Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 1

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Choose Your Spooky Outcome Novel, done over the 13 nights leading up to Halloween. This is a sequel, so if you want the story to make sense you should go read the first one here. If you're reading this as it's happening, then be sure to vote for the choices you want made. If not, enjoy the story! Here's how it works:

It will run from October 19th – October 31st (13 days of Halloween). Every night I put up the newest chapter, along with a poll for you to make your decisions. Polls close at Noon CST on the following day, so I can write the next installment. Post goes up at night, rinse, lather, repeat.

There will be Dead Ends, choices you make that get your character killed. If people pick one then I’ll give you the Dead End, then redirect you to the other choice that didn’t kill you, because I think we all cheated at those books as kids and I see no reason to change that. However, if you all can get to the Halloween without a single Dead End, I’ll post a special bonus story or chapter as a prize.

Happy Haunting!

                “Yo, come check me out!”

                You push yourself off the couch wearily, still fighting off the hangover from last night’s Post-Pre-Pre-Halloween-Pre-Actual-Halloween-Party. Having real Halloween fall on a weekend has led to an entire week of themed costumed parties, which has been hard on both your liver and your supply of costumes. Last night’s barrel-scraper was a bed-sheet toga, which is now drenched in beer, among other fluids, and tossed in the dumpster behind your apartment complex. Whatever, a comforter is all you really too to sleep on anyway.

                “How do I look?” Jim asks as you push open the partially ajar bathroom door. He’s wearing jeans, a baseball cap, and a hooded sweatshirt; all of them on backwards.

                “Honestly? I have no idea what the hell you’re supposed to be,” you tell your best friend/roommate.

                Jim absorbs this news along with a few sips from the Cup Of Infinite Beer, a leftover treat from last year’s Halloween shitshow. “Damn,” Jim says at last. “I was really hoping you’d make a guess and I could use it as my idea. I’m basically out of shit. Guess we have to hit up the costume shops.”

                A slight shudder worms its way down your spine as you remember what happened last year when you went to buy a costume last minute. It’s really Jim’s fault you’re in this mess, again. You had a perfectly adequate Gravity Falls/Evil Dead mash-up costume lined up for this year. Unfortunately, it only survived the first three parties of the week, and you were really pushing on the third one at that.

                “I’m sure we’ll think of something,” you say.

                “We better think quick. Victoria is going to be here soon.” Jim points to the antique grandfather clock he came home with one night in July (not that he had any memory of how he procured it), which indeed says there are only a few minutes left before Victoria shows up.

                Since last Halloween, she’s become a semi-regular fixture in your life, regarding you and Jim as her friends. Friends she often looks at like an alligator watching a toddler play on the banks, but friends all the same. You were surprised when she asked if you three could go somewhere different this year, given her relation to the man who threw the biggest Halloween party in the county, but you didn’t object. After last year, there was no way you were going to the Halloween Hell-House Hauntstavaganza. Unless they booked a sweet band. Or if there were lots of girls going. Or they had more of that free top-shelf… yeah you were probably going to end up there.

                A crisp knock on the apartment door pulls you free of your reverie, and you rush down the hall to answer, all thoughts of a lingering hangover forgotten. It might have been a year, but you’re still a bit smitten with Victoria Dempsy. You fling open the door, revealing her standing there, bundle of garment bags clutched in her arms. Despite what they must weigh, she seems not the least bit inconvenienced, waltzing through the front door with an effortless smile.

                “Evening, Merlin.” Victoria greets you. You’re pretty sure she’s learned your real name since last Halloween, but you aren’t completely certain. “You and the dinosaur ready for this evening?”

                “It was a dragon-turtle!” Jim yells from across the apartment, causing Victoria’s smile to widen a touch. She took a strange joy in ribbing him about last year’s costume choice, despite that fact that her own had been a hideous witch. Despite the late afternoon Halloween hour, she isn’t in any costume yet. With her worn jeans and dark purple hoodie, Victoria could pass for a regular, everyday college-aged woman. Which, when you were particularly brave, you admitted to yourself might just be more costume than anything you had ever worn.

                “Did you not know what you wanted to wear?” You try to help her by taking a few of the garment bags, but she swipes your hand away and begins delicately setting them out on the couch, one by one.

                “Mine is the one with the red hanger,” she replied. “But I assumed you two buffoons would have destroyed every worthwhile costume you possessed by the time the true All Hallows Eve rolled around, so I brought along a few options.”

                “Thank the sweet lord of vodka,” Jim said, bounding of the bathroom. “I had no idea how I was going to manage peeing in these pants.”

                “By your tenth drink you probably would have just soiled yourself,” Victoria said.

                “Well obviously. I meant until then.” Most people would have been bothered by that sort of assumption on her part, or at least disagreed with it. Most people were not Jim.

                “Here, I had yours made up special. It’s extra-resilient, especially against the sort of stains one acquires from spilled drinks.” Victoria hands the last garment bag to Jim, who accepts it and immediately darts right back into the bathroom.

                “You didn’t need to do this,” you tell her.

                “I most certainly did. Tonight, you will be seen with a member of one of the high families of All Hallows Eve. It would shame the entire Willowbrook line if I publicly consorted with those who don’t honor the evening properly.”

                “About that, aren’t you supposed to be at the Halloween Hell-House Hauntstavaganza? I mean, you went through all that trouble last year to win the right and help plan it.”

                Victoria looks up at you, then gives a slow, solemn nod. “That was my intent, but the opportunity to offer a more prestigious service has arisen. This will be greatly benefit my family, and will move me through the ranks much more quickly. Now, Merlin, will you ask me questions all night, or would you like to select your costume?”

                “I get to choose? How come? Jim didn’t get to choose.”

                “I only had so much material for a costume that wouldn’t be immediately destroyed by his antics. Since you’re somewhat gentler, I was able to commission a few options.”

                Victoria leans down and unzips the first garment bag, revealing long black cloth as thick and heavy as morning fog. Further inside is a white shirt, sashes, and what appears to be a thin sword next to an ancient pistol. As you look inside, you also notice books and a hat. There is no way all this stuff fit into just a regular garment bag, that much is for sure.

                “In my line, we like to stick with the classics. Your first option is to wear the garb of a pirate.”

                She unzips the second bag, revealing fiery red cloth that spills out so quickly you’re afraid it will light the couch on fire. As you peer in deeper, you catch sight of what looks like a trident, only far more cruelly designed, and a pair of monstrous horns.

                “Second up, you may don the visage of one of hell’s army: a demon.”

                The last bag is unzipped to reveal a gleaming crest; one that almost looks like it has a skull and a beer cup on it. The crest is on a shield, which is next to a tunic, boots, another sword, and a lot of chainmail. Victoria takes a step back to admire this one before speaking.

                “Lastly, you may take up the mantle of a knight, if you are so inclined.”

                “Okay, level with me here: am I going to turn into my costume again? You haven’t told me where we’re going or what we’re doing; and I feel like I’ve been pretty cool about that. You’re our friend, you asked for a favor, so Jim and I are down. All of that said, if I’m going to turn into my costume again, I really feel it’s only fair to tell me up front, before I decide what to wear.”

                “The enchantress who visited last year has not returned, nor do I sense her type of magic in the air. However, never forget that on All Hallows Eve the costumes were once meant to hide from and fight against monsters. I cannot promise that the weapons you pick up may not be needed at some point on our journey.”

                Well, that’s about as straight an answer as Victoria has ever given you, not likely you’re going to get much more out of her. Time to decide what you’ll be for Halloween this year.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 2

                “If I might have to fight monsters, then for once I’d like to be on even ground with them.” You reached forward and pick up the demon costume, noting that it all stays inside the open garment bag as you lift it off the couch.

                “You’ve grown more bold, Merlin.” Victoria zip up the other two and sets them aside. She plucks the final bag, the one with the red hanger poking out, from the couch and tosses it over her shoulder.

                “Hey, I’m a demon now. Shouldn’t you be calling me Lucifer or something else appropriate?”

                Victoria smiles, a rare and stunning sight that makes your heart beat so loudly you can feel it in your ears. “No, the costumes are fleeting, but memories remain. You’ll always be Merlin to me. Now go to the restroom and change. I’ll use your bedroom.”

                You could protest the unfairness of getting evicted from your own more spacious room, but in truth you likely would have made the same arrangements if she’d let you decide who went where. It might have been nice to have had the chance, at least. Wordlessly you take your garment bag into the restroom, nearly knocking over the Cup of Infinite Beer that Jim had abandoned. Shutting the door behind you, the changing begins.

