There is no copyright infringement intended in any way, shape or form. The
characters in this story are from my own rather warped imagination and are mine,
mine, mine! Not that anyone would ever possibly want to but just to cover
all bases, this story cannot be used or sold for profit in any way. Hope
you enjoy the ride!
Special thanks to Inga, RG, SH, AB and Arkonia for their assistance, and to U
for telling me about a visit to a Fright Fest.
"Sounds like a bad country song, doesn't it?"
"I gave myself a broken heart for
my birthday." The blonde woman punched down the pen's top with her thumb
repeatedly in an unconsciously nervous gesture, and looked at nothing in particular
as she played with the writing instrument hovering over her diary.
Leah sighed gently as she watched
her friend stare into space. Megan was obviously lost and one look at the
other woman's face showed the lack of sleep she'd had through the night.
"Meg, it's been months. And, you know it's what you had to do."
"Yeah," Megan replied, as she thought
about that for a long moment and decided not to walk down that path right now.
"It's just kinda weird, I started this diary with all of that mess and my birthday,
now I'm filling it up and putting it away on her birthday. Kinda like a
circle, you know?"
Megan blew out a breath. "Don't
you ever want to just lock your heart away and never bring it out to play again?"
"Sure, and then a gorgeous woman walks
by. Next thing you know, my tongue falls out and blammo, my heart chases
her down the sidewalk." Leah wiggled her rear end slightly and grinned.
"Or, what about that new reporter at the paper? Oo La La!"
"God, you are too much," Megan snorted
at her friend's antics. "You know, they've given her the cubicle right next
to mine. Want me to introduce you?"
"Oh, think she'd talk to a measly
part time journalist?" Leah asked. "I mean, I'm not the big time full feature
reporter that you are, ya know."
With an internal wince, Megan thought
about the real reason she'd been given that promotion to full fledged features.
It was after a scandal breaking expose on the ne'er-do-well ex-Mayor's involvement
in a drug ring.
Her mind wandered slightly to the
person who had dropped the story into her lap. Saxon. The tall, dark
haired woman who still somehow found a way to enter so many of her dreams.
Just the very name brought her scent,
her strength, and her beautiful eyes to mind. A security consultant by design,
crusader by accident - after hitting brick walls at the police department, she
had managed to provide enough proof to Megan to ensure that the Mayor was brought
to his knees by the public, via a series of newspaper exposes.
Unfortunately, it had always been
a bone of contention to them both that he had somehow managed to crawl away before
he was brought to justice.
"Hey, you in there?"
"Sorry, guess I was daydreaming,"
Megan returned. Very quietly, almost unheard under the low hum of the TV
in the background, she queried, "Do you think I'm a total fool, Lee?"
At this, Leah's heart lurched and
she instantly moved to kneel in front of Megan, grasping the other woman's hand
with both of her own. "Honey, you're not a fool. You have the biggest
heart I've ever known in someone and you can't help who you fall in love with.
You're wonderful. You're a catch and a half and you don't even know it."
Thinking about that for a few seconds,
Leah knew that even if the answer was out there, she certainly didn't know it,
and she too didn't understand the actions of a woman she could have sworn, until
a couple of months before they'd broken up, loved Megan beyond reason.
Even with the odd happenings and secrets
that her friend's lover seemed to weave around her, Leah would never have predicted
how drastically things would change. "I don't know," she conceded.
"She was a fool, that's for sure."
Wanting desperately to cheer up her
friend and roommate, Leah searched for the right words to lighten the mood.
She leaned forward and had to catch her breath as Megan's normally vibrantly eyes
scanned over to stare dully into her own. Her smile faded and she reached
out a hand instantly. "Meg..."
With Megan's unbelievably sad green
eyes looking at her, Leah found words where none had existed a few moments ago.
"Meg, you needed to move on. Look at all the times you never knew where
she was, when she didn't care to tell you. Hell, just didn't care and then
being out with someone else when she was supposedly sick. You deserved better
and you deserved more."
"I just wish I hadn't been so sure
that she loved me. I really, really thought she did. But, if she had,
how could she be that stupid?" Megan reached out to close the diary slowly.
"If only she'd had an explanation or ... " She sighed deeply and sat
back in her chair with the padded explosion of a pillow's release.
"What's that saying, if you let someone
go and they come back, then they're yours and if they don't then it wasn't meant
to be?" Leah asked gently, starting to feel as if that sea of friendship had far
too many hurricanes to weather recently.
Trying for levity, even with the brimming
tears, Megan tried a tremulous half smile, "I thought it was, if they don't come
back, hunt 'em down and shoot them?"
"You're not from Arkansas, so that
doesn't count," Leah chuckled, slightly heartened by the attempt at a joke.
"Plus, you're an optimist at heart and you know it. So, if it's meant to
be, then don't worry she'll be back."
"Not an optimist with my own life,
that's for sure." The bleak mood began to settle its crusty pall again.
"Hey," Leah tugged on her friend's
hand, "You could be Bill Gates and set her free, then when she came back just
upgrade her and charge reinstallation fees."
Megan couldn't help the laugh that
was coughed out of her. "God, Lee, that's bad. Don't quit your day
"Don't worry!" In one easy move,
born of a natural athlete, Leah slapped her thighs and stood before her friend.
"Come on, bud. I have the perfect thing!" She held out her hands,
waiting for Megan to accept her offer.
"Thanks, Lee, but I'm really not in
a mood to go anywhere."
"Ah, but you have to be in a mood
for this. You don't have a choice. Come on, get up!"
Smiling slightly, Megan shook her
head. "Thanks, but I'm gonna just hang out."
Throwing out a lure she was sure couldn't
be passed up, Leah tried again, "Please? My sister and I were going to the
Spookfest at the park but she canceled. I can't go alone and I have to do
a review for the paper."
Megan chuckled. "I am NOT going
to a Spookfest!"
"I cannot believe you talked me into
coming to this, I must be ... " Eyes wide, Megan screamed as one of the
bushes they'd been walking past erupted suddenly and careened in her direction.
Already six feet away and breathing
suspiciously heavily, Leah chuckled nervously. "See, told you this was a
"Oh yeah, sure! Great idea!"
Megan replied as she walked backwards a few steps and leaned to one side to try
to see where the 'bush' had gone. It seemed to be just a bush again, a large
clay pot at its base and not a leaf out of place.
"That was really cool!" Leah supplied.
"You're not the one whose heart is
still kicking and screaming to get away!"
"Oh come on, Meg. You can kick
the butt of anyone here and you know it," Leah replied, referring to her friend's
affinity for kick boxing, as well as other defensive skills.
"That's different. I've never
used it in an attacking manner and I don't intend to start," Megan responded,
her brow furrowed slightly.
Sighing internally, Leah felt like
kicking herself for mentioning something that would take Megan's mind back to
her ex-lover on a night when she was trying to get Megan's mind off her romantic
Unfortunately, Megan had met Saxon
at the Women's Center, when the blonde had been teaching a class in self defense.
Saxon had been teaching kick boxing, and found an incredibly gifted and willing
student in Megan. It was a fact that Megan owed a considerable portion of
her kick boxing prowess to her ex-lover. Leah had even tried to join in
the exercise but could never attain anything close to the level that Megan had.
"Yeah, I know. Just one of the
things I love about ya, kiddo." Leah's hand reached out and tousled Megan's
Perking up slightly, Megan replied,
"What? That I can kick your butt?"
Leah grinned. "Well, that too!"
Megan let out a weak chuckle and smiled
at her friend. "So, how about you walk next to the bushes from now on then."
"Oh sure, sacrifice me to the things
that go bump in the night!"
"Well, you didn't seem to be diving
right in to help me when that bush attacked," Megan teased.
"I was uh ... reviewing strategies,"
was Leah's rather lame response.
That brought a solid laugh out of
the blonde. "Right! Strategies, my rear end!"
"Okay, okay," Leah chuckled.
"That was pretty scary, I admit. In fact, this whole thing is so much scarier
than the last one I went to a few years ago."
"No kidding, the makeup on those vampires
at the entrance was incredible. I could've sworn those pointed teeth were
"Well, you know... some people actually
get their teeth done that way to make them look like vampires," informed Leah.
"No way!" Megan protested as she spotted
a haunted house and pulled her friend in that direction. "They do not do
that. That'd be crazy!"
"I'm serious! They do, really."
