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So You Want To Visit A Haunted Bookstore, Hmm?

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Silberman's Books. Saturday, October 31st, 2015, from the Crack of Dawn to the Witching Hour.

 

Originally Lynn was going to give Halloween a pass this year; not that she wasn't going to observe her favorite non-Jewish holiday (yes, she liked it even better than Thanksgiving), but she wasn't going to do anything special beyond having candy for trick or treaters and maybe conjuring up a few decorations. School was taking up more of her time, and since Gretchen had become her personal crime-fighting assistant she was actively hitting the streets again. In addition, last year's Pier 13/Autumn Court incident took a little wind out of her sails, and she still felt bad about how she'd treated Tona at last year's Halloween party. So this year, she planned to keep it low key.

 

That is, until her sidekick saw how pitiful she'd looked all week, what with the sighing and the longing looks at every jack o' lantern or cardboard cut-out of Frankenstein's Monster taped to a window. She hated to see her normally effervescent boss all mopey like this, so she made a decision and confronted her. "We are doing a haunted house on Halloween, right here in the store," she'd insisted. "And you are going to be scary and inappropriately cheerful and have a great time." And that was that.

 

Shaken from her funk, Lynn really went to town, staying up half the night on Friday to cover the place in cobwebs, skeletons and other ghoulish paraphernalia. Gretchen tweaked the store's sound system and ran cables out into the yard so she could set up hidden speakers in the spooky mini-labyrinth her boss had conjured between the back of the building and the carriage house. Lynn's dad Butch dug his vintage 70s haunted house LPs out of storage and lent them to Gretchen to upload and remix. And in the loft of the carriage house, Lynn cleared out all her conjured gym equipment to make a funky, freaky black light party room, where kids and adults could bob for apples, play scary games and make their own Halloween masks. Emails were sent and cryptic hints left on rooftops in the hope that some of Grimalkin's 'friends' might make an appearance.

 

Not bad for a night's work, really!

 

- - -

 

In the morning before opening, the Silberman's staff was rather stunned; Lance wandered around the dusty bookshelves, slowly shaking his head "Uhh, boss lady? When were you planning to tell us about all of this?"

 

"I know, I know, I should have; I wasn't planning anything, but then Gretchen got sick of seeing me all hangdog, so-"

 

"No, it's awesome, I just-"

 

"We don't have anything to wear," chimed in Kiki, who also seemed to be charmed by the whole affair.

 

"We can make costumes; we can use stuff lying around the store, I can conjure more stuff-"

 

"I have lots of makeup!" Maddy dumped out the contents of her purse and began digging through it.

 

Gretchen grinned wryly, crossed her arms and bumped her hip against Lynn's. "See? Told you this would work."

Edited by Heritage

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Sakurako was smiling.

 

The one day she could wear a costume... as in something not her usual costume. Then again as she had retired her supersuit for an inkling of an idea that hatched in her head recently while waiting for her college extension course to start. So that left a suit that needed recycling. Knowing the climate, she decided to instead change it into something a bit more comfy for Halloween, noting the very much autumn weather outside. Then again she always cheated nature with a slick warming system.

 

She had even intentionally turned her hair blonde for her costume. A radical departure for her, and even sprung for baby-blue contacts that she whipped up to have a slight shine to them. For her, cosplay isn't something she went half-way with. It was all the way, or no way. It surprised her parents that Sakurako was even doing something even remotely social by coming up with a Halloween costume.

 

She arrived once Silberman's was open, a large bookbag/laptop combination slung over a shoulder, adjusting the bluish visor-like glasses she was wearing, displaying data on the current weather conditions.

 

Opening the door she could smell the offerings for Halloween alongside the books. There was a certain magic to the place, something familiar as her life keeps changing more and more. When she walked through the threshold she just grinned. "Hello everyone! Looks like I've arrived first!"

 

Even when bereft of pink, today Sakurako still stood out in many shades of blue and some purple on the vest of her costume. "And no, I don't have a gigantic floating tank... like I would use electromagnetism as a tool of war..."

