Set into the wall in its own shadowy alcove is a human skull and a collection of neatly arranged tibias, femurs, knuckles, and joints. Your eyes fall to a bronze plaque set into the wall above it. "Alberto," the plaque says.\n\nWith mounting nausea you turn, wide-eyed, to Mabel. She gazes at you from over the tops of her glasses again, arching one snowy brow.\n\n"Oh my dear. You didn't actually think you were ever getting out, did you?" \n\n
"Look lady, thanks for the invite, but I don't think this cut of coat is good on me," you say, tugging at the queer lapels that have somehow sprouted on the front of your vestiment. "I'm more a tee shirt and jeans kind of guy." \n\n"But you just got here," your hostess laments. "You can't leave before we even get started!"\n\nYou glance back toward the crevice and quickly realize that even if you did turn in profile to get out, with the bulkier new garb, you'd no longer fit through the narrow opening. \n\nYour guilty heart responds to her entreaty. You're being rude. Mom always did say that your manners were unseemly – it's part of why you got into construction work. Defying your nature, [[you approach the table|Dine]]. \n\nIt's now or never. This place is not good. [[You start to strip: you've got to get out of here|Strip]].
You sit down in the chair that's profferred itself to you, eyeing your hostess over a pedestal of gleaming grapes and a lit candle. An inspection of the company leaves you feeling more rather than less unsettled. She looks //ancient//.\n\n"What's your name? How old are you?" you blurt before you know what you're saying. You're met with a chuckle. So much for manners.\n\n"Well," she says indulgently, "my name is Mabel, and my, aren't those awfully direct questions! Wouldn't you prefer to just enjoy our meal?" \n\nThat depends on what it is, you think. [[Ask what's for lunch|Ask]]. \n\n\n
"Look, thanks for offering lunch, but can you help me out here? I'm not hungry anymore – plus, I should be out directing traffic!"\n\n"Oh, don't worry about that," she assures, smiling mysteriously, "That's none of your concern now that you're my guest." \n\nThere is an edge of menace to her voice that you neither understand nor like. It impels you to glance back toward the crevice where you can still see a little bit of light coming from where your other construction buddies should be. It dawns on you only now that they haven't once shouted for you. \n\n//What the hell is going on?// As you wonder, the crevice slides shut. \n\n"You'll never have to worry about going outside ever again," the creaky voice behind you says. \n\n[[Turn around to look|Turn]]. \n\n
You turn to see that your hostess has risen from her place at the table and is approaching you. She herself is something between a mannequin and a children's doll, only animate. She moves as though she's powered by steam, lurching toward you with a smile. \n\nYou can't help but scream as you turn to the wall, digging your fingers into the soft, glossy wallpaper where your exit route sould have been. She is creaking closer to you now.\n\nThere is a sound, muted, from high above you. It might be the distant squeal of traffic.
"Uh...are...are you sure there's enough for two?" you call to the old woman. "I wouldn't want to impose." \n\n"Honey," she says, "I've been waiting for company for the past 300 years. This is my first meal in a century. Come on in."\n\nWell, you only get to dine with dinosaurs once in a lifetime, you think. You [[go in to grub|Eat]].
"Don't mind if I do," you say, and reach for the serving utensils stacked beside the steaming platter. "Ladies first," you say gallantly, surprising even yourself, and gather a few potatoes between the spoon and fork. Mabel smiles beatifically and shoves her plate toward you. \n\n"Thank you, dear," she says. "Please, serve yourself." \n\nYou pile sheaves of pink lamb onto your plate, following it up with a load of delicately boiled potatoes. You top if all off with a drizzle of rich, brown gravy and raise the first forkful to your lips."\n\n[[You ponder the flavor|flavor]]. \n
You turn quickly and careen toward your post in the middle of the street. As you approach, another car rounds the corner, speeding toward you. \n\n"You asshole," you mutter under your breath, "you're going way too fast" \n\nYou stoop to scoop up your traffic flag and your fingers connecting with the plastic is the last thing you see. \n\nYou're dead, dammit. [[Ghost back into the hole!|inHole]].
"This is the best lamb I've ever had, Mabel," you tell your hostess. \n\n"Oh, I'm so glad you like it," Mabel beams. "All of my guests say so." \n\n"All of them?" you ask, "Who was your last guest?" \n\nMabel looks up at you from her full plate of food, chewing busily. She wipes at the corner of her wrinkled mouth with a napkin she's retrieved from her lap. With the napkin, she gestures toward the wall.\n\n"Him," she says. \n\nYou look toward the wall, expecting to light upon an oil painting, a sculpture, maybe even a photograph. [[It is not, however, what you see|Mabel's guest]].\n
Weirdly enough, you don't have to worry about the light. A lambent glow, coming from you-don't-know-where illuminates the interior. \n\nAs your eyes adjust, you notice that you're looking at a room, a rather beautiful one at that. There is a gleaming mahogany table, set with crystal glasses, silver bowls of glistening fruit, and steaming tureens of something toothsomely seasoned.\n\n"Greetings, young one," says a raspy voice. You start and realize that at the far end of the table, an old woman is seated. \n\n"Ah, you! I've been waiting for so long! Come in. Lunch is ready."\n\nThis is an odd invitation, but you //are// missing lunch, after all. [[Shimmy in and chow down|Lunch]].\nHell no. Who is this lady? And why does she look like she's from 1775? [[Back away from the crevice|Retreat]].
