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.