“Andi, I got an email about this event in Toronto. I was thinking, why don’t we all go, hmm?” Kaede asks from his laptop on the couch across from me in the library.
“What event is it?” I ask without looking up from the book I’m reading; The 1600th century, from a Mage’s Perspective. The spine is cracked from not being opened in a century… or six.
“Legends of Horror at Casa Loma,” Kaede grins mischievously. “We should bring the girls, consider it a double date. What do you say?”
I finally look up with a skeptical look in my eyes. “You really think the girls will like a haunted house event?” I ask, doubtful.
Kaede shrugs. “Why not? This place is practically haunted. It can’t be that different. Besides, it’d be a normal, real girl experience for Kat, wouldn’t you say?” He tries to convince me.
“I guess…” I look back down at the book, distracted.
“Come on, Andi! You know it’d be great! How much do you wanna bet she’ll jump into your arms screaming! You can’t tell me you don’t like the idea of her clinging to you in fright, begging for her Mr. Hero to protect her.” He leers at me.
I can’t deny that sounds nice, but I get the smallest of inklings that’s not how it will end up. “What if she doesn’t scare easy? She’s seen some pretty scary things in her life already. Take Logan, for example.” I say with a hint of distaste in my mouth.
“True that. I mean, he’s one scary dude. But you don’t know what she’s like around a bunch of zombies and ghouls.” He argues
“Actually… She very nearly single-handedly destroyed an undead army in Camelot. I think she wouldn’t find what we find scary.”
“Why are you being like this man? It’s not like she’ll burn the place down. She’s got control now. She’s got you. What are you worried about?” He whines.
I look at him over the edge of my book, reluctant to tell him what I really think. I can tell he really wants to go. Our eyes meet and he pouts like a little kid, pressing his hands together, begging me to consider it. “Fine,” I sigh, giving in. “I’ll join you on this double date. You going to bring Caroline? You know she hates those things.”
“Totally, man. I can’t wait to catch her face of fright on camera this year. I have a collection you see,” he taps on his laptop and spins it around to show me. A folder pops up filled with images of Caroline screaming in fear of something unseen.
“That’s… messed up, Kae. She’s going to kill you if she finds that out,” I raise a brow.
“I know right? That’s what’s so exciting about this. I can’t wait to get the golden shot; the one that will make this collection complete! The one where she finally runs screaming into my arms begging me to save her,” he looks like he’s envisioning the dream as he closes his eyes, tilting his head up to the ceiling.
“Fat chance,” I smirk. Now that Kat’s been training with her, I have a feeling she’ll just blast them with water. Still, it might be funny.
Kaede frowns. “Why do you say that? Wouldn’t it be great if they came running to us? Heck, you got a name like Mr. Hero. You’re already Kat’s hero. I must be the equivalent for Caroline.”
I roll my eyes. “That’s wishful thinking, but I won’t hurt your pride. I’m sure Car will find a way to depend on you… like a hero,” I say sarcastically.
Kaede grins smugly. “You bet there is, and this is my chance,” he pulls out his phone and stares at it for a while as I go back to my book. It’s not long before he sets it down, rapping his fingers together like the evil villain in Inspector Gadget. “I texted the girls. We’re going to Casa Looooooma,” he says spookily. “Tonight!”
“Oh brother,” I mumble under my breath.
“Welcome to Casa Loma!” Kaede sings as we file out of the Guild door and into the dark street outside of the lower gardens of the Castle mansion. I spy the eerie looking castle towers lit with coloured lights through the trees.
“Do we have tickets?” Caroline asks behind me, leaning over Kaede’s shoulder.
“Of course. I bought them online. All I have to do is show my phone,” he shakes his android in front of her face.
“So where’s the entrance?” I ask, turning from the garden to face them.
“I’m gonna guess over there,” Kat points down the street to a large gate with tall stone pillars on either side. There’s a small line-up of people on the sidewalk outside it.
Kaede spins excitedly. “Comm’n! Let’s go!” he starts running for the line. Caroline rolls her eyes and follows after him at a slower pace.
I step up beside Kat, taking her hand in mine with a smile. “Hope you’re not too scared.” I hum.
“Scared of people in masks?” she asks skeptically. “Not particularly.”
I chuckle. “Well, even if you do get scared. Don’t worry…” I try to sound confident. “I’ll be right beside you.” We stop in the line and wait as the guys in black hoodies and blank white masks check the tickets.
Kat scoffs. “If I get scared, it’s not me who should worry.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Oh? Have you ever seen a haunted house before?” I smirk.
“No, but I’ve seen plenty of real monsters,” she muses, looking up at the castle with curiosity. “I doubt they have any of those here, so what do I have to be afraid of?”
I sigh, relieved. “Yea, I guess you’re right,” I roll my lips a little nervously. The last time I went to one… well… I try to push that memory away. I don’t want her to know.
Finally, it’s our turn. Kaede flashes his phone and the staff person scans our tickets. “Time for a scare! Hope you brought your extra underwear!” he jests. “This year’s theme, Legends of Horror! We got the classics, like Mike Myers and Frankenstein! Freaky man!”
“Wait… Mike Myers? That movie’s…. terrifying. The guy never dies!” Caroline whines.
“Don’t you worry, Car. I know the trick. If he comes for you, count on me,” he smiles, jabbing a thumb against his chest.
I turn as Kat snorts quietly, biting her lip. “What is it?” I ask curiously.
She glances between Kaede and I, eyebrow raised. She lowers her voice so they don’t hear. “Uh… The idea of Kaede defeating an unkillable monster.”
I chuckle. “Yea, it’s unbelievable.”
Kaede pouts, puffing up his chest. “I’ve seen all the movies. Even the new one! I know how to kill an unkillable monster. All the clues are in the movie. You just don’t see it. Everyone’s just too distracted to notice.”
“Just make sure you go first then,” Caroline says shakily.
Kat shrugs, walking past them into the dark gardens. “What’s there to worry about? After all, everything burns,” she hums as she approaches an overturned bus by the steps leading up to through the garden. There’s a green spotlight, illuminating a woman in a cat outfit, acting like a cat on all fours. She hisses at Kat as she walks right by.
“Kat… they’re just actors. We won’t be burning anything,” I call from behind. I wish she didn’t run up ahead… I hate being last. That’s the worst position. Things chase you in last place.
“I didn’t say I was going to do anything,” she pauses at the top of the first set of steps. As she turns back to look at us, her gaze wanders to the tree on the left side of the steps. She doesn’t react but stares at it with mild curiosity.
I look at the tree, a little worried, but I can’t see anything yet. Kaede catches up with Caroline close behind. As I walk past the tree, a little tensely, something moves. Caroline and I both jump, screaming as a vampire startles us from the shadows.
Kat snickers, raising her brows at me with a smirk. “You okay?”
I laugh nervously. “Totally. That was all an act,” I grin. Caroline glares at me.