 

Edited by Sailor

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The last Halloween party Tona had attended at Silberman's had been memorial for more than one reason, so when Lynn announced a new one Tona had spent not a few hours considering her costume. Eventually she'd made up her mind and come back to the apartment with a bulging REI bag. The young archer was ever a practical sort and so her costume was (mostly) something she could use the rest of the year, too. She stomped down the stairs from her apartment to the store dressed in camouflage overalls, a thick orange sweater, mud boots, an orange, woolen cap, and a bushy beard tied to her face. A plastic rifle sized for a toddler and painted patriotic colors completed the outfit.

 

She walked into the store carrying a pair of Tupperware containers, and waved to her boss. "Belle nuit, Lynn," she said. "I brought treats for the party." She placed the containers on the check-out counter and opened it, pulling out a line of dried apple slices with a line of yarn threaded through them. "There's pear and orange slices in there, too," she said, being careful that none of the paper towels stuck to the dried fruit."

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Lynn eagerly welcomed Sakurako and put her to work on additional preparations; she would spend most of the day in the carriage house, showing excited neighborhood kids fun science tricks with her EM wand.

 

- - -

 

By the time Tona arrived around 6pm, things were pretty lively; the entire staff was present in costume, as were a few customers and their children, though most of them were paying ten bucks (five for kids) to head out to the maze and party room out back. Kiki was dressed like a Roaring Twenties flapper, Lance appeared to be some sort of post-apocalyptic cowboy, and Maddy and her fiance Christine were Rumpleteazer and Griddlebone from Cats.

 

"Hi Tona! Glad you could make it!" Her boss waved a pale hand from across the room; Lynn was dressed as late stage Anna from Frozen, complete with white hair and intricate blue ice crystals, and just looking at her made you shudder.

 

"I look like a doily." Kiki, Lynn and Maddy had all collaborated on Gretchen's outfit, transforming her into a lovely if unlikely Cinderella; though she was trying to hide it behind her usual wall of sarcasm, she was secretly delighted to be the belle of the ball.

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Terrifica had turned heads as she rode from Boston to Freedom on her Terrifi-Cycle, but not for the usual reason. After all, outside of Freedom heroes were significantly more rare and seeing one go by you on a motorcycle was a memorable experience. No, this time people openly stared for an entirely different reason. If heroes were somewhat rare outside of Freedom, then a medieval Chinese soldier riding a motorcycle was a thing that nobody had ever seen before.

 

She pulled up to a stop just outside of Silberman’s Books, shut down the engine, and got off. She had made the armor herself, and it was meticulously accurate, complete with a sword on her left hip. However, she had made a few concessions for better freedom of movement, and it was made of considerably studier materials. In fact, in a pinch it could double for her battlesuit. She even had her collapsed Terrifi-Staff on her right hip in its usual place. The cape, while not her long coat, performed the same task of making her feel super cool. Oh, who was she kidding? It was her battlesuit, reproduced in period Chinese armor format. She opened one saddlebag and switched her motorcycle helmet for the armor’s helmet. She was sporting a domino mask underneath, regardless. From the other saddlebag and the travel trunk she produced a pumpkin pie, along with a pumpkin cheesecake and two coffee cans full of pumpkin cookies. It wasn’t exactly easy to carry all of that into the store, but she managed, being simply terrific. Or so her thoughts went as she walked in.

 

“Grimalkin? Grim?” There was a not-unanticipated problem, however. The stack of baked goods was too high. She could not see underneath it at all. Perhaps she had gotten overexcited about the children’s first Halloween together and gotten carried away. This was precisely half of all the baking she’d done, after all. She had made pumpkin pie flavored ice cream, too. However, it would have melted on the way, and there wasn’t room for the baked goods and her portable freezer device. Hmm. Perhaps she should’ve not put on the helmet yet, as it limited her peripheral vision. “I got your messages. All of them. Rather insistent of you, so here I am.” Would Grim not recognize her out of her battlesuit? It did cover virtually everything. “It’s Terrifica.”

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Lynn was talking to a pair of young girls who were delighted by her costume, though very concerned for her health; they were visibly relieved once she let them touch her hands to confirm she was in fact quite warm. When Terrifica made her entrance, Annacicle!Lynn politely excused herself to make a call in her office, when in fact she actually contacted her assistant mentally.

