Day One Hundred and Ninety-six: The Ladies of Halloween
For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.
Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.
Wish me luck!
I think I’ll do one more character sketch today, and move on to something more complex for tomorrow, when I don’t have to work and I can spend more time pulling information together. Perhaps one of my cities or Evil Corporations….
In any case, the randomizer today gave me Marisse Leroux from day 162: A Day Out. Of course, if I talk about her, I also have to talk about her sister, Lola Whittier. So let’s do a two-fer today!
As a bit of background information, this story was written for a Worth1000.com contest, the theme of which was “Halloween.” I thought about the topic for a while, and decided that I would invert the way Halloween is usually done. Instead of people pretending to be monsters for a day, how about monsters that pretended to be people? A fine start… So let’s see what the story tells us about Marisse and Lola:
- At the beginning of the story, they appear to be two beautiful women. Lola has pale skin, long auburn hair and green eyes. Marisse has deep brown skin and “hair that was nearly blue-black.” Lola is wearing a blue suit with matching nails. Marisse is wearing a Little Black Dress ™.
- They live outside Sylvania City, about a half an hour by bus. The walk to the bus stop is a long one, so it’s safe to say they live in a non-urban environment.
- It is implied that they don’t get out much. They “pointed out the things that had changed since the year before – a new strip mall, a restaurant that had gone under, a house that had gone somewhat overboard on the holiday decorations.”
- Lola is the more conservative/shy of the two, whereas Marisse is more outgoing and risque.
- Their Halloween excursions are a regular event for them.
- Lola and Marisse have known each other “for ages.”
- Lola thinks that Marisse “could be a little much sometimes.” She wants to be able to talk to someone else once in a while.
- Dogs don’t like Lola very much.
- Sunset is a key time for them on this day. As we learn at the end of the story, they remain human until the sun sets, at which point they revert back to their true monstrous forms.
- Upon the setting of the sun, Marisse “shrank and withered, becoming a skeletal version of herself. Her eyes burst into flame and sat in her dessicated face like two hot coals. Her hair whipped up around her head in an unseen wind and waved about, dry and rasping. Her mouth opened, a black and toothless maw, and a howl…filled the air.”
- Upon the setting of the sun, “Lola’s back arched and lurched, and two great wings burst forth. They were long and spindly, and webbed with tattered skin that was nearly thin enough to see through. Her skin turned the dull gray of unpolished granite and cracked at the joints. A dull red glow came through the cracks, like molten stone, and when she moved there was a grating and crumbling sound. She stood on thin, insectile legs…”
- Lola is at least a thousand years old.
Okay, so that’s a lot to go on, but it still leaves a lot of really fundamental questions unanswered. Who the hell they are being chief among them. Let’s take a look at the questions this story raises, in the order they occur to me:
- Where are they from originally?
- How did they come to know each other?
- Who were they before they became monsters?
- Why do they become human on Halloween?
- Why does their transformation only work until sunset?
- What kind of monsters are they?
- Why do they seem to be so unfazed by their condition?
- What do they do for the rest of the year?
- Why do they live near Sylvania City?
Well, hell. I have a feeling that I’m going to have to do a whole lot more world-building just in the process of answering all those. The upside is that it will give me more to work with in other stories set in this world. If monsters like Lola and Marisse can exist, then so can a lot of other things. Let’s see if I can brainstorm some answers with whatever the Elves of my Unconscious decide to give me.
Where are they from originally? I like to think that Lola and Marisse were never human to begin with, actually, which pretty much crosses question #3 off the list. But it then shoots us right to #6, so why not go there first?
What kind of monsters are they? Other stories set in Earth Prime either state or imply the existence of a dark universe that abuts the one these stories take place in. Stories such as Bequeathal, Sleeper, and Business suggest that there are people whose sole job is to make sure the Horrible Things from that universe never break through – and to fight them to the death if they do. They are the Custodes Omnium, the “Protectors of All,” and their job has been to keep those Things out of their universe.
They do not always succeed. In The Quarry, two boys discover one of these dark gods near their town, and the crew of the popular TV show StoryBreakers actually come close to freeing one of them entirely – before sacrificing themselves to send it back to the Hell that spawned it.
So we have a place for Lola and Marisse – or whatever their names are – to come from. They’re not Elder Gods or anything like that, though. In the Hell Dimension, they would probably be lower-tier nightmares. Relatively powerless beings who are only really good at physically attacking or dominating humans, rather than unmaking their reality piece by piece. So that answers #1 as well.
How did they come to know each other? Answering this question will require me to come up with a social structure and cultural milieu for the Hell Dimension, which is going to take more than just this evening to work out. I like to think that the closest analog to how they met each other would be that they were doing volunteer work together. If the Hell Dimension had volunteer work, which it doesn’t, but there’s no better comparison. They met each other doing an activity that they enjoyed – making hats out of strangled kittens or something  – and clicked as friends pretty quickly. Or whatever it means to be “friends” in the Hell Dimension.
So there we are – a pair of monstrous girlfriends in a horrifyingly incomprehensible Hell Dimension that abuts Earth Prime. Now that that’s cleared up…
Why do they become human on Halloween? That requires the investigation of another important question: How did they get to Earth Prime? My guess is that they were summoned. I mean let’s face it – if there’s a whole universe of unspeakable horrors just a shadow’s depth away from our own, you know some jackass is going to try and use it for his own nefarious purposes. So, a thousand years ago or so, some young, wanna-be sorcerer summons these two nightmares from beyond the veil. I reckon he thought he was going to get a god or something, but he was barely strong enough to keep Lola and Marisse in line, so it turned out he was lucky.
