Episode Zero: The Beginning…Duh!

“How am I supposed to begin this story?  It’s really too bizarre for me to put down in words.  Even the online dictionaries aren’t helping,” G. Buckingham Price typed into his freshly opened browser window. “I’m sitting in a neon pink bedroom on a canopy bed, surrounded by stuffed animals and boy band posters.  Somehow, despite my being surrounded by enough floral fabric to satisfy even my grandmother, my penis has not, as of yet, shriveled and died…”

    Buckingham frowned as he read the last line.  His finger pressed down the delete key until all he was left with was a blinking cursor. “I really should start at the beginning, right?” He sighed to one of the stuffed animals on the bed.  The uniquely Japanese blue bunny-puppy-octopus combination plushy stared back at him with beady black eyes.

    “It all started with a stupid commercial.  I had stayed up till two AM writing a paper about the impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union on the world economy when I saw two dorks in terrible polo shirts playing with PS1 controllers and pretending to be making video games.  Hell, if these schmucks could make a game, why couldn’t I?  Never mind the fact that I had invested 3 years and much of my future earning potential studying accounting back home in Indiana, I made a decision then and there to stop living my parents dream and run blindly after my own.”

    Once again he sighed and ran his fingers through his mop of perpetually bed-head styled mousy brown hair.  “That isn’t really the beginning, is it?” he asked the little toy.  It’s soulless yet blank expression mirrored his own.  He tried to shake the cobwebs out of his brain by hopping from the bed and pacing.  His oversized feet somehow found every squeak and groan in the pine floorboards and as he stretched his arms he smacked his hand painfully against one of the bedposts.

    “Damn it!”

    He stumbled back into the throng of cuteness and rubbed his temples, making the mistake to actually catch his reflection briefly in the mirror.  “I need some sleep,” he muttered to the circles under his eyes.  A message from his online banking popped up briefly in the corner of his screen.  Buckingham sighed at the line “A confidential message has been sent to the card holder regarding his account.”  

    His fingers flew back over the keys despite the new bruise welling up under his well cultivated nerd tan.  “It all started with a bad week, one really, really, completely awesomely bad week…” Buckingham started to lean back and close his eyes, just letting his hands ease off the laptop when the walls began to shake and the ceiling vibrate.  Drums pounded and synthesizers clanged until something that sounded like a cat dying began to wail over the oontz, oontz, oontz sounds.

    “K.K. must have gotten up,” he said as he bolted back upright.  The music faded in and out a few times until a slightly less grating synth line faded in.  Buckingham tapped his feet in time to a song he had begun to recognize.  He then pushed his laptop to the side and buried his face under a pillow, but
the German lyrics refused to go away. “What the hell does ‘Erinnerung’ mean anyway?” he sighed, flipping his hair out of his eyes once more.

Finally ingenuity took control and he stuffed the pillow behind his head and leaned against the wall.  A silly grin crept across his face as soothing vibrations eased the strain of hunching over screen for hours. “Better than spending a day massage chair hopping at the mall,” he purred.  He yanked the laptop back onto his legs, careful to use a towel to ease any ball burning discomfort as he chose to spend his Saturday afternoon blogging in his boxers.

“So it started with the week from hell…”  He shook his head and deleted the line again.

“It started with my total douche of a boss giving me three boxes of employee expense reports to audit because my predecessor at Hartford and Price had decided to marry a woman half his age and move to Orlando…”

“It started with my getting a job at my dad’s firm over the summer to help pay for school…”

“It started with Tina breaking up with me—” His hand shook a little as he deleted that line.

“It started with me going out with the only cheerleader in high school who fell off the victory pyramid and ended up getting a concussion and broken ankle and therefore missed 2 weeks of school and needed a math tutor.   She also apparently hit her head hard enough to date a total dork… for three years, three pretty decent years that could just be flushed down the toilet when a hot guy from Toledo decides to roll into town and look for a new ‘car wash girl’ for his 30 second cable commercial—”

“It started with my brother—”

Bucky looked over at his small contributions to the room’s décor – a postcard from Juneau. He cracked his knuckles and stared at the line he had just typed.  The blinking cursor flashed in his light green eyes for nearly a minute before he dared to hit backspace again.

