Norman would remember that it started much like any other day. He opened his eyes, looked around his room, and slowly rose out of bed. He’d taken to sleeping by himself, recently, and tried to tell himself it was for the best. He couldn’t help but feel resentful, though, what with Dylan spending all his time with Caleb on one hand and telling Norman that he shouldn’t fall asleep in his mother’s bed with the other. As far as Norman knew, Dylan and Caleb were doing the same damn thing – at least one of them had a history of it.
When he went down the hall, he was surprised that he didn’t hear his mother up and walking around; usually she woke up a good deal before he did. After hopping in the shower, he started to grow concerned. Had she run out to do some errands or something? Maybe she was oversleeping, or maybe she was sick.
The best thing for Norman to do was to check on her.
He knocked on the door a few times, and when there was no response, he opened it.
No one was there. It was empty. No note, nothing to indicate where she may have gone. Not in the bathroom, either – the door was wide open.
Norman felt a cold sweat come over his body – maybe she’d taken off again, like she had the night she’d found out Caleb was in town. Maybe she had really left this time.
But she hadn’t given any indication, had she? She hadn’t said anything. Had something happened? Maybe she’d had a fight with Dylan. Or maybe she was out handling something.
Whatever it was, something didn’t feel right. It was as if Norman’s skin were crawling.
Maybe he would call Dylan and see what was going on – maybe that was the answer.
Norman managed to track down his cell phone and flipped it open, scrolling down to hit Dylan’s name.
Well, that was weird. It wasn’t in there.
What the hell was going on? Was Dylan in on this too, somehow? Had they had such a weird fight that he’d deleted himself out of Norman’s phone?
This was just getting weirder and weirder. He’d have to track down Dylan’s phone number. Stupid technology – he could hear his mother’s voice saying, “Back when I was growing up, we just remembered what our friends’ phone numbers actually were.”
He had to admit that she had a point there.
But maybe it was written somewhere in his mother’s things – some kind of emergency contact number. That was the type of thing she did, right? Have back-up plans?
Or maybe, by the time Norman sorted out what Dylan’s phone number was, he wouldn’t need it. He could only hope.
Norman pulled out a chair at the front desk, beginning to go through the dusty old phone book and lists of the few things there was to do “for fun” in White Pine Bay. Unfortunately, it looked like a lot of it was crude holdovers from the Keith Summers era.
None of this was helping.
He was ready to throw it all back under the counter when the door opened and Emma walked in, oxygen tank rattling and squeaking behind her.
“Morning, Norman,” she said with a smile.
“Hey, Emma,” Norman began, then hesitated. His mother wouldn’t be happy if he let Emma in on family drama… But she’d been trustworthy with what he’d told her about Dylan and Caleb. Plus, he was beginning to feel more than a little desperate. “Emma, hey, you haven’t heard from my mom today, have you?”
Emma looked up at him with a strange expression.
“My mother. You know – I mean, I don’t want to freak out or anything,” Norman’s voice rose a few octaves and started sounding a great deal faster. “But she didn’t say anything about going anywhere, and I lost Dylan’s number. So did she need to… run any errands for the motel or something?”
Emma cocked an eyebrow.
“Yes!” Norman was beginning to feel rather frustrated. “That’s what I’m talking about! My mother.”
“Are you feeling okay?”
Norman was about to scream.
Emma took a tube out of her nose, then replaced it, as if looking to find a way to buy time.
“Norman… I’ve never met your mother. She died a long time ago.”
“Emma, don’t joke like that. That’s not a funny joke.” Norman’s hands were shaking. “Whoever put you up to this, it isn’t funny! Was it Dylan?” Emma blinked at him again.
“Dylan?” she asked. “Dylan who?”
“Uh… my brother. Are… you… feeling okay? Are you getting worse or something because you aren’t… making any sense, Emma. You just talked to my mother yesterday! You work here. With us.”
“Norman, yeah, I help out sometimes… But that’s because I’m your girlfriend and you can’t run this place all by yourself. I mean, you’re eighteen. It’s a big responsibility. Honestly, after you inherited this place, I don’t know why you didn’t just sell it.” She paused for a moment and seemed to think over the situation. “No wonder you’re so stressed, I can’t blame you.”
Norman dug his nails into the palm of his hand.
“I’m not crazy, Emma! Everything is just going wrong today… Listen, maybe… I don’t know what could be going on, but let’s find Dylan. He’ll know what to do. Maybe.”
Emma threw her hands up.
“Okay, but only because I really like you. I still think you hit your head or something but… I’ve seen enough movies to know that, hell, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m the confused one.”
“You are,” Norman insisted.
“Let’s go see this Dylan guy who… you said he’s, what, your brother? You have never said anything ever about having a brother, Norman. I don’t… There’s more than one of you out there?”
