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13 Stories of Halloween: Running Late

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“We’re going to be late!” Joseph yelled up the stairs. He heard the closet door slam shut, followed by footsteps shuffling over to the stairs. Eventually, Jenna appeared, still trying to put one boot on as she navigated the stairway.

“Haven’t you ever heard of being fashionably late? No one’s going to care if we’re not there on the dot.”

“This is less on the dot, more on the right time zone. Besides, the invitation said 8:30, so we should respect our host by getting there on time.” He held out her coat. “Are you ready?”

Jenna paused to check her costume in the mirror one last time. She adjusted the gold hoop earring and slid back the bandanna. It took one more sweep of her outfit to decide she would pass as a pirate for the evening. Joseph propped up the stuffed parrot on his shoulder, but seemed less intent on scrutinizing every detail of his ensemble. That and he had the past ten minutes of waiting to make wardrobe changes.

“Let’s go,” she decreed finally, taking the coat from his hands and swaying out the door. She was halfway down the stairs before he had locked the door; apparently she had finally decided to get a move on.

“Do you have the directions?” Joseph yelled after her. She lifted her phone above her head and shook it once, just long enough for him to see the map on the screen.

Once in the car, she turned the heat up and settled into the passenger seat. The phone began dictating its directions with mechanical surety, and Joseph followed the instructions dutifully. The party was in the next town over, which meant a short drive on the pitiful state highway that served as the primary connector from one place to the other. At least the moon was bright and high in the sky, doing its best to make up for missing streetlights.

“I’ve never been a pirate for Halloween before,” Jenna mused from her seat, eyes unfocused as they stared out the window. “Have you?”

“Uh, I think when I was a kid I was once. My mom made the costume.”

“What was your favorite costume growing up?” she countered.

Joseph paused to think it over, mostly trying to remember what costumes he had actually worn. “I went as an army man one year. Painted my arms and face green, even. That was probably the best one I can remember.”

“That sounds so cute. I’m going to text your mom for pictures.”

“What about you?”

Jenna looked up from her phone with a smile that said she had been waiting for him to ask. “I was an astronaut for like three years in a row. Had a helmet and everything. If the costume still fit, I’d be an astronaut every year.”

“In a quarter mile, turn left onto Hibbard Springs Road,” added the GPS with programmed politeness. Joseph leaned forward in his seat as if that would help him spot the upcoming turn. His headlights caught the green road sign hanging lonely on the side of the road just in time to slow down and pull onto the side street. It was somehow even smaller and more isolated, forcing him to slow even further in order to avoid the car shattering pot holes and sudden drop-offs on the side. He looked anxiously at the clock. 8:47. So much for being on time.

“Their new place is really out there, huh?” Jenna commented as she bounced along with the car.

“I guess so. Said they wanted more privacy.”

“In five hundred feet, turn right onto Shady Glen Lane.”

Joseph kept his eyes peeled to see the turn, but eventually the directions changed.

“Make a U-turn.”

He eyed the narrow road dubiously and continued straight along the winding lane. “Did you even see the turn?” He saw Jenna shake her head from his periphery.

“I saw something, but I thought it was a driveway or something.”

“I’ll get turned around at the next road.”

“In one hundred feet, make a U-turn.”

Joseph smacked at the phone in irritation, turning off the driving commands for the moment. He knew the area he needed now, and the house was supposedly on Shady Glen. Out here, the cars should be enough to tell him which house he was looking for.

The road continued on without any evidence of a side street. If anything, it became narrower and bumpier the farther they went. Finally, a stop sign appeared from beneath the trees. A cross street, if nothing else, meant he could pull a quick turn. Not like there was a lot of traffic around.

Once turned around, he slowly moved along the road back to the place where they had missed their turn. It was easy to see why, as the road turned into mostly gravel at that point. It had probably been paved at one point, but the elements had their way with it. This was the sort of thing, Joseph thought, that was helpful to mention in directions to a party.

At 9:18, they pulled up in front of a brightly lit house surrounded by cars. There were cars on the side of the road, cars in the driveway, cars in the grass. “This is it?” he asked. The house was brightly lit, but he didn’t see anyone milling about inside or outside.

Jenna pulled the invitation from her purse and unfolded it, holding her phone up to read it. “449,” she muttered, glancing up to check the house number. “Yep! We’re here!”

They both seemed relieved to exit the car, joining hands to walk up the grassy hill to the front door. While they had both expected at least some music or sounds of people, it was still quiet. The door hung ajar.

“I guess they must be out back?” Joseph offered as he pushed his way into the house. There were abandoned cups and plates piled with snacks, but no people.

“In this weather? I hope they have a fire or something.” Jenna picked her way carefully into the house, looking from side to side. “You don’t think they’re trying to scare us, do you?”

“It’d serve you right for making us so late.”

“We would have been on time if you had at least gone the speed limit. And not missed the turn.”

It was eerie walking through the silent house. Their steps echoed around what should have been a festive place, but instead it carried with it the silence of a tomb. In the kitchen, they could see a bowl of chips that had fallen to the floor.

They could also, finally, see signs of life. Two large, glass doors led out to a nice, but empty patio. Well beyond that, they could see a roaring bonfire with people moving around it. They flailed and swayed, in time to music Joseph could not yet hear.

“Great way to start a spooky Halloween,” he said with a laugh. They had both begun to notice the tension creeping up along their backs as they walked through the house, and it was nice to release it all with the wide open doors.

Once on the patio, they could faintly hear the music. It seemed the sound system had moved outside for the fun. They walked hand in hand across the yard towards the welcoming flames.

