JDNunyer here. I started this account because I was working on (yet another) retelling of my long-running series set in the Homelands and I didn’t want people getting confused by there being so many versions posted under the same account. That is still the plan, but I have to admit that progress has been very, very slow, for a variety of reasons.
I initially had no intention of sharing this piece, which has no connection to the Homelands, having worked it mostly as a palate-cleanser and to prove to myself that I was still capable of seeing a project through to completion, but what the heck.
This story contains infidelity, group sex, and a clear signs of my political leanings. The pace is relatively slow, the word count is close to 30k, and some will find the ending disturbing. It does not contain graphic violence, despite the erotic horror tag, and all sexual encounters are entirely consensual and involve individuals who are of legal age.
I hope some of you enjoy it.
There was no one at the registration desk; I’d have waited a minute before ringing the bell, as would Cass or our dad. Wasn’t up to any of us, though.
Our mom’s name isn’t Karen, but it might as well be.
Don’t get me wrong, I love her truly. More than I should, according to the couple girls I’ve dated. Because apparently it’s okay for a woman in her twenties to call her mom on the phone two or three times a day, but if a man of the same age does so more than once a week, it’s a red flag. All I’m saying is that, whether I qualify as mama’s boy or not, I wouldn’t want to deal with the woman if I worked in retail. Or food service. Or hospitality.
“Welcome to The Unhallowed,” someone called from the small office. When he emerged, my sister let out a little yelp, on account of the tattered robes, black as night, and tall scythe. The blade of which was clearly plastic. “How may I help you?”
“Scaredy-cat,” I whispered to Cass, earning an elbow in the ribs.
Our mom shot us both a look before clearing her throat, placing her purse atop the granite desktop, and proceeding to make a show of producing credit card and driver’s license. Dare ye not question her preparedness or organizational acumen. “Checking in.”
“Do you have a reservation?” the grim reaper asked.
She nodded. “Last name Addams.”
“This here is Wednesday,” I said, jerking a thumb at my sister, who would need to drop twenty pounds and braid her hair before anyone would honestly mistake her for Christina Ricci in her most famous role but smiled about as often.
A flat look from Cass. “Makes you Pugsley.”
Our mom rolled her eyes. “Please, ignore my children.”
“They’re brother and sister?” the clerk asked.
Wasn’t that hard to see the resemblance. We both had our mom’s black hair, brown eyes, and fair complexion. Back before either of us had hit puberty, people used to think we were twins, never mind that there was a three-year age gap. The part that gave most people pause was the lanky man with the blond hair and blue eyes being our dad. I guess no one remembers dominant and recessive genes from high school.
“I see here you’ve booked two rooms.” Our friendly neighborhood personification of death still sounded confused. He looked from me to Cass then back, expression neutral.
“One queen,” our mom said, “two twins.”
Cass huffed. “I’m picking my husband up from the airport in a little while.”
“With your rates, couldn’t really afford a third room,” our dad explained. He comes from the “a penny saved is a penny earned” school of masculinity, the “turn the lights off if you’re not in the room” school, not the “never let anyone question the size of your bank account or your manhood” school. While that sometimes made him seem forty-eight going on eighty-four, it was still one of my favorite things about him.
“Will you be needing a rollaway bed?” the clerk asked.
“Not if you’ve booked us a room with two twin beds,” my mom answered. “Like I said over the phone.” Then, looking at Cass, she added, “You and Jake do plan on sharing one?”
“Yes, mom,” Cass said, with all the exasperation in the world. Or at least the eastern seaboard. “He’s in the Navy,” she told a rather uninterested man in a rather uninspired Halloween costume. “We haven’t saved enough to buy our own place yet.” Eyes back to our mom. “Someone refuses to let a day go by without reminding me how unusual it is for a married woman to sleep in the same bed she’s slept in the for the past twenty-two years.”
Two small envelopes slid toward us. “Here are your keys. Cocktail hour begins at seven. The men’s changing room is to the right of the ballroom, women’s the left. Draw a token from the bag when you first enter and the attendant will help you with your costume.”
“We brought our own—” our mom began to say, eyes darting toward luggage bags that would have been somewhat lighter if she’d read the fine print.
“Costumes Kıbrıs Escort are provided,” the clerk said in a tone that said they were also required.
