On a rainy fall evening, five children arrived one by one and were gathered into a dimly lit living room. First, the girl, Pacy, was escorted inside by the young man who wore purple. His name was Michael Afton, and he had come and taken her away from the orphanage to begin a new life which he promised would be wonderful.
Michael left Pacy nervous and alone in the living room without telling her anything else. Soon he returned with another child. This one, a boy called Finn. After quickly introducing Finn, Michael left once again.
Finn was friendly and full of questions, but Pacy didn’t feel much like talking. She could only peer around the room at all the family photos on the wall, and out the window, at the storm outside.
Michael Afton returned and left four more times, bringing another kid each time. First was J Cat, who revealed nothing about himself except that he liked Nutella. Next came Elijah who had somehow wound up here all the way from Australia. A tall girl named Emily who had a dreamy, faraway look in her eyes most of the time. And finally came Ryan, a serious and quiet boy.
Once all the children were there, Michael Afton told them welcome to their new home and informed them matter of factly that they were now all siblings. The kids looked around at one another, not sure how to feel about suddenly having a family. Who even knew if these kids were cool or lame? And what about Michael? He looked nice enough, but that’s the problem with bad guys; a lot of the time they look like regular people.
There was an uncomfortable feeling over the room and the group as thunder rumbled outside.
Michael didn’t explain much of anything else after that. Instead, he simply showed them all to their rooms. Pacy and Emily got a room together. J Cat and Ryan were placed together next door, and on the other side of them was a room for Elijah and Finn. Their rooms were all small, bare, and tidy. Michael mentioned they’d be allowed to decorate as they pleased once they settled in and then left them all alone to try and sleep in a strange new home with a strange new family.
Over the next few days, the kids would get to know one another a little bit. The storm raged on outside, hour after hour, and day after day, forcing them all inside with little choice than to hang out. Also, Michael left early each morning and didn’t return til late at night, so they were mostly left to their own devices, and their many unanswered questions.
The kids noticed things in their stormy days that made them feel increasingly weirder about their new life circumstance.
J Cat was probably the bravest among them, so he explored all over the house; rooms the rest of the kids thought they shouldn’t go into without permission. So that’s how he discovered numerous other bedrooms, all decorated for children. Much more lived in looking than their new bedrooms, and yet, there were no other kids around besides the six of them who’d arrived on the same rainy night.
Finn couldn’t help but notice all the pictures lining practically every wall. There were family photos that seemed to span decades with numerous kids in various ages, and a distinguished looking older man in many of them. Michael also was in a lot of the photos, smiling and happy looking. Younger. A different person than the sad quiet person they now knew.
|Art by Emily|
But it wasn’t until their forth morning that they decided they would need to confront Michael with their questions. Elijah found it by mistake… An album.
He wasn’t snooping on purpose, he just needed a bath towel. There were no more in the bathroom, so he went looking through a hallway closet, and that’s when he found it. It was huge and dusty, with all sorts of worn photos and browning newspaper clippings sticking out from between the pages.
He stared at the thing for a time and finally decided that his life had gotten so weird that it justified opening the book. Even though this new home was proving to be quiet, boring, and lonely, it was also weird. So if this book might provide some insight, he felt justified in looking inside.
When he opened the musty smelling pages, he gasped, and hurriedly called the other kids to come and look.
It was like some sort of family photo album slash scrapbook, but nothing like what you’d normally see. This thing was a long pictorial chronology of some sort of apparent nightmare.
The distinguished man again, and his many children. They pieced together through the pictures pasted inside that he’d been a business owner of some sort of restaurant that was geared toward kids. Pizza. Junk food. Arcade games. Cheap toy prizes and noise makers.
But that wasn’t all…
Apparently, the place also featured a horrid collection of monsters.
The kids stared in awe at the massive robotic animals in the restaurant. They supposed it wasn’t really meant to look like monsters. A fox dressed like a pirate. A rabbit with a bow tie and electric guitar. A teddy bear in a top hat. And a chicken with a baby’s bib and a weird cupcake with eyes. Obviously, the animals were meant to be appealing to kids, but with their hulking bodies and gigantic gnarly teeth, they couldn’t imagine who ever would’ve thought that was a good idea…
Emily was quite interested in the photos. She stared at each one, seemingly memorizing every aspect and detail of the photos. She even wanted to go to this mysterious place herself, but Pacy couldn’t believe even one kid had ever gone in the place.
