Tag Archives: halloween

Streetlights

Here’s a short Halloween tale, something to stir the imagination. Click the arrow below and I’ll read it to you.

A howl in the night began low and guttural. It intensified like one of those hand-crank air-raid sirens out of an old war movie—wavering and climbing. Others joined in with yips and howls and you could hear a hierarchy there. It was infinitely creepier than the film I was watching—Creature from the Black Lagoon.

It sounded close, but not dangerously so. I stepped out my front door warily and stood on my Halloween doormat to study the yard and then the rest of the neighborhood. The coyotes had moved on and the neighborhood was quiet. My lamppost was the only one lit down the whole street, everyone else had had enough.

I stepped down into my yard and walked out to the street. A thin fog had settled like a shroud, clearly visible in the cone from the streetlight.

It was eerily quiet and so dark I got a sense of being the last man standing. I saw something far down the street walking into the circle cast by the streetlight; a person in silhouette. As quick as I noticed the movement, the person passed beyond the circle of light and melted into the murk of night.

There was purpose in that walk and I waited patiently for another look. I don’t know why I was so interested in the figure and I thought about going back in to catch the rest of the movie instead. Then the silhouette appeared in the cone of the next street light.

The figure was short, the legs seemed unnaturally thick, and there was a tall, wide brimmed hat. It was a boy, I thought; and he was carrying something.

I stepped back onto my lawn when he arrived at the streetlight in front of my house to give him unhindered use of the sidewalk. Instead of passing by though, he stopped in front of me. He was indeed a boy, maybe eight years old. The cowboy outfit he had on wasn’t exactly new and included boots, chaps, and two gun belts that were crossed and worn low on each hip like gunslingers in the movies. He had an old pillowcase gathered in one hand, weighted with candy. With the other he tipped his hat back.

He said, “Evenin’ friend.” His lower lip scraped his upper teeth with the exaggerated first letter of friend.

“Good evening. What can I do for you?” I asked.

He drew a six shooter from its holster and pointed it at me. A curlicue of spent cap paper stuck out from the hammer which he pulled back with his thumb. “Give me your loot,” He said. I noticed dried chocolate at the corners of his mouth when he smiled. It was a devilish smile full of menace.

I raised my hands a little and I don’t know why, but I stammered as though truly threatened and he said, “Don’t make me use this on you.” The hard iron of the six shooter loomed ominously in his hand, even with the spent cap paper jutting out. It could do some real damage, I thought.

I tipped my head back toward the house and said, “The last of my loot’s just inside the door.”

“Alright, but don’t try nuthin’” He motioned to get a move on with his gun and followed behind.

I stepped up to my door, opened it and reached in for the bowl of candy. When I turned he was holding his pillowcase out and open, the six-shooter was pointing off into the shadows—finger out of the trigger guard.

“This is all I got.” I scooped up the box of Dots and three Snickers bars and dropped them into the pillowcase. “Happy Halloween.”

He peered down into the sack and said, “Gee, thanks mister,” and reached in. Tearing open a Snickers and stuffing it into his mouth; he gathered up the sack once more, holstered his piece, and tugged his hat back down. With a mouth too full for words, he nodded once and chocolate glistened again at the corners of his mouth. Strange as it sounds, he seemed more vibrant as if fueled by the chocolate. Then he turned and walked back out to the street, continuing on his way. With distance and through the next streetlight he became a silhouette again.

Beyond that cone of light he blended in with the night. But not before I caught another look. His hat sat on a skull, bleached with time. And that skull was perched on a stack of vertebrae disappearing down the collar of his shirt. He glanced back once, and his jaw opened slightly as if in a rictus smile. A veil of fog and the impenetrable gloom of night swallowed him and I was alone once more.

It occurred to me then, when I had time to think about it, I had seen that boy before. It was last year and he was wearing the same outfit. Why I didn’t remember earlier, I couldn’t say. But there was a magic in the moment of his arrival. And giving him treats left me with a sense that I had averted some trickery as yet undefined.

I wondered about that curlicue of cap paper, evidence he had indeed used the gun. To what end? Or whose?

A chill ran down my spine and I turned off the post light.

~***~

So that’s the story, and I’m sticking to it. Give me a shout out on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, et cetera. And let me know whether you liked it or not, because comments are like chocolate to the spirit in this tale—they fuel me.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

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Tricky Treats

Here’s a cautionary tale of candy; which doesn’t grow on trees. If it did, we’d all be vegans… Enjoy.

He hated doing missing child reports.

Detective Becker stood along side his car. Jacket open and pushed back. Hands on hips. He surveyed the quiet neighborhood.

Three missing kids on this street so far; and there were more.

Gone without a trace the day after Halloween.

A list of friends and acquaintances showed they all knew each other. They all had been out for Halloween. Yet it still didn’t add up for Becker.

