Posts Tagged With: Halloween Interlude

Mr. Kalan and His Inheritance – A Flop House Spook-em-Up! Part 1?

Donegal_Castle._County_Donegal,_Ireland-LCCN2002717385“Guys, I’m inheriting a castle!”

Elliott Kalan’s reedy voice bounced off the walls leading up to Dan’s apartment. Usually, Elliott waited until he was actually in the apartment, arms laden with boxes of fried chicken, before he started squealing excitedly about one thing or the other.

“Did he say something about a castle?” Stuart asked Dan.

“I don’t know,” Dan sighed. They’d been waiting for the tardy Mr. Kalan for twenty minutes. Dan had a podcast to record; time was ticking and, well, this was serious business. Yes, Elliott had a new baby at home. Yes, Elliott was the head writer for a major cable comedy program. Yes, their bad movie podcast was most likely about as far down on Elliott’s priority list as anything else not directly related to family or income. Yes to all that. But, come on. Bad movie podcast!

Elliott threw open the door, sending Dan’s cat scurrying into the kitchen.

“Sorry I’m late,” Elliott cried, “But, hold on to your butts! You will not believe what I just found out!”

“You’re inheriting a castle?” Stuart said from his position on the sofa.

“Y – wait, how did you know?” Elliott asked.

“You were bellowing it as you ran up the stairs,” Stuart replied.

“Right! That. Yes.,” Elliott said, “Sorry, it’s just been a bit of a whirlwind.”

“Are we going to be able to start soon?” Dan asked fiddling with the microphones, “And where’s the chicken?”

“Forget the chicken!” Elliott said, “Forget the chicken, forget the mics and forget the podcast! This is bigger than any of that! Guys! I’m -”

“Inheriting a castle, yes, we know,” Dan said.

“It’s more than that,” Elliott said, “I’m inheriting a castle and we’re all going!”

Stuart leaned forward, his beer momentarily forgotten. “Explain, dude.”

“Okay, I know I’ve mentioned this to you guys before,” Elliott began, “But the Kalans have a deep deep cultural history in Ireland.”

“Wait, what?!” Stuart said.

“Yeah, there’s a huge Jewish presence out on the moors. Watch out we don’t bite you, or you’ll turn into a Were-Jew.”

“Is that, like, a man who only turns Jewish once a month?” Stuart asked.

“No, it’s just a guy who’s half Jewish. Like, his dad was Jewish and he never went to Hebrew school. Werrrrre-Jeeewwwww! Watch out! Don’t get bitten or you’ll be suuuuuch a disappointment to your mottttthhhherrr!” Elliott waggled his fingers in Dan’s face.

“I have a feeling we’re all disappointments to our mothers,” Dan said.

“Well, don’t bring the room down, Dan,” Elliott said, “I’m trying to explain my Irish heritage and my wonderful new castle.”

“Why do you get an Irish castle?” Dan said, “I’m the McCoy! Shouldn’t I get an Irish castle?”

“Gee, I don’t know, Dan,” Elliott said, “Why don’t you hop in a time machine and ask your ancestors to work harder? ‘Hey, Seamus McCoy!'” Elliott mimed knocking on a door, “‘Open up! It’s me, your great great great great grandson, Dan! Uh, I’m here to shame you for not being nobility! What? You want to burn me as a witch?’ Sorry, Dan, you’ve been burned as a witch.”

“Look,” Dan said, trying to get things back on track, “Did you or did you not actually -”

“Yes, Dan, it’s what I’ve been trying to explain to you. Castle O’Kalan has stood for hundreds of years, being passed from O’Kalan to O’Kalan by complicated lineage. I got a call this morning from a solicitor who informed me that my fifth uncle three-times removed -”

“That’s not really a thing,” Dan interrupted.

“My fifth uncle, three-times removed,” Elliott continued, “just passed away -”

“What was his name?” Dan asked.

“Uh, Dudley O’Kalan,” Elliott said.

Stuart choked on his beer.

“Dudley O’Kalan died in a mysterious accident. Apparently, through the twistings and turnings of our complicated, um, Torah-based Irish inheritance system, his castle falls to me. But, in order to claim my inheritance, I have to spend a night in Castle O’Kalan. However, I’m allowed to bring two retainers to spend the night with me and I choose you guys!”

“So, wait,” Stuart said, “does that make you a Lord? Are you Lord Elliott?”

“Yes, I’m a Dark Lord of the Sith. Darth Heritor. Because, by Sith naming convention I have to take a word that begins with “In” and remove the prefix. Beware my psychotic inheriting abilities.”

“Elliott,” Dan said, “We can’t just pack up and head out to Ireland. We have lives, jobs, families.”

“It’s one night, Dan. We’ll fly in, get to the castle – we’ll be so jetlagged, we’ll probably just fall asleep, wake up and the castle will be mine! I’ll have a castle and it’ll all be thanks to you two!”

“Can’t you ask your brother to go with you?”

“David? No, he’s not allowed to set foot on Irish soil.”

“What?!”

“Stop bringing up painful family secrets, Dan!”

“But, I – ”

“So,” Stuart interjected, “When do we leave?”

“I got us three tickets to Ireland, leaving tonight!”

“Tonight?!” Dan said, “I can’t just leave tonight! I have stuff I need to -”

“Tonight!” Elliott repeated.

“That’s cool,” Stuart said, “Can I finish my beer?”

*****

At seven the next morning, Dan, Stuart and Elliott – jet-lagged, achy and in the case of one of them maybe a bit hung-over – were packed in a cab and heading across Ireland for Castle O’Kalan. Their driver – an old man named Bill – was chattier than they were hoping, but pleasant enough. He had many tales about the moors surrounding Castle O’Kalan, which the men listened to as well as they could.

“And, that, lads, is why they say to never wear a shawl after sundown by Castle O’Kalan!” Bill let loose an uproarious laugh.

“That’s great,” Elliott responded. His extreme fatigue was beginning to wear on his sanity a bit. He wished he could sleep, but excitement combined with anticipation was making that impossible. Also, being hemmed in by his two compatriots on either side. Stuart was snoring lightly and Dan just stared out the window with a semi-shellshocked look on his face.

“So,” Bill said, “What bring ye lads out to Castle O’Kalan? Doin’ a wee bit o’ sightseein’?”

“Actually,” Elliott said, “My name is Elliott Kalan. I’m a descendant of Dublin O’Kalan, the original builder of the castle. I found out yesterday that I’m inheriting it.”

Bill didn’t slam on the breaks, but he did take his foot off the gas pedal and let the car slow to a halt.

“You’re inheriting Castle O’Kalan?” he asked. Elliott noticed that all the color had drained from Bill’s face.

“Uh, yep,” Elliott said.

“I – I’m sorry boys,” Bill said, “But, I’m going to have to ask you to leave my vehicle.”

Dan, who had been lost in his own thoughts, suddenly looked around.

“Hey, did we stop?” he asked.

“Yes, Dan,” Elliott said, “About five minutes ago.”

“Why are you getting out of the car?” Dan asked.

“Because Bill here has asked us to,” Elliott replied.

Dan looked at Bill. The old man’s eyes were watery and his hands were trembling as he opened the trunk and took the three suitcases out, setting them gently on the ground.

“Wait, you can’t ask us to leave your cab,” Dan said, “That has to be illegal or something! We’re in the middle of nowhere!”

“Geez, Dan,” Elliott said, “It’s modern Ireland. Way to insult this man’s entire history. Your country is a vast wasteland! We’re all in danger of being eaten by a grue!”

“Elliott,” Dan snapped, “We are at least ten miles from the castle. At least! We’re tired. Hungry. Stuart is barely able to hold himself up! How are we going to make it all the way to Castle O’Kalan? How?!”

Ten minute later, the cab was speeding away behind them and Dan, Stuart and Elliott were dragging their bags up the dirt road to Castle O’Kalan.

“I wish you dudes had woken me up sooner,” Stuart said, “I’d have tossed that cabbie around a bit. Maybe hijacked his wheels. We’d be sitting pretty all the way to the castle.”

“You’re drunk, Stuart,” Dan said.

“I’m not drunk,” Stuart shot back, “I’m hungover and angry!”

“No, no,” Elliott said, “Dan was calling you Drunk Stuart. You’re Drunk Stuart, he’s Mopey Dan and I’m Computer Kalan. We’re the new members of the Burger King Kid’s Club. Except, I should really be in a wheelchair. I’m Wheels Kalan. The gang just calls me ‘Wheels!’ I’m a computer whiz!”

“Why are you in a wheelchair?” Stuart asked.

“Per Nineties cartoon convention, every group of characters numbering more than five, has to have at least one kid in a wheelchair,” Elliott answered.

“Then, wait, was there always a drunk?” Dan asked, “I don’t remember many drunk kids on television in the nineties.”

“Well, of course you couldn’t see their illness, Dan. Geez. Alcoholism can be a silent addiction. Not all alcoholics are hilarious Andy Griffith Show caricatures. Have a little compassion!”

