It's Just A Jump To The Left
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rating: +70+x

October 28th

The former house of Richard Gideon had been left abandoned in the middle of a wild apple orchard. Sloth's Pit had three different orchards in it, all of which were said to have been planted by John Chapman himself. This was the only one that saw no use, and as Squad 25 went through the orchard, they saw why.

Seren Pryce stopped to inspect an apple dangling off of a low-hanging branch. It was solid black, but not rotten, and smelled sweeter than any apple that she had ever seen. It smelled like caramel, and the end of summer. "What the hell?" She muttered.

"These things are freaky." Nicholas Ewell agreed, walking past her.

"Does Partridge know about this?" She asked, pulling herself away from the tree. "Black apples. Kinda wonder what they taste like."

"Probably nothin' good," Ewell walked alongside her through the rows of trees. Behind them was Raymond February, bundled up against the chill. The weather had gone from unnaturally warm to bitter, borderline wintry cold, and it seemed to be getting colder the closer they got to the house.

February shivered, "Detecting a one degree Celsius temperature drop since we r-reached the perimeter of the property."

"Possible spectral activity?" Ruby frowned. "Wouldn't surprise me."

Robert Gideon's house was what came to mind when one thought of "haunted house". A three-story Victorian mansion with a large, peaked roof, bay windows, fading grey paint. In front of it, a single oak tree grew, its branches looming over the roof. "A ton of places in town are haunted. This is bound to be one of them."

"Spectral, or… hmm." Pryce frowned. "What other kind of anomalies produce temperature drops?"

"Some kind of wormhole?" Ewell hazarded. "I've been in Multi-U a couple of times when they were doing tests. Swear to god, it drops twenty degrees every time they fire up that damn thing. You see the produce?"

"Yeah. Fucking freaky." Blake shuddered. "I've seen Arkansas black apples before, but those were just a… really dark red. This is something different."

"Like something out of Snow White," Raymond agreed. He looked in through the windows of the house, his eyes going wide. "What the—"

"What is it?" Blake looked in with him. "Holy—"

The inside of the house was bustling with life. Kids were running about in badly-made masks, the kind of quality that a Peanuts character would wear circa 1970. A figure in a long, black robe stood over the children, before following them out of the room. Then, the scene flickered, and repeated.

"Holy crow," Pryce swallowed. "Temporal anomaly?"

Ewell looked into the front door, and frowned. "If it is, it might be confined to the window. I'm not seeing anything in here."

"Hold on." Seren removed her rifle from her back and carefully detached the scope from it, looking through the glass. Through it, she saw the house transformed from dilapidation to grandeur, with Halloween decorations covering the outside. She whistled, and shook her head. "Yeah, shit. There's some kind of temporal effect going on." She turned around 360 degrees, and saw that the area of effect ended at the front doorstep. "I'm going to radio the Site and see if we can get Delta-t to come out here."

Blake nodded, looking into his bag and removing a magnification visor from it. Ruby did the same, and found themselves looking into the past. Blake felt something tug at the back of his mind, and winced. "What the fuck?"

"I felt it too," his sister groaned, rubbing her skull. The view through her visor flickered between the house decorated for Halloween, and the house as it stood today, dilapidated. "Oh shit."

Blake winced, falling to the ground. "Guys!" He looked back at his squad mates. February tried to reach out to him. "Don't! I think— shit, I think we might be getting dragged back!"

From the outside, the view was horrific. Layer by layer, the twins seemed to be disappearing, starting with their skin, then their muscles. They would occasionally flicker back into their time, before vanishing once more. "Just— get a time sink out here!" Ruby yelled. "We-we're gonna try to find—"

With that, the Wonder Twins were gone from 2017, and found themselves elsewhen.

October 28th, 1969

Ruby and Blake hid below the front windows, their hearts racing. They talked to each other, silently, in a language only they could comprehend. A twitch of a brow, a quirk of the mouth, a certain pattern of blinking; they reasoned that it was just them being able to read each other's body language so well that they could talk without speaking.

It was something a bit more complicated than that.

Ruby? Blake looked at his sister.


