Thursday, October 20, 2011

Halloween Fun with A.C. Hall

Halloween Fun Book Giveaway
(A. C. Hall is a participating author in the giveaway)

Scrolls Season One

Deck 57
By A.C. Hall

      “The man stood completely still, alone in the darkness.  He dared not breathe.  Just when he thought it was safe to relax, he heard it again.  The scraping of a metal hook against his front door.” 
      The storyteller was surrounded by a throng of kids, all of them entranced by his scary story.  On the outer edge of the group stood four teenagers. 
      “This is lame,” Curt said. 
      He crossed his arms, taking care to keep his muscles flexed as long as Brittany was looking his way.  She was standing right beside him, and Curt never missed an opportunity to try to impress her.    
      “It’s Halloween,” Kenny said. 
      Curt reached over and flicked the glasses off of Kenny’s head.  The slightly overweight teen’s cheeks turned red as he bent down to retrieve them from the metal floor. 
      “Don’t be such a nerd,” Curt teased. 
      “Leave him alone, Kenny,” Trevor said. 
      Curt glared at him.  The two teens had grown up together, their parents being best friends who spent almost every day around each other.  Friends by necessity, the lifelong playmates had drifted apart in recent years. 
      Before Curt could respond to Trevor, an adult wearing a blue uniform stepped up behind them. 
      “Show some respect,” the grownup said.  “Halloween was a fun filled day back on Earth.  It’s important we continue to observe and respect it, like we respect every Earth holiday.” 
      “Of course, sir,” Curt answered, inserting just the right amount of disrespect into his tone.
      The man frowned at Curt’s thinly veiled display of disobedience, then walked away.  For a few moments they fell silent again, the storyteller’s voice the only sound in the room. 
      “The hook broke through the wooden door, sending splinters flying everywhere.” 
      Curt threw up his hands. 
      “It’s the same story every year,” he complained. 
      “It was scary when we were kids,” Kenny said. 
      “Well we aren’t kids anymore, are we moron?” Curt asked. 
      Curt reached out to flick Kenny’s glasses again, but Trevor grabbed him by the wrist. 
      “He doesn’t like when you do that,” Trevor said. 
      “Whatever,” Curt said, pulling his arm away.  “I’m going to go get treats.” 
      He turned and walked away.  Brittany followed quickly.  Trevor watched for a moment, feeling torn.  He wasn’t wild about joining Curt on another misadventure, but he made it a point to never pass up a chance to be around Brittany outside of class.  He hesitated for a second, then followed after them. 
      “Oh man,” Kenny complained as he set off after Trevor.  “We’re gonna get in so much trouble.” 
      Curt led them all into a nearby hallway.  He was walking fast, but once they were out of view of the atrium where the storyteller continued with the scary story he slowed down. 
      “Where are you going, Curt?” Trevor asked, knowing all too well how bad things could go when hanging out with Curt. 
      “It’s Halloween, right?” Curt asked.  “I’m heading up to Officer’s Deck to knock on some doors and get some treats.” 
      “We’re not supposed to start knocking on doors until nine o’ clock, and we’re not supposed to be on Officer’s Deck unsupervised,” Kenny said. 
      Curt pretended like he was going to punch Kenny.  When the obese teen flinched, Curt laughed. 
      “I’m gonna do it anyways, Kenny.  If you’re afraid of getting in trouble, why don’t you go back and listen to the scary story with all the other children?” 
      Kenny stopped walking, his cheeks turning red again.  
      “This isn’t how they did it back on Earth,” he said. 
      Curt turned around to face him. 
      “I don’t care about Earth!” Curt shouted. 
      It was a subject he was often outspoken about.  Some of their teachers had taken notice that Curt was influencing others in his age group with his disrespectful views of their homeworld. 
      Curt stomped off.  Brittany stayed behind for a moment, shrugging at Kenny and Trevor. 
      “He’s not wrong, you know,” she said.  “Our parents parents were just little kids when the ship left Earth.  What’s it to us, we never knew it, and we won’t know the new Earth either.  It’ll be our children’s children who settle there.”    
      She turned and jogged to catch up with Curt.  Trevor hated to see her go, but realized it was probably a good idea not to hang with Curt when he was on the prowl for trouble. 
      Brittany turned around and motioned for him to follow her.  She smiled wide as she did it. 
      “Come on, Trevor!”
      Suddenly he couldn’t remember why he’d wanted to do anything else.  Kenny groaned as Trevor ran to catch up with her, then he too jogged after them. 

