Emily crouched low inside the old cupboard, peeking out through a thin crack she surveyed the area. The sound of whirring gears was heavy in the air. Suddenly the source of the noise came into view as a mechanical clown with a porcelain mask and evil glowing eyes shuffled past in the slow, methodical way all the toy clowns did. It walked within inches of the cupboard. Head constantly swiveling back and forth, looking. If Emily could breathe she would have held her breath. But the doll simply continued along, ignoring the slightly ajar door.
The sound of noisy turning gears softened to where Emily could only her the key slowly turning in her back. Signaling she was safe for the moment. No sooner had she let out a mental sigh of relief when once more she heard the sound grow louder. She thought for a moment that there was a second clown in the area, but she realized it was simply the first one returning to the past it came from. Watching it closely through the narrow slit in the door it shuffled past, heading for the basement. Looking away and up to the boarded up kitchen window she could see shafts of light peeking through the uppermost board edge, morning had finally come. She waited another twenty minutes, making sure every last one of the neigh-demonic toys had left before she climbed out and stretched her limbs.
Taking a moment to dust herself off, Emily did a quick check of herself. Hoping that something gad changed since the sun went down the night before. Tall black buckle shoes, white form-fitting pants with a red stripe running up the sides, red shirt with oversized buttons painted on, epaulettes, and a black tall-hat fastened to her head. Setting off across the kitchen she found the dust covered frying pan sitting against the bottom of the sink cabinet, wiling it off she saw her reflection in the shiny surface. Her face a constant smile, bright red dots on either cheek, and a key that slowly rotated behind her. Easily the brightest thing in the dark and abysmal house.
It had been five days, she reminisced, since she had come to be like this, she couldn’t remember why, or how she had come to be this way, but however the means, she had been trapped. She only remembered waking up standing in the middle of the dusty foyer, ten inches tall and transformed into a female version of the toy soldiers kids from the eighteen hundreds played with. Which, guessing from the look and feel of the house, it was at least that old. None of the clocks worked in the house, either too caked with dust and cobwebs or in need of winding to be of any use. So she wandered for unknown hours panicking and trying to find a way out. If she had only known the real terror would start once the sun went down.
As she found herself alone in the quickly darkening house, she was alerted to the sound much like the one the key in her back made as it constantly rotated . But far louder. Thinking she had found someone to help she made her way to the source, the kitchen, where she found herself face to face with half a dozen toys of equal size to her, but dressed in ragged and dark clothing. With each wearing a porcelain face, stylized as a clown. The beings turned as one and focused on her with glowing yellow eyes as they began to lumber toward her, arms outstretched.
Panicked, Emily fled, she was faster than the others, but not fast enough to ever make it out of sight, luckily the rooms on the ground floor were open with many interconnecting rooms. That, and the fact that the clowns only followed her directly allowed her to escape capture. If they could have planned to surround her they would have easily caught her, but luck was on her side for now. For when the sun came up the attackers gave up the chase and headed back down to the basement. After hiding for a few hours, sure the demons would be back any second, Emily gathered the courage to look down into the abyss. The entrance to the basement was a heavy wooden door, swung out over the steps leading up, leaving her with no way of closing the door. Looking down she saw the steps themselves went down for a short flight, before making a sharp turn to the right, blocking the sun. there was no other light from the basement, but pausing, she could hear the sounds of hears clicking and clacking naught but feet away. She imagined them waiting in the shadows slowly making their way upward as the sun set. With a shiver sunning through her plastic and metal body she fled away from the doorway and sought a place to hide.
That night, from the safety of the cupboard, she watched though the crack in the door as once more the clowns rose up from the basement. Their glowing eyes ever searching for her. Even the spiders inhabiting the many webs in the house seemed to shy away and crawl to the tops of their webs when they walked past. Emily noted that they didn’t move fast, Nor with purpose. Much like zombies in old horror flicks, before the directors started making them fast. A shudder raced up her key shaft imagining these evil clowns moving as fast as a normal person. Refocusing on the robots she found they randomly searched through the other cupboards in the kitchen. Opening one door, but not checking the other. One even opened the door to her cupboard, but she leaned back as far as she could, hiding behind a box of stale crackers. If she could have gasp she would have as the rays of light given off by the eyes came to rest on her foot. But she didn’t jump, didn’t dare move, and soon it closed the door and wandered off. Emily stayed laying down on her side the rest of the night, for the first time falling asleep.
She awoke in the morning of her third day at the house refreshed. She once more began looking for a way out of the house, but could find none on the first floor. The front door from which she had entered appeared to have no less then nine locks on it. Three deadbolts. Two chains, three latches, and a bar across the middle. They were far out of reach of the diminutive soldier-ette, and the chairs in the kitchen were made from heavy oak wood. She couldn’t even budge them. The windows of the house were boarded up with wood, only allowing sunlight through the cracks. She didn’t even have to try to know she had no hope of pulling the large nails that anchored them in place out. So, her only other option was the flight of stairs leading up to the second floor. She had ignored them before, because it seemed darker than the main floor, but she felt confident she knew the zombie-clown-robot-toys weren’t coordinated enough to climb, and they all moved to the basement in the daylight.
So she set out climbing the stairs. Even if she had been completely normal and shrunk to ten inches tall it would have been difficult. But the fact her limbs and joints moved with jerky and hard to control movements to the time of her key made it even harder than it should have. Luckily, she did find one of the perks of her new form she had failed to notice the first night. While the climbing was slow, once she got a pattern going she hardly had to stop. After fifteen steps concurred and only five to go she felt no more tired than when she started. Smiling inwardly she wish she could keep this stamina once she was turned back, which she was sure would happen as soon as she got out of this house.
