An Evening On Learning Lane

An Evening On Learning Lane

Status: Finished

Genre: Horror

Houses:

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Horror

Houses:

Summary

Learning Lane was a show ingrained in the memory of children for many reasons. Charm, wit, and respect to name a few. Jack was one of those kids. Tonight, it will be ingrained in his mind yet again, but for... other reasons...
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Summary

Learning Lane was a show ingrained in the memory of children for many reasons. Charm, wit, and respect to name a few. Jack was one of those kids. Tonight, it will be ingrained in his mind yet again, but for... other reasons...

Content

Submitted: June 07, 2017

A A A | A A A

Content

Submitted: June 07, 2017

A A A

A A A


An Evening on Learning Lane

Written by Jacob Scoggins


 

I grew up loving Learning Lane. It wasn't just the puppets, or the songs, or the guests, but a combination of all of it. The show was my childhood. To me, it was so much more than a local Sesame Street ripoff. Learning Lane taught me to count, to read and to think. I had all the toys, and Mr. Wiggles, with his long, outstretched, and huggable arms, was basically like a best friend that I'd never met. But, as I grew older of course, Learning Lane faded into nothing. Like any other kid I slowly moved on to other things. I barely even noticed when they stopped airing it entirely back in 2006. It became nothing more than a forgotten memory.

A week ago, school let out as usual. It was a Friday. There were five of us at the time, Blake, Ryan, Anna, Bailey, and myself. All day, Blake had been going on and on about how he had something to show us when school let out, but he wouldn't tell us for the life of him what it was. As could be expected, when the bell finally rung, we were all both anticipatory of finding out what the heck the big secret was, as well as relieved we weren't going to have to hear Blake go on about it for another six or so hours. We all kind of just followed Blake to his car in the parking lot; probably seeming to any onlooker who didn't know any better that Blake was about to become victim to the world's most obvious mugging. He stopped when we reached the vehicle. That's when he produced a key.

At first, there was a moment of confusion. It wasn't a car key. So, what was it? We kind of exchanged glances, and Blake caught on that nobody was quite sure why they had walked this far from their own cars to see a common household item. Bailey was the first to say anything.

“What, did they get you your own house this time?”

Blake's family is loaded. His car is brand new, and his house has three floors, two garages, and its own cleaning crew. So, to be frank, as rude as Bailey could be, it wasn't out of the question per say.

“No stupid,” Blake snapped back, “This is way freaking cooler.”

Bailey shot him a look that said: It better be.

“I was at my uncle's place yesterday, for my cousin's birthday. And-”

“Which cousin?” asked Ryan, who was both nosy, and poor in the social skills area.

“Uh, my cousin Mark, but you don't know him. Anyway, I was over there, and my uncle was talking with the other guys there about everybody's old jobs.”

“Okay? So?” I'm really not sure why that popped out of my mouth, but I was tired and ready to go home and play video games or something other than stare at a key.

Then Blake moved his fingers a bit, revealing part of the key he'd been hiding. It was on a key ring, along with a small plastic tag. It took me less than half a second, even after all these years. It was the Learning Lane logo. Clear as day.

“Turns out, my uncle used to work for the studio.”

“Doing what?” I have to admit the logo caught my attention. It was just so random.

“Security. He mentioned really briefly that he thought he even still had one of his set keys, so naturally I spent the whole rest of the party looking for the thing. And lo and behold.”

It started to come together. The key, the secrecy, Blake's odd excitement.

“You don't want us to go in there do you?”

“I mean, the studio is still here in town.”

Bailey scoffed.

“No way in hell am I going in that place.”

“What about for a hundred bucks?”

Those of us that had started to walk away turned right back around. Since Blake's family was rich after all, it was easy to assume he was serious. The kid blows hundreds like most people blow their nose. There was one thing I wanted to know however.

“What for?”

“I wanna film it.”

“I repeat, what for?”

“YouTube, Twitter, I don't really care. I mean, I'm already rich, might as well be famous.”

Was it a selfish reason? Yeah. But, at this point we'd come to expect that from Blake. And, we all had to admit, one hundred dollars would be pretty nice to have. All we had to do, according to the key master, was spend one full night in the studio building, on the Learning Lane set. So, for some horrible reason, we all agreed.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

One week from that day, the very next Friday night, we would meet outside of the studio at 11 PM. As I drove home from school I really couldn't freaking believe I had even agreed to do it. Learning Lane was so far in the past, yet in all those years I never really thought about how close to home it was. I must have driven past the studio hundreds, even thousands of times. But one week later, I found myself standing before it.

The studio building, at least from the outside, was fairly nondescript. It was a grayish concrete looking square, like the backside of a department store that only looks nice from the front. On one side was a light up glass sign, the logo for the studio once clearly printed, now obscured from the glass being shattered in multiple places. The only illumination came from the yellow glow of the nearby street posts.

