The Tufnell Park Terror
Halloween. A time of costumes and celebrations. However, humans aren’t the only ones who regard this All Hallows’ Eve, and don disguises of their own…
While investigating an interdimensional incursion somewhere in the vicinity of Tufnell Park, occult detective Sam Hain finds himself gate-crashing a Halloween party. With the help of friend and burgeoning witch, Alice Carroll, and enlisting the aid of supernatural specialist, Penelope Etrange, they seek to eliminate any eldritch entities before things go awry.
But the veils between worlds are at their thinnest on this night, and the threat of things from beyond crossing the terrestrial threshold looms…
Halloween. A time of costumes and celebrations.
On this night, children dress as monsters and roam door to door, accepting offerings of sweets from their neighbours, playing games of ghosts and ghouls. Adults drink and dance through the night, clad in outlandish outfits at themed parties, watch bad horror movies, and revel in indulgence through the spookiest night of the year.
However, humans are not the only ones who adorn themselves in costumes and disguises...
For this night, this All Hallows’ Eve, is the night when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. When beings from beyond the terrestrial plane, entities which exist in realities outside of our sphere of understanding, cross the threshold from their unearthly realms and into our own.
It was precisely for this reason that Sam Hain, occult detective and self-proclaimed aficionado of the arcane arts, found himself attending a costume party in a converted warehouse somewhere in Tufnell Park.
He hadn’t bothered with a costume – he didn’t see much point in fancy dress while he was on a case – instead simply turning up, unannounced, in his flowing overcoat and wide-brimmed fedora hat. Not that anyone knew this wasn’t a costume, of course. Many had tried to guess who he was supposed to be, and he had answered, quite honestly, that he was an occult detective. He had even managed to enthrall a couple of party-goers with tales of his exploits. They seemed to believe he was committed to performing as this “occult detective” character. He was in no rush to tell them otherwise; the truth would probably have been far too unsettling. This was the one night of the year that Sam Hain could almost blend in with other people without coming across too weird.
His arrival had come as somewhat of a surprise to Alice Carroll. It would have been a pleasant one, were it not for the fact that when Sam Hain was about, transdimensional trouble and terror usually wasn’t far behind.
She had been planning to attend this party anyway. It was being hosted by a friend of hers, who rented a room in the large warehouse apartment, and promised to be a fun way to spend the Halloween night. It was an excuse for her to let her hair down, too, and she had decided to take the opportunity to dress-up. It was a costume party, after all, and it wouldn’t be right to arrive without making an effort.
Wearing a form-fitting, medieval-style velvet dress of forest greens, accented with a hooded robe, and a pair of pointy latex ears over her own – decidedly less pointy – ears, she looked like elven royalty. A subtle layer of glittery make-up made her skin glimmer, lending her a faintly ethereal aura in the low lighting of the party.
Alice had modified the robe and dress, having sewn some discreet pockets into them. It had taken a bit of work, but she was pleased with the result; she could carry her purse and phone around, without having to worry about where she had left her handbag at the party. The costume looked better without a cumbersome handbag. She had also fashioned a charm pouch and tied it onto the waist, filling it with rock salt and a handful of protective herbs. She had followed a blend listed in a book on spellcraft, adding some authenticity to the outfit.
She had been looking forward to a carefree night of dancing and absurd costumes. That was until she had bumped into Sam outside Tufnell Park station, and he decided to tag along. She didn’t mind him joining her at the party, but he explained that wasn’t why he was there. He was in the area on other business; something about a cross-dimensional rip, or a transphasic tear, or a pocket of weirdness. He alternated in his name for it, but in essence he had reason to believe that something untoward and unnatural was afoot.
The fact it happened to be in the vicinity of the very same costume party Alice was attending was either remarkable happenstance or divine providence.
She just hoped they’d get through the night without consequence or cosmic horror. Although, if whatever it was was important enough that it meant Sam Hain was actually willing to tolerate being at a crowded party, she wasn’t feeling optimistic.
‘I hope you don’t mind,’ Sam said, taking a drag on his cigarette, ‘but we may have another unexpected guest arriving shortly.’ He had stepped outside for a smoke while anticipating this new arrival, and Alice had followed just in case something supernatural was about to occur.
‘I’m sure it’ll be fine, it’s not like we’re gatecrashing and wrecking a party with just one more person,’ she said. ‘Unless you’ve invited some terror from another dimension, of course,’ she added with a laugh. A laugh which quickly faded when she noted the stoic expression on Sam’s face. ‘No?’
Sam wobbled his hand back and forth. ‘A terror? No,’ he said. ‘From another dimension? Well…’ He nodded down the alley which ran alongside the warehouses, towards the road at the end. ‘Here she is now.’
