Something new

M.A. Gavin,

It has been two months since the conclusion of our first co-authored story, and two months since the election that has undoubtedly changed our country.  Why we stopped writing is a mystery to me, although I would like to suggest some potential reasons.

1: The election results.  Due to the election of now President Donald J. Trump (#notmypresident), you were initially too depressed to continue writing our silly stories – designed primarily for our own entertainment.  Now, because of the political atmosphere you are distracted from writing by other obligations to defend the rights of fellow Americans, protest the insanity of the political scene, and to educate yourself with an arsenal of material to provoke conversation and potentially open the eyes of others.  Perhaps, now that we have this new president, we can restructure our blog from fiction to a platform allowing us to provoke thought and conversation.

2:  You no longer like me.  Was I too much for you over the holidays?  Did I overstep a line when we wore matching pajamas?  Are you holding a grudge because my dog vomited in your bed?  Perhaps I didn’t laugh at one of your jokes – I am obligated as your straight man.   Was I not gracious enough when you cooked for me?   Whatever the possibility, I express my sincerest apologies and hope to make it up to you with a round of naked yoga, bird calling, or an extremely large dish of ice cream, and then, continue our writing endeavors.

3: You were attacked by a magical creature.  Is there a creature capable of stealing one’s memories?  There must be!  Why else would you have stopped our writing experiment?  One day you were walking in the city, contemplating your next piece of writing, brainstorming how we should proceed, and suddenly, it swooped out of the sky and knocked all memory of this blog right from your head.  Why else would you have left me hanging?

4: You ran away.  We are certainly not the most well traveled pair.  Maybe you decided it was time for you to embark on a hero’s quest.  Exploring the great unknown you are traveling far and wide, north and south, east and west meeting a host of people opening your eyes to far better writing than ours, new ideas and views of others.  Regardless of where you are travelling… WHY DIDN’T YOU INVITE ME?!

Well, those are my primary thoughts on where you could be, or what could have happened to our writing endeavor.  Nonetheless, I felt it was time to pick up one pen and see what happens.  I propose we begin again either with a new fictional story, or in a blog correspondence, or whatever else you may fancy.  We still choose a day to post, and stay at approximately 500 words.

I hope you consider this proposal and pick up a pen.  Please include if any of my above conclusions are correct (I am leaning toward 2 or 3 being most likely).

Happy Reading!

-M.R.Gavin

Chapter 43

Baffled as he was, Arthur was well trained and his survival instincts kicked in quickly. He estimated that it was about 4 o’clock in the evening, an estimation based on the light coming through the window. There were a lot of clocks in the house, but they were all set to different times and some moved obviously faster than others. He’d also determined a few weeks prior that the house slanted, indicating the exit was on the downward slanting side.

Arthur moved quietly and fluidly, as if there was no doubt he was going in the right direction. Beatrice’s mother followed behind him, clutching Pepe to her chest, and Beatrice took up the rear. They followed silently, trusting Arthur would get them out of that god-forsaken house.

It was the best look that Beatrice had gotten of the house since she’d arrived there what felt like months ago. It was bigger than she’d remembered, funny considered what she remembered of it was from when she was a child. The hallways seemed longer, and the doors seemed farther away. They made turn after turn into empty hallway after empty hallway. Beatrice tried to keep track of their path, just in case they had to turn back. Every turn they made, she expected to see a cousin or a cousin’s child, but she saw no one. In fact, the entire house looked, sounded, and felt empty. There were no nasty kids running around making a mess, or nastier adults making an even bigger mess. There was no screaming, yelling, or maniacal laughter.

After what felt like ages, Beatrice’s mother said she needed to pause for a moment.

“Carrying Pepe around is like running a marathon cradling a bowling ball!” her mother stated, breathing heavily.

“That’s ok, we can take a break for a second,” Arthur said, still on high alert. His eyes darted from side to side, checking for anyone or anything that may try to stop them.

Arthur casually pulled Beatrice to the side, stepping momentarily away from her mother and Pepe. Beatrice saw in his eyes that something was wrong.

“Birdy, I don’t want to scare you or your mother, but something is…off,” Arthur said, trying to sound calm. “We’ve been going in circles. Every clue indicates that the exit should be right there,” he continued, pointing down the hall. “But its not. We just end up right back where we started. Beatrice, I don’t know what to do.”

Beatrice tried but failed to hide her surprise and disappointment. She knew it was too good to be true. Why would the cousins just let them go? It was counter-intuitive. It was another one of their tricks, and she’d fallen for it. Face first.