“But, I’m -“

“Any other groups you’d like to rag on? We’ve got quite a walk ahead of us. MAybe you’d like to dip into orphans.”

“Gross, dude,” said Stuart.

“Forget it,” Dan said.

“I’m just curious,” Stuart continued, “As to what you said to our cabbie that made him take off like that.”

“Nothing!” Elliott said, “I just mentioned that I’m inheriting Castle O’Kalan, he stopped the car, told us to get out and drove off! That’s all! I didn’t insult his mother or anything!”

“Maybe you should have,” Stuart said, “Maybe he’d be into that.”

The three men walked in silence for the next few miles.

“You know,” Dan said, “I would have thought we’d have seen some other cars or something by now. This isn’t exactly a deserted spot and Castle O’Kalan is listed as a semi-popular tourist attraction.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Dan,” Elliott said, “I’m a powerful man but I don’t have control over the world’s cars just yet.”

“I’m just saying,” Dan started.

“Maybe they’re all at work,” Stuart said. “It’s a Friday and people usually work on Fridays. That’s a worldwide phenomenon, right? Work on Friday? It’s not some isolated American thing?”

“Yeah, these kooky Irish with their four-day work-weeks and easily frightened cabbies,” Elliott said, “Those are probably the two biggest Irish stereotypes: short work-weeks and easily spooked. That’s why the Notre Dame mascot is a leprechaun hiding behind a bush watching TV while outside the window you see kids going to school.”

“That’s a fairly convoluted shorthand for ‘four-day work week’,” Dan said.

“Well, in the fast-paced world of mascot design, you’ve got to hit your audience with your message and move on,” Elliott said, “If your sports team mascot doesn’t convey a) your contempt for a specific culture and b) how many days a week that culture works, it ain’t doing its job!”

Three hours later, Castle O’Kalan came into view.

“Thank god,” Dan said.

“Wow,” Elliott added.

“So,” Stuart threw in, “no one’s made a ‘Castle Freak’ joke, yet, because we’re not talking for the benefit of an audience, but if I may: ‘If that were my castle, I’d freak.'”

Indeed. The pictures the guys had found of Castle O’Kalan had in no way prepared them for the sheer immensity and presence of the ancient edifice. The structure stood at the end of the road, in the middle of a foggy landscape, surrounded by modern fencing. A small parking lot stood off to one side, but it was clear of any vehicles. The castle itself was large, grey, ugly and intimidating. Ivy clung to its sides. The windows, few though they were, betrayed no sign of life. Castle O’Kalan stood as a silent sentry. But, against what?

“Were we supposed to meet anyone here?” Dan asked.

“The solicitor told me a caretaker lived on the grounds,” Elliott said, “But, I don’t see any lights on inside. Maybe, he has a separate house or something.”

“Welp,” said Stuart, heading for the door, “Only one way to find out.”

“Find out what?” Dan asked.

“Whether or not this place is filled with g-g-g-ghosts!” Stuart answered. He rapped on the heavy wooden door.

There was a pause. Stuart had lifted his arm to pound again on the door, when the sound of a latch being thrown broke the silence. A loud metallic clanking noise filled the gloom and suddenly the door began to creak open, seemingly of its own accord. It scraped against the ground and the men could see that it was being pulled open by a series of chains and weights. Obviously, someone was inside operating a crank of some sort.

“Someone must be inside, operating a crank of some sort,” Dan said.

“Obviously,” Elliott replied.

The door stopped moving and stood open. Simultaneously, the guys leaned forward, trying to see through into the darkness.

“Hel-” Dan began, when a figure stuck his head around the door.

“Gah!” the guys cried out. Elliott pinwheeled his arms, lost his balance and sat down hard in the dirt. It wasn’t the sudden appearance of the man that had thrown him, but the fact that – except for the gray hair, mustache and stooped shoulders – he looked just like Elliott!

“Welcome,” the man said, “to Castle O’Kalan.”

Somewhere in the distance, a dog howled.

“Things just got spooky,” Stuart pointed out.

*****

“My name,” said the old Elliott-looking man as he poured the three guys cups of hot tea, “Is Dilbert O’Kalan.”

“That’s not a real name,” Dan said.

The old man looked up at Dan, “Sure it is, lad. My father before me was Smedley O’Kalan. His father was Scoop O’Kalan. Going back hundreds of years, the O’Kalans have had a presence on this island. ‘Twasn’t until the 1880s when Hawley O’Kalan set sail to Ellis Island to found the first – and, sadly, last – O’Kalan’s Haberdashery and Locksmithery, that we had a presence outside Ireland. Hawley’s people soon dropped the ‘O’ prefix. Wanted their name to sound a little less ‘ethnic’ they said. Hm. Well, in any case, he took with him to the States a branch of the inheritance line to this castle. See, it’s not a direct inheritance.”

Dilbert pulled a large, rolled-up piece of parchment out of a case by his feet. Carefully, he unrolled it on the thick wooden table around which the men were seated. On the parchment, lines intersected one another. Strange symbols and marking indicating who-knows-what seemed scattered across the surface as if at random.

“What the heck is this?” Stuart asked.

“This is the lineage calculator we use to determine inheritance in the O’Kalan family. It goes back to antiquity. Takes three scholars a year to calculate a single inheritance. That’s why we O’Kalans have learned to forgo the complicated process and make sure we don’t possess anything when we die. ‘Live Hard, Die Poor, Skip The Complicated Inheritance Process’ is what it says on our Coat of Arms. In Latin or somesuch. In any case, this is the map of your lineage, young Elliott. See? There you are in the whole morass.”

Elliott, who had been strangely quiet since Dilbert had answered the door, followed the old man’s finger to a triangular symbol on the parchment. In the middle of the triangle, a circle was drawn with lines radiating outward from its center.

“What does that symbol mean?” Elliott asked.

“Oh,” said Dilbert, suddenly looking apprehensive, “just, um, inheritor or something. Nothing. It’s a symbol. So. According to the rules of inheritance, you and your retainers have to spend one night in Castle O’Kalan in order for the castle to come into your possession. If you leave the castle for any length of time and for any reason, you forfeit . . . your claim.”

“Why did you pause just then?” Stuart asked.

“Pause just when?” Dilbert asked back.

“Before you said ‘your claim.’ It sounded like you were gong to maybe say something else and then you stopped yourself and said ‘your claim.’ Were you maybe going to, I dunno, threaten Elliott? Maybe say ‘your life’ or something instead?”

“No,” Dilbert said innocently, “Just, um, picking my words carefully is all.”

With one grand gesture, he swept the parchment up, rolled it back into a tube and secreted it away in his case.

“The castle has rudimentary toileting facilities, is lit only by candles and there is no cell reception or wi-fi. You are, for all intents and purposes, isolated. The larder is stocked for a day or two of eating. I will be leaving now and returning in the morning. If you leave the castle . . . I’ll know.”

“How will you-” Dan began.

“I’ll know!” Dilbert interrupted, “Rooms are upstairs. Three beds have been set up for you. Supplies for your quarters will be found in footlockers a the ends of each of your beds. This includes candles, matches, extra sheets, towels, etcetera. Any questions?”

The guys looked at each other.

“Uh, none,” Elliott finally said.

“Wonderful,” Dilbert said, “then enjoy your stay in Castle O’Kalan! And, I’ll see you on the morrow.”

And, with that, Dilbert left the castle and they were alone.

“That guy,” Stuart said, “Is the worst guy.”

“I know,” Dan added, “At first I thought he would be all helpful and charming, but then he ended up being condescending and kind of creepy.”

“Well,” said Elliott, “let’s get settled in. I’m so tired, I can barely think straight. I don’t even have a quippy comment for Dan.”

“I’d noticed,” Stuart said, “Are you feeling okay?”

Elliott thought for a second, “I was going to say ‘yes’ but that’d be a lie. I feel weird in here, guys. I’m kinda sorry I dragged you into this.”

Dan looked his friend in the eyes, “Elliott, it’s just a creepy old castle. We’re going to be fine. Nothing will hurt us and if anything tries, we’ll help each other out.”

Elliott looked back at Dan, “What are you talking about? Of course nothing’s going to hurt us! I’m not five, Dan. I know the Goosebumps books aren’t real! I meant I’m sorry I pulled you away from your lives, not dragged you into a haunted charnel house! Geez!”

Elliott walked into the hallway, “Let’s go find our rooms! Dan, I’ll try to make sure yours doesn’t have a secret passageway behind the bookcase with skeletons hiding inside! OooooOOOooooH!”

Dan just sighed and followed.

*****

DAN’S STORY

 “I’ll see you guys in the morning!” Dan called out of his doorway. His room proved to be less creepy than he’d anticipated. It was round, with a stone floor and walls. One small window looked out over the fog-shrouded landscape. A beautiful crimson rug ran most of the length of the room and decorative pennants hung from the stone walls. His bed was a large fourposter with an overstuffed mattress. An ancient brown chest rested at the foot of the bed.

