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You know what we need? What we really, really need? An Are You Afraid of the Dark? title generator: that's what.
The image you see above is the Midnight Society's bonfire right before the magic dust is thrown on it. As much as I wanted to use a magic-dusted fire that I could superimpose some purple and yellow text on, I couldn't find one that didn't already have its own title. (Well branded, D.J. MacHale. Well branded.)
When I started this writing project, I knew that the story I wanted to tell the most was the backstory. As Gary explains in the pilot, all the members of the Midnight Society go to different schools and have different (daytime) friends. So how did they ever get together in the first place? It will take me a lot longer than ShredChedFanFicWriMo to figure it all out, but I do have a few "chapters" to share tonight.
Warning: Contains Occult Elements. (Please see the "disclaimer" at the end.)
An Are You Afraid of the Dark? Fan Fic
There was nothing better, Gary decided, than owning a magic shop. He had just finished stringing up a row of red lanterns, setting out bowls of snake bile soup specially ordered from Chinatown, and tacking up a banner that proclaimed the "Year of the Fire Snake" over the sales counter. The red and gold decorations made an eye-catching contrast to the bleak British Columbia winter night outside. It was the Magic Manor's first Chinese New Year celebration, and it looked as if it was going to be a huge success.
The Magic Manor had had its first Midnight Sale three years earlier, when Gary's father decided it would be a good idea to stay open on Halloween. It had been such a popular move among the local clientele that it soon became a regular event every Halloween . . . Yule . . . Beltane . . . Litha . . . Canada Day . . . and now, Chinese New Year. It had been Gary's idea.
His best friend David usually stopped by to help out at Midnight Sales, but David had been busy for days with a school project and couldn't make it that night. And although Gary's younger brother Tucker had talked their parents into letting him stay up past midnight, too--New Year's Eve being New Year's Eve, Chinese or otherwise--he had nodded off at 10:00 and had to be carried to bed by their father. Alone with his parents, working as both a family and a team, Gary suddenly saw himself as a full partner in the business . . . and it felt amazing.
He wondered what other magic the night would bring.
* * *
"I thought being grounded meant having to stay home all day and all night. No exceptions."
"Being grounded means whatever I damn well say it means."
Kiki slouched in the passenger seat of her mother's used Volkswagen, arms crossed tightly over her puffy jacket.
"And if you thought for one second," her mother continued, "that I would leave you home alone at night so that you could sneak out the window . . ."
Kiki tuned out the rest of the lecture. It was nothing she hadn't heard before. Besides, her mother was right: left to her own devices, she would have braved the late winter night, climbed out her window, and escaped to a friend's house until the morning. She had been grounded for the past six days, which had already been enough to drive her nuts, and there was still the rest of the month to endure. Her spirits had actually lifted at the news that she would get to leave the house that night, even if it was to go to the dorky Magic Manor. But it wouldn't pay to seem too happy, she thought.
"I still don't see why we need to be there that long," she grumbled. "Since when does it take you an hour to get your shopping done?"
"It's not just shopping. The Magic Manor is going to have a Chinese face reader tonight, so there will be a line--"
"Chinese face reader?"
"--but I'm sure the owners' boy will be there to keep you company," her mother continued as she pulled up in front of the Magic Manor. "He's your age, I think."
Suddenly it was worse than being grounded. "If you think that I'm going to spend the night talking to some weirdo from the Waldorf school--"
Kiki's mother leaned over to check her lipstick in the mirror of the passenger sun visor, and Kiki had to stop in mid-sentence so she wouldn't get a mouth full of hair.
But through gritted teeth, she managed, "How is anyone going to read your face if there's all that makeup on it?"
Her mother looked startled. "I didn't think of that. Do you think I should take it off?"
Kiki rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Mom."
The store had opened its doors at 11:00 pm, and an hour and a half later, Gary thought the Year of the Fire Snake was looking good. People didn't just admire the new feng shui display, but also bought some ornaments for their homes. The snake bile soup his parents had not been sure about had proved to be the star of the refreshments table. And of course, Gary was having the time of his life demonstrating the use of the I-Ching coins the Magic Manor had in stock for the first time since it had opened. It was hardly the highlight of his evening when his mother took him aside and asked him to keep the world's surliest girl company in the back room until her mother was ready to leave.
