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13 Stories of Halloween: For Old Time’s Sake

You made it to the end! If you missed any of the previous Halloween stories, you can find them all here! Thanks for reading!


The cemetery after midnight was creepy. I guess I would have been disappointed if it were otherwise, but the fact remained. All those lone sentinels standing over their graves, it gave off the vibe that I had stumbled into some frozen moment of grief. The angels bowed their heads low to study the markers at their feet. Crosses rose and stabbed up into the night sky. A few larger mausoleums stood as squat, stubborn guardians holding court. It was enough to send chills up my back.

I’ve never been superstitious, but that was not enough to prevent me from feeling uncomfortable in the cemetery. My friends were supposed to meet me but were, as usual, running late. Somehow it seemed far less intimidating to stand in that place if I had the warmth of human companionship.

As if on cue, I heard the clatter of the metal gate at the entrance, followed by a thud and muted laughter. I recognized Calvin’s laugh immediately, and Suzanne’s joined shortly after. The tension uncoiled from around my neck, and I began walking toward the gate.

Calvin was lying in an uncoordinated pile on the ground, looking back over the gate and laughing. Suzanne had paused with one leg thrown over the gate, her head bent low and she chuckled as well.

“You guys suck as sneaking in,” I said, stepping from behind a grave stone. Calvin’s laugh turned into a short yelp, but Suzanne seemed not to notice my arrival.

“Jesus, Lynn, you can be way creepy sometimes.”

I shrugged. “Nothing I can do about that. Guess you just need to toughen up.” He laughed and shoved himself up from the ground. Suzanne finally finished her climb, dropping with far more grace to the ground.

“Yep, same old Lynn,” she said as she dusted off her pants, shaking away the collected dust and rust.

We stood in a small circle, everyone unsure of how to proceed. It had been a year since we last met together, and some of the uncertainty from that gap lingered between us.

“I figured we’d do the usual thing? Drink a bit, gossip, scare ourselves silly?”

Calvin held up his backpack, the sound of bottles clanging about inside. “That’s the sort of evening I came prepared for.”

Suzanne reached into her backpack and pulled out a slightly crushed bag of assorted candy. “And it’s no good to drink on an empty stomach.”

I smiled and turned to walk toward a spot in the middle of the cemetery. “I found this spot earlier, thought it might be good for us to palaver.” There was a large oak tree, leaves still clinging on to the branches. Beneath it was a couple of benches, arranged to provide a meditative spot for visitors. The plaque on the benches revealed they were dedicated to Jeremiah Brown, “a kind husband, father, grandfather, and friend.”

The three settled in, Calvin pulling out a bottle of something dark while Suzanne ripped open the bag of candy. I reached out a grabbed a piece of chocolate, unwrapping it and savoring the sweet, bitter taste as it melted in my mouth. I washed it down with the too bitter alcohol, feeling it burn its way down my throat. My eyes watered as I sputtered, apparently more unused to the strong drink than I had anticipated.

“Maybe you should take it slow,” suggested Calvin, taking the bottle and eyeing me with motherly concern.

I grabbed it back, more so to prove a point. “Listen, it may burn, but we all know I can handle liquor better than either one of you.” I took a long drink, holding my face in a stoic mask despite the sensation.

“Can’t argue with that,” said Suzanne as she took the bottle and sipped from it herself. “I mean, we all know that’s a competition I can’t win. You going to challenge the title?” She tilted an eyebrow and the bottle toward Calvin. He took it, laughing.

“I think you have an unfair advantage, Lynn. But you can have your title.” He set the bottle between us. It was not really the reason for us coming together. The reason was just to be together. As friends again.

The moment caught up with me. “Hey, I don’t want to make this too sappy, but I’m really glad you’re both here. I know this is kind of weird and all, but…”

Suzanne smiled at me. “Of course we’d be here. It’s been too long. A girl needs her best girlfriend.” She tossed another piece of candy towards me with a wink. I caught it and turned it over in my hand. Calvin was quiet, turning the words over in his head.

“You know, after that accident, when we thought we’d lost you for good—“

I cut him off with a wave of my hand. “That’s the sappiness I was talking about! Listen, I’d rather not talk about the accident. I think about it all the time. But tonight’s all about enjoying our time together. I mean, I almost never get to see either of you anymore. You two have moved on to bigger and better things, but I’m still stuck here.”

My words caused more hurt than I intended; I could see it on both their faces. Suzanne’s face twitched, and I saw her gathering words for an apology.

“No, not like that. I’m not upset with you about it,” I tried to laugh it off, but the sound was empty. “I just meant, let’s have fun. No point in dwelling on the past.”

They smiled, glancing at each other with guilt in their eyes. I tried to ignore it. This was not going as planned.

“Have you guys heard about Old Man Stevens’ ghost?” It was a poor, erratic distraction, but it brought their four eyes back to me with curiosity rather than pity.

They shook their heads, almost in unison. “No, but I’m guessing you have a story?”

I smiled at Calvin. “Of course. It’s Halloween and we’re in a graveyard. I feel like I of all people should have a ghost story to tell.”

Calvin and Suzanne leaned in close, Suzanne tucking her jacket tighter around her body as the wind picked up. It was the ambiance I wanted, but could not control.

“So, like all ghosts, Stevens likes to hang around the cemetery, never straying too far from his grave. Also, as we all know, that means that he can interact with and be seen by mortals on one night of the year.” I paused for effect, even if the conclusion was obvious. “Tonight.”

They smiled, Calvin rolling his eyes. “Come on, maestro, get on with the story.”

“You have no respect for the art of storytelling,” I added full of mock offense, then took a deep breath. “Edward Stevens was a bitter, sullen old man when alive. He lived out beyond the town limits on a tiny little farm. It was him, his wife, and their three children out there. Now, his wife was a pitiful woman, worn down to nothing by his constant abuse. Nothing she did was every quite good enough, from the dinners she made to the children she bore. That kind of life can eat a hole right through you.”

Suzanne crunched into a hard candy, the sudden sound making Calvin jump. He gave her a playful shove, and she shook her head. “Barely any story and you’re already jumpy,” she tossed back.

“We are in a cemetery at one am,” he countered.

“Or maybe I’m just that good of a storyteller? I’ve had plenty of time to practice.”

There was the uncomfortable silence again. I mentally kicked myself, constantly putting my foot in my mouth. I wasn’t upset, but it was certainly getting harder to convince them of that. “Well, either way, back to the story. Mr. Stevens was also one of those sort who seemed to dodge every bit of bad luck to come his way. Unfortunately, it seemed to land squarely on his children. When the equipment malfunctioned, he managed to repair it and narrowly saved his hand from the tines when it started back up. His youngest son, unfortunately, was not as lucky when he fell from the barn loft and landed on the cursed machine three months later. Old Man Stevens said he was never sick a day in his life, but his middle son seemed to catch everything. It was the Measles that finally got him.

“Mr. Stevens was not a kind man, and he had more than his share of enemies. These weren’t the kind of people you could easily settle the score with, either. They were the kind who operated far below the law, and did not take kindly to being cheated. Especially out of money they felt was theirs. Stevens somehow avoided having to pay up, but his family was not so lucky. His eldest daughter, the one people thought might just manage to overcome the evil that her father poured out on a daily basis, was walking home from town one night. It was a different time, a time where people thought they were safe. She had been sent to run some errands for her mother, and time got later than she anticipated. So it was full dark when she was walking along the country road. Full dark was also when her father’s associates were known to make their own trouble.”

“No,” Suzanne gasped. Calvin grabbed another piece of candy and began chewing slowly.

“Now, when the facts started coming out a trial, those three men claimed it was an accident that must have caused those injuries. But no one could quite piece together what kind of accident would have left her face bruised and swollen beyond recognition. They had no idea what could have broken all her fingers and three ribs. And the greatest mystery of all was what kind of accident would have dragged her naked, lifeless body from the scene to her front porch.

“That was the last straw for Mrs. Stevens. Always a quiet woman, folks say she became even quieter. She was concentrating down all the rage that had built for all those years, compressing it into a pinpoint so dark, it sapped all the good straight out of her. Her husband continued on his own way, whistling while he worked about the farm. And then, one night, she got her revenge.

“They had an old cellar off from the house, one where Mr. Stevens kept his personal supply of whiskey. She knew he would go down there every night after his long day of work, just like clockwork. So she prepared. And one night, he went down, and the doors swung shut behind him. She locked it up tight, leaving him down there with nothing but his whiskey, an old lantern, and the exhumed corpses of his three children.”

“Ugh,” exclaimed Calvin, making a face and pushing away. “That’s sick.”

