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HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 2014 - PART ONE

(Transcript and visual captions below}

 

 

 

TWENTY YEARS AGO...

 

Anselm rolled over, the ear he'd mashed against the receiver was numb from the pillow, the phantom ache of the phone’s ring still vibrated in his head.

          "What? Who..." He rubbed at his gritty eyes, shards scratched at his corneas. "Who is this?"

A distant tinny chuckle. "Your friend. The inimitable Von Hechten himself."

Anselm was drugged by sleep, did he make some sort of terrible promise he'd forgotten about? Was he supposed to be somewhere? He wasn't even sure what time it was, he fell asleep at any old time these days.

          "Are you there Anselm?"

          "Yes-- I... A party?"

          "You simply must. It is to be a display of the most beautiful youths in Reckenburg."

          "To display them to whom exactly?"

          "How could that possible be an issue."

          "What does this have to do with me? I mean, I'm flattered I guess but--"

          "Does it really matter the reasons? If you painted a master work and tossed it in an incinerator, would it have been less beautiful?"

          "You're not going to toss me in an incinerator?"

          "I would never..."

 

 

 

 

Anselm was relieved to see the crowd. He wasn't a fan of big occasions like this, but it was far easier to be invisible with this kind of company. That would be perfect, maybe he could scam some free food and get home without any issue.

The party was being held in a relic of the past, twice over. A deconsecrated Godchurch, turned library, turned convention center. How cheap to turn such a storied place into grounds for lawyers to make business connections and cheat on their wives. But here they were, and here he was, with drinks and tolerable food and an ambiance that was beautiful on the surface.

This was the display, then. But why was he here? There were surely more 'beautiful youths,' and was he even considered a youth anymore? Obviously he wasn't the type to go about pushing his business card into palms, and Von Hechten should've known that. Well a party was a party, no matter the inscrutable reason. He slipped through the entryway and felt profoundly awkward, what was he supposed to do?

Von Hechten emerged from the crowd uncannily. That alien ambassador, beamed in from whatever planet rich people come from. He wore a ridiculous outfit, and his complicated hairdo was as confusing as ever. What was he up to? He'd taken some interest in Anselm's work before, but a personal invitation was surprising. They'd chatted genially, but didn't he do that with everyone who got in his books? Why the special attention? Anselm held back a nervous shiver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

          "Are we ready for the incinerator?" Von Hechten's silver jewelry clinked as he drew close.

          "That's in terribly bad taste," Anselm smiled tightly,
"It's ah-- a nice party. But what a strange crowd..."

The pale Zurischer embraced him, his suit cold and strangely hollow.

          "We are all strangers," he whispered, "You should be strange like us."

Anselm chuckled at the riddle. "Strange, yes. That's in vogue isn't it. I imagine these unusual types are here for the display, and it's better to be on the outside of the bars."

          "No one is without a cage. Perhaps tonight you will find a degree of freedom. Give or take a degree or two."

Before Anselm could make a confused noise, Von Hechten interrupted, "--I hope you enjoy yourself."

          "Eh- yes. I always enjoy a party."

Von Hechten gave him an odd look, a flash of wistfulness? Then returned to half-lidded cordiality and airy hand gestures.

          "Good. I'll see you again, very soon."

Anselm was left to his own devices, and scuttled over to the food carts, downing as many plastic cups of wine he could before he got a dirty look. Then on to the next one...

 

 

He saw someone he recognized. Someone from television? Oh, the news, some kind of politician. She cut a distinctive figure, and especially after the amusing scandal, she was memorable. An ambassador from Sealandia, nearly forced to resign over drunken fighting and sexual harassment. Recently too, what a strange time to make an appearance at a 'display'. And to be in Grauland... why? All the more intriguing was her companion, a gothic Donbolese man half her height. The tiny man had an air of authority, and despite her lofty title, she seemed lost and alone. How familiar.

So why was he here again? He groaned. Probably for the same reason he was ever anywhere. People figure artists are a fit for party: wild and passionate. He felt far from wild, especially here. He was quite average in most ways, unremarkable more accurately. That nervous shiver crawled up his arms again. What was it going to be, an annoying task? Something that would embarrass him for the sake of 'getting his name out there?' He felt like ducking away, but something held him there, a flimsy tether that refused to break.

