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Recap #134: Bone Chillers #23: Romeo and Ghouliette by Betsy Haynes

Title: Bone Chillers #23 – Romeo and Ghouliette a.k.a. “Hail, Hail Sirbania, A Land I Didn’t Make Up”

Author: Betsy Haynes (Ryan Chipman (Based on the script by Regge Bulman and Clay Eide))

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: What fright through yonder window breaks? [Wing: Okay, that’s kind of delightful.]

Summary: Cooking up trouble…

Lexi knows there’s something weird about Julie, the new girl at Edgar Allen Poe High School. [Wing: I want to go to school there.] Julie was practically drooling over a worm in biology lab. Then Lexi swears she saw Julie snatch a fly out of the air in homeroom – and eat it!

Now Julie is after Lexi’s best friend, Fitz. And Fitz is totally falling for her. He loves everything about Julie – especially the cookies and candies she brings him. Lexi suspects Julie is fattening Fitz up for a feast – and that he’s going to be the main course!

Initial Thoughts

February is the month of LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUV, and even though I’d already done “The Abandoned” for Valentine’s Day I felt for the extra recap this would be an appropriate addition.

Bone Chillers was another Goosebumps knock-off series from the 90s, one of the few that stuck to the formula of a brand new cast and universe in each book. But what set the series apart is it was the only series besides Goosebumps to get a TV show during its time of publication. With a single season of 13 episodes, the show took place at Edgar Allen Poe High School and focused on the horrifying misadventures of four friends.

The artistic Fitz Crump, gothic Sarah Moss, brainy wannabee casanova Brian Hoseapple, and sunny Lexi Orwell, got into all sorts of terrifying shenanigans at school, alongside the downright evil Principal Pussman, ditzy Ms. Dewberry, and their ally Arnie, the creepy school janitor who knew about all sorts of weird shit. Only three of the episodes (Back to School, Creature Teacher, and Frankenturkey) were based on the books written by Betsy Haynes, while all of them featured educational segments at the end that were narrated by Miss Haynes. Whereas the cheesiness of the Goosebumps TV show was mostly unintentional, Bone Chillers deliberately played up the comedy angle alongside the horror. You’d be amazed at how much the kids scream.

“Romeo and Ghouliette” is special, because in its case, the BOOK was based on the EPISODE. Two years after the show ended, the screenplay was adapted and expanded into an addition of the book series, and was the last entry published. The cover sort of reflects that, featuring a broken TV, and the male character is obviously modeled after Fitz. What also makes this special is that book is fucking expensive (I was lucky to find a cheap copy) and much sought after by fans because there exists no DVD set of the entire show and absolutely NO videos anywhere for sale or online of the episode.

Well, at least until a brave American hero uploaded videos of every episode that hadn’t been put on VHS to Youtube.

Being able to watch the episode made me realize a lot of changes were put in the book adaption. Such as:

  • Part of the plot involves the school’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” so the name isn’t just a joke. That wasn’t in the TV show.
  • Lexi was the one worried about Fitz in the TV show. Despite what the summary said, in the book it’s Sarah who’s the main character.
  • Ms. Dewberry isn’t ditzy or lovey dovey in the book, instead she looks like someone’s grandmother.
  • While the school appears creepy in the TV show, it retains the Edgar Allen Poe name but feels like a regular school in the book.
  • The antagonists aren’t from “Sirbania” in the TV show.

Recap

It’s a beautiful spring day in the town of Smiley Heights. Lexi can’t understand how her best friend Sarah doesn’t love the birds singing, the sun shining. Sarah reminds Lexi that today is Monday, and it would be a beautiful Monday if it were summer vacation already. But that was Lexi for you. She loved everyone and everything around her. It drove Sarah nuts sometimes, but she loved Lexi just the same. [Wing: I love Lexi, and I ship these two already. I’m going to have to watch the show.]

As they arrive to the hallowed halls of Edgar Allen Poe High, Lexi is ecstatic when she sees the notice announcing auditions for “Romeo and Juliet.” Sarah doesn’t catch Lexi’s enthusiasm as she talks about how romantic “Romeo and Juliet” is. The acting, the costumes, the balcony scene, the kissing. Oh and the whole dual suicide thing. Sarah adds Lexi forgot about the boys in tights. Lexi immediately wants to try out for Juliet, asking Sarah what she thinks. Sarah tries her best to be supportive. Lexi ponders the chances of their other best friend, Fitz, getting the part of Romeo. Sarah feels that’s a definite possibility; Fitz was the best actor and artist in the school, and had gotten the lead in every school play for years. Sarah remembers when Fitz started out as a tree in their kindergarten production of “Oh, This Lovely World.” Lexi does the math on her chances, reasoning there 50 ninth graders, half of whom think acting’s dumb. Out of those 25, only half of them would be brave enough to try out. Sarah asks why Lexi believes she’s the most qualified out of those 12.5 ninth graders. Simple. None of them will look as good as Lexi will in costume. [Wing: Oh lord, Lexi. Also, it seems strange to me that this is a freshman-only situation for her.]

Lexi starts proposing they shop for material to make her Juliet dress when class jock Kirk Devonshire stumbled down the hallway looking like he was high. Sarah and Lexi ask Kirk what happened, and he responds it was something wonderful. He had to stop by the principal’s office to get his varsity letter, and saw Principal Pussman welcoming a new transfer student. In his words, the new girl was gorgeous. Breathtaking. He stumbles to find the right words to capture her magnificence when he sees the audition flyer and exclaims this mystery girl is EXACTLY like Juliet.