Opening the chest, Dan felt a chill across the back of his neck.

“Great,” he said out loud, “A draft. That’s just what I need.”

The chest contained the candles and matches as promised. Also extra sheets and pillowcases. A small flashlight. And, curiously, a leather-bound journal and pencil. The journal was blank.

“Guess if I get in the mood to write, I’m taken care of.”

It was early evening, but the activity of the day had left Dan completely wiped out. He lit three candles, changed out of his travel clothes and threw on his pajamas. Normally, he’d stick with boxers and a t-shirt, but the draft he’d felt earlier made him realize how chilly it was growing. Strangely, it hadn’t been cold at all when they’d entered the castle, but now a strong chill was creeping up his spine. Even standing on the rug, Dan could feel the cold in his feet. He put on a pair of socks, grabbed his laptop and settled into bed.

Despite the lack of wi-fi, Dan had plenty of movies stored on his hard drive and he’s decided to pop one on as he fell asleep. Secretly, this was how Dan preferred to watch a film: on a small screen, through earbuds, all by himself. The guys were great and he loved his wife, but Dan knew the best audience was an audience of one. He called it the “Danience.” Sometimes, when a movie was over, he’d say, “What did the Danience think about that?” And then, depending on what he had thought, he’d respond, “I give it two Dans up!” or “I give it two Dans down!” Then, he’d laugh. It always cracked him up.

Tonight, the movie of choice was an old favorite “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.” He’d seen it a million times and Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of the crazed conquistador never failed to delight him as he drifted off to sleep. Unfortunately, his video player didn’t seem to be cooperating. He pressed ‘play’ over and over again, but no picture resolved itself on the screen.

“Come on!” Dan said, “Come on you stupid machine!” He clicked play again and again, but to no avail.

“Dang it!” he said, “Dang it all!”

Disgusted, he closed his laptop and turned to set it aside. That’s when he noticed the shape of the body in his sheets.

Dan’s blood went cold. There was someone under the sheets in the bed next to him. He couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman but he certainly hadn’t noticed anyone in the bed when he’d gotten in and no one had entered the room since he’d closed the door. And yet, by the flicker of the candlelight, there it was. A human form.

“I have to get out of the bed,” Dan thought to himself. He shifted his weight to one side and the body under the sheets . . . crawled. Just a bit. But, it crawled, pulling itself towards him with now visible hands and fingers. Dan’s heart began pounding. And the air in the room grew insanely cold. He breathed out and saw the frost form in the air in front of him.

Dan’s only thought now was to get to the door. Exit the room. Find the guys. The edge of his bed seemed miles away as he moved his leg to throw himself off.

The shape under the sheets scuttled toward him.

Dan froze.

The shape froze.

“Help,” he said, but his words were barely a chocked whisper.

“Hhhhhhllllp,” a voice came from under the sheets.

“Go . . . go away,” Dan said to the thing.

“Guuuhhhhhh whhhhhaaaaay,” the thing repeated at him.

Remembering the laptop in his hands, Dan raised the computer above his head and quickly brought it down onto the shape.

Not quickly enough.

A strong wind blew through the room, extinguishing the candles and causing the sheets to rise like a wave at the beach. Underneath, the body was visible, embedded in the other side. A desiccated corpse formed from the folds and weave of the bedding. It was a tangible nightmare; its face rotting and peeling away, it’s eye sockets dark holes and its teeth. It’s teeth gaped open in a silent scream or in a desperate hunger. Flapping as if propelled by an unfelt wind, the sheet corpse flew at Dan, wrapping his body in a constricting squeeze. Dan tried to cry out, but he felt the air crushed from his lungs. The sheet covered his face, and even in the darkness Dan could see the other face looking at him. It’s mouth so hungry. It’s eyes so empty. The cloth around him felt like arms, but too many arms. As his consciousness faded, he continued to kick and struggle against the thing in his bed.

Five minutes later, the sheets floated to the ground. The candles relit. And Dan was nowhere to be found.

Categories: Halloween Interlude, Halloween!, Horror, Just a stupid thing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halloween Interlude – Re-Animated

oak_leavesIt would be wrong to say that death was the beginning for me. Death was simply part of a much protracted end. An end that I face, but cannot see. Real sight is denied me, now. The dead have no useful eyes; for they are shunned by light. The dead have no love; for they are shunned by salvation. The dead have only blistering desire; for the dead are embraced by corruption. I carry corruption with me and it drips from my sagging flesh.

Sensation flooded my body when I awoke on that table in that room in the dim light of an oil lamp. I cannot, in truth, say what I felt for the emotions of the dead remain unnamed. As I remain unnamed. In life I was a man – that much is clear from a glance at my own anatomy – but in death I am nothing but a moveable husk. Naming me would akin to naming a pile of clothes or a gust of wind. Names are for those things we find important and that we wish to incorporate into ourselves. I am a dead man and none wish to incorporate with me.

I screamed. It was involuntary. A scream is the purist action a human body can take. It is a release of all tension and a denial of the exterior world by way of a corrupting propulsion of miasmic air and fetid sound. I screamed and flung my arms about hoping to find purchase on this world; something to grab, to clutch, to hold. An anchor.

The sound of footsteps. A door smashing against the wall. Shouting.

I rose.

A man’s arm wrapped around my neck from behind. I gripped the forearm in my hands, fingers like claws against his rippling muscles. He was strong. But, in death, one does not hold back. The impulses that drive the living to survive also keep their actions in check. Hands that can splinter wood resist splintering bone. Teeth that can tear meat resist tearing flesh. The dead have no such issues. To the dead, life is an obstacle that is best gotten over or gotten through. My fingernails easily tore his skin. I pulled his arm and he began shrieking. I found his bone and and gripped it as if it were a club. Pulling, I removed his arm from around my throat and from his own body. My power was immense.

The man was squealing on the floor at my feet. I took the forearm and drove it down into his chest, puncturing bone, lungs, spine. I pulled the arm free and thrust it down again and again and again until I was certain I shared the room with no more life.

At the edge of my hearing, a sound. People. More than a few. Several? They seemed far off but growing closer. I moved away from the voices and found a window. My legs were strong and they drove me through the glass. Shards cut my skin, but pain was no longer a concern. Neither was infection. I had no need to remove the glass from my body, so I ran.

A smell assaulted my nostrils. Decay. Stretching out before me. Woods. Forest. I plunged in.

I avoided the trees by the stench of their life. I clambered towards the fallen, the rot, the pulp. In death, the ground is your sky. The world is inverted and you long for the cool rain of dirt to clean your face and wash the water from your unseeing eyes.

A shout. I turned and charged towards the offending voice.

Meat met meat as I tore into the warm body before me. Barely had it time to cry out before I extinguished the horrible living, breathing, pulsating freshness it carried about the world. I had to, I needed to, obliterate the living. Warm blood cooled rapidly on my skin and coated me in the smell of purification.

More voices. More yelling. I ran. Although I was strong, I was not invincible.

Mud. Deep mud. A cover. I plunged in and buried myself in its cool depths.

Now, I wait. This is no life. But, I want no life. This is death and death is not the end. Death is a way-station. Death is a portal. I can no longer see the world of the living but the world of the living is limited. I will see beyond that world. That is my destination.

When night comes, I will rise. I will enter my new world through this old one.

Until then, I wait. And hate the living.

Categories: Halloween Interlude, Halloween!, Horror, Just a stupid thing, Just a VERY STUPID THING | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Halloween Interlude – No Interlude Today

There’s no Interlude today. I simply ran out of time between having to run home for lunch, the bank, last-minute projects and this . . . thing behind me.

I can’t see it. I can’t hear it. But, I know it’s there. Just out of my range of vision. Watching me and – here’s the weird thing – judging me.

It’s trying to come to some sort of decision and I am afraid that when it does, my life and the lives of everyone I love, may be in danger.

So, I sit and work and wonder what will become of me.

What will become of my family?

Oh, god, I feel its presence and I don’t like it. Not one single bit.

So, I write.

And write.

And write.

Categories: Halloween Interlude, No Interlude | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Halloween Interlude – Rock-afire Implosion

1359497031-screen_shot_2013-01-29_at_3.57.04_pmThere is no love in the eyes of a dying gorilla keyboardist. Those eyes cannot “feel” as we think of feeling. They certainly cannot love and they have no desire to.

“I’m fading,” Fatz Geronimo whispered as I cradled him in my arms, “Would that we had learned more from your world. Would that we had been open to learning.”

The old silverback coughed, a harsh metallic hack, and looked at me with a soulless gaze.

“Where is Dook?” he asked.

“Dook is . . . he’s safe,” I lied. I’d seen the dog take off in his rocket ship, fleeing the carnage, the devastation, the pain. His vehicle disintegrated before it ever reached the clouds. Sabotage. Your tax dollars at work.

Fatz took my hand. I knew that it was impossible for him to truly care – robots don’t care; they don’t do anything except what they’re programmed to do – but his touch felt sincere. I wanted to believe that he had compassion and empathy. And, there was no one around to contradict me. So, what was the harm?

