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  1. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Past Contest October 2018 Short Story Contest

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest' started by Wreybies, Oct 10, 2018.

    To one and all,

    Still running Admin Interference on the short story contest, so appy-polly-loggies if this isn't the most imaginative of themes for the October contest, but it seems the most fitting.

    Halloween!

    58faac3ee0cc8.jpg


    Requirements
    • 1,200 - 5,000 words
    • Any genre
    • Any style
    • Polished to the best of your ability
    • One entry per person
    How to Enter

    Post your entry as a reply to this thread. It will be automatically anonymized. Please title the story and include the word count.

    You will be able to post entries until October 31st.

    Voting

    Voting will run from November 1 - 5. There is no fixed voting criteria: voters will choose the story they think is the best.

    Winner

    The winner will be announced on November 6th. He or she will get a shiny medal under their avatar, automatic entry into the annual Hall of Fame contest, and their winning story featured in the WritingForums annual ezine.

    Get writing!
     
  2. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Prey (4167 words)

    --- Adirondack Mountains, New York: 9:15PM, Saturday ---

    The woods of northern New York echoed with drunken laughter. Five friends sat on the porch of a hunting cabin deep in the woods drinking beer and joking around. The air was brisk and clean. Warm for late October, but chilly enough that they had jackets on.

    Two of them laid in a hammock together staring at the stars. “Jake look,” Jessica pointed up as a meteor streaked across the sky and vanished over the horizon.

    “That was a big one,” he responded, pulling her closer and swaying the hammock.

    “It was probably really only a few inches across,” Alex spoke up next to them, leaning back and finishing the rest of his beer before crushing the can and tossing it towards a trash. He was the scientist of the group.

    “So what time you guys wanna head out tomorrow?” Gary looked through the porch door at the bag of guns. None of them had been hunting in years. Alex had moved to Manhattan for work, Gary and Georgia had had a baby, and there just hadn’t been as much time as there used to be.

    “I dunno, maybe like five?” Jake looked out over the thick woods. “Think we’ll even see anything?”

    The other guys shrugged their shoulders. “Do we need to be out that early?” Alex was content on enjoying the time in nature as much as he was the hunting.

    “Well, we want to be in the stand by sun-up,” Jake called. Jessica sat up in the hammock and looked at him. She’d not seem him get up before the sun in their entire relationship, nor did she know much about deer hunting. Her plans for tomorrow while the guys were out in the woods involved getting wine-drunk and gossiping with Georgia.

    Across the sky flared a massive fireball, lighting up the woods as much as a full moon. The meteor came in at a steep angle and disappeared into the darkness.

    “Wow, did you guys see that?” Alex looked up in awe.

    A few seconds later there was a massive thud. Everyone other than the couple in the hammock stood up.

    Alex mouth dropped open. “Holy crap,” he looked at his friends to be sure he had heard it. “Did it hit the ground?” They had no idea, but they all kind of nodded at each other. “That’s crazy,” he said and sat back down, grabbing another beer.



    --- Two miles from cabin: 5:25AM, Sunday ---

    The ground was wet, but it wasn’t raining. The three guys had ditched the trail, and were following their GPS devices. They knew that their tree stand was another half a mile north. They stopped when they heard a trio of gunshots. They looked around, not quite sure where it had come from or what it was. They were experienced hunters, so they knew that three gunshots was an SOS, but it took them a moment to process it.

    “Where did that come from?” Alex was concerned, not sure if they should respond to the distress or not. There was a brief discussion among the friends, but the consensus was quickly reached that they should at least investigate. They plugged their ears as Gary fired three shots back and headed in the direction they’d heard it.

    It wasn’t long until one of them spotted a trail of blood. Nobody was sure where the blood had come from, but there was a trail. They decided to follow it, something or someone had run off in distress. They called out, but got no response. By the amount of blood that they saw, they came to the assumption that they were following a mortally wounded deer, not a person, but it was in the right direction and the only lead that they had.

    It wasn’t long until their suspicions were confirmed. As the came over a ridge, they saw the carcass. As they approached it, they theorized about what happened.

    “Do you think they just missed the first two shots?” Alex looked around. “Like it wasn’t really an SOS?”

    Gary shouldered his weapon, knowing that coyotes could smell a fresh carcass from a mile away. “I doubt it, have you ever taken more than one shot?” Hunting is a game of patience, waiting for the perfect shot, and then taking it. Once you pull the trigger you either hit the deer or it flees and you don’t get a second shot.

    “Inexperienced hunter?” Alex postulated. “Weren’t they all in a row though too?” He imagined a scenario where a hunter would try to hit a fleeing deer. An expert marksman might be able to do it, but then how would they miss the first shot at all? And where were they now? The blood trail wasn’t very long, any semi-experienced hunter would have found their kill by now.

    “This is weird,” Gary said drawing his knife and kneeling down by the carcass. “This isn’t a gunshot.” The deer’s stomach had been torn open and it’s intestines were spilling out.

    “Predator?” Jake came up behind him. “I gotta bad feeling about this.”

    Gary pokes at the wound with his fingers. “You always got a bad feeling about something. Ouch,” He pulled his hand away with a flinch. Something had pricked him. He prodded at the spot with his knife, but he didn’t see anything there. He looked down at his finger where a small hole pushed out a drop of blood. Maybe a bug had bit him and run off?

    “Not a predator, this must have happened post-mortem. Look, this hole is huge, if it’d been running all that way with a hole that big, it’s guts would have fallen out.” Gary shouldered his .30-06, wondering if they were being watched. “Maybe it was shot and coyotes got to it before the hunters did.”

    “Then where are they now?”

    “Maybe the hunters found it and scared them off, that could have been the gunshots we heard.” Alex proposed. It was a logical conclusion, but something about it still felt off.

    “Wait, then why’d the hunters leave it?” Gary grabbed the deer by the antlers. “The meat’s still good and this is an eight point buck.” No one could explain that. “I don’t think this was coyotes, everything’s still here. Nothing’s eaten, which is weird right? I mean look at it. Something scrambled the insides.”

    They looked at each other and shrugged. “Maybe the shots didn’t come from here,” Alex finally said. Putting the deer aside, they’d still heard what they perceived as a distress call. Now that the sun was on its way up, they were able to look out over the mountain. There was a dirt road and Alex pointed to it. “If someone was hurt, they’d go towards that.”

    They agreed and headed down towards the road.

    At the road, they saw a car wrecked into a tree, smoking gently. They rushed towards it, but stopped and pulled back when they got close. Something terrible had happened there. There was nobody in the car, but there was a lot of blood. They spread out over the area to look for the driver, but found nothing. The trail of blood abruptly ended in the woods.



    --- Cabin: 3:15PM, Sunday ---

    Georgia and Jessica were waiting for the guys together when they arrived in a police car. They ran out to them as fast as they could.

    The guys got out of the car and started to explain about the car they’d found. They’d called the police and an officer was nice enough to drive them to the cabin after they’d taken their statements. The girls were relieved that they weren’t in trouble, but also way too happy to see the police officer.

    “What’s going on?” Gary asked his wife.

    “There was somebody here, they scared us,” she cried out, turning to the officer. He was taken off-guard for a moment, but then asked her to elaborate. The girls took the group behind the house, telling a story of how they were making breakfast and someone started pounding on the back door. It was a man who looked sick and he stayed there looking at them for a few minutes before wandering back off into the woods.

    Gary was the first to notice the tracks. There had indeed been someone there, and whoever it was had been wearing one shoe. “Some homeless guy?” He guessed, looking at the cop for assurance, not so much for himself, but for Georgia.

    “It’s possible,” he said. “We come across a few squatters every now and again. I’ll take a look around, but they usually don’t cause any trouble. Just make sure you keep your doors locked and you’ll be safe.” He looked at the hunting rifles in the hands of each of the guys. “Call us if you have any trouble.”



    --- Cabin: 9:25AM, Monday ---

    The group had decided to sleep in instead of going hunting again. They had all week to hunt and the girls were still scared. The guys didn’t admit it but they were a little shaken from the day before as well.

    Gary was the first one up, and he felt terrible. He’d had a few beers the night before, but even for a hangover, he felt bad. He stumbled into the bathroom and flipped the switch but the light didn’t turn on. “What the...?” He flipped it a few more times, then went into the hallway and tried a switch out there. The power was out everywhere. He could hear rain on the roof, he wondered if a tree had come down on a powerline and when it’d be back up.

    As he continued to wake up, he became aware of a foul stench. “Ugh, what is that?” He wandered into the kitchen and identified the source of the smell as a locked door. They’d rented the cabin and the owner had locked their personal things in the basement, but something was putrid down there. He jiggled the handle and pushed on it, but the door and lock were solid. He noticed as he turned the knob that his hand hurt.

    “Ugh,” the small prick on his finger seemed to have become infected. His finger had turned purple and looked like a large bruise. The spot he gotten pricked at had swollen and blistered.

    He went to the window to open it, but was frozen at the sight of four people just beyond the porch. “What the hell?” He ran back from the window and went to wake everyone else up, grabbing his rifle on the way.

    Together, they convened in the living room and looked outside. The four people were just standing in the rain, slowly wandering back and forth. One of them was looking at Jake’s car. He ran to Jessica’s purse pulled the keys out, pressing the lock button to double check. The flash of the parking lights and the honk from the horn startled the group outside and they all turned and looked at the cabin.

    The men got in front of the women and gripped their guns. “Call the cops,” Alex eventually said to the girls, as he walked towards the front door. “Come on guys, let’s go talk to these idiots.” He only saw the four of them and they all seemed unarmed. Alex and his friends, however, had powerful weapons and were experienced gunmen. The girls ran off to the bedrooms and would find that their phones had died without power overnight.