In homeroom, Brian does his usual charmer shtick on Ms. Dewberry the moment she called his name during attendance. Every morning, he’d have a cheesy pick-up line on the matronly teacher, and every morning she’d blush and tell him to sit. That was Brian for you, desperate for any attention from the opposite sex. He even had a habit of repeatedly giving Sarah pet names she’d tell him to stop using.

“One of these days,” Brian said, winking at Fitz, “Ms. Dewberry is going to come around and see things my way.”

Sarah made a gagging sound. “It must be spring.”

Brian turned to her. “Ah yes, spring fever. But I’m ready for love no matter what season it is.” Brian sighed and doodled hearts on his notebook.

Sarah turns her attention to a sketch Fitz is working on of a cross-eyed lion in boxing shorts when the subject of the new girl is brought up. Brian is eager at the thought of someone new to try his material on, maybe someone worthy of Brian Hoseapple, future superspy. Lexi gets a bit huffy, reminding everyone Kirk Devonshire’s taste in women kind of leaves something to desire. The group remembers Kirk’s dating Tiffany Lenter, a girl who practically walks around in a ten-pound cloud of make-up and hair spray. [Wing: You do you, Tiffany, and ignore these haters.] At that moment, Ms. Dewberry formally announces the arrival of their newest classmate, Ms. Julie Tchort. Julie is a native of the tiny Eastern European country of Sirbania, but has lived all over the world. Lexi wonders if her chances for Juliet have improved, in case Julie might have trouble with the English language. That idea gets squashed when Ms. Dewberry lets the famous Ms. Tchort introduce herself.

A very tall, beautiful girl stood up from the desk in the back corner of the classroom. She had long black hair and skin so pale it was nearly bone white. Her dark eyes shined as she smiled. She was dressed all in black: tight black jeans, black leather boots, and a black T-shirt.

When Julie speaks, her voice is sultry with the faintest hint of an accent. She talks about how much she loves Smiley Heights so far, being the friendliest of the 13 cities she’s lived in. [Wing: Smiley. Heights. /dying] Every boy in the class is mesmerized while the girls look jealous. Except for Sarah. Her attention’s on Julie, but for a different reason. There was a fly buzzing around Julie’s head, and she tried to ignore it. Suddenly, Julie twitched and the fly was gone. No one noticed except for Sarah, and she doesn’t understand how no one is freaking out that the new girl just snatched a fly out of the air AND ATE IT. Since no one else seems repulsed, Sarah thinks she imagined it. The boys break into applause as Julie finishes speaking. As the next period bell rings, some classmates gather around Julie’s desk to ask her questions. For a brief moment, Julie picks something from her teeth and wipes it on her desk. Sarah inspects Julie’s desk after she departs, and is horrified to find a chewed-up wing.

Sarah’s mind is wrapped around figuring out why the transfer student would eat a fly, all the way to biology class. Sarah’s attention is momentarily distracted when she learns from her lab partner Beth that it’s dissection day again. Sarah and Lexi were both in agreement over how much they hated dissecting animals, for different reasons. It made Sarah hurl, it made Lexi cry. Sarah and her parents are vegetarians, but while Mr. and Mrs. Moss were concerned about eating healthy, Sarah refused to eat meat because she loved animals and would never harm one. The thought of simply eating a hot dog made Sarah nauseous. Unfortunately, just because her parents were vegetarians didn’t mean they’d let Sarah skip out on the learning process. Lexi didn’t have a problem with meat eating, but was against animal cruelty and often loudly protested dissection. Their biology teacher decided to assign them different lab partners so she wouldn’t have to worry about them conspiring. But since their tables were next to each other, the girls were still able to talk to each other.

On this day, Lexi’s lab partner was out sick so she hoped she’d get out of doing dissection. And for added measure, Principal Pussman arrives to inform the class their teacher’s also out sick. HOWever, Pussman is subbing for the day, having once worked as a biology teacher, so the dissections will continue. Julie Tchort doesn’t have a lab partner, and asks if she can work by herself if no one else is available. Pussman lets Julie work with Lexi, who takes the opportunity to make another speech about her feelings regarding dissection and animal cruelty. Pussman is all tears and roses, saying of course he respects Lexi’s feelings and she’s perfectly capable of abstaining from dissection. Just as long as she respects HIS feelings on giving her a failing grade for every dissection experiment she skips out on. Julie, who’s giddy at the idea of doing dissection, assures Lexi she’ll do all the work so she won’t be guilty of harming an innocent creature. Julie’s mood brightens even more when Pussman announces today they’ll be dissecting earthworms, which are apparently Julie’s favorites. Lexi feels really bad for poor Mr. Squiggly, her recently named earthworm, and tries to offer him comfort knowing he’s sacrificing his life in the name of higher learning. Beth snickers, but Sarah finds Lexi endearing.

“Yeah, Lexi is a bit batty, but I still love her.”

But suddenly, Mr. Squiggly is gone! Lexi doesn’t know what happened. One minute the poor worm was wriggling on his tray, the next he was gone. Julie says she bent down to get something from her bag and then he was gone, figuring he “ran away” to avoid death. Sarah incredulously asks Julie if she thinks they’ll swallow that, before she sees a look of pure evil flicker deep in Julie’s dark eyes. Julie hugs Lexi, trying to comfort her with the thought Mr. Squiggly has gone on to a better place. What Lexi doesn’t register is that Julie sounds like she has something in her mouth. Sarah knows something’s up, and Julie picks up on it, which is why she stares at Sarah while hugging Lexi.