"Mom! I'm on a roll here!"
"Think of it as your coffee break. And besides, she seems like an interesting girl."
She held up her hand. "I'm not your mom tonight. I'm your boss. And I'm telling you to keep your new friend company until it's time for her to go home."
* * *
Kiki looked up as Gary pushed through the bead curtain that separated the back room from the rest of the shop. How many other thirteen year old boys dressed exactly like their fathers, she wondered. She shot him the most menacing look she could manage, but he didn't even seem to notice.
"So what brings you to the Magic Manor tonight?" he asked.
"Can I show you anything? We've got some really interesting stuff."
"I'm not buying."
"And I'm not selling. But it's going to be a while until the face reader is finished and--"
"Your parents sent you here because they thought I would steal something, didn't they?"
Gary seemed taken aback at that. "I think my mom just hoped we'd be friends."
He looked so earnest that Kiki nearly laughed in his face. "That is never going to happen, Magic Boy. And if you don't believe it, you can consult your crystal ball."
He grinned. "Is that what you've been doing?" he asked, his gaze shifting to a spot over her left shoulder.
Kiki turned to see what he was looking at. Right at eye level, on the shelf behind her, was a row of crystal balls.
She snorted "As if I believe in any of that stuff!"
"You don't believe in the supernatural?"
"I don't believe in what's not real."
"What if I convinced you it was real?"
"What do you mean?"
"Have you ever tried an ouija board?"
"Oh, yeah . . . One night, at a friend's house. The stupid board got every question right. Then it turned out it was my friends pranking me."
"I won't prank you. I think this is real, remember? Ask it something I wouldn't know."
Kiki told herself that she was only agreeing to it because she was bored . . . and because he would obviously keep badgering her if she didn't. "If I ever find out you were fooling me, geek . . ."
He smiled as he turned in the direction of the stairs. "Maybe I'll ask it something I wouldn't know."
Gary could have borrowed one of the ouija boards from the stock room, just to save time, but he preferred to use his own . . . if he could find it. Although he tried to keep the room he shared with his brother as neat as possible, Tucker was some kind of human tornado who seemed to tear up a place just by breathing. It took Gary over five minutes, working as silently as possible and with only the pen light on his key ring, to find his old ouija board and make his way back downstairs.
Half the fun of a seance, he reminded himself, was the atmosphere. He grabbed four candles from his mother's extensive collection in the den, carrying them on the board like glasses on a tray--a light load that nearly came crashing down when he reentered the backroom and saw that Kiki had found his notebook.
"That's private," he said, hoping he had his voice under control. "You shouldn't be reading that."
Kiki smirked. "You don't just believe in this stuff. You write stories about it, too."
"Come on. Put it down."
She tossed the notebook back on the desk where she had found it. "The story was boring me anyway."
"Which one were you reading?"
"The really lame one."
He was about to reply when the bead curtain that separated the back room from the rest of the store rattled and his mother poked her head through.
"Would you like some snake bile soup, Kiki? We're down to our last bowl and I don't think you've tried it yet."
"No, thanks, ma'am!" Kiki said quickly. "I've already eaten and I'm really full . . . Besides, Gary and I are going to be really busy with the ouija board."
"Ooooh, a seance! It sounds as if you kids are having fun! . . . That's not really keeping with tonight's Chinese New Year theme, though, Gary."
"Mom, Kiki's not a customer. She's a friend."
And on cue, as if they had rehearsed it, Gary and Kiki broke out in the cheesiest grins either of them had ever seen on the other. It was terrible acting from already terrible actors, and he expected his mother to roll her eyes at them, but she only gave them a beaming smile of her own.
As soon as the bead curtain had swung back into place, Kiki snapped, "One. We're asking one question, and it had better work."
"We each get one question," Gary said, setting up the board and lighting the candles. "I'll go first."
"Would you get the lights, please?"
"Anything to get this over with . . ."
