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Literature
Goodbye, Daniel
"It's right here." said the boy in Sally's car, pointing to the apartment complex he'd spent the last four and a half years in.
She gently applied the brakes, and spun the wheel towards the place she'd been directed to. It wasn't hard to find a parking spot once she was in the lot. She pulled into the empty space, and went through the quick mindless process of parking.
Sally did not look at the boy in the passenger seat. She could not.
How could it be possible after all these years? How could he really be there right next to her after being missing for five long years? That little boy who could be no older than nine or ten years old, how could that be the man she loved? How could this child have his face? It was his face exactly, down to the small scar above his left eye. Those were his eyes looking at her, and they carried a deeper sadness to them than any child ever should. The boy's lips pulled together in that same way that his always did when he was trying to be reassuring in a se
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:icontheartesian:theARtesian 13 6
Literature
The Boy in the Mask
It was a cold night at the very tail end of October, and while in most towns the streets were full of children, there were still places like Evergreen, Oregon where you weren't likely to see more than two groups of trick or treaters for the entire evening. It was a funny sort of place that was too big to be a small town, and too small to be a big city, and so settled for something just in between the two that had none of the perks of either. It wasn't a bad sort of town, though, just an uneventful one. You weren't likely to be mugged in a back alley, but people were nonetheless careful not to go out walking too late after dark.
Perhaps that's why so few children go out on Halloween night, and even if they do, it's always in packs, and their parents aren't more than two or three feet away from them at all times. Which made it all the more strange to see a little boy wandering around the suburbs all alone in a bright red and yellow clown suit. This suit, though bright and cheerful enough
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:icontheartesian:theARtesian 6 2
Literature
Forever Miles
One hot, Los Angeles night, child star Jay Kelsea paced around in his apartment, waiting for his agent to arrive. "Child star" might not be an altogether accurate term to describe Jay Kelsea. After all, he hasn't really been a child for about ten years now. He knows how to look like one, though. That's his gift. He knows how to look like anything.
He discovered this power when he was fourteen and since then, he's played every type of role there is. He's played men, women, monsters, aliens, dogs, cats, and yes, children too. It was one particular child role that gained him some attention, specifically, Miles Lane, boy genius. His brief appearance on the ABC sitcom Homesick became the highlight of the show's first season, and he was asked to return several times during season two. By season three, he was a regular character, and more popular than the rest of the cast put together.
Sounds like a pretty good gig. But all good things must come to an end, and Jay had no idea the sort of bomb
:icontheARtesian:theARtesian
:icontheartesian:theARtesian 9 2
Literature
Do You Really Mean It?
If you wish, you can also find this story on the ARarchive under my alternate username Neverlander. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this story of a man who learns the hard way not to say things that he doesn't really mean.
---
"He tricked me... the little brat tricked me!" Joseph thought, sitting on a bench that was much larger than it should have been, and in a body much smaller than he was accustomed to.
The body belonged to a kid he'd met at the playground while watching after his nephew for the afternoon. The boy, who couldn't have been much more than six or seven years old, was dressed all in a gentle blue color when they first met, right down to his socks. He was holding a little stuffed dog toy, but still seemed sullen and unhappy so when he asked if he could sit next to Joseph while he waited for his mom to come pick him up, he felt sorry for the kid and made room on the bench next to him.
"What's your name, little guy?" he asked gently. It was the same voice his older sister
:icontheARtesian:theARtesian
:icontheartesian:theARtesian 17 4
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"It's right here." said the boy in Sally's car, pointing to the apartment complex he'd spent the last four and a half years in.

She gently applied the brakes, and spun the wheel towards the place she'd been directed to. It wasn't hard to find a parking spot once she was in the lot. She pulled into the empty space, and went through the quick mindless process of parking.

Sally did not look at the boy in the passenger seat. She could not.

How could it be possible after all these years? How could he really be there right next to her after being missing for five long years? That little boy who could be no older than nine or ten years old, how could that be the man she loved? How could this child have his face? It was his face exactly, down to the small scar above his left eye. Those were his eyes looking at her, and they carried a deeper sadness to them than any child ever should. The boy's lips pulled together in that same way that his always did when he was trying to be reassuring in a serious situation. When he spoke, it was in that same very dramatic fashion that she'd only ever heard in the movies.

He never did know quite how to behave in the real world, she thought. And so he seemed to imitate what he saw in the movies, as though all this time he were just a little kid who did a very good job of playing a grown up... only now he really was a little kid. It was Daniel who sat next to her tonight, beyond a shadow of a doubt. It was him, no matter how much she wished it weren't.

"Sally?" he said, "Are you okay?"

She tried to take a deep breath, but she just couldn't summon up the strength. "I'm okay, I'm just... It's just that..." Sally closed her eyes and tried to calm herself, then continued, "I just can't believe that... after all these years... you're..."

