Friday, October 25, 2013

Frightening Friday: A Fancy Dinner Party Where Someone Dies

You're inviting us to what? We're busy that night.

DINNER. For some, it's a word that induces extreme hunger pangs. For others, a sense of warmth and togetherness. But for a few unlucky souls, it is a word that brings terror.

I hope you are prepared for a dinner that is the last kind. Our final Frightening Friday story for this October is not for those of you who are sitting in your supper nooks licking your lips as you dream about a nice risotto dinner. And it is definitely not for those of you lounging in your remembering nooks, thinking about dinners with your grandmother that didn't involve her dying in her soup. It is for those of you trembling in your dark and spooky closet nooks, clutching your childhood teddy bears as you await today's story. I hope you have your best dinner attire on for...

A Fancy Dinner Party Where Someone Dies

It was a dinner party unlike any other dinner party.

I mean...there were similarities, of course. For instance, there were guests who arrived with empty stomachs. There were cocktails. There was a grand silver tray of pickles, sausages, and cheese cubes all poked on tiny sticks. There was a host who shouted, "Make yourself at home!" and a guest who did by taking a nap on the parlor sofa next to the fireplace. But this dinner party had something that most fancy dinner parties don't have. And that thing was villainy.

But who or what the villain was remained a mystery throughout the first course of the dinner. Everyone ate their salads completely oblivious to the villainy that was to come. They dabbed their faces with fancy cloth napkins, not understanding that soon....very soon....someone at that very table would be murdered.

I suppose I should introduce you to the guests now. There were seven of them. Pay close attention to any signs of villainy, or you may soon live to regret it.

At the head of the table sat the host of the party, Sir James John Upton-Starbucks. Upon sitting down at the head of the table, he shouted, "MY SEAT! MY SEAT! HOST SEAT! I CALLED IT." For Sir James John Upton-Starbucks, despite being a prestigious duke, was often quite childish. It might interest you to know that this childishness drove him to two things: collecting trampolines and extreme jealousy of anyone who bounced on them for too long. Did this jealousy and childishness drive the duke to murder? Perhaps. I'll go on.

Sitting next to the duke on his right was the Lady Milicent Upton-Starbucks, his wife. Upon sitting down at the table, and rolling her eyes at the duke's loud claims to the head seat, Lady Milicent said, "Everyone, don your bibs now!" For her ladyship hated it when people got crumbs and mustard stains on the collars of their fancy dinner attire. Was it this particular disdain for crumbs and mustard stains the cause of the death of one of the guests later during the meal? We shall find out very soon.

Next to her ladyship was an extremely mysterious and extremely veiled woman. "Hmmmmrrrrfffff mrrrrffff," she said as everyone took their seats at the dinner table. This was because the heavy veil made it difficult for her to understand. Was she saying, "I shall sit here next to the hostess because she is so beautiful and kind and delightful at conversation," or was the mysteriously veiled woman saying something like, "I will murder one of you very soon"? Perhaps you should read on while you ponder that mystery.

To the right of the mysterious, veiled, and muffle-voiced woman sat a gentleman of very high regard, Sir Tottenham-Smith-Facebook. He was a gentleman for two reasons. The first was that he was a viscount. The second was because, as everyone was seated at the dinner table, he ran around and politely pulled out everyone's chairs. "Mother always said that a gentleman does gentlemanly things," he said as he took his own seat. But perhaps his gentlemanly title and gentlemanly behavior was a cover for something else: something like MURDER.

The far end of the table, opposite the host, was reserved for Sir James John Upton-Starbucks's younger brother, Stuart. "Does everyone have enough room?" he asked, pulling his place setting far to the corner of the table so that it almost toppled onto the rug. "I don't want to be in anyone's way." He wasn't, but Stuart suffered from a terrible ailment that made him believe he was a giant, even though in reality he could hardly see over the table. "I'm so hungry, I could eat a village," Stuart said quietly, licking his lips. Did a giant hunger drive the duke's brother to dispatching a fellow dinner guest? We shall soon see.

