In a desperate attempt to find a way to Crows Hollow, the group travel to the recursion of Halloween. Through twisting adventures they have found themselves as mediators in a body snatching dispute between a poor shopkeeper and the Lord of the graveyard, The Nightwatch man.
* * * * * * *
“Oh man! I’m looking forward to kicking some asses!” Bruce crowed as the group walked towards the dead centre of town, the graveyard.
Besides Bruce, a determined grimness had settled over the others. Rain quietly walked up beside Peggy.
“What you said in the tent to the five-headed thing, I just want you to know you’re not alone not knowing.” He said by way of comfort.
“You heard that?” She asked surprised, the flames that made up her hair flairing up and spitting.
“You made the connection with me earlier in the pub, it was still running. Look, it was good. Knowing we had an ear on what was going on was the only way I could convince the others to leave you alone with him.”
There was no mistaking it this time, flames lit in Peggy’s eyes.
“You…you told the others!”
“I made him,” Said Bruce marching ahead, “There was no way you were going in there without some backup.”
Regardless of what Bruce had to say, Peggy in her pumpkin-headed sorcererous form was a formidable character and now all that power and anger was turned on Rain.
“Don’t….don’t talk to me!” She said through clenched teeth as if physically biting down on her rage, the fire of her wrath roaring like a firestorm.
“I’m sorry, I…”
“I said don’t!”
Rain backed off and caught up with Bruce.
“What time of day do you think it is?” Bruce said as Rain quietly stepped up beside him. The evening that they had arrived in had lightened a little in the east showing that time had past, but the Sun did not look like it was going to show itself.
“I think it’s always night here.” Rain gave his uneducated opinion.
“How much time have we got for clobbering before we need to rest do you think?”
“A thought. Couldn’t we at least find out why they’ve taken Horace’s remains, first? There may be a simple solution to all this.”
The heavy crossbow swung up and smashed down onto Bruce’s open hand with a smack.
“Bruce, are you okay?” Rain looked up into his friend’s face and was concerned at what he saw. A mix of righteous indignation and confusion as this new more aggressive Bruce warred with his wiser if stodgy better nature.
“We have a duty to protect the good living…and I suppose the good dead.” The new Bruce replied as if rallying a crowd.
“Well, good that’s a start,” Replied Rain, “I’m glad you remember that there are citizens here that could be …less than alive.”
“Tell me, can you remember what Alberto told us about Horace, his son?”
Alberto Ward, the shoemaker had been very forthcoming with information about his son, Horace, and his last few days alive. Reviewing the facts, rain hoped, would help Bruce focus on the task at hand, and not his new and exciting blood lust.
“The miscreant had fallen in with a bad crowd. It sounds like the boy could have done with a good thrashing. My mother would break canes on us, never did me any harm.”
Rain wondered about that last part, but said nothing.
“There was a deal involving that Gomez Snake again, slimly mutant fiend…”
“Differently adapted, but do go on.”
“…and he winds up dead in the House on the Hill.”
“Again, the House on the Hill, Morris wanted us to go there. One of his experiments?”
“But that’s not the end of the story is it. People don’t stay respectfully dead in this place. You can go and visit them in their eternal rest, that is if you can pay the stand over fee of the Nightwatch man and his gang of foul undead.”
“The stain.” Peggy trotted up joining the conversation, “Morris had a stain on his soul.”
“How the hell do you know a thing like that?” Rain exclaimed intinctually, then he remembered Peggy’s current mood and slunk back into silence.
“Morris must have been the bad company, the one that led Horace to his death, thus the stain.”
“I haven’t finished with that creature.” Bruce growled, “I want him on toast.”
Peggy too looked like she was ready to do the toasting as her flames whipped into a frenzy and she again had to physically restrain herself from flying into a fury.
“What do you know of this Nightwatch man, “ Bruce asked changing thankfully changing the subject, “Does he have any friends?”