I smiled. “Perhaps, but so was he. ‘You can come out once you make it right,’ she told him, though she had no intention of letting him out. The only way he could make it right was to die in there. That was the atonement she sought. He hollered and raved for the first day, certain the power of his blustering would bring her to heel as it usually did. She sat on the front porch, working on her sewing, never batting an eye at the force of his words. After another day, he was begging. ‘When you make it right,” was all she would tell him.

“Folks finally got suspicious and showed up at the farm. She showed them to the cellar, not a hint of shame in her. They opened it up, not expecting to open up a crypt. Inside, they found him lying in a half formed grave, one other already dug and covered. His two sons sat in their chairs, at least what was left of them, right where Mrs. Stevens had placed them. The walls and doors were scratched and bloodied, but he had apparently saved enough of his fingers to dig up the dry, compressed ground, trying to make it right. She just shook her head when she saw it. ‘It wasn’t right when we put them in the first time,’ she was recorded as saying. She died in prison a few days later, though no one quite knew why.”

There was a creak in the branches above us, bringing us all back to the present. Calvin and Suzanne stretched and adjusted their position, trying to shake off the story. We were not on that farm or in that cellar, but seated safely beneath the tree. I smiled. Safety was relative.

“They say he wanders the grounds, looking for anyone out of their graves. Only he has a bad habit of mistaking the living for the dead. Rumor has it, if he catches you, he’ll bury you in his grave, where no one will ever find you. You’ll be buried alive, deep underground, where you can try to scratch and claw your way to freedom. But he already knows that never works.”

“Is—Is he buried here?” queried Suzanne, glancing around the cemetery as if every headstone was waiting to pounce.

I nodded. “Yep, a couple of rows over. I’ve paid him a visit a time or two, just to investigate this legend. Sad he didn’t seem to learn a thing from his wife.”

“We should try to see him!” said Calvin, jumping to his feet. I glanced at the bottle and noticed he had been comforting himself with it throughout the story. There was a subtle wobble to his stance. Not drunk, I thought, but certainly not sober.

“I can show you where he usually is, if you want. But—“

“Isn’t it dangerous?” Suzanne interrupted.

“Not if you’re with me. I can keep you safe.”

Calvin was already a couple of strides down the hill toward the grave. Suzanne and I hurried to catch up, climbing along the paths until we got closer. I held up a hand to stop them, placing a finger over my lips. “He’s just over there.”

From the gloom, there appeared a specter. He was a frail, emaciated man wearing a baggy pair of overalls and a checkered shirt. His beard was long and tangled about his face, eyes sunken. He held his arm up as if carrying a lantern about, but it emitted no light. As the wind turned, we could hear his mumbled ravings, words about graves and wives and revenge. He peered between the trees and gravestones, scouring his territory obsessively. When he reached the end, he looped back to the beginning, constantly waving his empty hand from side to side as he sought a way to finally make it right.

“Woah,” breathed Calvin, his eyes wide as he stared down at the spectacle before us. I, too, felt a certain awe at Old Man Stevens. So many years, so much time spent seeking, and still not at peace. Suzanne simply looked, well, like she had seen a ghost. Eye wide, face pale, lips trembling.

“Maybe we should go back,” I offered. She nodded, scrambling back the way we came. Calvin trailed behind us, casting glances over his shoulder to ensure the specter was still there.

“Are there more ghosts around here?” he asked, catching up to us.

I nodded. “I assume so. Every grave has a story, right? I just imagine most of them have no interest in pestering the living.”

We settled back under the tree, words flowing between us again. Finally, I realized, we were back into the swing of things. We laughed and talked. They told me what their life had been like since we last met, filling in all the gaps and details. We shared urban legends and spooky stories, working our way through the supply of candy and booze.

And then, on the far horizon, the sun began to crest, turning the black night sky into a fuzzy grey.

“I guess that’s our cue to leave,” said Calvin with a sad smile. “I’m glad we could meet up again.”

I smiled and nodded. “Yeah.” There were tears in my eyes and more words were going to bring those out.

“Same time, same place next year?” asked Suzanne.

I nodded.

“If not before,” Calvin said with a fatalistic chuckle.

“You better not!” I responded, anger mingling with the good-natured joke. I was always on a tightrope, trying to stay perfectly balanced. Sometimes I succeeded.

“Good seeing you, Lynn,” he added as we stood at the gate. He shoved his backpack through the bars and hoisted himself up.

“Take care,” offered Suzanne as she followed.

I watched them leave, the sun rising along the far horizon. It slowly reached out toward me, and I felt my form begin to vanish, burned away like an early morning fog.


And with that, I too shall bid adieu (to the challenge, not the blog!). Tune in for more stories over the next few weeks. I’ll also talk a little bit about what this 13 days series was like for me.Until then, Happy Halloween!

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


13 Stories of Halloween: Right and Wrong

Read the rest of the series here!


They parked their car in the gravel lot, positioning themselves as close to the tree line as they could. The corn maze was closed this time of night, and no one wanted to be caught lurking around after hours. However, being equal parts bored and broke, the chance to explore the maze in complete solitude was too much to pass up.

Joel, Erica, Mandy, and Alvin stumbled across the ground as they headed for the dark line on the horizon that marked the entrance. It was incredibly dark out, which made it even better. Eventually, their eyes would adjust.

Drawing closer, the small group saw the closed up outbuildings. The windows to the ticket booth were closed and locked, the petting zoo was deserted, and the snack truck was dark and silent. They hung close together, laughing in whispers as they made it finally to the entrance. A tall, cut-out of a scarecrow smiled down at them, holding in one gloved hand a signpost with the rules. The writing on it was childish, printed on in a font that resembled broad brushstrokes.

“Rule 1: NO RUNNING! No one wants to leave with a skinned knee!

Rule 2: NO BAD LANGUAGE! Keep it fun for EVERYONE!

Rule 3: DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE CORN! Now why would you want to ruin all the fun?

Rule 4: NO FLASHLIGHTS! It’s better this way, promise!

Rule 5: NO PICKING OR THROWING CORN! Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself!

Rule 6: COMPLY WITH ALL STAFF MEMBERS INSTRUCTIONS! They’re just here to help!

Rule 7: HAVE FUN!!!!”

They were a corny set, but a staple at any event of this sort. There was a rope stretched across the entrance, which made their illicit entry even easier. The four of them slipped beneath the braided rope, the corn rising up around them and blocking out everything but the starry sky above. The moon was thin and pale in the sky, providing only the minimum of light. It turned everything into a misshapen shadow of reality.

There were creaks and groans from the buildings, the whisper of corn bending and swaying in the wind. It set the scene for them, and they all adopted whispers despite the fact no one would be out this far in the wee hours of the morning.

“Left or right?” Joel asked as they faced their first split in the path.

With two votes for left and one for right, they followed that trail straight to a dead end, turning around and laughing as they retraced their steps and proceeded down the right path. The maze led them through twists and turns, each one promising some new reveal. There was an edge of the forbidden to the whole operation which kept them on edge and on their toes. It was as if some angry farmer with his shotgun were about to burst from the corn to chase off trespassers. The four of them proceeded through the maze, taking more wrong turns than right, drunk on the thrill and risk of it all.

After about an hour, more hopelessly lost than they had been for a while, the excitement began to fade. The cold also began to set in, as the temperatures dipped from what had been a pleasant fall evening into the early nips of winter.

“Left, right, or straight?” asked Joel, fatigue creeping into his voice.

“Right,” said Mandy. Erica agreed.

“What are you talking about? That will just lead us back to where we came from. We have to go left.” There was an edge of frustration to Alvin’s voice as he spoke.

“Majority rules, so we go right. We’ll take the left if we’re wrong.”

“What about I just go left and we see who gets to the end first?” there was a prickle of competition in Alvin’s voice. He had a bit of an aggressive streak which led to him turning most events into some sort of game or championship. This was no different.

“If you want to, go ahead.” Mandy pulled her phone from her pocket and shook it at him. “We’ll text you when we beat you,” she said with a sly smile. She knew him well enough to know that he needed only the tiniest bit of goading to throw himself headlong into a perceived race.

He smiled and took off at a run through the field.

“Hey, didn’t you read the sign? No running!” called Erica after him laughing and rolling her eyes. “Geez, I wouldn’t want to be off on my own here. It’s creepy,” she said more quietly, pulling her jacket around her shoulders.

“No kidding,” returned Joel as the three moved through the stalks.

After a moment, a new sound joined the rustle of the corn and the stomp of their feet. It as a rhythmic, pounding sound, like a heartbeat echoing across the field. The three paused to listen, none of them quite sure how to place the noise.