Upon reaching the second floor she began searching the rooms, a master and two minor bedrooms, a large bathroom, and two broom closets revealed no exits. Te windows all boarded as on the first floor. At this time the sun had began to set and Emily weighed the safety of the second floor. She doubted the clowns could climb, and had saw none the entire time of searching. So she decided to stay up here for the duration of the night. She entered the master bedroom and used a bedpost to climb onto the bed. Happy to be somewhere soft, but slightly annoyed by the fact that she couldn’t “feel” that it was soft. But better to dwell on things like that then the fact she has been unsuccessful at escaping. Again the sun set and Emily closed her eyes imagining the clowns searching the bottom floor, unable to find their prey. As she laid there on her stomach with her hands resting beneath her chin she began to realize the clacking noises in her head were very loud indeed.
Opening one eye she looked around searching for the noise. The clicking noise was accompanied by a faint scraping sound. Focusing on the far wall she realized with a sinking feeling it was coming from laundry shoot. While unpopular in modern times, this house had several shoots that must have lead directly to the basement where the washer machine would be. But surly, those things couldn’t climb up a sheer metal shaft? No sooner had she said it aloud to herself then the hatch to the shoot swung inward, revealing three yellow-eyed robots.
They stood on a platform suspended with wires, they must have used it like a tram to get to the second floor. She didn’t have long to contemplate it as all three raised their arms and stumbled forward onto the hamper sitting in front of the shoot. The three continued lowering themselves onto nearby furniture that Emily had completely overlooked that they formed a almost perfect set of stairs. Emily remained n top of the bed, still hoping they couldn’t climb the way she had. The clowns neared the edge of the bed and raised their arms, trying to reach the unreachable. Emily had half a second to sigh with relief before she felt a slight shift under her feet looking down over the edge she was the three robots had grabbed fistfuls of the bed sheet and had began pulling. The only managed to budge the heavy blanket an inch, they would need more than three to pull her over. She didn’t even allow herself to feel the relief this time as she tried to recall if there had been laundry shoots in the other rooms. The arrival of six more clowns answered her question. All nine of the monstrosities began pulling, slowly shifting the top blanket off the edge, inch by inch. Emily simply backed up in time to the pull. Maintaining her place. Soon they pulled the uppermost blanket off and had started on the second. Emily easily managed not to fall off the edge once again. However, she noticed the sound of clicking was getting slightly louder. Timing it so she wouldn’t fall over the edge she peeked down. The robots had finished with the second blanket, and had piled it close to the bed atop the second. They were making a ramp!
Cursing them aloud, which they ignored as they continued to pull relentlessly, Emily grabbed the edge of the sheet they were pulling on and began to pull back. With nine verses one it was hardly a fight and she was forced to let go or be pulled off. The creature’s heads were now in sight over the edge as they grabbed at the last sheet and pulled. The sheet was fitted to the bed, and thus took longer than the others to start, but they strained until it came loose. Standing on the bed itself an idea sprang into Emilie’s head. Grabbing the end she walked it to the end of the bed as the clowns pulled it closer. She waited until there was just enough slack to execute the plan. She waited for them to finish with a down stroke and let go, then, she gave the biggest leap she had ever attempted in her life. With her slow and jerky legs it wasn’t far, but it was far enough she dragged the sheet over the robot’s heads and used the momentum to yank them from their spot atop the pile. She landed with a ‘thud” on her now plastic butt and skidded to a stop a few inches away from the mess of squirming blankets that contained her assailants. Using her head start she ran from the room into the nearby broom closet, behind a bucket of cleaning supplies for the rest of the night.
Upon morning’s light she left her closet and began looking through the area, she knew what she wanted, and could only hope she could find it. Thoughts raced through her mind about last nights events. In hindsight she recalled the most important thing she had seen since coming here. The first three clowns had ridden a fully functional lift up two stories. Those clowns were too dumb to figure out how to climb stairs, let alone construct something like that. She continued her search throughout the upper closets, and bathrooms. Not finding what she was looking for she headed downstairs. Going down the flight of stairs proved far more trouble than going up. She could either get down on her knees and schootch her way off onto the lower step, or she could try sitting down and sliding off facing out. Shimmying back on her jointed hands and knee was far safer, but painfully slow, as she had a hard time looking past her own shoulders, her neck very limited in it’s movements. But going facing outward was far faster, but equally dangerous. She almost fell the first three times she tried, her legs not being able to bend the way she wanted, and her plastic body not having a good sense of equilibrium. In the end she choose the slow way, calling herself a turtle as she lowered herself down.
Once on the lower level she gazed up to the windows and guessed it was just about noon, she had gotten better at guessing the time the longer she had been there. She quickly began rummaging through the cabinets and cupboards realizing the food was mostly five or six years expired. Regardless, the boxes still worked perfectly for stackable stairs that allowed her to get onto the heavy oaken chairs once arranged properly. Once on the table she easily was able to cross over onto the long sink counter that wrapped around the kitchen. One by one she opened the upper cabinets until she finally found what she had been looking for. There, laying before her, was a bottle of Elmer’s Glue. She would have preferred some epoxy, but the glue would do just fine. Carrying the bottle back down she made her way back to the stairs and began making her way up. After half an hour of slowly climbing the stairs she approached the doors laundry shoot in the main bedroom and after a moment’s hesitation opened it and looked inside.
The shaft leading down was dark, pitch black, and two stories above the basement she couldn’t even hear the clacking of gears from far below. Looking back to the top of the shaft she saw the pulley system that lead back to the basement. After a moment of examining the wires and gears images of her engineering lessons began floating into her mind. Leaning deeper into the shaft she grabbed the central rod holding a small gear and pulled. At first it didn’t budge, but as she pulled harder it began to wiggle loose of it’s holdings. The almost lose her footing once, but quickly righted herself. Giving it one last pull she removed the shaft and let the heavy gear fall for below. Then, backing out she grabbed the glue and began applying it to the hinges of the shoot flap itself, taking care not to get any on herself. Then to the edges of the outer flap, creating a seal. She then repeated the process with the other two shoots and searched for more before rechecking on the first.
