In The Asylum
The foosball tournament was in the semi-finals by now. The first two opponents, Maestro Frank and the Ticket Inspector, finished their match a couple of minutes ago with the latter coming out as the victor. The second match of the semi-finals was between the Beeman and a guy who did not seem to be able to stop bouncing. As it was with the previous matches, King Adrian announced the start. However, both Lilli and Tina had long lost their interest and only watched the matches in a half sleeping stage. They would have left but were too lazy and also, everybody was either participating in the tournament or watching it. The Barman surely never had so many people in his establishment before or was going to have following this day. Tina dozed off several times during this match, only to be jerked awake by the cheers and moans of the crowd that sounded like it came from a creature with countless heads, like a Hydra after its heads had been cut off and regrown. Hopefully the tournament would be over soon. The first few rounds might have been fun to watch but it was getting repetitive and as boring as a real soccer game. Maybe she should just leave and do something she actually enjoyed doing.
“And the winner is Hoppy Hop!“, King Adrian’s booming voice pulled Tina as well as Lilli out of their daydreams. “The finale will be a match between the Ticket Inspector and –”
“Alright! Gather around! Time for dinner!“, the voice of a guard interrupted him. A bespectacled man with a goatee, curly hair and a bored expression entered the bar. Confusion flashed in his eyes but it was gone a second later. “Why’s everyone here? Aw, don’t care. Just move along. Dinner ain’t gonna wait for you all.”
One by one, the patients rose to their feet and followed in single file the guard out of the bar and to the main room, where his colleagues were standing all dressed up and nowhere to go. They were flabbergasted when the bearded guard arrived with all of the seemingly disappeared patients.
“They were in that room behind the arts and crafts room”, he explained before anyone could ask. At least they found every patient relatively quick as opposed to looking for them all over the recreation room like they usually had to. The guards repositioned the patients so that they were not in single file anymore but that there were always three to four in one row. Then they marched out of the recreation room through the open grate downstairs to the ground floor, left of the staircase and into the cafeteria. Upon entering the big, spacious room, the guards scattered to block off any exit while the inmates sat down at the tables. Some of them talked about the tournament, even betting who would win the final. Others discussed what movies they would watch on the first movie night.
“Let’s hope they’re actually showing a movie on TV on Friday”, Lilli commented after Petra voiced her desire to see a romantic movie.
“Well, there’s always at least one station that shows a movie on Fridays at eight fifteen but whether anyone wants to watch it or not is another matter”, Tina shrugged, playing with a strand of her hair. She scrutinized it critically. “I really need to go to the hair salon.”
A few trolleys were pushed by a few other employees from the kitchen to the cafeteria. Bowls full of wilted salad were being served, much to the disgust of most inmates. Only Petra seemed to be happy since no animal died for this, as she so cheerfully exclaimed.
“Unless there are bugs in there”, Tina whispered to Lilli, who giggled. A minute later, they got their bowls of wilted salad. The chubby blond poked it with a fork. “Are they trying to feed us or poison us?”
The younger girl shrugged as she got some of the salad on her fork. However, she only led it halfway to her mouth, looking at it in disgust. Other patients had the same reaction as her, although a couple of them happily ate it as though it was as fresh as if they had just been harvested and prepared right away.
“I guess we have to eat this or we’ll starve”, Tina said, sounding like she actually preferred the second option. “How high are the chances of them –” She nodded at one of the guards “– calling the ambulance?”
“I hope very high”, Lilli retorted. Both blondes gulped, took a deep breath and a bite. They chewed it and forced it down their throats, making noises of disgust. They did it again and again, until they could not force themselves anymore. The bowls were halfway empty but Tina and Lilli looked like they wanted to get the supper out the same way they got it in. But they were not the only ones. Those who had the same reaction to the salad as them also made the same expression. Some, like Petra, did not seem to be bothered by its wilted state or the overripe tomatoes. One of the inmates even asked if they could get something else for dinner but the guard she talked to just snapped at her and told her they would not get anything else. This caused a collective groan to go through the cafeteria and the guard, in turn, yelled for them to be quiet.
“Cheerful fella”, Lilli rolled her eyes. Dinner was over not long after this and the patients were escorted back to the recreation room for another hour before it was time to go to bed.
“And this is my room!”
Edna and the Key Master reached the last and final station of her house. On the outside, she appeared cheerful and in a good mood but on the inside, she felt all of the regret she felt for the death of Alfred surging through her body. She tried to ignore it, getting anxious about this was not going to help at all.
“I always had fun climbing out of the window, even if the door wasn’t locked and even though I’m a little afraid of heights”, Edna said, walking to the window and looking out, or trying to. “But the thrill is what made it exciting.”
Edna turned away from the window to look around in her old bedroom, imagining how it once looked like. It was much brighter, in white and purple, with two posters hanging above her bed and under the shelf. These were long gone now but the shelf was still there. Even her possessions were still there, including her precious elephant Apocalyptor. Edna sat Harvey down on the chair at her desk and climbed on her bed, stretching her whole body and arm to reach her pachyderm. The Key Master watched her and something told her that his green eyes were traveling up and down her body. Where were the eyes on the back of her head when she needed them? He would surely look away if she turned around to check. But she should not get crazy over this; if he did check her out, then she was not going to reprimand him. After all, the Key Master never treated her like she was some quick, disposable fun and as long as it was just checking her out, there was no reason for her to be afraid. Also, she felt flattered. Besides, while he had been scaring her several times since they first met, he never harassed her. Although it did not excuse the murders he committed. Still, Edna was willing to give him a chance to show he had changed.
“What are you doing, Princess?“, the Key Master questioned just as she managed to grab Apocalyptor by its trunk.
“Gotcha!“, Edna grinned while simultaneously getting her pachyderm off the shelf. She jumped down from her bed and looked at her green-skinned friend with big purple eyes. “I was just getting Apocalyptor. He has been here all alone for long, it’s time he’s coming with me and Harvey.”
“Apocalyptor!?“, the Key Master repeated incredulously, as though he could not imagine anyone naming their stuffed animal this. “And let me guess, he can speak too?”
“Nope, but he can use sign language and belch the alphabet”, Edna replied while walking towards her chair and taking Harvey back into her arms. “So, now my two oldest friends are reunited.”
“You make it sound like we were a couple”, Harvey commented with disgust in his voice. “And you know I only like the opposite sex!”
“Sorry buddy, didn’t mean it like this”, she apologized before turning to the Key Master: “Well, the tour’s finished. What now?”
“How about we go out to your backyard first?“, he suggested. “The air in here can’t be good for our lungs.”
Edna, who immensely disliked the moldy odor of the interior, agreed with his suggestion. Without hesitating, they left the room of the little girl Edna once was, walked down two set of stairs and left the house through the front door. Both members of them took a deep breath of refreshing air, their lungs rejoicing in gratitude. Now out in the sunlight, Edna took a good look at Apocalyptor, noting the elephant was not as white as it once was but dark gray, almost to the point of almost being black. When this was all over, she was going to wash him until he looked somewhat white. She was not sure if she could ever get him back the way he used to be but she was going to be satisfied if he was not that dirty anymore. Unlike Harvey, Apocalyptor did not like being dirty, therefore he usually tried to contact the mother ship and other life forms in outer space.
“Well, at least it seems like the sun is slowly setting”, the Key Master pointed out. Edna, who had been busy taking a good look at her pachyderm, raised her head and set her eyes to the endless sky. She noticed at once that the sun was quite low on the sky before she pondered how she missed it before, considering the red and orange glow everything and everyone was engulfed in. She knew it would not be long until the rescue mission started. Hopefully there would not be any competent guards in the asylum. Then she remembered hardly anyone there was competent.
“We could slowly go to the asylum”, Edna suggested. “By the time we reach the walls and barbed wire, it will be dark.”
“Well, the sooner we have this behind us, the better”, the Key Master responded. “I don’t fancy being in the village our dear Doctor Marcel lives in.”
“At least you and him weren’t neighbors”, the purple haired woman retorted, pointing at one of the neighbors’ houses. She saw him looking at the house she pointed at.
“Funny, I once broke in there and stole something to eat and drink”, the green-skinned man noted. Edna arched her eyebrows.
“Well, you can tell me all about this while we’re ascending the hill to the place of nightmares”, she retorted before making her way to the place she mentioned, with the Key Master in tow.