Norman bristled and glared at her, wishing she could take this seriously. She might think he was going crazy, but he knew he could never forget Mother. Hell, who could forget their own mother, unless they’d gotten hit in the head or something? There was, at least as far as Norman knew, no amnesia that existed to make one believe things had happened that hadn’t.
Now, Norman was heading out the door, and he found himself wondering where exactly he would go to find Dylan, if he wasn’t here at the motel.
There was only one option, and Norman hoped it would be the right one. It wasn’t like he followed Dylan around. Not usually, anyway.
“We need to drive up to the farm.”
“Farm?” Emma asked, “What farm?”
“I’ll tell you where to go,” Norman said. “I’m not really allowed to drive.”
“Yeah, I know,” Emma replied, “You ran over like six cones on your driver’s test. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.”
Norman shook his head slightly. How was it that Emma remembered things that hadn’t even happened? Emma hadn’t even been there at his driver’s test, the one that hadn’t even gotten off the ground because Cody had played telephone with Emma who’d blabbed to his mother.
They climbed into the little car and shut the doors.
“Well, at least we’re going to a farm. With cows and chickens?”
“Not that type of farm, Emma.”
“I’m disappointed, honestly.”
They pulled up in front of the small cabin. Norman burst out of the door, leaving Emma scrambling behind him and muttering under her breath.
Norman couldn’t slow down, however. He needed answers, and he needed them now. Hopefully Dylan could break him out of this nightmare and explain everything that had happened. There had to be a rational explanation, didn’t they? He couldn’t just be alone.
Norman banged on the door in a frenzy.
“Dylan! Dylan open up!”
It was loud inside the cabin, which was surprising. Wasn’t it only Gunner, Dylan and Caleb who lived here? Maybe Gunner had invited a bunch of his pothead friends over. Today of all days. Hopefully Dylan wasn’t high; Norman had never encountered a high Dylan, but just the same he never wanted to.
Eventually, when further banging failed and Emma had arrived at the door beside him, Norman forced the door open.
Inside, there were wall-to-wall people, and trance music was playing loudly. A blonde girl tapped him on the shoulder and nearly took a bite out of his ear.
“What the hell?” Norman asked Emma, who shrugged.
“Is this out of the ordinary?” she mouthed back.
“Where the hell is Dylan?” Norman asked, and Emma shrugged.
He made it to the back of the room before he saw, not Dylan, but his uncle Caleb – who was standing on a table and drinking shots, eagerly yelling.
“Any chick who comes up here, I’ll… I’ll… yeah chicks! I got a mouth that just won’t quit! Who wants to see me prove it?” He proceeded to down another shot, as if in confirmation of his previous statement.
Norman blinked. He had never liked his uncle, but this seemed rather out of character for him. He was usually skulking around Norma trying to win her approval or her forgiveness. Either that or he was moaning to Dylan. Always about the same thing – always about how he needed to get back into Norma’s graces, even though he had hurt and betrayed her and hadn’t even seen her in a good thirty years.
He had never seen him like this, however. Maybe he had just given up, or maybe this is who he was all along. Norman wouldn’t be surprised – Caleb had always struck him as a waste of space.
However, he would need to talk to him in order to find Dylan.
“CALEB!” Norman yelled, not bothering to say “Uncle” because in his mind, he really wasn’t. He wasn’t anything more than a bad memory, for he or his mother both.
“WHAT?” Caleb yelled back, looking at Norman. “Keg’s up front!”
“What d’you want with Dylan?” Caleb slurred. “He’s busy! I saw him leave with a good… three… four chicks! He’s the man!” He took another shot. “What do you want little man?”
Norman’s eyes glowered.
“I need to talk to him! My mother’s missing!”
Caleb mind-boggled at Norman.
“What does that have to do with him?”
“My mother’s missing!” Norman yelled again, figuring his uncle hadn’t heard him right. “You know – your sister!”
Caleb jumped off the table and chuckled.
“You’re drunker than me,” he told him, “I don’t have a sister.”
Norman could feel rage building up in his chest. He was ready to jump on Caleb and just start pounding him with his fists – how could he be in on this ridiculous joke? Or had everyone in the whole town completely lost their minds?
“Caleb!” he barked. “What the hell are you talking about? You know full well that you have a sister!” If he had to shame Caleb in front of all of these people, he would do it. He certainly didn’t have a problem with telling people what Caleb had done, even if Dylan did. Dylan wanted to pretend that his father was just some misunderstood guy, but Norman knew the truth. Even his own mother was giving him a chance, and that was…
Not important right now, because Norma was still missing.
