Halloween World: Strange Bedfellows
HALLOWEEN WORLD: STRANGE BEDFELLOWS
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is my contribution to Spaceman’s story Halloween World, written with his permission. Be sure to read Halloween World first, or this may not make sense. The Halloween of 1997 didn’t go as planned for anyone. Instead of Ethan Rayne’s spell altering a few people in one small town for a night, the entire world was changed, forever.
DISCLAIMER: Given the number of characters and sources, I'll just say that if you recognize it, it's not mine. No profit is earned. This is just for fun.
Both arrows struck at the same instant. The explosive heads reduced their respective target Jack O’Lantern to flaming debris, but the blasts were different. The explosion of the monster at the head of the group on the right scattered flaming bits in all directions, setting four others ablaze as well.
The monster leading the group on the left had the back of its head blown open as flaming debris emerged in a well defined cone that devastated the entire group. All twelve of the plant monsters were set ablaze and soon collapsed.
The green clad archer’s jaw dropped even as he knocked and released another explosive arrow, with barely a glance at his target. “How-?”
“Shaped charge,” his purple and blue clad counterpart grinned. “You’re falling behind.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Oliver Queen, muttered as he finished off the remainder of the group before him. “How long do you suppose this attack is going to last, Hawkeye?” In the weeks since the Halloween Event, the small group of survivors they protected had grown in fits and starts. A single man rescued here, a small group of refugees there; it all added up.
The small Texas town of Winnsboro, where the group had taken refuge, was a long way from being the bustling metropolis Dallas had been, but it was a lot safer. The cities had been largely overrun by the Halloween horrors. Many people in smaller towns had tried to head for the cities, hoping there was safety in numbers, that authorities there had done a better job of keeping order. Many in the cities had tried to flee to more rural areas, hoping that there would be fewer monsters.
Neither strategy had worked terribly well. The death toll had been horrendous.
It was only luck that had kept them alive and allowed them to gather the relative handful that they had. Luck and some of the more frightening members of their group, Oliver reflected.
Barton surveyed the field before them and shrugged. “No idea. Could ask the Top Cat, I suppose.”
Queen scowled over the flip response, but didn’t answer. “Here comes the next wave.”
The archers seemed to have their section of the battlefield in hand. Fortunately, this was a small attack. A few Jack O’Lanterns and other non-sentient creatures sensing prey had moved in on them. They had faced much worse. Leaving additional arrows for the two, he leaped back to the top of the town’s hastily erected wall, still amazed that he could do such things.
Jamie Williams had been a zoo attendant before Halloween. He fed animals, cleaned cages, and did other menial work. He didn’t mind. Jamie loved animals and took pride in seeing to their welfare. Zoo officials noticed this and he was often picked for other tasks, as well. It had become routine for him to assist the zoo’s vet. A good doctor, the man had had a bizarre sense of humor. It was a personality trait that had saved the lives of everyone in the colony.
Doctor Vargas, poor guy
, Jamie thought, remembering the mess that werewolf had made of the man, had decided that some of the animals should have costumes as well. That had worked out better in some cases than others. The gorilla that had the name ‘Grod’ shaved into his fur, had decided that the chaos that the Halloween Event had caused provided the perfect opportunity for an attempt at world domination. Before Halloween, ‘Grod’ had been a sweet tempered creature, for a gorilla anyway, and Jamie felt that he had deserved better than to be stepped on by the old silverback he used to share a habitat with, Kong.
Kong had soon wandered off and not been seen since, which was just as well. No one had quite known what to do with a 30-foot tall gorilla.
“Hey, Jamie!” The scent had given the other away before the voice had.
“Hi, Jake. How are the other fronts holding up?”
“Pretty good. Things were looking bad at the South wall, but the Top Cat showed his face and the monsters all ran away or went poof. The heroes are doing great on the west. Should be over soon.” Jake had been one of the success stories. Jamie wasn’t sure how Doc Vargas had gotten the spider monkey into a red t-shirt and blue ball cap, but the little guy did a lot in the way of keeping morale up. Despite his, sometimes, disgusting habits, no one seemed to be able to stay mad at him for long.