The last two guests, sitting side by side to the left of the duke, were a very handsome couple. The man had a strong chin and jawline, a marvelous head of hair, and a winning smile. The lady also had a strong chin and jawline, a marvelous head of hair, and a winning smile. Seeing themselves and their own handsomeness in each other, the couple was soppily in love. As everyone was getting seated at the table, Lord and Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio were looking into each other's eyes and sighing the deep sighs of two people in love. Was their love so great that it led to murder? How would I know...yet?

Of course, no dinner party at the fancy home of two aristocrats would be complete without a butler, a valet, a cook, and a maid named Constance. They are also suspects, so don't forget to eye them suspiciously as well.

The murder occurred during the main course, quite an inconvenience for anyone looking forward to dessert. The cook, whose name was Pauline, brought a large roasted turkey and a side of potatoes to the table. Everyone smacked their lips loudly as they were served, especially Stuart Upton-Starbucks, who said, "Fee fi fo fum. I love turkey...and also gum." (He wasn't good at rhymes.)

"BIBS," said Lady Upton-Starbucks, fussily, gesturing at Constance to run around and secure everyone's bibs back under their chins, in the off chance that they had come dislodged during the aspic course.

Only one thing was said after that before the lights suddenly went out, and that thing was, "Mmmmmmffffffffff!" Was the veiled lady asking someone to pass the gravy? Or did she know what was coming? No one had a chance to ask her because, just then, the lights in the dining room went out.

There was a scream and the sounds of a scuffle. Then, there was another scream and the tinkle of glass breaking. As the lights continued to be out, there was yet another scream and a shout of, "Will someone please turn the lights back on and also who keeps screaming?"

Very shortly after that, a very brave-sounding voice said, "I'm feeling along the wall for the light switch! The lights will be back on soon!"

And another voice replied, "Thank goodness! I'm terrified. Not so much of the dark but of being in the dark with leftover aspic."

"And what is wrong with aspic exactly?" came another demanding voice, clearly slighted.

"Nothing," said the aspic-hating voice. "I'm just not a fan. It's basically meat Jell-O."

"Is that what that was?" said yet another voice. "Now I'm terrified of the leftover aspic as well. But also of the potatoes being cold when we finally get to eat them."

"I'm getting closer to the light switch!" said the voice of the person who had been searching for the light switch. "I've just passed the sideboard with the candelabra on it."

"Well, personally, I loved the aspic," came another voice. "My compliments to the cook."

"She has a name!" said the slighted voice from before. "It's Pauline. God, you're such an elitist."

"My hand is almost on the light switch. It's a mere inches away," said the light switch searching voice.

Everyone sighed in annoyance at the continued darkness, the aspic disagreement, the elitism, the screaming, the broken glassware, and the future coldness of the potatoes. Everyone except the person who had been murdered. But none of the people in the room knew about that part yet, so that was not on the list of annoyances.

And just then the lights came back on.

"I found it! I found the light switch at last! IT WAS ME! YOU'RE WELCOME!" exclaimed a person who everyone could now see was Sir James John Upton-Starbucks himself. But their excitement was cut short. For someone was lying dead with her face in the turkey.

And that person was Lady Milicent Upton-Starbucks.

"NOOOOO!" shouted Sir James John Upton-Starbucks, distressed that his wife was dead with a carving knife in her back, but also because her collar was COVERED with turkey grease, a thing she would have completely hated. Somehow her ladyship's bib had become dislodged during her murder.

"My god," said the gentlemanly Sir Tottenham-Smith-Facebook. "Someone in this room is a murderer."

"Yes, indeed," agreed the handsome Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio.

"Mmmmrrrrrrrfffff fffffrrrrrpppppp," said the veiled lady, which meant either, "It wasn't me!" or "Oh, boy! I do love a mystery!"

Sir James John Upton-Starbucks rushed to the door, closed it, and locked it with the key from his vest pocket.

"Everyone be seated," he said. "No one shall leave this room until we've figured out who the murderer, or murderers, are."

Now, you're probably wondering right now why no one suggested calling the police to come and resolve the matter and instead seated themselves back around the table where the corpse of Lady Milicent and the corpse of a turkey lay intertwined together sopping up cold gravy. And the reason for this is that aristocrats don't know how to use telephones. Keep that in mind should you ever decide to call a member of the aristocracy on the phone. He will probably get confused, say hello into the wrong end of the receiver, and eventually hang up in frustration. Always send your correspondence via handwritten note to be delivered by your butler if you ever expect a reply.

