By Aiden Merchant
Life’s become a bore. Real tiresome, you know? Honestly, I don’t how I get up in the mornin’ most days. My apartment is small and shitty. My girlfriend is fuckin’ my upstairs neighbor and doesn’t realize I know. My job is a goddamn joke for someone my age. I mean, I bag groceries for Christ’s sake. I’m thirty-four!
Halloween is coming next week. Our candy sales are through the roof right now. You should see some of the fat fucks coming through my line with buggies of candy corn and Hershey bars and variety bags. I know this holiday is their excuse to openly splurge on this crap and pretend it’s for the kids.
I do have to buy a bit myself, though. We have some kids that come around the apartments and they’ll egg you if you don’t give them the goods. I know because it happened to me my first year living in The Brooks. Those little bastards made my shit list real fast.
Ever since that headache, I’ve made sure to stock enough candy to survive the night. I swear, those kids are vampires just waiting to fuck me up. Last Halloween, I dreamed of them clawing at my window while licking their sharp fangs. Begging for an invitation inside. You know they can’t enter without permission, don’t you? It’s my saving grace.
I don’t know what I should get this Halloween. I’m not much for candy myself, so shopping for the stuff isn’t exactly fun or easy. Those variety packs seem to be my best friend. But sometimes I think of switching things up. Not use candy at all. Maybe I’ll just hand out human fingers instead…
You see, boredom has taken me down some dark roads as of late. I’m often daydreaming at work, and not about the typical shit. For me, daydreaming has become violent. As I’m bagging people’s groceries, I imagine body parts in my hands being arranged neatly around blocks of cheese and loaves of bread. You’ll need some sauces, too, and seasoning. Make yourself a nice human sandwich, you see?
No, I’ve never eaten a person before. But I see myself preparing human for others, like a butcher in a lunch shop, serving up subs and chips with chilled cans of soda. In the walk-in cooler, there are half chopped bodies hanging on hooks. There’s my store manager in the corner. And over there’s that guy who flipped me off while on the highway. We’ll eat you all, fuckers.
Will I ever act upon these thoughts? Now, that’s the question right there.
I have the morning shift today, so I had to be up at five. It sucks being up before the sun, but at least I will be off early afternoon. I have yet to watch a scary movie this month and Halloween is tomorrow night. Blasphemous!
My first customer was this tall, old guy picking up some pumpkins and cider. He told me his grandkids would be by later to carve with him. I feigned interest and reflected on pumpkin carving back in my youth. It was always so messy and unsatisfying.
But what if I was carving the back of this guy’s head? Shave off the hair, draw on a face with marker, and then get to cutting. I must have smiled at this thought because the guy started rambling on about their Halloween traditions as if I’d given him the green light to spew his nonsense upon me. Like “yes, please tell me more” kind of smile. So warm and inviting.
Fuck me and my shining teeth.
As the guy left, he patted me on the shoulder and wished me a fun Halloween. That really got me thinking I should have myself a good Halloween. And maybe it was about time I tried pumpkin carving again.
I turned to watch the old man leave into the parking lot with his heavy buggy. I wondered where he lived.
I don’t remember getting off from work. I remember my fantasies on shift about severed limbs coming down my belt, but I do not recall clocking out or driving my car down the nearby neighborhood to shop around.
I want someone easy, but not a kid. I will never be that sick.
I just need some weak adult who wouldn’t be missed. But I don’t know people. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it? No, I gotta drive around blindly, like some ogler checking out Halloween decorations.
I eventually find myself at the end of a cul-de-sac circle in a daze. I awaken from my driving sleep and spot an old woman collecting her mail at the end of the driveway. As I make my roundabout, she waves at me and turns back toward her house.
Someone of that age would probably be an easy cut, despite the meddlesome rolls of wrinkly skin. Her hair would be thin and sparse, so easy to dispatch or even ignore. Would she make a good specimen? I am new to this type of craft after all, so the easier the better. I can always upgrade next year and get someone younger with some actual meat on their bones. This woman wouldn’t offer much in snacks, but I could still serve something beyond candy this Halloween with her help.
It’s called practice makes perfect.
