"Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot."
-Neil Gaiman, "The Sandman"
October 31st, 6:10 PM:
The house was dark except for the black-and-white flicker of the TV screen. Richard stared at it, passive, waiting. A voice wailed from the speakers:
"It's alive, it's moving! It's alive it's alive—it's ALIVE!"
Richard yawned and checked the time. Behind him, Dwight was going back to the liquor cabinet. "I'd go easy on that," Richard said.
The TV: "For the love of God, get a hold of yourself!"
Dwight's hands shook as he put the glass back. "I need to settle my nerves," he said. Thunder and lightning from the television punctuated his words.
"It'll all be over soon," Richard said. "And with nothing to show for it." Dwight looked surprised. Richard rolled his eyes. "I, for one, am not scared of Pierce's witchcraft," he said.
"But you read his thesis—"
"And that's why I'm not scared," Richard said.
The TV: "You two have it all arranged, haven't you? You think I'm an idiot, don't you?"
"He's either mad or thinks we are," said Richard. "Either way I'm only here so that there'll be a credible witness to this debacle."
Dwight shook his head. "It's a dangerous night for skeptics," he said.
"Comes with the territory," said Richard. And he laughed.
"Anyone can see with half an eye that there's something wrong. And I've got two eyes. Pretty good ones."
Dwight was about to say more, but a voice from down the hall interrupted them: "It's time." Richard looked out the window; the sun had just gone down. Shrugging, he followed Dwight. The den was empty of all furnishings except a single thick cushion on the floor, a set of framed movie posters on the wall, a police scanner on an end table near the window, and the sensory-deprivation tank, from which Pierce had just emerged, dripping wet. Dwight took up his post at the scanner, pen and notebook ready. Richard leaned on the doorframe, polishing his nails on the breast of his suit.
"Well professor," he said, "Dwight is all worked up about your hocus-pocus routine."
"And you're not, I assume?" Pierce said, fixing his glasses to his face as he toweled himself off.
"Well I expect a fine time watching you make a spectacle of yourself," Richard said. "But that's all I expect."
Pierce gave him a sideways smile. "That's what I like about you Richard: You're a narrow, ignorant, fool. In other words, the ideal witness for this experiment. Once you're convinced, everyone else will have to acknowledge the reality of what's happened."
Pierce sat cross-legged on the cushion. Dwight turned on the police scanner. Richard stifled a yawn. He looked at the posters on the wall. "So these are your 'foci,' are they?"
"Indeed," said Pierce.
"And why these images, exactly?"
"Well, it is Halloween," said Pierce. Richard scoffed again. Pierce ignored him. He closed his eyes. "Are we ready to begin?" he said. Dwight nodded. "Very well. I will begin."
Valerie put her feet up on the table. It was getting dark outside, but it wasn't time to go yet, so she leaned into the phone, flipping between TV channels. "I can still make the party," she said, "I just have to wait until Colin is asleep."
"Colin?" Gavin said.
"My brother. He was supposed to be trick-or-treating tonight but he got grounded, so Mom and Dad said I have to stick around for a few hours to keep an eye on things. It's like being in high school all over again." She rolled her eyes. "I think he's upstairs watching monster movies now." She took the phone away from her ear, looking around, making sure she was really alone, then settled back down. "So what are you wearing?" she said.
"You heard me. You're not in your costume yet, right? So what are you wearing?"
"You really want to hear about it?"
"Nah. I'd rather hear about your big dick."
"It is big, right?" Valerie said. She unbuttoned the front of her pants, sliding a hand down.
"Sure," said Gavin, "it's big. If you want it to be."
"It better be big if you're expecting to get it sucked tonight," she said, running a finger up and down herself.
"Don't worry, it's a nice thick one," Gavin said. His voice sounded hushed on the other end of the line and she wondered who was around that he didn't want them to hear.
"Oh? I like it thick baby. You'd better not be bullshitting me."
"What do you like to do with this thick dick?" Gavin whispered.
"I'd stick it right up my tight little ass is what I'd do with it." She slid two fingers up and down the length of her slit.
"You like it like that?" he says.
"Baby you know I do." She felt her outer lips begin to swell, and a flush runs over her body.
"You oughta feel my nice big head and thick shaft sliding right between those tight cheeks."
