Something Wicked This Way Rolls

From the journals of Aleister Crolley, paranormal investigator

To you, dear Reader, who holds this work in your hands: You, like I, must have wondered about the mystery of the Halloween Races, those bouts whose footage we see in bits and pieces at the end of October. Uploaded online and spread through word of mouth, these races inspire in us both awe and terror.

Whether it is the sight of a marble rolling down great towers or mazes; the grisliness of a spider’s maw about to devour a racer; or the jaunty tune of the skeleton keeping count at the finish line, the scenes from these races do not seem from our world.

Yet my curiosity could not be quenched. For the last two years, I traveled the corners of Marblearth to track down the racers who take part in these bouts. Why would they race under such perilous stakes? For fame, for fortune, or for a thrill they cannot muster elsewhere? Before you, Reader, is an explorer’s dive into the deep.

Away on Shark Tooth Land

My adventure began with a source derided by others. Coach Tide – the Oceanic infamous for being fired on television during Dunduei’s Marble League – was in the news shortly after for describing an encounter they had with “a marble, not from our world.” The Oceanics fandom, vindictive as it was after a summer of embarrassment, was unkind to Tide in ways the coach described to me in great detail.

When I could afford the journey to Tide’s home in Dunduei, it took only a gift of two espressos to seize the details from them. “I am so grateful you’re working to solve this mystery,” said the former coach. “If you make your way to the island of Shark Tooth Land across the strait from here, you will catch the marble I talked about.”

After three nights of patrolling, I finally made contact: an orange orb whose glow flickers on and off in the night, by the name of Jack-O-Lantern. “I suppose I cannot hide forever,” said this inaugural Halloween Race participant.

Jack-O-Lantern (center) at the 2020 Halloween Race starting gate.

A strange tale surrounds this racer’s origins: time and time again, they would explain that they are a “reanimated marble,” a marble not made in the same way as us but from an array of synthetic material.

“My earliest memory is a laboratory where my creator trained me to be strong and fast,” said Jack-O-Lantern. But soon after, this racer was ejected from the laboratory and has not met their creator since.

It was after years of wandering the land in search of their creator that they stumbled into their first Halloween Race. “One night three years ago, I met two others: Will-O-The-Wisp and Eye of the Demon. I traveled a long time without any friends, but that night they allowed me to take part in an experiment of theirs.” 

This was the race known as the 2016 Halloween Race, which saw the three marbles race across sandy curves and then a labyrinth of glass. A back and forth throughout the race between Jack-O-Lantern and Eye of the Demon ended in a photographic finish in the former’s favor. “What great joy I felt then because I won by keeping my balance, by being strong,” recalled the racer.

Jack-O-Lantern (right) overtaking for the lead in 2016.

What was more important to Jack-O-Lantern, though, was a bond they forged with Will-O-The-Wisp. The blue marble offered them a residence around Helarve, as well as financial assistance for finding their creator. As footage of the 2016 race spread quickly online, said assistance flowed in at a quicker pace and sent Jack-O-Lantern on many trips around the world.

Jack-O-Lantern would later participate in three more Halloween races, delighting viewers with a last-minute overtake for victory in 2017 yet failing to contend much in 2019 and 2020. The reason was visible from their flickering glow: they were aging as the parts inside them were wearing out.

“My time left is too short, and I thank my friend for allowing me to travel here. If I do not find my creator in this area, I will travel until I cannot,” concluded Jack-O-Lantern. “I spend free time racing because it is fun, and I like the friends I made.”

Inside Harva Woods

Jack-O-Lantern trusted me enough to reveal the location of Will-O-The-Wisp, the true organizer behind the annual Halloween races. This mastermind lives deep in the forests of Harva National Park near Helarve, the home of the Midnight Wisps. I was told I am most likely to encounter them on a foggy fall evening.

Hiking around twisted branches and mud during a weeklong excursion into the Woods, hope felt scarce and fleeting. The day before I must return, the cusp of winter was upon Helarve and beyond the trees lay only fog and frost. And then, through these shades of gray, I noticed something shiny, something blue.

What joy it was to roll over and find the glimmer came from this clear blue marble, whose hue was as vivid as a cloudless sky. “Do not worry, I don’t bite or anything,” said Will-O-The-Wisp before me.

Will-O-The-Wisp at the 2020 Halloween Race starting gate.

Dismissed by others as an odd young marble, Will-O-The-Wisp was never at ease in cities and would spend entire weekends out in the wilderness. “I discovered an affinity for wild plants, and also the spiders who would crawl in these woods. I find myself talking to the spiders as if they were my real friends.”

