Run, Rabbit

This is a graphic Get Out and Us crossover fanfic containing racism, graphic violence, and revenge. This is set in the sandbox of Jordan Peele. Reader’s discretion is advised.

Philomena King hides in the parlour with a flashlight.

The lights have gone out in their home. Everything has shut down. First, they were watching the news about that dreadful business. Rioting on the streets, looting, murder, rape. Perhaps it is the Race War that the Order had been concerned about in the 1970s. Heavens only knew, Roman Armitage had actually told them to expect this before his … transmutation. Philomena has never really paid attention to the particulars of this conflict, certainly not in the sense that Roman, or his son Dean, or even Logan would have understood: just that it was all the more reason to behold the Coagula, and become the next generation … the winning side.

But then the power went out. And she can’t find her husband anywhere. The police, whose commissioner is a personal friend of her husband’s … even he wasn’t answering their phone calls before the line gave out entirely.

And then, the noises began. They had both heard movement outside. Logan had gone to check, with his old shotgun. She told him to be careful. It has been two years, but even with his young, strong, chocolate body she can still taste her husband on her lips. She still sees him, in the twinkle of his eye, as he reassures her. It is just deer, he tells her, or animals. Heaven forfend that it is the beasts of this strange, millennial “flash mob” assault on their society: the one that the Order had been in the process of saving by preserving the minds and souls of titans of industry and science, of wealth and power, like Logan. This is what marijuana will get you, she thinks to herself, and a culture embracing fornication without the sanctity of marriage, and the order of more enlightened brains.

Perhaps … perhaps these ruffians, these hooligans in the red uniforms — those Antifa hoodlums and the Klan from Charlottesville — are the ones behind all of this: spreading their conflict throughout the whole nation.

Philomena, Mrs. Logan King, also admits to herself that for all of her husband’s power, and that of their friends, she is scared. The poor Armitages were gone, tragically killed in a fire. Poor Missy, and the brilliant Dean, their son Jeremy, and that sweet girl Rose. And Marianne and Roman, after their transmutation had succeeded. All gone. She knows how upset Logan is. Roman had been Logan’s friend for ages, and with the deaths of Dean and Missy, the Order of the Coagula’s greatest achievement had been lost.

She knows how keen Logan had been to secure her a new body, a new young host so that they could continue life together in the new world order. He never says anything, but she knows how devastated he was. He and the other Families, they all hoped to salvage what they could: to continue the transmutations, and give them a way … She has full confidence in her husband. They have been together, married, for decades. They will have more years, more centuries together. Some of the others of the Order still remain in all other places. They will regroup, and gather. They have the resources. And there is still time.

A sudden crackling sound breaks the tense silence. Philomena shrieks, putting the flashlight in front of her, quailing backwards near the sofa.

“Run, rabbit run, rabbit, run, run, run …”

A faded, melodious voice echoes through the room. Philomena gasps, her heart pounding in her chest as she sees a familiar figure, a silhouette, in front of the recorder player.

“… Logan?” She breathes. “Logan …” She gets to her feet. “You scared me half to death.” Relief fills her, followed by a spike of anger. “What is the meaning of …”

He turns around. Philomena opens her mouth, and then leaves her jaw hanging slack … as he walks forward, the object in his hands a golden, swift, moving blur in the glancing afterimage of the falling flashlight. Backing away, her chest filled with icy terror, Mrs. Logan King, Philomena, barely even has time to scream.

*

“Get back here!” Logan King hollers, chasing after the fleeing shape with his shot gun.

He saw him. He knows he saw him. The boy. The one from Lake Pontaco. He’d been told that Chris Washington was going to become the new host for that sarcastic, cynical blowhard Hudson. But then the Armitage residence burned down, killing everyone inside … destroying everything. All those years of good work, and achievement. Gone. He hadn’t told Philomena the extent of it. He hadn’t the heart.

He and the rest of the Order had agents in the police force and forensics, even if by necessity they didn’t know the extent of their masters’ work. Everything in the building had been unrecognizable, except dental records. But Marianne had died in a car crash. And Rose … the girl had been shot in the stomach, seemingly from his old friend’s — Roman’s — shotgun, while Roman himself had inflicted on himself a fatal head injury.

But Logan remembers. Andrew hasn’t been a bother to him in a long time. It had been two years, but the young man he once was had finally accepted his fate. Dark, youthful energy combined with old money and wisdom. He understood, now, what the two of them — what Logan King — can provide them. His guidance will continue to shepherd him, as will those that had also won transmutation and coagulation. But the experts had only found the Armitages, and the hosts of Roman and Marianne. Even the remnants of Hudson.

Yet they found no one else.

Chris hadn’t been in the wreckage. Logan hadn’t forgotten him. He remembers the boy and, in particular, his camera. He may have taken a great deal of photographs that day. He certainly did of him.

And now, here he is. He’s here.

“Get back here, Christopher!” He shouts, firing a shot into the distance, but losing him, him moving so fast into the trees. “You won’t get me! You will pay for what you did to the Order! To us!”

They offered the young photographer a chance of a lifetime. To be a host. To be accepted into the family. Into the Order. And he knows. He knows that Roman didn’t kill his own granddaughter. He knows the Armitages didn’t die from negligence or ill-maintenance of their home, despite what he and the others had the police report. They couldn’t pursue Chris officially. That was too risky. And even if he had photographs, it didn’t mean anything. They had done nothing wrong, nothing he could have documented. Even if he had worn the body of a friend of his, he could easily tell them that Andrew had found new love and that love itself had no boundaries. Didn’t the Order already prove that!? And Chris took that away from them!

He is a plant! He has to be! He sees the other’s uniform! Just like the rioters on the television! It is the Race War! The one that Roman warned them could happen. They hadn’t been foolish. Even Dean Armitage had been extremely concerned with the Elections, wishing for the millionth time that Obama could have had another term. If Logan hadn’t know any better, the forty-fourth President could have easily been one of them.

Someone had been hunting them. For two years, the other families had been growing … quiet. The Greenes. The Wincotts. The Jeffries. The Waldens. Even Tanaka hadn’t been returning his calls for a while, before he realized what had happened. Officially, everyone — even Philomena — believed they had died of old age, heart-attack, stroke, cancer, or just retired to Florida, the Bahamas, or the Cayman Islands.

Those were just cover stories. They had been murdered. All of them. In gruesome ways. Even the transmuted members, especially them. Some of them remained alive, of course, or in hiding, but it didn’t make sense. The Order had always been discreet, aside from that one unfortunate incident in 1963, when Roman and a much younger Dean had attempted to transplant the brain of a dying popular politician into a colored … a Black man, hoping they could get him to work with them, but whose memory lapses made him all but useless. And he had actually been a volunteer … But someone knew who they were, where they were, what they were capable of … and enough about their security to deal with them: to send a message.

That they were coming for them all.

Andrew’s youth feeds him with adrenaline, but Logan’s rage is his own as he thinks of what this boy has cost them all: he and the people he’s been working with. He must have been an agent of theirs. And now, he thinks he can come here and take what’s theirs away! It’s bad enough he destroyed the process that could save his beloved wife, that he had to hide all of this from her so as not to terrify her out of her wits, but now he and his friends have the temerity to come onto his property, and into his home to take what belongs to them!

There is no way that Logan King will let that happen.