“Not funny, Andrei!” she punches my arm, stomping off after Kaede. I rub my arm, trying to calm my racing heart.
“So funny,” I say. Kat offers her hand to me, looking unconvinced. “What? It’s true. I only wanted to scare Car,” I try to assure her. I try not to squeeze her hand too tightly.
“If you say so,” she giggles, pulling my hand up to kiss the back of it as she leads me up the next flight of stairs.
Up ahead I see movement and watch as a stone coffin pops open and a fake skeleton jumps out. I sigh quietly. At least that wasn’t too scary. On the other side, I see a robotic skeleton gravedigger whose shovel moves as he ‘digs’ a grave. Weaving through the trees are a few goblin-looking things. Their makeup is so detailed, they look pretty real. I have to remind myself they’re actors and not actual goblins. The strange colourful lighting definitely sets the mood, putting me on edge.
We wind through the garden along the paved path till we reach a turning point. I stare at the random storage locker, like something you’d see in an office. It’s rusty and it starts to rock back and forth, male screaming coming from inside. I subtly squeeze Kat’s hand as a realistic looking zombie pops out.
I flinch with a chuckle. “Heh, these things, they sure look real, eh?”
Kaede smiles smugly. “That’s the point, Andi. It wouldn’t be scary if they weren’t.”
Caroline rolls her eyes again and I turn back around, looking back down the path. The stairs weave on through the dead looking garden and we come to another break and a turn in the pathway. I’m starting to feel a little disoriented.
There’s a gate with a bunch of realistic-looking zombies on the other side. The gates rattle as they moan like they’re trying to break through. I honestly have a hard time figuring out if they’re actors or robots in this lighting. When I manage to tear my eyes away, the stairs leading further up seem steeper. The castle is right above us, but in between, hanging in rows about the stairs are a bunch of skeletons. Not all of them are complete, and they hang low enough that we have to move them out of the way to walk up.
Kaede and Caroline walk ahead of us. As Kaede swats one of the skeleton legs out of the way, it swings back and the foot hits me in the nose. Thankfully, it’s only plastic… I stumble back, regardless.
At the top, the path curves around a fenced off area. At the opening, a person dressed in black with a white mask stands. They wave for us to stop. The path continues to the right, back down and further into the gardens. To the left, however, is something else entirely.
It looks to be maybe the servants quarters, or maybe a garden shed from when the castle was in use. Only now, above the door is a window with a devil looking down at us. On the left side of the doorway is a group of skeletons, carrying a casket. On the right is an old car from the early 19th century with what looks like dead bodies inside.
The staff member eventually waves for us to go into the building through a door that is covered by thick black drapes, the inside is even darker than outside. There’s fog in here, making the cramped rooms even eerier. It appears to be laid out like a house. We pass through a living room with some fake body parts, a mirror on the wall that changes as you walk past, and the echoes of screams up ahead.
I seriously doubt Kaede’s plan to get the girls scared is working. Kat seems to just walk through the rooms unphased as I get the jitters from every little movement. I look ahead to Kaede and spot him trying to keep a brave face for Caroline, who’s catching on to the actors faster than I am. She seems… happy, smiling and laughing every time she gets frightened.
In the next room, there’s a table with a fake pig covered in painted blood. As I’m looking at it, there’s a creak behind me. I turn just in time to see the cupboard doors on the wall swing open, and a ghostly looking woman flies out toward us, screaming like a banshee. She stops just short of where we stand, and then slowly moves back into the wall. I feel my entire body tense as I squeeze Kat’s hand tighter than I realise. I hear a scream and I only realise after the fact that it’s mine.
I look to the others wildly as they start chuckling at me. “Oh shut up. That was scary! You can’t tell me you weren’t scared too,” I grumble, turning back and dropping Kat’s hand. I’m not that scared… I can handle a haunted house, I try to convince myself.
She stares back at me with worry in her eyes. Even in the dark, I can see it. The woman pops out of the wall again, but this time I’m prepared for it.
I shrug, brushing it off. “See? I’m not scared. Comm’n. Let’s see what’s over here,” I say, walking on.
The rest of the house is similar, with a headless body that lifts off a bed, and a few other things that move back and forth in place. Not so bad, after that woman in the closet. Before I know it I find myself back in the garden on the other side of the old car. We circle around to the entrance to the house and continue down the next leg of the path.
Kat skips around Kaede and Caroline, rejoining me at the front. She looks around the trees with wide eyes, curious, not afraid.
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” I ask, a matter of factly.
“Isn’t that the point?” she retorts with a laugh. “It’s interesting to see what normal people do for fun.”
I open my mouth to comment on what ‘normal people do’ when my eye catches movement in the trees behind her. There’s a hidden path I don’t see until we hit the landing, and a figure rushes through the bushes toward us. I see a blur of fur and an inhumane growling yell.
Kat pauses, turning to look at the werewolf as it runs right up to her and hovers over her like it’s going to attack. I flinch into a position, hand reaching for my keychain. It obviously can’t because it’s an actor, and they aren’t allowed to touch us. She stares him down without so much as flinching.
I grin at the incredibly realistic costume, relaxing. At least this time I’m not caught off guard. Maybe I still have a chance to prove I’m not a scaredy cat. I laugh, walking up to it.
“Nice mask, man, but you can’t scare us, especially not her,” I thumb in Kat’s direction. “I swear, these actors get better and better as we go on,” I chuckle to Kat.
“I can see how that might be frightening to some people,” she muses, watching the wolf-man skulk back into the shadows.
Up ahead I can hardly believe my eyes. There’s a huge wolfs head whose mouth moves as though trying to bite passers-by. It looks like a bad movie prop. I point and laugh lightly. It lightens the eeriness. Behind us, I hear both Car’s and Kaede’s screams.
“Bet that werewolf got them,” I smile at Kat.
“So much for him being the hero,” she laughs as we pass the cheesy wolf head. Further down the path, a second werewolf runs out from a blind corner, but he doesn’t have any more luck than the first one.
Finally, we come to another haunted house. As we step inside, I see several reflections of us. It’s just like a funhouse, with mirrors lining the walls to confuse you. Some reflect ourselves back at us while others seem to be slightly see through. Behind the glass are some creepy mannequins. If I wasn’t chanting ‘it’s just fake, it’s just fake’ in my head, I’m sure I would be shivering.
We keep walking, looking around as something on my right slams against one with a loud smack. I jump about three inches, screaming as I’m pulled from my calm revere by a man dressed in a black and white morph suit. Damn it!
I turn to Kat, my heart racing. She holds a hand to her mouth, clearly trying to hide a smile. I pinch my brows together with a frown. “It’s not funny,” I state simply.
“It’s a little funny,” she snickers.
“Hardly…” I mutter.
We continue along the mirrored path till we come to a black fabric barrier hanging over an exit. I go to push it aside but realise it’s like a tunnel. I hesitate, unsure of what will be on the other side.
