Rica's Secret Halloween – 2015
by AmyAmy
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© Copyright 2015 - AmyAmy - Used by permission
Storycodes: F/f; FM+/f; halloween; party; bond; ropes; harness; latex; catsuit; collar; outdoors; leash; taxi; captive; costumes; dream; cons/reluct; X
Ghoul-gle jpn
Rica's Secret Halloween AmyAmy F/f; FM+/f; halloween; party; bond; ropes; harness; latex; catsuit; collar; outdoors; leash; taxi; captive; costumes; dream; cons/reluct; X

Copyright © 2015 AmyAmy and all that stuff. All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced for profit or without this attribution.

Thursday, October 29th.

Bea bounded upstairs, taking the steps two at a time. Half-way up, she almost fell off her heels. Stumbling forward, she caught herself with her hands on the stairs in front of her. She paused for a single breath and rushed on up.

“Rica!” she called out. “Rica, are you in there?” She burst into Rica’s room and stopped in the doorway. Yes, Rica was there in the screened off area, laid back in the reclining swivel armchair, its cracked leather repaired with patches of black 3M duct-tape.

Rica answered without moving. “Oh. What is it Bea?” She was lounging, tipped back, with the old 3D headset covering her eyes. “Can’t it wait? I was just reviewing those scenes we recorded with the multi-camera set-up. Honestly, is my bum really that big?”


“I’m almost done. Just give me a few minutes. But so far, it looks just awful. Not as awful as the four-kay stuff, but still… I don’t see how we can use any of this. It’s a complete waste.”

“Rica, I got us tickets for the Design Department’s Halloween party. They’re super hard-to-get. I had to call in a favour.”

“Not interested.” Rica’s said abruptly. She made a swipe with her hand as if Bea were a rogue application that could be closed, conveniently, with a gesture. A conversation ender.

“Please, Rica, there’s no way Rimkoff will be there, and I’ve already worked out our costumes. It’s going to be the best.”

Rica sighed, a long, and very obvious sigh. She pulled off the headset and squinted at Bea. She didn’t see too well without her glasses. “I can’t believe you’re all excited about a Halloween party? What’s wrong with you Bea? Everyone has a Halloween party, they’re no big deal, and you know they’re not for me.”

“But we don’t have a Halloween party.”

“Well, I know that. Weren’t you listening? And of course we don’t have one, who do I know to invite? You, the guys downstairs. That’s it, hardly a party. Face it Bea, I am not social. I don’t do parties. Never have. You’re so interested in it, fine, you go. But leave me out of it.”

Bea inserted herself into the chair with Bea, half across her lap.

“Gerroff Bea, you’re crushing me.”

Bea wriggled in. “Oh come on Rica. This is the party that everyone wants to go to. It will be awesome. I’ve wanted to go since I started here. It’s exclusive. Tickets are impossible to get. They’d be worth a fortune on LocalList.”

“Sell them then. We overspent this month. I can’t figure why we even need a four-kay camera.”

“No way. I’m going, even if I have to go by myself. This is a dream of mine.”

“Not mine though.” Rica shoved Bea off her sideways. Bea wedged herself awkwardly into the chair alongside Rica, pushing her over.

Rica’s mouth was all frowny. “There are people at parties Bea. You know I don’t do people, Bea.”

“Oh come on, it’ll be fine. You’ll be in disguise, all covered up. Our identities will be secret and nobody will be able to touch you. It’ll be like being on camera, on the site. You’re ok with that aren’t you?”

“You’re being ridiculous. There are no people when I’m on camera. I’m alone.”

“There’s me.”

“For some funny reason Bea, you don’t count.”

Bea pouted, playing it up. “I do count. I count double.”

“You know what I’m on about. I’m accustomed to you now. Other people still trigger my panic attacks. People in crowds worst of all. I don’t think that being in disguise will help with that. Not one little bit.”

“It might.”

“I’m not going to put that one to the test. Not over stupid Halloween.”

“Please Rica. I had this super-cute costume planned for you, black rubber catsuit, gas mask, frizzy black wig with huge bunches, massive platform boots. So last-century retro. And you’d have me as an accessory, all done up in ropes, rubber dildo panties, collar, leashed with a chain. I could wear that electric-pink Minaj wig you used on the site a couple of times. Come on, wouldn’t it be cool to go out like that? It’s what Halloween’s for.”

Rica gave a groan. “No way Bea. All night in rubber at a party. Yuk. Forget it. And don’t you think people might recognise stuff from the site? If we go out like that, people can put two and two together. Way too risky. It sounds a lot like an excuse for you to spend the night in bondage with dildo panties on. You can do that at home.”

Bea pulled a face. “Not just that. I wanted to do it with you. I might… I might go by myself if you won’t come but I’ll be sad.”

“You do that Bea.” Rica closed her eyes, as if concentrating, or simply trying to make Bea disappear. “But I’m staying here. There’s a ton of work to do on the site. What with the rent, and tuition fees, cameras we don’t need, and the bandwidth bills, we’re barely keeping our heads above water. I still owe you money for that rent months back.”

“I’ll forget about that if you come.”

“I’m not going to let you pay me to come to a party. I mean… I would go if I could.”

Bea slipped her hand inside the front of Rica’s baggy tartan shirt, felt for a boob. The nipple was hiding under the ever-present sports-bra.

Rica put her hand on Bea’s wrist. “Bea, what are you doing?”

“Persuading you,” Bea said.

Rica shook her head. “Save it for the site.”

Bea sniffed, blinking back tears. “You’re so mean sometimes.”

“Aren’t I supposed to be mean? I thought you liked it that way?”

“I know. I know. Just… Oh. You know, sometimes, it’s nice to have a say, that’s all. I’m sorry. I won’t mention it again.” Bea wiped her hand across her cheek. It was hot and wet. Had she been crying that much?

Rica hugged Bea’s head to her breast, “Poor Bea. I know you try to do good. But you forget how afraid I am of people… apart from you. Look, there’s a couple of days. I’ll try and psyche myself up for it, ok? I can’t promise anything.”

“Really?” Bea said, speaking into Rica’s chest, her words muffled.

Rica giggled. “That tickles. Yes. Really. But I can only try. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to do it. Ok?”

Bea nodded.

Rica shook her head slowly. Bea knew that gesture, the ‘Bea is crazy, no way in hell’ gesture. But there had to be a way to change her mind.


Saturday, October 31st

Bea squealed. Rica’s hand touched a ticklish spot. “Ah sorry, you caught me by surprise,” Bea said. “Are you nearly done?”

Rica checked the diagram again and then threaded the rope between Bea’s arms. “When you said done up in ropes, I thought just tied up, not this bee-ess, Japanese zen ropework nightmare. What possessed you with the idea that I can do these knots? It’s driving me flipping nuts.”

Bea couldn’t help smiling to herself. “There’s no hurry. Anyway, aren’t you nearly done? I think it’s come out awesome.”

Bea couldn’t tell for sure, not without a pair of mirrors. She could see the turtle-pattern around her body, the ropes through her crotch with the heavy knot pressing against her clit. The dildo panties were very filling. Would she even be able to walk like this? It was too late to worry because there was no way to get them off now with all those ropes.

