“I get one happy moment, as the world takes a big fat shit on me, and I’m supposed to be content!?”
Friday evening, 28 August 2015
GM: Josephine Louise House, better known as JLH, is a three-story red-bricked building that serves as one of the Tulane girls’ dorms. Built in 1887, the 128-year-old building is one of the four buildings still remaining from the university’s original campus. As Alice makes her way down the winding, bush-lined trail to the house, she can hear the boom of ’80s pop.
GM: Inside the house, inebriated students laugh, dance, and drink. Legwarmers, huge bangs, mullets, and neon colors abound. Some students have put real effort into their costumes, while others are more slapdash affairs: ‘80s accessories over modern fashions. Some of the partygoers just want a casual dorm party, while others want something higher-effort. Like many college students, the party doesn’t seem to completely know what it wants. Alice quickly finds alcohol pressed into her hands.
Alice: Alice just as quickly finds an excuse to set it down somewhere.
Better get everything sorted out, before getting shitfaced, she thinks.
Alice: Alice scans the party, checking out peoples’ costumes. Right, work first, partying later.
She makes her way through the crowd, complimenting people’s costumes, chatting, and trying to scope out the building. Unsure of how much of the dorm is open for the party, she watches to see where she could reasonably explore, without getting attention.
GM: Exploring the dorms without attracting attention proves a simple matter for a college-age girl among the distracted and inebriated crowd. By the time Alice makes her way up to the second floor, the party’s sounds have subsided to a faint but steady din. In several hours, the dorms will likely be occupied by girls bringing hook-ups to their dorms, but the night is yet young.
The third floor is quieter than the second. Any girls still up must be uninterested in the revelry below, or else have assignment deadlines that can’t be put off any later. Many of JLH’s rooms, Alice observes and recalls from previous visits, are unique in character and do not have standard dimensions. The building offers features such as movable Shaker-style wood furniture, old-fashioned casement windows, high ceilings, and mounted bookshelves. Many rooms have a sink and mirror in one corner. Several potential options occur to her as possible sites for the séance:
The study room is quiet and sparsely appointed with several desks, chairs, and tables for students to concentrate on coursework. Alice observes no other present students. She doubts any of the partygoers will have much interest in the place, but it still remains open for anyone to walk into.
A closet stuffed with cleaning supplies offers a second cramped locale. Less spacious, but also less likely to be disturbed. Girls looking for privacy with a partner have dorm rooms of their own.
The bathrooms offer an apparent middle ground between comfort and likelihood of disturbance. The doors can be locked, but it’s probably inevitable that people will need to relieve themselves at some point this evening. The alcohol was flowing freely.
Finally, there are the dorm rooms themselves, where the occupants have (or at least expect) total privacy. The only downside is that Alice is expected to respect that privacy too.
Alice: Alice considers her options. The study is quiet and has space… but explaining what she is doing if someone barges in could be troublesome. The idea of potentially summoning an angry ghost in a small closet immediately strikes her as a bad move. She settles for using one of the bathrooms.
Before she goes in, she jumps into the study, and looks to see if the room has a computer and printer handy.
GM: The study hall is a fairly bare-bones place: desks, tables, chairs, and little else. Any of the resident girls (or semi-invited guests, as Alice can attest) could simply wander up and abscond with school property at their leisure, so the administration seems understandably reluctant to keep any computers there.
The dorm rooms likely have student laptops (and printers) if she’s willing to do a little breaking and entering.
Alice: Alice sighs. Should have fucking known. Well, at least I came prepared.
She sets the bulky, ‘80s style purse down. _Who says work and play don’t mix? This thing may be a fucking crime to fashion, but when it comes to smuggling shit into a party, I don’t think I could have done better._
Alice fishes around in the purse, removing a blank posterboard sign, and one of her alphabet spraypaint stencils. Next, she removes a few markers. Uh, shit. Okay, gotta make it look professional.
She carefully attempts to fill out a sign, reading in big bold red letters: OUT OF ORDER.
GM: After a few minutes of work, Alice is satisfied that her sign looks pretty authentic. Inebriated partygoers are even less likely to notice any potential incongruencies.
Alice: Fucking sweet. Now to put this shit up, and get to work. Alice puts some sticky-tack onto the back of the sign, repacks her bag, and attempts to sneak to the bathroom and place the sign.
Once her sign is in place, she steps inside. She makes sure the room is clear, locks the door, and stuffs the door-crack with paper towels in hopes of muffling any sounds the séance might create. The ouija mat is unrolled, and Alice sits as comfortably as she can on the cold bathroom floor. Despite herself, Alice shivers.
Okay. Calm down. This is no big deal. You’re just going to… talk to a dead girl. In a uh, in a bathroom. Fuck, this is a bad idea.
Alice tries to calm her mind, and in a clear, but hushed voice begins, “Spirits of the past, move among us. Be guided by the light of this world and visit upon us.” She intones the names of the girls who died, imploring one of them to make itself known.
GM: Maybe it’s just this occasion, but the bathroom seems cold and lifeless. The walls and floor are a muted gray expanse. The rows of shut stalls are like closed caskets. Some part of Alice, some primitive, id-driven recess of her brain that screams at horror movies, almost wonders if something is going to burst out of them and get her.
She can’t actually see what’s behind those doors.
Alice: Breathe in. Out. Stay calm. I… can do this. I hope.
GM: She names each girl: Ira Hooper, Rose Abbott, Grace Nelson, Luella Joyce. She knows little else of them, but names hold power, and any student of the occult knows that much. She repeats her entreaties over and over, eyes fixed on the spread-out ouija mat. She drew a smiling sun at the top right corner, like the picture she’d seen over Qeeqle, but it seems to be leering at her. There was also a frowning crescent moon with a star between its ridges. Now it looks like some spectral claw about to clamp shut over a hapless morsel.