“Hey!” Joseph called out when they were about halfway there. They saw a handful of moving people, but it seemed a lot of the guests were sitting or lying on the grass. It seemed strange, but perhaps there was some activity afoot. “You could have left a note on the door or something!” Some of the bodies turned toward him, but then back to the fire. No one responded.

“They probably can’t hear over the music,” offered Jenna, giving his arm a quick squeeze.

It was louder now, some playlist occasionally interrupted with ads. Joseph chuckled as he watched the dancers. He never knew his friends were so uncoordinated. Then again, most of the time he spent dancing with them was after a drink or two, and everyone knew alcohol served to enhance one’s natural coordination.

Closer now, Jenna paused, falling a step or two behind him. “Joe, are you sure they’re okay?” she asked. “This is the right house, isn’t it?”

He stopped and turned to her, looking inquisitive. “Yeah, why? Don’t let the house freak you out—we just missed them is all.”

“Yeah, but I don’t recognize them. No one.”

“It’s Halloween, babe. They are probably wearing masks.”

She still looked unconvinced, but began walking again anyway. “Yeah, you’re probably right. I’m just getting some weird vibes.” She forced a smile and took his hand again.

Closer, and Joseph felt something tickling along the back of his neck. He didn’t know what it was, but Jenna was right. Something about all of this was off. The fire made a bright point that seemed to blow out the surrounding details. He could hear the music, but in the gaps between songs, there was something else. Yelling? Growling? It was too indistinct to draw a conclusion.

And then the people lying down or sitting slumped on the ground. That was not normal, especially not for a party like this. Maybe around 2am when everyone sober enough to leave had dispersed, but not a few minutes in. No one was that sloppy.

“Maybe I should call Craig, just to make sure we have the right place,” Joseph said, stopping in the damp grass and dragging out his phone. “Don’t want to crash someone else’s party, right?”

Jenna stopped beside him, hugging her coat to her and making an occasional glance toward the fire. It seemed some of the dancers had noticed them and were now staring. She tried to shake off their gaze, but felt it creep back along her skin each time.

The phone rang. And they both turned toward the source of the sound, a glowing square sitting forgotten a few yards behind them. Joseph lowered the phone. “Craig?” he called out, looking behind them. “Must have dropped his phone, I guess,” he said unconvincingly, walking back towards the house to retrieve it. Jenna followed closely, noticing now that some of the people had left the fire and were coming towards them.

“Maybe we should just go back to the house. See if we can’t get a hold of anyone,” she suggested somewhat frantically. Joseph stooped to pick up the phone, then recoiled. It was sticky, and he could see something blood red now covering his fingers.

He glanced around the field scanning around the darkness like he had not before. Before, they had only focused on the fire and making their way there. Now, however, he was looking for anything else. His mind was in survival mode, carefully studying the landscape for any clues that might get him out.

He found a big one.


No more than ten yards from their path out of the house, hidden by the shin high grass, he found Craig. His glasses were smashed into his face, his skin a network of claw and teeth marks. In the pale light of the moon, he could see dark patches along his face and clothes that were certainly blood. That darkness appeared to coalesce at the top of his head, where it appeared someone had spent a lot of energy smashing away every inch of skull.

Jenna did not wait, but took off toward the house. Joseph followed closely behind, flying across the grass and through the still open doors to the house. They skidded over discarded plates and napkins, careening through the house toward the front door.

Jenna risked a look back and caught sight of the first of their pursuers in the floodlights. There was no mistaking what she saw, and the word became the only thought in her head. She knew it from the rotted face covered in blood, from the empty eyes, from the shambling gait.

They were out of the house and scrambling back into the car within moments, Joseph slamming into reverse and pulling out onto the highway.

“Call the cops,” he barked as they flew down the lonely highway.

“And say what?” Jenna countered. “Did you see that thing?”

“You have to call. They’ll have to do something. Get the National Guard or—“

She was dialing, and he could hear the operator pick up.

“Yes, we were at a party and someone attacked our friends.” The words spilled out of her lips mechanically, pulling tears out along with them. She felt as if she could barely breathe, as if an invisible hand were crushing her throat.

Joseph strained his ears to hear the words from the other end. He gripped the wheel tighter and tighter as if that would get them farther away from what had just happened.

“449 Shady Glen Lane. I think some of them were dead,” she added, her voice breaking.

Comforting sounds from the other end of the line. “No, we left. They were still there. They were—“ Her eyes met Joseph’s, puzzling and then resolving. “They were dressed like zombies.” A pause. “No, I don’t know how many people there were.”

Eventually, she hung up the phone to sob into the fabric of the car. Joseph did his best, reaching over one hand to touch her shaking shoulder.

“Hey, we’re okay. We’re safe now.” The words fell hollow from his lips. They both knew that there was no more “safe” with something like this. They were fleeing.

And eventually, they’d run out of places to hide.

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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

13 Stories of Halloween: Mummy, Mummy!

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Sasha sat in the living room, blankets pulled just below her eyes so that she could quickly hide at the scary parts and watch again when they had passed. It was past her bedtime, but her dad said she could stay up to finish the movie. It was a strange mixture of exhilarating and terrifying watching her first scary movie. He chuckled at her response as the mummy stalked closer to its prey.

“You know it’s just a movie,” he reminded gently. She nodded mutely, eyes glued to the screen.

Surprisingly, she had no nightmares on the ensuing nights, something that helped him relax. Sasha seemed to be captivated by the story, asking questions about mummies at the dinner table. Her mother simply rolled her eyes.

“But what do they look like under all those rags?” she asked inquisitively.

“They just look like a dead person. Like you or me but, uh, more shriveled.”