After returning to the start of the drive, I turn back around in the four-way and start toward the circle once more. What was my game plan? How would I take her unnoticed?
Maybe I don’t take her at all, I think. Maybe we do this right here.
I just need to go inside without raising any suspicion. From there, I can do whatever and leave with the old lady in bits, stuffed inside a bag. Surely, she has a kitchen, some pots, and a bathtub for preparation and disposal purposes. There’s a pumpkin carving kit in the passenger seat beside me. I must have bought it at work before leaving. Again, I don’t remember.
Today has been a haze.
I tell the woman I’m here to check her heat pump. I say I got a call about this address. She’s not all there, if you know what I mean, and doesn’t even question my clothing or lack of a utility vehicle. She says she can’t remember calling anyone, but she’s done this before. Colder weather is coming, so to check on her heat seems reasonable enough.
A moment later, I’m inside the house.
I consider bashing her head in, but luckily stop myself. I want her skull intact, not crushed and oozing. I’ve got a pumpkin to carve! So instead, I give it some more thought, playing the part and letting her show me the heat pump. As she points out the thing, I decide fuck it and grab her from behind, squeezing my arm tightly around her neck. It doesn’t take much; she falls to the floor immediately.
Is she dead, though? I check her pulse and it’s there, however faint. And that just won’t do. What if she wakes up screaming the moment I start to carve? I can’t have that. So, I line up my steel-toed boot with her neck and drive it down real hard. The way her mouth shoots open is bad, but nothing compared to the gagging sound or the crunching of bones. I almost hurl when it happens.
I take a moment to compose myself in the other room. I have my hands on my hips and my head down as I take deep breaths. I then look around the house and notice all the open windows. There aren’t any in the little space containing the woman, but there’ll be views for whenever I move her out. So, the next thing I do is go around and casually close the curtains. If anyone is watching, I’m sure they’re confused as to why someone from maintenance is doing what I’m doing, but hopefully it won’t raise enough alarm that they call the police or try coming over.
Once that is done, I return to the heat pump and the old woman. She looks horrible with her neck flattened that way, her tongue and dentures jutting out from between her lips like a braying donkey. Fuck.
I fight another urge to vomit and then grab the bitch by her cold ankles. But where am I taking her? The kitchen, I guess. There’s a little round table in there where I can set her up to carve. And, of course, the stove and everything will be right there for when I start to cook my snacks. So, yes. The kitchen it is.
After some difficulty, the granny is seated at the table with tape wrapped around her torso to keep her in place. Her head, however, keeps rolling about, chin to bony chest. Nothing’s keeping it up anymore; just a sock of broken bones. Her tongue’s still hanging out too, although I’ve gone ahead and removed the dentures. They’ve been placed to the side as a special handout for tomorrow night. Who wouldn’t love such a trinket?
It takes some time searching the house, but I eventually gather up enough supplies to get the job started. With some office scissors, I remove the thin strands of hair from the back of the woman’s head, revealing a bonfire display of dark veins. I touch her skin to see how spongy it is and almost vomit. I know I need practice, but maybe starting with someone this old was a bit ill-advised. How would carving even work with her? I bet my blades just go straight into her skull, and they aren’t meant to cut through bone.
I shake it off, though. Get my game face on. Then, I crudely draw a widely smiling face over the back of her wrinkly skull. Repeatedly, the skin bunches up under the marker’s tip and makes for skipping lines and odd angles.
God damn it.
Once I’m done, I admire my work. It sucks, but I’ll get better with time. I then turn to my pumpkin carving kit and pull back the plastic. With the colossal carver (as it is labelled on the cardboard contents description), I round the table to look at granny’s downcast face. I lift her chin and tell her she might feel a bit of pain, but not to worry – Dr. Anthony is an expert.
Of course, that’s a lie. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing at all. But hey, this is how we learn.
I take the colossal carver and line it up against the marker drawings. I don’t know how much pressure I need to apply, but I’m sure it won’t take much. And I’m right. As soon as I begin to slide that jagged blade down the black line, her skin opens like a blossoming flower. Blood seeps out and I swear I can see bone just like that.
You really don’t have any cushioning, I think, trying to smile. All skin and bone.