“Do you want me to go first?” Kat offers, stepping up next to me. She’s stopped laughing now. I nod slowly. Pathetic. At least Kaede isn’t around to see this. I wonder where they are now. Kat smiles, holding out her hand. “Hold onto me, ‘kay?”
“Funny,” I grin sarcastically, taking her hand.
“What? I don’t know if there’s more than one path. I don’t wanna get separated,” she pouts as she pushes her way into the black tunnel. There’s some resistance as I follow a step behind her.
The fabric seems to be inflated, kind of like a bouncy castle, but it pushes against us on both sides. Once we’re a few steps in, we’re in complete darkness. I can’t even see her right in front of me. Now I’m kind of glad I’m still holding her hand. We walk for almost twenty seconds before I see a sliver of light ahead.
I walk right into Kat’s back. She seems to have stopped right in front of the exit to the next room. “What? What is it?” As my eyes adjust, I quickly realise why.
A man stands in front of her, easily over six feet tall wearing prison clothes and a messed up human-ish mask. He tilts his head as he stares down at her. I glance around to see we’re in a tiny room, the only other thing in here is a cement block with a broken chain attached.
On the same wall where we came out is another doorway, with another black cloth tunnel. Kat seems to be locked in a staring contest with the ‘inmate’, and if I’m not mistaken, she looks a little startled.
I look between her and the exit. She does realise it’s just two feet away… right? I tug her hand, hissing softly. “Kat, Comm’n. This way.”
She blinks, glancing over in that direction. She takes a step toward it, and the inmate follows her, hovering just inches away.
My nerves get the best of me and I let her hand go, running for the exit screaming. I jump through it, oblivious to what Kat does next. I race through the air filled walls trying to get out in a panic.
I finally break through, huffing and stumbling away from the exit into a small area facing full-length windows. I glance around looking for the door that leads outside. As I turn to look back at the tunnel, a figure emerges from another tunnel beside the one I came from; the guy in the morph suit. He runs at me, yelling at the top of his lungs.
I back up into the wall, screaming, throwing my hands over my face. I shudder there, eyes squeezed shut. When I don’t feel anything, I take a peek. The guy slips back into his hideout as Kat steps away from the tunnel.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asks, eyes wide as she crosses the floor and rests her hands on my arms.
I drop my arms slowly, looking around the room, just in case. “Ok, fine… I’ll tell you. Haunted houses… I find them terrifying. Things that jump out at you and chase you? I scream. I can’t help it! Even if I know they’re fake! I don’t know what it is, I just run! Last time I went to one of these things I tripped down the stairs screaming from a clown with a chainsaw. Twisted my ankle too,” I stay glued to the wall as I explain.
She smiles sweetly, rubbing my arms. “There’s nothing wrong with that. We face real horrors all the time, and you’re ridiculously brave in the face of actual danger,” she pauses to roll her eyes. “So what if this stuff bothers you? Come on, we’ll wait outside for the other two to catch up.”
I nod solemnly, following her out. It’s not long before Kaede and Caroline come running out, laughing. I roll my eyes when they come running up to us.
“Wasn’t that fun?!” Kaede smiles.
Caroline huffs as she catches her breath. “Oh my gosh that was so scary it was funny!” she says.
I look at Kat, wondering if I should tell them it was alright or just not say anything at all.
She grins at them, leaning against the low stone wall outside the exit door. “Yea, that prisoner in the middle of the tunnels was pretty creepy,” she admits, leaving out the rest.
I sigh in relief as Car and Kae look around the area. We’re in the courtyard now, right outside the main castle. Only the one path on the farthest side from the castle is accessible, the middle has a few pathways and ponds, but it’s blocked off. There’s a projected show on the castle, images of ghosts, and then it shifts to look like the castle is on fire, and then like it crumbles. It’s pretty impressive, I’ll admit.
Kat walks a little faster, ignoring the light show on the castle. When I feel her hand slip out of mine, I look to see where she’s going. Up ahead, in between two ponds on a blocked pathway is a small woman dressed in steampunk attire, wearing a gas mask, spinning lit torches. Kat stands right up against the rope that separates the pathway from the fire dancer’s area. Her eyes grow wide in fascination.
I jog to catch up, Kae and Car not far behind. The fire show is pretty cool, I’ll admit. Kat looks entranced. I find myself watching her instead of the fire until Kaede calls out, pointing along the path.
“C’mon guys! There’s still more to see!” he shouts, Caroline, skipping on ahead.
I wrap an arm around Kat’s, getting her attention. “Wanna see the rest?” I ask her. She blinks at me, coming out of a daze as she follows my lead.
I pull her along as Kaede leads us to a bar in the underground room. We order a couple of drinks and snacks, taking a break from the scare. I’m glad for the break, to be honest.
At the bar, I order myself a rum and coke. Kat steps up and leans over the bar, as the room is pretty loud. I see her flash three fingers at the bartender, dressed as a pirate. She nods and takes out three shot glasses, filling them up with a dark amber liquid.
I lean in close to her ear. “I doubt Caroline will take a shot.”
“So do I,” she replies, picking up one of the small glasses. She brings it to her lips, tilting her head back and downing it in one swift movement. She places it on the counter upside down and takes the next one. I blink and all three of them are gone. Kat nods to the bartender, who smirks and shakes her head.
“Did you really just drink all three of those… at once?” I gape, having barely sipped my rum and coke.
She shrugs, watching the pirate pour a different drink. This one looks similar to mine, except it’s a dark golden colour. “It’s just a few shots. It takes a lot more than that for me to get drunk.”
“I wonder how you know this,” I mumble, sipping my drink.
“Experience,” she snickers, taking her drink and going back to the table.
I eye the bartender curiously, but she just shrugs. I follow after her. The snacks are just as creepy as the decor but tasty. I turn to Kat, gripping a gummy in my teeth as I lean in close.
“Hey there, wan’a worm?” I wink, wiggling the gummy in my teeth.
She laughs, leaning in with a huge smile to play along. She stares into my eyes as I brush the gummy against her bottom lip. Her lips part, closing around the gummy. As fast as I can I kiss her lips, snapping the gummy in half with my teeth. Her breath reeks of alcohol. I pull away to see her grinning at me. I flash her another wink.
“Get a room,” Caroline jokes, sipping her non-alcoholic soda.
Kaede jumps up, making all our heads snap around. “Alright. Stage two! Let’s go!” he hollers.
I groan quietly. Stage two? Why…
We all stand, leaving the table behind. Is it just me or am I the only one reluctant to continue? I miss the bar already.
We go into the hallway, where the stairs normally lead back up to the foyer, but they’re closed. The walls are lined with movie posters and plaques underneath describing what scenes were filmed in the castle. Kaede finds it quite exciting, pointing to every single one as we pass.