“He has lots of ghoul-friends.” Rain joked receiving nothing but moans in reply.
“Do you think crucifixes hurt ghouls?” Algernon piped up, the first time since leaving the shoemakers. He was opposed to getting involved and had been quietly sulking the whole way to the graveyard.
Now, at his suggestion, Rain pulled out his puzzlebox and for the first time revealed what was inside. A few European coins, pre-Euro. A polished brown stone with yellow band that looked like the slitted pupil of a cat. A worn sea shell, a small piece of chalky blue rock and a silver chain with an empty cross. He pulled out the cross to hand to Algernon.
“Wouldn’t think it would do anything.” Peggy appraised the piece of jewelry, “It’s just a piece of silver.”
Chastened, Rain put the cross back in the tiny hiding space within the puzzlebox and whipped the whole thing away with the flick of a wrist.
“Why don’t we poison the grave?” Algernon asked again, trying to think of suggestions that didn’t involve confrontation. “Like it won’t hurt the dead guy will it.”
Rain winced and turned away from Algernon.
“You do whatever you want, you will anyway.”
“Not a great choice of words, Rain.” Peggy interjected. “You know he’ll take any opportunity.” She stopped, grbbing Algernon stop with her long twiggy hands.
“But Rain said…”
“But I say, no poison and who are you more afraid of, him or me?” The flame hair lashed and nothing more was said about poisons.
It was now the group reached the wall that encircled the graveyard. From the end of the street a small archway was inset into the wall that led into the graveyard proper. Beyond, a low lying fog covered the ground though none seemed to spill through the archway.
“So where does this pretend leader of the dead hang out?” Bruce bent down to fit through the arch and stand up to his knees in the fog on the other side.
“Why pretend?” Peggy followed, the fog burning off in a small circle around her.
“He’s dead.” Was the reply, as if it was obvious to all.
“A lack of life does not exclude someone from a leadership position.” She replied as if this too was a fact, self evident.
The graveyard, unlike the bustling lit streets of the city, was quiet. The sounds of the night were muffled and senses were easily confused. Scurrying sounds loomed large nearby only to disappear quickly. Bruce’s keen eyes spotted their first pack of ghouls, ghant, bony creatures many with body parts missing. Bruce pointed one out with the point of his crowbar whose empty eye socket was black against his corpse’s pale features.
“ Look he has an empty eye socket just waiting for a crowbar.”
The ghoul turned at the sound of Bruce’s voice and howled.
“Uh…hi, hello.” Rain waved not spotting the other two packs coming in from behind. In total there were thirty-six ghouls split amongst the three groups. On the howls of the first they all leaped into a sprint across the distance to the party.
This was the moment Bruce had been waiting for since arriving in Halloween. With a primal roar of battle his first let loose his wooden stake-like bolt before running in at the nearest group, crowbar in hand. His bolt hit a ghoul knocking his head off. Staggered, the body wandered a moment before crashing into another ghoul running up from behind.
Seeing the army of ghouls surrounding them, Rain countered with his own illusionary army. Thirty or forty soldier’s in Serbian military uniforms holding modern semi-automatics rifles lined up behind Rain. Each one wore Algernon’s face and each looked determined to do serious damage.
“Take me to your leader!” Rain announced, projecting his voice above the thunder of running ghoulish feet.
The three gangs of ghouls stop in their tracks. The first as the two leading members of their party were taken out of existence with one bolt. The owner of that bolt was right now roaring down on them in a way they were used to doing to their prey and they were not enjoying the juxtaposition. The other two groups were baulked by the powerful army that has seemingly sprung from nowhere. As armies don’t normally do that, and a ghoul’s brain is not the sharpest, they were unsure as to what to make of it all. In the end, they all thought it better to let the boss deal with the new intruders, and the groups pointed to a small cottage nestled in the centre of the graveyard.
