THIS TIME ROUND: FEAR IN A HANDFUL OF LUST
It had been a dark and stormy night two days before, but this one
was relatively sedate at the Steel Maiden Bar and Grill. A couple
of crossover newcomers had tried to start a fight earlier, but the
regulars' hearts hadn't been in it, so the winsome waif of a bouncer
had stripped them both naked and tossed them out into the cold.
Bella said it was to sober them up quicker, but she was probably
Taking advantage of the calm, the Usual Foursome was playing
poker at the back corner table. Quite how or even why Izzy, Adric,
Lauryn Tiberia, and Tsukuyomi had become buddies no one was
sure, least of all the quartet themselves. A sci-fi fangirl, a
downtrodden math nerd, an authoritarian she-thug, and the world's
most adorable evil mercenary would not appear to have a lot of
common ground at first glance. But a closer inspection would
reveal that... no, seriously, why the hell were these people friends?
"Perhaps it's because we all have dysfunctional love-lives," Adric
mused as he tossed in two credits.
"Speak for yourself," Lauryn grunted. "I get plenty of tail on a
regular basis. Yeah, I pay for it, but that still counts." She glared
at her table-mates, daring any of them to gainsay this assertion.
No one cared to.
"If by 'dysfunctional', you mean 'nonexistent', then I'm on the page
with you." That was Izzy, silently raising another credit.
Tsukuyomi tut-tutted as Lauryn called the bet, eyes dancing behind
her glasses. "I have no complaints about my love-life, Mr. Adric.
In fact, it's going quite swimmingly. I even got a public display of
affection with Setsuna-dear in a recent manga chapter!" She sighed
dreamily, looking the very image of innocent schoolgirl love with
her frills and bows and rosy cheeks -- provided you overlooked the
two well-used shortswords strapped to her back.
"Uh, yeah," said Izzy. "About that. I _read_ that chapter and I'm
pretty sure that what you were doing to Setsuna was more like
attempted forcible rape than a PDA."
Tsukuyomi just shrugged. "Eh, you say 'to-may-to', I say 'to-mah-to'."
Green looks from the other three, particularly Adric. "You know,"
he quavered, "I tend to forget, you being so sweet most of the time,
that you're actually, uh, evil... and stuff."
She just blinked at them. "So... I should be bad _all_ the time? I'm
sorry, but I think it would be terribly inappropriate for me to treat
other people inconsiderately, unless I stand to gain something by
They all laid out their cards in the pause that followed this
statement, Tsukuyomi winning the hand with a flush. And being
that there was no real way to steer this conversation into less-
awkward territory, Izzy was relieved when Lauryn changed the
subject, though that relief wasn't to last long.
"Well, well," Tiberia purred, eyeing someone over Izzy's shoulder.
"Something tasty this way comes." The accompanying leer made
Izzy turn to look, but she almost immediately regretted it.
"Good evening," Varla the Movellan greeted, slinking up to perch
on the edge of the table between Izzy and Adric.
"Uh, hi Varla." Izzy was already scooting her chair away and
getting ready to deflect grabby mechanical-yet-realistically-
She needn't have bothered. For the first time in a very great while,
the Movellan prostitute was actually respecting her personal space.
"Isabelle," Varla said affably, "if you are not too occupied, I wish
to request your assistance in a matter."
"If it's about a new position," Lauryn cut in, "I'm much more limber
and durable than the fangirl is."
"Negative. It is simply a request for information. I wish to obtain
a deeper understanding of the emotions possessed by organic
"And why do you want to know that?" Izzy wasn't letting her
guard down just yet.
"I am -- I think 'distressed' would be a good approximation -- by
my inability to bed certain females. Observation indicates that this
is not likely to be due to lack of physical appeal on my part." This
was undeniable, even to Izzy. Pushy, grabby, and mildly deranged
Varla might be, she was still a fine figure of a woman, factory-built
or not. "It may therefore be due to a failure to understand the
emotional responses inherent in most biologicals. I must rectify
this situation if I am to pursue my goal of having sexual relations
with all females."
Izzy was looking to the others for some backup, but it was obvious
that they intended to let her fly this one solo. "So... you want me to
help you understand emotions so you can better convince me to
have sex with you, is that it?"
Varla cocked her head, considering -- a programmed affectation.
"In so many words, yes, Isabelle."
"And why would I do that?"
