Halloween is over, but the danger has just begun. The newly formed family is given a mission, finding the souls who didn't make it to Halloween Town. But who, or what is lurking in the shadows waiting to attack? Can it be one of them?
Chapter 1 Bad guys, Hide-and Seek, and a Guest
She had her, she finally had her.
Shock was at her mercy.
Kevin had long since been torn limb from limb and lay in a heap next to her.
Shock hung limply in her hand, defenseless. Belinda liked her that way, it made what she was going to do next so much easier. Slowly, Belinda drew her knife and with one quick motion dug it into Shock's heart. She pulled it out and stabbed her again and again.
"Playing with Voodoo dolls again?"
Belinda jumped. Oogie had slipped up next to her while she was transfixed stabbing a cloth doll in the likeness of her enemy with a sewing needle until stuffing came out.
Oogie climbed up her free arm and onto her shoulder, a sinister parody of a pirate's parrot, "You know those things don't work that way, right?"
"I know, but they make me feel better," Belinda replied bitterly, trying to hide how embarrassed she was that he had caught her.
"Well come on, we're almost there," Oogie ordered.
"We better be, we've been hiking for ages," Belinda stuffed what was left of the dolls in her backpack and took stock of the surrounding forest. Was it her or did it look more… gray than where they had started? The day had been cloudy but now the white sky, brown tree trunks, and even the green forest floor seemed to glow with the color gray, "Where are we anyway?"
Oogie was silent for a moment before mumbling, "Good, you've noticed."
"What?" Belinda snapped at him, "Cut out the 'mysterious mumbling' will ya? It's annoying."
"I said that it was good you noticed the change," Oogie repeated a little more loudly. Didn't she know how hard it was to talk with no physical lungs? "If you noticed the change then it's safe to tell you where we're going and how we're getting there. Did you like watching scary movies?"
Belinda was caught off guard by this sudden, and random, question about her taste in movies, "Um… Yeah, I liked scary movies. What does that have to do with anything?"
"Let me ask you this, how many of those movies took place in or near the woods?"
"Tons, where are you going with this?"
"You've ever seen that old show, 'Twilight Zone'?"
"Yeah, my old English teacher was nuts over that show. She made us watch it and find some 'deeper meaning' or something," she answered, a little ticked off that he wasn't giving her an answer.
"Well those movies and that show kind of stem of what we're doing here, silently slipping through an opening of one world and into another one. Any old human can do it. Most of them die from the new surroundings though, or they go insane, whichever comes first. In the world we're going to, however, something is more likely to slip from that world… out… BEHIND YOU!"
It was on her in a second. Whatever it was had sneaked up from behind and tackled her to the ground. All the air had been kicked out of her lungs, meaning she couldn't reach for the small dagger at her belt that she had lifted from the gas station/hunting outpost. What she could do was look up at her attacker. The first thing she noticed was that it was ugly. Years of being the popular girl in school hadn't exactly left her yet. Secondly, she noticed that it resembled a black dog. Thirdly, it seemed to be dying.
The dog scrambled off her back and tried to howl, only to be cut of from a fatal gurgle in its throat. Half a second later Belinda was on her feet, dagger in hand, but it was too late. Whatever it was fell loudly on its side, legs still twitching slightly until it died with one more disgusting gurgle. After a few moments to make sure it was dead Belinda realized that Oogie wasn't on her shoulder anymore. She looked frantically around the gray-green ground but didn't see the familiar black smudge that was the Boogie Man. Just before Belinda started to panic she heard the dead creature groan behind her.
Wheeling around with her dagger raise she quickly realized it wasn't the creature that groaned. Oogie materialized on top of the creature's throat, looking dizzy as he could for a thing with no body. Belinda quickly swooped in and plucked Oogie from the dead attacker and frantically whispered,
"What was that thing?"
"Stop shouting!" Oogie moaned from Belinda's cupped hands. He achingly said, "That dear partner is what we came here for. It's a golem."
A golem was a creature that was made of random stuff and brought to life. That was the extent of Belinda's knowledge on the subject and it didn't help that she had learned it during a B-Movie marathon when she was eight. When it had attacked her she thought it resembled a dog, and it did. It had black fur, four legs, two eyes, two pointy ears, a tail and a triangle nose. That was where the similarities stopped. The body itself was blockish, the head, feet, and tail looked too stiff and strait to be natural. It was as if some kid had drawn their pet dog the best they could with a crayon and made it jump off the page.
