God, it's actually done. Twelve chapters of absolutely confusing weirdness and crap. (Also, it's kinda worthless.) I actually finished this chapter yesterday, with all intention of saying, 'I finished it on the one year anniversary!' But this site thwarted my anal schemes by being buggy. It made me sad for a while, but I got over it. Let's just say I finished this in one year.
Anyways, this is the end. It's not a very good ending, and a bunch of shit comes flying out of nowhere, but hopefully you'll like it. I can honestly say that I tried making badass moments, but the last fight is just...anticlimatic. To me. And short. I would ask for constructive criticism, but I guess that kind of thing doesn't happen much on this site.
"It's a good thing you still come back here," said Billy, sitting in an all-too-uncomfortable armchair in the Sinistham Manor. The boy had grown into a man. He graduated college, had a wife, was thinking about kids, and was now a rather successful policeman. Of course, nothing much happened. Kentucky in general was a pretty lethargic place. "Sometimes I don't have time to come here. Besides, I suck compared to you."
"No, no," his host assured him, raising skeletal hands as if Billy needed consoling. "I'm sure you're disgustingly ghastly."
Billy blinked a little. He always had to get used to the way Jack said certain things. This…this…was a compliment. Hopefully. "Seriously, if you didn't come back once in a while, this place would've sunk into obscurity." Jack frowned, seemingly disliking that hypothetical situation. The eerie manor, as well as several other places around the world, was like a home to him. And it was probably the perfect example of a haunted house, with decaying trees and collapsing floors. It seemed a pity to just let it go to waste, left for people to just bulldoze over.
"Well, it seems not many children are coming here. I'll have to leave soon if I want to get back to town in the morning," said Jack, pushing himself up. Zero, who had been settling down, bored, in the corner, perked up when he saw the skeleton ready to leave.
"Wait," said Billy, suddenly standing up too. He was about to say that Jack had stayed up all night. He was about to say that Jack probably had stayed up all morning. He was about to say that Jack might need some sleep. The cop hesitated because…well…Jack's a skeleton.
Jack was staring at him now, and Billy didn't really want to look like a fool, so he said something else. "…Mind if I come? I mean, I'd really like to see this Halloween place for myself." First rule of cop-land: never believe anything until you see it for yourself. A gullible cop was a bad cop. Besides, this was a chance to finally answer all those questions he thought of at night.
Jack stood with a rather thoughtful look. "I don't mind," he replied. "But you don't like to be scared, right? You may not want to meet the others."
Billy shrugged. "That's fine. I'll just take a quick look from a hill or something." Both satisfied with this plan, they headed out the manor to the graveyard, Zero trailing behind.
Billy raised an eyebrow when Jack opened up some double doors on a statue. Not that he'd been to many graveyards, but he had the impression that these doors led down to crypts filled with dead people. If this assumption was true, he felt this trip would be most unpleasant.
Still, he did not hesitate, and simply followed Jack down into the darkness. At first, he could see nothing and immediately bumped into something that was hopefully not dead, but then Zero's nose shed an orange glow in the dank tunnel. Billy didn't stare, as he was already quite used to these kind of things happening, and the group walked (well, Zero glided) for…well, it seemed like a rather long time. All the while, Billy kept stepping on things that went squish and the roof kept dripping something on his head. How did Jack go through tunnels like these every year and not get his suit messy? The cop's mind boggled.
Finally, there were stairs. Nice stone steps. Okay, so they crumbed, and now bits of rock fell on his head, but at least his shoes and socks weren't getting muddy. Or slimy. Or whatever the tunnel was made of. And now he could see another pair of doors ahead and he couldn't help but get a little excited. He could finally see this supposed 'holiday town.' Finally see it somewhere other than in snippets of dreams. But Billy didn't really show this as he was a cop and he couldn't help but feel that cops were supposed to be rather stoic.
And then there was a thud noise and the orange light flickered. The two turned towards Zero, who was looking as bewildered as they were. The ghost dog experimentally floated forward again and made another audible noise, as if he had just bumped into some kind of thick glass wall.