"I'm sorry, Sally. I never wanted to leave you." Daniel said as he reached for Sally's hand, "I used to walk by your house on the way to school... and every day, I promised myself that I'd go to your door and tell you, but..."

"But you didn't have the guts to do it. To tell me you weren't dead." she snapped, "I waited five years for you. Everyone said you were dead, that you weren't coming back, and just when I'm finally ready to accept that fact..."

"If I'd told you, would you have believed me?"

"I barely believe you now." she said.

"I know." he sighed, and he did understand. Five years on, and he himself still had trouble fully processing what happened.

"I'm sorry, Dan. It's just... I want to be mad, I want to hate you for everything you've done to me... but as much as this has hurt me, I know you've been through so much more. I can't imagine what it must've been like... what it must be like."

"That's not important, Sally."

"It is to me. I love you, Dan, and I want to know what happened to you. I just want to be there for you." she turned to him then, and quickly realized just what she was asking him to do when she saw his gently drawn lips begin to quiver slightly, though he tried to hide it, "I... I'm sorry. You don't have to tell me, I... I really do mean it, please, just... I wish I hadn't said anything, now."

The silence in the car became a tangible thing. It was Daniel who finally broke it.

"At first I was in shock." he began slowly, "Nothing looked or felt right anymore. I was taken from my home, my family, my friends. My whole life had been taken from me all at once. Even my own thoughts didn't feel right. It was like being high, or drunk, but being just sober enough to realize that feeling will never go away. I could barely think straight about anything." he said, a slight tremble sneaking into his voice, "But the thing that hurt the most this whole time was knowing how much I'd hurt you, Sally."

"No, Danny, you didn't do anything to me." she said quickly, trying her very best to sooth the trembling child next to her, "It's not your fault, Dan. It's not your fault."

As she reached over to him, and took him in her arms, the tears finally came in his eyes, and he gave up the fight to hold them back, "I thought I'd never see you again."

"I'm here, Danny." she said, "I'm here."

They stayed like that for a long time, not moving a muscle, except perhaps to pull one another tighter into their sad embrace. As the engine cooled off, they could feel the frosted air creeping in through the doors and windows around them. Goose pimples rose on their arms as they held each other close on this cold winter night.

---

Two people walked down the long hallway of the apartment complex. The walls were a simple white and grey, painted a pale blue by the fluorescent lights above them. One of them was a young woman in her early thirties named Sally, and holding her hand was a boy who looked no older than ten. As they drew near to a door marked 334, Sally's face fell a touch, and she slowed her pace considerably.

"Wait," she said, "Are they the ones who..."

Daniel looked up at her. "No," he said, "they're just the ones who adopted me. I don't think I'll ever really know who or what did this to me, only that it wasn't them."

"You don't have to go back to them." she said, "If you like, I could take care of you. We could be together again.

Daniel smiled sadly, "I wish that were true. But even if I could do that, it wouldn't be fair to them." he nodded to the door, "They're good people, Sally, and they genuinely care about me."

Sally tried to smile, but gave up. "I care about you too."

"I know." he replied, "We can still see each other. You can come visit from time to time, or we could meet up... This doesn't have to be goodbye, Sally."

"I guess not." she said, although part of her suspected these rendezvous would never really come to pass. No parent would ever feel fully comfortable with their child befriending a strange woman. She put on a brave face, though.

Danny knocked gently on the door in front of them, and didn't have long to wait before it was opened by a middle aged blond woman.

"Austin!" she said, trying to sound more angry than relieved, and failing, "Where have you been, we've been so worried about you."

"I'm sorry, mom." Daniel, or Austin as she knew him said, "I missed the bus, but this nice woman here gave me a ride." he pointed to Sally with a smile.

"Oh, thank you so much, miss," the woman said, reaching out to shake Sally's hand, "I don't know what we'd do without our little boy. Thank you for bringing him home."

"Oh, that's okay, it really was no problem," Sally said, looking him in the eye, "he's a wonderful guy. And he was so sweet that I was happy to help out."

He smiled broadly at her, then, as he stood holding his new mother's hand.

"Well, I'm so glad you did. Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?"

"Oh, no, thank you." Sally said, not quite ready for that yet, "I have to get going. You have a nice evening. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, miss. Drive safely."

"Goodbye, Sally." said the little boy at the woman's side.

Sally smiled sadly at him and said, "Goodbye, Austin."

She turned around then and walked back down the hallway, listening to the two shuffling back into their apartment, and the gentle sound of the woman half heartedly scolding "Austin" for talking to strangers, until she heard the door shut behind them.

She stopped then, and looked back towards the door marked 334, holding back the urge to run back in there, steal Daniel away from this woman who treated him like a child, and drive away, drive away forever. But she didn't run back to him. She didn't even go back for that cup of coffee. She simply stared at the door to the apartment her former lover had lived in for the past four and a half years, and where he would continue to live for a few years more at least.