The next section appears to start at the end of the hall. I recognize this part of the castle immediately. Despite the fake webs and fog and the odd mannequins, I know this leads to the tunnel that runs under the street to the old carriage house. The air is chilly down here and the lights seem extra dim. I already have the creeps.
“Oh man, this is great! This tunnel is long and damp. The perfect place for a fright!” Kaede giggles. He rummages through his bag, pulling out a camera. I doubt that’s allowed. “Let’s go!” he sings.
He leads the way down the foggy steps into the dark tunnel. Our steps seem to echo off the walls as we go alone. I glance over my shoulder, wondering where the others went. I hear the distant sounds of screaming. I look around for speakers, wondering if they have a soundtrack playing for extra effect.
The walls are lit up with spotlit shadows of things like mice and roaches scattering as we approach them. The whole thing is spooky. We continue on, somehow I end up at the front. I try to keep my gaze forward as Kat glances at me from the side.
As I pass under an archway covered by a cloth, a loud burst of something startles me and a jet of air hits me in the back of the head. I jump… again, with a squeak.
Keade chuckles behind me. “Good one, Andi.”
I spin, giving him a frown, not noticing what lies ahead. When I turn back around, a skeletal pirate lunges out from an alcove above, reaching out for us. I duck, stumbling forward as I hear Kaede screech, leaping away. Caroline just laughs.
When I get my breath back, I rejoin Kat, taking her hand. I can’t wait for this to be over. Ahead is a room that looks like a scene straight out of Phantom of the Opera, with broken picture frames scattered around the room and a girl, who’s blindfolded and chained to a bed. She’s singing eerily, sort of wailing as an ugly guy, who looks a bit like a demonic version of the Phantom walks around the bed. He turns and heads up the stairs, sneering at the people passing before heading back down. I keep a wide berth of his path. I don’t like the look of him.
We walk through the room, making it to the exit unhindered. I’m getting the feeling that the event is almost over. I feel a sense of relief.
Ahead is another stretch of tunnel. As we walk down it, a lone figure bars the way at the end of the path. I look to Kat nervously, letting Kaede take the lead. He chuckles.
The figure’s skin looks a gross brown colour with pocked cheeks and boys of hair falling from its scalp in sheets. It makes me want to vomit, just from looking at it.
“Sick!” Kaede grins as we approach the zombie actor. “Now that is one realistic getup. Check it out!” he says with excitement, pulling out his phone and taking a picture.
I jump as Kat lets my hand go, slipping past me. Kaede steps closer to take a closer shot as the thing raises its hand. I gasp as Kat yanks him back just as the zombies hand claws at him.
“Oi! What was that for? It can’t touch us! It’s just an actor! That was gonna be and great shot!” Kaede complains.
“You’ll thank me later,” Kat rolls her eyes.
The zombie takes a step closer, a low, gurgling growl coming from its throat. Caroline and I lean a little closer as the zombie closes the gap between itself and Kaede.
“Umm, Kae. I don’t think that’s an actor…” Caroline says in a shaky voice.
Kat grabs him by the back of his shirt, throwing him back toward Caroline and I. He stumbles to keep his balance, spun around to face us with the momentum. The very real-looking claws of the thing gouge the air where he had just been. Luckily, it moves pretty slow.
The head tilts, drool leaking out of its open mouth as it turns to Kat. It lunges for her, and she sidesteps. It stumbles into the wall, shuffling to turn and find where she went. She dodges another attack, looking back to me as it reorients itself.
“Can I burn this one?” she asks seriously. It doesn’t even seem to react as you would think an actor would, at the notion of being burnt.
I look to Car, who just shrugs with a nod. “If it’s really a zombie and not an actor… is there any other way to stop it?”
“Good point,” I agree. “but… what about where it came from? I’m pretty sure people would question a burnt rotting corpse in the tunnels under Casa Loma during a haunted house event.”
“There won’t be anything left for them to find when I’m done,” Kat assures us as she walks in circles around the creature, frustrating and confusing it.
“Guys! You’re kidding, right? That thing is totally an actor! Don’t get your magic all in a knot! Makeup can look that real too!” Kaede huffs.
Kat stops moving, pushes up her sleeve and holds up her arm. The zombie grabs her arm with both claws, biting down. Blood trickles out around the sides of its mouth as she looks back at us. “Real enough for you?”
“Kat! There are other ways to prove it’s real than letting it maim you!” I groan.
She shrugs. “Seemed like the quickest way,” she punches it with her other hand, knocking it back. I roll my eyes.
“If it’s real… how did it get here?” Caroline asks.
“I don’t know,” I whine, “but it’s not alone!” I point down the hall as two more zombies come lurching toward us. I unclip the sword on my belt loop, letting it grow to full size. Well, if they’re real… then I suppose I can help Kat out… at least.
I step in front of Kaede, sword raised as Car joins me, collecting water for the gutters and the floor. Kat waves her hand and the first zombie is engulfed in flames. The smoke quickly starts to fill the tunnel.
“This is a bad place to fight,” Kat frowns. “Let’s go back, get above ground.”
“No kidding! This smoke is rancid!” Kaede complains.
We turn, going back the way we came. Before we take two steps, a blood-curdling scream echoes down the hall. I turn to Kat as she jogs up behind me. “That was from the Phantom room… wasn’t it?” I ask her.
“Hold up!” Caroline shouts. “If these things… if they’re real… does that mean if you get bit you’ll turn into one? We should heal your arm first, Kat.”
“It’s fine,” Kat brushes her off. “My body burns any virus or bacteria. I won’t turn into anything.”
“Oh, well that’s lucky then,” I start running despite the fact that I don’t want to go back.
We skid to a stop at the exit and reenter the room. The actress strapped to the bed is shrieking her head off as the Dracula-like phantom man hovers over with very real, very sharp teeth.
“Oh… kay…” Kat blinks. “Didn’t see that coming.”
“Is that a ….” Caroline starts.
“Vampire!” Kaede points with a smile. He must be joking!
I dash forward, sword raised with a cry to get the things attention. He spins, eyes gleaming with a hungry look. I gulp nervously as I run at it with my sword. It’s much faster than I thought though as soon as I stick it. The vampire shifts and is gone!
It takes me a moment before I clue in and use my magic, stunned that I don’t see it on my sword. I spin to find it behind me, teeth bared. I cast a time bubble on him, hoping to slow him down as I strike. Not sure how good a sword will do. My blade glides through its arms with a hiss and the material of his costume falls away revealing burnt flesh around the sword wound.
“Wait!” I hear Caroline’s shout from behind.
“What?” I growl.
“That was an actor! We saw them acting before!” she points out.
“Yes, but if you haven’t noticed, they aren’t acting anymore!”
“Obviously something turned them into their costume,” Kat rolls her eyes.
“So, are you telling me that zombie back there was an actor too, and we killed him?” Caroline whines.
