Chapter 2 Do You Accept?
In the light of Elder Gutknecht’s Tower, Medusa didn’t look nearly as frightening as she did when they first met in the Land of the Dead. Then again, the land of the dead wasn’t known for being cheerful. Medusa sighed as she slid onto one of the piles of books that served as a chair. Maybe it wasn’t just the light that made her seem more vulnerable; visible dark smudges could be seen under her eyes and her head of snakes wriggled, limp and lazy. Elder himself looked more worn down than he usually did, if that was possible for an old aged skeleton. He only nodded at them when they arrived a minute ago.
“I apologize for my behavior earlier,” Medusa sighed.
“Did something happen?” Shock asked, sitting in the chair closest to Medusa.
“Something like that,” Medusa said wearily, “Actually, it’s something that’s been happening for a while. The thing is… we need your help.”
“What?” Shock asked quietly.
“The Reapers, Elder, and I,” Medusa answered, “have just finished a meeting. That’s kind of the reason we both look like crap. It’s not their fault, but their collective presence can just drain the life right out of you. Anyway, the news isn’t good.”
“What news?” Barrel asked, Kevin finished with, “What’s going on?”
Elder groaned a bit before speaking up, “It’s a long story. You need to understand that there is a lot going on at this time and I fear it is too much for just them, that is to say the Reapers and Medusa, to handle. One of these problems happened to affect you the last time we met.”
The four were silent; they had agreed that they would never talk about Vincent or what he had done ever again.
Seeming to understand this, Elder continued, “It has come to our knowledge that Vincent had been working for Oogie Boogie at the time of his betrayal.”
“Oogie!” The quartet jumped onto their feet, they had intended to bombard Elder with questions but one angry look from Medusa made them sit again.
“I had hoped that this day would never come,” Elder Gutknecht said wearily, rubbing the area of his skull where his eyebrow used to be, “That I would be the one who caused the end of the Boogie Man line. It looks, though, that I have no choice.”
“What do you mean Elder?” Shock said cautiously.
Elder sighed deeply and began, “You might not believe this, but there was a time, long, long ago… that I was the Boogie Man.”
“YOU!?! But you’re so nice and not-” Shock stammered
“Frightening? Evil? Psychotic?”
“I was going to say ‘not a jerk’, but those work too.”
Elder chuckled sadly, “I’m afraid my fifth-great-grandson hasn’t made the best impression. It really is a shame, Oogie had been a quiet child, you would have never suspected it of him to drive what was left of our name into the mud. You know, the Boogie Man used to be a name to be proud of. A title that had been respected for hundreds of years it was. I blame my second-great-grandson, Oogie’s great-grandfather; I knew what he did in Salem would put a curse on our family!”
“You mean… the trials…” Lock murmured.
“Were his doing!” Elder raised his voice to a level that they had never heard before, “The blood of those poor souls will forever be on our name because of him. My only consolation is that he burns in hell at this very moment!” The former Boogie Man angrily turned away from them for a moment, when he turned back, he was sullen again, “Oogie’s father took after him I’m afraid, but I’ll say something for that narrow sighted fool, he held up as much of what was left of our honor as he could. We might even have had a chance of redemption given some time. But… I suppose it was never meant to be.
“Now this all started when the Halloween Town was very different than the one you know now. More frightening, darker, more dangerous it was. Back then it was almost like an aristocracy of sorts. At the height of this order was the Pumpkin King. For decades the title of Boogie Man and the Pumpkin King went hand in hand because The Pumpkin King was always the scariest member of the Town and for decades The Boogie Man was the scariest nightmare. Until, the fateful day, when he first arrived.”
“Who?” Barrel asked.
“Jack Skellington. Came right out of no where, barely out of his teens. Lost, confused, and with a little ghost dog tagging along at his heels he didn’t remotely resemble the future Pumpkin King. You would have to talk to Jack personally to get the whole story, but from what I see in my glasses this is what happened. For some reason Jack felt threatened by the aristocracy of Halloween Town and tried to advocate for change. His attitude for his cause and his unfailing kindness captured many hearts and heads of in the town. Oogie’s father, however, liked the power that the social order gave him and tried to… humble Jack a little.”
“What happened?” Kevin asked from the edge of his seat.