He watched the small primate dash off on whatever errand he was engaged in and then went back to his own work. It was going to be a long night, but not a terribly rough one, it seemed. It meant that, very likely, he wouldn’t have to do any fighting himself.
The costume he had been roped into wearing for work on Halloween had seemed silly at the time. He wasn’t familiar with the character and disliked the costume on sight. The tight leather pants were bad enough but the fur-trimmed boots and collar itched. The vest displaying the face of a lion divided down the front was just wrong.
Jamie had never approved of hunting as a sport, and his opinion hadn’t really changed. The new skills and powers were nice. He liked the enhanced senses and the super-human strength, but he could have really done without the memories of the crazed big game hunter Sergei Kravenoff.
No one had been able to tell him why he retained his pre-Halloween memories when so many others had been overwritten entirely. It didn’t seem fair. His little sister had gone to a party dressed as Daisy Duke. She hadn’t remembered him at all, afterwards. ‘Daisy’ had been apologetic about it, but hadn’t known what to tell him. There was just nothing left of the person she’d been. She had been killed in a demon attack a few days after Halloween when she went out as part of a group foraging for food. Of their parents, he’d found no trace.
Only a few people in the Winnsboro colony altered by the Event retained even a portion of their pre-Halloween memories. Those who had not been altered tended to stare at those around them with a combination of amazement, pity, and envy. Jamie supposed he could understand it. The event had created some real freaks, himself included, and many of them had incredible abilities, but most of the astonishing individuals had problems of their own. The costume personalities remembered family and friends that had never existed, and it was incredibly confusing for everyone involved. Those who had relatives that survived Halloween were forced to turn them away or try to rebuild relationships with people they didn’t know. All too often it led to tears and recriminations.
The Halloween creation some of the colonists referred to as ‘Top Cat’ did his best to ease their minds, but there was only so much that even that one could do. He also seemed determined that they not become dependent on him. Jamie had asked once and only been told that humans had to be free to determine their own fate. After rereading the books, he recognized the pattern and supposed that he could understand the reasoning, but he still didn’t like it.
There had only been two occasions when he had intervened in order to undo a specific instance of Halloween magic. He had reduced a gigantic demon bear to the ordinary cub it had been before Halloween, saving the colony when nothing else seemed able to deter the beast. The other incident had occurred the previous week, when a massive storm cloud, one bearing a cruel face had blown in from the east. The demonic cloud had settled in over the colony and thrown massive hailstones and lightning bolts down at the survivors who found themselves completely unable to affect it.
Leaping to the top of the wall, the creature some were beginning to worship had begun to blow. The wind produced did not move the cloud in the slightest, but the face contorted into an expression of abject terror before fading back into the cloud’s main mass. The black thunderhead had lightened and brightened until a very ordinary white cloud floated harmlessly above them.
Despite this proof that he could reverse the chaos magic, he refused to intervene to change individuals back to their pre-Halloween state. When some of the colony’s residents demanded to know why, he grew stern, saying that even in a world mangled by chaos magic there was an order to things, and it was not to be trifled with. That, strangely enough, had been accepted by almost everyone. The fact that they accepted his word unquestioningly worried Jamie, but even he believed that refusing had been the right thing to do.
Shaking off those thoughts, Jamie pushed through the swinging doors into the town hall and headed for what had been the mayor’s office. Their leader wouldn’t be there, but at least one member of the council would be.
“Hello, Jamie.” The attractive young woman glanced up from the laptop computer she was using. Fara was a strange case. She knew things about the person she had been, but that was not who she was now. Who she had been before, an employee in the archives of the Dallas branch of wolfram & Hart, had been wiped away by the Halloween Event. It was not another personality, but instead an incredible volume of information. The pertinent details of her life were available to her, but they were nothing more than another set of records.
Fara was not even her real name. It was a play on the words ‘Files and Records.’ So far there had only been a few questions that she had not been able to answer. She knew the life histories of each of the costumes and could provide the publicly known details of their previous personalities, as long as she had a few details such as name and address. If the data had been stored anywhere in the world on computer or in paper files, she had it. The woman was a walking, talking database and Jamie found it sad that people seemed to mock her by calling her Fara. She claimed not to mind, saying that she had picked the new name herself, but Jamie wasn’t sure. No one was. There seemed to be very little personality left. It would have been unfair to label her behavior mechanical. She did have a personality; at least, she was beginning to develop one. How close it was to the original, though, was anyone’s guess.