One by one, everybody showed up, even Anna, who was shy and easily scared, and Bailey who had opposed the whole thing throughout the week at multiple points already. There we stood, a bunch of idiots, outside of a little slice of our childhood that seemed a whole lot less inviting than the catchy theme song had made it out to be. Blake himself was the last to arrive, pulling up around 11:15. He was fully armed with a fairly expensive looking DSLR, along with travel backpack filled with plenty more equipment.

In a very proud manner, he waltzed right up to the front door and withdrew the key. He was acting very slow, methodical, and theatrical, and obviously on purpose. Bailey crossed her arms and began tapping a foot as Blake inserted the key, Ryan standing a little too close for comfort and peering over his shoulder. It went it like it was brand new.

“Okay. Here comes the moment of truth.”

Blake was no actor, but somehow it still got me. It was like going through an old photo album, or finding some lost toy that you used to love. Or, like turning on the TV to find yourself face to face with that one show which made up your childhood. The key turned with absolute ease and, albeit, still very dramatically, Blake pushed the door open.

The lobby was a complete mess. There were papers everywhere. In the back was a big welcome desk, glass and bits of wood, plastic and dust covering everything. Water pooled in small puddles on the floor, the ceiling having long since stopped the prevention of leaks. The walls were covered in mold and discoloration, what was once bright white being now a mixture of horrid browns and yellows. The place also smelled. It was an odd and unfamiliar smell. I wasn't sure what to call it. Wet, sour and metallic. It smelled cold. To either side lay long hallways, their walls just as decayed.

Above the entryways for each hall were rusted metal signs, indicating what a person would be walking into when going down its route. To our right, we had the options of Set A, Set B, and Cafeteria. On the left, were Set C, Offices, Storage, and Security. As the lobby was fairly circumspect, it became clear we'd probably be going down a hall before long if Blake and his one man documentary crew had anything to say about it.

“You sure we can't make it two hundred?” Anna complained. She wasn't the most talkative person, but I had to admit, she was right. This was by far not the most lavish thing in the world, and certainly a taint on the memory of my nostalgia driven motivations.

“Alright fam. Where to first?” Blake questioned, his voicing echoing like he was a professional ghost hunter.

“If they have a freaking gun? Security.” Ah Bailey, ever the optimist.

“Is that your vote then?”

“I'd kind of like to see the sets.” I have no idea why I said that. Granted, it was partly true. Something, somewhere inside me, had this odd childlike curiosity about the whole thing. I just needed to see it. For some reason, part of that memory hadn't faded. It wasn't as forgotten as I'd thought. Through the years I'd suppressed it, not thinking about loving Learning Lane, and really not having any reason to. But, there it was.

“Okay, we have one vote for Security, and one for the Sets.”

“I mean, we could do both?” Freaking Bailey really wanted that gun. She was right though, Set C and Security were both in the same general vicinity.

“True. Anybody against that?”

Nobody really said anything other than a few nods and: “Yeah, sure, okay.” After all, we were already in a darkly lit and slightly terrifying abandoned building. Blake pulled at one of the many, many zippers on his backpack and presented five metal cylinders.

“Everybody take one. They're pretty cheap, so the battery ain't great, but they'll work fine enough.”

I grabbed a gray one. It seemed like a decent enough flashlight. Of course I'm no expert, but as far as I can tell, if it turns on and makes things not dark its done its job. So, with surprisingly little resistance, our troupe set off to the left, in the direction of Set C.

The rest of the hallway was about the same level of dilapidation as the foyer all the way through. It was decently long, granted, the building was no Warner Bros, but still not bad for a small town childrens program. As for the doors which broke off from the main hall, there were four. Set C was the very first of these doors which we came upon.

Above the door hung an old light up sign, reading: Quiet! Filming in Progress. I assume at one point in its life it would glow red, signifying the magic puppetry taking place behind the double doors. The actual doors, like the rest of the buildings doorways, were wooden, that kind of old, fake looking, tan seventies stuff.

“Well here we are,” Announced Blake like some kind of tour guide, “After you, Jack.”

He bowed like some kind of royal jester, motioning me towards the doors. I suppose I had asked for this after all. The bolts and hinges were old and rusted, but with a little effort, the doors pulled open. You could almost feel the stench of mold hit your skin. And you could definitely feel the dust.

The room was quite large, and very much destroyed. I took a step in, swinging my arms around to push back some of the dust. It was a large square, the middle of which was slightly elevated. Most of the floor was either concrete or tile, with the elevated section being made of wood like a stage, and anything else being covered in rubble. There was debris everywhere. Wood splinters, metal bars, PVC tubing, miscellaneous camera equipment and anything else one could possibly imagine being on a stage was absolutely everywhere.