Thinking about that for a few moments,
Megan looked up and shook her head. "Can you imagine biting your lip with
Grimacing, Leah looked over at her
friend and replied, "Wow, that would hurt big time."
Megan caught an almost furtive movement
out of the corner of her eye and automatically looked in that direction curiously.
All she could see, however, was a food stand, cleverly decorated as a huge pumpkin.
It was odd, though, almost a sense of the familiar and she continued to scan the
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary,
but Megan had a lingering sense of someone watching. Examining the food
stand, she couldn't see anything out of the ordinary and chalked it up to post
bush-scare jitters, bringing her attention back to Leah. "Sorry, what?"
Glancing over curiously, Leah asked,
"Something up?" She looked around as she waited for Megan to answer.
Leah stopped and looked at her friend,
one hand reaching out to touch Megan's arm. "What?"
"I just ... naa, thought I saw someone
I knew, that's all." Megan smiled as she shrugged her shoulders and wondered
out loud, "What's next?"
Leah wiggled her eyebrows. "Thought
you'd never ask! I see the perfect place." She pointed at a rickety
looking building a few hundred feet ahead. Lights flickered on and off in
the windows they could see and a weather vane drooped on the top turret of the
Another tower on the building was
canted to one side, further along a bell was visible in the belfry and Megan couldn't
resist the comment that poked out its head, "Wonder if there are vampire bats
in that belfry?"
A sudden scream from behind a stand
of trees drew Megan's attention and as she moved instinctively in that direction,
a running woman became visible. Dark jeans and a red shirt flew by, quickly
followed by first the amazingly realistic burr of a chainsaw and then a horribly
masked figure, dressed in rags, and carrying a decent facsimile of said chainsaw.
Megan laughed as the woman made a
sharp cut move worthy of a professional football player and ducked behind the
pumpkin food stand Megan had been looking at before to hide. "Good one!"
she praised the hidden woman as she watched the chainsaw wielder continue on his
way, not knowing he'd missed the person he'd been chasing.
Then she chuckled as the woman peered
around the corner of the pumpkin, as if to check and see if it was safe, and then
blushed deeply enough for Megan to see as several of the food stand's customers
clapped and laughed at her antics.
"Uh, Meg... "
Her attention back on her friend,
Megan felt something brush her shoulder and moved a hand to flick whatever it
was away. Just as her hand brushed her shoulder, she turned her head to
look and see what was there.
Therefore, her next action wasn't
totally unexpected by her best friend, which is why Leah tried to warn her, but
it certainly wasn't expected by the actor dressed up as Frankenstein who ended
up flat on his back in the middle of the brick pathway.
"Oh my god! I am SO sorry!"
apologized Megan, as she knelt down by the obviously shocked man. She tried,
ineffectually, to push the rubber mask back on his face from where it had slipped
and finally gave up, lifting the mask fully off to peer under.
Sheepishly, Megan told the uncovered,
and very youthful looking face, "I really am so sorry. I'd just been scared
by those bushes back there... and I don't " Megan's arm pointed back the
way they had come, towards the completely benign bushes, and helplessly continued,
"I'm really, really sorry. I had no idea."
Trying to catch his breath, more from
the surprise than the impact of hitting the ground, the young man looked up at
the deceptively strong young woman who had just flipped him right over her hip
and quipped, "Guess it's good I didn't try to bite your neck, huh?"
Rewarded, and somewhat dazzled, by
the woman's smile of relief, the young man started collecting his scattered manly
marbles and let out a deep sigh, glad that nothing seemed injured beyond his pride.
Megan glanced over momentarily to
Leah as her friend picked up the fake Frankenstein-like hand glove that had started
the mess and then queried of the young man, "Are you okay?"
The young man sat up, pointedly ignoring
the offers of aid, and smiled his best 'I am not embarrassed' smile at the two
women. "Ju..." The croak spoiled his attempt at being brave and he
cleared his throat to try again, "Just fine, thanks."
"Are you sure?" Megan worriedly
"Yeah," he answered, as he looked
around for his belongings.
"Here." Leah offered the glove
she had picked up with a tight smile. "What's your name, or should we just
call you Frank?" she asked, her normal sense of humor intact.
"Tim," he replied as he took the glove
The spectacle had attracted a few
onlookers; most of whom assumed it was part of the park's entertainment and quickly
drifted away when nothing much happened. Still, Megan was well aware that
the young man's pride had taken a severe hit and that he needed to get moving
soon or that blush that had started to creep down his neck would soon light up
Putting one hand on her thigh, she
pushed and stood smoothly, and then held out a hand, to help him up. "Please,
Tim?" she pleaded, feeling incredibly apologetic for her actions. "I mean,
I put you down there. Least I can do is help you up, right?"
Unable to resist the entreaty in the
woman's face, he grasped her hand and couldn't help but be impressed at the solidity
of her stance and grip. Very soon he was on his feet and dusting himself
As she handed his mask over, one hand
resting on his arm, Megan ducked her head slightly to look at the still shame-faced
man. "I really am sorry. I sooo overreacted. You're sure you're
"Yeah, I'm good," he replied, a blush
still staining his cheeks. "I gotta go get this stuff back on."
As Tim walked away, without even a
glance back, several onlookers watched him and one or two even followed.
The few that remained looked over at the two women in consternation and then moved
on to their own fun.
Leah tried to contain the laughter
that bubbled up inside but the contortions of her face gave everything away.
She danced away from her friend as Megan tried to swat at her.
"Stop that!" Megan demanded, although
she couldn't help the abashed smile on her own face.
"Whew, glad you don't use that kick
boxing offensively. Let me tell you!" Leah teased.
One hand moved to cover her mouth
as Megan thought that one over. Luckily, her instinctive response had been
simply to remove the threat, rather than attack it and she was incredibly glad
that Tim hadn't been hurt at all. "I feel so silly. But, I just reacted
like I've always taught."
"Yep, you sure did," Leah agreed,
grinning. "Come on," she said as she grabbed onto Megan's free arm.
"Let's go check out that haunted house."
With one last look at the retreating
Tim, they turned to head to the haunted house they had been going to. A
scratched and dirty sign was affixed to the iron gates, it read "Carver Manor".
One of the gates creaked almost menacingly as they passed through it into a graveyard
that was, apparently, the front yard to the house.
Clever lighting made the path both
lit and yet filled with enough shadows to make things very interesting for any
handy bushes or Frankensteins that wanted to scare people.
As they followed the meandering path,
they could see that coffins had been haphazardly strewn around in the graveyard,
and in more than one a dead body or skeleton still remained. They could
see several people ahead of them and they took their time, carefully watching
the coffins and surrounds for any type of movement when a very high pitched noise
made them both look up.
Suddenly, Leah waved her hands over
her head and ducked. "Whoa! What was that?"
"What?" Megan asked, confused, and
then looked to the side as she thought she saw what Leah was looking for.
She was thinking that she must have been imagining things when the high pitched
noise returned for a short burst and they looked at each other.
"Bats?" Megan offered.
"There better not be bats here!" Leah
cried. "They get caught in your hair and ugh!" She shivered in reaction
to the thought and looked up.
Megan followed her gaze. "Bet
it's part of the house. Clever, if it is."
"Oh, yeah, real clever," Leah grumbled
and then sprang into Megan's arms with a squeal.
Surprised but well up to the task,
Megan caught her friend. "What?!" she demanded, even as she glanced down
to see an arm retreat into a broken casket by the path. "Wow! They're
hell bent on scaring us, aren't they?"
"Something grabbed my leg, did you
see it?" Leah turned in Megan's arms, only to find the graveyard back to
its normal state. "Did you see it?" she asked.
"Yeah, it's okay," Megan replied,
still holding onto her friend. "Just watch out for the bodies from now on."
Noting Megan's grinning face, Leah
grimaced and looked back at where she'd been standing very carefully. "Hmph!
Won't fool me again!"
"Sure you want to test that theory,
Keeping her eyes firmly on the path
and immediate area, Leah replied, "No problem!"
A minute later, they were at the doorway
to the house, Megan turned and was amazed at how the layout had been so thoughtfully
prepared so that you could never really see that many people around you.
"They've really done a great job, haven't they?"
"Oh yeah," Leah grumpily replied,
still annoyed at being caught unawares. "Just great. And to think
I have to check out at least three of the houses or the paper won't print the
review I need to write."
Smiling, Megan pushed her friend ahead.