The problem is, I feel sick to my stomach. I wiggle my body like a pre-jazzercise warm up and return to work. As I follow the downward curvature of her skull, the skin does exactly what it did with the marker: it bunches up into a roll and stops me. With my free hand, I pull tight the skin and hold it in place. Then I continue to cut.
“Don’t go breakin’ my heart,” I sing to the old broad. She doesn’t find it amusing and keeps quiet.
I laugh loudly.
I’m starting to have some fun. And where did I find the wine? Clearly it was stashed somewhere in this kitchen, but how full had it been at the start? Seeing as I don’t even remember finding the damn thing, who really cares? I take a big swig of the stuff and begin to dance.
“Don’t go breakin’ my heart!”
After I’ve finished carving, I stand back to admire my work. The woman’s skull is a mixture of white bone and slippery blood. I can see the face, but it’s more disturbing than I’d anticipated. It’s also embarrassingly bad. I almost feel too ashamed to take it, but I’ll need a pumpkin outside my apartment. So, I start to saw off her head, which proves to be a more difficult task than you’d guess, seeing as I had flattened her neck earlier. Once the damn thing is free, I place it atop the table to see if it will stay in place. But of course, it tries rolling away from me. I grumble and look toward the freezer, thinking. I need the neck to be thicker and harder to keep upright. Maybe even weighted down on the backside to keep it from tipping forward. Maybe after freezing the wound, I’ll be able to make some sort of fixture to still her head in place.
I go to the icebox and remove all the food and throw it away. I then slide out the shelf so that I have a free, rectangular space to use. Carefully, granny’s head is placed inside so that her eyes are level with mine. I shudder at the sight of them and slam the door shut. I then look back to the decapitated body and try to decide what snacks I’ll be making. Obviously, there will be fried fingers. And maybe some pickled toes? But I don’t know what to do with the limbs or torso. Turning all that into miniature portions of food is far too advanced for a beginner like myself. Maybe I’ll just cut them into slabs as best I can and freeze them for a future cookout? That could be a fun way to welcome spring the next time it rolls around.
Look at me making plans. I’m like a new man.
By the time I’m ready to head home, it’s dark outside and hours have passed. I don’t think anyone notices me or my big garbage bag as I exit the side door and hurry back to my car. I’ve left the house locked, the TV playing, and the curtains pulled. Several lights are on, like those in the living room and bedroom, to further the lively appearance of the house from outside.
Nothing bad happened here. Nope, no way. I just fixed the water heater.
When I get home, I put the bag of granny down on the counter. I must rearrange my refrigerator to store everything, but I need a minute to decompress first. It’s been a wild day; unlike anything I’ve ever lived, no doubt.
I drop down into my recliner and turn on my Rick and Morty DVD. As one of the episodes begins to play, I take out my phone for the first time since my lunch break. Apparently, Kira has been attempting to reach me off and on all day. She wants to come over and I know why. She can’t have me catching her here otherwise. She needs that cover story for being in the area, that way she can sneak upstairs and fuck Ryan at some point.
Not tonight, babe. I’m not in the mood.
At some point, I reheat a fried finger and eat it like a chicken wing in front of the TV. I don’t even remember getting it out of its brown bag, but I’m halfway through devouring its meat before it all dawns on me.
And just like that, I’m officially a cannibal. Funny how I don’t feel any different.
I finish the finger and ditch its small bones on the end table. They’ve been picked clean. “Mmmm,” I moan happily. “That was good.”
Next time, these snacks won’t be saved for some fuck-wad kids playing trick-or-treat. Instead, they’ll be all mine and I will enjoy them immensely.
I fall asleep soon after loading the fridge with granny treats, still dressed in my bloodied work clothes. Outside, teenagers are causing havoc for Mischief Night. Breaking into cars, setting off alarms, toilet papering houses. But I’m the baddest motherfucker of them all.
They just don’t know it yet.
I go through work like a kid riddled with ADD. I can’t keep still, my eyes are all over the place, and I don’t want to stand still for hours on end. I’m eager to get home and enjoy Halloween for the first time in years. I’m breathing so fast that I keep getting lightheaded, enough so that my manager asks if I’m sick. About the third time she comes around to check on me, I decide to go ahead and take the handout life is offering me. I take it as a sign.
