“Parlor Tricks” | Novella | Written by McConnaughay | 2 - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“Parlor Tricks” | Novella | Written by McConnaughay | 2


Camden kept reins at the helm. “I can tell all of you really like your dry ice!” Camden exclaimed, beholding the décor with cynicism.

They had since turned the corner on the hallway, and were now in a room decorated like a medieval dungeon. Guillotines were posted around the area, with faux headless humans positioned in them. There was a setup to their right that assembled the area beneath a gallows, with nooses hanging down from a couple of the opened fall away floors overhead.

Cut it out,” Jamie said softly, acknowledging Camden, offering a smile meant to entail a playful tone, “You have to be willing to embrace the theatrics every now and again. Makes it more, …,” That was about as far as Jamie would get before a man in a mask appeared in front of her, letting out a freakish wail.

Jamie screamed and then, nearly fell, but Abigail caught her before that could happen. Camden, on the other hand, once more, seemed unsold by the effort, playing it off in dramatic fashion. Abigail rolled her eyes at him, but chose not to say anything aloud. As Camden sighed and carried forward, it was clear he was no longer the same fun loving person she remembered in high school.

They sidestepped around the slasher villain, whose outfit resembled a hodgepodge of other characters from the movies, donning a hockey mask and a puke-green jumpsuit. As they did, a loud cranking noise went off, and, in even louder fashion, was a row of bodies slamming down from their thick-roped nooses. The scare was enough to make Abbey jump, and she felt Todd’s shoulder flinch against hers.

Fuck, that was a cool gag,” Huey said, walking over to one of the bodies by the gallows. “You could even hear their necks breaking, I think.”

Camden shrugged, “I mean, a bag of sand and sound effects.” He walked over to the corpse and tapped against its leg. When he did, however, the corpse reacted, shaking and convulsing like a man after sticking a fork into a light socket.

This time, Camden flinched as well, drawing laughter from Abigail and Jamie alike, which summoned his indignant glare in return. Unfortunately for him, Abigail did not flinch, maintaining a satisfied smirk.

Their eyes went toward the exit way, a large while double-doorway. They ventured further, still shaken by the earlier jolt. It was shortly after that they fell victim to the next gag; the bodies dropped from the ground and each slowly resurrected to their hands and knees, cocking their heads upward and staring at them with bright red eyes. Like that, they began to speed toward them, an act that brought a reaction out of all of them, each speed-walking toward the exit way.

When they opened the doors, however, a zombie dove its head out and screamed, flailing and wailing, kept captive on the other side by the chains that shackled the door shut.

Fuck,” Abigail said, and she really meant it, with all her might.

Upon inspection, she shortly realized the zombie that stuck its head out from the door was mechanical and not a real person. Guess they could not chance someone overreacting, booting the door shut and decapitating one of the employees. Good scare though.

They turned around fast, only to see an angry mob of zombie-like creatures running toward them. With nowhere to go, they were left to remain still and prepare for the worst. That was when the creatures were brought to a halt by the nooses wrapped around their necks, acting as makeshift leashes for them. The creatures growled and snarled, barking and slobbering like madmen with rabies. Abigail took in a breath and let it out, trying to regain her composure.


A small light came on from one corner of the room, a white light-bulb that highlighted the small door beneath it. That would be the actual exit-way, it seemed. Abigail was the first to the doorway, opening it up as they made their leave. Her heart was still beating fast.

The next room was very different from the first, and yet, very similar to an old fashioned science fiction film.

The air remained cold, but she could now smell the scent of bleach and other cleaning supplies. There were tables with row after row of beakers and jars of fluorescent green liquids. Some jars, in-particular, looked like they held fetuses and malformed heads. They were fluorescent as well, which made it all the more easy to single out their individual details in the dimmed room.

Five bucks if you drink the baby juice,” Huey challenged, looking over at Todd as if it were a real proposition.

That’s a sentence I never want to hear again,” Jamie interjected, walking over behind one of the empty green jars, marveling at it.

From where Abigail stood, with Jamie behind the jar, she carried a green aura that appeared stretched and distorted by the glass.