It honest to God looked like a bomb had gone off. It was slightly brighter than the hall and foyer as well. Built into the ceiling was a skylight, its glass shattered. A lone ray shone down through the hole, illuminating the center of the room in moonlight.

“Holy crap... what happened in here?” Ryan said through almost chattering teeth.

“A sweet thumbnail.” Retorted Blake, turning on his camera. We slowly moved through the room, Blake snapping picture after picture. I must have watched nearly every episode that this show ever put out, but truth be told I had no idea what this room ever was. It was so far gone that the room was barely recognizable as a set in the first place.

“Um, what is that?”

We turned around to see Anna, who looked a bit pale, pointing at a spot on the ground behind some rubble. As interested as we were with the scenery, it was still nothing but random debris. This wasn't. We all joined Anna near one of the corners of the room. It was a bit darker here so I pulled out my flashlight to get a better look at whatever Anna had found. At first I wasn't sure what I was looking at, but it became very obvious very quickly. Blood. It was old and dry, but it was blood. This was the smell. The metallic smell.

“Are those hand prints?” Bailey pointed towards a section of the considerably wide spread of red to what indeed looked like a hand print.

“Looks like it.” I responded, though I probably should've reassured that it wasn't. Blake started snapping pictures of the stain. Bailey was not amused by this.

“What the heck Blake!”

“Come on! Like, what if this is why the show got ended. Maybe somebody got like, killed or something and they had to cover it up.”

“That's ridiculous,” Ryan popped off, and I agreed until, “It's far more likely that it's part of the set.”

“You do realize they shot freaking Learning Lane here? Not Criminal Minds.”

Anna, who was becoming very visibly uncomfortable at this point, spoke the first bit of sense.

“Could we go to the security room and find the guns now?”

As much as some of us wanted to argue with Blake a bit longer, we had to admit, this sounded better than sitting in the blood room. So, with much relief we all headed back out into the hall to find the security room.

Along the way we came across both the Storage Room and the Offices. We hit Storage first, which aside from being the only door we'd seen made of metal as opposed to wood, was fairly normal. A little further down the hallway were the Offices, which appeared to be a secondary larger area, with glass windows looking out into the hall. However, bookshelves, chairs, tables and pretty much anything with weight was stacked against the glass, forming some kind of makeshift barricade. There really wasn't any way to see inside. Both Storage and the Offices were locked.

At the very end of the hallway lay the Security Room. This door was also locked, but thanks to Blake's key, it opened up no problem. The Security room itself was quite small, about the size of a bathroom. Most of the walls were taken up by shelves, cabinets and desks. To the left of the door was a main desk, on top of which were a series of CCTV camera monitors, used for watching the various rooms in the building. Pens, papers and office toys were scattered all across the tabletop in disarray.

In the back corner of the room stood a metal locker, with a giant brass lock to boot. It was labeled: Weapons. Somehow though, despite coming to the room for the initial purpose of gathering the guns, that wasn't what caught our eye.

The security cameras were still active. We all crammed into the small room as Blake, continuing to act as the leader, sat down in the desk chair, scanning the screens. There were a total of ten monitors, two sets of five stacked on top of one another. The first camera was the Lobby, then there were two for the hallways. From this we were able to see that the second hallway was much shorter than the one we'd come from.

All of the monitors had makeshift labels just like the gun locker. I have to admit, as weird as all this was, seeing blood had somehow turned on my adrenaline, and I was almost eager to see what was in the other rooms. Sadly, not all of the cameras worked as well as the monitors. The Storage Room camera was just static, and so was Stage B. The Cafeteria was empty, and really just looked exactly how you'd think a cafeteria would. The Office camera was active, but part of the view was obscured by the barricade, and the rest was too dark to make anything out.

Set A however, was a different story. It was pristine. I couldn't believe I was seeing it. Granted, Learning Lane was just a kids show, but still, it was a kids show that I watched. I'd seen that street corner so many times growing up that it felt like some kind of second home. And there it was, the main street. Learning Lane itself, just as I remembered it. I wanted to go there.

“I wonder why the Office is all boarded up like that.” Blake always was keen to get himself into trouble. Of course, with money like that it's easy to get out of.

“Well this is Security right? They probably kept spare keys for the other rooms in here.” Well, Bailey wasn't wrong. But I didn't really care about the Office or the Storage Room. I wanted to see that set.

Everyone turned to look at me. Had I really just said that out loud?

“You want to go over there? Jack, all the cool stuff is right here.” I hate when Blake makes me feel like the joy kill of the group.

“I don't know, I'd just kinda like to look around I guess. You know... nostalgia and all that. Just for kicks.”