“This is fantastic dinner conversation, guys,” laughed her mother. “Think we can maybe leave the discussion of dead people for another time?”

“More shriveled? So like Uncle Dave?”

Her father laughed sharply, then regained control. “No, not like Uncle Dave. Like those flowers you pressed in your journal? How they got dry and dull? Kind of like that.”

“So you make mummies by pressing them?”

He looked shocked at her question, dropping his head to hide his broad smile. “Not quite. Listen, mommy asked you to talk about something else…”

Of course, for each question answered, there were a dozen more. It became, as things are wont to do with young children, almost an obsession. He drew the line when she and a friend used three rolls of toilet paper trying to make themselves into mummies.

Like everything, that fascination eventually faded, replaced instead with a sudden curiosity about their kindly next-door neighbor.

Mr. Nickerson had been their neighbor for three years, long enough for Sasha to grow attached. He was an older man, stooped and wrinkled. If the weather was nice, he would certainly be out in his garden, tending away to the flowers and vegetables that flourished under his tender care. Sasha enjoyed spending time with him in the dirt, learning about the different kinds of flowers.

“Mr. Nickerson says you have to water the plants,” she’d dutifully report to her parents at the end of the day.

“Flowers need a lot of sunshine.”

“You have to feed your plants, too.”

“Fertilizer is key.”

She also brought home more than just wisdom, occasionally showing up muddied and bearing a tomato or bouquet of flowers. It was an unconventional friendship, but one that blossomed. Mr. Nickerson was patient with her, even when her own parents would have been at the ends of their ropes.

This particular day, the growing season was nearing an end. Spring had long passed with its new growth, and summer had led to an acceptable harvest from the tiny garden. Now it was all about preparing for winter and harvesting the last few vegetable that could bear the fall.

“Plants need good dirt,” he told her sternly as he picked up a handful of soil and ran it between his fingers. She nodded and copied his behavior, unsure of what she was supposed to realize by touching the dirt. “So in the fall,” he continued, “we feed it with whatever it needs to grow.”

“What does the dirt need?” she asked. The dirt looked awful dirty to her, so she was not sure what it should be like instead.

“Dirt needs vitamins and minerals, just like you. That’s why I always put my leftovers in the ground,” he said with a smile. He chuckled softly at a private joke, then shook his head to dismiss it. “So we have to get rid of all the dead plants, bury them too if we want. Dead things help keep the dirt healthy, too.”

The lesson over, the two set to work pulling up plants that had withered and died, or those that Mr. Nickerson assured her would not grow anymore. He handed her a shovel and showed her how to turn over the soil, taking what had become packed ground and making it soft again.

Sasha went home that night with a whole new conversation about dirt, one she recited at dinner whenever anyone gave her the space to speak. And afterwards, she gathered up the plates and all the scraps, dumping them into a pile of vegetable, meat, and napkins.

“Where are you going?” asked her mother, catching her with the dinner plate on her way to the door.

“I’ve got to feed the dirt, mom,” she said, as if obvious. “Mr. Nickerson says you should put your leftovers in the dirt.”

“You can feed the dirt in the morning, then. It’s time for bed.”

There was a struggle, as there often is, but Sasha lost. As she often did. The refuse was set aside in a special container, her mother rolling her eyes as she sacrificed one of the remaining Tupperware bowls with a matching lid.

The next day, Mr. Nickerson was away. That did not stop Sasha from knocking on his door and looking around his house for her friend. He was not on the porch or in the kitchen. She checked the garage, but saw no one. And even peeking in through the bottom of his living room window yielded no results. She glumly paced over to the garden and set down her container, looking at the brown plot of ground. It looked like Mr. Nickerson had dug a lot of it last night, since so much of the dirt was fresh and wet. She couldn’t see any of his leftovers, but surely they were in there. It wouldn’t hurt to just—

She tipped her bowl onto the surface, then realize her error. It had to be mixed up. He had been clear about that. Which meant she needed her shovel. Only she was not sure where that would be. Mr. Nickerson was always good enough to have all her tools ready when she got there.

Sasha looked around the yard, eyes finally resting on the little shed tucked back in the corner. Her shovel was probably in there. She tried to peek in the windows, but someone had put wood over them. Taking a deep breath, she tugged open the door to the shed and stepped inside. It was hot in there, covered with spider webs. The smell also startled her. It was bad, like the time her dad had to call the plumber to fix the bathroom. She wondered if Mr. Nickerson needed a plumber in his shed, even though she could not see a toilet anywhere.

She stepped forward cautiously, trying her best to avoid running into any spiders or other bugs. Dirt she loved, but bugs scared her. The shovel was not immediately present, and so she pressed on. Which is where she found what she thought was the most wonderful find of her young life.

Sasha found a real life mummy. It, of course, was not moving, but it was there. Wrinkled, just like her dad said. Dull, like the flowers. It looked like a man with brown hair, but his hair was mostly gone. Of course, he wasn’t a perfect mummy. Instead of bandages, he was wrapped in a few layers of sheet, his head poking through the top. Just like the mummy in the movie, his mouth hung open. She could just imagine him groaning as he walked out of the shed and along the sidewalk.

What a treat!

“Daddy, guess what?” she asked that night, feet swinging freely from her seat at the dinner table.

He gave a curious grunt with his mouth full of pasta.

“Mr. Nickerson has a mummy. His very own mummy!”

“Sweetie, you know we aren’t supposed to tell fibs,” scolded her mother gently.

“It’s not a fib. I saw it, honest. He has a mummy in his shed!”