What about you, Camden? I remember back when, you’d eat anything!”

A lot has changed since then,” Camden replied, in a deadpan way that made it seem like the comment might have legitimately offended him.

Oh, come on! Now, you are all health nut, I bet you this looks a lot like one of your fruity supplement drinks!”

It was unclear whether Huey meant ‘fruity,’ as in the content within the supplement drink, or fruity in-reference to the individual who drank them. Abigail hoped it was the former. Either way, Camden took the comment as derogatory, scoffing at the remarking and walking away from them.

They continued forward, small plaques were stamped underneath certain jars, offering a brief summary of who each individual had been, and what, eventually, went wrong with their experiment. The mad doctor whose name was signed on each of them? Dr. Rindan.

Dr. Rindan was a name often referenced in the Maharris history books, a relic of yesteryear, whose atrocities had been the stuff of nightmares, including experiments on patients that, more often than not, proved fatal. His infamy had proven ideal fodder for horror stories, be it fiction or dark biopics.

A wolf’s howl caught their attention, and, shortly after, an unsettling presence happened upon them. The man donned a helm meant to resemble that of a wolf, and dulled green armor, not unlike one of Dr. Rindan’s alleged victims in the history books.

Jamie yelped, an easy get, whereas the rest of them were more interested in what he intended to do. The man with the wolf helmet ran toward them, and, while doing so, tripped over his own feet, knocking into a shelf and shattering nearly a dozen jars; their green ooze spilling out onto the floor in a bright array. The man stayed still for a moment, his helm pointed at the ground as though he was surveying his own destruction. Beneath his breath, Abigail could have sworn she heard him say, “Oh, dammit.”

Camden was unable to contain his laughter, laughing at the fallen man’s misfortune. “Guess you will have to explain to your boss why all his props were broken, huh?”

Are you okay?” Abigail asked, walking over to the man.

As she did, however, the man in his helm looked up at her and growled; staying in-character, even after that. Abigail had to give him credit. She turned away from him, and walked with the rest of the group, while the wounded dog was left to lick its wounds.

They ventured further, until they met a series of doorways, none of them marked, no one door particularly distinguished from the other, simply a section of doors that appeared to lead to different rooms. Or, for all they knew, they were different entryways into the same room.

When they decided on a door, they were met with a black hallway similar to the one they first entered. Abigail was leery, and imagined the same likely applied to the rest of them. Haunted houses had the tendency to set ones’ teeth on-edge, never knowing if someone would jump out and scare you at any moment, but knowing that was absolutely their intent.

The cool air felt more prevalent, and, once more, they heard the loud exhaust fans. In time, as they continued, they found themselves outside the haunted house. They were confused to say the least. The black sky overhead and a view of the cornfield in front of them, they were all left to vocally reflect on the experience with the same sentiment: “That’s it?”

Camden had a field day with the outcome, criticizing and picking apart every aspect of the setup, cast of characters, and anything else he could think of, whereas everyone else was left to carry a disappointed, dejected disenchantment.

Maybe they had chosen the wrong door? Maybe another door would have led to another room, and they needed to reenter the House of Horrors in a series of trial-and-error games?

The door’s locked,” Todd said, having returned to the back entrance where they had left, hoping they could reenter and see for themselves.

No reason to let it ruin our night,” Abigail said, trying to see the upside to things, “Let’s not forget how things have changed since when we were in high school. No sneaking around to buy alcohol, and my father has a projector I am sure he would lend out for the night. We could have ourselves a little movie night together.”

It was a half-baked suggestion she expected to hear swatted down with a great vengeance, and under normal circumstances, perhaps it would have been.

This time, however, everyone’s attention was on the man standing in front of them from afar. His getup was menacing, for certain. He wore a dark blue face mask with eyes and nothing else to it. His body was lumbering, well over six foot, and his clothes were tattered, a thick jacket and mud stained cargo pants. In his left hand, he held what appeared to be a harpoon. Maybe a fisherman’s tool did not carry the same bravado as the classic machete, but Abigail appreciated his dedication, nonetheless.

