Gloria Jones looked in the mirror in the south-east bathroom on the sixth floor of Sanctuary and laughed at the cheesy image. She was a young woman with medium brown skin, a thick mop of kinky hair, a flat nose and thick lips. And she was dressed in the cheesiest, most stereotypical vampire costume anybody could think of. The red-lined black opera cape, the white waistcoat, the black tailcoat… if there was a more stereotypical vampire costume out there, Gloria hadn’t seen it. She had even applied blood red makeup to one corner of her lips to look like blood and had gotten a set of cheap plastic vampire fangs to put on her own teeth. Gloria Jones was ready for Halloween.
What made her choice of costume hilarious, at least to Gloria, was that she had, in the past year, chosen to live with the vampires of Fort City. And they weren’t anything like the classic movie monsters.
Well, maybe a little like the classics, Gloria thought as she exited the bathroom. They did have a profound love of opera and theatre, after all.
Gloria made her way down the stairs, careful not to let her cape get snagged on anything. As she walked down the stairs, she passed other denizens of Sanctuary, each decked out in their own variety of gaudy costumes. Here and there were goblins, ghosts, monstrous clowns, comic book heroes such as Batman, Batgirl and Batwoman, and more than a few who had kept their normal Gothic dress and were going as themselves. Gloria ducked, dodged slid out of the way of her fellow costumed types, careful not to step on anybody else’s cape and to not let anybody step on hers, either. With some effort, Gloria made it down to the northeast corner of Sanctuary; that part of the brownstone complex that the vampires had reserved for themselves. Most of the time anyway; Halloween night was always an exception.
Coming down from the stairs, Gloria turned into the northeast corner to see tall, lanky Joey Bianco dressed in a purple trench coat and equally purple suit, with his face shifted into a blank, featureless mask. The shirt was yellow, to contrast the with the purple suit jacket and the purple tie, and Joey also wore a pair of black gloves.
“Wow, that’s really cool,” Gloria said. “How’d you get your face like that?”
“That is the question,” Bianco answered. Jessica bat Jacob walked up behind him and slapped him lightly on the back of the head. Jess was dressed in a form-fitting catsuit. Her long brown hair had been squished into a soft leather helmet with a chin strap and pointing cat ears. A pair of red-tinted goggles were strapped to her forehead. On her feet were a pair of ankle boots, as black as the rest of the costume. Surprisingly, Jess wasn’t wearing any gloves with her costume; Gloria supposed that was because she didn’t want to scratch Joey every time they touched.
“Catwoman, cool,” Gloria said. “Does the Bat know you’re cheating on him with The Question?”
Somewhere to her left, somebody let out a stifled giggle. Jess merely arched an eyebrow and said:
“And to think I used to worry that you weren’t going to fit in…”
“Clearly, that is not the question,” Joey said. Jess groaned, and Gloria giggled before turning left towards the dining room and the chocolate covered goodies that lay upon it.
“Trust me, it’s a lot funnier when you haven’t heard all of those question puns over and over again,” Mikhail Ivanovich Tchaikovsky said sourly from the far left end of the table, where he was currently scowling at his laptop screen. Tchaikovsky had decided to dress like some ancient Mongol warrior, complete with the spiked helmet that now lay on the table.
“Mr Bianco doesn’t dress like the Question every year, does he?” Gloria asked, sitting down at the table across from Tchaikovsky.
“Either that or Rorschach,” Jen said cheerfully from where she was sitting to Gloria’s right further down the table. Like Tchaikovsky, Jen had gone with an ancient warrior motif, albeit of a more Celtic design. Her face was covered in blue temporary tattoos that looked a lot like vines, and over her armour, she wore a green wrap. “How’s it going sunshine?”
“Not bad,” Gloria answered looking down the table towards Jen. “You?”
“Peachy keen, always,” Jen said brightly. “After the kids are done their trick-or-treating, me and Gears and the rest are going to the dancehall for some kicks. Wanna tag?”
“I’ll ask Harper,” Gloria said. “I don’t think she’ll say no, but on the other hand, I think she wanted to stay in tonight. And I’ve, uh, been kind of putting her off, lately.”
