My Sister’s Keeper:
Six months passed.
The seasons turned. Spring gave way to summer, summer became fall, and before anyone knew it October had crept up on soft monster feet and devoured September. Violet watched the approach of October 31st with sparse patience; over-commercialized or not, Halloween was her favorite time of the year. She was even slightly jealous of Phoebe and Deborah’s costume potential, especially since Deborah’s ability to manifest had increased with Phoebe’s self-confidence. For that reason alone, Violet would have cheerfully gone down on James if he ever asked. Not that he would; after six months, he and Phoebe were still going strong with no obvious problems between them. Of course, James still didn’t know about Deborah and – as far as Violet knew – he and Phoebe hadn’t consummated their relationship. Either one could be problematic, but both…
Violet pushed the thoughts of a troubling future out of her mind and studied her costume in the mirror. This year, she had decided on dressing up as one of the Fair Folk; light green hose, flat shoes, dark green jerkin and hat plus pointed ears and makeup which gave her cupid-bow lips, sinister eyebrows and some wrapping to make it appear s if she had only a hint of breasts. Violet was well-pleased at the unsettling appearance; she’d grown up on Granny’s tales of Scottish folklore, and the Fair Folk were anything but. Violet had even been practicing her malicious laugh for a week now, and felt she finally had it down pat.
The doorbell startled her from her contemplation. “Coming,” she called out. That would be Phoebe and Deborah; she had no idea what they were going to dress up as, but Phoebe had been practically vibrating about it for weeks. Violet scurried to the door, revealing the blond wearing a blue turtleneck and jeans as well as a stuffed gym bag. “I thought you two said you were coming over in costume,” the redhead pouted.
Phoebe tugged the left side of her collar out. An eruption of stick red fluid caused her to flinch and fling herself back as a red-soaked Deborah thrust upwards. “Bloooooood,” the dark-haired twin groaned, rolling her eyes.
Violet barely managed to keep from falling on her ass as her heart climbed back into her chest; she giggled. “That was absolutely disgusting! How’d you do it?”
“A taped-on packet of fake blood,” Phoebe replied, digging out a kerchief.
“I practiced how to break it while manifesting,” Deborah grinned, taking it and wiping her face off. “I just wish the stuff didn’t taste so bad.”
“I can imagine,” Violet replied, watching their coordination. “Still no luck, huh?”
Both sisters shook their heads. “Even when our heads are side-by-side, I still can’t feel her,” Phoebe complains. “At least we share control.”
“I still don’t have any problems feeling her side,” Deborah shrugs.
“I’ve been doing some research on Eve and Dawn, the ‘Chicago Conjoined’,” Violet mused. “They couldn’t control each other’s sides either, but they shared sensations.”
“Maybe because their entire bodies had been conjoined, and not just bits,” Deborah supplied.
Phoebe turned a slight shade of green, to which Violet thought she was entirely justified. “Maybe.” She decided to change the subject. “So, I take it that wasn’t your costume? Remember, Kate’s invite was specific – no costume, no entry!” Kate Lumiere in Advertising and her life-partner – now wife – had a costume party every Halloween. Violet had never gone, since she usually had a date with whom she wanted to do some intimate trick-or-treating with, and Phoebe had been too shy. A pity James was in New York on a big-money emergency call; an even bigger pity that Phoebe couldn’t have taken the time off to go with him.
“Oh, we’ve got a really cool one,” Phoebe said as the twins set their bag on the couch. “We’ve had it for a year actually.”
Deborah nodded. “Found it at this really cool costume shop called Spell-Is-Us or something like that. Costumes, novelty jewelry, gags, makeup the whole bit.”
“Never heard of it,” Violet admitted. Then she gasped as the twins took the costume out of the bag and showed it off. At its base it was a one-piece dress with a skirt that ended above the knee, made of some sort of gauzy material just this side of translucent. From the front, it was all white and warm grey with silver sparkles; from the rear, black and dark red with red sparkles. Both side had room for breasts; before Violet could comment, the sisters had taken out two full-face masks, one of them silver and the other ruby red, and what looked to be a pair of foam breasts. “A Janus costume!” Violet had to applaud.
