Monkey’s Paw

Five very normal characters sat. One of them suddenly spoke.

Story and Artwork by
Cole Webber

The five very normal characters sat around the couches. One of them suddenly spoke.

“What’s the weather like… Is anybody up for going out?”

“Why would we go out?” The pink one in a dress said. “It’s ever so nice in here… toasty and warm.”

“We never seem to go out though, do we?” The man who first spoke was dressed in a sort of ambiguous military uniform. It was tattered — or, more so worn down. Like it had been partially erased. His arms struggled to move.

“You seem to be the last one that would want to leave,” the one in the black suit croaked theatrically. The blackness of the suit was punctuated only by a white shirt and a black bow tie. It singed the military-man’s (or ex military-man’s?) forehead every so slightly. He twisted his brows down like plastic, and frowned a little. The magician laughed to himself. “Can’t handle a joke?”

“Who made you the court jester?” The delicate woman pulled her dress’s plume out from the couch, leaned towards the military man and stroked his back. He made a show of pushing her away at first, but ever so slightly and fake-ly, so she wouldn’t really leave. She sat down next to him. 

The magician scowled, “I never get the good ones…” he eyed the doll of a woman up and down. The military man frowned further. The other girl, dressed in flowing cloth clothes and a bandana, stepped out from behind the furniture and glared at him, “Maybe because you’re such a creep.”
He shrugged, “I’m just mysterious.”

With that one odd word, there seemed to be a long pause, that bled even into the fibres of the room’s wallpaper; the wall’s themselves seemed to elongate.

The military man looked out the window longingly. His arms moved stiffly. It was hazy, foggy out there. He longed to see a bit clearer.

“No one does know the weather? Who was out last?” His eyes stayed on the window, but the eyes of the girl next to him darted around to everybody’s. The magician shrugged. The other woman looked off, somewhere else. The woman in the dress continued, “I don’t think I can quite remember…”

“How does it look?” The other woman asked of the military man.

“I can’t quite see,” he said it with a far quality in his voice, like his words were getting lost as his eyes were, “Can you?”

The woman walked over, nearly pressing her nose against the window.

“No,” she said. “Fires? Fires out there? Fog? Smog?”

The military man had a grave thought — one that made him feel like he was going insane. His muscles strained to prevent him from saying it, and from possibly validating his fears. But he forced it out anyways. What was wrong with him? 

“What is it normally supposed to look like?”

This, to both his relief and horror, was met by a longer silence. Everyone around him, in order crooked “I don’t know… I can’t remember.”

The blonde girl in the dress was the first one courageous enough to push their fear further “…as a matter of fact,” she slowly walked out what they were all already thinking, what they all already knew (or rather didn’t), “what’s my name?” She looked with pleading doe eyes to everyone. She fixated finally on the magician. Surely he, the obsessive one, must know. He shrugged. She stroked the back of the man beside her, and whispered in her ear, “surely you must know…” He strained his head, the space behind his eyes, hard. He could not come up with anything that had a certainty greater to it than a daydream, and they were all different. Barbara, Martha, Sofia. For a matter of fact, he thought silently, what was my name? All of the others were squishing in their faces as they slowly made the same realizations.

“I’m naming myself Cleopatra,” the other woman in the draping clothes said, plotting her booted feet across the floor. It creaked as she paced with intensity, “if it’s something that’s got to be done.”

“I am,” the magician corrected himself, “must be… The Great Mysterio. I mean, can there be anything else?”

There was a glimmer of hope in the unnamed woman’s wide eyes, “Are you a real magician. I mean, do you have powers and not only tricks?”

“What kind of powers?” The military man asked, only increasingly shrinking into the padding of the couch.

“The kind that could… make us remember…” the woman trailed off.

“Perhaps,” Mysterio said it in an enchanting way, although it was not ironic; he himself did not know.

“It would all be lies anyway,” the military man barked. He began to feel an itching on the back of his head, like something was crawling over him, or something was beginning to leak its way in.

“I don’t need a name to know who I am,” he said it as he leaned back further and closed his eyes. 

“And how is that?” The woman said, all of a sudden stopping to stroke him, and retreating her hand away delicately. Her eyes dropped, “I can’t remember who that is either,”

“Can’t you?”

Cleopatra interrupted: “This is all insane. Don’t you feel like you? We must be… we must have taken drugs. I mean, why else would we all be lounging about together in the living room? All of us so different from each other, not one of us knowing what exactly is going on?”

“I don’t remember taking anything…” the pink woman said.

“I don’t even remember eating…” the military man sighed, as much into his own hands and beard as to anyone else.

“Well, we don’t remember anything,” Cleopatra continued. “Or…” the military man muttered to himself, but the pink woman caught it and it electrified itself in her, “Or…” she continued on with greater urgency, “Somebody slipped it to us. Somebody here knows more than we do, each of us.” Her eyes turned to the creep in the suit, quickly tucking himself away in the shadows in the corner. The military man finally stood up, flexing his stretching and moulded muscles, “What are you doing that for, buddy?”
“I know just the same as you do,” he shivered out of chattering teeth, slouching into the darkness more.