 

-'Cindy', can you distract Terrifica, Warrior Princess for a second while I do a quick costume change? Grimalkin invited her, so she should probably greet her.-

 

-Your wish is my command, milady.-

 

-Don't get weird on me, kid.-

 

'Cinderella' sort of spun her way over to the overencumbered super-genius, like a little girl pretending she was a ballerina. Gretchen then pulled off an awkward curtsy that made her gown crinkle.

 

"Greetings and welcome, brave traveller. Might this princess take away your burden?"

 

Meanwhile in Lynn's office, Anna of Arendell crumpled down to nothing, whereas Grimalkin suddenly appeared on the roof of the building. She quickly adopted the dress of Elizabeth Swann, complete with tricorner hat, shrunk herself diwn to pixie size, and then flew in from the direction of the backyard labyrinth. 

 

And that is how you maintain a secret identity!

 

Wee Pirate!Grim zipped over on gossamer wings to hover in front of Terrifica, a huge grin on her tiny face. "Oh my God, are you Fa Mulan? I love it! Welcome to the party, T!"

Edited by Heritage

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Generally speaking, Sam had never really been one for the holidays. She had never seen the point in New Year's - they didn't celebrate the end of the week, or the month, what made years so damn special? Thanksgiving had been an equally empty experience for her; as a kid, she had had precious little to be thankful for. Besides, her mother's idea of a Thanksgiving feast had been a packet of turkey dogs, a can of cold cranberry sauce, and a bottle of scotch. And as for Christmas...nothing made a bad mood worse than going outside and seeing everybody in the city smiling and singing like they were the happiest people on Earth. She had yet to receive a nighttime visit from three ghosts explaining the error of her ways, so she saw no need to revise her opinion.

 

Halloween had been different, though. You didn't need a parent for Halloween. All you needed was a costume and a goodie sack. Which was why she and her little sister had waited for the last day of October the way most kids waited for the twenty-fifth of December. They had always used the same costumes, year after year: the cheap, colorful superhero outfits they had assembled themselves from old clothes. They had worn them nearly every day anyway, when they were playing, but this was the one day of the year the had been given candy for doing so. Looking back, she knew how stupid it had been for two unescorted little girls to wander around the big city at night doing door-to-door trick-or-treating. Their mother had either not realized or, more likely, not cared, because she had never raised any objection, or offered to take them herself. And afterwards, their bags full to bursting with what was, in hindsight, probably pity candy, they would sit in bed together and stuff themselves sick. It had been the best day of the year.

 

That had all gone out the window when high school came along, of course. That and everything else. Sam hadn't wanted to go trick-or-treating with her annoying little sister anymore. She wanted to hang out and smoke with all her cool new friends. And the rest, Sam reflected bitterly, was history.

 

So she had regarded the announcement of a Halloween party in the store with decidedly mixed feelings. On the one hand, happy memories of childhood. On the other hand, less-happy memories of childhood. Lynn's unbridled enthusiasm had proved infectious, however, and Sam had found herself looking forward to the party despite herself. It was hard to maintain a properly negative outlook when your boss was literally dressed like a Disney princess. Giving in, Sam had decided to honor the happier days of yore by dressing in a superhero outfit just as crappy as the one she had used to wear, only this time the crappiness was deliberate. A plain blue long-sleeved shirt was her tunic, a red towel held on with a safety pin her cape, and a sleeping mask with two holes cut in it cunningly concealed her identity. She knew she looked like a slob who had been putting off the laundry too long, and she didn't care.

 

She wandered into the entry hall after Gretchen, having just finished putting up an especially large rubber spider in the ladies' room, which was as good a place as any to scare the crap out of somebody. She nodded to the new arrival. "Hey. Need a hand with that? Also, boss," she addressed Lynn, "you keep flying around like that, somebody's gonna try to put you in a lantern."