Our dad let out a nervous chuckle, the way he always did when things got tense. Strangely enough, that didn’t seem to irritate our mom the way it always did when he was the source of that tension. “Okay, I gotta ask; is this place really haunted?”
“Only ghosts we’re gonna see are probably this guy’s kids,” I said. “No offense. I’m sure your children are lovely. And most talented when it comes to spooky moans.”
“It’s just,” our dad said, never one to withhold unnecessary information, “I wanted to go one of those one places where they chase you around with chainsaws, you know? Whereas if this one had her druthers, Halloween would be stricken from the calendar.” A bit unfair; she might not be into horror movies or jump scares, but she loved a good ghost story. Especially if it was a romance in disguise. “So we settled on this place.”
“I’m sure it will be fine,” our mom said, hand on his arm. Didn’t want to make a scene, did he? That was her job. “You saw the reviews.”
Uh oh, that look said he saw that she’d sent him an email with a link to the reviews, which was not the same as having actually read them. Someone was going to get an earful later. “I’m not doubting the accommodations, the coffee, or the continental breakfast.”
For a moment, just a moment, the clerk’s skin seemed to melt, leaving a skeletal face beneath his hood. “Sir, The Unhallowed only accepts guests in the month of October. We don’t just tack a few things on for Halloween—it is our raison d’etre.”
Proper pronunciation and all, so we couldn’t doubt him.
“See?” our mom said without opening her mouth, eyebrows doing all the work.
“Men’s to the right, women’s the left?” our dad asked in a mumble as he grabbed the key cards. If he had a tail, it would have been tucked between his legs. “Cocktails at seven?”
The beginnings of a smile, no more. “Enjoy your stay.”
Was seven-oh-three when Jake and I knocked on the door of the room my parents were staying in. Cass still wasn’t out of the shower, and my mom’s punctuality didn’t extend to happy hours the way it did check-ins, appointments, and anything that smelled like a meeting, but it was a safe bet that my dad was ready for a drink.
Past ready. Beer in his hand when he opened the door. “Started without you.”
“Clearly,” I said. “That’s okay, we forgive you.”
“Meet you there?” he called over his shoulder to my mom, who was probably reading something steamy on her Kindle. No one was more thankful for the invention of the e-reader, and thus not having to worry about the hunk on the cover, than my mom.
“Just waiting for Cass,” she replied.
“And with that, we officially have dispensation,” my dad said, closing the door behind him. Because words like “permission” and even “authorization’ did not have enough connotation for him. Had to make sure we knew what a tyrant his wife—my mom—was.
Jake did that little hyuk-hyuk thing he always did before he told a joke. Like a cartoon dog. “Too bad we had to bring the wives along, eh, Mr. A?”
Tempted as I was to scowl—that was my mother and my sister he was talking about—I chose instead to play the ghost. Neither there nor not there. Just floating along beside them.
“Speaking of ghosts, if we don’t see any, I’m gonna be disappointed,” my dad said. “I don’t care if they’re real, as long as they try.” He shook his head while we waited for the elevator. “I swear the only reason she picked this place is because there’s a museum in town that made some stupid list on some stupid website she happened across.”
Jake shrugged. “Any place with an open bar is fine by me.”
Like my parents weren’t footing the bill for this entire weekend. My brother-in-law hadn’t even offered to pay his own way, as I always did, though I knew they’d never let me. That didn’t stop my dad from aiming a finger pistol at him, though.
Any man who was fond of alcohol was a son of his. Or something.
The door to the changing room swung open as we approached, seemingly of its own accord. My dad stepped through without reservation, reached into a velvet pouch, produced something small and shiny. “Jolly roger,” he announced. “Guess I’m going as a pirate.”
“Yarrr, matey,” Jake said, because there was a world in which that was funny.
I went next. “Crossbones, no skull.”
“Skeleton,” someone, perhaps the attendant we’d been told to expect, informed me. A hunchbacked and cross-eyed man stepped out from between racks of colorful clothing. “Would work better if there wasn’t so much meat on your bones, but we’ll make do.”
Was he calling me fat? Better not have been, because most of my bulk was muscle. The one time Jake had challenged me to a push-up contest, I’d kicked his ass. Then bested him by the narrowest of margins at pull-ups Magosa Escort only to finish two minuets behind in a three mile. Would Uncle Same want me leaner before shipping my ass off to war? Sure. Were most guys with desk jobs both weaker and flabbier? Also yes.