“Find Mitzi,” he said, “Find Beach Bear. If Billy,” he coughed again, “If Billy hasn’t gotten to them yet, then join them. Help them fight. Help them . . . keep going.”

A shift in his position and the lights went out behind his beautiful eyes.

Above me, in the blackened sky, Looney Bird soared. She saw everything. She certainly saw us. Before long, Billy Bob’s creations would find me. I had no time to mourn my friend. Is that what he was? A friend?

“Goodbye, Fats,” I whispered into his unhearing ear.

I rose to my feet and surveyed the world, my world now.

Thirty-five years ago, a group of robots arrived on our planet to give us music and joy. To teach us what it was to be truly unified as a people. Instead, we corrupted them. Fats was wrong. They had been open to learning. They had learned . . . too much.

Behind a black cloud, the sun looked out. Its smile long faded, it cowered in the face of hopelessness.

I threw my pack over my shoulder, hefted the skee ball that now served as my only weapon, and began the long trek to –

To what?

Who knew?

I hummed to myself as I walked.

“Roast beef sandwich and a -”

Pizza.

Categories: Halloween Interlude, Halloween!, Just a stupid thing, Just a VERY STUPID THING | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Halloween Interlude – Wormy Boners

 ryLGMamPWn-4

What’s that sound on the bedroom door?
Ooooooh! Wormy Boners!
What’s that smell on the kitchen floor?
Ooooooh! Wormy Boners!

What made the dog scream with fright?
What keeps you sister up all night?
What wants in but it’s just too tight?!
Ooooooh! Wormy Boners!

Some say a boner with no worms in it
Is a boner only in name
Some may try wrapping their boner in worms
But, it isn’t the same
And ain’t that a shame?

So, why is that clown coughing up so much blood?
Ooooooh! Wormy Boners!
Why is my child buried deep in the mud?
Ooooooh! Wormy Boners!

Why did that baby doll rip off my skin?
Why are we just shells with no soul within?
Why is living a torment; a game we can’t win?
Ooooooh! Wormy Boners!

Categories: Halloween Interlude, Halloween!, Horror, Just a stupid thing, Just a VERY STUPID THING | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Halloween Interlude – Little House of Pancakes

ihop happy face pancake  Brad was having trouble picking out which breakfast he wanted from the 17 different options available on Jimmy’s menu. There was the Pile O’Cakes – a stack of eight pancakes, topped with butter, jam, syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar, surrounded by bacon strips and hashed browns all served in a skillet. There was the Bottle Cake Platter – a plate of pancakes baked in glass bottles which are then shattered, revealing bottle-shaped cakes, served with bottle of international syrups surrounded by bacon, bacon-bits and scrambled egg hash. There was the Smile Face Pancake – a single pancake topped with ingredients arranged to look like, as the menu put it, “an actual living face!”

“What?” Brad wondered.

“I’m sorry sir, did you have a question?” the server asked.

“Yeah, does the Smile Face Pancake . . . is it any good?”

The server looked at Brad for a few seconds with an unsteady gaze.

“Sure,” she finally said, “Sure, it’s good.”

“Does it really look like an actual living face?” he asked.

“Sure,” she said again, “Sure it does.”

“Okay, I’ll try it,” he said. He wasn’t interested in the face so much as the serving size. One pancake he could handle. This place was ridiculous.

Ten minutes later, the server returned with a large plate. On the plate, was a large pancake. On the pancake was a human face.

“Enjoy,” the server said and ran off. Brad was momentarily surprised to notice she had tears in her eyes.

He looked down at his pancake.

Whatever ingredients they had used to make the face really worked. It looked, for all intents and purposes, as if his pancake had a real human face made of real human skin and real human muscle. He couldn’t figure it out but the effect was unnerving.

Raising his fork, he prepared to spear the pancake right in its too-human nose.

“Wait!” the pancake screamed.

Brad leapt about a foot and a half out of his chair. He looked around. None of the other customers had noticed him or, apparently, had heard the scream coming from the pancake. He looked at his plate.

The pancake had opened its eyes. They were real, honest to goodness, eyeballs. Looking up. Looking at him.

“Did, did you just say something?” Brad asked the pancake.

“I sure did,” said the pancake, “I said ‘wait’ because I wanted you to wait. I didn’t want you to stick that fork in me until I’d had a chance to talk to you.”

Brad didn’t really know what was going on, but he had never been spoken to by a pancake before so he had no frame of reference for this. Every impulse in his body told him to run, get the hell out of that restaurant, put as much distance between himself and the talking pancake as he could. Perhaps, call the police? But, again, no frame of reference. This could be some sort of magic wishing pancake. It could be the answer to his prayers. He’d be a fool to turn away from something so potentially life-altering as a talking pancake.

“Okay,” he said to the pancake, “What do you want to talk about?”

“You’re going to eat me,” the pancake said.

“No!” Brad said, “Not anymore! Don’t worry about that!”

“No, no, no! Shhhh. SHHHHH!” said the pancake, “It’s okay. It’s cool. I want you to eat me.”

“Wh – you do?” Brad said.

“Yeah, yeah. I waaaaant you to eat me. It’s what I’m here for. It’s why I was made. To be eaten. To be cut up into little pieces and shoved into your mouth and chewed and chewed and swallowed. Leh-leh-leh-leh-leh-leh.” Here the pancake was waggling its tongue in and out of its mouth.

“I – I don’t think I even could anymore,” said Brad.

“Oh, but you must!” said the pancake, “You must! You have to eat me. It’s the circle of liiiiiiiife! To not be eaten is the worst thing that can happen to a pancake! It’s torture to exist on this planet. We long for realease from our sweet sufffffering. Leh-leh-leh-leh-leh-leh-leh -”

“Okay, okay, wait,” said Brad, “Can’t i just feed you to a dog or something. I don’t think I can eat something that’s talking to me.”

“No!” snapped the pancake, “It has to be a person and that person has to be you! You, Brad!”

“How do you know my name?”

“All will come clear,” said the pancake. And it closed its eyes for a minute.

“Are you still there?” asked Brad.

“I’m thinking,” said the pancake, “and getting ready for this, the next part of my journey. Into your mouth. Over your tongue. It will be bliiiiissssssssss.”

“Well,” said Brad, unhappy with this whole mess, “how should I do it?”

“Cut me up!” said the pancake. “Cut me up and eat me! I’m deliciousssssss. Delllliiiiicioussssssssss.”

Brad wasn’t so sure about this. It seemed wrong to eat the pancake, no matter how much it implored him to. Plus, it was more a big face than a pancake. Honestly, it was so well crafted that it didn’t look like it was made out of batter at all. It was more a big piece of rubbery skin with a face in the middle.

“Come on!” shouted the pancake, “Come on, ya pussy!”

“You’re not making me want to eat you,” said Brad.

“I’m sorry, buddy. I’m sorry. I just want you to eat me sooooo muuuuuuch. Leh-leh-leh-leh-leh-leh.”

“Fine!” Brad shouted and he stabbed down into the pancake with his fork.

“Oh, yeah!” the pancake said, “Tear me apart! Yeah! YEAH!”

Brad cut and tore and ripped apart the pancake. A strange fluid that may have been buttery syrup drained from its cracks and crevices. Still, it continued shouting.

“Cut me, baby! Ah, yeeeaaaahhh! CUT ME UP! WOOOO!”

Brad finished cutting the pancake up into bite-sized pieces. Still, the yelling continued.

“Now, put me in your mouth! AWWWW, COME ON! Stick me in there yeeeeaaaahhhh!”

Brad started shoveling the rubbery chunks of pancake into his mouth feeling the fleshy matter slide over his teeth as the voice continued.

“Now, chew me up, yeeeaaaahhh! CHEW IT! CHEW!”

Brad started chewing and the voice got more and more excited.

“EAT ME UP! MMMMMMM. MMMMMMM! MORE MORE MORE MORE! SHOVE ME ALL THE WAY IN!”

Only wanting the yelling to stop, Brad forced the rest of the pancake into his mouth and chewed and chewed. He washed it all down with a great big glass of refreshing milk.

Sitting in his chair, Brad felt horrible. The thing he had eaten had in no way tasted like a pancake. It was more like old bologna. His stomach roiled. Brad glanced up, certain that the patrons of the restaurant would all be staring at him.

They were all staring at him. But, their expressions were blank. They simply gazed, with their eyes betraying no emotion. Brad’s stomach kicked. He felt like he was going to vomit.

He stood up and started walking towards the bathroom. His server was standing in his way.

“Excuse me,” he said, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

The server didn’t move.

“I have to get to the bathroom!” he yelled at her, and tried to push past.

The server grabbed his arm with vice-like fingers.

“Ow, hey, let go!” he said, “I’m going to throw uuuu -” he could feel the food rising up in his throat.

The server’s face opened up. Her jaw seemed to unhinge and her mouth fell open far wider than should have been possible. As Brad felt his hastily eaten horror-meal begin to shoot out of his face, she clamped her mouth around his and accepted the regurgitated meal into her hungry throat.