Ira Hooper, Rose Abbott, Grace Nelson, Luella Joyce.
Ira Hooper, Rose Abbott, Grace Nelson, Luella Joyce.
Ira Hooper, Rose Abbott, Grace Nelson, Luella Joyce.
Can anyone down there hear her?
Ira Hooper, Rose Abbott, Grace Nelson, Luella Joyce.
What might they be thinking?
Ira Hooper, Rose Abbott, Grace Nelson, Luella Joyce.
What is she thinking?
Ira Hooper, Rose Abbott, Grace Nelson, Luella Joyce.
The names. They’re getting…
Not harder. Saying them feels…
That’s when Alice notices the bathroom mirror is fogged. That she can see her breath escaping her lips in feeble white plumes.
Alice: Her teeth chatter. Alice wasn’t exactly sure what to expect if this worked, but… this is definitely more Exorcist than Goosebumps.
O-kay. So, something answered. Better find out what. She calls to the spirit, asking it to use the ouija mat to communicate.
GM: Silence greets Alice’s query.
Silence like the grave.
It’s so cold here. So alone.
Her teeth chatter. Are her fingertips turning purple?
How did she end up like this? Alone in a bathroom, talking to dead girls, when the one she wants to date is probably having a great time at the party just two floors down?
Wants to date. That’s all so complicated. All so hard. It wasn’t always like this.
Back in Houston. When she and her parents—not just her mom—were a family. Whatever happened to her dad, he loved her. He really did. She remembers the day he came home from work with a bag of chocolates, gummy worms, and sugar fish. There was no special occasion, he said. He was just thinking of her.
Alice: A tear freezes on its way down Alice’s cheek.
Stop it. I am here to help you move on. Don’t make me think about that.
GM: And Mom. Things were so much less awkward then. Mom hadn’t gone through a divorce, a move, and a daughter’s stay in a mental institution. That wound doesn’t seem like it’ll ever heal. Alice remembers how they’d lie together in bed when she was little, her mom reading Dr. Seuss until she fell asleep.
She can’t deny it. Life was better then. If only she could go home.
Alice: Alice shudders, her mind divided. The little box of doubts, and worries she tries so hard to keep locked has been forced open by the spirit.
I want to go back. To ignore it all. But if I do that…
Alice is back at the shack, peering in at the window. Only this time, the woman watching in horror as the Thing unfurls itself is her mother… then Penny… then herself.
“Spirit. You want to go home? To go back to how things used to be? I want to help you find peace. But if I’m going to do that… you have to talk to me.” Her voice is resolved, but tired.
Alice regretfully lifts her chin, and closes her eyes. I hope this works. Then I can stop fucking around with ungrateful dead bitches, and go hang out with Penny.
With her left hand she begins sketching a series of symbols in the air. Her right, she waves slowly, hypnotically, intoning the words to an incantation she read in one of her family’s old books.
This shit better work.
GM: There’s an abrupt rush of cold under Alice’s legs. A howl of wind—or screaming? Suddenly, Alice flies across the room. She smashes back-first into the bathroom mirror. Cracks run up its length. Her chin bangs against the faux-marble counter with a dull thud. Her jaw hurts.
A thought flashes through her mind. Maybe it’s hers. Maybe not. Either way, it’s there.
Alice: This… this is not going as planned. Not at all. Party or no party, someone is bound to have heard the sound of the mirror breaking. She has to get out. Now.
She tears open a packet of salt, grimaces as she pours some into her mouth, then splashes the rest in front of her. Tearing packets and splashing salt about her, she scrambles to grab the ouija mat and flee the bathroom.
GM: Alice dashes out as fast as her legs can carry her. She manages to pour a mostly straight line of salt over the doorway just as she throws it open, then slams it shut. A booming thud sounds against the door like a battering ram… then silence.
The “out of order” sign lies on the floor in silent testament to the shade’s wrath.
Alice: Shit. Shit, shit, shit.
She slaps the sign back onto the door, then as quietly and quickly as she can, makes her way downstairs, toward the sound of drunken laughter, and Men Without Hats.
I think I’m ready for that drink now.
Somewhere in the back of Alice’s mind, a small fire flickers. The fire has sputtered before. Always, it returns. But for tonight, Alice is beaten. Trying not to think of her Vigil, Alice makes her way downstairs, trying very, very, hard not to think about what she is going to do about the ghosts now.
Friday night, 28 August 2015, PM
GM: Half an hour or so later, Alice finds the party downstairs in fuller swing. The people, a little drunker. The laughter, a little louder. The conversations, a little less intelligible.
The real monsters have also come out to play.
He moves among the partying coeds like a tiger through tall grass, part of the scenery until he strikes. Alice thinks she’s seen him once or twice before. He’s dressed in a thick black jacket, thick gold chain, white basketball shoes, and large square sunglasses. A felt hat sits on his head in place of its usual baseball cap. Camouflage for blending in with the herd.
Alice: Alice’s own costume was somewhat rumpled by the earlier encounter with the spirit. Being a ghoul has its perks though, and aside from a bit of stiffness, and maybe some bruises tomorrow, being smashed into the porcelain hard enough to crack it hasn’t left any left noticeable damage. Her outfit is from head to toe glam rock, complete with white leopard leggings, torn sleeve denim vest, and mesh gloves. Her lucky cap has been traded for a white leopard bandanna, and her hair has been teased into a wild mane.
Alice watches the predator stalk through the party. Shit. Of course the leeches would show up. I… better find Penny. If I know her, she’ll be in the heart of the coolest part of this party. Guess I better mingle.