                Victoria did you right on the costume front. As you fasten and buckle things into place, you realize that what you’re wearing is as elaborate as last year’s magically augmented wizard outfit. The outfit is done in sweeping reds and black, stylized nicely and hanging off your body like it was tailor-made for you, which it very well might have been. Edges of the rear robe trail for a few inches behind when you walk, and a tall collar rises high behind your neck. The horns stick to your forehead with minimal effort, whatever substance they are coated with proving far more effective than standard spirit gum. Your final costume piece, the pitchfork, feels cold yet comfortable in your hand.

                When everything is on and you catch sight of yourself in the mirror, you nearly jump at your own reflection. Gone is the everyday person you’re accustomed to seeing. In his place is a demon.

                Opening the door and heading into the hall, you can hear Jim trying to talk Victoria into pregaming. It makes sense they’d both finish first, Jim had a head start and Victoria is…well…Victoria. Rounding the corner, you catch sight of your roommate as he clutches a bottle of knock-off Jaeger and some shot glasses.

                Jim is adorned in the outfit of a roman gladiator, complete with sleeveless vest, sandals, and a net resting on his belt. You can see why the costume is largely drink proof, the whole thing seems like it’s made of leather, and might actually function as armor. Suddenly you think back to the chainmail in the knight costume and wonder if perhaps you didn’t think enough about defense when you selected your outfit. Then you catch sight of Victoria, and for a moment all rational thought flees you’re mind.

                Honestly, you aren’t sure whether you’re more afraid or turned on as your eyes fall upon her. Victoria has dressed herself like a fairy, but not one of the Tinkerbell persuasion. Her dress is done in dark colors and bold patterns, her nails extended out in precise points, even her teeth seem a touch sharper as she smiles. The wings on her back look like gossamer wings spun of silken razor wire, and her already pale skin has lost a few shades in the moments since you last saw her. Victoria is dressed as the fairy, but she is dressed as the kind that reminds you that once upon a time fairies were not the sweet vessels of magic or bundles of light modern cinema turn them into. Once, fairies were revered as some of the scariest monsters one might meet.

                “Ah, there’s our demon,” she calls, spotting you leaving from the bathroom. “Nice to see everything fits.”

                “Yeah.” Your mouth is dumb, still low on your brains priorities as it debates between ogling and cowering. At last you managed to get a grip on yourself and continue speaking. “Yeah, it’s perfect. Like it was made for me.”

                “My escorts must be properly attired.” She flashes a grin, exposing those white, just a tough too sharp, teeth. Somewhere inside you know it’s impossible for her to have put in this many accessories, to say nothing of the make-up in the short amount of time that’s passed. That’s Victoria, though.

                “Speaking of, can you tell us now where we’re escorting you too?” Jim butts in. “I’m trying to figure out how I can smuggle stuff in, but if it’s a place with a metal detector then flasks are out, and if it’s a full pat-down place then I’ve got to go deep with any of my additional party favors.”

                “I suppose there’s no harm in it now,” Victoria agrees. This is a pretty big shock to you, since she’s steadfastly refused to cough up the goods so far. “We will be visiting this town’s newest Halloween attraction: Tortured Terror Town.”

                “Ohhh shit, that’s the place that’s supposed to like ten whole blocks of attractions,” Jim says. “They play advertisements for it every night during the three o’clock Knife-o-rama cooking shows.”

                “They’ve also been advertising in lots of other, far more normal, place,” Victoria adds.

                “I’ve seen them. Haunted houses, spooky cemeteries, loads of staff; it’s supposed to be this fully-immersive experience,” you say.

                “I have no doubt it will be a spectacle to behold, especially since the ones putting it on are another of the high families of All Hallows Eve.” Though Victoria isn’t generally what you call a warm person, these next words are so icy that you can actually feel a chill run through your spine.

                “Fuck me; are we in the middle of some Godfather turf war shit?” Jim asks. He’s pulled a few plastic baggies from out of a pocket on the couch and seems to be deciding how to tuck them into his costume.

                “Nonsense. As a representative of the Willowbrook family, I am going to wish them well in their newest endeavor… that they decided to launch in the town where we’ve been operating for centuries.” Victoria has forced a smile on her face, but the murder in her eyes leaves you with doubt of her actual feelings.

                “You two are coming along as my escorts, which actually brings us to one thing we must decide before leaving. There are certain roles escorts are expected to fill in these situations. One of you must be an attendant, while the other shall be a guardian. My attendant will be expected to cater to my minor needs as required, while the guardian shall defend the family’s honor if required. These are simply ceremonial titles as I require neither of you to do any such thing, but all the same, they must be defined should another ask. I leave it to you to determine who will take which title.”

                Jim shrugs and begins trying to squeeze a bagging under one of the leather bracers on his wrist. “Your call. I’m good with whatever.”

                Looks like you’ll be the one choosing the roles:

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 3

                Much as you love Jim, he’s not what you might think of as “reliable” in any sense of the word. For show or not, you’ve known Victoria long enough to trust that anyone who takes up the role of guardian for her is putting themselves in a world of potential hurt. By your reckoning, you’ve got a better chance of surviving than Jim, if for no other reason than you won’t be tripping on drugs and unsure of what’s an illusion vs what’s real.

                “Jim can be the attendant, I’ll be the guardian.”

                Victoria raises an eyebrow slightly and a grin tugs at the edge of her lips. “Bolder and bolder. Perhaps one day you might make a worthwhile subject yet.”

                You really want to ask for clarification on that last bit, but before you get the chance she claps her hands together and gestures toward the door.

                “Formalities now taken care of, it is time we were off. I took the liberty of having one of the family cars taken out for the evening, driver included.”

                “Oooh! Shotgun!” Jim yelps, darting out the door, several inches of plastic baggy still jutting out from under his leather bracer.

                “That’s not how being driven works…” Victoria trails off, realizing that Jim is no longer in earshot, and even if it were it would likely make little difference.

                “Let him have this one. The guy loves winning shotgun.”

                “Very well, though I daresay once he sees the driver he’ll regret that choice.” Victoria crooks a finger to you, a dark humor in her eyes. “Now follow me, guardian. It is time for us to depart.”

*             *             *

                Despite Victoria’s warnings, Jim is trading numbers with the town car driver as you depart from the vehicle. Due to the partition between the front and the back you were unable to see this mysterious driver or hear much of the conversation, but from the surprised look on Victoria’s face it seems clear she really did expect Jim to go hollering into the night, or at least join you in the back. All of which goes to show: not even Halloween royalty knows what the hell Jim is going to do.

                Now free of the car, you gaze upon Tortured Terror Town in all of its glory. You have no idea how they managed to procure this much land, or build such a spectacle in only a few weeks. Beyond the massive, iron gates lies what appears to be functional buildings, winding roads, and a few signposts pointing to varies attractions. They constructed a faux haunted town so quickly that you’re a touch surprised that you’re just now realizing these people might be on the same level as Victoria’s family.

                “Garish, isn’t it?” Victoria has joined you in looking at the impressive work of craftsmanship, though her own expression is far from admiring. “That’s the Garrote family for you, though. Once a proud emissary of the ancient traditions, now they’ve resorted to using things like pop-out scares and gore. They’ve forgotten what the true meaning of fear is.”

                “Woo! That was an awesome ride. I can’t wait to see what’s next.” Jim has lumbered over, finally shutting the door as the car and driver drift away, presumably until needed again. You notice that the plastic bag is no longer sticking out from under his bracer.

                “Finally get your stuff jammed in the costume?”

                “Nah. Thought of a way better plan,” Jim says. “I just ate them all.”

                “How… creative.” Despite Victoria’s dismissal tone, you notice she seems to be fighting down a bit of giggling. “Let’s get inside before you lose all comprehensive touch with reality.”

                Jim pats Victoria on the back and shakes his head. “You’re like six years too late for that, but I’m good with heading in anyway.”

                The three of you waltz up to the massive gates, in front of which stand several ticket booths. Inside are kids you’d bet were in high school, wearing fairly decent zombie costumes. They aren’t as grandiose as what Victoria provided, but there’s lots of peeled skin and blood make-up to compensate. Before you can even speak, Victoria puts a hand on the counter and meet’s the clerk’s eyes.

                “The Willowbrook party has arrived.”

                The teen’s eyes grow wide at her words, and he starts fumbling with something under the register. After a few moments, he pulls out three laminated passes on thin silver chains and stuffs them through the whole in the glass. Victoria accepts them, fanning the passes out as she turns back around to face you.

                “These will get us anywhere we need to go.” As she has them fanned, you noticed all three are identical save for one section. In the very middle, where a name might normally go, is a symbol, different on each pass. One has a shield, the other a wine glass, and the third is a pumpkin. “Last chance to change your mind.”

