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(Transcript and visual captions below}




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

Anselm struggled to sit up, his head drooping. Did he make a terrible promise he’d forgotten? Was he supposed to be somewhere? His legs ached to move, to jump up and go that instant. But go to what?

         “Are you there, Anselm?

         “Yes— I… A party?”

         “Don’t you remember? We talked of this already. You simply must.
        It is to be a display of the most beautiful youths in Reckenburg.

         “To display them to whom exactly? And tonight? Now?”

         “You said your schedule was free.

         “Do I even qualify as a ‘youth’ anymore? I mean, I’m flattered
         I guess but—”

         “It’s no flattery. If a masterwork becomes dusty, it can be cleaned.
        Is it any less beautiful?

         “But what if you tore it in half and threw it in the incinerator?”

         “Well, it was beautiful while it existed.

         “…Are you going to throw me in the incinerator?”

         “I would never…


        It was a relief to see the crowd. Normally that thought would be anathema to him, but it was far easier to be invisible with this kind of company. Just slip by them, become small, the little mouse darting around their feet and stealing their bread crumbs. Speaking of which— free food.

        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 pleasant ambiance on the surface. Pleasant as a glossy apple full of worms, perhaps.

        This was the display, then. But why display him now? Waiting for the track-marks to heal? He’d dressed as well as he could with finds from the charity shop. With an artistic eye, he could hide their true origins, but he knew their x-ray eyes would bore through him and see the shameful truth. He squeezed through the crowd, searching for the next table of food to sample. He’d spent years as the invisible boy and now as eyes passed over him, he felt like crawling inside his skeleton to hide. They aren’t looking at you; they see the ghost behind you. The one who rides on your back, forever out of your line of sight. He laughed. Maybe it was Cosette's spirit, oversized glasses glinting in front of judgmental eyes, ever watchful and ready to produce another call for submission, another invitation. A better ghost than the one that curled up in his ear and whispered hateful things.

        Strangers milled around him, preening and cooing. Some glamorous, some eccentric, and everyone absolutely adoring their current conversations. They gestured and tittered and tossed their hair. Sickening perfumes formed a miasma of rotting flowers and musky endangered species. How expensive was the sweat rubbing off on him? Could he trade his clothes in for a profit?

        A pale shape caught his eye, a reverse shadow. Von Hechten emerged from the crowd like
a manifesting spectre. That alien ambassador, King Ghoul. He looked the same— uncannily so. How old must he be? Late thirties? Forties? Impossible… Plastic surgery? It had to be. Anselm's pulse quickened, his feet itched to break into a run.






         “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 and turned his head. “So, uh, this is strange for me…”

Von Hechten stepped closer, closer, and embraced him, his body marble-cold.
         “We are all strangers,” he whispered, “You should be
        strange like us.”

Anselm shuddered at the contact and stayed rigid until the man released him.

         “Strange. That’s in vogue isn’t it,” Anselm stared away at the shoes of the woman next to him, “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. Tonight you may find a
        degree of freedom. Give or take a degree or two.”

Before Anselm could make a confused noise, Von Hechten continued, “—I hope you enjoy yourself.”

         “If I must. I’ll try.”

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

         “Good. I will see you again, very soon.”

        He stepped back and was absorbed into the crowd. Anselm stared at the place he’d been, and then around and around at all the strangers. Why did he come here tonight? Why hadn’t he locked his door and cut his phone cord? This was a cruel prank, surely. Why think of him now, check in to make sure he was ‘still alive?’ Why was he pretending to give a shit? It was fake, fake fake fake. Fake as the kind words and tender embraces. He tensed his jaw and downed as much wine as he could before he got a dirty look. Then on to the next table…


There, someone he recognized. Someone from television?
Oh, the news, a 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.

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 passed her whatever standard pauper fare he could manage. She raised her eyebrows and gave him a sultry, sidelong glance.
Was she one of those rich girls who find the poor romantic? He looked away from her curtly and stared down at his drink. She lingered there, watching him until she was called elsewhere.

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

         “Ehm,” Anselm spoke in his almost passable Glennish to the strange woman, “Hello, you look for zomeone?”

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



Anselm considered his words, “Cann I help you ‘dhen? Vhat uh…”

She switched to a relievingly decent Grauisch. “I have a 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. “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 covered his absurd smile like he was holding a cough. “O-oh, no, not at all. At least we have somewhat adequate social services in this country.
So, who's your companion?”

         “Geraud Otumbo. Oil money. Who invited you?”

         “ ‘ Von Hechten.’ …Hm. Don’t remember his first name, or if he even gave
        it to me. His family owns a publishing house.”

         “Hm. Hey uh, are you ever tempted to do something you shouldn’t?”

Anselm turned his head slowly, “Only to the extent that any young person does in our economy. 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 an open bar.”

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!”




