• Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 12

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

    It had taken about six minutes of ‘real’ time before time skipped previously, so that felt like the time limit Septimus was working with. He didn’t want to take too long here—didn’t want Sweet to come back and find himself alone. He thought briefly about leaving a note just in case, but he didn’t have a paper or pen with him, and didn’t want to take the time to look for any. Besides, he wasn’t sure he really wanted Sweet to know he’d gone snooping around his mom’s things.

    At least, not if it was unsuccessful.

    Pulling out his cellphone again, Septimus set a timer—but when he pressed go, nothing happened. The button depressed as it should, but the timer sat on its 6 min without beginning to tick down at all.

    Shit. Lacking other options, he drew a deep breath and let it out.

    One, two, three

    He tried to keep the count as even as possible. He might not know how long he had, but he could at least try to keep a count in his own head. If he kept track of how many hundreds he counted, he could estimate it later.

    It was hard not to speed up in panic—or, worse, catch himself going too fast, and then slow down too much to compensate. Still, it was all he could do and he hoped it would balance out to something approximate. So he kept the count going as he began to search the room.

    He went to the chest first, pulling at the lid, but it was locked. Even as large as it was—at least three feet wide—it was light enough that he would have thought it was empty, except that he could hear a faint rattle when he moved it. The lock on it took a key, though, and he didn’t have that to work with. Disgruntled, he shoved the chest back to the foot of the bed and checked his phone. Still 12:00, timer still not working.

    Forty-four, forty-five, forty-six…

    At least forcing himself to focus on counting was helping him stay calm.

    Next up, he checked the bed, albeit briefly. Patting the blankets down and flipping the pillows didn’t reveal anything but dust, dry and making him cough and miss his count for a few moments. He started back up with the last number he remembered and frowned down at the bed. Sweet had offered to sleep in this—hadn’t he known what a state it was left in?

    One hundred-seventeen, one hundred-eighteen…

    He’d come back to the bed later if the rest of the search wasn’t fruitful. He wasn’t sure that he had the energy to move a mattress of this size by himself, and he definitely was sure he didn’t want to peek into the dark space under the bed unless he had to. Checking that had to be at least as bad as paying attention to the distortions in the mirror in a scenario like this.

    Keeping his eyes turned away from the latter, he moved over to the bookcase to run his fingers on the underside of the bare shelves, searching for anything that might be taped to it.

    Nothing.

    Two hundred! Two hundred-one, two hundred-two

    Stretching up, and glad of his height, he did the same over the top. His fingers found something that scraped and for a moment he felt his heart leap, but it was just a penny.

    Still, he could use good luck, so he took that down and tucked it in a pocket after a quick glance over it.

    The dresser was the next obvious step, and he moved to that, keeping his head ducked to avoid seeing the mirror. While he was down there, he quickly checked his phone—no change, the timer still frozen—then put it beside him as he began opening drawers top to bottom, left side first, and shining the flashlight in them.

    The first six were empty, and the seventh seemed to be, but he could hear a rattle when he opened it. Thinking it might be something stuck to the bottom of the drawer, he opened the eighth and rummaged around above with a hand, but felt nothing out of the ordinary—besides a splinter which jabbed in hard.

    He swore softly, dropping the flashlight into the drawer as he drew his finger to his mouth, sucking on it and tasting blood, but forced himself to carry on. He’d lost count around two hundred-forty, so he resumed again from there, still with his finger in his mouth and using his left hand to reopen drawer seven and shine the light back in again.

    Once again, he heard the rattle as the drawer moved.

    For a moment, he stared at it blankly. Maybe something on the side rather than the bottom? He opened the drawer next to it, planning to take it out so he could get a better view of the space, then froze as he realized something:

    The bottoms in both drawers sat at different heights.

    Suddenly excited, he felt around inside the very edges of drawer seven’s base until he found a small groove he could just barely get a fingertip into. It took a few tries, but he pulled the false bottom up  and shined his flashlight in, seeing something metal on a chain.

    A necklace?