                In response, you hold out hand, into which Victoria deposits the pass with the shield. As you’re slipping the chain over your head, you see her give the wine glass one to Jim, while she dons the pass with the pumpkin. For a moment, you’re a bit sad at how much there will ruin your costume, but when Victoria turns around you realize that you can scarcely even notice that the pass is there. Your eyes just slide across it, refusing to acknowledge its existence for more than a few moments. A quick glance at Jim confirms the effect is the same on him, which means it probably works on you as well.

                You all walk through the gates, which are parted in the center just wide enough to allow people through, and properly enter Tortured Terror Town. Directly in front of you is a bone-white sign post, pointing in three directions. As you draw near, the words become more visible.

                “Since we’re here, we may as well take in the attractions,” Victoria suggests. “So, Merlin the guardian, why don’t you select one for us.”

                Peering up at the sign, you see can make out where the sign is pointing to. There are only words, no explanation, so you’ll have to trust your gut as much as your mind on this one. The first arrow has the words “Graveyard” written on it. On the second is the word “Abandoned House” scrawled in long script. The final arrow has “Circus” etched in the white wood.

                Where do you go?

For those wondering why this vote box looks different than the ones on days previous, consider this my way of letting you all know that one or more of these choices will lead to a Dead End.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 4

                “Let’s stick with something nice and not deadly,” you say. “We’ll go check out the circus.”

                “Hells yes,” Jim agrees. “Right now I’m seeing like 5 colors that I’m pretty don’t exist, so looking at that big top is going to be fucking tiiiiight.”

                Victoria softly rolls her eyes, but begins walking off in the direction of the circus. You and Jim hurry to catch up. Once you’re clear of the entrance area, you notice the winding path is filled with fog. It slithers across the road, winding its way up your ankles, stopping about halfway to your knee. It’s hard to make out much detail in the swirling whiteness, but a few times you think you see the foggy outline of hands reaching up for you.

                This would be impossibly creepy if it were just you three alone. Thankfully, loads of other people saw the advertisements and are filling up the town. Spooky as the fog is, you find it hard to be terrified when surrounded by other groups of loud, raucous college kids in costumes. Humans are pack animals, after all, and the larger the group you’re in the safer you feel.

                After a few minutes of walking, you notice music floating faintly on the wind. It’s a light, twinkling tune that calls out to all faintly to all who hear it. The three of you turn a corner in the road, and suddenly the music is no longer faint. In fact, you can’t imagine how you didn’t hear it sooner. Standing in the middle of the road is a massive circus tent, red and white, with several smaller tents and shacks built around it. Even from where you are, you can make out various people in the same candy-cane striped uniforms directing guests about.

                “Shouldn’t we have been able to see this from where we started?” You glance back the way you came, but between the fog and the darkness you can’t make out any of the buildings from the entrance. The walk wasn’t that long. Maybe five minutes. Tops.

                “Oh, my sweet little Merlin. If you find such trickery as this maddening, how on earth do you expect to survive the night?” Victoria pats you once, then continues walking toward the giant circus tent.

                You and Jim follow, keeping Victoria flanked on either side. As you draw near the circus, you begin to notice a strange thing happening. With most of the tourists, the staff show big, underpaid grins and offer to help them find any attraction they might fancy. However, when they catch sight of you three, they briefly but immediately bow their heads in your direction. Nothing else about them strikes you as otherwise off, and you’re pretty sure they aren’t magical constructs or imprisoned ghosts. They seem like people grabbing a seasonal job to score extra cash. So, if they aren’t really part of this world, then for them to act so uniformly must mean one thing: they are goddamned terrified of people who wear these passes.

                A loud honking draws your attention, and you look away from the staff to find a clown on a unicycle staring down at the three of you. His make-up is done in more red and white paint, smeared about to make him look like he has big red lips. It’s not perfectly done though, leaving a few smudged drips of red trailing down his mouth. This creates the impression that his mouth isn’t painted at all, merely soaked in freshly consumed blood.

                The clown honks his nose once more, then tilts at the waist to bow, eyes never leaving Victoria’s icy gaze. “Welcome Welcome! Such a pleasure to have an esteemed guest in our company. The Garrote family welcomes the representative of Willowbrook, on this most sacred of days.”

                “Willowbrook recognizes your hospitality and thank you for it. Rise and speak your name.” Victoria’s speech draws strange looks from some of the regular people milling about, though she seems unbothered by them.

                “Call me Sunshine, the merry clown who devours frowns.” Sunshine lifts himself up, eyes still fixed on Victoria as he does so. “Please, dear guest, explore and enjoy our festivities here at the circus. For one such as you, skip the smaller attractions and head right to the main events. We have a funhouse that will leaving you giggling with fright, a hall of mirrors guaranteed to delight, and a heart-stopping show put on several times a night. Of course, there may be some danger, but I’m sure a Willowbrook will be all right.”

                “We’ll be sure to explore any attraction we test thoroughly.” Victoria makes it sound more like a threat than an acceptance.

                “Of that, I had no doubt,” Sunshine replies. At long last he looks over at you and Jim, and for the first time you notice his eyes are red and white, just like the tent, his make-up… everything. “To you, dear attendant, let us know what your master desires and we shall endeavor to provide. To you, poor guardian, I wish luck in making it through the night.”

                Then without explanation, Sunshine is off, pedaling his unicycle across the rough terrain, smiling and honking at other guests as he veers about.

                “That dude was creeeeeepy,” Jim noted, watching him go. “I don’t know he could see with all those bugs on his face.”

                You’re about to ask for clarification, then you remember that Jim decided to stuff who knew how many hallucinogens in his body before coming here. At the moment you’ll have to trust your own observations and nothing else.

                “Well, my guardian, which attraction should we investigate?” Victoria asks.

                “Don’t you mean visit?”

                “I mean what I mean,” she shoots back. “It makes no difference to me. Any of them could contain what I’m looking for. Since it’s a matter of sheer chance, it seems most prudent to leave it in your hands?”

                “Why me?”

                “You survived my father’s mayhem. Whether it’s instincts or luck, you have knack for not dying. Let’s see if it will be enough.”

                Well, you heard the lady, now that you’re at the circus, you’re going to have to check out an attraction. Pick a good one.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 5

                “Seeing as Sunshine used the word ‘heart-stopping’ a little too freely, and we all know funhouses are just machines that churn out corpses, let’s go for something moderately safe and do the Hall of Mirrors,” you say.

                “Safe is a relative term in these parts,” Victoria replies, though she doesn’t seem to object to your choice.

                “She’s dead on, man. One time my uncle bought a ton of fireworks for the fourth of July, then he got drunk in the back of his truck and his cigarette ashed on the fuses. Next thing you know he’s trying to outrun his own flamings pants and all of us cousins were dodging rogue artillery shells and bottle rockets.”

                I don’t really need to tell you that Jim said this, do I?

                The three of you head over to a moderately sized building that seems to be made almost entirely from mirrors. Every inch of it is reflecting a warped, distorted version of the circus around you. The only exceptions are a doorway, which seems like a patch of black draped across the endlessly shining exterior, and a large red sing that reads: “Mr. Glass’s Hall of Mirrors.”

                An attendant greets you all as you walk in, she’s wearing the same candy-cane striped outfit as the others, and like them she bows her head as soon as she catches sight of your passes. By this point you barely even notice her behavior; your eyes are drawn to the gleaming hall stretching out before you.

                Mirrors line every surface, from the walls to the ceiling, even the floors are mirrored, though these are distorted enough to not make anyone in a skirt feel ill-at-ease. Some make you appear lumbering and tall, while others flatten you out into a near-circular form. You’re barely two steps in when you lose all sense of location. With a glance back toward the entrance, you hope to readjusted, but the doorway is gone. In its place are more smooth, endless mirrors.

                “I, um…I think we’re trapped in here,” you say. Strangely, even your voice seems to be reflected, bounding around with a different tone each time it reaches your ears.

                “That’s hardly surprising, seeing as this is a trap,” Victoria replies. “After all, we are in an attraction run by one of the high families of All Hallows Eve.”

                “You know, one day I think I’d really like to know exactly what it is you and these families do,” you say.

                Victoria stares at you, slowly lifting one of her eyebrows. “Are you certain of that? Some things, once learned, can never be forgotten. Not even I’ll have the power to take it away from you.”

                “Y-yes. I’m sure I’ll want to know…someday. Just, you know, not while we’re stuck in this giant mirror hall.”

                “Ohhh shit? These things are mirrors?” Jim says. You turn to find him licking one of his reflections. Strangely, even the mirror version of Jim seems to be wondering what the fuck is going on. “Thanks goodness, I thought I’d walked into another Columbus Day cloning shitshow.”

                “More nonsense?” Victoria asks.

                “No, that’s actually a pretty well-grounded fear. We barely made it out of that one,” you tell her. “Anyway, we’re not getting any closer to an exit by standing around.”