At the cusp of adulthood, the blue marble decided to leave Helarve and travel the world for odd and archaic sites, “the parts of Marblearth chipped by time, though not swept away.” A daredevil, Will-O-The-Wisp was prone to wild stunts. Hence the discovery of a sand track with an underground labyrinth at its center led to the marble racing down it, preserved in a point-of-view video widely shared online.

The racer’s retro look, c. 2016 and 2017.

It was then that the marble heard from an unexpected figure – Greg Woods, the Marble League commentator. They provided funds for Will-O-The-Wisp to return to that track, alongside a film crew and another eccentric marble Greg matched them with. On top of a chance encounter with Jack-O-Lantern, the 2016 Halloween Race was born.

Despite their centrality to the enterprise, Will-O-The-Wisp is an unspectacular racer prone to crashing halfway through races. Throughout four years, their only chance to make the overall podium occurred in 2019. In the sixth and penultimate race, the blue marble would find their stride in the maze, then cut past all others in the final glass section to win two races in a row. “Will-O-The-Wisp likes to live dangerously,” observed Greg Woods.
The momentum could not last for the final race, where Will-O-The-Wisp did not crash out but rather was overtaken by Casper and Zomball. Thus did the mastermind accept an overall fourth place.

Will-O-The-Wisp darting ahead of their competitors in 2019.

To this day, Will-O-The-Wisp describes Greg Woods as their main benefactor. The commentator has offered generous sums for organizers to scour the globe for abandoned sites, on which courses and races can be done – as long as Greg is the first to commentate on them. With Woods’s backing, Will-O-The-Wisp also constructed the dancing skeleton contraption that both records finish times, as well as sing “Happy Halloween!” to the final racers.

“How strange both Greg and I are, really,” said Will-O-The-Wisp. “Perhaps both of us are drawn to the paranormal and to explore the deep recesses of our world. And having found me, you might receive an invite to report on a future race I organize one day.”

To this day I will spend the day waiting around my phone, hoping for that call from that cerulean commissioner to arrive. I tried repeatedly to obtain a comment from Greg Woods, to no avail.

Will-O-The-Wisp’s handicraft at work in the 2019 Halloween Race.

Within the Herbotamia Tower

One summer I was fortunate enough to land in Herbotamia and to visit the remnants of the Big Tower that was once built for the Hubelino Tournament. But gone were the Bumblebees; gone were the Minty Maniacs; what remained was the husk of a structure, abandoned and scarcely used.

In 2018, the forces behind Will-O-The-Wisp converted this tower into a haunting track for that year’s Halloween Race. Halfway up the tower, I found its sole resident – the Halloween Racer Eyeball, whose story is the most outlandish of all I’ve heard. According to them:

“I am part of a proud line of marbles who keeps watch over the Ocean, on an island days away from civilization. In our line, we were ordered to protect the continent behind us by defending against the Aga’frakh, aquatic beasts who would terrorize the world if they made their way behind our island.

“When we see the Aga’frakh, we rain upon them stones from our island until their fins are no longer seen. But my cursed sibling one day abandoned their post, saying it was time for them to see the continent we defend for themselves. I could only chase after them, building my own boat and sailing away from my home.”

Aside from how both these marbles could sail across the ocean by themselves, I questioned Eyeball after much of their elaborate descriptions of the sea beasts: “The way you talk about these Aga’frakh… are you not just describing dolphins?”

Eyeball looking sharp back in 2018.

The conversation moved quickly thereafter to Eyeball’s journey after they supposedly sailed over. For months, they rolled across what I can only infer was the Western Hemisphere. One night, they caught footage of the 2018 Marble League, but most important a shot of a marble looking like a blue eye in the stands. Eyeball made the connection: “There they were, my sibling!”

Eyeball’s sibling at the 2018 Marble League. (Photo credit: JMR Wiki)

Connecting the evidence, Eyeball realized their sibling must be the same Eye of the Demon who Greg Woods found as a competitor in 2016 and 2017, under a scarier name in a red uniform. Eyeball then enlisted in the 2018 Halloween Race, hoping to learn more there about their sibling who competed in it last year.

In the desert night, Eyeball was leagues beyond other competitors in their speed and finished first in multiple races. But their prowess attracted unwanted attention. They were almost eliminated and fed to the spiders in one round after a hard contact stopped them. In the final race, their early lead was lost after they were knocked off course at the final halfpipe out of the Tower.

Still placing third at the end, Eyeball felt joy as photos were taken of them on the podium. But disappointment followed: “No one would tell me where my sibling could be. Within a night, these organizers were ready to leave the Tower,” said the racer.