    Gary stepped in front of Alex, being the only one of them with military experience, and took the lead. With guns shouldered, the three guys stepped outside. “Hey, what are you doing?” Gary called to them. From inside, the rain had made it hard to see, but now outside, they could see the people clearly. Something had happened to them, their skin was discolored: grey almost. They were covered in sores, some of which were open and oozed a milky colored puss.

    “Oh my god, what is that?” They all stepped back a little bit and held their guns a little tighter.

    “Look, get away from my car,” Jake approached one of them. The person just stared back at him and snarled. He looked Jake up and down and growled and crouched down. With an inhuman roar, he leaped for Jake, covering the twenty feet between them easily and knocking him down.

    This started a brawl, but the other three strangers just watched. Jake’s friends quickly pulled the guy off, threw him on the ground, and had their guns pointed at him. Their guns though, did not seem to scare him in the slightest, he got up anyway. He snarled and crouched as though to lunge again. Gary fired a shot into the air and yelled “I will shoot you,” which did not cause the attacker to even flinch. He jumped again, but they were able to side-step the attack.

    Gary had seen combat in Afghanistan and had not been bluffing. He aimed his rifle at their attacker’s leg and pulled the trigger. A chunk of muscle was torn clean from his leg, which caused the man to stagger, but not fall. They were all startled by the gunshot, but the lack of pain in the man’s face is what terrified Gary. He’d seen people get shot before, they didn’t stay standing. The other three people around them snarled. The three guys retreated back into the house.

    “Dude, what the fuck was that?” Jake was freaking out. The girls came to them in fright and informed them they they hadn’t been able to call out. The power must have been out all night because all of the phones were dead, and even the landline in the house had no dial tone.

    “Are you blind, it’s like a goddam zombie,” Gary lashed out in fear.

    “That’s bullshit, the dude’s probably just whacked out on PCP or bath salts or some shit,” Alex ran to the window to watch what the people outside were doing, but they had gone back to just wandering back and forth.

    Gary clutched his head, which was pounding. The gunshots had made his migraine worse and as the adrenaline wore off, he started to get a feeling of vertigo. “I almost took his leg off and he didn’t go down,” he muttered to himself in disbelief.

    “Guys…” Alex backed away from the window as one of the people approached the porch. She stopped short of the steps. The guys pointed their guns at her. She looked up at the porch roof above her. With a quick squat, she leaped from the ground, to the roof of the porch, and landed with a thud.

    “What the hell?”

    “That’s impossible,” Alex ran to the window and looked up. The porch stood five feet above the ground and the foot was eight feet beyond that. They heard a crash of glass from upstairs followed by footsteps.

    “Dude...” Jake yelled. The strange woman turned the corner and stood at the top of the stairs looking down at them. This was not a person… well, not anymore. It stared down at them with wide, bloodshot eyes. It’s skin was a pale yellow and wriggled and seethed like there was something underneath it. It’s fingers had extended and bones protruded to form a grotesque mutated claw. From it’s mouth, trickled blood.

    The house shook as Gary fired his rifle into its chest. He recognized the extremity of the circumstances and his military training took control. Deafened and shaken by the shockwave, everyone stared up in awe because it had not fallen. It’d barely even flinched. At first, Gary wasn’t even sure he’d hit her, but the bloodsplatter on the wall behind her told him that he did.

    It and the other three outside let out a synchronized howl as the one on top of the stairs leaped down at them. They dove out of its way as it landed hard on the bottom of the stairs on its feet. Alex scrambled into the living room and dove behind the couch. With a fluid, effortless motion, it lunged towards him and threw the couch against the wall with one hand.

    Alex kicked his way backwards on his butt to see the thing finally fall with a spray of blood from it’s head and another ear-splitting rifle blast from Gary.

    There wasn’t a moment to think. Before the red blood mist had settled, they heard Jake’s car start. He rushed to the window to see what the other three creatures were doing. Two were still meandering back and forth, but the third was sitting behind the wheel of Jake’s car. It’d stolen the keys when it had pounced on him. With the driver door still open, it turned the car around and headed down the road, mutated claw loosely gripping the wheel and mindless eyes staring forwards.

    Gary considered shooting at the car, but saw no reason to do so. He kept his gun aimed at the body on the ground, as it continued to move. It’s legs and hands twitched, but it didn’t seem to be much of a threat.

    Georgia ran to him and clutched him tightly in fright. Alex laid on the ground shivering and Jake and Jessica held onto each other, she was trying not to cry. Nobody said anything for several minutes.

    “Guys, what are we going to do?” Alex broke the silence. “What is this? This… thing, nobody could do that.” His mind was running and he rambled in a panic. He pulled on the couch that lay upside down next to the dent in the wall. It barely budged, it was too heavy. “I don’t care what drugs you’re on, you can’t do that.” Georgia let go of her husband and grabbed Alex’s arm. He turned to her, then to everyone else. “He jumped onto the roof, can you tell me that was drugs?”

    Gary stepped towards him too. “Dude, I have no idea.” As he moved, that headache disabled him and he clutched his temple. “Oh my god,” a correlation became apparent. “Baby...” he looked at Georgia. She looked down at his hand, which had gotten worse in the past few minutes. The jaundice had spread to his entire hand and it had begun to scab as well.

    She rushed to him, but the other three wearily moved away.

    “Dude, you gotta get to a hospital,” Alex finally said, grabbing a gun from the floor.

    “How the hell we gonna do that?” Jake asked, much louder than he had intended to.

    They argued about the best course of action while Gary suffered another crippling spike in his headache, but this one came with a vision. He saw the outside of the cabin as though he were walking around out there. He saw a pile of bloody flesh in a dark room with small bulbous things scurrying around the blackness. He saw Jake’s steering wheel with a tree embedded in the hood.

    As the headache passed, he said “I think the car’s just down the road.”

    “What do you mean? You saw that guy steal it.” Alex was pressing for heading through the woods towards the nearest highway.

    “He crashed it, I don’t know how I know, I just do.” He said, massaging his temple and trying to relieve the pressure.

    “It’s that direction anyway isn’t it?” Jake looked out the window. “What the hell is that?” They all gazed through the glass again. Another one was coming out through the woods towards the house dragging a body by the leg. It moved effortlessly, despite dragging a full man behind it. It went around the back of the house and they heard it open the locked basement exit. Then strange slurping noises emanated from beneath them.

    “Jake, we need to get out of here,” Jessica pleaded, pulling on his arm.

    “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea,” he grabbed his gun and headed for the door. The others followed behind him.

    They ran. The two meandering bodies completely ignored them, only watching them go. The group couldn’t sprint for long but maintained a steady jog. Gary was the first to stop when he saw the downed power line. It wasn’t the line that was what shocked him, it was the dead body with it. It was clutching the wire in it’s dead hand, it appeared to have pulled the line down itself. Gary didn’t know how, but he knew what happened. It had climbed the pole, and deliberately destroyed the power to the cabin and died in the process. This was the same man who’d cut their telephone line, he’d been a technician.

    They started up again, and could see the car as Gary had described it, smashed into a tree. The driver was still in the seat, and was moving. It seemed stuck, but they kept their distance as they examined the scene. The hood was banged up pretty badly but they should be able to drive it.

    Gary went around the driver’s side and took aim at the driver. He had a terrible headache again and crippled down. He closed his eyes and held his head. He opened them because he heard Georgia screaming. He was ready to kill whatever was attacking her, but then he saw his own hand clutching her. While his eyes had been closed, he had grabbed her by the arm and started dragging her back to the cabin. He tried to let go of her. He couldn’t. His grip was strong, so strong he was drawing blood.

    “Georgia…” he choked out, and tried to drop himself to his knees, but his legs continued to march him forwards. She yanked on him and he stumbled, but regained his feet.

    “Hey man, come on, what are you doing?” Alex grabbed ahold of his arm and tried to pull him away from her.

    Gary was grateful that someone was stopping him, but found himself grabbing Alex by the shirt with his other hand and throwing him aside without any effort. Alex rolled over stunned for a moment and Gary was unable to prevent himself from grabbing him by the foot and starting to drag him too.

    Jessica screamed and ran. Jake went after her.

    Gary was still awake and suffering from the ever increasing headache as he unwillingly dragged them both kicking and screaming into the basement. He could not control his body. Alex and Georgia held onto each other and tried to help each other break his grip as he picked them up one by one and tossed them down the cellar stairs.

    Alex landed on top of her and they both rolled over on the sticky, cold cement floor. He turned to face Gary and tried to get up and fight, but didn’t see the swarm of things crawling around in the dark. Georgia grabbed him. “What is that?” She almost stumbled over him.

    “I…” bellowed a deep, vibrating voice from the darkness. “I am a monument to all your sins.” A mound of pulsing flesh turned before them. Composed of rotting animal carcasses and human remains. Inside, a tangled neural mess presided an emerging consciousness with the corrupted thoughts and memories of everything it had assimilated.

    “Do not be afraid.” Gary jumped down behind them using the same menacing voice “I am peace;”

    And together, as a hive mind they spoke in unison “I am salvation.”

    Alex and Georgia screamed as an army of bloody, bloated blobs poured over them. Made from the minds and bodies of small animals they scurried out of every crevice. The deep fearful yells of terror turned into high pitch howls of agony as razor-sharp tentacles extruded from the blobs and pierced their way through their bodies. The tentacles split into thousands of tendrils which cut their way to and tapped into their spinal cords and brain stem, assimilating their flesh and minds into the hive.



    --- Tahawus Police Station: 7:30PM, Monday ---

    Jake and Jessica held each other in the station as a squad car headed towards the cabin to investigate what they told them. They didn’t speak, there was nothing to say, they just held each other. Jessica closed her eyes because she felt a headache coming on.

    When she closed her eyes she saw Alex’s feet, in a dark room. She saw a first person view of him standing up, covered in blood. She saw through his eyes as Alex took a policeman’s bullet to the leg, then the chest. Then she saw him ripping the officer’s throat out. She saw tendrils emerge from Alex’s arm and tear into him. She had flashes of the officers memories as he was assimilated. She experienced Alex take his shotgun and pump it. She saw him and three other former people walking towards a town with guns in their hands as the sun went down.