Blake looked me dead in the eye with a stare that screamed about how far my cool levels had just sunk. Not that they were very high to begin with. Granted, he still had plenty of film subjects without me.

“Are you seriously gonna go down and play pretend with Mr. Wiggles? Because it's fine by me but I sure as he-”

“I'll go with you Jack.” I really didn't expect that from Anna. I wasn't going to say no though.

“Sure, why not.” It would be better than going through the place alone. Blake rolled his eyes.

“Fine, whatever. But hurry up. No makeshift make out sessions.” Anna turned a little red, but I wasn't paying too much attention. I was obsessed with seeing that room.

“While you guys are gone we'll look around here for the other keys.” I nodded in approval, rather than open my mouth and spur on further conversation. With that, Anna and I departed for Set A.

The walk through the building was quiet. I tried not to put much thought into the idea of Anna having some kind of a thing for me. I had nothing against her, but she was just so quiet. Of the whole group she was probably the one I knew the least about outside of school and now, traversing abandoned buildings. Besides, she wasn't the prize at hand tonight.

The door to Set A was identical to the door for Set C, albeit having a different name. They swung open just as easily too. And inside, I was presented with perfection.

There it was: Learning Lane. It was exactly how I remembered it. Ornate lampposts lined the streets, beautiful brick buildings evoking a gorgeous vintage look. The craftsmanship, for a show with as little budget as one would assume Learning Lane had, was astonishing.

“Wow,” I felt myself say. Anna was probably a little confused, but I didn't really care. I was filled with so much emotion. A part of me had grown up here. And yet, something was different.

It felt so empty. No crew was present. No guests wandering the streets. Not a felt covered puppet was in sight. It was beautifully eerie. It also seemed somehow wrong.

“Did you like it?”

“Huh?” I turned to look towards Anna, snapped out of my haze.

“The show. You liked it as a kid?”

“Oh. Yeah. I watched it all the time when I was little. Had the toys and everything.” Part of me wanted to gush about the depth of the odd and indescribable feelings I had, but not now. Not to a girl I was only sort of friends with, who seemed to be into me.

“It's weird seeing it all empty like this.”

“Yeah.” I walked up to one of the lampposts, running my fingers across the cool metal. Why this one? Why was everything here left untouched, yet Set C looked like it'd been thrown in a blender?

“Hey look, there's another door.” I looked to see Anna pointing off to the corner, snapping me out of phase two of my daydream.

Off to the side of the set, behind one of the fake brick buildings, were a set of large double doors. Across the top was another one of the fractured light up signs. On the doors themselves was, in large letters: Set B.

“Must be a second entryway for quick set changes or something,” I deduced.

“Do you wanna check it out?” Truth be told I didn't really, but I suppose I'd seen enough to satisfy myself for now. Besides, I didn't really want to look any weirder than I probably did already. So, I nodded, and we headed over to the Set B doors.

On the other side of the doorway was a surprise. It was the Library. The main locations present in every episode of Learning Lane were the Street Corner, and the Library. I had learned so much in this room. Well, in front of a screen looking at this room. And it was rotted.

The books lay strung all around the room. Pages were torn out, spines bent, and the bookshelves themselves were an absolute mess. They were cracked and splintered, pieces of the walls and the torn wall paintings lining the floor. But none of it compared to the smell.

I nearly wretched the second the door shut behind us, a small trail of vomit stinging my throat. It was that metallic smell, so strong you could choke on it. I'd never, ever in my life smelled anything like that before. I looked to Anna, who had thrown a hand over her mouth, and had begun tearing up.

In the debris, scattered all across the room, was blood. Not just blood, but gore. It was like wood stain, permeating the floor, and rotting the wood with wetness. Pieces of flesh hung from shelves and out of cracks in the wall, indescribable pieces of meat flung around like a man had simply exploded. And this wasn't dry and old, not like in C. It was fresh.

We cautiously took a few steps in. I wasn't aware that I was now gripping Anna's hand very tightly. A few feet ahead, was a hand. Part of one. Fingers were missing, blood dripping off of every hole, fingernails ripped out, and nerve endings hanging off the stump like pieces of string. I'd seen horror films before. But they don't do it justice. It's not the same.

The Learning Library was bathed in blood and gore, like humanity had dissolved and flooded the room. At that moment, my nostalgia died.

“Jack. Wha-” She stopped short. This sound was so terrifying that part of me wishes I could've dropped dead there rather than endure the rest. It was like she choked on the sentence as if it were food. And it wasn't that sound that I'm talking about. It was the sound that followed.

It was heavy, like a shuffling. Like a struggled dragging. There was weight to it. We turned around slowly. I heard the floorboards of the stage creak. There were about two rows of bookshelves between where we now stood, and the doors we'd come from now. I pulled up my light, and saw only part of it.

