Whiskey Bitters

“It isn’t what I expected,” Emma said. The young woman stared at the rundown white mansion looming in the darkness before them. A bright flash of lightning highlighted dozens of cracks along the outer walls.

“Mundo said we’d find La Escalera in a haunted house. How did you not expect this?” Thomas asked. Instead of waiting for an answer he grabbed Emma’s arm and pulled her toward the fragile building.

“It’s a haunted house on the Paradise server,” she shrugged. “I thought it would be more of a carnival, less horror.” Thomas paused at the front door.

“Yeah, I guess,” he agreed. “I’m still getting used to the idea that this whole Earth is used for a game…,” he shook his head. “…and it isn’t the only one.” The lanky man tried the handle to check if it was locked; it did not budge. He dropped his grey canvas backpack off his shoulder to search for something useful.

“I’ll get it!” Emma pulled a translucent gun carved from pink crystal from a leather holster at her hip. Thomas stepped out of the way while hoisting the backpack on; then, Emma pulled the trigger. A tiny horizontal tornado flew out of the barrel and drilled through the air until it reached the door. A single loud crack filled the air as the door instantly disintegrated into splinters.

“Aren’t you glad you came with me?” Emma asked while they stepped through the threshold. The house was neat, if not clean. Everything was organized with only several layers of dust to hint at any neglect over time.

“I’m still debating that, but this scavenger hunt is fun,” Thomas said. He wandered out of the room and Emma followed him into the kitchen. “Where do people keep ladders?” he asked. He found the pantry behind a door next to the refrigerator, but it only stored food. “Maybe a shed in the back?” he asked. He heard a shuffling sound and turned toward it. Emma was searching one of the drawers in the counter.

“What are you doing?” Thomas asked.

“I’m looking for La Escalera,” she said with a smug grin. “What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for the ladder,” he rolled his eyes. “You’re not gonna find it in a drawer.” Emma shook her head.

“We’re not looking for a ladder, we’re looking for La Escalera.” Her grin grew into a large smile. She winked, then held up foot long wooden rod with her right hand. ‘#07’ was carved into it. “Remember what Mundo said?”

“Don’t give up on your dreams, keep sleeping?” Thomas shrugged. “I don’t think words work the same on his Earth,” he said. Emma stepped forward and bonked his forehead with the rod.

“No, dummy. The clue he gave us to find this.” Emma held the rod at Thomas’ eye level and pointed to a smaller engraving under the number.

“Oh yeah,” Thomas nodded with a chuckle. “Foldable for easy storage.” He grabbed the rod from her hand and looked it over. “I wonder how it works?”

“Well if you didn’t yank it out of my hands,” Emma grabbed it and pulled. “I could’ve figured it…,” Emma looked down. She stood about two feet away from Thomas and each of them held a wooden rung of a short, three-rung ladder. “…out.” She took a step forward and pushed her rung forward. The three-rung ladder became a shorter by a rung.

“Neat.” Thomas stepped forward to fold the ladder back into a single wooden rod. “OH! I wanna do something.” He slid his backpack off again and set it on the dusty counter. “Help me,” he held out the rod. Emma grabbed it and Thomas pulled to extend the ladder. He walked several steps away until he had an almost six-foot ladder.

“What are you-” Emma began to ask, but Thomas interrupted.

“Shh, this is gonna be funny,” he said. He walked back to the counter and placed the bottom rung in his backpack with his left hand holding supporting it. He pushed the ladder down with his right hand. “Eh?” he grinned. It looked like he was pushing an impossibly tall ladder into the bag. Emma rolled her eyes.

She opened a shallow drawer, then stuck her hand in. She leaned over until her elbow was in the drawer, then she pulled out a bottle of Thomas’ favorite whiskey.

“Something like that?” She dropped the whiskey into the drawer to prove a point. The bottle was large enough that the drawer could not close with the bottle in it. Thomas grabbed the bottle from the drawer and put it in his bag.

“Yeah well, not all of us are Celestials. Let’s move on to the next thing,” he said. Emma nodded and opened a portal in the air.

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