“It started with the Roman Empires defeat at the hands of the Goths,” he typed with a little smile as some more thumpy music cued overhead. “I wonder if they were perky Goths like my housemate,” he mused.

“It all started with a mouse?”

“A single cell?”

“It all started with the Big Bang!” he typed making sure to click the keys in time to the relentless beat. “Come on, Price,” he chided himself. “You set a goal when you came out here.”

“It doesn’t really matter how it all started, does it?  What matters is that two weeks ago I left home for the first time since my brothers and I ran away to Aunt Cassidy’s for a summer because she made cookies and had an awesome pool.  I packed up the few boxes of crap I cared about, my computer and all my clothes that weren’t completely covered in holes and/or sweat stains, shoved them in the back of my super awesome ’92 American made hatchback and left the proverbial, well in this case literal, basement.  I saw the commercial while I was up late checking hotel charges and subtracting wine and cigarettes snuck onto the company card and I got the brochure.  Of course that school was too expensive as were about five others that I’d heard of, but my phone call got me on all the mailing lists for online and technical schools.  One of them, the Musquigonaquit Massachusetts School of Design, even called me to offer financial aid.”

“So what did I do then?  I did what any other geek would do when presented with an opportunity to learn how to program video games on someone else’s dime.  I said yes.  I figured I had a little bit in the savings account thanks to my nepotism gotten gains and Musquigonaquit was near Boston, a college town.  Surely I could afford a place to live if all the other million students who flocked there could.”

“Needless to say, my folks weren’t exactly 100% supportive of the idea, but to their credit they are still giving me a month more to come running back before they write me out of the will. I guess I can’t blame them for being a little harsh after everything that happened with Nate, but at least I haven’t abandoned them completely for a girl… yet.”

He quickly deleted the qualifier even as a little grin crept across his face at the mention of the word ‘girl’.  The music had faded to a less ear shattering level, a surefire indication that his housemate was out of the shower and back in her room.

“I know that I should have planned better, but I hightailed to New England with my checkbook and a prayer and spent 3 days getting laughed at by realtors and 3 nights in a budget motel located eerily close to a very large prison.  I tried the paper but when the first guy asked for six references and two grand just to rent a closet, I figured my trip to New England was going to last about a week.  Just as I was giving up though, and I do mean just as I was walking back to the admissions office as MMSD to tell them no thanks, I saw an ad on the student message board outside of the offices…”

He closed his eyes and thought back to that lazy late summer day in August…

“Looking for roommate. Must be non-smoker, 21+, and able to move in ASAP. 1 room in a 4 BR Victorian/Musquigonaquit Heights Fully furnished. 350$/month. Love of video games a plus…” the ad in his hands read.

Buckingham shivered at the base of an overgrown hill.  In front of him stood a relic from The Addams Family—a sprawling gray Victorian with stained glass windows and wrought iron detail.  He tried to double check the numbers at the door but his view was obscured by a completely overgrown weeping willow that dripped into a charming little duck pond.  Well it would have been charming if there had been any ducks in the pond instead of two three foot tall gargoyles with water pouring out of their gaping lichen-covered mouths.  He gulped as he inched up the gravel path from Gallows Hill Drive.

    “It’s not too late to turn back,” he thought.

    The front gate squealed as he slipped into the yard and heavy red velvet curtains blocked the view inside as he got closer.  Beneath the placard for 13 Gallows Hill Dr., a little handwritten sign read, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

    “I have officially entered Land of the Goths,” Buckingham muttered as he gingerly knocked on the oversized door.  He stared at the ornate brass knocker, intricate gingerbread molding, and then at his own baggy corduroys.  He bemoaned his wearing an “I heart DOS Prompts” t-shirt while trying to get a place to live.  

    “What am I doing?” he muttered, turning away from the door.  Before he could take a step off the porch a giddy squeal of delight stopped him cold.

    “Oh thank goodness you are here!  I’ve been waiting all morning, and I just can’t take it anymore!” a woman’s voice purred.  It was a dichotomy of a voice—half girlish and perky, half breathy and sultry.

    Buckingham gulped as he found himself face to face with five-feet-three-inches of pouting, pert, pink-haired delight.  Despite the brilliant sun and warm weather, this girl wore a schoolgirl skirt and suspenders, with an adorable black tank and striped tights – all in unseasonal black.  Coherent thought left Buckingham as she tilted up her dominatrix hat and beamed at him through purple-tinged bangs.

