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Music echoed in the concrete hall, tinny, distant, cold and otherworldly. It was music he didn’t recognize, had never heard. He kept walking, but a thousand tiny hairs on the back of his neck strained to remain behind.


You’re not invited to the party!” The voice was shrill, tauntingly sing-song, coming from an indeterminate direction.

He stopped, waited, startled and frozen. “Uh… who’s there?”

“I’m the birthday girl and you’re not on the list!”

He moved forward down the hall and around a corner, finding a stairway waiting to be climbed and a door waiting to be pushed open.

“Stay out!”

He opened it and stepped through, finding the tableau she’d laid out: party games, a refreshments table, and even — after a fashion — guests. She was standing next to the record player, an old multicolored children’s affair.

She said, “Well, now that you’re here, I suppose you can stay.”