Posts Tagged With: scary

Mr. Kalan and His Inheritance – A Flop House Spook-em-Up! Part 2 . . .

Donegal_Castle._County_Donegal,_Ireland-LCCN2002717385Stuart’s Story

“Goodnight, Dan!” Stuart called out semi-mockingly. This was going to be an easy win. He’d seen way too many horror movies and read way too many horror novels to fall for this set-up. Obviously, the old man stood to inherit the castle if Elliott failed tonight and so he was going to do everything he could to scare the guys and take the place for his own. And why not? It made sense to Stuart. He’d do it, too.

Closing the door, Stuart took in his surroundings. He’d chosen this room because it had a large bookcase filled with ancient volumes and, who knew? There could be a Necronomicon or De Vermis Mysteriis or Cultes des Goules up there. Old castles always had lots of magic books, right?

In the middle of the room, standing atop a threadbare green rug, was Stuart’s bed, a rickety twin size with a musty looking mattress. At the foot of the bed stood a small case with two hinged doors. Inside the case, Stuart found candles, matches, sheets and a blank notebook with a pencil. As the light was already growing dim, he lit three candles.

On the other end of the room, Stuart found a battered desk. It was one of those desks with lots of little drawers, and Stuart opened each one finding nothing until the last. Pulling out the drawer, he heard a rattling inside and, upon further investigation, discovered the drawer had a false bottom. Sliding the false bottom out of its slot, revealed a small silver key. Stuart held it up to get a better look at it. Engraved into the top was the strange triangular symbol from the old man’s parchment.

“Must be, like, the sign of this castle or something,” he said to himself.

Stuart glanced around the room, but didn’t see anything that might require a key to open. He began perusing the books.

As he’d suspected, most of the volumes were written in languages other than English. Stuart was fluent in French, Spanish and Greek, but his Latin was rusty and his Gaelic practically nonexistent.

He pulled book after book down from the shelves, holding their covers up to the candlelight.

“Dang,” he said as each one proved more impenetrable than the last. “Dang.”

Just as he was about to give up, he noticed a slim, shiny volume on the bottom shelf. The cover was made of a textured leather, dyed yellow and lacking any writing. Stamped into the cover, however, was the mysterious symbol from the key.

“Well, well, well,” Stuart said, “This looks totally scarifying.”

He tried opening the book. The cover wouldn’t budge. There was no lock holding it shut, at least no visible lock.

“That’s weird,” Stuart muttered to himself. He ran his fingers along the front and back of the book, feeling for a latch or indentation. The spine was slightly curved and at the apex of the curve, Stuart felt what seemed to be a slight flaw in the binding. He pushed against the flaw and felt something inside the book shift. Just a small vibration as if some internal mechanism had been triggered. Still, the cover would not open.

“Oh, it’s going to be like that, is it?” Stuart asked the book. It gave no response, which Stuart interpreted as a further challenge.

Settling himself on the bed and pulling a candle closer, Stuart began his examination of the book in earnest. He flipped it over, rapped on the cover, scratched at the pages and finally, after a few more minutes, his fingernail snagged another imperfection.

*click*

“Gotcha,” Stuart whispered.

Another movement from inside the book. The candle fluttered. The room seemed to grow slightly cooler.

Stuart’s face was covered in a sheen of sweat. He now felt as if this book – and the knowledge contained within – were the only things he cared about in the world. He had to get in. Had to! His fingers flew across its surface, studying its bumps and contours. Stuart began breathing more heavily as his hands spun and flipped the volume this way and that.

“There has to be one more switch,” he said. “I can’t see it! Where is it?!”

As he grew more and more agitated, the breeze in the room seemed to pick up, blowing across his neck and back. The candle flame sputtered on the verge of blowing out.

“The candle!” Stuart suddenly yelled and leaping up, he snuffed it out with his fingers.

Now, in the pitch black, Stuart felt the book in his hands. It was like holding a lover’s face; he knew it so well. Had studied it for years. He exhaled and, had he been able to see, would have noticed his breath crystalizing in the air in front of his face.

Slowly, he ran his thumbs up the spine of the book. He felt a snag and pushed.

*click*

The yellow volume heaved in his hands. He almost dropped it, the movement was so strong. More than the small vibration of before, it was a complete shifting of weight. Like an animal gaining consciousness and smelling the air around it.

Stuart tried to open the book in the dark. Still, it would not budge.

An intense anger flooded his senses and he was about to heave the book across the room when the image of the key floated before his unseeing eyes. Scrambling in the dark, he located the silver key in his pants pocket. He searched with his hands for a keyhole – there had to be one! This had to be it! But, he found nothing. Just the impression of the symbol on the front cover.

Wait.

Stuart took the key and, laying it on the book cover, positioned it so the symbol on the key lined up with the symbol on the book.

*click*

The pages flew open. Words spilled out across Stuart’s hands. What did they say? How were they crawling up his arms? When had the candle relit? Who was in the doorway?

Stuart looked at Dan standing in the entrance to his room. Dan’s eyes were missing and the skin around his mouth had been pulled back exposing skull, gums and teeth.

“I found a book,” Stuart said.

“Let me read it,” The Dan thing said.

The door to Stuart’s room slammed shut and Stuart’s screams began in earnest, mixed with laughter and the wonder of a good book.