"What does that mean?" asked Billy, but he turned to empty air. Jack ran up the stairs, able to take many at a time due to his long legs, and slammed open the doors.
Or, he would have, if they had budged, which they stubbornly didn't. Jack aimed his bewildered stare to the doors now.
A few minutes silence, save for the occasional sound of crumbling ceiling.
"…What does that mean?" Billy repeated, heading up to the doors himself while Zero tried to float up the stairs too, as if thinking the barrier would disappear eventually.
"I…uh…" said Jack, getting a very bad feeling in his bones. He tried to push hard against the door again. "…I think the door's blocked."
For what felt like the fiftieth time that day, Lock, Shock and Barrel stepped back from some entrance now blocked up with random junk they found and circled with white chalk. It was hard work, carrying everything to one place and then making sure that nobody could really get through. They didn't really understand what all of this was for (especially the chalk circles), but hey, who were they to question Oogie?
"Izzat the last one?" sighed Barrel, briefly taking off his skeleton mask to wipe his pale face. The three children had just pushed a broken couch up a hill to a pile in front of a rotten shed's door.
"Yeah, think so," said Lock, collapsing on the couch despite the springs poking out every which way.
"So what do we do now?" Shock sat herself next to Lock to catch her breath.
"Eh, he didn't tell us to do anything else. He'll call us if he needs us. Let's just relax for now, hm?" Lock leaned back lazily into the couch. He ignored the spring digging into his back.
"He said he'd take care of the rest, right? Right when it's the thirty-first? At midnight?" Barrel finally joined the other two on the couch and pulled some candy from his sticky pockets.
The three all agreed that midnight was such a great time to start evil plots and giggled at the thought of what Oogie might do. After all, they weren't the ones about to be in deep shit.
"Alright then!" the Mayor's voice blared through the megaphone. "Five minutes 'til Halloween! You don't want to miss it!" This announcement wasn't needed as everybody in town was already heading to the town center. The Mayor hopped off his car and travelled with the small crowd until he reached a makeshift stage for him to step on so that he could at least be seen by the others. "Everybody here? Everybody here?" the Mayor shouted needlessly. "Good! Everybody ready for the countdown?" A glance at his watch. "Ready? Starting….five!"
Everybody joined in excitedly. "Four! Three! Two! One!" The bell rang in celebration, but oddly enough, as soon as it started chiming, the stage was covered with smoke.
"A…a smoke bomb?" coughed the Mayor before he was suddenly pushed aside. The smoke quickly cleared away and…there was Oogie Boogie.
The sack man relished the collective gasp aimed at him and he laughed manically.
The crowd was frozen, all staring at a face they hoped to never see again. Finally, the Mayor struggled back up, hatless, and tried to put on a brave and mayor-ly face. It was hard since he was pale and shaking. "You! W-what do you think you're doing?" He didn't mean to, but he cringed when Oogie cackled at him.
"This," he replied smugly before turning back to the silent crowd. "Hail your new ruler!"
"I…I'm going to be late!" Jack wailed, sinking down and setting his skull in his hands. With the dim light from Zero's nose, Billy couldn't help but notice how Jack's pants still stubbornly refused to get dirty. Must be some weird power of his.
"Well," said Billy, unable to exactly sympathize with Jack very well. He wasn't really the type to get super-excited by holidays (at least, not that he remembered). "You've always been saying that there're these other doors, right? We could just try some of those. There're some close by, aren't there?" Jack nodded. "And, at least for you and the others back in town, this is some kind of emergency, right?" Another nod. "Then we can take my car."
Riding in a car was…an interesting experience for Jack. That is to say, it was uncomfortably fast, loud, and terribly disorienting. Often, as he stuttered out the directions, Billy would make a sharp turn, making Jack either slam his side against the door, or almost fall on the weird stick thing, which had a mysterious use. The skeleton decided that he didn't really want to ride in the Mayor's car after all.
