Angel of Hunky-Doryness recommended "086 Choices." Hope this meets your expectations, friend! :D While I'm not planning to do the full 100 unless I get enough ideas to interest me, if you have a suggestion for which item on the 100 fanart list to try next (see FanArt100 on DA), leave it in your comment, and I'll take it under consideration. :)
If you're a fan of Disney's Hercules and enjoy the Hades/Persephone ship, check out Angel of H-D's fic, NOW HIRING, which is well researched and funny, mixing the humor and canon of the Disney film with Greek mythology in an interesting way. Seriously, I thought I knew a lot about Greek mythology, but Angel's fic taught me a lot more! (Remember to give her some reviews — that's the polite thing to do!)
The roller coasters and Ferris wheel of HorrorLand still towered over the thick treetops as the Zinman sisters spilled into a clearing. Jillian, the eldest, nearly collapsed upon the grass, but she pulled her sisters toward the other side of the unguarded glade. We have to stay under cover! Jillian told herself wildly.
Katie and Amanda, the six-year-old twins, whimpered from fear and exertion, unused to this kind of running. Amanda stumbled, but Jillian's grip kept her from falling face first into the dirt.
"I — I can't keep goin'! My side hurts!" Amanda wailed, and she started to cough.
Jillian herded them both under the opposite shade, and she ducked behind a large oak. She looked back into the opposite thicket, expecting to see charging green and purple monsters crashing through the bushes to drag them back into the theme park. When she saw only still shadows, she pressed her damp, burning forehead against the brown trunk, thankful.
But it was only a matter of time before a search party came after them.
The twins leaned against their oak, wheezing and gasping. Jillian took a deep breath of her own and tried to speak calmly. "We'll — We'll rest for a few minutes, okay?"
Katie nodded, propping her sweaty hands against her dirty knees. Amanda rubbed her side, and her little hazel eyes grew wet.
"What are we gonna do?" Amanda sobbed. "It'll take us forever to find somebody to help us!"
"What if we can't find food or water?" Katie moaned, touching her soaked neck. "I'm so thirsty, Jillian!"
"Let's try to keep calm, for Mom and Dad," said Jillian as gently as her own dry, tight throat would allow. However, the twins voiced her own looming concerns. The sisters had thrashed through a forest that would be dark soon, and — even if the monsters didn't come after them with bloodhounds... or werewolves — and even if they found the road that had brought them into HorrorLand, it was at least a hundred miles to the nearest town or gas station. And if some car did stop for them way out here, it could be somebody working for the park to bring them back to their doom—or just a regular sicko who kidnapped kids for fun.
On top of those troubles, they also faced a more basic kind. The three sisters had only consumed light lunches around noon so that they could go on the rides quicker, and it had been at least an hour since any of them had enjoyed a sip of water. Plus there was the issue of finding shelter — and trying to avoid wild animals — but for all that, Jillian couldn't—wouldn't—turn around and risk guiding them back to that— that— that death trap.
The sun shone cheerfully through the verdant trees, hitting her slightly tanned face until she had to squint. Her black hair clung to her head in a sweaty mess, ruffled from the run and macabre-themed rides. Before, the clear weather had promised an exciting day in the park. Now Jillian couldn't help thinking it made the three fleeing girls that much more visible to anyone out hunting for them — if they didn't get sick from dehydration.
She shivered despite the heat and closed her green eyes. She tried to block out the images that made her chest constrict, but her mind refused to think of something else—the Horrors turning their happy vacation into a nightmare, her parents telling the three girls to run for it. Everyone fleeing into the park's fenced-in testing area where construction was going on. Then Dad jumped into a backhoe and rammed a hole into the outer wall. Mom helped Jillian through first so that she could pass her the twins. Then the purple and green mob caught up and converged. Katie and Amanda started crying as Jillian helped them onto the grass. Dad shouted for Mom to take the girls and run while he fended the Horrors off, but a hairy arm grabbed their mother.