He follows him deeper into the wood. He doesn’t know where his security team is, or the staff. Everything has gone mad now that this group has gone public. But their home still has defenses. He told Philomena to wait for him. He knows the rest of the Order, the ones no one could track or kill, and his agents in the police will be here soon. But he will be damned if some black pup, who wasted his potential, will terrify him.

And then … there is a flash.

It hits Logan. A spike right in his brain. He blinks. He shoots in the direction of the flash, the camera flash. There is another bright, poignant moment of light. He feels something trickle down his nose. No. He knows what this is. He tries to shoot again, but he … can’t aim. His arms are not steady. They are shaking. Just like they did before his rebirth. No. Now he knows what this is. He knows what the other is trying to do …

Another flash.

Logan drops the gun. The round goes off. He screams, the shot deafening him. There is a red shape. A blur. It hits him. He falls down, rolling through the leaves and the grass. His favourite strawhat … he feels it caught off his head in the wind. There are footsteps. And then … nothing.

He sways to his feet. Something is clamoring in him, but he … he ignores it. He looks around, splaying his fingers through the grass … But he can’t find it.

His gun is gone.

His heart beats fast. His anger is slowly eroding into what has been lying underneath it, in its own sunken place. Terror.

He hears footsteps. Not just one set. But a few.

“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run …”

That music. Logan furrows his pounding forehead. He remembers this song. It’s loud. It’s coming from his house. Through loudspeakers. He looks around, lost in the dark, trying to find a way out of this.

“Bang, bang, bang, bang goes the farmer’s gun …” 

He recalls Dean’s griping about deer. He even told Philomena that the noises outside their home were just animals on their land.

“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run …”

Logan King begins to run.

The music, that song. He and Roman used to listen to it, back in the Dirty Thirties. He played it for his grandchildren. But it feels different now. It has another connotation. He thinks he hears something … shriek. Something holler. An animalistic cry, followed by another inhuman sound. What is going on? Logan doesn’t understand. He is afraid. And his fear is matched and multiplied by …

Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun ….”

A bright light burns through his retinas. Logan clutches his head. He hears something shout. There is a clang of metal. A scraping. A … sniping sound coming closer. Red blurs coming in and out of the forest. It’s harder to move his legs. It’s like he is fighting against molasses. Lactic acid burning through his lungs. His breath wheezes, rattling through his lungs — youthful lungs won with his wonderful, strong, lithe dark body — a sound he never thought he would hear again after his rebirth and combination with the young man that had so graciously been volunteered to extend his life.

He trips.

He rolls down the hill. The calls are coming closer. Logan tries to get up. He’s hit his head or the flash has burned through his brain. His body … it’s fighting him.

“We-we will die …” Logan rasps out, coughing, talking to himself, talking to him. “P-please. Andrew we need …”

Then, Logan sees someone standing over them … over him. He is dressed in a red jumpsuit. And out of the bushes, and trees, several more figures come out. Something hard smashes him in the face. And he sees no more lights. Only darkness.

*

“He’ll get by without his rabbit pie …”

Logan King wakes up. He’s in his parlour. He can hear his own record player playing … playing that song … that infernal song.

He is sitting in his easy chair, but he feels the cold bite of circular metal around his wrists and ankles. He looks down. It’s still dark, even with the dim illumination nearby. Someone has lit the fireplace. He sees that he has been handcuffed.

And … there are several figures around him.

Clang.

Something jars in his head, fighting to get out. He sees one of the figures. They are holding something.

Clang.

He winces. It can make it out. It’s a can. A plain metal can. And the other, they have a fork.

Clang.

The dull metallic sound is arrhythmic to the song from the record player. It is making Logan’s head hurt. He sees another form, kneeling in front of another shape prone on the floor.

“Who …” Logan starts. “Who are you … people. Where … where is my wife? Where is …” He groans, wriggling around. “W-where is Mena …”

There is no answer. The figure with the can continues to tap it with the fork. Logan smells something odd, almost a memory … except there is no antiseptic with it. No conversation from a video lens and a hospital bed, or an operating table.

“W-what is going on!” Logan roars, wincing at the pain, but trying to turn his fear back into anger. “What are …”

And then, the power comes back on. Or perhaps, it is turned back on. Logan looks at each of the figures. His eyes widen. No. This … this isn’t possible, he thinks to himself. He read the reports. He saw them. There is no way …

“Missy?” He says to the red garbed figure, with her tin can and fork. “Jeremy … Rose …” He looks at the others. “Marianne … Roman? Roman, is that you? No … you were dead. I … I saw the photographs. I … I was there!”

The Armitage Family, the Order of the Coagula, stand before Logan. They are dressed in red jump suits. He blinks, and sees that they are … paler. There are more shadows under their eyes. Somehow, they even seem more gaunt. Even Marianne and Roman, for their new dark skin, are more sallow. And he can … he can see … Their scars? There is nothing expert, or smooth about them. They have not been made by a professional surgeon, never mind a butcher. And why … why does Rose have a bandage wrapped around her stomach. And … Jeremy? The young man’s face … it is all bloated and distorted. Like it had been broken and badly reset. It’s disgusting. Marianne is moving awkwardly, like she had with her old body, but she looked hurt. He can see more scars on her body. And Roman … half of his face … The injuries are all crude imitations of what he saw in the photographs.

And all of them are carrying golden scissors.

“My god …” Logan feels his gorge rising. “What … what is happening? Is this … did you purge us? But … why? This wasn’t part of the plan? You organized this entire uprising? But … our plan … we were going go to gradually take over … to continue in the new generation. Roman … what are you … W-where …” He shakes his head at the screaming inside of it. ‘Where is Mena! What did you …”

And then, he sees the other figure get up. It’s Dean. His neck is scarred and at an awkward angle. There is no intelligence in his eyes, only a vacant malice. Yet his hands are the same. Steady, clever, patient. He sees the blade. And finally, he sees him lift an object towards them. His wife, Missy, makes a guttural sound which he returns. Logan can see a wound on her face. He understands these injuries and scars are all self-inflicted. But that thought is drowned out by what Dean is carrying. He walks across the room, towards another figure. Chris … he is with them. He’s holding his camera. A malicious smile is on his face, his white teeth a barring contrast with his dark skin, and cotton … cotton stuffed in his ears.

But Logan sees the object. He can’t turn away. It’s a head with half of its skull removed expertly. Its brain is exposed. Philomena’s face stares out at all of them, blankly, in frozen terror.

“M-Mena!” Something inside of Logan shatters forever. “Mena!”

He goes slack. It’s like he’s dying all over again. He sees Dean awkwardly pat Chris on the shoulder, who comes closer to him … with the camera. But he keeps moving as the others watch him, as Missy keeps clanging her fork against the tin. Over and over and over again.

“Run rabbit. Run rabbit, run, run, run …” 

“Stop …” Logan wheezes, tears flooding in his eyes. “St-stop it …”

But through all of it, he sees Dean approach another figure. He sees him. He tall, and dark. Slender. His hair is thick. There is a scar around his forehead. It looks eerily familiar. He takes the head … his dear wife’s head. He looks at Logan. Then back at the head. Logan sees the man has a beard. And then … he remembers. He knows why this man is so familiar.

The impossibility of all of this floods Logan with numbness as he sees the other take Philomena’s head … and throw it into the fireplace.

“No …” Logan sobs. “No …”

Then, the man with his face … the face he chose, comes towards him. He sees a pair of golden scissors with blood and hair and gore on their tips. As for the other figures … The flashing lights begin again, accompanied by the clanging, ripping something out from deep inside of him.

And Logan King begins to scream.

