Day of the Laundry Room Undead (Chapter Twelve)
Updated: Apr 15
This is the twelfth chapter of an ongoing collaborative novel project. Click here to start with
chapter one, or here to see all the chapters.
“Doug! Dougie! Doug.”
“Do you see him?”
I worm my way through the damp clothes. I don’t see how anyone living could be, well, alive in this mess. “Is he in here?”
“He has to be.” Ted’s voice is muffled. Then he says, “Ha! I see him. Dougie, I see you, bro. Hang on.”
“What are you going to do? We can’t grab his arms, or anything like that.”
Ted appears beside me, too close. “Course not. But we can raise the alarm. Come on!” He takes my hand and tugs me out of the laundry and to the wall where a red light blinks lazily over an emergency button.
“Do you want to? Or should I?”
“What? Hit the button?”
Ted rolls his eyes so hard he looks like he’s having a stroke (which would be impressive, for a ghost), and with a mighty thrust of his elbow against the button, the light turns all red and blinky and a thin alarm sounds somewhere far above us.
“There,” Ted says. “That will bring someone, you know, corporeal—who can move the laundry off Doug.”
I cast a look at the massive pile. “How long do you think he’s been in there? Not the whole week!”
“I hope not. I mean, he’s not one of us, at least, so we know he’s still alive.”
“How did you know he’d be down here?”
“I overheard the crewmembers grumbling that the laundry machines had been occupied all week.” Ted shrugs. “Struck me as odd. That’s not normal for a crew this size. Thought maybe this should be the first place we checked.”
The door to the laundry room slams open and three crewmembers rush in, followed by Jacinta who raises her eyebrows and crosses her arms. The men swear as they splash into the standing water in the room, but Jacinta just curls her lip as she looks around.
“How did this happen? How long has this been like this?” Jacinta says.
“No idea, Ma’am,” a crewmember says. “None of us have used the laundry all week. This looks like O.C.E.A.N. participants’ clothes.”
Jacinta pushes the emergency button again, and the blinking red light returns to normal. “Well, clean it up. Ahora.”
Ted exchanges an uneasy look with me as the crewmembers set to work on the mound of sopping wet clothes. One of them leaves and returns with mops and buckets, and on his heels is Margaret and Jenny.
The girls poke their heads in, clearly curious at what has caused the commotion.
“Is that my . . . my underwear?” Margaret says, tiptoeing into the room, despite her galoshes.
“Girls,” Jacinta says. “There’s no need for you to be here—”
Jenny lets out a scream—one of those horror film I-just-saw-the-murderer-for-the-first-time shrieks. Jacinta jumps and clutches her chest, and I grab Ted’s arm, excited, certain they must have reached Doug and Jenny has spotted his foot or something.
But instead she flails through the standing water, shoves a sailor with an armful of wet laundry aside, and says, “Is that my pashmina?” She grabs the end of a long pink scarf that is trailing out of the pile and pulls, hard.
With another thin scream, she holds the liberated scarf in her arms where it dangles like some sort of giant, dead earthworm. “Oh my God. It’s ruined. It’s ruined.”
Margaret, who is busy collecting her underwear one at a time from the enormous pile, gives an appreciative sniff as she passes by. “Yeah, like. You should never wash pashmina. Dry clean only.”
“I know that.”
“Can they get a move on, already?” Ted mutters. “Doug could be dying under there!”
Just then, the pile of laundry groans.
And then it shifts.
The crewmembers who have been removing clothing from around the invasion of the two teenaged girls stop and stare. Jenny and Margaret stop and stare. Jacinta crosses herself.
Then a fist pops out the top, just like a zombie breaking free of the earth in Day of the Dead (did that happen in Day of the Dead? I don’t know—I never really got around to a lot of zombie movies when I was alive. The concept of being undead always scared the crap out of me. IRONICALLY.) And after his fist, the whole top of the laundry pile sort of erupts.
Ted cheers and I pump my fists and bounce in midair.
Pants and socks and shirts fly everywhere as Doug lurches free. But that looks like his one good attempt, because after that he just sort of flops out of the hole he made and down the side of the pile—sliding and tumbling and rolling to a soggy, messy stop in the water by Jenny’s feet.
Jenny screams (again—seriously, dude, with the screaming?), and falls hard on her ass. Then she is kicking Doug and beating him over the head with her ruined pashmina. I don’t know what she hopes to accomplish with that.
But two crewmembers drag her away, still screaming incoherently. Margaret follows, gaping like a fish and clutching her underpants to her chest.
And Jacinta is saying, “Mi dios en el cielo,” over and over. But with a deep breath, she pulls herself together and kneels by Doug to check his vitals. “Captain? Are you alive?”
Doug groans and shifts onto his elbows. Ignoring Jacinta, he looks straight at me and Ted. “She’s here,” he says. His voice is hoarse.
“Who’s here?” I say.
“Beige—Black—Beige—WhateveryouknowwhatImean. Alice. She’s here.” He coughs. Grimaces. Coughs again.
“Beige Alice is here?” Ted huffs. “That’s great! We don’t have to go all the way to Africa! We can break the curse right away. We can—”
“No.” Doug shakes his head. “She’s here and she’s”—he rolls his eyes toward the pile of laundry—“well she’s kind of trying to kill me.”
“Why would she be trying to kill you?” I ask.
“She does not want the curse broken.”
“What?” Ted and I say together.
“Yeah.” Doug sits up, slowly. “I’ll tell you the whole story. But listen, first, I need a drink.” He glances at Jacinta. “And then we need to talk about Theseus.”
“Why would we talk more about that old turd?” Ted says. “Isn’t all this his fault?”
“Exactly. Even more so than you know.” Doug coughs again. “Apparently. And guess what? He’s also on board, and if we want any chance of convincing Alice to let us break the curse, we’re going to have to figure out how to give him to Alice in exchange for all of you. That’s . . . uh, well it’s the only plan I’ve got, at least.”
“An undead exchange. Sounds like a piece of cake,” I say. “Absolutely perfect.”
Project CoNarrative is an ongoing multimedia experiment in collaborative storytelling from two award-winning authors. We're taking turns writing chapters and building on each other's work, improv-style. You can read them for free, here on the internet, as we write them.
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