They all returned home after trick-or-treating.

He couldn’t get past the thought: Where do you hide a dozen or so missing kids? Maybe even more.

There was the sound of a storm door banging across the street—metal on metal. An old lady was hurriedly trying to exit the split-entry with a walker.

The walker was pink anodized aluminum with vibrant green tennis ball feet. She pushed it along like she was speed shopping, thumbing the lever of a bicycle bell clamped to the bar.

It clattered as she dropped down from the curb and crossed, clipping Becker’s car as she rounded it.

“You a cop?” She over-pronounced the last letter.

“Yes maam.”

“You looking for kids? Missing kids?”

She stood inside the frame of her walker, chin jutting out and a slight squint in her eye.

“Ah…yeah,” Becker said, and then he remembered his manners and said, “Yes maam.”

She pointed to the front lawn of the Wennerstein property and said, “One of them’s right there.”

Becker turned to look and saw only grass and a twisted, gnarly, leafless plant. He felt like the sucker in a made-you-look gag as he turned back slowly to face her.

The walker-lady rang her bell emphatically and pointed with the other hand. “Right there, right there. Don’t you see?”

Another person came running out of the split entry across the street. She was much younger than walker-lady.

Mrs. Wennerstein came out of her house, walking toward Becker from the other direction.

He looked down at walker-lady and said, “No maam, I don’t.”

Walker-lady’s daughter was apologetic, steering her mom back to the house. “She’s got dementia,” she said.

Mortified, walker-lady said, “DO NOT.”

And they were gone.

Mrs. Wennerstein waited till they retreated before holding out a candy wrapper. “This was in Emily’s room. It’s one of the candy wrappers from Halloween. But I don’t recognize it.”

Becker took it from her, studied it. It was black, with little yellow circles. The paper felt…spent; dry, and brittle.

“We went through her candy when she came home from trick-or-treating; everything was factory sealed.”

Becker looked up from the wrapper. “Thank you maam. I’ll look into it.” He nodded once.

She turned and walked back. Halfway up the path she paused to look at the twisted and leafless specimen. An audible, “Hmmph,” and she continued on back to her house.

Becker stood there facing the street again. Candy wrapper in hand. Alone with his thoughts; which were all questions. Not a single answer.

Where did all the kids go?

Why was the neighborhood so quiet?

If Mrs. Wennerstein checked all of Emily’s candy, where did the strange wrapper come from?

Why was the walker-lady so animated in her living room window when he looked up?

She was ringing her bell though he couldn’t hear it and she was pointing. Becker turned to face the Wennerstein home; a déjà vu moment.

The twisted thing was no longer leafless. There were swollen black buds forming from the young foliage.

Becker walked over to the plant. He plucked one of the buds and the husk was a wrapper. He opened it to find a candy inside.

He looked around, but no one seemed to be watching except the walker-lady and she was nodding animatedly like she knew it all.

He pressed the candy with both thumbs and cracked it open. A white viscous glop oozed out. A cloying sweetness infected his sinuses. It reminded him of the Cadbury Eggs his own daughter loved.

He looked for a place to wipe his fingers.

Suddenly the screen door swung open next door—banged on the side of the house, and a child ran out. He was maybe ten years old.

He stumbled, not quite running as fast as he was leaning into it. He fell flat. His landing was a splash of white glop as his torso burst open. He landed like an over-filled water balloon.

Becker nearly lost it and turned away. He dropped the candy he was holding.

Immediately, a twisted and gnarled plant grew from the pooled remains. It shot up, creaking and stretching for its place in the world.

Becker stepped away from the plant he was standing next to. Revulsion set in.

In a rush of realization he lost his breakfast. Prickles of sweat beads rose in his scalp.

He made it to the side of his car and rested against the fender.
The walker lady wasn’t in the window anymore.

He speed dialed his boss rather than using the radio. This needed time to understand and he knew…knew everyone that shouldn’t have a scanner listened in.

His chief, Rodney Cooper, answered on the second ring.

“I have something on the missing kids; you’re going to want to see it.

“No, I can’t just write it up. I need someone else to see this. It’s kinda crazy.

“Listen, Coop, you and I go back some. I…this…we need to talk this through. This needs some special attention.

“Uh-huh. I’m on Elm. I’ll be waiting.”

He snapped his phone shut to wait.

In doing so he felt it; something wasn’t right.

There was numbness in his fingers, even as they stuck to his cellphone. The feeling was crawling past his wrists, like roots reaching for purchase.

The horror of it set in.

He surveyed the scene again, hoping Coop would arrive in time.

Acrostical Halloween

 

  H is for the house at the end of Maple Street which has long stood vacant. And even if it were for sale, no one but a distant outsider would buy it. The locals all have seen the occasional lighted window and avoid talking about the noises that emanate from it without warning or provocation. The screams are said to come from the original family who disappeared on the eve of the harvest moon, supposedly sacrificed in some sort of blood rite. All the known rooms and false walls were searched, but the family members were never found. Neither was the boy who, years later, entered the house on a dare while his friends stood and watched from the safety of the street. His screams were added to the rest.