“There has to be another way. We can’t just be trapped in here forever,” Beatrice whispered, beginning to panic. The walls that had seemed so tall and the hallways that had felt so long suddenly began closing in. She felt trapped, and struggled to catch her breath.

Just then, a chubby Pepe waddled over to Beatrice. He nipped at the old pair of pants Beatrice was wearing, pulling her forward. Beatrice looked at her mother, who in turn looked at Arthur. He shrugged, “I guess we’re following the dog.”

-M.A. Gavin

 

Chapter 41

“We can finally be successful again.” Beatrice  had no interest in her father’s definition of success and refused to play any role in him achieving it. Beatrice was suddenly aware that she needed to get out of that room. She needed to escape, to find her mother and Arthur. Before, she’d been safer in the room by herself, separated from the cousins. But now, she wanted out.

Her father was standing on the side of the bed closest to the door. She was standing opposite him, contemplating her options. Beatrice examined her father, wondering if he would try to stop her if she left. He was tall, but slim. His shoulders hunched over him, and there were dark circles under his eyes. Still, Beatrice had learned long ago not to underestimate a person based on his appearance. After all, Gerald Jr. used to wear tape on the arch of his glasses and had an assortment of pocket protectors- one for each day of the week.

She refocused her attention. Her father was saying something, “…can you believe it, Birdy?” He looked at her expectantly, but she said nothing. He continued to ramble and reminisce, and Beatrice continued to ignore him. She moved a step to her left, testing to see how he would react. He angled his body to face her, but didn’t move from his spot. She moved another step. Again, he didn’t move. One more step. Her father stopped talking, but again, he didn’t move.

Were the cousins waiting outside the door? Is that why he wasn’t trying to stop her? Did he think she wouldn’t actually try to escape? Was he testing her?

“You know, you’re about as subtle as your mother with a bullhorn.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“Beatrice, I know I wasn’t around. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t keeping up. I know more about you than you could ever imagine.”

Beatrice stood silently, resolved not to give her father the satisfaction of getting to her. For a split second, she turned her attention to the door, and wondered if she’d ever escape.

“I won’t stop you,” her father said, as if reading her mind. “If you want to walk out that door, I won’t get in your way.”

Was he tricking her? What was on the other side of the door?

“It’s not a trick, I promise,” he added, placing his hand over his heart. “Turn right. Go up the stairs. Your mother and Arthur will be there.”

Again, Beatrice had the nagging suspicion that something was very, very wrong. Why would her father just let her go after going through all that trouble to get her there?

“I’ll even sit down, if that makes you more comfortable,” he said, sitting on the edge of the bed.

Beatrice walked cautiously out the bedroom door. To her surprise, no one was there. She looked to her left and then to her right, debating whether or not to trust her father. She flipped a mental coin, and turned right.

-M.A. Gavin

Chapter 37

It had been barely a day since Janelle had stormed back into the bedroom, determinedly non-distract-able. Beatrice and Arthur hadn’t been able to say a single syllable before Janelle grabbed Arthur by the arm and dragged him out of the room with surprising force.

Shortly after Arthur’s abrupt departure, Beatrice’s mother slipped into the bedroom, carrying a bowl of cereal and a glass of lukewarm water. It seemed the cousins were feeling momentarily and uncharacteristically generous, and thought the reunion could be mutually beneficial. Beatrice was happy to see that her mother was, for the most part, okay. She looked exhausted and worried, but her spirit was miraculously unharmed. Just as exciting was a surprise appearance from Pepe. He followed Beatrice’s mother into the room, and unlike Beatrice and her mother, he had gained weight since the last time Beatrice saw him.

“Oh, Birdy, those nasty little brats of children have been picking on my baby to no end,” her mother explained, holding Pepe and cooing softly into his chubby little face. “They play this awful game where they see how much they can make him eat before he gets sick! They don’t even care about his dietary restrictions, poor thing, he’s been farting up a storm since we got here.”

Beatrice knew it was only a matter of time until the cousins came in and forced her mother out of the room. Hoping her mother had helpful information, she quickly shifted the focus of their conversation.

“Mom, does this place, this house, feel oddly familiar?”

“Familiar, sure. Oddly, not at all.”

Taken aback, Beatrice couldn’t hide her surprise and confusion at her mother’s answer. Her face must have reflected her thoughts because her mother continued.

“Birdy, sweets, did someone hit you over the head or something?” she said, putting her hand to Beatrice’s forehead as if checking for a fever. “Don’t you remember?”