“He tricked Jack out into the Mortal World, thinking that Jack would monumentally mess up in one way or another and that would be the end of his reputation. What he didn’t anticipate was that the whole plan would backfire. During his time in the Mortal World, Jack discovered that, if he put his mind to it, he could be wholly and truly terrifying. Jack traveled around, honing his skills before returning to Halloween Town a new nightmare.
“With his old reputation in tact and his newly developed scare tactics, the residents of Halloween Town realized that he may be more frightening than Oogie’s father was. In the end there was only one thing for it, a scare duel. Each contestant would choose a victim, bring them to Halloween Town, and attempt to scare them as much as they could, even to the point of death. Then the citizens of the town would decide a new king.”
“Jack, did he…” Shock said quietly
“No, he didn’t. My foolish descendant did though. He had chosen a grown man as his victim; the mortal man was dead within an hour. Jack however chose a young girl, about the age of your children Shock, and used a fraction of his power to scare her. The girl was quite odd; though she was scared she screamed in glee at the frightening images and ran with manic euphoria with the ghosts. She was the very one to compose the song of Halloween Town, a song sung with happiness to this day.
“When it came time to judge, it was my descendant’s corpse against Jack’s happy little singer. They were so taken with the girl’s joy in their town that they decided that it truly was time for change. Jack was crowned the new Pumpkin King, my descendants fell to shame, and the aristocracy fell from the minds of the town.
“For Oogie, things went from bad to worse in his family. His father withdrew, hardly speaking a word for days on end. His mother, oh that horrible creature. If there was ever a curse on our family it was that mother of his. She was the very definition of a curse. Smart, clever, beautiful, conniving, hypocritical, boastful, quick-tempered, and thoroughly evil; so naturally his father had fallen head over heels in love with her.
“Oogie’s mother didn’t like the fact that hers was not the most influential family anymore. Power and stature were very near and dear to what she thought was her heart. If she had the chance I think she would have traded her own son for life to return as she knew it. Soon after the duel she became dangerously unpredictable and she let loose with violent mood swings. One night, she just snapped.
“From what I have seen, she killed Oogie’s father first. In doing so she set fire to the house. Oogie had been hiding from her in a small room. It wasn’t long before she had him cornered. I don’t know how he escaped her; all I know is that she didn’t make it out of that house before it burned to the ground. Many believed that Oogie too died in that fire but in truth he had escaped our worlds all together.
“How?” Lock asked.
“He began ‘world jumping’, moving from one world to the next. Any old creature can do it but they would have to know how. I believe that Oogie had been born with the power to slip from one world to another.”
“Why didn’t he come back?” Shock asked.
“There was nothing much to come back to. Maybe the memory of what happened or the fear that his mother was still after him, I don’t know. The next time he appeared in Halloween Town he was much older, perhaps in his late twenties, looking beaten, drunken, and nearly dead. He took one look at the life that Jack had gained at the destruction of the life that used to be Oogie’s, that’s when he found enough strength to carry on. Even if his soul purpose for living was to destroy Jack Skellington. It soon was that Oogie lost his mortal body while trying to kill Jack. That should have been the end of it for any other creature, but as you know yourselves, some things refuse to die.”
“Is that why it was so easy to bring him back to life all the time?” Barrel asked.
“It’s not so much as ‘bringing to life’ as ‘changing form’. Tradition states that he can not truly die until he names an heir to the Boogie Man. So though his real body is gone he can still slip into other bodies. You are most familiar with his bug and burlap sack form, the easiest form you could do for him with what you had when you were younger. That is the nature of us calling you here. We believe that Oogie is building a new body, a real, mortal body.”
“T-that’s impossible,” Kevin stammered, he looked to Shock, “Isn’t it?”
Shock was apprehensive, “There are ways to make a temporary body, but if there’s a way to make a permanent one I’m sure Oogie would find it. I do know one thing, that he can’t be doing all of this without help. Oogie has an accomplice.”
“Right,” Medusa spoke up, “And not just any accomplice. Avoiding death and general chaos making aside, Oogie is jeopardizing the secrecy of our worlds. If it had been anyone who was half dead or more the reapers would have found him or her by now. We have strong reason to suspect that his new ally is fully human.”
“Human? If the accomplice is human, how much help could he get? If Oogie tells any secrets of our world the assistant will die.”