It was the ropes that held her arms together behind her that she couldn’t see. According to the pictures, the rope was supposed to coil around and around, up from her wrists to her elbows, then two, or three, loops were supposed to cinch in between her arms, top-to bottom, binding the coils tight together and stopping them riding up. The final touch would be to finish off by tying the rope coming from between her elbows down to the loose end dangling from the base of her spine, arching her back, putting more pressure on her crotch, making her press her breasts out and forward even more dramatically.

Rica was working on those last coils now, but Bea couldn’t see how neatly she’d done the winding around her lower arms. But Rica was a neat-freak, she was sure to have done it perfectly. She’d already untied and re-tied it twice. It had taken her over an hour to get the turtle pattern more or less even. Rica still wasn’t happy with it, but Bea had never seen it done as neatly except in photographs, like the ones she’d loaded onto the tablet for reference.

Bea studied the feeling of Rica cinching the tie between her arms and her pelvis tighter, her shoulders were tugged back. She was beginning to ache already and the tie wasn’t finished. She wasn’t used to having her arms bound so close together. The leather, single-sleeve binder they usually used, the one with the straps that could cross over her chest, or simply hook over her shoulders, was never done up this tight. She hadn’t realised how much slack Rica had been leaving her. She’d have to put a stop to that somehow. Having a mistress go soft on you was no fun at all, but Rica wasn’t going easy on her now.

Bea bit her lip to stop herself from making a sound as Rica tightened the ropes once more. Pulled tight, they bit into her crotch and the knot, that that had seemed small and soft earlier, now felt large and intrusively hard.

Rica stepped back, scrutinizing her work with a furrowed brow and wandering fingers. “How’s that feel? Too tight anywhere? Too loose?”

“It’s tight all over. I can hardly breathe. Can I see? Put me on the monitor?”

Rica sighed, then yawned. “You can go to the party by yourself. I think I’ll have a nap.”

Bea stamped her foot. She almost tumbled off the transparent platform stilettos she was strapped into. She’d have to remember, no more foot stamping. “You’re such a meanie.”

Rica slumped into her chair and grabbed her laptop. “You’re always insisting on it. I can’t imagine why you’d grumble when I actually perform as requested. You’re not really complaining are you?”

“I requested you go to the party. Anyway, I can’t go without you. Obviously. Right?”

Rica chuckled to herself. “I was thinking maybe Andy could take you. I think he might be interested.”

“No, no, no, no, no,” Bea said, meaning it.

Bea gestured upwards. “Look, there you are on the monitor.”

Bea looked up at the thirty-two inch panel they used as a camera monitor while they were filming for the site. It was fixed to the wall by a swivel mount, angled down towards them. It was set high-up so it wouldn’t be in shot if they pointed the camera that way. A bigger screen would be nice, but this one had been cheap and looked enough like a regular television that it wouldn’t attract any attention from visitors.

She shuffled round and looked over her shoulder. “I still can’t see properly. Can you move the camera?”

With a distinctive sigh, Rica got up and moved the camera round. It was the new Blackmagic they were using to make the hi-res videos that cost extra to download. Bea had managed to convince Rica their ‘content’ would have value going forward as long as it didn’t go obsolete too quickly. On the cheap monitor it didn’t look any different to the old camera, but on Rica’s main computer the detail was frightening – every little hair showed up, every skin pore, every blemish – though Rica still looked perfect.

Bea edged back, closer to the camera. The loops of soft white rope were very neat and even, not exactly like in the pictures, but impressive anyway. Nobody would notice under Halloween party lighting. It would be interesting if the people at the party could tell good rope-work from bad.

“Thank you Rica. It’s wonderful.”

Rica smiled, probably didn’t realise it. “What a relief. I don’t think I had another go at that left in me.”

 “You need to get your own costume on now.” Bea’s face flushed hot and she giggled. “I can’t help, so use plenty of lube.”

Rica made a long growl in the back of her throat. More of a purr really, from a really big cat, maybe a leopard? She probably didn’t realise. Rica never seemed to twig to when she was being perfect, never seemed to get it that she looked like a Hollywood star on a casual clothes day, never seemed to understand that she had such a deep silky, buzzy voice that made Bea melt inside when she heard it. It was probably enough to give the site’s customers a chubby just hearing it. Men would have paid to see that perfect body of hers even without the kinky outfits, lesbian overtones, and fetish fan-service, but all that combined with the voice, it was irresistible. Bea had never been able to resist her. Was still secretly stalking her, in fact, but that was ok, wasn’t it? It wasn’t like she was spying on something she hadn’t seen other ways.

“And don’t forget, you need to put my wig on too,” Bea added.

Rica narrowed her eyes. “Do this, do that! Who’s the slave here?”

Bea giggled again, kept on doing it. Rica was cute, even when she was grumpy.


Rica clipped the chain leash to Bea’s collar. The collar was polished stainless steel, lined with silicon-rubber and appeared impossible to unlock. It was engraved on the front in super-tasteful cursive script, like old-fashioned handwriting, “Rica’s Bitch”. It was actually quite difficult to see the writing at all, and the letters weren’t easy to read, but someone who looked closely would always be able to see. Bea couldn’t decide if she would prefer the writing easier to read, or gone entirely.

Truth-be-told, the collar could be removed, if you peeled back the rubber lining near the closure and inserted a tricky little tool that made it pop open. Rica hadn’t allowed her to wear the collar in any videos they made for the site, afraid of clues that might help others identify them. Tonight was the first time in weeks that Rica had felt the snug fit of the hard metal collar around her neck. She liked to fantasize about filling the hole up with glue, but if she really did it, Rica would probably sulk until she got it cut off.

It was reassuring somehow to have Rica’s ownership so sturdily expressed, as if the thing between them was strengthened by the resilience of the bonds that restrained her. Even so, Rica wouldn’t allow the inscription to be seen tonight. Their identities had to stay secret, even if it was Halloween. Rica had covered the entire outside of the collar in her favourite black duct tape. The tape itself was an incredibly flexible restraint, but that was hardly worth dwelling on now Bea was wrapped up in so much rope.

Rica was looking awesome in her costume, black rubber catsuit, front-zipped through the crotch, with deep metallic purple accents. With her big, clompy, platform boots, heavy straps on the side, closed with silver buckles to just below the knee, she looked fully retro-rrriot-goth. The big frizzy wig – long frizzy hair, realistic, not comedic – had deep red highlights, and Rica, with guidance from Bea, had fastened it into two angry-looking bunches that sprung from the sides of her head in a way that screamed “mess with this one at your peril” in some arcane and unconscious language.

An old imported gas-mask, missing its cylinder, and slightly modified so as not to disrupt the hair too much, concealed Rica’s features. Her eyes could be seen through two circles of glass, but combined with the make-up job that Bea had done on them earlier, she was unrecognizable. The big aggressive bunches of frizzy hair were so far from Rica’s own short cut, natural dirty blonde, that it would send anybody that tried to guess her identity down a maze of dead-ends.

Bea fondly remembered when Rica used to have long, softly waving hair, but their line of work necessitated too much time in a wig for that to be comfortable or practical. Bea too had lost her long flowing locks. It was the thing she hated most about the business. No, she hated all the secrecy of it, not just the wigs, but she could see why it was necessary. Still, it would be so much easier and more practical if it wasn’t a secret.