“Remember what?” Beatrice snapped back, more angrily than she’d intended.

Her mother’s face became suddenly serious. “We came here every summer for years. This house belonged to your grandparents.”

Memories came rushing back to her. The time they’d built a fort because they’d all gotten chickenpox. Building sandcastles by the sea. That all happened here.

“Every summer, your grandparents would invite all of their kids and grandkids here for a big reunion.”

“All their kids, including-”

“Your father.”

Beatrice’s mother said those words very quietly, as if saying them would set off an alarm. She looked to the floor, absentmindedly fiddling with Pepe’s collar.

It was as if a dam had been broken. Every blipped memory came flooding back. Arthur had helped to fill in the blanks, but even he only knew so much. Her mother had been the final puzzle piece. This was the house they’d come to every summer. The secluded house just steps from the ocean. She remembered squashing bugs with her cousins and roasting marshmallows in the backyard.

She remembered the first summer she hadn’t come back.

She remembered why.

-M.A. Gavin

Chapter 36

Arthur continued to feed Beatrice coded sentences and phrases over the course of the next four hours.  By the end, Beatrice was lying on the bed, sprawled on her stomach, covers kicked to the floor, and head face-first into the mattress.  Arthur leaned against the bedpost, head tilted all the way back, and let out a sigh.  

Beatrice turned her head to face him.

“I’m sorry for hating you,” she said simply.

“I understand.”

Beatrice shut her eyes tightly, a tear quietly escaping.  

“I feel like we are in a permanent stasis; every time we figure something out, we are right back where we started.  No closer to figuring out where my cousins go, or how to get home and back to normal.”

“At least you know what Gerald Sr. told me, and that he is here,” Arthur suggested, trying to lighten her mood.  

Beatrice rolled to her back and stared at the ceiling.  She allowed herself to zone in and out of focus while considering all that she had learned.  Her mother was safe, but experiencing trauma.  Gerald Sr. had his hands in everything, and was a leader in discovering and manipulating the blips.  Plus, Gerald Sr.’s gift for Arthur was, in fact, Arthur’s appeared betrayal in return for traveling with the cousins.  Finally, Arthur helped her recall the unidentified person from the photograph she found in her last period of wakefulness.  Thinking about this, she realized despite having been heavily sedated for a long period, she had not slept peacefully for a very long time. Slowly sitting up, Beatrice wiped her eyes and took a deep breath.  

Swinging her feet to the bedside, she slid down next to Arthur.  

“What are we going to do? Again.”  Beatrice stammered.

Arthur took a moment.  He couldn’t decide what move to make.  The classic yawn and arm around shoulders – too juvenile.  Patting her gently on the head?  Too maternal.  Instead, Arthur chuckled, “Well at least you don’t have to worry about walking in on your mother doing nude yoga.”  Shit, too paternal, channeling dad jokes.  Beatrice punched him in the arm, “Don’t try to make me laugh. He used to do that too.”

“How you are related still blows my mind,” he stated matter-of-factly, “It goes beyond your focus, how did the evil skip you?  Is his evil just limited or is your mother’s uniqueness just enough to prevent it?”

Beatrice let her head fall to Arthur’s shoulder, “how would I know?  I forgot about him until five minutes ago, and my mother refused to talk about him.  Plus I am sure if I dig to deeply into my own memories I would blib.  Can’t your spy people tell you?”

“Somehow, he escaped our knowledge completely.  He disappeared many invasions ago, long before we knew about you.”

Allowing a shudder breath to escape her lips, Beatrice shrugged.  Gradually she drifted to sleep resting her head on Arthur’s shoulder and dreaming they were at J. G.’s Restaurant and Grill.  

“Sweet dreams, Birdie,” Arthur whispered.

-M.R. Gavin

Chapter 35

With her lack of new knowledge, Beatrice was at a crossroads. She could keep Arthur in the room, questioning him endlessly until the blipped information magically soaked into her brain. Or she could bang on the door, and deal with the cruelty of her cousins. Neither option was ideal. She’d rather be confined to solitude for the remainder of her life than spend one more minute with Arthur or her cousins.

Recognizing solitary confinement was an unlikely privilege, though, Beatrice decided traitor was better than psychopath. She sat silently on the bed, weighing her options on what to say next.

“Blips suck,” she said. It was the best she could come up with.

“So do your cousins,” quipped Arthur.

“True,” Beatrice replied. “They’ve had their moments though.”

“Really?” said Arthur incredulously. “I always figured they came out of the womb laughing menacingly.”