“Is someone playing drums?” offered Mandy. Erica and Joel simply shrugged.

“Maybe Alvin is listening to music or something?” There were mirrored shrugs following Joel’s suggestion. Either way, they pushed on. The sound grew closer, but seemed to be coming from a handful of rows away.

“What the—“ came a shout from within the corn. Alvin’s voice, starting low and reaching up into a high pitch yelp. The pounding noise had stopped, and now there was something new, an up and down chorus of what almost sounded like a cartoon character. The three strained their ears, trying to pick up on what sounded like words, but they could not piece them together.

“Get away from—“ more yells from their friend.

“Alvin?” called Mandy, beginning to turn back to where they parted ways. Joel and Erica followed behind.

“If this is some kind of joke, it’s not funny,” added Joel. He wasn’t sure if he was worried it was and he would look foolish, or if it wasn’t and something truly terrible was going on. Maybe that farmer had shown up after all.

The pounding noise resumed, filling in the echoes from the rise and fall of the cartoonish voice, and they could hear Alvin calling out, warning off whatever he was facing down. His voice grew closer and closer, the remaining three following it through the rows as they tried to trace his steps. He had gotten impressively far away in the few moments they had separated.

The second voice slowly began to fade into coherence as they grew closer. “No one wants to leave with a skinned knee!” chirped something in a voice overly full of cheer. Thud, thud, thud, thud, ran the constant drone in the background, followed again by “No one wants to leave with a skinned knee!”

Alvin’s cries turned from words to general shouts broken by panting breaths. They were close now, just a couple of rows from where he was at the very least. Mandy raced ahead along the path. There was the feeling of something large and imposing galloping along the paths to their side, a ripple through the corn that left an echo of whatever it was.

Turning one last corner, Mandy came to a sudden stop. Alvin could be seen rushing down the long row, glancing over his shoulder every few moments to look at the monstrosity in pursuit. Mandy’s eyes followed his, landing on something that her mind struggled to fit within her previous frame of reality. Loping along the rows of corn behind him stood the grinning scarecrow from the entrance, no longer a mere cardboard cut-out. He towered over the corn, the tallest stalks coming just to his waist, lanky arms and legs spinning as he hurtled along the path. Each step was another beat of that imagined drum.

“Run!” called Alvin as he spotted his friend, panic etched into every muscle of his face.

Almost as if in response, the creature spoke, “No one wants to leave with a skinned knee!” Its face did not move or change, the same smile stretching from ear to ear. The voice echoed out, mechanical in its cheer.

Joel and Erica arrived, taking a shared moment to take in the scene as Mandy had. Now Mandy was yelling, urging Alvin to run faster, to get away. In slow motion, the three friends watched as one of the scarecrow’s large feet rose up, trailing straw in its wake, and came down on Alvin’s back. Alvin fell forward, face pressed into the dirt, still yelling for his friends to run. The sound grew muffled as the foot pressed him further down, the words turning back into indistinguishable yelling. There were snaps and pops, the whine of mechanics compressing the scarecrow’s foot deeper and deeper into the ground.

“No one wants to leave with a skinned knee!” it continued to repeat, words never faltering or changing.

Erica grabbed at a rock on the ground, hurling it up at the smiling face. It hit with a dull thud, then bounced off into the corn. She was back at the ground, grabbing at any fallen ears of corn and stones within reach.

“Leave him alone!” she screamed, her voice harsh and raw. “Get away from him!”

The scarecrow lifted its foot from the indentation in the ground, and Joel tried not to look at the sticky material stretching behind. Alvin was quiet now. So was the scarecrow.

It slowly lifted its smiling face from Alvin’s fallen body, scanning the remaining three as Erica flung more and more projectiles. Mandy was sobbing now, and Joel just felt numb.

“Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself!” chimed the scarecrow with forced glee. It took a step towards them, and Joel and Mandy stumbled backwards. Erica continued her assault, rage plastered on her face. In a few short strides, she and the Scarecrow were face to kneecap, poised like two fighters about to battle.

“Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself!” droned the cartoonish voice of the scarecrow as it bent down closer to her. She flailed out with arms and legs, fingers morphed into viscous claws that scratched at the fabric and paint covering the monster even as it grabbed her shirt and lifted her in the air.

“Erica, run, go!” said Mandy over her sobs. But Erica was blinded by battle lust, continuing to swing and strike out at the giant foe. It was almost as if she truly believed she could win.

“Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself!” said the scarecrow once more, then, with a flick of his wrist, sent Erica flying out across the stalks of corn. For a moment, she was silhouetted in the sky, then again swallowed up by the darkness.

Mandy wailed, turning and gripping Joel by the collar and drawing him close. “We have to go!” she said, serving to snap him out of frozen immobility. Fight, flight, freeze.

Mandy took off at a run, dragging Joel along by one arm.

“No!” he said, suddenly fueled by terror. He ripped his arm away and stood in the field. Despite having finished with Erica, the scarecrow had not begun pursuing them. “Don’t run,” he gasped, the reality finally settling on him.

“What? Are you kidding me? We have to get away.” She took a few steps back and grabbed Joel by the arm again, trying to pull him from his spot.

He fixed her with wide eyes set firmly in his ashen face. “We will. Just don’t run. It won’t find us if we don’t break the rules.”

Her face was puzzled, then awareness struck. “Okay,” she mumbled, sniffing back tears. “Let’s just get out of here.”

As they walked through the rows upon rows of corn, they strained their ears for the steady thunder of the scarecrow’s feet. But it was quiet again, save for the rustling of the corn in the wind. After what felt like days of trekking through the corn, Joel finally cracked, sinking to his feet.

“We’re going in circles,” he mumbled. “It’s like there’s not even a path out anymore.”

Mandy knelt beside him, grabbing his arm and trying to bring him back to his feet. “Come on, Joel, we have to keep going. We probably just took a wrong turn.”

He shook his head, eyes staring unfocused at the ground. Everything was darkness. “No, don’t you get it? He’s trapped us here. There’s no path out.”

She was crying again, still tugging on his arm. “There was a path in. We just have to retrace our steps. Come on, we can do it.”

There was a violent swing of his head toward her, his eyes blazing with fury. “You think that’s how this works? That we’ll just walk out of here? We already broke the rules, Mandy. We’re going to fucking die here!”

He seemed almost as shocked as she was as the words spilled out of his lips. Shock turned to horror as the sound of footsteps began again in the distance.

“No,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to. It was an accident.” Suddenly, Joel was on his feet again. “It was an accident, I swear. I’m sorry!” His eyes scanned the rows and rows of corn, searching for a reprieve.

“Keep it fun for everyone!” echoed the response, followed by a childish giggle. As the steps came closer, the voice repeated its mantra, followed by what might have been a friendly laugh in other circumstances.

“No,” yelled Joel as he turned to face the direction of the sound. “I said I was sorry. I’m sorry!”

Still closer. Mandy grabbed his arm again, pulling him towards the path. “Come on, Joel, we have to get out of here before it finds you. We have to—“

He yanked his arm away, eyes filled with despair. “No, it’s too late for me, Mandy. I broke the rules.”

“We can figure it out, let’s just move. We can stay ahead of it.”

“Keep it fun for everyone!” Now it was distinct.

“Get away from me!” roared Joel, shoving her into the darkness. Mandy stumbled, landing hard on the ground.

There was a pause in the unstoppable steps, a brief whirr of electronics, and then it spoke again. “Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself!” A momentary pause. “Keep it fun for everyone!”

“Run,” he said, turning his back on her to face what was stalking down the rows.

Mandy finally gave in, turning and walking slowly down the rows of corns. Don’t run, she reminded herself. Don’t curse. Don’t throw corn. Don’t cut through the rows. She tried to remember all the rules on the sign. Taking the first turn, Joel disappeared from sight just as the scarecrow turned onto his row. She winced at the sound of screaming coming from him, tried to block it out as it became muffled. When it finally stopped, the silence was far worse.

Her tears laid a marker of her progress, ephemeral breadcrumbs that did little to show her physical steps but were everything to her emotional unwinding. She walked until here feet were sore, then continued until they faded into numbness. The moon never moved and the sun never rose. Eventually, she looked at her watch, seeing the numbers click from 6:00 to 10:00 to noon, but her world never changed.

She stopped at another dead end, staring at the impenetrable wall. She had walked every possible path, but none of them led any further to freedom. Perhaps, she allowed herself to think, Joel was right.

She had held the thought at bay, afraid it would finally dissolve what little hope she had left. True to her fears, it did just that, but left a firm streak of defiant determination in its wake.