Encircled by the stones of the dead as it was, the cottage was a sanctuary of love and care. Flowers and herbs a rainbow of colours contrasted with the granite and marble garden beyond. The white-washed walls of the cottage glowed in the ever-twilight making it a beacon of life in the gloom of the sinister necropolis.
“Okay…good work, now move along, move along.” Peggy grabbed Rain and Algernon pushing them through the collected mob of ghouls towards the cottage. Bruce, having stopped mid-blood lust, looked confused and disappointedly at Peggy as she pushed past grabbing his ear on her way through.
“Keep moving before these creatures decide they’re more hungry than intimidated.”
Down the path to the cottage the illusionary army of Algernons marched, all brandishing rifles that made the real Algernon envious, through the ghouls behind the group for the minute the illusion persisted. It lasted long enough to get the four of them to the front door of the cottage before dissolving away.
“I’ll knock.” Bruce grinned maliciously, pulling over his shoulder the big sledgehammer.
“No, no.” Rain stepped in front of the door , “No need.” He knocked and smiled back at a scowling Bruce. The sledgehammer did not go away.
A moment’s wait before the door opened and a very old, very undead man in a very fine, very new suit answered the door.
“Yes, can I help you?” With one phrase and a glance he took in the entire scene, the four companions unmolested and his ghouls hunched and cowered behind. He was polite, at least to start.
“Hi, you would be the Nightwatch man?” Though faced with a flaming haired pumpkin-headed scarecrow, a goblin covered in tattoos and a huge man wielding a sledgehammer like a lollipop, the Nightwatch man’s attention was eventually dragged down to the small dapper man in the rainbow suit. “We’re representatives of Alberto Ward in regards to his deceased son, Horace. I was wondering if we may come in and chat?”
The Nightwatch man stared blankly at Rain as only the dead can. Bruce growled swinging his hammer like a baton.
“What’s this, good cop, bad cop?”
Rain glanced at Bruce nervously, “Something like that.”
“The Shoemaker’s son…” Peggy elaborated when it was clear he had no idea who they were referring to.
“Ah yes. Turned up dead in the House on the Hill, I believe. He’d been running with a bad crowd, bound to happen. What does it have to do with me?” He didn’t move from his doorway.
“You’ve got him, give him back!” Bruce said as Peggy’s arm reached out once more and pinch his earlobe. He quieted enough for her to explain.
“Your ghoul’s have his body, he can not rest at peace and his father can not visit.”
“It’s really not my problem, the ghouls have to feed.” The Nightwatch man answered flicking the problem away with the wave of his bony wrist.
“Sir, we’ve come here to negotiate,” Rain retook control of the conversation, “I was led to believe that you control the ghouls, that you are their leader? If that’s not so could you tell us who we could talk to?”
This gave the Nightwatch man pause. Confronted in his own home by strangers, surrounded by his watching ghouls. He couldn’t be seen to lose face, control of a rabble like the ghoul’s was a delicate thing. More bluff and intimidation than actual demonstrations of violence. The Nightwatch man looked at the group in front of him and thought that at least three of them looked like they could handle themselves.
“I can speak for the ghouls, but I would need a favour done in return.” He said blithely as if he were the one doing the favour, “My dear friend Ismail was captured by Hazel Jenkins over in the House on the Hill. Who knows what experiments she’s subjecting him to.”
“What!” Exclaimed Bruce, “Save some undead fiend?!”
“We prefer post-life individual.” The Nightwatch man obviously used to that sort of racist prattle retorted back. Peggy pinched Bruce’s ear again.
“When we are in someone else’s home, remain civil.”
“Maybe what my friend needs here is a little perspective.” Rain said civilly enough to the Nightwatch man, “He’d like nothing better than you beat you into paste, but maybe you can enlighten him as to what would occur if he did.”
The Nightwatch man smirked seeing where the conversation was heading.
“The ghouls, unchecked, would ransack the town.” He replied smiling back at the barely controled Bruce.
“That’s assuming the residents don’t rise up and destroy them.” Bruce pounded the head of his sledgehammer into the ground.
