"A Midsummer Nightmare"
With credit to
for "Pyramus and Thisby"
Early morning. A time when most of Halloween's citizens were slinking off to bed. However, on this particular day, the Pumpkin King and his fiancée were having a breakfast picnic in the cemetery. The happy and soon-to-be-married couple could often be seen in such situations, and with their wedding set to occur that evening, neither of them felt very tired.
All the plans for the event were going smoothly, and they hoped it would not be bad news when they saw the Mayor coming towards them, wearing a frown.
Jack stood up as he spoke. "Mayor. What brings you here?"
"You," he replied. "How are the wedding plans going?"
"Perfect, perfect, though of course none of it would be possible without your help," said Jack with a friendly smile.
The Mayor couldn't help but be moved to smile himself. "No trouble at all, Jack. But there is just one little thing I want to discuss..."
"Of course, go ahead."
"There's a certain group of citizens who would like to put on a play in honor of your marriage. I thought it best to check with you before allowing it."
"Well of course! Why would I have any objection?"
His face spun back to a frown. "Lock, Shock and Barrel are involved."
"Ah..." Jack furrowed his brow-bone. "Does anything seem suspicious about it?"
"Not yet," he said darkly, "But you know them..."
Indeed he did. Taking a moment to think before answering, he finally said "Alright; they can do it. But I want them supervised at all times. Anything suspicious does come up, I want to know."
The Mayor smiled again. "Certainly."
He began to leave, but suddenly spun his body back, followed by his head. "Who should I send?"
"Try Leopold, the melting man. He's always good at this sort of thing."
The Mayor nodded as best he could and headed off.
No answer was received at Leopold's house, but to the Mayor's good fortune, the witch next door happened to know where he was and directed him towards the house occupied by the Harlequin siblings.
In fact, the two demons, Harlequino and Columbina, were not the only occupants of the house. Harlequino's very, very long-time girlfriend, Blondie, lived there as well. Everyone in town had been shocked when they heard Jack and Sally were getting married after only knowing each other a few months, while Harlequino and Blondie, who had been dating for years, never seemed to have even brought the subject up.
Three knocks and a few seconds later, Columbina answered the door. She looked a lot like her brother, but with slightly different coloring.
"Mayor!" she said in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm looking for Leopold. Is he here?"
Columbine opened the door a bit wider, stepping to the side. Leopold could be seen behind her, lying on the couch, holding an ice-pack to his head.
"What's the matter with him?" asked the Mayor.
"Well... we had a bit of a party for Jack and Sally last night. He... you know... made a little too merry."
The Mayor sputtered. "A party? Why wasn't I invited?"
Columbina smiled sweetly. "What did you want him for?"
He sighed. "Jack has requested that he be sent to look after a certain group of trick or treaters. But as he seems to be indisposed-"
Leopold sat up on the couch, still holding the ice to his head. "No, no, I'm good," he grumbled, "What was it you said you wanted?"
"Someone needs to keep an eye on Lock, Shock and Barrel until the wedding tonight," answered the Mayor. "Jack specifically requested you."
"Me? What am I, a babysitter?"
"He implied that you've done similar work in the past..."
Leopold tossed the bag of ice to the other side of the sofa. He had worked for Jack as a lozengier once. His hobby of keeping up with the gossip did leave him well suited to such tasks. "True. Fine, I'll do it. Where are they?"
The Mayor's head turned to a satisfied smile. "They should be in their treehouse. They're supposed to be rehearsing a play. If they seem to be planning anything suspicious, you are to inform Jack or myself." He tipped his hat to Columbina as he left. "Good day."
She slammed the door shut and turned toward Leopold. "So," she said. "When do we leave?"
"We?" he asked, getting up.
"If you're going," called a voice from the kitchen, "We want to as well."
Leopold walked to the kitchen door. Harlequino and Blondie were in there, eating leftover party food from the previous evening.
"Such presumption. Why are you all so interested in coming along?"
"There's nothing else to do," said Blondie.
Leopold rolled his eyes. "Fine, if you must. Come along."
The kids had assembled in the treehouse after receiving news from the Mayor that the play was on. Along with the infamous Lock, Shock and Barrel were two corpse-children, Stan and Quincey. The latter had dreamed up the entire project. The kids sat in a circle around him.
"Alright," he said, "As you know, we are going to be performing the romantic drama 'Pyramus and Thisby.' Now pay attention, I'm about to assign your roles..."
"I get to be the Lion!" cried the shrill voice possessed by Shock. "You promised!"
"Yes, yes," continued Quincey. "Shock is the Lion. Lock, you're Pyramus."
"What's Pyramus?" asked Lock. A hopeful look crossed his face. "Is he a killer?"
"Only to himself, which he does out of love."
Lock frowned. Quincey continued. "Barrel, you're Thisby. She's the girl-"
"What!" Barrel leapt to his feet. "I don't want to play a girl!"
"Don't worry. You'll wear a mask and talk in a fake voice. No one will know it's you."
"Why doesn't Shock get that part? She's the only girl..."
"Because I play the Lion," she answered matter-of-factly.
Quincey spoke up again. "Stan, you're Thisby's father. And I'm Pyramus's father. Any questions?"
"Can't I play the lion too?" asked Lock. "I'd be really scary. Jack would love it."
"I am the Lion," said Shock, staring at Lock in a threatening manner.
"Your parts have been assigned, no arguing. We only have until tonight to memorize it all, so there isn't much time."
They were interrupted by a sudden knock on the door. No chance was given to answer before Leopold, Blondie, Harlequino and Columbina burst in.
The children were taken aback. Lock stepped forward.
"What do you want?"
"Jack sent us here to keep an eye on you," said Leopold.
"Why would he do that?" asked Stan.
"Because he doesn't trust you," said Blondie, gliding into the room. "And I can hardly blame him, after the things I've heard."
"Don't let us bother you," said Columbina. "Just continue what you were doing and pretend we're not here."
Quincey stammered. "But... I really wanted the play to be a surprise. No one is supposed to know what it's about until the performance tonight."
