A young man turns into a witch vixen and must defend Halloween against all manner of magical mayhem! Mature.
This story is a standalone sequel to a previous Halloween story, The Party!
For months now, the fox had lingered in Mitch’s mind. He couldn’t say where she’d come from, or why she stuck around so stubbornly, only that in a burst of inspiration last November, he’d scribbled her in his sketchbook: a fox witch, with long curly hair and a pair of glasses perched on her snout. Every couple of weeks since, in between the work he was doing for class, he’d find himself drawing her again, and again, and again.
So as the days crept closer to Halloween, he wasn’t surprised that she was on his mind more often. It was the persistence that worried him just a little—she was always there in the back of his head. Even when he blanked out his thoughts, he could still trace her silhouette in his mind: narrow snout, tall ears, big, floppy hat. For the past few days she’d been impossible to get rid of.
Now it was late in the afternoon, on the thirty-first of October. Mitch sat at his desk in his room, doodling the designs he’d thought up for the fox witch’s spell book earlier that day in class. (He still hadn’t named her; nothing he found felt ‘right’.) The chime of a text message went off, but it took him several seconds to pull his mind out of tomes and grimoires.
A text from Chris was waiting for him:
‘Still coming to the party? maybe well remember this one lmao’
‘yeah, I am’, he sent back.
‘Sick! dont be late or well leave without you lol’
Mitch sat up and stretched both his back and his fingers. He could probably use a break from fox stuff anyway. Flipping his sketchbook closed, he got up and started getting his things together to head out—after taking a peek out the window.
Outside, the sun came in gold and heavy against the autumn leaves and stretched the shadows out like long strokes across the pavement. He lingered at the window for a moment, appreciating the bustle and color of everyone heading out to whatever Halloween get-together they had planned, whether in full costume or just tucked into a light jacket. Maybe he’d even see some of them at the party Chris was driving him to.
Speaking of which, he needed to get going or he’d miss his ride. Unlike last year, where he’d just thrown together a fox costume last-minute, he’d had time to prepare. And since the fox ears and tail now gave him a weird, queasy feeling when he saw them in his closet, he’d bought a cheap pirate outfit. Nothing fancy, just a hat made of folded felt, an eye patch, and a plastic sword to stick through one of the belt loops on his pants.
Just as he’d finished adjusting the eye patch and was reaching for his glasses, everything went dark with a loud whoosh, like a howling wind. This was not ‘a storm rolling in’ dark, nor ‘who turned out the lights?’ dark, nor even ‘accidentally put on two eye patches instead of one’ dark. He had been enveloped in the complete darkness of night. Not even the stars that filled the sky above him offered any illumination.
Where was he? What had just happened? And how were there stars in his room? He lifted his eye patch, for all the good that did, and shouted, “Hey!”
Acid green light flickered underneath him: trails of light, tracing a seven-pointed star around his feet, inscribed within a larger circle. As the last lines met, the light erupted around him and a great gust from underneath him blew his hair back and ruffled his clothes.
29 October, 2020
Blackshirtboy's birthday present is a free trip to Egypt Times, complete with a new catgirl princess persona. Mature.
Just as you settle down at your desk with some tea, your computer chimes with a new message:
You pause and double-check to make sure you’re not a panther, or a dragon, or a dog. You’re not. As far as you can tell, all your parts are still in their usual configuration. So you tell Kotep no, and wait for a minute or two to see if they’re going to send you something. When nothing comes right away, you shrug and grab your tablet pen so you can get to work.
A couple minutes into drawing, a warm draft ruffles the back of your shirt. You glance up at the window, which is wide open to the outside, with only a pair of linen curtains to soften the breeze. It’s not getting hot and sticky again, is it? Summer should be over by now. But the fresh air is light enough to soothe rather than stifle, and it carries the dry green smell of date palm blossoms into your room.
You narrow your eyes suspiciously at the window. It’s off, but you’re not sure how. You’re definitely not getting up to stick your head through, that’s for sure.
You turn back to your tablet and keep drawing.
The window stretches taller and taller and its panes disappear completely. Columns rise quietly from the receding walls, growing white and tapering until they blossom into wide lotus-petal capitals, painted red and green and gold. They meet the ceiling, then slowly and steadily push it higher and higher. Your small room isn’t so small any more.
You’re not paying attention to that, though. Your fingertips have turned black.