Then Jillian had make a break for it with the twins. Deep, deep inside the dark forest—over thorny plants and hidden roots—while her parents' angry screams and the mob's roars filled the air...
Jillian opened her eyes and struggled against a sob. She had to stay calm for the girls. She tried to force a soothing smile, but she could only manage a half grin. "You guys rest your feet. I'll try to figure out where the road is."
Amanda nodded, simultaneously thankful and apprehensive, but Katie shot up, straight as a pole.
"Hey, look!" she squeaked, pointing. "There's a little boy in that tree!"
Jillian spun around with a sharp cry. A small pale face stared back at them through the gaps in leaves. The tiny person sat on the lowest branch, leaning against the trunk. He said nothing. He didn't even blink in surprise at the intruders.
Jillian's pulse surged. She came close to telling the girls to start sprinting again, but Amanda gave a half-relieved, half-hysterical giggle.
"No, it's not. It's a toy!" she cried, trotting toward the tree. "A toy!"
Jillian and Katie followed, and the three stood at the base, studying the figure, whose large eyes seemed to follow and examine them in return. Up close Jillian could see the smiling head belonged to a wooden ventriloquist dummy that had been dressed in a gray suit and looked like it had been outside quite awhile. Its ligneous top had been styled to resemble a neat haircut, painted red-brown. It had round blue eyes, a triangular sort of nose, and its bright red lips had scratches and a chip missing.
Any other time, Jillian might have thought the childlike face was vaguely cute (if you liked old-timey puppets), but despite the youthful innocence of its features, something about its staring eyes looked cold, which turned its wooden smile into a smirk. The puppet sat with both legs stretched out on the branch, and its hard head rested against the trunk, gazing down at them as if on the verge of laughing at their troubles.
Someone had nailed a wooden plaque with fat black letters above his head. Katie squinted at the words, sounding them out. "Don't… touch… the dummy."
"That won't be a hard rule to break," Jillian cracked, eyeing that unsettling smile.
The dummy blinked its blue eyes. "Well, somebody's in denial," it rasped at her.
The twins shrieked, springing into Jillian. Her heart bolted from her chest, right into her throat. She hugged the girls close.
"It— It has to be part of HorrorLand. Another trick," Jillian stammered, eyeing the wooden puppet warily. She backed away a few steps. Did it have a camera inside him? Did those Horrors now know where they were?
The dummy snorted at her statement. "Oh, sure. Amusement parks just love to put their attractions about a mile from their gates." He turned his head toward the rides in the distance. "Are you trying to escape the park too?"
Jillian took her sisters' hands, edging them away. "No, we just got lost," she lied. "If you'll tell us how to get back, we'll be outta your hair, Mr. Dummy."
He looked at her again. "Slappy."
"The name's Slappy," he clarified, and his smile somehow broadened, making his stiff cheekbones move. "Or 'Mr. Slappy' if you prefer." His blue eyes scanned her and the twins, but then they returned to linger on her face in a way Jillian couldn't read. "What's yours?"
"Rachel," she lied, using her mother's name, "and this is Ashley and Mary-Kate." She gestured to Amanda and Katie in turn.
Slappy shook his head, lowering his wooden eyelids into a look of condescension. "Do I look like a moron?"
Jillian gripped her sisters' hands and began to back away. "Actually, you look like a dummy."
"Oh, clever!" he retorted, rolling his eyes. "Took you a whole week to dream that up?" He pointed to the amusement park. "Those Horrors put you under a spell too?"
Jillian stopped in her retreat. She had just been seconds away from tugging the twins deeper into the forest, but something about the no-nonsense way he spoke seemed genuine. She frowned.
"What kind of spell?" she demanded, squinting hard.
"Not whatever spell of low intelligence they got you under, 'Rachel.'" He twitched his fingers to make air quotes. "Those Horrors found me too cool for their loser culture, so they bound me to this dumb tree where they hoped nobody'd find me."
