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Chapter 8 Burn it to the Ground
Well it's midnight, damn right, we're wound up too tight
I've got a fist full of whiskey, the bottle just bit me
That shit makes me bat shit crazy
We've got no fear, no doubt, all in, balls out
We're going off tonight to kick out every light
Take anything that we want drink everything in sight
We're going 'til the world stops turning
While we burn it to the ground tonight

We were soon walking back to the hotel with Satou's last words ringing in our ears.

"Call me if you change your mind."

"Why do people wanna live here?" I asked.

"Come on, gay people are fun!" Sara protested.

"Then why don't I show everyone that video of you letting Aimee more or less molest you?" I said, grinning evilly.

She turned bright red and rounded on me. "Don't you dare!"

"Fine," I relented. "You honestly think I would do something like that?"

"Yes!" she responded emphatically.

"I'm not that cruel," I said, almost offended.

"Coulda fooled me..."

"Okay, what are you two talking about?" Brandon asked.

"I'll tell you later when I'm out of Sara's claw range," I said, before I had to duck a claw swipe from Sara. "You have to be faster than that, Sara. As I will not sit still." She just scowled at me.  

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The show went perfectly, and I even got to toss a few drunks out of the studio. After we had packed up the next morning, Brandon, Sara, and I drove back home. As we hit the Ardainia- Arrakis border, I rolled down my window before I settled back to take a nap. As though the universe was against this idea, a hawk flew up alongside my window with a letter canister strapped to its back. I groaned and extended my arm for the large bird to land on. After pulling the hawk into the car I opened the container and slid out the rolled up piece of paper. I gave the messenger a piece of one of the Philly cheese steak sandwiches I'd stolen from catering and tossed the bird out the window, watching as it caught the wind in its wings and glided away. I unrolled the letter and read

Sara, Brandon, and Houchin

When you get back into town, after unpacking and everything, get to the Den. Send reply when you get close.

Gluttony Greed Envy                 Pride              Lust
(Sam) (Zim)              (Alyssa) (Courtney         (Chris)

"Oh, this can't be good..." I groaned. I showed it to Brandon, and he just shook his head. "Sara." I turned to look in the back where Sara was curled up on the seat. She was so cat-like sometimes it was almost funny.

She grunted in protest as I shook her leg. She cracked open one eye and growled, "This better be worth waking me up when I'm PMSing..." I rolled my eyes and handed her the letter. "Oh wonderful...." she said, dropping the note and going back to sleep.

We eventually stopped in a diner about an hour drive from where we were staying. "Hey, don't forget the extra onions this time." Brandon told me as I got up to run in for food. He handed me his money.

"Dude, I'm the one who has to ride in the car with your extra onions," I said sourly.

"Hey, see if they have any pie," Sara called from the back seat. I sighed, knowing better than to argue with a PMSing panther. "Bring me some pie!"

I went into the diner and picked up the food. When I came back, I passed Sara back her food. "Now, they didn't have pie, but I got a big box of cookies for ya,"

"Yay!" she celebrated, turning chibi as she took a cookie out of the box and started eating it. "Thank you, Houchin!" she added using her sweetest voice.

Didn't fool me for a minute. If I hadn't brought her back something sweet, she would have ripped my arm off and beat me to death with it.

"Why didn't you bring me any cookies?" Brandon asked, mock-hurt.

"I didn't know you PMSed," I answered dryly.

The next afternoon, after sending a messenger hawk to the others, we finally got home. Deciding to just drop our stuff at my house, we each took turns in the shower. (Try to keep you minds out of the gutter.)

After that, we all headed to the Den. Inside was darker than normal. I flipped on the lights...

"WELCOME BACK!" everyone shouted as they jumped out of the shadows, making the three of us almost piss our pants.

"You guys suck!" I yelled, though I was smirking.

We all greeted one another, even though it had only been about a week since we'd seen each other.

"Hey, Zim," I said going up to her and ruffling her hair. "It looks like you've grown a bit."

Zim laughed angrily. "He loves to piss me off."

Chris, Ashley, Alyssa, Sam Liz and Zim eventually dragged us down to a working bar that Zim's sister owned.... or something.

We all started out at the bar. It was apparently a slow night, as we were nine of twelve people in the whole place, outside the bartender, of course.

All I can really say is that from the time the first round was done, things had started to go into a downward spiral. First, Brandon was approached by a guy with a tin of brownies.

"Hey, man," he said, looking and sounding like Leo from That 70's Show. "Ya wanna brownie?"

Brandon, having already finished a beer, grabbed one. I think we all know what kind of brownie it was. Not an hour, later this was the scene.

Sam was rambling incoherently to one of the other patron's in the bar sloshing his beer around as he talked. "I says to him, I says, d'you know what I says to him? I says..." He fell off his barstool and flung his drink everywhere.

Chris was probably the worst off of us all. He'd been drinking tequila. Chris plus tequila, not a good combo. He was now hugging a jukebox with his pants half off and his shirt nowhere in sight.