But, according to various photos of the packed dining room, and years of news clippings, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria apparently had been VERY successful. Perhaps the most popular business the area had ever known. At one time, it had even been considered for corporate expansion.
Unfortunately, the story of the Pizzeria took a dark turn. It was plagued by darkness and accidents. The animatronic characters frequently malfunctioned and children were hurt. There were fires. Disappearances. Fewer and fewer photos of the children appeared as the old faded pages flipped on until finally there were no more pictures of any of them. Only Michael.
And the distinguished older man, who, by the end, had dark shadowy eyes and a stony frown.
The kids decided that Michael owed them answers. Who was he exactly? What sort of family history had they been abruptly adopted into?
Maybe most curiously, who was the dark eyed frowning man?
The kids resolved that they would wait for Michael to return home that night, from wherever it was that he disappeared to every day, and they would demand to know what was going on.
Michael had already proven to be a very quiet and withdrawn person whom they’d hardly gotten to know at all, but he came home late that night, even stranger than usual.
His shoulders slumped and his skin had an unhealthy grey cast to it. His hair was greasy and messy. His eyes were black and glassy, lifeless, staring. There appeared to be traces of dried blood on his face as though he’d attempted to clean it off but missed quite a bit.
The kids confronted him as soon as he came in the door.
“Mr. Afton,” said Finn, straightening his shoulders and staring into Michael’s face. “We need to know what’s going on here.”
Michael stared just over Finn’s head, never actually looking at him.
“Did you hear me?” Finn asked.
It was so quiet while everyone waited for him to answer that you could actually hear his ragged breathing.
“Hey,” J Cat said. “Bro! Are you listening?”
“Uuuum, Mr. Afton?” Emily said, waving her hand in front of Michael’s face.
“Mr. Afton? Hello?” Ryan called.
Pacy stepped forward. She placed her face close to his, trying to get him to look at her. “Mr. Afton?” She whispered.
Suddenly, he took a deep breath and seemed to wake up from the reverie he’d been in. He stared down at the children in terror, as if he didn’t even know who they were. He looked as though he might cry. “Go to the warehouse,” he said.
“Huh?” Elijah asked.
“If you want answers, you’ll find them in the warehouse. Afton Warehouse. Go out the back door, through the yard, out the back gate… Go to the woods, find the path and stay on it.” He raked his hands through his hair as he rambled crazily. “For God’s sake, stay on the path,” he insisted. “Follow it until you come to the clearing, and you’ll find it. The warehouse.”
His shoulders slumped again, and his eyes drifted back off out of focus. He slowly brushed past the children, shoving into them clumsily as he trudged out of the room and disappeared into the hallway.
The kids stood in a circle regarding one another.
“Should we?” Pacy whispered.
“HECK YEAH!” Ryan cried. He darted across the room in the direction of the back door. The rest of the group just fell in line behind him.
On top of the usual creepiness that any unfamiliar forest would have at night time, this one was also a muddy disgusting mess thanks to days of rain. The kids slopped through it, their feet getting heavier and heavier with caked mud.
Finn asked with a tremor in his voice if maybe they should go back home. What they were doing didn’t make sense and seemed like a bad idea and Pacy agreed. Elijah gave Finn a comforting side hug and Ryan cheerily demanded everyone to just keep right on going. J Cat just went with the flow, he was fine with either choice. So on they went, into the storm, the howling forest, and the black night.
And then, there it was. A clearing out of nowhere, and in the clearing, a massive warehouse. There were lights around the building, casting weak pools of light on the leafy ground. An honest to goodness warehouse. In the middle of a forest.
“Um, this is such a bad idea,” Pacy insisted, glancing at her watch. It was midnight. This might be the dumbest thing she’d ever participated in. She glanced back the way they’d come into a swirling shadowy tangle of forest and knew there was no way she’d want to go back through there without everyone else. She had to stay with the group, no matter what.
Finn took the lead, feeling better with his friends all behind him, and led them to the front doors of the warehouse. But once they got close, they saw that the door was chained and padlocked shut. Finn yanked on it, but there was no way they were getting it open.
“Well crap, now what?” He griped.
Just then, a maniacal peel of laughter rang out over the night. All of the kids jumped.
“What the heck?” J Cat said.
“Come on, it came from this way!” Ryan said. Before anyone could complain or argue with him, he’d taken off in the direction of the laughter. They called after him, but he ran down a sidewalk along the perimeter of the building and disappeared around the corner.