She could always come to visit, he'd said, but deep down she knew she wouldn't. She would never set foot in this apartment complex again.

"Goodbye, Daniel."
Goodbye, Daniel
Five years after Sally's boyfriend went missing without a trace, she met a familiar young boy with an unbelievable story.

A little story idea that came to me when I realized we'd rarely seen someone who's had time to come to terms with their change, and has started to settle into their new life as another person. I've been playing with this story for a bit, and I think I've just about got it where I want it. I hope you enjoy this little story.
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It was a cold night at the very tail end of October, and while in most towns the streets were full of children, there were still places like Evergreen, Oregon where you weren't likely to see more than two groups of trick or treaters for the entire evening. It was a funny sort of place that was too big to be a small town, and too small to be a big city, and so settled for something just in between the two that had none of the perks of either. It wasn't a bad sort of town, though, just an uneventful one. You weren't likely to be mugged in a back alley, but people were nonetheless careful not to go out walking too late after dark.

Perhaps that's why so few children go out on Halloween night, and even if they do, it's always in packs, and their parents aren't more than two or three feet away from them at all times. Which made it all the more strange to see a little boy wandering around the suburbs all alone in a bright red and yellow clown suit. This suit, though bright and cheerful enough, was paired disjointedly with an eerily realistic demon mask with fangs that looked ready to take a bite out of anyone. What's stranger, is that if you got close enough, you might have heard him talking to himself in terrified pleading tones.

"I... I recognize this place!" the boy said, distraught.

"Do you now? Good! You'll know the very best houses, won't you?"

"But... but my friends live here! You promised-"

"I promised only what I have already given you, Billy! Now keep moving!"

He marched towards a familiar house with all the cheer of a inmate on death row. The house had nothing more than a token jack-o-lantern on display for the season and was just large enough for two people to live comfortably. Two people he knew well.

"I don't want to do this anymore..." Billy said.

"You had a choice, Billy." said the mask in his head, "You could have said no, refused my offer, and gone about your life. Now we're a team, you and I. Partners in crime. Together forever."

"No! Tracey's my sister! And Mike is my best friend! I won't do it!"

Cold laughter echoed throughout the boy's head, followed by a colder voice. "Then stop me." it said, "Stop me from pushing this doorbell. Save the wretched souls who live here, and stop me from doing again what I've been doing all night." The mask laughed again and put on a mockery of distress, "Oh, Billy, please! Please don't let me ring that doorbell! Please don't let me kill again!"

---

"Haunted Halloween masks? Are you kidding me?" asked Tracey in a state of complete disbelief.

Her live-in boyfriend Mike, who sat next to her on the couch stuffed a handful of popcorn in his mouth before mumbling through a few dozen puffy kernels, "Cmmun! Ish the greatesht."

"No, the first one was the greatest." she said angrily, "Right now I'd even take the fourth one! At least that one actually had Meyers in it!"

Mark had chewed his way through enough to speak clearly and said, "Oh, come on, Tracey! They were trying something different, and I respect them for that!"

"Different would be if the killer went to outer space, or something, not when he just doesn't show up at all! It'd be like Dracula without vampires, or a Bloodsaw sequel without a chainsaw!"

Mark chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then said, "Didn't that happen, though?"

Tracey glared at him, and was about to tell him that they don't talk about Bloodsaw VII, when suddenly the doorbell rang. Both their eyes went wide with surprise.

"Tracey?"

"Yeah?"

"Did you turn off the porch light?"

"I thought you did!" she hissed

"Damn! What're we gonna do?"

"Answer it of course! There's some poor kid out there expecting candy!"

"But we don't have any candy!"

DING DONG! went the bell again.

"Do we have any soda?" Tracey asked

"There might be some in the fridge."

"Well, give 'em that!"

"Soda? For Halloween?"

"It's got sugar in it!"

DING DONG!

"Damn, those brats are impatient!" Mike hissed back.

---

"Oh, Billy, my boy, my baby boy, this is going to be fun!" echoed the voice that only Billy could hear, "I hear them in there... They think they don't have anything for us! Ha! How charming... if only they knew what was about to happen. If only there was some way you could warn them. If only you'd just run away and leave this house behind, poor Tracey and Mike could live to see the sun rise just one more time! What are you waiting for, Billy? Run! Save their lives and run away! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Billy heard it all, and he wanted to do just that. With all of his might, he struggled to move his feet, to turn away from this horrible scene, to stop it from happening again. He remembered the looks on their faces... all of them. He'd seen more than enough death tonight, and he didn't want to see anymore.

