Police Line: Do Not Cross. No, it's not a crime scene. It's a tidy white house on Angel Grove's west side, and the yellow plastic tape with the black-lettered warning is attached to the door of the end bedroom. Above it hangs a hand-drawn Jolly Roger with grinning skull and crossbones. It is a teenager's lair.
The first impression upon entering this room is that the background music is wrong. The decor calls for punk, metal, maybe some '70s hard rock… anything but Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #2 in C minor. The classical melody is a strange contrast to the appearance of the room.
The walls are painted black, but not much of them is visible between the posters plastering every surface. There are posters of various rock bands, a couple of "Magic Eye" 3D posters in psychedelic colors, and one of Albert Einstein dressed as a hippie. There's even a movie poster from the original run of "Star Wars" — a lucky find at a garage sale, worth who-knows-how-much today. The remaining spaces are filled with newspaper photos of the Power Rangers.
There are white Christmas lights strung up around the room, and the ceiling is a galaxy of glow-in-the-dark star stickers. A model of the Starship Enterprise and another of a Klingon battle cruiser hang from the ceiling, next to a mobile made from cut-up Pepsi cans.
There is a small chest of drawers on the left wall as one enters the room. It has a distinctly "thrift-shop" look about it… a few coats of varnish, and it would be lovely. Most of the drawers are partially open and have wadded clothes peeking out. The top of the chest is covered with books, tapes, Magic cards, and assorted junk. Next to the chest is a teal-green trash can marked with the "radioactive" symbol, which turns out to contain dirty laundry. The window above it has a black miniblind and is open to admit the summer air.
Against the next wall is a wooden office unit, supporting a tired old 286 computer. A variety of stickers decorates the edges of the monitor, and an assortment of floppy disks, pencils, and pens is scattered next to the keyboard. The bookshelf part of the unit contains several dog-eared science fiction novels, the "Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book," a couple of Far Side compilations, two Dave Barry books, and an encyclopedia of computer gaming tricks. On top of those is a small stack of dusty comic books.
The only other thing on the desk is a framed photograph, cut from a newspaper article about Angel Grove High's 1993 school play. The picture features an overweight, goofy Rumpelstiltskin and a fair maiden in pink. Rumpelstiltskin autographed it… he'd known better than to ask the maiden.
In the corner, to the right of the office unit, is a small amplifier with an electric guitar propped against it. The guitar strap is a piece of yellow tape like the one on the door, but this one reads "CAUTION." It is a fitting testament to the owner's guitar abilities. A small collection of spying devices, mostly broken, litters the floor next to it. There is another window in this wall, but it's stuck shut.
There is a small closet in the fourth wall, and like most teenagers' closets, it is much safer not to open it. A red and white dartboard hangs on the door, which also sports more "Police Line" tape and a variety of bumper stickers.
Next is the nightstand, a small table in the same style as the drawers. It is dominated by a bizarre wrought-iron lamp — the product of a sophomore shop class. Next to that is a beat-up stereo, from which Rachmaninoff is blasting at top volume.
Finally, there's the bed, a double-size with an oak headboard and tie-dyed black bedclothes. Sprawled out on it is a lanky teenager, pale with piercing blue eyes and shiny black hair that sticks straight up. He's wearing fatigue pants and a black tank top… dog tags, an earring, and scuffed combat boots complete the ensemble. He's drinking warm Pepsi and playing with one of those super-bouncy rubber balls that come in cereal boxes. Maybe, he thinks, if he bounces it straight up and down, it won't break anything.
These profound thoughts are interrupted by a pounding on the front door. Strange, perhaps, that he can hear it over the music, but his piano teacher always tells him he has sharp ears. He gets up and peers out the open window to see a familiar beat-up station wagon out front, and Rumpelstiltskin at the door. The heavyset, ponytailed teen is dressed in tattered jeans and a purple tie-dyed T-shirt.
Rachmaninoff has to go. Turning from the window, he scrambles across the bed and hurriedly yanks the tape from the stereo. He finds a Metallica cassette in a shoebox under the bed, pops it in, and settles back on the pillows with his drink.
Bulk lumbers into the room unannounced, as always. Heck, half the time he feels like he lives here. He suppresses a grin when he sees Skull, tapping his foot to the rhythm of the blaring rock music as if he's been listening to it for hours. After all these years, he still keeps his love of piano a "secret" from his best friend… as if the stuff can't be heard from clear out on the sidewalk.
"Hiya, Bulkie!" Skull finally greets him, shouting over the music. Not that he wouldn't shout if it was turned down. "What's up?"
"The Power Rangers are gonna give a press conference at City Hall," Bulk tells his friend with a devilish grin. "I figured we might sneak in."
"Cool!" Skull gives his trademark laugh and hops to his feet. "Let's go!"
He shuts off the music and bounds out the door after his friend, closing the door behind him.
Author's Notes: "The Lair" was written on July 5, 1997, under the influence of Rachmaninoff and warm Pepsi. It takes place during a longer story, "True Colors," which has yet to be written.