Chapter 45

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream,” rang through Beatrice’s head, not only because they were in a boat, but also because her mother was singing it at the top of her lungs, with Pepe howling in the background. Arthur sighed, audibly annoyed.

“What’s next?” Beatrice called over the crashing waves.

“Hopefully land,” grunted Arthur.

Just then, Beatrice heard a loud mechanical buzz coming up behind them.  It was a helicopter! Pepe, whose favorite pastime was chasing cars, tried leaping out of the boat, but was caught in mid air by Beatrice’s mother moments before plunging into the dark abyss. The helicopter slowed to a hover shining lights upon their dingy.  

“They found us!” Beatrice’s mother wailed, “I knew it was too good to be true.”

But Arthur sat smiling casually, seemingly unperturbed.

Arthur’s team popped their heads out of the helicopter, calling out to reassure the boat’s passengers everything would be okay, and they would soon be safe.

However, they soon found everything would not be okay. Because at that very moment a behemoth of a whale leaped out of the choppy ocean, hitting the helicopter with a flick of its tail and sending it spinning. Arthur’s team began yelling a series of expletives followed by some very official sounding numbers and concluded with Bobby screaming, “Abort mission!” One by one, they put on their helicopter hats and flew away, leaving Beatrice, her mother, and Arthur stranded once again.

Baffled, the three sat in the boat silently. Even Pepe didn’t move an inch.  Time seemed to have stopped.

After what felt like centuries passed, Arthur spoke. “Well, that didn’t go as planned.”

They sat a little while longer, unsure if Arthur’s team would come back and wondering what would happen if they didn’t.

Suddenly, as if answering their prayers, the water around them began to bubble and churn. The boat rocked perilously; Beatrice’s mother shivered. Looking to her right, Beatrice could see something moving in the water. She feared the whale was returning destined to sink their small boat.

POP

It wasn’t a whale, but the large metal hull of a submarine appeared instead.  As it settled parallel to them, the hatch on the top of the submarine creaked open. Climbing out of the vessel was someone Beatrice recognized, but could not place due to the individual’s uniformed attire and department issued cap.  

“That’s my boss,” Arthur leaned in and whispered.  Beatrice didn’t have to look to know Arthur was smiling and saluting.  

“Ma’am,” he said.

“Arthur,” she replied, “Beatrice, Tess.  Your work has been phenomenal.  Because of you we have finally been able to infiltrate the cousins and will be stopping them from any further terror.  We will need you to confirm the identities of each of them, and verify that none are missing.”

Her voice was what allowed Beatrice to identify, Arthur’s boss as…

 

 

 

Hillary Clinton.

#notmypresident #stillwithher  

 

Epilogue

The four of them, Arthur, Beatrice, her mother, and Pepe were able to identify all of the cousins, but one remained unaccounted for – Beatrice’s father.  

  • M.M. Gavin

Chapter 44

Pepe waddle down the hall and turned the corner.  He sniffed diligently along the baseboard of the hallway until he came to an outlet.  Beatrice thought it was odd to have an outlet in the hallway and even more odd that she hadn’t noticed the outlet as they circled the home.  To be fair, the outlet was covered in a vertical striped wallpaper, which covered every inch of the hall – except the floor, which was creaky, worn wood – and looked more like a Christmas wrapping paper than wall paper.  Pepe paused, lifting his snot and loudly sniffing the air.  Whimpering and swatting Beatrice’s leg he sat down.

“Pepe?” Beatrice’s mother whispered, as she knelt down.

“This must be something…” contemplated Arthur, “but then again I am following a fat, little dog.”

Beatrice’s mother glanced around, taking a deep breath.

“What are you looking for, mother?” questioned Beatrice.

“There are no vents that I can see, and we have not seen a window since we left our room, but I swear I smell fresh air, salty air in fact.”

While Arthur, Beatrice, and her mother squatted down, crawling around to find the source, Pepe walked straight to the camouflaged outlet and let out  a shrill yip.