“I don’t have any sister!” he replied again, then climbed down from the table he had been dancing on. “Listen, kid, you got me mistaken for somebody else. My name’s Caleb, but if you want any more than that, you’re gonna need a warrant.” He laughed at that, even though it wasn’t really funny at all. “I was born in Ohio, and I was so great that my parents made the decision to never have another kid. That was all right by me, since they did a shitty job of raising me anyway. Then I had my wingman Dylan, and the rest is history.”
Norman stared at him. What the hell world were all of these people living on?
“Where’s Dylan?” he asked, finally. Talking to Caleb was a waste of time – there had been nothing that he could do for him, even in his right mind. But what was this? Was it some sort of mass hysteria? Norman had read about that in school, the kind of thing that led to witch trials and denouncing your friends and getting them thrown into prison – but could someone really cause a group of people to think someone had never existed? How was that possible?
“He’s back there,” Caleb replied, with a half-smile that made Norman picture how delightful it would be to just go ahead and wring his neck. He needed to stay on point, find Dylan, and figure out what in the hell was going on. He looked where Caleb was pointing and noticed a door near the back of the cabin. He pushed through the throng of people, irritated, remembering Bradley’s party that first night he had come to White Pine Bay. That fateful night that they had cleaned up a body together – how could he ever forget that?
Norman shot a look back at Emma, who was trying to move out of the way of a few drunken party-goers.
Caleb jumped off the table and proceeded to ogle Emma.
“Hey baby, what else do you use that tank for? You got another tank, don’tcha?”
“Stranger danger,” Emma murmured, then grabbed Norman’s hand as they made their way back towards where Caleb had been pointing, as swiftly as possible.
When this was all over, Norman was going to give Dylan hell about his stupid father-uncle. The man was a walking liability, now more than ever. But that wasn’t important right now.
Norman pushed people out of the way, eventually finding a door. He hadn’t even remembered half of this being at the farm-house the last time he had been there, but maybe it just looked a lot more confusing when it was packed wall-to-wall with people.
Norman narrowly missed having someone throw up on him as he pushed the door opened.
Dylan was sitting on a desk with a huge blunt hanging out of his mouth, wearing what Norman figured would generally be referred to as a “pimp hat”. There was a young woman kneeling before him, her head dangerously close to Dylan’s crotch.
“Hey, I said do not disturb!” Dylan slurred, “We’re busy in here. Siddown, Petunia. Lemme show these people out since they want some of you… and I don’t like sharing.”
“My name is Lily!” the girl grumbled. “I’m not named after any kind of Muggle!” She stood up and glared at him. “And you’ve got a beautiful face but a lousy personality, just so you know, Dylan!”
She pushed by Norman and Emma and exited back into the party. Emma shot Norman a look that again seemed to ask what the hell they were doing there.
“Okay, this better be good!” Dylan snapped drunkenly. “You interrupted what was about to be a very good night!”
“You didn’t even know that girl’s name!” Norman shot back, then decided that didn’t really matter – he hadn’t criticized Dylan’s dating practices in the past, and now wasn’t really the time if he was being completely honest with himself. “I need you to help me find our mother!”
“Our mother?” Dylan asked with a snort. “Kid, I haven’t seen you before in my life. We definitely don’t have the same mother – genetics would have to be pretty wild, is all I’m gonna say.”
Norman was considering taking the nearest kitchen knife (not that there would be one around here, as he highly doubted anyone in this drug house knew how to cook) and stabbing the next person who said they didn’t know his mother. Maybe this really was some horrible joke they were all playing on him, maybe Mother was off somewhere and this had all been a big joke at his expense, a prank, and they would all pop out of nowhere at some point and tell him he had been “punk’d” or something like that.
But as much as Norman entertained the idea, he knew it wasn’t true. She wouldn’t leave him, not like that, not out of nowhere. And everyone seemed so different; it was as if they hadn’t forgotten her so much but had never known her.
Maybe he had wandered into some sort of other dimension, or maybe whatever was wrong with him had fully taken hold at last, and he had lost touch with reality.
He took a deep breath. That couldn’t be it – it was all too real. And whatever was going on here, he knew that his mother needed him.
“Come on, Emma,” he said, grabbing her hand. “We’re not getting any answers here.”
There was one place left to go, and if he didn’t know what Norman was talking about, Norman would have to accept that he was truly on his own.
Well, not quite on his own.
“Sometimes you have to do something you really, really don’t want to do, Emma, but then you have to do it anyway because at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do, but it doesn’t make you feel any better that you’ve done it, and then you just have to live with yourself.”
Emma stared at him.
“This sounds like some kind of lead in to a really weird school speech about abortion. What are you even talking about?”
Norman stared at her and let out a sigh.
“We need to go talk to Sheriff Romero.”
“Okay… And why do we need to go talk to Sheriff Romero? Do you want to file a missing persons report or something?”
