Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 7

[ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

Webb felt as though their fight-or-flight instincts had been activated—their palms sweating, their breath coming fast. Despite the fear buzzing through their veins like electricity, the temptation to just dash out into the street was incredibly high. They wanted to square off with this spooky motherfucker right in front of the Donut Unholy and demand answers. They didn’t want to run away as though they had something to hide.

But Ariadne and Faraday were frightened—and rightfully so. The Inquisitors weren’t law enforcement; there wasn’t really anything lawful about them. As far as Webb knew, nobody understood who they reported to, or where they came from in the first place. They just existed, and they sometimes appeared to eliminate a problem… and anything else that stood in their way.

Webb couldn’t deny that hungry little itch to know more. But they knew very well they were no damn hero, and now was not a good time to start pretending otherwise.

“Get us out of here,” they muttered to Ariadne, turning. “Fuck. You sure you’ll be alright on your own, Mr. Witch?”

They tried to keep the question as neutral as possible, but Faraday seemed to take it as a kindness regardless, flashing Webb a smile, his teeth very white in the darkness. “Don’t worry about me,” Faraday murmured. “I’ll catch up with you soon.”

“I wasn’t worried—”

“Just scatter for now,” Ariadne interrupted in a hushed hiss, already pulling Webb down the street hastily. “Text me when you can.”

As she passed him, Faraday leaned in quickly to give her a brief kiss on the mouth. Webb, still pressed closely to Ariadne, let out a disgruntled noise of protest, turning their face away.

It didn’t last long. Faraday turned and strode off down a nearby alley; and despite the ostentatious coat, as soon as Faraday started to move out of sight, Webb lost track of him immediately, as though he’d melted away into the shadows. They let out a low whistle under their breath.

Ariadne laughed quietly. When Webb turned her way, they saw that her lips were slick with blood that she was still licking away. Her eyes were brighter than before, her pale cheeks slightly pink.

“Are you shy, Mx. Webb?” she teased, though Webb could still see the nervousness on her face, the way that she kept glancing back over her shoulder as she hustled Webb down the street, picking up a light jog and forcing Webb to keep up.

“Is now really the time for that?” Webb muttered, irritable about cardio at the best of times, let alone life-threatening times.

“What, the blood?”

“No, that part made sense.” Webb had known enough vampires over the years. Ariadne might have been able to eat dinner to enjoy the flavor, but even given the amount of raw meat she’d shoved into her face, she wouldn’t get as much of it as she would by drinking live blood. “Like a shot of espresso, right? A five hour energy twink.”

Ariadne choked on a breathless noise, near-hysterical, laughing even as she cast the occasional furtive glance over her shoulder. “So what’s the problem, then? The flirting? The kissing?”

“Are you flirting? Is this flirting?” Webb demanded, wincing as they splashed through a puddle, soaking their sock up to their ankle. “This is the worst date I’ve ever been on, if so.”

“Is it really?”

“Honestly, no.”

“Didn’t think so.”

They’d reached a motorcycle parked in front of a convenience store that Webb presumed was Ariadne’s, given that she immediately popped the storage and hauled out a spare helmet. Webb grimaced, turning it around in their hands. It probably smelled like Faraday’s perfect hair. More annoyingly, it would probably be a tight fit over their sunglasses. And their hat. And their hood.

Webb considered themself to be fairly forgettable-looking, as humans went. Tall, though they appeared shorter, mostly due to having the postural integrity of a bent paperclip. Skinny, in an all-elbows-and-knees sort of way, largely obscured by their baggy drop pants and their oversized, hooded cardigan. They were neither noticeably pale, nor particularly dark-skinned. Some dark curls tended to escape from under their ever-present woolen hat, but otherwise, only their pair of snakebite piercings were overly notable, and they preferred to keep it that way.

Then again, they were currently being pursued by a ghost wielding a blade, and sometimes sacrifices needed to be made outside of one’s comfort zone.

Waiting until Ariadne had turned away to start her bike, Webb pressed their eyes tightly closed, whipped off their oversized sunglasses, then shoved the helmet over their head, snapping the tinted visor down into place.

It was a bit of a snug fit, but what Webb had in hat, Faraday had in hair, so it worked out. And they were right. It did smell unnecessarily like lavender.

“Hold on,” Ariadne instructed as the engine roared to life. Webb awkwardly mounted onto the seat behind her, wrapping their arms around her waist after a moment’s hesitation. Their grip tightened immediately as Ariadne peeled out of the parking lot with a rush of exhaust and a squeal of tires, sending them hurtling down the street in the neon-lit darkness.

Glancing in Ariadne’s side mirror as they tore out of sight, Webb felt their mouth go dry. Standing in the middle of the road, growing vanishingly small in the distance, was the wraithlike figure of the Inquisitor. As Webb watched, the Inquisitor leaned down and picked something up off the ground, followed by a little telltale flash of green—the ghostly plume of Webb’s enchanted pen.