                Moving carefully, the three of you begin walking down the hallway, arms stretched forward to feel about. It saves you from bashing your nose countless times, but it also forces you to touch several of the mirrors. Most feel normal: smooth and cold, though a few seem…off. They either feel slimy, or rough, or have a strange pulsing heat that reminds you of a heartbeat. You never let your hands linger on any of them, even the normal ones, just touching and moving on. This strategy works fine for several minutes...

                Until you brush up against a mirror, only to have your reflection reach out, grab your arm, and yank you through the suddenly intangible surface. It feels like going through a soap bubble, and when you land on the mirrored floor you quickly scramble to your feet, pitchfork outstretched, braced for an attack.

                Instead, you find yourself completely alone, save only for the dozens of reflections that surround you. They are all still of you, but not all of them of you tonight. There’s some of you as a child, others of you in your teens. Many are of you from the last few years, there’s even one of two of you in your wizard outfit. Others are of an older you, though only by a couple of years. Then, in one corner, you spot a reflection that doesn’t seem to be of you at all. Instead it shows a small meadow with a single grave marker wedged in the side.

                Yeah…probably best not to think about that one too much.

                “All right you sons of bitches, I know where this is going. Come get some!” You brandish your pitchfork, doing all you can to appear courageous instead of letting on that you’re three seconds away from pissing yourself. Fight or flight has been engaged, and with flight off the table all you can do is hope to spear a few of these evil dicks along the way.

                “You know, you shouldn’t talk that way about mom,” one of your older reflections says.

                “What do you…oh yeah.” You finally realize that some insults are double-edged swords when used against this crowd.

                “Anyway, we aren’t here to hurt you,” says a reflection of you from high school.

                “We pulled you in to warn you. I mean, us. We are you. Screw it, you get the general idea.” You’re pretty sure this reflection of you is from a time when Jim made extra special cookies and didn’t bother to tell you of their specialness.

                “Yanking me away from my friends is a hell of a way to help me,” you shout.

                “We pulled you away from Victoria,” says a child version of you.

                “She’s dangerous, and she wouldn’t like what we have to say.” This is another old version of you, he looks to be maybe in his late-twenties. “But this is one of the few chances we might have to change things.”

                “What are you trying to change?” you ask.

                “Look around,” says a reflection of you from high school graduation. “Do you see any versions of yourself older than thirty?”

                Actually, no, you don’t. That late-twenties reflection was the oldest looking one in the room. Other than him, there’s just younger ones and the meadow.


                “Yeah, oh.” This time the reflection speaking is you from last year, wearing the wizard outfit. “And he only exists in a few very lucky timelines. You’re in way deeper than someone like you should ever be, and sooner or later it’s going to get you killed. Unless you take our advice and run, right here and now.”

                Behind you, there’s a sound like a knife sliding across glass, and when you turn to look you see a doorway has opened up. Outside you’re pretty sure you can make out the entrance to the town that you three passed through.

                “Leave, and never look back. Not many people get a second chance. Don’t waist yours,” says the wizard you.

                It’s an enticing offer, but your friends are still stuck in the hallway somewhere. Then again, if these versions of you are telling the truth, one of them is the thing that will put you in danger. You could say no, but they might not like that. Of course, you have a weapon and they’re just mirrors, maybe you could force your way through. They seem impatient though, you’ll need to decide something.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 6

                “Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and tell you all to eat a dick.” As you watch, a brief flicker of uncertainty runs across your reflection’s faces.

                One of the child versions of you speaks up. “But we’re trying to-”

                “You can cut the bullshit,” you interrupt. “I’ll admit you do a good impression of me, but you fucked up a few key details. The biggest of them is that Victoria is supposed to be the one who gets me killed? Are you out of your mind? She hasn’t even been around for the really crazy shit. She missed the Guy Fawkes Day animated mannequins, the Boxing Day aliens; hell she wasn’t even around for Groundhog’s Day, and even I’m not sure how we survived all that mutagen.”

                Wizard you stares with open eyes. “What the hell kind of life do you live?”

                You shrug your shoulders, though still keep the pitchfork at the ready. “I like to party. Sometimes shit happens. Now get out of the way so I can go find my friends.”

                “Forget it. If we can’t change your mind then we’ll just have to have someone with a more agreeable sentiment take your place.” As the wizard reflection speaks, it begins to morph and warp, until it’s a perfect duplicate of how you look tonight. It smiles at you, an eerie effect when coupled with your demon costume. “You can just rot in here.”

                “No, I don’t think he will.”

                You spin around at the new voice to find Victoria besides you. Her face is composed and polite, but there’s an unmistakable gleam of murder in her eyes.

                “Testing a guardian is all perfectly in line, but you go too far, Glass. My servant has passed, yet you would try to replace him anyway. That goes against the very spirit of the Accords. As the mundanes might say: consider this strike one.”

                The smile on the mirror you’s face falls away, and he begins to warp again. This time all the others do as well, the color and shape oozing off of them until they all look like no more than humanoid shaped distortions in the mirrors’ surfaces.

                “It was just a bit of fun. I would have let him go…eventually.” Now the voice no longer sounds like your own. Instead it’s like a broken wind chime.

                “The trial is done, Glass Garrote, and you have no claim here. Open the way, before I become perturbed.” It’s Victoria’s turn to smile, showing those still just a hair too sharp teeth as she leers at the man in the mirrors. Her words have barely come out before a doorway opens to your side. She takes your hand and leads you out of it before there’s time to protest.

                Just like that, you’re standing back outside the entrance to the Hall of Mirrors. Your senses are momentarily overcome by the bright colors and droning music as you readjust to your new surroundings. Once you get your bearings, you notice a crucial detail that escaped your attention earlier.

                “Where the hell is Jim?”

                “He was grabbed not long after you,” Victoria replies. “No doubt he’s being put through his own test as we speak.”

                “Then why didn’t you go after him?”

                “It hardly seemed necessary, you were the one more likely to die. Your friend seems to find his own way of handling most-”

                Victoria is interrupted by the sound of shattering glass as one of the mirrors high on the building bursts into shards. From the hole pours a pink waterfall that splashes into the dirt road, quickly turning the area to mud. As you watch, mouth slightly agape, Jim comes tumbling down the waterfall, landing with a bounce and coming up on his feet. He looks around for a moment, then spots the two of you and heads over.

                “I gotta say, I’ve had better games of flip cup. ‘Course I’ve also had worse. So, pretty much a wash. How did you guys do?”

                “He survived,” Victoria answers for you. “Merlin may be many things: dense, prideful, cowardly, inept-”

                This is starting to hurt your feelings a bit.

                “Aren’t you supposed to put good stuff in there too?” you remind her.

                “I was getting there. You’re many things, but none could call you disloyal. Perhaps you were the best fit for guardian after all.”

                You’re really not sure what Victoria means by that, which is pretty much par for the course, but you feel confident that it was meant as a compliment. Seeing as everyone made it out of that last one alive, you feel downright cheerful…until you realize you’re trapped in an evil Halloween amusement park.

                “I guess we should head on to the next thing, huh?”

                “Yes, it is time to move one step closer,” Victoria agrees. She gestures over to another white sign post, this one planted near the center of the circus area. You feel reasonably certain that wasn’t there earlier, but at this point you’re like “fuck it” and just walk over with her to check it out. This shit can only really surprise you so much before it becomes expected.

                Like the signpost before, this one is also bone white with three arrows. Curiously, none of them are pointing to a place labeled as the exit or entrance. This is mildly worrying, since you’re no longer entirely certain which direction you came to the circus from. The landscape seems to be a touch more malleable than you’re accustomed to dealing with.

                The options before you are “Abandoned House,” “Safe Zone,” and “Gates.”

                “Don’t suppose you could actually tell us what any of these are?” You turn to Victoria, who is the picture of innocence.

                “How could I? This is my first time here, just like you. Seeing as you found a useful attraction for us last time, I’ll trust you to make the selection once again.”

                Since Jim is jumping open and down knocking pink water-a lot of pink water, actually-out of his ear, looks like this one is going to be up to you to decide.

Though it's early for tricks, I decided to treat you lovely readers to free copies of my new book, releasing Monday the 27th. Details on today's blog.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 7

                “Much as I’d like to believe Safe Zone is the right choice, it just seems a little too on the nose,” you sigh. “Abandoned House still looks too dangerous though, so let’s go with Gates. Maybe we’ll get lucky and that means the front gates.”

                You don’t really believe this as you say it, but you still say it anyway, because damnit if you  aren’t going to at least try and go down optimistically.

                Jim has finally stopped all his jumping up and down, so the three of you head off down the dirt path once more. As you walk, it strikes you that there are less other visitors then earlier. You’re by no means on your own, but the path is far less packed than it was when you walked to the circus. With some effort, you push that worrying thought out of your head. These people are in the same…whatever…as Victoria’s family, and the Willowbrooks have been in town for years without causing a mass disappearance. There must be some sort of code they operate by. You hope.

