What the hell was I doing?
Standing outside the blue double doors, I double checked the address scrawled on the back of an old, Victorian style calling card. It was yellowed with age, but the creepy disembodied hand holding a bouquet of brightly colored roses was still visible. On the back of the card, someone had written today’s date and this address using what looked like a fountain pen.
I had no idea where the card had even come from. I’d found it when I pulled money out of my pocket to pay for my coffee. The cash had been folded neatly into thirds, like always, but this card had been tucked inside. I know it wasn’t there when I got dressed and put the money in my jeans. And it wasn’t like I’d lent my pants to anyone else. In fact, other than the barista at Starbucks, I hadn’t spoken with anyone all day.
A chill swept through me as I stared at the doors and raised my hand to knock. I was never this impulsive. That wasn’t quite right. I was never impulsive at all. I did what was expected of me. Safe things. Orderly things. I certainly didn’t stand on unfamiliar doorsteps and consider knocking. But as soon as I’d discovered the card, I had to find out what it meant. It was more of a compulsion, really. So I walked until I found this place.
Just as strange, the building was on a street in my neighborhood–one I walked all the time–but I’d never seen these doors before. Or the streetlamp for that matter. Unable to quell my need to know any longer, I knocked. Bits of faded paint chips clung to my knuckles.
The door opened immediately, and a tall elderly gentleman dressed in a black mourning suit ushered me inside. Closing the door behind me, he escorted me down the hall toward a large, brightly lit room. “This way, if you please.”
My stomach in knots, I followed him. It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
As soon as we entered the room, a women wearing a pastel shirt dress with a matching cardigan sweater and rhinestone studded cat eye glasses approached with a clipboard. “Willa Hayes?”
I wiped my suddenly clammy palms on my thighs. “Yes.”
“Willa Beatrice Hayes of 1436 Orchard Dr.?”
“How do you know that?”
She adjusted her glasses. “We’ve been expecting you.” Gesturing toward a group of people sitting in a circle, she said, “Take a seat, please.”
On wooden legs, I made my way to a dingy-looking, molded, plastic chair and sat, scanning the others. To my left was a woman in a fuchsia and black saloon girl costume, and to my right was a balding man in a rumpled suit frantically pushing buttons on an old adding machine – the kind that made clunking sounds and used a roll of paper. Across from me was a guy in jeans, a black leather jacket and a greasy looking pompadour. He winked at me. Creep.
My gaze tracked around the room. There was a dude in what looked like wizard robes, a woman in a business suit tapping away on a tablet while talking to a man in a flight attendant’s uniform. A girl in a red and white cheerleading uniform was practicing in the corner, seemingly oblivious to everyone else. And a hipster dad–man bun and all–pushed his toddler in a stroller around an armored knight, while a woman in a waitress uniform and roller skates, skated around the room with a tray of drinks. She stopped next to me, snapping her gum.
“Hey, new girl. You want a Coke?”
What I really wanted right now was a bottle of Moscato. Maybe three. “Um…sure? ”
She handed me the cold can.
SShew twirled on her skates. “No prob.”
I popped the top and continued staring around the room. There were people everywhere. There had to be a least a hundred of us in here–all races, ages, and occupations, judging from the clothing. All periods, too, it seemed–everything from ancient Greece to 1990s grunge. There were even two nuns sitting in the circle quietly praying the rosary. And holy shit, over near the corner watching cheerleader was a clown. He looked up and grinned at me. Shuddering, I moved closer to the saloon girl.
What the hell was this place? It looked like the worst kind of cross between an AA meeting and group therapy. I needed to get out of here. This was insane, and despite the weirdly appearing calling card in my pocket, there was no way I belonged in this freak show.
I started to stand, but the lady with the clipboard pinned me with a glare. “If you’ll all take your seats, we’re about to begin.”
Just like I hadn’t been able to stop myself from knocking on the door earlier, I couldn’t stop myself from returning to my seat.
“Who’d like to begin?” She glanced at her clipboard. “Thomas, how about if you start us off.”
A man in a Union army uniform several seats down from me stood and saluted the American flag at the front of the room, then said, “My name is Captain Thomas Sullivan, and it’s been seventeen months, two weeks and three days since I’ve had any communication from my creator.”
He sat down, and the woman next to him stood, cradling an infant in her arms. “My name is Ernestine Thatcher, and this is my little Horace. It’s been over six years since we’ve had any communication with our creator.”
One person after another stood and told their story and my stomach churned as it got closer to my turn. The saloon girl stood. “My name’s Fanny, and I don’t know how long it’s been since my creator’s even thought of me. I reckon he might be dead.”