*

“So ev’ry Friday that ever comes along
I get up early and sing this little song …” 

U-Lee watches it happen.

He watches as Sate continues flashing his camera into … into his original’s body’s eyes. He hears the clang of Misses’ fork on her tin, driving them on, marking their new time against the old. Atlanta, with her deep frown, and William, with his hulking, restless body stand by along with John. Thorn, for her part, gravitates towards Sate as Deacon goes back to throw the woman’s body into the fire.

U-Lee comes closer. He sees the man, wearing his face, writhing in agony. Blood is pouring out of his nose and eyes. Sate grins as his camera, without a memory card, or image keeps bathing his victim in unforgiving light. Blank, waxy paper keeps falling to the ground from the old, vintage, 1980s camera. Their captive is howling, begging for mercy, convulsing with each flash of light, receiving no reply other than Misses banging on her tin next to his ear: her eyes intent and cold.

Then, the light in the man’s eyes seem to die. His face shifts. U-Lee watches it happen. He is glad he turned the power back on, after getting everyone through the security of this place, and dealing with the guards and defenses. He scratches at his beard. There is something he wants to see. Something he can’t name yet.

The other’s face changes. He sees the man … his expression looking more … familiar …

U-Lee holds up a hand and both Sate, and Misses stop. There is only silence, aside from a quiet weeping. U-Lee kneels down at the young man’s side. His face is twitching, hard and fast. Blood is pouring out of his nostrils into his mouth. But there is something else looking at him, at U-Lee. It looks closer to a mirror now. A distorted mirror.

A small, tentative smile forms on Dre’s broken face from the chair: an expression U-Lee barely recognizes as … relief. He speaks. His voice a whisper reminiscent of their Messiah.

“T-thank you …”

Then, his eyes roll back into his head, replaced by the terror of the other … thing inside of him. U-Lee takes his scissors, golden and perfect: baptized already in an original’s blood. He notices the man looking at his gloved hand as he raises them up … plunging them down into his skull.

Over and again …

U-Lee feels the splattered warmth on his face by the time he is done. There is still enough of his original’s face left to see his staring eyes. He looks down on him, as he reaches out his hand, not his gloved one … he bare one. And shuts them.

Thorn comes over to him, with Sate having one arm around her. They bump into each other. Their arms flail a little, but find purchase against one another. John and William take the body off of the chair, bringing it to Deacon. They place it on the floor as they had the other. They are going to leave soon. U-Lee feels the call, the plan, the impulse setting in, for all to be united. For no one to be left alone. No one to be left behind in the maze … lost …

They were Tethered to these creatures that hurt each other for gain. Now, they are only Tethered to each other. As U-Lee and the others wait for Deacon to be finished, to discard the bad parts into the fire, he hums along, along against the tune of the record player, discordant, uncaring.

“Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun
He’ll get by without his rabbit pie
So run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run.”

11:11

Gabe Wilson sits wearily in the ambulance with his daughter. He’s worn and tired. Zora huddles with him. He’s exhausted, and hurt but he holds the bat against him like a talisman against the absolute fuckery of this entire situation. He slumps his shoulders, letting Zora lean into him. He looks at her, and realizes just how strong she’s been: strong a way that she should never have been strong …

He sees her driving the Tylers’ car into the girl that looks exactly like her, the mirror version of his baby girl’s eyes vague and almost uneven, and filled with a vacant hatred. 

He looks down at his hands. He should have been strong for her. For his family.

Gabe feels the man wearing his face, a snarling brute son of a bitch, easily dragging him away through the shards of glass, putting him onto that damned boat he’d been so proud of, pushing him in, the other trying to drown him, that piece of shit motor finally dragging the other off him instead to drown like a mad dog …

It’s all catching up with him, now that the adrenaline is wearing off. In some ways, it’s worse than actually being hunted by these … things. Because now, he has to remember it. He has to recall just how useless he was, how all his swagger, and ignorance of his wife Adelaide’s fears, his cockiness in thinking he could get crazy with those … bugmotherfuckers at his wife’s parents’ cottage, and how it was Adelaide that always picked up the pace, who did the work, who put him in his place when he couldn’t even protect her, or their children, couldn’t even get to …

He sees Jason’s double, the growling child with the mask, his face all burned underneath, as Jason walks backwards and his twin walks into the fire, burning … watching the other wearing his son’s body die while he did nothing …

“Jason …” He groans. “Adelaide …”

She’d run off, after him. The other … the other woman wearing his wife’s face must have snatched him. It was Adelaide’s worst fear. Her youngest, young like she had been, like she had tried to tell him back at the cottage, was gone. But he hadn’t wandered off like he had at the beach. He was taken. He …

“Dad …”

He feels his daughter clutch his hand. He exchanges a look with her, seeing her eyes wide. He looks up, from the ambulance. As he does so, Gabe remembers something else. Maybe it’s the blood on the stretcher. It might be the beautiful Santa Cruz summer sunlight that heralded the start of their vacation away from the cottage, shining on them, still warm even now. They’d come in and saw a man, an older man with long, messy, greying hair on a stretcher. They tried to make sure that Jason and Zora didn’t see, he and Adelaide, but they saw it. The man with the tattoo on his forehead.

And now, standing in front of them is the silhouette of another man, dressed in red, in another damned red jumpsuit, with long grey hair going down his back. His hands, Gabe can see them, are caked with drying blood. He recalls the picture Jason drew from the beach, the one Adelaide told him about, and he laughed off.

“Zora …” Gabe says, getting in front of her, as he would be damned if one of these fuckers came for his child, he would not face Adelaide with another failure when she came back with Jason. “Get behind me …”

And then, as the man began to turn around, the twin of the man whose dead body may have been in this very ambulance, other figures began to come towards them from either side.

Gabe watches them come. He isn’t feeling anything anymore. He’s numb. Zora doesn’t hide behind him. She comes to his side. He is about to tell her, again, to get back, but he sees a look in her eyes. The same as Adelaide’s. He sees them come towards them.

Gabe Wilson hefts the bat in front of him as best he can. There is only one real thing he can say now, at this point.

“Shit.”

*

With a wordless cry, a husky, rasping Adelaide Wilson wraps the chains of the handcuffs around Red’s throat. She sees the tear continue to trail down the other woman’s face. A part of her, some distant, lost, rational part of her knows that the woman is probably already dead. As resilient as the Tyler girl had been, she knows intellectually, that getting impaled with that one, instinctual, back-stab is a mortal wound.

Red’s eyes, almost dumb, so bovine, and deceptively docile now the hate animating them is draining away — seem to plead with some old sadness, some lost realization, but Adelaide is having none of it. She feels her mouth turn into a rictus of animal rage at this … thing that cut her, taking pieces off of her with each song movement, each dance. This shadow that hurt her family. That haunted her entire life. This is going to end. Adelaide can’t feel sympathy for her shadow.

She won’t.

There is a terrible, lingering, hiss and it takes Adelaide a moment to realize that it is coming from her vocal cords, and not her enemy. Red’s eyes stare into a distance only she can see now, her whispering voice terminated into a fading death rattle. Adelaide did it. At last, she killed her nightmare: her shadow.

At last, she’s free.

But then Adelaide recalls the beach, and the Tyler twins, and Zora, and Jason not being anywhere nearby. He’d wandered off. He did what she didn’t want him to do. Near the beach. Near the boardwalk. 1986. 2019. Her baby is gone. Jason. Jason … 

“Jason!” She calls out, finding her voice again, stumbling around her chain and tattered clothing. “Jason!”

