Q2 2020 EP Contest: NaNoWriMo

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Q2 2020 EP Contest: NaNoWriMo

Postby Augur » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:03 am

The contest is to submit a short story.

This contest is going to cover a chunk of the Winter time frame to give players adequate time for their submissions.

Submit any (one) short story of your own creation.

  • Grammar and spelling are important to create a quality submission, so you need to seriously proofread your work!
  • The short story can be approximately 5,000 words. Deviation can only be within + or - 500 words or less.
  • The short story must be based in one of the game settings of the Palladium Megaverse. (Palladium Fantasy, Rifts, Robotech, etc.)
  • No images are allowed in the submissions.


Explanatory Notes:
The contest ends November 31st. Augur will validate/invalidate each submission at this time based exclusively on the quality of the writing, add a poll to the contest, and the EU community will vote for their favorite submission. (Time to bribe your fellow players!)

The contest judgment will begin on December 1st, provided there are at least 3 entries to judge, and will be concluded by no later than December 15th (IRL permitting!).

1st Place: Submission will be read aloud and produced as a podcast episode on Radio Free Merctown. +10 EP
2nd Place: +5 EP
3rd Place: +3 EP
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Re: Q2 2020 EP Contest: NaNoWriMo

Postby Brute » Mon Oct 12, 2020 11:20 am

The Wily House

"Ted, hon,... Someone left us a gift."

I was unpacking the car - we'd taken a drive out on Rattle Ridge to see the fall colors, and had stopped to do a little shopping on the way back at Millions Pavilion. We were new to Society Hill and our new neighbors have been dropping by with welcome gifts almost every day, so it wasn't a big surprise.

The neighbors all seemed glad to have us move in - apparently the house had been vacant off and on for as long as anyone could remember, and many previous owners had left it so quickly there was no explanation. 'It was probably too much house for them,' the realtor told us, and it was certainly a fixer-upper. No problem for me, I'd made a bunch of money buying and liquidating struggling businesses and could hire whatever contractors we'd need.

And it was a big house, but Claire and I are young still, and I had every confidence we could fill it.

Samantha - we call her Sam, partly because she pretends to get mad because it's a "boy's name" - squeals in joy when she sees the gift. As I come up behind her I get a good look at it. A trio of faded dolls - red, yellow, and blue. I have a vague recognition of them. They look a bit like candy-colored teddy bears, but with odd silver squares on their stomachs.

"They're the... uh..." I struggle to place their name or where I've seen them.

"TV TUMMIES" Sam squeals in joy, and hugs them tightly.

Sam's a fan of old kids' shows - she surfs for them on the CityNet, and she found TV Tummies a while back, watched all the episodes multiple times. When Claire and I got sick of them, we placed a moratorium on them and Sam moved on. The show last aired about 50 years ago, and though these dolls look old, they don't look 50 years old.


I look at Claire. "Who's it from?"

She shakes her head and shrugs. "No tag."

I shake my head and carry the bags into the house, Sam skips ahead with the three dolls, and Claire shuts the door behind me. The door echo reverberates through the house, in a way I never noticed it had done before.

We hadn't had a paying job in months. I'd spent a lot of my seed money setting up shop - buying an old brownstone with a street-level storefront shop, outfitting it with furniture and equipment, and paying the first few months salaries for my few employees, but I'd hoped, honestly, that the business would be self-sufficient by now. It wasn't. We were in the red, and the proverbial wolves were at the door. I was at my desk, trying to make the balance sheets actually balance, and failing, when a potential client walked in.

He was not what I like to see in a client - he was pasty, almost sickly-looking. Sunken eyes, clammy skin, dirty and wrinkled clothes. Still, his shoes were italian leather, and handmade, so maybe he still had enough to pay us for the work we do. His eyes gloss over the room and settle over me. As with most people, his eyes skip right over me at first, then he does a double take - though in him it's slow, almost comical, as sick as he is. It very slowly dawns on him that I am the boss here. I gesture to a padded chair and he sits.

