AUTHOR'S NOTE: All Point Horror indicia are registered trademarks of their respective copyright holders. And now, enjoy a trip to the dark side...

The sun seemed particularly bright this afternoon. Bouncing off the endless sea of autumnal reds, yellows, oranges, and other colors, it formed a beautiful checkerboard fall quilt across the valley far below. At least to an everyday person it would be beautiful, anyway. From his position at the window, staring down the mountain at the sea of fall colors, he felt impatient, uncomfortable with daytime. And besides, the time was nigh to act again tonight...

There came a knock at the door behind him. "Enter," he said solemnly, without turning around. The door creaked open. "Good morning, Your Excellency," mumbled another man's sycophantic voice, "We have prepared everything for tonight. Have we...?"

"No," he turned to face the rotund figure in the black robe, followed by another, shorter one, "But I guarantee we will soon, one way or another. We always have so far."

"You're despicable," grumbled the small robed figure darkly, "All of you," he glowered at the taller figure, "I want to go home..."

"I've told you, this IS your home now," growled his taller counterpart, cuffing him about the head, "So show some gratitude for allowing us to...!"

"Gratitude? All I have for you, him, and everyone is contempt," the shorter figure spit at the taller one's feet and stormed off. "Forgive him, Your Excellency; he's gotten harder to get along with anymore, as you might have noticed," the remaining robed figure shook his head in disgust, "He and the other one seem to be together a lot lately, and we all know how much he wants out of here too..."

"And have you made it clear to them both they will become special offerings themselves if they dare to try and leave, like the other one they associated with was?" the leader asked without turning around.

"Abundantly clear, and at least they know we're serious..."

"Good. I'll check down the mountain, and see if they can help," he picked up the phone on the nearest table and dialed a familiar number. "Yeah?" grumbled a gruff voice on the other end.

"It's me," he said calmly, "If you are planning to go out today..."

"Can't; there's still too much heat after the last time we did a favor for you," his colleague grumbled, "Unlike with you, they're actively looking for us. After hitting three weeks ago, the heat's still on. When things quiet down again..."

"I'm afraid this is the big one," he interrupted, "We absolutely must have subjects tonight; when the planets line up straight on the night of the full moon closest to All Hallows, there MUST be something to give. Otherwise...the consequences will be such that we most certainly will no longer be able to protect you."

There was a low sigh on the other end and a silence before the man answered, "OK, OK; since you and your friends've been a godsend for us after everything we've pulled, maybe we'll cruise around and see if we can find somebody. But you know, you could come out some day and..."

"Thank you," he said quickly, hanging up. "Well, they've agreed," he told the robed man, "And even if they can't work something out, perhaps we'll get lucky, and something might just wander right into our laps... social news, the annual Halloween dance is scheduled for Halloween night, this coming Monday. The Marshfield High gymnasium will be converted to a graveyard for the occasion, with music by a band yet to be determined, although rest assured, fellow Falcons, it will likely be a frightfully good choice. Looking ahead, on November fifth, there will be an alcohol awareness seminar from...

"Well, still hard at work, are we, Tracy?" came the teasing voice from the doorway, "It is close to four by now."

"It is?" Tracy Keefe glanced up from the computer screen inside the Marshfield High newspaper office towards the clock on the wall. "Wow, I really lost track of time there, Holly. Luckily I'm almost done with my section of the next Trumpet."

"I hope so, because you know they'll be locking up the school in about ten minutes," Holly Reddick was still teasing as she leaned over Tracy's shoulder to stare at the screen. "We ought to go to the dance, you know. I know we haven't gotten any offers yet..."

"It wouldn't be right to go solo, Holly," Tracy shook her head softly, "It's just too bad everyone in our class seems to be taken already."

"If you and I didn't spend so much time in front of our computers writing, maybe we'd've been faster on the draw. Oh well," Holly sighed softly, glancing at her watch, "Again, not to press, but the next edition doesn't come out for another week, and we don't want to get locked in..."

"OK, OK," Tracy clicked the save button and started shutting down, "But you do know me, Holly; I like to finish what I start."

"Yep, good old Tracy Keefe, hardest working student reporter out there, who'd write the whole Marshfield Trumpet herself if she could," Holly cracked.

"Oh stop!" Tracy gave her a playful shove, but she was smiling. She appreciated any praise for her writing, even if it was from her best friend since they were both eight.

She tapped her fingers on the table top until the computer shut down, then slipped on her jacket and hefted her bookbag. She glanced out the window at the last bus of the day pulling out. In the window, she stared at the reflection of the rather pretty sixteen year old with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes staring back at her. "I don't know how you can't get a date, Tracy Keefe," she whispered softly to her reflection.

"Well, at least we have each other, Tracy," Holly sided up alongside her; she was fairly pretty as well, with long brown hair and warm brown eyes, and a million dollar smile, "And as long as we have each other as best friends, what more do we need?"

"Oh who knows?" Tracy chuckled, "Shall we, then?"