    He grabbed it and held it up, shining the flashlight on it—but the light caught in the mirror beyond and illuminated a hundred eyes, all staring out at him.

    Septimus froze.

    They were watching him, wide and wiggling, focused on him with a single-minded, terrible intensity. It was like the mirror wasn’t a mirror at all but a glass into some unthinkable other world, with an indescribable, monstrous inhabitant pressed up and peering in. All thoughts vanished, his counting, his discovery, everything except willing himself to stay as still as possible, as if he could somehow trick the viewer into thinking he wasn’t really there—

    The lights came on.

    And the eyes in the mirror were revealed to simply be dimples in the damaged, warped glass that his flashlight must have been reflecting off of.

    In the wake of his relief, embarrassment washed over him, and in the wake of that—

    “Shit!”

    Sweet would be coming back now. Septimus shoved the thing he’d found into his pocket, grabbed his phone, and ran from the master bedroom, galloping down the stairs dangerously fast and making him slam into the wall across from the basement door, which was just starting to open.

    “Sep?” Sweet looked exhausted, ashen and with dark circles under his eyes, but his confusion at whatever he must have heard of Septimus’s descent outweighed whatever his current feelings were. “Are you okay?”

    [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]

  • Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 11

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

    The candles were providing plenty of (admittedly unnerving) illumination, flickering in the faint movement of air as Sweet shifted to the end of the bed and began to rise, casting long and deep shadows around the room.

    Septimus leaned forward and grabbed the back of his shirt, holding on so hard his knuckles went white. “Don’t go.”

    “Sep—”

    “Don’t go,” Septimus repeated, more firmly this time, trying to sound less afraid. “We don’t need power, right? It’s already late, it’s—” he fumbled for his phone. “Midnight. I mean, we fucked up and drank coffee, but that doesn’t mean we have to have the lights on. Our laptops are charged, our phones are charged, we can huddle together under the blankets to stay warm and watch videos or play a game together or whatever. All we have to do is stick it out until dawn, right?”

    Sweet drew an unsteady breath in. “I have to. It needs me.”

    Yikes. It had already seemed like a terrible idea to let Sweet back into the basement, and was only sounding worse the more he heard. “So it’s… calling you or something? Can you fight it?”

    In the flickering candlelight, Sweet didn’t seem to have whites to his eyes, just an endless field of black reflecting the flames like a million stars. Nevertheless, he met Septimus’s eyes, and Septimus held his gaze.

    “I’ll try,” Sweet said hesitantly. He held out his hand to Septimus, who took it with his free hand before letting go of Sweet’s shirt, just in case. It felt like ice, and Septimus folded his other hand around it as well, trying to warm him.

    It began to shake in his grasp. Septimus said, after a moment, “Will it be worse for you to stay up here than it would be if you went down there?”

    Sweet’s sigh made the candles flicker faster. “It might,” he admitted softly. “But you’re here with me. I’ll try.”

    “Let me know,” Septimus said. He rubbed his thumb over Sweet’s knuckles. “Maybe we should just keep movies running. We could restart this one,” he added, jokingly. “It waited until the end, so maybe it’s a fan.”

    “That’s just because the movie’s only an hour and a half,” Sweet said, but he was smiling a little now. “I don’t think it’s because it’s Hocus Pocus.”

    Septimus laughed, then realized what he’d said. “Wait. So it’s—regular?”

    “It’ll happen again at three am,” Sweet said. “By six am, it’ll be done, and I can leave if I want.”

    That was the sort of information he sort of had hoped Sweet would have volunteered earlier. Even so, right now, he couldn’t muster any frustration. He could tell Sweet off about it later, when they were in the clear. After 6, apparently.

    “So what happens if we hold out until three am, without you going down there? If it can’t happen again because it’s still happening—”  

    Sweet shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said softly. “I haven’t done it before.”

    Christ. Now he was second guessing himself. If Sweet hadn’t done it before, but had come out of things relatively okay when he’d gone down each time before, it seemed dangerous to experiment with now. “Is there any way to try to tip the odds in our favor?” he asked, uncertain. “You said your mom didn’t have bad effects that she let you see. Did she have a way to protect herself?”