* * * * *

      Curt dug around in the bag of treats and pulled out a green protein bar.  He sniffed it, then threw it down. 
      “This is lame,” he whined. 
      “That last lady on Deck 12 gave me a towel as a treat,” Brittany complained.
      Curt scoffed. 
      “Halloween sucks,” he proclaimed. 
      “I like it,” Kenny answered as he shoved another protein bar in his mouth. 
      Trevor rolled his eyes.  Sometimes it seemed like Kenny was asking to be picked on.  Thankfully, Curt was too caught up in his quest for trouble to bother Kenny right now. 
      “This holiday’s supposed to be scary,” Curt said.  “What’s so scary about protein bars, towels and a stupid story about a guy with a hook?” 
      “There’s not much scary about life on a seed ship,” Trevor said.  “Sounds like Earth was a much more dangerous place.” 
      Curt suddenly perked up. 
      “That’s it!” he said.  “We’ve got a dangerous place of our own!” 
      Kenny stopped chewing for a moment. 
      “What are you talking about?” he asked. 
      Judging from the maniacal grin spreading across Curt’s face, Trevor was pretty sure what his old friend had in mind. 
      “It’s a bad idea,” Trevor said. 
      Curt ignored him. 
      “We’re gonna explore the abandoned deck,” Curt announced. 
      “Deck 57?” Brittany asked. 
      “No!” Kenny said, his voice a panicked whisper.  “They say that the mad engineer lives there.” 
      Curt threw a protein bar at him. 
      “The mad engineer isn’t real, it’s just a story they tell to keep scared kids like you away from Deck 57.” 
      Kenny shook his head slowly. 
      “They say you can still hear the whine of his plasma wrench as he stalks the dark hallways, waiting to claim his next victim.” 
      “Yeah?” Curt asked.  “Let’s go find out if it’s true.” 
      “For real, Curt, that deck is dangerous.  That’s the whole reason it’s shutdown and off limits,” Trevor said. 
      Curt grabbed Brittany by the hand and set off down the hall.  She usually followed him anywhere, but hesitated for a moment as he tried to pull her along.  She reached back and grabbed Trevor’s hand.  It was the first time she’d ever touched him. 
      “Please come with us,” she said. 
      He allowed himself to be pulled forward. 
      Kenny dropped a protein bar back into his bag as he reluctantly followed them. 
      “We’re all gonna die,” he said. 