“Do you know where the boss is?”
“There is a convoy approximately 30 miles south-west of here that is under attack. He is seeing to their safety.”
“He went himself?”
Fara shrugged. “The only surprise is that he told anyone. Working in mysterious ways and all that.”
Jamie grunted. Powerful spiritual being or not, that got old after a while.
“Tempus and Cole are in, if you want to talk to them.”
This time, Jamie grimaced. The two formerly fictional demons were often together and usually arguing. They were the only characters from the Charmed TV show in Winnsboro, and they tended to lean on each other to a degree, but that didn’t mean they got along.
Tempus’ power to manipulate time had increased and had been refined by the Halloween Event. He was a force to be feared and had turned back raids on their colony single-handed. The fact that he did so willingly and was not himself out causing chaos was proof to many of how dangerous the world had become and how powerful the Winnsboro colony’s leader was. He had managed to, not only keep several notorious demons and super-villains in line, but had turned them to a common cause, even if that cause was simple survival.
Cole Turner, also known as Balthazar, was less problematic. The last thing he remembered before waking up in this world was proposing to his girlfriend, Phoebe Halliwell. Shocked at the proposal, she had put him off and had not given him an answer before he had awakened on Halloween. He had watched videos of the show and what had happened in later episodes had shocked and sickened him. Cole wanted very much to find her and get another chance.
“I’ll talk to them.” The day-to-day business of running the colony was left to a council that consisted of some of fictions most notorious characters and some of the most powerful heroes of the Marvel and DC universes. Cole and Tempus both served on the council, which many found confusing considering who their leader was.
The boss, however, had personally appointed all five members of the council. No one questioned it. In addition to Cole Turner and Tempus, there was Erik Lehnsherr also known as Magneto, Dr. Strange and J’onn Jonzz, the Martian Manhunter.
Jamie resigned himself to speaking to them since this was a relatively small matter, and he had no new arguments for the larger issues. Fara nodded towards the door, and he knocked.
“Come in,” Cole’s voice answered. The office was Spartan, as was most of the colony, decorating not being a high priority. “Jamie,” he nodded. “The last report shows the fight is winding down.”
“It’s almost over. I just came from the west wall. The archers were finishing off a group of Jack O’Lanterns and the others were pushing back the pack of demons without a problem.”
“None. We were lucky.” Jamie looked from one to the other, meeting their eyes. No new arguments or not, he had to speak. “How long are we going to stay lucky?”
“Not this again,” Tempus sighed.
“Yes, again. There are larger, better defended colonies that could easily absorb our group. We have fewer than 1,000 people.”
“Bigger targets for bigger monsters,” Tempus pointed out. “Our leader tells us that there is a purpose to this course of action. We should trust in that.”
“Odd hearing you say that,” Jamie answered, “considering.”
“I am not the demon I was,” Tempus answered. “None of us are what we once were.” He said this while looking at Cole.
“Given your new outlook,” Jamie pointed out, “should that really still bother you?” Tempus scowled at him. Inconsistency, thy name is Tempus, or something like that.
Dismissing the thought, he turned back to Cole. “We should at least establish better communications with the other colonies; reach out. We might find Phoebe or any number of other people we knew.”
“There is something to that,” he admitted as Tempus ground his teeth at the blatant manipulation. “As you know, we are working on the communication problems. Don’t think, though, that that means we will go against him. We will wait on his word.”
“How many of these attacks are we going to have to endure while we’re waiting? We turned back this one, but it was the third one this week. It’s like being pecked to death. He tells us our destiny is in our hands. Shouldn’t we be making decisions?”
“Got that right.” All three looked to the door. A man with sandy blonde hair wearing dark blue cycling leathers watched them with a grim expression. “Jamie’s right. We can’t stay here. We need to join up with a bigger colony.”
“Blaze,” Tempus nodded. “I take it that the battle is over?”
“The last of them have been driven off or killed,” he confirmed. “Who would’ve thought that a Halloween theme party would ever save lives?”
“Yeah,” Jamie snorted. “A room full of comic book geeks dressing as their favorite super heroes becomes something useful. Who knew?”