"I don't want you to slide it, I want you to slam it," Valerie said, putting one finger up inside herself and testing the wetness.
"You like it rough?"
"Rough's the only way I know how." She punctuated her comment by shoving two fingers in deep, all the way down to the last knuckle, grunting and jumping a little in her seat as she did. She slid all the way down the couch, splaying her legs.
"You like to think about me sitting up behind you, pounding away on your ass, the sound of my balls slapping against your cheeks as my cock pumps in and out, in and out?"
"Ohhhhh yeah," she moaned.
"Does that make you wet?"
"You have a finger in yourself?"
She complied, placing one fingertip on her tongue. "Tastes good, baby," she said.
"Does my voice make you wet?"
"Always." She began rubbing her clit.
"Does it get you off?"
"In the worst kinda way."
"What gets you off the hardest?"
"When you take your big thick cock and you put it in my—"
But Gavin would never know where he was supposed to put it, because at that moment the sound of screams came down the stairs. Valerie jumped in her seat and, suddenly guilty, fastened her pants, dropped the phone, and ran up the steps two at a time. She burst into Colin's room, dark except for the dull light of the TV. He sat in his pajamas, hugging his knees, staring in white-faced shock.
"What is it?" Valerie said. "What's wrong?"
"The monster!" Colin said. Valerie looked at the TV screen. The speakers blared:
"You look worried, is anything wrong?"
"No, no, forget my foolishness, there's nothing the matter..."
She rounded on her brother.
"Colin, that's not funny," she said. "You scared the shit out of me. If you go screaming your head off over nothing then sometime when you're really hurt—"
"Not there!" Colin said, "Not the monster on the TV, that one!"
He was pointing behind her.
A floorboard creaked. The back of Valerie's neck prickled.
"Henry, I'm afraid, terribly afraid! Something is going to happen, I feel it, I can't get it out of my mind!"
Valerie turned around; in the dark corner of the room, a tall, ungainly shape loomed. It stared at her. She felt herself go pale. She looked at the figure on the TV screen, then, slowly, she turned back to the man in the corner. They were identical: the stitched gray flesh, the brooding eyes, the heavy brow, and those huge hands. Back and forth she looked, back and forth, so many times it seemed she couldn't stop.
And only when the monster took a staggering step forward did she think to scream.
Fletcher's belt was caught; he pulled it as hard as he could but then stopped, reminding himself that the new budget was in and he would have to replace it if broke. Instead he let Margaret do it, her thin fingers untangling the buckle and pushing it aside, then sliding his zipper down and slipping in. She rubbed the outline of his cock through the fabric of his underwear. "How's he doing tonight?" she said, smiling.
"Lonely and unappreciated," said Fletcher. He looked over his shoulder; they were on the back porch and there was not much cover from the yard, but it was dark and the coast was clear. If they were fast enough, there shouldn't be any problems...
"Poor guy," Margaret said, pulling Fletcher's cock out and blowing on it. He jumped and she giggled. "You poor, poor thing, having to work on Halloween and no time for fun?"
"A little time...but we'd better hurry. If I get a call..."
"Don't try to rush a good thing, baby," she said, snaking her tongue along the underside of his shaft. Fletcher put his back against the wall and dragged his fingers through her hair; it was soft, and her mouth was hot, and she kissed her way down one side of him and up the other, stopping to leave pillowy kisses right on the ridge of his head. Now this, he thought, is the life. She teased the tip with her tongue, flicking it, watching it bounce; in the yellow porch light he saw his cock gleam, wet with her saliva. She looked at it with an appraising eye.
"Looks good tonight," she said. "It's making me wet. I'm going to have to go in and change these pants before the party..."
Damn, thought Fletcher, if she wants to fuck we'll be here all night. He grabbed her by the back of the head and, walking the fine line between asking and insisting, pushed her down again. To his relief, she laughed and cooperated. Wrapping her lips around him, she pulled him in one inch at a time, her mouth making wet noises all the way. He saw, distinctly despite the inadequate illumination, a smudge of her lipstick on the blue-black fabric of his pants as she reached the base of him. That could get him in trouble later...but no time to worry about it now, he thought, as the pressure from her sucking mouth was finally giving him that live-wire jolt that ran down the center of his shaft, coiled up around his balls, and then jumped straight up into the pit of his stomach as the pressure began to build up, stoked by the feeling of cherry lip gloss against his naked skin. He started to push with his hips, bucking, fucking her wet, hot mouth; she grunted around him, opening her eyes just long enough to wink and then pursing her lips even tighter, sucking until he was shaking all over and just about to get into the groove of—
The radio crackled: "1042, this is dispatch, come in 1042."