“Keep your temper in check.” Peggy’s flames flared, licking at Bruce and singeing his eyebrows.
“Oh, don’t make the angry stepmom, angrier.” Algernon said from behind as the Nightwatch man followed the conversation in confusion.
“So if we do this favour, you will protect this young man and us, perpetually.” Peggy asked, now digging a nail into the soft lobe of Bruce’s ear.
“Excellent, I’m so glad we can get along.” Rain beamed as they now had a course of action that didn’t rely on the murder of residence,even undead ones, “Anything you can tell us about Hazel Jenkins?”
“She owns the House on the Hill and has a sort of cat, called Black Posey.” The Nightwatch man volunteered.
“What are her interests?”
“As I said, she experiments on things.”
This gained Peggy’s attention.
“Oh, what’s her methodology?”
“All I know is she likes to combine creatures together, creating new beings. Like her cat.”
“It has human hands.”
The group as one all imagined a cat with tiny human hands (and where she would have got them from) and shuddered.
“So we just go and knock on her door?” Peggy asked the group.
“Why not? It worked here.” Rain replied and turned back to the Nightwatch man who was just starting to close his door. “One more thing, we know Morris the goblin had to do with Horace’s death. What can you tell us about him?”
“That one, “ The door opened again, “My advice, avoid that one. He’s had dealings with Hazel in the past, and he’s best buddies with is that Gomez Snake in the Hollows.”
“Hazel’s laboratory, do you have any information about that?” Peggy drew the conversation back to her subject of interest.
“No, I’ve sent spies in, but it never seems to be in the same place.”
“Any honest business with her?”
“Not for a while”
“And in coin or favour or…”
“Favours, everything here runs on favours.”
“Thank you, any other questions?” She opened it to the group.
“Not for this scum.” Bruce picked up his hammer and slung it carelessly over his back into it’s harness, “We’ll be back.”
“Yes, thank you for our time…you have a lovely home…we will return shortly.” Peggy said haltingly as the group as one shuffled away from the cottage.
The trip back through the graveyard and up to the House on the Hill was thankfully uneventful except for the usual bickering of the group. Some wanted to go back to the pub and find out what they could of Hazel Jenkins and Morris’ deadly scheme. Others were curious about the House and its mysterious occupant. As they trudged up the hill the house came into view and that curiosity became contagious. No part of the building seemed to belong to any other part. It was a conglomerate of many building styles, materials and quality of building skill and it sprawled across the hill top like a fungal forest. A small sign at the border of the property read “Rooms to Let”.
“We should go trick or treating at the House on the Hill.” Algernon said, taking out of a pocket one of the small candles for the purpose.
“Good thinking, as long as you keep to the rules.” Rain said as Algernon lit the blue flame on his candle,” They don’t say anything about people going with you, right?”
Together they walked up the winding path to the front door of the House on the Hill. They knocked and it was quickly answered by a very tall gentleman, grey faced and wearing a worn and slightly too small black suit.
“You rang?” The gentleman’s base tones rattled the window panes set into the door and made Algernon’s candle gutter. He stood in a large entry hall from which stairs and a hallway were connected.
“Trick or treat.” Algernon held out his bucket. A large meaty hand shoveled it’s way through a bowl of sweets and deposited a heafy weight in sugar into the orange bucket. The transaction completed, the gentleman slowly started closing the door.
“Hi, excuse me.” Rain stuck his foot in the door, “ Pavel Nystral to see the lady of the house.”
The tall gentleman in black blinked, and refocused on the brightly coloured man.
“Wait here.” He said and no two words seemed to hold as much weight. Slowly he turned and walked down the hallway perpendicular to the front door and out of sight. Rain stepped in and looked around the corner. There was nothing to see but the continuation of the hallway, lined with doors. Even with the two heavy words keeping the two in check, it was fortunate that the gentleman soon returned followed by a stout elderly woman in a long Victorian era dress that swept the ground as she walked. She had about her the air of authority and they were sure they’d found Hazel Jenkins, owner of the House on the Hill.