They drove to the closest doors they knew of, but the results were all same. Zero would smack into an invisible wall and Jack would find the doors blocked. After checking ten doors, Jack sank to the ground again.
"Hey, don't worry," said Billy, though he had no idea what there was to not worry about. "There're still other doors. C'mon, where's the next closest one?"
"Some place called Pennsylvania."
"Oh. Hm. Then let me try busting that door – "
"It won't work," said the old officer, who had suddenly appeared. He was much older and more fragile-looking than when Jack last saw him. In fact, he was now retired. But everybody still couldn't help but think of him as an officer. Billy stared for a moment.
"…How'd you get here?" he managed to blubber out. Not that he wasn't happy to see his ol' mentor, but they had driven miles away from town trying to find an open door, which took hours, even with Billy driving as fast as he could to get an anxious skeleton to some kind of Halloween party (god, that sounded weird) and here was someone who was probably in his eighties by now with no car in sight. Just showed up with no warning. This was very confusing and Billy didn't particularly like being confused.
To his frustration, Billy got no answer. "The door's blocked."
"How d'you know that?"
"It's Oogie Boogie. He's…doing something."
"Who? Doing what?"
"Really? He's out of the tree house? But why would he block the door?"
"Who is Oogie Boogie? And what kind of name is that anyways?!"
"To prevent you from coming back, of course. He doesn't want you meddling in whatever his sick plot is."
"So can I infer that this Oogie Boogie is evil?"
"What? Why would he have a sick plot? Oogie isn't evil!"
"You know, it would be nice if someone would explain something to me."
"Jack, he was made evil. Remember that. You will have to stop him, and you can't let your past experiences with him blind you."
"Oh god, this reminds me of some kind of movie. Wait, is this evil guy that sack boy?"
"But…how am I supposed to stop him? The door's still blocked."
"You know, that's a very good question. I wonder if he'll answer! Oh, I know, maybe he took some explosives with him when he magically teleported here!" Realizing that none of his questions will ever be answered, Billy 'aaargh'ed in frustration and started to leave. "Good luck with whatever the hell's going on."
"Wait!" An old wrinkled hand snapped out and caught Billy by the shoulder. "You'll also be needed too."
"Oh good. I almost thought I was going to be completely useless to this 'mission' as I am to this conversation." The old officer turned back to Jack, which didn't surprise Billy in the least.
"I've never told anybody this," and here, the old man's eyes twinkled black, "but I used to live in Halloween Town. I used to be a shadow." And suddenly, the old man was completely black and he dived into the shadows and disappeared, leaving Jack and Billy gaping.
Billy was now utterly confused, a step up from completely confused. He threw his hands up and shouted, "Well that came completely out of nowhere!"
"I'm sorry I can't share my life story with you," came the old voice sarcastically from the other side of the doors. "I'm busy clearing all this junk out of the way."
It took less time than Billy expected from an old, crooked man. Whatever had been blocking Zero was gone, and the ghost dog eagerly flew through the door. Jack and Billy went through them normally. The dark and gloomy scenery would have impressed Billy if it wasn't for the fact that his eyes were instinctively drawn to the very large pile of trash. Whoever had blocked the doors had been very patient and had a lot of junk, or at least stole everything in the town's dump. They were on a dark hill of dead grass. A collection of buildings Billy guessed was the town hugged the horizon.
"Quickly, Jack, you better go. I suggest following the sound of screams or maniac laughter."
"Wait, wait," said Billy, determined to get some answers before the day was done. "What are you gonna do?"
The ex-Halloween Towner twisted his mouth into a wrinkled smile. "I'm only an old man now."
"Who happens to be able to travel through shadows," Billy grumbled.
"True, but old humans are fragile, and I happen to an old human right now, shadow-travelling abilities or none."
Jack, who quite frankly had looked very lost for a while, joined in the questioning. "What am I supposed to do?" the skeleton whispered, almost fearfully. A bony hand clutched the old man's arm as if in desperation, as if searching for some kind of guide.