                As the road winds through the once again foggy landscape, you notice a shape in the distance. It’s small, but you can still make it out faintly as rectangular. The closer you draw, the more detail comes into view, and you soon realize you’re looking at a door in the middle of a small clearing in the path. It’s large and wooden, stained a red so dark that it borders on black. The knob is bronze-colored and large enough that it may take both of your hands to turn it. The final detail is one you only see clearly when you get close enough to touch the door.

                Scrawled in the wood at eye level is a single word: “Gates”

                “So, magic portal?” You turn to look at Jim and Victoria both of whom nod immediately.

                “I mean, it’s gotta be,” Jim agrees. “Door in the middle of a path is creepy, but lame. Magic door in the middle of a path, now that’s some spooky shit right there.”

                “Such overt showmanship does ring of the Garrote family,” Victoria adds.

                “Last year your dad made us a magic-costume brawl in front of hundreds of onlookers,” you remind her.

                “That was different. Our events are executed with far more class than these ham-handed theatrics.”

                You resist the urge to roll your eyes, but only because she did just bail you out of the last emergency. “Anyway, I assume we’re going in?”

                “Since there are no signs to guide us elsewhere, I see little choice for us in the matter,” Victoria says.

                You quickly look around, only to realize that she’s right. Not only are there no signs, but once again the path has vanished in the fog. While whatever is on the other side of the door is surely scary, you can’t shake the feeling that staying into the fog would be far, far, worse.

                “Guess we take what’s behind door number one,” you mumble, grasping the massive doorknob and twisting it to the side. Surprisingly, it moves with ease, and the door slides open effortlessly. Through the opening, you can see a large room with crisp white tile and the flickering light of a fire. The three of you step through, and what you see is amazing.

                You’ve entered a grand hall carved of marble. Statues adorn the area at regular intervals. Some are of tall warriors, others of impossible beasties, and many are of twisted monstrosities. All along the walls are identical white doors, ones that match the one you just stepped out of, and in the center of the room is a large podium. As Jim clears the threshold, the door slams shut, and suddenly you’re not even sure which one you all came out of. It’s at that point you notice not a single one of the doors have any knob.

                With nowhere else to go, you all walk up to the podium. On it rests a single piece of parchment, along with three doorknobs that seems to be made of crystal. Victoria plucks the paper up before you or Jim have a chance to grab it, and starts reading out loud.

                “Welcome to Labyrinth Gates. The rules are as follows: Each scavenger gets a knob, which will open any door you need it to. Only one scavenger may cross through each door. Whoever find their way home will be permitted to keep any treasures they found along the journey. Those who do not find their way home forfeit everything, including their lives.” She lowers the paper and looks at you. “Pretty much standard ‘escape or die’ boilerplate. So predictable.”

                “For reals, couldn’t they at least have stuck a minotaur in here or something?” Jim says.

                From somewhere unseen in the hall, you all hear the distant sound of some massive creature roaring.

                “Alright, perhaps they did add a touch more flair than I expected,” Victoria admits. She walks over to the podium and snatched up the doorknobs, handing one to Jim, then to you.

                “Which way should we go?” you ask.

                “Since all the doors are identical, at this point I hardly think it matters. The only thing we do know is that we have to go in our own directions,” Victoria says.

                “First rule of horror movies: don’t fuck,” Jim says. “But the second rule is that you never split the group.”

                “No, the first rule is one that comes before any actual rules are even laid out,” Victoria counters. “And that is simply to always follow the rules. We’ve been given terms for survival, a challenge we must meet in order to proceed. As one who has set many of these herself, trust me when I say you do not want to see what happens to those who ignore the rules.”

                Another roar echoes through the room, this one distinctly louder than the first. None of these doors seem big enough to let a monster through, but it’s probably best not to chance it by standing around arguing.

                “Victoria’s the expert, we do what she says,” you declare. “Everybody pick a door and hope for the best.”

                Heeding your own advice you dart over to a random door and slide the doorknob into the empty space where it’s meant to fit. No sooner has it clicked into place than the door swings open and the knob comes back off in your hand. All you can see is inky black darkness, not a single preview of what lays ahead managed to penetrate the veil. You glance across at Jim to see that his door is exactly the same. No sneak peeks it seems.

                Holding your breath, though you don’t know why, you plunge through. For a moment, the world is cold and empty, then you are suddenly overwhelmed with heat. The world around you explodes in red and blacks as the charred, fiery landscape comes into view. Moving across the scorched and burning earth are hideous monsters. While you first instinct is to duck and hide form them, it comes too late, as you see one that looks like a spider mixed with a scorpion mixed with a gorilla lumbering toward you.

                There’s a couple of seconds before it reaches you, so you need to decide how to react, and you need to do it now.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 8

                “Now see here, as a fellow demon-”

                Your words are drowned out by a powerful roar as the oddly shaped monster reaches you, slapping your legs out from under you with a sickening crack. Wriggling your fingers in the dirt, you hurriedly try and crawl away but a powerful grip lifts you into the air.

                As you dangle above it’s open maw, you remember Victoria warning you that the weapons you chose might be needed. Looks like the demon costume was more about a pitchfork than a forked tongue. It’s a good moment of clarity, but the grip releases you just as you have it, and your next sensations are of darkness, pain, and an instant empathy for every piece of food you’ve even eaten. Somewhere in the crunching shadows, you think you hear a voice whispering. Though it’s hard to make you, you’re almost positive you hear the words “at last” in the mutterings.

                It was a noble effort, but there’s a reason emergency responses aren’t fight, flight, or polite discourse. For this version of you, things have sadly reached a…

Dead End

*             *             *

                As the giant monster races toward you, your mind floods with images of what it will do if it gets you in its grip. Horrible, graphic pictures of being eaten drive all thoughts of civility out of your head. Fuck all that noise, you’re out of here. In one frantic motion you spin around, lift the rear of your cloak, and start booking it like all get out.

                You tear across the hellscape for a long while before you finally chance a glance over your shoulder. The bad news is that the scorrillapider is still giving chase, the good news is that whatever it was built for, speed wasn’t a part of the equation. You’ve got a healthy lead on the thing, now you just have to focus on getting the hell out of… well, hell.

                Slowing down to a jog, you begin to notice occasional bits of buildings dotting the landscape. They’re charred and half-destroyed, but they give you an idea. Redirecting your route, you start heading for one of the larger ruins hoping to find what you need there.

                You’re over halfway to your goal when you notice the buzzing that’s begun to fill your ears. Looking up, you see several large shapes floating in the air. They look like mosquitoes crossed with some sort of lizard, and their bloodshot eyes are all tracked each movement you make. In the time that you watch them, you realize they’re slowly lowering toward you. One darting glance over your shoulder confirms that your original pursuer is also still on your heels. So, what was once a wild hope of salvation has now become a life or death long shot. Oddly, you feel more at home with this situation than the first.

                With renewed speed you race over the scorched land, finally arriving at an ancient building that’s been blackened with soot and degradation. The buzzing is so loud you can all but feel it in your teeth; the wind from their wings is ruffling your cloak. Your eyes dart about, desperate for a familiar shape, until they finally spot it. Racing across the broken floor, one that you realize seems curiously familiar as you run over it, you hurl yourself at the familiar object: an old half-rotted door.

                There’s no knob, but that makes things easier as you slap your crystal doorknob into the slot. For a second, you’re afraid this whole line of though was pure wishful dreaming, then you feel the knob click into place and the door swings open, revealing more inky black darkness. Without pausing to wonder what’s on the other side, you dart through. As you leave the hellscape, you feel a slight tug from behind, then it’s gone and you’re swimming in darkness once more.

                This time when you pop out, it isn’t in a desolate charred world, it’s in a rather nice looking study. Over-stuffed chairs, large collections of books lining the walls, the pleasant smell of cinnamon in the air. Honestly, the only thing this place has in common with your last destination is the pleasant fire crackling in the hearth.

                “Well, hello there. Don’t get many visitors through that door.” An older man wearing a sweater and slacks is resting in one of the chairs, reading from a large red leather bound book and smoking an old-fashioned pipe.

                Turning around, you notice that the door you came through is the only one in the room. “Is there another option?”

                “Oh, they all come through there, those that are lucky enough to find this place, anyway, but they rarely use a doorway from hell. That place tends to kill most everyone who lands there.”

                “Yeah, sounds about right,” you agree. “Are you a prisoner here, or someone else navigating the gates?”

                “No, far from it. I’m the one who built the gates. You can call me Virgil.” He inclines his head politely in your direction.

                “So you’re one of the Garrotes then?”