And then she remembers. The cottage. Her parents’ cottage. Jason and his pranks. The tiny car wedged into the crack between the wall and the small storage door. Jason going off with … Pluto to “play” by Red’s order. She scrambles through the bunk area, sliding on the old sterile floor tiles in pain and exhaustion. Adelaide looks around, frantically, until … she finds it. She stumbles forward to the metal cabinet.

Somehow, she knows. She knew. Her heart is pounding. Somehow, there is still more terror left in her. She retraced her steps down the funhouse, to the Hall of Mirrors, to the mirror where … she had been. The escalator … a large escalator moving down into the earth with bright lights like Mall Christmas decorations … and an underground bunker, no a facility … with rabbits like the one from Alice and Wonderland …

How did she know? Was Red right? Did they … really have a connection, that day, when they faced each other in the Hall of Mirrors … knowing, somehow, mimicking her actions, coming to that confluence … that revelation …

No. It’s a mother’s intuition. She never wanted her child to travel through here. To be down here, in a place like this. A mother knows … she knows …

There is a smell. It had been faint in the old antiseptic and the scent of sweat and blood. She swings open the door.

“Jason!” Adelaide reaches forward, seeing him curled up, into himself, his mask … that silly mask over his face. She reaches out …

She crouches there … as Jason slumps out of the cabinet.

Everything seems to slow down. To be frozen in time. As still as this mausoleum to stale suffering, and stunted lives.

“No …” She reaches forward, her vision blurring, watery, taking him up … taking off his mask … “No …”

It’s like burned meat. Adelaide gags. She chokes. She hears someone screaming. The mask drops out of her hand. The rabbits, she thinks to herself, backing away from … it, from her … to the exit of the room …

The doubles, her father punching the wall. Her mother wandering away from her. All those people … those doubles … them …

A keening wail rips through Adelaide’s ears. Her chained hands roam, desperately, through her hair, clutching at her ears.

She walked backward, backward … up the glittering stairs … she never thought to use the stairs …

Red’s memories. Adelaide falls to her knees. She crawls towards, and away, from the shape she left. That she abandoned. Soulless. She said they were soulless. She was her shadow. They shared the same body … the same soul …

She comes to the mirrors. She is looking at a little girl. Just like her. Later, she asks her why she left her … why she didn’t take her with her …

Adelaide feels hot bile, or a sob rising in her throat, lowering her head onto the cold floor.

She sees the fear in the little girl’s eyes. Her. Her whole life. This girl had tormented her. Tormented her by her very existence. She … she got to see things while … she was down here, with these hollow, stupid, empty shells … No one would miss her … no one …

It takes some time, but Adelaide realizes she’s the one who’s screaming. She stares up … not at the bundle near the cabinet … the locker … but Red. Red near her bunk.

She handcuffs her to the bunk as she wakes up, taking her Thriller T-Shirt. She is still smiling at her. No one will miss her. No one … 

Adelaide’s trembling as she sees Red, lying there: her neck covered in the indentations of the chains of her own handcuffs. She looks down at the cuffs around her wrists. She takes the other end, the one not on her wrist, and chain: turning it around her neck, looking at Red, kneeling across from her …

She had felt her at her back through the mirror. She now knows who she is. She now knows what she’s going to do. Awareness rises blooms her brain as she turns around, a wide smile on her face, thinking of other thoughts, of the Red Queen. Off with her head … off with her … 

Adelaide draws the chain around her neck, twisting it. She begins to squeeze. Her mouth twitches. Her lips quiver again. Blood is pounding. Pounding. A distorted echo of the footsteps as she walked away, leaving … leaving the girl at the bunk … after she had wrapped her hands around her neck and squeezed … squeezed … carrying her down … leaving her here … Going up into the warm night air for the first time, not seeing it or feeling it through another’s eyes, and two people … not hitting a wall, not ignoring her … Taking her away, away to draw … like Jason from the beach … Jason … Jason … and to dance … to dance away from all of it … 

She squeezes tighter. She can’t breathe. She feels her eyes bulging … bugging out like hers did …

Pluto burned alive as she cried out for him to stop. Abraham dragged and lost in the water. Umbrae’s broken body in the trees, soothing her as she flailed, suffering, silent, as her baby girl died … 

Her arms suddenly lose their power. She drops to the floor on all fours. She looks up. She looks at her, her eyes gleaming with knowing in death that they did not know in life .. She left her here, she knows that now. She is breathing hard, tasting blood in her mouth. She can’t speak. She crawls forward. She is looking around, looking … And then, she finds them. They are right by her, where she left them.

Shaking, she looks at her double … a thought coming from the darkness of her mind.

“S-sister …” She croaks, finally. “Sisster … ssssissster … ssisstssers … scizz … zzz …” Her hand closes over the pair of handles on the floor. She picks them up. And then, she brings them up, towards herself.

And she uses them.

*

There was a White Rabbit.

An ambulance burns, in the distance. A man’s shoe is seen, tattered and torn, soaked in blood. There is a phone, lying on the ground. Its screen grows feebly in the waning sunlight, jagged broken in half by a crack on its surface.

Red walks past the ruins. She doesn’t see them. She doesn’t feel it. She doesn’t really feel anything. Still, from the corner of her eye, she sees the time flickering on the device. She inclines her head, freshly shorn. Her red suit is worse for wear. There’s a hole in it, but she has everything else. The glove. The suit. The golden scissors in her hands. She walks, the chain from her handcuff swings listlessly from her wrist against her thigh. Her face twitches from time to time, reacting to something unseen by anything around her, or herself.

Then, she stops. She inclines her head, blinking a few times. She sees the burning ambulance on the other side of the road now. She sees two sprawled forms.

“Abraham …” She hisses, the tone distant. “… Umbrae …”

Something trickles down her left eye. Then, she sees the battered phone near her feet. She thinks it belonged to someone she can almost vaguely recall. There is something painted on it, sprayed on, in large lurid red. They are numbers.

11:11.

Two sets of numbers, separated by a crack in the screen, severed uncleanly …

Red recalls the White Rabbit. He had a time piece, a stop watch, that never worked. He was always late, never on time.

He was always too late.

She turns away from the fallen object, and a world of originals destroyed by the Tethered. She has to go now. A part of her mind realizes that. She can see them, in the distance, a crimson line throughout the land, also dividing space and time. She has to join them. Red has to join her siblings, until the end of time. It is where she belongs, she thinks to herself as an open, empty smile flickers on her lips, her eyes wide and unseeing …

Red goes back to where she’s always belonged.

Impossible Horror: Screamers

Dedicated to Justin Decloux and Nate Wilson’s horror film Impossible Horror.

The Scream calls to me.

I’ve spent my entire life, what was left of it, trying to figure out what the Scream was. I wasn’t the only one. There was a team in Toronto, Ontario of sorts. Each one of the hunters, as they called themselves, planned to define the Scream on their terms, or use it to gain achievement in their respective fields. They were varied: a mathematician, a writer, even a cook … among others. The latest hunter was a thwarted short horror filmmaker … well, at least until the end.

What they didn’t realize, any of them, about the Scream until it was relatively too late, is the truth behind it.

