• Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 17

    [New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]

    With him threatening you and making demands, you are, more than ever, aware of the heart hidden inside your shirt and that you need to protect it. No matter how good it smells, you definitely must not eat it, especially not where he can see. And you’re not sure that if you let him know you have it, it’ll remain safe.

    More to the point, though, this man seems like he knows what’s going on—and knows you, whoever you are. Given that he’s threatening you, it may not be the best idea to antagonize him, but you force yourself to focus on coming up with some questions. If you have something he wants, he might be willing to answer. You don’t remember much, but you have things to rely on, and, perhaps, things relying on you, so you have to do your best. The heart’s still beating—that means it’s alive, right? And might stay that way if you care for it properly.

    You take a deep breath.

    “Who exactly are we waking up?” you ask. You’re shocked by how unfamiliar your voice is this time.

    He stares at you as if you’ve grown a second heart. “Where the hell is this coming from?” he asks. “You know who. The Terror Underground. The Hill’s Horror. He’s lain sleeping for thousands of years, undisturbed. Why are you asking about that now?”

    “The rituals.” You make up an explanation for your behavior, anxious. “They’re messing with my memory, I think. You’re threatening to sacrifice me but I don’t know where I am, or how we got here…”

    His expression grows exasperated. “I should have realized,” he says, more annoyed than anything else. “Since you’re the sacrifice who bears the sacrifice. But we’ve met here for years, you and I and the others, after we found out this is where he’s sleeping. Once you give it up, you’ll remember again, because you won’t be bearing the burden. So stop on asking questions and it’ll all come back on its own.”

    You try to take a step away from him, but his hand tightens around your shoulder. Unable to escape, you try to examine the area around, to get a better sense of where this is, if you’re really supposed to remember. For a moment, you think, Isn’t this where I parked the car? But that’s absurd, because there’s no car here, and you don’t remember driving anywhere.

    “I don’t understand,” you say. You don’t have to try in order to sound plaintive. “Why are ‘we’ trying to wake him up? If he’s a terror underground, shouldn’t we let him sleep?”

    “Oh, he’ll wake some day regardless,” the man says. “We are a group of individuals who know how to appease him. If we wake him with the sacrifice of the heart of one of his own kind, he will pour power back into us in thanks. Everything is prepared, Seven. We’re running out of time. Give it over. Put it on the altar.

    “The heart of one of his own kind?” you ask.

    “It took a lot of work to dig up,” the robed man grumbles. “It was kept in a saint’s shrine, stupidly enough. The fools didn’t know what they had. That the man who they thought was a saint was really a devil’s child, the offspring between a monster and a human woman, and his unnatural heart wasn’t kept beating through God’s power. But now you have it, do you not? Are you not hiding that? Its power will pour out and he will want to eat it and become strong. Let’s give him a breakfast to be thankful for.”

    He has managed to drag you to the altar now. It is stone, with a groove in the centre. You stare down at it. “Why should I let you hurt it? Why must we sacrifice anything—”

    “Are you not listening, Seven?” he demands. “Don’t tell me you want it for yourself. For fuck‘s sake. I’ll offer yours first and whet his appetite for something better. You’re the seventh son of a seventh son—you can be damn well sure that what you’ve got in your body will be of interest to anything that wants power. That’s why you were chosen.”

    “Chosen,” you repeat. Finally, this is starting to sound familiar.

    “The sacrifice who bears the sacrifice,” he repeats. “The chosen one. For fuck’s sake.”

    Yes, this is familiar. You are the seventh son of a seventh son, the seventh member of their group and known only by this number. From the moment your father invited you into this inner circle, you’ve been praised for your potential due to your bloodline, that most powerful ancient number repeated. It’s been long known that any sacrifice you make will have more power than that made by any other human. You are here because that day has finally come.

    It is time.

    He has a knife pressed to your sternum now, just below your breastbone. Inside your shirt, you can feel the foreign god’s heart pumping anxiously against your belly.

    You are running out of time. You know your options: you can agree to sacrifice the heart of the devil’s child, and spare yourself. You can let Five here kill you.

    You search your mind for other options.