As Sarah watched in disbelief, Julie started chewing. Then she stopped chewing, swallowed, and-ever so quietly-said, “Yum!”

Sarah had no clue how to properly explain to Lexi what happened to Mr. Squiggly when the class was over. Pussman allowed Lexi and Julie to dissect a second worm, Mr. Squiggly the Second, and this one hadn’t vanished. After class, Sarah stayed behind to help feed the lab animals along with Fitz. Julie smugly waved to Sarah as she left the room, and then blew a kiss in Fitz’s direction. Fitz is immediately stricken with feelings of amore, which makes it difficult for Sarah to convey all the weird things Julie Tchort’s done in the last couple of hours. Fitz thinks Julie was just chewing gum even as Sarah adamantly explains she knows what gum chewing looks like. Fitz believes Sarah’s jealous of Julie because she’s beautiful and smart and incredible and because she seems to like Fitz. Sarah is aghast at such second guessing from one of her best friends and decides to search for someone willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

That person turns out to be Arnie, Edgar Allen Poe High’s janitor who knew about all kinds of strange and weird things. But the moment Sarah gets to the door leading to the basement and Arnie’s office, she hears a shrill scream of despair! Arnie’s in trouble! Sarah rushes down the dark stairway and finds the poor janitor, utterly distraught and crying in his hands. Arnie points to the cages he kept on the table, and Sarah is horrified when she sees his mice are gone. Arnie the humanitarian would catch the mice and rats he’d find in the school’s basement and, instead of killing them, would keep them in cages. He’d then set the mice free in the town dump and junkyard when he’d collected enough. Before today, Arnie saved at least fifty mice. Now, every cage was empty. Arnie was beside himself over the loss of his babies. [Wing: Okay, Arnie is amazing.] Sarah tried to comfort the janitor by offering to help look for them. All Sarah finds is a wadded up gym sock. Sarah gets the disturbing suspicion this reminds of her something, but realizes she can’t tell Arnie about Julie Tchort with the way he is right now. Arnie suddenly declares there’s something evil going on in this school, something foul that has arrived. He starts sniffing around the office trying to find the supposed evil… and then wonders if maybe he just forgot deodorant and sprays his pits with a can of air freshener. That gets a laugh out of both of them.

Sarah asks what Arnie thinks happened, if maybe he left one of his cages open. Arnie is insulted; he would never do something so stupid. He figures this was some rotten kid prank perpetrated by some rotten high school kid. He then hastily adds “present company excluded.” Sarah offers to keep her ears open in case she overhears discussion about any pranks, but Arnie’s cool. He doesn’t want Sarah to piss anyone off by snitching on them. Sarah declares she can take care of herself and heads for lunch, stopping momentarily when she sees something on the basement stairs. Holding it up to the light, Sarah is mortified to learn she’s just found a fork with a wad of gray fur stuck to the tines.

Meeting up with Lexi in the cafeteria, Sarah asks her best friend’s opinion on Julie Tchort. Lexi hesitantly says Julie isn’t very likable, shocking Sarah because that is by far the meanest thing Lexi has ever said about anyone EVER. And it’s totally true. Sarah’s finally corrupted Lexi. Lexi points out she didn’t say Julie was pure evil or something, but Sarah begins to describe the creepy shit Julie’s done before Brian and Fitz show up on line. Brian jokes the girls were obviously talking about them before they tell him to knock it off. The boys begin discussing the latest sci-fi flick as Sarah covertly tells Lexi about Julie’s eating habits. Hearing Sarah talk about Julie eating flies, worms, and mice earns a simple “That sounds unhealthy” from Lexi. Sarah exclaims Julie Tchort could rid the schools of bugs like it was her personal buffet, and she’s worried about her health? Lexi reasons no one would believe Sarah if they told her Julie eats vermin, so Sarah decides she needs proof before they ask for adult assistance. Lexi starts to think this is Sarah’s way of helping her get the part of Juliet, by starting a rumor about Julie, but tells her it’s not necessary. Case in point:

“Hey, Brian, did you hear that Julie Tchort eats bugs?”

“Bugs” Brian thought for a moment. “That’s kind of cool. If Julie and I were ever stranded in the wilderness, she’d know what we could eat to stay alive.”

“See?” Lexi shrugged and looked at Sarah. “He thinks it’s cool.”

[Wing: I. AM. D Y I N G. OVER THAT RESPONSE.]

Sarah can’t believe this when Fitz adds she already tried the bug story on him and he didn’t fall for it either.

The thought of eating bugs turns everyone’s attention to what’s for lunch, which turns out to be Carl’s Famous Gray Stuff With Red Sauce. Boy, where’s Ms. Stoker when you need her? Just then, Julie Tchort calls Fitz’s name and runs to his side from the other end of the lunch room. Fitz, bashfully, says hi, and Julie invites him to join her for lunch at the coziest little table for two. Fitz offers to grab Julie a tray of Carl’s Gray Stuff, much better than his White Stuff with Beige Sauce. Julie giggles at Fitz’s thoughtfulness, but mentions she already ate. But hey, Fitz can have whatever she doesn’t want on her tray, AND he can have her brownie. Brian’s definitely convinced Mr. Crump and Ms. Tchort are an item. Giving a guy your brownie? That’s like getting to fourth base!