"This one was weak," Oogie said from his perch, his dizziness fading, "I hope we can arrange a deal with Vendetta to make them a little less, breakable. Well? We're not getting there any faster standing around."
Belinda blindly moved away from the golem in the direction they had been going before, "How did you kill it?"
"When it attacked I jumped off your shoulder and onto its neck. It's amazing what one can do with enough pressure to the right vein," Oogie said sleepily, "My head feels fuzzy, could you tell me when we get there?"
Oogie became very quiet after that. Belinda knew he wasn't sleeping, Oogie had said something about not being able to exactly sleep. She had no idea how, and why, he got that way and she knew better to ask. Asking questions like that could get you killed in her particular line of work. An uncontrollable urge to scratch her face interrupted her thoughts. The ugly warts and the scars still dotted her face even though she had taken the curse-banishing potion that had restored her voice. If she was going to get her face back, she would have to go back to the source.
The night was the kind of dark that lazily became darker just as dinner was being eaten; the wind was pushing forcefully through the antique houses and manors of Halloween Town. A perfect night for operation "Head-Spin". Marco was stealthily climbing up the side of the Mayor's modest two story house, his clawed hands easily sliding into the cracks between the boards. Securely stuck to the house he reached for the piece of wire in his pocket and started to jimmy the bedroom window lock from the outside. After a minute of work he heard the satisfying click. He reached for the World War II level walkie-talkie attached to the belt he wore for this mission.
"Infiltration to Communications, I'm in position, repeat, I'm in position," Marco whispered into it.
In an alley across the street and two houses down, amidst the piles of garbage, Chester received the message. Expertly changing the frequency on his own, he contacted Gisele and Violet's walkie-talkie.
"Communications to Charmer and Ring Leader, Agent is in position. Commence the blow off and place the gaffed item."
"IN ENGLISH CJ!" Violet and Gisele shouted into the receiver.
"Fine," CJ said sulkily, "Marco's ready. Get in there and switch the toasters."
"Understood," Violet said into device, picking up her bag and taking out her pocket watch, "Clear out Communications. Commence the ten minutes of radio silence now."
Both Gisele and Violet crept out of their hiding spot a house away form The Mayor's. Violet quickly and quietly positioned herself underneath the open kitchen window on the left side of the house, where she could hear the mayor washing his dishes and listening to his ancient phonograph. Gisele placed herself at the right corner of the house and pulled Mr. Snaky out of her pocket.
"Ok Mr. Snaky, just like we rehearsed," She whispered sweetly to him.
The snake wriggled happily and began to lengthen its small body until the little tip of his tale had stretched across the ground in front of the house, up the side of the door frame, and onto the little button that was the door bell. With a quick jab of the tail to the button the chime on the inside sounded and the tail quickly retreated into the shadows.
Violet could hear the quick little steps of the Mayor leave the kitchen and down the hall to the front door. Springing strait into action she pulled the trick toaster out of her bag and reached into the kitchen to do the switch off. Hearing the signal with his demon ear pressed against the wall of the house, Marco forced the window up and began his assigned task. The brass alarm clock sat neatly on the nightstand. Its whole functioning so easily tampered with by the misplacement of its smallest gear.
Meanwhile the Mayor opened his door to darkness. Furious, he looked around for the apparent perpetrators of this ding-dong ditch prank. Finding no one and smart enough to not be led outside only to turn around and find the door had locked on him like a previous prank, he closed the door in a huff and started back to the kitchen. Before he could even take three steps the door bell rang again. The Mayor rushed at the door and flung it open, determined to catch the little hooligans in the act. Still, he opened the door to nothing. Enraged he slammed the door closed, bolted it and stomped off to be early, stopping only to turn off the phonograph in his kitchen and close the window.