“No. I mean, he…” Norman lowered his voice, a bit shame-faced. “He likes her. He would realize if she had gone missing.”
“Do you mean that you think the Sheriff wanted to date your mom?”
“Yes, he did. He was always looking at her with… with lust in her eyes!”
Emma proceeded to give Norman a sort of “if you say so” type of look, but continued to follow him as he climbed in the car.
They made their way to the Police Station and entered, with Norman in a frenzied rush and Emma at a reluctant yet steady pace behind him.
“Hello!” Norman said to the secretary. “I’m Norman Bates. I need to speak to Sheriff Romero right away – it’s urgent.”
The secretary rolled her eyes at him.
Norman stared at her.
“He’s never away! Away where?”
“He said something about going out of town to take care of a family matter.”
“He can’t be taking care of a family matter!” Norman balled his hand into a fist and slammed it against the glass. “He needs to be here!”
“Norman, let’s go,” Emma said quickly, reaching out and taking his arm.
“He’ll be gone until Monday, he said,” the secretary continued, seemingly not particularly flummoxed by Norman’s outburst. “I would say to check back then, unless you’d like to talk to the deputy. The deputy’s here.”
“I don’t WANT to talk to the goddamned deputy!” Norman raged, “I want to talk to Sheriff Romero! My mother is in danger and everyone in this town is completely oblivious!”
Emma gripped Norman’s arm and began to pull him away, allowing her tank to roll behind them.
Norman threw over his shoulder, “You were never any help anyway! I hate all of you! I hope you…” But by that point, Emma had successfully pulled him out of the police station.
“Okay, Norman. You’re going to need to calm down. Take a deep breath – you just nearly got yourself arrested.”
Norman began to rain his fists down upon his own thighs, hyperventilating.
“I need her, Emma! She needs to be back – I don’t know why no one remembers her, but I do, and I need her… I need… I can’t just let her be forgotten, I can’t…”
Emma reached out and wrapped her arms around Norman, hugging him tightly.
“Listen, Norman. I don’t know what’s going on, but I do know that I’m your friend, and I’m always going to be your friend.” She pulled back just a moment and leaned in, pressing her lips very gently against his.
Norman leaned into her, wanting nothing more than to forget this all for just a moment, to cling on to his friend. In this world he didn’t understand, now, Emma was familiar, and she was safe. He knew this wasn’t really fair to her, that he didn’t feel quite “the way” about her, but as he let his tongue slip into her mouth, he hoped that she would forgive him.
When they slowly broke the kiss, Norman sighed.
“I… We need to keep going. We need to figure out what’s going on?”
Emma sighed, as well, but Norman was sure it was for different reasons.
“What’s our plan?”
Norman tried to calm himself. He took a deep breath – what would his mother do in this situation? She usually managed to get them out of every situation, even if he wouldn’t always call their solutions “rational” – stabbing Keith Summers and dumping him off the bay came to mind.
“Let’s go back to the motel. Maybe we can find something that will help us. No one can really vanish without a trace, can they?”
Emma scratched her head.
“Well… You have a point. Even if you wiped everyone’s memory of someone, there’d still have to be something around proving that they existed.”
“We need to go back to the motel, Emma! There’s got to be something there.”
Emma let out another sigh, but nodded, and began to roll her O2 tank back over to her tiny car. She climbed in and drove him back to the motel, all the while apprising him with looks of a mix of worry and a strange sort of wonder, as if mulling over whether Norman Bates could truly be the only one in one some sort of massive conspiracy that only he had a hope of solving.
When they arrived back at the motel, the two set to work pulling out the old boxes that still lined the office.
“This is all stuff from the old owner,” Emma said, “I don’t know what we’ll find it here.”
“The old owner,” Norman pointed out, “Keith Summers.” As much as he hated to say that man’s name, maybe it had the power to jog something, to remind Emma of everything that they had been through together. She couldn’t just forget – there had to be some memory of it locked away, even if it had been repressed somehow.
“Yeah, that guy.”
“But why would I have Keith Summer’s hotel?”
“I think he lost it in a gambling thing to your dad, or something. You just kind of hinted, you didn’t really say.”
“And what happened to Keith?”
Emma stared at him.
“Well… He died.”
“I don’t really know how… It’s not as if he and I were exactly close… Hey, wait.”
Emma reached under an old vinyl record and lifted up a piece of paper with printing across it.
“It’s addressed to you!” Emma said. “Dear Norman… If anything should happen to me, I want you to contact Sheriff Romero and tell him that Bob Paris has made good on his threats. I love you, Mother.”