    “I don’t know,” Sweet said. His voice was coming out more and more strangely, distracted, almost pained. “She didn’t like talking about any of this. She’d punish me if I did. Not—meanly. She meant well. It scared her. But I learned not to talk about it young, and just act like I had a nightmare.”

    That still earned a flash of hot anger. “Are you okay? You sound—”

    “I have to go,” Sweet said. “I have to. It’s driving me crazy.”

    Septimus wanted to protest, but knew he shouldn’t. It was Sweet who was experiencing this right now, Sweet who knew best what he needed out of this. “All right,” he said. “You take a flashlight. I’ll take the other—”

    “You can’t come with me!” The panic in Sweet’s voice cut through the strange sluggishness. “You can’t go down there—”

    “Just to the basement door,” Septimus promised, and squeezed his hand. “Let me go that far, okay? You’re not alone. I want you to remember that.”

    Sweet blinked rapidly, his eyes fracturing further with sudden wetness, but he just nodded, squeezed Septimus’s hand. “All right,” he said, roughly.

    Septimus handed him a flashlight, then took one himself and shoved his cellphone in his pocket. As they rose, he gathered up the comforter in the crook of his arm. “For when you get back,” he explained. “You were cold before.”

    “Yeah,” Sweet said, and smiled, relieved. “Thanks.”

    Together, they headed carefully back downstairs to the basement door. For a moment, they both just stood there, looking at it; then Sweet began to pull away, and Septimus let him, feeling Sweet’s fingers slip from his.

    “Don’t come down,” Sweet reminded him, opened the basement door, and shut it behind himself.

    Suddenly boneless, Sweet sank down against the wall, wrapping himself in the blanket and pulling the phone out to check the time. Still 12:00, which was concerning.

    Was there some other way he could count time? He wished suddenly he had some thread or something like that. There wasn’t anything he could do with it—he wasn’t very craftsy—but if he put a knot in every time he counted to a hundred, he could keep track in some way. Something similar to that might work. A paper he could mark, or something like that…

    But it was a useless thought. He didn’t have any string and wouldn’t know where to start rooting around to find it. He could open up a note on his phone and put a letter in every sixty seconds too, but if his phone wasn’t telling time, he wasn’t sure he could trust it not to alter it in some way that physical things wouldn’t.

    He checked his phone again just in case. 12:00.

    It was impossible to tell how much time was passing; he didn’t think it was very much, but he’d thought that before, too. And Sweet went through this every year? If they stuck things out together, could Septimus? Was this the sort of thing that he would eventually find normal? If it was the house doing this, maybe they could destroy it. Burn it down sometime. A different day, when it wasn’t active.  But that didn’t help tonight, and might not solve the problem at all, if it wasn’t the house but whatever was underneath it.

    What even was happening to Sweet down there?

    Sweet’s story came back to mind and Septimus shuddered. Was it sucking out Sweet’s hopes and dreams? His love? If it was, would Septimus be safe? Sweet had made him a lot of promises that he wouldn’t get hurt, but there seemed no way to guarantee it, not without knowing what was actually happening. It seemed like too awful a situation to be able to just blithely assume they were both just going to be fine if they played along.

    He didn’t want to leave, didn’t want Sweet to come back to an empty hallway, but…

    Septimus rose, and headed back upstairs. If Sweet’s mother really had avoided having any problems, and hadn’t just hid them from her son, maybe she’d had something to protect her. And if she’d only needed it in the house, maybe she’d left it here.

    Resolved, he opened the master bedroom door.

    The room inside was bigger than he’d expected from the rest of the house. The bed was king-size, if not larger, a heavy-looking thing with a faded maroon duvet accented by gold thread.  A heavy carpet lay on the floor, with an old-style chest sitting on it right at the foot of the bed. Against one wall sat a large dresser, its uncovered mirror warped and reflecting the room oddly. An empty bookcase was next to it. Across the room, a large window was spattered with rain, blurring any view of the darkened forest outside.

    It felt like he’d ended up somewhere he shouldn’t be, but Septimus stepped inside anyway.

