Halloween is a special time in Sloth's Pit. It is the time that creatures of the night walk in the day, and the legends of the world dance.
The Eight Rings was the biggest- and the only- night club in the town of Sloth's Pit. It was named after the grove it was built on, which got the name due to the fact that eight fairy rings dotted the grove, forming an almost perfect circle, or rather, an octogram. Now, the Eight Rings was famous for three things: their mozzarella sticks, the abundant amounts of ecstasy, and their Halloween parties.
It was for this reason that the man clad in black was going here. He sucked on his tobacco pipe, his fedora concealing his features, and his long, black coat trailing down to his feet. This, however, was not his costume; the man in black had decided to go as himself, and would be meeting with several others who were doing the same. It was time for the yearly Dance.
A loud hum rang in the man's ears as he pushed through the door of the nightclub, the pseudo-techno beat of the music pounding in his ears. He took off his coat, revealing a rather classy-looking black suit, with a red shirt and black bowtie. Taking off his hat, the stranger revealed the mask that was his face: the head of a goat, with short horns and yellow eyes with hourglass pupils.
The Goatman had arrived.
Halloween is the time of year that the legends are strongest. It's not for the reason you think; it's not because of some witch's sabbath or the worlds of magic and reality coming together. It's because that, at Halloween, the most stories are told, and the imagination of the town is the most active.
The Eight Rings was full of costumed patrons. Most of them were generic; crappy vampire fangs, a bad witch's hat, a werewolf mask that one could barely breathe through, or an ironically immature "adult" costume. A few people had actually bothered, though; a Harry Potter was there with a Ginny Weasley, both wearing handmade robes and custom-crafted wands. In the corner, Slenderman towered over the crowd, lifting up his face occasionally so he could eat some fried cheese. There was even a woman there dressed as a satyr, which made the Goatman smile; not the same species, but close enough.
"All right, Humbug," said the Goatman, walking through the club and apparently talking to himself, "Where is everyone?"
Hooky is near the bar along with The Lizardman, said the Hum, a phantom noise that, at the moment, only he could hear. Sinning Jessie is with one of the Gallows Ghosts in one of the booths. And the King of Knives is…
"Boo." The Goatman spun around to face a man wearing a rather nasty Chelsea grin, revealing decaying teeth, his body adorned with several bandoliers and knives, all spattered in blood. The King of Knives had been the favored boogieman in Sloth's Pit since the 1890's, when the murderer Joseph Macek was hung. The King was the Legend of Macek given form, and would slaughter children in their sleep if they were naughty. He was now largely a campfire story, like most of the Legends of Sloth's Pit.
"Hello, Joseph. Staying out of trouble, I hope?" The Goatman continued chewing on his pipe; like everywhere else in this town nowadays, the Eight Rings was non-smoking, excepting a room in the back.
"Yes, yes, yes. Ol' Joe is behavin'. Not killed in a while." He nodded furiously, and took the Goatman's arm. "Comeon. Sebastian and Lovebird are waitin'." He dragged the Goatman over to the bar.
"Hey, Goats!" Sebastian, the Hook-handed man, raised his stump of a hand towards him; said stump was currently covered by a fake pirate hook. "I read about you in the papers a few months back! I thought the Plastic Fanatics woulda caught ya for sure!"
The Goatman snorted. "The Fanatics couldn't catch a Hodag with its feet tied in an empty room." He pulled himself up the the bar, sitting next to Lovebird, one of the few lizardmen that still inhabited this town. "How're you holding up, then, L.B.?"
"It'sssss difficult," hissed the reptile being. "Jussst look at me. I look more man than lizard now." And indeed, he did; he looked like a human that was simply covered in scales, as if he had some kind of bizarre medical condition or was wearing full-body makeup that made it look like he had one.
"How many are here?" asked Macek, toying with one of his rather anachronistic combat knives, which earned him a look of disdain from Dracula the Bartender. "All of us is four…"
"Jessie and one of the ghosts are here, according to Humbug," the Goatman pointed at thin air. "So that's six. The Hum makes seven…" He frowned. "We need one more."