    The invasion of The Flood had begun.
     
  3. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    Drone on (2026)

    “Trick-er-treat!” a bunch of tiny costumed malefactors threatened their small act of terrorism if demands for candy were not met.

    Ol' Doc Sandy was only too glad to accede to the blackmail rather than face the tragedy of soap on his windows. Each little painted face was rewarded with a hand full of salt water taffy in their bowls, bags, and pillow cases. Taffy was fairly inexpensive as treats went and would pay dividends in the end...he was a dentist.

    Behind the Doc's house and over the brow of a tall hill sat a less fashionable dwelling. There was no real road to it, only a rutted trail cleared of weeds by years of use. Here lived the Warner family. The rumors about them were many and varied. They had lived there since before the doctor's housing development below had been built. No one trick-er-treated there. Buzzing the house with his drone was as close as he ever got.

    The Warners looked like the Warners. Square heads, but not to the point of having well defined corners, identical facial features male and female. Thin hair of light brown, except for the eyebrows which were jet black and connected over the nose. The only difference between them was the amount of decay caused by the years. They had little company due to the general public disinterest in the family and the two free ranging Dobermans they kept.

    Mrs. Doc Sandy looked out of the window on her pantry room door at the strange glow of light coming from over the hill behind them. “I wonder what they get up to on Halloweens?”

    “What was that?” The doc yelled back from his post by the front door where he was drumming up future business.

    Mrs. Doc joined her husband in the front room. There was no point in shouting and she knew that she could not pry him away. “Oh, those Warners are at it again. The only time I see lights on on top of the hill is on Halloween.”

    “They're just having a party or something.” The Doc closed the door as another group of children left. “Ka-Ching!” He made the sound of an old cash register after he closed the door. It was his tradition.

    “No one hardly ever sees the Warners. I saw them twice in all the years we've lived here, and that was at the grocery store. It was the woman and some kids. I tried to say hello but she just walked on as if I wasn't there.” The Mrs. complained.

    “Well, it's nice to have someone around who doesn't talk your ear off. They haven't bothered us either and so I count that as being a good neighbor.” The door bell rang again. The Doc began to hum “We're in the money.”

    “I have a good mind to hike up that hill and see what's going on. Maybe it's something the police should know about.” Mrs. Doc was showing genuine concern.

    “Well, I saw him getting gas one time.” The Doc emptied another taffy bag into the dispensing bowl. “Old uni-brow had his dogs with him and they sure would have made short work of me if they had gotten out of his car. They were foaming and snarling, jumping against the windows. I would leave them alone if I were you.”

    “I hadn't thought of that.” Mrs. Doc mused. “I bet their devil worshipers or witches or something like that. Running around all naked up there bathed in pig's blood and howling at the moon.”

    “Ka-Ching!” The Doc said again at sending another batch of children on their way. “There's another good reason to stay away. Would you want to see any of them naked? Pigs blood or no pigs blood. You've just seen too many movies. Why don't you hand out some candy? The kids are just cute as hell.”

    “I'm going to go stand in the backyard for a while,” Mrs. Doc went to the hall closet and got a jacket. Halloween was the traditional first day of snow for the area.

    “Don't go up that hill.” The Doc warned.

    She did not respond except for the sound of the back door opening and closing. The night was quiet except of the occasional sound of the children's threat, “Trick-er-treat!” in the distance. There was a little mist on the night. The moon was supposed to be full but it was hidden by cloud cover. It sure felt like snow.

    The top of the hill was glowing very perceptibly giving the air around the Warner house a yellow cast. Her curiosity almost got the better of her but she was in her mid-forties and the trek up the hill through a field of weeds and underbrush discouraged her. It had to be a Halloween party and nothing more, besides, there were the dogs. She had seen one of them in her yard years ago, it looked about as big as a horse.

    Doc had called Mr. Warner “Uni-brow.” That could have described Mrs. Warner too. Inbred? Anything was possible. She scolded herself for being silly. She had seen too many movies. Once the trick-er-treaters died down, Doc would turn off the porch light and they would get on with their own tradition. Popcorn, diet soda, “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” video followed by “The Legend of Hell House.”

    That last movie always scared her so much she couldn't sleep but Doc wouldn't change the order or movies. Snow began to fall and that brought her back indoors.

    “It's starting to snow,” Mrs. Doc reported as she hung up her coat.

    “Yeah,” Doc reported. “Nothing but the teenagers out now. I always thought it was kinda sad that the older ones don't know when it's time to give up trick-er-treating. It smacks of greed. They would just throw out the taffy anyway and keep the chocolate... I would.” He turned out the porch light and looked dolefully at his half bowl of left over taffy. “Do you think this stuff will keep another year?”

    “No,” Mrs. Doc knew the cruelty of year old, hard as a rock, taffy. “And don't keep it around in a bowl either because you'll eat it. I don't want you in dentures either.”

    “I got a bag of the good stuff for us,” The Doc brought out his bag of mini candy bars.

    “I want to get some sleep tonight so they're all yours.” The Mrs. readied herself for the movies that she had seen too many times. “I'm still half tempted to find out what the Warner's are up to.”

    “Don't.” The Doc said flatly. “Those are scary people even in the light of day. If they want to dance naked in pig's blood, just let them dance. It's none of our concern.”

    “Maybe I should call the police...” The Mrs. speculated.

    “And tell them what? That the glow on top of the hill is giving you a bad feeling?” Doc opened his bag of minis. Chocolate and single malt went well together. He had the evening all planned. “The Legend of Hell House” always scared the bejezes out of the Mrs. so she stayed close to him all night after that. She might even be in the mood.

    “Could that Drone you're always playing with take a picture?” She was very resourceful.

    “It doesn't have the remote range to get near their house, but it does have a telephoto camera with a pretty good zoom. Maybe we could tell if they were having a party. We should be able to see all the parked cars. We could send it straight up above the brow of the hill and maybe see what's what.” Doc suggested. He downed the first glass of single malt for warmth before he ventured outside in the snow.

    “Yes,” Mrs. Doc said with conviction. “I'd really like to know what they're up to.”

    “But it's getting late,” Doc Sandy complained. “We don't want to miss the movies.”

    “I could do without seeing the Legend of Hell House again” She still hadn't recovered from last year.

    “Oh....” He looked forward to that picture at Halloween almost as much as he looked forward to Bad Santa at Christmas.

    “Okay, the Ghost and Mr. Chicken then.” She capitulated.

    “You know, I'm really not supposed to fly that thing at night. If a low flying plane should hit it there would be hell to pay. They can bring down light aircraft you know.” The Doc cautioned.

    “The plane would be crashing into the hill if it was that low. If we see anything with lights on it we'll bring the thing down.”

    “Okay,” The Doc went to get his new toy. He had wanted a better one but the wife wouldn't tolerate the expense. He went into the next room to retrieve it and returned. “It's got a fresh battery which means about twenty five minutes of flight time.”

    The pair got dressed for the weather and went out the pantry door. Without ceremony he put the drone on the ground and fired up the remote. The real time display lit up. The machine took off.

    “Keep an eye out for plane lights or motor noise.” The Doc insisted. “I don't know what we could do if we did see an airplane. It descends slower than it ascends. I wish you would have let me buy the better one.”

    “Thirty five hundred dollars so you can peek in windows? I don't think so.” Mrs. Sandy spoke with conviction.

    “And who is doing the peeking now?” Doc accused.

    “It's the Warners!” She hissed back, as if there was some sudden need for secrecy.

    “Okay, Okay.... It's just about at the altitude that we can see something. And there it is!” They both stared at the LCD screen.

    “They've got a pretty good bonfire going in the back yard. They must have gotten a permit or the fire department would have shown up.”

    “Can you zoom in any more?” the Mrs. clutched his arm.

    “Ah,” he looked in the dark at the controls, “I should have brought a flashlight. I don't see any cars around their house, just the old wreck that uni-brow drives.

    “Use the flashlight on your phone.” She suggested a simple solution.

    “I don't want to use up the battery.” He said.

    “Look! Is that the body of a pig hanging from the rafter there?” Mrs. Doc was seeing what she wanted to see.

    “No, I can't tell what it is but it's not a pig. I can get a little closer with the zoom... and there's old uni-brow tending the fire.”

    “He's naked!” Exclaimed the Mrs. pointing at the LCD screen.

    “No he isn't,” Doc Scoffed and took another look at the screen. “Yes he is! And he's pointing at the drone! How can he see anything in this dark sky?”

    Just then the screen on the remote control went blank. Immediately there after they heard the distant sound of a woman crying, “OH SHIT!” in a voice of panic. This sound was followed closely by a scream that seemed to be getting nearer in a large hurry.

    A few seconds later they heard something big hit the ground in their yard with a great "Thud." The Doc took the phone from his pocket and put it in flashlight mode. On the lawn they found the nude body of a large woman painted crimson, oozing blood of her own as if the victim of a great fall. A few seconds later they heard something else drop but it was much smaller and much lighter. After a little searching they found the fallen drone, impaled through its core... on the handle of a broom.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2018
  4. BookLover

    BookLover Active Member

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    Spirit Animals (1850)

    “Do we have to find it now? We’re kind of in the middle of a thing.” Skyler circled his arm around Marie’s skinny waist.

    Marie pulled away. “Yes, my whole life’s in that phone. Can we move your stove? I just heard it, my text message tone. It must have slid across the floor and behind the stove when you took off my tail.”

    Skyler looked down at the orange, tailed tutu crumpled on the linoleum. “I’d like to take a lot more than that off.”

    Marie giggled. “Help me, please!”

    With a big sigh, Skyler took one step toward the stove, then stopped.

    “Try calling it,” she said.

