Chapter 16: Arts Alive
On the other side of the now locked door, Isabel was desperately knocking and punching. Occasionally, she would scream the names of the endangered users or groan really loudly. All the commotion quickly created a pressing sense of urgency in the atmosphere. Everyone immediately gathered around to witness the horrific scene unfolding before them.
Back in the closet, the three trapped comrades were running low on optimism as they overheard Isabel’s frantic blows and screeches.
“I wish we could open this door to get into the cottage…” Rosalie complained as she leaned against the door and hopelessly twisted the knob, “but alas, it is locked, too...”
“Come on, guys, let’s not give up hope! I’m pretty sure things could be worse…” Marc reassured his closet-mates.
“Doubt it,” Maryan opposed. “We’re stuck in a damp, dinky closet…”
“Well, yeah, but at least we still have each other…” Marc positively reminded her.
To that, Rosalie scoffed. Marc’s inability to see the obvious hazard in a situation annoyed her to no end.
“I just hate it in here…” Rosalie whined.
“Hey, quit your bellyaching, I’m sure Cartie and the rest of them will get us out in no time…”
Rosalie scoffed again, “I’m about to hit you with this mop!”
Before Maryan could meekly step in and stop her, all the noise that had been radiating from outside had now faded.
“Guys, listen! Do you hear that…?” Maryan got up from her scrunched sitting position.
“Hear what?” Marc inquired.
“Exactly! Nothing! I think they left us…” Maryan feared.
“Oh, great!” Rosalie moaned angrily.
Even Marc was left speechless at the prospect of the rest of the users giving up and leaving.
Meanwhile, Mak and Tash led the safe portion of the clan away from the door and continued to walk.
“Are you sure about this..?” Isabel asked hesitantly.
“We need to keep moving…” Mak explained.
“He’s right,” Tash settled. “This place is extremely unstable; if we stick around, we might get trapped, too…”
“What!? No way! We can’t just leave them there!” PurpleJerk objected.
“We have to. There’s no telling what might happen to us if we wait around here too long…” Mak clarified.
“What the hell!? You guys are so selfish! They’re our friends and they need our help!” PurpleJerk outraged.
“I’m sure they’ll survive a few more hours in the closet,” SunriseDaisy timidly tried to calm her. “We should at least try to get some food and supplies for them…”
“The question is how we get it to them…” Cc pondered.
“Well, I don’t care what you guys do, I’m staying here and making sure they stay put.” PurpleJerk demanded.
“No!” Tash implored. “We can’t leave you alone!”
“Oh, but we can leave Marc, Maryan and Rosalie alone!?”
“Jerky, they’re in a closet; they’re safer in there than you would be by yourself…” Slappy pointed out.
“I’m staying here and that’s final!” PurpleJerk stoutly stood her ground.
With that, Tash gave Mak and Slappy a small shrug and they all walked away.
Distancing themselves from the wads of boundless paper, the wiki clan finally made it out of the portal. At first, all was blank and quiet. The ambiance was quite unsettling yet at the same time tranquil.
Pretty soon, the outline of a building became visible in the distance. It had an odd structure with peculiar architecture. Suddenly, the shapes became more concrete and tangible. As they got closer, it became more and more apparent to Isabel where they were headed.
She squinted her eyes in incredulity, “This is my school…”
In one swift motion, she approached the entrance.
“Why are you in such a rush to get into a school…?” Pop asked.
Isabel ignored her. She slowly and cautiously pushed the doors open.
When she saw that the establishment was indeed accessible, she smiled and invited everyone to come in and check it out with her. Reluctantly, everyone followed her.
At first glance, everything looked the way Isabel remembered it to be. However, instead of bustling with 3000 alumni, it was virtually empty and dead silent. Considerably freaked out, she anxiously made her way up the stairs to where the lockers were.
For a little while, the online tribe parted ways and apprehensively roamed the many halls. After about an hour or so, the group reunited and decided where to go from here. They all agreed that the school was creepy with no one in it and that there was nothing to see.
Isabel sighed wearily and shrugged her shoulders, “Want to go back outside?”
Feeling resigned, with a couple nods of the head, they took the suggestion.
Then, something very bizarre and unforeseen occurred: Once they got back outside, it was startlingly sunny as opposed to being plain and grey as it was before; the sidewalk surrounding the school was bursting with life. Music was playing, art was being displayed and various students were wandering around and making chalk art.
Upon further inspection, it became undeniably clear what was going on.
Isabel’s entire face brightened, “I know what this is! It’s Arts Alive!”
