Degrees of Horror

The Show Must Go On (to be cont'd)
Episode 6

Cast: Billy, Markus

My name is Billy, and I’m part of a dying breed of hard-nose hard-core journalists. I’m a truth-seeker. A whistle blower. A news hound. I work for a prestigious academic publication, the East Texas University Raven’s Gazette. I’ve got my own column. It’s not a page-one column, but that’s only because my editors are afraid to write the hard truth — to share with the world the truth that the government wants to hide from them. They may choose to bury their head in the sand, but you can find the truth on my blog. Conspiracies, psychic experiments, alien infiltrators… it’s all true. It’s happening and people need to be made aware.

And thanks, mom, for the “like”. It’s good to know I have avid readers out there.

Today’s truth finds me in the home of Markus Cannon. You may have read about him in some of my earlier publications. Rumors abound around him,. ever since he and his band assaulted Scott Wylkes at Missy’s pre-Midterm party. Rumor also has it that he was involved in the fire that nearly burned down the roost during Freshmen orientation, but details about that incident have been sketchy and inconsistent. Under the guise of offering tutoring for Markus, I’m here to find out the truth.

He doesn’t tell me much, but what he doesn’t say speaks volumes. I know I’m on the right track. Things happen around this guy. Strange things. My kind of strange.

At some point, the conversation turns to Missy Jordon, as many conversations around campus often do. Missy is apparently Markus’s “tutor”. I had hoped there was more of a story there, but apparently not. After our tutoring session, Markus decides to go find Missy and so of course I’m going to tag along. Maybe there’s a story here after all.

Missy isn’t tutoring Markus today because of she’s at rehearsal. It’s December, and the drama club is setting up for their big performance. They do this every year, and it’s always a big event. The school makes a big deal about it and it draws in a lot of townsfolk. It’s important for the school’s reputation and its place in the community. I’ve heard they brought in some big-shot actor to help direct the performance, although I don’t think I’ve seen this guy in any recent movies. His biggest role was a supporting cast member on Scream 6.

While the performance is going on, the rooms where Markus’ band practices is really inconvinient for practice. It’s an old building and the walls aren’t sound proof, so with rehearsls going on right next door, they aren’t allows to make noise. Mark us is eager to find out when they can use their music lab again, and so he decides to ask Missy. Missy isn’t in the drama club, but apparently she recently signed up to join the play.

In the dense night-time fog, we can see a group of students leaving the theater. They seem to be angry about something, but I can’t make out their conversation. I want to follow them but Markus is going directly to the theater, and I’m sure there’s a much more interesting story following him. I still hope to get more details on that fire incident — I know there’s something more he’s not telling me.

We make our way inside and come under the attention or an irate director, Conner Myles. He is seriously stressed out and starts yelling at us the moment we enter. He tell us to get out unless we’re here to replace the quitters that just left. Thinking quick, I sign us both up. Before Markus even knows what’s happened, we’re both have roles in “The Midnight Marjorie”. Well, I’m on stage crew anyway, but Markus has the roles of The Lion Tamer and Gentleman Caller #3.

Finding Missie, I get some more details on the performance while Markus tries to get a group together to work out their lines. There’s clearly some kind of story here, as becomes more and more evident with everything Missy says. The problems plaguing this performance are so bad, that apparently the Dean of Fine Arts has instructed many professors to offer extra credit to students working to put on the play. It is only because of this extra incentive that they have been able to attract replacements for the actors and staff that have quit.

Missy’s been given the lead role of the play, “the Witch”, Enchantress of Night, but she’s only signed up yesterday. Most of the crew and staff have only signed up within the last couple of days — everyone originally cast from the drama club have quit. Missie and some of the other actors report rumors of strange events and bizarre accidents, but they are mostly too new to verify the accounts.

I need evidence. The next day I do some research on the building and the play, learning that strange accidents are nothing new. The building itself is so worn and such a potential hazard that very few productions are actually performed on the main stage — most of the building is largely unused. There are smaller production stages accessible from the outside that are frequently used instead, such as the “music lab” that Markus’ band uses for practice.

A disastrous play. A stressed-out director. Bribed students trying to put together a major production in only three days. Yeah, I’ve got a story here. The paper’s going to love it. It’s the kind of thing they think of as “news”, but it’s not revelation. It’s not “truth is out there” major eye-opening stuff that I can put on my blog. On the other hand, if I can find the source of these mysterious accidents… assuming there is a common source… of course there’s a common source. Coincidences don’t just happen. Someone makes them happen. Or something? Aliens, maybe? They could be interesting.

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Beautiful Smile
Episode 5

Cast: Markus, Red

Waking up late in the morning, Red notices someone has left a hand-made bouquet of roses by his door. The card’s addressed to him and signed “from a secret admirer”. He finds this suspicious, and leaves the flowers on the table as he leaves.