    “Sh.” He raised a finger in the air.

    Marie bit her lip and adjusted her brown, kitty ears headband.

    “Oh shit,” said Skyler, his hand yanking at his goatee.

    “Wha-”

    “Oh, shit, shit, shit. Get in the pantry.”

    “My phone!”

    “Get in the pantry, she’s home early!”

    Marie scurried into the little food closet which Skyler immediately slammed shut, then opened for a second to throw in the tutu, then slammed shut again.

    “My B.C. pill alarm on my phone goes off at 7!” Marie said through the crack.

    Bethany shouldered open the front door, a bucket of Halloween candy in one hand and a diaper bag in the other. Her Totoro hood flopped to one side of her head revealing a mess of wet, blonde hair clinging to her neck.

    “You’re back!” exclaimed Skyler.

    Little Petey ran into his father’s open arms. “We went to so many houses!”

    “You did?” Skyler asked.

    “Yeah, like four!”

    “Four? Four houses! And that’s a lot?” Skyler looked questioningly at his wife.

    She bent forward and gushed into Petey’s face: “That’s so many! That’s so many!”

    “That’s so many!” Petey echoed his mother, smiling. Then his big, blue eyes turned to look down the hall. “I have to go potty again,” he said.

    “Uh-oh,” said his mother. “Let’s hurry and get Batman off you.”

    Skyler glanced up at the analog clock on the wall. 6:57 P.M. He tugged at his squirming son’s costume. “Here, you unzip this, and … Is there another zipper?”

    “If we pull on this …,” Bethany trailed off.

    “Try over- try over- I think it goes over his head.”

    “No… there’s velcro somewhere around …”

    “Just, just … cut it. Let’s just cut it off.”

    “But I almost have—”

    “I’m going!” Petey said.

    “I got it! I got it!” Bethany unraveled Petey from the grip of the spandex, and he ran for the hall bathroom.

    An opened wine bottle on the counter caught Bethany’s eye, and she lunged for it. “That was exhausting.”

    Skyler stuck his hands into his trouser pockets, turned around, and stared at the pantry door. “Don’t you, don’t you want to go help Petey in the bathroom?”

    “He likes to do this part on his own now. I told you that. He thinks it makes him a big boy. It’s only afterward when he’s peed all over the floor that he wants Mommy’s involvement.” She took a long swallow of the wine. “Although, I’m sure he’d welcome Daddy’s involvement for a change.”

    “Heh.” Skyler peeked at the wall clock once more. He tried to imagine an escape from this situation. What was the quickest way to make his wife flee the room? Fart? No, she’s too tired to care. Start an argument? No, she’d probably happily lean into that. Try and have sex with her?”

    6:59 P.M.

    He spun around and wrapped his arms around Bethany from behind, caressing and hugging her while whispering in her ear, “You know, I’ve never understood Furries until now. You’re killing that teddy bear pajama onesie you got on.” He ran his fingers up and down the outside of her soft, fluffy thigh.

    “It’s Totoro.”

    “Hm?”

    “It’s Totoro, from the film My Neighbor Totoro. He’s not a bear. He’s like an owl, raccoon thing, I don’t know, it’s Japanese anime, you’re not supposed to know those creatures, and my ankles are all wet. There’s nothing sexy about me right now.”

    Skyler looked down at the loose, soaked, gray cotton lumped around her feet. “Step in a puddle?” he laughed.

    She lifted the bottle to her lips and chugged.

    “Go change. I’ll take care of the little man.” Skyler reached for the wine, gently pulling it out of her fingers. “We’ll brush his teeth, read him a story, and once he’s out cold, you can change back into this sexy, wet, raccoon costume, and we can beast it up.”

    “Ew. And what about you? Are you going to change into your sloth jammies or that Joker hoodie that I bought you?”

    “Whichever one does it for you, baby.”

    “The Joker. Why would I ever want a sloth?”

    “So the sex will be more animalistic. The sloth giving it to the Care Bear.”

    “Totoro! He’s a spirit … animal… thing.”

    Skyler peered up at the clock again and watched as the secondhand began clicking away the last fifteen seconds of his life. “Or…” He playfully pushed his wife against the counter, “We can just do it here and now, while Petey’s in the John. I could go for a quickie. Feel that? I’m already half hard.”

    Bethany shoved him off. “Ugh, I’m not drunk enough for this. What part of ‘exhausted’ and ‘wet’ don’t you understand?”

    “The wet part. I thought girls liked being wet.” He chuckled, his smile widening as he watched her saggy, damp, costumed bottom stomp down the hall, moving left and up the stairs.

    He yanked open the pantry door and hauled Marie out faster than a firefighter pulling free a burn victim. “Let’s get you out of here.”

    As if on cue, her phone’s alarm sang loud and clear, from behind the stove, the 1995 Alanis Morissette hit, Ironic.

    Marie jumped. “I told you it was back there!”

    Skyler gripped one side of the stove, and Marie took the other. Together they shimmied it forward, a few inches at a time.

    “I see it!” Skyler said and bent over, stretching his arm long but struggling to touch it.

    “I love this song,” whispered Marie. “Isn’t it ironic?” she sang. “Only it’s not ironic, it’s unfortunate. The whole song is about people being unfortunate, and it has little to do with irony. Isn’t that weird?”

    “I can feel it. I almost got it!”

    “What’s back there?” rang a small, little voice.

    Marie turned. “Oh!” Her face stayed frozen with that expression a while longer, her mouth a little circle.

    Skyler finally grasped the phone and pulled it out, but remained low, kneeling in front of his son. “What’s back there, you ask? Why, it’s just my friend’s phone.” He waved the now dusty phone screen in front of Petey’s face. “And this, you see, this is my friend … Um… My friend…”

    “Catbus!” Marie said.

    Skyler frowned. “Cat … bus.”

    “Catbus? I love you!” yelled Petey, and he ran over to hug her orange, fishnet clad leg.

    Marie bent forward to hug him back, winking at Skyler as she did so. “And I love you, and I love your daddy too.”

    Upstairs Bethany yelled, “Petey, it’s bedtime!”

    “You better go find Mommy,” Skyler guided his son a few steps down the hall. He turned to mouth the word, “Catbus?”

    Marie whispered, “Yeah, you want to get up inside me and take a ride?”

    Skyler feigned shock and emphatically shook his head. “Goodbye, I’ll call you.” He gestured toward the front door.

    Upstairs Bethany had already laid out Petey’s pajamas. Petey ran ahead and into his room, jumping on his bed.

    “Mommy, Catbus was here!”

    Skyler cringed. What was it, a toy? A cartoon character of some kind? Why would Marie do this to him?

    “Catbus was here?” Bethany tugged on his pj bottoms. “And did the Catbus whisk you away to wherever you desired?”

    “No,” Petey giggled. “It just talked to me.”

    Skyler stuck his hands into his pockets and leaned against the door frame, relieved. Marie had turned herself into an imaginary character. Perfect! He liked that his son was still at an age where he believed in everything and everything was still make believe.

    “Maybe he didn’t take you anywhere because he knew you were exactly where you desired to be.” Bethany tickled Petey’s naked belly before pulling his pajama shirt down.

    Petey laughed. “Yeah, and you know what else?”

    “What?” raved his mom.

    “Catbus loves me!”

    “Well, of course he does!” She kissed his head and picked him up. “Now let’s go brush your teeth.”

    “Yup, Catbus loves me, and Catbus is a girl.”

    “Oh?” Bethany was out the door and down the hall with Skyler following close to her heels. She sat her child on the granite counter of the bathroom sink and struggled to squeeze the last of the toothpaste from its tube.

    “Yup, Catbus is a girl, and she doesn’t have a lot of legs like in the movie. She only has two legs. And they’re orange, and she’s kind of orange, but she has yellow hair like you.”

    “Catbus is a blonde?”

    “Here,” Skyler moved forward. “Let me pinch that paste off for you so we can get this brush in his mouth already. Get those toofers clean.” Skyler twisted and crushed the tube against the counter, pushing and smashing it with every ounce of muscle he could muster.

    Petey kept talking. “M’hmm, Catbus has your color hair, but it’s shorter.”

    Bethany cocked her head.

    “You know what?” Skyler asked. “We need new toothpaste, but there’s probably residual paste left on this brush, so for tonight, we’ll just dip it in some water.”

    Bethany’s gaze never left her son. “Tell me more about Catbus.”

    “She’s sparkly.” Petey floated his fingers around the air. “She has sparkles all over!”

    Bethany turned to her husband and smiled. “The Catbus creature does wear a lot of glitter, doesn’t he?”

    “Yup, a lot of glitter. Very sparkly.” Skyler turned the faucet on and ran it at full blast. “Now that’s enough imaginary silliness tonight. Here we go, open up, Petey.”

    Bethany knocked the toothbrush out of his hand. “Catbus. Isn’t. Sparkly.”

    “Okay fine, he’s not sparkly. You're the one who said he was, not me. I know nothing about this anime shit!”

    “Would you like to know about this anime shit? Would you like to know about anything that I like? That your son likes?”

    “Why are you starting an argument over nothing? It’s a cartoon. You’re clearly very tired, and it’s making you act crazy.”

    “Catbus smells kind of like you too, Mommy, but she doesn’t have the same picture on her phone as you.”

    Skyler’s eyes went wide. “It’s bedti-”

    “What picture does Catbus have on her phone?” asked Bethany, nearly screaming.

    “Daddy without his shirt on! Maybe he was swimming. Catbus must be watching us, just like the animals in the movie. She’s keeping an eye on us even when we’re swimming.”

    Bethany glared at her husband.

    “Bedtime?” asked Skyler.

    “Yeah, it’s bedtime, but you better call a bus pussy because you ain’t sleeping here.”
     
