Chapter 6 – Born again.
The players for the second show of Henry’s Ensemble are readying for rehearsal.
Henry is on a bus on his way to meet the students at the theatre.
The sky closes in as rain begins pelting the side of the bus like the heavens have decided to open every faucet in Heavenly Jerusalem, the capital of the Messianic Kingdom, and also named Zion in other books of the Christian Bible. He notices an old lady with distinctively wrinkled features staring at him. A small child is crying on the other side where Henry is sitting; a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes also layered with cloths and held by a woman with a dark blue cloak covering a chemise worn underneath. Henry looks at the old woman, she will not take her piercing glance off of him. Her face unanticipatedly changes to a white bloodied mask-like of a cotton sheet face where the eyes are seemingly black smears, shut, and stitched with rusty barbed wire. His chest begins to palpitate from a murmur defect in his heart, a problem Henry acquired existing from childbirth, placing Baby Henry into intensive care for 12 days, and is triggered by stress.
He looks away calming his breath, slowly inhaling, holding, and then exhaling, a trick he learned from his now deceased Mother. As he gains his breathing and pulses back into a normal rhythm, he peeks back to the woman, drawn to her as her wrinkled withered face glares back this time with a look like Henry was guilty of some heinous crime, he wonders what it is that contains her willingness to stare, he concludes maybe a pressed judgment because of the way he dresses and his stress is causing the delusions he witnessed, after a brief vehement, Henry rises out of the side bucket front seat of the gas-powered transport and paces to the back of the bus to not be seen by the eerily mysterious woman. After he settles, He hears a young woman talking on a Startac Motorola flip phone.
“I have just had a bad day, and your are away at work. It s just the kid is 14 and running away. Her cousin just overdosed and died and she is going to do whatever she does; she’s only 14! You’re gone for two more days.” She notices Henry listening, looks the other way, and crouches her head into the phone to not be heard, but Henry can still hear as he emphasizes,” I just really need you here, I know it’ll be ok. Love you too.”
Henry looks at the woman and speaks, “Are you ok?”
She timorously replies, ” I’ m fine…thanks.”
“I know how you feel, I lost my father and mother, My mother this year.”
She reluctantly looks at him, looks for a moment, and replies “That’s horrible.”
“You’re not alone.”
She looks at him again timidly, down at the seat and then back at Henry this time with a smile.
Henry looks to the woman, she reminds him of his mother, caring for him whenever he needed. His eyes begin to water, he looks at the window and to the street beyond.
As the students prepare for the upcoming show, Orson comes rushing out to the green room.
“The Puppets, they’re, missing.”
Alice speaks up,” Which puppets, Orson?”
Orson, breathing heavily swallows before he speaks again, “All of them.”
The rest of the students are aghast and look at one another with suspicion trying to figure out which one might be the saboteur and for what reason. It is the morning however and they have the full day to find them; until 7pm pacific standard time, the westernmost time zone in the contiguous United States and Canada; It is also used in Baja California, Mexico.
“I can’t believe this, someone is sabotaging the show!” Erica screams.
Alice makes an order, “Ok, well they were here before we left, they have to be somewhere. Everyone split up and search the campus.”
The students pair up and head out of the theatre to look for the missing puppets, Orson and Hazel are the first to exit the theatre, and they start walking into the main halls of the university. The halls are large tunnel-like structures spanning 50 meters high to the tip of the gothic ceiling. They are made of stone with distinct ribbed features crisscrossing down along the inside of the rooftop. Statues of ancient philosophers line the echoed lane. Dim light stretches through the stained glass windows onto the marble-tiled textured floor, shiny as a new 1994 Bicentennial of the U.S. Capitol Silver Dollar.
Hazel, fair-skinned with blue dye spiked hair, asks Orson, “What do you think happened?”
Orson is bored, “Who knows, probably one of the jocks, playing a joke,”
She replies, “Ya, ya your probably right.”