Kat slides down the railing of the stairs into the room, landing behind the vampire. She grabs onto the back of it and throws it clear across the room. “Yea, probably,” she hums.
“We shouldn’t kill them then. Maybe there’s still a chance we can stop whatever it is that’s turning them into what they’re dressed as!” Caroline urges.
“Whoops,” Kat purses her lips. The vampire slumps against a broken mirror. “I think it’s a little late for that.”
“Yes, well, we didn’t know that before. But now we do!” Caroline shakes her head.
I walk slowly up to the vampire, laying in a heap, covered in broken mirror shards. I tap him with my foot to make sure he’s unconscious.
“What exactly do you suppose we do with them then?” Kat asks, incredulous. “Talk to them?”
“No, obviously not. Talking doesn’t work with monsters. But maybe we can restrain them. Do you think their weaknesses can be used to knock them out until we find the source?” she asks us.
“Monsters’ weaknesses kill them,” Kat scoffs. “The jury is out on what might make the undead docile for a while. I can’t say anyone’s had a reason to try,” she mutters to herself as she moves to the bed. The girl cowers as Kat reaches around, snapping the chain on the bed.
“Ok, well that’s not very helpful then. Why don’t we lock them up then?” Caroline suggests.
“What, and let them kill each other off?” Kaede snorts. Monsters don’t work together. They’d kill each other before they broke out.”
“He’s got a point,” I shrug.
“Do you have any better ideas so we don’t go killing a bunch of people?” Caroline frowns.
Screams float down the hall back towards the tunnel and the bar area of the castle.
“You can’t save everyone, Caroline,” Kaitlyn sighs as she pulls the girl off the bed. “Make a choice; do we save the people or the monsters?”
“That’s horrible! How can you say that! They’re people too! They just happen to be turning into monsters!” she shouts, her anger growing.
“Yeah, and the longer we stand here arguing morals, the more people those poor monsters are going to eat,” Kat scoffs, dragging the terrified girl up the stairs. “You go ahead and debate morality, I’m going to go stop the innocent people from being murdered.”
“They’re all innocent!” Caroline growls.
“Then you figure something out. But we have to stop them, somehow. Maybe we can knock them out for now.” I suggest, following Kat up the stairs. We leave Kaede and Caroline behind as he heads back up into the castle. I hope, for the actors’ sakes, she figures something out.
“She’s ridiculous,” Kat grumbles, still leading the actress down the hall. “They may have been people before, but they’re not now. Who’s to say there’s a way to turn them back? Even if we do, they’ll have to live knowing they killed people.”
“Well, she’s not completely wrong, I think. I mean, it’s not their fault they’re monsters now. Something’s got to be causing this. I wouldn’t knock her for trying. Her heart’s in the right place,” I try to convince Kat. “Besides, it’s not our problem what they have to live with after tonight. But I don’t think we should be placing the fault on them either way. It’s against their control. They didn’t choose this.”
“It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is,” she groans as a really creepy looking goblin steps into our path. “The fact is they’re attacking people now,” the girl shrieks as the goblin comes barrelling down the tunnel toward us.
Kat moves up several feet, crouching down as the short creature gets closer. The base of her palm connects with its nose and it falls onto its back. The arms and legs twitch for a moment before going limp. She stands up and waves to the girl to follow.
“Yea, and if we can at least stop them that should be enough, right?” I follow.
“Sure,” Kat shrugs. “Killing them stops them.”
I give up. Kat’s got her mind stuck on killing them. There’s no changing that. We continue down the tunnel. People are running past us, searching for the exit as we work our way back inside past the spotlit rodents and the fog. I spot the stairs and run ahead, ready to slow anything down when we see it.
We re-enter the bar area. What was once a nice cozy place with creepy music and flashing lights now looks like a scene out of a movie. The bar is in complete disarray. Broken bottles are tossed all over the place. Some tables are overturned and people are running around, crashing into things as the actors – now monsters, chase them for their lives. Amidst the chaos, I spot motionless bodies lying about the room.
I cast the entire room in a slowdown spell except for ourselves. This will give us the advantage on stopping the monsters. I dash up to a few people, now zombies and elbow them in their faces. They don’t even see me coming.
I spot Kat running after a pair of werewolves terrorizing a group of girls. She grabs one by the arm, swinging it into the other to knock them down before she spins around to snap off a leg from an overturned chair. She uses it to stab one through the chest, and the other right through the skull. I cringe a little.
How in the world are we going to find out how this all started? There’s just too many monsters lurking around. And where are Caroline and Kaede? I thought they’d be here by now.
A blast of water shoots past me and I spin to find Caroline standing in front of Kaede back at the exit to the bar. The water slams into a zombie with his hands on a girl slowed down from my time bubble but nearly upon her with his disgusting teeth and rancid pocked skin.
“So you finally decided to show up?” I call, allowing the time to include them.
“Oh, don’t patronize me! You left us, remember?” she snorts as she uses the spilled alcohol from the bar to freeze another beast to the floor so he can’t move.
“Right. Did you manage to figure out a way to save them?” I ask as I slice off an arm of a man with a chainsaw.
“No, but I did a reading for magic. This is a spell. It only covers a certain radius. Outside a certain distance, there are no more transformations. I think it’s coming from the center of the castle, which I would guess is in the courtyard, maybe?” she shrugs.
A spell? So… someone is doing this. Why the hell would anyone want a bunch of monsters to come back?
I feel a ripple in the room and suddenly my time bubble starts to falter. I stare, bewildered. That’s never happened before. Everything returns to real-time and a werewolf spins, facing me with bared teeth. Kat’s at the other end of the bar, close to the entrance now. He stalks toward me with a snarl. I take a tentative step back.
He lunges, but my time doesn’t seem to want to kick in. I lean back, like I’m doing the limbo, and try to spin out of the way but his claws gouge my arm and tear half my sleeve away. I cringe at the pain as Caroline blasts the thing with vodka. It’s snout sizzles and it whines in pain.
“You ok?” she asks, running up to me, Kaede close behind.
“Yea, I think I’ll manage. We need to tell Kat what you know. We need to get to the courtyard,” Luckily, that’s not too far. We fight our way to Kat and fill her in.
“Great,” she snaps the arm off a zombie, not sounding at all impressed. “I kind of assumed magic was involved, but at least it’s localized. What are we waiting for?” she knocks the head off that zombie with its own arm, stepping over the body as it falls to the floor.
I wonder to myself how she can be so humorous at a time like this, but then I remember, she’s Kat. She’s used to monsters and stuff. She leads the way through the entrance as the last few straggling guests run screaming from the bar. We dash along the hallway, Caroline pinning zombies and serial killers to the walls with her water, freezing them as she goes. I fall back, behind Kaede, watching for anything coming from the rear.