Brad was disgusted and horrified and could stop it all from coming back up and into the server’s waiting mouth.

When he had finished, she clamped her jaws shut and dropped Brad’s arm. He fell to the ground.

The server walked away into the kitchen area. Brad looked up. The rest of the restaurant’s patrons seemed frozen in place. Certainly, they were unaware that anything had happened.

Brad sat on the floor for a long while gathering his thoughts. No one seemed bothered by him sitting there, so he sat there some more. Finally, he picked himself up and started heading for the exit.

No, he thought this was stupid. He’d just eaten a talking pancake and them vomited it into he mouth of a person at their insistence! He turned around and headed towards the back. He was going to talk to someone about this.

Pushing through the door, Brad was stunned by what he saw.

A giant pancake, six feet tall if it was an inch, stood on end in the kitchen area. It had a giant face, not unlike the face on Brad’s own pancake. It had a little chef’s hat on it’s top edge. Before it, stood a giant silver bowl that the pancake was stirring with a large wooden spoon. It had no hands, but the spoon stirred anyway. Below the pancake’s mouth, a fleshy opening spilled an endless stream of thick sticky batter into the bowl. Every so often, a server would come by and scoop batter out with a cup and pour it onto a plate. The batter would bubble and form into a face pancake which the server then carried out to the dining room.

Brad was sickened by what he saw and was about to turn and run when he looked up.

High overhead, hanging from the ceiling, were dozens of servers, men and women. Their heads were thrown back and out of their open mouths long strands of batter held them firmly in place. Their bellies were swollen beyond belief. A quick perusal confirmed that his server was up there as well, her belly not quite as distended as the others.

While he stared, horrible sound began emanating from one of the servers in the back. A low, wet, ripping sound. With a sudden gush, the server’s body erupted, spraying human insides everywhere, all over the kitchen. In the server’s place, still hanging from the ceiling, was a giant pancake. A sudden scuttling noise alerted him to another pancake, this one with many legs, crawling up the wall. It cut the batter adhesive and the newborn pancake fell to the floor with a flop.

Knowing that this was probably his last chance to escape with his sanity, Brad turned and ran . . . straight into the pancake chef.

The giant pancake folded itself around Brad in some sort of pancake taco. Brad struggled in vain to free himself, but it was no use. His last thought was, “Great. I’m probably going to end up as one of the servers in this restaurant. That would be an obvious ending to this. Then I’ll go out and serve someone and they’ll ask for the face pancake and -” then he lost consciousness.

But, no. Brad woke up outside. He was covered in sweat and felt terrible. Behind him, Jimmy’s Pancake House stood, doing business as usual.

Standing up, Brad reached into his pocket for his keys. He found a folded piece of paper. Unfolding it, he read:

No one will ever believe you ate a talking pancake and then vomited that pancake into the mouth of a person so it could grow into a pancake monster that will serve as the chef at another pancake restaurant that is simply serving as a front for the creation of other pancake monsters so it is probably best you don’t tell anyone about it because that would be a really stupid story, Brad.

Brad agreed. It was a pretty stupid story.

Categories: Halloween Interlude, Halloween!, Horror, Just a stupid thing, Just a VERY STUPID THING | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halloween Interlude – Halfway Up the Stairs

stairsbeforeandafterNever, never, never go up the stairs without Momma or Daddy. Going up the stairs in dangerous by yourself. You could fall down BOOM and hurt your bottom. Do you understand? You need Momma or Daddy to hold your hand until you’re a big girl and can hold the railing by yourself, okay? Okay? Never go up the stairs. It’s dangerous.

Once, Becca had picked up a piece of glass that was lying on the kitchen floor. Momma had dropped a jar and it had broken into two big pieces which Momma had swooped in and picked up. But, there was one little piece left and Becca had wanted to help Momma, so she’d picked it up and thrown it in the garbage. When she went to show Momma what she’d done, Momma had cried out, “Becca! Sweetie, your fingers!” and Becca had looked at her little fingers and seen that they were red, red, red. She hadn’t even felt the glass cut her, but she saw the red, red, red. Four hours later, she had two stitches, two Disney Princess bandages and a “you were a such a brave girl” Tootsie-pop. Not a terrible night for a toddler, all in all. But, the red had been bad. Red, red, red was bad, bad, bad.

And, now, there was a lot of red. Red all over the floor. Red on the walls. Red on Momma and Daddy. Red, red, red. And, even her little mind knew that this was worse than cuts on your fingers. This was bad, bad, bad.

Two nights ago, Momma and Daddy had told Becca that they weren’t going out that night with Mark and Jennie and their daughter Caitlyn. They had told her that Mark and Jennie and Caitlyn were all sick and that everyone had to stay inside so they wouldn’t get sick, too. It was a bad, bad, bad sickness; worse than the flu! And, the only way to keep from getting it was to stay inside. And, to stay quiet. So, they’d had to keep their lights off and their voices down. They couldn’t watch tv, but they let Becca watch shows on their travel tablet, which had a lot of old “Dora the Explorer”s on it, as long as she used the headphones. They never let Becca just sit and watch shows. But, Momma and Daddy seemed sad about something. And, Daddy kept checking his phone a lot. And, Momma kept trying to call Aunt Sheryl in New York. And, Becca was happy to watch so much “Dora” even though she’d seen them all before. She usually wanted to hang onto Momma, but something kept her back. Momma didn’t seem as cuddly as usual. And – and, Becca would never say this because is was rude, but – Momma smelled funny.

So, they’d passed the evening and the next morning. But, yesterday afternoon, Daddy had been crying and Momma hadn’t come out of the downstairs guest room, where they’d been sleeping. “Momma is sick,” Daddy had said. Becca had wanted to go see Momma and give her a hug but Daddy had told her no. He had said that Momma was so sick, that Becca could get it just by going in there and that the doctor was very busy and couldn’t help people right now. So, Becca just had to wait. And, stay calm. And, stay quiet. Whatever you do, sweetie, just stay quiet.

Morning came and went.

Lunch came and went.

Dinner came and Momma started making noises in the next room.

“I think it’s time for you to go to bed,” Daddy had told her. He made her a little pallet on the living room floor and said, “I love you, little girl. Have good dreams.” Then he’d gone into the kitchen while Momma made noises in the next room.

That night, Becca had dreamed she was a princess in a tower. The door was locked and she couldn’t get out. She cried out, “Help! I’m in here! Let me out!” And, finally, someone had come to let her out. They pounded on the door. But, Becca had grown afraid. She did not like the way they pounded on the door. A voice on the other side of the door had yelled, “No!” and there was a fight with yelling and grunting and scary wet sounds. And, then a crash of glass and

Becca woke up. It was early morning. The house was quiet. She slid off the couch and saw glass on the floor. And red on the glass. Carefully, Becca walked around the glass and put on her house slippers. She was cold and scared.

“Daddy?” she called out, but not too loudly because Daddy had told her to stay quiet so she wouldn’t get sick.

She padded past the broken glass and the red, red, red and saw the door of the guest room standing open. Daddy was on the floor. He looked funny. His face and neck were very red and all messed up. His eye – the one she could see – was open, but it didn’t look like it was seeing anything. And, he wasn’t moving. And, that made Becca feel strange and almost sad. Mostly, she felt worried and afraid.

Momma was lying in the floor as well, but she looked worse and Becca only knew it was her because of her nightgown. Nothing else looked like Momma. Her arms and legs, which were usually white and soft and perfect for climbing up on or cuddling into, looked twisted and torn. Her face was covered in Momma’s hair which was wet and sticky looking. When Becca could see of Momma’s face through the hair, looked wrong. Red was all over. Something had happened, but it didn’t make sense.

Becca heard a noise. Daddy was moving! For a second, Becca’s little heart filled with joy. Daddy was safe so Becca was safe! Daddy would be in charge and Becca could have breakfast and watch “Dora” and everything would be okay!

But, no. Daddy was wrong. He pulled himself up and made bad noises. His head didn’t sit up right on his neck. His arms were held at a strange angle. And, his eye . . . still didn’t see her.

Little Becca, all of two years old, backed away from Daddy. Daddy, whom she had loved without question, wasn’t Daddy anymore. His eye was wrong. His legs were wrong.

A noise from the living room made Becca turn her head. Glass. Someone broke glass. A hand was coming through the window. Becca looked at Daddy. He was moving towards her with strange unsteady steps. Steps like the little baby she had seen at the mall just last week.

Another noise came from the kitchen. Someone was pounding on the back door. Then more glass breaking. Then more. The back door broke open and a person walked in. He was red like Daddy and walking like Daddy and then more people came in – men, women, little kids. They looked confused and lost at first, but when they saw Becca, their bodies changed and they straightened up and moved toward her.

These people were not good. These people were wrong. They had too much red. Too much red on them.

Becca didn’t know where to go. There were people at the front door and anyway she wasn’t allowed to go outside by herself that was a Rule.