A part of Alice’s mind shouts at her, that she should follow the vampire, and protect the people here from it… but that awful feeling of longing, of needing things to be normal, just once, just for one fucking night presses in on her.
I can do both… I’ll hang out with Penny and keep an eye out for trouble. I’m entitled to a bit of fucking fun too, right?
Knowing the selfish excuse for what it is, she starts looking for her friend.
GM: Alice locates her friend after a moment. True to her expectations, she finds Penny dancing in the center of a press of partygoers while Eye of the Tiger booms from stereos.
GM: Penelope “Penny” Freeman is a short-haired African-American girl in her early 20s with a slender figure, smooth skin, and an easy smile. She wears a denim vest, several purple, orange, and green bead necklaces, pink leggings, and a short black skirt. A Sony Walkman is even visible dangling from her hot pink belt. She has clearly put a lot more effort into her costume than the kids who’ve just slapped a few accessories on.
Her dance partner is a blonde girl wearing a pink leopard-print A-shirt with a bolt of green lightning emblazoned on the center. Pink leggings contrast to a poofy green skirt and leg warmers.
Alice: Alice allows herself a moment of frustration.
Right. Of course she would have caught someone’s attention by now. She’s too awesome not to draw people to her.
Alice briefly considers the best way to get her attention. The small, angry part of her suggests bluntly cutting in.
The way I’m fucking feeling right now, I almost could… no, that would just make me look like a bitch. Bad plan, think again.
Alice scans the room, hoping for inspiration.
I could get up on the table, and dance my ass off. She’s sure to notice that, and it might make me feel better.
She tries to read the vibe of the party, to see if that kind of stunt would be met with applause, or protest.
GM: Alice scans the party. There’s lots of college kids drinking and having a good time. Some of them look pretty sloshed. Some pretty sober. Some are pretty into the ‘80s theme. Some haven’t even bothered to dress up. Some are in between, for both categories. The party is just too much like a college kid, trying out a bunch of things, but still uncertain what it wants to be.
Alice isn’t certain of much either.
Alice: Fuck it, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Worse case, I look like I’ve had too much. Either way, she’ll notice.
Alice waits for a good song for her little performance. Lady Madonna, as she usually does, answers her prayers.
Alice: Alice hops up onto a bench and tries to work the crowd. She sways with the song, lipsyncing along to the lyrics, and generally hamming it up. She gestures to people at random, at if performing for them, before switching back to addressing the audience.
GM: “Life is a mystery,
Everyone must stand alone
I hear you call my name
And it feels like home.”
An inebriated college crowd, if nothing else, is easy to please. The trick is getting noticed. Alice puts herself out, and faces among the partygoers soon start pointing, smiling, applauding, laughing. Still, they’re not who she’s out to please. It takes a little longer for Penny to notice, in the center of the crowd, but when she does she grins, taps the other girl’s shoulder, and points excitedly for her to watch Alice.
Alice: Alice grins as the song turns.
Alice: She points back at Penny, waving her up onto the bench, as she starts mouthing the words to the new song. As if to emphasize her intent, she starts dancing, and motioning for Penny to join her.
GM: Penny laughs, turns to the other girl, and says something that’s indistinct over the crowd’s noise. When she makes her way up to the “stage,” though, she’s by herself, and the other girl is dancing with someone else.
Alice: “Oh, I wanna dance with somebody,
I wanna feel the heat with somebody!”
Alice can feel the stress of the night catching up with her. If not for the rush having Penny, Penny! coming to dance with her, she might have given up, and gone home in utter defeat.
So far… so good. Please, fate, or God, or whatever, let this go smoothly! I can’t take much more shit tonight.
GM: Penny clambers up onto the bench, her Sonny Walkman bobbing as she moves.
“Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody!”
“With somebody who loves me!”
“Oh, I wanna dance with somebody…”
Alice knows they’re just lyrics. Smiles aren’t an unfamiliar thing on Penny’s face. But if she imagines for just a moment…
There isn’t much space on the bench. Their bodies are so close. As Penny pumps her arms and sways her hips to the music, she inevitably brushes against Alice. Alice can smell the other girl’s perfume… something spicy.
“I wanna feel the heat with somebody!”
“Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody!”
“With somebody who loves me!”
Alice: Alice savors this moment. For a brief instant, she forgets her Vigil. She forgets about the blood-sucking monster wandering the party. She forgets about the awkward dinners, the shady hucksters in the streets, the grime and hate, and petty evil piled in the the city like a vast dump. There is the music, and Alice, and Penny. She isn’t a hunter, or a weird kid with fire behind her eyes. She is normal, and happy.
“Haha! Penny! Are you enjoying the party? I’ve been trying to find you!” Alice yells over the music. “I should have known to look where shit was getting crazy! You’re always at the heart of this kind of stuff!”
GM: Perhaps distracted by that relief from her self-appointed motion, Alice doesn’t put her full heart into her motions—or perhaps the crowd picks up that they’re not who she’s dancing for. Penny’s dancing, on the other hand, draws whistles and applause, as well a blown kiss from the girl she’d dancing with earlier. Alice isn’t sure if she’s being serious or playful. She looks a little tipsy. Penny just grins back and mimes a bow to the applauding crowd. Still, Alice isn’t falling off either, so at least the evening isn’t getting worse.
Alice: Alice presents Penny, as if she was the star from the start, adding her own applause.
GM: “I thought I was trying to find you, Alice! You still owe me those legwarmers!” Penny shouts back.
Alice: “Hold on! I’ve got ‘em in my purse! Let’s find somewhere to chat, and I’ll dig them out!” Alice laughs, “Someplace quieter!”