“Dude, this isn’t funny anymore. This shit? It’s terrifying. What if that was one of us dressed up and turned into a monster? I have no doubt Kat would run me through without a second thought,” Kaede says in a shaky voice.
“Yea, I get what you mean. I did not expect Amityville horror when you suggested haunted house at Casa Loma,” he crouches a little, ready to run at any second at the sight of anything faster than a zombie.
I keep an eye on Kat up front, managing the front lines. As she reaches the now unguarded exit to the courtyard she pauses, assessing the situation. When I catch up, I feel my stomach drop.
Monsters run criss-cross through the courtyard and surrounding gardens. Some groups of them are chasing the last remaining humans, some are feasting on those who didn’t run fast enough, and strangely, some of them are fighting with each other. The monsters outside seem to be so busy that they hardly notice when we step out into the yard.
“God, I hate these things,” Kat mutters as she walks up to a vampire, crouched over an unmoving person. She bends down, grabs it by the neck, and rips its head clean off with her bare hands. Sometimes I forget that she’s inhumanely strong too…
I hear a gurgling cough come from my right and freeze on the spot when I see a girls face, half covered in blood, a werewolf gnawing on her stomach, still alive. The poor girl. My stomach twists and I gag, feeling like I might throw up. She raises a feeble hand and points at my sword.
My eyes grow wide as I realize what she wants, head flicking between her and my sword. Sure, I’ve killed before, in self-defense, but this… it’s is killing a human. Even if it is mercy… I hesitate, my hand shaking as it holds the sword.
I look around to see if anyone else is watching, but they are all preoccupied. I raise the sword, the tip hovers over her chest. I stare into her eyes and I almost retract until I see the pain in them. My sword would hurt less than this beast eating her alive. I squeeze my eyes shut as I drive my blade through her chest. I try not to look as I slide it out and walk away. It still doesn’t feel right to me.
I rejoin Kaede to make sure he doesn’t meet a similar end, creeping around.
“Any idea what we’re looking for?” Kaede asks.
“Didn’t Caroline tell you?”
He shakes his head. I’m distracted as we walk through the bushes. I hold a hand up as I see something black. We both stop in our tracks, waiting to see if it’s a vampire. I wait several moments and sigh with relief as the eight foot tall clocked statue remains still.
“Thank goodness. I thought it would be a vampire or something,” I say with a nervous chuckle. “I think the rum is affecting my magic. I would hate to face one without the time advantage.”
Kaede relaxes beside me. “Right? At least some of these things are still fake,” he takes a step towards it, hand out to pat it down.
As his hand touches the black cloak, it seems as if the breeze picks up and the hem flutters, pulling it back to reveal the face of the Reaper. I feel my blood run cold and Kaede and I both go rigid as the statue raises it’s scythe high and swings it out to rid us of our heads.
I don’t think I’ve ever screamed like I hear myself screaming now. We shriek, ducking just in time to avoid the gleaming edge of death itself. I try to block the second swing with my sword using both hands, but my injured arm caves and the rapier goes flying. We back up, stumbling over bushes.
Kaede trips and falls on his butt and I scramble to lift him up as I turn to run.
“Come on! We gotta run! I have nothing!” I shout.
“I’m trying!” he complains beside me.
I look back to see where it is when it starts to shriek, bursting into flames a second later. I blink and the towering reaper crumples to the ground in a raging inferno, revealing Kat, flaming red hair lightly fluttering in the breeze from the heat of the fire, looking like a majestic Goddess.
“Really guys?” she asks bluntly, very unimpressed.
“That thing was a freakin’ giant!” Kaede shouts.
“How can you still use your magic when your drunk?! I’m having nothing but problems!” I wonder, still trying to calm my racing heart.
“I’m a functioning alcoholic,” she turns and leaves without another word. With that tone, I’m not sure if she’s serious or not.
I turn to Kaede, a flat look on my face.
“Don’t look at me. She’s your girlfriend, dude,” he shrugs as I pull him to his feet.
I have to wonder what she sees in me if she can so easily take down an army of monsters, nearly single-handedly.
As we step out of the bushes, I realize there aren’t many monsters left running around; just piles of burning bodies. I hear yelling, but not the scared kind.
“Oh my God, Kat! You have to stop burning and running away! You’re going to burn the whole garden down!” Carolines shouts from across a bed of crackling roses, pulling water from the pond to put them out.
“Why? They’re contained. I know what I’m doing,” Kat brushes her off. “Your priorities are a little off. Stop doing that, we need to find the source.”
I watch as Caroline grumbles. I catch the words damage and costs. I get where she’s coming from. Kat doesn’t have any sense of money or damage to property.
I retrieve my sword and pull Kaede along with me, keeping him close. He yanks on my arm hard though, the injured one and I cringe.
“Oww. What is it?” I hiss.
He points through some bushes as he pulls me into a crouch. “I just saw something.”
“No kidding. This place was full of monsters a moment ago before Kat was set loose on them.”
“No, I mean, I saw something that wasn’t a monster,” he hisses, pointing through the leaves. I peer through the bushes, looking for whatever it is Kaede thinks he saw. It takes me a minute to find a figure, crouched in the dirt, a small area around him cleared of plants and debris. I look at the ground he’s crouched over curiously.
“Is that… a circle?” I ask.
Kaede nods. “Looks like chalk or some powder.”
“And it’s glowing faintly,” I note.
“It is?” Kaede coughs. “Can’t see it. Must be magic.”
“Where are the girls?” I look over my shoulder.
“Hold on. I’ll text them,” Kaede holds up his phone, snapping a shot of the figure and texts the others. It’s not long before he gets a reply.
“Caroline’s on her way. I assume Kat will come barroling in all flames and glory,” he smirks.
“Probably,” I exhale, blowing my hair out of my face.
We both jump as Caroline rustles the bushes behind us. “You found the source. Good.”
“What’s the plan?” I ask.
“How should I know? We got to cancel his spell,” she says.
“It’s coming from the circle on the ground,” I point out. She peers through the leaves and nods.
“It’s like that anime, Car, the FullMetal Alchemist. Maybe if we can break the circle, the spell will stop,” Keade points out.
“Brilliant. So we just need to get the figure away from the circle, right?” Maybe I can handle that. My arm’s starting to throb but I can still maneuver.
“We need to cancel the spell. If you can draw him away long enough for us to swipe it, then maybe there’s a chance we can return the monsters to normal too,” she says with determination.
“I wish Kat were here,” I sigh.
“She’s already here. Look,” Caroline points. I follow her finger and see her standing behind a tree a few feet away, looking at the figure like we are. “You two make a distraction, we’ll break the circle,” she nods.
I return the nod and move to the edge of the bushes. I creep closer to Kat, keeping my eyes on the figure. Its back seems to be turned to us.
“So, what’s her plan?” Kat whispers as I approach without even looking at me. I stumble on a loose rock, swallowing a curse. How does she do that?
