Updated: Nov 15
A 'Brooklyn Zoo' Sketch Story
'Ye Olde Folkstore'
Droves of pedestrians waltz up and down a buzzing Cobble Hill strip, commuting on trains of thought, preoccupied with "to-do-lists". Coffee addicts frequenting their favorite café for a second "pick me up" purpose in their hearts to complete unfinished scripts and other projects. Transplants caught-up in political debate over brunch, ignore their Eggs Benedict topped with Lox and capers but keep their mimosas and ales close. A lone bookstore hoisted up by time stands near the corner of Court and Warren, peeling paint suspended by cobwebs.
A college student saddled with a scruffy bookbag approaches the nostalgic bookshop, gawking at its firmaments. Cautiously, he enters the bookstore, keeping the door ajar with an elbow. Greeted by silence, he remains at the threshold, "Hello?" Inching forward, loose threads from his knapsack become snagged on a broken wooden panel, yanking him back - he launches a haymaker, followed by a teep, connecting with only wind. A gentle voice calls out from around the corner. "I don't know what that second move you did was but that haymaker was pretty vicious." A middle-aged man adorned with long, faded strawberry blonde hair struggles to pry boxes from the trunk of a vintage Hatchback. His dress of an overly worn, off-white collarless linen shirt, olive green Harem pants, and neon orange Birkenstocks speaks of his engagement in the era of "Free love". A large crystal pendant pendulums between liver spotted pectorals, getting caught in rogue chest hair. "Ouch! Gotta see Gertrude again." The college student rushes in to provide aid. "No young sir, you stay right there! I'm only old as I feel, and I feel like a young bull fresh out the pen, strutting about for all them cows!" Lifting a stack of boxes, the older man continues to ramble. "Just keep the door open... you know in my heyday I used to box?" Focusing on the gentleman's cream, neon green, and maroon tie-dye socks as he slips through the door, the college student turns his head in disgust. "Ugh... them socks madd wild boi... what he doin'!" Setting down the boxes on a counter and brandishing a peppy smile, the older man extends his weathered hand across the counter. "Was pretty good if I might say. I'm Charlie, the owner of 'Nostalgia'... what can I do for you?"
"Nice to meet you sir. Do you carry these?"
"Call me Charlie. "Sir" is reserved for my father."
"Sorry sir - I mean Charlie." Handing Charlie a list of textbooks from his back pocket, the college student fumbles his class schedule, sending it slipping and sliding until it finds a home underneath a rickety desk of leathered journals and do-dads. Taking a pair of spectacles from his pants pocket, Charlie rest them on the bridge of his nose. He examines the list before studying the young man. "Having manners is a good thing but not everything - better to ask for forgiveness than permission." He continues scanning the laundry list of required reading. Letting out a squeal, Charlie sets down his glasses, whirling around before vanishing amongst the rows and columns of books. "I have exactly what you need bright-eyed academic! We carry everything!" Leery, the college student extends his reach in the direction of his runaway schedule, constantly checking on the whereabouts of Charlie. Crouching down slightly, he extends his reach further toward the schedule. "This place seem dumb weird! I just came here to get some cheap textbooks. It was recommended by Professor Adams, but I don't know..." Successful, the freshman secures the schedule, quickly folding and tucking it safety into his front right jean pocket. He looks at his Casio. "I gotta go to work! Where he at?" Nibbled by curiosity, the adolescent stretches his neck, attempting to pinpoint Charlie; his focus broken by a horrible stench of rotten eggs.
A wiry hipster dressed in grimy clothing skulks about a crosswalk, dragging a dingy tote bag along the pavement; filth caked under his fingernails and in the grooves of skin. Stopped right outside of Nostalgia, the hipster's head rotates toward the store's entrance like a toy come to life without batteries. Bulging eyes locked on the college student, a glare fabricating flesh from bone. Nearing Nostalgia's threshold, the hipster's appearance transmutes to a grotesque frame. The lower-half of the vagabond's abdomen deflates, expanding his rib-cage to near protrusion. His ears stretch, curving like sickles. Yellowed teeth fall out one-by-one from heavily diseased gums. The bridge of the hipster's nose juts and widens, causing further deformity. Yoked by disbelief, the student petrified, remains absolutely still. Inching near, the shapeshifter's "baby blues" desaturate, turning to a grim grey, encircled by a red halo; darkness at the iris's center. A malicious, toothless smile retreats the young man. Jagged, crooked canines emerge from festering mouth wounds. In full strut, the ghoul leaps at the student but is halted by an invisible forcefield. Flustered, the fell creature unsheathes a large sword from its waistband, mouthing inaudible words before ramming the blade into the barrier. The recoil launches the ghoul into a nearby lamppost. CRACK! Rushing from a closed off section of Nostalgia toting textbooks and a small, black book, Charlie, with a wave of his hand shuts the door.
