The Gang Puts Up Halloween Decorations
rating: +13+x

“No, you idiot. You’re doing it wrong.”

A grabber snatched the carving knife from Volek’s bony fist. It passed it up to the next grabber above it, who passed it to the next grabber, and so on until it had landed in the Rounderpede’s topmost pair of hands.

“Hey, I was using that!”

“And now you’re not.”

The Rounderpede coiled his prodigious length, coming down to eye-level with the skeletal scholar. Even though he had no eyebrows (indeed, no skin or hair of any kind), the frustration was apparent on his skull.

They were in between Shelf A17 South-by-Northwest and B19 Up-n-Down, the two largest continuous shelves in the Stacks. Together, they formed a massive thoroughfare for Wanderers to collect books, read, write, or simply walk. They separated at regular intersections to allow access to many of the smaller Shelves, but always came together again.

Volek disregarded the serenity of the location as he rapidly tried to clamber up the Rounderpede’s segments, using each pair of hands like a ladder.

“Give - it - back!”

“Get off of me, you bonehead. Look, just watch.”

The centipede-like Librarian wrapped a hand around Volek’s smooth cranium, pulling him off and setting him down on the carpet.

“I just polished that! Why are we wasting time on this, anyway?”

The Rounderpede turned the head perched on top of his segmented infinitude. The only reason it was apparent as his head was because of the gridded white eyes and the pincer-mouth. A drop of spittle collected at the tip of one of the pincers.

Volek realized his mistake; he had asked the Archivist a question. If he had had blood vessels, he would have gone pale. Rounderpede’s pincers began chattering as he spoke quickly.

“Funny you ask that! Halloween, Hallows’ Evening, Allhalloween, All Hallow’s Eve, they’re all different names for the same holiday. Which means that Halloween is the one holiday present in every single plane of reality, though of course each has variations depending on the local customs. The constants usually include being set shortly after or before harvest season, a disproportionate focus on things that would otherwise be frightening, indulging oneself, disgui-”

“Oh my god shut up, I’m sorry I asked. Let’s just do these stupid decorations and then get back to the Main Hall.”

The Rounderpede turned his head away, miffed. Still holding the carving knife, he used a lower pair of arms to lift one of the round fruits from the basket.

“I’ve read about these! They’re called pumpkins, apparently. The seasonal tradition is to hollow them and then carve faces into them, placing a light source inside. I would imagine it’s some sort of worship ritual.”

Volek shrugged, grabbing another knife from the basket. Rounderpede threw the melon up into the next pair of arms and lifted another. After a few seconds, his eight leading segments held eight melons and eight carving knives.

“Hey boss, why do you only use the front eight?”

“I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

They set to work, sawing off the tops of the ‘pumpkins’.

“Oh, gross, what is this?”

“The pulp, I’m told. We’re supposed to scoop it out to make room for the light. Personally, I don’t understand why they don’t simply eat it.”

“Probably because most sentients have only one stomach.”

“What a sad existence.”

“Hey, I think they’re lucky. Better than no stomach at all.”

“Yes, but you don’t know what you’re missing out on.”

Nine pairs of arms started scooping pulp out of the fruit, dumping it into the trash can between them.

“And now… the face.”

“Wait, why do they have faces again?”

“I told you, it’s for the worship ritual. You carve the face of a god in, you light it, and then you worship at its base. Maybe sacrifice a cat or two.”

“Uh… I don’t think Renmar’s gonna like that.”

“What Renmar doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Especially if I… get rid of what’s left.”

“You absolute insect. What am I supposed to even carve in?”

“I don’t know, just think of something!”


“How do you think Rounderpede and Volek are doing?”

The octopus raised two of its tentacles in a dismissive shrug. Who cares? Sqr’lk nodded and went back to his decorations.

The Main Hall was usually alight with activity, but today was a slow day. The cluster of Ways at one end of the hall were mostly dormant, maybe a Wanderer or two hopping out every couple of minutes rather than the seconds they usually did. A good day for redecorating.

The phoenix perched on the shoulder of Sqr’lk’s robe let out a little cry, flapping his wings.

“Ah! Good idea, Salvador.”

He offered one corner of the large faux-cobweb to Salvador, who cinched it in his beak. The bird, almost half of his goblin owner’s height, jumped off his shoulder and flapped upwards, landing on one of the shelves and pinning the cobweb between two heavy tomes (A Picture Book, by someone only accredited as “the Gatekeeper”, and How To Run From Your Enemies With Style, by Holcombe Efferthwaighte).

“Good bird.”

Sqr’lk lifted the next decoration - a large plastic skeleton, about human-shaped. The Rounderpede had enthusiastically offered to acquire a real skeleton, but was turned down. He propped it up with its back to the shelf and a book in its lap (Living Your Best Life, Post-Death).

“Wait - Malaise, why aren’t you doing this? You’re the one with eight arms.”

The octopus was still hunched - well, as hunched as in invertebrate can be - over the table in the center of the Hall. He waved two free arm in frustration. Busy!

“Okay, okay, I’ll do it. Jeez.”

You sure will.

The yellow-and-purple octopode stared thoughtfully at the cauldron on the table. The transparent liquid inside was enchanted to never run out, courtesy of a Seasonal Decorating Guide found under the Main Desk, but it was getting the composition right that was proving difficult.

He wrapped one tentacle around a bottle of 1818 Astrid Green (the glass is blue and the liquid inside seems to be a delectable brown) and another around the jug of Cousin Dan’s Corn Whiskey (Industrial Grade). He tipped both experimentally into the punch, letting a few drops fall. The liquid sizzled and popped, then turned to an intimidating red.

Hey, you. Come here and taste this.

The reddish six-limbed creature crawling across the shelves above looked at the Archivist and sighed. The Page scuttled across the side of the shelves, dropping to the floor and approaching the cauldron. It sniffed the fumes rising from the surface for a moment, then promptly turned around and scuttled away.

You asshole, you don’t even have taste buds!

Sqr’lk piped up as Tamto scampered around a corner.

“Wow, you couldn’t even get a Page to drink it? They don’t even have-

Yeah, yeah, I know, shut up.

Malaise reached under the table, grabbing a bottle by feel and pulling it out from its brethren.

Ol’ reliable.

He uncapped the bottle of Grey Goose and let a few drops fall in. The liquid turned a soft pink and the fumes went from “chemical weapon” to simply “chemical”.

Nice.

He poured the rest of the bottle in.

“WE’RE BACK!”

Sqr’lk and Malaise turned towards the end of the Main Hall. A skeletal man wrapped in robes and a centipede-esque thing of indeterminate length marched into the hall, each carrying a basket of…

“Oh my god.”

You two idiots can’t do anything right.

“Wait, what are you talking about? We carved the pumpkins exactly how you told us to!”

Those aren’t pumpkins.

Rounderpede grabbed one of the round fruits, lifting it up to eye level to inspect it.

“Well, what are they, then?”

Watermelons.

“Ooooooh. Yes, that makes sen-”

He was interrupted by an anguished cry. All turned to see Volek, on the floor in front of the shelf Sqr’lk had been decorating. He was desperately clutching the skeleton the goblin had just put down and screaming.

"GRANDPA CHARLIE, NOOO!”

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