"After you," Holly slipped on her jean jacket and hefted her own bookbag. Tracy led her friend out the newspaper office door, closing it behind them. She'd been the Trumpet's social editor since freshman year, bringing the student body at Marshfield High the news of what to expect in the near future, and now in her junior year was the sole writer for the subject. Holly had a more exciting job with the sports division, where she helped promote each team's progress (she had experience, being part of the volleyball team as well). Although a more prestigious job, Tracy couldn't feel jealous; she and Holly were too close of friends for her to fall into that trap. Writing had always been her favorite occupation in life; indeed, she dreamed of being a professional reporter some day. For Holly, it was more recreational, but she enjoyed it as well. And Tracy was glad to share the experience.

The halls were mostly empty as they bustled towards the front door. Banners overhead by the door eagerly promoted the Halloween dance coming up the next week. "Hard to believe it's almost Halloween already," Holly remarked, amazed, "Time goes so quickly anymore. Anyway, if we don't go to the dance, we really ought to do something special that night."

"I know, but what?" Tracy mused as they walked out the front door, "Hayrides aren't scary enough; neither are pumpkin patches, and..."

She came a stop, and a wry smile spread across her face. "Well, since it is Halloween, and if we want a scary story for the paper...yeah, that'll work..."

"What, what'll work?" Holly inquired.

"Holly, how'd you like it if you and I showed ourselves to be braver and more of risk takers than everyone here thinks?" the blonde asked her with a grin, "How about we take a ride up...Terror Mountain."

"Hold on, what?" Holly frowned, "What about Terrell Mountain...?"

"We've heard the stories since we were kids," Tracy dramatically climbed halfway up a No Parking sign near the fire lane, "Terrell Mountain Road, reportedly the road to doom, for cars that drive up it towards the top disappear, never to be seen again. Those that do come back tell stories of seeing ghosts alongside the highways, ghosts who come right at them, making Terrell Mountain a practical 'Terror Mountain.' And of course at the top of the mountain, the former state insane asylum, where the doctors were supposed to have performed terrible experiments on the inmates, at least before it burned down in a lightning storm, killing everyone inside-only they never left the remains of the building..."

"Hold, hold, time out, Tracy," Holly hastily made the time out gesture, frowning even more deeply, "You know that's private property up there; no trespassing allowed. Who knows who might be watching the asylum? The last thing I want is to get in trouble with the law. And who knows if the building's safe if it isn't guarded...?"

"Well who's to say anyone's going to be up there; the mountain's practically deserted anyway these days from what I hear; nobody lives along Terrell Mountain Road..."

"They used to, and I'm sure you might have heard some of the other stories, Tracy, about how, over the years, the families slowly disappeared without explanation either," the brunette looked outright nervous now. "And again, the insane asylum's been abandoned for close to fifty years; I don't want to get buried alive if it crumbles around us..."

"Well we don't have to go all the way in, Holly; just enough to be able to truthfully say we went in there and survived. It'll be a tremendous scary story for the Trumpet for Halloween; we entered the belly of the beast and lived to tell the tale," Tracy swept her arm forward in a grand gesture, "And if you're worried about getting in trouble, no one says we have to write it that we went in; craft it as a fictional story, tell Mrs. Hamblen we wanted to write a ghost story for our readers, and fictionalize it just enough so it passes, so come up with a good surrogate name for yourself. And besides, everyone reading it'll know under the text that we went in there despite the horror stories, and then we won't just be a pair of bookworm writers; we'll be people with standing. Now wouldn't that be worth it, to get some fifteen minutes of fame here in Marshfield High?"

"Uh, well, um..." Holly stammered, thinking hard, "I see your point, Tracy, and yeah, it would be a nice adventure if nothing else, and a nice story...I guess if we craft a fictional tale out of it for entertainment...but Tracy, you do know they've said some terrible things about what happened up there, and what might still be up there...?"

"Holly, Holly, don't tell me you actually believe there could be real ghosts up there?" Tracy practically laughed out loud.

"Well, no, actually, but...suppose something dangerous actually would happen..."

"Hey, we'll just be careful, I promise; I wouldn't want to do anything to endanger my best friend, honest," Tracy put a hand on the brunette's shoulder, "It'll only be two or three hours at the most, and when we get to the asylum, we'll just be in and out, I promise. I think it's a great story to write, but I won't be reckless; I'm not stupid."

Holly thought it over carefully, then nodded. "OK, we'll run with it," she agreed, "And luckily, my parents won't be back from Dad's conference in the capital until about midnight, so I'll at least be back home by then."

"See, this'll be good for both of us," Tracy rubbed her friend's shoulder, "I'll pick you up around six thirty, and we'll be up there right after sunset and down before nine. And I'll be in luck too; my parents are going out for their twentieth anniversary and won't be back till about ten, so no one'll know anything happened."

"I hope not," Holly mumbled out loud as the two of them bustled for their cars in the school parking lot, "Because there's still a risk something could go wrong..."

"Oh don't let the legends get to you, Holly," Tracy chuckled again, "What could possibly happen...?"