A New Day
The pair, soaked from the rain, hurried from the park to the female’s home. Edna was unusually quiet, her eyes were downcast. The Key Master kept glancing at her with concerned eyes. He wondered what caused her to run out in this downpour. Shortly after she had gone to her room, he heard her talking to someone, presumably Harvey, though he could not understand what she was saying. He was startled when she suddenly rushed out, so much he needed a short while to comprehend what happened. The moment his brain caught up with this, he ran after her without much thought, only grabbing his jacket along the way. By the time the Key Master found Edna, he was furious to see an old man not leaving her alone. The only positive thing about this ordeal was that she seemed not to be frightened by him anymore. Still, he felt like he should say something to her to make her feel better.
“How about I make you a hot drink when we’re back in your apartment?“, he offered.
“Hot chocolate would be terrific”, Edna replied in a quiet voice. However, a tiny smile appeared on her face.
It was not long until they arrived at their destination. The television was still running as was the DVD, though it only displayed the main menu. The Key Master turned everything off immediately. No point in using up any more electricity than necessary. He turned around to say something to Edna but could not see her anywhere. Where did she run off to? He doubted she left again; she looked too tired to do that. Perhaps she was getting changed, he figured, and perhaps he should do the same. The Key Master had just come to the conclusion and was starting to grab some dry clothes from his bag when Edna reappeared with two towels in her hand and not wearing his jacket anymore.
“I hung your jacket over the heater”, she answered to his unspoken question while handing him one towel.
“Thanks. Are our clothes from this afternoon already dry?“, the Key Master asked while drying himself off.
“Almost”, the young woman replied, rubbing her hair with the towel she still held in her hands. “I go get changed now.”
She left again for her room, hopefully without the result of her running away again. The Key Master turned his attention back to his bag and took out the large gray shirt he got from Edna on the night of their reunion and a fresh pair of boxers. He changed into them while simultaneously thinking he could need actual pajamas. But this would have to suffice for now. Edna, clad in simple light blue pajamas, returned a second after he finished changing.
“If you still want hot chocolate, you’d have to show me where you keep the cocoa powder and your mug”, the Key Master pointed out.
“Okee dokee, follow me”, she responded and led him to the kitchen. There, she opened a cupboard to get two mugs out, one was blue depicting a frog wearing a crown and calling himself “Prince Charming” and the other was acidic yellow and showed the picture of a duck.
“This one’s mine”, Edna told the Key Master, pointing at the frog prince mug. Then she opened another cupboard to get the cocoa powder and a third one to get a pot. Meanwhile, the Key Master took the milk out of the refrigerator and, once he had everything, started making hot chocolate for the both of them. He was glad he got one mug too. Hot chocolate was not exactly his all time favorite hot beverage in the world – this honor went to latte macchiato – he still enjoyed it immensely. Also, it was nice to drink something other than water. He poured the liquid chocolate into the mugs once it was hot enough. Edna was already back in the living room and he joined her there with the chocolate and milk mix.
“Thanks”, she said after she took her mug and after he took a seat next to her. The Key Master absentmindedly watched her taking a sip, thinking about something to say.
“Sorry I frightened you earlier”, he apologized after a few minutes and after drinking a bit from his hot chocolate. Edna shook her head:
“No, I shouldn’t have been so pushy.”
“How could you have known this is a sensitive topic for me? Even I don’t quite know why it is that way. But...“, the Key Master looked at her with a mix of concern, inquiry and a tiny dash of curiosity, “what made you run off into this rain?”
Edna averted her eyes, furrowed her eyebrows and her mouth was just a thin line with the corners pointing downward. As if trying to avoid answering him, she drank a big gulp all the while the Key Master watched her. He could see that she knew she could not give any answer forever, so she removed her mug from her lips and took a deep inhale and exhale:
“I had a huge fight with Harvey.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Once again, he was met with silence, although it did not seem like she tried to avoid replying. No, this time she had the kind of faraway look in her eyes people have when they were deep in thought. Slowly she raised the mug back to her lips and drank it all up before replying at last:
“I’m not sure... I want to but I also don’t want to...”
“It must have been some fight, I could hear your raised voice”, the Key Master commented. Edna turned her head towards him so quickly she was a momentary blur.
“What? You could hear me!?”
She stared at him with a dropped jaw and large, bulgy eyes, which were almost about to pop out. The Key Master drank some of his hot chocolate and leaned back before answering:
“Yes, I could but I couldn’t really understand anything. I could hear your voice, not the words you were saying.”
Edna’s face relaxed and she, too, leaned back. If the Key Master was not curious about her fight with Harvey before, he certainly was now. What was it that Edna did not want him to know? It could not be that bad, there were surely worse things.
“If you want to, you can sleep in my bed”, she suddenly spoke up. The Key Master studied her uncertainly.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah”, she replied, shrugging. “I’ve no problem with sleeping on the couch and... I don’t wanna be with Harvey in one room any longer than necessary at the moment.”
“But you know you can’t sleep on the couch forever. Wouldn’t your housemate suspect anything?”
“Yeah, I need to think of how I’m going to do this”, Edna muttered while drawing her knees up to her chest. “That is, if I still don’t want to share a room with him. But tonight, I just wanna sleep on the couch.”
“Why don’t you just sleep in your housemate’s bed if she isn’t home?”
The Key Master wondered about this the moment Edna mentioned she wanted to sleep here. It surely would be more comfortable for her. But Edna shook her head:
“No, I promised her I wouldn’t enter her room without her permission and I’m gonna keep my promise.”
The Key Master still felt uncomfortable about the thought of letting her sleep on the couch while he slept in a bed. But how could he convince her to change her mind? She could be pretty stubborn, he knew that.
“And you’re absolutely sure about this?“, he inquired.
“Definitely”, she replied with a note of finality in her voice. The Key Master sighed and stood up, heading to the kitchen. At the doorway, he stopped and turned around towards her:
“You could also put Harvey in another room.”