    You can sacrifice the heart to yourself rather than the horror beneath the ground, like Five thought you might be doing. You can try to flee with the heart, and hope Five does not catch you.

    Can you go back Through? You reach for it, but you can’t find that exit. That option is closed to you.

    You are out of time. His knife is pressing in. You must choose.

    It is time.

    [Please offer actions, thoughts, or concerns for Seven in the Comments.]

    [Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 |  Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]

  • Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 16

    [New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]

    You freeze up briefly as the cliffs—the eyelids—come sliding in towards you. If you don’t move, you will be crushed by them. You know that, but this isn’t exactly a situation you’ve had time to prep for. Even without memories, you are fairly certain that ‘getting crushed by blinking’ never crossed your mind as a possible way to die.

    As they rush in, you force yourself to move.

    First, you drop the heart down the front of your hoodie and pray that it won’t fall out the bottom as you move. Or, worse, get squished along with you. (Why is that worse? You just somehow know it is.) But you don’t know how much you’ll need your hands, and you can’t risk everything by not having them free.

    You consider your options as quickly as you can, gaze flicking rapidly around, your own eyes straining for anything that might be an opportunity. You could try stomping through the soft place beneath you and hoping you slip beneath the ?ice?. You could try lunging for the cave and hoping you fall into it as the lids close, leaving you safe. You can reach up and let the horrible, unknowable, foreign stars take you.

    In your confusion and growing panic—I don’t want to die! Sweet, help me!—you try to do all of them at once.

    You

    fall

    and

    go

     

    t                 h                 r                  o                  u                  g                  h

     

    It spins. It yanks you around and whirls you and you are sick and lost and you do not know who you are, you do not know, you do not know, you do not know.

    You didn’t mean to go far, but you did. You have. You are too far, perhaps, but you feel as though you’ve been too far this entire time.

    When you land, you find yourself on a hilltop. It is a cold autumn night and you are crouched, arms wrapped around your midsection to try to protect your heart. Tears are blurring your vision, and you are humiliated and afraid, sobbing, trying to catch your breath. You wish someone would shield you from this.

    (“Sometimes we need other people to make decisions for us in the heat of the moment.” Who had said that? Why can’t you remember? Someone’s missing, the person who would say that. You feel a fondness for them, a jab of pain, of fear.

    But that’s just another incomprehensible thought in this incomprehensible place.)

    You close your eyes so you cannot see whatever might be around you and you try to pull the ragged, shaking pieces of your mind together so you can be you, practical and reasonable. You know that about yourself. That you try to stay calm even when things are beyond reason. That you’re practical. That you have a powerful imagination, sometimes, but you know how likely it is that it’s just imagination.

    This isn’t.

    With your eyes still closed, you stick your face down into the front of your hoodie a little, hiding. The heart is in here. Still cradling it inside, you bring it up a little to your face and inhale its scent. It smells …

    ???

    No. You focus.

    It smells… sweet. Strange. You don’t know how a heart should smell, but probably just meaty—right? This smells like sap on old, damaged trees. You remember going on a field trip once as a child and they poured the tree blood out onto the snow and told you to give it a try. You were young, and you were upset. The trees were being hurt. But when you tasted it, you tried to believe it was all right. The trees would be fine; they told you that, and they should know. That was their job. You tried to believe the trees would give it to you willingly—it tasted so good. It was so sweet.

    Without meaning to, you stick your tongue out and taste the heart, a quick, tentative lick.

    It’s good.

    It’s sweet.

    It tastes like it smells, syrup and sugar and nature.

    You want to eat it.

    A hand grabs your shoulder and shakes, and you jerk your head up, pretending you weren’t just rubbing your tongue over the disembodied beating heart of some unthinkable creature, that you weren’t just tasting an impossible, inhuman organ that you have stuffed into your hoodie.

    You don’t recognize the man there, or, at least, you don’t think you have any way to. He’s wearing a robe, though, and you don’t think you’ve known anyone who wears robes any time except Halloween.

    (Isn’t it Halloween, though?)

    “Do you have it?” he asks.

    You stare at him, then look around. With the tears gone, you realize that there is an altar in the clearing on the hilltop.