“Ryan! Stop! Come on, man!” Elijah shouted. The group sprinted to try and catch him. When they rounded the corner, they witnessed the single most horrible thing any of them had ever seen.
Ryan had reached a side door which hung open. And in the doorway was a nine foot tall monster. It was a grotesque conglomeration of some of the characters they’d seen in the Afton scrapbook. It was crudely sewn together and badly tattered, torn, and filthy. It had a sign nailed to it’s chest that said, “Rocktoy Choxy.”
And it’s massive jaw filled with three rows of giant teeth swung open. It devoured Ryan. First he was there, and then he was just… Gone.
The kids stopped in their tracks, frozen in terror. Although they were essentially strangers thrown together into some sort of forced family, suddenly it felt like their brother had just been eaten right in front of them.
“RYAN!” Pacy shrieked.
The horrid animated monster toy cocked it’s huge head to the side. “Where’s my muzzle?” It said, in an eerie voice that was both childish and deep and gravely. “Shoved in your head, of course!” It said. It began to lope clumsily toward their group.
J Cat laughed.
His companions couldn’t help but glance at him.
“No it’s not, freak,” J Cat shouted.
The monster stopped in it’s tracks, staring at them with big, bulging, stupid eyes.
“Huh?” It said.
J Cat laughed again. “Your muzzle’s not in my head or anyone’s head. It’s in your head, stupid.” J Cat was really cracking up then. “What a dumb voice line!” He laughed so hard he doubled over and rested his palms on his knees.
The rest of the kids were still in shock of the sudden devouring of Ryan and also it now seemed J Cat had gone completely around the bend.
But then the monster began to shake. Rocktoy’s body vibrated and he clenched his huge wiry robotic fists in fury. Smoke began to roll out of his teddy bear ears. He growled like an angry toddler.
And then, he blew up.
Pieces of the animatronic exploded in every direction. Elijah ducked to avoid being hit by a metal bow tie. J Cat laughed harder than ever.
Amidst the exploding bits, Ryan fell to the ground.
“Ryan!” Screamed Pacy again. The kids raced forward amazed and relieved to find their brother had somehow survived both being eaten and being blown up… He laid on the ground writhing in apparent agony. He was badly scratched and bleeding in several places, but he looked mostly intact. The kids reached him, accessed his injuries, and helped him to his feet.
Pacy placed one of his arms over her shoulder, and Emily took the other.
“Thanks, guys,” Ryan said weakly. “I’ll be OK. Now, let’s go in.”
“WHAT?” Elijah shrieked. “Dude, are you serious? Seriously? Are you crazy? Did you hit your head when you got eaten and exploded, or what?”
“Yeah, man, that’s nuts. We need to get you home, and all of us… Out of here,” Finn agreed.
Ryan looked at J Cat, who’d finally stopped laughing. “What about you, are you wussing out too?”
J Cat shrugged. “Meh, I’m cool either way. Don’t care.”
Ryan wriggled free of his friends and stood on his own. “Listen, I don’t know about you, but I just got freaking eaten, and I need answers now more than ever. So if you guys want to leave me to go alone, then fine. Do it. But, I’m going in.”
He was much steadier on his feet by then. He gave them all a hurt look and turned to go inside.
“Come on, guys,” Emily said to the group. “We can’t let him go alone.”
The group agree, and into the old abandoned warehouse they went.
Once inside, the group found themselves in a sort of entryway or waiting area. It was lit only by pale security lights. There was an ancient reception desk and a mess of papers scattered on the floor. A sign in the lobby read, “Afton Family Test Kitchen Facility.”
Finn asked what a test kitchen was, and Emily happened to have the answer. “Sometimes,” she explained, “when a new restaurant wants to start up or expand, they’ll create a sort of fake version of their restaurant idea and invite people to try it out. They get feedback and see if the idea will really work before they go to all the trouble and cost of building the restaurants.”
Pacy nodded. “Ooooh, ok, that makes sense. Remember when we were looking at that book that the Pizzeria was going to expand at one time.”
Emily nodded too. “Yeah, this actually could be kind of cool.”
Elijah snorted. “Uh yeah, if there aren’t anymore murderous monsters running around. I still can’t believe we’re doing this.”
“Look, just let’s be careful,” Ryan suggested. “Be on guard, and we’ll be fine.”