I think we're a little screwed. He took out his pocket knife, and looked at the house behind him. The stone foundations were relatively soft, easy to carve something into. What should I say?

Our initials, an-and maybe the date? It's uh. She looked around. October, obviously. If I had to guess, '69, because of course it is.

We could see the past through some of the glass here. Ruby looked through her visor, and saw her squadmates pacing about. February looked especially concerned, and seemed to be praying, while Pryce was on the radio. I think they're waiting for a Time Sink. 87 has one in storage, right?

Yeah. At least one. May be an older model, though. Blake creeped around to the side of the house. Let's try to do some recon.

Yeah. We're gonna be stuck here for a bit. Might as well… find out what we can.

The Time Sink arrived, carried in a pickup truck. It was an older model, developed by Xyank and co. some time ago, but it would serve its purpose well enough.

Driving the truck was Alexander Carracos, whose head was still bandaged from his encounter with a certain vampire. He had a tablet with him, trying to work out how to operate the sink. "Okay, uh… I gotta be honest." He looked at what was left of Squad-25. "I have no idea how this works."

"I've seen one of these before." Ewell climbed into the bed of the truck. "Halloween 2015. You remember, the whole thing with the time ghosts caused by some kids jumping into that dumb well over and over?" He inspected the sink, and fiddled with a few knobs on it, before flipping a switch.

A soft, pulsing hum echoed through the orchard. Pryce, warily, stepped onto the front stone steps of Gideon's former abode, and upon finding that she wasn't sucked into the past, gave a thumbs-up to Ewell and February. "We're good. Now we just…" She swallowed. "Shit, what do we do?"

February looked into the window. "The scene's not repeating anymore. Put your scope up, see what you can see."

"Right." Pryce brought her detatched scope to her eyes, and gasped, her jaw dropping open. "Oh. Oh my fucking god."

Ruby and Blake looked through a window into what they thought was the house's parlor. Within, almost twenty children giggled and ran around, all in costumes. At a table in the center was a bowl filled with a black liquid; the smell was powerful enough that Blake could smell it through the closed window.

Cider, he frowned. Black apple cider.

So, we have a bunch of kids running around a house of a person associated with two child killers and a possible Sarkic cultist? Ruby shivered. I don't like this.

That makes two of us. Ruby craned her neck to look further in, and saw… someone, in a hooded red robe, with a symbol of a black apple blossom embroidered on the chest. They were standing by a young girl, whose mask was off at the moment. Ruby's eyes went wide. That's Hubble's kid.


His daughter, Eliza. I recognize it from the picture Mattings got. Blake looked uneasy. Are they… are…

What a nice conversation you're having.

A third party joined in. The twins' hearts went cold. They turned around, and found themselves facing the inside of the house. Standing before them was a woman in a black veil, with rotten skin and eyes the color of the last light of summer. Standing by her was Richard Gideon, unhooded, a shotgun aimed at the pair of them.

"Shit." Blake swallowed.

"Uh." Ruby put her hands in the air. "I suppose it's too late to say 'trick-or-treat'?"

"I'm afraid so." Gideon glowered at them. Something was wrong with him, and it took too long for either of them to realize: he was old. Almost impossibly old. The photograph Hastings had recovered was from maybe four days ago, and Gideon looked about sixty in it. Now, he looked closer to 300 years old. He coughed, and kept his shotgun trained on them. "I can't have you interrupting this. Clive, Zachary."

Two pairs of arms wrapped themselves around the twins, putting them into chokeholds. There was something wrong with them, as well; their skin was wrinkled, old, dying. Ruby gasped for air. "What the hell are you?"

"Old," Gideon coughed again. "And getting older. Mavra!"

"Yes, lord?" The Black Equinox had a hint of venom in her voice. Blake got the distinct feeling she didn't like being ordered around.

"Begin the feast."

"As you command." The Black Autumn flew through Ruby and Blake.

They felt their souls scream as the sheer wrongness of whatever it was passed through their bodies. Ruby vomited on the floor, and looked over her shoulder. She realized she was looking into the parlor, where all the children had gathered. When she saw what was being done…

She let out a scream of pure, eldritch horror.