The final of the foosball tournament was perhaps the most exciting match in the short history of the tournament. The Ticket Inspector and Hoppy Hop moved their players so fast that these were only colorful blurs and the tiny ball moved so fast that one could lose track of it if they blinked. Both Hoppy Hop and the Ticket Inspector were drenched in sweat as though they were playing a real game of soccer in a desert. Some spectators even took a few sheets of papers to fan themselves with cool air. Tina suddenly imagined how they would all be dressed in fine, expensive clothes and the women would wear hats and hold actual fans as though they were all at the Royal Ascot – only that they were watching soccer instead of a horse race. She quietly giggled to herself at the picture, although no one seemed to notice. The majority was too engrossed with the match, only those who had lost track of the ball, Tina included, did not really pay attention to anything. However, even those patients could not tear their ocular organs away. The way the players were moved by the Ticket Inspector and Hoppy Hop was just too mesmerizing. Suddenly, half of the spectators cheered and the other half groaned. Hoppy Hop’s bounces were nearly nonexistent and he hung his head while his opponent shouted a loud “YES!” and raised his arms. Even without King Adrian’s announcement, everyone knew who won the tournament. Proud of his achievement with a toothy grin he normally did not display, the Ticket Inspector came forward to take his prize. His supporters cheered and whistled, drowning out the noises of disappointment of Hoppy Hop’s fans. King Adrian congratulated the Ticket Inspector while passing the trophy on to him. He raised his prize, the cheering and whistling became louder to deafening proportions. Chances of people on different floors hearing them were exceptionally high. If this happened every time this tournament was to take place it would be advisable to invest money in earmuffs and earplugs.
“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT NOISY RACKET!?”
A seething Anes stood at the door. His nostrils flared, his eyes showed the murder he felt like committing. His mere presence was enough for every single person to fall silent. Compared to the previous volume, one could hear a pin drop.
“Bed time! Now!“, Anes angrily exclaimed, pointing out of the door. Murmuring in disappointment, the patients scuffed out with hanged shoulders and heads, only walking faster when Anes yelled at them to do so. Other employees waited for the inmates in the main room, where they divided them into two groups – male and female. Four guards were assigned for each group, with Anes among those escorting the women. He walked close to where Tina and Lilli were, smirking creepily at them. Both blondes were worried what it meant. Did he have perverted thoughts? Or was he mocking them because they were still stuck in this institution? It was hard to tell and, if they thought about this, they did not really want to know. Although, they did get to know what he thought since he whispered “you’ll never get out of here” in an evil voice to them. They wished he would be anywhere but near them, preferably about to jump off a cliff.
“Hurry up! You’re slower than my one-legged grandma!“, Anes yelled, slapping the woman in the potato sack on the back of her head. She and all the others hurried up, soon reaching the women’s dormitories. They entered the dormitories to get their impersonal nightgowns and items for oral hygiene. One guard escorted three women to the bathroom facilities, where they showered, which only happened once per week as per rule, and brushed their teeth. The guard waited outside meanwhile. After the first three were done, it was the next three’s turn and so on until every female was done. Then the guards left the area, closing and locking the grate separating their part of the floor with the rest. The same was also true for the male side and in both cases, it was expected that the inmates would get to bed and be out like a light immediately. However, since the majority of the patients were adults, with the hyperactivity of a ten year old who had too much sugar, it was next to impossible. So instead, they would play around in their dormitories or climb the chimney of the furnace when it was off – which was usually only in summer. But they had not been able to do the latter for quite some time. They could usually get there through the lobby of the rooms with solitary cells but those had been locked for ages and it did not seem like they would be reopened again any time soon. Rumor had it that the missing patients were in those cells, isolated and prohibited from having conversation with the others. Only condemned to have Doctor Marcel or one of his employees visiting them very rarely. Pushing up the daisies would be a much more pleasant fate compared to this. Nobody knew what was going on behind these closed doors, but it was the subject for a lot of speculations. One favorite seemed to be that there was a portal to an alternate dimension and another, less popular, theory was that they were doing labor for the doctor. But whatever the reason, it greatly limited the areas they all could be after a certain hour had passed.
“This was an exciting tournament, wasn’t it?“, Petra asked her roommates’ opinions. The response she received were agreements as well as shrugs and hesitating words of agreements. Nonetheless, it was enough to satisfy her but not to drop the subject, therefore starting a long-winded discussion about the foosball matches. Only those who were engrossed joined in while the other spoke about something else.
“Do you suppose we will ever get out of here?“, Lilli voiced her worries aloud while playing with a corner of her blanket. Tina furrowed her eyebrows, not knowing what to say. They knew they were just bait for Doctor Marcel to capture Edna as though she was a big fish and Tina and Lilli were the small fries.
“Ah, you get used to living here, might find it fun too”, a woman who wore her clothes the wrong way piped up. She played with a loose thread on her sleeve while adding: “’Sides, ya don’t have to be embarrassed about anything around here.”
“You might think so, Rebecca, but we would rather be outside this building, where we’re supposed to be”, Tina retorted. She sighed and leaned against the window frame, taking in the view of the darkening sky just beyond the invisible barrier – so close, yet so far.
“I just wish I had a plan how we can get outta here...”
Down in the village, in one of the many houses, were Amy, Anika, Gregor, Bianca and Sebastian sitting at the dinner table in the kitchen and assimilating food before they made their way to the asylum. Ben had already left for his shift and to get in position. Since they had agreed to wait for a while before following him to the asylum, they decided to eat something. Also, Gregor’s stomach made it no secret that he was starving. So, they all sat together and consumed rolls and sausages with ketchup or mustard or both and a fruit salad for dessert. An outsider might think they were all so calm and collected but all five of them felt the same way – they were nervous. Everyone asked the same question to themselves – what if they failed? Would they also end up as prisoners in this horrible mental institution? What would their friends and family, especially Sebastian and Bianca’s parents, think? There was just so much that could go wrong and yet, there was no way they were going to abandon their plan. They knew they would have to confess to Edna when her housemate would be gone for much longer than she was supposed to and risk her going back to the place she lost a decade of her life. Therefore, the five friends quickly finished their meal just so they could make their way to the institution as fast as possible.
“Ready to go now? Does anyone have to use the bathroom before we leave?“, Amy asked in a strong and clear voice. Although, if one listened closely, they could hear a hint of nervousness and fear in her voice. She tried to hide it the best she could, she could not let the others know how scared she was. It was her who told them about Tina’s kidnapping as well as the capture of an old friend of Edna’s; it was her who came up with a plan. She was the leader of this mission; she could not show any negative emotions she was feeling.
“Sis, we all already emptied our bladder. We’re as ready as we will ever be”, Anika retorted in a calming voice, laying a comforting hand on her older sister’s shoulder. Amy gave her a grateful smile before putting on collected face and looking at the others.
“Well then, let’s go and let’s get it done with.”
Gregor, Bianca and Sebastian nodded with determined and brave faces. They left the house together and walked straight to Gregor’s car. A moment later, the five friends were inside the vehicle and valiantly on their way to the mental institution high on a hill.
~Halfway Up The Hill~
The car stood still in the middle of the street. Anika, Amy, Bianca and Sebastian stood in a circle around it while Gregor was rummaging in the trunk. Fortunately, the street was deserted; they were the only humans up and down this hill. The car was the only one as far as the eyes can see in this near darkness, albeit with a flat tire.
“Damn! No spare tires!“, Gregor exclaimed, slamming the trunk shut.
“Really? How many times did I tell you to pack in at least one spare tire? And you still haven’t done this?“, Anika asked incredulously in a raised voice. Her boyfriend flashed her a sheepish smile. She sighed in exasperation. “Look, you call the towing service and wait for it here; the rest of us is going to walk the rest of the way.”
“One of us should wait here with him”, Bianca piped up as Gregor took his phone out, walked a little away and did what his girlfriend instructed him to.
“And who should wait with him?“, Amy questioned. “It’s bad enough that Gregor’s missing from the plan but a second person?”
“Thankfully we didn’t conduct a plan where we need a specific person to be at a specific location at a specific time”, Sebastian remarked, noting to himself that he said the word “specific” quite a lot in one sentence. “I’m sure it won’t be so bad if one of us waits with Gregor. We just need to decide who.”
“Let’s decide it with a round of Paper-Rock-Scissors”, Bianca shrugged. The other three agreed with her and thus, a small match began.
Inside the very building the five friends were on their way to was Ben already in position. He secretly unlocked the backdoor for his girlfriend, her sister and their friends before he went upstairs to the surveillance room. Bladder was already there, a cup of water in one hand and his eyes not on the monitors but on the old television set, watching some cheaply made movie. Ben decided not to say anything about it; the less Bladder paid attention to the job, the better. The younger man put his derrière on the seating accommodation and set his own ocular organs on the monitors. It was only a matter of time until Amy and the others arrived. Hopefully, Anes and the other minions of Doctor Marcel would not prove to be a hindrance. It was a pity they were not small and yellow and spoke only gibberish – then they would be funny and much better looking.
Farther up the hill were two other people and a rag doll rabbit and a stuffed elephant walking the steep road to the asylum. If one would just take a look back, they would see one car and five people in the distance, though just barely as the sun disappeared more and more beyond the horizon by the minute. However, since the only direction their eyes were set at was what was in front of them, they remained unawares.
They could already see the walls surrounding the premises, the barbed wires on top of those and the surveillance camera at the entrance. If they would get any closer, they would risk being caught on camera. Therefore, Edna and the Key Master and their stuffed companions hid behind a couple of bushes, looking for an alternate entrance.
“The camera doesn’t move. The most logical thing to do would be to keep to the left so that we’re out of line”, the Key Master whispered, keeping his eyes on the entrance. “When we reached the place behind the camera, we should go around the back to the backdoor your friend found. How did she even manage getting there without being caught on camera?”
