Robin looked back at R again for a moment. “That’s actually pretty common. You’ve had a pretty crazy day. All of us know what that’s like.”

Kevin sat up suddenly. “Yeah but I didn’t have tits last night and now I’ve got these!” He said as he roughly grabbed his chest, the cotton sundress he wore came dangerously close to showing off too much cleavage. “I can’t remember who I am but I know I’m in college. I have a life, man, and it doesn’t include this.”

Kim put a comforting hand on Kevin’s shoulder. Robin felt helpless, she had never really been good at connecting with people and now here she was trying to talk down the victim of an unwanted magical sex change. Behind her was an tall, amnesiac man with a gun and to her right was a nurse and mother. Right at that moment, police were probably combing the square for evidence of a terrorist attack. She had been chased all night by monsters in the darkness and there was another Robin inside of her that she knew nothing about.

“Anything I say is not going to be enough, Kevin. I could tell you that it’s all going to be alright. I could tell you that I can change you back. I would be lying, Kevin. I can’t save you when I’m not even sure I can save myself.” Robin said.

“Then what do I do?” Kevin asked, his petite voice sounding even smaller and softer. Robin shrugged.

“We carry on. I lost my memory too. Although I don’t believe I changed as much as you, I was also nearly consumed by.. whatever this is. We’re looking for answers.” R said as he stepped forward. Kevin’s eyes grew wide at his size for a moment before looking away.

“I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.” Kevin said, shaking his head and sending curls swishing to and fro.

“You’re welcome to stay here while you figure things out.” Kim said. She had the reassurance that only an experienced mother could have. Robin could see Kevin soften.

“Stay here and rest, Kevin. We’re going out to get some answers.” Robin said as she grabbed a pen and wrote down her cell phone number. “Call me here if you need something. I’ll call here if we have any news.”

“Just like that?” Kevin asked, those crystal blue eyes looking up at her. Those eyes wanted to believe it was as simple as that even if it was just for a little while.

“Just like that. Come on, R, let’s go figure this crap out.” With that, Robin walked out of the apartment and into the night. She left a bad situation behind her but looked hard at an even worse one out there waiting.

The Key Episode 7

April 13, 2015

The Key

Robin and the Beetleman found a little privacy on Carly’s balcony. Inside the apartment Kim fussed over a wounded Puppet Girl who was laid out carefully on the sofa. She was still breathing so it wasn’t time to panic and call a doctor yet. The girl hadn’t woken up yet though and that worried Robin but Kim looked like a capable caregiver. Maybe having kids unlocked that sort of behavior in human beings.

The Beetleman cleared his throat. He was leaning against the railing of the balcony. He had draped his trenchcoat over the railing and he had rolled up the sleeves of his button-up shirt. Even without the mass of the coat the balcony felt smaller with him on it. He was so big and tall and there was a force to his presence. He had the gravity of an action hero and it was hard not to look at him. She found herself staring at his caramel face, dark chocolate eyes and pitch black hair. He must not have gotten time to shave but he looked good. He looked really good actually.

“Earth to Robin. You wanted to talk?” He asked, cocking his head to the side ever so slightly.

“Oh. Yeah. Yeah I did. I just don’t know exactly where to start.” Robin said while trying not to blush.

“It’s all kind of terrifyingly complicated. I don’t blame you.” He nodded slowly, turning to look out over the surrounding wholesome neighborhood. The sirens in the square had died down by then.

“Can we maybe start with your name? I still don’t know it.” Robin said, tense with how awkward that question felt. It seemed that they had been so intimate in the bar and he had saved her life. It was ridiculous that she hadn’t asked yet, right?

“That’s weird. You used it last night.” He said, a curious look scrunching his face up. He didn’t quite trust her just as much as she didn’t trust him.

“Long story but that wasn’t me.”

“That wasn’t you? You look like the same tattooed, semi-goth bar waitress from before. Are you sure you didn’t get a concussion in the square?” He asked. It was Robin’s turn to look out over the neighborhood. She could feel him studying her and this time she couldn’t stop herself from blushing.

