The Objects had existed for many years and had spread throughout the world in the time since their creation. One of the few constants of the Objects was that they were always looking for a way to reunite, with each other and with the Owner. And so they spoke, in their own way, calling out to the people who carried them and urging the people to bring them together. Many times it worked, but the meetings never seemed to last long, and no one ever took them back to the Room. At least, not once they'd been taken out.
The Coat, having only recently been removed from the Room, knew little of the world, and desired only to return to the Room from whence it had come. The only good thing about it making its way into the world was that it could once again feel its siblings, could be assured of their continued survival. And like its siblings, it longed to reunite.
Unfortunately for the Coat, its cries went unheeded, having been placed in a glass case near several of its siblings, but not close enough for a true meeting. There were people who came by occasionally, though no one touched the Coat, no matter how hard it urged them to.
And so the Coat sat there, locked away from the world and waiting for the day it would be claimed again. If the Coat had had a sense of time, it would have known that it waited only weeks, but as it did not, the Coat only felt that time passed much more slowly than it should. The wait, however, was worth it, because when someone finally did come for it, it turned out not to be just any old person, but the Owner himself.
The Coat could barely hear itself over the general cacophony caused by his nearby siblings, but the Owner apparently heard it just fine, coming straight over to it and not only picking it up, but putting it on. The Coat sighed in happiness and continued to whisper to the Owner, wanting to make sure he took it with him, that he knew it would be useful.
I can dampen all my siblings' abilities. I can help you get close to them without allowing them to cause chaos together. Please take me with you. And while it didn't get words in reply, it got the general sense that the Owner knew as much, and that was exactly why he had come for it.
The Coat was glad, because it had chosen its ability specifically for this reason. It had seen what the others could do, especially together, and it knew there needed to be some way to keep them in line. The others had scoffed at its choice, but when they saw the effects of what the Coat could do, they'd all been a little bit in awe. It was too bad, really, that the Coat had been left in the Room so long when its siblings had been removed one by one, but now was obviously its time to shine, and it was looking forward to it.
The Owner began his work right away, collecting the Objects that were kept in nearby glass cases and sticking each one in a separate pocket in the Coat. He didn't need to separate them all, but there was a general sense of caution to the whole operation that convinced the Coat to just let the Owner do things how he saw fit. In any case, it was good for the Coat to be in contact with its siblings again. They seemed to feel the same, if the contented whispers were anything to go by, especially because they were with the Owner, who had the Key.
As they all hoped, the Owner opened the nearest door and took them into the Room, unloading each one of the Objects and unerringly putting them in their proper place. It was good to be brought together again. They didn't stay for long, however; just as soon as the Owner had unloaded his cargo, he picked up the Key and made for the door.
When they left the Room, the Coat began whispering to the Owner again, asking where they were going and what he was trying to accomplish. This time, the Owner replied.
"I'm rounding everything up, taking it back to the Room so it can't cause any more damage. There are hundreds of Objects out there, though; we'll be at this for awhile."
The Coat was alright with that; as long as it was with the Owner and fulfilling its purpose, it would be content.
"Good. Now let's see if we can't find some of the more dangerous things out there."
Contrary to the Owner's words, they did not immediately go out looking for the more dangerous Objects. Instead, they went to an underground storeroom, where again, many of the Coat's siblings were locked away behind glass and clamoring to get out the second they felt the Owner's presence.
Getting all of them back to the room took time, because even the Owner needed rest, and going through the trouble of coming back to the storeroom again and again seemed to drain him. Especially since he remained insistent on taking the larger Objects back to the Room one at a time, wrapped in the Coat. This time the Coat did try to remind him that it could hold more than one of its siblings and keep them from doing anything.
The Owner did what he wanted anyway, even when the Coat pointed out that taking some Object together wouldn't be bad, even if the Coat didn't hold their abilities back (the shoe and the foot powder, for instance, would allow the person using them to walk up walls without the effects of gravity). Still, the Owner insisted, and really, what did it matter, anyway? So, the Coat decided to enjoy the time with the Owner and the time the spent retrieving its siblings.
After bringing home those Objects that were relatively easy to acquire, the Owner stayed in the room and began to plan. As far as the Coat could tell, it was a relatively simple plan; not much could harm the Owner, so the biggest hurdle was the unpredictability of the other people who had the Objects. Still, the Owner seemed to focus initially on groups of Objects. Once he'd planned out their next moves, the Owner prepared to go.