"Of course you do, Billy." the mask said again, "Think about it! If you really wanted this to stop, you could have done it by now. No, Billy, deep down you love to see the look in their eyes as they slowly realize what's happening to them! You love to see their bodies twist and fold in on themselves, becoming smaller and smaller until there's nothing left at all! You love to see them beg for mercy as I drain every last day of their lives away! As I- as WE feast on their very existence! You, Billy, are no better than me!"

The door swung open then, and instead of screaming at the young man in front of him to run away as fast as he could, his lips defied his every command and formed the familiar chant of "Trick or treat!"

"Umm, hi." Mike said, "What are you supposed to be? A demon clown?"

"Yep." The mask said through Billy.

"Huh... well, I don't have anymore candy, but would you like a Dr Pepper instead?" he said, trying to shake off any flashbacks to the first scene in Halloween, little realizing how prophetic they would turn out to be.

He held out the chilly can to the kid who reached right past it and grabbed his wrist with an unnatural vice like grip. Mike dropped the can in shock and cried out in pain as the child's hand gripped tighter and tighter. The pain was profound, and nearly overpowered another feeling emanating from his wrist that was slowly spreading across his whole body.

The night sky seemed to turn a blinding white and soon everything else followed as he fell to his knees. The only distinguished object in this vast expanse of white light was the solid black shape of a child with terrible red eyes that stood holding his wrist.

He couldn't say how long he knelt there struggling, desperately fighting to free himself from this strange creature, before the figure was suddenly snatched away, and Mike seemed to feel at least a part of himself slipping back into the real world. He could still barely see anything, but the blinding white light was gone, and he could start to hear something, as though he were on the other side of a wall. He heard his girlfriend screaming something... something to the effect of "Get away from him, you bitch!"

Aliens. He knew there was a reason he loved her.

"What," she screamed at the child shaped creature in front of her, "have you done," she grabbed him by the big white clown collar and pinned him against the lawn, "to my boyfriend?"

The creature reached up and grabbed both her wrists at once, causing her to seize up, as though she were in some sort of a fit. The mask seemed alive as it laughed at her pain.

Mike's vision, though blurry, was enough that he could see it all happening and could see something else too. As she twitched and spasmed and cried out in pain and terror in the boy's grip, Tracey's clothes slowly started hanging more and more loosely off of her. He defied his aching body and swirling head as he stood up to charge the thing. As he did, though, he tripped over his pants which had fallen down by his ankles.

That thing, whatever it was, had made him smaller... no, it had done more than that. His hairless legs, his impossibly smooth skin... he was a little boy again, and as he looked back at the horror going on in his front yard, he realized that if he didn't act soon, Tracey might very well shrink away into nothing.

He stepped out of the pants and charged again, this time successfully reaching the two, but despite his best efforts, he couldn't separate them.

"HA! HA! HA! HA!" the mask cackled, "I'll finish with you later, boy! Just as soon as I've finished with her!"

Wait... of course! The mask!

"You're finished, alright!" Mike shouted in a high, girlish voice that sounded more like Tracey's than his own, as he grabbed the mask and pulled with all his might.

"WHAT?" The creature screamed, "You can't do that! I'll kill her! Believe me! I'll kill her if you don't stop! I'll make her suffer!"

"Shut up!" He shouted once more as he pulled the mask clean off the screaming boy beneath him, throwing it as far away as he could.

The screaming stopped. Tracey, now no more than twelve years old, fell to her side as the cute little blond haired boy in the clown costume let go of her. His eyes were glassy and his breathing shallow. His hands hung suspended in the air where they once held Tracey, now empty and trembling.

"Tracey!" Mike called, climbing over the catatonic boy to get to the woman he loved, "Tracey, wake up! Tracey!"

"Uhh... Mike...Mike is that you..." the girl's eyes slowly opened, just enough to take in the sight of a little boy in an oversized sweater, "Sorry, kid... no candy here... we got a soda if you like..."

She drifted for a moment before she started to remember what she'd just been through.

"The kid! Where is he?"

"He's here, Tracey. Don't worry. He's not gonna hurt us anymore."

"My God," Tracey said, "look what he did to you."

"You should see the other guy." he joked, or tried to anyway.

"Am I..."

Mike nodded. Tracey nearly burst out crying as the full weight of what had just happened to them fell down on her. Mike would have certainly do e the same were it not for the fresh adrenaline pumping through his blood and anger he felt at the monster that had taken their lives away from them. Mike turned to the boy in the clown suit and grabbed him by the collar shaking him, "Wake up! Wake up, you bastard!" he shouted, his rage playing out more like a tantrum in his new body, "What have you done to us, you little shit? What is this!?"

The boy snapped out of his shocked state and looked Mike in the eyes, "Mm... Mike?"

Mike was surprised to say the least, but then surprise turned to wonder when he realized how familiar this boy looked. If it were twelve years ago, he'd have said he was Billy Loomis, his best friend since kindergarten. But Billy was in his twenties now, and this boy was only... Mike stopped himself when he realized that he was only a child too now.

