With the alarm ringing in my ears and the expectation of a police car arriving at any moment, my first impulse was to run away. Of course, this has always been my first impulse when faced with any kind of emergency. As the great philosopher Linus van Pelt once said, “No problem can be so complicated that it can’t be run away from!”
In this case, however, I was extremely proud of my clever tactic at gaining entry and unwilling to beat a retreat. Besides, this wasn’t a high security establishment. For all I knew, the alarm could ring for another hour before anyone got around to …
With a minced oath I plunged my knife into the strike plate, pulled out my makeshift wooden shimmy and ran into the building, closing the door behind me. With luck they’d look around and, not seeing any broken windows or open doors, pass it off as a false alarm.
I could hear the car pull into the driveway beside the building, and then the shuffle of feet on gravel.
“You go in the back,” said a voice, “and I’ll take the front door.”
Geeze! Really? Why were they putting so much effort into a little break and enter? Didn’t they know there were people out there jay-walking and smoking cigarettes closer than nine meters from a public entrance?
I considered running downstairs, but the room where we’d had our refreshments offered little in the way of refuge. I flung open the door beside me which led to the back room behind the ceremony room, ran in and closed it. The room was pitch black, but I had a small LED light on my key chain. It was just enough to let me see a few feet directly in front of me.
The room was a mess — which in this case was a good thing. There were boxes, chairs, folding tables and even stage props and scenery backdrops. This place was obviously used by more than just the Church of Satanic Love.
Behind me I could hear a key being jiggled in the outside door, so I stumbled through the clutter as quickly and silently as possible, looking for a decent hiding spot. I found a cardboard box about four feet high that appeared to be filled with garland for a Christmas tree. The door outside opened. I dived into the box head first, pulled my feet as far in as possible, and then froze like a kid playing statues.
The door opened and a light flicked on. I could hear the cop come in to take a look. I could hear the other cop, who’d obviously come in through the front, walking down the hall.
“Hey, Tony, get a load of this,” yelled my cop.
Were my feet sticking out? Was he standing there smirking at the inept burglar’s feeble attempt to hide?
The other cop’s footsteps grew louder, then stopped.
“What the…” he said.
“I know, right? What the hell do they get up to in this place?”
I was tempted to climb out to see what was causing such surprise. Hell, I was tempted to climb out because I was upside down with my face smashed against a wad of garland, one arm straight up beside me, and the other hooked behind my head.
“It must be some kind of theatre company,” said the first cop.
“Yeah,” said the other. “Theatre of the absurd.”
“What the hell do you know about theatre of the absurd?”
“I know stuff,” said the second cop defensively. “We put on Beckett’s Endgame when I was in university. I played Hamm’s father. It was hell. I had to do the whole play while crouched in a garbage can.”
Oh, poor dear, I thought. At least you weren’t upside down.
“You were in a play?”
“I majored in English Lit. and took some theatre courses on the side.”
“I’m surprised,” said the first cop.
“You didn’t know I went to university?”
“I didn’t know you went to school.”
The light went off and the door closed. For a while I heard them poking about down the hall and then downstairs. After half an hour or so they finally decided the building was empty and left.
Or so it seemed. I was sure they were sitting outside waiting for me to start moving around. As soon as I made a sound they’d come barging in and haul me off to jail.
So I stayed where I was. Upside down with garland in my nose. Tickling. Itching. But I wasn’t about to sneeze. I had better control than that. “Hold on,” I told myself. “Hold on. Hold on to your dreams.” Oh great. Now I had an earworm. “Hold on, even though it seems,” my mind sang. “Everyone around you has their little schemes … uh.” What came next? “Da da da da da da, and hold on to your dreams.” Who sang that song, anyway? It was one of those bands with one name. Foreigner. Aerosmith — no, wrong voice. Foreigner? No, I said that one. Nose? There was no band named nose. Maybe not, but there’s garland in your nose. So what? I’m ignoring it. Triumph? That was it. Triumph. They sang “Hold on to your Nose” — I mean Dreams.
Finally I couldn’t take it any more. I couldn’t get out the same way I’d got in, so I tried tipping the box over only to discover that it was apparently wedged firmly in place and wouldn’t sway. I suddenly realised that I was in a far more difficult situation than I’d thought. Ms. Sanchez had often said the most important thing to do in a difficult situation is to stay calm and not panic.
I squirmed, squiggled, slithered and even floundered, but the blasted box simply wouldn’t tip over. In desperation I began pounding at the box with the hand wrapped around my head. I couldn’t get much force into it, but eventually I managed to break through. It was a small hole, but I worked at it until I’d torn open the side at the bottom of the box and could wriggle out, trailing garland behind me.
I found myself lying on my back under a table. I pushed my way head-first along until got to the end and then reached up to the top of the table to pull myself up, inadvertently grabbing onto something sharp enough to gash my hand.
I finally got to my feet and although I couldn’t see anything, I could tell that my hand was bleeding profusely. With my good hand I reached into my pocket and pulled out my tiny flashlight. I was now closer to the double door than either of the ones leading to the hallways. I made my way over and opened it, remembering the procession that had come through these same doors a few hours ago, and the shock of seeing Mrs. Robinson in the all-together.
I didn’t want to go too far into the room without knowing what was in front of me. The last I’d seen it, there were a lot of chairs and ceremonial furniture scattered around. I searched the walls near the door for a light switch and against all odds, found one.
The switch only turned on a row of atmospheric lights on either side of the hall, but they were enough to let me see where I was going. I walked towards the altar — or rather, the table on which the altar had laid herself down. When I got closer I noticed that I was dripping blood all over the nice pattern they’d drawn on the floor and went back to the storage room where I’d seen some rags. I got all the way to the door before realising that the blood drops I’d left behind had done something odd.
Blood isn’t supposed to smoulder, is it?
The smoke rising from my blood coalesced into a cloud and then within the cloud a sudden ball of fire erupted. Almost immediately the smoke disipated leaving behind a very tall demon with peacock feather wings and a piece of smouldering parchment in his hand.
“I need to talk to you,” he rumbled.
I tore through the double doors, racing past all the detritus of theatre groups and Satanic churches to the door leading into the hallway. The smashing sounds I heard behind me led me to deduce that the demon was hot on my trail. Reaching the back door I flung it open — or tried. It opened a fraction of an inch and then with a grating sound, stuck firmly, apparently jammed by something outside. The rock? Had the rock used during smoke breaks been moved so it was now wedging the door shut? I flung myself against it a couple more times hoping to at least set off the alarm, but there wasn’t the slightest movement.
Without stopping to wonder whether the rock had been placed there on purpose by the police or purely by happenstance I reversed direction and raced down the hall. One quick jog to the left, another to the right and I’d be at the front doors. Locked or not, they were certainly more vulnerable to smashing through than the steel door in the back.
As I neared the first bend I heard the demon emerging from the storage room and I put on an extra burst of speed while commanding my mind to come up with something.
“Oh, oh!” said my mind. “I know! It was ‘Listen to your heart and hold on to your dreams.”
Yeah, lyrics to an old rock song wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped it would come up with.
There are notes to this chapter, which can be found by hovering over the “Story Notes: No spoilers” tab at the top of the page.
Warning — Read the chapter first, otherwise the notes may be an inadvertent spoiler.
This is my 11th entry in the February writing challenge, “30 Minus 2 Days of Writing: III” (or 30M2DoW) issued by We Work for Cheese, the rules for which, such as they are, I am completely ignoring — except the attempt to post each day during the month.