“I don’t reawlly know how it works but there is another Robin in my head. She knew your name, I guess. I don’t. I’m not crazy or at least I wasn’t before yesterday.”

“I guess that would explain the strange accent from last night.”

“The what!?”

“Just kidding.” He said with a chuckle. “You really are clueless about what’s going on, aren’t you?”

Robin grinned but tried very hard to frown instead. “I know that they’re bad and I’m good or at least I’m trying to be. I know that there’s another me that goes around and getting tattoos and apparently talking to strange men. Could you just tell me your name, already?”

“I guess I owe you at least that much but there’s a problem with that.” He frowned and paused long enough for someone to drive a truck between his words. “I don’t remember my name. I don’t remember much of anything and that includes my name. I know it’s R… something. It starts with an R.”

Robin felt bad for the guy but that lasted only a moment before the fear response hit. What was she up against that could do this? Why did she have to be up against it or anything else? She thought she might just have another panic attack right there on the balcony. She gripped the rail tight and felt her stomach do barrel rolls inside of her. She made small, involuntary sounds that were clearly not words and showed just how vulnerable she felt. The word “Why” rang through her head like a pealing church bell.

“Are you ok?” R asked which was a nominee for dumbest but most thoughtful question of the year.

“I’m sorry it did that to you.” Robin managed to croak out. It was inadequate but the best she could muster.

“It’s ok now. I have a feeling that you’ll help me get it all back.” R said. He said it so matter-of-factly that Robin started to believe it herself. “Maybe if we solve your mystery it will help solve mine.”

Robin sighed. “I’ve tried to solve it already.”

“Really? Ok. What have you tried?”

“I’ve…” The words died in Robin’s throat. “I can’t remember.”

“So she gave you tattoos. When was the first tattoo?”

“Fifteen. Well, the first one, the key, was when I was a baby but the rest didn’t start until I was fifteen.”

“Your parents didn’t complain about the tattoos? Ground you?”

“I… no I guess they didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“I..” Robin began but simply shrugged. Why hadn’t her foster parents ever said anything?

“What did the doctors say about your blackouts? About the tattoos?” R continued, the interrogation was starting to get unsettling.

“What doctors?” Robin all but squeaked. There had been doctors, hadn’t there?

“Any doctor. Any pediatrician or school nurse or anybody.”

“There… wasn’t one. Jesus Christ, there wasn’t one. Why didn’t anyone ever do anything? Why didn’t I?”

“Either you already had the answer or something didn’t want you looking for it. It didn’t want anything looking for it.”

Robin was hyperventalating now. She was leaning hard on the railing and nearly retching over the side. R reached out to steady her but she jerked away hard and landed in the corner of the balcony. The bars rang after her shoulder blades collided. The world spun around several times before she shut her eyes.

“What am I?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know, Robin. Let’s figure it out together. Ok?”

“How do I know I can trust you when I can’t trust myself?”

“You don’t.”

There was a long near silence which was filled only with the sounds of Robin trying to get her breathing back to normal. After what seemed like hours she gripped the railing and hoisted herself to her feet in the gathering twilight.

“Let’s go see if we can talk to the girl. I’m sick of not knowing.” Robin said and pushed past R and into the apartment.

The Key – Episode 6

February 3, 2015

The Key

It was like like the flicking of a big light switch.  One moment she was was sitting and listening to Kim’s story about her dog while eating pancakes absolutely soaked with syrup.  She was fighting the urge to pull out her phone.  Pet stories were only interesting to their owners.  The next moment Robin was standing in the middle of the adjacent courtyard on suddenly less achy legs.  She felt like a million bucks which was a lot better than what Other Robin had done to her the night before.  The wind had kicked up and she could feel her hair blowing dramatically to one side.