“There are humans who hold some kind of power in the Mortal World,” Elder stated, “Sometimes they can exist on the boundary of our worlds without any negative effects. How did it go again?
Elder stared strait into his glasses and began to recite:
A selected few who,
Look but don’t see
Hear but don’t listen
Know but don’t understand
Wonder but never question
Those who hold their lives
In their own hands.
They walk on the thin line
Between living and dying.
By caution or ignorance
They live in both worlds.
Until they choose one or
The world chooses them.
Elder finished and shook his head slightly, “Yes, that would work. A cursed human might be able to help him.”
Silence fell over the group. If this was true their whole world was at risk. Vincent had made it seem like he was working alone when the whole time he was working for Oogie. Why would Oogie target them first? Of all the questions running through her mind, there was one thing the Shock still didn’t understand.
“Why are the Reapers so involved in this?”
Medusa and Elder exchanged looks.
“The Reapers don’t like sharing their information,” Shock continued, “This isn’t the first time Oogie has been acting up. There has to be something bigger behind all this that you’re not telling us.”
Medusa looked to Elder for some kind of signal, when he nodded to her she said, “People aren’t dying. The ones chosen for your world are not arriving in the Hinterlands. You noticed that there were too few children in Halloween Town, and you were right, but there are also too few older citizens as well. It has been going on for some time, but only now has it grown into a bigger problem.”
“Modern science has allowed people to be saved from death more in this age than in any other age before,” Elder continued, “Machines are now keeping people alive long enough to heal themselves. This is good, yes, but has caused some… complications amongst the Reapers. Eventually they learned that if you left them alone long enough eventually the doctors and the families give up and turn the machines off. So the Reapers let those who got better go and took the ones that didn’t.
“A scientist of the human persuasion has developed a medical course for bringing back people from deep comas. Though he is still in the experimental stages he has had outstanding success and has gained a near limitless grant to continue his research. We were not concerned until he came across the Sleepers.”
“People chosen to come to Halloween Town that never arrived, they stayed in the Mortal World connected to the machines. The Reapers were willing to wait them out as well, until the scientist located one and attempted to apply his course to the Sleeper. It was the first time his method didn’t work, and he was furious. He became determined to make the method work on the Sleeper. Finding every Sleeper he could, he experimented and at last, he succeeded.”
“What happened then?”
“I’m not sure. That’s the most disturbing thing of all. Neither the Reapers nor I know what happens after the Sleepers awaken; they simply disappear from our view, which is why we need your help.”
“What could we do that you guys can’t?”
“Appear human, at least a little bit more than we can,” Medusa said, amused.
“What we need really need you to do is locate the remaining Sleepers, use that locket of yours to complete the process of death, return them to Halloween Town, and if possible find out where the other Sleepers have gone to. Do you accept?”
Heavy, solid silence.
Each member of the family had their own questions. How’s, Why’s, When’s, and Where’s floated through each of their minds. But it always came to one question and one answer that determined their fate. All eyes, even Lock’s, turned to Shock. Past events, each harrowing adventure that they had endured with her family made her look much older than the fifteen year old she was supposed to be, even starting to look older than she was. In truth she had been wondering about the aging thing a lot before being dragged into this mess. Just a couple hours ago she had been arguing with Lock about it in the safety of their own home before they had sat down for dinner with the rest of their family. Funny how fast things change.
Elder was still waiting for an answer.
“You want us to kill them,” Shock stated plainly, “I… I need to think about this. I’ll give you my answer as soon as I can, but right now I need to get home to my kids.”
Medusa nodded, “I understand. Come to us when you decide, take your time.”
The quartet rose and began to leave when Elder called for them to wait. Quickly as he could, Elder picked up a book, seemingly randomly, from a shelf and handed it to Shock.
“This might answer some questions you have. I hope it helps,” Elder said.
Shock thanked him and left with her family. They proceeded down the tower silently and quickly started down the path home. Barrel and Kevin fell back a little and began to talk quietly to each other. Leaving Lock and Shock with an uncomfortable silence. It was one of those moments when they had nothing to argue about and talking about anything else wouldn’t feel right. These moments were happening more often now and neither of the two was happy about it. Previously one of these moments would have ended with a kiss and they both would have gone to be by themselves for a while before arguing again.