"You... you're a..."
Charlie shoves the textbooks into the student's arms. "Here, they're free!" Without hesitation, he drops them.
"I don't want them!"
"Fine, but I need you to get out of here right now! There's a secret door in the basement directly underneath the stairs that leads to a safehouse a few blocks away."
"Why should I trust you!"
"Everything happens for a reason bright-eyed academic!"
"Do not deny the existence of the supernatural! Now go!"
Cautiously, the student makes his way to the basement. His head responding to every ill noise and shifting shadow. Pouring over the contents of a tattered book, Charlie studies it. "They said I had more time... they said thirty-six sunrises and sunsets!"
Cursing the Heavens, the ghoul rises, tossing a tiny, crimson cloth bag into the air. It explodes, releasing an inky black into the atmosphere. Instantly, a fierce storm emerges, rolling in from the east, eclipsing the sun. Its violent thrashing send pedestrians to flight. They hurry, taking refuge under scaffolding and inside nearby businesses. Prowling about, the squall quickly moves westward before hovering over Nostalgia where it rests, washing the bookstore's interior and exterior in a gray hue. Unable to exploit a weak point, the ghoul ascends the building's roof. "A stronger power looms Magi. The age of your kind is over! Relinquish your dominion and territory you old bag of human flesh - I will not demand a second time!"
A straggler contends with the storm's gales but is man-handled and flung into the window of a boutique. Helpless under the uproar, the straggler remains pinned to the storefront, exposed. A break in the brouhaha sends him limping to shelter in a boarded up building. Onlookers attempting to flag him down call out. "Over here, the storm's directly above you!" Desperate, the straggler ignores the crowd's warning, tearing at wooden planks from the façade and leaping to safety. Slamming the door behind him, he barricades himself in, wedging a rotted 2x4 up against the door and grounding the other end in a shallow divot in the floor. Screams and the tempest's wrath echo throughout the dilapidated space. Groans and creaks of unsettled architecture insert steel the straggler's back. Large, ornate capsized bookshelves grab at his focus. A gust infused with antiquity whips and winds, slapping him across the face. Mounds of books slow his pace. An unusual frost chills the straggler's breath. Carefully navigating the landscape, he steps over dust-riddled books, knick-knacks, and do-dads in search of a comfortable spot to wait. Passing the only erect bookshelf, a tie-dye bookmark with neon green lettering and gold outline commands his eye, Nostalgia. He reaches for the bookmark, twiddling it between his fingers.
Expanding its diaphragm, the ghoul tilts its head towards the sky, letting out a boisterous grunt. Billows of fire stream across the pale expanse, raining down on the bookstore's roof. Two more otherworldly creatures emerge from the flames. The first, a misshapen shroud of darkness slinks along the ground to the ghoul, taking the form of a cloaked rotund man. Lifting the left side of its mantle, the shadow releases a colony of bats. They descend upon Nostalgia, attacking every inch of the bookstore's exterior. The second, having the stature of a Kodiak Brown Bear, fortified by bony armor, slick with blood pulls a 6-foot sword from its sheath. Snorting and spewing obscenities, the beast jumps to the pavement. Pieces of concrete and earth give way under its might. Chunks of ceiling crash down, destroying the basement stairs and hidden door. Terror and panic contorts the college student's face, as he searches for another escape. Tremors radiate throughout the neighborhood. "Get to more secure shelter", a police officer yells to a family holed-up in a mid-sized SUV. Running its sword along side of the building, the brute perforates Charlie's forcefield. Bestial war cries and chanting swells Nostalgia to its full as the supernatural onslaught continues. Speaking an unknown tongue, the ghoul calls out to the first creature, motioning for it to circle around to the storm cellar. At the ghoul's command, the dark figure lays waste to Nostalgia's side, hammering at the façade.