“She wants us to distract the wizard. He’s using a magical circle. In order to break the circle, we have to draw him away long enough for them to break it,” I whisper.
“Sounds easy enough,” Kat shrugs, stepping out from behind the tree. “Hey! You like scary things?” she yells, getting the figure’s attention. I facepalm myself. When it turns to look at her, she grins. “How ’bout this?”
She bursts into full flames mode, singeing the nearby bushes. I jump back from the heat that comes off her. I can’t be that close. I stand, running to the far side from Car and Kae. I just hope I can control my magic enough to be of any help.
The figure spins but is reluctant to step out of his circle. I get closer, sword raised. “Hey there, let’s duel,” I grin, leaping forward to take a stab.
They jump back, but still, keep one foot in the circle. The figure turns their hooded head to look between Kat and I. I can almost make out a face, but the hood still covers too much.
“What’s the matter?” Kat stops a few feet away from the circle, far enough to avoid damaging it. “Shy?” she flicks her wrist and the figure’s hood catches fire.
The figure flings one arm at its head while the other remains at its side, clutching a thick tomb. It stumbles as it tries to put the flames out. As the hood burns away I catch a glimpse of a masculine face. A human face.
“So, don’t want to let go of the book I see,” I hum interestingly. I lung at the man, aiming for the book. He pulls it back, out of reach of my jab. The blade cuts through his robe instead.
“Who the hell are you people?” a nasally voice emanates from the figure, his half-burnt hood falling away to reveal a gaunt face with long, ink-black hair.
“Are you kidding me?” Kat scoffs her fiery voice echoes in the darkness. “He’s just a kid!”
“A kid who somehow managed to make a bunch of innocent people kill each other!” I growl angrily. My blood boils at the thought. I step closer, trying to push him away from the circle so Caroline and Kaede can move in. As I encroach, he takes a small step back.
“Are you going to just inch him out or actually get the kid moving?” Kat asks critically. Several small flames appear in his face in the shape of skulls. He screams, stumbling back and falling on his rear. He drops the book as he scrambles back, well away from the circle.
I run after him and point my sword to his chest before he has time to stand and run. “You’re not going anywhere. What kind of sick joke do you think you’re playing, eh?” I ask, glaring hard.
The kid scoffs at me with youthful arrogance. “It’s not a joke! This stupid haunted tour is a joke. All these dumb sheep, wandering in for some cheap thrills. They wanted to get scared. I decided to show them real fear.”
I catch movement in the corner of my eye as Kat steps up beside me, no longer in flames. “Real fear? Do you even know what that is?” she asks menacingly. He shrinks at the sight of her.
“This wasn’t fear. This,” I gesture to the courtyard around me, bodies of monsters and people laying there, bleeding, dead, “this is murder,” I growl, pressing my blade to his chest. This kind of… Monster, I think I could kill.
“To be fair, most of that was me,” Kat shrugs. The kid gawks at her, glancing between us like we’re the crazy ones. She glances over her shoulder. “Come on out, he’s distracted!”
Kaede jumps out, followed by Caroline and they run towards the circle. I see Caroline make quick work of the powder with her water, while Kaede just kicks at it with he feet.
Keeping my sword trained, I look around the courtyard expecting something to change, but nothing happens. I spin back to the kid, digging the tip into his clothes. “How come it didn’t work? Why won’t they change back?” I grit my teeth.
“You didn’t reverse the spell!” he whines. “You just stopped it from turning anyone else that comes into the radius, and…” he gulps, “Released any remaining monsters from staying within the castle grounds…”
“Great…” Kat groans.
“Shit!” I curse. “I should have known!”
“How do we reverse it?” Kat demands.
The kid nods to the book laying on the grass behind me. “There’s a reversal spell, but that only applies to anyone still alive.”
“So… Anyone who died tonight, stays dead?” she clarifies.
“Essentially yes,” he shrugs.
Kat narrows her eyes. “And you thought this was a good idea because…”
“To teach them a lesson!” he insists.
“Teaching involves them being alive to have learned from the lesson, dimwit!” I spit.
He pouts. “Lots of people escaped. If no one died, they’d have thought it was part of the show.”
Kat looks at me, annoyed. “Can we kill him now?”
“Andrei…” Caroline interrupts. I turn and she has the book in her hand.
“What?” I ask. I doubt she’d approve of us killing the kid, even now.
“Perhaps there isn’t a spell to bring them back, but… we have you, don’t we?”
I look at her, dumbfounded. She’s isn’t wrong, necessarily. Where a spell can reverse time but not affect the living or the dead, I can essentially reverse time, much like how I would advance it to ripen a fruit.
I turn to Kat, an idea forming in my head. “There’s a chance, there’s a good probably I can fix this!” I say, my eyes growing wide.
“I thought your magic wasn’t working?” she raises an eyebrow. “Do we need to wait for the booze to wear off? Shouldn’t take too long. With the adrenaline and stuff, it should only take like half an hour tops.”
“Yeah…” I grimace. “I think that was the problem.”
“So we’ll wait,” she shrugs.
I wait as Caroline checks me with her watery tendrils. As she pulls away she nods. “Yea, it’s pretty much gone. There wasn’t that much in the first place. I’m surprised it affected you so… strongly. You should be able to do your timey-wimey thing now,” she smiles.
“Great. I want to get this over with,” I grumble. “If it started in the center, I should turn it back from here. I need to set time back to before anyone died in order to undo the deaths,” I explain. I shoot a hateful glare at the kid, tied up to a tree under Kaede’s watch.
“Can we go back with you?” Caroline asks.
I think about it, I’m not entirely sure. I mean, in theory, I suppose I could bring them with me, otherwise, they’d go back and forget everything and I wouldn’t be with them when we all arrived. Hmm, the more I think about it, the more difficult it seems to be.
I have to avoid a paradox and the only way to do that would be to turn back time and replacing ourselves… so basically I’d be turning back time for each of us. That way, everyone else goes back to normal without remembering a thing. Hmm…
“Alright. I have it. Everyone come here,” I call them over.
Kat kicks the kid in the leg and he struggles to stand. “You’re coming too. We’re not going to run around looking for you again.”
“OK, it’ll be easier if we’re closer together and probably touching. That makes it easier for me. We should show up here, as we are but the time around us will be rewound or undone. OK?”
They look at me like I just blurted out a mathematical equation. I sigh. “It doesn’t matter, just stay close. I’ll worry about the details.”
Kaede takes my hand and Caroline’s. She reluctantly takes the kids’. I don’t blame her. I glare at him and he returns a look of disgust. He doesn’t like what we’re going to do. Kat grabs him by the back of the head, making him cringe in pain. She reaches for mine, but my arm still hurts so I only lift it halfway.
“Alright.” I nod, looking to Car. “What time did the transformation take place?”
“Around 10:30,” she says.
“OK,” I close my eyes for concentration. I evoke the time to rewind over a large enough space to cover the earlier determined circumference of the castle grounds.