“What’s even better is that we don’t even need the insert,” Deborah grinned. Her head retreated back into the sisters’ sweater. Breasts ballooned on Phoebe’s back; at the same time, Deborah’s face appeared on the back of Phoebe’s head. “The costume fits perfectly when we’re like this.”
“How long can you hold it?” Violet worried.
Deborah snorted. “A few hours, easy.”
“This will be the first time, I and Deborah can appear in public with her manifesting and get away with it,” Phoebe adds. “I’m not going to pass it up.”
Violet could see so many ways that this could go so very wrong but the firmness in Phoebe’s voice plus the sparkle in Deborah’s eyes told her that neither twin would be open to reason. “I’m sure you’ll both do fine,” Violet lied. “Now, how about trying on that costume? I can’t wait to see it on the two of you!”
A thought, however brief, flitted through Violet’s mind, that it would have been nice to have someone other than Phoebe and Deborah to go out with, someone with which the option of something a little more intimate could be arranged, but she dismissed it as selfish.
Violet pulled up along side Kate’s house. She took time to approve the novelty headstones on the cropped lawn and carved pumpkins on the front banister. Violet nudged to her sleeping passengers. “Wakey wakey!”
Phoebe stretched. “Mnot sleepig,” she mumbled.
“Uh huh,” she grinned. “Good thing I was driving. All set, Deb?”
“Ready,” a voice came from the back-facing face of the mask. Despite its muffled tenor, Deborah managed to sound chipper; she must be really looking forward to this.
Violet checked her costume makeup in her rearview mirror and nodded. “Showtime.”
They were met at the front door by a pair of conjoined twins. Joined at the belly – or at least presumably so, it was hard to tell underneath the white custom-made blouse – their hair was dyed screaming pink, and they wore black micro-minis, fishnet stockings and stiletto heels. “Hey, new faces!” the one on the left grinned.
“Mmmm, fresh meat,” the other one grinned.
“You must be Amy,” Violet told her. “Your wife is more tactful.”
Amy gasped. “She is??”
The woman on the left smacked her on the arm. “Fresh,” Kate said. “Hey Violet, hey Phoebe. Nice costumes.”
“Same to you two,” Phoebe giggled. “And here I thought being a Janus was original.”
“We dress like this every year,” Amy purred. “Gives us all sort of opportunities for public displays of naughtiness.” She leaned over and planted a lip-lock on Kate who responded ardently. Violet watched them as they held the kiss. She was glad they shared a kink in common, but she wondered how they would feel about being conjoined for real.
Eventually, they broke the lip-lock. “Jeff from accounting’s already here,” Kate told them with no trace of embarrassment. “Jill and her fiancé are here too, and a few others from Amy’s office; everyone else is still incoming. Food’s arriving later.”
“Someone delivers out here in the boonies?” Violet said as everyone walked inside the foyer. She noted that Amy and Kate had no problems maneuvering around each other; it was graceful to watch.
Kate nodded. “A Meals-In-A-Minute opened up here last month.”
“Nice to know there’s at lest one American business still growing.” Violet glanced around the parlor as soon as they entered. She recognized Jeff by the punchbowl, dressed up as a giant baby talking to Dianne from the office done up as a pregnant woman. Jill and her fiancé were by the fireplace, and one look at their costumes had her staring: Jill was done up in a full tux, complete with top hat, monocle and fake moustache, and her fiancé was wearing a gimp suit; Jill was even holding onto a leash which was attached to a collar around his neck! Other people she didn’t recognize were here as well; there was a guy sitting on the sofa dressed in normal clothes…if you discounted the disquieting brown and yellow stains on his clothing and the brown stain around his mouth. A drag queen snacked by one of the windows – you’d think he was a mannish woman if you didn’t look at the hands and the adams’ apple. Then there was another couple with a guy dressed up as a dom and his date wearing a bikini and heels – and who had her arms tied behind her back, being led around by a leash.
“Come on, let’s introduce you two around,” Kate insisted, tugging on Violet’s arm while Amy tugged on Phoebe’s. “Then, we’ll give you the penny tour.” Only a measure of politeness kept Violet from saying out loud that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to know any of these people.
Phoebe’s eyes looked ready to pop out of her mask. “Tours are good,” she managed.