Ashley, Zim, and Courtney were all pointing to a corner of the bar, giggling the whole while, saying things like, 'He's cute!' and other things. Little did they know they were talking about a coat rack.

Liz was crying in a corner, a half full bottle of Jack sitting next to her. Apparently she thought Zim was gonna dump her. For the coat rack.

Sara was still sitting next to me on the bar, though she was obviously smashed. Her mouth was a wavy line, her eyes tiny dots, and bubbles were all around her head. To top it off, she was purring for absolutely no reason. She occasionally hiccupped and giggled right after.

I was sitting Indian style on my barstool with a pyramid of at least twenty glasses behind me, trying to look sober, at least to the point I was sitting upright and I wasn't drooling, or rambling. "You people can't hold yer liquor," I said, blinking as I saw Zim turn into a giant pink elephant and back. I'm just glad I didn't turn into the "I love you" guy when I got drunk.

It's weird, because when people drink, they say things they don't mean. For example, if you hear me yell, "Whoo! I'm goin' running!" you better cut me off.

Brandon meanwhile was making his own scene over in the corner, laying on one of the couches, holding a reading lamp like he was strangling it, screaming "Damn you, Pixar! Why can't I find Nemo?!" He was baked, probably because he ate half a tin of the hippy's brownies.

I'm surprised that I remember this much, but Alyssa, who wasn't drinking, told me in a low voice at one of my coherent patches, "This might be the last time we can relax like this for awhile. We have a few killings in the area. Kids reportedly see a clown at the traveling circus. When the family gets home, the kid sees the same clown outside and lets him in. Rips the parents apart but leaves the kids alone."

I don't remember what I said after that, for at that moment Brandon shouted out from the corner, "Ah! I killed Pixar! Does anyone know CPR?!" and ran around holding the lamp with its flexible neck completely bent.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning I woke up, thankfully without a hangover, half on, half off the couch against the wall of the Den. I looked up, adjusting my glasses, to see Brandon sleeping upside down in a recliner he'd brought in. His head was on the foot rest and his legs were on either arms rest.

I got up and went to shake him awake. He immediately jerked up and flipped off the chair. After he'd straightened up, he looked at me through unfocused eyes. "Damn, Houchin, you look like hell."

"I'd rather look like hell than fall asleep looking like I was being ass raped by a chair," said grumpily.

"Shut the f.... ah, fuck it, man... where's the Funyuns?" he asked as I opened the fridge. Apparently he still had the munchies. "Don't you drink that last Mountain Dew, motherfucker..." I half expected him say, 'I'm Bong-Man.' (Steven Lynch, if you must know.)

I cracked open a can of Coke. Looking around I saw most of my friends asleep in very odd places.

Sara and Ashley were curled up together on the pool table. Sara was behind Ashley with her arms wrapped around the younger girls waist. (Again, try to keep your minds out of the trash) Sam was splayed out under the table, snoring rather loudly. Liz was passed out still curled with the bottle of Jack Daniels from the night before. Alyssa was hanging comfortably from the ceiling next to Zim, who was passed out on top of the pool light. And for reasons I can't fathom, Chris was curled up on a rocking chair foot rest.

We don't even have a rocking chair. So were the fuck did the foot rest come from?

I went over to the pool table. "Sara," I said, shaking her shoulder. She merely whined in dissent and buried her face into Ashley's back. She obviously wasn't getting up. I sighed with a small smile on my face. Sara always was the easiest to wake so I doubted highly that anyone else would want to get up.

After we had showered, Brandon and I went to get breakfast for everyone. When we got back, I noticed that Courtney had fallen asleep in the tree outside. Resisting the urge to throw a rock or poke her with a stick, I went over to the tree and leapt to the branch just below her.

At the light shaking of the tree, Courtney cracked open one eye. I handed her a breakfast sandwich. "A good looking guy showing up with food. Not a bad way to start the day," she said.

"Pride, if I didn't know you better, I'd say you were hitting on me," I said tolerantly.

"Maybe I am."

"I know you well enough to say if you were hitting on me, it would just be to mess with my head, right?"

Courtney laughed good naturedly. "Too true,"

The three of us went inside to find Alyssa making coffee. She looked up in time to catch the warm sandwich I threw at her. She leered at me as she opened the wrapper.

Sam was beginning to stir at the smell of food, and Zim was half-awake on top of the pool table light. "Houchan.... Houchinin...." she grimaced at my now complicated name. "You know what I'm trying to say, Goddamnit. Why in all the nine hells am I on top of a chandelier?"

"I asked the same question," said Brandon as he handed her a cup of coffee, loaded down with sugar and cream.

She took a sip and seemed to wake up fully, sitting up on the light. "What time is it?" she asked, stretching.

"About 10:30," I said. "I'm starting to notice we spend more time here and at the diner then at home."

"Are you complaining?" Sam asked as he finally got up.

