She awoke the next morning beneath a linty blue blanket on a small cot. Rain pattered softly against what seemed to be a sheet of tin serving as a roof, perched precariously over makeshift walls of wood and cardboard. She lay there for a moment, separating the night's dreams from the events of the previous day.

Strings. Danger. Stolen emotions. The Central Storage Unit.

"Virgil?" she said softly.

She arose from the bed and was surprised to find herself entirely naked. She looked around. The entire rickety structure was comprised of one single room, and Virgil was clearly not inside of it. A lopsided door looked directly out onto the pavement, which was slick with rain. Too confused to care about her current state of undress, she peered around the door. Virgil was sitting on the curb, facing the street.

"Are you okay out there?" She said, surprised by the hint of concern in her own voice.

"I'm fine," he said pleasantly.

Mary Ann nodded slowly, unsure how to phrase her next question.



"Did we…have sex or something?"

"Yes," he replied, standing up and turning in her direction. He dropped his eyes to the floor when he saw her.

"They're under the cot," he muttered, anticipating her next question.

Mary Ann went back inside, shimmied into her jeans and sweater, and returned outside to sit next to him.

"You were in a bad way last night. Sort of raving, really, by the time we got back here. I shouldn't have done it, but you seemed pretty adamant."

"No worries. Sorry if I jumped on you, drugs do that to me."

Virgil shrugged nonchalantly. Neither of them spoke for a moment.

"So, I guess this isn't a hallucination after all," Mary Ann ventured.

He was playing distractedly with the strings hanging from his face and didn't respond.

"I talked to Chamaecyparis," he said at last. "He said that you are Alice."

Mary Ann's eyes and mouth flew open, irritated that he would challenge her on her own name.

"I know you disagree," he added soberly.

"Yes, I certainly do," she said indignantly.

"I have to take you to the Central Storage Unit," he said.

"And I don't get any say over this?"

Virgil looked at her coolly.

"No. No, not really."

"What if I just started walking until I found my way home?"

Virgil laughed an unsettling, humorless laugh, which was not reflected in his face.

"You wouldn't. I was thinking about what you said yesterday, about not being able to leave this city square, and it's because you have a job to complete here. You have to go to the Central Storage Unit."

Mary Ann grunted.

"What's up there, anyway?"

"Nobody knows," Virgil said.

"Will it be dangerous?"

"In all likelihood, yes."

"And I can't go home until I've done it?"


Mary Ann watched a droplet of rain clinging desperately to the edge of the tin roof, until it finally came plummeting down and splattered on her knee. Her life had taken such a very strange turn that she didn't know what to feel about anything anymore. Questioning her present situation was like trying to claw her way up a wet tin roof, she thought grouchily, and for a moment she imagined a miniscule Mary Ann struggling up over the slippery metal.

She sighed deeply.

"I guess I'll have to go, then."

Virgil pulled his face into a smile.

"What a woman. I'll throw some things together into my backpack, and then we can get started."

Mary Ann continued to stare out at the lightly drizzling rain, feeling very irritable.

A moment later he reappeared with two duffel bags, and a bag of chips in his hand.

"Sorry to be so informal, but we'll have to take breakfast on the go," he said, offering her the bag.

"Should we construct a plan?" Mary Ann asked as they stared at the formidable building that loomed above their heads.

"A plan? Well…we go in."

She stared at him.

"'We go in?' That's your idea of a plan?"

He jerked his shoulder into a one-sided shrug. The movement was furiously reminiscent of the Dennis she had once known.

"Some great guide you are. I had assumed that this sort of thing was what you were here for."

"I'm just following what Chamaecyparis instructed me to do. At the moment it's the blind leading the blind, really. I'll let you know if I have any really good hunches at some point along the way."

"What were you sent for, your good looks?"

"Well, I am undeniably alluring."

"Yeah, and useless."

He pulled his face into an irritable expression.

"All we can do is go straight in. I don't know what lies ahead any better than you do. In fact, you're the prophesized 'savior.' You think of something."

She felt her resolve slipping away from her very quickly.

