Chapter 8 Page 69
Posted July 19, 2024 at 04:18 am

Hey all! Makeship reached out to me a little while back about making a Paranatural plush, and I couldn't resist the idea of an actual-size Eightfold. SO NOW WE'RE GONNA MAKE HER REAL!

If you're not familiar with Makeship, it's essentially a site for crowdsourcing plush toys! People pledge to ideas they like, and if enough people preorder the plush, the plush gets made! As of this update, the Eightfold plush already has enough people backing the project for it to get made, just from me posting about it on social media yesterday! Once the pledge campaign ends, the plush will be designed, approved by me, and then go into production for a one-time-only limited run a few months from now, around October! You can pledge to the Makeship project now or hop on board then!

You can find and support the Eightfold plush HERE!

Even though the project already has enough people interested to get made, any and all additional pledges help! If we can get to 400+ pledges/preorders now or down the line, it ticks over from being a cool thing I'm excited about to ALSO being a great way to support me and Paranatural. In other words, a profitable venture! I would love to get an Eightfold in your hands and my own, so I'll thank all of you in advance for pledging and buying one!

If you can't afford to pledge to the project, I'd still be HUGELY appreciative if you could spread the word on Tumblr or Twitter.

In other news, there won't be an update next week, as I will be traveling for a family reunion! I hope all this vampire drama and Eightfold-manifesting ritual magic holds you over until the week after! See you then, and thanks for reading!



        “A haunted weapon, SWEETIE?” Fauxbia had asked, grinning amusedly. Paige had met with her in secret in the dark forest that surrounded the Academy. “Now THERE’S an interesting ask.”

        “...Is that a problem?” Paige had curtly replied. The Witch made her skin crawl, and Gage’s words had still been buzzing in her head. She’d wanted this over with fast, before she was missed at the party.

        “NOT at all, not AT all! I’M happy to play ARMS DEALER—I’ve so many HANDS to LEND.” She’d steepled them all into a cathedral’s worth of spires to illustrate her point. “Of course, AS you’ll RECALL from all the... KNOWLEDGE we’ve exchanged before tonight, you’ve little HOPE of wielding such a weapon AFTER growing FANGS, my pet. Vampirism, dearie, puts a PIN in every SORT of metamorphosis—”

        “I know that.”

        Fauxbia had grinned, this time with rows of knitting needle teeth.

        “...A gift, PERHAPS, then? The WITCH’S apprentice has taken a STUDENT, has SHE? You make an OLD puppeteer PROUD.” Her steepled hands had extended, cupped expectantly all around Paige like a horde of hungry beggars. “And my payment FOR this item you’ve REQUESTED?”

        “I put up with your fun at the gates. I gave you Davy’s latest movements, just like always. I can hurt him, with the right tool. That’s more than enough for my side of the bargain.”

        “DAVY JONES will be a BUG beneath MY feet after TONIGHT,” the Witch had cackled. “PLAY the long game WITH me, Paige sweet. GIVE me something juicy I can CHEW ON... like THIS little prize, PERHAPS!”

        The wallet that the vampire teens had retrieved from Jackpot Junior’s had appeared in Fauxbia’s hand as if from nowhere. Paige had gasped, reaching for where it had once been hidden. When had she taken it? How had the Witch known it had any worth at all?

        “WHERE, pray tell, did you find THIS?”

        The Witch’s bulbous eyes had fixed with hungry delight upon the familiar face at the heart of the wallet. He’d grown some stubble and a hideous ponytail, but there he was—that wretched flame-slinging spectral’s little janitor boy toy. Fate, flirtatious garçon that it was, was always bringing Fauxbia such WONDERFUL side dishes, free of charge...

        “...Would you rather PROTECT your friends with the WEAPON you asked FOR?” the Witch had creaked, glancing up at a reticent Paige. “Or protect a STRANGER for the fleeting pleasure of pretending that your HEART isn’t COLD AS THE GRAVE?”

        Paige had cursed. She’d chewed at her lip with one fang, pacing back and forth across the shadowed clearing. Then she’d told Fauxbia almost everything. About the mascot. About the mysterious spectral inside. Not the man on the driver’s license, no, someone younger. A Mayview Academy student—probably strutting around the town with daddy’s wallet. Paige had only left Ritz out of the story, and how the spectral had seemed to recognize her (though Ritz’s blood fugue had muddled her own guesses at the mascot’s true identity). She’d described how the spectral had conjured a glove from thin air, a cat’s paw with a quill-tipped claw—

        “And the COLOR of this interloper’s energy?” the Witch had asked, her gaze aglow.