I ask him 'what's the job' and it all spills out, and not a sliver of it makes any goddamn sense. And I know I'm not gonna be able to do this madness any justice if I try to repeat it to my employees, so I call two of my agents down. They come down, and sit, and I make the guy start over.

He goes, "I'm... Ted Stuckey. My wife, Claire, my daughter, Sam, and I moved into a house in Society Hill. The Wily House, it's called. Everything went okay first couple of weeks. Then..."

He shudders and pauses. A vacant look on his face. Suddenly, he sobs.

"My god I think they killed them!"

My agents look at each other, then at me, and when he settles down enough to continue, I ask 'who killed who?'

"The TV Tummies... they killed my family."

Mission brief is, apparently, this:

Client thinks some toys his kid got as a gift from some anonymous neighbor killed his family somehow. I can't follow the details, or how exactly he feels the toys are responsible. His facts are all muddled. He came to us after being laughed out of CSPD and a half dozen detective agencies. Boss thinks he can pay, though, so we take the job.

Me and Crystal are to go in, alone, and do recon. Society Hill is too populated for Scales – That’s Crystal’s nickname for Vaenryth - given he's still technically 'at large' so he is going to have to sit this one out. Crystal asks the boss if he's going to bring Gank-Bot 5000, but he says that'd raise as many eyebrows as Vaenryth would. So it’ll just have to just be the two of us.

No problem, I think. Just a house with a dead family inside, and a couple murderous kid's-show characters.

Dollars to doughnuts the house has a gas leak and the guy hallucinated everything, so I grab a pair of CS gas masks and an AQM - air quality meter. I fully expect to see the family dead of asphyxiation, and we get a little payday out of it. Sad for Ted, good for us. Boss's been looking a little peaky lately whenever he pays the bills.

Crystal and I load up in my Box van, parked in our street level garage, and we drive.

It hits me sudden-like, when we pull into the drive. My stomach lurches, like I ate some bad shrimp an’ it’s about to come up. I go over all queasy and dizzy like. But I can shake it off, ‘cause I’m a professional an’ shit.

The house is old, an’ I can tell even though it’s got a fresh coat of paint that it’s run down. It’s one o’ them old-style houses with like a tower an’ a big wraparound porch an’ fancy-ass windows. It’s the kind of posh that used ta be posh but now it’s just sad.

Like, one time I saw an old mink coat in a thrift shop, and it was like, rubbed bare in places an’ stained in places, an’ smelled like mothballs. Like that. This house looks like it smells like mothballs, an’ it’s rubbed bare in places. An’ maybe it is. Something about it don’t sit right. Maybe it’s Mr. Stuckey’s story. Maybe it’s me.

I ain’t in a hurry to linger out front, ‘cause my blue skin attracts looky-loos, so I pester Face to get his ass in gear so we can get inside. He grabs a backpack and we go in.

Inside ain’t much better. I’m getting’ the gut-wobbles pretty good by now, so I go off in search of a toilet I can hurl into, an’ Face gets to work. I dunno… he says something about invisible gasses an’ shit but I honestly gotta hurl so badly I don’t really listen. I find a bathroom just off the main hall, and I toss my cookies in there. I usually feel better after – like it’s a relief y’know? But not this time. Maybe there are invisible gasses after all. I wash my face, flush, and go off in search of wife an’ kid.

Mr. Stuckey says the wife is Claire, a pretty redhead, and daughter is Sam, brown hair like his. No other residents. So it’s a shock to me when I see another lady at the end of the hall. She’s got black hair piled on her head in a way they do in old-timey movies, an’ she’s dressed in this weird dress that’s tight up top with a real loose skirt, an’ she just looks at me kinda sad like. I go ‘Hey’ and take a step toward her, but she disappears into the room beyond, an’ when I get there, she ain’t there. I holler to Face that we ain’t alone in here.