He entered the kitchen and walked towards the sink, where he washed the used mug before putting it back into the cupboard. When he returned to the living room, he found Edna still sitting on the couch, once again deep in thought. Hopefully, his words had some effect on her. After all, why should she be the one to be kept out of her own room and not Harvey? No matter how often he thought or talked about it, it still felt weird to talk about Edna’s rag doll rabbit as if it were actually alive. If he thought about it, would the fact that she had a fight with Harvey mean she was having an internal conflict? He had already figured out that Harvey was an extension of Edna’s personality, one only she could hear; a case of split personality where the alternate persona had manifested itself in a toy. In any other asylum, she would have gotten psychological help but not in Doctor Marcel’s institution, where no one ever got any actual help. It was a miracle nobody thought it was odd to see a young woman with a stuffed rabbit who would fit in the description of a one of the escaped mental patients walking around. But maybe the police had given up on her after all those years – whether Doctor Marcel did too or not was another matter entirely. Shortly after their breakout, the Key Master had stolen the newspaper containing an article with description about several escaped inmates of the local asylum. Over the years, he had irregularly stolen several newspapers; at first, there were mentions of the ongoing search of the escapists until it eventually stopped. He never found out what happened to anyone besides Edna.
“Oh yes, before I forget it, do you remember how I told you that a friend of mine can give you some her old furniture?“, Edna spoke up. She continued after the Key Master confirmed he remembered: “Well, she’s coming over tomorrow around one in the afternoon to bring them. We just need to see how we can get them to your hideout. Perhaps by carrying them in the middle of the night?”
The Key Master raised an eyebrow:
“The two of us carrying furniture in the middle of the night? It could perhaps work with one piece of furniture or two but not with everything. We’d need several nights and you still have school.”
“Then we only do this on weekends”, Edna shrugged as if this was just a minor problem. The Key Master shook his head in disbelief.
“Anyway, I think you should go to bed”, he suggested. Edna narrowed her eyes at him:
“I told you I don’t want to sleep in the same room as Harvey.”
“And I don’t want to sleep in your bed”, he retorted. “I take the couch.”
“No, I’ll take it.”
“No, I will.”
“No, I will.”
This continued on for several minutes, like an endless feedback loop. Neither of them was willing to give up on the couch, which was kind of weird if one thought about it. After all, people normally did not want to sleep on the couch but these two were quite adamant about this.
“If we keep this up, none of us will get any sleep tonight”, the Key Master eventually commented. “We need to compromise... or you simply remove Harvey from your bedroom.”
“I guess you’re right... I just didn’t want to move because I was getting comfortable on here”, Edna replied, to which the Key Master chuckled. “But you know, Harvey really needs to be washed.”
“Then put him in the bathroom and whoever wakes up first has to wash him tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay”, Edna nodded in agreement. Suddenly she jumped up, rushed to her room and out again. With Harvey in her hand, she ran to the bathroom, where she left him. Back in the living room, she grinned in satisfaction.
“I go to sleep now. There are pillows and blankets in the closet there”, Edna said, pointing at the closet in a corner of the room. The Key Master looked in the direction and then back at her with a quiet “okay”. Edna approached him and, unexpectedly, hugged him. His eyes widened in shock as he hesitantly put his arms around her. When was the last time anyone had ever held him close on purpose? He could not recall, he could only remember the time he woke up with the arms of a still sleeping Edna around him. Then again, this happened only a week ago and he doubted she did it purposely.
“Good night and thanks again”, she whispered before letting him go. He had only time to respond with a good night of his own before she was gone.
Edna sat on her bed with one hand over the rapidly beating heart. She did not know what came over her; she suddenly got the urge to hug the Key Master and before she knew it, she did it. What was he going to think about her? Would he hate her? Or would things be awkward between them? Or did he perhaps like it since he reciprocated her hug? Her money was on both “awkward” and “he liked it”, even though she was not entirely sure about the latter. But she was certain he would not hate her, she hardly imagined it for some reason. They had gotten so much closer over the week, one little hug could not possibly destroy it. Still, it was funny how close some people could get in a week while others would need years. Edna liked how well she and the Key Master got along but was she really hoping they could be more than friends, like Harvey accused her of? She told her lagomorph toy this was not the case and yet, she was not even sure if this was true. Maybe it was too early to say it for sure. Regardless of whether or not she wanted to be more than friends with the Key Master, she was certain of one thing: she would keep visiting him and be there for her just like he was there for her. Perhaps it was fate that he found her after all those years. He did tell her he was looking for her – even if his original reason was something she did not like – and the probability of him actual finding her was quite slim. Although Edna was at first shocked and a little frightened about seeing him again, she was glad the Key Master was in her life again. If only the same could be said of everyone else who had died because of her... But, a little voice in her head whispered, the Key Master was never dead to begin with. Edna shook her head, mutely telling the voice to stop. She had no desire to sleep with a guilty conscience. She closed her eyes and fell sideways on her mattress, drifting off to the land of dreams.
She was small and flat; her shape was square, though there was a loop attached to one corner. There was also a duplicate of her. She was a particular nice pair of potholders. The color was dark purple with an image of Harvey sewed on. She was in a small dark room with the only source of light being a single candle on the edge of a table. The candle wobbled a few times until it fell off its firm ground. Edna watched it fall like in slow motion before she and her duplicate moved and caught the candle just a few centimeters above the ground. The flame and the hot wax did not bother her; it felt tepid to the touch, not like they were burning.
The scene changed to a dark room in a nice cottage, probably a ski lodge. The room was embedded in darkness, with only a chimney fire casting an orange light to its immediate surroundings. The fire crackled and danced happily, with a certainty Edna had never seen in a human being before. She watched mesmerized the flames; she always loved fire. There was something beautiful yet destructive about it. Fire could warm a person up and it was usually an important component for romantic scenarios and yet, it could burn buildings – especially wooden buildings – and forests to the ground. She wanted to touch it, but it would hurt if she would just reach out. Then again, she was a pair of potholders, so who said she would burn? Only one way to find out... she moved towards the flames until she was well inside them. She felt no pain, nothing that would indicate her decreasing mass. It was just pleasantly warm.