Violet wondered how quickly she could arrange for her and the sisters to leave and still be polite about it…
A Short and Nervous Tour Later
“Finally,” Amy concluded, gesturing at the closed door on the right of the shadowy hallway, “is our great-grandma’s old sewing room, left untouched as per the conditions of the will which saw her son, our grandfather, her inheritor. Ever since, the family has kept the room untouched too appease her ghost.”
“Good,” Phoebe murmured very quietly so only Deborah could hear. “Let’s hope we can leave now.”
“Aw, they aren’t so bad,” Deborah murmured back. “I think their kink is kind of cute, actually.”
Phoebe didn’t respond. She enjoyed having her sister out in the open, or at least as close as Deborah could get to it, but the idea of having sex with Deborah made certain tickly bits feel like they’d been put in the freezer.
Kate smiled. “Who wants to take a look inside?” She opened the door.
A shrouded figure shouldered it way out almost knocking the hostesses aside. It wore a tattered cape pulled up over its face and ratty clothes covered with brownish stains and it hissed like a giant snake. Phoebe and Violet screamed and threw themselves backwards, colliding with the wall. She could only stand there as her heart hammered in her chest while the figure darted up to her, dropping its cloak from it face….and gave her a kiss on the mask. “Happy Halloween,” he declared.
“James??” Phoebe shrieked. Amy and Kate were hugging each other and laughing hysterically.
Her steady boyfriend drew back with a shit-eating grin, damn him. “My client cancelled at the last minute, so I asked Kate if she wouldn’t mind me dropping by. This is all her fault.”
“Tattletale,” Kate gasped between paroxysms of mirth. “He exaggerates, too. All I said was that it might be a nice surprise if he stopped on by. This is all his fault.”
“I think that’s my cue to disappear,” Deborah murmured.
“No,” Phoebe murmured back. “How are we going to explain my rear boobs going flat?”
“Air leak,” Deborah replied.
“Good idea, but wait until I can get us in the backroom.”
James cocked his head. “You okay Phoebe?”
“She’s just a little, um, stunned,” Violet blurted out.
“Yeah,” Phoebe said weakly. Danmit! She more than liked James a lot, and the need to have sex with him was sometimes painful in its intensity, but neither sister could figure out the best way to break the news of Deborah to him. But if she didn’t, there could be nothing more between them than there was now. And she wanted a lot more, oh yes she did. “I, um, need to use the little girls; room, okay?” To make sure he wasn’t getting the wrong idea, she darted forward and gave him a warm hug. “I’m glad you’re here.”
The forming clouds on his face vanished in a smile. “Anything for you.” He hugged her tight and Phoebe snuggled into his arms. “This is a really awesome costume, by the by. These back-breasts look real.” He gave them a squeeze. “Feels real, too!”
Phoebe squeaked. I felt that! She’d actually felt the hard jolt of Deborah’s breasts being squeezed! She couldn’t keep her squeak silent either.
James jumped at her reaction. “Are you really okay?”
“Fine!” Phoebe managed “I just….have to go…be right back…” She extracted herself from his arms and fled down the hall for the upstairs bathroom.
She and Deborah needed to have a talk. Now.
James watched the love of his life who was also the strangest girl he’d ever known flee down the corridor like she’d been macked by a leper. Kate and Amy were looking extremely uncomfortable. “Well, glad to have you here Jim,” Kate told him with a weak grin.
“I’m glad to be here,” he smiled back.
Violet took his arm. “Let’s go get some punch while Phoebe powders her nose, hm?”
James would have refused, except Violet’s apparently casual grip was like steel and contrary to some people’s beliefs, he was quick on the uptake. “Sure thing.”
“We really need to be going back downstairs anyways,” Amy replied. “Food should be by any minute.”
The made-up conjoined twins danced their duet downstairs as Violet tugged him into the stuffy, plastic-covered room he’d just popped out of. He waited until she closed the door and said, “I screwed up, didn’t I?”
Violet shook her head. “No, no you didn’t. But…oh, fuck it.” She let out an explosive breath. “How much has Phoebe told you about her history?”
“A little,” he admitted. “I know she’s not on good terms with her parents, and I know she has a dead sister. I’ve inferred that the latter has something to do with the former.”
