Saturday, April 21, 2007

Clara and Charlie, Episode 2

It was the buzzer from her room that got her off the floor. She didn't know how long she'd lain there. It was hard to get up, her back was stiff, her legs were numb. BUZZZZZZ BUZZZZZ. She pressed the 'listen' button down by millimeters, like it might burn her finger any moment.

"HELLO! HELLO HELLO! Anyone!" the voice was distorted with madness as much as by her speaker. Clara let go of the switch and looked out her window at the street outside. It was quiet save for a big dark car smashed up against a lamp post. She was inspecting the crumple in its hood when a heavyset man in a football bomber turned into view. He walked briskly, head down but coming up to glance around every few steps. Clara slammed the window shut and backed away in horror.

There were people out there. Contaminated, worldly, toxic. The refuse Jesus had abandoned. People who had sinned, who had been weak, who had betrayed Jesus. Like her. But there they were roaming, eating, mating. Out there. She lost her thought as the buzzer shouted at her again, making her jump. It was too much. She pivoted and plunged into empty halls that suddenly seemed hard and bare. The stairwell to the first floor gulped her down with its jagged concrete teeth.

The lobby, when she got there, was dark. The lights weren't on. Fake plastic plants made ominous holes in the indoor daytime twilight. A tangle of fabric nearly tripped her as she came out the fire door, and a patent leather shoe ricocheted off her foot and up against the wall. She tiptoed around the rest of the pile then turned a corner towards the front door. There, late afternoon daylight blazed in through the glass doors that encased the half-way cage to outside. In it, a woman in a floor length tan coat was hammering wildly at the grid of round black buzzer buttons, long wisps of hair flying as she pounded both fists against the panel.

"HELLO! SOMEONE HELP!" Its voice was shattered, half muted through the inside door. Clara edged towards the mad creature slowly. She was within 10 feet before she was spotted.

"Oh there you are! Someone, thank God. Do you know where Bridget is? Bridget Glenn. I'm her mother! Is Bridget ok?"

Clara froze. A beseeching hand rested on the glass between them, fine boned, fingers curved as talons.

"Let me in. Are you a student here? Do you know Bridget?"

"Sinner." Clara croaked. "Unrepentant!" There was a long table to her right, covered in fliers for abstinence programs. She took a handful and flung them at the door. They fluttered off the glass and scattered to the ground. The creature stared at her. Clara could see the sinews of its neck belling out to its shoulders.

It seemed to Clara as though she could almost see the sickly vapors of corruption coalescing around the creature in the cage. They were probing for a crack, it seemed, a hole, a way into God's sanctuary. She blinked her burning eyes and squinted into the back lit cage. The creature shifted, sliding along the glass towards her, searching, testing, snaking. The heat was upon her, invading her nostrils, creeping onto her skin. She gripped clammy forearms with sticky palms.

"My name is Kim Glenn." It was cajoling now, seducing, tempting. "My daughter is enrolled here. I haven't heard from her in three days, I'm worried sick. I need..."

Clara didn't hear the meaning, she just saw the flickering lips. Words were slithering past them, through the door, into her mind. She shook her head violently and grabbed her ears. "No!" In a lightning movement she snatched for more pamphlets, but when her hands hit the table she seized that instead.

"You're not getting me!" Energy came from nowhere, and she heaved the table up against the door, blocking it. "Not again!" She fled back upstairs as fast as rickety legs could take her. "Not again!" She only fell once.


Stentor said...

This is really great.

Dani said...

That's so intense.