"I'm not sure I'm ready to go in there, Virgil," she said. "This is nonsense."

"We haven't got any choice. Why don't you just trust me?"

"Oh, pardon me for not trusting the man whose idea of a cunning plan is 'everyone on the count of three!'"

"It's effective," he said, and with that he grasped the heavy doorknob and her wrist. Immediately, the door groaned open and they slipped inside. They had only enough time to register their surroundings before the door swung closed behind them with a very decisive-sounding thud. They blinked, staring all around as their eyes grew accustomed to the dim, dusty light.

"Oho," Mary Ann whispered, feeling inexplicably triumphant.

"Oh dear," Virgil said, "this can't be right."

The interior of the place was dingy and old-looking, just as its outward appearance suggested it might be. A half-inch of dust had collected over everything, suggesting that the building had been unused for years. Its decrepit elegance intrigued Mary Ann, though the place was completely empty.

"Go on, guide," she said, enjoying Virgil's confusion, the reversal of their roles.

"What was it you said you were supposed to do again?" she continued. "Oh, that's right…Lead me through purgatory. Believe me, that sounded a lot more threatening before I knew that purgatory resembled my grandmother's attic."

"That is uncalled for," he said, tiptoeing gingerly across the wide open floor as if looking for a trap door or some previously unnoticed ladder.

Mary Ann watched him slouch about the room for a moment, sliding his hands over the walls and floor. Eventually she grew bored, and settled cross-legged onto the ground, her head resting lightly on the wall.

The marble's warm breath tickled the nape of her neck.

A shiver seared down her back, and she turned around slowly, slowly, to face the wall. It regarded her with impossible eyes.

'Virgil," she whispered anxiously.

"A moment," he said from across the room, peering inside a grate.


He turned around with some reluctance.

"What is it?"

"The wall. The wall has eyes."

"What?" He hurried over and kneeled by her side.

The wall did not smile. Rather, it somehow gave off the impression of smiling.

"Do you see this?" She asked doubtfully.

Virgil nodded. "I see it." And to the wall – "What are you grinning about?"

Its marble irises slid off of Virgil, and onto Mary Ann.

"Kiss me," it said to her.

They both started. Cognitively they both knew the wall didn't really have a clear face, and they knew it had not said anything. But it gave off such a very strong impression of having and doing these things that Virgil and Mary Ann were able to perceive it quite effortlessly.

"This wall wants me to kiss it," said Mary Ann.

"Yes," Virgil agreed.

She did, quickly and firmly, where the floor curved up into the base of the wall.

"Oh," it said rapturously. "Please, again!"

Mystified, Mary Ann leaned over and pecked it. A mouth suddenly appeared on the wall, about five feet off of the ground. The marble lips were pale and quivering, with a sharp pink tongue peeking out through its neat little teeth.

"Kiss me, kiss me, oh! Kiss me!"

"This is awfully bizarre," Mary Ann said to Virgil as she got to her feet and pressed her own lips to the cool stone ones. The wall's little pink tongue slid into Mary Ann's mouth, running along the ridges behind her upper teeth. After a moment of this she pulled away, and the marble tongue lolled and panted.

"I am the door you are looking for," it said at last.

"Nice to make your acquaintance," Mary Ann said.

"You have passed my test," it continued, and she wondered if she detected the sense of a wink from the wall's invisible eyes.

"Will you let us through?" Virgil asked.

"Yes. You may feed yourselves to me." And suddenly the mouth opened, and swelled until it was like a cave tipped in stalactite incisors. The tongue flopped out moistly, beckoning like a ghastly red carpet.

"Ladies first," Virgil offered in a strained voice. Mary Ann stepped lightly onto the tongue, and, not hearing any objections from the wall, proceeded inward. She heard Virgil's sneakers squelching behind her. With a stride more confident than she felt, she marched past the molars and the quivering uvula. She was sure she heard a soft, sighing moan reverberate around her from the depths of the tunnel ahead of her.

"Oh rapture," hummed the wall's voice around her. "Lovely, lovely, yes!"