I feel the time ticking backward and I nudge it slowly back about two hours. When I stop the rewind, I feel a slight weakness in my knees, but nothing I can’t handle. I open my eyes to see the garden in a state of haunting, rather than post-apocalypse.
“Don’t even think about it,” Kat warns, jerking the kid back by his hair. I look to see the circle back on the ground around us, and the spellbook in his hands.
“Don’t! Not yet,” Caroline shouts as Kaede moves to kick out the circle. “Let’s make sure we don’t need it first,” she has a good point.
I look around. “So, is everyone back? No monsters yet?” I ask the group. I hear the faint screams of people being frightened and some laughing at their friends’ reactions. They are distinctly different from the screams of those being eaten by monsters and I’m relieved to see the garden back in order, with all the spook. It’s strange how far less scary everything seems to be now.
“We don’t need it,” Kat flicks her wrist at the circle as she rips the book out of this kid’s hands. “Destroy everything, search the kid.” She tosses him to the ground between Kaede and me.
I stare at her. “Destroy the book? Why? Shouldn’t we bring it back with us?” I protest. Books are important sources of knowledge.
I turn to Kaede who hesitates briefly before going ahead and destroying the circle.
“Uh… No,” Kat answers bluntly as she drops the book in the grass a few feet away. “This thing is probably made of human skin with the spells written in blood. I’m not risking it falling into the hands of another asshat like him,” she glares are the kid.
“Eww, gross!” Kaede cringes.
I look at the kid. “Is this true?” I ask him.
He just shrugs and looks away. “So what if it is?”
“It’s disgusting, that’s why!” Kaede fake vomits.
“How did you get a book like that in the first place?” Caroline asks.
“Found it,” the kid sneers at her. He seems to get braver the further away Kat is from him.
“How?” I demand, hand on my hip where my sword, now shrunken, hangs.
The kid raises an eyebrow at me, a smartass look on his face. “How did I find it? I used my eyes, genius.”
“I still say we kill him,” Kat calls over, watching the book as it burns in the grass. The kid glances her way and gulps.
“That’s a little excessive, don’t you think?” Caroline pipes. “Shouldn’t we bring him back to the Guild or something?” I hate to say it, but I am starting to lean towards Kat’s solution here. I don’t like his attitude…
“The Guild has a council to regulate mages,” Kat explains briefly. “He’s not a mage. Look at him. He’s just a dumb kid that managed to get his hands on some real magic.”
“But still. He committed a crime. We should have them deal out the judgment on his actions,” Caroline adds.
“We could,” Kat nods, “but if you think they’ll spare him, you’re in for a shock.”
“I say we make him do community service,” Kaede grins. “He clearly hates people. Making him work for them, would be killer.”
“You,” Kat points at Kaede, “are neither mage nor council member. Besides, we don’t have authority in human courts – and technically, he hasn’t done anything yet.”
“Then we can’t kill him either if we go by that logic,” I finally add. “I undid the time, so he hasn’t committed any crime according to anyone’s laws. The only reason we’re discussing this now is because we all have the memories of what happened, including him,” I point at him.
“So, you’d let him go, without punishment?” Kat raises an eyebrow.
“No… I have something else in mind,” I look at her, winking. I lean in close, covering mouth with my hand as I whisper. “What if we left him somewhere remote, with nothing on him but the skin on his back? Humiliation and abandonment. It’s been done in the past for those who commit gruesome crimes in their tribes. No one would be the wise, nor would they believe him if he told them what happened, thinking he is delirious,” I smirk.
Kat looks at me, disgusted. “That’s worse than killing him. He’s clearly an idiot. You think he’d survive five minutes out in the wilderness? Alone? You think he knows the first thing about survival? He’ll die a slow, painful death unless he’s lucky and gets eaten by something. Just because you don’t directly take his life, that doesn’t make you any less of an executioner.”
“You don’t know that. Maybe he’ll learn his own lesson out there. Maybe he’ll become a decent human being. By killing him now, you’re sealing his fate for never learning that, just like he did to all those people he killed using his stupid magic trick,” I huff, crossing my arms. It’s totally not the same thing. How could she think that?
She shakes her head slowly. “Just because you can survive, doesn’t mean this asshole can. You’re killing him either way, you’re just trying to avoid the blame.”
“I’m not trying to avoid any blame here! If he dies because of his own lameness, that’s his fault! But if you kill him, that’s on you, or any of us who does it. This kid deserves to die by his own hand, not ours. And if that means dumping him in the wild, then so be it,” I growl.
“No,” she replies with a flat stare. “I’m not going to be a coward about it. Either let me kill him, or let him go. I will not leave some idiot in the wild to suffer slow torture.”
“How is that cowardice? Many great tribal nations of the past did this,” I point out.
“They were cowards too,” she scoffs.
“That’s your opinion,” I roll my eyes.
“Guys! Enough! Clearly, it’s not a good option. Let’s take him to the council and let them decide,” Caroline shouts angrily. “It’s not worth arguing over.”
“Thank you,” Kat nods to her. “Did you search him yet? What are you guys even doing over there?”
Kaede holds up some items with a smile. “Found a phone, some candy and this sweet camera, Polaroid,” he holds up some pictures.
“Good,” Kat huffs. “Once the book is done burning and the circle is erased, we can go.”
“The circle’s gone,” Kaede points to the ground behind him.
“Oh,” Kat glances back. “Ok, then let’s go.”
I sigh, now that that’s dealt with. I just can’t wait to get home. As we head for the front gate, not wanting to walk through the entire place again, Kaede jogs up to me, holding out the pictures.
“The kid took pictures of the people getting frightened. What should we do with these?” he asks.
I take the pictures and flip through the pictures. Some or pretty grotesque and I quickly file them to the back of the stack. I stop at one, my eyes bulging in shock.
“What?” Kaede chuckles, leaning in close. His smile quickly fades when he recognizes our own faces, twisted in fear, mouths hanging open as we scream at something unseen.
“How the hell did he get this?” I ask. Kaede shakes his head.
“What’s this now?” Caroline hums behind us, jumping in and snatching the picture from Kaede’s fingers.
“Wait! Give that back!” he makes a lunge for it.
“Oh, my!” she hums. Too late. “I think I’ll be keeping this for my scrapbook,” she smiles at us mischievously. “A perfect edition, wouldn’t you say?”
I snap my head to Kaede, a glare in my eye. “This was your bright idea. Way-to-go, Kae,” I grumble.
“What? Was not!” he tries to pass it off.
“Whatever,” I groan.
“Happy Halloween!” Caroline sings spookily as she runs up to Kaitlyn, pulling the kid in tow towards our gate back to the Guild. She holds the picture out for her to see. Kat throws her head back as she laughs.
I don’t expect to live this one down, not for a long time…
By Kayla West and Krystyna Yates