The Curse Of The Moongician (And Other Tales To Tell 'Round Midnight) presents...
The Slightly Haunted Mansion Party
(Across The Street From The Significantly More Haunted Mansion Party)
The invitations were sent out by The Mysterious Host three years before the date of the party. He wanted to ensure everyone would attend, for this was no ordinary party. It was a dinner party, and those (he felt) were more important than ordinary parties.
One week after the invitations were sent out, The Mysterious Host received his first RSVP. “No way,” it said. The Mysterious Host infuriated himself (meaning that he was infuriated).
“No?!?” he shouted to the ceiling. “Fuck you…” he turned the RSVP over. “Fuck you, Rilph Mangoomery! You will be attending this dinner party!”
The Mysterious Host walked over to the fireplace that was somehow in the center of the room. A strange beaked sculpture sat atop the mantle. The beak had eyes and The Mysterious Host stared at them for a good four minutes, deep in concentration and infuriation. Very suddenly, a tuxedoed man with no beak to speak of entered the great hall.
“What is it, Toddy?” whispered The Mysterious Host.
Toddy (the butler) lowered his head and spoke softly, “The kindly basement ghosts told me the first RSVP has arrived.”
“That it has, Toddy. That it has.”
“It is no matter, Toddy,” answered The Mysterious Host. “Everyone will attend. The Beaked Sculpture will make sure of that.”
“Of course,” said Toddy oh so humbly. “Will the Master need anything else before bed?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary, Toddy.”
“So just the hug, then?”
“Yes, Toddy. Just the hug.”
Toddy (the butler) hobbled over to The Mysterious Host and gave him a great big hug. He whistled horribly as he walked out of the room, leaving The Mysterious Host alone.
“Make sure the kindly basement ghosts don’t stay up too late,” said The Mysterious Host. “They have school tomorrow.”
“Of course, sir,” Toddy whispered as he closed the door behind him.
Three years later, after four more negative RSVP’s and four more assurances from the Beaked Sculpture that everyone would attend, it was time for the dinner party. The mansion was alive with activity even though most everyone in the mansion was very much dead. The preparations were 3 years in the making and The Mysterious Host was elated with the results, though he was currently hiding in the dungeon’s closet until the designated time. The food was delicious, the place was spotless, and the terror was being kept to a minimum.
“BING-BONG-BOO!” shrieked the doorbell, and Toddy (the butler) hobbled to the gate. He opened the door, glanced out, and turned back around.
“The Duke and Duchess of Jersey!” Toddy announced, as a marvelously-wigged couple entered the mansion. They glanced around the great hall in awe. They would have gawked, but neither of them could open their jaws ever since a few days after they RSVP’d that they would not be attending the party.
“And yet here you are,” thought the nearby Beaked Sculpture. Both the Duke and Duchess avoided its gaze but could still feel its eyes penetrating their decadence.
“BING-BONG-BOO!” shrieked the doorbell.
“General Bonard Ancients!” announced Toddy, as a gruff old man in a tan uniform entered. His medals were so plentiful that many of them had to stay home, but his favorites were still adorning his uniform. “Most Burdens Carried.” “Best R & B Album of 2006.” “Bravest Handshake.” The General’s gun could also be seen holstered on his right side.
“You’re going to have to do better than that,” thought the Beaked Sculpture.
Bonard coughed into his hand, which (after the cough) had a spot of blood on it. Yes, General Ancients had been coughing up blood ever since several days after he RSVP’d that he could not attend the party.
“BING-BONG-BOO!” shrieked the doorbell.
Toddy opened the front gate once more and announced, “Please welcome Lady Hello I’m Beth!”
Lady Hello I’m Beth entered quaintly and quietly. She walked with grace and frailty, and her pale white skin was reminiscent of any porcelain doll you might want to consider at the moment. She glanced at General Ancients’ blood-splattered palm and felt a pang of envy.
“Yes,” thought the Beaked Sculpture. “You miss your blood, don’t you?”
Lady Hello I’m Beth did, in fact, miss her blood greatly, but she was definitely not going to answer the Beaked Sculpture. This was partly because the Beaked Sculpture was thinking and not speaking, but more importantly she was terrified of it.
“BING-BONG-BOO!” shrieked the doorbell.
“My goodness, what a startling doorbell,” said a startled Lady Hello I’m Beth.
“Don’t worry, madam,” consoled General Ancients. “There is nothing to be too worried about. The truly terrifying mansion is across the street.”
The Duke and Duchess of Jersey gave their muffled agreement.
The final two guests arrived at the same time. Dr. Marney Eloquence was one of them. He was a basketball-maker turned avalanche expert. The other was Rilph Mangoomery, the famous Congressman and dancer. Each had seven black eyes. Mangoomery also sported a nasty limp. In the interest of keeping things moving, let’s just say the Beaked Sculpture taunted both of them and then it was time for dinner.
