Tales of the Storage Space, Part 18

Martin was running from Frank through rows and rows of storage units.  But as fast as he ran he was hardly moving at all, and the storage space building’s halls kept growing longer and longer.  Finally he found what he somehow already knew was there, a partially open unit.  He even knew Karen was inside, and he didn’t have any way of knowing that either.  But he could hear Frank clattering up the stairs, so he tried to get in there with Karen anyway.

He knew that if Frank found him with her again, Frank’s killing him wouldn’t just be about all the money Martin owed him.  But maybe Frank wouldn’t find him this time.

This time?

Martin didn’t have a chance to think about that because he’d just spotted the thing that had tried to stop him last time.  Again it oozed into the opening to Karen’s storage unit.  Again it was some hideous mixture of a vicious dog and a sea serpent.  But Martin dove right at it, remembering he’d passed right through it before.

This time, though, it wasn’t a bloody hallucination.  Martin collided with the serpent dog with a sickening thud.  A green, serpentine hand grabbed his throat.  Another green hand, dripping seaweed, raised something that caught the light and sparkled high over Martin’s head.

He made out the shape of the sparkly thing as it descended to puncture his throat.

It was that shard of glass.

For the third time since Jennifer’d left that morning, Martin woke up screaming.

This time he stumbled out of bed in a cold sweat, tripped over some of her clothing, and sprawled across the floor like some broken and discarded doll.

But it was just a dream.  Right?  Then the memories from the previous night washed over him with all the subtlety of a tsunami.

Shaking, wracked by dry sobs, he staggered to his feet.

Memories…

He yelped in pain, then shook himself like a wet dog.

That spurting blood…

Frank’s face…

Martin hit a wall and screamed in pain.  He couldn’t believe he’d let himself fall asleep again.  There was something he had to do.  What was it?  It was important.

Jennifer!  He’d told her he’d left one of her boxes of precious stuff in the storage space by mistake and sent her off to retrieve it as soon as he’d been able to wake her up.  This after the consummate job of acting the previous night, when he’d actually managed to get it up and fuck the stupid, annoying bitch…while babbling about how much he loved her and how big a mistake it had been to ever let her go.  Fortunately she hadn’t stopped to check or she would have seen that all her bloody boxes were already there in Martin’s apartment.

But he had to act fast since it wouldn’t take long for Jennifer to figure it out.

Martin grabbed the phone he’d taken from Jennifer’s purse and punched in the number.  At least he could let his voice shake all it wanted to for this conversation.  But what he did need to do was to remember to speak in as close to a pure American accent as he could…no bloody British-isms.  “Yo, is this the number to call to report a violent crime?  Ya know, anonymously?  Like, I think the perp is still at the scene a’ the crime, but I got ahold of her phone when she dropped it.”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 17

Storming back to the storage space from Martin’s apartment the morning after Martin killed that hunk with the scar, Jennifer tripped.  Jennifer was so thoroughly annoyed that she gave whatever she’d tripped on a vicious kick.  It felt soft…floppy.  Only then did she remember she was still wearing her sexy shoes from when she’d thought she’d have to seduce Martin to get him to let her move back in with him.  Rather than just agree not to tell about Martin killing “Scarface,” or “Frank,” or whatever Martin had called him.

So had whatever she’d just kicked gotten her sexy shoes…her expensive sexy shoes…dirty?  She looked down.  It was just some old homeless woman sprawled all over the sidewalk with her eyes closed…probably dead, judging from her failure to react to that vicious kick.  Relieved, Jennifer started to move on past all those ratty old carvings to the storage space building’s front door.  But then she noticed something on her shoe after all, something red.

She looked back at the homeless woman.  Red.  Reddish brown, really.  Disgusting old woman was covered with it.  Jennifer turned up her nose and sniffed, catching a metallic scent.  Then she noted all the woman’s fresh wounds.  Blood!  And blood, Jennifer knew, could stain her cloth shoe!

Horrified, she sat right down next to the homeless woman and snatched the bloody shoe off her foot.  The sweatpants she was wearing didn’t matter; she’d borrowed them from Martin.  But she did avoid a pool of blood that would have soaked through and gotten her butt all icky.

What to use to clean her shoe?  Jennifer looked around and noticed a tablecloth.  Most of it, like the sidewalk and everything else, was soaked in blood.  But there was one clean corner.  The only problem was that the homeless woman was wearing it.  Jennifer stamped her other foot with annoyance, then yanked the tablecloth super hard.