"Because my observations indicate that you are the sort of person
who assists those in need, even when you stand to gain nothing by
doing so, and I am in need."
Izzy tried to think up a good reply, couldn't, so just closed her
"She's got you there, Izzy," grinned Adric.
"Of all the Steel Maiden's clientele," Varla reiterated, "you are the
person most prone to aiding others. You are also among the most
stable psychologically. You are therefore the best person to ask
for assistance in this matter and I, a being in need of aid, am asking
you for it." She paused for a moment. "I believe 'please' may be
an appropriate term to add at this point, so... please, Isabelle."
Izzy sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "I'll probably regret
this, but... what do you want to know?"
"Why are we having a contest?" Bella the bouncer wondered.
Izzy shrugged. "Scarlett says it's okay, so why _not_ make it a
The vampire considered this. "Fair enough. It'll add spice to the
evening, if nothing else."
Izzy held aloft the bottle of wine she'd bought with her meager
winnings (Tsukuyomi usually dominated Poker Night, probably
via cheating, though she'd never been caught at it) and pounded
on the bar. "Your attention, please!" she called out to the room at
large. "Varla the Movellan has asked for help in understanding
the emotion we call 'fear'. So, to help her out, I'm announcing the
Steel Maiden Scary Story Contest. Whoever can tell the most
terrifying tale will win this bottle of..." She squinted at the label.
"...Chateau Chunder '08. I'll be the judge, while Varla observes
and hopefully learns a little something about fear. So, who wants
to go first?" Everyone had clustered around the two, but no one
seemed to want to speak up. Sighing, Izzy turned back to the bar.
"Scarlett, what about you?"
"Me?" The barmaid shook her head. "I'm no teller of tales, dear."
"Come on," Izzy pressed. "You've been around the block a few
Scarlett scowled, trying to decide if Izzy was calling her old. That
irked her until she reminded herself that she _was_ getting a bit
long in the tooth, so she couldn't really get upset over it. She
leaned on the bar, thinking, taking the moment to scratch under
"Well..." she said at length. "There was this one time..."
"A story from personal experience," Izzy whispered to Varla. "The
sense of realism makes them more chilling."
Scarlett continued. "...back when I was but a ranger brigade
commander. We were up in the mountains on the Bolgorian
border. Our brigade had gotten separated from the main army,
it was getting dark, and there were about 20,000 Bolgorian infantry
between us and the main body. We pulled back, trying to find a
more defensible position and some supplies to let us bide until
we might attempt a breakout. Scouts did report an ancient temple
complex further up the mountain, so we retreated thence, little
knowing what lay in store for us..."
"This is good," Izzy whispered. "Old places and mysticism always
add extra spookiness."
Varla nodded. "I shall observe and note all reactions."
"The temple _seemed_ welcoming enough, at distance and in
fading light. But when we got inside..." Scarlett closed her eye
"What did you find?" Izzy prodded.
"Inside... we found that... the walls were too ramshackle to stand
against assault! And there were no supplies -- no food and the well
had gone dry! We were worse off than before!"
Izzy nearly fell off her barstool. "That isn't scary, Scarlett!"
"I beg to differ," said the barmaid icily. "Being surrounded and cut
off from supply would horrify any soldier."
"But it was an ancient temple! There should be an eldritch monster
or something in it!"
"My dear, when the enemy has you outnumbered fifteen-to-one,
you need no other monsters."
Izzy rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Your story didn't scare me, so
you get..." She held up two cards. "...a 2.5. Now, who's next?
And please, let's make it a _proper_ scary story this time.
Something creepy or ghostly."
"Creepy, huh?" To the surprise of practically everyone, it was
musclebound, buzz-cutted Lauryn who spoke up. "Well, you
can go ahead and hand over the bottle, toots, 'cause Auntie
Lauryn's got a story so scary, you'll piss in other people's pants.
But first, a little _atmosphere_." She walked over and dimmed the
common room lights.
Izzy nodded approvingly. "A dark and still environment tends to
make people uneasy," she explained to Varla. "It adds a little extra
_oomph_ to the scariness."
"The effects of oomph shall be noted, Isabelle."