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Terrifica having a very good day, actually. It had been Meilin’s first real Halloween, after all. She’d been too young to appreciate holidays last time around. And Lucas, being a proper toddler, loved dressing up and absolutely adored candy. It had been a party day, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in that house…ever, actually. As previously stated, Meilin was now old enough to actively participate, if not particularly well. Afterward they had gone out briefly, in their neighborhood, for just a taste of what the children would being doing in future years. The children were exhausted when they came home, and went to bed with only token complaints. She had kissed Stan and told him she loved him. He knew that holidays in the Carson mansion were devoid of any kind of joy, and as such it was alien to his wife’s experience until relatively recently. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that she was enjoying the day as more than the children were, so he said nothing against her heading out to Grim’s party. Then she put on her domino mask, packed up her cycle, and rode away.

 

“My goodness. I’d almost forgotten you could do that.” Terrifica blinked, slightly surprised by the sudden appearance of a piratical pixie. She smiled slyly. “Oh, no. You’ve found out my secret identity. I’m  Fa Mulan, a hero of China transported to the distant future. Whatever will I do now?” A joke, obviously. She glanced over at Cindergretchen. “Yes, please. If you’re doing the food, please take them.”  She handed them off. And back to Grim. “Do you think it’s too much? I made everything myself, even the sword. I wouldn’t touch it, though. It falls under cold iron, and it’s very sharp.” She omitted that she’d also built the forge and most of the equipment required to make period Chinese armor and a sword. “It’s just about what Mulan would have used if she had stolen her father’s armor to fight the Mongol horde.” She also omitted the very depressing consequences for a real life Mulan who would have done that. Death would have likely been a mercy by the time it came for her.

 

As for the other woman… “I suppose Cinderella here may need a hand, if you’d like.” In addition to being a physicist, a historian, and a blacksmith, Terrifica was also a behavioral psychologist. The other woman’s costume was handmade and looked terrible. That, however, appeared to be the entire point. She wondered why anyone would do that. She didn’t think Grim would tolerate such laziness at her party, and Grim had the powers to do something about it quickly. Then she remembered the frigid Carson mansion, and realized others may have had it worse. She smiled. “I like your costume. ”

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Sam snorted. "No, you don't. But thanks." A polite liar. I like her. She gestured to her cheap outfit. "Call this an exercise in nostalgia." And a massive affront to the fashion police. "Used to dress up like this every Halloween when I was a kid. Haven't celebrated it in years, so I figured I'd do it again for old times' sake. Still," she glanced at the other woman's intricately-crafted armor with frank admiration, "I do feel kinda lazy all of a sudden."

 

She took half the boxes from Gretchen, splitting the burden. "I don't know where the hell you people get your costumes," she continued, balancing baked goods in her arms. "I know big-budget costuming departments that would kill for some of the stuff I've people wearing at this party." She directed a rare wry smile at Lynn. "Not all of us can just magic up our clothes, you know. Some of us have to actually buy them." Or, as in her own case, dig them out of a laundry basket. She only had one other costume, after all, and wearing that one probably wouldn't have been such a good idea. She had a secret identity to maintain.

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Halloween was probably Daphne's favourite time of the entire year! Yes Christmas and Thanksgiving were great times to sit around and watch television all day, but for Halloween you got to dress up however you liked. Though even she agreed with Mother Unit that some women wore far to little, which showed a distinct lack of imagination.

 

After last year's excitement when she'd heared Grimalkin was doing a Halloween party she could hardly contain her excitement. She'd spent days working out what costume she was going to wear and what would work well whilst wearing her Scarlet face. She'd finally settled on the perfect costume to wear and she'd arrived at the bookshop dressed in head to toe in scarlet, a shapely robe and a wide brimmed witches hat.

 

Her first instinct was to get herself something to drink before looking for anyone she would know.

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"No mere lantern can contain ME!!!" Grim dramatically drew forth a tiny wooden sword, which she whipped about with a dramatic flourish before sliding it back home into her belt. Considering Terrifica's own sword, she sighed and nodded. "Thanks for the heads up about that; actually, you might want to hang onto that in case I ever turn evil again someday." She said it very matter-of-factly, liked it was a normal part of life

 

Gretchen took the other half of the goodies and led Sam over by the bar, where most of the food was being laid out. Looking back at their mutual boss, she sighed. "Well, she's an incorrigible show-off, that's for sure, but not always; sometimes she gets quiet and sad, and you just want to give her a big hug. I like that side of her, too." Then the snarky young barista straightened up suddenly, put down her burdens and tried to change the subject. "I think your costume is cool. It's meta."