*****

Elliott’s Story

“You boys behave tonight!” Elliott called down the hall and shut his door. He was shaken. This little adventure did not feel right, not at all. First was the extreme fatigue. Never had he been this tired. He’d been all over the world, had travelled back and forth from America to parts unknown on numerous occasions, and had never been hit like this. Was he sick? He didn’t feel sick, exactly. It was like something was draining his spirit. Something in this castle. Castle O’Kalan? The more he thought about it, the less sense it made. He didn’t have any ancestors in Ireland, for criminy’s sake! What had put that in his head?

He took out his cell phone. No bars, just like the old man had said. No bars in this cell, he thought and smiled. Normally, he’d come up with some sort of clever play on words, but looking around, he didn’t feel like making jokes.

The room he’d picked had seemed cozy on first glance. It was also the only room that came with pre-lit candles in the wall sconces. That offered some comfort, but not a lot. The lack of windows had made him feel at ease, like nothing could get in. But, now he realized it felt more like he couldn’t get out. Cell, indeed.

Elliott opened his door. He looked up and down the dark hallway. Stuart and Dan were probably already settling in – Dan was probably already asleep by now; that guy could sleep through the “1812 Overture” if he was playing the cannonball – but, Elliott knew he wouldn’t be sleeping tonight. Besides, they didn’t use actual cannonballs in the “1812 Overture.” That would be stupid.

Throwing open the cardboard box at the foot of his bed – that seemed to be the old man’s idea of a “footlocker” – Elliott tossed the sheets, candles and matches onto the floor. At the bottom of the box, was a journal and a pencil. The journal was tied shut with ribbon, and looked new. Elliott lit a candle and brought it over to where he was sitting. Untying the ribbon, Elliott flipped through the journal. The pages were all blank.

Elliott set the journal down and then picked it back up. Something was nagging at him. Something about this entire scenario. Old castle? Mysterious benefactor? It was hitting too many familiar beats. He’d seen enough bad movies to recognize lazy storytelling; and, this was some of the laziest he’d ever experienced.

So, what would a lazy storyteller do in this situation? Well, a blank journal left in a box of supplies was obviously meant to be found. But, why?

Elliott flipped through the journal again. The pages steadfastly remained blank.

“What would the Hardy Boys do?” he said.

Holding the journal up to the candle, he turned the book so he was looking at the pages edge-on. He adjusted his positioning in minute increments and slowly flipped the pages until he saw what he was looking for. Setting the book in his lap, Elliott picked up the pencil and began to lightly rub the lead over the seemingly blank page. As if by magic, words appeared on the pages.

“Of course,” Elliott said. This whole trip was following a script. He felt like he should be two steps ahead of it, if only his head wasn’t so foggy. Peering at the page, Elliott began reading the words out loud.

“They. Are. Gone.” he read, “And. You. Are. Next.” He looked up. Was the candle being blown by something?

“Do. Not. Look. For. Them. Where. You. Can. See. Them. Look. For. Them. Where. Your. Sight. Does. Not. Go.”

Who? Elliott wondered. Look for who? Stuart and Dan? That couldn’t be it. That was DuckTales-level mystery solving. Nothing would be that obvious.

Wait. DuckTales. Something about the opening theme song of DuckTales was playing around in his head. What was it that happened? Huey was climbing a cliff during the “D-d-d-danger” part and then the three of them were looking at a gem during the “Watch behind you” part but what happened? Right. Something jumps out at them while they’re focusing on something else. Right when they’d made some sort of discovery, whatever it was that had been out to get them used that moment of distraction to –

Something grabbed Elliott from behind, squeezing the breath out of his lungs.

Something else grabbed his legs. Whipping his head around, Elliott looked into the face of Stuart Wellington.

“Stu!” he managed to gasp out as Stuart’s powerful arms constricted his chest,”Stu! What are you doing?! What happened to your face?!”

Stuart’s face was covered in what looked like writing; but, it was a language Elliott had never seen before. It covered Stuart’s neck, arms and hands. Stuart’s eyes were red and rolled back in his head; a strange rasping came from his throat and a vile black liquid oozed off of his tongue.

Glancing down, Elliott realized that Dan had ahold of his legs. Dan’s arms weren’t nearly as strong as Stuart’s, so it didn’t hurt very much. In fact, Dan wasn’t really having an easy time lifting Elliot.

“Come on, Dan!” Elliott called out, “Lift with your legs! Just, watch your knee!”

The thing that was Dan seemed to shudder with an intense sigh as it looked up at Elliott. So much of Dan’s face had been pulled away, that it was mostly skull that greeted Elliott. The empty eye sockets leaked the same horrid fluid that poured out of Stuart. And, from deep in Dan’s chest, came that pitiful rasping, moaning sound. As if someone had burrowed into Dan’s chest, and was chanting or singing or weeping.

“Dan!” Elliott cried out, “I know it’s you! Fight this! Let me go! We’ve been tricked! We’ve all been tricked and we played right into the hands – or, you guys played into them; I was doing a pretty good job of figuring things out on my own – of, whatever it is that’s been doing this to us!”

Stuart increased the pressure on Elliott’s small frame and Elliott began seeing stars.

“Well,” he said as he faded out, “I always thought this is how I’d go: with you two fighting over me.”

The Dan thing grabbed the sheets Elliott had tossed on the floor and flung them over Elliott’s form. Stuart and Dan bundled up the little man and Stuart hoisted him over his shoulder. As they exited the room, the candle blew out.

*****

“Nope!” Elliott cried, looking around, “None of this!”