“If that’s the game, then,” she whispered, stealing her resolve. With a deep breath, she plunged through the rows.

Almost instantly, the footsteps picked up again, rocketing towards her. ”Now why would you ruin all the fun?” mocked her predator. She heard corn crunching beneath his feet as he crashed toward her. Every step was closer, the voice repeating its phrase again and again with maddening consistency.

Mandy imagined she could feel the ground tremble with each of its steps. She heard the echoes of its voice and felt phantom whispers of breath, hot and rancid, on her neck. But looking behind, the monster was not yet in sight.

She also imaged that there was a break up ahead. That she could see something besides more corn standing beyond those far rows. It was hope, she said with defeat, hope trying to reassert some little flame to keep her going.

“Now why would you ruin all the fun?”

And then, she was stumbling out onto grass, corn falling away behind her. The sun was bright and high in the sky. Mandy stumbled, falling to the ground as her eyes reeled from the transition between total darkness and total light. She scrambled along the ground, turning to look back at the hole from which she had burst. But there was nothing but golden stalks of corn.


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


13 Stories of Halloween: Merely Players

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Darren barely felt human. In fact, he felt more like a monster built purely of anxiety and tension, one that just happened to ooze into a human form for the night. Everyone said such feelings were normal. That as all well and good, he reasoned, but it did nothing to quiet the awareness that he was sweaty, nauseated, jittery, and hyperventilating.

Stage fright. It sounded so innocuous, but it was far from it. Still, he reminded himself, this was all about becoming a better him. After his last breakup, he recognized a few facts. First, he had terrible taste in partners. Second, he deserved better. And third, perhaps most painfully, he was no longer the kind of person he would want to date, let alone anyone else. His journey of self-discovery had led to a brash, spontaneous audition for a local play. And that audition dragged him all the way to that very moment, sitting backstage as the audience filtered in. The play would go for one night only. Halloween, of course. And the festive date meant they had a full house as well. If he quieted his breathing and the pounding of his heart, he imagined he could hear the murmur of hundreds—well, perhaps tens—of voices.

“You look like a first timer,” said Jean from the seat next to him. Her face was painted with almost gaudy makeup, but everyone assured him it would look lovely from the audience. He flexed his own face, feeling the foundation shift like a mask.

“That obvious?”

She reached over and pulled his water glass from his hand. “That’s your sixth glass of water. You’re going to piss yourself on stage if you keep it up.” The smile was genuine, understanding.

Until that moment, Darren had not considered needing to hold his bladder through at least Act One. That brought up all new anxieties. “What if I can’t do this?” he blurted out.

Her words were a cool breeze soothing his brow. “Hey, you’ve practiced, right?”

He nodded.

“You know your lines?”

He swallowed, trying mentally to run through his lines, then nodded. “I hope.”

She just smiled. “Then, I suppose you can do this. Not like you have much of a choice now.”

It was reassuring. Of course. He only had a few lines, a good number of which were written sneakily in the book he was to read from. Even if he got stuck there, he would just have to push through it.

The rest of the preparation was a blur of activity. People were checking and nitpicking at his costume, reapplying makeup where he had sweated through. The backstage crew checked and rechecked props, reviewed their cues, and ensured each character knew where to find what they would need. His fellow actors squeezed his shoulder, whispered encouragement, and always concluded with the famous “Break a leg.” For his part, he mostly nodded out of the way, eyes skimming over his lines one last time.

Then, the lights dimmed and the director stepped out to welcome the audience. While he expected his anxiety to crest again, send him into an even greater tailspin, it surprised him. His body likely panicking, he found his mind growing surprisingly clear and focused. Perhaps this is what those lunatics meant when they said they worked better under pressure.

Applause, then the curtains went up on the opening scene. It was your typical gruesome, gory plot for a seasonal play. The first scene was Michael and Linda, young and happy couple in the prime of their life. They were on a walk through the park, discussing future plans. Michael took an aside, looked at the ring in his pocket, and waxed poetic about the powers of love to the audience. The audience was not fooled, of course, by the saccharine opening. They were simply biding their time.

As he returned to Linda, purportedly studying the flowers while he was convening with the audience, the lights dimmed. Someone stepped from the shadows. It was Trip, a perennial figure at the community theater, bedecked in a hat that covered the top half of his face and a trench coat that concealed the rest of him. He brandished a weapon, Michael stepped forward to protect his one true love, and then there was a crash. Michael collapsed, Linda screamed, and the house lights went down.

A funeral was next, Linda the grieving partner. Jean played it beautifully, appearing devastated and completely unpredictable. The next few scenes displayed an obsessive, frantic turn in the lovely Linda, who’s only thought was to restore what had been taken from her.

Darren took a deep breath, stepping onto the scene while the lights were dimmed and finding his place. The set behind him was a curios shop, featuring the comical shrunken head that had become the unofficial mascot of the show. He smiled seeing it, feeling a bit more of the anxiety melt away.

Linda approached, and he looked up from behind his counter as the effects crew rang a simple bell.

“Afternoon,” he said, his voice cracking just a bit. There were no loud guffaws from the audience.

Linda looked around the shop, appearing distracted, uneasy, and yet hopeful. He was amazed Jean was as talented as she was, especially at a community theater that drew no more than 150 people at a time. She deserved to be famous, he thought.

“They told me you could help me,” she said, stepping up to his counter.

“Well, I don’t know who they are or what I’d be able to do to help.” He turned a shoulder to her, appearing to study his inventory.

“Please,” Linda responded and reached out to grab his arm.

He looked back at her and sighed. “What is it you want? And I don’t work for free,” he said tersely, wagging a finger in her direction. The audience seemed to hang on their every word.

“I’ll pay whatever you want, you just have to help me get him back.”

Darren looked her up and down. “Yes, you will certainly pay. Now who is it you are wanting?”

Linda stepped away, the spotlight following her as she gazed up toward the rafters. “My Michael,” she said with a sob. She went on to recount the story as Darren did his best to appear grumpy, but moved.

“Are you sure about this?” he cautioned as she finished her tale.

“Yes, anything you ask. I can’t go on without him!”

Darren turned, peering over the row of books behind him and selecting one that appeared sufficiently old and dusty. “Take this and make your preparations. Return to me by the next full moon.”

Linda rushed from the shop, clutching the book to her chest. “Thank you,” she said passionately. “Thank you. I will return, I swear.”

Darren stroked the fake beard on his chin as he watched her leave, lights dimming again.

Backstage, Jean grabbed his hand quickly as she swung past. “You did great. Keep it up,” she whispered, then swept back into the stage. She read slowly from the book, appearing to ponder the different items needed. After a moment, she set off with resolve. The next few scenes detailed her preparation, culminating finally with her taking a shovel into a set designed to look like the graveyard, an almost full moon hanging heavily on the backdrop behind her.

The lights turned to black as the sound of a shovel piercing the earth echoed in the theater.

In the brief pause, there was a flurry of activity. The ritual scene had to be set. In Act Two, the ritual was completed, bringing Michael back. Like most stories, his resurrection went well until his insatiable bloodthirst was revealed. Act Three dealt entirely with how to kill someone who had already been dead once before. But, Act Two was Darren’s big scene, and the nerves returned to flutter through his stomach.

He walked on stage while it was still dark, bending to “light” the flickering electric LED candles. For a few brief seconds, they were the only light on the stage. Slowly, the house lights came up. That was Jean’s cue, and Linda came hurrying in from stage left.

“I have him,” she gasped. Darren nodded.

“Well, bring him in then. Set him here between the candles.” He stretched his arm widely to indicate the circle around him, then stepped over to rearrange the implements on the table. The stage directions had not been very clear on this point, but had indicated he needed to busy himself while she was gone.

Linda hesitated, opened her mouth to speak, and then was gone. She returned moments later carrying a withered bundle in her arms. A decaying, emaciated hand slipped from beneath the wrappings, cluing the audience in to what her large parcel truly was. Linda set Michael’s body gently on the floor, peeling away the fabric and stroking his hair gently. She looked on the corpse with true love.

Darren shooed her away. “You must prepare the article of binding. It is the only way to hold his spirit here.” He stepped over to inspect the body. This was one part they had improvised on. The props crew had an awful time finding a suitable corpse, and so they had been completing rehearsals using everything from a manikin to a blow-up doll. But now he saw the true extent of their creativity and skills.

The corpse looked like someone who had been buried for quite some time. There was dirt on the clothes. The body was tiny in the confines of the neatly pressed suit. Skin clung along every outline of bone. It was so realistic, Darren almost imagined he could smell the decay and rot, but pushed the thought aside. Just nerves, he told himself.