"Let's get this one seen then, huh?"
They approached the open doors and
could see that the knockers on the heavy wooden doors appeared to be gargoyles.
Within a few steps, they were inside and into a large entryway. A set of
richly carpeted stairs stood off to the side, but two large statues were toppled
over them to block the path so that there appeared to be no way up to the next
Several doors could be seen but only
one set stood open into what appeared to be a dining room. After trying
two of the closed doors and finding them locked, they walked slowly towards the
dining room, taking in the oddly shifting paintings on the wall and laughing as
one of the paintings morphed from a smiling young couple into less than pleased
older couple obviously arguing over the television.
Megan glanced over at the rest of
the paintings and one in particular caught her eye. In a beautifully carved
wooden frame, a beautiful black horse reared, the breath from its nostrils clouding
the air. Mane and tail were detailed beautifully, as if you could reach
out and stroke them, and hooves glinted in the moonlight.
But, it was the rider who really inevitably
drew her in. The inherent power in the figure almost pulsed from the painting.
A sheen of long, black hair, which almost perfectly matched the color of the horse,
curtained the face but the hands gripping the reins had long, thin fingers and
the leg she could see was covered in a dark fabric of some type that clung to
the muscles as if painted on.
Megan traced the leg from booted foot
up to the thigh, where it eventually disappeared under a coal-black, heavy cloak.
Her attention rapt on the figure, her gaze moved up the body and she suddenly
had an intense longing to pull back the dark curtain and face the person hidden
Not completely understanding why,
she took a step closer, as if nearness would give her a clearer view of the figure
and somehow allow her to almost step into the picture. A foolish thought,
she realized, even as she did it, but the painting still pulled at her for some
Something inside her knew that if
she could find a way to touch that figure, to see that face, it would be ...
As her mind worked in the background to try and put a name to what she was feeling,
she took another step closer and, almost involuntarily, her hand began to reach
Without warning, lightning lit up
the picture in wave of intense white. Megan had been concentrating so keenly,
that the sudden brightness was almost stunning. Blinking to clear the aftershock,
she looked back at the picture and gasped, bringing her hand back in a sudden
The horse was now mostly skeleton-like.
Patches of hide clung to the bones in ragged pieces, but mostly white bone and
some sinew was all that could be seen, along with the mane and tail, which were
wildly disordered. The background was now bare trees, which appeared to
reach towards both the onlooker and the main figure in the painting, still in
But, of course, the figure was also
changed. Through now bedraggled and silver tinted hair, a gaunt face stared
back at her. The eyes were pinpoints of a ghoulish blood red and a shroud
of sadness seemed to haunt the figure.
Megan felt an ache inside that had
more than a hint of bitter cold to it as she examined the changes and it was with
an incredible reluctance that she finally acknowledged that Leah was speaking.
"... was incredible. You know,
I've seen this kind of stuff before but some of these look like they could reach
out and grab you."
Megan suppressed a shudder at that
thought and then leaned into the sudden warmth of the hand that her friend placed
on her back. "Did that kinda look like ..."
"Sax?" Leah finished for her.
"It did a little before it changed, but the dark hair will do it every time, I
think," she concluded. "Remember how you thought that you used
to see her everywhere for a long time after you two broke up?"
Nodding, Megan recalled how often
she thought she'd seen her tall lover turning a corner, entering a doorway, stepping
into a car and many other places after they'd broken up. It was, of course,
just an imagination full of wishful thinking she had finally realized but had
been an intensely odd form of pseudo contact that she'd garnered some strange
comfort from until she had finally taken herself to task and stopped looking.
As Megan's mind took a trip down memory
lane, a huge grandfather clock against the wall chimed loudly, causing both of
them to jump slightly and then laugh at each other's unease.
"Man, we're jumpy," Leah commented.
"No kidding!" Megan agreed as she
moved away from the now dark paintings with one last glance. In a matter
of seconds, she stood at the doorway to the dining room to admire the beautiful
chandelier hanging over the table. Even covered in webs, it seemed to have
a beautiful inner glow about it. "Wow," she breathed.
"What," Leah asked, as she came up
behind Megan and followed her gaze. "I'd hate to have to clean that off,"
she supplied practically.
That brought a smile to Megan's face
and she stepped all the way into the room. Shadows hung about the corners
of the large room and a blanket of dust covered the long table, which she couldn't
resist dragging a finger through. It was with some surprise that the dust
didn't move and her finger stayed completely clean.
"Ooh," Leah crowed. "That's
cool. Spray on dust!"
The journey back to reality helped
to calm Megan's still rapidly beating heart. "I'd love a behind the scenes
tour of this. It must have been an incredible feat to put together, don't
"I wish I'd thought of that," Leah
answered. "If I wasn't on a deadline, I'd try to set one up. I'll
have to see if I can do that next year."
A loud creak from one of the shuttered
windows drew their attention, and then movement from above as the chandelier began
to shake violently. Before they could step out of the way, a driven gust
of air hit their backs and they both turned their heads to see a door at the end
of the dining room begin to slowly open.
Leah turned back just in time to see
one of the corner shadows separate itself from the wall, arms began to rise under
a cloak, and the face turned to look at her. The pale face and slicked back
hair would have been enough, but the pointed tooth smile and blood red lips spurred
her to even quicker movement as she shoved Megan towards the now open door.
"Go, go, go!"
Confused, Megan began to move at her
friend's urging but did turn back long enough to see a figure start to rise into
the air and come in their direction. That was all it took.
Safely through the door, Megan pushed
it closed behind them both with a loud bang only to find herself barely able to
see anything in the near darkness of the room they now stood in. An odd
chitter and almost constant slithering sound filled the room with near explosive
She reached out a hand to find the
wall and jerked it back as soon as she felt something move under her fingers.
Her gasp drew Leah's attention.
"What?!" Leah demanded.
"Something's on the walls," Megan
replied, rather more calmly than she felt.
"No way," was the reply. Quickly
followed by, "Ew! Please don't tell me that was a bug."
At Leah's less than thrilled response,
Megan chuckled soundlessly to herself and took a step towards what appeared to
be a sliver of light. It was only a split second after her foot hit the
moving and crackling floor that she drew it back in surprise.
"What was that?" Leah wanted to know,
blindly reaching out in the blonde's direction.
"Hopefully not bugs," came the very
unwanted reply. "Come on, let's go," Megan urged, stepping once more onto
Leah put a foot down and grimaced
as the ground cracked and wavered under her weight. "Oh geez, this is gross!"
On almost tiptoe, Megan worked her
way across the room. One hand was firmly grasped by Leah's and she pulled
her friend across the room. The chitters and slithers seemed to intensify
as they slowly moved across, the darkness dictating their pace. "Wonder
what this is," she muttered to herself.
"If it's bugs, I'm gonna sue!" replied
Leah, as she caught the murmur.
"For what?" Megan queried.
"I don't know! Cruelty to bugs!"
"Why don't you reach down and pick
some up to see?" Megan supplied, with a chuckle.
"No way!" was the instant response.
Grinning into the darkness, Megan
cringed with each step but managed to guide them to the little beacon of light
The light turned out to be the next
room. Cut at an odd angle, it was a long hallway. Several suits of
armor, each on a dais, lined both sides of the hall. Ancient crests hung
high above, most with a ferociously snarling creature or attacking bird of prey
featured, oddly lit by flickered candles set behind opaque glass lamps on the
It was an almost pleasantly feudal
scene from a European country visit until the smell of musty ... something assailed
both of their senses.
"Yuck," Leah held onto her nose.
Trying not to breathe deeply, Megan
pulled her friend along, still joined at the hands. Grimacing, they approached
the first set of suits of armor and she suddenly realized that the looming shadows
along the walls were not simply shadows. They were actually deep recesses
into the walls, but the flickering, dim light didn't really show enough to see
what was inside.
Trying to keep an eye on everything,
she ran an eye over the closest sets of armor. The two figures faced each
other, one held a wicked-looking halberd and the other a broad sword. Both
weapons looked frighteningly real and Megan looked for any type of movement as
they inched forward.
Almost skipping past the first set,
she felt an almost overwhelming sense of being watched and let go of Leah's hand
to turn abruptly to ensure nothing was following them.
"What now?" Leah clamored.
