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Being a rather silly story I did as a collaboration with a friend. Crossover of my interests in ridiculous women-as-food in a silly manner material, horror fantasy, and Disneyland's classic dark ride the Haunted Mansion. So, enjoy, and yes, this is quite odd and improbable heh...apologies but it seemingly must run to two posts for the full length....

It was nearly ten o'clock when Samantha turned down the rows of neatly trimmed hedges, walking briskly into view of the park entrance. The yellow sodium lights above hummed in the darkness, and she wove in and out of the guests leaving clutching ponderous backpacks and the omnipresent blue and white Disneyland bags. She ran her thumb over the corner of her cast member badge holder as she walked, and tried not to look as excited as she felt. Anyone bothering to stop and look around the asphalt paths of the bus loading and unloading area to the side of the entry plaza, however, would probably have noticed her in an instant. Her lightly freckled face was a bit flushed, her stride a touch too quick, and her eyes just a bit too intent on the cast member entrance she was rapidly approaching. And they couldn't blame her if they had known the situation, really. It was her first time working a big Disney event night, and she was scheduled for the star attraction.

She made it at last to the small gate set amongst cloaking ivy and gave a nod to the usual security guard with a terse smile, then slid her badge through the card reader. It buzzed in response like normal, and she gripped her duffel bag a bit tighter, long legs whisking her towards the CM locker building. Once inside, she paused to take a swig of water and glance at herself in a mirror: grey-blue eyes peered back, and she hurriedly combed and adjusted her dark hair. After a quick splash of water to her face, she began to change in one of the cramped stalls. Street clothes were stashed away and on went the black-and-green hostess uniform for the Mansion. Today, she accessorized it with a small pin: a replica of the 13 hour clock face from inside the attraction and the date on a black ribbon. Per the management's request, it was an identifier that she was working tonight's event in an official and extra capacity.

Walking briskly through the backstage areas, she finally pushed through the swinging doors next to the train station at the rear of New Orleans Square. Within a minute she had arrived at the Mansion's famous stretching portrait room via an unmarked path through the exterior crypts in the rear of the queue area. Pausing to check her uniform, she was surprised to find that the din of a small but excited crowd was audible through the great wooden doors somewhere above her. The area CM's collecting event tickets must have rounded the invited folks up pretty fast: she thought they'd still be trickling in as day guests exited. She looked back through the open doors and saw Liz standing just outside the room, tapping the side of her nose. With a start, she remembered, and quickly removed the little stud earring adorning her nose, tucking it away in her outfit. Liz smiled, and came over.

"Hey. Thanks. I can't believe I forgot to take that out."

"Hey," Liz said, putting a hand on her friend's shoulder and looking just slightly upwards to meet her eyes. "It's your first special event. You good?"

"Yeah. I'm a little on edge, though. Just nerves." Samantha ignored the little flutter of butterflies in her stomach. A little nervousness was a good thing, especially with showtime being imminent.

"Any idea what they're doing after the ride-through?" Liz asked.

"No idea." Samantha replied, fingering a stray lock of her dark hair. "They're doing a dinner party, that's all I've got. What've you heard?"

Liz smiled. "Not much. Briana was talking with the ticket people out front, though, and she says it's a group of girls our age, dressed all Victorian, like the Bat's Day crowd sort of. Pretty neat, huh?"

Samantha agreed, or was about to, when a quiet chime sounded. Both girls straightened automatically. Nearly time to open up the doors. With a friendly nod, Liz retreated from the portrait chamber to take up her station at the loading area, leaving Samantha alone in the vast hexagonal room. Almost completely silently, the wooden paneling slid over the opening, blocking the constant sounds of thunder and soft, howling wind from the hallway beyond. As the room smoothly rose to its starting position, she listened to the growing sound of the ladies outside and took a deep breath, readying herself to give the famous theatrical welcome.