  5. Night Herald

    Night Herald The Renaissance Supporter Contributor

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    The Ballad of Donnie Loinsigh (4943)

    (Body horror, adult language and themes)



    The town of Bogwater does not so much celebrate Halloween as withstand it. Anyone stupid enough to ring a doorbell on October 31st stands to be greeted not by bowls of candy, but by two barrels of buckshot. There are no such people, of course. This highly localized form of social Darwinism took that particular gene right out of the running, along with the genes responsible for dressing up in costumes and going outside.

    Well, that's not the whole truth. People do go outside, but not to troll for sweets or egg houses. They only wear costumes insofar as combat armor is a kind of costume, and the heavy automatic weapons they carry are decidedly not toys. The Bogwater philosophy re: things that go bump in the night is to bump first, real fucking hard, and keep on bumping until the bastard stops moving. This is not as much of an adjustment from everyday life as one might think.

    The Yuletide Massacre of twenty-thirteen came this close to wiping Bogwater off the surface of those few maps that bothered with it in the first place. Since then, the town has been heavily militarized. City Hall has been lobbying for years to get state funding for a huge wall, but for the moment they make do with angry citizen and big guns—the traditional Bogwater approach to “law” and “order”.

    Thing is, far from everyone wants that wall up. The supernatural problem is just plain good for the economy. It may not have actually put Bogwater on any maps, but word does get around. Hell Hunters come from near and far to ply their trade. Arms dealers, legit and otherwise, make a killing year round. There's even been an upswing in tourism. Ergo, powerful forces are working to keep thing as they are, largely motivated by communal growth and the growing of certain personal bank accounts.

    Then there are people like Donald “Donnie” Loinsigh, young lieutenant of the Chapel Bend Boys, who just likes shooting things.



    The Chapel Bend Boys were wrapping up their traditional Halloween pregame. This meant murdering a few crates of beer at the feet of Dolores Finnegan and Samuel Dawson's memorial statues in the Bogwater museum.

    The statues were of dark wood carved into shape by some local talent. They were twice life-sized, and larger than life in other ways. Take the sheer nastiness of Dolores' scowl, for one. Her face was ugly in the way you only see on television, and most usually in cheaply made monster flicks from the seventies. She'd been ugly in life, that was true, but in the random way that is the accumulation of many little insults courtesy of time and circumstance. And there had been a comely enough face down there below all that hard wear, so they said. The artist certainly hadn't done her any flatteries. Like most people, Donnie hadn't known her all that close, but he didn't think it looked much like her. More like some hypothetical, equally mean-tempered cousin of hers might.

    He knew Samuel well enough, though. The old bartender was rendered here in a heroic pose with shotgun and crucifix, like some ancient general or a conqueror from the Age of Discovery. That weren't right. Sammy had been a man of slouches and shuffles and bone-weary sighs, dogged more than stoic. Whoever done the statues got one thing right, though. It really captured the sadness in his eyes.

    The night watchman came by from time to time to stop and stare and frown at his watch. The museum was supposed to close four hours ago, but when all you've got is a big flashlight you tend to cut some slack to drunken hooligans with military-grade automatic weapons and no impulse control to speak of.

    “Can I take this for a spin?” Brendan Doyle inquired of the watchman. His fat nose was flattened against the display case housing the Bouncer, Sammy Dawson's fabled pump-action shotgun. It was still caked with grime and the blood of its owner. “I hear tell its kept loaded outta like respect or whatnot?”

    “You get away from there,” Donnie said with a snap of his fingers, much to the watchman's relief. “That there's a holy relic far as you're concerned, you damned heathen you. I swear, you'd just as soon plunge your toilet with the Spear o' Destiny.”

    “Ain't my fault it gets clogged,” Brendan whined. “I've got digestive troubles.”

    In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty... I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone...”

    The moment everyone had dreaded had come at last; Dougal Mac Lochlainn was singing. He had a voice like an industrial metal shredder. Donald decided that enough was enough.

    “Time to go, boys.” Donnie staggered to his feet, leaning on young Mickey Reid, who looked like Chucky from them movies. His head was buzzing, and his legs were a little weak. He decided to sit back down a spell.

    “Don't forget to rub her tit for luck,” said Seamus Reid, who looked like Chucky with a mullet. He was of course talking about the statue of Dolores Finnegan, which admittedly didn't have much in the way of tits.

    Dougal, ever prone to misunderstanding things in his favor, leered at fair Erin Braughe's chest instead. He took a shambling step towards her, but stopped dead in his tracks. Her knife was suddenly out, tickling his balls.

    “Go on, have yourself a feel. I'll make me a nice set o' earrings from your stones, wear 'em at your funeral.”

    Dougal grinned, all beard and filthy teeth, and went to make a pass at Dolores instead. He slipped two fingers into the gap between her legs and rubbed vigorously, grunting and wheezing like a pig what got the asthma.

    “Careful you don't get splinters now,” Seamus called, laughing like the jolly young fool he was. Donnie shook his head, cussed under his breath, and begged the Lord for forgiveness. He stood again, assault rifle in hand.

    “Jesus Christ, Mac Lochlainn, you're depraved. Nasty God-damned animal, you are. Cut it out right now. You'll be comporting yourself with some respect, I tell you, or bloody else...”

    Douglas unhanded the statue, but Donnie wasn't finished.

    “That's Dolly Finnegan, that is. God-damned saint! There's to be no blaspheming, not on my watch, not if it be ever so amusing. Besides, my da used to shag her, so she's practically me mum.”

    “I ain't recognize no uncanonized saints,” Dougal said with a sniffle, “But I'll leave it be.”

    “You'd best,” Donnie said. “They saved this rotten town, she and Sammy. Them and our brethren, rest in peace amen. We're Chapel Bend Boys! That means we hold to a certain standard, Dougal, you beast.”

    There was a loud ruckus of cheering and a surge of pride by association. A stray round punched a hole in the ceiling. The poor night watchman tore at his hair.

    Round about eight o'clock they finally evacuated the museum. Outside it was proper moody autumn weather, all darkness and windblown drizzle, the clouded left half of a bright moon, streets carpeted in crunchy red and brown. The fresh air hit Donnie like a mallet and sobered him up a touch.

    She wheeled her wheelbarrow through the streets broad and narrow! Crying cockles and mussels alive alive oh!”

    “Christ on the Cross, Dougal, you'll be desisting right now.”

    The streets were quiet and quite empty. The only ones still out were those as had no place else to be.

    “Can you spare some cutter, me brothers?” howled one filthy old drunk from the gutter. Lucky for him, he was ignored.

    Donnie's crew had the patrol from the museum on Main Street all the way to the junction where it met Arkham and Sixth. There they ran into another band of hunters.

    “Well if it ain't the Chapel Benders,” said one.

    “Evening, Fergus,” said Donnie. “All quiet down your way?”

    Fergus Mallory of the Sixth Street Shamrocks slung his gun onto his shoulder, then conjured a cigarette from somewhere and stuck it into his wild mess of beard. Presumably there was a mouth somewhere.

    “Quiet as unto the grave. And you lot?”

    “Naught but bums out. Nip o' craythur?”

    Donnie handed his flask of whiskey across the street border, a gesture which if not for the Halloween Truce would be about as clever as waving your hand in North Korean airspace and shout that you ain't touching. The two men shared a quiet drink.

    “Evening's young.” Fergus said, handing back the bottle for the final time. “It's roundabout at midnight them ghouls and things like to come out.”

    “Might be they learnt their lesson last year.”

    “That'll be the day. Thank you kindly for the drop. Now you boys saunter back down your way and leave Sixth Street be.”

    “Be seeing you, Fergus.”

    “Not if I see you first you ain't. ”

    Back down Main Street, Donnie's eyes caught on a dark figure in a dark alley between a German delicatessen and a Russian laundromat. The thing was short, with a huge deformed head.

    “Jesus, kid, what's wrong with you? Don't you know it's Halloween?”

    The kid took a step forward, into the very edge of a streetlamp's light. He or she was wearing a fussy orange one piece and a too-large mask of some snarling Oriental demon.

    “What kind of fools do you have for parents?”

    The kid made no reply except to tilt its grotesque head. Then he or she ran giggling into the alley.

    “Oh fuck me,” Brendan said. “That little idiot is gonna get himself killed.”

    “How you know he ain't a she?” said Erin.

    Brendan shook his head. “Girls got better sense than all that.”

    Donnie sighed and spat. “You, Wonder Twins, get after it. Safeties on, yeah?” Mickey and Seamus shared a look, then went.

    “Brendan, Doyle, wait here. Erin, with me. We'll go round back.”

    No sooner had they rounded the corner than they heard gunfire. Bang, bang, silence. A scream, quickly cut off. The wet, sloppy sound of tearing flesh. Something thudding on concrete. And underneath and above it all there came a skittering ululation, a shrill and otherworldly brittle sort of a keening that no human or animal throat ever made.

    Suddenly more than sober in his head, Donnie broke into a run, but however clear his mind his body and most especially his legs were still clumsy drunk and he bungled his step and almost fell and cracked his skull on the street. Erin caught him by the arm and hauled him along, then he shook free and was ahead of her again.

    Seamus staggered from the mouth of the alley. He was pale by nature, but now he was white as a sheet. His mullet, soaked in blood, had gone a deeper shade of red. He was mewling, his eyes rolling back in his skull, a long string of drivel hanging from his open mouth.

    Donnie skidded to a halt. Erin bumped into him. She gasped, “Sweet Jesus, you seen his arm?”

    Said limb was stiff against Seamus' side, and hung down further than was healthy. The area around the elbow was shredded, bent, all crimson, underarm dangling from mere sinew and skin curled like apple peelings.

    “Help me,” Seamus moaned. Something bulbous rippled under the skin of his face. Bone snapped as his body twisted into new and fascinating shapes. He made a pitiful sound of helpless agony as his ribcage expanded with a loud crack and a torrent of blood gushed from his mouth.

