I’m not sure what sort of reaction I was looking for. I thought the tale was good, and I certainly enjoyed telling it. The Stalker had no response save slurping from his cider (that was expected). The Drunkard nodded and said, “All that from the ‘Vengeance’ paintings, eh?” The Student said roughly the same thing. The Traveler leaned forward and asked, “Exactly what part of London were you guys in?” And The Writer grunted. It was this last reaction that interested me. “What does that mean?” I asked.
“Hmm?” The Writer responded.
“That. The grunt. What does that mean.”
“I’m intrigued,” he said. “With that, ah, interesting idea of what the result of being sucked into a painting would be… what do you think would be the consequence of, say, getting sucked into ‘Starry Night?’”
“Pants-shitting terror,” I responded. And that was the truth. If I suddenly found myself in the world as envisioned by Vincent Van Gogh, I don’t think I would have been able to cope with the way colors bled into each other. Same with Dali. Appearing in a Dali painting would have been equated with instant madness in my eyes.
“Well,” said The Traveler, “I’d say that’s a pretty decent premise for a story, wouldn’t you guys?”
The Student stroked his chin. “Not bad, I’ll give it that. Seemed like The Twilight Zone would have had a crack at that sort of story at some point.”
“Given the length of time that show was on the air,” said The Traveler, “it wouldn’t surprise me if they had two episodes that had a crack at that.”
“Premise was good,” said The Drunkard. “Execution wasn’t bad, and I liked the narrative style with its touch of Lovecraft over-explaininess of something alien to the day-to-day world.” He sat back and took a drink from his whisky. “Endings are a bitch, aren’t they?”
“Oh I don’t know,” said The Student. “I think it ended fairly well. We established—well, The Hunter and the country gent established—that any attempt to kill The Ravener and The Hunter would be ultimately futile, as they’d essentially, er,” The Student paused. “Huh. What’s the word I’m looking for?”
“Respawn,” said The Stalker.
“Yeah, that’ll work. And it’s not like the narrator of the story could have done anything to The Ravener anyway. You know, what with its spine-ripping-out strength.”
“Maybe so,” said The Drunkard, “but I do like a nice fight in a story. All told? Not bad.”
That seemed to be the consensus of the rest of my companions. The story didn’t inspire rage or hatred, so I was happy with the outcome.
The Traveler knocked on the table and grinned. “Gents, I believe that makes the end of the first round. Time sure does fly, doesn’t it?”
Crazy as it sounded, it was the end of the first round of stories. That meant it was—I checked my watch. It was the end of October already! “Holy shit!” I said.
“What?” asked The Traveler.
A resounding silence hit the table. “Do they even have that holiday over here?” asked The Writer.
“It’s an excuse to get drunk. My gut says yes,” said The Drunkard.
“Okay,” said The Traveler. “Here’s what I’m thinking. Everyone think back to the tales we’ve had so far and decide on which you think is the best. We will reconvene on Wednesday to cast votes and the winner shall, of course, win this round. Necessarily, this does not mean that he wins all around.”
“Then what does it mean?” asked The Stalker.
The Traveler shuffled in his seat. “Er.”
“Bragging rights,” put forward The Drunkard.
We all agreed that this was a more than honorable reward for winning the first round of our contest, clinked our glasses, and said, “To bragging rights!”