Nightmare Before A Dream

My name is Shock. I had another name at one time, long long ago, but it has been lost to the shadows, devoured by the darkness as many things in Halloween Town often are. Things like to disappear here. Most of it appeared again in Oogie's gambling room, but lost memories were not something to be found so easily. It doesn't bother me that I cannot remember anything about my past, or at least that is what I had told Queen Sally when she had asked me earlier. I don't remember what had started the subject but the gorgeous doll had voiced her frustrations with having no memories beyond waking in the mad doctors lab and my little secret has slipped out. Concern had covered Sally's face and she had apologized and asked if it bothered her, but Shock shrugged it off as nothing. Which is what it was. Nothing. But now, hours later as she finally is making her way back to the tree house she calls home the thought wont leave her mind. Shock knew Lock and Barrel remembered their lives before their untimely deaths, not that either liked to talk about it. No one in Halloween Town did. It was an unspoken law not to ask about the citizens pasts.

All residents here had come to be by an untimely death, gruesome untimely deaths to be more specific, Sally and Pearl being the only exceptions as they had been created by the good old mad doc in his lab. Any wonder why we moved on to spend our after lives scaring mortals. Most of us hated them, our lives and deaths leaving us angry and wanting any kind of vengeance we could get on the mortal world. All but me at least. I cared nothing for mortals, but I held no ill will toward them either. I just enjoyed the screams. Sally was the only person who knew I remembered nothing before waking in the once dreadful but now familiar darkness of Halloween Forest. Perhaps I felt comfortable telling her because the doll didn't have a past beyond waking here either.

Taking careful steps to cross the rickety bridge leading to her home Shock is lost to the thoughts, oblivious to Barrels yells as he runs up behind her in an attempt to catch up. Even the swaying of the bridge doesn't clue her in to his presence. Now 19 Barrel had grown into the best looking ghoul in town, though he still insisted upon wearing his 'skeleton suit' which consisted of a black tee with a frighteningly realistic bone structure decorating the fabric on both front and back. Dirty white skinny jeans completed the look and the overall effect was a clash of adorable and horrifying that always made Shock grin.

When he finally catches up to her and slings an arm around her shoulder Shock is jolted from her thoughts, head whipping to the side in surprise. His dead eyes widen and his shocked stare makes her pause, head tilting in confusion. Slowly, like hes dealing with a dangerous animal Barrel raises an arm and brushes a finger against her cheek, the chalky skin coming away damp. Confused she raises her own hand to her face, the tears trailing down her olive cheeks an unwelcome surprise. With a shocked cry that ends in a choked sob Shock spins on her heel and bolts, a dark silhouette quickly swallowed by the shadows of the woods.

Barrel

I'm not sure what just happened, but I don't like it. Shock was...crying? Id never seen our terrifying 'leader' shed even a single tear. Not from pain, which we had all seen our fair share of, not from ridicule from being shunned by the townsfolk. Not even during all those fights we used to get into when we thought we hated one another. She was just so...indestructible. Not just that but she had seemed just as shocked as me, and that freaked me out worse. I was the crybaby of the group, our little outcast trio that had formed when we were small. Boogies Boys. That's what they called us, but at least Oogie had given us a home, fed us, cared...if only a little. I had been delicate when younger, easily upset with Lock always getting revenge for me and Shock always there to soothe me, even if she wasn't the most delicate at it. Shock was my sister in everything but blood and something was very wrong.

Panicked I rushed into the tree house elevator, impatiently tapping my foot as I wait for it to rise. Lock would know what to do. 21 to my 19 and Shocks 20 Lock was the provider for the group, happy to let Shock take lead but always there to pick up the pieces or take the blame when things went wrong. He was the one that made sure they were fed and had what they needed, not matter the things he had to do to get them. He fixed things, its what he did. So he could fix this. Racing from the elevator as soon as the door opens Barrel skids through the kitchen and down the hall, knocking Locks bedroom door open with a loud crash and the distinct sound of splintering wood. Despite the noise Lock barely reacts, used to the chaos as he continues writing in a notebook at his desk.

Lock had changed nearly as much as Barrel himself, his 6'0 frame putting him half a foot taller then both himself and Shock and his muscles clearly defined beneath a tight black shirt. Red jeans bag around his legs, a white belt holding them in place at his hips, the small hole in the back allowing his tail freedom to curl around him. His blood colored hair had lengthened over the years, curling around the collar of his shirt and in a constant state of disarray that somehow came off as sexy according to the women in town. The styled horns had given way to real ones, black vicious protrusions that could pierce flesh with ease. He had grown into his devil persona quite nicely, or at least that's what Shock would say. Luckily, though he was a devil, he was level headed even if quick to anger. Right now Barrel needed level headed.