Black fur, smooth and short, sweeps over your hands. It ripples beneath your skin as it moves and reshapes your fingers, leaving them light and nimble. You barely have time to sit up in surprise before it moves up along your arms, like a pair of velvet gloves being tugged up past your elbows. The sleeves of your shirt cleave away from the rest, fall down your arms, and grip your arms as they re-form into gold armbands inlaid with blue lapis.
18 September, 2020
Part wish fulfillment and part Weird Tales, a party led by a ship's captain explores the strange island they landed on, only to find one of their number turning into a sheep-maid. General.
Today, the island took the first of our crew. I would say it is the fifteenth of September, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-six, but I am no longer sure. Since we put in to land five days ago, not once has the fog which shrouds the shores lifted.
In that time, no two parties sent into the interior of the island could agree on what they had found or where. One claimed it was a ring of land around a wide lagoon, another an impassable jungle thick with vines. Irritated by this, Captain Clarke this morning formed a party of the 'most sensible and scientifically-minded' men among the crew, the least given to flights of fancy or tall tales. They were the captain himself, the ship's cook and navigator Sloan, myself as naturalist and unofficial doctor, and a sailor named Simon who was the oldest and most seasoned of the ships's men. We would determine at last the nature of this strange place.
We set out from our encampment in the shadow of our ship, climbing up the seaward slopes of the hills. The fog descended over us until the tents along the sand had vanished and we could hear nothing but our own footsteps and breathing. Sloan and the captain walked ahead together, leaving me to keep my company with the sailor.
Simon did not speak much. The lines dug into the corners of his eyes made it seem as though he was always peering at some far-off memory, and the flecks of white in his black beard could almost have been sea-salt. I knew little about him save that he was from Connaught and that the captain regarded him highly.
9 March, 2020
Kotep poofs two of their friends into a couple of useless stoner genies. Mature.
Above a sea of lotus columns, an impossible number of stars swirled in the purple of the night sky. Below the columns, Rush and Tama followed close at Kotep’s heels. They both guessed that getting lost in the jackal-god’s home was an invitation to get hit by some ironic curse or another.
"This is the hypostyle hall," Kotep said with a sweep of their hand, looking back over their shoulder. "It's where I do festivals, parties, strip clubs—that kind of thing."
Tama was only sort-of listening, but she nodded along. "Sick."
"So how do you fit all this into one pyramid?" asked Rush.
Kotep did their best not to sigh out loud. "This is a temple, not a pyramid. Pyramids are for dead people."
"Wait," Tama said, "You're not dead? I thought you were a mummy or something."
"I'm a god."
Rush asked, "Aren't mummies kinda gods though?"
Kotep didn't bother answering that. Instead, they led their two guests onward, past braziers filled with golden flame spilling light across the open hall, and into a smaller, cozier room, lit by oil lamps that filled the air with fragrance. Several couches surrounded a table spread with grapes and candied dates, roast vegetables and morsels of meat stuck through with ankh-shaped skewers, and sitting in the middle of it all, a tall silver hookah.
11 December, 2019
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
A customer at Katie's diner is messing with words, and Katie—or whatever her name is now—has got to stop it. Mature.
Katie kept her name tag pinned above the left breast of her pink button-down blouse. It was part of the outfit she had to wear: the blouse, the matching skirt, and the apron she kept her pen and order pad stuffed into. At the start of every shift, she dug her name tag out of the bowl in the back next to the shift schedule, and pinned it to her chest. It was the one part of the dumb, outdated outfit that she had no problem with.
At least, not until today.
Two other name tags were missing from the bowl when Katie clocked in. The first belonged to Liz, who was making herself busy in the late-afternoon lull by tidying up around the register. Her shift would be over in an hour and change, and Katie knew she was just counting down the minutes, because that's what she did herself when she had the eleven o'clock shift.
The other was Benny's. He was just the busboy, but he was six-foot-something and had once tackled someone who'd tried to leave without paying. Katie had never talked to him much, but she gathered he'd played football while he was in school. She was jealous of him, because he didn't have to wear pink.
As far as Katie could tell, it was a normal, slow day at the diner. She'd gone around to each booth and pulled down the blinds, so the sun wouldn't be glaring in through the windows, and had checked to make sure the table of college-aged guys didn't need anything. They were no one she knew, thankfully.