Meanwhile, Markus is getting lunch from the dining hall (cafeteria) when one of his band-mates (Jason Reed) comes up to him screaming that he has to hide, someone is after him, she’s driving him crazy, etc. It turns out that a senior student, the head cheerleader, Debrah Burton, is suddenly obsessed with finding Jason. That wouldn’t be so bad, except Jason himself seems obsessed with finding another girl (Keyva Bordeaux).

As Markus and Red try to perform mundane errands, they quickly realize weird things are happening all over school. Lots of people seem to be obsessed with finding other people and expressing their love. Some people seem really obsessed with it, to the point of psychopathy. Some of these people seem completely obsessed with finding people they don’t even know that well, know nothing about, or don’t even know the names of. At one point, Markus has to talk Jason Reed off a roof when he becomes depressed over not finding Keyva. Whatever’s going on, it’s getting worse, as the players realize when Dan Freeman asked Markus for his opinion on a poem for Trystie Moon. “Roses are red, violence is too / Come to my bed, it will be safer for you”

Markus and Red go to Professor Maclanahan for help, barging into his office accidentally interrupting him in a passionate embrace with a school guidance counselor, Helen Lane. The two regain their composure and try to act professional as she leaves. Red notices the professor’s admiring gaze as Helen leaves. Markus and Red conclude that whatever wacky mind-control stuff is going on, it’s got the Professor too and he’s not going to be any help.

Another spooky event that has been going on during this time is that they’ve been seeing the spectral form of the late Timothy Diamond around campus. No one else seems to see him, but often times he’s seen whispering to someone and fading away, and then that person’s demeanor changes. At one point, Markus is talking to someone and the spectral form of Timothy comes up to her and says, “Isn’t there something you need to be doing right now? Someone you need to find?” Timothy vanishes, but the person suddenly seems obsessed over finding another student.

At this point, the party has split up. Markus visits Missy Jordon, asking her for tutoring assistance. The tutoring session does not go well, and he ends up frustrating Missy a lot. In the end though, she does agree to continue these tutoring sessions once a week in her dorm.

After the tutoring session, Markus receives a frantic call from his band-mate, Grant Harrowway — Red’s roommate. When Red and Markus arrive, they discover that the bouquet of flowers left on the table has grown into a giant plant-monster and has entrapped the roommate while he was asleep. Grabbing an emergency ax, they kill the giant plant and hack the roommate free. Other problems are happening around campus. A love-letter being passed around seems to inspire anger in everyone who reads it. A photography student snaps people’s pictures and some of them disappear in a flash of light. One girl dips her hand into a box of candy and has a hard time getting her hand back out.

While Red does some research on what’s going on, Markus runs around trying to put out fires (figuratively) and keep his band-mates from doing anything stupid (and of course this was a great opportunity for me to have them do the stupidest things). In the dorm’s shared kitchens, Markus tries to keep violence from breaking about among a group of love-sick students by keeping them busy. It doesn’t help that some of them seem clearly insane. Jason, for example, decides to make “love muffins” with Drain-O as the secret ingredient. In his euphoric but obsessed state, this seems like a perfectly rational idea. After providing some help, Markus gives Grant the responsibility of keeping Jason out of trouble.

Meanwhile, Red did some research on-line to find out that something similar happened to the school about fifty years ago. There was some major controversy around an unusual number of strange romantic couplings around the time of the harvest dance in the ‘60s. He finds a photo of two people on the front-page of the newspaper that apparently involved “a scandalous kiss” by two people, Nina Castle and Tommy Ellwood. Further research didn’t yield much, although there was a strange little comment by Tommy when he answered a reporters question with an off-hand comment about how he “enjoyed the dance much more once they got rid of the Greek influence”. Red’s research didn’t yield any more information, so Red and Markus got together again.

Once they had rescued all the band-mates and everyone was together, their dialogue revealed one other strange clue. The performance hall where The Barbecue Boys practice each night had been locked up “for the gallery”. Grant revealed that he earned a few bucks last night helping to setup the room for an art gallery the school was having on display tonight. There were half a dozen paintings in there. They were making it a big deal because one was dedicated to some student who died recently.

Red and Markus decided to continue making sure everyone was okay and generally killing time before the gallery opened. “The art show is officially at 8pm, but they open the doors at 7pm so people can walk around and admire the art.” Once the gallery opened, they looked around and discovered that the prize 1st place painting was a portrait of Timothy Diamond called “Beautiful Smile” painted by Sam Wilkes.

They ask around and discover the location of Samantha Wilkes’ dorm room. They find her room and persuade her to let them in. The spectral form of Timothy Diamond is in there and it has clearly spent a lot of time tormenting Samantha. She seems subject to his every command although she doesn’t see or hear him. He seems mostly concerned with making her finish her next painting (“Lonesome Fields”). She hasn’t easten or slept in awhile — she’s just driven to paint.