"Where are we going to get one more?" asked Sebastian, fiddling with his hook. "Eight of us have to dance, and last I checked, the only viable candidate is the Melonheads. They aren't allowed in because they look like kids!"
"They're older than me," grumbled the Goatman, with an almost bitter note to his voice. "We'll worry about it in a bit. For now… I'm thirsty. Bartender, a mojito please." Dracula the Bartender didn't even bother to card the Goatman, and mixed him the drink.
We could always ask Mary, chimed the Hum, which caused all the assembled legends to groan. What? She's one of us.
"Bloody Mary is not an option," Sebastian stated firmly, tapping his hook against the bar. "Unless you're talking about the drink, in which case, I'm all for it."
Lovebird nodded in assent. "Sssshe tried to break into one of the sssschools in town. Sssssome dumb third grader sssssaid her name in the bathroom."
"Really?" said the Goatman, looking up from his drink. "What happened?"
"The Fanaticssss had to be called in," said Lovebird. "A kid wasss maimed, but they're all right now. Mary'sss back in the mirrors." The lizard shook his head. "Sssso, no. Mary is a last resssort, at bessst. We ssstill have a while until midnight, anyway…"
The shadow in the alley could be the King of Knives about to jump out at you just as easily as it could be a stray cat. The people in the town's square in period garb could be real, or they could be one of the several Gallows Ghosts. Is that really the TV you heard in the bathroom, or was Bloody Mary whispering at you to let her out of your mirror?
The Goatman eventually wandered away from the bar, over to the booth where Jessie and the Ghost were. The ghost, he saw, was that of a woman, probably hung for theft; she waved at the Goatman silently, getting up to join the rest of the Legends at the bar. He sat down next to Sinning- or was it Singing?- Jessie. "Jessica."
"Capricorn." The Goatman frowned; he really did hate that nickname. "How goes it?" Jessie sounded almost… bitter. The Goatman couldn't blame her; having your legend decay was a painful experience.
"It goes, it goes." He shook his head. "Humbug told me about your… dilemma. You have my condolences."
Jessie turned away, brushing a lock of hair out of her face. She was supposed to be wearing a costume that made her look like a lady of the night circa 1880 or so, but now, she looked… bland. She was wearing a costume that made her look like a simple, generic ghost; blood around the mouth, a tattered wedding dress, and hair that looked like it was billowing in the breeze.
"Singing Jessie. Singing." She sniffed. "I'm not a god-damn banshee, Goats. That's what they're reimagining me as, you know. A forebearer of death. I used to be the fear of sex itself; bed me and you would get your dick eaten." She rubbed her face. "Now I'm just another spook in the night." The Goatman put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"Legends change, Jessica. You, Joseph and Sebastian should consider yourselves lucky; at least you still have your stories told."
Jessica sighed, rubbing an eye."I want my old legend back. Sebastian is at least published, and Macek is based on an actual person. Me? I'm a story conjured up try and get people to stop buying sex." She leaned against the Goatman and sighed dramatically. "I just hope I remember when I was like that after… after I've changed."
"Jessica… I truly am sorry." He awkwardly wrapped his arms around Jessica in a hug, which she returned, before pulling away. "…have you picked out a dance partner for tonight?"
At midnight on Halloween, the monsters of the town assemble at the Grove of the Eight Rings and each stand in one of the rings. Then, they start their dance. They say you can find them all dancing in peace in the grove, their differences forgotten. If a human is to enter the grove, then they will be freely admitted into the dance, and awake in the middle of the woods, reborn as a monster.
"For the last time," said the Goatman to the Hum, "we are not calling Bloody Mary." The Goatman had withdrawn into the bathroom of the Eight Rings, which was empty except for the "werewolf" in the corner, who was probably tripping balls.
It'll even it out, though, mumbled the Hum. I'm genderless, Jessica and the Ghost are both women… and the dance starts in 15 minutes! We don't have a choice.
"What about the werefrogs?" asked the Goatman. "Or-or the Queen of the Hoop Snakes? She's in town, right?"
Left yesterday, sighed the Hum. Come on. I'll get rid of the day tripper over there, and you call her. With that, the Hum started talking to the fake werewolf, and the Goatman shut off the lights in the bathroom, looking in one of the cracked mirrors.
