Degrees of Horror

A Bite To Eat

Episode 4

Cast: Markus, Mary, Red

Two weeks ago, Eugene was seen breaking into a room in the girl’s dormitory. He waited until the girls had left, kicked open the door, and stole some things. It took him awhile to beat the door down and there was several witnesses to identify him. Camera footage from the 1st floor security office also showed him entering and leaving during the time the room was broken into. According to the one of the girls living in that room, he had been there earlier in the day asking strange questions and investigating the girls’ things. She did remember asking him whether they were both going to be out at a party later than night, and presumably took that opportunity to break into the room shortly after they left. As a result, Eugene has been expelled from the University. His parents have already gotten involved and the family’s lawyer is meeting with President Nelson.

Since then, Red has been having strange dreams about his encounter at the Roost and watching security guard Tyson August get dragged away by a monstrous creature. He has started feeling anxious and having flashbacks of this dream when he hears gossip about “the Needler”.

There is a serial killer loose in Pinebox, TX. He kills his victims by stabbing them a ridiculous number of times with tiny blades, all over the body. The press have started calling him “The Needler”, named after a local urban legend. According to local rumor, “the Needler” is a murderous monster resembling a porcupine-man who lives in the wilderness.

With this background information given, our episode starts (once again) in the classroom of Professor Mathew Cutter’s freshman English class. Although he is friendlier and generally more accommodating, he does continue to harass students who act out in class or draw attention to themselves. He seems particular apprehensive about all the local talk about “The Needler” being loose and killing in Pinebox.

Maybe that’s why he asked about Steven. Steven Beech has not been to the last two class sessions, and Professor Cutter warns that if he does not come to the next session, he will be dropped from the class. He encourages anyone who knows Steven to find him and encourage him to come back to class. Steven’s grades up until now have been excellent and he even did well on the midterms.

Perhaps to get his mind off the anxiety from his dreams (which he believes to be linked to the apprehension felt by his spirit guardian, Lucy), Red decides to look into the matter and find out what happened to Steven. (He’s still a little nervous about the last time someone went missing from Cutter’s class in Episode 3.) Deciding to look into the matter, he encourages Mary and Markus to help him. They split up and agreed to meet later at the Pizza Barn to share their findings. (..and mostly because Markus will exploit any opportunity to capitalize on Red’s ability to get free pizza during Red’s work shift).

Markus already had his own reasons to find Steven, who had been commissioned to make an art banner for his band. So he went around campus, following a darkening trail of rumor and innuendo to its sinister conclusion. Meanwhile, Mary and Red had decided to search for information about Steven by using social media and the sorority connections of Mary and her roommate Missy.

Gathering back at the Pizza Barn later, they share the information they gathered. Steven Beech is not very known around campus. He’s an art student who seemed to go missing last week — he hasn’t been to any of his classes. There’s a rumor going around that the police came and took a body from his room yesterday, and gossip around town says that the Needler got him.

The group generally lounges at the Pizza Barn, and went around the table having Interludes for each player. Each character told a story or revealed some information about their background as they engaged in general small talk. Markus told a story about his desire for musical perfection to honor his father who had given him his guitar. Red told a tragic story about the death his childhood dog Lucy, who still provides him with protection and companionship even after death. Mary revealed her estranged relationship with her parents that resulted from her uncle’s death.

At some point during this conversation, while Red was starting his official work shift, he became aware of a stranger who had come into the Pizza Barn. The young stranger looked kind of sickly and was sweating, despite wearing a heavy black trench-coat. He seemed to be strumming his hands around the table like he was nervous and he was giving disturbing glances at other patrons, including Markus and Mary.

Red continued to keep an eye on him while he started his work shift at the Pizza Barn, taking over for his co-worker, “Chickenfingers”. Markus drew a lot of attention trying to play the arcade machine (“Lethal Enforcers”), but a couple of kids were trying to pretend to play without quarters.

Once the two kids and their mom left, the strange trenchcoated boy also left, causing Red to relax a little. Red had been about to go over and demand he order something. Mary had been considering approaching him and starting a conversation, noting that she had one of her strong friends to back her up if he turned out to be a psycho. Unfortunately, Markus had gone outside to have a cigarette.