    He only wished he knew how much time he’d have to look around.

    [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]

  • Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 10

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

    It was an undeniably alarming response. Septimus let a breath out through his teeth, mind racing as he tried to decide what would be best to say.

    “Okay, Sweet,” he said carefully, finally. “I just have a couple more things, and then we can have fun, all right? We can relax. Maybe watch a movie. That sound good?”

    Sweet nodded, jerkily. “It sounds good,” he said, his tone mimicking Septimus’s, apparently unconsciously.

    “All right,” Septimus said. “Just, before that, I just need to know. The vertigo and time loss, do you think that’s part of the house’s… thing? Has it happened to anyone else? I need to know if it’s because of that or if it’s, you know, unrelated, and I just happen to be sick too.”

    “It’s almost certainly the house,” Sweet said, and tucked the blanket more around himself, cocooning. “When Mom got a boyfriend, he had problems on those nights too. Not exactly the same, but similar. Mom didn’t have them, or at least, didn’t let me see if she did.”

    A bit uncertain at that response, Septimus nodded. “Just those nights, though?” he asked. “Not like… there might be a gas leak or something, or bad electrical wiring, which would cause it normally?”

    “These are the only nights it’s active enough,” Sweet said.

    That was possibly the most frightening answer Septimus had gotten so far, and he restrained whatever embarrassing noise was trying to wrestle its way out of his throat. “Oh,” he said instead, a bit airlessly. “Okay.”

    “Yeah.”

    “That’s… good?” He couldn’t quite prevent the way it sounded. “That I’m not sick or exposed to, I mean, anyway.” God, what was he even being exposed to? “My second question’s kind of related, but do you have reactions to things in here? Physical, I mean. Since you’ve come here every year, you have to know, right?”

    Sweet didn’t answer, staring down.

    “Sweet, please.”

    Shaking himself, like he was trying to push his mood away, Sweet got up from his chair. “I haven’t had dizzy fits before,” he said. “Some stuff will probably happen to me, though.”

    “And it’s stuff you expected I wouldn’t notice,” Septimus said cautiously. “Since you thought you could get away without me knowing any of this.”

    “It’s stuff I wouldn’t show you,” Sweet corrected.

    Septimus shivered. It was cold, and he couldn’t be sure how much of the chill was just emotional. “Will you show me now that I know?”

    “I don’t know,” Sweet said. He met Septimus’s gaze, brows creased. “Some things are personal? It’s not, I trust you, but… I mean, I mostly trust you, but we really just met, and I don’t like these things either.”

    “I might be able to help—”

    “That’s why I invited you!”

    Holding up both hands, Septimus tried to shush him. “I know, you said. I know. Okay. We’ll deal with that later, okay?  If it happens.”

    “It’s… less likely to if you’re here,” Sweet volunteered, after a moment. “I think, probably. It wasn’t bad at all when Mom was here. But the times I came here by myself, it lasted a really long time.”

    Christ almighty. Septimus cast his gaze around for something other than Sweet to look at, and saw his laptop and phone. “Okay, well,” he said. “For now, let’s do something fun. Watch that movie, see if it does make you feel better. I’ve got a bunch downloaded, but I need you to go find some candles and flashlights and all that. It’ll make for good mood lighting, and if the power goes out again, we won’t be left in the dark. Also, it’s cold, and I really think we can both use hot drinks. Can you do that for us?”

    “Okay,” Sweet said.

    “Do you want to watch on the TV or on a laptop?”

    “Let’s do laptop,” Sweet said. “The TV’s old, so if you have it on your computer, we can’t just stream it or anything.”

    “Right, okay,” Septimus said. He gave Sweet his best reassuring grin; this, at least, was more normal. “So can you get those things started? If you get me the candles and matches I can get that ready while you get the drinks and stuff.”

    “Okay,” Sweet said again. He sounded a little helpless, and just stared at Septimus for another moment, like there was something more he felt he should say, then just held out his blanket to Septimus. Septimus took it, and Sweet gave him an awkward smile, then left the room.