He had come to in a dimly lit chamber, tied to a stone table, still wrapped in the sheets from his room. The alter was surrounded by four unlit braziers. To his left, Dan stood against the wall as if waiting for a command. Stuart mirrored him on the other side, but seemed slightly more sure of himself.

“Guys!” Elliott whispered. “Come on, guys! Let me up. Get me out of here! I know it’s you two. Dan! Get me out of here and I’ll never interrupt you again!”

The two figures stood placidly, ignoring the entreaties of their friend.

“Stuart! Stuart, I’ll get you a writing job on the show! I don’t actually know if you want a writing job – it’s a lot of hard work and you’d have me over your shoulder and, frankly, I’m a pretty difficult guy to be around on the best days – but, just get me up! Come on!”

“They won’t listen to you, Mr. Kalan,” came a familiar voice from across the room.

Dilbert O’Kalan had entered, dressed in long purple robes, tied at the waist with a length of rope. Around his neck, he wore a chain with a jewel pendant. In his hands, he held a metal basin and a long blade.

“I have many legions under my command, Mr. Kalan,” the old man said, “and, given the opportunity, they will push a man’s soul from his flesh and inhabit his bones like a fish in a reef.”

“Wait,” Elliott said, “Wait, are you saying a fish wears a reef like a suit? Have you ever seen a reef? Fish don’t walk around in them, like David Byrne’s big suit. Coral reefs aren’t clothes! Reefs? Is it reefs or reeves?”

“Quiet!” cried Dilbert O’Kalan, “You will not distract me so easily. I am not one of your weak-willed compatriots. We have business to attend to and not much time.”

“Oh, well I better make things easy for you! It would certainly be in my best interest to let you get along with whatever it is you’re going to do with that knife and bowl!”

“Oh, Mr. Kalan,” the old man said, “You have no idea the things I’m going to do. I’ve been stuck in this decrepit flesh suit for far too long. Now, it is time for a change.”

“Into what? Into me? You look just like me! It won’t be that big of a change! It’s hardly worth it!”

“Unfortunately, the Kalans and their relatives have always been the only humans capable of containing my essence. I contrived the story of your inheritance to bring you here. I also needed two vessels to serve as retainers to my glory, and you complied nicely by providing them. I am happy you did not bring along that brother of yours. It would have complicated the process.”

“He probably would have started talking about sports, too,” Elliott said.

“Yes, I listen to your program. It is amusing how you denigrate the works of others for the amusement of your social inferiors.”

“I think we have a new tag line,” Elliott said.

“But, enough. I am going to slice you open, remove your soul and enter your body. The procedure will take about five minutes. Your soul will writhe in torment . . . forever.”

Dilbert O’Kalan lit several of the braziers. The pungent sting of incense filled the air. Dilbert began drawing strange diagrams and symbols on the floor around the altar. Elliott struggled against his bindings, but they were far too tight to move.

“Hey, Dilbert!” Elliott cried, “Who are you, really? How are you tied in with my family? Why me? Do you really listen to our podcast?”

“I know what you’re trying to do, Mr. Kalan,” Dilbert said, continuing his work, “You’re trying to distract me while you think of a way to escape. But, don’t you see that even if you got off of the alter, your friends would simply stop you. Stuart is strong, stronger since his transformation. He always had a bit of the rebel about him; now he has everything he always wanted: unnatural strength, cosmic knowledge, eternal life! Dan finally has power over you. He no longer has to put up with your attitude! Your jabs! Your unending stream of useless knowledge!”

“Listen, Dilbert, you can say what you want, but Dan and I are friends. Sure, we rib each other on the show, but what you’re hearing is just a bit!”

“Nonsense! This man has no respect for you! The way he sighs! The way he swears at your singing! Dan McCoy is no friend of yours!”

“He is a friend!” Elliott shouted, “Dan! Aren’t you my friend?”

The Dan thing remained still, but its eyes shifted ever so slightly towards Elliott’s prone figure.

“See?!” Elliott cried, “He looked over at me! That’s a thing! Stu! Tell this guy where he can go and then get me loose!”

Stuart shifted slightly in his place but otherwise remained still.

“It’s working!” Elliott cried, “They’re coming to! They’re going to wake up, set me free and then beat the stuffing out of you, Mr. O’Kalan if that is your real name!”

“They’re not waking up,” Dilbert said, “They can’t ‘wake up’ because, as I keep telling you, their souls are no longer in their bodies! Those are demons in there! Their souls are trapped in eternal torment!”

“Bull! If their souls were trapped, you’d have them somewhere!”

“I do!” Dilbert shouted, exasperatedly, “I have them in this gem around my neck!”

“Ah HA!” Elliott shouted and burst free of the ropes.

“What?!” said a startled Dilbert O’Kalan, “How?!”

“I suspected something was up when I found that terrible secret message in the journal in my room!” Elliott explained, “Fearing the worst, I palmed a few of those matches you’d provided. This whole time we’ve been talking, I’ve been slowly burning through the ropes, trusting that the smell of incense would hide the odor of burning hemp!”

“Well done, Mr. Kalan,” Dilbert calmly intoned, “But, too little too late. Slaves, grab him!”

The Dan thing and Stuart darted towards the altar upon which Elliott now stood. Stuart dove for Elliott’s legs, but a well timed jump allowed Elliott to safely evade his grasp and land on the floor.