“Is that a hydrant?” Jake asked, looking down at his own token. “Cool. My dad’s NYFD.” For some reason, he seemed to expect me to relate to that, even though mine was a lawyer. “Always wanted me to follow in his footsteps.”
Ah. That I understood. Crunching numbers for a bank did not make me a disappointment as far as I could tell, but hints had been dropped that it would have been nice to hang his own shingle. Addams and sons, never mind that he only had the one.
Could say something here about Cass not finishing college, but I won’t.
Okay, I just did. Guess I’m a shitty brother.
Better that than a shitty son.
Igor had produced a measuring tape. “You’ll need a cutlass,” he told my father, as though the breadth of his shoulders had anything to do with that. “And boots.”
“Obviously,” Jake said. “What’s a pirate without his boots?”
“And you,” the hunchback said, “need suspenders and a hardhat.” Mismatched eyes took in my brother-in-law’s physique. “No shirt, though. No shirt.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Thought this was a family-friendly establishment?”
“What gave you that impression?” Igor replied. Then he looked me over the way a bookie might a racehorse. “Underwear and body paint or head-to-toe spandex?”
“I’ll take option C.”
My dad frowned. “Play along, Will, or your mom will be mad.”
Right. My mom wanted me in a skintight costume. Or less than that.
“Have you got any girdles?” Jake asked, smacking my midsection.
So I didn’t have a six-pack abs like he did. Wasn’t like I had a beer gut. Any time he wanted a rematch of that push-up contest, I was down. As long as we skipped the run.
“We’ve got something better,” Igor informed us. “You’ll see.”
Skeptical? So was I.
Turned out he was right, though.
Don’t ask me to explain it. Between the limited number of items hanging from the racks, an awareness that one-size-fits-all is really one-size-fits-some, and several cryptic comments from the hotel staff, never mind that the last time someone had measured my inseam was when I’d gotten fitted for a tux to wear to my sister’s wedding, which I’d had to do that weeks ahead of time, I probably should have guessed that normal rules did not apply. But in my defense rational minds do not readily reach for supernatural explanations.
No other sort remained once Igor was done, however.
Yes, I do know how that sounds. No, I don’t think Halloween being just around the corner rendered the idea any less ludicrous. Barriers between worlds, old Celtic festival of Samhain, blah, blah, blah. What happened to us in that changing room was not happens-only-once-a-year strange, it was never-happens-at-all-and-for-damn-good-reason strange.
The kind of strange where a man snaps his fingers and your outfit, your physique, even your face is dramatically altered. Where you don’t just put on a costume but become someone else entirely. Someone who is still mostly recognizable.
The best possible version of yourself. Or something to that effect.
“Like what see?” Igor asked us collectively after one mirror became three, none of which remained fixed to a plaster wall. “If not, I make minor adjustments.”
I studied my reflection, looking down at the me outside the mirror a few times to be sure the two matched, to be sure the brand of fuckery we were dealing with was not simply that of a funhouse. I didn’t love that every contour was visible, the only mystery concerning tattoos and body hair, but I did love having the kind of body that allowed one to dress that way without it seeming like a cruel joke or gross oversight. All the more so because the guy whose physique I was so envious of was in fact me. Sorta. Those were the biceps I’d built, the shoulders I’d given myself, though I’d never had abs so defined that when I tensed them you could pretty much see the six-pack through a layer of spandex. That face wasn’t exactly mine, what with that jawline and the prominent cheekbones, but there was more than a passing similarity. It wasn’t me in that skintight suit, yet it was. And that wasn’t hilarious, even though it kinda was. Not like I’d be wearing it in public. Just to a cocktail hour in a supposedly haunted hotel during Halloween season. There’d be no mothers of small children there, gasping in shock and covering young eyes to spare them their first exposure to pornography. Only grown-ups there to have a good time, grown-ups who’d signed release forms even if they hadn’t read them as closely as they should have, or read them at all because they’d let someone sign for them, all of whom would be in their own costumes.
Their own supernatural, fat-melting, muscle-building, logic-defying costumes.