    As Sweet came in and out, dropping off candles and candle holders, Septimus did a quick google for local paranormal investigators while pretending to look for his movie file. Nothing that he could get out here tonight—the crew from the nearest city had a blog post about a Halloween investigation they’d be on.  Well, after tonight, he and Sweet could decide about calling them out, or a local priest, or whatever. Right now, his priority had to be keeping them both calm, comfortable, and keeping an eye out for whatever weirdness might happen next.

    There had to be something he could do to make this easier.

    He quickly closed the tab and rewindowed to his files as Sweet came back in and handed him the matches. “Thanks,” he said, voice almost even.

    “No problem,” Sweet said. “The water’s almost ready for drinks. I’ll be back in a minute.”

    “Great. I’ll make a little nest for us in here.”

    This time, Sweet’s smile was its old self again. He headed back out, and Septimus arranged the candles around Sweet’s desk before lighting them, and put flashlights within grabbing range on both ends of the bed.

    When Sweet came back, he was carrying two steaming mugs. He smiled at the candlelight, and at the little pile of blankets Septimus had made to wrap them both in with the laptop in front. “I made us pumpkin spice lattes,” he said. “It’s just that Starbucks instant coffee stuff, but I thought, seasonally—”

    “Good thinking,” Septimus said, and reached to take his.

    They leaned together as Hocus Pocus played, huddled together in the blankets, and both of them tangibly relaxing. Things felt suddenly proper again. It could be a normal Halloween in a normal house.

    In fact, it took until the movie had finished, credits rolling, before the power went out again.

    Both of them went tense, neither of them moving for a moment, as if hoping that it was just a flicker and the lights would come back on.

    Then Sweet began to pull away.

    [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]

  • Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 9

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

    It was somewhat tempting to jump on every question he’d had since this night had started—and there were already too many of them—but Sweet’s shoulders were tight, and he seemed miserable, defensive, hunched over.

    Septimus rubbed his face with both hands, forcing himself to focus on not just what he wanted to ask but how he wanted to ask it. If he asked it the wrong way, he might get Sweet clamming up—but that wasn’t really the problem. It felt like their relationship might be on the line here, both in terms of how he might put his issues, and in terms of what he might end up hearing.

    He hoped not. It might have been only three months, but he wanted it to last.

    Moving slowly, he got up, pulling the comforter off of Sweet’s bed. He carried it over, putting it over Sweet and tucking it around him, rubbing his back.

    Sweet let out a shudder.

    “Okay,” Septimus said finally, keeping his voice low. He kept rubbing Sweet’s back in slow, steady circles, like the touch, the motion, could keep them both grounded in reality. “Let’s start with, just… why did you invite me here tonight? Sure, it’s creepy, like you said, but you sold me the house on the creepy ambiance, then shut down  every suggestion I had to bring the house into Halloween things. You’re obviously uncomfortable here, but you invited me here. It all just feels kind of contradictory?”

    “Yeah,” Sweet muttered into his hands. “I mean, it is.”

    Letting out a soft, prompting Mm?, Septimus let his hand slow a little, resting on Sweet’s shoulder.

    “I just wanted to be sure you’d say yes,” Sweet said, haltingly. “I don’t like it here. You’re right. So I wanted some company? I thought it would be better with company. With… you.”

    Septimus forced a smile, hoping the expression would show in his voice somehow, even if it was an effort. “You felt you’d be happier having to be here if I was here too?”

    Sweet nodded, quiet.

    “But why come here at all, baby?” The pet name slipped out unintentionally; they’d never used terms like that for each other, and he felt himself flush, embarrassed. Sweet didn’t move at all, and his breathing didn’t change—though Septimus couldn’t decide whether he hoped or not that Sweet hadn’t really noticed. Septimus rushed on. “We could have had a Halloween get-together at either of our places back home. Or gone out somewhere. Rented a hotel room—did you know a lot of hotels do spooky packages?”

    “I did not,” Sweet mumbled.

    “I was looking it up,” Septimus said, and laughed awkwardly, “before you invited me. …You said earlier that you come back here twice a year, right?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Is it on the same days every year?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Is Halloween one of those specific visits?”