Nothing moved. It was a moment
that almost felt as if nothing breathed as goose bumps began to pimple on Megan's
a kiss of breath, perhaps of death,
touched her cheek and she turned her head to see a hand pushing open the lid of
a coffin that had been secreted inside the closest recess.
Another rattle drew her attention
and a shadow cleaved itself from the wall and began to lurch in their direction.
Megan turned her head at the sharply
grinding sound of metal on metal met her ears. One of the suits of armor
was beginning to move, the weapon it held glinting unsteadily in the light.
The blonde went with her instinctive
response and turned to run as she caught movement from one of the other recesses.
Not even bothering to look back, she could have sworn that she felt a waft of
air trace down her back.
"Incredible! I could've sworn
that guy was gonna hit you with that sword!" Leah announced on a slightly ragged
breath as they quickly climbed a flight of stairs at the end of the hallway and
stepped onto a landing.
"Is that what I felt?" Megan asked,
hands indignantly placed on her hips.
"Probably, are they good or what?"
"Oh yeah, really good!" replied Megan,
sarcasm evident in her tone. "I have a mind ..." she paused when she saw
the entry way they had just come through was now concealed. "How do they
do that?" she asked nobody in particular.
"Sliding doors?" Leah helpfully provided.
"I guess," Megan replied and then
turned to survey their next challenge. The narrow landing was actually better
lit than most of the rooms so far but that only served to enhance the fact that
brightly colored mummy cases stood within easy reach of anyone passing by.
The exit seemed far away.
"Oh boy. Wanna run?" asked Leah.
Megan looked over at her friend in
surprise. "Going to put that in your review?"
"Ooh, brat! I won't tell if
"Deal!" Laughing, Megan had
already started to run before Leah had an idea of what she had planned.
She could hear Leah's mutters of protest over the creak of opening cases and stopped
only once she'd gotten to the exit door.
Behind Leah's still running figure,
she could see several lumbering figures in various stages of emerging from the
mummy cases. Filthy bandages were wrapped around them, although some had
pieces hanging off as if the wrapping was pulling away from their bodies.
As one of the mummies reached out
towards Leah, Megan pushed on the door through to the next area and held it open
as her friend ran by. Quickly following, she slammed the door shut - a lasting
impression of an outstretched hand firmly set in her mind.
Leaning back against the door, Megan
chuckled at the glare that Leah was sending her way. "Hey, not my fault
"Cute, Olson. Cute," Leah muttered,
using her best friend's last name for emphasis. "Now I know where not to
turn when the bad guys are chasing me!"
Megan tried not to snicker, but it
slithered out anyway and she had to deal with Leah glaring at her for several
long moments before she relented. "Sorry. You know I wouldn't really
let 'em catch you."
"Yeah, yeah. You know, Is it
just me or this thing really kinda scary?"
"It's really very good. If the
rest of the houses are like this, I hope they have paramedics on hand for the
heart attacks," Megan commented.
"You've got that right. Geez,
when that sword whipped by you, I thought I was going to have one of my own,"
Leah shot back.
"Everything is so detailed, and well
thought out. I mean, we've hardly seen anyone else inside the house or heard
them, and we know there are a lot of people here because we saw them."
Leah pondered that in silence and
had to acknowledge that her friend was right. They had entered the park
with lots of people, yet it seemed that once they had walked through the gates
of the haunted house, they really hadn't seen anyone. "Well, if the rest
of them are like that it'll be a miracle, but one I'll definitely have to write
Megan nodded in agreement. Having
done her own stint as the obituary and review writer, along with other odd jobs
that needing doing around a paper.
"Should be nightmares after this place,"
Leah paused as if trying to dredge something up from the recesses of her memory.
"You know, I think I remember reading something about the people who own this
started out somewhere in the east."
"Like where, Salem?"
"Oh, bunch o' laughs, aren't you?"
Leah countered. "No, eastern Europe, like Romania or somewhere."
"Ooh, there's a handle for you.
Relatives of Dracula run Spookfest!'"
"Well, you never know!"
"Lee! That sounds like a headline
for that Weekly World Stupid Gossip magazine."
Leah grinned nastily. "They
probably pay more money."
"Probably." Chuckling, Megan
pushed away from the door and looked around the rather quiet room they now stood
in. It appeared to be a normal bedroom, with a small bed covered in a bland
bedspread, a night stand, chest of drawers, large wardrobe and one small window.
She moved toward the window only to bounce back as the shade rolled itself up
with a loud snap. "Geez!"
"Reporter attacked by window shade!"
"Really bucking for that job with
"Bitch!" teased Leah.
"So..." Megan began to ask just as
the bedspread began to peel away from the bed.
Leaning over to look at an angle,
Leah tried to figure out how the trick was being accomplished as she noted Megan
moving closer to the bed on the periphery of her vision.
"Holy ... "
Megan turned to look at her friend
and found her jaw drooping slightly as she could see a figure forming beyond Leah's
stunned body. Even though her mind knew it had to be a hologram, it was
more sophisticated than anything she'd ever seen in any amusement park.
The body began to fill in as a cold,
clammy blanket started to settle on the room, partially fueled by the fog that
was now creeping stealthy fingers across the floor.
The bedspread ended its movement and
a depression began to form in the middle of the bed. From the depression
began to emerge a body, starting with the fingers and moving down the outstretched
arms towards the head.
Megan's head whipped to the side as
she saw something coming down from the ceiling towards Leah. Pushing her
friend out of the way, she swatted at the arm reaching through the ceiling somehow
and tried to figure how to get out of the room.
"How the heck do we get out of here?"
"Quick, check the walls. Bang
on them, there's got ..." Getting an idea, Megan ran to the wardrobe and,
ready for anything, opened it up, stepping back as she did so. She let out
a relieved breath as the exit stood before her, hidden inside the wardrobe.
"Lee, here, come on! Sneaky damned things!"
Ducking under an arm that was swinging
from the ceiling, trying to grab onto anything, Leah looked at the wardrobe, shook
her head and stepped inside muttering, "Spooky."
"Got that right," Megan agreed as
she followed her friend into the empty wardrobe. "Glad I read 'The Lion,
the Witch and the Wardrobe' when I was a kid."
"Well, apparently someone else did
too," Leah commented as she tiptoed out of the wardrobe and found herself in the
landing that loomed over what appeared to be the original entry way. Down
a couple of side steps, the main stairway stood. Oddly, they were clear
of the statues that had been blocked them before and the exit beckoned serenely.
"In for a penny," Megan supplied,
as she began to walk down, keeping a very wary eye on the statues.
Surprisingly, they got a reprieve
and only the glowing red eyes of the gargoyle statues, and perhaps a low growl,
hurried them along their way outside.
"Ah," Leah commented as they exited
the building into an area that was completely different than where they entered.
"Look, we're not in the same place. It wasn't the same set of stairs, no
wonder the statues were in different places."
"You're right," Megan pondered.
"Weird that they put that much detail into this, isn't it?"
"Someone sure is detail oriented,
that's for sure," Leah agreed. "What did you think of that one? Have
you ever seen anything like it?'
Megan needed no time to think that
one over. "Never. That was pretty incredible." She thought for
a few seconds and then continued, "Those paintings and that ghost, it was fantastic.
I've never seen anything close to that realism. I'd love to find out how
they did it."
"That behind the scenes tour is sounding
more and more interesting, isn't it?"
"How about a drink?" Megan asked.
There were several people in line at the closest drink stand, but they decided
to wait anyway. It took a few minutes to pick up something refreshing at
the creepy tree shaped drink before they were able to sit down and relax for a
General chatter governed their conversation
for a few minutes, as they sipped, and then mostly people watching took over.
They laughed as they saw the chainsaw man try to have the same luck as he'd had
earlier and chase someone else, but the woman just stood her ground and looked
at him like he was crazy.
"Not in the spirit?" Leah wondered.
"Well, that other woman was definitely
in the spirit!" Megan chortled.
Leah agreed with a laugh. "Lot
of people here, really. Who the heck designed this place?"
"I'd love to know that one myself,"
Megan responded. "If any of the rest is as good as the house we were just
in, they'll be packed for their entire run."
"Speaking of which, ready to move
to the next one?" Leah queried, slurping up the last of the soda.
Only minutes later, they were looking
up at the wonderfully decorated entrance of the next haunted house. Leah
stopped and read the sign. "Uh, don't you want to go in this one alone?
I mean, Entombed sounds sort of ... I don't know ..."