Eyeball ahead of competitors racing down the Big Tower.

What Eyeball was able to secure from Will-O-The-Wisp was financial support if the racer had any idea where their sibling would be. The last solid trace of Eye of the Demon was in 2019 when Eyeball spotted that same blue pupil in the upper section of Seven Seas Stadium. But by the time they could travel to Dunduei, the stadium already emptied out save for some protesting Oceanics fans.

After those occasional travels, however, Eyeball would go back to their new home in Herbotamia. “The Tower is a fine place to stay, and every morning I climb to the top to watch over the land,” said Eyeball. “But if only someone, the marble I seek, would realize that I am here waiting.”

Deep in Deekin Rainforest

In two years’ Halloween Races we observe racers clad in a sickly yellow or green, by the respective names of “Zombie Brain” or “Zomball.” Do their names reveal an innate glass-eating nature or something more benign? I could not make headway on this subject until I received correspondence from Gnome, a member of the Kobalts.

As fate would have it, a relative of Gnome’s is a trained Knikkologist – a researcher of marble cultures. I met the pair in Zuro, then rode by boat down the great river out of Zuro, toward a tribe the Knikkologist believed matched my description.

Our encounter took a week of travel, but a week well spent: we ended under a rainforest canopy, the three of us were next to a larger marble with a green and metallic sheen, the very same Zomball I saw in the latest footage.

Zomball in the maze in 2019’s Halloween Race.

When asked by the Knikkologist if they had heard of anyone by the name of Zombie Brain, Zomball’s first reply was shocking: Ga-lah frahkh – “I ate them.”

But it was just a devious prank pulled on us, as the one I knew by Zombie Brain rolled into the same room and we learned they were cousins.

In their words, Zombie Brain is part of a marble tribe whose tradition is to shuffle and hunt at night, a rite neighboring tribes feared and viewed with suspicion to the point of labeling the tribe as “zombies.” But this legend led an outsider to find them, and offer them a chance to take part in the 2018 Halloween Race.

Zombie Brain would escape elimination in the first round, but what happened next shocked them. The Knikkologist translated for us: “I heard a voice somewhere call out: ‘Eat up, my children.’ I turn, and I see a spider devouring the marble in last place! What savagery and sorcery was this, I thought!”

Elimination means succumbing to the spiders.

Thinking they were now racing for their life, Zombie Brain crashed and pushed their way through every round up to the final race. Carried up the Herbotamia Tower and witnessing what vertiginous routes they had to race down, the racer closed their eyes and charged endlessly forward.

Only once they were near the end did they realize what happened: a skillful collision or two against Vampire later, Zombie Brain was in the lead going into the final turns.

Zombie Brain wins 2018’s Halloween Race – at what cost?

Thus did this marble win the 2018 Halloween Race, but due to a misunderstanding, they swore never to compete in the event again. Only in our conversations did they realize the other competitors were not actually eaten by spiders, that those scenes were for show.

“It will take time for me to forgive this dim-witted cousin of mine, Zomball, who despite my warnings thought they would take my place in next year’s race.” Despite the admonishment, Zomball shrugged it off and laughed. In translation: “You only act this way because I could have won in my year as well! You’re just jealous.”

Over the River Rollder

Fully invested now in uncovering the paranormal, I was delighted to receive an anonymous email requesting I investigate a folk legend. Every fall, farmers along the River Rollder near Rubow will talk of an evil gremlin prone to stealing their berry crops. Renting out a boat, I inspected the berry bushes on the shore while I parked the boat on the river’s side.

The first night yielded no results, but the second night was clear with a full moon shining above. Close to falling asleep on my watch, I was jolted awake by what could only be a loud howl. I landed on shore and gave chase to a familiar sight from the Halloween Races: A dark violet marble with swirls of white.

Unfortunately, that marble I chased possessed extraordinary speed, and within a minute they had escaped beyond my sight. Therefore, to understand this marble we call “Booberry,” I consulted Rubus Rosifolius, professor of rhetoric at the University of Rubow.

Booberry (center) at the 2020 Halloween Race starting gate.

“The folk legend that drew you here is the Curse of the Weremarble,” explained Rubus. “Throughout history,  it was said that on the full moon, a few marbles would transform into a new sphere which was mostly black, but with fangs of white that were hard as diamond. From your description, this marble you sought looks similar to the legend.”

Nevertheless, this professor was skeptical I had proven anything: “Are you certain you heard a howl? How could any of us tell if this marble had the exact shades of black and white? What is plausible is that this poor marble was born looking too similar to the Weremarble of legend, and is therefore discriminated against by ignorant villagers.”