Another scene change. This time she was in outer space, the final frontier. It was a spectacular sight; more stars than she had ever seen in her life, planets so close she could just fly there and explore their surfaces. Maybe she could even paint a giant image of Harvey on the moon – or burn it... She flew around, having problems deciding what to do first. Hm, maybe the Enterprise was around somewhere? Edna was about to search for it when she noticed the sun moving towards the Earth. She could kiss her home planet good bye if she did not stop the sun. There was no time for hesitations, no time to think; she had to act quickly! Not sparing any thoughts for her own safety, she rushed towards the sun, just barely stopping it from moving any closer to Earth. Once the sun was on a standstill, Edna moved it back to its former place... or at least approximately where it was before...
Yet another change of scenes. This time she was at the foot of the stairs; she looked up to see a boy dressed in blue on top of the stairs. Suddenly the boy fell down the stairs, fear written all over his frog-like face. He would be severely hurt if she did not do something, so she caught him and gently let him down on the floor.
Edna woke up from her dream the moment the boy’s feet touched the ground. This was another dream she used to have in the asylum but she never understood the part with the boy. The other things made sense to her but not the boy. Even though the alignment still did not make sense to her – as the situation was hairy and not fiery – she now knew what the part represented. It represented her desire to actually have done something to save Alfred or to have never had him pushed down the stairs. This thought had kept running around in her head after she did this and her heart had pounded against her chest that it was about to burst out. Edna had enjoyed teasing Alfred but she never wanted to kill him. Even though he was an insufferable moron, he nevertheless did not deserve to die at such a young age. Edna turned on her back with a sigh. Just why did she listen to Harvey?
“Well... I can’t change the past... I should just go back to sleep...“, she mumbled to herself and turned back on her side. Then she turned on her other side and back again before lying on her back again. Try as she might, she was unable to go back to sleep. Eventually, Edna gave up and sat up. Her eyes traveled over the still dark room, though light seemed to appear, slowly but surely. She gazed at the watch on her bedside table, noticing it half past four in the morning. Shaking her head at the earliness, she got up and walked over to her desk, where she turned on the lamp. Then she took some sheets of paper and pencils and sat down, starting to draw.
The rain stopped by the time the sun hung high in the skies. Here and there were still a few gray clouds but it did not look like it was going to rain again. Still, there were signs outside of the previous night’s downpour, most notably the puddles. The temperature, while higher than the day before, was also cooler than all the other days of the week. Not that the Key Master would notice this right now, since he was still covered up with a blanket. But this was not for long as he was waking up from his deep sleep. His eyes flickered open, taking in the unfamiliar surroundings. It took him a while before he realized he was in Edna’s apartment. He looked around the large, bright room with sleepy eyes, wondering why he was here and not in his hideout. The events from last night and the reason for his being here returned to him all at once. Well, while not the most exciting things in the world, they were certainly more exciting than the incidents that happened to him when he usually went to sleep... meaning nothing whatsoever. There was hardly a boring moment with Edna around. Speaking of her, he wondered if she was already awake. He decided to check on her to answer his own question, therefore he stood up and walked to her door, knocking twice.
“Come in!“, was the almost immediate response. The Key Master pressed the door handle down and opened the door. At first, his eyes traveled towards Edna’s bed, only to find it empty before he noticed it her sitting at her desk. He stepped closer, finding several sheets of paper, all of them depicting something. Taking a few sheets, he realized the pictures were, for the most part, CD cover design but also things like spaceships, life forms one would expect to see in Star Trek or landscapes as well as a single picture of a frog-faced boy at the foot of a set of stairs.
“How long have you been awake?“, a dumbfounded Key Master asked, staring at Edna, who just shrugged in response:
“A few hours.”
“Did you even sleep at all tonight?”
“I did but then I couldn’t anymore... Unpleasant dream”, she added when the Key Master gave her a piercing look. It changed into one of sympathy when he heard what caused her insomnia. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder, telling her:
“If you need anyone to talk to, I’m there for you.”
These words obviously had a positive effect on her because she beamed at him. Edna put her pencil down, announcing she needed a break from drawing and mentioning her hunger. Admittedly, the Key Master was hungry too.
“We’ve got cereals, how about them?“, Edna suggested.
“Sounds good to me.”
Together, they left Edna’s room and headed for the kitchen, where the Key Master took two bowls and spoons while the young woman took the aforementioned type of breakfast and a milk carton. These objects were placed on the table in the living room and Edna turned on the television. While the Key Master filled one bowl for himself, Edna zapped through the channels until she found a show about fraternal twins spending their summer with their great uncle.
“Ha, this show’s good”, Edna commented before joining the Key Master at the table and filling her own bowl. He watched the show with interest, needing some time to actually understand what it was about. Perhaps it would be easier for him to understand if he had the chance to see the very first episode. This one was obviously from somewhere in the middle of the season, with the characters celebrating Halloween in summer. The Key Master had heard of Halloween before he ended up in the asylum but did not know anyone who celebrated it, which he was quick to mention after the episode ended.
“Halloween has actually become quite popular in this country over the years, you know? Not to the extent as in the USA but you will find children in costumes trick-or-treating on Halloween”, Edna explained. “We usually buy enough candy for the neighbors’ kids when Halloween comes closer with each day... and we eat all of the leftover candies.”
“Funny how much one can miss when they spent many years of their lives locked up. At least you had the chance to catch up but me...“, the Key Master fell silent. It bothered him that he knew next to nothing about modern technology and other things that had changed or improved over the years. He was kind of trapped in the late Nineties or early Two Thousands.
“Hey, if I could catch up, you can too. I will help you. Besides, too many people can’t hold a conversation with each other without texting and I think it’s great we can talk to each other without the need of cell phones”, Edna said in a calming voice.
“Say, the thing you talked into yesterday, that was a cell phone right?“, the Key Master asked. “I haven’t seen one for years and even then, I rarely saw one.”
“Yes, it was one, albeit an older model”, she replied. She tilted her head and frowned at him. “Have you never seen modern phones?”
“Well, I can hardly stroll into a store to look at cell phones or ask people if I could borrow their phones”, the man retorted.