"Bloody Mary," he intoned once. "Bloody Mary." Twice. "Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary!" A ghost leaped from the mirror, screaming at the Goatman, all covered in dripping blood, her hair ragged and ruffled. She couldn't have been more than 16 when she died in front of her mirror, but here she was… Bloody Mary Thompson.
"Oh ho ho. The Goatman of Sloth's Pit." Bloody Mary stepped out of the mirror and onto the tile floor, grinning. "What is it you want, hmm? Do you finally want to overthrow the influence of the Plasti-"
"The Dance is tonight, Mary." The Goatman stamped his hoof. "We need an eighth. You're the only one we can contact. So cut the spooky nonsense for one night and dance."
The ghostly girl grinned. "Very well then. For the sake of your silly tradition, I shall dance. Tell me, whom will I be dancing with?"
The Goatman thought for a moment, before deciding.
"The King of Knives is in need of a partner. I daresay the two of you suit each other quite well. Just… don't get any blood on the dance floor." As he said this, Bloody Mary seemed to transform; she was now wearing a bright red witch's outfit, complete with stereotypical hat and a broomstick. "…what an appropriate choice… but I would replace the "w" with a "b"."
Bloody Mary stuck her tongue out at him. "Happy Halloween, Goatman." She cackled, and walked out of the restroom, the Goatman following after.
The monsters dance their dance until dawn. Nobody knows why the monsters and myths dance, only the monsters know. It happens every year; maybe you, too, will see the Monsters dance in the woods of Wisconsin.
It was midnight. The DJ, who had dressed himself to look like a zombie, put on Danse Macabre. It was a cliche song choice, but rather appropriate. With that, as with every year, the dance floor cleared. Nobody knew why the dance floor was cleared at midnight, and why only seven people were ever on it during this time; it was just club tradition.
Seven people that were visible, and an eighth that wasn't but was omnipresent, partnered up and began waltzing. The witch with the psychopath, the goat with the girl, the hook-handed man with the ghost, and the lizard man seemingly danced alone. Halfway through the song, they began speaking.
"Now we dance the dance of tales," said the males, looking at their partners, or in Lovebird's case, at thin air.
"So we may be told again," replied the females, as well as the hum, who was audible to all. The newcomers in the audience looked around, confused at the origin of the humming voice.
"For our beings to survive…"
"Our stories must never end."
"Wonder-born by word of mouth-"
"As the ageless stars do soar-"
"May you stand the tides of time-"
"And remain forevermore," said all of the Legends in unison, turning towards the entrance of the Eight Rings. The raised their hands, hooked their arms, and exited with their partners in a precession, the audience applauding, some of them confused.
Outside the club, the Legends all looked at each other, and bowed. Bloody Mary, her purpose spent, disappeared to the space behind mirrors from whence she came. Sebastian, the Hook-handed man, and Joseph, King of Knives, went off into the woods. The Goatman walked with Sinning/Singing Jessie, while Lovebird the Lizardman dove into the sewer grate near the nightclub. The Gallows Ghost simply vanished, while the Hum kept humming.
"Capricorn," Jessica looked at the Goatman. "Do you think the dance really does anything?"
"I don't know," the Goatman admitted. "My father always said that the dance was vital to our survival. He did it every year with some of the other Legends that were around back then. Just like grandad did before him." He shook his head mournfully, and then looked at Jessie, a smile crossing his face. "It at least raises morale. I mean, just look at yourself."
Sinning Jessie looked down at her clothing; they had gone from being tattered, ethereal rags to a rather scandalous dress. Well, scandalous if you lived back in the 1800s. Bright red, with a purple sash around the middle, and a corset visible underneath the ensemble. She gasped. "…how long will it last?"
The Goatman shrugged. "Probably a night or two. Enjoy it the best you can." He shook his head, patting Jessica on the shoulder. "Happy Halloween, Sinning Jessie."
"Happy Halloween to you, Goatman." The Goatman turned, lighting his pipe and walking off into the woods.
"See you next year?"
"Sooner, if I can help it!" The Goatman disappeared into the darkness of the morning of All Hallow's Day.