The Long Fall, Part 2

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October 31st
The Union House's Coatroom

Dr. Johnathan Everett King peeked through the Front Door of the Union House. Thanks to the powers of the Doorman, it could theoretically open to any door in Sloth's Pit; right now, he was using it to look through a door that led onto the roof of the S & C Plastics building. For the first time ever, they had elected to hold the Halloween party on the rooftop of Site-87. King didn't understand why but knew it had to do with whatever… thing was affecting the town.

"Stop touching that!" The Doorman slapped King on the back of the head. "You're going to break it!"

"Just trying to see what's going on in the Site." King looked down at his outfit; the same hybrid of denim lab coat and cotton overalls remained. "The work's done on my end, and I think Laura's in the process of linking up—"

Laura? a raspy voice spoke from above them. On the ceiling of the Union House's coatroom, there was a figure that stank of rotting flesh, with the skeletal head of a cat, bones protruding out of it at odd angles. It dropped to the floor in front of Dr. King, causing him to fall back as it loomed over him. Awful familiar, don't you think, Dr. King?

"Ms. Ashbrooke." The Doorman frowned. "While I can appreciate your desire to experiment with your abilities, we have work to do."

Laura Ashbrooke removed the skull of the creature, a mask of her own design. The rot and bones melted away and were replaced by the image of a normal, pale-skinned, midnight-haired woman with a massive backpack on her back. "The work has been done. Everyone in town has some kind of costume on, we're set for the plan." She looked at the inside of the skull mask, frowning. "…everyone but one person. Huh."

"Who?" The Doorman raised an eyebrow.

"Can't tell." She held the mask above her to get a better look. "One of the Plastics people, it looks like." She looked at the Door as it creaked open. "Dr. King!" she sighed, exasperated.

King slammed it shut, shifting a small potted plant out of the way as he did so. "I'm just… I'm nervous, okay? Do we know when we'll do it?"

"There will be a time. The Janitor will notify me, and then we'll act." The Doorman nodded. "We act when the Janitor says we do, not a second sooner. Now, tend to your shrub. Ms. Ashbrooke, try to locate the one individual who is not wearing a costume."

"Roger." Laura gazed into the inside of the mask, frowning. "Who are you?"


Nina Weiss loved Halloween. That was the primary reason the Site held a party every year; it started out as her doing an experimental morale-boosting exercise back in the early '90s, but it had since grown to an annual tradition. And build morale it did; she was responsible for judging the costume contest, but she was handing off those responsibilities to Dr. Bailey this year. She didn't feel right doing it when she wasn't wearing her own costume.

She knew she had done… something horrible. She had bargained with something for paradise, and while they had delivered, it had felt wrong from the word 'go'. The town was saccharine, unreal; she was reluctant to eat, per Grimm Countenance protocols, about eating in an altered reality. She had allowed herself a few apples, and that was it.

Even now, the anxiety ate at her. She was looking around the rooftop, searching the faces of her… she didn't like thinking of them as 'subordinates'. But the faces she could see were happy, and those who were wearing masks had a calm body language about them. She had done something good, hadn't she?

What Tofflemire and Carol had said, about the Penzance Device… it had stuck in her head. The passcode for it kept popping back into her mind, and she couldn't shake the feeling that… she was going to have to use it. But nobody had ever had to use one before. Nobody ever would.

She looked over the edge of the building, as music played behind her. The town sat below. Children were beginning to Trick-or-Treat. And it all felt… off-kilter. She felt a weight in her mind, throwing her off-balance. Anxiety crept into her thought as—


She jumped half a foot in the air, turning around to face Agent Tofflemire, putting her hand on her chest. "Y-you startled me."

"There's a lot of that going around." Robert frowned. "Just… I'm making sure you're staying safe, ma'am."

"Why wouldn't I be?" She frowned. "I'm not some frail old woman, agent. I can take care of myself."

"All right." Robert backed away slowly. "Just… there's some tension in the air tonight. I dont—" He suddenly sneezed into his arm, snot covering his trenchcoat's sleeve. "Dammit. Sorry, allergies."

"It's going to be fine, Agent Tofflemire. Just… another Halloween party. Enjoy it while you can. Oh, and make sure Dr. Partridge doesn't spike the punch."

"Can't do any more damage than Hendricks did at that one year." Tofflemire shook his head. "Ewell still turns yellow because of him pouring that shit into the Christmas punch instead of the rum."

Weiss shook her head, smiling fondly at the memory, pulling out a handkerchief to wipe at her nose.

"You good?" At the other end of the rooftop, Alison stood with the Goatman and Sinning Jessie. She handed her partner a cup of punch.

"Allergies. I freaking hate the fall." He sniffed and sipped at the punch. "It's weird, though. Since the town was altered, I haven't really… had allergies."

