Halloween 2020 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “Final Call” – Day 10

[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]

He won’t wear any browns, that’s for sure. Not after that dream, where everything was sucked into that horrible, desiccated orange-brown. But something too colorful might make him the center of attention again, even if they think he’s Shuni, and would draw eyes away from the real Shuni, so that’s out too. Nevertheless, he wants something that makes him feel more alive, and something that speaks to his new-found interest in Lord Crow. 

Lucien flips through the closet, pulling pieces out until he has something that satisfies him. It’s largely a simple suit in black, but he has added twists of color to it. A lime green cravat. A gold waistband. Some layered pendants with glittering beads. He feels like the night sky, a deep darkness with stars and aurora twisting through it. Nocturnal and sparkling: both things that Lord Crow might like.

Not that Lord Crow is likely to see him in this outfit before the show. The point is to trick the costumers, the cast and crew, so the two of them aren’t forced back into their usual roles—the ones they have rehearsed, their expected parts, the ones the crew is paying them for. He’s to be Shuni before the show, and Shuni is to be him. But after, either Lord Crow will be fooled and take Shuni away for the rest of the night, or he won’t, and then Lucien will be able to show Lord Crow how he looks in something like this.

He may not have wasted too much time dressing, but he knows he doesn’t have much time left. If he’s going to be nosy, he can’t dawdle on it too much. On the one hand, it’s a bit rude—Shuni has been nothing but lovely to him—and like all actors, he’s sure Shuni is going to be a handful if crossed. On the other, he’s curious. He wants to know more.

Moving quickly, Lucien heads over to the desk and attempts to look at Shuni’s papers without shuffling them around too much. It looks like Shuni has been practicing writing in multiple handwritings. Perhaps a hobby; it’s nonsense phrases, a few quotes, something about heartless men. Nothing more than that, disappointingly; Lucien had been hoping for some in-progress letter to a loved-one, something else that might make him understand Shuni more outside the show.

The shelf is equally disappointing. It’s all scripts and chapbooks, with some mythology and folk tales scattered in. Shuni has been a performer for some time, it seems—or, if they aren’t shows he’s been in, he at least reads voraciously in the genre.

Lucien’s definitely running out of time now, and almost gives up when he steps into the hall, but he can still hear Shuni frying something, so he decides to try one more room. The next one he opens is the bathroom. It’s a convenient excuse to nose around more; Shuni’s water closet isn’t separate from the bathroom itself, so Lucien is able to make use of the facilities, then look through the bathroom furniture. Perhaps he might find erotic drawings, or medication, or something else that gives him a deeper understanding of Shuni.

Instead, he finds a jewelry box in the cupboard, and he opens that box to find a deep-set bloodstain set in the bottom. There is nothing else in it at all. It seems as if something bloody sat here a very long time, from how set the stain is.

He stares at it for a long moment before putting the box back. This has only raised more questions, and he truly doesn’t have more time to search now. 

But they’re not questions he can easily ask, either. To ask about it is to admit that he began searching through Shuni’s things, antagonizing him—and for what? Not to mention, the play will begin soon, and the play must go on. He cannot afford to start a fight over this for something that might turn out to be nothing at all. 

If Lucien’s going to ask Shuni, he’ll have to ask later. Still, he doesn’t know how he’ll sit across from Shuni and find anything else to talk about.

When he heads downstairs, though, it turns out to be remarkably easy. Shuni turns and addresses him by Shuni’s own name, practicing Lucien’s voice and mannerisms. It’s easy enough to do the same, to try to get into role as Shuni, to speak with his drawling, sarcastic diction, and pretend that Shuni is the confused and distracted man Lucien normally is. 

Shuni would have no reason to ask Lucien about the box, and so Lucien, pretending to be Shuni, doesn’t ask a thing.

Having managed to do it through breakfast, it’s remarkably easy to keep the strange play-swap up as they head to the theatre. The costumers buy it, starting to shove them into the wrong outfits and put the wrong makeup and styling on them. If the costumers notice the slight differences in their frames or facial shapes, it doesn’t stop them.

Lucien is finished being costumed before Shuni is—Logos has a less involved costume than Arcane does—and goes to a mirror, gazing at himself and seeing only Shuni now that he’s fully costumed up. It’s a strange sight, and he mouths Logos’s lines to himself in the mirror, trying to keep focused.

He sees Katarin approach him in the reflection and he briefly panics—he didn’t ask Shuni what the two of them talked about at the pub!—but he supposes he can wing it. Perhaps he can say he drank more than he’d realized, and forgot. “Katarin,” he drawls, turning.

She draws a breath, squaring her shoulders. “I’m just going to ask straight out. I can’t wait anymore, I need to know, and I feel like it has to be one of you. You or Lucien.” Then she says something in a language that Lucien not only doesn’t speak, but he’s pretty sure he’s never heard before. She switches back. “I’m right, aren’t I? Shuni, it’s you, isn’t it?”

What is she talking about? How would Shuni react? Should he just tell her about the switch? Lucien freezes, hoping the panic of indecision isn’t showing on his face.

[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]

[Next Day]

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4 Comments

  • Prince Charming

    Tell her the truth. That you switched roles to give Lord Crow a puzzle to solve. Tell her that you didn’t understand what she said, but would like to help with whatever it is.
    As actors that play so close together each night you should trust each other and help each other.

    What do your costumes look like?

  • Vikarmic

    The answer to the question is simple; it’s not you, and she’s mistaken. But being confronted in this way, Shuni has every right to ask for more details, and more than a few good reasons. (One of which, of course, is that you’re only Shuni for the evening — and if you put her off onto Lucien’s trail, that’ll be your problem tomorrow.)

    But Shuni would also give Lucien a warning, if he got the chance, so you should. It’s the decent thing to do.

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