                “Heavens no. My gates and I have been around long before the first of them were even born. I just agreed to contract my services to them for this All Hallows Eve. But let’s not talk about me. You’ll be needing to get a move on soon. This is one of the safest rooms you can find, but it’s also one of the most dangerous because it’s right next to The Warden’s room.”

                You hear another roar, like the one from the great hall of doorways, that seems to come from the fireplace. For a moment, you think you can see the shape of a horned head in the flames, then the vision is gone.

                “He can’t enter here, though he can get himself into the next room and wait for you. See, there are several paths that lead in here, but the outward do only goes in one direction. That’s why you shouldn’t dawdle.”

                “Right, got it, time to go.” You turn around and prepare to stick your crystal doorknob in, when Virgil calls to you.

                “Hang on now, you found my room. Don’t you want your prize?”

                “Prize?” You half-turn back around.

                Virgil nods and holds out a small book to you. “It’s a book of you. Use the right words, and you can call forth all manner of things from throughout your life. One shot deal, of course, but damned handy in the right situations.”

                You walk over and accept the book. “Thank you.”

                “Least I can do,” Virgil replied. “Also, a bit of advice, since you made it through hell: There’s a door in the next room that will get you out of here. Direct route, do not pass go.”

                “Which one is it?”

                “Dunno, haven’t been in that room since I built it. Won’t be hard to spot though. Just look for whatever door The Warden is guarding. That’s the one that gets you home quickest.” Virgil turns away from you and back to his book.

                You go back to the door at the front of the study and stick in your crystal doorknob. It opens easily, more inky darkness, and you step through. The transition is almost instantaneous, you find yourself in a beautiful garden hedge maze under a full moon. Your sense barely have time to register the smell of grass and flowers before you catch sight of the hulking form only forty feet away from you.

                The Warden is huge, at least twelve feet tall, covered in shaggy- you know what, you know damned well what a minotaur looks like. It’s that, it’s exactly that. The Warden is a minotaur and he is staring you the hell down.

                Through his thick, shaggy legs you can see a stone door a few feet behind him. As you get your bearings, you also notice that there are a pair of doors to the right and left of your location. One has an orchid carved on the front, while the other has a rose. You can probably get to them before the minotaur charges, but it will be close.

                Since he’s got his eyes on you, time to make a judgment call.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 9

                So far tonight you’ve been trapped in a face of yourselves, chased by a variety of demons, and are currently staring down a hulking monster with bloodlust in its eyes. As scary as this son of a bitch is, the idea of losing an opportunity to get the fuck out of here is even more terrifying. Who knows how many doors you’ll go through before you find another home, or what will be waiting in the world’s between? No, strange as it is, trying to run past a minotaur is actually the less deadly option before you.

                You try not to let the utter insanity of such a statement drag your mind into the depths of inescapable panic and madness as you start racing forward, your own gaze locked with the minotaur’s. You surprise him, and that’s good, because as soon as he regains his mental footing it becomes evident that this guy is as nimble as he is big, which is very. Clearly you aren’t going to be able to outmaneuver him, and outmuscling him has never been on the table from jump, which means all you have left is trying to outthink him.

                Pitting frantic hope against mad ingenuity, you barrel forward, making for the moderate gap in his massive legs. As you run, you twist your pitchfork in your hands, so that the blunt end is pointing forward. He growls as you draw near, claw extended, sure you won’t be able to fit between his legs. Too bad for him, you haven’t seen a single television since you entered this camp, which means he is probably way behind on his slapstick.

                “Three Stooges mother fucker!” You scream as you go into a slide between his legs, thrusting your pitchfork up and catching him right in the loincloth. His next roar comes out as a whimpered moan while you scramble to your feet as dash toward the door. True, you could have put him down in a more permanent fashion if you used the pointy end of the pitch fork, but dude code is dude code, and that is way off limits.

                Slamming the crystal doorknob into the door, you fling it open and leap through, not even bothering to look behind you. Still, you can hear the rage filled roar even as you pass into the inky darkness, followed by the shuddering of the ground under powerful steps. For the first time you consider that if Virgil was lying, you’re going to be in deep shit as soon as The Warden catches up to you.

                Thankfully, you arrive in a familiar clearing surrounded by fog. Behind you, the door slams shut, and you’re back in Tortured Terror Town. Victoria and Jim are already there, looking slightly bored in fact, with Jim munching on a massive soft pretzel and Victoria holding a small dragon that looks like it’s carved out of jade.

                “Where the hell did you go?” Victoria asks upon noticing your arrival.

                “Um, hell, actually. Then a study. Then a garden. Then back here.”

                “I went to a food court where the food tried to eat me,” Jim tells you helpfully.

                You cock an eyebrow. “How did you escape that?”

                Jim shrugs. “Killer food is still food, and I’ve had the munchies for like an hour and a half now. Law of the jungle.” Jim finished off the last of his soft pretzel, and you’re almost certain you hear a small scream that ends all at once.

                “You both had a more interesting time than I did. All I got were some hills full of monsters, and a few rooms filled with traps. I was rather hoping for the minotaur,” Victoria says.

                Briefly, you consider telling her that you actually did meet the hairy guardian, but you decide against it. Necessary or not, you find it impossible to take any pride in a story where you hit another guy in the stones. Doing it is one thing, reveling is another. Instead, you change the subject.

                “So, what do we do now? I still don’t see a sign post.”

                “Then you should really look harder,” Victoria says. She points behind you, where you can clearly see a new sign post has materialized into existence.

                “Great, guess we pick another one,” you say.

                “That would be how the game is played,” Victoria agrees.

                The three of you walk up to the sign and see three different arrows. They are: “The Cove,” “The Farm,” and “Safe Zone.” Before anyone else can speak, you turn around and look Victoria in the eye.

                “Okay, look, we’re playing along pretty cheerily with all this, but I need to know something. How long are we going to do this for? This place is clearly trying to kill us, and while yeah I sort of expected that a little, the fact that we keep plunging deeper into a massive death trap seems like not a great long term strategy.”

                “Though it might seem we’re going deeper in, we’re actually nearing the exit,” Victoria replies.

                “Ohh, like how once food passes a certain point in your stomach its’ closer to being a turd than a meal?” Obviously that was Jim. And also: Ew.

                “Despite the fact that I would never put it that way, yes, the analogy is somewhat apt,” Victoria says, letting out a heavy sigh as she does so. “I realize your patience and courage are growing weary, and after that last trial I don’t blame you, but this will be our final event. You have my word.”

                “If it’s the last one, then I guess that’s okay,” you tell her. Victoria might be a lot of things, including a possible sociopathic monster, but you’ve never seen her break her word. This far deep into a crazy nightmare town, you need to trust someone. Might as well be the one who brought you here in the first place.

                You look back up at the sign and steel yourself to choose the last destination of the night.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 10

                “If this is our last one, then let’s do The Cove,” you say. “Maybe that means pirates, and if nothing else we could stand to get some treasure out of this experience.”

                “Nah man.” Jim walks over and wraps an arm around your shoulder. “The experiences are the treasures. The heart treasures. Of your heart.”

                “Aaaand with that, let’s get going before he reaches a catatonic state,” Victoria suggests.

                As the three of you walk down the dirt road, it occurs to you that you are now the only ones you can see at all. True, perhaps others didn’t want to check out “Gates” or “The Cove” but you should see at least someone in passing by now.

                “Level with me, is everyone else who has been coming here dead?”

                Victoria blinks in surprise and even Jim stops walking.

                “Excuse me?”

                “Look, we haven’t seen a single other person since we were walking toward that doorway, and literally everything we’ve encountered has tried to kill us. Putting two and two together, it sure seems like all the other guests might have met unhappy endings.”

                “Morose, bro. Brorose,” Jim says.

                “Not to mention inaccurate,” Victoria adds. “Certainly, some guests will encounter trials, and of those who do there will invariably those who fail them, but for most people the experience will be one of terror and exhilaration. Not even the Garrote family could get away with slaughter en masse.”

                “So why are we the only ones here, or the ones who keep running into danger?”

                “The answer to both questions is the same: because we are on a different path than the others.” Victoria reaches up and jiggles her pass, the one with the symbol of a pumpkin on it. “Or did you assume these were merely for show?”

                “Are you ever going to tell me what this whole thing has been about?”

                “When it is done, and such words can be safely spoken,” Victoria replies. “For now you must trust me, and continue to act in a manner befitting my guardian.”

                You aren’t sure what manner that might be, but you mumble a few curse words under your breath and start walking once more.  It doesn’t take much longer before the path takes you over a hill, and you gaze down at a sight so magnificent it literally forces you to stop in your tracks.