"I'd say that sounds suspicious enough," said Harlequino.
Leopold managed to find a clear spot in the cluttered room and sat down. "We've been instructed to report any suspicious behavior on your part. If we aren't allowed to see the play, we'll be forced call the production off."
Quincey nodded sadly. He turned towards Lock and managed to discreetly whisper, "We've got to ditch these people."
Lock smiled and whispered back. "Leave it to me, I know just the thing." With that he began walking to the door. "Well," he said, "We were about to leave for the rehearsal spot. If you wish to join us..."
Harlequino let out an exasperated sigh, as he had just managed to get comfortable. "Okay, where are we going?"
"To a spot in the woods," said Lock. "It's not too far if you know how to get there."
"Okay," said Blondie, "But exactly where?"
Over hill, over dale, through bush, through briar, over park, over pale, off in Valentineland, a quarrel was taking place in the gardens of the Love Hotel. The members of the court peered out their windows, watching the scene.
"Now really," said Eros, "I hardly think that this is the proper way to go about it. I feel it's only fitting in a situation such as this that we share."
His wife, Psyche, clung tightly to the arm of a tall, strong, handsome Swede. "Sorry, but Sven doesn't 'sving' that way."
Eros crossed his arms. "You said the same thing about that wild playwrite, and look where he ended up."
"It's not enough for you that I agreed to this open relationship, oh, no. You have to come and steal every man I find!"
"I do not steal every man you find. I only show interest on the rare occasion that you've shown some taste."
"You're one to talk. May I remind you of that unfortunate encounter last month..."
"Please don't. Honestly, Psyche, I do not see what the matter is. I only beg a little Swede to attend me."
She stepped in front of Sven, blocking him. "Forget it. Sven and I are getting away from here."
Eros laughed. "Oh, really? And how long do you intend to stay in the forest?"
"Who knows? If you think you've the patience to watch peacefully, we might let you join in. Otherwise, I bid you good day."
At that, the Valentine Queen and her Swede left, heading off for the town gates.
"Fine, do whatever you will!" Eros spun on his stiletto heels, going back to the Hotel. "And leave me alone to plan my revenge," he muttered to himself.
He stepped into the lobby and was surprised to not find the groundskeeper in his normal spot.
"Rudolph!" he called, "Come here."
The cherub could be heard flapping down the hall. He landed badly-just stopping short of a crash-in front of Eros.
"My apologies," he said, pulling himself up. "I am at your command."
"Where were you?"
"I must admit, Eros, that I was with the rest of the court in the Cat Room, watching the scene you made outside."
"Hmph. Well, I suppose, at least, that there is no need to explain my motives to you. Rudolph, I've a task for which your help is needed. Fetch my bow and quiver, then follow me."
"See," said Lock, "Doesn't this make a perfect place to rehearse?"
They stood in the center of a ring of trees, each with a carved doorway. Only Lock, Shock and Barrel had seen the place before.
Blondie turned to Harlequino. "Isn't this the place where Jack...?"
"It must be," he answered.
As the adults gazed around in awe, the children held a whispered discussion. Slowly, Leopold's attention shifted.
"Hey, what are you doing?" he asked.
Quincey sighed, clearly annoyed. "We're just discussing a couple problems with the script." He turned back to the troupe. "Okay, everyone, take your places."
The actors divided up into groups. Quincey took a deep breath. "And... action!"
There was the signal. All at once, the kids ran for one of the doors-the heart-shaped one, specifically. Before the lozengiers could react they had disappeared through it.
Leopold raced to the still open door and peered in. "Smart! Very smart! Those little bastards!" He hissed as he stepped up on the ledge.
"What are you doing?" asked Columbina.
"I'm going to follow them-if they're planning something and manage to get away with it, I'm going to be the one in trouble."
He leapt in before she could finish. The remaining Halloween-folk ran to the door. It seemed to be nothing but a bottomless pit inside.
"Do you think we should follow?" asked Blondie.
"If Jack and those little demons have done it before without coming to any harm..." said Columbina.
"Blondie," said Harlequino, "Go in there and check to see if it's safe. Then come get us if it's alright."
"What? Why me?"
"Well," he said, "You don't have an actual body, per se."
She frowned. "I'm solid enough to do this-" with that she pushed the two siblings through the door, sending them on a dizzying fall into Valentineland.
Psyche had jumped when she saw the five hellish-looking children enter the gates and dart off. She gasped in horror when the strange melting creature came in and began chasing after them. She screamed when the two monsters entered. At the sight of the ghost, she fainted.
Sven just watched in silence. Nothing could make his day any stranger.
Harlequino approached him. "Excuse me," he said, "Did you just see a group of children or a melting man pass by?"
Sven stared at him. "Vad?"
"The people who just came through the gate. Where did they go?"
Sven looked at him with obvious confusion. "Jag talar inte engelska."
Columbina stepped forward. She gestured wildly as she spoke. "Surely you must have just seen our friends come through that gate and go off somewhere?"
The Swede still looked confused, but slowly pointed to the direction in which he had just seen everyone run off.
Columbina smiled her rather frightening smile at him. "Thank you! That way, come on!" she called, leading Harlequino and Blondie away.
In their rush, they did not notice as they passed the two winged people who were watching the scene in shock.
"What is going on here?" asked Rudolph, carrying the bow and arrows.
"I do not know..." said Eros. A smile suddenly crossed his face. "But they have just simplified this errand quite significantly." He sauntered over to the handsome Swede and his unconscious wife.
"Halla, du aoker min vaeg?" Eros asked, wrapping his arm around Sven's waist.
Eros laughed. He turned to Rudolph, gesturing for him to leave. "It seems I won't be needing you after all," he informed.
Rudolph nodded. "Shall I return to the Hotel?"
"Actually, no. Go find those creatures that just came in and keep an eye on them. Find out what they're doing here. I will join you in an hour or so."
"Of course." He turned to leave, but stopped when he heard Eros's voice again.
"Wait there, Rudolph. Hand me an arrow."