Giving it an experimental push she found it didn’t move. Pushing harder revealed the same. Smiling to herself she sat down to rest and evaluate the area. She didn’t think there was any other way up to the second floor. Safe for the stairs, but she already knew they couldn’t climb it on their own. With any luck she could work on removing the planks from the windows in piece. Although that did bring up another problem. Throughout all hear searching she had yet to stumble across one tool to work with. She had found what could have been an empty tool box, but all the tools had been removed. Come to think about it, over the last few months there had been stories of thieves breaking into to houses in the dead of night and making off with power tools and anything else of the sort. This old house was located a few moles back from the main suburban development where Emily lived, but she doubted it was out of reach from a determined mob of robotic clowns.
As she sat there she realized it was getting late, it had taken her nearly four hours to do a job that could’ve been done in fifteen minutes had she been full sized, or not stuck with jointed mitten-esk hands. She wanted to stay up in the second floor, but there were very few places to hide as the rooms were very plain, she had been lucky the clowns didn’t check the broom closet when she was hiding in there, but she couldn’t risk it again, so once more she headed down to the first floor, thankful for the fact that she wouldn’t have to worry about cramps. She was almost half the way down when she realized just how late it was, forcing her to begin moving with greater haste. Jumping down the stairs, not taking time to steady herself. She actually missed the second to last and rolled down to land on her face
Picking herself up she made sure she was unhurt, strangely glad she couldn’t feel least she faint. Emily quickly picked herself up and ran as fast she could to the kitchen and hid inside her favorite spot under the cupboard, taking care to make sure she couldn’t be seen from the front.
“Just in the nick of time.” she said aloud to herself as the last rays of light left the windows. She made herself comfortable, laying down on her stomach. She missed being able to lay on her back as she normally would, but with the key that wasn’t an option. The night passed uneventfully. The robots didn’t open her door, but she could tell there seemed more than usual. With any luck this meant they couldn’t get into the upper floor. She would look for signs of them later tomorrow. After a while she drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
And thus the first four days had been spent, a mix of terror, daring escapes, and hiding inside dust filled cabinets. Heading directly to the stairs she once more began climbing. “I should really build a little toy elevator.” She mumbled her herself as she climbed. “Barbie would never be able to make it up when I invite her over.” she giggled at the thought of her and a Barbie sitting around at a tea party. The first time she’d laughed in days.
Upon making her way to the top she headed straight for the master bedroom to check on the laundry shoot. The papers scattered on the hamper were unmoved, and upon testing the door she found it was still sealed shut. The bottle of glue was still sitting nearby, so she used the remaining glue to add a second layer of sealant to all three hatches. Turning to the window overlooking the front of the house she climbed up the stack of yellowed newspapers and far out of date magazines until she reached the bench seat build below the windowsill standing there she imagined it must have had a wonderful view before the suburbs were built and the window boarded up.
Grabbing the edge of the lowest board began pulling. Straining as hard as she could she didn’t even budge it. Placing one foot on the wall she tried getting more leverage, but was unable to make a difference. Pausing she looked around the room, wishing for a crowbar in miniature size that she could use, but no luck. She spent the next two hours pulling and rocking the board. But it wouldn’t shift an inch. She paused, swearing under her breath. “I could spend years on this an not make a difference.” giving up she made her way back to the ground and began looking through the rooms for anything metal or strong enough to use as a tool. But as she feared, anything worth while had been taken. She even looked inside one of the old grandfather clocks, but found the inside stripped of all parts. The boards on the other windows appeared the same.
Groaning in frustration she pulled at the hat presently stuck on her head. There has to be away out of this house. Some way. But try as she might Emily couldn’t think of a way. In defeat she headed downstairs to see if there was anything of value down there. But after a few hours of searching she came up empty handed. And to make matters worse the sun was hanging low in the sky. At least the upper rooms appeared safe, so once more she began climbing, this time no merriment as she ascended. Upon reaching the halfway mark she paused. She could have sworn she heard something. A deep rumbling, it sounded familiar, but different in some way. Then it hit her, A car! She didn’t recognize the sound because it seemed so deep, but thinking about it she realized it was a vehicle. She had not heard the sound of a car in the five days she’d been here. Nobody ever came around the house. The sound grew louder before stopping. It was right outside!
Quickly turning around Emily began dashing down the stairs. She could hear the sounds of someone approaching the door, their footsteps echoing loudly through the empty and quiet house. “Hello!” Emily called. She wasn’t even sure if she could be heard by other people, or if her voice was just inside her head, but she had to try. There was a loud knocking, followed by silence. Emily dashed down the steps, once again falling down the last few in her haste. Again there was a loud knock in the wooden door. This time a voice rang out.
“Hello, Is anyone here?” the voice asked. “I’m here to handout flyers looking for a missing person. her name is Emily Monroe and hasn’t been seen for three or four days.”
“Five days you ditz.” Emily grunted dashing as fast she could on her plastic jointed legs. Then she stopped, the voice, much like the car engine, was much lower than it should be. But regardless she couldn’t help but to recognize the voice of her lifelong friend Courtney.
“Hello?” the voice called again. This time the door handle rattled once. Emily had just made it too the door when suddenly her friend’s voice stopped suddenly. At the same time the multiple latches locking the door shut began to unlock one after another. Hope flared inside Emily as she thought of her friend finding her and figuring a way to change her back. The thought was cut short, however, as the door suddenly and violently swung open, knocking the soldierette back and sending her skidding several feet away. Sitting up again Emily saw the old screen door swing open as her friend walked inside.
“No!” she shouted trying to get to her feet again. But her friend ignored her warning and continued to walk forward, her eyes focusing on something very far away, or perhaps nothing at all. Once inside the door slammed shut behind her and locked itself again. Sealing them both inside.