Convinced that the painting of Timothy Diamond is at the heart of everything, Markus and Red decide to steal the painting. They stage an elaborate heist by pulling the fire alarm. There were a few complications (they broke the fire alarm, they aroused the attention of a security guard, etc.) during the heist. One of the security guards sees them steal the prize painting, but is more concerned over rescuing the other art work and evacuating all the students. Markus and Red got the painting and met up on the roof of the Linda Kirchman Tower. The spectral form of Timothy Diamond tried to stop them, but Red’s spirit guardian mauled him.

Markus and Red managed to burn the painting and Timothy suffered an agonizing spectral death. (“That’s the second time you guys have killed this guy!”)

Once the painting burned, it left behind some residue in the form of a luminescent blue fluid. They soaked up the strange gelatin with Markus’ shirt and saved it in a duffel bag for later analysis.

Once the players destroy the painting and kill the spectral form of Timothy Diamond, everything seems… different. The killer plant has turned back into roses. The pictures that Red took of the creature are gone. The students around campus seem to have a fuzzy memory of the last several hours. The band-mates don’t know why they are walking around with cupcakes, but are thoroughly enjoying them. Many people seem to forget about their strange behavior or dismiss it in some way. (In the background, Keyva Bordeaux is suddenly wondering why she is driving to Louisiana.)

The next morning, Professor Maclanahan leaves a message asking Red and Markus to come and see him after his morning class. They do, and he formally introduces them to Helen Lane. (The two of them seem to be a lot more professional now.) Helen Lane answers some of their questions about what happened 50 years ago based on stories she heard. There was a harvest dance around that time that turned bloody. That night, a body was found in the basketball court completely burned alive. It’s the very girl in that photo they were asking about. That year was a tragic year — many students died or disappeared. So the school stopped having harvest dances after that. That’s really all she knows, but she’s concerned as to why the students are looking into this. They basically lie to her and she lets it go for now,. saying goodbye to the Professor as she leaves.

Once she leaves, the players share all they know with the Professor. They share their research, their recent encounters, the strange fluid… all of it. The Professor is fascinated, but confused by much of this. He doesn’t know anything about Samantha Wilkes or Timothy Diamond. He suggests they should have Dougie analyze the fluid. When Red mentions something about a “Greek influence”, the Professor explains about an ancient Greek myth about spirits who whisper inspiration into artists. The Greeks called them “muses”. He continues on to say that “It wasn’t just art. The muses were said to visit generals in their sleep and inspire them to make profound battle strategies. In occult lore, there are some references to ‘dark muses’ – spirits of evil inspiration that drive artists mad.” He suggests they could be dealing with something like that, but are at a loss as to what could have awoken or summoned it now.

At this point, it’s been almost a full 24 hours since they visited Samantha and decide to check up on her. Everyone else seems back to normal, so they are curious if she is okay and how much she remembers. The room is locked, but they get in and discover the whole place empty. The cupboards are bare, the beds are missing sheets, there’s nothing but furniture in the room. No books, no papers, nothing in the fridge. They ask some of the other students in the hallway and discover that no one lives there — that dorm wasn’t rented this year. No one has even heard of Samantha Wilkes. They ask about the art gallery where they learn that the 1st place ribbon was given to David White for his painting, “Dreams on the Sea”.

Markus and Red are still pretty confused as to exactly what happened, but at least they managed to save the school.. The school is safe… right?

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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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The English Patient
Episode 3

Cast: Eugene, Markus, Red

Markus has a problem. He is having trouble with his band, The Barbecue Boys. Grant Harroway, their bass guitarist, has been missing rehearsals. He didn’t show up to last night’s practice and is committing academic suicide by not attending Professor Cutter’s class.

It’s two days until the midterm. The whole school is stressing out.

It doesn’t help that Professor Cutter seems to take delight in making students stress. He’s a graduate student teaching freshmen English, which almost everyone known to the group is taking. Mathew Cutter is a jerk to his students, at least those that aren’t on the football team. Many of the students call him “Little Napolean”. Almost everyone is failing his class and he likes to joke about that. He’s loaded the students with extra assignments to “prepare them” for the midterm. He especially teases students with accents or who use improper grammar, to the point of embarrassing and infuriating them.

After class, one of Markus’ bandmates, Jason Reed, couldn’t wait to share his exciting news. He scored the band a gig! They’re going to play at Missy Jordon’s pre-midterm party! It’s a big party being thrown at Missy’s parent’s house. She’s paying them and everything. Markus explains that he can’t find Grant, and Jason explains that if they don’t show up with a full band, Missy will freak out and may cancel the gig. Markus wants Jason to talk to Grant, but Jason feel he’s done his part, and the rest is on Markus. Not knowing what to do, Markus starts asking around for Grant and even puts up some fliers around campus.

Red does not know about Markus’ attempts to find Grant nor does Markus know that Grant and Red are roommates. Back at Red’s dorm, Grant explains to Red what he’s been up to. Last night, he broke into Professor’s Cutter’s office and stole the test answers for the midterm. He offers to sell Red a copy, but Red convinces him to give him a copy for free. Grant is convinced that — until the midterms — he has no need to attend Professor Cutter’s class anymore and instead wants to focus on discretely selling the test answers around school.

