Alicia made a few notes on her pad as she flipped through the page of her book. She wasn't totally focused, but it didn't matter as she already knew what she wanted to focus on for this paper. This research drive was just justifying it.
As she wrote, Alicia's thoughts wandered to Halloween. It was coming quickly and she needed to think of a costume. She didn't have a party planned yet, but one would come up. It always did.
She softly pondered what she could go as. Superhero seemed a little cliche. Not that anyone would know about her moonlight activities, but Alicia would know and it would bug her. All of the classic movie monsters had been done; any party would be teeming with vampires and Frankenstein-like monsters.
"Hey!" Beth called as she walked up to Alicia, shaking her from her thoughts.
"Oh hey," Alicia smiled as she put her pencil on the book so she could keep track of her page. "What's up?"
"Halloween!" Katie exclaimed as she appeared from behind Beth. "Got any plans?"
"Not yet," chuckled Alicia. "I was wondering what you guys were planning."
"Well, we got tickets to that haunt. You know, the one with the strange disappearances?" Katie started with a grin.
"Oh come on," sighed Beth as she rolled her eyes, "You know that's fake, right?"
"What?" Alicia blinked. She knew she was usually behind on events, but she had no idea what these girls were going on about. "Who has disappeared?"
"Ugh. Its just a dumb marketing stunt," groaned Beth as she rubbed her forehead. "They've set up a haunted house in that old theme park in the mountains."
"The one that was abandoned?" Alicia nodded thoughtfully. "Owner didn't pay their taxes, right?"
"If ‘didn't pay their taxes’ is code for, ‘used it as a drug-smuggling front’, then yes!" giggled Kate. "But, they've turned it into Castle Of The Lamia, an immersive horror attraction with a scare house in the middle."
"Right, it's known for not having a safe area. People can jump out at you from anywhere once you're in the park," added Beth.
"Okay. But disappearances. You can't just mention that and not tell me."
"Just some local promotion things," mumbled Beth. "They had some people vanish and turn up a few days later, saying they were kidnapped by vampires. Even had a bite mark."
"That isn't," started Alicia, only for Beth to cut her off.
"Don't be so paranoid. It's just some actor they've hired to appear on the news. Do you really think a group of vampires could run a business with no one noticing it?"
Alicia opened her mouth as images of Snow Queen and Momo flashed through her mind. There were a lot of things operating back home without being detected, but she couldn't be sure they were in this city as well. There was a chance that Beth was right, that this was nothing more than a weird publicity stunt.
"I don't care," huffed Katie. "It's creepy! They seemed really honest!"
"They're actors! Kinda their job," replied Beth. "Anyway, you didn't complain about me getting tickets."
"Well no. Because creepy is cool! It will be fun!" Nodded Kate. "It is not like everyone is going missing. Only a few people."
"Weird," mumbled Alicia as she tried to work out her thoughts. This whole thing seemed weird to her, but she had to try and keep things in context. She had seen weird things, but it didn't mean that everything was weird. Sometimes things could be normal.
"But don't worry! I got you a ticket!" grinned Beth as she motioned for Katie to be quiet. "I'll e-mail it to you, but you'll need to free up the weekend before Halloween."
"The weekend?" blinked Alicia.
"They have a hotel on-site! A spooky hotel!" added Katie. "We're going to stay there Saturday night! During the night, the room gets filled with scares and stuff happens!"
"So, people will come in while we sleep?" Alicia gasped.
"Until 2 am," Beth nodded, "but it's just actors going ‘boo’."
"Well. That's. Different?" mumbled Alicia. "But, sure! Sounds fun! I'll clear my calendar!"
"Awesome!" cheered Katie as she pulled her phone out of her pocket. "I better be going through, got to get to class!"
"Same! Enjoy your research!" Beth chimed in as she turned and walked out of the cafe with Katie not too far behind.
Alicia tried to refocus on her work, but it was hard. Her mind kept running over what she had just been told. Sure, it did sound like a strange marketing stunt, but the idea of a haunted house kidnapping people seemed slightly too cliche, even for Alicia's life.
When Alicia got back to her dorm she quickly opened up her computer and started to search for reports and information on the Castle Of Lamia. Most of it was what she expected: the usual websites full of creepy music and cheap jump-scares. Hundreds of social media selfies of people posing with people dressed as vampires and a few short videos of people freaking out as they got jump scared.
But eventually, Alicia found what she was looking for. It was a video from local news, showing a woman who had apparently gone missing for a few nights, only to reappear outside the park with a bite on her neck. Alas, her story wasn't useful. She had gaps in her memory, which meant she had no idea where she had been, how she had gotten outside the park, or how she had acquired the bite mark.
As the video ended, Alicia closed her eyes and sighed. This made so little sense to her. The holes seemed to suggest that this was a stunt. But if it was a stunt, surely they would have made it exciting. How did these disappearances sell you on going to this park?
That thought continued to bounce around Alicia's head as she went about her week. She couldn't make heads or tales of it. Every day she would check the news and search social media, hoping to find something that would help her make a decision about this place.
But, nothing helped. Every detail she found just made her more divided. It was at once both too normal to feel weird, but too weird to feel normal. Alicia was unsure of how to react to this situation.
As the Friday before Halloween rolled around, Alicia finished off the last of her work before pulling out her suitcase. It was only a short trip so she didn't need to take very much with her. As she opened her wardrobe, Alicia's eyes glanced down at the small lockbox that sat under a pile of clothes and other things.
"I shouldn't need it," she mumbled, "but it wouldn't hurt." She reached down and unclicked the box, removing the top layer of things before pulling a small bag out of the box.
Alicia knew what it held; it was her Syner-Bee costume. It hadn't seen much use since Christmas, but that was for the best. She didn't want to be constantly running after weirdos, but at the same time, it was useful to have it in case someone else disappeared while she was up in the mountains.
"Am I really that scared of some idiots in vampire costumes?" mumbled Alicia. Her mind was filled with images of Momo once more. It didn't matter how stupid someone looked; they could still do something horrible if not kept in check. A disappearance, no matter how wacky, was something to be worried about.
Somehow, Alicia won herself over with her own argument. The Syner-Bee stuff would be useful in case of danger. She couldn't run the risk, and it wasn't like her suitcase lacked space. Once the costume was tucked into the bottom of the case, Alicia grabbed her glove and bracelets and turned them on.
As they started to glow, Alicia nodded to herself. She fiddled with them for a few seconds before a computerized voice echoed out. "Starting diagnostics."
"Great," Alicia smiled as she returned to her packing. She quickly packed up the rest of her stuff and settled in for an early night. She was still nervous, but accepting her own confusion had been freeing.