"Fuck!" said Fletcher, so startled that he hit his head against the wall. Skull throbbing, he grabbed the com.
"Dispatch, this is 1042," he said, trying to keep his voice level despite the pain in his head and the still-insistent pressure of Margaret's mouth below.
"1042, I'm getting a really weird report here about...are you okay?"
"Yeah, why?" She was swirling her tongue in that circle thing that he liked, and his breath caught.
"Because your breathing sounds like an obscene caller. Jesus, Fletcher, you're not getting your dick sucked on the clock again, are you?"
"What? No!" He pulled away; Margaret pouted. He zipped up, careful not to catch himself. "It's just a little winded from...look, what's the call?" With one hand he held the com while he made apologetic signals to Margaret with the other "I'll be back, I'll be back later,' he whispered, covering the radio. On his way back to the cruiser he checked to make sure he hadn't left anything behind: belt, keys, badge, and gun. Last month he dropped his pepper spray in her living room and caught hell for losing it.
Fletcher got into the cruiser and started it, pulling onto Lincoln Avenue, listening to the com. He frowned. "Um, can you repeat that, dispatch? What's the complaint?"
"There's a mummy at the museum," said the voice on the com, obviously struggling to maintain a straight face.
Fletcher rolled his eyes. "Okay, I'll bite: Why does that warrant a call, dispatch?"
"Because they're not supposed to have one," answered the com.
I can't believe I got called away for this bullshit, thought Fletcher. He pulled the cruiser to a stop, yellow headlights washing over the shrubs and trees of the nearby park.
"We got a call from the staff saying an antique sarcophagus and an intact mummy that aren't part of any exhibit and aren't listed in their catalog showed up in one of the galleries while they were closing. And then—now pay attention, this is the important part—as they were trying to figure out what to do about it, the mummy—"
"Got up and walked away?"
"Oh, you've heard this one before?" Dispatch was now clearly losing the straight-face battle. Fletcher rolled his eyes again.
"I'll admit, as far as Halloween pranks go, that's pretty good," he said.
"Yeah, well, they don't think it's funny. They sounded real upset about it when they called. It's right in your neighborhood, so could you just keep an eye out for...well, anything, while you're checking the park?"
Fletcher sighed. "Roger that, dispatch, but everything out here is as quiet as a..." He stopped. "Oh you have got to be fucking kidding me."
Fletcher squinted through the windshield, hoping that what he was seeing was some kind of mirage. But no, there it was as plain as day: an awkward, gangly figure swathed in rotten bandages stumbling across the road right in front of him. He watched the "mummy" shamble and trip over its own feet as it crossed both lanes and traipsed off into the tall grass. He watched it the whole way, at first too dumbstruck to pursue. Please tell me I don't seriously have to do this, Fletcher thought, but even as he did he sighed and thumbed the com again. "Dispatch, this is 1042, I have a suspect in sight that, um, matches the description for the museum break-in."
A pause on the other end. Then: "Repeat that, 1042? Do you mean to say you've found your mummy?"
"Fuck off, dispatch."
Fletcher hung the com up and, reminding himself that a pension was only ten years away, got out of the car. "Hey!" he said. The mummy was still visible but disappearing fast into the trees. "Hey you! You with the...just hold up." The retreating figure stopped. "Police," Fletcher said. "Step out where I can see you, please." The beam of his flashlight bounced between the tree trunks, singling out the suspect. The mummy took pained steps back toward the road. "Hurry it up buddy, we don't have all night."
Now that the suspect was closer Fletcher had to admire the detail on the costume, though the gauze was a bit of a mess after the cross-country trek through the park. The exposed face was particularly startling and he had to check himself to avoid flinching. "That's far enough," he said, trying to keep the light in the suspect's eyes (where the hell were the suspect's eyes?) "Hands where I can see them. Have you been drinking tonight? Have you taken anything?" The suspect kept walking, dragging one leg. "Buddy, I said that's far enough. Hey. Hey, back the fuck off!"
