“Could you hand me that box there? Make sure to mark it off the list.”
“You got it, Mr. Harris.” The young man said, handing him the box. Mr. Harris carefully checked the label and placed it on top of the others. The young man glanced up at the clock. “Uh, Mr. Harris? It’s after six thirty.” he said nervously. The rest of the workers had already left; it was just the two of them still left in the warehouse.
“Huh? Oh, you’re right Brad. Thanks for staying.” Mr. Harris said absently. Lately he had been throwing himself into his work. It made the pain of losing his daughter, not lessened, just more…numb. “Going to the party?”
“Ahh. Good, good. Thanks for reminding me. Jenny and I are going to go to it too. I think-I think getting out of the house a bit will help.” he said.
“Yeah. I hope it does, sir.” Brad said, biting his lip. Everyone knew about the Harris’s loss of Amber, and how the boss hadn’t been the same since. He just didn’t seem to care about anything anymore, but no one knew how to talk to him about it.
“Go on, I’ll close up here. Go enjoy yourself. I’ll be along shortly.” Brad brightened and nodded.
“Yes sir! See you tomorrow!” Mr. Harris waved him off and sighed, watching the boy’s departing back. He was only eighteen, fresh out of school and the future bright ahead of him. Amber had only been three years younger…
He shook his head. There was no use dwelling on such dark thoughts now. If he hurried, he could get Jenny and himself to the party. He made his rounds, ensuring the papers were filed properly, all the boxes of appliances were in place, and grabbed his keys to lock the door. Just as he was about to put the key to the lock, a car screeched to a halt in front of it. Lights were flashing in the window, indicating its status as a police car. A tall woman and a thin kid, stuffing the last of a sub into his mouth emerged and came in.
“Good evening sir. I’m Detective Margaret Cross, Craven Falls Police Department,” Cross said, flashing her badge. “I formally apologize for this, but you and your warehouse have been deputized for aid in resolving the crimes of the Craven Falls Killer.”
“Wow, this’s a big place! Tall, too! I think I’ll like it here. Yeah, you were right, it’s only like a couple miles from the cemetery! I’ll take it!” Scott said, pushing his way past them to admire the space.
“Hey, wait! Who are-the police?” Mr. Harris said, turning to Cross. She nodded. “Deputized? Um…I’ll be glad to help, but…how is my warehouse deputized?”
“Glad you asked, Mr. Harris! It is Mr. Harris, may I call you Mr. Harris?” Scott slid between him and Cross, shaking his bewildered hand. “See, we kinda need a large amount of space with walls, gotta draw sigils on the walls too for this one, it’ll take awhile. But I like what I see, so I’ll take ownership of it as recompensation-urk!” Cross grabbed him by the collar and yanked him back with a stormy expression.
“Kid, this’s not the time for that!” she yelled at him, exasperated. He held up a finger.
“Au contraire. This is the perfect time for it, we have to explain anyway-yes, I know!” he said and rolled his eyes at empty space.
“Look, what the hell is going on!?” Mr. Harris snapped. “I don’t know what you want form me, but I’m not signing over any of my warehouses to anybody! I worked long and hard to get where I am, so leave before I call the real police!”
“Mr. Harris, I can assure you…” Cross started, but Scott rolled his eyes as he listened to her platitudes and said what he figured would get the man’s cooperation the fastest.
“How would you like to see Amber again?”
Mr. Harris’s attention snapped to him faster than a snake.
“What?” he said.
“You know, Amber. Amber Harris. Your daughter. The one who had…an unfortunate incident happen to her about a month ago? She told me you were pretty broken up about it. Yeah, I can bring her back if you want. All you gotta do is give me this warehouse in exchange. Sound good? We have a deal?” Mr. Harris recoiled as if struck, his mouth hanging open in shock.
“Kid, you gotta work on your sales pitch.” Cross muttered, her head sinking into her hand.
“How…how DARE YOU!” Mr. Harris roared, shaking with anger. “She’s GONE! How do you have the gall to come in here and suggest-!” His face was rapidly turning an unhealthy red. Scott turned and grinned as the sound of running feet came up and stopped outside the warehouse.
“They have arrived. Of course, you’re an intelligent man, I suppose I shouldn’t ask such an outrageous request without a demonstration.” He went over and threw open the door. The walking dead shuffled in, moaning and decaying. It was too obvious they weren’t people in costumes, and this wasn’t a sick joke. Mr. Harris’s eyes went wide.
“You…but…how…” he floundered, and Scott grinned.
“Hi, my name’s Scott Havenbrook, professional necromancer. Call me for all your necromantic needs. I’d give you a card, but I don’t have those.” He smacked his forehead as he remembered something. “You! Third zombie from the back, get up here!” Pushing through the crowd, Amber’s corpse stepped up to the front. Mr. Harris locked his eyes on her in disbelief.
“Amber…my, my sweet little girl.” he said quietly, moving forward as if in a trance. Suddenly, Scott and Detective Cross clapped their hands to their ears and winced.
