HomeFictionTopic Tag Tuesday

What You Paid For

The door was open a crack, but Oscar knocked all the same. There was no answer at first, so he took hold of the door knob and knocked again, with slightly more force. Something inside shifted, and he thought he heard snickering.

“‘ello?” came a thin voice.

“Hello, yes,” said Oscar, clearing his throat. “I’m looking for misters Boots and Heehaw, please.”

“Thas’ us!” said the voice above a cackle. “C’mon in!”

Oscar stepped inside, and a bucket of water, perched at the top of the door, dumped over his head. He paused, removed his small round glasses, and wiped them on his equally-soaked handkerchief.

The ghouls inside were laughing their heads off. Almost literally.

“Thassa classic!” cackled the nearest one, tongue dripping out of his semi-opaque skull. The hefty one on the empty water cooler slapped his knee so hard his hand flew off. Oscar sighed as politely as he could, and smiled.

“Hello, sirs. I’m Mr Hilderoy, standing in for Mr Wells.”

“How is old Wellsey?” said the smaller ghoul, floating closer.

“Still in his coma, sir,” said Oscar without a hint of disdain. “I have business, if you don’t mind.”

“No mind,” said the thicker one, eyeballs looking in different directions, neither of them Oscar’s.

“Iss about last week, is it?” asked the smaller one.

“I’m afraid so, Mr… Boots, is it?”

“That’s me, yeah,” said Boots with a slimy grin. “Did we make ‘em mad? Did we?”

“Yes, sir, I’m afraid you did,” said Oscar, pulling his notepad from his pocket, watching both ghouls carefully. “The Association has launched a formal complaint against your group—”

“We’ve got a name y’know,” said Boots.

Oscar lowered his notepad, cocked his head.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware. And you are…?”

“The United Brotherhood of Ghouls is what we are.”

Oscar nodded, betraying no emotion.

“Very well, sir. I—”

“And girls. We ain’t just the boys. Girls too. Brotherhood and Sisterhood.”

“Girlies!” said Heehaw, sinking into the water bottle.

Oscar jotted down the name on his notepad, smiled politely.

“Very well. The Association has filed a complaint against the United Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Ghouls, as a result of your protest last week during the festivities.”

“Howzabout a bagel?” said Boots, handing over a plate with a far-too-average bagel on it. Oscar eyed it for a moment, then smiled.

“No thank you, sir.”

The bagel burst into flames. Boots threw the plate over his shoulder, crossing his arms and squinting menacingly.

“So what’s the Ass-ociation gonna do?” he snapped. “Fine us? Ooo, scary!”

“No sir,” said Oscar. “They are well aware of your lack of liquid assets.”

“Likky!” said Heehaw, face bubbling in the top of the water, arms waving around beside him like a hyperactive penguin.

“They are issuing orders to have you deported, sirs. I am here to discuss alternatives, if any are possible.”

“Where’d we be goin’?” asked Boots.

“Antarctica,” said Oscar.

“It’s cold there,” said Boots.

“That it is, sir. So if we could just discuss—”

“Th’French Riviera!” said Boots, floating tall, a mean glint in his eye. “Exile us there and issa done deal!”

Oscar sighed, wiped a few strands of dripping hair from his forehead, and folded his hands together.

“I’m afraid that will not be an option, sir,” he said.

“Why not? It’s exile, yeah?”

“The punishment, sir, would not fit the crime.”

“What crime?” snapped Boots. “We had a list of demands, an’ if the Ass-ociation had taken th’time t’read ‘em, we’d have been out there last week, scarin’ them kidsies and making ‘em wet ‘emselves!”

“Your demands were quite extravagant, sir,” said Oscar, flipping through his notes.

“Extrav’gnt? Like how?”

“Well, for one, I do not see how we would acquire sixty-two porcupines dressed as ballerinas.”

“Yer just not tryin’ is all.”

“No sir, it is the Association’s assertion that you intended to boycott Hallowe’en from the start. That all these ‘demands’ were but a cover for your true concerns.”

Boots played with the desk lamp, sparks firing in every direction when he touched it. Heehaw was sitting in a pool on the floor, painting his toenails pink. The smell of the nail polish made the room somewhat less hideous. Boots caught a few sparks in his mouth, then glowered at Oscar.