“First of all, you’re right. Second of all, they weren’t just sisters; they were maternal twins.”
James blinked. “Oh.”
“And how old were they--?”
“Twelve. Phoebe….didn’t take it well.”
“Well, who the fuck wou-“ James stopped. Pieces fell into place. “Her parents had her committed??”
“Yeah. Phoebe talked aloud to her sister as if nothing had changed. Her parents weren’t in the best frame of mind to deal with it, so…” she shrugged. “I’m not passing judgment. I have no fucking idea how I’d do in a similar situation. The only thing I can do involves the here and now.” She moved up to him and put her hands on his shoulders. “Deborah’s a part of Phoebe’s life, James. She still talks to her sister in the exact same manner except she’s more careful at concealing it. The only way I know is through sheer accident.”
Violet stopped talking and stepped back, for which James was glad because it allowed everything to sink in, and for the puzzle that was Phoebe to come into focus. Violet would not lie about her best friend like that, which meant that Pheobe was crazy according to the technical definition. After a long time, he looked at Violet again. “You’ve…you’ve given me something to think about.”
“I know,” she says miserably. “Both of you want something more from each other and at this point the only thing that’s going to happen is a meltdown – and it’s better if it happens now. If you decide what I’ve told you matters, that is.”
James felt numb. “I don’t know. I need to think about this.”
“Don’t take too long. After she gets done powdering her nose, she’s probably going to be her sweet, loyal attentive self again.”
“I’ll…I’ll be downstairs,” he tells her. James pushed past Violet and out the door. There was probably some spiked punch downstairs, and he felt as if he could use some.
Violet stood in the corridor and watched James go, unsure if she should follow him or not. Haven’t you already done enough, her conscience fumed. She told it to shut up; this had to be done, she could see they way he and Phoebe looked at each other. Better to risk a breakup now rather than later.
Better for us, certainly.
Violet spun around. That thought came out of nowhere, so jarring that she knew it had come from someone else. But of course, there was no one there. This creepy house must be getting to me, she thought.
That’s when warm hands reached up from behind and slithered upwards, cupping her breasts. It would be nice if someone got a reaction from you, would it?
Violet shrieked and stumbled forward, but whoever it was – a woman, she could feel breasts pressing into her back – clung to her like a second skin. She tried to jerk out of the grasp, but all she could do was stumble forward. “Get off of me!”
Lurid giggle. Sorry, I can’t do that, Dave.
Violet’s legs locked up; suddenly, she couldn’t force them to move. “Help!” She screamed. “Someone! Anyone!”
Silly, the other woman chided. Lips tickled Violet’s ear. Sound doesn’t travel well in these old houses. Besides, why would you want to be saved?
“Stop fondling my breasts!” Violet grabbed at the wrists of the obtrusive hands and forced them away, but with difficulty; whoever this was seemed to be as strong as her. She glanced down at the hands; the other woman seemed to be wearing a top with no sleeves, since the arms were bare.
Why would I do a foolish thing like that, chided the other woman, hot breath on Violet’s neck. You’ve certainly been wanting some attention for them.
“I don’t like women that way, now get off!” Violet twisted her torso around, trying to wedge her shoulder into the other woman while wrestling with her hands. My legs, she worried, what’s wrong with my legs? “I mean it, get off! And what makes you think you know me, huh?”
I know about the scar on your knee that you got at ten from riding your bike, the woman replied. Violet froze. I know about the burn mark on your fanny you got from someone who thought he was funny. I know that you like feminine features on a guy, and I know you kissed a-
“Who are you?” Violet shrieked.
The hands tore themselves away from Violet’s grasp, cupped her chin, and turned her face around. The wild-eyed, leering face of a pretty red-head met her unbelieving gaze. Violet’s leer, Violet’s hair, Violet’s very face. Who do I look like?
She smiled, and crushed Violet’s mouth to her own before Violet could start screaming.
Phoebe stared at the bathroom mirror as if hoping to find some answers as she felt her sister lick her lips nervously. “Let me try something else. Take the top off, please?”
Phoebe almost ripped the offending garment off, posing topless. She felt the faced behind her head vanish and Deborah’s head pop out to the left of their own. “At least I can still reconfigure.”