Meanwhile, Sarah wonders if Julie’s not hungry because she already ate during homeroom. And biology. And had a mid-period snack in the basement…

Sarah waits with Lexi outside the auditorium during the auditions for the play. Sarah’s amazed Lexi convinced Brian to try out, after his disastrous attempt at adlibbing ruined last year’s comedy. No one spoke to him for a week after that. Lexi claims Brian’s grown a lot since eighth grade, and is in the middle of chewing her nails down to the cuticle out of nervousness. Fitz joins them, munching on a candy bar, and Lexi asks how things went with Julie. Sarah pretends to be supportive as Fitz regales them with how Julie wanted to know everything about him and how super interested she was in him. She’s even offered to bring him homemade cookies. Brian pops up, wearing sunglasses as part of his spying. Sarah figures he watched a James Bond movie the night before, and Brian’s got bad news for Lexi. He saw some of Julie’s auditioning for Juliet and it was like, like wow. Superwow. Better than Wynona Rider wow!

Sarah’s ready for Lexi to be crushed to pieces, but even she’s jumping on the Julie Tchort fan wagon when she wonders if Julie could teach her a few things about acting. Lexi and the guys think Sarah’s overreacting when she wonders if the whole world’s losing it or if it’s just her. Sarah reminds Lexi how excited she was at the idea of playing Juliet, but Lexi shrugs it off saying there are other parts. Ms. Plum emerges from the auditorium asking if someone could find Julie so she can do lines with Fitz. Fitz is sure that means he’s gonna be Romeo and asks Brian where he last saw Julie. At that point Julie reveals she’d been standing behind the four kids the entire time they were talking and no one noticed. As Julie walks past Sarah she “accidentally” scratches Sarah’s arm. Sarah wipes the little blood with her finger and brings it to her mouth. Julie whispers “Tastes good, doesn’t it?”

The last thing Sarah sees as Julie walks into the auditorium is her winking at Sarah while declaring she could just eat Fitz right up…

To the surprise of no one, Fitz and Julie got the lead roles, while Lexi was cast as Juliet’s mother, and Brian was cast as Romeo’s guy Friday Mercutio. Sarah approached Ms. Plum about being stage manager so she could keep an eye on Fitz, which was difficult because he wouldn’t speak to Sarah after all her accusations against dearest Julie. In the five days since the casting, Julie had amassed a large group of friends and followers taken in by her charm. Only Sarah seemed immune to Ms. Tchort’s appeal. Having realized there was no way she could protect Fitz if he wouldn’t even acknowledge her presence, Sarah decided to swallow her pride and pretend Julie didn’t make her skin crawl to get on Fitz’s good side.

At rehearsal, Sarah found Fitz working in his sketchbook and munching on a box of homemade fudge gifted to him by Ms. Tchort. Sarah starts schmoozing up to Fitz, complimenting his genuinely intriguing portrait of Julie and apologizing for her earlier “rudeness.” Fitz perks up, mentioning he wasn’t happy with not speaking to Julie and is glad they can be friends again because Julie’s so awesome. Turns out Ms. Tchort’s really into baking, having previously given Fitz more cookies AND an entire chocolate cake AND they had a romantic picnic. In the cemetery. Because it “reminded her of Sirbania.” Unfortunately for Sarah, there’s only so much she can pretend and once she suggests Fitz might be getting too wrapped up in the whole “Romeo and Juliet” thing, Fitz goes back to being insulted. Julie approaches Fitz and is so touched by his portrait, declaring he’s the sweetest guy alive and showering him in hugs and kisses. With Sarah caught in-between them.

Ms. Plum declares they’re now rehearsing the first scene and asks everyone to get in their positions. Sarah mentally chides herself for having immediately blown it with Fitz when more fuel is added to her anti-Julie fire. Once Fitz isn’t looking, Julie lets out a rather nasty laugh before crumpling Fitz’s sketch into a ball and throwing it in the wastebasket. Sarah is now fucking livid at such cruelty, retrieving the sketch from the garbage and vowing she’s gonna find out what Julie’s endgame is before it’s too late.

After school, Sarah focuses on investigating Julie in her home environment. Walking past Lugosi Funeral Home on Tomb Street, past the Last Stop Cemetery, Sarah heads for the malevolent Mayer Mansion on Wolf Hill Lane. Long abandoned, the Mayer home was considered by many Smiley Heights residents to be haunted, or home to a witch’s coven, or something. When they were younger, kids refused to go to Sarah’s house because they’d have to walk past the Mayer Mansion. On her way past the cemetery, Sarah holds her breath until she’s on the other side of the street (which she does every day because she has to walk past the cemetery to get to school). The mansion looks exactly like it came out of a horror movie, and even has a skull doorknocker. The place creeps Sarah out so much she has to close her eyes just to make it to the front door. When no one answers at the front, Sarah heads around back and peeps through one of the grimy windows. Spying into a rather opulently set dining table for three, Sarah can hear what sounds like heavy metal music and watches Julie dancing around as she brings out dinner for her parents. Sarah’s starting to think maybe she WAS wrong about Julie… and then she sees Julie’s table manners in action.

Underneath the cover was a giant roast around the size and shape of a fairly large dog! Julie licked her lips and grabbed one of the arm-sized drumsticks. It came away easily with a sharp snapping noise.

Whoa, Sarah thought.

