Aaron Steinmetz

...be very still...the bird's angry...and I think he can see us.

Cocoa Tales: Episode 24

Ten minutes later, a guard was walking along the nearly empty beige hallway near the armory door. He stopped suddenly when a loud thump reverberated from the armory. He stopped, and he stared at the door. He tilted his head to the side when the thump occurred again. Waving over another guard, he spoke softly into his microphone: "Come on down here, sir, something is going down."

Another guard approached the armory door slowly, his hand on his gun. Another audible thump vibrated the door briefly. The guards, now a full semicircle around the armory door, stepped back when the thumping became louder, and then continued one, another, then another, and then the door opened. A slow cloud of mist slipped out of the door and the guards quickly raised their guns.

Out of the mist stepped Floyd in black battle armor equipped with robotic legs, his face occluded by a reflective mask. He held a double-barreled shotgun and his voice, electronic through the mask, said, "It’s my story now, Teller."

In the center of the semicircle, The Chief stood with arms crossed. He cleared his throat and said, "Floyd?"

Raising the reflective mask, Floyd stared at his chief. "Oh. Hi Chief. I, uh..."

"What are you doing?"

"Okay, listen: the Storyteller has gone rogue. He’s working against us now."

"The Storyteller."

"Yeah," Floyd said nodding quickly. "The guy telling this story. He was on our side and now he’s on Monty Gerald’s side. He had writer’s block a while back but it looks like he’s changed sides to get the story going again. But I’m fighting back, Boss, I’m fighting the Storyteller."

Lowering his head for a moment, the Chief exhaled slowly through his nose. He smiled, lifted his head and said, "Floyd, buddy, you’re clearly very tired. I’ve been asking a lot of you these last few days."

"It’s okay, sir, I’m on it! I’ll get this story back on track."

"We lost another high school this morning on your watch, but don’t worry: I won’t hold it against you. Clearly you’ve been running quite a while on no real sleep. I just think we should let you get some. We’ve got a bed for you here in Cell Block ‘S’ so you can get some rest."

Another guard removed the gun from Floyd’s hands as the Chief took Floyd by the arm. "No!" Floyd exclaimed, "you’re working for him, aren’t you!?"

"I am," the Chief said as though he were speaking to a toddler, "I am working for...the Storyteller?"

A few of the guards snickered behind Floyd. "No!" Floyd exclaimed as they dragged him down the hallway. "You shouldn’t be working for him! He’s bad now! He’s bad now!"

Pacing around the cell, sans battle armor again, Floyd was breathing heavily. The Sandman was seated on the bed watching him pace, Jessica seated next to him. "Okay, so when I was in Paris," she said, gesticulating with her hand, "and I was running and running down the alleyway: I stopped. And I was about to check the dumpsters when something exploded a hundred yards behind me."

"I was in one of the dumpsters," The Sandman replied.

With a semi-frustrated smile Jessica shook her head and a fist. "I knew it!"

"Remote detonator," The Sandman continued. "I never trusted the guy with the goatee. I set up the diversion in case he betrayed me."

"Yeah, I only worked with him the one time," Jessica said with a nod. "I knew he couldn’t cut it."

The Sandman nodded. "Yeah, Holiday, if you’d checked the dumpsters first, you might’ve caught me."

"Eh, what can you do?" Jessica said with a shrug. "What about London?"

"Oh I was gone from London long before you got there, kiddo. You were chasing one of my doubles that time."

"A double? Really?"

"Yeah, and man did he have a crush on you. Broke his heart to leave you behind on that helipad."

"Hm," Jessica said with a nod. "He did his job well."

"He really did."

"Where is he now?"


"That’s a shame."

His patience exhausted, Floyd began kicking the door to the cell, pounding it with his fists. The banging and clanging echoed throughout the cell block.

"Why did I just let them throw me in here!?" Floyd shook his head. "I was holding a gun, I was wearing battle armor...why was I wearing battle armor!?"