“Top Cat back soon?” Blaze, like Jamie, had reservations about blindly following anyone, regardless of who they were. His reticence showed itself in small ways, such as referring to the colony’s leader and protector as Top Cat.
“With him? Who knows?” Jamie moved for the door. “I’m going to go keep an eye out for that convoy he’s bringing in. See ya, Johnny.”
“I see them!” The call from the top of the wall caused Jamie to glance up. The attack was over and the cleanup had been underway for nearly an hour, but no one was relaxing. A large group of unprotected people moving cross-country was like a buffet to some of the things wandering the countryside, but these people, he saw on reaching a good vantage point, weren’t exactly defenseless. He could see several armored vans and busses. There were several flying figures acting as outriders. Some were more human than others. In the lead, was a massive futuristic tank.
needed help?” Jamie asked incredulously.
“Apparently,” Betsy offered, stopping beside him, “all that fancy hardware has no effect on ghosts and spirit creatures.”
“How do-? Oh, right. They got a telepath in their group?”
Elizabeth Braddock nodded. “We’ve been in contact for the last ten minutes. His name’s Wayne Tucker, and he tells quite a story.” She of course, had quite a story of her own. She had always been a quiet sort, reserved, not wanting to follow her brother ‘Captain Britain’ into his line of work, but she had helped where she felt she could, and that had brought her into contact with the students at Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. She had finally joined the X-men after an attack by a group of mutant mercenaries called the Marauders. The group had slaughtered a community of mutants and seeing the harm the misuse of mutant powers could cause, on such a scale, had convinced her that she hadn’t been doing enough.
She became Psylocke and joined the X-men in their hunt for the renegades. It had never ended decisively, although they did beat the mercenaries back on several occasions. That had been several years ago, and she had stayed with the X-men for most of that time. The last thing she remembered was lying down for a well-earned nap after a battle to take back the school from Magneto.
When she awoke, she was in a room full of confused heroes, some familiar, some not, none of which knew where they were or how they had come to be there. There was a brief argument and even some finger pointing. The group had soon set aside other concerns when they saw what had happened to the world.
They had since learned the truth from a latecomer to the party. A man who had dressed as Stephen Strange used his newly acquired mystical abilities in concert with those of a man who had dressed as Dr. Fate to determine the truth of the situation.
Sadly, the truth hadn’t set anyone free. Quite the opposite. It had quickly become obvious that none of them could return to their homes, because, as far as the world they now inhabited was concerned, their homes didn’t actually exist.
The constant stream of monster attacks had almost been welcome as it gave them all something else to think about. Some of them still hadn’t faced the reality of the situation, hoping that there was a way back to where they belonged. The mystics were the most realistic. The others were coping to one degree or another.
Spider-man had suffered a nervous breakdown when he realized that he would never see his aunt, wife, and daughter again. Luke Cage was content to take out his frustration on any demon that crossed his path. No one knew what Red Tornado thought. The android didn’t seem to have any real concerns over where it came from or how it would return. The protection of helpless seemed to be its primary concern.
The issue of how well individuals coped with their situation was secondary to defense for all but a few of them. For that, everyone was grateful. Jamie was glad of the newly arrived heavy weaponry, but wondered what headaches would come with it.
“There are a few familiar faces among the new arrivals,” Betsy glanced at him. “I wasn’t reading your mind,” she assured him when he gave her a sharp look. “I’m sure we’re all wondering the same thing. Cyclops is down there, Angel, too.” She frowned. “There’s a version of someone called Dr. Mariah Crawford with them. She’s asking if there is a Sergei Kravenoff with us.”
Jamie groaned. That was the last thing he needed. He knew the name from his talks with Fara. Apparently, there had been an animated version of Spider-man in which Kravenoff had a love interest. A brilliant biologist, she had accidentally created Kraven the Hunter by testing an experimental serum on her boyfriend. Jamie’s unwanted memories contained no hint of the woman. This is going to be all kinds of awkward
. “Any other potential landmines?”
Betsy frowned. “There’s a Leo Wyatt with them who is asking about his wife.” She gave him a worried glance. “Do you suppose he’ll settle for a demonic sort-of-brother-in-law?”