"LOCK!"

"Barrel."

"Somethings wrong with Shock!"

"Duh. Shes a witch you idiot, and not a nice one. Of course there's something wrong with her."

"No Lock I'm serious!" With a disgruntled sigh the red devil finally spins his chair to face his little brother, shocked to see real panic on his face.

"Shit Barrel what is it? She getting punished by Jack again?"

"No-"

"Mad doc trying to experiment on her again?"

"No-"

"What then?" Lock snaps, voice clearly showing he was getting annoyed again.

"Shes...shes crying!"

Lock

I just stare at him, jaw dropping open in shock as I try and process what I've been told. With a snap my jaw shuts and my yellow eyes turn to slits, glare hot enough to singe my brothers flesh.

"That's not funny Barrel."

"Lock I'm serious!"

"Yeah. I'm just sure Shock is out there crying in the other room."

"Actually no."

"See! I kne-"

"She went to the woods."

"...your joking right?" But I know he isn't. Barrel likes to fuck with us and prank people, but he always laughed it off quickly or apologized. He was a terrible liar. "W...what happened?"

"I don't know! I saw her on the bridge and I came up to ask her wheres shes been but when she turned to look at me there were tears running down her face and then she ran off. She was pretty shocked when she realized it."

"Damn!" Jumping from the desk chair I snag the bright red and black jacket I always wear around town and tear past Barrel, shouting back at him to stay here in case she came back as I race down the hall and into the elevator. What the hell happened? When she left this morning Shock was just as obnoxious as usual, cackling as she tripped me on my was to the table and in general being a pain in the ass. A beautiful pain in the ass mind you, but a pain all the same. So what would upset her so much to make her cry hours later? I was out of the loop sure, but I was certain id notice if something serious was happening with her.

Things had gotten difficult these past few years between us, my witchy little friend finally growing into her powers and becoming a stunning women before I realized what was happening. Then one day while wrestling it hit me like a freight train. Soft curves and smooth skin met my hands and I had jerked back in shock, eyes trailing down her before I scrambled away with a muttered excuse while she looked on in confusion.

Since then I kept my distance, still an active member of our little trio but being sure not to touch Shock again unless absolutely necessary. I hated the change, but who could really blame me? Straw like black hair had thickened and softened, hanging straight down to her shoulder blades in an onyx waterfall. Obsidian eyes sparkled with mischief and mayhem, full of intelligence and so captivating it hurt to look at them. The shapeless girl had grown into a voluptuous woman that turned heads any time they ventured into town and he found himself gritting his teeth at the urge to beat every gawking onlooker. It wasn't really a surprise that now he noticed it was all he could think about. Damn that witch. None of it was really her fault of course, but it made him feel better to blame her all the same.

Racing through the dark trees Lock keeps his enhanced eyesight tuned to everything, scanning each shadow for a flash of olive or purple. Despite all the changes between them he would always take care of his little family, and finding Shock was the only thing he cared about at the moment. A sob broke the stillness just as he entered cemetery from the pumpkin patch, the sound ripping a shred of his heart out as he recognized the voice. Tentative steps brought him to the source of the sound, yellow eyes wide when they lock onto the curled figure on the ground.

"...Shock?"

Gasping her head shoots up to look at him, dark eyes drowning as tears make a path down her pretty olive skin. "Lock? What are you doing here?"

"Barrel sai-"

"He told you I was crying didn't he. Well I am, so go away!" The tone would have hurt if those dark eyes didn't clearly show her desperate embarrassment. Shock didn't want him to see her like this, and the realization annoyed him.

"No."

"Lock!"

"No." Dropping on his ass, not caring that it would dirty his bright red jeans Lock curls one hand around the back of her neck and tugs harshly, sending the witch off balance and into his chest with a startled gasp.

"What are yo-"

"For once in you life Shock just shut up." He feels her tense at the order but just as quickly she relaxes into him, arms slowly working up until they wrap around his neck and with a sob she buries her face in the space between his shoulder and neck. Hot tears trickle down his flesh but he doesn't say anything more, settling more comfortably by pulling the rest of her body onto his lap and leaning back against one of the tombstones. The wait is long, her tears endless and his heart in shreds by the time she finishes, but when she finally raises her head and those obsidian eyes are calm he could care less about any of it. "Wanna talk about it?"

"Not really."

"Shock."

"Lock." My growl makes her giggle and the sound helps to ease the ache in my heart.

"I'm serious Shock."

"Look its nothing, I don't even know why I was crying. I just want to forget about it."

"But I don't."

"Let it go Lock."

"Id rather not. C'mon you know I'm just gonna bug the shit out of you till you crack. Why not just tell me?"