The old man looked up at the skeleton with a sagging face of pity. "I can't answer that for you. I can only urge you to hurry."
"Well then," said Billy, sidling up behind Jack. "What am I supposed to do? I'm no one special."
"Why, you have something that nobody here has!"
"A heart?" Billy snarked.
Eyes twinkling black again, the old man clapped a hand on his shoulder and said, "A gun."
It was incredibly easy to take over the town. Easier than Oogie thought. He expected at least some resistance, but maybe the people were still shaken up over the dead werewolf and the Mayor's almost-kidnap. They were like sheep, really, he mused as he led the townspeople to Finkelstein's tower. Its inhabitants were the only ones who didn't go to celebrate the Halloween countdown. The doctor was becoming quite the shut-in.
Oogie made sure to create the right kind of atmosphere for what was about to happen. He made several people carry torches. Several others wielded pitchforks. And, luckily enough, there was always bad weather in Halloween Town. Perfect.
The sack man beat on the door, satisfied that it gave a threatening, booming sound. Igor opened the thick doors to greet this guest with his usual idiotic grin, which disappeared when he saw the uncomfortable mob. Despite being relatively new to the job, Igor innately knew that a huge mass of people with torches was a Bad Thing. "Yeth?" he lisped cautiously, hoping that there was some kind of mistake and the mob had simply gone to the wrong address.
His hopes were dashed as Oogie bent down, smirking in that disconcerting way. The hunched man couldn't help but think his breath smelled odd. "Why don't ya go and get the doctor, hm?" Igor didn't need to rub two brain cells to know that if he didn't hurry, there was going to be trouble in a form worse than rolled-up newspaper.
Finkelstein was quickly retrieved. The old doctor jerkily rolled to the entrance, grumbling about being interrupted. "What is it," he snapped before fully understanding who he was snapping at. Behind thick glasses, Dr. Finkelstein peered at the looming figure of Oogie and the reluctant crowd behind him.
"What's going on?" he demanded.
"As new ruler of Halloween Town…" Finkelstein's head immediately snapped to the Mayor, who was holding a pitchfork rather uncertainly and staring at the ground as if he really wanted to be somewhere else. "…I'm accusin' you of certain crimes, which you will be hung for and then cremated…"
"What?! Nonsense! I haven't done anything! You can't just make up - " Oogie kicked the wheelchair so Finkelstein shot backwards into the opposite wall and fell over, his clunky chair on top of him. Igor rushed to help the doctor, but stopped when Oogie announced, "Anybody who helps this crook'll be named a traitor and also be executed.
"Someone get 'im to the noose," he ordered, and Lock, Shock and Barrel immediately made their way through the crowd, giggling to themselves. They had never seen a real hanging before…the three quickly wheeled a dazed Finkelstein out the door. The crowd quickly parted for them as they disappeared towards the town center. "All o' you wait for me there." Everybody quickly complied, as they were sure if they didn't, pain would be involved.
Now for other business…
Sally turned from her window when her door opened. She couldn't exactly tell what was going on outside, but she was sure she saw Finkelstein being taken somewhere…
She bit her lip nervously. Oogie Boogie was here. Sally was very sure, inferring from how her father had just been wheeled away, that this was a bad thing. "What are you doing here?" she asked tersely, pushing herself up against the wall. When the sack man entered, a weird smell followed, something like the smell of rotting flesh and blood. It made her even more nervous.
"Why, I'm hurt! Is that any way to treat an old pal?" Oogie sneered, easily blocking the door. "After all, I'm helping you, aren't I?"
Sally narrowed her eyes. She had a feeling he was expecting her to act like a very confused and daft woman confronting a homicidal maniac, asking questions instead of running away. Because the window was closed and latched, she acted as expected. "What do you mean?"
"Why, girlie, you can't tell me you like being locked all year in this boring room." Crap, he was approaching. Sally hoped she could open the window quickly before he could do anything.
"That's why I sneak out every once in a while," she replied, slowly unlatching the window behind her. It usually squeaked. She sure hoped it wouldn't now.