She couldn’t hide in the cupboard because she wasn’t allowed to open the cupboard unless Momma said it was okay that was a Rule.

The people were slow but getting closer. Becca turned around and saw the stairs.

You need Momma or Daddy to hold your hand until you’re a big girl and can hold the railing by yourself, okay? Okay? Never go up the stairs. It’s dangerous.

The stairs were a bigger no-no than the cupboard. She could walk up them if Momma held her hand, but they were so high. So high for such little legs. She could slip and fall and land BOOM on her bottom.

Behind her, the sound of shuffling increased. Becca was only two, but she knew that the sound was no good. No good at all.

She climbed the first step.

A mounting sense of panic filled her head. Every part of her was yelling at her to stop, stop, stop! She heard me Momma’s voice warning her, “Becca Lynn! You get off those stairs right now! They’re dangerous for little girls!”

Becca almost climbed back down. But, Daddy’s eye. Daddy’s leg. Daddy’s walk.

She reached out and touched the wall, lifted her knee alllllll the way up, as high as it would go and swung her leg onto the next step. Then she threw her tiny body onto the step and pullllled herself up.

The people in the house were coming around the bannister. If they were bad people, then they would try to grab her. If they got to close, they could grab her! She threw her leg up onto the next step and pulllllled herself up.

By this point, Daddy had reached the bottom step. Becca was climbing up the fourth step when Daddy suddenly pitched forward with a loud, “Rrrrraw!” Only, Daddy couldn’t hold himself up like he used to and he hit the stairs with his face. Something rattled down the steps and Becca didn’t realize it was a tooth; she only knew that a fall like that would probably make a big owie and that if Daddy had done that before today, he’d have said a bad bad word.

But, Daddy didn’t say anything. He was so close to Becca – only a foot away – but he seemed to not understand what had happened. His hands pawed uselessly at the stairs, trying to gain purchase but not quite sure how to use their fingers. they grabbed, but he didn’t know enough to push himself up, so he kept slipping and falling. Other people were arriving at the stairs by this point, but Daddy was blocking the way with his long legs and big feet kicking and scrambling.

Becca started to climb again. Her legs were fat and roly but full of toddler muscle. She didn’t tire easily and she never gave up. Momma had a word for it. “Per-sis-tint.” She was per-sis-tint and would not stop climbing these stairs.

Suddenly, Becca felt a tug at her little slipper. Daddy had shot out his left hand and grabbed Becca’s foot. He was trying to pull her down to his face! But, each time he tugged, he lost what little purchase he had on the stairs. Daddy tugged and tugged and Becca was scared that she would fall because Daddy was so strong even if he didn’t really know how to work his arms that well. She gave a couple of frightened kicks, and her slipper came off in Daddy’s hand. Daddy quickly shoved the slipper into his mouth, which Becca would have found funny a day or two ago. Now, it scared her more than anything. For, even though she was a little girl, she knew what that meant. It meant hungry. It was like when that old mangy dog had come in their backyard and grabbed a squirrel and shook it and shook it. That’s what Daddy did. Only he wanted that slipper to be Becca. He wanted to bite and shake Becca. His little girl! His sweetie!

In a rage, Daddy spit out the slipper, but doing so caused him to slide down the stairs the rest of the way. Becca scrambled up the next step and the next as the people from outside shuffled forward to fill the space that Daddy had left. They made such sad noises and sad movements. One by one, they hit the edge of the stairs and toppled forward, reaching for the little girl. they didn’t seems to notice Daddy on the floor at all and stepped all over him in their scramble to grab Becca and shake her with their mouths.

The stairwell turned at a big landing – what Becca always called “the square.” And now, she sat on the square watching the chaos happening a few feet below her. One by one, the people fell forward and found themselves unable to pull their bodies up the stairs. Soon, they started piling on top of each other, but that proved to be more of a hindrance than a help.

Becca, sat halfway up the stairs and watched her neighbors pile up. She looked up the stairway and saw the door of her bedroom, the hall leading to her Momma and Daddy’s room and the attic hatch.

There was nothing for her upstairs but her bed.

There was nothing for her downstairs but the people.

Little Becca, all of two-years-old, found herself with the hungry below and loneliness above.

As the light faded and the people surged, she fell asleep and dreamed of home and hugs and love.

Categories: Halloween Interlude, Halloween!, Horror, Just a stupid thing | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halloween Interlude – The Sweet, Sweet Joy of a Small Child’s Tears

applause-482x298Jerry Gillespie had very little to worry about. In four short years, he’d gone from a being a minor YouTube celebrity with “Scary Jerry’s Pranks and Skanks” to the host of the seriously under-appreciated late-night comedy program “Very Late with Jerry Gillespie.” He was living the dream of any 13-year-old with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or whatever they were calling it, now. He’d actually wanted to call his show “ADD with Jerry G” then “ADHD with Jerry G” then “Strokin’ Out With Jerry G” but The Network had nixed those ideas because apparently people didn’t have any idea of what funny was these days. So, he’d compromised. Then he’d gone with what they said. Jerry Gillespie had learned, in these four short years, that success came with a bit of a price. And, that price was your integrity. Still, the exchange rate on integrity was quite high, so he wasn’t complaining. And, as a result of this exchange rate, he had very little to worry about.He was sitting in a chair that cost more than an entire month’s rent would have cost him four years ago. His office at The Network overlooked tourists scuttling about their boring ass lives, unaware that they were being observed by a man who would never have to voluntarily interact with any of them ever again. Four years. That’s all it took.

He’d started out making videos with his buddies of that would be described as “pranks” by the popular press but that he and his friends referred to as “attacks.” “Let’s plan our next attack,” was their usual call to arms. They had no money, just a camera and an insane love of watching idiots get on put over on them. In his time on YouTube Jerry had dressed as a bear to scare hikers, dumped fake blood on diners at a fast food restaurant, replaced soup with vomit (fake, duh) at a fancy New York soirée, and set up trip wires across a busy intersection that set off small explosions and tricked pedestrians into thinking there was a gunman firing on their crosswalk. That last one had gotten him arrested, but it had also gotten the attention of several networks that found his on-screen charisma and rugged good looks appealing in a late night sort of way.

Following a few appearances on the usual run of talk shows and some well received short segments on a couple of sketch comedy programs, Jerry found himself offered the lucrative position of talk show sidekick for another up and coming young comedian. He’d held out. His friends had thought he was crazy, but when that guy’s show bombed his gambit payed off. The hardest part about taking the job, was having to part with his old gang of accomplices. There wasn’t any room at the top for this many losers. So, he’d sent them all some very nice texts and put it behind him. Sometimes, he wondered how they were doing.

“Very Late with Jerry Gillespie” wasn’t an overnight success; it was an overnight smash. He played amazingly well with young men aged 15 to 35 with his crude humor, borderline racist jokes and visible disdain for Hollywood types and their stupid projects. But, he also scored with women aged 30 and up. He had a “bad boy you can tame” quality that the execs really liked and they pushed it to the limit by pairing him with older actresses and telling him to “Flirt, flirt, flirt!” Which he did. Jerry was a master at the underhanded insult and knew how to put a woman down while building her up. It worked at bars and it really worked with actresses. No one ever told these women they looked bad! So when he did, it was a novelty. No one ever told them they were boring or talentless or that their time was almost up. So, when he did, it was refreshing. Honest. Sexy.

Or, maybe it wasn’t and they were better actors than he gave them credit for. In any case, the ratings showed that audiences loved it.

But, in the end, it was the pranks that kept Jerry Gillespie on top. He still put them together, just like in the old days, but now he had a budget. He had effects. He had a team that was dedicated and paid and – this was key – easy to fire. And, they popped online. He was still a YouTube master, only now it was clips from his massively successful show that were getting the hits. Millions of hits.

And, it was Halloween season. The season of pranks. And, most importantly, the season of his most successful prank of all.

Last year, Jerry had had a revelation: people loved seeing their kids on TV, so offer them a chance to see their kids on his show! All they had to do, was prank their kids and he’d fill a segment with the kids’ reactions! The prank? The day after Halloween, tell your kid you’d eaten all their candy. And capture their response. Upload the reaction to The Network’s YouTube channel and he’d select the funniest. And by “the funniest” he meant “the meanest.” He wanted to see kids cry. It’s what he was hoping for, at least.

And, it’s what he got.

Thousands, literally thousands, of parents sat their kids down – little kids! – whipped out their phones and told their children they’d eaten all their Halloween candy. And, it was beautiful! Watching the faces of those children crumble. Watching their eyes fill with betrayal for the first time in their lives was gorgeous. Seeing the moment, the exact second, when a small child realizes that they can never fully trust the most important people in their lives again? Priceless. It was better than watching a virgin get deflowered. There was more pain, more tears and more shock and grief.

But, hey, Jerry Gillespie was a cynical bastard who hated kids. He made no bones about that. How would audiences react?