* * *
Kiki was grudgingly impressed at how effectively the magic geek was creeping her out. Part of it was his insistence on candlelight, part of it was the fact that he really seemed to believe in this stuff, and part of it--although she would have admitted it only under torture--was the story she had been reading in his notebook.
Gary explained that they should sit on opposite sides of the table and rest their fingertips as lightly as possible on the planchette. She did so, and for a few silent seconds the two of them simply stared at each other over the board. Then Gary asked his question.
"What story was Kiki reading when I came in?"
"I told you," she said. "The really lame one . . ."
Her voice trailed off when the planchette started to move under her fingers.
"Are you doing that?" she squeaked.
"I could ask you the same question--"
"Shut up! It's spelling something!"
Gary started to read the letters aloud. "T . . . H . . . E . . . M . . . I . . . D . . . N . . . I . . . G . . . H . . . T . . . S . . . O . . . C . . . I . . . E . . . T . . . Y . . ."
The planchette stopped moving.
"You were reading 'The Tale of the Midnight Society'!" Gary declared triumphantly. "Weren't you?"
Kiki shrugged. "I didn't see the title."
"Would you like to check?"
"And prolong this torture? Let's just get to my question, dweeb."
Trying to look as bored as possible, she asked, "Give me one good reason to stay here one minute longer."
The first time had been creepy enough, but it was simply something else to feel the planchette move in reply to her own question. This time, both of them read the letters aloud together.
"T . . . H . . . E . . . E . . . N . . . D."
"The . . . End?" Gary looked confused.
"Wow. Even the board thinks I should get out of here and end this night."
Before Gary could make another suggestion, they heard a crash from the store and his father calling for the broom. Gary ran out to help and Kiki bounded to the light switch to turn the lights back on. Then she snatched up his notebook again. The board had been right both times. She had been reading "The Tale of the Midnight Society" . . . and she was desperate to know the end.
Gary had many notebooks filled with stories. Most of them had been inspired by the merchandise in the Magic Manor. A select few had been written with prompts from his Grandpa Gene, from whom Gary had caught the storytelling bug. But "The Tale of the Midnight Society" was special, because it had come to him in a dream.
It was a story about a group of teenagers who met once a month in an abandoned warehouse to report on paranormal phenomena they had observed in their own neighbourhoods. One of them was certain his new neighbour was a werewolf; another suspected his widowed father was dating a witch who had cast a spell on him; a third swore she had seen a woman in a white dress running up her street at midnight, only to vanish as she reached the cul de sac at the end.
But what the teenagers didn't know was that they, too, were being monitored . . . by someone who was determined to keep the truth of the supernatural world a dark secret.
Kiki quickly found her place in the story, and resumed reading as fast as she could. Just as she got to the part where one of the teenagers, walking home from the warehouse, realised that he was being followed, the pages went blank. She frantically flipped ahead, only to see that the rest of the notebook was blank. The magic dweeb hadn't even finished the story yet!
Just when she thought she would have to kill him, the bead curtain parted again and her mother called for her to go home.
* * *
As the final customers were leaving, Gary heard Kiki's mother promise his mother that she would be back for the next Midnight Sale, on Beltane Eve. He cringed as his mother said she hoped Kiki would be able to come, too. He made a mental note to be more careful with his notebooks in the future. The stories in them weren't for just anyone to read.
Gary waited until the first Saturday of March to start taking down the Chinese New Year display. He had assured his parents the night before that they could trust him to be alone in the shop that morning, and he had forced himself out of his warm bed earlier than usual so he could be awake to let David in, too. The day before, he had left David a message in a secret location only the two of them knew about, and he knew that his friend would brave the cold morning to see what was up.
Five minutes after he felt the radiator start to work, he heard David's special knock on the door.
"So what did Grandpa Gene say?" David asked, unzipping his jacket. "Did he like our new stories?"
"He liked yours," Gary said, "but you'll never believe what he said about mine! I finally finished 'The Tale of the Midnight Society' last week, so I decided to show it to him. He read it, and told me--get this--that when he was a teenager, he used to belong to a group called . . . The Midnight Society."
David's eyes widened. "Just like the kids in your dream?"