"Billy? What the hell just happened here?"

Billy's expression turned to one of horror. "The mask!" he said, "It's the mask! I tried to stop it! I tried to fight it! Please, Mike!" he begged, "It has to be destroyed!"

Mike looked at the mask lying crumpled on the lawn.

"Mike," Billy said, tears in his eyes, "I'm sorry, Mike... All I wanted was to go trick or treating... just to be a kid again, I... I didn't know it would be like this."

---

On the television screen, the least popular Halloween movie was playing as the background to a solemn scene. Three children, two boys and one girl, gathered around a burning fireplace wearing oversized t shirts which hung so loosely on them, they may as well have been robes. On the floor next to them sat a small pile of large clothing, topped off with a bright red and yellow clown suit. In Mike's hands was an incredibly detailed blue green demon mask with teeth that looked ready to take a bite out of anyone.

"Happy happy Halloween!" the television chanted to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down, "Halloween! Halloween!"

Mike looked at the mask, then back at the flame.

"Happy happy Halloween!"

"What are you waiting for?" asked Billy.

"If I do this... there might not be any way for us to change back." Mike said slowly, "And then... I don't know what we'll do."

"I do." said Tracey, "We'll forget about this awful night, except to remind ourselves that no matter what happens next, we did the right thing."

"But if there is a way," Mike started.

"There isn't." said Billy, "This thing is pure evil, Mike. Trust me, I know. All it knows how to do is take. It doesn't give back."

"Happy happy Halloween!" the movie chimed again.

Mike looked at the mask's empty eye holes, staring deep inside of it, feeling it gazing back at him.

"Halloween! Halloween!"

There, on the edge of hearing, in the corner of his mind's eye, Mike thought he heard that voice again.

"Happy happy Halloween!"

He had a whole life before this, he had it all figured out, he was happy. Could he really throw away his only chance at getting that back? Could he throw away his family, his friends, his identity... his love?

"Sil-ver-"

"Mike."

Tracey put her small soft hand in Mike's, squeezing gently, "It's not worth it, Mikey."

"What if we get separated, Tracey?" he asked, tears in his eyes, "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me... I can't lose you."

"I love you, Mike, so I'm gonna tell it to you straight. Wesley and Buttercup have got nothing on us. Let them just try to separate us. I don't care if we end up on opposite sides of the world, I will do whatever it takes to find you. Sooner or later, we will be together again. That much, I know, is meant to be."

The far away voice of the mask grew farther away, and as he looked in Tracey's eyes, that lump of latex in his lap become just that and nothing more. Looking at it now, the fangs looked a little more shiny and rubbery, the edges just a little bit duller, and the mask, on the whole, just a little bit cheaper.

With one quick, decisive toss, the lump of rubber spun in the air and landed in the fireplace, entering the warm embrace of the bright golden flames. The air grew a little lighter, the stars shone a little brighter, and the tv gently slid into a commercial for laundry detergent.

Billy got up from his spot and walked over to the pile to grab his clown suit.

"What are you doing with that?" Mike asked.

"The only thing I can do." he answered as he tossed it on the fire too, "I don't want anything to remind me of tonight... least of all that... thing. I'm sorry for what happened, Mike. I never-"

Mike held up his hand to stop him, "It's okay, Billy. It's not your fault."

Billy looked down at his toes, "I just wish I could believe that." he said sullenly, "I wished for a chance to be a little kid again, and to go door to door on Halloween night. It gave me everything I asked for, and I gave it everything it needed."

"You didn't know, Bill. I can't think of anybody who wouldn't have done the same thing in your shoes."

"Speaking of shoes," said Tracey, "we're gonna need something other than your old t shirts to wear."

"Oh," Mike said, "right. I guess we could buy some online, then try to make whatever we've got in the house last as long as we can."

"And after that?" Billy said, "What happens if we can't take care of ourselves anymore?"

Tracey sighed and said, "We find our families, and close relatives and see if any of them will believe our story."

The room was quiet except for the crackle of the fire and the sound of a campaign ad quietly playing.

"I'm feeling kind of tired." said Billy, "You mind if I take the couch tonight?"

"That's fine. For the next couple weeks, me casa es su casa."

Tracey scowled, "Could you have gone for a more tired cliché?"

"Well, everybody else is tired. Why not the cliches?" he said smiling, "You know, Tracey, you were kind of a badass back there."

"And I've got the bruises to prove it." Billy added, smiling again.

"Get away from him, you bitch!" Mike quoted laughing.

"I've waited my whole life for a chance to use that line."

"Well, I for one am still waiting for my chance. I'm kinda jealous, you know."