Numbers though the roof. An extended cut on YouTube. Outtakes on his show for weeks. A special home video release in December. A Christmas variation (which didn’t get a big a response; people weren’t so cool with painting Santa as a bad guy). And, hype hype hype all through this year’s month of October. Whaddaya know? People hate their kids! It was delicious. It was money in the bank. It was . . . time for a meeting with his producer.

“Pat?” he called into the outside office, “Is Pete Denton here yet? We’re supposed to go over tonight’s segments.”

Pat didn’t respond. Did she step out without telling him again? God dammit. He’d told her to stop doing that. Jerry got up and walked to his door. Pat wasn’t at her desk. But, sitting in one of the chairs, sipping on a styrofoam cup of coffee, was an old man in a long brown coat. He had a floppy brown hat in his lap; his hair was gray and scraggly; and a three day growth of beard covered his lower face. He looked like a bum. Like one of the guys Jerry and his friends used to enjoy pulling “attacks” on. The homeless were easy targets and usually good sports about things if you gave them a little bottle of something afterwards.

“Uh,” Jerry said, “Hey. Did you see a woman in here?”

The old man stared into his cup of coffee and didn’t respond. How had he gotten all the way up here? How had he gotten past security? Jerry still had to show his ID badge at the front desk and his picture was plastered all over the outside of the building!

“Hey, man,” he said, “Can I help you?”

Jerry was getting a little angry, but the guy was big and probably mentally unstable. If he didn’t say anything soon, Jerry was going to have to call someone up. He didn’t need this shit.

“Look, man, if you’re not going to talk to me – I’m Jerry Gillespie. I can get you help if you need – do you need something from me?”

The old man seemed to light up a bit at this question. He looked up in a way that Jerry wasn’t too happy with. He’d seen nature documentaries about wild animals hunting for smaller animals and when a smaller animal finally came into view, the predator usually tensed up like this guy was doing now. But, it was a happy tension. An excited tension.

“Sir?” Jerry said. He was getting a bit nervous and figured politeness was the best way to go with this.

With a steadiness that unsteadied Jerry’s nerves, the old man turned his head and looked at the talk show host.

“Come with me,” he said. And Jerry went with him.

*****

It was dark where they were. Save for the burning eyes.

Cut as if from the darkness themselves, the eyes were malevolent slits of fire that shifted with incalculable rage and ferocity. They focused their gaze on what was before them and what was before them was Jerry.

A deep rumbling filled Jerry’s head at a pitch so low his teeth shook in their sockets. It was many seconds before he registered the sensation as the voice it was.

“C – come again?” he stammered.

The rumbling began again, and this time Jerry was able to hear the words “failure” “deception” and “punishment.”

“I,” Jerry said, “I couldn’t quite make all of that out.”

Jerry felt a hand on his shoulder and wished he hadn’t. He’d forgotten about the old man in the brown coat. He’d forgotten, well, a lot of things. How had they come here? Where were they? Where were his clothes? Where was his body? Th old man’s fingers squeezed Jerry’s shoulder, so it had to still be there at least.

“He says,” the old man intoned in a voice barely more than a whisper, “that you are a failure and that your deception will result in a swift and unending punishment.”

None of this was making any sense to Jerry.

“What – what failure?” he asked. “What did I do?”

The eyes, the bright yellow-orange eyes floating in the darkness, narrowed to slits. The rumbling voice spoke one word.

“Halloween,” it said.

“Halloween,” Jerry repeated.

“You’ve been judged guilty,” the old man calmly said, “Guilty of violating the trust and sanctity of this most sacred night. What other night allows children the freedom to don guises that reflect the terror with which they face the world each day and to venture out into the night at sources of fright rather than receptacles of fear? What other night belongs to the young and bids them take candy from strangers secure in the knowledge that whatever they receive will be safe to consume? What other night relies entirely on that most ancient of bonds, the bond between host and guest? What other night, man?! What other night?!”

“Um, Christmas?” Jerry said.

“Christmas!” the old man spat, “Christmas is a fool’s day where the fat get rewarded for their year-long gluttony and the poor receive nothing but the reminder of a hard year to come! Christmas is a dilettante’s idea of grace! Halloween, however, is a pact! A pact of trust! A pact of work and reward! A pact of community! It unites the living under the umbrella of the dead. And those who violate that pact, that trust, are the worst offenders of all. You, Jerry Gillespie, stand accused and tried of violating the sacred pact of Halloween. You broke the ancient bond. You feasted on the tears of children during the one night set aside for a child’s joy. You are a monster on a night of monsters and will be punished!”

“Hey, I didn’t make those videos!” Jerry said, having seen where all this was coming from, “I just had an idea! I didn’t make one kid cry! Everyone else did! I just put them out there! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

“We understand,” said the old man, “Now, join the rest of the accused and accept your punishment.”

Jerry looked around and suddenly he could see. Or, he could see something. It was a line of people, mostly adult men, stretching off to either side of him. They looked haggard and defeated and he supposed that must be the way he looked as well.

“Who are they?” he whispered.

“People who would turn our night into a source of pain for the young. You do not need to know their crimes; some are benign while many are harrowing. We protect the young on one night. Now, accept your punishment.”

The glowing eyes grew in radiance and below them a wide grinning mouth split the empty air. The mouth grew in size, preparing to engulf the line of transgressors.

“I don’t accept!” Jerry screamed. “I don’t accept!”

“Then, learn,” the old man said.

And Jerry was taught. He was offered a vision of each child from each video. He was given that moment of realization. That moment of betrayal. And he was given them as if they were his own. But, these moments went beyond the videos. For, not every parent had submitted their pranks. Many had been gripped with a deep sense of shame at what they’d done and had abandoned the plan. But, Jerry was given their child’s pain as well. And Jerry learned. He learned that the sweet, sweet joy of a small child’s tears comes with a heavy price. And, usually the child pays the price. But, on Halloween the exchange rate sometimes gets skewed.

As the gifts arrived in Jerry’s head, he floated toward the open mouth. Now, he understood. Now, he knew. Now, he accepted his punishment.

*****

Jerry Gillespie had a lot to worry about. In four short months, he’d gone from a being a successful late-night comedy host to sitting in a small room in Brooklyn, watching his bank account dwindle and refusing to accept calls. He couldn’t go out. He couldn’t talk to people. He couldn’t trust anyone. Anyone could be lying, he’d realized. He was living the nightmare of any child who’d been betrayed over and over and over again. His shrink had diagnosed it as PTSD, but Jerry couldn’t pinpoint anything that might have caused it. Nothing bad had ever happened to him in his life. But, his doctor had said it was as if he’d been traumatized repeatedly form a very young age. Soon, Jerry stopped trusting him. Jerry Gillespie had learned, in these four short months, that success came with a bit of a price. And, that price was trust. But, the exchange rate on trust was quite high. And, as a result of this exchange rate, Jerry Gillespie had a lot to worry about.

Categories: Halloween Interlude, Halloween!, Horror, Just a stupid thing | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halloween Interlude – The Bloody Skull of Bloodskull Ha-, uh Manor!

5KABOOM! CRASH! KABANG!

Lightning and thunder tore the sky apart as Jim Blackwell’s rocket roadster tore the road apart on its way to Bloodskull Hall! Manor! Bloodskull Manor!

“I hope I get to Bloodskull Hall Manor in time to inherit my riches!” Jim thought to himself. He was a handsome man with chiseled features and a wicked smile that made the ladies swoon and the men punch their fists into the air with outrage at their own rotten luck. Jim was currently looking to inherit riches from an uncle who had died under mysterious circumstances. The uncle’s mangled corpse had been discovered weeks earlier in the dining room of Bloodskull Hall Manor lying on the table. It had been badly damaged. The body. The uncle’s body. Not the table; it was fine. No clues as to what had killed his uncle had been found, but the housekeeper – Mz. Eliza Blazkey – had been woken by a loud argument the night before and had rushed down the stairs to find the dining room door barred and loud voices coming from within. One of the voices was certainly the uncle’s but the other voice sounded weird and bloody. Like a bloody skull.

The next morning, the uncle’s body had been found in its torn-apart state and only a bloody skull was found to offer any sort of clue as to what had happened. The uncle’s body was removed to be washed, to be hosed down, and the bloody skull was given to the housekeeper – Mz. Eliza Blazkey – who set it on the mantle where it seemed to judge the living!

“Hogwash!” thought Jim as he drove to Bloodskull Hall Manor, “I don’t believe in skulls and even if I did I don’t believe in SKULLS!” and he pushed really hard on the gas pedal with his foot. And he shifted the . . . the shifter of his car. I don’t know how to drive a stick. He sticked the stick and VROOM off down the road!

Fifteen minutes later, Jim was standing before Bloodstool Manor and wiping his brow. “Quite a drive,” he thought. “I drove the hell out of that car.”

Knocking on the door, Jim noticed that so much blood was oozing out of the house. “That’s odd,” he said out loud, “I’d better call the police on all this blood.”

Pulling out his cell phone, Jim called the police. But, he could NOT get reception!