    “Help me,” Seamus moaned again, his voice thick and inhuman. “Help me, help me,” he said again and again, the words clotting with every utterance. “Help me glelp me gelpmefelpmegheeeemphegh!”

    His tongue crawled out of his mouth and fell to the ground, then crawled some more. His neck swelled and bruised, pumping like a great big nasty heart, flushing out bile from gaping sores opening from within. Seamus shrieked and convulsed as he sprouted a new arm to replace his ruined one. This was a long, thin, twisted affair ending in a vicious taloned hand, its slimy, bumpy skin the greenish-purple color of spoiling meat. All his flesh rotted to black and sloughed away in soggy stinking clumps and sprouted legs and crawled away, but there was new flesh underneath, all slick and weird and wrong and purple.

    God. The smell of the thing. The sounds that it made. The shapes that made it up. The change had taken only seconds, and it was complete. Whatever this thing was that stood in Seamus' place defied description. It seemed a budget movie prop made of silly string and compost with bits of spider, bits of squid, and bits of bat. It bore no resemblance to Seamus except for the mullet which was inexplicably still attached. In other circumstances, Donnie might have laughed at the sight. Now all he could do was cover his mouth and puke into his hand.

    The Seamus-thing shrieked and swung its monstrous arm at Donnie. The blow would have popped his head like a blister, but it was slow, clumsy, as though poor Seamus was not quite wrestled out of the driver's seat just yet. It was this and this alone that saved Donnie's life as he backpedaled, fumbling with the safety on his rifle. His mind was still reeling from the horror, so that it felt only half-real, almost like if he were sitting at home, smoking a couple joints, watching the whole thing happen on television.

    Erin was the first to find her head again. She screamed, unloading her entire clip at the thing at full auto at point-blank range. Her gun got away from her, stitching a crooked line up the laundromat wall.

    Nastily bright blood splashed her face. She dropped her gun and screamed as her flesh turned to vapor. She clasped her hands over her face, fusing skin with skin. When she took her hands away, her face came with. It ran like molten cheese through her fingers.

    Donnie puked down his shirt and fled into the night.



    Bogwater's small, ineffectual police force had barricaded themselves in the station house for the occasion. They were watching scary movies. Squeezed into a Slutty Pocahontas two sizes too small, Sergeant Roy Smith was making popcorn.

    “That skirt is a war crime,” Thomas Foley said, shaking his head.

    “Don't keep looking up it then, you perv,” Roy said and scratched his hairy cheek.

    “Shush, I'm watching the movie.” Henry Delany leaned forward in the couch.

    Watching movies had been his idea. He'd made the list, and brought the discs from his private collection. He resented the others for not paying enough attention, especially now that they were watching The Thing. Henry was wearing a very elaborate, very rigid Xenomorph costume of plastic covered in glistening black latex. It made it all but impossible to sit, and more than once Thomas had threatened to cut the tail off if it got in his eyes one more bloody time.

    Mostly fiddling with his phone, Thomas was the worst offender when it came to ignoring the movie. Laura Sullivan was not far behind.

    “Is that guy the thing?” she asked yet again, with the same utter disinterest as before. She was chewing gum and twirling her hair. She was in her uniform, but claimed to have dressed up as a stripper cop. Dressed up, she'd explained to the sergeant more than once, assuring him that at no point in the evening would her clothes come off, slowly, to music.

    A couple blocks away, somebody was shooting something. The phone rang. On his way back from the kitchen, Roy Smith picked up the horn only to slam it back down.

    “Hey now,” Henry said. “That might've been important.”

    “I'm off duty, see if I give a runny shit,” Roy said, inhaling a fistful of popcorn. “Move over. Who's the thingamajig now?”

    Henry sighed. He needed better colleagues. Better friends, come to that. He really ought to have one set of each, and not a bunch of borderline strangers who served as surrogates for both. Five months now he'd lived in Bogwater, and he couldn't recall a single conversation that wasn't a function of his job. Mighty strange place, and the people were even stranger. Sullen and reclusive and chronically depressed, was his general impression, at least of those who weren't violently psychotic.

    He looked at Laura in what he hoped was a stealthy fashion. Since being transferred, the closest he'd come to a date was arresting hookers. It wasn't dating he missed so much as the stuff it might lead to. Laura was a kind of woman. This fact was not lost on Henry. Bogwater women scared him and weren't generally anything like his type, but she wasn't as bad as some. Oh, sure, she had that same tired look as anyone who'd lived there a while. She was loud, and untidy, and to all appereances not very bright or particularly interesting. But she was a woman.

    He'd thought several times about asking her out, only to immediately change his mind. She was probably sick of looking at his face all day. Stood to reason, as he was kind of sick of looking at hers. And for all he knew she was happily married, or maybe even a lesbian. Maybe he ought to get to know her before he did anything rash.

    But why bother? Why risk it? He didn't fancy the thought of being rejected by a woman he didn't really want in the first place, for any other reason than the fact she was a woman. No, he was enough of a clown around the office already.

    He should have known to keep his ass in Arkham.

    “Going out for some air,” Henry said as the credits rolled around. He didn't bother with his coat, as forcing it onto the Xenomorph costume was more work than he was willing to put in. He did grab his cigarettes.

    Filthy habit, he thought resentfully as he stepped into the freezing autumn air. Seven years he'd gone without a puff. Then three weeks in Bogwater and he was back up to ten a day. Now he smoked twenty at least, and kept a fifth of scotch in his desk drawer. Damn but he needed to get laid, and soon.

    He huffed and shuddered as he struggled to get a light with his God-damned latex claws. He could hear the gunshots more clearly now.

    They'd tried to explain the town's unique situation to him, with particular emphasis on Halloween. Even now he was convinced they were pulling his leg. Ha-ha, look at this clueless fucking city slicker, he thinks monsters are real. How gullible could they possibly think he was?

    It irked him that nobody seemed to take Halloween seriously. Well, they took it very seriously in their own peculiar way, even if it was all for his benefit. There were no decorations in the streets, not a one lousy pumpkin. He hadn't seen a single kid in costume. You could hardly get a costume around here. But they did tell a lot of scary stories, especially that one about somebody named Dolores who'd stopped a local zombie apocalypse.

    Henry shook his Xeno-head and chuckled. Funny how a thing like that hadn't made it on the news. How God-damned stupid did they think he was?

    He sighed, tossing his smoke into the night. This wasn't proper Halloween. But it was Halloween of a kind. At least the weather was nice and gloomy.

    There was more gunfire. Somewhere up on Arkham street, he reckoned.

    It irked him even more so that people were running around playing with firearms as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Probably roaring drunk, the lot of them. He'd received strict orders not to do a damned thing about it, of course. Was it possible that they'd hired some deadbeats to fire off blanks in the night, just for the sake of playing a trick on him? They weren't much clever about their jokes, these Bogwaterians, but they sure as hellfire worked hard at it.

    Henry was going back inside when he heard the scream. Everything rational in his mind said it was just someone having a laugh, but something deeper in him recognized the sheer panic to it. Henry shuddered, went back inside, and locked the door.



    Donnie ran screaming against the bitter wind. His piss-soaked pants were getting stiff and cold, his shirt was crusted with drying puke. God almighty, the stench of him. His eyes were wet and foggy, damn near blind, running, hoisting up his heavy pants, everything dark, streetlamps no help. Where was his gun? Where was he?

    Cold air burned his lips. Wind roared in his ears. Horrors danced before his eyes in sickening loops. God, Erin's face! The thing with Seamus' mullet! Erin's face, like cheese! Had he seen wrong, or did the damned creature crawl away in a hundred pieces? Had those globby little crabs and spiders been real? God, what was real anymore? What had happened to Doyle and Brendan? God, Brendan couldn't outrun a slug, not with a half-hour head start and a bucket of cocaine!

    Donnie laughed at the thought. He had to laugh. What else was there?

    He slammed into a door. He didn't know which door. He began beating on it.

    “Help, in the name of the Lord, open up, the Day of Reckoning is on us!”

    He hoped this was the church, for only in the house of God might one find sanctuary from such devils!

    The door swung open and another monster lunged at him, all shark-grin and slick pornographic carapace. Donnie screamed and tried to flee but the monster seized him and pulled him inside.

    He went limp as the monster pushed him into a chair. No breath in him to fight, no sense trying. He began to blurt out his sins but knew he wouldn't get halfway done before it bit his head in two.

    There were other monsters coming now, almost looked perfectly human but Donnie wasn't fooled, these were agents of Satan come to tease and torment him at the end, oh God, they had come for to take him to the pit... These thoughts and others like them ran howling through the derelict tenements of his mind.

    He saw the first monster reach up to tear its own head off, it sickened him, he couldn't look, he looked aside and saw something like a great hairy maneating ogre, God, the terror, the beast was wearing... Pocahontas?

    “Is that you there, Donald Loinsigh? Would you look at the state of you!”

    Donnie blinked and dried his eyes. He knew that voice. Fragments of dizzy memory rattled through his skull. Drunk. Dark. Bathroom stall in a pub, he couldn't remember which. Quick, sweaty, dirty sex. Grunting. Impure smells. Boxers around his ankles, almost tripping. Bad morning after. Headache. Shame.

    “Laura? What... What's happening?”

    “How about we ask the questions, buddy?” The first monster was holding its head in its arms, and had sprouted a dweebish little human face on top. It was this face that spoke to him now. “I'm thinking drunk and disorderly for a start.”

    “Leave off it,” Laura snapped. “What's going on out there?”

    Telling himself that it wasn't really snitching, Donnie told them everything. The fellow in the Alien suit looked at him like he was demented, but the other coppers were serious and seriously terrified. They were local. They knew.

    “I don't know what happened to two of my boys,” Donnie finished. “I don't know what else to say, I ain't ever seen a thing like it in all my sinful life.”