Rica gave a light tug on the chain and Bea knew to follow. “This is going to end very badly. I’m going to get to this stupid party of yours and then I’m going to completely implode. You’ll spend the night chained to a catatonic lump, hunched up, shivering in a corner. Total catastrophe.”

Bea bumped against Rica from behind. “No way. You’re perfectly safe in that suit. You look seriously scary. Take a look at yourself on camera. Dressed like that, and with the wig and mask, nobody would guess it was you in a million years. It’s super-perfect,” Bea said. She said the last two words again, whispering this time. “Super-perfect.”

Rica sounded a little odd talking through the mask. “I should probably try and be positive or something. Dammit. And this wig is awful.”

Bea smiled as brightly as she could. Rica would be fine, she was a natural mistress. She just had trouble grasping it sometimes. “Yes, yes.”

“Let’s go then…”

Rica led her down the stairs, along the hall and up to the front door. Here it was, the moment of truth. Rica opened the door and peered out. Was she hesitating?

No. Rica pulled her out through the doorway and closed the door behind them. Bea was outside the house, bound up in rope and wearing nothing but a pair of rubber dildo panties, a scanty black bra-top, an awful lot of new white rope and a fluorescent pink party wig with a passing resemblance to an outrageous hair-style from a pop-video that was at least three years old.

Rica led her down to the end of the driveway, finding her feet in the big boots. Bea was having a harder time with her narrow, tapering, stiletto heels. The curved shape was so pretty, but even Bea wasn’t used to heels this high, and Bea had a guilty little fetish for high heels. Without them, her legs were really too short. Not like Rica, who bordered on fashion-model proportions.

It was going to be a long walk to the party, not that they’d be walking all the way, but the bus-stop would be far enough.

Rica pulled up suddenly and turned to face Bea. “Argh. I’ve left my phone upstairs.”

Bea thought of her heels. “You go get it then. I’ll wait here.”

“Yes, you will,” said Rica, with a grin. She clipped Bea’s leash to the metal gate and dashed back to the front door, disappearing inside before Bea could issue a world of protest.


Bea was a little nervous, obviously. Rica had run off and left her chained to the gate. Sure, she was wearing nothing but dildo panties and a rubber bra, sure her arms were tightly bound behind her back with a shocking quantity of rope, but it was Halloween. Who would even notice her on a night like tonight?

Time passed. It seemed like minutes. Longer? Bea’s mind was probably just playing tricks on her, it had probably only been a few seconds. She tried counting thousands. She got to three hundred and Rica was still missing. Perhaps she’d counted fast, after all, her heart was pounding madly. Despite the night air, she was sweating. It had been one thing to go out like this with lovely Rica as her guardian. It was another thing altogether to be out here alone. She’d been waiting five minutes at least, and not a single person had walked past.

What would be worse? If some people came along and took advantage of her, well that would be bad. But maybe it would be worse if nobody came, and the night just kept on getting darker, and colder and spookier? Had something happened to Rica? Was she alright? Maybe she’d had an accident in the house, fallen down the stairs in those boots or something?

Bea had to get loose somehow. She had to get back into the house. All she had to do was unfasten the clip holding her chain to the gate and she could go back. She didn’t have her keys, but maybe Rica hadn’t locked the door. Maybe.

She turned around, her back towards the clip, then bent over, trying to reach up to it. The rope dug into her crotch, biting into her sensitive parts. She cried out despite herself. She couldn’t bring her hands up at all. It was hopeless. She tried jumping on the spot. The clip was at least a foot too high up for that to have any chance of working. All she did was hurt her feet and stumble, nearly falling. Jumping in heels wasn’t a good idea, whatever had possessed her?

She turned back around and tried to work the clip with her mouth. The metal tasted sour and bitter at once, but if she could just hold it in the right position she might be able to get it open with her teeth. She almost had it.

A car passed by, momentarily dazzling her with its lights. It disappeared down the road. Stunned, Bea lost her grip on the clip and pinched her lip. She’d have to start again. But who was she kidding? There was no way on earth she could open this clip with her mouth. The most she’d ever achieve would be a chipped tooth. Even if she managed to get the clip open for a moment she’d never get it unhooked.

A woman’s voice rang out from somewhere close by. “Naughty, naughty.”

Bea yelped with shock, letting go of the clip, and jerked up straight, glancing around, looking for the source of the voice. She felt a hand on her ass, the soft brush of fingertips. Bea shuddered. The speaker was right behind her.

“I’m certain you were left like this for a reason. Won’t you get in trouble if you get loose?”

Bea twisted around and found herself facing something inhuman. She stifled a scream. Panic welled up. No. It was just a mask. Just a silly Halloween mask. Exactly as she should have expected. It was only a woman, a woman in a white mask, a blank porcelain doll-face, eyebrows painted in black, lips in gold leaf. They had some masks for the site that were a similar style, she ought to have recognized it straight away – it had to be the Halloween effect.

The stranger was disturbingly close, wearing a black rubber burlesque dress with gold detailing, split up the front all the way up to the crotch. The breasts were moulded, anatomically correct, with prominent nipples. Metallic-gold ‘hair’ hung long and straight either side of the masked face, which now tilted slightly, examining Bea as if puzzled. Where the eyeholes ought to be there was nothing but darkness. Bea edged back and bumped into the gate. A jingle sounded from her chain.

“What are you doing?” Bea said, trying to keep her voice even, not entirely succeeding.

The mask tilted even further to the side, the woman’s neck seemed abnormally long, the angle peculiar. A musical laugh echoed forth. Bea looked down at the woman’s shoes, sparkling gold platforms, beautifully finished, probably Louboutin, or maybe Valentino. Bea couldn’t think of anyone who’d wear shoes like that, let alone own a pair. Shoes for a Russian oligarch’s trophy wife. On reflection, it was all a bit GaGa-esque, the sort of cheesy costume where you were all too likely to bump into your clone. “Shush now,” the stranger said. Her voice deep, melodic, sing-song. Definitely weird.

Bea opened her mouth to explain something or other, but instantly forgot what she’d planned to say as a large rubber ball was rudely pushed between her teeth. There was nothing she could do to stop the woman lifting up her ‘hair’ and buckling the straps of the gag tight at the back of her neck.

Bea protested, producing only foolish muffled sounds that made no sense.

“Sorry, I don’t speak dentist,” the woman said. That metallic laugh again. Tinker Bell in a Bane mask.

As soon as the stranger was done fastening the gag, she unclipped Bea’s chain from the gate. “Now, the only thing I can imagine is that somebody left you for me to collect, free to a good home. Why else would you be here?”

Bea shook her head vigorously.


Bea nodded.

“Yes?” The stranger hesitated, masked face revealing nothing. “It doesn’t matter. You were obviously abandoned, and so, so submissive. Possession is nine tenths. Finders keepers.”

She stepped in close again and whispered in Bea’s ear. “Losers weepers.” She ran a latex opera-gloved hand down Bea’s face, brushing so softly that it was more like a gentle breeze than a touch. “I’d have covered you in glitter. You ought to sparkle, like a little Christmas decoration.”

The stranger stepped away and set off walking, setting a rapid pace despite her elegant footwear. After a tug on the chain, Bea found herself following.