“Fools!” Dilbert cried, “Secure him! He must not escape!”

Elliott ran around the alter, straight into the Dan thing.

“Sorry about this, buddy!” he said and kicked with all his might at the Dan thing’s bad knee.

The Dan thing let loose a wild howl and collapsed, moaning with pain.

“Stuart!” Dilbert O’Kalan cried, “Destroy him! I can still use his body, even if it is slightly damaged!”

Stuart darted around the altar. Elliott realized he would be no match for Stuart’s increased speed and strength. He couldn’t go face-to-face with him. He had to get to that gem!

Feinting to the left, Elliott counted on the thing inhabiting Stuart’s body to not be quite as quick-on-the-take as Stuart himself would have been. He guessed correctly and used Stuart’s brief mistake to dart around the other side of the altar, straight at Dilbert O’Kalan.

The old man was quick, but not quick enough. Elliott grabbed Dilbert around the waist, tackling him to the floor. With both hands, he yanked as hard as he could on the chain around the man’s neck and pulled the gem free.

“Ha!” Elliott shouted. But, something wasn’t right. He looked down.

Dilbert O’Kalan had shoved the sacrificial blade into Elliott’s torso, all the way up to the hilt. So sharp was the blade, Elliott hadn’t even felt it go it.

“It’s over, Mr. Kalan,” Dilbert said, “You played along very well. Now, my soul will enter your body and your soul will be trapped forever in torment!”

“Think so?” Elliott choked out, “Well, let’s take a look . . . in the mailbag.”

And, he smashed the gem on the stone floor.

A flash of light. Wind. Dilbert O’Kalan looked up. Elliott was suspended in the air, three feet above his head.

“Elliott!” he cried.

“There is no Elliott,” Elliott said with a deep, rumbling voice, “Only Zuul!”

“This is not possible!” O’Kalan yelled, “What have you done?!”

“It’s more what have you done, spooky!” Elliott spoke, “You cut me open, I let my friend’s souls out. Now, they’re in here with me! Think I’ll take ’em back to New York with me!”

“What? How?!” O’Kalan spluttered.

“I don’t know, man, it’s your little world! I didn’t make the rules. You okay in there, Dan? Yeah, I’m fine. You alright, Stuart. Yeah, eternal torment sucked. What should we do about this guy?”

Elliott turned his head. Across the room, the Dan thing and Stuart were watching everything with interest.

“Hey, chuckleheads,” Elliott said to them, “Is there a rule that, like, once the souls of the bodies you inhabit have been freed, you no longer have to do what this guy says?”

The Dan thing and Stuart looked at each other. Stuart gave a shrug.

“Works for me,” Elliott said, “I guess you can do whatever you want with him.

“No!” O’Kalan shouted, “No! Stay back! I command you! Stay back!”

“Okay, let’s wrap this up. Fine, Dan,” Elliott said, “Sheesh. You’d think you’d be happy to be freed from eternal torment. No, I’m glad you got me out. Got Meowth? No, ‘me’ ‘out’. My words are a little slurred from being trapped in eternal torment for so long. No, I think you said ‘Meowth’ because all you took from this is a reminder of the video games of your misspent youth. Good takeaway, Dan. *sigh*”

*****

“On this episode of ‘The Flop House’ we answer the burning question ‘Is Martin Short more irritating in animated form?’ with a burning ‘yes’.”

Dan hit Pause on the recording program.

“Okay, guys,” he said, “We’re up for doing this?”

“I think so,” Stuart answered, “Got my beers; got my food. Let’s do it.”

“Elliott? You ready?”

“Of course I’m ready, Dan. I didn’t just sit through seven and a half hours of ‘Legends of OZ: Dorothy’s Return’ to not be ready.”

“Well, if your voice starts to get hoarse, let me know.”

“Dan, if my voice starts to get hoarse, you’ll know. How would you not know?”

“I’m just looking out for you, Elliott.”

“Well, thank you, Dan.”

“You’re welcome, Elliott. Okay, here goes.”

Dan hit record.

“Welcome to ‘The Flop House,” he said, “I’m Dan McCoy.”

“I’m Stuart Wellington.”

“And, I’m Elliott Kalan.”

The recording continued. The three Original Peaches spoke at length about a terrible computer animated children’s movie. The banter was quick. The jokes were on-point. There was even an appearance by the House Cat. Elliott sang a Letters Song. Stuart officially retired “Castle Freak.” Dan sighed. Things were pretty much the same as they’d always been.

Except, they only need one mic, now.

THE END

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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 – 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 – 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.

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Halloween Interlude – Here Come the Jack-O’-Mans!

This Halloween, there were fifteen Jack-O’-Mans on my block. That is one, two, three up to fifteen Jack-O’-Mans in one block! Holy and crap. Is that a lot of Jack-O’-Mans? For one block it is, yes sir.

What does it take to produce so many Jack-O’-Mans? And why. I took it upon myself to investigative report the answers.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE FIFTEEN JACK-O’-MANS?! IN ONE BLOCK!
by [REDACTED]

I talked to the proprietor of the first home – a gentle-man by the name of Allen Bates. Here is a transcript of our discussion.

ALAN BATES: Leave me alone!

ME: JACK-O’-MANS!

And then my tape machine broke.

I bought a Jack-O’-Man skull at the local conflabulary – a spicy store on the corner called “Grocery Store?”

ME: One Jack-O’-Man skull, my fine lady!

LADY: I’m sorry, do you need help?