I’ve jump-cut a few years into the past, when I still live on residence. I’m just an Undergrad, a freshman now. I study Humanities. My previous self can’t see me. The sweat shirt and hoodie really do wonders. I fancied myself something of a philosopher, back then, with a tangential love for the movies. Even now, I’m not really a film buff: but I’ve learned some of the conventions. I can see how frustrated I used to be: how cramped, and scared of the world I was in my tiny little apartment. It’s just building inside of me, and I don’t even see it. I don’t want to see it. I pass myself a scrap piece of paper, from the shadows, on my old desk when I’m not looking. It tells me to read Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Only the first volume. I’ll think that I wrote this to myself, and forgot about it.

Then I jump-cut again.

Right. The Scream. The Scream is a primal force. Perhaps even a primordial one. I suspect it’s been here ever since we, humanity, have been in this reality. It is visceral, but so innate that it can’t really be heard so much as felt through different media, different lenses of truth, and understanding. It roars at us, at some of us in particular, through the static of our flat, blank, little lives.

One moment. I just remembered something.

I jump-cut. It’s the end of high school. My friends have moved onto other universities and their careers. Some will start their families. I’m alone. Left behind. I’m drifting around already. My relationship just ended a few days ago, at this time. It won’t take me long to time this right. I’ve read enough poetry to realize that everything has a pulse and a rhythm. A beat.

Yes. At the library that gets closed down in a few more years, I pull out a book from the shelf. Before I learn that what you fear is what you ultimately desire, I have yet to understand that the oldest fear of all is the fear of the unknown. I leave a book of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories to slip out right in front of me, the name already tangentially in my mind,leaving it to ferment there, before letting me and my hooded sweatshirt blend right back into the shadows …

They wanted to stop the Scream. The Scream itself is more powerful than a ghost. Ghosts that just echoes of thoughts, and scattered impulses without grounding. Sometimes they can affect a place, but they only have scraps of the Scream: of the ancient, instinctual urge. But even they, these faint resonances, have to possess some kind of link, or connection to people … and it becomes too much of an effort.

I walk on one side of my friends. Then another. We are friends. We are strangers. Flickering back and forth, I explore the city and it is hard to keep track of where I am, or where I even was.

“Lovely weather, we are having.” I say. In. A. Stilted. Voice. More. Separate. Words. Than. Sentences. “I. Was. The. Person.” I tell someone else, who I grow … grew … will grow close to for a time. “Who talked to you about non-Euclidean geometry.”

That is the moment. The seed from high school grows, watered by the blood of Clive Barker, but I don’t know that part yet, blooms into different micro-filaments more intricate that the film reels the wraiths pull out of the filmmaker’s guts and I follow them through the city.

I stand still as the city grows. Sim City. Civilization. Italo Calvino. Neil Gaiman. The Invisibles. The city is built by the dead built by the living by the dead as it swallows my family, my family doctor, my dentist, my friends, my lovers, my past my future my possibilities the things that happened the things that didn’t my self my life … The City is the Book and the Book is the hungry, beautiful Night that keeps on consuming …

The burning in my gullet from freshman university, from after high school, grows.

At first, I only jump-cut around the people I knew. Day and night became the same to me. I was just there. I realize that I have always just been here.

But isn’t the city. The city isn’t blood and mortar and bones and bad modernist poetry. Non-Euclidean geometry is the architecture of reality, of a gullet, of a constricted throat … and I am about to … about to …

I watch. I’m a student. A scholar. I trace things back to the source. As far as I can go. I’m tired of these clipped sentences that should really be separate words surrounding a larger idea. I know how this supposed to end. I know how it needs to continue.

I stop hunting the Scream that keeps me up at night. That keeps me from sleeping. I don’t go as far as the mathematician that scars himself with arcane symbolic logic and cocoons himself in a girl’s worst nightmares, trying to choke the blackness back, swollen and infected. I watch what it does. I observe. I research.

Writing out my findings, in my blood, makes the jump cut faster. But I’m getting numb. And that’s when I realize it. I realize it faster than the video gamer, and it figures that the video game would be the only survivor — the only hunter left — so far due to her staccato rhythm, but slow enough for the idea to reach its natural pitch.

I’ve grown distant enough that the words in my skin don’t hurt anymore, but it’s harder to hear the words: the ones that matter. Blood grounds the Scream. It feeds it.

It makes it real.

I stop to kill a person. It doesn’t take long. It happened a thousand years ago.

I keep going. Maybe it’s someone different. Or perhaps it’s the same person, over and again. It might even be me. The loneliness inside of me, the last emotion left, keens. It wails. I’m sure it creates its own echoes, scraps of paper through the city. The video gamer rips up the Book, the source, she thinks, and I feel the roar inside me multiplying, no longer carried along by the filmmaker … I thought I needed the Book. But I didn’t. We don’t.

We don’t hunt the Scream, you and I. We take it. We embrace it. And then, like life, we let it go. I remember who I am. I’m a student. A teacher. A teacher wants to spread their knowledge, to disseminate it throughout the world, and into willing minds. I can hear it so clearly now. The Book could make it so easy to jump-cut, but it’s gone. Even so, isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Writing a pastiche? Taking Lovecraft and Barker and piecing it altogether like a ransom note in a family album organized like a jigsaw puzzle of flesh and nightmares like William S. Burroughs?

That is all right. I hear us now. Congratulations, gamer. We are released. Banshees. Scream Queens. Screamers. We feed the Scream with the blood of others. I take a deep breath. The new Book can wait. Instead of swallowing the dark tide, I rip apart the two-dimensional paper of it all, the fake gestures, the empty lives … I follow the tide of the seeds released from the pieces of the Book. Scraps of paper flying scattered throughout space and time. I take off my hoodie. I don’t need it anymore. I throw back my head into the growing Night.

And I Scream.

Under the Shadow: A TADFF 2016 Review

It’s been said that the German film Nosferatu was created, at least in part, to exorcise the ghosts of World War I. If there is any truth in that, then Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow does something similar. Under the Shadow takes place during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988. The Iranian Revolution that changed the country into a theocratic regime happened not even a few years ago and the people of Iran, particularly Tehran in Under the Shadow, suffer through constant missile attacks from Saddam Hussein.

Enter Shideh (Narges Rashidi), a former medical student and mother who can no longer continue her studies due to her involvement with “subversive political groups” before the Revolution. There is tension between her and her husband, a doctor named Iraj (Bobby Naderi): a combination of the usual couple arguments, combined with the anxiety of being bombed, and the strain of having a relationship and Shideh wanting a modicum of power and support under a patriarchal regime. In fact, there is tension throughout the entirety of the film: watching the fear of the family hiding in their apartment’s bomb shelter, waiting for the next bomb to drop, wondering if Iraj will die on the battlefront he’s stationed at, and even one heart-stopping moment when Shideh leaves with their daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) in a panic and accidentally forgets her hajib: a moment where corporal punishment becomes a truly grim possibility.

And this doesn’t even cover the Jinn.

According to Middle-Eastern mythology Jinn are spirits made of air. In the Quran, they are like humans except while humans are, arguably, made of earth, jinn are made of air. They coexist alongside humanity in various ways, and they and angels were made with humanity. The Jinn in Under the Shadow are not kindly ones. They exist in, and feed off of fear and anxiety. They travel through the desert wind. They are creatures of air and as such affect oxygen, dreams, and the perceptions of the mind. If they gain an object special to a human being, they will haunt them until they possess and destroy them. However, in Under the Shadow possession has a whole other kind of connotation.