A taxi was waiting at the end of the road. The woman helped her into the back seat. Was she being kidnapped? It felt that way, and there was nothing she could do about it. Bea tried to get the driver’s attention, but he didn’t seem to notice her. The woman slid into the back seat beside her and slammed the door closed with gloomy finality. The taxi smelled of dirty carpets trying to hide under a reek of pine air-freshener that made Bea’s nose twitch.

“I was going to say, you can call me Mistress Sibyl, but you won’t need to call me anything. It’s for the best really, because if you could talk I’m sure you’d just get yourself into some kind of trouble. That’s probably how you ended up in the mess I found you.”

The taxi seemed to know where to go without a word of direction from Mistress Sibyl or whatever she wanted to be called. Bea followed the turns and the streets, tracking where they were headed, but after half a minute, Sibyl pulled a black silk blindfold from her glittering little golden clutch bag. Bea found herself plunged into darkness. There was a sliver of light at the bottom of the blindfold, but she couldn’t see anything recognisable apart from blurry glimpses of her own cleavage.

The taxi ride was long, and at times bumpy. Bea found herself getting distinctly queasy. She’d always been prone to car-sickness and the darkness of the blindfold was aggravating the matter. Just as she was beginning to get seriously nauseous, the taxi’s engine shut off. The taxi had drawn to a halt many times before, but this was the first time the engine had fallen silent.

The blindfold was removed. The night seemed suddenly harsh and bright. Bea’s head span, the nausea worse than ever. She peered out through the scratched and dirty window trying to anchor herself. They were in some kind of run-down retail district, completely deserted, illuminated by the stained glare of yellow sodium lights, like a scene from an eighties movie.

Bea sat motionless, letting the vertigo pass. Sibyl twitched her leash to get her attention. Bea turned to see a beckoning finger. She scooted herself sideways towards the open door in little hops. At the last, Sibyl helped her out of the taxi, using the rope like an arrangement of convenient handles. Bea didn’t like to be so much awkward baggage, and made a note to herself that it was by no means easy to get out of a car with your arms bound together behind you. The taxi started up, backfired, then drove off leaving a lingering smell of unburned petrol.

The muted sound of sixties soul, dulled by brickwork was still loud enough to be heard on the street. Bea looked around for the source. No doubt there was a party of some kind going on nearby.

Sibyl tugged on her leash and Bea followed her up the steps of the nearest building. It was an old-fashioned shop, the sort that you climb up to, with basement windows beneath, set into a sort of pit with a wrought iron railing around. The large shop windows were covered with steel shutters. The door was panelled wood, painted gloss black and then allowed to fade for a decade or two. Several generations of tagger had added their distinctive scratches and initials to it.

Close to the door, the music was louder. Sibyl opened it and walked in. Naturally Bea followed. Rather than the shop-sized space she’d expected beyond the door, Bea found herself in a dark, sharply twisting, narrow corridor, low ceilinged and oppressively close. The only light came from a string of blue fairy lights, unevenly strung up where the wall met the ceiling. They executed a dancing pattern that walked along the wire then flashed alternately. As they progressed along the corridor, the lights began to twinkle like stars. Sometimes they all went out together and the darkness was complete. Just for a moment, all the lights came on together and Bea got a brief vision of old hardbound books piled and piled to create the corridor walls, ceilings plastered with faded paperback covers.

Sibyl led her up a staircase. She seemed to know where she was headed, and all the while the music was growing louder. At the top of the stairs Bea found herself in an open space at last, a space far larger than she’d anticipated.

What a space it was! Or more accurately, it was at first glance, utterly unremarkable, but it was filled with a dancing mass of the strangest people, and by far the majority of them were women. They were all dressed in what Bea could only guess were Halloween costumes of widely varying style and approach.

A figure made up as some kind of zombie shambled past, loaded with heavy chains, greenish rotting flesh hanging off bones, a corpse partly devoured by sea creatures. The makeup was astonishingly convincing. Bea’s stomach churned at the sight of it. Too realistic to be fun. She could have sworn the figure had no eyes, only empty sockets, but thankfully Sibyl was dragging her in another direction, and she could convince herself it was all a trick. Yes, hadn’t she seen a how-to video with that exact thing? Well… Not quite the same.

Sibyl’s path was blocked by a tall devil-woman, with light blue skin, stunningly naked and equipped with a twisting tail that ended in lethal looking barbs. The tail swayed around lazily, with a playful sense to its movements. It conveniently positioned itself to prevent a clear view of the woman’s vulva, as if in some coy movie trying to avoid an adult rating. Bea blinked and swallowed a mouthful of cold saliva that had accumulated in some lost part of her mouth, due to the gag. The devil-woman had huge bat-wings furled behind her, the joints tipped with vicious claws. She flexed and rattled her wings imposingly. Her hands were also clawed, glittering, diamond sharp, claws that looked like they could rip one of Giger’s xenomorphs to shreds. There was something hard about the woman that made Bea bite down hard on her gag, trying to pacify her unease.

“Welcome. So glad you could make it,” the devil-woman said to Sibyl. “I’m Lauren. You must be… um… ah, yes, Sibyl? Obviously, not your real name, but I don’t’ want to spoil things. I see you’ve brought a pet? Lovely. Anyway, make yourself at home. Plant-zombie girl is on the bar, so just ask her for whatever you want and she’ll provide. She has to. Can’t help but obey. Ah well, that’s plant-zombies for you.”

The devil-woman’s eyes were swirling pits of blue fire. Bea had no idea how you could do that with makeup, it was obviously some cutting edge thing. It might not be the party she’d hoped for, but it was certainly memorable, in more ways than one. If not all good, it still seemed to be pretty special. It was so frustrating that she wasn’t free to wander around and examine everything and everyone to her heart’s content.

Lauren gave a toothy smile, showing fangs that would probably put her a close cousin to that Giger xenomorph. How did she get that translucent effect that caught the light? “I’ll catch you later. Everyone’s dying to meet the new girl, so just go on and mingle.”

The devil-woman’s horns were the least convincing part. Where they emerged from her head was completely obscured by a wash of dark, wavy hair, obviously hiding where they were stuck on.

Bea’s eyes followed a waifish figure, amazing make-up, she looked three quarters starved, sun-damaged skin on a young face, a body wrapped in flexible black body armour that swallowed the light, like some sci-fi scuba-suit. She had a gun in a police-style holster, and webbing covered in pouches. Her head turned Bea’s way, eyes lost behind tinted goggles. What sort of Halloween costume was that supposed to be?

Sibyl gave Bea’s leash a tug and they moved towards the bar, which was indeed staffed by a zombie-plant girl, kind of green and photosynthetic. Sibyl ordered a gin with mineral water and lime for herself and nothing for Bea. While they waited for the zombie to chop limes, a blonde-haired woman in a squeaky pink rubber dress pushed in next to them. She didn’t really seem to have got into the spirit of things, because there was nothing Halloween about her dress at all, though it was a nice dress and left just enough to the imagination.

Sibyl turned to her immediately. “Hello. You have to be Dee? Please call me Sibyl.”

The woman who apparently had to be Dee, looked a little spaced out. Bea was sure she’d seen a thousand-yard stare like that somewhere before. “Oh yes. Of course. You. It’s really… Different this year isn’t it? Not normally how we do things. Sibyl. I do hope you like it. And how it ends.”