A collective gasp went up around the room, and the nuns crossed themselves.
“Now, Fanny…” the woman with the clipboard chided. “You know we don’t say things like that.”
“Well, what am I supposed ta think? It’s jus’ been a whole lotta bupkis if you ask me.” She flopped back into her chair. “I’m tired a bein’ here. I want ta get back to my life.”
Clipboard lady nodded sympathetically as did nearly everyone else in the room.
“We all want that, Fanny,” someone said. I think it might have been the knight since the words were weirdly muffled.
Clipboard lady stared expectantly at me. “Well, Willa? What about you? Tell us your story.”
On shaking legs, I stood and cleared my throat. “I–I don’t have a story. I’m not sure why I’m even here. I should probably go. I’m sure there are things I need to be doing.”
Nearly everyone’s features crumpled into an almost identical expression of sympathy.
“What?” I asked.
One of the nuns shifted in her chair and nervously clutched her rosary. “You don’t know where you are, dear?”
I shook my head. “I only came here because I found the address in my pocket.”
She exchanged a meaningful look with the clipboard lady before turning back to me. “You’re here because you’ve been forgotten.”
Icy fear sluiced through my veins. “What are you talking about. No one’s forgotten me. I’m supposed to go on a trip with my best friend Shawna next week. We’re going on a cruise. I can’t really remember to where, but there’s a cruise. Shawna wouldn’t forget me. Neither would the rest of my…”
“The rest of your who, dear?” the nun asked.
I clutched the can of pop, feeling the metal buckle beneath my fingers. “I…I don’t know. I can’t remember anyone but Shawna.” That couldn’t be right. Surely, I had other friends. Or family. Coworkers. But I couldn’t think of a single one.
The lady with the clipboard flipped through some pages. “And didn’t Shawna just meet a man? Some sort of wealthy business tycoon with a helicopter?”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean she’s forgotten me. How could she forget me? I’m her best friend.”
Fanny patted my shoulder. No one said anything else.
“It doesn’t mean that I don’t have other people out there.”
The lady with the clipboard pressed her thin lips together, then said, “Do you remember anyone else?”
“No, but…” Dread wrapped around me like a cold, wet blanket, and I started to shiver.
“There is no one else dear. You were part of Shawna’s story, and the author forgot you.”
“I don’t understand.”
Before she could respond, the butler in the mourning suit came back looking far more animated than he had earlier. “Good news, everyone! Sir Reginald, you’re free to go! You’re needed in Chapter Thirty-Six. Be safe, good man–it’s a battle scene. Saxons, from the looks of it.”
The room erupted into cheers and clapping with a few people muttering ,”Lucky bastard” as the knight clanked toward the blue doors.
After the excitement died down, the woman continued. “This is a halfway house for forgotten characters. If you’re here, it’s because your creator and the other characters in the story have forgotten about you.”
I thought I might vomit.
The nun who’d spoken earlier said, “It happens all the time. Sometimes we’re used as plot devices and never heard from again. Sometimes, the author gets an exciting new idea and wanders away from our stories. Sometimes, they just simply forget they’d created us in the first place, and we just become part of a lost plot thread.” She shrugged. “And this is where we end up.”
“That’s crazy,” I whispered.
Everyone stared at me, pity clear in their eyes.”
“What’s the last thing you remember doing with Shawna?” the man with he adding machine asked, suddenly.
I thought hard. What had we done? “Oh! I know,” I said, maybe a bit too smugly. “We went out to lunch at our favorite shwarma place, and she was telling me about an interview she had for a new job.”
He nodded. “And what have you done since then?”
I stared at him, unable to think of a single thing.
“What have you done since eating lunch with her and finding the card and coming here?” he asked again.
“I…I…” My throat tightened. There was literally nothing there. The last thing I remembered was Shawna getting a phone call and taking it outside the restaurant. I don’t even remember paying and leaving.
“I’m so sorry, Willa,” he said. “I know it’s a shock. You just need to–”
His voice cut out, and he became fainter and fainter until I could nearly see through him. Reaching out, he grabbed at my arm, but his hand went right through me. He completely faded from view leaving his chair empty. Every time I blinked I saw his frozen, terrified expression on the insides of my eyelids.
I looked frantically around the room. Some people cried. The nuns prayed. The clipboard lady sighed and drew a line across one of her pieces of paper.
“What was that? What happened to him?” I demanded.
Frowning, she tucked her pencil behind her ear. “Revisions.”
That’s it for my story this week, but be sure to check out the other bloggers and see what the blue doors inspired them to write.