"A Void City Halloween" is a six part short story that I've been serializing across the internet in my own funky version of a literary trick or treat. It's almost at an end. If you haven’t been following along, you’ll want to start at the beginning of the trick or treat trail:
Part 1 (at Paranormal Haven)
Part 2 (at Pocket After Dark)
Part 3 (over at The League of Reluctant Adults)
Part 4 (at Bitten by Books)
Part 5 (at Amberkatze's Book Blog)
Part 6 (below)
I have no idea how many readers will follow the whole crazy trail of mayhem, but if you've made it all the way back to Write the Fantastic, then you totally deserve to read the ending!
It's Halloween in Void City and the freaks really do come out at night...
Greta's goopified Mindy costume has been abandoned in favor of Slave Leia. Tabitha has managed to save her Wonder Woman costume against all odds. Eric's Mork costume is a goner, leaving him to battle au natural as the uber vamp. And Talbot... is still talking on his cell phone with no interest whatsoever in joining the battle at all. Fang has munched a random trick-or-treater or two, and Magbidion is on the way. So... without further ado: The Grand Finale (or Grand Guignol even).
A Void City Halloween - Part 6
©J. F. Lewis
Eric leaps into the air, wings spread. He sails overhead and the view is enough to give a girl ideas. It's not as if Eric is small, but the uber vamp... is getting struck by purple lightning. The creepy mage with bad teeth and worse clothes cackles as his evil magic plays along Eric's obsidian skin, revealing the uber vamp’s inhuman bone structure.
"Dad!" Greta charges too and the sizzling smell of burning meat joins the more ashy odor of cooking uber vamp.
Creepo the Magnificent holds father and daughter at bay, the strands of twisting energy turning with violent unpredictability. Like a victim of Sith lightning, Eric is forced to the ground, and is barely managing to stay on his feet, while Greta curls up in a little ball on the asphalt. I look at Eric's undead muscle car.
Fang's engine revs, but a cloud of green smoke vents out of his exhaust pipe in a thick plume. As I watch, his headlights flicker and I hear his engine sputter. I guess the pumpkins he ate disagree with him.
"Talbot?" I spy him perched on the edge of the rooftop and he waves, enjoying the show. I've never understood how he picks his fights, but it's clear Talbot hasn't chosen to participate in this one. "You're seriously not helping?"
"If a demon shows up," he calls back, "I promise to take care of it. Besides, you don't seem to need my help. The pumpkins are down and that mage only has two hands..."
"You're the only person here wearing a one-piece battle-swimsuit and matching boots, Wonder Woman."
"I swear… I hate it when I have to do everything myself." I hope he falls off the damn roof.
I hear Eric call me a filthy name when I walk away from the fight in the street and leap up onto the roof to crouch next to Talbot.
"Hey," his brow is furrowed in that same way all men get when they don't understand a woman's actions. Even though he's a mouser, he gets that same look. I almost laugh.
"Hey, yourself." I settle in. "When Eric said that whole bippity boppity thing, do you think he was making a crack about gay mages or-?"
"No," Talbot says, still suspicious. "He was just being crude. Eric doesn't care what people do as long as…" he glances back at Eric in a way that makes me believe Talbot's intentions toward my future husband are not entirely honorable. That makes it easier for me to rise to a crouch, grab Talbot by the arm, rotate in place like I'm hurling a discus, and throw him at the bad guy.
"Only Eric gets to do that!" he yells, but he's transforming even then. While Eric's combat mode makes me want to bed him, Talbot's makes me wish for a plush chibi version. White light washes over his suit and skin, leaving sable colored fur in its wake and metallic sliver claws at the tips of his paw-like fingers. He sports a glowing silver mane and brilliantly illuminated star emerald eyes.
"I'm not getting electrocuted in these boots, Talbot!"
I was furious when Tabitha walked away from the fight, but deep down, I knew there was no way she was going to risk those boots. She loves those boots and wouldn't even consider wearing them in the bedroom until after... never mind. TMI. I think Hobo Mage's energy blasts are futzing with my brain.
Talbot soars through the air in a perfect arc. Tabitha apparently has better aim than I do, not that I've actually practiced throwing Talbot at things. I’ve only thrown him once really, but no one will let me forget it.
Her plan is simple, but a good one. Unfortunately, it's predicated on the idea that the mage can only generate two streams of agonizing purple lightning at once. Turns out, that's not the case. A new beam streams from the mage's eyes, catching Talbot in midair and slamming him backward into the wall of the dance club below Tabitha’s position on the roof.
The sound of the impact shows up as a synesthesic blast of greens and yellows that sets my whole visual reality wobbling. Vertigo rears its ugly head, only the world doesn't start spinning, it goes ass over tea kettle. Marilyn's scent, the heady combination of smoke and sex fills my nostrils. The waves of pain flip and become the feel of her touch. I lost Marilyn in an explosion at the Demon Heart, when it was still a strip club. She's the love of my life and my death. No one gets to use her memory like this!
I hate turning into my revenant form. It feels like my body is coming apart when I go all ghostly. The world becomes a cold place rendered in watercolor visuals. But maybe this mage's magic freaky purple lightning doesn’t work on ghosts. I let go of my body and the cold snap makes my teeth chatter even though they aren't physical anymore. The lack of spinning knocks me down flat, but it fades almost instantly. After all, my equilibrium isn't handled by my inner ear anymore. A line of ice spreads out from me, and frost covers the road… a sign that, though a spectral presence, I can still touch the physical realm.