GM: “What? You’ve got them worse?” Penny yells, cupping a hand to her ear even as she pumps her other arm to the music. “Sorry, it’s hard to hear up here!”
Alice: Alice points to quieter section of the room, and mimes walking. “OVER THERE! SHOULD BE QUIETER!”
GM: Penny nods and makes a ‘just a sec’ motion. After all, they still have a song to finish.
“Don’tcha wanna dance say you wanna dance
Don’tcha wanna dance
Don’tcha wanna dance say you wanna dance
Don’tcha wanna dance
Don’tcha wanna dance say you wanna dance
With somebody who loves me
Alice: Alice nods, and joins Penny in dancing. This time, she tries to put in a bit more effort. She focuses on complimenting Penny’s dancing with her own, letting her friend shine like the star she is.
GM: Clearly inspired by her crush’s attentions—and now focused on bringing her star to the fore—Alice puts some real spirit into her motions. Penny cheers and dances harder. People around the two cheer as the song’s lyrics belt out. But if Penny is a star, Alice is her corona—invisible to the naked eye, but the part that actually burns hottest of all.
When the song finally concludes, Penny takes Alice’s hand and pulls her friend into a low bow as the partygoers exclaim, “WHOO!” “YEAH!” “Shake it, girls!”
Alice knows the hand-holding is what all bowing performers do, but still…
Alice: Worth. So much worth. Fuck ghosts, fuck vampires. Alice takes out her phone, and snaps a selfie of her and Penny, with the party behind them. She gives Penny a moment to pose before taking the photo.
GM: Indeed, Alice notes a number of other cameras blink as they snap photos—including that other girl’s. She makes her way over to the duo.
“Wow, Penny, that was really great!” she begins. “Who’s your friend?”
“Alice,” Penny smiles as she steps off the bench. “Alice, Angela. Angela, Alice!”
Alice: “Heya Angela. Rockin’ party huh?”
GM: Angela straightens her overlarge bow. “Yeah, it’s hard to go wrong with an ‘80s theme. Though we actually had a girl who wanted to do the whole thing in peoples’ underwear, if you can believe that!”
Alice: Alice had moved closer to Penny to take the selfie, but even after the photo is snapped, she casually continues to stand close to Penny. Not uncomfortably close, but not “just friends” close either.
“Pretty sure the faculty would lose their shit!” Alice laughs. “So, Angela. You live in the dorms?”
GM: “Oh, Angela’s the dorm supervisor here,” Penny mentions. “She takes a stick to the head of any boys who try to sneak in.”
Alice: “Yeah? Righteous! Fight the good fight, girl! That is, keeping creeps from sneaking in.”
GM: Angela rolls her eyes good-naturedly. “I wish they gave me a stick. Usually I just call Tulane PD, but most of ‘em don’t put up any fuss.”
Alice: “Is it like, a big problem? Do people try to sneak in often?”
GM: “Well, JL house is a little stricter than some other places. All male visitors have to be, quote unquote, ‘supervised at all times.’”
Alice: “Yeah? Sounds kinda tedious. Does that include tonight? There’s plenty of dudes wandering around, from what I see.”
GM: “Oh no, we make exceptions for parties! No way we can keep an eye on this many boys.”
Alice: “Cool, but. Like, you do have people keeping an eye on the crowd or whatever? Security isn’t totally shut down, right?”
GM: Angela shakes her head. “No, we’ve got a couple people keeping an eye out. Designated non-drinkers. I mean, you know how parties can sometimes get…”
Alice: Alice motions to herself and Penny. “Yep!”
GM: Angela touches Penny’s arm. “Hey, speaking of… have you seen Summer around?”
Penny shakes her head. “No, sorry, I thought you were watching her?”
Angela smiles. “I’m trying. You can be pretty distracting, Penny.”
Alice: “What does she look like? I was looking for Penny earlier, and might have run into her.” Alice attempts to draw Angela’s attention back to her with the question.
GM: “She’s got long, dark brown hair. Pretty short, about eighteen. Wears a gray sweater. She, uh. Didn’t care so much for the party’s theme,” Angela admits with a half-smile, half-shrug. “She’s my little sister, our parents want her to stay close by me.”
Alice: Alice’s face goes a little pale. “Uh, actually yeah. At least, I think I saw her. Talking to this older black guy, dressed like one of the dudes from Run DMC. I saw him prowling around earlier, eying up girls. Fuck.”
GM: “Oh yeah? I better get her back, my parents… ah, never mind, I shouldn’t have let her out of sight.” Angela frowns at Alice’s pallor. “Is this guy gonna be trouble?”
Alice: Alice is genuinely upset, as she realizes that her selfishness might have put an innocent in danger.
“Uh, I hope she is okay? I mean, lots of people go to parties just to flirt. Just I have seen the guy at parties, flirting with people before. Definitely a player.” Alice tries to recover, she doesn’t want to scare Angela.
GM: Angela looks… not scared, Alice’s gut tells her. Discomfited, though. Long-suffering. Oddly sympathetic. And even a little guilty.
“Ah. Well, I better go get her then. Where’d you say he was at?”
Alice: “Hold on, let me think.” Alice feels pretty spent, but somewhere in the back of her mind, her vestigial Beast uncoils itself from its cozy spot by the fire.
Vampires are dangerous. Focus, Alice. Use your… instincts. Where is the danger?
She feels her senses temporarily heighten to preternatural levels, her world becoming a blend of smells, sounds, and sharp images. Focus. The hairs on the back of her neck rise as her senses attempt to sniff out danger.
GM: Alice’s unnatural senses hungrily tear through the crowd of revelers like fangs through skin.
Alice: Alice shudders. The vamp blood might help her feel out danger, but the way it makes her feel. Like a hungry cat, eyeing people like mice. She always feels a little sick afterwards.