My skin turned white, and my soul, black. I only saw the back half, as it moved across the space between the shelves. But it was legs. Legs that were made of yellow felt. They were cut off, around the knee or mid calf. Inside the felt, gore and bone trailed out like tails of decay. Stains of flesh and blood following its wake. The yellow of the puppet was no longer clean and fresh, but mottled and browned, covered in mold and blood. My mouth fell open.

It was Bunny Baby. I wanted to say something, to scream, but I couldn't. I knew that yellow felt a mile away. In half a second it was out of view, the torso and arms, unseen but pulling it forward. We needed to leave. I looked over to Anna. I cupped a hand over her mouth. She had been about to scream. Turning, she looked me in the eye. Tears streamed down her face as the struggled shuffling continued in the background.

I shook my head. No noise. I pointed my shaking arm to the doors. We needed to leave right now. Yes it was the same direction as Bunny, but we really couldn't afford to look around for the other exit. I held her hand tighter, barely pausing to think about the implications of doing so should we survive.

Slowly, we began to cross the floor. I had turned off the flashlight just in case it made us obvious. I could still hear the shuffling. It was so horrendous. What happened here? Why were its legs like that? They were puppets. They were my childhood. But they weren't real. They weren't this. I tried to wrap my head around what was going on. Creak.

Oh please Lord no.

We stopped. The floor was over twenty years old and you could tell. There was silence. The shuffle had stopped. It was so quiet. I squeezed the flashlight with such willpower and sweat that it felt like the thing was excreting water like a fountain. Then I accidentally clicked it on.

My heart dropped and Anna screamed. It wasn't a shuffle. It was a gallop. A broken run. As if a carriage dragged a lifeless corpse across the wooden slats at a million miles an hour. I whirled around, shining the light down a row of shelves. I got a glimpse before we ran. The thing pulled itself forward with its two arms, digging its fingers into the wood. It's face was like the muppet version of a rabbit, covered in blood, a mouth that hung limp, lined in red and chucks of... something. It had no eyes. Patches of torn strings hung from where they once were, as its floppy ears bobbed up and down with its demented run.

We sprinted as hard as we were physically able, because by God we were going to find that other door. The main exit was blocked by debris, primarily a bookshelf and desk. We stopped cold as the gallop got louder behind us.

“Jack what now?!”

“Help me get this stuff off!” With zero hesitation I ran at the shelf and began pulling it with all my strength. I wasn't going to die in this Library. It was heavy, but starting to budge. I looked back; Anna was still, petrified with fear.

“Anna! Help me!”

She snapped from her trance, turning back, her flashlight landing on the beast as it turned a corner too quick, running into a shelf briefly. It let out a sound of pain I cannot even describe, nor would I want to. She dropped her light right there, running to me. We gave it everything we had, ripping the shelf from its resting place, hard enough that it continued to fall back, ramming into the shelves behind it.

It was like watching dominoes fall. One shelf landed right on the gore stump of Bunny's right leg. The creature lurched to a sudden stop, falling to the ground with an even more terrifying groan of agony. The few papers and book scraps not yet scattered now flew into the air, fluttering around like bloodstained confetti.

I took one last glance at the massacre of a movie set. I had learned to read here. With all the adrenaline I'd built up, I kicked at the doorway, knocking it open. I pulled Anna up onto the desk and helped her through the hole. She landed on the other side, immediately turning back towards me, probably blind from crying.

“C'mon!” She reached out her hand. The gallop was starting back up. I took the hand, and was pulled through the hole, back into the hallway. We both collapsed on the ground before the doorway. How long had we been in there? Five minutes? It felt like an eternity. I breathed out a sigh.

“Jack...” I really didn't want her to take this time to confess her love for me. Now I partly wish she had.

“Jack, these doors open outward.”

Oh no. I grabbed her arm and pulled her to the right, sliding her hand into mine and sprinting towards the door at the end of the hall, which I assumed to be the cafeteria. Behind us, the double doors to Set B absolutely exploded. Wooden shrapnel fired into the walls from every direction as the doors themselves flew off the hinges. We didn't look back. Pushing through the doorway into the cafeteria, I frantically looked for a place to hide.

There were lots of tables and chairs, but nothing that would keep you from being seen. At the far end of the room was some kind of table, a salad bar by the looks of it. There wasn't any time to find something else. It would have to do. We ran across the room, jumping and sliding to the bar, squirming and crawling our way behind it.

We both threw ourselves against the back of the bar, breathing heavily as we heard the doors on the other side of the cafeteria get ripped from their hinges. I started to try and look out from the corner of the bar, only for one of the doors to fly past my head, impaling itself into the wall in front of us from the force of the impact. We had to be quiet now, or we would die here.