“But not retract into me.” Phoebe just wanted to cry. She loved it when Deborah could manifest longer, because it was more like having a real sister again, but…permanently? They’d locked her up for just talking to Deborah aloud! And now…James…”What are we going to do??”
“What can we do?” Deborah said, reaching over with the hand on her side and rubbing Phoebe’s cheek. “Take it one day at a time, I guess.”
“This isn’t how I wanted it,” Phoebe whimpered, lowering her head.
Deborah didn’t say anything at first. As the minutes stretched, she replied. “I love James too.”
Phoebe’s head snapped up. “What?”
“How could I not?” Deborah demanded. “He made you smile. He treats you well, he listens to you…I was so jealous because he loved you.” Deborah’s eyes welled with tears of shame. “Because you could have a lover, and all I can have is secrets.”
Phoebe’s thoughts struggled like birds in a net. “Deborah…” This didn’t sound at all like her sister.
“Don’t deny it,” Deborah said softly, tears still streaming down her cheeks. “It’s true, isn’t it? I’m a secret you can’t share with anyone. Violet’s a lucky fluke, nothing more. How do you think James will react, huh? A-and if I tell h-him I love him t-too?”
“I don’t know,” Phoebe said desperately.
Suddenly, it happened, except it happened slowly. Deborah’s grieving face wavered like melting wax, running back down onto itself and into Phoebe’s body. She could feel the sensation in Deborah’s manifested head grow dimmer, as if being smothered. She wanted to grab it, but her hands felt locked onto the sink and all she could do was observe the whole horrible show, until no visible trace of her sister remained. “Deb??”
“DEB!”” Phoebe shrieked, clawing at herself. For the first time since the first time it happened, she felt no sign of her sister. No feel of a presence within, nothing. Phoebe hugged herself and slumped to the floor. “Please,” she begged aloud. “Don’t leave me. I love you, I’m sorry, don’t leave.” She lowered her head. “Don’t leave.”
Her voice, to her own ears, sounded like a plea to the dead.
Much to James’ annoyance, the punch was almost virginal in construction. The number of partygoers had grown, as had the outrageously kinky nature of their costumes, but right now he could care less. So, James thought to himself as he wandered out of the parlor, the woman you’ve loved unlike any other is damaged goods – mentally, that is. He had a cousin who was a psychologist, and one thing had been made crystal clear to him: insanities got worse without treatment, not better – and Phoebe was crazy even by the mildest definition. It was one thing to pray silently to or for a dead relative, but to talk to them as if they were still present and capable of acting? He almost wanted to hate Violet, despite the fact she’d done him a favor. Or had she?
“Whoa there, buddy!”
James startled. In front of him was someone in a good scarecrow costume, button eyes and yarn grin, old farmer-style clothes and heavy boots. Actual hay stuck out in places, but the nicest – or creepiest touch, was the gloves hands which bore rusty brown stains like dried blood. “Sorry, I was lost in thought.”
“That was some thought to be lost in,” the figure drawled in a Maine accent. “Call me Sam.”
“Hey Sam,” James replied automatically. “Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude-“
“Then don’t.” Sam put an arm around his shoulders and steered him into what looked to be a teenagers’ bedroom. “You look like you could use a little liquid fortification.” Before James could react, Sam pulled a bottle from the dresser. “Take a swig of this. Careful now, it kicks like a mule and it’s bitter as all Hell.”
James looked at the bottle. The clear liquid sloshed invitingly against the old-fashioned glass. Alarm bells screamed in his head, but he told them to go fuck themselves and took a deep pull. It burned all the way down and, as promised, tasted as bitter as loss. “Good God,” he coughed, handing the bottle back. “What is that stuff?”
He shrugged. “It’s my home brew. I call it ‘Regret’.
James cracked a festering smile. “Ha. Yeah. That’s a good name for it.”
“I thought so.” Sam sat on the bed. “Well?”
“Wanna talk about it? Last time I saw someone with a face like yours, he French-kissed a shotgun.”
“No,” James lied. “Look, I have to get back to the party.”
Sam shrugged. “Suit yourself but if you change your mind, I’ll be here.”