GM: Indeed, as far as she can discern, there are two types of people: weak and strong. The former are unworthy of attention. The latter are threats. Threats must be dealt with.
Damned blood rushes through Alice’s veins, whispering forbidden knowledge. To her surprise, the greatest threat is not Alexander Wright, but a waifish girl with long, somewhat messy dark brown hair, a button nose, and plump cheeks still holding on to some baby fat. She doesn’t look much older than 18. She wears a somewhat overlarge gray sweater over blue jeans, evidently having spurned the party’s retro theme.
She is talking to some boys in a far-off corner of the party, well away from her older sibling.
Alice: Alice blinks. “Uh, looks like she shot Run DMC down. She’s over there, chatting with those dudes.” Alice points.
She isn’t quite sure what to make of Summer being the most dangerous person in the room—or at least, the most dangerous person to her. She is relieved that the girl isn’t tangled up with the vampire though.
Note to self. Stay the fuck away from Summer.
GM: Angela looks genuinely relieved as Alice relays how her sister is okay. “Oh, that’s good. Dad shouldn’t mind her talking to some boys.” She smiles. “Thanks for letting me know, Alice, I’d hate to get pried away Penny here.” Angela lightly rests a hand on the other girl’s shoulder.
Alice: “Well, I’m glad she is okay,” Alice replies to Angela. “Actually about that. I had something important I wanted to talk to her about, and it is sort of private. Like, you seem nice, but we just met. Mind giving us some space for a bit?”
GM: “Oh c’mon, in the middle of a party?” Angela smiles with seeming good humor. “There’ll be time for private stuff later, won’t there?”
Penny thinks for a moment. “We’ll be just a moment, Angela. Hold the fort down for us, mkay?”
Alice: Alice looks extremely relieved, and a little surprised.
GM: If Angela looks disappointed, it’s only for a moment. “Well, okay. I guess I should check in on Summer anyways.”
Penny nods and assures her that it’s probably better safe than story. She maneuvers her way through the throng of partying students with Alice, heading up to the third floor study where it’s quiet and they’ll be unlikely to be disturbed.
“What’s up, Alice?” she asks, hopping up on a desk and kicking back her feet.
Alice: Alice sighs, trying to calm her racing heart. “Okay, uh, oh! Well, first off, the easy stuff.” She hurriedly says, digging the promised legwarmers out of her purse and handing them over.
GM: “Aw, thanks A! You just can’t have any ’80s outfit without these things,” Penny remarks cheerfully as she slips the zebra print outdated fashions up her legs.
Alice: The garments are loud, tacky, and oh-so-80’s. Hand-made zebra print legwarmers, which should cover the majority of Penny’s shins. She uses the momentary distraction to steady herself, before taking a deep breath, and preparing to take the plunge.
My candle burns at both ends. It won’t last the night. Let the dice fall where they may.
Alice looks to Penny and asks, "So, we’ve been hanging out again for like, over a year now right? Ever since the start of freshman year when we found out we were both going for Art degrees? "
GM: The other art major nods. “Just about!”
Alice: “I want to say, hanging out with you again has probably been one of the best things about college for me. Like, the classes and shit are cool, but more than anything I am fucking thrilled that we are friends, and nothing will ever change that.” Alice continues, as she builds toward her eventual point.
GM: Penny smiles at the compliment, but waits to speak until Alice has said her piece.
Alice: “Only, the last month or two, I realized that something had changed about how I felt when I was around you. Penny, I think I’ve got a crush on you. No, I know I do. It sort of took me by surprise, and I have been trying to figure out what the fuck to do about it. That’s why I have maybe been a bit awkward sometimes, when we are together. So, I invited you to the party tonight, so that we could hang out, have a good time, and so that I could say out loud that I like you.” And there it was, out in the open. “You don’t have to have an answer for me right now, or anything… and no matter how you answer, I’ll always be your friend, if you want me to.”
Alice braces herself for the emotional blow, and waits for Penny’s initial reaction.
GM: Penny raises two fine black eyebrows with initial surprise, then smiles. For a moment, Alice is horrified that her friend’s smile is going to precede laughter, but she touches Alice’s cheek.
“That’s sweet, Alice. That’s really sweet. I like you a lot too, for just about all the same reasons. You’re funny. You’re smart. You’re a great artist. But it’s also kinda sudden. I didn’t know you thought of me that way.”
Alice: “Right, I sort of thought that too. I’ve been dealing with it for a few months, but for you it is out of nowhere. I tried to drop hints, but I guess I’m not good at that sort of thing.”
GM: Penny gives a self-depreciating little shrug. “Well, it’s something my brother tells me I’m pretty bad at.”
Alice: Alice shrugs too, embarrassed. “Like I said, I don’t expect an answer right now. But I was hoping, you would go to Southern Decadence with me? On an actual, date-date? That’s in a week or two, so it gives you some time to thing about it, and if you decide you aren’t interested, I’ll understand and we will carry on being best friends.”
“Uh, nothing wild! I know how some of those parties get. Something fun, and nice. I got invited to a party by one of the art professors. Apparently every year she works on a float with her SO, and she offered to let me and a date go to an artist-only party if I helped with the float.”
GM: “Oh yeah?” Penny asks, curious. “Who’s the professor?”
Alice: “Professor Cahn. You know, the mousy one, who knocks stuff over in class all the time? She’s sort of awkward in class, but when I talked to her she was actually really nice.” Alice tsks, “Her partner is sorta intense though. I met her when I helped out with the float. An ex-Marine, or something? I don’t think she liked me much.”
GM: Penny’s face visibly falls. “Yeah. Megan Garrett.”
