Early Risers - Pt IV: Steven


agzaiM werdnA.


Usually, Steven didn't like October. His whole Halloween spirit was soured by countless childhood toilet paperings, eggings, and socks filled with flour. One Halloween, he had dressed up as Mr. Spock, and came home with a few bruises, and his fake ears in his pants.

Of course, this was before he was dead. Now was a little different.

Who are we going to be this Halloween?

Stephen wondered if the less-pleasant Stephen would ever get tired of that joke. Eight years in a row, he'd heard that.

"I don't know. We've been a vampire, werewolf"


"Yeah, a ghost. Thanks for reminding me."

No problem.

"We've been a zombie, a 'super-hero,' and I think once we were a fairy. Why don't we do what we usually do and just jump into some kids wearing costumes? Remember, how we used to ride the scrawniest, dorkiest kid we could find, and have him kick the crap out of hooligans. You always seemed to really enjoy the whole kicking the crap out of people part."

Yeah, those were good days. Although violence is really entertaining, it just doesn't seem challenging enough. We are a pretty good Puppeteer, you know.

Stephen took a moment to reflect on this. These little concessions were few and far between. He was in fact a pretty damn good Puppeteer, better than most, and he'd only been dead less than a decade. Hell, he'd probably be back on the other side kicking some ass in his own body had his parents not decided to have it cremated.

Steven had been seeing a Pardoner recently who was a counselor on the other side. She'd been telling him to watch out for these things, these little changes in his shadow's behavior. Mr. Shadow, it seemed, had something in mind.

He'd been letting his Shadow loose every once in a while. His counselor had told him that if it wanted him to follow it's own passions so bad, he shouldn't do it for him. That way, sure, it did some terrible things some times, but at least it was using up it's own energies, so at important times it wouldn't just pop up.

Yeah, I know you know that I'm scheming something. I just figured I'd go through the motions. For tradition's sake.

"So, what is it you want to dress up as this year?"

A mummy.

Christ, he knew how to press Steven's buttons, didn't he? You see, Steven had a couple of dark little secrets. For one, he was partly responsible for the deaths of his second to last fetter and her fiancé.

They'd had a nice little picnic, but the car ride wasn't going to smoothly. He was in the back seat listening to them argue. It seemed like such an easy problem to fix, just hop into Thomas, make him apologize, and then hop right back out. He just wanted Jessica to be happy

But then, right before he said anything, Jessica screamed, "Deer!" and Steven panicked. He had, after all, only been driving for two years at the time of his death. At that moment, it seemed like a really good decision to immediately hop out, and let Thomas take the wheel.

We all know how that turned out, don't we. You ended up in the trees. A couple of seconds later, the best of my three harrowings.

Steven was trying very hard not to let this get to him. "How do we even know he's a mummy? It's not like he fits the classic 'horror movie' stereotype, like the other boojums."

There was that weird character that just seemed to be waiting for you there, complete with linens. After that harrowing

"It's always 'that harrowing' with you, isn't it?"

Yeah, what can I say, I'm proud of my work. Anyway, like I was saying, you followed him, watched the spoooooky cult member wrap him up, and we watched him get back up a day later. No telltale signs of death, like a Risen. He's a mummy, dude, face it.

"Okay, fine he's a mummy."

Man, if you're worried I'm going to blow your other little secret

Ah yes, the other secret. That he knew where both Jessica and Thomas were, and wasn't telling either of them. He still wasn't sure if they should meet or not. He was pretty sure Jessie's shadow would have a field day if they did, and he was still trying to figure out if Thomas's little quest to find Jessica was sincere or not. He seemed to take a lot of detours.

Why do you keep rationalizing this? You want her for yourself, just admit it. Back to what I was saying, I promise not to blow your cover. It's entertaining to watch you talk to Jessica and not mention the fact that you convinced her to go back and look for his body, knowing all along where it was, and-

"What it was doing."

Am I really that predictable?

"Fortunately, you are."

I'll have to work on that. Perhaps our counselor can give me some tips. Anyway, if I'm that predictable, then why not let me do this? You know I won't spoil the fun, and whenever you let me out, it's not that hard for you retake control. Come on, man!



The drive over to Thomas' wasn't that bad. Steven had gotten it inside his head a few months back he really did need to learn to drive better, so he'd skinridden a taxi driver for the trip.

Walking up to the apartment, he smelt something funny. Like burning plastic.

All of a sudden, a form went streaking past him. He thought to himself, "If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that was Agnes, the Uh-oh."

He was tempted to follow after the figure that had swooped down the stairs, but he had a feeling, if that was Agnes, his services were needed in room 404 immediately.

The scene, when he arrived, wasn't very pretty. A hand, resting amongst the leaves of a potted plant, scorch marks on every conceivable surface, and he wasn't entirely sure what the carpet was soaked in. It smelled flammable.

One thing he was pretty sure about was the half charred face on the kitchen counter was Thomas's.

Aw, hell. There goes my fun. At least you won't have to worry about that anymore.

All of a sudden, there was a tap on his shoulder, and a familiar voice asked, "Steven?"

Never mind.

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