Off a couple hours early, I go shopping for a costume. It’s just now occurred to me I never got anything to wear, not that I normally do. But this Halloween is different, and I should treat it that way. Make it special. I’m not much for costumes but feel like something should be done to my appearance. It will help me get away with the treats and granny-lantern. So, I end up in the superstore picking out oversized field clothes that I will later rip and bloody. I’ll make sure to wipe dirt all over my face and draw dark circles under my eyes. Make myself look like a demented farmer. Maybe I’ll go by the garden section next to pick myself up a pitchfork.
Back at home, I shower and eat prior to decorating. Five o’clock is coming fast and I want to be on the ball, totally ready by then. First, I collect my granny-lantern from the fridge – fuck, it stinks in there – and set her up on a small, wooden stool outside my apartment door. It takes several attempts to balance her, but eventually I get her stable by using a severed paper towel holder, just like placing her head on a pike.
The sculpting I did to the back of her skull is looking even worse than yesterday. For whatever reason, the cooling in the fridge has made the face slump. It looks pathetic, real shoddy. I try to think how I can fix it on such short notice and decide to locate some safety pins. Once I’ve found a few in a desk drawer, I return to the granny-lantern and say, “I hears you’re feeling a bit down. But no worries! I can turn that frown around!”
I laugh a little too loudly as I get to work. It isn’t easy – the bitch’s skin has thickened and dried – but I eventually have her camera-ready.
I hurry back inside to get my costume complete as the fried fingers heat up in the toaster oven. I’ve gone as far as skewering them on little sticks so that the kids can walk off with a shish kabob of sorts. The pickled toes are also as ready as they’re going to be, all bloated and plump-to-burst looking. I haven’t tasted one yet and I don’t think I will. But I can’t wait to see one of those little bastards try one!
The first group of trick-or-treaters arrive fifteen minutes later. I get my tray in hand and open the door as the bell sounds repeatedly for attention. On the other side, I find a Pennywise clown, a Purge killer, and some sort of spooky little girl covered in fake blood. I bend down to offer them the tray of snacks and say, “I’ve got something special and homemade this year. And, of course, some candy.” I use my foot to scoot over a bowl of variety chocolates.
Luckily, the parents aren’t around to tell the kids never accept unpackaged food from a stranger. The little girl grabs first, to my surprise. She takes one of the pickled toes, looks it over, and makes a face. “What is this?”
Pennywise takes a fried finger and sniffs it. Of course, it’s been seasoned and smells great. He takes a small bite, chews slowly, and then grins. “Try the ones on a stick!” he tells his friends.
The little girl replaces the pickled toe, wipes off her hand, and grabs a finger instead. They then each take some chocolate from the bowl and head on off to the next door. I watch with a smile as they chew on their granny treats.
I’m not surprised the pickled toes are a bust; if I don’t want to try one, why would a kid? At least my fried fingers taste good to others as well. It’s not just me!
As I turn to shut the door, I realize my granny-lantern has gone ignored (despite its smell). I decide to gather a few Yankee candles and light them around it like a shroud. Maybe that will help.
Within an hour, all my granny-treats are gone (except for the pickled toes – only two of those have been taken). I’m sad to see the tray empty, but happy to have tricked the little bastards into eating the old broad. If their parents ever learn what I’ve handed out, they’ll come kill me. But tonight, I have won.
My next visitors skip the bell and simply bang their fists. It must be the older kids coming out now, pre-teens and worse. I grab my pitchfork and answer the door. Sure enough, these are the little assholes I’ve been wanting to scare. I think of the pickled toes, but doubt they’ll be stupid enough to try them.
The one not dressed as anything at all gently kicks the stool with my granny-lantern atop it. “What the hell is this thing, old man?”
I grin and lean over. “You can’t tell?”
The kid looks at the head once more, this time from the backside (which is actually granny’s true face). “I mean…it’s a cool prop. Just weird.”
“What makes it weird?”
“Why is the carved face on the back of the head?”
“Because the bitch already had a face on the front,” I snap, smacking the end of the pitchfork against the floor to scare him.