  A is for the abomination that lurks along the service road leading to the power station at the edge of town. It has been variously described as pale or ghostly, hairless, hunched but quick, and sometimes as a ‘skin shrouded skeleton’ ever since Charlie Paisley coined the phrase. Whatever it is has scared numerous drivers off the road; but none has ever gotten out of their vehicles, electing instead to get back on the straight and narrow and move along. Lucky for them because this thing has yet to acquire a taste for human flesh and nobody wants to be that kind of instigator. Terry Gillenhall was brought in once with his dogs, but they never found anything because according to Terry, “My dogs need a scent to start off with”.

  L is for the labyrinth that little Johnny walks into when he leaves his bedroom for a late night pee. The whole thing has the familiar appearance of the hallway he has grown up with, but he has taken too many rights and lefts to remember how to get back. So he plods along in hopes that he may find his way eventually. He did take a wiz in one corner, but now he can’t even find that. And the troubling sounds he hears on the other side of every wall keep him in a constant state of fear. Mechanized sounds of poorly meshed gears and clanking metal and rattling chains were once barely audible, but have grown to an intensity that threatens to devour him.

  L is for the lycanthrope of Bray Road. This werewolf has been described as ranging from six to seven-and-a-half feet tall, with piercing yellow eyes, inch-long dark brown hair, and a short snout that can produce a menacing smile full of sharp teeth. He seems to make appearances during years ending in a seven as far back as written history will allow, scaring the bejeesus out of witnesses. It is said that the scent of road-kill precedes any sighting. So if you run into that ominous aroma while traversing the byways out near Bray Road, you should probably make like a prom dress, and take off.

  O is for October, the month that ends with Halloween; lest you forget. O could also be for the opaline gaze reflecting back out from the bushes at Isabella Mudge’s house. Isabella would never deny accusations of liking young boys. You see, she likes them in a stew pot for hours and hours with lots of potatoes and carrots, and a cabbage or two if she can get them. Isabella acquires her quarry by shape shifting into a cat with fur such a deep black that light seems unable to escape it. What attracts the young boys are the iridescent, prismatic, opaline orbs that are Isabella’s eyes. They are eyes that command attention; eyes full of seduction.

  W is for the Wyvern that has taken up residence in the bluffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the Nameloc Heights section of town. This wyvern; which looks like parts of a dragon, an eagle and a bat, has been flying low over the water in search for food. But it has had greater success over land, eating smaller fare such as squirrel, rabbit, and turkey. It hasn’t yet grown enough to take out a deer. Young Brandon Rickenhauer is down on the beach, calling for his best friend, Ringo. Ringo is a mixed breed; half Golden Retriever and half Pit Bull. This is a dog that really sinks its teeth into being loveable and loyal. Brandon will never see Ringo again, for Ringo is no longer of this world. Brandon and the wyvern will have a chance meeting, but not for several years yet. Right now, the wyvern is cleaning the last traces of Ringo from its talons.

  E is for the eight-ball sitting on Jeffery Archer’s desk, at the offices of Liberty American Insurance. Mr. Archer has just opened this branch as a promotion within the company and the eight-ball was a gag gift from a friend. It is one of those fortune telling eight-balls and lately it has been making suggestions instead of telling fortunes. Most of the suggestions center on his loving family and various household items, like the electric carving knife they received as a gift from Uncle Rudy just last Christmas. Jeffery’s name will be splattered across the front pages of all the major tabloids for several weeks because of the heinous way in which he tries to hide the brutal murders. Cuisinart and Kitchenaid will spend hundreds of thousands on damage control.

  E is for the effigy sitting on the front steps of the Johnson house. Sarah and David had made the scarecrow by stuffing some old clothes from a box in the basement with leaves and straw. The clothes belonged to their recently deceased ‘Granpa’ who had been twice accused of child molestation among other charges. Granpa always said, “They never convicted me of nuthin.” There is something enchanting about the way young Sarah has drawn a face on the paper bag head that will soon allow this effigy of Granpa to snatch little Nancy Wilcox from the front step before she has a chance to ring the doorbell. Granpa and Nancy will never be seen again, despite the rally cry and three day search.

  N is for the necropolis on Lewiston Street with markers dating back to the eighteenth century. Located near the center of Arden’s Hill is a crypt bearing the name of Erdeuelu. The crypt door is locked, but we know that it can be locked from both sides. And we can see that the threshold is worn from two centuries of use. Jonny Rubino and Peter Smith do not understand what all that wear in the stone work at the entrance could mean when they pick the lock to gain entry. Jonny wants a skull as a keepsake and Peter has heard rumors of things like pocket watches being buried with the dead. Duke Erdeuelu will not be traveling far to quench his craving for blood. He will, in fact, be dining in. He’ll have to remove the drained bodies to another location in order to keep suspicion averted from his crypt. Nothing settles a meal quite like a good walk.