“This sucks, my Dad is already on me about taking theatre, instead of being, a doctor or something, and now we might not be able to finish.”
“We, can, and we will find it. Doctor, gross. All that blood, and babies. Gross. Do you like babies and blood? You really have to, to be a Doctor.”
Orson stops walking, “Ewe, ya I never thought about that.”
“Babies scream a lot, my sister she has a baby, it never stops crying. I was there for the birthing, ya PTSD for life.”
“Too funny, what do you think of the show, I never really talk to you, odd both of us you know being ASIAN and all.”
“It’s good, and ya I know, why don’t we talk more?”
“We should, but you know it’s hard enough to fit in around here, don’t need the extra luggage.”
She stops, suddenly.
Orson looks at her and stops,” Hey, I dint mean to.” –
“Shhhhh,” Hazel is as still as a piece of cheese in a mousetrap. “I hear something.”
The hallway is as silent as a winter’s wilderness night, a song can be heard, it’s too faint to make out.
Hazel continues, “Did you hear that?”
Orson looks at her like a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a field with nothing but perennial ryegrass, “Hear what?”
“It’s music.” Orson looks around the hall. Nothing.
“Come on, I don’t hear anything, what song?”
The music stops, dead silence.
Hazel replies, “It sounded like, I don’t know actually.” Lets go check it out maybe its something to do with the missing puppets.”
“Or a Party!”
The two continue down the ornate halls until they reach another hall at the end that is joined perpendicular. As they turn the corner suddenly the music starts again, this time piercing loud. It’s an old bee-bop melody:
They turn the corner and in a flash a white puppet presents before their eyes:
In an instant, Orson is grabbed by a large snake-like bloody tongue. His body is twisted and squeezed like a soaking wet dish rag, the blood washes out from his stretched ripped skin spurting onto the floor from his twisted frame, and his eyeballs burst out of their sockets onto the floor. Hazel screams, turns, and runs in the opposite direction down the adjacent hall. She frenzies looking for rooms open along the lane; She grabs a handle and turns it, it’s locked, she runs to another door, locked again, she crosses to the other side the door opens to a dark black room. She hurriedly slams the door shut bracing herself against the wall.
She quavers and cries trembling trying to keep still, placing her hand over her mouth as she cannot contain her voice from making noise as she knows this could be her last day on earth, minutes or seconds from a possible infinite nothingness; the music gets louder she is crying as it continues, she wants to scream maybe informing someone to help as the music is playing just outside the door…her handshakes, she is tormented at the sight of seeing Orson dying. Suddenly a spotlight comes on behind her lighting up a stage, where the green sock puppets are watching her, they begin to laugh and squeal like weasels but she cannot muster up the courage to see what is there. The door handle starts to turn, she jumps, walks backward, and turns around just as the four-stringed puppets walk from her sides, she continues to cry, two from the left side; two from the right side of her, and they look at her like curious puppies, slowly come to a stillness then like leopards going for a final kill, they jump on her forcing Hazel down as she falls to the floor ripped apart from the puppets.
The door opens as the white goblin puppet enters. The green sock puppets cower in fear. The Master Puppet looks to the floor in the middle of the room where a table holds a large mirror, while the wooden puppets continue to devour Hazel. The mirror is attached to a worktable full of string, wood blocks, sticks, wire, paint, different sizes of fabric and felts.
The Master Puppets’ midsection begins to click like gears from a machine. A song is belted out from his midsection:
All the puppets stop and proceed to the workbench, grabbing the materials and placing them through the mirror.
As the white Puppet watches his creations, the green goblin sock puppets and the wooden stringed marionettes gather the materials. He turns to Hazel, walks over to her remains, picks up a necklace stares into it as he stares the necklace begins to glow, he then looks back at the mirror.
It turns translucent, then just beyond the surface, masses of shadowy figures can be seen in a portal, a portal beyond the realms of the earth to another dimension…
To Be continued…
Written by Colin R. Mah
Proofed by CJ Wolfe