Oogie stopped and made a show of observing some of the large books on her bookshelf. It rather reminded Sally of a clichéd villain. "I'm king now, Sally. Starting today, you won't be locked up in this damn room anymore. You can do whatever you want."
The sincere look in Oogie's eyes then as he turned towards Sally made her pause as she held a window bar, ready to push. Again, she chewed her lip. He…oh my god, Sally thought, wondering whether she should feel guilty about being revolted by this revelation. "And…what are you going to do to my father?"
"Kill 'im," Oogie replied dismissively. Sally suddenly didn't feel very guilty anymore. "Wanna watch?" The sack man extended his arm out to Sally, with a hopeful grin that quite surprisingly had no traces of sadistic glee in it. His eyes, though…and the smell…both struck fear between her stitches.
Escaping would mean, and she was sure of this, that Oogie would then try to kill her the first chance he got. He seemed insane enough to do that and Sally could see him as the 'if I can't have her, nobody can have her' type. Oogie would burn her at the stake…
With no hesitation, Sally roughly pushed the window open and jumped out.
Sally's room was small and Oogie hadn't been very far from her, but he still reacted too slowly to catch her. He watched her fall to the ground in shock, feeling betrayed, but mostly very pissed.
Oogie put his anger to some use. "Traitor! Traitor!" he bellowed, still leaning out the window and glaring down at Sally, who was trying to stitch various parts back together. "Somebody get her! Kill her! Burn her!" But nobody was close by. By the time some townspeople ran back to Finkelstein's tower, by the time Oogie ran down the stairs to the place Sally had fallen, she was gone.
Damn! Oogie kicked the nearby Mayor in frustration and shouted at some werewolves to track her, but they simply replied that they didn't know her scent. They didn't go around deliberately remembering how everybody smelled, after all.
Feeling the need to kill something, Oogie stormed over to the town center with everybody else trailing behind. He stepped up on the makeshift stage which now held a noose, getting some satisfaction seeing the rope around Finkelstein's thin neck. The sack man wrapped a nub around the other end. He was very eager to pull. Mmm, he could just imagine what would happen…the doctor didn't weigh much, so he would probably slowly suffocate, struggling helplessly in the air…
For courtesy's sake, Oogie asked, "Any last words?"
Dr. Finkelstein sat in his bulky wheelchair, staring straight ahead. His beak remained shut.
"Good." And Oogie pulled. He lifted the doctor into the air, where the small man started erratically twitching and tried to grab the noose as if struggling to pull it off. Finkelstein didn't make a sound, not even a pained gurgle, making the night all the gloomier. The only sound was laughter from Boogie's Boys who saw that a hanging was much cooler than they had imagined.
Oogie grinned in pleasure at Finkelstein's pain, but tore his gaze away from the swinging man when he noticed something in the sky. Something was coming down towards him. Very quickly.
Oogie released the rope as if it had just scalded him and jumped out of the way as Finkelstein's body clunked on the floor. The thing that was coming down was huge. It crashed onto the stage, which understandably couldn't hold the weight and collapsed.
"…..You….shall not…….harm the….doctor…..any…longer….."
Hey, he recognized that aggravatingly slow speech pattern…
Oogie stared up from the ground at the large, red eye of what he could only assume was a pissed Goyle.
"Father!" Sally jumped off from Goyle's back to an amazingly alive Finkelstein and checked for bruises on his neck and broken bones and so on.
Well, of course Oogie had been sure that Sally would have tried to rescue her dad, but he didn't expect the large gargoyle at all. How'd the hunk of rock even get out of his attic?!
It wasn't time to ponder these questions, though. He now had three executions to perform. Approaching the group angrily, he was about to shout some more when Goyle swept his large, stony hand across the ground. He didn't do it suddenly, but his hand was so large that Oogie couldn't dodge. The bug man was pushed roughly back to where he was.
"…..You…shall not…." Goyle repeated, but Oogie had no patience to listen.