        “Does it matter? It was white—”

        Paige had nearly cursed again. She’d misread Fauxbia’s sudden wide-eyed wonder as her glee at the vampire’s hapless confession; Paige had thought she’d revealed her trio’s secret spectral thrall indirectly, sharing the shade of energy that Ritz had described seeing when Paige had interrogated her after the encounter. Fauxbia, however, had started drooling for a different reason...

        “YOU’VE served me well, MY little mosquito-on-the-WALL,” the Witch had sneered. “A feast, my pet, a FEAST! To the NEXT course, then: your JUST DESERTS...”

        She’d plucked a few stray coins from the stolen wallet, which had then suddenly flowered into dollar bills—first ones, then fives, then countless tens. Then the newly conjured wad of cash had disappeared in a shower of sparkles... replaced with a gaudy gold ring.

        “Let’s see! Choices, CHOICES...” Fauxbia had said.

        Then she’d unhinged her jaw and reached into the dark depths of her throat. Screams and whispers had echoed out from the shadow within while she had rifled through the contents of her stomach... until at last the Witch had seized some unknown prize, yanking it free with a satisfied giggle. Paige hadn’t been able to see what she’d retrieved; she’d only been able to hear its cries for mercy.

        “$pare me, p-plea$e! R-r-relea$e me, and f-fabulou$ wealth ¢an be ¥our$—”

        Then there had been a flash of string, and the empty space had gone silent. Grinning gleefully, Fauxbia had forced the spirit she’d slain into the ring she’d manifested.

        “Here you GO. This one’s tricks should SUIT your friend’s RICH TASTE,” the Witch had wheezed. “Who knows? Perhaps you’ll get THE last bite of the LEFTOVERS, once I’ve had my FILL of that hook-handed SNACK! Ooh hee hee HEH HEH heh HEH...”

        Paige shuddered to recall the look on her horrible face even now, staring at her from a distance in the ballroom. Somehow, Fauxbia had seen through everything, had known everything, had read her mind just like a book. Trading Davy for a different patron hadn’t freed Paige from her shackles. She was trapped, no matter what she tried.

        “...Maybe you were right,” she said to Gage, glancing down at the ring. “Maybe we’ve always been monsters. But we’ve always been friends, too. That might be the one thing that I never want to change.”

        Gage gulped. He wiped his sweaty palms inside his pockets.

        “C-couldn’t that... change for the better... too?” he squeaked.

        “...I’m not sure anything can,” Paige said, staring off into the crowd, too wistful to notice his jitters, “but I’d like it to.” She smiled. “You should let your hair out of that hat of yours more often. It’s a good look for y—”

        Paige turned to see Gage puckered up and leaning in to kiss her.

        “W-WHAT are you DOING?!” Paige gasped, pushing him back.

        “AH!” Gage yelped as he stumbled into the skeleton behind him. “H-hey! What’s—what’s your problem?!”

        “What’s MY problem?! You just tried to KISS ME!”

        “Y-you said you wanted things to be different! You were being—I... I thought—” Gage’s wide eyes darted from one onlooker to the next. A few cultists and vampires had turned to stare, though Razor Rex’s screeching speech still held the room’s attention. “I told you I liked you!” he whispered self-consciously. “You said you cared about me! You had a friggin’ RING!”

        “I wasn’t PROPOSING!” Paige hissed back in utter bewilderment. “Have you absolutely lost it?! This is for Ritz, you numbskull!”

        “GOD, of COURSE it is,” Gage spat, throwing up his hands. His mind was reeling, his thoughts cast in bright buzzing red by embarrassment. “She’s the NEW numbskull! That’s all you want, some friggin’ cash cow that does EVERYTHING you SAY. Why’d I ever think I had a chance with you?!”

        “A chance?” Paige said in disbelief. Defeat and disappointment weighed her voice down to a whisper. “A chance? Is that all that you—” She shook her head. “Don’t you dare. Not you. Weren’t you listening to me at all...?”

        A half-eaten plastic cup clattered to the floor. Gage and Paige both noticed who had dropped it far too late. Standing beside them was a heartbroken Youth Culture. What she’d always feared and bottled up had come to pass in front of her: her crush had tried to kiss her only friend. Tears began to well up in Youth Culture’s beady eyes.

        “Youthy—” Paige called out, but she’d already fled on all fours into the crowd.

        Gage’s growl of frustration was drowned out by raucous applause for Razor Rex. He tore at his hair, then stormed off too, ignoring the sting of Paige’s eyes upon his back.

        “Darn it, darn it, darn it!” he hissed, mired in directionless self-loathing.

        Plunged deep into his pockets, Gage’s claws began to unfold Davy’s business card.