Emily rush towards her friend to warn her, when suddenly a strange light caught her eye. Her friend seemed to be illuminated by an odd glowing spiral of energy. Courtney was a shapely five foot ten tom girl of Amazon looks and an attitude to match. But as Emily watched her friend’s long, unkempt brown hair began to straighten out, then folded itself upward, becoming a bun. Her lips reddened and turned upwards into a natural smile, and a faint pink dot appeared on each cheek. Her jogging sweat suit seemed to be sucked into her body, leaving a leotard which changed colors from a grey to a lively yellow. Her arms bent inward slightly as joints formed on her elbows and shoulders. Shiny metal pins contrasting with her smooth flesh. Her legs did the same, although they looked like they were covered in tights matching the color of the leotard. To top it all off a large tutu grew from around her waist made form some heavily starched material. (or is it gravity’s reduced effects on the cloth? She caught herself wondering) shaking her head she ran to her friend as she shrunk down to her size. Feet in slippers pointing elegantly.
Courtney stood there for a few more minutes, staring into space with a happy look on her face. Then suddenly she seemed to snap out of it. She blinked twice, as if snapping out of a trance. Then she looked around. She seemed to immediately notice the size of the surrounding furniture and quickly looked down to herself. She let out a gasp before stumbling back awkwardly on pointed feet.
“Courtney, are you all right?” Emily asked as softly and gently as she could.
“AHHHHHHHH!” the ballerina doll shouted backing away again in fright. “Stay back!”
“Courtney, it’s me, Emily. I know it looks like I’m a doll . . . Mostly because I am. But so are you. We’re still the same inside.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Courtney demanded backing up until her tutu and key brushed up to the wall. What am I doing in these clothes and why do I have a . . . a key sticking out my back?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll explain, just calm down, we have plenty of time to . . .” but Emily let herself train off, looking directly above the new doll Emily was a window, and the last few rays of sun were just disappearing from the horizon. “Ok, I know this is all sudden, but I need you to trust me and come upstairs with me.”
“Ok, even if you are Emily why would I go upstairs with you? I’m getting out of here.”
“I am Emily, I’ve been your friend since second grade when you saved me from a swirly special, I go to college for engendering and you still secretly want to be the world champ MMA champ. I’ve been missing for five days, trapped in this house, and you need to come with me or you’re going to get captured by evil robot clowns and I will laugh at you from the top of the safety of the stairs!”
“Did . . . Did you say evil clowns?” Courtney asked suddenly much more attentive. Emily remembered her friend had a long and deep hatred for the comedians. The frightened look in her eyes looking out of place with her still ever-smiling face.
“Yes.” Emily said heading for the stairs. “Evil robotic clowns with glowing eyes.” she added to drive the point home.
“Get the F#*@ outa the way!” the ballerina yelled breaking into a fast walk.
The two made it to the stairs before they heard the sound of clicking and clacking gears. They began climbing with Emily instructing her friend how to climb. “So how is all this possible?” Courtney asked, swinging her shapely legs up the next set of stairs.
“You tell me. I haven’t found any way of getting out of here. But the upstairs in safe for now because the robots can’t climb. I’ll fill you in on the rest after we’re out of sight of them.” no sooner did she say that when a robotic clown shuffled into view. Courtney gave a small yep and began climbing faster. The clown simply raised it’s arms at the pair of dolls but was unable to figure out how to climb. More of the clowns walked into view, but soon a new sound was heard. It was like nails on a chalk board. Emily turned around to see what the source of the notice was, but soon wished she had not. Crawling into view was a large creature that looked like a reject from the horrible transformers films by Michel Bay. It’s body appeared to be little more than a box of scrap metal. Connected to it was two swiveling red eyes, and two long arms made from twisted clock innards. It grasp the floor and pulled the rest of it’s body along behind it. The clowns, as if hearing an unspoken order, began shuffling inside the larger monster. Five fit inside before the shuttle ignored the rest trying to get in and began pulling itself towards the stairs.
“What is that thing?” Courtney asked looking back as the monstrosity grabbed the first stair and hauled itself into the first step. Then to the second.
“It’s new. Run!” Emily shouted reaching the top and heading for the broom closet.
The two diminutive dolls ran as fast as they could to the broom closet. Emily silently cursing the fact there was nothing to hide behind once inside. Changing her mind she instead lead her friend towards the second bedroom, the farthest down the hall. While she had been unable to move the door before, with two they might be able to do it.
“Why do you get to be the cool looking soldier doll and I get a tutu?” Courtney asked more to herself than her friend. “Stuck with ankles that don’t bend.” looking back Emily could tell her friend was falling behind, her legs taking much more dainty steps than her own.
“You’re just mad because you couldn’t take on a wet paper bag right now.” Emily goaded her friend on, chuckling to herself as the ballerina leered and darted forward from a burst of speed. The two of them made it to the bedroom just as the mechanical fiend made it to the top of the stairs. The clowns climbed out of the back and began shuffling towards the two friends as the monstrosity turned and headed into the master bedroom. “I wonder what it’s doing in there.” Emily stopped to gaze back.
“We might find out if you don’t get in here.” her friend urged. Panic in her voice from seeing the attackers at close range. Emily quickly entered the room and got behind the heavy oaken door. Together they began pushing, trying to get it to shut. At first nothing happened, but then, inch by inch, it began to slowly slide shut. As their momentum grew the door shut faster. Even still it seemed like the robots would be inside. But luck was with them and it shut on the face of the first clown. Sending it sprawling backwards onto the floor. The door handle let out a loud ‘Clack’ as it slid into place, locking the clowns out.
The two friend exchanged giddy smiles. Before bursting out in laughter. “I can’t believe it! You’ve been here for five days with those things?” Courtney exclaimed rushing forward and giving her friend a hug. It was more difficult than it should have been, with both of their bodies being made of hard plastic than soft skin.
“Yeah, it hasn’t been easy. The first night I spent about nine hours running from them throughout the house.”