Julie stared at the hunk of meat and bone for a minute. Blood-red juice dripped off the leg and onto the pretty china plate in front of her. She opened her mouth wide and her eyes began to glow red. Sarah gasped as Julie’s teeth grew into long, razor-sharp fangs and the nails on her fingers shot out into long black talons.

In the flickering candlelight Julie’s teeth flashed as she brought them down on the drumstick. With a growl and a shake of her head, she pulled the dripping piece of flesh away from her lips. Her face was covered in blood and juice she she chewed with a smile. The roast crackled and crunched in her mouth. She had bitten clear through the bone!

Lexi and the boys, of course, don’t believe Sarah the next day at school. Sarah gets the cast to school an hour early under the guise of working on sets for the play, but after she finishes her review of Julie’s dining habits, they laugh. Brian jokes not eating meat for so long has had a nasty effect on Sarah’s head, while Fitz’s wonders if maybe the paint fumes are getting to her. When Julie shows up, Sarah’s too terrified to say anything in her presence. Fitz takes matters into his own hands and tries to prove Julie’s not a monster by painting a makeshift cross. The logic presented is that monsters, witches, and stuff are terrified of crosses because they work for the devil. Fitz, um, you, f-forget it. Anyway, Fitz paints a cross and instead of freaking out or bursting into flames, Julie once more coos at what a marvelous artist her Fitzi is. As a reward, she unveils a box of gold-wrapped chocolates for her beloved. Fitz offers to share one with Lexi, and Julie almost takes his arm off.

“No!” she shouted, clutching the box to her chest. She smiled and handed them back to Fitz. “Fitz, honey, you shouldn’t be sharing these.” Julie poked the blond, almost plump, Fitz in the tummy with a long fingernail. He giggled.

“You’re too skinny,” Julie said with a smile. “There’s not enough meat on your bones…” Julie glanced over at Sarah and for a moment her eyes flashed red. “…Yet.”

Sarah decides it’s time to start recruiting help, and gets to work on Brian. During study hall, she finds him reading a James Bond novel as part of his quest to become a famous superspy. Brian immediately knows Sarah wants something since she always sits with Lexi. Sarah oh-so-sweetly says she felt a superspy in training would be interested to hear about a top secret mission she’s working on. Brian’s initially intrigued before he finds out Sarah’s scoping out the Tchort house again.

“No way, Jose.” Brian opened his book again.

Sarah sighed and sounded disappointed. “Oh, well. I could have really used your help. I mean, when you go on a mission, you want the best partner you can possibly find. I just don’t know where I’m going to find a better partner than the dashing Brian Hoseapple.”

Sarah obviously learned from her last screw-up with Fitz, because now Brian is all in. Getting a hall pass, Sarah drags Brian to Arnie’s office for gear. Arnie gives them rope, a crowbar, and a flashlight. And suggests they wear sneakers.

For SNEAKING.

Because, knowing kids, they’d probably sneak around wearing platform shoes and hoop skirts and what have you. If you’re gonna break into someone’s house, you do it with stealth. At this point in their relationship, Sarah’s not shocked the school janitor just lectured them on the right way to do a home invasion. [Wing: No, seriously, I am charmed by Arnie and Sarah and Lexi so far.] Oh, and he still hasn’t found his mice.

Brian is late to the evening exploration of the Tchort abode, but even Sarah has to admit with his black suit, sneakers, and sunglasses, he looks the part of a spy. The two creep around the Mayer Mansion looking to make sure no one’s home. They sneak into a basement level window and try to navigate their way through all the junk and garbage when-OH SHIT A MONSTER! Oh wait it’s just an old stuffed vulture. Having scared themselves for nothing, the two find a door at the other end of the room, but aren’t prepared when they turn on the light. Sarah and Brian are left speechless at what appears to a basement kitchen, giant soup pots bowling on a stove, a steel block covered in blood and fur, and animal skins and cuts of meat hanging from hooks on the wall and ceiling. At the other end of this personal abattoir is another door, most likely leading to a walk-in freezer. Sarah refuses to look inside, but Brian’s curiosity gets the best of him. He opens the door… and then immediately slams it shut. The color completely drained from his place, Brian’s shock is nothing compared to the shock of hearing footsteps above his head. The Tchorts are back, baby.

Sarah and Brian turn the lights off and plunge back into the darkness of the basement before anyone realizes where they are. Above, they hear someone called Franco asked to check on the stew in the basement kitchen, which means the kids have to leave NOW. Brian stops to search for his dropped sunglasses while Sarah searches for the window they came in. Unfortunately, the window’s stuck. Brian suggests wrapping his fist in a rag and breaking the window, but the only rag they can find is covered in blood of undetermined origin. Sarah whips out Arnie’s crowbar and has no choice but to pry the window open before one of the Tchorts finds them. The kids manage to escape before they end up on the menu, and once they’re clear of the Mayer Mansion, Sarah asks what Brian saw in the freezer.

Lucky for them, it wasn’t Sarah, Fitz, Lexi, and Brian strapped to operating tables with the blood slowly drained from them because that is like SO three years ago.

“Bodies.”

“People bodies?” Sarah’s heart leapt into her throat.

“I don’t know.” Brian said gravely. “It was the most awful thing I have ever seen.” He shuddered at the thought. He took off his glasses, wiped them on his pants, and put them back on. “There were pieces of bodies everywhere, all bloody. Big bits, little bits. I don’t know want to know what they used to belong to.”