Alice: Alice looks concerned. “You look like you just bombed a test or something. Everything okay?”
GM: “She’s the… person,” Penny states, clearly substituting the word for another, “who beat my brother Joey into the ER for being ‘unpatriotic’ last Fourth of July. She fractured his skull, Alice. Don’t you remember me telling you about that?”
Alice: “Holy shit! She’s that fucking Megan Garrett? I didn’t even realize it was the same person.” Alice looks horrified. “Listen, forget the party okay? I had a few backup plans in case you weren’t interested in that.”
GM: “Look, I… I appreciate the thought there,” Penny politely continues. “But this is all really sudden. I don’t think I’m ready to say yes to a date right now, Alice. Or to when, or if, I’m going to say yes. I’m not saying no either. I just… need some time.”
Alice: “Oh. I… okay. No, I understand.” Alice looks like she’s been kicked, but there isn’t anger in her voice either. “Take your time. Think about it, and let me know. I won’t say I won’t be disappointed if you decide no, but I meant it when I said I’ll always consider you my friend.”
GM: Penny nods in recognition of Alice’s grace. “I am going to Decadence with some friends. You’re totally welcome to come hang out with us.”
Alice: Alice casts her gaze around the room, so that Penny can’t see the emotional fight happening behind her eyes. “Um. Well, I guess that covers what I wanted to say pretty well.”
She flinches a bit at Penny’s offer, then turns. “Uh, I’ll have to think about it. I don’t think my head is in the right place, just now to give a good answer. I’ll probably say yes, but it might be a day or two. Cool?”
GM: Penny nods again. An almost sad smile plays at her when as she sees she’s hurt her friend. Sometimes there’s no way of saying ‘no’ without hurt feelings.
“Cool. No pressure or anything. The festival’s still a little while off.”
Alice: With this latest defeat, what little fight was left in Alice for the night is rapidly running out. She sounds and looks tired. Penny might just chalk it up to a bit of letdown, but the ghost certainly had its part to play. Despite her look, however, an ember of resolve still smolders behind Alice’s eyes.
“I’ll say the same to you, P.”
Alice musters up a bit of false bravado, having enjoyed her moment of self-pity. Save it for later, girl!
She grins up at Penny and says, “I bet the party is still in full swing down there. Why don’t we head back down? I think I’ve got at least a little bit of party left in me before heading home.”
GM: Penny nods emphatically, seemingly glad to put the incident behind them. “Sounds good! I don’t think they’ve even played any Michael Jackson yet. What’s an ’80s party without, right?”
Alice: Despite the ache in her heart, as Alice leads he friend back to the party she walks a purpose and clarity she hadn’t felt in weeks.
Fuck. I’m pissed, and depressed. I want to cry, or punch something, or maybe both. So, why the fuck do I feel so relieved? Because I’m not pining away in secret anymore? Fuck, I dunno.
Alice reflects on the roiling feelings bubbling in her breast.
She didn’t say yes… but she didn’t say no either. I guess… I did what I wanted to. I confessed. Just gotta keep my cool for a few dances, then I can go home and fall apart.
Friday evening, 28 August 2015
GM: The two girls make their way down the stairs. A figure blocks their way down from the second floor. Tall. Dark. ‘Run DMC.’ Cold eyes sweep over them both.
“I got some private bid’ness to talk over wit’ you, girl,” he says, staring at Alice. When Penny opens her mouth, he adds, “Nothin’ you’d find too interestin’.”
The other college student leaves whatever’s on her mind unsaid.
Alice: Eyes blazing with a barely contained heat flicker back. Normally, Alice tries to be as harmless and friendly as possible to the leeches. She looks and sounds like she is having a very bad night however, and a bit of her frustration comes across.
“Alex, right? I’ve seen you around, and stuff.”
As if realizing how irritable her tone sounds, she adds a bit apologetically, “Sorry. That sounded rude. Let me try again.”
She breathes and says, “I’m always happy to do commission work. You know us starving artists.” She turns and tells Penny, “Try not to bring the house down without me! I’ll be down in a few minutes, and I promise I’ll come say goodbye before I head out.”
GM: Penny looks between Alice and ‘Alex’, but it seems as if she tries to avoid looking at the latter for too long.
She finally replies after a moment, “I’ll do my best! You know I’m just a floor away.”
Penny heads off. Alice is left alone with the vampire.
Alice: As Penny leaves, so does Alice’s false bravado. She is in no way, shape, or form prepared to deal with an angry lick right now.
“Um, so. You definitely have my attention. You have some business to talk about?”
GM: Wright wordlessly advances up the stairs. His footsteps are thick and heavy. Alice seems expected to follow.
Alice: Alice pauses a moment before doing so.
Shit shit shit shit. Please just be interested in art.
GM: They reach the building’s next story. The vampire opens a door to a dorm room. It’s about the same as any other dorm one might expect to encounter on a college campus. There are two beds festooned with pillows and stuffed animals. Photos, posters, and other homely mementos decorate the walls and refrigerator, while school papers, binders, and two laptops are semi-haphazardly strewn about the floor. A darker-skinned brown-haired girl dressed in ’80s attire lies on one of the beds, face-down and motionless. She could just be sleeping.
Wright closes the door after Alice steps in.
Alice: Alice’s face goes pale. “I’ve heard some stuff about the Windsor. I’m not, uh, I don’t do that sort of service, dude.”
GM: “You been watchin’ me, girl,” the vampire states. “Why?”
Alice: “Because you guys make me nervous?” Alice answers honestly. “I mean, sorry. Listen, you probably didn’t choose to be uh, y’know. You’re just making do as best you can, right? But the way you guys look at us. Like cats watching mice. It’s spooky. I’ve got friends at this party. I was afraid you’d…” she gestures at the girl on the bed, “someone I know.”