There was silence. Then the shuffling began again. It was slow and methodical, as Bunny began scouring the room for us. The only advantage its lack of sight brought us was time. It was like a lifetime passed while we waited against the bar. Then the shuffling started getting closer.

It bumped into the bar top, shaking the whole thing, and spurring on the tears rolling down Anna's face. We didn't breathe. Bunny Baby was one of my favorite characters. He always had perfect teeth. They were made out of plastic, and every now and then, he'd come on and do a funny little skit to remind kids like me to brush three times a day. Mom would always tell me, upon finding I had not brushed: “Come on Jackie, you better go brush or Bunny will get ya.”

The decayed, yellow arm reached forward, my breath burning in my lungs. From around the corner came its head. It was barely three feet away. I couldn't help but look. Its mouth hung limp. Hot blood and flesh dripping from its maw. And the teeth... they were... real. Stitched into the fabric, still holding onto bits of gum and plaque, were what had to be teeth. Real freaking teeth. I could feel its breath. It had breath.

Silence is a virtue. As quickly as Bunny had looked around the corner, it receded, the lumbering drag of its movement fading away. We sat there, once again for what seemed like forever. Then she turned to me. I was still in shock, and I still have no idea what the heck she was thinking.

“Jack. I'm in love wi-”

The creature slammed one arm right down the center of the salad bar, tearing it in half. Pulling the pieces away, it threw them aside, as Anna's confession of adoration turned to a blood curdling scream. It had no legs, but its arms were so fast. They moved like a whip, one hand shooting down on Anna's throat, propelling her against the tile. The scream turned into a gag.

Then, and I'm not sure how, I found myself standing. And for some dumb freaking reason I punched Bunny Baby in the arm. The thing turned with such speed that I didn't even get to gasp as it swung its arm into my chest. I flew. I probably went a good twenty feet, all the way to the corner of the room, smashing into the wall hard enough that I think I dented it, though I didn't take the time to check.

My vision went dark and fuzzy. When I looked up again, it stood over me, twisting itself upwards at the waist into a horrible shadow of blood and nostalgia, slamming one arm against me, holding me down to the floor. I looked behind it, seeing Anna struggle to stand. At least that worked. It held its free arm over my head, fingers spread apart like it was about to grab me by the head and toss me about like an animal. That's when I began to cry.

The seams of its felt covered fingers began to split apart, each thread popping like the buttons on a shirt. Then the fingers opened up. Like flower petals. First blood poured out like water, and then came the spears. Pointed rods of flesh, bone and blood, ending in a point that rose from the flower fingers with a sluggish slurp. It was like seeing heaven grow horns and call itself hell. The tears rolled down my cheeks along with the blood dripping into my eyes. It was the end.

“Happy Easter you son of a-”

Bang.

The torso of Bunny Baby ripped open, blood and chunks of various entrails spattering across me. It turned around to face Blake, shotgun in hand, covered in blood and scratches, Bailey standing behind him.

Blake fired a second shot, disconnecting the torso from the lower body completely, the top half falling limp on the floor, as the lower dropped forward, pieces of possibly human leg sliding out of the torn sleeves. Breathing like he'd just run a marathon, Blake slowly lowered the shotgun as Bailey ran over to help Anna up.

“You... huff... alright?”

I fell back, barely able to move. With what strength I had left I reached up and wiped the tears and blood off.

“Not really.”

“We need to get out of here right now.”

Grunting in pain, and ninety percent sure I'd broken something, I gathered myself, trying to stand.

“Yeah. That sounds fine.”

On my feet once again, I took a last look at that... thing. Looking away, I caught my breath, taking in the room again. That's when I noticed.

“Where's Ryan?”

Blake rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers, as if he had a migraine.

“We found one of them in the office. Ryan tried to... talk to it.”

“What?”

“We didn't know they were... this. Bailey and me locked ourselves in the Security Room and jimmied open the gun locker. Barely.”

“Why come back for us? You didn't even know we were alive.”

Blake turned away. I think he thought he was going to cry.

“This is on me Jack.”

“Blake-”

“Hey guys,” Bailey's voice rung out, shaken in a way I'd never heard before. “We need to get out of here, I think Anna has a concussion.”

I nodded in approval.

“Let's go, the exit's just down the hall.”

“Not so fast,” chimed Blake. “We don't have the key.”

“What? Why?”

“I lost it in the Office.”

“Well let's go find it!”

“No.” I was about to getting really freaking mad.

“What do you mean no?”

“There's more of them in there. We have to go through Storage. A map in Security said there's a ventilation shaft that leads outside.”

“I take you have a key for that one.”

