Family Reunion

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October 28th

"Where. Is. She?!"

Robert Tofflemire looked up from his cup of coffee to see the rabid, slavering form of the Goatman standing in the barn that served as Sigma-10's barracks. His fur was bloodied, and his eyes were crazed. "Jesus, what, did they make a new horror f—"

Robert's sentence was unfinished. The Goatman strode forward, grabbed Robert by the neck, and pinned him against the wall. "You are the only one that I told! You are one of the only ones that knows about the Grave Bog! What did you do with her?!"

Before Robert could answer, the Goatman was met with a pair of gunshots from behind. Robert heard them impact, but the Caprine Beast seemed unfazed.

"C-can't… br…" Robert clawed at the Goatman's hand. His breath stank of rotten meat and hatred.

"Hey, asshole!"

The Goatman turned to find himself staring down the barrels of at least twenty guns. "I don't care that you're immortal." Nicholas Ewell gripped his gun unsteadily. "We'll fill you full of lead until you put him down."

"Is this like last year?" Ruby Williams hissed to February.

"No." Raymond whispered back. "He went berserk, but he wasn't thinking. I think that… this is just him when he gets mad."

The Goatman growled. The Plastic People, like usual, would be of no help. He threw Robert into the formation of firearms, who scattered.

When they got their bearings, the Goatman was gone, and a new hole occupied the roof of the barn, letting in snow and sunlight.

"Did- did he…" Raymond February stuttered. "Did he just— did he just—"

"Are you really surprised at this point, Ray?" Ruby Williams helped Robert to his feet. "Can you breathe?"

"Yeah." Robert coughed several times. "I don't know what the hell that was ab—" His eyes widened. "Shit."


"I do know what that was about." Robert pulled up a map of the town on his tablet. "Anyone available, I'm transmitting coordinates. I think I know what happened."

"A mass grave?" Alison Carol sounded incredulous. "Here?"

"Yeah." Robert adjusted his scarf— they had broken out the winterized gear earlier than usual this year, for obvious reasons. The temperature was at 20 Fahrenheit. "Goatman explained it to me. It— it was used for people during the 1918 Flu Pandemic. They ran out of coffins."

Alongside them, Raymond February and Joseph Grey walked. The woods made them wary— even now, they avoided the wild pumpkins they saw, covered by snow.

"Goatman called it the Grave Bog. This place isn't exactly known for swampland." Grey frowned. "Somethin's screwy here."

"Maybe the decay of so many bodies altered the terrain?" February hazarded. "Or it could just be because Sloth's Pit is weirder than a hen with teeth."

"Might be an underground stream or something." Alison spoke this as she heard the crunch of ice beneath her soles. "What the—"

"We're here."

The light around them had turned distinctly green— sunlight was filtering in through swamp gas. The snow over the boggy ground made it look wrong— ice cracked to reveal bubbles coming up from beneath. And towards the center of the Bog, they could make out a large hole.

"Three guesses as to what happened?" Alison walked forward.

"Giant sloth, giant cannibal sloth, giant cannibal fictional sloth." Robert strode alongside her. Underneath the ice, the ground opened into a pit containing dozens of coffins, pieces of cloth, and loose bones. Thankfully, there was no stench of rot— the flesh had long since decayed.

February muttered a prayer to himself, and stepped forward. "Why did it come here?"

Joseph frowned. "If I had to hazard a guess, it's wearing the skin of some poor soul who was buried here."

"Not just any poor soul." Robert jumped in, sifting through the bodies, flashlight on.

February and Grey couldn't help but wince; Raymond was uncomfortable with desecration on religious grounds, while Grey just couldn't stand the sound of the bones crunching under Tofflemire's clumsy feet.

After several minutes, Robert climbed out of the hole, bearing a grave marker. He handed it to Alison to read.

"Here lies Caroline Sloth. Sister, Daughter, Mother to Never Be. Laid with her Child, Quinn. 1877-1918." Her eyes widened. "You're not saying—"

"The Pit Sloth is wearing the body of Jackson Sloth's daughter." Robert swallowed.

"Jesus Christ, son of a bitch." Joseph Grey rubbed the back of his head.

"He didn't mean it." February spoke to the sky, drawing an odd look from the rest of the task force. "Are you sure it took that corpse? Why not any of the others?"

"I'm sure." Robert knew why, but he felt it wasn't his place to say. "We need to find the Goatman. If he's figured out the Pit Sloth's taken it, then he needs back-up."

"Well, where would he go?"