Rudolph did as instructed. Eros took it and turned back to Psyche, who still lay unconscious on the ground. He rammed the arrow into her chest, as if he were driving a stake into the heart of a vampire. His smile broadened.
"There shall be a nice surprise for her when she wakes up." With that he returned his attentions to Sven, and they made their way back to the Love Hotel together.
"Did we lose them?" asked Stan. They had come to a lush meadow near the outskirts of Valentineville.
"I think so," said Barrel.
"Good," said Quincey. "We can finally start rehearsals-"
"No," moaned Shock, pointing the direction they had just come from. "Look."
An exhausted Leopold ran into the clearing. The troupe groaned at his arrival.
"My God," gasped Leopold, obviously agitated. "What is wrong with you? Do you realize-"
Quincey stepped forward, equally agitated. "I should ask you the same thing. Look, we are not planning any horrible pranks for the wedding, although it is quite tempting considering the way you're treating us. All we want is to rehearse our play in peace, and in privacy."
"I beg your pardon," answered Leopold, "But the fact is that if you don't allow me to supervise this little production, it is going to be cancelled. Harlequino thinks the fact that you're so intent on not letting us see it is reason enough to call it off. Surely you can understand Jack's concern..."
Quincey sighed in frustration. "Okay. Fine. You can watch. But you're going to make yourself useful."
Leopold blinked, causing a glob of slime to drip onto his lapel. "You want me..."
"To play the wall. I just realized we don't have one, and the script says Pyramus and Thisby are supposed to talk through a chink in a wall. It's a simple part. All you have to do is stand there."
"Good," said Quincey, turning to the rest of the cast. "We need to make this man a costume. Let's find some clay and mud-"
"Now wait a second..."
"-And meet back here." Quincey turned to Leopold. "Don't worry, it'll wash off. Come on."
He took the grumbling Leopold's hand and dragged him off to find materials.
The layout of Valentineland was similar to Halloween-woods and meadows surrounding the main town in the center. However, Blondie, Harlequino and Columbina had not recognized this fact. They had managed to keep going around in circles through the woods for most of an hour.
"Let's face it," said Blondie, "We're lost."
"We're not lost," said Harlequino. "I know where we are-we've been through here three times already."
"I think I remember how we ended up here," he said, looking around. "If we just go a bit further ahead, I think I can find the way back to the gate."
"I suppose," said Columbina, "That means we're going to leave Leopold here?"
"He's smart, he can find his own way back," said Harlequino, running slightly ahead of the girls. "Besides, watching Oogie's little monsters is his job, not ours."
The lovely spirit floated slightly behind her two companions. "I wonder if their play is still on?" she asked, thinking out loud.
"I hope not," replied Columbina.
"Why's that? Didn't they say it was going to be Pyramus and Thisbe?"
"Yes. And that's one of the main reason I don't want to be forced to see it."
"Not one of your favorite plays?"
"Less that than the fact they don't seem to know what they're doing. I mean, the wedding is tonight, yet they just began rehearsals this morning? It doesn't leave me with much hope for the production."
"Oh, come," said Harlequino, "How bad can it be?"
Leopold tried his best to stay patient as the children began covering him with loam, mud, and anything else they could find that would make him look wall-like. However, Barrel had not yet returned from the forest.
"Where do you think he is?" asked Quincey. "We need him-he's playing the leading lady!"
"I bet he got lost," said Lock. "He does that ALL the time. One Halloween we were in the real world, and he got lost for three days."
"Oogie was really mad," said Shock. She suddenly broke into a cackle. "Remember when he had to go out in disguise and look for him?"
Lock laughed too, "Yeah, and then Jack got mad at him for going to the real world without permission."
Their laughter quickly died off into a mournful sigh. The trick or treaters missed their old caretaker.
"Wonderful," Quincey muttered angrily. "I suppose we'll have to work around him until he gets back..." Suddenly, his mood changed. "Oh! That reminds me! I added a prologue. But I'll be reading that."
"Why do you need a prologue?" asked Stan.
"To explain our intent to Jack, first of all. The fact that we have no desire to offend him. But let's not hold this up any longer. Pyramus: stand on this side of the wall and pretend you're talking to Thisby."
Lock crossed over to Leopold's right as he pulled out his script. "And I'm supposed to talk through a chink in the wall?"
"Yes," said Quincey, standing back to get a better look at the scene.
"So, where's the chink?"
"Oh. Um... Wall; raise your arm in front of you, and hold your fingers like this."
Quincey made a sideways V-shape with his hand, which Leopold imitated. Lock began to read:
"Thisby, the flowers of odious savors sweet-"
"Odors," corrected Quincey.
"-Odors savors sweet," continued Lock, "So hath thy breath, my dearest Thisby dear. But hark! A voice! Stay thou but here a while, and by and by I will to thee appear."
Leopold slapped his forehead, making a splashing noise.
"Okay, I see your point," said Blondie. "But, surely it's going to be more interesting than the wedding."
"What makes you say that?" asked Harlequino, raising an eyebrow.
"Weddings are always boring. The only thing that makes them worth watching at all is when something goes bad-"
A rustling could be heard in the bushes. The trio paused.
"Did you hear that?"
"Yes. What was it?"
"I don't know..." He stepped towards the sound and called out. "Leopold? Is that you?"
There was no answer. They began to walk again.
In fact the sound they had heard was the arrival of Eros, coming to join Rudolph in spying.
"Eros!" said Rudolph, "I wasn't expecting to see you so soon..."
"Yes, well..." He shook his head. "Do try to be quiet. They heard me arrive."
Once he felt that the visitors were no longer paying attention to anything but their own conversation, he resumed his talk with Rudolph.
"So, tell, what have you found?" he asked.
"Not too much. They seem to be lost, but there's at least four more of them around."
Eros nodded, then signaled for Rudolph to be quiet so they could hear the rest of the discussion.
"So you wouldn't even attend your own wedding?" Harlequino asked Blondie.
"My own wedding? Ha! Not if I can help it."