Under the Shadow in a lot of ways might as well be called Under the Veil. The Jinn are metaphorical for the gaslighting, insecurities perpetuated on women and the need for authority to control women and their bodies. They also represent the chaos of war and uncertainty of death. In the film they constantly prey on Shideh’s and Dorsa’s relationship made fraught by the patriarchy around them. It’s also no coincidence that one of the Jinn uses constant misogynist slurs against Shideh in the form and voice of her husband, and another takes on the form of an embroidered veil and shawl that threatens to consume both Shideh and Dorsa: symbolizing perhaps the internalized misogyny of a neighbour and a terrifying sense of superstition that institutionalized religion in Iran during this does nothing to alleviate, but only worsen. In fact, it becomes clear in a lot of ways that they are a part of it.

In addition patriarchy, oppressive regimes, and war have another thing in common with Anvari’s Jinn. They all take pieces of a person’s life away, meaningful objects like a medical text given by a wishful mother, or a child’s doll. They threaten to steal innocence and all the good in your life, tainting it with violence and trauma until nothing is left. The sudden, terrifying jump scares of the Jinn, the bomb alarms, and the bombings are somehow made a minor part of the horror that these Jinn represent in this film.

As a child of the 1980s myself, it is sobering to see the life that another family had in another place and culture at this time. The Jane Fonda exercise tapes that Shideh uses to lose herself on her illegal VCR really hits that home that a different life was happening in Iran than in other places. If Nosferatu was an attempt to exorcise the spirits of war from post-WWI Germany, then Under the Shadow is an attempt to reveal the supposedly invisible forces behind the Iran-Iraq War and life in Tehran at time, to give understanding to us instead of allowing the Jinn to take more away. This was an excellent international film and the Toronto After Dark chose it well.

Some Nightmares Fail: Doctor Who’s Sleep No More

Doctor Who‘s “Sleep No More” had a brilliant start. First, there was the eerie fact that the episode lacked the usual thematic introduction that we’re so used to. The subdued, eerie atmosphere simply begins with the introduction to a man named Professor Rassmussen. He gives us, the audience, his account of what happened on the Le Verrier space station: where a rescue team was sent to find out what happened to them … and failed.

It’s definitely not the last time we will see Professor Rassmussen. The episode itself, written by Mark Gatiss, is patterned after a found-footage film, or even a piece of epistolary fiction: a story told from a first hand account. No matter which way you look at it though, from the very beginning where the Professor warns us not to watch his recordings, Gatiss attempts to tell a horror story through the tropes of Doctor Who. This is not the first time. Doctor Who has often verged on the horror genre with its vast selection of monsters.

Unfortunately, it’s not only the rescue team that fails in this episode.

It turns out that the good Professor had created machines called Morpheus pods: things that allow humans to have a good night’s sleep in just five minutes to increase productivity. It is such a banal reason to unleash such horror because, wouldn’t you know it, you know those grains you get in the corners of your eyes? That sleep dust? After you sleep? Well, it is actually the growth of a mucus lifeform that usually gets killed off by semi-regular human sleep but because of the Morpheus pods and their electric signals, these lifeforms aren’t stopped by the human immune system in slumber and consume their hosts … and everyone around them.

These Sandmen, Dustmen, or Sleepmen can’t even see: they need the eyes of those who have apparently used the pods to find their prey. Also, interfering with the electric impulse that keep together disintegrate their bodies into dry grains of sand.

To be honest, they are … kind of underwhelming: more of a parasite that grows from these electro-magnetic impulses more than anything. The team, with the exception of the Grunt — a human cloned specifically and only for combat — are pretty unmemorable and they die with very little fanfare. Even with the interesting twist of The Doctor and Clara actually meeting and getting involved with the rescue team — instead of arriving after they are gone — doesn’t offset this. Mind you, there are some good character moments from The Doctor and Clara if you can believe it: The Doctor referring to the Professor’s pods as an abomination, and Clara calling the creation of human life made and bred to fight and die in wars morally disgusting.

In the end, The Doctor and the others destroy the station and the Sandmen within it: after one of the soldiers on the the rescue team kills the good Professor for actually trying to help his inadvertent creations take over the universe. Because, you know, we totally didn’t see Rassmussen being evil and behind everything totally coming a mile away.

But then we realize the truth. You know how Rassmussen recorded his last living moments on the ship? Well, he did it after he was supposedly killed. It turns out Rassmussen was captured and at least partially converted — or replaced — by the Sandmen at some point in the episode and by virtue of leaving his found-footage and sending it across the Sol System, he will spread Sandmen through all life everywhere: including through us the viewers. In the immortal tradition of M. Night Shyamalan, ‘What a twist!”

So as Rassmussen, or whatever he has become, crumbles into dust — the happiest dying villain ever having apparently one-upped The Doctor — you begin to see what is wrong with this episode. It can summed up by having a fascinating premise that could have made it on the level of “Listen,” with a cautionary tale introduction, interesting found-footage segments, followed by disappointing monsters, confusing information about what they are and how they get destroyed, lackluster secondary characters, and the particularly disappointing reveal of Patient Zero whom — if you are really following the plot at this point somehow — should have totally been the good Professor himself. I mean, he is already insane and driven so why wouldn’t he have tested his Morpheus pod on himself first and perhaps the Sandman that came from his eyes had been manipulating them the whole time?

Whereas “Listen” was all about psychological terror and playing with perceptions, at best “Sleep No More” at best an attempt at a NoSleep meme using Doctor Who as a medium. And it was just as bad as a rushed and amateurish creepypasta failed to go viral. In fact, it’s almost like a choppy superficial parallel of what happens in The Russian Sleep Experiment creepypasta. It’s a shame because with more time and effort, this could have been a classic creepy Doctor Who episode. Still, it is a fascinating failure when you look at what the episode tried to be. And who knows? Perhaps the experiment isn’t yet because, after all, there are some nightmares need more than just five minutes of sleep to come into full fruition.

TADFF 15 Review: Patchwork

Imagine you are a lonely businesswoman. Or perhaps you’re a college student that wants to belong. Or maybe you are a shy, quiet woman looking to better yourself.  And then, one night, you go out to seek the things that you want … and then you wake up the next day as three minds trapped in one, awkward, cobbled together body. What do you do?

This is the premise behind Tyler MacIntyre’s horror comedy movie Patchwork. It is an obvious hearkening back to Frankenstein on a classical Universal Studios level, but films such as Re-Animator and Dark Man have also been stated as influences. However both MacIntyre and his co-writer Chris Lee Hill succeed in challenging our expectations of what this story is going to be.

For instance, we get some back story into the lives of the three women that are stitched together. We see Jennifer (Tory Stolper), Ellie (Tracey Fairaway), and Madeleine (Maria Blasucci) as three very different personalities with often divergent goals. Even the scenes that explore their lives, and the moments before their deaths, seem to be stitched together in odd and interesting places.

Tory Stolper herself, who plays the amalgamation of the three girls known as “Stitch” in both the script and the original two-minute short from which Patchwork originated, manages to create a convincing lurching gait and the physical signs of her adaptation into activities such as eating, drinking, grooming, murder, and even sex. But where, in the words of an audience member at the Toronto After Dark, Patchwork might have become a “progressive take on Frankenhooker,” it verges into something else entirely towards the end. The key is examining just who was responsible for the creation of Stitch: and who her, or their, enemy might actually be. That dark twist in a series of shallow interactions with disgusting, chauvinist men, female empowerment that is almost subverted by said realization — and segments reminiscent of Memento and the resolution of Fight Club — was well-played.