Not likely, James thought to himself as he left the room. As his feet crossed the threshold, a sudden wave of nausea struck him and he staggered forward. I think I need the bathroom. He brushed his hair back with one hand.
Several things immediately occurred to him as he steadied himself.
One: he felt weary; not just tired, but weary, the bone-weary one gets after a very bad day.
Two: there was something on his right ring finger. When he looked at it, a tarnished wedding ring mocked him. His nails were stained and yellowed, the nails of a smoker.
Three: His gut caught his eye. His now expanded gut.
Four: He was back in the parlor. And there were a lot less people around.
“Wh-“ James looked around. There were Amy and Kate, still in their conjoined costume, still playing hostess, but there were only four guests now all wearing different and much tamer costumes.
Kate looked up. “James, are you alright?” She sounded slightly annoyed.
“Yeah,” he lied. His voice! Good lord, it sounded like he licked a frog! “I’m fine.”
The two came over to him. “Come on James,” Amy told him. “Get over that bitch already, okay? You’ve been moping for over a year now. Divorce happens.”
Divorce? He almost said it aloud. Was he going nuts? “Maybe you’re right.” He didn’t sound convincing even to himself.
The two gave him a look that clearly said they’d heard that one before, but they seemed to let it slide and wandered off to talk to some other guests.
James dug through his clothing for his wallet and took it out. A familiar woman in a wedding dress beamed up at him. It would have helped if he’d known who she was but considering the next picture – of the bride and him in a tux sharing cake – he knew what she was. He’d gotten married, and it had obviously gone very, very wrong.
Suddenly, mingling sounded like a good idea to James. He knew he wasn’t drunk, so something was going on here and he was going to find out what.
If someone had asked Violet if she was gay or bi, she’d have either laughed at them or been caustic, depending on who was asking the question. Sure, she’d kissed a few girls in college, but that was the time for experimentation – besides, things had never gone beyond that.
If those girls had been as good at kissing as whatever or whoever this entity really was, on the other hand…Violet thrust that thought out of her mind. Unfortunately, it was getting harder and harder to do so. For one thing, it had been a long time since she’d had intimate contact with anyone, and this entity knew exactly how to touch her in order to get Violet’s carnal engine started – and once started, it didn’t want to stop. Violet made one more attempt to push the other woman away but she clung like a leech. How was she holding on so tightly without using her hands? Finally, she managed to get a grip on the other woman’s face and pull it away from her own. “Who the fuck are you, really?” Violet hissed at the reflection. “My legs might not be working, but my hands work just fine and my nails have easy access to your face!”
A flash of different emotions flashed across the entity’s face. Finally, she turned away. It’s difficult to explain.
“My best friend is possessed by her sister. Try me.”
I’m…I guess you could call me a spirit of sorts.
“If you try to convince me I had an identical twin-“
Nothing like that. I’m not a ghost, I’m a spirit. Technically, I was never alive.
“And that excuses trying to rape me how?”
The other woman winced. I’m sorry. I respond to emotions and…you’d been wanting the touch of someone else for a long time I….got carried away. I never meant to hurt you. She lowered her head. I’ll just…I’ll just go.
Even in the dim light, Violet could see the spirit’s face start to waver, and the anguish on it was clear. She told herself it didn’t matter. She told herself that the little bitch was getting what she deserved. She told herself…I’m a sucker. “I’ll give you one night to make your case, so long as you’re fair – but no sooner than after the party.”
Just before she faded out, Violet thought she saw the apparition smile, but any further details were lost. Then, finally, her legs came back under her control with a wrench. She thought she had a pretty good idea as to what the original problem was, too. Later for that, she decided. Something tells me I’m not the only one having problems. James should be relatively safe downstairs with all of those people, so…
She sprinted towards the bathroom.
It hadn’t taken long for James to get some answers from the other party-goers; he’d always been decent making small-talk.
One: he had gotten married about four years (!) ago. The marriage lasted a little over a year. The general consensus was that his wife had been a creep.
Two: three had been a lot of layoffs at Phoebe’s company as well as Amy’s, which is why there were so few people here. Phoebe and Violet had been among the casualties.
Three: no one had seen Phoebe at all in five (!) years. The first year she came here had been her last.