“Nine hours? Didn’t you get tired?”
“Are you tired after that mad dash up the stairs?” Emily asked finally letting go of her friend.
“Um, actually, no. I’m not.” Courtney replied looking herself up and down for the first time really taking it in. “I’m, I’m not breathing, I feel like I should, but I’m not.” she continued holding a dainty hand up to her mouth.
“Worse than that, your hair looks better than it has in years.” Emily cut in, pointing out the fact that her friend’s hair was in an elegant bun, compared to the tangled mess it normally was. “And that tutu really shows off your legs, you should think about wearing them more often.” truth be told it was the first time in days Emily had been able to talk with anybody. The mounting stress released itself in a rush of puns and jokes. But at the same time, it worried her. The entire time she had kept a secret hope this was just a dream, and she would wake up any second. But her friend was acting too perfect. She could never animate someone this well in her subconscious.
Courtney simply growled in reply. Before poking Emily on the forehead as she would often do. Although normally she would simply use her first two finger to push her off balance. Now she didn’t have the luxury of individual fingers, making it a little bit stronger than it should have been.
“Ahh!” Emily gasp falling on her rear end with a plop. She was about to make a return remark when suddenly there was the sound of multiple fist beating on the door. The robots must have lost track of them after the door closed, but apparently heard Emily’s shout. Judging by the silhouettes all five of the robots were outside, hopelessly pounding away.
“They can’t get in, can they?”
I don’t think so,” Emily replied getting to her feet. “They can’t reach the door handle, and they aren’t smart enough to work together, so I think we’re safe.”
“Well what about the claw thing?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like that before. But at least it ignored us once it got up here.”
Well what would make it come out now? Did you do anything last night to make it angry? Are these things it’s babies?” Courtney asked looking the door over to make sure was wasn’t going to suddenly give way.
“No, I don’t think it was anything like that. I don’t know what . . .”But she let herself trail off as she remembered that the day before she had unfastened the three lifts to the second floor. “Wait, it’s because I disabled the lifts from the basement.”
“Wait, I thought you said these things were dumb. How do they make a lift?”
“They don’t that claw thing does. It’s a repair-bot. whoever is making these things has been behind the rash of robberies in the area.”
“Wait, you mean these things are what stole my parent’s circular saw and drill?”
“I think so. I just don’t know what it’s doing with the stuff.”
“Well at least it’s leaving us alone. It doesn’t have to come in here, right?” Courtney asked, hoping she was correct. Without replying Emily turned and pointed to the laundry shoot that remained glued closed. “Oh crap.”
The duo split up and began looking for something that could be wedge up to the door in case the clawed repair-bot could manipulate the door handle. But the bare room revealed nothing of use. Courtney paused to yell at the clowns outside the door to be quiet and cease their pounding. To their surprise they did.
“Wait, did I do that?” the ballerina asked looking at the door in surprise. However, the real reason why the pounding stop revealed itself. Suddenly there was an even louder pounding upon the door. It could only be the large robot from before. It scraped at the door and tested the edges, looking for a weak point. Then it was quiet for a moment, Emily and her friend could only hope it had given up. But they soon heard the sound of their worst fears coming true. The door handle have a single rattle, as if something was trying to turn it but just out of reach. Again it rattled, but did not open.
“What happens if it get’s inside?” Courtney asked, her voice barley a whisper.
“I don’t know. Let’s not find out.” Emile lead her friend to the closet, the bare space offered no place to hide, but a pair of sliding door might hide them from their pursuers. They each grabbed an end, one pushing, the other pulling, slowly they managed to shut the door, leaving s scant sliver of light the only thing illuminating the scene. Again the door rattled, but remained shut. There was silence for a few minutes as they could hear the sound of scrapping metal receding down the hallway.
“I think it’s gone.” Emily whispered. The pounding had also ceased from the clowns as well. The two contended themselves to moving to the back end of the closet space and falling asleep.
“However they didn’t sleep long. Less than two hours later there was a scrapping sound again. This time louder than before. Emily snapped awake and aroused her friend.
“Whoa, was I sleeping while sitting up?” Courtney asked before her memories came rushing back. “Oh crap, is it trying to get in again?” her question was not answered by her friend however. But instead from the door suddenly and violently swinging open as not one, but two of the large robots entered the room. One perched atop the other for added height. “Cheaters.” Courtney grumbled mentally sticking her tongue out upon finding she could no longer do it herself.
The two robots entered the room, one wet directly to the laundry vent and began prying the flap open with a pitchfork-like arm. The other however began moving in slow circles around the room, looking for something. Or someone. Emily held her finger up to her mouth in silence as they backed away from the crack and into the deepest part of the closet. She wished they could have been hiding in her own, with the mass amounts of unmatched shoes they would never be found.
Unseen by the girls the first robot had pried open the flap to the laundry shoot open and was busy welding a stake into the metal to reattach the pulleys and gears that had been removed. It sent the newly reattached cable down the shaft to the basement where a third robot waited to reconnect the lift. The obedient clown robots waited to step onto the lift and be raised to the second floor.
The second of the two robots continued searching the room. Looking under the bed, behind the dresser, soon it made it’s way around to the closet. Emily could only hope it wouldn’t open the door, but it was a foolish hope. The door came siding open as the two girl’s screamed and the robot reached out to grasp them in it’s hands. They struggled for a while. But it was no use. The monstrosity leered at them with red lit eyes. Them placed them in it’s back where multiple smaller arms held them in place. The mechanical fiend then began to crawl it’s way back out into the hallway, then down the stairs, through the kitchen, and into the nightmarish basement below.