Silence fell over them like a veil as they continued with their breakfast, soon finishing it. They washed their used dishes in the kitchen and put everything back to their respective places. Afterwards, Edna occupied the bathroom for quite some time, though her voice could sometimes be heard through the running water, while the Key Master was sitting on the couch and reading a Captain Useless comic, occasionally glancing towards the bathroom door and wondering what was going on there. About an hour later, Edna reappeared, dressed for the day. In her arms were her pajamas as well as the clothes that were hung up the previous day for drying.
“Here, take your clothes”, she said, holding the heap towards the Key Master.
“Thank you. By the way, what was going on in there?“, he asked while taking his clothes.
“Oh, I was bathing Harvey. He hates bathing and was screaming like a bratty child, so I had to tell him to shut it, otherwise I will use a broken chair leg on him”, Edna grinned. “That shut him up.”
The Key Master chortled.
“Should you ever have a child, I would hope you won’t threaten him or her the same way.”
“Anyway, the bathroom’s free now”, Edna said quickly, as if she wanted to change the subject. The Key Master, deeming it unimportant to further pursue the subject, put the comic away and went to the bathroom after taking his own hygienic articles from his bag.
A new morning, another day to keep watch on the loonies. Babbitt hated listening to all the nonsensical gibberish of the patients each day and having Anes, who thought he was better than everybody else, as a colleague did not help matters. Babbitt’s only desire was to be a well-known and famous professional mini golf player like his father once was. He did participate in tournaments and was quite well-known, but not like his father used to. Unlike his late father, Babbitt was no famous player, although he held the firm belief he would be one if he did not have to guard the inmates all day long. Why he ever decided to work here, he could not fathom. The only thing he was proud of was the fact that he was one of the few guards Doctor Marcel trusted enough to do additional work for him or to reveal certain things to. The majority of the employees were unaware of what Doctor Marcel was actually doing – they just came to work, do their duty and go home, only wondering from time to time why there are hardly if ever any therapists, except the young one he sometimes called. But this was all they ever did, just wondering and never doing anything. It was better that way; Babbitt knew everyone working here and Doctor Marcel himself would get in trouble with the police if they knew what was really going on. Then again, his employer was in jail for a brief period of time until some unknown individual paid the caution for him.
“Babbitt! Got a minute?”
The mini golf enthusiast looked to his right to see René coming up the stairs, carrying a tablet under his arm.
“What is it, René? I thought you’re not supposed to bring your tablet to work anymore”, Babbitt inquired.
“I know”, his colleague replied and handed him the tablet. “But look.”
René started a video about a waiter slipping and having the spaghetti he was carrying landing on his head. Babbitt was confused as to why he was showing this to him since he already knew this video. There was nothing new about it and it stopped being funny after the first few times of watching it.
“And you showed this to me again because...?”
René paused the video and pointed at a woman in the background.
“Look, don’t you think she bears a str-“, he stopped talking and checked behind himself. Babbitt looked in the same direction. He, and presumably René, just heard someone walking close by but as they studied their surroundings, they saw nobody. Not knowing that a young man whose face was concealed by a plastic bag was crouching behind a potted plant, the two guards turned their attention back to the video.
“Anyway, as I was saying, don’t you think this woman there bears a striking resemblance to Edna Konrad?“, René continued. Babbitt narrowed his eyes as he scrutinized the young woman. If her hair was hanging lifelessly from her head, she would wear a hospital nightgown and if she were paler, she could definitely be Edna.
“The similarity is uncanny”, he commented. “Have you told Doctor Marcel about this yet?”
“No, I’m not sure where exactly this is and the video description doesn’t give the name of the restaurant”, René answered. “All we know is that Edna works in some kind of restaurant somewhere.”
“And that doesn’t really help us...”
Babbitt gave René his tablet back. He turned it off while announcing he was going back to the surveillance room.
Unaware she was seen in an Internet video, Edna sat on her bed and watched the people and cars several stories below passing the apartment complex. It was still some time until one in the afternoon and she was not sure what to do with herself. She did not really want to stay in her apartment all day long but she was also afraid of missing Anika and her boyfriend. Edna sighed and turned away from the window, letting herself fall on her back. It was actually warm enough to go swimming. Speaking of which... She got up and went over to her laptop, turning it on. Moments later, she was looking at the pictures Tina took when they were at the beach not too long ago. A joyous smile spread across her face as she thought back of the day. They had so much fun to the point she wanted this day to never end. It would be great if she could spend all day and night with her favorite people at the beach. But would that even be possible? Not unless one of them had a private beach...
“Come in”, she answered after hearing the Key Master knocking. She turned her chair around to face him. “Any ideas what we could do today?”
“Unfortunately no”, he replied. Edna watched his eyes travel over to her computer screen and his pale green skin suddenly taking on a light shade of red. Wondering about the change of color in his face, Edna turned around to see what picture was being displayed only to realize in her horror it was the one where she applied sunscreen on her skin. With a shriek, she closed the window.
“Why, just why did I forget about this one?“, she mumbled in exasperation.
“That’s the reason you didn’t want me to see them, you were too embarrassed about it”, the Key Master commented calmly, albeit still red in the face. Edna went through her hair with her hands and glanced at him:
“Yeah, that and I thought you would find them boring. It was just me and her having a nice day. But I really wouldn’t mind another day like this. Hopefully without her taking a photo of me wearing a bikini.”
“Well, it’s not like you have to show the whole world this picture”, the Key Master pointed out. Edna gave him a simple non-verbal answer by nodding. Her guest went on: “Do you have a plan of what we could do?”
“W-well, I... I do have a suggestion”, she replied, nervously fidgeting her fingers. A sheepish smile appeared on her face. “I’d like to go swimming, it’s warm enough.” Her smile disappeared. “But I also don’t want to miss Anika when she comes with your furniture.”
“Perhaps there’s something else you could do? Like watching a movie or doing your homework?”
“Or we could buy you some clothes. Mattis’s clothes don’t look like they fit you comfortably”, Edna suggested. “Mattis is my father”, she added when the Key Master shot her a confused stare.
“You call your father by his first name?”