"Kill them! Topple that bastard over and burn them!" At this, Sally looked up from behind Goyle's arms worriedly. Goyle certainly could continue to push people away, but he had limited vision. A crowd could sneak up from behind. The witches probably had a spell to blow his head off, and then the others could march straight forward, since Sally and Finkelstein would be walled in by their very guardian.
The townspeople were silent, as they had been pretty much all morning. The Mayor glanced morosely at the stoic gargoyle, crouching defiantly, then at the horrible Boogeyman, and suddenly was tired of this shit. He overcame the smell of Fear.
Drawing himself up, the Mayor said, "No."
Everybody was taken aback. The townspeople were unsure now which leader figure to follow.
Oogie looked confused, but was growing exponentially livid. So angry that it seemed possible to boil water off of him. He drew himself up as well, looking much more threatening than the short Mayor. "Are you betraying your king?" he asked dangerously.
"No," said the Mayor, adrenaline and panic rushing through his system. He thumped his pitchfork on the ground as emphasis. "We're overthrowing a tyrant."
Oogie could see the others were easily swinging to the Mayor's side. It wasn't that surprising, since they didn't willingly follow him in the first place. They were starting to look more like an angry mob, and some looked ready to throw their torches at him. Oogie did the sensible thing. He ran.
The truly angry mob chased The Boogeyman through the graveyard, the Mayor leading the way. Oddly enough, those three cackling kids seemed to have disappeared when they saw trouble.
Adrenaline was pumping through the Mayor. He knew there was a damn good reason why they never tried this with Oogie before, but it made him forget. He somehow started catching up despite his short legs. The damn sack man was practically within reach. The Mayor lowered his pitchfork and got ready to thrust it forward…
The Boogeyman was grinning at him. That wasn't good.
With surprising dexterity, Oogie Boogie dodged the pitchfork, grabbed the Mayor's head, and slammed it into a nearby gravestone. The pitchfork fell to the ground.
Ah yes, thought the Mayor, blood running down his pale face. That's why we were so afraid of him…
Adrenaline pushed him back upwards, but Oogie stabbed his torso with the pitchfork, and the Mayor collapsed again and didn't move. Adrenaline can only do so much. "Ha, moron. You're only an elected official. The hell made you think you could stand up to a king?"
The townspeople stopped, seeing their felled leader. No matter how angry a mob, nobody really wanted to get stabbed with a pitchfork. They stood like embarrassed sheep as Oogie glared at them. "Right, now why don't we try that again. I suggest you all go back and build a bonfire."
Several shots rang out and Oogie was stumbling backwards, two holes in his body. Bugs were spilling out quickly though he tried to hold them in.
Behind the subdued mob, Billy held his gun steady. Usually police officers were taught to fire warning shots. Billy made sure to warn the sack man that he was shooting him. He got ready to warn some more, wondering when Jack would hurry the hell up already. For a guy with ridiculously long legs, he ran ponderously slowly.
"Lock! Shock! Barrel!" Oogie bellowed. This was all complete nonsense to Billy until three kids jumped from out of nowhere. Two helped tape up the holes in the sack. One stabbed him in the hand with a pitchfork.
Lock picked up the interesting metal thing that the man dropped as he screamed and held his bleeding hand. He had never really seen one before, but it was obvious how it was used. Lock experimented with the strange object by pointing it at the man and pulling the lever. The man went down. Cool.
When the kid saw Jack coming, he scampered away, still clutching his new treasure. Oogie, noticing the skeleton, froze for a minute before shouting at Shock and Barrel to go away.
Jack stared in horror at the bleeding Mayor and Billy and recalled the sight of Sally knelling beside an unconscious Dr. Finkelstein. He couldn't comprehend how this could happen. "Oogie, what are you doing?!"
The Boogeyman sneered as Jack pushed his way through the mob before running off again. The skeleton hesitated before turning back to the townspeople and Zero, who had been following him. "Don't follow me. Look after those two," he ordered, before chasing after Oogie. He understood now that Oogie was, frankly, insane and it was extremely unlikely that he would become sane again, no matter what books and children's TV shows said. Once again, Jack felt that this was something he had to do alone.