The middle boy of the three laughs. I turn my eyes on him. He’s a little dressed if you can call a ski mask a costume.
“What’s so funny?” I ask.
“It stinks, man. No wonder you put out a bunch of candles.”
“Yeah, but do you know why it stinks?”
The kid shrugs. “Because you stink?”
The three boys elbow each other, giggling. I want to skewer them all with my farming tool but restrain myself.
“How about you try one of my homemade pickled toes?” I say, turning to get those that remain.
“Gross, dude. Pickled stuff sucks.”
I curse myself for having given all the fingers out already. “Just take your chocolate and get,” I growl.
The kids grab handfuls from the variety bowl and give me the finger as they head down the hall.
I hate them.
Around eight, it’s become quiet and dark outside. I finally get out of my costume and clean the dirt off my face. As I return the pickled toes to their jar, a rhythmic knocking sounds from my door. Done with Halloween, I grumble, “No more candy.”
“It’s me, dumbass.”
I know that voice. It’s Kira.
I go to the door and open it tiredly. “What are you doing here?” I ask.
She’s dressed like a slutty cat – how original – and is looking down at my granny-lantern with disgust. “What. The fuck. Is that?” she says, putting a hand over her mouth. “It smells awful.”
“She’s decomposing,” I say, trying to decide what I should do with her. It hadn’t occurred to me that I would need to dump the head after tonight. I had completely spaced on that detail. “I wonder if it will cave in like all the other pumpkins,” I wonder aloud with a grin.
Kira looks at me and makes a face. “What are you talking about? What store did you get that thing at?”
“Just come inside and tell me why you’re here,” I say grumpily, not wanting to deal with her.
Kira steps around me and waves a hand in front of her nose. “Oh my God, it stinks in here, too.”
I close the door and sigh. “I got some fresh meat from the farmer’s market the other day and I guess it has a strong smell.”
She looks toward the fridge and shudders. “You should open some windows tonight and bring those candles back inside.”
I go to do as she’s said but find the granny-lantern gone outside my door. I look at the stained stool and then up and down the hall. Where did it go? Who the hell would even take it?
“What are you doing?” Kira asks from the couch, now comfortable and unzipping her costume.
I mumble something I don’t even understand and gather up the candles. It takes two trips, but they are soon lining my kitchen counter. Lastly, I gather the stool and leave behind the mostly empty bowl of chocolates. Maybe that will keep any latecomers from egging my door later.
Kira has her breasts revealed now, the zipper pulled down to her belly button. She invites me over seductively and purrs. I try to hide my annoyance and say, “I’m surprised you’re not at some Halloween party right now.”
“I’m going to one after we fool around. But right now, I’m really horny. So, get the fuck over here.”
I think about the missing granny-lantern and hope it won’t come back to haunt me. My hesitation to approach the couch makes Kira irritable and she stands up suddenly to stomp her foot. “Let’s go! What are you waiting for?”
I shake my head and say, “Sorry, I’m just a bit out of it.”
“Well, then let’s head to the bedroom. The couch is probably too acrobatic for you right now.” She laughs, as if emasculating me will raise my flag.
I don’t want to go. I’m disappointed with Halloween. Even though I handed out all my fried fingers, I still feel like I’ve failed myself somehow. Not met expectation. Those older kids missed the good stuff. How will I make up for it?
Kira is halfway down the hall to the bedroom, pausing to look back at me. “Are you coming or what?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there in a sec.”
Kira rolls her eyes and disappears into my room. I go to the bathroom and splash water on my face. I wonder if some teen snatched my granny-lantern and is planning to smash it in the street like a pumpkin. Or maybe light it on fire and throw it through someone’s window. If they do, I would probably be off the hook, right? They won’t know where the head came from originally. Maybe no one will even realize what it really is at all.
This train of thought improves my mood, so I take out my phone and pull up some porn. Kira doesn’t do it for me anymore, so I usually pre-game. I’m so sick of her, it’s odd that I haven’t ditched her yet. Maybe after tonight, I will finally take out the trash. Or maybe, maybe…I’ll make her my next specimen. Take her fried fingers to a church luncheon or something, really freak people out.
