I was reviewing some old stories of mine and re-discovered this one. I thought it had potential so I have decided to continue with it. I've made a few minor changes to the existing chapters, which (for those who have already read) may not be worth re-reading, but in any case, enjoy! I'll try to keep up with this more religiously.
Eleven people assembled in the gray room that night. There was an outcast, a lover, a friend. A butcher, a baker, rich moneymaker. His family of four, the one with the mask, and Lady Encore.
Mrs. Lovett sat patiently in her seat, glancing back frequently at Mr. Todd, who was anxiously pacing the length of the walls behind her. She didn't know why she was supposed to be here, or why she had even bothered to come in the first place. The small, windowless room was nothing she had seen in London. Perplexed by the fluorescent lighting and the curious black box mounted on the wall, she wasn't even sure she was in London anymore. Scanning the room for what seemed like the hundredth time, she took notice of the odd collection of equally confused-looking people.
There was a strange man occupying the chair beside her. His face was concealed behind a beautiful white mask, and he appeared to be busy carving notes into the palm of his hand with an old-fashioned quill pen. On the opposite side of him sat a porcelain doll-like woman, whose eyes darted about the small space, but never once landing on her chaperone.
To her left sat the most peculiar group: a bubbly, glittering blonde perched regally on the edge of her seat beside her acquaintance, who seemed completely opposite in appearance—she was swathed in black garments and veils with a curious peaked hat and unlike the blonde, shrank into her chair, bony arms clutching hidden knees to her chest. A man, who appeared to have stuffed his clothing with straw (or his entire body altogether, Mrs. Lovett couldn't quite tell), clutched the woman's thin, black-gloved hand.
Oh yes—and then there was that curious family. Mrs. Lovett was at first relieved to see children at the queer gathering, but that was before she had heard them speak.
"Mother, I think Thing is hungry," the boy had said quietly, so as not to interrupt the others from their nervous mumbling. Mrs. Lovett saw him pull a small black box from behind his back and set it down beside his seat on the dusty, carpeted floor. He pulled open the fancy lid and a set of pale fingers emerged shyly into the room.
The mother, a beautiful woman with waist-length black hair and a close-fitting, low-cut dress, gazed down at the boy questioningly. "Hungry? I had no idea Thing was capable of eating!"
Mrs. Lovett averted her eyes. While she was accustomed to working with disembodied human limbs, she had never encountered one so animated. That creature inside the box was sure to give her nightmares, and the boy reminded her so much of Toby. She instantly regretted leaving her adopted son behind.
Just when Mrs. Lovett thought she'd go mad from the awkwardness of the situation, the bubbly blonde princess stood up, wrestling with her massive, glittering skirts, and addressed the crowd. "Does anybody know why, exactly, we're here?"
Everybody ceased their anxious chattering and stared blankly back.
She cleared her throat. "Alright, let's try this again. My name is Glinda Upland, from the Upper Uplands in the Gillikin of Oz. This is my dear friend, Elphie; she's a Munchkinlander, despite her appearance." She gestured to the woman in black, who glanced up, her dark eyes piercing through the veil that shrouded her face. "Elphaba, excuse me," Glinda corrected. "Oh, and this is Fiyero—her…ahh…lover."
"Elphaba—what a pretty name," the dark-haired, mustached father of the two peculiar children stated. "It just bleeds darkness!"
"Now, now, darling," the mother gave him a playful nudge.
"Aw, Tish, you are always my little decapitated night flower," he said, beginning a trail of kisses up her right arm. The daughter, crouching on the floor with her back against the wall, buried her face into her knees.
She patted the top of his head affectionately. "Darling, please."She stood suddenly. "I am Morticia Addams; this is my dear husband, Gomez, and my two children, Wednesday and Pugsley." Wednesday lifted her head long enough to address the curious crowd. Pugsley had coaxed Thing from hiding and was using the disembodied hand to wave to everyone, causing several subtle gasps of horror. Morticia sat and took her husband's hand, turning over the floor.
Mrs. Lovett seized the opportunity to restore a sense of normalcy to the room. She stood up so quickly, she would have fainted to the floor had Mr. Todd not appeared suddenly behind her to set her upright.