There was a look passed across the table that Sasha could not read. ‘This is your fault,’ said her mother’s eyes. ‘It’s no big deal,’ said her father’s.

“Do you think he’d teach me about mummies when we’re done with the garden?” she asked breathlessly. No one answered.

Just an overactive imagination, they thought, because any other answer was just too bizarre to even consider. Everyone knew mummies were real, but weren’t anything like in the movies. And they were real millennia ago, not in the modern day. Like most parents of children prone to flights of fancy, they did not give it a second thought.

Until, of course, Mr. Nickerson vanished in the back of a police cruiser shortly after.

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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

13 Stories of Halloween: Solutions

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Mark Washington grumbled as he climbed up to pull yet another web of toilet paper from his trees. His neighbors had been out offering platitudes, laughing, sighing and talking about mischievous teenagers. Mark found nothing humorous in it. He could not, for any reason, understand why his decision not to participate in Halloween required such punishment. Wasn’t this America? Wasn’t this a free country?

He dropped the tissue into the waiting garbage bag and then steadily made his way down the rickety ladder. If he fell and broke his neck, he wondered, could the kids be held as accessories to murder? The thought was almost tempting enough for him to try. But, the logical part of his mind chimed in, that would cause more problems than it solved. Mark was always good at solving problems, and this one was no different.

As he made his way across the yard, he tried not to look at the pitiful remains of his vegetable garden. The ne’er-do-wells had trampled it, as well. Sure, the weather would kill the plants soon, but it served as another glaring reminder that the rebellious kids did not care for the hard work of a good man.

He stomped inside with the garbage bag, slamming his front door and locking it behind him. The curtain covering the window fluttered briefly, then settled back into its place. Just like everything in his house had its place. Mark’s was in the armchair by the picture window where he could look out along the street, ensure no one was up to no good. They had snuck around him last night, striking in the few hours a night he dedicated to sleep. But a man had to sleep. And now he had to watch. They were kids—too stupid to know better and stay away from the scene of the crime.

Joey Collins lived two streets over, but today he was biking down Mark’s street. Mark watched him wheel slowly through the neighborhood, eyes glancing back towards the now clean oak tree. He was sure he could read disappointment in the child’s dumb face. Joey was always a troublemaker, something Mark had told his parents on multiple occasions. But nothing had ever come of it. Joey was the ringleader of a band of snot-nosed kids who liked to play ball in the middle of the street, ride their bikes on the sidewalks at breakneck speeds, and generally make a nuisance of themselves to other citizens.

Joey needed to learn to respect others, and his parents certainly did not seem interested in instilling that lesson. It fell, Mark reasoned, to himself, then. If Joey wanted to act like a little felon, it was time he experienced the consequences, like an adult.

Mark eyed the bag of tissue paper and smiled. Tit-for-tat, he thought. Joey and his parents could learn how hard it was to clean trash from the trees.

That night, Mark left his house at a time when good men were asleep. It was a necessary evil, he said, to ensure his neighborhood could have peace again. Joey needed to be taught a lesson so that the other little monsters would straighten up. Mark walked along the streets with his trash bag, weaving in between houses to prevent anyone from seeing him.

The Collins’ home was fairly standard. Two stories, white house, dark shutters. There were still pumpkins on the porch, even though the holiday had passed. Mark assumed they were probably the sort to leave their Christmas lights up through February, too. Out front stood a tall, proud tree. It would be perfect, he decided. But he paused. This would certainly punish Mr. Collins, but Mark had a sinking suspicion Joey would get away scot free. His plan was a start, he decided, but did not go nearly far enough. Joey needed to learn the lesson.

Making his way around the back of the house stealthily, Mark studied the windows. They were all dark, which was good this time of night. Knowing the way these houses were built, he felt sure the bedrooms were on the second floor. Not being a young man, he scoped the backyard for anything that could help. Mr. Collins was apparently as inept at caring for his tools as he was at raising his son, because Mark found a ladder lying in the weeds, already beginning to rust from exposure.

Once on the first floor roof, it was easy to wander around from window to window, peering in on the sleeping inhabitants. He saw Mr. and Mrs. Collins snoozing away. Their dog, a tiny, yappy thing that liked to poop on the sidewalk, slept soundly at their feet. The next window peeked in on a sparsely decorated office. The third pointed to a room full of exercise equipment that appeared to be gathering dust.

Mark finally came around to the fourth window, this one partially obscured by dark curtains drawn close. He could just steal a glance between them to see Joey Collins, not sleeping, but seated at his computer. What nerve, thought Mark. It was a school night even. The boy wore headphones, which is why Mark assumed he did not turn around at the sound of the opening window. Once inside, Mark could hear the music leaking from the headphones, full of screaming and pounding noises. Devil Music, as he liked to call it.

The headphones and the unhealthily loud music were probably why Joey did not hear the old man creep up behind him, either. Mark was a good problem solver, but Joey had solved this one for him. When Joey realized something was wrong, it was already far too late.

Mark solved his problems, working quickly and efficiently. There was no time lost, because people needed to understand what was right and what was wrong. You just didn’t disrespect your neighbors—your elders, even—and expect to get off scot free. As the sun was rising on the sleepy town, Mark made his way back home. He was certain his message would be heard loud and clear this time. Problem solved.

Joey’s parents woke up to a horrific site, the front of their house bedecked with horrific revenge. The tissue paper from Mark’s house hung limply from the trees, soaked red with blood. It piled on the ground in some macabre papier-mâché.  The limbs were full with unholy fruit, intestines splayed across the branches like tinsel. And on their front porch, where once had sat a toothy jack-o-lantern, was Joey’s head, screaming from empty eyes.