Sitrep: Crystal lit out for the bathroom before I could shove a gas mask onto her, but luckily I’ve checked the air qual all over the first floor, and though there’s some obvious signs of distress the air’s clean. Kitchen is a wreck. Flies buzzing all over the stacked filthy dishes on the table and in the sink. From the smell, I could bet some of these dishes had actual feces in them, but I don’t really want to know. Down the hall, I can hear Crystal emptying her guts in the hall shitter. Poor kid. I almost wish it was a gas leak now, but from the sound of it, she got a grade-A case of food poisoning from that takeout joint she won’t stop ordering from.

Passing through the kitchen, I notice some duct tape, twisted and bloody, adhered to a chair leg. Like someone twisted it off their leg and didn’t much care how their skin came out of the ordeal. Not a good sign.

Did you do this to your family, Ted? Did you go on a bender, black out, and wake up to some horror you committed?
I hear Crystal telling me that we aren’t alone in the house, and that’s a relief. I hate finding corpses. I yell back ‘Great’, and I hear a soft giggle from somewhere close by. I turn, and see a door off the kitchen. I open it, and it’s a pantry, with a sealed-off stair going up inside. A servant’s staircase, no longer in use. No one in here, but if the sound in the house carries it could’ve come from upstairs.

I’m about to shut the door when I see one of the dolls, the yellow TV Tummy doll, sitting on a stair in the back of the pantry. I pick it up, give it a look. I don’t see anything unusual. I go to toss it down and shut the door, off to find the main stairs up to the second floor, and see about the wife and kid.

I followed the lady in the Jane Austen cosplay, I think, but her path seemed to lead to the back door. Nosy neighbor I guess? Maybe even the neighbor who brought the dolls. I can look into that later, I guess. First we gotta find the fam.

I turn to go back the way I came, and maybe check the basement, since I saw the door going down next to that hall bathroom I puked in. I go down, and it’s piles of old furniture an’ stuff down there. Real musty-like. Dirt floor, though, which is real rare. A quick look around confirms there’s no one but me down here. Just a laundry room, a heater, and a shit-ton o’ storage. I see a box of toys in one corner, near a painting, like an old oil painting, of a pretty young lady, an’ for a moment I think it’s the same lady from upstairs but that can’t be. I look closer, an’ at the bottom of the frame it goes ‘Cordelia Wily, beloved dau. of Ezekiel Wily’, an’ I figure they’re the original owners since it’s called Wily House an’ all.

I’m about to head back upstairs when… I dunno, I come over all dizzy, an’ have to sit down.

”A new toy for us to play with, Grazael.”

“A new toy, a new toy!”

“This one will be fun – funner than the others. Her mind is wide open. Powerful but with no defenses.”

“Dumb, dumb, DUMMY!”

“Let’s make her dance.”

“Let’s make her EAT their FACES, Rakkophon.”

“Yes, …and then she can eat her own face.”

Sitrep: I hear a noise in one of the bedrooms off the second floor hall – a creaky kind of repetitious noise. I move to investigate, leveling my sidearm and scoping my corners. I open the bedroom door and smell blood and filth. If you’ve ever been in a mental ward you might’ve smelled it – the mix of self-defecation, puke, and self-injury. I’m… familiar with the scent.


The mom is in here, sure enough, rocking in a rocking chair. I have my CS mask on, of course, so I don’t have to cover my face, but the smell seeps in, even through the military-grade filters. She’s got a puddle of blood and filth around her, leading to a similar puddle on the bed. I rush to her side, holstering my sidearm.

‘Lady, it’s okay. Help’s here’, I tell her, and she looks slowly at me, down at my hands, and she screams, scrabbling to get away from me. I hold up my hands to show I’m no threat, and…

I’m still holding that goddamn TV Tummy doll from downstairs.

I thought I chucked that back in the pantry, I think, but here it is, in my hand.

I hear that giggling again, closer. Is it in the room? I whirl around – no one there. I chuck the doll through the door, and turn back to the mom – Claire. She’s scrabbling at the window, trying to tear it open, but her hands are so filthy and damaged she can’t get purchase on the window sill. I grab her around the waist and call out to Crystal – ‘I found the mom! She’s alive! Get the kid!’