The feeling of the room decreasing in size and ceiling growing ever closer had been a little disconcerting when she first started working Mansion, but a year of experience had gotten her used to it. The room settled into place at last, candles flickering, gargoyles seeming to peer down into the center with evil leering faces. The doors slid open, and Samantha stepped front and center, eyes quickly surveying the crowd as she projected her welcoming statement in a sepulchral tone.

"Kindly drag your bodies in, and away from the walls…laying them to rest in the dead center of the room in order to best view our portraits, which the Master has…hung himself."

Eyeing the women and their fashion sense, a mixture of steam punk, Victorian gothic eccentricity, and so on, Samantha gave it her all and injected a little extra energy into her lines. The women seemed to appreciate it too, eyeing her in return and speaking excitedly amongst themselves, looking about. They even fell promptly silent when the doors sealed behind them, setting just the right mood. Samantha was used to the tourists chattering like obnoxious monkeys, taking flash photos, texting, or the small children starting to freak out. Having the attention of a receptive and interested group was a nice change of pace.

A moment later, the booming, gravelly voice of the building's ghostly proprietor swept their attention upwards.

"Welcome! Foolish Mortals, to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host. Your ghost host."

The guests smiled in unison at the timeless, familiar opening.

"Our tour begins here, in this gallery, where you see paintings of some of our guests, as they appeared in their corruptible, mortal state. Kindly step all the way in please, and make room for everyone. There's no turning back now..."

The ladies obliged, each moving a couple of steps closer together, and huddling in the center. Some of them whispered softly and pointed to the portraits along the walls, a few noticing a change from the norm. The room creaked ominously and began to glide downwards, paintings beginning their silent trick of appearing to grow taller. The invisible ghostly narrator continued:

"Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room offering you a warning?"

As the floor sank down slowly, the paintings were revealed conclusively to be different from their normal state. The first two held the same occupants as before, but in different circumstances. The parasol-holding maiden was now shown surrounded by tribal-looking woman gazing up at her, as she balanced over a roaring blaze. One painting over, the matronly woman was now depicted being burned alive in a witch trial setting, the clouds above her forming a leering skull. The paintings depicting the man on a lit barrel of dynamite and the three men sinking into quicksand had been replaced entirely: in one, a voodoo priestess offered a enigmatic grin as she stood in a smoking cauldron, and the second was perhaps the most disturbing of all: an aloof looking British nanny type was slowly revealed to be bound and standing in a blood-stained butcher's shop, heavy cuts of meat dangling around her and severed limbs on a counter before her.

The ladies gave appreciative gasps, and Samantha smiled as well. She had heard that they were going to customize the portraits for tonight's dinner event, and these were a wonderful surprise. A bit over the top, they would never fly with the day guests, but the change was amusingly gruesome and unexpected. There was a throaty chuckle from the host.

"Or is it your imagination. Hmmm? And consider this chilling observation. You are all here tonight for dinner with our nine hundred ninety nine happy haunts."

He paused, and the guests giggled excitedly, and even Samantha held her breath waiting for the concluding dialogue and crack of thunder she knew would follow.

"And one of YOU will be their repast!" CRACK! The lights in the room went off with a simulated flash of lightning, and an audio clip of horrendous screaming rumbled the walls via the room's excellent acoustic system. When the lights came back on, the secret exit in the paneling had opened, and Samantha swept forward, resuming her role like a pro.

"Move forward, please, and beware foolish mortals…enjoy your tour, but do not linger alone as the grim grinning ghosts are so very hungry this night and I'd hate to lose you…prematurely". The Ghost Host's words echoed down the hall, portraits metamorphosing with the lightning flashes and marble busts staring at the far end. As the group moved away down the tapering corridor, Samantha observed them talking amongst themselves excitedly: it seemed the live changing of the normal dialogue had indeed stirred things up for the special guests. Some women giggled and poked each other, no doubt teasing their friends of the veiled threat of the live, hidden performer who had delivered the altered Ghost Host monologue.