Webb smiled grimly to themself, pressing a little more closely to Ariadne’s back. Dropping it had been a bit of a gamble, but they doubted the Inquisitors carried cellphones. For now, this would have to do.

Ariadne didn’t take them far, though Webb began to worry about halfway through the trip that they were, in fact, going to be taken to the bad kind of secondary location for nefarious purposes despite all their careful planning. Instead, she pulled up in front of a Waffle House, killed the ignition, then let out a big sigh, slumping back into Webb’s arms.

“Ughhh,” she sighed. “I’m so sorry about all this, Webb. I figure this isn’t how you wanted your night to go.”

Webb held her awkwardly, not sure how to get off the bike without them both falling over. At a loss, they ducked their head forward slightly to clonk their helmet against hers.

“As long as you don’t turn out to be fucking with me, I suppose we’ll call it even, since I’m not currently getting murdered by Ghost Rider in my bed, and I appreciate that fact.”

Ariadne let out a laugh. After another moment, she hauled herself up, hopping off the bike and offering Webb a hand. She left her helmet on as they headed inside, so Webb did the same. Waffle House had seen worse.

“I’ll text Faraday to let him know where we are,” Ariadne murmured as they got settled into a booth. They ordered two coffees they wouldn’t be able to drink, as was customary. “Then after that, we’ll go… where?”

“To the Curator’s,” Webb said. “And if there’s no luck there—to the Drawing Dead. If we go soon, it’ll be late evening, but not so late that it’ll be absolutely, you know, terrifying. Meanwhile, Pax should be around and working until 3AM, so we’ve got time, there.”

“Got it.” Ariadne turned her attention to her phone.

Shifting into the corner of the booth, legs stretched out, Webb pulled out their own phone. While they were waiting, they figured they might as well start looking for some information on former clients that may or may not have gone missing. Or…

They reached in the inner pocket of their coat and pulled out their slim black notebook, flipping it open to the most recent blank page. Nothing was written there yet, but as long as they willed it do so, whatever their pen wrote—no matter where, or how far away it was—Webb would be able to read it here. And on the flip side, whatever they wrote in their book, the pen would try to write out… on whatever surface seemed most reasonable.

They had no guarantees that the Inquisitor was still holding onto it and hadn’t either shown it to their ghostly buddies or tossed it in a lockbox as evidence, but it might be worth a shot.

That said, they didn’t know how far away Faraday was, or if and when Ariadne might look up from her texting and get curious. Should they risk using the book right now, or focus on digging up more info about their clients first, in preparation for meeting up with the Curator? Or just, you know, have a conversation to try to get to know Ariadne a little more?

[Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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7 Comments

  • Prince Charming

    I imagine the Inquisitor is holding your pen right now and is waiting for something to happen. You shouldn’t let them wait long. Try to communicate with them. If they are open for communication, they might be your best source of information anyway.

    And you know now for sure that they are after you. Or wanted to speak with you, at least. That confirms Faraday‘s and Ariadne‘s story. But they might still be able to tell you something you don’t know yet.

  • Purple Wizard Needs Fantasia (@Proxificent)

    Be very careful when using that pad to communicate with the Inquisitors; if you’re going to do it, better do it here at the waffle house, and leave the pad behind when you leave; if the pen and the pad are connected, it’s not unreasonable to expect that the Inquisitors can use the pen to track the location of the pad through some kind of ritual.

    Actually trying to communicate with them is I think kind of a crapshoot; most cops don’t take kindly to a suspect fleeing them, and anything they tell us is immediately suspect.

  • meredithakatz

    I favor waiting to see if they say anything first, and maybe also waiting until Faraday is here so you can get a witch to confirm if the tie between the two items can be used to track you before revealing to the Inquisitors that it’s a two-part item in the first place. (I get that you might not want to reveal you dropped the pen on purpose, but they have access to your office so that’s fine, right?)

    Also it’d be super rude AND super obvious to ignore Ariadne to write on paper right in front of her coffee. Start up a conversation, and maybe focus it around the clients to give it some direction if things get awkward?

  • t a

    Doodle something amusing for the Inquisitor right before you leave the Waffle House. Do it based on the vibe of your conversation with the others, to avoid suspicion. Like a frowny face or hearts or stars or a dong or something.

  • Vikarmic

    Definitely wait for them to contact you, at least for the night. The pen is more of a long-term investment; assuming they understand what it is and/or are capable of handling nuance, you’re signaling you’re willing to communicate. Best to see if they take you up on the offer, and how — you learn more that way.

    Digging up information on clients sounds like a plan. Remember that you’ve got a group that just went out — who sold you the information you gave them? Where’d you send them? It might be late to intervene if they’re in trouble (or it might not), but either way you might be able to glean something from whether they get attacked or not.

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