At the end of the alleyway, a hearse had pulled up onto the curb. The windows were tinted, and decorated with the design of a deer skull set against a background of strange, twisting, occult symbols. It would have been a disquieting sight, although it seemed remarkably fitting for Halloween. It took a moment for its occupant to get out, but after a short while a head popped up from the driver’s side, and proceeded to walk around the outside of the hearse, towards the party.
Doctor Penelope Etrange, arcane archaeologist.
Alice had first made her acquaintance only a few months prior, when Sam had introduced the two of them just before encountering an unearthly horror. He and Penny had known each other a while longer, having bonded over a coffee and a crossword which Penny had been filling out with a celestial script. There had been a reason for this, although Sam was still not privy to the details. Nor indeed why, for Nine-Down, she had written (loosely translated) “the Singer under the Sea”, when the answer was obviously “Andrew Lloyd Webber”.
While Sam and Alice may have looked exactly as they were – two people, one dressed as an elf, the other as some kind of noir detective – Penny was not quite as she seemed. On the surface, she appeared to be in her thirties, dressed as a Victorian goth. She was clad in layers of velvet and lace, a broad bustle beneath her pleated skirt and a fitting corset. Her uncannily expressive face was framed by raven black hair, set in immaculate curls and ringlets. The fact that she dressed like this on a daily basis was neither here or there.
The thing about Penny was that she was quite a bit older, and not as human, as she appeared.
She beamed at them as she drew closer, her wide eyes sparkling as she waved enthusiastically in their direction. Her lips stretched into an almost absurdly broad smile. Street lights flickered momentarily, as another image seemed to superimpose itself over Penny. Something distorted, otherworldly, a glimpse of bone and horns.
Alice blinked, and reality resolved itself in an instant. Penny stood before her, still with that bright smile across her face.
‘Hey Penny,’ Alice said, returning the smile, ‘lovely to see you again.’
‘Penny,’ Sam said, offering his hand to shake hers, ‘glad you could make it. How’re you doing?’
Penny’s hands moved in a flurry as she signed. Although she wasn’t deaf, she communicated almost exclusively in British Sign Language. She would say it was safer for mortal flesh if she did not use her Voice.
Sam blinked in confusion at her signing, and hastily began to search his pockets. ‘Bear with me one moment,’ he said, before retrieving a small silver ring from his pocket. Its gleaming surface was engraved with strange, twisting symbols. ‘Alice, do you have that bracelet I gave you by any chance?’
She held her arms out, rattling the thin bracelets which decorated her wrists. They tied the elven-look together quite nicely, but none of them were the bracelet which had given her the ability to understand BSL. ‘I’m afraid not, no,’ she said, shaking her head, ‘I wasn’t thinking I’d be needing a magickal universal translator this evening.’
Penny held up a finger, indicating for them to hold on for a moment. She fished around inside her bag, producing a broad, silver bangle. Dotted about the bracelet, set into metal, were several different coloured crystals, which seemed to emit a faint glow in the dark of the night. Symbols which almost resembled cuneiform etched along its body. She placed it on Alice’s outstretched left arm, giving it a delicate pat.
This should help, she signed, and hopped on the spot with delight when she saw the glimmer of understanding wash across Alice’s face. It doesn’t fast-track learning BSL like the other one. It telepathically translates what I’m saying, a bit like Sam’s ring.
As she was gesticulating her explanation, Sam slid the ring over his finger. The symbols across its surface glowed with a faint turquoise light. ‘There we go, sorry about that, forgot to put it on. I’m an idiot,’ he said, grinning towards Penny.
That’s okay, Penny signed, radiating warmth, I’m used to it. Her expression shifted into one of humour, and her shoulders shook with silent laughter.
Sam offered a look of mock-reproach, his lips tightening in a sarcastic smile. ‘Walked into that one, didn’t I?’
This looks like a party, Penny signed. She glanced about the entrance to the warehouse, where small huddles of people were stood around, smoking and drinking, wearing their strange costumes. Where’s this interdimensional breach you mentioned?
It would be inaccurate to say that the ring enabled Sam to understand sign language; he understood a little, but he was no more adept at reading her signing now than he had been before. But as she signed, it was as if he could hear her voice, whispering inside his mind.
‘I’m not entirely sure,’ he said, ‘all I know is it’s somewhere nearby. I’ve yet to ascertain precisely where, or even what, but as Alice was on her way to this party I thought we could convene here too.’ He nodded to the doorway. ‘Shall we head back inside? We can figure things out over a drink and some chocolate spiders.’
Penny bobbed her head enthusiastically. I don’t often go to human Halloween parties. This should be fun. She grinned broadly at them both.
‘Let’s just hope the fun side of things greatly outweighs whatever nightmare you two are hunting,’ Alice said, and they began to make their way inside.
They climbed the narrow wooden staircase up to the apartment in the loft of the warehouse. An eerie sense of foreboding hung heavily in the air.