Nearly missing her fingers being caught as the window slammed down Violet heard the Mayor's footsteps stomp their way up the stairs. Violet quickly picked up the Mayor's toaster and stuffed it into her bag and made sure nothing was left behind before she ran for it. She could only hope that Marco wasn't caught before he could make it out of the Mayor's room. Since the radio silence was still in place for another four minutes according to her watch, she just had to make it to the rondevu point. Running as fast as she could for two blocks she was soon in one of the blind spot alleys of Halloween Town, a spot hidden from the windows and doors of surrounding buildings where any nosy neighbor might peek out of any moment.
CJ was already there, walkie-talkie in hand, waiting for the cue from Violet to make any contact to the others. Not saying a word Violet pulled out her watch and counted down the last two minutes until the radio silence was over. Gisele came after sixty long seconds, Mr. Snaky in her palm with a big bump in his body, probably an unlucky rat he had sighted on the way. The only one left was Marco. Violet watched every last second of the final minute with a tense glare. Her two accomplices exchanged worried looks before watching her.
It had been their agreement, if one was caught, they all were caught. No way were they going to let one take the fall for the sake of the others. When the radio silence was up and all of the members weren't back, they would be contacted even if it meant blowing the whole operation. If they didn't answer after the first contact the rest of the group would have to run home, find Shock, and tell her what was going on. They had each agreed that this prank was worth the risk. The Mayor deserved it, especially after what they had heard him say about Shock.
Ten seconds left. Marco still wasn't back. Nine seconds. Violet began to worry. Eight seconds. What if the Mayor caught him? Seven seconds. What if he got hurt climbing down? Six seconds. He could have been blown off the side of the house. Five seconds. Falling from the second floor. Four seconds. Hitting the ground. Three seconds. Pain. Two seconds. Lying still. One.
Marco crashed into the alley behind them along with a sudden gust of wind. Every one jumped and Gisele choked back a yelp. Wings flapping erratically and chest heaving, Marco tried to squeak out an excuse for why he was late. Gisele and CJ sighed in relief and looked at Violet, expecting her to do the same. Violet tenderly closed her pocket watch and silently placed it in her bag before turning to Marco.
"YOU IDIOT!" Violet screeched, hoping that the sound of the wind would drown out her voice, "Where were you! You told us before we started this mission that you could do your part in time and be back here way before the ten minutes are up!"
"My- wings- the- wind-" Marco gasped, not angry at Violet, just as passive-aggressive as he usually is.
"You scared the crap out of us Marco! I'm in charge and that means whatever happen to you would be my fault! Do you know how seriously important it was to make it back in time?"
"I made- it back- in time-"
"By one second Marco!" Violet snapped back, "If you were ten seconds late we would have contacted you while your in the middle of that wind and you wouldn't have heard it. We would have been halfway home by the time you got here!"
"But I-" Marco tried to say.
"There is nothing you could say can make this o.k." Violet crossed her arms in a huff.
"I can say 'blackmail'," Marco said slyly, holding up a small black book with blockish letters clearly spelling out 'Mayor'.
"You didn't," Gisele said in awe.
"He did," CJ said in equal awe.
"I accept your apology," Violet said casually as she snatched the book from Marco's hand and placed it in her bag. She walked to the entrance of the alley and looked left and right, "We're not out of the woods yet guys. Remember, keep yourself below window level and stick to the wall as soon as we get to the graveyard. Let's move!"
"Roger that Ring Leader!" the three cohorts said in unison as they followed her into the night.
"Ollie Ollie at Zen, uh, something already!" Kevin yelled out into the various rooms of the mansion.
He had always hated this game. Of all the games known to child, couldn't they have picked any other game than Hide-and-Seek? Kevin was sure they had cheated this time. No going outside, no hiding on the first floor, no using invisibility potions stolen from Shock's stash in the basement. Every room in the house had been checked and he was running out of time. Shock expected to see each child at the dinner table in exactly three minutes.
"O.k. you guys win now!" He called out again, "I surrender! It's time to go to dinner. Please! Anybody?"
Panic started to settle inside Kevin's guts. Desperately sweeping through the third floor for the millionth time, he knew he would have to face going down the only elevator to the second floor and face Shock's wrath. Shivers ran up and down his spine as he approached the giant cage. It felt more like a cell to him at the moment. As it descended he got the vague impression of what a turkey felt like on Thanksgiving. Eyes tightly shut he braced himself for the worst.
"Hey Kevin," Violet said from the table, "What's up?"