With the full story of Booberry still a mystery, I can only describe their appearances in the Races themselves. Competing in 2019 and 2020, they are not a racer with great control, but one who has the potential to break out and take the lead. This can be seen in Race 4 of 2019’s event, or the start of the final race in 2020.

Descending the candle passageway and in front of the Haunted Castle, Greg Woods described the action: “Booberry, in the lead – gets stuck, only to be dislodged! Frankenstein, a little help there.” These two racers, the grisliest of that year’s contenders, would, in the end, be unable to fend off the eventual winner, who snuck past them both in the Castle.

Booberry coming in second in 2020.

Whether the results were fair or not, in the footage we were shown, Booberry glistened more than ever when they climbed the podium to accept second in that year’s race.

Below the Mines of Fantum

In a second trip to the Herbotamia region, I had no time to revisit the Tower and instead traveled further north, beyond where desert turns to plain, to where cliffs and mountains are traversed. One roll could send you flying off as I climbed down into the valley towards my destination: the mines of Fantum, an occasional training ground for Ghost Plasma and other athletes.

The rumor enshrouding these mines was that they were haunted by a malicious spirit. Armed with a flashlight, I descended into the mines one night with my hearing perched for the slightest noise. At first, there were only chirps from rodents or other vermin, but then I started following a faint, high-pitched “Ooooohh.”

One swing of the flashlight revealed the source: A gray marble with wondrous swirls, more solid than a ghost marble but still almost transparent in the light. This was the racer I yearned to meet, the one called “Casper.”

In 2017, a marble from the surface discovered them just as I did, extending an invitation to compete in a Halloween race. “I had no name then, or even knew what that meant,” whispered Casper. “They would point at me and say I am called ‘Ghoster,’ which sounded fine.”

Ghoster speeding down the 2017 race track.

Breaking out of the lead early, Ghoster seemed assured of victory as they sidestepped skeletons and debris. But after losing their balance in the final sector, they were overtaken to the finish by Jack-O-Lantern. Competing with a marble who “flipped the DRS open,” as Greg Woods noted, is no fair fight.

Whatever rumors were of this spirit’s maliciousness is tainted, for in truth the racer is rather exceedingly timid. “It was such a disaster to lose that race, and I didn’t want to show my face again! I stayed in these mines for a very long time,” Casper told me. “But one day a red marble came to talk with me every day, who would curse all who made fun of me, and who kept insisting on my true strength.”
With this encouragement, the newly named Casper resurfaced to join 2019’s event. A fast and consistent racer, this spirit won one race easily and was in contention for the championship from the first to last race. The climax occurred in the final race after Casper noticed their crimson friend was stuck against the wall.

Casper at the 2020 Halloween Race starting gate.

“I knew I had it in me to win, even if I can barely see the winner up ahead,” recounted Casper. For us viewers, it also seemed assured that Zomball would win the final race until a silvery glimmer showed at the final turn. “– Where did Casper come from?!” exclaimed Greg Woods at the time.

Ultimately, the push was not enough; by placing second instead of first, Casper would merely tie for most points and cede the championship. But they greatly admired the winner, who Casper rejoined in 2020’s Halloween race.

“Make sure you find them,” said the ghostly racer to me. “My guide and my mentor, the reason why I dare talk to you – the marble named Blood Moon.”

Casper and Blood Moon winning second and first in 2019.

The Outskirts of Vellis

Any avid watcher of the Halloween Races will remember Blood Moon. This crimson racer first appeared in 2019’s footage, and their explosive speed kept them in the winning position over many rounds. They were then the first racer to win in back-to-back years by cruising ahead of their competitors in the 2020 race.

Unlike all the other racers I interviewed, I received an interview request from Blood Moon by mail, a month before I would send off my research to the wider media. The letter read: “Pleased to make your acquaintance whenever you visit Vellis,” followed by their address.

What a surprise it was that, despite the racer’s brilliance and the elegance of their prose, Blood Moon introduced themselves as a mere MarBus driver working in Vellis. They lived with modest means, in a small cottage far from the city but with a bus of their own.

Two years in a row, one blood red marble stood above all others.

“I lack athletic ability, actually, but I’ve loved driving ever since I was a small marble,” recounted Blood Moon at their residence. “I earn a steady living in Vellis, and for some reason I was invited to a gathering of racers on Halloween of 2019. It fulfilled a great sense of adventure, an inner desire to race.”

Though their ability to come back or pull away with the lead suggest some athletic skill, Blood Moon believes their strength is mostly psychological. “There are nights when I would take my bus and accelerate as fast as I could down a stretch of highway, and it is reflected in my racing. Perhaps my other opponents are too distracted by the sounds and frights surrounding us on our courses. Nonetheless, for such frightful creatures, you would expect us to not be sidetracked by cheap tricks.”