                Down the hill, along the winding dirt road, is a beach that wraps around a massive body of water. It could easily be the ocean, except that you live in a landlocked state. A long pier runs off the beach, reaching a massive ship that is in anchored in the water. You aren’t exactly a boat person, but if you were to take a wild guess you’d say maybe it’s a galleon. Then you second guess yourself as you think that’s the name of gold pieces in Harry Potter.

                Jim nudges your arm. “Am I the only one seeing the big ass boat sitting on an ocean that can’t exist?”

                “We’re all seeing it,” you reply.

                “What about the topless mermaid playing in the surf?”

                “Nope, that’s just you.”

                “Lucky me then,” Jim says with a grin.

                You’re pretty sure you hear Victoria mutter the word “ostentacious” under her breath, then she starts walking forward once more. Jim and you follow her, though it’s difficult as your mind keeps getting lost in the mad beauty of what you’re seeing. The sea air hits you, salty and cold and as real as any ocean could conjure. The lapping of the waves is rhythmic and peaceful, a sharp contrast to everything else you’ve experienced tonight.

                Once you reach the beach your pace slows as your feet sink into the sugar-white sand. Victoria might think this stuff is over the top, but your mind is freaking blown by how much detail they’ve put into what must be an illusion. Jim seems to feel the same, but in fairness, Jim chemically keeps his mind in a constant state of being blown.

                Mesmerized as you are, a few details do catch your attention. Tied to the dock, well before the massive ship, is a small boat with a pair of oars strapped to its sides. On the ship, a strange light seems to be floating about from the top of the deck, though you can’t make out anything beyond the dim glow. In the sand, going down the beach, are a large number of footprints. They could be from other guests, or from you don’t even want to know what. In this place, it’s best to assume that nothing is as innocuous as it might seem.

                “Tasteless, but at least it’s straightforward,” Victoria says, turning her head as she assesses the situation. “Well, Merlin, what shall we do? Board the ship, explore the waters, or go prance about in the sand.”

                “Why don’t you pick for once? You’re the one who dragged us here. You’re the one who has something to do or prove or whatever. Jim and I are just escorts. You choose our path.”

                “Sadly, I cannot,” Victoria replies. “And it is precisely because I am the one who brought you in here. You chose your roles, Merlin; now you have to fulfill them. The attendant follows me, the guardian guides me. That is the way things are done.”

                “So if I’d let Jim be the guardian, he’d be the one making all these calls?”

                Victoria looks at you, a small smirk tugging at her lips. “Don’t be silly. There was never a chance you wouldn’t be the guardian. Yes, it was your choice, but the outcome was never in question.”

                “True words.” Jim chimes in from the ground where he is trying to make what looks like a burrito sandcastle.

                “We can’t move until you decide the path, and until we move we’re going to be stuck here. You want to go home? Then set us in motion,” Victoria orders.

                Looks like it’s on your shoulders again. Time to decide which way your group goes.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 11

                “To hell with it.” You heft you pitchfork in one hand and keep the book that Virgil gave you in your other. “Let’s board us a goddamned pirate ship.”

                “Someone is feeling feisty,” Victoria notes, falling into step alongside you as you leave the sand and step onto the pier.

                “Someone is feeling tired, and scared, and way to sober for this late on a Halloween. I’m just out of fucks to give. If something is going to kill us, so be it. I’m not going to give these pricks the satisfaction of making me run around in terror.”

                “Hells yeah!” Jim declares. He yanks a blade from his belt. It’s wickedly sharp and polished in the moonlight, either an amazing prop or the genuine article.

                “Is that thing real?” You ask Victoria, since she’s the one who prepared Jim’s costume in the first place.

                “Ordinarily, no, but tonight the lines are a bit more blurred than usual,” she replied. “Let’s just say it’s as real as it needs to be.”

                “Oh, yeah, it’s totally real,” Jim says. You glance over to see him sucking blood from a fresh wound on his palm. Based on the dripping red liquid falling from his blade, the cause of the injury seems quite clear-cut.

                “Not even on the ship yet and one of us is already bleeding,” you sigh. “There’s no way that’s a good sign.”

                “To be fair, it’s somewhat miraculous that Jim had made it this long without injuring himself,” Victoria points out.

                You don’t have a comeback for that one, so instead you focus on the scenery around you, bracing for something to leap out and attack. Nothing does as you walk down the long dock, nor when you first begin to climb the worn wooden plank that rises up to the ship’s deck. Part of you wonders if the plank will even hold, or if it will suddenly snap and send you into the cold October waters below. If that’s the case, then odds are you won’t be alone the dark water, and that thought sends a chill up your spine. The plank does hold, though as you crest the top and see what’s on the deck, suddenly the black waters below don’t seem so bad.

                The corpses of a dozen or more pirates are milling about, lashing things and hoisting and… wow you just don’t know shit about boats, do you? Shit man, take a course or something, this is embarrassing for all involved. Anyway the pirate corpses are playing with ropes, as far as you can tell, as well as mopping the deck, and sharpening what seem like already quite well-honed blades. Near the edge you can see a pale lantern being held by one as he scurries about frantically. Now you know where the light was coming from, at least.

                “You see what I mean about these people?” Victoria says at your side. “Fad-jumpers, the lot of them. A movie comes out with dead pirates and suddenly there’s a cove attraction. No respect for the traditions or classics.” She practically spits those words, making no effort to keep her voice quiet, and the entire deck looks over at all of you.

                “Well, well, seems we got more thieves out to steal our treasure.” This voice comes from the other side of the mast, and as the owner of it steps into view you reassess how thick said mast must be to have hidden him. He’s a towering fellow, shorter than The Warden but not by as much as you’d prefer. Nearly-translucent skin and clouded eyes tell you he’s as dead as the other, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from clomping across the deck all the same.

                “Our treasure is in the brig below, but to find it you’ll have to choose between navigating quite the dangerous array of-”

                “I fucking hated Pirates of Penance!” Jim, of course, screams as he leaps forward and slams his shoulder into the nearest corpse, who topples over more from surprise than the force of Jim’s attack.

                “What the hell?” you shriek.

                “Oh, aren’t we trying to kick some ass? I was totally getting that vibe from you,” Jim replies.

                “You were kind of giving off that vibe,” Victoria adds.

                You’re bicker with them more, but Jim’s attack has triggered a change in the dead pirates, who are now glaring at you all and picking up weapons. The big one, who you’re assuming is the captain of this undead crew, yanks a massive cutlass out of his belt and begins advancing.

                “So you choose the second: fight us for our booty.” His broad grin shows his cracked jaws and red-stained teeth, and you begin to wonder if the sword is the only thing you have to watch out for.

                “This, by the way, is why the attendant follows,” Victoria says. “Ah well. The die is cast, best to make the most of it.” She leaps forward, slipping her oh-so-sharp nails into the nearest dead pirate’s throat and opening his neck into a rotted smile.

                You take the cue, slamming the tip of your pitchfork into the nearest corpse. It’s hard to say if you or he are more surprised when he bursts into flames, but after a few seconds of concentrated burning the corpse no long has any opinion other than what it’s like to be ashes. Barreling forward, you stab another corpse, then another, igniting each one as you go. For a few wonderful moments, you think that perhaps you can pull this off and get out of here safely. Then a massive thud shakes the boat and you remember there’s the captain to deal with.

                A single glance tells you all that your need to know. Jim was flung across the boat and smacked into the mast, where he’s slumped over on the ground. His eyes are open and he’s groaning, so at least your roommate isn’t dead, but from the way the captain is advancing on him that seems like a temporary condition at best.

                It’s too far for you to rush over there, and you don’t have any practice throwing pitchforks, so a ranged attack is out of the question. You quickly fling open the book Virgil gave you, the one that supposedly summons pieces of your life. While you’re not sure what exactly that means, casting some shitshow of a spell can’t be worse than seeing your friend carved into pieces.

                The words in the pages are mostly gibberish, written over in layers and oriented in all manner of direction. With no time to be picky, your eyes search the first page you see. There are three phrases in there, and Jim is getting short on time. Yell one of these bastards and see what happens.

Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 12

                Most of those phrases were gibberish, but by god one of them stood out like a turd in a punch bowl. Your invocation, the one that carried you through last year’s troubles in spite of all the craziness that occurred. Dumb as it may be, strike that, idiotic as it definitely is, it’s still yours. And even if you don’t know what will happen, you prefer to wield something you’re familiar with. It’s your version of going down swinging.

                “Fucking Magic!” Your words bellow through the night air and the book becomes instantly hot in your hands. For a split second, nothing else happens, then a pillar of fire nearly as thick as a tree trunk bursts forth from the tip of your pitchfork, roasting through the air and smashing directly into the captain’s chest. He scarcely has enough time to register the blow before he’s flying through the air, pushed back by the sheer force of the attack. He crashed against the doorway that doubtless leads below deck, both he and the wooden structure suddenly engulfed in flames. Perhaps he won’t burn as quickly as the other pirates, but with that much fire you doubt it will be an issue.