He turned his head when he asked the last question, his face showing curiosity and interest. Edna shrugged, making a clueless expression.
“Ask me an easier question, she never told me. For all I know, she could have been caught on camera”, she responded. The Key Master nodded in acknowledgement before sneaking out of the bushes, taking care of doing what he mentioned earlier. Edna and her two stuffed animals stayed in the bushes, her eyes flickering from the man to the camera and back again. She reckoned it would be better to wait until he was on the other side, maybe even until he gave her a sign. It could be her imagination, she could be impatient, but he needed incredibly long until he reached a spot behind the surveillance camera at the wall.
“Man! Hurry up, you snail!“, Harvey shouted. At times like these, Edna was glad only she could hear him talk, unless she pulled his string, which she never did for some reason, but she nevertheless glared reprovingly at him. He reciprocated with an innocent look.
“Don’t be mean, Harv”, she hissed. “And you forget, we mustn’t be seen. Or do you want to be stuck in a cell?”
“No...“, the blue lagomorph pouted. Edna scrutinized him for a minute longer before turning her attention back to the creeping Key Master. He was nearly at the spot behind the camera, so Edna found it was safe to follow him. She put her lagomorph and her pachyderm into her inventory and went the same way as the Key Master on light feet, like a cat. He was already at the wall, waiting for her. Despite knowing that the surveillance camera did not move, Edna kept glancing at it as though it would suddenly be pointed at her and alert Doctor Marcel of her presence. The fear she did not dare to voice aloud led her to sneaking a little faster than she would otherwise. Still, whether or not she hurried up did not matter soon when she reached the Key Master, who had been waiting for her. The two former inmates of the building beyond the walls shared a determined look. Words were not needed to let the other know they were thinking of the time they were prisoners, their eyes said it all.
They walked around, with their hands on the walls in their search for the backdoor. By now, the sun had completely set, only minimal light from different sources was provided. Edna took her flashlight and let it illuminate their path. From what she could see in the light, there was no backdoor on this side of the wall. She and the Key Master continued creeping along the wall, around the corner until they found the backdoor and they realized they would have gotten there sooner if the camera would be directed to the other side and they could, therefore, sneak off to the right side. But since everything was set up so inconveniently, the two former patients had to take the long way.
Edna stared at the metal door, wondering how she did not notice it all those years ago. Then she turned around, noticing another path, one for pedestrians, leading down to the village. She had completely forgotten about this path but one could hardly blame her. She walked this road only once and that was when she was seven years old. Nonetheless, she was glad to have found another way down, one where Doctor Marcel could not send any vehicles after them.
“D’you reckon the door’s locked?“, Edna asked.
“Well, only one way to check”, the Key Master retorted and attempted to open the door. It did not budge. “What a surprise, it’s locked.”
Edna did not miss the sarcasm his voice was oozing with the whole time. She rolled her eyes at him while taking out her hairpins. She picked out one and handed it to the Key Master.
“Since you’re known as the Key Master, I expect you to unlock this door”, she said in an expecting voice. He looked at her weirdly, she half-expected he was going to say that he was unable to do this. However, he did turn around and began working on the door. Edna, meanwhile, leaned against the wall, taking in the lights of the village below. She could recognize the neon lights of the bar. How many people would be there and drink their brain cells and their vital organs away? Would the menu be more diverse than the one in the asylum? Edna actually reckoned so; otherwise the bar would be long closed down. She could also see the local supermarket in its last hours of opening time. The employees were most likely so tired that they could fall asleep standing.
“Hey Edna?“, Harvey piped up from her left hand he was dangling from. The young woman raised her arm and looked at him questioningly:
“How can you be so sure that he can unlock the door?”
“Simple, he’s known as the Key Master, keys unlock doors. Sounded like a logical conclusion to me. And he told me so.”
“Ah, now that makes sense.”
Edna gave her blue lagomorph friend a smile and then went back to looking at the village. More than a decade ago, everything seemed so big. Now, it all seemed so small it could be the hometown of some spiders.
“There, the door’s open”, the Key Master announced, stepping back from it and admiring his handiwork. Then he turned his attention to Edna and gave her the single hairpin back. “But don’t expect that I’ll be your personal locksmith.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t”, she retorted, pocketing the small item. Her companion gestured to her to walk through the door first, saying the two words “lady’s first”. She curtsied mockingly to him and entered the premises, thinking to herself how ridiculous they were behaving, even letting out a chortle.
“Is something funny, Princess?“, the Key Master, who had arrived just as she laughed, asked.
“Oh, just thinking how ludicrous we’re being”, Edna grinned before dropping it. Then she went on in a more depressive voice: “I guess I just needed something to lift my mood.”
She felt how he took her hand and gave it a light squeeze. Upon turning her head to look at him, she was met by sympathetic green eyes and the sympathetic smile he only had when he looked at her. If she were not so lost in his ocular organs, she would realize that the corners of the mouth only seemed to be pointed upwards when he gazed at her.
“Being here makes you nervous, doesn’t it?“, he said in an understanding tone. Edna confirmed with a nod. “If it makes you feel any better, I feel the same.”
“Feel the same about what?“, she asked, a slight note of panic in her voice. She did not reveal that she felt more than friendship towards him, did she?
“About being nervous”, he clarified. The sympathy in his face was replaced by curiosity as he raised his eyebrows at her. “What else did you think?”
“Oh nothing of particular interest”, Edna replied, chuckling sheepishly. She turned her attention away from the Key Master before she made an even bigger fool of herself. It was not easy to see anything on the property, except for a few outlines and a couple of illuminations from the inside of the building. She stepped forwards to it, noticing by two factors that the Key Master walked along with her; one, she could hear his footsteps alongside hers, and two, they were still holding hands. Letting go was currently the last thing on her mind. The knowledge that he was here with her and the feeling of it was a source of comfort for her. Only when she had to would she let go.
As Edna got closer to the building, she could make out a familiar part of the premises – the Zen garden, to be more precise. For a moment, she wondered if the pattern she once made was still there but concluded that it was unlikely that it was still there after all these years. If Doctor Marcel’s minions had not removed it, then the first rain after her escape. Nonetheless, from here on, she could still remember where what was and even walk the way – unless a few things were changed over the years.
“If there’s the Zen garden, then that means we just have to go closer to the window and go to the left”, Edna recounted from her memories. “Let’s just hope the door’s unlocked.”
She led him past the Zen garden and window of the room where she once attended a therapy session and around the corner to the backdoor. She could see the garages the closer she got to the building and, she was not really sure, it seemed like the garages was larger than it had been when she broke out. The garage she found their getaway car in was closed, as was every other. Hopefully, this was not the case with the backdoor, Edna thought to herself as she pushed the handle down. To her surprise and amazement, it did open. Was luck on their side? Or was it a trap? Still, the only alternative would be the front door, where they would be caught in less than five seconds. She and the Key Master exchanged a look of skepticism before sneaking in. They glanced left and right, expecting to see one or more of Doctor Marcel’s minions jumping out and throwing a fishnet over them. However, the hallway was deserted.
“Let’s first check the files, maybe we find out where exactly your friends are being held”, the Key Master proposed in a whisper. “And maybe you can find something about yourself.”
“Agreed”, Edna nodded before walking down the stairs to the basement. They turned left, jumped down a small set of stairs and walked through the first door they found. The first thing the two friends and the stuffed lagomorph saw was complete darkness.
“Turn the lights on, you’re closer to the switch”, Edna ordered. A moment later, she and the Key Master were nearly blinded by the bright light. Edna blinked a few times and raised her hands to shield her eyes from the light. It took a moment for her to adjust to the brightness but once it did, she could confirm that, without a doubt, the archives looked the same they did before. She remembered reading through a handful of medical records of some patients, though only of those she met and knew. There were a lot more but she had not been in the mood to read them all and still was not. Besides, these records were not helpful in learning more about the patients, except if one wanted to know what their first pet was.
“In there are files with exact locations of the patients’ medical records”, Edna stated, pointing at the cabinet on her and the Key Master’s right-hand side. “But you only learn whether they were first or second or whatever in Physical Education class and what their first pet was.”
“Are you sure those are medical records and not attempts to fuck you over?“, the Key Master retorted. Edna looked at him in fake shock:
“My, what a vulgar expression! Didn’t your mother teach that such words are inappropriate?”
“I think I was playing hooky that day”, her green-skinned friend smirked. Edna chortled. “But seriously, maybe we should see if we find a computer.”
“I could imagine there’s one in the far back; I didn’t look there at all when I skimmed through some of the records.”
No more words were needed to know what they were going to do next. Closing the door behind them, they stepped into the room for real. Edna turned to the left and led the Key Master past the many shelves to the other side of the room. If only one of them had thought of closing the door earlier, a young man whose face was covered with a paper bag would not have noticed them. The only reason Ruben spotted them was that he just left the furnace room and was about to turn a corner. But both Edna and the Key Master were blissfully unaware of his presence and therefore of the possible consequences.