Sibyl smiled, looking over at the blonde’s curvaceous figure appreciatively. “Interesting so far. I wouldn’t know about what happens normally though. It’s my first time.”

“Mine too. No, that can’t be right… But it is my first time here. How strange. It must be fate,” Dee said. She drifted off as cloudily as she’d arrived.

Bea was beginning to suspect that all the conversations would be equally unsatisfactory as the last two. If only she could speak, but at least there was plenty to look at. Some people had incredible costumes. There was a woman on the other side of the room who looked as if she was made entirely of white plastic, like an animated mannequin, but with teeth. It was really well done. She was chatting with three women in classic witch garb, complete with pointed hats and holding Harry-Potter broomsticks. They weren’t going for the full ugly look though, rather they were all very pretty indeed. Bea was overshadowed by almost everyone. They were all so attractive, and distinctive too, not bland and forgettable attractive, but the special kind. Rica would have fitted in here perfectly, but Bea didn’t belong.

A tall, unnecessarily handsome man with untidy blonde hair and rough stubble pushed between her and Sibyl. “Good evening,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve seen you before. This must be our first meeting?” His accent was old fashioned English. Not swords and castles old fashioned but definitely in the Downton Abbey ballpark.

“I guess so. I’m Sibyl. Tonight anyway.”

“Sibyl? So who’s this on the chain? Basil?”

“Basil? No, just a silly girl who wants to play at bondage.”

“Sorry. I suppose you were too young to get that one. Fawlty Towers? No? I thought that was better than some obscure classical reference. Never mind. I’m Marcus.”

Sibyl’s voice went all gushy. “Oh my. The Marcus?”

“One of them at least,” Marcus answered. He shrugged, with his eyebrows. Somehow.

“I’ve heard so much about you.”

Marcus gave a sigh. “They all have. I wish I knew how.” He directed his attention towards Bea. She slid her eyes sideways to avoid looking him in the eye. He gave a deep chuckle at that. “She’s a funny one.”

Sibyl nodded. “Quite mad I suspect. Here. Why don’t you take her? You could teach her the error of her ways, or something?” She offered the loose end of the chain leash out towards Marcus. Bea hoped he would refuse it. Being here without Rica was bad enough, but being handed over to some rakish villain from an old BDSM story – even if he did look like a bit like a blonde Hugh Jackman – was too much. She’s never cared for men. The only thing they were good for was camouflage. Even Sibyl was better. Actually, Sibyl had some slinky moves, and was kind of hot, once you got over her creepy taste in shoes, and lack of a real face.

Bea groaned inwardly as Marcus took the chain from Sibyl’s hand and wrapped it around his fist. He gave it a sharp tug and Bea winced. Was he trying to yank her head off?

“Pay attention,” he whispered close to Bea’s ear. “The error of your ways? Is this that kind of story? Or is it a story I missed?”

Sibyl laughed her metallic little laugh. “No need to bring her back. I just found her lying around anyway. Do what you like with her.”

Marcus graced Sibyl with a quickly manufactured smile. “I may well do just that. Though we do have certain rules…”

Bea squirmed, trying to make her displeasure known. She tried to look daggers at him, but apparently that only worked in old romance novels. Marcus simply raised an eyebrow, as if trying to demonstrate to Roger Moore how it ought to be done. Sibyl skipped away, indifferent to the whole thing, and apparently happy to be unencumbered by a shuffling girl on a chain.

Marcus brought his eyes down to Bea’s level and fixed her with a takes-no-shit stare. “Behave yourself, or you may find yourself stuck in a narrative you don’t like at all.”

Bea went slack. It all crashed down on her. She was tired out. Done in. Her feet were killing her. She couldn’t breathe properly in the restrictive turtle tie, the knot was digging into her crotch and it wasn’t sexy any longer, it was just sore. Her arms ached, her shoulders were on fire. Even her neck was sore from the continual yanking of the chain. Why had Rica abandoned her? It just wasn’t fair. This had been supposed to be such a fun night, a night to remember. She’d wanted to get into that party since before she enrolled. It was famous, a one-time chance. Why hadn’t Rica understood?

Marcus led her across the room, heading for the three witches, but before he reached them he was intercepted by a woman with boobs like a battleship. Statuesque didn’t do her justice. She was dressed in leather, and it looked as if underneath it, she was packing two soccer balls that had been crushed into a breast shapes by sheer force of her leather outfit. Bea had seen breasts with the same matriarchal grandeur in pornos, but she’d never seen any in real life. If anything, they seemed larger than life. They made space for themselves in the room, as if they were claiming territory. The rest of their owner was in a similar vein. Her hips were almost as big as her chest, her bum like a Kardashian Photoshop effort, but without the fakery. As for fakery, her tiny waist couldn’t possibly be for real. Maybe it was just an optical illusion because the rest of her was so big?

Boob woman’s hair was long, wavy and red. It looked a bit rubbish, and on consideration it was obviously a wig. Were the imposing boobs fake too? Probably they were, they couldn’t possibly be real. But what a weird costume idea… She had heavy make-up. Was she even a real woman?

“Heather, of course you’re here,” Marcus said, apparently pleased to see her. Boob woman didn’t look like a Heather to Bea, more like a Candy or a Suzie, but Heather it was. Even Ruby would have been better.

“It is the night for ghosts, but alas I don’t have one. This looks like the sixties me. Is my murderer here?” Heather’s voice was definitely all girl, it shook Bea way down in her belly, deep and smooth.

Marcus gave a thoughtful nod. “Lauren? From one time or another. Or several. It’s not always easy to tell which ones are her. She gets around more than anyone, and never the same twice.”

Heather’s voice was edged with a London accent, lacking Marcus’ plummy vowels, but her careful diction still belonged to a bygone era. “That girl has a father complex if you ask me.”

“Very droll Heather. Of course, she had a complicated childhood, even by your standards. You should forgive her. Bury the hatchet and all that.”

“But we’ve done more than that, haven’t we? Or will do. It’s hard to put it all in order. It doesn’t matter. All our possible selves will be along, by and by. I think I see an earlier you back there. I remember that jacket from my childhood, though I probably wouldn’t normally.”

“It’s just a selection of the most memorable bits here, past or future. It’s like the relatives you’re supposed to meet in the afterlife. What version of them will it be? Your grandmother as a seventeen year-old, reliving her wild years? Obviously, it makes no sense.”

“I can’t keep track of it either, but it’s nice to see my hopes were fulfilled one way or another after all. I don’t want to ask how long she lasted though.”

Both of them glanced over towards that girl. There’s always one at any Halloween party. The one that won’t dress up as a ghost, or a ghoul, or a mummy, or anything even slightly spooky, and who certainly won’t be some green and warty witch. No, she has to be a ballerina, or Snow White, or a fairy princess, or a butterfly. Bea could never understand why anyone thought a ballerina was an appropriate Halloween costume. She’d mentioned it to Rica that morning, but Rica had said she’d understand if she’d ever done any ballet training, but Bea hadn’t, and so Rica’s comment remained incomprehensible.