In the fact, the only quibble here is that the audience becomes aware of the twist before the characters do: though it can be argued that this only serves to potentially make viewers more eager to see how they will deal with that revelation … and it doesn’t disappoint.

And somehow, through all the quirky humour, human caricatures, chicken fillets, righteous and recreational murder sprees, and gore porn Patchwork does have something of a happy ending. It is, in the words of MacIntyre, like looking at the beginnings of a female superhero’s origin story. After all, sometimes monsters are just people who haven’t found themselves yet outside of society and all they need to become comfortable with themselves, what they want, and who they want in their lives.

What Does It Want to Be? A TADFF 15 Review of The Hallow

There are many different interpretations of faeries. Corin Hardy, director of The Hallow, seems aware of this fact: particularly with regards to how the Fae relates to Nature, being the Other in relation to humanity, and always bordering on the formless. Anyone who has read the original fairytales, the oral cautionary folklore of the past, understands just how dark and alien faeries can be.

The premise of the film is fascinating: in that Adam Hitchens, a British conservationist, his wife Claire, and their infant son move to an old forest in Ireland. They move there so that Adam can survey and eventually allow for construction in the area. The problem, of course, is simple: faeries or, as they called in the mythology of the film, the Hallow dwell in the forest … and they do not take kindly to having their territory intruded upon.

Or at least that is what it seems. Hardy creates an interesting take on faerie mythology that feeds well the film’s narrative: at least upon first glance. Through Adam’s own stubbornly scientific observations, viewers see the Hallow as a form of fungus that takes over its hosts: a life form that is highly photosensitive and possesses a great aversion to cold iron. They also create changelings: substitutions of stolen babies when they want to infiltrate a human settlement. It is also very clever how, as what seems to be a hive-mind fungus, the Hallow already has a presence in their wooden house: a ubiquitous threat making the audience aware of that tenuous line between Nature and human society.

However, how the Hallow interacts with the protagonists is where it all begins to fall flat. Even though, at the beginning, someone with a knowledge of faerie lore might wince at Claire taking off the iron bars around the windows of their new home, the nature of the Hallow itself — or themselves — just doesn’t possess any continuity. One moment it seems as though it wants to consume the family; at another it toys with them; and then it wants to spread beyond the forest even though it could have done so many times over for years.

The Hallow as a creature defines its own film structure. It seems stuck in a place between body horror, creature featuring, haunted housing, psychological, and zombie survival horror. Its as though, like its Fae monstrosities, it doesn’t know what it is, or whether or what kind of individuality it possesses. Even Adam and his dog, both of whom are infected by the Hallow fungi, seem to struggle with its mutations slightly but still ultimately fight against it. It just takes away from the actual horror element despite the excellently malformed Hallow creatures, the engrossing scenic view of the forest environment that could easily have been lost to time, and the very real terror a mother feels when her child is danger.

There were a lot of themes that could have been explored in more detail such as a loss or questioning of identity, or even specifics about the incredibly elaborate book of fairytales that the farmer Colm Donnell left the family to warn them out of the forest. The ending just bludgeons for a sequel that lacks even the mystique of its forest environment seemingly last to humanity and time, and the following jump scare just feels a little cheap. But the environment was played with well and there was some kind of closure and humanity for the characters involved.

Before the Toronto After Dark’s showing of the film, the audience was treated to a video made by Corin Hardy: telling them that they should have brought with them cold iron, a flashlight, and goggles. And it is by using these tools that the audience might see that while some trails in the forest of The Hallow might be predictable, Hardy does manage to build on and create a mythos: just as long as he protects that vision and keeps that light right in front of him.

Allison Road Opens a Path to Kickstarter

Perhaps it isn’t fair to compare Lilith Limited’s Allison Road to Hideo Kojima’s P.T. and the Silent Hills game that could have been, but the parallels are there. From vengeful white-clad ghost onryō women, locked doors, a ruined sense of domesticity, a slow building of dread and suspense, eerie radio broadcasts, to even so far as referencing “Dad was such a drag” there is definitely some overlap between Allison Road‘s prototype gameplay and the late and lamented Silent Hills demo.

Credit: Playthrough by TacticVisionz.

However, the comparison ends there. Whereas P.T. was a demo with a closed reality of cyclical torment that slowly reveals its gruesome and surreal nature, Allison Road is an upcoming game with a house filled with a first-person voice-over perspective, some Christian iconography, odd noises becoming more frequent, a property you can survey from the outside, and eventually mysteries you can explore during the day … if the horrors of the night do not destroy you first.

But while Allison Road might have started off as a small fan project by Chris Kesler and eventually the endeavour of the expanded team Lilith Limited, its prototype gameplay has taken the YouTube Let’s Play community by storm and become a green-lit phenomenon on Steam.

And now Allison Road‘s path has branched out into a Kickstarter Campaign. While Silent Hills would have been on the PlayStation 4, Allison Road is planned to be on PlayStation, XboxOne, Mac, Linux, and PC: while having an Occulus Rift interface. Kickstarter rewards include designing a scare for the game, and a standalone Lucid Dream PC game set in the Allison Road universe.

Currently the Kickstarter Campaign is receiving a massive amount of support and rewards are disappearing fast. It is hoped by Lilith Limited that their nightmare will commence in 2016.

From Horror to Adventure: Scott Cawthon’s FNAF World

It always seemed clear, at least to many Five Nights at Freddy’s fans, that Scott Cawthon was not finished with Five Nights at Freddy’s even after stating that his fourth game would be the last in the franchise. Yet what has always been striking was the fact that while the premise of the games was that the animatronics of Bonnie, Chica, Foxy, Freddy and friends were possessed by the spirits of dead children, the animatronics themselves seemed to have personalities and history beyond just being haunted.

When you also consider how much time Scott Cawthon put into designing these animatronics and their toy selves, it isn’t really surprising that he wanted to create a new game like FNAF World.

Oops. Wrong bite.
Perhaps the first clue that FNAF World was going to happen came from FNAF 4 itself:  in the form of its easter-egg Fredbear and Friends.

The main indication that FNAF World was going happen was through Cawthon’s constant website updates. Cawthon’s fanbase got to watch as his page changed from a thank you tribute with all of its motley antagonists, into a shinier version of its former self replete with new additions and cartoon “Adventure” character makeovers.

It was during this transition, from horror into fantasy, that Cawthon informed his fans on Steam of his intentions to make FNAF World as a role-playing game: in which all of the animatronics, formerly nightmarish enemies, will become its player characters.

FNAF Thank You

This transformation from Five Nights at Freddy’s horror into FNAF World‘s adventure is not unlike watching Disney create cartoons from the grisly nature of early folklore. Still, early Disney always had a dark and adult sensibility and with Scott Cawthon’s storytelling abilities, FNAF World will have its own intriguing story premise.

FNAF World

FNAF World‘s adventure begins in 2016. Seriously.

Was It Me? Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 Speculation

Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s series has taken Internet imagination by storm this past year or so. There has been so much speculation as to what is going on in the story line. For games where you must survive five (or so) nights against stained and rusting animatronics trying to stuff your frail little fleshy body into a suit filled with pistons and wires — if not worse — it has a very complicated plot that is spread across narrative fragments of 8-bit mini-games (often only accessible when after you die), newspaper clippings in the background, easter-eggs in the games, and even code on Scott Cawthon’s own website.

It’s insane: in a very good and deliciously evil way. Much like this cupcake.

Bet you wish this cake was a lie, huh?
Bet you wish this cake was a lie, huh?