She looked over her shoulder and saw Kim was standing at their table and shout her name. She could see the words on Kim’s lips but she could not hear them.  All she could hear was a faint ringing as if a bomb had gone off.  She looked across the courtyard and saw that perhaps a bomb had gone off.  The corner jewelry store was now a towering inferno and there was debris all over the street and the courtyard.  In front of the towering inferno, the Doll Girl was standing, its body awkwardly twisted in what looked like rage.

The crowd had cleared out between Robin and the Doll as if they had received some subconscious signal or were afraid of fire for some reason. “You should have helped me!” The Doll Girl shrieked, its head tilted once again at an unnatural angle.  Apparently Robin’s hearing had returned just at the right time. Robin didn’t respond to that because she didn’t know how to respond.  How do you respond to a homocidal living doll?  Its happy face was painted on but somehow it looked incredibly angry anyway. “Now it’s too late.  Now I’ll take it from you!”  Its voice sounded like the unwanted child of a tea kettle and and a condor.  Its eyes began to swirl and twist violently.  “Robin Catherine Clarke.  Robin the Wanderer.  I’ll take you apart, discover your secrets and use them to cure myself.  Or maybe I could rule this city.” As the Doll kept screaming, its jaw became more and more unhinged and its limbs flailed wildly.  With halting, unsteady steps the shuddering, shivering doll lurched toward Robin.

Robin wanted to run away.  It was her feet that refused to budge, at least not in any safe direction.  She started to walk toward the raging Doll Girl which was the last place in the world she wanted to go, of course.  The Doll’s jaw was flapping wildly.  Its words were no longer being shaped by lips.  Still, despite the shrieking, they were as articulate as ever.

“No!  Stay back!  You had your chance, Wanderer!  You will die!  My kind will flourish and humanity will die!”  The words rang kind of hollow to Robin’s ears.  If desperation was a scent you could smell it for miles off of the Doll.  Robin kept her mouth shut and kept walking.

She did not know what she would do when she got within reach of the Doll. She felt like she needed to know the words but did not know the correct words.  She could feel that sensation again.  She began to burn and tingle all over and for a moment her vision blurred and her steps faltered.  She heard herself let out a little moan.  It was too much.  It would consume her.  It would consume her unless she passed it on. Suddenly doll-like creatures made of debris started to crawl out of the wreckage and shamble toward Robin with a stiff and hesitant gait.  They were all shrapnel and glass and looked like they could tear a person apart in seconds.

Robin tried to will her body to back off and get out of there but she kept walking toward the angry Doll Girl and her Dollettes. Other Robin must have a hell of a death wish. Gunshots sounded with a quick series of pops close enough that Robin wished her hearing was still gone.  One by one the Dollettes exploded back into rubble, seemingly harmless once again.  Robin looked to her right and there was the former Beetleman, standing tall with  a pretty large hand gun.  He turned his head slightly to glance at her.

“Are you alright, Robin?”

“How do you know my name?” Robin said with no small bit of shock.

“It’s a long story.  Are you alright?  You kind of have a job to do here.”  He responded, indicating the Doll Girl who seemed to be practically vibrating with anger.

“Um… right.  Time to do my thing.  Whatever that is.”  Robin said as she stalked toward the Doll Girl with a little more confidence.  Everything had mostly worked out with the Beetle Man so why would this be any different?  Once again she felt energy building up inside of herself and groaned with the pain and desperation of that feeling.  She sprinted those last few steps toward the Doll.

“No!  I will eat your flesh!  I will — ”

Whatever the thing was going to say was interrupted by Robin’s palm impacting its chest.  For a second Robin could swear she saw a dark shape flit down her arm.  There was a huge explosion of energy that threw Robin back into a couple of plastic cafe chairs and nearly landed her head on the concrete.  Beetle Man was there in a flash, holding his hand down to her.  She took his hand carefully and pulled herself up.  She brushed herself off and checked to make sure the fall hadn’t dislocated anything major.  Her head was spinning but with all of the strange goings on, she was not sure if this was a side effect of magic or a concussion.