“Yeah,” J Cat chimed in. “If they’re all like that Rocktoy guy, they’re just stupid and if you confuse them they die!” He began to laugh again.
“Well, not necessarily,” Finn warned. “But, it does make sense that if they’re left behind in this old place, they probably were never good enough to make it into a real restaurant.”
The group took another few seconds to get their bearings, and then they passed through the next set of doors.
It was a huge room with tall ceilings, and every inch of wall was covered with monsters.
Pacy gasped, and then clamped her hand over her own mouth, terrified of waking the sleeping beasts.
Except, they weren’t sleeping. They were just old broken, empty husks. Some of them looked like the animatronic characters from the books, some of them looked like mashed together abominations. Regardless, they all hulked lifeless and broken, with empty eyes and jaws hanging open.
“Come on,” Ryan urged. “Let’s keep going.”
The group rushed through the big warehouse and quickly reached the other side where there was yet another set of metal doors. When they passed through the doors, it was like another world altogether.
And not a totally horrible world, honestly.
It looked like the dining room of some sort of outrageously decorated seafood restaurant for kids. Everywhere you turned, there were huge fish aquariums that went from the floor to the ceiling. There must’ve been a hundred of them around the perimeter of the room, along with a rag tag assortment of tables and chairs, games, decor, and more weird empty animatronic suits with staring eyes.
It might’ve been pretty amazing if it weren’t for all the weird little things floating in the dirty water of the old forgotten aquariums.
As if drawn by a magic spell, Pacy wandered over to the nearest aquarium, staring wide eyed with her face right next to the glass. “Wooooah, what are these?”
The rest of the kids joined her and looked in at the strange things on the other side of the glass. They walked around from tank to tank, examining them all. They looked like some sort of tiny alien creatures, encased in some sort of veiny pink membrane, and floating in the dank water.
“I think they’re… Axolotl!” J Cat remarked in amazement.
“Uh, that’s not how Axolotl… Develop? Are born? I… Don’t even understand what’s happening here,” Emily said in complete confusion.
The kids continued to peer into the tanks and poke around the dining room as they made their way across to another set of doors. It was beginning to feel like some horrible “fun” house, and they were all wondering by then what kind of “answers” they would possibly find there.
They had almost made it to the next set of doors when they heard it.
“What are yeeee doing here, landlubber, yaaaar just accept that you’ll walk the plank.”
All six of the kids stopped in their tracks as if they were all operating on the same circuit breakers.
They turned to find that a nine foot tall sword fish with legs and a chef’s hat, balancing a huge pizza over his shoulder, had been the one to deliver the voice line. It had a sign nailed to it’s chest that said, “Chef Swordy.”
Each kid glanced at J Cat, wondering if this was funny, or… What the plan was.
Chef Swordy, though, didn’t care to wait on any cues from J Cat, and instead, he hurtled the pizza in their direction.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at it, the huge metal tin hit the nearest aquarium and the massive unit burst into smithereens.
|Art by Ryan|
A fount of water and weird membrane orb things gushed from the broken tank, and Chef Swordy was immediately caught in the torrent. They watched in awe as he was dragged down into the water and his voice became garbled and shorted out, like any electronic that is not supposed to get wet.
The problem was, one by one, all the rest of the aquariums began to rupture. Disgusting putrid slimy water poured everywhere, and, even worse, the small axolotl creatures seemed to burst from their membranes as soon as they hit the air and they expanded into giant animatronic looking creatures themselves in a matter of seconds. Just like those old toys that looked like a small pill but when you put them in water they instantly transformed into a full grown toy.
“RUN!” Emily shrieked.
The group dashed through the next set of doors and slammed them shut behind them, barring the stampeding army of axolotl.
The next restaurant was much darker. It seemed a lot more like a normal pizzeria, except that there was a bar off to the side, where an empty animatronic suit stood, seemingly at the ready to serve fruit punch and snacks.
It was a terrifying combo of what looked like a worn out, torn up bunny stuffed animal with freakishly long whiskers, with black empty eyes and mouth, connected by a purple streak of makeup. It had ridiculously red cheeks, and where it’s arms and legs should’ve been were long thin black and white striped appendages that seemed not good for much other than inciting horror. It’s sign said, “Malharionnette.”
“Yyyyyikes,” Pacy remarked, wandering toward the thing.
“Hey, not so fast,” Emily said. “Don’t go up to that thing!”