Appearing at the basement's threshold, Charlie leaps down onto destroyed ceiling and other debris, gawking around. Motioning to the college student, and maneuvering to the back of cellar, Charlie makes his way to a sizeable chest butted up against the wall. He removes its heavy, decorative lid. "Get in!"
"It's another hidden door!"
"Where does this lead?!"
Peering down a row of rickety steps until darkness severs his sight, the young scholar looks back at Charlie. "No!" Charlie retorts, "I can't hold them at bay for long... you must understand."
"Them? There's more than one?"
"Hurry!" Grabbing a stepstool, Charlie pushes the college student towards the chest.
"What's down there?"
"Nothing like what's out there I can assure you! Make haste."
"So, there is something down there."
"Your questions beget more questions."
"Forgive me... I must protect you."
Charlie strongarms the student, pushing down on his shoulders. He collapses under the force, stumbling down a few steps. Charlie slides the wooden slab across the mouth of the hidden passage. It transforms into a flat rock.
"No! Help! Help...what?"
"Keep straight no matter what, and avoid rooms six and nine! Remember my words!"
Covered in total darkness, the college student attempts to still himself. His thoughts swirl and whirl. Dank mildew parks in the nostrils. Aches and grumbles of old wood and ancient earth snap his focus. Faint luminance from a light ahead draws him. Feeling his way through the pitch, he makes his way down another flight of stairs, winding and steep. Clinging to moss covered walls, he gingerly taps his foot in front of him feeling out for the next step. "What is happening!" Fallout from the melee above cause the college student to latch onto jutting stones. "I have to get out of here... I want to yell out for help but don't know what's down here with me."
Swarming bats gnaw at Nostalgia's foundation as the ghoul and creatures press with their barrage. Frazzled and in a frenzy, Charlie ransacks his sacred chambers muttering to himself. He doubles back then pauses. "Use this, should the night ever eclipse the day." Looking down at the crystal dangling from around his neck, Charlie yanking off the trinket, grabs a pestle and mortar, tossing in the crystal. He quickly grinds up the mineral. Taking the pulverized crystal, he swiftly forms a circle amongst the rubble. Extending his left hand towards the circle, Charlie recites words from a leather-bound book. His breathing intensifies. Nostalgia's foundation quakes, rattling the bookstore. The ghoul and creatures react. Ominous clouds descend from the heavens, consuming the already murky atmosphere, ushering a deeper darkness. A great lightening bolt wallops Nostalgia, splitting it in two, sending the ghoul and its cohorts flying. Amid the destruction, smoke and debris, a red and black staff decorated with a crystal ball stands erect in place of the circle. Pointing his staff opposite of the storm, Charlie whispers, "One. Away from here you fell creatures." A chasm forms, creating a vortex which begins to suck the ghoul and all it summoned in.
The shadow and beast rush towards the opening wielding Shoge-like weapons, dismantling the portal, closing it. Charlie raises his staff vertical then horizontal, "Protection in the Round. Two." A forcefield surrounds Charlie. The ghoul and creatures converge upon him. Their assault tosses Charlie to and fro within the protective shield. "Even with fortified strength, the creatures are too strong for me. The ghoul is the weaker of the three." Recovering a brown pouch from his cloak, Charlie lobs it in the air, muttering inaudible words. "I cannot leave here not empty handed." Tiny, faint bursts of light proceed a blinding blast. Charlie vanishes, reappearing behind the ghoul, dagger in hand. Reaching around, Charlie plunges the blade into the ghoul's abdomen, pulling up then driving down the dagger, spilling the fell creature's entrails. Blackish gook gushes from the ghoul's wound. Groping at its injury, the ghoul's eyes dim until devoid of life. The creatures charge Charlie, causing him to tuck and roll. Elevating himself using a column of Nostalgia's debris via telekinesis, Charlie cries out, "I relinquish Nostalgia and the land it sits on to the lords of the area. I place myself and Nostalgia under their protection, and dedicate myself to their service!" Immediately, the vortex reappears, sucking up the shrouded figure and beast.