"Okay," Lauryn addressed the group, "it's like this. There was this
guy, right? And he was into collecting art. He wasn't a rich guy, or
anything. Worked in an office, pushing papers or some such crap,
but he really dug art. So he goes to this garage sale and it turns out
the guy having the sale is an art guy, too. Got a bunch of paintings
and crap for sale. So the first guy, he's looking through all this
stuff, when he comes across this really freaky painting. It's of a
little girl in a black dress, standing in front of a cemetery gate, and
she's holding up three fingers, like this." She demonstrated with
her own hand.
"Haunted paintings are a classic horror-story trope," Izzy
whispered. "This should be good and spooky."
"So, yeah, the painting's freaky as hell, but it's also really well-
done. Like, super-realistic, to the point you'd think it was a photo
if you couldn't see the brush-marks or whatever you call 'em. So
the guy buys the picture and takes it home, putting it in his living
room. But then, that night..." Lauryn lowered her voice. "...the
guy has a really sick nightmare where the girl in the painting is
moving around and breathing and stuff. He wakes up in a cold
sweat. Now, he knows it's silly to think a painting could move, but
just in case, he gets up and goes to check it out and... Nothing.
The girl in the painting hasn't budged, still standing there, holding
up three fingers." She demonstrated again.
"So, the guy goes back to bed. And he has _another_ nightmare,
that the girl in the painting is climbing out of the picture. Again, he
wakes up and goes to look, and once again she's still right there in
the painting, holding up three fingers. This goes on every night.
He'll have a dream that the picture-girl in the black dress is walking
down his hallway, or standing outside his bedroom door, or
climbing into his bed. And every time, he rushes in there to check
the painting, and every time she's still right there, no different than
before, holding up those three fingers.
"After a week or two, it starts to really get to him. He only sleeps a
few minutes at a time, then he wakes up to run and see if the
painting's changed, but it never does. He checks the positions of
every line and object in that picture, over and over during the day,
but the girl holding up the three fingers never changes. He even
leaves work during the day to try and catch the picture-girl moving,
but she never does... that he can see, anyway. But he _knows_
she's doing it. He just can't prove it.
"Well, this crap goes on for about three weeks. He's not sleeping
right, looks like hell, and can't work worth a crap 'cause he's so
obsessed with watching that damn painting. So his boss calls him
in and fires him, 'cause he can't get anything done. The guy goes
home and he's sitting there, wondering how he's gonna pay the
bills with no job. There's only one thing he can do to hold off the
creditors, and that's have a garage sale and sell off his artwork,
including the painting of the little girl in the black dress standing
in front of a cemetery gate, holding up three fingers. And just as
he decides this, he catches a flicker, just out of the corner of his
The whole audience, barring Varla, who had no biological need to,
Lauryn gave a creepy little grin, creepier than her normal perverted
one. "The guy looks over at the painting of the little girl... and
now..." She raised a hand to demonstrate. "...she's holding up
_four_ fingers!" She looked 'round the audience, clearly waiting
for the oohing and aahing and swooning.
Oohs were thin on the ground, aahs even moreso, and swoons
"That's _it_?!" demanded Izzy.
"Uh, yeah," Lauryn grunted back. "It really _was_ a haunted
painting after all, see?"
"A haunted painting that... makes art-collectors have garage sales."
"Well, haunted's haunted."
"Um, no. In this case, haunted's lame. I'm giving it a 4.0, only
because your delivery was pretty decent." Izzy looked around
pleadingly. "Somebody, please top that."
A tall and vaguely weaselish brunette in a t-shirt that read
'Definitely Not a UNIT Spy' started jumping up and down. "Oh!
Oh! I remember a cool story! Pick me, pick me!"
"Er, okay," sighed Izzy, knowing better than to get her hopes up
with this one. "Go ahead, Judy."
"Yeah, okay. I heard this one at band camp one time... or was it
UNIT basic training? I get those mixed-up sometimes. Anyway,
this guy and girl go out on a date. The guy wants to go out
'parking' in the woods to... you know..."
"I'm pretty sure I've heard this one," Izzy interrupted, "but go
"Well, the girl's kind of scared, but says okay, so they drive out
to a secluded spot and..." Judy stopped to think, looking rather
like a dachshund confronted with a quadratic equation. "Erm...
then they... pick up this hitchhiker. In a prom dress. She says she's
going home, but the radio says there's a psycho on the loose, so
they call the police. The cops trace the call and tell them it's
coming from inside the house and there's a baby in the oven.
