“So that’s it,” Abby said to the assembled people and their jack-o-lanterns. “You chase us around, because that’s all you can do. You can’t possess us, you can’t hurt us…and now that you’ve hit on this…invasion, you want to suck up to us and have us turn a blind eye.”
Mr. Walden made a can I speak? gesture to the others, then smiled at Abby. “One error, there…nobody said we couldn’t hurt you.” With that, he raised a hand. The vines wrapping it unfurled themselves and stiffened into sharp, leafy points, much like the enraged ‘mom’ jack-o-lantern had done with its tendrils back at Brightest Lantern.
As one, many of the townspeople raised their own weaponized hands, too.
Abby nodded, trying to show outward calm while her heart thrummed. “Mr. Claremont just said I couldn’t think critically,” she said, “but here’s a little question for y’all: if you can hurt us, then why don’t you?”
“Abby…” Gerard said under his breath, warning in his tone.
“No, I’m serious,” she said. “You haven’t killed us yet; you’ve been wasting our time with this community theatre garbage…why not just snuff us out?”
Mrs. Porter reached up and scratched the side of her pumpkin. It wriggled on her shoulder appreciatively. When her voice sounded, it was somber. “What’s the point in trying to re-enter God’s glory if we immediately break one of the Ten Commandments?”
Abby burst out with a spiteful laugh. “So what were you going to do? What was the big super-villain plan, here? Ask us ever so nicely not to run and fetch the Army?”
“Always such a smartass,” Walden spat. “You have no idea how hated you are in this town, do you? What a favor we’re doing for you?”
“Favor?” Abby burbled, and the laughter returned. “Getting used as Satan’s buttplugs for all eternity must’ve addled your brains more than I thought. How can any of this be construed as a favor?”
The three spokespeople said nothing for a few seconds, then Mr. Claremont spoke up. “Respect,” he said. “When we run this town, you will be treated with respect. Imagine no longer having to be confined to that…sanitarium. You can walk down the street without being accosted, or yelled at, or looked at askance. You can live your lives any way you choose. No one will ever treat you differently again.”
“Who cares?” Gerard said.
“If you think I gave a damn about what these people thought about me,” Abby said, “do you really think I’d care what…creatures wearing their faces would think?”
“…Yeah. Um, yeah, what they said,” Claude said after a moment.
Abby looked around at the thousands surrounding them, then back at the three speakers. “So let me tally this up for you. You can’t control us. You threaten us, but then admit you won’t carry out those threats. Oh, and here’s something else: Alejandro over there mentioned that you’d ‘lost’ Dove. I seem to recall grinding Dove’s little passenger into an orange smear. So I guess that means you can’t re-possess someone if their pumpkin gets trashed, huh?”
The defiant glares of the citizens told her everything she needed to know, backed up by their turning their hateful eyes towards Claude when he said, “And we went Cro-Magnon on Parky Parkinson’s jack-o-lantern, too. Guess he’s free, right?”
Breaking the long, silent non-response of the citizens, Abby clapped her hands together and relished the echo across the still lawn of City Hall. “Guess what that adds up to? Us, getting in our van and driving out of here. You can’t make us stop, you can’t hurt us, and now we know the whole wall-of-bodies thing was a bluff, too. You’ll move out of the way if we drive straight at you, because you won’t want to ‘lose’ any more people.” She waggled her fingers at Mr. Walden and the others. “Too bad. So sad. Bye-bye.”
From behind her, a loud series of pops sounded. Abby spun to see what had made the noise, but even as she turned the pops became loud, sustained hisses, and she knew what she’d see before she even finished her one-eighty.
Citizens stepped away from their work, having used the sharp, jabbing vines on their hands to shred all four tires — and the spare on the back door — of the van. From inside, Fleur gave a high-pitched squall of alarm.
Claude broke away and stormed to the van. “You get your asses away from her.” He opened the side door and took Fleur’s hand as she stepped out, her eyes fairly bugging from their sockets as she got her first full glimpse of the massive, encircling throng.
He led Fleur to the others. The girl made to hug Abby, and when her mouth touched Abby’s ear, whispered, “I got someone on the phone.” They pulled back, a grim half-smile on Abby’s face.
“…Prisoners, then?” Abby asked, facing the speakers, putting her mouth back in a scowl.
Mrs. Porter shook her head. “No, guests,” and there went that weird audio-glitch again in her voice. “We’ve prepared a place for you– comfortable, nice, everything you’d want. And very soon, when our covenant with our summoner has been completed, you’ll be free to roam anywhere in Caliche you want.”
“This isn’t going to work,” Gerard said. “Long-term? No way. The minute some stranger drives through town –”
Walden turned to him. “After daybreak, it won’t matter. Anyone who comes through town…will be welcomed into the community.” Abby tensed up, scanning the crowd for weak spots. Walden noticed and laughed. “Really, Abby? You think you can run? You think you can break through a three-thousand-person Red Rover chain? I’ll say this for you — at least you’re finally taking an interest in recess activities.”
Mr. Claremont shushed him. “Even if you ran — any of you — you wouldn’t get far. As long as we command these bodies, they cannot get tired. You would collapse from fatigue long before they got tired of chasing you.”
The three spokespeople stepped forward as one and tried to take the elbows of Abby and the others, only to have their efforts rebuffed. “Get your hands off us,” Claude shouted as, beside him, Fleur tugged her arm away.
“Now, now,” Mrs. Porter said, not unkindly. “That’s not necessary. Come along, the four of you.
“It’s time to see your new home.”
Today’s Words: 1067
Total Words: 22936
Notes: Behind schedule, still. Did more napping than writing this weekend, but with any luck catching up on a lot of sleep-debt will energize me to catch up on writing and finish on schedule. Fingers crossed!