Startled and concerned her cousins would hear, Beatrice swatted at Pepe’s rump without turning.  The sound of gently rolling waves, sprinkled with shells rolling and chiming together, and a soft tickle on her neck by loose strands of hair and cool breeze, surprised her.

“What?” she turned.

The three of them gaped as the wall adjacent to the outlet gradually disappeared above them, while Pepe sat wagging his tail with glee and his nose touching the outlet.  He sprinted out, immediately lifting his leg onto the nearest patch of grass.

Beatrice’s mother was the first to exit.  Her broad smile lit her face and the setting sun improved her fading dye job.  Arthur and Beatrice followed.  Moments after leaving, the wall behind them returned to its place.  Despite the setting sun, they all squinted in its brightness and the harsh wind blowing salty air on their faces.  Moving forward and away from the house, Beatrice could not help but feel relief.  

“Watch where you step!” called her mother, “This must be where they let Pepe out.   I should have set him down ages ago!  He would have led us here straight away.”

Amused, but not distracted.  Beatrice began assessing the situation.

“It is almost dark,” she said plainly, “but if I remember correctly there was a small town not too far from here. Right, mother?”  

“It has been years since I’ve been up here, but I believe so.  We will probably have to pay someone to take us to the mainland.”

“The mainland?” stumbled Arthur.

Beatrice looked surprised, “It makes sense doesn’t it?  This is an extremely private island, where everyone has and keeps their own secrets.  Where better for them to go when they aren’t terrorizing the planet?”

-M.R. Gavin

Chapter 42

Beatrice moved hurriedly down the hall reaching a stairwell and sprinting up two steps at a time. She reached the top, violently crashing into someone.  Flailing her arms and on the brink of flying back down the stairs, she thought, I guess he lied, they’ll never let me leave.  As she thought of her foiled escape, a firm but familiar hand grasped her shoulder and grabbed her wildly moving arm, pulling her back to the landing.

“Beatrice!” the being said in a hushed surprise.  “Arthur?” she questioned. They looked at each other in disbelief.

“My dad-”

“They said we could go”

“- He said I could go”

“Can you believe it?”

“Where is my mother?”

“Your dad?”

Tired of the unmoving banter, Beatrice gripped Arthur’s hand, dragging him forward.  Arthur continued to blurt a series of questions, the same questions they had been contemplating since Janelle moved in down the street.

Half-way down the hall Beatrice slowed.  She had a vague memory of walking up here as a kid.  Uncle Gerald had the room two doors from the stairs on the right Grandma and Grandpa had the big room at the end of the hall.  Her mother and father had the room on the eastern corner of the house with many windows, so her mother could see the sunrise.  Of course they would keep her mother and Arthur there.  When she reached the room Arthur had stopped babbling and looked at Beatrice with astonishment.  

“How did you know which room?  Did he tell you?”

“I remember this room as a kid.”

Inside her mother turned to them with her eyes wide; Pepe waddled – he really had put on weight – with excitement toward them.  

“I need something to wear and then we need to leave.  Now,” Beatrice demanded.

Arthur nodded in agreement, but said nothing. His face was blank, though Beatrice knew he was contemplating.  

“They are letting us go for a reason,” he said solemnly.  

“I agree, but I am not letting them know and I am leaving,” Beatrice declared, “We can figure out what their plan is once we are out of here and in contact with your colleagues.  

“What did you dad say to you, Beatrice?”

“Your father is here,” gasped her mother.  

“Yep,” replied Beatrice changing into a pair of purple tie-dye jeans, probably from Janelle’s teen years, which she found crumpled in the closet.  “Good thing I lost weight,” she mumbled to herself.