“Yes, I do”, Edna shrugged as if calling a parent by their first name was the most common thing in the world. “Anyway, you have to accompany me. I need to know if the garments fit.”
The Key Master regarded her with an unreadable expression on his face. Edna wondered if she said something wrong and if he would get mad at her as a result. Fortunately, she had nothing to fear.
“Alright”, the man replied tonelessly. “I can’t risk you buying clothes that are several sizes too small or large or that look horrible.”
“Thanks for your confidence in me”, Edna replied, giving his shoulder a light punch. “Next time, you’re also going to look for a hideout on your own.”
“I did before we saw each other again”, the Key Master pointed out. “Some cave, not too far from a convent school. Somebody probably used it as a hideout before.”
“Hang on; were there a sleeping bag, a telescope and two crates among other things? And were there several candles attached on the walls?“, Edna inquired with furrowed brows.
“Yes. How do you know that?“, he replied, obviously confused.
“I used it as a hideout before!“, Edna exclaimed. “That’s where I spent my first night outside the asylum!” She chuckled, shaking her head. “Who would have thought the same place I used to hide from the police and Doctor Marcel’s minions would later become your hideout? Funny coincidence.”
“So, everything in there was your stuff...“, the Key Master concluded.
“Well, not everything. Some things, like the sleeping bag or the telescope or the tools in the crates are from my house. But I found the bean bag chair on the bulk garbage and I stole the candles from the convent school.”
She grinned cheekily. It was long, tedious work to make her former hideout comfortable, involving nights of sneaking into her own house or through the village. She was never caught by anyone in the convent school, though there were a couple of close calls. Perhaps it was senseless to make a hiding place comfortable if she was already in the convent school but she wanted to make sure she had an alternative just in case.
“Actually, I wanted to travel there today “, Edna told the Key Master. “But Tina had no time to give me a lift. We’re probably gonna go there next week.”
“Why are you planning to go there?”
“Oh, I just thought you could use some of my stuff, like the tools.”
Edna turned back to her laptop and turned it off, addressing the Key Master again:
“Anyway, ready for some new clothes?”
The house neighboring Edna’s childhood home was the abode of Horatio Marcel, where he once raised Alfred... and hid his second son in the basement. Despite the fact that his model son was dead for more than a decade, he had kept the room the way it, albeit with minor differences. Alfred’s ant farm contained no life anymore and some of his personal belongings – a couple of toys and his baby teeth – were all kept in his shrine in the mental institution. Once a week, Doctor Marcel, who was currently in his study, would enter his deceased son’s room to clean it but ever since he was bound on a wheelchair, he had to rely on his driver doing this for him. Doctor Marcel still tried to do things on his own, yet he needed help to do certain things. Fortunately, his driver lived right across the street and could be there for him in less than two minutes. His still living son might also be able to assist him but Doctor Marcel refused his help. In fact, he forced Ruben to live in the basement of his establishment and the doctor knew his son made it a habit of sneaking around upstairs. He was also aware that some of the employees thought they saw Ruben only for him to be gone when they wanted to take a closer look. Thus, he earned the nickname “Phantom” by everyone in the asylum. Doctor Marcel was less than pleased about Ruben’s antics since he did not want everybody to know he had another son aside from Alfred. He was still embarrassed that his character correction did not work on one of his own children; it was just as bad, if not even worse, than his inability to rewrite Edna’s character. He hated his failure on those two and hid it from everyone, except his most trusted lackeys and even then, it was only in case of the girl. None of them knew of Ruben and Doctor Marcel would like it to remain so.
Anyway, it was time for him to return to his mental institution, so he turned off his computer and took the files he was printing until a minute ago. Doctor Marcel preferred to do his paperwork at home, where no one would bother him and where he had his peace and quiet. It could get exceptionally noisy in his institution. Immediately after finishing his paperwork, he would return to the asylum and file them in the archives. However, there were some files he kept copies of at home, the majority of them being about Edna and the others about his rather illegal therapy methods – like electroshock therapy when it was not necessary, prescribing wrong medications, or forcing them to produce objects that would harm other patients. He should perhaps destroy these files stored in his asylum, yet he did not see why he should do this. It was not like the authorities would ever read them. Besides, about eighty percent of the files in the archives are patient records. Placing the newly printed documents in his suitcase, he rolled towards the entrance door, where his driver was waiting for him. The disabled man took a brief moment to glare at the neighboring house with his single eye while heading towards limousine. His driver helped him in before taking his place at the wheel.
The drive was quiet, as always. Doctor Marcel did not heed the passing streets and landscape; he knew it was always the same, even if he saw them with just one eye. Besides, if there was a mentally ill person out and about, he would know it sooner or later. His asylum was the only one in miles around, which was why the probability of loonies ending up in his institution was quite high. The police had tried to relocate his patients the brief time he was in jail but only managed to succeed with one or two before Ruben bailed him out. This was about the only time his good for nothing son proved himself to be as useful. Still, he noticed that Ruben reported to him from time to time about the on-goings of the asylum before any of his employees did. Well, if the boy hoped to be recognized as a true son of Doctor Horatio Marcel he should find Edna for him and bring her to him. Maybe then Ruben would get his father’s recognition and pride.
The Key Master and Edna sat in the bus on their way to the Boutique de Vêtement. At first, the former was unsure about using the bus but after noticing that no one paid him any heed, he relaxed. As long as he kept quiet and did not draw any attention to himself, he was safe. Edna had taken his hand in reassurance when he showed signs of uncertainty and had not let go since then. One part of him felt embarrassed – people might think they were a couple for Pete’s sake – but another part of him did not really mind this. It actually felt pleasant.
“I would suggest we only buy summer garments for you and whatever you are going to need”, Edna whispered so low only the Key Master could hear her. “We can buy you clothes for other seasons when the time approaches.”
The man indicated with a slight movement of his head he agreed with her plan. His wheels were busy turning as he thought of what he was going to need. Obviously light clothes but also at least one sweater or a jacket – or both – for cooler days. Well, he would see when they arrived at the boutique.