Later that night, Markus eventually gets in touch with Grant and they meet-up at the Student Center where they shoot a game of pool. During the game, Grant explains what he’s been up to. Markus agrees to help him sell the answers around campus if he promises to be at the gig tomorrow night. Without hesitation, Grant agrees.

The next day. One day left until the midterm. A storm is coming.

Missy confronts Markus about the band, threatening him with bodily harm if anything goes wrong with her party tonight because of him and his band. Markus explains the flyers were a prank and that everything’s fine with the band. Once Missy is reassured, she gives him the time and address and makes sure he writes it down — although most people know where her parent’s estates are.

Keyva asks various students if they’ve seen Robbie. None of the group has, nor do they know who Robbie is, but Keyva seems disappointed that no one’s heard from him recently. A little asking around reveals that Robbie is Keyva’s boyfriend, but that’s about it. He is in Professor Cutter’s class, but in a different time-session.

Once class starts, Professor Cutter once again ridicules the class for their pathetic grade on their latest essay. a comparative analysis of Macbeth and Heart of Darkness. Only three students got passing grades, and they only barely passed. Toward the end of the class, he handed out cards that showed each student’s grade that showed their academic progress thus far and the grade they would need on the midterm to continue passing the class. Just as he was about to hand Markus a card, something weird and disturbing happened.

The professor doubled over in pain and started rubbing furiously at his eyes. He kept crying out in pain and yelling, “I can’t see! I can’t see!” Fearing that whatever happened was a result of the cards, Red and Eugene tried to gather them very carefully, without looking directly at their contents. Meanwhile, Markus instructed a nearby student, Benito Ramirez, to go get help.

A little while later, most of the other students had gone. Mathew Cutter was taken away by paramedics.

Afterwards, Markus had something to do (for Grant), so Red and Eugene decided to investigate the cause of their English teacher’s strange and sudden debility. They broke into Professor Cutter’s office (discretely), and hacked into his computer (not so discretely). They spent some time looking through his email for anything unusual. They found a surprising amount of hate mail from various students, but one recent email in particular stood out. Part of an email by Keyva Bordeaux read, “It hurts, but you’re to blind to notice. You don’t see anything past your own ego. It’s about time someone taught you a lesson.” While searching the office, Red also found a broken picture frame that had been recently shattered.

They decide their next step is to visit Keyva, but the two of them kind of hesitate at this point and have a lengthly discussion just outside her door.

Meanwhile, while selling answers to Professor Cutter’s midterm for Grant, Markus has learned from local gossip that there is a second similar victim — another graduate student, Katy Robins, had been taken to the hospital. Katy Robins is the girlfriend of Mathew Cutter and she became inflicted with the same problem at the same time, but she was on the other side of campus. Markus proceeds to the hospital to interview Katy but doesn’t get very much. Like Mathew, she is blind and in pain and has no idea why. The doctors don’t have any explanation other than to say it seems like an allergic reaction. They’ve given medication and tried to wash out the eyes, but nothing’s working. It’s got them stumped. Even the tranquilizers don’t seem to help much.

Back at school, Red decides to stay outside in the hallway while Eugene knocks on the door. Instead of Keyvia, however, they meet her roommate, Trustie Moon. Trystie explains that Keyva is out looking for her boyfriend but should be back soon. Trystie and Eugene talk for a little bit about the midterms and the party tonight and the events that happened in class. It’s clear Trystie is enjoying the conversation, but eventually Eugene brings up the subject of Keyva. Her attitude kind of changes then. She’s clearly afraid of Keyva, or more specifically, her stuff. Eugene takes this opportunity to see for himself what she is talking about, and she is so nervous about getting near that stuff that she does not stop him at all. Under Keyva’s bed Eugene finds a locked trunk. In the closet, he finds a small altar with some candles, a jar of needles, and some hand-sewn dolls — one of which looks a lot like Trystie. He decides to take the needles and the dolls with him when he leaves.

Outside, Red notices Keyva coming down the hallway. She gives him a friendly greeting and ask why he’s waiting outside. When he explains that he’s waiting for his friend who is in the room with Trystie, Keyva makes some assumptions and decides not to go in. Instead, she suggests she and Red go get some coffee instead of waiting outside. Unsure of what to do, but nervous about being around Keyva, Red agrees.

Their coffee date is rather straightforward, if a little awkward, but Keyva seems to like his company. It’s better than drinking coffee alone anyway. What she doesn’t realize is that Red continues trying to look into her purse, and notices one of those strange dolls. It’s hard to tell, but it could look a lot like Professor Cutter. Meanwhile, they chat a little and Red finds out that Keyva is looking for Robbie, but she’s expecting to see him at the party later tonight. Everyone’s going to be at Missy’s party.

A little while later, the three manage to get together and share what they’ve learned. Red wants to go find Professor Maclanahan and get his advice about the things Eugene found in Keyva’s dorm-room. Eugene wants to return to the dorm-room and see what was in that trunk. Markus has to get to the party early so he can setup for the band and the group encourages him to keep an eye out for Keyva and to send a message when she arrives.