Shaw House by Donald Conrad

The only time anyone ever saw them was on Sunday morning when the garage door would open and their car backed out. Everyone referred to them as the Shaws and I wondered if they were all related. There were two well fed women with gray hair and a slender man who seemed to be the oldest and wore clergyman’s garb.

I often wondered what they did inside that house. It was impossible to imagine their dour faces participating in any activity. The three were reclusive.

All the neighborhood kids avoided the Shaw house, even on Halloween — especially on Halloween. The few who did ring their bell received a single lolly-pop or an apple. All treats from the Shaw house were suspect for their potential to harbor maliciously applied changes, such as straight pins and razor blades in the apples and poisons applied to the candy. The Shaws were unknowns, and the children of the neighborhood learned as a group to fear the unknown. In conversations the Shaws were built up as devious and diabolical, menacing and malevolent child-hating curmudgeons who never smiled.

It was a Halloween night when I found out how different the Shaws really were. Jimmy and I were eight or nine. On a dare, I crept up to a window at the side of the house to peer in. All the blinds were drawn. I kept looking back to Jimmy because he held my bag of treats and I didn’t trust him for too great a distance with the loot.

Standing on an overturned trash barrel, I could just see into the house. The drawn shade curled in slightly at the edge and there was a gap at the bottom. The Shaws all sat in arm chairs around a circular coffee table. Each of them held a book open, intently reading. The one I thought of as the younger sister—quantifying that would be impossible, for they were all ancient to me—began to read aloud. I realized that they all held identical books open to the same page and were in a group reading session.

I hadn’t done anything like that since first grade with the adventures of Dick and Jane and it seemed odd to me that adults as old as these would participate in such an activity.

I looked back to Jimmy who had positioned himself in the shadows. I gave a weak wave.

The Shaws were all reading aloud when I looked back. I could barely hear them from outside the circle and outside the house. Their lips moved together as if in a chant. The man wore his clergyman’s collar. The women wore matronly gray dresses with white bib fronts.

The book each held seemed more ancient than any bible I had ever seen. Each had gilded pages and was cased in stamped leather. Several red silk ribbons for marking places had been bound into the spine. The books themselves were twice the size of any bible I had ever laid eyes on.

Yet as they read, they did so with the same solemnity reserved for bible passages. The man shifted hold of his and raised a fist in the air; not so much in a threatening way but more as if to add power to the words he read.

Little shards of crystalline air twinkled within the room, appearing and dissipating like spent energy.

At first, one at a time would appear and fade. Then there were more, the occurrences increasing exponentially until the room was filled with them.

The Shaws kept reading in unison as if nothing had changed.

Soon the energy points were traveling into the center of the group of three before dissolving. The travel cycle increased in speed yet none collided. The convergence was above and at the very center of the round table where a ball of raw energy collected. It drew the pinpoints of light faster and faster as if by an increasing gravitational pull.

There was a sound that coincided with it which started so quietly that I hadn’t noticed it at first. The sound almost seemed to emanate from my own head. It built with the intensity of the energy in the room until it sounded like a huge orchestra of string instruments violently racing to a crescendo.

I looked back to Jimmy and he had his hands out as if pleading for an update. The bags of candy sat next to a slender tree.

Looking out toward Jimmy I realized how much of the light inside the Shaw house escaped the blind. It played on my face like dozens of possessed strobe lights.

The ball of energy that grew over the coffee table had begun smaller than a marble and was as big as a basketball when I returned my eyes to the scene inside. Pinpricks of light still originated from every corner, plunging into the growing orb.

I had to rub my eyes, which was a mistake because they had to refocus. I missed the start of what happened next.

The Shaws themselves began to radiate toward the energy center. At first it came from their eyes. Suddenly light escaped from them as if their life forces were joining the ball of energy.

I felt the pull on my own soul. I was frightened, but I couldn’t look away.

The orb swelled to several feet in diameter, swirling and pulsing, shimmering and crackling.

The pinpricks of light stopped occurring in the room.

The Shaws became motionless and silent.

The orb swelled one last time as if taking a great breath of air and then shrank to a singularity and popped out existence all together.

All that remained of the Shaws were scarecrow husks of their former selves; their books still open on their laps. In the aftermath, the room was lit by a single table lamp and the silence was unsettling.

I got down from the trash barrel and told Jimmy all of what I had seen. He didn’t believe me of course. I wasn’t even sure about what I had witnessed.

The next morning I saw the Shaw’s garage door open and their car backed out. When the car stopped, all three Shaws turned to look at me.

I ran.