At the front of crowd, Samantha could hear her friend organizing the line, and sending the ladies onto the conveyor belt to load into the ride vehicles. On her normal day shift, she would return now to greet the next group, but tonight's group had the ride to themselves. As the last occupied doom buggy vehicle vanished into the interior of the mansion, Briana (who had been lowering the safety bars) retreated to her next post elsewhere in the ride.

"Hey Samantha," Liz called, as she left the loading post and moved to take Briana's spot. "Loading is all yours!" Samantha came over to the head of the line. "So, they just ride the attraction for two hours now, I guess."

Samantha nodded. "Pretty much," she said. "I wonder what else they've changed inside."

"Oh, hey--" Liz exclaimed suddenly, "you got the special intro spiel. How was it? They did a live one for you, right?"

Samantha laughed. "Yeah. It was great, actually. They kept the dinner theme, definitely. You'll see the paintings when you rotate up there."

Liz nodded. "Custom paintings for tonight? That's pretty sweet."

"As for the spiel, our benevolent ghost host says that someone is going to have a starring role in the dinner later." She shrugged as she said it, clearly still amused.

Liz gave a surprised laugh. "One of the guests? What'll they have to do?"

Samantha shook her head and brushed her hair back over her shoulders. "Actually, he didn't say who in the room, but he did say they'd be served as the main course!"

Liz laughed again, genuinely surprised. "Oh, that scheming little ghost," she chuckled. "Trying to eat all of our guests."

"They all got a kick out of it, too," Samantha replied. "Management is definitely pushing the bar on this one, but it's working. And don't speak too soon--maybe you'll be the one picked, Liz." The two giggled, and Liz dodged a poke from her friend, heading down the moving walkway with ease.
Just a few minutes later, Emily escorted the group of paying guests down for their next ride-through, all talking eagerly. From what Samantha could overhear as she walked in place, gesturing to the doom buggies, they were raving about the new touches in the ride and still giggling about who would be selected as dinner. They were definitely curious, and generally taking it right in stride. Samantha wasn't sure what was to come later either, but she took in the speculation with good humor.

As the guests vanished into the mansion again, Emily came to the loading spot and bumped Samantha back to the safety bar position and they spent the next few minutes comparing notes on what they'd heard so far as they waited.

The rotations continued as usual over the next two hours, with Trixie taking the next rotation on loading, as Samantha covered the unload, and so on. The guests continued to enjoy themselves, and several smiled and nodded at Samantha as they exited their doom buggies, talking amongst themselves but pausing when they passed by the woman working unload.

When the two hours for guests to ride were completed, Samantha and her friends ushered guests out the exit and into the main outdoor queue, with a clear view of the Mansion steps and pet cemetery. Appearing as if by magic, the park's signature barbershop musical quartet (wearing corpse paint and dubbed the Cadaver Dans for the occasion) stepped onto the porch and began to serenade the crowd with the title song from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Unnoticed, the group of black and green-clad friends slipped back inside for their private ride through at last. The guests were to be entertained for a further fifteen minutes before being ushered inside, giving the unseen kitchen staff and waiters time to set up within.

The group moved down the familiar corridor and paired up into doom buggies, two in the first, three in the second, to set off down the haunted hallways. The familiar sights greeted them: the moans and rappings on door frames, the eerie corpselike family portraits, the discordant music in the séance room, and all the rest. Mixed in however were some new surprises. A set of footsteps proceeded down the endless hallway, approaching the vehicles, followed by sudden deep chill of frosty air. In the ballroom, a few new specters had joined the phantasmal party: a stereotypical rotund French chef in white toque pushing a skeletal turkey along on a serving cart, and a ghostly 1920's flapper cutting a rug near the fireplace. The attic, however, was the most changed. Darker and more ominous, the echoing screams of the newly reinstated pop-up heads shattered the eerie silence and punctuated the beating of the silent, watchful bride's heart, an axe appearing and vanishing from her clenched hands. Across from her, a menacing, skeletal figure stood, cackling evilly in a manner similar to anyone who had ever watched a Vincent Price film, as his head vanished from his shoulders in time with the appearance of the axe in his bride's twisted hands.