“Ow. That was loud, you know.” Scott said, addressing empty space. “Yeah…well, no, but…look, I raised the whole damn cemetery, of course your body’d be with it!” he snapped. “This won’t affect things at all, we still have to beat the daemons, all this means is it’s now on hand. Yes, that’s right, but…” Cross merely pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head, while Mr. Harris slowly approached his daughter’s body.
“She…she’s dead. But she’s standing right here.” He turned to see Scott arguing with empty air. “How?”
“Oh, that’s easy. All I had to do was fill the body with necrotic energy, it’s how I got my little group together.” he explained, straightening his jacket. “But the job’s only half-done in her case. She’s a ghost right now, over there in fact. I got to know her a bit these last few weeks, and we struck a deal: in return for your secrecy, and the warehouse, I bring her back to life. What do you say?”
Mr. Harris looked at Amber’s standing corpse, at Scott, then at the keys in his hand.
“It’s yours.” he said, tossing the keys to the necromancer.
“Yes!” Scott pumped his fist. “Score! Who got a new lab? I got a new lab! Sweet!” He did a happy little dance of victory. Mr. Harris grabbed him by the shoulders, shaking and beginning to weep.
“Please,” he begged. “Please, I’ll do anything you need me to. I don’t care if this is a dream or not. P-Please, give me Amber back!” He started sobbing. Scott glanced to the side and sighed, patting both Mr. Harris’s shoulder and the air.
“Yes, yes. It’s okay, everything will be okay. Unfortunately, I can’t right now.” he said.
“What?” Mr. Harris’s stomach dropped into his shoes. “But you just said-”
“I know, but much as I’d love to, I’m afraid we have more pressing matters right at this minute.” Scott said with a wave of his hand. “As a bonus, we’ve avenged her death. But now there’s a bunch of daemons running around town, if you go outside you might get eaten. Oh, bad idea to go to the party, too. Best just to sit tight while I take care of some things first.”
“What?” Mr. Harris said, thoroughly confused. Scott scratched the side of his head.
“Yeah, it’s kinda crazy right now. Speaking of which…boys, unload the car and start drawing the circles! We got work to do!” he hollered to his zombies, and they moved to obey. “Not you, you stay back!” he called to the Amber zombie. “Anyway, I have to stop the daemons from starting the apocalypse, so I have to give that my full attention right now. But rest assured, I will move the resurrection from the back burner to top priority as soon as I’m done. I figure, worst comes to worst, you have to wait a day or two, not such a big deal. Right?”
“Yes, I…I guess.” Mr., Harris said, unbalanced. “I…this is all just so surreal…”
“Tell me about it.” Cross muttered.
“Well, I can get the first part started, at least.” Scott said. He walked up to the Amber zombie, grabbed her head and snapped her neck. Cross and Amber cried out in outrage while Mr. Harris collapsed to the floor in a dead faint.
“What the hell!?” Amber exploded, swatting Scott on the head. “Right in front of Dad! Why did you do that?”
“Hey, ow! I couldn’t bring you back while the body was reanimated, so I-ow! Okay, I wasn’t thinking, my bad-ow! Will you stop smacking me!?” he beseeched, holding his hands on his head.
“Fine.” Amber growled. “But if you don’t bring me back, I’ll haunt you for eternity.”
“Truly terrible.” the necromancer deadpanned.
“Putting that aside, what is the next move? Why did we need to commandeer the warehouse? I know you said it was ‘something big’, but I’d like to know before I crash the party.” Cross said sharply.
“Oh, right.” Scott said brightly, rummaging in his backpack. “I sketched out the sigils and stuff for Phase Four earlier. Here, take a look.” He unrolled the paper on the ground, then went to direct the zombies in their work. Amber and Cross shared a glance, then read the title above the strange, unearthly rune and the accompanying composite sketch. Their mouths fell open.
“Holy…” Amber said.
“Nothing holy about his brain. It’s rotted form too many cartoons.” Cross muttered. “That’s it, I’m out. Don’t blow anything up.”
“Will do! Good luck!” Scott waved cheerfully as she left.
“You’re out of your mind, you know that.” Amber said flatly as the zombies quickly worked in concert to finish the circles and sigils, Scott’s direction leaving them unable to deliver less than machinelike precision.
“I know. Isn’t it wonderful?” Scott grinned as he directed the dead. In no time at all, they were finished and Scott directed them to stand in the main circle on the ground. He clasped his hands together. “Behold, the fruits of my labor. This spell doesn’t exist in the Necronomicon, you know.”
“Huh? It doesn’t?” Amber said. Scott nodded.
“Nope. But the theory does. Magic requires some kind of medium to twist the natural energies of the universe to do what you want, unless you generate enough brute magical force yourself. The sigils and incantations are like…scientific formulas, I guess. Repeating them can give you the intended effect. I’ve been tinkering with some different designs for sigils for a bit now, and this one’s my magnum opus. It’s time for the field test.”
