Jack Alander was the first to arrive, and he resented Hal from the cuff of his pointy collar to the hem of his billowing cape for having had the forethought to show up late.
“You know, I really hate this stupid costume,” Jack muttered to Wendy.
“I do wish you’d try to enjoy yourself.”
“I don’t know why I’m here.”
“Because, you make a handsome vampire, Jack.”
Jack looked disinterested. “I think I’ll go for some more punch.”
Wendy fumbled for a moment with a stick that might pass for a wand, cinched to her waist, and giggled at the prospect. “The punch might stain your teeth red. How fitting.”
Jack eyed her humorlessly. “Seems to me like you’ve already had quite enough punch. Where’s everyone going anyway?” He gave a brief nod to the scarecrow, who had been entrusted with transplanting the punch, and said, “Eh, pal don’t take all the cups, alright?”
The scarecrow muttered something about instructions and said, “You want to ruin all of the fun, man, just because you’re a little thirsty?”
“Come on buddy, surely Oz doesn’t need all of those drinks.”
“Ease up Dracula, read your invitation. We’re all summoned to the dining room after the last guest arrives.”
Jack glanced at Wendy whose face neither affirmed nor denied the scarecrow’s allegation. “Well then what about Clark Kent and the dude who forgot to dress up? Shouldn’t we summon them too?”
The nurse, who had up to this point in the party maintained a coy silence spoke as she stepped onto the threshold of the dining room, pausing only to give a disdainful look in Jack’s direction. “Hey lay off, he didn’t make the rules.”
Jack said something along the lines of “If he only had a brain he would’ve” and “Thanks very much Dorothy you can go back to Kansas now,” but either the rest of the party did not hear him or thought him not deserving of a response.
The dining room was grander than the drawing room, as a dining room ought to be, with old portraits on the walls that were either glaring at those seated or turning up their nose at the meal that had been set.
The seating had been determined beforehand. Only Hal’s seat remained empty (Superman hadn’t been accounted for.) The carpets were green, everything green, green except the impressive black dining table, whose reflective surface should have multiplied the few lights in the room, but instead seemed to swallow them in its blackness.
Jack stood uncomfortably in the corner as the other characters took their seats around the great table, which failed to include him.
The scarecrow, whose real name was Peter, seemed delighted by this. “You must have gotten different instructions than us, I guess, huh?”
“Pour me a glass, straw face.”
Peter obliged. “It’s the least I can do.”
“Anyone else starting to get the creeps from this place?” Jack said as he grabbed the cup. He craned his neck to peer back into the drawing room.
The cat smiled slyly and helped herself to some candy corn.
A cowboy, who had placed his hat on the table, was seeming less and less like a cowboy in part because he noted, “I think it’s a beautiful place. Glad it’s on the market.” He addressed the cat in a confiding tone. “I’m a realtor. By day I mean.”
The cat ate another piece of candy corn.
Jack had had enough of this and headed back towards the drawing room, pausing only to pat down his cloak and tell Wendy in spiteful tone, “Great, now I’ve lost my wallet”, before disappearing through the doorway.
If he hadn’t been looking for his wallet, Jack might have noticed that the drawing room was not as they had left it. He might not have begun up the creaky stairs on his hands and knees, tripping over the hems of his costume as he sniffed around the mansion like a dog.
He might have noticed how the invitation he’d kept in his pocket with his wallet had also disappeared, or that somebody was following him up the stairs in an amused silence.
“Looking for something?”
“Jeez, pal, you scared me.”
“I’m Trevor, don’t think we had time to meet downstairs.”
Jack stood unceremoniously to his feet. “Jack. You haven’t seen a wallet by chance?”
Superman shook his head. “No, but I think Wendy put some of the guests’ things up in the spare bedroom. Did you guys start playing poker or something?”
Jack followed Trevor down a slightly crooked hallway and stared down at his scuffed black boots. Perhaps he’d gone too all out with the vampire thing. He knew Wendy liked it but…
“Poker?” Jack asked distractedly.
“Here we are!” Trevor said, as he opened the door at the end of the hallway, beaming. “Betting, right?”
“Your wallet. Need some cash to keep the pot going.”
“I need my license to get out of this place.”
Trevor looked suddenly sad. “Come on, Jack, we’re all just having some fun here.”
“Can you turn on a light or something? I can’t see my own sparkling Edward Cullen skin.” Jack felt his lower body collide with something solid in the center of the room. The smell of fresh wood curled up into his nostrils. He groped blindly. “Trevor, right? You still there?”
Jack looked up towards the ceiling, where a small circular skylight had hole-punched half of the full moon. He followed his gaze, instead of his senses, and tripped. The smell of wood made his head pound, and suddenly he could see through the darkness, could feel the walls at his shoulders and his feet, closing in, all fresh wood and musty air.
He could sense the lid sliding into place, could feel the warmth of his own breath reflected back to him, caressing his face like a warm breeze. He did not have to move to know that the solid surface was but a centimeter from the tip of his nose. He did not have to push, or send his strong elbows sideways to know that this peculiar box was completely sealed.
He barely moved, barely breathed.
There, he felt something underneath his left thigh and wriggled it free. The leather felt cold against the inside of his hand.
“Did you find it?”
Part One by Acton