* * * * *

      The lift was programmed not to stop on Deck 57, so they got off on 56 instead.  Decks 50 through 60 were mechanical in nature, and with most everyone celebrating Halloween the chances of running into an engineer were slim.  Curt led them to the emergency ladder.  He stopped at the base of it. 
      “Ladies first,” he said, motioning towards Brittany
      She shook her head and took a step back. 
      “No way am I going first.”
      “Wuss,” Curt said. 
      He started climbing the ladder.  The other three stood their ground, watching him as he neared the hatch that opened up to Deck 57.  Curt pressed on it, but it didn’t slide open. 
      “Give me something to hit it with,” he said. 
      Trevor looked around and located a length of metal pipe.  He handed it up to Curt, who started using it to bash the hatch. 
      “You’re not going to get it open like that,” Trevor said. 
      Curt glared down at him. 
      “You wanna get up here and do it, smart guy?” 
      Trevor looked over at Brittany.  She was watching him expectantly.
      “Fine, let me do it,” Trevor said. 
      He and Curt traded places.  Trevor jammed the pipe against the hatch’s seal, then wiggled it back and forth.  A moment later the hatch slid open.  There was no light directly above him, and all he could see as he stared up at Deck 57 was darkness. 
      Trevor wanted to climb back down, but Curt was already behind on the ladder, coming up.  He didn’t want Brittany to think he was afraid, so he pulled himself up into the darkness. 
      He crouched there, all alone for seconds that seemed to stretch on forever.  The faint glow of emergency lighting could be seen in the distance where the hallway opened up into a bigger room.
      Finally, Curt appeared, followed by Brittany and Kenny.  No one moved or said anything for several long moments. 
      “Well?” Trevor asked as he looked back at Curt. 
      “Well, what?” Curt said defensively.
      “Are you going to lead us around or are we going to be smart and get out of here?” Trevor replied. 
      Curt struggled to fight through his fear.  When he realized Brittany was staring at him he forced a smile onto his face and stepped forward. 
      “Let’s do it,” he said. 
      He moved past Trevor and slowly started walking towards the emergency light in the distance.  After a few steps he stopped and turned around.  Curt grabbed the metal pipe that Trevor was still holding and jerked it out of his hand.  He then continued on, his confidence bolstered slightly now that he was armed. 
      The hall opened up into a mechanical bay of some sort.  It was impossible to tell what its original purpose was, as the room was in ruinous condition.  Consoles were ripped from the wall, leaving exposed wiring, and there was broken plexi-glass and twisted steel littering the floor.  A flickering blue panel in the ceiling provided the only light. 
      “Was there an accident in here?” Brittany asked. 
      “No accident,” Curt said.  “It was the mad engineer.” 
      He turned towards Kenny and pointed the metal pipe at him. 
      “And he’s coming for you next,” Curt said with a laugh. 
      Kenny took a step back. 
      “That’s not funny, Curt.” 
      Trevor was ignoring them.  He was knelt among the wreckage, digging through it. 
      “Nothing’s burnt, so it wasn’t an explosion,” he said.  “It really does look like someone just trashed the place.” 
      He picked up a circuit board that was almost completely intact.  Curt saw it and ripped it out of his hand. 
      “You think there’s more of this stuff deeper into the deck?” Curt asked. 
      Trevor stood up and shrugged. 
      “I don’t know, why?” 
      “Because all of those engineers and tech heads are always bartering with each other for new parts,” Curt explained.  “If we could find some rare materials in here we could make a killing from those nerds.” 
      Curt tossed the circuit board down and marched out of the mechanical bay, taking a hallway on the far side.  Everyone fell in behind him again.  Most of the emergency lighting panels were busted out, leaving them moving through total darkness for long stretches at a time.  Being a mechanical deck, the hallways twisted and turned often, weaving around machinery and mechanical bays. 
      All four of them did their best to hold it together, but when a length of hallway bathed in darkness stretched on for over five minutes even Curt’s bravado slipped. 
      “Maybe we should turn back,” Brittany said. 
      “I totally agree with her,” Kenny said quickly. 
      A second later, Curt spoke. 
      “Fine, if you guys insist,” he said, his shaky voice laying bare his own fear. 
      He led them back down the hallway, then through a series of turns at different intersections.  Thirty minutes later they were still traveling down a labyrinth of hallways.  They’d seen nothing familiar for some time. 
      Kenny was breathing heavily, trying to fight off a panic attack. 
      “We’re lost,” he said over and over.  “We’re lost on Deck 57.” 
      “You’re not helping,” Curt said. 
      He stood in another intersection, trying to decide which way to go. 
      “I think we came from that way,” Brittany said, pointing to their left. 
