Four horror-style stories from a haunted-style mansion: "The Portrait," "The Trophy," "The Conservatory," and "The Stables." General.
1 – The Portrait
At the front of the hall hung a portrait painted in oils: a woman in a gown and corset, with dark lips and darker hair. Its eyes didn't follow the viewer so much as pierce through them. Though its mouth curled down into the slightest scowl, the light and shadow across its cheeks made it seem, if you caught it in the corner of your eyes, as though it was smiling.
Paintings lined the hall, but it was the portrait that Jason's flashlight lingered on. He stuffed a fist into the pocket of his puffy jacket and hunched his shoulders to fend off a shiver. Did it count as creepy? It was working on him, but he'd have to convince the rest of his friends if he wanted to win their contest. Setting his flashlight down on a nearby table, he dragged his phone out of his jeans pocket.
While he framed the portrait in his phone's camera, his fingers grew cold. He clenched his hand into a fist, then blew on his knuckles, then patted his cheeks, but they remained cold and oddly pale. Hurry up and get the shot, he told himself.
With a ruby-nailed finger, he tapped the screen, then lowered it to peer at the finished picture. The zipper on the front of his jacket twitched before sliding downward, slowly baring the front of his shirt.
No good. The picture had come out blurry. Jason took a few steps forward. His sleeves thinned out while he rubbed his hands together to warm them up—slender fingers, slim wrists, goose- bumps along his soft skin. He swept a lock of darkening hair behind his ear, out of the way of a red teardrop earring.
The portrait's hands, folded in its lap, now looked large and plain in comparison, and its ears were conspicuously unadorned.
Lifting his phone again, he held it as still as possible. His pursed lips were overtaken by red lipstick. The collar of his shirt stretched lower across his chest and his copper-red hair tickled his slender shoulders. He tipped his head back, held his breath, and snapped another picture. This time, the shot was clearer, but the photo itself seemed wrong. Instead of eerie scornful beauty, there was a confused, almost shocked look in the portrait's eyes.
31 October, 2019
Blackjack stumbles into a sexed-up horse casino and gets a deluxe spa treatment. Mature.
This has to be a mirage, I thought. You didn't just run into spotless, beaming alicorns in the middle of the Equestrian Wasteland. Especially not hot ones with sandy fur and long, black manes and curves like she'd never seen before stuffed into skin-tight bikinis and...
I shook my head. Don't get distracted. Don't look at her chest. (Seriously, how did she have a chest like that? It was so round and soft.) Okay, don't look at her chest, starting now.
"Who are you?" I asked.
With a flick of her bangs and a flutter of her eyes, she said, "I'm Oasis Shimmer, and I'm here to welcome you to The Horse Luxor." As she swept her hoof out in front of her, out of the rippling air behind her appeared a pyramid faced with polished white glass, gleaming and pristine, and surrounded by a spattering of shady palm trees strung up with pink and purple neon lights.
Which is to say that it was some extremely mirage nonsense. All I could think to say was "What?"
"It's a casino, dummy," Oasis said with a roll of her eyes. "And since we haven't been getting many customers, you've been selected to get the deluxe package, on the house."
Damn it, now I was staring at her lips. Thick and plump, painted with glossy purple lipstick, squeezed into a coy pout... Hey, give me some credit, at least it wasn't her chest this time. I tried to come up with some excuse not to go along with this, just on the off chance that it might be real, but everyone else was busy, and Oasis was perplexingly hot.
"Oh, uh...well, why not?" I said.