"Oh-ho!" The mage is smiling. In the spirit realm, he and Talbot are the only two creatures that aren't blurred. They are both rendered with crystal clarity, but while Talbot's form is the same here as when seen with physical eyes, the mage’s is not. Seen with my spirit eyes, he wears white robes adorned with unfamiliar symbols and markings. His hair braids are even more elaborate, decorated with pins and combs of jade and gold and ivory. "My eyes see in many wavelengths, little Emperor. You cannot hide from me."
A hero would ask who he is or what he wants, but that's the thing about me. I don't care. I want him dead and gone. If he has some puppet masters pulling his strings, they'll get the message when I kill him and decide to leave me alone- or maybe they'll try again and again until eventually I've killed enough of their goons that they have to confront me themselves. I'll add their deaths to the thousands already on my tally.
I see the beam begin to change, turning blue as if he's focusing it to better affect ghost me. Screw that! I go physical, manifest my clothes. I'm not paying attention, so instead of my burned up Mork from Ork outfit, I get my default "Welcome to the Void" t-shirt, leather belt, jeans, and combat boots.
He adjusts again, slowing my progress, so I switch too, feeling my hunger grow with each transition, but not worrying about it enough to stop. I'm gonna beat this asshole, even if I go on a blood-bath rampage after. It's all in the clothes. Recreating them over and over again uses up blood, but I don’t have enough concentration remaining to focus on not having any.
"Don't you want to know which one of them sent me?"
"Which one of whom?" I ask before I catch myself.
"So you are curious." He sounds pleased with the idea of my curiosity. "Which one of the others."
"Other what?" I ask, trying to buy time before swapping into ghost-mode again. I managing to move forward. I’m almost to the building upon which he is standing.
"So... you're an assassin?" I ask.
"No. I'm a test."
"What? Like a stress test? A pregnancy test? Couldn't they have me fill out a questionnaire online?"
He opens his mouth to answer and then I see Magbidion. He's a seedy-looking reed-thin small-time magician with greasy hair, but he's my seedy-looking reed-thin small-time magician with greasy hair. I don't why, but I'm not surprised at all that he's dressed as the protagonist from that really cool mage detective show that was all too briefly on the Sci Fi Channel, back when it was the Sci Fi Channel- although Mags is carrying a gun instead of a wand or a pet skull. He rises up over the rooftop behind my attacker and fire three rounds from my service revolver.
The bullets don't get him. Hobo Mage stops them in the air with a wave of his hand. I don't get him either. Neither does Talbot. The two of us are still trying to get to him when Slave Leia Greta rockets past in the night and sinks her fangs into Mage Boy's throat. As he vanishes in a puff of pink smoke, Greta bites deep into his aorta. Her throat, neck, and bosom are slick with his blood. She's even holding...
"I got his nose!" She giggles like a school girl and waggles it at me between her fingers like a kid might do with her own thumb. I can't help but laugh.
He won’t be back tonight. If he comes back at all, he’ll probably have to wear a mask like that phantom in the Paris opera house. Maybe he already found out whatever his bosses wanted him to find out about me. Hard to say. We all gather together in the road, limping, bloody, and mangled, with the notable exception of Tabitha, whose costume is immaculate. Captain Stacey meets us, hands me back my check, and walks away. I guess that’s his way of apologizing for not helping out, not that I ever expected his assistance in the first place.
"Can we go home now?" I ask, looking at Greta.
"Yes, please," Tabitha adds with a nod.
We all pile into Fang, who takes off with a putrid green backfire. By the time we get back to the Demon Heart, though, Fang is running smoothly again. Mags promises to give him a thorough once over in the morning to make sure he has no further problems resulting from the whole Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater bit. My thralls are all waiting for me when I walk into the bowling alley. I thump Talbot in the shoulder and say, "Time in." Greta scowls.
"Time in," Talbot agrees.
Standing in front of me are six very attractive women… and every last one of them is dressed as Sexy Big Bird.
"Dad!" Greta says in mock objection. "Your supposedly impartial judge cheated."
"I did indeed." Talbot bows. "But I only did it to prove a point."
"What point?" I ask.
"That this is a short story. In the novels, you never get off this easy."
"Novels?" I ask. "Short stories? What the hell are you talking about?"
"Don't worry about it Eric." Talbot turns and waves as if there is an unseen audience watching in the distance. "Have a Happy Halloween, everybody."
"Are we on a webcam or something?" Greta asks. "Because vampires don't show up on film."
"You know how cats can see things other beings can't?" Talbot looks at her expectantly before answering his own question. "So can mousers." And with that, he walks out of the Demon Heart, whistling to himself.
"Dad?" Greta asks.
I shake my head. "No clue, but I know what Mork might say."
Thanks for reading "A Void City Halloween" and I hope you'll indulge me my shameless breaking of the fourth wall at the end. If you enjoyed the story, you'll probably enjoy the books STAKED (which is available as a Free Read over at Pocket After Dark for another week or two) and ReVAMPED, which has a promo chapter available over there as well. Fans of Greta should be especially sure to pre-order CROSSED. It's coming out in mass market paperback January 25th, 2011. The first two books are already available in that format and in ebook format as well.
If you want more free fiction, check out "For Want of Chocolate" which I've posted (all in one place) at Pocket After Dark. Any comments or questions are welcome. In particular, I'm curious to know: If you were trick or treating vampire style, what target costume would you call? Also, if you had to go trick or treating with one of the Void City gang, who might you most want to go with?
J.F. (Jeremy) Lewis