“Godpunch Lightning-Fucker sure does seem to have a lot of adventures centering around chesty women and drugs.” Sheryl is sitting in the chair next to you, reading the comic as you click from page to page. “Should I take that as an indicator of how you two spent your college years?”
“I’m pretty sure mostly just the drug part was true. Jim would hook up sometimes, but I could never really pin down one feature he was drawn to, and definitely not something as obvious as that. I think this might be a place where art and life diverge.”
The two of you are seated in a large bay of computers, which is empty save for you as everyone else in the library is taking part in the big event downstairs. There’s candy, party games, and prizes for literary themed costumes. Honestly, this library fucking rocks, and if not for your sudden mental crisis/potential breakdown it would be a really cool way to kill an evening, especially with Sheryl around for company.
“Well, at least he’s consistent. Unlike his sidekick; I can’t figure out what the hell is going on with that guy.”
“Sidekick?” You’ve been scrolling through the pages quickly, searching for anything that seemed familiar rather than studying them in depth. To be fair, there are only so many hours in a night and Jim managed to whip up a huge backlog to this web-comic before it was optioned. Apparently Sheryl is a faster reader than you though.
“Yeah, the nameless guy who shows up early on. First he’s a wizard, and that’s fine given that we have a dude with a magic hammer and an enchanted bong as the main character, although don't get me started on that idiotic incantation catchphrase. Then the sidekick shows up again later on wearing a devil outfit, but in one scene he casts a spell like he’s still a wizard. And now he’s wearing some sort of gunslinger ensemble? Seriously, could your buddy not decide on what he wanted?” Sheryl reaches over and taps on the glass screen, pointing to a character you somehow missed.
No… no you didn’t miss him. As you squint your eyes, trying to make out the form that refuses to come into focus, you realize that something kept you from seeing the sidekick. Maybe the screen, maybe your own mind, maybe something else entirely. But whatever it is, it’s still working. No matter how you shift your eyes, the figure on screen refuses to come into focus. Instead of continuing to fight that losing battle, you let your mind drift, mulling over the clues Sheryl provided. So the sidekick starts as a wizard, then dress like a devil, and finally end up a gunslinger? That… itches in your mind. It’s something, you know it is, you just need to keep pushing.
Your hand is furiously clicking at the search bar when the sound of what seems like a book falling heavily to the floor reaches your ears. Thankfully, Sheryl turns toward the noise as well, meaning at least one part of this day isn’t in your head. Both of you flip around to look at the rows of books outside the computer bay, but there’s no movement. It is a big library after all, and it’s not like no one else has permission to be here. That’s what you try and tell yourself as you finish getting to the final pages of Jim’s comic.
Sure enough, the whole thing is blurry. “Sheryl, can you read these?”
“Sure, the art style isn’t any worse than when it started. Not really any better either though, which is odd given how many of these he obviously drew.”
“I can’t read it,” you tell her. “I couldn’t see the sidekick either. I have no idea what that means, I just know it’s the first semi-lead I’ve had in a while. What’s happening on these pages?”
Sheryl gives you another long stare, and then leans closer to the screen. “We skipped a big portion, but it looks like something happened to the sidekick. Godpunch is talking to the Lady of Autumn, trying to figure out what they should do. She says she has a plan, but her power will need to be at its zenith – wow I’m surprised the writer of this knew that word – before she can act.”
Another loud thud, and then another, and another, all coming from different areas in the dark rows of books.
“Who’s the Lady of Autumn?”
“Could you not see her either? She’s been there since the beginning. A little overly vague and mysterious for my tastes, but she does move the plot along. Hang on, I bet if I go back a few pages we can see what happened to the sidekick.” Sheryl reaches over you, going for the mouse, just as a shadow momentarily blots out the light. It’s like a brief cloud passing overhead, except that you’re inside, and the ceiling on this floor is twenty feet high.
Both of you glance up to see nothing there, which is far less comforting than it should be. More noises are coming from the rows behind you now. Only they don’t sound like dropping books anymore. They sound more like footsteps. Heavy, angry footsteps.
“Do you hear that?”
Sheryl pats you lightly on the arm. “It’s Halloween, people are just trying to scare us since we wandered off alone. Relax.”
You want to believe her, but the noises are getting louder, and suddenly you’re keenly aware of just how vulnerable the two of you are up here. People, you need more people.
“Come on, we need to get out of here.” As gently as you can, you take Sheryl’s hand from the computer and begin leading her back toward the stairs.
“Wait a second, I was only a few clicks from-” Sheryl is cut off as the computer you were both sitting out lets out a series of pops, crackles, and suddenly spews forth a stream of sparks. “-nothing, I guess. Okay, yeah, maybe we should get around more people.”
The two of you dart down the stairs, ears trained and ready for anything sneaking up on you, racing to the ground floor and the safety of a crowd. Except… there’s no crowd to be found. Just more emptiness. All the decorations and games are still set up, but there isn’t a soul to be found. Despite knowing what will happen, you still try the front door and find it unyielding.
“This has just gotten officially creepy,” Sheryl says. “Maybe they all went to the basement to tell scary stories or something?”
“And locked the doors?”
“I’m grasping at straws here, the ideas aren’t supposed to make a lot of sense,” Sheryl shoots back. “Look, whatever is going on here sure seems to be centered on you, so how about you figure out what we do now.”
She’s not wrong, and this place isn’t getting any less creepy. What now?