A quick run-through of the rules later, and everyone trooped inside the house to start the game. Benjamin brought up the rear, thinking how much more like an all-devouring monster Randall’s house appeared. The second-floor windows looked even more like eyes than those on the Amityville Horror house.
He shook away the idea and walked in the front door. Randall excused himself to find a sock and a sheet for his brothers.
“Okay,” he said. “We have some new travelers joining us today. Bast, goddess of cats,” and Eury gave a curtsy. “Also, a cat warrior summoned by Bast to fight at her side, and a gh–”
And he felt it, then: the old pickiness, the old everything’s got to be just-so feeling he’d been having since taking over as Horror Host. There was only one ghost in this game, and it sure as hell wasn’t Randall’s brat brother…
But then he looked over, caught a smile from Andi, and relaxed a little. Okay. Okay. There could maybe, possibly, be another ghost among the players. If he behaved himself.
“…a ghost, who has journeyed here from the Other Side to join your fight.”
He felt a little pang as he said it, and gave himself a second to think of Lloyd. As he did, Randall came back and busied himself pinning the tail on Carter and draping the sheet-with-eyeholes over Caleb.
“Wooooo,” said Caleb, once enshrouded.
“You’re weary after the battle against the skeleton army,” Benjamin continued. “So the addition of these warriors to your party bolsters your spirits. You’ve taken refuge in this…” he looked around at all the religious paraphernalia on the walls, “er, temple, to rest, heal your wounds, and plan your next step.”
Benjamin opened the Trapper Keeper and flipped to a section at the back. A quick consult with his calculator (while Carter asked Randall, “What’s he doing?” and Randall shushed Carter), and he’d determined the next step in the story.
With quick steps, Benjamin walked to the front door and slid the chain into its socket while engaging the deadbolt.
“The temple’s doors slam shut, and a mighty voice echoes through the stone halls.” He cupped his hands over his mouth and shouted. “Monsters! Foul, accursed creatures! You have desecrated this holy temple by your presence!”
Cy picked up the idea immediately, and Benjamin smiled to himself. He could always count on Cy.
“We’re not evil,” the Gill Man said. “We fight for what is good and just!”
“I have my doubts,” Benjamin shouted. “You have among your number a banshee — a spirit of death. A patchwork of corpses, mocking life itself. A killer of innocents,” he continued, turning to Jason, who didn’t seem to realize he was being spoken about. “Yet you claim to fight for good?”
The Wolfman interjected. “Those of us who have done bad things have realized the error of our ways. Doesn’t Good have within itself the chance for redemption?”
Benjamin pretended to ponder that, while a small part of him felt relief over how much easier this was than having to incorporate Caleb and Carter into the storyline as Biblical heroes. Having to combine Voidville with Superbook would have been a challenge even he wasn’t sure he could surmount.
“Very well,” he intoned. “But words and deeds are two very different things. You must prove your commitment to purity by passing a series of trials, each more arduous than the last. By day’s end, you will have convinced us of your intentions…or died trying.”
“Do your worst,” said Frankenstein’s monster, as the banshee cracked her knuckles.
So great. One of the greatest ever.
All the players were at the height of their cleverness, matching Benjamin’s trials blow for blow:
Randall, acting his wolfy heart out as he was confronted by the gypsy woman who cursed him, forced to choose between forgiveness and revenge;
Eddie, breaking down in monsterly confusion and fear as the souls of all the bodies whose parts formed him arose up as one to face him;
Cy and Jason, walking together into a lake on realizing they could never walk among humanity, not looking back;
Andi, justifying her place in the grand cosmic scheme as a harbinger of death with an impassioned monologue;
And even the kids: Eury telling Carter what to do and Carter hopping to without question, and Caleb following Andi’s lead whatever she chose to do.
It was so immersive, so true, so pure and real that Benjamin’s imagination swept him away, carrying him deep down inside the skins of every opponent his players faced, plus their godly accuser within the fabric of the temple itself.
He could see it all, see it clearer than anything in his ‘real’ life. The monsters and the obstacles they overcame were better than the Mundane world, better than any book or movie or TV show.
At one point, when Eddie struck back by channeling the electricity in his veins as lightning bolts through his fingertips, blasting the phantoms that haunted him, Benjamin could see the blast of crackling energy as it burst from the monster’s hands.
Even Eddie, afterwards, stared at his own hands as though he’d seen it, too.
The cheapness and tackiness of their costumes didn’t matter. Benjamin’s fevered, overstimulated mind filled in the gaps to make the Wolfman fully bestial, the Gill Man a scaled, reptilian horror, and the Banshee a spectral, shimmering force.
Perfect. Perfect and wonderful beyond measure: a session of Voidville greater than anything they’d ever played before.
At least, until the screaming started.
With a shock, Benjamin snapped out of his hours-long, sugar-burst reverie to the sound of a young boy — one of the twins? — yelling in fury and petulance.
And in that moment of disconnect, he found himself back in a friend’s house, surrounded by classmates in shabby disguises, all of them dazed and stumbling as though they’d been just as caught up in events as he had.
And then, a second shock, once which punched him in the gut and flooded his head with ice water:
Looking around, Benjamin couldn’t see a single inch of Randall’s house that hadn’t been completely trashed.
Today’s Words: 1031
Total Words: 17938
Notes: The four of you who have been reading these posts will notice this one is five days late. Well spotted!
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)