“Anyway, he has been there the whole time, watching us.  He said he ‘needs me’ for them to be successful again.”  Fully clothed, she tosses her mom a coat, scoops Pepe off the floor, and walks to the door.  Striding right up to Arthur, Beatrice says, “For three years, we had a marvelously stable life.  The past several months have been insane, but I know who you are and what you can do.  Get us out of here.  Please.”

He stared, astonished by how much she had changed, knowing he would do whatever she asked.

“Let’s go.”

-M.R. Gavin

Chapter 40

“You look beautiful,” said a low, gravely voice.

Sure, thought Beatrice, in this disgusting room, in a nightgown I wash in the sink, with my extremely unkempt hair.  I look like a fucking queen.

“The last time I saw you was in this very room.  I tucked you in.  It feels like just yesterday.”

The memory you cling to, I threw away years ago, Beatrice taunted in her head, counting paint chips all the while.

She heard the floorboards creak.  More precisely, she heard the sixth board into the room creaking, most likely being stepped on by his right foot.  The constant comings and goings of her cousins had given away that much.  She listened to the hesitant steps continue toward her, but never turned.

“I wanted to see you so many times since then.  It’s not like I wasn’t near.  Every time your cousins visited you, I was nearby. In fact, I coordinated most of their trips, hoping to see you.”

Knowing the room’s precise size, Beatrice side-stepped his hand at the exact moment he reached for her shoulder.  His signature move of comfort.

“When your mother took you away from me, she destroyed me.”

Beatrice finally turned, tilting her head, “Destroyed you?  Like you and my cousins have destroyed so many others?  Destroyed you?  When you tried to turn us into the monsters of mayhem you all are?  Seeing as it didn’t stop you from ruining lives, I am sure it didn’t destroy you.”

She turned resolutely, scolding herself for saying anything, and resolving not to say another word.

If there had been another person in the room, they would have seen how alike Beatrice and her guest were.  Similar defensive posture, the same mousy brown hair, round faces, each with a slightly too small nose, and too big ears.  Their resemblance was unmistakable; the primary difference was Beatrice’s hazel eyes, and petite mouth (in those regards she favored her mother).    

He had left his hand floating in the air while she spoke; slowly dropping it, he asked, “Would you mind if I sit on the bed?”  Receiving no answer, he quietly sat down – every spring in the bed squeaking.

“I know that what happened that day was horrible for you, but that is just what we do.  We aren’t just destroyers of the lives of people we don’t know… we are equally as mean to each other.  It is what we do, who we are.  We have to,” he sighed.

“I don’t know how much you know, but the reason the rest of your cousins brought you and your mother with them is because your grandfather passed away, leaving me as head of the family.  I needed to see you again.  To talk to you.  I ordered them not to leave without you this time.”  His voice had a sudden youthful joy as he finished, “And now we can finally be successful again.”

-M.R. Gavin

Chapter 38

Beatrice was torn.  Now she could remember her life, blips and memories she forced herself to suppress, but those memories brought new questions, and opened old scars.  She thought perhaps those had been better forgotten.  

Despite lacking the lengthy training of Arthur and his coworkers, and despite her current pallor and frailty, her mind jumped into hyper-drive.  

“Mom, they won’t let you stay in here long,” she whispered, “especially if they realize what just happened to me.”

“What did just happen to you, Birdie?  Did you really not know?  You seemed stunned -”

“It doesn’t matter now.  My cousins’ technical advantage no longer exists, though I expect they have another surprise coming our way.”

Her mother stared at her bewildered, but unable to break her gaze.  Birdie transformed in front of her.  She walked into a sickly looking woman with deadened eyes and a fatigued spirit, but suddenly Birdie had not just a glow in her eyes, but a flame lighting her face and an urgency pulsing from every atom of her being.   It reminded her of Beatrice’s father and why she was captivated by him.  He was the adventure she could never get enough of, and the most painful adventure she ever had.  Beatrice’s change was contagious.  Tess felt her heart rate increasing, and her senses heightening.

“What are you going to do?” her mother stammered.