Columbina could sense that things were going to hit the fan in a moment. She began to walk more slowly, to give the couple space.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked, uneasily.
"It means I don't want to get married."
"Ah! I suppose I'm not good enough. What do you want? Money? Looks?"
Blondie raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"If you want to end this relationship, then just say so now!"
"What the hell? I wasn't even talking about our stupid relationship!"
Columbina covered her ears and began singing to cover up the ensuing shouting match.
"Ah, young love," said Eros, standing up. "Rudolph?"
"You still have my arrows. I am leaving it to you to console these poor lovers."
"Where are you going?"
"Psyche should be awake by now. I intend to see if my arrow had the desired effect on her." He began laughing. "She's probably fallen in love with a tree. I can't think of anything else she might wake up to find out there..."
Barrel ran desperately up the path towards the town gates, trying to recall what direction he had come from. How did he always manage to get so lost?
"Let's see," he said aloud, "We ran in through that gate... then went... left? Or right?"
He began going towards his right and instantly tripped over a sleeping woman, landing face down next to her. She began to stir.
"Uhhh... what happened?" she moaned, rubbing her eyes.
Barrel picked himself up. "Sorry, I didn't see you," he murmured as he dusted himself off.
She opened her eyes, which landed right on him. Her heart began to flutter. Her blood raced. Her husband's arrow had taken effect.
"Oh..." she gasped, "You are very handsome..."
He gave her a puzzled look. "That's a first. Well, sorry to bother you." He spun around and began to walk away. Meanwhile she flipped herself over and pulled herself to her knees.
"Wait!" she cried, "I beg you, stay a while!"
He turned. "Sorry, but my friends are waiting for me."
"I'll come with you, then," she said, rising to her feet.
"Well... okay..." he said reluctantly.
The strange couple headed off into the woods together, accompanied by the nearby sound of stifled laughter.
What a scene this is, thought Rudolph. Two demons, one of whom was standing to the side, singing as loud as it could with its horrible voice, the other lying on the ground, being punched in the head by a shrieking ghost.
"Here!" she screeched, hitting him again, "Is for your suspicious mind! And here! For your revenge! And for your treachery! And your tricks! And insults! And everything else! Is this what you call love? You said differently this morning!"
She hit him once more in the stomach before floating up up and away. Rudolph took out an arrow and fumbled with the bow, trying to get a decent aim. He had never heard of the arrows being used on a ghost before, but decided that Eros would have mentioned if they wouldn't work. He took aim, and released, sending the arrow shooting into the sky after her.
Had Blondie been a bit more solid it would have stuck, but as it was, the arrow passed right through her. She made no reaction, and Rudolph couldn't tell if it had worked or not. In a matter of seconds, she had flown away.
"Damn." Rudolph tapped his fingers nervously. He would have begun to worry about what, if any, effect the arrow had on the ghost, but his thoughts were interrupted by a scream from one of the demons.
"Oh my God! I've been shot!" cried Columbina. The arrow had landed in her shoulder.
Harlequino quickly pulled himself off the ground and raced to his sister as best he could. His worry suddenly turned to confusion. As if by magic, the arrow had disappeared.
"That's... odd..." he said. "Well... are you okay?"
"I'm wonderful," she said, all panic gone from her voice. "Oh, Harlequino!" She fell into his arms. "Harlequino, my dearest!"
He quickly pulled away from her. Something seemed wrong.
"Uh... right. Glad you're okay. I suppose we should probably go and find Blondie-"
"Why do you need her? That tart doesn't deserve a man such as you! Stay here with me. I'll make you forget her..."
A look of pure horror crossed his face. "Columbina..."
"Stay, though you kill me, sweet Harlequino!"
"Dear God! What's the matter with you?" He slowly backed away. "Get away from me."
"Oh! Will my darkling leave me? Please don't."
"Stay here. Don't follow me!" He began to run away. She chased after him.
Rudolph clutched at his chest, gaping in horror. "What have I just done?"
He needed to find Eros. Surely he'd know what to do.
"There it goes," said the frustrated Quincey, finishing scribbling something on a piece of paper. This rehearsal wasn't going well at all. Leopold kept complaining about the logic, grammar, and anything else he could in the script. Meanwhile, one of the lead actors was missing. And now he needed to write additional material to be spoken by the Wall and by the Moon (who would be performed by Stan.)
He handed the paper to Leopold. "Read it."
Leopold did as instructed. "In this same interlude, it doth befall, that I, call'd Layerbald-Oh, now really. If you didn't know how to spell my name..."
"Just keep reading!"
He sighed. "I, call'd LEOPOLD, present a wall: And such a wall, as I would have you think, that had in it a crannied hole or chink: Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby did whisper often, very secretly. This loam, this rough-cast, and this stone doth show, that I am that same Wall; the truth is so. And this the cranny is, right and sinister, through which the fearful lovers are to whisper."
Leopold shook his head. "I really think you went overboard with the punctuation..."
"Well, just read it however you want."
"And her name is supposed to be Thisbe, not Thisby."
"Okay! Be quiet! Jeez, you wonder why I didn't want you around during rehearsals?"
"I'm just saying-"
"Shut up! Shut up! Pyramus, you enter now."
Lock came over and began his monologue. Bored, Leopold let his thoughts wander. At least it seemed the kids were really trying to do nothing more than put on a play for the wedding. His gaze drifted towards the sky.
"What is that?" he said aloud. There was a vague floating shape above the meadow. Suddenly he realized what it was. "Hey! Blondie! Blondie, down here!"
In the sky above, Blondie heard the call. She looked down to see Leopold, frantically trying to get her attention.
The arrow's effect was not lost on her. Had she currently been in possession of a heart or blood, they'd have begun to race. Swiftly, she fluttered down to him- her one true love.
Barrel ran through the woods. While he was anxious to find his friends, he was even more anxious to get away from the creepy woman who kept following him.
"I beg you, my love!" she yelled after him "At least tell me your name!"
"It's Barrel!" he cried, dodging around tree. "Now will you leave me alone?"
