Yesterday I was Sister Maria…now I guess I’m just Maria.
No, I still believe in God. But now I believe in something else, too.
I don’t remember what happened. When they found me, I was writing a story, they said. I don’t know what it’s about, I don’t remember writing it. After the third one went mad, they stopped trying to read it. I’m afraid to open the notebook.
They’re saying I just wandered away from the convent, but I think I was kidnapped. I think something hit me in my head, or they drugged me…not just because of the memory loss. I’ve gone kind of color-blind, too. See, this was my favorite yellow notebook, but now it’s just grey to me…
It’s an odd coincidence. The title of my story, you can see here…it’s called The King in Yellow. I wonder what it’s about…
What’s that piece of grey cloth you’re holding? Is it important?
Thunder rumbles from the smoggy horizon, loud enough to be heard over our topless Cadillac’s roaring engine and the wind rushing past my ears at some horrible number of miles per hour. The dirt is bright orange and the heavy air smells like a laundromat and the cries of wheeling birds of prey mingle with those of the cannibals driving the minivan in our rear-view mirror, hurling insults and laughter and obsolete plastic discs people used to store music on. Her tight white braids flutter and snap like snakes and I hold my hands in front of my face to keep from being bitten again.
The meaning of everything begins to wobble and spin out of control like a top winding down.
Our car bursts through the gates of the asylum past bored, mustached fat men in guard uniforms and fishtail to a stop in a wide, gravel-spraying arc. She shouts at me to grab “the package” and together we carry the squirming, straightjacketed savior up the worn sandstone steps and down the checker-tiled hallway, scattering howling, red-faced nurses and hoary patients who stare and fumble for words, while behind us the cannibals and the guards brawl like Valhalla.
We thrust our package back into his Lazyboy and spin him to face the fire and a slow smile creeps across his beard like a plague and we catch our breath for a minute, listening to the sounds of the universe grinding back up to speed.
“Matreyia, Jesus, whatever, it’s all the same,” she claims, waving her hands to validate her excuses. “We had a party with too much water and not enough wine, it seemed like the obvious thing to do.”
“No more kidnapping deities,” I panted as I stumbled out the door, and looked up just in time to see the stars coming back on.
I don’t know how many groups there are. One of them is trying to kill me. Well…both of them are trying to, kind of. But one of them is trying to kill me for my own good.
I really thought I was safe this time. I went to sleep on the floor behind the couch with a dummy under the blankets. I left an honest-to-god bear trap on the floor in front of the locked front door, and I have a loaded shotgun in my hands. But they still got in. It’s like they can walk through walls.
Okay, that sounds like I’m going nuts…but she told me it’s still not enough. There no longer is any such thing as too paranoid.
I wonder if the two conspiracies are really the same thing. If she’s just playing with me before she reveals herself.
Tonight I somehow realized, not just on the surface but as an emotional truth in the back of my lizard brain – it’s not a question of “if” they’re going to kill me. It’s just a question of “when”. They will never stop trying. Sooner or later, I have to make a mistake.
She takes the gun away from the back of my neck and tells me she wants me to meet someone. My new partner. A nun.
Before she leaves, she hands me a piece of yellow cloth. She says I should keep an eye on it. Whatever that means.