"Scary?" Megan replied, more than
a hint of teasing in her voice.
"Come on, scaredy-cat. You're
the one who brought me here." With that, Megan pulled on her friend's arm
and they walked through the doorway.
It was an interesting sight; the wide
double doors appeared to have been partially ripped from the walls and yet somehow
managed to swing slightly in a non existent breeze, as if someone had just brushed
by them. Megan's quick inspection of the doors seemed to show no way that
should happen but it still did. A sign stood crookedly to one side, it read,
After the doors, they turned a corner
and the passage immediately opened into a hallway, easily wide enough for four
people to stand side by side. However, beyond a fleeting glance of a dark
figure exiting through the doorway at the end of the hall, there was no one else
to be seen.
Lights flickered, as if they were
tempting fate to stay on and it was eerily quiet where they stood. Surprisingly,
they were the only two people there. There were so many people in the park
and other people had to be in this haunted house, that it seemed odd to be alone.
That thought had just run through
Megan's mind when a piercing shriek echoed around her, she couldn't help the start
that twitched her muscles and made her heart pound a bit. It unnerved her
enough that when a ghost of a freezing breath passed by her she inhaled sharply,
and then looked around for invisible tendrils that seemed to feather touch her
hair. She wafted a hand above her head as if to brush them away but felt
"Jesus! Let's get out of here,"
Leah exclaimed, unintentionally echoing Megan's thoughts exactly.
However, when they turned in unison
to leave, they found the entrance gone and a flat wall in its place. Looking
at each other with quite some surprise at exactly how that happened, they both
shook their heads and turned to look at the end of hallway. There, the only
apparent exit stood waiting for them, shrouded in mostly darkness.
Bunching together for comfort, if
nothing else, they stepped towards the doorway and then stopped at the buzz of
something beyond their sight. It seemed to be breathing, as if someone was
waiting for them in the dark and it took a few moments before sanity reigned again.
"Okay, we're being silly," Megan announced.
"It's supposed to be fun, let's do it!"
"Right," Leah agreed, rather weakly.
"This is fun, remember fun."
Nevertheless, it was with a less than
firm approach that Megan approached the doorway. Peering around the corner,
she sighed at herself and waved her friend closer. "Come on, nothing here."
Wondering at her own sanity for suggesting
this particular piece of 'fun', Leah followed and it wasn't long before they both
had moved much deeper into the house.
Oddly, it seemed easier to Megan to
laugh at the attempts of 'inhabitants' of the house to scare them for the first
few rooms. They were hurried along by hulking figures that followed them
until they left one room and another had them looking around curiously until they
noticed a wall that seemed to be slowly closing in on them. They finally
moved on when the wall began to break open and hands reached through as if to
In the next room, however, Leah quietly
expressed admiration for the person who had decorated it. It appeared to
be madness personified; scrawls on the wall, written in potentially dried blood,
held mathematical and scientific significance and covered every piece of wall
it was possible to fill without having a ladder.
Books had been thrown about, as if
dumped in haste from the bookshelves that usually held them. Parts of, what
appeared to be, bodies were in glass containers and some of them were smashed,
even the smell of formaldehyde seemed to taint the air. And, all of it seemed
to have been effortlessly put together to keep the viewer away from the various
parts and yet feel as if they were in the middle of it.
Looking over at the remains of what
was almost certainly a brain in one of the smashed jars, Leah spoke up, "Hey,
be glad you didn't try the monkey brains at that Frightful Feast. I swear
they were the real thing, they tasted horribly. Think they came from here?"
"Cute, but the eyeballs were bad enough,
thank you," Megan replied sarcastically as she inspected the room. "That
can't be real glass, right?" she asked about the glass jars, more to herself than
anything, even though Leah moved to also get a closer look.
"Can't be. I know they make
it hard for us to get close to that stuff but what if someone did, law suits anonymous,"
"Exactly," Megan agreed, more to steady
herself from what she knew was irrational fear that seemed to be dogging her steps
than anything else.
She gave the room one more glance,
the only sense of calm was the desk. Perfectly put together and not a thing
out of place. The desk lamp shone serenely on papers and an oddly shaped
item that drew her closer, wanting to get a look. Until the leather bound
chair began to slowly turn and she saw the horribly dry skin of a hand that rested
on an arm of the chair.
Backing up, she grabbed at Leah's
arm, ignoring the yelp of surprise, and pulled her towards the exit. Yet,
they remained to watch the completion of the chair's turn. A horridly deformed
and almost desiccated figure began to rise from the chair. Megan could hear
the crackle of dried skin and bones, unused to the movement they were making,
and without further ado, dragged her friend into the next room chased by what
could have been ages old laughter.
"Good God, remind me never to do this
again," Leah exclaimed. "No way that I'd bring a kid to this!" she continued,
and then glanced over at her friend who seemed glued to the floor. "What?"
she asked as she turned.
"You have got to be kidding," Megan
protested in a whisper, her eyes huge as she took in the next room. Metal
appeared to line the walls and the temperature had dropped significantly.
On one side, small metal doors were recessed into the wall but several of these
were hanging or on the floor and the view inside was of bodies or parts of bodies
that appeared to have been separated from their owners forcibly.
One of the bodies began to move slightly,
as if life had been somehow injected into it, and Leah exclaimed, "Oh man, come
on, let's go." Then she jumped as one of the small doors began to jiggle
and an irregular pounding began on the other side.
However, Megan's eyes were still on
the very wide opening to the next room where ghostly fog swirled around bulky
forms that seemed to be suspended from ceiling. "Please tell me there's
another way out," Megan begged, ignoring the whine she knew was in her voice.
Tugging her friend along with her,
Leah replied, "It can't be that bad. Let's just get out of here."
Dragging her feet, Megan reluctantly
entered the cool chamber, which was completely blocked by bodies in various states.
She tried not to look at the bodies too carefully, they were hanging both upside
down and normally, and she found herself shivering as the cold and slimy skin
touched her hands.
Not willing to experience that feeling
any longer, she began to use her t-shirt covered shoulders and upper arms to move
the bodies out of the way. Going even so far as to pull down her sleeve
as far as she could and tuck her hand underneath.
Suddenly, though, Megan found herself
drawn to one body, it looked oddly familiar and the blonde found herself stepping
closer to get a better look, despite herself. The detail, Megan realized,
was remarkable and once she mentally removed the blood that appeared to be congealing
along the side of the face, and then filled the gaping hole where part of the
skull should be, it was painfully and shockingly clear to her why the face had
Her blood seemed to suddenly run cold
as the fact that an unbelievably creepy copy of her own face was staring back
at her spiked into her chest. As if she had stepped out of her body to clinically
examine the figure, she realized that the only difference were the eyes.
They were black as coal but that only served to expand the unease that had settled
over her like a smothering blanket of darkness.
Her breath caught in her chest and
she took a half step back to take in the entire figure when she bumped into the
arm from another of the bodies and the hand seemed to almost gravitate to her
towards her face. Flinching, she slid away from the hand and bounced into
yet another body, which began to make a terrible screeching noise every time it
swung back and forth on the hook.
Totally spooked, Megan stuck out an
arm to move that figure out of the way and then another, and more, until she finally
was standing by a wall, shivering. Her breath shot out rapidly in short
cloudy breaths in the cold room and the sudden quiet almost rang in her ears.
Suddenly, a warm hand curled around
her wrist and she almost coughed up a lung as it seemed her body tried to exhale
and inhale at the same time.
"Whoa! Sorry!" Leah apologized,
seeing the obvious distress on her friend's face. "What's wrong?"
Finding that her voice seemed to have
deserted her, Megan just closed her eyes and concentrated on the heat of the body
that had moved closer to hers. Her own body's warmth seemed to have been
leeched away by the room and she leaned in closer to Leah to take some comfort.
"Hey," Leah said gently, her hand
moving against her friend's back in soothing circles. She grimaced, realizing
that her friend truly was very upset. "You okay?"
Finally starting to calm down, Megan
looked at the ground as she tried to put together how she'd managed to get herself
in such a state. But, it wasn't until she managed to get a deep breath that
the stress seemed to begin to dissipate. She let out that breath very slowly
and finally found her friend's anxious gaze.
"I ..." Megan breathed. Collecting
herself, she started again, "I know this is crazy but there was one of these things
that looked like me and ..."