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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

13 Stories of Halloween: The Classics

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Janice paced in front of the movie theater, watching the last rays of sunlight vanish behind the skyline. With the sun setting, the wind kicked up. This was going to be one of those cold Halloweens, she reasoned. Around here, it was either too hot to wear a costume or you had to wear two or three layers just to keep warm. So no one got to see your costume. She was just glad to have outgrown the costume phase altogether. Now she did grown-up things. Like going to see the classic monster movie marathon at the theater with her new friend.

Her new friend who was already ten minutes late.

They had met online a few months back. He was, supposedly, new to town. They had connected on a message board advertising local events and businesses. He liked her handmade jewelry, she liked his wittiness. So they had chatted back and forth, emailing and texting. They even talked on the phone once or twice, but both realized they were better socially when there was a screen in the way.

Which is how they ended up agreeing to meet to watch the marathon. Janice’s phone buzzed its quick tone, indicating a message. She saw his name on the screen, followed by a rather short message. “Running l8. B there soon.”

“The show is starting soon.” She typed back, watching the text bubble pop up. “How far away are you?”

A few moments before another buzz. “Go in. Save me a seat and ill find u when I get there.”

Just what she needed, she thought. Another flake of a friend. She had those in droves. Janice had been convinced Drake was different. With a sigh, she pushed through the double doors and into the theater.

“Fifth row on the end,” she texted after finding a seat. The lights were low in the theater, ads for local businesses and the theater playing on a loop. There were a handful of people sitting in the theater, many of them in overly complicated costumes. Janice just tapped on her phone and snuck out a mini candy bar stolen from the candy her roommate made her promise was only for trick-or-treaters. Not like the little monsters needed all the candy.

The lights dimmed, and Drake was still a no-show. At least, she told herself, the night would not be an entire waste if he was standing her up.

Five minutes in to the first movie, someone dropped into the chair beside her. She snapped her eyes from the screen to see Drake smiling back. They had exchanged pictures a while back, but he looked even better than she remembered. Dark hair, dark eyes, full lips.  She suddenly felt self-conscious in her jeans and t-shirt. It was just a casual meet-up between friends, they had agreed. Only now she kind of wished she hadn’t.

“Sorry I’m late,” he whispered, giving her hand a quick squeeze. She felt butterflies.

“No problem. It just started.”

A woman two rows ahead of them gave a quick glance behind. Though she was silent, Janice could read the irritation in her eyes. Drake appeared oblivious, tossing his feet onto the chair in front of him and settling in to his seat. “Dracula,” he said with a nod. “Good place to start.”

They watched Dracula, followed closely by The Mummy, then The Wolf Man to round out a trifecta of classic monster movies. As the lights rose, Janice swam back to reality, only to find herself still enraptured by her companion.

They stumbled from the theater with the rest of the crowd, spilling out onto a street that was dark and cold, but still alive with the festivities of the night. She could hear music coming from somewhere, a sound that almost seemed to be The Monster Mash spilling into the street. People still milled about in various stage of costume, making their way to and from events. She smiled as the moment filled her with drunken confidence.

“You wanna get something to eat around here?” she risked the question as she and Drake began walking down the sidewalk.

“Uh,” he began, caught off guard. She felt her heart pound in her throat for each agonizing second of silence. “I don’t really know what’s around here.” He spoke haltingly, an uncomfortable smile on his face.

“I use to hang out around here all the time, so I know some great spots. I could—“

“No, it’s not that. I just—I like to really know my food, you know?”

“Oh yeah, of course,” blustered Janice. She didn’t know. She, in fact, had no idea what that meant. But it was important to Drake, so of course she knew.

They stood frozen on the sidewalk, both standing just far enough away from each other to prevent anyone from getting the wrong idea, while remaining close enough people knew to walk around them. Janice began to think that, if they stood there long enough, she might actually become frozen to the sidewalk.

“Then, I, uh, I had a great time. Maybe we can do it again—“

He cut her off, grabbing her hand. “Sorry, I didn’t mean you have to leave.”

“You didn’t?”

“No, maybe we could do something else, though?”

“Yeah, of course, yeah.” Don’t be so enthusiastic, she chided herself. You are a grown adult, not some fawning teenager. “But I’m really cold, so…Maybe a drink or something?”

He was still holding her hand, but she could feel the breeze nipping at her fingertips. Drake switched from foot to foot nervously, appearing to weigh his words very carefully. “I don’t really like the bars around here. Not my scene. We could always go to my place? It’s just a couple blocks away.”

Now it was Janice’s turn to pause. Her rule was to never go home with a stranger, because that was how people ended up in landfills. However, whispered something deep inside her, Drake was no stranger. She knew him well after months of chatting.

And, said another part of her, when had she ever had a chance with a guy like him? Besides, it was Halloween. Of all the days, maybe this was the one to take a little more of a risk. To live a little bit. They were all going to die eventually, right?

“Sure,” said someone else in Janice’s body. And then Drake was leading her by the hand down the sidewalk, through a part of the city she remembered like a dream. They made chitchat about the movies, Drake waxing poetic about the golden years of Hollywood. Janice agreed and listened, still somewhat shocked that she was truly following this beautiful stranger—friend, she corrected—through the streets.

“Here we are,” he finally said, stopping in front of a shabby looking apartment complex. He was new to the city, she thought, which meant he may not have had time to find the perfect place. This would do.

“Hope you’re thirsty. I know I am,” he laughed as they climbed the stairs. Eventually, he paused in front of a door identical to all the rest, pulling a key from his pocket. “Ladies first.”