“Oh, they did. But even evil people have off days,” Beatrice said matter-of-factly.

Before she could stop herself, Beatrice was listing off moments when her cousins had been almost friendly. She told Arthur about the time Lauren had loaned Beatrice a prom dress. Of course, this was after the cousins had ruined her original dress, nonetheless, it was a nice thing to do. Beatrice recalled the times she felt like her family was normal. Like the time she and Gerald Jr. made a sandcastle during a daytrip to the beach, or when she and her cousins spent two days lying in a blanket fort watching movies because Janelle had given them all the chickenpox.

“All of the good moments were sandwiched between awful pranks and cruel jokes,” Beatrice mused. “I can’t compare the good and the bad, and the good certainly didn’t outweigh the bad. But pockets of good make putting up with the mounds of bad a little easier.”

Arthur listened to Beatrice attentively, interrupting only when she said something that could solve all of there problems.

“…And then there was the time that Janelle and I made up our own secret code. We used it for ages. I’d forgotten about it until now.”

“Wait,” Arthur suddenly said, “A code?”

“Yeah, like shapes and stuff, “Beatrice replied. “I don’t remember the exact details of it.”

Arthur’s eyes lit up. He reached for the pen hanging on his shirt pocket and pulled a crumpled up receipt from his pants pocket.

After writing something on the receipt, he handed the paper to Beatrice.

“Read this,” he said excitedly.

“Arthur, we tried this before. I still blip when the information is written down. It just looks like gibberish-random numbers and figures,” snapped Beatrice, mildly annoyed.

“Yes, but your cousins manipulated the blips to work in their favor,” he rattled off quickly. “That means they wrote the code.”

Finally catching on to Arthur’s idea, Beatrice grabbed the receipt eagerly. She saw numbers, shapes, and figures with seemingly no meaning. But suddenly, it all looked very familiar.

-M.A. Gavin

Chapter 33

“So that’s how the blips happen,” sighed Arthur, completing an exhaustive speech on the technology behind the blips. Beatrice’s expression had faded from fury to boredom. Her eyes had glazed over, and she was entirely uninterested in hearing more about synapses and nanoparticles. Janelle, on the other hand, seemed fascinated. She was quite literally on the edge of her seat, her eyes wide, hanging on to every word of Arthur’s lengthy blip explanation.

“So what you’re saying is the blips are caused by sound waves strategically targeting localized areas in the subject’s brain? And then it causes the electrical signal in the synapse to..how did you put it?…waver?” asked Janelle excitedly, practically jumping up and down.

“Uh…yeah,” replied Arthur, looking as confused as Beatrice felt.  He looked over to Beatrice, hoping to be reassured by an amused shrug or eyeroll, but was met with a cold, unfeeling stare. Beatrice may have been bored, but she was not about to forget her anger.

To Arthur’s amazement, Janelle was still buzzing around the room like an excited child after eating a bag of Halloween candy. She was mumbling excitedly to herself, running over each individual step of the blip process, concluding with the enthusiastic “blip moment,” and then starting over again. Finally, she squealed with joy, stammered a “sorryguyshavetorun” and promptly ran out of the bedroom, locking the door behind her.

Beatrice and Arthur stared at the door, baffled. Turning to Beatrice, Arthur said casually, “I honestly didn’t think that would work that well.”

Beatrice wanted to be angry. She wanted to scream and yell, to hurt Arthur as badly as he’d hurt her. But she needed to know why the blips happened. She needed answers. They were the only way she would ever get out of this mess.

“Why do the blips happen?” asked Beatrice quietly.

After a moment, Arthur replied, “They were designed to slow down the cousins. The blips were supposed to keep the cousins from passing along information easily from one person to another. But over time, they figured out how to overcome that. Mental exercises, focus games, even dietary changes helped them figure it out. There is one aspect of the blip they never caught on to,though.”

“What’s that?” said Beatrice, genuinely curious.

“Distraction.” answered Arthur. “They’ve been able to pull off a slew of smaller projects, anywhere from one to  a dozen victims at a time. But grand plans always fall through. They get too caught up in the details, the little things.”

“Like Janelle did just now?”

“Exactly.”

“What about me? Why didn’t it work on me?” questioned Beatrice. “I felt the blips before, but I didn’t get oddly excited about the blip design like Janelle.”

“We’re not exactly sure,” said Arthur thoughtfully, “but we think it has something to do with your strict routine and laser like focus. You, Birdy, are one hard person to distract.”

Her routine had finally done something good for her. Beatrice laughed and laughed and laughed.

-M.A. Gavin