Professor Maclanahan looks at the dolls that Red brought him and hears his story about voodoo. While he doesn’t tell the professor about Keyva, Red does mention that he thinks a student may be involved and he wants to put a stop to it. Maclanahan says that to find out more information, he would need a few days and he would need to talk to some of his colleagues, but he has heard something about similar rituals. Usually they need a photograph or person object of the person — the spell can be broken if that’s destroyed. Otherwise, you have to destroy the original doll. Beyond that, nothing can stop the spell while the practitioner still lives, short of finding some kind of counter-magic.

Meanwhile, Eugene tries to break into the dorm-room after he’s sure the two girls have both left. The bottom floor of the girl’s dorm is the campus security office so it’s a risk, but they don’t have much time. When he fails to pick the lock, he tries kicking open the door. Several girls see him doing this as they leave for the party, but he acts casually about it. He then proceeds to take the chest. Knowing he can’t go down through security with the stolen chest, he takes the elevator up and goes to the roof. Under the rain of a furious lightning storm, he proceeds to sift through and catalog the contents. He finds some old journals, some animal skulls, a lot of weird knock-knacks, some sort of woven cloth, a lot of needles in various sizes, and other personal items. Some of the documents are hand-written and very old. He finds a hiding place on the roof near one of the air ducts, where the case can be kept dry and won’t be found anytime soon. During this time, he receives a message from Markus that Keyva has arrived and so he proceeds to leave for the parking lot so he can go to the party. Receiving the same message, Red has already left.

At the party, Grant isn’t there and Missy is furious but not surprised at this lack of competency. She blames herself for listening to Jason and hiring amateurs. She then brings them a replacement bass player, her 12-year old little brother, Billie Jordon. While young, Billis is actually pretty talented, and the band plays an excellent performance for the party throughout the night.

Meanwhile, Red meets with Keyva only to find she’s still waiting for Robbie and seems more agitating about it now. Red is starting to worry about Robbie’s safety, because he knows what Keyva can do when she gets agitated. While Red keeps her distracted, Eugene attempts to steal her purse — or at least its contents. While he is able to get close to her without her seeing, he can’t seem to do so without drawing attention from the other party-goers and so that plan gets quickly aborted.

There’s a huge disturbance in the crowd a little later in the evening when Robbie eventually shows up. The veins on his skin are showing and his eyes are glowing black. Keyva confronts him, but he hits her, knocking her down. Eugene and Red push through the crowd to help. Markus stops playing to leap into the fray. They pummel Robbie a little, who is very strong, and they drag him outside, away from the crowds. Despite the heavy rain, many people go outside to watch and a huge ring of people surrounds the group. Ignoring the crowds, Eugene continues to pummel Robbie until he falls unconscious.

Meanwhile, Red tends to Keyva and asks what’s going on. She’s reluctant to talk, but when he reveals he knows about the voodoo and the dolls, she shows him the doll from her purse. She explains that she was upset with Professor Cutter and was going to hurt him, but couldn’t go through with it. She did tell her boyfriend Robbie all about what she was planning and how she was going to do it, but she didn’t think he would try it on his own — and now the dark magic has consumed him.

They search Robbie but he doesn’t have the doll or anything that seems like a personal artifact. They do find his keys, and its not hard to find his car since he had parked terribly and crashed into another car on his arrival. They search the car, and find a voodoo doll resembling cutter in the glove compartment, along with a picture of Professor Cutter and his girlfriend Katy, and a container of chili powder, The voodoo coll had two red X’s painted over the eyes and ground chili powder pressed into them.

Before the police arrived and broke up the party, the group destroyed the voodoo artifacts as was instructed by Professor Maclanahan earlier. The spell seemingly broken, Robbie woke up disoriented but upset.

The next day, Professor Cutter arrives at class. He seems to have made a full recovery, and just in time for the exams. Although many aspects of his demeanor have not changed, he drops hints that he seems to be at least marginally aware of what happened and which students helped him. The Professor may not have believed in the supernatural before, but he does now.

Everyone passed their midterm exams, except for Markus who is now on academic probation. The police have been called regarding the break-in of Keyva’s dowm and the damage to her door, and it’s not long before they turn their attention to arresting Eugene. President Nelson talked with Eugene trying to get a straight answer about why he broke in, and in the end concludes with a heart-felt apology and an explanation that despite his academic success so far, Eugene must be expelled for this behavior.

Not even an hour after these events happen, President Nelson gets a visit from Eugene’s father and the police got a call from their family lawyer…

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Return to the Roost
Episode 2

Cast: Eugene, Tommy

For the last two weeks, Eugene has been having nightmares. These nightmares have been getting worse and worse, and they have many elements reminiscent of the strange events that occurred at The Roost during freshman orientation. Tonight’s nightmare was the worst, however, when he dreamed about the ghost he met — this time as a living girl — grabbing his arm and begging him to protect something. When he awoke, he had a burn mark on his arm with the impression of a hand-print in the exact place he had been grabbed in the dream.