That's when something starts banging on the car and it turns
out to be a dead dog in a noose with 'Humans can lick too'
written in blood beside the steel hook. Oh, and the hitchhiker
was their dead daughter. Pretty scary, huh?"
"I give you zero points," snapped Izzy. "And you only get that
because I can't fine you for the two minutes of my life you just
Tsukuyomi spoke up next. "Speaking of urban legends like those
reminds me, are you familiar with the Bloody Mary ritual?
Because they say a girl at my school tried that once."
"Ah, the old classic teen-girl dare," Izzy agreed. "Do go on."
"It happened in a dorm room one fateful night at the Shinmei
School." Tsukuyomi couldn't quite get her voice low enough to be
properly scary, but she did try. "The four girls who lived there
were up past curfew, playing truth-or-dare. One of the girls, who
the other three picked on, was asked a question she didn't want to
answer, so the others dared her to go into the bathroom at the
stroke of midnight and try to summon Bloody Mary.
"So the girl went into the bathroom with nothing but a small
candle for light. And then, when the clock began to chime
midnight, she stared into the mirror and repeated, 'I believe in
Bloody Mary', over and over again. When she repeated it the
eleventh time, the candle began to flicker. The twelfth time, and
the room grew cold as the dead. And on the thirteenth time, a face
appeared in the mirror, right behind the girl -- a hunched old hag,
her teeth filed to points, sunken eyes glowing like sparks from the
pit itself. She could feel the creature's hot, fetid breath upon her
neck and the scratch of its blood-caked nails upon her back.
Bloody Mary... was _real_!"
"Then what happened?" Izzy asked, rapt.
"As the murderous Bloody Mary reached for her, the girl let out a
scream, then drew her sword and-- HAH!" Tsukuyomi mimed a
slash. "She attacked with the Spirit-Cutting Strike technique,
wounding the creature. Then she trapped Bloody Mary in place
with some Onmyou spirit wards and had the teachers come around
and destroy what remained of it the next day. But they couldn't use
the bathroom for the rest of the night, of course." She blinked at
the sour look on Izzy's face. "What?"
"So, this girl calls up an evil spirit, then kills it with very little
effort. That's the ending of your story?"
"Well, yes." Tsukuyomi shrugged. "Shinmei-Ryu is a school for
demon-slayers. If a student couldn't handle a low-level summoned
wraith like Bloody Mary, they'd be drummed out."
"You get 7.0 for the buildup and 2.0 for the climax," Izzy declared.
"That gives you a 4.5, which sadly enough puts you in the lead."
"Bah!" scoffed Madeleine the Ogron as she set out a spread of
monster-shaped sugar cookies she'd just whipped up. "Mechanical
slut-girl never learn about fear from wimpy human stories. Ogron
folk tales, they put hair on chest and load in pants!"
"An alien perspective on fear," Izzy whispered to Varla. "This
should be good." She motioned to Madeleine to proceed.
"Madeleine tell story, but no people who listen blaming Madeleine
if never sleep again, yes?" She let out a chuckle, sounding like an
evil cement truck. "Once upon time, was Ogron warrior. Warrior
live alone in high mountain cave, for training. One day, warrior
wake up needing to take dump. Went to chamber-bucket and
Madeleine swept the audience with slitted eyes. "Chamber-bucket
already full of shit... that was _not_ that warrior's!"
It was obvious that Madeleine really wished there was a soundtrack
playing, so that it would go 'DUN-dun-DUUNNNN' right as she
said that. It was also obvious that a large portion of the audience
wanted to laugh, and only the enormous destructive capability of
Ogron fists was stopping them from doing so.
"Sooo... an unearthly crap, was it?" Izzy remarked, face carefully
neutral. Unlike the others, this was more out of a desire to avoid
hurting Madeleine's feelings than fear of Madeleine's feelings
hurting _her_. "That _is_ kind of creepy when you think about it,
so I'll give it a 5.0."
"You're just giving her the lead because she brought cookies!"
Babydoll Rokossovsky taunted over a lapful of beautiful vampire
"So? Either bribe me too, or tell a better story, a real blood-
"Hmmm..." The ex-corporate merc considered this, taking a
moment to enjoy a good Bella-nuzzle. "I could tell a few tales
that would chill your blood, but they're mostly about things like
interrogating enemy officers with power tools, and I don't think
that's what you're looking for. And if that sort of thing _is_ what
you're looking for, you should just call Lysbeth Harlow in here
and be done with it, because that crazy bitch has _done_ things
worse than I've ever even _heard_ of."
