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Would Of, Could Of, Should Of

(Listen Here)

Looking for love in all the wrong places is nothing new for Phoebe. She's spent most of the '70s trying her best to connect the dots, but inevitably her number two pencil breaks or coffee stains the paper. It's not that she settles for the wrong guys, but somehow she pulls them in, and it's over before it begins. In every relationship, Phoebe leaps with the accuracy of an Olympic diver. And paddles with the grace of a synchronized swimmer. The mechanics are solid, but the show stops there because Phoebe can't fake emotion. She'd give everything she had in the world to experience love, anger, hurt, or at least once, feel inspired.

Phoebe is no stranger to a night out on the town independently. She'll begin the evening solo at least, but it's never difficult for a woman with Phoebe's natural gifts to take someone home. Most people would never dream of visiting the annual Clarkstown carnival without a companion, but it doesn't phase our Phoebe. The line isn't long for the fun house; she takes a spot. The music and crowd are noisy, so the remarks of half of the men strolling by go unnoticed. One gentleman briefly catches her eye with a Mona Lisa smile and a frosty stare. The subtle connection is lost to the twilight as the carny collects Phoebe's ticket and encourages her to enter.

The hoopla and occasional cry, any good fun house has to offer, dampens the outside racket. Frightened kids push and attempt to plow by Phoebe as she quickly loses her patience and turns to discipline each of the children. To her surprise, not a single soul is within eyesight. Exterior noise dissipates, and Phoebe finds herself alone inside. Shrugging the oddity off as part of the ride, she takes a few more steps deeper into the carnival attraction. Thick, odorless smoke creeps up from her ankles, impairing her already suffering vision in the darkness. A hum followed by a bizarre pastel glimmer catches her attention, pulling her closer.

Phoebe arrives to discover an open doorway with a neon sign that reads, "choose your ending." The curious thrill seeker wanders through to find a well-kept hard maple staircase seemingly suspended in the air, surrounded by a starless cosmos. Each step downward unveils unrecognizable yet familiar sounds resonating with background noise like speakers from an antique radio. Some of the static clears as Phoebe descends but is quickly interrupted by more interference. The soundwaves grow vicious and prove to be more than her ears can handle, forcing the lost wanderer to sprint toward the bottom. Phoebe slips as she approaches the end of her descent, bashing her head on the unbending surface.

Welcome silence abruptly takes the reigns as Phoebe focuses on a single door. Two words, "would of," are painted on the exterior. The disoriented young woman attempts to open it and finds that it is locked tight. After trying to force her way in for a few moments, she gives up. Then it happened; a slight creaking sound indicated an open exit. Pushing through, she finds an apartment no different than any other where she ends up any given night. It's like every man who has ever taken her home used the same interior decorator; the same two wine glasses, the same retro record player, and the same sofa complete with a chaise lounge. A couple clumsily walks into the apartment, startling Phoebe enough to hide behind the couch instinctively. The man speaks to his date, and she responds, uncovering an eerie truth.

Phoebe peeks over the couch to get a glimpse of the two intoxicated lovers, only to realize the gentleman is looking directly at her. In a frantic attempt to explain herself, Phoebe quickly realizes that the others cannot see her. The unknown woman turns to expose herself, revealing a familiar face. Phoebe struggles to understand what is happing and can't decide if she's looking into a mirror or watching herself like in some trippy sci-fi television show. Finally, she recognizes the guy from earlier in the evening; he's the one with the Mona Lisa smile. Unsure how to manage the situation, Phoebe collapses to the floor and watches the event unfold.

After a few minutes of chitchat, casanova picks up the empty wine glasses and stumbles to the kitchen, leaving his half-conscious date behind, while Phoebe follows. She witnesses the shifty scumbag dump white powder into his inebriated damsel's cup before filling it with cheap red wine. Phoebe watches as he returns to his lair and urges his companion to drink it all. Time wears on, and the look on the man's face evolves, revealing a cruel predator drooling over an unconscious prey. He throws the lifeless body over his shoulder, disappearing into the bedroom like a spider, ready to weave its web around a helpless bug. The creak from the mystical door signals that it's time for Phoebe to leave. She again stands outside in the darkness at the bottom of the staircase, facing a locked doorway.

The only difference this time is the words that read, "Could of," instead of the previous phrase. Experienced, Phoebe patiently waits at the entrance for her cue. Once the passage is clear, Phoebe storms through, ready to battle the demon on the other side. Everything is the same, except for one detail. This time Phoebe isn't watching herself. Instead, it's a complete stranger accompanying the manipulative beast. It doesn't take long before Phoebe realizes whatever is allowing her to watch the story has no intention of letting her interfere. She feels as vulnerable as the target, desperately wanting to lash out at the promiscuous pervert. Phoebe may as well be a ghost as she experiences a replay of the last show with a new unsuspecting cast member.

Again, Phoebe finds herself outside with a new sign that reads, "Should of." She impatiently waits for the signal before stepping through the third time. Tears soak Phoebe's face as she assumes she's damned to confront the scenario repeatedly, like some malicious supernatural loop. Despair influences Phoebe to slide down the wall embracing the helplessness but refusing to monitor the ritual. She can't help but take a glimpse after hearing her own voice, just as she did the first round. She watches herself make the same mistakes, except now something has changed. The would-be target follows the wicked coward into the kitchen, shoves her body against his backside while he pours the wine, and slashes his throat with a nearby serrated bread knife.

The blade rips through his skin as she saws with all of her strength. The bottle and glasses shatter at his bare feet, sticking deep into his heels and toes. Chunks of flesh tear from his neck, then dangle for a moment and fall to the floor, eventually disguised by a pool of blood and discount liquor store wine. Red specs build up on the checkered tile backsplash, ultimately leaving a pathway to the sink and down the drain. Gurgled screams give way to a silenced panic as cold steel mutilates his vocal cords. Phoebe spectates with no remorse because guilt does not coexist alongside vengeance. Adrenaline streamed through Phoebe's veins; this was an inspiring first. She watched as her clone dropped the knife to the floor, grabbed her jacket, and left the apartment. One last spasm and 'Mona Lisa Smiles' was gone.

Phoebe left the scene expecting to find herself at the bottom of a magical floating staircase. Instead, she stood outside in a crowded midway while the sounds of bells and whistles hijacked any chance to reflect. She remained still, waiting for the right moment to act, and then she saw him. Not one pretty girl walked by without tasting his frosty stare. He patiently waited for the right mix of vulnerability, shuffled into naiveness, and enclosed snuggly inside a flawless body. Phoebe meticulously surveyed until she noticed the young lady who was on the other side of door number two catch his attention. Phoebe hustled to make her way to the gentleman first because tonight he had a date with the girl behind door number three.

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