"One person here strikes me as extremely suspicious!" cried Sir James John Upton-Starbucks.

"Ah HA!" cried Stuart Upton-Starbucks. "Here you go accusing me again just because I'm a bloodthirsty giant who eats entire flocks of sheep for supper. I'll have you know that in no way could I wield such a tiny knife with these enormous hands!"

"NUH-UH! I accused you of no such thing," replied Sir James John, whose name is sometimes exhausting to type. "I was going to accuse--"

"Ah HA!" cried Sir Tottenham-Smith-Facebook. "You were going to accuse ME! Obviously I'm a gentleman with impeccable table manners. Therefore, I would be the first to offer someone a second helping of roasted turkey. That is how you knew that the knife was in my hands when the lights went out."

"Well, I suppose, now that you mention that, you total poopy butt, however--" replied Sir James John.

"Tut tut tut!" shouted Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio, not bothering to look up from making smushy eyes at her darling husband. "No! He was going to accuse me and my extremely handsome husband of the murder. We're so obviously in love. How could he not?"

"I never--" began Sir James John.

"Are you implying that my husband is incapable of committing a murder???" Lady Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio shouted. "I'll have you know that the cornerstone of a good marriage is being supportive, and if darling Edmund Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio, the love of my life, wanted to commit a murder, he could do it!"

"You are my moon angel!" cried Lord Pembrooke-Jones-DiCaprio, and the rest of the world disappeared to the very handsome couple as they went back to gazing into each other's eyes adoringly.

"I was actually going to accuse the mysterious veiled lady seated to the right of my wife," said Sir James John Upton-Starbucks. "Who are you anyway? Show yourself, or I shall throw a big tantrum!"

"Mmmmmmmmrrrrrrfffff!" said the veiled lady, which either meant, "How dare you? Isn't it obvious that I'm your mother-in-law and I'm trying to keep your other guests from catching my cold with this veil?" or "Mwahahahahahaha! In a complicated and unforeseen plot twist, I'm Lady Upton-Starbucks's evil, murderous twin, Samantha! And you'll never catch me alive!"

At this point, it's likely that several things are going on in your mind. Perhaps you would just like the suspense to end and to know who the killer is. Perhaps you would like the suspense to go on and for me to continue twisting the plot until I become bored of it. Perhaps you have no opinion at all as you have gone to the kitchen for a snack. But most likely of all, you've forgotten about the other people in the room. Don't feel bad. The servants of wealthy aristocrats are used to being ignored. But I will get to them and their current activities right now.

Told to be seated, the valet, the cook, the butler, and the maid sat down on the floor exactly where they had been standing. The valet sat down next to the sideboard, where Sir James John Upton-Starbucks trod on his fingers in the dark while looking for the light switch, and because he was such a good servant, the valet didn't utter a word in the way of, "Ouch! My fingers!" or "You blundering ass!" Instead, he sat crying silent tears of extreme finger pain as accusations of the guests were made.

The cook sat down next to the fireplace, wearing an expression of concern that dessert, a delicious apple tart, was going to burn, left unattended in the oven. She was also still slighted by the guest who didn't like aspic and intended to poison him later, as she knew exactly which gentleman he was. But, despite that villainy, of the murder of Lady Upton-Starbucks, she was entirely innocent.

Asked to sit, the butler sat down under the portrait of Lord and Lady Upton-Starbucks. He was also crying silent tears, but it was because his grandmother had died in her soup at a dinner earlier that week and he was suffering from painful dinner memories as a result. 

The maid, Constance, had sat down in the dining room doorway. As accusations were shouted and identities were demanded, no one was looking at her. Not one person. She was, after all, just a servant. And that was why, right before the lights went out and the screaming began anew, no one noticed her bloodstained hand creeping up the wall toward the light switch. She really, really hated those bibs.

The dessert ended up burning after all.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Frightening Friday: Ghosts Are the Stupidest Ever

Walk toward the light, idiot.

