The Party

Five short stories filled with Halloween-y costume transformation. Mature.

The setting sun lit the tops of the trees like Halloween lights against the purple sky. The old house poked its third story up above the leaves, looking down at the town below, where trick-or-treating was in full swing. The weather had relented just in time, making the evening crisp, but not cold. Cars already lined the narrow road leading up from the highway, parked off the shoulder wherever space could be found.

The path to the house was strung with small lanterns, but Mitch lingered by the side of the road, pacing while trying to look like he wasn't pacing. He picked his head up every time he heard another car rolling by, and occasionally reached back to make sure the duct tape holding his tail on wasn't peeling off. His fox costume was a last-minute affair: a headband with red ears, a costume tail taped to the seat of his pants, and a scribble of black marker on top of his nose, with a few whiskers drawn along his cheeks.

When she saw Mitch, Leah called out, "Hey!" Then she remembered her mask and pushed it up on top of her head. "Hey, Mitch!" she called again, jogging up to meet him.

Leah was dressed as a lion, in a costume that could have come from a stage production: a tawny bodysuit, big furry gloves and boots for paws, a fake mane with rounded ears poking from the top, and a rubber mask, which had been painted over to match the rest of the costume. A wire in her tail kept it curled in the air and made it swing behind her when she walked.

Mitch turned and smiled, relieved to see someone he knew. "Oh, hey!" he said, then nudged his glasses up his nose and took a closer look at Leah. "Where'd you get that? It looks good."

"My parents' attic. I had to kinda sneak it out of their house, but it was pretty dusty, so I don't think they're going to miss it for one night," Leah said, turning sideways to show off the tasseled tail.

"By the way, thanks for inviting me," Mitch said. "If you hadn't, I'd probably just wind up sitting in my dorm all night."

The two of them joked about tearing themselves away from video games until Allison arrived, dressed in a tank top in defiance of the fact that it was almost November, and with her arms folded tight against her chest. She looked from Mitch's bargain-bin fox costume to Leah's full, theatrical lion outfit. With a hesitant frown she asked, "Uh, is...everyone going to be dressed up?"

"There's probably going to be some people not in costume," Leah said. She lifted the lion mask from her forehead and offered it to Allie. "But you can borrow this if you want."

"Thanks," Allie breathed. She slipped the mask on over her face, then ruffled her hair to hide the elastic strap and tugged at the eye holes until they lined up with her eyes. The well-rendered snarl and wrinkled snout went a long way toward making up the fact that it was just a mask. "I don't want to look lame if Tory's going to be here," she said, wrapping her arms around herself again. "Now can we go inside?"

"We're still waiting for Erin and Chris. Let's give them another minute or two," Leah said.

It was hard to miss Chris. As he walked up, he announced himself with a dramatic growl of, "Greetings, puny humans!" He was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt patterned with red scales, a pair of tattered pants he'd used to be everything from a pirate to a peasant, red body paint to cover his hands and legs and face, a small rubber dragon's snout on top of his nose, and a stuffed red tail bouncing against the back of his calves.

Erin showed up just after Chris, wearing a jacket and jeans and canvas trainers. The only thing of hers that was even remotely a costume was the shock of red dye she'd put her hair the week before, and she had insisted that was just because she was tired of purple. "I heard you all the way down the road," she told Chris, giving him a mild glare. He didn't take it personally. Mild glaring was Erin's default state.

"You know this is a costume party, right?" Allie asked Erin.

Chris added, "I've got some horns and extra body paint back in my car. You could make a pretty good devil."

Erin rolled her eyes and sighed through her teeth. "Thanks, but I'm fine. I don't want a costume, I'm just here for the party."

And so the five of them filed up along the path toward the house: Leah in most of a lion costume, Chris already in character as a dragon, Allie wearing Leah's lion mask, Erin resolutely refusing to be anything but herself, and Mitch as a makeshift fox, bringing up the rear and gazing up at the old house rising from among the trees. The night was already settling in, rolling up the last rays of sunlight and drawing the sky darker. The warmth of music and voices rose as they crossed the lawn, eager to join...


The Party


Don't Enable Magic Animals

A cautionary tale about wishing that girls would find everything you say cute. Mature.

"That's not fair," said the young man.

"That's the rules," said the fox.

The fox was lying. There were no rules. Thus, there were no rules against lying about there being rules to get out of granting terrible wishes.

The little red beast stood atop a small boulder, which put him about at eye level with the man. The young man was standing on the ground, arms folded over a rough cloth tunic. A strip of fabric had been torn from the hem of his tunic and was now wrapped around the fox's left paw.

"That's the fourth one," the man complained.

"And all four of them were against the rules, so if you want a wish you'd better come up with one that isn't," said the fox.

"Can you tell me what the rules are?" the man asked.

"No. That's against the rules."

An Account of the Accession of Queen Mary IV to the Imperial Throne

A cat gets sucked into a world ruled by Victorian wolves and turned into their regent. Mature.

As requested by Her Majesty Queen Mary IV, Lord over all States of the Dominion, the following is an Accounting of the divers Events which preceded the Accession of H.M. Queen Mary IV to the Throne. The personal Account from which this History is constructed is my own as Royal Attendant Miss Abigail Hartford, and has been supplemented with other Accounts taken by Interview of others present for the Queen's Accession.

These Events began on a day in the Spring, upon which the kindly Weather was well disposed to Hunting. Thus I had left the Imperial City, having taken along with me Provisions and Victuals for the Day ahead, my Hunting Coat, and my Rifle. My Dogs carried my Sledge far afield into the Tundra, with the scent of some Beast (I had hoped to return with a Bear) in their Noses.

There was no Beast to be found, certainly not as such, that day. Instead, my Sledge was rocked by a Sound so terrible that my Dogs were frightened and which nearly knocked me into the Snow. As my Dogs were rendered useless through Fear and Shock, I resigned to leave them tied there on the Ice, and investigate the Source of the Sound on foot.

The Thief and the Sapphire

A thief trying to steal from the queen's palace gets turned into a princess instead. Mature.

It was the day of mourning for the dear, passed queen, and so Alex was wearing black. But, setting her apart from everyone else, Alex was currently making her way, brick by brick and handhold by handhold, toward the queen's balcony. With the queen dead, no one would be staying in her royal bedroom, so no one would notice if a couple of valuable gems and silks happened to vanish. And it wasn't as if the queen would care any more, either.

The leather-clad thief pulled herself onto the balcony that connected to the queen's room, and let out a long sigh. She'd made it, the hardest part was through. She stepped through the doorway, and into the grand bedroom, walls coated with tapestries, carpets muffling her quiet steps. There were gold and jewels and all sorts of expensive, easily carried things delicately arranged across dressers and desks and shelves. It was a thief's wet dream.