All of the games have been talked about and analyzed: from gaming journalism sites, to professional YouTubers and Let’s Players, and all over Reddit forums. It is also no exaggeration to say that the series has its own dedicated community of fans: many of them attempting to dissect the game as if they are playing a warped and twisted totenkinder version of Halliday’s Easter Egg in Ready Player One. But one particular Five Nights at Freddy’s Game is getting a lot of attention right now.

Five Nights at Freddy’s 4: supposedly the final game of the series.

The fact is, Scott Cawthon could have ended the series with Five Nights at Freddy’s 3: where the fate of the murderer of all the children that he, might have, stuffed into the animatronics at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria was finally revealed. But Scott couldn’t leave it at that. Each game reveals a part of the puzzle, of the story, that we didn’t know about before. And everyone is scrambling to figure out the significance of what happened in Five Nights at Freddy’s 4.

This is all the more poignant due to the fact that Scott Cawthon went on on record as stating that while the community fanbase seemed to have solved most of the mysteries in the previous three games, they still didn’t get everything in Five Nights at Freddy’s 4. He then rubbed some salt in the wound by saying that the October 31 update for the game will not include the opening of the locked box included at the completion of the game’s Night 7.

So aside from an obligatory Challenge Accepted meme across the Internet, I have my own theory with regards to the story of Five Nights at Freddy’s 4: and what the game may have really been about.

The issue is taking details literally. Here is what I think happened. People went onto Scott Cawthon’s website and saw the source code for his page while waiting for Five Nights at Freddy’s 4. They looked at the source code and saw the number 87 repeated over and again in chains. 87 was believed by many to refer to the Bite of 1987 in the game’s lore: where apparently an animatronic bit off the entire half of some poor unfortunate’s frontal lobe.

There were no other details provided aside from that and so, when people saw 87 in the code of Scott’s page many people believed Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 would either be set during that time, or would at least explain what happened via some mini-games.

And it seemed so clear cut. The game even ended, initially, after Night 5 with an 8-bit rendering of the crying child protagonist getting his head chomped down — seemingly by accident — by the Golden Freddy animatronic: know known by some to be the original Fredbear and possibly the first animatronic in that franchise. We thought we saw the Bite of 87 in action and the events that led up to it.

Worst birthday ever.
Worst. Birthday. Ever.

But some things just didn’t add up. The YouTuber MatPat, in his two Game Theory videos on the matter, explained that the game itself — which seems to take place in the nightmares of that comatose child’s mind after his bite — had inconsistencies if he had been the victim of the bite. For starters, missing his frontal lobe would have affected his fear responses and even his subconscious perceptions. And there is also that fact the person who lost their frontal lobe, according to FNAF lore, actually survived while this child does not.

And then there is that fact that if you find an Easter egg following Night 3, you will realize that there is a cartoon playing on the crying child’s television that is Fredbear and Friends: with the date of 1983, not 1987.

Oops. Wrong bite.
Oops. Wrong bite.

Yet here is the thing. At one point, before Scott changed his webpage to create a chain of nightmarish animatronics asking, “Was it me?” and seemingly referring to which of them caused the Bite of 87 — a major point of contention in the FNAF Community — he had an image of Freddy Fazbear’s top hat lying by itself on the stage: making it unclear as to whether or not he would continue the series past the third game.

Musicians like the singing animatronics aren’t the only ones that perform on stages, however. Stage magicians also perform on stage. They traditionally wear top hats, and they are known for their misdirection and slight of hand.

Nothing up my sleeve, nothing in my soul ...
Nothing up my sleeve, nothing in my soul …

Scott Cawthon is no less an entertainer of that caliber. Mostly everyone was so distracted by the idea that they might be seeing the Bite of 87 unfold and the mystery of whodunnit finally solved that other possibilities were not as prevalent.

Look at it this way. In the first Five Nights at Freddy’s game, Scott added an update after being asked about the Bite of 87 so often. There is a Custom Night menu where you can program the difficulty level of the animatronics that you are dealing with. If you type in 1-9-8-7, Golden Freddy will automatically appear and “crash” the game. Many took it to be that Golden Freddy caused the Bite, while others thought that Scott was just trolling them after being harassed about this question for so long.

It's me.
It’s me.

But what if the code chain of 87 in on his webpage was actually there to tell everyone that Golden Freddy was central to Five Nights at Freddy’s 4? And what if that reoccurring question “Was it me?” in all the subsequent images that followed on the same page had nothing to do with the Bite of 87 at all? 87 was a red herring, or at least a way to make you possibly more aware of Golden Freddy: of Fredbear.

What if the real question wasn’t who made the Bite of 87, or how? What if the real question is which spirit was impetus in making the events in all of Five Nights at Freddy’s possible?

MatPat and other YouTuber theorists believe that the crying child in the fourth game becomes the Puppet: the animatronic who reanimates the spirits of four other dead children into their current animatronic forms in all the games. But he doesn’t rule out that the crying child also becomes Golden Freddy: that in terms of the story it would be much more satisfying given what happened in the third game.

Here is my understanding of the situation. In the second game, we see a child get murdered outside of what might be the first Fredbear’s Family Diner: and he becomes the Puppet. Then years later Fredbear’s expands into a chain of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzerias. We see the crying child in 1983 get tormented by his older brother in a Foxy mask, and also the fact that he is deeply terrified of Fazbear’s: as if he saw something happen in there he shouldn’t have. On his birthday, his brother and friends stuff his head into the Fredbear animatronic and it accidentally chomps down on him. The Puppet, sensing a kinship with another tormented child who didn’t even get to enjoy his last birthday, takes action. He doesn’t have his body, but he makes the child is first attempt to restore life: and makes him into a Golden Freddy ghost as that was how he had been fatally wounded and rendered comatose.

Then the murders of the children start to happen. Everyone thought that the Puppet was reanimating the children through the animatronics of Freddy, Chica, Bonnie, and Foxy to get revenge on their murderer. But if you play the secret mini-game in Five Nights at Freddy’s 3, you have the opportunity to set the spirits of those children free. If you are successful you get a final scene where children wearing the Puppet, Freddy, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy masks give a cake to another child in a Golden Freddy mask. Then they pass on.

Happiest Day ...
Happiest Day …

Scott Cawthon used to create Christian games before he set out on his adventure into horror. One central tenet of Christianity is redemption. Perhaps, when it comes down to it — though not in a purely transparent C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia fashion — the question of “Was it me?” was really which animatronic’s spirit motivated the Puppet to set everything into action: that it was more than vengeance or blood lust but an actual need to set things right. And it would only be fitting that Golden Freddy, possibly made after Fredbear the first animatronic, would be so integral in beginning and ending the series.

Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.

There are a lot more details I haven’t gone into of course, but I will leave that in more capable hands. We may never know what is in that locked box, of it is as simple as whether or not the Puppet or Golden Freddy started all of this. But remember: the narrative above the box, and in Scott’s Steam message didn’t say that the secret would never be revealed. The text above the box reads: “Perhaps some things are best left forgotten, for now,” while Scott himself states, “maybe some things are best left forgotten, forever.”

Based on the fact that Scott Cawthon has released the Five Nights At Freddy’s series relatively more quickly than most people expected, while releasing the fourth game earlier than his originally stated Halloween date, and his history of playing with assumptions, I think he is kind of a tease and I take everything he says with a grain of salt. I would not be surprised if there is more to this story one way or another.

And now, more than ever, I am looking forward to Halloween.