Driving past a cemetery late on Halloween night, there is an extremely good chance that nothing at all will happen to you. The cemetery will fade into the darkness, and you'll continue on your merry way to pick up a pizza. But sometimes...just might see a ghost. He might be standing in the middle of the cemetery, arm raised in a wave. He might be hovering by the road, like he's waiting for a ride. If you are driving past a cemetery late at night and you do see a ghost, beware.

Ghosts are total idiots.

I can say that because I know several ghosts, and each and every one of them is a total bonehead. Just the other night, I was lying in bed thinking about George Clooney when a ghost appeared.

I said, "What do you want this time, ghost? I'm trying to think about important things." And he just stood there, rattling his chains and moaning.

"Quick, ghost!" I said. "What's five plus five?" And he just floated there, slack-jawed, until he dematerialized out of what must have been total embarrassment. The next night he appeared again. This time, he was headless. Probably because he was so mortified at not knowing simple arithmetic that he didn't want me to look him in his eye sockets.

It almost makes me sorry for stealing that gold locket from that casket on one of my recent travels. If I knew I would have to put up with this, I would have left it right where it was, gripped tight in that skeleton's hand. 

So, our truly terrifying tale of horror today is all about ghosts being dumb. I call it...

Ghosts Are the Stupidest Ever

One Halloween night, a man was driving down a deserted road past a cemetery. Perhaps he was on his way home from a dance. Maybe he was just on his way to pick up some nachos at the Cemetery Road Convenience Store. We will likely never know because, as in many cases like this, this story is totally made up and this man does not actually exist.

As the man neared the cemetery gates, he saw a woman standing near the road, arm raised in a wave. She was wearing an old-fashioned white dress, too light to keep her warm on such a chilly night.

Now, if you've ever heard a story like this one before, you might be silently telling the man, "DON'T STOP. DRIVE AWAY!" But the man cannot hear you because, again, he does not exist, so he did an extremely silly thing and pulled over to the side of the road to talk to the woman.

He rolled down the window. "Do you need a ride?" he asked.

The woman said yes and climbed into the car.

Here is where I stop the story to remind my living readers that you should never get into cars with strangers.

And I will also use this time to remind my dead readers that DEEEERP DERPY DERP. You're idiots.

Back to the story.

"Where are you headed?" the man asked.

"354 Oak Street," the woman replied.

The two drove in silence for a few minutes.

"I don't want to pry," the man asked, deciding to casually make conversation. "But are you a ghost?"

"What? No, of course not," the woman replied. "I'm a young lady on my way home from a Halloween dance late, late at night. Mysteriously walking all alone."

"Okay, suit yourself," the man said. "I'll just drive you home. But I will say that this has all the hallmarks of a ghost passenger story. You know, the thing where you mysteriously vanish, and I show up at your house tomorrow with your shawl or something. And your mother tells me you've been dead forty years. Stuff like that."

"Well, you're wrong," the woman said, "I'm completely alive."

"Okay," the man said. "I'm not one to pry. Just thought that if you wanted to talk about it, that would be fine with me."

The conversation came to a halt once again.

 Finally, the woman spoke again. "GOD. How did you know? I thought I was hiding it so well."

The man laughed. "You don't want to know," he replied.

"Yes, I do," said the woman.

"Okay, I'll tell you, but you can't get upset."


"Fifty years ago, on a night like this one," the man began, clearly jumping into an extremely long and tedious story, "a young man was driving down a road past a cemetery. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a woman standing by the road. He pulled over. He asked the woman if she needed a ride. She did. He drove her home. On the way there, he looked over, and she had MYSTERIOUSLY VANISHED INTO THE NIGHT. The man got so scared, he drove into a ravine and was killed instantly."

"OH MY GOD. THAT IS TERRIFYING," the woman said, alarmed.

"I know, right?" the man replied. But when the woman turned to look at him, he vanished.

"AAAAAAAAAAA!" said the ghost woman as the ghost car plummeted into the ghost ravine. 

Do you believe me that ghosts are total idiots yet? They do dumb stuff like this ALL THE TIME.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Frightening Friday: Bloody Mary Goes Bananas

"I've had a hard day, okaaaay?" --Bloody Mary

There are people in this world who are terrified at the sight of blood. You know these people because they often say things like, “Get that blood away from me!” and “Is that blood? I’m never shopping here again!”
Personally, I think that if you’re afraid of blood it’s time to get your terror priorities in order. Blood is just a fluid that delivers life-giving oxygen to every part of your body. I ranked it at 86 in my list of “Things to Be Super Scared Of,” right between carbohydrates and being made to watch a movie sequel where they couldn't get any of the original actors to reprise their roles.

