Bucks County Writers Workshop
The Yellow Bus
harles and Ingrid approached the house of the Master with building trepidation. It had been a long strange trip. The kidnapping, the cover-up, the interrogation at the hands of the police, and now this, a midnight meeting at the residence of the Master. They had been summoned by the Master to meet a man named L. Ron Hubbard, a minister of sorts who promised to deliver hundreds more souls to the cause. They would join the twenty or so children who now occupied the Master's palatial estate atop Mount Nosense. Together they would plan the next act of terror, harvest the next crop of servants to the cause.Thunderbolts clapped overhead, interspersed with flashes of jagged white light in the distance. From inside they heard screaming and shrieks in high voices, girls, and boys. They hit the doorbell again and then Ingrid lifted on of the two oversized hand carved wooden knockers on the door.
"Nice knockers," Charles said shooting her a sideways glance.
"Don't start with the Young Frankenstein crap," she shot back, releasing the knocker. The door inched open as if on its own.
Inside, they saw the children from the bus running in circles in and out of the massive stone room that reminded Charles of a dungeon. Shrieks and screams echoed about the hall and the two visitors raised their hands to cover their ears. The door closed behind them just as a flash of light appeared in one of the second floor barred windows, followed by a another clap of thunder that augmented the closing sound of the door.
"No, no, please ... not me," a girl shrieked happily as she ran in circles.
Charles and Ingrid recognized her as Darlene. Chasing her was Mikey, a boy from their school. The man and woman stared unnoticed by the children as the truth sunk in slowly. At first it was the body postures of the kids. Then it was their expressions. Charles had expected fear, Ingrid terror. But it was quite different from that. The kids were playing. Tag, keep away, you're it. The Master was nowhere in sight.
Just then a spotlight from behind them lit the balcony across the room, high above their heads. Charles and Ingrid ducked behind a curtain near the door. They craned to see who was operating the spotlight, but were blinded by the whiteness of the light. When the spots left their eyes they refocused on the balcony and saw the Master in his red and gold flowing robes.
"Subjects!" he boomed, his voice augmented by an unseen microphone and echoing stone walls. "Cease your games and listen to me. I am the Master."
The kids slowed their movements and looked up.
"The Master?" one boy said, giggling.
"Master-bater," the others answered in a chant. From the left side of the hall: "Mas-ter ..." then the right "Bat-er ..."
Mikey led the chant. "Now the girls."
"Now the boys."
On and on it went, the sound was deafening. Another figure appeared on the balcony. A smaller man wearing white robes.
"I am Richard Riser, the Master's brother and adviser," he bellowed. "You must listen to the Supreme Being."
"Dick Riser," a boy's voice answered, and then the scornful, mocking chant picked up again in full voice.
"Mas-ter Ba-ter ... Dick-Riser. Mas-ter Ba-ter ... Dick-Riser."
Suddenly in a flash of lightning the Master and his brother vanished from the balcony.
Charles and Ingrid hugged the wall and slipped into an adjacent room unseen. They crept through the halls, ascended stone steps in the rear, exchanging silent glances of confusion. When they reached a room on the second floor they saw light escaping from a doorway at the end of the hall and inched closer. Charles and Ingrid removed their shoes and tiptoed toward the light.
"What's wrong with the Master?" Ingrid whispered. "He doesn't seem to have ... I don't know ... any more power over me."
"Me either, or the kids. It's weird."
As they approached the light at the end of the hall they saw the Master and his brother in a room, the two sitting before a computer screen.
The Master said, "Someone has posted a message on a computer Website claiing that the children will continue their mocking chant for the next ten years. For Christ's sake, I'll be eighty by then."
"Who made the claim?"
"Someone named O'Toole."
"Mick bastard." The Master's brother scowled. "Why won't the children listen to you anymore ?"
"I've lost my mojo," the Master said, hanging his head.
"How is that possible?"
"It happened after Chapter Fifteen. The force of evil left the group and since then I have no power to control people or situations."
"What can we do?" His brother asked. The question lingered in the air.
Charles and Ingrid, still unseen, squinted to make out the image on the screen. They could just barely see the type on the Web page but the bold letters at the top were clear. BCWW, BUCKS COUNTY WRITERS WORKSHOP.
The two interlopers withdrew into the hall.
"Could it be?" Ingrid whispered.
"I guess it could," Charles said as he shrugged his shoulders. A wild eyed look came over him, Gene Wilder, followed by the expression of a man who'd just thought up a cure for cancer. "This whole thing, the kidnapping, the cops, us. It's all being written by twenty people in some godforsaken town in Pennsylvania. It's on the Internet, a workshop exercise.This wack job is reading the whole thing and plotting his wave of terror to follow the story of an online novel!"
A flash of lighting followed for emphasis, then a clap of thunder.
Inside the computer room, Richard said, "Well, brother, what to do now? Ten more years of this incessant mocking? I for one can't take it."
"I have an idea," the Master said. "Says here they meet in a library in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, every two weeks. Let's just see what a supernatural foot soldier from the Army of the Evil Empire can do about that!"
"You got it. He owes us."
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Bucks County Writers Workshop