ME: Direct me towards the Jack-O’-Man skulls that I may see within and discover their hoary secrets!

LADY: The Halloween decorations are at the front of the store, by the carts.

ME: Unhand me!

LADY: I’m not touching –

ME: UNHAND ME!

And then my tape machine broke.

This was getting me NO-WHERE! All about me were evidences of Jack-O’-Man activity, but nothing to show for my investigations but a package of Root Beer Barrels and a package of Root Beer Barrels.

ME: WILL NO ONE SHARE WITH ME THE SECRETS OF THE JACK-O’-MANS!

I woke up all over the place. I dreamed of Jack-O’-Mans and their eyes and beady eyes. GODS! How do you craft a Jack-O’-Man?! I grabbed one from a stoop and screamed WHY ARE YOU HEEEAR!? So many children came out to look at me and then ran back up into the trees! Stop stealing my bird-food, children!

That night was the night the kids wore masks like popular car-toons (HEEMAN, Skeletorn, The Princess, Jon and the Holmograns, Gummy Bear, The Smurf, Bat-man, Spider-man, Hulk-man, The Avenger, Star War, Drancula, The Skizzzz, Rubiks Cube, crayons in a pot, Salt and pepper shakes, a fork, plates and a cup, several napkins, a place-mat, doormat, a door bell, deer doer, the Big One, Smurds, Stamberry Shorktakes, Rainbow Bright, my pony pony, Blank byouty, the blak stallion, gross weatherman, that guy that looks, other kids, kids with faces, purple pie-man, all-you-can-eat, mY Bologna, the wig, ear picker, galaxy high school) and you give them sweets.

I still hadn’t a JACK-O’-MAN!

I had to resort to desperate measures.

I stole a Jack-O’-Man skull and dug INTO IT!

After it was done I took the inside of the SKULL and thrust the bits at children who came to my door.

I HEAR YOU CAN MAKE PIES OF THESE! i might have screamed.

Kids ran hither and thither and moms yelled and I had to spend a NIGHT IN THE POKEY!

So, the moral of this story is: I broke out of jail.

It was sooooo easy because it wasn’t a “jail” it was a “room” and I didn’t “break out” I “left” because it was “my room” and I had already “spent a night” in “real jail.”

BUT

When I got home, there was the SKULL MESS where I’d dropped it, on my floor and I spoooooooooooned it up and made the most amazing pie in the WORLD by eating the goooooooooop in a bowl of milk. PIES!

Next year, I will NOT have a Jack-O’-Man they are too much trumble and don’t make good guests and the kids in the neighborhood chew the eye sockets.

My momma once told me there were no Jack-O’-Mans but she was wrong. There are.

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Halloween Interlude – The Shortest Ghost

THE SHORTEST GHOST

The Shortest Ghost was very short
Not even two feet high
He looked up to the other ghosts
Who called him “Little Guy.”

The witches called him “Goblin Food”
The mummies called him “Thumbkin”
The Draculas just picked him up
And stuffed him in a pumpkin.

The werewolves all turned up their snouts
As if he wasn’t there
The bats and spiders laughed at him
The Devils pulled his hair

Each Halloween he hoped and dreamed
He’d pull off one big fright
And listen to the children scream
And cry for mom all night

But, when the spooking hour came
The other ghosts would sneer
“A tiny ghost with no loud ‘Boo!’
Does not inspire fear!”

This Halloween, he sat at home
And watched some DVDs
But scary films just made him sad
And he’d seen all of these

And so the Shortest Ghost set out
He thought he’d Trick or Treat
With emphasis on “tricks” because
The treats he could not eat

He stalked a motley group of kids
Who’d not, for hours, be missed
And with a pounce enveloped them
Within his spectral mist

He showed them sights – obscenities –
No living being should see
The face of Death, the Hills of Ot
The Red Pnakotic Sea

He led them through Zehirete
The Holy Womb of Light
And bathed them in The White Fire
Which Is Darker Than The Night

Shub-Niggurath – the Black Goat
With a Thousand Hungry Young –
Ignored them, but not Nyarlathotep
God of the Bloody Tongue

The King In Yellow, Hastur,
Lord of Interstellar Spaces
Was dropping by and broke their minds
By showing them his faces

The Shortest Ghost then dragged them deep
Beneath the ocean’s waves
Where mermaids, fat with sailors’ blood,
Lured men down to their graves

And, down where dead Cthulhu dreamt
And Dagon held court, too
The Shortest Ghost swam in their ears
And whispered to them
“Boo.”

The children screamed, or tried to,
For the ocean filled their lungs
But, soon enough, it mattered not
For death had stopped their tongues

He’d played his trick, he’d had his treat
The dawn would soon be there
The shortest ghost now had his proof
That he knew how to scare

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!” his brothers cried
As he rose out of the foam,
“The Old Gods wake! The Howler Screams!
The Shambler starts to roam!”

“You’ve called attention to mankind
With your stupid little trick
We’re sorry that we called you short
But, this is pretty sick!”

The Shortest Ghost looked hard at them
And, then into the sky
The stars blinked out, the clouds dripped blood
The moon revealed an eye

He thought, “Well, no more haunting now
The dead won’t fear the dead
And, no more Halloween for us
Just endless dark instead”

But, never did the Shortest Ghost
Regret what he had done
For size is always relative
Beneath a blackened sun.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Halloween Interlude – It Was All a Dream!