What Girne Escort the heck had my mom gotten us into? Some kinda sex thing? Were we at a holiday-themed swingers resort? Was that why the clerk had been so surprised that one of the rooms would be shared by a brother and sister? Had to be, right?
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
The time to worry about that was later, though. When Igor wasn’t staring at me, waiting for me to tell him I wanted to try the body paint instead of the spandex. Which I didn’t.
To my right, my father was debating with himself the merits of an eye patch, a peg leg, and a hook for a hand. Unsurprisingly, he settled on none of the above.
“Looking good, Dad,” I said.
And he was. Somewhere between Captain Morgan and Jack Sparrow. A dashing and dangerous figure, perhaps even dastardly, but not dirty. Or disgraced. This was a man who’d taken to the seas because it excited him, because he enjoyed the freedom. There was no hangman’s noose, fitting reward for petty thievery, awaiting him on land.
Kinda felt bad for my mom now that I thought about it. She had a thing for Johnny Depp, that role in particular, though she refused to admit it. Clean him up a bit, find a way to swap him out for her husband without losing too much of the appeal, and she would do more than swoon. She’d get feral. Primal. Would probably pounce him in the ballroom.
So actually it was my dad I should feel bad for. Poor guy wouldn’t get any sleep tonight. Can’t say I’m glad I know this about my parents, that I’ve known it for years, but she always wears him out when we go on vacation. Without supernatural interference.
“Can I at least get a coat?” Jake asked, turning this way and that to admire his own musculature. To my eye, he didn’t look that different, hadn’t gained or lost as much weight as I was pretty sure I had, but it’s not like I was used to seeing him with his shirt off. “I’ll wear it open; a chest this good needs to be seen. But I’m feeling kinda naked.”
The tightest of T-shirts appeared then vanished. Igor tilted his head this way and that, said, “Is perfect as is.” Then made a gesture that was probably supposed to be a chef’s kiss.
I should have been freaked out. On some level, I knew that. The hotel claimed to be haunted and clearly did have supernatural events taking place inside its walls. Yet this felt less like the start of a horror movie than a fantasy novel. One by Neil Gaiman.
By the end of the night, we’d find out the owner of the hotel was some long-forgotten minor deity of harvest festivals and orgies. And after we checked out, none of us would remember anything that might sound strange to our friends and coworkers.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for a cocktail,” my father proclaimed as he checked for missing wrinkles, counted the remaining gray hairs. “Something with rum.”
It wasn’t until the door at the opposite end of the ballroom opened and one of the most stunning creatures I’ve ever laid eyes on came through that it finally dawned on me that I’d soon see my mother and my sister as I never hoped to see them. That I might react to seeing them in ways I did not wish to react. That no man—or woman, I suppose—can control such reactions. Our eyes see what they see, our bodies respond as bodies respond, and only later do we get to decide how to feel about that. Just usually isn’t an issue because our moms and our sisters don’t tend to walk around in ultra-revealing costumes that somehow, inexplicably, have also made them look younger, thinner, curvier, sexier in every possible way.
This particular costume did more than that, having turned her hair into fire and made her skin red. I don’t mean ruddy or sunburned but the color of blood. And while there are natural redheads, I’ve never met anyone whose scalp was literally burning. Or, um, not burning, even though it should have been. Like the fake logs in an electric fireplace.
None of that detracted from her appeal, much as one might think it should. It was just hard not notice her crimson complexion and the fiery tongues dancing atop her head. Nearly as hard as it was to not notice her black halter top and matching hot pants, her leather choker and thigh-high leather boots. Her amazing figure, slender overall yet surprisingly ample in a few select places. Women with waists like that do not often have asses like that, let alone tits that big. Unless they’re fake, in which case they tend to behave like beach balls, sitting high on her chest without any support and retaining their shape no matter what position she’s in and what’s being done to them. Judging by the way those things bounced, the way they responded to gravity and momentum, I very much doubted they were silicone.
While not a religious man, I said a quick prayer then, asking the bearded man in the sky to spare me the torture of finding out that the she-devil was my mother. The stupid skeleton costume did not offer many ways to hide my appreciation of her figure.
I don’t know whether anyone’s up there or if they’re in the habit of granting such requests, but it soon became clear that the woman with fire for hair, the succulent succubus, was here with the guy who’d come in after us. The one dressed as a cowboy.