Tracey saw an all too familiar look in his eyes, a look she would have welcomed any other night, but tonight she only looked sadly into his. She was so used to him being the tall one that it threw her to have to look down to meet his gaze. "I know where you're going with this, Mikey, and I'm sorry, but I just can't do it like this."

Mike's face took on a serious, but compassionate expression, "I understand." he said, "I suppose I could sleep on the floor, or..."

"It's okay, Mikey. Just because we're not... you know, doesn't mean we can't stay close. This has been a hard night, and... I still want to be close to someone tonight."

The boy who was once Mike smiled warmly and hugged the girl he once called his girlfriend. "I love you, Tracey." he said.

"I know."

They held that embrace for a few moments, until Bill coughed lightly and said in a voice that hadn't sounded that scratchy for years before this night, "I'll just go turn off the tv, then."

"Oh," said Tracey as she and Mike separated, "sorry, Billy, I-"

"It's fine." he said, "Like I said, tv." and with that, he gently walked to the far side of the room to turn off the large flat screen just as it was about to fade into that monologue about the festival of Samhain. Why they were watching the third movie, Billy could never claim to understand.

Meanwhile, Mike took Tracey's hand, and together they walked to their shared bedroom down the hall. "You know something?" said Tracey, "I really hate Halloween."

Mike smiled saying, "Me too."

And with that, he shut the door behind them, leaving Billy alone in the living room. He laid himself out on the sofa which he'd positioned in front of the fire place for warmth. It wasn't easy with his smaller body, but he didn't feel right now as though he had any right to complain. With one stupid decision, he had ruined his life, and the lives of his friends. And then, there were the others who'd answered their doors tonight. At least Mike and Tracey would get to grow up again. The others... the others...

Billy pushed these thoughts far away as he watched the fire burning. He watched that horrible clown suit he'd worn all night slowly curl away into dust and embers. He watched the fire eating away at its cheap colorful fabric, leaving the seams for last, like the decaying skeleton of some horrible creature.

It was over. The creature was dead.

Billy tried to sleep then, but something didn't seem right. As the clown suit burned, he saw something else underneath it. Something that wouldn't burn, or melt, or warp, or fuse. Something made of cheap latex and rubber, but that looked almost real. It's blue green skin caught the light of the fire surrounding it, which in turn painted an orange hue on the mask's sharp teeth.

In the distance, on the edge of hearing, from somewhere in the corner of his mind's eye, Billy heard an all too familiar voice calling his name.
The Boy in the Mask
On Halloween night, Tracey and her boyfriend Mike open the door to the wrong trick or treater.

My eleventh hour submission to the archive's Halloween contest. This was one I'd been tinkering with for a while, but only recently was I able to get any real momentum going. There's a trifle more action and just a little more malicious intent than is usually found in my work, but hey, that's to be expected when you're dealing with demons on Halloween night.
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One hot, Los Angeles night, child star Jay Kelsea paced around in his apartment, waiting for his agent to arrive. "Child star" might not be an altogether accurate term to describe Jay Kelsea. After all, he hasn't really been a child for about ten years now. He knows how to look like one, though. That's his gift. He knows how to look like anything.

He discovered this power when he was fourteen and since then, he's played every type of role there is. He's played men, women, monsters, aliens, dogs, cats, and yes, children too. It was one particular child role that gained him some attention, specifically, Miles Lane, boy genius. His brief appearance on the ABC sitcom Homesick became the highlight of the show's first season, and he was asked to return several times during season two. By season three, he was a regular character, and more popular than the rest of the cast put together.

Sounds like a pretty good gig. But all good things must come to an end, and Jay had no idea the sort of bombshell his agent would lay on him once he walked through that door. For now, he just leaned out causally over the rails of his balcony, watching the stars overhead, indulging in a bit of adulthood in his off time. He was wearing nothing but a bathrobe on a body that looked like the perfect combination of every actor who'd ever played Superman, and enjoying a nice long drag on his cigarette.

He still remembered the night he'd spent hours in front of the mirror perfecting this particular look. Getting just the right balance of Reeve and Cavill, with a bit of Tom Welling's youthful charm and Brandon Routh's... Brandon Routhiness. There were hints of Kirk Allen and George reeves and just a touch of Dean Caine, but that was more out of a sense of obligation than anything else, as he'd already achieved the look he was going for by then.

Since working out this look, it'd become an old familiar standby for whenever he wasn't playing that obnoxious preteen prodigy. He also had a Batman compilation he was fond of, but this one was still his favorite.

He checked his phone. Nearly ten o'clock. Where the hell was Bradley? He'd sounded pretty worried on the phone. Something about union trouble, and tough choices.

"Oh well," Jay thought, taking another puff, "If anyone can solve this problem, it's Bradley. After all, I pay him enough."