The homeless woman flopped all over the place, then came to rest next to Jennifer again with a thud and what almost sounded like a very soft moan.  “Success!” yelled Jennifer aloud; she had the tablecloth.  But now the question was, how exactly to use it to clean her shoe.

She had a dreamlike memory from long ago.  Her father had died.  People were so unreasonable.

To make matters worse, her mother started talking about her stupid dead father all the time, instead of paying enough attention to Jennifer, who was, after all, still alive.  When she complained for the umpteenth time, her mother finally said she was going to show her something very special.

Jennifer got all excited.  Her mother led her up to the attic.  Soft light from a window slanted across the floor, spotlighting a big box.

Her mother kneeled before the box and reached out to stroke Jennifer’s arm.  “I wasn’t ever going to open this,” she said.  “Just keep it where I knew it would be safe because I couldn’t bear for anything to happen to it.  Especially now.”  She started crying again.  “But I know how much you like pretty clothes.”  Her mother broke the seal on the box and carefully set aside a ton of tissue paper, one piece at a time.  It took forever.  Finally she pulled out a beautiful dress.  It was all white.

But then her mother started talking about, of all things, Jennifer’s father!

“I’m sorry!” her mother said, turning away to sob.

Jennifer took advantage of her mother’s having turned away to punish her for talking about her father yet again.  She poured the grape juice she’d been drinking all over the wedding dress.

It was so long ago.  Why had she remembered about pouring grape juice all over her mother’s wedding dress just then?  Something her mother said afterwards, when trying to rescue the dress…  But what?

Jennifer snapped back to the present, looking at the homeless woman’s blood all over her sexy, expensive shoe.

What had her mother said?

She noticed the homeless woman’s eyes had flickered open and that she looked from Jennifer’s raised arm with the stolen tablecloth to Jennifer’s blood-besmirched shoe.

“Gently dab,” said the homeless woman in the most beautiful speaking voice Jennifer had ever heard.  “Don’t smear or grind it in.”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 16

The Storage Space was more than appalled.  It was…  It was…

This was serious.  Not since that night long ago that…

But never mind.  The Storage Space had decided never to think of that again.

Edward!

No, the Storage Space simply would not deign to think of such things.

Karen!

Alas, alas…  But buildings simply could not cry.  First, and foremost really, it was so undignified.  But it was also impossible.

Besides another woman was caressing the magnificent old wood carvings surrounding the Storage Space’s entrance, though this one was…  The Storage Space would have wrinkled its nose in distaste if only it had a nose.  This woman was old, very old.  Still there was a fineness about her features, or at least what could be seen of them with that…rag wrapped around her head.  And what on earth was she wearing?  It looked like a whole collection of rags, accented by what appeared to be a…tablecloth.  What did they call bums now?  Homeless?  Really.  The “modern” world.  All that “politically correct” verbiage when it came to the riff raff.  It was just too tiresome.

Talking to herself now.  How dreadfully typical.  Some youths across the street had stopped to laugh and point at her.  The poor, long-suffering Storage Space tried to ignore her, but the rich timbre of her voice was startlingly familiar:  Strong, without ever being harsh or crass.  Pure.  Sweet, but not cloying or mopishly sentimental.  Lyrical wording.  Artfully controlled rhythm.  Almost as if she didn’t speak her words but sang them.  The Storage Space couldn’t help but listen, only to discover that, as this deplorable ragamuffin caressed the wooden carvings, she was reciting random lines from what the Storage Space recognized as a poem by William Butler Yeats:

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep.”

One of the youths on the opposite sidewalk threw something at her, but it missed.

“How many loved your moments of glad grace.”

Another youth approached her, catlike.

“But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you.”

A few more, whispering, crossed the street.

She gazed up at the stars with a winsome, enigmatic, Mona-Lisa smile.  The rag around her head fell back, revealing all her face.  The Storage Space would have gasped in recognition, if only a building could gasp in recognition.  It was the face of someone long dead.  Beautifully sculpted still, despite her being something like 70 years old.

But just then all the youths reached her.  Snickering, they formed a ring around her and started to kick.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 15

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?  Thou art more lovely and more temperate…”

Edward, most thoroughly enraptured, beheld the lovely maiden slumbering all but naked.  She was in one of those wretched metal boxes with which they had utterly destroyed any lingering vestige of his grand old theatre.  Edward pondered, not for the first time in the last one hundred and fifty odd years, the marked advantages of being dead.  How else could he have hoped to slip into this maiden’s chamber so quietly?