The agents of the Plastic People wouldn't need much help finding the Goatman. He had seated himself near a dead, barren patch of land called either the Blasted Heath, the Bone Heath, or the Hidebehind's Lair. It was said that it lived in the dead, half-felled oak tree in the center. The Goatman's back was against it.

The Hidebehind wasn't there— it had fled, gone somewhere where the Pit Sloth couldn't get at it. It was cowardly, above all else. Dangerous when cornered, yes, but its power came from it acting out in fear. The Goatman came here because it was one of the easier-to-find landmarks in the forest, far away from his home at Koch's Hovel.

"I spy before me a goat, and what's this? Misery colors its coat."

The Goatman looked up. Standing over him was a disconcerting figure. Her face resembled that of Caroline Sloth— auburn hair, pale skin, dimpled cheeks. But everything else about her was wrong. Her arms were long and furred and ended in hands with truncated fingers and long claws. Her eyes were black and beady, and, unlike Caroline, this thing wasn't pregnant. She was wearing a red bonnet with a furred trim and heavy, blue winter dress. Simple boots peeked out from beneath the hem of the dress.

And her movements… her arms moved, freely, as if she was a doll being shaken around. She seemed to dance back and forth on her feet.

"The Pit Sloth, I presume." The Goatman's hatchet formed in his hands as he stood. "I remember those clothes."

"Father made them for me, Jasper dear, in case I didn't leave the hospital 'fore the end of the year!"

Jasper hefted his ax. "You're not the real Caroline Sloth."

"And you too have stolen a name! Jasper Phineas is not yours to claim. The Sloth line is gone, its progeny dead…" The Pit Sloth's arm rubbed its flat stomach. "And the oven no longer holds bread."

The Goatman flinched.

"Ah! Phineas love, do you mourn for your false blood?" She dug her nails into the stomach. "When she came back, her son I could not claim. And how is Quinn a boy's name?"

"Caroline hated the name Quincy, but her beau insisted on something with a Q." The Goatman dug its heels in.

The body of Caroline Sloth loomed towards him. "Cloven-hoofed Capricorn, why is the Pit Sloth the name I adorn?"

The Goatman bared its teeth, before contemplating something. "When Father… when the hole formed, and everything became unreal…"

"Imogen's womb had been purged." The Pit Sloth sighed. "A miscarriage had occurred. And not being able to see Caroline sad, he tried to write himself a little lass or lad!" She shook her head. "And instead, as you can see, the pit birthed me!"

She stood before Jasper. "I am the Sloth that is the Pit. Once I am real, this forest— I will walk beyond it!"

Jasper crossed his arms. "I can at least respect your goal. But… why everything else? Kidnappings, mutilations, the sense of terror?"

"Fear is the easiest for a story to spread— people remember when they think they'll end up dead!" The Pit Sloth's mouth split into a grin that wrapped around its whole head. "And if I did anything else, I'd be bored instead."

Jasper Sloth stared at this grin— it was the same one he had seen looking up at him from the pit just under a year ago. He began walking forward. "The loop's not your doing, is it?"

"Nay, tis the town." The Pit Sloth shook its head. "It's trying to keep a good Sloth down."

"With good reason." The Goatman crested a nearby hill, overlooking the entire town. "The Pit is the entire reason this town is the way it is. And if you are the Pit, if you were to leave this town, it… would cause chaos. The entire world, being like…" He turned, taking in a view of the town from the north. He waved his hand over it. "Like this!"

"And is that so horrid?" The Pit Sloth smiled. "We both know what the Black Autumn did. But despite the fear, the hate, the pain— the town, as always, joyful remains. Even now, they plan their Hallow's Eve— they see it as a yearly reprieve! They go on, so vivid, so real— and their fear makes for such a good meal."

The Goatman took out his corncob pipe and a lighter. "This is normal for them— strange beings in the woods, gravity reversing once a week on Main Street, the malleability of the Narrative, a secret organization watching over the town. If you were to escape, you'd inflict that on the entirety of the Midwest." He chewed on the stem of his pipe as he lit it. "Sloth's Pit can cope because it's Sloth's Pit. To everyone living here, it's always been like this. Anywhere else would collapse on itself."

"Perhaps, perhaps, brother Sloth." The Pit Sloth started down the hill away from the Jasper. "But come the Hallows, I'll fly out like a moth."

The Goatman walked with her. "The Plastic People aren't going to let you out."

