The girl walked cautiously down the dark hallway. There were cobwebs on the walls and ceiling, and occasional tinted lights that were arranged in a way that was somehow deeply unsettling. The walls were covered with strange, dusty old portraits; their eyes seemed to follow you as you moved. Deep in the darkness, there was the sound of something small scurrying softly. The girl ducked under some of the longer cobwebs, and knocked others aside with a wave of her hand. As she walked, the floorboards beneath her feet creaked protest, some more plaintively than others. In the background, there was some sort of vaguely spooky recording playing, with occasional high-pitched laughter, or vague, low, ghostly chuckles.

Suddenly, a man in a skeleton costume leapt out from behind a corner, yelling and waving his arms.


"That's odd," thought the man in the costume, "I could have sworn I saw somebody there." He peered deeper into the darkness, but saw no one. "Guess it's just me here after all," he thought to himself, which is why the tap on his shoulder surprised him enough that he actually fell over, and landed flat on his face.

A girl in a traditional Japanese outfit towered over him. "Who the hell do you think I am?" she asked coldly. "You're a thousand years too early to try sneaking up on me." She then turned and disappeared into the darkness, so swiftly and silently that he would have doubted that she had ever been there, were it not for the prickle on the back of his neck, the feeling that someone, somewhere, was watching.


"Eeeek!" shrieked the girl.

The costumed man paused. "You know," he remarked, "I've been doing this same gag for years now, but I don't think I've ever seen a reaction quite that... ordinary."

"Don't say ord-- oh, forget it." muttered the girl, as she stalked off angrily.

"Wait, I didn't mean..." the man called after her, but she was already gone.


"You call that a skeleton?" asked the girl, angrily. "It's obviously just some felt glued to your clothes! Here," she continued, "I'll show you how to do it properly." With somewhat alarming deftness, she suddenly had knives in both her hands. "Don't worry, I'll make this quick."

The costumed man turned and jumped back behind the corner.

"Don't think you can get away that easily!" the girl shouted as she gave chase, her long hair somehow remaining perfectly straight as it streamed behind her. However, when she turned the corner, the man had already disappeared into a trapdoor.

She searched for a bit, but couldn't find him. "Well, at least you can do that much properly," she admitted grudgingly, as she left. Behind his emergency trapdoor, the man let out a long, slow sigh. Wasn't he supposed to be the scary one here?

Clearly, they weren't paying him enough for this.


There was a skeleton staring back at him in shock. It was tall, and wore glasses.

"Wait, you mean there's somebody else here with the same cosplay as me? Oh no, how embarrassing! I'll have to go home and change..."

The man stared at her as she walked off. What did she mean by 'cosplay'?


Suddenly, his phone rang. A new text message? Only a few people had this number, and they all knew better than to try to send him a message during work, unless it was an emergency. He glanced at it, annoyed.

(That's such a stupid-looking costume!! I've seen more convincing outfits on little kids! And who the hell jumps out from behind corners in this day and age?! How are you expecting to scare anybody with this kind of worthless routine?!)

As he read this, the girl kicked him in the shins, and then scampered off. Swearing softly, he rubbed his bruised shin as he settled back into place.


The girl stared at him in admiration.

"Wow, that's so amazing! To think that somebody could stick with a diet so long, and still have the energy to help out at a haunted house! You're truly an inspiration to overweight people everywhere!"

The costumed man felt that perhaps a misunderstanding had occurred somehow. "No, you see, I..."

"No need to explain!" exclaimed the girl, her eyes shining with admiration. "You've stuck with this diet so long that you're practically just skin and bones! Well," she allowed, "more bones than skin, but still! I salute your dedication! Keep it up!"

He tried again. "No, actually, I--"

"Good luck!" she wished him, blithely ignoring his attempts to clear up the situation.

As she skipped off happily, the costumed man sank to his knees. He'd worked at this same haunted house for a few years, and had thought that he'd seen it all, but this Halloween had surprised even him. When this day is over, I'm done with this job, and done with haunted houses, he thought. He could find a less draining way to support himself. After all, nobody could be expected to deal with this many strange people in one day and still keep their sanity.