This story is based on the Reedsy.com prompt "Write a story where a local takes a newcomer under their wing (https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/)."
"Nice to meet you Dash, I'm Slayne. Glad to have you joining us at House of Torment."
"Thanks Slayne, I still can't believe I'm working here. This place is always on the national lists for top haunted houses, and I actually made the cut!"
"Yeah, the owner says you have potential. Stick with me and I'll show you the ropes friend. First things first, let's get checked in."
Dash followed Slayne into the haunt and proceeded up the stairs into the green room. There they met with Sonya, who would be his direct manager as an actor.
"Good to see you again Dash. I trust Slayne is taking care of you?"
"Yeah, thanks so much Sonya! I'm pretty nervous, so pairing us newbies with folks that know what they're doing makes me feel better!"
"Appreciate the vote of confidence Dash, but even us vets are always learning too. It's a changing industry, so even someone like me that has done this for 10 years isn't done developing skills yet."
"Slayne's right, there's always room to grow." Sonya nodded approvingly. "Do your best, take care of yourself, and be willing to learn, and you'll be a permanent part of this place!"
"Sounds great, I'll give it all I've got!" Dash replied enthusiastically. "OK, what do we do first Slayne?"
"We confirm our scene tonight with Sonya. So where are you putting us tonight?"
"The graveyard scene is a good one to start with." Sonya said kindly. "Lots of hiding places, alternate methods for scaring guests. I know you've handled that one a number of times Slayne. Why don't you two head down there and practice once you've finished with costumes and makeup? We still have an hour and a half before we open, so there's time."
"Will do Sonya, thanks!" Slayne said cheerfully, following up with a curtsy. "Let's go talk to the costume manager and get suited up Dash!"
The pair headed to a large closet where Costume Manager Changella awaited them. The young woman also echoed the same uplifting persona as Sonya and Slayne.
"Hi Slayne, always good to see you back. And you must be one of our new recruits.... it's Dash, right?"
"Yeah, that's me!" Dash gushed, turning slightly red. "Nice to meet you Changella!"
"The pleasure is all mine Dash. So where does Sonya have you gentlemen in the house tonight?"
"Graveyard." Slayne replied with a grin.
"Ooooh, nice! That's a great one to start with! Alright, I will get you two some raggedy outfits, and then you guys can head into the makeup line to become zombified. I'm excited for you Dash, the graveyard was one of my first scenes too, it's a really fun one!"
"Looking forward to it, just like I'm looking forward to working with you too Changella!"
Dash and Slayne brought their costumes back into the green room and changed into them. Then they headed for the makeup line to give their faces and arms the appearance of zombies.
"Being polite goes a long way in the haunt community, so keep that up." Slayne complimented. "Everyone here wants the new blood to succeed, as you guys will have to keep the tradition going once us older folks can't do it anymore."
"Hopefully that won't be for a while. This place wouldn't be the same without you legends in it!"
"Well, I never have been called a legend before, but I appreciate it. Thanks Dash."
Once makeup was done, Dash and Slayne looked like true members of the undead. The duo then went to the graveyard scene to prepare for the thrill seekers that would soon fill the house. A maze of realistic tombstones filled the room, along with a couple of well made trees. A dim light that simulated moonlight would make it a challenge for customers to navigate, although the actors often adjusted to the mostly dark rooms quickly.
"So we still have a good 45 minutes until we open, so let's see what you brought with you for essentials tonight." Slayne said while gesturing at the plastic grocery bag that Dash was carrying.
"Oh yeah, sure!" Dash said excitedly as he pulled a small cola bottle out of his bag, along with four king size chocolate candy bars.
"Ummmm Dash, you do remember what is said in the handbook about being prepared, right?"
"I skimmed through it quickly to be honest, this is what gets me through my normal work days in the office. Why, are these things not good?"
"Definitely not ideal." Slayne said with a hint of annoyance that he struggled to hide. "Water should be your drink of choice. This place gets really hot, and you need to stay hydrated. You can fill the cola bottle with water from the break room later at least, but that bottle isn't very big. You should have brought a gallon sized container for water. Then there's the issue with protein."
"Candy bars have protein, don't they?"
"A small amount, but not enough for the work we'll be doing all season. You really should have brought some energy bars, or some kind of protein snack like peanuts or edamame. Tell me this, what have you eaten today?"
"A bunch of donuts, some french fries, a big bowl of mac and cheese, fried cheese sticks, and a bunch of cookies. Why, is that going to be a problem?"
"Ummmmmm yeah, that could be. But it's ok, you're learning. Maybe some of the other vets left some stuff in the breakroom. I'll check before we start. But first, let's practice some acting strategies. Pick a spot to hide, and I'll walk in pretending to be a guest. See if you can scare me newbie!"
Slayne left the scene while Dash hid behind the tree prop. Slayne walked back in and began passing the tree when Dash popped his head out from behind the tree.
"OK, good timing, but you must have missed that part in the training videos that we were emailed."
"We got training videos in our email? Crap, I'm really bad at checking my email.... sorry man!"
"It's ok." Slayne said, using his own acting skills to hide his frustration. "Boo is a no go for dialogue. Let me go back and you can try something else."
Slayne left the scene and walked back to the tree, when Dash popped out at him again.
"Um yeah, we don't say that one either. Let's try this one more time. Make something up based on this scene."
Slayne let Dash reset, then approached him once more.
"Hey dude! Spooky night in the graveyard, eh?"
"Um yeah..... you should probably watch a training video. Pull up your email on your phone and watch the "acting tips for pop scares" one. I'll check the break room and see if I can find some water and protein. I'll be back in ten Dash."
Slayne began navigating the dark hallways behind the scenes when he ran into a fellow zombie character.
"Hey Slayne! How's the new guy doing?"
"Not so good Raul. The kid has heart, but didn't prepare with the materials we were all given. His dialogue is weak, he didn't eat a good meal beforehand, and he didn't even bring water with him. The kid will pass out within two hours tops."
"That's a bummer. Another one for the Shredder Room eh? At least his blood can be used by the makeup crew, and whatever else is left of him can be salvaged for props."
"Yeah, but I kind of like the kid. I think I may try and mentor him some more to save him from being shredded. I mean, the poor guy is a dead man anyway, just like all of us are."
"Oh I know that all too well Slayne. I was working my first night getting scares, then everyone was suddenly gone. The break room was gone, the green room was gone, the emergency exits were gone. All I could do was starve to death, then get revived as a living corpse, my lot now permanently working as a scare actor to avoid the shredder myself."
"Yeah Raul, they take the loyalty clause to a new level here. But the boss wants only the best actors, and traps us here to keep his talent."
"He really covered his bases with this place Slayne, with those perfect doppelgangers of us he sent out to not let anyone know we're missing. I know my copy has come through the haunt with my wife frequently.... I scare them extra good out of spite every time I see them. The boss does have the perfect haunt setup here though. Escaping from this place is impossible. It's either act, or disappear for good."
"Yeah.... I thought I lived for the haunt life brother, never thought I would die for it. But now I'm going to check the break room and see if there's some water and protein I can grab for Dash. I would much rather he become one of us than become parts for props."
"You're a good guy Slayne. If I'm going to be stuck in a haunt season forever, at least I get to do so with you...."
Raul's opening night can be read here: https://theprose.com/post/441660/where-s-the-breakroom