My grin gets even wider.
Kira is an annoying slut, but she can fuck. I’ll give her that much.
We’re on round two when something taps against my window. The curtain is pulled, so I can’t see what it is. Probably a moth batting around the glass. Kira doesn’t even notice. She’s facedown with her ass up, moaning loudly. I try to ignore the sound, but it gradually gets louder.
“Do you hear that?” I ask, pausing for a beat.
“Don’t stop now. I’m almost there,” she growls, smacking her own ass to get my eyes back on the prize.
I look down and admire the shape pressed up against my groin. But that damned tapping continues, drawing me away from Kira.
“Just a sec,” I say, pulling out of her and moving off the bed. As I approach the window, I can hear Kira cursing under her breath angrily. I pull back the curtain and nearly jump out of my skin. The kid with the ski mask is outside my window scratching at the glass and laughing.
“What is it?” Kira asks.
I look back at her for just a second, but that’s enough for the kid to run off. When I point to the window, he’s gone. I’m about to close the curtains again when I realize something. I’m on the second floor of the apartment building. I open the window and stick my head out into the cold.
“What the hell are you doing?” Kira grumbles. “Get back in here!”
I look around for the kid but he’s nowhere to be seen. I’m about to turn back inside when I notice something in the distance, atop the hill some hundred feet beyond the building. It looks like my granny-lantern, only from the front side. Her eyes have been scooped out and there’s light shining from the crevices as if someone’s put a candle atop her tongue.
A shiver runs up my spine. Clearly, I’m imaging things. I quickly close the window and pull shut the curtains, not wanting to look back. As I return to bed, Kira slaps at my flaccid cock.
“Seriously? You lost it?”
I look down and shrug. “I’m just…tired. Maybe you should head off to your party.”
Kira is pissed. She moves crazily out of the bed and gets dressed in a huff. Two minutes later, she’s storming out of my apartment and slamming the door. I stand there for a moment, thinking I’ll probably hear her above my head at some point later in the night. I doubt she ever leaves here without fucking Georgie first.
When the tapping resumes a minute later, my trance is broken. I decide to sleep on the couch instead of in my room.
THE DEVIL’S HOUR
Someone knocks on my door, waking me up. I rub my eyes and check the time. It’s three in the morning and Halloween has been over for hours. Who the hell is still trick-or-treating?
As I get up to check, I make a bet that it’s either Kira or some drunk friend she’s asked to come bother me. Before opening the door, I ask who it is. When no one responds, I place my ear to the door and listen closely for a long minute. When I hear nothing at all, I decide to go ahead and check the hall.
At first, I don’t notice anything. All is quiet. And then the flickering of light catches my eye. I look down and it’s the granny-lantern returned, her hollowed eye sockets full of flames. I jump backwards and fall onto my ass, startled and admittedly scared.
“Where did you come from?” I demand breathlessly.
The granny-lantern doesn’t move, doesn’t speak.
What do I do with it?
From my bedroom, I hear the tapping against my window once more. It’s much louder this time, as if that kid knows I’m some distance away. Slowly, I stand and close the door, locking granny-lantern outside. Then I inch down the hall to my bedroom to see if the kid is there again. When I reach the curtains, the tapping has quieted greatly. It’s more of a light scratching sound now, as if the culprit is aware of how close I’ve come.
Just hit the kid, I tell myself as I take hold of the curtains. Just open the window and knock him on his ass.
I pull back the curtains defiantly, ready to shout at the little bastard, but only see the moonlit hill beyond the building. With some trepidation, I open the window to stick my head out. Looking below, I search the darkness for movement. I even shout for the kids to fuck off before I call the cops. In response, a voice from above says, “Let us in and we’ll leave you alone.”
I shoot my head up so fast that I bang it against the frame loudly. Floating above my apartment window are the three pre-teens from earlier.
“How the fuck?”
The one with the ski-mask has revealed his face, which is white and gaunt. His two friends look equally sick and yet they’re all smiling. It takes me a second to realize they’re teeth are pointed and shining in the darkness.
It’s like the nightmare I’ve had. I must be dreaming, I tell myself.
The kids lower down to my level somehow, putting a foot between us at most.