“That’s proof!” Norman explained. He wanted to jump in the air, but he couldn’t – as much as he was relishing being proven right, this note had to mean that his mother was in danger, or worse. “We have to do something…”
“I don’t know how I can’t remember her…” Emma trailed off for a moment. “But I know where we can find Bob Paris. There’s no time to lose. Norman… Let’s do this.” She stood up with a shaky gait. “It’s time to pull the wool off this, whatever it is.”
“So my dad was none too pleased when I asked him about where this place was. Luckily, the internet was way more helpful.”
Emma had gone home and researched the goings-on of one Bob Paris and had come up with information about The Arcanum Club, a particularly off-the-grid, anything-goes type of place.
“I’m not sure you’ll be safe going to a place like that,” Norman began, and Emma leaned in and kissed his cheek.
“Don’t treat me like I’m glass, Norman. You should know that about me – in any reality.”
Norman had to admit that Emma had a point. Even without any proof to back up his claims, she had stuck by him through this.
He remembered with a pang in his heart that she had left him, before. That she’d left him at the pit and walked away, saying they should just stay friends. Implying that there was someone else who held his heart – and he had to admit to himself that she had been right.
Because who could compare to the one who held the cord between their hearts? The cord that someone, some dark force, had tried to sever?
If his mother was hurt or worse, what was he really going to do? Until now, he could focus on the goal of making someone understand, making someone believe, but now that he had succeeded in that, the reality of the situation was bashing him in the face like a boxer holding a frying pan.
She could really, truly be hurt. She could really, truly be dead.
That meant that Norman would die, too. He wondered if anyone would remember him, then, or would he fade away just as someone had made her fade? What evil magic ran this town after all?
Norman shook his head. He refused to think of it. If he didn’t think of it then it wasn’t true, couldn’t be true.
He would find her, and he would help her, and they would be close again – all would be right in the world. He would lay against her in bed for hours, no, days, and they would remember how scared they had been but she would also know that he had been the one to remember, he had been the one to always know who she was, forever and ever.
“Norman, you know what,” Emma began, pausing in front of her car. “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do this alone. We may need some back-up. Bob Paris and his men are probably some scary dudes and they have some Twin Peaks shit going on.”
“Yeah, but who can we call for backup? I mean, your dad knows these guys but I don’t think he’ll want to get involved, especially if he knows you might get hurt. I don’t want you to get hurt, either.” And he didn’t – but if it would save his mother…
“Norman, just to go back a bit – not made of glass. I’m probably not going to live all that long anyway, so if I’m going to get killed off, I’d rather it at least be in an interesting way. Then at least people can be shocked rather than sitting around looking like they’re watching a movie on the Hallmark Channel.”
Norman didn’t really know what to say in response to that.
“Anyway, what I was going to say was – we should ask Dylan and Caleb to help us. Maybe… maybe if we have all forgotten Norma, somehow, there’s still some small part of all of us that still does, and we can trigger it. I read somewhere that the brain can repress things, but they tend to come out in little ways. Sometimes it’s even physical, like people can… But anyway, that’s not important. I’m going to call over to the cabin.” She paused. “Or… Do you have their numbers?”
Norman pulled out his phone and sighed. At least he didn’t have Caleb’s number at all – there were few people in the world that he wanted to talk to less than his uncle. But if he was going to call Dylan, and Dylan was living with him, then he’d have to bring them both. At least Caleb was a big guy, tough – he knew how to fight. He might be useful, as much as Norman didn’t want to admit it.
Norman scrolled down his contacts until he found Dylan’s name. This whole thing was a mess – but if he was going to get everything back to the way things were, then he would have to do what needed to be done. Oh, when he got her back, he was never going to let her go. He might need to lock all the doors and bolt the windows because the world seemed to consist of nothing but people who wanted to harm Mother.
But the world also consisted of Emma.
Even though he knew this wasn’t the way things would turn out, not the way things had turned out, he also knew that there would always be a part of him that wanted her. If things were different, if things could be different… Maybe they could have built a life together.
But there were other things Norman had to consider, always. Other priorities he had to set, other voices whose counsel he needed to heed, or else.
He pressed “Call” and listened to the ringing in his ear.
It took several rings before Dylan picked up.
“What… what?” he answered.
“Dylan – it’s an emergency. Don’t ask any questions, I just really need you to meet us somewhere right now.”
“It’s the bat signal!” Dylan screamed into the phone. “I’ll get there like a jiff! Peanut butter!”
“….Dylan, you sound really drunk. We are going to come get you… With some coffee.” The last thing he needed was to be the cause of drunk driving.
“It’s okay, I’m not that alcohol.”
“….You and Caleb stay right there. We’ll meet you.”
When they arrived at the cabin, they discovered what looked to be the remnants of twenty-five iced coffee cups all strewn around, as if Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts had finally decided to have a winner-take-all rumble.
Caleb was lying on his back in the middle of the coffee catastrophe, and when Norman took a step towards him, he rolled over on his side and proceeded to throw up.