But there are times when it's a good idea to be afraid of blood. For instance, if you're wearing white. Or if you notice a lot of it in your stool and it's been several irresponsible years since your last colonoscopy. Or if you wake to find yourself in a pool of it and there's a mysterious corpse in the corner of your bedroom. Or if you say "Bloody Mary" into the mirror three times. These are times to be afraid of blood. Which brings me to today's terrifying tale of super spookiness. I give you...

Bloody Mary Goes Bananas

It was a dark and spooky coronation. Queen Mary I, daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, became the ruler of England, Ireland, and bathroom mirrors.

"From this day forth," she announced, "if you go to your bathroom mirror and say 'Bloody Mary' three times, I will appear and tell you what a disappointment you are and maybe claw at your faces. Especially at slumber parties, but also at summer camp."

"Hooray! Long live the queen!" shouted the people of England and Ireland, although none of them owned bathroom mirrors.
"Furthermore!" said Queen Mary I, as she was not quite finished. "Did you know that if you dip a sleeping person's hand into warm water, she will pee her pants? I decree that we try it on Melissa tonight and see what happens." 

"Hooray!" the people of England and Ireland shouted again, in agreement that Melissa would definitely be the one to fall asleep before midnight.

"I also decree!" Queen Mary I continued, "that we should eat pizza and Twizzlers after my parents go to bed. But let's not get onions on the pizza because that's gross."

The people of England and Ireland could only shout hooray again, overjoyed at the bounty of onion-less pizza and strawberry-flavored confection.

Then, Queen Mary I and the people of England and Ireland settled in to watch a super spooky movie with all the lights off. 

Years passed. Queen Mary I became ill, as people in the 16th century tended to do. "Ew, you guys," she proclaimed. "I ate way too much pizza, and I'm like totally nauseated. Sorry to be a complete buzzkill."

And then she died during a rousing game of "Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board," and nobody was psyched about that one bit, except her sister Elizabeth.

Hundreds of years passed.

One night at summer camp all those years later, an 11-year-old girl was lying awake in the darkness thinking about things.

"What do 11-year-old girls think about?" you might be asking.

Well, some think about boys. Others think about hairdos. And some 11 year old girls think about the best strategies for beating BioShock Infinite on 1999 mode. I guess what I'm saying is that 11-year-old girls think about a lot of different things. But this 11-year-old girl was lying awake in the darkness debating whether or not she should say "Bloody Mary" into the mirror three times because one of the other girls in Cabin 12 told her that if she did a demon would appear and drag her to hell, etc. The story had gotten blown quite out of proportion over the years.

Finally, the 11-year-old girl got out of bed. She felt her way around the other bunk beds in the darkness, listening to the sleeping breath of her cabin mates. She went to the mirror in the cabin bathroom (it was a very modern camp with all the amenities). She turned on the light and looked into the mirror.

"Bloody Mary," she said once.

"Bloody Mary," she said again.

"Bloody Mary," she said a third time.

And as she had promised all those hundreds of years before, Queen Mary I appeared in the mirror and said, "You're a terrible disappointment to the people of England and Ireland! Now, come over here and receive your punishment!" And she halfheartedly tried to scratch the girl's eyes out, but she was a queen and far too proper to administer a decent eye scratching. (That was more Mary, Queen of Scots's thing.)

"Oh," said the girl. "I was expecting something scarier to appear."

"Like Anne Boleyn?" Queen Mary I asked.

"No," said the girl.

"Like Anglicans?"

"No," the girl replied.

"Like dying without giving birth to a child to succeed you?"

"," said the girl.

"What were you expecting then?" asked Queen Mary I.

"I don't know," the girl said, "A demon with blood shooting from its eye sockets?"

"OOH," said Queen Mary I. "I have an idea of a thing that will totally scare you."

And she dared the girl to call a boy she liked and hang up.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Frightening Friday: A Terrifying Work Environment and the People Who Suffered From It

He does not want to go to work either.