Pacy switched direction at Emily’s request and instead found a makeshift craft area which seemed to have been set up to entertain kids; perhaps as they waited for dinner. There was a paltry assortment of craft supplies, and a veritable army of glue guns, all plugged into a huge outlet in the center of the table.
The little craft appliances seemed to buzz quietly and the air was filled with the unmistakable smell of the burning glue.
“They’re ON?” Elijah marveled. “How has this crazy place not burnt down by now?”
All the kids had gathered by the craft table when Ryan addressed them. “Look, you guys, I don’t know why Michael sent us here, but I’m beginning to think it’s just some sort of game. Even if there was some sort of so called ‘answer’ here, how would we even know it if we saw it?”
Finn nodded. “Yeah, I think you’re right.”
“It was a mistake to come here, guys, and I’m sorry I pressured you into it,” Ryan said.
J Cat slapped him on the shoulder. “No problem, dude, you’re the only one that’s gotten eaten so far anyway!”
“Why don’t we just find the exit and get out of here,” Pacy said.
I think that’s a good idea,” Emily agreed.
“I remember you but I’ll kill you anyway.”
The attention of the entire group whipped to where the voice had come from… Malharionnette. And they all turned just in time to see the thing leap effortlessly over the counter like it were a puppet on a string.
Emily shrieked and grabbed one of the glue guns. Each of her impromptu siblings followed suit and acting on instinct alone, the kids blasted the monster with a torrent of sparkling, red, hot glue.
Malharionnette was frozen in mid air as it became caked with glue that hardened and stiffened the monster almost instantly. It’s mortifying shriek of pain became muffled and then died out altogether.
Then, they heard the axolotl army begin running into and beating the doors they’d just come through.
“Come on!” Elijah called, leading everyone quickly across the dark pizzeria and through the next set of doors.
Next they found themselves in a seeming maze of corridors. They looked like old fashioned restaurant hallways, decorated with black and white photos, neon signs, and large potted plants. The kids dashed past the plants, which sent tufts of dust into the air, and followed the red glowing exit signs above.
Finally, after they rounded a corner, they could see what appeared to be the exit down one last long hall. It was a nondescript metal door with a handle across it, and an exit sign above it.
But, as they approached, a new monster appeared, stepping out from behind a potted plant. With its appearance, the exit door and the hallway itself shimmered and then vanished, as though it had been a mirage all along. They found themselves all back in the first dark warehouse room, full of defunct animatronics.
The new monster had a sign that said, “Goldtrap.” It was a terrible combination of dirty rabbit and golden teddy bear. It laughed, a sound deep and dark.
The entire group began to cry. They gathered into a tight unit and put their arms around one another.
“I’m sorry guys, I’m so sorry,” Ryan whispered.
“It’s not your fault, Ryan,” Pacy cried.
Even as the thing chuckled more, there came the sound of thudding footsteps. The metal doors behind them banged open savagely and they all turned to stare as the most gigantic animatronic yet ran crazily into the room.
It was at least twelve feet tall. Pink, but insane with a wide open mouth with five rows of razor sharp teeth, tiny pin point eyes, and pink feelers swirling around it’s face like Medusa’s hair.
“Dear lord,” J Cat murmured, his mouth hanging open.
The giant axolotl wore a sign that said, “Axey-lo-till,” and wielded an ax that was probably seven feet long. It struck terror into the hearts of the newly adopted Afton children, but then, it ran right past them.
They almost got whiplash as they spun around to watch Axey rush straight to Goldtrap. With one graceful swoop, Axey swung the ax and Goldtrap sliced in half as easily as a pad of butter.
The two halves of him clattered to the floor.
They watched as Axey walked to the destroyed creature. He took a knee next to the fallen animatronic, ripped open it’s chest, and removed a microchip from the gaping cavity.
Then, he turned to address the kids. “You’re safe now,” Axey said in a deep mechanical voice. “He tricked your Michael. But it’s fine now. It’s safe.”
Axey popped the chip into his mouth and ate it. Then, he wandered back in the direction from which he’d come.
Michael greeted them with great relief when they returned. He explained the whole dastardly situation of being controlled by the dastardly creation of his late father who had been a viscous and evil man. He apologized profusely and offered to return them all to their orphanages and foster homes if they wanted to be free of the whole horrible mess.
But, they wouldn’t dream of leaving their new friends.