After what they had encountered in that single afternoon, Jillian could believe that spells, vampires and werewolves existed. Why not talking toys in trees? That is, if this Slappy weren't part of a trap.
"Did they turn you into a puppet too?" she asked, not sure which answer would be more surprising.
"Nope." He brushed his nose with his thumb with a self-appreciative sniff. "I was already this handsome, Rach."
Katie started in realization. "You're a real talking dummy?" she cried.
"You're a real talking slug?" Slappy returned.
This has to be a trap, Jillian told herself. No way that thing's telling the whole truth—even if talking dolls really exist. Anything this close to that murderous theme park couldn't be benign. Her legs began to shake, but she swallowed a gulp of air to calm herself.
"You're not gonna drop from weak nerves, are you, Rachel?" the dummy asked. "I can't be the strangest thing you've seen today. Maybe the most gorgeous though," he added. "And I take it you girls don't like the Horrors either."
"No," Amanda said softly.
"They took our parents!" Katie squeaked earnestly, as if she were used to talking to dolls everyday.
Jillian shook their shoulders to shush them. "Let's get going, girls," she commanded them quietly, backing away again.
"Hey, hey!" Slappy cried, waving his arms. "You can't just leave a guy trapped in a tree! Didn't your folks teach to help people?"
"They also told us not to talk to strangers," Jillian shot back, pushing the twins behind her.
Slappy gestured to the dark woods beyond his tree. "Where do you think you can run to, Rachel? You won't find a Seven-Eleven in the middle of nowhere."
Amanda squeezed her hand. "He's right, Jillian," she wailed, tears beginning to form in her eyes again.
"It took us hours to drive to HorrorLand," Katie cried. "All we saw was woods and woods and woods."
Jillian held them both close. "We'll be okay," she said bravely, sending the puppet a glare. "If we find the road, we find people. Then we can get to a payphone and call the police."
"Or you'll get eaten by the monsters in the forest if the Horrors don't find you first," said Slappy, leering at them. "I see all sorts of things at night in these parts: wolves, venomous snakes, bears—"
"Ohhh!" Amanda moaned, choking with a fresh sob. Katie threw her arms around Jillian's waist, scanning the trees as if she expected a hairy beast to jump out right then.
Jillian glowered at Slappy, her heart pounding. "Stop it!" she cried. "You're scaring them!"
"Good," he retorted. "Maybe they won't let you lead them to their doom then, Rach." He leaned back against his tree. "But you girls don't have to be part of a teddy bear's picnic tonight. Your pal, Slappy, has a plan."
Jillian tilted her chin up defiantly. "Like what?"
He gave a careless shrug. "Hey, the enemy of my enemy is a useful compadre. Those Horrors took something from you, and they took something from me. Way I see things, we got a beautiful partnership in the works."
"What'd they take from you?"
"Nunya biz," he said with a flippant sniff.
Jillian tugged her sisters back. "C'mon, girls. Let's go."
Slappy's face morphed into a scowl. "Alright, alright!" He flailed his skinny arms again, more like a hummingbird now. "No need for the passive-aggressive schtick, lady." He motioned them to come closer.
Jillian let the girls come within five feet of the tree, and she stared up at him, frowning.
Slappy patted his chest. "What you see before you is the pinnacle of all things awesome," he vapored. "If I had a vice, it'd be that I was too amazing for the world to handle."
"Oh, brother," Jillian said out of the corner of her mouth.
"So," Slappy continued, "a guy like me with all these great traits to share has to have a family, but unfortunately my toy maker died years ago, and my siblings are pills. I looked for a girlfriend once, but nobody ever could match me for perfection, so it seemed like an awesome guy like me had to — tragically — be alone for all time."
"Poor you," Jillian snorted.
He winked at her before he continued. "But it gets better," he sighed wistfully. "Since I'll probably never find the perfect lady to tie the knot and raise my kids, I decided to skip marriage and dive straight for the carriage part. So, I built myself a worthy heir!" he declared, raising his little arms dramatically. "The Son of Slappy—Sonny for short."