“Yes, what is this about?”
“Good day Ms Jenkins, we’ve been sent as mediators for one Horace Ward.”
“I had nothing to do with his death.” She replied instantly going on the defensive.
“No, that may well be true, but you are holding one Ismail the ghoul?” This was not a question, but a condescending way of stating a fact. This Pavel Nystral was sounding more and more like a lawyer every minute and Rain was enjoying it, “ As part of settlement terms he will need to be released.”
“But, I”m not finished with him.” The Lady of the house blustered now deeply concerned for her experiment.
“On a more personal note, my group had a run in with one, Morris the Goblin. We understand he is also involved in this terrible business.”
It was now clear that Algernon and Rain were well entrenched talking to Hazel Jenkins, Peggy and Bruce now joined them at the door.
“Morris? What do you want with him?”
“Horace was sent to your house by Morris. For what purpose?” Hazel Jenkins looked like she was going to slam the door in their faces, this was cutting far too close to her own secrets. “Morris has injured many in this case, Ms Jenkins. We are in the position of soothing some of these injurings by doing favour. Let us do you a favour.”
Unfortunately, the Lady looked self-contained and, besides having to deal with the busy-bodies at her front door, was content with her life.
“Morris wanted Horace to help him, Morris rented a room, Horace went in for something and died. Bitten by something.” She replied as if putting a full stop to the business.
“Could we see the room?”
“Out of the question, I have a guest in that room currently.”
“Morris’s possessions? Would you be custodian of them?”
“Yes, and under my safekeeping they shall stay.”
“How old are you?” Algernon asked, now having snuffed out his candle. The non sequitur confused Hazel for a moment.
“How old?” He replied, innocently, “ I’d say you couldn’t be a day over two hundred.”
The group held their collective breath at a comment that would normally cause outrage. Of course, Halloween wasn’t a normal place and Algernon had judged his audience correctly.
Hazel Jenkins smiled and it looked like part of her face cracked.
“Look,” And now Bruce blundered in and Hazel’s face went back to indifference, “we have a ghoul to get.”
“He is part of my experiment and I will not part with him until I have finished.”
“But undead flesh, “ Peggy interjected, “As I understand it you are trying to incorporate living tissues with that of the ghoul’s? Surely they are wholly incompatible, circulation alone…”
Hazel warmed to Peggy’s more straight forward scientific curiosity.
“I have had great success with some more exotic creatures provided by an ally.”
A surface scan of her mind showed a huge mouth on legs of the creature she acquired and Morris the ally who obtained it. No wonder she was so keen to protect the nasty little creep.
“So…you have him now in your lab in the east wing?” A more subtle question from the angry Bruce of this recursion. The Nightwatch man had told them the lab moves about within the House. Bruce, knowing Algernon would be scanning, was fishing for thoughts.
Lab in the East Wing? How naive. Algernon caught. He swallowed and stepped forward.
“My former mistress has similar passions to yourself.” He said and the rest of the group turned to listen, it wasn’t often that Algernon shared his past. From the corner of his eye, Rain could see the big Bruce rock back on his heals and his face return to the more protective expression. Rain himself stood a little straighter and returned to the conversation.
“Hmm? Does she have a name?” Hazel asked intrigued.
“She doesn’t allow me to divulge it.” He admitted and it seemed to be the truth, “I do know she is always interested in collaboration.” From his pocket he took a scrap of paper and wrote a note that he handed to Hazel.
For a amaetur hobbiest to be offered a collaboration was a great honour and Hazel Jenkins demeanor didn’t exactly soften from that point, but crumbled around the edges.
“Well, if you’re all so fascinated I suppose I could take you to see Ismail.” She relented and stepped away from the door to let the group in.