    “You need to sleep off whatever it is you're on,” said the Alien. “We've got some cozy padded cells—”

    “You'll stand down, officer, and that's an order.” For once in his life, sergeant Smith acted his rank. The Alien was baffled.

    “He ain't from round here,” said Laura with a shrug, then turned to the sergeant. “We gotta go out there and shut this shit down.”

    Donnie stared at her. “Ain't you hear what I said, you mad bitch?”

    She slapped him, hard. He was about to complain, but on second thought he deserved it. Some Chapel Bend Boy he turned out to be, wanting to hide in a cell. He wouldn't do that, he swore, not while there was vengeance to be had.

    And so it came to pass that a message was sent out to every radio in Bogwater, to the tune of “Arm yourselves and get to work”.

    Donnie, having been sworn in as a temporary officer and given a gun, lead the BWPD to the crime scene, if it could be called that when the only crime perpetrated was against nature. There was only slag left, and bullet holes, and the metal ruin of an assault rifle.

    Donnie bit back the urge to puke again. He crossed himself.

    “I don't know what happened with Erin,” he said. “She was here. I reckon maybe she... changed as well.”

    Donnie boy...

    Donnie's blood turned to ice. He knew that good-for-nothing singing voice. He turned to see a gangly shape wobbling in the dark.

    Donnie boy... The pipes, the pipes are caaa-all-ling...”

    “God, Mac Lochlainn, what've they done to you?”

    The bearded thing grinned, twisted teeth oozing with red slaver.

    “Can't you heard it, brother mine?” it gasped. “The song of the stars... The Hive! The veil is parted, I see so clearly. Listen to the pipes! Come and let me teach you.”

    “You'll wanna shot that,” Donnie said, taking aim. “Before it comes much closer.”

    The BWPD lit up the night. Dougal disintegrated. They shot the pieces, too, but some got away.



    Here it might be beneficial to leave our intrepid heroes and take a wider perspective on things. Otherwise, how would we see the hundreds of blaspheming un-creatures hobbling or slithering or stalking or swarming towards them from every side?

    Let's nip over to Sixth Street, where Fergus Mallory is dragging himself up some stairs. His legs, or what remains of them, are sizzling at the kneecaps. The man knows a lost cause when he sees one, but he is not in charge. A wild animal panic drives him to seek shelter. They are swarming him. They are building in his flesh. He is not going to make the second flight. His men are dead.

    At the Bogwater Museum, a lone night watchman has done theft on that which he is supposed to watch. With him as its partner, the Bouncer dances its final dance. It roars and spits bright fire. A fanciful mind might like to think that the statue of Samuel Dawson, standing witness to it all, is smiling. Whatever the case, its eyes remain profoundly sad. Dolores has nothing to add. She barely cared even when she was alive.

    Brendan Doyle has found a strength he did not suspect was in him. With fear came inspiration and speeds undreamt of. But now that strength is spent, and those thick legs tremble. There is no more breath. There is not another drop of sweat in him. He can see them coming through the trees in the park. There is one bullet still in the gun. Brendan has made sure of that; he is smarter than they give him credit for. There is only one way one bullet can make a difference now.

    Henry Delaney's last thoughts are washed away in a sea of senseless agony. He has no mind left with which to think them. But if he had a choice, he last thought might have been that he should have known to keep his ass in Arkham. His second to last would probably be that he should have asked Laura out when there was a chance. She's not so bad. Not so bad at all. Before that, he might have mused on how he ought to have listened to the stories. Perhaps. No sense dwelling on it now.

    Hell Hunters, old and young, understand which way the wind is blowing. They flee into the woods at their earliest convenience. They do not flee back out.

    City Hall falls in moments. The thing that was the mayor gibbers at the moon while spawning its young. Arkham Street is gone. Sixth Street is gone. All streets are gone. Chapel Bend is a festering stain. Bogwater, the town that has endured so much, has endured its last.

    Perhaps this has always been understood. Perhaps this is why so few map-makers have bothered. Whatever the case, this will not make the news. But word will spread. People in the know will know. A new generation of Hell Hunters will take up arms against the darkness. They may not be many. They may not be any good. They may not last long enough to realize that there are better ways to make a living. But they will hear, and they will come.

    One man rises from the ashes. He will be their messenger and their prophet. He will be quite mad; his heart is much harder, but his brain's gone soft as dough. He will be mad, but he will not be wrong. He will gather them, and he will lead them, quite possibly astray and almost certainly to their graves.

    Somehow, some way, Donnie Loinsigh makes his escape in a hotwired Pontiac Phoenix. He does not have enough sense left to reflect on the poetry in his choice of chariot.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
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  6. Bobby Burrows

    Bobby Burrows Senior Member

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    TRUE STORIES REMEMBERED (1234 words)

    Once I saw this lone grassy hill, and at the top of this hill, stood a tree.
    I stared, gazing at what I could see and could see this tree had an apple, a piece of fruit hanging from its branch.
    One lone green apple hanging from this tree.
    It was dark, though I could see the tree was green, the grass flourished it, was beautiful - even at night.
    Suddenly, I saw a mighty lightening bolt hit this tree, striking that apple and the apple dropped, and fell, and rolled down the hill, towards me before stopping and when it stopped I could see.
    It wasn't an apple at all, it was a hedgehog, a little woodland creature, evidently killed by that lightening that struck, and to my horror – I knew its death signaled the death of life.
    The ground flourished no more, everything was burnt like the hedgehog, the ground, behind me, all around, everywhere on the horizon was charcoal, super heated and dead, and the sky was on fire.

    There was a time where I was taken to my grave in this cemetery by my mother and told I was special and I shouldn't be alive but then God stepped in and changed something and here I was, 31 years later soon to be 32 looking at my grave of when I died as a baby. It was the grave of an infant and sure enough, it was mine, but I was also a man visiting his own infant grave. Upon reflection of it immediately after the fact was one of 'which cemetery were other people in?'
    Rather strange after thought but I thought of this cemetery across town, where a legend remains, and in a weird twist of fate, I was shown my own grave on the anniversary of another legend's death who died in this town, and I can't help but pray to this legend anyway, and felt a little closer to this legend since I saw my own grave, and the only thing I could get from visiting my own grave, was, that I am me, this is God's plan, and I am special, but I should realise and understand, that I'm also dead, a dead baby, and I shouldn't really get to be.
    I've performed and composed, that's not a problem, sometimes what I play is the same, sometimes it's not, but I've got every reference be it a cover song or something I know known only to me.
    But that's normality, that's fine when that happens but once. That's more me, that's a bonus, I like it when that happens but, they're not really lucid, I am not that lucky.

    Often I'm in transit, but I never seem to arrive at my destination, it's the strangest thing.
    Sometimes I never seem to actually board, but I'd be on board some red eye flight, a 'night flight' just enjoying the flight.
    I tell a lie - actually, sometimes I have arrived I remember now, but often, I'm in transit.
    I've crashed once into the North Atlantic aboard an airliner, that was scary.
    I've crossed the ocean by steamers before too, such a grand arrival, once tragic, and I was a refugee just turned back or never made it, looking for what little I had fore I only remember arriving and the baggage hall and I think it was my boat, this ship, it sank, it was day break but the skies were grey and their was a winter storm out to sea I remember and the ocean was green or grey, like the overcast skies white with a hint of grey.
    Nice cozy check in desks at airports or big expanses of check in desks, I remember those but I never seem to make my destination. It's the darnedest thing now that I think about it,
    I've only ever arrived by ocean, and took off by aeroplane.
    I remember all manners of ports I've used, always in the same places, to go to the same places pretty much. I remember once I found myself at the grocery store and noticed the local currency in the cash register to realise what country I was in, and I didn't remember going, but, sure enough, I was there and I was travelling.

    I wake up, of course, to a the world of realities you can't write, because nobody would believe them.

    I have a half brother, first born of my father's offspring, says he met the devil on top of a mountain in Italy once, of course, I was sceptical I mean, I wonder what he was smoking. I'm my father's and my mother's youngest born, and when I went to Amsterdam for the first time, I played a funky guitar that had strings of barbed wire, and it was cool and the dude was so cool, I honestly thought if I was a local, I'd like to be this guy's friend, and he was one of two people in that country who let this guitarist play on their instruments who I asked, and he said
    "Call me Satan.”
    And now, because of that, I can now no longer say I haven't jammed with Satan in Europe/on the continent. I was back in London having immersed myself in the Dutch culture and Amsterdam, back on home turf, middle of the big city at night, bigger than Amsterdam, when I ran for my bus, and remembered jamming with Satan in Amsterdam a day before, and when I caught up to my bus stop, I saw a queue of people getting on the bus, and, forgot how busy London was, but thankful to get on my bus. It was when the bus passed Waterloo Station that night when my homecoming sank in, because I had given up trying to be at home and decided to head home, and return the next day, I found being on that bus triggered something and felt at home while coming home in London to where I live.

    I wake up to horrors of one day waking up on the street. The very real horror that makes me want to go back to sleep. This cold time of year, doesn't help my fear, of not finding work, a fear of being employed but homeless.
    Fears of things of which might be beyond my control, being powerless to stop the inevitable when I've seen doors closed to me, and sacred releases defiled by their creators. I've seen art sold for profit and YouTube videos blocked from my country or deleted due to copyright. I've seen the good times, and tomorrow, I don't know. An educated guess can say it won't be so good, but I don't know. Whoever said I knew, were lying.

    Watching Christmas stories around Halloween, a white man from a black neighbourhood, a straight man from a gay neighbourhood, I am me, and I am proud, for I rock, and so does this town, love life, even if it's just a memory, I'm not exactly normal, and so far, this hasn't helped me, but when normal is scary, when normal isn't for me, I'd always be, me.