"Do you not see what's on the wall?" The Pit Sloth looked off over the Goatman's shoulder, smiling at nothing. "I'll explain it all. This is a film, the genre is horror, and I give off such a villainous aura. And horror films commit several narrative sins." She grinned. "Among them, the villain wins."

There was a long pause. A leaf fell off a tree.

"I said, 'the villain wins'."

Another leaf fell. The Pit Sloth rolled its eyes.

"Brother, why do I bother?"

The Pit Sloth's arms emerged from a pile of snow, sweeping four Foundation agents out from it. Robert Tofflemire, Alison Carol, Joseph Grey, and Raymond February all landed at her feet.

Robert and Alison exchanged a look and a nod. Robert started applauding in a sarcastic manner. "You didn't monologue! Great job!"

"Oh, joy, a joker!" The Pit Sloth mimed the back of its hand going on its head, and mock-fainted. "You're annoying! I'll impale you with a poker."

"Jokes are good for distracting." Alison Carol had stood and put her pistol to the back of the Pit Sloth's head.

"You gotta work on your rhymes, and your acting." Grey's rifle was trained at her torso. "God dammit now I'm doing it too!"

While not shouting Hail Marys, Raymond February was muttering the Lord's Prayer under his breath. The Pit Sloth flinched away from him, and he talked between verses. "Guess Laura was right. It doesn't like prayers."

The Pit Sloth twitched away. "The mask-maker Laura should be in the ground. Dead, mortis, of body sound. Of Edward, I eviscerated—"

"Yeah, well, they're both at the site, not even slightly incapacitated." Robert pulled his own pistol. "Shit, now I'm doing it too. Well, either way, your momma's not dead, and we've come for you."

Its head leaned back, and it let out a syncopated laugh. "Ah, it seems I've a narrative effect. I've turned us all into Poe rejects! Oh, this is absurd."

Robert looked at Alice, and exchanged a wink. "Anyway, mommy told us how to beat you— with the Lord's word." He started yelling out Standard Exorcism Prayer #23. "In the name of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, I invoke the Archangel Micheal to banish thee."

The other agents joined in on the prayer immediately. The Pit Sloth clutched its head, growling. "No, no, no, speak in rhymes, not Psalms! I should tear off all your arms!"

"You said it yourself, you're a villain…ess? What's a villain without a good weakness?" Robert asked. He stopped praying as he asked the question— that was all the Pit Sloth needed.

It lashed out, aiming to strike through Robert's chest. He fell, and gasped as the claws hit his face, marring it and leaving behind black marks.

The other agents kept their prayers going. Robert clutched his face, grunting in pain. He managed to mumble out a few words of holy protection, enough that the Pit Sloth flinched away from striking him.

Jasper Phineas Sloth, the Goatman, raised his axe. "You might want to be departing, or it's your head I'll be parting."

With a shake of its head, the Pit Sloth turned to face Jasper. Its neck made a sickening crack. "Jasper, Jasper, brother dear, I've eaten so much fear. The movie might not be necessary— and when I'm real, you're the first I'll bury!" With that, it sank into a hole, which vanished seconds later.

Alison crouched by Robert. Blood flowed from the gashes on his face. "You okay?"

"I'm fine." He winced, sitting up. "Besides, it'll go away in a day— in a bit." She blinked. "Okay, can I stop rhyming now?"

"'Go away in a bit'? How do you mean?" The Goatman walked over, eyebrow raised.

"Working theory he has." Joseph Grey rummaged for a first aid kit. "The Pit Sloth can't create anything original, and he thinks it extends to injuries, even fatal ones."

"Every death is a little different," Robert nodded. He pulled his hand away from his face— it was still slick with blood. "If I'm right, it should have healed by now."

February waved the wand of a Narrative Fluctuation Detector over where the Pit Sloth stood. The readings detected the presence of a quasi-real entity within the last minute. He then waved the wand over the Goatman; his readings were only slightly stronger. "It's… almost real."

"We have to stop that movie from playing." Joseph cursed as he began applying the bandages.

"No." Robert grunted. "We make it real on our own terms. Stick to the plan."

"Stick to the— Toff, half your face almost got taken off!" Raymond threw up his hands. "We need a Plan C or D or-"

"We're working with what we've got." Alison backed away as the bandages were applied. "We go to the midnight screening, and hit it when we can hurt it the most."

The Goatman couldn't help but smirk. The Plastic People may have tried to stick everything in boxes, but they could be competent when push came to shove. "I'd say that I'd bring popcorn, but there's probably going to be plenty at the theater."

"We'll even save you a seat." Robert offered with a half-smile.

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