Carved-Out Pumpkin

some hotel tourists come more prepared than others, as jack finds out by popping out in front of the wrong one.

AO3 Mirror Here

The trap was set, and all Jack had to do was wait for whoever came through that next door. It was elaborate, a trick of pulleys, string, and the things only Jack would come up with. He had already embraced the ongoing spike in people coming through quite well, only upping the game of pop-up-and-run spooks. It was something in his nature, an inherent trait nobody would ever take away. No wonder he was here. And while he was here, he waited for a second member of the group to show up, the second part, and the most important part of it all.

Rush. Where was Rush? And then, as coincidental a name as Rush could be, it was in front of Jack’s upside-down setup, one of Rush’s dry hands resting against Jack’s chin with a slight hold to the tip of it, the other crossed across its own wide chest.

“…Interesting! Can’t say I’m not hopeful, but a little confused on what you’ve got here,” Rush’s voice had a slight sarcastic tone at the moment – Jack could do anything of use, but whatever useful ideas Jack had would always spiral into these sorts of things. He was perfectly capable, but applying himself was another story – almost never happened unless he wanted to. Meanwhile, Jack blabbered on about the setup, giddly-voiced, the mess of wires, around his leg, arm, gears glued onto the wall and about to bring the whole thing down to the wooden floors. Inspired by the chimes of opening a door in a small restaurant – someone would open it, and then, he’d be flipped around a hundred and sixty to a hundred and eighty degrees, right in front of the face, and scream.

“If the shoe fits!” Rush gave off a hearted chuckle. Its body tilted to the left, passing through the small fitting of the doorframe and Jack, before continuing on. First came the fake scare, and then the real one – nobody was to enter these grounds, after all. But people did, and, the grounds being the anonym of holy ones, people were dealt with in a way that could be told around the campfire to scare – people died here. Plenty of them, and yet, still coming, and for what? Like moths to a light behind a flytrap, people came, and lives ended.

The waiting game was on for Jack. His chest beat with an anticipation like no other, a feeling he lived for. His role in life was this, a perfect fit, a soul molded for these opportunities. It was a cheery turn from everybody else – he loved being here, and he had nowhere else he wanted to be, either. No family to tend to, nothing in his name. All Jack had was these little things, this job, and making the best of it was a duty that felt like it was handed to him from God.

Footsteps rung to the ears. Jack’s tremulous, racing heart only picked up in pace. It was time. It was his time to shine. Louder, and on came another noise – the jangling of chains, the brushing of oversized boot-cut jeans on the floor.

The door opened, and with that, a certain wire was pulled, which knocked down a ball onto a lever and then the lever set off some more wires, and Jack’s body was pulled down, upside-down and then not so much, right into this visitor’s face. A scream, loud, boisterous, and with not too much of a bad intent went right through their eardrums, and this man’s hands were pulled up to the chest, aiming something Jack could not see in time to avoid.

Smoke floated from the barrel, after the bang of the pistol echoed throughout the entire floor of the haunted and God-forsaken, yet God-watched-over hotel. Jack’s playful scream was silenced with a whine, a whine of great, sudden pains right under the shoulder, yet not low enough to hit the heart. A dark blood poured from the new-found hole onto the floors, Jack’s legs wriggling to free himself from his own contraption, locking himself in and away from a help that was already on the way. He had barely a glance of the face or the body of who had shot him – bearded, neutral-colored jacket, but that was all that registered other than the dangerous feelings of being on the verge of death.

A death that would mean potential freedom, but that prize would not be granted anytime soon.

Two shouts came from behind the injured – Rush again, and a voice that Jack never got to hear as often as he wanted to. Rush’s was more of a threat and then a scream, followed by the sounds of slams against a wall, the gunslinger already captured and definitely about to pay with the most vicious, vengeance-fueled beating. Being trapped in places did that to people – it forced bonds, because without allies, there would’ve only been enemies. No matter how monstrous the dwellers of this place were, they were most certainly dwelling to stay.
“Jack? Jack? Respond if you’re still alive!” and out from the sides, came Ambush. Smaller, paler, but still just as strong as her brother. A short ponytail flied through the air, almost floating in place like the body of the ghost she was, an arm reaching out, nearly slamming Jack to the ground to pull him out. The other arm cradled the bloodied body, blood seeping into the collar of the jacket, everywhere it could go, it had touched.

“Hang in there, please. You haven’t said anything,” Ambush’s comforting words quickly came over to a rushing fear – and Jack’s head turned away, and Ambush knew – with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach – that if those prayers were not answered in due time, she had lost a true friend. Or at least, one of the few friends one could make, stuck here, a limbo, until some poor soul was thrown into the same situation as everybody else.

“…Huh? No, I’ll be fine.”
“You’re clearly not. Face my face and say it again,” Ambush barked. There’s no way Jack wasn’t taking this seriously, either. He had never been in a situation like this, as desperate and drastic, but the deal of shock on the body led to the haze Jack always felt like he was in only growing worse. But with that, Jack tilted his head as far as it would go, right into Ambush’s hollow eyes.

"I said I’ll be fine. Look.” Jack’s hand, even more pale than the almost-white it was, reached up, pointing to the wound location. It had missed anything too important – just a bleeding risk.

“See? I know what I’m doing.”
“…Just let me take you—” A sound of an almost-sob. She’s about to lose her cool, “Anywhere other than bleeding out on the floor, please! Just let somebody patch you up, please, and—” The almost-sob is now a straight-up cry, “And save you.”
“Can’t I just walk there?” Another laugh.
“Like this?! No. Just stay still.”
The other arm reached down, underneath a brittle back where the spine stuck out, even with clothes covering it, and lifted Jack up to stride. Tears ran from Ambush’s chin, dripping into whatever was underneath where they’d land.

“Ruuuush! In 78! As soon as possible!”

And by the time everything did situate itself in 78, with Jack laying on one of the beds, a half-there head gazing and counting patterns in the ceiling, the bleeding had stopped – maybe Jack had a few less screws loose than everybody assumed. Just some days of bed-rest, and whatever Ambush could do to patch that man up, and things would eventually fade to a neutral normality as normal as the awful green on the walls of the halls. And even if it had went up and towards the head, or down and towards the vitals – something would’ve happened, whenever a miracle recovery or just appearing a few days later after an apparent death.

Not even death would free these monsters from what they were trapped in – a light prayed to was the light that chained them here. All there was, and all there would be. And at least this would be a great story to share at that weekly “making sure everybody is still alive and kicking” meet.

At least Jack knew how to build a good trap. Priorities.