Fletcher grabbed for his gun but the grip slid between his sweaty fingers and the suspect, putting on a sudden burst of speed, leapt forward, wrapping its cold, brittle hands around his throat and squeezing. Fletcher fell back and the mummy pushed him against the side of the car. The flashlight dropped and rolled away, and Fletcher put both hands up to try to break the choke. In the moonlight he saw the brittle flesh stretched tight over the mummy's skull, with those black eyes staring, unblinking, into his. Its jaw moved up and down and a muffled, strained sound like a sob came out. Fletcher struggled, adrenaline spiking even as the pressure on his windpipe made his vision blur.
And then, in a moment, it was over; the mummy dropped Fletcher and took off again, vanishing into the trees. Fletcher hit the asphalt, sucking air into his aching lungs for a few seconds and then struggling back into the car. He grabbed the com with both hands. "Dispatch," he said, his voice hoarse, "dispatch, this is 1042. I'm reporting...look, this is serious, don't laugh when I tell you this..."
Mary fit the key into the old lock with some difficulty; the back door always stuck. She flipped the light switch but the service corridor remained dark. She sighed. This damn place was going to pieces. She fumbled with the flashlight in the service box; it would only take her a minute to retrieve her forgotten purse and leave.
But then she heard it: music. Not a radio, either, it was distinctly the sound of someone playing in the audition room. It sounded like a piano? No, she corrected herself, it was the pipe organ. Curious, she made her way down the hall. The ghost-beam of her flashlight passed over a stack of packing crates, all labeled:
"Property, SF War Memorial Opera House."
The door to the audition room squealed on its hinges. Inside it was black and gloomy except for the light of a few flickering candles (who brought those in here?). Mary saw someone hunched over the organ, shoulders rising and falling with the effort of mad playing, notes wheeling by one after the other in a frenzied storm that swirled around her. The player, whoever he was, took no notice of Mary's entrance. He was, for some reason, wearing a shapeless black cape that obscured his silhouette. Mary stood dazed for a moment, overwhelmed by the music; it was horrifying, but captivating. Minutes passed before she came to herself and realized what was really going on. Working up her courage, she spoke as loudly as she could:
The player stopped, frozen in mid-note. The candles guttered in an anomalous draft. Mary's mouth went dry, but she spoke up again: "Excuse me, whoever you are, but you're not supposed to be here. And that's not your property. I don't want to have to call the police, but if you don't leave immediately—"
The man stood. He ran his fingers over the instrument's keys one last time, caressing them. Then he turned; Mary's breath left her. He was a tall man, and thin, and dressed in what was once probably an elegant tuxedo but was now faded, stained, rotting. His wore silken gloves and his cape hung to his knees, and on his face was a polished white mask with sad, profound eyes behind it. He made a little bow, mock politeness, as he stepped away from the organ. Mary felt a chill, but shook it off.
"Very funny," she said. The intruder said nothing. "Well? Come on, move it. You've had your fun and you're lucky I haven't called the cops yet. Why don't you—"
She stopped. The stranger was not moving. He still had not blinked. His mask was expressionless, but there was something about his eyes...
She couldn't keep her voice from trembling now: "I'm warning you," she said. "I'm...I'm armed. I'm giving you until the count of three." She swallowed hard around the words. "One..."
The stranger adjusted his gloves.
He smoothed the lines of his cape.
He shook his head.
"Fine," said Mary.
Almost before she knew what she was doing, she reached out and snatched his mask off. The stranger turned away, covering his face with his hands, crying out. Mary backed off, still holding the white mask, mildly horrified at what she'd done. Now she really was ready to run away, but now it was too late, because the stranger turned back around. He looked at her. She saw his face.
Warren sat on his toolbox, leaning against the rear window while Evelyn got on her knees in the truck bed, blonde braid bobbing with the up-and-down motion of her head. She held his stiff cock with one hand and gripped his thigh through the fabric of his jeans with the other, slurping the head wetly, forming her lips into a perfect O and sucking so hard that it made a popping noise whenever she took it out. Behind them, the lights of the entire city were spread out beyond the edge of the cliff.