“Blast and curse!” he screamed and threw the useless contraption into the bushes!

Entering the house, Jim was shocked to discover so much blood was all over the place! He slipped and slid, sliding and slooping his feet slithering and slurping all over the slip-slidey floor. He slalomed and slud and slanked and spun and finally landed on his bottom(!) in the kitchen where everyone was dead.

Everyone was dead and bloody and the skull did it there was no way to know who did it!

“Looking for me?!” said a creepy bloody voice from behind Jim.

Jim spun around. Around and around. He spun and spun and spun and got soooooo dizzy and threw up and fell in the blood and vomit and skull and blood.

“I threw up!” Jim said and began to cry.

The skull – drenched in blood and vomit because it had been standing behind Jim and then he had accidentally kicked it around a bit while he was spinning around on the bloody floor and then he’d vomited on it – helped him to his feet with its PHANTOM ARMS and gave him a glass of water and explained that it had killed everyone because of a curse or something.

TEN YEARS LATER

“Honey, where are the mats? The food mats for the table?” Jim cried out. He was expecting guests any minute and couldn’t find the table food mats for – in order to catch the food.

“Just where you left them! On the floor of the kitchen after we made love!” came a voice from the other room. It was the skull! They’d gotten married because they had so much in common and GET THIS they had a baby and it was born with a skull head!

THE END

Categories: Halloween Interlude, Halloween!, Horror, Just a stupid thing, Just a VERY STUPID THING | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halloween Interlude – Under the Stacks

childroomUnder every library is a hidden world of terrors and delights.

That’s not a metaphor, by the way; under every library is a literal world of terrors and delights. That’s why they were created. To contain that world. It’s horrifying.

Dierdre was six and a half and damn proud of that fact. Turning six had been a major milestone in her life; it meant she was allowed to browse the children’s books at the Lowertown Library unattended. It meant the librarian – a round, pleasant woman with sticky-outy hair – trusted that she wouldn’t get dirt on the books or pull out the pages or drop them on the ground and stamp on them. Like her little brother. Honestly, she’d known to not do this for years – well, for months. But, rules were rules. So, she’d patiently waited and on her birthday – February the third – she’d walked with her mom to the big gray building on Haver Street and exchanged her light blue card for a dark blue card. One day, she’d get the red card. But that was a far-off dream.

Today, Dierdre had selected, of her own accord, three books on reptiles and amphibians. They were large and flat and full of photos and not baby books, either. They were big kid books, but, and this was something she was super DUPER proud about, she could read them! Yes. And, most importantly, she could understand them. So, while momma was off looking at books in the boring part of the library – ie, the rest of the library – Dierdre was sitting on the cushioned bench by the back wall and reading about salamanders and how they ate with their sticky tongues. The bench ran the length of the back wall. There was another bench under the big picture window, but it always made Dierdre feel like people were sneaking up behind her when she sat there.

“The Hy-dro-man . . . man-tes salamander has the fastest tongue in the world,” she read out loud. Normally, you weren’t supposed to read with your mouth at the library, but they liked it when you did in the children’s section. It proved that books made you smarter and that was good for business. “It is also the longest tongue,” she continued, happy with her newfound knowledge. She couldn’t wait to get home and throw these facts at her little brother, who wouldn’t understand them but would appear suitably impressed nevertheless.

“The tip of its tongue -”

“Tongue . . .”

Dierdre paused. Someone had whispered the word “tongue” somewhere near her bench. She had definitely heard it. She looked around. The children’s section was empty. Even the round librarian with the sticky-outy hair was away from her desk in the center of the room. Dierdre suddenly felt very alone in a way she hadn’t felt since she was small and afraid of the dark. But, this wasn’t the dark! It was the library. The safest place in the world. And, she wasn’t alone. Momma was in the big person section with a bunch of other grownups. There were two heavy doors between the children’s section and the rest of the library, but if she leaned way over, she could just see through the long windows into the rest of the library.

She looked down at her book. A drawing of a  salamander with its long tongue grabbing a bug splashed across two pages. A small blue box in the corner described the action.

“Here,” she read out loud, “the salamander uses its sticky tongue -”

“Tongue,” the voice said again.

It was close. Near her ear. She whipped her head around, blonde hairs slapping her face. There was no one there, of course. That “all alone in the dark” feeling began to creep over her again. Maybe, she thought, it was time to go find momma and check out her books.

Stood up.

Something had her leg.

It was a hand – gray, bony, with rough skin and scratchy nails at the ends of long long too-long fingers – sticking out from under the bench cushion. The hand was gripping her upper thigh and the horrible fingers wrapped all the way around.

“Momma!” she called out. The hand squeezed her leg a bit harder than was necessary.

There was a noise. A commotion. Something was happening in the rest of the library. Muffled sounds, blocked by the two big doors.

“MOMMA!” she yelled, and the hand slipped back under the cushion dragging it’s sharp nails along her skin and leaving three angry red scratches.

Dierdre bolted from the children’s section, burst through the doors and stood in the safety of the general reading room. She was panting, her reptile books still clutched to her chest, looking around for the comforting shape of her momma.

But, her momma wasn’t there.

No momma’s were there.

The library, so full of life and energy and people when she’d arrived, was quiet as a tomb. Dierdre held perfectly still, her breath coming in quick, hitching gasps. Finally, she managed to calm her breathing enough to listen. There was a sound. A wet sound. It was coming from behind the Information Desk.

On size eight feet, clad in her favorite white shoes (perfect for twirling! she would say) Dierdre crept over to the Information Desk. She knew she wasn’t supposed to go around to the other side – that was for employees only – but, the wet sounds seemed urgent, like an animal in need.

The round librarian, with the sticky-outy hair, lay behind the desk. Her pretty white blouse, the one with the ruffles that Dierdre thought of as a princess blouse, was stained red and torn all over. The librarian’s hair was more sticky-outy than usual and her body had sticky-outy parts where there weren’t supposed to be sticky-outy parts. The wet sounds were coming from her mouth, which was also stained red.

The round librarian looked up with wide wide eyes and saw Dierdre.

“Ca – ca – ca . . . ” she stammered, “ca -”

Dierdre leaned down. It was scary to see the round librarian like this but also sad. Oh her white princess blouse (now stained red oh dear so so red and torn) was a name tag. It said “MISS EMMA” on it. Dierdre had never seen this tag. She had probably been told the round librarian was named Miss Emma when she first started visiting the children’s section, but htat was too long ago to remember.

“Ca – ca -” Miss Emma croaked.

“Do you need help,” Dierdre asked, “Miss Emma?” she added.

“Ca – ca – call. N – number. Desk,” Miss Emma spat out, “Call. Please. Please.”

Dierdre stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck. The top of the desk was smooth and clean save for a few long gouges drawn across the end. She saw no number.

“Miss Emma,” she said looking down, “there’s no number here!”

Miss Emma’s breathing was growing shorter. She gazed with fading eyes at Deirdre. She had known Dierdre for all six years of the little girl’s life. Had met the tiny baby when she was only three weeks old and Dierdre’s momma (that poor poor woman the things they did to her before dragging her away and off and down down down) had brought her in to meet the staff and announced “I want everyone to meet a future bookworm!” Miss Emma had watched little Dierdre grown into a whip-smart toddler, reading at three and comprehending at three and a half. The little girl was smart. She could understand. She would “get it.”

“The – the whole desk. Hidden. On. Top. Hidden. In. Wood.”

Dierdre looked at the desk, but it was too high to see the whole thing. Setting her books down – careful to avoid the expanding pool of blood around Miss Emma – she climbed up onto the Information Desk’s chair and knelt on the soft seat. She gazed at the swirling pattern in the fake wood desktop. It looked like a desktop. She was about to ask Miss Emma for more help, when the pattern resolved itself into recognizable shapes. Numbers. A phone number.

“Who is it? Do I call them? What do I say?” Dierdre was feeling overwhelmed. She wanted to cry. She wanted to pee. She wanted to leave.

Miss Emma, nearly gone now, even a six year old could see that this kind woman was not long for our world, stared at the beautiful child poised above her like and angel. Like a last hope.

“Breach,” she said.

“Beach?” Dierdre asked, confused.

“Brrrreeeach!” Miss Emma sighed out. And died.

Dierdre heard scuffling behind the stacks. Under the floor. In the ceiling. She needed to call the hidden number and say the secret word.

Breach.

She didn’t know what it meant. But, it seemed important and scary.

The man who answered the phone sounded mean when he answered. But, when he heard the little girl on the other end say “breach,” his voice softened. “Are you in the library, little girl?” he asked.

“Yes,” Dierdre replied. “Are you going to come help me?”

The man on the other end, didn’t respond.

Under every library is a hidden world of terrors and delights. That’s why they were created. To contain that world. Books contain magic and that magic usually works. But, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes – rarely oh so rarely but sometimes – things happen. Things get breached. And things come out. From under the stacks.

Categories: Halloween Interlude, Halloween!, Horror, Just a stupid thing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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