Movie Night
rating: +17+x

October 18th

Seren Pryce, one of the deadliest women on the world, had her sights trained on the windows of a house at the corner of Elm and Maple. She had made her perch atop St. Paul's Episcopal, in the bell tower. There was worry that those within the house might notice that there was no hourly bell, but somehow, Seren doubted they'd care. It was almost midnight, after all.

«See anything up there, Pryce?» Alice Carol spoke in her ear.

"Negative. Front seems to be clear." She switched to her thermal scope. "There's heat signatures within— four humanoids."

«We're breachin'.» There was a sound of a shotgun cocking. From the sound of it, Tofflemire had just finish loading the breaching rounds. «All right. We good to move in?»

"I don't think they've noticed you."

«Wish Nick could be here.» Raymond February sighed. «But his fingers still can't grip. Poor guy.»

«We're doing it for him.» Seren could hear the smile in Robert's voice. «Besides, he seems to be adapting to recon well enough.»


Nicholas Ewell hated recon duty.

His cover story amounted to 'theater usher with broken fingers'. He waited outside the theater which was screening Attack of the Snow Ghouls, a snowman horror film. Supposedly, the director and writer had gotten the idea from reading Calvin and Hobbes, and there were certainly worse ideas for a horror film.

He stood at the back of the theater, munching on popcorn one kernel at a time— having flexibility in only two fingers was hellish, but at least the nerves were healing to the point where he could feel them again.

Ewell watched the trailers start rolling; while the Sloth's Pit Horror Film Festival was largely an indie affair, filmmakers were encouraged to make trailers to be played alongside other films.

Nick stuck several kernels into his mouth and chewed. The next trailer to start playing nearly made him choke.

The screen read, in red, bloody letters, "TEN-MINUTE SNEAK PEEK: RISE OF THE PIT SLOTH, PREMIERING OCTOBER 31ST"

The clip started playing, showing a street sign at the corner of Elm and Maple. A group of three people in black combat gear were running onto the front steps of a porch. The scene shifted up to a sniper's perch, where a woman was looking through a scope.

Though she was mostly concealed behind her rifle, Ewell instantly recognized the pale blonde hair of Seren Pryce.

"Holy shit."


The breaching slugs hit the front door's lock like a car crash. Alice, Ray and Robert entered. Raymond began to shout, "Police, down on the ground!" But barely made it past "police' when he realized there was something wrong about the house.

"Any of this look weird to you?" Raymond tapped on one of the walls.

"What do you mean?" Alice stepped past him.

"Describe the room we're in in as much detail as possible."

"Uh…" Robert tilted his head. "Three walls, ceiling, floor, wooden, broken door leading outside."

"Exactly." Raymond tapped the wall. "This is just a wall. It's not hard, soft, wood, metal, stone, plaster… it's…" He stepped away. "It's like there's something here and it's just screaming at us 'I am a wall'."

"Same with the floor and ceiling." Alice drew her pistol. "Okay, so this is fictional, too. Fantastic."

"I never metafictional situation I liked." Robert touched his earpiece. "Pryce, where are the heat signatures?"

«Second floor. They stopped moving when you breached.»

"Okay." The three of them made their way through the house, coming upon a set of green, carpeted stairs. Robert frowned at this, and knelt to touch the carpet. "Detail."

"So either the top floor of this is more real than the bottom, or we're making this real by perceiving it." Raymond chewed his lip. "You know, I really, really don't like pataphysics."

"Preaching to the choir, Ray." Alice smirked and started up the stairs. As she went up, the house seemed to become more concrete; the walls were papered, the floor was carpeted, and light fixtures hung in the halls overhead.

"Police!" Raymond repeated when he reached the top step. "Come out with your hands up immediately."

Out of one of the rooms, three figures emerged. They seemed human— they had two arms with ten fingers, clothing, pants, and a head. The head, however, lacked detail, aside from a set of sunglasses over where their eyes should be.

"I'm thinking Contradiction." Alice brought her sights up. "These must be what the ones back at the site looked like before they got any detail."

"Contain them?" Robert asked. "It seems like it'd be too dangerous."

"I'm for pragmatism," Raymond agreed.

"Are you really?"

From the room opposite, a woman with black hair, green eyes, and a fake smile stepped, phone in hand as if she had just finished up a conversation. "You don't know those are Contradictions. They might be some of your friends, dressed up in a Contradiction's skin."

"Imogen." Alice glared at her. "Anyone for shooting her while she's monologueing?"

Robert pulled the trigger just as Alice finished her sentence. His shotgun exploded with a blast of fire from the end, and Imogen was hit square in the chest. She fell back onto the ground, dead.

And then, she didn't.

"You're going off-script." Imogen frowned. "This script was ordered specifically for this film, and I will not have any of you going off-script." She looked down at where her corpse had been a moment ago. "Though I suppose that may make a good blooper."

"Film?" Robert asked. It was then that he realized something— he had only counted three walls downstairs.

"No…" Raymond looked at where the fourth wall of the room should be. Instead, he saw a pair of beady black eyes staring at him from a bottomless pit. "No!"

"Don't look at it!" Alice grabbed him and spun the agent around. "If…. if you look at it, you'll… you'll just make it more powerful."