This time, the too-good-for-Halloween girl was dressed as some kind of Disney princess, though not one that Bea was precisely familiar with, but the design language was clear enough. Small pink and blue birds were perched nearby, probably singing her praises. She was quite literally sparkling. How did she do that? Bea sighed and swallowed another mouthful of cold spit that had backed up under the gag. Her own costume choice hadn’t turned out to be the best plan. Even the princess girl had obviously put in far more preparation and effort.

Bea’s attention kept getting drawn back to the massive boobs that still loomed at her. They radiated a kind of solidity that took up more space than they actually occupied. Everything about their owner, in her old fashioned Mrs Peel leather seemed bigger than it ought to be, more than was necessary or even reasonable. She seemed about to burst out of that tight one-piece at any moment and it creaked too much, threatening to fail under pressure.

Marcus and boob woman refocussed on each other. Marcus shrugged. “I not the one who can tell you, and even if I knew, you wouldn’t remember after this is over.”

Boob woman frowned. “To you I’ve been dead for years, I suppose. Were you even sad?”

Marcus looked past the woman, staring over her shoulder, his eyes following the witches. “More than I expected, but some things can’t be helped.” He gave a low sigh. “I’m not sure I like this new Halloween style. I prefer the old rituals. I should be out there now, with Lauren, hunting down someone who betrayed the trust of the Association and punishing them properly as Halloween demands. How will the unlucky ones be revenged now?”

“I thought you liked reunions.” Boob woman – Heather – was looking somewhere else. She’d noticed a woman in a beige silk blouse and tight dark skirt dancing with a young woman in a perky rubber cocktail dress, a mass of white rubber petticoats beneath it.

“I’m still thinking about that,” Marcus said.

Boob woman nodded towards the shadows. “Watch out for spiders. New and old. I’ve seen a few around. I imagine you’re safe, but they might eat your pet.”

Marcus shook his head. “She’s not mine. And you know our rules, she has to want it. To be honest, I don’t think her heart is really in it.”

“I could persuade her?”

Bea shuddered. It was probably true, Heather seemed as if she might be terribly persuasive. Bea wasn’t too sure what they were considering persuading her of, but she was fairly sure she would regret it if they did.

“Better not,” Marcus said. He moved his head slightly in a negative sort of way, a look of dismay taking over his features. “Good grief. Look at this rope-work. I wish I hadn’t, it’s embarrassing to be seen with. Excuse me a moment, I better tidy it up a little.”

Marcus paused, brows furrowed, studying Bea like a bug under a lens. He grabbed the ropes, fingers moving quicker than she could follow, loosening knots, pulling, easing, shifting ropes according to some aesthetic that Bea found she could only guess at, the subtleties of his taste were beyond her comprehension.

Boob woman watched with amusement, a chilly smile playing over her face. She leaned in closer, making herself heard more easily over the evocative tones of Marvin Gaye’s Funny Valentine. “Don’t imagine you’re safe bound up like that either. Pop out that gag out and you’re ready for business. I have some experience, so pay attention. It might save you from a life ruined by a few silly choices made on the spur of the moment. Of course, it’s fun to let yourself get all tied up now and again, but you need to be more careful who you do it with, and where. Even if you’re on your best behaviour tonight it might already be too late for you. It’s always just too late when you realise it’s one of those stories where it all ends in permanent this and permanent that. Before you know it you’re in a cage on your hands and knees with half a kilo of stainless steel in your piercings and somebody forcing antibiotics down your throat so they can get more use out of you as a toilet before they embed you in concrete, kept alive by tubes. Except that’s not life, is it?”

Bea shuddered. Boob woman was scary.

She went on. “Do you think you can still walk out of here and back to your old life? You’re not even in the same world. This is the Neverland for bondage. The place where Wendy dies.” Boob woman’s voice was beginning to crack. Tears ran down her cheeks but she made no move to wipe them away. Bea could see now that the woman’s makeup was even thicker than she’d first imagined. What did it conceal?

Marcus did something with the rope and Bea’s ability to breathe constricted to almost nothing. Her chest moved in tiny spasms, like the heartbeat of a mouse. He let out a little slack and tied off a knot.

“There we go,” he said. “Much better now.”

Bea felt panic rising, tried to push it down. She couldn’t breathe. There was a gag filling her mouth. She couldn’t swallow properly. She spilled a gush of cold spit down her chin to rid herself of it. Her throat seemed to be closing up. She was helpless to get the thing out of her mouth. She flexed her arms against the ropes, though they cut into her skin she was desperate to somehow gain even a little slack.

Bea daren’t cry. She mustn’t cry, because then her nose would close up. The wild anxiety had come out of nowhere, blind-siding her, and all her self-control was gone. There was nothing in her head but mind-erasing panic. She flexed against the ropes, despite herself, and they cut into her flesh. She couldn’t win against them.

Marcus kept a tight grip on her leash, grabbed the ropes with his other hand, stopping her from falling to her knees. “I think what Heather is trying to warn you, is that the rest of your life could be like this, only worse, and you then you die of it. We set out to put a stop to that kind of thing, but we failed, yes, we failed. A bitter thing, so much power and we couldn’t even do that. It was always going to be futile, but it was right to try though, wasn’t it?”

Boob woman nodded. “I think she needs a bit more slack. She’s not quite at Dehlia’s level.”

Marcus adjusted the ropes again. “She should appreciate the practice then.”

If Bea strained her chest muscles she could force her ribs up and get more air in. It made the ropes burn as they tore against her skin but it was worth it. She’d never realised she was so soft, so pliable, so easily reshaped.

Boob woman’s tears were gone and forgotten. She looked bored. “But like you said. She’s not yours. Let somebody else worry about it.”

Marcus reached behind Bea’s head, the gag tightened, then loosened. He popped it out of her mouth. She gasped for air but despite her earlier wishes, she didn’t feel inclined to ask questions now.

“I’ll see you later,” Boob woman said. “Days of future past, as they say.”

They drifted in different directions, Marcus heading towards the witches. As he walked he talked quietly. Somehow Bea could hear him clearly, despite the noise of The Supremes wailing Never Again at ear-splitting volume. Bea followed along behind him.

“So, what’s it to be? Are you tempted to give yourself away? Do you feel the creeping thrill at the idea of losing all control? Don’t you wonder what you might be forced to become? Do you hunger to be made into something else? It’s the only way you’ll ever change of course, moulded and transformed by someone else. I could do it, if you admitted you wanted it. You’d probably prefer Heather though. Should we go back and ask her?”

Bea shook her head, it seemed wrong to speak, even though the gag was finally gone. She wanted to be back with Rica. She should be with Rica right now, not here in this crazy place where people babbled cryptic nonsense interspersed with barely veiled threats.

Marcus gave a wry smile. “You could ask these three for advice… A joke of course. The price of their services is more than you can afford to pay, I’m afraid. Speak to them, if you dare.”

Closer up, the witches weren’t really dressed in loose black robes, or rather they were, but they were loose, open at the front, revealing glimpses of elaborate colourful outfits beneath. The blonde one in particular looked like something from a Japanese video game, with lace, ruffles and all kinds of baroque detailing, from the finish of her pale silky blouse to her multi-layered dress in dark red and black.