He put out his cigarette and walked back into his living room, plopping down on the couch to kill some time in front of the tv. It was a huge, curved, 4k screen paid for by the studios, like most of his apartment. Being the main draw of a popular tv show does have its perks, especially when it's time to renew your contract. These perks, however, would do nothing to improve his mood when Jay turned on the tv only to find himself in the middle of the Homesick episode where Miles builds a working rocket ship in his tree house.

"Well, how was I supposed to know you needed a permit for that?" he whined in that high girlish voice.

"Well, you need a permit to drive don't you?"

"Yeah, I know all about that! That's why I was gonna ask dad to fly for me when it was done!"

At last, there was a knock on the door, and Jay switched the tv off. He Strode through the apartment and peered through the peep hole. Bradley! Finally! Miles quickly unlocked the door and opened up for his agent.

"Bradley, man, I've been waiting for you!" Jay said eagerly, "Come in, sit down. Make yourself at home."

Bradley simply stared for a while in surprise before recovering himself. With his impeccable grey suit, wire rimmed glasses, and slicked back hair highlighting his receding widow's peak, Bradley looked for the world like a bank executive or a lawyer who'd just escaped from an old black and white film.

"Sorry, Jay." he said after a moment, "I'm still not used to having a client with your... talents."

"What do you mean?" he replied, confused, before slapping hand to his forehead, "Oh shit! Am I still Superman?"

"One of them, I'm sure. I'll let you know once I've figured out which." Bradley said, "Do you have anything to drink here?"

This wasn't good.

"Well, there's some white wine in the kitchen I keep for company. It's Riesling, a bit on the dry side, hope you don't mind."

"I was thinking something a little stronger."

Not good at all.

"What is it, Bradley?" Jay asked, "What's happened?"

Bradley set himself down on Jay's couch and looked up at him, "You're not the only one anymore."

"What?"

"You're not the only one anymore. They found another on Broadway understudying for a few big timers. Plus, news just broke that two major movie stars are actually the same person."

Jay nearly fell onto the couch next to Bradley. He looked like a man who'd just had the wind knocked out of him, and as Bradley watched him, he began to look less and less like Superman. As his body seemingly deflated, his bathrobe became more and more loose on him until it hung off of his scrawney form. At twenty-two, Jay Kelsea was tall, trim, and likely more handsome than he would have been without his powers, but nonetheless, he was himself again. On his still youthful face was the expression of a lost child as he asked, "What does this mean for me?"

"It means the unions are catching on to this influx of shapeshifters like you."

"The unions? What the hell have they got to do with this?"

"Think about it for half a second, Jay. If there are too many people like you who can play literally any part, that's going to put a whole lot of people who can't out of work."

"But it's just me now!" Jay stopped for a moment, "And that other guy, but still! No matter how many people I can be, I can still only be one person at a time!"

"That doesn't matter, Jay. The Unions have made their statement about shape-shifters, and they aren't going to budge on this."

Jay leaned forward, burying his face in his hands. He'd grown rather fond of this lifestyle. Having all the perks of fame and fortune coupled with the power to slide into anonymity when he wanted may well seem like having your cake and eating it too, but Jay always figured there wasn't much point to a cake you couldn't eat. Aside from his character being an obnoxious little shit, he was finally happy with his lot, but if what Bradley said was true, then that proverbial cake was about to run out.

"What's going to happen to me?"

Bradley sighed heavily. He was good at that, especially when dealing with an ego like Jay's, but this wasn't that kind of sigh. This was the sigh of bad news. The sigh you'd hear from a man trying to explain a death in the family to a child.

"Let's have that drink, Jay. Then we'll get to business."

"Just tell me!" Jay snapped, the angles of his face becoming slightly sharper in that moment before he controlled himself, "I'm sorry, Bradley, I... I'm just scared that's all."

"I understand. I'd likely feel the same if I were you."

"Please, let's just... let's just get this over with. Tell me what I need to know."

Bradley nodded slowly, "It's not all roses, Jay, but you have some options." he said in that crisp business like tone, "The network has arranged a tentative deal with the unions that will allow you to continue on indefinitely in your current position. There is, however, one small condition."

"What? Do I have to sign a pledge that says I'll just stick to one body or something?"

That sigh again. "No, I'm afraid it's a little more permanent than that." he let that statement sink in for a little bit, "Since the discovery of people like you, The Department of Homeland Security has commissioned a serum that will stabilize the atoms in a person's body. For most people, this is harmless, but for a shifter..."

"Let me take a wild guess." Jay said, "It takes away their power."

"Theoretically, it'll lock them into whatever form they're in while administered."

It was Jay's turn to sigh now as he closed his eyes and hung his head low, "And the network wants that form to be Miles Lane."

"There's a lot of money involved in it. The negotiations are ongoing, but the network heads understand full well that what they're asking is not a small matter. If you agree to take the serum, once it's ready, you can carry on playing Miles for as long as you like, and with almost double the pay."