Freaking out over this a bit, he called Thomas over and the two of them decided to go see Professor Maclanahan in the morning. Unfortunately, the Professor was having his own problems as they walked in when he was being called to account for over-stepping his bounds in his role of sponsor for the Archeology Club. Apparently, the police caught some of his students digging up graves and carrying some strange weaponry.

Professor Maclanahan empathized with the students plight but stressed that he couldn’t do anything as long as he was under intense scrutiny by the administration. Instead, he referred them to seek help from his assistant, Jackson Greene. When they met Jackson and the pizza barn and explained the situation, Jackson was more than delighted to help and suggested that this might have something to do with the rumors of strange activities that had been presenting problems with the reconstruction of the Roost.

Since the spirit of the girl haunting the Roost had appeared to Eugine before and he was now having intense dreams about her (with physical and painful consequences), Jackson suggested that they should try to investigate the haunting and see if they could put the spirit to rest. Jackson loaned them some of the Professor’s “ghost-hunting” gear they had used from their last visit to the Roost and one of the Professor’s occult tomes — one of several artifacts that Jackson had swiped from the Professor’s collection before it was confiscated by the school’s head of security.

Tommy was able to read most of the occult tome, “Mundo De Los Muertos”, and create a private copy for himself of the ritual inscribed therein. This ritual was designed by an author seeking to learn the mysteries of the spirit world so that he could summon the spirit of his wife. The ritual inscribed therein would allow Tommy and Eugine to summon a spirit for about five minutes, and compel it to answer questions.

To perform the ritual, they needed some basic easy-to-get supplies and three special ingredients: the dirt from a freshly dug grave, a child’s tears, and a human tooth. Remembering that the Professor’s archeology club had been in trouble for recently digging up a grave, they called up Jackson to get its location. They also inquired about any human-remains artifacts that might be on display in the school.

Returning to the school, they broke into one of the artifact display rooms — a large conference room with many biological samples on display in glass jars, protected behind a glass case. Using some improvised lockpicks, Tommy and Eugene were able to get into the room, open the cases, and remove a human tooth from a skull on display. They replaced the tooth with a replica (sort of), and returned the case. Eugene was nervous when they found the security camera, but they concluded that as long as no one knows anything is missing then no one would be checking the security tapes any time soon.

Next, the proceeded to the Pinebox Cemetery and found the grave that Professor Maclanahan’s archeology club had been caught digging up. They got a sample of the dirt, and then returned to the Pizza Barn to strategize about getting the final ingredient. Many suggestions were put forth and shot down, but the plan they finally agreed on was to go the hospital and find a child in distress.

When they got to the hospital, Eugene was able to find a child who was feeling guilty about causing an accident that put his brother in the emergency room. His parents were too busy fighting to notice him, so Eugene put on an act of empathy for the child, at one point using a handkerchief to wipe the tears away. Not only did he collect the tears they needed, but he even managed to cheer the kid up a little in the process. Meanwhile, Tommy nearly got himself kicked out of the hospital for his attempts to frighten children.

Having all three of the ingredients, and it now being about nightfall, Thomas and Eugene returned to the school and proceeded to try to get into the Roost. They had some problems picking the lock, and so a quick trip the local pawn store got them a new lockpicking gun. They also picked up some silver knives and some holy water.

Now able to get into the Roost, they decided to return to the room where the spirit had first appeared to Eugene two weeks ago. Along the way, they had several frightening encounters such as mysterious growling, vibrating window panes, and other creepy noises. Their most tense encounters seem to be a big black dog guarding a door and an Indian warrior who charged right at them with a pair of handaxes. Eugene pulled out a pistol and shot the Indian, who disappeared in a swirl of mist.

Eventually, they were able to make it to “Room 7” and setup their ritual. It took about 20 minutes and was a little harder than expected, but Tommy managed to perform the mexican seance and summon the ghost. It appeared amidst a whirl of mist and fire, but otherwise seemed like a relatively tame student from the ’60s. Knowing they only had a few minutes, the two began interrogating her immediately. She seemed frightened and confused, but the summoning ritual compelled her to answer their questions anyway.

They learned that she was a student from the ’60’s named Nina Castle, who belonged to some sort of secret occult club calling themselves The Class Protectors. The head of their order was a woman named Annette LaCroix. Nina wasn’t quite sure how she died (other than it was in a fire) but she was convinced Annette had killed her (with fire?) because she was running for her life from Annette at the time. Apparently, Nina and Annette’s boyfriend had fallen in love and Annette had recently found out (and didn’t take it very well).

Digging deeper to find out why her spirit wasn’t at rest, they discovered that Nina had died before she could find a safe place for an cursed artifact she had been protecting. Da La Garza’s Cross had the ability to fight spirits but it also had a potent curse on anyone who touched it.