“Cool beans,” Jen said. “Dancehall’s open all night anyhow, so if you and Harper do decide to drop in…”
“I dig,” Gloria said.
“Dig what?” came a voice from the south exit of the dining room. Gloria turned to see Gearhead ‘Gears’ Lee come walking into the room. Gears had not gone to anywhere near the trouble that her moll had in picking out her costume; instead, she wore a leather corset with intricate scroll-work over top of her usual tight leather pants. The corset bared Gears’ arms, showing off both her extra large guns and the intricate tattoos that all vampires and their servants bore. Gloria had to admit that it was a good look for the other black woman; though when you looked as good as Gears, everything was a good look for you.
“Just inviting Gloria to that party at the dancehall, baby,” Jen said as Gears walked up to her moll and leaned down to give the redhead a kiss. Jen craned her neck to reach the taller woman before stretching her arms out to pull Gears even closer. Gloria, who was familiar with just how much passion those two could pour out, pointedly turned away to observe the other two women that had come in with Gears.
One was Gears’ cousin, Yun Lee, who was dressed up like an enormous pink flower that contrasted mightily with the permanent scowl on her face. Gloria didn’t like Yun Lee; she was abrasive, demeaning and just generally hard to get along with. But, credit where credit’s due: when Gears had run from whatever hell her family situation had been, Yun had been the second person to adopt the young black women into the Lee clan. And when Gloria had similarly bolted from the teeming mass of humanity, Yun had organized a welcoming party and clothing drive to help Gloria get on her feet and stay there.
“The fuck you looking at, cupcake?” Yun demanded of Gloria.
“Just trying to figure out who’d be cruel enough to stuff a bitch in a flower costume,” Gloria answered. “Pretty sure that borders on animal cruelty.”
The other people around the table let out a series of awed whistles. The girl beside Yun, however, just laughed. She was a little shorter than Yun, who nearly rivalled Gears in height, being a bit closer to Gloria or Jen in size. Her skin was a lighter brown than Gloria’s, prompting the occasional racist assumption, but the flat nose with its broad nostrils and black hair that hang down in thick ropes give evidence to her true African heritage. Her lips were thick and full, given to easy smiles. Tonight, she was wearing blue coveralls over a red shirt with white gloves on her hands, and a red cap with a red ‘M’ in a white circle on it. The dame in question was Latifah Murphy, social justice activist and Gears’ best friend.
“Leave poor Yun alone, G,” Latifah said. “She’s already traumatized by having to pretend to be happy.”
Yun stuck her tongue out at Latifah and stalked over towards the end of the table where she managed to squeeze herself onto one of the chairs. Latifah chuckled before turning around to say something to Gloria. Just then, Bianco walked into the dining room from the kitchen.
“I thought I heard your dulcet tones, Yun,” he said, his voice muffled from the mask. “Just a friendly reminder: we want to scare the kids, not give them permanent psychological damage. Clear?”
“Crystal,” Yun grumbled.
“Good,” Joey said with a nod, though his tone made it clear he didn’t quite believe that Yun had gotten the message. Fair’s fair, neither did Gloria. Turning to Latifah, the vampire said:
“Latifah. What’s new?”
“Nothing much,” the dame answered, breezily. “This isn’t racist against Italians, right?” she asked next, her tone turning nervous, gesturing to her Mario costume.
“For the fourteenth time, no,” Joey answered.
“Just checking,” Latifah said, clearly relieved.
“Right,” Joey said dryly.
“Okay does everybody know the plan?” Jess asked as she walked in from the kitchen.
“Give the little brats who come up to the door cavities and diabetes,” Tchaikovsky answered, yawning.
“Yes thank you, Mishka, for that small contribution,” Jess said sarcastically.
“Actually Tchaikovsky, we’ve got something a little extra tonight,” Joey said. “Something just for all the little lambs and puppies.”
“What, you’re gonna sing?” Tchaikovsky asked.
“Oh god no,” Jen answered in Joey’s place. “But we are.”
“Oh yeah? Sing what?”
“What else?” Jen answered with a shrug. “This Is Halloween.”