What’s more, he couldn’t send them back. Either he didn’t know how or it just wasn’t within his power, but he had called them and now he had to keep them. Unfortunately for Lola and Marisse, their summoning included a condition that they could not harm him (which was clever on his part) as well as a condition that they obey him. Also clever. But the two monsters, in the fashion of anyone who’s ever been conscripted to do a job they didn’t really want to do, followed the letter of the law very closely while abandoning its spirit.
For example, the sorcerer never explicitly commanded them not to murder his entire family.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t get rid of them and they couldn’t get rid of him. They were stuck together until his death half a century later, and by that time they had developed a kind of grudging respect for each other. What’s more, Lola and Marisse had become fascinated with the human world and how it worked. It was so very different from the one they had come from, and it seemed much more interesting. Plus, the kittens almost never tried to kill you.
Before he died, the sorcerer granted them a boon – one day a year that they could be human. Again, whether the single day limitation was because of his lack of ability or knowledge is unknown. Maybe he was still irked about that whole “murdering his entire family” thing. But the spell took effect on the day he died, which would eventually be known as October 31 – Halloween. Every year after that, they could be human for a day, reverting to their own monstrous forms at sunset.
Why do they seem to be so unfazed by their condition? It took a while. They had good years and bad years, years where they were hunted by the local citizenry and years where they partied until they could barely get home again. Sometimes they railed against the unfairness of only having one day, but in time they came to accept that it was just the way it was going to be. A thousand years is a long enough time to get used to pretty much anything, and by now they look forward to their yearly transformation.
As the narration implies at the end of the story, though, they don’t usually get involved with individual humans. This is often the case with immortals, who lose track of people after a generation or two. The only constant in their lives is each other, and for good or ill they’re stuck together. At least until they meet another immortal being, which could be a really interesting wrench in the gears.
NOTE TO SELF: Have them meet another immortal. See what happens to their friendship.
Of the last two questions, the easier one to answer is #9: Why do they live near Sylvania City? They certainly weren’t summoned there, as Sylvania wasn’t founded until just before the American Civil War. Basically, these ladies – or “ladies” – have done a lot of traveling in their years. Sylvania is just where they happen to be right now. They live on the outskirts of the city because, well, monsters, but the location seems to agree with them.
So, What do they do for the rest of the year? That… is an excellent question. What do monsters do in their free time? I know they like Earth Prime, and they’re pretty much over their “kill everyone” phase of a thousand years ago. If you live in a place long enough, it rubs off on you. Earth bends towards life – living things are everywhere, life emerged early in the planet’s history, and it’s famously hard to kill. The Hell Dimension is all about death. Moving from there to Earth Prime, Lola and Marisse have come to appreciate life in its many and varied forms.
I like to think that Lola is a nature photographer and Marisse watches a lot of daytime TV, but that assumes their monstrous forms will allow them to do those things. They live in a world that they have come to love, but that world would hate and fear them if it knew they existed. That makes their Halloween excursions all the more important to them – it really is the one day a year that they can go out among the world without hiding or worrying about being attacked by people who don’t know any better. Their lives the rest of the year are probably pretty lonely.
Plot Hole: Katherine, a commenter on the story, pointed out that if they were only human once a year, where did they get their dresses and nail polish? An excellent question, and in the revision that I did to actually submit to Worth1000, I basically had their clothes and such become part of their transformed bodies. That’s the fun with fantasy – you can make up any old thing to paper over those pesky plot holes!
Ideas for future stories: As above, introduce another immortal to them and see what happens. How would they react to having a third person in their relationship, and what would be the ultimate outcome? I reckon it would be like any close friendship when a new person is introduced: the balance is upset one way or another, and Lola and Marisse would have to make adjustments to factor the third person in. I think their friendship is solid enough to survive it, but the novelty of having someone new that they can actually spend time with will probably lead to a lot of hasty decisions on both their parts.
Also, they should have a chance to return to the Hell Dimension at some point. Either someone offers to send them back, or someone from home comes to get them. Either way, they should face that choice and have to pick their allegiance. I’m pretty sure we all know which they’d choose – but do they?
They could be outed as monsters, see what happens there. How can they convince the world – and the Custodes Omnium – that they’re good monsters, really? And what would happen if, in the end, they were both outed and accepted for who they are? Maybe they save kids from a burning building or something, I don’t know… It would be interesting to see how they deal with the freedom to be who they are.
On a meta-level, monsters in fiction are an excellent way of looking at how humans deal with each other. They are racism and discrimination and fear made flesh, and offer instruction on how we are to handle our relationships with other humans who are different from ourselves. By using a monster, we can examine our reactions to The Other in an enhanced light, and perhaps figure out the ways in which we treat our fellow human beings as monsters. By starting with monsters, perhaps we can learn to treat ourselves and others better.
A lofty purpose for Lola and Marisse, but I think they would be good characters to use for that purpose.
 If they had kittens in the Hell Dimension, which they don’t. And even if they did, they would be Hell Kittens and probably very hard to strangle.