 

- - -

 

When Miss Grue arrived at the other end of the bar, Apocalyptic Cowboy Lance was behind it serving drinks of a non-alcoholic nature; he smiled at the young alien and raised his eyebrows expectantly. "What'll it be, little lady?" He looked around, then leaned over the bar and whispered. "I actually have a witches brew that will knock you socks off!" He winked and gave her 'the nod'.

Edited by Heritage

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Mali loved Halloween, always had. Had a lot to do with the costumes, the cheesy movies, the candy. One of the times of year where she managed her diet a little less strenuously. A few more crunches to her routine would help cover for any indulgences. Tonight she was a vampire. She wore a black dress for her costume, Gothic and a bit macabre, with some long black gloves. Some makeup to make her look pale, with dark red lipstick, striking eye makeup, red contact lenses, extendable fangs, and the last addition; an elegant black wig, because her short haircut didn't suit the get-up.

 

She opened the door and was delighted to see that all sorts of people were inside. "Good evening." She said in a reasonable facsimile of an Eastern European accent.

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"Meta?" Sam tested the word on her tongue. "Yeah, meta. That's what it is. I'm a superhero who used to have a cheap costume. Then I got a better costume. Now I'm wearing a cheap costume ironically. Doesn't get much more meta than that." The party had put her in a good mood despite herself, and she found herself cracking more smiles than was typical for her. "Saved me from spending a month's pay on a real costume, too, so there's that too. I need that money for my goddamned swear jar."

 

At the sound of the door, she looked up at the new guest, pulling her "mask" up to her forehead to see better. "Hey, Lady Dracula. Nice costume." Definitely feeling a bit underdressed. "Welcome to the party. Games are over there. Maze is out back. Mad Max here," she cocked a thumb at Lance, "is serving the drinks."

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Grim decided she was a better host when she was full size, so she flitted over towards Malicula and embiggened herself. "Greetings, countess!" She swept off her hat with a roguish demeanor while adopting Captain Swann's proper accent. "A fancy dress affair just wouldn't be the same without you!"

 

Meanwhile at the bar, Gretchen deftly slipped a silver flask out of her corset and spiked a glass of witches' brew for herself. "Yep, no way I'm getting through this sober..."

Edited by Heritage

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Sam opened her mouth to ask for a drink as well, before realizing what she was doing and snapping it shut. Not going to happen, Sam. For any number of reasons. She subsided into silence, staring at the wall, before rousing herself and trying to hide her lapse by sauntering over to the checkout table. "Anybody want some..." she looked at the treats Tona had brought, "...fruit? Tona, you know this is Halloween, right? The idea is usually to give out candy. It's the one day of the year that kids can stuff themselves with chocolate with impunity. This," she held up an apple slice, "is kinda missing the whole point of the occasion."

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Terrifica was smiling. She couldn’t help it. “Well, after last year, I thought it’d be good to be better prepared.” She studied the room seemingly absentmindedly. “Though I do admit, it’s a wonderful deterrent in case certain bookstore owners start making…interesting…life choices. And it looks beautiful at the same time.” She half drew the sword, displaying the shining silvery metal. There was a small dragon engraved into the blade, just above the hilt. She slid it back inside the sheath. “Now, I shall mingle.”

 

She went over to bother Sam as Grim floated off to bother Malicula. “I meant what I said a minute ago. It’s a lovely homage to a childhood spent on a budget. I didn’t have the financial problems myself, but…” Memory, that traitorous thing, threw up memories of China. Her friends. The priests and monks. Her parents. Stupid little games. And of course, the frigid mansion afterward. Her smile vanished at lightning speed. With no small effort of will she shoved them away. She forced herself to remember the now. Things were better now. She’d fought for it and earned it. So smile, Sam. Sad, lonely Qiaolian is a ghost. Don’t let her remain. You’re better than that. Stronger, too. “Well, at any rate I’m sure my problems couldn’t possibly compare to yours. I just wanted…” To what, Samantha? Connect with this woman? And how does that benefit you? She’s clearly wasted whatever meager potential she had to begin with. She booted her Aunt Cassandra’s voice back down into the depths of her brain for the umpteenth time. “I wasn’t just being nice, is what I’m trying to say. I try not to do that. Paradoxically, it’s not really all that nice of a thing to do to someone, I think.”