"Hmm." The Goatman's unblinking eyes scanned over the table. Aside from the punch, an ornamental shrub with Halloween decorations on it, and a few hors d'ourves, it was fairly bare. "Not much food-wise here, is there?"

"Normally we get pizza from the town." Alison picked up a pig-in-a-blanket and inspected it. "Guess they haven't cleared security yet." She bit into the sausage, frowning. "Huh. Not much flavor to these."

Sinning Jessie picked one up and bit into it, the jewelry from her Akasha costume conspicuously jingling about. "What are you talking about? They taste fine."

Robert looked at the snot on his sleeve as Alison inspected her half-eaten mini hot dog. She bit into it again; no taste, only texture. "…uh." She frowned. "B-Bob, go find Liao… I think something's wrong."

Elsewhere on the roof, Keith Partridge had to sit down. He was wearing a fairly light costume, going as Mario, but he felt hot in the cool autumn air. Katherine Sinclair, behind ten pounds of foam and fur, suddenly felt a wave of nausea hit her, hosting the head of her costume onto Montgomery Reynolds as she tried to find a trash can. Reynolds coughed into his sleeve. Sneezes started to spread through the crowd.

Gwen Liao ended up next to Robert and Alison, dressed as a pirate. The plush parrot on her shoulder proved to be more than met the eye; she unzipped it, and pulled out a small assortment of first-aid tools, including a laser thermometer. She held it up to Alison's forehead and frowned, then to Robert's. "You… both have fevers. 100 degrees, at least." She looked them over. "We need to get you to the infirmary." She looked back at the rest of the crowd. Tristan Bailey was doubled over coughing, while Christopher Hastings had trouble standing up. "What the fuck is going on?"

"It…" Robert coughed, looking at Alison. "I… I think this is it. It's trying to… to feed."

The smell of burning leaves, which had been pervasive throughout the town over the last several days, caused the entire rooftop to choke.

The Union House

Johnathan Everett King's hand hovered over the door handle. He sighed and looked between it and the shrub he was meant to be tending to; it was a hybrid, of sorts, between a branch of the Yggdrasil and an apple tree. He barely understood how it worked, but knew that it would.

"The Doorman said not to look through it anymore." Laura crossed her arms as she made adjustments to her skull mask. "You're going to get noticed sooner or later."

"It's just…" King swallowed. "My son just moved into town last month, along with my grandson. I'm… worried about them."

"Oh." Laura stood, putting a hand on his arm. "Well… they're going to be fine. Everyone in town is wearing a costume, except for that one Plastics person."

"And… we're sure it's going to work?" King tugged at his denim lab coat. "I… I don't know what I'd do if…" He sighed. "I should've told them to skip town. Stay with my daughter in Ohio for a bit. Now it's too late, and…"

The smell of burning leaves began to creep into the Union House. King froze and began counting down from 100; he'd read about it as an anxiety aid. The smell faded. "Okay. Not gonna let you have a snack on me, you half-wit phobic anomaly."

Laura looked at the door, her ears suddenly perking. "Wait… do you hear that?"

They could hear a strange barking sound coming through the door to the Union House. King opened it, looking out onto Main Street from the door of a law firm across the street from Rudy's Cafe. Children, out trick-or-treating with their parents, were sitting on the sidewalk, their masks off their faces. They were all red or blue in the face, coughing. Some had vomited, and some were crying. "Oh fuck me."

Laura peeked through, eyes wide. She looked around the coatroom. "Doorman!" She called. "Tell the Janitor we need to do this now!"

But it was silent. The Doorman had vanished. "Hello?" She called. "Shit, what do we do? We're supposed to—"

"Not waiting." King looked at the shrub, reaching out his hand. Under his power, it grew by about two feet, and a single golden apple appeared from its branches. "This is our town, and it's suffocating."

"The Doorman said we need to wait, dammit! If we do this wrong, then…"

King glowered at Laura. "I'm not going to lose my family. We're doing this."

Laura put the mask on her face, feeling a connection to everyone in the city who was wearing any kind of costume, from a child in a Batman mask sitting on a porch on Oak Street, to teenagers unironically going as 'the next generation', to a Halloween party on Glenn Avenue that was full of very childish 'adult' costumes. She took King's hand and transferred the connection to him.

King picked the apple off of the shrub and bit into it. He hated the taste and barely resisted the urge to spit it out. But through his connection to the apple, he was connected to the Yggdrasil; he had felt this same connection years ago, when he and Tyler Bailey had cracked the code that allowed the Foundation to enter the Multiverse. Now, he was opening that same Way— thousands of them, one for almost every person in Sloth's Pit, and dragging them through.

"You have a destination in mind?" Laura swallowed.

"Yeah. Found this years ago." He grinned. "We're going to be okay. Just this once… everybody lives."