“Well, what do you know? A computer”, Edna commented, gazing upon the electronic device she and her friend found in a corner on the other side of the room. It was so well-hidden that she half-expected it to be covered in dust and cobwebs.
“This it is, the moment of truth”, the Key Master stated while she booted the computer up. “If there’s information about every patient, you might also find some about yourself.”
Edna acknowledged his words with a nod. She knew she would at last find out what Doctor Marcel did to her, aside from erasing her memories and attempting to rewrite her personality. Only several clicks separated her from the truth... and the requirement for a password.
“Well, that was to be expected”, Edna rolled her eyes and clicked on the ‘hint’ button. She was astonished to find that she actually knew the password. What a coincidence that she held a report about Goethe not too long ago and that she could still remember a lot of it! It was like Missus Rosefield knew she would need to know the name of Goethe’s wife. With a satisfied smirk, Edna typed in ‘christianevulpius’, which gained her access to the data stored on the hard drive of the computer. The desktop had only two folders and the My Computer icon; the first folder was titled ‘Regular Patients’ and the second had the name ‘Special Patients’. Thinking she had plenty of time, Edna clicked on the former only to realize that she needed a password there too. Was everything password protected? Fortunately, she figured it out pretty quickly after using the hint. This time, a discovery of Goethe’s in 1784 was needed – the incisive bone. Once she gained access to the folder, she was met with a long list of documents, one for each patient. She never realized the asylum had that many.
“How can he keep so many patients in here?“, the Key Master wondered aloud, astonished by the amount of documents. “The asylum doesn’t look that big.”
“I... I don’t know”, a speechless Edna managed to choke out. Even Harvey was amazed; his eyes were about to pop out and in need to be sewed back on. The young woman changed the order so that those that had recently been changed were displayed on the top. Judging from only those, the number severely decreased to only a handful. However, the only name that was familiar to her was Peter, thus she opened his file first.
“Do you need a piece of paper in case you need to take notes?”
Edna swiveled around, thought for a second, and replied:
“Yeah, you can find some sheets of paper in the recreation room. I have a ballpoint pen here, so no need for a pencil.”
“Alright, I’ll be back.”
After receiving a hairpin, the Key Master left her alone with Harvey sitting on the desk, next to the monitor. Edna went back to the file she opened and began reading.
Unaware of the potential danger just around the corner, the Key Master went back the way he and Edna came from earlier, until he reached the backdoor. He stopped there and took out his map to make sure he did not misremember where the recreation room was. From the ground floor, he only needed to go up two floors and he was there. He doubted seriously he would encounter any patients there; it was such a late hour. Besides, the areas the inmates were permitted to be in were closed off and the laundry lift was not running at night. The Key Master was kind of glad that this was the case since that would spare him from seeing the fear and mistrust in their eyes. But he never found he could blame them for reacting like this, even if he did not know why. Perhaps Edna was going to find out when she read his file and she was sure to tell him. So, he pocketed his map and went on to the main area of the ground floor, immediately noticing that the asylum had changed over the years. Ramps also led the way upstairs and downstairs aside from steps. He wondered why. Did Doctor Marcel have a disabled patient? Maybe he should take a look at the files too when he returned. Wait a minute; was his house not disabled-adapted when he broke in about two months ago? Perhaps Doctor Marcel was the person who was disabled. It made more sense to the Key Master, who could not imagine the old man making his institution disability-friendly for his patients. With this in mind, he continued on upstairs with catlike steps.
A grate was on his left-hand side on the second floor, this one separating the majority of the floor with the rest. The Key Master took the hairpin and, after some work, unlocked the grate. For the first time since he first ended up as a patient in the asylum, he set a foot into the recreation room, the hallway that led to the television room to be more precise. Double doors led to the main area that was in complete darkness, with the exception of the moon’s light shining in. There was something creepy of such a normally loud and animated room being so quiet and empty. Nonetheless, the Key Master had no time to think of such trivialities. He was here to get a sheet of paper and not to imagine ghosts and zombies and the like lurking in the shadows. So, he walked through the other set of double doors on the other side of the main area and went through the single door to his left. The first thing the Key Master noticed upon entering the arts and crafts room was the disgusting stench of puke. Someone obviously did not make it to the bathroom, he thought to himself. The second thing he noticed was the silhouette of the replica of the master key in front of the window. He decided to look for the sheets of paper in the dark, in case somebody in the surveillance room one floor above him would notice a room that was supposed to be empty lit. He guided himself with his hands and the silhouettes he could barely see in the darkness. Mumbling to himself that he wished he had asked Edna for her flashlight, he searched with his hands for paper. He had to be careful to not knock something over or off. He did not want any of the employees or patients to know at least one intruder was here and he did not have the time to tidy everything up. After several minutes of groping, he felt with his hands what he was looking for. On top of them was a cardboard box full of art supplies, which the Key Master moved onto the floor. Then he took one piece of paper before deciding to take a few more, thinking it was better to have too many of those than too little to himself. He stored them into his inventory, bent down and placed the cardboard box back to where it was before.
While the Key Master was away, Edna used her time to read about a couple of other patients. First, she read more about Peter and learned his last name was Gadwall. No wonder he was always so depressed. Who would not be with a name like that? It probably had to be the most ridiculous surname she had ever heard of. She also read about a man around the Key Master’s age called Shaun Riek, who she quickly realized was the guy in the corner of the laundry room on the third floor. The one who always only shrieked when she talked to him and showed something to him. Other people she read about was about a girl known as ‘Tiger Head’, whose real name was Elena Wolff, and a woman named Miranya, after searching for patients who came into the mental institution after her escape – Tina and Lilli were also listed there. Edna had the feeling she heard the name Miranya before. She left the files open in case she wanted to take notes. After going over those files, Edna opened the second folder only to have to type in another Goethe-related password.
“What is it with Doctor Marcel and Goethe? Did he love him?“, Edna pondered aloud.
“I thought he only loved himself”, Harvey remarked. “Or dead psychologists.”
“Or he chose these passwords to throw people off”, Edna retorted, typing in the password. The list of special patients was much smaller, consisting only of a file titled ‘The Key Master’. Edna furrowed her eyebrows in puzzlement, having expected a file bearing her name too. Was it perhaps among the regular patients? She moved the cursor to the still open folder with the much longer list and searched for a file with her name. To her astonishment and bafflement, the search proved to be fruitless. Edna simply did not understand this, she could not. She had expected to find a big file about herself, considering Doctor Marcel’s obsession with her but nothing! If she did not know it any better, she would think she was never a patient of this asylum of hell. Maybe information about her was stored somewhere else. Yeah, this had to be it, Edna thought to herself while also deciding to open the Key Master’s file. All she got was a split second view of it before all she could see was blackness.
Behind the unconscious Edna stood Ruben with a pipe in his hands, which was raised to his lips. He had taken his paper bag off, revealing he looked more like his father than Alfred did – even the same eye was damaged – just so he could blow an anesthetic dart at her. Earlier, after having seen her and her companion in the doorway leading to the archives, he snuck of to where the blowpipes and a box if darts were kept and stole them. Then he returned and held the fort until he saw the man leave on his own, without her. That was when he snuck into the archives and knocked Edna out. Letting the blowpipe drop and hiding his face under his paper bag again, he picked the unconscious woman up and threw her over his shoulder. She was heavier than he thought but it did not matter. His father would surely be proud of him for having caught Edna Konrad. Perhaps he would finally accept Ruben as his son and a worthy offspring. Perhaps he would forget that his methods to raise children never worked on Ruben. This was that mattered to him. He carried her out of the archives and was about to bring her upstairs when he heard someone approaching. Worried and fearing it might be her companion, he rushed to the other direction and hid behind the corner where graffiti of his father decorated the wall. Ruben was astonished that it had not been removed yet. He listened for the footsteps and also looked around the corner, confirming it was indeed the man who came along with Edna. He waited until the man entered the archives before he rushed through the basement up to the ground floor, where the backdoor was located. Opposite of it was the door leading to the kitchen, which was currently devoid of any human life. Ruben decided to go through the kitchen and the cafeteria, where he put Edna down on the floor. He went back to the previous room and peeked through the window of the door, certain her companion would run past any moment now. And surely, he did run past these doors only a couple of minutes later. There was not much time, so Ruben returned to the cafeteria and picked Edna, who was still unconscious, up. He went to the main area of the ground floor and hurried upstairs to the top of the tower. It was not easy because of her weight and because he had to be careful that this man was not going to spot them. Also, there was always the risk of her waking up but this was the least of his worries. He had some more darts in his pockets; he could always knock her out again.