You know what really scares me? I'm asking that question because OH MY GOD YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHAT TODAY IS? It's the first Friday in October. Did you guess that this is the first Friday of Frightening Fridays, because it is? Are you excited? I'm excited. I'm so excited that I actually just jumped for joy and fell down a flight of stairs. I'm writing this from the bottom of it whilst waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

In case you're wondering, the answer to my first question is "falling down a flight of stairs." But now that I've done it, I'm realizing it's not actually that bad, aside from the dislocated shoulder, two broken ribs, and gathering pool of blood. This means I won't have to go to work for at least five hours.

Which reminds me that I still need to tell you today's terrifying tale, which is all about having a terrible job. And maybe you're saying right now, "That doesn't sound so terrifying," but it's also possible that your job involves feeding marshmallows to a herd of baby goats, or perhaps you are a pillow tester for Puffy's Pillow Emporium. Naturally, you're going to enjoy your work. But trust me when I say that the job in this story will give you nightmares until at least the next pay cycle. It's called...

A Terrifying Work Environment and the People Who Suffered From It  

It was a dark and stormy copy machine. Dark because it was covered with layers of ancient coal dust and stormy because no one could find a better way to describe the way that the machine sometimes electrocuted people.

But that is not the most terrifying part of the story.

The president of the company at which our story takes place hated spending money and had purchased the copy machine from a mining company that was no longer in business for reasons that involve a mining company exploding. The copy machine had cost him zero cents. All he had to do was get rid of the family of raccoons that had been living in it and refill the toner. Some people might argue that nothing is scarier than a company president who won't spend money on things. Not a deadly copy machine. Not a clown-werewolf hybrid. And definitely not a company president who will spend money on things but has fingers where his eyes should be.

But that's still not the most terrifying part of the story.

Every day, the company president who didn't believe in spending money on things, especially copy machines that didn't electrocute people, would change his mind. Now, some company presidents change their minds every day: about what tie to wear, whether or not to put raisins in their breakfast oatmeal, or which fancy car to drive to the office. But this company president changed his mind about what his company actually did. An employee might leave work one night a taxidermist and arrive the next morning to become a painter of frescoes. He might start the week selling insurance, spend Wednesday learning how to be a chemist, and finish the week as an underwear model. It all depended on the economy and what was profitable on any given day. At the end of each day, the company president would call his teenage daughters and say, "What's popular on the Twitter today?" And they would tell him. The next morning, when everyone arrived for work at 4:55 AM, he would announce what they would be doing that day. That was how the company spent a very confused and unprofitable day recently as a twerk factory.

But, no, that's not the most terrifying part of the story. Not even that.

The company was haunted. Like, really haunted.

But not by ghosts. By listless, burned out employees who wandered around saying things like, "Is it Friday yet?" and chewing on stale bagels from the day the company was a kosher bakery. They all had dark circles under their eyes and downtrodden expressions from having to learn how to be heart surgeons one time. They lived in fear of the copy machine that electrocuted people and the office toilet that was just a room with a bucket in it and the supply closet that only had broken pencils in it and paperclips the company president had made himself from old electrical wire.

But no. Still not the scariest part.

The employees were not allowed to eat at their desks because of the vermin problem. Even on the day all of the employees were exterminators. And it wasn't just cockroaches and mice. There were cobras and vampire bats and chupacabra. And a religious suicide cult that had started a commune in the elevator. Nowhere you went was safe.

"I guess we should do something about the vermin," the company president said one day. So he made everyone in the company interior decorators and they wallpapered over everything: the mice, the cockroaches, the cobras, the bats, and even chupacabra. Fortunately, the suicide cult just had to be hauled out to the dumpster by then.

And even that is not the most terrifying part of the story. I guess I should tell you the scariest part now before you get bored.


I know. I was scared too. That is why I will end the story here and not tell you the part about the day a mysterious parasite came to Earth and slowly used mind control to take over the company and all its employees. And then nobody noticed for ten years because the employees always acted dead-eyed and listless.

But I can't tell you that part because it's not the most terrifying part of the story. Just know that some heroic guys arrived and harnessed the electrical power of the copy machine to kill all the mind controlling parasites and everyone was saved.

The end.