And then I woke up.

Still shaking, I went downstairs and poured myself a glass of water. Something normal. Something I could do to wipe everything that had just happened out of my head. This is my house. These are my hands. This is my refrigerator. This is a glass. This is water. Drink. It’s all like it should be. It’s all

blood

like it’s supposed to be.

There is nothing in the dark. Just dark.

I sat down at the computer to surf until I started to drift off. The wind was picking up outside and I thought I could hear a small rustling behind the wall by the baseboard. Mice. Again. Such is life.

I grabbed the flashlight and crouched down to shine it in the heating vent. If those things were chewing through the wall, I needed to get some traps out. Well, at least this was taking my mind off

fingernails

bad thoughts. I shone my light around inside the vent.

A face looked back.

And then I woke up.

Still shaking, I went downstairs and poured myself a glass of water. Something normal. Something I could do to wipe everything that had just happened out of my head. This is my house. These are my hands. This is my refrigerator. This is a glass. This is water. Drink. It’s all like it should be. It’s all

mice

like it’s supposed to be.

There is nothing in the dark. Just dark.

I sat down at the computer to surf until I started to drift off. The wind was picking up outside and I thought I could smell something across the room. Coming from behind the wall by the baseboard? Did something die in there? Well. Such is life.

I grabbed the flashlight and crouched down to shine it in the heating vent. If a little animal was slowly decomposing in there, I needed to get it out. Now. Well, at least this was taking my mind off

eyes

bad thoughts. I shone my light around inside the vent.

Something grabbed my flashlight.

And then I woke up.

Still shaking, I went downstairs and poured myself a glass of water. Something normal. Something I could do to wipe everything that had just happened out of my head. This is my house. These are my hands. This is my refrigerator. This is a glass. This is water. Drink. It’s all like it should be. It’s all

hands

like it’s supposed to be.

There is nothing in the dark. Just dark.

I sat down at the computer to surf until I started to drift off. The wind was picking up outside and I thought I saw something across the room. Looking out of the vent by the baseboard? What was that? Nothing to do but check it out. Such is life.

I grabbed the flashlight and crouched down to shine it in the heating vent. I thought I’d seen a . . . well, it looked like a body. Arms crossed over the chest. It was impossible but, well, at least this was taking my mind off

pulling

bad thoughts. I shone my light around inside the vent.

Fingers brushed the sides of my neck.

And then I woke up.

Still shaking, I went downstairs and poured myself a glass of water. Something normal. Something I could do to wipe everything that had just happened out of my head. This is my house. These are my hands. This is my refrigerator. This is a glass. This is water. Drink. It’s all like it should be. It’s all

wait

like it’s supposed to be.

There is nothing in the dark. Just dark.

I sat down at the computer to surf until I started to drift off. The wind was

STOP!

picking up outside and I thought I could taste

WAKING!

something on my lips. My tongue. Something dripping from the ceiling?

Did something die up there?

UP!

I grabbed the flashlight and pointed it up at the ceiling.A black stain was spread about three feet across right above my head.  Well, at least this was taking my mind off

KSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS –

bad thoughts. I shone my light at the black, greasy spot and it

dropped.

And then I woke up.

Still shaking, I went downstairs and poured myself a glass of water. Something was wrong. This house. These hands. This  refrigerator. This glass. This water.

Don’t drink.

It’s all wrong. It’s all

wrong

off somehow.

There is something in the dark. But, not this dark.

I looked. I opened my eyes and I looked.

I sat down at the computer to surf until I started to drift off. The wind was picking up outside and I thought I could smell something across the room. Coming from behind the wall by the baseboard? Did something die in there? Well. Such is life. 

I grabbed the flashlight and crouched down to shine it in the heating vent. If a little animal was slowly decomposing in there, I needed to get it out. Now. Well, at least this was taking my mind off bad thoughts. I shone my light around inside the vent.

And then I woke up.

It perched on my chest. Its long black fingers snaked into my nostrils, my ears, the corners on my eyes. It rocked slightly as the fingers sucked and pulled and caressed the insides of my mind. I tried to raise my hands against it, but they wouldn’t move. I could feel it taking. I could also feel it giving back in equal measure. It wanted what I had inside. But, it also wanted me to know what it knew. It wanted me to see. It was important that I see.

So I saw.

I saw the vast darkness beyond waking. I saw the beings of shadow that crouch just outside our range of vision. I saw the multi-winged angels that swooped above our heads by night, their tentacular arms and scythe-like nails whipping the air and cleaving the souls of those deemed unworthy of the light. I saw through the air, to the solid miasma of unbreathable vapors favored by the entities that stalked the corridors of nightmare and the avenues of dreaming. I saw Terror riding a skinless horse, its bleats heralding madness for those who heard its call. I saw millions of lost innocents, screaming for discovery and the passionless monstrosity that silenced them with a viscous shattering of bone and rending of flesh.

I saw.

It wanted me to see that I might understand. And, as I understood, I sank back into sleep.

Where the fear lived.

Where the unknown dwelt.

Where truth lay mercifully, mercifully hidden.

And then . . .

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Halloween Interlude – Oh, Donna!

Donna?

Donna?

Oh, Donna?

DONNA!

Sorry! Sorry. Just had to – had to get your attention. Wow! You are a tough one, we tell you. You are a tough one to crack with all your . . . mental things and your . . . strong personality. Yeah.