Emily and Courtney found themselves entering the pitch black of the basement. No light illuminated the area to tell of what surrounded. But the sound of mechanical gears was louder than ever. Their course leveled out, meaning they had reached the bottom on the stairs and into the basement itself. Looking off to her left Emily saw a faint light began to shine on them, at first she thought it was a flood light or something of the sort, but then she realized it was the lights from the eyes of the clown robots. Dozens of them. They lined the walls of the basement like a monotonous chorus, marching in circles. In the dim light she could also see several other mechanic robots, and others she didn’t recognize. Each more misshapen than the last. Tilting her head as far back as the joints could allow she saw by the red illumination of their captor’s eyes that they were heading toward a table in the middle of the main area.
Courtney let out a gasp and Emily trued to see what it was, only to see two large claws descending from the ceiling. The two were released by the mechanic and immediately grasp by the two claws, then lifted above to the table where they hung in silence. Then, down from the darkness came a large red light, she realized it was a singular eye as it looked them up and down. After a moment of silence the light in the room began to increase, and she could see the eye was connected to the body of a monstrous mechanical spider. It wasn’t a true spider, but it was the closest thing Emily could compare it too. A monstrous bloated body, connected to nearly a dozen arms and legs ending with multiple graspers and tools. It hung, suspended by thick cords from the ceiling. Looking closer she realized some of the cords were electronic and internet interface.
“Well, well, well.” A large rasping voice addressed them. The two friends were shocked to her another voice and found themselves unable to respond. “Our guests have arrived.” the voice sounded like it came from a voice synthesizer, one far out of date, or possible multiple smaller units being used as one. Each slightly off from the one before it, giving an echoing sound like something from sci-fi movie. Emily could only smile inwardly at the fact this wasn’t a movie, but real.
“Who are you?” she asked, being the first one to speak up. The claw in response set Emily down on the metal table, followed by the still silent Courtney.
“You are interesting.” the voice rasped. “In years I had never had one last more than twenty four hours. Least of all past night. But you have lasted far longer. I will enjoy absorbing you.”
“What?” Emily asked suddenly feeling must more afraid then she had been even a minute before. “Why are you doing this?”
“Yes, I think we deserve some answers.” Courtney added standing next to her friend.
“You deserve nothing.” the voice responded focusing on Courtney. “The other one interests me.” With that, the claw descended again and grabbed Courtney by the waist and began hauling her upward. Emily grabbed for her friend, but was unable to hold on with her jointed hands and fell back to the table as her friend was lifted out of sight.
“Bring her back!” Emily demanded.
“You can demand nothing. For your show of resistance I was planning to tell you my plans. But if you continue to protest I shall tell you nothing.”
“Why would you tell me your plans? What are you, a Bond villain?
“Because I wish for you to know terror as you learn what awaits you and your friend, and soon your entire town. Your friend shall not be harmed, yet. Merely suspended over my awaiting drones. So should you listen and give her a few minutes to live, or shall I drop her now?”
“Ok, I’ll listen.” Emily replied, the feel of defeat rushing through her after days of being trapped in the hellish house.
“You were transformed with magic. Yes it is real, I was once a practitioner of the art. At first I was content to practice. Show off for those who would watch. Transform un unwitting loner into a rabbit. I miss the stew.” The voice paused letting it sink in. “But I wanted more than could be given with simple magic tricks. A human mind can only hold so much information. But than it occurred to me while transforming a young woman into a doll much like your friend that even though they no longer had the brain, somehow they still could comprehend.
“And how they did comprehend being a toy in a maze. Running in terror, or sometimes stuck on a box unable to do anything but dance.” the voice gave a throaty chuckle and Emily realized the monstrosity truly was mad. “So it occurred to me that the person’s consciousness must somehow manifest in the new body. Or perhaps inside the body. And if I should remove the gears giving motion to the doll, and place them in my own, would I not gain all the knowledge of the forbearer?”
“You-you’re insane!” Emily cried. The image of a claw removing her gears leaving in empty husk sending her shaking in fright.
“I was correct! By transforming myself, then adding the parts of the others, I grew far beyond what I could dream of. It was easy to travel the country, a magically created guise. Over the last forty years I have grown into what you see before you. I have grown beyond what I could even dream of being. Evolved with the changes. as my mind is mechanical, I could interface with the newly growing internet. It was child’ work to impalement subliminal messages to get those nearby to walk into my lair.” the voice continued. Trace Russian accent playing across it’s voice.
“You can’t make people obey you over the internet, you’re insane!”
“Oh am I? Then how do you explain how you arrived here? A promising young engineering student, home for summer break to visit mommy and daddy. You parents have already received the Email you sent telling them how you’ve had to go back to school due to a misunderstanding in your final grade. Your friend is only here because she didn’t buy the letter and began looking for you, I had to keep her quiet.”
Emily was too stunned to even reply. She couldn’t remember why she had been here in the first place. Was he telling the truth? Why other reason would both she and her friend come to this old house.
“It’s only a mater of time before I can implement mass changes. Imagine, a senator goes missing for a few days, only to show back up with an off feeling to devote his privet bank account into an unknown address floating around in the back of his mind. Money, power, knowledge, all mine.” at this point a light switched on to the right of the table, Emily looked over the edge to see Courtney stabbed to a smaller table with a circular saw hovering a few millimeters over her stomach.
“Help!” Courtney called up to her friend as the power tool turned on with a deafening noise. Thoughts raced through Emily’s head at warp speed. What could she do? She was no match physically for the spider, let alone the hordes or robots below. And it was far smarter than she.
“Wait!” Emily shouted as the saw just began to tear into the yellow leotard of her friend. “If you are so smart I have a challenge. If you win, you tear us both apart. I win, we go free.”
“And why would I agree to that when I can just tear you apart now?” the voice asked in reply. Although it sounded annoyed, it also sounded interested. It had probable been a whiles sense it had a real conversation to test it’s knowledge.
“Because if you are as smart as you say you have nothing to fear. But if you’re bluffing like I think you are I’ll know it.”
“BLUFFING!?!” the voice roared. “I am interwoven into the internet and all knowledge contained within the world’s computers! What knowledge could you know that I could not find out within nanoseconds?”