On his venture to the top of the tower, to his father’s office, Ruben did spot the green-skinned twice right ahead of him. Both times, he hid behind a potted plant or in a nearby room. Ruben turned around after silently closing the door to find himself face to face with countless monitors as well as the back of Bladder’s head. From what the young man could see, he was too busy watching some cheap movie to pay attention to the monitors. Well, normally there was hardly anything going on at this late hour. However, Bladder really should set his eyes on the monitors, considering that two people broke in. Speaking of two, should there not be a second person in here? Ruben looked around for a sign of the television watching man’s colleague. He was not sick, was he? Was that guy perhaps only using the lavatory? Or did his father want to speak with him? Well, Ruben did not dwell too long on this. He left the door ajar and peeked out to make sure it was safe to continue on his way. Edna’s partner, who had gone upstairs, ran back down and rounded the corner on the other end of this floor. Sensing it was his chance; Ruben rushed out of the surveillance room, Edna still over his shoulder, and ran the final set of stairs up to the top floor. However, he spotted René sitting on a chair in front of the cell door but fortunately for Ruben, the lanky man was too engrossed with his tablet. Dad would surely not like this, Ruben thought as he crept past René and around the corner. Now only a straight line and he reached Doctor Marcel’s office. He knocked on the wooden door.
Ben knew it would still be some time before Amy and her sister and friends would arrive. Nonetheless, he kept his ocular organs on the monitors in case they would come through the back door. Once in a while, he glanced at his colleague and shook his head at him. It was amazing that Bladder still kept his job but Ben should not complain. The plan Amy had thought up would fail if Bladder would pay attention to the monitors instead of the television. Well, he usually did so but could be easily distracted by a show or movie on television. It was fortunate it was the case this night; otherwise he would need to get him to drink more water than everybody else in this building put together and get him to use the bathroom. It was much easier this way.
“Anything interesting happening?“, Bladder asked, not turning away from his movie. Ben scanned the monitors before replying:
“Nah, just a normal boring d –”
He fell silent, having just seen a stranger on the third floor. He watched him picking the lock to the recreation room as he finished his sentence:
“– day... uh, I mean night.”
“Ah yes, good to know”, his overweight colleague responded, somewhat dismissively. Ben paid him no heed; he was too busy watching this strange man on the third floor. Why did he want to break into the recreation room? And why did he not turn on the lights once he was in there? There was no way that guy could see in the dark, unless he had some cat genes in him and Ben did not think this was the case. But he noticed it was difficult, almost impossible, to watch the man doing whatever he was doing. Perhaps this was why he left the lights out; perhaps this guy was aware there were security cameras all over the place. Ben kept watch on the spot he last saw the stranger, waiting for his return. Of course he remembered to look at the other areas, in case Amy and the others had arrived. However, every time he looked for them, he could not see them. Ben was slowly getting worried; they should be here by now. Maybe he should call his girlfriend on her phone...
Ben just made the decision when he noticed the stranger leaving the recreation room with several sheets of paper in his hand. Ben frowned, wondering why that guy needed these. Was he going to make origami and paper planes? If this was the case, he could have bought paper in a store – unless he was also one of the inmates of this institution and Ben was not even sure he was. He had never seen this guy before- But he could not deny that there was a possibility that the stranger became a patient some time during the day.
“Hey Ben, now that your girl’s gone for some time, why don’t you join me and René for a game of poker tomorrow?“, Bladder offered, wheeling his chair around to look at Ben, who surreptitiously glanced at the television and saw it was commercial break. The younger man’s eyes widened slightly in surprise. Never did Bladder invite to anywhere or for anything before. It was usually just him, René and Babbitt.
“You never invited me to join you guys, are you sick?“, Ben remarked. “And, what about your girlfriend... what’s her name again?”
“Tamara”, Bladder helped him remember. “She doesn’t mind it if I hang out with the guys.”
“I see, but still why are you inviting me along?“, Ben inquired.
“Thought you could use some company”, his nearly bald colleague shrugged.
“Hm, I’ll think about it. I’ll tell you my decision later, okay?“, Ben replied, to which Bladder nodded and turned back to his movie. Still astounded about the invitation, Ben looked back to the monitors, expecting to see Amy and the others by now. But there was still no sight of them. Did something happen? With the excuse of having to use the bathroom, he took his cell phone and left the surveillance room. Bladder mumbled an unintelligible response while waving his hand in acknowledgement. Ben was not quite sure whether or not he had heard him but did not care. He rounded a corner and walked up to the window next to a potted plant, where he stared out in the darkness before picking out Amy’s number in his contact list. He pushed the call button and held his phone up to his ear.
“Yes?“, he heard her reply after a few seconds.
“Hey, um, I just wanted to ask where you guys are... I would’ve expected y’all ages ago”, Ben replied in a half-whisper.
“Gregor’s car has a flat tire and he has no spare. He and Bianca are waiting for the towing service, the rest of us is walking all the way up to the asylum”, his girlfriend explained.
“Oh, I see... but what I don’t see is why Bianca is waiting with Gregor.”
“She lost in Rock-Paper-Scissors.”
Amy went on to tell him that they did not want for Gregor to wait alone, which was why they played Rock-Paper-Scissors, and she also told Ben she, Anika and Sebastian were almost there. Ben responded with the mention that the backdoor was already unlocked before hanging up. He walked away from the window and the plant, about to turn the corner, when he spotted a young man whose face was obscured by a paper bag carrying a young woman over his shoulder. Ben frowned. This had got to be his weirdest shift ever...
With the sheets of paper in his inventory, the Key Master returned to the archives, pondering to himself whose files Edna might have read during his absence. When he left, she had started reading Peter’s and she did meet a couple of inmates the day she escaped. He could imagine she read all their files as well as his. Wonder if my birth name is in my file, the Key Master thought to himself. He might know soon, seeing he just entered the archives.
“Princess, I’m back!“, he announced his return. Silence... “Princess?”
Still silence. Feelings of worry and dread began to surge through his body. He called for her a third time but no reply. The Key Master hurried up, half-walking and half-running to where he left Edna only stopping when he reached the corner with the computer. But all he could find was the aforementioned electronic device with Harvey leaning against the monitor but with a lack of Edna anywhere nearby. He looked around, spotting a blowpipe in the floor. It reminded him of what people living in the jungle used to shoot poisoned darts at their victims. His eyes widened, fearing the worst. He dropped the sheets of papers, they all flying slowly and gently down, and rushed out of the archives. His first instinct was to run upstairs, which he did. He hurried through every floor, even taking a look in some of the rooms. Well, those he was sure would have neither any employees nor any inmates staying in there. But no matter where he looked, no sign of Edna. Where could she be? On the topmost floor of the tower? This would not surprise him, recalling the blackmail DVD he and she watched just two days ago. Doctor Marcel did want to capture her and there was a possibility that one of his minions found her while he was gone. Although he could hardly imagine why they would need to use darts and a blowpipe...
The Key Master almost reached the top floor, noticing on his way up that the whole building was now accessibly designed, only one set of stairs and he was at his destination. However, he only managed to get a view of the area in front of Edna’s former cell where he spotted a guard he hardly knew. Tall, lanky and with his sideburns, the Key Master only knew one thing about him. That guy was the newbie around the time of the big escape. He was engrossed with a flat object on his lap. This could be the Key Master’s opportunity to sneak past him but what if he was noticed by that guard? He could not risk being caught. If he were, who would save Edna as well as her two friends? No, he had to try to find another way and therefore, he rushed back downstairs in hopes of finding something that could help him. His way down led him to the floor where grates separated the inmates’ dormitories from the rest of the floor. He considered asking them for help but quickly dismissed the idea. They would hardly believe him, much less trust him. Nobody who was an inmate in this mental institution liked him, except Edna. He had to do this on his own. Before he left, His eyes fell on the door behind which the cell he spent so many years of his life in. Was the cell still empty or was there another patient who was as dangerous as him? But even if he was a little curious, it was not important. Therefore, he stepped away from the grate and tried to find another way to Edna.
Doctor Marcel groaned inwardly. Ruben was the last person whose company he needed. The old man turned around with his wheelchair, glaring at his good for nothing son.
“What is it, Ruben?“, he asked snappishly. He knew what it was the moment he took a good look at Ruben, noticing a body over his shoulder. “Who’s this?”
His son gave a non-verbal answer by placing the person somewhat roughly on the floor. Doctor Marcel scrutinized the body, noting it was a female. His only working eye widened when he realized who this was.
“But this... this couldn’t possibly be Edna, could it?”
She groaned and stirred as though his voice was an alarm clock and woke her up. The young female sat up and took groggily her surroundings in. The more she saw of her surroundings, the more alarmed her face became until she realized who was with her.
“Hello Edna”, Doctor Marcel smirked evilly at her. He saw her mouth widely opening in a silent scream and crawling backwards away from him only to bump into Ruben’s legs. Slowly she looked up and yelped upon seeing him. Ruben seized her and tried to hold her still, despite her struggling.
“Good work, Ruben”, Doctor Marcel praised him.
“Thanks Dad”, the young man with the obscured face replied.
“Dad!?“, Edna repeated in astonishment but she was ignored.
“What shall I do with her?“, Ruben questioned as though Edna had never interrupted them. Doctor Marcel turned his wheelchair around while looking around his office. There had to be something he could use to incarcerate her, a rope or a hammer or... His eye fell on the closet. He recalled how he told Anes that he paid her and Alfred’s teacher Mister Hornbush to disadvantage her in school and lock her in the closet whenever she disturbed class. He had noticed how she warily glanced at closets as time went on. Of course, he never told Mattis that his daughter was afraid of closets. Why should he?