"My name is Nellie Lovett and this is Mr. Todd," she said. Sweeney finally abandoned his pacing and sat himself down in an empty seat, pulling out a razor and gazing at it intently.
"Well, your husband seems like an awfully friendly man," the porcelain woman spoke in an even, slightly sarcastic tone.
Mrs. Lovett turned away to hide a severe blush and the soft sting of longing tears. Sweeney focused his glare accusingly at the dark-haired china doll.
"Mr. Todd and I are not exactly…"
The woman suddenly understood and looked away, embarrassed.
The man behind the mask set his quill on the ground and stood. "This is Miss Christine Daaé, my student, and the finest opera singer in Paris." He gestured to the woman beside him, her porcelain features still slightly flushed from her previous comment.
"And you would be…?" Morticia asked, prompting the man to share his name.
"That is none of your concern. However those who do dare to address me simply refer to me as the Phantom."
"How thoughtful!" Morticia's sudden expression of delight was unusual to the Phantom. He took his seat without another word.
The blank TV screen on the back wall flickered on. It displayed an empty, high-backed leather chair and a shiny, deep brown wooden table.
"Elphie, how'd you do that?" Glinda demanded, gesturing to the screen.
"I didn't do anything!" she replied. "Did you hear me utter one word of spell? Look, the Grimmerie is still in the bag!"
"Then how—what is this?" Glinda raced over to the screen and began to poke at it.
"It looks like a very large, scientific television," Gomez pondered.
"What's a television?" Glinda asked.
Before Gomez could bother to explain, a professional-looking man in a deep purple business suit and a thin greasy moustache stepped into frame and sat in the chair. Glinda was startled by the movement, and let out a tiny shriek before darting back to her seat.
"Ahh, good; I see you've all met," the man began. "My name is John. Each of you have received a letter inviting you to come, am I correct?" The group mumbled in agreement. "Good. You all have been called here for different reasons. Some wish for money, some for adventure, some for fame and fortune, some to advocate animal rights, and some simply to support loved ones." He cast a knowing glance in the direction of every group as he recalled their wishes. "That's right; each of those letters was different. Each was addressed to a different country, flown through to a different time period, and promised a different reward. Now that I've gathered you all into this one room, let's play a little game. After all, you've got to work for your reward. Your first clue lies right outside that door." John motioned toward the large, gray industrial door from which they had all entered. The television monitor then switched off, displaying default blackness.
"Wait! Wait, Mr. John!" Mrs. Lovett sprang from her seat and stood beneath the monitor.
"What is the meaning of this?" the Phantom demanded, joining Mrs. Lovett by the television.
"I think we've all been tricked!" Gomez said with a devious smirk. "Clever man."
"Darling, do you think we should be worried?" his wife asked.
"Of course we should be worried!" Mrs. Lovett interjected. "Especially you, Miss World Famous Opera Singer; you've got a career to uphold! I've got a shop to run and Mr. Todd, you've got people to…shave!"
"This wouldn't be the first time I've been kidnapped against my will and dragged into a deep dungeon of despair," Christine spoke, throwing a resentful glance in the Phantom's direction.
"Hold on, everyone," Wednesday said, unfolding herself from her position on the floor and standing to face the frantic group. "That John guy said something about clues lying beyond that door. Why are we wasting time arguing with the television when we could be productive?"
"By George, you're right!" Gomez exclaimed.
"My Wednesday, always thinking ahead," Morticia beamed, patting her daughter on the head.
"This is never going to work." Everyone turned to the shrouded figure. "According to this mastermind kidnapper, each of us is from a different country and time period."
A short silence fell over the room. "So?" Glinda prompted.
"We all came through that same door—from different countries and times."
A sudden understanding came over the group.
"How did all these people get to the Emerald City then?" Glinda asked, still confusified.
"Glinda, we were in the Emerald City," Elphaba pointed out. "This lovely couple over here entered from—"
"—Fleet Street in London," Mrs. Lovett offered.
"The Opera House in Paris," Christine said.
"Central Park," Mr. Addams suggested.
"You see? And we all ended up in the same location."
"Well then, what's really outside that door?" Pugsley asked.
"There's only one way to find out."