“Well you’ll have to see, wont you?”
The singular red eye narrowed to a pinpoint as it leered at her. “What feats do you wish to test? Knowledge, strength?”
“Information gathering.” Emily replied as if knowing something that he didn’t. We will each write down a task for the other. Then reveal the information to be gathered at the same time. The first one to gather the information will win.
The red eye pulsed, before speaking. “Agreed.
“If you win, we both surrender. If I win, we go free, turned back to normal. And if we tie. She goes free.” Emily said pointing at her friend still staring at her father’s circular saw now half an inch from her stomach.
“A Tie? A tie is not possible. It is all or noting.”
“No, if we tie she goes free, either that or I’m not playing.”
“Fine, I shall tear you apart and gather the information myself.”
“But that won’t work, you may obtain my knowledge, but not my wisdom. You would be left with just the information I have an no knowledge of how to apply it. If you win I will make sure you know how to apply all my knowledge and the secondary input to the information you’ve already gathered.”
“You would choose to retain consciousness within the data stream with no body or self will? This interests me.”
“Yes.” Emily bluffed having no idea she had just resigned herself to an eternity of mindless compiling as a computer program if she failed.
“Deal, We shall begin.” with that two more claws descended and offered a small pen and a piece of paper. He had been gathering the tools needed while they had been talking, Emily guessed. This was probably his first real chance to test the knowledge and he was eager to show off. A computer screen dissented and turned toward the eye as something scrolled across. She could only imagine what he must be thinking up.
After a few minutes of silence of writing the two turned towards each other and readied themselves. “Would you like to reveal first?” Emily asked the spider in the most cordial way she could. Even though she would have throw up if she had a stomach.
“Yes.” the computer replied, she could tell she was almost smiling with his one eye as she turned the screen to her to reveal the problem. “Find the square root of the distance from the earth to the sun divided by the distance from the earth to the moon. Rounded to the nearest millionth” Emily’s eyes went wide with shock, she had been expecting something of the sort, but was still hoping against hope it would be something she could answer.
“Your turn.” the spider declared. It’s limbs twitching in eagerness.
“Ok. It’s the best I could come up with.” she said turning her piece of paper around. “Count to the highest number in infinity. Twice.” “Ready? Let’s start.” she said smiling.
“That. That. That . . . LIER! YOU CHEET! There is no limit to the numbers. It is an impossible task!”
“True, And I can’t really tell you the answer to the question you gave me either. I guess we have a tie.”
“Wrong, my recourses are limitless. I do not yield!”
“Than prove it.”
The red eye blinked once, then glowed a sickly green color before vanishing completely. Looking up on the computer screen Emily could see a number counter climbing higher so fast she couldn’t keep track. He was already in the trillions, with no signs of slowing down.
“Hello, are you still there?” she asked as she watched the horde or clowns and mechanic robots seemingly slump over in place.
The screen continued to climb past any known number Emily could count, before blinking once, twice, then a third. Upon the third time the numbers reappeared, but this time as a series of zeroes and ones.
“And that is how you reduce a super computer into a calculator.” she said dusting her epaulets off as if nothing had happened. Suddenly there was a groaning noise from below as Courtney suddenly became too large for her captor to hold and it was crushed under her weight. Reaching up she grabbed the saw from the second robot and began cutting it apart with feverish speed. After a minute or two she got to her feet and wiped a few strands of sweat from her forehead. Laughing at the ability to sweat again.
Standing up she turned to the table with tears in her eyes as she looked down at her best friend, still a small soldierette doll standing on the table. “I’m so sorry, you shouldn’t have worried about me, you could have turned back and saved me some other way.”
The doll looked herself over, hoping for a transformation to occur, but sadly nothing happened. “Oh well, at least I’m not the one in the tutu.” Emily replied in a tiny voice pointing to the fact that the once again human Courtney was still in a frilly tutu and ballet shoes. “tell you what, get us out of here and we’ll call it even.” she said trying to lighten the mood.
“Ok, but one thing first.” Courtney said turning ominously towards the spider with saw in hand.
Two weeks later Courtney’s mother was laying a freshly folded load of laundry on Courtney’s otherwise unmade bed. Looking to the head she saw the little wind-up toy she had supposedly won at a fair a few weeks before. Courtney had not let the thing out of her sight since then. At stood straight on her nightstand, pointing directly at the television as if watching the soap opera that was playing. The remote and a small Barbie sized lawn chair beside it. The weirdest thing was the eyes seemed to follow her across the room. Shaking her head the mother left the room and was about to shut the door when Courtney nearly ran into her, having just come back from her morning jog.
“Fresh laundry’s on the bed. Lunch is in an hour.” she said passing her.
“Sure thing.” Courtney replied. Closing the door behind her. Once in the room she listened for her mother’s receding footsteps then locked the door and sat on the bed. “So, what’d I miss?”
“Jim’s uncle is in love with Ronda’s evil twin and they’re getting married the same day as Jim and Ronda, thus Marc has to choose which wedding he want’s to be best man for.” Emily replied shifting out of her standard position and sitting down.
“Ok, no more soap operas for you.” Courtney said reaching over and turning off the TV. “And stop doing that switch-positions-to-scare-my-mom thing. You’re giving her the creeps. Anyway I was reading this article about a friendly little toy shop about four hours drive from here. . . “
“You’re not selling me to a toy shop.” Emily joked, cutting her friend off even though she was eager to her the news.
“Anyway, it says it’s just a quaint little store, but ever since the whole ordeal I’ve seen seeing weird things, lights around people.”
“Called auras.” Emily interjected.
“Right, but while looking through the Google results for magic toys I stumbled across the picture. An old man and his nephew run the place. But I’ll be damned it they weren’t glowing even from just a picture.”