"I think we'll pass on the mayhem and on Harlow," Izzy replied.
"I'm trying to teach Varla about plain old fear, not revulsion." She
gave Rokossovsky a quizzical look. "But you mean to tell me that
you date a vampire -- a definitive creature of the night -- and you
don't know any horror stories?"
"What Fangs does after dark is her own business," Babydoll
insisted. "I try to stay away from all that supernatural Edgar Alan
"You're quite the literary scholar, my dear Piggy," Bella purred,
absolutely straight-faced. "H. P. King would be proud."
"Wait a minute!" Judy Custer blurted, pointing at Bella. "She can't
be a real vampire. She doesn't _sparkle_!" Lauryn and Tsukuyomi
promptly stuffed a placemat into her mouth, which really should
have been done more often.
Izzy and everyone else decided to pretend Judy had never spoken;
Bella's feelings regarding 'Twilight' were similar to a Dalek's
regarding Thal telemarketers. "What about you, Bella?" Izzy
asked. "Got any juicy stories of drinking blood and riding the
Bella shrugged. "I do, but from a vampire's perspective, they're
honestly pretty boring. Drinking someone's blood is about as
interesting as going out for coffee. Sneak in, hypnotize, nibble
someone's wrist a bit, then sneak back out. I do try to wear
something a bit racy, so the victim at least gets a pleasant 'dream'
"Wrists? You don't bite necks?"
"Heh. Only if I'm trying to _kill_ someone." She tapped a fang.
"Canine teeth aren't made for neat little punctures. If you stick
these in a carotid artery, it's not going to just scab over. In fact, I
usually carry a needle to make the actual hole. Sterilized, of
course." She pondered, fingers twining in Babydoll's hair where
her pigtails used to be. "I _could_ tell you about the thing in
my head that makes me what I am. _That's_ plenty scary. Only...
it's kind of hard to describe in a way that you could understand.
And if you _did_ truly understand, I'm pretty sure you'd want to kill
yourself, so that's probably a bit of a non-starter."
There was another of those awkward silences.
"Come on, people," Izzy growled after a bit. "_Somebody_ here
has to know something genuinely scary." She looked over the
crowd. "What about you, Adric?"
"I do know about something scary," he replied, looking thoughtful.
"It's to do with what happens sometimes when you die."
"Death and the unknown are two of mankind's oldest sources of
fear," Izzy muttered to Varla. The Movellan nodded, watching
Izzy's face with an odd intensity.
"Everybody knows about Heaven and Hell, Purgatory and
Reincarnation," Adric said quietly. "But sometimes, something
else happens. Sometimes, souls kind of... fall through the cracks.
If you don't make enough of an impression on the world, you may
get... overlooked... when you die. And your soul wanders and
drifts, on and on, until it reaches the very last thing that exists, a
seemingly-empty place full of dust and fog and still, silent air, gray
on gray on gray. But after a while, you realize it _isn't_ empty, for
there are great hounds there, sniffing and howling after you, always
just out of view in the fog. They howl for you because they hate
you and all you represent. They are the souls of the unborn slain,
you see, and they know that you had the life they were denied, and
that you wasted it, or else you wouldn't be there, in the dust. As
"So you will run. The hounds will most likely catch you and eat
you up, every last scrap of you. But maybe not. Sometimes, you
may not get the mercy of... whatever happens when they eat you.
You might survive, evading the hounds until you reach the ruins of
a long-dead city, a place that once existed on ancient Earth. If you
can get there, the hounds will stop their chase and leave you to the
silence and the broken stones. As they leave you inside the walls,
their howling sounds quite a lot like laughter.
"Inside the city, you will find others like yourself -- souls who died
unmourned and unmissed. You are unlikely to make many friends,
there. With nothing to do in the endless tedium except stew in their
desperation and regrets... the lucky ones lose their memories, or go
mad. Conversation will seldom be pleasant. But, eventually, one
of your fellow lost souls will offer to show you something you've
never seen before and you will take them up on it, because there is
absolutely nothing else but ruins and dust and hounds. So they will
lead you a little ways beyond the city, to view the most horrible
thing anyone ever saw. The Drop."
Adric took a long swallow of cider before continuing. "The Drop
is the end, the very edge of existence. You look beyond it into
total, absolute nothingness. Absence. Lack. Pure, raw oblivion.