“Was I that creepy looking when I was under?” Robin glanced away.

“No comment.” Of course he had been but what was the use of telling him that?  “The important thing is that you look good now.”  Which is when she blushed because maybe that was over-sharing.  It was true though.  He was tall, dark and handsome and had hair that was just a little long.

“Thanks.  Shouldn’t we go talk to her?”

“Talk to who?” The tall Indian-looking man who had formerly been an inhuman beetle monster pointed over to what looked like a smoking crater.  It was a smoking crater with a great pair of high heels and some shapely legs sticking out of it.  Robin started over toward the woman.  She power walked because she didn’t really want to go over there but she felt she should.  As she approached there was a familiar cloud of black smoke that made a screaming sound as it streamed into the sky and out of sight. Robin hung back for a moment in case there was anything else coming out of the girl.  She was beautiful and thanks to her recent doll form, she was done up a little like a beauty pageant contestant.  It was a little bit out of place in a crater in the middle of Robinson Square.  Unfortunately, the girl was unconscious but Robin could see her breathing which was a relief.  There was finally the sound of sirens approaching and a fire truck pulled up to start putting the inferno across the street out.  Police cars would not be far behind.

“We have to get out of here.” Robin said, looking around. “I’ll carry her. It’s not really her fault.  She shouldn’t go to jail.”

“Thanks.. um…  I’m going to have to call you something other than Beetle Man.”

“What?” He asked, paused as he bent down to pick the girl up.

“Uh… nothing.  My car’s down that way.” She pointed and he followed her easily with an unconscious young woman over his shoulder.  In the continued chaos of the courtyard they were easily missed.  They slipped away and headed back down Sullivan toward Carly’s apartment.  They arrived at Robin’s car without further incident.  “So how do we get her into the backseat?” There was a cough from behind them.

“Excuse me, but I don’t think you should move her more than necessary.  That makes sense, right?”  It was Kim who Robin had completely forgotten about.  They blinked at each other, both in shock for completely different reasons.

“Kim… I… I was going to say ‘I can explain’ but I really can’t yet.”  Robin said and smiled weakly and shrugged.  Honesty wasn’t always the best policy but it seemed best here.

“This is the strangest day of my life, Robin.  I don’t understand what happened but if there’s one thing I do understand it’s taking care of somebody.  I can take care of that girl for you, keep her hidden from whatever trouble she’s in.”

“Why would you do that?  Why would you get sucked up into my crazy life?” Robin asked.

“Because you’re Carly’s friend… and I’m needed.  Come on, I have Carly’s keys.  I, um, came to water her plants originally.”

Robin exchanged a look with the Beetle Man and then realized she hardly knew him enough for that.  She shrugged and followed Kim into Carly’s building and beckoned for the Beetle Man to follow.  Outside the sounds of sirens were everywhere as you’d expect from a city under attack.

The Key – Episode 5

January 9, 2015

(You can find earlier episodes of The Key in the Archives to the right)

The drive to Carly’s apartment was done with unsteady hands and frayed nerves and Robin definitely caught herself making little distraught sounds now and then.  The Doll Girl had been almost as frightening as the Beetle Man.  Of course, the Beetle Man had changed into a mysterious and attractive young man but there was no guarantee it would happen again. The Doll Girl could have just as easily tried to skin Robin alive and nobody would find out for a long time.  All of this was too much and she could no longer be sure of her decisions or her own senses.  It reminded her of that one party where she had taken a hit of acid, a memory she had mostly repressed.

She pulled along the curb in front of Carly’s place and wondered for a moment why it was so empty on the streets.  Then she remembered that Carly’s side of the street had to be clear for the street-sweeper in the morning which was mere hours away.  She almost decided to take her chances before she spotted a space on the other side of the street.  She pulled into the spot after only a couple tries.  As she reached for the handle to exit, she was gripped violently by overwhelming terror.  She shook her head violently.  Robin could almost swear that something huge was moving out there in the darkness just out of range of the streetlights.  Actually, the streetlights seemed a lot dimmer.