Well, time for another free drink.

 

 

 

 

 

The bartender was angling for tips, but Anselm knew he couldn't dream of making one comparable to the bills he'd glimpsed under the black-light. He tried to be as generous as a pauper could manage. Strangely, it almost seemed to arouse her, like he was more manly than the big rollers. Could she be one of those rich girls who see poor people as romantic? She gave him a sultry smile as she returned with his glass.

The ambassador slumped against the bar next to him.
He glanced at her furtively. She seemed lost in her thoughts, unaware of Anselm's gaze. Her small attendant was not in sight.

          "Ehm," Anselm spoke in his passable Glennish to the strange woman, "are you looking for something?"

She started at the sound of his voice, and smiled uneasily.           "Um, no. Nein..."

 

 
 

 

She switched to a relievingly decent Grauisch. "I just... have a very bad feeling about tonight. Are you a reporter?"

          "Haha, no. Did you hear something?"

          "Not exactly," she huffed and glanced away. "So what do you do, uh..."

          "Anselm Eichel. Pleased. I'm an illustrator."
He'd pretend he didn't recognize her, "--and you?"

Maybe she bought it. "I'm in politics. The man who brought me here was very persuasive, but now that I'm here, it feels like a trap. Like someone's trying to get me into trouble. Is there much money in illustration?"

Anselm was caught off guard by the change in topic. "O-oh, no, not at all really. Kudos can't be traded in, sadly. At least we have adequate social services. So I was told this party was to 'display the most beautiful youths', but I'm not so sure of that. Can you leave early?"

          "I don't know."

          "Do you know that man?"

          "Sort of. Geraud Otumbo. Oil money. Who invited you?"

          "Just goes by Von Hechten. Don't remember his first name, or if he even gave it to me. His family owns a publishing house, he's pretty well esteemed."

          "Hum. Hey uh, are you... ever tempted to do something you know you shouldn't?"

          "Only to the extent that any young person does. Or in general... So yes, perhaps. Are you going to rob a bank?"

          "Should I drink tonight?"

He hated to let someone to give in, but...

He gestured to the bar, "It's free."

She laughed and clapped him on the shoulder, "You're hunkydory Anselm.
If I black out and shoot the chancellor, I'll say it's your fault. I'm Iraia Godchild, nice meeting you."

She waved a spread of Sealandian bills at the bartender, "Honey, you like these? Yeah? Alright!"

 

 

Just as promised, there were many beauties, but they were mixed among the strangest faces. There hardly seemed to be an average human in attendance. What kind of aesthetic had been at play tonight? There were influential people, the same old stingy patrons and dusty dilettantes he'd been pushed to shake the hand of. He'd learned enough since school that it was an utter waste of time. All this mixing with the tastemakers, as though they made anything at all! They sought out impoverished artists who were eager for a Graumark or two, and used them to stroke their egos. (And not just their egos.) Anselm pushed past the designer gowns. Where was the food?

He grazed on hors d'oeuvres. He avoided the dry crumbly kind, like they served at art shows. The kind that fall out of your mouth and shatter on gallery floors. The ones that choke you up so you'll drink more free wine, and get so drunk you'll buy their ugly art. He watched the strange people, who mostly ate nothing, probably with bellies full of expensive dinners. But they all carried a glass of wine, as they whispered with their odd comrades. Their lips moved but all of them spoke too quietly for him to hear a word. Boring.

Another face caught his eye. It wasn’t his sharp senses alone, the crowd had parted around two slender figures and a voice pierced through the party’s din.

 

 

          “Why do I have to? I’m TIRED.”

Wow, really? Elise Hummel graced all the tabloids lately with her erratic, crude behavior. Anselm couldn't remember what she was famous for doing. His former studio-mate was into the whole low-brow scene and painted a unflattering portrait of her wallowing in juicy grapes. People loved it, mostly because it was a nude.

          “NOOooooo.”

Her busty steward whispered something to her, but the blank eyes showed no recognition. She was shuffled away to a quieter corner of the party. The crowd buzzed with gleeful schadenfreude.