                “Whoa.” You stare at the still slightly smoking tips of you pitchfork, then glance over to the book. It has wilted in your hand, eroding into little more than crumbled pages which are already turning to dust. Virgil did warn you it was a one-shot deal, after all.

                “Fuckin’ right,” Jim agrees, pulling himself up from the ground near the mast. He seems winded, but overall no worse for the wear. If memory holds, people who are drunk stay loose in accidents and take less damage, and Jim is way fucking beyond just drunk. “You got a magic pitchfork?”

                “Not especially magical,” Victoria says, appearing at your side. Her hands are slick with dark blood, and you notice for the first time that all of the other pirate corpses have been dealt with. She daintily produces a handkerchief, seemingly from nowhere, and begins carefully cleaning off her hands. Somehow, out of the whole picture, this is the part that scares you the most. “It seems our guardian picked up a boon during the trial of the gates.”

                “It came in handy,” you admit, watching the bits of book blow away in the sea winds. As your attention is elsewhere, you scarcely notice the sound of movement. Near the mast, a small trap door opens and a platform rises into view. Atop it is the very archetype of a pirate’s treasure chest. When the platform finishes rising and locks into place, the top of the chest tumbles over, revealing an shining golden hoard of coins.

                “That’ll buy some beer,” Jim says, staring at it intently.

                “It will probably also curse us silly,” you add. “Seeing as everything here has been some sort of trick or test, I have to imagine that this is one too. I bet if we take the gold, we end up as pirates, or something else cliché like that.”

                “Cliché? Now that’s just hurtful.” From the flaming wreckage nearby rises the captain, though his pallor of death has vanished and he’s shrunk a few inches. He now looks like a normal man, save for the pirate outfit and strange gleam in his eye. “I like to think of it as thematically appropriate.”

                “Even your defenses against being hackneyed are hackneyed,” Victoria snaps. “You heard my guardian, he didn’t want to take the gold. The trial is done, Teach Garrote, and it makes three.”

                The captain, Teach… okay seriously what is with these fucking people’s names? Seriously. Anyway, Teach’s brow furrows and a scowl descends across his face. “There was never any need for this. The town is large; there are plenty to reaped for all.”

                “Oh yes, I know there was no need for it,” Victoria agrees. “This is simply a point of pride. You dared enter Willowbrook territory, and now you are exiled from it for the next hundred All Hallows Eves. As she who has entered your domain and survived the three trials, this is my right, and I claim it here and now in the name of the Graveyard Accords.” She smiles, the dangerous one that makes you worry just what sort of thing you’ve befriended. “To put it bluntly, get the fuck out of my town.”

                Teach glares at her for a long while, and you wonder if he’s going to reach for that cutlass again. Finally he inclines every-so-slightly in the barest of bows. “So it is written, so shall the Garrote family obey. All who have been taken will be returned, and we will become nothing more than mist and memory by daybreak.”

                “Good boy,” Victoria says.

                “When you disembark the ship, you will be back outside the gates. If you’ll excuse me, I have packing to do.” Teach turns and starts to walk away, but Victoria calls him back.

                “One last thing, Teach Garrote. Don’t forget the boons for my escorts.”

                His shoulders slump, clearly he was hoping she’d forget about this part. Slowly, Teach turns around, only this time he’s looking at you and Jim.

                “In reward for your bravery and skill, I am obligated under the Graveyard Accords to offer you each a single boon within my power. Choose quickly and wisely.”

                “I’ve got the perfect idea!” Jim shouts. “Dude, I’m going to ask for a cup of beer that never runs dry.”

                “Jim… we have that home. You drink from it every night.”

                “Huh? Ohhh shit yeah, I guess we do.” Jim turns to face Teach, who now looks somewhat confused, in addition to being irritated. “Let me get a funnel cake that never out, then.”

                “That’s… all you want?” Teach is staring at him dumbfounded, but you and Victoria expected something like this.

                “It’s not a night at the amusement park without funnel cake,” Jim says. In his hands a deep fried and powdered sugar coated dish suddenly appears. Instantly you know that any days without powdered sugar all over the floors of your apartment are a thing of the past.

                “Your turn,” Victoria urges.

                Teach doesn’t seem the patient type, and you don’t want to push your luck, so many it’s best to ask for something quickly. That gold got you thinking about the cash you don’t have, maybe ask for some that isn’t cursed. Of course, given how crazy things in life are, maybe you should see if you can get another one of those books like Virgil gave you. Then again, you can always Jim this bitch and ask for some crazy shit.

                What will it be?


Halloween 2014 Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 13

                “You should have asked me for advice,” Victoria says as the three of you exit her town car. You’re finally back at your apartment, and Jim has just finished coating her front seat in powdered sugar as he continues laying into his endless funnel cake. The mysterious driver apparently accepted a few bites, based on the strange sounds you heard coming from the front seat during the drive.

                “And then you would have told me it was my job to choose or something,” you replied. You’re careful as you lift your pitchfork and new possession out of the town car, cradling the boon like a swaddled toddler.

                “The trials were over, I was free to advise you as I saw fit,” Victoria says.

                “Mmmfrmphrumph,” Jim adds, mouth stuffed with funnel cake.

                “Well maybe I didn’t want your advice. I like what I got, thank you very much.”

                “It just seems frivolous,” she tells you.

                “Let’s see you say that after I try it out in the parking lot.” You all walk up to your apartment and open the front door. Sitting on your couch, clad in a blue apron and drinking a craft beer is a giant skeleton.

                “Hey Wilbur,” you say, greeting your third roommate. “How was the coffee shop?”

                “Horseshit as always,” Wilbur the giant skeleton replies. “Bunch of kids lit a pumpkin on fire outside the store. Fucking Halloween.”

                “Mmfrumgrrrtlk,” Jim adds.

                “Since Lady Dempsy is here, I assume there were some festivities on your end too?” Wilbur says, ignoring Jim.

                “Nothing too outlandish, just driving a few pests from my home. Merlin and the man chowing through an endless funnel cake were kind enough to lend me a hand.”

                “It helped that she didn’t tell us what we were doing,” you add. You turn to look at Victoria. “Why was that, anyway? We would have gone along even if we knew the score.”

                “Neither of you is particularly what I’d call the ‘planning’ type,” Victoria says. “You both function best when reacting and thinking on your feet. By keeping you in the dark, I was helping ensure you didn’t get in your own way. Plus, to be frank, it was more fun that way.”

                You find the second part more believable than the first.

                “Since no one seems dead, guessing you pulled it off,” Wilbur surmises.

                “And we got some cool shit to boot,” you say. “Jim asked for an endless funnel cake.”

                “Hrmmphrurr!” I’m not going to keep telling you this is Jim. It’s clearly Jim. We’re all smart, it’s implied, no need to restate.

                “What about you?” Wilbur asks. “Get some cool magic, or maybe some sweet cash.”

                “Better. Way fucking better.”

                “I beg to disagree,” Victoria says with a shake of her head.

                “Come on then, what is it?”

                In response, you toss your newest possession from your hand and it falls to the floor. Before actually hitting, it stabilizes in mid-air and hangs there, ignoring the siren song of gravity. Wilbur can’t do much in the way of facial expressions, but from the way his skull tips upward you can tell he’s both surprises and impressed.

                “No way.”

                “Yup,” you confirm.

                “You got a hoverboard?”

                “Damn straight. All the money in the world can’t buy one of these things.”

                “Actually,” Wilbur says, “There is this Kickstarter one-”

                “No, bullcrap,” you interrupt. “That has to be in a special park with all sorts of materials. This is the real deal. All terrain, except for water, I guess, and never runs out of juice.”

                “Is there some significance to this object I’m missing?” Victoria asks.

                “Let me change, then show you how awesome it is. I think you’ll get the idea pretty quickly.” You hurry off to your room, carefully removing the demon costume as you go. Moving quickly, you switch into sweats and t-shirt, putting most of the costume into the garment bag Victoria first provided. The one thing you keep out is the pitchfork. You hold it as you open your closet and push back a wall of dress shirts that you never wear.

                Carefully, you rest the pitchfork against a small shelf. Already on the shelf is a threadbare wizard’s hat, a mannequin hand, and a jar of glowing green goo. You add the crystal doorknob, setting it down by the hat. The pitchfork will just have to lean, there’s no way that thing can fit on your small shelf. Then again, if shit keeps going down like this, you might need a bigger one soon.

                Moving your clothes back into position, you hurry out to the living room. In the next hour, you’ll pull off several small tricks on the hoverboard before slipping up and fracturing an ankle but all in all, this turned out to be a pretty fuckin’ rad Halloween in…

The End