As they exited, the girls moved more quickly. The entertainment would be wrapping up outside the mansion, and at last the allotted dinner hour rolled around. Samantha and her friends exited the crypt into the cool night air looped back to the rear of the waiting guests outside the attraction.
 

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Moments later, the great double doors swung open to admit entry to the building, and Liz stepped out in front to greet them all with a wonderfully devious grin that Samantha envied.

"Ahhhh, fresh supplies," she deadpanned to the crowd and projected her voice, feigning relief. "I thought we'd have nothing to serve tonight!" She paused to let the giggling subside, and then swept her arm back towards the stretching portrait room behind her.

"Please, join us. The menu is simply to die for!"

The young women all stepped quickly into the room, and Samantha slipped in behind them, making her way over to join Liz, Trixie, Emily and Briana.

"So what'd you think of the spiel?" she asked Liz.

"They only did the live one the first time down. We didn't get to hear it," her friend replied, wrinkling her nose.

"Really? Sorry. Guess I got the lucky draw on that one."

Liz laughed softly as the wooden doors swung shut. "Yeah, but I guess that means I'm not getting cooked!"

Samantha smiled as her friend stuck out her tongue, and just rolled her eyes. Their attention was drawn away the next moment, however, as the voice of the ghost host suddenly addressed the crowd.

"Ahhhhhh. I see you have enjoyed your little tour this evening. I do so hope you will come again?"
Low murmurs of agreement rose from the ladies in attendance, and then he went on.

"But now, where are my manners. You mortals must be famished. Fortunately for you, I have something drearily delicious in store. I have selected one of YOU to serve as tonight's feast, and now..." He paused, letting the excitement build. "I shall show you WHO!"

And as he said the last word emphatically, the lights dimmed suddenly and a bright white ball of light suddenly materialized high in the room, and a stream of focused light shone down into the center of the chamber from the floating orb. A deep, hearty laugh erupted around them all, as the beam began to move about, roving the crowd.

"Now," he continued, "where is she? I know I saw you earlier, my dear? Hmmm, not still hiding amongst the tombstones I hope…."

The beam shifted abruptly, and swung straight to the room's perimeter, where it came to an abrupt halt. The guests all turned eagerly, and Samantha felt the sudden attention of all eyes in the room upon her. She was caught squarely in the beam of light.

"There." the voice boomed, cheerfully. "I had hoped you wouldn't depart us before dinner. I'm so very glad you've decided to...hang around." The wooden panel door slid noiselessly open behind her, and the guests watched in amused delight as Liz and Trixie took her by the arms and escorted out of the room.

The small crowd watched, entertained, as the taller girl was led away by her friends down the corridor. The two turned her around the corner past the staring busts and out the employee exit at the end of the hallway by the carved gryphon at the foot of the stairs. A few playful comments about "looks tasty" and "good choice" echoed into the hall, putting grins on the faces of her escorts and leaving Samantha to wonder about her own role. Wordlessly, the three girls vanished into the darkness to prepare the next stage of the evening's event.

Back in the portrait hall, the female guests entered and were seated, and their servers were already coming forward to get the dinner party into full swing. Men and women in festively tattered formal attire, partially covered in cobwebs and with sallow, pale faces were filling drink orders and distributing spidery metal baskets of freshly baked rolls along the table's length. At the far end, in front of the stretching portraits, a faintly glowing woman in bridal gown with darkened face sat at a stool aside a harp and began playing soft, eerie renditions of classic Disney tunes. In time, she was joined by a thin and cadaverous man, eyes peering out of sunken sockets, who joined her on the violin.

In front of each guest along the table sat a handsome menu, with aged parchment pages bound in black leather with a miniature coffin and the date embossed on the front in silver. The first page of each bore a guest's name, a small line drawing of the Haunted Mansion, and the phrase "A Ghostly Feast". The second page raised a few eyebrows, but the guests chuckled enthusiastically at the continuation of the evening's theme.

