Are You Afraid of the Dark? “The Tale of the Vacant Lot” (part 1 of 2)
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away called the Nineties, an American company named Nickelodeon fell in love with a Canadian company called Cinar. The result of their decade-long tryst was a little show called Are You Afraid of the Dark?
It was kind of a Tales from the Crypt for kids, but instead of the Cryptkeeper, we’ve got a bunch of fresh-faced tweens known as the Midnight Society, who gather around the campfire every week to swap scary stories and occasionally pull pranks on each other. While the cast for every scary story changed on a weekly basis, the Midnight Society was our stable rock.
Erm, sort of. In the first few seasons, the cast members changed pretty often. Nevertheless, the core Society members were always Gary (the bespectacled-yet-crush-worthy leader), Kiki (the tough chick—we know because she wears a bandana), Frank (the tough guy—no bandana necessary), and Tucker (Gary’s pesky younger brother).
…Until the show died in 1996. However, it came back two years later with a mostly-new Midnight Society. With Gary and the older Society kids off at college, Tucker was now the man in charge. His crew consisted of two dudes that nobody remembers, a young Elisha Cuthbert, and a young Vanessa Lengies. Basically, anyone who didn’t grow up to be a hot girl (except for Tuck, obviously) was completely forgettable.
Throughout ten years and more than 90 episodes, every show had the same framing device: the scary story we watch is actually a story told around the campfire by a member of the Midnight Society. Is your mind blown yet?
Oh, just wait. It will be… [cue ominous wind-chime sound effect]
So this ep starts out with the members of the Midnight Society gathered around the fire, playing a totally non-sexy game of show and tell. Most of them have some really cool shit with them tonight.
Gary (who is normally a lame-ass) has a sweet autographed pic of Houdini, Betty Ann has a collection of Poe poems published in the 1800s, Tucker has a mint-condition Hank Aaron rookie card, and Sam has… um… an old bracelet from her non-famous great-grandma.
Well, at least she’s pretty.
The only person who didn’t bring anything is Stig, the tough chubby kid. The others give him a hard time about it, until he threatens to shiv Gary in the face, so they all back off.
The point of this whole bit is to underscore the moral of Kiki’s upcoming story, which is that every item has a personal value that makes it seem priceless. Except… when you’re trading it for your life. Bum bum bum!
Kiki’s story is about Katherine, a pretty ginger girl who complains about feeling totally average and unnoticed. She tries her best to shine during track tryouts, but it never quite works out for her. Here she is just after tripping on… um… the ground.
After practice, she dons a sexy bowler hat and laments to her little sister Joyce that this is just “another average performance by average Kat.” Homegirl, I don’t think that revealing your butt-cheeks to all your teammates is “average”, okay? I think it’s extraordinary. You know who else might think so?
Awww, yeah. Too bad Mr. Sexy Shirtless Soccer Player wasn’t around when you were spread-eagled with your ass in the air. I’ve found that that’s the best way to attract men. Kat puts on an OMFG face, understandably bowled over by his unrepentant hotness. Can’t say I blame her.
Still, she’s not exactly being coy or flirty, so it’s no wonder he runs back to his soccer buddies.
Later, Kat and her sister are walking home from school, but then Joyce conveniently realizes that she forgot her social studies book, and has to go back and get it. Then a gust of magical wind flicks Kat’s bowler off (we know it’s magical, because we hear wind chime sound effects) and whisks it away. Kat would be lost without her ugly hat, so she follows it all the way down to a vacant lot… that suddenly isn’t so vacant anymore.
A mysterious store has magically appeared, where Kat finds a lot of random objects and (most importantly) a lady wearing black flowing robes that also cover most of her face. It sort of looks like a burqa, actually, though I’m assuming that’s just a coincidence. The lady tells Kat she has “just what you need”, and offers her a pair of running shoes that will help her “fly like you’ve never flown before!” What, do the shoes have a secret compartment where she can hide her meth or something?
Kat wants the shoes, but doesn’t have any money. The lady offers to trade for Kat’s ring, but Kat refuses, because it was a gift from her grandfather. Then the lady offers to trade for “something that has no value” to Kat. Kat thinks this sounds like a really good deal and goes for it, though she doesn’t actually bother to ask what this “thing” is that she’s trading.
She exits the store to the accompaniment of some magic chimey wind, then is slightly concerned when she looks back only to find an empty lot. But she’s not concerned enough to try and return the shoes, of course. I mean, come on, we’ve got a hot soccer player to snare here. Girl’s got to pull out all the stops.
The following day, the shoes enable Kat to run like the wind! One of her friends asks how she did it, and Kat gets all bitch-face and is like, “Because I’m fast and you’re slow, that’s how I did it! Looks like you’re not as special as you thought.”
But we know Kat is actually under the influence of the magic shoes, because this line coincides with another appearance of the wind chime sound effect.
Later, at home, Kat thinks she sees a weird mole on her face, but then it disappears.
Hmm… I wonder if this is foreshadowing? Let’s find out!