Seren Pryce had seen horrible things in her tenure as a Foundation agent. She'd shot a zombified Josef Stalin in the head. She'd had her arm broken by a tentacle of spaghetti summoned by a pissed-off Horizon Initiative agent. She'd grazed a werewolf in the back and watched it impale itself on a totem pole.

None of that compared to what she was seeing now. The parlor was cloaked in darkness, and standing at the center was the Black Equinox. She had dozens of black, oily tendrils coming from her body, and each one pierced the body of a child. All nineteen of them fell to the floor, limp, as Mavra Isimeria began, for lack of a better term, feeding on them.

Their bodies withered and rotted, and from their forms emerged snakes and centipedes and all other manner of horrifying things. One child was conscious enough to pull away his mask, revealing that his head was swelling and becoming bright orange. His eyes swelled up, and one of them started to pop—

Seren couldn't take it anymore. She turned away and covered her eyes, sick to her stomach. She squeezed her scope hard enough the glass began to crack. Meanwhile, February and Ewell watched through their own scopes, completely horrified.

Seren, eventually, looked through the glass again. On the other side, forty-eight years ago, three robed men entered the room and dug knives into bright orange, misshapen pumpkins, before reaching in and eating the raw pulp and seeds. Seren swore she saw blood among the pulp, and teeth mixed in with the seeds.

"What the FUCK?!" Raymond February dropped the piece of glass he had been observing this horror though. "WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK?!"

"That… that's what she does? That's what the Black Autumn does?" Ewell backed away. "She-she turned those kids into f-fucking pumpkins." He leaned over, and started to retch. "Oh. Oh god. I'm gonna be sick."

"It started in… 1969. Allen's books… forced sleepwalking, and make them go to a-a particular place. Pumpkins everywhere. Those four in charge of a county fair… and she's taking child sacrifices. Holy shit." Seren put her hand over her face. "Holy shit. I know what this is."

She turned her eye to the scope once more, and watched the three in there; as the men ate, their skin lost its wrinkles, and their hair seemed to grow a new luster to them. Pryce felt sick. "They're… eating kids to… to…"

"Youth is truly wasted on the young, isn't it, Mavra?" Gideon asked the malevolent force this as if she were a butler.

"Yes, my lord."

Ruby ran forward, towards the one figure who hadn't partaken in any off the eating. Jeffery Hubble, she assumed. The agent's fist almost made contact with his body— but then a hole seemed to form in the middle of his stomach, and it went straight through his form. "What the hell?"

"Jeffery's a bit… of a special case." Carter shrugged. "He's just here to observe. Our errand boy, essentially. Lord knows he doesn't need this."

Allen grinned. "And we're automating the whole process, soon! The Uncle Zadok books are going to be bestsellers throughout the state, and bring so many children to the fairgrounds— where they'll feed us."

"So, what?" Ruby gasped. "This is some kind of fucked-up immortality ritual?"

"We tried several things," Gideon explained. "Faulty philosopher's stones, an expedition to the fabled fountain of youth. This is the only thing that works. We've done this for decades."

"Bullshit!" Blake exclaimed. "The Foundation would have heard about you! We would have stopped you!"

"What happens in Sloth's Pit doesn't leave Sloth's Pit." Jeffery Hubble intoned from beneath his robe. "It's one of the reasons we love it so here so much. We could summon Yaldabaoth and the Foundation would be none the wiser."

"Of course, it means that the Black Equinox can't get out either." Carter looked at the form by Gideon, which let out a loud growl. "She's getting testy about that. Wants to see the world. We've bound her here, and here she shall stay."

"So, what? You're just going to keep feeding it kids until the end of time?" Ruby snapped.

"Or until we get bored," Hubble shrugged. He raised his hand, and a tendril of raw flesh extended from beneath his robe, slashing at Ruby's holster. Her revolver fell out of it and into the flesh's grasp.

"Granola Sarkic," Blake gasped. "Holy shit."