“Y’know what the problem is?” he asked.

“No sir. But if I could help, it would greatly please me.”

“It’s the kids,” grumbled Boots. “They don’t like us anymore.”

“I don’t think that’s—”

“They like zombies, an’ they like vampires, but ghouls? Nada. No time o’ day, right? No one returns my calls no more.”

“I’m sure that’s—”

“Here, let me show you. Heehaw! Do your thing!”

Boots grabbed a raggedly mop head from the corner of the room, stuck it on his head, and batted his pasty eyes in what might be considered a feminine way, if females were prone to inducing nausea and psychological damage.

“Oh Edward!” he said in a squeakier voice. “Why dontcha love me, Edward?”

Heehaw, playing Edward, stood there, distant, like a large block of foul jello. It was hard to say if it was a James Dean act, or if he had died on his feet.

“That’s very impressive, sirs,” said Oscar, rubbing his temple. “But I—”

Heehaw vomited a small canister onto the ground. Shoe polish. No one spoke for a moment.

“I’m afraid this is an issue for the Communications Department, and not entirely relevant to the issue of your contractual duties last night insofar as—”

“Who missed us?” spat Boots, tossing the mop to the side and sticking the lamp on his head. It lit his eyeballs up.

“Who… missed you?” asked Oscar.

“Yeah, who knew we were gone? Anyone?”

Oscar flipped through his notes, frowned.

“I… I’m afraid I’m not sure, sir.”

“Iss cause there’s nobody,” Boots said. “Nobody knew, nobody cared. Ghouls ain’t in vogue no more. Thass why the Brotherhood’s takin’ a stand.”

“By not showing up.”

“Yeah,” nodded Boots confidently.

Oscar nodded, stowing his notepad and clasping his hands behind his back.

“I’m afraid the exile will stand, then,” he said. “I thank you for your time, sirs.”

Boots suddenly flared to life, unholy white fire pouring off his body as his eyes turned blood red and his teeth split into a hundred needle-like shards.

“Hold the fuck on!” he screamed like a banshee. “I ain’t done with you yet! I’m gonna essplode your fuckin’ brains from one side ‘o the universe to th’other so even fuckin’ GOD can’t putcha back together again!”

Oscar turned to leave, yawning as he went.

“Issues of quantum physics and theology are best left to the Practical Magic Department, sir. But I thank you for the thought. It is good to see you’re not out of practice.”

Boots went back to his quiet self, smiled hopefully.

“I ain’t?”

“No sir. Quite frightening.”

Boots blushed.

“Aw shucks,” he said. “Thanks fer sayin’ that. Ya dunno how hard it was, keepin’ that inside on Hallowe’en. My freak outs are what keep me goin’, y’know?”

“I do sir. I’m honoured to have seen it.”

Boots grinned like a fool and held out his hand to shake.

“No hard feelings, then?” he said. “I mean, I won’t send ya a postcard from Antarctica, but I won’t go an’ hex ya neither.”

Oscar eyed the hand, then smiled.

“Thank you sir, it was nice to—” the second he touched the hand, the heavy voltage from the lamp shot through Boots’ body and straight into Oscar’s, cooking his organs and making his eyeballs pop open and sizzle before he hit the ground.

Boots and Heehaw laughed themselves onto the floor, rolling around in hysterics, gasping for air they didn’t need.

That is, until Oscar got back to his feet and straightened his tie.

“H-h-how didja…” gasped Boots.

“Undead,” said Oscar with a raw but composed voice. “All the Association’s upper management is undead, actually. We find it helps us better control the problems.”

If he’d had eyes, he would have been giving them an evil stare.

“I know a great many people will miss the wild antics of the ghoul era, but honestly, from an administrative standpoint, it was pure hell.” Oscar nodded briskly and turned to go. “Luckily, it’s over. Good day, sirs. Give my regards to the frozen tundra.”

The door closed gently behind him.

“Ice cream!” said Heehaw.

“Shut up,” said Boots.


This week's topic tag is a mix of so many strange ideas, I was seriously worried I wouldn't fit them all in. Luckily, I am insane. With random ideas by @kdnewton, @LynThorneAlder, @piers_hollott, @tenaciousN, @quillsandzebras and @Tally_LRR

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