Seeing her friend at a loss, Leah
smiled gently. "Meg, this is a huge operation put on by experts. Probably
millions of bucks involved. They probably have loads of stuff they do or
maybe ..." She paused before offering the next explanation. "Maybe
your imagination got away with you a bit?"
"No!" Megan protested and thought
about it for a few seconds. She really had not wanted to go in the room,
the fear she had tried to rid herself of for years had raised its ugly head and
just maybe ... just maybe it had affected her reasoning? But still, that
body - the one that had looked like her. Why would her mind do that?
Looking around, Leah finally found
what she was looking for and said, "Hey, look at that one over there. It
kinda looks like me, right?" Finding Megan unwilling to look up, she lifted
an arm and pointed. "Really, look. It has the same hair, about the
same height. Maybe they do something to reflect our faces, that really would
"No, I tell you, it looked just like
me. I'll show you!" Megan proclaimed.
It was a few minutes later when Megan
had to concede defeat. There were plenty of bodies and it was easy to lose
your way in the swirling, cool fog and the dark areas that seemed to twist you
around so easily.
And, to her considerable chagrin,
they had found other faces that could seem to be people they knew, when viewed
in the right light, or darkness.
As they searched, they had even seen
two other groups scream and grimace their way through the room without hardly
stopping, one woman almost crawling along the floor to try and not touch the clammy
and very cold 'skin'.
"God, I'm so stupid. This is
supposed to be fun and here I go getting all nuts on you." Megan turned
to her friend. "I'm sorry, Lee, but can we go home?"
Wanting to help her friend but knowing
that she still had another house she had to look at, Leah attempted a compromise.
"Tell you what, once we get out of here, what if I go through the other one I
need to go through as quick as I can and you can wait outside for me?"
Relieved beyond measure, and not afraid
to show it, Megan breathed a huge sigh of relief which billowed before them both.
"I'm sorry," she apologized again.
Leah smiled and shook her head ruefully.
"Believe me, if I'd known it was this scary, I don't think I would've signed up
for the story. I'm going to make sure there's a heavy warning for kids,
that's for sure."
"Yeah, can you imagine how scared
"Maybe they go a little easier if
they see kids," mused Leah. "I'll have to call someone here tomorrow and
ask. Come on, kiddo. Let's get out of here." She tugged on her
reluctant friend until Megan finally began to move.
With Leah's presence, the lead chunk
of upset in Megan's stomach began to dissipate a little bit. However, the
bitter chill she felt throughout her bones remained and she couldn't help but
look at the faces of the bodies as they pushed through the heavy figures with
a lingering sense of dread.
Megan knew it was juvenile and ridiculous,
but a tiny part of her still believed what she'd seen and it kept her step that
much quicker as they fought their way through the room.
Relief at breaking through the last
wall of bodies and seeing the exit was profound, for both of the women.
In Megan it manifested with a hand reaching out to grasp the door jamb as she
stood in the doorway, a bent head and closed eyes.
It was a profound sense of release.
A sudden silence that felt like a deafening pressure in its intensity. After
long moments of simply breathing, she opened her eyes to find Leah's worried eyes
"This really shook you up," Leah observed
Blowing out a breath between pursed
lips, Megan felt a little of the unease flow out with the expended air.
"I... I think it was just the face thing. Geez. My imagination is
really working overtime, I guess."
"Well, I'm guessing we've got to be
getting close to the end. How about we move on?" Leah suggested.
"Yeah," Megan agreed, as she looked
into the next room, which was more like another hallway. At the sound of
voices in coming from behind, she half turned before deciding that she had had
quite enough of that room. Resolutely, she pushed away from the wall and
took a step forward.
Both walls of the hallway appeared
to be shiny, but the inky black behind them betrayed nothing. It wasn't
until they were both several steps in that something changed.
With a wet slap, something hit the
wall to the left and an explosion of light revealed a bloody hand sliding down
the separating glass. An equally bloody face stared back at her and then
the mouth opened to first mouth words and then pick up in volume with requests
Another hand joined the first, and
soon, several figures were on both sides of the hallway. The cacophony of
noise from the different tones and requests was totally jarring, as were the wounds
and general appearance of the people asking for help.
Quickly moving along, the two women
almost stumbled out of the hallway and through a swinging door to find a dichotomy
It was a garden. Beautiful flowers
bloomed, their scent enriching the considerably warmer air. Benches lined
the pathways to either side in each direction and the sense of normalcy after
the ride they had just been on was almost absurd.
As if it were a painting being filled
in as Megan watched, the colors sharpened and reality returned for her. The sounds
of other people talking, laughing and even screaming could be heard. Footsteps,
music, everything you should hear - it was all soaked in by the emotionally depleted
Megan felt her world begin to right
itself. "Whoo," she let out.
"Oh yeah. They really need a
warning for that one," Megan offered. She extended her hand and could still
see a faint wobble, from the chill that still pervaded her insides or the scare,
she wasn't sure and didn't truly care. All that she cared about was that
she was out and had absolutely no intention of going back into another house.
"You want to wait here?"
"No," Megan hurriedly replied.
"How about we get away from here," she went on as one of the statues in the garden
caught her eye. Stopping abruptly, she was bumped forward half a step as
Leah ran into her.
"Get some brake lights, would ya?"
grumbled Leah, but she could see that Megan was already concentrating on something
Tortured came to mind as Megan looked
over the statue. Carved in, for all the world, what appeared to be marble,
a body of a naked woman bent over as if in agony. Fine strands of hair reached
to the nape of her neck and one hand was curled around the back of the neck, as
if to protect or shield.
Muscles were bunched and stretched,
as if ready to tear and fight with each other. The other arm artfully hid
the intimate parts of the lower body and only the swell of a breast could be seen.
It was an amazing piece of work that
resonated inside Megan to cause an ache that made her want to reach out and soothe
the pain of whoever created the figure.
A glance around the garden proved
that this wasn't the only statue in a similar state. Another, about ten
feet away, was of a screaming man. His eyes wide and vacant, his lips pulled
back in a grimace and his hair wild beyond imagining.
"I really doubt I'd want to meet this
sculptor," quipped Leah.
"It's brilliant, really," Megan argued.
"Very scary, but brilliant."
"Yeah, well, plenty of brilliant people
go crazy. Just remember that."
Leah's no nonsense tone brought a
tiny quirk to Megan's lips and she felt her world begin to spin the right way
again. "You're right, but if you find out who did these, let me know, okay?
I might want to do a piece on them if they're legit, this is fantastic stuff."
"When I call for information tomorrow,
I'll ask." Leah had to smile to herself, getting Megan's mind on a good
story was the fastest way to get her mind off just about anything.
Moments later, they stood by a trellis
which indicated the end of the garden. Megan looked around for a good spot
to sit and wait for her friend. A copse of trees by a closed ride seemed
to be a good location and she pointed as she said, "How about over there?"
"Sounds good. Sure you don't
want to come along?"
"No way. I'm going to just sit
here and relax, watch the screaming women run by and all that."
Laughing, Leah took a step away and
stopped. "You sure I can't persuade you?"
"Yep! Shoo! We can stop
by the frozen yogurt joint on the way home, how's that?"
"Ooh, good plan! Diana's working
tonight." Eyebrows wiggled in the gloom.
"When are you two just going to get
together?" Megan sighed.
"When she comes to her senses and
realizes she's madly in love with me?" Leah bantered.
Waving her hand in a dismissal motion,
Megan chuckled, feeling much better than she had since they had entered the first
house. "Get out of here and try not to get lost."
"Yeah, yeah. Just 'cause I have
to have a compass watch doesn't mean I can't find my way."
Megan watched Leah walk away with
a fond smile on her face. She had been truly blessed with a friend that
she'd done some growing up with and managed to stay close to for what felt like
her entire life.
Truth was, they'd long ago decided
that they were meant to be friends and nothing else, and had both moved forward
to see each other through some times that they'd rather forget. And,
although times had found them in different places sometimes, they never forgot
Musing about her friend brought her
back to relationships in general and her apparent failure to find something lasting.
However, she had barely any time to think on that when she heard a noise from
the path behind her and turned to look.
The moon chose that moment to hide
itself behind a cloud and the lighting was only bright enough to light the brick
pathway, and not much else. Megan shook her head, her blonde locks sifting
the faint freeze as they moved, and then turned back around, berating herself
for being so jumpy.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Megan turned again at the odd sound.