It had been a good system, but recent... incidents had stopped them. Vincent’s madness had left them careful of each other. With the kids and their jobs they were often busy with one thing or another, there never seemed to be enough time just to talk about… anything. Currently Shock was worrying and Lock was concerned that Shock had to worry.
They were both looking straight ahead as they walked nearly shoulder to shoulder to the portal home. Lock, having no idea what to say or what to do to make her feel better, did the one thing that the little voice at the back of his head was screaming at him to do. With a subtle look behind his shoulder to make sure that Barrel and Kevin were still preoccupied in their conversation to notice, Lock closed the small distance between his hand and Shock’s.
Hand in hand for almost the entire way back, Shock had to admit to herself that she felt better now than she had in the past few hours. She had to remind herself to get back at him for this one someday.
In the quiet of the Mansion four children and a wolf-dog had decided that it was safer (and less scary) to sleep in one room. They had eventually decided on Marco’s because it had a lot of windows and support beams they could climb up if they needed to. Outside a half moon shone through the windows and onto the two sleeping figures. The four had decided to stay up all night and wait for everyone to get back.
CJ and Gisele made it through two whole hours before they started snoozing soundly into the pillows they had brought from their rooms. Klondike looked on approvingly, still awake and alert. Violet’s head was starting to dip dangerously close to sleeping when she remembered something. She got up and started to climb up to the beams using the built-in ladder in the major support beam.
“Hey Marco,” Violet said when she reached his spot in front of a window.
“I’m sorry that I got mad at you earlier. You know I get all crazy when we do a mission.”
“It’s alright; I know you were just worried that we’d get hurt.”
Both of them were quiet then. Marco looked out the window with determined focus, like he was waiting for something to happen any second. Something that he would miss if he even blinked.
“Are you O.K?”
“Do you think they’ll let me keep them?”
“The angels, when I die again, do you think they’ll let me keep my demon wings?” Marco slightly flapped the large spiked wings before curling them around his body like a blanket.
Violet thought for a second, “Good question, if not maybe they’ll let you keep one. Think of it, you’ll probably be the only person in heaven to have one of each wing.”
Marco smiled and Violet laughed.
“He’s done it again ladies and gents!” Violet says in the announcer voice she adopted from Barrel, “The king of changing the subject has once again dodged the real question.”
The grin on Marco’s face disappeared and he looked back out the window.
“You’re thinking about him again, aren’t you?” Marco thought about Charlie a lot since Shock had told him what she found out.
His demon wings twitched slightly and he nodded, “It’s not right. People don’t just drop off the face of the earth. They go somewhere, somewhere they can be found, somewhere I could look-”
Marco suddenly realized what he had said and stopped short, horrified.
Violet was stunned, “Marco… no. No, no, NO! That’s rule number one of the rules we’re not supposed to even think about breaking! The dead can not go back!”
“Shock did!” Marco countered, his usual passiveness slipping away, “She went back for an entire year! Why can’t I go back for a day or two?”
“Shock didn’t have demon wings and claws!” Violet said in comeback.
“I’ll go at night!” Marco snapped back.
“You wouldn’t last an hour up there alone!”
“I won’t be alone if everyone comes with me!”
“We can’t Marco! Shock told us not to and I’m going to listen to her.”
“Then I’ll go by myself,” Marco unfurled his wings and began to scramble down the beams.
“If you do I’ll tell Shock and she’ll make you stay.”
Marco went silent. He knew perfectly well that Violet would do that. Even more than that, he knew that Shock, one way or another, would find a way to make him stay. For the first time in his life he was angry that someone cared enough to stop him from doing something potentially dangerous. He was going to have to get used to this.
Before he could even think of something to say the two friends heard a low wine from below. Klondike was up and sniffing at the door. He let out an excited bark and began to wag his tail like a propeller. As the two rushed down they heard the familiar code being knocked on the door before it opened. Shock swept in quickly and looked around anxiously; catching sight of the children both sleeping and awake and a smile broke out on her face that made Marco forget about being angry.
Welcoming her home with a hug, he knew having someone care was much better than being alone.
Ok guys I need your opinion. Does my writing feel a little… off? I just feel that this fanfic is too different than what I wrote before. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Constructive reviews appreciated!