Kevin's eyes flew open to see Violet, Marco, Gisele, and CJ all sitting calmly at the extended dinner table that sat beyond the couches and armchairs that made up the family room.
"Where have you been?" Kevin said shakily, the adrenaline of fear slowly leaving his system.
"You know, around," Gisele smiled innocently.
"What do you mean by 'where have you been?'? You're not implying you lost them, do you?" Shock said as she left the room where she had been arguing with Lock, Lock himself right behind her. Barrel looked up from dinner in the kitchen, momentarily intrigued at the thought that his brother managed to loose all four children in the hour and a half Barrel had left them alone to cook dinner. Even Klondike peeked around the counter to give Kevin a doggy-smile.
"Uhh, no. No. We were just playing Hide-and-Seek and I was wondering what great hiding spot they chose to hide in," Kevin covered up.
"You'll just have to find out next game!" CJ said happily, his peers nodding in agreement.
Barrel sounded the bell for dinner once and the seven year olds sprang up and rushed to get their food. Shock watched them with maternal satisfaction before throwing a 'you've just dodged a bullet' smirk at Kevin and going to get the pitcher of sour lemonade sitting on the counter and putting it on the table. Lock looked smug at the fact that Kevin had messed up even a little bit and fetched enough cups for all of them. Kevin had nothing to do but get over the relief coursing through him and get the cloth napkins from the cabinet.
As soon as someone had their food they ate at the table, that was the way it went in this house. CJ clearly breaking this rule by making a sizeable dent in his plate of mystery meat before he had taken three steps. As long as everyone eventually made it to the table to eat it was ok; the lively conversation that took place during dinner more than made up for the lack of ceremony in starting it. Today the topic was the Christmas preparations, thought the holiday was of course about two months away.
"We probably have more Christmas decorations in storage than all of Christmas Town," Lock complained, "And the Mayor happened to 'misplace' the list of what the numbers on each box mean."
"We'll be opening boxes for days," Shock continued, "I can hear the Mayor blaming it all on us now."
The younger quartet looked at each other, silently reminding each other not to tell the elder quartet that soon, certain events may make the Mayor a bit more, humble.
"How did your day go guys?" Shock asked the kids, "Any luck with the flying today?"
"I got five feet into the air today!" Violet beamed to her older sister, "But I couldn't go any higher, it was like the broom just got stuck there and didn't want to move up."
"Do you think it's the broom?" Lock asked, he hadn't exactly learned broom making during his time in home renovations.
"No," Shock quickly said, "Violet just hasn't grown into her powers yet. The broom you made is fine."
Lock looked very pleased to hear that coming from Shock, "How about you Marco, any luck?"
"Nah, just fell on my butt a few times trying to take off," Marco said passively.
"A few times?" CJ said skeptically, "He nearly broke the trampoline Lock made me trying to fly out of the tree house today!"
Gisele quickly kicked him under the table, "Shhh!"
"You what?" Shock turned to Marco.
"It was just a test," Marco said harmlessly, "To see if I could fly because I was afraid of breaking a leg if hit the ground. It didn't work."
"That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard," Lock said, looking over at Kevin he added, "Well, almost the dumbest."
"And where exactly were you two while this was happening?" Shock stared darkly between Barrel and Kevin.
"Cheering him on," Gisele jumped in before the two could stop her.
"That wasn't cheering!" Barrel and Kevin said simultaneously.
"We were trying to yell 'Stop!' while we were getting the wheel barrel out of the shed!" Barrel said frantically.
"Yeah! We were about to go to the junkyard like we always do on Fridays!"
It was starting to become a routine around here. Everyday Lock and Shock went to work for The Mayor as decorators to pay for the house and food. Barrel and Kevin were in charge of watching the kids and scouring the junkyard for stuff to decorate the house or sell at the Saturday market place for some extra cash. The Halloween Town Junkyard not only contained the accumulated junk of Halloween Town but also some of the discarded junk of the Mortal world that for some reason decided to pop up there. Shock let the kids go with them because she herself had played there with Lock and Barrel when they were younger. Besides, the junkyard provided a means of entertainment and Marco even found a hobby in fixing clocks with Lock when he had spare time. The soothing tick-tock of clocks could be heard from many rooms in the house now.
