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Drawing on a Blank Slate
She slammed him into the wall as the door closed behind them. “Fool,” she said. The word tore into his psyche, recognition swimming just outside his reach. He knew her, recognized her voice but he couldn’t place any of it. Even the situation felt familiar, déjà vu, a fuzziness filled his mind as it sought to understand while fighting through memories that weren’t there.
“Who… who … are you,” he said. The words were a struggle to get out. They swam through the ether of his mind tripping over each other in their effort to come to coherent thought.
She pressed her face close as her eyes locked into his. The look dug deep, leaving him feeling naked and exposed as she studied the will behind his eyes. “They took you.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Stan said. “I haven’t been anywhere.”
Eric and Autumn were not in the room, only Stan and the girl stood beside the door with Stan pressed hard against the wall. A clawed hand held his throat and him in place. The girl was not only shorter than Stan but much thinner as well, a slight frame that should not have been able to push him around, but her grip on his throat was iron hard.
“Shouldn’t have left,” she said. She released him and dipped away, out of his reach. She moved as an expansion of her form and then a contraction, like a coiled spring. Though she was out of his reach he wouldn’t be able to stop her if she came at him again.
“I don’t understand. I feel like I should know you,” he said. “Have we met before? Where did you take my friends?”
“The dead have no friends,” she said. She crossed the room, smooth, clean. She moved without effort. On the other side of the room she turned to look at him one last time before she passed through the doorway deeper into the building. She then disappeared from view, into a darkened hall. When she was out of sight the light in the room clicked off and plunged Stan into darkness.
A touch of light edged its way under the door back into the alley but it wasn’t enough for him to see across the room and the doorway that led further into the building. He let go of reason, let go of the weight of memories he no longer had, and crossed the room to where he thought to find the doorway deeper into the building.
The path had been clear. He managed to make it to the far wall without tripping and falling on his face. Although he did walk into the wall on the other side of the room. He felt along the wall for the doorway.
As he walked through the doorway, light from lichen on the walls beyond lit up and provided a soft light for him to see his immediate surroundings. Stan stood in the tunnel just beyond the first room and scanned down the tunnel to where the lichen had lit up the pathway ahead of him. The doorway behind him closed off and sealed as if it were nothing but a wall again.
The way felt familiar, another moment of déjà vu though he couldn’t place the path in front of him. He knew he needed to follow the girl and his friends but couldn’t tell why they were important. The whole situation felt odd.
He had been in the odd passageway only a short time before a man joined him. He had come from the direction that Stan had been walking. His features were cast in the odd shadowy light of the lichen and hard to discern. He stopped short of Stan and blocked the passage forward.
“You have lost your way,” he said. The man stood in front of him with his arms crossed. He pulled the hood down and away from his face but it did little to jog Stan’s memory.
“I feel I should know you,” Stan said. “I have been in here before?”
“It doesn’t matter. You’re here now.” The man beckoned for Stan to follow him as he turned away. He led Stan through a series of tunnels and finally stopped in front of a small room. “Stay in here. I will return shortly.”
Eric and Autumn were waiting inside the room as well. They sat at a small folding table with lamp at the center. The soft light from the lamp cast dancing shadows through the room, though it didn’t touch the walls on the outside of its glow. Eric stood as Stan entered the room and took his hand, shaking it vigorously.
“I thought they had taken you,” he said. “The other day when they took Charlotte, I was certain you were already gone.” He placed his hands on Stan’s shoulders and twisted him back and forth as he looked up and down his body. “None the worse for wear though. Look at him Autumn, the man is still in one piece and healthy.”
Stan pulled away as his eyes darted back and forth between them. “What the hell are you talking about? I left Charlotte in bed just this morning. No one has taken either of us anywhere.”
Eric and Autumn exchanged a quick glance. “What do you remember of the past few days? The past week?” Autumn said.
The hairs at the back of Stan’s neck jumped up as a chill washed over him. He couldn’t remember much of anything except his daily routine. The past few days much like the past month had all merged. There was little variation within it all and it felt like the same routine he had for years. And it all felt wrong.
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