Halloween 2016: Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 4

                No need to reinvent the wheel here. You’re scared, you need people around, and you could damn sure use a drink. The bar fulfills all of that criteria, so you start booking toward the downtown section where Sheryl and her friends are all meeting up. Grabbing a cab would be nice, but you aren’t eating nightly microwave meals and living in a shithole because you’re rolling in cash, now are you? Thankfully the walk isn’t too long, at least your apartment’s location is decent, and it takes even less time because you’re half-running in your adrenaline hopped-up state.

                Finally you arrive at the bar, getting some wary eyes from the bouncers who let you through despite the fact that you’re sweaty and still wearing office clothes. You make your way in the door and scan the room for Sheryl, a task instantly complicated by the fact that everyone here is in costume. After bumping past someone wearing a massive Staypuft Marshmallow Man outfit and a whole crew of Ninja Turtles, like, way more than there ever were on the show and that’s including Venus De Milo, you stumble through and see a friendly, familiar sight. No, not Sheryl. The bar. In a few strides you make it over and begin the dance of trying to get a bartender’s attention without seeming pushy.

                The exercise is particularly futile tonight, as you’re competing with people in elaborate costumes that more naturally catch the eye than your button-down and slacks. Add in that the bartender is male and some of these outfits are quite… entrancing, and it’s no wonder his eyes keep sliding right past as you desperately signal that you just want a beer. Just when all hope seems lost, you hear a familiar voice nearby.

                “Let me get two more.”

                By the time you’ve fully turned, you find Sheryl already standing there, two cold dark beers in hand. She’s grinning, clearly aware of the ordeal you were dealing with, and she hands you one of the drinks. “We figured out early on that it’s faster to let us gals make the drink runs. Nice costume, by the way. Did they just let you out of the office?”

                You’re about to explain… no, you’re about to fumble over your words horribly as the truth and lies mash in your mouth once you realize how crazy the story of your night so far has been, but mercifully you are saved from yourself by the realization of what Sheryl is wearing. The shirt is cut a little lower than one would expect, and some accessories have clearly been put together on a low-budget, however there’s no denying that she’s rocking a very respectable Han Solo costume. It’s such a stunning sight that it momentarily knocks the stupid out of you, and you say the first words that pop into your mind.

                “Have you ever forgotten something that you knew you needed to remember, but didn’t know how?”

                Sheryl blinks in surprise, taking a long sip of her own beer. The two of you are moved slightly away from the bar by the natural flow of traffic, and when she speaks again the general din of nearby noise is diminished. “Sorry, I was mentally bracing myself for a bad lightsaber innuendo, not something so existential.”

                “Been getting a lot of those?”

                “Enough that I’m happy to have a change of pace. So you forgot something? What, like at the office?”

                “No. At least, I don’t think so. Further back than that. Something from college, maybe a lot of things, honestly. I had… an electrical accident, and it felt like my memory was getting jogged. But then it all slipped away. I’d rather not roast myself in an attempt to remember, although I don’t have a lot of other great ideas.”

                Sheryl stares at you for several seconds, perhaps for the first time noticing how disheveled you look. “How important can this really be if it’s from college? You got a degree and got out, which means you handled the main job.”

                “I won’t know for sure until I can remember it.” You pause, realizing how crazy this must sound to someone who wasn’t in your head, who didn’t see that shadow monster shoving the machines. Here, in the bar, it’s hard to imagine any of it was real. Maybe the whole thing was just a post-electrocution delusion. Except that voice, the one that called you Merlin. It sounded so familiar. “But I feel like I really need to remember, even if I don’t know why.”

                “Okay,” Sheryl says. “If it’s that important, I’ll try and help. Beats listening to my friends talk about their great new post-college jobs anyway. So if you want to jog a memory, there are several schools of thought. You can recreate the mindset you were in, trigger it via sense memory, or search out external records. Given how quickly you’ve been downing that beer, I’m going to guess you were a drinker in college?”

                “I may have put a few beers away,” you admit.

                “Then there’s our path to the mindset. If this is something you lost via blackout, maybe we can get it back the same way. Plus, this bar has $2 well shots all night, so we can get there on the cheap. As for sense memory, is there anything you can pick out about the weird memories? A smell or scene that we can find something similar too and see if that brings things back?”

                That’s a tougher one. There wasn’t much clear during the electrical mind scramble. Just uncertainty, and the voice, and flickering images under the static. One of them seemed a little more distinct though, a big, dark looming shape like-

                “A haunted house.” The words spill out before you can think them through, which might be a good thing. Things you think about seem to have a way of slipping from your mind lately. “I can’t remember much, but there was this huge mansion, filled with people in costumes. Probably had to be a haunted house attraction, right?”

                “No shortage of those tonight,” Sheryl says. “Lastly, external records. Obviously that’s a long shot, since not many people are recording the actions of drunk college kids, but if you have a friend who took pictures or videos maybe they can help?”

                “My best friend, Jim. He was there for everything in college, although I don’t know that his memory is going to be much better than mine. Still, might be worth a call-” As your hand slaps at your left pocket, you feel the crunch of movement and recall just how hard you fell down when the breaker box shocked you. Sure enough, the debris you pull out certainly looks like a phone, or bits of one, but it’s not going to be making any calls.

                “Bummer. Do you know his number?”

                You shake your head, who actually memorizes phone numbers anymore? But… but maybe there is still something. “Jim used our lives as inspiration for his web-comic during the first year. There might be something in the backlog that touches on the thing I’m trying to remember.”

                “Okay, well I’m definitely going to want to hear more about this web-comic making roommate, but for now I know of a library with lots of computers down the street. They have Halloween events every year, so I’m sure they’ll be up and running. We can go read a web-comic there.”

                Sheryl has nearly finished her beer, and so have you. Time to toss these empties and decide on a new course of action.