“…Arts Alive…?” a number of questioning mumbles were promptly expressed.
Every year, usually sometime in late-March/early April, the students and faculty members would take a day and completely redesign the school into an Art Exhibit. Students would produce and select distinct art pieces to showcase all over the building. The school band, choir and orchestra would also take part by supplementing their musical talent. In addition, a major part of the event would be dedicated to chalk art that was exhibited all over the sidewalk. Isabel contentedly recalled one year where they even had poetry slams complete with coffee as well as old books you could vandalize with your own artwork.
No longer worn out and uninterested, the wiki kin began to sporadically spread out and explore different parts of the school. A bit diverted, Isabel decided to go back inside for a moment. The majority of them stayed outside and observed the artwork while listening to the peppy band tunes.
Fittingly, the inside of the school was now extremely lively and full of people. Experiencing a strange sense of déjà vu, Isabel noticed a few of her classmates and acquaintances congregated in the lunch tables to listen to the soft, sweet beautiful songs that a couple girls from the choir were singing. All the choir girls that volunteered to go up to sing had gorgeous faces and angelic voices; easily leaving Isabel lost in a trance.
Extraordinarily enough, when she took another look around, she saw herself sitting at the far end of the table, listening intently. Abruptly, she then realized that she was at the Arts Alive of her junior year.
This outlandish concept left Isabel feeling very uneasy and a bit queasy. Unbearably, while watching her past counterpart forlornly chew her food, she remembered how unfathomably miserable lunch was for her. Long abandoned by her so-called friend, Isabel was forced to sit by herself and watch a few other random people come and go from her table. As she witnessed her equivalent pitifully walk away, she could not help but be brought back to that pathetic time in her life. If one listened carefully, one could hear the gentle, evil chuckling of the voluptuous villainess, Vulnerare.
Meanwhile, she was also using her powers elsewhere to influence the most arbitrary of users. Right outside the building, a significant amount of people were still looking at art.
“Man, I love this art!” SunriseDaisy complimented.
“Yeah, I know, it really comes alive!” Pop noted.
Beside the school band that was still playing, Samlovesham, Yoshi, Tara and Ar0n were all tapping their feet and enjoying the music. All of a sudden, Tara pulled Samlovesham aside, barely containing her excitement.
“I have a confession to make!” she giggled.
“Okay…” Samlovesham grinned slightly as she narrowed her eyes.
“……..I THINK I LIKE AR0N!!!!”
Samlovesham’s mouth went ajar, “…What!?”
“It’s just a teeny, tiny little crush…please don’t tell Alica!”
Samlovesham was a bit dumbfounded, “…Well, okay, good luck with that…”
Once again, Tara began to giggle.
Just then, another even more sprightly song started to play. Not prepared to lose a golden opportunity, Tara ecstatically ran over to Ar0n, took his hands and started dancing with him.
While they were doing their jaunty jig, it was clear that Ar0n was a little uncomfortable. His movements were stiff, as if he were an inanimate object.
Things were equally awkward back in the closet.
Out of nowhere, Marc heaved a great sigh.
“I’m sorry I got us into this…”
“Oh, right, this is your entire fault, isn’t it…?” Rosalie bitterly remembered.
“It wasn’t his entire fault…” Maryan defended.
“Yeah, if you weren’t so desperate to come after me…” Marc smiled and elbowed Rosalie.
PurpleJerk, who was listening in from the other side, started laughing.
“Wait, guys, what was that…?” Marc’s eyes widened.
“Oh, hi! It’s me!” PurpleJerk enlightened.
“Jerky…?” Rosalie scrunched up her face in displeasure.
“Good. At least we weren’t completely abandoned…” Maryan uttered in relief.
“…So, what now?” Marc wondered.
“I don’t know,” PurpleJerk shrugged from behind the door. “What do you guys want to talk about…?”
“Guys, I just realized something; Jerky and Yoshi made out in here…and Yoshi was in his tighty whiteys…” Rosalie recalled with sheer dread.
They all shuddered.
In the intervening time, Isabel was departing the building. Upon her exit, she became conscious that she had walked in this very direction and had seen everything she was currently viewing before.
Is this all really happening…? Isabel wondered. Or is it all just a giant flashback?
With every step she took, everything and everyone became even more of a blur. Whilst beholding this eerie distortion, it evoked more painful memories in Isabel’s mind. Going in circles, feeling alone and left out, not having any sense of belonging; this was precisely what she had experienced at Arts Alive, that day.