I half-carry, half-drag her fighting form out into the hallway, but she comes on like a wild animal, tearing and biting me. Luckily I’m armored, or this’d be a real goddamn mess. In the hallway, she wails, a sound that tears through me like nails on a chalkboard – an unearthly sound like I’ve never heard before.

Not never

I wheel about and see the damn doll, sitting upright on the floor. Right-damn-next to a similar doll, in red. I try to pivot Claire away, so she can’t see the damned things, and get her to the stairs. Suddenly, she breaks free, slipping out of my grasp like an eel. I go to grab her and I miss. Then Crystal comes tearing out of one of the rooms, making to tackle me. I feel a push, a solid hit, and I’m hurled sideways just as Crystal tries to tackle me – she missed me. But something didn’t. Something pushed me out of the way. Crystal turns on me. Her eyes are rolled up in her head and she’s foaming at the mouth… just like she’d done in the garage a year ago, when she’d held that alien ring. Something had hold of her mind. And in her hand… a blue TV Tummy doll.

A gang of good fellows are we
Are We! Are We!
With never a worry you see!
You See! You See!
We laugh and joke
We sing and smoke
And live life merrily!
No matter the weather
When we get together
We have a jubilee!
Hail! Hail! The gang's all here,
What the deuce do we care,
What the deuce do we care,
Hail! Hail! we're full of cheer,
What the deuce do we care?

Sitrep: Crystal’s on me like a lioness, she’s got blue crystal claws extruded from her hands and she means business. I could put two in her head and be done, but I like the kid, so I scamper back and roll to my feet, dash down the hall, around the corner, and I’m up the stairs to the attic. She howls behind me. I hear another thud – she’s hit the wall for some reason.

The attic’s a cobwebby mess, but even with my mask smeared with gore and filth I can see there’s a path through the dust – footsteps, kid’s size nine. I angle my body so I can see the stairs and the rest of the attic with a slight turn of my head, and I inch toward where I think the kid must be.

‘Sam’ I say. ‘Sam if that’s you, come on… I can get you out.’

I hear a scuttle under a table, covered in a dusty white dropcloth. I crouch down, pull it aside. The girl is under there, same condition as mom. She’s rocking back and forth, kinda muttering/kinda singing.

I don’t recognize the tune, but it’s like ‘hail, hail the gang’s all here, what the hell do we care?’ over and over. I reach out to her. ‘Sam, honey. Come on. I can get you to safety.’

I realize I don’t know what the hell’s going on in this house… but Ted isn’t… actually… that far off-base. It does look like these damn toys are trying to kill people.

Before I get to Sam, Crystal is up the stairs. She slunk up quiet-like, but I catch the top of her head coming into view. She steps up, I see her face. Another step, her body. She’s carrying all three dolls. I notice I feel sick. Starting to feel a bit dizzy. Did that bitch claw me or something? Infect me?

”Fuck it. It’s her or me. Double-tap the bitch.

I fumble with my holster, but my sidearm isn’t there. I notice Crystal is humming. She’s in tune with the kid, the same song, the same lyrics. They’re on beat.

I edge to the corner of the attic. I can’t protect the kid from here, but if Crystal’s gonna try to take me out, it’s going to be too much fight for me to be able to protect anyone but me. I back up until I feel wall at my back. I reach for my utility knife, and find it in it’s sheath at my thigh. I unbutton the strap and draw the blade. It sings to me. It sings my name. It sings my target. Face.

Then the mom shows up. She’s twitching… struggling. I can tell she wants to run. But she keeps cutting her eyes to the table where her kid is hiding. Then cutting them back at me. She licks her filth-encrusted lips, starts singing. In time with Crystal and Sam.

I never had much call to believe in monsters or magic. But seeing the kid, the mom, and Crystal all closing in on me, eyeing me… and singing… It makes me believe. There’s something beyond this world, another existence, with another kind of being in it. And whatever it is… it hates us.