Blake nodded. I sighed. Fine. It had to be better than just sitting around waiting to die.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

The steel door to the Storage Room was cold to the touch. As Blake turned the key, they was a metallic clack as the inner workings of the lock gave way. Pushing the door open, Blake swung into the entry, shotgun in hand. The room was mostly shrouded in darkness, with the floor illuminated by dim LED lights lining the edge of the baseboards.

Boxes filled every single nook and cranny, shooting all the way to the ceiling, creating a maze like path through the room. Blake took another step in, looking around, trying to see anything besides cardboard.

“This way,” He commanded. And with that he marched into the dark, the three of us in tow. Behind Blake were Bailey and Anna, with me taking the rear. Anna was in a lot of shock and pain, with Bailey carrying some of her weight along her own shoulders. Before coming to Storage, Blake had given me a small taser they'd found along with the shotgun, which he was quite insistent upon keeping for himself.

As we progressed through the labyrinth, I attempted to wrap my head around the evenings events. Ryan was dead. That alone made me shudder in fear. I said it in my head several times, each one feeling less real than the last. This place was absolute hell on earth. To think, I had wanted to see this. Maybe not all of me had, but part of me did. I hated that part of me.

Something caught my eye and broke my train of thought. I could've sworn I saw movement. Between the boxes perhaps? I flicked on my light and shone it through the cracks in the cardboard. Nothing.

“This is it.” I turned to the sound of Blake's voice, breaking my paranoia for a second. I'd fallen a bit behind. Running ahead, I came to a clearing among the boxes. In this area there were not only boxes, but metal shelves like you'd see in a supermarket. Crowded around one wall were Blake, Anna and Bailey, staring towards the ventilation shaft about five feet off the ground.

“Okay, so how do we get it open? Bailey questioned, ever the know it all, even at death's door.

Blake whipped the shotgun around and hit the vent shaft about four times with the butt of the gun before the entire grate fell to the floor in a dented mess.

“Like that.”

Then we all heard it. Turning to the darkness, we heard the shuffle. Something metal had hit the floor. Something other than the grate. Something was coming. It was coming fast.

“Go!” Blake screamed as loud as he could, while Bailey began lifting Anna into the ventilation shaft. Blake and I stood side by side, staring into the darkness as the shuffling drew closer. Scrambling, I whipped my flashlight out of my pocket and flicked it on. No sooner had I held it towards the back end of the room than a red flash smacked it out of my hand with a force that nearly broke my wrist.

We froze. There was silence, the abyss consuming all sound. Red shot from the darkness. It looked like arms. Blake cocked the shotgun.

Bang.

The blast fired into the void, flash from the muzzle brightening the room for but a moment. But that was all it took. I saw it. I saw him. Blake fired two more shots.

Bang.

Bang.

The red blur moved like lightning, rushing to the shelves for cover, its arms so long that they trailed behind it on the ground leaving a path of blood. Bailey was climbing into the shaft now.

“How many more shells do you have Blake?”

“Three.”

The blur reached out again, a demonic screech accompanying it. It grabbed ahold of Blake's leg, pulling him to the concrete. He let out a shout of pain, firing the gun into the abyss as I stood in terror. Hello Mr. Wiggles. The shot seemed to hit its body, as it let out a cry of pain. In response, Wiggle's arm lurched, twisting Blake's leg with a horrible crunch.

Bailey was in the shaft now. Blake yelled in pain. Wiggles began pulling Blake towards it, into the darkness. I grabbed Blake's free arm, pulling away from the demon. He fired again.

Bang.

Nothing. The creature only pulled harder.

“Blake shoot its arms for God's sake!”

He turned to me with a fire in his eyes, speaking through gritted teeth.

“Get in the freaking shaft.”

An arm shot from the darkness, ripping the gun from Blake's hands, pulling it into the shadows. The fire in his eyes replaced with a new mix of both determination and fear, Blake grabbed me by the shirt, and thrust me towards the shaft.

At ungodly speed, the horrifying blur of an arm reached out, slamming Blake's head into the ground with such force that I felt the blood from nearly ten feet away. I frantically climbed into the shaft as Blake's body was pulled from the light. If I survived this, I silently promised myself I'd get in shape again. I was almost in but it'd be a tight fit. I reached forward, grabbing the corner of the first turn in the shaft a few feet ahead.

It grabbed my leg. I almost let go right there. Mr. Wiggles was my best friend. I slipped. Bailey grabbed my arm. She was pulling with all her strength. I would not die here. Blake was a rich jerk, but he had been my friend. Ryan had been my friend. Bailey was my friend. And for all it's worth I may even give Anna a chance.

Pulling out the taser, I flicked it on, and never having held or used one I prayed for good aim. The shock sent the arm reeling. I was released. Bailey pulled me forward as the beast howled in electrified agony behind. No time for thanks. Only time to crawl.