    “Yeah.”

    Sweet was getting almost monotonous now, the word coming out in the same way every time, and Septimus began rubbing his back again, gentle, because it was horribly unnerving.  “Okay,” Septimus said, carefully unthreatening. “Why?”

    “I have to,” Sweet said. It came out in that same tone: hollow, empty, depressed.

    Trying to swallow his frustration and discomfort, Septimus nodded, although he knew Sweet couldn’t see it. “So it’s not by choice.”

    “No.”

    For a moment, despite himself, the frustration turned into anger. So Sweet was forced to come here and he dragged Septimus into it too? Some caring boyfriend this was.

    But that wasn’t fair. There was no proof he was in any actual danger. It was weird so far, nothing more. He had to give Sweet the benefit of the doubt; he seemed so affected by this, so upset. He should have said something, first, been honest, but Septimus doubted he’d have believed it without the feelings he’d had here. So Sweet had  made a mistake, and if it was a mistake, surely Sweet was having second thoughts too.

    Septimus drew another careful breath and let it out.  “Okay,” he said. “Can you explain why? Is it a… a curse or something?”

    A couple of seconds ticked by in silence. Then Sweet’s head sagged further as he let out another shudder, folding his arms on the desk and pillowing his face in them. “I guess,” he said. “Something like that. It’s in my blood. The house needs me here sometimes. After it’s done, it lets me go.”

    Septimus had to stay calm. For both of them. “That’s really scary,” he said, over the thudding of his heart. “Super weird. I want to believe you, but if you’re trying to play a big Halloween prank on me with all this, this is uncool.”

    “I’m not,” Sweet protested, suddenly urgent—finally getting his normal voice back as he jerked around to look at Septimus. His irises seemed larger than usual, black circles growing like spilled ink, though Septimus couldn’t tell if that was real or just a product of his own anxiety. “I’m not, Sep! I wouldn’t.”

    “All right,” Septimus said quickly. “Okay. I’ll believe you, Sweet. I’m taking this seriously, that’s all, so I don’t want to get… I don’t want that played with.”

    “I’m sorry,” Sweet groaned, and dropped his head down again. “I didn’t think you’d feel anything weird here. I thought we’d come, just spend some time, I could distract myself by having fun while you were here, and then we could just go in the morning. You wouldn’t need to know anything. I didn’t think—you’re safe, I promise, though. Back when Mom lived here, she didn’t get hurt, and we lived here together until I was eighteen. You just have to stay aboveground, and you’ll be perfectly safe.”

    “So it has to do with the basement,” Septimus said.

    “Please don’t—look, I wouldn’t bring you into danger. Isn’t that what’s important?”

    It wasn’t anywhere near as reassuring as Sweet probably wanted it to be, but Septimus forced himself to drape over his shoulders, hugging him loosely. Sweet was cold, practically radiating chill, even through the blanket. “I’m worried about you too,” he pointed out.

    “I’ll be fine. It’s been twenty years now,” Sweet said, voice muffled. “I just want to feel better. I want to distract myself, can’t we just—not talk about this any more? I can’t think, tell me what I should do, what I should say, how I should act…”  

    [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]

  • Halloween 2016 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween 2016 IF – Day 8

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

    For a moment, Septimus couldn’t bring himself to move. Shock left him behind in the hallway, barely watching as Sweet went over to the couch.

    “Come on,” Sweet called. “We should make use of the power while we’ve got it. We could watch a movie or something?”

    First the vertigo. Now this. He felt fine, he didn’t feel like someone who was—what, passing out? Entering a trance? It didn’t make sense. Everything since he’d arrived in this house had been weird, even Sweet.

    Septimus drew a deep breath in and forced himself to move, lifting his feet with too much effort as he walked to stand before Sweet. “Something’s wrong,” he said.

    What‘s wrong?” Sweet asked, and that weird look was back on his face again. Like Septimus was a stranger standing in front of him, and he was searching his memory. It was a look like when you ran into someone in the supermarket, and they started talking to you like an old friend, and you played along until you could place them.