The whirring of the elevator turned everyone's attention from what would have surely been a punishment from Shock. Steadily descending into the floor the elevator disappeared from sight, unmanned. Dead silence fell on the once comfortable conversation.
"Lock, can the elevator move by itself?" Shock asked calmly.
Lock gulped and said, "No, it has to be called by someone."
Klondike stood and let out a long wine, staring at the chain sliding down through the floor. An echoing thud sounded as the elevator touched down on the basement floor. Creaking metal made everyone cringe as the sound of the cage door opened and closed. The sound of the elevator rising again snapped Shock to attention.
"Barrel! Kevin! Weaponry! Lock! Get the traps set!" Shock commanded the boys and they darted to obey, she turned to the frightened kids, "Come with me."
She herded the group quickly down the hallway and into a room that had been rigged with secret hiding places and even an emergency escape route to get out of the house, appropriately called the safe room. As soon as she got them there she turned to them again.
"Lock the door and hide. Do not; I repeat, DO NOT come out until we come to get you. I'll use the secret knock to let you know it's me."
"But-" Violet started.
"No 'buts'. Promise me you won't come out, promise me."
The four exchanged looks before promising. Shock closed the door and waited for the click of the lock before she ran back to the family room. Barrel and Kevin had gotten the usual weapons, Barrel's mace, Kevin's baseball bat, Shocks fighting staff, and Lock's devil pitch fork. Klondike stood ready with his teeth and paws. They silently took their positions around the hole in the floor where the elevator would appear, intruder in tow. Slowly the cage elevator ascended from the basement, seemingly climbing with deliberate sluggishness.
The intruder was not what they had expected.
In the cage was the imposing figure of Medusa, Land of the Dead prison warden.
She didn't look happy.
"Medusa? What is it? What's wrong?" Shock said rapidly.
"The four of you need to come with me to Elder Gutknecht," Medusa said with authority, "Now."
"Why? What about the kids?" Lock tried to demand but it came out more like groveling.
"Ah, right. Your… children. I suggest they stay here. I was sent to collect the four of you and only you four."
"We can't just leave him here alone!" Kevin argued in a rare flash of competence.
"I was under the impression that this was the most protected house in this world. I will cast a spell on the portal behind us. Besides, weren't three of you about their age when you committed you first felonies? I'm sure they can manage themselves for a night. I will not be kept waiting much longer," Medusa said coldly.
Medusa reached up and pulled the chain to go down. Soon she disappeared into the basement, leaving the quartet dazed and confused. This was nothing like the Medusa they had met just a little while ago. Shock was again the first to snap out of it.
"Barrel, get the disguises. Kevin, Lock, you two set every trap you can think of; upstairs and down. Klondike, come with me."
Her cohorts still looked dazed but set out to do what she had commanded. Klondike rubbed his head against her hand and they proceeded down to the safe room. Knocking against the door in a certain code that she had taught them, she waited for the click of the lock to open the door.
"Are you ok?" "Who was it?" "What's wrong?" "We didn't hear fighting."
The questions flew from the curious seven year olds mouths so fast it made Shock jump, "Everything's fine, it was an old friend of ours. I'll explain everything later but right now Lock, Barrel, Kevin, and I need to go with her. We'll be back by morning. Stay inside the house and don't let anyone in. Klondike's in charge until we get back."
"Where are you going?"Marco asked, he held Shock's hand tightly, "Why can't we go with you?"
"Marco is scared that I won't come back," Shock thought. She knelt down to his eye-level and squeezed his hand gently, "I'm going to another world, like the ones I told you about. The only reason I'm making all of you stay here is because I don't want any of you getting lost in it. Marco, I swear on my slow-beating heart I will come back as fast as I can once I'm done there; and when a witch swears on her heart she means it."
Marco looked trustingly at her, "Promise?"
Shock smiles and pulls all four children into a group hug, "I promise."
Hi guys! I'm posting this now to show you I am still alive and well in the world. If what the kids are doing seems a little far-fetched it is due to the fact that I wholly believe that kids are much smarter than most people give them credit for. Especially in modern times where kids can understand CSI just as much as we can. Thus I will try to make everything that they do in this story believably possible.
Comments? Flames? COOKIES? I accept anything. :3