All this had left James dumbfounded, shaken and above all, pissed – at himself, mostly. He was badly out of shape, taken up smoking, and letting a marriage tank after only a year? What happened to him? He didn’t even recognize himself! This is no prank, he told himself, unless I’m also in on it and somehow forgot.
Sam. It had to be.
James scanned around the room. Against the east wall there was a shadowed doorway everyone seemed to avoid. That had to be where Sam took me down originally, he thought. Squaring his shoulders, he marched down the dark passage – sure enough, there was one door open a crack with light steaming out of it. He thrust it open, to reveal Sam still sitting on the bed. “You!”
“Me.” Sam sounded amused.
James grabbed Sam by the front of his costume and hauled him upright. It dimly occurred to him somewhere that his younger, toner physique had reasserted itself. “What the fuck’s going on? Who are you?”
“Who am I? Who are you – a man or a mouse?”
“Don’t push me, I’m not in the mood!”
“I can see that.”
James grabbed at the mask and ribbed it off. What he saw turned his rage to fear in an instant.
Sam had a pumpkin for a head.
Not a plain pumpkin, not even a carved pumpkin, but a full, honest-to-badness, real jack-o-lantern for a head. The eyes blazed like fire, the wide grin sported jagged teeth, and the empty nose was as dark as the floors of Hell.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you,” the pumpkin said, its mouth moving perfectly as if flesh, “that some things are best left uncovered?”
James’ treacherous fingers finally unfroze and let go of the apparition. “What are you?” he whispered.
“I told you – call me Sam. Would you like to know my full name?”
James cringed against the closed door. He hadn’t closed it in the first place. “No. Sam’s good.”
‘Sam’ snorted. “There’s a brain in that head after all. Who’d have thought?”
“What’s going on??”
Sam folded his arms. “They say hindsight’s 20-20,” he replied. “One can always see exactly how you’ve bitten yourself after the wound festers. You, my friend, have had the rare opportunity of hindsight before it’s behind you.”
“What caused things to go so badly?”
‘Sam’ picked up the scarecrow mask. “Listen to your heart. It knows.”
James mulled that one over. He stole a glance at the apparition, who had managed to slide his scarecrow mask back on. “Why me? Why do this for me?”
Sam grinned; James could feel the grin, despite the fact that the mask concealed any facial expression. “Who said I did it for you? Now, any more questions?”
“None I want the answers to.”
“You are smarter than you look.”
“I’d have to be.” James stole a glance behind him; the bedroom door was open. He hadn’t opened it. “I need to go.”
Sam didn’t respond as James fled.
Phoebe tried pleading. She tried begging, she tried crying. All she could feel was a sense of loss she couldn’t understand. It was that horrible, desperate feeling that prompted her to use the one tactic she hadn’t tried: the truth. “I love you, Deborah” she said aloud. “But…occasionally, especially lately, I’ve felt trapped by you.”
“I love James,” Phoebe said. “I don’t know what could be in the future for us, but I’d like to find out. Except…what if we make love? Will you be there? Will I be making love to you, too? I don’t think of you in that way. Do I have to, in order to be intimate with someone?”
“But you’re not the only reason,” Phoebe continued. “I don’t want to…to lose anyone else close to me. I know we can keep things from each other and I’ve kept this; I think about losing anyone close to me and my brain just locks up. I can’t even contemplate it so I just…thrust it aside.” She scrubs her face. “So I just amble on, never really getting close to anyone else and it taints every relationship I have. Even ours. Especially ours. I…I want to make love to James. Tonight. And if that means you’re there too, well, so be it.” She hugs herself.
Somoene banged on the door. “Phoebe, are you all right?”
Pheobe jumped a mile. “I…give me a minute, okay, Violet?”
“Okay,” her friend responded. “But just a minute.”
“Please Deborah,” she murmured. “Say something. Say anything.” She lowered her head and hugged herself.
James barreled back upstairs at to the end of the corridor, where he saw Violet standing in front of a closed door. Oddly, there was a large rip in her costume on the back just above the waistline. “Is Phoebe in there?” he demanded.
“Yeah,” she nodded.
“Good. What happened to your costume? There’s a big tear in it.”
“So that is why – never mind. It’s been one weird fucking evening!”