Linda returned with a lock of her hair tied around a sprig of flowers. She bent to the corpse and tucked it into his mouth. Darren caught a glimpse of teeth, then the long darkness of the dummy’s throat. It gave him a sense of vertigo.

He stepped over to the table with the prepared items, grabbing the book and the chalice. He handed the chalice to Linda, who began to dip her fingers in and sprinkle blood across the corpse and the ritual area. A speck landed on Darren’s lips, and he licked it away. That assured he would not make that mistake again. He had presumed it would taste sweet, given it was just food coloring and corn syrup. However, it was rather bitter and tangy. Apparently the props crew had not been too careful about how it was stored. He hoped they had not mixed anything more toxic into it. It strangely resembled paint, and he had to quickly remind himself that ingesting a drop of paint would not kill him.

Darren read from the book. The words were mostly gibberish to him, but he did his best to form them precisely as the director had instructed. She was visible from the corner of his eyes, mouthing the words with him. He spoke louder, more forcefully as he proceeded, letting the energy of the scene take him over. It was exhilarating; the words moved through him with a renewed vigor, almost as if the play had taken control. He simply knew what had to be done.

Crossing the stage, he grabbed the knife from the preparation table and brought it down forcefully on the chest of the corpse, aiming squarely for the heart. Now, Linda was supposed to weep as nothing happened. It would be later in the night, when they had both left, that Michael would stir.

Only, that was not what happened. The corpse on the stage seemed to let out a gasp, a strand of hair escaping its lips and fluttering through the air. Darren and Jean both froze, caught off guard. But Jean was never one to let a scene die.

“Michael, is that you?” she asked, pressing her head to the chest of the corpse.

Her face grew pale, and even Jean, the real talent on stage, lost her place. The silence stretched on, finally broken from a low groan coming out of the corpse’s lips.

Darren stepped back, eyes wide as the body in front of him regained its flesh. Colored returned to the skin, and it pulled away from the bones. It was almost as if someone were inflating the body, reinstilling life into it. Darren’s mind scrambled for reason. Surely this was a stage trick. But he could not come up with any possible way to create such an illusion.

He could hear the audience gasp, a trickle of applause spreading throughout as they witnessed what was surely a marvelous illusion. Mirrors, they thought. A display screen, perhaps. Maybe a trap door?

Darren saw the director, a look of frenzy and joy in her eyes, grab the rope for the curtains and begin to stretch them across the stage. The body began to move, reaching out toward Jean. She sprung to her feet and raced towards off stage. But the director caught her, arm surging forward with something bright. Jean curled around the woman’s arm with a gasp, almost like a child getting stopped in Red Rover. She hung there for a moment, then collapsed to the stage, unmoving.

“All good things require sacrifice,” said the director with a smile, moving quickly over the stage and kneeling by the now alert body.

“Andrea?” he asked. She nodded and kissed him.

“But how? What did—Why am—“

“Sh,” she whispered, smoothing his hair from his forehead. “You need your strength.”

She moved quickly, too quickly for Darren to really know what had happened. In one moment, he was standing in shock, watching some impossible scene play out in front of him as the audience murmured curiously from behind the curtain. The next, there was blood pouring from his neck as he tried to stop the flow.

He fell to his knees, blood pooling around him. The man on the ground seemed at first shocked, then repulsed. Then intrigued. As the lights faded one last time, Darren saw the once-corpse begin to eagerly lap the blood from the floor, eyes closed in ecstasy.


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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: Skeletons in the Closet

Find more Halloween themed stories at this link!


Mrs. Baker enjoyed setting up for the annual Halloween party. That is why it had been her responsibility for the past seven years at the school. It was a popular annual event held the Friday before Halloween, which meant it was time to start transforming the gymnasium. The old supply closet held most of the old standbys, thought she tried to add one or two new pieces of décor each year, primarily through shopping the day after Halloween for any remaining treasures. Last year she had managed to secure some large spiders to decorate the basketball goals, as well as a zombie and tombstone that would look perfect popping up from the floor. She was giddy to set everything up.

The student council was behind her, arms open to carry various pieces to the gym and start decorating. They seemed less enthusiastic, but she reasoned that was because they had to remain after hours to prepare. They would be proud of everything come the big reveal.

There was the usual fare, like pounds of fake webs and a couple cardboard cut-outs to hang on the wall. There were streamers and stained orange tablecloths in a box under the table—the punch table, she thought as she shoved it out the door. An old, tired looking scarecrow leaned against the back wall, lounging next to Jimmy Bones, the unofficial mascot of the yearly party.

Mrs. Baker carefully pulled Jimmy from the back of the closet, straightening his hat and button down shirt while brushing away the dust. Jimmy had been around as long as she remember. He was a fixture.

“Set Jimmy up by the sign in table. He can greet everyone as they come in.”

Joey Miller gingerly wheeled the skeleton to his assigned place, setting him in front of the Halloween 2016 table.

_

Ms. Calloway was not all that interested in setting up for a Halloween party. It was a nasty, perverse holiday, no matter how people tried to spin it. But the school insisted on throwing a party for the students as part of autumn celebrations. They at least had the good sense not to call it a Halloween party. But there had been clear directions from the principal.

“And make it a little scary, you know. For the kids. They’re expecting it.”

She still was not sure how this all became her responsibility, but someone years ago had put her name next to the event. And things like that tended to stick, what with how thin everyone was stretched just to get the kids in and out of classes each day.

She grumbled as she dove into the supply closet. There would be food and punch for the kids, and she heard someone had put in some money for a band to play. That meant she had to put forth at least a minimal effort to make it look festive. Inside the closet there were posters and signs that she could quickly tack to the wall. She heard someone had gotten some hay bales to set up, and she saw a tangled pile of fake fall leaves in the corner. That was enough to create the mood, she reasoned.

In addition, there was what she assumed was an old science room skeleton. It looked like it had seen better days, but she thought it might be passable as a scary element. There was a hat resting dejectedly on his head with the name “Jimmy” etched onto it, which is why Jimmy had been her greeter for many years. Looking at his empty eyes, she felt he hated it almost as much as she did.

She had always rolled Jimmy to his place, and she hoped it would be enough to satisfy Mr. Howards’ demands for something scary. He seemed over eager to scare the children. It almost made her worry about him and his fitness for the role. She pushed the thoughts from her mind, carrying the meager decorations from the room and towards the gymnasium with Jimmy in tow.

Just a few years until retirement, she reminded herself glumly. 1976 couldn’t get there soon enough.

_

Mr. Brown was not excited to clean out the supply room. Someone had left it to gather dust and junk for years, and now he was being tasked to make it sparkle again. He was a custodian, but this seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. Still, he knew better than to speak up. Upsetting the powers that be was a good way to start looking for a new job. And he rather liked working in the school.

The door groaned when he opened it, revealing a mountain of unused junk. There were broken desks and chairs, general trash, a few pieces of old science equipment, and boxes upon boxes of outdated textbooks. Many of them had water damage, the mold beginning to creep up cardboard boxes. He opened one of the books, its spine snapping with the effort, and read the date on the cover. 1943. Nearly 15 years out of date, but still taking up space. At least that decision was easy, he thought as he shoved them into a discard pile.

Some of the desks were salvageable, with minimal work. Most of the chairs were busted, missing legs or parts of the back. Why anyone considered saving them was beyond him.  Mr. Brown studied the science equipment. He had never been much of a student, but he recognized some items. That did not mean he knew if they were useful or not. It would be a good opportunity to talk to Ms. Stiles, the science teacher. She would probably have to help him sort it out.

There were supplies for what looked like a dissection class, all wrapped and arranged neatly. But the water must have gotten to them as well, because they too were stained with rust. He shoved those into the trash pile. An old metal worktable was underneath the supplies, pockmarked by age and use. He shuffled a few bottles along the top of the table, providing a preliminary check to ensure there were no cracks or breaks. They appeared salvageable. Ms. Stiles would probably be excited at the possibility of new equipment. Other things—tubing and bottles of things with strange chemical names—he was less sure of. He needed her expertise.

He grabbed his broom and swept out the general trash and dust. It made quite the mess. Back in one far corner, he found an old science room skeleton. It stood staring at him, mouth hanging slightly open in an almost grin. Mr. Brown pushed closer. This was a find Ms. Stiles would certainly be interested in. He looked it over. All the limbs were there, still strung up with wire. The wire appeared to be slightly bent and poorly twisted, but it would hold, he reckoned. Atop the man’s grinning head was an old mechanic’s cap emblazoned with the name “Jimmy” in curling script.