“Disgusting,” Norman muttered to Emma. “Some people.”
Emma raised an eyebrow and looked for Dylan – she quickly found him, sitting on what appeared to be a cat tree, which was odd, considering that they did not appear to have a cat.
“Okay, listen,” Emma said a moment later, “Something weird happened here. All of our memories were wiped. I don’t really know how it happened, and honestly, I don’t really want to know because it kind of freaks me out. But I do know that someone out there who we all know – even if we don’t remember – needs our help. And I, for one, am going to help her. Who’s with me?”
No one said anything, so Emma knocked her hand on her chest and yelled, “Who’s with me?!”
Norman gave a loud yell, and Dylan clasped his hands over his ears.
“You are all way too loud right now. Can we please crank it down to maybe, like, a 3?”
“NO!” Emma yelled back. “We need to go find her right now!”
Caleb proceeded to throw up again.
“You’re repulsive,” Norman told him.
“I’m drunk,” Caleb replied.
“Okay, okay, I’ll go wherever you want if you promise to stop shouting. Jeez,” Dylan told Emma.
She looked at Norman and shrugged.
“I had been hoping for a ‘This! Is! Sparta!’ reaction but, eh, close enough.”
They all crammed into Emma’s tiny orange car, as she muttered to Norman that Caleb had better not puke all over the seats.
“There’s no way I’m asking my dad to lend me money to get puke cleaned out,” she told him. “All of this is far weird enough.”
Norman had to agree with that, but he felt a surge of exhilaration nonetheless – they were going to find Mother. They were going to find her, and they would be bringing her home at last. She would be safe, and the evil man behind it all would be defeated. Just like in a fairy tale.
As Emma began to drive down the road, Caleb rolled down the window and vomited out the side.
“I’m never drinking. I mean, I know I can’t,” Emma mumbled, “But I’m also just… not.”
“It was a good night!” Dylan exclaimed, then did something that appeared to be attempting to give himself a high five – Norman wasn’t really sure. Regardless, he wanted his brother back, the solemn and sullen one who was serious and determined and battled with Mother but loved her nonetheless. Noman had never realized how vital that Dylan had been.
Whenever he got that Dylan back, he was going to take any alcohol in the house and pour it out. It was too big a risk.
Finally, Emma arrived at the location she had been given for Bob Paris’ clubhouse. It was surrounded, it appeared, by a five-foot wall.
“What is he, Donald Trump?” Emma grumbled.
“I saw a porno about him,” Caleb offered.
Dylan burst out laughing.
“Was he fired?”
They both burst out laughing.
“That doesn’t even make any sense! Now shut up. We have to figure out how to get over the wall!”
“Since, my friend, you have revealed your deepest fear - I sentence you to be exposed before your peers! Tear down the wall… tear down the wall! Tear down the wall!” Caleb began chanting.
“What are you even talking about?”
“Pink Floyd. It’s from ‘The Trial’. On, y’know, ‘The Wall.”
Emma shook her head.
“You know, I’m going to be so glad when this is all over and done with. How about you, Norman?”
But Norman was staring out the window, trying not to hyperventilate. What was he going to do with this motley crew when he got there? Half of them weren’t in any shape to fight whoever and whatever this Bob Paris must have at his disposal.
He wasn’t going to back down, though, even if it meant giving his life. His Mother was worth it, after all. She always would be.
He jerked forward when Emma parked in front of a tiny rowhome.
“Why are we stopping here?” Norman asked. It was unlikely that Bob Paris was operating his evil network out of a house that looked like a set from Leave it to Beaver.
“I parked a few blocks away so we’re less obvious,” Emma told them. “Caleb, Dylan, please try to keep standing. Shit, I should have brought you some coffee.”
She opened the door and stepped out, brushing her hands on her pants, then over her O2 tank.
“Let’s do this.”
Norman bit his lip hard, exiting out of the passenger’s side and letting out a breath. Dylan and Caleb followed, at more of a hobble. They were going to be quite the crew, walking into whatever this was going to bed exactly.
But this was what he had, so this was what Norman was going to work with. He would do anything, bear any burden, to be back in Mother’s arms again.
They began the slow crawl towards the place that seemed to hold Bob Paris and, hopefully, Mother. Emma, surprisingly enough, was the first to reach the door.
She rang the doorbell and looked around at the others. Norman’s heart was in his throat, and maybe it was being crushed.
The door swung open, and Norman found himself staring at a short, smirking man dressed in a black suit.
“I was hoping you would come,” the man said, then gave a humorless chuckle.
“Excuse me… who are you?”
Norman narrowed his eyes.
“I’m Bob Paris, and you’re Norman Bates… Come on in. I’ve been waiting.”