“Doubt it. I think I’ll volunteer for the next scavenging sweep.”
“Two days away.”
“Damn.” Scavenging sweeps involved sending out teams of volunteers to nearby abandoned towns, isolated farms, businesses, etc., and searching for anything that might prove useful. Their standard list of ‘useful’ items had food, fuel, weapons, and warm clothing near the top, but the teams had brought back a variety of things. One of the early sweeps found a perfectly serviceable eighteen wheeler and had loaded it down with everything they could lay hands on, including: three ATVs, 50 laptop computers, two full size office copiers, 30 sets of walkie-talkies, a crate containing boxes of assorted screws, nails, and bolts, a small library of useful books on topics ranging from wild crafting to motorcycle maintenance, and one juke box.
“We also have a Spider-girl. May Parker.”
“Maybe that’ll get Peter back on his feet.”
“Maybe,” she allowed, not sounding hopeful. Their version of Peter Parker remembered a baby girl, a few months old. Still, it was something.
“What’s the story with the tank?” Jamie asked, hoping to get some good news.
“It’s called a Bolo. Apparently, it used to be an ordinary tank, but someone left a copy of one of Keith Laumer’s Bolo novels inside. It calls itself Victor, Mark XXXIII of the Dinochrome Brigade. It’s seen a lot of action since Halloween.”
Jamie could see that. As it drew closer, he could make out scratches, scorch marks, and even a few dents. “What could do that kind of damage to a Bolo?”
“Something I hope I never meet,” Betsy admitted. “It’s not staying. Victor has assigned itself the job of escorting convoys. Its commander is a man named Harry Dresden. He handles magical threats that Victor can’t deal with.” She glanced at him, silently asking.
“Another fictional wizard. He’s from a series of books by a guy named Jim Butcher.” He shrugged. “Sounds like a sensible arrangement. They could open routes for us to other colonies.” Reunions, wanted and unwanted, much needed trade, and a safe way for refugees to travel were all potential benefits. It was another much-needed step back toward civilization and perhaps even normalcy. Well, I can dream, can’t I?
“No sign of the big cat. He vanished when they came within sight of the walls. Off again.”
“There’s a surprise.” He sighed. “Let’s go get it over with.” The two descended from the wall and met the group as they pulled their vehicles through the gates. Victor stayed outside to assume a patrol route around the colony’s perimeter.
The full council, Betsy said, had assembled and was headed for the gate. A man in his thirties stepped forward, apparently speaking for the new arrivals. Standing with him was a serious looking younger man, 20 at oldest, with wild brown hair, a leather jacket and a grim expression. He nodded to Betsy when he saw her. Betsy identified him as Wayne Tucker, the telepath.
“Hello,” the group’s spokesman stepped forward. “I’m Leo Wyatt. Thanks for taking us in.”
“Of course,” Betsy smiled. She made the introductions where necessary and helped to relieve the tension where they weren’t. Jamie feared for a moment that Leo and Cole were going to come to blows, but Betsy proved an able intermediary, sharing details of their respective time-lines, assuring each that the other was not a threat. Tempus was a harder sell.
She refused to intervene in some meetings, though, leaving Jamie to explain himself to Mariah Crawford when she threw herself into his arms and started kissing him. Jamie muddled through, only once causing the woman to break down in tears.
Similar meetings and reunions were occurring all around them. Cyclops and Angel greeted Betsy warmly enough. It seemed that there was no Psylocke in the world they remembered, but the knowledge that she had been an X-man was enough for them.
The new group had one problem member. Solomon Kane, fanatical demon hunter, wanted to kill several members of the welcoming party on sight and had to be disarmed. Something Erik Lehnsherr was able to accomplish easily enough. Solomon accused the man of consorting with demons, to which Magneto only responded, “I’ve been accused of worse.”
None of those who had dressed as Marvel Universe heroes had responded well to Magneto’s arrival, but the man had proven himself repeatedly during attacks on the colony and on refugees trying to reach the shelter it offered.
“Once all of the meet and greet stuff is done with,” Tucker butted in, “we have some serious matters to discuss. Like the future of the Human race.”
Leo Wyatt had awakened Halloween night to find himself alone in an unfamiliar apartment with no memory of how he’d gotten there.