"But they weren't paranormal investigators. They were storytellers. They got together at least one night a month to tell scary stories around a bonfire in the woods."
"Cool! It's too bad your grandpa and his friends didn't keep it going."
"They didn't have to. Some other kids did. New members came in every year, so whenever old members decided to leave, the club stayed intact. Grandpa Gene said he had no idea the tradition would last as long as it has."
"As long as it has?" David gaped. "Are you telling me that the Midnight Society still exists?"
"And the best part is . . . they're recruiting new members this spring. Are you in?"
"Are you kidding? Of course I'm in! . . . Why didn't your grandpa tell you about this before?"
"He wanted to wait until there were a couple of openings. And this year, there are. He said it's just a matter of time before the current members contact us."
He paused to let the news sink in, watching David's smile grow wider and knowing it mirrored his own. A secret society of kids who loved to tell scary stories seemed too good to be true.
"I wonder when they'll try to--" David began, when a sharp rap sounded from the front door.
* * *
Kiki couldn't believe her horrid luck. She knew that the ouija nerd usually spent his Saturday mornings working in his family's shop, but she hadn't counted on one of the snooty kids from the prep school being there, too. They answered the door together, staring at her as if she was some ghost. It was almost enough to make her abandon her mission--but she wasn't a legendary terror in her own school for nothing.
Assuming an expression that intimidated her own vice-principal, she snarled, "Let me in, will you? It's cold out here!"
The boys parted to let her through, and as soon as the rich kid had closed the door, she began her speech.
"Here's the deal, Magic Boy. I don't like you, and you don't like me. But I think you understand business and I've got a business proposition for you."
Gary nodded. "I'm listening."
"A barter trade. Like in the days before money. You have something I want and I have something I think you'll find is of equal value."
"You tell me how 'The Tale of the Midnight Society' ends--"
"Hold on a minute!" the prep brat said. "Gary, how does she know about 'The Tale of the Midnight Society'?"
"She read one of my notebooks when I wasn't in the room."
"And now," Kiki interrupted, "you can read one of mine." She pulled a notebook from her knapsack and shoved it in Gary's face. "Everything's there but the ending. If you like it enough to want to know how it ends, you've got to tell me how your story ends."
As soon as he took the notebook from her hand, Kiki pushed herself between both boys, stalked back to the door, and let herself out of the shop.
"You know how to find me!" she called over her shoulder right before the door clicked shut.
Still a little stunned, the two boys shared an uncertain look before turning their attention to the notebook. Gary opened it to the first page of scrawled writing, and David read aloud over his shoulder . . . "'The Tale of the Secret Seance'."
And there you go again! =) As always, please be kind enough to read and review. It only makes me better--or at the very least, keeps the bad from being worse. I'm hoping, in particular, that someone could suggest an alternative to Chinese New Year, the only "pagan" celebration I currently know well enough to write about.
Now, believe it or not, this was supposed to be the story of how Gary and David met! =P My original plan was to write an FF set in Gary's family's magic shop, and it seemed logical for the supernatural to rub up against the skeptical. But the more I studied Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes, the more I realised that everything I was making David do was out of character for him. I'm not sure what inspired me to rewrite the story with Kiki instead--but I'm glad I did, because, otherwise, I would have had to junk it!
As for Gary and David, I have a good feeling that they actually met in a library. Perhaps the rest of that story, secret location for messages and all, will come to me soon. =)
Finally, I thought it would be useful to state, for the record, that I don't think divination of any sort is a good idea. (Wow. What an understatement!) But the Gary of canon is fascinated by the occult and it's totally in character for him to have an ouija board. Part of the appeal of Are You Afraid of the Dark? is getting to dabble in the dark and dangerous without consequences--and for educational purposes, like the original faerie tales and many moral Horror movies. Despite its "real world" setting (All my Canadian readers just died laughing), my FF unfolds like one of the Midnight Society's stories: in a kind of bubble of childhood innocence. I'll let Gary have his "magic" while he's young; there'll be a lot of time for him to grow up--and wisen up--later.
Image Source: Are You Afraid of the Dark? bonfire