“Are you going to let us in or what, asshole?” the quiet one says. This is the first time I’ve heard him speak. His voice is hoarse, as if terribly dry. His costume is simply a Freddy sweater and black jeans.
“Why the hell would I do that?” I say, finding my courage. If this is just another damn dream, then what’s there to be afraid of?
“Because there’s something wrong with you,” the ski-mask kid replies. “You’re like us.”
“I knew what that head was all along,” the one in normal clothes says. “I could smell the rotting flesh and dusty blood of that bitch from the next building over.”
“So, you took my granny-lantern then, huh? Why am I not surprised?”
“You should really dispose of that thing before anyone realizes it’s real,” ski-mask tells me.
“Says the floating kid with vampire fangs,” I say, getting tired of the conversation. “Are we done here or what?”
“We could help you,” the dressed one says. “You could kill old ladies for the next hundred years, if you’d like.”
I laugh and shake my head. “Dude, she was just a test.”
“We could show you the next level.”
I pull my head back inside and begin to shut the window. “I’m going back to sleep now, guys. Go home.”
The quiet one zips forward and grabs my hand, pulling my head back out into the night air. “Wait.”
I look down at his bony fingers and realize how cold they feel against my skin. “What’s your problem, kid?” I hiss, shaking my hand free and returning it to the sill.
“Let us come inside.”
“No. I don’t need people thinking I’m some kind of fiddler.”
“What the fuck kind of dream is this? Leave me alone, kid. Piss off.”
Ski-mask zips forward next, grabbing the window slab with one hand and tightly gripping my hair with the other. “This is your last chance,” he tells me. “One more opportunity to be helped.”
As I look into the kid’s silver eyes, I realize something. He looks exactly the same as he did the year before and the year before that. “Just how old are you?” I find myself asking.
“Older than you.”
I’m not scared, but I am annoyed. Whatever kind of dream this is, I’ve decided it’s lost all appeal. “Wake up, damn it,” I tell myself, squeezing my eyes shut. “Make these little shits disappear.”
“This isn’t a dream,” ski-mask tells me. “And we’ve offered you help long enough.”
He brings the window down with such force that my neck snaps audibly. I gasp, wanting to scream, but the sound is stuck in my crushed throat. Before I can react, the kid brings the panel down again and again with such speed that it can’t be real. None of this can be.
My skin is starting to split. I can feel blood running down my neck and over the windowsill. My fingers are also severing as ski-mask decapitate me, but I don’t notice them anymore. Finally, I’m falling to the grass below. When I land with a thud, my eyes are facing up at the sky. I can’t feel my body. It’s back in my room.
The kids float down to me, smiling hungrily.
“You thought your life was hell before,” the normally dressed one starts. “Just wait until what comes next.”
The hill is quite nice. Me and granny-lantern occupy it every Halloween now. She doesn’t speak, unfortunately, but neither do I. Those little vampire kids cut out my tongue after they cut off my head. I mumble and growl sometimes to make people look my way, but they always assume I’m just some cool decoration. I don’t blame them.
This year, the three douchebags have put a candle in my mouth to light up my eyes. I have to admit, they continue to impress me with their powers. Maybe I should have invited them inside after all.
Oh, and guess what! Believe it or not, I still see Kira. Even after all these years, she’s still going up to the third floor to suck off my neighbor.
Georgie never closes his fuckin’ curtains. He’s such an attention whore.
I went along with this one to push my boundaries and gross myself out. I accomplished that. I frequently made faces and laughed uncomfortably at the horrors before me. This story was a disturbing step in a new direction for me, considering I normally choose suspense over gore. However, I still managed to plant my tongue-in-cheek humor throughout.
First, it was “Squirming Disease.” Now, it’s “Nummy Fingers.” I shudder to think what may come next. I know my upcoming Christmas tale isn’t much brighter.
Aiden Merchant is an independent author of multiple genres. Since his arrival in 2019, he has released two collections and several singles. He is a married father of one and lives in the Appalachian Mountains. He is always working on the next five things on his neverending list of writing projects, while in the midst of keeping a CNA job to pay the bills. One day, he aims to make writing his full-time career.