The spirit faded away after a few minutes but not before revealing where (in the room) she hid De La Garza’s Cross right before she died. Breaking into a nearby trophy case, Tommy and Eugene took possession of the cross without touching it. They decided that Eugene would take it — since the ghost had basically anointed him its guardian when visiting him in his dreams — and in the morning Eugene took it to a bank and placed it in a safety deposit box where it could be safely and secretly stored without anyone touching it.

While the two had used Jackson’s ghost hunting camera to record most of their time in the Roost, they decided they would call up their friend Dougie in the morning and get him to edit the video footage. They decided they would edit out any reference to De La Garza’s Cross or of them stealing anything from the trophy case. Jackson and Maclanahan were friends, but the secret would best be kept if as few people knew about it as possible.

Once Nina’s spirit was finally put to rest, Eugene was finally able to get a good night’s sleep for the first time in weeks.

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Sweat Lodge
Episode 1

Cast: Dougie, Eugene, Markus, Red, Tommy

We begin our teaser with “moving day,” as the new freshmen get settled into their dormrooms. The students are assigned their dorms and begin the process of choosing their majors and selecting classes for registration. It’s established that Red, Markus and Dougie share the same dorm and live down the hall from each other, Some of the group meet their new roommates.

The main scene opens up with the freshmen attending the Sweat Lodge, a special orientation for incoming freshmen held in the Roost, the school’s multi-use indoor arena. James Nelson, President of East Texas University, is giving a motivating (?) speech to the assembly about school pride, the history of ETU, academic responsibility, and a host of other subjects. He goes on like this for about an hour until everyone splits off into groups for private small-group student-to-student mentoring.

The cast meet eachother for the first time in Room 12 and seem to get along, bonding over their mutual mistrust and confusion over Robby’s advice. Robby Niles, a senior at ETU, is here to impart his knowledge and experience on this group of incoming freshmen but his most important and passionate advice seems to be that its dangerous to stand out for any reason and that the group should stick together. “Individuality is over-rated,” he advises, “stick to your group and learn to blend in”. He suggests they stick to their academics and don’t get involved in anything they don’t have to, no matter how innocent it may seem.

Of course, at the first opportunity, the group ignores that advice and goes running toward the sound of breaking equipment. Outside in the hall, over the remains of a broken camera, they meet security guard Tyson August, Professor Maclanahan and his assistant, Jackson Green. The three are trying to determine who could have broken the camera. The group manage to acquire the camera tape while the others are distracted and they sneak back into Room 12, where they are able to repair the tape and play back the footage.

The footage reveals Tyson August finding the camera and purposefully shattering it. With a little technical working, the group also manages to uncover a strange sound in the static after the supposed end of the tape. When slowed down and played backward, a female voice says “You’re all going to burn.” Eugene seems to get excited over her New Orleans accent.

The group has made many other strange observations by this point such as the missing fire extinguishers, the lack of air conditioning, and the unusual amount of graffiti, and the arguments between the faculty and the janitorial staff over it. Much of the graffiti is older, but some of the new graffiti consists of similar-looking abstract symbols placed sporadically across all the walls. Tommy seems particularly interested in the symbols while Eugene keeps careful watch on Tyson, the security guard.

The group returns to the main basketball court area where the post-assembly party seems to be in full swing. A band called the Jury of Robots is playing techno-themed covers of country-western songs, people are forming into cliques and groups, and some employees from the local Pizza Barn have brought in dozens of pizzas. People seem to be having fun, but it’s not difficult for the group to find Jackson Green sitting alone on the bleachers.

The group confronted Jackson about some of what they saw and heard on the tape they had viewed, including the intentions of Professor Maclanahan to record signs of paranormal activity. While the rest of the group went with Jackson to see Professor Maclanahan, a young woman managed to get Red’s attention as she slipped away from the crowd and down the hall toward one of the empty classrooms.

Red met up with her and convinced her to accompany him, but she slipped away when he got caught by Tyson, the security guard and escorted back to the main area. When none of them knew at the time though was that Eugene had been tracking Tyson and trying to find Red, so after the two of them walked off Eugene went to question the girl that Red had been with Red. (Eugene’s motives are a little ambiguous but we’ll just assume “question” is the right verb here.)

Meanwhile, Tommy and Markus were saying goodbye to Dougie, who looked at his wrist and realized he had a WoW raid to get to (or something… who really listens?). Almost immediately after he left, Dougie noticed that someone closed the front doors and the security guards were gone. “That’s odd,” he thought to himself, and continued on to return to his dorm room and quickly forgot about it.

Markus and Tommy continued to interact with Jackson and the Professor, finally getting the whole story behind their activities and comparing notes on everything they say. The Professor and Jackson were setting up surveillance designed to catch ghosts — something the Professor referred to as “spirit photography”. Apparently, this was one of several places on campus with frequent reports of haunting and the Professor wanted to check it out first-hand. Markus and Tommy told him about the tape, about Tyson’s activities, and about the strange symbols they had seen painted on the walls.