She stepped inside, caught off guard by how dark it was. She had expected streetlights or moonlight to filter in through the windows, but she could barely make out the outline of them on the far wall. Just the tiniest seam of light peeked through. He must have some mighty strong blackout curtains, she thought. Drake stepped in behind her, and she heard the door click shut, sealing off the meager hallway light. Now the room was filled with impenetrable darkness.

“I think you forgot the lights,” she said between nervous laughs as she turned back towards the door and, hopefully, a light switch.

“I didn’t forget. I just think it makes it more exciting. Gets the blood pumping.” Drake’s voice seemed to come from in front of her, swallowed up in the darkness.

A slight chuckle, the tried and true defense mechanism of many nervous women. “There’ll be time for that later. I don’t want to trip over your sofa and break an ankle.” She found the wall, her hands quickly swimming over the surface to find a switch. There was a flood of relief when her thumb snagged the switch, the tension building in her chest snapping like a rubber band.

It recoiled as she flipped the switch to no effect. Again, she tried, with the same darkness. Now Drake began to laugh.

“I can hear your heart pounding from here,” he said, this time to her right. Janice followed the wall back to the door, but came up short as her hands found fabric and skin. Drake’s hands tightened around her wrists.

“I told you I like to get to know my food,” he whispered into her ear, pulling her tight against his body. “And you are just my type. Sweet, innocent, a splash of naïve—“ one hand left her wrists and trailed along her neck, twisting itself in her hair—“and absolutely terrified.”

Janice didn’t have a chance to scream before his fangs sunk deep into the side of her neck. The darkness all around her flooded inside until it was the only thing left.

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13 Stories of Halloween: The Cat’s Perspective

This is something a little different for me. I tried to write a story in under 500 words, a common microfiction cut-off. I figured a challenge like this was a perfect time to try it out. Let me know what you think, and read the other Stories of Halloween here!

Being a cat has its perks. No one expects me to go to work or help with chores around the house. For the most part, my day is whatever I make of it. Me, I like to sit in the front window and enjoy the sunshine. Plus taunt the neighbor’s dog as much as possible. Stupid little rat just gets to barking and barking.

The downsides? My name is Jeffrey, but everyone calls me Mittens. The little one often has sticky hands. I have to lick my own butt. Still, I supposed the Lord must give challenges to even the best of us, lest we become too proud of our own station.

I have studied my humans carefully for years. It ensures I am taken care of to the best of their limited ability. Many things about humans confuse me, but there is one in particular this time of year which leaves me baffled. Every year, like clockwork, they don bizarre costumes to parade about in the street. I, of course, am a perennial favorite. It seems many children want nothing more than to be me, not that I can blame them. So I watch their precious imitations of a black cat dance along the sidewalk, carrying about large containers which are never full of tuna fish.

That is strange, but I suppose I can understand. If my life were as boring as a human’s, I too would try to find ways of imagining a better life. That night, the doorbell rings and rings incessantly, but no one ever enters to request an audience with me. They yell and giggle at the door with those obnoxious, high pitched squeals, then gallop back down the sidewalk and out of sight.

What I find particularly odd is that they do so with so many visitors. I’m sure humans have a word for these things, but I do not know it. All I know is that they do not have a smell. It’s not just that they don’t smell like humans, but they smell like nothing at all. They look like humans, but humans who are never quite sure if they exist or not. On the rare occasion such a visitor has entered my house, the humans go out of their way to avoid it. They skirt about it, even though it seems they cannot even see it. It’s almost an instinct to stay away.

Which is what I don’t understand. Because on that night, with their young out there exposed, they waltz among the dead without a second thought.

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13 Stories of Halloween: I See

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The collection of girls sat gathered around the Ouija board, huddled in tight. Candles flickered from the table top, casting just enough light to pick up the black letters printed on the board. Sherry’s mom had bought the game for them to play with on their annual Halloween slumber party. The nervous giggles died down as Sherry did the honors of asking the first question.

“Is there anybody out there?” she asked, leaving the words hanging there in the silence of the house. Her parents had gone to bed hours ago, and they had even agreed to send her annoying little brother to their grandparents’ house for the night. The triangle on the board stubbornly refused to move.

“I don’t think it’s working,” whispered Janie, doing her best to mask relief with boredom.

“Sh! Be patient,” barked Sherry. “It’s okay, you can talk to us,” she cajoled any listening spirits. “Just say hi!” Still nothing.

Claire piped up, always the voice of optimism. “Maybe they are just shy. It might be better if we introduce ourselves, first.” The remaining three agreed, Sherry eager to find anything that could help jumpstart what was supposed to be the main event.

“I’ll start. My name is Sherry. This is my house,” she smiled, looking around the room toward the ceiling. After no noticeable response, she nodded to her left.

“I’m Janie. That’s it.”

Everyone looked at the third member of the party. “I’m Olivia,” said the third, her voice thin and wavering. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Finally it came full circle. “And I’m Claire! Now you don’t have to be so nervous!”

“Good idea, Claire,” said Sherry with a smile. “Now, is there anybody out there?”

Their expectations rose, only to trickle back down as the silence stretched. No response.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” said Janie, rising and stomping out of the room.

Olivia piped up, uncertainty in her voice as always. “Maybe we could ask something else? Like maybe it’s rude that we keep talking like they aren’t even here?”

“Well what would you ask?” snapped Sherry.

“I don’t know, maybe…” Olivia leaned down, placing her fingers on the planchette. “Would you like to talk to us?”

For a moment, nothing. Then, the little piece of plastic spun toward “Yes.”

There was a moment of silence, then gasps as the reality settled in. “What’s your name?” said Sherry.