Sarah sniffed a bit and thought, I didn’t want this to happen. I wanted Julie Tchort to be turn out to be just your average strange girl from Sirbania-not some murderous fiend! What am I going to do now?

Sarah glanced over at Brian. In a way she was relieved. At least she wasn’t alone in this anymore.

“Sarah?” Brian asked. He sounded scared and sad.

“Yeah?”

“Fitz is in a whole lot of trouble, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, Brian. I’m afraid he is.”

[Wing: Oh my god, this is amazing. I am loving every minute.]

If Fitz is in trouble, he certainly doesn’t know it, and neither does Lexi. Even with Brian backing her, Sarah’s revelations fall on deaf ears. Julie asks what Fitz and Lexi are laughing about, Fitz telling her it was “a funny story” Sarah and Brian shared. Julie thinks it’s great he’s got friends with VIVID imaginations. But enough about that, because Julie’s got two people who have been wanting to meet Fitz for, like ever. Mr. and Mrs. Tchort have stopped by the school to discuss something with Principal Pussman and Julie wants to introduce them to Fitz. Sarah and Brian try to drag Fitz out of there, not knowing Sarah seriously fears the Tchorts are gonna eat him. Fitz shakes them off and goes to meet his future in-laws. Lexi suggests Brian and Sarah back off just a bit, and they can at least keep an eye on Fitz from a distance.

At the principal’s office, Julie emerges with her parents, Franco and Tulip Tchort. Franco looks like a garden gnome, but Tulip is practically six feet tall and just as dramatically gorgeous as Julie. She could probably pass for Julie’s college-student sister. The Tchorts are over the moon that they’ve finally met Fitz. Tulip marvels at how handsome Fitz is, but disappointed at how “skinny” he is. Only Sarah and Brian find it creepy when Franco pats Fitz’s stomach; he assures his wife Fitz is PLENTY big for them. Fitz helpfully declares he’s gotten all the sweets and snacks Julie’s brought him. Julie finally asks her parents if they’ll be inviting Fitz to the big night. Her parents approve, feeling Julie’s definitely chosen the right boy for the big night. Julie explains to Fitz that tonight is Alallo’s Night, a very important Sirbanian holiday that celebrates death. Sarah sees where this is going.

“Oh no, Fitz, it’s not gloomy at all. It’s a big feast. Lots of fun.” Julie put her arm around him and squeezed tight. “Sirbanians believe that without death, there would be no life. Many years ago, Sirbanians survived solely on the animals we hunted. Today, we celebrate all the living creatures that have died… and will die, because they have given us life.”

Fitz thinks this sounds cool. [Wing: It does sound cool!] Franco informs Fitz he’ll be the guest of honor at their Alallo’s Night feast, a feast where they will eat like they’ve never eaten before. No, they definitely can’t have their feast without him…

Sarah bangs on Arnie’s door demanding he let her into the basement. Arnie’s a bit peeved because she’s interrupting his afternoon soap, “The Strong and the Bashful.”

“Well, Maria and Claud have just found out that Maria’s baby is really an alien, so they’re going up in the space shuttle to try to return the baby alien. It’s all very exciting.”

Sarah asks if Arnie ever does any work. He retorts he works as much as she goes to class.

[Wing: EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS WONDERFUL. THEIR FRIENDSHIP IS MAYBE MY FAVOURITE PART OF A DELIGHTFUL BOOK.]

Sarah finally fills Arnie in on the Julie Tchort Affair, capping off with the recent encounter with her parents and Fitz’s invitation to their dinner. Arnie scolds Sarah, saying he should’ve been told about this from the start as he gives her an old book.

“What’s this, Arnie?”

“Why, Sarah, it’s a book. Have you forgotten what one looks like?”

It’s a book on Eastern European folklore. Arnie says it’s made from genuine mouse hide (not his, of course), and orders her to read it and to make sure Fitz doesn’t go to the Tchorts’ home alone. Before Sarah leaves, Arnie asks if she really thinks Julie ate his mice. Sarah replies, with much sympathy, she does. Arnie tells her to stop Julie now, for Fitz and his mice.

Sarah heads to practice not knowing how much help the book would be. Fitz and Julie are on stage and in costume, but Fitz is looking pretty uncomfortable in his tight clothes. Sarah writes a note to have Fitz’s Romeo costume let out, even though she was sure they fit him before. It’s then everyone hears a loud ripping noise, and Fitz tries to conceal the large hole in his trousers. This earns a lot of laughs from everyone except Sarah, Julie, and Ms. Plum. Julie tells Fitz not to worry about the snickering, since it’ll all be taken care of by tonight.

After Fitz changes into sweatpants, the rehearsal goes on and Sarah starts reading about Alallo’s Night. The book says the holiday was created because the Sirbanians wished to honor the spirits of the animals who died so they could live. Sarah approves at the very least that the Sirbanians weren’t douchebags about eating meat. But as she reads, she learns about the holiday’s dark side.

However, Alallo’s Night has a darker side and the holiday may have began in a much more ghastly manner. Legend has it that the ancient Duke of the Alallo province of Sirbania discovered the secret to immortality. It is said that every year by midnight on Alallo’s Night, the Duke and Duchess and their young daughter must consume the flesh of an innocent and kindhearted child to maintain their immortality. This family of ghouls will live forever, or until they are deprived of their life-giving feast. (See picture, page 500.)