"Its not something you can fix, or get or anything of that sort. This is something I'm gonna have to figure out on my own." I don't like it. Its driving me crazy wanting to know, my tail twitching in agitation, but I don't want to press so much that she shoves me away or worse yet decides to hurt me for pissing her off. So I'll let it go, for now at least.

"...alright." We sit like that for a few more minutes, Shock curled up in my lap with her head against my chest and me with my arms around her waist trying desperately to ignore my damn hormones that now that the panic was gone had surfaced with a vengeance. When she finally shifts and stands up, back arching in a stretch its all I can do not to groan. With careful motions I plant a hand on the tombstone and push myself to a stand, making sure to keep certain areas shadowed lest my volatile companion notice anything amiss. Motioning for her to take the lead we silently make our way back home, climbing into the elevator before she finally utters a quiet sentence in the silence.

"Thank you Lock. For everything." Eyeing her out of the corner of my eye I shrug, playing it off as nothing.

"No problem." The door opens and we turn opposite directions, Shocks room separated from mine and Barrels by the living area and kitchen. She waves her goodnight and I hear the door shut with a thud and release a breath before walking to my own room, throwing off my clothing and dropping off into the forbidden land of my dreams where Shock is mine and everything is good in our haunted world.

Pounding wakes me hours later, Barrels voice an unintelligible buzz in my drowsy mind. Sluggishly I drag myself from the bed, stumbling over my discarded clothing and the general mess on my floor to get to the doorway. Tugging a few times it takes me a while to remember the lock I had set last night and when I finally throw back the bold Barrel barrels into the room with wild hair and crazed dead eyes. An interesting combination. Id be amused if it weren't for what tumbles from his mouth.

"Shocks gone!"

Shock

My note was total crap and I knew it, but there was no way to explain where I was going without explaining everything. So I kept it simple.

Boys,

Sorry but Ive got to go. I cant explain and I cant tell you where, and I don't know when I will be back. I know your gonna be mad but I have to do this. Barrel, don't be a crybaby and don't forget to keep scaring like the pro you are. Lock...thank you. Again. I wish I could tell you everything but I cant. Please don't hate me. I will come back, I promise. Till then take care of Barrel. I know I never say it but I love you guys. If you tell anyone I'll hex you till you beg for mercy.

Shock

It didn't really tell them anything, but that was sort of the point. I had left it lying on top of the dress Sally and I had finished the day before, not wanting to ruin it on my journey. It would still be there when I came back. Only an hour after entering the tree house I had set off back through the woods, through the pumpkin patch and into the graveyard with a determined stride. Tears had dried into determination and while the fear of the unknown beat at me like a drum I was determined to get answers. One last look at my haunted home and a tear tracks down my cheek before I steel myself and dive into the mausoleum, the portal to the mortal realm.

Id been reading during that hour, searching through all the stolen or lost books that I had accumulated over the years until I found one on the lives before becoming a Halloween Guardian, which is what all citizens of Halloween Town were. According to the book all citizens retained their memories of their lives, as Id known, but there were recorded cases of someone waking with nothing of their former lives. The book touched on one story where a young skeleton had gone searching for his past in the mortal realm, never to be heard from again. It sparked an idea. I was clever, conniving. Where he failed could I succeed? It didn't take long for my mind to be made up and I had rushed through my preparations, which were shelving the books and writing the note. Now here I am, body spinning as I tumble through the portal to the mortal realm. It was a crime to do so other then on Halloween itself, the chaos a bunch of undead monsters could reap on the mortals if they had unfettered access to them too big a risk. But it was too late to go back now.

Bursting from the tunnel I run full throttle into the mausoleum doors, hard stone meeting soft flesh with a cringe worthy crack. The pain was blinding for a few seconds so I just sat there, the chill from the stone seeping into my flesh and helping to numb the pain. Breathing deep I struggle to my feet and shove at the barrier, squinting as blinding light seeps through the ever widening crack between the doors. One final shove opens the doorway and I stumble out, peering around with relief when no mortals seem to be near. Dusting off I reach up to fix my hat and halt, realizing how out of place that accessory would look walking along the street. With trembling hands I remove it and hold it against my chest, eyes watering for some unknown reason at the realization I would have to leave it behind.

Turning back I tuck the purple fabric into the mausoleum and secure the doors, breath heavy as panic begins to set in. Id done it. Id come to the mortal world. But I had no idea where to go from here, where I would stay...Id lived on the streets long ago in Halloween Town but that was when I was a child. My magic would help but it was risky to use it here. Bad enough I had green skin. The excuse that I was an actor practicing for a role would do just as well as it did in the other holiday worlds I suppose, but it didn't help me figure out the next step. Guess Ill have to wing it.