"But how can I leave you, so kind, so gentle, so beautiful...?"
Barrel could hear that strange laughter again. Where was it coming from? He sighed. "Look, miss..."
"Psyche," she corrected.
He blinked at the incomprehensible sound. He wasn't even going to try. "Right. So, anyways," he began to fidget, "I don't know who you are or why you keep following me-"
"I am Psyche, and I love you truly, deeply, to the exclusion of all else!"
"-But I wish you wouldn't. All I want is to get back to that meadow with my friends, and finish rehearsing our play. It's past noon and I still don't know any of my lines."
"I know where that is. Come, my darling Barrel! I myself shall take you to your friends."
He hesitated. It guaranteed at least a few more hours of the crazy lady's company, but... "Okay. Show me."
"Get away from me, Columbina!"
He collapsed to the ground from exhaustion. He wasn't made to run so fast for so long. "Go away, go away..." he panted.
Columbina pounced on him. He screamed and tore himself from her, hiding behind a large stone.
"What is the matter with you?!" he shrieked, "You're my SISTER!"
"I know! But somehow, today I realized... Oh, Harlequino! I dared not to speak my heart. But let's not waste further time. If you will give me your hand..."
"Columbina, this is... disgusting! Repulsive! Obscene! And not in the good sense! Get away from me... or... uh..." He began searching around for something. Surely there was some manner of threatening weaponry about.
"My dearest," she sighed, "I am your spaniel, and the more you beat me, I will fawn on you. Use me just as your spaniel; spurn me, strike me, neglect me, lose me; only give me leave, unworthy as I am, to follow you. Can you think of a worser place could I beg for your love, and yet be placed in such high respect, than to be used as you do your dog?"
He shuttered. "Leave me alone, please. It's starting to make me sick when I look at you."
"And I am sick when I'm not looking at you!"
"Yes, my love?"
He pointed behind her. "Oh, my God! Look over there!"
She turned to see what he was pointing at. He began to run.
"Ack! Blondie! What is the matter with you?"
Leopold swatted desperately at the spirit as the four children looked on.
"Leopold, sweet Leopold! How could I have never noticed it before?" She began kissing him. He flailed around, trying to push her away, but his hands kept passing right though her.
It was then that the kids were distracted by the arrival of Barrel, followed by a pretty woman in an Ionic chiton.
"Barrel! Finally!" Quincey exclaimed, running towards him. "I was afraid I'd have to play Thisby myself!"
"Where have you been?" asked Shock.
"And who is that?" asked Lock.
Barrel sighed. "This is Bazooka. She won't leave me alone."
The lady curtsied.
"Lovely. Well, come on," said Quincey, "You need to begin work on your lines immediately..." he turned toward Leopold, who was running around in circles, fiercely pursued by Blondie. "I think we'll have to work around him for right now."
A cry could be heard in the distance. Being from Halloween, the kids thought nothing of it. Quincey passed Barrel his lines. "Okay, places, everyone, places."
The actors did as instructed. "Okay. Pyramus, from 'Thisby, the flowers of odors savors sweet...'"
Lock began. "'Thisby, the flowers of odors savors sweet, so hath thy breath, my dearest Thisby dear. But hark! A voice! Stay thou but here a while, and by and by I will to thee appear."
Barrel responded in a voice even more screechy and highly pitched than Shock's. "Most radiant Pyramus, most lily white of hue, of color like the red rose on triumphant brier, most brisky juvenile, and eke most lovely jew. Pyramus. As true as truest horse, that yet would never tire. Thisby. I'll meet thee, Pyramus, at Ninnies tomb."
"Ninus' tomb, man! And you're not supposed to say that yet. You're reading your script all at once, directions and all. Pyramus, you're late, you missed your cue. When he says 'most lovely jew...'"
Lock jumped in. "As true as truest horse, that yet would never tire."
Quincey sighed. "Let's try again..."
He was about to give the call for action when Harlequino ran into the meadow, still being chased by his sister.
"Help me, someone!" he sobbed as he raced past them. Columbina followed close behind. The kids stared.
"These people are weird," said Stan.
They watched as the two demons ran. Harlequino had seen his girlfriend and was dashing towards her, calling out. "Blondie! Help me! Save me, please!"
He hadn't noticed that she was chasing Leopold as swiftly and with as much determination as Columbina chased him. He kept calling out to her.
Meanwhile, Blondie called after Leopold. "Please stop! All I want is to be with you! Leopold! Dear Leopold!"
Stan turned to the rest of the group. "Do you think we should maybe help them or something?"
"Maybe..." said Shock.
"Well... you must admit," said Lock "This is pretty entertaining. "
"Yeah, but... surely we can't just leave them like that!" said Quincey.
"Okay, okay," said Lock, "Let's go and save them..."
Eros watched the scene, silently, from the cover of the forest. He had been following Psyche and Barrel, and needless to say, was less than thrilled to discover the scene with Blondie, Harlequino and Columbina. He heard a twig snap behind him. He turned and in an instant was holding Rudolph by the collar of his chiton.
"Rudolph! What is the meaning of this guild comedy?" He pointed toward the scene in the meadow.
Rudolph stammered. "I was looking for you, I don't know how to fix it!"
He sighed and dropped the cherub as he turned back to the meadow. Leopold had gotten backed against a tree and was being attacked by Blondie, who had Harlequino behind her, trying his best to get her attention. Columbina still groped at her brother as the children tried their best to pull her away from him. Meanwhile, Barrel was trying to shoo Psyche away.
Eros covered his eyes. "This is ridiculous. Rudolph, go back to the Hotel. I shall meet you there."
He fluttered off as instructed. Eros straightened himself up, took in a deep breath, and marched onto the field, heading for the clamor.
He was barely noticed by the Halloweenians as he approached. With one swift motion, he grabbed Psyche, swooped her back, and kissed her fervently. In an instant, the spell on her was broken.
Her eyes focused on the face of her husband. "Eros? What just happened?"