      “I thought it was that way,” Trevor said, pointing to their right. 
      Curt looked at both of them, then shook his head. 
      “Then it’s decided, we go straight,” he said. 
      Trevor sighed, but wasn’t about to go off on his own.  They followed Curt down the hall directly ahead of them.  A few minutes later it stopped at a massive door.  A square viewport offered a view of the room beyond, but it was covered in grime and dust.  Curt wiped it with his shirt, then whistled. 
      “There’s bound to be some valuable stuff in there,” he said. 
      Trevor shouldered past him and peered through the viewport.  The room was massive and lined on both sides by consoles that appeared to be in working order. 
      “Shouldn’t we be trying to find our way out of here?” Brittany asked. 
      Curt started working to pry the door open with the lead pipe. 
      “Eh, we’re lost, might as well profit off of it,” he said. 
      He got the pipe jammed in and with Trevor’s help was able to pry the door open a few feet.  They turned the pipe sideways and shoved it into the frame, using it to hold the door open.  It made for a tight squeeze, especially for Kenny, but they were all able to squirm through the opening into the impressive chamber. 
      Curt started to pull on the pipe, but Trevor grabbed his arm. 
      “Leave it,” Trevor said.  “We may need to come back out this way.” 
      Strobing red emergency lighting in the floor bathed the chamber in crimson.  Curt moved towards a bank of computers arranged in a circle in the center of the room. 
      “These look expensive,” he said. 
      Brittany and Trevor followed him, but Kenny stayed completely still. 
      “Did you guys hear something?” Kenny asked. 
      “Give it up already, man, it’s gettin’ old,” Curt complained. 
      “But I swear that I heard…”
      Kenny went silent as a distant whine sounded out.  Everyone froze.  The sound was vague, but they all heard it. 
      “It’s the mad engineer!” Kenny whispered, sweat beading on his forehead. 
      “Keep it together, Kenny, we don’t know that’s what it is,” Trevor said. 
      The noise sounded out again, this time closer than before.  It was a high whine, not unlike that of a plasma wrench.
      “It’s him, we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die,” Kenny said. 
      He started backing towards the door, but Curt rushed forward and grabbed him by the shoulder. 
      “You can’t go that way,” Curt said. 
      Kenny struggled to break free. 
      “Why not?” 
      “Because I think that’s where the noise is coming from!” Curt whispered. 
      Kenny broke forward in a full sprint, not bothering to look back at the door they’d jammed open.  His panic was infectious, and the other three ran with him towards the computers in the center of the room.  They hid behind them, their breathing ragged. 
      After taking several deep breaths, Curt poked his head up to look back at the door. 
      “I don’t see anything,” he whispered. 
      The noise returned.  It reverberated off the walls, sounding like it was right there in the room with them.  Curt ducked back down.  There was no denying it now, the noise was definitely a plasma wrench, the very item that people said the mad engineer still carried.    
      “What should we do?” Curt asked, looking to Trevor for guidance. 
      “I don’t know,” Trevor admitted. 
      He peeked up over the computers, but saw nothing at the door.  He was about to suggest they go back through it when one of the consoles along the wall started to shake.  Their eyes were all glued to it as they tried to figure out what was happening.
      The console fell forward, unattached from the wall by an unseen force behind it.  A large figure emerged from inside the wall, stepping out through the opening where the console had just been.  The figure was cloaked in shadows, but the massive plasma wrench in his hand glowed a bright blue. 
      “RUN!” Trevor screamed. 
      They took off for the hallway at the far end of the chamber.  Heavy footsteps fell in behind them.  Trevor’s heart was pounding, feeling like it was lodged in the back of his throat.  Each heartbeat hit like a punch to the chest.  He glanced over his shoulder.  As the red lights in the floor strobed underfoot he got a glimpse of the beast in pursuit.  A wild man, his once proud blue engineer’s uniform nothing but a few scraps clinging to his muscled and grimy torso.  A stringy white beard cascaded off of his face, and his eyes were those of a madman. 
      As they neared the hallway their pursuer changed directions, running for a panel in the wall.  Curt was in the lead and rushed into the next hallway.  The hall was circular, and the floor was just a catwalk .  There were wires all around them, and the catwalk dropped seven feet down to the floor that was also covered in wires. 
      “Where is he?” Curt yelled. 
      Trevor started to slow as he strained his hearing.  A moment later he skidded to a stop. 
      “HE’S IN THE WALLS!” he screamed. 
      A panel in the ceiling burst open and the mad engineer dropped out, blocking their path.  Curt turned around and shoved his way past Kenny.  Kenny tried to keep his balance but his foot slipped off the side of the catwalk.  He flailed his arms as he fell, thudding hard amongst the wiring below. 