"The only drawback being that I'd end up stuck as a bratty preteen for the rest of my life. What happens after the show ends? Do you really expect me to commit the rest of my life to a show that might only last a couple more seasons?"

"I understand your reluctance, Jay, but please think about this. You can't go on acting if you keep your powers, no one will hire you!"

"Then I'll start fresh!"

"Do you really want to go through all that again? Fighting just to be seen for half a second on screen?"

"There's always a job for a handsome face." Jay said, his voice deeping as he reinflated his muscles and became Superman again.

"And when you're caught? What happens then?"

His cockiness faded, and the definition in his face softened somewhat. He couldn't run away from this one.

"Look, Jay, I know you don't like him, but if you want to keep up this lifestyle, Miles is the only option. Everybody knows his face. Miles Lane is already famous, and he's also your best chance at getting work after this show."

"And... if I refuse?"

"Then as soon as your contract expires, you won't just be off the show," he said gravely, "you'll be blacklisted."

Jay had done his best to keep eye contact with Bradley, but as the conversation continued it had become more and more difficult. Now it had become impossible, and he dropped his eyes to the soft carpet. He'd been frivolous. Too much so. He meant to keep some money set aside, but he never had the will power for it. No matter what he told himself, he needed this job.

"I'll... I'll go get that drink now." he said, as he stood up shakily.

"Good man." Bradley replied, standing too, "You don't have to decide tonight. I understand this isn't an easy choice."

"That's fine, I... Do you want anything?"

"No I'd better not. It's late, and I've got a long drive back to the office."

"Please, I... I don't really want to drink alone."

Bradley smiled sadly, "Alright. I guess I can stay for one."

That night, after Bradley had left with no more than one glass of the dry Riesling in him, Jay sat alone in his apartment once more. He'd been considerably less conservative with his drinks, having very recently swallowed his third glass of Jack Daniels, and almost as soon as he closed the door, he found himself wandering into the bathroom. As he disrobed in front of the toilet stool, he found the effort not to think about this whole mess to be overwhelming, and he let his mind romp through the fields of impending doom. Bradley had called him a good man... a good boy was more like it. One way or another, he was about to give up everything. His power or his fortune. His adulthood or his career.

After he'd finished his business and washed up, he looked at his reflection in the mirror. Still Superman. He smiled bitterly, but he couldn't even keep that going for longer than a second or two. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, noticing how much thicker the air seemed than usual, and then shifted into the small boyish figure of Miles Lane. The hairs on his body gently slid back into their follicles, while the ones on his head grew into an unruly mop. His skin tingled as the smallest imperfections knit themselves together into a flawless canvas. His bones ached a little and his muscles stung a bit too as they pulled into themselves, shrinking to the desired proportions, but this was a process he'd grown quite used to over the years, and now he hardly noticed.

This was it, he thought as he stared at the boy in the mirror. The body he may very well occupy for the rest of his life. What would he look like, he wondered, when he grew up again? How would this body age into adulthood? Jay had crafted this face to be cute and charming in the moment, never considering how it would look twenty years later. Even with his powers he could only achieve a rough speculation of what he might end up like.

His powers... they'd be gone. No more sneaking off for a bit of fun at night. No more auditioning for every part in the show. No more Superman. He couldn't even be himself anymore. This power had become everything he was.

But then... so had acting.

"Damned if I do," he said in that scratchy twelve year old voice he had come to hate over the last two and half years, before shifting back into his own body once more, "and damned if I don't."

Jay Kelsea, a soon to be child star, turned off the lights, and stumbled to bed in an uncertain haze, not looking forward to the next morning, or the life that would surely follow.
Forever Miles
When a shapeshifting actor is discovered, he has to make a hard choice if he wants to hold on to his success. (Contains mild language and elements of AP, although AR is a far more important element.)
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I have the beginning of an Age Regression themed blog underway. Its right here:


My plan is as follows: Each week I will be uploading my captions there over each week as I write them and at the end of each month I will be uploading the entirety of that onto here. That way you can stay right here and not miss a thing or head ofter to the Age of ARtesian and see my captions a bit early.

As ofyet I'm still in the process of shifting my Deviantart gallery over there, but once thats done, things will start to go as described. I'm excited about this myself and I look foreward to seeing what you guys think. I've made the caption New Home in honor of the occasion. I hope you all enjoy.

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theARtesian
U.N. Owen
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United States
I have invited you all to my island estate because you are each guilty of some crime that you have been wrongfully acquitted of. And so you shall soon find yourselves regressing in age until such a time as I deem fit. You have been warned, enjoy your stay.
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:iconarstories:
ARstories Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2016   Writer
Thank you so much for the watch!
It is much appreciated :boogie:
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:iconjakecoventry:
JakeCoventry Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2013
More please! :)
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