He smiled at her. "Seven thousand years, and you still don't know me at all. Did you think me so meritorious that I wouldn't feel a need for vengeance on you, after snubbing me before the entire court?" He spoke with affection in his voice.
She smiled back at him. "So you made me fall in love with a horrific child? That does, indeed, sound like you."
"It was pure chance, I assure you." He kissed her hand. "I'm terribly sorry, darling, but there's a small matter I must tend to now."
He turned away from her and marched toward the tree to which Leopold was pinned. He grabbed his hand, causing the melting man's outer-coating-one wouldn't presume to call it skin-to squish between his fingers. Anyone else would have shuddered. Eros had never been so glad to be wearing gloves.
"All of you," he said, pulling Leopold with him, "Follow me."
He lead them all-Blondie following Leopold, Harlequino following Blondie, Columbina following Harlequino, the young actors following Columbina-to the Love Hotel.
A little over an hour had passed, and the romantic interests of all the visitors had finally been set back to normal.
They had assembled in the ballroom of the Hotel. Eros stood before them, Psyche and Rudolph to the side. He bowed deeply. "I apologize once again on behalf of myself and my servant. Neither of us had any desire to create such mishaps."
"No harm done, I suppose," said Leopold.
"Speak for yourself," hissed Columbina. "I'm probably never going to be able to look my brother in the face again."
"I do apologize," repeated Eros.
"It's not your fault," Harlequino began, trying to comfort his sister, "I know you'd never... do something like that under normal circumstances."
"If you don't mind," said Rudolph, who had remained silent till then, "May I ask exactly what you people are doing here in Valentineland?"
A few minutes were passed as the group tried to explain what had happened. Eros seemed quite amused at the story. Once all was adequately explained he turned to back to the cherub.
"Rudolph, take the actors to an empty room so they can rehearse their play. As for the rest of you-"
He stopped as the Swede entered the room from the hallway.
"Sven," said Eros, a hint of surprise in his voice, "Vad aer det?"
"Naer skall jag min knulla anammar?" whined Sven.
Psyche began to laugh. Eros tried not to look embarrassed.
"Did he just say what I think he did?" she asked her husband.
"I fear so."
"You were correct when you said I don't know you well-I've never heard of you turning down a nooner with a Scandinavian."
"I didn't turn it down, I merely delayed it. I had other things to look after."
"Like me?" she asked, flattered.
He smiled at her, but quickly changed the subject by turning back to the creatures. "I am sorry. As I was saying, if you wish to remain here while your friends rehearse, you will be treated as my guests. My servants are at your command."
"I'm staying!" chirped Blondie.
Rudolph began to lead Leopold and children off to rehearse. Eros sat down in a chair as Psyche and Sven began to converse in Swedish.
"I must say, I am intrigued by your Halloween. What manner of holiday is it?"
"What manner of holiday...?" asked Columbina.
"Yes. Is it Roman?"
The three Halloween-folk looked at each other. None of them knew.
Suddenly Leopold's voice came echoing in from the hallway. "It's Celtic!" he shouted . "Learn your damn history!"
Columbina smiled at Eros, slightly embarrassed. "He's been there longer than we have."
Eros nodded. "So, what is the purpose of your holiday?"
"Um... to be scared, I guess," said Blondie, "But, you know, fun scared."
"Fun scared..." he said, slowly, trying to comprehend the meaning. "This place is indeed a conundrum. I shall certainly have to visit one of these days."
"You can come today," said Harlequino. "I don't think Jack and Sally would mind a few more guests at their wedding."
"I wouldn't presume," said Eros, politely.
"Oh, come on," said Columbina, "They'd love to meet you! Jack's very nice, and he's always curious about other holidays..."
"It'll help kill the boredom," said Blondie.
Eros turned to Psyche. "What is your opinion? Shall we attend the wedding of October's royalty?"
She looked up brightly. "Can we take Sven?"
"Of course we can take Sven."
"Alright. Let's go."
By five o'clock the group had arrived back in Halloween, with Barrel having been reciting his lines the whole way. The cast had spent four hours rehearsing altogether. Blondie, Harlequino and Columbina had kept themselves occupied by running the poor servants in the Love Hotel. It was quite a novelty to them.
Now in Halloween, Leopold went to find Jack and explain the situation. As expected, the Pumpkin King had no objection to the visitors, and was more than happy to meet them.
A few minutes before the wedding he came to greet the guests.
"Eros, was it?"
He nodded. "Yes."
"A pleasure to meet you. I'm Jack Skellington," he bowed slightly. Eros did the same.
"Jack. An interesting name. Diminutive, I believe, for Jacob."
"Shortened and corrupted form of Eachmarcach," he corrected, "But no one's called me that in a very long time."
Eros nodded, understanding. "I see that Valentine's is not the only holiday which has been forced to adapt to the times." He turned to his companions. "This is my wife, Psyche."
She curtseyed. Jack smiled at her, all the time trying his best to figure out what name that sound could possibly represent. Soosh? Suka? Sucky?
Eros brought the Swede forward. "And this is our companion for today, Sven Njordson. He speaks no English, and although he is a fine specimen indeed, I doubt he possesses a clue as to what is happening here."
Jack smiled and nodded, determined not ask since he probably didn't want to know. "I'd introduce you to Sally," he began, "But she's still getting ready, so I suppose it'll have to wait. You know how women are..."
"Cosi fan tutte. Of course."
"Modern women," said Psyche, musing to herself, "I don't understand all the fuss they make about weddings now."
"Totally," said Blondie, who was floating just to the side of the royals along with the other eight who had been to Valentineland. "Me and Harlequino were discussing this earlier-"
The Harlequin Demon began to laugh. "You call that a discussion?"
"Seemed more of an altercation to me," said Eros.
"And so you decided I was better off with my sister. Right."
The sarcasm was lost on Eros. "I believe I already explained..."
"I know, I know. Forget I said anything."
Jack looked confused. "What exactly are you talking about?"
Columbina spoke up. "Earlier today, Harlequino and Blondie were having a bit of a row on the subject of marriage. It seems to have been what caused us to meet Eros. It's actually a very funny story..."