So, hi! We’re your . . . wow, what do you call us? I’m your “demon” we guess is the word? We’re your demon; We’ll be inhabiting your body now for, um, about, forever . . . from now on. Yeah, the goal with us is to move into a body, preferably a human body, until we use it up and discard it like so much spoiled meat, so . . . hey! Here we are!

Yep. Well, it’s nice in here. You’ve . . . We see what you’ve done with the place. Roomy. You don’t keep a lot of extra junk in here, eh? Just the essentials. Wow. But, sweetie . . . oh, sweetie, we’ll fix it up.

We hope you don’t mind, we’ve been taking the liberty of rummaging around in your memories a bit – just the surface stuff! Nothing too buried. Yet. You play your cards pretty close to the chest. Looks like you had some awkward experiences in high school with guys, a few uncomfortable moments with your parents. Huh. Nothing very good. We’ll dig deeper. Most people think they have to go out and get all new things if they’re going to rebuild a personality from the ground up. Not us! We believe in recycling, reusing and RELAXING! Most people don’t realize what they have stashed away until we get in there, dig around and dredge it all up to the surface.

It’ll be beautiful.

Promise.

Oh, and you’re my first female! That’s exciting. Yeah, well, we tried a couple of girls back in the 60s – the 1560s, yeah. Didn’t work out too well. I’m a guy’s guy. Or, a guy’s “personification of the horrors of unfettered avarice.” That’s what we are. That’s what Satan calls us. Or, that’s what this one guy who knows Satan . . . that what he calls us. But, he said he’d mentioned us in front of Satan once and that Satan totally knew who he was referring to. He, like, nodded like . . . yeah, like that.

Look, I’m sorry we had to paralyze you like this. It’s uncomfortable, we know. Don’t worry though. Pretty soon you’ll loosen up and move around and we can take turns running this old meat-suit in to the ground, eh?

Yeah, oh, so we were saying, we’ve possessed about twenty different people over the centuries – not very good numbers, mind, but we do what we can. People aren’t as open to this kind of thing as you think they’d be. Most people having crises of faith were never very faithful to begin with, in my experience and . . . well, the numbers have to add up. If x is the amount of faith a person had and y is the amount of doubt they’re experiencing and two trains leave the station at the same time, blah, blah, blah. We usually get around the figures by pushing really hard! It’s crude, but what can you do?

So, here we are! We moved in a few things, hope you don’t mind. We have a big collection of negative experiences and horrifying emotions that we need to stash. We’re going to bury them all in your cerebral cortex. You may start feeling things that you weren’t aware a human mind could tolerate. It’s totally normal. No big.

Oh, we’re gonna have fun. We have so many things planned for this place!

First, ugh, look at that psyche! How long have you had this compassion for all living things?! I’m sorry girl, but it has got to go! We’re just going to rip that up and replace it with a nice, new 100 percent authentic loathing for all life on Earth. How’s that grab ya?

Then we’ll tear out these reflections of the people you love, the subtle elements that make you “you,” and the light behind your eyes that inspires trust and love in your fellow humans and replace it all with a noxious toxicity that poisons everyone you love and brings ruin to your relationships and community!

Because, we’re going to tear your family apart! Just splendid!  We tore a family apart in 1867. France. Beautiful time of year. Drove a man’s wife insane just by changing his eye color every time she looked at him. Ha! The secret is to make tiny alterations that are barely noticeable; drives ’em nuts trying to figure out what’s wrong. So, we’re going to do that with your husband and son. Mommy’s not mommy anymore! Oh, it’s terrible. But, if it works, it’ll be great.

Then, we’re going to lure your parents to their deaths, BUT! But. We’re going to do it so they die at a moment of sin. So, we’ll have to convince them you’re dying, or your son’s dying or something so they try to . . . steal something? Kill someone? We’ll work out the kinks. Your dad’s suffering from delusions, right? Good. We can reveal ourself to him and no one will believe him. Then, BOOM, dead and they’re in Hell having terrible things do terrible things to them.

Let’s see, we’ll drive your charitable organization into the ground. All that money you guys raised for cancer research? Fwip! Out the window. Think I’ll tie it up in some sort of embezzlement scandal before disappearing it – NO – funnel it to a major terrorist organization. HA! Good times.

Oh, Donna, this is going to be great. We are going to hurt so, so many people.

See, once upon a time we were a loose conglomeration of malevolent spirits, screaming in the depths of the inferno, devouring damned souls and excreting them, still conscious, into the eternal dung heap to be picked over by demoniac weevils while burning forever at a temperature of thousands of degrees, and we thought, “Is this all there is?” So, we incorporated and started out own possession gig. It’s worked out really well.

So, I’m really glad we’re getting this chance to work together! We’re going to whip this place into shape and really, really do some damage.

Oh, Donna.

It’ll be fabulous.

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Halloween Interlude – Tar

There is a door that leads nowhere and above that door is tar.

It’s not really tar, I’ll tell you that right now. Looks like tar. Stinks like tar. Ain’t tar.

First of all, it don’t flow right. Tar has a certain viscosity and it thickens as it cools. Tar is heated to usefulness. When it ain’t hot, it’s just a thick mess. This stuff that ain’t tar, it flows steadily. Slowly, granted, but steadily. And it stays warm. It stays so warm.

Second, there’s a smell beneath the stink. A sour/sweet smell, like fresh vomit or spoilt meat. It’s faint, but it’s there. Stand beneath the tar for a couple of seconds

(but, not too long. Oh, god, not too long)

and you’ll smell it. Like to make your stomach turn if you think about it too long.