Needless to say, walking into the spider’s lair was not incredibly high on the list of things Norman wanted to do – he wished they could have caught him when he wasn’t expecting them, or come up with some kind of sneak attack.
However, that wasn’t what they had. This was what they had, and they needed to make the best out of it.
“I’ll bet you’re wondering how I managed all of this,” Bob Paris mused. Norman wanted to say that no, he wasn’t, but this wasn’t a good time for quips. This wasn’t some superhero show or a spy drama. He didn’t give time for Norman to answer, either, not that it would have mattered. “There have been some interesting drugs manufactured, and if you keep an eye on the right markets, you can get exactly what you need. In this case, a tiny little pellet that, if applied to the right people, can make them agree with whatever you subliminally suggest to them.” He chuckled. “It worked across the board. Her brother? Forgot. Her own son? Forgot. Her son’s girlfriend? Well, that was even easier. You can get plenty of people to forget someone they’re tangential to. But you… For some reason, it didn’t work on you.”
Norman glowered. He didn’t really understand what this man was saying, but he had heard enough. This man had plotted against Mother, and even if he didn’t know why… he knew this man had to be stopped.
But where was Mother? He had her, somewhere. Was holding her somewhere, or worse. And he had somehow managed to wipe her off of the face of the Earth – how terrifying was that, to not only go missing but to have never existed?
“I’m not interested in hearing your speech,” Norman told him. He wanted to sound brave, like he was in one of those old movies. What had been the one? The Third Man? Mother loved that one, all the twists and turns. Even when the man saw that everything wasn’t as he thought it would be, he kept trying to do what was right, hadn’t he? Even when everything he thought he knew had turned out to be wrong, even when everything went topsy-turvy… “I just want to know where my mother is. You had better tell me right now.”
“I had better tell you?” Bob Paris tilted back his head and laughed. “Can you get a load of this kid? I mean, really. You – you’re a funny one. You know who else was a funny one? Your mother. Until she disappeared, that was. It’s interesting how little it took. How few people even knew that she existed after all. Her own son,” He gestured in Dylan’s direction and snapped his fingers, right in front of Dylan’s face, and he flinched, “With a subliminal hint, he forgets his own mother. It’s actually really fascinating. Maybe subconsciously he always wanted to forget.”
Dylan’s eyes had grown wide, and he was staring at them both.
“This is…” he began, but Norman picked up on a slight shift, a change. Maybe it was wishful thinking or all in his head, but he could have sworn he had just seen a tiny part of his older brother wake up. “This is crazy. I’ve never met you before. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Caleb was craning his head now, too.
“If I had a sister, I would remember her,” he spoke up.
“Who is Dylan’s mother, Mr. Calhoun? Can you answer me that?”
“Some girl… From a long time ago,” Caleb shot back.
“Can you tell me about her?”
Norman watched as Caleb closed his eyes and furrowed his brow. He shook his head.
“…No. I don’t… I don’t remember what she looked like.”
“She was your sister, Mr. Calhoun.”
“…What are you talking about? Dylan’s my son, I can’t…”
There was a long pause, broken only by the sound of Bob Paris’ mocking laughter.
Norman felt his neck grow hot, felt his nails dig into his palm.
“That’s enough!” he yelled. It echoed off Bob Paris’ spacious roof, his beautiful walls. “Where is she?”
“I thought you’d never ask. Come with me. And oh,” he turned to look at Caleb, curling up his nose. “You can wipe your shoes on the map. Don’t track mud in here.”
Bob Paris’ house proved to be larger on the inside than it had appeared from the street. The man led them to a basement door that led down a spiral staircase.
What lay before them at the bottom appeared to be almost a whole house in itself – it could have easily been rented out as someone’s two or three-bedroom apartment.
What, Norman wondered, were they supposed to do when they arrived at their destination?
The man didn’t seem worried in the least. How could he be so confident that such a – Norman didn’t have another word for it, but, weird – plan had actually worked? Maybe he was one of those people who was always used to winning.
But in a way, Keith Summers had seemed like one of those types of people, too, and Norman knew how that had all turned out.
Bob Paris led them to one last door; he reached for a metal lever and pulled it down before opening it to reveal a small room inside.
There was a long chain hooked to a metal eye at the edge of the room, and it led to the far corner of the tiny space.
Norman’s mind conjured up the image he had seen at Zack Shelby’s, the night he had broken in and discovered Jiao. The way he hadn’t been believed, the scar he’d found on his ankle where the girl had grabbed him, holding on for dear life.
He was already shaking and could barely bring his eyes to look ahead to the length of the chain, because he already knew what he would find.
Crumpled in a heap, seemingly unconscious but breathing shallowly in restless sleep, was his mother, Norma Bates.
