It’s Thanksgiving Day here at the old Smithstead, continuing a long family tradition of not having holidays on the same day as everyone else, because we all have enough stress in our lives. Props to my sister Cris who did all the cooking and cleaning and pretty much everything that made this day happen except waking up the friggin sun. Is it any surprise she’s won the Best Sister Ever Award three years running?
I am once again unwell, so I’ve spent my day alternately lying in bed and wishing I was dead, or sitting at the dinner table wishing I was lying in bed and wishing I was dead, only while eating turkey. Ordinarily, I would also be working on my book, but I made an executive decision to take the day off instead, only to remember at the last minute that it’s Friday and time to upload a new chapter of my FNAFiction, Everything Is All Right, Part Two: Mike Schmidt and the Long Night. Not quite halfway through…and I’m not done writing the third part, so…yeah, not a good idea to take a day off. This book is really getting away from me, for some reason, and I have next to nothing written of the fourth and fifth parts, so I’m starting to sweat the idea of a continuous upload schedule. I dunno. We’ll see.
But in the meantime, please head on over to fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org to check out the new chapter, which contains one of my personal favorite lines in the book (I know, I know, it’s cheap to give yourself self-praise, but what can I say? I likes what I likes).
But as bad as the restrooms were, the gymnasium was worse. Upon first opening the door, it blew a rancid gust of hot, wet, rotting air at her so foul, she briefly thought she might pass out from the stench alone. She’d had no idea until that moment that could even happen. After daubing a little peppermint oil under her nose and donning her breather, she was back, but even through these defenses, the smell seeped in, coating the back of her throat with the swampy-sweet taste of Death.
She explored her new surroundings without moving from the door, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the gloom and her stomach to adjust to the smell. The south-facing wall from about a few feet off the floor to a few feet from the high ceiling was made of glass; before time and neglect had blackened the panels, enough sunlight and moisture had gotten in to sprout every grass seed that ever tracked itself in on some kid’s sneakers. A veritable jungle had sprung up, completely covering the floors and crawling up the wall wherever a crack presented a rooting place. On the north end, the jungle had grown clear up to the ceiling in a suspiciously straight-lined, symmetrical shape. But it had all long since died, leaving clumps of brown and black vegetation over every surface, shiny in the light of her lantern, still wet.
Everything was still wet. The windows were steamed and streaked with noisome condensation. The walls bubbled with fungus. Most of the playthings were no more than ominous bumps and bulges in the weeds, but certain objects were big enough that they could not be hidden, even by the jungle’s best efforts. A small carousel, its canopy rusted out to orange lace, with seats shaped like Amelia Owlheart’s adventuring aeroplanes. A climbing maze of plastic ice caves infested with plastic yetis lead to a wavy slide that once might have deposited kids on a trampoline, but now emptied through a rotted ring into a mass of black grass and sludge. A scaled-down model of Freddyland’s Monkey Kingdom, in the form of a great stepped pyramid, ruined first by design and again by time. And overseeing all this from the middle of the room was, of course, another New Face of Freddy’s, overgrown by slimy, black weeds.
At her first step toward it, her boots squished down through a carpet of soggy, dead plant matter and pushed up a brown, bubbly ooze; the floor was thickly padded, she soon realized, to prevent broken kiddie bones should one of the restaurant’s young patrons fall off those monkey bars, and that padding had soaked up twelve years’ worth of stormwater and whatever had drowned in it. It would all have to come out, and if there was a floor beneath it and not just asphalt and earth, it would have to come out too. Gritting her teeth, Ana walked on, squishing and squelching her way to the imitation animatronic and pulling away great, greasy handfuls of dead grass so she could see its fake, stupid face.
It was a weasel or ferret or mongoose, something long-bodied and short-limbed, anyway, with no waist but with a slight suggestion of hips and breasts to indicate this was a girl. Meet Tumble, said the nearby sign. Folks call her a tomboy, but Tumble loves being a girl, she’s just a girl who loves running, climbing, getting dirty and playing sports! She and her twin brother, Rumble, make a great team, but she wants to play with you!
Ana read the last line twice, then raised her eyes to meet Tumble’s, leering at her through a veil of slick, dead weeds. One of the weasel’s paws was extended, but with so much paint eroded, it was difficult to tell whether it was palm-up or palm-down…ready to clasp in welcome, in other words, or to clutch and catch.
The longer she looked at Tumble, the stronger the smell seemed to get, but as much as she disliked the New Faces of Freddy’s, Ana knew the leering weasel was not the source. It was close, though. Very close.
Ana turned and studied the pyramid behind her. Real creepers seamlessly inter-braided with the plastic ones stamped into its mold. Monkeys with shaggy dead-grass pelts cavorted along the sides, their grinning mouths stained black and green, shining as if with fresh drool. It was open on top, except for a complicated network of rusted monkey bars and rotted ropes, but the rest of it was all closed in and had proven remarkably watertight. The bubble-shaped windows through which many a child had once playfully peeked were now covered in algae scales or entirely submerged in dark reeking water.
Ana looked up, and of all the many stained cracks and holes in the ceiling, the largest was exactly over the Monkey Kingdom. Shreds of insulation wrapped with weeds hung down in clots with ropes of slime dangling even lower, swaying very slightly in the draft that had followed Ana through the open door.
The color of that slime, yellowish-brown, was both familiar and significant.