    “How long would you say you were down there?” Septimus asked slowly.

    A crease formed between Sweet’s brows. “Twenty minutes, maybe? It took a while.”

    “It was half an hour.”

    “Okay, so—”

    “But I was checking the time throughout,” Septimus said. “It was six minutes after nine right before the power came on. I looked at my phone as soon as you came up and it was nine thirty. A few minutes, whatever, but somehow I’m missing twenty-five minutes.”

    Sweet drew a sharp breath. “…Twenty-four,” he said.

    Whatever, Sweet!” Septimus gestured sharply and almost threw the phone at him by accident. “This hasn’t happened before! I haven’t gotten dizzy out of nowhere before! Something’s wrong.”

    Clearly unsettled, Sweet raised both hands, waggling them ineffectually in a calm down gesture. “Sep, listen. You were anxious and you were probably hyperfocusing on the last number. Maybe while you were in ‘waiting’ time, you just lost track. It could have been nine twenty-six and you just didn’t notice the two. Same with the other times you checked, right?”

    The sheer rationality of the suggestion, along with the old nickname, dismissed that strange sense of unfamiliarity. It also made him feel stupid. “I guess,” he muttered. “But it was just… too much time, you know? If it was five minutes, ten minutes, sure. I could have just misjudged that. But to think only six minutes have passed when it’s been half an hour, that’s not… it’s not normal. I’m almost certain that it happened when the power came back on, like something just… changed. Like I lost time as the lights drew power.”

    “Well,” Sweet said patiently, “it would be more normal that something affected your phone, right? Maybe the surge disrupted something somehow.”

    “You’re making me feel like an idiot,” Septimus said, low-voiced.

    For a moment, Sweet just stared at him. And then he sighed, tired, lowering his gaze and shuffling over a bit, patting the seat next to him. “Come here,” he said.

    Septimus sat. Everything Sweet had said was reasonable, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something really was happening. Even thinking that made him feel worse—he didn’t believe in ghosts, in magic, in sci-fi or fantasy or supernatural horror of any kind. Had he always been this credible?

    “I’m sorry,” Sweet said. He put a hand over Septimus’s on the couch. It was icy.

    “I just feel like… like I’m missing something,” Septimus said. “I don’t want excuses, I want to talk. This is a relationship, isn’t it?”

    A shiver seemed to pass through Sweet. “I hope so,” he said.

    “So just—I don’t know. I feel weird. I’m worried about me and… I mean, about you too,” Septimus muttered. “I can tell that whatever happened down there was hard on you, even if it was just… whatever. Finding fuses in a messy dangerous basement and getting them into place in the dark. That’s rough even by itself. It was brave.”

    Laughing uncomfortably, Sweet said, “I mean, it’s not really.”

    “No, don’t—look. I care about you. You’re obviously uncomfortable even being in this house, but you invited me here, and now weird things are happening. If you don’t want me to worry about you, about myself, I need you to be totally honest with me if something weird is going on, or if I’m… really unwell and need help.” When Sweet didn’t answer right away, he dropped his gaze, words still coming out in a stammering trickle. “I, I just feel like, I don’t know. We’re not like your heroine in your ghost story, with nobody to turn to. We’ve got each other.”

    For a long, silent moment, he thought Sweet was just going to keep staring blankly at him. Then, finally, Sweet sighed. “Let’s go upstairs.”

    “Sweet, I’m serious—”

    “I know. I just want to be in my room right now?” Somehow, Sweet’s words came out as a question, pleading.

    Fair enough. Septimus nodded once, jerkily, and followed Sweet from the living room, up the stairs. In his room, Sweet pulled his desk chair out and sat at it, putting his elbows on the desk and rubbing his face with both hands. Septimus watched him for a moment, then sat roughly on the bed, grabbing his phone charger and plugging it in so he could charge his phone back up while waiting for Sweet to pull himself together.

    “Okay,” Sweet said finally. He didn’t look up, face still resting in his hands. “What do you want to know?”

    [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]