During his life he had been a WWII medic, a White Lighter, an Elder, and finally an ordinary man again. He remembered a long, happy life with his wife, children and grandchildren. He remembered falling asleep one night at age ninety-three and waking up in his early thirties with his full power as an Elder restored.
The apartment in Houston belonged to a man he had never met. There was no trace of his family. Nothing about the situation made sense. The only clues he had were the angel costume he wore and a DVD box set for a TV show called “Charmed.” The front featured a picture of his wife and sisters-in-law, as they had looked when his sons, Wyatt and Chris, were babies.
He soon found that these were other concerns, however. The world seemed to have gone mad.
Leo had quickly become caught up in the struggles of what came to be called the Texas Colony. There were plenty of people in exactly the same situation he was in. Many of those he now fought alongside had memories of worlds that never existed, at least not in this universe. Most of those with powers, magical or otherwise, had found them augmented or altered in some way.
His own abilities, although restored, had been limited somewhat. He couldn’t orb for great distances without attracting lightning from the red sky. He had been completely cut off from the other Elders and White Lighters, assuming there were any in this new world.
The only bright spot was the revelation that somewhere in this new world, his family might exist. That they, like he, would have overwritten, and essentially destroyed innocent people was something that he tried not to think about.
Piper was out there somewhere. He kept that thought foremost in his mind as he worked to provide for the growing Texas Colony. There was communication with other groups of survivors, and he, like many, made frequent queries concerning loved ones. So far there was nothing, but then word came of the discovery of an isolated enclave in the town of Winnsboro, Texas. They had very little in the way of technology and were having difficulty maintaining contact.
The source of the information was still a shock to him, even given all he’d seen since Halloween, but he couldn’t deny that the one who had walked through the Texas Colony’s defenses to speak to them was a source of hope and possessed a profound spiritual presence. He also had to admit that what the creature proposed made sense, and he had pushed for the organization of a relief convoy. And now, here I am
, he thought, sitting across from Cole and Tempus of all people
. There was also a decidedly demonic feel coming off that Blaze guy. It made things tense.
Still the plan proposed by the small colony’s leader made too much sense and benefited everyone involved. There were details to be worked out of course, who would go and who would stay, convoy routes to other colonies, details of better communication and cooperation, among other things, but they already had an agreement in principal.
Winnsboro would not be abandoned, but instead would be maintained as an outpost, a link to colonies farther to the north and east. Convoys could shelter there as needed, and the Texas colony and others would pitch in to make the small enclave safer and more self-sufficient.
It was revealed, and several of the colony’s top people were surprised to learn, that the big cat had already been doing a lot to make the area safer, as his mere presence drove back many of the horrors and helped to cleanse the land.
Negotiations were going as well as could be expected, but there was still some resistance. He suspected that most of the tension was caused by personal issues between the negotiators. This led him to call for a recess after two hours.
Leo spotted a well-built dark-haired man he had seen speaking to Winnsboro’s leader earlier and asked why he had stayed out of the initial negotiations.
“Top Cat has been forced into a more active role here than he’s used to taking,” Jamie explained.
“You call him Top Cat?”
Jamie snorted. “Yeah. It’s weird, I know. A lot of people are in awe of him. I mean, even if you haven’t read the books, he’s…impressive in so many ways, but I’ve got a different perspective. Haven’t you wondered about how he came to be?”
“I have, now that you mention it. I also wonder why you’re not ‘in awe’ of him.”
“Someone once wrote ‘no man is a hero to his valet.’ Before Halloween, I used to bring him raw meat and clean out his enclosure.” Jamie nodded at the Elder’s stunned look. “Yeah, that’s right. He was just a zoo animal then. The vet, Dr. Vargas, decided that some of the animals should have costumes too. “You met Jake the spider monkey?” Leo nodded. “Well, on Halloween, the doc was giving the big cats their checkups. Vargas was a fan of the novels and got an idea. He shaved a crucifix into the fur on the chest of our largest lion.”
Leo just stared at him. He had heard many strange stories related to Halloween transformations, but that one took the cake.
“You mean that was all it took?”
“Yep. Dr. Vargas declared that till his fur grew out, his name would be Aslan.”