Jessica Holiday and The Sandman glanced at each other and then turned back to Floyd. They both shrugged silently.

Staring blankly into space for a moment, Floyd let his arms fall at his side. His exasperated voice was weak: "I was walking down the hallway with a purpose. I was trying to get away from the Storyteller because he betrayed us. Then I saw the door to the armory. Why did I go in there? I wasn’t planning on killing anyone or attacking anyone, and I didn’t think anyone would attack me. And I wouldn’t’ve fought back if I did. Not lethally, anyway." With a resigned sigh he fell back against the bars of the cell. "He’s still controlling us," Floyd muttered. "Even when he’s not around. He controls everything. Like we’re all attached to him by string. He’s the puppeteer."

"Maybe," The Sandman said with a smirk. "Maybe not."

Without looking at him, Floyd pointed at The Sandman. "You’re right," he said, with slightly greater force. "You are absolutely right, Sandman. Because I wasn’t supposed to even be in the hallway. He said I was supposed to be in here with you. Then, suddenly, I was. Because I went into an armory I hadn’t even considered going into before. An armory I didn’t even know was there." He turned to Naomi who was seated on the cool concrete floor of the cell. "And you," he whispered, "you’re not even supposed to be here."

"I was supposed to be introduced in Part Two," Naomi said. "I came through The Rift, you see."

"Does he even know what The Rift is?"

Naomi nodded. "Oh the Master does. The Master has a plan." Then Naomi tilted her head to the side. "It’s just, things are getting a bit slippery. Ever since his muse left him."

Floyd nodded too. "He’s losing control of the story."

The Sandman smiled. "He’s already lost control of one character. A rather important one, I might add."

"The one that wants to kill us all," Floyd hissed. He kicked the cell bars, then stepped away from them.

With a smirk, Monty Gerald asked, "Are you angry to be with us this evening, Detective Floyd?"

"Shut up, Gerald," Floyd said. "I don’t have a beef with you."

"Oh, well," Monty said scratching his neck, "that’s a real shame because I’m afraid I have a beef with you. A rather large one."

"You put yourself in jail, Gerald," Floyd said, "and now it seems you have the Storyteller in your pocket?"

"Rather deep pockets," Nibbles said stepping Faber’s body forward. "What do you intend to do with the Storyteller?"

With a laugh, Monty said, "What can’t I do? This whole world is at my disposal! With the Storyteller at my side, I can do whatever the bleep I want."

Nibbles snickered. "Except use profanity, it would seem."

"Well, we’ll deal with that in due time, cat," Monty said with a sneer, "after I deal with you, Detective Floyd."

"Deal with me?"

Monty stepped forward. "I would’ve liked to deal with you and your partner, but it seems your partner is out of commission for the moment. But you...you have all your memories intact."

Blankly staring at the man in the cell, Floyd blinked a few times. "Okay," he said slowly, "memories of what?"

Cracking his knuckles, Monty replied, "That’s what I intend to find out. Guards!"

Storming into Cell Block ‘S’ the guards approached Floyd’s cell with menace and opened the door quickly.

"Can I save a lot of time," Floyd said stepping back, "and say that I know nothing."

"Of course you would say that Detective Floyd," Monty stated.

"No, I really, really don’t," he said shaking his head. "Seriously: the Storyteller is an idiot. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. I don’t know anything about anything."

The guards grabbed Floyd by the arms and began dragging him out of the cell.

Looking down at his body, Floyd asked, "Why am I not fighting back? I want to fight back? Why aren’t I struggling!?"

Speaking quietly, Jessica asked, "Should I be doing something to help right now?"

"I don’t think it matters one way or another," The Sandman replied.

"Yeah, you’re probably right," Jessica replied. "Been chasing The Sandman for years, and for what? I’m locked up right next to him."

"Ah, hang in there, kiddo," The Sandman said with a smirk. You can always chase me tomorrow."

"Assuming it’ll ever arrive," Jessica said with a sigh. "Sweet crackers, this day just won’t end..."