Party Planning
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Honore strolled down the beige linoleum aisles, passing masks and cheap costumes as he did so. It was good inspiration, but nothing he was looking for. Under his breath, he muttered the names of the non-copyright products. "Groovy man, rock star, lightning rock star. Oh hey, they got bill n' ted."

The left wheel on his cart gave a strained whine as the decor aisle opened up. Finally, finding the object of his search, Honore slowed his pace. The list in his pocket was mostly simple stuff that he probably could have gotten at any five and dime. But plain cups make for a plain party, and there wouldn't be any of the budget spare. So he settled on a set of plastic goblets before moving to a dragon-looking punchbowl to go with a medieval, almost dungeon, theme. Next, some fake ivy and cotton webs to line the walls and a stony backdrop to dirty and darken the empty containment cell. Finally a janky, but creepy shackled animatronic to sell the theme home.

"Ok, your total is 165, 63. Would you like to donate and buy a wristband?" The zitty teen behind the register looked no older than 17. "Nah, I'm good for now." The kid punched the confirmation into the computer before taking the cash handed to him. "Are those your dogs out there?" He said while making change for the large bills. Honore smiled. "Yeah, sweet little things, aren't they? You wanna pet 'em?" The kid sighed. "Sorry, I can't leave my register," Honore noted the scarred arm poking out from his uniform as it handed him his money back. "Your change is 34, 37. Have a nice day." They both gave a polite smile to each other before Honore gathered his bags and left.

"Hey, how's the party planning going?" Reverend Byrne placed his food across from Honore's. "Oh, you know. Same as usual. Got the decor down, though the food could use some work. Would you mind pitching in again? I know everyone loved those little beef things you did last time." He gave a small chuckle. "Hell, anything you could do would probably be a whole lot better than this instant mash."

"I should be able to whip something up; what's the theme this year?"

"I was going along the lines of a medieval dungeon. So I got some goblets and a matching punch bowl if you wanna work with that."

"Hmm, you think a cherry punch would look good in it?"

"Oh, definitely."

"Then I might pair something with goat cheese, always liked how that went with cherry. Though I've meant to tell you, a friend told me they found some occult thing up by the prayer garden. So I might be shipped out soon."

"Damn, well at least it's better than waiting around here. You have any idea when you'll be leaving?"

"Not a clue, though I'm guessing not for a few weeks. You know how these things are; first the science, then the fanatics." He sighed.

"You're not having more doubts, are ya'?"

"No, no. And thanks for that. I guess it's just a bit awkward to be second fiddle to science. I mean, there are so many gods now that it's a bit weird to speak of a one true god now.

"Ah, I know what you're saying. Well, even if there are more gods, the fact that your god gets called upon enough that they hire priests means yours must be pretty high up on the food chain, right?'

"Huh, never thought of it like that."

They ate in silence for a few minutes before Honore stood up. "Welp, I've got an appointment at 12:30. It was nice talking to you,"


"I don't know really, I mean I've killed plenty of kids before and never felt a thing. That's why I think I was approached for this job in the first place. But when I saw what took place at the school, well, it shook me. You know what I'm saying?"

"I think so. Was it the brutality of it?"

"Nah, I've seen worse gore before. It was, it was kind of like you could see it on their faces. Like they were being yelled at while it happened. I saw this one girl, no older than 10, and she just started bawling. She cried like she, well, she *had* killed someone. I've seen it in teens before; one get's in over their head and they turn into a baby. But this was an actual child. She just cried and pleaded that she was sorry before taking another bite. God, I just don't know anymore."

"Is there something you think you should know?"


"I mean, how does this change the view of your other work? It's a brutal job, you know that. So does this make you doubt bringing in that one item from that cult in '06?"

"Well, no…"

"Exactly, that was a messed up task you were given. I think the tops gonna decommission it too. But things that bad are rare mistakes on an administrative part. But all your other work has been for the betterment of mankind."

"I guess you're right, but that still doesn't help the base problem. It's that I'm starting to freak out whenever I see children. Like I'm having a panic attack or something."

"Sounds like PTSD to me. We have a small therapy group that meets on Wednesdays to talk about this stuff in more detail. I'm not sure that's something a big macho man like you would be interested in, but if you want to, there'd be a seat open for ya'."

"Thanks, I probably won't, but just getting it out was kind of nice. Anyways, I've got to get going. The wife's gonna be making dinner."

"Oh yeah, before you leave, I wanted to ask if you're going to be attending the Halloween party."

"Probably not, the wifes having me attend one a friend of hers is throwing."

"Ah, well, have a nice night."

"Thanks, you too."

"Aw, who's a good little dragon? You are! You are!"

Thompson lapped up the attention given from some of the newer recruits. Meanwhile, his brother lapped up goat cheese crumbs from beneath the snack table. The two's hand-stitched dragon costumes gave a comical effect among the awkward researchers and hardened veterans.

Thompson nudged away from the callused hand and looked around. In one corner, he could see a mousy man in a bunny costume sway drunkenly. In another corner, a sizeable chitinous creature tossed away a couple of bourbon bottles. He moved through cargo pants to a far wall with 3 figures, only one he recognized.

Honore chatted with a man in a brown robe tied with a tincture. Thompson didn't recognize any of the words spoken, though he could hear the warm tone as the monk received a pat on the back. The two separated and Honore's attention focused now on the dog in front of him.

"Hey there, having fun?"

Thompson responded to the attention.

"That's good. Let's find your brother and take a break, ok?"

He followed obediently to the snack table and then the door. Down the halls, up some stairs, then out onto the cool night air.

"Woo boy, it's sweaty in there, isn't it?"

A reassuring hand rubbed behind his ear. Thomson meanwhile relieved himself on a nearby tree.

"Oh well, nice night, huh?"

No response came. The two of them sat for a bit while Thomson chased a moth.

"Well, I'm gonna head back in. Come on you two. We might've already missed the costume contest."

As they headed in, Thompson could feel his owner's hesitation. Nothing more than a faint lingering around a particular door, though. Before they headed back into the dimly lit dungeon.

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