The dark haired one had thick framed glasses, reminding Bea of Rica, while the redhead had touches of rich blue in her outfit that set off her hair perfectly. Everything about their appearance was finely tuned, each item of clothing looked new and tailored to fit from the richest of fabrics. There was no stitch out of place, no creases, no lint, everything fitting exactly as it should, hanging exactly right. Bea, was no slouch when it came to shopping for designer clothes, but she couldn’t place a single one of their items. They seemed to be dressed in the deepest archetypes from which the couture world drew their inspiration.

“Marcus, dear man,” said the dark haired one.

“I can’t believe how long it’s been Ceska,” he answered. He looked to the others. “Tia… And is this Mya? Finally? We haven’t met before.”

“Yes, yes. Mya, returned to us after so long. It feels like a hundred years.” It was not Mya but the redhead, Tia, who answered. She gave a laugh, and Ceska joined in, as if sharing some private joke. Mya merely smiled. Bea saw some unfathomable invitation in her eyes, something said without words.

Marcus obviously found Mya of great importance. He was prepared to raise both eyebrows for her. Bea guessed this was bordering on effusive by his standards.

“So this is Marcus?” Mya said, not quite puncturing the mystique of her silence. Her voice was a whisper, clearly intended for Bea’s ears alone. Her blonde hair was in two big bunches, the hair descending in dual softly curled waterfalls. Bea couldn’t help thinking of parallels with Rica’s frizzy wig, with its own bunches, but these were softer by far, baby doll corkscrews not riot grrrl explosions.

“Yes, I am Marcus,” said he. “I suppose we will need to be careful with the three of you are back together again?”

Tia giggled. “Oh yes. If only we’d been like this seventy years ago, all the trouble could have been nipped in the bud, but you lot are getting too strong, even for us all together.”

Ceska pulled a terrible face, her mouth an angry square. “The gods of old, a few hundred thousand worshippers. Today is of a different order. And besides…” She threw up her hands. “Science! Disaster. Plastic people everywhere now.”

Tia looked at her, as if something impossible were happening. “My lines Ceska. Mine.”

 Ceska gave a shamefaced shrug. “Somebody had to say it, and you were just drinking.”

Marcus gave a wry smile. “Yes. It’s all just physics. Physics we still don’t understand, though Dehlia and I have made strides over the years.”

Tia’s gaze flickered towards Bea. “This can’t just be social talk. You want to repeat past experiments? I’m sorry, we can’t do it. It doesn’t matter anyway, this is all a dead-end that leads nowhere…” She extended an accusatory finger, “Except for her and the other one. Even for them, questionable.”

“Well. Lauren-”

“Oh, we know all about her. Only days ago, from one perspective, she would have killed us if she could. It was all we could do to get away. I’m sorry. She is as you say, exponential curve from now on. Unstoppable. End times. You know?”

“I’d feared as much.”

Mya shot Bea a glance that showed how silly she found all this, how she’d much rather be alone with Bea right now. The way she narrowed her eyes just a little said so much, astonishing really.

“We will meet again. There is a plan. You may already know it, but if not… Anyway, no more shop talk, tonight is party time. Halloween, witches, demons, all get to play. Please explain what this girl on the chain has to do with it? I don’t even know her story. Does it even matter? It’s an abomination for her to have any importance at all.”

“Not my department I’m afraid,” Marcus admitted. “Somebody handed her to me. I’m not sure if she’ll turn back into a pumpkin come the stroke of twelve. Was thinking I’d take her back to the old house, teach her a thing or two. She probably won’t agree though. Stubborn and a little cowardly.”

The witches exchanged glances and all three giggled in unison this time. Bea dearly wished to ask them what joke they were sharing, but she knew better. Still, she hadn’t been imagining Mya’s soft and secret promise. There was something about her that had lodged itself in Bea’s head, something that called up fantasies of warm, dimly lit rooms, soft, hazy places where Mya might be found in embarrassing positions, revealing a secret self, shared only with Bea.

Bea’s train of thought was cancelled unexpectedly. She had to step forward, to avoid being knocked over by a platinum blonde in an unspeakably cheap dress. There was absolutely nothing Halloween about her appearance at all. What a terrible effort. It was enough to make Bea happier about her own costume.

The blonde put her hand on Bea’s shoulder and looked her in the eye. “At last. I’ve been looking all over for you. This has been going on long enough. Some people don’t know when to stop going on and on…”

Bea shifted her gaze sideways, looking past the annoying interloper. On reflection she had a powerful resemblance to the zombie girl she’d seen at the start of the night, the underwater rotting one. They could be sisters.

The blonde looked up at Marcus. “I’ll take her from here.”

Marcus tilted his head, ever so slightly. “You will, will you, Nelly? Perhaps I should keep her?”

“I’d say you’re welcome to her, but I know you’re only kidding about planning on hanging on to her.” The blonde flashed a wide smile. She had good bones. If it wasn’t for that awful dress…

Marcus gave a sigh. “True. There’s nothing intriguing about her at all.” He passed he leash over to the blonde.

She turned to Bea again, “Look at me Bridget. There are things you need to know, so little time to tell you.”

Marcus and the Witches melted away, leaving Bea and the blonde in a dark corner. With the others gone, Bea could see that the walls were lined with people. Rubber covered maids were strapped to the walls, side by side, like human panelling.

Their outfits were made from black rubber that blended into the shadows. Smooth, featureless hoods removed their faces, hoods devoid of openings apart from a single breathing tube at the mouth.

Bea couldn’t tear her eyes away from the figures in the shadows. Were they real? Were there people in there? Why else would there be breathing tubes?

The blonde … Marcus had called her Nelly … fixed Bea with an intense stare. “Soon it will be midnight and time for you to leave. You must be wondering where we are, who these people are, and why you were brought here?”

Bea nodded. Why couldn’t she bring herself to speak?

Before Nelly could continue, an odd white figure stumbled back into them. It was the mannequin from before, all made of white plastic but with long flowing hair, dead straight and also white. It turned its smooth face towards them and blinked, pale violet eyes luminescent in the dim light. No, it wasn’t the one from before, that one had no eyes at all. They looked a lot alike though.

Nelly put her hands on her hips and an unhappy expression on her face. “Oh, what is this? Farce? You just bump into people as an introduction? Bloody plastic freaks.”

Red and pink colours flickered across the mannequin’s white hair, like a colour changing octopus, suddenly startled. “You can talk, nothing but a two bit youkai, all mouth and appetite. Ultimately, no substance.”

“I will be a proper demon one day. I have a theme going. I’m getting a rewrite. That’s more than you! Killed off before your own sequel begins. Face it, you’re forgotten.”

The mannequin pulled herself to her feet and her body gradually adjusted itself to a skin-tone colour. Her hair followed, turning a glossy black. If she wasn’t so smooth, she could have passed for human, albeit human and naked. She pulled herself to her full height, eye to eye with her accuser. “That’s not decided. Nelly. Besides, it’s none of your business. Weren’t you supposed to be telling this important real human girl something vital? Oh yes, you’ve got nothing but dull exposition, I’ll bet. What were you going to tell her? The basics on demons? Blah blah blah entities, power from another dimension, end of days … what-ever!”

Nelly pouted, sticking her nose in the air, oblivious to how silly she looked. “You’re horrible Kelly. No wonder your own offspring want to do you in.”