The mansion’s overly polite staff served dinner promptly and accurately. They were clearly specters of some kind, but they were extremely helpful and mostly kept to themselves. Mostly.
Dinner was a kind of meat and a kind of vegetable and that was that. The Mysterious Host’s empty chair at the head of the table was so noticeable, his absence was practically all they discussed. One thing they for sure didn’t want to discuss was the Beaked Sculpture that was perched on the back of The Mysterious Host’s empty chair.
“Does anyone even know who owns this mansion?” asked the General.
“Reason and logic would dictate whoever it is should be sitting in that chair,” deduced Dr. Eloquence. “You see, when I was in the Andes studying avalanches’ effect on marmalade, I found that—”
“Listen, Egghead,” interrupted the General. “Your scientific babble will do you no good here. You must know how haunted this mansion is.”
“Only slightly, it would seem,” observed the Doctor. “You see, when I was in my lab, conducting experiments to determine whether or not avalanches could survive a nicotine overdose, I found that-“
“AGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” came a spine-shattering scream from somewhere outside the mansion.
“Oh, good heavens!” exclaimed Lady Hello I’m Beth.
“You still needn’t worry, madam,” General Ancients calmly told her. “That definitely came from across the street. I can only imagine what those guests are going through.”
“Certainly not such a pleasant meal as this,” she mused.
“Certainly not,” Bonard gruffly agreed.
“You know,” Dr. Eloquence began. “This meal actually reminds me of back when I made basketballs and accidentally discovered Avalanchium. It was a-"
“This is ridiculous!” shouted a so-far silent Rilph Mangoomery. “What are we doing here?”
He stood up and began to limp back and forth. “We are all here against our will, we are all here at the mercy of that… that thing,” he said and pointed to the Beaked Sculpture. “And the worst part is, we don’t even know why we’re here. Tell me, doctor, can your science explain any of that?”
“Funny you should mention science, Congressman,” the doctor began. “When I was getting my masters at The Fancy School For Universities, I found that a pinch of salt and just a dash of imagination can conjure up quite the-“
The room suddenly fell silent. Not because anyone was interested in what Marney had to say, but because the Beaked Sculpture began to move. So far, it would only randomly appear somewhere and remain still. No one had seen the Beaked Sculpture since… well, since it had locked the Duke and Duchess of Jersey’s mouths shut, done something horrible to General Bonard Ancients’ lungs, drained Lady Hello I’m Beth’s blood, given Dr. Eloquence seven black eyes, and given Congressman Mangoomery seven black eyes and a gimpy leg.
“It’s…” whispered Lady Hello I’m Beth. “It’s moving…”
“Quiet, madam!” the General advised. “We do not yet know its true intentions.”
The Duke and Duchess added their muffled agreement.
“What’s the matter, Duke?” the Beaked Sculpture thought. “Beaked Sculpture got your tongue?”
The guests stared at the Beaked Sculpture as it spread its wheels and flew out the door. There was more silence.
“It has wheels?” Lady Hello I’m Beth asked meekly.
“TODDY!” shouted the General, and Toddy appeared rather quickly.
“Yes, General Ancients?” asked Toddy politely.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT THING?!?”
“Oh…” Toddy looked down at the floor and avoided eye contact. “Master does not want me to discuss the Beaked Sculpture, sir.”
“And your master is…?”
“Oh…” Toddy looked down at a different area of floor and continued to avoid eye contact. “Master does not want me to discuss who master is, sir.”
“Then what fucking GOOD ARE YOU?” barked the General, and he raised his hand for slappin’. Toddy cowered as Congressman Mangoomery walked over to the General.
“This is not how we should go about this, General,” Rilph said calmly. “We may be confused and a bit frightened by this slightly haunted mansion, but we are all civilized people who just had a wonderful meal and we are still guests in this mystery person’s slightly haunted home.”
The General lowered his slappin’ hand and sat back down. “I’m sorry, Toddy,” he said. “You may go about your business.”
Toddy was gone in a flash and the guests were left to pick at their one kind of meat and one kind of vegetable.
“Perhaps it is our estranged father wishing to bring us all back together so we can forgive each other in time for the holidays,” suggested Lady Hello I’m Beth.
“We are not siblings, M’lady,” the General pointed out.
“Just an idea,” Lady Hello I’m Beth mumbled.
“No need to be embarrassed, good woman,” Dr. Eloquence said. “Sometimes the most unlikely answer is the correct one. Why, when I was using Avalanche Theory to divorce my whore wife of fifteen years, I discovered that a particular strain of avalanche bacteria, when left out in the sun for several days, can act as a very effective-“
“AAGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!” came another scream from across the street.