It was really a party once the celebs came, no matter how seedy they might be.

 


 

Anselm’s stomach turned, was he gorging himself too much on this free food? His appetite was typically pathetic, but the food bank didn’t stimulate his hunger the same way. He’d gotten lost in the urbane masses. Where had he come from? Where was the exit? As he craned his neck to see beyond the hefty pillars, something cold slid under his arm, and on to his belly. He broke out in a full body shudder and froze.

          “Sorry, you weren’t hearing me.”

Von Hechten let his hand stay on Anselm a moment too long before he moved to face him.

 
 

          “Come with me, I have some people for you to meet.”

Ah, here it is. Here's the favor to be asked, the hands to shake, the boots to lick. Why now? It was years since he'd graduated, and now here he is back in this vile scene?

The pale man guided him through the crowd, his icy hand grazing Anselm’s elbow. How quickly would that hand grip him in the event of an escape?

Maybe his attendant noticed him slump in dread.

          "Don't worry, I promise that you will meet only the most fascinating people."

          "Ah... Of course." Why was he so afraid to offend this weird guy? Why not just make up an excuse and bail? It wouldn't matter if he got a bad reputation with these people, he had no reputation to ruin.

 

          "Are you enjoying yourself? You promised."

          "Oh, sure. Some nice food..." Anselm's guts churned with the stress and the decadence.

          "Life isn't just about eating! I know you've carved yourself a little antisocial niche, but how much fun are you missing out on by avoiding everyone?"

          "I don't avoid everyone. I just... I kind of gave up on this scene."

Von Hechten tutted, "That's no good! Just because you don't receive continual praise, why deny the world your beauty?"

          "--Of my art. Yeah, well if I tossed it in the incinerator, would it be any less beautiful?"

Eehh.. maybe that was a bit much. But his jab had little effect.

          "Clever boy. Hold on to that, if you can."

Von Hechten led him around the side of the crowd, and through a heavy door. They descended creaking steps into the dark, toward boozy cheer.

Perhaps it'd once been a wine cellar, thick wooden beams and stone floors lent a medieval feel, but a modern balcony and leather booths were recent installations. Small parties were concealed in darkness, chatting and drinking to excess. The air was rich with wine and cigarettes and bawdy jokes. They came to a large corner booth. A beam blocked the view inside.

          "I know these functions aren't your thing," Von Hechten said, "I thought you could do with a break."

He leaned behind the beam, and emerged with two young people.

 

 

       

   "Lucio and Janice, here is our friend Anselm. He is quite intelligent, and a talented artist. I'm sure you can find something to discuss?"

          "Hm," said Lucio.

          "Mmhm," said Janice.

Apparently being underdressed was all the rage in this circle. Not that it was anything to complain about... Von Hechten held him by the shoulders and pushed him to sit, like he was directing a child to his highchair.

          "I'm sure you'll have a stimulating conversation." He laughed too loudly at his own joke, "I kid. Well, only somewhat. As ever, enjoy yourself!"

Anselm was about to make a quip about the awkward scene, when the strangers slipped their lithe bodies closer.

 


 

"Uhhh. Well alright."

 

 

* * *

 

The crowd was lingering, which was convenient. A celebrity here and there, and they'd stay for anything. The more the merrier, and all that, and there were guests to feed.

Von Hechten was giddy, and not just about the party. They'd have their little game, and he had an excellent chance of winning. Even if he didn't, what a wonderful way to spend an evening.

 


PART TWO TO COME.

 

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    October 23rd, 2014
     By: Kelly
 

Hey guys, I was having mad writer's block and motivation problems, so I thought I'd start my Halloween story early. I hope you like Anselm's tale, it may have a twist you're not expecting. Also I'm trying out my new tablet and it is slightly awkward but I think I'm getting the hang of it. Kingfishermas is coming and I have another surprise for you so keep yr eye out!

In sad terrible news, my cat is very sick and it doesn't look hopeful. I am really sad so if you guys can think of stuff to cheer me up I would really appreciate it. ;_; Btw thank you for your kind words about my previous trauma, haha. ;_;

 

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