Without me to steer the conversation on track, Blood Moon is much more inclined to gossip about other racers than other interviewees. They also described a fierce rivalry with the former racer Zombie Brain; a confusing one, as neither of them raced in the same race that we in the public know of.

I at least learned their favourite racing moment is the final race of 2020’s Halloween event: “Despite some brutish collisions against me from my competitors out the gate, I gained ground at the end of the starting sprint and in the castle, able to climb to first through pure racing.” 

Blood Moon sprinting to win the 2020 Halloween Race.

My parting remark joked about whether Blood Moon’s hidden talent exceeds that of the team this city’s residents really cared about: the Savage Speeders. A guffaw later, Blood Moon replied: “it’s quite ironic that the closest I’ve been to the Speeders was when I parked on the side of the street and saw one of their victory parades roll down next to me. They seem quite accomplished, but I have much to enjoy in my life. I have nothing to prove to them.”

One Explorer’s Revelation

Photo portrait of the author.

Two years after my investigation commenced, I received a call for which I long awaited. One of the great media moguls of Marblearth, Stynth, heard about my efforts and requested a meeting. With the last of my savings, I sent transcripts of my interviews and scans of my photography to their office via courier.

What high spirits I was in quickly fell down to earth when I picked up the phone. Stynth had reviewed my findings, but before I could tell more of my story they cut me off. “I’m looking through all the work you did, and this is just incredible!” 

I began: “It’s my pleasure to share my work with an open-minded marble–”

Stynth continued: “How could you be so incredibly wrong about everything?!”

As it turns out, this editor of marble sports believed only in mundane theories. To Stynth, there can be only one explanation for why these races happen: “they’re events where famous athletes dress in costumes and compete with each other, so they’re not tracked by journalists or fans.”

As such, to Stynth my evidence of paranormal origins was all “illogical.” The explanation they wanted – unmasking the real athletes behind the costumes – was unfulfilled.

“You were able to interview all these athletes and I’m just stunned you never put the pieces together,” said Stynth. “What are the odds of a Kobalts member introducing you to the Zombie Cousins, on top of you running into Will-O-The-Wisp in Helarve only when the Wisps had their off-season, on top of a former Oceanics coach pointing you to where you needed to be in Dunduei?”

To these assertions I can only reply: “Forgive me, then, for disturbing you about what you knew all along.”

Even the most heated of passions will cool. The call ended with Stynth apologizing for being overly excited, and assuring me my work still had value. However, I would receive no offer to support my work: the editor would share my interviews with their staff reporters, who would contact Greg Woods and uncover the Halloween racers’ secret identities.

O Reader, have you in your life been subject to such doubt and such accusations, to a point where you are left with naught but a sense of disgust? I would have told Stynth about the true meaning of the subaltern world I investigated; it was no fierce competition nor some publicity stunt, but a worldwide competition that united otherwise isolated corners of Marblearth.

What fanciful thoughts they seem now; in the real world, cynicism possessed me. For a whole day, I could not bear to look at my transcriptions or the binders of evidence I accumulated.

My listlessness was only cured by another thought: I would organize another interview with Blood Moon, the racer who seemed to know anyone and everyone in these Halloween races. If they were able to share more details with me, perhaps Stynth will reconsider my sleuthing abilities. And it is with this moment, dear Reader, which I will leave you, for it is a tale more bewildering than any I described so far.

With no direct form of contact – a fact I take for granted interviewing all racers – I drove again to Vellis to stake out Blood Moon’s usual haunts. It took one fact check to realize a mystery was afoot: I contacted the Vellis bus agency, only to be told they have no driver matching Blood Moon’s description.

Perplexed, I drove out of the city to that cottage in the plains, Blood Moon’s residence, where we had our interview. The sun was nearly all set by the time I arrived, and the house was so remote I saw no other cars on the road for minutes on end.

What shock and horror befell me as I saw the house was suddenly abandoned: the brick roof caved in, the paint peeling off and Blood Moon’s bus no longer on the scene. It was almost as if I could feel the glass cracking within me, so brittle and powerless I felt to explain what had happened.

What happened next haunts me to this day. I heard cackling in the distance, and that deep voice belonging to the crimson marble called out to me: “That was a fun day we had together, was it not? We shall meet again this Halloween!”

I screamed and turned, but there was no one in any direction. All I could see, in the darkness, was the full moon glowing in the night sky.

As the full moon rises, a new race begins…

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