"Aww," said Amanda, who liked babies and little animals.
Slappy dipped his head toward her. "My greatest achievement was to duplicate this" — he gestured to himself — "level of awesomeness."
"So, how'd ya wind up in a tree?" Jillian asked, cutting to the chase. She glanced back toward the park; how long did it take those Horrors to set up a search party?
"Sonny and I came on invitation to perform in the Haunted Theater, but the jerk in charge tried to make us stay and perform forever as his slaves. I refused to dance to their tune — and they took Sonny and trapped me here, unable to rescue my boy."
"That's terrible!" Katie cried.
"Poor Sonny," agreed Amanda, clasping her pink hands together.
Jillian kept silent, examining Slappy carefully. It certainly sounded like what those Horrors would do, but the puppet could be lying. And this could all be a stalling tactic to give the Horrors time to catch up with them.
But where could she run to if it was?
Slappy's eyes locked on Jillian's then as if he read her mind. "Hey, Rachel, do you know what 'trivium' means?" he asked, now sweet.
It sounded familiar — like something her intellectual father might have mentioned, or maybe a teacher — but she had to shake her head.
"Of course, you don't. That's why you need a guy like me to do your thinking," he grinned. As she scowled, he continued, "A trivium is the place where three roads meet. And for you ladies, your choices right now are a trefoil. You can wander the forest and face possible-but-incredibly-likely death." He nodded to their shadowy escape route. "You can go back to HorrorLand by yourselves and face certain death." A nod at the park. "Or you can free me, and we go back to HorrorLand as a team and get back the family they stole from us."
Katie and Amanda turned their heads up at Jillian, scared and pleading for the best answer. Jillian averted her eyes from them — from the tree with the dummy — from the deadly park. If Mom and Dad were here, they'd probably be able to figure out what to do — they'd know how to keep the girls alive — but they weren't. Were they even alive right then? Were the Horrors hurting them? If Jillian somehow escaped the woods and got the police to help, would it be too late?
Jillian swallowed and swiveled her head back to Slappy. "I'm not saying I believe you," she said, narrowing her green eyes, "but how are we supposed to get you down?"
He pointed to the sign above his head. "Can't you read?"
She rose a dark eyebrow. "Somebody just has to touch you?" she asked, skeptical.
"It's actually more complicated than that, I'm afraid." His eyes met Jillian's again. "Not just any person can get me down. It has to be somebody with a pure heart."
She frowned. "Huh? That doesn't sound like something those rotten Horrors would do."
"You'd be surprised — it's a pretty cruel joke if you think it through." He gestured grandly. "In the whole wide world, what are the odds that someone would find me in these backwoods? And if they did, what's the chance they'll have a good heart? Everybody gots a dark secret they don't want their mamas finding out about."
Jillian rolled her shoulders, not wanting to agree with him but unable to deny it either — especially as her conscience reminded her of a few things that she'd rather forget. Like all those times she used to think up revenge plots against kids who made fun of her. Or when she made her best friend eat a bowl of mud. Or the time she swiped a 50-cent candy on a dare.
"So, why even ask us?" she asked, averting her gaze.
"Well, it's not like I get a lotta visitors, dummy," he growled. "I've been away from my boy so long, I might as well try." He leaned forward. "Do you think you're pure enough to be my Samaritan, Rachel?"
Jillian was not entirely convinced she wanted his help, but if it turned out that Slappy was their only hope, that put her in awkward position. What constituted as "purity" in this screwball magic system?
"How— How pure does your heart have to be?" she asked.
"If you have to ask, not enough," he replied. He tilted his head, and something about his smile changed — as if he saw her in a new light.
"What dark things have you gotten up to, Rachel?" he asked cheerfully. "Swearing? Tried your first cigarette in the girls' bathroom?" His eyelids rose with a distinct click. "Kill somebody?"
"Oh, shut up!" she snapped.
