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0.1 Trick or Treat

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     "We could go together, the three of us!" Jonathan suggested brightly as Ami reached over to steal a french fry from the platter that sat between them, dipping it into a small paper cup of mayonnaise and horseradish. "It's only open tonight."

     "But what about Buddy?" Ami asked. Buddy lifted his head.

     "What about Buddy?" he repeated, grinning.

     "Don't you and DW have a date? The Manor's only open for the night."

     "Oh, yeah..." He contemplated this for a moment, frowning seriously. "Well I guess we could bring him along. I'm sure DW's never been to a haunted house before that wasn't actually haunted."

     Their laughter in response was cut short by the sound of footsteps on the floor and the appearance of a smoothly dressed and impeccably handsome gentleman. "Oh, believe me," came the satin voice of DW. "I've seen more horror than you can imagine. But I'll see what you humans can cook up for fun." He winked, then slid into the booth to place a kiss upon Buddy's cheek.

     "Oh, hey you!" Buddy brightened considerably, like he always did when his boyfriend-slash-devil-slash-politician in the making appeared. "We were just talking about the haunted house that opened up in town, at the old Strand Manor."

     "So I've deduced. And you're all... Fans of this sort of things?" A single promptly trimmed eyebrow arched into a sublime peak.

     "Johnny is. They used to be his favorite when we were kids," Ami put in with a grin.

     "We went every year together, until they closed it when we were ten..." He frowned. "I wonder why."

     "Who cares?" Buddy answered in his own light, airy way. "They always have the best food, and I don't know about you but I could definitely go for some candied apples right now.

     So it was decided and, unknown to any of them, what was supposed to be a night of fun was soon to turn dark.

-

     The old Strand Manor was located far out of town, a great, imposing figure stuck between rows and rows of endless cornfields with windows like two menacingly dark eyes watching all who dared step foot upon the property. A winding driveway was the only entrance to the property, and Jonathan's car bumped and groaned all the way along its potholes and mud puddles with much complaint from the chassis. Yet they endured this all with a childish sense of anticipation swelling in the car, perhaps most of all for Jonathan, whose excitement swelled once the grand estate had come fully into view.

     A rather sizable area of the front cornfield had been cleared away recently to make the mud pit that served as a makeshift parking lot. Several cars had parked here, and out from them came children clinging nervously to their parents, and teenagers rough-housing, ready to take on the world. Most immediate was the sound of laughter, but in the distance, the back fields that composed yet more of the horror attraction, screams of utter terror lit up the night air. A biting wind chilled them to their bones, and it was in those moments impossible to tell where it was that breeze which stirred the crops, or some insidious figure which stalked throughout. The crisp scent of earth and leaves and coming rain hung heavy over all the world. Jonathan had never felt more at home.

     The four of them made their way across the rough parking lot to what might've once been a shed, but had been commandeered as a sort of tickets and concession stand. There were even t-shirts with fitting sayings, such as "I Survived Lector's Lair," and -to much amusement- "My Boyfriend Went to Hell and all He Brought me Back was this T-Shirt," with splatters of vibrant crimson blood upon it. Selling these was a young woman dressed all in black and donning ghoulish makeup. She looked like she was probably not far out of college.

     "Welcome to Strand Manor!" she greeted them, perhaps too cherry for the eerie atmosphere, though she did attempt a devilish grin. "Which of our attractions are you interested in seeing?"

    "All of them!" they chorused. The young woman's smile grew.

     "Excellent." Turning, she reached back and retrieved for each of them a coffin shaped ticket, handing them to Jonathan, who surrendered their admission fee. "Is there anything else?"

     "Yeah." Buddy meant over Jonathan's shoulder, his own smile broad and mischievous. "How much are those t-shirts?"

-

With their admissions paid for and DW now sporting the My Boyfriend shirt with an ironic sort of dignity, they were shown towards the apparently crumbling manor steps by a decidedly creepy butler. His nails were long and yellow, and his teeth were much the same, while his eyes were black as pitch. Jonathan thought that whoever had done his makeup deserved a raise.

     "We welcome you to the Manor House," the butler's low-pitching voice bore out. "Left empty for so many years, it is said that a great many tragedies occurred beyond this threshold. Who knows what may be discovered? Who is to say what terrors you will find? Will you be boiled alive, or fed to the ravenous wolves? All that can be known is that no good can come to those who enter this house." On cue, the door slowly whined open with a noise that was eerily authentic, a great squealing howl to bring goosebumps to the flesh. "And who knows what dark magic may still linger? But beware!" The butler lurched forward. "For those who do not believe may find that the ghosts do not take kindly to a skeptic in their midst." Stepping back, the butler drew the rickety door wider, bidding them enter into the darkly lit home from which a strange green fog rolled out. They followed him, strung in by his words and their own excitement. Even DW seemed enthralled by the mystery of it all, crossing slowly over the threshold, the last to do so. Just as he had entered into the room, the door slammed loudly shut, earning a nervous laugh from the group.

     The house was narrow, and they were brought through the large great room -lit by a flickering chandelier and filled with an eerie silence) immediately into a slender hallway. Here, the screams they'd heard before were magnified, coming from the walls and from the distance. Wails and howls rang throughout. From a portrait, a figure burst out, reaching their way. They were covered in blood and had a great, gnarled set of snarling, snapping teeth, a mouth that foamed and frothed. Their laughter in response was luminous as Buddy jumped towards DW. Their guide's lips curves into a wicked smile.

     "You will take care to beware," warned the butler. "There is old magic here yet. Not all things are as they seem. Some have life to them we would not anticipate... Others have hidden dangers not yet seen." Above, from the ceiling, dropped a ghastly human head. It's eyes opened, blood shot and crimson stained, staring out with an eerily intelligent gaze. Somewhere, the sound of shutters banging and the great, long whining of howling wind pierced through the wooden walls. The butler's eyes listed about the room, searching silently before they landed in return upon the group.

     "Come with me, come with me," he urged. "There is so much more yet to come."