[Wing: Oh my god, this is the greatest. THE GREATEST.]

Sarah turns to a page featuring pictures of the Duke, Duchess, and their daughter. At that moment, Julie marches up, having asked to borrow Sarah’s script several times. The drawing of Julie Fitz worked on falls from the script, unnoticed by Julie, and Sarah snatches it before the girl sees it. Watching Julie on stage, Sarah holds up the sketch and compares it to the picture in the book.

Both are a perfect match to the supposedly young woman in front of her.

Sarah curses herself for not wearing jeans as she stood outside the Mayer Mansion waiting for Fitz to show up. Dressed in a funeral black dress and high tops, Sarah ducks when she hears someone coming. By the driveway, Sarah sees Fitz arriving, dressed in the tuxedo he wore to his cousin’s wedding and holding a bouquet of flowers. However, Fitz looks super uncomfortable; every single button on the shirt is straining and the waist on the pants is really stretched out. Sarah is shocked, having finally noticed just how much work Julie put into getting Fitz ready for this night.

(Fitz by Cris-Art: I actually commissioned this several months back before I even began working on this recap)

Fitz is startled when Sarah appears, demanding to know why she’s interrupting his date with Julie when Franco Tchort opens the door. Sarah invites herself in, making a big show of how much she appreciates being at his Alallo’s Night feast. Franco and Fitz are left speechless as Sarah makes herself at home. Tulip is equally startled, almost dropping a tea tray when she sees Sarah. Sarah rambles on about her family being Sirbanian too, that Alallo’s Night is her favorite holiday but her parents are out of town and she hopes the Tchorts don’t mind her joining them. She promises she doesn’t eat much. Tulip drags her husband into the other room to confer about their uninvited guest when Fitz starts ordering Sarah to leave. Sarah informs Fitz she’s there to save his life when Julie appears, dressed to, literally, kill. Julie’s not bothered at all that Sarah came by.

After all, they’ll need an appetizer.

Sarah realizes too late that Julie is putting her and Fitz into a trance, unable to move as Julie slips into something “more comfortable.”

Julie reached her arms over her head as if she were stretching after a particularly satisfying yawn. Suddenly, the tips of her fingers began to shimmer and ripple. Her perfectly manicured fingernails glowed and then morphed into long, curving claws. The wave of shimmering passed over her body, and everywhere it touched, Julie changed. Her long black hair frizzed, her lovely eyes glowed red, and her teeth lengthened into silver fangs.

In a split second, Julie the exotic beauty had turned into Julie the ghoul. When her monstrous metamorphosis was complete, Julie smiled. Her red lips pulled tight over her jagged, needle-sharp teeth and drool hung in long strands from her oversized canines. “Ah, much better,” she cackled.

[Wing: I love her.]

Sarah comes to after being tied to a chair. Having regained consciousness and control, she figures the hypnotic attention of the Tchorts has been focused solely on Fitz. Franco and Tulip emerge looking just as hideous as their daughter. The pink-and-brown scales on Tulip’s arms glitter as she dances around Fitz with a fucking pepper shaker, seasoning him like Wile E. Coyote after getting his hands on the Road Runner. The Tchorts lead Fitz onto a big silver platter in the dining room, closing the doors behind them. Sarah struggles to get the restraints off her arms and legs, resorting to gnawing them off when Julie returns and compares Sarah to a mouse. And as we all know, Julie LOVES mice.

But it turns out there are even more uninvited guests when Brian and Lexi bash Julie in the head with the silver teatop.

Brian put his hands on his hips. “I hope you don’t mind, Julie. Sarah may have dropped in for dessert,” he said proudly, “but we brought the tea!”

Lexi frantically starts to free Sarah and apologizes for not believing her. What finally convinced Lexi was seeing the picture in Arnie’s book. Brian spies through the keyhole that the Tchort parents are heading into the kitchen, giving them an opportunity to rescue Fitz. The enlarged boy is still in a trance, making it semi-easy to move him. Sarah orders Brian to bring Fitz back to the school so they can get Arnie’s help. Brian is not thrilled at the idea of carrying Fitz by himself since Fitz is so much heavier now, but Sarah tells him to get moving.

Sarah instructs Lexi that they will distract the Tchorts as long as they can, until midnight. Lexi isn’t 100% on board with the idea of pretending to be dinner for the Tchorts when Sarah shoves an apple in her mouth and advises her to make like an appetizer. The two girls position themselves on the dining room table, pretending to be entranced, when Pater and Mater Tchort return. Tulip is moved to tears at what a devoted daughter they have, figuring Julie went out of her way to prepare an appetizer AND dessert for them. Sarah waits until Franco gets close enough with the carving knife and beans him in the face with an apple. The girls take advantage of Tulip’s shock and bolt from the house.

The girls hear the ghoulish family following their trail, and divert through the cemetery. The nearby church bell tolls 11:45, meaning they need to keep the Tchorts away from Fitz for just 15 more minutes. The girls arrive back at the high school and try to find the boys. They enter through the auditorium, which looks creepy with the play set making the place feel like a ghost town. Sarah and Lexi don’t find Brian or Fitz there, so they decide to check the rest of the school. Brian gets whacked in the face as they burst through the door, but Fitz is gone. Brian explains he propped up Fitz by the lockers because it was too hard to look for Arnie AND keep carrying Fitz with how fat he’s gotten. And get this, he started reciting lines from the play and was asking for his “Juliet.” Sarah deduces Fitz would be back in the auditorium looking for fair Verona if he thinks he’s Romeo.