GM: Wright looms over Alice’s petite form. He’s a big man, broad-shouldered, and thickly-muscled. And that’s just the man he was before being turned.
The vampire takes a step forward.
Alice: Alice lets her instincts kick in.
Is he about to attack me?
GM: “Take three steps back.”
Alice: Step, step, step. Alice, like a deer caught in headlights, backs up.
GM: Alice’s stomach explodes in pain. The impact knocks the ghoul square off her feet and back-first onto the bed. She feels like she’s been shot. The soft blankets hurt less than hitting the floor might have. She briefly jostles against the other girl lying there, who doesn’t stir.
Alice: Alice can feel the broken rib, conscious only by the unholy fortitude granted by the vitae in her system. She soundlessly cries out at the pain, the wind having been knocked out of her.
GM: Wright looks her over impassively.
“First. Do not give me shit about bein’ a black guy hittin’ a white girl.”
“Second. You’re welcome.”
Alice: Alice coughs a bit of blood and weakly says, “If anything, I was profiling you. You probably get enough of that shit already. You could have killed me, and I know it. So thank you. Uh, not because of being black. Because of the other thing. So, I am sorry.”
And Alice is sorry. Not just because she was been hurt, but because she treated him like a monster instead of a person.
GM: “You’re new to this, ain’t you?” Wright asks flatly.
Alice: “About a year? My uh, ‘domitor’ was an art guy. Liked my work, then got tired of me after a month and left. He was pretty new too, I think.”
GM: “Torries,” Wright snorts. “My boss? He’da ripped your head off. No hyperbole.”
Alice: Alice does not look like she is going to argue. “Understood. In the future, um. What should I do? I know that people in my position don’t really have any sort of sway. Would coming up and asking to have my friends ignored be the right thing to do?”
GM: Wright stares at her for a moment. “Christ, girl. You green as a new dollar bill.”
He finally sits down on the empty bed across from Alice’s. “What you do is you do not fuckin’ watch us. An’ you do not tell us where an’ when t’ eat. You stay outta the way. An’ if you’re lucky, that’s where you stay.”
Alice: Alice looks a bit sick at talk of ‘eating.’ Or maybe it’s just her crushed guts. Probably a bit of both, actually.
She looks like she wants to ask Wright more questions. To learn more, but she isn’t sure whether doing so will reward her with another blow.
GM: “You gonna toss your cookies, do it in the bin.” The vampire glances towards the trash can. “This somebody’s bedroom.”
Alice: “I’ll be all right.” Alice examines herself, to see how visible the damage is. She resigns herself to having to use up some of the vitae in her system to mend the rib.
“Do I look reasonable enough to return to the party, without uh, making people ask tough questions?” She looks to Wright. “I don’t know much, but even I know drawing attention to this sort of stuff is a death sentence.”
GM: “Got that right.” Wright looks her over. “Try standin’ up.”
Alice: Alice stands, gasping as the rib scrapes her innards.
GM: “Better mend up,” the vampire states by way of answer.
Alice: Alice focuses, feeling some of the rushing power in her veins draining into the broken bone, speeding its recovery.
GM: The ghoul still feels a bit unsteady on her feet, and she’s pretty sure she’d have blacked out if she wasn’t on the “red stuff,” as she likes to call it. But the painful scraping against her liver recedes.
Alice: Alice isn’t quite sure where to go from here. Awkwardly, she looks at the vampire. “Thanks for informing me, and not killing me. Um, if you ever need artwork done, feel free to call me.” She rattles off the number of a burner phone she uses for ghoul stuff. “I mostly do street art, but I can handle some basic engineering and metal, or woodwork too given the right tools.”
Alice realizes how weird it must sound, for her to basically give her ghoul resume to this guy, but she’s gotta get her next fix from somewhere.
GM: Wright gives Alice another flat look-over. This time it’s maybe tilted a few degrees. Maybe even in her favor. It’s hard to say.
“That how you get your month-to-month fix?”
Alice: “I’d say this is the first time I met a client by getting pummeled by them, but I get a lot of work from Mid-City, so it would be a lie.” Alice shrugs. “Anyway, you have been extremely clear, and I understand your message. There won’t be a next time. Yeah pretty much. Mostly, other ghouls bring stuff by and ask me to fix it up for them, or paint pretty things for their higher ups.”
GM: “Painting, huh.” The vampire’s expression looks a bit speculative now. “What else you do?”
Alice: Oddly, the funk Alice felt earlier has gone. Getting into a one-sided scrap with this vampire, and standing up has left her feeling more alive than she has in weeks.
“I know a bit about ghosts, I guess. After I started my uh, habit, I wondered if other stuff was real. I dunno about a lot of it, but ghosts and spirits sure as fuck are.”
GM: “Ghosts, huh.” Wright’s repeated nearly the same words, but his face looks a little more thoughtful. “You jus’ know a bit, or can you do a bit too?”
Alice: “I can do a séance, I guess. It’s not a very pleasant experience though. Ghosts are fucking mean. Might be able to send one away, if I knew enough about it.” Alice shrugs. “I’m still learning. Theres a lot of restless dead in the big easy. Uh, not you guys. Ghosts, I mean. I feel bad for them. I’m no mambo, though.”
GM: Wright raises an eyebrow. “Bad for ‘em? Now why’s that?”
Alice: “They are trapped here, unable to go… wherever the fuck we go after. Unlike us, they don’t even get to enjoy any of the nice perks of having a body. They are just souls, trapped and twisted forever. That’s a pretty sad state, y’know? I’m gonna die someday, hopefully not soon, and hopefully pass on wherever. I don’t know exactly how it works with you guys, but you at least have the option of checking out if you want to. Ghosts don’t.”