"It's called Nälkä!" Hubble snapped. "This is why I hate the Foundation. Theophobic pricks." The back of his robes split open, and revealed a dozen more tendrils extending from beneath. "I'll deal with them. Carter, I know you get squeamish. Why don't you go to the Black Garden?"

"You heard the man," Mayor Clive Carter grinned, barely concealing his disgust at Hubble. "Gideon, Allen, what do you say?"

"I'm more than happy to let the flesh-crafter do his work alone." Gideon began to depart. "Mavra, return to your place of binding."

"Yes, lord." The Black Autumn hissed, and vanished in a cold, autumn breeze.

Hubble looked at the pair of them, and lowered his hood, revealing a single, gigantic eye in the middle of his forehead.

Ruby and Blake drew their combat knives, and took low stances before the monstrosity.

Seren Pryce had heard of it before, during her time at Site-36, before a crazed HI agent had torn through the place in an attempt to save his wife and child. Kid survived, wife had been given a medal. That's all she needed to know.

A few people at 36 had told stories about a fairground in the Midwest, overgrown by pumpkins, where horrible things happened every fall. Children walked in, never left. People's heads were replaced by gourds. Agents disappeared into cornstalks. The site director had once cut himself and started bleeding pumpkin pulp until he died.

It was in town. It had always been in town, and because the Foundation was a broken bureaucratic machine, they hadn't known about it until now. It was—

"Pryce!" February jostled her. "C'mon! T-the… the basement. You gotta— come on!"

"Wha— basement? What about it?" She looked at her fellow agent like he was crazy.

"Just— c'mon!" He dragged her down. She dropped her scope and let it roll along the ground.

The two Foundation agents would die before they were even born. Hubble bore down on them, with Ruby and Blake pinned to opposite walls by fleshy tendrils coming from what had once been arms. Blake realized that this was all they were: pinned. Not suffocating, not constricted. Just pinned, immobile.

Soon, the sound of a car's engine faded away. Hubble sighed, and the tendrils relaxed, and then retreated into the body of the cultist. The monster groaned, and looked at the twins. "Let me begin by saying that immortality is grossly overrated."

Ruby responded by slashing at his throat with her combat knife, letting out a scream of uncontained rage.

The cultist's singular eye rolled, and he quickly re-placed his head on his neck. "As are these various… mutations." He stood up, catching Blake's knife between his fingers as the brother swung. "I found Ion's word when I was dying of lung cancer. I left Ion for Mavra, and… I've been in a state of waffling for some time." He let his tendrils drop, bending Blake's knife in two. "I still graft myself from time to time with new… appendages. But they ache." He shook his head. "I met my wife here. I have two children. And I… I don't want this anymore."

"ONE!" Ruby yelled. "You fucking sacrificed your daughter!"

"I am a carnomancer!" Hubble snapped. "I can make a homunculus that can memorize Hamlet out of steaks from Woolworths! I…" He rubbed his face with a normal looking hand. "Gideon. He demanded Eliza. My daughter. I couldn't. He's been crossing so many lines, and this was the ultimate one. I… I made one to look like her, sound like her. That's what Mavra killed. That's what they ate."

"…you're a Sarkic cultist with two kids." Blake frowned. "Somehow, I don't buy it."

"We may look odd to you, but I assure you, we're human, and our… physical faculties are intact." He sighed. "My wife. She knows about my oddities, thinks I'm going to get them removed soon. And I am. With some help."

"From who?" Ruby frowned.

"I'm afraid my benefactors prefer to remain anonymous. But before you ask: no. They're not your Foundation, nor are they the splinter Insurgency." Hubble extended his tendrils. "My benefactors and I will bind Mavra in two parts. What passes for her physical form has been contained in—"

"A giant pumpkin?" Ruby hazarded.

"Indeed. We're binding her mind in a Masonic seal in the Pyramid Inn. If both are sealed, and left intact, then neither can break free."

"Well, she did!" Blake snapped. "How do you explain that?"

"That may be a failing on my part. Gourdon is resilient, but even then, it is simply a plant. A blight of crops, a puncture in the shell… it could be anything." The Carnomancer slithered over to a door and opened it, revealing a set of stairs leading down. "Please, if you would."