Brusquely, everything stopped. Every single individual and all the activity that had enhanced the scenery now seemed to be paused by some make-believe remote. At this point, Isabel was literally on the outside looking in. All the while, Vulnerare’s faint chuckle continued to echo across the plane.
Hiking down from the small hill where the school stood, Cc, Carlaay and WarmSummerBreeze were carrying some exotic food in their grip.
“We just came from the Multi-cultural Fair in the gym,” Cc elucidated. “We got all kinds of food for Marc, Maryan and Rosalie…”
Carlaay and WarmSummerBreeze both smiled cheerfully and nodded.
Ace and Jess, who were seen sharing a taco, were also strolling down the hill.
“Yeah, this food is very good…” Ace illuminated.
“So good…” Jess agreed.
“Mmm. Nothing could possibly be better than this gyro…” Reason gushed.
“My gyro!” Becky snatched the warm, delectable snack.
Tara gasped, “Did you guys get basil soup!?”
Becky blinked in slight irritation, “…No…”
“Aww,” Tara mourned.
“It’s okay…” said a dazed Samlovesham as she softly stroked Alica’s beautiful head.
Uninterested in the scrumptious, mouthwatering, lip-smacking food, Candy and Lucy were on the lookout for cute t-shirts and charming trinkets they could potentially shop for.
“Find any knick-knacks, yet…?” Candy checked in with her friend.
“Nope,” Lucy disappointedly shook her head. “Hey, have you seen Tash anywhere…?”
“Psh, I don’t know. Probably looking at art all by himself somewhere…he’s such a hipster…”
“Such a hipster!” Lucy chortled.
Less predictable was the fact that Isabel was still lost in her Arts Alive alteration. Vulnerare gurgled mercilessly once more and the scene resumed motion. Dismally, she was beginning to conclude that any previous perception of her being remotely popular, online or elsewhere was fundamentally imaginary.
Just as Candy anticipated, Tash was standing all by himself in a corner and he appeared to be quite absorbed with the art he was looking at.
Isabel noticed him from across the way and decided to go up and talk to him to get her mind off things.
“Hey,” she simply said with a hint of sadness in her voice.
Tash looked over and beamed, “Hey, Toon.”
“So, what do you think of Arts Alive? I figured you might like it…”
“It’s really cool,” he said with a heartfelt grin.
For a brief moment, his sincere smile snapped Isabel out of her gloom.
“Guys, we need to get back to Marc, Maryan and Rosalie!” Cc jogged everyone’s memories.
Rapidly, the band of wikians rushed back to the forbidden door.
“YOU GUYS! WE’RE BACK AND WE BROUGHT FOOD!” WarmSummerBreeze hollered.
“Took you guys long enough and shh, they’re sleeping…” PurpleJerk whispered.
“Are you sure they’re still in there…?” Isabel asked as she leaned her ear on the door.
As if on cue, a portal opened up and revealed the three closet prisoners. Marc’s head was resting on Rosalie’s shoulder as they all slept.
“GEEK! ROSIE! MARYAN!” PurpleJerk rejoiced. “OMG! YOU GUYS LOOKED SO CUTE WHEN YOU WERE SLEEPING!!!”
“Whaaa…?” Marc drowsily expressed.
“Oh, my god! Finally, you guys showed up!” Rosalie barked.
“The portal must open up at random times throughout the day…” Cc reasoned.
“Does this door lead back to the cottage…?” Isabel asked as she narrowed her eyes at the entry.
“Yeah, but it’s no use; we already tried opening it…” Maryan sorrowfully informed her.
Willing to give it one last shot, Isabel cynically eyed the door and tentatively turned the knob. Miraculously, it opened.
“Oh, figures she has the magical powers to get it open. This is her fantasy world…” Rosalie snapped in an acrimonious tone.
Without a word, Isabel hurried back into the cottage.
“Rosalie, look what you did. You probably hurt her feelings…” Marc scolded.
Isabel was in fact not at all offended by what Rosalie said but her mind was still focused on everything she had witnessed that day at the school.
In a flash, she scurried over to the boardwalk where the beach was and once again leaned on the fence. The waves crashed violently and the full moon was colossally yellow.
“Why aren’t you with your friends…?” Vulnerare asked sinisterly.
“I’m not one of them…” Isabel said in a monotonous tone.
“Whatever do you mean…?” Vulnerare smiled knowingly.
Isabel began to get emotional, “I’m just pretending to be someone I’m not. It doesn’t matter if I’m here or in the real world; I’m still the same me…”
Vulnerare snickered dryly, “Okay, keep throwing yourself a pity party…”
Soon after, she left Isabel sniffling and sobbing softly.