Third, and this is the killer, third, it follows you. That’s the killer. It follows you. You walk past that tar that ain’t tar and it’ll change direction. You gotta look carefully and closely and enough people walk by all day to keep it switching directions, but you’ll see it move. Tiny like. But, it happens.

And the door. No one opens that door. I never seen it open. Oh, I figure it can – someone has the key – but I never seen behind it. Because there ain’t nothing behind it. Other side of that wall is just stairwell. Still, you hang out in this building late enough, you’ll sometimes see light through the glass, or hear sounds behind the steel. Whispering like.

They don’t say words, just sounds. Sounds that make you feel things.

I think the whisperings are connected to the tar. Can’t prove nothing of course. It’s just a hunch.

We put buckets underneath it and they’re filling with the stuff. I’m afraid of what happens if it reaches the top. Building maintenance says it ain’t their responsibility, since they can’t find a source. They sent one guy to find a leak or a pool of it. They sent him through that door. We never saw what happened to him, but the company won’t send any more guys.

So, we sit. And we pretend to not notice the tar that ain’t tar. And we go about our business.

But, the tar keeps moving. And the buckets keep filling. And I’m afraid something has got to give.

Came in this morning, there was a new stream of tar. A few feet down. I guess it’s figuring out how to move around the place.I don’t want to come in – heck, I don’t think any of us want to come in anymore – but, those whisperings are mighty persuasive.

Besides, there ain’t much left outside for us these days. It’s pretty cold out there.

And the tar is so warm.

It’s so warm.

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Halloween Interlude – In the Bag

Margaret sat staring at the bag for a good long time. She had never expected to actually come into possession of it, and frankly she didn’t quite know how to proceed. She opened the book, but any instructions it may have contained were lost to time and the elements. It was just her and the bag now.

The bag shifted.

Margaret stood up and walked around the garage. She fought the urge to throw the bag into the trash or smash it with one of her father’s wrenches. She even envisioned herself clamping it into the workbench vise and going at it with a Sawzall.

But, of course she wouldn’t.

The bag was hers now. Her responsibility. And, Margaret had no intention of shirking her responsibility. Not after all she’d been through. Not after last night. And this morning. And the shape in the alley. Not after all of that.

The bag shifted again.

And, honestly, she wasn’t sure she could even harm the bag if she tried. At least, not what was in the bag. Margaret wasn’t particularly strong, she was sneaky. Sneaky could help you accumulate things but it wasn’t much good in the muscle mass department and the thing in the bag was tough.

To say the least.

As she pedaled home from her . . . experience in the alley, the bag hung from her handlebars and she could feel – or sense – the contents pulling her along, guiding her from street to street, corner to corner. It wasn’t a mental suggestion either, it was a physical tug. If this thing was that strong without touching you . . . well, it was pointless to dwell on abstractions. The thing was hers now, and nothing was going to change that.

A car drove by outside and Margaret stiffened. “Please don’t come home early” she thought/prayed to her father, “Please don’t walk in here and see he like this. I don’t think I could stand it.”

Margaret left bloody footprints as she paced the garage  The thing in the bag seemed to follow her as the crossed the room, or maybe she imagined it did. She was pretty lightheaded by this point.

She stopped pacing and stared at the bag. Was she daring it? To do what?

She needed to open it. That was part of the deal.

It couldn’t be as easy as just pulling the string. There had to be spells and counter-spells. Binding charms. Sacrifice. Something.Margaret picked up the book. Since receiving it (and what a thrill that adventure had been) she had practically memorized most of its contents. It was so detailed, with charts and maps and long descriptions of ritual and rhyme. But, it crapped out at the end. There was nothing past the instructions on acquiring the bag. Just  torn remnants and water-stained smears of pages.

She went to the workbench and picked up one of the razor blades, the one least-covered in gore. She sat down next to the bag and inspected the string. It was tied in a complex knot. She counted to three. She cut the string.

Or, she tried to.

It wouldn’t cut.

She sawed at the string with the razor blade, growing more and more furious as she hacked and slashed at it. All of her fear was fading and a blind, stupid rage was building in her chest. A couple of slahes caught her on the arm and fingers (hardly noticeable by this point) but she kept hacking.

The string held. The bag held.

“What do I do?!” she screamed to the empty garage, “What else do I do?! Please!” She threw the bag across the garage and broke down in tears.

Margaret sat rocking back and forth, her hands clutching her red bangs, sobs racking her small frame. It was so unfair. She had given up so much for this: her friends, her puppy Bubble, her whole senior year. All in the pursuit of . . . something unknown. Something in a bag. She hated it. She wanted it so bad.

Her bloody hands shaking, Margaret picked up the bag.

“Please open up. Please come out. Please. Please. Please.”

The air in the garage grew thick and humid. The blood running down Margaret’s arms and legs flowed faster. The lights faded. But, the bag stayed closed.

Margaret spread out on the floor. She had tried so hard. She was so tired.

She curled up with the bag clutched to her chest, the way she had clutched Bubble once upon a time. She could swear the bag moved against her. She smiled.

The blood flowed out of her and the room grew cold. Then warm. Then nothing.

When Margaret’s father found her body, covered in lacerations, his heart broke.

The bag opened and hell crawled out.

Categories: Halloween!, Horror | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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