They began racing down the wide deserted hallway, torch lights reflecting brightly off the marble floor.
I will not speak with her.
“Wait.” The Bird had stopped on recognizing her mother’s voice, coming from the next room on their left. What would she have? Mr. Jacobs nodded in recognition, and even Butch seemed to understand. “My mother’s able to come out of character. The scene she’s in, there’s a long period where she doesn’t have any lines; I’ll talk to her, see if she knows anything more about what’s happening.”
Mr. Jacobs weighed her proposal carefully. “Right now we need all the information we can get. Let me — ”
“No.” The Bird bit her lip. “My mother freaked when she saw you before. If it’s just me, I can keep her calm. You and Butch, you need to find Annie.”
Mr. Jacobs frowned, his face betraying resignation at accepting the teen girl’s logic, in spite of his reservation about its conclusion. “You remember how to get back to that room where our little adventure started?” She nodded. “Soon as you’re done with your mother, you get back there, wait for one of us. Do not wander the halls by yourself — understood?” Her second nod served as a signal for Mr. Jacobs and Butch to resume their search for Annie.
Let her come in. How odd, thought The Bird, to have left one scene only to stumble almost immediately onto the next. The door to this scene’s room was open, and a quick peek revealed the actors had their backs turned to the teen. The Bird saw her mother, still wearing the bee-hive wig and comically large horn-rimmed glasses of Save-Anna, as if her role in this production was to inform the cast they could save an extra 10% of every order over $100 during the weekly Wacky Wednesday sale at their local Shop ‘N Save (alcohol excluded).
And then Ophelia was there, as if she had been in the room the entire time; The Bird scanned the room quickly, did not see Annie. She remembered what Double-J said, about seeing the two of them leave the castle — Ophelia might have been collecting the flowers she was now offering to Gertrude. But as she wondered about how the usually hyper-competent Annie could have lost track of her quarry, The Bird saw another figure enter the scene.
How do you, pretty lady? The Bird gasped — Claudius’ lines weren’t being spoken by the actor they had seen earlier, but rather by a man wearing a pencil-thin moustache. “Teddy Jasper!”
This latest surprise was more than the teen could bear. Knowing Gertrude had no lines for several minutes, she stepped into the room, approached her mother from behind. As if following a stage direction, her mother turned, her face erupting in dismay.
“You’ve got to get out of here!”
“I know, Mom. I just don’t — ”
“You, and your friends. Get back in the audience, where you belong!”
“Mom, I don’t know how!”
Her mother displayed no sign of empathy. “Sandy, I’m doing everything I can to keep this play going. If your friends interrupt any further, this play might not finish!”
The Bird thought a moment, and somehow recognized the truth in her mother’s statement. As bizarre as this whole experience had been, they play had been progressing forward, despite Double-J’s violent intrusions. But if he, or any of her other friends did something so extreme to prevent the performance from reaching its conclusion — could they all wind up trapped here?