Robin hit the door lock button even though the doors were already locked as lamp after lamp seemed to flicker and then go out.  She shut her eyes tight in the darkness and could have sworn the car moved a bit as if something had brushed up against it.  Maybe the car was the safest place to spend the rest of the night after all.  Besides, Carly would not appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night.  Especially not by a half-crazed friend being pursued by demons or ghosts or something.  In the morning she would go get breakfast for her and Carly and surprise her then.  Then she would discover that the whole night had been a bad dream or her drink had been spiked or she had a parasite.  A few minutes more of such comforting thoughts and she lost consciousness.

When she woke up hours later the sun streaked through the windshield into her bleary eyes as if the shadows had never existed.  She wondered for a few moments if Other Robin had taken over during the night.  She should have taken precautions against this ages ago but had no idea what those precautions might be.  She wished for all of those years back when she had been mostly ignorant about Other Robin and wished she had chained herself down or locked herself in.  She wished she had done anything to prevent all of this from happening because, as much as she wanted to, she knew that none of it had been a dream.  As strange as it had all been, it also felt very real.  Too real.

There was suddenly a knocking on the passenger side window but it sounded like fireworks going off and she had seven consecutive heart attacks.  This is the moment when Robin discovered her brand new hangover.  Funny, she hadn’t felt too bad a moment ago.  She turned her head and realized that it was Kim, knocking on the window with a perfectly manicured hand. Kim was a friend of Carly’s but Robin had only talked to her once or twice before.  She looked around and then rolled down the window slowly.  It was probably safe now that the darkness was gone and even if it wasn’t Robin couldn’t have anybody thinking she was crazy.

“You’re Robin, right?  Hi!  What are you doing out here?” Kim said with too much perkiness and that barely concealed pity and worry of a mother.  Was Kim a mother?  If she was, did that make Robin psychic now? It was at this point that Robin realized it was her turn to speak.

“Um, visiting. Carly.” Robin mumbled as if the two words were separate thoughts that she had decided to connect at the last minute.  She felt a little embarrassed and found it hard to make eye contact.

“Oh!  Yeah, she must have forgotten to tell you about going on vacation.”  Kim said.  She had either decided to swallow the worry or she was acting willfully ignorant of Robin’s sad state.  It was crazy how quickly her smile took over her face and radiated out like a second sun.  The real world was just as weird as the shadows sometimes.

“Oh.  Yeah.  I guess so.” Robin replied half-heartedly as if this was normal and would be a funny story later.  She wanted to crawl into a deep, dark hole and fall back asleep.  She needed hours more of sweet, precious sleep.

“Would you like to go get some breakfast?”  Kim tilted her head to the side and for a moment Robin superimposed Kim with a little corgi dog.  She did not want to go to breakfast with this girl who she barely knew.  She wanted to go home but she really didn’t want to go home.  The Doll Girl was still there.  Then her stomach growled which pretty much sealed the deal.

“Sure. Let’s go to breakfast.” She heard herself say.  It wasn’t Other Robin speaking but it may as well have been.  She stepped rolled up the window and stepped from the car and into the sunlight which seemed way too yellow.

Kim was wearing pink and yellow while Robin was wearing all black.  Kim had a healthy tan while Robin was almost as pale as chalk which made her tattoos stand out even more.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

Robin tried to stay steady as she blinked in the harsh sunlight.  Everything under the sun looked like it belonged to some alien world.  She was never up this early and it almost felt stranger than the strange new world she had discovered in the shadows.  As soon as this was over with, she was crawling into her backseat and going back to sleep.  Ther was nothing she could get done until she rested again.

“What are you thinking about?”  Kim asked, choosing an outside table at a cafe before Robin could object.  She decided to let it go even though she could almost still see her getaway car from her seat.  At least there was an umbrella.  She dragged her gaze back toward Kim and smiled.  It wasn’t Kim’s fault that this was so awkward.  It was time to fake being normal, at least for a little time.