The first group they went to retrieve was held by a young man who was able to keep one step ahead of them anytime they caught up. The Owner was clearly frustrated by this, given that with the Key, they should have been able to catch him easily. Problem was that he had the Soap and one of the Cufflinks, and every time he used them, it opened a rip in the fabric of space that he could disappear into.
If that had been all there was to it, they might never have caught the young man, but it was his bad luck that the space between dimensions was never meant to hold people. And so, the longer he went on evading capture in that manner, the crazier he became. By the time they finally managed to stop him, he could barely function beyond use of the Objects, and the second they left his possession, he began raving.
"No, you've got to give them back! My mother, she's in that Room, and I need to get her back! I can get to her, if you just let me use them one more time!"
The young man was strong in his desperate fight for the Objects, but the Owner easily held him off. In the end, they had to leave the young man tied up as they used the Key, though he fought harder when he saw where the Key opened into.
"That's the place! Take me with you! No wait, take me-"
The cries were cut off as the Owner shut the door, and in the sudden silence he sighed. "This might be more difficult than I'd hoped."
The Coat had no reference for how difficult the Owner thought their task should be, but it was certainly time-consuming. Some people fought harder to keep their Objects than others, but the only ones they ever took easily were those that had been hidden away somewhere and were unguarded, and there were far too few of those.
The Coat wouldn't have worried about the time the task took, because they had as long as they needed, but the longer it went on, the wearier the Owner seemed to be. Not that that mattered much, because the Owner refused to take a break, to stop pushing himself as hard as he could. And as the Coat feared, one day, the weariness caught up to him just enough to allow the person they'd been following to get the best of him.
The woman was in possession of the Tie and the Chewing Gum, and once she started chewing a piece of the Gum, she could effectively control the mind of the next person she touched. If the Owner had been quicker to escape into the Room when she'd come at him, they might have been fine, but as it was, they'd found her out on the street, and the nearest door was just a little bit too far away.
The Owner had immediately gone still and compliant, no matter how loudly the Coat yelled, or how hard it tried to get him to snap out of it. The one bit of good news was that the woman clearly knew very little about the Objects in general, so she thought the Owner was just another in a long line of people trying to steal what she had. She'd rifled quickly through his pockets, and when she'd found the Key, she'd just looked at it with disgust and slipped it back into his pocket.
The Coat let out a metaphorical sigh of relief, because if the woman had any idea whom and what she'd just captured, she would have proved a very formidable opponent indeed. And clearly she was plenty formidable on her own, because she at least had enough sense not to let the Owner just go immediately. The Coat had no idea what to do, because there was really nothing it could do. The Owner was the only one who could hear it, and while the woman kept him under her control, there was nothing either he or the Coat could do.
Eventually, the Coat thought the woman would have to let the Owner go, but she showed no signs of being inclined to do so, and the longer she kept him there, the more the Coat worried. What would they do if she never let him go? The Coat didn't want to think about that.
Fortunately, it wasn't actually that long before the cavalry showed up, in the form of a man who had the Bus Ticket. The second the Ticket touched the woman's forehead, the Owner snapped out of it.
"Just in time, Wally." The Owner sounded far more cheerful than one might expect him to.
"Just in time? Really? You were standing next to that woman like a slack-jawed idiot, and if I hadn't snuck up on her, she probably would have had you kill me."
"Well, she didn't. This is why I asked you to be on standby in the first place."
Wally sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Can we just go find her now and get the Objects out of her hands?"
The Owner clapped Wally on the back and pulled the Key out of his pocket. "Absolutely."
After they managed to get the Chewing Gum and Cufflink back to the Room, the Owner took it a little bit easier on himself. He rested more often, took more time between collecting Objects, and spent more time out in the world. The Coat didn't mind – after all, it always got to go with him – especially since it got a chance to meet the Owner's daughter. She was a nice girl, and so clearly made the Owner happy, that the Coat took an instant liking to her. She, of course, couldn't hear it when it talked, but the Coat made sure to tell the Owner how much it liked her and that it thought they should come back and visit her again.
Maybe he took its words to heart, or maybe he just wanted to see her more often, but as time went on, their trips to see her increased, and each time, they seemed to stay with her longer and longer.