“And you decided to do…this?” Amber said, sweeping her hands at the sigils on the walls and floor.
“Yup. Told you I was an anime fan.” He grinned and began chanting, willing the necrotic energy into the sigils, forming it into new directions.
Toxic emerald green light poured out of the windows and cracks of the warehouse. Then with a great roar and crash, the roof exploded.
“Hello?” Michael Havenbrook asked, knocking on the door of the derelict manor. It ominously creaked open, revealing a woman covered in blood and her shoulder half-shredded, as if she’d been in a terrible accident.
“Welcome, transient visitors, to this house beyond the veil.” she intoned. The Havenbrooks all took a step back, and the woman giggled. “I’m sorry, it’s part of the opening, and it’s my job to deliver the line. Welcome to Blackwell Manor! Please, come in, come in!” She ushered them inside and frantically looked up and down the street. She saw two far away daemons look in her direction, a group of stumbling zombies not far behind. She quickly shut the door.
Inside the Havenbrooks saw a small group of other people, others Scott had managed to persuade to come instead of to the party.
“Just more guys? When is the scary stuff gonna happen?” a boy in an Iron Man costume said.
“Billy, don’t be rude. But he does have a point. How long until the festivities start? We’ve been here for the last half-hour.” his mother said.
“Great costume though. It looks fantastic, and quite realistic.” Rebecca said, eyeing her form appreciatively.
“Thank you, madam.” Judith said. It was actually just how she looked after the accident. Before he’d left, Scott had imbued each of them with as much necrotic energy as he could, and with the thinner barriers of reality on Halloween, the ghosts had no trouble being perceived by normal people. “It looks like the guests have arrived…” She saw her husband’s head pop out the wall above their heads and nod frantically. “So let the night of horrors begin. As I speak, we have come under siege by horrible monsters from beyond. They assault us even now.”
“You! Let us in! I can smell you!” A small, multi-eyed daemon appeared in the window, batting at it like a fly. Something pounded on the door, making it rattle and shake.
“I saw that happen last year at the other haunted house.” Billy complained.
“Indeed, we are all doomed. We are merely insubstantial apparitions, we cannot protect you for long.” Judith continued, giving the door a nervous glance and trying to sound disaffected. “Our only hope is the manor’s first owner, Captain Phineas Blackwell of Her Majesty’s Navy. Only he can save us. But how long can he last against these terrible horrors?” The knocking grew louder, straining the wood, and the daemon in the window began to turn red in irritation. She glanced up at the ceiling. “I said, how long can he last against these terrible horrors!?” she practically shrieked, starting to tremble.
Alfred Simmons floated down from the stairway, looking like he’d been tossed through a meat grinder. Not too far off from what the car did, actually.
“Al, where is he? He’s the strongest one here, we don’t stand a chance without him! And he missed his cue!” she whispered fiercely. The guests began to shuffle restlessly, and he shrugged.
“Your guess is as good as mine. I looked, but he’s not in any of his usual rooms. I wonder if-”His musings were cut short by a bugle call. Everyone, including the daemons, turned to stare. Even the knocking ceased.
“WHAT HO!” the captain roared and descended, eyes burning and saber drawn. “What FOUL FIENDS DARE to come and assault MY HOME, and MY GUESTS? This will not stand! Into the breech, good men! TALLY HO!”
He charged forward yelling, passing his saber through the window in a quick, vicious swipe. Daemons, being both material and incorporeal entities simultaneously, were affected by ghostly swords as well as real ones. The daemon let out an “eep!” and was bisected, black blood staining the window.
“Whoa!” Clay exclaimed.
“I gotta say, they really went all out on the special effects.” Michael said, pleasantly surprised.
The door burst open, revealing a massive snake-headed monstrosity, hissing serpents for arms slithering in and glaring at them all.
“Die, mortalsss!” he hissed.
“SALLY FORTH!” The captain swung his saber, but it was parried by the fangs in the serpent’s mouths with a clang. “What ho! You seek to outduel me? Pah! Rubbish! Stuff and nonsense! I was Her Majesty’s fencing champion on the high seas! You wouldn’t know a flunge from a riposte!”
“What are you talking about?” the bewildered daemon said, ducking and whirling around Blackwell’s flashing saber.
“You shall not best me! Allow me to demonstrate a trick from my honorable Navy days! FIRE!” A cannon, possessed by and infused with the captain’s ghostly power, rolled into the hall and fired. The snake’s eyes went wide before it was ejected out the door, splattering into dark goo on the street.
“Wow! Cool!” Billy cried exuberantly. “Way better than last year!”
“Indeed, young master!” Blackwell said, grinning. “Now who’s NEXT?” A multitude of daemons ran in, howling madly. “Once more, EN GARDE!”
“Please, partake of some refreshments. Anyone thirsty?” Judith said brightly, wheeling in a tray of snacks.
“Okay, I’ll admit the geek was right about this one. This’s entertaining.” Clay said, grabbing a handful of popcorn.