“So, Jimmy, been waiting here long?” He chuckled at his own joke. One the floor, he spotted a shirt lying on the ground, pattern matching Jimmy’s hat. The name tag on the front pocket agreed as well. Unfortunately, it seemed as if rats had gotten to it, leaving behind chewed holes and ragged tears. And, as he inspected it closer, dark edges that suggested the mold had gotten to it as well. Mr. Brown tossed the shirt into the trash pile, and eyed Jimmy proudly. Ms. Stiles would be very excited about his find. Maybe even excited enough to take him up on his offer of dinner.

Mr. Brown began to whistle as he worked.

_

Alex Cooper felt a surprising feeling of panic as he looked down at the newly dead body. He had planned and prepared for this, but his nerves still prickled with the reality staring up at him. Jimmy was a waste of space. Worse, even. In fact, Alex felt that he had done his entire town a favor by snuffing out this ne’er-do-well. Jimmy had been a troublemaker, the sort who rarely held down a stable job and often tarnished the character of the young women in town. He had mocked Alex for many years, and it was finally over.

Alex sighed deeply, feeling so much anger and tension drain from his body, pooling at his feet with Jimmy’s blood.  It was a high like nothing he ever felt. Jimmy’s eyes had been wide, shocked at the revelation before him. Alex was certain that, until the very last minute, Jimmy had thought he would not go through with it. But the knife had fallen, digging through his skin. It was like slicing into a raw steak. The flesh resisted, then gave away. Jimmy gasped, but that was the only sound he made.

In an instant, it was over.

As the shock fell from Alex’s limbs, he was spurred to action. First, he needed to clean up. He sopped up the blood on the ground with a rag that he would later burn in his fireplace. Then it was time to lift the body. His position as a school science teacher had allowed him to purchase some extra chemicals, generally designed for in class experiments and cleaning of materials. He had stowed bottes upon bottles in the science storage room, bottles of acid that would make quick work of Jimmy’s overly slim form. It would, of course, take a few days to fully process the body. But Alex was also certain it would take a few days for anyone to notice Jimmy was actually missing and not just shirking his responsibilities.

The bones were the only catch, but he couldn’t help but grin.

The class anatomy skeleton had been falling apart, recently. Everyone would be excited to see a new, repaired version in class in just a few weeks. That way, Jimmy would always be in sight, a constant reminder of Alex’s triumph. For once in his life, he would be the star of the class.


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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: Bend the Rules

See earlier days here!


Laura reached into the candy bowl, digging deep to find one of the remaining Milky Way bars.

“Hey!” Her roommate appeared suddenly from the corner and swatted at her hand. “I told you those were for trick-or-treaters.”

Laura pulled her hand back with mock hurt in her eyes. “I’m wasting away here, Jen!”

Her appeal fell on deaf ears, and Jen simply picked up the candy bowl and carried it with her into the kitchen. There she could keep her eyes on it while she finished baking a round of cupcakes for the Halloween party later. “If you want candy,” she yelled over her shoulder, “the stores are falling over themselves to sell it to you. We can eat the leftovers after, anyway.”

Laura thought she heard the crinkle of a wrapper sneak out of the kitchen, but she couldn’t be sure. Instead, she dropped onto the couch and began flipping through channels. Surely she could find a Friends re-run. Those were always on somewhere, right?

Giving up on the television—there was only so much teenage programming a semi-grown adult could take—she stared at the clock. It was 6:00, which meant trick-or-treaters should begin arriving soon. They would be out and about until 8:00, the city-enforced cut-off, and then Laura and Jen would leave to go to a more age-appropriate activity. That meant two hours to fill.

She wandered into the kitchen where Jen was tapping on her phone as the oven clicked away. The first batch was due out soon, and Laura was hoping she could grab a sample.

“Don’t even think about it. I only have enough batter for a couple dozen.”

“No one is going to notice if there are only 23. Besides, don’t you want to make sure they taste alright before subjecting them to everyone else?”

Jen looked over her phone with an unamused glare full of friendly antagonism. “Everyone loves these cupcakes. They’ll be fine, I promise.” She turned and peaked in on the cupcakes, examining them through the oven’s window as if they were soldiers lined for a parade. “If you’re so hungry, why don’t you get a real dinner or something?”

“Because it’s Halloween. I just want to eat candy and junk food.”

“Then you’ll have to wait for the party.” The doorbell rang, and she smiled as she grabbed the bowl of candy. “But we have a fully stocked fridge if you change your mind,” she finished as she walked down the hall and to the door.

Laura heard the echoes of “Trick-or-treat!” stumbling out of the gaggle of children. She saw a ghost, a witch, and two Elsas on the front porch, all holding out their buckets expectantly.

Jen gushed over the costumes, placing one piece of candy in each bucket.

“Now what do you say?” came some adult voice from outside the house. An equally disjointed chorus of “thank you,” filtered back into the house.

Jen waltzed back into the kitchen and set the bowl down with finality. She glanced at her phone, and then hurriedly moved toward the oven.

“Oh, they’re perfect,” she gushed as she pulled them from the oven. Carefully, she extracted each one and placed it on the rack to cool, before turning her attention back to the batter.

The cycle repeated. Kids showed up, Jen danced away to give them candy, and Laura sat staring at the forbidden cupcakes while her stomach growled. Now it was a matter of principle rather than hunger.

After the cupcakes were out of the oven and the icing was made, Jen managed to pause.

“Okay, I need to get in costume while these finish cooling. Think you can handle candy duty?”

“I think I can manage,” Laura responded grumpily, but Jen was already halfway up the stairs to her room. Laura eyed the bowl and reached over, plucking out a packet of Skittles.

“Not like anyone will miss it,” she grumbled to herself and emptied the packet into her mouth. Delicious. This was what Halloween was all about.

The doorbell rang, and she dutifully grabbed the bowl. A tiny gaggle of middle schoolers were outside, one Dracula with a zombie and Tinkerbell.

“Trick-or-treat,” they intoned, the words having lost some of their fervor after what had to have been dozens of houses. Laura could see their bags were heavy with candy, but they were not to be deterred. She admired their spirit.

Though it limited her leftover candy stash, she dropped a small handful of candy into each bag. She watched their eyes brighten, some of the fatigue shaking off at the generous bounty. Their “thank you” sounded more sincere than most. Unlike Jen, Laura was not about to be stingy to the poor kids, no matter what the rules for handing out candy were.

Back to the kitchen where the cupcakes waited. They were pumpkin with cream cheese icing, and Laura had been sitting there sniffing the spiced cake for almost an hour. Glancing quickly upstairs and seeing no one, she grabbed one of the cakes and unceremoniously dipped it into the bowl of icing. She gave it an extra swirl for good measure, then eagerly took a bite of the whole thing. The icing was melting and sliding along the top, some of it soaking into the cake while the rest dribbled down her hands. In three quick bites, she had devoured it before it could make any more of a mess.

They really were delicious, she thought, begrudgingly agreeing with Jen’s haughty boast. The doorbell rang again, and she was dragged back to the front door. Only this time her stomach had stopped grumbling. Instead, she felt it twist and turn as it digested the treat.

Again, the cycle repeated. She grabbed a quick glass of water, coughing as she attempted to dislodge the crumb that seemed to be stuck in her throat. It did little to help, her soft cough sputtering into an occasional wheeze as the feeling refused to budge. Great, she told herself, a cold was just what she needed before a party.

After a few minutes, Jen reappeared on the stairs, now dressed as a standard witch. She had a flared skirt that came down to mid-thigh, bright green tights, a cheap hat, and a fake nose strapped to her face.

“How do I look?”

“Like a Dollar Store hooker,” shot back Laura with a smirk.

“Perfect, that was my goal.” Jen rolled her eyes and laughed good-naturedly. “I think I need to put the cupcakes in the fridge. So they can cool in time for icing,” she added as she leaned her broom against the back door.

“Your call,” said Laura, scrambling out of the kitchen. Her trespass would soon be discovered, and she would rather be out of the way when it was. She couldn’t help but smile, though, as she dodged out to the couch. Her stomach continued turning over the food, and she felt an occasional pang from her gut. Maybe the cream cheese icing was not the best call for the lactose intolerant woman, she thought dryly.

There was silence in the kitchen for a moment.

“Lau,” came Jen’s overly sweet voice. Laura started to laugh, knowing it would ruffle some feathers. But what were friends for if not to push boundaries? “Did you eat one of these?”

“I might have. But it was consensual, I swear!” she joked.

More silence. Laura turned and looked over the back of the couch. She had expected some teasing, mock anger, maybe even a friendly scolding. Silence was surprising.