“My…” began Congressman Mangoomery. “Despite the unknown circumstances of our coming together, I am quite glad we are not attending the party across the street.”
“Indeed,” the General concurred. “All we have to deal with are these…” He pointed to the several kindly basement ghosts in the corner. They had been doing a fancy jig for the guests’ enjoyment, as well as their own. “I suppose the only truly terrifying part of this mansion is that cursed thing with the beak.”
“BING-BONG-BOO!” shrieked the doorbell.
The guests all glanced at each other. All of the guests had already arrived. They were all the guests. Who could possibly be at the door?
“Well, if no one else is curious…” said Congressman Mangoomery as he stood up. “I am going to see who could possibly be at the door.”
“Of course I’m curious, Mr. Mangoomery,” replied Dr. Eloquence. “I am a man of science, after all. In fact, during my younger years I did several experiments on the effects dry pussy has on cow hearts which I think you would find fascinating. You see, on Tuesdays, and ONLY on Tuesdays, an avalanche will—”
The Mysterious Host had waited long enough. The dungeon’s closet was starting to feel quite cramped, and it was almost time for the big reveal. As if it were all planned ahead, which it was, there was a knock at the closet door. The Mysterious Host opened it and saw the Beaked Sculpture waiting for him.
“So it is time…” said The Mysterious Host.
“It is time,” thought the Beaked Sculpture.
“Well?!” asked The Mysterious Host.
“Yes,” spoke the Beaked Sculpture. “It is time.”
“Very good. Tell the doorbell to shriek.”
The Beaked Sculpture bowed, spread its wheels, and flew off. The Mysterious Host clasped his hands together.
“What a great party,” he thought.
Right about now...
“BING-BONG-BOO!” shrieked the doorbell once more.
The guests had gathered together in the main hall. Toddy finally arrived and headed toward the front gate as the kindly ghosts passed out treats and complimented everyone.
“Are we to finally meet our mystery host?” asked literally everyone at the same time. Except of course for the Duke and Duchess of Jersey, who blinked "Are we to finally meet our mystery host?"
“Perhaps,” said Toddy.
“PERHAPS?!?” shouted an irate General Ancients.
“I mean ‘yes,’” Toddy corrected himself. “But he is not at the door.”
“Surprise!” yelled The Mysterious Host from behind everyone. He was cloaked from head to toe and his face was shrouded in darkness. Perhaps one day he will be described at length, but it is not this day.
“YOU!” shouted Congressman Mangoomery.
“Yes,” replied The Mysterious Host, then he paused. “Wait, do you know me? Can you see my face?”
“No,” Mangoomery said quietly. “I just… you know. Just felt right.”
“Well, I appreciate you all attending my party. I do hope you enjoyed yourselves.”
“To be quite honest,” the General began. “This was one of the better parties I’ve been to. My only complaint would be the means by which you forced us to attend.” He coughed into his hand for the second time that evening. There was much blood.
“Ah, yes, I do very much apologize for my methods,” The Mysterious Host gestured to his Beaked Sculpture. “Which reminds me… Beaky?”
The Beaked Sculpture stood on up on all sixes. A low hum was heard until it became a very loud low hum. A flash of bright light emanated from the thing and in less than a second the light and the Beaked Sculpture were gone.
“I do declare!” exclaimed The Duchess of Jersey.
“I also do very much declare!” exclaimed The Duke of Jersey.
Yes, everyone seemed quite fine. The Duke and Duchess could speak, the fourteen black eyes had disappeared, the General was breathing healthily, and the color and blood seemed to have returned to Lady Hello I’m Beth. Congressman Rilph Mangoomery, thrilled that his leg was now in full working condition, did a few fruity little dance steps for posterity.
“Everyone feel better?” asked The Mysterious Host.
“What ho!” cried Dr. Eloquence. “I dare say, I haven’t felt this good in ages. Why, this reminds me of my days backpacking across the periodic table. We had just finished cramming some worms in our centrifuge when—”
“Again,” The Mysterious Host interrupted. “I apologize for any inconvenience your ailments may have caused over the last three years. But like I said, I needed to assure you would attend tonight.”
“But why?” demanded the General.
“BING-BONG-BOO!” shrieked the doorbell one more time.
“Ah, yes. It’s time for the ‘big reveal,’ as it were.”
The Mysterious Host nodded to Toddy, who opened the front gate to reveal blue skies and the freshest of grasses.
“Do you see?” asked The Mysterious Host.
“Uh… what?” asked a confused Rilph Mangoomery.
“We have been on Earth all along,” explained The Mysterious Host.
“I’m pretty sure we all assumed that from the very beginning.”