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20. Theater

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Steve awoke to the heat of a spotlight pointed directly at his face. Still groggy, he tried to remember what happened to him. The last thing he remembered was the Librarian putting a bag over his head while being taken away from the bus station. There was a throbbing pan in the back of his head; he must have been knocked out at some point.

He tried to rub his eyes, but he realized he was tied up in a wooden chair. Of course that librarian loser would tie him up. He tried to get a look at his surroundings instead. To his left, he saw what looked like a dining table, covered in layers of dust. To his right, he saw a refrigerator and a stove, similarly covered with dust. Was he in someone’s old house?

Steve looked straight ahead again, and even with. The spotlight obscuring his vision, his somewhat readjusted eyes could make out several rows of empty, red, plush chairs. This wasn’t a house; it was a set. Why did the Librarian take him here?

Steve then saw movement coming from the seats. A handful of shadows seemed to stand up and crawl over the seats in front of them towards the stage.

This made Steve uneasy. The kind of people who would crawl over every seat in the theater instead of walking to an aisle were–at least in Steve’s experience–the worst kind of people.

They finally reached the stage and climbed up just a couple of feet in front of Steve. The spotlight was directly behind them now, so Steve could only see their silhouettes. Still, this was enough for Steve to discern that he didn’t want to be in front of them right now.

There were three of them. The two smaller figures each looked emaciated in entirely separate ways. One of them was hunched over on all fours. The other was standing straighter, but ‘straighter’ being a word that only makes sense when standing next to someone who is on all fours. The third figure was massive. Morbidly obese or morbidly muscular, it looked supremely grotesque to Steve either way.

“I don’t like its face,” said the figure on all fours in a feminine, sickly voice. “It has a bad face.” It approached Steve, and as it came up to him, Steve could see the woman was wearing a papier-mâché mask that looked like a mouse’s face.

“Do not worry, little friend,” the other smaller figure said in a male voice that sounded just as sickly. “They all have bad faces. They are not perfect like our faces.” Steve could now see that this man was also wearing a papier-mâché mask. It was some kind of bird, maybe a crow.

“I still do not like it, friend,” the mouse replied. She crawled up closer to Steve. “I want to remove it.”

“As do I,” chimed the bird. “I would be so happy to remove its face right now, but it is forbidden.” He looked at the third figure behind them. “Is this not correct, big friend?”

The large figure approached the bird and rested his hand on the bird’s head. Steve could see this hulking man was also wearing a papier-mâché mask. It looked like a sausage with a smiley face.

“Do not remove the face,” it said in a low, slow monotone.

Steve looked more closely at the three of them now that they were in the light. They looked as grotesque as before, and Steve could see they were all wearing what looked like the most rancid rags they could find in the world’s most rancid landfill. The sausage stood out in particular; he wore a pair of Ill-fitting, slimy denim overalls, and nothing else.

All of this was making Steve feel the increasingly conflicted. On the one hand, Steve thought that between the handcrafted animal masks, bizarre speech patterns, and putrid wardrobe, these three turds were playing into completely overdone horror tropes, and Steve wanted to tell them so. On the other hand, he was tied up and had just listened to them discuss removing his face. Steve decided to keep his mouth shut.

The mouse was now right in front of Steve; its face only inches away from Steve’s face. She smelled like fish and violence. She grabbed Steve’s head with her long, spindly fingers and began prodding at him with an apparent mix of curiosity and contempt. She forced a finger into Steve’s mouth, which Steve found absolutely disgusting.

“What do we do with it then?” the mouse asked, her hands now in Steve’s hair.

The bird came up to the mouse and patted her head. “We must learn its secrets,” he said. “The Mother, she wants them. She wants to know where the horrible possum is.” The bird pointed at Steve. “It knows, and so the mother must know.”

Steve wondered if they were talking about the possum lady that Davy met. Did they think that he was Davy?

The sausage knelt down behind the other two and looked at Steve. Even on his knees, he was still massive. His mask also still looked stupid. “Where is the possum?” he bellowed.

Steve wasn’t going to say anything that might put Davy in danger. He remained silent.

The mouse was getting agitated. “It needs to speak!” it shouted, standing upright. “My big friend asked, and so it must speak!”

The bird put his hands on her shoulders. “Do not be upset, little friend,” he said. “It needs more time. After more time, it will speak what the Mother wants to hear.” He turned to the sausage. “Put it back to where it belongs,” he said.

The sausage stood up and grabbed the back of Steve’s chair and lifted it, Steve included, into the air. Steve was turned 180 degrees and saw that there had been a giant metal cage on the stage this whole time. Approaches big the cage, the sausage pulled a key out of a picket in his overalls. He unlocked the metal door and swung it open, slightly wincing as he did so. He threw Steve, still tied to the chair, into the cage.

Steve, now on his back, heard the cage door shut and the three of them walk out of the theater. As they left, Steve could hear the bird reassuring the mouse. “Do not worry, little friend,” it said. “It will speak. The Mother always makes them speak.”

Steve was now alone on the dark, irritated at his current situation. He sighed dramatically to himself, but was interrupted by a shuffling noise to his left. Turning his head, he saw yet another shadowy figure, watching him from the darkness.

“Really!?” Steve said in exasperation as the figure began walking towards him.


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