      “Kenny!” Trevor yelled. 
      Curt grabbed him as he went running past. 
      “We have to save ourselves!” Curt said as he dragged Trevor along. 
      The three of them came back into the chamber.  Trevor took the lead and went towards the panel in the wall he’d seen the mad engineer go towards a few moments earlier. 
      “What are you doing, we’ve gotta get out of here!” Curt yelled. 
      Trevor shoved on the panel and it fell open.  Inside was a spacious walkway that ran behind the walls.
      “You two hide in here while I go get Kenny.” 
      “Forget Kenny,” Curt said. 
      Trevor slapped him hard in the face, then pointed at the walkway behind the walls. 
      “I’m not going to leave him to die,” Trevor said.  “Wait for us to come back, and then we’ll all run for the door together.” 
      Brittany nodded and stepped into the walkway.  She pulled on Curt and he reluctantly followed. 
      “I mean it, Curt,” Trevor said.  “Don’t you dare leave without us.” 
      Trevor replaced the panel, then turned and ran back towards the circular hallway.  The mad engineer was nowhere to be seen, but Kenny was easy to see and hear.  He was thrashing around like he was drowning, desperately trying to break free from all of the wires. 
      Trevor jumped off the catwalk.  There were hundreds of wires of all different thicknesses, making it hard to walk without something snagging his foot.  He made his way to Kenny, who was hyperventilating. 
      “Calm down, Kenny, I’m here.”
      Kenny’s glasses were gone, and he squinted up at Trevor. 
      “Please help me,” he said. 
      Trevor started working to get Kenny free from the mess of wires.  In his panic to get out, Kenny had snared himself even worse, causing knots and other complications.  Trevor was pulling the last wire off when they felt a thumping beneath their feet.  They locked eyes, both of them panicking. 
      “He’s underneath us!” Kenny squealed. 
      He got to his feet and reached up, grasping the side of the catwalk. 
      “Help me up, Trevor!”
      Trevor got underneath his hefty friend and tried to hoist him up.  Kenny wasn’t graceful under the best circumstances, and now he kicked his legs and wriggled his body, making the act of getting up onto the catwalk infinitely difficult.  Spurned on the by the high pitched whine of the pulse wrench, Trevor pushed with all his strength, finally getting Kenny up onto the catwalk. 
      Kenny got to his feet and sprinted away.  Trevor could feel the panel beneath his feet about to give way.  He jumped just as it fell away.  His fingers gripped the edge of the catwalk and he pulled with everything he had left in him.  He could hear movement below him, knew what was coming, but refused to look down. 
      He got his upper body over the edge, then swung his legs up onto the catwalk.  He jumped to his feet, but as he took his first step a powerful hand closed around his back foot.  Trevor fell face first onto the catwalk.  The impact knocked the wind from him and brought tears to his eyes. 
      The hand grasped at his ankle as it tried to drag him backwards.  Trevor kicked and twisted.  His heel impacted something solid and the grip loosened for a moment, just long enough for him to pull away.  He got to his feet and sprinted back into the chamber. 
      When the red lights strobed, Trevor couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  Curt and Brittany were already outside the door and Kenny was running towards them, almost there.  Trevor felt foolish for trusting that Curt would wait for him.  He focused his last remaining energy, streaking across the chamber as fast as he possibly could. 
      Curt was grasping at the metal pipe, trying to yank it free so the door would shut. 
      “No!  Don’t!” Trevor yelled as he continued to run. 
      Kenny reached the door.  He turned sideways and flung himself through the opening.  Curt looked up and saw Trevor coming, and he saw who was coming after Trevor. 
      He renewed his fight with the pipe, jerking on it wildly, putting his entire body weight behind each attempt. 
      “WAIT!” Trevor screamed. 
      He was five feet away.  The pipe came free and the door slammed shut.  Trevor crashed into it seconds later.  He pounded on the viewport, trying to smash it open. 
      “Don’t leave me!” he screamed. 
      He could see their faces as they stared back at him.  Tears streamed down Trevor’s face as he continued to smash his fists against the viewport. 
      “Help me!  I don’t want to die.  I don’t want to AHHHHHHHHHH!”
      Even through the heavy sealed door, his scream could be heard.  Trevor dropped from view.  He reached up, and his blood covered hand pressed against the viewport. 
      “We have to go!” Curt yelled, pulling Brittany to her feet. 
      They took off down the hallway.  Kenny followed, but glanced back one last time.  Trevor’s hand slowly slid down the viewport, leaving a trail of blood. 
      A moment later he was gone.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!
For more information on A.C. Hall go to Hall Brothers Entertainment

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