“Lock her in there”, Doctor Marcel replied, nodding towards the closet in the corner of this room. Ruben acknowledged it with a simple “okay” and dragged the still struggling Edna to the piece of furniture. He threw her into it and closed the doors while Doctor Marcel took the key for the closet out from his drawers. The exceptionally good-tempered man gave his oldest son the key, having him lock the closet doors. Doctor Marcel pocketed the key after getting it back. Edna pounded and screamed on the other side, begging to be let out.
“Oh no, little girl. This time you won’t escape me. This time you won’t be able to resist my therapy. This time I will correct your personality”, Doctor Marcel whispered maliciously through the keyhole. Edna’s silence on the other side had something of fright, much to his satisfaction. He moved away from the closet and towards the office door, signaling to Ruben to follow him. There was something he needed to begin with his therapy on his prisoner but instead of letting someone else get it for him; he opted to get it himself. It was not like she could escape so easily.
“Um Dad, you should know that she’s here in company of some man”, Ruben spoke up. Doctor Marcel turned his head and stared at his son. Who would get along so well with her that he would accompany here? Edna did not have a boyfriend, did she? But that was utterly nonsense. No man would ever develop feelings for such an untamable girl. Chances of even Ruben finding a partner for life were much higher than that.
“And who, pray tell, is here with her?“, the old man questioned.
“Dunno, all I can tell is that his skin and hair have a greenish tint”, Ruben answered with a shrug. This little piece of information was all the doctor needed. So, these two were still in contact with each other. He would have thought they lost sight of each other but it seemed he was mistaken.
“The Key Master”, Doctor Marcel said more to himself than to his son.
“One of the former inmates. A dangerous man, which was why we kept him in a solitary cell. That is, until Edna freed him too”, Doctor Marcel explained. “You know of Anes’s darts, don’t you?”
“Use them to knock him out should you see him. I will order Anes to look for him too”, Doctor Marcel instructed. He saw Ruben nodding before the young man ran off, probably getting a blowpipe and the anesthetic darts. Doctor Marcel continued rolling in his wheelchair to his destination but had to stop after several meters. He did not like what he saw and that was René playing with his tablet.
“René!“, the doctor snapped, raising his voice. The lanky man gave a start so that his glasses hung askew “Didn’t I tell you that tablets and the Internet are prohibited during working hours?”
“Y-yes sir”, he stuttered, turning his device off. “S-sorry sir.”
Doctor Marcel glared at him for a few more seconds before continuing his way downstairs.
Ben had long returned to the surveillance room, so the area around the corner one floor below Doctor Marcel’s office was devoid of any human life... until the Key Master hid there five minutes ago. He was about to try to sneak past the guard with the sideburns when he heard somebody coming down. Thinking fast he fled and spied around the corner until the coast was clear. A man with a paper bag over his head ran past. The Key Master raised his eyebrows. Was that guy so ugly that he had to hide his face? He was about to come out of his hiding place when he heard Doctor Marcel yelling at some man named René. Probably that guard up there, the Key Master thought to himself. He saw the grumpy old man coming downstairs, noticing two important things. One, he was in a jovial mood and two, he was in a wheelchair. That would explain why the whole asylum was now disabled-adapted. The Key Master wondered to himself how this happened. Then he remembered he can imitate the doctor’s voice extraordinarily well. He had not used this talent for so long that he briefly forgot about it. So, he waited another minute and then walked to the bottom of the stairs.
“René, I need you get me a cup of tea from the kitchen!“, the Key Master called in his Doctor Marcel voice.
“But what about the loonies in the cell?“, he called back. The Key Master was momentarily stunned. One cell and more than one patient in there? Did the number of patients increase so much that several had to share a solitary cell?
“No back talk! I have Bladder guard them while you’re gone”, the Key Master responded. “Now hurry up!”
The green-skinned man listened for René getting up and coming to the stairs, hurrying back to the place around the corner when he heard him coming closer. He waited until René ran past him to the lower floors and seized his chance getting up to the topmost floor of the tower. The first thing he spotted was the uncomfortable looking green chair the lanky guard sat on right in front of a metal door. But no time to open the small window and see who was behind it. Edna was more important. So, the Key Master hurried around another corner and down the hallway until he reached the far end. He turned to his left and pushed the handle down, sighing in relief that it was not locked. But when he entered the office, he had expected Edna to be tied to a chair or be tied up and knocked out but it was neither of those. In fact, the Key Master did not see her anywhere but he heard a loud pounding and her voice yelling to be let out. His green eyes fell on the closet in the corner. He walked over to the piece of furniture and tried to open it, finding it locked. Remembering he still had a hairpin with him, he used it to unlock and open the closet door. For a split second, he saw Edna’s frightened face before she threw her arms around him and pressed her body close against his. The Key Master’s eyes widened.
“Thank you for getting me out of there”, her voice was muffled by her face being pressed into his shoulder. He snaked one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulder so that he could stroke her hair. He could not deny that he liked this closeness and that he liked holding her like this. It gave him a bit of normalcy, which he did not have for so long. Edna was the first person who made him feel like a normal human and not like some lunatic psycho, even though it took a while before this happened.
“Let’s get out of here before the doctor comes back”, the Key Master suggested. Edna nodded in agreement and they hurried out of the room. They ran through the hallway and two flights of stairs when they spotted the man with the paper bag at the bottom of the stairs. Fortunately, he did not seem to have noticed them, so they could quickly get away from the top of the stairs.
“In there!“, Edna breathed, indicating at a door right next to a window. The Key Master tried to open it, finding it locked. But he did not think much about it as he produced the hairpin from his pocket and picked the lock. Not long afterwards, they could enter the room and he found himself staring at a collection of toys, pictures and flowers as well as two lit candles.
“You didn’t lead us into Doctor Marcel’s private room, did you, Edna? Are those baby teeth?“, the Key Master questioned, sounding incredulous at the second question, after she closed the door behind them. The young woman took her time to take in her surroundings. In the orange light of the candles, he could see her smiling in a mix of nostalgia and sadness. She kneeled down in front of the kite and touched it gently as though it was the most fragile object in the world. She did the same with the bicycle, letting a sad sigh out before she rose back on her feet and went to take a look at the picture gallery. A quiet sound of surprise escaped her lips the moment she set her eyes on these photos.
“What is it?”
“Seems that old man has added a couple of more pictures into his gallery”, Edna answered. She pointed at three different pictures – one was of a baby, another of an ugly boy taking dancing class and the last one was of the same boy building a snowman with...
“Is that snowman wearing a tie!?“, the Key Master asked incredulously.
“Yep. But what I actually wanted to say is that these three pictures and this big one over there”, Edna indicated at a portrait of this boy right above the altar, “were the only ones in here when I first entered the room.”
The Key Master studied the photos, which all showed the little boy in various stages of his life.
“He wasn’t very fortunate with his looks, was he? He looks like a frog”, he remarked. Edna chortled.
“Well, I did have a lot of frog and toad related nicknames for him”, she said. She looked at the photos again and went on: “Alfred might have been Doctor Marcel’s son and a very annoying and obnoxious individual but he was not bad at all. Although I don’t know if I’m saying this because you generally talk positive about the deceased...”
She sighed and leaned her head against the Key Master’s shoulder.
“I miss him...“, Edna admitted. The Key Master felt something weird in his chest, something he had felt over the last few weeks, perhaps even months, whenever another man showed interest in her or whenever she spoke affectionately of another male. But he never let it show, although his skin tended to take on a greener shade.
“I remember most of the situation these photos were taken”, Edna remarked fondly. She pointed at one where Alfred was at the beach building a sandcastle. “This was made when Mattis took us to the beach. That sandcastle was destroyed five minutes after this picture was taken.”
She pointed at more, where the boy let his kite fly or when he rode his bicycle, where he went sledding or ice skating or other winter activities or where he played in a sandbox in a backyard and so many more. Edna had a story for most pictures, only not knowing anything about it when she was not present at the time. But those she could tell the Key Master about the story behind the individual photo, she spoke with affection in her voice, he noted. Although there were a couple of instances she sounded displeased.
“Hey, there are none of me!“, Edna suddenly exclaimed. “And they made plenty of pictures with me and Alfred!”
“You forget that this is Doctor Marcel who decorated this room. Frankly, I can’t imagine he would put pictures of you in a room to remember his son”, the Key Master pointed out.
“Good point. I bet that old man didn’t know most of these marbles were mine”, Edna responded, pointing to the jar full of marbles behind safety glass. Among the jar were a toy car and a yo-yo. Above these toys was an eyeless teddy bear and above this was a homework planner.
“See this signature on the edge of this homework planner?“, Edna asked. The Key Master leaned closer to the object, spotting a scrawly “M. Konrad”.
“Yes, I do. What about it?”