    “I—I—” he stammered.

    “It’s waiting for you in the bedroom” she purred.

    He gulped, but he girl didn’t seem to notice the wash of red pouring over his face as she grabbed his hand and dragged him inside.  The visitor didn’t have time to notice the glamorous crystal chandelier or mahogany millwork.  He tramped blindly past cobwebby busts and dramatic art and up a set of spiral stairs.

    “Bean!  He’s here,” the strange girl called.

    “It’s about damn time,” another female voice said behind a closed door.

    “Two women,” Buckingham gasped. “Listen I think there’s been some mistake-”

    But the girl wasn’t listening. She burst open a door at the end of the hall to reveal a fire engine red room decorated like a Hot Topic showroom.  Buckingham blinked twice at the zebra print bedspread, and blinked twice more at the leather shackles hanging from her headboard.  In a fit of desperation he looked away only to see a shimmery, lacey, delightful little number hanging over the back of a desk chair and a pair of panties on the floor.  Only the relative sanity of a blight blue glowing screen smack dab in the middle of the bed snapped him out of the sudden blood loss to his brain. Buckingham instinctively ran over to investigate the error.  As he started to reboot the machine, the girl jumped for joy.

    “It has been one week and I keep getting the same fricking error!” she cried. “I bought this computer just under a year ago and I’m not going to send it back one more time.  Oh no, this time I’m getting a real person—”

    Buckingham lifted the sleek graphite gray machine and marveled at the little light up gear on the bottom and the premium label. “Well this is a generation and a few thousand dollars nicer than the one I have but it seems they have the same problems with the hard drive getting loose in the bracket.

    “I knew you simply had to come today after I was stuck on tech support for six hours last night. Frell Computers certainly looks out for its customers—”

    He popped out his Swiss army knife and walked the computer over to the less static-laden desk, making sure to touch his hands against her old school file cabinet that slid under her desk.  He was so entranced by his work he didn’t even notice the lingerie slipping down his back.   His hands worked at a rapid fire pace as the girl continued to talk.  His ears perked up as he heard a breathy thank you or two.

    Four tightened screws and a reboot later and her laptop whirred back to live with a series of healthy beeps and chimes.  As a wallpaper image of something that looked like a tribal tattoo married with a squid popped into view, Bucky found himself the victim of an overzealous tackle hug.

    “Oh my god, oh my god, thank you!  I thought I was going to lose a week’s worth of work for sure.  I totally need your badge number so that I can call your supervisor and thank him—”

    “Wait, you think I’m here for a service call?” Buckingham asked.

    “K.K., Frell is on the phone!  They say they won’t have a guy out till four o’clock,” the other woman called through the door.

    Buckingham grinned sheepishly. “I was trying to—”

    A pillow smacked him in the face, seemingly out of nowhere.  He tried to protest his innocence as the woman pelted him time and time again with various parts of her matched linens.  

    “Please let me explain,” he tired to say innocently as he felt something tickle him in just where his shirt had rode up in the back.  He bothered to flick the nuisance away, but when he raised his hands once more to protest his innocence a silky teddy was in his hand. “This isn’t what you think!”he gasped as he dropped the undergarment.

With a cry of “Pervert! Pervert! Pervert!” she drove him from her room.

    “I’m just here about the ad!” Buckingham cried as a stuffed moose nailed him on the forehead. “You know… looking for a roommate!”

    His vision grew fuzzy and he stumbled down the hall.  A convenient console table broke his fall.  As he came two not one but two women leaned over to get a good look at him.  As he could just peek down both the pink-haired girl and her companion’s shirts he mumbled. “Did I go to heaven or am I just dreaming?”

    “Why didn’t you just say you were here to look at the room?” the new girl asked.

    “I tried!” Buckingham protested. “But she just grabbed me.”

    The new girl turned to her companion and sighed.  This girl had a long, drawn-out face, one simply made for annoyed expressions.  With her glasses, rightly pulled back hair and conservative suit, this woman was the polar opposite of the still fuming pink-punk girl.

    “K.K., how many times have I told you not to make assumptions?” the scary woman asked.