It was metal on metal or something that was making an almost ringing noise that
squeezed its way down her gullet, reminiscent of fingernails on a chalkboard.
Still, she could see no sign of what
was causing the noise, and suddenly it was as if the rest of the park was simply
... gone. As if time were frozen and she stood inside a crystal moment of
She didn't remember standing, but
now stood part way down the pathway, the brick unforgiving under her feet.
Her eyes scanned the shrubs to either side, but the greenery blended into the
shadows of the dim light and provided no help to her.
A step forward. "Is someone
It was no more than a blink, a split
second in time but it was apparently enough for the situation to instantly change.
A figure now stood squarely on the
same path she inhabited. A hood obscured most of the face, allowing only
the pale skin of part of one cheek to bask in vague radiance.
A cloak of the darkest night swathed
the figure in its folds, making it impossible to determine pretty much anything
about the person under the cloth. Until the head rose and the half of the
face was indistinctly illuminated, it was enough.
Enough to know that a woman was there,
waiting. Standing. Somehow menacing.
Taking the offensive, as unsure as
she was, Megan spoke to the figure, "Look, I'm not interested in games, okay?
I'm waiting for my friend and if you think you're going to chase me around the
park or something, don't."
A cruel smile sliced across the woman's
face, white teeth caught a random ray of moonlight that peeked through the clouds
and Megan inhaled sharply at the elongated incisors.
"I'm serious. I'm not interested.
Go find someone else to chase." A voice from the depths of somewhere beyond
Megan's understanding answered her.
"Oh, but I've been waiting for you."
Gathering a bit of resolve, Megan
replied, "That's nice, but I'm going to go sit on that bench and wait for my friend.
I will complain to the management if you try something. So, please go.
There are plenty of others that you can scare and play games with."
"I'm not interested in playing games,
She had started to turn away but the
use of her name caused Megan to jerk to a stop. She blinked in confusion.
"How do you know my name?"
"I know everything about you."
"Wh... what?" stammered Megan.
"Who are you?" she queried
"Your fate," came the inevitable reply.
The inner core that was the strength
of Megan bristled and shot to the forefront, she stepped towards the woman.
"Look, I don't know who are but this isn't funny."
"No," the figure replied, its head
shaking from side to side, causing crazy shadows to appear and disappear on her
face. "It's as serious as a funeral."
"What is your problem?"
The woman put one hand on her cloaked
hip. "Should I be obvious and say you?"
"Who are you and what do you want?"
"Ah, my name. My name.
Such power in a name sometimes, isn't there? At least, that's what they
used to think a long, long time ago."
Megan listened to the woman ramble
and tried to figure out the most expedient way to end this confrontation.
"They used to tell me that I was a
beloved child. They'd say, 'Carina, you're so pretty. You're going
to have so many suitors after you.' and I'd twirl and smile." A hand reached
out to swirl the cloak about her legs. "But, I was set to marry a very boring
man that my father picked ... no, sold me to."
The bitter tone in Carina's voice
gave Megan a slight shiver. "Is there a point to this?" she asked.
"Oh yes. More than one point,
I should think." Carina smiled cruelly. "Before I could be sold off,
I met Aroldo, and my life ended and began again."
"I see." Deciding the woman
had to be at least a little insane, Megan decided retreat was the better part
of valor and began to take a hesitant step backwards.
"Did you like my present for you in
Uncomprehending, Megan shook her head
and ceased her movement. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh, I saw how scared you were, Megan.
It was wonderful. Did you like the black eyes? I thought they were
a wonderful touch. I'm so pleased you got to see it."
It hit with the force of a ton of
bricks, and Megan struggled to find a way to catch her breath. "It wasn't
my imagination, that body looked like me! Why?"
The woman's head tilted to one side.
"All part of the game. I thought it was rather flattering, didn't you?"
Megan could almost feel the blood
draining from her face. "You're crazy," she whispered.
The woman moved closer, matching the
steps Megan had taken. "Tut, tut. You're not afraid of me, are you?"
Megan probed a little. "The statues
in that garden, they're yours too, aren't they?"
"Not just a pretty face, are you?"
Carina replied. "You know, I almost missed your reaction to the face because
of the fun I had with the armor."
"The arm... I don't understand.
"Oh, that was all just fun.
You see, this is all mine." Carina gestured to indicate the park.
"All of it, now that Aroldo is gone. And, I love All Hallow's Eve, my very
favorite holiday, actually."
Carina turned an almost charming smile
on Megan. "I know all about you, Megan. I even tried to get your paper
to have you write the review, but I got your friend instead. I was going
to have fun with her but then you showed up too! Well, I just couldn't pass
up that opportunity, could I?"
The hood listed slightly to one side
and revealed more of the woman's face. "It's too late. We're already
destined for this." Lips as rich as old blood moved with the words.
"What ... destined for what?"
"You and your partner have made enemies,
"My partner?" Megan was terribly
confused. "Leah? She's my friend ... Look, you obviously need help
and I'm going to report this." She resolutely turned away, heart pounding
in her ears.
Carina's lips thinned in almost a
grimace of a smile and a name hissed from between them, "Saxon."
That brought Megan's head up and around
with an almost audible snap. Her already elevated heart beat stepped up
another notch. "What about Saxon?"
"Tsk. You and she should have
both checked into some things in more detail. Should have found out what
else the Mayor was into before you went about being so righteous."
Like a Rubik's cube, things suddenly
began to slide into place. "The Mayor's long gone," she offered weakly as
she once more turned to face Carina.
"Ah, yes. Further gone than
you can imagine. You see, he failed and partially exposed things he shouldn't
have, and they made him pay."
"Are you saying he's dead?" Megan
asked, not sure if she really wanted to know the answer.
The thin smile was back. "Ohhhh,
something like that."
The jolt of fear down Megan's spine
caused her legs and arms to twitch, she took a step back and moved to take another.
But, somehow - impossibly - the other woman now stood within arm's reach.
"Who killed him?" she blurted out.
A soft, almost childlike expression
came over the woman's face. "Do you know how nice it was to have one of
us in that kind of office, Megan? How many good things he could do for us?"
"What are you talk... who is us?"
"Us!" the woman replied, as if Megan
should know exactly what she meant. The tip of her tongue ran between one
incisor to the other and then her attention was caught by the glint of light off
something metal in the other woman's hand. "How do you want to die, Megan?"
'Oh, this cannot be happening,'
thought Megan, a lance of fear slamming into her stomach. She turned to
run but her arm was suddenly caught and held in an amazingly strong grip.
Grimacing against the pain of the fingers digging into her muscles, she pulled
and found herself inexorably moving in quite the wrong direction.
Responding to the threat, Megan gave
into the pull, surprising her attacker, and punched her palm and curled fingers
sharply towards Carina's face. Meeting flesh, she heard the other woman's
sharp cry, pulled away and then began to run.
It was the sound of the flapping cloak
that alerted Megan to the danger. Then it was gone as she found herself
completely smothered by an inky blackness that opened up long enough for Carina's
surprisingly cool hand to reach in and grasp her throat.
As Megan watched, the metal she had
seen previously in the other woman's hand refined into a terrifying knife as it
got closer. Megan tried to pull away as the serrated edge crept towards
Then, without warning, she was suddenly
free and falling. Her balance completely overwhelmed by the release of the
opposing force she had been fighting against. She fell in a hard lump against
one of the metal lamp posts that lined the path.
Holding a hand to her ringing head,
she could now see that a tall, silhouetted figure now stood in front of her, a
barrier between the crazy woman and herself. It was a figure that Megan
would know in the darkest night and her heart lurched with the first words spoken.
"This is between us, Carina!" rang
a voice, familiar to Megan.
"Oh no, dear Saxon," replied Carina,
as she pushed herself up from where she'd been thrown. The hood of her cloak
fell back to reveal a face of porcelain beauty. "She pays too."
"You'll have to go through me first,"
"Oh, that can be arranged, dear one."
Carina's smile held a distinct edge of insanity. "Daddy always told me to
pay back my debts."
"Your sire," spat Saxon, "Was nothing
but an underling who had delusions of grandeur. It wasn't my fault he was
stupid and made too many mistakes."
"Saxon, Saxon, Saxon." Carina's
head shook from one side to the other with each utterance of the name. "I
got tired of chasing you around, you know."
"You caught me once, why didn't you
"Ah," Carina sighed almost sadly.