“You were, weren’t you?” The mannequin sniggered. “All the important things she should know. What it means to be here, why her life is the way it is, fateful knowledge of the future? And you were going to explain about how there are always three witches, or how Marcus sells them an eye for knowledge of the darkest secrets? Which everyone knows anyway.”

Nelly wrinkled her nose. “That’s Odin Kelly, not Marcus. Why do you have to be so dumb?”

Kelly’s face stayed smooth, inexpressive as ever. “I was being ironic you ditz. Oh, face it Nelly, you have doll envy. I’m so much more of a doll than you will ever be, and you just can’t let it go.”

Bea muttered quietly to herself. “Nelly… Kelly… Dolls…”

“I do not, and actually I was about to explain how the different kinds of demons work, and the important difference between the living and the dead kind, well I suppose she won’t get to find out now. Will she, Kelly?”

As Nelly spoke, her flesh began to decay and fall away from her bones, peeling from her face. She reached down and lifted up the hem of her dress, revealing a glistening metal chastity belt fastened onto a rotting cadaver. Her eye sockets were gaping pits, black as the abyss.

Bea stumbled back, blinked, the vision was gone. She must have imagined it. Lack of oxygen or something. Nelly was back just the same as before. Cheap, whorish, tired sunken eyes beneath cartoonish silver eye-shadow.

Bea shut her mouth, which had apparently been left open. She twisted, trying to back away. Nelly laughed. “Oh Bridget, you didn’t see something unpleasant did you? Just a reflex. I have to feed on fear, guilt, shame, anger, things like that. You’d be nutritious but you’re the wrong kind of flavour for me. It took me a while to understand what I am. If I keep on going I might grow into something more, or I might simply fade away. If I’d achieved the revenge I deserve I might be gone already, but that won’t happen now. Too late for me. Instead I have to hunt. Don’t worry though, you’re not my kind of food. Unfortunately, neither is Kelly. She’s inedible. As tasty as a Styrofoam cup.”

Bea shook her head slowly. It was all just a trick, wasn’t it? “Why me?” She glanced to where the mannequin, Kelly, had been, but she was gone.

“I can’t answer that. I’m not the one who chooses these things. I’m only here because I was such a failure in life, and death.” She produced a wineglass containing a slick dark fluid. She swirled it gently around the edges, and where it stuck to the glass it stained it red. Bea realised that Nelly must have been carrying it all along. “We have something in common.”

“Here,” said Nelly, pressing the glass to Bea’s lips. “Drink.”

It smelled foetid, ancient, fishy. Bea wrenched her face away from the foul stuff.

“How do you suppose I entered this existence Bridget? How do you suppose I came to drag on after death, searching for a revenge I can never be satisfied with? Why do you imagine I’m still clinging to reality when I ought to be free?”

Bea clamped her lips tight shut. She wouldn’t answer.

“I don’t have the answer to it either,” Nelly said. “But I know you’re going to drink this. Now open up. This is how it has to be for you. Unless you want to be stuck here forever.”

Bea’s gaze traced around the room. She was backed into a corner. It seemed that everyone else in the place was watching her, so many eyes. When had they started doing that? Where had they come from? Nelly was behind her, reaching around to press the glass to her lips, the other hand holding her nose.

Bea had no choice but to drink. It wasn’t the physical compulsion, it was all those eyes watching her, boring into her, forcing her to do it, demanding it, as if everything had led to this point.

The liquid was bitter and rusty, the flavour of tainted blood gone rotten. Bea’s throat burned.

“What is this?” she croaked. She coughing, choking. Some of the stuff spilled down her chin and splashed onto her breasts, staining the pure white rope.

“Don’t worry, it’s all about you now,” Nelly whispered. “The bitter taste of failure. Rica will never love you. You’ll never get the girl, never be anything apart from a second-rate clown in somebody else’s story. A comedy that isn’t even funny.”

Bea’s legs crumpled beneath her. Nelly let her slide slowly to the floor. Then everything went dark.


Bea’s vision was blurred, her limbs cold and numb. Somebody or something was shaking her.

“Bea wake up! Wake up!” It was Rica’s voice.

Bea shook her head, tried to focus. She was back home, lying on the sofa. Rica was shaking her. She pulled herself upright. The room was lit only by the light from Rica’s laptop screen. The blinds were drawn but it was obviously dark outside.

Bea rubbed her face and glanced down. She was wearing a white towelling bathrobe, one of Rica’s. “Rica, what time is it?”

The Halloween costumes were gone. Rica was dressed in one of her baggy old shirts again, dark green plaid. “Two-ish, I guess. You collapsed before we even got to the gate. I had to drag you back in by myself. It wasn’t easy. You’re heavier than you look. Way heavier.”

Bea didn’t bite on the heavy comments. “I collapsed? What do you mean?”

“I guess it was the ropes, too tight around the chest or something. Lucky, I was right there when you keeled over. Could have been a bad fall.”

“I was at a party.”

Rica laughed abruptly. “You must have been dreaming. I cut the ropes off right away. Your breathing seemed fine so… You’ve been asleep on the sofa since. Figured I’d let you sleep, while I got some peace and quiet. But just now you started to make a funny choking noise, so I woke you up.”


“If you hadn’t woken up just then I’d have called an ambulance. That noise was freaking me out. Like you were choking.”

Bea looked at the half-finished cup of tea next to Rica’s chair, milk scum on the surface, cold and abandoned. “I guess you’re right. I must have been dreaming. A really strange dream. A party. It was really weird.”

Rica reached down, folded her laptop closed. The room plunged into almost complete darkness. There was a fumbling sound and the Ikea standard lamp clicked on. “Tell me about your cheese dream tomorrow, but now, as you’re awake and fine, I’m off to bed. See you tomorrow Bea.”

Bea slumped back on the sofa. Had she really dreamed the whole thing? What a lame cliché that would be. Almost as bad as time-travel reset… Not quite. At least you could sometimes hang on to dreams, even if you realised that was all they were, all they’d ever be.

Though some dreams were probably better got rid of.


Upstairs, Rica plugged her laptop in to charge then walked over to the bed. She picked up the rubber outfit she’d been supposed to wear, the afro wig, gasmask, and the platform boots and tidied them away into the work-clothes closet. Really, the suit needed washing, but it was late and she wasn’t in the mood. She walked back to the bed and pulled out an empty cardboard box from underneath. One by one she picked up the dress, the purse, the metallic wig and white mask and dropped them into it, like rocks into a dry well. Carefully, as if handling something that might explode if shaken, she picked up the glittering Louboutin shoes, wrapped them in tissue and put them back in their own special box. Perhaps she’d be able to get the store to exchange them for something more useful… If not, there was always online.

She went over to the dressing table to dispose of the black contacts and out of nowhere, a sharp cramp stabbed her in the gut. Something horrible was churning in her stomach. She dashed for the bathroom. She didn’t even have time to crouch down before she threw up into the toilet. Thick black bile came spewing up, spraying through her nose and her mouth, the vile stuff sticking to the sides of the toilet bowl like oil, it streaked down slowly leaving a deep red stain. She fell to her knees, clinging to the cold porcelain rim for support.

It burned like Hell. The bitter taste of failure, the congealed taste of a thousand aborted worlds.




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