"No, seeing as I have next to nothing to do at home," I sat down at the bar and opened the folder of news clippings and things the others had put together while Brandon, Sara, and I were in Ravenwood "So we have eight victims so far.... All humans by the look of it. Each family went to the same traveling carnival, right?" I said after awhile.

"Right," Alyssa confirmed.

"So we're dealing with a killer clown?" Brandon questioned.

"Apparently," Zim said, coming out of the bathroom, toweling her hair dry.

"I know what you're thinking, Zim," said Sara said. "'Why did it have to be clowns?'"

"Shut it," Zim growled evasively.

Sara laughed evilly. "You didn't think I remembered, did you? You still cringe when you see Ronald McDonald on T.V."

"At least I'm not afraid of bridges," Zim said coolly.

"Hey, bridges fall."

"Yeah and apparently clowns kill."

Sara and Zim stared combatively at each other for a few moments before Sara said, "Okay... so what are we dealing with? Restless spirit? Cursed object?"

"I can't really tell. Looks like we should, (and I can't believe the words are coming out of my mouth,) head down to the carnival."

"I hate clowns...." Zim muttered.

We pulled up to the carnival in a beat up old VW bus from the 1970's. I was stuck driving it, Brandon and Sam being tired of driving. We had also picked up Brandon's girlfriend Mindy, a husky. "This is ridiculous," I growled. "I feel like a friggin' stoner soccer-mom!"

"It was the only thing John had running," Brandon told me. "My car needs gas and I don't have the money right now."

We all got out of the van. Zim was hovering between Liz, Sam, Brandon and myself, like we were going to protect her from the clowns.

"Hey," said a dad to his daughter as we passed him. "I think they have midgets here,"

A vein pulsed in Zim's temple. A half second later, Liz had her by the tail as she flailed around and screamed, eerily similar to Sara's rant in Ravenwood. "Don't call me small! I'll break off your feet and stick 'em on your head!" she yelled as Liz put her palm to her forehead.

"Zim, can you avoid making a scene just once?" I asked after she was done screaming.


"I wouldn't have held my breath, Houchin," said Sara.

"I'll remember that from now on."

I grabbed a drink from one of the stands. I need caffeine or people die. Brandon, Alyssa, Liz and Zim went through the shops while the rest of us sniffed around for anything suspicious. They eventually found the Papazian (knife thrower) in one of the stands. I stood outside, just in case.

"Hey," said Liz. "Have you seen the owner around anywhere?"

The man straightened up. "Is that supposed to be some sorta joke?" He demanded. He turned around and removed his sunglasses. His glaring eyes were pale blue and glazed over. He was blind.

"Oh. Jeez, I'm sorry, man," Liz started.

"You like picking on blind people, missy? Have I seen the owner?! Don't you think I would love to see the owner?!"

"Hey what's goin' on here?" a gruff voice asked from the other tent flap. A squirrel demon stepped through the barrier.

"This girl hates blind people!"

"Hey, what's your problem?" the midget demanded.

"No problem, just a little misunderstanding," Liz said nervously.

"Little?! " the squirrel bristled.

"I didn't mean it like that!" Liz yelled. "Look, can someone just point the way to the owner before they kill me?!"

Liz, Zim, Mindy and Brandon went to see the owner and got jobs sweeping up, running the rides, the whole deal. Sam, Sara, Ashley, Courtney, Chris and I continued to look around.

My tail flicked in impatience a few hours later, as no one had found anything yet. I was currently taking a break in the shade of an old tree with a king snake running itself though my fingers.

Even some of my friends find it odd that snakes don't intimidate me a bit. What can you expect when your uncle owned a ten foot Burmese python and you got to hold it just about whenever you wanted.

"I'M NOT A CARNY!" I heard from a distance

<Hey, Houchin> said Zim, apparently in her animal form. I changed quickly.

<What's goin' on, Zim, you sound like you just saw a clown> I teased.

<You suck.... Skeleton..... actually. Anyway. Can a spirit be tied to their own remains?>


She came over by me and we both changed back.

"As in actual human bones?"

"Maybe. It was hanging near the exit like a prop. I don't know if it was real or not."

"Well, check it for EMF's," I said. (I'm sorry about all the abbreviations. EMF is electromagnetic frequency. Living things produce these frequencies when their hearts beat. They can also be used to track paranormal activity.)  I started to walk away.

The knife thrower was behind me. "What are you doin' here, kid?" he asked in his old, grizzled voice.

"You were following me?" I asked, trying not to get angry at a blind man.

"This place is a refuge for outcasts. We take care of our own and we don't like outsiders. Now I find you talking to one of your little friends about human bones. What are you up to?"

I looked at the old man for a moment. "Do you believe in ghosts?" I asked.


"My friends and I.... We're writing a book about them," I smirked slightly at my fast thinking.

It turned out the skeleton was just a prop. It was a good idea to check it, but....

"Mommy, look at the clown!" said a small girl pointing between the shops. Her mother and the rest of us came over to look where she was pointing. There was no one there.

"Come on, dear," said her mother. "It's time to go home."

We all looked at each other.
Chapter 8
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