“Fucking Magic!” Your triumphant and idiotic evocation (Again, huh? Again with that shit?) echoes against the bodies around you, as you point your free hand toward the statue of the skeleton and blinding light fires from your palm.
The emaciated figure suddenly springs to life, pulling itself up from the hunch to a proper standing position, and striding purposely across the dance floor. Many of the dancers watch in wonder, but even more seem to be ignoring it in favor of having their own fun. Kids today.
The skeleton arrives, standing pointedly between the two of you, and gives you a hollow-eyed glance. “Well?” it asks, after a few moments of waiting. Its voice is deep, melodic, and surprisingly pleasant.
“Attack him!” You commence pointing to the knight so rapidly that beer is sloshing from your cup.
“I see no reason to do such a thing,” the skeleton replies. “This is all nothing more than a simple misunderstanding.” He turns to the knight, who has his blade at the ready. “Good knight, the conjurer did not mean to douse you, he is merely a clumsy oaf. Such risks, as you certainly know, come with being on a bustling dance floor filled with open containers. Please accept his apology.”
The knight gives a small nod, though in no way makes a move to lower his blade. The skeleton turns back to you.
“Go ahead and what?”
“Apologize.” You’re not sure how he can sound so forceful yet bored, especially without a tongue. Or lips. Or vocal chords. Maybe you should just let this one go.
“Oh, right! I’m sorry I spilled my beer on you. It was accident, and I sincerely apologize.”
“Well done,” the skeleton says. “Now, I think that should sufficiently resolve this conflict. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to my post. However, good knight, should you get any ideas later in the evening, perhaps after a few drinks of your own, about coming back to settle the score, you should know one thing.” The skeleton leans in toward the knight, its skull seeming to splits at the corners of its mouth as a wide, horrifying grin spreads across the stone cheeks. “I will still be watching. I consider the disregard of diplomacy very annoying. And I am far less pleasant when I’ve been annoyed.”
The last line comes out shrill, like fingers on a chalkboard except the chalkboard is your brain. You wince, shutting your eyes as if that will hinder the ringing lingering in your ears. By the time you open them, the skeleton is back in place and the knight has headed somewhere else. Around you, the dancing and revelry has resumed without missing a step, as though a giant walking statue were interesting enough only to watch, not discuss.
Jim ambles over to you and takes the cup from your grasp. “Maybe I better hang onto this after all.” He takes a long, deep gulp. “Okay, so I’m halfway to wasted, but does this seem weird to you? I mean, weirder than just normal Halloween shit?”
“A little bit,” you admit. “I just brought a damn statue to life, but no one cared. I mean, they thought it was neat, and that was it.”
“Hauntstravaganza is known for the insane details and over-the-top special effects,” Jim reminds you. “They probably thought it was animatronic. I was actually talking about the weird shit with the people around us. I mean, who lets a dude with a real sword into a party? And while you were fucking around, I swear I saw a girl dressed like a ghost actually float through people to get to a punch bowl. All these costumes are too damn real.”
That is when it finally hits you. You bought your costume on Halloween day, and since you put together Steampunk Darkwing Duck in August, you hadn’t gone looking for anything costume related. But the rest of the town had. Probably all of them had walked the same downtown street where the shops were clustered. How many had noticed the small shop where the Blockbuster used to be? How many had walked in and talked to the old woman? You’d gotten the last few tablespoons of golden powder from a mysterious jar. A big fucking jar. A big fucking jar that, at some point, was probably filled all the way up.
“Shit on a skillet,” you swear. “Jim, I think at least some of these people got the same magic as me. I’m not the only one here with costume powers.”
You hear a raspy chuckling from behind you. With a quick spin you find yourself face to face with the hideous witch woman that Not-Superman laughed at. She jerks her head forward a bit, sending her wart covered nose on a crash course with your face. When you jump back, she lets out a full-blown cackle of amusement.
“Aren’t you a dumb one,” she says, a few chuckles still bubbling from her throat. “Most of us figured that out within the first few minutes of being here.”
“Yeah, well…. you’re ugly!” This is not a proud moment for you, or your thin scraps of intelligence.
“Of course I am,” she agrees. “But I’m also rather intelligent. You, in contrast, seem somewhat inept, but have an astounding amount of power. It occurs to me that perhaps we could benefit from mutual assistance.”
“Aren’t you a witch? Why don’t you use your own magic?”
“Witches and wizards are different creatures,” she informs you. “While wizards are all show, flash, and quick magic, our image of witches largely evolved from the image of wise-old women who held company with unnatural forces. Their magic works slowly, though potions and ceremony and curses.”
“You know a shitload about witches,” Jim comments.
She gives him an icy stare. “I know a lot about several things, including the fact that the woman running the shop gave us all different prices we would have to pay. The knight, for instance, must defeat a worthy foe or be doomed to never succeed at any competition for the rest of his life.”
You glare at her suspiciously. “How do you know that?”
“Because people are drunk, and chatty, and no one pays me any particular mind if I’m nearby. Now, someone with a little juice would help me to paying my price, and I’m sure I can assist with whatever yours is. In fairness, we can even do yours first. If you’re not interested, however, I can find someone else. It’s up to you.”
You give Jim a glance, but he got bored after the witch part and is now watching two girls who came as dryads do some sort of slow, careful dance. He’s not going to be any help at all, so it’s your call.”
You decide to let her join