And so she repeated it to Jack.
Of course he was quite amused by it, as well as intrigued. "So..." he said to Eros, "You can make anyone fall in love with anyone else?"
"Or horribly, utterly, completely out of love, if I wish," he answered. "Gold arrows to make people fall in love, lead to make them fall out."
"Why would you want to make anyone fall out of love?"
"I have had my reasons. Sometimes, it's simply for my own amusement."
"Really?" Jack frowned, looking almost worried. "Sounds like kind of an... abuse of power, don't you think?"
"It is, but what is the fun in having it if you cannot abuse it on occasion?"
The conversation was abruptly ended by the sound of the wedding march beginning. Everyone scurried to their places.
The ceremony went off with no trouble. Once it was over, the Mayor announced the play. Eros, Psyche and Sven sat next to Jack and Sally in the front. Harlequino and Blondie sat together, one row behind them.
Quincey came out to begin the prologue. He was so nervous that he was shaking. "If we offend, it is with our good will. That you should think, we come not to offend, but with good will. To show our simple skill, that is the true beginning of our end. Consider then, we come but in despite. We do not come, as minding to content you, our true intent is. All for your delight, we are not here. That you should here repent you, the Actors are at hand; and, by their show, you shall know all, that you are like to know."
Sally leaned over toward Jack and whispered, "What did he say?"
Psyche smiled. "I can see this boy will stop for anything."
"Indeed," said Eros. "He reads like he's suffering polymenorrhea."
"...This man," continued Quincey as the actors stepped onto the stage in their costumes "Is Pyramus, if you would know; this beauteous lady, Thisby is certain. This man, with loam and rough-cast, doth present Wall, that vile wall, which did these lovers sunder: and through walls chink-poor souls-they are content to whisper. At the which, let no man wonder. This man, with flashlight, dog, and bush of thorn, presenteth Moonshine. For if you will know, by moonshine did these lovers think no scorn to meet at Ninus' tomb, there, there to woo: This grizzly beast, which Lion hight by name, the trusty Thisby, coming first by night, did scare away, or rather did affright: and as she fled, her mantle she did fall; which Lion vile with bloody mouth did stain. Anon comes Pyramus, sweet youth and tall, and finds his Thisby's mantle slain; whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade, he bravely broached his boiling bloody breast, and Thisby, tarrying in mulberry shade, his dagger drew, and died. For all the rest, let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain, at large discourse, while here they do remain."
Leopold stepped forward and, with obvious reluctance, began his line. "In this same interlude, it doth befall, that I, call'd Leopold, present a wall: and such a wall, as I would have you think, that had in it a crannied hole or chink through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe did whisper often, very secretly. This loam, this rough-cast, and this stone doth show that I am that same Wall; the truth is so. And this the cranny is, right and sinister, through which the fearful lovers are to whisper."
"The smartest wall I've ever heard," said Harlequino to Blondie. She began to laugh.
Lock, wearing a sheet meant to look like a toga, entered and took his place next to Leopold. He began wailing his line. "O grim look'd night, O night with hue so black, O night, which ever art, when day is not: O night, O night, alack, alack, alack, I fear my Thisby's promise is forgot." He came closer and began hugging and caressing the 'wall' as he'd been directed. Leopold began to cringe. "And thou O wall, thou sweet and lovely wall, that stands between her fathers ground and mine, thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall, show me thy chink, to blink through with mine ey'n."
Leopold held out his fingers.
"Thanks courteous wall. Jove shield thee well for this." He gazed through the 'chink.' "But what see I? No Thisby do I see. O wicked wall, through whom I see no bliss, curs'd be thy stones for thus deceiving me!"
"Such a sensible wall should curse back at him," said Blondie.
The actors stood, silently, on the stage for a few moments. Lock finally called out: "'Deceiving me' is Thisby's cue!"
Sally covered her eyes in embarrassment for even watching this play.
Barrel rushed out wearing a ridiculous straw wig and a girl's mask. He tripped over his 'dress' (apparently made from a table cloth) as he entered. While he got back up he began to say his lines in that same high-pitched screech he'd used at rehearsal. "O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans, for parting my fair Pyramus, and me. My cherry lips have often kiss'd thy stones; thy stones with loam and hair knit up in thee."
The audience was in tears, some from the toll Barrel's voice had taken on their eardrums, but most from laughter.
Lock ran back to Leopold. "I see a voice! Now will I to the chink, to spy and I can hear my Thisby's face. Thisby?"
Lock and Barrel began to look at each other through Leopold's fingers. "My love thou art, my love I think," shrieked Barrel.
"Think what thou wilt, I am thy lovers grace, and like Lender am I trusty still."
"And like Gyro till the Fates me kill."
"Not Syphilis to Procrus was so true."
"As Syphilis to Procrus, I to you."
"O kiss me through the hole of this vile wall!"
Leopold instinctively jerked his hand away. Lock grabbed it and pulled it back into place. The Wall grudgingly held it there as Pyramus and Thisby attempted their kiss.
"I kiss the wall's hole," came Barrel's screech, "Not your lips at all!"
"Wilt thou at Ninny's tomb meet me straight way?"
"Tide life, tide death, I come without delay."
Lock and Barrel made their exits. Leopold wiped his hands on his jacket.
"Thus have I, Wall, my part discharged so; and being done, thus Wall away doth go. "
He left the stage.
"So... does that mean the wall fell down?" asked Jack, amused.
"It has probably gone to tell their parents what it heard," said Eros.
Sally shook her head in disbelief. "This is the worst play I've ever seen."
Shock crawled onto the stage, blood smeared around her mouth and wearing a mane woven from yarn.
"You now perchance, both quake and tremble here, when Lion rough in wildest rage doth roar. Then know that I, one Shock the tricker am a Lion fell, nor else no Lion's dam: for if I should as Lion come in strife into this place, 'twere pity of my life."
"I think my bunny slippers just ran for cover," said Blondie.