Unfortunately, Romeo’s found his Juliet.

On stage, Fitz is making his way up the ladder to the fake balcony they constructed, with Julie waiting at the top to sink her teeth into him. Below, Franco and Tulip are on stage watching their daughter’s debut. Sarah advises Lexi and Brian to work as a team, Lexi searching for Arnie while Brian holds off the parents long enough for Sarah to get Fitz. Brian asks how, exactly, she proposes he stop the Tchorts. Sarah adds all Brian has to do is distract them, he doesn’t have to like kill them or anything. Even if he could.

Brian engages the Tchorts with a prop sword, hoping they don’t know it’s a fake, while Sarah tries to get Fitz off the ladder. Fitz refuses to respect Sarah’s fear of heights, so she’s forced to climb up after him and try to drag him down. The Tchorts disarm Brian and he’s forced to hold them off with a costume rack before invoking the power of suggestion. He actually manages to get the Tchorts to calm down for a bit by suggesting THEY TAKE A NAP before tossing the rack on top of Tulip and throwing a cape over Franco. Sarah’s not doing too good though. Julie grabs hold of Fitz and she’s about to shove the ladder down when Lexi saves the day. She advises Sarah not to make a sound so Julie doesn’t realize what happened. And to make sure Julie doesn’t see Arnie at the bottom of the other ladder.

Arnie does his best ghoul impression to lure Julie (with Fitz tucked under her arm) down. Arnie flees away the moment Julie hands Fitz to him thinking Arnie is her dad. Julie screams with rage after realizing she’s been tricked, giving the kids opportunity to escape. Sarah uses the key Ms. Plum gave her as stage manager to lock the ghouls in the auditorium, the key accidentally breaking in the lock. Sarah’s not too worried since the Tchorts are trapped inside. Arnie joins in their congratulations before asking where Fitz is.

Uh…

They remind Arnie HE had Fitz.

Arnie reveals Fitz is safely hidden in the auditoriuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-SHIT.

When they hear the Tchorts have stopped trying to break through the door, the kids and Arnie realize they’ve found Fitz again. Needing to go around the school back through the outside entrance, the group discovers the Tchorts closing in on Fitz. The sound of the outside door banging open distracts the ghouls long enough for the kids and Arnie to launch an attack. Arnie jousts with a mop against Franco and Brian unleashes a storm of costume jewelry and makes Tulip flounder around. Lexi gets over her cowardice and fucking tackles Tulip. Or rather, she tries to tackle her. Instead she slips and barrels right into the ghoulish duchess. Sarah gingerly makes her way through the slippery beads and jumps on Julie’s back, trying to hang on to Fitz’s ghoulfriend like she’s a mechanical bull.

BUT THEN OH SHIT TULIP LEAPS TOWARDS ARNIE AND BITES HIS ARM OFF!

Oh wait it’s cool, she bit Arnie’s fake arm and it pops off. Brian makes a grab for Arnie’s wooden arm and uses it to fight against Tulip.

“Check it out, I’m armed and dangerous!”

“YOU-ARE-SUCH-A-DORK!” Sarah managed to shout from her perch on Julie’s shoulders, as the ghoul girl whirled around and around like a top.

Fitz, still in a trance, says and does nothing, not even reacting when his watch beeps midnight. Sarah suddenly falls on the floor, having lost her hold on Julie because Julie’s gone. So are her parents. What’s left behind is nothing but an oily, grimy mess and three piles of clothes. Their remains slowly disappear as Fitz finally comes out of his trance. Seeing what time it is, he’s worried about how mad Julie will be for being late.

A few days pass and Fitz has no memory of his late night rendezvous with the Tchorts. Principal Pussman informs the school the Tchorts had to move again due to Franco’s business deals, and muses they’ll be sorely missed. No one had the heart to tell Fitz where his beloved Julie really went. But with Julie suddenly gone and no understudy, Ms. Plum convinced Sarah to play the role, being the only member of the crew who’d know the lines by this point.

Opening night is a smash success. Sarah is breathtaking and Fitz is dashing (and since they don’t say anything about Fitz being skinny again, good for the book for finally showing some implied body positivity). Everyone compliments Sarah’s acting, Fitz especially thinks she’s got nothing on that wannabee Julie Tchort. Fitz insists he’s being sincere, looking back and adding Julie’s portrayal was lacking a certain… kindness.

In fact, Fitz realizes there was something off about that girl. Something creepy.

“Uh, Fitz,” Sarah replied, swallowing a laugh. “I think you mean ‘ghoul.'”

[Wing: OH SARAH NO.]

Final Thoughts

Wow, a version of “Romeo and Juliet” where just the girl died.

Seriously though, this was so perfectly cheesy and hilarious.

Now let’s all sing the Sirbanian National Anthem:

Sirbania, Sirbania, a land that’s tried and true

Sirbania, Sirbania, a land for me and you!

You start with S, you dot an I, you add the R and B

An A and N,

Another I and A

That’s how you spell SIRBANIA!

Sirbania, Sirbania, a land that’s really real

Sirbania, Sirbania, let’s all enjoy our meal!

If someone asks about a land that’s real,

A land that’s bold and blue

Why then just between old me and you

That land’s name is SIRBANIA!

Yes I made that up.

And yes I was thinking of the “Robonia” joke from Futurama.

[Wing: This book is a joy and a delight.]

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