Somewhere in the chaos, Caleb had dropped to his knees and let out a wail. Finally, he could be heard: “Norma Louise!”
“Mom!” Dylan exclaimed.
The two both rushed towards her, as Norman stood in shock. She was there, she was real – she wasn’t some figment of his imagination conjured up by hope and pain.
She was real and she was alive. She was hurt, but he would fix that. No one would ever hurt Mother again.
He had people with him. They were remembering, now, finally remembering. He wouldn’t be in this alone anymore, wondering if he had really lost his mind this time and the memories had just been shadows all along.
But how were they going to get out of this one? Bob Paris seemed to have men of his own, must have men of his own if he pulled this off. It was like Keith Summers and his slavery ring all over again, people peeking out from behind every post to join this conspiracy.
Why hadn’t he let Mother move them to Hawaii months ago? This would have never happened, then, if he hadn’t been stubborn.
Norman snapped out of it a second later, falling into the pile with Caleb and Dylan on either side. They tumbled into each other, scuffing each other with pointy elbows and knees.
“Mother…” “Norma…” “Norma Louise…”
They all reached out to take her arms and legs, trying to lift her but tripping over the others and over themselves as they came out of their daze.
It looked like a fog had been lifted from their eyes, as if lights had suddenly been turned on in a dark room.
Norman could hear his mother breathing, and suddenly he heard a shuddering cough as she awoke, looking around at everyone in a panicked daze.
“Norman?” she asked quietly, keeping her eyes on him most of all. “What… what are you doing here, what happened?” Norman watched her eyes pull themselves from him and last and land, again, on the shackles around her arms. “Norman… Go get help.”
“I did,” Norman replied quietly, his heart feeling as if it was going to burst out of his chest. This was all well and good, he knew, but there was more to be done. “They’re here.”
Norman had forgotten that Bob Paris was in the room. But he shouldn’t have – the man’s face was curled into a sneer, as if he had discovered he was truly untouchable yet again.
There were men, coming, zeroing in on the group in what seemed to be annoyingly slow motion. Norman had to come up with something, and quick. But Norman had never been the strong one, never the tough one.
They said he’d done things and he didn’t know whether to believe them. That wasn’t him.
But now, maybe he needed to be that person, that other him.
He scanned the room for something he could use. Sure, Dylan and Caleb were there – big, muscular guys – but the two of them had been useless in this crisis up until now; why would he think he could depend on them for anything?
Norman looked out of the corner of his eye and noted an elk’s head on the wall.
Had his mother been another trophy to him? How had she even gotten drawn into this? Maybe this was what all the whispering had been about, the whispering he’d assumed had to do with Caleb.
Annika’s death in front of the motel.
This had been the man who’d killed her.
Something went pitch-black behind Norman’s eyes. He had thought that he’d killed her. Even Mother had thought it, had suspected it. And it had been this man all along… and then he had…
Norman didn’t get a chance to finish the thought in his head before a golf club collided with Bob Paris’ head.
“I’ll get her,” he heard Caleb yelling. “Everybody, run!” Norman could hear the sound of Caleb tinkering with the shackles and pulling them open.
He grabbed Norma’s hand and began to run.
He was sure the others were behind them, but he couldn’t be sure. All that mattered was that Mother was safe.
“Sheriff Romero… Alex, I don’t really know how to explain it.” Norman watched as his mother dabbed a piece of tissue against her nose, stemming a small nosebleed with am annoyed look. “I don’t remember much, really. Just… someone breaking in, and then I was tied up somewhere dark. I can remember voices, but not much else… Not until Norman came bursting in to save me.” She beamed at him.
Norman could feel Dylan glaring at him from his own seat in the police station, but he didn’t care.
“And how did you find out about all of this, Norman? This was a pretty big plot you untangled. I don’t even understand half of it.”
And he wouldn’t, Norman thought to himself, how could he explain it all, even if he wanted to? Maybe the whole thing had been a dream, or a nightmare. Maybe that would explain it. Maybe it was a fever dream he had conjured up, and it was all coming to a resolution in his own subconscious.
“Norman knew what was important,” Emma spoke up. Dylan and Caleb exchanged glances.
“Yeah,” Caleb chimed in, rubbing at his forehead. He looked as if he had gotten bruised in the melee, or perhaps it was simply a very intense hangover. “Norman kept going at us until we remembered.”
“Remembered what?” asked the Sheriff.
“Remembered Norma,” Dylan spoke up.
“I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly what went down today. But Bob Paris is going away for a long time. I don’t think he’ll be much of a problem for any of you anymore.” He looked at Norman suspiciously but eventually ventured, “Good work, Norman.”
Norman’s face curled into a smirk. Who could ever think he would forget Mother? She would be his first thought when he woke each morning and his last thought before he went to bed, for the rest of his life.