“I forged this signature. When I entered this room for the first time, Harvey tempomorphed me to the past and showed me how he taught me to forge signatures. He told me I became so good I could do any signature just by looking at it.”
“And yet, the only ones you mentioned you could do were the bartender’s and Doctor Marcel’s.”
“Well, I need to see the signature to forge it. And theirs were the only ones I found and knew who they belonged to.”
The Key Master watched her taking another look at the memorabilia of her childhood friend. However, her nostalgia filled face changed into confusion as she gazed at the teddy bear.
“Huh? Where are Poozie’s eyes?“, she wondered aloud.
“What?“, the Key Master was confused.
“Well, Poozie had glowing red... eyes...“, she trailed off in her explanation, staring at the teddy bear but not really seeing it. Her mouth was open, her eyebrows were furrowed, and she looked like she had an epiphany. “Wait a minute... Harvey had the same eyes a few years ago...”
“What are you talking about? What do you mean?”
The Key Master felt like he was a stranger among a group of lifelong friends, who could mention one thing and everyone but him would immediately know what the person was talking about. Ever since they stepped into this room, he felt like he was intruding on an intimate moment. Only when Edna explained the story behind something did he feel involved.
“Well, I had to run from the police not long after I pushed Doctor Marcel down the stairs –”
“Which would explain why he’s bound in a wheelchair now”, the Key Master interrupted. Edna narrowed her eyes at him.
“Yeah, it does. Anyway, can I go on? Well, while I was running from the police, I lost Harvey and about anything I had with me. Years later, I was captured by Doctor Marcel’s minions, alongside a policeman named Gerret. Lilli saved us and she had Harvey with her but he looked and behaved differently. He had glowing red eyes and listed off lots of prohibitions, like don’t drink alcohol or don’t play with fire. Lilli later told me that Doctor Marcel hypnotized her with him and that Harv always suddenly appeared out of nowhere when she tried to do something she shouldn’t. I didn’t realize it before but only now I noticed that his eyes and Poozie’s eyes were identical...”
Edna fell silent again, frowning at Poozie. The Key Master, who recalled that she once told him about Harvey having red eyes and being used to hypnotize a little girl, swore he could see the wheels turning in her head.
“I think Doctor Marcel did something to Poozie’s eyes so that he could use them as hypnotizing device and sewed them on Harvey after he found him”, she concluded. She looked up and turned around, looking questioningly at the Key Master. “Speaking of Harvey, where is he?”
Outwardly, the Key Master looked as calm and collected as he usually did but on the inside, he was slapping himself for forgetting and leaving the blue rag doll rabbit in the archives. He had been more concerned about finding her than to care about the lagomorph. This was what he told Edna in explanation. She listened with arched eyebrows and her arms crossed over her chest.
“Well, I think I can’t blame you. I was suddenly g –“, she stopped talking and stared with wide eyes at the door. The Key Master wheeled around, seeing how the handle was being pushed down. His first instinct was to hide Edna, so he moved his body to cover her. Only her head peeked over his shoulder. The door opened and revealed a man who looked to be approximately around the Key Master’s age. The green-skinned man tilted his head and looked quizzically at the stranger. Judging from the whispered “huh”, Edna had never seen him before either. The stranger raised his hands.
“I’m not here to harm you or anything. My name is Ben”, the stranger said calmly. He opened his mouth to go on but was interrupted by Edna:
“Ben? As in Amy Straube’s boyfriend?”
She stepped forward so that she stood right next to the Key Master, who stared alternatively at her and this Ben guy and back again. Once again, he felt like he missed a lot of things.
“Yes, I am, and I’m here to warn you”, Ben said and went on to explain everything. He told them how his girlfriend actually encountered Tina and Lilli and figured Doctor Marcel’s plan out; how she told Edna’s other friends about this but not wanting to tell Edna herself about this while being under the impression that she did not know it yet. He concluded with telling them how they were on their way to the asylum to save Edna’s two friends and that Doctor Marcel had ordered his employees to look for Edna on every floor.
“So, what are we supposed to do?“, Edna questioned. The Key Master opted to not contribute anything to it, he was not sure if he could trust Ben. He might be the boyfriend of a friend of Edna’s but he was nonetheless one of Doctor Marcel’s employees.
“Well, perhaps we could distract them by letting all the other patients run around freely”, Ben suggested. “That way, you two and your friends can escape without being noticed.”
“And why should we trust you?“, the Key Master asked, aware he sounded rather rude. Both Edna and Ben looked at him. “I mean, why should we believe you really want to help us? You’re one of Doctor Marcel’s minions after all.”
“Key Master!“, Edna admonished him warningly but was pretty much ignored by the two males.
“I might work here as do many other people but most of us think he should forget about it. But they’re too scared since he has too much influence over the town, so they do what he orders them to”, Ben explained as though he was talking about the weather. “Even if it means kidnapping.”
“And we can really trust you?”
“You have my word.”
The Key Master eyed him skeptically before turning to Edna, silently asking for her opinion.
“I think we can trust him”, she said with a hint of finality in her voice. She looked at the green-skinned man as if she was daring him to object. He decided it was better to not say anything that could make her angry. Thus, he nodded.
“Alright then, I go gather the inmates, you –“, Edna looked at the Key Master, “– go get Harvey and you, Ben, go back to wherever you were before.”
The men muttered words of acknowledgements and Ben even handed them two copies of the master key, one for each, he fished out of the trash ages ago. Then, without further ado, they all left the room to go to their respective stations.
Edna watched these two leaving the floor, the Key Master down and Ben up. Before the former walked off, she had told him where to meet her and the other patients. She remained on this floor and unlocked the grate next to the door the three of them had gone through. Her first destination was the room that she knew was something like the antechamber to the solitary cell that once contained the Key Master. She had no idea if there was somebody in there but it was better to be sure than to forget a patient – hopefully one whose first act in freedom would not be to cause an accident. Edna approached the glass through which she had her first communications with the Key Master after she turned on the light. Her jaw dropped when she saw who was lying on the floor curled up to a ball and sleeping amidst countless blue rag doll rabbits which all looked like Harvey, albeit eyeless. She knew the dozing man; she had tried to hold conversations with him but the only sounds leaving his mouth were hardly any words. The unexpected light woke the guy, whose name she learned just this night was Shaun Riek, up. He slowly sat up looking as though he was drunk.
“Hello”, Edna greeted the man in the gray jump suit. He stared at the window for a few seconds before jumping probably a meter into the air and shrieking. Well, he had not lost this part of his personality, Edna thought to herself rolling her eyes. Knowing it would be senseless to try talk to him, she went away from the window and instead unlocked and opened the metal door. But when she looked into the cell, she saw he had not moved a single centimeter since she woke him up.
“Come on, get outta here! Go to the recreation room. I will meet you there with the other patients”, Edna instructed. She expected another shriek from him or any other comical noise but certainly not the way he reacted to her instructions. Shaun did neither of those – he nodded silently and walked past her out of the room, hopefully going to the recreation room. Edna took a moment to take a look at the cell, feeling uncomfortable by the countless eyeless Harvey doppelgangers. She saw a cardboard box in a far corner, though she did not dare to approach it and see what was in there. The fear of someone slamming and locking the door behind her was just too big. Thus she removed herself from the cell, turned off the light and left the room, closing and locking the door. Her next destination was the dormitory at the end of the hallway, where she met the Siamese twins Hoti and Moti years ago. A part of her hoped she would see them there again but she knew it was unlikely. Last time she saw them, they relaxed in Doctor Marcel’s limousine they had stolen after the Key Master caused a car crash. Since then, she had never seen or heard from them again. She did not know where they were or what they did; she only knew that she would like to see them again.
Edna entered the dormitory and, not caring whether they were all fast asleep or not, turned on the light. She watched them as they groaned and slowly woke up and saw a couple of unfamiliar faces. One of them even spoke in a language she could not understand; she was not even sure if this was an actual language. Then she realized she only saw men in this room. Were the dormitories gender-segregated, Edna pondered before speaking up in a raised voice:
“Wake up, men! Your presence is required in the recreation room!”
She heard some of them mumbling in confusion upon hearing her voice, although she was not sure whether it was because they recognized her voice or because they wondered who the stranger was. One after another, the male patients, all dressed in the same impersonal nightgowns, properly woke up and sat up in their beds. Edna noticed King Adrian, who even wore his bucket of a crown in bed, paling slightly the moment he saw her.
“But... this can’t be! If this isn’t Edna! I haven’t seen you since the great breakout!“, he said in his usual booming voice, although there was a hint of uncertainty barely noticeable. Edna wondered if he was afraid she had come to claim her throne.
“Glad to know I’m still remembered”, the young woman remarked. “Now come on! Go to the recreation room, I’ll meet you all there with the others.”