    “But look at him, Lyla B.!  Look at those pants, and he has a laptop bag and lanyard calluses on his neck.  If he isn’t a computer geek, I don’t know what is,” K.K. exclaimed. “He’s even got a custom geek shirt from Café Press.”

    “Actually my cousin made it,” Buckingham offered.

    “You have a point, K.K. He does look the part of a tech-support loser, but you should still ask a few questions before you drag a guy to your bedroom,” Lyla sighed.

    “Um, I am still in the room.”

    “What’s your name again?” K.K. asked.

    “I never got a chance—” He stopped suddenly as she pulled a stuffed bat seemingly out of nowhere and raised it menacingly towards his head. “It’s G. Buckingham Price.”

    “Ok, Bucky, but if you want to live here we’ve got to establish some ground rules, like not going in my bedroom, you perv,” K.K. said with a stern look.

    “But, I didn’t—” Bucky started.

    Lyla just shook her head and put a condescending hand on Buckingham’s shoulder. “Just run with it if you want a place to stay.  When K.K. gets an idea in her head it’s like a freight train.  You got some references and a check for first month’s rent?”

    Buckingham snapped back to reality as it occurred to him that the music had finally gone silent and that the sun was getting low in the sky.  He frantically searched his prior musings for spelling errors before buckling down and finishing his long overdue first post to his “For the Blog” folder.

    “So that is how it all started.  I got confused for a laptop repairman and railroaded into taking a third floor walkup bedroom with hardwood floors and décor out of Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse.  Of course I’m not allowed to change anything, since both K.K. and Lyla hope that their old housemate, Sheila, will one day return to them.”

“All in all, it’s not that bad a deal.  The rent isn’t terrible, high-speed Internet access is included, and it’s only a ten-minute walk from my new school. .. And what straight American male wouldn’t love to live with two single young females, both of whom have jobs, nice cars, and smoking hot bodies.“  He read it back and edited the last line to just, “single young females.”

“The only downside is that I can’t shake this nagging feeling that something really weird is going on in this house. Maybe I’m having Francis Ford Coppola meets Dora the Explorer nightmares but there is something fundamentally frightening about being a grown man in a twelve year old girl’s bedroom.  I can’t even begin to comment on how much of a pervert I feel like even writing that line.”

It’s not just the décor though.  Lyla has spent every waking moment locked behind closed doors for the past two weeks.  I heard her typing as I went down to get cereal and I think maybe just maybe it was her car that came in and out of the garage at three AM last night.   I only know the time because the motor on the nineteen-eighty’s style garage door could wake the dead.”

Now, KK is a different story.  She seems to sleep a in really late and then go out most afternoons and evenings.  She finally forgave me for the lingerie incident and stopped by to drop off a pile of take-out menus and some clean sheets.  We then spent about four hours watching random crap online and talking about childhood cartoons until she rushed off in a panic saying she’d be dead if she missed her appointment.  Then she ran to the basement. Not to sound completely weird, but when I last saw K.K. she had a huge bandage on the side of her neck and looked a little pale.  Since she doesn’t seem the type to need a shave I’m wondering if there’s a vampire down there.  After all, why else wouldn’t I be allowed to go there—even to do laundry?”

    Buckingham took a deep breath and saved his work.  The music had finally died down and an eerie calm settled throughout 13 Gallows Hill Drive.  As he shut down his computer a new and decidedly more sinister screech came from the downstairs.  He eyed the garlic he had half-jokingly stolen from the kitchen and left on his nightstand.

    “It’s probably just the TV.  K.K. mentioned that she was watching a Hellraiser marathon soon,” he muttered to himself. “Still, I’m in a creepy gothic house in New England with two hot chicks, one being sort of blonde and the other a brainy brunette.  There is a whole section of the place I’m forbidden to go to and I know almost nothing about the owners of the house.  Something or someone only comes out at night and there are absolutely no mirrors at all on the first floor – even in the powder room.  Coincidence?”

    He then looked at his bank balance online and his announcement that class enrollment started Thursday for his exciting new career in game design.  “Oh well, I live with a vampire,” he chuckled to himself before finally getting ready for his long desired nap. “It’s better than living with my parents.”

End of Episode Zero.