    The man pulls you up by your shoulder. “Do you have it?” he asks again impatiently, as he drags you to the altar. “If you don’t have it, we’re right fucked. We have to wake him up or the rituals are for nothing. I swear, if you don’t have it, I’ll pull your heart out and sacrifice that instead.”

    [Please offer actions, thoughts, or concerns for ?you?? in the Comments.]

    [Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 |  Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]

  • Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 15

    [New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]

    You take a moment to consider the pulsing heart in your hands. Objectively, it’s terrifying. You can recognize that fact. For some reason, the still-beating heart of some inhuman creature is clutched between your palms, pumping air through it, hot and slick and tantalizing. This should be terrifying to anyone. Subjectively, even as you’re amazed at yourself for your lack of reaction, you find it more of a tempting curiosity. It’s a mystery in your grasp, to destroy or protect, to abandon, to hold, to take into yourself… the possibilities are endless.

    You wonder why these feel like possibilities at all.

    You make a mental list of what should not be possibilities: dropping it, licking it, eating it, leaving it behind. It’s in your hands for a reason, and for now, you’ll keep it there. It seems important. You should keep it safe.

    You do wish you knew how it got into your hands, and who—or what—it could have come from. You cast your thoughts about but can’t find any answers.

    You decide to try to think about yourself instead. You don’t remember who you are, or how you got here, or why there is a heart in your hands. So all you can start with are the basic details.

    You look down at yourself. You see that you are wearing jeans and a washed-out blue hoodie. It feels and looks like there might be something in your pocket, but you can’t check while holding the heart. There appears to be a flashlight clipped to a belt loop. You are wearing black sneakers. Your hair is too short to make out its color, but the bit of hair you can see where one sleeve has rolled up a little is pale. You clear your throat and say, “Hello?” tentatively. Your voice is low and a bit scratchy, and you find you don’t like it very much.

    You also wish you hadn’t said anything; although the environment does not change, your voice feels sucked out of you, like it was stolen from your mouth.

    You don’t know who you are from the pieces you’ve put together, and you don’t know what you’re doing here. You think briefly that it could be some sort of test, or trap, but you don’t know what you are getting tested on, or what might trap you.

    You switch to considering the environment again instead.

    You decide that there is something very wrong with this place. The directions you can go are all around you, but you also acknowledge that there is a sense of up (the sky), down (the ?ice?), and through. You don’t know where through leads, or how to get there, but you sense it here. You’re sure you can figure it out if it’s necessary.

    You start walking. You’re heading toward a point where the trees look thinner—and it is almost a point, as if the lake is a oval that narrows dramatically at either end. It looks like it will only be about a twenty minute walk. After five, you are off the black circle and you are faintly relieved it doesn’t follow you.

    You feel fairly secure walking so far. The ice isn’t as slippery as you expect ice to be. You consider crawling if you have to, or if it gets worse, but you would prefer not to, as you don’t know what you would do with the heart in your hands if you had to. Could you hold it safely between your elbows…?

    You have walked a bit closer and you realize there is a short cliff rimming the frozen lake, and the trees form a single line on the rim, as if planted only on the very edge rather than growing there naturally. The trees remind you a little of palm trees, though they seem to lack leaves, only trunks.

    You consider the fact that you might be walking on the surface of a giant eye, and somehow, that is more horrifying than the fact that you are holding a beating heart. You walk more quickly, though still carefully. There is a story, you think, that this reminds you of. But for the life of you, you can’t remember the story.

    You draw close to the edge finally, though you’re still a minute or two away. The short cliff isn’t too high from what you can see—more to the point, it has much more of a slope than it had looked to have from far away. You also see a low cave in the ‘corner’ of the cliff. The ice is softer here. The stars seem closer. The heart seems strangely delicious. Your footing seems poor. ??Through?? is here also. These are all directions.

    You realize the black circle is back under you again.

    The cliffs begin to move, sliding towards you across the ice. Where will you go? What direction will you flee? Will you flee? Decide.

    [Please offer actions, thoughts, or concerns for ??you???? in the Comments.]

    [Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 |  Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]

  • Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 14

    [New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]

    “It’s all right, Sweet,” Septimus said slowly. “You already told me that some things that might happen would be personal. I’m okay with whatever it is, but you know, it’s fine that you want me not to see it. You can have that bath and I won’t come in with you.”