Realizing that Red and Eugene may want to be part of this discussion, Tommy goes off to find them. He finds Eugene in one of the classrooms, in a panicked state. He is still pretty shaky by the time they all get back together with the Professor and Eugene recounts his traumatic experience. When speaking with the girl, Eugene realized her voice was the same as the one they heard on the tape. At that point, she said “you’re all going to burn” and then burst into flames. The fires spread across the room like an inferno, and Eugene couldn’t get out. He was banging on the door and trying to force it open, but it wouldn’t budge until Tommy came and easily opened it from the outside. Tommy said that there were no indication of a fire, but there was a strange symbol on the floor faded quickly — similar to the symbols he had seen on the walls earlier.

Jackson and The Professor seemed excited to hear the story, but were dismayed at the lack of physical evidence. They immediately began a plan for their next spirit photography shoot. The professor invited them all to meet up in his office this next day, and even offered to pay them a little for their time. The group went back to the main area where they discovered some of the symbols on the wall had begun to glow and were hot to the touch. There was even a rather large (though still dim) symbol beginning to appear on the basketball court where all the students were assembled. There was also a large and irate group of students near the main entrance, where the doors had been closed and locked.

People began to realize that they couldn’t leave, and even the emergency exits had been chained and padlocked. Most of the adult supervisors were gone at this point, leaving the security personnel in charge and they seemed to be missing. Markus was confident he could get the doors open, but couldn’t get through the crowd.

Meanwhile, the group was worried. They were fairly certain now that they understood the warning. While Tommy and Markus tried to handle the crowds, Eugene went with Jackson to a maintenance closet to find some kind of tool to break the chains. They discovered that someone had used a large metal pipe to sabotage the sprinkler system and two janitors had been knocked unconscious and tied up. After reviving the janitors, the group was able to fix the sprinklers and Eugene recovered the pipe.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group had managed to lure most of the class toward the emergency exit where Markus and Red were trying to get the doors open. Unfortunately, Tyson came upon them and tried to intervene.

Although no students had died yet, Tyson August had already reaped some of the benefits of his ritual sacrifice from killing the security guards. Utilizing a small crystal hung on a chain around his neck, he casually flung students around the room by unleashing waves of telekinetic force from his hands. While the others tried to evacuate the crowds of freshmen, Markus and Eugune went into direct physical confrontation with Tyson. At one point, Markus was assumed killed after Tyson magically flung him through a wall but Markus was able to shrug it off and charge into the thick of combat a couple rounds later. Eugene got some bloody hits in with his pipe, but Markus seemed to inflict some solid damage when he tackled Tyson into a wall.

After the sprinkler systems came on and started drenching everyone, Tyson realized this wasn’t going according to plan and attempted to flee from the aggressive freshmen but the four of them chased him down (although one lagged a little behind). Something else seem to catch up with Tyson before they could get to him though. As Tyson approached the second emergency exit, something grabbed him and bashed open the doors, attempting to escape. Eugene, staying on task, continued to bash Tyson who seemed completely paralyzed. Red grabbed onto Eugene’s body and seized the necklace with the strange crystal. The chameleon-like creature finally managed to get away, and darted toward the wilderness easily carrying Tyson’s paralyzed body with one hand.

Having several unanswered questions, the freshmen joined the rest of their class outside the Roost, where they were later questioned by faculty and firefighters. Although President Nelson seemed concerned that many of the witness testimonies identified the students in places where they shouldn’t be right before suspicious events happened, Professor Maclanahan assured him that he was with the students most of the time and they had been the ones to help evacuate most of the freshmen class. Evidence of several small arson fires were found in the main gym of the Roost, but most of the students had already been evacuated by that point and someone had promptly activated the sprinklers.

Two security guards had been found dead and one was missing. Based on some suspicious video tape that had been revealed, Tyson August is currently wanted for questioning by the Golan County Sheriff’s Department.

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Welcome to East Texas University
Go Ravens!

Offfice of the Dean
1 Raven’s Loop
Pinebox, TX

Dear Student,

Welcome, and congratulations on your acceptance as an incoming Freshman student at East Texas University. I would like to take this opportunity to direct you to information that will make your transition to ETU as smooth as possible.

First, I would like to remind you that all Freshmen and Sophomores are required to live in on-campus housing. This both ensures your safety and helps you build friendships that
will undoubtedly last a lifetime. Go to FightingRavens.com to fill out your dorm application and submit your deposit.

Next, I would like to remind you that Freshman orientation, which we call Sweat Lodge, coincides with dorm check-in on the third weekend in August. Please plan to attend one of the sessions on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening. At Sweat Lodge you’ll learn about the importance of campus safety, our university traditions and fight song, the Raven’s Honor Code, and advice from Seniors. The Saturday night Sweat Lodge ends with free pizza and a show by local rockers A Jury of Robots.

Again, let me congratulate you on your first step into a larger world. College is what you make of it, and an acceptance to ETU is a great start!

Go Ravens!

James Nelson
President James Nelson

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