“You knew your name,”

“I made it up!” He shouted, “Just the same as you,” he glared to Cleopatra.

“It wasn’t me,” she shrugged nonchalantly, “Why would I have brought it up, if I was the one to do it.” She patted her own pockets of her own baggy pants. Her dark eyelids were drawn up in surprise. She removed the thing she found, twisting it as it tangled out from her pockets. A knife. The military man nodded at her. She walked to stand behind him. The pink woman slid further down the couch.

“What is it that you’re not telling us?” They drew closer at the huddled man in the corner. The pink woman began to flinch. 

“I don’t know anything. I’m not even a magician! I made it up! I’m simply in a suit. I just said I wanted to be one.”

“Just in a suit, well all the rest of us here are dressed normal… You’re the dealer, the manipulator.”

“Of what? What? Why would you need to be manipulated, you don’t seem mighty important.”

“Is that an insult?” Cleopatra brandished the knife closer. The pink woman began to itch at the back of her neck, like something was crawling around it. 

“What about him!” The magician anxiously shouted, “A military man! He’s CIA! He’s covert! He has the best chance of anybody to be the one watching us?”

“And what did we do?” Cleopatra shrugged.

“We don’t know! You don’t know!”

“None of us does,” the military man said, letting go of the tight white shirt collar and dropping the well dressed man to the floor.

The pink woman cried out, she could not take it anymore.

“Doesn’t anyone else feel like we’re being watched? It’s burning. I have the feeling — all the hairs on the back of my neck aren’t just standing up. They’re leaping out! There, there! Out the window!”

The military man rushed to the door. It was the same beige haze of a cluttered sky. An ominous sun drifted in the distance, round and still and unchanging. But…

“It’s glimmering, glimmering… I see it. The sun looks like it’s moving. Blinking, even.”

“We’re being watched.” The pink woman repeated.

“By what? Who?”

“By somebody, some group, out there in the fog.”

“What is out there? Does anybody remember what’s outside of our house?”

There was silence. The magician was crumpled in the corner, the pink woman nearly fainted on the couch; everyone else pacing around.

“What was on our block? Down the street? This is a house, right! We must have a street!”

“I don’t know!” The magician screamed. “I don’t remember!”

Cleopatra pointed the knife again at him as he tried to stand up.

“What, what would make sense, who would be watching us?” The military man was staring out the window. No sign except for a blurry and quivering sun, an island in a void of sky.

The pink woman had her head and blonde hair draped over the couch. She was staring into the ceiling. Her eyes were darting around.

“Isn’t it… dark?” She looked at the centre ceiling fan, at the beautiful Tiffany style lamps around her.

“Won’t anybody turn the lights on.”

Cleopatra fled to the corner and the switch to do so. She clipped it back and forth, nothing.

In a rush of excited curiosity she went again to the window; the sill would not open. She turned the handle of the door. It did not move. 

“We haven’t left,” she said, with her throat and head sinking to the ground, “we haven’t left because we can’t leave.”

The magician stood up, “No, no,” he said. He was walking manically and pointing with his delicate finger, “No, this is good, see? It means its not us, not any one of us! It’s the house, see? The house is wrong! We were put here. We’re experiments, we’re test subjects. This isn’t a real house. This isn’t a real room!”

“Oh god,” Cleopatra was shedding the ice of her exterior in salty drops on the floor. The sun was beginning to set, all too quickly, like it was being pulled out of the sky. The room was being left in elongated darkness. “We are being watched. Why? Why? Who are we? And if we’re nothing… if we don’t even know, what are they trying to find out from us?”

“Why hasn’t anybody asked him?” The blonde woman suddenly erupted, with a slender finger extended to the far side of the room, now nearly plunged into total darkness.

The fifth character waddled towards them: the monkey cackled maniacally. His eyes spun around, and his symbols crashed. His mouth cackled at them, “O-o-o-o-o ah-a-a-a-a! O-o-o-o-o ah-a-a-a-a!” With such a force the floor rumbled. The room was plunged into complete darkness. 

The child pulled his eye back from the window, opened the side of the dollhouse and picked up the monkey. It was rattling the whole thing around. The furniture and his other figurines dropped out. The magician, the soldier, the Barbie and the pirate. The monkey rumbled violently in his hand, even after he held the thing to stop. A tingle ran up his arm. He picked the others up quickly, and shuttered them back inside of the house. The monkey still was letting out a low rumble in his arm, like a whirring engine or mechanical toothbrush. He tumbled his small feet down so quick with freight he almost tripped over them; down the stairs and to the kitchen, calling as he went along, “Mom! Mom! It keeps going off all by itself!”

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