"What do you think the audience is doing right now?" Imogen laughed. "We're only about three minutes into this sneak peak, and it's already become so much more real." She leaned forward and gave Alison a little boop on the nose. "And there is. Nothing. You can do about it. Should've stayed down the rabbit hole, Alice."

Alice brought her pistol up to Imogen's head. "Only he gets to call me Alice." She nodded at Robert, who had his gun trained on her once again.

They both fired.


In his youth, Nicholas Ewell had gotten into several mishaps with the law. Three of those incidents involved him pulling the fire alarm at his school, two for petty robbery, two for armed robbery, and one for attempted murder. Now, he was adding a new crime to his list.

"Pryce," he muttered into his comms, "You know that thing about how you can't yell fire in a movie theater?"

«What are you getting at, Ewell?» Pryce had been observing and relaying events unfolding in the house from a distance.

Nick made his way over to the lobby. "Let's say, hypothetically, that the hot dog machine at the movie theater were to spontaneously combust. They would have to evacuate, yes?"

«I'd go for the popcorn, honestly. They always serve it lukewarm anyway.»

"Popcorn butter doesn't burn until, like, 450 Fahrenheit."

He could hear Seren's eyes rolling. «Popcorn is flammable, Ewell.»

"Oh. Right."

With that suggestion in mind, he drew a matchbook from his pocket and struck a wooden match against the rough counter top of the concession stand. Then, he threw the match into the popcorn machine.

The result was immediate, as was the reply of the sprinklers.


"Why do you have to make this so hard?" Imogen shook her head. "All the Pit Sloth wants is to become real— actually real. Not the kind of real that comes from pointedly being ignored for so long— they want out of this city."

By this point, Alice and Bob had gone through most of their magazines trying to take down Imogen. The universe refused to let them go off-script. She would still be alive, when this all ended. Assuming they were alive in the first place.

Bob counted the walls again. One, two, three. "Why all the theatrics? Why abduct an entire site? Why do any of this?"

"Fear is the best way of getting a story around. Fear, and lies." Imogen rolled her shoulders and started walking away. "Not much left to do here. The Contradictions will be taking your place. I've got dinner with Laura tonight."

"Laura? That's my drinking buddy you're messing with." Alice counted the walls. One, two, three, four. "And nobody messes with my drinking buddies."

When she saw the fourth wall, intact, she brought up her assault rifle and held the trigger down. The rounds chewed through the three blank Contradictions before them, and cut a swath in Imogen's back.

The three not-People fell like bricks. Robert dropped to check on the still-stunned Raymond February, while Alice went up to the twitching form of Imogen Folivora.

Imogen laughed, even as her lungs filled with blood. She started chanting.

"Love isn't real, but your heart'll still break,
Sleep isn't real, but you still start awake.
The ground isn't real but the earth will still quake—
The Pit Sloth isn't real —and he hates being fake."

Imogen Folivora started standing back up. From her mouth, the mandibles of a gigantic ground sloth started to break out. She ran in front of a window, lunging for Alice—

Less than a second later, the window was broken, and Imogen Folivora's head was a fine red mist. In the belltower, Seren Pryce ejected her cartridge.

«You good?» Her voice came over their comms.

"I think Ray got whammied." Robert lifted the semi-conscious ex-vampire hunter onto his shoulders. "But we should be good to go."

Alice tapped her earpiece. "Pryce, we need eyes on Laura Ashbrooke."

«I already radioed the Wonder Twins to go check on her. We should be hearing from them soon.»


Elsewhere in Sloth's Pit, Laura Ashbrooke sat at her laptop. She had just closed her e-mail as Ed came in, making wiggly eyebrows at her from beneath a mass of black and white hair.

"Hey, luv." He came up to Laura and smooched her cheek.

"Hey." She shied away from the kiss. "Ed… is everything all right?"

"What d'ya mean?" Ed scratched his hair. "The shop's back open, the check didn't bounce… I think we're good."

"And… about the other day?" Laura turned to face him, toying with her hands. "I though you were… well, we did have a fight."

"Hardly a fight. More of a quipping match."

"Hmm." Laura turned to face her computer again, exiting the e-mail program.

"Who're you mailing?"

"They've given us an invite to Wizard World next year. I'm replying in the affirmative." She shut her laptop just as Ed leaned closer. "That's all."

"All right." He beamed down at Laura, and gave her another kiss. "How about you get ready for bed?"

"At six in the afternoon?" Laura smirked and poked his chest. "You're hungry."

"And you look so good." Ed teased. Laura walked away. He didn't see the smirk fall away from her face on the way out, but he felt the grimace forming on his own. He had shut his thumb in the laptop to keep it from shutting down entirely and locking him out. In the address form of the e-mail was "jobs@s-c..plastic". He scowled as he read the text. "You didn't."

"I did." Laura was standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame. "You're not Ed. You haven't been Ed for a few days. And I don't care how many… 'boons' this thing give me. I'm done."

"You are done when we say you're done." A pair of furry, clawed arms protruded from Ed's back. "Fix this."

"E-mail's been sent." Laura rolled her shoulders. "Can't un-send an e-mail."

"No. But we can make you regret sending it." The form of Edward Valentine grew to fill the room.

Ten minutes later, Agents Blake and Ruby Williams would arrive to find Laura Ashbrooke's apartment entirely vacant. No furniture, no appliances, not even a single note to indicate that a woman of that name had once lived there.

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