As they turned the corner around him, his head turned in their direction. They were at the front of Verdicine’s House of Horrors now, and yet, found themselves surprised to see all the vehicles had driven off and cleared out. It made sense, Abigail thought, given how short the attraction turned out. Everyone most likely did a go through and decided a double-dip was not worth the time or effort. That, however, seemed far fetched.

I can’t say that I recognize you, man,” Huey commented, walking over to the man with the dark blue mask. “Are you from some foreign movie, maybe? Maybe something from Olzaric?”

The man said nothing to him. Instead, he remained still, looking at Huey with nothing indicative of what went on in his mind.

I will admit,” Huey said, motioning toward the Verdicine building, “You were scarier than anything we saw in there, am I right?”

Huey laughed at his own joke. Abigail doubted even he thought it was very comical, but the man’s presence felt like he knocked all the wind out of everyone he was around, and all he had to do was stand there to do it.

When the masked man remained quiet, Huey’s expression went to that of confusion, walking past him and starting to return to the group, “Have a good night, man.”

Huey visibly rolled his eyes as he walked back to them, what he could not see was the masked man turning around to face him. Not saying or doing anything, merely looming over him like a black, looming shadow.

Abigail felt the hair on the back of her neck erect, but felt better once Huey was back with them. As the rest of her group started off and away, she held her stare with the man; petrified, it seemed. Eventually, she felt Jamie hook her arm in hers and lead them back towards the way they came.

Forgot how everyone was always such an asshole in North Rites,” Camden commented.

Soon after, Verdicine’s House of Horrors was a relic of yesteryear, a bygone memory of disappointment; one of many they had associated with their hometown.

Their tired feet wandered the small, unusually quiet streets of North Rites. It was not unusual for the streets of North Rites to be quiet, quite the contrary, but, it was peculiar, given the circumstances. No matter how bad of a dud Verdicine’s House of Horrors might have been, Abigail would not have expected for everyone to go flee the scene as fast as they did. She thought about smaller events, like when this halfwit magician came to town and did a show. Even then, they had cars parked, lining up sides of the roadway.

Townspeople liked to participate in events that made them feel important, because, frankly, it did not happen that often. And yet, where had they all gone?

Momentarily, Abigail’s own paranoia had gotten the best of her, rolling out one nonsense conspiracy theory after another, offering ridiculous explanations in place of something more realistic. Could it all have been a ploy? Maybe it was not the real House of Horrors, but a distraction? Maybe the real House of Horrors still awaited them someplace, like a morbid scavenger hunt?

Abigail shook her head, it all seemed like too much trouble to go to for a small village like North Rites. Which, in itself, might have been the answer to their own disappointment. Why would the Verdicine company roll out the red carpet for their small town? Maybe they should have simply been grateful for what they had gotten.

Looked like he was ready to throw down with you,” Todd commented dryly, once the actual discomfort in the air had the chance to go away.

Everyone likes to act like they are some tough guy when they are behind a mask, but none of them would know what to do with themselves in an actual fight,” Camden commented, bypassing the fact Todd’s comment had been directed as Huey.

And I am sure you would rip him a new one, huh? Isn’t that right, Cam-Cam?” Huey jested, offering a playful elbow to Camden’s midsection that he did not seem to appreciate at all.

I did not exactly see you squaring up to him now did I? No, I think you would have given him your lunch money if you asked, matter of fact.”

Huey rolled his eyes in distaste at Camden’s comment and offered a faux grin in an effort to extinguish any fires that had been started. Jamie smiled, walking in front of the group, “Let’s try to do something with the rest of our time! I have not seen any of you guys in years, and, chances are, with the way things go, it will be years til I actually see any of you again.”

Huey’s irritated expression softened, as did Camden’s after some time. Abigail bowed her head in silent support of Jamie’s efforts. Even if they might have been at different places in their lives, the bonds they had established years ago were what brought them together again, not some stupid haunted house.

It then, however, as everyone was rallied, looking to Jamie for guidance, that a harpoon impaled the back of her skull; as it punctured out the front of her face, it sprayed each person with the crimson rain.

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