“Just a little stressed lately.  I’m trying to figure things out.” Robin responded with what felt like the fakest smile she had ever used.  “You know how it is, trying to plan the rest of your day. Right?”

“Oh yeah.  Carly told me about your blackouts.  That must make things tough.”  Kim said casually as if those sentences were somehow allowed and meant nothing.  As if that wasn’t deeply personal.  Robin fought hard not to wince when the words came and she thought she was mostly successful.  She was self-conscious enough about them without a conversation about her medical (or magical?) state.

“Yeah, they’re not fun.  I think I’m starting to understand them a little more now.”  She replied, trying to be as vague as possible.

“Are you going to Carly’s bachelorette party?” Kim asked in an obvious bid to change the subject to save everybody from a conversational sinkhole.  Robin had to fight not to sigh with relief.

“Not at first.” Robin responded.  “But the second stop is the bar I work at so I can join you all for the fun after that.”

“Oh good!  I’ll bring your goodie bag along with us then.”

“Thank you.  That’s really nice.” Robin felt kind of bad for judging Kim earlier but chalked it up to nerves and exhaustion and quickly let herself off the hook.

“Anything for one of Carly’s friends.  I want everyone to have a good time.”

Robin felt that maybe Kim wasn’t so bad after all.  She was just way sunnier than Robin could ever hope to be even if she wanted that kind of life.  That did not make Kim the devil anymore than it made Robin the devil.

The two of them kept talking with Kim doing most of the talking between dainty bites of breakfast.  As much as she craved it, Robin abstained from coffee with the intention of going back to sleep.  Successful conversation topics were few and far between as the two of them had very little in common.  Still, things were civil and Robin felt she could stand the energetic woman at least in small doses.

Of course, that was was when another blackout happened.

The Key Pt 4

October 7, 2014

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.

Halloween 2014

October 1, 2014

It is now officially October so, of course, I start to think a lot about Halloween.  The haunted houses and trails and mazes are opening to the public to scare the bejeezus out of them and pumpkins are showing up at grocery stores that are already flooded with candy.  All over the country people are sewing the finishing touches on their costumes and getting ready for all of the festivities.  I’m going to continue to get into the spirit myself as the days of this month continue to tick by.

Here in West Virginia, October came in rough and spooky with a huge thunderstorm big enough to force Brad and Janet to stop off at a creepy old house.  Of course, I sort of celebrate Halloween year round I just don’t advertise it.  I love most horror movies and I love the design of fake haunted houses and the lore of “real” haunted houses.  I love the imagery and the wicked, high energy feeling that I get when I know that Halloween is approaching.  True, I don’t really go to parties and I haven’t dressed up in years but I’m not into that stuff year around either.

If you read my blog (and you are right now. Hello!) then you will be seeing Halloween stuff throughout the month.  You may have already seen my review of Clownhouse but there are plenty of scary movies that I want to see and review.  It will depend on what I can easily get my hands on but I definitely have a wish list.  I usually skew towards the horror movies with a comic edge to them but some on my list are more dark and traditionally scary.

I will be continuing work on The Key, my own little ongoing horror serial.  I have yet to comment on The Key because I believe the posts should go by without comment.  The central theme of The Key is the struggle for control.  The thing that scares me the most in horror is the loss of one’s self or one’s self control.  When I read Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin I was absolutely terrified by Grant Morrison’s Professor Pyg and his dollotrons.  A villain who transforms people into disfigured, mindless servants and the process is irreversible.  I shudder to even think about it now.

The other thing I am trying to do with the Key is to write an atypical protagonist.  A heroine who does not want to be part of her own story and regularly tries to check out of it.  Like Alice Hardy in Friday the 13th she only saves the day when she is forced to.  I really don’t want to talk too much about it because I feel like it takes the mystery out of the story.  I love writing it because it feels so different and exciting.

Other than that, I don’t know what may come but I’m getting excited.

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