Could this be love?  A feeling he hadn’t felt since…

The darkness closed on Edward again, as familiar as a moth-eaten old cloak.  Love was something he hadn’t felt for a very long time.  He had sworn…when he’d first found himself floating about in the high rafters, nothing more than smoke, looking down at the twisted, broken mess that used to be his magnificent body…that love was something he would never feel again.

Stage Right!  A step upon the stair!  Who would disturb this fair maiden’s slumber at such an hour?  Lo…  A wisp of a man, with a body almost as insubstantial as Edward’s.  Foppish really.  The sort who, in Edward’s day, would have donned all manner of absurd apparel in an attempt to disguise his own lack of substance.  Slinking in the shadows, like that horrid creature Irwin, the insufferable servant.  Edward loathed Irwin, and Edward also loathed this man, on sight.  His name was…  Edward had to struggle to remember from seeing him here with that equally horrid woman…Jennifer.  His name was Martin.

Martin darted to a metal door and clanged it, risking disturbing yon fair maiden’s repose for no good reason.  The huge padlock should have made it all too obvious to even the dullest wit that he wasn’t going to get in.  Next, Martin spotted the fair maiden’s partially open chamber.  Certainly not, thought Edward, pulling what little there was left of himself together.  He flowed into the part of the maiden’s door that was open, twisting himself into the most terrifyingly visible shape he could muster.  It turned out to be a rather absurdly inelegant and utterly illogical mix of mythological sea monster and bulldog, but it was the best he could think of on short notice.  Edward could tell by Martin’s quick halt and widening eyes that he could at least see the dead; not everyone could.

“Martin!”  Stage Right again.  The voice of a big man, confirmed by the clatter as he ran up the stairs.

“Martin?”  That horrid Jennifer, somewhere off in the distance.

And finally, just as a thoroughly terrified Martin jumped right through Edward-The-Sea-Monster-Bulldog into the fair maiden’s chamber, the fair maiden stirred and asked softy, “Frank?”

The big man…Frank?…dove through Edward too, wrapping huge hands around Martin’s neck.  Martin struggled and even made a pathetic attempt to throw a punch, but the outcome would have been obvious to anyone.  It was a fight scene no dramatist would have choreographed…far too boring.  But Edward found he wasn’t bored at all.  Why?

The fair maiden.  Her name?  Karen.  That Edward had no trouble remembering.  He’d committed her name to memory the first day she walked into the old theatre, and that rodent Irwin had so odiously attempted to win her affections.  Karen…  The sweetest flower of all the field.  Edward watched her lovely face, thinking she should have been on the stage for her ability to show two so contradictory emotions:  Clearly she was madly, desperately in love with this Frank, which…Edward found to his horror…cut him to the quick.  Yet as it became all too obvious that this was not merely a fight, but a fight to the death, her face flickered between love and horror as she looked at Frank.

Martin was losing consciousness.  He wouldn’t last long.  But…what was that on the floor behind Frank’s foot?  It looked like a sliver of ice but with something dark on it that looked like dry blood.

Frank slipped on the ice, loosening his grip on Martin’s neck.

Martin’s terrified eyes snapped open.

Karen pushed between them, holding a bleeding hand up to shelter Martin.

Frank couldn’t stop the lethal-looking punch he’d aimed at Martin.

Karen took the punch, first in her bleeding hand, then her lovely face, which immediately knocked her unconscious.

Then Martin stabbed Frank in the neck with what Edward now realized wasn’t ice, but rather a shard of glass.

Karen’s hand had spouted blood as she fell limp into the back corner of her chamber.  It had been a blow Edward was all too sure no maiden could survive.  “But thy eternal summer shall not fade!”

Frank fell much closer to the door, the stab to his jugular all too obviously fatal.  But he turned toward her with an agony that seemed greater than his own dying.  “Karen, how could I?”

Karen lay still, blood pulsing out of her hand.

Frank was bleeding at a even more fearsome rate.  His eyes glittered with agony as he beheld Karen, then dimmed with death till they, like the thing buried in his jugular, appeared to be made of glass.

Martin only had eyes for Frank, looking from him to his own blood-stained hands.

Jennifer, previously unnoticed just outside the chamber, was actually…smiling.  She put her hand firmly, possessively, on Martin’s shoulder.  “So…no one except me will ever know…if you’re ready to get all my precious stuff out of its stupid storage unit tonight and take it…and me…all back to your apartment where we belong.”

Edward felt a new, smoke-like wisp at his side, who shared his reaction to Jennifer.  But Frank, new to all this, looked surprised when recoiling from Jennifer resulted in his flowing out of the building through a vent.

Edward looked back at Karen and promptly forgot about all others.  She wasn’t going anywhere.  And neither was Edward.