Walking behind Hazel’s bobbing bustle and Lurch the butler’s more langid gait, the group walked down the ground floor hallway passing several identical,unmarked doors. Stopping at one, she lifted her hand and knocked out an intricate rhythm that the whole group paid close attention to.
When she opened the door, it was onto a medium sized room split in two. One side, a small desk was set to take advantage of natural light, surrounded by bookshelves. On the other side, a trolley bed, smaller trolleys holding tools and a large mirrored gas powered surgery lamp. On the trolley a ghoul was strapped down looking all the world like the corpse it should be. One sinewy pale arm had been replaced by a large muscular one, dark and ending in tentacles. The join between the two distinctly different skins was clean and neatly sutured. Hazel Jenkins was obviously proud of her work as she turned to the group.
“I’m still waiting to see how the graft takes, but initial signs are promising.” She pointed out the join and Peggy stepped in to take a closer look.
“What is your predicted outcome?”
“A successful graft. The arm living arm to survive on the undead body. Once it heals I want to see what the arm can do. In a more plaint creature like this ghoul, I would think an arm like this could be very handy around the house.”
“But to regenerate living flesh on an undead specimen…” Peggy was in her element, “This could have implications for my own work. Would you allow me to see your notes?”
Hazel was very open with her data, pleased to have someone who could appreciate her work. When Peggy looked at the notes however it looked nothing more than nonsense. It seemed that the science of this recursion was not compatible with that of Earth’s and she gave the notes back to Hazel and turned back to the unconscious ghoul.
“You know, I’ve always found that willing subjects are more useful than unwilling. They are often more honest in their feedback and will unwittingly provide insights that advance my research further than one that’s screaming ‘…get your hands off me, you bitch…’.”
Bruce reached out at this moment and put his hand on Peggy’s shoulder. She was about to give her the sharp end of her tongue until she realised he created a link between them. Cursing her bad luck to have manifested such a poorly designed ability, she tried to ignore the link and listened to Hazel’s response.
“….no, no no.” Hazel tutted patronisingly, “I have all that I need as they are. My subjects compliance is not required and their opinions are irrelevant.”
Spoil the experiment secretly. Bruce said in Peggy’s mind and she shook her head to both the internal and external conversation.
The ghoul will lose the arm if I tamper with it.
“Could we wake him up? I’d like to see if he’s willing.” Peggy responded to both.
How is his loss of arm our problem?
I do not want to hurt the ghoul. Peggy scowled. It was hard keeping up two conversations at the same time.
“I don’t see why, I’ll be keeping him even if he says no.” Hazel seemed set.
“Ah, but just think of it Ms Jenkins.” Rain was now seeing the picture that Peggy was painting, “Ismail goes back to the graveyard with a powerful new arm and becomes the envy of all the other ghouls. They’re all going to want improvements just like this, they’ll come to you begging for a new arm or new legs. You’ll never want for test subjects again.”
They had found her weakness. Getting good bodies on which to experiment was difficult for the amateur vivisectionist. Having bodies come to her….
“Well, I guess it can’t hurt.” She adjusted something on a collar around the ghoul’s neck and he woke to the sight of Peggy leaning over him.
“Now don’t struggle, you’ll only damage the good doctor’s work. You’ve lost your arm and that is unfortunate, but you have been given a superior replacement.” She gestured to the muscular arm, “You have a choice. You can fight Hazel Jenkins and her work, lose this arm and go without. Or you can do as the doctor says, comply with all her instructions, keep your new arm and all the benefits that come from it. Tell me, what do you say?”
The ghoul Ismail looked where his arm used to be. He twitched the tentacle ‘fingers’ and seemed surprised.
“I could do that.” He said finally to Peggy.
“And you would comply with all instructions, keep all future appointments and give honest feedback as part of outpatient arrangement?”
The ghoul nodded and agreed. Hazel Jenkins rolled her eyes.
“And what about my handyman. I need help running this place.” She complained pointing to the ghoul on the table.