"Doesn't sound like a 'no,'" he said, sing-song. Then his gaze fell to the twins. "How old are your sisters?"
His eyes lit up. "Seven is when the age of accountability begins with some spells. They'll do." He leaned down as far as he could, holding out his hand. "Now," he smiled as pleasantly as his cold face would allow, "lift one sister high enough to touch my hand, and I'll be free from this tree — and you'll get a new best amigo."
Jillian looked at her sisters. Then the puppet. "How do we know you'll keep your promise?"
"You'll just have to trust me — unless you'd rather take your chances with the bears."
Katie slowly raised her hand. "I'll do it."
"No, I'll do it," Amanda insisted quietly. "You get put in time-out more than me."
"Yeah, that's true," her twin agreed.
Both girls turned to Jillian.
She looked at the grinning dummy, then back at the park. Do we really have a choice here? she wondered gloomily, but she shook off her trepidation as best as she could. Mom and Dad needed them — all of them.
Jillian steadied her nerves, bent to pick up Amanda, and propped her on her hip. "Here goes nothing."
Slappy stuck out his pinky. Amanda squared herself, leaned over, and tapped the dummy's tiny finger.
"Ya-hoo!" the doll cried, springing off the branch. He landed on the ground and fell on his side with an Oof!
"Are you okay?" Jillian cried, lowering Amanda to rush to his side.
He spun his head around to look up at her. "Never better!" he answered, tapping his dirt-streaked chin against his back.
Jillian grimaced. "Please don't do that."
Slappy pushed himself to his feet. He stretched and twisted and boogied on his wooden legs, laughing loudly.
"Shhhh!" Jillian hissed as his guffaws echoed through the trees. "What if the Horrors are close by, looking for us?"
"Let them try!" Slappy straightened, but he continued to smile. "Well, what are you waiting for, ladies? We got ourselves some relatives to save." He held out his hands. "I can't move too fast on my own. Care to carry me?"
"Not particularly," Jillian replied, but she stooped reluctantly to lift him up. His tiny torso felt stiff and cold, and he smelled of trees and moss. She turned her face away as he wrapped his arms around her neck.
As she straightened, Slappy leaned in close. "Oh, by the way, did I mention I can do some magic?"
Jillian's head snapped toward him. "You can?"
"Yep." He grinned. "Let's go. Take a diagonal route toward the back of the park," he instructed. "I'll show you how to confuse any trackers who got your scent."
Jillian's stomach felt like a cage of butterflies, but she nodded, determined. She held out her other hand to her sisters. Amanda grabbed it, and Katie linked up next to her. Following Slappy's orders, they started off on the new path.
Slappy shifted on her shoulder. "So, what's your real name, girly?" he asked sweetly.
She glanced at him before looking ahead. "Jillian."
"Jil-li-an," he repeated. "Slappy and Jillian — rolls right off the tongue, don't it, friend?" He chuckled as if thinking of a private joke, but Jillian focused instead on the looming park walls ahead, keeping her eyes open for danger.
Yeah, another fic involving HorrorLand, but, eh, that's how the fic appeared in my mind.
"If I had a vice, it'd be that I was too amazing for the world to handle." — In one of the new Slappy's World books, Slappy says in his opening narration that if he had a flaw, it'd be that he was too awesome. As often as I have Slappy be full of himself in previous fics, it's nice that R.L. Stine confirmed some of my headcanons for the dummy, haha. J/k.
Seven = age of accountability — Inspired by the Grimms' version of Snow White. While, yeah, it's probably a little too "fairy tale" for a Goosebumps fanfic, I do like the point Slappy makes of the likelihood of a "pure" person coming by to help him. The spellcaster would know Slappy would be stuck there for a long while since the people who would come his way would mostly have some kind of flaw that kept them from qualifying to help him, and the chances of them having a young child with them (and trust him enough to agree to free him in the first place) is even slimmer. If you have a free moment, I recommend the article "Why 'Purity' Is An Overrated Character Trait" from the Springhole website.