After a few minutes alone at the table, Mary decided to go outside and check on Markus. At this time, however, Markus had already been confronting the trench-coated stranger who was assaulting the mother of those two kids who had just left. The kids themselves were nowhere to be seen.

Markus ran up behind him and shoved him onto the ground. Mary took out her concealed .22 as she watched this violent scene. The boy got up and made a pathetic attempt to intimidate Markus, saying something “I am a creature of darkness, you cannot stop me” in a whiny, nasty voice while rubbing his bruised arm where Markus had hit him. Markus unleashed a few insults at him, provoking the boy. It was then that the sickly trench-coated boy revealed a pair of fangs and attempted to bite Markus. While this happened, the young woman they were rescuing ran off into the alley.

Markus shoved the boy off him and Mary shot him in the abdomen, causing him to buckle over and drop his plastic teeth. In response, the boy started running down the alley to get away. He was sickly, hurt, distracted, and wounded, but he still ran pretty fast. By this time, Red had become aware something was going on and was watching the scene from one of the windows inside, phone in hand, talking to the police.

Markus was perfectly prepared to let the boy get away. He was more concerned over checking his neck to make sure the bite didn’t penetrate his skin or cause any kind of embarrassing mark. Mary, however, didn’t hesitate to chase down the boy and wrestle him to the ground. The two were of comparable size and she was able to hold him off quite easily. Despite not having his plastic teeth anymore, he continued to try to gnaw at her arm in an attempt to get free. In response she grabbed his head and banged it against the cement. She kept doing that until he lost consciousness and then continued to keep doing that for awhile until Markus caught up with them.

When the police arrived, Red explained everything from his perspective. Markus and Mary told their stories without omitting any details or telling any lies, although Mary was persuasively adamant that it the violence that occurred was all self-defense in response to the boy’s attack on Markus. Red, who was not involved but was a witness, was able to confirm most of this as was the woman that they rescued.

Later, through discussions with the police and overhearing talk later in the evening, they learned that the trench-coated boy was Timothy Diamond, a sophomore at ETU and the roommate to the missing (and murdered) Steven Beech.

Still not satisfied with how that ended, Red spoke to Tommy about the ritual they used a couple weeks ago to get answers from the spirit of someone who died. Over the next week or so, they gathered the ingredients they needed and Tommy led the group in the Mundo De Los Muertos ritual in the abandoned dorm-room of Diamond and Beech. After summoning the spirit of Timothy Diamond, the group attempted to get answers from him.

Through interview and mystical interrogation they learned that Timothy had been attacked in an alley in town by two vampires. His friend Steven jumped in to intervene, allowing Timothy to get away with merely a bite. Steven, himself, was killed by the two vampires and drained of his blood. Timothy was convinced the experience had changed him and that he was now a vampire, or at least becoming one. He went back for Steven’s body and brought it back to their dorm. He got so hungry that he attempted to eat Steven’s flesh and get what little blood he could. “It tasted terrible,” the ghost of Timothy emphasized. Having not even anything else in over 48 hours, Timothy was at the Pizza Barn looking for food… looking for blood… hoping blood from a live person would nourish him. The plastic teeth were purchased from a local toy store and the new trench-coat was stolen. The spell ended and Timothy’s spirit faded before they could ask anything about the vampires that had attacked him.

That night, Red had a hard time sleeping. It wasn’t because of the nightmares this time — it was because of the ritual. Red had grown comfortable with the idea of ghosts and spirits by now, but this was his first exposure to magic and he liked it. He had been studying everything he could about the ritual while they were preparing and performing it, but he wanted to know more. He stayed up all night reading up on any occult lore he could find online. He knew that Eugene had the voodoo diaries he had previously stolen from Keyva, and that Jackson Greene had access to many of Professor Maclanahan’s occult tomes. He decided it was time to become closer friends with Jackson and the good professor. It was time to study the mystical tomes and diaries the group had started collecting. It was time to learn magic — real magic — for himself.

Meanwhile, Mary didn’t get much sleep either because her roommate Missy wanted to hear all the new gossip about what happened at the Pizza Barn today. She had a million questions, and talked more about it than Mary did. She wanted to know absolutely everything that happened in exquisite detail… especially any details about Markus.

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