You'll watch the dust spill over the Drop and disappear into that
nothing and you will suddenly realize what true nonexistence is.
You will be afraid then, more afraid than you have ever been of
anything. But what will soon frighten you more will be the
realization that, compared to facing eternity in the dust or the
ravenous hate of the hounds, stepping over the Drop and into
annihilation may not be the worst choice..."
Izzy blinked at him. She'd never known Adric to be much of a
storyteller. "Wow. That's really creepy. And well-told. But
unfortunately, not particularly _scary_. More sad than anything
else. I mean, looking into nothingness doesn't really sound all
_that_ awful. I'll give it a 4.5."
Adric quirked a chilly little smile as he walked off. "Oh, well," he
mumbled, "I guess you just had to _be_ there."
Since no one else was showing much enthusiasm for continuing
the contest, most of the audience took this as their cue to disperse.
Grumbling about the need for her peers to "at least read a fracking
'Goosebumps' novel or something", Izzy passed the bottle of
cheap plonk to Madeleine, the 'winner', who accepted the prize
with far better grace than it was given. "Sorry, Varla," Izzy
grumped. "That wasn't as educational for you as I'd hoped."
Varla smiled back, but then such cordiality was basically her
default expression. "On the contrary, Isabelle. I obtained
much useful data from this exercise."
"Don't see _how_."
Scarlett rolled her eye, Izzy's mood beginning to wear a little thin.
"For God's sake, lass, if you want to teach Varla what 'fear' means,
why not just sit her down and explain it to her _yourself_?"
Varla cut in before Izzy could answer. "Isabelle cannot do so,
because she fears to engage with me being-to-being. For her to
even conduct limited conversation with me requires the presence of
other individuals, thus the necessity for involving the entire tavern
in providing me with the data I requested."
Izzy's jaw did a fair imitation of a landed trout, but despite its
activity a coherent or even audible retort was not forthcoming.
"I was able to discover considerable information this evening,"
Varla explained,speaking to Scarlett but _at_ Izzy. "For instance,
that the range of causes that inspire fear in organic beings is
apparently quite broad, but that what triggers a fear response in
one being may trigger a wholly different response in another.
Further, my observation of Isabelle herself and her reactions to
various stimuli this evening provides a reasonable basis for
determining her emotional state under given conditions. From
this, I have been able to confirm that a major component of her
emotional response to my immediate presence is one of fear.
The Movellan reached a hand toward Izzy's own, but Izzy shied
away before she even realized she was doing it. "Tha- that doesn't
mean I'm afraid," she stammered. "It's just that you'll... you
"I always what, Isabelle?" Normally, this might have sounded
pushy, but Varla's tone conveyed only simple curiosity. "I have
not caused you harm, nor would I wish to. You must know this
by now. And even though I have withdrawn my hand from your
immediate vicinity and Scarlett is present with us, your fear-
response appears to be increasing in severity. This presents a
confusing anomaly for me, as to the source of your fear. I am well-
known to you. I know that you do not find me grotesque. I would
not harm you, nor commit any act upon you contrary to your
expressed wishes. My understanding of fear and its causes
therefore remains insufficient in this case, and your current state of
denial indicates that your own understanding may be insufficient,
as well. I find this... unfortunate." With that, she slid off her
barstool and ambled to the basement door, toward her room. She
stopped suddenly, half-through the doorway, and looked back.
"I believe," she said, "that the proper response to assistance freely
rendered is to express what is called 'gratitude', in which case..."
She inclined her head, more than a nod but less than a bow. "...I
thank you for your efforts, Isabelle."
Izzy watched the door click shut behind her. After a long moment,
she dug a handful of coins and bills out of her pocket and slid them
across the bar, not bothering to count it. "Scarlett, bring me a
bottle of... anything. I think I've, ah... got some thinking to do..."
'Doctor Who' is property of the BBC.
'This Time Round' created by Tyler Dion.
Tsukuyomi is from 'Magical Teacher Negima', property of Ken Akamatsu.
All other characters are from adwc fan-fiction.
Story Type: Steel Maiden
Blurb: A scary story contest seems like the perfect way for Varla the
Movellan to learn about the emotion of fear, but Varla may not be the only
one with things to learn.
Adric's story is based on an arc of the TTR round-robin 'Dark Carnival'