The following tale is not for those weak of heart or strong of odour. Do not read if you are easily frightened by not very good prose that is in its phrasing awkward mostly. If nausea persists for more than two hours, that’s pretty much to be expected.
The last thing Beatrice remembered was arguing with the militant members of her Wednesday night book club at Pendribble Bar. She had boldly declared that if you have enough time to take yoga classes to relieve your stress, you’re not that stressed in the first place. She knew she was drunk – she had gone off on some rant about Lululemon and Greek yogurt – but she had her wits about her enough to argue lucidly that there should be a moratorium on book titles patterned on The _____’s Something-or-Other.
“The Podiatrist’s Haberdasher was the last straw!” she remembered exclaiming from a barstool, the ladies shaking their zinfandels at her menacingly. And then it all went dark.
The next thing Beatrice recalled was the chill of the tile floor, the glare of the light forcing its way through her eyelids. She tried to move, but her limbs wouldn’t respond. She tried to remember. Where was she? What was going on? Was Rob Ford in town again? No, there had been that man at the bar…
“Hello, Beatrice,” said a deep voice. Lying on the hard floor, Beatrice knew even in her grogginess that the voice was coming through a speaker somewhere above her. “I’m talking to you from this speaker somewhere above you.” She was right. “Shall we play a game?”
Beatrice’s eyes flew open, adrenaline pushing her into a wakefulness filled with terror and anguish, like when she accidentally set her radio-alarm to OKIEMON-FM, the bluegrass-reggae station.
“Where am I? Who are you? What time is it? How clean is this floor?” she cried comprehensively.
Beatrice sat up and saw she was in a bare room, her feet chained to the floor. Her hands too were immobilized, her left hand encased in a red metal contraption that constricted her movements and clashed terribly with her apricot blouse. The device was attached to a large vessel containing something she couldn’t make out. Her right hand was similarly trapped, only in this case her fingers were wrapped around a pen rigged with pulleys and wires, poised above some kind of document. Beatrice began to panic. I mean, the red really, really clashed with her blouse.
“You will be asked a series of questions,” said the voice. “Answer correctly, and your left hand will be lowered into a bowl…”
“Of eyeballs?” gasped Beatrice.
“Of hot coals?” she trembled.
“Of toner cartridge ink, the kind that gets absolutely everywhere?” she shivered.
“No! Shut up!” shouted the voice. “Into a bowl… of coleslaw! Where you will find a latch for your escape. However, if you answer incorrectly, your right hand will commit an act of unspeakable horror.”
“Yes, you will be forced to sign a membership to the federal Conservative Party!”
“NOOOOOO!” shrieked Beatrice.
“Yes! How else do you think they’ve managed to pull off ‘a strong, stable majority government’? Now, let us begin. First… you must explain… Halloween!”
“Halloween? Like the holiday?” stuttered Beatrice. “It’s a day when everyone…. Wait a sec. Is it creamy or vinaigrette?”
“Creamy,” chuckled the voice. “With extra-goopy mayonnaise.”
“But no Greek yogurt?” asked Beatrice.
“Oh, thank God! Okay, okay, Halloween. Halloween is… a day when everyone dresses up like a ghost or a demon to, uh, because… yes! Because the next day is All Saints Day, and we dress up as the bad spirits that the saints then drive away!”
“So, it’s a religious holiday?” sneered the voice. The levers around the pen began to move, forming a “B” on the paper. “People go to church on Halloween, do they?”
“No! Wait. No, it’s not exactly religious. It has religious overtones…” The machine formed an “E.” “But it’s… it’s a cultural holiday because… it’s important to emotionally scar our children?” She scrawled an “A.” “AAAH! We’re… we’re laughing at death!” She wrote a “T.” “Noooo! Wait! I’ve got it. It’s just a dumb excuse to be gross and eat candy!”
“Huh? What?” said the voice. “Sorry, I was watching the Senate proceedings in Ottawa. Now that’s a nightmare! So, yeah, you can go. Don’t want book-smart people in the party anyway. Look where that got us with Duffy.”
With that, the machine plunged Beatrice’s left hand into the cabbage mixture. She grasped a lever and pulled, releasing her from the shackles. Beatrice fled the room, trailing mayo behind her.
Much later, the police arrived at the abandoned warehouse, lured there by an anonymous tip. Two detectives surveyed the scene of the demented Q&A.
“Looks like the work of the Horror Tory,” said the first detective. “Poor girl.”
“A bloodbath?” asked the second.
“No,” replied the first. “Slawed her.”