“You really shouldn’t have,” came the eventual reply. There was no humor in her voice, but rather a resigned, disappointed tone.

Laura knew well enough when to set joking aside. “I’m sorry, Jen. I’ll skip mine at the party, then. But they are delicious.”

A sigh. “That’s good, I guess.”

Laura resumed flipping through the channels, trying to quiet her guilt. Jen had seemed a lot more upset than she anticipated. As the channels flipped by, she continued to cough in an attempt to move the crumb, but it seemed to only get more and more stuck. Then there was something new, an uneasiness and guilt. Laura felt it as a subtle tightness in her chest, a sense of dizziness that settled over her.  It was just a cupcake, she reminded herself, not Jen’s one true love. But that feeling continued to creep through her body, a noose tightening around her neck.

The doorbell rang, and Jen completed her ritual. Squeals, thanks, ringing bells. It all cycled again and again as time ticked by and sweat began to tingle on Laura’s brow.

And now her stomach was churning, unsettled turning into nausea.

“Aren’t you going to get ready?” called Jen from the kitchen. “We need to leave soon, if we’re going to be on time.”

“I think I’m going to lie down a minute before the party,” she responded. When she turned to look, Jen was just watching her.

“It’s eating away at you, huh?”

Laura forced a weak smile. “I thought it would be funny. Sorry, Jen.”

Jen waved her hand, as if brushing away the apology. “Don’t worry about it. I can tell it won’t happen again.”

Laura rose unsteadily from the couch, feeling the room spin around her. This was not just anxiety and guilt, she thought suddenly, but she also had no other explanation. Maybe a heart attack? The flu? Asthma?

Her mind raced through possibilities as she walked toward the stairs. She just needed to lie down, she told herself, but felt her legs weakening beneath her. One moment, she was walking toward the stairs. The next, she was face down on the carpet of the entryway.

“Jen,” she called out, her voice weak, “I think something’s wrong.”

Jen appeared in the doorway of the kitchen with a domed platter of cupcakes, looking down on Laura with a thin veneer of sympathy over her glee. “Oh, Laura, I told you to wait, didn’t I?” She walked over to Laura and kneeled down. Softly, she smoothed the hair from Laura’s sweaty brow. “You simply can’t go to the party like this,” she chided, almost motherly. “I can’t have you telling everyone my cupcakes made you sick, now can I?”

Laura tried to speak, but the muscles of her lips and tongue simply could not respond. They sat like glutted slugs on her face. She could hear vague sounds coming from her mouth, air passing through without any direction.

“I guess you’ll just have to stay in tonight. Bummer, huh?” With a smile and a wink, Jen was back on her feet and walking toward the door. “I’ll let everyone know you were sad to miss out.” She grabbed her broom and opened the door, turning back to look at her collapsed friend once again.

“I’d say don’t wait up, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be dead soon anyway,” she snapped.

The door closed behind her as Laura sank farther and farther into darkness.


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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: Running Late

Join in the Halloween fun here!


“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.

“Run.”

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!

See the Halloween collection here!


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

Read the other stories here.


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

Catch up or follow along here.


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


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.

“No.”

“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.

“Y-O-U.”

“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?”

“No.”

“Are you evil?”

“No.”

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

“No.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“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.

“No.”

“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.

“No.”

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

“Yes.”

“A singer?”

“No.”

“A musician?”

“No.”

“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.

“D-E-A-D.”

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?”

“Yes.”


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13 Stories of Halloween: A Nip in the Air

If you’re just joining us, check here for more information and to read other stories. Happy reading!


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


13 Stories of Halloween: Tresspass

Hello there! Welcome to the 13 Stories of Halloween in the Attic. I know, it’s not an original concept, but I thought it would be fun. What it means is, for the next 13 days, I’m going to post a short story relating to the season. Being a predominantly horror/supernatural writer, this is kind of like my Christmas. So I thought I should celebrate!

The stories will be short one-shots dealing with seasonal themes. Expect to see classic monsters, trick-or-treaters, jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and ghouls. Some will be funny, some scary, and most of them a little campy. I have written a few of them over the past two days, and there is quite a bit of variability in the style and tone of them. Hopefully there will be something for everyone! All the stories will be available in the 13 Stories of Halloween tag, so you can catch up anytime. Without further ado, I give you the first story. Happy reading!


“How long do we have to stay here?” Alex asked, his eyes trying to take in the decrepit setting all at once but only succeeding in bouncing wildly from one corner of the room to the other.

“What, are you chickening out already?” His friend Dean threw his backpack onto the floor as he stomped in.

“No, I just—it’s hot out, is all, and this place definitely doesn’t have AC.”

The two boys stood in the entryway to the abandoned house. Like every town, theirs had its haunted house. They were certain, however, that their haunted house was actually haunted. Unlike all those others. A sweeping staircase stretched in front of them and up towards the second floor. There was a room to either side of the entryway, neither decorated in a way to suggest any previous use. Everything was simply covered in a hefty coat of dust and broken glass. The windows had been boarded up, but only after the town hooligans had managed to smash most of them.

Dean knelt down by his bag, the dust swirling around him as he disturbed it. His hands swam through the bag before escaping with two flashlights. He had replaced the batteries before leaving home, and they shone brightly as he tested them out.

“Trust me, Al, you aren’t going to melt.” Dean shoved a flashlight toward Alex, who took it and rapidly clicked it on and off as if afraid it would reject his commands. Dean took a few steps forward, venturing further into the house along the hallway running parallel to the stairs. “Guess we should have a look around?”

Alex nodded and turned his light on. While the moon was large and bright outside, almost none of that light made it past the plywood sheets on the windows. The floors creaked under their feet, obviously unused to being walked on. How long had such a place lain dormant, Alex wondered. There were no signs left of the original occupants. Of course, that made sense. He never understood why the houses in movies and TV shows were always furnished with antiques. He knew enough to know that was like burying cash in a house and leaving the door unlocked.

The hallway led back and into what appeared to be a kitchen. There were old hookups from something, plus the sagging remains of countertops. Dean tapped his flashlight against a hole in the wall. “Someone beat us to the pipes and wiring,” he said with a smirk. Alex just nodded.

There was a small pantry off the kitchen, but nothing inside besides rat droppings and an old pull string light. Despite its rather imposing presence on the street, the house itself was beginning to feel rather cramped. And, if Alex was honest, boring. Hearing the stories, he had expected bloodstains and skeletons, maybe some screaming ghosts and at least a general feeling of unease. But it felt like an abandoned house. Nothing special.

Dean took the lead, walking back towards the entryway. The two rooms off the entrance were large and open. One had a fireplace in the middle of one wall, the brickwork crumbling away. Dean shone his light inside it and leaned close to inspect what was left. Expecting perhaps some charred bones or the remains of a secret diary, he was disappointed to find nothing more than some burnt newspaper—probably from the last bum seeking shelter—and bird droppings.

“Well, this is a bit of a letdown,” muttered Dean as he rose back to full height. Alex leaned against the opposite wall, his flashlight off and bouncing softly against his knee.

“I did expect something a little more interesting from the scariest house in Four Clovers,” agreed Alex.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure my Aunt’s house after chili night is a lot scarier than this old place.”

“But I’m guessing you still want to stay?”

Dean looked at Alex as if he were the dumbest person in the room. “Of course,” he said, stating the obvious, “it’s a dare, isn’t it? We have to stay until after 3:00am. The Witching Hour.” At the last phrase, he flipped his light up so it cast his face in shadows, taking one long, stalking step towards Alex. It was less effective than he hoped.

“I bet the asbestos in here is terrible for cell service, too,” bemoaned Alex as he slid down the wall and pulled his phone from his pocket.

“I don’t know if that’s how that works,” stated Dean, “and either way, we still have to check upstairs.”

Now was Alex’s turn to return the stare. “I’m sorry, upstairs? Have you seen the state of this place? You go up there, you will fall back through the floor. And I’m not carrying you to the ER for a busted leg.”

“We can’t just half explore the house.”

“We can. We agreed to stay here, not choose it for our summer home.”

“Oh, come on, what if all the scary stuff is upstairs?”

Alex made a show of leaning away from the wall and out the doorway, just far enough out so that he could barely look up the staircase. “You’re probably right, bro. I bet the ghosts like to hide up there. But hey, we wouldn’t want to scare them.” He returned to typing on his phone, probably telling Amy how much of a bust Dean’s Halloween plans turned out to be.

“We said we’d take a picture in the attic. They’ll never believe us without it.”