    Confined to a life I thought I understood but am powerless to stop my destiny, destined for the municipal rosebush in the cemetery where ashes of the dreamers unloved, the place I'm bound to rest for eternity.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  7. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
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    Where You'll End Up (2,026 words)

    “You keep that up, young man, and we’ll see where you end up!”
    Miss Esme Leitner stood over the student sitting--- if any sane person could call that sitting-- with one leg flung over his desk and the other sticking defiantly into the aisle. It wouldn’t be the first time Trevor Callahan had refused to obey her, and it wouldn’t be the last.
    “So where’s that, Miss L?” he sneered. His friend Jaswon Simpson guffawed.
    “You’ll see! Now sit up straight and do your work!”
    Trevor raised her blood pressure, just looking at him. The kid was an irritating redhead, and he’d compounded the offense by shaving the sides of his head and letting the resultant Mohawk grow long enough to braid. The plait stuck out the back of his head like a teapot handle, and he’d woven all sorts of disgusting things into it, chicken bones and nails and other trash. He favored heavy metal band t-shirts and spike-studded jackets, and wore his trousers so tight he looked like a skeleton.
    “I got a right to sit any way I want,” Trevor said lazily. “Freedom of expression. It’s in the Constitution.”
    This little hoodlum wouldn’t know what was in the Constitution if it hit him over the head.
    “Yeah, Miss L,” said Jaswon. “He ain’t doin’ nothin’.”
    Miss Leitner balled her fists to keep from striking him. Jaswon’s trick had been to shave his head close, then carve four-letter words into what was left, altered just enough so the school administration would let him slide. And those pants of his were about to slide, the way he wore the waistband below his rear. Like a clownish costume. It nearly made her scream.
    “Mr. Simpson, you keep out of this. Your friend Trevor is about to take a trip to the office, and if you don’t want to join him—”
    “Ooooooh, Miss L’s gettin’ mad!” chimed in Ally Rednick, her spangled top cut so low you could practically see her belly button from the neckline. The little whore had bleached her naturally-dark hair, re-dyed it magenta, and scraped it up in an infuriating ponytail that sprayed down like a purple fountain. “Hey, everybody, look at Miss L! Her face is getting red! What ya gonna do, Miss L, send us all to the office? Mr. Allen won’t like that, will he?”
    Of course he wouldn’t. Mr. Allen, her asshole principal, would just give them his canned speech about school pride, and send them back to class.
    “Miss Rednick, you zip it up and get back to work, this minute! You’ll end up in a bad place if you don’t straighten up, young lady! I’m sick and tired of all of you! You’re all behaving like s—” Savages, she was about to say, but in these politically-correct days, she didn’t dare. “Like silly little kindergartners!”
    “Miss L’s gettin’ mad! Miss L’s gettin’ mad!” Ally and Jaswon chanted, and Trevor, his face twisted up in an impudent smirk, joined in. The rest of the too-large class hooted and laughed, some of them chanting too.
    “You be that way,” Miss Leitner shouted, “you’ll end up in a bad place. You’ll see!”
    Pointedly ignoring the catcalls behind her, she stalked back to her desk to write up three more Detention reports. Thank heaven she wouldn’t have to supervise those young fiends on Saturday morning. Asshole Allen must really hate her, the way he’d deliberately assigned Simpson, Callahan, and Rednick to her Social Studies classes the past three years. They were seniors now, thank the stars. If their work was anything like last year’s, they’d all deserve to fail, but Allen would be jerk enough to make her take them again if they had to repeat.
    Three years with that trio was enough. Forty years trying to cram knowledge into shiftless, careless, snotnosed skulls was more than enough. Eight months, one week, and four days, and she’d see the back of Callahan, Simpson, and Rednick forever. Two years more and Miss Leitner could retire. When that happened, she fervently hoped she’d never have to deal with a high school student again.

    ***
    The 31st of October, and Miss Leitner was ecstatic. The night was peaceful, it was quiet, and from where she stood on her front porch, there was not a jack-o’-lantern or a Halloween decoration in sight.
    The view hadn’t been so satisfying a year ago, before she retired. Before she inherited her aunt’s place in the country, she’d lived in town. No, she corrected herself, she had existed in town, and only did that because the school board made it clear that was where they expected their teachers’ homes to be.
    And Halloween was the worst. Asshole Allen, sucking up to the board, always insisted that his teachers be at home on Halloween night to hand out candy to the little freeloaders who showed up at their doors. It wasn’t as if it weren’t enough for Miss Leitner and her colleagues to put up with the kids’ terrible behavior all day then waste evening after evening planning lessons the young cretins would never learn and grading the papers they were too illiterate to write. No. She had to prove she was involved. Which on a cold Halloween night meant jumping out of her warm chair time after time to open the door to greedy brats in their silly costumes, their sticky hands thrust out. “Trick or treat!”
    No more. Now she had inherited this sweet little property five miles out of town. The house sat in a clearing in the woods, a good hundred yards off the county road. No trick or treaters ever came here; her late aunt had assured her of that long ago.
    Miss Leitner turned on her favorite news channel and settled into her chair. The feature was an interview with an expert on Middle Eastern affairs. When he mentioned terrorists she had to laugh. That pasty-faced, ivory-tower stuffed shirt thought he knew terrorists. Poor fool, Miss Leitner thought, you haven’t truly met terrorists until you’ve had to deal with Callahan, Simpson, and Rednick.
    She’d been right about them, of course. Before they were nineteen, she’d heard, one or both of the boys had done time in jail, and the girl, Ally, was pregnant with a baby out of wedlock. Miss Leitner never knew who the father was, or what became of the child, and she didn’t care. Those hellions were ending up in a bad place, and it was just what they deserved.
    She got up and opened the door. The night was mild, unusually so for mid-autumn. The empty driveway curved into the trees, pale in the moonlight. For just a moment the emptiness made her tremble, and she rebuked herself out loud as if she were one of her own students.
    “Don’t be an ignorant fool. Nobody and nothing there means just that. Nothing is there, because nothing is supposed to be there. And that’s how you want it.”
    As she turned to go in, something made a noise in the gravel a few yards from the house. She turned, for a moment breathless.
    “Esme, you’d think you were hoping for trick or treaters.”
    Foolish. Still, the little ones hadn’t been so bad. They were almost cute in their costumes. Especially the ones who were so flustered about saying their “Trick or treat!” line that they forgot to take any candy.
    The awful ones were the big kids, the ones in secondary school. They seldom bothered with costumes. They just pushed their way up to her door in their everyday baggy pants and skull hoodies, their midriff tops and their yoga pants, and yelled “Trick or treat!” and held out jumbo-sized pillow cases to be filled, like the barbarians they were.
    Thank the stars she wouldn’t have to put up with them tonight. Not anymore. Not here. Nothing except a peaceful night, all hers to enjoy.
    A thin cloud had crossed over the moon, and through its haze the light glowed dimly. From the trees that edged the drive a flight of bats rose, wheeled, and flew towards her. She flinched as they lofted higher and swooped over the house. Stupid of her to react like that. Bats were good and useful animals that kept the insect population down— more useful, really, than most people. Just as it was silly for her to shudder when a chill breeze played with the hairs on the back of her neck. The warmth had gone out of the evening, that was all. Tonight she’d put the comforter on the bed.
    As she stood there, the wind strengthened, pushing across the sky a heavier layer of cloud that blanked out the moonlight. Dry leaves skittered across the gravel of the drive, reminding her of spiders.
    “That’s quite enough of that, Esme!” she commanded herself. Behind her on the TV, a panel was dissecting the latest Washington scandal. Closing the door, she turned back to enjoy the fun, when the program went silent and the lights went out.
    How provoking. The power sometimes did go out when the winds blew high, but it was just too clichéd that it should happen on Halloween.
    Miss Leitner looked at her cell phone. It was just a little after nine, the time in past years when the high school trick or treaters would be hitting her doorstep in force. This year, she didn’t need to worry about them. In fact, she might as well go to bed. The power would likely be back on in the morning.
    ***
    No telling how long the knocking on the door had gone on before Miss Leitner heard it. She was not sure she heard it now; it could have been a sound in her dreams. Something told her it was happening in her dreams, so nothing surprised her less than to find herself climbing out of bed, putting on her slippers and robe, and passing through the darkened house to the front door.
    The knocking continued, sounded louder.
    She opened the door.
    Outside on the porch, seeming to shimmer luridly in the light from the declining moon, were three figures. One, a preternaturally thin male, appeared to have the left side of his chest blasted away. The eyes in his skull-like head were dark and sunken, and from his red Mohawk sprang a braid like a teapot handle, studded with bones and nails and smeared with brownish blood. The neck of the black youth next to him was twisted nearly backwards, displaying a head of shorn hair carved with words so terrible even Miss Leitner, with all her studies, had never heard of them. The belly of the purple-haired girl seemed to have been cut away, and by one leg she dangled a blueish doll— oh, it had to be a doll!— that stared at Miss Leitner out of one eye as no doll and no living baby ever could.
    This isn’t funny, she wanted to say. I don’t know how you did those costumes, but get off my porch. Off my property!
    “Miss L,” said the red-haired figure. “We wanted to show you.”
    “You’re coming with us,” said the pale black apparition, its head hanging crookedly over its shoulder.
    “Right now,” said the eviscerated girl.
    Esme, Miss Leitner pleaded with herself, wake up! Wake up!
    Cold hands took her by the arms, pulled her down the porch steps and hurried her along the gravel of the drive.
    “You wanted to see, didn’t you?” said the girl, though her lips didn’t move. With every step the head of the lifeless baby hit the ground, but its stare at Miss Leitner never once wavered.
    What had she wanted to see? Maybe if she remembered she could wake up before they reached the woods.
    “You remember, Miss L,” said the boy with the missing heart.
    Oh, God, she mustn’t let them take her into the trees!
    “It’s too late, Miss L.” “No excuses, Miss L." "It's only what you deserve."
    As they dragged her into the darkness, as one, the three voices spoke:
    “The bad place, remember, Miss L? We’re going to show you where we ended up.”
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
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