GM: “Oh, f’us it’s pretty simple,” Wright states. “We’re gonna burn in the big fire below. Gonna roast us some marshmallows wit’ the Devil. Roast ‘em over pitchforks an’ have fuckin’ s’mores.”
Alice: “I have a feeling lots of people are on their way to that particular barbecue, dude.”
Alice nods, deciding something. “It isn’t my usual thing, but I guess if you want help putting a ghost to rest, I would be up for helping out with that too. As best I can, anyway.”
GM: “Maybe,” Wright replies to Alice’s initial remark. “Still up t’ them.”
Alice: Alice isn’t really much of a theologian, and arguing damnation with a vampire seems like a pretty hard fight.
This dude probably knows more about sin than I’ll ever know. No way am I arguing that shit with him.
With her business pitch made, and Wright’s lesson hopefully finished, Alice waits to see what the vampire has planned next.
GM: The vampire doesn’t say anything for a few moments. He glances at the room’s door, from where dim music can still be heard, and then glances back at Alice.
“Some party, huh?”
Alice: “Well, the girl of my dreams shot me down, I danced like an idiot on a table, broke at least one rib, and maybe found some work. I just need to crash on the way home, and it will be complete.” Alice grins, just a little giddy from the vitae and adrenaline. “Definitely not boring.”
GM: “That girl was you?”
Alice: Alice gives a sheepish shrug. “I wanted to dance with somebody. Uh, on a table.”
GM: Wright looks as if he could snort. But Alice doesn’t think she’s ever seen his kind do that. Josua never did.
“Well, it was entertainin’. Fuckin’ spoiled-ass white bread college kids. Of all the ways to piss away my evenin’.”
Alice: Alice isn’t sure whether she is included in that statement, but doesn’t really disagree with his assessment either way. Most of the kids here probably are white and here using their parent’s money.
GM: “You got any aspirin on you?” Wright asks, abruptly changing the topic.
Alice: Alice rummages in her purse, removing a pack of the little miracle pills. “Here.” She offers it over to Wright.
GM: The vampire sets it on the bedside table adjacent to the motionless brown-haired girl’s head. She hasn’t moved or made a sound since Alice entered the room.
Alice: Alice peers at the girl as Wright draws attention to her. To herself, she mutters, “I hope she’s gonna be all right, whoever she is. She hasn’t moved once.”
GM: Wright stares at Alice. The leeches have damnably good hearing, she knows.
“I ain’t a killer.”
There’s a beat.
“‘Less they’re askin’ for it.”
Alice: Alice touches her stomach. “I know. Plus, you left her aspirin. That is… you didn’t have to do that. A killer wouldn’t do that.”
GM: Alice hears a dull thud from the floor.
Wright gets up from his seat on the bed.
Alice: “Uh, right. The party. I told my friend I would be down in a few minutes.”
Alice looks worried. How long had they been talking? What was that noise?
GM: A low growl sounds from Wright’s throat. Alice can see a hint of fang protruding from his mouth. He strides across the room, opens the door, and tromps downstairs.
Alice: Alice stands out of his way as he goes, then likewise leaves, closing the door. She follows, unsure if his business with her is finished.
GM: Downstairs, the party seems to be winding down. A number of students lie slumped against walls with bleary-eyed, out of focus expressions, being attended to by friends. Many people are sneezing and coughing. Girls help inebriated roommates upstairs. Some of them look really out of it. They don’t just look drunk, though. They’re sneezing and coughing too.
Alice: Alice looks around for Penny, shooting her a text.
Hey! Sorry about that. Still at the party?
GM: A reply pings back in short order.
Yeah! You seen Angela, she’s disappeared on me!
Alice: Alice’s face drops. Angela. I wonder if Penny… well. Mom and my friends were right. Maybe I waited too long. Fuck. She feels any lingering rush from her near-death experience wash away, and briefly considers misleading Penny with some story about Angela going upstairs with some other girl.
No, I feel shitty enough. I don’t need my conscience giving me shit too. Plus, I lie to Penny too much as is. Texting she says, Sorry, no. It looks like things are winding down. I’ll make my way to you, and keep an eye out for her as I go.
GM: Thanks A! People seem pretty out of it, hope she’s ok!
Alice: No longer suffering the fugue inflicted by the ghost, Alice finds the little voice in the back of her head much harder to ignore. There might something going on here.
She shakes her head, intent on walking through the party straight to Penny, then leaving. Making only a token effort at scanning the room around her. I’m barely standing. I’m done. I’m running on empty here, the voice persists.
No! Something isn’t right! Alice stops mid-step, mentally arguing with herself. Why do I feel that way? Aside from Wright, who turned out to be at least sort of okay, I don’t see any monsters.
Alice frowns, shaking slightly, memories race through her mind. Summer, talking to Wright. Her instincts screaming at the danger Summer represented. Angela, saying she would go talk to her sister. Influenza victims. Sick people. Wright growling, striding out of the room. A brief, shining moment as she and Penny danced and all the world fell away.
Fuck. It isn’t fucking fair! Just one moment? That’s all I get? I get one happy moment, as the world takes a big fat shit on me, and I’m supposed to be content!?
The fire flares. People need protecting. They NEED to be PROTECTED. Alice looks up, battered, beaten, but resolved.
Fine! …fine. I had my fun. I haven’t been looking properly. If there’s a chance people need help… someone has to help them.
A final flash of memory, as Angela puts her hand on Penny’s shoulder.
Even if I fucking hate doing it.
Alice strides with newfound purpose, casing the dregs of the party, and wracking her brain trying to connect the clues she has.
I don’t know what has been going on in this party… but I am going to find out.