Squawks of Doom

            In the darkness, amidst footsteps; there was the snipping of scissors, the scream of a girl, the slap of a cheek, the laugh of a young woman, the whimper of a boy and, after a pause, the slamming of another door.

            The lights dimmed on, sparsely filling the room.

            Betty could finally see. She looked down and screamed, when she saw the floor. There was no floor. She was about to fall!

            She blinked. She was standing firmly upon herself. It was just a mirror. She was standing on a solid floor, fully reflective. Betty could see the chandelier above and below her. And the blue walls, unblemished and empty. The room had perfect symmetry, from one door to the other.

            Sam stirred in the corner of the room, where he had fallen. A tiny trail of blood fell from the side of his mouth.

            "Are you okay, Sammy?" There were tears upon her face.

            "Yeah, I'll be fine," he said groggily. Sam rubbed his little eyes, and looked up. He could see that her dress was torn, and then noticed something profound, "Your button's gone!"

            Betty backed away, and bent forward to look at her reflection. It bothered her to see a thread of green ribbon fall to the floor. Her eyes shed more tears and she looked at Sam as he rose. His key still dangled from his neck.

            Sam reached into his right pocket, smiling, Good, I still've my birthkey, and my keychain. And the left pocket, And my jacks.

            However, the ball bounced, as it had fallen when Sam stood up.

            Betty reached for the door opposite their entrance. She tried to turn the knob, and was met with resistance.

            Samuel caught the ball, smiling once again.

            With a look of horror on her face, Betty turned around.

            And Sammy knew, before she began to bang against the door with her fists, that they were locked in.



            A skinny young man, with a tan from the Second Floor Saunas, rose up through a camouflaged trap door, into a three-person bedroom. It was white and stark, as much of Great Hall's territory had been painted.

            Ron turned to him, "Do you have the boy's key?"

            The door shut downward upon darkness, and its lock clicked. The skeletal adolescent, cloaked in black, held up a shiny button with the number '14' upon it, and two strands of emerald ribbon.

            "You fool!"

            He turned to look at what was in his hand, and his head moved back upon his neck in surprise, "Woah! She cut the wrong one."

            "Who cut the wrong one, Don?" Ron asked, seething with rage.

            "My girl."

            The trap door's lock faded into the white carpet.

            "Why was Cynthia in on this?" Ron's fist rose, and he was unsure whether he would use it to punch his brother or slam against his desk in frustration. The saunas have boiled away his brains, too.

            Donathan made a feint towards the trap door, but stopped as his brother cleared his throat.

            "Did they learn about the passages?"

            "The little girl, Betty, she already knows about the passages. She would have told him anyways."

            A bird croaked from a large cage in the corner of the room, "The little girl, crrrawwwk! The little! Betty, betty! The little girl, Betty! Crrrawk!"

            Ronald chose to bang it against the desk, causing wood to audibly splinter. Then, red-faced, he took a deep breath. Then another. And another.

            Don struggled to make eye contact with his older brother. He tried to remember that Ron was the lesser of a sinister pair. Nobody is fond of father's ex-wife. But her children, oh, they think Ron and Jon are so much more ambitious than I am.

            Finally, "Look, Don, I recognize the pattern on that key. This isn't just another petty birthkey for father's Archives. Please, we will be rewarded beyond your most ambitious dreams. You have my word, as your sibling and an Agent of Great Hall. Go back down there, and don't come back until you have it!" Bastard brother indeed.

            "Indoors," whispered Don, and the lock of the trap door faded into view, once more. Meanwhile, his right hand unclipped his keychain from the belt under his cloak. What a curious keyword. It's a one-way network, to Betty, without the keyword.

            As the trap door closed behind Don, he clipped his keys back to his belt. He fingered the precious key to the network of secret passages. Don knew it was one of many, which all opened the same network. It said so on the hilt, '7 of 20'. And the Great Hall's Agents had eleven. They used to have twelve in total, until Jon and Ron replaced one of the twelve in the Archives of Great Hall, where Sam's mother worked, with a fake they paid her to mold. They found another on their own, within the passage.

            He had earned Betty's trust, and suspected she had one, which she wasn't willing to tell him about. That girl is a habitual liar. A stranger of the truth, if there ever was one.

            Don kept walking down the dark passageway, with the light of a dying flashlight.

            Betty has one, I'm certain.

            A rat screeched, eyes glowing in the flashlight's beam, and  then ran into the darkness.

            I have lucky number seven, stolen from Archives.

            Footsteps upon distant dry floors, echoed down an unlit corridor.

            The Great Hall has eleven. Jon and Ron each have one of those eleven in their possession, as Field Agents. I'm willing to bet that Dad doesn't, because he's in administration.

            The sounds of boots upon a ladder. Cynthia?

            And the one they found? Maybe I can get Cynthia to earn their trust... and get their spare.

            A woman's voice startled him from behind, "Hey there, pretty door-slammer."



            Ronald turned to the bird cage in the corner of his room. It was empty. There was no bird in it, just feathers and feces. He snickered. The door hung ajar.

            And then, his own door came open suddenly. A masked woman entered. She was wearing a dreary gray trenchcoat. However, it was her mask that was striking. It was crimson red, and came down in the long snout of an ant eater. Its ears pointed out. And from behind it, he could see her smile.

            "Who are you?" he demanded. "Where's my parrot?"

            "The invasion of Great Hall has begun!" the woman sneered, "Give my regards to the Lock Changers!"

            Then she moved her arm into the doorway, holding a machine gun.

            The shots rang out through the empty house of the Key Keep. And in the distance, two women screamed.

            "Betty, crawk! Crrawk! Betty!"

            In a few thunderous seconds, Ronald fell to his bed in a mutilated pulp of flesh. His keys were plundered, and the map was torn from his wall.

            And from some far corner of the Key Keep's estate, the albino parrot squawked, "The little girl, crrrawk! Little girl, Betty!"

The End

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