Centered, and in spidery cursive font was the menu for the evening. Appetizers of grilled artichoke stuffed with prosciutto and rum-cured raisins were nothing unusual. Then, however, there was the entree. Here, written, was the promised dish of "Cutlet of Foolish Mortal: A prime meat selection of our special guest, Miss Samantha Ralston, slow roasted and served with blood orange segments and wine reduction atop shaved truffle risotto." She was to be followed up by a dessert of hand-made "coffin chocolates" filled with caramel and fudge liqueur mixtures, but the guests' eyes lingered on the entrée description still. Fierce whispers traveled around the table as they debated what might happen next, and if the tall, dark hostess with the shy smile was truly what would be on their plates.
The women around the table were occupied with drinking wine and studying the pre-meal breads on offer, which included colorful baked skulls similar to those given out during Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration, when Trixie rounded the corner of the portrait hall. She was pushing a rolling cart draped with black linen with a purple satin square centered at an angle atop it. Only one thing could be under the gigantic silver dome that was set on a platter, and the eyes of all the dinner guests was fixated on the cart. With a flourish, Trixie and Liz, who seemed to have simply materialized, removed the lid.

Samantha was still dressed in her familiar maid's uniform, clear grey eyes gazing outwards, but they were slightly glassy and dazed. Whatever she might have been thinking just then, she was the star of the event now and seemed to be playing her role as best she could. The dinner guests looked on with delight at the careful arrangement. She was kneeling and bent forward, head low and chin resting on the platter, long toned legs curled underneath, with her rear slightly in air. Her pale hands were bound elegantly at the wrists with a black silk ribbon, and a peeled blood orange was in her black-glossed lips, holding her mouth open. She was surrounded by an assortment of more skull-shaped breads, odd, exotic vegetables, and molded chocolate coffins. Decayed roses were scattered about as well, lending to the beautiful, macabre effect. She was a truly impressive visual feast, and the adoring sounds of the lady diners made it clear that the scene was worth the price of admission. As her co-workers and friends lowered the cover again, Samantha seemed to stir slightly, but then vanished entirely beneath the dome with a little metallic clunk.

Entertainment followed the little presentation, and the rolling cart vanished backstage as effortlessly as the ride's ghostly ballroom dancers before the eyes of the viewer. Servers came around with the appetizers, musicians played on, and the room settled into a pleasant din of lively conversation. There was, however, no mistaking a certain shift in the general tone of the room when the ghoulish wait-staff returned bearing dinner. Generous portions of a delicate white meat with an ambrosial scent and decorated with creamy risotto adorned each plate as the staff promptly made their way to the diners. Whatever was truly being served did not matter; the effect was perfect, and the young ladies in attendance enthusiastically began to dine. Utterances of delight came quickly from all around, as each found the meal in front of her to be firm but tender and cooked to medium-rare perfection. Around the corner and out of the sight of guests, the group of CM's was enjoying smaller plates of the meal in far less fancy settings. They too agreed the meat and accompaniments were perfect. And they all toasted Samantha as they ate: the girl certainly had fulfilled her role to perfection, and the dinner was superb. With smiles all around, the conversation rose once more amongst the guests, the music carried the evening forward, and the guests worked away at finishing off their entrée and getting on with their evening's event.

But even such a perfect evening must end, and at last the guests emerged into the darkened theme park. As the group moved off down the riverfront towards the exit, the iron gates slowly creaked closed behind them, and clanged shut in the still night air. The Mansion sat, alone, and silent, strange shadows moving across the front of the building. It was a place of illusion, trickery, and even quite a few secrets. With prying eyes departed, the clean-up within would be underway, leaving those contented ladies to speculate in good humor on the fate of the dark haired, athletically built star of the evening. Her friends and co-workers would be inside, busily helping to get the attraction ready for the next day's crowds, doubtless reflecting on the effectiveness of the night's events as well. Whatever the dinner guests decided amongst themselves, Samantha would surely be pleased by their opinion of her role in the feast and festivities.
 
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