Oogie Boogie had ran out of sight, but Jack dashed off with certainty. He was sure there was only one place he would run to.
And yes, there he was, standing near the gnarled tree that was his home.
"I was hopin' you'd stay out of the way, but I guess I'll have to kill you now…"
Jack said nothing, for the words would be wasted. He could see from the crazy glint in Oogie's eyes. Instead, he advanced slowly, trying to think of what the hell he was going to do. Kill? How would he kill him? Jack wasn't sure if he could bring himself to do that even with the knowledge that Oogie was a cruel bastard.
"Not even sayin' something? Too good for me?" The Boogeyman's face suddenly twisted into a scowl. "Everythin' went wrong here 'cause of you, you damn bastard. She would've gone with me if it weren't for you," he growled darkly.
Jack was completely taken aback. He had no idea what Oogie was talking about. "What - " the skeleton started, but was interrupted by Oogie's sudden tackle.
The two tumbled around on the dead grass. Oogie was remarkably violent, throwing flurries of punches whenever he saw an opening. With some difficulty, Jack managed to pin him down.
"Look, I don't really want to hurt you, but you're being aggravatingly stubborn. Don't make me do something you'll regret!" Especially since I haven't thought of anything yet, Jack thought.
"Regret? Me?" Oogie cackled before suddenly kicking Jack off. The skeleton rolled away and would have fallen down the supposedly bottomless pit surrounding the tree had he not made a desperate grab at the edge. The soil was, as many things were in this world, dead and crumbled under his hands, forcing him to constantly scrabble for a stable hold. Looking back, Jack saw that he might be able to jump to the other side and climb up…
Oogie stepped on one of his hands, dashing that idea skillfully.
"I'm The Boogeyman! You're the one who's gonna regret going against me for the rest of your short life!" Reaching down, Oogie seized Jack's free hand and, with a small pop, pulled his arm off. Jack let out a yelp when he suddenly dropped a little, now dangling by one arm. He glanced down into the darkness of the pit, wondering whether it would be worse to fall forever or to smash into pieces where undoubtedly nobody would find him.
Oogie was sneering down at him. Oh god, he was really going to let him fall…
"Oh, don't worry, Jack. I'm sure Halloween Town will be fine without you." Oogie carelessly let the arm in his hand drop to the ground where, after years of friction, it unexpectedly exploded.
Oogie jumped away in surprise, bugs leaking out of his foot now. The explosion had also made Jack's only hold crumble, but the skeleton used his long legs to push off the wall and clutched a large root sticking out the other side. Despite having only one arm, Jack was able to scrabble up and onto stable ground again, and before Oogie knew it, the skeleton was running towards him.
Jack ran into him with the force of a small car and ripped off the tape covering the two holes Billy had shot into him. As some bugs spilled out, he tore more bits of sack off, until glistening beetles and oddly colored bugs were scuttling exposed in the sack, pouring out slowly, panicked and confused, but still managing to keep a vague Oogie shape.
Oogie cackled. "You think this'll stop me? I can come back, Jack. I'll always come back. Don't you understand? I'm Fear. I'll outlive you, Jack! I'm eternal!" The fallen Boogeyman continued laughing maniacally even as some of his bugs dug into the ground or scrambled away.
"I don't care who you are," Jack replied softly. "I'm not afraid of you. If you come back again, I'll just beat you up. And you'll look foolish in front of the town, and they'll learn not to fear you too. Even when I die, there will still be someone, my children or my neighbor or their children, who will stop you whenever you get the stupid notion in your tiny head that you can decide to kill somebody in our town again."
It was then that Oogie realized that he was truly afraid of something.
Jack stooped to retrieve his arm and strode towards the graveyard as the sun finally rose. He never looked back.
The tall skeleton's return was met with cheers. The people saw his battle-worn appearance and immediately surrounded him, asking inane questions such as if he was alright and how the fight went and what happened to that damn Oogie Boogie and where were those three kids. Jack found himself too tired to deal with all these questions and so was relieved when the Mayor, despite his wounds, silenced the crowd and walked carefully to him, smiling.
