Halloween 2018: Choose Your Spooky Outcome: Chapter 11

                If life has taught you no other lesson whatsoever, it’s that Jim will take an All You Can Eat sign way too seriously. If life has taught you two lessons, it’s the first one, and the fact that Thad always wins. Sports, grades, love, life, he just succeeds. So why not put your money on the sure bet?

                Scanning the area as you jog, your eyes fall upon an unopened beer bottle dropped in the confusion, years of cleaning up after your roommate having trained your vision for just such a purpose. You jerk to the right, then the left, darting away from the ghosts with an unexpected sprint that leaves little else in the tank. It works, though, giving you enough lead time to scoop up the beer bottle and toss it over to Thad, who plucks it from the air like it was waiting for him.

                “Hail Mary! Home Run! Whatever sports term means throw that mother fucker and break the mirror.”

                No sooner have you said the words than Thad dashes ahead, blazing past you with ease. He is the athletic one. You struggle to keep up, and avoid the still pursuing ghosts, bursting through a section of faux-forest in time to catch quite an odd sight.

                Thad is in the open, lining up a shot. Several ghosts are trying to rush him; however, they’ve been cut off by what appears to be an insane person covered in toilet paper riding a wild animal who is also adorned in shit tickets. It lets out a familiar yowl and swipes at a ghost who darts back, in spite of already having a hole in his chest. Strangest of all, both the man and his cat are covered in broken glass.

                “Back you heathens! Battle Kitty demands your obedience!”

                Hey look, you found Jim. Probably answers the question of who broke that back door as well. Why he felt the need to dress up himself and his ghost bobcat is anyone’s guess, but you can’t complain about the timing. Thanks to Jim’s arrival, Thad has enough time to take aim despite the odd angle of the target. With a smooth, practiced throw that is far too graceful for hocking a beer bottle, Thad sends it sailing up into the air. The base of the bottle absolutely smashes into the mirror, creating what appears to be, at first, a simple crack.

                As you watch, however, the crack spreads across the seemingly endless expanse of the mirror’s depths. Spiderwebs of destruction grow, filling the entire surface, before almost the whole thing shatters into flecks of glass that almost look more like snow from this distance, drifting lightly to the ground.

                “And that is how… you… oh shit.” Thad stops midway through his celebration, suddenly growing pale and stumbling as he tries to turn around. Another step, this time he feet fail entirely and he hits the floor. Is it your imagination, or is he getting thinner? Not leaner, weaker, his muscles are literally atrophying before your eyes. He looks up, bright eyes already sunken. “Bro? What is this?”

                That is a damn good question, one you’re not sure you have an answer too. Frantically, you scan the room, looking for a source. All you can see are the various ghosts growing steadily more transparent, losing their tether to the world. You did it. You won. So what the hell is happening to your brother?

                “Every fear, every superstition, has some grain of truth to it.” Victoria steps into view, walking through the fog at the front entrance as she surveys the scene. “I do wish you would remember that, Merlin.”

                “What’s happening to him?” You point at Thad, although there’s really no need. As one of the few solid people remaining in the room, he’s easy to notice.

                “Break a normal mirror, seven years bad luck. He broke a mirror so magical it’s essentially an artifact. Even for a being like him, the associated curse is too much. All your brother’s gift has done is lengthen the suffering, forcing him to survive when most would perish.”

                Oh no. Oh no no no no. “You have to save him.”

                She’s already shaking her head, fully aware of what you would ask. “I am so sorry, but I cannot. The force of that power is beyond what I could halt. You have my deepest condolences.” Her hand tries to land on your shoulder, but you’re already darting to Thad’s side.

                “Hey, hey, look at me.” You take his face in your hands, forcing him to look upward. “Thad, you can overcome this. Nothing stops you. You’re unbeatable.”

                Despite the withered husk looking back at you, his smile is still recognizable. “I had to be unstoppable. Couldn’t disappoint the little brother who was always watching.” Reaching up, he ruffles your hair one last time, messing it up under your costume hood. “As far as ways to go, helping you save the world isn’t such a bad one.”

                His hand falls, along with the rest of him, limp to the ground. You know, without so much as a touch, that Thad’s heart has stopped. He’s dead, yet even now, the curse continues to erode his body. For a reason you can’t quite articulate, that sight fills your vision with red. It wasn’t enough to kill him. The magic has to mutilate his corpse too?

                “This is bullshit.” You hop to your feet, an unexpected need to move suddenly burning in your veins. Spinning around, you lock eyes with Victoria, who appears slightly taken aback at your intensity. “It’s Halloween, there’s magic in every nook and crack around this whole town. There’s a way to save him. Tell me there’s a way to save him.”

                “Merlin, he wasn’t merely killed, he was devoured by a curse he brought on himself, one that is still at work upon him. There’s no magic I know to overcome such a death. There’s a chance, a slim one, that examining the frame of the mirror itself might hold some clue as to how the magic works.”

                You’re already moving, heading over toward the mirror, when something catches your eye. A shard of the mirror is sparkling on the ground, the one piece that hasn’t been turned to glittering dust. On instinct, you pick it up. The swirling, endless void remains visible, as does your reflection when you angle the lighting just so. Practically speaking, this probably still counts as a mirror.

                A curse powerful enough to overcome even Thad’s naturally charmed existence. Maybe its powerful enough to stop, other, more potent magics at work. Or, if this is one more thing that can’t kill you… well, you usually only go back a bit. No guarantee that you’d be able to save Thad.

                “Got any costume magic?” Jim has wandered over, having left a pile of toilet paper that was formerly his ghost bobcat behind on the ground. “I mean, you are dressed as the Grim Reaper. If Victoria makes that real, wouldn’t you be able to grab Thad’s soul and stuff it back in?”

                Victoria doesn’t respond right away. At last, she removes a small pouch from her belt. “When I offered that ensemble, I never imagined you would try to use it in such a way. Be warned, Merlin, what lies on the other side is largely a mystery, even to my family. If you attempt to cross over, costumed as Death or not, I can offer no guidance. Whatever comes after that, you’re on your own.”

                Thad’s body isn’t getting less cursed, so probably a good idea to get moving. You can still go check the mirror to see if there are any clues. Then again, Victoria is standing right here, offering magic costume powers. Surely Death could stop this, right? Well, okay, so the name doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, but it should still open up more options than you have now. Of course, there is the final choice as well. Break the last shard of mirror, die the same way as Thad. Maybe, just maybe, that will push things back enough. Or you could suffer a painful, horrific death and end up still down a brother.

                Time to make a choice.

Drew Hayes4 Comments