"I thought I had, but you kept that stupid white knight outfit that you always
wore inside, didn't you?" She stood slowly, unfolding from the ground in
stages. "It wasn't supposed to be that way, you know. You were supposed
to become one of us. Fight the evil fight and all that."
Bewildered, Megan fought the intense
urge to lose her Frightful Feast in the bushes as she tried to stuff down the
pain in her head long enough to figure out what was going on. Making the
mistake of shaking her head in an attempt to clear it did nothing but cause her
to groan out loud.
"If she's hurt, you're going to pay,"
declared Saxon, flexing her legs at the knees.
"She'll be more than hurt by the time
I'm done," Carina threatened, her face a terrifyingly sweet counter to the words
she voiced. "You both caused this."
Megan tried to push herself away from
the offending post that she was now leaning against and blinked to clear her slightly
off kilter vision. As she moved, she glanced up to see Saxon's head turn
slightly and then snap back as Carina made her move.
A slice of dim light from one of the
park's lamp post's made the snarl on Saxon's face that more ferocious as it glittered
off her slitted eyes and made odd shapes out of her visible teeth.
Flat on her back, with more than a
little wind knocked out of her, Saxon grasped Carina's wrist and struggled to
keep the descending knife at bay. One leg lifted at the knee to gain leverage
and she pushed up and over in a tangle of limbs.
As Carina struggled to keep herself
from being subdued, the knife went flying end over end, occasionally catching
a sliver of light and winking back before it flew into one of the shrubs.
Finally, after long moments of battle,
the combatants crouched and looked warily at each other.
Saxon maintained her flesh barrier
between Megan and Carina, then spoke first, "You've done enough damage.
Leave before it's too late."
Finally managing to stand, the lamp
post being used for aid, Megan saw the first truly serious look she had seen cross
"It's already too late," whispered
Carina as she once more launched herself.
This time, however, she headed straight
for Megan, instead of Saxon, and the blonde's addled mind moved her limbs but
not at the speed they needed to. She stumbled back a few steps, knowing
deep inside it wouldn't be enough as Carina's outstretched hands curled into claws
as they hurtled towards her.
Still, Megan gathered enough of her
muddled mind to use her abilities to fall with the approaching body, get her legs
between them and use every ounce of strength to push Carina away from her.
Before Megan could even push herself
up, there was a howl of rage, and then a collision of bodies several feet away,
followed by what could only be the distinct crack of something very important
Megan leaned up on one elbow as she
watched Saxon's form rise from the ground. As the other woman stood, rays
of hesitant moonlight began to peek once more from behind the thinning clouds
and tentatively dotted Carina's prone figure with wan touches.
Horrified, Megan looked from Carina's
blankly staring eyes to Saxon's incredibly defeated demeanor.
"I'm sorry," Saxon's whisper barely
touched her ears.
"Is she ..." Megan found herself
unable to finish the question.
Saxon merely shook her head, sick
inside at what she saw on Megan's face.
"Wha... " She stopped when she
realized that Saxon was holding her arm carefully against her side. "Are
you hurt?" she demanded to know, pushing herself slowly up and using the post
to help her stand.
"No ... It's nothing," Saxon answered.
"We ... we need to get help," Megan
replied, her gaze unwillingly pulled towards Carina's body.
"It's over. For now."
Megan's eyes roamed over the figure
of her ex-lover. Incongruously, her mind told her that Sax had lost weight
and looked terribly tired before she savagely told it to shut up and asked, "For
now? What in the hell just happened?"
Saxon watched Megan move back to lean
against one of the other posts and close her eyes for a moment, as if to cleanse
them of the horror she'd just seen. The acid eating her insides moved deeper.
"Are you all right?"
A sense of the incredible raised its
head inside Megan. "Sax, I have a headache that would make a whale cry,
I was just attacked by some crazy woman who blamed me for the mayor's ousting,
you show up to save the day after months and months of being completely gone and
now the woman is dead."
Megan raised a hand to cover her eyes,
and then slipped it down over her mouth before letting it fall limply by her side.
"Where ... God, what am I gonna do?"
"I'll handle it," Saxon replied, and
almost stepped back at the bonfire that caused in Megan's eyes.
"You'll handle it?" Her voice
rising in tone, Megan continued, "You ran away from me, from us and show up to
save my life. How are you going to handle it, run away again?"
"Meg ... "
"No! No excuses!" Megan
ignored the throb of pain caused by her raised voice.
"Just the truth," Saxon countered,
shifting her shoulder slightly.
"The truth, am I supposed to believe
that now? After your lies, after ..."
"Meg, please. I had to leave,"
Saxon responded wearily.
"Had to leave." Megan's headache
began to thud in tempo with her heart.
"Yes. I never lied to you, I
swear it. They threatened to come after you. Carina, the others."
"What?" Her hand curling around
the cool steel of the lamp post, Megan held on for dear life. "What others?"
"Others, like her. Like ...
When I found out they were going to go after you, I went ... I had to do something.
I disrupted everything I could. Made me their target, made them chase me."
Brows furrowed, Megan tried to take
this in. "Why should I believe this?"
Saxon felt that barb hit right on
target. "Because of what you just saw. Because, Carina stopped chasing
me and I realized she was coming back for you."
"Because of the piece on the Mayor?"
"Yes... No. Because of me too."
"Saxon, what are you talking about?"
"Carina, she ... wanted to hurt me.
Aroldo ... Harold Braxton or whatever his name was originally, he was her sire."
"Basically," Saxon admitted, her eyes
half closing. "He screwed up, paid the price and she wanted revenge."
Realization hit. "You watched
me after we split up, didn't you?" Running a hand over where she had hit
her head, Megan winced a bit when her probing found a sore spot.
Saxon nodded slowly. "I wanted
you to be safe." She saw the other woman's wince. "We need to get
you checked out and make sure you're okay."
"I'm fine," Megan insisted, needing
to know some answers before anything else happened. "And when I saw you
with that other woman that night? You told me that you were sick."
"Stephanie. She was helping
me try to get information on them. I tried to tell you the truth but you
wouldn't believe me and I saw ... "
"The chance to get rid of me?"
The bitter tone in Megan's voice wasn't totally unexpected.
"The chance to keep you safe.
If they could believe that we broke up and you had nothing to do with me anymore."
Saxon pleaded with Megan with her eyes. "Never to get rid of you.
"I don't... "
Megan jumped, startled as Leah's voice
interrupted what she was going to say. She looked back to see her friend
starting up the path and then back at Saxon. As she was about form a sentence
when all the words emptied from her brain, like sand through an hour glass.
Impossibly, Carina's body was gone.
Only the furrow in the grass from
where her body had been betrayed the previous few minutes.
Panicked, Megan reached out a hand
for the apparently puzzled Saxon and grabbed on hard as cool flesh met cooler
flesh. "Don't go," she pleaded.
Saxon shook her head, using the connection
of their hands to keep her firmly in place as she looked around for any sign of
Carina. Fortunately, she knew that the other woman was likely to retreat
and lick her wounds before trying anything else. Unfortunately, she knew
that it wasn't over, not by a long shot.
"Meg, wha ... " Leah stopped in her
tracks at the sight of the tall woman who had hurt her friend so much. She
immediately noticed the joined hands and her eyes widened slightly. "Well,"
she recovered. "This is a surprise."
"Leah," greeted Saxon.
"Do I want to know what's going on?"
Leah wondered aloud.
"I ... don't think so," replied Megan,
who was the immediate recipient of a hand squeeze.
Megan looked back at Saxon and blinked,
the odd lighting of the area made the tall woman's eyes almost glow with a sheen
of red. By the time the blinking was done, everything was back to normal
and after a second's pause, Megan said, "I think maybe Saxon has some things she
needs to tell us."
"She does?" queried Leah.
"Yeah, after we make sure she's okay,
I definitely think she does."
"I think we need to make sure you're
okay," countered Saxon.
"Let's just get out of here for now,"
As they turned to leave, Megan could
see a thin mist begin to slide into the area they had just had an incredible
incredible experience in, slithering into the space where Carina's body had been
with furtive steps. Once more, moonlight covered the area, leaving
a peace where she felt none should be.
It was terribly surreal and yet there
was no doubt what had just happened. In a stretch of a few minutes, the
world had changed. Along with that, she would start a new diary tonight
and new chapter in her life. Where it would lead, Megan had no idea.
However, there was one thing she did know.
It was more than time.