“Can I suggest that you could probably get future ghouls to do favours for you in exchange for new bodies. Certainly if all goes well for Ismail here, he may be happy to provide that service voluntarily.” Rain added and it seemed that the last of Hazel Jenkins’ arguments resolved. She relented and released the ghoul from his restraints.
As the party walked Ismail back to the front door, one of the identical hallway doors opened and revealed Morris the goblin.
“Morris!” Rain exclaimed, “Bruce!”
Bruce pushed passed everyone to grab at the goblin, but the little guy was too fast and he soon slipped back behind his door and slammed it in their faces. When Bruce opened the door it was just a closet full of towels, a bucket and a mop. As Rain investigated the closet for a secret door, Peggy had other ideas.
“This is a crazy recursion with nonsensical rules about how things work. Why shouldn’t we ask the house to help us.” She thought out loud, going up to a random door and knocking.
“Excuse me, could you please show us where our friend Morris is?” and opened the door.
A long hallway lined with doors stretched ahead of her. Walking down the hallway without a care was Morris. Peggy ran, spooking Morris who once more slipped through another door and disappeared. Now buoyed by her first success, Peggy tried another random door.
“Just a little closer please.” She said and opened it. This door revealed a bedroom, a small suitcase on the bed, the only other furniture being a large wardrobe. Peggy walked in and picked up the suitcase. Initials ‘J.M.’ glinted in gold from under the handle.
Bruce, having been frustrated at the closet, followed Peggy down her revealed hallway and into the bedroom. Suspecting the goblin was hiding in the wardrobe he rushed to it howling and pulled the two doors open. A sudden violent wind pulled Bruce off his feet, dragging him in and pulled the doors shut after. Peggy stared at the wardrobe stunned.
“Well that was unexpected.”
Forewarned she made her way up to the wardrobe door, braced herself on one side and opened a door. The pull of the wind was powerful, but as she had braced herself she was not pulled off her feet and held against its force. Inside the wardrobe the back was missing. Instead the whole wardrobe was like a doorway onto a new recursion. A harbour with tall ships, their black sails furled, the smell of salt in the air. Out from the harbour a ruined city lay crumbling, but not without life. Here and there she could see where the residence had attempted to reclaim their city. Man made basalt columns rose out of the city 25-30 metres tall, their purpose unclear. Knowing Bruce was out there alone somewhere, Peggy let go of the door and jumped through the doors.
Meanwhile Algernon was still standing in the hallway with Hazel Jenkins. Through the door he saw both Bruce and Peggy disappear into the wardrobe. He scanned Hazel’s thoughts.
So that’s why Morris always wanted to stay in the same room. She thought, Oh well, at least we won’t see them again.
Algernon stayed where he was and waited for Rain.
Rain had failed to find a secret door in the closet. He’d heard Peggy’s explanation for the building’s Weird geometry and seen her initial success with asking the house for help, but vacillated at trying it himself.
A house is not a person.
“Could you please take me to Morris.” He said a little self consciously and opened a random door. He found himself face to face with Algernon and started.
“Where are the others?”
“In the closet.” Algernon replied pointing to the bedroom with the suitcase. Rain stepped in, noted the bag as Peggy had and then carefully opened the wardrobe door. The wind was less violent now and Rain was able to take in the view of the harbour, the black sailed tall ships and the sorry state of the city. Behind him, Algernon picked up the small suitcase and together they stepped into the wardrobe.
Bruce picked himself off cold black rubble to find himself in the ruins of a home. He breathed in a lungful of cold sea air and for the first time that day felt more himself. Looking through broken windows and cracked walls he could see the harbour below as well as humanoid figures moving around. The figures’ movements were hunched and only vaguely bipedal, were being helped aboard some of the ships. Other figures, more upright in stature, seemed to be in charge and were giving orders that were followed quickly.