The pointer did not move.

“Are you dead?” asked Claire. Sherry gave her a withering look.

“You can’t just ask things like that. It’s rude, Claire.” But the being responded, the marker spiraling towards “No.”

“Are you a demon?” said Sherry quickly, her eyes wide.


“Well what are you then?”

A pause, Sherry eyeing the board with equal parts amazement, excitement, and terror. Slowly, this time, the marker moved.

“I-S-E-E.” Then it stopped.

“An isee? Like the slushies?” asked Claire with a short giggle. Sherry scoffed.

“No. I see. It sees or something. What do you see?” Sherry asked the ceiling.


“This isn’t funny. Are you doing that?” asked Olivia, fixing Sherry with a plaintive look. Sherry shook her head. The planchette moved to yes.

“How many people are in this room?” asked Claire, caught up in the moment.

“4.” The three girls quickly counted one another and arrived at the same conclusion. There were three of them sitting around the board.

“Why are you here?” asked Sherry. There was no response.

Janie’s return startled all three of them, and they fell back with shrieks that devolved into giggles.

“Janie, we’ve got something!” Sherry nearly shouted when she had calmed down enough. Janie looked skeptical.

“Really? What’s their name?”

“They wouldn’t tell us,” said Olivia, looking somewhat embarrassed and frightened at the missing information.

“Well, what is it then?” snapped Janie, obviously under the impression she was about to be the butt of some half-conceived practical joke.

The events of the night likely could have been attributed to sugar, a slight tendency towards deception, and superstition. Until that question. Because with that, the Ouija board responded on its own, no hands or sneaky fingers nearby to push the piece along the board.

“I-S-E-E,” it spelled again. Eight eyes watched it fearfully.

“What do you see?” asked Janie, her voice just above a whisper.

“We already—“ began Claire, but then piece was moving again.

“Y-O-U,” it reiterated, and everyone could feel the exasperation whatever it was had at repeating itself.

“What do you mean, you see us?” asked Janie with scared bravado.

“Y-O-U,” it said, moving faster. “Y-O-U-Y-O-U-Y-O-U-Y-O—“ Olivia snatched the thin piece of plastic off the board.

“I don’t think we should play with this anymore,” she said, hugging the pointer to her chest as her eyes stared down at the cheap board.

“Come on, Liv. It’s just getting good,” Sherry said. “Don’t be a baby and ruin it for the rest of us.”

Olivia looked at them, then tossed the marker to the floor before standing herself. “I’m going to bed, then. You guys can play with the devil all you want.”

“No,” said the board, but Olivia was already out of the room.

The remaining three circled around, leaning in close to watch every possible move.

“Are you a spirit?”


“Are you evil?”


“So you’re good, then.” Janie wasn’t asking, but the board answered.


“Maybe Liv’s right,” said Claire, her usual optimism dissipating as reality sunk in. Games weren’t supposed to play themselves. “I’m going to go to bed, too. I’m not having fun anymore.”

The door closed behind her, and Sherry leaned over the board with feverish excitement. “Can you see our futures?”


“Who am I going to marry?” began Sherry. She quickly crossed her fingers and began mouthing the name Tony Anderson, her crush since the third grade.


“That’s not an answer. You have to answer my questions.”

“Let me try,” interjected Janie. “Who will I marry?”

“D-A-V-E,” it said with some finality.

The two girls looked puzzled, turning the name over. Neither knew of a Dave. There was David Smith two years ahead of them, but he never went by Dave.

“A mystery man, eh?” joked Sherry.

“I guess so. Let’s try another one. Will I be famous?” asked Janie, a smirk on her lips.


“What about me?” interjected Sherry, already preening.


“A singer?”


“A musician?”


“An artist? An actor? A politician? A scientist? A—“ Sherry ran out of desired careers as the marker repeatedly bounced over the word “no.”

“Well then what?” she finally asked, exasperated.


There was a finality to the movement. Sherry turned white, her eyes seeming to take up half of her face with shock. “Dead,” she whispered, the word barely audible over the hum of the air conditioning unit.

“Yes,” the board dutifully replied.

“I don’t think I like this anymore, Janie,” Sherry said as she backed away. “I think this was a very bad idea.” Without taking her eyes from the board, Sherry turned the doorknob and exited the room, turning and running once she was out in the hall. Janie could hear her footsteps as the pounded down the stairs to the living room where Olivia, Claire, and safety were certainly waiting.

Janie eyed the board curiously, a smile barely visible on her lips. “So,” she began, “if she’s famous and I’m not, I guess that means they never catch me, right?”


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13 Stories of Halloween: A Nip in the Air

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The change in the weather, the colors in the leaves, the shortening days. I felt tension melt from my body as the signs of autumn finally settled in. I felt in my element, I guess, with the rhythms of season finally aligning to my own. Even my wardrobe seems most at place in the middle of fall. I was never the sort to have bright colors to wear during the summer or pastels to flaunt in the spring. But give me some warm tones and a nice sweater, and I’m good to go.

Last year was no different.

Loving the fall often means getting out and enjoy it, which I tried to do as often as possible. My favorite thing to do was go for an all-night bonfire out in some secluded place. I was not interested nearly as much in the drinking and carousing—though that too is fun—as in the chance to be outside, feel the wind, smell the fire, and toast a marshmallow or two.

Trevor had invited me to the party. I always thought he had a thing for me, but it was never the right time. And then it was the worst time. I guess this is where I blame destiny or something, but honestly it just wasn’t meant to be. Either way, his grandparents have a farm out in the boonies, one of those places where the road is too far away for anyone to catch us burning a good sized fire.