Nervously I make my way to the exit of the cemetery, the roadway a cacophony of noise and voices. Pedestrians were walking in every direction and as I passed the gate some eyes me with fascination while others tugged their children away. If only they knew how right they were to be wary. But I was not here for screams so I just turned indifferently, setting off down the sidewalk towards the bustling center of town. I had studied the human world, intent to find new and more complicated ways to terrify the mortals, so I knew of a place called a library where they kept records of accidents and such. I had exited in the town I had come from, as all Halloween Town residents would do. The portal would lead to their 'home' town but the portal back only lead to Halloween. A nifty little feature. So the library would have records I could scour, some information on what happened to me. It was a start.

Barrel

I woke with a smile on my face. Last night I had heard both Lock and Shock come in and I was happy that things were fixed now. Jumping from my bed I quickly dressed myself, the shower last night leaving my hair in wild disarray around my head, not that I cared. A few quick brushes with my hand would do. Finished I grin to myself and tiptoe down the hall, intent on making breakfast this morning to save Shock the hassle. We may be terrors to the town and everyone else but we genuinely cared for one another and I wanted to surprise Shock with something nice after yesterday. It takes me an hour to make a presentable meal, the cracked tray covered in mismatched plates filled with scrambled rotten eggs, burnt toast with scorpion jelly, over cooked ham and spider chip pancakes. Grinning madly I lug the tray towards Shocks door and with a mighty kick bust through it with a shout of greeting. "GOOD MORNING!"

No response. Gazing around the room I first notice the lack of mess. Usually there were books everywhere, the shelves lining one wall emptied as Shock read up on everything and anything she could get her hands on. The next was the lack of woman in the room. Shock wasn't here. Confused I look at the bed, noticing a lavender creation draped across the covers. Pretty in a morbid sort of way with its ripped lace and jagged layered skirt, different shades of purple layering over one another in a frothy pile. I knew Shock had gone to town for something the last few days and this had Sally written all over it. Good. Shock needed some 'girl time' every once in a while, as she had screamed often when they bothered her too much. Then I noticed the note.

Lock

For the second time in two days I stared at my little brother speechless, mouth open in shock. When I finally gain some semblance of function back I storm across the house and rip into her room, frantic to see for myself. When I see the note I rip it from its resting place, my stomach in knots as i read the first few lines and growling with rage by the end. She left. She just fucking left. I knew I should have pushed last night. Damn that witch.

Shock

This is hopeless. Ive been scouring this damn musty old building for hours, buried in what the mortals call newspapers dating back to when I was four, which is my age of death. Id found countless stories of death but none involved children. The librarian was no help at all, simply pointing her in the direction of the archives and shooing her away. Stupid mortals. Frustration pounded at me but I stuck it out, continuing to scan page after page in hopes of coming across even a small clue. It isn't until the decrepit hag of a librarian announces closing time that I realize the day is over. Damn! I would have to come back tomorrow. Marking my place in the boxes of papers I set everything back in its place and leave the building, the cool fresh air clearing my head as the dying sunlight paints the sky. Halloween Town has its own unique beauty but there was nothing quite like a mortal sunset.

Basking in the glow I trudge slowly down the street, the ache in my stomach reminding me that I was still without food or shelter for the night. The cemetery would do for sleep for now and food would just have to wait. Not like I could die of starvation. It would just be slightly uncomfortable. At least I would lose those few stubborn pounds that refused to shed. The trek across town helps to ease my tension from a day wasted with no progress and as I pass the gate the the cemetery the familiar sight of tombstones is comforting, even if they are not the ones I want to see.

I make my way up the path, breathing in the scent of dead leaves and dying flowers like a drug. Who knew one day could leave me so homesick? I had found myself losing focus often while reading in that dusty building, mind wandering back to my home and the residents, Lock crossing my mind with shocking regularity. I would have to get that in check before going back. Id been having daydreams of the red devil for years, innocent girlish fantasies to my mind. At least until last night. He'd offered himself and I had cracked, the emotions I was so ashamed to show Barrel tumbling from me like a torrent as he held me together. When the flow had ebbed we had sat there, me unwilling to move from the comfortable perch of his lap and him for reasons I can only guess. That's when it hit me. I wasn't ashamed. I wasn't embarrassed. It felt so...right. Sitting there with him and letting him see me at my most vulnerable. When we made it home I had tried valiantly to ignore the feelings, focusing instead on my research and my flight from the town, but in the quiet of the mortal library I couldn't shut off the stream of thoughts.

There was only one explanation for it. One conclusion I could come to. I wanted Lock. Reaper help me.