The heat is fierce. \n\nStanding out in the street, orange flag in hand and visibility vest buckled to show oncoming traffic that you are not, in fact, a throughway, there's no protection. Your safety helmet was only useful that one time when a bucket of wall fragments tumbled off of the scaffolding because some jackass was paying more attention to his sandwich than his work. Today, it is trying to become one with your skull, baking your brain into oblivion. \n\nJackhammers bite uneven divots out of the street behind you. To your right, a team of your fellow construction workers uses buckets and pulleys to clear rubble from the pit they're digging. You're going deep for this one. \n\nYou stare off into the distance, watching heat shimmer up in waves from the asphalt. You direct traffic more slowly, descending into a daze.\n\n[[And then, there's a shout|Shout]]. \n\n\n
\n"Holy shit! Do you see that? What's down there?" \n\nYou realize that the jackhammering has stopped. This has got to be good.\n\nYou turn to see that chaos has erupted from the hole. The familiar face of one of your friends, Mack, rises to the lip. \n\n"Hey, kid! Get over here. You're small." \n\nAs hot as it is out here, it'll be hotter over in the hole. But you're curious, so you decide to [[investigate|Hole]]. \n
You lope towards the pit, grab one of the ropes along the side, and lower yourself into the hole. \n\n"All right, what's the big deal over here?" you ask as your feet hit the dusty bottom.\n\nThe faces of the men crowded around the tall, vertical crevice that opens off from the side of the pit turn toward you. They look confused but excited.\n\n"Look," says one of them, making room for you. You step forward, placing a hand on either side of the crevice. Careful not to block out the light, you [[peer inside|Crevice]].
You back toward where you came in and begin to tear at the outdated suit that seems to have grown from your own flesh. You're fumbling at the buttons, but realize they won't undo. Desperately, you claw at the belt buckle at your waist. It refuses to unfasten: it's like you're wearing a bunch of doll's clothes, all fake functionality and overstarched creases.\n\n"Why can't I get these off of me?" you shout to your hostess, still seated behind the [[table|Help]]. \n\n
"Well, ma'am, what's on the menu?"\n\n"My favorite!" She lifts the silvery lid off of a pan to reveal a steaming rack of lamb. It is ringed by a pride of roasted potatoes. It looks succulent; your stomach rumbles in anticipation. \n\nYou glance up and notice an odd glint in your hostess's eye. It's somewhere between mother hen and black widow. It isn't quite right, but it isn't quite wrong either. Plus, you job doesn't pay much, and you haven't had a good cut of meat in ages.\n\n[[Shut up and eat|Dig in]].\nPolitely refuse Mabel's food. It's not too late to [[go!|Strip]]
Mabel's Guest
The hole is teeming with sweating, muscly bodies – six men in total. Shoving and talking excitedly, they're clustered around what appears to be a deeper declivity that opens off from the hole they've been digging. They're at least 4 stories down.\n\nMack looks up from the pit at your approach. Excitement glimmers in his eyes as he makes room for you beside him in the hole. \n\n"Check this shit out," he says, muscling aside one of his comrades. "You've gotta come down here." \n\nAs he says this, you hear traffic squeal behind you. You look up just in time to see a car sideswipe two of the orange traffic cones you'd so carefully arranged earlier in the day. All hell will break loose if you don't get up there and keep these insane drivers under control.\n\nFuck the traffic. [[Ease yourself into the hole|inHole]]. \nOrder must prevail. [[Run back to your post|Direct]].\n\n
Caitlin Schiller
If you turn in profile and suck in your belly, hard, you can fit through the crevice. Times like this, being a runt really comes in handy.\n\nYou emerge into the room, and you, too, are bathed in soft light. It's at least 20 degrees cooler in here.\n\nNot wanting to appear rude, you cut a short bow to your hostess. As you come up, you notice your hand, protruding from a frothy white sleeve. You glance down and see that your feet are now shod in shiny brown leather. Just a second ago, you'd been wearing the same old ripped tee shirt and work boots. You feel the hairs on the back of your neck bristle. \n\n"Now you're ready for lunch!" your hostess coos appreciatively, looking you up and down. She is clapping her tiny hands together from the far side of the table, delighted, and the chair across from her slowly pushes itself out to accommodate your buttocks. \n\n[[Get the hell out|Leave]]. \n[[Sit down and enjoy your meal|Dine]].
You jolt back from the crevice.\n\n"Yo, there's a lady in there," you shout, glancing about you to share your discovery with your fellow construction workers. Except...there's no one there. The street is quiet. The sun, before so fierece and strong, seems to have disappeared from the sky. \n\n"Hello?" You ask. "Hello? Anybody out there?" \n\nYou've got one choice: if you want human companionship, [[it's time to do lunch|Lunch]]. \n