“I need you to tell Arthur that I remember – everything.  You seem to have the most freedom here, see if you can convince them to let me, too.  Finally, I know about everyone who was at my apartment and Arthur’s, but I can’t help but feel we are missing something.  I think more than my generation are here.  We need to know as much about that as possible.”

Her mother took a deep breath and closed her eyes – practicing a memory mantra.  “I carry my tasks with me and commit them to memory,” she mumbled three times.

“Now,” she started straightening up, “if you say it is so important they don’t know, it is our turn to act.”  She immediately resumed fiddling with Pepe’s collar, but kept up the chatter.  

“Your gruesome second cousins have also discussed dyeing poor Pepe – with Kool-Aid!  They said Great-Aunt Millie told them about doing it to a cat, naturally they want to test it out.  Janelle was holding Roderick yesterday and I could not help notice his resemblance to your grandfather, Gerald the First.  Especially with his fat, bald head,” she continued, droning on about family members Beatrice had not heard of in years.

She quickly realized her mother was already fulfilling one of her requests – information about everyone at the house.  Her mother flawlessly pieced together a monologue sounding like complaints to any of the cousins, but giving Beatrice a wealth of information.

Soon, her mother was ushered out, leaving Beatrice to consider her mother’s information, her new-found memories and the wounds they reopened.  She fell asleep staring at the cross-stitched, violet flower she and her grandmother made years ago.
-M.R. Gavin

Chapter 34

Arthur stared at Beatrice with a mixture of amusement and longing as she laughed.  He desperately wanted to divulge the plan to Beatrice; knowing would ease her mind and potentially grant him forgiveness, but he knew for the good of the world and the end of the cousins’ reign, Beatrice couldn’t know.  Realizing this, Arthur turned away shaken and aware he would never be forgiven.

As Beatrice’s laughter diminished, she glanced at Arthur’s back and with a chuckle said, “So my routine and focus prevent some of the blips, but now more than ever, I am having blips in my memory.  Why?  I know this house has something to do with my past.  The flower on the wall feels familiar, but I can’t place it because every time I think about it too much, I blip.  Explain.”

“That’s the thing,” Arthur said, his back still turned and head bowed, “Somehow your blips have latched onto other things.  Our theory, which is getting stronger by the minute, is your brain has grown so focused even memories of chaotic periods in your life blip.  It seems, as if your head has created its own defense mechanism.”

“Fine.  I have two more questions, and then I will bang on the door until they unlock it and get you out.  First, do you blip or was that all a facade?”

“What I said about Janelle is true.  It’s in the details.  The cousins discovered our missing detail was where they disappear to.  Somehow they manipulated the blip.  Anytime one of them shares where they go, the listener blips.  Their ability to understand and -”

“Second question,” Beatrice interrupted plainly, “have you figured out where they go?  Is this it?”

After taking a deep breath, Arthur locked eyes with Beatrice; he wanted to give her the answer she longed for, but didn’t have it.

“No.”

Beatrice dropped her shoulders, her eyes fell to the floor, her entire body screamed defeat.  In the span of two minutes she went from laughing hysterically, to shaking uncontrollably.

Arthur’s gut reaction was to offer comfort.  He walked toward her placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.  She pulled away from his touch with shocking intensity.  

She stood, and made her way to the door.  Lifting her fist, she pulled it back to beat down the door, but Arthur stalled her hand.

“If you do that now, you won’t know all the things I have learned since being here.  Things that will help you get back to your life.”

“My life doesn’t exist anymore. I am no more than a pawn,” she said ripping her hand from Arthur and striding to the far side of the room.

“What if it is about your family?  And I don’t mean your cousins,” Arthur questioned.

Beatrice tilted her head – not unlike Pepe when he wanted a treat – and raised her eyebrows, inviting Arthur to continue.

“Your family is here.  Your mom and Pepe obviously, but also -“

Blip.

-M.R. 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