Stan stepped forward holding a flashlight over his head. "This flashlight doth the horned moon present..."
"He should have worn the horns on his head," said Psyche.
"...Myself, the man i'the moon doth seem to be."
"Now, this is the worst mistake so far," said Jack. "They should have put him inside the flashlight. How else can he be the man in the moon?"
"How exactly is he supposed to fit in the flashlight?" asked Psyche.
Jack grinned. "Give me twenty minutes and a jar of grease, and I'll show you."
Stan's arms began to sag.
"Oh! It looks like he's waning!" laughed Harlequino.
"Quiet," whispered Blondie, "Here comes 'Thisby.'"
Barrel minced his way onto the stage, wrapped in a scarf. "This is old Ninny's tomb. Where is my love?"
There was a pause. Suddenly Shock remembered her line. "Oh- rarrr!"
Barrel ran off the stage, dropping the scarf. Shock crawled over to it and picked it up in her mouth as Lock entered.
"Sweet Moon," he recited, "I thank thee for thy sunny beams, I thank thee Moon, for shining now so bright: for by thy gracious, golden, glittering beams, I trust to taste of truest Thisby's sight." He acted as if just noticing the Lion. "But stay: O spite! But mark, poor knight, what dreadful dole is here? Eyes do you see! How can it be! O dainty duck: O dear! Thy mantle good; what stain'd with blood! Approach you Furies fell: O Fates! Come, come: Cut thread and thrum, quail, crush, conclude, and quell!"
Shock crawled off the stage. Lock began the most absurd, overdramatic delivery of a line so far. "O! Wherefore, Nature, did'st thou Lions frame? Since lion wild hath here deflower'd my dear: Which is-no, no. Um... Which was! the fairest dame that liv'd, that lov'd, that lik'd, that look'd with cheer." He pulled out a prop sword. "Come tears, confound: Out sword, and wound the pap of Pyramus: I, that left pap, where heart doth hop; thus die I! Thus! Thus! Thus!"
He pretended to stab himself three times.
"Now am I dead, now am I fled, my soul is in the sky, tongue lose thy light, Moon take thy flight!"
Stan left the stage.
Lock began to stab himself again. "Now die, die, die, die, die!"
He fell over backwards. Barrel walked onto the stage.
"Ta vad?" asked Sven, who, despite the language barrier, was able to tell how bad the play was. "Det aer bara den en pojke daer, med hans svaerd."
"Till och med att, nej," said Eros. "Djup aer har, daerfoer har raekna inte."
"Om till en doktor de bringa honom," Psyche laughingly pointed out, "Har maonde haemtar sig likvael."
Sally smiled. "What I wonder is, how can Thisbe find him if the moon is gone?"
"Starlight," said Psyche.
"Asleep my love?" screeched Barrel, bending down next to Lock. "What, dead my dove? O Pyramus, arise! Speak, Speak! Quite dumb? Dead, dead? A tomb must cover thy sweet eyes. These lily lips, this cherry nose, these yellow cowslip cheeks are gone, are gone: lovers make moan: his eyes were green as leeks. O sisters three, come, come to me, with hands as pale as milk, lay them in gore, since you have shore with shears, his thread of silk." He took the sword from Lock. "Tongue not a word: Come trusty sword: Come blade, my breast imbrue: and farewell friends, thus Thisby ends; Adieu! Adieu! Adieu!"
He stabbed himself and fell over.
The front row was nearly dead itself, due to asphyxiation from laughing so much.
"Moonshine and Lion are left to bury the dead," said Harlequino.
"And Wall, too," added Blondie.
"Okay, well, it's over. Let's get out of here."
The audience began to leave. Lock and Barrel leapt to their feet.
"Wait! Wait!" they cried, "There's still another act!"
Jack turned toward the stage, still laughing. "No! No more, please!" He started to pull himself back together, though still spoke with slight breathlessness. "Let's not spoil the tragedy by adding an unnecessary third act. Once the main characters are dead, what more need be said?"
Eros smiled. "Had the author played Pyramus and at the end hanged himself with Thisbe's panties, it would have been a fine tragedy, and so it is, truly, very notably discharged."
The rest of the cast made their way back onto the stage. Quincey was obviously unhappy.
"You didn't like it?" he asked, disappointed.
Jack was starting to feel slightly bad for the corpse child.
"Well... it was a..." he searched for something nice to say about it. "...a good effort. Hell, an excellent effort! I never knew a play like that was... possible."
There was a giggle from the few remaining spectators. Jack turned.
"Let's give them a hand, shall we?"
The sound of roughly eight people applauding echoed through the hall. The cast smiled and bowed.
"Thank you, thank you," smiled Quincey. "Would you like me to recite the epilogue at least?"
"And I was supposed to sing a song," screeched Shock.
"No!" shouted Jack, unable to help himself from breaking into laughter again. "No, that will be fine. Everyone's already left for the reception, Sally and I should be there to cut the cake-"
"Cake?" asked Barrel, his attention suddenly held.
"Yes, at the-"
"Cake! Cake!" shrieked the children. In an instant they were off the stage and racing out the door. The only cast member remaining was Leopold. He stared after them before stepping down to the rest of the group.
"Nice job, Leopold," said Harlequino.
"I especially liked how you cringed when Lock started hugging you," said Blondie, grinning.
"Oh, ha ha. Laugh all you want," said Leopold, irritated but still in a good mood. "You try putting up with it."
"Enough about the awful play," said Sally. "We really should get going..."
Leopold shook his head. "You guys go ahead. I need to take a shower," he patted the hardened layer of dirt, grass and god-knows-what-else coating his shoulders.
Harlequino laughed. "Good luck getting it out of that white suit."
"I've cleaned out worse... I think..." He started to leave. "Sorry about the play," he said, heading for the door, "Good luck to you all, and congratulations on the wedding!"
"Thank you!" called the newlyweds.
He left. Jack turned to the remaining demon, ghost, Swede and royal couple.
"Shall we go?"
There was a murmur of agreement and, all together, they left for the reception.