Anna was waiting outside the shaft when we reached the end. Bailey hopped down, and, sticking the landing, turned to offer me a hand. I hesitated. The nightmare was over. Wait. I heard a metallic thud. Shuffling. I looked back down the shaft. Twenty feet back, arms blasted around the corner of the vent, ramming into the wall like bloodstained snakes. I grabbed Bailey's hand tight and dropped out of the vent.

“Run.”

We bolted towards the other side of the building, the parking lot coming into view. Looking back I watched the red mass of fur and felt drop from the vent like an evil ball of yarn. Its arms and legs stretched out in a disturbing wormy fashion, quickly becoming taut and pulling him forward, blood flying and dripping from his body. I turned away as I rounded the corner, my car coming into sight. But the only thing in my mind was Mr. Wiggles and the red. Mr. Wiggles was my favorite. I loved him. And I'll tell you right now: Mr. Wiggles was not red.

As we came up on my car I ripped the keys from my left pocket, unlocking the doors. Bailey and I scrambled to throw Anna in the back passenger side, then ran to our own seats in the front.

Mr. Wiggles wrenched his small body around the side of the building. It was now clear that his legs weren't much shorter than his gratuitous arms. Had he walked on two feet, he would've nearly been as tall as the building itself, ten feet or so. But he didn't. He walked on all fours like an animal, each arm swinging violently into the air before ramming into the pavement and dragging the thing forward. He was fast.

We frantically hopped into the car, slamming the doors shut and locking them. I fumbled with the keys a moment before they slid into the ignition, the car humming to life. Bailey screamed. I looked up. The entire car shook. A fuzzy arm rammed its fist into the windshield, spattering blood on the glass, and sending a crack through its entirety.

“Go!”

You got it Bailey.

It hit the gas so hard I thought it'd go through the floor. The tires screeched for a half second before we shot forward like a bullet, blasting through the fence around the property and out into the street. As we speed down the empty road, I looked up. He was still holding on. I swerved. The creature swung, nearly going off the car as we made a sharp turn. Wiggles recovered from the blow, swinging himself back onto the roof with a thud. Raising his fist, he smacked at the windshield again. The crack expanded rapidly.

I needed more speed. In and out of the swerves I saw that we were coming up on the interstate. Pulling hard, we barely made the exit. I don't know if he knew what I was doing or not, but Wiggles became even more erratic, using both hands, frantically slamming on the glass repeatedly. The crack continued to grow with each hit, the blows pulsating through the car. I looked back at Anna. She had passed out.

“Jack!”

The glass spiderwebbed. Pieces of the windshield flew everywhere, cutting my cheek and forehead as I held up an arm to block the shards. I could barely hear Bailey's screams over the roar of the engines as I hit a hundred mph on the interstate. Pulling my arm away, I looked.

There he was. Wiggles legs were wrapped around the front end of the car, as he sat on the hood, facing us. His arms hung in the air, poised like cobras. The stench of corpses flooded the front cabin of the car, blood and flesh dripping from the ends of his fingers. I looked into his eyes, or rather eye, as similar to Bunny, one was missing. His mouth contained no teeth, only bloody holes where they should be, and hung slightly open like Elmo had a really freaking bad day.

What have you become? Almost in response, the mouth began to open. And open. Wiggle's entire face pulled back, his jaw splitting at the seams like Bunny's fingers. The felt and fur peeled back, blood pouring from between the stitches. Like I said. Like a flesh filled flower. And, within the gore blossom, I swear, was, as far as I could tell, a face covered in slime and blood. It almost looked human. Almost.

I hit the brakes.

Wiggles flew over the hood and into the road. No hugs today. I kicked the gas with everything I had left, and ran the monster into the pavement, the remaining windows blanketed in red. With a loud screech, the car finally came to a halt a few meters away.

I paused for just a moment, then opened the door. I was so tired. Falling to the ground, I pushed myself up just enough to see the remains. He was gone. An indescribable mass of torn fur, felt and flesh. I rolled over onto my back and stared at the night sky. I'd never been so exhausted in my life.

I watched as the stars twinkled. I remember the time that Learning Lane taught me about stars. How every single one is a big ball of gas like the sun. That meant very little to me at the , but it was something. As long as I got to see the funny rabbit with the toothbrush before the commercial break it was fine.

In the car I could hear Bailey calling 911. I'd never had to call it before. I remember when Learning Lane taught me how to dial 911. Only in the case of an emergency they said. I guess this counted. I heard Bailey say something about a concussion and a monster and Blake. Then I passed out. I later woke up in the hospital.

I loved Learning Lane. The show was my childhood. Learning Lane taught me to count, to read and to think. It taught me how to live. It taught me morality. Above all, it held the innocence of a child in a high respect over anything else. And today, it took mine away.

 


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