“Our stop’s coming up”, Edna whispered. The bus slowed down until it came to a complete stop. The Key Master, Edna, a young woman, an old man and a small family got out of the public transportation. Edna led her companion down the street until they reached a store. The sign above the double door read in royal blue letters Boutique de Vêtement – Clothes For All Occasions. Dummies in elegant clothing, as if one was on the red carpet, were displayed in the windows. The Key Master stared at Edna in doubt:
“Are you sure this is the right place? We’re here for everyday clothes and not because we’re invited to a movie premiere.”
“Well, it’s not only formal clothing they sell, despite what the store windows might tell you”, Edna explained. “But it’s really for all occasions, like the sign says. It’s the best place to buy clothes... well, at least it is the closest from my apartment.”
“Isn’t there anything closer?”
“Well, there are but those are just examples of bad workmanship and over expensive prices. This one’s here the complete opposite.”
The Key Master looked back at the store, still unsure whether this was a good idea.
“I’m going to trust you on that...“, he relented, entering the store with her. He and Edna walked over to the nearby map to see where the department for men’s clothing was stored. It was on the next floor.
“This way”, Edna spoke, leading the Key Master to the escalators. The pale green man took in his surroundings, noticing two things. One, this had to be the largest clothing store he had ever seen, with garments ranging from leisure suits over casual to elegant, and two, the majority of the shoppers here were women, ranging from around Edna’s age to old enough to be a grandmother. No surprise there, he supposed, since women loved shopping, though he never understood why. Another thing he never understood about women was that they have their closets full of clothes and yet claim they have nothing to wear. Well, he would understand it if the woman used to be overweight and was several sizes smaller or the other way around. Women were a complicated subspecies of the Homo sapiens.
“How about we split up and look for something for you? We could meet at the cabinets in ten minutes”, Edna suggested after reaching their destination, pointing towards the changing cabinets on the other end of the department.
“Fine by me”, the Key Master agreed. He walked to the left, but not before telling Edna his size, and she walked to the right. A wide variety of clothes revealed itself to him as he kept walking. If he found something that looked good, he took it and checked it out before deciding whether he wanted to try it on or not. Soon, he had several shirts of various colors, new pants and three jackets in his arms. Edna, who met him at the cabinets as per agreement, found some new pairs of pants too as well as two sweaters and socks. The Key Master took everything but the socks and tried them on leaving the cabinet to hear what Edna had to say about each individual piece.
“Anything else you could need?“, the female former patient of a mental institution asked after he tried the last piece of clothing on.
“I’m in need of underwear”, he replied almost immediately. Edna’s cheek took on a light shade of red.
“How about you pick out underwear for yourself while I just stroll around and check out the wares around here?“, she proposed, talking rather quickly. Sensing it was awkward for her, he agreed with her suggestion. Fortunately, he had also memorized the locations of other departments while they were looking at the map earlier and knew where he had to go. The Key Master muttered “see you’” to Edna, who still appeared quite flustered, and left for the department with the underwear, which happened to be on the same floor. He found the department quickly and had his stuff in less than five minutes. Then he went up the escalator to where beach fashion was kept. Ever since Edna mentioned her desire to go swimming earlier, he had thought about getting swimming trunks for himself. The pond at his hideout was big enough to go swimming in and he had no desire to swim naked in case Edna would suddenly visit him. No, he wanted to spare her the scare. She was still naïve about things like sexuality and being confronted unexpectedly by a nude male body might traumatize her. That, and he had his doubts she wanted to see him in his birthday suit.
A few minutes later, the Key Master went back to where he last saw Edna. She stood a little away from the escalators, talking to a boy, who was a couple of years her junior. The Key Master pondered what they were talking about before deciding to conceal himself behind a potted plant close to these two.
“And have you decided if you want to join us?“, the boy asked, sounding like he was trying not to come across as too eager.
“Look Sebastian, I’m not really sure if I want to come along at all”, Edna replied. “Maybe you should ask Bianca. I’m sure she’d be interested.”
The Key Master was confused. What were they talking about? Who was this boy? And why did he want Edna to join to... wherever he wanted her to come along to?
“Well alright. But I want your definite answer a week before we go on vacation at the latest”, the boy, Sebastian, asked of Edna, who nodded and replied with a quick “okay”. The boy left then, waving her good bye. She waved back, gazing after him and thus not noticing the Key Master emerging from his hiding place and appearing behind her.
“Who was that?“, he asked, making Edna jump. She wheeled around, the scared expression on her face relaxing when she spotted him.
“Oh, it’s you”, she said with relief. “Where did you come from?”
“I was behind the potted plant”, he replied, pointing at the decorative plant behind him. Edna looked at it and then back at him, raising her eyebrows.
“You were spying on me from behind a plant? Should I be worried about you?”
It was only after she asked her questions when he realized how ludicrous he was acting. He hoped she would not take it the wrong way. Even he did not know why he behaved like this.
“Who was this boy?“, he repeated his earlier question, avoiding Edna’s completely. She narrowed her eyes at him for a short moment before she decided to give him a reply:
“His name’s Sebastian. He’s a classmate of mine.”
“Ah, I see. And what was he talking about? Something about you coming along to somewhere...”
“Oh that”, Edna tugged a strand of hair behind her ear and gave the Key Master his new clothes she had with her while he was looking for underwear. “He invited me to come along on his family vacation to France in a few weeks.”
For some reason, the Key Master did not like the sound of her going on vacation with another male, even if it was someone much younger than her. In fact, he felt rage surging through his every being. He clenched his fist. He could not explain why he had any emotions like this. It was, after all, her own choice if she wanted to come along; she was an adult and could make decisions on her own. He had no right to tell her what she should and should not do. Still, the prospect of her being away from him for a while did not suit him. Edna tilted her head, confusion written all over her face:
“Are you not feeling well? You’re so green... Um, greener than usual.”
“No, I’m quite alright”, the Key Master replied with forced calmness. Edna frowned at him. He unclenched his fist and put on a smile, although he had a feeling it was more of a grimace. “Seriously, I’m fine. Come on, let’s go home.”