        Anselm clutched his stomach and pushed past a rack of human clothes racks.
Where was the food? He grazed on hors d’oeuvres. He avoided the dry crumbly kind they always served at art shows. The kind that fall out of your mouth and shatter on gallery floors. The ones that choked you up so you’d drink more free wine, and get so drunk you’d buy their ugly art. The wealthiest never fell for that scheme. He watched the strange people who ate nothing, probably with bellies stuffed full of expensive dinners. Or noses so full of coke they forgot how to eat.

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.”

Elise Hummel graced all the tabloids lately with her erratic, crude behavior. What she was famous for doing again?. Anselm's former studio-mate was into the whole low-brow scene and painted an unflattering portrait of her wallowing in juicy grapes. People loved it, mostly because it was a nude.


Her busty steward whispered something to her, but the blank eyes showed no recognition. She twisted in the woman’s grasp, and was shuffled away to a quieter corner. The crowd buzzed with gleeful schadenfreude.

It was a real party once the celebs came, no matter how seedy they might be. Poor woman. He didn’t have much sympathy for the rich and adored, but to be paraded around like that against her will…



        Anselm's stomach turned, gorging himself too much on this free food? The food bank fare didn’t stimulate his hunger the same way. Or was it just a thing to do, something to busy his hands and overwhelm his senses? Remember the story about the hungry little boy, he thought, eat your pillow, eat your bed, next you’ll eat your own foot and up the leg until you’ve eaten every last bit… At least he wouldn’t have to be at this party.

He slipped between bodies, standing up on his heels, statuesque figures blocking his view. 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.

         “Sorry, you weren’t hearing me.”

Von Hechten let his hand stay a moment too long.


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

The icy touch lingered on Anselm's skin. Ah, here it was. Here are
the hands to shake, the boots to lick. Or not just boots… Why now? It’s not like he’d grown more attractive in time and wasn’t he only good enough to fuck for one night?

        The pale man guided him through the crowd, his deathly hand grazing Anselm’s elbow. How quickly would that hand grip him if he attempted an escape? Anselm hated standing next to him, this close. Towering over him as much as he ever did. Stop, stop, that was years ago…

         “Courage, Anselm. This should not take long. I promise you will
        meet only the most fascinating people.”

         “Ah… Of course.” Just leave, just leave. Make up an excuse
        and run. You don’t have a reputation to ruin, just run.


         “Are you enjoying yourself? You promised.”

         “I said I would try.”

         “Did you?”

         “Oh, sure. Nice food…” Anselm’s guts churned with the stress and the decadence.

         “Life isn’t only about eating! I know you’ve carved yourself an antisocial niche,
        but how much fun are you missing out on by avoiding everyone?”

         “I don’t need to avoid them. They avoid me just fine, and I have no problem
        with that. I can have fun by myself.”

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

         “—The beauty of my art? Well, if I tossed it in the incinerator, would it be any
        less beautiful?”

         “Clever boy. Hold on to that.”

Anselm furrowed his brow. Boy? Still? And hold on to what? He shrank away but
his host paid his discomfort no mind.

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

        Von Hechten said, “I thought you could do with a respite.”

Anselm scoped the room for exits, nothing but smoke and darkness. Von Hechten leaned behind the beam and emerged with two young people.


         “Janice and Lucio, here is our friend Anselm.
        Think 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 Anselm 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 open his lips to protest when the strangers slipped their lithe bodies closer…


The youths waited until Von Hechten was out of sight, their eyes turning as they listened.

         “So,” Janice wrapped her arm around Anselm’s
        shoulders. “We don’t want to be here either.”

         “Oh?” Anselm twitched a bit at the contact,
        but allowed it.

         “Our… boss makes us,” said Lucio,
        who flopped back languidly. “Not our scene.”

        Janice tossed her hair, “It’s fine right now,
        but you know. Meh.”

         “Your boss,” Anselm couldn’t see anything
        beyond the edges of the little booth.
        “Not Von Hechten?”

Janice laughed and shook her head, “Would that be worse, or better? But no. I guess they’re of a similar nature.”

         “What is this?” Anselm asked, “This party.
        What’s going on?”

The two youths cast sad-eyed looks to each other and back to Anselm.
         “Shh,” Janice touched his arm.

         “Don’t worry,” Lucio touched the other.

         “You have some kind of pain, don’t you?”
        Janice began to massage Anselm’s shoulder.

         “Not feeling well?” Lucio worked on the other.
        “Let us help you with that.”

         “What? I—” Relief washed over Anselm like heroin to the bloodstream. He looked back to make sure they hadn’t stuck him with a needle. He went limp, and the youths embraced him, helping his worries disintegrate with their special power.



* * *


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

Von Hechten couldn't stop grinning and bouncing on his heels. He wasn't just giddy about
the party. He had an excellent chance of winning their little game. Even if he didn't, what
a wonderful way to spend an evening.



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     August 5th, 2016
     By:  Kelly

At last, here is part one of my re-write of the original Halloween 2014 story. The next part will have some new drawings, though I've touched all of them up. I've been having a lot of fun working on these, I hope you will dig Anselm's continuing adventures. :)



       TRANSCRIPT: This is the text of the comic, for purposes such as translation and internet searches.

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