As soon as her parents drove away, Laurie McKay crept into their bedroom to search for the key to the closet. Being a curious girl, she wanted to know what kind of strange object they had stowed away in there. Whatever it was, her parents considered it such a secret that they didn't even speak openly about it in front of her, even to acknowledge its existence. It was up to Laurie to find out what they were hiding.
She knew only what she had picked up from fragments of conversation that she had overheard when her parents didn't know she was listening. Apparently it was a gift from her father to her mother, who had some kind of medical condition that neither of them wanted their daughter to know about. They had apparently gone to see some kind of specialist, who had recommended this object, probably some kind of medical device.
One day, her dad had installed a lock on the door to the walk-in closet in their bedroom. That was strange; normally closets didn't have locks, and even when they did, they were built with the locks originally. A couple of days later, Laurie had noticed a large box in her parents' bedroom, opened and unpacked, partially filled with foam peanuts. She had asked her mom about it, who had blushed and said it was just some equipment Laurie's father had ordered. There was nothing unusual about that; her dad was the foreman at a construction company, plus he had a shop in the backyard filled with all kinds of woodworking and metalworking machinery. But the fact that this box was sitting right in front of the mysteriously locked closet, coupled with her mother's embarrassment, suggested that this "equipment" was something special.
Now, a couple of weeks later, Laurie would finally get the chance to see what it was. It was Saturday morning, and her parents had left her home while they went out for the day. They wouldn't be back until late that night, which would give her plenty of time to search for the key.
She stood in the middle of the master bedroom, glancing around and wondering where she should look first. Obviously the key wasn't in the closet, which left two dressers, a television set, a desk, a night stand, and the bed as possible hiding places.
She first went to the desk and started going through the drawers. She found no key there, only business documents, the usual office supplies, and an old paperback novel. She was about to close it and go look somewhere else when she spied her dad's appointment book in the top drawer.
She grabbed it and opened it, scanning the entries for anything that might give her a clue as to the nature of the object. She checked the date that the box had shown up to see if it mentioned what kind of package they were expecting, but it didn't refer to it at all. Then she searched the dates when she had overheard her parents talking about the specialist who had recommended the device.
Suddenly, there it was. On Tuesday a couple of weekends ago was an appointment with a Dr. Coleman.
Dr. Coleman? That didn't make any sense at all. The only Dr. Coleman she knew was the mother of a girl who went to school with Laurie. But Tina's mother's work didn't have anything to do with medicine; she was some kind of marriage counselor.
That certainly didn't clear up the mystery; in fact, it confused her even more. As far as she knew, her parents didn't have any marital problems. They didn't even get into minor disagreements, much less full-blown fights. They seemed genuinely happy together. In fact, on more than one occasion Laurie had found herself hoping that when she eventually married she could have the same kind of relationship that her mother had with her father.
Maybe she was assuming too much, she decided. It could be a different Dr. Coleman. The last name was common enough; there could be several different Dr. Colemans in the area. Or in fact, the appointment could be with the woman she was thinking of, but it had nothing to do with her mother's condition.
Unless the flaw in Laurie's thinking hadn't happened today, but two weeks ago. She couldn't recall the conversation exactly, especially since she wasn't supposed to be listening to it, but she had assumed that the word "condition" meant a medical condition. But now that she thought about it, it could just as well be psychological.
But what kind of psychological condition could be treated by a mysterious machine hidden in a locked closet? The whole thing was beginning to sound like some kind of horror movie. The object must be some kind of nasty machine that her parents used to gruesomely torture victims that they lured into their closet. She laughed as the image of her parents as a couple of psychopaths popped into her head. No, that was certainly not it.
She closed the appointment book and slipped it back into the drawer. Disappointingly, it had given her no illumination into the secret world behind that locked door. No doubt she would have to actually open the door to discover the identity of that strange object, and that meant finding the key.
Her parents had obviously gone to some trouble to hide it from her. She just hoped that they hadn't taken it with them when they left. That disappointing thought almost made her give up; she could search for hours and never find it because it might not be in the bedroom, or even the house, at all.
Still, she hadn't exactly exhausted her possibilities yet, so she could at least go over all of the possible hiding spots once before admitting defeat. She knelt down by the bed and peered under it, but found nothing there but a sock and a shoe box. She pulled the shoebox out and opened it, but found inside only an old pair of tennis shoes. She then lifted up the mattress on the bed in several spots, but none of them revealed the key either.
Determined not to stop until she had searched at least the obvious locations, she then headed over to her mother's dresser. The drawers were filled almost too high with clothes, which wasn't particularly odd if one assumed that at least some of the clothes had been removed from the closet to make room for the mysterious object. She had trouble opening and closing the drawers, and even had to rearrange the contents of one drawer to get it to close properly. She hoped her mother wouldn't notice. She dug down inside the clothes in each drawer, searching around on the bottom.
In the top drawer she encountered something long and firm. Curious as to its identity, she withdrew it and stared at it. As soon as she saw it, she blushed and shoved it back into the drawer. That was a little more than she wanted to know about her mother.
In the third drawer down, her finger brushed against something small and metallic. A grin spread onto her face as she closed her hand around it, realizing that it was a key! She withdrew it and examined it. It looked fairly new, a good sign considering her dad had installed the lock only a couple of weeks ago. Her heart racing in anticipation, she picked it up and strode over to the closet door. She slipped the key into the lock and turned, and with a solid click the door opened a crack. Laurie stuck the key in her pocket, then opened the door and peered in.
Like she suspected, all of the clothes had been removed, and a strange device had taken their place. The closet had an internal light, so she flipped the switch and stared at the thing in the middle of the floor.
It was a chair.
Colored a rather pleasant lime green, it was made of contour-fitting molded plastic, like some futuristic, ergonomic device. In fact, now that she had a chance to really examine it, she decided that that was what it must be. Other than a couple of metal hinges and bolts, as well as a leather seat back, it was all made of this plastic. Rather than having four legs and being mostly empty space underneath, it looked solid and probably heavy. No doubt the plastic cover hid a mass of electronic machinery underneath. It had what appeared to be several moving parts, and a series of digital gauges on the arm rests and the side. A smaller device resembling a television remote control lay on the seat.
The device did, in fact, remind her of some strange torture device, bringing back the amusing thought of her parents as sadistic psychopaths. It wasn't that it had any pins or spikes or ropes or chains or even any sharp angles. In fact, it was quite sleek and comfortable-looking. But there could be no getting around the position it would put someone in if they sat in it. Instead of putting the feet in front, there were a couple of contoured leg rests extending at an angle to the side. The person would have to sit with their legs spread wide. There was also a large bulge in the front, as well as a kind of hinged cover that appeared to lock in place over the pelvis by sliding extensions of the cover into slots on the side of the chair. The seat back was set at a reclining angle, and another hinged piece came down from the top like the safety bar on a ride at the amusement park, but at chest height. This one, though, wasn't just a bar, but another heavy piece of equipment.
.... There is more of this story ...