Edna rolled her eyes and sighed but did not disagree. They left the boutique after paying and walked back to the bus stop. The Key Master sat down on the bench while his female companion studied the timetable.
“Well, the next bus is coming in twenty minutes”, she told him, sitting down on the bench.
“Ah yes”, he acknowledged. Suddenly, he looked at her questioningly: “This boy from earlier, you said he was a classmate, right?”
“Um yes”, she replied slowly and puzzled. “Why do you ask?”
“I’m just confused, he is much younger than you”, the Key Master explained. “Like you’re attending a normal public school.”
“Well, I do”, Edna replied and, without waiting for any kind of response, she went on: “I’ve been lacking school education from third or fourth grade on. Even the things I learned in the previous years were all but gone, although the memory returned over time. By the time I moved in with Tina, I had the education of an elementary student and whatever I learned in convent school, along with other things I picked up in books.”
“Wait... you were in the asylum since you were a child yet you still know terminologies and words no kid should know and can even use them correctly?”
The Key Master stared open-mouthed at her. Edna grinned modestly.
“Well, the boy I had to play with in my childhood used such terminologies. So, I learned these and other random things to keep up with him. But he was still always better than me in school. Funnily enough, I remembered everything I taught to myself faster than even my own name. After I got another one of my regular treatment from Doctor Marcel, that is.”
She paused for a moment to take a short breather. The Key Master stared at her, clearly impressed. He regretted ever belittling her back in the asylum; she might be a little crazy but she was still more knowledgeable than most people he knew despite her treatments from Doctor Marcel, if this was what he thought it was. Admittedly, that was one of the things he liked about her.
“Anyway, Gerret – a policeman who helped me out a few years ago – has a sister, who is a school teacher. She gave me private lessons every weekend until I was on the basis of a seventh grader. Then started to attend school from seventh grade onwards. Only the principal and teachers know why someone in my age still had no graduation.”
“And how long do you still have to attend school?”
“When this school year’s over, I have only one year left.”
So, by this time next year, she would be taking her oral exams. The Key Master wondered whether he would still be around or if he had already fled the country. He hoped he would still be here and maybe even help her with her studies, like he did with her test on Faust. Even if it was too early to judge it, he was certain she would do great on her final exams, receive her graduation and go on the graduation ball. Speaking of the latter, he suddenly pondered whether he ought to ask her if he could come along to the ball or not. Why he was suddenly thinking about this, he did not know. It was just that he had the desire to accompany her in a year when the time comes. But, who said he would still be here? Would she even want him to come along? Perhaps he should stop thinking about this; it was still a long time until then. He would just have to wait and see.
“There’s the bus”, Edna’s voice pulled the Key Master out of his reverie. He stood up and took his bags, with Edna also taking some of them, while the bus was slowing down and came to a halt. The doors opened and both former mental patients entered the public transportation vehicle. Edna told the bus driver where they needed to go to and paid for their tickets. They went to the back of the bus, taking their seats at the far end.
Life in the recreation room continued on as normal... No, that was a lie in most cases. A few days ago, Anes and Hulgor had come to them and took four patients away. These four were not seen again and though there was a collective feeling of confusion, most went on with their life as usual. Only a few were still discussing the issue, speculating why they were taken away, which ranged from being declared mentally healthy to being brought to sole confinement. The latter theory was discarded almost immediately since none of the four patients was really dangerous. In fact, they were probably among the most harmless one could imagine.
“Do you think we will ever see them again?“, Petra asked. She, Professor Nock, Drogglejug and the Beeman were sitting – or standing in case of Drogglejug – in front of King Adrian’s cushion fortress, once again speculating about the disappearance of their inmates. Her mood had turned from generally happy to saddened, since one of the four was Peter. The others were Bruce Broker, the Washing Maniac and Tiger Head – a never talking girl who wore a stuffed tiger on her head that defied gravity by never falling off.
Oh don’t be so pessimistic, Droggie! I’m sure Doctor Marcel won’t execute them!“, Petra replied to Drogglejug’s response.
“Not unless Doctor Marcel’s madness has taken up to new levels”, the Beeman piped up. When his three conversational partners stared at him, he continued: “Let’s be honest here, the doctor has never been the most rational person. He’s too focused on finding just one girl who once broke out and even before that, he spent too much time with his attempts of his special therapy on her. And if he was not too occupied with her, he refined his character correction method.”
“You’ve got a point there, Beeman”, Petra agreed. “But I still don’t see why he would want to execute us.”
“Well, it would be easier for him to stage an accident that would lead to our apparent deaths than to let us have the required therapy for a mental recovery.”
Silence fell over Petra, Drogglejug and Professor Nock as they glanced at each other in uncertainty and fear. No one liked the prospect of having their lives ended just because they were not the sanest people in the world. They were not dangerous, only crazy.
“If only my sample of dino DNA had not been taken away. I was so close to clone an army of dinosaurs!“, Professor Nock lamented. “What a pity...”
No one ever bothered to enlighten him that his sample of dinosaur DNA was, in fact, not a mosquito embedded in ember but a fly in earwax. Then again, there was doubt among both the patients and the employees that Professor Nock would believe them. All they each could hope for was that the Beeman’s theory was completely wrong.
“There, that’s it. Are you sure we shouldn’t go to your friend’s place instead of storing the furniture in the basement?”
Anika and her boyfriend Gregor had arrived with the interior one and a half hours earlier than announced. Fortunately, they called Edna on her phone, and she was kind of glad about this. After her friends’ arrival, they spent an hour getting everything in the basement, on Edna’s insistence.
“A hundred percent sure”, the purple haired woman replied.
“Alrighty”, Anika nodded although she did not sound convinced. “Oh, send my regards to Tina and tell her it would be great if we girls could hang out together some time soon.”
“And don’t forget to introduce your friend to us”, Gregor requested. If there was one fictional character he could dress up as, it was Severus Snape from the Harry Potter books. He looked just like the famous Potions teacher if the character were in his mid twenties, would wash his hair and be generally in a better mood than depicted in the books.