The twins felt they didn't have much choice, and began descending into the basement. It was a dark place, empty, wet. Ruby drew her knife again. "So, your pumpkin died, and now we have to clean it up forty-eight years from now?"

"I'm afraid it seems that way." Hubble sighed. "As part of my agreement with my benefactors, I'm to… well, deal with you. They told me to look for a pair of time-traveling twins at this place, on this date. Once this is done… my healing can begin."

"Hell no!" Ruby took her sparring pose again. "If you're gonna kill us, I'm going to make sure you can't have any more kids before you do."

"Hold it, hold it. Nobody's dying. You're just going to take the long route home." Hubble's tendrils shook and began oozing a golden sap, which fell at the twin's feet. "You were taken here by a simple wrinkle in time; your souls interacted with the reality here, and you were brought into the fold by a cosmic mistake. You deserve… well, you deserve to go home."

"Sarkic Amber? Seriously?" the Williams brother's lip twisted, and he pulled his feet away from it. "I— hold on. The Foundation still shows up at the Fairgrounds on the 31st. We have photographic evidence."

"Yeah," Ruby agreed. "We need a phone."

"No. If your organization needs any information that will prevent a paradox, my benefactors will see to it."

"Okay, who the fuck are these benefactors?" Ruby demanded, her shoes becoming stuck in the amber as it creeped up her body. "There aren't any major players that deal with temporal paradoxes or timelines or any of that shit."

"Not yet," Hubble replied, as if it was obvious. The twins tried to object, but the sap covered their mouths. They couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't breathe. After a while, they just stopped thinking.

Seren sighed as she looked over the pillars of amber that contained her squadmates. "Ruby once told me that she and her brother watched Jurassic Park religiously when they were kids. Dressed up as the annoying brats from the film."

"And now, they're playing the most important characters. The mosquitos." Ewell frowned and approached the amber that contained Ruby. "Now, how do we get these—"

The amber began to melt as Ewell approached, like a sculpture made of ice cream on the summer solstice. The pillar disgorged the Williams sister, who fell to the floor, gasping. "Nhhh. Nnnnhhh. Mhhhh."

"Ruby?" February took out a flashlight and turned it on. He shined it into her eyes, and when her pupils contracted—

"MOTHERFUCKER!" She suddenly sat upright, clutching her eyes. "Shit, sorry. Can't see anything, now."

"Hibernation sickness. You're okay, hold on." Seren had approached Blake's pod in the meantime, and was slowly pulling him out of the goop.

"I suppose them taking a shower is out of the question?" Blake asked.

"Yes, it is. The Foundation's been looking for samples of this stuff for decades." February scooped some off of Ruby and into a jar.

Blake sat up, and gagged as he swallowed some of the sap. "Oh fucking god. That tastes like rotten honey."

"Honey can't rot." Ewell frowned.

"That… really doesn't make me feel better." Blake stood up. "Fuck. Is this gonna harden again?"

"Hard to say with Sarkic magic." February sighed. "There are going to be a lot of questions. For everyone."

"…Hubble said that there were… benefactors he was working with." Ruby started to stand. "They'd make him normal again. And they had foreknowledge enough to know we'd be coming."

"That…" Ewell shuddered. "This town's freaky enough right now. Let's leave that to Delta-t or whoever the hell handles temporal anomalies nowadays."

"We know what it is," Ruby, Seren, and Blake all spoke at the same time.

Seren spoke alone, "097. The fairgrounds with the giant pumpkin in the center. It lures children in, eats them, centered around Halloween…"

"It fits," February agreed. "Partridge came to the same conclusion a while ago. I'm… gonna go radio for pickup."

"You do that," Blake winced, blinking his eyes. "Hey."

"What?" Ruby asked.

"It is the Great Pumpkin, Ruby Brown."

"…if I weren't covered in eldritch drool, I'd strangle you right now." She shook her head, and sat there with her brother, silently speaking, waiting for the containment team to pick them up.

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