“You really think they could help?” Emily asked peering closer at the picture Courtney had produced from her pocket. The old man was wearing a pair of half-moon spectacles, a vest, and wiry white hair. Looking every bit the mad genius if not for the kindly smile on his face. Beside him was a man a ear or two older than they, wearing a green bucket had that mostly hid his eyes. Looking closer she thought it almost looked like he was balancing atop the railing of the cherry red counter top. But it must just be a editing mistake.
“One way to find out. Road trip!”
Two days and two hundred miles later.
Courtney turned on her turn-signal to exit the interstate and began slowing her car dawn. The small town laid stretched out before her, the only thing about three stories being the town hall steeple. “You sure this is the right place?” Courtney asked her navigator.
“According to mapquest it is.” Emily replied. The lap belt of the passenger seatbelt covering her lap and various papers laying scattered around her.
“Looks pretty small to me.” Courtney replied peering out her window as they drove into town. “I don’t see the store.”
“It’s on the other side of town. Look, if you don’t trust me than buy a GPS.” Emily said unbuckling herself and standing up to look out the window.
“Hey, sit down and buckle up.”
“Or what, the police will pull you over for an unrestrained passenger? Watch, problem solved.” Emily joked rocking back and forth like a bobble toy.
“Har har. Very funny. Oh wait- here it is.” the car pulled into a parking space directly outside the shop. The window was dark and they couldn’t tell if it was open until Courtney saw the sign. Picking her friend up she walked up to the window to peer inside. Emily of course assuming her normal saluting with a wind smile posture to avoid people wondering about the talking toy.
“Look’s like it’s open. Here’s hoping.” Courtney said opening the doors and stepping inside. Once in the doors they were taken aback by the feel of the place. The ancient looking shelves. The hundreds of types of toys sitting on the shelf. Hardly any brand name items, these all looked handmade. Walking deeper into the store they found themselves at an opening where the cash register rested on redwood bar. Off to the side a man with a green bucket hat was bending something into shape holding it up they realized it was a boat made of metal. Beside him a girl with long blonde hair and a pair of glasses was using a paintbrush to pain an boat identical boat to the one the man was holding. Placing it off to the side she grabbed the boat he was working on and began painting that one as well.
“Um, excuse me. I was wondering if there was someone to help us -err- me with a question.” Courtney asked walking into sight. Not wanting to come off the lunatic by asking if they magically could transform this toy into a human. But the act was cut short by Emily suddenly breaking character and exclaiming. “What, what’s wrong?”
“The, girl has strings.” Emily said pointing to the blonde girl. Looking closer she could see the girl did in face have strings appearing from her wrists, shoulders, and feet. Along with a pair of dots that almost matched Emily’s. the strings rose into the air before meeting with a floating pair of marionette sticks.
“Wow, talking toy or transformed person?” The marionette asked the man in the bucket hat.
“Transformed, actually, both have been transformed pretty recently.” the man replied putting down the boat he was working on and with a leap vaulting over the counter.
“Whoa, how did you do that?” Courtney asked as the marionette took the long was around.
“Your friend is a toy and you’re asking how I jumped? Ha!”
“You’re sounding like your uncle.” the Puppet scolded. “I’m Jenifer. This is Jason. And no I’m not a puppet all the time, he just sometimes take playtime a little too far.”
“Oh, would you like me to turn you back?” Jason asked turning back to Jenifer and crossing his arms.
“No. Not at least till we’re done.” she replied sheepishly. “Ignore me, help them.”
“Ignore you? With those puppet strings? Hardly.”
“Ahem!” Emily cleared their throat loudly. Now it was Jason’s turn to act sheepish.
“Ok, why don’t you tell us what happened, and the nature of the transformation. It’ll save me a lot of time in the end.” Jason said gesturing to the counter and the seats sitting around it. Emily was placed on the counter top and began to tell the story, interrupted as Jason shrunk Jenifer down to the same size as herself, and a matching outfit, save for the fact that it was blue. Oddly it made her feel batter to be able to talk with someone on her own size. And so she recounted the tale.
“Wow, so you outsmarted a supercomputer?” Jenifer asked once the story was over.
“See? I’m always trying to tell you the difference between knowledge and wisdom.” Jason added, smiling down to the two. “Ok, looks like we’ve got a high level area effect spell with a machine interface. Do you happen to have the doorknob with you?”
“The door knob?” Courtney asked dumbfounded.
“Yes, the spell was triggered with the touch of the doorknob, the active spell was removed once the computer shut down, but there should be traces of the spell active. If I have this I can reverse the spell much faster.”
“No. we didn’t know we’d need the knob.” Emily replied downcast she wasn’t going to be returned to normal as soon as she hoped.
“Not a problem. I can still do it. It’ll just take a few hours.”
“Really, you can still do it then?”
“You betcha. Do you want changed back fully as well?” he asked looking up to Courtney.
“What? I am normal.”
“Well physically sure. But mentally you’ve still got some work going on. Have you been interested in Ballet of late?” Courtney could only blush in reply. “That’s just a little bit of the spell left over. Remove that and you’re back to normal.”
“Um, No. I’m fine with it the way it is.”
“That works just as well.” With that Jason snapped his fingers and Courtney once more found herself falling downward. She floated to a rest next to the two other dolls, once more dressed in the same yellow leotard and tutu.
“Ha. I knew you’d been acting strange.” Emily jeered at her friend. “Wait, how can you change her just like that. But it takes a few hours to turn me back?”
“Because I’m undoing someone else’s spell. I can undo my own in my sleep. But undoing a nasty piece of work like this? It’ll take some time.
“Oh, what do you need me to do?”
“Just stay in the shop. Have a look around. So long as you’re in here I can work just fine.”
The threesome of toys requested to be floated to the ground where they then began to look throughout the store in a completely different point of view. “So, how did you come to be involved in all this?” Emily asked Jenifer.
“Well it all started this one time a friend of mine found an old board game. We’ll have to play once Jason’s done . . .”