Nina Weiss stared, horrified, as her people sat around her, dying and choking.

Some of them had their costumes ruined by sweat, vomit, and a strange blue fluid being coughed up, mixed with phlegm. Others were on the ground, clutching at their throats, struggling to breathe. Cassandra Pike was holding onto her husband as she clutched her midsection, screaming and sobbing, panicking over the state of her unborn child.

"What is this?" Director Weiss fumbled at her handbag, producing her pearl-handled revolver from it. She made her way over to four of the only beings still standing— Robert Tofflemire, Alison Carol, and two strange-looking individuals who were not part of the Site. "What did you do?"

Carol had to support herself on the table. "Director— stay back. You don't know what you're doing."

"You poisoned us." The Director heard a voice of anxiety in her head and felt its words creep out through her mouth. "You… you're killing us, I know you are. We're going to die because of you." She raised her revolver. "I'm not going to let that happen. This is my Site, and I'll be damned if—"

There was a scream of pain and terror. Weiss looked over her shoulder to see Dr. Sinclair's left eye explode into a mass of blood and vitreous fluid. Raymond February's body contorted itself into a broken shape. Agent Seren Pryce began to foam at the mouth.

Weiss turned back towards them, aiming her revolver at Alison's forehead. "This is… the only way to save them."

The Goatman imposed himself in front of Weiss and tried to wrestle the revolver away from her. When she swiped at him with her other hand, Sinning Jessie brought out some pepper spray and aimed it at the Director's face. She unloaded half the can into it, but the adrenaline only made the Director stronger.

"Get off of me!" She yelled, her voice full of blind panic. "I'm going to save this Site, you freaks!"

Alison looked down at her feet as she felt something squeezing them. Her eyes widened at the sight of a tree root wrapping itself around her leg, but instead of fear, she felt… she wouldn't call it comfort or solace. But… it wasn't malevolent, whatever was doing this. Others were surrounded by roots, and slowly dragged through the concrete of the rooftop, even the Goatman and Jessie. All except Weiss.

"Let her go!" Alison yelled. "Something's happening, and—"

Weiss's revolver went off. The kickback of it caused her to drop it as the personnel of S & C Plastics vanished into the concrete.

Alison looked in alarm at the bloodstain forming on Robert Tofflemire's stomach. He fell to the ground, and into the roots. Alison screamed as she was dragged under.

The Goatman and Sinning Jessie were the last to go— not vanishing like the others had, into the roots, simply fading into thin air as the framework that made up their stories— the consciousness of the townspeople— vanished into another universe.

Nina Weiss, suitably terrified, began running down the stairs, bound for the maintenance sector, and the Penzance Device.

Koala's Pit, Wisconsin

Confusion reigned on the rooftop of Site-87.

People were sitting up in soiled costumes, clutching their heads, clutching each other. Tristan Bailey had tried to take control of the situation from where the DJ's podium had been seconds before, tapping his phone into the speaker system of the Site, only to be overridden by a brand new voice.

"Attention Citizens of Sloth's Pit: My name is Johnathan Everett King. I… well, I'm from S & C Plastics. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we have temporarily evacuated you to a near-identical universe. This version of Sloth's Pit has been evacuated on Halloween every year for the last five years; you are safe here. As soon as the crisis in the baseline is solved—"

"—you'll be allowed back home." Dr. King, clad in a denim lab coat and cotton overalls, emerged from a door that should have led to the lower levels of the Site, carrying a microphone. "Thank you, and good day." He turned off the microphone, his jaw dropping as he saw the state of his companions. "Holy shit."

Everyone on the roof of the S & C Plastics building looked like they had been hit with a dozen trains each. Some clearly had broken bones; most were crying. A few were bleeding, a few were screaming in anguish. Someone by the side of the rooftop was bleeding a lot. "I- uh- what…"

"King!" The Doorman snarled, coming out through the door of the Union House. "This is why I told you to wait for the signal! You…" He looked upon the ruin he had wrought, flabbergasted. "What did you do?"

"I thought… I thought I was saving them…" King swallowed. "I… I don't know what… what happened…"

The Doorman shook his head. "You… your transfer between the universes, was it motivated by love, or fear?"

King's eyes widened. "I… I was scared for my kid. My grandkid. Did…"

"Because the transfer was clouded by fear… it latched onto them." The Doorman swallowed. "Every single person on this rooftop, in this town, is scared out of their fucking minds because of you, because you weren't willing to sit and wait for just a few minutes more."

Panicked screaming and despondent sobs sounded throughout the whole town— children crying for their parents, spouses running from each other, people having the worst panic attacks they had ever had. And that fear would soon turn to anger, and then, into hate.

They could smell smoke on the horizon, and it had nothing to do with the scent of burning leaves. The odor choked the hope from them.

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