Alex sighed and rolled his eyes, then pushed himself to his feet. He grumpily shoved his phone in his pocket and retrieved his abandoned flashlight. “Fine. We’ll go to the attic. But if I fall and die, you have to deal with my parents.”

The two slowly started up the stairs. They groaned and sagged a bit, but none of them gave way as they stepped carefully up one at a time.

“This is what my grandpa calls true craftsmanship,” said Dean with an exaggerated smile. He eagerly stomped once, twice, three times on his step, which responded with a hollow thud.

“Just climb the stairs.”

The landing branched off to three bedrooms, with a fourth door closed at the end of the hall. Alex walked toward the closed toward and supposed staircase to the attic while Dean turned the opposite way.

“Dude, attic?” snapped Alex.

Dean shrugged and continued on his way. “If we’re up here, we might as well check out the rooms. I think this one,” he waved his flashlight at the open room at the end of the hall, “was where the father murdered his daughter and her boyfriend.”

Alex waited, hoping he could call the bluff, but Dean vanished into one of the rooms and did not reemerge. “Dean?” he tried after a few seconds of silence. No response.

“Dean? Come on, did you fall in or something?” Alex began taking slow, measured steps down the hall, leaning against the all as he tried to peek into the bedroom. But Alex was nowhere to be seen.

“It’s not funny. Come on, let’s go to the attic!” Slow and steady, he made his way down the hall and found himself face to face with the doorway. He leaned around the doorframe and spotted Dean, face pressed against the intact glass of the window.

“What are you doing?”

“I can see in the Davis’s house from here. They’re watching Saw tonight.” Alex shoved him, and Dean pulled away from the window with a wide grin.

“I thought you were bored?”

“Can we just go up to the attic? Before this place collapses?”

“Fine,” Dean acquiesced, making their way out of the room and toward the opposite end of the hall. “They say after he killed the two of them, he strangled his wife because she wouldn’t stop screaming. And then his son tried to stop him, but the dad pushed him down the stairs.”

“Yeah, Dean, everyone knows the story. Dad goes crazy, kills everyone. The American Dream.”

“But isn’t it crazy? We’re walking where they died. Those stairs? Those were the ones he threw his son down! That front door? He shoved some neighbor guy’s face through it. I mean, there aren’t any ghosts, but still…”

“Yeah, and when you sit on your couch, you’re sitting where your parents conceived you.” Alex stopped, underlighting his face and waving his free hand about his head. “Isn’t that spooooky?”

“You’re an ass, you know?”

They tugged open the door to the attic, staring up at yet another set of stairs. These were noticeably less dusty, likely, Dean reasoned, due to the closed door. Still, cobwebs hung thick around them.

“Ladies first,” offered Dean. Alex shoved him forward onto the first step.

“No, I insist, after you,” said Alex with a smirk.

The attic was as much of a letdown as the rest of the house. Nothing up the stairs, not even an old treasure trove of discarded junk. Whoever had moved them out took everything with them. Alex snapped the picture with little fanfare, and they began their descent.

“Do you think there’s a basement?” asked Dean, hopefully.

“You can check. I’m going to watch some videos until we can finally leave in—“ Alex quickly checked his phone—“two hours and seventeen minutes.”

“You’re so lame.”

“You’re the one who still says lame.”

They reached the bottom of the stairs and turned the doorknob, but it was stuck.

“So much for craftsmanship,” muttered Alex, giving the door a solid push. It protested, but did not move.

“Let me try. Probably just warped.” Dean put his hand on the doorknob, turning it sharply. He leaned back, then shoved his shoulder into the door. It released suddenly, sending him stumbling out onto the decrepit landing.

Only this time it was different. The dust was gone, replaced by a stylish carpet runner down the middle of the floor. The rooms had doors on them now, and light seeped out from under the far door.

“What the—“ the words died on Alex’s lips. Everything was clean and new, or at least newer than before. Someone was snoring behind one of the doors. “We’ve got to get out of here,” he said when his voice returned, pushing past Dean toward the stairs.

“What do you mean?” hissed Dean. “We’ve been looking for something to happen, and now you just want to leave?”

But Alex was already halfway down the stairs. The door squealed open, then closed with a final thud. Dean stood dumbstruck at his post. Shaking his head, he slowly began walking along the hall towards the door with lighting. The daughter’s door, he told himself. Maybe he could talk to her ghost.

The door swung open quietly, so quietly it did not immediately alert the occupant. She sat at a table under the window, writing thoughtfully in a small journal. He could see her face reflected in the dark glass of the window, a smile on her lips at whatever she was writing down. After a moment, her eyes caught his reflection in the mirror, and she turned with a start.

“Ricky?” she asked, eyes wide with surprise and a little fear.

“Uh, my name’s not—“

“You know better than to come here. What if my dad finds us?” She stormed across the room, peeking her head out the door before closing it quietly.

“My name’s Dean,” he finally managed.

“This is not a time for jokes. My dad cannot know you were here. He didn’t see you, did he?” All the warmth had drained from her face, leaving behind nothing but the very real fear. It seemed to be contagious, because Dean felt it bubbling through his chest as well.

“No, no one saw me. Everyone else was asleep.”

“Good, then you’ll just climb out the window and go home. We’ll talk at school.” She grabbed his hand and practically dragged him across the room. The window squealed in protest as she raised it, and they both froze. Nothing but silence in the house.

She released a small sigh, followed by a half smile. “Don’t pull something like that again,” she said as she kissed him softly on the cheek.

Dean got one leg out the window before the silence exploded into noise. The door to the room flew open, an angry giant of a man filling the frame. He crossed the room in what could have been no more than two long strides, grabbing Dean by his shirt and dragging him back into the room.

The two eyes that glared down at him were bloodshot, and the smell of alcohol rolled off of him in a tangible wave. “You think you can come into my house?” he roared, angry enough that spittle coated Dean’s face.

Dean’s lips were moving, trying to get words out that would solve the problem. But nothing besides air made it through.

The eyes moved from Dean to the girl cowering beside the window. “You think you can whore in my house?” he bellowed. She covered her face defensively, a tiny sob escaping her lips as she prepared for an incoming blow. Instead, the man threw Dean like a rag doll against the wall.

“I guess I’ll have to teach you both a lesson.”

_

Alex waited outside, breathing heavily as he eyed the once again dark house. He was not sure what he had seen inside, but something had happened. It wasn’t until he made it off the porch that everything returned to its prior state of disrepair. But, Dean had not followed. And now, he paused and listened closely, he imagined he heard some mumbling voice.

The mumble grew until it was a definitively audible roar from the back corner of the building, accompanied now by a wet smacking noise that he could not place. It made his skin crawl, and his concern for Dean shot up a few more degrees.

Then someone screamed, a brief and piercing noise that cut off halfway through. The silence after was deafening. This was a prank, Alex assured himself. Dean must have recorded some spooky noises and saw this as the perfect opportunity to scare him. There probably hadn’t been a dare after all. He expected some new effect after the scream was silenced, but there was nothing for a minute. The silence stretched.

Alex walked back up the stairs of the porch and tentatively turned the door knob.

“Dean?” he asked as he gently opened the door and stepped inside.

The door opened onto a lovely furnished entryway, this time. In shock, he felt the door slip form his hand and fall gently closed behind him. Alex looked up along the stairs to see a young boy kneeling and crying, as some dark shadow paced from down the hallway. The boy sobbed and screamed in terror. Then, in a fluid motion, the shadow grabbed the boy by the neck and flung him down the stairs, almost as if discarding a dirty rag. The body bounced about halfway down the staircase, rolling the rest of the way to land at Alex’s feet.

He was rooted to the spot, eyes wide. His mouth opened and closed like a fish, and he felt just as breathless. “Do not meddle in my business,” roared the shadow at the top of the stair. It suddenly barreled down the stairs, taking them two or three at a time. Alex felt his muscles free in time for him to spin to the door, hands scrambling for the knob.

Just as his fingers wrapped around the doorknob, strong fingers wrapped around his skull.

“It’s my house!” growled the man from the stairs, punctuating the statement with a knock on the door using Alex’s head.

“It’s my family,” he added, giving another firm knock.

“I’m the man—“ the world was grey and full of impossible pain for Alex with the third knock—“of this household.”

The man’s fingers seemed to seep into Alex’s skull know, pressing on his brain from all sides until it felt like it was simply going to explode.

“I will. Be. Respected,” he growled, each word punctuated by another rapid conference between Alex’s head and the door.

Alex welcomed the relieving darkness, the man’s word turning into nothing but mumbled nonsense.  The pain faded as he got one last glimpse at the outside world before that massive hand pulled his head back through the door to continue his tirade.


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