    Sweet drew a sharp breath. “…Thanks,” he muttered. “I’m sorry, I know it’s—this has to be shitty for you, but I just—”

    “Is it okay if I stay outside the door?” Septimus cut in. He didn’t really want to hear the apology, didn’t want to make Sweet have to make it. “Rather than going to check the chest out by myself, I just… I want to make sure I can come in if you fall or something. And this way we can check the chest out together. We should try to avoid being separated, and besides, I mean. It’s your house, your situation. You deserve to be there.”

    Flushing, Sweet nodded. “Thanks,” he said again. Then, abruptly, “I don’t know how you’re so calm about all this.”

    “I can freak out later,” Septimus said wryly. “When we’re both safely out of here.”

    “Really practical,” Sweet said, a bit more like his old self, finally. “Very commendable.”

    “Go have your bath,” Septimus said. He gestured between himself and the wall across from the bathroom door. “I’ll go back to waiting in hallways.”

    Sweet laughed softly, and went back into his room briefly, coming back with a towel. “Don’t get too bored out here.”

    “I have my phone,” Septimus said.

    Time seemed to be moving normally again now, ticking by, and it was 1:15 or so by the time that Sweet came back out. He’d redressed in his normal clothes, but his feet were bare and his his hair was damp, soaking into the towel draped around his shoulders. His skin was flushed with renewed warmth. He looked better, more peaceful, and Septimus could only hope that it had done some good for whatever effect he was dealing with.

    “Ready?” Sweet asked him, and the warmth was back in his voice too, that vagueness gone. “You look exhausted, Sep.”

    “The night’s starting to catch up to me,” he admitted. “But we have to do this, right? I’m not sure I believe that we could just go to sleep and everything’ll be fine in the morning. Maybe whatever we find in there will help and we can just conk out in your room.”

    He tried to slip it in there casually, but Sweet noticed it, grinning abruptly.

    “I mean, sounds good to me,” Sweet said.

    They headed down the hall to Sweet’s mother’s room and back inside. Sweet looked around like he hadn’t seen it for a while, but there was at least clear recognition on his face.

    “So. Mom’s chest of goodies,” he said. “You have no idea how much I wanted to know what she kept in there when I was a kid. It drove me nuts.”

    “I bet,” Septimus said. “I felt the same way about some of the stuff my parents worked with. All kinds of ancient antiques. I felt like one of them’d be the thing that let me be the chosen one or something. I read a lot of fantasy, and having classics profs for parents—let alone ones that sometimes did field work—really didn’t help.”

    Sweet snorted a laugh. “Well, brave hero, are you going to open the treasure chest to unveil the item of power?”

    “Shut up,” Septimus said, laughing too, but went for the chest, patting the ground next to him. Sweet sat, and Septimus pulled the key out of his pocket, fitting it into the lock. “A perfect fit!”

    Sweet hummed a familiar riff. “Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah…”

    Obligingly, Septimus popped the padlock off, then opened the chest. It was empty except for an actual necklace this time, and he reached in to lift it up, playing Link in their little joke. His hand closed around the pendant and reality

    sʇɹǝʌuı

    ?You? are on a frozen lake.

    It curves very gently under your feet. There are a few miles in each direction to reach land.

    The curve is not strong enough to make it difficult to stand on the ice but you can feel the strain in your legs from keeping your balance regardless.

    The section of ice you are standing on is black for a wide, wide circle, but you can see that further out, the ice becomes white all around.

    The lake is rimmed with thick, dark trees in ??all?? directions.

    The sky overhead is black, but you have enough light to see by from the ???? winking down at you.

    There is a pulsing heart cupped in your hands, black and purple rather than red. It is ????? to the touch.

    [Please offer actions, thoughts, or concerns for ????????? in the Comments.
    Thank you for a great second week! I hope you enjoy the rest.]

    [Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 |  Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]

  • Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 13

    [New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]

    “I’m fine,” Septimus said sheepishly. He pushed away from the wall, his shoulder a little bruised for his efforts, and picked the comforter off the floor. “You cold?”