Suddenly, I’m hungry.

”Fun, fun, FUNNY!”

“…eat their faces eat their necks…”

“It’s play time, lads… one for each of us, and one to eat.”

“yum, yum, YUMMY!”

“… make them dance, make them have Sex…”

“Do it, do, it, do it NOW, Malegesh!”

Shitrep: I lash out at the bitch in front. I catch the fucking doll and I see it’s guts tumbling out, gray ropy guts. Full of black shit. Red doll with shit-laden gray guts. I laugh. Dolls don’t have guts. Dolls have stuffing. Dolls get stuffed.

I laugh again.

I see cotton stuffing. Doll guts. Just cotton. I swipe again, and miss, catching air. I can tell if they don’t back off I’m gonna have to flay them and wear their skins.

Then everything stops. Claire looks up, eyes rolled back. Crystal, and the kid too. And then I guess I do it too, ‘cause everything gets fuzzy.

This is a terrible time to lose consciousness is all I have time to think.

A voice, ethereal and distant, calls out to the four.

Claire… I have seen you with your daughter and I know you are a woman of deep feeling. Your soul would not allow you to harm this child before, and it will not allow harm to come to her now. I can help you, if you allow it.

At the same time:
Crystal… I have felt your presence through your open mind – you lack defenses. I can teach you, but only if you survive. I feel your good heart at the core of you. Please allow me to help you.

Darling Samantha… this world is cruel to those who are the most vulnerable… I swear I will protect you if I can… I need only one thing…

Brave Hector… your courage is ceaseless, but courage alone will fail you. You cannot fight that which is already dead. I can help you… if you lend me some of the deep reservoir of strength you possess.

I opened my eyes… I see the strange man, backed into the corner, with his knife pointing at us. The blue-skinned girl, her head rolling. Her arms go limp and she drops the dolls. The …TV Tummies.

NOT DOLLS, part of me screams.

They fall to the floor, and then they stand up.

I see Samantha, my girl… skin torn, bloody and covered in her own sick. I understand what the voice wants, so I simply say ‘Take it’, and I feel the presence, draining me. I grow very tired, bone-tired, and I see a blue light materializing in front of me. It takes the form of a young woman in a Victorian gown. She seems at once ceaselessly sad and endlessly angry.

The dolls face her, except the one trying to push his stuffing back into the gash in its TV stomach. The ghost-lady speaks.

”Grazeal I name you, and thus I control you. Rakkophon I name you, and thus I control you. Malegesh I name you, and thus I control you. By the power of this bond and by the power of dominion I have over this house I cast you OUT! Get BACK to your hell! Acba Ariel-Rapere-Kyn yin Cherubot-Kyn yin Seraph-Mytyn yin Tharsis-Myen! Acba Tao-bo! Acba Ya-Akh-Met!”

She continued to chant this ancient language – I could not understand the words but I felt a great rush of power – and the three dolls began to contort. As she named each one, they were wracked, twisted, with popping noises similar to knuckles cracking. Then, as she chanted her alien language they lurched over, grew, contorted. Their skin grew grey and gauzy, their eyes huge and milky, like cataracts. Their mouths separated at the seam, and jagged yellowed teeth appeared. Limbs lengthened, and they fell to their knees in pain.

All the time, I felt a… draining. The girl, Crystal, fell to the floor in anguish. I wanted to run to her but I was rooted to the spot. The man in the gas mask dropped his knife, clutched at his head, and tore his mask off.

I nearly retched. He had no face. A red slit for a mouth and two black beads for eyes. His skin was pale and nearly translucent, blue veins visible under his skin. He opened his red slit mouth and howled.

My knees crumpled out from under me, and I felt a twisting in my guts.

”Grazeal, I command you! Release your hold! Rakkophon, I command you! Release your hold! Malegesh, I command you! Release your hold! Release your claims upon your prey and return to your hell, and I shall allow you to continue to exist! Keep these souls at your peril! ACBA YA-AKH-MET!”