She spoke so that there was no room for discussion. Some did not hesitate to do what she told them, others were very sluggish in their movements. Edna snapped at them to hurry up and suddenly, they moved like somebody had pushed a fast forward button. Once they were all gone, she left the dormitory and went down the hall until she walked through the grate. She closed and locked it, making it appear as though no one had gone through. The other end of the floor looked exactly like the one Edna just came through. However, even if she had never been there before, she knew there were other inmates behind the doors. So, it was the same procedure as on the other end. Open and unlock grate and go through the first door after unlocking it too. The room Edna found herself in was identical to the one she found Shaun Riek in. Curious as to who or if there was even a person in solitary here too, she approached the viewing glass. A red haired woman leaned with wide open eyes against the padded wall, staring at the ceiling. She too was among countless eyeless Harvey dolls.
“Uh hi?“, Edna greeted the woman unsurely. The red haired woman turned her attention to Edna, her face showing a mix of curiosity and worry.
“I’ve never seen you here before but I’m not allowed to talk with living people, only to dead people”, she said. “Well, at least I think I can... Doctor Marcel never said anything about the deceased.”
Edna looked at her strangely. What was this woman talking about? Edna did not hesitate to ask her this.
“Oh, I’m Miranya, I’m a Medium”, the woman explained. “I can communicate with the dead.”
This little sentence caused Edna to listen attentively. Could she perhaps be her key, her chance to talk to Mattis and Alfred one last time and apologize to them?
“Can you let others communicate with the deceased?“, Edna inquired, almost pressing her nose flat against the glass.
“I don’t know, I never tried. Some of the deceased wanted me to relay a message to their still living loved ones but never has a person who’s still alive asked me if they could speak with the dead”, Miranya explained. “But if I could to let you talk with the dead, I would try to.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“I need a campfire among other things to do this...”
“If I help you escape the asylum, will you let me talk with the dead?“, Edna questioned urgently. Miranya looked at her weirdly but nonetheless nodded. Edna moved away from the window and went to the metal door, unlocking and opening it. She bent her upper body into the cell and waved Miranya over to her. The red headed woman rose to her feet and approached her.
“Come with me”, Edna told her. There was no hesitation when Miranya ran past her out of the cell, cheering in a low voice how she would not have to sew any more blue rabbits. Edna, who closed the door behind her, wondered how she would react if she saw Harvey. She indicated to her new partner to follow her as she left this room too. These two women went to the end of the hallway to the dormitory where Edna reckoned were the female patients. Like before with the males, she woke them all up by raising her voice. As she spoke, she noticed a shadow by the window coming closer to her. Her red headed partner turned the light on, revealing that the shadow was in fact...
“Honestly, are we going to recreate that one scene from The Rocky Horror Picture Show?“, Tina remarked while Lilli approached them. The other women, who were still in bed, looked at them all with curiosity and interest in their faces.
“Oh Edna, you shouldn’t have come here. What if Doctor Marcel finds you?“, Tina said frowning.
“If I know my friends are in trouble, I have to help them. And the old man already knows I’m here”, Edna confessed.
“What!?“, her housemate exclaimed with her eyes nearly popping out. Edna had a feeling she would demand an explanation but there was no time for that.
“Don’t worry about me, you all just come with me to the recreation room.”
“Oh? Are we going to play late at night?“, Petra, who had come over, asked with a big toothy smile.
“If you wanna call it that”, Edna shrugged. She turned around and started leaving. “Come on, gals, don’t bother about getting dressed.”
One after another, the women filed past her until it was only her left. She turned off the lights and followed them, doing on the way the same things she did when she got the males to the recreation room. Tina let herself fall back so that she could walk next to Edna, who took her cell phone out of her inventory and gave it back to her housemate. She muttered a word of gratitude. In front of them walked Lilli and Miranya, who were in a whispered conversation. Edna silently asked herself how they knew each other. But it was only for a brief moment before deciding there were more important matters at hand.
With guards all over the place as well as this guy with a paper bag over his head, the Key Master had to be careful while on his way downstairs to the archives. He was quite sure that getting caught was not part of the plan. Plus, he did not want to be stuck in a cell again. Therefore, he always hid behind plants or in dark corners whenever he saw or heard someone. It might have taken longer to reach his destination but it was still better than being spotted. Despite this, he nonetheless reached the archives without any troubles. He hurried to the computer in the far end of the room, intending to just grab Harvey and leave. But his eyes fell on the monitor that was currently in sleep mode. He moved the mouse and screen popped back up, showing the file that was open at the moment. It was about him. Suddenly feeling the desire to know about the past he had forgotten, the Key Master began to read. However, he skipped the line with his real name. He was not sure if he was ready to learn it after having gone with ‘Key Master’ for so long.
-was brought into the institution after having killed and maimed eight people
-according to the police, he sat among the corpses and laughed like a madman
-escaped his cell several times and murdered two more people, this time patients, in cold blood
-correction of character therapy to begin soon
That was there was to his file, much to his surprise. He would have expected there to be more. Could this even be called a medical record? Still, these little pieces of information were enough to trigger his memories. He could see it in his inner eye... he had invited his girlfriend to dinner with his whole family to finally introduce her. It would have been a barbecue party. She had arrived a little early while he was buying fresh fruit for the ice cream his mother wanted to make for dessert. When he had returned, everyone, except his little sister, was dead. Struggling for breath, his sister had managed to tell him who had done it – a gang of criminals known for murdering people – before dying in the Key Master’s arms. With the emotions of grief, rage and sadness building up in his body, without being able to control his emotions and the movements of his body, he had taken one of the butcher’s knives of his father’s, who was a butcher and whose store was actually right next to their humble abode. The Key Master had spent hours finding the murderers of his family and girlfriend but when he found them, he killed them all the same way – cutting off their limbs very slowly so they could feel excruciating pain before he chopped their heads off. But it had not been like he did them all in at once; at first, there had been only one person there but one after another, more came. He usually had had to deal with only one before the next one arrived. He had managed this obstacle too by knocking one out with a metal pipe before killing the other, who was still conscious. Then the unconscious person got a few more beating with the pipe until one could not be sure if the substance in his head was his brain or porridge.
The Key Master remembered vividly how maniacal his laugh had been and what sick fun he had been feeling as he played with the body parts, something that had not been mentioned in his file. Now in present times, as he reflected on the day, he found he could hardly blame anyone for calling him a psychotic murderer. He felt he deserved to be called that, felt he was undeserving of the affection Edna showed him. She had treated him like this too before they spent a lot of time together. No, her initial thought of him being psychotic and crazy were right...
Taking Harvey with him, he took one glance at the line bearing his name, left the room and headed upstairs to the recreation room, knowing full well what awaited him...
All the women in Edna’s company met up with the men in the main area of the recreation room. King Adrian sat in tailor-fashion on a cushion with Drogglejug stand vigilantly next to him. The other men just sat on the floor without anything under their butts. They all looked up or turned around the moment the women entered the room.
“So, so, you are here now, Edna”, the king’s voice resonated through this large room. “Now, are you going to tell us what’s going on?”
“Just be patient a little while longer. Someone else has to come before I explain everything”, Edna requested. King Adrian’s brows rose so high on his forehead they disappeared beneath his bucket. Edna could only imagine his disdain of being told what to do instead of him giving order. Like the males, the females sat down on the floor too. The way they all sat in a circle reminded Edna of a large group sitting around a campfire and telling horror stories. She was the only one still standing; she just could not sit down. She kept pacing around, with Tina following her every movement.
“Oh for fuck’s sake, Edna! Sit down, damn it! You’re making me nervous!“, Tina eventually snapped. Edna stopped pacing but remained on her feet.
“Sorry, it’s just that I’m –“, the rest of her words were drowned by a squeal of excitement and delight, courtesy of Petra. Edna and Tina as well as everyone else stared at her and followed her with their eyes as she sprang up and ran towards one of the doors. Five people came through the threshold, three of who Edna recognized and that would be Ben, Peter, and Bruce Broker. The two she did not recognize were a girl with a stuffed tiger on her head and a tanned blond haired man. Edna figured the former was the patient known as ‘Tiger Head’. Petra hugged Peter so tightly that it seemed he could not breathe, except that he made no sign that he registered the cheerful blonde’s arms around him. His arms hung limply on his sides and his empty eyes stared straight ahead. However, he was not the only one; Tiger Head had the exact same expression on her face. It was unsettling...
“I think Doctor Marcel had hypnotized them to do their work faster and more efficient”, Ben, who had taken a seat on the floor near Edna, answered the unspoken question. The young woman looked weirdly at him:
“Work? What kind of work?”
“Well, the four were locked up in that one solitary cell on the top floor and forced to produce anesthetic darts with the new mixture created by Anes”, Ben explained. This explanation did not help Edna at all. If anything, she was more confused.
“Uh what? Who?”
“Well, I don’t know everything myself. Anes is Doctor Marcel’s most trusted employee. He mixed a new kind of anesthetic that works much faster than your all average anesthetics together and used it to make darts. You see, two to three patients, sometimes more, tried to break out every day, so he made them to make it easier to capture them. At least, that’s what Babbitt told me”, Ben explained.
“Oh? Babbitt’s still working here?“, an amused Edna chuckled. “I would have thought he would have quit.”
Before anyone could contribute anything to the conversation, Petra startled them all with a scream. Everyone turned to where she was looking at...