 

Terrifica, as graciously as possible, excused herself and fled to the bar. “Hit me. I would prefer if you did it literally before you did it figuratively.” I’ve been enjoying myself too much today. I let my guard down. She sighed. Emotions were dangerous, especially her own. They sabotaged one’s reason and led to poor choices. So, as she waited for Lance to oblige her request, she started a breathing exercise designed to purge her mind of the bothersome things.

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Lance eyes clouded with concern for a second, sensing Terrifica's hint of unease, but then he was back to his warm and cheerful self. "Sure thing, ma'am! One cup of witches' brew coming up." He ladled a Solo cup full and put it on the bar.

 

Noting the genius heroine's arrival at the bar, Gretchen arched an eyebrow and reached into her bodice, pulling the flask out just far enough to show a peek of silver. "Do you need any fortification? I know it makes this sort of thing easier for me."

Edited by Heritage

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Terrifica nodded at Lance and took a generous sip from the cup. She affected an awful cowboy accent for a sentence. “Thank you, pilgrim.” She took another generous sip. Mmm, sugar. “Just what I needed.” A quick memory replay and she realized that Cindergretchen had spoken to her. “Oh, no thank you. It impairs judgement and leads to poor choices. I rarely indulge, and even then only at home.” She took a breath in and let it out. “It’s got nothing to do with the people here anyway.” She smiled wryly. “Our pasts don’t always like to rest as quietly as they should, and the most unlikely things can raise old ghosts. Not to worry, I’m quite all right.” She lied, but that was fine. She would speak to Stan when she got home. Having a thoroughly excellent practicing psychologist (who couldn’t stop being one anymore than Terrifica could stop being super smart) for a husband was a wonderful thing. Most of the time.

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Sam stared after the other woman curiously for a moment, considering her words, then shrugged and popped an apple slice into her mouth. Childhood on a budget. She laughed to herself, as she chewed, though there was nothing particularly funny about her old circumstances. That does pretty much sum it up, though. Childhood on a budget. And really, what better way to honor that childhood than by continuing to live on a budget even when you had finally disposable income to spare?

 

Overhearing part of the exchange between Lance and Terrifica, she wandered back over to lean against the bar. "Yeah, I hear that. I don't touch the stuff either. I don't like what it does to you." That's one reason, anyway. "It makes you all soft upstairs, and you start doing things you wouldn't do if you were sober. And most of the time, that's not a good thing."

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Gretchen blinked a few times, surprised that her question had yielded such a wide variety of responses, but she merely shrugged and put the flask away. "Well, figured I'd offer; personally, to me Halloween is all about impaired judgement and poor choices, but I'm not-" She waved a finger around her eyes. "On the clock right now, so I get that."

 

Grim finally made her way over to the bar after chatting with a few more guests, as well as signing things and posing for selfies with store patrons, and dropped onto a stool that appeared seconds before. "Oof! I think I need to be a bit less outgoing with the public; how do politicians and car salesmen do it?" She sighed, then looked around the group. "It's getting a bit crowded in here; anyone up for a bit of fresh air? Maybe hit the maze and scare some folks, or just chill out on the roof?"

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All soft upstairs? Terrifica smiled, genuinely amused. That is certainly…one way to put it.  “Emotions can have a similar effect, if one lets them. My great aunt always used to say that most of the problems in the world could be traced back to people letting their emotions get the better of them. However, she was a congenitally rich old white woman, so perhaps that should be taken with a grain of salt. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she was wrong, however…” She drank the rest of her cup in a gulp and offered it to Lance for a refill. “Nothing in the world is simple enough to be reduced to one statement.”

 

It was then that Grim arrived. “I can’t speak for car salesmen, but I imagine politicians simply have that kind of personality to begin with.” She pondered for a moment, one which was far longer than that in her head. “I don’t think my costume is particularly scary, and unfortunately most mazes quickly bore me. Is there something interesting on the roof?”

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