You wake up and find yourself in a horror franchise, what franchise would you prefer to wake up in and why?
I slip from the great four poster bed, parting drapes as heavy and dark as a funeral bier. By the light of a guttering candelabra, I take in a chamber filled with fantastically carven furniture, obscure tapestries and a mirror that is positioned to frighten anyone entering with their own reflection. How I came here, I know not, nor why I am garbed in such antique style, cumbrous yet not unsuited to my surroundings. The engraved locket around my neck is one I have possessed since childhood. Something in me responds to my circumstances not with fear but with a strange sense of familiarity. Of homecoming, though it be to a place filled with dreadful mystery. As the great clock ticks, showing it wants but an hour till midnight, I take up the candelabra and prepare to explore.
But facing the door, I pause. The flame of the candles dips always away from a particular tapestry, displaying a grave-faced knight. The image is surely centuries old, but his eyes seem almost alive in the flickering light. I feel a sudden sympathy for his beauty and the tragedy it seems to speak, that from the waist down he is enrapt by thorns. But the whole tapestry ripples in the draft, revealing a concealed passage. With my free hand, I lift it and so enter a passage filled with curious portraits.
Each is of the same man. From the limning of the Renaissance to the formal portraiture of the sixteen and seventeenth centuries, the emotionality of the eighteenth. Those same eyes regard me, though the man himself be garbed as a Georgian dandy or with Victorian sobriety. As Expressionism overtakes Realism, he sits in a simple black suit amid green walls, but the brushstrokes make of his eyes a maelstrom. And next to that…
“A hint, oh beautiful one. Never commission a portrait from a cubist.”
You find yourself as the “Final One”. Which monster / villain would you most like to go up against and why do you think you would survive?
He stands with his back towards me, against the glow of a dying fire, holding his long, pale hands to the warmth. His skin is all but translucent. Tendrils of thick, dark hair fall down his back, over an antique jerkin graven with a pattern of thorns and roses. Like the design upon my locket. When he speaks, his voice holds the hollowness of some great well.
“By that locket, you are some distant descendent of the Megrim family. Do you know of its history, and that of this house?” Dumbly, I shake my head. And yet, he seems to see me without seeing, to be aware of my every move. “It was given by the first Baron to his beloved. Her untimely death drove him to madness and then darkness eternal.”
When he turns, my breath catches.
“And yet, in you, I see her once again. Perhaps even her spirit returned.”
My mouth is dry as I reach for words. “If that be me, then who are you?”
“Who am I but that same Baron of Megrim, cursed with immortality for allowing my passions to overcome my sense of honour and religious duty. For long ages have I waited, my desire as eternal as my night. The fire warms me not.”
“Look, I’m not saying you aren’t Lilith’s gift in leather, but the Gothic doesn’t work like that anymore.”
“It’s more about confronting the unpalatable truths of history and finding unexpected resonances of the past in contemporary settings than the whole woman against society thing. Oh, there’s still glamour and mystery, and amazing clothes, and every kind of consensual sexuality. But traditional power dynamics? Forget it.”
“I have never forgotten – “
“Which brings me to the whole memory loss thing. I’m betting I didn’t go to sleep here, which means you brought me here without my consent. Fair enough in case of an accident, though a hospital was probably more appropriate. But the gown business? That’s not going to fly, even if you can. And as your descendant, I’m fairly sure I’m the owner of this old pile: that is, if the legal principle of mortmain applies to the undead.”
And which creature would you least like to go up against?
“Well,” says the Baron. “If you really want to be contemporary, fungal horror is trending. And fungus, spores and mould is something we’ve always had in abundance here at Megrim Manor.”
In the passageway behind me, darkness wells like a cohesive thing. A faint chitter, as of many tiny mouths. It comes towards me, swallowing each portrait in turn.
“I am calling the Mould Doctor. Now.”
You find yourself in Scooby Doo, which character are you, and who would most like to have as the other members of Mystery Inc?
At this, one of the drapes collapses upon me, enveloping me all save my face. Taking it for more fungus, I cry out, but then see a group of young people – ridiculously young people – have somehow penetrated the Baron’s sanctum. A blonde youth in a white sweater, a red-headed girl. Behind them, an obvious stoner stands with his hand on the collar of a great dane. Across the room, a short girl with a bob and rather becoming glasses, has taken a curious puzzle box down from the mantle and begun turning it in her hands.
“It’s the author who was signing in that quaint little bookshop!” The blonde announces triumphantly. “You’ve been haunting this manor all along!”
Now I remember.
“And you’re that git who knocked over the stack of my paperbacks on on your way to the Local History section. That’s the last thing I do remember – you must have knocked me unconscious!”
“I’m sorry, but we had, like, important research to do.”
“And I, a horror writer, was right there? It didn’t occur to you that maybe I would have the clue?”
“Horror written by women is just stupid romantic stuff.”
“You know what? Here’s the undead baron of Megrim Manor and a heap of sentient mould. Have fun, kids.“
Pinhead pops round for an evening of fun, what are you pains and pleasures?
“THE BOX. YOU OPENED IT.”
“Now hold on a moment – you may be the penultimate priest of sensation, except in The Scarlet Gospels – “
“DON’T GO THERE!”
“But this is my house – “
“Actually, mortmain originally applied to those who took religious vows – “
“It’s my house and I’m going to hold writer’s retreats and Hannibalesque dinner parties. And I have rules. A very important one concerns female agency. Velma, dear, I don’t suppose you’re a sub? You were for three seasons, only no one noticed? Well then, so long as you two agree on a safe word, you can play around right here, instead of in some hell dimension. And what was that you found inside the puzzle box? Hmmm, it looks like a fire opal.”
The Wishmaster gives you three wishes.
1. You can wish to write in any franchise
2. You can wipe one franchise from the minds of everyone
3. You can date your horror crush
“Look, I know perfectly well that any wish I make will be twisted into a curse.”
“I will haunt your steps. I will corrupt your friends and family until you do.”
“My family is over there, draining the life out of a teenager. Here’s a question - what do you wish?”
“That you would make a wish.”
“So, my wish is that you grant your own wish.”
The fire pops and crackles. The young men squeal as the mould engulfs them. Pinhead and Velma discuss shibari. The Baron pats the dog.
“So, how’s that going for you?”
“My head hurts.”
“Look, why don’t you join the party? I’m sure that the djinn as wish-dispenser is a reductive colonial concept anyway.”
“The thing is, I don’t care what franchise this is, there’s always room for experimentation. You can forget the phallic stabber and the final virgin, there are so many other possibilities. So many ways to bring the fear home, and home is after all what it is all about. The homes we are presented with and those we make for ourselves. Pinhead, can you summon thorns as well as chains? We could maybe get a nice, dark fairy tale thing going here, with a sleeping prince - ”
“Is that a wish?”
“I’d say it’s an option. Now, I’m putting some music on and finding out who here can samba. The mould? Well, why not.”
This Attraction Now Open Till Late: Strange Sights and Shadows