Suddenly Peggy was beside him once more looking like herself. Whatever this place was, it was not subject to the weird science of Halloween. As the two of them took stock of themselves and their surroundings, Algernon, carrying the suitcase, and Rain appeared. Algernon also looked like himself down to his motorcycle jacket and floppy hair. Rain was still wearing the garish rainbow suit he’d acquired from the last recursion and was careful to brush the black soot of this world off his outfit.
Finding a suitable piece of broken wall, Bruce sat down, his head resting in his open palms. Turning around, Algernon looked to see the open doors of the wardrobe and the bedroom beyond. A small figure passed before the doors and Algernon got a glimpse of Morris before he shut the doors and closed the portal. They were now stuck in the new recursion for good or bad.
Pulling out a large silk handkerchief from thin air, Rain lay it on the brickwork of the broken wall and sat beside Bruce making an incongruent pair.
“Well it seems we found Morris’ room.” He said, “I wonder how many other portal there were in that house.”
“It was surprising.” Peggy looked over the harbour and city around them, “If this place proved too uncomfortable, we can always translate home.”
Algernon had propped the suitcase up on some rubble and was trying to determine if the lock was trapped before attempting to open it. The mechanism eluded him and he put it back down puzzling over it.
“Do you want some help with that?” Rain asked as his lockpicking tools appeared in his hand.
“It seems fine, “ Algernon lied outright, holding it out to Rain, “Do you want to open it?”
Rain gave Algernon a look of distrust, but curiosity in what the suitcase had to offer was stronger than any fear of injury.
“Sure.” He replied suspiciously and was about to get up and take the case when Peggy took it from Algernon.
“Let me have a look first.” She inspected the latch, “It looks like there’s a cypher attached to the latching mechanism. “ Any attempt to open the latch would set off the cypher, whatever it was.
“Give that to me.” Bruce stood and in a few strides held the suitcase and his crowbar. Before any movement to stop him could be made he’d thrust his crowbar through the side of the suitcase. The violent action set off the cypher anyway, which caused the suitcase to implode, leaving behind three flying devil-like creatures. Thin, black and held aloft on batlike wings, the faces of the three creatures were eyeless and seemed to sense the presence of enemies through means unknown.
“You ham-fisted ape!” Peggy rounded on Bruce, “ Why use a crowbar to break into a trapped suitcase?”
“You said it was rigged to the latch!” Bruce shrugged, turning his crowbar to the winged devils.
Algernon was quick to draw his crossbow, looking more like its modern self, and shot, hitting a devil. The devil snarled but didn’ t seem too phased by the attack. Peggy physically attacked one, her hands once more on fire. Rain, feeling a link with between himself and the creatures, reached out to one and extracted a thought. The creature snarled in pain, though there was no physical wound.
Ah, home. Now fly and take one of these with me… Was the thought Rain heard echoed in his head.
“They belong here, bunch up they’ll try and grab you if they can.” He said out loud just as the two not currently fighting grabbed Algernon and Bruce. Algernon easily wriggled free of the devil’s grasp, but Bruce was too slow and was lifted high into the air before he could react, his crowbar clattering to the ground.
The pumping wings were silent , Bruce could feel the barbed point of the creature’s tail trying to find purchase through his armoured clothes. With his hands free, Bruce pulled out his sledgehammer and swungs it around his body. The hammer connects with the head of the creature and it suddenly went limp in the sky. Bruce was free and freefalling. Faster than a thought, Algernon used his levitate and gently brought Bruce back to ground.
Now there were two.
From pure imagination, Rain constructs an illusion of a fire breathing dragon, terrible and terrifying. It roared in the sky above, the glow of its firey eyes trained on the two devils. The last two devils saw the dragon and do not stay to see what this creature would do. With a few silent flaps, they had disappeared into the gloom of the day.
Rain smiles at his successful creation, and then tried to dismiss it. It didn’t disappear like the other illusions. He looks to the others, but they were focused on the people standing at the docks. They have also seen the dragon.
“Oops!” Rain said.