“Um okay”, Edna’s voice had a hint of uncertainty as she replied but it seemed to be enough for both Gregor and Anika. With one last wave, they climbed back into the young man’s truck and drove off. Edna gazed after them until the truck was out of sight, then she returned to her apartment. She found the Key Master in the kitchen, preparing lunch.
“Welcome back”, he greeted her upon noticing her entering the kitchen. Edna nodded in acknowledgement, glancing alternatively at the Key Master, at the frying pan and at the pots.
“Um, what’s for lunch?”
“I found you still had Schnitzels in the fridge, so I thought I’d make them for the both us”, the Key Master replied, indicating at the pan. “And in here”, he pointed at the pots, “are potatoes and sauce.”
“Quite the menu you’re cooking there”, Edna commented with a smirk. “It’s amazing you didn’t unlearn how to cook after so many years of not living a normal life... Unless you broke into houses and secretly cooked from time to time.”
“I did break into houses, but only for my personal hygiene... and to occasionally steal food”, the Key Master responded while flipping over the Schnitzels. “Well, and once or twice to steal new clothes.”
He looked like he wanted to add something further but if this was the case, then he chose not to voice it. Somehow, though, Edna had a feeling what he wanted to say. If she was not mistaken, he mentioned he killed a few people over the years before stopping. Did he break into houses just to kill innocent human beings? It was amazing he was actually able to force himself to stop doing this. Edna wondered how hard it must have been for him.
“My friends asked me to meet you some time”, she mentioned, while leaning against the refrigerator. “Do you think it would be possible?”
She received no reply from the Key Master for a long time. He busied himself with the preparation of lunch. But he seemed to sense Edna’s penetrating eyes on him, so he sighed and turned to look at her.
“I don’t know yet. Maybe yes, maybe no.”
This was perhaps the best Edna could hope for. She could hardly blame him for his aversion of going among other people since he stated his reason. There were often times when she felt the same regarding herself, seeing she had kind of the same background as him. Well, the part with being inmates of an asylum and having murdered at least one person was the same; the circumstances of how they were brought into the mental institution could be vastly different for all she knew. Anyway, Edna often wondered if people would recognize her as the escaped patient and call Doctor Marcel to get her back there. She wanted to give the asylum a wide berth for the rest of her life; nothing could make her return there. Even if she was not sane at all, and she believed she was sane, she would rather go to an asylum where she would not be subjected to constant memory erasure.
“Edna, you mentioned earlier you wanted to go swimming... Where exactly did you want to go swimming to?“, the Key Master questioned, pulling her out of her reverie.
“Well, there’s a public swimming pool around here but I prefer natural bodies of water or at least unchlorinated waters”, Edna responded. “Why do you ask?”
“I just thought we could actually go for a swim this afternoon.”
“Sounds good to me.”
It had gotten hotter and hotter since morning, so a dip in the cooling waters would be just marvelous for Edna. Still, she had had no idea how the Key Master wanted to swim, unless he also bought swimming trunks earlier in the boutique. She hoped he did. Suddenly feeling thirsty, Edna went to a cabinet to get a glass, which she filled with apple juice and drank it in one go.
“Perhaps we could go swimming in the pond at your hideout. At least it’s natural water”, Edna proposed. “By the way, how long until lunch is ready?”
The Key Master checked the potatoes before replying:
“It will still be a while. I’ll call you, alright?”
“Alright. I go in my room meanwhile and surf the Internet for a while.”
Edna left the kitchen, carrying the glass and the bottle of apple juice. Back in her room, she sat in front of her laptop and turned it on while refilling her glass. Holding the glass in one hand and taking a sip from it, she clicked the Internet icon and the Internet window sprang up a split second later. She opened Google and, after remembering the conversation about names she had with the Key Master, typed in ‘Edna meaning’ in the search bar. The search results popped up on the screen and Edna, after skimming through them, opened some of the links in new tabs. She read through the links she opened, finding out that her name came from Hebrew and mean ‘pleasure’ and ‘delight’. She had actually hoped it would mean something like ‘most awesome person on planet’ or ‘cool girl’ but this was not so bad either. Also, one site mentioned that Edna in Celtic meant ‘fire’ and this happened to be her favorite element.
“Not bad”, she commented with a smirk. She liked the results, even if they were not what she hoped they would be. At least her old-fashioned name did not have an embarrassing meaning, like ‘sock’ or ‘pig’. Were there even names that meant ‘sock’ or ‘pig’? Oh well, it did not really matter to her, unless she had to name something, like a pet. But it was unlikely she and Tina would get a pet for the time being.
“Edna, lunch is ready”, she heard the Key Master call from the other side of her door.
“Coming!“, she called back, closed the Internet window and turned her laptop off. Then she took her glass and the bottle and left her room. The table was already set and the Key Master had already taken a seat. His plate was already filled with potatoes and a Schnitzel. Edna filled her own plate while he added sauce to his portion. He gave Edna the ladle when he was done. She also added sauce to her portion before they started eating.
After they finished lunch and cleaned the used utensils, they left the apartment and went to the Key Master’s place, each of them carrying a bag. Edna had not told him about her findings yet. Of course, he did not know what she was doing on the Internet and had not asked her. He was sure she would tell him on her own if she thought it was important and even she did not want to tell him, she would say so. That was how she always behaved towards him, although he could not deny he would like to know what kinds of things she was not telling him. The Key Master often pondered what secrets she had; he even just wanted to outright ask her. He glanced at her as she was walking right next to him. As if sensing his eyes on her, she reciprocated his look and smiled at him.
“Is something the matter?“, she asked. The Key Master shook his head:
“No, not really. Well, except, I think I’d like to know what you were surfing the Internet for.”
“Oh...“, Edna blinked twice. “I was searching for the meaning of my name...” She swatted a mosquito away. “It comes from Hebrew and means ‘pleasure’ and ‘delight’, if you would like to know.”
The Key Master acknowledged her reply with a nod and by mumbling “ah yes”. He guessed she got a little interested in name meanings following their short conversation about names. He had to admit he was curious what his name meant. That was if only he could recall his name. Hopefully it was not some stupid name, like Peter or Friedrich or Detlef. Who under the age of fifty would be named like this?