It took a long while for the Coat to realize that they were spending more time with the Owner's daughter the closer they came to retrieving all the Objects. It was foolish for the Coat not to have realized it sooner, because it knew, as the Owner did, that once they were all brought back together, they were going to reverse the Event.
It needed to be done, of course, it was time for them to undo what had been done, but not even the Owner knew exactly what would happen. Would they remain as they were, would the Room reattach to the dimension it had come from, would they remain here but as ordinary objects? None of them knew, and if they were to be removed from this dimension, they would never see the Owner's daughter again. The Coat thought maybe she knew what was coming, too, because she seemed more reluctant to let him go each time. And the Coat might have been content to go on like that forever, but the more Objects they returned to the Room, the stronger the pull was to finish it.
In the end, there were only two Objects that really needed to be outside the Room with the Owner in order to complete their task, and the Coat wasn't one of them. Once the Owner got hold of the Polaroid, it assumed that it would go back in its closet to wait with the others. The Owner, however, never took it off, not even when he went to see his daughter.
"Dad, you have to take me with you! I know I can't go in the Room, but at least take me to New Mexico. Let me be there to either say goodbye or welcome you back."
"Anna, I don't- I don't want your last memory of me to be me disappearing into that Room. Once upon a time I thought it would be my last one of you, and that nearly killed me."
"I don't care. I need to see you go. Please, Dad? I'm eighteen now, and even if you leave me here, I'll fly out there myself."
"I'd be gone before you got there."
"So?" Anna was openly crying now. "There'd be some evidence of what happened, I know there would, and I wouldn't be able to leave that alone. I'm your daughter, you know I wouldn't."
The Owner sighed heavily, as if he'd known all along he'd never win the argument. "Alright then, let's go." He took Anna's hand as they walked into the Room and continued holding it even after they'd emerged in front of the Motel.
They stood looking at it for a long time, the place where Room 10 should be, before the Owner finally let Anna's hand dropped and turned to look at her. "If I don't...come back out, I want you to know how much I love you, and how much I'll miss you."
"Me too, Dad." They were both openly crying as they hugged one another for long minutes. Though the Coat couldn't feel quite the same way they did, it knew that it would miss Anna as well, if only because she made the Owner happy.
They finally pulled away from each other, and the Owner took the Key and the Polaroid from his pockets. He held the Polaroid up until he could see the door to where Room 10 should be. In any other circumstance, it wouldn't have worked, but when the Owner slid the Key into the lock and turned the knob, the door opened. Beyond the doorway was the Room, as it had always been, though somehow more vibrant, more there. More right.
The Owner turned back one last time and waved to Anna, who waved back but didn't otherwise move. And then, he stepped through the door.
Joe Miller came to slowly, and found himself lying on a bed in a bland-looking motel room. He wasn't sure how he'd gotten there, but something was niggling at the back of his mind, something important. He laid there, completely still, willing himself to remember.
And it began to come back, in fits and starts. The Key, the Room, Anna disappear. He felt a moment of blind panic at that, sitting up and ready to bolt, before the rest slotted quickly back into place. He'd become the Occupant, saved her from the Room, gotten her back home. Only, if it ended there, why wasn't he with her?
He pushed his mind harder, because he needed to know. Getting the Objects back to the Room, that was it. He'd begun bringing them back, trying to reverse everything, make himself normal so he wouldn't have to live his life watching his daughter grow old and die.
He'd brought her to New Mexico, yes. To fix the Room, only. They hadn't known what would happen, had they? Whatever was outside that door might not be Anna alongside a New Mexico highway; it might be anything, anything at all. And suddenly he was afraid. He didn't know what he would do if she wasn't out there, how he'd get by.
But no, of course he did. He'd do the same thing he did when she'd disappeared into the Room all those years ago; he'd go looking for her and not stop until he found her. Joe stood, finally, and stared at the door for a long moment. He glanced around the room, wishing in vain for something that would tell him what he'd find out there before he had to look.
There was nothing. The room looked as it always had, everything in its place, and that, at least, was a relief. Joe scanned the room one last time and caught a hint of sleeve sticking out of the closet. He went over and slid the closet door open, looking at the coat that had seen him through everything, had helped him make this happen.
Joe followed the impulse to pull the coat on, feeling just a little bit more secure with it resting across his shoulders. He pocketed the key, just in case he needed it, and made his way over to the door. Taking a deep, fortifying breath, Joe opened the door.
And there, standing beside the highway where he'd left her, was Anna.