"Jack, you're alright!" Amazingly, Jack thought dazedly, he didn't shout this through a megaphone.
"Yes. How are you and Billy and the doctor?"
"I'm fine, it's not much," the Mayor waved away, though Jack couldn't help but notice the blood-soaked bandages around his head and gut. "They say the boy will heal soon, too, and Dr. Finkelstein…"
"Father just woke up a few minutes ago and complained about his neck," said Sally, moving politely through the crowd to Jack.
"So he will be fine too. More importantly, you defeated him!"
"Oh, not really, I - "
"Don't be so modest, boy! I knew you were going to do great things!"
Jack sighed. He really didn't feel all that great. Sally laid a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry it didn't turn out the way you thought it should," she mumbled.
"Yeah…" Jack replied absent-mindedly. "Mayor, it's been a tiring day, so if you'll excuse me…"
"Oh, but you can't leave yet! We need to celebrate! Today is the day of your coronation!"
Jack let this new bit of information swivel in his skull a bit. "…Huh?" he carefully said.
"Huh?" Sally echoed.
"Well, you defeated Oogie, so of course you need a reward…so what better reward than the title of Pumpkin King? I'm sure the others agree with me!" Taking their cue, the townspeople announced their 'Yea!'s and 'Damn straight!'s.
"But…" Jack stuttered bewilderedly, very sure that he didn't really want this title.
No matter how he protested though, the townspeople just didn't seem to listen. Soon there was a crazy party and Jack was wearing a stupid crown and throughout the whole shindig he had gone through a whirlwind of enthusiastic handshakes and finally he was sitting besides Billy at the fountain. Billy was indeed fine and would heal nicely, as the Mayor had said, but he looked uncomfortable and stared warily at some denizens walking (or flying or stalking or lurking) around.
"Sorry about what happened to you..." Jack said morosely, fingering the stupid crown on his skull.
"Hm?" Billy tore his eyes away from a man which either was covered with a lot of mud or was made of melting toffee. "Oh, that's okay. I wasn't really expecting to come out of this unharmed." He looked in his cup that somebody forced into his hands and slowly poured the contents into the fountain. After a few seconds of thought, he also dropped the cup, which immediately started swimming around.
"I didn't mean for you to get shot," said the shadow-officer, who had suddenly materialized next to Billy. The younger man jumped half a foot and then doubled over because jumping wasn't good for a shot wound in the gut. Both the old man and the skeleton gently helped him sit down. "Sorry for that."
"I'm okay, I'm okay," Billy grunted. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, I'm not about to let someone as injured as you drive back home himself," the old man replied. "Tell me when you're ready and I'll drive you home."
Billy wanted to say that he had been ready ever since he was shot, but he kept that to himself. Instead he grumbled, "What am I gonna tell my wife? And everybody at work?" There was a few moments silence. Billy sighed again. "Hectic day…"
"You could tell them that somebody attacked you in the street," Jack suggested, stirring the contents of his cup with a bony finger.
"Maybe. Guess I'll find out. Hey…Mr. Unlucky." Jack grinned a little at the old nickname. "…See ya around, I guess. Good luck with the king thing." And the two left.
Sally replaced them shyly and stayed silent for a while. "What are you going to do?" she finally asked.
"I mean…are you going to run away again?"
"I can't, Sally. If he thinks I'm gone for good, he'll attack again. And these people can't fight back yet."
"Oh." Sally stared at the ground, unsure what to say now. She wondered if she should confess…but no, she couldn't do that. Jack was burdened with enough for one day. Then again, he was king now. How busy would he be? Would she have another chance to tell him after this? But looking at the skeleton's weary face, she couldn't bear to drop another surprise on him.
Sally settled for setting her head on his shoulder and they both watched the party move around them, chattering and laughing. It seemed they were the only two in Halloween Town who didn't feel like celebrating.