Something told James to ask about that later; he had more important things to do. “Phoebe,” he said, knocking on the door. “Listen…I really don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to come right out with it. I know about Deborah – Violet told me. And it doesn’t matter to me. I love you; everything else we can work out later. Okay?”
Long pause. Just as James was ready to give up, the door thrust open, revealing a half-naked Phoebe who swarmed into his arms and kissed him. As he was enjoying the feel of Phoebe’s naked breasts against his chest, she steered him to her left, and then another set of lips were kissing him. James pulled away – not immediately, for that might have been rude and besides these mystery lips were good at kissing – to look into a pair of unfamiliar green eyes. He pulled back further; right next to Phoebe’s head there was now a raven-haired head. “Deborah?”
“You look surprised,” she smiled as Phoebe blushed rosily.
“A little,” he admitted. “Violet made it sound as if your sister was just crazy.”
“Violet,” Phoebe protested, “you didn’t!”
Violet shrugged. “I figured it would be easier to accept.”
“Trust me, from what I’ve been through tonight this is tame,” he replied. To the sisters, “we need to talk. All three of us.”
“On the way home, if you don’t mind, “Deborah pleaded. “I’ve definitely been feeling strange ever since we got to this weird house.”
“Strange would be a step down,” Violet agreed.
“I’d like to go home on James’ car if you don’t mind, Violet,” Phoebe said, giving James a smile.
“Sure,” Violet said, “as long as we go home now.” She glanced over at the sisters. “Well…as soon as you two get dressed, that is.”
Despite everything, Phoebe managed to blush. Deborah didn’t.
Kate and Amy looked out the window at the last cars to leave. “Well,” Amy said to her wife, “that’s the last of them. Another successful year!”
“I don’t know,” Kate replied. “Phoebe and Violet didn’t look like they had a good time.” She glanced accusingly at the figure leaning against the door. “I wouldn’t have agreed to this if anyone was going to get hurt.”
“Relax.” The scarecrow calling itself Sam told her. “They’ve all got a lot on their minds. Now then,” he said, stepping away from the door, “I believe we had a Deal. You’ve both lived up to your end of the bargain – I got to play with three of your guests – so now it’s my turn.”
Kate and Amy gazed into each other’s eyes and smiled. “Finally,” Amy purred. “We can have access to each other twenty-four seven.”
Kate smiled back. “Mmmmm. How do we want to be joined?”
“May I make a suggestion?” ‘Sam’ told them. “If you don’t like it, I’ll change it.”
“Sure,” Amy shrugged.
“Thank you. Why don’t you two start kissing, and we’ll go from there?”
“Like I even need a reason,” Amy purred, cupping her wife’s face and pulling it in for a lingering kiss. Garment by garment, their costume was stripped off of them; from the custom blouse and skirt, to the tight cloth wrapping binding their bellies together. The married couple continued to French-kiss each other deeply, pussies tingling in anticipation of their fantasy about to be delivered. Both felt warm, very warm, as their lower bodies began to rotate of their own accord – one left, and the other right – to press against each other. The women cried out as their hips fused and their legs melted together, leaving one lower body with the best characteristics of both and their two torsos turned inwards towards each other.
Kate was the first to look downwards. “I like it, she smiled. “Feels a little top heavy, though.”
“So?” Amy smiled. “That just means we have to hug each other to walk. Ask me if I care.”
‘Sam’ watched the two lovers as their upper bodies pressed against each other for more kissing. He wondered how’d they feel when, two weeks from now, certain personality quirks began to grate. Perhaps it would be no big deal, but perhaps not. A brief thought flickered through what can best be described as his mind, of his adopted family back home in Maine – Carol, Frank, Liz, and later Roberta – with a sense of nostalgia. Pity he had to be ‘Mr. Haystack’ for 364 days of the year, but Rules were Rules – until, of course, they weren’t – and those days were approaching far quicker than the Mayans predicted.
The entity nicknamed Mr. Haystack and Sam pushed the thoughts of possible futures out of his mind as he watched the married couple try out their conjoined bodies. There would be time enough for the seeds of the new future to grow root and bloom. What mattered now was that this night was his, and he meant to savor it.
All hail the Pumpkin King.
To Be Continued?