Around me, the wind began to howl through the house, tearing the sheets off the old furniture, knocking lightweight items over. I struggled to raise my head. Samantha still stood – somehow weathering the intensity of this storm. I tried to reach out for her, to call her name. I only managed, ‘Sam…’

The three terrors that had been dolls began to liquefy, a smell of rot infusing the entire attic. They began to pool into a seeping black stain upon the floor, but the wind still howled, the ghost still screamed in her ancient language. The three howled, a sound like an injured, rabid animal.

Suddenly, stillness. The wind ceased almost completely. The black stain on the floor began to evaporate. Sam, finally, collapsed, but I had regained enough strength at the time to catch her. The girl, Crystal, looked up, and screamed, seeing her friend, the man the ghost called Hector, scrabbling for his mask.

Crystal looked up, at the dissipating blue mist, and whispered ‘Thank you Cordelia.’

Sitrep: After… whatever it was that went down in the attic… we exited the house. We all got in my van, and I drove us home. Ted was so overjoyed to see Claire and Sam he fell to his knees weeping. Fair. He thought they’d been killed, after all. We let them have some alone time as a family and I gave the boss the full after-action report. Which was:

Near as I can figure, they got hold of some dolls that were demon possessed, but the ghost that haunts their house borrowed our strengths somehow and exorcised them for us.

I know. It don’t make sense to me, either.

Boss let them shower, and Crystal and I gave ‘em some civvies to wear. We had nothing in Sam’s size though, so she put on one of Crystal’s shirts and put a belt around it. Wore it as a dress. Ted came down, a spark of life in his otherwise haunted face, and said he didn’t know what they were going to do next but they couldn’t go back into that house. Even if the dolls were really gone.

Ted then tried to pay us, but the Boss said ‘I have a better idea. You can pay us at 50% of our fee – you’re going to need the rest yourself, I imagine, and then sign over your deed to us, and I’ll sign over this place to you.’ I thought it was crazy, but Ted jumped all over it. After a few calls to his lawyer, it was a done deal.


Moving in to the Wily House took some doin’ but it was worth it. Face was able to patch it up real good – he’s real handy with tools it seems. And even though we had to move Gank-Bot 5000 and Vaenryth in separate trips in the dead of night, once everyone was there we were able to fix the place up, pretty much. An’ the fact it’s haunted don’t much bother any of us, given ghost-lady Cordelia’s all right in our book.

We learned that the Wily House was built by Hiram Wily back when Diego Verdes was called Diablo Verdes, and was a big silver mining town, before it was even Century Station. Hiram had tapped a rich vein of silver ore, but lost his fortune when his mine collapsed an’ killed a bunch o’ his workers. They got rich again later, when his son Ezekiel built a shipping company, but a rogue storm went and sank half his ships. His creditors came callin’ an’ demanding their money back – which he couldn’t pay – an’ he killed his family an’ himself. Cordelia was his daughter. Nowadays she rattles around a bit, an’ she’s real sad, but I can tell she don’t want to hurt anyone. Maybe someday I can figure out how to help her – she helped us plenty, after all. For now, all I can do is be a friend.

While we were unpacking, I asked Ulysses what came over him to do a house swap for a haunted house. He says, ‘They had a problem, kid, and they needed help. After all, we’re Ulysses Solutions. Solving problems is what we do.’

Face still won’t talk to me though. I think he’s embarrassed about his… well… his face. I keep sayin’ I’m sorry for screaming, but … I’d seen so much already that day an’ I still didn’t know what was real. How do I tell him it don’t change how I see him? I never could see his face before that day anyhow. Scales says to just tell him how I feel. But that’s dumb. Who’s gonna love a girl with blue skin?

But he just keeps sulking and stomping around the second floor saying ‘where do those pantry steps come out?’ an’ ‘It doesn’t make sense.’ I think the house still gives him the jitters.

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