    For a moment, Sweet just stared at him in that same blank confusion, like he was taking stock of his own body to try to answer and couldn’t interpret the messages he was getting. It was an unnerving expression, absent and unfamiliar.

    Then his expression cleared a little with some visible effort, and he nodded. “I’m… really cold, actually.”

    “That’s what this is here for.” Septimus wrapped the comforter around Sweet’s shoulders, pulling him in for a hug. “I’ve got you.”

    Sweet let out a little sound, somewhere between a groan and a laugh, face dropping to Septimus’s shoulder. His cheek brushed Septimus’s bare neck, and Septimus jolted; Sweet wasn’t just cold, he was icy. It was like having snow dumped down his collar. Nothing living seemed like it could get that cold and survive.

    “I’ve got you,” he said again, for lack of anything else to fill the space while he rejected that thought. “Let’s go upstairs, get you warmed up. I can get you a hot drink if you like. And maybe a bath?”

    “I don’t want to be alone yet,” Sweet said.

    “That’s okay,” Septimus said. The offer to sit next to the tub rose and died unspoken. It was an intimate thing, and while he was fine with it, it didn’t seem right to do while he was keeping his own secrets—better to get that out first. He nudged Sweet toward the stairs; Sweet responded sluggishly, but went along. “While you were down there, I, uh, I actually went into your mom’s room.”

    “What?” Sweet’s confusion grew. “Why?”

    “Well, like I was asking about,” Septimus said awkwardly, “I thought she might have something that’d help. And maybe if it had to do with the house, she’d have left it here to be sure she had it if she ever came back.” He hesitated, then added, “I’m sorry I went in there without asking you.”

    Sweet looked at him, but his gaze didn’t fix on Septimus’s face. Once again, he looked like he was far away, like he was seeing something else entirely. “It’s okay, Sep,” he said vaguely. “I mean, it makes sense. Did you find anything…?”

    They’d made it to the top of the stairs, so Septimus figured it was safe to let go of Sweet for a moment without risking him just toppling down. He dug around in his pocket. “Yeah, I—”

    It was the penny that Septimus pulled out, and even in his current state, Sweet’s brows rose at the sight. “Small change?” he asked in a tone so non-judgmental that it wrapped right around to the other side again.

    Septimus flushed.

    “It wasn’t what I was looking for,” he protested, staring down at it to avoid having to look Sweet in the eye. Then, more thoughtfully, he considered its weight in his hand. It seemed like maybe it could be a test about the way space felt in this place, like if he flipped it and it landed normally, the problem was definitely over. It couldn’t hurt, anyway. He went to give it a flip, but fumbled it as his phone started blaring.

    Sweet jumped, then sank down to sit in the hallway, clutching his head. “What the hell—”

    “Sorry,” Septimus managed, fumbling his phone out with hands suddenly numb with surprise. He pushed the alarm off. “I set an alarm on my phone, but time wasn’t moving while you were down there, so I guess, I didn’t check—” The clock on his phone read 12:36 now, which was simultaneously reassuring and not.

    “Time wasn’t moving,” Sweet repeated, though less in shock and more in understanding. He groaned again, rubbing his head, clearly in pain.

    “Shit, I am sorry,” Septimus said. He ducked to scoop up the penny—which had behaved like any penny would when you failed to catch it—then dropped it and his phone back in his pocket. This time, he drew out the necklace; in the light, it turned out to be a key on a chain.

    “A key,” Sweet sighed. “Great to have if we knew what it was supposed to unlock.”

    “I’m pretty sure I have an idea,” Septimus said, after a moment’s consideration of it. “There was a locked chest in your mom’s room that had something inside it. Do you want to check it out?”

    “I should probably take that bath,” Sweet said. “You can go while I do that, if you want. I don’t want—I’d rather be alone for it if I do.”

    “I’m not sure that’s wise,” Septimus said slowly. “Look, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before, right? I just want to make sure you don’t fall, and—”

    “Never mind,” Sweet said. The sudden tension in his voice was palpable. He smiled, and seemed to force his eyes to focus on Septimus. “I’m actually feeling better, now that I think about it. Maybe I’ll come with you to check the chest after all.”     

    [Please offer actions, thoughts, or concerns for Septimus in the Comments.]

    [Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 |  Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]