I had a few drinks, a couple of hotdogs roasted over the fire, and more than my fair share of the s’mores supplies. The music had changed from frenetic dance songs to slower, calmer music. The smell of marijuana drifted through the air, contributing to the overall chill of everyone involved. Trevor was feeling smooth, so he sidled up next to me. I was staring up at the stars, trying to remember constellations from the trips my parents used to take me on. Out there, you could see so much. The stars faded on the horizon, city lights eating away at them. But if you looked straight up, it seemed like you could see forever. Maybe you could.

“Hey,” he said. I could hear the nerves in his voice. Rather than respond, I just gave him a mix between a hum and a sigh. He leaned back in the grass beside me.

“I’m glad you came out tonight. I was really hoping you could make it.”

“What can I say, you throw a nice party,” I replied with a smile he couldn’t see.

“Yeah, everyone seemed to have a good time.”

There was nothing to respond to in that, so I just let time pass between us. He was warm, and I could feel the warmth of his body spilling over onto me. I probably should have shifted closer to the fire, let it burn some of the chill off. But I was afraid of moving and breaking whatever spell had been cast in that spot where I could see forever.

He sat up on one elbow, looking down at me. “You just going to lay here the rest of the night?”

“I might,” I laughed. His face danced with shadows from the fire, but I could see the confident smile on his lips.

“Then I guess I’m just stuck here,” he said, dropping back to the ground with a dramatic flop. The alcohol made me giggly, and his display was not helping.

Silence again. Longer this time, but I could sense him fidgeting beside me. “There’s a really cool old barn. Back a ways in the woods. I could show you, if you want. It’s a little more private, and—“

I had begun to wonder if he was ever going to make a move. I suppose I could have, but I always preferred to be chased. At least, I used to. That’s another thing that changed.

The woods whispered around us as we walked an old hunter’s path through the underbrush. Leaves crunched beneath our shoes. Trevor held my hand, leading me carefully through the darkness and over fallen logs. I can’t say I was in my most coordinated state, but we managed to make it with only minor falls.

The barn was impressive, obviously once home to a large production. Of course in the day and age of commercial agriculture, most families had no need of a structure so large. Trevor opened the door, releasing the sharp squeal of hinges. In the echo of it, I thought I heard something reply. But it faded before the last, ear-piercing groan of the door had fully dissipated.

Trevor led me inside, and I pretended to look around as I watched him. The next moments were a blur of sensations, first pleasant and then terrifying. Trevor and I were kissing, his hands on my body. He lifted my shirt and I felt a quick gust of cool October air chill my skin. I kissed him back, tasting smokiness and cheap beer on his tongue.

Then there was undeniably something else, some new sound. It was part howl, part groan, and it ripped through the barn. Something was outside. Trevor pulled away, looking toward the door.

The lighting was poor and we had wandered away stupidly without a flashlight, but there was a clear silhouette in the doorway. Something large, almost dog-like, but standing far too tall. With a bay, it sprang forward into the barn. Pleasure melted into fear.

Trevor was screaming and there was the smell of must. I remember falling, landing in the dirt and decaying hay while sounds of a struggle bounced around me. In one instant, I saw Trevor standing with his back against the far wall. His eyes darted around the barn, landing on me as panic flooded his system.

“Trisha, you gotta get out of—“ something moved between us, and his words turned into yells. “Get away from me!”

The next thing was a sharp yell from Trevor, one that started strong and ended suddenly. I smelled blood in the air.

Whatever it was vanished again, seeming to leap in and out of the shadows around me. I scrambled to my feet and over to Trevor. The dirt was sticky with blood, and it clung to my hands as I reached down and tried to lift him up. He wasn’t speaking now, wasn’t moving.

My hand suddenly sank deep into something soft and warm, something which pulsed once or twice with a spurt of blood before growing still. My eyes tried to make sense of it, tried to understand how my hand was somehow inside his body while his eyes looked on. But they couldn’t.

There was growling behind me, a rolling warning sound. I should have turned and looked, maybe run. I can think of a lot of things that would have been better answers. Instead, I sat in shock and stared at Trevor’s face, at my hand halfway through his gut.

Then I got a chance to experience what it was like for Trevor. Something pierced my shoulder, something sent me forcefully to the ground. My head slammed into Trevor’s chest, covering it with sticky blood. Then there was my own blood adding to the mix, binding us together in unholy union. I felt teeth and claws tearing at me, shredding the skin of my back. Jaws closed around my wrist and puled until I thought my arm would half to dislocate from the rest of me. And then, as suddenly as it had begun, there was nothing but unconsciousness.

I woke up and Trevor didn’t. If that were all that happened, it would be a terribly traumatic story, but just another story of a rabid dog and some unwitting victims. Only it wasn’t. Because I woke up whole and healed, while Trevor laid there with a hole sliced through him. And things began to change forever.

So now, I still love autumn. I’m a natural autumn. It brings with it long nights under the changing trees, the wind whistling through my hair. I no longer like to be chased, but I certainly like to pursue. The fall leaves make that easier, helping me listen to the sound of my prey in flight. I love the way they crunch beneath my feet as I move silently through the woods.

It’s too bad Trevor didn’t make it. Maybe we would have had our chance then. Then again, if he had made it, I’m not sure what I would have eaten those first few days. I think he would have liked the idea of sacrificing himself for me.

I still love to go to cookouts. Those times in the wee hours of the morning when everyone is drowsy, vulnerable. They taste of smoke and spice. And when the revelry has died down, I can lie contented and look at the stars.

Sometimes I think I can see forever. Maybe I’ll live long enough to find out.

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